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Edwin Munsell Bliss

TURKEY AND THE ARMENIAN ATROCITIES


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[page 542]

CHAPTER XXIX.

AMERICA AND TURKEY.

Early Treaties — Some Prominent Ambassadors — American Missionaries — Obedience to the Laws — Treaty Rights — Questions of Importance — Indemnity at Harput and Marash — More Consuls Needed — Naturalized Americans — Right of Domicile Threatened — Positive Action Needed — Duty of America.

THE question will naturally arise, What are America’s relations to the general situation in Turkey? So far as benevolent, religious and philanthropic works are concerned, they are set forth in the chapters on Missions and Relief Work. A few things should be said in regard to the relations between the two governments. The first treaty between the United States and Turkey was negotiated in 1830, but not completed until a year later, by Commodore David Porter, as Charge-d’Affaires. It included “ the most favored nation ” clause and placed this country on a footing of perfect equality with all the European Powers. Subsequently ambassadors were sent, and their number has included many men of eminence, Geo. P. Marsh, Gen. James Williams, E. Joy Morris, Horace Maynard, Geo. H. Boker, Gen. Lew Wallace, Oscar S. Straus, and, at present, A. W. Terrell. All of these men have been on terms of most cordial intimacy with the Porte and the Sultans, and have exerted a strong influence in favor of the best good of the empire. Especially since the Crimean War, on

[page 543] AMERICAN AMBASSADORS.

account of the peculiar relations existing between Turkey and the great Powers of Europe, it has been the custom of the Sultans and their Ministers to hold more informal intercourse with some ambassador, not so closely connected with the diplomatic questions of Europe. Thus the Ministers of Belgium and Holland have at times been peculiarly intimate with the Turkish administration, but probably no country has, on the whole, been more favored in this respect than the United States. Mr. Maynard, Gen. Wallace and Mr. Straus, each for different reasons, personal and political, have been specially prominent, and each received marked tokens of the friendship of the Sultan.

It was natural that their care should be especially exercised for the missionaries who formed almost the entire American community in the empire. It was inevitable also that the most perplexing questions should arise in connection with their work. The character of that work has already been described in general, and it will be readily seen that friction between them and the Turkish Government was very easily produced. That there has been so little of it, is due both to the patience and common sense of the missionaries and the wise conduct of the American Embassy. On the one hand, the missionaries realized that so long as they were residents of the empire they were under obligation to obey its laws. If those laws were unjust they might seek to secure their modification, but until that was secured, the laws were obeyed. Every statute as to the censorship of books, the erection of buildings, the conduct of public service, traveling from one place to another, was observed most scrupulously. On the other hand, the ambassadors made it clear that they were there purely to safeguard American rights, and that their

[page 544] INDEMNITIES WAIVED.

protection of American citizens was dependent upon the right conduct of those citizens; they, as government officials, had nothing to do with their special work as teachers, preachers or philanthropists, more than with the work of merchants, lawyers, doctors, mining engineers, or travelers. When, however, the natural rights of those citizens were affected in any way, they acted promptly and effectively. Three American missionaries, Mr. Merriam, of Philippopolis; Mr. Parsons, of Nicomedia, and Mr. Coffin, of Hajin, were murdered by bandits, and in two cases execution of the murderers was secured. At one time Turkish officers entered and searched the Bible House at Constantinople, without observing the regular forms of treaty law, and apology and indemnity were given. When books were seized by local censors of a province in spite of their having the regular permit of the Central Bureau, apology and indemnity were secured, but in one case the State Department at Washington most unfortunately overruled the Ambassador, and waived the indemnity, thereby giving encouragement for repetition of the offense. When Dr. Raynolds and Mr. Cole were attacked and almost murdered by a Kurdish chief in the vicinity of Bitlis, he was arrested, tried and convicted, on the urgent demand of the Ambassador. He proved too powerful for severe punishment to be inflicted, yet good was done. So also in the case of Kurds who attacked Miss Melton near Amadieh in 1894.

In general, it may be said that they have been successful in securing from the Turkish Government punishment of offenders and indemnity for injuries whenever they have had the cordial support of the home government. Unfortunately there have been times when the State Department has not

[page 545] STATE DEPARTMENTS MISTAKES.

seemed to wholly understand the case, and to imagine that the difficulties which have arisen have been due to the religious character of the work of the missionaries, and that therefore they cannot claim the same protection which would be accorded to any traveler or merchant. This has been a most serious mistake. Those who will read the pages in Chapter X, on Turkey and Europe, in which the first treaty between Suleiman the Magnificent and Francis I of France is described, and which furnished the basis for all succeeding treaties with foreign governments, will readily see that the Turkish Government has always recognized the right of foreigners to conduct public worship, open schools, publish books, etc., and their claims to the protection of their own governments and of the Turkish Government, so long as they do not transgress against the laws of the empire. Only as they do transgress those laws do they forfeit the claim to protection. Each case then should be judged on its merits in the same way that similar judgment would be passed in this country. Men innocent of crime should be protected to the full extent of the power of this government, and for all injury, indemnity should be paid.

