Mr. King to Mr. Bayard

No. 276.]

Sir: I have the honor at last to make a definite report upon the vexed problem of the American schools in the Ottoman Empire, which has been the source of discussion between the legation and the Sublime Porte for several years.

In his dispatches, No. 191, of July 13, 1886, No. 210, August 9; and No. 218, August 23, Mr. Cox reported to you his action in the matter. When I became chargé d’affaires (September 14, 1880) there were several dispatches awaiting attention from Mr. Heap, consul-general, and Mr. Bissinger, consul at Beirut, and letters from the missionaries stating their difficulties. Since that time I have had numerous interviews with the missionaries and with the minister of public instruction on this subject, and I am now glad to report a favorable conclusion of the whole matter.

I can not hope that tire matter will cease to present difficulties, but it has at any rate been brought to a point where I can make a comprehensible report.

[Page 1084]

In July, 1869, the Turkish Government made a law regarding schools, of which I inclose a translation of article 129. It is this article which has furnished them the pretext of demanding from schools that they (the schools) should apply for “permission.” Interference with American schools began in 1874, but it did not become very serious till the year 1886, when about 30 schools were closed (mostly in January and February, 1886) in the Beirut consular district; and in November, 1886, Mr. Bissinger, consul at Beirut, reported that 62 more, scattered over Mt. Lebanon, were “seriously menaced,” as “peremptory orders had been issued to close all foreign schools not provided with an imperial firman.”

This dispatch from Mr. Bissinger was received by this legation through Mr. Heap, consul-general, on December 11, 1886.

A similar permission was demanded from various other schools, including several large, long established and purely American schools—like the girls’ seminary at Broussa and the Marsovan College.

In the course of my discussions, of the subject with the Turkish minister of public instruction and with the missionaries, I asked Rev. H. O. Dwight to prepare a statement of the history of these schools and of the standpoint taken by the missionaries in regard to them.

He accordingly furnished me a clear statement, a copy of which I inclose. You will see from his “Conclusions C,” page 7 of his memorandum, that the missionaries take their stand firmly on the capitulations for the protection of the American schools.

This view I believe to be correct and strong, and the proper one to take for schools which are really American, which unfortunately is not the ease with more than half of the so-called American schools. Finding that the French schools are having similar difficulties, I had different interviews on the subject with the Comte de Montebello, the ambassador of France. He has had about 30 schools closed and others seriously threatened, but he hopes also to protect them under the capitulations.

As above stated, 200 or more of our schools are not American except in a limited sense of the word; that is to say, they are taught by natives, in houses owned by natives (i. e., Turkish subjects), and are American only in the sense that the expenses, or a portion of them are paid by the American missionaries, who exercise a kind of supervision of them.

It seemed to me very important to bring about a settlement of the whole question, if possible, and in a way that would save all the schools yet open.

Finding it reasonable that the Turkish Government should know that no dangerous nor revolutionary doctrines were taught in our schools, and that the missionaries were willing to allow the text-books and courses of study to be examined by the ministry of public instruction, I asked the minutes of that department whether (dropping for the present the discussion of fundamental rights and the question of the necessity of asking “permission” to establish or to continue a school) he would issue orders not to interfere with any of our schools, provided we would allow the examination of our text-books, courses of study and the diplomas or certificates of the teachers. This he finally agreed to, and moreover promised that the schools previously closed might be reopened.

I had previously had conversation with him about them, and as the result of these conversations had in November sent him a list of them, with a short dispatch, a copy of which I inclose.

[Page 1085]

Immediately after coming to the above understanding with him regarding all the schools, I gave directions to their managers, through Mr. Heap, consul-general, a copy of which I inclose; and that I might impress on the minister that I was acting frankly and earnestly in the matter, I sent the same directions through the missionaries, and wrote to the minister, sending a copy of these instructions, and asking him for a copy of his circular to the provincial governors, which he had promised me.

The missionaries, in order to put the whole matter clearly before the schools, have issued a printed circular.

At the present time all parties concerned in these schools seem to be hopeful that a Ion g, difficult, and very important matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. In the meantime I very much hope that my action will meet your approval.

I have, etc.,

Pendleton King.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 276.—Translation of article 129 of the Law on Public Instruction.]

The free schools are those founded by communities or by private Ottoman or foreign subjects. The teaching is free or paid, and their expenses are defrayed by their founders, or by the vacoufs to which they are attached.

