Probably between 1714 and 1717 (Uğural, xvi).
Uğural uses the aforementioned mss. and mentions more. See Uğural xii-xiv.
Almost all the chapters of Nesâyıhü’l-vüzerâ ve’l-ümerâ veya Kitab-ı güldeste (“Advice for Viziers and Statesmen, or a Book Containing a Bunch of Flowers”) deal with financial administration. After a short introduction, the first and longest part of the essay concerns the virtues needed of a vizier (U9-53). In order to look after the well-being of his subjects, says Defterdar, and following the well-known circle of justice (here cited somehow shortened: “no kingdom without men, no men without wealth”, lâ mülke illâ birricâl velâ ricâle illâ bilmâl, U9), the Sultan has to choose an experienced and pious vizier, who will be his absolute proxy (vekîl-i mutlak). Defterdar proceeds to enumerating the vizier’s main duties. He has to take care that the governor of Egypt sends the annual provisions to Mecca and Medina. He must look upon everyone in an equal way (cümleye yeksân bakılub... cümleyi müsavî görüb), regardless one’s status and wealth (U11). The vizier must tell the Sultan the truth, and not to conceal anything that has to do with state affairs; in the same time, he must keep secret all discussions and conversations he has with the Sultan, whom he should respect and love. The vizier should not seek personal wealth, nor try to emulate the Sultan in his dresses and luxury; he must not covet the properties of the subjects, restraining himself to the ascribed vezirial fiefs (for which Defterdar quotes Lütfi Paşa). A special paragraph is devoted to the need of preserving the interests of the orphans. The vizier must not be guided by the fear of losing his post, since it is better to be loved by the people than to keep one’s post practicing injustice.
Defterdar then moves on to some more specific issues, such as the need to restrain from excessive use of special messengers (ulak), not to give stipends (vazife) without recommendation from the local governor or kadi, not to give timars and life-long tax-farms from unregistered lands (U23: haric ez defter). In this point Defterdar, with his special knowledge on financial matters, speaks more extensively of the right process to check landholding issues, combining his advice with a stress on the virtue of patience. The vizier, he goes on, should spend his time in the state affairs rather than music, conversation and entertainment; the councils of important men (meclis-i âlî) must be devoid of laughter, jokes and games, since they should be devoted to the affairs of the state (U25). All his actions must be led by the Holy Law and justice, and Defterdar repeats here the “circle of justice” in a more elaborate form than he did earlier (U29). The vizier must appoint salaried persons that will report any injustice in the provinces; he must take care of monetary issues, namely inspecting the weight and quality of money and, more importantly, securing the just implementation of narh, or fixed prices. If only the kadi looks to it, Defterdar says, narh is prone to be neglected in the market; indeed, it is a matter to be looked upon by the highest levels of the government (U31, copying from Hezarfen I248, although substituting the Vizier for the Sultan; the same passage in Defterdar’s Zübde-i vekayiat, 388). The author then examines public order, advising the vizier to make secret patrols with the city police from time to time; he also stresses the need to examine carefully all petitions that arrive to the Imperial Council. Capital punishment should be practiced with caution, and even in times of war it is preferable to take prisoners than to kill the beaten enemies (U33).
More “moralistic” advice follows: the vizier must not sleep much, and never postponing important affairs for the next day; he has to listen attentively to both parts, and answer with affection, in cases of dispute; at any rate he must not be led by wrath, but rather behave with sweetness and patience especially to the weak ones. Defterdar praises forgiveness; one should not wish bad of another, nor use calumny and injustice to get rid of one’s enemies; one should rely to God and accept everything that comes from Him. Furthermore, one ought to be always striving for good deeds, not to seek glory and not to depend on material goods or official posts (Defterdar inserts here somehow awkwardly a classical motive of moralist treatises, namely the need to keep away from courts and disputes: U47); high offices, it is said, are like hot baths, as those who enter want to leave them and those who leave want to enter. The vizier must constantly think of death and the hereafter, where fame and wealth play no role; this world is a house of suffering, and only piety and good deeds promise salvation.
After this moralistic discussion, Defterdar moves to the second chapter, “on the high-posts and the detriments from bribery” (U55-63). The provincial officers (taşrada olan ehali-i mensıb) should be checked by spies; on the other hand, it is not proper that a governor be removed due to one or two complains: the Grand Vizier must send him a letter of advice, and remove him only if complain continues. Government posts must be given to pious and experienced men, not by bribery, protection or intercession; people of worth should not be ignored with the pretext of being “powerless” (hemeç). When a post is given to someone unworthy by bribery, it is as he is given permission to plunder the property of the reaya, as he is prone to extract from them the bribes he gave. Bribery is the root of all evil in the state, Defterdar stresses; it leads inevitably to the ruin of agriculture and rural life, as well as of the income of the treasury. Defterdar describes in length how all official posts must be given strictly to the competent; in the same vein, he criticizes the use of bribery in the kadi courts. Friendly gifts are acceptable, of course, but only if they ask nothing for exchange (U61). Defterdar proposes that all governorships of eyalet and sancaks be given for life (müebbed) to worthy, experienced and veteran men, all corrupt officials be punished severely; and a similar procedure of selection be conducted among judges, whose duration of office must not be extended or shortened even by one day. Thus, bribery will be crushed by the root, and it is even to be hoped that peasants start to return to their old villages (evtân-ı kadîmelerine) on their own will.
