For a chronological order of the mss. see Vasıf – İlgürel 1978, XLVIII-XLIX.
Ahmed Vâsıf Efendi, Mehâsinü’l-âsâr ve hakâikü’l-ahbâr, ed. Mücteba İlgürel, Istanbul 1978
Mehâsinü’l-âsâr ve hakâikü’l-ahbâr (“The charms and truths of relics and annals”: As stated in the relevant part of Vasıf’s history, in 1784 the Duke of Montmorency-Luxembourg sent a letter to Abdülhamid I, in which he suggested that Ottoman defeats were due to their inadequate training in the sciences of war and offered his help to instruct the Ottomans the new rules of fortification and artillery, as a token of French friendship. The sultan asked Vasıf to write an essay on these matters, based on his experiences with the “infidels”.
In a language with highly religious connotations, Vasıf argues that infidel kings have indeed found an easy way to procure what they consider a great benefit: in their countries they appoint a special place, where they collect orphans and illegitimate children and train them in the modern arts of war (fenn-i harbi vaz’-ı cedîd); the same is done with part of their peasant subjects (reaya), whom they recruit as if they were their slaves (abd-ı müşsterâları gibi... devşirüp) and make them serve as soldiers by force (tahte’l-kahr). On the contrary, in the Muslim countries it is impossible to compel soldiers against their will, whereas their zeal for Holy War makes them willing and efficient; even if they are defeated now and then, they would never submit to enemies teaching them the military arts. Furthermore, the occasional victories of the infidels are a result of their inducement to temporary success by satanic efforts (müzâvele-i şeytâniyye mülâbesesiyle hâsıl olan kuvvet-i istidrâc). This temporary success (istidrâc) cannot last long and is not durable; and moreover, the weapons of the infidels are not different from those already known: their eventual defeat is undoubtedly sure.
Victory and defeat depend on God’s will, although the Christians believe the opposite: more particularly, they think that war affairs belong to the category of particular events (umûr-ı cüziyye), with which -according to them- God has no connection (medhali olmayup). Thus, they claim that victory belongs to whoever can prove stronger in producing the means of combat (tedarük-i esbâb-ı münâveşe). To reject this claim, Vasıf brings examples from Ottoman history, where inadequate preparation and order of the Ottomans did not prevent them from beating the infidels. On the other hand, it is true that the Ottomans must strive to procure these means; and, Vasıf thinks, this is now happening (presumably through the reforms initiated by Halil Hamid Pasha, his patron). Hence, undoubtedly these means will be perfected, as the Grand Vizier has been entrusted by the Sultan with the task of preparing what is needed for the army, multiplying the numbers of soldiers and reducing the state expenses. On the contrary, the French proposals are not to be trusted, as there can be no trust in the Christian countries anyway; for instance, when asked where this proposed training would take place, the French ambassador suggested Crete, and it is obvious that France wishes to lay foot on the island for its own reasons.