Mr. Gresham to Mr. Terrell.

No. 254.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 280,1 of August 2 last, reported the request of the British ambassador at Constantinople for your cooperation to secure greater freedom of worship for native Protestants in Turkey.

Your comments upon the situation which gives rise to this request on the part of Sir Philip Currie indicate your appreciation of the fact that, while Great Britain, under the stipulations of the treaty of Berlin, has a conventional right to intercede in behalf of larger religious toleration as regards non-Mohammedan sects in the Ottoman dominions, the treaty rights of the United States are limited to the interests and immunities of their own citizens.

This Government, founded upon the broadest civil and religious liberty, can not but feel a lively sympathetic interest in the extension of this beneficent principle among mankind; but its right to press its views in this regard upon other governments is necessarily limited, as well by treaties as by its established rule of noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations.

In one sense, however, the interests of native Christians in Turkey are associated with the legitimate enterprises of our citizens in the direction of education and worship, and interference with those associations through restriction of native liberty of conscience may hamper them as effectively as direct repression of the useful endeavors of our citizens themselves, perhaps even more so. It is therefore proper to testify our sympathy with liberty of worship and to expect for our teachers and pastors no less latitude in their intercourse with native [Page 782]Christians than is enjoyed by like teachers and pastors of the most-favored nation. It is, of course, impossible for this Government to distinguish between the several non-Musselman faiths followed in Turkey, or do more than ask for our citizens equal treatment with those representing any other sect. By discreetly but earnestly claiming these rights as justly due to the citizens of a nation which has so repeatedly been assured by Turkey of the most favored-nation treatment in all things, you may indirectly advance the purposes which Sir Philip Currie has announced to you. The extent to which you can hopefully do this is necessarily left to your wise discretion.

A copy of your dispatch and of this reply will be sent to the United States ambassador in London for his information.

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.
  1. Not printed.