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Title: The Isthmus of Suez Question
Author: Lesseps, M. Ferdinand de
Language: English
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                             ISTHMUS OF SUEZ

                        M. FERDINAND DE LESSEPS,
                        MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY.

                       “APERIRE TERRAM GENTIBUS.”

                            GALIGNANI AND CO.



    THE QUESTION SUBMITTED                                    7



       I. M. DE LESSEPS’ MEMORIAL TO THE VICEROY             18

      II. FIRMAN OF CONCESSION                               28


      IV. PRECURSORY SCHEME                                  58


      VI. M. DE LESSEPS’ REPORT                             174

     VII. OPINION OF MR. ANDERSON                           182

    VIII. OPINION OF CAPTAIN VETCH                          204

      IX. ARTICLE FROM THE MONITEUR                         212

_Explanation of the French Monies, Weights, and Measures used in the
following pages._

     1 Franc = about 9½ d. or, 25 fr. = 1£.
    81 Livres = 80 francs.
     1 Quintal = about 220½ lbs.
     1 Metre = 39⅜ inches nearly.
     1 Kilometre = about 1093⅔ yards, or nearly 5 furlongs.
     1 Hectare = 2 acres, 4712, or nearly 2½ acres.
     1 Litre about 1¾ pint.

The figures following the denomination are decimal parts; thus: 7 _fr._
25, 6 _met._ 50 represent respectively 7¼ _francs_, 6½ _metres_.



“Aperire terram gentibus.”

In the month of October, 1854, I left Europe for Egypt, in consequence
of an invitation I had received from the new Viceroy, Mohammed Saïd, who
for twenty years has honoured me with his friendship. I had no mission
from my Government. It was in the course of a journey across the Libyan
desert from Alexandria to Cairo which I made in company with the Prince,
that the question of cutting through the Isthmus of Suez, was for the
first time mooted between us. He requested me to draw up a memorial on
the subject, (Appendix, No. 1) and, as my ideas met with his approbation,
he issued to the Consuls General of foreign powers a firman (Appendix,
No. 2), destined to receive the sanction of the Sultan, granting to a
company composed of the capitalists of all nations without distinction,
the right to construct a canal between the two Seas. Mr. Bruce, the agent
of the British Government, was the first of the Consuls General who was
informed of the Viceroy’s project, so that France and England received
intimation of it at the same time.

MM. Linant Bey and Mougel Bey, engineers, who have been engaged, the
one for the last twenty, the other for the last thirty years, in the
construction of important hydraulic works in Egypt, were appointed by
the Viceroy to accompany me in an exploring expedition to the Isthmus
of Suez, and to complete, by a fresh examination of the ground, the
investigations they had already made.

This expedition was made during last December and January; after
presenting an account of it to His Highness Mohammed Saïd, I gave
instructions (Appendix, No. 3), in his name, to the engineers, calculated
to assist them in the preparation of their report.

In the month of March, MM. Linant Bey and Mougel Bey delivered the
precursory scheme (Appendix, No. 4), which quite convinced the Viceroy of
the possibility of executing this great undertaking in which he has taken
the initiative. They establish by calculations and data, which may be
verified by any one, that a maritime canal direct from Suez to Pelusium
thirty leagues long, one hundred metres wide, and eight metres deep,
extending sufficiently far into the two seas by means of jetties, to
obtain the depth necessary to enable ships to enter without difficulty,
having an inland port in the natural basin of Lake Timsah, and which
should be completed in six years, would cost, at the most, 160,000,000
francs, (£6,400,000); or, about half the amount expended on the Great
Northern railway from London to York, or on that between Paris and Lyons.

In a journey that I made to Constantinople,[1] I ascertained that the
Sultan and his ministers were favourable to the project, and I delivered
to the Viceroy a letter from the Grand Vizier, in which he aptly
characterized the opening of the Isthmus of Suez by a maritime canal as
a work of the most useful and interesting character. (Appendix, No. 5.)
His Highness immediately transmitted to the Divan, the documents, maps,
and plans necessary for understanding the question of construction, and
which were required for obtaining the sanction of the Sovereign.

I was then commissioned to return to Europe for the purpose of calling
public attention to the subject and to take measures for organizing the
undertaking, on a cosmopolitan basis in accordance with the principles
which have from the commencement guided the projectors.

Prince Mohammed Saïd has declared in his instructions (Appendix, No. 6),
that the labours of his engineers, who at this moment are engaged in
preparing their definitive scheme, shall be submitted to the judgment of
engineers, chosen from England, from France, from Holland, from Germany,
and from Italy; and that the organization of the Universal Company
entrusted with the construction of the Canal shall be based upon the
scientific decision of Europe.

