Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 2, 1878
Mr. Maynard to Mr. Evarts.
Constantinople, July 16, 1878. (Received August 12.)
Sir: The light has just fallen upon a recent piece of diplomatic negotiation between Great Britain and the Sublime Porte.
It appears that as early as June 4, 1878, nine days prior to the meeting of the late congress of Berlin, a convention of defensive alliance was signed at the imperial palace of Yeldiz, for many months past the residence of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, by Her Britannic Majesty’s ambassador and the imperial minister of foreign affairs. To this convention an annex was signed by the same persons on the 1st of July following. I inclose copies of the two instruments, with the instructions of the Marquis of Salisbury, Her Britannic Majesty’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, which have been published here this evening.
It will be observed that between the two dates both plenipotentiaries received distinguished marks of favor from their respective governments.
The Right Hon. Austin Henry Layard became the Eight Hon. Sir A. H. Layard, G. C. B., and Safvet Pasha became His Highness the Grand Vizier.
These negotiations seem to have been conducted with great secrecy, and not to have been known or suspected by the other chiefs of missions.
The French ambassador is said to regard them with disfavor, as impairing the entente between his government and that of Great Britain.
The transfer of the island of Cyprus is regarded as a capital change in the Eastern situation.
I am, & c.,
[From the Constantinople Daily Messenger of July 16, 1878.]
Convention between Great Britain and the Sublime Porte and annex thereto.
the anglo-turkish treaty.—the official papers.
In accordance with the promise made by ministers in both houses on the 8th instant, the following “Correspondence respecting the convention between Great Britain and Turkey of June 4, 1878” was laid before Parliament on July 9:[Page 887]
The Marquis of
Salisbury to Sir A. H.
Sir: The progress of the confidential negotiations which have for some time past been in progress between Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of Russia make it probable that those articles of the treaty of San Stefano which concern European Turkey will be sufficiently modified to bring them into harmony with the interests of the other European powers and of England in particular.
There is, however, no such prospect with respect to that portion of the treaty which concerns Turkey in Asia. It is sufficiently manifest that, in respect to Batoum and the fortresses north of the Araxes, the Government of Russia is not prepared to recede from the stipulations to which the Porte has been led by the events of the war to consent. Her Majesty’s Government have consequently been forced to consider the effect which these agreements, if they are neither annulled nor counteracted, will have upon the future of the Asiatic provinces of the Ottoman Empire and upon the interests of England, which are closely affected by the condition of those provinces.
It is impossible “that Her Majesty’s Government can look upon these changes with Indifference. Asiatic Turkey contains populations of many different races and creeds, possessing no capacity for self-government and no aspirations for independence, but owing their tranquillity and whatever prospect of political well-being they possess entirely to the rule of the Sultan. But the Government of the Ottoman dynasty is that of an ancient but still alien conqueror, resting more upon actual power than upon the sympathies of common nationality. The defeat which the Turkish arms have sustained and the known embarrassments of the government will produce a general belief in its decadence and an expectation of speedy political change, which in the East are more dangerous than actual discontent to the stability of a government. If the population of Syria, Asia Minor, and Mesopotamia see that the Porte has no guarantee for its continued existence but its own strength, they will, after the evidence which recent events have furnished of the frailty of that reliance, begin to calculate upon the speedy fall of the Ottoman domination, and to turn their eyes toward its successor.
Even if it be certain that Batoum and Ardahan and Kars will not become the base from which emissaries of intrigue will issue forth, to be in due time followed by invading armies, the mere retention of them by Russia will exercise a powerful influence in disintegrating the Asiatic dominion of the Porte. As a monument of feeble defense on the one side, and successful aggression on the other, they will be regarded by the Asiatic population as foreboding the course of political history in the immediate future, and will stimulate, by the combined action of hope and fear, devotion to the power which is in the ascendant, and desertion of the power which is thought to be falling into decay.
