The First Non-Muslim Minister of the Ministry of Public Works: Garabed Artin Davud Pasha (1816-1873)

Garabed Artin Davud Paşa

Garabed Artin Davud Pasha

After Kirkor Aghaton Effendi, who had been appointed to the Ministry of Public Works as the first non-Muslim minister, died before taking up his post, Garabed Artin Davud, who was also Armenian, was appointed to this ministry (Kuneralp, 1999: 8). Garabed Artin Davud, who was an Armenian who belonged to the Catholic denomination, was born in Istanbul in 1816. Garabed Artin Davud was the son of a family originally from Ankara. After he completed his studies in Istanbul, he went to Berlin and studied law there (Pamukciyan, 2003:206; Çark, 1953:168-169). In 1845, he wrote a two-volume work named Histoire de la Législation des Ancienes Germains in French on the History of the ancient German Law (Çark, 1953:169). Garabed Artin Davud, who spoke Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Italian, German, English, and French, taught foreign languages at the War College (Kılıç, 2009:155). He started to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when he was just 24. In 1840 he was appointed as a clerk and translator at the Berlin Embassy. In 1848 he was appointed as the Berlin charge d’affaires.

Garabed is the first Armenian who served as the head of an Ottoman representative office (Kılıç 2009:155). After this appointment, he was talked of as follows in the Donau-Zeitung newspaper, which was published in Vienna: “Davutyan Bey, who is very intelligent and is a scholar, worked as a secretary at the Turkish Embassy in Berlin for many years. Now he is being sent as the charge d’affaires to Berlin by the Ottoman Government.” Garabed Artin Davud, who served as the charge d’affaires in Vienna for two years, between 1850 and 1852, was appointed as the ambassador in Vienna in 1856 and worked at this position for three years (Çark, 1953:169). The Ottoman delegation headed by Kechecizadah Fuad Pasha participated in the international conference, which was held in Paris in 1858 to discuss the legal status of the states of Eflak and Bogdan [which cover today’s Moldova and part of Romania] (Dadyan, 2011: 268).

In 1859 he was called to Istanbul and appointed to the Directorate of Censorship and then he was appointed to the Directorate of Telegram in 1860. After this job he worked together with Fuad Pasha at the Ministry of Finance (Çark, 1953: 169). Then was given the rank of vizier according to the Jabal-i Lubnan Regulation, which was issued in 1861, and he was appointed to the sub-district governor’s office in Jabal-i Lubnan (Dadyan, 2011: 269).

Garabed started to work here immediately and he achieved some success in a short period of time. He ensured a successful administration by analyzing well the balance of power in Jabal-i Lubnan. Davud Pasha, who suppressed the rebellions in Lebanon and eliminated the problems, started a new administrative order there. He managed to prevent many from becoming victims and suffering injustice by rearranging the tax system. At the same time, he earned the love of the people by having new roads made in Lebanon.

The successful administration of Davud Pasha was viewed with satisfaction by the Ottoman government. He was awarded with first class Majidiya Award in 1863. In 1865, the period of service as civil servant was increased to five years and the Sultan gifted him a bejewelled sword. Davud Pasha, who came to Istanbul to thank the Sultan for the extension of his term, strolled in Istanbul wearing the local clothes of Jabal-i Lubnan and he posed for pictures in those clothes. Then Davud Pasha went to see the Sultan. The Sultan awarded him a first class Ottoman Medal for this services (Dadyan, 2013, p.67; Ahmed Lütfi Efendi, Ankara 1988:114; Çark, 1953:171).

Garabed was commended by all sections of the society as a successful administrator, but the way the Ottoman government viewed him changed after he demanded some privileges in the administation of Jabal-i Lubnan. He was summoned to Istanbul in 1868 and he was appointed as the Minister of Public Works instead of Kirkor Aghaton Effendi (BOA, İ.DH, nr. 474/31822). So Garabed Artin Davud Pasha became the first non-Muslim who actively served as a minister in the Ottoman State.

