to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople, April 12,
* * * * * * *
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the agency of colporteurs has not as yet been rescinded, and more or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.,
Minister Leishman to the Minister for
Constantinople, April 6, 1905.
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.
British reply to Sublime Porte regarding
Constantinople, April 3, 1905.
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.