1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abd-ul-Mejid
ABD-UL-MEJID (1823–1861), sultan of Turkey, was born on the 23rd of April 1823, and succeeded his father Mahmud II. on the 2nd of July 1839. Mahmud appears to have been unable to effect the reforms he desired in the mode of educating his children, so that his son received no better education than that given, according to use and wont, to Turkish princes in the harem. When Abd-ul-Mejid succeeded to the throne, the affairs of Turkey were in an extremely critical state. At the very time his father died, the news was on its way to Constantinople that the Turkish army had been signally defeated at Nezib by that of the rebel Egyptian viceroy, Mehemet Ali; and the Turkish fleet was at the same time on its way to Alexandria, where it was handed over by its commander, Ahmed Pasha, to the same enemy, on the pretext that the young sultan’s advisers were sold to Russia. But through the intervention of the European Powers Mehemet Ali was obliged to come to terms, and the Ottoman empire was saved. (See Mehemet Ali.) In compliance with his father’s express instructions, Abd-ul-Mejid set at once about carrying out the reforms to which Mahmud had devoted himself. In November 1839 was proclaimed an edict, known as the Hatt-i-sherif of Gulhané, consolidating and enforcing these reforms, which was supplemented at the close of the Crimean war by a similar statute issued in February 1856. By these enactments it was provided that all classes of the sultan’s subjects should have security for their lives and property; that taxes should be fairly imposed and justice impartially administered; and that all should have full religious liberty and equal civil rights. The scheme met with keen opposition from the Mussulman governing classes and the ulema, or privileged religious teachers, and was but partially put in force, especially in the remoter parts of the empire; and more than one conspiracy was formed against the sultan’s life on account of it. Of the other measures of reform promoted by Abd-ul-Mejid the more important were—the reorganization of the army (1843–1844), the institution of a council of public instruction (1846), the abolition of an odious and unfairly imposed capitation tax, the repression of slave trading, and various provisions for the better administration of the public service and for the advancement of commerce. For the public history of his times—the disturbances and insurrections in different parts of his dominions throughout his reign, and the great war successfully carried on against Russia by Turkey, and by England, France and Sardinia, in the interest of Turkey (1853–1856)—see Turkey, and Crimean War. When Kossuth and others sought refuge in Turkey, after the failure of the Hungarian rising in 1849, the sultan was called on by Austria and Russia to surrender them, but boldly and determinedly refused. It is to his credit, too, that he would not allow the conspirators against his own life to be put to death. He bore the character of being a kind and honourable man, if somewhat weak and easily led. Against this, however, must be set down his excessive extravagance, especially towards the end of his life. He died on the 25th of June 1861, and was succeeded by his brother, Abd-ul-Aziz, as the oldest survivor of the family of Osman. He left several sons, of whom two, Murad V. and Abd-ul-Hamid II., eventually succeeded to the throne. In his reign was begun the reckless system of foreign loans, carried to excess in the ensuing reign, and culminating in default, which led to the alienation of European sympathy from Turkey and, indirectly, to the dethronement and death of Abd-ul-Aziz.