Minister Pearson to the Secretary of State.

No. 98.]

Sir: Since the date of my dispatch of December 6,a the status of the Labaree case has completely changed. From its then confused and critical plight, the case has emerged into a definite and a measurably satisfactory condition.

After receiving the authorization of the Department to demand an indemnity and to press for settlement, I made on the 29th of November a formal and unequivocal presentation of our demands, requiring a categorical answer within five days and the payment of the indemnity in cash in gold within thirty days. The Persian Government at first refused, but at the end of fifteen days accepted all our demands, and at the end of thirty days the indemnity payment is in hand.

The murderer is in jail for life and a special commissioner sent by the Shah is in the field with orders to capture the accomplices, dead or alive.

I inclose a memorandum presented by me on December 20, which sets forth the conditions on which the indemnity was reduced from $50,000 to $30,000.

And also copy and translation of the reply of the minister for foreign affairs.

Also copies of letters from Mrs. Labaree, * * * which explain fully the proceedings, the conditions, the arguments, and the motives which led to the result.

I am sure that the President and the Secretary of State will share in my regret that perplexing and conflicting conditions made it expedient to accept less than the full $50,000, which the Persian Government agreed to pay in cash and had set apart at the time for the purpose.

I knew that my government expected an indemnity that would be at once exemplary and deterrent, and that it would concur in my belief that the higher the indemnity the greater the security of our citizens in foreign lands.

But under my instructions I felt obliged to defer in a measure to the urgent wishes of the widow and her advisers, though I took care that the $20,000 abated should not be thrown away, but should serve as a [Page 723]guaranty for the performance of the conditions in regard to punishment and as a guaranty against the usual methods of taxation and torture.

As it is, after being reduced by two-fifths, the indemnity is still three times greater than the maximum ever heretofore paid by the Persian Government for the murder of a private person. * * *

My difficult task was to obtain the concession that “the amount of the indemnity should not be recovered by special tax or by other device or pretext enacted from the innocent inhabitants of the province.”

In this, finally, I succeeded, and this satisfied Mrs. Labaree’s scruples and removed the foundation of her fears. * * *

* * * * * * *

I am, etc.,

Richmond Pearson.
[Inclosure 1.—Translation.]


In the matter of the murder of Benjamin W. Labaree, an American citizen.

The Persian Government having agreed to the demands of the American Government requiring—

The imprisonment for life of Mir Ghaffar, the principal murderer.
The arrest and punishment according to the measure of their guilt of his accomplices in the murder.
The payment in cash for the benefit of the widow and orphans of the deceased of an indemnity in the sum of $50,000 gold.

And the President of the United States desiring to set a salutary example to prevent similar crimes rather than to exact harsh and inconvenient terms of the Persian Government, and considering the unbroken friendship that has subsisted between the two governments in the past has instructed Richmond Pearson, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States, to accept the sum of $30,000 instead of the sum of $50,000, the full amount of the indemnity conceded by the Persian Government on the following express conditions, to wit:

If Mir Ghaffar shall be permitted to escape from prison by the negligence or connivance of Persian officials.
Or if the leading accomplices, notoriously identified as participants in the crime and living within the jurisdiction of Persia, shall not have been captured and punished according to the measure of their guilt before March 9, 1906.
Or if the amount of the indemnity or any part thereof shall be levied by special tax, or by other device or pretext exact it from the Christian population residing in Urumia or elsewhere in Persia, then and in any such event, so much of the indemnity as is hereby remitted, to wit, the sum of $20,000, shall immediately become due and payable just as if no reduction had been made in the total amount conceded by the Persian Government, it being the purpose and intent of both governments in concluding this form of settlement to prevent as far as possible the recurrence of similar crimes.

Signed on behalf of the United States by Richmond Pearson, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, the 20th day of December, 1904, corresponding to the 12th of Shavval A. H. 1322.

[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Pearson.

Your Excellency: I have considered the draft memorandum, which you presented to me several days ago, containing the conditions for bringing to a conclusion the case of the murder of Mr. Labaree.

[Page 724]

In order to settle the question of the indemnity of $30,000, which the Government of the United States has demanded for the support of the widow and orphans of Mr. Labaree, I have now to place in your hands a draft on the Imperial Bank of Persia for this amount.

With regard to the imprisonment of Mir Ghaffar and the punishment of the persons implicated with him in the crime, the Persian Government will, after the necessary inquiries, in accordance with this draft memorandum keep Mir Ghaffar in perpetual confinement.

With respect to the other persons implicated in this murder, whoever of them shall be found residing within the government and jurisdiction of Persia shall, by the 9th of March, 1906, be arrested and brought to trial and punished according to the measure of their guilt.

