No. 476.
Mr. Heap to Mr. Hunter.

No. 141.]

Sir: I have refrained from again referring to the murder, on the night of the 24th–25th of December last, of the dragoman of the United States consular agent at Bizerta, which I communicated in my dispatch No. 136, dated December 31, 1872, in the hope that I might be able to inform the Department of the punishment of the guilty parties.

In this hope, I regret to say, I have been disappointed, and I am apprehensive that corrupt influences are at work to defeat the ends of justice.
As soon as I was notified by telegraph of the murder, I waited upon the prime minister, and requested him to give instructions to the governor of Bizerta to use every effort to discover and apprehend the murderers, which he promised to do. The governor, aided and stimulated by the consular agent, held an inquest at the village of Menzil-Djemil, where the murder was committed, and four men, three brothers and their servant, were arrested, with strong evidence of guilt and the testimony of almost the entire population of the village against three of them. Voluminous affidavits were taken in the presence of notaries, the inquest being conducted in accordance with the laws of the country, and the accused were sent in chains to the Bardo, the Bey’s official residence, for trial.
The evidence against the brothers is overwhelming. They are rich land-proprietors, and it appears from the evidence that they committed the murder partly to rob the dragoman of a large sum of money and valuable papers in his possession, the property of Mr. Spizzichino, and partly from motives of revenge.
Among the Bey’s officials there is one, the young general in command of his body-guard.

* * * * * * *

To this individual the murderers of Mahmood Sennen, the dragoman, have applied, and, possessing the means to secure his favor, they are striving to escape scot-free by casting upon their servant the burden of their guilt.
By Mohammedan law, a sentence of death for murder cannot be pronounced except upon the direct evidence of witnesses, or the dying deposition of the murdered person. As in this case the only witnesses of the murder were the murderers themselves, and the victim was placed beyond the possibility of making a deposition, the extreme penalty for their crime is a sentence to the galleys for life, with hard labor and the bastinado.
I have been unable to obtain that the accused be brought to trial. To every appeal I have made to the government, the reply has been that further depositions were being taken, which I know is not the case.
I only ask that the accused be tried by the Bey himself, and not by the sciara or ecclesiastical tribunal, where a denial upon oath, administered with certain solemnities, will, in the absence of direct testimony, be sufficient to acquit the accused.
In this state of the case, I beg respectfully to submit to the Department whether it would not be expedient to adopt some energetic measure to induce this government to give the very reasonable satisfaction I ask for the murder of a person so undeniably entitled to the protection of the United States as a dragoman.
It is a question, if an officer appointed to guard the person of a foreign representative and his residence can be assassinated with impunity, whether the representatives themselves, in the midst of a semi-barbarous and fanatical population, can enjoy security.
It will only need the exhibition of earnestness to bring this government to understand that the dignity of the United States cannot be trifled with, even in the person of one of its humblest protégés; and I, therefore, venture respectfully to suggest that I be directed to inform His Highness of the concern this matter has given the Department, and that instructions be sent to the admiral in command of our fleet in this sea to visit Tunis, in the event of a satisfactory solution not being arrived at.
The Department may be assured that it is farthest from my desire to foment difficulties between my government and this, and, if I take the liberty of suggesting this course, it is because I am convinced that nothing is better calculated to insure harmony and friendly relations in the future than the exhibition of firmness in the present case.
I have the honor to inclose the copy of a letter I have addressed to the Bey on this subject, but until I can inform him that I am acting under direct instructions from the Department, I apprehend that it will be of little avail against the fatal influence of his favorite.

I am, &c.,


Mr. Heap to the Bey.

His Highness the Musehir Sidé Mohammed Essadok,
Reigning Prince and Possessor of the Kingdom of Tunis:

The undersigned, consul of the United States of America, begs to recall to Your Highness’s recollection that, on the night of the 24th–25th of December last, a cruel and flagrant crime was committed on the person of Mahmood Sennan, a dragoman attached to the consular agency of the United States at Bizerta. His body was found at Menzil-Djemil, a village a few miles from Bizerta, stripped of nearly all its clothing and pierced with fourteen dagger-wounds. He had in his possession at the time of his assassination a considerable sum of money, which, together with valuable papers belonging to Mr. Spizzichino, has disappeared.

The undersigned respectfully refers Your Highness for information as to the authors of this great crime and their motives for committing it to the ample and voluminous testimony taken on the spot by the authorities of Bizerta, assisted by Mr. Spizzichino, the consular agent of the United States at that place.

The parties implicated by the testimony have been apprehended, but, though more than three months have elapsed since their arrest, no further steps have been taken, that the undersigned is aware of, to bring them to trial.

The undersigned has communicated to his Government the fact that an officer regularly attached to a consular agency of the United States, and therefore entitled to its protection, had been murdered, but regrets that he has been unable to inform it that anything has been done to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. The Government of the United States may well apprehend that if so serious an outrage can be committed with impunity on a person appointed for the protection of one of its representatives, there can be but little security in this country for the representatives themselves.

In any event, it is not probable that the Government of the United States, vigilant and jealous as it is in maintaining its just rights, and in guarding the honor, property, and lives of all who are entitled to its protection, will be satisfied with anything less than the most thorough and searching investigation as to the authors of this crime and the punishment of the guilty.

The undersigned has refrained as yet from calling the attention of his Government to the dilatoriness of the proceedings in this case, in the hope that he might be able to inform it that justice had been done. It is, therefore, with extreme regret that, after so long a delay and the formal assurance of his excellency the prime minister that every means should be taken to secure prompt justice, no progress appears to have been made in this case.

The undersigned does not doubt that Your Highness will be pleased to take this matter into serious consideration, and is confirmed in this belief by Your Highnesses well-known love of justice, and the friendship and good-will Your Highness has invariably manifested toward the country and Government the undersigned has the honor to represent.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew the assurance of his high respect and distinguished consideration, with which he has the honor to be your Highnesses most obedient servant,