Mr. Morris to Mr. Seward

No. 122.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of despatch No. 91. The cholera is gradually disappearing. The number of deaths for the last [Page 301] week has been daily lessening, and the latest report exhibits a total of only sixty-nine fatal cases within the preceding twenty-four hours. Its decline was indicated first by the reappearance of other diseases which, according to physicians, cannot exist contemporaneously with cholera. In its last stages typhus, intermittent, and typhoid fevers have developed themselves, and are unusually malignant and fatal. A heavy storm of rain some ten days since seems to have a salutary influence on the atmosphere, and to have arrested the progressive tendency of the epidemic. The cool weather now prevailing, and the high winds, and great quantity of rain falling, will, no doubt, restore the atmosphere to its usual salubrious tone, and put an end to the disease.

The mortality, it seems, has been much greater than the official reports indicate. These did not include the deaths in the army and navy, and were imperfect, as a large number of deaths were not reported to the medical board, and that the authorities also suppressed a considerable portion of the known deaths, in order not to terrify yet more a panic-stricken population. I learn from a reliable source that in one day alone the actual number of deaths was 1,627, and that for a fortnight at least 1,000 persons died daily. Up to the present date, my family physician estimates the deaths to amount to 40,000; and this notwithstanding the flight of one-third of the population of Constantinople and its environs. From this point it has been carried by the fugitives to Trebizond and other ports on the Black sea, and to the towns on the lower Danube, in all which places it is very destructive.

The development of the cholera at Constantinople was very gradual and insidious. It was brought here by a Turkish war steamer from Egypt, June 26, This vessel violated the quarantine restrictions, and although two of the crew had died of cholera on the voyage, twelve sailors were landed at the naval hospital while suffering under the disease. For fourteen days the epidemic lay brooding in the hospital; on the fifteenth day it burst forth from the hospital and fell like a thunderbolt on the immediate neighborhood of Cassim Pacha and Hasskeni, sweeping away the population with irresistible havoc. From this region it made a leap over all the intervening localities to Yeni Keni, some ten miles distant on the Bosphorus, whither it was carried by a carpenter of the navy yard at Cassim Pacha. Thence it spread to the adjacent village of Theropea, where the mortality was so great that for a time the dead lay unburied in the houses. Subsequently it spread out on all sides until it enveloped the entire capital and its environs in its pestilential embrace.

It seems to have had its origin among the pilgrims to Mecca during the early spring months. The slaughtering of some hundred thousand sheep for sacrificial purposes, and the leaving exposed to decay in the open air the entrails and remains, infected the atmosphere, and caused the death, it is said, of 125,000 pilgrims. From Mecca to Djeddah the road was strewn with putrified corpses. Death and desolation were spread around by the tainted air, and the returning pilgrims carried the cholera to all parts of the East. No precautions were taken to prevent its introduction into Egypt, and multitudes of cholera-stricken pilgrims were permitted to enter the country and disseminate the pestilence. Egypt was already prepared for the reception of the cholera by the devastating cattle disease which, in the closing months of 1864, carried off 800,000 cattle, and as many sheep, goats, camels, &c. Three-fourths of these animals were thrown into the Nile, and in some places lay in such masses as to block up the stream, as at Damietta, where the dogs were able to cross the river (here about 2,700 feet broad) dry-shod on a bridge of carcasses. As the Nile affords the only drinking water, its infection from animal putrefaction must have already been the source of disease before the cholera made its appearance. In Egypt 82,000 persons died of cholera in forty days; in Alexandria, 12,000; in Cairo, 30,000; and in upper Egypt, 40,000.

Had not the most energetic and provident measures been adopted here by [Page 302] the government, after its first development, the mortality, great as it is, would have been far more extensive. A medical commission, composed of the chief physicians, was created at the outset, and invested with authority to enforce such sanitary precautions as they deemed necessary. Under their supervision, infection-breeding localities were purified, obstructed sewers cleansed, and those that were open covered over; all the quarters of the capital and its vicinity provided with physicians, whose attendance as well as medicines were furnished gratis to the poorer classes at the expense of the government; the sale of unwholesome food, and intramural interments, were prohibited; corps of fumigators instituted to disinfect the houses and streets; and hospitals, ambulances to carry the sick, and attendants, in requisite numbers, everywhere supplied. The progress of the epidemic was resisted by all the means of which the government could avail itself, and it is chiefly owing to its sagacious course of action, and to the untiring efforts of the medical staff and the practitioners in its employ, that we are indebted, under providence, for its final conquest. As a body, the medical fraternity of Constantinople has most honorably distinguished itself by its courage, devotion to professional duty, and scientific skill, during the last six weeks. The masonic lodge of “Italia” and the Italian Industrial Society deserve mention for the philanthropic spirit which induced their members to remain in the city in the midst of the pestilence, and to give their personal services to the care of the sick. Some of them fell victims to their noble-hearted zeal. No words of mine can do justice to the moral courage and self-sacrificing spirit which marked their conduct in a crisis when the boldest heart was appalled by the magnitude of the calamity, and which was so fearful in its nature as in many cases to render men insensible to the common impulses of nature, and to terrify patents into the abandonment of their children when attacked by the cholera.

I respectfully suggest that, if it shall be deemed necessary to take precautionary measures against the cholera in the United States, it will be advisable to establish the cholera quarantine quarters on islands at a distance from the mainland. It has been found to be invariably the case that the cholera communicates itself to adjacent localities when the lazarettos are on the mainland, and that such is the elastic nature of the miasma it cannot be prevented from propagating itself except, by a wide mass of intervening water. It has thus far been prevented from penetrating continental Greece, and many of the islands in the archipelago, by the establishment of lazarettos on remote and distant islands.

With great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.