Mr. Angell to Mr. Day.
Constantinople, June 11, 1898.
Sir: The American journals which have just arrived here contain an Associated Press dispatch stating that I had protested against a prohibition to American citizens to travel in the interior, and a subsequent dispatch stating that the Turkish minister at Washington denied that there was any foundation for the assertion that Americans and Englishmen had been prevented from going into the interior.
The particular hindrance to Americans was, on my complaint, so promptly removed that I have not reported it to you. In truth, I have delayed doing so to see if a much more serious hindrance to all travelers, which has been authorized, was really to be experienced by them. But if the Associated Press correctly reports the language of the Turkish minister, his statement is inexact and misleading. I can not help doubting whether it is authorized by the Porte. It seems to be advisable, therefore, that I should state what has occurred.
The month of May is the best time for making an excursion to one of the most delightful cities in Turkey, namely, Broussa, the original Ottoman capital. In fact, I was spending a day there myself when the incident I am to describe occurred.
On May 16 three American citizens applied in the usual form through our consulate for teskeres, or traveling permits, to go to Broussa on the following day. To their surprise and that of the consulate their application was refused. On my return on the evening of the 17th I heard of this. I resolved at once to see the grand vizier. Wednesday being the regular day of the meeting of the ministers of state, I could not see him until the next day, the 19th.
When I told him what had happened he surprised me by saying that an irade had been issued, forbidding foreigners to travel into the interior without permission from the palace. The teskere office which had heretofore granted permits no longer had authority. He said the irade was intended to prevent unworthy and mischievous persons from traveling through the Empire and causing trouble. The officers of the palace would, therefore, scrutinize each application.
When I told him that, having just come from Broussa, I could assure him that the hotels were then crowded with foreigners, and that I could not consent to a discrimination against Americans, he said, good naturedly, that in his opinion the irade was not intended to apply to visitors to Broussa; that the teskere officers had misunderstood their instructions, and he added that if I would send over the applications to him the next day he would make it the occasion for correcting the misap-prehension of the teskere officials. Accordingly, the next day I sent a [Page 1096] canvass to his office and procured the permits for the American travelers. Since then I have heard of no obstruction to travel to Broussa.
But on the next day, May 21, I learned that on the 16th, the date of the refusal of teskeres to the three Americans, a party of French travelers received teskeres and went to Broussa on the 17th. I confess to a feeling of righteous indignation, and I at once wrote a communication to the secretary for foreign affairs, saying that such a discrimination against Americans was insulting and intolerable. The dragoman delivered it to him.
The secretary said there was no intention of making any discrimination against Americans. The Frenchmen received teskeres because they applied through their embassy directly to him. The Government had endeavored to lay on him the execution of the new irade. He had declined the duty. But, so long as he was executing it, he was giving permits to all who were recommended by their ambassadors or ministers. He would cheerfully give them to those I should recommend. This seemed satisfactory, and I have not pursued the matter further. All our travelers to Broussa have received their teskeres, as formerly, from the regular office.
But I would call attention to facts, which show that a restriction on traveling in the interior exists.
- The grand vizier informed me that an irade has been issued, requiring travelers to apply to the palace for permits, where their record and character will be scrutinized. Heretofore teskeres were granted at the teskere office, if the passports were duly viséed.
- On the same day that teskeres were refused to three Americans, one was refused to a British subject who wished to go to Broussa.
- A few weeks before that two of the secretaries of the British embassy were refused teskeres for a trip into the interior. The British ambassador notified the authorities that they would go without teskeres. They did so, and were nowhere annoyed.
These refusals to British subjects led the British ambassador to write a sharp note to the secretary for foreign affairs, to which no answer was ever vouchsafed.
It is plain, therefore, that the statement credited to the Turkish minister in Washington is not well founded.
No case has, however, yet arisen in which an American has been refused permission to travel inland. The secretary of this legation started yesterday on a journey of a few days into the interior, and his teskere was granted in the usual way. It is therefore not improbable that the authorities intend in ordinary cases to refrain from applying the irade, but to hold it in reserve as a weapon to be used in preventing the journeys of travelers to whom for some reason they take exception.
I have, etc.,