Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 3, 1906, (In two parts), Part II
The Secretary of State to Minister Leishman.
Washington, November 15, 1905.
Sir: I inclose herewith, for your information, a copy of a dispatch from the consul-general at Beirut, inclosing a copy of correspondence between you and him regarding the refusal of the director of customs at Beirut to grant to the American religious, educational, and benevolent institutions within the Beirut consular district the customs immunities enjoyed by like establishments of France, Italy, Russia, Great Britain, and Germany, and by similar American establishments at Smyrna, Constantinople, Erzerum, Trebizond, and, possibly, as Mr. Bergholz says, at other places.
Copies of the inclosures to Mr. Bergholz’s dispatch are not sent herewith, as you have copies of those inclosures in the legation.
You should press most urgently for the irades that will secure to the American institutions in question the immunities now denied to them, as explained in Mr. Bergholz’s dispatch, and you will meanwhile demand for American schools, whose applications are pending, the same treatment as is accorded to other foreign schools in the like case.
I am, etc.,
Consul-General Bergholz to the Assistant Secretary of State.
Beirut, Syria, October 12, 1905.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose copies of correspondence between the legation and this consulate-general regarding the refusal of the director of customs at Beirut to grant to the American religious, educational, and benevolent institutions within this district the customs immunities enjoyed by like establishments of France, Italy, Russia, Great Britain, and Germany. I forward, also, a copy of a communication from Mr. E. G. Freyer, of the American mission, upon the same subject.
Prior to 1899 the members of the American mission received for themselves and for the educational, charitable, and religious houses founded by them the full customs privileges accorded to similar establishments of citizens of other governments. In July of 1899, however, the director of the customs received the following instruction from Constantinople: “The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem has requested that certain articles intended for the schools under [Page 1373] his charge be given the customs immunities. In view of the fact that these schools have no firman and inasmuch as immunities are only granted to such educational establishments, orphan asylums, etc., as possess a permit from His Imperial Majesty, the Sultan, you are, therefore, instructed not to give customs immunities to the above mentioned, or to any institutions which, like them, exist without imperial sanction.” Upon this the mission was denied the privileges heretofore enjoyed for over forty years, and although it possessed permits for most of its schools its protest to the customs was unavailing. This new regulation must have been enforced against all institutions not officially recognized, without regard to their nationality, as the embassies protested against this infraction of the capitulations and the treaties as appears from a second instruction received from Constantinople in November of the same year, reading as follows: “Owing to a demand of the embassies of the foreign powers at Constantinople, you are instructed to accept duties on deposit on articles arriving for the use of schools opened without a permit.” The embassies seem to have failed to have the immunities reestablished and succeeded only in getting permission for their schools to pay the duty under protest, or as it is more commonly called, on deposit. From 1899, therefore, our schools, secular and religious, were equally, with those of other nationalities, denied further customs privileges and paid the duty on articles brought in by them under protest. This practice was permitted until 1900, when it was withdrawn, but whether upon the initiative of the director or upon orders from Constantinople I do not know. In December, 1901, however, instructions to this effect were sent from Constantinople, but upon a protest from the embassies duty was to be received on deposit until September of 1902. The instruction reads: “You are hereby informed that you should cease accepting duties on deposit upon articles intended for schools that exist without an imperial firman. A term of one year, from September 2, 1901, is given to the foreign embassies for the acceptance by you of duties on deposit for articles imported for the schools that have no firman. At the expiration of a year from September 2, 1901, you are not authorized to accept such customs duties on deposit.”
Since 1900 our schools have been denied the right to pay under protest.
In November of 1901 France, by the temporary occupation of Mitylene, forced the Sultan, among other things, to restore to her schools, etc., the customs immunities. Later, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Great Britain equally succeeded in regaining the lost customs privileges. Just why the Porte should deny Beirut the immunities she accords to our missions at Smyrna, Constantinople, Erzerum, Trebizond, and possibly at other places, I can not say.
Duty amounting, with interest, to $720.27 has been paid by the Mission since the immunities were withdrawn in 1899 and its claim for reimbursement will be made the subject of a further dispatch when I receive from the Syrian Protestant College, an American institution, the sums paid by it in duty upon articles which should have been accorded free entry.
I am, etc.,
Minister Leishman to Consul-General Bergholz.
Constantinople, August 5, 1905.
Sir: Referring further to the communication from your consulate under date of July 13, concerning the question of exemption from customs dues of certain goods destined for the use of the American charitable institutions in your district, which I had the honor to discuss with you while in Constantinople.
I beg to say that I know of no reason why the American schools, orphanages, and hospitals in your district should be denied the immunities accorded to other similar institutions, a right, which they enjoy here and in other districts.
Before taking this matter up with the Sublime Porte I would be pleased to have you thoroughly investigate the matter and endeavor to arrange the difficulty with the local authorities, as I understand that the American mission at Beirut formerly enjoyed the customary immunities from customs dues, but for some unexplained reason it was allowed to lapse.
Awaiting your advices,
I have, etc.,
Consul-General Bergholz to Minister Leishman.
Beirut, Syria, August 23, 1905.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s communication of August 5, 1905, No. 286, directing me fully to investigate the complaint of the American mission at Beirut that it is denied the customs immunities accorded to similar institutions in other districts, and to endeavor to arrange the difficulty with the local authorities, as you understand the mission formerly enjoyed the exemption from customs duties, but which, you state, for some unexplained reason was allowed to lapse.
I have asked for, and it has been promised, a report from the mission giving in detail its relations with the customs authorities, which I am daily hoping to receive. It informs me, however, that it once enjoyed all the privileges to which it is entitled, but which gradually have been withdrawn, until now it is deprived of them all.