Until then no call will be made on the shareholders, and, the
administration of the Company being in the hands of capitalists and
other persons of all nations, in proportion to the relative commercial
importance of their country, they will not support the undertaking unless
they are convinced that it will be to their interest to do so.

As England is evidently interested more than any other power in the
construction of a canal through the Isthmus of Suez, my first step has
been to come to London, both in order to ascertain the state of public
opinion in England on this question, and also to give to all who desire
it such information as will enable them fully to appreciate the moral and
material aspects of the undertaking.

I have already remarked with satisfaction that, in general, men of
intelligence with whom I have had the honour of conversing on the
subject, do not admit that an event which would advance the interests
of the whole world, could possibly do injury to the power or commerce
of England. They frankly discard all idea of a prejudice against the
project; they assert on the contrary, that if feasible their country
cannot but gain by it, and that it would be a source of regret if the
idea were entertained in France that what would be beneficial to other
countries should not be of equal benefit to England.

Objections, however, which to my mind, I am proud to acknowledge,
do honour to the candour of English politicians, have been made, in
perfectly good faith, and without any feeling of distrust towards a
friendly nation, the alliance with which, cemented by the blood of their
brave armies, has been recently sanctioned by the unanimous demonstration
of the English people, as it will shortly be by the people of France.

I shall reproduce these objections, and reply to them in very few words.

I begin by setting aside all those which relate to the supposed
impossibility of execution, and to the idea that the canal can only
be constructed at an expenditure out of proportion to the advantages
reasonably to be expected.

If the canal should be found to be physically impossible, of course the
scheme will not be entertained, and if European science should not make
it clear that the advantages to be derived are commensurate with the
expenses to be incurred, capitalists will not come forward.

The report of the engineers replies triumphantly to other objections
respecting the sands of the desert, the alluvial deposits at Pelusium
and Suez, and the navigation of the Red Sea.

It has been affirmed that the project of a canal might retard the
construction of a railway from Alexandria to Suez, which the policy of
England has always considered essential to her Indian interests.

Far from being retarded by the canal project, the railway will, on the
contrary, be indebted to this very design, for its speedy completion; for
it can only obtain sufficient returns from the activity occasioned by a
considerable maritime commerce across the Isthmus of Suez. The Egyptian
Government, which has already completed, at its own expense, the first
two sections of the railway, viz., from Alexandria to the Nile, and from
the Nile to Cairo, takes this view of the question, and is at the same
time desirous of giving satisfaction to England, whose main object is
to secure for her despatches and travellers the most direct and speedy
route. The Viceroy, being thus persuaded, that of the two undertakings,
the railway and the canal, each forms the complement of the other, has
just decided on the completion of the third section, from Cairo to Suez.
He has given the order for the rails to an English house, and engineers
are at this moment engaged in levelling and in the superintendence of the

It has also been said that if a considerable number of European workmen,
or agricultural labourers, were taken to the Isthmus of Suez, there
would be some fear of their forming a colony of natives of one single
country—of France for instance—which might have a prejudicial effect
on the policy of England. In the first place, there is no motive for a
universal company to employ, for a special political object, workmen
of any one country in preference to those of any other. Again, it is
not necessary to demonstrate that a company of capitalists will attend
to their own interests, and they will certainly have an incontestable
advantage in employing Egyptians only, as workmen and agricultural
labourers. The _fellah_ of Egypt has alone constructed, under the
direction of skilful and experienced engineers and foremen, all the
extensive works undertaken in that country, and no nation can more
easily, or on more favourable terms, furnish disciplined armies, of
robust, active, and intelligent workmen, equally fit for the construction
of canals, for hydraulic and for agricultural operations.[2]

But what is of greater moment, and indeed alone deserves the
consideration of a people who have the fortunate custom of interesting
themselves in their political affairs, is the apprehension
conscientiously entertained by statesmen, whose right and whose duty it
is to ask themselves and maturely to consider:—

1. Whether shortening the distance by 3000 leagues for all the countries
of Northern Europe, and by 3400 leagues on an average for the ports of
the Mediterranean, including Malta, may not in future, in case of war,
menace the safety of the British possessions in India.

2. Whether the commercial and maritime relations of Great Britain will
not be disadvantageously affected by the opening of a new route, which,
while shortening the distance for her own navigation, will at the same
time facilitate and increase the navigation of all other nations towards
the extreme East.

The following passage from a recent publication replies to these

“The power in possession of Aden opens and shuts at its will the Red Sea,
and if it is true that the influence of nations and governments chiefly
depends on the good they can do to their friends and the harm they can
do to their enemies, that revolution would be of no slight advantage to
England which would lead the principal current of the world’s commerce
under the guns of her ships and the batteries of her fortresses. Besides,
is it from the naval armaments of the Mediterranean that England has
most reason to fear an invasion of India? It requires no more than
ordinary foresight to perceive, that if her Indian possessions were ever
seriously threatened, it could only be from Russia by land, and from
North America by sea. In either case, the safety of her possessions would
depend on the shortening of her line of operations.

