File No. 763.72/1846

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

No. 299]

Sir: Confirming the Embassy’s various telegraphic despatches I have the honor to inform you of the deportation of certain English and French to Gallipoli. Since the beginning of the war a great deal of indignation has been caused among the Turks by bombardments on the part of the Allied fleets to which they were powerless to respond, and which they declared aimed at non-combatants. The theory of utilizing the English and French here resident as hostages, to which German influence has probably not been foreign, was therefore invoked and, beginning with Alexandretta, it was proposed to expose the subjects of the belligerents to the fire of their own ships. At Smyrna, when a fresh bombardment seemed imminent about two months ago, the measure was resorted to, but only for a brief time, and no harm ensued. Now that the action at the Dardanelles is in full swing and has, it is said, caused some loss of life to non-combatants, it was announced that the English and French here resident would be sent to Gallipoli and some unfortified villages on the Gallipoli peninsula in order that they be exposed to the effects of the bombardment. When news of this measure became generally [Page 973] known it caused very considerable conternation here. The Embassy was besieged by the local English and French subjects who begged for my intercession. In the Diplomatic Body as well the measure was very severely judged. At the same time the only weapon in my power to prevent it lay in moral persuasion. I solicited the assistance of those of my colleagues who I thought could assist me, but apart from the German Ambassador, the efficacy of the aid of the others was very questionable. Baron Wangenheim approved of the measure in principle, though he believed it might be a political error. I asked him for assistance which he refused at our first interview, but after another conference, he promised to and did speak with the Grand Vizier about the matter but declined to speak to Enver Pasha who alone had power to act in the matter. I have always endeavored to impress on him that he could not dissociate himself from whatever took place in this country, and that just as Germany would be entitled to full credit for the humane conduct of the Turks, in the event of excesses being committed it could not escape responsibility. In the present instance I believe that a determined stand on his part might have stopped the measure. His unwillingness to take this left me practically on my own resources and allowed me only to attenuate it. While the Grand Vizier whom I had seen on the subject gave me hopes of a two days’ delay, the real decision lay entirely with the Minister of War, Enver Pasha. I called on the latter twice in connection with this affair and between times addressed him a letter of which the copy and his reply are enclosed.1 Prior to my second interview the Bulgarian Minister had visited him at my request, but found him most stubborn and determined.

Enver Pasha has always proved himself extremely friendly to me and on this occasion I had the impression that my personal relations stood me in good stead, for he could easily have avoided the interview until after the departure of the hostages which had been fixed for the following morning. As it was, he told me that the measure, whether right or wrong, had already been communicated to the army and to rescind it now would prove fatal to discipline. The hostages would be sent down but would not be landed unless an unfavorable reply were received from the British and French Governments. Should this come, they would then be obliged to take their chances with the remainder of the civil population, and if the latter were evacuated they would be allowed to go as well. As he was absolutely determined to enforce the principle, I endeavored at least to modify the practice and succeeded in his reducing the number from the entire foreign belligerent male population which would have amounted to several hundreds, as first intended, to fifty selected from the English and French of between twenty and forty years of age. He also allowed Mr. Philip, the First Secretary of the Embassy who very generously volunteered for this purpose, to accompany them provided he should do so in an unofficial capacity, and also two American correspondents, Mr. Arthur Ruhl of Collier’s Weekly [Page 974] and Mr. Suydam of the Brooklyn Eagle. I believe that their presence will exercise a very salutary effect.

By further conference with the Prefect of Police, Bedri Bey, I succeeded in having the number of hostages, instead of being selected from the notables of the foreign colonies as desired by him, chosen from the youngest upward. On May 6, those designated were placed on board a small steamship and sent in the direction of Gallipoli. The Department will be informed of further developments as they occur.

The average age of the English, excluding Pastor Wigram who went of his own volition and who is 43 years of age, was 23 years and that of the French 25½ years. Of the fifty, only two were born in England and two in France. All the rest are born in Turkey and few, if any, have ever visited either France or Great Britain.

This morning the German Ambassador told me that he had received a message from his Government about this matter. It seems that my cabling has produced exactly the effect that I wanted. He has requested me to inform him in the future of my intention to telegraph you before doing so. He evidently desires to use more deliberation about his decisions.

I have [etc.]

H. Morgenthau
  1. Not printed.