Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 4, 1883
Mr. Wallace to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Constantinople, January 18, 1883. (Received February 9.)
Sir: I beg to inclose a communication from the Sublime Porte. It is to be presumed the underlying object of the paper was to secure immunity to the Bible Society in the conduct of its book business, now subject to such constant interruptions by officials high and low in the interior. The mode determined upon appears to be the fixing a seal to each volume in the Constantinople store of the Society. It is asked that I send a telegram to assist in the work.
Upon receipt of the note from his highness, the minister of foreign affairs, I sent a copy of it to the managers of the Bible House, with request that they consider it, and give me their opinion of the plan proposed in writing. As the Society is the chief party in interest and the managers are good and sensible men, I was willing to subordinate my views to theirs. Possibly they might be willing to accept the plan. In due time I received a reply from them, of which a copy is transmitted. Thereupon I addressed a reply to the Porte. A copy of the latter paper is also transmitted.[Page 825]
I may be permitted to remark that this action on the part of the minister of foreign affairs grows out of the Grallipoli seizure of books, which remains unsettled.
I have, &c.,
Aarifi Pasha to Mr. Wallace.
Sublime Porte, December 30, 1882.
Mr. Envoy: In consequence of the several communications from your excellency and Mr. Heap, my department had given to whom it might concern the necessary instructions with regard to the books belonging to the agents of the Bible Society.
In order to avert for the future all claims arising from the seizure of these books, the imperial Government has decided on the proposition of the ministry of public instruction, to proceed to the usual examination which takes place on the introduction into Turkey of books or tracts, and to affix a special official seal to those whose introduction and circulation in the Empire offered no inconvenience. Concerning books printed abroad and at present in the hands of foreign booksellers, they shall be submitted at once to this formality.
I therefore beg your excellency to be good enough to appoint a delegate to assist the functionary named by the ministry of public instruction to visit the book-stores for the said purpose.
I have, &c.,
Managers of Bible House to Mr. Wallace.
Constantinople, January 11, 1883.
Sir: In response to your favor of the 2d instant, informing us of the decision of the Sublime Porte as to the inspection and sealing of imported books, we desire, ou behalf of the book department (for publication and sales) maintained by the American Bible Society and the American Board of Missions, to respectfully submit the following observations:
- The inspection at the custom-house of books imported from abroad has always been practiced. The adoption of a system for marking, at the time of importation, those works which have been admitted to circulation, seems to us to be eminently desirable.
- The proposed examination in the book depot of imported books already in stock is a measure less simple in its character. In so far as the inspection by Turkish officers of American property on the premises of Americans is concerned, we venture to hope that the departure from the privilege enjoyed under the treaties would be allowed only when the other powers represented at the Sublime Porte shall accept the proposal, so that the measure shall apply alike to all foreigners engaged in the book trade; also, that if the examination in depots is permitted by the United States Government, the concession may be so guarded as to have no force as a precedent for future departures from the rules of privilege accorded to American citizens residing in the Turkish Empire.
- The adoption of a regulation for stamping books hereafter to be imported should, in our view, be accompanied by provisions for exempting from seizure imported books now on sale in various parts of the Empire. Without such a provision the new regulation would be retroactive, subjecting to seizure all foreign works not bearing the stamp, although imported before the promulgation of the new rule. It is needless to point out the hardship which would be caused to the trade by such seizures. In order to facilitate the labors of the imperial Government, we would willingly submit to the ministry of public instruction copies of all foreign-made books which we keep in stock. But of these same books large quantities, having been examined by the censors, are already on sale at provincial book-stores in every part of the Empire. It would be quite impossible to gather up and bring to the capital for the formalitjr of stamping the books of foreign manufacture now on sale at distant cities. The expense of the operation would exceed the cost of the books, and in saying [Page 826]this we speak not only for ourselves but for all dealers in foreign-made books. It appears to us that the imperial Government would not wish by a regulation made for its own convenience to inflict so heavy losses upon the book trade, and that it would attain the object which it has in view without injury to any private or public interests if it would admit that the examination of any one copy of a given edition is equivalent to the examination of every separate copy. If this principle is admitted the proper official could examine copies of the various imported books which are now on sale in the various book-stores, and in case the books are found innocuous, could permit the importer to print several hundred copies of a certificate describing the book and the edition examined. Such a certificate, after being verified at the ministry of public instruction by a seal attached to all its copies, could be placed in the hands of salesmen wherever depots of such books now exist, to be used as a permit of circulation for the books therein described.
We deem the adoption of some such provisions as those above set forth essential to the acceptable working of such a regulation concerning imported books as the imperial Government proposes to enforce.
In connection with this subject, however, we would once more refer to the losses brought upon the book trade in Turkey through the lack of respect shown in some of the provinces toward the permits issued by the ministry of public instruction, and through the absence of provision for the free sale of works published in this country with permission of the authorities, but before the publishers were allowed to record the permission of the department upon the title page of each book.
The American book department maintained conjointly by the Bible Society and the Board of Missions has published and sold books in the Turkish Empire during nearly fifty years. During this whole period it has conscientiously refrained from publishing works forbidden by the imperial Government. All of the books which it has published since the present regulations came into effect have been submitted to and authorized by the ministry of public instruction. But as is naturally the case, it has yet on hand a certain number of copies of works printed before the date of the present regulations and therefore without record upon the title page of the authority under which they were published.
