Message of the President.
The Senate of the United States:
I have received a copy of the following resolution of the Senate, passed on the 3d instant:
Resolved, That the President be requested, if in his judgment it be not incompatible with the public interest, to communicate to the Senate any information he may have received in regard to alleged cruelties committed upon Armenians in Turkey, and especially whether any such cruelties have been committed upon citizens who have declared their intention to become naturalized in this country, or upon persons because of their being Christians.[Page 715]
And, further, to inform the Senate whether any expostulations have been addressed by this Government to the Government of Turkey in regard to such matters, or any proposals made by or to this Government to act in concert with other Christian powers regarding the same.
In response to said resolution, I beg leave to inform the Senate that I have no information concerning cruelties committed upon Armenians in Turkey or upon persons because of their being Christians, except such information as has been derived from newspaper reports and statements emanating from the Turkish Government denying such cruelties and two telegraphic reports from our minister at Constantinople.
One of these reports, dated November 28, 1894, is in answer to an inquiry by the State Department touching reports in the press alleging the killing of Armenians, and is as follows:
Reports in American papers of Turkish atrocities at Sassoun are sensational and exaggerated. The killing was in a conflict between armed Armenians and Turkish soldiers. The grand vizier says it was necessary to suppress insurrection and that about fifty Turks were killed. Between three and four hundred Armenian guns were picked up after the fight, and reports that about that number of Armenians were killed. I give credit to his statement.
The other dispatch referred to is dated December 2, 1894, and is as follows:
Information from British ambassador indicates far more loss of lives in Armenia, attended with atrocities, than stated in my telegram of 28th.
I have received absolutely no information concerning any cruelties committed “upon citizens who have declared their intention to become naturalized in this country” or upon any persons who had a right to claim or have claimed for any reason the protection of the United States Government.
In the absence of such authentic detailed knowledge on the subject as would justify our interference, no “expostulations have been addressed by this Government to the Government of Turkey in regard to such matters.”
The last inquiry contained in the resolution of the Senate touching these alleged cruelties seeks information concerning “any proposals made by or to this Government to act in concert with other Christian powers regarding the same.”
The first proposal of the kind referred to was made by the Turkish Government, through our minister, on the 30th day of November, when the Sultan expressed a desire that a consul of the United States be sent with a Turkish commission to investigate these alleged atrocities on Armenians. This was construed as an invitation on the part of the Turkish Government to actually take part with a Turkish commission in an investigation of these affairs and any report to be made thereon, and the proposition came before our minister’s second dispatch was received, and at a time when the best information in the possession of our Government was derived from his first report, indicating that the statements made in the press were sensational and exaggerated, and that the atrocities alleged really did not exist. This condition very much weakened any motive for an interference based on considerations of humanity, and permitted us, without embarrassment, to pursue a course plainly marked out by other controlling incidents.
By a treaty entered into at Berlin in the year 1878, between Turkey and various other governments, Turkey undertook to guarantee protection to the Armenians, and agreed that it would “periodically make known the steps taken to this effect to the powers, who will superintend their application.”[Page 716]
Our Government was not a party to this treaty, and it is entirely obvious that, in the face of the provisions of such treaty above recited, our interference in the proposed investigation, especially without the invitation of any of the powers which had assumed by treaty obligations to secure the protection of these Armenians, might have been exceedingly embarrassing, if not entirely beyond the limits of justification or propriety.
The Turkish invitation to join the investigation set on foot by that Government was, therefore, on the 2d day of December, declined. On the same day, and after this declination had been sent, our minister at Constantinople forwarded his second dispatch, tending to modify his former report as to the extent and character of Armenian slaughter. At the same time the request of the Sultan for our participation in the investigation was repeated, and Great Britain, one of the powers which joined in the treaty of Berlin, made a like request.
In view of changed conditions, and upon reconsideration of the subject, it was determined to send Mr. Jewett, our consul at Sivas, to the scene of the alleged outrages, not for the purpose of joining with any other government in an investigation and report, but to the end that he might be able to inform this Government as to the exact truth.
Instructions to this effect were sent to Mr. Jewett, and it is supposed he has already entered upon the duty assigned him.
I submit with this communication copies of all correspondence and dispatches in the State Department on the subject, and the report to me of the Secretary of State thereon.
December 11, 1894.