Mr. Thayer to Mr. Seward

No. 28.]

Sir: I am informed that some time since the French minister of foreign affairs at Paris announced to Lord Cowley the Emperor’s wish to procure blacks from Egypt. This report somewhat confirms the surmise in my last despatch that the Emperor had sounded the courts of Europe before taking a step which would violate the rights of the Porte, as suzerain of Egypt. [Page 1200] It also partially accounts for the confidence with which, in official quarters here, it was predicted that there would be no protest from the European powers against the offence. In what light the proposed measure was presented to secure in advance such an acquiescence I can only conjecture. If these reports be true, the United States is the only great power which is not hampered from protesting against the Emperor’s transaction.

On the 20th instant, at 2 o’clock p. m., the consular corps were formally received by the new Viceroy, Ismael Pacha, at the citadel, in Cairo. With the military display, and the attendance of the high officers of government, who, like his Highness and the consuls general, were in uniform, the ceremony was somewhat imposing. The Viceroy listened, standing, to the address of the consular corps, which was read by the Austrian consul general, and delivered a brief and well expressed reply declaratory of his policy. The main features of this policy were announced to be the development of agriculture and commerce; the adoption (contrary to the system of his predecessors) of a civil list, which he will not exceed; the suppression of government corvees, which have withdrawn so much labor from agriculture; encouragement of public instruction, strict administration of justice, and order and economy in the finances. The consular address and the Viceroy’s reply are herewith transmitted, marked A.

His Highness also stated, in reply to a remark by the French consul general, that, in abolishing corvees, he had no design to arrest the works on the Suez canal, which are largely carried on by that system.

The Viceroy and his official guests then seated themselves on the divan, and, after the usual civilities of pipes and coffee, the reception closed.

The new Viceroy, who is a son of Ibrahim Pacha, the conqueror of Syria and Greece, receives the viceroyalty not in the direct line, but according to the rule which gives the succession to the oldest male of the blood of Mehemet Ali.

He has begun his administration by several energetic measures for the promotion of agriculture and commerce. The government steamers have been ordered to transport the cotton of the interior to this port, a work too great for the present railway facilities of Egypt. The enterprise of laying a double track of rails between here and Cairo has been hastened, and the corvee of laborers for building palaces and works of no public utility has been stopped.

Ismael Pacha has already shown a very considerable administrative talent in the conduct of his private affairs. His vast sugar and cotton estates have been managed with a prudence and skill which have proved highly remunerative, the value of his cotton crop alone for the past season being estimated at one million of dollars. His success on more than one occasion as regent, during the late Viceroy’s visits abroad, also affords a favorable augury for the future.

I cannot allow the death of Said Pacha to pass without recurring to some of his claims to public remembrance.

Mohammed Said Pacha, son of Mehemed Ali, and the fourth hereditary Viceroy of Egypt, was born in 1822, and began his reign on the 14th July, 1854, ruling nearly nine years. Those nine years have been, perhaps, the most fruitful of benefits that Egypt has enjoyed for many centuries. During that period the oppressive monopoly enjoyed by the government of the agricultural products of the country has been abolished, together with the vexatious system of internal custom-houses. The lands of which the Viceroy was once exclusive proprietor have been divided among the shieks and heads of village families. The laborer has been freed from the serfage which bound him to the soil where he was attached, foreign enterprise and [Page 1201] improvements have been encouraged, and heavy taxes have been remoedc at the sacrifice of a large part of the Viceroy’s revenue. From all these, as well as other beneficent reforms, the country has to thank Said Pasha. Without his aid, also, the Suez canal would not have been attempted, and, amid all its obstacles, he has been its steadfast friend.

He has made most liberal gifts to schools and churches of all Christian sects established here, and, on several occasions, has effectively checked religious fanaticism and persecution, in spite of the adverse pressure of the Mohammedan hierarchy.

The United States are under special obligations to his friendship. The prompt and unequivocal announcement at the outbreak of our southern rebellion of his purpose to exclude from his harbors all vessels bearing an unrecognized flag, the facilities he offered us for obtaining Egyptian cotton on a footing with the manufacturers of England, the severity with which he punished the influential persecutors of the American missionaries’ agent, and the noble gift to the American school of a building worth $50,000, have been recorded in my former despatches.

Said Pacha had enjoyed a fine education. In youth he had studied mathematics, design, and nautical science, besides undergoing a long and severe apprenticeship in the naval service until, in the time of his not too indulgent father, he became admiral of the Egyptian fleet. He was very familiar with the oriental and French languages, and had a slight acquaintance with English and other tongues. He was a man of quick wit, varied intelligence, enlightened opinions on many subjects, and of very agreeable social qualities. His impulses were generous, and undue advantage was often taken of his facile disposition.

He could hardly avoid the influence of the system in which he was brought up, and his conduct at times was the natural result of the union of unregulated passions with the possession of despotic power. He was extravagantly fond of military pomp, and, notwithstanding a private income larger than that of any European sovereign, he embarrassed himself by his prodigal expenditure for the army. The last freak of this kind attributed to him was the purchase of 20,000 uniforms, of which the buttons, even of the ordinary soldiers, were of solid silver and of large size. The evils of this extravagant taste were aggravated by his aversion to the details of business.

In religion he was an indifferent mussulman, but paid respect to the belief of his people by making, in February, 1861, the pilgrimage to Medinah, which once in a lifetime is required from every follower of the Prophet. On one occasion, when speaking of his relations with the Porte, he told me he knew that, without the adverse intervention of European governments, he could easily establish his independence, but that the declining power of Mohammedanism made it a patriotic, as well as a religious, duty that its disciples should remain one people. He admitted that the decline of Mohammedanism was due to the bigotry of its religious leaders and their opposition to that spirit of improvement which characterizes the nations of the west.

Said Pacha leaves but one child, Tousoon Pacha, a boy of ten years of age.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C