Mr. Thayer to Mr. Seward

No. 30.]

Sir: Shortly after the accession of the present Viceroy disturbances occurred between the native and foreign born residents of Egypt which was thought to betoken a serious uprising of Moslems against Christians. They commenced on the 30th ultimo with the maltreatment of a French subject by an Arab mob but at the instance of the French consul general his Highness inflicted so summary a punishment on the principal offenders that the public alarm has greatly subsided.

By the fanatical party of the Mohammedans it was expected that the new ruler would reverse the tolerant regime of his predecessor, and this expectation was manifested in the form of popular cries and insults to foreigners in the streets, but his Highness has declared himself a friend of religious equality, and announced that he will, with a strong hand, suppress any attempt on the part of his people at tumult or persecution.

If further proof on this point were wanting, it would be found in the reception he yesterday accorded, at his palace in Cairo, to a deputation of American clergymen and missionaries.

As they entered the Viceroy rose from the divan and stood while receiving them. I then spoke (in French) to this effect: “Highness, I have the honor to present to you my fellow-citizens, the Rev. Drs. Dales and Prestley, who represent the national assembly of a very important division of the American church. Before returning to America, to render an account of their visit here, these distinguished gentlemen desire to pay you their respects, and to make known to you their appreciation of your enlightened and liberal policy in regard to the Christians in Egypt.

“I have also the pleasure to present to you messieurs the instructors of the American school in Egypt. If, as your Highness has said in his noble discourse to the consular corps, ‘education is the basis of all progress,’ these gentlemen are the benefactors of the country, and with all my heart I recommend them to your benevolent regard.”

The Viceroy replied that he highly appreciated the honor of this visit from the representatives of the American church, and would do all in his power to make their stay agreeable. To the instructors of the American school he would say, “that he thanked them for coming here to spread the light of civilization and improvement over the country, and at any time they might need it they would have his protection and support.” Such is the substance of the Viceroy’s reply.

The company, numbering eight, were invited to be seated, and an agreeable conversation was held over the chibouques and coffee. His Highness strongly repeated his friendly assurances to the missionaries, approved their efforts, and showed much interest in the details which they gave him of their plans. In short, from the beginning to the end of the interview, he displayed an unaffected liberality of sentiments, which, at this time, is peculiarly reassuring.

The accession of the Viceroy and the arrival of the firman of investiture from the Porte have given occasion to the usual prolonged illuminations and festivities. On the 3d instant his Highness entertained the consular corps in Alexandria at a magnificent dinner, to which the guests were invited to come in uniform. As my uniform happened to be at Cairo, one hundred and thirty miles distant, and as the invitation came too late to telegraph for its transmission by the regular train of that morning, his Highness, without my knowledge, was kind enough to order a special train to bring it in the afternoon, so that I was able to attend the dinner at the palace. I have thought this act of courtesy worthy of my official mention.

[Page 1203]

As a supplement to my despatch No. 29, I here copy from the manuscript the opinion on the condition and resources of Egypt, given by Sir Henry Bulwer, British ambassador to the Porte, at a public dinner, held in Alexandria, January 31, 1862. Sir Henry had passed several weeks of incessant inquiry on the subject of which he speaks:

“The exportations during the last few years have increased by about one-fourth, and importations nearly the same. More than 500,000 acres are cultivated now that were not cultivated five years ago, and the produce will be about double this year what it was a few years since. Let me add that the production of cotton has, within a short period, had an immense increase, while its value was four times what it was; and it is gratifying to connect with this improved profit of the soil a fact to which I have already alluded, viz: that the serf of former times had become, under Said Pacha’s reign, a proprietor.

“The revenue, which has increased in much the same proportion, in imports and exports, is £3,700,000; and the whole amount of obligations about £11,000,000. Of these £2,400,000 represent a loan bearing interest at ten per cent., which will be extinguished in thirty years. Various obligations amount, with the interest, to £5,000,000; but they have to be paid within a short period, and this is the principal cause of the Viceroy’s embarrassments at this moment.

“£3,600,000 are set down to engagements with the Suez Canal Company, for which 15,000,000 of francs of treasury bonds have been given; the rest is fortunately to be acquitted by graduated payments which terminate in the year 1874.

“But the main fact to consider is, that the annual expenses of the government may be satisfied with about £2,000,000. The rest remains at the Viceroy’s disposal, and, consequently, after withdrawing all that he can personally require, upwards of £1,000,000 can be annually applied to the extinction of existing debts, and when the pressing portions of these debts are extinguished, to objects of public utility and improvement.

“I cannot but acknowledge that with the balance at his disposal, his Highness, Said Pacha should not have got into difficulties. Nevertheless, taking things as they are, many states would be glad to be in no greater difficulties than he is at this moment.”

The improvidence of the late Viceroy exemplified the singular opinion entertained by his distinguished father on the subject of political economy. In Sir John Bowring’s report on Egypt, prepared by order of the English government in the year 1839, the writer says of Mehemet Ali:

“He once said to me, ‘I have desired Hekekyan (Bey) to prepare for me an account of the exports and imports of the United States of America. They send away more of their goods than they take from others, so their trade must be profitable.’ I endeavored to show him that if the trade was profitable, the amount of imports must be more than that of exports, the balance being the profit; but that in all statements of imports, bullion and smuggled goods escaped the notice in the official tables. He inquired what was the rate of interest in the United States. Is it not a pity they have no national debt? He said, ‘for a national debt helps to develop the resources of a nation. It is a good thing to have a national debt.’ I answered him that we would willingly give him a portion of ours.”

If Mehemet Ali had lived until this day he would have ceased to commiserate us for the want of a national debt.

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


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