Mr. Hale to Mr. Seward

No. 10.]

Sir: When the Sultan visited Egypt about two years ago, he made a number of donations for benevolent and charitable purposes, which the Pacha augmented in each case by a grant from his own purse. There were donations to the Greek, Coptic and Roman churches, and also one to the protestant community; the other donations were speedily applied, but that to the protestant community remained untouched in the hands of the bankers to whom it had been confided, from the obvious want of any organization to receive. Soon after my arrival in Egypt, I learned that the banker had proposed to deliver the grant to the consuls general of the United States, Prussia and Great Britain, acting jointly as the representatives of the protestant organizations under their respective jurisdictions, provided they would come to an agreement among themselves respecting a partition of the money.

Although the missionary and school establishments under the care of citizens of the United States in Egypt might perhaps claim a larger importance than those under other jurisdictions, the only possible basis of an agreement among the three consuls general was that of equality. I accordingly united with Mr. Theremin, the consul general of Prussia, and Mr. Reade, the acting agent and consul general of Great Britain, in an agreement for an equal division of the grant; we also joined in signing a power of attorney to Mr. Barthon, United States vice-consul at Alexandria, to draw the money from the banker’s hands. I should mention that the arrangement for an equal division among the three [Page 314] consulates general had received the assent and the approval of Nubar, who had been appointed both by the Sultan and the Pacha to superintend the application of their bounty.

The exact amount of the Sultan’s donation was not known until Mr. Barthon brought the sealed bag containing it to Messrs. Theremin, Reade and myself, who had assembled on the 17th instant to finish the business. On opening the bag it proved to contain two hundred and fifty new Turkish gold-pieces, probably coined for the purpose of these donations, each of the value of eighty-seven and three-quarter Egyptian government piasters. The value of the piaster, according to the official synopsis of foreign moneys prepared at the United States mint, is a very small fraction in excess of five cents, (namely 5.0067.) The Pacha’s augmentation of the grant was fifteen thousand government piasters. The whole grant, accordingly, was thirty-six thousand nine hundred and thirty-seven and one-half government piasters; the share for each jurisdiction was twelve thousand three hundred and twelve and one-half government piasters, or six hundred and fifteen dollars in American gold.

Messrs. Theremin and Reade joined with me in a memorandum of the proceeding, which was prepared in triplicate, and signed on the principle of the alternate, each nation being named first in the copy of the instrument preserved by its representative.

There is fortunately no occasion for hesitating with regard to the disposition to be made of the share of this grant assigned to this consulate general, as the mission establishment of Rev. M. Lansing and his worthy associates was undoubtedly intended by the Sultan and the Pacha to be the recipient of their bounty, and is moreover an organization which is in all respects able to make a proper and fit use of the money.

It was of course a matter of gratification to me to be able to take part in the conclusion of an affair which has been pending unsettled nearly two years. In this country, where money commands a very high rate of interest, the grant might have been considerably increased, could it have been withdrawn from the banker’s hands at an earlier date. It will now be made immediately available.

I have also to report another instance of the good will of the Egyptian government towards the American mission. The mission has recently purchased an estate in Alexandria, with a building thereon to be used for its schools in this town. Property held for religious purposes in this country, as in most others, is exempt from taxation; the schools of the missionaries are free; and the Pacha has in several instances manifested an enlightened interest in public instruction. I deem it not improper, therefore, to forward to the government the request of the missionaries that the government tax usually levied in all cases of transfers of real estate might in this instance be raised.

The minister for foreign affairs (who is also minister for public instruction) answered that the subject was one that could only be treated by the Pacha himself, and I accordingly mentioned the matter to his Highness, who immediately answered that he wished the missionaries to be free of the tax, but in order not to interrupt the regular course of proceedings, he would prefer that they should take out their title-deed and pay the tax in the usual manner, and that he would afterwards reimburse the whole expense of the transaction as a grant from his own purse.

The amount of the tax, with incidental expenses, proves to be about nine hundred dollars in American gold.

Many formalities are necessary to complete the legal title, involving delays, notwithstanding the zealous efforts of the officials to expedite the business. I detain the transmission of this despatch to be able to announce the completion of the affair.

[January 24, 1865.—The business is finished in a satisfactory manner, and the reimbursement of the tax has been paid into the missionaries’ hands.]

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It may be mentioned, as a proof of the progress of this country in civilization and of the enlightened regard of its rulers for the rights of foreigners, that a few years ago Franks were not allowed to hold real estate, and in cases of purchases were obliged to resort to some subterfuge in getting their title. Nothing of this sort is now necessary, and the title of the present estate is registered in the local court, in the name of the Rev. Mr Watson, citizen of the United States, who holds it in trust for the mission. It is but a few years since our American States repealed their laws prohibiting aliens from holding real estate, and in some of the States I believe the disqualification still exists. In this particular, as in many others, moreover, it is to be observed that Egypt is far in advance of other parts of the Ottoman empire; and it is indeed ludicrous that Great Britain should make such persistent efforts to mark the Pacha of Egypt as a vassal of the Sultan.

