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Historical Observations: Bishop Manning and the Lausanne Treaty, 1926

January 28, 2023

The New York Times (NYT) published an article titled ‘Charge Turks hold Women in Slavery’ on May 3, 1926 which mentioned the American Committee opposed to the Lausanne Treaty who published a pamphlet titled ‘Kemal’s Slave Market and the Lausanne Treaty.’ This pamphlet showed pictures of Armenian girls with tattoos on their faces, letters, news articles, and stories of atrocities, illustrating the Turks’ anti-Christian policy in the remainder of the publication.

Bishop William T. Manning (1866-1949 of the Episcopal Church) made a statement on the front cover of the pamphlet stating:

“We are bidden to enter into friendly relations with Kemalist Turkey. The present Turkish Government is committing atrocities as unspeakable as those committed by its predecessors. This is made clear by the official report presented to the League of Nations in November 1925 and by other reports.

“More than 100,000 Christian women and girls are at this moment held in vile and loathsome captivity in Turkish harems. This means that these women, whose husbands have been murdered, are held by force among ‘the wives’ of the murderers. It means that little girls whose Christian parents have been massacred are ‘for sale’ for anyone who will buy and are subject wholly to the will of their purchasers.

“It means that Christian girls as refined and educated as any in America with no fathers or brothers left to protect them, are living in slavery far worse to them than death, helpless in the hands of their Turkish officers. Ratification of the Lausanne would mean that our nation assents in silence to these abominations; condones the policy of the present Turkish government, and disregards its promises and obligations. The Lausanne treaty is a challenge to the conscience and honor of America.”

In the above statement, there is mention of League of Nation reports dealing with Armenian women and girls. I found two reports which supports Manning’s statement. One file contains a copy of the British magazine, The Slave Market News (December 1924) containing pictures of tattooed Armenian girls along with “30,000 Christian women and children held as slaves.” Another file titled ‘First Enquiry on the Traffic in Women and Children’ (1925-6) stated that Armenian girls were “being held by Kurds, Arabs, and Turks expressly for the purpose of being sold and when occasion arises in the Moslem harems or worse into brothels.”

Manning’s last paragraph includes terms like ‘silence’, ‘condones’, and ‘disregard’ is a criticism of the U.S. Senate and White House to ratify the treaty. Such words would make the U.S. complicit in the crimes committed by the Kemalist regime. When a bystander nation fails to act or assist a persecuted or massacred minority during a time of genocide, it is as guilty as the perpetrator. Manning sought to prick the conscience of the political elite to do the honorable thing by rejecting the treaty.

The NYT article continued that Manning addressed the Girls’ Friendly Society at the St. John the Divine Cathedral. He added that, “it has not been the habit of our country to give support to the persecutor and oppressor. Those who are seeking to get this treaty ratified, of course, wish us to keep silence, and say that they should not be brought into Church. If ever there was a case in which the voice of the Church should be heard I think this is one. A protest against the treaty signed by the great majority of our Bishops has been sent to the Senate. I hope that the Christian men and women of our land make their sentiments known unmistakably in this matter.”

In early April, 110 Episcopalian Bishops signed a protest which was forwarded to the Senate opposing the ratification of the treaty. On April 5, 1926 Senator Borah (Idaho) wrote to Manning outlining the importance of ratification of the treaty for “our religious, educational, and business interests.” Since other nations had concluded agreements with Turkey, then the United States should follow the same course of action. Borah concluded that the United States should “establish friendly and commercial interests with all governments and peoples.” The editorials supporting ratification of the treaty appeared in the NYT, New York World, New York Herald-Tribune, and Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

In the pamphlet, the Armenian-American lawyer Vahan Cardashian discussed Turkish policy and was highly critical of supporters who sought ratification of the treaty. He outlined that in September, 1922 the Kemalists burned Smyrna before going to Lausanne Conference in November and continued that Kemal enslaved “thousands of Christian women and girls, butchered over 100,000 unoffending and helpless civilians and expelled them at the point of a bayonet over 300,000 Christian men, women and children who were allowed to carry nothing but the rags on their backs.” Kemal destroyed more Christian churches in the Near East, more “than any Turkish regime since the birth of Ottoman Rule at Sugut in 1258.”

Cardashian worked tirelessly for Armenian independence and established the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA) whose activities was to correspond with U.S. politicians and conduct propaganda through the Armenian Press Bureau. The ACIA opposed ratification of the Lausanne agreement on the grounds of protecting “American educational and philanthropic interests in Turkey.” He had an excellent understanding of the workings of the Ottoman Empire as he was employed as the legal counsellor for the Ottoman Embassy in Washington DC and its consulate in New York. He loathed Kemal for its war against the Armenian republic and lamented its occupation by the Bolsheviks in late 1920. His criticism of Kemal was not well received by supporters of ratification of the treaty.

In conclusion, I note that Manning’s and Cardashian’s comments managed to forestall the ratification of the treaty, but only for a time.


This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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