No. 711.
Mr. Heap to Mr. Blaine.

No. 4.]

Sir: I inclose copies of two communications from American citizens to the minister resident, received on the 20th March last, relative to a tax, which there is a well-grounded belief the Ottoman Government has the intention of imposing on all foreigners holding real estate in Turkey.

It is a misnomer to designate this measure a “tax,” for it is in reality a forced loan which, in some cases, will be equal in amount to the market value of the property “taxed.”

It will, it is presumed, meet strenuous opposition on the part of all foreigners holding real estate, as they look upon it as an act of spoliation, and they will have no desire to renew the experience they had in 1878, when they were required to pay two years’ taxes in advance under the distinct understanding that account should be kept of the sums paid to be credited in the tax-lists of those years, a promise which, it is scarcely necessary to say, was not kept, and the taxes had to be paid over again.

The foreign missions will probably come to an understanding on this subject so as to act in concert.

It is to be regretted that the pecuniary necessities of the Ottoman Government oblige it to employ such objectionable expedients to obtain relief from their ever-pressing embarrassments.

Pending the receipt of instructions from the Department, I shall be guided in this matter by the action of the representatives who have such large interests in charge.

I am, &c.,

[Page 1177]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 4.]

Mr. Bliss to Mr. Longstreet.

Dear Sir: We forward a paper touching the proposal of the Imperial Ottoman Government to raise a forced loan from proprietors of real estate in Turkey. One of of our number, in whose name quite a large amount of property is held, is not in the city. A large amount of property is held in the interior, but the gentlemen in whose name it is held cannot of course sign the paper. We therefore present it in their behalf, as well as our own, having the full indorsement of those Americans who are not property holders.

Trusting that the result desired by us all may be reached, and with grateful remembrances of all your excellency’s favors,

I remain, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 4.]

Messrs. Long, Bliss, and Pettibone to Mr. Longstreet.

Your Excellency: The undersigned American citizens, holding, either for themselves or in trust for various benevolent organizations in America, real property in Turkey, desire, in the present memorandum, to respectfully call your excellency’s attention to the proposal upon the part of the Imperial Ottoman Government to raise a forced loan from all proprietors of real estate.

Believing this proposal to be illegal and in violation of the capitulations made with the United States Government, and the privileges hitherto accorded to American citizens resident within the bounds of the Ottoman Empire, we respectfully ask your excellency to withhold your consent to its enforcement.

In support of this request upon our part, we suggest for your excellency’s consideration the following points:

The proposed loan cannot, in our judgment, be in any way regarded as a tax upon the land. The government simply proposes, for its own convenience, to make use of a certain valuation or appraisement of house and landed property (which estimation, it must be observed, is arbitrarily made and notoriously discriminative in favor of Musselman property holders) as a basis upon which the loan is to be levied. The law, then, of the 7th Sefer, 1284, in regard to the tenure of land by foreigners, would not cover this case, and the capitulations distinctly prohibit personal taxes, such as this may be justly considered, from being levied upon foreigners. That this does fall under the category of personal taxes, may be further seen from the fact that the proposed regulations exempt certain persons from the payment of this new loan, thereby showing that the tax is not to be a general one upon the whole community, but rather a personal one upon those indicated.
The proposed loan, even if the law of the 7th Sefer, 1284, were held to be applicable to it, would, in our judgment, still be illegal, because it proposes to levy and collect taxes by anticipation, which even under that law the Porte has no right to do. It will readily be seen that if the right be conceded of collecting for two years, or even one year, in anticipation, it can with equal right collect the taxes for ten years in advance, or, in other words, confiscate the property.

We would add that there are many reasons why such a proposal should not be submitted to. Among such, we may mention the fact that a similar demand was made in 1878, and moneys were collected from property holders with the distinct promise that all sums thus given should be deducted from the taxes to be paid the following year. No such deduction has been allowed, and those sums thus paid remain still due from the government, or must be considered as a personal contribution levied in addition to the already excessive tax upon the landed property itself.

Without multiplying arguments we submit the above to your excellency’s consideration.