Mr. Wharton to Mr. MacNutt .

No. 250.]

Sir: Mr. Hirsch in his No. 104 of March 31, 1890, made a full report touching the frequent interferences of the Turkish authorities—and especially those of Erzerum and interior points—with the transit and sale of books printed for and imported by the American missionaries, notwithstanding the books had been examined by the censor at Constantinople, and their circulation in the Empire had been duly authorized.

The difficuly then arose out of the groundless suspicions of the authorities that the books in question might not in fact be authorized, notwithstanding the fact and date of authorization were imprinted on the title page of each volume. In short this suspicion was tantamount to a charge that the importers and vendors of the books were resorting to deceit and something very like forgery to secure the circulation of the volumes in the dominions of the Porte.

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Acting on this suspicion, as groundless as it was offensive, the authorities of the interior frequently seized and opened in transit, boxes of books bearing the official seal of the customs office to show that they had been duly examined and passed at the port of entry, and sent the books back to Constantinople for re-ëxamination. Nor was this delay the only vexatious act of which the importers had just ground for complaint. The examination, in some instances, resulted in the mutilation of the books, by tearing out pages, notwithstanding they had been previously examined and authorized by the competent bureau.

The question of duly authenticating the admission of foreign printed books for circulation in Turkey had been for some years under consideration. The importers, with every disposition to accede to any reasonable requirement by which their property and their business might be secured from molestation, accepted and have since faithfully complied with the conditions proposed by the Turkish Government, by which all their books were to be examined and duly approved by a signed order, authorizing introduction, sale, and circulation.

Not long before the date of Mr. Hirsch’s dispatch above, Mr. King, then in charge, in his No. 59 of December 10, 1889, reported having made a proposition looking to a general remedy for the vexations complained of, by the periodical publication of lists of authorized books.

It was supposed that the earnest remonstrances of Mr. King and Mr. Hirsch would have soon resulted in some practical measure to prevent the seizure, re-ëxamination, and mutilation of works which had already complied with every Turkish requirement, both as to their authorization and as to their importation. It is now learned, however, that far from the abuse in question having been checked, or a remedy devised, it has continued, and that the vexatious acts of the interior authorities have become more unreasonable and obstructive, until it is impossible to avoid the inference that it is their purpose to break up altogether the introduction of books of this class into Turkey. So far, indeed, have they gone as even to sieze consignments of books, under customs seal, in transit for Persia.

The mutilations of books already duly authorized by the competent imperial bureau continue unabated; and, in short, the business of American citizens is being interfered with and their property is being destroyed without warrant of law and in defiance of the arrangement proposed by the Ottoman Government and accepted by the Government of the United States.

I inclose for your information a copy of a letter addressed by Prof. H. O. Dwight to the Rev. Judson Smith, dated Constantinople, September 21, 1891, giving details of wrongful interference with duly authorized publications. It appears from this letter that Mr. Dwight has already laid the facts before you. You are therefore presumed to be fully informed in the matter. I have accordingly to instruct you to bring the subject earnestly and impressively to the attention of the Turkish Government, to the end that immediate and effective remedies may be found for this vexatious and wholly unjustifiable invasion of the rights of law-abiding citizens of the United States in Turkey. It is impossible to admit the right of any Turkish officers to interfere with the introduction or circulation of any work duly authorized by the competent office, and even more impossible to admit that the censorship, once exercised by the competent office, is subject to revision or reversal at the mere whim of any other Turkish administration whatever.

You will present these views with the supporting evidence in firm [Page 760] yet temperate remonstrance, and will endeavor to leave no doubt in the mind of the Turkish. Government that the question is regarded by the Government of the United States as a serious one, demanding instant and effective remedy in the interest of international good faith and good will.

I am, etc.,

William F. Wharton,
Acting Secretary.