Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.
Sir: * * * * * * * * * *
I am happy to report that our relations with the Tunisian government are cordial and satisfactory. A decided interest is manifested here to gain information about American affairs, and I have taken special pains to answer inquiries and gratify curiosity. Up to this time, it is believed no member of the Tunisian government has ever visited the New World. Recently, however, two of the ablest and most enlightened ministers of the Bey, viz., the heads of the judicial and naval departments, announced to me their intention to visit America within a year from this time. I believe their object to be improvement, and that a steamship of the Bey is to be at their disposal. I encourage their interest and promise them every facility in my power for an agreeable and profitable tour of observation. In America these gentlemen expect to find an advanced state of the mechanical arts. They have heard of our steamships, and they wish to purchase two of them for his Highness the Bey. They have models of the Monitor and the Merrimack, but they desire to see some of the veritable vessels that have struck terror into the nations of Europe. They have seen France, England, and Germany, but America has for them a greater interest than any of these countries. Belonging to a part of the world where once existed one of the most powerful nations of antiquity, they desire to see that part of the New World where now exists the nation most remarkable in modern times for its rapid growth and sudden attainment of material prosperity and greatness. They will study our institutions, visit our manufactories, observe our implements and modes of agriculture, but our fire-arms and enginery of war by ladn and sea will most attract their attention. An incident will best illustrate Moorish taste in this regard. When presented recently with the portrait of the King of Sweden, the Bey, after attentively examining the picture and expressing gratification, said aside to a friend, “but I should like to see his strength” meaning fire-arms, which being his delight, he had hoped to receive from the King.
Other nations are much less known and felt at Tunis. Various counter influences serve to embarrass the Tunisian government and prevent progress which might otherwise be made. Having no right or power to impose a tax on foreign subjects, the authorities are unable to promote internal improvements. The consequence is bad and dirty streets and general neglect. A movement is now, however, in progress giving to the Bey the power to tax all residents which, it is hoped, will result in the good of all. The agent of an English company, that desires to try the experiment of cotton-growing, proposes to offer some inducement to bring here some of our contraband cotton-growers. I am seeking information which may hereafter lead to some action.
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I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.