Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 3, 1888, Part II
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Straus.
Washington , April 14, 1888.
Sir: I inclose for your information a copy of a dispatch from Mr. H. M. Jewett, United States consul at Sivas, No. 33, of March 10,1888, concerning the attitude of the Turkish provincial authorities toward American mission schools.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Jewett to Mr. Rives .
Sivas, Asia Minor , March 10, 1888.
Sir: As the only American citizens in Asia Minor are missionaries, and as there have been contradictory reports in American newspapers regarding their treatment by Turkish authorities, I have thought that a report on the attitude of the Turkish provincial authorities toward American missionaries and the educational institutions under their charge might be of interest to the Department. I accordingly addressed a circular letter to the principal missionary stations in Asia Minor, asking replies to the following questions, viz:
- Has there been any improvement the last year or two in the relations between the missionaries at your station and the Turkish authorities?
- Have there been any cases of persecution of Protestant converts on the part of the authorities or with their connivance?
- What, if any, obstacles have been interposed to the establishment of new schools or the erection of new school buildings?
- Have there been during the past year any cases of interference with schools already established?
- What is the general attitude of the local officials of your district toward American missionaries and their schools, friendly or otherwise?
- In your opinion is the attitude of the Ottoman Government becoming more friendly and tolerant toward American missionaries and their work, or is the contrary the case?
I have received replies from nearly all addressed and submit them herewith.
It appears from these several reports from the different sections of Asia Minor that, generally speaking, there is—
- No discrimination against American Protestant missionaries or their schools, but that they are treated the same as are the several native Christian sects, such as the Armenians, Greeks, etc.
- That the attitude of the Ottoman Government toward them is neither friendly nor hostile, but indifferent.
- That there is no persecution on account of religion.
- That American schools are not interfered with, and the only difficulties they encounter are in relation to books and printing.
- That the attitude of local provincial officials toward American schools is rather friendly than otherwise.
- That there has been no material change in the attitude of the General Government toward American schools and missionaries of late years, though the opposite statement has of late been widely circulated in American newspapers, but that the missions in the interior have less trouble with the authorities than those nearer the influence of the central government.
There has been a marvelous change in the treatment of Armenian and other Christian people by the Turk’s in the last thirty to forty years. The degree of the change can best be shown by a comparison of the religious and political equality with Moslems which they now enjoy and the terms in which they were formerly addressed when there was occasion for official action, as in the granting of burial and marriage licenses. The usual form of burial permit granted an Armenian under the old regime contained substantially these expressions, viz: “Although it is not to be endured that this infidel dog should be buried with respect, yet, as his carcass would pollute the air if unburied, it is hereby permitted his vile associates to cast it into a ditch and cover it with earth that it breed not a pestilence.” The marriage licenses were even more offensive. They recited in effect, that although the parties named were unworthy of being allowed to contract honorable marriage, being unbelieving dogs, yet, as they were full of lust and liable to offend the community with lascivious crimes if not allowed to marry, marriage was permitted them.
Such things no longer exist. The Armenian is now under law entitled to, and in general is accorded, the same respect as a Moslem.
The statement widely circulated in American newspapers, especially in the religious press, that the new laws recently proposed by the Sublime Porte for the regulation of foreign schools were especially aimed at Christianity as taught in the American missionary schools, because, as a writer in the New York Independent puts it, the Turks “see in the Gospel a serious menace to Islam,” is, I believe, incorrect. The proposed laws, if adopted, will be aimed not against Christian schools as such but against the foreign influences which they typify. The Turks fear the influence of European and American political ideas. They have no special reason to fear European or American religion. Protestant and Catholic have been laboring in Turkey for half a century and more, but the conversions from Islam to Christianity have been practically none. Indeed, judging from the accounts in the Turkish papers, it would appear doubtful whether the number of conversions to Protestantism from the Armenian and other nominally Christian sects exceeds the number of conversions from those sects to Islam.
It is evident, therefore, that the Mussulmans have no cause to fear American or other schools so far as relates to their tendency to change Moslems into Christians. The meaning of such measures as those referred to must be sought elsewhere and will, I think, be found, as already suggested, in the jealousy of foreign influences politically, and not religiously.
