File No. 867.4016/74

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


841. My 778, June 18, 6 p. m. Persecution of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian populations and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, wholesale expulsions and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage, and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand, but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place. The Moslem and Armenian populations have been living in harmony, but because Armenian volunteers, many of them Russian subjects, have joined Russian Army in the Caucasus and because some have been implicated in armed revolutionary movements and others have been helpful to Russians in their invasion of Van district, terrible vengeance is being taken. Most of the sufferers are innocent and have been loyal to Ottoman Government. Nearly all are old men [and] women. All the men from 20 to 45 are in Turkish army. The victims find themselves dispossessed of their homes and sent on foot to be dispersed in districts where they are unknown, and no provisions have been made to lodge or to feed them. We have in several places been refused permission to relieve their misery or to have access to them. In some few instances where they opposed these measures and took refuge in the mountains and some arms or bombs were found, it provoked the authorities to further cruelties which they attempt to [Page 983] justify by the opposition. Untold misery, disease, Starvation, and loss of life will go on unchecked. Consul Davis of Harput reports:

Professors American College have been tortured. Some others have died under torture or lost mind. Many hundred young Armenian men originally taken as soldiers, some of whom were students American College, have been sent away without food, clothing, or money. Night of June 23 several hundred other Armenians recently arrested, including professors American College, were sent away in the middle of the night without food, clothing, or money. Many deaths are reported en route in both lots of prisoners. Preparations are being made apparently to send away many more. I was informed confidentially to-day that an enormous sum of money is now being demanded of the local Armenians. There seems to be a systematic plan to crush the Armenian race. All things make us apprehend permanent closing of American schools.

That only refers to one place. Many Armenians are becoming Moslems to avoid persecution. In addition to humanitarian considerations we have a real interest through the fact that certain objectionable Armenians involved in these forced dispossessions and deportations are naturalized citizens of the United States and that the charitable and educational work of the American Board will suffer considerably and in many places will cease altogether.

The only embassy here which might assist in lessening these atrocities is the German, but I believe it will simply content itself with giving advice and a formal protest probably intended for record and to cover itself from future responsibility. German Ambassador is about to leave on a six weeks’ vacation. Have impressed on him that he and his Government will have considerable share in the odium. Immediately upon arrival of his substitute I shall make herculean efforts to enlist his sympathies. Austrian Ambassador has promised me to try to influence Minister of the Interior.

I have repeatedly spoken to the Grand Vizier and pleaded earnestly with Minister of the Interior and Minister of War to stop this persecution. My arguments were unavailing except as to Constantinople. The men in authority are revolutionists and displaced the Hamidian Government with the cooperation of some Armenian revolutionists who know their method and are feared by them as a possible nucleus of a [counter-revolution?] against the present authorities. They admit that they will resort to any and every means to prevent their losing control of Government. They state that it is the Union and Progress committee’s nationalistic policy which they refused to modify even when Russia, France, and Great Britain threatened Ottoman Cabinet Ministers with personal responsibility. Turkish authorities desire to avail themselves of present conditions when three of the great powers are at war with them, Italy in strained relations, and the two others are their allies and therefore will not interfere when they are successfully defending the formidable attack at the Dardanelles.

I have conferred with various American missionaries now here [from] Tajmarsovan [Marsovan?], Beirut, Bardizag, and Constantinople, and all agree that present crisis is worse than 1895 and 1896 massacres, but none of them could suggest any further steps than those I have already taken. They fear that the matter will have to run its course. Turkish authorities have definitely informed me that [Page 984] I have no right to interfere with their internal affairs. Still I desire to ask whether you have any suggestions.

American Ambassador