Ottoman constitution of 1876
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The Ottoman constitution of 1876 (Ottoman Turkish: قانون اساسى, "basic law"; Turkish: Kanûn-u Esâsî) was the first constitution of the Ottoman Empire. Written by members of the Young Ottomans, particularly Midhat Pasha, during the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II (1876–1909), the constitution was only in effect for two years, from 1876 to 1878. Historically however, it represented the first modern constitution in the world outside Europe and the Americas.
In the course of their studies in Europe, some members of the new Ottoman elite concluded that the secret of Europe's success rested not just with its technical achievements but also with its political organizations. Moreover, the process of reform itself had imbued a small segment of this elite with the belief that constitutional government would be a desirable check on autocracy and provide them with a better opportunity to influence policy. Sultan Abdul Aziz's chaotic rule led to his deposition in 1876 and, after a few troubled months, to the proclamation of an Ottoman constitution that the new sultan, Abdul Hamid II, pledged to uphold. 
The Ottoman Constitution was introduced after a series of reforms were promulgated in 1839 during the Tanzimat era. The goal of the Tanzimat era was to reform the Ottoman empire under the guidance of Westernization. In the context of the reforms, Western educated Armenians of the Ottoman empire drafted the Armenian National Constitution in 1863. The Ottoman Constitution of 1876 was under direct influence of the Armenian National Constitution and its authors. The Ottoman Constitution of 1876 itself was drawn up by Western educated Ottoman Armenian Krikor Odian, who was the advisor of Midhat Pasha.
The Constitution proposed a parliament divided into two parts: The senators were elected by the Sultan, and the Chamber of Deputies was elected by the people, although not directly (they chose delegates who would then choose the Deputies). There were also elections held every four years to keep the parliament changing and to continually express the voice of the people. This same framework carried over from the Constitution as it was in 1876 until it was reinstated in 1908. All in all the framework on the Constitution did little to limit the Sultan's Power. Some of the retained powers of the Sultan were; declare war, appoint new ministers and approve legislation. 
Second Constitutional Era
The Constitution was put back into effect in 1908 as Abdulhamid came under pressure, particularly from some of his military leaders. Abdulhamid’s fall came as a result of the Young Turk revolution, and these Young Turks put the Constitution back into effect. The second constitutional period spanned from 1908 until after World War I when the Ottoman Empire was dissolved. Political groups and parties were formed during this period, including the CUP (Committee of Union and Progress).
Significance of the Constitution
The Ottoman Constitution represented more than the immediate effect it had on the country. Despite the latitude it gave to the sovereign, the constitution provided clear evidence of the extent to which European influences operated among a section of the Ottoman bureaucracy. The constitution also reaffirmed the equality of all Ottoman subjects, including their right to serve in the new chamber of deputies. The constitution was more than a political document; it was a proclamation of Ottomanism and Ottoman patriotism, and it was an assertion that the empire was capable of resolving its problems and that it had the right to remain intact as it then existed. 
References and notes
- For a modern English translation of the constitution and related laws see, Tilmann J. Röder, The Separation of Powers: Historical and Comparative Perspectives, in: Grote/Röder, Constitutionalism in Islamic Countries (Oxford University Press 2011).
- Cleveland, William (2013). A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. p. 79. ISBN 0813340489.
- Cleveland, William L & Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East: 4th Edition, Westview Press: 2009, p. 82.
- Joseph, John (1983). Muslim-christian relations & inter-christian rivalries in the middle east : the case of the jacobites.. [S.l.]: Suny Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780873956000. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- H. Davison, Roderic (1973). Reform in the Ottoman Empire, 1856-1876 (2, reprint ed.). Gordian Press. p. 134. Retrieved 21 January 2013. "But it can be shown that Midhat Pasa, the principal author of the 1876 constitution, was directly influenced by the Armenians."
- United States Congressional serial set, Issue 7671 (Volume ed.). United States Senate: 66th Congress. 2nd session. 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 21 January 2013. "In 1876 a constitution for Turkey was drawn up by the Armenian Krikor Odian, secretary to Midhat Pasha the reformer, and was proclaimed and almost immediately revoked by Sultan Abdul Hamid"
- Bertrand Bereilles, La Diplomatie turco-phanarote. Introduction till Rapport secret de Karatheodory Pacha sur le Congrès de Berlin, Paris, 1919, p. 25. Quote translated from French: "The majority of the government officials in the Ottoman Empire selected a Greek or an Armenian as their advisor in reform." The author mentions two names amongst these "advisors", Dr. Serop Vitchenian, who was the adviser to Fuad Pasha, and Grigor Odian, deputy to Midhat Pasha, who is the author of the Ottoman constitution of 1876.
- A history of the Modern Middle East, Cleveland and Bunton p. 79
- Cleveland, William (2013). A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0813340489.