The foundation of free schools shall be authorized in the provinces by the governor-general and the academical council, and at Constantinople by the ministry of public instruction. This authorization will not be given except under the following conditions: 1. Teachers and professors must be furnished with a certificate of efficiency, or diploma, delivered by the ministry of public instruction or by the academical council of the place. 2. There shall be no course against public policy (la politique) and morality; to that effect the programs of study and the books which will be studied in the free schools shall carry the approval of the ministry of public instruction or of the academical council of the place.

Any free school which shall be opened without having fulfilled these conditions will be closed.

The heads of the aforesaid establishments will be bound to have legalized by the ministry of public instruction, or the academical council, the diplomas or the certificates with which their professors are furnished.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 276.]

memorandum in regard to the schools of the american missionaries in turkey.

A. Their history.—The first school established by American missionaries in the Turkish Empire was opened at Beirut in the year 1824. Since that time the missionaries have continued to extend their educational system without objection on the part of the Turkish Government, and indeed often aided by the Government, until now there are some 400 schools in Turkey which are supported in whole or in part by the Americans. Of these schools about 75 are on the premises of American missionaries. Perhaps 100 more are in premises owned or rented by Americans, but occupied by native agents of the missionary societies, and the remainder are held in premises furnished by the natives.

To meet the needs of these schools the missions have published text-books of the various elementary sciences in the various native languages, and in order to avoid offending the sensibilities of the Turkish Government these books have been published only after the approval of the ministry of public instruction had been secured.

Previous to the year 1869 there was no law of the Turkish Empire relating to the establishment of schools by foreigners in Turkey, and the carrying on of such schools was regarded as one of the privileges belonging to the inmates of religious establishments. In 1869 the school law of the Empire was enacted, containing a provision that schools could be opened by foreigners in Turkey on obtaining a permit for the same from the ministry of public instruction, the permit to be issued upon approval by the proper authorities of the teachers, the course of study, and the text-books of the [Page 1086] school applying for such permit. The law further provides that schools which lack, the approval of the ministry of public instruction in these particulars, will be closed.

This law makes no specific mention of schools conducted by the missionary organizations, and no steps were taken to make it known to them through the legation or otherwise. Hence the existence of the law remained unknown to the missionaries. The attention of an American missionary society which has schools in Syria was called to the existence of such a law by the attempt of a local governor to close some of their schools on the ground that they had not been authorized. This was in the year 1874. The case was appealed to the governor-general of the province, Esaad Pasha, and he decided that the law had no reference to schools established before the date of the law, and the schools were allowed to continue. Since the year 1879 isolated cases have ‘occurred in other parts of Turkey of demands that American schools should provide themselves with permits, and in 1886 such demands have been pressed in a somewhat peremptory form. It is thus seen that full fifteen years have elapsed since the enactment of this law before any intimation is given to Americans that the school law is interpreted as applying to their educational establishments, and before any general attempt is made to enforce such an interpretation of the law. The American missionaries engaged in this educational work have always desired to be guided by the reasonable wishes of the Turkish Government as to the character of the schools which they conduct on Turkish soil. But they soon found that the demand that they should ask for permits was regarded by the local authorities as giving to the Government the right to close long-established schools on other grounds than resistance to the supervision of the ministry of public instruction. In 1882 an American school in Kara Hissak, in the province of Sivas, reopened its doors after a temporary suspension. It had been in operation for sixteen years, but at this time was required to apply for a permit. The application was made in due form, but resulted in a peremptory order to close the school, without assigned reason. A similar case occurred the next year at Enderes, in the same province la both eases permission was afterwards granted to the schools, but it was only after more than a year of needless interruption to work, with corresponding injury to the interests of the schools. Similar difficulties in other eases have led the missionaries to feel that to apply for permits for their schools brings upon them unjust treatment, to which the authorities would have not ventured to subject them if they had not applied for the permit. To apply for such permits is to admit that the application may be denied, and such applications, therefore, put it in the power of Turkish officials to extinguish at a stroke the fruit of many years’ labor, and a large investment of American capital, the protection of which by the United States is guarantied by the capitulations.

The American missionaries have not the least wish to withhold from the Turkish Government the right of assuring itself that these schools do not impart what is morally or politically bad to subjects of His Imperial Majesty. But they believe the securing of this end is a question of detail which can be arranged without attacking the indubitable right of the missionaries to continue to conduct these schools in a lawful manner.