I have, etc.,
Mr. Trowbridge to Mr. Jewett .
Sir: Your letter of December 6 reached me by the mail of last week. Your main inquiry relates to “the attitude of the Turkish Government towards Americans and [Page 1576] the institutions under their charge.” You also request answers to certain specific questions bearing on this general subject.
In regard to the general subject, I am, of course, quite aware that it has been not uncommon for Americans residing in Turkey to complain of the treatment they have received from Turkish officials, and I know also that there has been sometimes delay in bringing to justice those who have been guilty of trespassing on the rights or privileges of American citizens. I know also that during the past twenty-five years several American citizens have been killed in Turkey; that others have been robbed and molested when traveling in the country. I know also that complaints have been made in regard to the closing of schools, the shutting up of churches, and of hindrances having been put in the way of building churches and schools and dwelling-houses for American citizens. I should say in general that I think we should always bear in mind the circumstances in which officers of the Government are placed. The country is uncivilized; the people are ignorant and not accustomed to a prompt execution of such imperfect laws as they have; the Government is poor and quite unable to furnish such a police as will preserve order in a wide extent of territory. In these circumstances it seems to me rather unreasonable to expect that the officers of the Turkish Government will be able to maintain as complete order as we are accustomed to see in America. If Americans, for their own purposes as merchants or as missionaries or as travelers, wish to visit this country, ought they not to be willing to bear some degree of vexation and trial?
I have had an experience with Turkish officials extending over about thirty years, and I cheerfully acknowledge that personally they have always treated me with marked politeness, and have been ready to listen to my requests and to comply with them when possible. In some cases local officials have found it impossible to carry out our wishes in consequence of special orders, of organic laws, or the regulations of the custom-house. Thus, for example, at the present time, we find that many valuable books are taken from our boxes at Alexandretta and never reach us. So also in regard to a small American press, which we have in the American college with which I am connected. We are quite ready to comply with the law and to submit whatever we wish to print to such officers of the Government as shall be appointed, but in some way our efforts have entirely failed to get permission to use this press. These are hindrances, however, which we hope to overcome; I certainly can not interpret them as evidences of special hostility toward us as Americans.
In regard to the particular questions which you ask, I answer:
- The relations between the missionaries at this station and the Turkish authorities have long been frank, cordial, and without bitterness. We take pains not to trespass on their authority and they seem glad to accommodate us in any way possible. I can not say there has been special “improvement” in these relations, because we have had no grounds of complaint and have made no complaints for some years.
- There have been no “cases of persecution of Protestant converts” on the part of the authorities nor with their connivance for many years.
- In one or two cases there has been some objection to the erection of new school buildings, as in the instance of the girls’ seminary here, but the objections were based wholly on the ground that a regular firman for the erection of the building had not been obtained when the building was begun.
- “Have schools already established been interfered with by the authorities?” Answer. There has been no instance of that kind in this station.
- “The general attitude of the local authorities” in this station towards American missionaries has been friendly; towards our schools rather that of indifference than of hostility. There is no “hostility.”
- In my opinion “the attitude of the Ottoman Government toward American missionaries and their work” is about the same as in past years. I see no special reason to think that any important change has occurred. I know well that reports have gone forth that the Turkish Government has assumed toward the missionaries a distinctly hostile attitude. I can only say that the evidence in support of such a proposition has not fallen under my observation. Such evidence may exist elsewhere, but I have not seen it. There are many things that should be reformed and changed no doubt, but when I am asked whether Americans as such are obnoxious to the Government, I must say that I do not know of any evidence to support such a proposition; there is much evidence to the contrary. A special pressure of work at this close of the year prevents my going into the subject more fully at this time. What I have written has been prepared in haste and may not meet the case as your letter presents it, but I have tried to give an impartial and truthful answer to your questions.
Yours, most truly,
Mr. Chambers to Mr. Jewett .
Sir: Your favor of December 6, 1887, was duly received. I regret the delay in acknowledgment, but owing to the sickness and death of our little boy, besides regular work, I could not find opportunity to answer. I will answer your questions in the order asked.
