No. 528.
Mr. Jewell to Mr. Fish.

No. 77.]

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,



The Pall Mall Gazette says: The Senate of the United States of America had passed the first reading of a bill giving parcels of land to the Mennonites emigrating from Russia. A decided opposition to the same had been raised on the ground that it was against the established political maxim of the Government to lay aside part of the public domain for the entry and exclusive use of a religious sect, and that the Mennonites were leaving Russia to escape a general obligation to military service, from which they hope to be free in the United States. On the other hand, the advocates of the bill (granting 160 acres of land to each member of the Mennonite colony) say that the Mennonites are a moral, industrious, and energetic people, and altogether a class of emigrants highly desirable.

The Pall Mali proceeds to say: “In the mean time these peaceable dissidents are evincing a great deal of good sense by preferring to stay on their lands in Southern Russia until a possession of land is formally guaranteed, to them in the United States.”

If this intelligence be true, and the bill now before the United States Senate should not pass, no better solution of this important question in favor of our Russian country could be desired—a solution that could hardly have been expected when that restlessness and a desire to emigrate had taken hold of the Mennonites and had assumed a feverish character.

Every excessive action, however, is of necessity followed by a reaction, the more surely if the former had been an artificial one. So, according to best intelligence, we receive from private sources, it now seems that the voice of those more considerate and reflecting among the Mennonites, namely, of the juniors and of laymen, who in truth make up their majority, has begun to assert itself and more and more to prevail. The stiff obstinacy of old leaders, who have insisted on emigration from Russia once before, and now again are refusing all concession to the spirit of the times and its demands with reference to the general military obligation, is no longer permitted to decide matters alone; on the contrary, there are those who reflect and examine into the conditions uuder which they should render those modified military, or, properly, sanitary services as required. As yet the number of Mennonites who have finally decided on emigration comprises only 300 families in the district of Berd-jauska, and 100 families in that of Mariopol, all of whom intend to make their new homes partly in Kansas, partly in Minnesota and Dakota.

Under the above circumstances the mission of General Todleben assumes a greater importance, and is promising best prospects for success. In the interests of us all, it is desirable that the Mennonites should be brought to remain in our land. Surely, as an agricultural population, they are an element not to be undervalued; and from the oldest times, such of the states as came to lose such sects and parties, who for the sake of their religious or political convictions were ready to sacrifice even their native home, have lost a most important element of their population; indeed, that of their best, vigorous men, men imbued with principles.