No. 640.

Mr. Wallace to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 471.]

Sir: It appears from the inclosures herewith forwarded that the governor of Syria has closed a couple of schools, which, for a long time past, have been conducted under the supervision of American Presbyterian missionaries in that province.

You will observe that there are three questions raised by the proceeding, one touching the schools, another relative to shutting up of a place of worship, and a third one respecting the seizure of property alleged to belong to Dr. Eddy, an American citizen, resident in Beirut. Each of these points, it seems to me, requires separate consideration, and, possibly, separate action. Common prudence demanded that I should [Page 835] have the fullest information as to the facts. Applying myself to the reports which have reached the legation through the consulate-general, the meagerness of recital by Consul Robeson became apparent. These recitals you will find in inclosures numbered 1 and 2.

To obtain something more satisfactory, I addressed a note to Consul-General Heap, a copy of which is forwarded as inclosure No. 3. The bearing of the several points of inquiry to be sent to Consul Robeson by Mr. Heap will be at once manifest to you.

With a view to obtaining, if possible, the Turkish version of the affair, I sent a verbal request to the minister of public instruction to be good enough to telegraph the governor and ask him why he had closed the schools. Answer was returned that the step had been taken under the general departmental order requiring permits. If this should be confirmed, as I do not doubt it will, by Consul Robeson, we shall know that the managers of the schools, whoever they are, were in the wrong at the outset. In saying this I take it for granted that you do not desire me to take a position maintaining as a right anything in the nature of business which is clearly violative of the laws of the Empire.

In the next place, it may turn out that the place of worship, the school, and the residence at Ain Kunyet Banias were all under one roof and occupied by natives of the country; and, should it so appear, then, keeping the affair divided into the three branches, I think you will further agree with me that the legation will have no justifiable demand upon the Sublime Porte, as respects the school and the place of worship, for the reason that our Government has never assumed a protectorate over institutions purely native.

Protection of Protestant Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire has heretofore been assumed by the English, and their authority for such protection is referable to the treaty of Berlin, just as protection of Catholic and Greek Christians in the Empire appears to have been allotted to France and Russia, respectively.

Then, with respect to the house as the property of Dr. Eddy, if it should turn out that it was occupied by a native (or natives) of the country, in fact a subject of His Imperial Majesty, the redress must be sought by and in the name of the occupant, who, in my opinion, must address himself to the imperial tribunals. In short, I can see but one phase of the affair in which the legation can rightfully interfere by direct demand upon the Sublime Porte, and that is in the eventuality that there is no tribunal of the country invested with jurisdiction to restore the property to Dr. Eddy upon presentment of his complaint. In the absence of such tribunal, the seizure becomes a confiscation by the Government, and the departmental order reaching no farther than simple closure of the schools, stretching it to confiscation of the property is illegal, and therefore a proper subject of demand for restitution by the legation.

Entertaining these views of the case, as it is likely to be presented when all the facts are in, I have thought best to ask you for further information, and to submit my opinion to your judgment in anticipation of the full statement by Consul Robeson.

Upon receipt of the dispatch from Consul-General Heap, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, marked No. 5, I sent an unofficial note to the minister of public instruction with requests which, if acceded to by him, will have the effect to settle the whole business in the simplest and most expeditious manner.

A copy of the note last mentioned is transmitted as inclosure No. 4.

I am, &c.,

[Page 836]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 471.—Extract.]

Mr. Robeson to Mr. Heap.

Sir: I beg to inform you that the Turkish authorities in Syria, have recently closed two American missionary schools, one at Ain Kunyet Banias, the other at Mejdel Shems; also the place of worship in the same buildings. The school at Ain Kunyet Banias has been in existence for twenty years, the other at Mejdel Shems for fifteen years. The schools have been closed against the petition of the people and the protest of the missionaries. Further, the Turkish authorities have seized and sealed up the buildings, placing the governor’s seal on private property belonging to Dr. Eddy, American citizen, missionary residing at Beirut.

I have the honor to inclose copy of letter addressed by me to the vali of Syria on the subject.

* * * * * * *

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 471.]

Mr. Robeson to Aimed Hamdi Pasha, Governor-General of Syria.

Highness: It is with deep regret that I learn that the Turkish authorities at Ain Kunyet Banias and Mejdel Shems have closed the Protestant schools at those places against the prayers and petitions of the Turkish Protestant community there, and the protest of the American missionaries, under whose supervision the said schools are carried on. These schools, as your highness is doubtless aware, have been in existence, the one at Ain Kunyet Banias, for twenty years, the other, at Mejdel Shems, for fifteen years; during this time no complaint of any kind has been made against anyone connected with the schools referred to. Your subordinates have not only closed the schools against the petition, and wish of the Christian community, but also have closed their place of worship in the same building, thereby denying them the right of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own conscience. I respectfully beg to express the hope that your highness will be kind enough, in the interest of education and free worship, to allow the said schools to be reopened until such times as the proper permit be granted by the Turkish authorities in Syria, and that the Christian community be permitted to worship hereafter without molestation.

Further, 1 am compelled to call your highness’s attention to the illegal act of the Turkish authorities at Ain Kunyet Banias, who have seized and sealed up the doors of a building, the property of Dr. Eddy, an American citizen, thereby denying the owner the right to enter, use, or control in any way his property. Seizing and placing the governor’s seal on private property, without due process of law, amounts to confiscation. Therefore, I respectfully but earnestly demand, in the name of my Government, that your highness will cause the seals to be removed from the doors of the building and the same delivered up to the owner or his agent.