In the absence of arrangements for the protection of such earlier editions we, in common with other publishers, find this class of books through no fault of our own practically outlawed. Such books are liable to seizure by any of the hundreds of officers in all parts of the Empire with whom our business brings us in contact. The vexatious losses caused by such a state of things need not be enumerated, but they certainly should not fall upon publishers who have throughout acted in good faith and in conformity to existing laws.
A regulation similar to that suggested above for the protection of imported books now in stock would probably sufficiently meet the case of the earlier editions yet in the market of books manufactured in this country.
The question of the lack of respect shown by provincial officials to the authorizations of the ministry of public instruction is also a serious hindrance to the prosperity of the book trade. A publisher here submits his manuscript to the censorship, and receives permission to print and publish. He naturally supposes that the imperial Government, by granting this permit, has agreed that it will not limit his liberty to sell his book. Hence he invests money in bringing out his edition and in putting it into all the markets of the Empire. But when this publisher sends out his books he meets difficulties innumerable. The authorities at any seaport where these books are disembarked claim the right to institute a new inquiry into the intrinsic merits of a work upon which the ministry of public instruction has already set its authorization. The books have to be overhauled, taken to one officer after another; the publisher or dealer is subjected to vexatious delay, to expense of an agent to follow the books through various stages of inquiry, and to loss by injury to the books through repeated handling. The same process is repeated at every place in the interior where an official chooses so to interfere with a legitimate trade. In view of the great expense of transportation in this country, a publisher is, in the most favorable circumstances, forced to content himself with a price which leaves him a very small margin. Such needless and, if we may use the term, illegal interference of provincial officials necessarily uses up that small margin, and constitutes a hardship from which we believe that the imperial Government is morally bound to deliver us by obliging provincial authorities to respect its own authorities.
The question of a modus vivendi for American book publishers in Turkey has several times been brought to your notice. Cases of illegal detention of authorized books, as at Gallipoli, Erzroom, Germuljma, and at other places, yet await due redress. We cannot believe that the imperial Government would purposely prolong a situation full of disaster for an industry which, like the book trade, must be counted as beneficial to the people of the Empire. At the same time, trusting to the encouragement afforded us by the authorizations issued to us in this and in past reigns, we have invested very large sums in the business of book publication and sale in this country. [Page 827]These investments are imperiled by an interference with our legitimate rights altogether unprecedented in our long experience. Hence should there be a further delay on the part of the Sublime Porte in providing us with relief from the intolerable hardships above described, we must respectfully request that you will represent the necessity for serious remonstrance to the Department at Washington.
Very respectfully, &c.,
- HENRY O. DWIGHT.
- ISAAC G. BLISS.
Mr. Wallace to Aarifi Pasha.
Constantinople, January 14, 1883.
Highness: I beg to acknowledge the communication you were pleased to send me, dated December 30 last, and in reference thereto permit me to observe in the first place that the action resolved upon by the imperial Government with respect to the protection of books and tracts of the American Bible Society is altogether unlike any request from me upon the subject. The suggestion I made to your predecessor may be found in my note to him dated June 15, 1882, and numbered 115. It is as follows:
“The opportunity avails me to refer to our recent conversation upon the subject, and to formally submit to you the suggestion I had then the honor to make, that with a view to finding a way to effectually prevent like interruptions and seizures in the future a conference be held between a person representing the minister of public instruction, one from the Bible Society, and Mr. Gargiulo for this legation. It would seem that a plan might be agreed upon to accomplish the object without detriment to any existing right of the imperial Government or the Society. If the suggestion commends itself to your excellency I would be pleased to be informed of it, that speedy action may be taken.”
In a subsequent note, No. 118, to the same official, I referred to the foregoing as follows:
“In this connection I will presume to invite you to give consideration to my recent suggestion touching a conference to be had with a view to finding some acceptable and effective mode of preventing like seizures and detentions (of books) in the future.”
I feel confident these quotations from papers on the files of your highness’s office will satisfy you that the requests in your present note are not only unresponsive to communications from me, but really in denial of them.
The conference, which was of my proposition, was intended to find, if possible, some plan curative of the evils complained of, and at the same time regardful of all existing rights, those of the Government not less than those of the Bible Society. I do not say it in the way of accusation, for it gives me pleasure to acknowledge your goodness of intent in the adoption of the proposals of the minister of public instruction, who doubtless was also proceeding with the best of motives; but I must be permitted to express it as my judgment that the attachment of a seal simply to the books now in the store of the Society in this city will work irreparable injury to it. This you will readily understand when I remind you of the many thousands of its books now out at points in the provinces, and held there for sale and distribution, and which cannot be recalled for sealing under the proposed new arrangement. All that property, it can be foreseen, would be emperiled, if not actually lost. There are other reasons that might be given compelling me to decline your highness’s request to send a delegate to assist in stamping the books of the Society with a seal, but it is needless to recite them; this one is of itself sufficient.
If the minister of public instruction desires merely to examine and ascertain whether the Bible Society is printing objectionable books, or has any such in its rooms and offices for sale, the managers of the Society will be happy to open their doors to facilitate their work, and it will give me pleasure to honor your highness’s requests in that connection.
I again renew my suggestion of a conference of delegates as given in my dispatch to your predecessor, and as herein quoted. Nothing may come of it, yet the troubles to the Porte and to the Bible Society, not to speak of this legation, are so frequent and annoying that it seems highly necessary to find an arrangement which will be satisfactory to all the parties concerned.
I avail, &c.,