The following commercial agreement between the Ottoman Empire and France was negotiated in 1535. Although never ratified, it demonstrates the sort of privileges sought by European powers in their dealings with the empire.
Be it known to everybody that in the year of Jesus Christ one thousand five hundred and thirty-five, in the month of February, and of Mohammed 941, in the moon of Chaban, Sire Jean de la Forest, privy councilor, and ambassador of the most excellent and most powerful prince Francis, by the grace of God most Christian King of France, accredited to the most powerful and invincible Grand Signior, Sultan Suleiman, Emperor of the Turks, and having discussed with the powerful and magnificent Signior Ibrahim, Serasker of the Sultan, the calamities and disadvantages which are caused by war, and, on the other hand, the good, quiet, and tranquillity derived from peace; and knowing how good it is to prefer the one (peace) to the other (war), each of them guaranteeing the above-mentioned monarchs, their superiors, they have negotiated and agreed upon the following chapters and conventions in the name and on the honor of the said monarchies which are the protectors of their component States and the benefactors of their subjects:
I. They have negotiated, made, and concluded a valid and sure peace and sincere concord in the name of the above Grand Signior and King of France during their lives and for the kingdoms, dominions, provinces, castles, cities, ports, harbors, seas, islands, and all other places they hold and possess at present or may possess in the future, so that all subjects and tributaries of said sovereigns who wish may freely and safely, with their belongings and men, navigate on armed or unarmed ships, travel on land, reside, remain in and return to the ports, cities, and all other places in their respective countries for their trade, and the like shall be done for their merchandise.
II. Likewise, the said subjects and tributaries of the said monarchs shall, respectively be able to buy, sell, exchange, move, and transport by sea and land from one country to the other all kinds of merchandise not prohibited, by paying only the ordinary customs and ancient dues and taxes, to wit, the Turks, in the dominions of the King, shall pay the same as Frenchmen, and the said Frenchmen in the dominions of the Grand Signior shall pay the same as the Turks, without being obliged to pay any other new tribute, impost, or storage due.
III. Likewise, whenever the King shall send to Constantinople or Pera or other places of this Empire a bailiff — just as at present he has a consul at Alexandria — the said bailiff and consul shall be received and maintained in proper authority so that each one of them may in his locality, and without being hindered by any judge, cadi, soubashi, or other, according to his faith and law, hear, judge, and determine all causes, suits, and differences, both civil and criminal, which might arise between merchants and other subjects of the King....
J. C Hurewitz, The Middle East and North Africa in World Politics: A Documentary Record, vol. 1: European Expansion, 1535-1914 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1975), pp. 2-3.
The Travels of Sir John Chardin into Persia and the East-Indies
Sir John Chardin (1643-1713) was an Anglo-French traveler who began his travels to the East when he was twenty-one years old. In this selection, he describes the rival trade missions to the Ottoman Empire and the inflation-inducing trade in debased coins.
The English drive a great Trade at Smyrna, and over all the Levant. This Trade is driv'n by a Royal Company settled at London; which is Govern'd after a most prudent manner, and therefore cannot fail of success. It has stood almost these hundred Years, being first Confirm'd towards the middle of Queen Elizabeth's Raign. A Raign famous for having, among other Things, giv'n Life to several Trading Companies, particularly those of Hamborough, Russia, Greenland, the East-Indies and Turkie, all which remain to this Day. Trade was then in its Infancy; and there is no greater Mark of the Ignorance of those Times, in reference to Countries, though a little remote, then the Association which those Merchants made: for they joyn'd several together in one Body, for mutual Conduct and Assistance. That Company which relates to the Turkish Trade, is of a particular sort: For it is not a Society, where every one puts in a Sum for one General and United Stock: It is a Body which has nothing in Common, but a peculiar Grant and Priviledge to Trade into the Levant. It assumes to it self the Name of The Regulated Company. None are admitted into it, but Sons of Merchants, or such as have served an Apprenticeship to the Trade, which in England is for Seven Years. They give to be admitted into the Society about an Hundred and Twenty Crowns, if under the Age of Twenty Five Years; and double if above that Age. The Company commits to any one single Person their Power, nor the sole Management of their Affairs, but manage their Business among themselves by the Plurality of Voices. So that who has sufficient to drive a Trade that will bear an Imposition of Eight Crowns, has as good a Vote as he that Trades for an Hundred Thousand. This Assembly, thus Democratical, sends out Ships, Levies Taxes upon all their Commodities, presents the Ambassador whom the King sends to the Port, Elects two Consuls, the one for Smyrna, the other for Aleppo, and prevents the sending of Goods which are not thought proper for the Levant. It consists at present of about Three Hundred Merchants, besides that they bring up in Turkie a great number of young Persons well descended, who learn the Trade upon the Place it self. This Trade amounts to about Five or Six Hundred Thousand Pounds yearly, and consists in Cloaths made inEngland, and Silver which they carry as well out of England, as out of Spain, France, and Italy. In exchange of which they bring back Wool, Cotton-Yarn, Galls, Raw Silk and Wov'n, together with some other Commodities of less value....
