No. 628.

Mr. Heap to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 453.]

Sir: Twenty-four years ago the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions opened two schools at Harpoot (Armenia), one for boys and the other for girls. These schools have grown into the male and female department of the Euphrates College. No permit or license to open these schools was obtained from the Government, or seems to have been required at that period. It would appear that it was not until January, 1883, that the director of the college received a note from the mudir (sub-governor) of the district, making inquiry if the school had received the authorization required by law.

Relying upon the long period that the school had been in existence and the approval it seemed to obtain from the authorities, the missionaries did not consider it necessary to make application for a permit until April last. The application remained without notice from the [Page 820] provincial authorities, who have now ordered the college to be closed, and threaten, if the order is not obeyed, to close it by the exercise of force.

I received a few days ago a letter from Mr. Peet, the treasurer of the Bible House, inclosing a statement from the director of the college, and about the same time a telegram from Colonel Everett, Her Britannic Majesty’s consul at Erzeroum, was shown to me by the British chargé d’affaires, which stated that unless immediate steps were taken, the execution of the order to close the school would soon follow.

In looking into the case it will be seen that the missionaries have unfortunately failed to comply with the law. They delayed making appli-tion for a permit until a long period had elapsed after a “board of education” for the district had been organized. This board was appointed in 1876, and a permit should have been asked for at once.

This is one of the points against them. Another is, that since the law regulating the opening of schools was promulgated, additions have been built to the dwelling house of the director and converted into a school without the sanction of the authorities; and the third is that the director refused to allow an inspector of schools, appointed by the imperial authorities, to inspect the girls’ school, on the ground that he was a young man and unmarried, and when the authorities sent a remonstrance on the subject to the director, he replied that it was true that he had refused admission to the inspector, and that he would continue to do so.

I inclose a copy of my correspondence with Mr. Peet, and of a note I addressed to the Porte on this subject, with a translation of the same.

This case is an additional evidence of the necessity for establishing a consulate at Siras, in Asia Minor. All this trouble would probably have been avoided if our citizens dwelling in that region had a competent and judicious person, conversant with the laws and usages, to whom they might apply in case of necessity for counsel and assistance.

American missionaries in Turkey are surrounded with people who are jealous of their work. Up to a recent period they did not meet with much opposition, but their success in establishing schools and obtaining scholars has inflamed the bigotry of rival Christian sects, and every opportunity is now taken to impede their work.

I am, &c.,

Chargé d’ Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 453.]

Mr. Peet to Mr. Heap.

Dear Sir: Referring to our conversation of to-day in regard to Mr. Barnum’s new difficulty at Harpoot, I herewith inclose a copy of a paper lately received from him on the “relation of the college (American) at Harpoot to the Turkish Government.” From this it appears that the objection of the Government, although doubtless to the entire enterprise at Harpoot, is now aimed at the girls’ school occupying a newly made addition to the house lately occupied by the Rev. Mr. Allen.

The case now on hand is this: During a late call by Rev. Mr. Barnum on the vali he was told (by the vali) that an order to close the girls’ school had been received from the department of interior, because the building in which it was held was built for a house but now used as a school. They are daily expecting to be confronted by an officer charged with the execution of this order. If they should, it is difficult to say what the result would be, as the school is in their own private house, which they feel justified in defending from intrusion. According to their statement just at hand, the [Page 821] order, if executed, will be resisted till forcible measures are used; to what extent beyond that point I can’t say. They seem determined to hold out against what they deem an invasion of their rights of domicile.

The position seems to be a grave one. I hope you will write at your earliest opportunity to Mr. Barnum, giving him some hints as to the lines on which he can rely for assistance from the embassy, and, if you are willing to do so, some advice as to the course he had best pursue would be, I know, very gratefully received. I feel it to be one of those cases in which the action taken there ought to be in perfect harmony with the views held by the legation. I would suggest an early communication, as events there may come to an issue very soon.

With many thanks for the attention already bestowed upon the case,

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 453.]

Relation of the college at Harpoot to the Turkish Government.

It is now about twenty-nine years since Harpoot became a missionary station. Very soon after the arrival of the missionaries they opened a school for boys and another for girls in the city.

These were the germs which were fostered and developed until they grew into the male and female departments of the “Euphrates College.”

In 1876 the first board of education for the district was organized here. They sent out a circular asking for a list of pupils and studies in all the schools. The first response to this circular was from us. This board visited the male department and the vali subsequently visited the female department, and all gave us the highest commendation. From that time to the present we have responded to every request for the programme of study, &c. The schools have had frequent visits from the higher officials in the civil and military service.

In the autumn of 1882 a superintendent of schools (maaurif mudir) and an inspector (mufettish), from the Harpoot vilayet, arrived from Constantinople. I learned at the time that before they arrived here they made the boast to some persons who went out to escort them into the town that they would take the American schools in hand. I called on them several times, and told them we should be glad of their assistance in the improvement of our schools, &c.; and although they visited the schools, they seemed to be under some restraint, but showed no open opposition.

In January, 1883, I received a note from the mudir, asking how many schools we had, and whether they had the authorization required by law”; also the names of the teachers employed in them, and whether they had the necessary diplomas from the “department of education.” To this I replied, giving a list of the teachers and the lessons which they taught, and stating their credentials, saying if something-more than these credentials were needed they would be happy to be examined, each in his own department, for a diploma from the board of education. Nearly two years have passed and we have heard nothing about examinations or diplomas since.