- There has been a slight improvement of relation between the missionaries of this station and the Turkish authorities. This is due to two causes: First, a more cordial feeling socially established through the cultivation of the acquaintance of one or two new military officials; and second, by a change made by which the Mearif Mudeer was changed and a more cultured and liberal man came into the office. I doubt, however, if these “more cordial relations” would indicate any “more cordial” feelings towards our work. A change in officers might take place to-morrow and make things worse than before.
- There was a very bitter persecution of a Turk who became a Christian. The persecution continued two years and ceased about a year ago. This man was betrayed and arrested on an absurdly false charge. The case against him could not be sustained, but he was retained under arrest and subjected to rigid examinations concerning his faith. Every effort was made to make him recant; imprisoned in the “inner prison,” which was very filthy and bad; threatened with divorce from his wife and confiscation of his property, and was even sent into exile. The Protestant pastor of his village was called and cross-examined concerning this Turks becoming a Christian. It was perfectly evident that this man was subjected to all this because of his religion. Even the officials confessed, though it was all done on various false charges made against him, not one of which had anything to do with religion—no; I am slightly wrong in that statement. The first time he was arrested was at the time of taking the census, three years, and the issuing of the 40 para “Nufus Teskerehs” to each individual. Hussein registered himself as a Christian, and the census-taker immediately put him under arrest. Friends interceded, and the next day he was released. The rest of the persecutions were carried on under the cover of false charges, such as stealing a Government rifle fifteen years ago, harboring a thief in his house, declaring himself an English subject when all he meant to say was that he was Protestant, the term English being used sometimes for Protestants, as Frank is for Catholics.
- Two years ago a number of arrests of colporteurs were made and some of these subjected to considerable annoyance; but this has not occurred within a year and a half.
- (3 and 4)
- Our schools have not been interfered with. For this city we have permits for the schools, and nothing has been done about the schools in the districts, though we have asked the officials if we should apply for permits for them. His reply was, “It is not necessary now.” We have not put up any new buildings and so have not tested that point, though we have no hope that permits would be granted. Most of our buildings are registered as houses.
- The attitude of the local authorities towards American missionaries personally is on the whole friendly, but towards schools a sort of “armed neutrality,” with at present a slight tendency towards friendliness, owing to the personal character of the official of public instruction.
- In my opinion the Turkish official is becoming more and more intolerant towards Christians of every description, and this includes American missionaries and their work. I have not the slightest doubt that if Turkey could take back her “capitulations” to-day, she would drive every missionary, both Protestant and Catholic, out of the country and subject the Christians to very great hardships. Though there are a great many well-informed Turks who would be quite liberal if they could and many more who are infidels, yet as far as I can see the trend seems to be now to a greater and bigoted intolerance. The fact is this educational activity has not been without its influence on the Turkish mind. Schools have been established amongst them giving opportunity for very considerable information and training. They are thoroughly Turkish and are in the interests of the Mohammedan religion entirely.
Hoping you will find what you want in these questions, I remain, etc.,
Mr. Parmelee to Mr. Jewett.
Sir: Returning from a somewhat prolonged visit to Orda, I found your letter of December 6 awaiting me.[Page 1578]
Taking up your questions seriatim I will answer them briefly as follows:
- I can not say that I have any reason to complain of the treatment I have received from the Government; therefore there is no occasion to look for improvement. The missionary work in this city is such a small work, and the presence of an American among so many foreigners as reside in this city attracts so little attention that our operations pass nearly unnoticed.
- We have had no converts from Islamism which would incline the Government to act as persecutor. Some four or five years ago the Greek community here opened a violent persecution on two or three Greeks who had espoused evangelical doctrines. The Vali Pasha then in office here took high and commendable ground in favor of religious liberty, punished many of the perpetrators of outrages, and furnished a guard for the persecuted men and also to the chapel as long as the disturbance continued. The action of the Government at that time was perfectly satisfactory.
- As in answering the first question, so here I can only say that we are doing so little as to attract little attention. We have no high school, aside from that under the direction of the native community, and there has been no occasion to test the temper of the authorities as to the erection of churches and school buildings, or the establishment of new schools. It is true the old schools have been revived and new ones have been organized during the past five years, but not in the name or under the direction of an American, though an American has been behind them all.
