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File No. 763.72/1357

The Ambassador in Turkey (Morgenthau) to the Secretary of State

No. 137]

Sir: In continuation of my last political despatch No. 132, dated November 16,1 on political affairs and local conditions, I have the honor to enclose herewith translation of the leading article of the Tanine,2 the Government organ, which with similar articles of a more violent character published in other daily publications are calculated to arouse the strongest possible anti-British feeling. A noteworthy feature of this article is the moderation recommended to the Ottoman Government in its treatment of Britishers—the same spirit being indicated as has often been stated to me by the Minister of the Interior, namely, the purpose of the Turkish Government to demonstrate to the world at this time the superiority of its civilization over the nations of Europe.

Early in the morning of the 18th instant, I was informed that the police had entered and taken possession of all the public and private schools, hospitals and religious institutions belonging to or subsidized by the Governments of the belligerents. This was done without previous notice having been given to me, and after I had received assurances from the Minister of the Interior that I would be given ample time to arrange for the departure of the inmates, particularly the girls’ schools which I had hoped to be able to keep open until Christmas. I immediately visited as many of the institutions as I could in company with the chief of police, and upon ascertaining that nobody was allowed to enter or depart from the buildings, I telephoned the Minister of the Interior who ordered the chief of police to do nothing further until the former had conferred with me. I also learned that money had been taken from several institutions, and that in several instances the professors, men and women, had been locked in rooms and kept confined for hours without food, and that other rooms as well as certain boxes had been sealed by the police.

I protested most strongly to the Ministers of War and of the Interior who agreed to allow the various institutions a period of ten days in which time the teachers were to depart, being allowed to take with them their personal effects and in the meantime they were not to be further molested by the police. It was also agreed to allow such sisters and priests, who are indispensable for the churches, to remain. Turkish directors and physicians were placed in the hospitals,[Page 158]and I arranged that in case of need the hospitals be used for Red Cross purposes. It is the purpose of the authorities also to make the teaching of the Turkish language obligatory in all schools and colleges here. The Minister of the Interior assured me that his Government’s action in connection with all these institutions had absolutely no connection with the present war, but that it was inaugurated only to carry out the Government program in connection with the abrogation of the capitulations. He also assured me that such men who were not allowed to depart would not be molested, unless they were suspected of espionage, and in that event they would be expelled to Brusa, Konia, or some interior city.

At the same time an order was issued by the authorities allowing all teachers, priests, and children to leave. The Minister of the Interior stated that he would allow such men over fifty years of age to leave as I might designate.

Since then the Embassy has been occupied in facilitating the departure of these unfortunate people and few of these from Constantinople still remain. We expect shortly to receive those who were expelled from the interior. In the meantime the authorities have gradually been taking possession of the buildings belonging to the institutions.

I was able to secure a special train for some of the people who had been expelled which was to have departed on the evening of the 19th instant. Several hours before its scheduled departure I was informed by the Minister of War that for military reasons the train would not be allowed to leave. Later I was informed that the railway company had refused to sell tickets further than the Bulgarian frontier. I communicated several times with the Bulgarian Minister but could not ascertain the reason for this. The morning train of the following day did not depart and we then learned that no more Bulgarian visas could be obtained for Dedeagach. I was apprehensive then that Bulgaria was mobilizing, but two days later the trains were again running to Dedeagach and the Bulgarian Consulate recommenced visaing passports.

In a conversation I had with the Bulgarian Minister, he stated that the closing of the institutions by the Turkish officials would create a very bad impression upon his Government. He had so informed the Austrian Ambassador who had promised to discuss the matter of this policy with the German Ambassador with a view to obtain, if possible, a modification of these severe measures.

Upon discussing the present policy of the Ottoman Government with the German Ambassador, he stated that he was unable to control their present actions; he believed, however, that the demonstration by the mob and their vandalism, as reported in my despatch No. 133, dated November 16,1 Not printed might be condoned from the standpoint of the fact that it was perhaps necessary to give the people a little rein to appease them. It is well known, however, to all students of Turkish history that public opinion does not exist here; these movements calculated to show the indignation of the populace are generally carefully organized, and there is little doubt that the incident referred to is in the same category.

On the 18th instant, the Embassy learned that the Servian dragoman who had been left in charge would be arrested. He was [Page 159]kept here overnight and the next day we received a note verbale ordering him to leave within twenty-four hours. We were able to secure a delay for several days and having obtained a safe-conduct for him he departed on the 22d instant.

On the 18th instant, the Dercos waterworks, the principal supply of Constantinople, operated with French capital, was seized by the Ottoman officials and the majority of the employees, foreign subjects, were dismissed. A Turkish director was appointed by the authorities and he assumed charge.

As a reprisal for the suppression by the British Government of tribute from Egypt and Cyprus, the Ottoman Government has also seized the Aidin Railway operated by British capital, and has practically seized the Damascus and Extensions Railway operated by French capital.

On the 19th instant, I arranged to turn over to the Ministry of War all arms and ammunition found in the British Embassy. I had the Embassy unsealed, and after placing all the arms in the garden, turned them over to the representatives of the Minister of War and then resealed the Embassy.

The local press continually reports Turkish victories in the Caucasus, but I have received no official verification thereof. A short time ago the Goeben returned from the Black Sea with a number of dead and wounded, and it is reported that she was damaged in the bow and her forward turret. The Hamidieh has not been heard from for nearly a week.

I have the honor to enclose herewith translation of a general notice issued by the Imperial Government regarding the treatment of belligerents, postal and telegraphic relations, etc.1

On the 25th instant, the Sheik ul Islam, the ecclesiastical head of the State, issued a proclamation concerning the holy war, signed by His Imperial Majesty the Sultan and the high council board of ulemas, copy of which I enclose herewith.1 The Government organ in commenting upon this states that since it has been elaborated by Turkey’s most esteemed religious men and having been issued under the auspices of the Commander of all Believers, it will rapidly spread throughout the Islamic world; that patience has been exhausted, endurance is at an end, and the hour of vengeance is at hand; it is therefore the duty of all Moslems to obey the command of the Caliph, and the Islamic world from north to south and east to west is ready for vengeance.

I have [etc.]

H. Morgenthau
  1. Ante, p. 147.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Ante, p. 149.
  4. Not printed.
  5. Not printed.