Minister Leishman to the Secretary of State.
Constantinople , September 13, 1905 .
Sir: In compliance with the instructions contained in your cablegram of September 7 I called upon the minister for foreign affairs and demanded that all proceedings against Hovhanes Afarian and Charles Vartanian be stayed pending an understanding and agreement between the two governments regarding these cases.
As your cable reached me on Friday morning, the Turkish Sunday, when all business at the Porte is suspended, I made my call at the minister’s residence, as the circumstances did not admit delay, and I found his excellency quite disposed to listen to my demands, but unfortunately in this, as in all other cases, the general officers of the government are quite powerless, so that while the minister appeared to thoroughly appreciate my warning that serious complications would surely arise if the protest was not heeded he was unable to give me any more positive assurance than a promise to do all he could and that the matter would be at once reported to the palace.
The demand, however, evidently had its effect, as the minister for foreign affairs sent two different representatives to see me on Sunday, expressing regret at the action of the police authorities and assuring me that if I would send the consul to where the prisoners were being detained at the palace that he would be permitted to examine them.
From points dropped by the messengers of the foreign office, one of whom was the legal adviser attached to the ministry for foreign affairs, I judged that the Sublime Porte had come to the conclusion that the police authorities had acted hastily and gone too far, and that the Porte was considerably annoyed and embarrassed over the raising of the question of Article IV, as well as the question of naturalized citizens, and wished to avoid a conflict over these questions of principle.
* * * * * * *
Under these circumstances I decided to stand pat for a few days on the demand I had made, * * * and consequently begged Hakki Bey, the legal adviser to the foreign office, to report to the minister for foreign affairs that, while the legation was disposed to meet any reasonable request of the Sublime Porte compatible with the interests of the American Government, I could not see my way clear for the moment to accede to the request of his excellency, owing to the complication that had been forced upon me by the action of the police authorities in refusing the consul permission to see a man that claimed American nationality, and particularly by the action of the Porte in raising the important question of principle involved. * * *
These men who, according to the Turkish law, are still regarded by the Porte as Ottoman subjects and as men who have returned to their native land with the intention of stirring up trouble against the Ottoman Government (which included the attack upon the life of the [Page 889] Sultan, resulting in the killing of 35 or 40 innocent people), one of them being the self-confessed murderer of a rich Armenian who has been tried in the Ottoman courts as a Turkish subject and condemned to death, and from information received it appears that the other was his accomplice. * * *
Vartanian has admitted that the murder was premeditated, but unless some way can be found to abandon Vartanian without sacrificing an iota of the principles involved it would be impossible to abandon our demand for his surrender without great loss of prestige and an increase in the difficulties with which the legation has to contend at all times.
There is no doubt that many injustices arise and that many criminals escape all punishment through the dispute over Article IV and the standing of naturalized citizens of Ottoman origin, as neither party can assist at the trials in the other court without admitting the incorrectness of their position on the matter of principle. In this way the wheels of justice are frequently blocked. While I am thoroughly convinced of the legality of our position and of our ability to maintain same, even by adhering to the most liberal interpretation of the Turkish text, the fact that the other Franks have changed their usage since the time our treaty was made has caused the Turks to assume a position toward us that results in a moral injustice which should be corrected. * * *
Awaiting your advice and instructions in the matter,
I have, etc.,