Mr. Straus to Mr. Blaine.

No. 187.]

Sir: On the 14th instant I received through the consul-general here two dispatches from our consul at Beirut, under date of March 4 and 5, reporting that the American missionaries in Beirut and Syria were in great consternation in that the Cairn a Kam or mayor of Baalbek, in the vilayet of Damascus, had taken action to close the American mission schools within his district, namely, in the towns of Ras Baalbek, Tulia, Shelita, Beit-Shama, Deir-ul Ghazal, Rusaya, and Burdei. He further reported that the local authorities had closed one of the American schools in the vilage of Istubigo, near Latakia, in the vilayet of Beirut.

The local authorities claimed that they were acting under stringent orders from the governors-general of their respective provinces. That the grounds for their action were two: First, because these schools had not received a permit from the local authorities, and second, because the managers of said schools declined to stipulate to exclude Moslem children. Rev. Mr. Ford, the manager of the schools referred to, reports that the governor general of Damascus stated that it was not sufficient for the schools to have complied with the school regulations, but this must be supplemented according to the terms of recent official orders from the Sublime Porte that “no Moslem pupils shall be allowed in any Protestant school, and therefore the managers must give a written pledge to admit no Moslem pupils before any schools can be sanctioned.”

As to the first objection, the managers of said schools state they have long since complied with their part of the regulations, namely, they submitted (a) certificates of teachers, (b) list of textbooks, and (c) curriculum of studies, but that the local authorities had neglected to issue the permit for such schools as provided by the regulations.

As to the second objection, the managers declined to enter into the stipulation not to admit Moslem children.

I decided, upon the receipt of the foregoing information, not to delay action until what appeared to be well founded tears on the part of the missionaries might be realized, but to meet the issue at once. Accordingly, on the 16th instant, I had a conference with the Grand Vizier. The matter was fully discussed. I explained to him that I could not assent to the right of the Porte to impose a stipulation upon American schools not to admit Moslem children; that aside from the fact that such an act would render the schools instruments of intolerance, I denied the right of the Ottoman Government to impose such a condition. I confined myself to the line of argument outlined in my memorandum concerning the rights of schools, inclosed with my dispatch No. 47 of December 27, 1887.

The Grand Vizier seemed fully to concur with me, and there and then telegraphed to the governors-general of Damascus and Beirut to re-open [Page 716] the schools at Istubigo and not to interfere with any American schools in their respective provinces, but to refer complaints, if any, to him.

On the same day I telegraphed Mr. Bissinger, our consul at Beirut, advising him of the instructions given by the Grand Vizier. I am now in receipt of a dispatch from Mr. Bissinger of the 20th instant, of which a copy is inclosed, whereby it will be seen that the school at Istubigo, above referred to, has been re-opened and that the Grand Vizier’s orders have been promptly obeyed. This will doubtless prevent any further interference as feared by the missionaries on the part of the local authorities with the schools in the said vilayets.

I anticipate that the school referred to in the inclosed dispatch at Ain Burdhei will also be re-opened.

I have, etc.,

O. S. Straus.
[Inclosure in No. 187.]

Mr. Bissinger to Mr. Pringle.

Sir: I have the honor to report as the result of the honorable Mr. Straus’ telegram dated Constantinople, the 16th instant, as follows:

“Grand Vizir instructed valis Beyrouth, Damascus not to disturb American schools to reopen one closed, complaints to be sent to him.”

That the muchir, in his capacity as acting vali of Beirut, has promptly issued orders to the mutessarif of Latakia to allow the reopening of the recently suppressed American mission school at Istubigo.

The prompt and efficient action of the honorable minister in securing this most gratifying result for the Latakia mission school is now also invoked for the “Ain Burdhei” school, in the vilayet of Syria, closed in November, 1888 (see last part of dispatch No. 183 of March 4, 1889), as, if permitted to remain closed, it is apprehended that our apparent inaction may be interpreted as indifference on the part of the representatives of our Government to the interests of the mission and encourage the caimakam of Baalbek to renewed aggressions and obstructions.

The mission associates itself with this consulate in tendering sincere acknowledgements to their respected minister.

I am, etc.,

Erhard Bissinger.