Mr. Straus to Mr. Blaine.

No. 196.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch, No. 187, of March 28, 1889, I have the honor to report: The American missionaries throughout the Ottoman Empire have frequently complained that the chief cause of interference by the local authorities with their schools arose from the fact that while they on their side complied with the requirements of the school regulations (Legislation Ottomane, Vol. III, p. 299) the local authorities refused or neglected to perform what the regulations required of them, and the result was frequently after they had submitted their text-books, the curriculum of studies, and the certificates of teachers, these were retained by the academical council, and the authority to open the schools was withheld. After the lapse of some months the governor-general would send an inspector to examine the certificate of teachers and the authority for the opening of the school. These, of course, could not be produced, as the academical council had not taken action upon them, nor returned them. Thereupon orders by the vali would frequently be given to close the schools that had not complied with the regulations aforesaid.

The complaints of the missionaries are set forth in a recent letter, dated Beirut, Syria, April 9, 1889, from Rev. Dr. H. H. Jessup and Rev. George A. Ford on behalf of the Syrian mission of the American Presbyterian Church. A copy of so much as refers to this subject is inclosed.

My own observations confirmed the statements in this letter, and that much trouble would be avoided if the local officials could be made to comply with their part of the school law, and that a degree of permanence for the schools could be assured if the permits provided for were delivered to the schools, thereby preventing them from being subject to the caprices and changes of local officials.

On repeated occasions during the past twelve months I have presented the matter to the Porte, and insisted that orders should be given to remedy the evils complained of. On the 16th May instant a vizierial order was issued by the grand vizier, and has been forwarded to the governors-general of every vilayet wherein there are foreign schools. I succeeded in obtaining a copy, a translation whereof is inclosed.

I have sent copies of this vizierial letter to the consul-general for transmission to our consul at Beirut and for the information of our missionaries.

While considerable delay will doubtless attend the execution of the orders contained in this vizierial letter, yet it will, in the mean time, it is anticipated, enable the missionaries to protect themselves against the arbitrary acts of the local authorities in the several vilayets, and will, it is hoped, ultimately lessen the hindrances and obstructions to which American mission schools have constantly been subjected.

I have, etc.,

O. S. Straus.
[Page 721]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 196.]

Messrs. Jessup and Ford to Mr. Straus .


Dear Sir: The Syria Mission of the American Presbyterian Church would express its high appreciation of the able and efficient manner in which you have conducted the protracted negotiations with the Ottoman Government with reference to the status and the rights of American schools in this Empire.

The ground thus gained is most important.

We have furnished to the local authorities our course of study, the diplomas of our teachers, and a set of our books, according to art. 129, which also provides that the “governor-general and the academical council shall authorize” our schools after fulfilling these conditions.

We claim that they should give us written permits for these schools, as otherwise we have absolutely nothing to show as evidence that we have fulfilled the conditions of the law.

Local mudirs, kaimakams, and mutessarifs are requiring us to produce our “rukhas” or permits, maintaining that the failure to have such permits is evidence of the non-legality of our schools. We have, at great pains, done our part, and consider that we have the right to insist that the Government do its part.

It is true that we have the recent orders of the Sultan’s Government that our “schools shall not be interfered with, that the closed ones be re-opened, and complaints to be sent to the grand vizier” (your dispatch of March 16, 1889); but what we now deem pre-eminently necessary, in order to save further trouble, is that we secure permanence to the status of our schools.

In view of this state of things, and of the fact that your thorough acquaintance with the whole subject gives you a great advantage in the matter, especially while so liberal a man as H. H. Kamil Pacha is at the head of the Government, we have felt convinced that now is the time to push our request for orders to the valis of Beirut and Damascus, and to the mutessarif of Mount Lebanon, to give us official written permits for all our schools, as evidently implied and provided for in art. 129.

  • Henry H. Jessup,
    Stated Cleric of American Mission.
  • Geo. A. Ford,
    Of the Sidon and Zahleh Stations.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 196.—Translation.]

Vizierial circular addressed to the governors-general of the Empire, dated Ramazan 16, 1306 (May 16, 1889).

The legation of the United States has made a complaint to the Porte, stating that whenever American schools are established, that while the authorities proceed to the examination of their programme (of studies) as well as the certificates of the teachers, yet no official permission in writing is granted, and the above-mentioned certificates are withheld by the authorities, and after a lapse of eight or ten years, when proceedings for the investigation for the condition of said schools are made, the said schools are closed, not because of any irregularity as regards the schools, but because the above-mentioned official permissions and the certificates of the teachers are not in their possession, and in consequence many inconveniences and difficulties are encountered in the effort to re-open the said schools.

Although it is known that some of these schools are closed for legal reasons, it can not be admitted that long-established schools should be closed as long as their status and the manner in which they are conducted are not such as to render their closing necessary for being contrary to the established regulations. Consequently, you are instructed that whenever a new school is to be established, the formalities required by the special law having been complied with, the governor-general shall grant to the directors of the schools the official permission, and the certificates of the teachers, after being examined, shall be returned to the latter and left in their possession. As regards the old existing schools, whenever any reason for their closing exists, the facts should be reported to the ministry of the public instruction, and, in accordance; with the answer thus given, action shall be taken.

The same rule shall apply to the other foreign schools.