Mr. Morris to Mr. Seward
Sir: The official reports represent a rapid decline of deaths from cholera, and it is apparently nearly extinct at the capital! The number of deaths for August 29 was 33; August 31, 25; September 1, 15. In Smyrna the deaths were about five or six per diem. If, however, the mortality in the immediate environs was included with that of the capital, the total, correctly reported, would not be less, even now, than one hundred daily. The habits of the people, their poor food, for the most part of vegetables and fruits, and their wretched lodgings, render it very difficult to extirpate such a [Page 303] disease when it has once taken root in the country. It is only in the principal towns that physicians and medicines are to be found, and in localities not more than fifteen or twenty miles from Constantinople, numbers have perished for the want of any kind whatever of medical aid.
Unless rigid measures are adopted, the cholera will be revived here by the arrival of infected vessels from other ports of the empire. Within the last ten days, two Ottoman men-of-war, the Saadie and Medjidie, have entered the harbor with cholera patients on board, and on both of them several deaths occurred during the passage. As Constantinople is now in free pratique with all the ports of Turkey, unless such vessels are thoroughly disinfected, there is good reason to apprehend another outbreak of the epidemic.
Animal food being indispensably necessary as an article of diet at the present time, and the terror inspired by the ravages of the cholera having caused the flight of the drovers and butchers upon whom the capital chiefly depends for its supply, the government has been obliged to make up the deficiency. It has ordered the purchase of 70,000 sheep in the interior, and it has also fixed the price of the mutton at 5½ piasters the ohe, that it may be within reach of the poorer classes.
The cholera has recently invaded the imperial palace at Dolma Bagtche, where, after an illness of a few hours, it carried off the Hasnadar Ousta, or lady superintendent of the harem. Several other inmates of the harem having been attacked, the Sultan has been obliged to change his residence to another of the imperial palaces.
I should have mentioned that my authority for the number of cholera deaths in Egypt, reported in a previous despatch, was a Paris correspondent of the Free Press of Vienna, and that for the pilgrim deaths was the Courrier d’Orient of this city. As the figures given seem extravagant, I deem it proper to refer to the sources from which they were derived. While the deaths by cholera at Constantinople cannot be less than 30,000, all statements beyond that number must be merely conjectural.
I was not aware until recently of the personal exertions of a committee of the American missionaries among the cholera-stricken poor, many of whom have been saved from death by destitution and the epidemic through their humane efforts in their behalf.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.