The third chapter (U65-83) deals with the treasury and the posts of the Imperial divan, a subject Defterdar knew very well. The Grand Vizier, he says, must respect the high officials and the old and experienced members of the divan. These posts should last for at least one or two years. The defterdar, especially, must be honest, pious and experienced in the scribal sciences (fenn-i kalem), so that he will care for the growth of the treasury and the proper payment of the soldiers in time. The affairs of the treasury are from among the most important affairs of the state, and so the defterdar must pay great attention in order to suppress various Jewish profiteers who use tricks and bribes in order to lay hands upon state money. To this purpose, the Grand Vizier should leave the defterdar independent and avoid dismissing the latter one’s men every now and then; all, magnates and common people, should know that they can trust and rely upon the defterdar for every affair concerning the treasury. The Grand Vizier, on his side, must not hasten to hear the calumnies and false accusations against the defterdar; because the dismissal of a defterdar always brings damage to the treasury (U69). After repeating that the defterdar should not be dismissed easily and that he must remain independent, Defterdar then describes his moral qualities: he should content himself with his revenues and avoid bribery, and care for the growth of income and the decrease of expenses –only, notes the author, the latter depends also on the Sultan and the Grand Vizier.
Moving to more concrete advice, Defterdar observes then that some income units (mukata’) should be given by entrustment (emanet) rather than farming (U71). The imperial treasury is not to be used for personal purposes; even the caliph Umar was using his own candles when working on his private business, notes Defterdar (copying almost verbatim Kara Çelebi-zâde, 218), and adds that the treasury (beytülmâl-ı müslimîn) is nobody’s heritage to use in vain. More specifically, the janissary army must be small in number but always ready for battle. Lütfi Paşa had written that 15,000 salaried soldiers were already too many; in 1703, when Ahmed III was raised to the throne, the present author was ordered as defterdar to give the usual gifts to the janissaries. But, due to the long wars and the destruction of the border provinces the treasury was in a very bad situation, although for the sake of the new sultan’s status it was absolutely necessary to pay the accession gifts. However, with Defterdar’s devotion and hard-working, both the gifts and the army salaries were paid on time, farming taxes and other revenue in arrears. Defterdar enumerates the imperial soldiers in detail, to result in the sum of 99,500 men, not to count the navy (U79). As a conclusion, his advice is that the Sultan should ask from his defterdar a detailed list of the state revenues and expenses; toll revenues (gümrükler) must be examined and ratified, and care should be taken in order to avoid granting these revenues to individuals unless absolutely necessary. Similarly, a close examination of ulema salaried posts and vakf finances would save the treasury a lot of wealth. Moreover, revenue that has been produced by bribery or oppression should be avoided; Sultans of old have managed to win awesome victories and conquests with much less income, because they abstained from tyranny.
Moving on to the third chapter (U85-91), Defterdar analyzes the janissary corps, which he considers the most important issue for the order of the empire (devlet-i aliyyede nizâmı ehem ve elzem olan mevâddın a’zâmı). Obviously bearing in mind the recent 1703 revolt, Defterdar hastens to note that reforms in this matter should be made slowly, gradually and in close consultation with the officers of the corps. First the border regiments must be inspected, not by external officers but by well-chosen officers that know the case and are in good terms with the soldiers due to their honesty and wisdom. As previous theorists, Defterdar also notes the intrusion of many outsiders to the janissary ranks, especially during the recent wars in Hungary, when many peasants were disguised as janissaries (tebdil-i kıyafet idüb) in order to avoid the heavy taxes (U87). A pious and experienced officer must examine the janissary registers and distinguish between real soldiers and peasants. Moreover, soldiers that never stepped foot outside Istanbul should be ousted from the registers, always in close collaboration with the corps officers. The scribe of the janissaries, especially, ought to be a retired officer (devlet-i aliyyenin emekdârı), honest and committed, because his job is of outmost importance for this task.
