711.672/15: Telegram

The High Commissioner at Constantinople (Bristol) to the Secretary of State


53. The contents of Department’s 27 of February 21, 5 p.m., have led me to fear that the present state of American interests in Turkey is not quite understood by the Department. The following facts will show that the Turks are not in the least disposed to pay any attention to the capitulatory rights of foreigners: According [Page 1048] to the leading American educators here the Turks intend very soon to enforce their school regulations; they are requiring foreign companies to register before March 18 and to accept in general the Turkish laws and regulations; the Standard Oil representatives have received notice that the Turkish Government will collect the temetu tax from foreigners and have been asked for a list of all foreigners in the employ of the company; within the past ten days there have been three cases of refusal by the Turkish police to recognize the United States citizenship of former Ottoman subjects, and the persons concerned have been obliged practically to submit to Turkish police jurisdiction; Peet has been told by Adnan that Turkey is opposed to foreign doctors and will refuse permits to American physicians to practice; it has been announced that the right to hold property will be denied to foreign corporations; according to reports in the press, foreigners are to be required to register with the Turkish police authorities and to deal directly with those authorities instead of through their respective consular or diplomatic officers.

No mere statement of our treaty rights is going to change the state of mind which is disclosed by these facts. In order to bring the Turks around to our views we would have to resort to armed force, and I take it that we have not the least intention of doing so. It seems to me, therefore, that we have no course but to try to move the Turks by argument, and that in particular cases of incompetence or injustice we must rely upon persuasion to obtain satisfaction. We must contrive to protect our interests by these means or we must leave them without any sort of protection whatever. We delude ourselves if we rely entirely upon the presumption of a desire on the part of the Turks to secure American capital and to retain the benefits of American philanthropic institutions. Economic considerations have obviously little weight in Turkey as the country is in a very primitive economic condition. The Turks would regret the loss of American colleges, but as regards the Near East Relief, the Christian Associations, and Christian missions, most Turks would be glad to have their activities stopped. Rather than compromise in the least the free exercise of their national sovereignty, the Turks are prepared to discard even those foreign institutions which have in their eyes an admitted value. My conversations at Lausanne with Ismet Pasha fully disclosed this fact.

It is my earnest hope that the Department will be guided by the actual facts of the situation and not by the traditional theories of our legal status in Turkey. No matter what our rights may be in theory, in practice they are continually diminishing in value and it is only a question of time until they shall have entirely disappeared. We are entering upon an era of laborious reconstruction which will be long [Page 1049] and difficult and in which we must build from the bottom and upon new foundations. This is the principle upon which I have acted in lending my advice and assistance to the representatives of American interests in Turkey. I have assured them that the High Commission will endeavor to help American interests in every way it can, but I have also explained that they should make efforts on their own behalf and that under the new conditions it is probable that official intervention will accomplish less than private negotiation in obtaining a workable and satisfactory arrangement with the Turks. Some practical success has already resulted from thus dealing with specific problems. I am more than ever convinced of the wisdom of proceeding along these lines since the Department has decided to postpone for some months the negotiation of a treaty with Turkey. The hypothetical benefits of a hypothetical treaty will not meet the immediate needs of our missionaries, educators, and business men. In order to carry on they are already attempting, under the guidance of the High Commission, to make private arrangements with the Turks. In order to avoid prejudicing our treaty negotiations the High Commission is of course supervising these private negotiations.