With reference to the demand, contained in your memorandum, that the Persian Government should not, either as a tax or on any other pretext, collect the sum of the indemnity to be paid to the heirs of the late Mr. Labaree from the Christians resident in Urumia, I beg to inform your excellency that the Persian Government never had and has not thought of taking this sum by force from persons innocent of the crime. It is, however, only consistent that should it be proved, that Christians were implicated in this murder, they will not be held exempt from the punishment which the necessities of justice may demand.

I avail, etc.,

[Inclosure 3.]

Mrs. Labaree to Minister Pearson.

Sir: Two days ago a telegram was received from you by Doctor Cochran stating that, backed by our government, an indemnity of fifty thousand dollars [had been demanded] for the widow and children of Mr. Labaree. Being the person most interested in this matter, I beg leave to state to you, as the representative of our government, my views in regard to the case. This has not been done earlier simply because in all communications between the missionaries of this station and the representatives of both the American and British Governments no suggestion or reference has hitherto been made to a money indemnity, and so far as we in Urumia are concerned no request for such an indemnity has been made.

As my opinion differs somewhat from that of my fellow missionaries and of Captain Gough, the British consul at present in Urumia, on account of the recent disturbances, I feel that I have a right to be heard on the subject. At the same time if the mission of which I am a member, and the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, as well as our own government, feel that my judgment in the matter is wrong, I shall submit my judgment to theirs, wishing, however, to have my protest recorded.

I fully believe, of course, that when an American citizen has been ruthlessly murdered and that murder was possible because of criminal laxness in government, as was the case in the death of my husband last March, those dependent on him for support are entitled to receive a sum of money from the guilty government that will suffice for such support. I believe, however, that the great mission cause to which my husband and I dedicated our lives—and which has become even dearer to me because of the terrible sacrifice I have been called upon to make for it—I believe that this may receive serious injury if my children and I accept an indemnity for this murder. The matter would not be understood by the great mass of the people in this district who would inevitably know of it, as the Persian idea of “blood money” is so different from our civilized understanding of an indemnity. Thus serious and lasting injury might be done to the mission cause for which we have already sacrificed so much, that I prefer to waive my rights as an American citizen rather than to see this cause suffer.

If, however, as Captain Gough and the gentlemen of our mission station claim, I have not the right to refuse such an indemnity for myself and my children, I wish, in the strongest terms, to enter two protests.

  • First. The amount demanded of the Persian Government is too large—not too large when one tries to measure the awful suffering and distress caused by the crime, and the value of the noble life so ruthlessly sacrificed; but too large in proportion to indemnities paid under similar circumstances by the Chinese Government, and too large in proportion to the prevailing customs and ideas of this country. It would, of course, be arrant nonsense for us or our government to conform to the rules here, by which the “blood money” paid for a Christian life is 33 tomans and the highest possible indemnity for a Moslem life is 1,000 tomans. But the disproportion between these sums and also between sums paid by other governments under similar circumstances and the sum of $50,000 asked for in this case is such that all the American missionaries agree with me in urging that the amount be very considerably diminished.
  • Second. The Persian custom of raising such a sum is so unjust and cruel that the suffering and injustice produced thereby would be vastly out of proportion to the relief and help afforded by the indemnity. If the government officials themselves, guilty because of their criminal carelessness and those who directly and indirectly took part in the awful crime—if these could be made to feel the full force of the consequences of their misdeeds by the payment of a large sum of money, there would be nothing more to say in the matter. But, according to the customs of the land, the money will in all probability be levied on certain landowners, who will in turn force it in the most cruel manner from their poor, distressed eyats, and the suffering and distress, especially in this district where the murder was committed, will be awful beyond description. This will be more than likely to fall with cruel force upon many of the people who are most closely connected with us and who share with us the dangers, anxieties, and sorrows of our exposed position. I therefore most earnestly protest that, if it be right and necessary to press the demand for an indemnity, the very strongest measures possible be taken by our government to see that this money should not be extorted from the innocent and already distressed and suffering population, Moslem and Christian.

I am, etc.,

Mary Schauffler Labaree.
[Inclosure 4.

Notes of an interview on the 28th of December, 1904.

[In response to an invitation Mr. Pearson called, at 2 o’clock this afternoon, upon the minister for foreign affairs at his private residence.]

After the usual informal remarks, the minister said: “I have troubled you to come to see me to-day that we may talk over the arrangements which have been made to bring the Labaree case to a conclusion. I have shown the memorandum which you presented to me at our last interview to His Majesty the Shah, who has been graciously pleased to accept the therein proposed.” Continuing, he said that the government considered that, in view of the necessity for a thorough investigation into all the circumstances connected with the murder, it had given orders that Mir Ghaffar should be brought to Teheran, and that he was now on the way from Tabriz and would arrive in three or four days, and when the other criminals were arrested they would also be brought to Teheran, put upon their trial, and if found guilty be punished. His excellency, moreover, added that if in the course of the investigation it should be proved that any Christian had incited or been in any way implicated in the murder he would be placed in the same position, tried as others, and if found guilty be punished.

