Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Arşivi, E. 2031-16.
Yıldız, A., “Şehzadeye öğütler: Ebûbekir Ratıb Efendi’nin Şehzade Selim’e (III) bir mektubu”, Osmanlı Araştırmaları/The Journal of Ottoman Studies 42 (2013), 233-274 (transcription in pp. 259-271)
This letter (Mektub) was written in the context of Selim’s correspondance with the King of France; it is in fact a copy of Louis XVI’s answer, explained and commented by Ratıb Efendi. Ratıb Efendi smartly suggests (presenting it as an interpretation of the French king’s words) that the Ottoman Sultan can achieve no conquests and victories without the control upon the janissaries, the ulema, the viziers and the other officials that his predecessors used to have; Selim should first impose this order and control within his realm, before embarking into campaigns. This must be done with a renewal of the old laws, but according to the nature of this age (Y260-1: kavanîn-i kadîme bu asrın mizâc ü tabîatına tatbîk ile tecdîd). The young Sultan should first imitate the European order and make an army and navy similar to those of the European state. Here Ratıb Efendi admits the danger of rebellion, since the people may start calling the Sultan “a worshipper of Europe” (Y264: Frenk-perest); the Sultan should first make the commoners (avâm-ı nâs) trust him. Indeed, it is very important that the Sultan is loved by both commoners and the elite (Y269: gerek avâm-ı nâs ve gerek hâsü’l-hâs). Ratıb Efendi presents straightforwardly the two possible solutions: should the army be given European training and order, or should it be reformed along the lines of the glorious ancestors? He admits frankly that he is a scribe, not a military, and thus cannot give an answer. A passage could be interpreted as if he favours the second path (he proposes to Selim to tell Louis that for some time now the Ottoman soldiers have been used to confort and ease, and that outsiders have entered their ranks, while the lack of discipline and worthiness has also contaminated the ulema and officials: Y267); he also seems quite sceptical against the envoy of French officers to train the Ottoman soldiers (Y269-70).
Ratıb Efendi stresses that Ottomans had assisted France in the past; France is again in a rather weak situation, as the finances are in a bad state, the treasury has immense debts, and French kings are stupid and prey to the words of women. However, they are false in claiming their friendship to the Ottomans, since they usually act in accordance with Austria and Russia. More generally, no European state is to be trusted, and Ratıb Efendi brings several examples of the Europeans’ treachery against the Ottoman Empire. In particular, the French seek permission for their ships to pass freely the Straits and to enter the Suez sea; Ratıb Efendi urges Selim to refuse both requests (Y271).
Moreover, Ratıb Efendi dwells in financial matters. He remarks that every state has its laws (Y263: her devletin bir kanunu, bir kaide ve töresi vardır) and cannot be compared with other states, and argues that Ottoman state expenses are constantly paid in arrears (tedahül). A wise doctor, i.e. a Grand Vizier such as Ragıb Paşa can manage to inverse this process and create surpluses, if only he be appointed for life. Now the Ottoman state has no debt and is in no need of other states for raw materials such as iron or meat; moreover, its religion gives it an advantage, due to the zeal for Holy War.