Hayreddin Pasha (1820-1890)

Hayreddin Pasha Tunusia

Hayreddin Pasha [Kheireddine Ettounsi] (Tunisian Arabic: خير الدين باشا التونسي‎ Khayr ed-Din Pasha et-Tunsi; Turkish: Tunuslu Hayreddin Paşa; Born in Abkhazia, 1820; died in Istanbul, Turkey 30 January 1890. Ottoman Tunusian politician; first serving as Beylerbeyi of Ottoman Tunisia, he later achieved the high post of Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. He was an Ottoman Tunisian political reformer during a period of growing European ascendancy.became a Grand vizier of Ottoman Tunisia then a Grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire.

Hayreddin Pasha was born in Abkhazia into "a family of warrior notables". His father was killed in Sukhum, in battle during one of Russia's campaigns in Abkhazia. Orphaned, Khayreddin was sold into slavery as a small child. As fortune would have it, he ended up in Istanbul in the household of the Cypriot Ottoman notable Tahsin Bey.

Tahsin Bey moved the boy to his country palace at Kanlıca near the Bosporus, where he became the childhood companion of the Bey's son for a span of years. Hayreddin received a "first-rate education" which included the Islamic curriculum, also the Turkish language, and perhaps French; yet he was not raised as a mamluk. Following "the son's tragic premature death" Hayreddin was again sold, in Istanbul by Tahsin Bey to an envoy of Ahmed Bey of Tunis. This new uprooting would obviously provoke emotional turmoil in Hayreddin, then about 17 years old. Soon he was on board a ship bound for Africa.

Circa 1840 Hayreddin became situated at the Bardo Palace, in the court of Ahmad Bey (r.1837-1855), as a mamluk bi-l-saraya [inner palace retainer]. He resumed his high-level studies, mainly at the Bardo Military Academy (al-maktab al-Harbi) a nearby institution newly established by the bey. A key part of his education now was learning to converse in Arabic, also acquaintance with French. At the Husaynid court his abilities were soon recognized, and he was favored with the attention and trust of Ahmad Bey. He rose quickly in the elite cavalry, the nucleus of the bey's new army. Moreover, during the 1840s and 1850s he was sent by the Bey on several key diplomatic missions, e.g., to the Ottoman Porte at Istanbul, which was then pursuing its Tanzimat reforms, and to European capitals, including Paris. His political career thus began auspiciously under this famously modernizing ruler.

In 1846 he accompanied the bey, as part of small staff which included the influential advisor Bin Diyaf, during a two-month state visit to France. This trip was of special cultural and political significance in that the orthodox bey traveled for an extended stay to a non-Islamic country in order to acquire familiarity with its modern methods of operation and governance. The trip "expanded the cultural space deemed acceptable for Muslim rulers." The French took care to show France to advantage; the small Tunisian party was well received by top government officials and leading private citizens. "Having traveled beyond the land of Islam, Ahmad Bey was blessed upon his return to Tunis by the grand mufti."

In 1853 Hayreddin was elevated to the highest military grade, commander of the cavalry; he also then became an aide-de-camp of the bey. Yet shortly thereafter he was sent to Paris to arrange a loan for the bey's regime, but where instead he spend four years attempting to reclaim large sums embezzled by the notable Mahmud bin 'Ayyad, former head of the newly created national bank of Tunis, who with foresight had already secured French citizenship. During his years occupied with negotiations in Paris, Hayreddin also managed to browse libraries and bookshops, to improve his French, asking many questions, and to study European society, industry, and finance.

Because of the dire financial situation caused in part by the embezzlement of bin 'Ayyad, the bey's loan did not appear prudent to Hayreddin, according to Prof. Abun-Nasr. Nonetheless, the bey had stifled most political opposition to his financial schemes by long cultivation of the urban ulama and the rural tribal leaders. Due to Hayreddin's passive resistance, however, the loan was still being negotiated when Ahmed Bey died in 1855.

Kheireddine Ettounsi on Tunisian 20 dinar note (1992).

Upon his return to Tunisia from Paris, Khayr al-Din was appointed Minister of Marine in 1857. He held responsibility for the expanding ports, Tunis and Goulette, as well as distant Sfax. This involved construction to improve harbor facilities in order to handle the increased commercial shipping, as Mediterranean trade grew markedly. Apparently the number of ships in the Tunisian navy had greatly declined in the face of vessels of modern European design.

Immigration into Tunisia began to surge, leading to difficulties with traditional documentation. Hayreddin proposed the issuance of passports. Here also the Ottoman capitulatory agreements, which gave extraterritorial legal rights to Europeans resident or transient in Tunis, complicated the situation. Contraband was another issue.

Public health became a concern of major importance with quarantine procedures imposed regarding a plague of cholera. The Minister of Marine oversaw at Goulette the operation of an arsenal, a prison, and a hospital. During this period in his life, as he would be completing his fortieth year, Hayreddin began to consider Tunisia as his adopted country.

