1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ahmed Vefik

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AHMED VEFIK, Pasha (1819–1891), Turkish statesman and man of letters, was born in Stambul in 1819. He was the son of Rouheddin Effendi, at one time charge d'affaires in Paris, an accomplished French scholar, who was, therefore, attached, in the capacity of secretary-interpreter, to Reshid Pasha’s diplomatic mission to Paris in 1834. Reshid took Ahmed with him and placed him at school, where he remained about five years and completed his studies. He then returned to Constantinople, and was appointed to a post in the bureau de traduction of the ministry for foreign affairs. While thus employed he devoted his leisure to the translation of Moliere’s plays into Turkish and to the compilation of educational books—dictionaries, historical and geographical manuals, &c.—for use in Turkish schools, with the object of promoting cultivation of the French language among the rising generation. In 1847 he brought out the first edition of the Salnameh, the official annual of the Ottoman empire. Two years later he was appointed imperial commissioner in the Danubian principalities, and held that office till early in 1851 when he was sent to Persia as ambassador—a post which suited his temperament, and in which he rendered good service to his government for more than four years. Recalled in 1855, he was sent on a mission to inspect the eastern frontiers, and on his return was appointed member of the Grand Council of Justice, and was entrusted with the revision of the penal code and the code of procedure. This work occupied him until the beginning of 1860, when he was sent as ambassador to Paris, for the special purpose of averting the much-dreaded intervention of France in the affairs of Syria. But Ahmed Vefik’s abrupt frankness, irascibility and abhorrence of compromise unfitted him for European diplomacy. He offended the French government; his mission failed, and he was recalled in January, 1861. None the less his integrity of purpose was fully understood and appreciated in Paris. On his return he was appointed minister of the Évkaf, but he only retained his seat in the cabinet for a few months. He was then for a brief period president of the Board of Audit, and subsequently inspector of the Anatolian provinces, where he was engaged for more than three years. His next appointment was that of director-general of customs, whence he was removed to the office of musteshar of the grand vizierate, and in the following year entered the cabinet of Midhat Pasha as minister of public instruction, but very soon retired to his seat in the Council of State and remained out of office until 1875, when he represented Turkey at the International Telegraphic Conference in St Petersburg. He was president of the short-lived Turkish parliament during its first session—March 19 to June 28, 1877—and at its close was appointed vali of Adrianople, where he rendered invaluable aid to the Red Cross Society. On his recall, at the beginning of 1878, he accepted the ministry of public instruction in the cabinet of Ahmed Hamdi Pasha, and on the abolition of the grand vizierate (February 5, 1878) he became prime minister and held office till about the middle of April, when he resigned. Early in the following year he was appointed vali of Brusa, where he remained nearly four years, and rendered admirable services to the province. The drainage of the pestilent marshes, the water-supply from the mountains, the numerous roads, the suppression of brigandage, the multiplication of schools, the vast development of the silk industry through the substitution of mulberry plantations for rice-fields, the opening out of the mineral springs of Chitli, the introduction of rose-trees and the production of otto of roses—all these were Ahmed Vefik’s work; and he became so popular that when in 1882 he was recalled, it was thought advisable that he should be taken away secretly by night from the konak in Brusa and brought to his private residence on the Bosporus. A few days after his return he was again appointed prime minister (December 1, 1882), but Ahmed Vefik demanded, as the condition of his acceptance of office, that he should choose the other members of the cabinet, and that a number of persons in the sultan’s entourage should be dismissed. Upon this, the sultan, on the 3rd of December, revoked the iradé of the 1st of December, and appointed Said Pasha prime minister. For the rest of his life Ahmed Vefik, by the sultan’s orders, was practically a prisoner in his own house; and eventually he died, on the 1st of April 1891, of a renal complaint from which he had long been a sufferer. Ahmed Vefik was a great linguist. He spoke and wrote French perfectly, and thoroughly understood English, German, Italian, Greek, Arabic and Persian. From all these languages he translated many books into Turkish, but wrote no original work. His splendid library of 15,000 volumes contained priceless manuscripts in many languages. In his lifetime he appreciably aided the progress of education; but, as he had no following, the effects of his labour and influence in a great measure faded away after his death. In all his social and family relations Ahmed Vefik was most exemplary. His charity knew no bounds. He was devoted to his aged mother and to his one wife and children. To his friends and acquaintances he was hospitable, courteous and obliging; his conversation was intellectual and refined, and in every act of his private life he manifested the spirit of a true gentleman. At home his habits, attire and mode of life were quite Turkish, but he was perfectly at his ease in European society; he had strong English proclivities, and numbered many English men and women amongst his intimate friends. In public life his gifts were almost sterilized by peculiarities of temperament and incompatibility with official surroundings; and his mission as ambassador to Persia and his administration of Brusa were his only thorough successes. But his intellectual powers, literary erudition and noble character made him for the last forty years of his life a conspicuous figure in eastern Europe.  (E. W.*)