Mr. Heap to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of dispatch No. 3. I have communicated its contents to Mr. Cubisol.
I regret to report that since my last the sufferings of this population [Page 177]from famine and the inclemency of the weather have frightfully increased. A few days since one hundred and nine persons died of starvation in the streets of the city, and I was told by a gentleman that on his way from the goletta to Tunis he found the bodies of three Arabs on the road. The greatest mortality in the city from hunger and cold was on the 10th instant, when, I am informed, it reached one hundred and forty-two.
The news from the interior is equally distressing. It is impossible to obtain even an approximate estimate of the number who perish daily from starvation in all parts of the regency, but it is known to be very great.
Supplies of grain have reached here, but thousands have not the means of purchasing it.
Notwithstanding the rains, which give promise of abundant crops, large tracts of lands remain unfilled for the want of cattle or seed-grain. The price of wheat is $3 per bushel and of barley $1 50.
Arab women offer their children to Christians for a few coppers to purchase bread.
This stricken people bear their misery with patience and resignation. I hear of no disorder or disturbance. Starving men, women, and children lie literally starving a few yards from the provision stalls, gazing with wistful eyes on the coveted food, yet they commit no act of violence, or scarcely of pilfering.
Among the Christians, who number upwards of ten thousand in the city and its environs, there is much poverty and suffering, but they receive some relief.
The Jewish population is about twenty thousand. The richer members of this persuasion have done more for their poor than all others of the inhabitants combined for theirs.
The Mahometans alone view the suffering of their brethren with stoical apathy or indifference. They look upon it as a dispensation of Providence, which it would be useless, perhaps sinful, to mitigate. Their fanaticism is made a ready apology for their avarice.
A feeble effort was made recently to give food and shelter to the Mohometan poor, but the relief so grudgingly offered was totally inadequate. A Moorish hospital, richly endowed, receives the corpses picked up each morning in the streets, to prepare them for burial, but refuses admission to the living. Children scarcely able to walk are found wandering in the streets, crying for food, their parents having died or forsaken them. Many are sheltered and fed by charitable Christians.
The scenes daily witnessed in the streets are distressing in the extreme.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.