OPEN LETTER TO THE HONORABLE PRESIDENT WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT
Written by Diana Abgar and originally published in 1910
You are the President of the mighty Republic of the United States of America, and I am only an obscure unit of a forlorn and helpless nation, but encouraged by the intrinsic qualities of your head and heart, and also by the record of great and noble services rendered in the cause of oppressed humanity, by certain of your predecessors in the presidential chair (so encouraged) I venture humbly to address you. The annals of that presidential chair on which you sit are clear and bright as the noonday sun; turning over the pages of their brightness, I am encouraged to address you its present occupant.
Your immediate predecessor rendered a great service in the interests of Humanity, by bringing a terrible and bloody war to its close. His staunch strong hand of friendship was held out to the gallant nation fighting heroically for its national existence, whilst the might of his iron will strenuously contested and made the peace which will ever be associated with his name, but there was a peace which his great heart wished to break but could not succeed in breaking, and which his upright mind has branded as “infamous”: such are his own words “the infamous peace kept by the joint action of the great powers, while Turkey inflicted the last horrors of butchery, torture and outrage upon the men, women and children of despairing Armenia1.” For thirty-one years the great European Powers kept up by joint action an infamous peace, and out of regard for their own selfish interests allowed a corrupt, vicious, gangrened and blood-thirsty power to wreak its hellish atrocities not only on the men, but on the women and children of a helpless nation.
These are strong words, but they are true, and you will agree with me that the meanest and humblest of God’s creatures has a right to speak the truth, and that greatest is the right to speak the truth, when it is spoken in the cause of murdered, outraged and misery-stricken humanity.
The yoke of Turkey rivetted on the necks of the Armenians by England in 1878, was rivetted again by Russia, and yet again rivetted by Germany. The political interests and the commercial interests of Europe have trampled us under foot; we have been sacrificed on the altar of the political animosities of England and Russia, and given over, men, women and children to butchery, slaughter, imprisonment, torture; we have been crushed under the iron wheels of the Baghdad railway, a greater Juggernauth for us, while the ex-Sultan received his payment and “bartered a kingdom for the Kaiser’s friendship”; and yet again we have been crushed when British diplomacy checkmated William of Hohenzollern’s dream.
The death warrant of our bleeding nation has found no place on the table of the Hague Conference of Peace and Civilization since the selfish interests of the European Powers would give it no abiding room. President of a great and free Republic, let it be the work of your mighty hands to lay it there. The Cabinets of Europe have turned a deaf ear to the death shriek of our bleeding nation, let our despairing cry be heard now in the Senate of the United States of America.
It remains for the historian of the future to record the Armenian Massacres as the foulest blot and the blackest stain on European Civilization and European International Morality, but in addressing you now I will turn down the pages of the hideous Past, and humbly lay open the pages of the Present, on which is clearly written the deadly peril in which our nation stands: the book is open, and who will may read. For it is not the goodwill of the new régime that has to be taken into calculation, as far as the Armenians are concerned, but the powerfulness or the powerlessness of the new régime to make for their protection.
How can we forget Adana? A whole town and villages sacked and desolated; fifty thousand of our men, women and children done to horrible deaths, and the residue left to homelessness and starvation. How can we forget that the arch-enemy of Christian and liberal Turk still lives, dethroned but not executed, and that through fear of his worshippers and his adherents the liberal Turks are compelled to pamper and support the monster assassin of the world? When such difficulties beset the path of the liberal Turks, the rulers, what security is there for a subject people, alien in race and religion?
President of a great and free Republic, we need a friend, we ask for your mighty hands to be held out to us in succour, since the number of our enemies are legion: even Nature has arrayed herself against us in the inexorable conditions of the physical geography of our country. Shall the President of a mighty Republic with noble traditions; shall the christian men and women of the United States leave us to our terrible fate?
“To serve Armenia is to serve Civilization.” These words were spoken by a great and revered statesman; the noble handiwork of his Creator (William Ewart Gladstone), now gone to his honored rest. “Do not let me be told that one nation has no authority over another” was his reply to the Armenian deputation which waited on him in 1894. Let his reply be your answer to us now, President of a mighty Republic; let it be your answer written in golden letters across the banner of that great civilization, of which you are the presiding head.
The Republic of the United States of America has been compared to that grain of mustard seed, which when planted in the earth budded forth and grew into such dimensions that the birds of the air lodged under the branches thereof. I pray that the shadow of those branches be extended over my bleeding nation.