AMERICA'S RELIEF EXPEDITION TO ASIA MINOR UNDER THE RED CROSS
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REPORT OF GEORGE H. PULLMAN,
FINANCIAL SECRETARY OF THE AMERICAN
NATIONAL RED CROSS.
The following financial report, of necessity, has to deal with the currencies of five different countries, viz.: American, English, French, Austrian, and Turkish, but as nearly all except expenses of travel and maintenance are in Turkish money, and as American, English, French, and other moneys received were naturally reduced to the coin of the Ottoman Empire, we were obliged to make our accounts to correspond. As the report is made on the gold basis of 100 piasters to a lira, our friends may easily find the value in American money by multiplying the number of piasters by 4.4, as a gold lira (100 piasters) is approximately worth four and four-tenths dollars.
Owing to the difference in values between gold and silver coin, the wide range of values between the same coin in different cities, also the singular variation of the purchasing power of the same coin in the same cities for various commodities, complicated and curious mathematical problems have constantly confronted us, and for the correctness and accuracy of our report we are under many obligations to W. W. Peet, Esq., treasurer of the American Board of Foreign Missions; the officers of the Imperial Ottoman and Credit Lyonnais Banks; as well as George Kunzel, Esq., expert accountant of the Administration de la Dette Publique Ottomane. Our grateful acknowledgments are also due and heartily given to Rev. Dr. H.
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O. Dwight, the executive head of the Missionary Board at Constantinople, and Rev. Dr. George Washburn, president of Robert College, for many valuable suggestions.
To give a single illustration of the acrobatic acquirements of the sprightly piaster, the ignus fatuus characteristics of the mejidieh (nom. 20 piasters), and the illusive proclivities of the lira, we will outline a transaction connected with our first medical expedition, under Dr. Ira Harris, of Tripoli, Syria. We had sent four hundred liras to Dr. George E. Post, of Beyrout, who was fitting out the expedition for us, and presumed we would receive a receipt for that amount, or for 40,000 piasters, its equivalent. The acknowledgment came, and we were somewhat nonplussed to note that we had been credited with a sum far exceeding that amount. A letter of inquiry was sent, as we supposed our good doctor had made an error. We quote a a paragraph or two in his letter of reply : "I am not surprised that you do not quite understand the intricacies of Turkish finance. After thirty-three years of residence, I am still trying to get some idea of what a piaster is. * * * In Beyrout it is worth one piaster and five paras, with variations; a mejidieh is worth from nineteen piasters to almost anything. Every town has its rate. * * * The nominal value changes daily. Thus if I credit you to-day with 123.20 piasters on the lira, next week I may be out of pocket, or vice versa. * * * Internally, it is well nigh impossible to keep accounts. * * * The only way our college books are kept is by giving the rate as it is when the account is entered and as it appears in all receipts and other vouchers."
We were much gratified with this assurance, for if a college president, after thirty-three years study had not solved the piaster puzzle, there was some excuse for us. Hundreds of accounts and bills have been received, audited and paid, and scarcely any two correspond in piaster equivalents. Therefore, although the money unit is the gold piaster, and the monetary standard the gold lira, the frequent changes in valuation is very
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bewildering to foreigners, and necessitates frequent conference with persons who, after long years of residence, have reached an equitable basis by which monetary equivalents can be ascertained.
A glance at our column of receipts shows a considerable variation in rates of exchange, and also the selling price of British gold (most of our drafts and cabled credits were in English sovereigns). We sold the greater part of our gold at a rate exceeding no, which is the commercial rate in business transactions. In all credits received, the values are of course given according to the rate on the day of sale.
Many of our accounts, receipts and vouchers are curiosities, as they are in various languages, Arabic, Kourdish, Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Italian, etc. They were interesting but at the same time exceedingly perplexing to us, though our expert accountant found no difficulty with any of them, and right here we desire to make special acknowledgment to Mr. Kunzel for his excellent but unpaid services.
In our column of expenses will be found an exceedingly rare Red Cross item, namely, "Wages Account." All the native or local doctors and apothecaries with one exception, had to be paid "contagious disease rates," as they called it. The exception was Dr. Ira Harris, of Tripoli, Syria, that brave and self-sacrificing American, whose great medical ability and splendid surgical skill accomplished so much in curing the sick in the terribly distressed cities of Marash and Zeitoun, with their many surrounding villages. We are glad to make this public acknowledgment in full appreciation of his heroic services. Beside the doctors, there were interpreters and dragomen for the various expeditions in the field to whom wages were paid. No adverse reflection is designed in the making of this statement, as the conditions surrounding life and service in that region of operation made such remuneration an equitable necessity.
