No. 32.
Mr. Vidal to Mr. Hunter

No. 56.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department that in about four or five weeks more the exploration I alluded to in my dispatch No. 46 will be at an end.

[Page 49]

My objects in visiting the eastern section of my consular-district were many, the main ones of which I will very briefly mention, not daring to trust the irresponsible master of an Arab sloop with a dispatch containing important information.

I wanted, in the first place, to study the commercial capabilities of a country with which we have at present no relations, whilst many years ago our exporting trade with Barbary was so important; and, as a consequence, I wanted to ascertain whether it might be necessary to open in Benghazy a consular-agency.

In the second place, it was my desire to see on the spot the workings of the extensive negro slave-traffic, carried from Wadas to Egypt, by way of the oases of Augilah and Siwah, and the port of Benghazy.

I will not here allude again to the scheme I have mentioned in previous dispatches in regard to Cyrenaica.

Moreover, that country is studded with ruins of Greek cities, among which explorers sent by the Society of the British Museum and the French government have already found many beautiful articles of vertu; and I thought our Government might one day desire to search this old soil for similar relics of Greek art to adorn the new State Department, or the Presidential Mansion, the Capitol, and other public buildings.

Lastly, when, sixty-nine years ago, our flag was triumphantly carried from Egypt to Derna, in this district, it is certain that the Department of State did not entertain any idea of permanent conquest; but its purpose was quite misrepresented in English and French books written on that subject; and it must be acknowledged that, were those allegations founded on truth, the sneering remarks indulged in by some of those historians, on the precipitancy with which the United States representatives signed articles of peace by virtue of which victorious America assumed the obligation to pay a ransom to defeated Barbary, would not be quite undeserved. It was in order to gather materials which might be used by the historian who would undertake the patriotic task to vindicate the policy of the United States Government in regard to that war that I thought I would visit this section of my district.

Shortly after my arrival in Benghazy a sort of pestilential disease broke out in a Bedouin village built on the ruins of the ancient city of Barke. The provincial authorities, quite inexperienced and somewhat frightened, were at a loss to know what measures to take to prevent the spreading of the disease. I was fortunate enough to be of some service to them by assisting them with my advice in the mezlis, or divan, and volunteering to go to the seat of the scourge and direct the establishment of a cordon sanitaire. A surgeon of the French army, whom I found in the village giving his care to the diseased with a truly admirable spirit of abnegation, was attacked by the plague the very day I left the place, and died six days later. As for me, my good fortune made me escape unscathed; and when I came back to town the Pasha was so much pleased with my services, that he graciously informed me it was his intention to request his government to transmit to the Department of State the thanks of the Sublime Porte for what I have done in this province. I am already in receipt of addresses of thanks from the captains of the shipping in this port and the Arab authorities in this city, which documents I will duly transmit.

During my absence from Tripoli the United States consular-office is in charge of my friend Baron E. de Testa, consul-general of the Netherlands.

I am, &c.,