These donations, although not very considerable in amount, are acceptable to the missionaries at the present time, when the high rates of exchange operate largely to diminish the avails of the remittances to them from America; and they are especially valuable as new evidences of the continued good will of the government, in which respect they are indeed significant. It may well be doubted whether there is any western nation whose rules, however tolerant of diverse religions, would make a money grant to a Mohammedan community,

The anniversary of the birth of Ismail Pacha, the present ruler of Egypt, was celebrated on the 15th instant. In the morning the consuls general and the high functionaries of state visited his Highness at his palace of Gazara and expressed their felicitations. In the evening a banquet was given by Ragheb, one of the Pacha’s principal ministers, at the palace of Kasr-el-nil. The banquet was served in the European style, but with Oriental profusion and magnificence. The apartment in which it took place was lighted by at least a thousand wax candles. About eighty guests were present. When the cloth was removed, Ragheb made a brief speech of welcome and in. honor of the Pacha, in the Turkish language. Mr. Testa, the consul general of Sweden and Norway, (who is the senior among those members of the consular corps here who are envoys of the nations they represent,) responded in a brief speech in French. The minister for foreign affairs next proposed in French the health of sovereigns and heads of governments friendly to the Pacha, It would have been proper that the former part of this toast should have been answered by the representative of some of the great European nations, but, from lack, I believe, of any understanding among them on the point, there was no response. As I was well aware that the language of the toast had been chosen expressly to compliment the President of the United States, I deemed it proper to make an acknowledgment of the courtesy. Beginning with an apology for my first essay at dinner-table speaking in French, (but no other language would have been understood by the greater part of those present,) I remarked that the President and people of the United States had observed with pleasure the progress made by Egypt under the enlightened rule of its present government. No doubt the staple agricultural productions of Egypt are the same as those of America—cotton, grain and sugar; and no doubt the present extraordinary prosperity of Egypt may be attributed in large degree to the American war; but our war is undertaken in the cause of humanity, and meanwhile we are not sorry that among all the countries of the world the greatest incidental benefit should have accrued to one like Egypt, whose rulers have always been friendly to us, have appreciated our position and respected our rights. I concluded by expressing a confident hope that the resources of Egypt, once ever developed, would promote a commerce of which all nations, our own included, would enjoy the advantage.

These remarks were heard with close attention by the company, and were well received. The ministers of state, and a few days afterwards the Pacha [Page 316] himself, expressed in cordial terms their gratification. The speech was taken down on the spot by a Turkish short-hand writer, and was printed in the official gazette in Arabic, in Turkish and French. The Italian and Greek newspapers also printed it in their respective languages.

The Pacha, in allusion to the grandeur of our war, and its probable result in the extinction of slavery, described to me in detail his efforts for the amelioration of the condition of the laborers in Egypt, and for the promotion of agricultural prosperity. He is himself one of the largest cotton-growers in the country, and enjoys a large profit from the high price of cotton; but the most abased fellah also partakes in the general prosperity, and in some of the villages the fallaheen have been strong enough to make a stand against the oppressions of the local magistracy; at any rate they are better able to put up with extortion, in cases where they do not choose to resist. In the large towns, and especially in Alexandria, however, the condition of the people is very different, as there has been an enormous advance in rents and in the prices of the necessaries of life.

Sir Henry Bulwer, British ambassador at Constantinople, arrived in Egypt last week. His presence here is believed to be distasteful to the Pacha, who has nevertheless placed one of his palaces at the ambassador’s disposal. Mr. Colquhoun, the British agent and consul general, is expected to return to his post here by the packet to arrive to-morrow. Mr. Sehreiner, the consul general of Austria, arrived the day before yesterday; Mr. Popolani, of Portugal, a few days earlier; and Mr. Euyssnaers, of Holland, and Mr. Dumreicher, of Denmark, last month. The return of these gentlemen completes the consular corps, except that a successor has not yet been appointed for the Hanseatic towns to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. de Rossetti. The unfitness of the climate for a summer residence makes the practice of the European governments nearly universal to give leave of absence to their representatives during the hot months, and it is only now that the climate is becoming agreeable. The number of travellers from all countries is much less than usual; from the United States only five have arrived, of whom one has gone up the Nile. Last year at this date I am told eighty parties had started for the Nile voyage; this year only eight.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.