B. The rights of American missionaries in these schools.—That the American missionaries are entitled to protection for their schools under the treaties will appear from the following considerations:

(1) It is an axiom of the capitulations that foreigners residing in Turkey can not be molested by the Turkish authorities so long as they attend peaceably to their business or other lawful occupation, their business interests as well as their persons being under the protection of the laws of the country to which they may belong. In the case of religious organizations established in the Turkish Empire the capitulations extend to them the immunity and the protection given to other foreigners, and moreover grant them special privileges. (See French Capitulations of 1740, arts. 1, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, and 82.)

(2) The absence of any law prohibiting the opening of schools by foreigners has always been regarded as leaving them free to carry on schools at will under the protection of their own Government.

On the basis of this understanding of the capitulations schools have been opened at will by foreigners in Turkey, without objection on the part of the Turkish Government, and with their assistance, during very many years.

In fact, the usage of the Turkish Government in times past shows that it has put this interpretation on the rights conferred by the capitulations. It has not only not interfered with the establishment of these schools or their unrestricted continuance to the present time, but it has repeatedly intervened to protect them against unlawful aggression on the part of ill-disposed persons. Even when, as in Talas (province of Cesarea), in 1881, it has seen fit to refuse permits for the construction of new buildings for one of these schools, it has never deemed itself competent to prevent its continuance in its old locality.

(3) The attitude of the Turkish Government toward the foreign religious bodies having establishments in Turkey has always shown that the privileges anciently accorded [Page 1087] to them are understood to cover their right to conduct schools without interference.

In the East a school is always regarded as a necessary part of a religious establishment, whether native or foreign; and that the Turkish Government has also understood the ancient guaranties enjoyed by such establishments as including liberty to open schools is shown by the modern interpretation given to the ancient guaranties. In 1864 the Government issued an imperial decree explaining and regulating the privilege of immunity from customs dues enjoyed ab antiquo by religious establishments. This decree, being a declaration on the part of the Imperial Government of its understanding of a treaty obligation, and being agreed to by the various powers concerned, has the same force as the original treaty. It defines what institutions the Turkish Government understands to have been meant when the privilege of exemption was anciently given to religious establishments. Among these institutions are included, as they must be, free boarding and day schools directed by the inmates of these establishments. These “are, or may be,” says the decree in question, “connected wholly or partially with the convents mentioned in article second.” And therefore each free pupil in them is entitled to receive from abroad, for the necessities of his education, goods to the annual value of 450 piasters. The privilege in question was originally accorded to convents and monasteries, but the Turkish Government has agreed, that the establishments of the American missionaries, although, not called by the name of convents and monasteries, are entitled to the same privileges, as being the abode of benevolent religious bodies who are not occupied with the affairs of a worldly nature. Accordingly the American missionaries participate for themselves and for their schools, to the full number of their free pupils, in the privileges seemed by the ancient treaties to the religious bodies of other nations.

Such schools enjoy the custom-house franchise, not by a certificate of permission from the Turkish Government, but by means of a certificate of their existence from their consul. And to-day, while the Turkish Government is seeking to invalidate the right of these schools to exist, the law of Turkey compels the administrator of the imperial custom-houses, on receiving a notice from the American consul that a new school of this class has been opened by the American missionaries, to enter that school without further inquiry on the free list at the custom-house. This fact shows conclusively that at the time of the framing of these regulations the Turkish Government acknowledged the correctness of that interpretation of the treaties which considers the foreign religious bodies established in Turkey as authorized to open and conduct schools at their pleasure. (See decree of 1864 on the customs franchise enjoyed by religious establishments; especially arts. 3 and 8.)

C. Conclusions from these facts—(1) That the educational system built up in the past sixty years in Turkey, whereby many thousands of indigent children are instructed by the American missionaries, is authorized by the ancient treaties, and has in fact grown up under their protection.

(2) That under the principle that a diplomatic document only, agreed to and signed by the two powers, can lawfully invalidate or modify the capitulations, a law of the Turkish Empire of recent date, like the educational law of 1869, can not, in the absence of such an agreement, be enforced as regards the American missionary schools.

(3) That the demand that the existing schools of the American missionaries apply for permits or close their doors, by implying that they have no legal right to exist, is a direct attack upon one of the privileges secured to foreigners by the capitulations.

It is desirable that the legation should meet the views of the Imperial Government as far as possible in the matter of allowing the ministry of public instruction to supervise these schools for the purpose of guarding against possible injury to the interests of the Ottoman Empire through their means. But the schools being authorized by the treaties and by all ancient usages, the legation can not, without imperiling the whole of the invested capital, admit that they now require a further authorization from the Government in order to have the right to exist. In behalf of the American Mission.

