No. 1066.
Mr. Straus to Mr. Bayard.

No. 63.]

Sir: The American missionaries and managers of schools in this Empire have for many years enjoyed certain customs immunities which are specified in Van Dyck’s “Report on the Capitulations of the Ottoman Empire,” page 113 et seq.

These are based upon the French capitulations of 1740.

From time to time for some years past the administration of customs has restricted these immunities more and more, so that at the present time all foreign schools and benevolent institutions, our own included, have been compelled to pay duty on many classes of articles which were formerly exempt, and have in general been subject to frequent annoyance and delays. The matter at my suggestion, and under the direction of the diplomatic agents of the several powers therein interested, was referred to a meeting of the dragomans of the several embassies and legations, our own included, and they formulated a note verbale in French to the Porte setting forth their grievances; and I, after consultation with the representatives of the American missionaries, forwarded to the Porte a note verbale, of which the inclosed is a copy, which is substantially the same as has been forwarded by several of the embassies, except such slight modifications as I deemed it prudent to make.

Trusting that the action taken will meet your approval,

I have, etc.,

O. S. Straus.
[Inclosure in No. 63.]

The legation of the United States to the ministr of foreign affairs.

The legation of the United States has the honor to call the attention of the imperial ministry of foreign affairs to the arbitrary proceedings of the general direction of customs towards convents and benevolent institutions to which it refuses the benefit of certain provisions of the regulation concerning the customs immunities to religious orders.

For some time past this administration has claimed customs dues on all goods which, though notoriously intended for the maintenance of religieux and religieuses, but which are not explicitly specified in the regulation in question.

[Page 1563]

Paragraph 2 of Article II, while it provides that “the goods necessary to the maintenance of the religieux and religieuses are the following: Clothing, food, ink and paper,” yet these words are immediately followed by a phrase the object of which is to extend them so as to remove from this provision of the regulation what may be too restrictive. This phrase is as follows: “And generally all that which pertains to the exercise of monastic life.”

It is the same with paragraphs 1,2,3,4,5, and 6 of Article III, where all the specific enumeration of the goods intended for the maintenance of seminaries, hospitals, the poor, the dispensaries, the orphans, etc., are likewise extended by an analogous general provision. The custom-house refuses, however, to conform to these express provisions of the regulation; it refuses to give effect to the articles coming under that head and obliges the American religious societies to pay the customs dues thereon, although they ought not to be paid.

The customs franchise being the principal and the most important of the privileges granted ab antiquo to the several communities of the Empire, the intention of the Imperial Government at the time when the aforesaid regulations were made was to limit the amount of the franchise to be given annually to each religious representative, and not to restrict that franchise to certain specified goods in such an exclusive sense.

In fact it is in that spirit that the regulation has been enforced since its promulgation.

The legation of the United States hopes that the Imperial ministry will in its high sense of equity recognize that the foregoing considerations are well founded and will specifically invite the general administration of the customs to apply hereafter in all its provisions the regulation in question in the same manner as it has done during almost a quarter of a century.