The Ambassador in Turkey (Grew) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 1006

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 910 of January 8, 1930,35 and to the Department’s telegraphic reply, No. 6 of February 3, 6 p.m., and also to my despatch No. 947 of February 12, 1930, I have the honor to inform the Department that on April 2 it was brought to my attention that the local fiscal authorities had called upon Constantinople Woman’s College to pay the sum of 109,000 Turkish pounds under the provisions of the law relating to the so-called tax on donations and bequests. Application of the law is made retroactive on a three year period. I understand that one representative of the tax office in Istanbul, after examining the books of the college, had drawn up and signed a report to the effect that the income of the college was not liable to taxation under the terms of the law in question and this report appears also to have been signed by the tax officer at Arnavutkoy, the seat of the College (see enclosure No. 5).35 Another and presumably superior officer, however, appears to have taken a different view of the matter because, shortly after the original report was drawn up, the tax was assessed.

After a conference with Dr. Gates, President of Robert College, who is equally interested in the matter, it seemed to me that the time had come to lay the whole question before Ismet Pasha and accordingly, after presenting the case to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on April 8, I made similar informal representations to the Prime Minister on the following day. From the enclosed memoranda of these two conversations35 it will be seen that as a result of my talk with Tevfik Rüştü Bey, Ismet Pasha on the following morning and prior to my interview with him, discussed the question with the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Finance, and Public Instruction and that, according to the Prime Minister, while Saragoglu Şükrü Bey considers that the law is applicable to the funds received by the foreign colleges and schools, Cemal Hüsnü Bey takes a contrary view and will support his contention when the matter comes up for appeal before the Council of State. Ismet Pasha implied that he himself would see that full justice is given and he is now aware of the potential seriousness of the situation.

The matter is not likely to come before the Council of State for some little time but, in view of Ismet Pasha’s statement to me that instructions will be sent to the local tax officials to avoid pressing the matter until such a decision is rendered, I am hopeful that the college may succeed for the time being in avoiding the payment of the full tax by making at most a nominal deposit.

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I have given careful consideration to paragraph 4 of the Department’s telegram No. 6 of February 3, 6 p.m., inquiring whether in my opinion representations by the Department to the Turkish Ambassador in Washington would be helpful and I have come to the conclusion that it would be preferable not to make such representations to Muhtar Bey. Ever since coming to Turkey I have realized the extreme susceptibilities of the Turks respecting diplomatic representations which might be held to savor of the old capitulatory regime and it has been clear to me that whatever may be the juridical standing of our American educational and philanthropical institutions in Turkey derived from the modus Vivendi by which the relations of the two countries are based upon the provisions of the unratified Turco-American Treaty of Lausanne,36 these institutions could not well continue to function without the good will of the Turkish Government. Their position, if the Government desired to be rid of them, could readily be made untenable through mere administrative regulations. I have therefore consistently avoided making official representations on their behalf and have encouraged the Presidents and Directors of these institutions to maintain their own contacts with the Government and to work out their own problems directly with the competent Ministers, it being understood that I would intervene only when some impasse was reached and then only in an informal manner, appealing to the good will of the Turkish Government rather than to actual rights conferred. This policy appears to have been justified for not only has it received the commendation of the Turkish Government itself, thereby contributing to the standing of our institutions in Turkey and the friendly attitude of the Government towards them, but it has also been repeatedly approved by Dr. Gates, the President of Robert College, and by Mr. Fowle,37 the local representative of the Board of Foreign Missions.

Under these circumstances I should hesitate to advise the Department to make representations to the Turkish Ambassador, for however informally such representations might be made by the Department there would be no assurance as to the manner in which these representations might be reported by Muhtar Bey to his Government. In other words, a mere friendly talk with the Ambassador might by the manner of its communication to Ankara convey to the Turkish Government the impression that a formal and official protest had been made by the United States Government and if such an impression should be made there would be risk of these representations defeating their own purpose by antagonizing rather than ameliorating the attitude of the Turkish officials.

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I have told Ismet Pasha frankly of the unfortunate effect which the closing of these institutions would have upon American-Turkish relations and there can be no doubt that he now fully appreciates the potential seriousness of the situation. I am furthermore fully convinced and have been specifically so informed by the Turkish Government that our colleges and schools are welcome in Turkey and I believe that the Prime Minister is aware that their withdrawal from the country would mean not only a very great loss to Turkish education but also a rupture of an important bond with the United States, whose friendship Turkey values and certainly does not desire to see impaired.

The enclosures listed below38 will give the Department complete information as to the present status of the matter which forms the subject of this despatch. I think that for the moment no further action by the Embassy is called for but I am always ready to take into consideration any recommendations on the part of Dr. Gates, Miss Adams,39 or Mr. Fowle knowing that they are desirous of working out their own problems so far as is possible and that they are not inclined to press the Embassy into action until a definite impasse has been reached.

I have [etc.]

Joseph C. Grew
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. General treaty between the United States and Turkey, signed August 6, 1923; Foreign Relations, 1923, vol. ii, p. 1153.
  5. Treasurer of the American Board of Missions in the Near East, Turkey section.
  6. Not printed.
  7. President of Constantinople Woman’s College.