The Last Sultan: Abdul Hamid II

January 20, 1895: The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Abdul Hamid II is credited with having issued an order to the Governors of Jerusalem and Beirut ordering them to remove all of the restrictions that had been placed on Jews trading in Syria.  The Sultan also has declared that the Jews “shall enjoy the same rights, religious and otherwise, as any of the people in the empire.”

This order was probably one of the rare bright spots of the Sultan’s reign from 1876 to 1909.  Abdul Hamid II was known as the “Bloody Sultan” primarily because he oversaw widespread pogroms and government-sanctioned massacres of Armenians, Kurds and Bulgarians.

He promulgated the first Ottoman constitution of 1876 on Dec. 23, 1876, primarily to ward off foreign intervention., which was a sign of progressive thinking that marked his early rule. But due to his conviction of Western-influence on Ottoman affairs, and the parliament’s push for the war with Russia, which he opposed, Abdul Hamid suspended the short-lived Ottoman Constitution and parliament in 1878 and seized absolute power, ending the first constitutional era of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid’s 1909 removal from the throne was hailed by most Ottoman citizens, who welcomed the return to constitutional rule after three decades.

I don’t know if this was characteristic of the many sultans who ruled the Ottoman Empire, but Hamid II was married 13 times, issuing royal children from each marriage.

Shown here today are two examples of stamps issued during the Sultan’s reign.  They are the same issues of 1905, however the example on the right has the center symbol inverted, thus a printing error which typically commands higher premiums at auction.  Not so the case with this set which has a starting bid today on Ebay of €64.22.

abdul hamid II - turkey 1905 inverted


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