Mr. Heap to Mr. Hunter.
Tunis, June 7, 1873. (Received July 1.)
Sir: I am informed that the French have occupied a portion of Tunisian territory extending along the Algerian frontier, on which they are building forts and block-houses. This part of the regency is mountainous, and well-watered and wooded, and is inhabited by wild tribes over whom the Bey has little or no control. They have made raids on Algerian territory and carried off herds and flocks, and when pursued have retired into their mountains where it is difficult to follow them. As the Bey is powerless to prevent these outrages, the French aver that the only means to stop them is to occupy the country over the border.
In the vicinity of Tabarca, near Algeria, and for some distance inland, there are valuable forests of oak and cork trees, and mines of iron and copper reputed to be rich, and it is believed that these have attracted the French into Tunisian territory, for the forts and block-houses would be quite as effectual in preventing raids and cutting off the retreat of the marauders if they were placed on Algerian soil.
If this surmise is correct, the French will have to encroach but little further to bring the coveted territory within their lines.
I am, &c.,