In the same communication I stated that we had a school for males and another for females, and several departments; that the germ of the first was planted twenty-five years ago, and of the latter twenty-four years ago; that at that time, so far as we know, there were no regulations regarding permission to be obtained, and that the schools had frequently been visited officially, and no one had said that we ought to seek such permission, but we now learned it for the first time. I said, however, that we had no desire to proceed contrary to law, and made a formal request for permission. In conversation with the mudir he said that permission could be granted here if the vali favored it; if not, it must come from the central board. He promised to aid in securing it. The vali also said there could be no possible objection to it, as he said, “We have visited the schools and have already expressed our approbation.”

No reply to this application having been received, as I was about to proceed to Constantinople, I spoke again to the vali (in April), saying that I would like to have the request considered, so that if it was refused here I might make application at Constantinople. He replied, “The idou myliss has been very busy, and we have not considered it; then, too, we have attached no importance to it, for what other school has received permission to be?”

The following June I mentioned the case to General Wallace, and he expressed a serious doubt as to the wisdom of making a formal application for permission, as it would be a tacit admission that we had hitherto been in the wrong; so the matter was dropped, and we have heard nothing more about it directly save occasionally rumors that the maaurif authorities proposed to close the college.

These gentlemen have been exercised about another matter. The girls’ school [Page 822] never had separate and special quarters. It was opened in Mr. Allen’s house, and as its needs of room increased Mr. Allen gave up some rooms and built others for himself, he all the time paying a large tax on the whole building. Two years ago last spring Mr. Allen built another addition to the same building, giving up his former house entirely to the girls, and for-nearly a year he occupied the new premises. One year ago he allowed the female department to go into the new rooms, and he returned to his original house.

The board of education have made formal complaint that a building which was erected as a house is now used as a girls’ school, and also the inspector of schools, a young unmarried Turk, wished to see whether it was really occupying these premises, but he was not allowed to do so. The vali sent me the complaint, asking for explanation. I gave the facts about the dwelling as above, and also said that not only was the inspector denied admission to the girls’ school, but he always would be.

If it is thought best to make a formal application for the college to be recognized as such, we are willing to do so, unless, as General Wallace suggested, it is implied that its continuance has been illegal, and so run the risk of a refusal, and if a firman can be secured for the premises now occupied as girls’ school, we shall be only too glad, as it will save some 5 lires a year in taxes.

From the very first we have used extreme care to give the Government no just occasion to find fault. The whole trouble now comes from the two officials sent from Constantinople. Whether the animus of their strong opposition to us is from the central department at Constantinople having failed to do anything to improve the Turkish schools, they wish to show that they have done something by interfering with us, or whether it is envy that our schools should so far outstrip their own, is not easy to decide.


[Inclosure 3 in No. 453.]

Mr. Peet to Mr. Heap.

Dear Sir: Dr. Barnum, of Harpoot, mentioned in a communication lately received that, in his opinion, if some notice was sent from our legation to the vali of each province in which American citizens are residing, to the effect that the English consuls are the protectors of American citizens, it would meet a felt want now. Possibly it is best not to interfere with the course which your communication to Washington may have in this regard, but on this point you will know best.

Yours, &c.,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 453.]

Mr. Heap to Mr. Peet.

Sir: Your letter of the 19th instant, inclosing a statement from Mr. Barnum concerning the school at Harpoot has been confirmed by a telegram the British embassy has received from Colonel Everett, Her Majesty’s consul at Erzeroum. I sent Mr. Gargiulo to-day to the minister of public instruction, as I am suffering with a bad cold, &c., and cannot go myself. The minister stated that he had sent an order by the direction of the council to close all schools that had not received permits from the Government, and that he could not recall it except by order of the same council. I have written a note to the minister of foreign affairs, requesting him to have the order suspended, and made formal application for a permit for the school.

In case the authorities persist in closing the schools, my advice would be for Mr. Barnum to protest against such an act, but to offer a passive resistance only, leaving the responsibility to the authorities if they employ force, which I do not think they will venture to do.

The suggestion that I should inform the valis that American citizens are under the protection of English consuls is altogether inadmissible. I have written, as I said I would, to the Secretary of State, and must await his instructions.

[Page 823]
[Inclosure 5 in No. 453.]

Mr. Heap to Assim Pasha.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to inform your excellency that I am informed by a recent communication from Harpoot that the authorities of that place have been instructed by the imperial ministry of public instruction to summarily close the American school of Harpoot on the plea that this school had not obtained a permit.

A measure of so rigorous a character could only be justified in the case of a school opened after the law on the subject was already put in vigor. But your excellency will I am sure, agree with me, that the school in question having already been in operation twenty-four years with the knowledge and to the satisfaction of the authorities who have visited it on several occasions, that a board of public instruction has been in existence in Harpoot only since 1876, and that this board never made a complaint on the subject of the permit until the end of last year, in consequence of which Mr. Barnum, the director of the school, addressed a request in due form in April last to the vali, with the object of obtaining the necessary permit; but notwithstanding all Mr. Barnum’s urgency, his request has, so far, remained without effect.

Your excellency will, I am sure, acknowledge that it would hardly be equitable to take such summary action with, regard to schools of this category, and that since application for a permit was made seven months since, it is but right that the result of this application should be awaited.

In order to avoid any further delay, since the vali has paid no attention to Mr. Barnum’s application, I have to request of your excellency that a permit be granted for the American school at Harpoot, and to beg you at the same time to have orders sent to the authorities of Harpoot to suspend all action until this question is settled.

I beg, &c.,