At about the age of forty, circa 1862, Hayreddin married his first wife, Janina, who was the niece of the Bey (that is, the daughter of the Bey's sister, a Husaynid princess). The wedding was announced officially and celebrated with "great pomp". The father of Janina was the insider politician Mustapha Khaznadar, originally from Greece, who served for many years as Grand Vizier. 

In 1853 Hayreddin had a palace constructed in the suburb of La Manuba, east of Tunis. Here he initially lived with his first wife Janina. This seaside villa lies between the port of La Goulette and Carthage; near where now stands a modern rail station called "Khéreddine" (named after either Barbarossa or al-Tunisi). He apparently also had a "grand residence" in the madina of Tunis, in the quarter Place du Tribunal, and a third elsewhere.

A contemporary European diplomat who "worked with him closely and on friendly terms" describes Hayreddin during the years when he served as the bey's chief minister:

"He was a stout, burly man, with a somewhat heavy countenance, which was occasionally lighted up with a very intellegent... expression... . His manners were considered haughty and overbearing, and... he soon added to the unpopularity to which his foreign extraction and mode of introduction into high office would under any circumstances have exposed him. ... It was difficult to tell his age as he dyed his hair and beard of a hard and deep black colour... ."

After Hayreddin lost his government position at Tunis in 1877, the Ottoman sultan eventually offered him a government position in Istanbul. He then sought to sell his rather large holdings in real estate ("three palaces in Tunis and its suburbs, olive groves, and a vast estate called Enfida consisting of 100,000 hectares"). Fearful of a politically motivated seizure by his enemies who now ran the Tunis government, he sold his Enfida property to the Société Marseillaise in July, 1880. Yet an adjacent parcel was quickly purchased by a seemingly undisclosed agent, who then claimed pre-emptive rights to purchase the Enfida land, denying it to the French company who had already paid for it. The bey's regime evidently supported the pre-emption claim; the conflict became known as the "Enfida affair". Ironically, this mischief spurred the French invasion of April, 1881.

The reformist constitution promulgated in 1861 established new institutions of government, in particular an advisory and legislative body called the Majlis al-Akbar or Grand Council. The first to serve as its president was Hayreddin, appointed by the bey. Yet strong opposition and factional intrigues of the existing leadership, largely directed by the long-time Grand Vizier, Mustapha Khaznadar, quickly developed which made the situation unworkable for a reformist agenda to prevail. Mustapha was also the father of Janina and the new father-in-law of Hayreddin. Instead of accommodating the powers-that-be, however, Hayreddin left office voluntarily in 1862.

During his voluntary exile to Europe, he acquired French. There he observed first hand the style and manner of politics of the innovating West. His 1867 book Aqwam al-Masālik fī Ma'rifat Aḥwāl al-Mamālik[The Surest Path to Knowledge regarding the Condition of Countries] makes a comparison between European and Muslim states. In it he proposed strategies for governance and compared European political systems. Also he articulated a path to follow in order to achieve necessary reforms.

It counsels a moderate course, adopting selective Western programs and techniques while maintaining Tunisian traditions. He appealed directly to Muslim clerics, the ulama, and stressed that the elite ruling class should serve as stewards of the people's welfare.

In 1869 he became the first chairman of the International Finance Commission in Tunisia, created to manage government revenue and expenditures.

Later Hayreddin led the Tunisian government as its chief minister (1873–1877). His last years were spent in Ottoman service, where he was briefly the sultan's grand vizier (1878–1879).

While prime minister under Sadok Bey, Hayreddin establish the Habus Council in 1874 to improve the utility of the extensive lands given to religious trusts. Legal changes were made to existing qanun law so that it might better encourage trade and commerce; the result was later called "le code Khaïreddine" which affected contracts and obligations. Administrative reforms of government institutions were made at Justice and Finance. In foreign affairs, he fostered closer ties with the Ottoman Empire, under the mistaken opinion that it would forestall European interference. Hayreddin also advanced the modernized curriculum at the Zitouna Mosque. Later he worked to establish Collège Sadiki, a lycee devoted to teaching modern subjects to the next generation of Tunisia's leaders.

A recent evaluation of Hayreddin's Vizierate, in light of the progress in Tunisia during the more than a century since, makes several observations. The first regards his coordination with the Tunisian ulama in order to make the government reforms; the second his familiarity with European political institutions:

"Reform in politics necessitates renewal in religious matters, including rational interpretation of the divine scripture and cognizance by the learned scholars of Islam of worldly matters and events in order for them to be able to render contextual understanding of the sacred texts. Khayr al-Din makes this bold move in the pursuit of reform that emulates Europe. The subsequent synergy between luminaries within, on the one hand, the state machinery and, on the other, the Zaytuna mosque university drew a reformist itinerary that still indelibly inspires the engineering of renewal agendas in modern day Tunisia."

"The second idiosyncrasy is the attempt to harmonize the mundane and the sacred, the 'Eastern' religious knowledge with 'Western' political genius. The political thought of the Beylic of Tunisia's Grand Vizier, Khayr al-Din al Tunsi, is paradigmatic of this harmonization.

