Mr. Terrell to Mr. Gresham.

No. 219.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith copy of a letter from Mr. Jewett, consul at Sivas, of date December 23, 1893, and also copy of [Page 711] the instruction I have sent in response to this and to another letter from Mr. Jewett of December 9, 1893, whose contents I have recapitulated in my reply.

I have, etc.,

A. W. Terrell.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 219.]

Mr. Jewett to Mr. Terrell.

Sir: During the past two years the American missionaries at Harpoot have been putting in a water supply for their schools and houses. They brought the water in pipes from a considerable distance from the city and spent a very considerable sum of money in the work. Largely out of generosity, there being only a slight and insignificant consideration, the missionaries promised to give half of the water to the people.

They have done so. But a wealthy Turkish neighbor, who expected or hoped to get the whole of the gift, received only half of it, and the rest was distributed to other places among the people. The Turks proceeded to bring a suit against Mr. Barnum, as I understand, to obtain the whole amount of the water that was promised.

November 21 Mr. Barnum received a summons to appear in court to answer the suit. He rejected the summons, saying that, being a foreigner, the suit should be brought through his consul or the governor-general of the province. Then the court sent a written statement to the governor in regard to the matter, which specified a law to the effect that foreigners who hold real estate are under the same relations to the courts as Ottoman subjects in any suit relating to real estate.

I have written to Mr. Barnum that this is a question of contract and not a question of real estate, and as it is an action to establish the rights or redress the wrongs of an individual, it is a civil suit and therefore under the jurisdiction of the consul.

I have told him that if he wished to have the case tried in the Turkish court he could do so, but it is a matter of choice with him, and if he submits to the Turkish courts he must abide by their decisions. He says it is an institution for which he has no particular respect.

I understand that water is, in some cases, classed as real estate, in questions of mill sites, etc., but I do not think it should be classed as real estate in this instance.

But even if it should be regarded as real estate in this case, it seems to me that the question at issue is a commercial one, to first establish the terms of the contract existing between Mr. Barnum and the Turk, then to determine whether that contract has been violated, and if so, what damages should be allowed to the plaintiff.

The power of commencing all civil proceedings being vested in the consular officer, it seems to me that this suit should be brought through this office.

I have advised Mr. Barnum to settle the suit in some friendly way if possible to do so.

Will you kindly inform me if my position in regard to this suit is correct or not?

In case the suit is brought through this office, how should it be tried? Harpoot is not in this vilayet and is seven days’ journey from Sivas.

[Page 712]

I regret that my information in regard to the suit is not complete. I have given you the facts as I have received them.

I am, etc.,

M. A. Jewett.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 219.]

Mr. Terrell to Mr. Jewett.

No. 73.]

Sir: I am in receipt of your communications of December 9 and 23, respectively, informing me of the closing of Protestant chapels and asking for instructions in various matters, such as the right of missionaries to engage in touring work, to have proscribed books for their personal use, the right of the Ottoman Government to search American schools and houses, etc.

In regard to the closing of Protestant chapels, I have to say that this legation will always be prompt in protesting against the closing of chapels under the immediate control of Americans, and we will cheerfully use our good offices, as far as we can, in favor of other Protestant chapels.

The right of missionaries to visit the outstations is undoubted, as all peaceable American citizens have a right to go back and forth throughout the Ottoman Empire. I should, however, as a matter of expediency, advise caution, for the present, in the assertion of rights which are distasteful to the Turkish officials. The disturbed condition of some parts of Asia Minor and the intense suspicion of seditious movements felt by Turkish officials created, for a time, a strong feeling against teachers and missionaries, which is now happily beginning to subside, and which it would be well to dispel altogether by quiet and discreet conduct on their part.

You are correct in thinking that the Turkish Government has no right to search American schools and residences, except under the circumstances enumerated in your letter of December 9, 1893, if you have in mind at the same time the undisputed right of properly authorized officials to inspect the schools, text-books and courses of study, as provided for by article 129 of the law concerning public instruction. Hence, it follows as a necessary consequence that proscribed books for the personal use of the American missionaries which have passed the customhouses and been introduced into their homes can not be disturbed.

In regard to Mr. Barnum’s lawsuit, I am inclined to think that the question involved is one of real estate, and hence one to be tried in the Turkish court. Nevertheless, the summons should be served through the consulate when there is one within nine hours of the locality. As such does not appear to be the case in the present instance, I am disposed to repeat the advice you have already given Mr. Barnum, to settle the suit “in some friendly way if possible to do so,” and thus avoid a tedious Turkish litigation.

I am, etc.,

A. W. Terrell.