The Secretary of State to Minister Leishman.

No. 1020.]

Sir: Referring to your No. 1220 of December 4 last,a reporting a controversy between Mr. Bergholz, the consul-general at Beirut, and the Turkish postal officials, in which he assumed the position that anything forwarded through the post by a consul, even when acting in an unofficial matter, was not subject to inquiry, I have to inform you that a full report, under date of the 29th ultimo, has been received from Mr. Bergholz, by which it is learned that the book in question was forwarded to the legation, with a statement of the circumstances under which it was attempted to be mailed.

Your conjectures in regard to the possibility of its having been mailed at the instance of a third party proves happily to be erroneous. The book proves to have been a popular novel, with the title The Garden of Allah, a title in itself calculated to excite Moslem curiosity and give rise to a misconception of its import, which could easily have been allayed by the explanation that it is the name said to be given, with poetic license, by the Arabs to the Saharan Desert. No attempt seems to have been made to explain the merely ludicrous character of the mistake.

The department is inclined to take your view, that circumspection should be exercised in claiming immunity for postal matter not obviously official. The department sedulously guards against needless extension of the privilege of immunity to include matter for private parties. Even had the addresses been in the United States and the book been sent hither in a dispatch bag, it would have been amenable [Page 1417] to the postal, copyright, and tariff laws, and subject to examination upon being intrusted to the mails. The department, not having itself authority to exempt private postal matter from the operation of law, can not depute to its subordinates any discretionary power in that regard.

Mr. Bergholz appears to understand this in part, for he says: “I should consider it a gross breach of propriety for a consular officer to forward under his seal printed matter for others than himself or his immediate family,” but even in this statement he stretches the privilege into a personal prerogative of the consul, when, in fact, it is the official prerogative of his Government.

I am, etc.,

Elihu Root.
  1. Not printed.