Mr. Terrell to Mr. Gresham.

No. 300.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have received from the grand vizier, through his secretary, a verbal message, notifying me of the arrest of native teachers in the American schools at Aintab and Marash as suspected of being seditious. The verbal message having been reduced to writing, a copy is inclosed.

I thereupon telegraphed you on the 8th instant, after an interview with the grand vizier, that no search would be made of the schools in the absence of a consul; that the missionaries feared a systematic effort to destroy in this way the missionary schools, and that I would send Mr. Riddle to Aintab if necessary. A copy of this telegram is inclosed.

I learn from Dr. H. O. Dwight that only two of the accused parties (Bezdjian and Levonian) are in fact connected with American schools, and that both of them are Ottoman subjects, though the former is a graduate of Yale College.

These arrests, made at a time when there is no armed sedition in Asia Minor, and coupled with the earnest regret expressed to me by the grand vizier that Armenian teachers are employed in the American schools, are suggestive of the methods adopted to destroy the college at Marsovan. Certainly no more effective method could be devised by [Page 741] them than to arrest the native Armenian teachers if they desire the destruction of missionary schools.

I find neither in treaties nor capitulations any formal rule by which I can interpose as matter of right to prevent the capricious arrest and imprisonment of Turkish subjects employed by American teachers. And yet when much money has been expended and houses built, after the Turks have for years permitted the employment of natives as teachers, justice would seem to require that I should have some right to prevent the destruction of American interests by their being capriciously arrested and imprisoned. To permit it would mean the departure of the missionaries from Turkey and the sacrifice of property values. I have, therefore, informed the Porte, in effect, that I claimed the right to be informed of the facts on which arrests of native teachers in American schools are based, and to judge if a prima facie case of guilt is established before bail can be refused. A copy of my note is inclosed for your information. I will not press this claim beyond the bounds of prudence at present, but await your instructions. * * *

Dr. Dwight, the chief representative here of missionary interests, insists that Article iii of the treaty of 1830 vests in me the right to protect all Turkish subjects who are employed by Americans as teachers, and that an opinion of Caleb Cushing once given sustains him. * * *

My failure to assume some right to protect the native and recently (since 1869) naturalized American teachers in missionary schools would mean, in my opinion, the speedy arrest and prosecution or expulsion of that class. This the missionary leaders assert would destroy missionary work in Turkey.

* * * * * * *

A letter has been received from Dr. Dwight, of the Bible House here, asking me to intervene and demand as a right that no Turkish employé in an American school should be arrested except with my consent or that of a consul. His letter and my answer are inclosed for your information.

While I write, your telegram acknowledging receipt of my own concerning Marash and Aintab arrests of Turkish subjects employed by missionaries has been received. * * *

I have, etc.,

A. W. Terrell.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 300.]

Verbal message from the grand vizier.

The governor of Djebel-Bereket informs me that in consequence of the seditious papers discovered in the house of a Vasloumian in the village of Hakkiar, in the circuit of Hassa, who is known as being a member of the Armenian revolutionary committee, Serkis Levonian, domiciled in the quarter Cassalmaz at Aintab; Agob Bulbulian, religious president of the College of Aintab; and Hampartzoun Elmadjian, domiciliated at Aintab, and Alexan Bezdjian, chief teacher of the said college; and at Marash, Baron Simbat Caprelian, of Zeitoun, being implicated in the matter, they have been summoned and were taken under escort to Djebel-Bereket, and searches for compromising papers have been ordered. The vali of Adana has demanded also for the details of this matter.

[Page 742]

It is true that these people are Ottoman subjects, but as the college is placed under American supervision the vali asks the grand vizier as to the procedure toward those who belong to that college.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 300.]

Mr. Terrell to the grand vizier.

Your Highness: I have the honor to inform your highness that the teachers employed in the colleges at Aintab and Marash, whom you named in my last interview with your highness, have been for a long time employed as teachers in those American schools with the knowledge and consent of the Ottoman authorities. Their presence is necessary to the success of educational work in the colleges where they are employed, and no matter what may be their nationality their arrest can only be justified when a prima facie case of guilt is shown. Any other rule would destroy the schools and be opposed to justice. I therefore ask that the evidence on which they are arrested shall be submitted to me, that I may judge if there is a case of prima facie crime.

I ask a teskereh for Mr. Riddle to go to these schools and to any other point the business may require, that he may examine the compromising facts discovered and report to me by telegraph.

I also ask that if there are no facts discovered and the arrest of the professors rests on suspicion only, that they be released on sufficient bail to pursue their teaching in the schools until they can be tried. Receive, etc.,

A. W. Terrell.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 300.]

Mr. Dwight to Mr. Terrell.

