Mr. Wharton to Mr. Pratt.

No. 233.]

Sir: I have before me your dispatches Nos. 479 and 482 of July 26 and August 8 last, in the case of Minas, the assassin of Mrs. Wright; also a letter from John Gillespie, representing the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, requesting this Department to take such action as will, if possible, secure imposition of an adequate punishment in this case. I inclose a copy. You will see by its terms that the Board of Missions entertains the same apprehensions which are so strongly felt by the efficient British consul-general at Tabreez, that leniency in this well-proved case of deliberate murder would be fraught with extreme danger to the lives both of Americans and European residents in the outlying villages of Persia.

You call attention to the suggestion of Colonel Stewart that a joint demand should be made by yourself and Her Britannic Majesty’s minister at Teheran for the execution of Minas, and this Department approves your conclusion not to ask assistance in the case as it now stands. You add:

At the same time, if you direct me to make a formal demand in the name of the Government of the United States for this criminal’s execution, it is my belief that the said demand will be complied with.

While it is believed that the evidence against Minas is of the most indubitable character, and that, therefore, no sentence of mere imprisonment would prove adequate punishment under the methods prevailing too often where this form is followed, and while it is believed that the natural result of the infliction of a mere sentence of imprisonment in this case would be still further crimes against both Americans and Europeans in that quarter, and thereby involve His Majesty’s Government in additional perplexities, nevertheless, the high respect which the Government of the United States entertains for His Majesty and His Majesty’s Government, and its confidence that, on a full consideration of the case in all its aspects, His Majesty’s Government will deal wisely and courageously with this criminal, cause the Government of the United States to refrain from making the formal demand suggested; nor is such a demand altogether consonant with the usual course of this Government in such cases.

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It is to be assumed without argument that the Government of His Majesty the Shah has a paramount concern in so administering justice as to command the respect of all, and that this consideration will be his his guide.

In communicating the substance of these views to His Majesty’s Government it might emphasize the statement to make prominent the well-grounded apprehensions of the most respected and well-considered foreign residents, of whatever nationality, which have been alluded to.

I am, etc.,

William F. Wharton,
Acting Secretary.
[Inclosure in No. 233.]

Mr. Gillespie to Mr. Blaine.

Sir: The State Department has doubtless been informed by Hon. E. Spencer Pratt, United States minister to the court of the Shah of Persia, of the murderous assault upon Mrs. J. N. Wright, the wife of one of the missionaries of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, on May 14, 1890. The injuries inflicted resulted in the death of Mrs. Wright on June 1. The murderer was a young Armenian named Minas. Only through the efficient aid of Colonel Stewart, English consul at Tabreez, and the efforts of our own United States minister, was the young man finally arrested and placed on trial. The evidence of the prisoner’s guilt was regarded by these officials as beyond all question.

We have just learned, however, from letters written by Mr. Wright and Rev. J. C. Mechlin, another of our missionaries, that the Shah did not regard the evidence as sufficient to justify the execution of the murderer, and so has sentenced him to imprisonment for life. Such a sentence, we are assured by our missionaries, some of whom have been in Persia for many years, is regarded by the natives as very light, the person so imprisoned usually managing to get released after a brief imprisonment. For this reason, the missionaries are apprehensive lest the inadequate punishment inflicted may encourage similar assaults on slight provocation.

George W. Holmes, m. d., for 15 years our medical missionary in Tabreez, and for the last 3 of those years physician to the Vali Ahd, the Persian crown prince, and who is at present in this country, is of opinion that, unless the usual sentence for such a crime be inflicted, the lives of our missionaries can scarcely be regarded as secure. It is true Mrs. Wright was a Nestorian lady, but she was, nevertheless, the wife of an American citizen.

We beg you not to misunderstand the motive which urges us to press this case on your attention. Far be it from the Board of Foreign Missions or any of its officers to seek the execution of a poor deluded creature, even though he deliberately murdered a noble wife and mother. We simply ask, in behalf of our missionaries in Persia, who are themselves American citizens, that the ends of justice be not defeated, lest the lives of those who remain may be jeopardized.

We understand that Minister Pratt is using his influence to have the case reconsidered and adequate sentence pronounced. We venture, however, to suggest that if the State Department in Washington can reinforce Mr. Pratt’s efforts in this direction it may do much towards securing the desired end.

In behalf of the Board of Foreign Missions,

Jno. Gillespie,