Ottoman Empire–United States relations

Ottoman–American relations

Ottoman Empire

United States
Diplomatic mission
Embassy of the Ottoman Empire, Washington D.C. Embassy of the United States, Constantinople (now Istanbul)

After 1780, the United States began relations with North African countries and with the Ottoman Empire.[how?][1]

History of relations

On May 4, 1802 President of the United States Thomas Jefferson designated a consul to serve in Smyrna (now Izmir),[2] a Pennsylvania man named William Stewart. Syed Tanvir Wasti wrote in "Ahmed Rüstem Bey and the End of an Era" that "it appears that the Porte did not give official agreement to this position and it was never formalized."[3]

In the early 19th century, the US fought the Barbary Wars against the Barbary states, which were under Ottoman suzerainty.

In 1825, during the Greek War of Independence and Greek civil wars of 1823-1825, the U.S. Navy conducted anti-piracy operations in the Aegean Sea. Greece and the Aegean were controlled by the Ottomans until Greece achieved independence in 1829. The first draft of the Monroe Doctrine, written in 1823, included a passage praising the Greek revolutionaries, though the passage was ultimately removed.[4]

In 1831 the U.S. sent its first formally approved envoy to the Ottoman Empire, David Porter.[5] The empire and the U.S. at that point had their representatives at the "Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary" level.[2] Sinan Kuneralp, author of "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917," wrote that the empire initially apparently lacked "any sensible justification" to open a mission stateside due to the relative distance between the countries.[5] Wasti wrote that "there was no real rush on the Ottoman side to send diplomatic envoys to Washington, DC".[2]

The first official Ottoman government visit to the U.S., lasting for six months in 1850, was that of Emin Bey, who toured shipyards there.[6] Two Ottoman officials, one being Edouard Blak Bey, who sensed the rise of the United States, unsuccessfully advocated for installing a mission in the U.S. during the early 1850s.[5] The first Ottoman honorary consulate in the U.S. opened in May 1858.[7]

In 1866 Ottoman foreign minister Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha declined to start a legation to the U.S. that year, after reviewing a proposal by Ambassador to France of the Ottoman Empire Safvet Pasha. However the ministry changed its mind after the leaders there perceived the reports of the Cretan revolt (1866–1869) from the US consul W.J. Stillman and other American reports to be misleading and decided they needed to present a counter-view. The empire sent its first permanent envoy to the U.S. in 1867, creating the Ottoman Legation in Washington, DC. Since the empire itself began establishing its diplomatic missions in the 1830s and due to the about three decade gap between the respective legations being established, Kuneralp wrote that the Ottomans created their U.S. mission "comparatively late".[5]

Blak was the first envoy to Washington. Kuneralp wrote that the Washington posting was not considered important to the Ottoman government, which is why some officials refused the posting and those considered promising were turned away from it. He cited the cases of then-minister to Florence Rüstem Bey and Osman Nizami Pasha, who declined in 1867 and 1912, respectively.[8] Nine envoys headed the legation beginning in 1877 and prior to full embassy status,[9] and there were a total of 13 envoys/ambassadors in the position.[8]

Mustafa Shekib Bey, in 1904, recommended that the Ottomans appoint Levantine Armand Guys as the first commercial attaché, arguing that commercial relations had increased.[10]

In 1906 U.S. upgraded its representatation in Constantinople to the embassy level.[2]

The most important aspect of American diplomacy in the late 19th century, down to 1914, involved protection of the hundreds of American Protestant missionaries to the Ottoman Empire.[11][12]

Armenian issues

Abdul Hamid II disliked it when the Americans pleaded for help for Armenians. As a result, he terminated the credentials of envoy Mustafa Shekib, and chose not to upgrade the mission to embassy status. Shekib therefore was unable to present his credentials to the President. Shekib slept in the daytime, and so his staff dealt with U.S. officials. Kuneralp stated that therefore "Things were eased out".[13]

Moro rebellion in the Philippines

In 1899, John Hay, the American Secretary of State, asked the Jewish American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Oscar Straus to request Sultan Abdul Hamid II to write a letter to the Moro Sulu Muslims of the Sulu Sultanate in the Philippines telling them to submit to American suzerainty and American military rule (see Philippine–American War). The Sultan obliged and wrote the letter, which was sent to Sulu via Mecca; two Sulu chiefs delivered it to Sulu and it was successful since the "Sulu Mohammedans... refused to join the insurrectionists and had placed themselves under the control of our army, thereby recognizing American sovereignty."[14]

