to Mr. Bayard.
Constantinople, July 18, 1887. (Received August 1.)
Sir: Your dispatch No. 25, of June 18 last, with inclosures of copies of correspondence exchanged between the State Department and the representatives of the American Bible Society concerning the unjust treatment of the agents of that society, and the obstacles interposed to the sale and circulation of Bibles and tracts, was received at this legation on the 7th instant. The complaints referred to come under the head of colportage, a subject that has for many years past received the attention of this legation. Since 1 have been here I have given the matter my most careful consideration, having before me as a guide your carefully prepared argument contained in your dispatch No. 7, of April 20 last, together with such additional information as is contained in the archives of the legation.
In the early part of the present year some three or four unjustifiable arrests of colporteurs by the Turkish police were made in this city and elsewhere, and the matter was promptly brought to the attention of the Sublime Porte by this legation, with the result as stated in the inclosed letter, dated July 14, 1887, of Rev. E. M. Bliss, acting agent in the Levant (in the absence of his father, the Rev. I. G. Bliss, who is now in America) of the American Bible Society. It will be seen from this inclosure that the books seized, which formed the subject of the last complaint arising under this head, were returned to the agent a few days since.
It was my impression, which, as will be observed, is entirely concurred in by Rev. M. M. Bliss, that it would not be advisable to renew remonstrances until some new violations might occur, but better to follow up the general subject, which has been in trusted to a commission with a view of making regulations for the sale of books in general.
It seems that an understanding relative to the regulations for colporteurs was arrived at in March, 1884, but no sooner was this done than it was ignored by the local authorities. Finally, at the instance of this legation and the British embassy another commission was appointed [Page 1119] by the Sublime Porte, which is still in existence, for the purpose of formulating regulations to govern the sale of books in general, and thus put an end to all these obstructions. This commission formulated a draught of regulations, but it was found that they were not sufficiently broad or definite in the opinions of the representatives of the American Bible Society.
About the 1st of March last, the representatives of the American Bible Society submitted certain amendments. In this position the matter now stands, and efforts have been made and will be continued by this legation to have the regulations so framed as shall meet the requirements of the agents of the Bible Society, Pending this, an understanding was had with the minister of public instruction that the authorities would cease from interference with the colporteurs who were peaceably and quietly pursuing their vocation. And whenever any interference on the part of the police takes place, the Sublime Porte is firmly reminded of this understanding.
In the meantime the matter shall have my careful attention. It is to be borne in mind that the colporteurs are all Turkish subjects, over whom the Ottoman authorities claim exclusive jurisdiction. This being a matter of internal regulation, the legation has only unofficially taken part in suggesting the form of the regulations, reserving, however, to itself the right to object to them in the event that they, as finally promulgated, should interfere with any of the rights we claim for our citizens by usage, capitulations, or treaty.
Hoping this will meet your approval,
I have, etc.,