No. 425.
Mr. Moran to Mr. Evarts.

No. 178.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that the last annual session of the present Cortes was opened yesterday by the King in person, and I inclose’ herewith a printed copy of the speech delivered then by His Majesty to both houses, together with a translation of the same.

This speech gives a brief statement of the present condition of the kingdom, and recommends certain legislation for the better development of trade. The construction of an artificial harbor near Oporto, where the Douro is becoming unnavigable for large vessels owing to an accumulation of sand on the entrance bar, and of more roads in the interior of the country, are the chief measures submitted for the consideration of the Cortes. The necessity for prompt action in regard to Oporto is acknowledged on all hands, and unless something be soon done, either to restore the navigation of the Lower Douro or create an artificial harbor near Oporto, the trade of that place will sink into comparative insignificance.

The financial situation of the country is not encouraging; the total obligations including the floating debt of £6,000,000, is nearly £90,000,000. [Page 740] The amount set aside far the payment of interest is £2,700,000, or about 45 per cent, of the present revenue of £5,600,000; and the government expenditure averages £3,100,000 per annum.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 178.—Translation.]

The King’s speech, January 2, 1878.

Honored peers of the realm arid gentlemen deputies of the Portuguese nation:

In discharge of one of the most pleasing duties of a constitutional King, I am about to inaugurate to-day the labors of the ensuing annual session of the legislature.

I have the greatest satisfaction in announcing to you that our friendly relations with foreign powers remain unchanged.

The conflict existing between two great nations, which please God may not be far from its conclusion, fortunately does not threaten to compromise our interests, nor to disturb that lengthened peace we have enjoyed.

In the year just ended I have received a visit from His Majesty the Emperor of the Brazils, my beloved uncle. This event, while very agreeable tome and all the royal family, has once again been made an occasion of emphatic demonstrations of respect of the Portuguese people toward the illustrious monarch who presides over the destinies of a great nation, to which close bonds of blood unite us, and from which a great number of our compatriots receive fraternal hospitality.

In the interior of the kingdom and in the ultramarine provinces tranquility has continued to be maintained, and under its salutary influence the action of the political system has been undisturbed, and the development of all the national interests, progressive.

In November last the election of the municipal chambers which have to regulate the districts for the two ensuing years, were held in the kingdom and adjacent islands. These passed off with regularity, and, excepting some excitement at places where the dispute was warmer, it can be affirmed the people exercised their electoral rights freely and without molestation.

The state of the public revenue has continued to require the most serious attention of my government, which has employed every means to improve the condition of the treasury, the state of which you will be able to duly estimate by the explanations which will be laid before you by the finance department, together with the estimate of the receipts and expenses of the state for the coming financial year.

Employing the means voted in the last legislative session for the extinction of the floating debt, the government realized a large part of the loan destined to that end; the portion not yet realized will be issued when circumstances permit of so doing to the advantage of the treasury.

The financial situation of the country, somewhat disturbed by the bank crisis of 1876, is in the way of recovering from that convulsion, and allows us to hope it will soon resume its normal activity.

There is a continued impulse felt in the improvements begun in the ultramarine provinces. The development of the great wealth which our vast dominions in those regions offer cannot fail at this expoch to form an important chapter in the programme of all administrations, and the eminent men of this country who form scientific associations intended chiefly for the study of colonial matters, are affording by such designs patriotic co-operation with the public authorities.

The transition from slave to free labor has taken place, owing to the vigilance of the public authorities, without those lamentable conflicts and disorders which in other countries have signalized this great conquest of Christianity and philosophy.

There are now in those regions four scientific expenditures of public works, organized in the kingdom and destined for Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, and St. Thomas. You will have, on a fitting occasion, information of these works so as to enable you to make due provision for their continuance, to the great importance of those provinces.

An account will be given you, by the minister of marine and the colonies, of measures taken of a legislative character which have been adopted during the legislative recess for the regulation of those possessions.

The particular attention of my government has also been directed to improvements undertaken by the department of public works, especially those which have for object the development of ordinary and more rapid locomotion.

A circumstantial report will be presented to you, by the ministry of public works, of the works executed since the formation of that department up to the 30th June last. From this report you will see that the sums received into the treasury resulting from [Page 741] loans contracted within the last twenty-five years have all been employed in improvements which augment the wealth and develop the prosperity of the country.

