The Acting Secretary of State to Minister Leishman.

No. 1019.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 1269, of the 2d instant, on the subject of customs immunities for the American [Page 1382] religious, educational, and charitable institutions in the Beirut consular district, and inclosing a copy of recent correspondence between you and the consul-general at Beirut upon the subject, showing that the trouble complained of has been partially settled.

The department is gratified to learn of the progress made.

I inclose herewith for your information a copy of a dispatch from the consul-general at Beirut, in answer to the department’s instructions directing him to ascertain and report whether the claims of other foreign institutions of like character for the return of duties similarly collected are being presented.

I am, etc.,

Robert Bacon.

Consul-General Bergholz to the Assistant Secretary of State.

No. 35.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of department dispatch No. 16 of December 16, 1905, regarding the claim against the Ottoman Government of the Syria mission of the board of foreign missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, commonly known as the “American mission,” and of the Syrian Protestant College, commonly known as the “American college,” for the reimbursement of duties collected on goods which should have been admitted free under the treaties and capitulations, and directing me to advise the department if the claims of other foreign institutions of like character for the return of duties similarly collected are being presented.

The result of inquiries made at the consulates-general of France, Great Britain, and Germany, is as follows:

France appears to have received for her mission schools and educational establishments somewhat better treatment than the United States, as they were permitted to pay under protest, or what is usually called here “on deposit,” from the time the customs immunities were withdrawn from all nationalities, in 1899, except Germany, to the Mytilene settlement in November of 1901, while our missions and schools were deprived of the right to pay under protest since 1900. As a result of the naval demonstration off Mytilene by a French fleet and the temporary occupation of a part of that island the customs immunities were wholly restored to France. Since then the amounts paid in duties, on deposit, by the French missions and schools have been recovered from the Porte through the embassy and paid over to the establishments which had disbursed them.

Great Britain has fared, as regards her schools, about the same as the United States, but seems to have retained the right of paying on deposit, since the immunities were withheld in 1899, while we were deprived of the privilege in 1900. She has, as yet, made no demand upon the Porte for the return of the moneys paid in duty on deposit by her schools, as the embassy has not yet been successful in obtaining their recognition. There has been considerable correspondence between the British consulate-general and the embassy at Constantinople, with a view of securing official recognition of the schools in Syria. A list of the English schools has been sent to Constantinople, but it was not found quite satisfactory, and a corrected list was forwarded last summer. My British colleague is in hopes his embassy will shortly secure the necessary recognition, and when it comes he “will not fail to apply for the restitution of the customs duties paid by said schools under protest.”

Germany has never been denied the customs privileges, which the rest of the powers were deprived of in 1899, but has continued in the full enjoyment of the immunities notwithstanding that neither the hospital nor the Deaconness School hold an imperial firman.

You will have noticed that the consulates-general, who furnished me with the information given above, invariably speak of the sums paid in duty “on-deposit,” or using the term better known with us, “under protest.” Paying under protest carries the question of the customs administration at Constantinople, [Page 1383] and in case the protest is sustained the duty is refunded. Neither France, Great Britain, nor Germany, appear ever to have been denied the right to pay duties under protest, since the withholding of the immunities in 1899 from the powers except Germany.

A telegram received from our minister at Constantinople announces that instructions have been sent the customs here directing that the immunities be again accorded the college. A later dispatch reports that the director of customs has been directed to allow the mission the privilege of paying duty until further notice under protest. The members of these institutions are highly appreciative of the zeal with which the department insists upon the full recognition of their rights. A copy of my communication, No. 41, of January 18, 1906, to the minister acknowledging the receipt of his telegrams, is enclosed.

I am, etc.,

Leo Bergholz.