Ottoman Empire–United States relations

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Ottoman–American relations

Ottoman Empire

United States
Diplomatic mission
Embassy of the Ottoman Empire, Washington D.C.Embassy of the United States, Constantinople (now Istanbul)

After 1780, the United States began relations with North African countries and with the Ottoman Empire.[how?][1]

In the early 1800s, the US fought the Barbary Wars against the Barbary states, which were under Ottoman suzerainty.

Formal relations[edit]

In 1831 the U.S. sent its first envoy to the Ottoman Empire, David Porter. Sinan Kuneralp, author of "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917," wrote that initially the empire initially apparently lacked "any sensible justification" to open a mission stateside due to the relative distance between the countries.[2]

The first official Ottoman government visit the U.S., lasting for six months in 1850, was that of Emin Bey, who toured shipyards there.[3] Two Ottoman officials, one being Edouard Blak Bey, who sensed the rise of the United States unsuccessfully advocated for installing a mission in the U.S. during the early 1850s.[2] The first Ottoman honorary consulate in the U.S. opened in May 1858.[4]

In 1866 Ottoman foreign minister Mehmed Emin Âli Pasha declined to start a legation to the U.S. that year, after reviewing a proposal by Ambassador to France of the Ottoman Empire Safvet Pasha. However the ministry changed its mind after the leaders there perceived the reports of the Cretan revolt (1866–1869) from the US consul W.J. Stillman and other American reports to be misleading and decided they needed to present a counter-view. The empire sent its first permanent envoy to the U.S. in 1867, creating the Ottoman Legation in Washington, DC. Since the empire itself began establishing its diplomatic missions in the 1830s and due to the about three decade gap between the respective legations being established, Kuneralp wrote that the Ottomans created their U.S. mission "comparatively late".[2]

Blak was the first envoy to Washington. Kuneralp wrote that the Washington posting was not considered important to the Ottoman government, which is why some officials refused the posting and those considered promising were turned away from it. He cited the cases of then-minister to Florence Rüstem Bey and Osman Nizami Pasha, who declined in 1867 and 1912, respectively.[5] Nine envoys headed the legation beginning in 1877 and prior to full embassy status,[6] and there were a total of 13 envoys/ambassadors in the position.[5]

Armenian issues[edit]

Abdul Hamid II disliked it when the Americans pleaded for help for Armenians. As a result, he terminated the credentials of Mustafa Şekib Bey, the envoy to the U.S., and chose not to upgrade the mission to embassy status. Mustafa Şekib therefore was unable to present his credentials to the President of the United states. Mustafa Şekib slept in the daytime, and so his staff dealt with U.S. officials. Kuneralp stated that therefore "Things were eased out".[7]

Moro rebellion in the Philippines[edit]

In 1899, John Hay, the American Secretary of State, asked the Jewish American ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Oscar Straus to request Sultan Abdul Hamid II to write a letter to the Moro Sulu Muslims of the Sulu Sultanate in the Philippines telling them to submit to American suzerainty and American military rule (see Philippine–American War). The Sultan obliged and wrote the letter, which was sent to Sulu via Mecca; two Sulu chiefs delivered it to Sulu and it was successful since the "Sulu Mohammedans... refused to join the insurrectionists and had placed themselves under the control of our army, thereby recognizing American sovereignty."[8]

Abdul Hamid used his position as caliph to order the Sulu Sultan not to resist and not fight the invading Americans.[9] President McKinley did not mention the Ottoman role in the pacification of the Sulu Moros in his address to the first session of the 56th Congress in December 1899 since the agreement with the Sultan of Sulu was not submitted to the Senate until December 18.[10] Despite Sulu's "pan-Islamic" ideology, he readily acceded to Straus' request to avoid hostilities between the West and Muslims.[11] The Sulu sultan was persuaded by the Ottoman Sultan.[12]

