Mr. Hirsch to Mr. Blaine.

No. 246.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a letter from Rev. H. O. Dwight, in which he informs me that a school under the charge of the American missionaries at Agantz, in the district of Yan, which has been in existence for some seventeen years, and which, after being closed by the authorities a few years ago, was, through the efforts of this legation, reopened about one and one-half years ago, since when it has again been in successful operation, was last month again closed by the arbitrary order of the local authorities.

The vizirial letter of Ramazan 16,1306 (May 16, 1889), expressly provides: “And if there is a reason which demands the closing of schools which have been opened of old, the matter will be reported to the ministry of public instruction and the necessary steps will be taken in accordance with the answer which is received.”

The evident conflict of the arbitrary proceedings of the local authorities in closing this school without first having reported to the ministry at Constantinople, with the extract from the vizirial letter just quoted, having been brought to the notice of his excellency the minister of public instruction, he immediately ordered by telegraph the reopening of the school and instructed the reasons for its closing, if any exist, to be forwarded to him here.

As soon as additional information is received the Department will be duly informed.

I have, etc.,

Solomon Hirsch.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 246.]

Mr. Dwight to Mr. Hirsch.

Dear Sir: The American missionaries residing at Van established a primary school about sixteen years ago in the village of Agantz, in the neighborhood of Van, which was summarily closed, in 1887, I think, by the governor-general, at the request of Armenian notabilities of the village. Upon the representations of the United States legation, his highness the grand vizier admitted that this school came under the terms of the agreement by which American schools were not to be interfered with which had been in existence for years, and which conformed to the law as to the inspection of such schools. In accordance with his decision the school was reopened in 1889 and has continued until the present year, when the governor-general again caused the school to be closed, alleging that orders from the department of the interior compelled him to do so.

The order referred to appears to be one which I have not seen, but which was alluded to in the newspapers as requiring provincial authorities to be careful in enforcing the law, which requires an imperial firman for the erection of church and school buildings. The minister of the interior could hardly issue orders as to the regulation of schools, since that matter belongs to the department of public instruction. Certain officials have the impression that all orders referring to schools are intended to check the increase of Christian schools, and are therefore liable to misunderstand [Page 750] the scope of such orders. I judge that this misunderstanding is the cause of the difficulty in the present case. At all events, there is no question of erection of school buildings, nor any other matter requiring the interference of the minister of the interior with one of our schools carried on in strict conformity with the understanding by which, in return for the assent of the missionaries to the Government inspection, the question of the right of our old schools to exist was not to be raised.

The governor of Van has told the resident missionaries, on being reminded of this agreement, that there is not and never has been a school at Agantz, there being merely a number of children under instruction in a private house. If there is no school, there is of course no reason for interference. But his excellency does not appear to see the inconsistency of claiming that the school exists for the purpose of closing it, but does not exist when the question of its continuance is alluded to. If the definition of “school” is to be fixed as including only those which exist in buildings especially constructed for the purpose by imperial firman, the new definition affects the greater part of the American schools, since as you are aware the most of them were established long before anyone dreamed of requiring schools to apply for firmans except for the purpose of securing buildings, and since, moreover, the finances of our mission could never have met the need to erect special buildings for our schools. The baselessness of any such claim as that a school can not exist except when a community has money enough to obtain a firman and build special schoolhouses appears when we reflect that such an edict would close nine-tenths of the Christian schools in the country and would destroy education among the poverty-stricken village population.

In the particular case in hand the mission school at Agantz has been arbitrarily closed in violation of the agreement and in entire disregard of the fact that our mission was the first among the foreign bodies engaged in educational work in this country to admit heartily Government control over the text-books and course of study in use. I hope that there may be no difficulty in securing redress for this wrong, and if the minister of the interior could be informed of the understanding that complaints against our schools are to be arranged here, where we can answer for their submission to the laws, and not in remote interior districts, I think that some, at least, of the cases with which we now have to give you so much trouble would not occur. It has often happened that interference with our schools originates in orders from the department of the interior, which, having no information as to our history, regards us with undue suspicion.

Very respectfully, yours,

Henry O. Dwight.