Mr. Heap to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have reason to believe that the Bey has been persuaded of the necessity of introducing such reforms in his administration as shall offer guarantees which will be satisfactory to the foreign governments represented here.
It seems that he is now seriously inclined to restore the fundamental laws which were suspended in 1864, guaranteeing security to the person, property, and honor of all classes of his subjects, and which will prevent the recurrence of events which he cannot fail to perceive have received from the civilized world the most decided reprobation.
It is also proposed to make such radical changes in the system of assessing and collecting the taxes as will be a check on the agents and a protection to the people; the establishment of a board composed of experienced and responsible persons being one of the measures proposed.
These measures have been submitted to the French government for its approval and countenance, and if carried out in good faith will undoubtedly be beneficial to foreign interests, but will also give still greater preponderance to French influences. They meet, however, the approval of the British government, which is here generally antagonistic. to France. It is in fact through the influence of her Britannic Majesty’s agent and consul general that these measures have been accepted by the Bey. He is recently from Paris, and by his representations there, delayed the departure for Tunis of a considerable naval and military force. Should these measures not be carried out in good faith, it is quite probable that a portion of the French army and fleet, now at Civita Vecchia, will be sent to Tunis. These reforms do not come spontaneously from his Highness, but have been suggested to him as the only means of saving his regency from foreign occupation.
The details, which have been confidentially communicated to me, are likely to be modified before they are finally adopted, but I hope to be able shortly to inform the department of the decision of the foreign office in Paris, on which everything for the present rests.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.