No. 787.
Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Fish.

No. 139.]

Sir: An affair which engaged much of my attention last winter and spring was satisfactorily terminated a few days before I left Egypt on leave of absence, last June.

In the year 1861 His Highness Said Pasha, then Viceroy of Egypt, gave to the American missionaries in Egypt a large and valuable building in Cairo, containing about twenty-five large rooms, and valued at the time at over $25,000. The building covered about 1,500 square meters, and [Page 1175] was well located in the most eligible part of the city, overlooking the large public place called the Esbekieh. It was somewhat dilapidated, and its apartments were badly arranged, but the missionaries repaired and improved it from year to year until it became well adapted to their purpose and afforded ample room for their schools and chapel, and commodious apartments for two families.

The presentation of this property is mentioned in Mr. Thayer’s dispatch No. 12, of November 26, 1861, and is again referred to in his dispatch No. 17, of March 13, 1862. In the latter dispatch Mr. Thayer states that the property was granted to the missionaries in fee-simple, and estimates its value at not far from $50,000.

He was mistaken as to the nature of the grant, and his valuation was undoubtedly too high at that time; the valuation of $25,000, as given in his dispatch No. 12, was nearer correct.

The property was given to the missionaries, to be kept by them so long as they continued to use it for their schools and the legitimate purposes of their missionary labors, and no longer; they could not sell it nor dispose of it in any manner, and of course they possessed no hodget or deed for it. They held in their hands a paper signed by the governor of Cairo, specifying the nature of the grant and describing the property.

When the city was surveyed and remapped for the purpose of locating the broad boulevards which were to intersect it, it was discovered that this missionary building occupied a very important and valuable site, and steps were at once taken to obtain possession of it for the purpose of pulling it down and erecting a more ornamental and profitable structure. The missionaries were notified unofficially to vacate the premises. The government was reminded of the terms of contract given by Said Pasha, and negotiations were commenced, which lasted from that time (1869) until last June.

When I arrived here, a year ago, I found the feeling on both sides was not calculated to lead to a satisfactory settlement of the case, the missionaries feeling that an attempt was being made to dispossess them of a valuable property in an arbitrary manner, and without sufficient remuneration, and the government feeling that the missionaries were preventing a much needed improvement and endeavoring to speculate on its generosity. Negotiations had been carried on through irresponsible agents, who had only embarrassed matters by misrepresenting both parties.

The missionaries demanded, as a condition of their giving up the building in question, that another building of equal size and suitable for their purposes should be provided for them, or that sufficient money should be given them to erect a new building of equal size to the one they then occupied.

The government finally answered that it had no other building to give them, but that it would give them a certain piece of ground in the new part of the city, on the north side of the Esbekieh, and 3,000 pounds sterling to build with. The piece of ground designated contained a few meters more than their old property, and its location was satisfactory, but the missionaries claimed that £3,000 would not more than lay the foundations of a new building. (In the new part of the city the surface of the ground has been raised from 6 to 10 feet with débris from the old city, and foundations of large buildings are commenced from 15 to 20 feet below the surface.) They would not fix upon any amount, but waited for further overtures from the government.

The negotiations reached this stage many months before my arrival, [Page 1176] and I found His Highness the Khedive feeling provoked and angry on the subject, and inclined to resort to extreme measures to obtain “possession of the property.

Of course I did not interfere in the matter, except to let it be known that so far as the missionaries were possessed of rights, they would receive the protection of their Government, and I endeavored to bring about a better understanding between them and the Khedive, in which I succeeded.

It is unnecessary to recount the different steps of the negotiations in this case, except to say that the missionaries finally fixed upon 10,000 pounds sterling and the piece of land already specified as the only terms on which they would give up their property; that the Khedive was indignant, and offered the land and £1,000, and finally £5,000; that the missionaries absolutely refused to accept less than £10,000 and the land; that at this stage of the negotiations I was asked by both parties to be their intermediary, and that finally the matter was compromised by the missionaries accepting the piece of ground and £7,000. The lot was given to them in fee-simple, without conditions, and is one of the most valuable and well located pieces of property in the city.

The mission will proceed early next year to erect a handsome and substantial building on this property, which will be an honor to the mission as well as a monument to the liberality and toleration of His Highness the Khedive.

In justice to the American missionaries, and in view of the work they have done in Egypt, it must be said that they well deserve this stroke of fortune. They have been the pioneers of education in this land of ignorance and superstition, and three fourths of the employes in the telegraph, railroad, and post ofiices of the Egyptian government have been educated in their schools. They have labored on quietly and unostentatiously for many years, and the fruits of their labor have been long seen and recognized by every intelligent individual in Egypt.

I have the honor to inclose herewith a map of Cairo, showing the situation of the property which they have lately acquired, as well as that which they gave in exchange. This map also shows most of the new boulevards which are being cut through the old city, as well as the plan of the new city, or Ismaïlieh, which comprises all that portion of the map between the canal Ismaïlieh, the Nile, Rue Abdin and Kasr-El-any, and which is now mostly covered with private residences and garden?.

I am, &c,