John P. Finley wrote that,

"After due consideration of these facts, the Sultan, as Caliph caused a message to be sent to the Mohammedans of the Philippine Islands forbidding them to enter into any hostilities against the Americans, inasmuch as no interference with their religion would be allowed under American rule. As the Moros have never asked more than that, it is not surprising, that they refused all overtures made, by Aguinaldo's agents, at the time of the Filipino insurrection. President McKinley sent a personal letter of thanks to Mr. Straus for the excellent work he had done, and said, its accomplishment had saved the United States at least twenty thousand troops in the field. If the reader will pause to consider what this means in men and also the millions in money, he will appreciate this wonderful piece of diplomacy, in averting a holy war."[13][14][15]

The Muslim peoples obeyed the order.[16]

In 1904, the Moro Rebellion then broke out between the Americans and Moro Muslims. The US committed atrocities against Moro Muslim women and children, such as the Moro Crater Massacre.

Upgrade of the Ottoman Legation to the U.S. to embassy status[edit]

The Young Turk Revolution removed Abdul Hamid II from power in 1908, and officials more favorable to the U.S. replaced him.[7] The Ottoman Legation in Washington was designated as an embassy in 1912 and given the second class ranking; the Ottoman Empire at the time ranked its embassies by importance.[17]

World War I and the Armenian genocide[edit]

Henry Morgenthau, Sr. was the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I until 1916. Morgenthau criticized the ruling Three Pashas for the Armenian Genocide and sought to get help for the Armenians. Jesse B. Jackson, consul in Aleppo, also assisted Armenians. Morgenthau's replacement Abram Isaac Elkus, served in 1916–1917.

The Ottomans severed diplomatic relations with the United States on April 20, 1917, after the United States had declared war against Germany on April 4, 1917. The United States never declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Normal diplomatic relations were re-established with the Ottoman Empire's successor state, Turkey, in 1927.[18]

Diplomatic missions[edit]

U.S. diplomatic missions in the empire included:

Ottoman diplomatic missions to the U.S. included:

  • Washington, DC (Embassy) – Classified as a "second class embassy".[17]
  • New York City (Consulate-General)
    • Established after the 1880s to monitor anti-Ottoman activity. New York City, previously served by an honorary consulate, had received increased immigration from the empire. Ottoman envoy Alexandros Mavrogenis had advocated for a full consulate-general and afterwards, on the grounds of New York having more diplomatic importance to the empire than Washington, DC, asked the Ottoman government for a vice consul in New York. The consuls in New York began to squabble for power with the Washington consuls.[22] Kuneralp wrote that the conflict between New York City consul general Refet Bey and his respective Washington envoy, Yusuf Ziya Pasha, "took almost epical dimensions."[23]
  • Boston (Consulate-General)

Honorary Ottoman consulates in the U.S.:

  • Baltimore
    • William Grange served as honorary consul, selected by Blak.[22]
  • Boston (later replaced with a consulate-general)
    • Joseph Yazidiji, an Ottoman citizen, was as honorary consul.[22]
  • Chicago[22]
  • New Orleans
    • J. O. Nixon was honorary consul, selected by Blak.[22]
  • New York City[22] (later replaced with a consulate-general)
  • Philadelphia[22]
  • San Francisco[22]
  • Washington DC/Baltimore (later replaced with a legation/embassy)
    • George Porter became the honorary consul for Washington, DC and Baltimore in May 1858.[22]

Ottoman ministers and ambassadors to the U.S.[edit]

The Ottoman government chose to continue the mission with a chargé, Hüseyin Bey, after World War I began, and this appointment ended with the cutoff of diplomatic relations in 1917.[24]

Kuneralp stated that these officials were "interesting figures" but that there was not "a Wellington Koo" among them and "they did not shine in their diplomatic careers", as the Ottoman government did not view this post to be important.[5] He also stated that Madame Bey, wife of first secretary Sıtkı Bey, due to her participation in American social life, was actually the most well-known person in the Ottoman diplomatic community within the US.[24]

American ambassadors to the Ottoman Empire[edit]

Chargé d'Affaires:

Minister Resident:

Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary:

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary:

See also[edit]

Books about the relations:

Relations between the United States and countries once a part of the empire.


