Mr. Thayer to Mr. Seward

No. 35.]

Sir: Messrs. Speke and Grant arrived at Alexandria last week, and on the 4th instant left here for England. The report of their discovery of the sources of the Nile is confirmed substantially, as given in my last despatch. The only modification to be made in my former statement is, that Nyanza (called by the explorers Victoria Nyanza) is the principal source of the Nile, and that the name of the other lake, which they have lately discovered is Nzigé, through which body of water the Nile in its course from Nyanza passes. Nyanza had been discovered by Speke on his former expedition, but it was not until the present voyage that it was fully ascertained to be the origin of the White Nile. Lake Nyanza may be found on the map of Africa contained in the atlas of Alexander Keith Johnson, the edition of 1861.

The Viceroy, immediately on hearing by telegraph of the arrival of the travellers at Assonan, sent up the river a government steamer which brought them here. On reaching Alexandria they were presented to his Highness, who treated them with special honor.

Messieurs Speke and Grant left Zanzibar, on the east coast of Africa, on the 1st of October, 1860, and for about two years and a half, until reaching Khartoom, were deprived of all news from the civilized world. During that time they had not heard even a word of the American war. In consequence of hardships they have become old and much worn in appearance, especially Mr. Grant. Mr. Speke, however, contemplates organizing another expedition in England to revisit the region about the Lakes Nyanza and Nzigé. The latter is the lake (and not Nyanza) which Mr. Baker has gone to explore.

The report of the resources of the upper country has stimulated the formation of a company here with a capital of ten million dollars for the purpose of carrying our trade there, as well as in Egypt. Among other objects, it is proposed to advance money to the fellahs at reasonable rates of interest on the security of their forthcoming cotton and grain crops, &c., to import ivory, ostrich feathers, gums, and cattle from the upper country. The trade in cattle is expected to be very profitable, as the cost in the interior is not more than five dollars for an animal that will sell here for from twenty to thirty times that amount Of course, against these advantages are to be reckoned considerable losses of cattle, by disease, or other accident, during the long voyage down the Nile valley.

The cause of the high value of beeves is a sort of cholera which has recently proved very fatal to those of Lower Egypt, killing them, it is said, within three hours of the first attack. Efficient sanitary measures have [Page 1218] been taken by the government board of health, and the malady is now happily diminishing. It is mentioned by Sir Gardner Wilkinson that such epidemics are never known to attack the Buffalo cattle of the country, on which account they are more highly prized by the fellahs than any other kind.

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


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