Mr. Wallace to Mr. Bayard.
Constantinople, April 6, 1885. (Received April 23.)
Sir: Referring to the instructions in your dispatch No. 274 touching the real property of Rev. Mr. Knapp in Bitlis, your observations affirmative of the liability of the Turkish Government to make compensation in the event of the disseizin of that gentleman have been particularly noted. In confidence that the principle would be recognized by the Department, I beg to add that I had already ventured to act upon it.
Upon learning some mouths ago that the adverse claimant had obtained a judgment against Mr. Knapp before the inferior tribunal, and that he was moving for an execution, I sent the dragoman of the legation to his excellency the minister of justice to represent that the previous judgments of Mr. Knapp in the higher court could not be invalidated in the manner proposed; that a seizure of the property by the Imperial authorities and ouster of the occupant would be practically a confiscation; that it would be my duty then to make immediate demand of the Government for the purchase money paid, with interest for the value of improvements made, and for the expenses necessarily incurred in defending the title.
The minister, appreciating the protest, sent me assurance that he would cause what he called an “opposition proceeding” to be instituted to prevent the issuance of an execution and for the voidance of the inferior judgment. I was satisfied with the assurance.
Some weeks ago, however, information was brought me that the [Page 846] claimant had obtained an order for the execution out of the ministry of justice here, and had gone to Bitlis to push his rights. Investigation of the matter disclosed that the minister of justice had acted in good faith: that at his instance the minister of finance had sent an order to the governor at Bitlis to commence the opposition proceeding in behalf of the Government; that unfortunately the minister of justice, Hassan Fehini Pasha, had been sent by the Sultan on a special mission to London, leaving his department in control temporarily of another official; that this latter, in ignorance of the action taken, had actually ordered an execution to be issued. This intelligence was immediately followed by news from Bitlis that the claimant had appeared before the house in dispute with a hundred men to have delivery of the possession.
I made haste to call upon the minister of foreign affairs and inform him of the action of his colleagues, the ministers of justice and finance. He suggested that the subject-matter of the suit being real property, the legation could not rightfully interfere in the business. The position had reference to the protocol and law conceding to foreigners the right of holding real estate in the Ottoman Empire, signed by President Grant in 1874. I replied to the suggestion by convincing the minister that I was not interfering; that the interference, if such it could be called, was, in fact, by high officials representing the Imperial Government, the object being to save the latter from the payment of money in satisfaction of a demand in favor of Mr. Knapp, which could not be denied; that the order for the commencement of the opposition proceeding in the name of the Government was an admission of the demand, &c.
The minister of foreign affairs, thus informed, at once recognized the propriety of my representations, and promptly set about the correction of the mistake. In course of the conversation he broadly assented to the principle of liability on the part of the Government in the eventuality of Mr. Knapp’s ouster.
I have the satisfaction now, as the latest intelligence received from Bitlis, to inform you that an official, Rachid Effendi, has been appointed by the local government at Bitlis to institute the opposition proceeding referred to, and I think it quite safe to presume that the new proceeding has been, by this time, begun. If so, there is little doubt of the vacation of the claimant’s judgment, and of the final quieting of the title in Mr. Knapp. At least, as Mr. Knapp still holds possession of the property, all the legation can now do is to watch the outcome. In case of failure of the new action your instructions will at once apply.
I am, &c.,