Mr. Williams to Mr. Seward.

No. 38.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of January 25th ultimo, No. 16, and also three volumes of the Diplomatic Correspondence for 1866.

The regular annual session of the legislative chambers was closed on the 26th ultimo, with the customary formalities, and an exchange of addresses between the president of the chambers and the President of the republic. The former, in recounting the four epochs which, in his view, marked the political history of this republic, spoke of the “beneficent influence of the government of the North American republic, which, like a colossal tree, spreads its immense healthful shade over the whole continent of Columbus,” and he referred in grateful terms to the important part it had contributed to break the yoke of colonial bondage, and to their independence, which led to the assembling of the first Salvadorean congress, March 14, 1824.

The acts of the present chambers, so far as made public, are not of noticeable interest, except in one particular. Extraordinary powers, limited to the legislative recess, were conferred upon the President relative to all the important measures he had recommended to the attention of the chambers in his annual message.

He is authorized by the vote of both houses—

1. To decree such changes and improvements in the department of finance as he may deem necessary to augment the revenues and facilitate their administration, and especially to correct the defects of the present tariff system.

2. To make such reforms in the administration of justice as, on consultation with the supreme court, he may think necessary.

3. To make such improvements and reforms in the military branch as he may think proper, and to decree regulations for a navy.

4. To employ on commissions the members of the legislature during the recess.

5. To regulate the mode of admitting “denouncements” of church lands and unoccupied lands.

6. To remove existing faults of the circulating money, and to determine the alloy, weight, value, and character of the coinage, “in such a manner as he may deem most suitable to facilitate the exchanges and transactions which the general interests demand.”

The President is required to give an account to the next session of the chambers of the use he has made of these extraordinary powers. The preamble to this act recites “that these important changes and reforms cannot be made without a protracted examination, requiring a considerable time, and that, the actual President meriting the highest confidence of the people and representatives of Salvador, for having demonstrated in an unequivocal manner his spirit of patriotism, and his skill and discretion, by which the prosperity of the nation has been promoted, they have thought best to decree these ample and extraordinary powers to the supreme executive.” Two or three matters of local interest mainly seem to be worthy of notice.

1. The organization of a company under a charter granted last year, to construct an iron wharf or jetty, (muelle,) to extend beyond the surf at the port of La Libertad. The whole capital stock ($125,000,) was subscribed here a short time since, and the work will be at once put in [Page 924]construction by engineers, I understand, from the States. It is an important improvement for the growing commerce of the principal port of the republic.

2. An arrangement (with a liberal subsidy) whereby the original contract with Don Crisan to Medina has been transferred to the North American Steamship Company of New York, for a direct steamer line between the Central American ports and San Francisco. Permission has been granted to make the southern terminus at Panama or San Juandel Sur, in the option of the company. This line would greatly facilitate and increase the trade between these States and California and our other Pacific States and Territories.

With this gratifying prospect of an additional market, especially for the rapidly increasing sugar product here, there are mingled some apprehensions that the provisions for free sugars in the treaty with the Sandwich Islands, now under consideration by our government, may operate to exclude from that convenient market the duty-paying sugars of Central America.

3. Following the succession of natural disturbances which have been so disastrous in many places, the eastern part of this republic has beenthe theater of severe earthquakes. In the port of La Union, which for many years has been almost wholly free from these phenomena, more than one hundred and fifty shocks were felt within a period of two or three days, some of them of alarming violence. It is now reported here that the volcanic peak of Conchagua, which lies close to that port, on the promontory between it and the sea, has opened an active crater on the seaward slope of the mountain. We are yet without reliable particulars. The town of San Miguel, also, some fifty miles in the interior from La Union, has been alarmed by similar subterranean commotions, and the volcanic peak, at the base of which the town lies, has again, after a quietude of many years, been in pretty active operation.

This capital, which in past times has suffered so severely, and rarely passes many months without severe earthquake shocks, has been unusually exempt during these natural demonstrations elsewhere. The active volcano of Izaleo, sixty miles westward, near Sousenate, has, however, been operating with unwonted vigor.

I record these facts because they may have an interest in connection with similar phenomena in other parts of the globe. The political aspect of the republic is tranquil, and the people seem generally contented and prosperous.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.