  • Kuneralp, Sinan. "Ottoman Diplomatic and Consular Personnel in the United States of America, 1867–1917." In: Criss, Nur Bilge, Selçuk Esenbel, Tony Greenwood, and Louis Mazzari (editors). American Turkish Encounters: Politics and Culture, 1830–1989 (EBSCO Ebook Academic Collection). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 12 July 2011. ISBN 144383260X, 9781443832601. pp. 100-108.


  1. ^ Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Embassy to the Eastern Courts: America's Secret First Pivot Toward Asia, 1832–37 (Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2015. xvi, 236 pp.
  2. ^ a b c Kuneralp, p. 100.
  3. ^ Kuneralp, p. 100-100-101.
  4. ^ Kuneralp, p. 105-106.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Kuneralp, p. 101. "During the half-century that followed Blacque's appointment till 1917[...]12 heads of missions succeeded one another in Washington."
  6. ^ Turkish Yearbook of International Relations. Ankara Üniversitesi Diş Munasebetler Enstitüsü, 2000. (head book says 2000/2 Special Issue of Turkish-American Relations. Issue 31, Page 13. p. 13. "Over the 35 years that the dispute lasted (1877-1912), some nine envoys succeeded one another at the head of the Washington mission which was raised to Embassy level in 1912,[...]"
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Kuneralp, p. 102.
  8. ^ Kemal H. Karpat (2001). The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity, State, Faith, and Community in the Late Ottoman State. Oxford University Press. pp. 235–. ISBN 978-0-19-513618-0.
  9. ^ Moshe Yegar (1 January 2002). Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Western Burma/Myanmar. Lexington Books. pp. 397–. ISBN 978-0-7391-0356-2.
  10. ^ Political Science Quarterly. Academy of Political Science. 1904. pp. 22–.
  11. ^ Mustafa Akyol (18 July 2011). Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. W. W. Norton. pp. 159–. ISBN 978-0-393-07086-6.
  12. ^ J. Robert Moskin (19 November 2013). American Statecraft: The Story of the U.S. Foreign Service. St. Martin's Press. pp. 204–. ISBN 978-1-250-03745-9.
  13. ^ George Hubbard Blakeslee; Granville Stanley Hall; Harry Elmer Barnes (1915). The Journal of International Relations. Clark University. pp. 358–.
  14. ^ The Journal of Race Development. Clark University. 1915. pp. 358–.
  15. ^ Idris Bal (2004). Turkish Foreign Policy in Post Cold War Era. Universal-Publishers. pp. 405–. ISBN 978-1-58112-423-1.
  16. ^ Idris Bal (2004). Turkish Foreign Policy in Post Cold War Era. Universal-Publishers. pp. 406–. ISBN 978-1-58112-423-1.
  17. ^ a b İhsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin. History of the Ottoman State, society & civilisation: Vol. 1. IRCICA, Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, 2001. ISBN 9290630531, 9789290630531. p. 343. "Changes which were initiated in 1886 divided Ottoman embassies into four categories." - View #2: "second class embassies in Washington and Montenegro[...]"
  18. ^ Spencer Tucker, ed. Encyclopedia of World War I (2005) p 1080
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Hurewitz, J.C. (editor). "Ottoman-American Severance of Relations." The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record - British-French Supremacy, 1914-1945. Yale University Press, 1979. ISBN 0300022034, 9780300022032. p. 99.
  20. ^ a b Armenian Perspectives: 10th Anniversary Conference of the Association Internationale Des Études Arméniennes, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Psychology Press, 1997. ISBN 0700706100, 9780700706105. p. 293.
  21. ^ Armenian Perspectives: 10th Anniversary Conference of the Association Internationale Des Études Arméniennes, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Psychology Press, 1997. ISBN 0700706100, 9780700706105. p. 2937.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kuneralp, p. 106.
  23. ^ a b Kuneralp, p. 107.
  24. ^ a b Kuneralp, p. 103.
  25. ^ "President Benjamin Harrison Names Solomon Hirsch Minister to Turkey". Shapell Manuscript Collection. Shapell Manuscript Foundation.