Chargé Jay to the Secretary of State.

No. 950.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the American Bible Society has during the past six months encountered very serious difficulties in the prosecution of their work in Turkey.

At Adrianople, Trebizond, Ordou, and Angora their Bibles were seized by the local authorities, the colporteurs and native agents of the society being threatened with arrest and imprisonment should they further attempt to sell these books.

In every case attempts made to settle the matter locally by nearest consuls and others failed, as the authorities claimed to have been acting under orders from Constantinople.

Mr. Leishman, during the summer and up till the moment of his departure in October, did not fail to complain to the Porte, both in writing and verbally.

As usual he was met with promises, but nothing was done to release the books and otherwise settle the matter.

Early in the present month I finally succeeded, after having been given repeated promises, in inducing the grand vizier to settle the Adrianople matter by telegraph.

Learning that the British embassy had a similar case on hand in connection with their Bible society, I persuaded the British chargé d’affaires to address a strong note on the general subject to the Imperial Government similar in character to mine.

I believe these two notes, presented within a couple of days of each other, have had their effect, for on Saturday last proper orders were actually telegraphed to the governors-general of Trebizond and Angora.

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[Page 899]

This matter has given the legation very considerable trouble, but it has spared no pains to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

I have, etc.

Peter Augustus Jay.

Chargé Jay to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to confirm this legation’s note verbale No. 456, of the 27th of September, 1904, in regard to the work in Turkey of the American Bible Society.

I now deeply regret to state that, notwithstanding the conversations in regard to the general question, as well as the particular cases in Angora, Trebizond, and Ordou, which his excellency the American minister has had, and, in his absence, I have had with his highness the grand vizier, and with your excellency, and the applications which this legation made through one of its dragomans to his excellency the minister of public instructions, and notwithstanding the many promises which were made to this legation, the difficulties have not, with the exception of a case in Adrianople, been yet removed. The agent of the said society reports that in Angora, Ordou, and Trebizond their books remain seized by the local authorities and their colporteurs forbidden under threat of imprisonment to sell the Holy Bible or parts thereof, which are books held sacred by Christians and others, and in this country printed and published by the permit of the department of public instruction.

Your excellency will allow me to submit that the matter is far more serious than it might be imagined at first sight. I beg to point out:

That the American Bible Society is one of the first and most important benevolent societies existing in America, backed by some of the greatest statesmen belonging to different denominations and political parties.
That it is one of the societies included in the special list which this legation sent in to the Sublime Porte for official recognition.
Its work is interdenominational and has nothing to do with religious or other propaganda.
That no other similar society belonging to or protected by any other nation has been interfered with in its work and there appears to exist in this matter a discrimination applied against an American society.
That the local authorities, possibly misunderstanding certain instructions sent to them have, by forbidding the sale of the Bible, and more especially by seizing it, not only insulted the book held sacred by millions of people, as if it were an obnoxious and seditious publication, but have seized property belonging to and paid for by American citizens.

Under these circumstances I beg to inform your excellency that this legation can not be an indifferent spectator of the inexplicable action of the authorities in Angora and Trebizond and requests His Imperial Majesty’s Government to issue orders at once to the said vilayets, directing them to put an end to their vexatious and discriminating attitude toward an American benevolent society and to return without further delay the seized books.

I earnestly beg that your excellency will give this matter the prompt consideration it deserves, thus sparing me the necessity of referring the entire matter to my government.

I take, etc.,

Peter Augustus Jay.