From the estimate which you will make of this document, and from the suggestions of your enlightened experience, you will assuredly conclude that little now remains to be done before that the improvements realized shall produce such a financial and economical result as the nation has a right to expect as the just reward of its sacrifices.

The increased development of ordinary internal communication can no longer be delayed, especially in the provinces, to which the railroad has brought elements of prosperity which will fail in fruitfulness unless fed by the cheap conveyance of produce which accumulates and deteriorates at the places of its growth.

On the 4th of November last the bridge over the Douro was inaugurated and with it the fifth section of the north and east railway. This ceremony, over which I had the pleasure to preside, was greeted by the country with the most lively enthusiasm, both on account of the high artistic merit of the enterprise as for the advantages resulting therefrom in facilitating and cheapening communication.

With the purpose of placing the postal service in harmony with the requirements of commerce, the government has decreed important reforms in this department, acting therein in conformity with the law of February 10, 1876, an account of which will be given you in a separate report.

Improvements, the object of which you will appreciate, have been initiated at the district farm at Centra by the introduction of steam cultivation, which will give that industrial establishment practically and theoretically the means of advantageously contributing toward transforming the national system of cultivation.

A scarcity of food in the Azores compelled the government, during the year just ended, not only to furnish cereals to feed the necessities of the people, but also to decree extraordinary measures for the free entry of such provisions.

On the last day of the last year, a general census of the population was undertaken, and from this work, which it is hoped will present a favorable report in comparison with the preceding one, the result will be laid before you, so soon as the scrutiny is completed.

In the last legislative session there awaited your deliberation several projects of laws on matters of high importance. It is expected, from your enlightenment, that you will persevere in your examination of them, and my government will so co-operate with you that all the advantage the good of the state requires may result from the measures proposed. Among them must deserve your particular attention that which, aims at reforms in elementary instruction, a subject which is incessantly recommended to the care of those who have in charge the promotion of the moral and intellectual development of the nation.

Other proposals of laws will be laid before you by my government, all of which tend to satisfy the pressing necessities of the public service. Among those deserves special mention that which aims at perfecting our election laws by the better arrangement of districts, by enlarging the electoral franchise, extending to a great number of citizens the right of voting, to whom, in the face of the fundamental laws of the state, it cannot be refused.

Among the remaining propositions, and on a par with the general estimate of receipts and expenditures, those unquestionably take precedence which aim at perfecting the laws of taxation by rendering the sources of receipt as productive as possible, so that the indispensable equilibrium between the two may be obtained.

Those measures are not without importance which aim at completing the links of the railway south of the Tagus, not only to utilize the capital at present spent unprofitably between Faro and Cazevel, but also to unite at the most fitting point the Alembejo and Algarve with the railways of the rest of Europe, and the south directly with the north of the kingdom, also to enable the government to push on to a conclusion the railways of the Minho and the Douro, and, on their being completed, to construct the Heir a Alta railway, a work of the greatest importance for the development of the wealth of that fertile region.

Measures will also be laid before you for the improvement of the telegraphic service, which doubtless will receive a favorable reception, considering how much there is needed for the perfection of that branch of the service so as to place it on a level with the requirements of the times.

Lastly, I call your attention to a proposal which aims at meeting the urgent necessities of the population of the north of the kingdom, viz, for an artificial port giving free access and safe shelter to ships of whatever tonnage. This improvement, long needed, will assuredly receive an important impulse from your devotion to national interests. And, time permitting, my government reckons on being able to present also to you in this legislative session a proposal for the organization of secondary instruction, in which those difficult and varied problems included in this important branch of public administration will have their solution.

Worthy peers of the realm and deputies of the Portuguese nation, once more I desire to express the conviction which I feel that Divine Providence will continue to inspire [Page 742] you, so that in the examination of all matters brought under your deliberations you may give fresh proofs of your worth and your patriotism, and that you may use every effort to draw the greatest profit from the valuable resources of the country, so that by placing the finances of the state on a firm footing those improvements will follow at which we are yet aiming and the realization of which must place us on a level with the most advanced of nations.

The session is opened.