In 1878 Hayreddin was invited by the Ottoman sultan to relocate to Istanbul for government service. He worked initially on the Financial Reform Commission during 1878, being charged with modernization of the empire's tax and budgetary process. Obtaining the sultan's confidence, he soon was appointed Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire for a short period, from 4 December 1878 to 29 July 1879. Quickly he became resented as an outsider by the imperial political class.

"Heyreddin Pasha of Tunisia" was a "maladroit speaker of the [Turkish] language" who "made it to the position of grand vizier in 1878. Even though he had a fair command of written Arabic and French, his underlings could not resist making fun of his Ottoman Turkish."

To advance his reform policies, Hayreddin enlisted foreign support to triangulate his political position and gain some independence of action. Nonetheless he could accomplish little; furthermore, this strategy led to his alienation of the sultan and his rather rapid dismissal. In 1882 he refused the offer of a second term as Grand Vizier.

From Hayreddin's letters "it seems that in 1878 he would have preferred to return home to Tunis." The French invasion of 1881 and their subsequent protectorate in Tunisia ended such hopes. At the spacious mansion in Istanbul given him by the sultan, Hayreddin remained in retirement during his last decade, but his rheumatoid arthritis made life difficult and his exile brought him some bitterness. Nonetheless, here he composed various written works.

In French he dictated his memoirs to several different secretaries skilled in the language, indicating that the Francophone world was an important target audience, whether in Africa, in Europe, or in the Middle East. He titled his memoirs A mes enfants: ma vie privee et politique [To My Children: My private and political life]. In these memoir and in several other writings, he pointedly defended his reforms while Grand Vizier of Beylical Tunisia.


  • Khair al-Din Pasha al-Tunisi:
    • Leon Carl Brown, editor, The Surest Path. The political treatise of a nineteenth-century Muslim statesman. A translation of the Introduction to The Surest Path to knowledge concerning the condition of countries by Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi (Harvard University: Center for Middle Eastern Studies 1967). Khair al-Din's The Surest Path (written in Arabic) was first published 1867-1868 at Tunis. Included in the above 1967 edition is Brown's "An Appreciation of The Surest Path", at 1-64, followed by the translation at 65-178.
    • M. S. Mzali and J. Pignon, editors, Khérédine: Homme d'etat (Tunis: Maison Tunisienne de l'Edition 1971), and also their earlier, edited: "Documents sur Khéréddine" in Revue Tunisienne:
      • "A mes enfants" at 23: 177-225, 347-369 (1934), i.e., his memoirs, "A mes infants: Ma vie privée et politique";
      • "Mon programme" at 24: 51-80 (1935);
      • "Le problème tunisienne vu à travers la question d'Orient" at 24: 209-233 (1935); 25: 223-254 (1936);
      • "Réponse à la calomnie" at 26: 209-252, 409-432 (1937); 27: 79-91 (1938);
      • "Corespondance" at 27: 92-153 (1938); 29: 71-107, 251-302 (1940).
  • Other literature:
    • Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge University 1971).
    • Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980 (Princeton University 1986).
    • L. Carl Brown, The Tunisia of Ahmad Bey 1837-1855 (Princeton University 1974).
    • Julia A. Clancy-Smith, Mediterraneans. North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c.1800-1900 (University of California 2011).
    • Arnold H. Green, "The Tunisian Ulama 1873-1915. Social structure and response to ideological currents (Leiden: E. J. Brill 1978).
    • Azzedine Guellouz, Abdelkader Masmoudi, Mongi Smida, Ahmed Saadaoui, Les Temps Modernes. 941-1247 A.H./1534-1881 (Tunis: Sud Editions 2004). [Histoire Générale de Tunisie, Tome III].
    • Albert Hourani, Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939 (Oxford University 1962, 1967).
    • Ahmad ibn Abi Diyaf, Consult Them in the Matter. A nineteenth-century Islamic argument for constitutional government. The Muqaddima (Introduction) to Ithaf Ahl al-Zaman bi Akhbar Muluk Tunis wa 'Ahd al-Aman (Presenting Contemporaries the History of the Rulers of Tunis and the Fundamental Pact) by Ahmad ibn Abi Diyaf (University of Arkansas 2005), translated with introduction and notes by L. Carl Brown.
    • Abdallah Laroui, L'Histoire du Maghreb. Un essai de synthèse (Paris: Librairie François Maspero 1970), translated by Ralph Manheim as The History of the Maghrib. An interpretive essay (Princeton University 1977).
    • Brieg Powel and Larbi Sadiki, Europe and Tunisia. Democritization via association (New York: Routledge 2010).
    • Kenneth J. Perkins, A History of Modern Tunisia (Cambridge University 2004).
    • Kenneth J. Perkins, Historical Dictionary of Tunisia (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow 1989).
    • Stanford J. Shaw and Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, volume II: Reform, Revolution, and Republic: The rise of modern Turkey, 1808-1975 (Cambridge University 1977).
    • G. S. Van Krieken, Khayr al-Din et la Tunisie (1850–1881) (Leiden: E. J. Brill 1976).
    • Nicola A. Ziadeh, Origins of Nationalism in Tunisia (American University of Beirut 1962).




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