Ambassador Leishman to the Secretary of State .

No. 80.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction No. 53a of the 18th ultimo with reference to the petition of George Kanavuts to be relieved from personal taxation in the Ottoman Empire, and to inform you that I am transmitting a copy of the same to the Sublime Porte. I beg leave to state, however, that the Porte prefers that similar petitions be handed to the Turkish minister [Page 1404] at Washington, a copy only being forwarded to the embassy for transmission to the minister of foreign affairs.

For the department’s further information I must state that such petitions in recent years have almost invariably been pigeonholed at the Porte without further action being taken. The personal tax in question is what is known as the military exemption tax, which is cheerfully paid by all non-Moslem inhabitants of the Empire, as it is in lieu of service in the army. This tax, which amounts to about $1.70 a year, represents the quota owed by those who do not serve in the ranks as their share toward the yearly maintenance of a soldier. The Turkish authorities as a rule do not collect this directly from individuals, but from communities. A Christian village, for instance, is held responsible for a certain amount each year, the same being based on the size of its population. But if anyone should emigrate from such village, the tax would none, the less remain the same, the village elders when necessary collecting the amount due by the emigrant from his nearest of kin. Petitions to escape taxations are therefore made with a view of avoiding this. The Turkish Government, however, hardly ever takes action in such cases, for by so doing they are not only obliged to strike the names released from off the list of taxation, but it would be also admitting the right of an Ottoman subject to change his allegiance without permission from his Government, which has not been the case since the treaty of 1869.

I have, etc.

John G. A. Leishman.
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