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Letter

1896-08-28

SALT

SALT
İstanbul, Turkey

Sir Edgar Vincent's letter to the London committee of the Ottoman Bank, reporting on the events of 26 August. 28 August, 1896

Details

  • Title: Letter
  • Date: 1896-08-28
  • Transcript:
    On Wednesday 26 a little after one p.m., a band of about 25 Armenians rushed at the door of the Bank, shot two of our Turkish Guards, and wounded two Montenegrin Guards, who blocked the way. Some of them were dressed as "hammals" and carried on their backs sacks similar to those in which silver is transported and which, in this case, contained bombs and dynamite. It appears that they originally met under four leaders in four small streets in the vicinity of the Bank: the whole body only came together as they made the attack. Once in the interior of the Bank, they commenced firing with revolvers in all directions and throwing bombs. Some of them closed and barricaded the entrance so as to prevent the police from entering and the Bank employees from escaping; others rushed upstairs and took possession of the roof, which constituted the only means of egress, except the main entrance, which was already barricaded. All of them carried revolvers and bombs. With these they forced the employees of the Bank into different rooms preventing them from getting to the staircase. The police, who had by this time arrived to the scene was driven off by bombs dropped from the roof. In the Bank, the Armenians proceeded to place their bombs and dynamite in a way that ensured the total destruction of the building as soon as fuses were lighted. Their plan was to hold the Bank for two days and, blow it up if the Ambassadors did not accept their demands at the end of that time. It appears that they had sent a preliminary letter to the Ambassadors on the 25th, and at 4 o'clock on the 26th, a man wearing a straw hat had left a lithograph letter at the different Embassies at Therapia and Buyukdere. The letter was clearly written previously but was signed on that date at the Bank. It ran somewhat as follows: "We have taken possession of the Bank and shall blow it up with all that it contains tomorrow night, unless Europe listens to our demands. We have attacked the Bank, because we can thus strike Europe. The Powers have said ‘la force prime le droit;' so we are determined to show Europe what the Armenian nation is capable of. "When the attack took place, I was on the second floor, and soon saw that the only plan was to get out through the Régie, collect the police, and capture the assailants, either by taking them in the rear, or by bringing the police through the Régie on to the roof of the Bank. I first sent Mr. Reeves, and subsequently followed myself. When I got into the Régie, I found that all egress was closed, and only succeeded in getting free two hours later-principally through Hussein Pasha, the head of the Galata police, who was severely wounded in the foot trying to get me out. From 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., I was at the old Bank,trying to get the police and the troops to act with some skill and decision, but they would do nothing without orders from the Palace. From 1.15 p.m. to 3 p.m. a fusillade continued the police and the soldiers from outside shooting at any head which appeared at the windows of the Bank, and the Armenians shooting and throwing bombs at the soldiers. About 3 p.m. an agreement was made between the revolutionary leaders and Mr. Auboyneau to the effect that the latter should proceed to the Palace and arrange terms-hostilities on both sides being stopped until his return. A letter in this sense was written by one of the Palace Secretaries-who happened to be in the Bank at the time of the attack-and thrown out of the window to the head of the police. After an exchange of three further letters, and much delay, during which Mr. Auboyneau incurred great danger of being shot by both sides, he and the Palace Secretary were let down from a window on the first floor, and proceeded to the Palace. The Government at first declined to accept any terms, and said that the troops must clear the Bank, no matter whether blown up or not.Things were in this position when I arrived at the Palace about 6 o'clock. On learning that no less than 140 Bank employees were shut up prisoners in the Bank, I told the Government that they must not take the place by assault, as this would lead to the death of all in the building. I advised them to send for the Dragomans of the Embassies, and to arrange means of getting the Bank employees away, and, if possible, of saving the building. The Armenians had declared that they would not negotiate with any Turkish officials; as they knew that they would be betrayed.The Sultan asked me to convey to the Armenians his promise of a free pardon, and free exit from the country. I declined the mission, unless accompanied by some delegate of the European Powers. I did this, with the conviction that, unless there existed a guarantee of the Powers, the Turks would not keep the promises they made, and would certainly allow the Armenians to be massacred by the populace on their way from the Bank to the Quay. The fanatics and Muslim followers had already commenced to massacre every Armenian they found in the streets.At this juncture, the first Dragoman of the Russian Embassy. -M. Maximow- arrived at the Palace and agreed to proceed to the Bank with a Turkish Functionary and myself, in order to convey to the Armenians the Sultan‘s free pardon, on the condition that they do no further damage.About 10 p.m. we drove from the Palace to the Bank-passing over more than 40 bodies on the main road between Dolmabahtché and Top-hané. The first measure, was to have all the streets in the vicinity of the Bank cleared of the populace. We then proceeded to the street outside the Bank and commenced to discuss terms with the two leaders, who remained at the first floor window, each with a revolver in one hand and a bomb in the other. At first they absolutely declined to come out, saying; "We will wait here until tomorrow evening; the Ambassadors can send their Dragomans, and if they promise us the fulfilment of our demands, we will come out: if not, we will blow everything up. We have already made the sacrifice of our lives knowing, when we came here, that we could not escape alive. "The discussion lasted nearly three hours. It was principally owing to the great skill of M. Maximow that they were finally convinced to come out, on the following terms; 1- That they should be taken straight on board by yacht; but to avoid treachery, we should walk down to the Quay with them: 2- That the Dragomans of the Embassies should come the next day and discuss their demands with them: 3- That they should keep their revolvers, but should give up all their bombs and explosives: The weapons surrendered in the Bank included: 45 Bombs 25 Dynamite Cartridges and 11.400 kilo grams dynamite. Notwithstanding their promise to leave all explosives behind, we found the next day, that they had a large bomb on board in addition to their revolvers and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.M. Maximow and I accompanied them board the yacht in two Admiralty launches, and then returned to the Palace to insist on troops being called out the next day to preserve order, and to press for orders being given to the police to disarm the Bashi-Bozouks and fanatics, who armed with bludgeons, were sweeping the streets-killing every Armenian they see. Formal promises with regard to both these demands were given, but were not executed. On Thursday at 7 a.m. I called on the French and English Chargés d'Affaires to request Stationnaires to be sent down to Moda, to line up alongside the yatch "Gulnare" prevent the Armenians being lynched by the fanatics. At 10 a.m. the Ambassadors had a meeting, during which they confirmed the promises made by Mr. Maximow, and arranged for the Armenians to be sent off by the Messageries S.S. "Gironde" at 5 p.m. the same day. This plan was carried out.Desultory massacre continued throughout the day yesterday, accompanied by a considerable amount of looting. Business was entirely suspended and all shops were closed.The attempt on the Bank formed part of a larger scheme that aimed to attack and seize principal buildings of Constantinople. Due to the explosions at Galata Serai and in the Grande Rue de Pera several soldiers were killed. The planned attack at the Sublime Porte, did not take place. At Psamatia, near the walls, and at Haskeui, bombs were thrown. And several seizures of bombs were consequently made.How desperate the attempt was, may be judged from the amount of dynamite brought into the Bank. We may congratulate ourselves for having saved the building from destruction and having preserved the lives of the employees. In total, there were four dead and eight wounded among the servants and employees; and on the Armenians' side, four were killed and six wounded.
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