Mr. King to Mr. Blaine.
Constantinople, December 10, 1889. (Received December 31.)
Sir: Some copies of a Bible dictionary sent out for sale by the Bible House to local agents were recently seized at Ererum, and other copies [Page 723] of the same work were seized at Salonica, and the local Ottoman official at Salonica tore out one or more pages from each of these books, and then offered to return the books thus mutilated to the book agent. Each of these books, as all others sent out by the Bible House, contained a printed notice giving the date and number of the permission of the ministry of public instruction to print and sell the book.
Such seizures have happened from time to time.
Therefore, while regulating these particular seizures, I thought it would be well if I could procure a general instruction from the Sublime Porte to the local officials of such a nature as to prevent, or at least to render less frequent, such seizures, which are inconvenient and troublesome to the book department of the Bible House. It is not practicable to put the stamp of the ministry of public instruction on each book, because that would necessitate the sending back to Constantinople many books which are already in various cities in the interior of this Empire.
But the Grand Vizier and the minister of public instruction have agreed to stamp a general catalogue of books duly authorized, and to send instructions not to seize the books therein named. I inclose a copy of a note I have sent to the minister of public instruction on the subject. This proposition, before being accepted, must go before and receive the approval of the board of education, some members of which are less liberal than the Grand Vizier or the minister of public instruction, and are, in fact, reactionary in their policy, and will doubtless try to raise objections to this simple and practicable plan of preventing these difficulties. However, I hope that it will be accepted, or will result in some amelioration of the situation.
I may add that, owing to the frequent changes of officials in the Ottoman service and the absence of a fixed policy, and especially on account of the natural conflicts between two civilizations and religions so different, no absolute and permanent settlement of many of the difficulties we have in reference to books and schools and churches can be expected.
I have, etc.,