Mr. Mathews to Mr. Evarts.
Tangier, March 24, 1879. (Received May 14.)
Sir: The malignant typhus fever, referred to in my dispatch No. 303 as having appeared at the city of Morocco, where the daily mortality reached as many as 300 people, has now spread itself throughout all the Empire of Morocco, with more or less intensity according to the hygienic state of the towns and villages, making dreadful havoc, carrying away many of the strongest and healthiest of the population, the European portion suffering to the same extent as the Moorish. At Mogador, where the disease prevails with great severity, the Italian and Portuguese consuls, and many of the European merchants have succumbed to its baneful effects; the French and English consuls, with the latter’s children, have also been attacked. At Saffi [Page 841] the Italian vice-consul and a number of respectable European merchants have fallen victims to the dreadful fever. At Mazagan, the Portuguese and the Austrian vice-consuls, and many Europeans died also of typhus, and at Casablanca and Rabat even the only European doctor fell a victim to the contagion, together with many of the European residents. The American artist Mr. L. E. Weeks, who, with his wife, were visiting Rabat and Sallee, were severely attacked with the typhus fever and both very nearly died. Here in Tangier we have had from 12 to 17 cases per week, and the disease still continues unabated. It is a noteworthy fact that during the prevalence of the late cholera epidemic we foreigners were spared from that dreadful disease, but it is otherwise with the typhus, now raging with great virulence, attacking all alike, with the same intensity. The trade of the empire is paralyzed, and a heavy gloom seems to pervade the whole country.
The crops are getting on as well as can be expected. The maize has been greatly benefited by the late rains, and wheat, beans, &c., are looking well. This favorable aspect of things has brought dullness in regard to imports, and consumption is decreasing daily. On the other hand, there continues dreadful distress among the Arabs, with which the generous efforts of Christians are inadequate to cope. Thousand of lives have been and are being sacrificed, which a prompt distribution of the enormous stocks of grain in the hands of the governors of provinces could have saved. A fearful responsibility rests upon these and other Moorish officials, whose duty it was to inform the Sultan of the state of his subjects.
In consequence of the existing mortality and shallowness of the graves of natives (18 inches), with the approach of hot weather, it is feared epidemics will reign, as with the present comparatively cool weather the fever is carrying off so many. The suggestion offered to the Moorish authorities of covering the graves with quicklime to reduce the danger has been rejected as being against their religion.
Owing to a large number of poor people from the interior of Morocco having again assembled within the town and precincts of Tangier, seeking for relief, and as this most unfortunate people had no domiciles, but squatted about the streets at night, to the great inconvenience of passengers, the foreign representatives urged the Bash a of Tangier to take active steps to cause these strangers to return to the districts to which they belonged, offering once more to provide a sufficiency of food and money to enable them to reach their destinations. This step was urged, as with the prevailing typhus fever there are grounds for apprehension, if these poor people remained, that there might be an outbreak of other dangerous epidemics in the approaching warm weather. On Monday morning, therefore, 789 pauper strangers, men, women, and children, were assembled at the castle, each family receiving a small sum of money and loaves of bread in proportion to the distance of the journey they had respectively to perform, and afterward left Tangier, accompanied by guards, who were ordered to escort them out of the Tangier province.
The ministers of France, Great Britain, and Spain provided the money distributed to these people from the charitable funds collected in France and England, called the “Morocco famine relief fund.” The other representatives provided the bread. I contributed with 1,000 pounds of bread, in addition to pecuniary donations.
The departure of these poor people is not only a prudent measure in a hygienic point of view, but also necessary as a precaution for the general safety of Europeans and other foreigners in Tangier.[Page 842]
I have furnished the Surgeon-General of the United States Marine Hospital Service with weekly reports of the effects of the prevailing diseases, with its description and most successful mode of treatment.
I have, &c.,