- Strictly speaking, there are no American schools in my district. Towards the schools in which we are interested and which we assist, the Government has manifested no hostility; its attitude is generally that of indifference, though I think in case of opposition the Government would protect them in the enjoyment of their rights. The Government would do this, however, much more readiiy for a native community than for an American.
- Government regulations are much more strict and annoying than formerly. For instance, we can not travel now without a traveling teskereh or permit, a thing formerly unknown. We can not put up a building of any kind without first asking permission of the Government, and we are obliged to pay taxes on our buildings now. Our greatest annoyance, however, is in connection with books. If, after once passing the censorship at Constantinople, our books could move freely about the country we would be quite content. But this is far from the case. At every turn made by our colporteurs their books are arrested and subjected to examination, every petty officer assuming the authority to delay or confiscate any book that he chooses. Col-portage is greatly hindered, in some cases altogether interrupted. I do not say that this extra vigilance as to the circulation of books is a blow aimed at Americans in particular. I do not think it is. It is due, in part at least, to certain movements among the Armenians aimed towards waking up their national life. Perhaps we, as Americans, ought not to complain of rules that are of general application, and which do not aim hostilely at Americans.
I do not think I need to trouble you further. I hear a good deal about the Government’s closing schools, etc., in other places. I have no ground of complaint so far as my field is concerned. The same toleration which we enjoy is also enjoyed by Catholic propagandists. In this city there are two schools conducted by monks that are foreigners, and the schools are supported almost wholly by foreign funds and are under French protection. If such schools as these are tolerated, with much greater propriety should any of our operations, so utterly free as they are from political coloring, be permitted.
Yours, very truly,
Mr. Tracy to Mr. Jewett.
Sir: Some days ago a communication from you to Mr. Herrick was handed to me as pertaining more especially to my department, the main responsibility of affairs in the college having devolved upon me as director. I will reply to your questions in order:
- I may say that as far as the local authorities are concerned there is an improvement from year to year in our relations with the Government at this place.
- In other parts of the field under the care of this station there has been and is persecution. There is a violent manifestation of it now at Alacham, not far from Bafra, on the coast, where the Government at the instigation of the Greek hierarchy is treating Protestantism with great injustice, fining and imprisoning on the merest pretenses.
- There has been within a year or two no such case of interference with old or new schools as is proper to report.
- At Marsovan the attitude of the Government for a year or two has been rather friendly towards us, but it is not so in all parts of the field. Also there seems to be a great difference between the attitude of the local governments and that of the central Government as concerns missionaries and the institutions under their care.
- We can hardly say that the attitude of the Ottoman Government is becoming more friendly to the missionaries and their work. In many cases it would seem that there is greater friendliness than formerly. At other times it appears that there is more strict surveillance, and greater opposition than ever. From the promulgation of new and stringent laws in regard to schools and book-selling, it would appear that we are more and more carefully hindered than formerly; but on the other hand the people and the local governments are, as a general thing, more and more friendly to us as they know us better and see the evident benefit of our work.
I remain, yours,
Director of Anatolia College.
Mr. Cole to Mr. Jewett.
Sir: Your favor of the 5th instant came to hand by the last post, and as my associate, Rev. Mr. Knapp, has but recently returned to this country after an absence of two years, he requests me to answer it, which I do at once.
If I were to answer your questions in brief, without comment, as looking to the past year or two, you would be likely to gather that American missionaries in this vilayet had no occasion to complain. Perhaps it will be as well for me to take up the questions and answer them in their order briefly, leaving explanations to come in further on.
- Referring to improvement or otherwise in our relations with Turkish officials the past year or two, I may say that for the three years since my transfer here from Erzroom I have seen no particular change, though we may be said to be on friendly terms with the officials.
- I do not recall any cases of direct persecution of our Protestants as such, either by the officials or by their connivance.
- There have been no obstacles interposed in the establishment of new schools or the erection of new buildings, though for the last there were threats once.
- There has been no interference with schools already established.
