Mr. McMath to Mr. Hunter
Sir: An incident has occurred at Tetuan which has caused a great sensation in this country. The facts which have come to my knowledge are as follows:
It appears that, according to an ancient custom, an old Moorish soldier acted as guard in the Jewish quarter and was paid out of the Jewish communal fund. This post had not been filled for four months, owing to the illness of the present guard. Some weeks previous to the 3d ultimo the Bashaw sent a message to the Jewish representative committee, claiming the guard’s salary. The committee, in their turn, requested the Bashaw to relieve them of the expense, as the services of so old a man could well be dispensed with, seeing that the post had not been filled for four months. Moreover, owing to the late dearth consequent on a severe winter, the funds of the community were already in arrear, and they were not able to afford this charge. The Bashaw said nothing until the 3d of April, when he summoned to his presence the committee, composed of twelve persons. He told them he had received peremptory orders from the Sultan to place five soldiers as guards in the Jewish quarter instead of the one they formerly had, and to put in irons and send to the presence of the Sultan, at Meccanez, those members of the committee who were Moorish subjects, while those who were under foreign protection were to be banished from the country for the alleged crime of having rebelled against the Sultan’s authority in refusing [Page 353] to keep the old Moorish guard. The vice-consuls were sent for to decide which of the members were under their protection, and they selected eight. The remaining four were immediately put in irons previous to being sent to Meccanez. Whereupon the vice-consuls energetically protested against banishing any persons under their protection, and appealed against the imprisonment of the four Jews. After expostulations with the Bashaw, the vice-consuls obtained from him the promise that he would postpone sending the persons to Meccanez for three days, that they might write to their chiefs in this city and obtain a reply. On the affair becoming known at this place no time was lost in drawing up a collective note, signed by all the foreign representatives, and addressed to M. Bargash, minister for foreign affairs, protesting, in the name of justice, against the arbitrary and tyrannical measure adopted. This note had due weight with the Moorish minister, who answered that he would order the Bashaw of Tetuan not to send the Jews to Meccanez, promising, also, to release them from their irons. Three days having, however, elapsed without any of these promises being carried into effect, the British minister, Spanish minister, the consul general of Portugal, and myself, not to be misled by promises, again took steps with the Moorish minister, which resulted in the removal of the chains from the prisoners and their transfer from their dungeons to more comfortable quarters; and hopes were entertained that as soon as the Sultan was made acquainted with the attitude of the foreign representatives his Majesty would order the men to be put at liberty. But before the return of the courier from Meccanez, the ashaw again transferred the four Jews to their former dungeons. Thereupon each of the foreign representatives, except the minister for France, on the 28th ultimo addressed a note to the Moorish minister, demanding, in the name of justice and humanity, that the four persons be at once set at liberty; that if the four were guilty of any crime their colleagues must be equally guilty, and that steps had been taken by the vice-consuls at Tetuan to bring the eight persons, foreign-protected, before a proper tribunal for trial; that after a careful examination of all the facts and circumstances in the case, they had been adjudged not guilty of any offence, and therefore, as no further or stronger proof could be adduced against the four Moorish subjects who were imprisoned in irons on a similar charge, justice and humanity alike demanded that they at once be set at liberty; and I am glad to say this demand was at once complied with, and the four persons are now at liberty.
One of the eight Jews was American-protected—being the clerk of our commercial agent at that place—one Austrian and six Spanish-protected. The latter were brought to trial before the Spanish consul at Tetuan. My agent was ordered to be present, as well as the vice-consuls, and after a careful and impartial investigation the Spanish protégés were pronounced innocent of the violation of any law. My agent reported the evidence and finding of the tribunal, and I ordered him to take no steps against our protégé. The proceeding on the part of the Moors had its origin in a fanatical hatred for the Jews, and I am of the opinion, from many circumstances connected with this transaction, that the order for their arrest and imprisonment emanated from the Moorish minister, and that the Sultan knew nothing of it until the arrest was made and reported to his Majesty, who at once sent his order to the minister here to release the Jews. The Sultan is well disposed towards this part of his subjects, but his officers, wishing to show their authority, frequently manufacture the most unfounded accusations against them, and impose upon the Sultan by representations that have no foundation in fact.
I trust my action in this affair will meet the approval of the department.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William Hunter, Acting Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.