Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1890
Mr. Blaine to Mr. Hirsch.
Washington, December 7, 1889.
Sir: I transmit, in further relation to the subject of instruction No. 27 of the 8th of November last, a copy of a letter from Mr. Judson Smith, of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and of the inclosure thereof, expressing apprehensions that Moussa Bey, the alleged assailant of the American missionaries Rev. Mr. Knapp and Dr. Raynolds, in 1882, may escape the legal punishment for his wrongdoing, which it was hoped might be the possible result of his present trial at Constantinople.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Smith to Mr. Blaine.
Congregational House, 1 Somerset Street,
Boston, December 2, 1889. (Received December 4.)
Dear Sir: I inclose herewith a copy of a part of a letter recently received from one of our most valued missionaries at Constantinople, Rev. Henry O. Dwight. It is Mr. Dwight’s special duty, by arrangement of the mission, to be in communication with the American legation and the Turkish Government and to lend his aid in anyway where the offices of the legation are called for and special dealings with the Turkish Government are required. The case referred to is that of Moussa Bey, which is doubtless well known to you personally, as it has made no little stir in newspapers on this side the sea and in England also. Undoubtedly the reference to this case made by Mr. Gladstone in the daily press of London some weeks ago has met your eye. The correspondence which is on file at Washington for the years referred to in Mr. Dwight’s letter will furnish any further detail of facts that may be needful beyond what is contained in this letter of Mr. Dwight’s. The important thing to be considered now is, how proper influence can be brought to bear by our Government upon the Turkish Government to see that justice is done this lawless robber and murderer, who is the dread of all eastern Turkey and at whose hands American citizens have suffered such indignities. * * * I am confident that we shall not look to our Government in vain for the manifestation of its purpose in this matter which is so urgently needed by the situation in Constantinople.
The efficient manner in which, on a critical occasion in 1842, Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State, made representation of the purpose of the American Government to secure its just rights at the hands of the Sublime Porte is one of the glorious traditions of our national history. I am confident that the Government of to-day is not one whit behind that of President Tyler, nor the courage that administers the Department of State inferior to that wielded by Webster.
Acknowledging with hearty appreciation the very prompt and efficient action taken in the affairs of our missionaries in the Caroline Islands, reported in your favor of November 25, and with renewed assurances of respect and confidence.
I have, etc.,
Foreign Secretary, A. B. C. F. M.
As to Moussa Bey, the Kord, let me go over the history of the Knapp-Raynolds case. With the details of the attack on them you are familiar. When Dr. Raynolds and Mr. Knapp arrived at Bitlis in their wounded condition the pasha of Bitlis sent out troops to arrest the criminals. The officer in command of the troops went to the father of Moussa Bey and asked him to help find the men. Mirsa Bey, the father, promptly took an interest in the matter and sent over to another tribe of Kords against whom he had a grudge, and caught four of their men at random, and delivered them up to the Turks as the criminals. In order to fix the crime more solidly upon these men, some of Mirsa’s men tossed into the window of the room where they were confined a bundle containing some of the things that had been taken from the missionaries. The missionaries naturally failed to identify these men, and they were afterwards released. Meanwhile the British embassy ordered its consul at Van to go to the spot and learn for our legation all that could be found out in regard to the matter, and the consul reported that there was no concealment of the fact, on the ground, that the attack had been made by Moussa Bey with his servant and two other Kords whose names he gave, and that the attack was made by Moussa in revenge for a fancied slight put upon him by the missionaries the day before.
Upon the urgent demand of our legation that Moussa and his companions should be arrested and tried, the Government at length summoned Mr. Knapp (in October, 1883) to look at a party of Kords and see if he could identify any of them. He at once picked out one of them as the man who had cut down Dr. Raynolds, saying that he would remember his face to his dying day. This man proved to be Moussa Bey himself. Lord Dufferin, the British ambassador, now informed our legation that Moussa Bey had been positively identified by Mr. Knapp, and Mr. Knapp sent to the legation a detailed statement of the circumstances of the identification, adding a description of the man which thoroughly accords with the appearance of Moussa, as I have seen him. But Mirsa Bey, Moussa’s father, visited Bitlis at this time, and, it is believed, paid the pasha about $1,000, as a bribe, to save his son. At all events, the officials doctored the report of the proceedings in such a, way as to show that Mr. Knapp failed to identify anyone as the criminal and the Sublime Porte reported to General Wallace in that sense. On the strong remonstrance of our legation, the Porte now informed the legation that the papers would be brought on to Constantinople for examination. Later (early in 1885) the minister of foreign affairs informed the legation that the interrogating magistrate and the deputy public prosecutor of Bitlis had been found guilty of “grave irregularities and had been placed under judgment.” This was taken by the legation as an acknowledgment of their alteration of the record, and the arrest of Moussa Bey was again demanded. The Porte said that the authorities were using every effort to arrest the criminal, without mentioning his name, however. The governor of Bitlis did, in fact, summon Moussa to appear before the court, but he declined, and defied the troops afterwards sent out to bring him by force. There the matter rested, after General Wallace demanded money indemnity, which was refused on the ground that appeal to the courts was the proper remedy for the missionaries to take. Both Mr. Frelinghuysen and Mr. Bayard held that the identity of Moussa Bey with the assailant of Dr. Raynolds had been proved beyond the possibility of doubt, and ordered the legation to inform the Porte that the United States Government awaits the punishment of this man. The documents were pigeon-holed by the Porte and that was all the result.
Now that Moussa Bey is here in the power of the Government the Eastern mission requested our legation to demand his arrest and punishment. This has been done by Mr. King, the chargé d’affaires, in a clear and good note, but no attention has been paid to the demand by the Turks. What I have to suggest is, whether it would not be well for the board to call the attention of the President or of Mr. Blaine to this case with a view to having the legation here furnished with fresh instructions to press strongly for the punishment of Moussa Bey. * * * The legation is acting on the general principle implied in the instructions of Mr. Bayard, and new and strong instructions might do much good.
Yours, very truly,