No. 678.

Tevfik Pasha to Mr. Frelinghuysen.


The Imperial Ottoman legation has repeatedly been under the necessity of making representations to the Department of State in relation to the jurisdiction which is assumed by the United States consuls in [Page 891] Turkey over American citizens who have been guilty of crimes or misdemeanors committed within the territory of the Empire, to the exclusion of all intervention on the part of the Ottoman authorities, and that not only in cases in which the injured party is a foreign subject, but also in those in which such party is an Ottoman subject.

The Sublime Porte has always opposed this view of the United States, which is based upon an erroneous translation of Article IV of the treaty of 1830.

Without wishing, Mr. Secretary of State, to enter upon a minute discussion of this question, which has already formed the subject of much correspondence between the two Governments, I will say that Article IV of the said treaty does not create an exceptional régime in favor of American citizens.

The expression found therein “following the usage observed towards (other) Franks,” can leave no doubt on this head.

It clearly shows that neither more nor less was granted to American citizens than was granted to the subjects of other powers. I beg, moreover, to remind you that according to the declaration of Mr. Porter, then representative of the United States in Turkey (which declaration has never been disavowed), the Turkish text of the treaty of 1830 is the only one that is binding, and as that document says, “In case any dispute shall arise between the two contracting parties, the said instrument (i. e., the Turkish text) shall be the only one according to which the difficulty shall be settled.” It was not until the year 1868 that Mr. E. Joy Morris, then United States minister at Constantinople, raised this question of jurisdiction, basing his action on the English translation of the Turkish text of Article IV of the treaty of 1830.

The case in which he did so was that of two Americans, Romer and Lamar, who bad been concerned in an affray in Syria.

There are in that translation entire phrases which are wanting in the Turkish text, which is, I repeat, the only one that is binding.

A long discussion between the two Governments followed, and Mr. Morris, by order of the Department of State, had new translations of Article IV made at Constantinople, by six dragomans who were attached to various embassies there. According to the admission of the Department of State not one of those translations contains any phrases or words that would grant to the representatives of the United States the right of jurisdiction which we contest. In view of these facts, Mr. Fish, who was at that time Secretary of State, laid the question before the Senate, as appears from a dispatch addressed by him to Mr. Morris. Sixteen years have elapsed since then, and notwithstanding the reiterated efforts made by the Sublime Porte, both here and at Constantinople, no decision, so far as I am aware, has been reached by that body on this subject.

The United States Government, yielding to evidence, finally adhered, it is true, in principle, to the view taken of this question by the Sublime Porte. It will be sufficient for me to quote in this connection the declaration made by Mr. Evarts, then Secretary of State, to my predecessor, in the name of his excellency the President: “I am directed,” wrote the Hon. Mr. Evarts, May 14, 1880, “by the President to admit, on the part of the Government of the United States, that the United States are bound by the Turkish text of the treaty of 1830, which was signed in that text above.” [Mr. Evart’s note says in that text alone.]

“I make this admission the more cheerfully in view of your repeated assurances, in the name of your Government, that not only shall the true extent” [Mr. Evart’s note says intent] “of that text be observed, [Page 892] but also that the citizens of the United States, within Ottoman jurisdiction, shall have the treatment accorded to the citizens or subjects of the most favored nations” [Mr. Evarts wrote nation] “either by treaty or by virtue of existing local laws or customs.”

Aristarchi Bey took note of this declaration, and, in his reply to the honorable Secretary of State, gave the most positive assurances that citizens of the United States should enjoy, in Turkey, the same privileges and immunities as citizens of other countries. Notwithstanding these declarations, which ought to have put an end to the difference existing between the two countries, the Washington Cabinet thought proper once more to remit the examination of this matter to Constantinople, as stated by the Hon. Bancroft Davis, then Acting Secretary of State, to Aristarchi Bey, under date of December 30, 1881. You were also pleased to assure him, Mr. Secretary of State, that the necessary instructions had been forwarded to the representative of the United States in Turkey, to enable him to settle this difference. No settlement has, however, been reached.

In the meantime, cases of crimes and misdemeanors continue to occur in the Empire, and frequently give rise to differences of opinion and to difficulties between the Ottoman authorities and the American consulates, to the great detriment of the regular course of justice.

Thus, quite recently, the United States consul at Beirut positively refused to receive and forward to its destination a summons issued by the public prosecutor, which cited an American missionary of Saida to appear, he having been guilty of a violation of law.

In calling your serious attention, Mr. Secretary of State, to this fact, I beg you, by order of my Government, to be pleased to hasten the settlement of this question of jurisdiction, which has remained so long in abeyance.

To sum up, the Sublime Porte cannot make, in criminal cases, any exception in favor of American citizens; it guarantees to them, however, all privileges and immunities that have been heretofore and that are now enjoyed by the subjects of other powers. I am authorized to give you, on this point, Mr. Secretary of State, the most formal and explicit assurances, without either hesitation or reticence. My Government feels every confidence in the sentiments of equity and justice which actuate the Washington Cabinet, and it hopes that the difference which has for so many years existed between the two countries on this point will, through your conciliatory spirit, be definitely terminated.

Be pleased, &c.,