Mr. Francis to Mr. Frelinghuysen
Lisbon , June 22, 1883. (Received July 14.)
Sir: After a session extending from January 2 to June 17, the Cortes was adjourned by royal decree to November 5, when it will assemble in special session to consider the constitutional amendments proposed by the ministry for the reorganization of the House of Peers and the verification of the powers of the members of the Chamber of Deputies, as set forth in my No. 40, of the date of March 14, the avowed object being to impose limitations and judicious conditions upon the exercise of the royal prerogative in the creation of peers, and otherwise rendering this branch of the Cortes less unwieldy, by restriction as to its numbers, and constituting the legislative body so as to make it conform in organization to the liberal institutions of the Kingdom and the progressive tendencies of the age. The proposed electoral reform, as described in my No. 40, designed to guard and purify the elections, and to establish to a very limited extent the principle of minority representation, is also to be considered at the special session of the Cortes.
Few important measures were enacted into laws during the late session of the Cortes. Among the acts of public interest may be named: (1) The law for lighting and buoying the coasts and harbors of the continent and adjacent islands, a necessary and important measure, which is fully described in my No. 51. The work, which is a large undertaking, is required to be completed within five years. (2) Concessions granted to railway companies for the construction of three comparatively small lines of narrow-gauge roads in the northern districts of Portugal, connecting some fertile regions with main roads of the Kingdom. (3) Directing needed improvements in Lisbon Harbor by extensive dredging, and for the construction of a new port at Leixves, at the mouth of the Duoro River, so as to afford commercial access to Oporto without the necessity of crossing the bar, which at times involves great delay as well as peril to shipping, this latter point being regarded as of vital importance to the business interests of Oporto as well as to railroad lines centering there, and for the safety of the commerce by sea that moves to arid from this chief city of Northern Portugal. (4) The law defining privileges of trade-marks for both subjects and foreigners, with penalties for violation of its provisions. (5) The budget for 1883–84, as presented by the minister of finance and given in detail in my No. 23, of the date of January 8.
Toward the close of the session, in response to interpellation, the minister of public worship explained the relations subsisting between the Portuguese Government and the Roman See, intimating a satisfactory solution of the heretofore serious disagreements as probable with reference to filling certain vacant bishoprics and the designation of the patriarch of Lisbon. The Government insists upon its right to name persons for these high ecclesiastical positions; the Holy See had for years refused to confirm some of the Government nominees. But now, it is said, an understanding has been arrived at whereby harmony is likely to be restored through the confirmation of the Government nominees by the Pope after years of irritating differences.[Page 743]
The Congo question was discussed in the Cortes from time to time, not upon any specific measure proposed for its treatment, but rather upon interpellations touching the proposed treaty dealing with the question between Portugal and Great Britain. Now, there are some givings out to the effect that, failing to secure the desired treaty with Great Britain, negotiations may be opened between Portugal and France, with a view to an alliance of the two powers under treaty stipulations favorable to the interests of each in connection with “African territorial possessions.
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The debates upon the finances of the Kingdom drew out statements from the supporters of the Government to the effect that the floating national indebtedness is not increasing, and that the situation of the treasury is quite satisfactory, notwithstanding there has been latterly a falling off of receipts from custom-house collections.
I have, &c.,