A short time after he was appointed as the Minister of Public Works, Garabed was sent to Europe on 19 December 1868 to look for loans so that the agreements for the railways in Thrace could be made and the construction of the railway could continue. Garabed firstly went to Vienna and he was received very well, but he could not meet anyone who would undertake the job. He went to Paris from Vienna and contacted Baron Maurice de Hirsch, who was among the bankers of Brussels thanks to his wife. He signed a preliminary contract together with Baron Hirsch, who was originally a Hungarian Jew, on 17 April 1869 for the agreement that granted the right to build the railway in Thrace and to manage it exclusively for 99 years, and then he returned to Istanbul.

According to the law, this contract and its supplementary specifications, which were prepared by Garabed and Baron Hirsch in Paris, had to be transferred to the Council of State to be discussed. However, they were transferred directly to the commission so that they would be approved immediately and would not be amended at the Council of State at all. Although the commission accepted the contract in terms of content, it left the acceptance of about 12 articles of it for the approval of the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers called Garabed so that he could give information on the agreement. Garabed indicated that he did not fully know the agreement and that he had the text prepared by an attorney. Garabed was sent to Europe again on 28 May 1869 to rearrange the agreements and to soften some of the conditions. However, at this second time, an agreement that was against the Ottoman State was made. Then rumors stating that Garabed was accepting bribes emerged (BOA, Ayniyât Def., No.1142, İrâde Dâhiliye, nr. 699/48932; Engin, 1993:50-57). As a result of these rumors, Garabed resigned in 1871 using the excuse of being ill. He stayed at the island of Kos for a short while for a change of weather and then went to Biarritz in France. He died there on 4 November 1873 (Tuğlacı, 2004:412).

Garabed was given many decorations abroad. He was given a decoration of the Légion d’Honneur by Napoleaon in 1863 and he was given the decoration of Saint George by the Pope in 1865 (Çark, 1953:171). The pasha, who did not have any family member other than his adopted daughter who lived in Istanbul, left his property of TL30,000 to this daughter on the condition that she would get married. However, his adopted daughter chose to become a nun and as a result, all his property was inherited by the Surp Agop Armenian Catholic Hospital in Elmadağ (Çark, 1953:171).


I. Archive Sources

Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA), İstanbul.

İrâde Tasnifi.

İrâde, Dâhiliye.

BEO, Ayniyât Defterleri nr. 1142.

II. Sources and Reviews

Ahmed Lûtfî Efendi(1980), Vak‘anüvis Ahmed Lûtfî Efendi Tarihi, c. XII,(yay. haz. M. Münir Aktepe), Ankara.

Çark, Y. G. (1953), Türk Devleti Hizmeti’nde Ermeniler (1453-1953), İstanbul.

Dadyan, Saro (2001), Osmanlı’da Ermeni Aristokrasisi, İstanbul.

Dadyan, Saro (2013), “1861 Cebel-i Lübnan Nizamnâmesi ve Özerk Cebel-i Lübnan’ın İlk Mutasarrıfı Garabed Artin Davud Paşa”, Toplumsal Tarih, S.236, s.66-70.

Duhânî, Said Naim (1990), Beyoğlu’nun Adı Pera İken, (çev: Nihal Önal), İstanbul.

Engin, Vahdettin (1993), Rumeli Demiryolları, İstanbul.

Kılıç, Musa (2009), Osmanlı Hâriciyesinde Gayrimüslimler (1839-1876), Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Tarih (Yakınçağ Tarihi) Anabilim Dalı, Basılmamış Doktora Tezi, Ankara.

Kılıç, Musa (2014),“Bir Ermeni Bürokratının Portresi: Vezaret Rütbesine Ulaşan İlk Gayrimüslim Karabet Artin Davud Paşa”, Tarihte Türkler ve Ermeniler: Merkez ve Taşrada Ermeniler Nüfus ve Göç, c.7,s.33-45.

Kuneralp, Sinan (199), Son Dönem Osmanlı Erkân ve Ricâli (1839-1922), İstanbul.

Pamukciyan, Kevork (2003), Biyografileriyle Ermeniler, İstanbul.

Tuğlacı, Pars (2003) Tarih Boyunca Batı Ermenileri, İstanbul.

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