The Hollanders also drive a great Trade at Smyrna, and more than any other Nation of Europe, but they have little to do elsewhere; all their Dealing in all the rest of the Cities in the Levant amounting to little or nothing. Their principal Profit consists in carrying the Armenians and the Goods into Europe, and carryin 'em back again. They also make great Advantage of their Money, of which Turkie is very full. This money of theirs is made of base Mettle, and notoriously intermix'd with Counterfeit pieces. It chiefly consists of Crowns, Half-Crowns, Testons, or Eighteen-penny pieces, and pieces of Fifteen Sous. The Crowns and Half-Crowns for the most part carry the Dutch Stamp. Which the Turks therefore call Aslani, that is to say Lyons; in regard of their being mark'd on both sides with the Figure of a Lyon. The Arabians, either out of Ignorance or otherwise, mistaking the Lyon for a Dog, give'em the Name of Abou-Kelb, or Dogs. The Quarter-Pieces are almost all Counterfeit; or at Best, but Half Silver. However the Turks are so void of Judgment and Understanding, that they esteem this Mony beyond that of Spain, which they callMarsillies, by reason that the Merchants of Marseilles first brought it in great Quantities into Turkie....
The French are very numerous in Smyrna, and over all the Levant, there not being a Port of Turkie upon the Mediterranean Sea, wherein there are not several. They are for the most part all Provençalls. But the Trade which they drive is so inconsiderable, that one Merchant in each Place might dispatch all Business.... [T] he Provençalls have formerly had in Turkie those fortunate Chances and Luckie Opportunities, that it is highly to be wonder'd, that they did not fill their Country with Wealth in that happy Conjuncture. One of those Lucky Seasons began about the Year 1656, and lasted Thirteen Years, during which time they drove a Trade, by which they gain'd Fourscore and Ninety per. Cent.
This Trade which was really and truly a great piece of Knavery consisted in these Five-Sous-Pieces that have made such a Noise. For the Turks took the first that were brought at Ten Sous apiece; At which rate they held up for some time; tho afterwards they fell to Seven Sous and a half. There was no other Money Stirring: all Turkie was full of it; neither was there any other Mony to be had; for that the French carri'd all the other Money away. This good Fortune so intoxicated their Senses, that not content with such great Gains, they still thirsted after more; and to that purpose they set themselves to alter their own pieces of Five Sous, and made others of the same sort, but of base Mettle, which they Coin'd first at Dombes, then at Orange, and afterwards at Avignon. More then this, they Stampt far worse at Monaco and Florence: And lastly they made more of the same Stamp in the remote Castles belonging to the State of Genoa, and other private places, which were only Copper plated over. The Merchants of Marseilles, to utter this Money, brought down the price themselves, and put off their Pieces in payment, and to the Mony-Changers at a lower Rate then the Current Value. The Turks were a long time before they perceiv'd the Cheat that was put upon'em, though so palpable and of so great a Consequence; but so soon as they found it out, they were so incens'd, that they laid most heavy Impositions upon the French, using'em no better then Counterfeiters of Money, though the Dutch and Genoeses had a hand in it as well as they. Therupon they forbid'em to utter any of those Pieces which they call'd Timmins, but such as were stamp'd with the real Arms of France, which they also brought down and put at Five Sous apiece. So that all the European Merchants, except the English, were loaded at that time with great Quantities of those Timmins. Their Warehouses were full, whole Ships Loadings of 'em arriv'd daily, and they began to Coin'em in all parts. But soon after, this Money being cry'd down, several of those Money-Merchants lost all their Gains, and many much more then ever they got.
The English were the Procurers of this Decry. For had that Money continu'd Currant, their Trade had been ruin'd, which consisted chiefly in the purchase of Silks. And the reason was, because the Timmin-Merchants caus'd an advance to be made upon the price of Silks, not caring what they gave, provided the Sellers would take their Pieces of Five Sous in payment I have seen above Fifty several sorts of Coins of this sort of Money. But the most common sort carri'd on the one side a Womans Head with this Motto, Vera Virtutis Imago: On the other, the Arms of France, with this Impresse, Currens per totam Asiam.
There are no People in the World that have been more frequently cheated, or that are more easily gull'd then the Turks; as being naturally very dull, and thick-skull'd, and apt to believe any fair Story: Which is the reason that the Christians have impos'd a Thousand Cony-catching-Tricks, and Cheats upon'em. But though you may deceive'em once or twice, yet when their Eyese are op'n, they strike home, and pay ye once for all. And those sort of Impositions which they lay upon Offenders in that Nature, are call'd Avanies; which are not always unjust Impositions neither; they being like the Confiscations so frequent in Custom-Houses: Where for the most part the Chief Ministers and their Officers devour the People, while the Port winks all thee first time, and only exhorts to Amendment. If the Complaints cease, the Offence is stifled; but if the Clamour grow too loud, thePort sends to take off the Head of the Party accus'd, and Confiscates his Estate. By which means the People are satisfied, the Treasury is fill'd, Justice is done, and the Example remains to terrifie others.
Sir John Chardin, The Travels of Sir John Chardin into Persia and the East-Indies, vol. 1 (London: Moses Pitt, 1686).