Mr. Morris to Mr. Seward

No. 125.]

Sir: The last bulletin of the medical commission reports but nine deaths by cholera. This is an indication that the epidemic is nearly extinct, but it is not reliable as a complete list of deaths, as a large proportion is unreported. It would be fair to estimate the daily mortality by cholera in Constantinople at from eighty to a hundred even now, including, of course, the immediate environs. At no time has the official report been correct. The deaths, which at the maximum, according to this authority, reached four hundred in one day, are known to have been over two thousand. On the 14th of August the deaths reported to the grand vizier were eighteen hundred and ninety-seven. There is good reason to believe that for several days the mortality was considerably over two thousand, and I find, from inquiry among official sources, that the total deaths cannot be less than fifty thousand. Indeed the desolation has been frightful; in a single night, certain quarters of the city have been bereft of two-thirds of their inhabitants, and thus, it may be said, without almost any premonition. The attacks being generally in the night and sudden, death occurred in most cases before medical relief could be obtained. Although the poorer classes chiefly suffered, the greatest care in dietary regimen was required by all, the least excess being dangerous, and in many cases conducing to fatal results. The epidemic seems to be of a more malignant and contagious nature than its predecessors, to judge by the great mortality here and in Egypt, and Arabia, and its fatally rapid termination. It is to be hoped it will not remain with us for another year, as in 1846 and 1847.

I regret to report another terrible calamity to this already sorely afflicted capital. At about midnight, on the 5th of September, a fire broke out in Stambol, (Constantinople proper,) near the central police quarters, in the quarter of Dernier Kapon. Under the influence of a violent north wind it soon spread with great fury, carrying everything before it. It reached the enclosure within which stand the government buildings known as the Porte, having levelled every intervening obstacle, but at this moment the wind changed, deflected the [Page 305] flames and they took a course around the wall, on the north of this enclosure, and rushed like a sea of fire on to the Hippodrome and the neighborhood of the mosque of Sultan Ahmet. Nothing could arrest the flames, not even the solid walls of the khans and mosques, and the pulling down of squares of houses. The fire raged until 6 p. m., on September 6, having, in this time, destroyed about eight thousand houses, ten mosques, twelve baths, twenty khans, two Greek churches, and one Armenian church. The length of the track of the fire is one and a half mile, and its breadth half a mile. Many palaces were destroyed, and among the rest one occupied by the Persian embassy. No such fire has occurred in Constantinople since the memorable one which happened in the time of the Crusaders, and which consumed one-third of the city. The present fire is the cause of immense distress; thousands of families are without homes and are reduced to helpless poverty, and many of them after having already lost valuable members from cholera. The losses from the destruction of property are immense, and at present beyond estimate. Generous as the government is disposed to be, it is almost beyond its power to afford relief to a population which is suffering so fearfully under the scourge of fire and pestilence. Private benevolence is taxed to its utmost to alleviate the misery which we everywhere see around us, but the affliction is so great that it will require some more abundant relief than has been yet devised.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.