Dr. James L. Barton to Admiral Mark L. Bristol (1921)
Dr. Barton’s reply to Ambassador Bristol. Dr. Barton talks about the Armenian lobby in the United States and their claims, which he believes are far from reality.
U.S. Library of Congress:
American Board of Commissioners
For Foreign Missions
Admiral Mark L. Bristol
United States High Commissioner
My dear Admiral Bristol:
I want to express my high appreciation of your letter of the 28th of March, just received, discussing with such thoroughness those fundamental questions which lie so near the hearts of both of us and to a great multitude beside, namely, the Near Eastern question as relates to Turkey and Armenia. I was especially interested in the results of your observations on your important trip to Egypt, Palestine and Syria, and particularly your observation of the attitude of the French in Syria toward the American institutions. I have recently received a communication from the Acting President of Beirut University, who takes practically the same position that you take, namely, that at present the French seem very friendly and cordial, but fearing that when they have thoroughly established themselves in Syria they will not favor an American institution of the power and influence that Beirut University has over the people of that country. Even if they do not fear that the influence of the University will be used against French administration, they would naturally be jealous of an institution that was so entrenched in the affection and confidence and heart of the people.
Right in that connection my attention has today been called to certain stipulations of the Peace Treaty, namely, that “only nationals of countries that are members of the League of Nations can be used as missionaries in possessions under their mandates.” I am quoting the statement as it came to me. I have not the exact terms before me. It raises at once the question whether the United States will accept such a decision which might rule all American missionaries out of mandatory countries, and this might become a precedent for the application of the same principle to missionaries already working in countries within the League, as India, Ceylon, South Africa, etc.
But to return. Our missionaries in Constantinople and throughout the interior have repeatedly referred to the great help you are to them in dealing with local questions, of which there are many and many of which are complicated. I have spoken of this before, but it is impossible to write you without referring to it again. Dr. White and Mr. Riggs have just written quite at length on the subject.
With reference to the false reports that come through reporting massacres of the Armenians by the Turks, there is no one who can deprecate this more than I do. But there is a situation over here which is hard to describe. There is a brilliant young Armenian, a graduate of Yale University, by the name of Cardashian. He is a lawyer, with office down in Wall Street, I believe. He has organized a committee, so-called, which has never met and is never consulted, with Mr. Gerard as Chairman. Cardashian is the whole thing. He has set up what he calls an Armenian publicity bureau or something of that kind, and has a letterhead printed. Gerard signs anything that Cardashian writes. He told me this himself one time. Cardashian is out with his own people and with everybody else, except Gerard and perhaps one other leading Armenian who was in London a month ago, Pasdermadjian. Not long since Cardashian came out with a pamphlet in which he charged the Near East Relief and the American missionaries as being the greatest enemies Armenia has ever had, claiming that they, in cooperation with President Wilson, had crucified Armenia, and a lot of other matter of this character. He claims to have the latest and fullest information out from Armenia and keeps in pretty close touch with Senator Lodge, the President, the State Department, and others in Washington. He has Gerard’s backing. We have had many a conference with Armenian leaders as to what can be done to stop this vicious propaganda carried on by Cardashian. He is constantly reporting atrocities which never occurred and giving endless misinformation with regard to the situation in Armenia and in Turkey. We do not like to come out and attack him in public. That would injure the whole cause we are all trying to serve, because people would say that we are quarreling among ourselves and would lose confidence in the whole concern. We have tried in the New York office to give publicity to nothing we did not have every reason to believe to be correct. We are therefore trying to keep controversial matters out and only keep before the public the actual needs in Armenia.