Abdul Hamid used his position as caliph to order the Sulu Sultan not to resist and not fight the invading Americans.[15] President McKinley did not mention the Ottoman role in the pacification of the Sulu Moros in his address to the first session of the 56th Congress in December 1899 since the agreement with the Sultan of Sulu was not submitted to the Senate until December 18.[16] Despite Sulu's "pan-Islamic" ideology, he readily acceded to Straus' request to avoid hostilities between the West and Muslims.[17] The Sulu sultan was persuaded by the Ottoman Sultan.[18]

John P. Finley wrote that,

"After due consideration of these facts, the Sultan, as Caliph caused a message to be sent to the Mohammedans of the Philippine Islands forbidding them to enter into any hostilities against the Americans, inasmuch as no interference with their religion would be allowed under American rule. As the Moros have never asked more than that, it is not surprising, that they refused all overtures made, by Aguinaldo's agents, at the time of the Filipino insurrection. President McKinley sent a personal letter of thanks to Mr. Straus for the excellent work he had done, and said, its accomplishment had saved the United States at least twenty thousand troops in the field. If the reader will pause to consider what this means in men and also the millions in money, he will appreciate this wonderful piece of diplomacy, in averting a holy war."[19][20][21]

The Muslim peoples obeyed the order.[22]

In 1904, the Moro Rebellion then broke out between the Americans and Moro Muslims. The US committed atrocities against Moro Muslim women and children, such as the Moro Crater Massacre.

Young Turk Revolution

The Young Turk Revolution removed Abdul Hamid II from power in 1908, and officials more favorable to the U.S. replaced him.[13] The Ottoman Legation in Washington was designated as an embassy in 1909,[2] and given the second class ranking; the Ottoman Empire at the time ranked its embassies by importance.[23]

During the Presidency of William Howard Taft, an American strategy was to become involved in business transactions rather than military confrontations, a policy known as Dollar Diplomacy. It failed with respect to the Ottoman Empire because of opposition from US ambassador Oscar Straus and to Turkish vacillation under pressure from the entrenched European powers who did not wish to see American competition. American trade remained a minor factor.[24]

World War I and the Armenian genocide

Henry Morgenthau, Sr. was the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I until 1916. Morgenthau criticized the ruling Three Pashas for the Armenian Genocide and sought to get help for the Armenians. Jesse B. Jackson, consul in Aleppo, also assisted Armenians. Morgenthau's replacement Abram Isaac Elkus, served in 1916–1917.

The Ottomans severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 20, 1917, after the United States had declared war against Germany on April 4, 1917. The United States never declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Normal diplomatic relations were re-established with the Ottoman Empire's successor state, Turkey, in 1927.[25]

Diplomatic missions

U.S. diplomatic missions in the empire included:

  • Constantinople (Istanbul) – Legation/Embassy
  • Aleppo[27]
  • Beirut[27]
  • Brusa[27] (Bursa)
  • Harput/Kharpert (now in Elazig)
    • Started from January 1, 1901 with Dr. Thomas H. Norton as the consul;[28] he had no previous experience in international relations, as the U.S. was just recently establishing its diplomatic network.[29] The consulate was established to assist missionaries. The Ottoman Ministry of Internal Security gave him a teskireh travel permit, but the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs initially refused to recognize the consulate.[28] The building had three stories, a wall, and a garden with mulberry trees. Leslie A. Davis became consul of Harpoot in 1914; Davis stated that this mission was "one of the most remote and inaccessible in the world".[30] Davis observed the Armenian Genocide.[31] Davis hid about 80 Armenians in the consulate grounds. His term ended with the cessation of Ottoman-U.S. relations in 1917.[30]
  • Jerusalem[27]
  • Mersina[27] (Mersin)
  • Samsun[27]
  • Smyrna (now Izmir)[27]

Ottoman diplomatic missions to the U.S. included:

