Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Fish.
Cairo, April 29, 1874. (Received May 26.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that Mr. Lesseps has accepted for the Suez Canal Company the decision of the Sublime Porte, and that the new tariff of tonnage dues, as recommended by the international commission, goes into effect today, the 29th.
In my dispatch No. 183, of the 4th instant, I had the honor to explain the nature of the controversy between Mr. Lesseps and the Porteas it existed at that day. Mr. Lesseps after that date determined to persist in the arbitrary manner of collecting the tonnage dues which was adopted in July 1872 and has been followed until this time, and announced his [Page 1186] intention of preventing all ship passing through the canal which refused to pay the customary toll. He declared that sooner than submit to any reduction in the rate of tonnage-dues he would withdraw his pilots, extinguish the lights, and close the canal to navigation.
The vizieral letter from His Majesty the Sultan to His Highness the Khedive, ordering the latter to enforce the application of the rules laid down by the international commission, a copy of which I had the honor to inclose with my dispatch No. 183, granted to the canal company a delay of three months in which to prepare for the application of the new rules. That delay expires today. Until the 25th instant Mr. Lesseps maintained a bold and defiant attitude, and the Khedive prepared to enforce the decision of the Porte, and determined, if necessary, to take possession of the canal and manage it himself.
On the 23d instant a force of several hundred men and officers, under the command of General Stone, was stationed at various points along and in the neighborhood of the canal, to prevent any overt action on the part of the canal company, and to be ready to take possession of the canal in case of necessity. The Egyptian frigate Menemet Ali arrived at Port Said from Alexandria the same day, the 23d, and, with the stationary frigate at Port Said, formed the naval contingent of General Stone’s force. The general had with him pilots who were acquainted with the canal, and was supplied, with everything necessary for facilitating the passage of ships and the organization of a new transit-service.
Mr. Lesseps was at Jaffa on the 23d instant, where he had been for several days. On the 24th he returned to Port Said and Ismaila, and on the 25th he arrived at Cairo.
On the 23d instant I received a communication from the minister of foreign affairs, (inclosure No. 1,) informing me of the mission of General Stone, and requesting me to order any citizens of the United States who might be in the service of the canal to abstain from appealing to their nationality or displaying the flag of their country in case of a conflict of authority between the canal company and the territorial authorities. On the 24th I addressed official communications to Mr. Page at Port Said, and to Mr. De Haro, United States consular agent at Ismaila, (iuclosures Nos. 2 and 3,) instructing them in case of any conflict to maintain a strict neutrality.
On the 26th instant I received a second communication from the minister of foreign affairs, (inclosure No. 4,) informing me that Mr. Lesseps had decided to conform to the decision of the Sublime Porte in regard to the tonnage-dues, and inclosing Mr. Lesseps’s official letter to the minister of the interior, (inclosure No. 5,) in which he announced that from the 29th instant, today, the new rules, as recommended by the international commission, would, under protest, go into effect.
I have the honor to inclose also a leading article on he Suez Canal from the London Mail of the 24th instant, (inclosure No. 6,) and a letter on the same subject from the Constantinople correspondent of the same journal, (inclosure No. 7,) both of which are interesting contributions to the subject treated of in this dispatch.
- Mr. De Haro is in the employ of the Suez Canal Company.—R. B.↩