“India is not the only British possession to which the route will be
abridged by the passage _viâ_ Suez. Australia will profit no less by the
change; and it will be all the more necessary to facilitate the defence
of that country, as it will become, if the cutting through of the Isthmus
of Panama be effected, more accessible to the ships of war of the United

“We may conclude from these observations, that there would be small risk
of the opening of the Isthmus of Suez weakening the military power of
Great Britain. Her commercial power could only be compromised by it, if
it were possible for the multiplicity of her transactions with the East
Indies to be decreased by shortening the intervening distance by 3000
leagues, or if it were possible for the producers and sellers of the
commodities of the extreme East to lose by the consumption of them in
Europe being doubled.

“If England must gain by the opening of the Isthmus an increase of
military and commercial power, the genius of calculation within her
will soon triumph over an ill-considered opposition. She will not
sacrifice the positive elevation, the basis of which is enlarged by the
developement of what surrounds it, to that relative elevation which is
satisfied with the degradation of others, and she will not give any one
the right to attribute to her, with regard to all the nations bordering
on the Mediterranean, the language lately addressed by the Emperor
Nicholas to the English Minister on the subject of Greece, and of the
East. Such a policy she leaves to its fitting home. She does more, she
opposes it by force of arms. Convinced that her strength lies in her
power of expansion, and in her commercial capabilities, she endeavours
by the prosperity of her neighbours to enlarge the basis of her own, and
for this reason it is that she animates with her co-operation so many
enterprises which enrich the Continent; no undertaking that she has ever
assisted will prove more productive of beneficial results to herself than
the operations at the Isthmus of Suez.”

To the preceding quotation, which is conclusive, I add some figures which
also have their value.

The Mediterranean ports will profit, it is true, by the opening of
the Isthmus of Suez, but England with the 5,000,000 tons employed in
her commerce—a tonnage greater than that of all the navies of Europe,
including France, united—cannot fail to profit in a much greater degree
by the increase of relations which must necessarily result from the
shortening of the distance between the points of traffic; to this opening
moreover she will be indebted for the inestimable advantage of finding
herself in closer connection with her colonies, than another nation whose
competition might otherwise be really formidable in the eyes of the
upholders of an exclusive system.

But on the contrary, England, adopting the policy of commercial freedom,
has been seen to favour the attempts which have been made to cut through
the American Isthmus, although, if successful, it would bring the United
States nearer the British possessions in India and still nearer to
Australia. She is not, however, ignorant of the fact that the maritime
commerce of the United States, which twenty years ago employed only
1,000,000 tons, now, in 1854, requires no less than 5,400,000, and that
this vast tonnage, already larger than her own, is constantly increasing.
But England on her part does not remain at a stand-still, and she has
done well in showing no fear of the contest. The law of progress has been
justified by official statistical documents. The burthen of the English
ships built in 1842 was 130,000 tons; in 1843, shipping to the amount
of 203,000 tons was built. It is especially since the relations of the
United States with the Indian Seas have been extended, that the commerce
of Great Britain has in those very regions experienced a still farther
developement. Thus, the imports from the Indian Peninsula, which in 1849
amounted to £9,238,000, had in 1853 increased to £13,610,000. Those from
China, which in 1849 were £6,200,000, rose in 1853, to £8,300,000. Again,
the tonnage employed in the trade between Great Britain and her Eastern
possessions, including the other countries in the Indian Seas, to and
fro, amounted in 1849 to 967,076, and in 1853 to 1,595,138 tons.

It may perhaps not be superfluous to reply to those persons who still
believe in the supposed monopoly which they think it advisable for
England to retain in her commerce with the East; we have just seen
that there is in fact no such monopoly as far as the United States are
concerned, and that England does not suffer from the want of it. It is
the same with respect to Europe. This state of things has a tendency to
increase every day, even with the existing means of communication by the
Cape of Good Hope and the imperfect transit through Egypt. Marseilles,
Bordeaux, Havre, Genoa, Trieste, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Hamburg,
all despatch vessels direct to the Indies. Marseilles and Trieste now
receive, _viâ_ Egypt, cases of indigo from India and bales of silk goods
from China. Powerful companies, in anticipation of peace, are at this
moment engaged in building ships expressly for trading to the East, or
else in devoting to that purpose the steamers and sailing vessels now
used as transports in the Black Sea.

