to Mr. Wallace.
Washington , June 29, 1881.
Sir: When, after entrance upon the duties of your office, you proceed, in conformity with your general instructions, to make yourself familiar with the business of your legation, as seen in its archives, your attention will doubtless be prominently and painfully drawn to the insecurity of the lives and property of foreign travelers in Turkey, and the failure of the authorities to prevent or repress outrages upon American citizens by way-side robbers and murderers, or even to execute its own laws in the rare instance of the perpetrators of such outrages being brought to justice.
The subject has become one of deep concern to the President. In the light of his constitutional duty towards his fellow-citizens, he cannot, unmoved, see them exposed to pillage and murder without redress, and with no attendant manifestation of any disposition to vindicate the laws of the country thus outraged; and at the present time, when your assumption of the charge of your important mission evidences anew our desire to maintain the most intimate and friendly relations with the Porte, it seems proper to endeavor to have this source of disturbance in those relations removed by an earnest and final appeal to the sentiments of friendship and justice of His Majesty the Sultan and of his advisers.
I cannot take a better text on which to base this instruction than the accompanying copy of a letter addressed to the President by a number of American residents in Turkey. Its statements are known to be entirely within the truth, and can be verified abundantly from the files of [Page 1185] your legation. They show in simple yet forcible language the insecurity of traveling in that country, and the instances, to the number of eight, within the past two years, when American citizens have been robbed and beaten by lawless marauders. On these occasions the lives of the assailed have been at the mercy of the robbers, and in one instance at least the taking of life preceded the robbery. In none of these cases, save one, has there been any energetic and successful effort on the part of the Turkish Government to track and arrest the offenders, notwithstanding the active remonstrances of the legation, and in that one case the result has practically amounted to a failure of justice. I refer, as you will readily perceive, to the case of the Rev. Justin W. Parsons, who was murdered while on a mission of charity within a few hours of his own home.
Upon the apprehension of the assassins the evidence of their guilt was so overwhelming that they fully confessed the murder, thus leaving no reasonable doubt as to the justness of their suffering the severity of the law. They were tried according to the forms of Turkish justice and convicted. Although the barbarity of the murder was evident, and the complicity of all the assassins established, a sentence of imprisonment was decreed against two of them, while one only was condemned to death. And now, after the lapse of months, during which the legation has repeatedly urged the execution of the law, the chief criminal remains unpunished; nor is there any apparent ground for supposing that the sentence of the Turkish court will be carried out by the Turkish Government.
A more striking case, even, of the failure of Ottoman justice is seen in the case of Colonel Kummeran, the military attaché of the Russian legation at Constantinople, who was brutally murdered on the 27th of February, 1880, and whose murderer is still unpunished, and likely to remain so. I cite this case, for the principle of diplomatic right to the protection of the local law made it one in which the interests of all the foreign representatives were common, and the United States legation very properly joined with the others in demanding simple justice.
It is intolerable to the sense of right-doing of foreign nations that such lamentable instances of the miscarriage of justice, amounting to its denial, should occur in the case of their citizens in Turkey. And it cannot be any more tolerable to the government of the Porte to find its administration of the laws constantly open to the serious charge that no Mussulman suffers for any crime, however atrocious, committed against a Christian foreigner.
The continuance of this state of perversion of the sense of right and justice in the administration of the judicial power in Turkey, by practically promising immunity to thieves and murderers for any outrage they may perpetrate upon foreigners, renders the situation of all of these most critical. We have seen that even the ægis of a legation cannot shield its members from murder, nor the sacred duties of international intercourse secure retribution; and it is therefore idle to hope that mere private citizens, dwelling often in the less frequented parts of the empire, may receive better protection, unless the government of the Sultan signally demonstrates its unwavering purpose to vindicate the majesty of its own laws, and do impartial justice alike in the case of the native and the stranger within its gates.
The time has come when in the judgment of the President it is the duty of the Turkish Government to manifest this spirit of impartial justice, in the instance afforded by the dastardly murder of Doctor Parsons.[Page 1186]
I have therefore to direct you to demand, in firm but temperate terms, the immediate execution of the sentence pronounced against the murderers of Doctor Parsons; and to let the Turkish Government distinctly comprehend that no evasions or excuses on its part will be regarded in a friendly light, or as warranting further delay of justice.
You will at the same time present the cases of the American citizens lately robbed while traveling in Turkey, and will demand that the most earnest efforts be made to seek out and punish the authors of these outrages—adding that, as simple justice, we expect no less reparation than the tender of a fitting indemnification to those who have thus suffered from the incompetence if not (as is to be feared) the actual collusion of the Turkish authorities.
It may be well for you to let your colleagues of the diplomatic body at Constantinople know that the Government of the United States is disposed to push to immediate determination the question whether American citizens, peaceably and lawfully residing in Turkey, are or are not to expect and receive the protection of the Turkish Government, and, in case of outrage or murder, the vindication of its laws.
I am, &c.,