Mr. McMath to Mr. Hunter

No. 27.]

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.

[Page 354]

Copy of the note to Mr. Bargash, referred to in the previous despatch.

The collective opinion of the representatives of foreign powers in Morocco upon the measure adopted by the Bashaw of Tetuan against certain respectable Israelites of that city, counsels, and views, communicated on this subject to Sedi Mohammed Bargash:

From the official reports of the vice-consuls at Tetuan, it appears that the Bashaw of that city has arrested some members of the Israelite community, with the exception of those who are foreign-protected. They have been charged with irons, and are to be carried to Meccanez. This severe measure has no other motive than that these Israelites have refused some months since to accept and pay, according to usage, a caid for the Israelite quarter of that city. Moreover, the Bashaw threatened the members foreign-protected of that community to expel them from the empire. We protest energetically against this last measure, which is contrary to existing treaties.

The undersigned desire to make known to his Majesty the Sultan the cruel manner with which his sovereign order has been executed. If all the accused are culpable, the undersigned are disposed to do justice concerning the complaint against the members foreign-protected; but as to the other members who are in irons, the undersigned consider it an act of unqualified cruelty to leave them in this dreadful situation until they be sentenced upon a cause in which these Israelites should all be equally bound. In consequence the undersigned demand, in the first place, that the persons incarcerated be freed from the irons until the Sultan shall be able to take into consideration the cause of their offence, and make known what shall be their condition in order not to incur this misfortune. The undersigned, persuaded that the Sultan, in his justice and wisdom, desires to preserve friendly relations with Christian powers, consider it their duty to inform his Cherifian Majesty of the acts of cruelty which have been perpetrated in his name. All are desirous not to see the authority of the Sultan set at naught; and they cannot help to inform him of certain energetic observations, that, undoubtedly, by the exaggerated zeal of his agents, a general cry of indignation from without may occur by a neglect of humanity, which is completely in opposition to the character for justice and generosity of his Majesty Sedi Mohammed.

E. DELUIN, Consul General for Belgium.

F. MERRY Y COLON, Minister for Spain.

JESSE H. McMATH, Consul General for the United States.

AYMEE D’AGUIRE, Minister for France.

J. H. DRUMMOND HAY, Minister for Great Britain.

A. VERDINOIS, Consul General for Italy.

JOSÉ CALASCO, Consul General for Portugal.

G. D’EHRENHOFF, Consul General for Sweden and Norway.

Mr. McMath to Mr. Bargash

Sir: The undersigned, prompted no less by the feelings of humanity than by a sense of justice for unoffending Moorish subjects, is constrained to call the attention of the minister for foreign affairs to the very grave conduct of his Majesty’s authorities with reference to the cruel treatment of the four aged and respectable Israelites again confined in a loathsome prison in Tetuan. The circumstances of the arrest and imprisonment of those persons are already well known to your excellency. It will also be borne in mind that the charge preferred against them was also made against eight other Israelites, equally respected, the latter being foreign-protected. I am officially advised by the vice-consul of the United States at Tetuan, who was ordered to be present and report the result of the inquiry of guilt against the Israelites Spanish-protected, and who were impartially tried before the Spanish tribunal at that place, that there was no evidence tending to criminate said Spanish protégés, and therefore they were dismissed. This, then, leads me to the conclusion that the four Israelites now imprisoned are innocent of any offence against his Majesty’s authority, and their continued [Page 355] imprisonment upon unfounded charges will prove, if persisted in, highly scandalous to the Moorish government, and provoke the indignation of the friends of humanity throughout Europe and America. Therefore, I demand that said Israelites be at once set at liberty.

I avail of the occasion to assure your excellency of my high consideration and regard.


His Excellency Sedi Mohammed Bargash, His Majesty’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.