- The general attitude of the local government towards our schools is rather of indifference, as if they had given the subject little thought yet, though, as I have said under No. 1, our relations may be said to be friendly thus far.
- We can hardly say that the Ottoman Government as such is becoming more friendly and tolerant towards American missionaries, and especially their work.
Following your sixth question, you ask for any other points that may suggest themselves, which emboldens me to comment a little, as I hinted above. We are so far removed from the central Government that indifference has characterized the procedure of local officials rather than close scrutiny of our movements hitherto, while at the same time they seem to have a good measure of confidence in us personally. Still, in our call on a former Vali Pasha, that official made such reference to our high school for boys and indicated he was in receipt of such regulations as obtain in other parts respecting diplomas of teachers, course of study, etc., but they have not been enforced here yet among any of the sects. Our colporteurs enjoy much freedom in the sale of books through the vilayet with an ordinary teskereh. How soon such hindrances are to come in here as have taken place in the adjacent vilayets of Van, Erzroom, Harpoot, etc., we know not, though some think it may be near.
We make it a point to fall into line with new laws and regulations just as fast as local officials inform us; but ignorant as they are, we do not deem it prudent to go to them, as if to enlighten them before the time, as if we were afraid, and anxious to avoid difficulty, lest they turn upon us in hopes of some “hush money.” On my arrival here, three years since, bitter opposition was being made by bigoted Moslems to the erection of the Protestant chapel, chiefly because it was beside their old graveyard. But the usual firman from Constantinople, backed up by such a liberal-minded man as Arif Pasha, present Vali of Diarbekin, put that to rights.
Previous to my arrival here, one robber chief, Moussa Bey by name, assaulted and plundered Messrs. Knapp and Reynolds, as your excellency must have been informed. Though these missionaries were repeatedly brought before the Bitlis criminal court [Page 1580] to testify in this case, yet the brigand himself has been suffered to roam the country at large, some of the time holding office under the local government, thus going wholly unpunished notwithstanding Mr. Knapp identified him as the guilty culprit in presence of the court that affected to be trying the case. Through pressure of our embassy at Constantinople, this court has made a show of activity in this matter since my arrival here. Once they sent a zaptiyeh summoning Messrs. Knapp and Reynolds, when I answered that one was in America and the other in Van. Of course they knew as well as I that said gentlemen were not here, and the performance on the part of the officials was only a feint for reasons well known to them and to most of much experience in Turkey. American subjects might be taken to court time and again under escort of zaptiyehs, like guilty culprits, yet this highway robber seemed thrown back on his honor to appear, which he did for only once, this time when Mr. Knapp identified him. Such painful miscarriage of justice in this case has cast grave reflections on the American Government and gives us less assurance for the safety of ourselves and property. But I have written fully of these matters to the embassy, and need not enlarge here.
The last matter I might refer to is that of a house which Mr. Knapp bought at auction of the Bitlis government in 1859, it having been sold in lieu of a debt. Though all the usual papers were given assuring Mr. Knapp full possession, in time an orphan presents a claim to the property.
Though it was not sustained for years, at last it found a hearing, when a certain Cadi set eyes on claimant’s proffered bribe. Before rendering his decision he sent, through a third party, assuring Mr. Knapp that even if he would award even a much less one the rendering should be in his behalf. Naturally this was not forthcoming, and so claimant gained his case, following which he has been clamoring for right of possession for the last few years, the court thus formerly sold it, meanwhile taking his part in pressing his claim upon us. In accordance with advice from the embassy, Mr. Knapp reluctantly appeared before the Turkish court in an attempt to defend the property, resulting adversely, as stated above. On my arrival here, and soon after Mr. Knapp had left for the United States, after careful consultation with a lawyer and others, I made the attempt and succeeded in getting said court to take upon it to defend the property, since it in the early years had sold it. In this way a contrary rendering was realized, though claimant at once entered an appeal. Though we carefully pursued the officials lest the allotted time for an appeal pass, through trickery here and at the Van court of appeal, the case was declared to have gone by default, so that it has been with the greatest difficulty that we have at last succeeded in throwing it before the supreme court at Constantinople, where it pends a decision. This much, in brief, is a summary of the Knapp-Sarkiss house case; that, too, has been pretty fully reported to our embassy, to whose kind offices we are much indebted. The suit has, more especially before we succeeded in throwing it off upon Government and some since, given us much trouble, threatening at one time to cast us into the street in mid-winter, exposed to a noisy, fanatical crowd in this, one of the most fanatical cities of all Turkey.
