Mr. MacNutt to Mr. Blaine.
Constantinople, July 3, 1890. (Received July 26.)
Sir: For a fortnight past the town of Erzerum, in Asia Minor, has been the scene of a conflict between the Christian and Moslem inhabitants, provoked in the beginning by a search for concealed arms in the Armenian Church, for which the governor of Erzerum declared himself to have had orders from the capital.
The search was conducted in the presence of the bishop and the governor in a perfectly decent fashion, but the news had been spread, and [Page 771] the Christians, regarding the search as an outrage and an insult to their religion, had collected in the courtyard or before the gates, and upon the exit of the soldiers from the church a conflict ensued. There is no doubt but the Christians attacked the soldiers. In the fighting, which lasted during that and several succeeding days, some 15 people were killed and 50 or 60 wounded.
The town was put practically in a state of siege, shops shut and business suspended, and the streets were the scene of repeated encounters between the mob and the troops.
The first reports, which were too vague to form a basis for action, have been confirmed by dispatches from the English consul, who, in the absence of an American consul, has charge of our interests there, the reports of the Italian, French, and Russian consuls to their embassies, and by the letters of the American missionaries to their house in Stamboul. There is a mere handful of Americans in Erzerum, made up of the teachers of a girls’ school, some missionaries, and 8 or 10 citizens living there. I am assured that they have lived upon terms of unbroken cordiality with their Moslem neighbors, so it is only in case of an indiscriminate massacre of Christians that their danger becomes grave.
In concert with the English chargé d’affairs here and the embassies that had reports, this legation made three demands deemed imperative for the safety of American interests, which were accepted as reasonable by the Sublime Porte, and, I am assured by the Grand Vizier, have been acted upon.
They were as follows:
- All arrests and investigation of complaints to be suspended until the excitement subsides, as at these trials the contending factions assemble and disorders are only aggravated.
- The garrison of Erzerum being reasonably suspected of disaffection, that it be reinforced by a battalion from Erzuegan, 5 days’ inarch from there.
- A cavalry patrol to be established in the country round about Erzerum.
Since these orders have been transmitted from the Porte no further news has come from the province.
I have asked for a detailed report from the teachers and missionaries in case they have been molested or their property destroyed.
I have, etc.,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.