Other objections have been made, and as they have been seriously brought
forward, I cannot allow them to pass without remark. Some very modest
Englishmen have compared their country to Venice, and have contended,
that if Venice lost her power by the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope,
England would see hers decline by a return to the shortest route. In
the first place, the shortest route is a geographical fact which no one
can get rid of, and, from the moment that it is ascertained that no
material obstacle prevents the opening of this direct line, it will not
be for any Government, much less for the one which has inaugurated the
era of commercial freedom, to oppose the realization of a work which
will satisfy the interests of all. Then, Great Britain in the nineteenth
century cannot be compared to Venice in the fifteenth: the latter, in
consequence of her defeats in 1291 and 1298, had been obliged to cede
the supremacy to Genoa, and, after having still shone in the first rank
when she put herself at the head of the league against Charles VIII.
(1495), finally lost her preponderance when the Portuguese destroyed her
fleets in the Red Sea, and the Emperor, the Pope and the kings of France
and Aragon formed the league of Cambray against her (1508). It would be
useless to prove by historical evidence that the decline of the Queen
of the Adriatic was due to other causes than the discovery of the Cape
(1497), by which she might have profited as well as the Portuguese, if
she had had the same elements of strength and vitality. Trieste, which
has succeeded to her commercial prosperity, and even surpassed it, has
had no need of the re-establishment of the ancient route to India. If
Trieste participates largely, as is to be hoped, in the advantages of
the Isthmus Company, if her neighbour of the Adriatic finds therein a
new life, Great Britain will lose nothing thereby. Has it ever been seen
that a capital city, brought into communication with a great market by
a railroad, has had to regret the shortening of the distance and the
amelioration of its own relations, because some secondary towns on the
line were nearer to the market and participated in the common benefit?

Marseilles, Trieste, Greece, the ports of Italy, of Spain and of Turkey,
are nearer to Egypt than London and Liverpool. Well; in the present
state of the relations of Europe with Alexandria, England absorbs
to herself alone _half the value_ of the commerce between all other
countries and Egypt, and her tonnage comprises _two-thirds_ of the
navigation to and fro under all flags.

I wrote the following from Cairo, December 3rd, 1854, to a friend of
mine, a member of the British Parliament.

“Some persons assert that the Viceroy of Egypt’s project will meet
with opposition in England. I cannot believe it: your statesmen are
too enlightened for me to entertain such a supposition under present
circumstances. What! England herself transacts more than half the general
commerce with India and China; she has an immense empire in Asia; she
may reduce by one-third the charges on her commerce, and bring that
Eastern Empire nearer by one-half; and she would not allow it to be done.
Wherefore? To prevent the Mediterranean nations from taking advantage
of their situation to increase their commerce in the Eastern Seas,—she
would deprive herself of the immense advantages which must accrue to
her, in material respects, and in a political point of view, from this
new communication, solely because others are more favourably situated
than herself, as if geographical position was all-in-all, and as if,
everything considered, England had not more to gain by this work than
all the nations together. Finally, England, it is said, must dread the
reduction in the number of vessels employed in Indian commerce which
would result from the diminution of more than one-third in the duration
of the voyage. And has not England proved in her experience of railways,
by results which have surpassed the boldest anticipations, that the
necessary consequence of shortening the distance and diminishing the
duration of a journey, is the infinite augmentation of intercourse and
circulation. One cannot understand why those who entertain this fear do
not advise the English Government to direct, that the voyage to India now
shall be _viâ_ Cape Horn, for that would employ still more ships than the
way by the Cape of Good Hope and furnish better sailors.

“If, as is not unlikely, the difficulties with which I am threatened
should be brought forward, public opinion, so powerful in England, will
soon do justice to interested opposition and superannuated objections.”

Her Majesty’s Government concluded with the United States, on the 19th
of April, 1850, a treaty of neutrality for the projected canal through
the American Isthmus. The cabinets of London and Paris are now on such
intimate terms as to make it a matter of no difficulty for them to agree
upon a convention, if it suited their political interests to do so,
relative to the passage of the Isthmus of Suez, assimilating it to that
of the Dardanelles. The other powers would not fail to give in their
adhesion to the convention, which would be open to them.

In this manner commercial navigation would be guaranteed against the
chances of war, and military armaments could neither remain in nor pass
through the Isthmus without the permission of the Sovereign of the

The question of the importance to the commercial interests of Great
Britain of cutting through the Isthmus of Suez, has been considered in
the most favourable light by the principal men of science, engineers,
economists, and public writers of England. I shall quote hereafter
the opinions of Mr. Anderson, the present director of the Peninsular
and Oriental Company, and of Captain James Vetch, R. E., from their
respective works. (Appendix, Nos. 8 and 9.) The fact of the question
having been frequently treated with favour by the press, seems to show
that it has already been accepted by the feeling of the country; the
remarkable extract from the “Papers for the People” in the memorial
of the engineers (Appendix, No. 4) will be read with interest. The
celebrated novelist, Charles Dickens himself, has not disdained to
devote several eloquent pages to a very practical consideration of the
project for constructing a canal through the Isthmus of Suez.

