No. 274.
Mr. Benjamin to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 82.]

Sir: * * * In 1875–’76 the United States citizens [at Hamadan] were solicited by the Armenian community to aid them in their sufferings caused by the famine. The missionaries accordingly advanced 250 tomans, equal to some $410. As guarantee for the money, the missionaries received possession of an old Armenian church. The papers stipulated that the church should be practically the property of the missionaries, who needed a church but encountered difficulties in building a special structure. It was further stipulated that if any of the community, including the signers of the papers for the Armenians, at any time raised objections to this arrangement they should pay back the loan with compound interest at 10 per cent. before regaining possession of the church.

In November of 1883, however, the Armenians seized the church without either giving previous notice or offering to pay the money, carrying off also the chairs placed in it by the missionaries. Soon after this the two school buildings rented by the United States citizens were violently seized by the authorities, the locks forced off the doors, and the doors fastened with an official seal.

On receiving formal notice of these outrages I decided to send Mr. Keün, our dragoman, to Hamadan. Mr. Keün prevailed upon the authorities to punish some of the offenders against the personal security of our citizens, and caused the schools to be reopened. He also obtained the names of the chief offenders in the seizure of the church and important testimony towards the repayment of the money.

But some weeks after Mr. Keün’s return, the authorities again forcibly closed and sealed the doors of the schools.

I then brought the matter to the attention of the present minister of foreign affairs. I represented to him that by the terms of our treaty the United States have the rights of the most favored nations; that according to the treaty of Turkomantchai no city or authority in Persia has a right to prejudge the United States citizens or take the law into their own hands in case of complaint, real or imaginary; and that not the slightest excuse now existed for doing so since the establishment of a United States legation in Persia, to which complaints could be brought in regular form, and through its mediation cases settled according to the modes prescribed by the treaty. I showed his excellency that not only had the authorities at Hamadan entirely ignored our treaty rights in prejudging and punishing our citizens without bringing their complaints to the foreign office and this legation, but they had also been guilty of a very grave offense in seizing and holding American property contrary to the treaty of Turkomantchai.

The nasr-ul-mulk, after considerable discussion, frankly acknowledged the force of the argument and signified that he would exert himself to give us redress and teach the people and authorities of Hamadan to respect our treaty rights. He was as good as his word, and immediately sent very stringent orders to Hamadan to cease further meddling with our citizens, to restore the property, and in future report all complaints [Page 403] to Teheran instead of judging our citizens without the presence of a delegate from this legation.

After further negotiations, the Shah, being weary of the annoyances at Hamadan and the evident purpose of the authorities to obstruct his wishes towards a harmonious adjustment of the business, finally declared himself in a manner so emphatic that all opposition was, at least for the time, effectually checked. The minister of foreign affairs was ordered to send a commissioner to Hamadan without further delay, to obtain the redress we demanded and to enjoin the local authorities to have a care how they ventured again to disobey the directions and wishes of the foreign office or annoyed the United States citizens. Before leaving, the commissioner was sent to this legation to explain to me his instructions, and asked for a letter of introduction from me to our citizens. The results of the commissioner’s efforts at Hamadan justified our expectations that the Government of Persia is sincere in its expressions of friendship and its intention to afford all the protection in its power to peaceable citizens residing in its territory.

Administering a very severe reprimand to the authorities, the commissioner presented his orders, and commanded the school buildings from which our citizens had been ejected to be opened and returned without delay. After this he called the offending Armenians before him, who had seized the church, and made them understand that they could no longer expect to be protected from the results of their lawless proceedings, but that they must pay the 250 tomans cash down or proceed at their own expense to Teheran for trial. Our citizens having waived their demand for the interest, wisely as I think, under the circumstances, the principal was paid, after much demur. Our citizens gave a quit-claim receipt, acknowledging themselves satisfied. On learning of this, I sent a telegram to the Department, considering the results as indicating the satisfactory character of our relations with the Persian Government at present.

I think it reasonable to consider that a valuable precedent has finally been established here in our favor, tending to increase our influence and make it easier to secure our treaty rights in the future.

I have, &c.,