I respectfully beg your highness to let me have an answer to this note at your earliest convenience.

Accept, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 471.]

Mr. Wallace to Mr. Heap.

Sir: In the matter of the closing of the schools at Ain Kunyet Banias and Mejdel Shems, about which you wrote me under date of the 23d instant, the minister of public instruction, at my request, has telegraphed the proper authorities to inform him immediately why the action was taken.

I made this request notwithstanding it appears from the note with demands, addressed by Consul Robeson to the governor-general of Syria, that the schools in question were not American schools in the proper sense of the term, but native schools [Page 837] carried on under the supervision of the American missionaries. The difference will he obvious to you. Now, while his excellency the minister is telegraphing, I suggest that you write Consul Robeson, and get from Rev. Mr. Eddy what he has to say on the point.

As to the seizure and sealing up of Mr. Eddy’s house by the Turkish authorities at Ain Kunyet Banias, the course to be taken depends upon whether Dr. Eddy at the time inhabitated the house as his residence. If he did, the action of the authorities was illegal under the protocol concerning real estate held by Americans in Turkey, and the legation has clearly the right to interfere; otherwise Dr. Eddy must have recourse to the proper Turkish tribunal to recover his property.

I will be greatly obliged to you, consequently, if on this point you will ascertain through Consul Robeson (1) if the house seized was at the time Dr. Eddy’s residence; (2) if it is nine or more than nine hours’ travel from the residence of a United States consul or consular agent; (3) if the place of worship, the school, and residence were under the same roof; and (4) if the house of worship was used as such by Turkish subjects, or by a congregation of American citizens.

I am, &c.,

Inclosure 4 in No. 471.]

Mr. Wallace to Moustapha Pasha.

My Dear Excellency: I beg to inform you of the closing of a Protestant school at Ain Kunyet Banias and a like school at Mejdel Shems, in the province of Syria, both of them being under the supervision of American missionaries. In taking this step I suppose his excellency the governor-general proceeded under your excellency’s order directed against schools carried on without permits. Without wishing to raise any question as to the legality of the steps taken by the governor in the cases, I wish merely to express the opinion, based on information come to me, that the failure to apply for the permits is really traceable to want of precise knowledge of the law, in the first instance, and of your excellency’s order for its enforcement in the second place. The school at Ain Kunyet Banias has been in existence for twenty years, the one at Mejdel Shems for fifteen years.

Under the circumstances I suggest, and request in the interest of education generally, that you give the supervising authorities an opportunity to apply for, and obtain the permits, and that for this purpose you direct his excellency the governor to recall his orders in the affairs for the present.

It is to be further remarked that in closing the schools a house in Ain Kunyet Banias belonging to Dr. Eddy, an American citizen of Beirut, was taken possession of and sealed up, and is now standing in that condition. A place of worship in one of of the school-houses was also shut against the Protestant community. I cannot see that any harm would be done if these affairs were restored to the statu quo ante at the same time with the schools, and I accordingly make request to that effect.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 5 in No. 471.]

Mr. Heap to Mr. Wallace.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit copy of a dispatch I received to-day, from the United States consul at Beirut relative to the closing of the American missionary schools, and the place Of worship in the same building, by order of the governor-general of Syria. Also the seizure and sealing up of the buildings, and placing of the governor’s seal on the private property of Dr. Eddy at Ain Kunyet Banias, an American citizen and missionary residing at Beirut.

These schools have been in existence for fifteen years and twenty years respectively, but I infer from Mr. Robeson’s letter to the vali of Syria, a copy of which is inclosed in his dispatch, that no permit had been obtained for them. They therefore seem to be in the same position as the Euphrates College at Harpoot, to which a permit has recently been ordered to be given by the minister of public instruction.

Mr. Robeson does not state whether a permit had been asked for by the directors [Page 838] of these schools or whether notice had been given, as in the case of the college tit Harpoot, that unless the law was complied with and a permit obtained the schools would be closed. There seems to be a determination on the part of the imperial authorities to carry out very strictly the orders from the Porte to close all schools that have not complied with law regulating educational establishments throughout the Empire.

I would respectfully suggest that the minister of public instruction be requested to instruct the authorities of Syria to remove the injunctions they have placed on the schools until time has been given to comply with the law and application for permits made.

Had these schools been recently opened, there would be some justification for so rigorous an application of the law, but their directors might reasonably have supposed that having been in existence without complaint or remonstrance for so long a period before the promulgation of the law, they were exempt from its application. It does not appear from Mr. Robeson’s dispatch and its inclosure, that a strict application of the law was called for in this case, and there is reason to expect that when it is fairly presented to the minister of public instruction, a liberal interpretation will be given to it, and orders be sent to allow the schools to be reopened and the missionaries permitted to comply with the regulations.

As regards the second case presented by Mr. Robeson, which you will find explained in his dispatch and its inclosure No. 2, I would submit that it does not appear to call for the intervention of the United States consulate at Beirut.

The closing and sealing of Dr. Eddy’s house seems to demand an immediate explanation on the part of the authorities, and, unless the act can be justified, reparation of an exemplary character.

I am, &c.,