Minister Leishman to the Secretary of State.

No. 1191.]

Sir: Referring further to my dispatch, No. 1171, of October 9, 1905, regarding the question of colportage and unrestricted sale of the Bible in Turkey, I beg to inclose for the information of the Department copy of recent correspondence with the Sublime Porte on this subject.

While the declarations of the minister for foreign affairs may be accepted as a satisfactory adjustment of the matter in principle, I have felt it necessary to take exception to the manner in which certain regulations were to be applied, for while the stipulations mentioned in the note of the Porte would appear to be just, the right to determine the necessity of putting such restrictions into operation could not be safely left in the hands of local officials.

I have, etc.,

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

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Leishman.

Mr. Minister: In reply to the note which your excellency kindly addressed to me on September 19 last, as well as the note verbale of April 6 last, I have the honor to inform you that according to a telegram received from the governor-general of the Konia vilayet the 114 books which were in the possession of the colporteur Avraham Oglou Isaac, of Newchehir, were seized because the aforesaid was not provided with a regular permit, but as soon as the authorities had ascertained by an examination that they were simply the Bibles published with the authorization of the department of public instruction they were returned to him.

As far as the sale of the Bible is concerned, I feel myself obliged to call your excellency’s attention to the fact that it has never been forbidden.

That which the Sublime Porte requires is that the colporteurs should furnish to the Imperial authorities at the various places a guaranty and that, in conformity with that which has been already agreed upon, they should not enter certain towns where the prosecution of their work would be, in view of local conditions, considered by the Imperial authorities as creating embarrassment.

The necessary communications on this subject having been already sent to the provincial authorities, I beg your excellency to cause the American Bible Society to be informed of the foregoing for its guidance.

I take, etc.,

[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Leishman to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of the 10th of October, 1905, in regard to the matter of colportage carried on in the Ottoman Empire by the American Bible Society.

[Page 910]

As far as the Newchehir incident is concerned, I am glad to see that the local authorities admit, as I had already pointed out to your excellency, that the colporteur of the American Bible Society sold nothing but the Bible, and I trust that the books, the property of an American corporation, which were seized in an unwarranted manner, have already been returned to the colporteur. Had the authorities in Newchehir examined themselves the books, they would have seen that in each copy was inserted the number and date of the imprimatur of the Imperial department of public instruction, and they could have avoided the loss of time and other inconveniences involved in unnecessarily sending the books to Konia.

As to the general question of the sale of the Bible or parts thereof in the Empire, I am happy to take note that the Imperial Government once more declared its willingness to adhere to the tolerant principle of the free circulation of the book held sacred, a principle consecrated by treaties and long usage.

Regarding the mode of carrying on this undisputable right of the Bible Society, I beg to submit the following points which should be made clear between the Sublime Porte and this legation.

As far as the Sublime Porte’s wish for a guaranty is concerned, I beg to inform you that the American Bible Society guarantees each one of its colporteurs. I consider the guaranty of such a well-known and highly reputable society as sufficient and much more satisfactory than what the Imperial authorities can find in the provinces from individual guarantors. The principal agent of the society in Constantinople uses great care in selecting his colporteurs. Should it be proved that any one of them is a person disloyally acting against the laws of the country he would naturally be at once dismissed by the principal agent. This legation is not aware that during the sixty years that the American Bible Society has carried on its work in the Empire any one of its colporteurs has been convicted of any disloyal act whatever. I therefore see no necessity to introduce the novelty of asking for any further guaranty.
Regarding the proposal of the Sublime Porte to introduce a restriction to the principle of the free circulation of colporteurs in certain cities, this legation would take into consideration any notice from the Sublime Porte asking that colporteurs should not visit certain cities on account of disturbed conditions. I need not remind your excellency that during the past few years the legation has on several occasions, upon the request of the Sublime Porte, advised missionaries and others to postpone their visits to certain localities on account of disturbed conditions. And so in the future, in case the Sublime Porte should come to an agreement with this legation that such restrictive measures are necessary for certain localities, this legation would naturally, in order to spare all inconvenience to the Sublime Porte, and in the interest of the Bible Society itself, advise the principal agent against sending colporteurs to such disturbed localities so long as the disturbed condition continued. But this on the clear understanding that such order to the principal agent or any colporteur in the service of the Bible Society comes from this legation only, as this legation can not agree to any principle which would allow the local authorities to restrain colporteurs of the American Bible Society from visiting this place or on the plea that the local conditions so demand. Giving to the local authorities such privileges might possibly lead to abuses, which I am sure the Sublime Porte would like to prevent.

In conclusion I beg to submit another point. The principal agent of the society informs me that the colporteurs are furnished with permits to carry on their business, but that sometimes they encounter difficulties when going from one vilayet to another, because the authorities demand that they be furnished with permits granted by each municipal circle or vilayet through which they pass. If such permits are really necessary, in my opinion, they should be granted on the application of the principal agent, by the competent authorities in Constantinople, and drawn up in such a manner that the permits would be valid and recognized throughout the Empire.

I take, etc.,

John G. A. Leishman.