What Happened 1 Day Before Dictator Mustafa Kemal's Death?
- Mustafa Kemal Wanted Turkey to be Ruled By A British Diplomat
Source: Double Diploma: The Life of Sir Pierson Dixon, Don and Diplomat
by Piers Dixon, 1968, Hutchinson of London
Dixon's papers contain a curious account - a telegram from Loraine apparently to Halifax - describing events in Turkey nine months later.
10th November 1938
Yesterday evening I was summoned to go down to Istanbul to the President's bedside. Though I was in the middle of dinner when the message was received I naturally obeyed the summons immediately and left just in time to catch the night train.
On my arrival this morning at the Dolmabagce Palace I found His Excellency propped up by pillows with two doctors and two nurses in attendance. He looked altogether stronger than might have been expected, although his lungs and his kidneys were evidently causing him considerable discomfort. On my entry the President dismissed the doctors and the nurses, telling them curtly that he would ring if he required anything.
After they had withdrawn His Excellency then spoke to me slowly but carefully. He said that he had sent for me because, while he wished in no way to place me in an unfair position, he had an urgent request to make of me to which he hoped I would return a straight reply, I would no doubt recall the many interviews that I had had with him in the past. This might well be the last. In the course of a long and adventurous career, he had made and lost many friends and had taken and discarded much advice. My friendship and my advice was the one which he valued most because it had been the most consistent. It was for this reason that on various occasions, notably over the Alexandretta dispute, he had consulted me as freely as though I had been a Turkish Cabinet Minister myself. It was his prerogative as President of the Republic to nominate a successor before his demise. His most earnest wish was that I should succeed him as President, and for this reason he wished to know what my reactions would be to this proposal.
After some minutes of silent reaction I told His Excellency in reply that I was quite unable to formulate any words which adequately expressed my feelings. Indeed, I was at that moment more deeply moved than I could ever remember being at any other time in my career. By his proposal His Excellency had paid a unique compliment not only to me personally, but also to the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government, which I had always endeavored faithfully to interpret and to further in my capacity as His Majesty's Representative in Turkey. His Excellency would realize that I had spent the greater part of my life in the service of His Majesty's Government, not, I thought, altogether unsuccessfully. I reminded him that when I had been in England in the summer Your Lordship had been most generous in addressing some kind words of appreciation to me in regard to the manner in which I had executed the policy of His Majesty's Government in His Excellency's country. I hoped that I might have many years of such service still in front of me. His Excellency had asked for a straight answer, and I would give him that answer. I gravely doubted whether my best qualities lay in the administrative sphere. The responsibilities of a President of the Turkish Republic were vastly different from those of a British Ambassador and I felt that my abilities and experience were best employed by continuing in the latter capacity.
My duties in this respect were primarily towards my own country, a point of view which so strong a patriot as himself would be the first to appreciate. Were I to accept the suggestion that he should nominate me as his successor, it would create a most dangerous precedent... I must therefore regretfully but firmly decline.
When I had finished speaking the President showed signs of great emotion. He sank back on the pillows and rang for his nurses, who administered a restorative. When he was able to speak again, His Excellency informed me that he fully understood the reasons which had influenced my decision; he was good enough to say that, though bitterly disappointed, it was in a sense the reply which he would have expected from me. He would therefore nominate Ismet Inonu in my place.
Ataturk then raised himself on his elbows and grasped my hand. He thanked me for what I had done for the furtherance of Anglo-Turkish friendship and then sank back again in an unconscious state. I accordingly deemed it best to withdraw.
I have ventured to send this brief account to Your Lordship because what passed between Mustapha Kemal and myself as described in this telegram is, so far as I am aware, unique in the annals of British diplomacy. I desire to place on record my appreciation of this great compliment that has been paid to me.
I shall be most grateful if I can receive from Your Lordship a message of approval of the action which I have taken.
Please inform the King.
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