It is to be remarked that the English authors who have written upon this
question, have, without exception, advocated the direct line from Suez to
Pelusium. This view is taken by all the inhabitants of Egypt, and I doubt
if the indirect line, complicated as it is by traversing the Nile, would
have been adopted by two of my compatriots so distinguished as M. Baude
and M. Paulin Talabot, if they had themselves been on the spot before
they gave their opinions.

The _Moniteur Universel_ of France, in the Number for the 6th of July,
has proved the advantage of the direct track over the indirect one. I
refer my readers to that article (Appendix, No. 9).

It is incumbent on me to add, that, although the two tracks may be
entertained, theoretically speaking, practically only one is now to be
thought of; for the Viceroy of Egypt, who consents to the cutting of the
Isthmus, has a perfect right to refuse to allow the whole of Egypt to be
cut through. He has, in his written instructions, specially charged me to
make known his declaration, which is in the following terms:—

“_After having passed in review the numerous projects submitted to
various Governments or to the public for more than fifty years, I grant
perfect liberty for the application of those means that science shall
recognise to be best to bring the Red Sea and the Mediterranean into
communication at any point of the Isthmus, eastward of the course of the
Nile; but I declare that I will not authorize the Grand Maritime Suez
Canal Company to adopt any track which shall have its point of departure
on the Mediterranean coast, to the west of the Damietta branch, and which
shall traverse the course of the Nile._”

If it were necessary, reference might be made to the East India Company,
the merchants of Australia, of Singapore, of Madras, of Calcutta and
of Bombay, the commercial houses of the City, the shipowners of London
and Liverpool, the manufacturers of Manchester, the proprietors of iron
mines, the manufacturers of machines, the Peninsular and Oriental Steam
Navigation Company, the directors of banks and of extensive industrial
undertakings, the Chambers of Commerce, the proprietors of coal-fields,
who in 1854 exported 1,309,251 tons of coal, of the value of £2,127,156,
an amount which, immense as it already is, will be still farther
increased, and to a considerable extent, by the opening of the Isthmus of

I appeal to their interests, and leave the decision to their judgment.

Lastly, the objection has been made, that the canal project would not be
received with favour by the Turkish Government; but, like every question
in which the principle is just, the consequences are infallible; and from
whatever point of view we regard this question of the Isthmus of Suez, we
see nothing but universal benefit arise from it.

As I have already remarked, I met with no opposition at Constantinople on
the part of the Porte. Turkey is aware that the Canal of the two Seas is
destined to add to her power and prosperity, by bringing Constantinople
nearer by 4300 leagues to the Indian Ocean, and by facilitating the
communication with the Holy Places of Arabia, the source of the authority
the Sultan possesses over his Mussulman population.

Turkey can rise from her present languor only by borrowing capital and
intelligence from Europe. The prosperity of the East is intimately
connected at the present day with the interests of civilization in
general, and the most effectual means of working its welfare, in
connection with that of humanity, is to break down the barriers that
still separate individuals, races, and nations.

War and commerce have civilized the world. War will have played out
its part with that last effort which is being made under our eyes. The
victories hereafter to be gained will be those of commerce only. Let
us exert ourselves to open up for her a new route. This object may be
pursued and attained—in the words of a great writer—“A travers les orages
et les ténèbres de la guerre.” (_Guizot._)

Let us bring the populations of Polynesia, of Australia and China, of the
Indies and of Africa, nearer to Europe; let us make them participators in
the blessings of civilization.

To accomplish this great undertaking, we appeal to all religious and
intelligent men, for it is worthy of their sympathy and co-operation.

We invoke the support of all statesmen, because in the establishment
of new and easy means of communication between the two hemispheres
all nations are interested. Lastly, we will address ourselves to the
capitalists, when they have satisfied themselves of the pecuniary
advantages to be derived from the undertaking.

                                                        FERD. DE LESSEPS.

London, July, 1855.


No. I.



                                   The Camp, Marea, In the Lybian Desert,
                                                     15th November, 1854.

The junction of the Mediterranean and the Red Seas, by a navigable canal,
is an undertaking the utility of which has attracted the attention of
all the great men who have reigned in, or conquered, Egypt: Sesostris,
Alexander the Great, Julius Cæsar, the Arab Conqueror Amrou, Napoleon I.
and Mehemet Ali.

