Mr. Mathews to Mr. Evarts.
Tangier, June 14, 1878. (Received July 17.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that from want of rain the southern part of Morocco, comprising the provinces of Haha, Sous, Aintuga, and the Morocco districts, is suffering from famine, every description of food being exceedingly scarce, and gloomy indeed is the picture of affairs in the rest of the empire. Owing to the drought of the season, starvation is staring the native tribes of the interior in the face. Their fields are completely parched, the crops have entirely failed, and great is their distress for want of employment, gaining their subsistence by tilling the ground and gathering in the crops whenever chance offered.
These poor Bedouins, who vied with each other in assisting their brethren of the Riff coast last year, are now worse off than they were. The want of rain, which would enable them to raise fodder, causes the holders of cattle to bring them into the town to be disposed of as best they can at any sacrifice, as the herds and flocks are dying by thousands. On the 28th ultimo cows were sold for the paltry sum of one dollar each, and the sheep at twenty cents. The mortality of cattle is enormous. Grain is very scarce, and the little that is to be seen in the market is very dear. Prices have risen 300 per cent. Rice and flour are being imported from England and France, but up to the present in small quantities. It is said, however, that large quantities of flour have already left Marseilles for this coast, and but for the Emperor’s edict to lay an import duty of fifty cents on each sack of foreign flour imported, I feel sure there would be also direct importations from the United States, where, so far, flour and wheat have ruled at moderate prices.
The crops in Spain will prove very indifferent this year, particularly on the eastern coast, where much barley is generally produced. At Tangier [Page 685] some late showers have done a little good to the fields for the benefit of the cattle; but at Mogador, the province is in a frightful state of misery. The Moors, poor creatures, get no assistance from the government, and little or nothing from their coreligionists. They are mainly dependent upon the charity they receive from foreigners. The Jews are behaving well with their poor brethren. So much misery and want are really distressing. The only food upon which the poorer class subsisted in the province of Haha is yernee, a venomous plant, the root of which is the size and form of a nut. To remove the poison it has to be well washed, boiled, and pounded, and then again heated before it is eaten.
The scenes following on the dreadful calamities of famine and starvation which lately attained to such fearful proportions in India, and are now pursuing their fury of devastation in parts of the Chinese Empire, are, as I have to report with every feeling of sorrow and sympathy, being spread in the southern provinces of this empire, and are spreading and increasing daily, and which cannot be even alleviated until the next harvest, even if favored by a good season, has been sown and gathered; and a moments reflection will show the many months which must elapse before that can happen under the most favorable circumstances. Even should plentiful rain fall during the coming season, the famine will not be in any way diminished, as no advantage will be derived there from by the starving population until the harvest of the next year, and, moreover, most of the poorer peasants will have used up their small hoards of grain kept back for seed, and the animals necessary for the plow will have been carried off by the famine.
A committee of gentlemen interested in Morocco, has lately been formed for the purpose of organizing a relief fund, of which Mr. C. Murdock, of Saffi, is appointed chairman, and Mr. Aflalo, secretary, and the total amount of subscriptions promised at the first meeting was $2,000. Energetic steps will be taken in the matter. The general fund will be devoted to the relief of the distress existing in the seaport towns of Morocco, it being the custom with the starving natives of the interior in times of want to flock to the seaports.
A “Morocco famine relief fund” has already been organized at Gibraltar. I understand from the British minister that his government will subscribe $1,000, and it is hoped that the many who have visited Morocco, and met with proofs of the kindness and good will invariably shown by the natives to foreign travelers, will respond to their appeal to their feelings of charity.
I have, &c.,