File No. 9757/1.

The Acting Secretary of State to Chargé Brown.

No. 297.]

Sir: Referring to the department’s instruction No. 287 of the 13th instant, transmitting a copy of a letter from te American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in regard to the tampering of Turkish officials with mail addressed to American missionaries in Turkey, I inclose for your information a letter on the subject from the Acting Postmaster-General, to whose department Mr. Barton’s letter was also communicated.

I am, etc.,

Robert Bacon.

The Acting Postmaster-General to the Secretary of State.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of November 14, 1907, No. 9757, transmitting a complaint from the Rev. James L. Barton, foreign secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign. Missions, No. 14 Beacon street, Boston, Mass., concerning irregularities in relation to the treatment in Turkey of ordinary letters mailed in the United States and addressed to American missionaries.

Mr. Barton refers particularly to the unlawful opening of ordinary letters addressed to Doctor Underwood, Erzroom, eastern Turkey, and Mr. Clarke, Monastir, European Turkey, stating that these irregularities have occurred recently.

A communication has been addressed to Mr. Barton, asking that he furnish particulars of the mailing, and if possible the envelopes of the ordinary letters which are alleged to have been improperly opened. Upon receipt of this data the postal administration of Turkey will be requested to make suitable investigation at the offices to which the letters were directed; and it will be suggested that individual statements be obtained from the addressees, submitting proof that their letters have been opened at the Turkish post-offices.

In reply to your inquiry whether, under the Postal Union conventions, any inquiry through the postal administration is proper, or is likely to give satisfactory results, I beg to inform you that complaints of a similar character to those submitted by Mr. Barton have been previously received, and it is the practice of this department to present the facts in such cases to whatever foreign postal administration may be concerned, believing that some remedial action will be taken.

This department is inclined to assume that the Turkish authorities will take steps to prevent the unlawful opening of letters on the part of postmasters, or other Turkish officials having access to the international mails, forwarded to that country, more particularly as the sanctity of the seal is a matter of universal importance and appears to be so considered by every administration of the Postal Union.


F. H. Hitchcock.