Our Committee itself is hampered by the attitude taken by the Executive that we must not do anything that could be called political. In the literature we have given out we have never suggested that America should take a mandate of Armenia or of any part of Turkey. That is politics. We have simply spoken need and have tried to interest the American people in the need there in the country. I am to have a meeting of the Executive next week called to consider whether the time has not come for us to go a step further. People are saying, “For years you have kept these suffering people alive, while on the other hand political conditions have prevented their being restored to their homes and have contributed to increasing the number of refugees and orphans. Why do you not do something to remove the cause of the trouble?’ Our answer has been, “That is politics. We are a relief organization.’ At the same time they come back at us and say, “What better relief or more effective can be carried on than to remove the cause and let these people go back to their homes in peace and quiet and there become self-supporting.’ I do not know what attitude the Executives will take. If they are favorable, we shall prepare a statenient and send it through our organizations all over the country, trying to get pressure brought to bear upon Washington to do exactly what you so fully outline in your letter,take a hand in the settlement of affairs in the Near East.
When I was in London a little over a month ago, several of the leaders like Lord Bryce expressed their conviction that if the United States would be willing to loan money that some European nation would step in and take a mandate over some section of the Turkish Empire into which the Armenians could be gathered and thus established a safety zone. There is no doubt that now with the temper of the Turk stirred up by the fact that the Armenians fought with the French in Cilicia against the Turk is a very severe threat to the Armenians. Many of the Armenians are still full of revolutionary spirit and I cannot but believe that in Cilicia we have all of the elements which might precipitate another series of atrocities on both sides, for I know that the Armenians have not refrained from acts of atrocity when they had the power in their hands, and that is one of the reasons why the Turks are so incensed at the present time. Dr. Martin in Aintab has recently written that the Turks in the market place have threatened that when they come back into power, as they expect soon to do, they will rebuild the destroyed mosques and minarets with Armenian skulls. I fear that while we are waiting to get the United States to take a large view of the Near Eastern situation and a large part in its solution the Armenian element may be largely, if not wholly, eliminated.
I probably have suffered as much from the lack of appreciation on the part of Armenians as anyone. For twenty-five years I have worked for them. I doubt if there is anyone in the country that has been more frequently attacked than have I, from Cardashian down. Some -and this number is not few- have remained absolutely loyal and appreciative. But they are a peculiar people. They have a great faculty of making themselves disliked wherever they go and by most people who move among them, and yet we must remember they are human beings with capacity for education, development and reform. I feel intensely sorry for them and am ready to work on. I would not be in favor of putting the Armenians into power anywhere without having some restraining influence among them that would prevent their illtreatment of any subject races under them.
In my previous letter to you I spoke of Armenia at the time when the loan was considered and established fact. I referred of course only to the Armenia in Russia which had been recognized in Washington to the extent that it was willing to accept the signature of its officials as guarantee for the repayment of the loan. I think the same was true in England. I was not, of course, referring to any Armenia in Turkey outlined by the President.
I am sending you under another cover a copy of the May number of the Missionary Herald with an article by me which may interest you. I have had this reprinted and am sending copies to officials in Washington and to the members of the Foreign Relations Committee of both the Senate and the House. There has got to be a system of far-reaching education in this country before Congress will be brought to take any action whatever with reference to the Near East or its relation to an association of nations. Senator Lodge and his group are absolutely and irrevocably opposed to America’s taking any kind of mandate anywhere.
I have about the same feeling for the Greeks that you have. They have, however, one of the best publicity bureaus in the world and are working it to the limit here in the United States.
Mr. Dodge and I are planning to stand by the Near East Relief through this year, but we do hope that before another twelve months rolls around something will be done that will make the sending of continuous relief into that country unnecessary, apart from the care of the orphans.
You refer again to the subject of caring for the children and of giving relief to others than Armenians. In the reports that I see from all over the field that seems to be what is being done. The Red Cross people have seemed to be fully satisfied with the way their contributions have been used in this respect. The most dissatisfied people we deal with are the Armenians who say that we are diverting money intended for them.
But I did not mean to run on at such length. I want again to say how deeply I appreciate your letter. I am letting others in the Rooms read it. I understand that none of it is for publicity, although I may take the liberty of reading a few words from it at the meeting of the Twentieth Century Club where I speak tomorrow afternoon.
Please remember me most kindly to Mrs. Bristol, and believe me, my dear Admiral Bristol.
Very faithfully yours,
James L. Barton
Source: U.S. Library of Congress: