Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1883
to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
London, May 26, 1883. (Received June 5.)
Sir: Referring to your instruction No. 577, of the 20th April last, I have the honor to acquaint you that immediately after its arrival I addressed a note to Lord Granville conveying the thanks of the President for the kind assistance rendered by the officers of Her Majesty’s Government in Bulgaria in protection of the rights of American citizens there.
On the 14th instant Lord Granville expressed to me in a note of that date the satisfaction with which he received that communication.
On the 16th instant his lordship sent me a further communication, a copy of which I herewith inclose, transmitting copies of the dispatches from Mr. Lascelles in relation to the same subject. Lord Granville asks me to inform him what further steps, if any, my Government would wish Mr. Lascelles to take in the matter in their name.
Will you be kind enough to instruct me what reply I shall give to Lord Granville’s inquiry?
I have, &c.,
Lord Granville to Mr. Lowell.
Sir: Her Majesty’s agent and consul-general at Sofia has reported to me the circumstances relating to the closing of American schools in Bulgaria, and the action taken by him in the matter, and I have the honor to transmit, herewith, copies of his dispatches on the subject.
The Bulgarian Government has refused to comply with the representations made by Mr. Lascelles, on behalf of the missionaries, as to the reopening of their schools, and I beg that you will have the goodness to inform me what further steps, if any, your Government would wish Mr. Lascelles to take in the matter in their behalf.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Lascelles to Lord Granville.
My Lord: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a statement which has been handed to me by Mr. Challis, one of the American missionaries in Bulgaria, with regard to the forcible closing of the American school at Sistova on the 16th ultimo.
On the receipt, on the 20th ultimo, of a telegram from Mr. Ladd, I requested Mr. Voulcovitch to cause inquiries to be made, and if necessary to take the necessary measures to redress the wrongs complained of by the American missionaries, and on the 23d I telegraphed to Mr. Ladd that I had been informed by his excellency that the school had been closed because the formalities required by Bulgarian law had not been complied with, and I also wrote at the same time recommending the American missionaries to make an application to the minister of public instruction for permission to open their school. I also recommended them to comply with all the formalities required by law.
In consequence of a further application which was made to me personally by Mr. Ladd, I requested Mr. Stoiloff, who had succeeded Mr. Voulcovitch, as minister for foreign affairs, to give immediate orders that the seals which had been affixed to the school-room at Sistova, which was also used as a place for divine worship, should be removed, as whatever right the minister for public instruction might have had to order the closing of the school, I could not admit that the Bulgarian authorities had any right to effect a forcible entrance into the house of an American citizen, and to affix seals to a portion of that house, without previous communication with the consular authority. Mr. Stoiloff at once sent the orders I asked for, and on the 24th ultimo the seals were removed on the understanding that the room should not be used as a schoolroom until the right of using it should be decided by the authorities at Sofia.
Mr. Stoiloff subsequently informed me that he had examined the question, and had come to the conclusion that the authorities had no right to order the closing of the school, as it appeared that the American missionaries had complied with all the requirements of the law. He had therefore addressed a letter to the minister for public instruction, the draft of which he read to me, asking him to state the grounds upon which he acted, and to give the necessary permission for the school to be reopened, unless there were some legal reason to the contrary.
I have told Mr. Stoiloff that the action of the authorities in this case appeared to me to be an attempt at religious persecution, and that I had been informed by one of the missionaries that the minister of public instruction had declared to him in conversation that it was the intention of the Bulgarian Government to close all the Protestant schools in the principality. I reminded Mr. Stoiloff that the treaty of Berlin guaranteed religious liberty to all the inhabitants of Bulgaria, and strongly urged him to put a stop to any tendency to religious persecution, which could not fail to create a most unfavorable impression throughout Europe.
Mr. Stoiloff replied that a party existed in Bulgaria who were supported by the clergy and the Russians who desired to suppress all schools which were not of the orthodox faith.
* * * * * * * *
The American missionaries, who have recently met at Sofia, have had an interview with Mr. Stoiloff, who gave them the most satisfactory assurances, and expressed the hope that the matter might be arranged without any official action on my part.
* * * * * * * *
I have thought it only fair to Mr. Stoiloff, who I believe is sincere in this matter, to give him an opportunity of fulfilling the promises he has made to the American missionaries, without any pressure from me, and I have therefore informed Mr. Challis, that while I should always be ready to afford them any assistance in my power, I considered it better that I should not take any further steps in the matter for the present, unless circumstances should render immediate action on my part desirable.
