Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Fish.
Cairo, October 6, 1873. (Received October 31.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 128, of the 16th ultimo, relating to the liberation of slaves at Mansourah, and to a proposed treaty between England and Egypt for the abolition of slavery in Egypt, which I represented as about being concluded, I have now the honor to inform you that, although the negotiations on the subject are still pending, the prospects of a treaty, as originally proposed by England, are not encouraging.
The Khedive is willing to bind himself by treaty to abolish the slave-trade, to make the creation of eunuchs a criminal offense, and to abolish every kind of involuntary servitude except domestic slavery. He thinks that the abolition of domestic slavery would be not only impolitic and practically impossible, but unjust toward his subjects.
I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of a dispatch from His Excellency Nubar Pasha to Mr. Vivian, explaining the views of His Highness on this subject.
It will be observed that his excellency states that the orders hitherto given by His Highness, in regard to the liberation of slaves, have been that only those were to be liberated who could prove that they had received cruel treatment from the hands of their masters. Now, it is generally understood by the foreign representatives in Egypt, as well as by Europeans residing here, that slavery has heretofore been looked upon as illegal by the Egyptian government. It appears to be certain that His Highness has, on more than one occasion, publicly announced that slavery did not legally exist in Egypt; that it only existed in fact in the mildest form of domestic slavery; and that every slave demanding his freedom would be liberated at once by the Egyptian authorities.[Page 1173]
That all slaves demanding their freedom through the intermediary of any consular authority have hitherto been liberated, regardless of their former treatment, seems to be equally certain. While, therefore, slavery has been tolerated and rather encouraged than otherwise in Egypt during the past eight or ten years, it has been declared to be illegal by the words of His Highness and by the acts of his officials, and the dispatch of Nubar Pasha must be considered in connection with these facts.
It was after the date of this dispatch that the draught of a treaty was drawn up substantially the same as indicated in my dispatch No. 128. This draught was taken into consideration by His Highness, who finally struck out the clause abolishing slavery after the expiration of five years. I have every reason to believe that the balance of the draught is now being considered at Constantinople and London, and it is possible that a satisfactory treaty may be concluded.
Domestic slavery would soon disappear as a feature of the country if the slave-trade could be effectually suppressed, but there is no question but that the traffic in slaves is actively carried on in every town of any considerable size in Egypt. There are no public slave-markets, and the trade is conducted quietly for fear of attracting the notice of strangers and the government officials, but slaves may be bought without difficulty throughout the country.
It must be borne in mind that it is a mild and harmless traffic as compared with slave-trading in other parts of Africa, and that domestic slavery in Egypt presents but few of the horrible features which have been witnessed in other parts of the world.
Sanctioned by religion as well as by the practice of centuries, it will be difficult to eradicate slavery from Egyptian soil. The complete suppression of the slave-trade is the first great step to be taken in that direction.
In view of the present state of the negotiations on this subject, would it not be well for our Government to represent to the Khedive the great interest which it takes in this matter, and to assure His Highness that an energetic and honest crusade against the slave trade, on his part, will meet the warm approval of the United States.
I am, &c,
- These three hundred slaves were only a small part of the number liberated at Mansourah; in all 1,700 were liberated within a month, as mentioned in my dispatch No. 128.—R. B.↩