After this careful advice Defterdar moves to the situation of the reaya (U93-99). After citing some verse on oppression and justice, he stresses that new taxes (muhdes teklîf) should not be imposed to peasants. Excessive tax is like taking earth from the foundations of a house in order to build its roof; when Sultan Suleyman asked who is the “benefactor of the world” (veliyünniam-ı âlem), he rejected the answer pointing to the Sultan himself, arguing that the real benefactor of the world are the peasants, without whom no Sultan could stand. The peasants must feel safe and free from any oppression and tyranny. On the other hand, they are not to intrude the army ranks; making sipahi people other than sons and grandsons of soldiers destroys the world’s order, since less peasants mean less taxes, the same as oppression and excessive demands do. Peasants should not be permitted to be dressed as soldiers, or to ride horses like them; even if a peasant is granted a timar for his excessive services, his family and relatives must not be granted military status. The same goes for a peasant that follows the ulema career.
Besides, every thirty years new tax surveys must be made, in order to erase the dead and include those that were missed in the previous register. Whenever a peasant flees from his land in order to escape oppression, the governor of his new place should send him back and settle him again according to the old law (U97: kanun-ı kadîm üzre). And here Defterdar ends this chapter by repeating the “circle of justice” thus: “The Sultan’s order is kept with soldiers; the soldiers’ standing is secured by cash in the treasury; the collection of wealth in the treasury passes through the well-being of the country, and this comes with justice, generosity and punishment of tyrants” (nizâm-ı Sultân ricâl iledir ve askerin kıyâmı nukûd-ı hazine iledir ve cem’-i hazîne mülkün mağmurluğu ise adl ü insaf ve ihsan ve siyâset-i zalimân iledir).
The sixth chapter of Defterdar’s treatise (U101-121) concerns military matters, with emphasis on border fortresses and campaign necessities. Inaugurating a long tradition that was to last more than a century, he gives concrete and detailed advice on the choice of suitable army officers; the manning of border castles; the need for constant use of spies; the need for castle repairs, as well as adequate supplies, to be made fully and in time. Honest officers should make annual inspections of the garrisons, secretly if possible, and government control of their matters should be close; Defterdar dwells for long on the dangers emanating from army officers administrating themselves local revenues kept for military payments. The better solution, he argues, is that garrisons are paid straightaway by state officials. After an enumeration of the ways local armies oppress the peasants, the author describes the qualities needed of a field marshal (serasker), stressing that he should always consult with experienced people; this consultation (meşveret), however, must not be made with anybody but only with trustworthy and well-meaning men, although (Defterdar notes) “it happens sometimes that an ignorant child or a light-minded woman utters an opinion or an answer that helps the right arrangement of things” (U115). The chapter ends with some advice concerning spying, precautions to be taken during campaigns, battle tactics, and the need to control rumours about the enemy.
In the next two chapters, Defterdar reverts to strictly moral advice, describing the ideal features of a Grand Vizier. The seventh chapter (U123-131) stresses that he should not be proud, avaricious or greedy; on the contrary, humbleness and charity are among the best moral values. Moreover, a proper man must control his wrath and be well-tempered. In the eight chapter (U133-143), the features and worth of true friendship are described at length; Defterdar notes that in his days very few people among high state officials (ashâb-ı menâsıb-ı aliyye ve erbâb-ı merâtib-i seniyye) can show genuine friendship and commitment, as he bitterly experienced himself during his serving as treasurer (U135). One must be very careful as to whom he consults with; especially gossip is a potentially very dangerous vice one should look at when choosing his close people. This lengthy discourse is perhaps meant as a supplement to the sixth chapter, concerning among others the dangers of consultation (meşveret).
The ninth and final chapter (U145-153) concerns the timar system. Defterdar warns against granting timars and especially zeamets to the Grand Vizier’s men, instead of worthy soldiers. He stresses that timars are to be distributed “according to the old law” (U145: kanun-ı kadîme riâyet lâzımdır). Now, on the contrary, the old rules have been ignored for long, and timars are granted to people nobody knows their name or even to slaves still not manumitted. These timars should be taken back, because a timar is of no use if it cannot produce able soldiers in time of campaign. While in the old times each timar used to feed one or more armed and armoured soldier with his servants, nowadays it serves only to feed lazy slaves or magnates; the whole timar system is plundered, with the result that people in Anatolia or Rumili flee and turn to brigands. Inspections made in 1602/3 and in 1613/4 by Yemişçi Hasan Paşa and Nasuh Paşa already showed these distortions and malfunctions of the system, but the situation was not permanently corrected. A renewed inspection of the timar list is of outmost importance, and thus Defterdar comes to the end of his treatise.
Some manuscripts (on which Wright’s translation was based; see U: xiv) contain two appendices (zeyl): the first (U155), very short, states that a list of the harmful innovations (muhadessât-ı zulmiyye ve bid’at-ı seyyie) must be laid down and used as a guide to the ruler, noting that innovations are divided to good and bad (bid’at-ı hasene, bid’at-ı seyyie). The second appendix (U157-165) describes in detail the rules of the timar system, noting the differences between Anatolia and Rumili, the various kinds of timar granting, the rules for inheriting them, and so on. [special reference to the malikâne kind of timar (U163-165), which does not have to produce soldiers and can be inherited even to daughters].