  • Washington, DC (Embassy) – Classified as a "second class embassy".[23]
  • New York City (Consulate-General)
    • Established after the 1880s to monitor anti-Ottoman activity. New York City, previously served by an honorary consulate, had received increased immigration from the empire. Ottoman envoy Alexandros Mavrogenis had advocated for a full consulate-general and afterwards, on the grounds of New York having more diplomatic importance to the empire than Washington, DC, asked the Ottoman government for a vice consul in New York. The consuls in New York began to squabble for power with the Washington consuls.[32] Kuneralp wrote that the conflict between New York City consul general Refet Bey and his respective Washington envoy, Yusuf Ziya Pasha, "took almost epical dimensions."[33]
  • Boston (Consulate-General)

Honorary Ottoman consulates in the U.S.:

  • Baltimore
    • William Grange served as honorary consul, selected by Blak.[32]
  • Boston (later replaced with a consulate-general)
    • Joseph Yazidiji, an Ottoman citizen, was an honorary consul.[32]
  • Chicago[32]
  • New Orleans
    • J. O. Nixon was honorary consul, selected by Blak.[32]
  • New York City[32] (later replaced with a consulate-general)
  • Philadelphia[32]
  • San Francisco[32]
  • Washington DC/Baltimore (later replaced with a legation/embassy)
    • George Porter became the honorary consul for Washington, DC and Baltimore in May 1858.[32]

Ottoman ministers and ambassadors to the U.S.

The Ottoman government chose to continue the mission with a charge, Hüseyin Avni Bey, after World War I began, and this appointment ended with the cutoff of diplomatic relations on April 20, 1917.[34][35]

Kuneralp stated that these officials were "interesting figures" but that there was not "a Wellington Koo" among them and "they did not shine in their diplomatic careers", as the Ottoman government did not view this post to be important.[8] He also stated that Madame Bey, wife of first secretary Sıtkı Bey, due to her participation in American social life, was actually the most well-known person in the Ottoman diplomatic community within the US.[34]

American ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire

Chargé d'Affaires:

Minister Resident:

Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary:

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary:

See also

Books about the relations:

Relations between the United States and countries once a part of the empire.


