Mr. Bolter to Mr. Fish.
Constantinople, October 3, 1873. (Received October 30.)
Sir: I have the honor to say that this morning, at 9 o’clock, I received the following telegram, in cipher:
Boker, Minister, Constantinople:
The accompaniment to your 139 is the notification of time; not a sufficient invitation.
You will keep me advised of what takes place, but will take no part in the convention.
Washington, October 2.
In reply to that part of the telegram which pronounces the invitation to send delegates to the international tonnage commission as not sufficient, I can but say that the Ottoman government meant the letter from the minister of foreign affairs, which accompanied my dispatch No., 139, to be a full and formal invitation to us to be represented in the commission. If, as Raschid Pasha says in his letter, there had been an Ottoman minister in Washington the Government of the United States would have received the same invitation which was transmitted to the other powers through the Ottoman representatives at the various European capitals. Perhaps in my desire to save expense in telegraphing, the message which I sent to the Department at the request of the minister of foreign affairs was not sufficiently full and explicit to be properly understood; so that enough time was not given to enable the Government to make the necessary arrangements to be fitly represented in the commission. I, however, at no time supposed that we could send other delegates than such persons as I might be authorized to select from among our citizens residing in this city. When I wrote dispatch No. 139 there was no intention expressed of postponing the first meeting of the commission until October 1, a postponement which has since been prolonged to October 6, and which would be further extended could I, in requesting it, assure the Ottoman government that such a step would lead to our being represented in the commission.
There can be nodoubt that the Ottoman government is satisfied that its whole duty has beendone, according to all the requirements of international courtesy, in the form of the invitation which has been transmitted to us; for the minister of foreign affairs and the under secretary [Page 1134] have both, on more than one occasion, expressed to me their concern at the non-appointment of the American delegates, and their great desire that we should not be unrepresented in the commission. This feeling also exists to a yet higher degree among the representatives of the great commercial powers, all of whom openly deplore our seeming neglect of what they consider to be one of our important future interests.
I cannot suppose that the circular, under date of January 1, 1873, in which the holding of the commission was originally proposed by the Ottoman government, was not communicated to the Government of the United States. That we, with the other powers, were duly notified of the proposition, is assumed, as a matter of course, by the minister of foreign affairs, and to that notification the circular of August 13, 1873, forms the natural sequence, and embodies the final invitation. If a copy of the circular of January 1, 1873, was not furnished to the Government of the United States by the Ottoman minister, then in Washington, he neglected a grave duty that will be a serious cause of annoyance to the present ministry.
There have been three complete changes in the Ottoman government since the first of the year; but so far as can be ascertained, in a matter in which no other hypothesis is considered to be admissible, Blacque Bey was instructed to make the same communication to the Government of the United States by virtue of the circular of January 1, 1873, as was made by the representatives of the Sublime Porte to the governments of the other powers. If the Department should inform me that no such communication was received from the Ottoman minister at Washington, that strange omission will be a sufficient answer to the regret expressed by the Sublime Porte at our declining to join in the commission.
There is little reason to suppose that the question of a typical tonnage will engage the serious attention of the commission, or that any decision on that score will be made other than in favor of the Moorson system, as understood and applied by us, regardless of the arbitrary theoretical objections advanced by Mr. de Lesseps. It is now believed that the real action of the commission will be narroweddown to determining what rate of tolls the Suez Canal Company has been, is, and will be authorized to charge under the terms and according to the intention of the firman of concession granted to that company by the Sublime Porte. As I have before said, opinions are divided on the question, and, in the main issue, votes will be of more avail than theories. Hence it is that the commercial powers will miss the presence of our delegates in the commission; for the vote, to be efficacious in steadying the hesitating Porte, or in prevailing over the headstrong chief officer of the canal, must be overwhelming. I have, &c,