Probably after 1717, as the greatest part of the work seems to copy Defterdar Sarı Mehmed Paşa’s Nesâyıhü’l-vüzerâ.
Süleymaniye Ktp. Hamidiye nr. 152 and others.
İpşirli, M. (ed.), “Nahîfî Süleyman Efendi: Nasihatü’l-vüzera”, Tarih Enstitüsü Dergisi 15 (1997), 15-27
After the usual invocations, the author proposes to write briefly on the conditions of “soldiers and peasants” (askerî vü re’aya), since the protection of the necessary terms for the order and the well-being of the cities is a Godly act for those who wish well for “the Muslim state” (devlet-i İslam). The Grand Vizier, he states, as the “absolute proxy” (vekil-i mutlak) of the Sultan, has to oversee the “annihilation of innovating and unjust practices” (mahv-ı rüsûm-ı bid’at u bî-dâd) and to suppress tyranny, rebellion and obstinacy. Then Nahifî starts an enumeration of the virtues demanded by the Grand Vizier: he has to follow closely the Holy Law, to be humble and fearful against God, and every evening he must ask himself what mistakes he made, what good deeds he committed, and what good deeds he could do but did not. He has to behave in a similar and equal manner toward rich and poor. More particularly, he must give clear instructions to the governor of Egypt to care for the well-being of the Holy Cities (copying Defterdar, U11). He must hold his anger, not be revengeful or jealous, nor greedy for the goods of others. Nahifî (somehow echoing Kâtib Çelebi) urges the Grand Vizier not to investigate the concealed faults of people (I19: halkın uyûb-ı hafiyyesin teftîş eylemeyeler); also, to be calm and generous to the needy, to be mild, to prefer a harm in his property than in his honour, to avoid sleep and comfort (hâb-ı rahat ve tena’um), and so on.
Then Nahifî moves on to more practical advice, always in the same moralistic vein: private petitions should be discussed after the imperial council, so as not to interrupt its affairs, because people tend to exaggerate in order to get their goals or revenge their enemies. When judging in council, the vizier must not let his anger overcome him; on the contrary, he should be calm and beneficent. His gates should be open, so that anybody in distress or need could ask for his interference. Moreover, the Grand Vizier should not see the service of his Sultan (hıdmet-i Padişâhî) as a means of acquiring property, and thus should not covet neither the private goods of the Sultan nor the “public property” of the peasants and soldiers (I21: emvâl-ı hâssa-ı padişâh ve emvâl-ı âmme-i re’ayâ ve sipâh). He must not take bribes to give an unjust judgment, nor impose fines with hastiness; moreover, he must not grant positions and offices with bribery, as this equals a permission to the appointed official to plunder the inhabitants’ properties (copying Defterdar, U55-63).
On the other hand, he must control the provincial governors with a network of spies, rather than dismissing them after one or two complaints. More generally, it is important that special salaried agents, both secret and visible, report regularly on the condition of judges, peasants, and villages, so that the Vizier may have a detailed and complete picture of the empire, with information on which places have been ruined because of excessive taxation or oppression, and so forth (drawing from Defterdar, U29-31). In accordance to this information, harsh measures must be taken against highway robbers. Besides, the Vizier must suppress the rabble (haşerât) that roam without any allegiance (kapusuz ve becesiz), stay in the peasants’ homes and extract from them money in the form of various illegal dues. The same goes for those irregulars (levendât haşerâtı) of unknown origin who serve provincial governors or other officials. Special attention must be given to the “bad innovations” (I23: muhdesât-ı zulmiye ve bid’at-ı seyyi’e), i.e. illegal taxes and dues imposed on the peasants without any reference in the registers.
There is no end in the villainies of this time, Nahifî notes bitterly, and the reason is the importance given to the sensual pleasures, the comforts brought about by tyranny, the emphasis in worldly deeds and the neglect of the care for the next world. One must always remember that he will have to answer for his deeds after death.
Returning now to practicalities, the author stresses that the expenses of the treasury should be reduced and its income increased (I24). In the same time, the judges should be warned that the properties of those deceased without heirs belong to the public treasury (beytü’l-mal) and that only the legal shares should be given away. On the other hand, the Vizier must not be content with assigning the regulation of prices to the judges and muhtesibs: he must control them in person, because it is a public matter (umûr-ı külliye) and, as such, a matter of politics (or: of the administrative branch, emr-i siyâset), i.e. outside the competence of the judge. The police officers should keep the towns in good order, and special attention should be given in the inspection of the coinage (all this copied from Defterdar, U31, and ultimately from Hezarfen). Nahifî admits that an incognito inspection of the city by the Vizier could be useful, but notes that he must not overdo: there are officials who can be commissioned for this task. However, handing over affairs to the hands of inappropriate people and tradesmen (I25: ehl-i dekâkîn) may cause great harm; allowing tradesmens and men of the market (esnaf ve sûkî) in the line of service (tarîk) is like allowing strangers in one’s private apartments.
After warning against the excessive use of special messengers (ulak) and the unrestricted granting of stipends (vazife), Nahifî points out that timars and life-long tax-farms should not be given from unregistered lands (copying, as before, from Defterdar: U23). He then goes on discussing military matters, such as spying, getting regular reports on the situation of fortresses, the training of soldiers, the careful use of gunpowder, the paying of the garrisons in cash (if possible), the secret inspection of fortress officers who tend to keep part of the salaries for themselves, and so on (drawing on Defterdar, U101-121).
Somehow abruptly, Nahifî ends his essay with the usual description of the human society (I27): humanity is divided in four parts, according to their trade (hirfet ve senâyi’ cihetinden), who depend to one another. These classes are: the peasants, without whom the other three classes would not survive; the merchants and tradesmen (tüccâr ve ehl-i senâyi’), without whom tools and goods would not be available; the ulema, who guide the community toward good and pious behaviour. Without describing the fourth class (the soldiers), he concludes that none of these classes must have supremacy over the others.