No. 638.

Mr. Wallace to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 468.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch No. 251, touching the sale of books printed at the American Bible House, &c., and beg to say in this connection that previous to the receipt of the dispatch I had been endeavoring to arrange the matter.

The course pursued was to sound the minister of public instruction privately, through Mr. Gargiulo, and ascertain his views and disposition. Much to” my astonishment, he informed the dragoman that he had never sent an order of the kind claimed to have been received from his department by the censor at Erzeroom. You will find the claim of the censor fully described in the inclosure herewith transmitted. This negation of his excellency the minister was confirmed by his secretary.

[Page 833]

Thus enlightened, I called upon the minister in person, and at his suggestion agreed to send him an unofficial note explanatory of the several points requiring settlement between the legation and his department. Conformably to the understanding I drafted a communication covering the points, and will send it to him to-day.

I think the probability of effecting an arrangement in the manner disclosed will justify me in withholding a formal note to the Sublime Porte through the minister of foreign affairs in accordance with the views and instructions contained in your dispatch No. 251. In case I fail in the negotiation with the minister of public instruction, my next step will be to carry the matter to the Sublime Porte; then I will base my demand upon the ground you point out, viz, of an international arrangement.

Hoping my course will meet your approval,

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 468.]

Mr. Wallace to Moustapha Pasha.

My Dear Excellency: Referring to the conversation I had with your excellency the day of my recent call, I beg to ask your attention in an unofficial way to the following circumstances:

From reports received at this legation, which I consider reliable, Dervich Effendi, the censor at Erzeroom, speaking to the Protestant head of the community there, read an order, which he said had been received from Constantinople, to the effect that the books of the American Bible House in the latter city could only be sold in cities and towns in shops rented for the purpose. The effendi gave warning at the same time that any one found transgressing the order would be imprisoned. Subsequently the same effendi repeated the communication to the Protestant Askabad, and added that the order from Constantinople was stricter than ever before, and that the books of the said American house must pass censorship there (at Erzeroom) and be stamped there.

Permit me to remark that I think Dervich Effendi is mistaken about the purport of the order, for when I recall the repeated instances of your liberality in the matter of the books of the American Bible House, it is incredible that such a rule should have been issued by your excellency’s direction or with your excellency’s knowledge.

The argument in the matter is very simple. The books in question are but the stock in trade of the house, exactly as dry goods and hardware are stock in trade.

The right to sell them is a treaty right, and the mode of selling them is fairly in the discretion of the dealers, who are at liberty to rent shops and sell them over the counters or to hawk them about in the streets and highways, or both. If the books were dangerous property, like gunpowder or petroleum, the case would be different; the Government would then be at liberty to subject them to proper regulations devised for the safety of the public. I cannot permit myself to think for a moment that your excellency would take a step, the effect of which must be to place the Scriptures and Holy Bible, so sacred in the estimation of so many of His Imperial Majesty’s Christian subjects, in the category of dangerous property. Such action would shock the whole Christian world.

As to the secondary censorship, claimed by the effendi for Erzeroom, of books which have been examined and formally permitted by the board of censors of your excellency’s department, it would appear to be an inconsistency, and, if carried out, must inevitably lead to censorial conflicts, and reclamations against the Imperial Government for damages.

I beg your excellency to suffer me to lay another matter pertinent to the subject before you. I am informed that an order has gone forth from the board of censors connected with the department of public instruction that for the future no permits for the sale of books by the American Bible House will be granted except the words “for Protestants only” be put upon the title-page.

If such an order has been issued, your excellency will not fail to see that the condition is outside of the arrangement effected last year between the delegates representing, one the department of public instruction, another the Bible House, and a third this legation, the object being to put an end to the constantly recurring difficulties [Page 834] in connection with the business of the said Bible House. Moreover, the restriction would be invidious, exceedingly hurtful to the business of the house, and untenable in any view the subject will admit of.

So confident am I that your excellency will look at these matters as I do, that I venture the straightforward requests that the censor at Erzeroom may be corrected in his construction of the order sent him, and the Bible House be returned to its privileges of sale under the arrangement mentioned; also, that the words “for Protestants only” may not be required to be put upon the title-page of books of the said house.

I am, &c.,