Mr. Morris to Mr. Seward.

No. 257.]

Sir: It gives me pleasure to be able to state that, yielding to the pressure of controlling circumstances and to the counsels of the protecting powers, the Porte has recently adopted several measures of a reformatory character, which, if faithfully executed, will have an important influence on the future welfare of this empire and its subjects.

A council of state has been established with almost similar functions to that of France. Its chief duty will consist in the revision and preparation of laws, the outlines of which have been submitted to it by the council of ministers. It will also assist that body with its advice, whenever required. As it is composed of nearly a hundred members, both Mussulman and Christian, selected from different parts of the empire, it may be able to exert a beneficial influence on ministerial legislation if its advice is respected and its independence is not interfered with.

A high court of justice has also been established charged with the decision, in the last resort, of all civil, commercial, and criminal cases. It is divided into two sections: one for criminal cases exclusively, and the other for civil and commercial causes. The presiding judge will be a minister, with the title of “President of the High Court of Justice.” This court will have jurisdiction in civil and criminal affairs, in accordance with the general laws of the empire; first, in all suits which come before it regularly and according to law; and secondly, in all cases in which an appeal is duly made to it by any party in a civil, commercial, or criminal process, to the exclusion of first cases, which belong to the Cheriat * courts: secondly, those which specially concern new Mussulman communities; and thirdly, commercial causes which have been tried by the tribunals which have special cognizance of such suits. The high court is obliged to refer to the council of state every case between private individuals in which any contest may arise between one of the parties and the authorities. The proceedings of this court will be public according to its own discretion. The members of this court who are appointed [Page 113] by imperial irade or decree are irremovable, except when promoted to higher functions or convicted after trial.

Most of the attributes of this new court are already exercised by the existing supreme council of justice. With its enlarged functions it will facilitate the administration of justice, if its judges are men of perfect probity and of proper qualifications.

His Majesty the Sultan has recently, on the opening of the Mohammedan new year, in a formal address before the chief authorities, reaffirmed the pledges of the Hatti Haumagom of his predecessor, and announced his intention to abolish all invidious distinctions between his subjects, and his resolution to co operate in all measures necessary to the prosperity and regeneration of the empire. * * * * *

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

  1. Canonical.