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File 3877/1912 Pt 4 ‘Turkey in Asia: oil concessions’ [‎37r] (15/176)

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The record is made up of 1 part (87 folios). It was created in 22 Apr 1914-15 Sep 1914. It was written in English and French. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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[This Document is the Property of His Britannic Majesty's Government.]
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[July 16.]
Section 1 .
[32183] No. i.
Sir L. Mallet to Sir Edward Grey.—(Received July 16.)
(No. 495.) J
^ r ’ Constantinople, July 11 , 1914.
IN obedience to the instructions contained in your telegram No. 297 of the 7 th
July, I transmit herewith a memorandum drawn up by Mr. Ryan on the legal effect of
a decision of the Council of State.
I have, &c.
Enclosure in No. 1 .
Memorandum respecting Legal Effect of Decision of Council of State relied on by
Mr. Silley.
TURKISH constitutional practice has always attached the greatest sanctity to
the will ot the Sovereign as intimated by irade and embodied for all important purposes
in Imperial firmans. The study ol article 7 of the Constitution will show how extensive
are tne Imperial prerogatives, even under the Constitution. To say that a pronounce
ment of the Council of State or any other authority can of itself invalidate a firman A Persian word meaning a royal order or decree issued by a sovereign, used notably in the Ottoman Empire (sometimes written ‘phirmaund’).
would be repugnant to all ordinary 'iurkish ideas on the subject. The most that could
be maintained, in my opinion, is that a decision of the Council of State on a matter
which had already been the subject of an irade might conceivablv be so authoritative as
to impose upon the executive a constitutional obligation to obtain a fresh expression of
the sovereign will based upon it. Ibis would result in the promulgation of a fresh
iradd, and, if the earlier irad^ had been embodied in a firman A Persian word meaning a royal order or decree issued by a sovereign, used notably in the Ottoman Empire (sometimes written ‘phirmaund’). , the natural course would
be to enshrine the new one in a new firman A Persian word meaning a royal order or decree issued by a sovereign, used notably in the Ottoman Empire (sometimes written ‘phirmaund’). which would supersede the old. Subordinate
departments would find their guidance not in the pronouncement of the Council of State
as such, but in the new expression of the Sultan’s will.
We thus come to the question whether a pronouncement of the Council of State in
a matter like the present is so authoritative as to bind absolutely the responsible
advisers of the Sultan. Before examining this question I would call attention to two
points :—
L There has been for many years, if not always, too much levity shown in
manipulating Turkish institutions for the purposes of the moment, too little intelligent
esprit de suite in the minds of the persons composing these institutions, and too defective
a system of record to make it possible to say confidently on a given occasion that the
precise legal effect of such and such a decision (except, perhaps, in the case of purely
judicial tribunals) is so and so. i his applies with special force to the Council of State.
2 . It must never be forgotten that, under the Hamidian regime, the Sultan was
the only ultimate fount of authority, and that Imperial irades were the only sanction of
new legislative enactments no less than of the most ordinary matters of administration.
So fully was this recognised that, after the restoration of the Constitution in 1908, it
was found absolutely necessary to disregard constitutional doubts as to the validity of
the late Sultan’s acts and to recognise that his irades continued to have force of law
until formally superseded. I have been unable to trace any official statement of this
principle, but there is no doubt as to the fact of its having been adopted with regard
both to legislative and administrative irades of the old regime. The bearing of this is
important, because if it be said that the firmans granting the concession of the Mosul
and Bagdad oilfields to the civil list were issued regardless of the mining laws of the
Empire, and were consequently “ illegal,” it can be retorted that, proceeding from the
same authority as the mining laws themselves, they had in themselves as much force as
those mining laws, and had, as being particular and subsequent enactments, more force
for their own special purpose. This view might be contested, but could not be
To return to the main question concerning the Council of State, article 2 of the
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Correspondence and papers relating to claims for exploratory oil licenses in Ottoman Turkey (including the vilayets of Baghdad, Mosul and Basra in Mesopotamia [Iraq], and Syria and Nejd). Principal correspondents include: the solicitors Treherne, Higgins and Company, who represent the oil explorer Roland H Silley; representatives of the Central Mining and Investment Corporation Limited (L Reynolds; Louis Julius Reyersbach); Foreign Office (FO) officials (Sir Eyre Alexander Barby Wichart Crowe; Sir Louis Du Pan Mallet).

  • correspondence concerning Silley’s claims (competing with those made by the D’Arcy Group and Anglo-Persian Oil Company) over mining rights in the Mesopotamian vilayets of Mosul and Baghdad, an historical précis of which can be found in a letter dated 14 May 1914 from Treherne, Higgins & Company to the Foreign Office (ff 111-112);
  • correspondence concerning Silley’s attempts to secure oil licenses in Nejd, Silley’s efforts to contact the prospective Vali of Nejd, Bin Saud (‘Abd al-‘Azīz bin ‘Abd al-Raḥmān bin Fayṣal Āl Sa‘ūd), and discussion amongst FO officials over the prospects of the Turkish Petroleum Company (in large part financed by Deutsche Bank and the Dutch Anglo-Saxon Oil Company) having a presence in Arabia and the Persian Gulf Historically used by the British to refer to the sea area between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran. Often referred to as The Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. ;
  • a note, written by Sulaiman Nassif, enclosed with a letter dated 27 April 1914, on petroleum prospecting concession licenses in Syria (f 105).
Extent and format
1 part (87 folios)

The papers are arranged in approximate chronological order from the rear to the front.

Written in
English and French in Latin script
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File 3877/1912 Pt 4 ‘Turkey in Asia: oil concessions’ [‎37r] (15/176), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/PS/10/302/2, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 20 November 2019]

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