Mr. McDonald to Mr. Olney.

No. 241, Dip. Ser.]

Sir: It is my melancholy duty to report for your information the facts, as far as they can be ascertained, in connection with the assassination of His Majesty the Shah.

My telegram of the 1st instant communicates the sad intelligence, with such small details as I was able to compress within the compass of a short dispatch. At the time my telegram was sent there was such a confusion of reports in circulation that it was difficult to know what to accept and what to reject. Dr. Wishard, the physician of the American Mission Hospital, who had been summoned for consultation and attendance during the afternoon, called about half past 5 and told me that the shot had proved fatal and that he had signed the certificate of death, and that the body of the Shah was then lying at the palace. The Government acting wisely, perhaps, under the totally unexpected [Page 489]circumstances, and the very seriousness of the event, reported that the Shah was only wounded and that he would soon recover. This, however, was but partially believed; nevertheless it served to keep down excitement and preserve the normal condition of the city until the garrison could be distributed over the town to preserve order. This has been happily continued, and the course of business and traffic goes on as usual, and so far as I can gather from reports and from the appearance of the city there is no reason to believe or anticipate that these will be interrupted.

Historically considered, the facts of the crime may be briefly stated as follows:

On Thursday, the 30th of April, it was announced that the Shah would pay a visit to the shrine of Shahzadeb-Abdul-Azim, situated about 6 miles south of Teheran, on the site of the ancient city of Rhey, or Rhages. This previous notice gave the assassin time to mature his plans. Friday being the Mohammedan day of rest, generally large numbers avail themselves of the opportunity to pay their devotions at the tomb of the saint. It has always been customary when the Shah entered the court of the shrine to turn out the ordinary visitors and make it quite private. On this occasion, however, the Shah refused his sanction to this precaution, and said he would go in with the people, and gave orders to have his prayer carpet taken into the inner sanctuary containing the shrine. This was about midday. On the Shah entering the sanctuary, a man standing behind some women (not disguised, as at first reported) pushed forward, and, under the pretense of presenting a petition, fired a revolver at his heart. One of his attendants rushed forward and took hold of His Majesty, who, after walking a few paces, sat down and expired.

The body was immediately brought back to Teheran and an examination made by the Shah’s European physician, assisted by Dr. Wishard and other European doctors, and the cause of death being proved, an explanatory certificate was drawn up and signed. The body is temporarily deposited in a tomb in the large religious theater adjoining the palace, where it will remain until the arrival of the present Shah, when it will be removed to the royal mausoleum at the holy city of Koom, 100 miles south from Teheran on the direct highway to Ispahan and Bushiri.

It is not yet certain when the Shah will arrive in Teheran, but it is generally supposed within a very few days, if his health is sufficiently strong to bear the fatigue of a rapid journey from Tabriz, 400 miles distant.

This abominable and detestable crime, for which no justification whatever can be admitted, has sent a thrill of horror into every heart, and cast a gloom over the whole country which will not be either easily or quickly removed. The late Shah was a man of most generous sentiments and active sympathies, and had won for himself the love and veneration of his people and the highest respect and esteem from all other nationalities. He was the fourth ruler of this dynasty and the second to meet his death at the hands of an assassin.

The criminal, who was seized immediately after firing the fatal shot, is now lodged in a room near the palace. His name is Mohammad Riza, a native of Kerman, in the southeast of Persia. He is about middle age, of slight build, and for some years followed the trade of a small broker or dealer in second-hand goods. Some years ago he imbibed socialistic and revolutionary principles, and for his connection with a number of persons holding subversive doctrines he was arrested and [Page 490]imprisoned, fie was kept in confinement for about two years and liberated a little more than three years ago. He appears, however, to have used his liberty with more freedom than discretion, for he was after a short time again placed under restraint, but on the mediation of the high priest of Teheran, the Shah’s son-in-law, he was set free and a sum of money given to him to help him in his trade. He is no doubt a fanatic, and it is reported that his mind is deranged as well.

Up to the present he denies having any accomplices and that both in the inception and execution of the crime he had no confederates.

On the receipt of your telegram of the 1st instant, I went to the palace and expressed to the Sadr Azem, the late Shah’s brothers, and the assembled ministers, in the name of the President, the Government, and the American people their abhorrence of the crime and sincere condolence and sympathy toward the royal family, the ministers, and the people. The Sadr Azem in reply said:

“I desire you to convey to His Excellency the President, and the Government, our deep gratitude for their most friendly message, and assure them that it has deeply affected us, and that though we are now almost heartbroken by this cruel event, yet we hope to surmount our trial, and pursue, as formerly, our former principles and ideas, and that this communication of friendly sentiments will renew and further strengthen the extensive bond of amity and good will between the two nations.”

I also called on His Imperial Highness the Naib es Sultaneh, the commander in chief, and the late Shah’s only grown-up son in Teheran, and communicated to him the contents of the message. He was in a most depressed state of mind at the awful blow which had descended upon him, and he told me to convey to the President, Government, and people his grateful sense of their kindness in remembering them in their heavy and unexpected affliction.

It will be seen from the inclosed note from the Sadr Azem that the Valiahd, or Crown Prince, governor of Tabriz, and also of the Province of Azerbaijan, has succeeded to the throne, and was proclaimed on the night of the 1st of May, as Muzaffar-ed-din Shah, Kajar, the latter being the name of the tribe from which this dynasty is descended.

The new Shah is about 43 years of age, rather shorter in stature than his father, of an amiable and conciliatory disposition, of considerable experience in the conduct of affairs, and favorably inclined toward the development of the resources of the country, and close relationship with foreign countries. Dr. George W. Holmes, of the American Presbyterian Mission in Hamadan, was for some years his private physician, and for whom he has great esteem.

At the service for Europeans in the chapel of the American mission in this city, held last evening, the Rev. J. L. Potter, D. D., the officiating minister, made feeling reference to the virtues, amiability, and kindliness of disposition of the late Shah, and the gratitude which all felt for the protection and liberty of worship which they enjoyed, and so much appreciated, and which was greatly due to the magnanimity and enlightened sentiments of his late majesty.

The late Shah took considerable interest in and was a subscriber to the schools of the mission, to which he paid a personal visit a little more than five years ago.

I have, etc.,

Alex. McDonald.
[Page 491]
[Inclosure in No. 241.—Translation.]

The Sadr Azem to Mr. McDonald.

Sir: You have no doubt already heard of the awful occurrence which took place at Shahzadeb-Abdul-Azim, on Friday, the 17th of the month Zeekadeh, corresponding to the 1st of May, and that through the martyrdom and death of the victim, His Imperial Majesty the Shah, the whole of the people of this country are overwhelmed with the deepest grief.

While communicating the news of this calamitous event to your excellency I have at the same time most respectfully to inform you that on the night of the 18th (Christian style, the night of the 1st of May) His Imperial Majesty, the benefactor of his people, Muzaffar-ed-din Shah, Kajar, in the city of Tabriz, succeeded to the throne and was proclaimed King, and has confirmed me in the premiership, and charged me with the administration of the affairs of the country.

I take this opportunity to renew the assurances of my respect.


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Seal of the Sadr Azem
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