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It is, we think, a well understood fact, that the Red Cross officers neither receive nor ask any remuneration for their services, but away from our own country we did not find the splendid volunteer aids we have had on former fields. But few could be found, and these we have had with us both in Constantinople and Asia Minor, and very efficient helpers they have been; to these our thanks are due and cordially given.
After our expeditions had entered the field and begun work, the first remittances to our chief officers were sent in a manner which for slowness and seeming insecurity would have appalled American business men. The modus operandi was as follows: A check for the amount desired was drawn and taken to the bank; after half an hour or more the gold would be weighed out and handed over—our bankers would have performed the same service in two minutes. The coin was then put into a piece of stout canvas cloth, done up in a round ball, securely tied, and taken to the Imperial Turkish post office where it was placed in a piece of sheepskin, all the ends brought together very evenly, cut off square and covered with sealing wax, the strong cords binding the package in a peculiar manner were woven in so that the ends could be passed through a small wooden box like a pill box; this box was filled with wax. After the Imperial Post and our seals were attached, bakshish given, and the package insured in an English company, the only thing remaining after the three or four hours work and delay was to go home and with fear and trembling wait some twenty-five or thirty days until the pony express arrived at its destination and an acknowledgment by telegraph of the receipt of the money relieved the nervous strain as far as that package was concerned. This trying business was kept up until it became possible to use drafts in the interior. We are happy to report that though the money had to be taken through a country infested with robbers, outlaws, and brigands, we never lost a lira.
Bakshish is another custom of the country, infinitely more exasperating than our "tip" system, which is bad enough.
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This is trying to most people but peculiarly irritating to a financial secretary. Bakshish is a gift of money which an Oriental expects and demands for the most trifling service Beggars, by instinct, seem to know a financial secretary and swarm around in the most appalling manner. To make any headway with this horde at least two Turkish words must be mastered the first day, namely "Yok" - No, and "Hidé-git"-Be off with you. These expressions are sometimes efficacious with beggars but the bakshish fiend must be paid something.
As long columns of figures have no interest to the great majority of people, and detailed accounts of receipts and expenses are never read, as it is of no possible importance what moneys were received at certain times/or what goods were sent into the interior, we give our statement in as condensed a form as possible. The committees have received their respective reports, with all vouchers and other detail.
We believe the account of our stewardship will be approved by our countrymen; we know that the people whom we came to assist, are grateful and thoroughly appreciative, as numberless letters of gratitude, testimonials and personal statements abundantly prove.
To the $116,326.01, at least a third if not a half more should be added, as in all kinds of industrial business we have made the money do double duty. For instance: we purchased iron and steel and gave to the blacksmiths to make tools. That started their work. They paid us for the iron and steel in tools, these we gave to other artisans to start their various trades In like manner spinning, weaving and garment-making avocations were commenced. Speaking of values, the consensus of opinion of our countrymen in the interior is, that putting a price on our work, the people of Anatolia have gained twice or thrice the actual money spent, and that the moral support given was far beyond any valuation. (At such a money valuation
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then, the aggregate value of the relief distribution will be nearly $350,000.)
A few words of explanation in regard to the table of expenditures: "Cash sent to the Interior " includes all moneys sent by pony express or draft, and of this amount something over seven thousand liras are in the hands of W. W. Peet, Esq.; Rev. C. F. Gates, at Harpoot; C. M. Hallward, Esq., British Consul, at Diarbekir; Rev. E. H. Perry, at Sivas, and other equally responsible representatives, for an emergency fund, to be used, on order, as occasion requires.
''Relief Expeditions, General and Medical," represent largely the goods purchased and shipped with the four expeditions from Constantinople and Beyrout for relief purposes. A portion of this supply is still held at different stations awaiting the proper time for its distribution to the best advantage.
"General Expense Account" represents freights, postage, bakshish, hammals, car fares, carriages, etc. "Donations for Relief of Orphan Children " represents sums of money given to the Armenian and German hospitals for Armenian refugee children. The other items we think explain themselves.
