Mr. Thayer to Mr. Seward

No. 36.]

Sir: The murrain among Egyptian cattle, which in my last I mentioned as subsiding, has taken a new start, and threatens to equal in violence that of the year 1847, which carried off almost the whole stock in the country. Even the new supplies which come from Upper Egypt, the Barbary coast, and Anatolia, in Asia Minor, soon fall victims to the disease. On some large estates all the animals employed in turning the water wheels, and in other processes of agriculture, have been destroyed. This is a serious injury to the growing cotton crops, requiring an immediate resort to horses and steam machinery. In fact, I am informed that the Viceroy intends imitating the successful experiments of his uncle, Halem Pacha, to order at once forty steam ploughs and steam pumps to supply a part of the necessities of his own plantation. The loss to Egypt from the murrain will, it is supposed, not fall short of $10,000,000, which will considerably reduce the profits expected from the present high prices of cotton.

At first it was hoped, by vigorous sanitary measures, such as prohibiting cattle fairs, and the removal of cattle from one village to another, and by burying the dead at once, entire, including skins, hoofs, and horns, to confine the pestilence to the west side of the Nile, where it commenced; but all hope of resistance failed a few days since when it crossed over to the Delta, where it soon destroyed 70 or 80 per cent. of the cattle on the estates on which it has appeared. In consequence of the panic thus occasioned, although all beef is slaughtered and brought to market under the surveillance of the government health officers, it has ceased to be a favorite article of food. My servant tells me this morning that none is to be had in the market.

The result of the diminution of cattle will doubtless be the importation of new stock, which is said to be worth about $250 a head; besides, as already mentioned, the extended use of steam machinery, such as steam ploughs and steam pumps, in agriculture. It requires, perhaps, one-third of the land to sustain the laborers and animals needed in cultivating it, and it is found on large estates more economical to use steam, especially when, as now, coal can be bought at $10 a ton, including original cost and expense of transportation from England. It seems to me that in the supply of machinery of this kind the manufacturers of the United States ought to be able to compete with England, which now almost monopolizes this branch of industry.

Prince Napoleon and the Princess Clotilde, who have been in Egypt during the last six weeks, left Alexandria on the 16th instant. In that period his Imperial Highness visited the works on the Suez canal, and travelled in a [Page 1219] steamer up the Nile as far as Philae. Many and distinguished hospitalities were lavished upon him by the Viceroy and the French and Italian residents here. On the 14th instant he was present at a military review of 14,000 Egyptain troops on the plain of Toura, a village east of the Nile, about ten miles south of Cairo, on which occasion the consular corps were invited to attend. The Viceroy and the guests were in a tent on a hill overlooking the plain on which the troops were reviewed. Before us was the Nile. Beyond, the palm grove covering the buried ruins of Memphis, the Serapeum, with the vast and rock-hewn tombs of the sacred bulls, and further off, parallel with the Nile, the ancient pyramids of Girzeh, Abousia, and Sakkarah, standing against the yellow and sterile ridges of the Lybian hills. On the right was Cairo with its minarets, its tombs of the Caliphs, and Mamelukes; and other Saracenic memorials, all towered over by the citadel, and the imposing mosque of Mehmed Ali. Behind us, and at our left, were the limestone quarries of the Pharaohs, whence were drawn the innumerable blocks of which were built the pyramids. While immediately under the eye were the well disciplined squadrons of cavalry, the artillery, and the flashing bayonets of the infantry of an army still attesting the organization and effective vitality of oriental power.

Just before the commencement of the review, which was very successfully executed, the Prince presented the Viceroy with the grand cordon of the legion of honor, and Halim Pacha with a similar testimony of imperial attention.

The party then adjourned to a dinner magnificently prepared in one of the Viceroy’s steamers, which had been decorated for the ocasion. About fifty were present, including the Viceroy and his chief officers, Prince Napoleon, and several of the consuls general. It was a very pleasant entertainment; but this is not the place to relate the proceedings. I trust, however, it will not be deemed improper to say that in the informal conversation of the Prince he showed himself as decided a friend to our government as he was during his visit to the United States, and expressed his confidence in its great and successful future. He recurred with great cordiality to the welcome he received among our people. I have seen few men abroad who are so friendly to our Union, and who have so just an appreciation of the merits of the struggle in which it is involved.

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


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