January 18, 1894
The position taken by President Cleveland in his annual message in regard to Armenians who return to Turkey as American citizens has recently had some significant commentaries. The first is an article that appeared in The Congregationalist of Boston a few weeks since. The other is a meeting held in a hall on Twenty-third Street, in this city, on the evening of the 6th. The article in The Congregationalist was written by the venerable Dr. Cyrus Hamlin of Constantinople, founder of Robert College and the pioneer educator of Turkey. In it he says that it has become well known that there is in Athens a regularly-organized Armenian revolutionary party, with branches all over Europe and in this country. Its avowed object is to arouse the attention of Europe to the atrocities committed by the Turks upon Armenians and thus force action for their freedom from the rule of the Sultan.
In accordance with this plan, bands of Armenians are formed, who are to go through the towns and villages of Asia Minor, attack and kill Turks or Kurds, and then flee to the mountains. The result will be that the Moslems in revenge will attack and burn the Christian villages and outrage, wound, and kill the defenseless women and children. When this has gone on for a time, Europe, they think, will be so enraged that there will be no hindrance offered to Russia’s stepping in, putting her foot on the head of Turk and Kurd, and placing the Armenians in authority in their ancestral domains. Meanwhile, every effort is to be put forth in Europe and America to focus attention upon the Armenians and prepare the minds of the civilized world for the final denouement.
As to the accuracy of the general statements there need, we suppose, be no question. Corroboration, however, will be found in the report of the meeting referred to above. Gathered for the formation of a society on the familiar and harmless basis of the Anglo-American Society in London, its chief object was evidently the glorification of the Armenian race and the honoring of three men who met their death at Marsovan, in Asia Minor, last September. The Armenian flag shared with the Stars and Stripes the honor of encircling the pictures of these martyrs, whose names were embroidered on a deep red band with a black border.
The feature of the evening, however, was an address by the Rev. George H. Filian.
Mr. Filian received his early education at the hands of the American missionaries, but subsequently came to this country for study. For several years he has been pastor of an evangelical church in Marsovan. When the troubles commenced in Asia Minor last Spring he earnestly defended his countrymen against the cruelty of the Turkish Government. As matters grew more critical he thought it comported with his safety to absent himself from his flock and devote his energies to arousing foreign interest in them from a safe distance. For some months he has been giving addresses in various churches in New-York and vicinity, all of which have been keyed in the same tone as that delivered last Saturday night.
In that address he dwelt upon the atrocities committed upon his people, especially the women and children. He claimed that the Armenians are not Anarchists or Nihilists, but patriots and Christians; that they are great bankers and merchants and good people generally, and that on this account the Turks hate and persecute them. Speaking of the Sultan, he said that, whereas he had been called the “sick man,” he is in truth the “dead man”, having neither money nor credit. Whether in this address or not, certainly at other times he has spoken of the Turkish Government as doomed to destruction before the end of this century.
In the first place, as to the standing of the Armenians in Turkey, Mr. Filian’s statement that they are the bankers and chief manufacturers is certainly misleading. There are many bankers and manufacturers among them, but so there are many Greeks and Syrians who hold a no less prominent place in the financial and commercial world. In fact, there is comparatively little of the foreign commerce of the empire in their hands. In this respect they are far outdone by the Greeks. The numbers, too, of the Armenians are frequently very much overestimated. The outside limit for the whole race is probably not over 3,000,000, and there cannot be more than 2,000,000, probably not more than 1,500,000, distributed over the whole Turkish Empire. In the regions of Erzroom, Harput, Van, Aintab, and Merash (sic!) Marash they form the only Christian element. In and near Trebizond, Marsovan, Cesarea (sic!) (Caesarea.), Konia, Brusa, Adana, and Smyrna they are pressed closely, sometimes outnumbered, by the Greeks, while in Diarbekir there are numbers of Jacobites. As a rule they are a thrifty people, industrious and moral, but not more so than the other Christian communities. They are intensely national in their feeling, fully as much so as are the Greeks. This national feeling, however, is apt to degenerate into mere clannishness. There is and has been throughout their history very little of what Western nations call patriotism—that love of country or nation which prompts to unselfish devotion to the general good and willingness to run personal risks. They are very anxious for the benefits of national life, but unwilling to bear its duties or incur its sacrifices.
As to their relations with the Turkish Government, they have undoubtedly suffered very bitterly. The condition of things throughout the Turkish Empire is thoroughly bad. Certain things, however, must be kept in mind. The Armenians, as we have said, are not the only Christians in the empire. If the Turks persecuted them because they are Christians they would hardly fail to visit similar vengeance upon Greeks, Jacobites, Syrians, &c. These latter do suffer, but in many sections it may be doubted— in fact, it is doubted—whether they suffer more than do the Moslem villagers themselves. Furthermore, there are wide sections from which we hear no reports of unusual severity in the treatment of Christians. Almost the entire list of atrocities referred to cites places in the vicinity of Marsovan and Erzroom. That does not mean that there is no suffering in the regions of Harput, Diarbekir, Konia, Smyrna, and Aintab, but it does mean that there is in those places a different and much less intense condition of things. There must be some reason for this. That reason is undoubtedly to be found chiefly in the carrying out of the plans of this Huntchaquist revolutionary party described by Dr. Hamlin. Some of the active members of that party in this country undoubtedly hold American passports. There are many others holding similar passports who are perfectly honest, but we cannot wonder that the Turkish Government, realizing the difficulty of distinguishing between them, asks this Government not to interfere in its acts for its own protection, nor can any one fail to recognize the duty resting upon Mr. Cleveland in the case.
It is no question of sympathy for the oppressed. It is a question simply of fair dealing with a Government with which we are on friendly relations. Whether we approve of the Sultan’s methods of ruling or not, we are bound to deal with him on the basis of his right to rule his own people, just as we would deal with the Czar of Russia. There is, indeed, one important exception, which we have no doubt our State Department keeps constantly in mind. Our treaty rights with Turkey are based upon capitulations having special reference to the personal rights of American citizens which cannot be ignored. Bona-fide American
citizens in Turkey must be protected to the full power of our Government, but that does not mean that every ‘Armenian who chooses to take out naturalization papers here can go back to Turkey and claim American protection in efforts to subvert the Turkish Government. If loyal Armenians wish to secure their undoubted rights they must in some way make it easy to distinguish between them and men who in the name of patriotism encourage the worst kind of outrage. The Sultan has in truth no more peaceable subjects than the great majority of Armenians, and these are uniformly earnestly opposed to such revolutionary movements as being in truth hindrances rather than helps to the attainment of those rights which every right-minded man feels keenly that they ought to have.
COMPILED & EDITED BY VOSGAN MEKHITARIAN, REV. VAHAN OHANIAN
News Reports From The International Press, Volume I, THE NEW YORK TIMES 189O-1914 Published By Genocide Documentation & Research Center, 2O11
Published Under the Aegis of the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic if Armenia