Mr. Heap to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to state that the project of a police regulation for the European quarter of Tunis has been discussed and agreed upon by common accord with my colleagues, and should my own and the other governments represented here give the necessary authority, its promulgation can be demanded of the local government, and we shall ourselves see to its execution.
There exists at present no police for the European quarter. On the one hand, the indifference of the government and its inability to pay its agents, who are frequently seen asking alms in the streets, and on the other, the existence of a multiplicity of consular jurisdictions, which create difficulties of every kind and render the discovery of crimes and the apprehension of delinquents extremely perplexing, sufficiently explain its absence and the disorder and uncleanliness of the city, which are the natural results.
Our sole object is to bring some remedy to this state of things. Already, on the demand of the consular sanitary council, a committee of public salubrity, composed of members elected by the different nationalities and presided by a consul, has been constituted, and every one is able to appreciate the services it has rendered. But to meet the [Page 187] expenses it is obliged to incur, a small tax must be imposed on the foreign residents. Although a number have given a ready assent to these measures, there are others who have offered an opposition, which cannot be overcome except by direct authority from our governments. It has been objected, with some reason, that a duty of seven per cent. is collected on wines and spirits, and that the income thus derived was originally designed for the repair and maintenance of the streets; that it now goes into the public treasury, and that before imposing a new tax the government should be held to restore this one to its legitimate object. We can of course make representations to the Bey on the subject, but it is not difficult to foresee that they will result in nothing. Moreover, the case is too urgent to admit of delay. An epidemic is prevailing in Tunis, caused principally by the poverty and uncleanliness of the Arab population; and although we are unable to relieve their misery, we can at least maintain the cleanliness of the quarter in which are our dwellings and those of our fellow-countrymen.
Nor are we alone interested in this matter. Tunis is in frequent communication with Algeria, Malta, Marseilles, and the principal ports of Italy. The diseases which develop themselves here are liable to spread over the whole Mediterranean coast.
An identical letter has been addressed by my colleagues to their respective governments.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.