It will be observed that the special Red Cross fund, as noted in our tabulation of debits and credits, more than covers expenses of "Red Cross Headquarters, Field," "Travel and Maintenance," "General Expense and Wages Accounts," and "General and Medical Relief Expeditions Accounts," all of which items were of direct benefit to the field as all were necessary to the successful conduct of our work. We only mention this to show that, besides the work we have been able to successfully perform, the Red Cross has also materially contributed monetarily to the field. And it will not be out of place to note that in the total of cash expended ($116,326.01) there is shown to be an administrative cost amounting to $7,526.37, as covered , by such items as "Telegrams and Cables," "Wages-Account," " General Expense," "Headquarters, Field," "Stationery and Printing," and "Travel and Maintenance." This cost was but
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a fraction over six per cent, on the cash total. If the estimated money value in field results be taken at three times the cash received and paid, for relief material, food, etc., as stated it will be found that the cost, of administration is only about two per cent. In either account or estimate the result is gratifying, though not surprising to the officers of the Red Cross, since the methods pursued are the fruits of a wide experience that evaded no responsibility and learned only to spend wisely for the trust imposed and accepted. It is also satisfactory to know that such expenditures came direct from the " Special Funds " of the Red Cross itself. An examination of the balance sheets accompanying this report shows that of funds expended, the Red Cross is credited with $24,641.93, which leaves an excess for relief over the cost of administration of $17,115.56.
Perhaps this brief financial review of the work achieved may be properly closed by a reference to the sincere enthusiasm and earnestness with which the efforts to raise funds in the United States were animated. The incidents herein mentioned may also illustrate how the wisdom of experience accepts the earnestness and yet discounts without criticism the over confident calculations, to which a noble zeal may run. It would appear that the collection of funds for the purpose of relieving a Christian people in danger of starvation and violent death by knife or bullet—of aiding a historic race in the throes of dissolution from massacre, and dispersion in winter by storm and famine, would be a very easy thing to accomplish. A good many of our countrymen, unaccustomed to great relief work, found the collection of the means needed, a task more than difficult. A single illustration will prove how misleading is the conception. It must be borne in mind always that the Red Cross never solicits funds. It sees its field of benefit work and having fully examined the needs, states them through the press and all other public avenues, to the American people, leaving the response direct to their judgment and generosity. When it is asked to accept the administration of relief funds and material, in fields
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like this that awaited it in Asia Minor, the trust is surely met, but the Red Cross does not ask for the means and" money. Others do that, stating that the work will be under its charge. When it is once accepted there is no retreat, no matter how far the exertions may fall short of reaching the hoped-for results.
Last November (1895), after many petitions had been received and carefully considered, representatives of the great Armenian Relief Committees came to Washington, for the purpose of supplementing such earnest petitions by personal appeals. A conditional consent having been obtained, the subject of funds was brought up by the following question:
"Miss Barton, how much do you think it will cost to relieve the Armenians ?"
The question was answered by another: "Gentlemen, you are connected with the various missionary boards, with banks and other great institutions and enterprises. What amount do you consider necessary ?"
After deliberation, $5,000,000 was suggested as the proper sum and the question was asked if the Red Cross concurred. Miss Barton, with the faintest suggestion of a smile, replied that she thought $5,000,000 would be sufficient. As the difficulties of raising money became more apparent to the committees, numerous meetings were held and various other amounts suggested, Miss Barton agreeing each time. From $5,000,000 to $500,000, with a guarantee for the balance; then $100,000 cash with $400,000 guaranteed, and so on, until $50,000 was named to start the work with, such sum to be available on the arrival of the Red Cross in Constantinople. The president and a few officers of the Red Cross arrived there on February 15, 1896, but it was late in the following April before the $50,000 was received. These facts as given are intended solely to show the difficulties the committees had to contend with in raising the amount they did.
For general information it will, perhaps, not be inappropriate to state that all relief work is governed and conducted on military lines to preclude the possibility of confusion, as the Red
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Cross on fields of disaster is the only organized body in a disorganized community. Thus wherever the organization has control, Miss Barton has personal supervision of all departments: the financial, receiving and disposing of all funds; the correspondence, opening all letters and directing replies; the field, assigning workers to attend to such duties as are best suited to their various abilities, who report daily, if possible, and receive instructions for the prosecution of the work; the supplies, receiving accurate reports of all material and giving directions as to its disposition.
GEORGE H. PULLMAN.
Constantinople, August 1, 1896.
| Pages 1, 2 | Executive
Report by Miss Clara Barton
Financial Report by George H. Pullman | Financial Balance Sheet | Map Of Asia Minor
Pages 57, 58 | 1st Expedition Report | 2nd Expedition Report | 3rd Expediton Report
4th Expedition Report | Telegrams | Red Cross Principles | In Memoriam
Contents (as in the book) | Illustrations
Source: Clara Barton. America's relief expedition to Asia Minor under the Red Cross. Journal Publishing Company, Meriden, Conn. 1896.
Provided by: Sona Tumanyan