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 Acting Secretary of State to Minister Leishman.
Washington, January 30, 1906.
Sir: I inclose herewith, for your information merely, a copy of a letter which I have addressed to Mr. Oscar S. Straus, answering a letter from him to the President in which he expressed the hope that the President may find it possible to exercise his good offices in behalf of the oppressed people of Armenia.
I am, etc.,
The Secretary of State to Mr. Straus.
Washington, January 25, 1906.
Sir: I have to acknowledge, by reference from the President, your letter of the 19th instant in regard to the exercise of his good offices in behalf of the Armenians.
The President has referred to this department for acknowledgment Mr. James B. Reynolds’s letter of the 18th instant, with which was presented a petition unanimously signed by influential representative men in France, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Holland, Germany, and Austria-Hungary, appealing to the President to take action to prevent cruelties suffered by the Armenian subjects of Turkey.
The high standing of the petitioners would lend, if that were possible, even greater interest to this question, which has already had the earnest consideration of the President for many years past.
The sympathy of the American people with the oppressed of every country has been repeatedly expressed by various branches of this Government, and in the case of the unfortunate Armenians has been eloquently voiced by the American nation itself. There is no room for doubt in any quarter as to the desire of the President that these Armenians should possess the security of life and property which it has been the concerted aim of the European powers to secure to them.
The powers so concerting to conclude the existing treaty of Berlin in 1878—Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Russia, and Turkey—are, with exception of the last named, represented among the signers of this petition by many of their eminent citizens and subjects. Others of the petitioners belong to European powers not signatories of that treaty but interested in all that may tend to the maintenance of wholesome government and the conservation of a political balance throughout Europe. The United States, also a[Page 1418]
nonsignatory, is by the unwritten law of more than a century debarred from sharing in the political aims, interests, or responsibilities of Europe, just as by the equally potent doctrine, now nearly a century old, the European powers are excluded from sharing or interfering in the political concerns of the sovereign states of the Western Hemisphere.
The fulfillment of treaty obligations between the European states is distinctly a political question, as to which the Western Hemisphere can have no voice or part beyond expression or sympathy within appropriate bounds. It is only when the United States is itself a party to a treaty with a European state, or is aggrieved by some act of a European state done contrary to international law and justice, that the United States can act in defense of its own rights, or in redress of the wrongs it may suffer.
As regards the specific suggestions of Mr. Reynolds’s letter, it may be said that as the interpretation and fulfillment of treaty obligations is one of the questions which the enlightened sentiment of the age declares should, in default of a direct settlement by mutual agreement, be referred to impartial arbitration, it might be found difficult, if not inconsistent, to bring those very questions of treaty construction and fulfillment before a conference assembled to discuss the provisions to be made for impartial international arbitration. I presume that Mr. Reynolds may really have had the approaching second peace conference of The Hague in mind when he asks the President to “secure the consideration of the needs of Armenia by The Hague tribunal at its next session.” There is no Hague tribunal holding periodic sessions. The permanent court of The Hague has no judicial organization or jurisdiction as a body. It merely furnishes an array of impartial jurists, from among whom two or more parties to an international difference may, at their own pleasure, draw arbitrators or an umpire. If the Armenian question is to be brought forward for consideration as a general proposition by the second Hague conference, it would be appropriate that it should be introduced by a treaty party, rather than by an outsider. Once before that conference, the delegates of the United States could treat it with a free hand and within permissible limits.
The proposition that the President take the initiative in convening a special conference to settle the Armenian question could not be admitted unless it were admissible that a European power could rightfully take similar action to bring about a special conference for the settlement of a question of the internal administration of an American republic, or of the treaty relation of other American republics thereto.
The sufferings of the Armenian subjects of Turkey cry aloud for remedy and redress. They shock the humanitarian sense of all mankind, and the world has joined in deploring and condemning the racial antagonisms which have arrayed the incompatible elements of the Turkish population against each other, even as they have arrayed the incompatible elements of the Russian population against the Jew in Russia. No right-minded man can witness such occurrences without craving the power to prevent them; I most sincerely wish that the United States had that power; but in equal sincerity I am convinced that efforts on our part short of rightful and potential intervention could accomplish nothing, and, implying, as they necessarily would, unstinted reprobation of the acts and motives of another State, would do more harm than good to the unfortunate creatures whom it is aimed to benefit. As for moral persuasion being brought to bear, that implies a susceptibility to persuasive influences which is hardly to be presumed in the present instance.
I am, sir, etc.,