to Mr. Evarts.
Constantinople , November 8, 1880. (Received November 29.)
Sir: I had the gratification of receiving on the 4th instant your dispatch of the 15th ultimo, numbered 278, expressing your approval of the efforts of this legation to obtain the condign punishment of the murderers of the lamented Dr. Parsons and his servant. I regret that I am still unable to report the conclusions of the court of revision in their case, although I am daily promised a prompt decision confirming the sentences rendered by the criminal court.
In this connection I have to inform the Department that I received yesterday the visit of M. de Novikoff, the Russian ambassador, who showed me a paper he had prepared addressed to the minister for foreign affairs, protesting in moderate but firm terms against the failure to execute the sentence passed on Veli Mehemet for the murder of Colonel Kummeran. On the 27th of February last, Mr. de Novikoff informed me that all the foreign representatives, with the exception of the Spanish, had expressed their readiness to sign this paper, and he had come to ask me if I would be willing to join in the protest.
I am convinced that so long as the sentence of Veli Mehemet remains in abeyance there is scarcely a probability that Ali, the murderer of Dr. Parsons, will be executed; and, besides, it has really become imperative, in view of the daily, it might almost be said hourly, attempts on life and property here, together with the impunity with which they are made, that a pressure of some kind should be brought to bear on the authorities to put an end to this state of things. For these reasons I considered it advisable to give my assent to the Russian ambassador’s request.
Mr. de Novikoff informed me that he had proof of Veli Mehemet having been seen at liberty in the streets of Scutari, a neighboring suburb.
The Department will be able to judge from this incident how difficult it is to obtain the execution of a Mahometan for the murder of a Christian, even when this government has to deal with a powerful neighbor who has so recently shown, not only the disposition but the power to crash them. I am credibly informed that there are at this moment in the prisons of Constantinople alone not less than fifty prisoners under sentence of death, and that it is not likely that any of them will be executed. The Sultan has an invincible repugnance to ordering the execution of a Mahometan, and he cannot, consistently, sign the death warrant of a Christian.
When the prisons become too crowded some of the more favored criminals [Page 1175] are turned loose, and others are sent off to their native countries or to other localities where they are soon released and find their way back to their old haunts. It is not an uncommon thing for a man arrested for burglary one week to be apprehended the next for a similar offense, having found the means to leave the prison in the interval.
I have just received the joint note referred to above and inclose a copy of it.
I am, &c.,