The director of customs has released the box referred to by Mr. Magelssen, the vice-consul-general, in his dispatch of July 13, 1905, and, although refusing to pass it free from customs dues, permits the mission to pay the duty on deposit; that is, under protest, and has consented to continue this privilege, the only one granted to the missions for several years, but which, even, had been withdrawn. The director bases his action in denying the customs immunities to American establishments within this district to instructions contained in three communications from the department of customs at Constantinople, and, although declining to permit me to make copies of them, allowed the interpreter, who accompanied me, to take notes of their import.
The purport of the first instruction, No. 231, and dated June 21, 315 (July 3, 1899), is as follows: “The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem has requested that certain articles intended for the schools under his charge be given the customs immunities. In view of the fact that these schools have no firman, and inasmuch as immunities are only granted to such educational establishments, orphan asylums, etc., as possess a permit from His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, you are therefore instructed not to give customs immunities to the above-mentioned, or to any institutions which, like them, exist without imperial sanction.
Instructions No. 479, dated November 17, 315 (November 29, 1899), is in substance as follows: Owing to a demand of the embassies of the foreign powers at Constantinople, you are instructed to accept duties on deposit on articles arriving for the use of schools opened without a permit.
The last instruction received, No. 635, is dated December 5, 317 (December 17, 1901), about the time, or shortly after, the imperial irade was signed recognizing in full the legal status of the existing schools, religious and charitable establishments of France and granting them the customs immunities. It is substantially as follows: You are hereby informed that you should cease accepting duties on deposit upon articles intended for schools that exist without an imperial firman. A term of one year from September 2, 1901, is given to the foreign embassies for the acceptance by you of duties on deposit for articles imported for the schools that have no firman. At the expiration of a year from September 2, 1901, you are not authorized to accept such customs duties on deposit.
As soon as I receive the report from the mission I shall at once communicate its contents to you, with such further information as I may be able to gather.
I have, etc.,
Minister Leishman to Consul-General Bergholz.
Constantinople, September 6, 1905.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 4, of August 23, and note with interest the result of your preliminary examination into the question of douane demanded on goods consigned to the American missions in your district, and await your final report upon the matter.[Page 1375]
There can be no question about the right of American religious, charitable, and educational institutions in Turkey to enjoy the same privileges accorded to similar institutions under the protection of other nations, and no one can doubt the fact of the American college at Beirut being a bona fide American institution, as the mere fact that His Majesty sends an imperial medical commission to Beirut to assist at the annual examinations should be sufficient guaranty for the local officials that the institution is officially recognized.
It may be possible that some of the schools included in the list of the Presbyterian mission in Syria may upon close examination be found to have been included erroneously, as native schools which are merely under the nominal control of the American board are not intended to be included in our list of American institutions, so that when the proper time arrives you will have to exercise considerable care in confining your demands for free entry to such schools, etc., as can clearly be shown to be strictly American institutions.
Unfortunately, I am not in a position to furnish you at the present time with a correct list of the American religious, charitable, and educational institutions in your district, as the list furnished by the Presbyterian board some two years ago requires considerable revision, and although I asked for detailed information at the time of reaching a general settlement with the Sublime Porte about a year ago, the desired data has not yet been furnished.
Mr. Peet, who left here a short time ago on an inspection trip, told me that he would take the matter up with you upon his arrival in Beirut, and as Mr. Peet acts as a general manager for all the missions, he is naturally very well posted and can give you all the information desired concerning treatment of the question of douane at other points.
I have, etc.,
Consul-General Bergholz to Minister Leishman.
Beirut, Syria, October 7, 1905.
Sir: Referring to your dispatch of August 5, No. 286, and to my reply of August 23, No. 4, and to your acknowledgment of September 6. No. 307, regarding the refusal of the customs authorities to grant to American mission establishments in Syria the immunities accorded them by the capitulations and by existing treaties, I now have the honor to inclose a copy of a report from Mr. E. G. Freyer, the mission treasurer, giving its relations with the customs.a
This report states that up to 1899 the mission enjoyed the customs immunities on articles imported for its members, its churches, schools, orphanages, and hospitals, like similar institutions of other nationalites. In 1899, however, these prvileges were withdrawn upon the ground that the mission had not reecived from Constantinople the necessary permits officially recognizing the schools. Duty was, therefore, demanded, but was permitted to be paid under protest and deposit receipts given enabling the mission, should Constantinople decide that it was entitled to free entry of its goods, to recover the duty collected. The privilege even of paying under protest was allowed but for a year, and in 1900 the mission was informed that thereafter duty would have to be paid without the right of protest. Since 1900, therefore, the mission has wholly been denied the customs immunities.
The legation will note that the mission enjoyed the customs immunities up to 1899, when they were withdrawn, not arbitrarily as it would seem, by the customs director at Beirut, but under a positive order from his superior at Constantinople, July 3, 1899, the substance of which is given in my dispatch No. 4 of August 23.
You will recognize the impossibility of my effecting an arrangement of this vexed question with the customs in view of its instruction from Constantinople. The convincing arguments contained in your dispatch of September 6, coupled with the statement that the American College, founded in 1866, could not have [Page 1376] acquired 40 acres of land and have erected 14 buildings and have an attendance of 700 students and have the medical examination each year held under the supervision of a special commission sent by the Sultan without existing by the imperial sanction, was met with the reply that the immunities could not be granted without instructions from Constantinople; that other powers had equally been refused the customs privileges in 1899, but that in 1901, when the imperial irade, fully recognizing French establishments, was issued, Germany, Great Britain, and Russia had obtained like recognition, and orders had been received from Constantinople to accord them the customs immunities.
I have, etc.,
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