I have, &c.,
D. C. Challis and others to Mr. Lascelles.
Honored Sir: We, the undersigned, American missionaries within the principality of Bulgaria, respectfully submit for your consideration and action the following statement:
As is well known, we have labored among the Bulgarian people for upwards of 25 years as evangelical missionaries. In connection with our work of preaching and distributing [Page 430] the Scriptures and other instructive books, we have found it necessary to establish schools at our various stations or centers of work, for the reason that the existing schools were and still are acknowledged to be inefficient and inferior to those which we can establish, and also that the national schools are all carried On in the interest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose rites and ceremonies are enforced on all pupils in attendance. Hence any people or community, or even isolated families, holding doctrines at variance with those of the Established Church, must have schools of their own, if their rights of conscience are to be respected. Such schools have been a feature of our work from the beginning, and the liberal patronage which they have received show that they are appreciated by the people. These schools are in no sense new, except that some of them have been transferred from one city to another, owing to the difficulty of purchasing property for Protestant school purposes.
When application was made for permission to build an edifice for the girls’ school at Loftcha, a permit was refused on the ground that the school was not desired, for a petition had been circulated among the common people against such permission, and it was numerously signed under pressure by the authorities. Application was then made to the minister of the interior, and repeated assurances were given by him that there was no law against the existence of such schools. An order was telegraphed to the city council of Loftcha to place no further obstacles in the .way of the erection of the proposed building. In answer to a second application the authorities again refused permission. A telegram to the ministry received the reply that on account of representations made by the prefect the former order was rescinded; afterwards the prefect informed the resident missionary verbally that the minister of the interior desired him to say that on the ground of existing laws and treaties there was no reason why permission to erect the building should not be granted, but that, in order to avoid local disturbances, it would be better to defer its erection for a short time. A few days later a formal order was sent from the ministerial council which directed “that the Protestant missionaries be not permitted to establish a school in Loftcha, since this is one of their methods of proselytism which cannot be permitted in Bulgaria, where the people have their own religion.”
Application was then made to the city council for permission to erect a dwelling for the resident missionary, which, after a considerable delay, was granted. This building is now occupied by the family of the resident missionary and the girls’ schools.
The American school at Sistova was commenced November 6, 1882, and continued without question for three months, when the inspector of schools, Mr. Somoloff, informed one of the teachers that unless a written notification of the opening of the school were sent him within three days he would close it. Such notice was given him the next day; he said it was sufficient, and that nothing further was needed. About six weeks after this the prefect called Mr. Tomoff, one of the teachers, and asked him about the school, saying that he, the prefect, had been appointed inspector instead of Mr. Somoloff. Mr. Tomoff answered his questions and gave him a programme of the school. On January 16 the prefect came to the school with an order, said to be from the minister of education, commanding him to close the American school, as its existence was contrary to law. Upon being asked what law had been violated, he replied that it was not his business to tell. He was then requested to present the order in writing, which he did, demanding the closing, not only of the day but also of the free evening school under the charge of the pastor. Upon consultation the teachers decided to make out a paper to the prefect, stating that they would comply with his order and close the American school, although they knew no law therefor. Another paper was directed to the inspector, stating that on the following morning they would open a Protestant school. In the evening Mr. Tomoff offered the paper to the prefect. He refused to receive either of them: the one directed to the prefect because it was out of office hours, and the other, directed to the inspector, because he claimed to be no longer inspector. He also said that the office of inspector was vacant, and might remain so for some time.
Having learned that there was no way of giving notice of the opening of the Protestant school, the next morning it was decided to notify the prefect that the school would be continued until the ministry should point out what law had been violated. Before noon, Mr. Ladd, one of the missionaries, saw two men enter his home without knocking. When he reached them, they were passing through an inner door which opens into a room consecrated to school and church purposes. He ordered them to stop, and then asked them to allow him to shut the door, which latter they refused to do. As one of them was standing against the door, Mr. Ladd pushed him aside as gently as possible, and shut the door. He then ordered them as intruders to leave the house, telling them that he had the right to defend his house against intrusion. They refused to go. Up to this time Mr. Ladd did not know who they were, or what they wanted. At this moment the prefect came, accompanied by eight or ten gensdarmes, and at once ordered the arrest of Messrs. Tomoff and Ecounomoff, who were interpreting for Mr. Ladd. They were violently seized by the gens d’armes, thrown down, kicked, and otherwise ill-treated, and dragged ignominiously to jail. Mr. Ecounomoff, [Page 431] who was at the time in poor health, was thrown violently into the dungeon. Mr. Ladd informed the prefect as well as he could in Bulgarian that he did not understand that the latter had any right to enter his house without permission or an order from the English consul-general, who, as he believed, acted in behalf of American citizens in Bulgaria. But notwithstanding this he entered, followed by the gensdarmes, together with the rabble which had gathered outside. The missionaries protested against their entering, but in vain. The prefect then offered them this alternative, that either the house should be sealed or that the teachers should bind themselves in writing not to teach. The latter they refused to do, and the house was accordingly sealed.
