Mr. Sperry to Mr. Foster.
Teheran Persia, January 25, 1893. (Received March 11.)
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a report from John Tyler, esq., the interpreter of this legation, in regard to a serious and unjustifiable interference with the rights of American missionaries at Tabriz. It will appear from Mr. Tyler’s report that there were signs of hostility to the religious and educational work of the American (Presbyterian) mission establishment at Tabriz before Mr. Fox, vice-consul, left this legation. The open act of interference was committed, however, after Mr. Fox’s departure, on the 6th of October, 1892. At the date of this act, 27th October, 1892, there was no one at this legation with official power to deal with the matter. Mr. Tyler, as interpreter, was in charge of the legation, and in the emergency he very thoroughly and ably took the business in hand. Although without official standing before the Persian Government, his long and respectable career in Persia, and the personal friendship which exists between him and the principal officers of his Imperial Majesty the Shah, and also the personal acquaintance which he has the honor to have with the Shah, enabled him to bring the subject effectively before the Persian authorities in this city. The matter was the more delicate because the work of the missionaries at Tabriz was interrupted under cover of the authority of the heir apparent, who is the governor of Tabriz. It is to be said that the disposition of the responsible ministers of His Majesty’s Government was most friendly to the United States, but this fact does not diminish the credit due to Mr. Tyler for the promptness, thoroughness, and intellectual force with which he presented the case of the missionaries and urged that due reparation be made. The entire correspondence, which is very long, would make this even more evident than the summary which Mr. Tyler has made in his report.
To my mind the most serious aspect of this affair is its arbitrary quality. No complaints were made. The missionaries were not informed that they were pursuing a course which was offensive to the [Page 481] native authorities. No opportunity was given for a comparison of the facts with the complaints. But after some informal and irresponsible talk, on the part of a subordinate, which did not rise in importance much above gossip, the seals were summarily placed upon both the school and the church, thus completely arresting the work of the missionaries, and in fact punishing them to that extent and degree while the question was being argued as to whether or not they deserved punishment. This was not only eminently unfair, but the later removal of the seals by the Persian Government shows that it was also unjustifiable. No conditions were exacted, or even mentioned, as the price of the removal. The wrong which it was thus conceded bad been done was simply cured. But to cure the wrong did not carry with it amends for the protracted interval during which the missionaries were forced, by a secret and summary process, to endure the wrong.
There is probably much in the fanatical nature of the population of Tabriz, in the local atmosphere, which explains this act of summary suppression. But to explain the act is not to show that it may safely be allowed to be repeated. On the contrary, the explanation shows that the Government of the United States ought to make more effective provision for the safety of its citizens residing in Tabriz. Some officer of the United States should be there with power to receive and examine complaints, and to transmit them in authentic shape to this legation, in case the matter goes so far as that; and all this should be done, and required to be done, before punishment is inflicted. Otherwise the work of the missionaries at Tabriz is liable to summary and prolonged interruption at any moment.
For some time the missionaries at Tabriz have been looking to the English authorities in that city for such assistance as they might require. You will recall what efficient assistance was rendered by Col. Stewart, at that time consul-general in Tabriz (now at Odessa, Russia), at the time of the murder of Mrs. Wright.
Under our treaty with Persia the United States have the right to have a consul at Tabriz. This right is not now exercised, and, I believe, never has been exercised. I have ventured to write to the Bev. Mr. Wilson, asking him to suggest the name of some responsible man living at Tabriz who would serve as the official representative of the United States in that city. Any suggestions that he may make will be at once forwarded to Washington for your consideration and that of the President. I am clear in my own mind that there ought to be an official representative of the United States in Tabriz, no matter how limited his powers may be.
Before American churches and schools in Persia are closed and placed in disuse there ought to be official knowledge of the matter by an authorized representative of the United States, to whom the Persian authorities, even the most fanatical, would feel bound to go and to explain before the act of interference occurred, to the end that the condemnation may not come first and the hearing afterward.
I inclose herewith a copy of a resolution adopted at Tabriz in regard to my own relation to the removal of the seals. The work had been done when I arrived by Mr. Tyler, and the resolution of thanks to him is the more important.
The thanks of the missionaries have been sent to the Shah and his Government.
I have, etc.,