No. 507.
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.

No. 229.]

Sir: I have sent you to-day a cipher dispatch, of which a copy is inclosed, announcing the signing of the preliminaries of peace by the Turkish and Russian plenipotentiaries, at San Stefano, on the 3d instant. Though accomplished at a late hour of the day, it was reported here the same evening in a form to demand credence had there not been so many similar reports previously which proved unfounded. The minister of war, who called at the legation the following day, gave full confirmation. He added that it was a very sorrowful event for Turkey. As San Stefano will henceforth bear some distinction as the locality of this treaty, I inclose a short historic notice of it.

The ratifications of the treaty will be exchanged, I understand, at St. Petersburg, where Turkey will be represented by a special envoy. His excellency Raouf Pasha, minister of war, will probably be selected for that duty. The Ottoman Government will shortly, I presume, dispatch an ambassador of the Porte to the Russian capital.

A congress of the European powers is proposed, to meet at some point on the continent. Berlin has been indicated. Several days ago it was published that Russia had invited the United States to participate, and I have been frequently asked whether we should probably accept the invitation. I have invariably replied that I had no information whatever on the subject, but that our traditional policy of friendly relations with all the European powers, entangling alliances with none, would undoubtedly be observed. Should the congress assemble, as indicated, the Department of State will naturally expect the report of its proceedings from some of my colleagues nearer by rather than from me.

I have, & c.,

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[Inclosure 1 in No. 229.—Telegram.]

Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.

Evarts, Washington:

Preliminaries of peace between Turkey and Russia signed at San Stefano Sunday last.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 229.]

Historical sketch of San Stefano, by Dr. Alexander G. Paspati*.

My Dear Mr. Maynard: San Stefano is not mentioned in Byzantine history. In the Lives of the Saints it is said that the body of Saint Stephen, the first martyr, in coming near Constantinople, rested in this village, and was buried in the church denominated after this martyr. Others say that the body of this martyr was buried in Constantinople. You will find in my late work on Byzantium, mention of San Stefano as the place where the crusaders on June 23, 1203, assembled in the church, and had a council of war to decide upon the best plan for taking the city. At page 175 is a short account of this village, with some remarks in the notes, as follows:

“Sailing up the Hellespont and the Propontis the crusaders landed in the vicinity of San Stefano on the 23d of June, the eve of St. John’s day. The walls and lofty towers, the palaces and churches of the city, which could be seen from this point, stupefied the crusaders, who were frightened at the greatness of Constantinople and the temerity of their enterprise.”

The same day in that small country town the princes of France and the Duke of Venice assembled in council in the church. (This church was about to fall to pieces, and was demolished in 1844, and on the same site the present one erected.) After much discussion, the details of which, unfortunately, Villardouin does not state (toutes les paroles qui y furent dites le livre ne nous les contera pas), the Duke of Venice, sighing, finally spoke:

“Gentlement, I am well acquainted with yonder town, as I once resided there. You know that the extent of country is great, and if we advance by land, our people in distress and starving will become separated in their search for food.

“The population of this city is large, and in spite of our utmost care our followers may be lost. Such a loss will prove fatal for us, because for the task we have undertaken our numbers are small. Within a short distance there are to be seen some islands (the Prince’s Islands, which can be seen in the direction of the Asiatic shore from San Stefano). They are inhabited by men who traffic in grain, provisions, and other merchandise. Let us depart thither and provision ourselves with grain and food in the town, and then sail toward the city, and let us ever act in accordance with the decrees of the Almighty. He who has bread is a better soldier than he who is unfed.”

The advice of the duke was accepted unanimously by the members of the council.

The wisdom of the old duke’s plan was evident. If the crusaders had moved by land from the village of San Stefano toward the land walls, a distance of eight miles, they would have failed in their attempt by reason of the simultaneous attacks made upon them by the inhabitants of the villages in the environs. The adroit capture of the city by sea, accomplished by the Latins, and after it the long siege by Mahomet, largely confirm the old duke’s strategical ability.

On the morning of the 24th of June, the crusaders cleared their numerous ships for action, and, fully armed, sailed with a southerly wind from the shores of San Stefano. Their course lay so near the walls of Constantinople that they could throw their arrows into the crowd which covered the battlements and towers of Byzantium.”

When Mahomet came to lay siege to the city he destroyed a great tower which existed in the village, and murdered a number of its inhabitants. The village is inhabited by Greeks, Armenians, and some Catholics. Greek families about 70; Armenian families about 25; Catholic families about 10; number of houses about 190.

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San Stefano is visited every summer by wealthy families of the city. It has always been famous for its fish, oysters, and quails. It is ten miles from the harbor and five miles from the land walls. Twenty years ago the number of houses was only about one hundred and ten.

If you desire anything else, please let me know it.

Yours, & c.,


Pera, Monday Evening.

  1. Dr. Paspati is a Sciote, and one of the few who escaped the massacre of that island in 1822. He was then very young and was taken to America, where he received his education. Constantinople has been his residence many years, and he is reckoned the most learned antiquarian in the city.
  2. Byzantine Studies, Topographical and Historical. By A. G. Paspati. Constantinople, 1877. 4 to, 416 pp. Modern Greek.