There are certain cases of great importance now pending. The burning of the school building at Marsovan in 1893 has already been made good by the payment of indemnity and the granting of a permit for rebuilding. There are to be considered the questions as to the destruction of American property at Harput and Marash, and the injury to American citizens in both places. The responsibility of the Turkish Government is easily recognized from the statements in Chapters XXIII and XXIV, giving account of those massacres. There was military force enough on hand in each place for full

[page 546] CLAIMS FOR REPARATION.

protection, and in Harput, the finding of a bomb from the cannon of the regular Turkish artillery is proof sufficient of the complicity of Turkish officials. The American Government should press the claim for full reparation, including cash indemnity for loss, permits for rebuilding and punishment of the officials who were responsible. Only thus can there be any security for other property or comfort for American lives. The question has been raised as to the return of American citizens from Turkey. It has been urged that all leave the interior cities, as it is impossible to protect them there. The immediate answer is, that it is possible to protect them there, as is evident from the experience of Miss Shattuck at Urfa, and of others at Mosul. The Turkish Government has the power, and will exercise it if it finds it must. The missionaries decline to abandon to the ferocity of brutal Kurds and Turks people whom they love, and large property entrusted to their care, or to sacrifice the commanding influence in the moral and spiritual development of the people gained during sixty years of labor. So long as they are at their posts, the actions of the Turks must be known. Should they leave, massacre, pillage and outrage would be continued with impunity. For every reason, not merely of property, but of humanity, they should be protected in their position.

In one respect America is weak in Turkey, and that is in the matter of diplomatic and consular representation. At Constantinople there is an Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, a Secretary of Legation, a Consul General and Vice-Consul; at Smyrna, Beirut and Jerusalem, Consuls General; at Trebizond, Alexandretta and Mersine, Vice-Consuls, and Consular Agents at some other places. The only Consul in an interior city is at Sivas, though an unpaid Vice-

[page 547] AMERICAN CONSULS.

Consul is located at Aleppo. When the protocol permitting American citizens to hold property in the empire was adopted, it was evident that increased Consular representation throughout the empire would be necessary in view of the large amount of property held and the number of persons resident in places entirely beyond the reach of Consular authority. Nothing, however, was done by Congress, chiefly on the score of economy, and Americans were dependent upon the good offices of the English Consuls at Erzrum, Van, Diarbekir, Mosul, etc. When the Sassun massacre opened the eyes of the world to the situation in Turkey, special effort was made in Congress, resulting in the establishment of two additional Consulates at Erzrum and Harput. The Consuls were appointed and sent to Turkey, but the Turkish Government refused the necessary exequaturs, and they returned to this country, practically no pressure being brought to bear by the State Department in the matter. This was most unfortunate. Had there been a Consul at Harput, the destruction of property would not have occurred, and probably not a little of the horror of massacre would have been mitigated.

The question which, however, has been the most difficult to settle between the two governments has been that in regard to naturalized citizens. The peculiar privileges granted to foreigners under the treaties have always occasioned much hostility on the part of Moslems and been greatly desired by the Christians. The English rule in regard to natives of other countries who secure English citizenship is, that that citizenship is void on their return for residence to their native countries. This principle has been recognized by this country wherever naturalization treaties have been made, as with Germany and other countries. It is an evidently correct principle,

[page 548] NATURALIZATION TREATY.

as otherwise American citizenship could be made use of to avoid military service and many other duties. Soon after the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Turkey, a number of Armenians came to this country for purposes of education or business, became American citizens and afterwards returned to Turkey to live. Among them were some who studied medicine and served in the civil war as surgeons. There was no naturalization treaty, and they claimed and received the full protection and privileges of American citizens. So long as they were few in number there was no difficulty raised, but others of their nation and of other nations looked on with envious eyes, and within the past twenty years their example has been followed, until a large number of Armenian-Americans were to be found scattered over the country. In general, they did not make their American citizenship known until they got into trouble of some sort, but then not infrequently they were the occasion of considerable friction between the governments. The Turkish Government claimed them as Armenians and Turkish subjects; the American Government claimed them as Americans. Ordinarily matters were arranged by some diplomacy, but it became evident that some understanding must be secured. Accordingly a naturalization treaty was drawn up. In it, however, the Turks insisted that it should be retroactive and include all those who were already in Turkey, even those who had served in the American army. This the Senate at Washington refused to allow, and the result was, failure of the negotiations. Since the commencement of disturbances the situation has been much aggravated. The Turkish Government has insisted that certain Armenian-Americans were taking advantage of their American citizenship to disseminate