Mr. Pearson, in replying to these remarks, said there could be no objection to the trial taking place in Teheran, or that if there were sufficient evidence to prove the complicity of a Christian in connection with the commission of the crime, he saw no reason why he should not be, as others, put upon his trial.

He then asked the minister whether in conformity with his request, made on the 24th instant in writing, instructions had been sent to the authorities in Tabriz and Urumia to recognize the official position of Mr. Norton as the special representative of the American Government sent to Persia to investigate the circumstances of this case and to help to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion, for it was important that Mr. Norton’s position should be clearly understood.

The minister replied that up to the present no instructions had been sent, and asked when Mr. Norton arrived and where he was at the present time.

Mr. Pearson replied that Mr. Norton had been in Persia three weeks and was now in Urumia. He further asked whether the new governor of Urumia had yet reached his post, and if not when he might be expected to take up his new duties.

In reply to this the minister said he had no more information than that he was nominated about a fortnight ago. Continuing, he said the condition contained in Mr. Pearson’s memorandum formulating the terms on which a settlement could be effected, that the indemnity or any part thereof should not by any special tax be collected from the Christians in Urumia or any part of Persia, the government accepted; but it would not by this admission bind itself not to levy any tax for special or ordinary income on either Christian or Moslem, which might be necessary in the future.

To this Mr. Pearson replied that in such case the government was within its right in collecting the ordinary revenue of the country, and that he had no desire to interfere with that; but his object was to prevent the burden falling on people who were innocent of any participation in the crime.

His excellency asked if Mr. Norton would come to Teheran after the accomplices were arrested.

To this Mr. Pearson replied that it was only now that he heard the trial was to take place in Teheran, consequently he had not thought about such a contingency, but it was probable [Page 726]that before these accomplices were arrested he would have time to take the matter into consideration and communicate with Mr. Norton.

Mr. Pearson then asked when his excellency thought the indemnity would be paid, for it was possible that Mrs. Labaree might wish to take her children to America. In reply he said that they were now in agreement on the three points, viz., that Mir Ghaffar should be imprisoned for life, that the accomplices should, if within Persian territory, be arrested and brought to trial at Teheran, and that the indemnity of $30,000 should be paid. He would, moreover, in replying in two or three days’ time to my memorandum containing these terms, state when the indemnity would be paid.

Mr. Pearson then expressed his satisfaction at this favorable termination of the case, and said that it would be a source of gratification to his government.

Before leaving, the minister wrote a telegram to be sent to the crown prince at Tabriz, instructing him to recognize the official position of Mr. Norton, and render him any assistance he might require in making his investigations, and assisting in bringing the case to a conclusion, and asking him to communicate such instructions to the authorities in Urumia. His excellency said he would send off the telegram at once.

John Tyler,
Interpreter of the American Legation, Teheran.
[Inclosure 5.—Telegram.]

Minister Pearson to Consul Norton.

Telegram received. Persian Government has agreed to our demands unconditionally. Special commissioner with plenary powers and stringent order from Shah to capture accomplices, should arrive in Urumia within ten days.

Most important that you ascertain and report effective steps be taken to this end, and that you identify and locate and collect uncontrovertible evidence to prove guilt of accomplices. If you have no Department cipher, Major Gough will encipher your telegrams and send accounts here for payment. Telegram here for you; shall I mail or wire it?

[Inclosure 6.—Telegram.]

Minister Pearson to Mrs. Labaree.

Sterling equivalent to $30,000 indemnity for yourself and children was paid to me to-day. Execute power of attorney agent here to receive amount. Agreement expressly provides against any special tax or other device or pretext to reimburse government and requires swift punishment of all guilty. Your letter received; am answering fully.

[Inclosure 7.—Telegram.]

Minister Pearson to Mrs. Labaree.

Imperial Bank will pay you $30,000 gold, or draft for face value on New York or 38,400 tomans; 6 per cent interest if deposit remains one year. Your option must be made known within thirty days from this day.

[Page 727]
[Inclosure 8.—Telegram.]

Minister Pearson to Mrs. Labaree.

Received to-day from Department following telegram:

Pearson, Minister, Teheran:

“The indemnity should be remitted to the Department. An administrator must be appointed in the locality and state where Mr. Labaree was domiciled. Probate court there will make distribution and will appoint guardian of infant children with bond and approved security to protect estate of children.


Suggest that you write fully to Secretary necessary facts and your preference for legal guardian. Assume your portion will be paid according to your directions. Inform Secretary whether your husband left will naming executor.

  1. Not printed.