Mr. Hale to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 28th ultimo his Highness the Pacha came to Alexandria, and on the 31st I had a long interview with him at his palace of Ras-el-tine here. He expressed his cordial felicitations at the successful termination of our war.
He remarked that the discomfiture of the rebels had enabled him to make within a few days several advantageous purchases in England, among which he mentioned two war-vessels, and the complete machinery for the manufacture of small-arms, all of which had been destined for the confederates.
The Pacha takes much interest in his navy. A natural pride is felt in the safe arrival, a few days since, at Suez, of the Egyptian steam-frigate L’Ibra-himié, of four hundred horse-power, the first war-vessel bearing the Egyptian flag which has ever doubled the cape of Good Hope. She left Alexandria for Marseilles about eight months ago, and then passing the straits of Gibraltar proceeded to England, where some repairs were made to her machinery. In February, her commander, Mustafa Bey, having received the orders of the Pacha to proceed from England to Suez, the frigate started on her long voyage. Her first stop was at St. Helena, where, as afterwards at the cape of Good Hope, every attention was shown her by the authorities of the British government. From the cape of Good Hope she went to the Seychelles and Zanzibar, whence, touching only at Aden, she completed the voyage to Suez, the whole crew in perfect health and excellent spirits. The Pacha, who bad previously ordered that the pay of officers and seamen should be augmented one-fourth for the period of the voyage, was so much pleased at its happy termination, that he also bestowed on all three months’ additional pay, as a private gratuity.
The happy tidings of the end of the American war produced a fall in the price of cotton, from which resulted, here, a financial crisis. Several heavy failures occurred, and there were many instances of suffering and distress. From the greatly diminished value of the cotton crop, it has been apprehended that the fellahs or native cultivators would find themselves unable to pay the advances which had been made to them, generally by European capitalists.
Under these circumstances the Pacha has come forward with a comprehensive measure of relief. He proposes to furnish to the fellahs the means of paying their debts, securing himself by a mortgage on their lands.[Page 321]
The amount required for this purpose exceeds a million of pounds sterling, which is to be reimbursed by the fellahs in instalments extending over a period of fifteen years, with interest.
As the Pacha, notwithstanding his immense resources, is generally without ready money, he is negotiating a new loan for the amount required.
It is needless to remark that this measure is acceptable to all parties concerned. On the one hand, the capitalists are rejoiced to find provision made for the payment of their debts; while the fellahs obtain an extension of fiftten years’ time, in the course of which they may reasonably hope to be able to cover their present losses.
On the part of the Pacha, moreover, the arrangement is not without its advantages. In the first place, his exchequer may gain something from the higher rate of interest charged to the fellahs above the rate necessary to be paid by him upon his loan. Next, he substitutes himself for European creditors, many of whom had mortgages upon the lands of their debtors, and prevents the possibility of the lands falling into the possession of aliens, which, although allowed in Egypt, is naturally distasteful. And, finally, he puts himself in the way of augmenting his own landed possessions, in cases in which the fellahs to whom this measure of relief is accorded shall fail in their payments. From the constitutional improvidence of these people this is not unlikely to happen in many cases, and the passion of the Pacha for the acquisition of land may thus be gratified. It has previously been computed that he is the owner of no less than one-sixth of the cultivable land within his dominions.
Without shutting our eyes to the force of these material considerations, which have no doubt had their share of influence in determining this measure, we must, nevertheless, give the Pacha full credit for it as an act of beneficent grace and timely relief which few rulers would have either the means or the inclination to accord to their subjects, in a time of financial distress.
I received on the 11th instant the instruction of the Acting Secretary, under date of the 16th May, covering the proclamation of the President, which I communicated without delay to his Highness’s minister for foreign affairs, offering, at the same time, my congratulations that the Egyptian government four years ago assumed the position which the cabinets of London and Paris find themselves obliged to take now, in consequence of the President’s proclamation.
I may mention without impropriety that both the Pacha and his minister, in my interview with them, have inquired about your health with much solicitude, and have expressed great satisfaction at the tidings I have been able to give them of the progress of your recovery.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.