Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 9, 1891
Mr. Wharton to Mr. MacNutt.
Washington, September 3, 1891.
Sir: I inclose herewith copy of a letter from the Rev. Judson Smith, foreign secretary of the American board of commissioners for foreign missions, dated the 27th ultimo, and of its inclosure, in relation to the indignities said to have been perpetrated on the Rev. Mr. Richardson by Turkish officials. Your report on the case is awaited.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Smith to Mr. Blame.
1 Somerset Street, Boston, Mass.,
August 27, 1891. (Received August 29.)
Dear Sir: Allow me to call your attention to the inclosed copy of a letter written by Rev. H. O. Dwight, our missionary in Constantinople, who is the special means of communication between our missionaries and the United States legation in that city, and addressed to Mr. MacNutt, who is at present in charge of the affairs of our Government in Constantinople. It is quite probable that a copy of this letter has already reached the Department of State directly from Constantinople, but I send this to make sure that it comes to your attention.
The indignity to which Mr. Richardson, our missionary at Erzerum, has been exposed at the hands of Turkish officials is one of unusual boldness and calls for special attention. Mr. Richardson seems to have taken every precaution to insure the safety of himself and his possessions in the journey on missionary business which he was pursuing at the time he was so summarily placed under arrest. The right to travel freely in the pursuits of missionary duties within the limits of the Turkish Empire is one of the points, as you are well aware, which has been guarantied again and again in the treaty stipulations between our Government and the Sublime Porte. The invasion of this right in this bold and inexcusable way, and the apparent shielding of the wrongdoer by the governor-general of Erzerum, whose duty it was rather to rebuke the unlawful exercise of power by his subordinate, adds seriously to the gravity of the situation.
The further fact that Mr. Richardson’s goods were forcibly seized when in the house of a friend, and their detention for examination, is practically an invasion of the right of domicile, which constitutes in itself an additional and serious infraction of the rights guarantied to American citizens resident in the Turkish Empire. The case seems to be one calling for prompt and vigorous action on the part of our Government, and I do not doubt that instructions have already gone from Washington to Mr. MacNutt to make demand for reparation and to secure suitable guar-antys for the future. A case of this kind, if neglected, will certainly open the way for repeated wrongs of this kind and will amount to the serious interruption, if not the termination, of missionary work in the Turkish Empire,
I have, etc.,
Mr. Dwight to Mr. MacNutt.
Dear Sir: I desire to beg your attention to the following account of an aggravated interference with the liberty and the rights of an American missionary living in Erzerum:
In the latter part of May of the current year Mr. Richardson obtained from the authorities in Erzerum tezkara (permit to travel) to go on business to Van by way of Bitlis. He also obtained from the governor-general of Erzerum a special road order (bouyouroultou) informing subgovernors that Mr. Richardson was authorized to travel, and directing them to protect him by armed escort.
Having completed his business in Van, Mr. Richardson had his tezkara written for the return to Erzerum by way of the Alashgerd district, where he also had business, and obtained from the governor-general of Van a fresh bouyouroultou for the sub-governors along that route.
Traveling thus under protection of a Government escort, Mr., Richardson reached the town of Toprakkate on the 1st of July, and at once called on the subgovernor (kaimakam) of Alashgerd to present his respects and to ask for a fresh escort to go to Karakilise, the next district to the east of Alashgerd. This was promised him by the kaimakam, and Mr. Richardson returned to the house where he was guest.
About an hour later the kaimakam summoned Mr. Richardson and sent him to the house of a Moslem named Bitlisli Ahmed under charge of a policeman, who was instructed to keep Mr. Richardson from communicating with any Armenians of the town. Here Mr. Richardson was treated with great incivility and his servant was beaten without provocation.
Meanwhile the kaimakam sent police to the village of Khunsur, on the Karakiliss road, where Mr. Richardson had left his baggage at the house of the Protestant preacher, seized the baggage from the custody of Mr. Richardson’s friends, and, after it had been brought to Toprakkate, unpacked it and took possession of all the books, written documents, letters, and letter-copy book, all of which he sent to Erzerum under his own official seal.
He also placed Mr. Richardson under charge of the policemen, who had the package of documents, directing them to deliver their prisoner to the governor’s headquarters in Erzerum and to prevent his speaking to any Christian on the way. This order was carried out with strictness and brutality, the guard even beating a young Armenian acquaintance who saluted Mr. Richardson on the road. The policemen delivered Mr. Richardson to the commander of gendarmerie at Erzerum on the 5th of July. This official, after taking possession of Mr. Richardson’s American passport as well as of his Turkish road papers, allowed him to go to his home under promise to report whenever summoned.
The governor-general, to whom Mr. Richardson is well known, refused all requests for the return of the private documents seized by the kaimakam of Alashgerd. Instead of this he called to his aid the teachers of an Armenian school in Erzerum and had these documents translated, only returning them after he had thus made public property of them during seventeen days. At the date of the last letter from Mr. Richardson, July 25, the governor-general still refused to return Mr. Richardson’s American passport, tezakara and bouyouroultou, and a manuscript copy of the gospel of St. Matthew in the Kurdish language.
The British consul (Acting Consul Hampson) was willing to remonstrate with the governor-general for this infringement of Mr. Richardson’s rights, and offered to telegraph to Constantinople for instructions from his embassy. But since the governor-general had violently threatened Mr. Richardson for appealing for protection to the consul last year, and since the consul admitted that he could not press for redress without special instructions, Mr. Richardson declined his assistance.
It appears to me that when an American has complied with all police passport regulations, and in addition to this has secured the special bouyouroultou obtained by Mr. Richardson, and, moreover, is traveling under protection of the Government escort furnished by the official of the district from which he has come, the question of his right to travel freely is not left to the discretion of petty officials along the road. The clauses of the treaties securing to Americans the right to travel freely in Turkey on their legitimate business here, expressly designed to prevent such petitions of incapable officials as occurred at Toprakkate, it certainly is not within the jurisdiction of subgovernors to set aside these clauses of the treaties.
Furthermore, the seizure of Mr. Richardson’s baggage from the house where he had left it in charge of his friends was clearly a violation of domicile. The Turkish Government would hardly claim the right to seize the papers, out of curiosity to learn their contents, by forced entry into his house in Erzerum. The forced entry into his temporary quarters at Khunsur is of precisely the same nature.[Page 755]
Again, it seems clear to my mind that the governor-general of Erzerum, had he the qualities to be expected in one occupying his high position, would make haste to disown the arbitrary proceedings of his subordinate, and to make reparation to Mr. Richardson by promptly restoring to him his papers in some way that would clear himself from any complicity in a direct violation of the treaties. His act of keeping the documents illegally seized, and making such use of them as he chose, is one of approval of the act of the kaimakam of Toprakkate. If the governor-general has such ideas of the rights of his office, there is an end to all freedom of travel on the part of American citizens in the great province confided to his charge.
In conclusion, allow me to say that I regard this affair as possessing extreme gravity. In case the action of the governor-general of Erzerum is allowed to pass unrebuked and unredressed, I hope that you may see the propriety of reporting the case to Washington as an action logically implying the repudiation by the Sublime Porte of its treaty obligations concerning the freedom of Americans to travel in the empire.
Very respectfully, yours,