[page 549] SERIOUS NATIONAL QUESTIONS.

revolutionary ideas, and have sought to secure their arrest and punishment. This was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that several Armenians in this country made addresses in many places, in which they used the bitterest expressions of hostility to the Turkish Government. In view of this, President Cleveland, in an annual message, gave expression to the principle that no government can force the presence of its own subjects upon another government, and that the Turkish Government has a perfect right to exclude from its territory those whom it deems hostile to its interests. While undoubtedly correct as a general principle, it was incorrect in view of the treaties, according to which foreigners have the recognized right to live in Turkey and pursue their business so long as they observe the laws of the empire. In case of transgression of those laws, they are to be tried by their own Consular authorities, the Turkish courts having no jurisdiction except in cases of real estate and in certain matters when a Consular officer is not within reach.

At present the most serious question between the two countries is in regard to the right of domicile of American citizens. The American missionaries stand as the sole witnesses accredited before the world, of the atrocities committed by the Turkish Government, therefore that government is putting forth its best efforts to secure their ejection from the country. They also represent the progress of religious liberty and civilization, both of which are opposed by Russia, who, looking forward to the time when Turkey shall be part of her own empire, and dreading the results of American colleges and schools, sympathizes in the wish of Turkey to eliminate the whole influence of American missions from that land. Unfortunately, working in harmony with these,

[page 550] DECIDED ACTION NECESSARY.

though from an entirely different motive, are some Americans, who feel that there is no advantage in the missionaries remaining there, and think that to press for their protection may involve this country in complications with Europe.

This is not the place to discuss the general policy of this government towards foreign nations. It may, however, be said that so far as complications with Europe are concerned, there need be no fear of them. There is no need of more than the protection of American citizens in their right to stay in a country where they have clear and well defined treaty rights. That is all that is needed, and that surely no American refuse. If the question be asked, how that protection can be assured, the answer simply is, by firm, decided pressure from the American Government. There will be no need of war, or anything approaching it. It may be advantageous to send some ships to the Mediterranean to give ocular demonstration to the Turks that America exists. It may be advantageous to do at Rhodes or Mitylene what England did at Corinto, but even that will not be necessary. Those who have had dealings with the Turkish Government know well that it will always do what it has to. There is no need of bullying, but there must be decided action.

We have said that all that is needed is the protection of American citizens, that is, so far as the executive branch of the Government can go, but surely the people may go farther. They can give expression to their protest against the atrocities that have stirred the whole world. There is a power in the voice of a nation, and if that voice is uttered in clear, unmistakable tones from every city, town and village in the country; by every church, society and organization of any kind, it will have its effect. The Sultan must respect the repeated protest

[page 551] NEED OVERWHELMING.

of Christendom. But that is not all. England, Germany, France, even Russia, will not refuse to heed the words of America. Along with this, however, should go prompt relief. The situation is appalling. Not a tithe of the awful story can be told in these pages. We have told enough, however, to make it clear that the need is overwhelming. Let associations for relief be formed all over the country. The Rev. Frederick D. Greene, Secretary of the National Armenian Relief Committee, 45 William Street, New York City, who has been on the field and knows the situation thoroughly, will give all needed information, and Brown Brothers, the great bankers, 59 Wall Street, New York City, will forward all funds to Americans on the field. Clara Barton and her Red Cross associates and the missionaries are at their posts. Great efforts are being made to force them to leave. America should stand behind them and support them. Humanity and duty demand it.

 


Table of Contents | The Cover, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright Notice, etc.
Introduction | Preface | Turkey in Asia (map) | Table of Contents (as in the book)
List of Illustrations | 1. The Turkish Empire | 2. Population and Languages | 3. Religions
4. The Turks | 5. The Kurds | 6. The Armenians | 7. The Greeks | 8. Other Oriental Churches
9. Rise and Decline of Ottoman Power | 10. Turkey and Europe | 11. Russia and Turkey
12. Mahmud II | 13. Reform and Progress | 14. Treaties of Paris and Berlin
15. Condition of the Christians | 16. The Turkish Government | 17. Protestant Missions in Turkey
18. The Armenian Question | 19. General Situation in 1894 | 20. The Sassun Massacre
21. Politics and Massacre at Constantinople | 22. Massacres at Trebizond and Erzrum
23. Massacres in Harput District | 24. Aintab, Marash and Urfa | 25. Character of the Massacres
26. Religious Persecution | 27. Relief Work | 28. Partition of Turkey | 29. America and Turkey
30. General Survey | Alphabetical Index

Acknowledgements:

Source: Bliss, Rev. Edwin Munsell . Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities. Edgewood Publishing Company , 1896
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

See also:

J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris, Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia
Helen Davenport Gibbons, The Red Rugs of Tarsus
Maj. General James G. Harbord Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia

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