A canal, communicating with the Nile, was in existence in ancient times;
first, for a period of 100 years, down to about the middle of the ninth
century before the Hegira; secondly, for a period of 445 years, from the
reign of the first successors of Alexander the Great, down to about the
fourth century before the Hegira; thirdly and lastly, for a period of 130
years after the Arabian conquest.

Napoleon, upon his arrival in Egypt, immediately organized a commission
of engineers to ascertain whether it would be possible to re-establish
that ancient channel of navigation: the question was resolved in the
affirmative, and when the learned M. Lepère delivered to him the report
of the commission, on the eve of his return to France, he said: “It is
an important affair, it is not now in my power to accomplish it, but the
Turkish Government will perhaps one day owe its preservation and its
glory to the execution of this project.”

The moment has now arrived to realize Napoleon’s prediction. The work
of cutting through the Isthmus of Suez is certainly destined, more than
any other, to contribute to the preservation of the Ottoman Empire, and
to demonstrate to those who have been wont to proclaim its decay and
ruin, that it still has a productive existence, and that it is capable of
adding a brilliant page to the history of the world’s civilization.

Why have the governments and the peoples of the West combined to uphold
the Sultan in the possession of Constantinople, and why has he who has
thought fit to menace that position met with the armed opposition of
Europe? Because the passage from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea is
of so much importance, that whatever European Power might become master
of it would domineer over all the rest, and destroy that balance which
the whole world is interested in preserving.

Do but establish at another point of the Ottoman Empire a similar, and
a yet more important position; do but make Egypt the highway of the
commercial world by cutting through the Isthmus of Suez; and thereby
you will create in the East another immoveable seat of power; for, as
far as the new passage is concerned, the great powers of Europe, from
fear of seeing it one day seized upon by one amongst them, will regard
the necessity of guaranteeing its neutrality, as a question of vital

M. Lepère fifty years ago required 10,000 workmen, four years’ labour,
and from 30 to 40,000,000 francs for the construction of the Suez Canal,
but upon a plan which would now be insufficient for the demands of
commerce and navigation; and his idea was the possibility of a direct
cutting through the Isthmus towards the Mediterranean.

Prior to the year 1840, some skilful English Engineers, who were
employed in levelling operations in the Isthmus, had the honour of first
ascertaining that no difference existed between the levels of low water
in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Arabia.

M. Paulin Talabot, one of the three distinguished Engineers chosen in
1847 by a society for the investigation of the Isthmus of Suez,[3]
(and who also had important operations in levelling executed by M.
Bourdaloue,) had adopted the indirect route from Alexandria to Suez:
availing himself of the barrage for the passage of the Nile, he estimated
the entire cost at 130,000,000 francs for the Canal, and 20,000,000 for
the port and roadstead of Suez.

M. Linant _Bey_, who for the last thirty years has ably conducted canal
works in Egypt, has made the question of the Canal of the _two Seas_
the study of his life on the spot itself. He was appointed in 1853 to
direct fresh levelling operations, and has proposed to cut through the
Isthmus in an almost direct line at its narrowest part, establishing a
large inland port in the basin of Lake _Timsah_, and making the channels
from Pelusium, and from Suez, into the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,
available for the largest vessels.

The General of engineers, Gallice _Bey_, on his part, submitted to
Mehemet Ali a proposal for a direct cutting across the Isthmus. M. Mougel
_Bey_, director of the Nile barrage-works, and chief engineer of bridges
and highways, also submitted to Mehemet Ali the possibility and utility
of cutting through the Isthmus of Suez; and, in 1840, at the request of
Count Walewsky, at that time an envoy in Egypt, he was instructed to take
preliminary measures which political events did not allow to be carried

A thorough examination will decide which of the lines is most suitable;
and, as the undertaking has been acknowledged to be practicable, it only
remains to make a choice. Whatever the operations that may be necessary,
and however difficult, they will not intimidate modern art; their success
can be no matter of doubt at the present time: it is a question of money,
which the spirit of enterprise and association will not fail to resolve,
provided the benefits resulting from it are in proportion to the outlay.

