Mr. Angell to Mr. Sherman.
Constantinople, January 5, 1898.
Sir: In my No. 59 of December 8 I reported to the Department what I supposed was the happy termination of efforts I had been making for more than two months to secure permission for Mr. Simon Ben Nachman Lowenstein to purchase a house and lot in Jerusalem. In the absence of the grand vizier from his office a responsible subordinate, member of his staff, assured my dragoman that the prohibition to Hebrews to purchase real estate did not apply to such a person as Mr. Lowenstein, and that it had been decided to send orders to that effect to Jerusalem. Accordingly, I so informed you and our consul at Jerusalem.
But now I am surprised to receive a note verbale from the secretary for foreign affairs reporting the decision to refuse my request and referring me for the reasons to a note communicated to this legation on March 27, 1894. As it does not appear from our records that the note was ever sent to the Department and as the subject it discusses is one of no little importance, I inclose it to you for consideration.[Page 1105]
It will be observed that under certain conditions permission will be accorded to American citizens who are Jews to purchase real estate. But they are conditions which are not imposed on other American citizens. I do not feel at liberty to ask any American Hebrew to comply with them, since by so doing I should make a discrimination against Hebrews, which is wholly foreign to the spirit of our institutions.
But I beg to call the attention of the Department to the argument which seems to underlie the Turkish regulation.
The Ottoman law of 1867, Which concedes to foreigners the right of holding real estate in the Ottoman Empire, and which is formally accepted by the protocol of 1874, declares in Article II:
Foreigners, proprietors of real estate in town or in country, are in consequence placed upon terms of equality with Ottoman subjects in all things that concern their landed property.
And, after specifying on certain particulars the legal effect of this equality, it says:
In short, they are iu all things to hold real estate by the same title, on the same condition, and under the same forms as Ottoman owners, and without being able to avail themselves of their personal nationality, except under the reserve of the immunities attached to their persons and their movable goods, according to the treaties.
Now, Ottoman subjects of the Jewish faith not being allowed to purchase real estate in Jerusalem except under certain limitations, Jews of foreign nationality, it is claimed, may be forbidden to purchase under the same limitations.
The prohibition under consideration applies only to Palestine, and we are assured owes its existence solely to the fear that an inundation of Jews may overflow Palestine and greatly embarrass the Government.
The above argument is not particularly dwelt upon in the note of 1894, but it has been adduced by the secretary for foreign affairs in conversations with me, though, I am bound to say, not with great emphasis. Still, sooner or later, we may expect to see it pressed, and therefore I have deemed it well to call the attention of the Department to it, so that, if thought expedient, proper instructions may be given in regard to it.
In answering the last note verbale I have purposely avoided all reference to this point, and have attempted to show that, as the main reason given in 1894 for the prohibitory regulation was the desire to prevent an inundation of Russian Jews, the case of Mr. Lowenstein does not fairly come within the scope of the prohibition. I had in my first note verbale (September, 1897) on this subject protested against any discriminations against American citizens of the Hebrew faith.
I have, etc.,