File No. 867.00/644

The Consul General at Beirut ( Hollis ) to the Secretary of State

No. 774]

Sir: I have the honor to report that the week drawing to a close here has been one of kaleidoscopic changes in the political situation: During the previous week the attitude of the vali towards all foreigners had been exceedingly offensive; and it culminated in the [Page 764] beginning of the week with his threatening to hang the French Consul General because the latter protested against the unlawful seizure by the vali of merchandise belonging to French protégés; but during the latter part of this week his manner has undergone a change and he even has sent to me and politely notified me that he would like-to commandeer certain benzine belonging to an American corporation. In the matter of commandeering, practically all of the Consular Corps here are standing firmly upon the provisions of the note verbale identique of February 22, 1913, by the embassies to the Sublime Porte, which we now construe to cover all merchandise, as well as horses, and a copy of which is annexed to this despatch.1

It appears that the Turks have also suddenly changed their plans. Where two weeks ago the watchword was “On to Batum,” it is now “On to Egypt.” From what I have been able to learn, it appears that the troops and recruits which have been sent north to the Aleppo district will not be sent further north, but that the intention is to double quickly back, along the line of the Hedjaz Railway, and make a sudden dash for Egypt.

Already all of the railway lines here have been taken over by the military administration.

A significant requisition for 100,000 empty jute grain bags has been made by the vali, and the town and district is being scoured to discover and commandeer that quantity of empty sacks. These sticks it is stated, are to be filled with sand and thrown into the Suez Canal to block the same and form a causeway across.

It appears that the Egyptian proclamation of belligerency against. Germany has greatly provoked the Turks, as it is tantamount to a declaration of independence altogether from any vestige of Turkish suzerainty, and to the Turks the present moment seems opportune for a movement to secure their supremacy over Egypt.

To save themselves, however, as much as possible from any reprisals from the Ententists which are sure to come if they persist in carrying out their present plans, the Turks propose to evacuate all of their large coast towns and retire to the interior, quite indifferent to what may happen to the said towns.

It is reported in town that the archives of the local government are being taken into the interior, and reports come to me from various sources that the kaimakams of other coast towns have also received orders to send all of their archives into the interior.

If the Turks should carry out their avowed intention of evacuating Beirut under certain contingencies, a state of anarchy would surely reign here. Already many of the inhabitants are in a state bordering on panic, and the whole atmosphere is one of distrust and fear. Nobody knows whom to trust, every man seems to be afraid of his neighbor, and the Moslems feel as if they were between the devil and the deep sea; as, if they flee into the mountains, the Maronites will surely make it warm for them, while, if they remain in town, they fear that they will be made the scapegoats and will be made to pay and to suffer for any and all misdeeds which the disorderly elements may perpetrate here.

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If this present tension continues, the arrival of any British or French men-of-war here might be construed as a hostile demonstration and cause a panic.

The only thing which can save the situation and preserve order and prevent anarchy is the prompt arrival of some American then of-war. With this end in view I telegraphed twice to the Embassy yesterday. My first telegram voiced the demand from the Consular Corps here for the presence of some of our vessels, while my second telegram forwarded a direct appeal to your honorable self from your good friend Dr. Howard Bliss, president of the American college here. Cipher telegrams can only be sent to the Embassy now as the telegraph authorities refuse to accept cipher telegrams for abroad. In the absence of any definite information concerning the American Government’s intention, a feeling of insecurity combined with nervous expectancy prevails, and not only would some definite news regarding the movement of American men-of-war be gratefully received by practically all classes of the population here, but the mere receipt of such authoritative information concerning the approximate arrival here of some American men-of-war would have a Wonderfully tranquilizing effect here.

As I reported in my telegrams of yesterday to the Embassy, all Americans are at present safe here; but one can never tell what will happen from one day to the next, and we ought to be fully and promptly prepared for all eventualities.

I have [etc.]

W. Stanley Hollis