It is easy to demonstrate that the cost of the Canal of Suez, admitting
the highest estimate, is not out of proportion with the utility and the
profits of this important work, which would curtail by more than one-half
the distance of India from the principal countries of Europe and America.
This result is made obvious in the following Table, drawn up by M.
Cordier, professor of Geology:—


    _Distance to Bombay in leagues_:

                      _Viâ Suez_ | _Viâ the Atlantic_ | _Difference._
                                 |                    |
    Constantinople      1.800    |       6.100        |    4.300
    Malta               2.062    |       5.800        |    3.778
    Trieste             2.340    |       5.960        |    3.620
    Marseilles          2.374    |       5.650        |    3.276
    Cadiz               2.224    |       5.200        |    2.976
    Lisbon              2.500    |       5.350        |    2.850
    Bordeaux            2.800    |       5.650        |    2.850
    Havre               2.824    |       5.800        |    2.976
    London              3.100    |       5.950        |    2.850
    Liverpool           3.050    |       5.900        |    2.850
    Amsterdam           3.100    |       5.950        |    2.850
    St. Petersburgh     3.700    |       6.550        |    2.850
    New York            3.761    |       6.200        |    2.439
    New Orleans         3.724    |       6.450        |    2.726

With such figures before us, comment is useless; they show that all the
nations of Europe, and even the United States of America, are alike
interested in the opening of the canal of Suez, as well as in the
rigorous and inviolable neutrality of that thoroughfare.

Mohammed Saïd clearly comprehends that there is no undertaking within his
power, which, from its immensity and the utility of its results, could
bear comparison with that which I propose to him. What a splendid title
to fame for him! What an everlasting source of wealth for Egypt!

The pilgrimage to Mecca henceforth assured and facilitated to all
Mussulmans; an immense impulse given to steam navigation and to distant
voyages; the countries on the coasts of the Red Sea and the Gulf of
Persia, the eastern coast of Africa, India, the kingdom of Siam, Cochin
China, Japan, the vast empire of China, with its more than 300,000,000
of inhabitants, the Philippine Islands, Australia and that immense
Archipelago, towards which the emigration from old Europe is directed,
brought nearer by nearly 3000 leagues to the Mediterranean Sea and the
north of Europe: such are the sudden and immediate effects of cutting
through the Isthmus of Suez.

It has been calculated that the European and American navigation, _viâ_
the Cape of Good Hope and _viâ_ Cape Horn, may carry on a yearly traffic
of 6,000,000 tons, and that on the half only of that tonnage the world’s
commerce would realize a benefit of 150,000,000 francs annually, by
sending the ships _viâ_ the Gulf of Arabia.

There is no doubt that the canal of Suez will occasion a considerable
increase of tonnage; but in reckoning only upon 3,000,000 tons, there
will yet be an annual produce of 30,000,000 francs by collecting dues of
ten francs per ton, which might be reduced in proportion to the increase
of navigation.

After having indicated the financial advantages of the undertaking, let
us consider its general political advantages, which we believe to be
equally incontestable.

Everything that results in contributing to the extension of the commerce,
of the industry, and of the navigation of the world, is especially
advantageous to England, a power which stands foremost amongst all
others from the importance of its navy, from the productions of its
manufactories, and from its commercial relations.

A deplorable prejudice, based upon the political antagonism which so long
and so unhappily existed between France and England, has alone accredited
the opinion that the opening of the canal of Suez, so useful for the
interests of civilization and of the common weal, could damage those of
England. The alliance of the two nations which rank highest in the scale
of civilization, an alliance which has already proved the possibility of
solutions hitherto reckoned impossible by vulgar tradition, will, amongst
its other numerous benefits, allow us to investigate with impartiality
this mighty question of the Canal of Suez, to form an exact estimate of
its influence upon the prosperity of nations and to consider it heresy
to believe, that an undertaking calculated to halve the distance between
the Western and Eastern hemispheres of the globe, should not be suitable
for Great Britain, the mistress of Gibraltar, Malta, the Ionian Islands,
Aden, important stations on the east coast of Africa, India, Singapore,
and Australia.

England, as well as France, and even more so, must wish to see a cutting
through that strip of land of thirty leagues, which no one who pays
attention to the subject of civilization and progress can behold upon
the map, without feeling the most ardent wish for the disappearance of
that only obstacle that Providence has left in the highway of the world’s

The railway, by itself, is not sufficient; it will never acquire any
substantial importance, and will only be assured of its revenues when it
has become the auxiliary of the maritime Canal of Suez. The completion of
the railway, so useful to travellers, and so justly desired by England,
will then become a necessity, and will no longer be a heavy charge upon
the Egyptian Government.

Germany will also hail all the efforts for the construction of the
Canal across the Isthmus. It will be to her the complement to the free
navigation of the Danube. Prince Metternich, who for more than twenty
years has interested himself in the cutting of the Canal of the two Seas,
and Baron de Bruck, one of the promoters of the investigations made in
1847, saw that in this question lay the aggrandizement of Trieste and
of Venice, as well as the opening of important outlets for the produce
of the Imperial provinces, and of the kingdom of Hungary, where the
projected canal from the Danube to Kustendje, on the Black Sea, in
the line of the ancient trench or rampart of Trajan, will facilitate

Russia will find in the opening of the Canal of Suez a just satisfaction
of that national aspiration towards the East which led her on one
occasion to extend the limits of her vast Empire to the confines of
British India, and, on another, to threaten the integrity of Turkey.
The mission of civilization devolving upon the Czar over the numerous
tribes of whom he is arbiter, may yet suffice the noblest ambition; the
new outlets which will be pacifically thrown open to their activity and
to their necessity of expansion, will be more profitable to them than
a policy of conquest and exclusive dominion which it is now no longer
possible for any one nation to carry on triumphantly.