  1. ^ Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Embassy to the Eastern Courts: America's Secret First Pivot Toward Asia, 1832–37 (Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2015. xvi, 236 pp.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Syed Tanvir Wasti (2012). "Ahmed Rüstem Bey and the End of an Era". Middle Eastern Studies. 48 (5): 781–796. doi:10.1080/00263206.2012.703616. S2CID 144132608. - Published online August 14, 2012 - Cited: p. 781.
  3. ^ Syed Tanvir Wasti (2012). "Ahmed Rüstem Bey and the End of an Era". Middle Eastern Studies. 48 (5): 781–796. doi:10.1080/00263206.2012.703616. S2CID 144132608. - Published online August 14, 2012 - Notes section (available for free online)
  4. ^ Jay Sexton (2011). The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9781429929288.
  5. ^ a b c d Sinan Kuneralp, "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917." (2001) p. 100 online.
  6. ^ Kuneralp, p. 100-101.
  7. ^ Kuneralp, p. 105-106.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Kuneralp, p. 101. "During the half-century that followed Blacque's appointment till 1917[...]12 heads of missions succeeded one another in Washington."
  9. ^ Turkish Yearbook of International Relations. Ankara Üniversitesi Diş Munasebetler Enstitüsü, 2000. (head book says 2000/2 Special Issue of Turkish-American Relations. Issue 31, Page 13. p. 13. "Over the 35 years that the dispute lasted (1877-1912), some nine envoys succeeded one another at the head of the Washington mission which was raised to Embassy level in 1912,[...]"
  10. ^ Kuneralp, p. 105.
  11. ^ Edward Mead Earle, "American Missions in the Near East." Foreign Affairs 7.3 (1929): 398-417. online
  12. ^ Roger R. Trask, The United States Response to Turkish Nationalism and Reform, 1914-1939 (1971) pp 3-15.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kuneralp, Sinan (2011). "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917". In Esenbel, Selcuk; Criss, Bilge Nur; Greenwood, Tony (eds.). American Turkish Encounters: Politics and Culture, 1830-1989. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 102. ISBN 978-1-4438-3260-1.
  14. ^ Kemal H. Karpat (2001). The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State. Oxford University Press. pp. 235–. ISBN 978-0-19-513618-0.
  15. ^ Moshe Yegar (1 January 2002). Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Western Burma/Myanmar. Lexington Books. pp. 397–. ISBN 978-0-7391-0356-2.
  16. ^ Political Science Quarterly. Academy of Political Science. 1904. pp. 22–.
  17. ^ Mustafa Akyol (18 July 2011). Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. W. W. Norton. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-0-393-07086-6.
  18. ^ J. Robert Moskin (19 November 2013). American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service. St. Martin's Press. pp. 204–. ISBN 978-1-250-03745-9.
  19. ^ George Hubbard Blakeslee; Granville Stanley Hall; Harry Elmer Barnes (1915). The Journal of International Relations. Clark University. pp. 358–.
  20. ^ The Journal of Race Development. Clark University. 1915. pp. 358–.
  21. ^ Idris Bal (2004). Turkish Foreign Policy in Post Cold War Era. Universal-Publishers. pp. 405–. ISBN 978-1-58112-423-1.
  22. ^ Idris Bal (2004). Turkish Foreign Policy in Post Cold War Era. Universal-Publishers. pp. 406–. ISBN 978-1-58112-423-1.
  23. ^ a b İhsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin. History of the Ottoman State, society & civilisation: Vol. 1. IRCICA, Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, 2001. ISBN 9290630531, 9789290630531. p. 343. "Changes which were initiated in 1886 divided Ottoman embassies into four categories." - View #2: "second class embassies in Washington and Montenegro[...]"
  24. ^ Naomi W. Cohen, "Ambassador Straus in Turkey, 1909-1910: A Note on Dollar Diplomacy." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45.4 (1959) online
  25. ^ Spencer Tucker, ed. Encyclopedia of World War I (2005) p 1080
  26. ^ "Unstated". Servet-i Fünun (1423): cover. 1919-08-21. - caption is in French
  27. ^ a b c d e f g Hurewitz, J.C. (editor). "Ottoman-American Severance of Relations." The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record - British-French Supremacy, 1914-1945. Yale University Press, 1979. ISBN 0300022034, 9780300022032. p. 99.
  28. ^ a b Armenian Perspectives: 10th Anniversary Conference of the Association Internationale Des Études Arméniennes, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Psychology Press, 1997. ISBN 0700706100, 9780700706105. p. 293.
  29. ^ Armenian Perspectives: 10th Anniversary Conference of the Association Internationale Des Études Arméniennes, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Psychology Press, 1997. ISBN 0700706100, 9780700706105. p. 2937.
  30. ^ a b White, Edward (2017-02-03). "The Great Crime". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2020-04-09.
  31. ^ Merrill D. Peterson. "Starving Armenians": America and the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1930 and After. p. 35.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kuneralp, p. 106.
  33. ^ a b Kuneralp, p. 107.
  34. ^ a b Kuneralp, p. 103.
  35. ^ "Ottoman Empire during World War I", Wikipedia, 2020-09-13, retrieved 2020-10-13
  36. ^ "President Benjamin Harrison Names Solomon Hirsch Minister to Turkey". Shapell Manuscript Collection. Shapell Manuscript Foundation.

Further reading

  • Cohen, Naomi W. "Ambassador Straus in Turkey, 1909-1910: A Note on Dollar Diplomacy." Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45.4 (1959) online
  • DeNovo, John A. American Interests and Policies in the Middle East, 1900-1939 (1963), pp. 3-26.
  • Field, James A. America and the Mediterranean World, 1776-1882 (Princeton, 1969)
  • Fisher, Sydney N. "Two Centuries of American Interest in Turkey," in David H. Pinkney and Theodore Ropp, eds., A Festschrift for Frederick B. Artz (Duke UP, 1964), pp. 113–138. online free to borrow
  • Gordon, Leland James. American Relations with Turkey, 1830-1930: An Economic Interpretation (Philadelphia, 1932)
  • Kuneralp, Sinan. "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917." In: Criss, Nur Bilge, Selçuk Esenbel, Tony Greenwood, and Louis Mazzari (editors). American Turkish Encounters: Politics and Culture, 1830–1989 (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). ISBN 144383260X, 9781443832601. pp. 100-108.
  • Trask, Roger R. The United States Response to Turkish Nationalism and Reform, 1914-1939 (1971) pp 3–36 on Ottoman years. online

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