to Mr. Evarts.
Vienna, March 31, 1879. (Received April 16.)
Sir: The English Government has just concluded a commercial treaty with Servia, by which are secured to the British the privileges of the “most favored nation.” An English chargé d’affaires had already been appointed to reside at Belgrade. Through this officer the treaty was promptly effected with that foresight which characterizes the English Government in all commercial questions.
The Government of Austria has been exercising pressure to draw Servia into the same customs jurisdiction with Austria-Hungary. The Vienna cabinet claims that Servia enters into the sphere of their special interests, and is strongly induced to exercise a more than paternal influence upon her external relations. The establishment of commercial treaties on the part of Servia with other nations therefore arouses the opposition of the Austrian Government, and interferes with its plans. Nevertheless, the English convention has been signed, but was limited to a period of fourteen months, at the end of which it may be renewed [Page 60] for a longer term; but if not renewed it expires by force of its own provisions, without denunciation.
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It is to be hoped that other governments besides England will press for that equality of right which the British treaty has secured for the trade of that country.
The Jewish question in Servia presents no longer a reason for delay in the full diplomatic recognition of her independence. Prior to the annexation of territory, secured to her by the congress of Berlin, the number of Jews in Servia was about 1,200. The annexations brought in about 800 more. The former Jewish population (1,200) was chiefly composed of the descendants of an old colony of Spanish Jews, who still preserve the Spanish language among themselves. They have long enjoyed full political rights; but their right of residence has always been confined to four towns along the Danube; and they were not allowed to hold real estate. The new Jewish population (say 800), coming with the annexed Turkish territory, were, on the contrary, free from this restriction. It was easy, therefore, for the Servians to determine that their old population of this race must not have less right than the aliens just brought into their jurisdiction. Pursuant to the provisions of their constitution, an amendment of that instrument requires the sanction of two ordinary skuptschinas, and final adoption by the grand skuptschina, specially assembled therefor. The first two sanctions have already been given, and for the third the grand skuptschina will be summoned probably in the early summer. This body is four times as numerous as the ordinary legislative body; and there is said to be in Servia no building large enough to serve them as a hall for meeting. So the government must, atleast, accommodate them in the open air with a favorable season. No doubt at all is entertained of their ratification of the act abolishing the discriminations against the Jews.
The military organization of Servia comprises nearly the whole manly population. After the age of twenty every young man must serve, his period as recruit for the active army. After three years he goes into the militia (or reserve) and there remains, liable to be called until fifty years of age, into active service, at need. Their small-arms are of old Russian pattern; but they are changing them in their own arsenal, after Peabody’s pattern. Their active army in time of peace is small. They have for their whole army 30 batteries of artillery. The active and reserve forces together number about 135,000 men on paper.
The population has been increased by the annexation of territory from about 1,350,000 (in 1874) to 1,725,000 at this time. The agricultural conditions are good and the land fertile; but the largest part is wholly uncultivated, and the population is not well disposed to manual labor. Instead of the cultivation of the soil, they prefer the raising of cattle, pigs, and other live stock, whose subsistence is provided by nature in the grasses and the forests, and which, with their skins, form the chief staples of export.
The Servian revenues, according to the budget of 1877–’78, would amount to something over $3,000,000; their expenditures to nearly the same sum. Prior to the last war the principality had no public debt. It has now a small national debt. The finances are carefully managed, and the government is very economically administered.
Their trade sheet (believed to be imperfect) estimates the value of exports in the year 1874, the last statement which I have seen, at 39,000,000 francs and of their imports at 32,000,000 francs in round numbers.[Page 61]
Austria is making an earnest effort to secure improved ways of communication into and through Servia. These in turn will greatly ameliorate the local conditions of production and commerce. The next few years will doubtless show a marked progress in financial and commercial resources, and a largely increased demand for certain classes of manufactures.
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France is preparing for a treaty like that with England.
I have, &c.,