I am, most respectfully,
Mr. Dewy to Mr. Jewett.
Sir: Your communication of December 5 came to hand some little time since. I am sorry that press of work and illness have prevented an earlier answer. In reply to your specific inquiries:
- I think there has been no essential change at our station in the last year or two in the relations between the missionaries and the Turkish authorities.
- During the ten years that I have been a member of the station these relations have generally been quite pleasant, amounting in come instances to personal friendship. Perhaps relations are not now quite so friendly as formerly, but that may be owing largely to the fact that terms of office have become so much shorter that there is not the same opportunity for extended acquaintance.
- I know of no recent cases of persecution of Protestant converts by the authorities. Persecution comes rather from the ecclesiastics of the old churches, or from the Aghas, whose primary object is plunder, though they are no doubt instigated by the ecclesiastics. The attitude of the authorities seems to be for the most part one of indifference so far as religion is concerned, but ever with an eye open for any possible pecuniary advantage. They seldom interfere one way or the other unless under the stimulus of prospective gain, or when driven to it by interested parties whose influence is feared.
- We have thus far met with no obstacles to the establishment of schools. We occasionally hear that something is going to be done in the way of restriction, but thus far no aggressive action has been taken. And no serious obstruction has been put in the way of the erection of new buildings. A few years ago a very serious opposition was encountered in the putting up of a new building in Sert, but this was from the people rather than from the Government. Recently Dr. Thorn has begun the erection of a hospital here in Mardin, for which a permit was readily given. Mr. Gates, wishing a new school building, asked for a permit to build a house without any specification of the purpose for which it was to be used, and it was given. I suppose that if formal permission for a school had been requested, there would have been no end of trouble, and very probably the building would have been prohibited.
- There have been no cases during the past year of interference with schools already established.
- The general attitude of the local government in our district toward the American missionaries and their schools is that of indifference. Occasionally a progressive official, having apparently a real patriotic interest in the uplifting of the people, will seem to take an interest in our schools, will perhaps visit them and speak in commendation of them. But this class seems to be becoming fewer and fewer. Occasionally, on the other hand, a bigoted man comes onto the stage and assumes a hostile attitude, but it scarcely goes further than talk.
- I have no question that the attitude of the Ottoman Government (meaning the central authority at Constantinople) is becoming less friendly and tolerant toward the American missionaries and their work. That we here are not hindered more than we are I suppose is owing to the laxness of the relations between the General Government and the local authorities. It seems as though the latter were allowed to do pretty much as they please, and bribery, venality, and corruption reign. We endeavor to keep on good terms with those in authority and generally succeed in doing so, though the mere fact of being foreigners now counts for much less than in former days. Rarely an official has seemed to have some intelligent apprehension of the aims of our work, and has not hesitated to speak appreciatively of the good effect upon those who have come under its influence, as shown in their relations to the Government. Not a few have been ready, in appearance at least, to render assistance in efforts to secure redress for members of our Protestant communities who may have, been wronged. In these days, however, it takes rather more urging than formerly to bring them up to the point of action that will amount to anything. So we try so far as possible to have our native brethren keep their cases out of Government courts.
Here at Mardin perhaps we have no reason to complain, but the experiences of some other stations in matters concerning property, and even personal safety, would seem to indicate that our Government has not taken the interest in the welfare of he citizens sojourning in the Ottoman Empire that might naturally have been expected. Far be it from me to intimate that our Government should undertake, as some other nations have done, religious propaganda. But if we are allowed to enter the Empire and prosecute this work, which has for its sole object the spiritual welfare, with at tendant moral, intellectual, and social elevation of the people, are we not entitled to the watchful oversight and consideration of our own Government in as great degree as would be accorded to those engaged, in pursuits the only object of which is personal gain?
Very sincerely, yours,