Mr. Wallace to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Constantinople, Dec. 25, 1882. (Received Jan. 19, 1883.)
Sir: Some time ago a Greek, representing the Epirote capital, Janina, called at the legation and represented to me that there were six of his fellow-citizens in prison in Stamboul, for whom he begged my good offices. He described their offense as purely political. One day, he said, a column of Turkish soldiers marched through Janina. The people of the town on the sidewalks recognized in the ranks a number of Greeks, uniformed and bearing arms. At that time there was great excitement occasioned by fixing a new boundary line between Greece and Turkey under the Berlin treaty. Many of the Epirotes were disappointed at being left in the old arrangement, and at sight of the Greeks marching under the Ottoman flag, some of them hooted, groaned, and cursed what they called the renegades. The commandant of the column promptly seized such of the offenders as he could catch and sent them to Constantinople, where they were tried and sentenced to imprisonment. They had been in confinement about a year when the delegate came to see me about them. He represented, with a great deal of [Page 818]feeling, that he had been to other foreign representatives and solicited their friendly intervention, but it seemed without avail, and if I did not come to the aid of his unfortunate countrymen they must die. Upon inquiry at the palace I found it would be possible to obtain the release of the men, as it only required some one to ask it of the Sultan. An opportunity presented itself to me one day; I reminded His Majesty that he had been at various times good enough to offer me presents, which, following the laws of my country, I had been compelled to decline. Now, however, there was a favor I wished he would let me ask, one which I had no doubt all my countrymen would join me in thanking him for should he be so merciful as to grant it. At his instance I narrated the story of the Epirotes, and told him their liberty was the present I sought. He received the request pleasantly, and directed an officer to have the affair reported to him. After a long delay the report reached his hand. A singular circumstance then occurred. Dervish Pasha, he who figured so conspicuously in Egypt, was charged with the business by the Sultan, and when I sent the names of the prisoners to His Majesty’s secretary the veteran Dervish told the secretary I was mistaken; that he knew the names better; whereupon he sat down and wrote a list of six other men, and had their names inserted in the iradé of release instead of those furnished by me. The delegate came to me in great tribulation, and reported the discharge from custody of six Greeks not of Janina. I sent the dragoman of the legation to see Dervish and learn what was to be done. His Majesty had graciously given me his imperial promise, and it was meant to be executed as given. Dervish explained that the mistake was honest on his part; that it happened he knew of six Greeks from Macedonia in prison for a political offense; he had not heard of the Janina case, and supposing he was right and I wrong the iradé had been accordingly issued. He laughed heartily, and said there was but one thing to be done—get another iradé for the liberation of the Epirotes. I called the Sultan’s attention to the mistake, and he ordered the correction agreeably to Dervish’s suggestion. The result was the release, after another delay, of five of the six Epirotes, one being retained under sentence for murder. So I have the pleasure of reporting eleven Greeks happily returned to their homes and families. The particulars of the affair I have given at length, wishing to illustrate the clemency which is really a characteristic of the Ottoman monarch.
The inclosures herewith are a copy and translation of an official document received at the legation to-day from Athens, acknowledging the good offices rendered in effecting the release of the Epirotes of Janina. I am sure you will notice and appreciate the expressions applicable to the people of the United States.* * *
I have, &c.,