Address to the British Ambassador, (5 March 1856) Istanbul, Ottoman Empire

Speech Text

[1] The undersigned Protestant missionaries, belonging to various Christian churches and societies of Great Britain and America, consider it their duty at the present importance and auspicious period of this empire, signalized by the publication of the imperial hatti-sherif of the reigning Sultan, to give utterance to their feelings of gratitude to God, the giver of every good gift, to express to your lordship their entire satisfaction with the extent and the spirit of that document, relative to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, and to congratulate you on the honor providentially and deservedly conferred upon your lordship of having become instrumental in accomplishing so great and so good a work for the millions of Turkey. While we would gratefully recognize the valuable services, rendered by the representatives of several other countries to forward this praiseworthy end, we cannot but realize that the accomplishment of this work is pre-eminently due, under God, to the influence of the representative of Great Britain.

[2] From the beginning of the disastrous war, still pending between the great western powers and Turkey on one side, and Russia on the other, we have looked upon each passing event with painful and prayerful interest. We have prayed for the maintenance and triumph of right, and for the speedy return of peace—a peace re-establishing justice among neighboring nations, and promoting truth and righteousness, and the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the various classes of society, and the different nationalities resident in the Turkish empire. We have always believed that such would be the result; and this has been our comfort amid the scenes of horror which surrounded us.

[3] Nor has our hope been disappointed. The imperial hatti-sherif, lately published, has convinced us that our fond expectations are likely to be realized. Turkey, snatched from the border of imminent destruction, will see a better day. The light will shine upon those who have long sat in the darkness; and, blest by social prosperity and religious freedom, the millions of Turkey will, we trust, be seen ere long sitting peacefully under their own vine and fig-tree.

[4] Your lordship will allow us to say that we consider the hatti-sherif entirely satisfactory, not only in its social enactments, but also relative to freedom of conscience. To give that bolder utterance to this great principle which some seem to have expected, would in our opinion have been imprudent, and would have retarded the cause of truth instead of advancing it. It would have imperiled the organization and reformation of Turkey. As it is, the prospects of this country appear to us bright. The imperial document will only need a consistent and discreet application when called for, and the world will soon perceive the importance of the imperial act. We would gratefully acknowledge the kindness of the Sovereign of this country, and the wise and liberal moderation of his government. We see no reason to entertain any doubt of their sincerity and loyalty in the promulgation of the imperial edict, or of their intention to give it effect throughout the land. But we cannot help doing justice to the friendly agencies from more enlightened countries, which have led them to take so elevated and enlightened a stand in the future government of this country; and, among these agencies, your lordship will permit us to consider you foremost as the representative of the most liberal Protestant country of Europe. It is highly gratifying to us to give utterance to this just sentiment. We cannot, however, close this inadequate expression of our views and feelings on the subject, without alluding to the necessity of the continued experienced counsel, and the friendly encouragement and assistance too, which the enlightened western powers, and especially England, will have to afford to the government of Turkey, introducing and supporting these principles which are so far beyond the conceptions of an ignorant and fanatical population. The temptation of yielding to circumstances, and of sacrificing the principles of justice and truth to popular prejudice, will be great and constant. The very novelty of the moral principles now to be introduced into the administration of the spiritual interests of society, as well as the depth and extent of their bearings, will for some time to come render experienced counsel and co-operation from abroad a welcome service even to the most vigorous government, in carrying out the intentions of the benevolent Sovereign, and in meting out equal justice to the various religious denominations and to individuals without respect of persons or of traditionary fanaticism.

[5] But, though we consider the problem which is now to be solved a very delicate one, we would look with cheerfulness to the future, trusting in God, who has already done so much for Turkey, and who will doubtless carry forward to completeness the great work of its regeneration.

[6] Our devout wish and prayer in closing is, that it may please God to spare your lordship yet for many years to come to this country, whose wisest measures have been matured for thirty years past under your personal influence and advice. And may the God of all grace accept and bless the labor of your hands, and prepare you for rest in a better world, when the contests and the trials of this present life shall be over!