The Secretary of State to Minister Leishman.

No. 967.]

Sir: In connection with instruction No. 943a of November 24 last, I inclose herewith, for your information, a copy of a letter from the American Bible Society expressing its appreciation of the interest the department is taking in the society’s work in Turkey, and pointing out obstacles that still exist in several places in Turkey to the free and unrestricted colportage of the Bible.

I am, etc.,

E. Root.

Mr. Haven to the Secretary of State.

Sir: I wish to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of November 24, with its accompanying copy of Mr. Leishman’s letter to the Department of State of November 4, the letter from the Sublime Porte, ministry for foreign affairs, to Mr. Leishman under date of October 10, 1905, and his letter to Tewfik Pacha, under date of November 3, 1905, which you inform us you have commended in instructions sent to Mr. Leishman November 24, 1905.

I have before me also a letter from the Department of State, under date of November 11, from Mr. Robert Bacon, Assistant Secretary of State, inclosing a copy of a letter to the Department of State from the legation in Constantinople, under date of the 9th of October, 1905.

I wish to express, on the part of the board of managers of the American Bible Society, its appreciation of the interest the Department of State is taking in this matter.

It is one which is most serious to the work of this society; which sets aside conventions long established; causes constant annoyance and threatens a paralysis of our work in certain parts of Turkey.

Mr. Leishman’s letter, under date of November 3, to Tewfik Pacha, is very much to the point, and if the position therein taken be pressed steadily upon the attention of the Sublime Porte it ought to relieve the situation.

In asking for the protection of our colporteurs as they go about their legitimate business as appointed agents of the American Bible Society it is possible that the emphasis may have been placed so as to give justification to the communication of Mr. Bacon. It amounts to the same thing, however, if the request [Page 1415] is put the other way and the American Bible Society expresses its desire that its work covered by the treaty conventions in Turkey may not be impeded. Of course I do not see any way in which the business of the American Bible Society can be protected without our colporteurs are allowed to get their books and to go about from village to village, as they have been for many decades, subject only to such arrest and surveillance as might properly occur if any one of them was an unworthy character.

Our colporteurs are chosen with care and have official recognition given them by our principal representative in Constantinople, but, as I have already said, I need not dwell upon this. The important matter is that our business is in many places being brought to a standstill. We have reason to believe that the interference of local officials originates really in the central authorities in Constantinople.

Our last communication from our agent, under date of November 28, 1905, informs us that the books seized at Nigde last August have not yet been surrendered. They were sent from Konia to Nev Shehir, where our agent resides. The Kaimakam of Nev Shehir refuses to give them up until our agent secures permit to sell from Konia. That is, we are not even permitted to have possession of our own property, unless we can get a local permission from petty authorities to sell the same.

The agent resident at Nev Shehir was forbidden to sell until he secured a local permit. He at once applied for one. After some hesitation the local authorities referred him to Konia, the capital of the province, at least three days’ journey from the place of his residence. This is intended to obstruct a perfectly legal business.

Our agent at Konia also has been forbidden to sell until he secures the local permit. He applied at once for this, but was informed that the local officials did not know exactly how to prepare such a permit and they must refer to Constantinople for instructions. He is still waiting for his permit, and no one knows how long he may continue to wait.

Our agent at Trebizond is still forbidden by the authorities to do our work. They refuse a local permit and will not accept the Constantinople permit sent some time ago. They represent that they have strong instructions from Constantinople to prevent his working as a traveling colporteur.

It is perfectly evident from the letter to Mr. Leishman from the Sublime Porte, ministry for foreign affairs, under date of October 10, 1905, that the Turkish Government is attempting to deal evasively with this whole question of the rights of the American Bible Society. In behalf of the board of managers I beg the most earnest consideration on the part of the Department of State of these difficulties.

Very truly, yours,

William Ingraham Haven,
Corresponding Secretary.
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