to Mr. Fish.
St. Petersburg, May 20, 1874. (Received June 9.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose you an extract from the St. Petersburg Zeitung of May 8, 1874, upon the subject of the emigration of the Mennonites. I have also the honor to inclose you an English translation of the extract referred to.
So much has been said, both in Europe and America, respecting the emigration of these people, that it has attracted, to a considerable extent, the attention of the Russian government and people.
Not long since, General Todleben, who occupies a very influential position in Russia, particularly in the southern part of it, and who, being of German extraction and speaking German fluently, is perhaps the most influential and proper man to be found in the empire to confer with the Mennonites, was sent to them, in order, as I understand, to find out their difficulties, and ascertain what, if any, concessions this government should make to them in order to prevent their emigration.
The result of General Todleben’s mission, from which he has not yet returned, is of course a matter of some speculation; yet it is generally understood here that the prospects of the emigration of these people are very much less than they were.
I may mention that among other things which General Todleben was authorized to offer the Mennonites, is immunity from carrying a musket; and should they be called upon to enter the military service of Russia, they shall be employed only in such sanitary and hospital occupations as may be compatible with their creed as non-combatants.
One of the influential leaders of the Mennonites, who has lately returned from the United States, is, according to report, against their emigration, because, among other reasons, they have failed to receive such information from the agents whom they had sent in advance as they expected to receive. I am inclined to think, however, that the difficulty was not so much on the part of our people as it was in consequence of the faithlessness or incapacity of these agents.
I have received letters from Germany in connection with this matter, from parties who I suppose are either Mennonites themselves, or represent that people, asking my assistance in the matter, and stating that, while the Russian government has ordered their officials to grant them the necessary passports, yet the agents of the government upon the spot appear to throw every possible impediment in their way, causing the intended emigrants loss both of time and money.
From the foregoing facts I am of opinion that the emigration of Mennonites to the United States will be much smaller than is anticipated, [Page 838] though probably some families, and possibly communities, may leave this country.
I have, of course, declined to take any steps in the matter, and shall continue to decline unless I receive direct orders from you.
As a further indication that Russia does not mean to lose any considerable body of people by emigration, if she can avoid it, I would state the fact that within the last few month rumors have come to this government that a very large proportion of the Tartar element in the southern portion of Russia desire to leave, and go either to Turkey or Germany, I do not know which. This government at once dispatched General Woronzoff, the former governor-general of Odessa, who speaks Tartar and is popular among them, to dissuade them from doing so; and I learn that he has been entirely successful in his mission.
I have, &c,