After the school-room was sealed, the students in the theological department, eleven in number, who lived in the house of Mr. Jones, one of the missionaries, continued to study, and the teachers gave them private instruction.
On the 23d January the sub-prefect came to Mr. Jones’s house and inquired if there were students living there. Being answered in the affirmative, he inquired as to the number, &c., of these students, and was told that there were eleven in the house who were taking private lessons. The next day an order came to Mr. Jones to close the school in his house within two hours. Mr. Jones replied that he had no school, for it had been forcibly closed, and that he simply gave private lessons at their own request to the students living in his house. The prefect then ordered the students to leave the house. Mr. Jones would have resisted, but knowing that the prefect had undertaken to accomplish his ends at all hazards, and that he would drive the students out by force into the midst of a severe storm, he thought it better to transfer them peaceably to another house, doing so, however, under the strongest protest.
We give these statements at length, that there may be a full understanding of the nature and extent of the violation of our rights on the part of the authorities. We ask for no intervention that shall interfere with the prerogatives of the Bulgarian Government, but we do ask that due respect may be paid by it to the rights guaranteed to us. We base our appeal on the following considerations:
- Article V of the treaty of Berlin secures the liberty of conscience to all living in the principality.
- The constitution adopted by the representatives of the Bulgarian people grants full religious liberty upon the sole condition that the rites and ceremonies of any religious society shall not violate existing laws.
- We are assured by the highest legal authority in the principality that no law exists which forbids the opening and carrying on of our schools.
- Some of our schools were in operation previous to the organization of the Bulgarian Government. Others were allowed to be opened without being questioned by the authorities, and none have been interfered with until the past year.
- We have invested considerable sums in real estate in connection with our educational work, and claim the right of being protected in our property interests. We therefore claim such recognition of our rights on the part of the Bulgarian Government as shall secure us from further unlawful interference by officials, and afford us the protection which the law affords to all. With many thanks for your kindly interest and efficient help in the past,
We are, &c.,
- D. C. CHALLIS, Loficha.
- W. E. LOCKE, Samakov.
- J. HENRY ROUSE, Samakov.
- FRED. L. KINGSBURY, Samakov.
- WM. W. SLEEPER, Samakov.
- E. F. LOUNSBURY, Rouslchouk
- J. L. LADD, Sistova.
- A. R. JONES, Sistova.
Treaty of Berlin.
The following provisions will form the basis of the law in Bulgaria:
Differences of religious belief and confessions shall not be an obstacle to any one, as a motive of exclusion or incapacity in the enjoyment of civil and political rights, the admission of employments in public functions and honors, or the exercise of different professions and industries in whatever locality it may be.
The freedom and practice of all forms of religious worship are assured to all belonging to Bulgaria, including foreigners, and no obstacle shall be made to the hierarchical organization of different communions, or in their relations to their spiritual chiefs.
Mr. Lascelles to Lord Granville.
My Lord: With reference to my dispatch No. 9 of the 21st of February, I have the honor to inclose a copy of a note which I have addressed to Mr. Zancoff, to return to him two summonses which he had sent me to be forwarded to two American citizens residing at Sistova.
Your lordship will perceive that the reason I give for returning the summonses was that they reached me too late for me to be able to forward them to their destination by the time fixed for the trial, and I also reminded Mr. Zancoff that his predecessor had given me the assurance that no legal proceedings should be taken against the American missionaries until the question of their right of opening schools at Loftcha and Sistova should have been settled by the Bulgarian Government.
I have urged upon Mr. Zancoff the necessity of settling this question without delay, and have pointed out to him the hardship which has been entailed upon the American missionaries by having been obliged to close their schools. Mr. Zancoff replied that he believed that the closing of the schools had been ordered in consequence of complaints made by the population of Sistova against the proselyting zeal of the Americans, and that a law was being prepared to regulate the position of all schools in the principality.
