With the Proclamation of the Second Constitutional Period of the Ottoman Empire at 23 July 1908, unofficial (later official) and extensive reorganizations (tensikat) have begun at all state institutions, because of political, financial and administrative reasons. With the Tensikat and the economic crisis, salaries of public servants have decreased, some public offices have abolished, older public servants forced to retire, and ones couldn’t force to retire have been dismissed. One of the affected institutions from the Tensikat was the Commission of Provincial Kapı Kethüdas, which was under the Ministry of Interior of the Babıâli.
Before the Tensikat, there were 11 Kapı kethüdas (stewards, kapı kethüdaları) and 15 kapı çukadars (footmen), who performed the work of 36 administrative unit in the Commission of the Kapı Kethüdas. The sum of monthly payment to the Commission workers was the 40.787,5 piasters (kuruş). Kapı kethüdas main work were the registration of the official documents that sent from provinces to Babıâli and the official replies of Babıâli, they also deliver these documents to the authorities they belong to with the help of kapı çukadars. Thus, the communication between different state institutions get easier, and the transactions became faster. They also provide the safe transaction of important documents, and the transmitting of orders to relevant institutions.
The idea of Tensikat in the Commission of Kapı Kethüdas first mentioned by Mehmet Mevlüt Bey, a kapı çukadar in the Commission, with a petition to the Minister of Interior at 16 August 1908. According to Mevlüt Bey, there are illiterate and unworthy people among the kapı kethüdas. With a Tensikat, the Commission could be reorganized like that; a Kapı Kethüda with a salary of 1.000-1.200 piastres and four kapı çukadars with a salary of 500-600 piastres. He also demanded favoritism in the Commission for himself, since he was graduated from the rüştiye (junior high school) of Ürgüp town. But he couldn’t get an official reply from the Minister of Interior, he petitioned directly to the Sadrazam himself at October 8th, 1908, in order to be given favors in the Commission to himself. In addition, he pointed out the nepotism, the ones who have high ranking relatives or patrons get appointed as public servants, and he demanded for its prevention.
İbrahim Hakkı Beyefendi, the Minister of Interior, declared his opinion about the provincial kapı kethüdas to the Sadrazam with a report at 9 November 1908. According to this report, post offices became more regular and perfect than ever. On the other hand, intervention by the kapı kethüdas cause delays in the transmission of documents. Furthermore, most of the official correspondence come to post office from document writing rooms and vice versa. Under these circumstances, the intervention and employment of Kapı Kethüdas and Kapı Çukadars, also toleration of their expenses is not necessary. That’s why; the minister demanded either the abolition of Kapı Kethüdas or the discussion of this issue in the Cabinet (Meclis-i Mahsus-ı Vükela), and the result of the discussion should be notified to the ministry.
The report of the Interior Minister had announced to the public in the 11 November 1908 issue of İkdam newspaper. As a result of that, four of the Kapı Kethüdas (Ahmet Hilmi, Sabrı, Safvet and Mehmet Beys), petitioned their opinions about the Tensikat to the Interior Minister at 23 November 1908: Accordingly, the Kapı Kethüdas is not an unnecessary post. But, the kapı kethüdas who must reside in their homes due to their advanced age should be retired. Also, the half of the monthly allowance should be transferred to the Treasury, the other half of allowance should be distributed equally among the Kapı kethüdas in the Tensikat. But, when their demands went unanswered by the Interior Minister, they petitioned to the Sadrazam with the seal of the Commission of Kapı Kethüdas at 24 December 1908. According to that, at the previous session of the Chamber of Deputies there was a decision that the Commission of Kapı Kethüdas is a necessary institution. Nevertheless, the procedures of the abolition of the Commission had begun, in contravention to the decision of the Chamber of Deputies.
Because of the pressures from Kapı kethüdas, the government left this issue hanging in the air for a while. Until, this issue came to the Chamber of Deputies. The deputy for Bolu, Zeki Efendi had presented a resolution at 20 February 1909, about the abolition of Kapı Kethüdas and Kapı Çukadars. According to the resolution, because of the post offices’ regularity caused the Commission’s obsoleteness. The Chamber of Deputies had included this resolution to its agenda and transferred the subject to the Budget Commission of the Chamber.
At 17 February 1908, İlhami Efendi, the deputy for Manisa, had requested the abolishment of the Kapı Çukadars. According to him, the office of Kapı Çukadars had lost its historical and political importance. These were the officials who performed the governors’ paperwork before the governorate system and during the feudality. This paperwork could be performed by the postmen and janitors. These people were unnecessarily paid. Monthly salaries for them are unnecessary. Upon this, the deputy for Siverek Nurettin bey, explained that the Chamber of Deputies of 1877-1878 had abolished this office, so it was decided that no one could appointed to that office. Hereon, this subject had been transferred to the Budget Commission.
This time the subject had brought upon by the Deputy for Kırkkilise Mustafa Arif Bey, with his opinion about the abolishment of Kapı Kethüdas. Afterwards, the abolishment of the Kapı Kethüdas had been voted after the statement of Mehmet Cavit Bey, the deputy for Selanik (Salonika) who announced that the Budget Commission decided the abolition of Kapı Kethüdas, and at 16 May 1909, the Provincial Kapı Kethüdas had abolished with kethüdas and Çukadars. Thus, approximately 40.000 piasters economized monthly and transferred to the Treasury. At 12 and 15 June 1909, announcements sent to every state institution that declared the Kapı Kethüdas had been abolished and any correspondence between the state institutions and the provinces must be sent to post offices with the name of relevant institution. After this decision, the Emir of Mecca had requested that the Kapı Kethüdas must not be abolished due to the peculiarity of the Province of Hedjaz, but into the official reply to the Emir, it had been stated that, since the decision took in the Chamber, it is not possible to do otherwise.
The issue of the Kapı Kethüdas continued for a while, due to Kapı kethüdas’ personal rights. With the decision of 3 May 1325 (According to Rumi Calendar), it had been decided that despite the Kapı Kethüdas had abolished, the Kapı Kethüdas would get their monthly salaries for May. Upon this, some of them wanted to retire and they had been put on a pension. Others attested they had been dismissed, and they had been put on a dismissal salary (mazuliyet maaşı). While those things are working, some of the Kapı Kethüdas; Hulusi, Ahmet Hilmi and Sabri Beys claimed that they worked until 10 June 1909 (28 May 1325 According to Rumi Calendar), but they became victims since they weren’t paid from beginning of the May, thus they demanded their salaries for the workdays they weren’t paid for. But it was not possible to do anything by the Treasury, since their salaries had been cut with the decision of the Chamber of Deputies.
Kapı kethüdas had a peculiar place in the Ottoman state’s internal business from the 16th century to the 20th century. They had a high reputation during the traditional Ottoman system and they had performed important tasks. Developments in the post and telegraph system with the modernization process; which had begun with the proclamation of Tanzimat, and the regularity of the new era caused the decrease of commitment to the Kapı Kethüdas. That had caused the questioning of their essentialness at the of both the proclamation of the Second Constitutional Era and a financial crisis that hit the Ottoman state. In a time that all state organization was reorganizing, they had been abolished with a vote at 16 May 1909 in the Chamber of Deputies. Thus, one of the last parts of the traditional Ottoman system became a thing of the past.
Keywords: The Ottoman Empire, 1908-1909 Ottoman layoffs, The Interior Affairs Ministry, Kapı Kethüdası, The Provincial Kapı Kethüdalıks