Dear Sir: In view of the reported arrest of professors connected with the educational institutions of the American board at Aintab and Marash, I am asked by my associates of the American mission to beg your consideration of the following statement:

The arrests made in different parts of the Ottoman Empire during the past two years of individuals charged with sedition have been based, in a great number of cases, upon the merest suspicion, often upon personal grudge or prejudice, and sometimes upon the desire for gain on the part of petty officials.

The searches of houses made in this connection have been made very frequently in the hope of chancing to find something which may be twisted into a justification of the act. Moreover such searches are made to excuse for seizing all books, all letters, all written or printed matter of any kind which may be found in the house. These are carried off and rarely returned to the owners. As a result of such searches in numbers of cases, men against whom no other ground of charge could be found have been charged with treasonable conspiracy on the ground of the possession of books freely allowed circulation in the past and acquired at that time, or on the ground of passages in letters, dated [Page 743] years ago, criticising the action of officials of the Government, when such criticism was the privilege of every law-abiding subject of the Sultan, and when it has no possible connection with conspiracy of any kind.

The sentences passed upon persons charged with sedition in the same time have been passed in a considerable number of cases without evidence which would justify even the holding of the victim for trial in England or America.

These facts are too common and too widely known to leave any necessity for going into details in this place. In fact a condition of administration exists in this Empire from which it is the object of the capitulations to protect foreigners residing in Turkey. The ordinary search of Turkish administration, if not restrained by the capitulations, can, at any moment, break up our lawful business by causelessly imprisoning Ottoman subjects whom we employ in that business, or may place our good name and reputation or even our lives in jeopardy by the act of arbitrarily rummaging our houses, ignorantly stigmatizing as treasonable books which are the standards of our literature, newspapers and periodicals which are the usual current records of the affairs of our native country, and private writings which the Turk can not understand, but which have no public importance whatever. So, too, in regard to our business. Our schools among the Armenians are under Government control; they are molded by the Ottoman authorities both as to course of study and as to text-books used. But, as you are aware, there are those who wish to restrict or obliterate education among the Armenian subjects of the Sultan. Such prejudiced officials may, at any moment, break up our schools if they may arrest arbitrarily and without responsibility Ottoman subjects whom we employ as teachers. Only the capitulations, as hitherto enforced, can prevent the entire destruction of our large property interests and investments in Turkey, through the action of petty officials applying to us the highhanded measures which they daily apply to Ottoman subjects.

We therefore beg you to come to our defense under the article of the capitulations and of the treaty of 1830, which declares that Americans may employ, unmolested, as agents in their business, Ottoman subjects, and the articles which protect American domicile from the intrusion of Turkish officials except under certain clearly restricted conditions. In a word, we ask you, as is provided in both these cases by the treaties, to insist that the action of Turkish officials be subjected to the approval of the competent American officers before that action is carried out.

We ask especially that you will consider the propriety of doing this in the case of the American college at Aintab and the seminaries of the American mission at Marash, to wit:

That in order that the interests of our business may not needlessly suffer, the Porte be requested to release, on bail, if need be, any teachers of either institution who may have been arrested, until the evidence on which the arrest is proposed shall have been submitted to you and shall have convinced you that there is presumptive justification for the arrests.
That the Porte be informed that no search of American domicile will be tolerated except under the conditions of the treaty, namely: That the search be for evidence of a definite act, described in writing, of arson, murder, counterfeiting, house-breaking, or armed insurrection, etc., as stipulated by the protocol.
In case the Porte insists that a definite act has been committed of one of the crimes named, for evidence of which it is necessary to search an American domicile in either of these places, that yon will cause one of the staff of the consulate or the legation to proceed to the spot in order to prevent violations of right during the search, such as the seizure of property that can have no bearing upon the alleged crime. You are aware that the only American consular agents in that region are not sufficiently acquainted with the English language to judge the contents of English books or writings.

Believing that in this we shall have a new occasion to thank you for efficient defense of American interests, I remain, on behalf of the Missionaries of the American Board,

Yours, respectfully,

H. O. Dwight.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 300.]

Mr. Terrell to Mr. Dwight.

No. 85.]

My Dear Sir: Answering your letter of September 6, instant, I have to inform you that no search of American schools for compromising documents will be made until I am informed, and a consul or Mr. Riddle or myself will be present; such is the assurance of the grand vizier.

Also that I have requested that, without reference to the nationality of teachers who, with the consent of the Turkish Government, are employed in American schools, that no imprisonment without bail shall be made until after I (or a consul) can know the charge and the compromising facts, to see if a case of prima facie guilt has been established.

For this position there is no treaty or international law but much equity, for under a different rule every American school could be destroyed by capricious arrests.

The question thus involved is far-reaching in its results, for the prejudice against American schools is such that the temptation to arrest Armenian teachers who are Turkish subjects in American schools, and to arrest them capriciously, is always present to the Turk. If it is submitted to without protest, educational work by American schools in Asia Minor would be restricted to narrow limits.

I remain, etc.,

A. W. Terrell.