Henry O. Dwight.

[Inciosnre 3 in No. 276.]

Mr. King to Munif Pacha.

No. 37.]

Excellency: I have the honor to inclose, in accordnace with your request, a list of the schools closed in Syria.

It is admitted by your local authorities that many of these schools were doing a useful work by improving the welfare and intelligence of the people.

[Page 1088]

I should be greatly obliged to you if you would give directions to the provincial governor to allow these schools to be reopened immediately, provided that they apply for permission in accordance with the existing law.

Accept, etc.,

Pendleton King,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 276.]

Mr. King to Mr. Heap.,

No. 138.]

Sir: In reference to the question of schools, after Repeated discussion of the subject with the minister of public instruction and with others, I deem it advisable to request you to instruct the managers of all the American schools in the Ottoman Empire (including those recently closed in Syria, and elsewhere, if any) to inform the local Turkish authorities that they are ready to submit the programmes of studies, the textbooks, and the diplomas or certificates of the teachers to an examination.

I am informed by his excellency, Munif Pacha, minister of public instruction, that he will instruct the local authorities not to interfere with any of these schools conforming to this request, provided that the said programs of studies, text-books, and diplomas be found to be in conformity to section 129 of the law on public instruction.

It is considered that the principle and rights conferred by the capitulations and by long usage in regard to the establishment of schools are kept intact, and that the examination of the courses of study and of the text-books comes within the territorial rights of the country.

I have, etc.,

Pendleton King.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 276.]

Mr. King to Munif Pacha.

No. 38.]

Excellency: I have the honor to inclose you a copy of my dispatch to Mr. Heap, United States consul-general, in regard to the American schools. It is at the same time an exact copy of my directions to the secretary of the missionaries.

Will you be kind enough to furnish me a copy of your directions to the provincial governors?

I desire to thank you again for your patient and liberal discussion of this subject.

Accept, etc.,

Pendleton King,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure 6 in No, 276.—Copy of instructions from Munif Pacha to provincial governors on schools.]

A number of schools within the Imperial provinces having been established without permission, general instructions were issued some time ago with the object that three months’ time should be given them, and if within that time they did not comply with the requisite rule, action should be taken against them in accordance with the law.

Now, according to the information which reaches us, some of these schools have for some reasons been closed; but several of them have now given assurances of their readiness to conform to the terms of the law, consequently you will see fit to allow the reopening of such schools as shall conform to article 129 of the law of the public instruction, the closed schools of the Jesuits to be excepted until further instructions.

[Inclosure 7 in No. 276.]

Mr. King to Mr. Heap.

No. 141.]

Sir: In further reply to your dispatches, numbered 129 and 140, of September 1, 1886, No. 145, of September 15, and No. 156, of December 10, I have the honor to inclose a copy of the instructions spoken of in my dispatches to you, No. 138, of 17th instant, [Page 1089] sent by his excellency Munif Pacha, minister of public instruction, to the provincial governors regarding the American schools.

In order to be rightly understood, these instructions must be considered in connection with the minister’s explanations and distinctpromise that none of the American schools conforming to section 129 of the law on public instruction shall be interfered with, and moreover that those heretofore closed may be reopened.

You will communicate these instructions and the above explanations to the managers of the different schools, through the proper channels, so that they may promptly report any difficulties they may have with the provincial governors or other local authorities in carrying out the clear and definite understanding which I have finally arrived at with the minister of public instruction on this subject.

I have, etc.,

Pendleton King.
[Inclosure 8 in No. 276.]

Mr. King to Rev. Mr. Dwight.

No. 144.]

Dear sir: I inclose a copy of the instructions spoken of in my letter to you, No. 137 of the 13th instant, sent by the minister of public instruction to the provincial governors.

In order to be rightly understood these instructions must be considered in connection with the minister’s explanations and distinct promise that none of the American schools conforming to section 129 of the law on public instruction shall be interfered with, and moreover that those heretofore closed may be reopened.

You will please communicate these instructions and the above explanations to the managers of the different schools, so that they may promptly-report any difficulties they may have with the provincial governors or other local authorities in carrying out the clear and definite understanding which I have finally arrived at with the minister of public instruction this subject.

I would suggest that the managers of the schools in dealing with this matter should use tact and conciliation where it is possible, in order to give the local authorities no ground for putting difficulties in our way.

Yours, very respectfully,

Pendleton King,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.