Minister Leishman to the Secretary of State.

No. 1036.]


* * * * * * *

The objectionable order issued by the Sublime Porte with a view of preventing the sale of Bibles in the streets and public highways through the agency of colporteurs has not as yet been rescinded, and more or less trouble continues to be experienced by the native agents of the Bible Society in isolated spots.

I inclose herewith for the Department’s information copy of the legation’s note to the Sublime Porte on this subject and also a copy of the British embassy’s note.

It is always difficult and generally impossible to induce the Porte to write a retraction, but I am in hopes that the joint pressure being brought by the British ambassador and myself will result in remedying the present difficulties. * * *

The great difficulty is that the actual colportage work is conducted entirely by Ottoman subjects whom it is difficult to protect, for, even assuming that the Sublime Porte rescinds the objectionable order restraining the colporteurs from prosecuting their work, it will always be an easy matter for them to bother and interfere with Ottoman subjects on some other pretext.

* * * * * * *

I have, etc.,

John G. A. Leishman.
[Inclosure 1.]

Minister Leishman to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

note verbale.

The American legation has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Sublime Porte’s note of January 1 last, relative to colportage and in reply to advise that it can not consent to any change being made that would interfere with the free and unrestricted sale of the Bible, and finds itself obliged most solemnly to protest against the action taken by the Sublime Porte, action which will prevent the American Bible Society from prosecuting its legitimate business. Consequently the legation must ask that the necessary orders be sent to the provincial authorities instructing them to refrain from offering any further interference.

The legation can only assume that the orders tending to restrict the sale of the Bible must have been issued under some misapprehension, as they are not only in opposition to the spirit of religious tolerance that has so well distinguished the Ottoman Empire, but also in direct violation of the undertaking by the Sublime Porte, as evidenced in notes on the subject exchanged years ago between the imperial ministry for foreign affairs and this legation.

[Page 907]
[Inclosure 2.]

British reply to Sublime Porte regarding colportage.

note verbale.

His Britannic majesty’s embassy has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the Sublime Porte’s not verbale of January 1 last, announcing the intention of the Turkish Government to prohibit the colportage of Bibles in Turkey and to confine their sale to fixed shops or depots. A copy of this note was forwarded to his majesty’s government in due course, and the embassy has now been instructed to inform the Sublime Porte that his Britannic majesty’s government finds itself unable to assent to any departure from the principle of free colportage and that they consider that they are justified in claiming that their rights in this matter shall be held to be of general application, as heretofore. These rights continue to be subject only to exceptional restriction in places where circumstances render such a measure necessary, and if any case of this nature should arise his majesty’s embassy will be ready in the future as in the past carefully to consider any well-founded representations from the Sublime Porte.

In pressing the acceptance of this view on the Sublime Porte, his majesty’s embassy feels confident that the Sublime Porte will recognize that the proposed restriction, which would undoubtedly produce a very bad impression in England, is quite uncalled for, and would be a source of difficulty and trouble.