I told Mr. Zancoff that the American missionaries desired to fulfill all the requirements of the law. As yet, as far as I could learn, they had done nothing illegal, and the closing of their schools had been an arbitrary act of the authorities. If the missionaries found that they could not comply with the new law, they would leave the country, as it was one of their principles not to act in defiance of the authorities. They had been in the country for upwards of twenty years and had not been molested under the Turkish rule, and I pointed out to Mr. Zancoff the bad impression that would be created if they were now forced to leave. The fifth article of the treaty of Berlin moreover assured the freedom and outward exercise of all forms of worship to all persons belonging to Bulgaria as well as to foreigners.
Mr. Zancoff having expressed the wish to see the American missionaries, I requested Mr. Challis, who is now staying at Sofia, to call upon him, which he did the day before yesterday. Mr. Challis has informed me that in this interview Mr. Zancoff, who seemed imperfectly acquainted with the question, was very guarded in his language and recommended him to call upon the acting minister of public instruction, which Mr. Challis intends to do.* * *
I have, &c.,
Mr. Lascelles to Mr. Zancoff.
Mr. Acting Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the note which you addressed me under yesterday’s date, transmitting two summonses emanating from the inferior tribunal of Sistova concerning two American citizens.
These two gentlemen are summoned to appear before the tribunal the 19th–31st of this month, and I may be permitted to remark, Mr. Acting Minister, that it will be quite impossible for these summonses to arrive at their destination before that date. I have therefore the honor to return them to you inclosed, begging you to explain the reasons which have prevented me from acceding to the request which you addressed to me.
Permit me at the same time to inform you that your predecessor, Mr. Stoiloff, gave me the assurance that so long as the question of the right of the American missionaries to open schools at Sistova and at Loftcha was not settled by the Government, no legal proceedings would be taken against them.
I hope that this question, which has so long been under the consideration of the Bulgarian Government, will now reach a definitive solution.
I am, &c.,
Mr. Lascelles to Lord Granville.
My Lord: With reference to my dispatch No. 24 of the 6th instant, I have the honor to report that Mr. Agourd, the acting minister of public instruction, has informed Mr. Challis that in view of the popular feeling at Sistova against the teaching [Page 433] of the American missionaries, it is impossible for the Bulgarian Government to grant permission for the opening of American schools.
In consequence of this answer I have informed Mr. Zancoff, the acting minister for foreign affairs, that it became my duty to report to your lordship the decision which the Bulgarian Government had arrived at, and to wait your lordship’s instructions on the subject. I also told Mr. Zancoff that I had recommended Mr. Challis to report the matter to the United States minister at Constantinople, who, I understood, had the intention of bringing the question to the notice of the great powers. Mr. Zancoff replied that the right of opening schools in Bulgaria was a purely internal matter, which would not justify the interference of the powers. He said that he himself was favorably disposed toward the Americans, but that they appeared to have acted in an illegal manner. * * * I told Mr. Zancoff that as far as I could learn the Americans had done nothing illegal, and that they professed their willingness to comply with all the requirements of the laws which might be made; what they complained of was the arbitrary act of the authorities in illegally closing the schools. The Bulgarian Government had now decided that the schools should not be reopened, and the matter had therefore assumed so serious an aspect that it became my duty to apply to your lordship for instructions as to the course I should follow in regard to it. Mr. Zancoff said that he would bring the matter before the council of ministers. * * *
The schools of the American missionaries are not the only ones which have been recently closed by the Bulgarian authorities at Varna, where there is a large Greek population. Two Greek schools were closed some time ago, and Mr. Rangabé, the Greek agent and consul-general, has informed me that in spite of an order from the Bulgarian Government, the prefect refused to allow them to be opened, and that it was only in consequence of a telegram to the prefect, informing him that unless the schools were opened he would be dismissed, that he at last obeyed the orders he had received. * * *
With regard to the popular feeling which is said to exist in Sistova, I am informed that a petition signed by three thousand persons has been addressed to the minister of public instruction against the American schools. Mr. Challis has informed me that no doubt there is a class of persons who are hostile to the work of the American missionaries, and among these are to be counted a large number of the clergy. He denies, however, that the majority of the inhabitants are opposed to the missionaries, who are quite prepared to meet with opposition, provided that they are not molested by the authorities. He was not aware of the manner in which the present petition was got up, but he has informed me that last year a petition directed against them was circulated by the tax-gatherer. He has also informed me that under Turkish rule the missionaries had no complaint to make against the authorities, who, on the contrary, protected them against the attempts at persecution which were made by some of their Bulgarian opponents.
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I have, &c.,