Turmoil in the Capital: British Publication Alarmed the Hamidian Regime
Sakarya University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of History, Sakarya/TURKEY
Keywords: The Levant Herald, Said Pasha, Ali Suavi, Edgar Whitaker, Cleanthi Scalieri, Abdülhamid II, Britain
During the early years of Abdülhamid II’s reign, there were several attempts to reinstate ex-Sultan Murad V to the throne. One of these was the initiative of Ali Suâvi, which has come to be known as the Çırağan Incident. Although the Ottoman press had to be very circumspect in reporting Suâvi’s attempt and its aftermath, the British newspaper of the Ottoman Empire, The Levant Herald, was instead able to carry the news about the incident for several days by framing its reportage in pro-government terms. The situation changed, however, when a letter from a reader praising Ali Suâvi and supporting the claim of Murad V to the throne was published by the paper and spurred the Sublime Porte into action. Although the authorship of the letter remains unknown, it is doubtful that it was actually written by an average reader of the paper; some sources instead point to Cleanthi Scalieri, the Master of the Prodoos Masonic Lodge. After publication, the proprietor of The Levant Herald, Edgar Whitaker, took refuge in the British Embassy, resulting in the confiscation of the printing house and the remaining copies of the newspaper on the order of the Sublime Porte. Whitaker protested that he had informed the Marshal of the Palace, Said Pasha, regarding the letter’s contents, and that he was now the subject of death threats and harassment; Said Pasha responded by denying any knowledge of the matter. The dismissal and exile of Said Pasha brought only further tension. The British Foreign Ministry claiming that the Sublime Porte had acted beyond its jurisdiction according to the capitulations. In the midst of negotiations between the British and Ottoman governments over the transfer of Cyprus, the furor over the letter and the newspaper provoked major discussion in the European press, and caused negative public reaction in Britain towards the actions of the Ottoman government. This article focuses on the anonymous letter published in The Levant Herald, and examines the course of these developments primarily through their representation in the British press.