It is impossible for Her Majesty’s Government to accept, without making an effort to avert it, the effect which such a state of feeling would produce upon regions whose political condition deeply concerns the Oriental interests of Great Britain. They do not propose to attempt the accomplishment of this object by taking military measures for the purpose of replacing the conquered districts in the possession of the Porte. Such an undertaking would be arduous and costly, and would involve great calamities, and it would not be effective for the object which Her Majesty’s Government have in view, unless subsequently strengthened by precautions which can be taken almost as effectually without incurring the miseries of a preliminary war. The only provision which can furnish a substantial security for the stability of Ottoman rule in Asiatic Turkey, and which would be as essential after the reconquest of the Russian annexations as it is now, is an engagement on the part of a power strong enough to fulfill it, that any further encroachments by Russia upon Turkish territory in Asia will be prevented by force of arms. Such an undertaking, if given fully and unreservedly, will prevent the occurrence of the contingency which would bring it into operation, and will, at the same time, give to the populations of the Asiatic provinces the requisite confidence that Turkish rule in Asia is not destined to a speedy fall.
There are, however, two conditions which it would be necessary for the Porte to subscribe before England could give such assurance.
Her Majesty’s Government intimated to the Porte, on the occasion of the conference at Constantinople, that they were not prepared to sanction misgovernment and oppression; and it will be requisite, before they can enter into any agreement for the defense of the Asiatic territories of the Porte in certain eventualities, that they should be formally assured of the intention of the Porte to introduce the necessary reforms into the government of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in these regions. It is not desirable to require more than an engagement in general terms, for the specific measures to be taken could only be defined after a more careful inquiry and deliberation than could be secured at the present juncture.
It is not impossible that a careful selection and a faithful support of the individual [Page 888] officers to whom power is to he intrusted in those countries would be a more important element in the improvement of the condition of the people than even legislative changes, but the assurance required to give England a right to insist on satisfactory arrangements for these purposes will be an indispensable part of any agreement to which Her Majesty’s Government could consent. It will further be necessary, in order to enable Her Majesty’s Government efficiently to execute the engagements now proposed, that they should occupy a position near the coast of Asia Minor and Syria. The proximity of British officers and, if necessary, British troops, will be the best security that all the objects of this agreement shall be attained. The island of Cyprus appears to them to be in all respects the most available for this object. Her Majesty’s Government do not wish to ask the Sultan to alienate territory from his sovereignty, or to diminish the receipts which now pass into his treasury. They will, therefore, propose that while the administration and occupation of the island shall be assigned to Her Majesty, the territory shall still continue to be part of the Ottoman Empire, and that the excess of the revenue over the expenditure, whatever it at present maybe, shall be paid over annually by the British Government to the treasury of the Sultan.
Inasmuch as the whole of this proposal is due to the annexations which Russia has made in Asiatic Turkey, and the consequences which’ it is apprehended will flow therefrom, it must be fully understood that if the cause of the danger should cease, the precautionary agreement will cease at the same time. If the Government of Russia should at any time surrender to the Porte the territory it has acquired in Asia by the recent war, the stipulations in the proposed agreements will cease to operate, and the island will be immediately evacuated.
I request, therefore, your excellency to propose to the Porte to agree to a convention to the following effect, and I have to convey to you full authority to conclude the same on behalf of the Queen and of Her Majesty’s Government:
“If Batoum, Ardahan, Ears, or any of them, shall be retained by Russia, and if any attempt shall be made at any future time by Russia to take possession of any further portion of the Asiatic territories of the Sultan, as fixed by the definitive treaty of peace, England engages to join the Sultan in defending them by force of arms. In return, the Sultan promises to England to introduce necessary reforms (to be agreed upon later between the two powers) into the government of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in these territories; and, in order to enable England to make necessary provision for executing her engagement, the Sultan further consents to assign the island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England.”
I am, & c.,
Sir A. H.
Layard to the Marquis of
My Lord: I have the honor to inclose the convention of defensive alliance between England and Turkey to secure the Sultan’s territories in Asia for the future against Russia, signed yesterday, at the imperial palace of Yeldiz, by His Excellency Safvet Pasha, the Turkish minister for foreign affairs, and myself as Her Majesty’s ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary.
I have, & c.,
Convention of defensive alliance between Great Britain and Turkey, signed June 4, 1878.
Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, and His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, being mutually animated with the sincere desire of extending and strengthening the relations of friendship happily existing between their two empires, have resolved upon the conclusion of a convention of defensive alliance with the object of securing for the future the territories in Asia of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan.
Their Majesties have accordingly chosen and named as their plenipotentiaries, that is to say:
- Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, the Right Honorable Austin Henry Layard, Her Majesty’s ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary at the Sublime Porte;
- And His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, His Excellency Safvet Pasha, minister for foreign affairs of His Imperial Majesty;
Who, after having exchanged their full powers, found in due and good form, have agreed upon the following articles:
If Batoum, Ardahan, Kars, or any of them, shall he retained hy Russia, and if any attempt shall be made at any future time by Russia to take possession of any further territories of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan in Asia, as fixed by the definitive treaty of peace, England engages to join His Imperial Majesty the Sultan in defending them by force of arms.
In return, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan promises to England to introduce necessary reforms, to be agreed upon later between the two powers, into the government and for the protection of the Christian and other subjects of the Porte in these territories; and, in order to enable England to make necessary provision for executing her engagement, His Imperial Majesty the Sultan further consents to assign the island of Cyprus to be occupied and administered by England.
The present convention shall be ratified, and the ratifications thereof shall be exchanged, within the space of one month, or sooner if possible.
In witness whereof the respective plenipotentiaries have signed the same and have affixed thereto the seal of their arms.
Sir A. H.
Layard to the Marquis of
My Lord: I have the honor to inclose the original annex to the convention entered into between England and Turkey for the occupation of the island of Cyprus by the former, signed this day by the Grand Vizier and myself.
Your lordship will perceive that I have made the alterations in Articles III and IV, as instructed by your lordship, to prevent the Porte from claiming as average revenue under the third clause the yield of land which it has let or sold under the fourth. The Grand Vizier insisted upon inserting in Article III the amount of surplus of revenue over expenditure, but it is provided that the sum mentioned is to be verified hereafter.
The article providing that Turkey shall not be called upon, in case of the evacuation of the island, to pay for improvements, & c., was withdrawn from the annex on the assurance given by me to the Grand Vizier that your lordship would cause a revised article to be framed in the sense desired by his highness, but at the same time meeting the objections put forward by your lordship.
I have, & c.,
Annex to the convention of defensive alliance between Great Britain and Turkey, signed June 4, 1878.
The Right Hon. Sir A. H. Layard, G. C. B., and His Highness Safvet Pasha, now the Grand Vizier of His Majesty the Sultan, have agreed to the following annex to the convention signed by them as plenipotentiaries of their respective governments on June 4, 1878:
It is understood between the two high contracting parties that England agrees to the following conditions relating to the occupation and administration of the island of Cyprus:
- That a Mussulman religious tribunal (Mehkéméi Shéri) shall continue to exist in the island, which will take exclusive cognizance of religious matters, and of no others, concerning the Mussulman population of the island.
- That a Mussulman resident in the island shall be named by the Board of Pious Foundations in Turkey (Evkaf) to superintend, in conjunction with a delegate to be appointed by the British authorities, the administration of the property, funds, and [Page 890] lands belonging to mosques, cemeteries, Mussulman schools, and other religious establishments existing in Cyprus.
- That England will pay to the Porte whatever is the present excess of revenue over expenditure in the island; this excess to be calculated upon and determined by the average of the last five years, stated to be 22,936 purses, to be duly verified hereafter, and to the exclusion of the produce of state and crown lands let or sold during that period.
- That the Sublime Porte may freely sell and lease lands and other property in Cyprus belonging to the Ottoman crown and state (Arazii Miriyé vé Emslaki Houmayoun), the produce of which does not form part of the revenue of the island referred to in Article III.
- That the English Government, through their competent authorities, may purchase compulsorily, at a fair price, land required for public improvements, or for other public purposes, and land which is not cultivated.
- That if Russia restores to Turkey Kars and the other conquests made by her in Armenia during the last war, the island of Cyprus will be evacuated by England, and the convention of the 4th of June, 1878, will be at an end.
- A. H. LAYARD.