The United States of America, whose traffic with Indo-China and Australia
has for many years immensely developed itself; Spain with the Philippine
Islands; Holland with Java, Sumatra and Borneo; the towns formerly so
flourishing on the coasts of Italy; the ports and islands of Greece;
all the nations in short which have held or hold a high maritime and
commercial position; will hasten to take part in a work which will
augment their wealth, or create new sources of it, and to the success of
which I believe I can promise His Highness Mohammed Saïd the active and
energetic co-operation of the enlightened men of all countries.

                                               (Signed) FERD. DE LESSEPS.


No. II.



Our friend Mons. Ferdinand de Lesseps, having called our attention to
the advantages which would result to Egypt from the junction of the
Mediterranean and Red Seas, by a navigable passage for large vessels, and
having given us to understand the possibility of forming a company for
this purpose composed of capitalists of all nations; we have accepted the
arrangements which he has submitted to us, and by these presents grant
him exclusive power for the establishment and direction of a Universal
Company, for cutting through the Isthmus of Suez, and the construction
of a canal between the two Seas, with authority to undertake or cause to
be undertaken all the necessary works and erections, on condition that
the Company shall previously indemnify all private persons in case of
dispossession for the public benefit. And all within the limits, upon
the conditions and under the responsibilities, settled in the following


Mons. Ferdinand de Lesseps shall form a company, the direction of which
we confide to him, under the name of the UNIVERSAL SUEZ MARITIME CANAL
COMPANY, for cutting through the Isthmus of Suez, the construction
of a passage suitable for extensive navigation, the foundation or
appropriation of two sufficient entrances, one from the Mediterranean and
the other from the Red Sea, and the establishment of one or two ports.


The Director of the Company shall be always appointed by the Egyptian
Government, and selected, as far as practicable, from the shareholders
most interested in the undertaking.


The term of the grant is ninety-nine years, commencing from the day of
the opening of the Canal of the two Seas.


The works shall be executed at the sole cost of the Company, and all the
necessary land not belonging to private persons shall be granted to it
free of cost. The fortifications which the Government shall think proper
to establish shall not be at the cost of the Company.


The Egyptian Government shall receive from the Company annually fifteen
per cent. of the net profits shown by the balance sheet, without
prejudice to the interest and dividends accruing from the shares which
the Government reserves the right of taking upon its own account at
their issue, and without any guarantee on its part either for the
execution of the works or for the operations of the Company; the
remainder of the net profits shall be divided as follows:—Seventy-five
per cent. to the benefit of the Company, ten per cent. to the benefit of
the members instrumental to its foundation.


The tariffs of dues for the passage of the Canal of Suez, to be agreed
upon between the Company and the Viceroy of Egypt, and collected by the
Company’s agents, shall be always equal for all nations; no particular
advantage can ever be stipulated for the exclusive benefit of any one


In case the Company should consider it necessary to connect the Nile by
a navigable cut with the direct passage of the Isthmus, and in case the
Maritime Canal should follow an indirect course, the Egyptian Government
will give up to the Company the uncultivated lands belonging to the
public domain, which shall be irrigated and cultivated at the expense of
the Company, or by its instrumentality.

The Company shall enjoy the said lands for ten years free of taxes,
commencing from the day of the opening of the canal; during the remaining
eighty-nine years of the grant, the Company shall pay tithes to the
Egyptian Government, after which period it cannot continue in possession
of the lands above mentioned without paying to the said Government an
impost equal to that appointed for lands of the same description.


To avoid all difficulty on the subject of the lands which are to be
given up to the Company, a plan drawn by M. Linant _Bey_, our Engineer
Commissioner attached to the Company, shall indicate the lands granted
both for the line and the establishments of the maritime Canal and
for the alimentary Canal from the Nile, as well as for the purpose of
cultivation, conformably to the stipulations of Article VII.

It is moreover understood, that all speculation is forbidden from the
present time, upon the lands to be granted from the public domain, and
that the lands previously belonging to private persons and which the
proprietors may hereafter wish to have irrigated by the waters of the
alimentary Canal, made at the cost of the Company, shall pay a rent
of.... per _feddan_ cultivated (or a rent amicably settled between the
Government and the Company).


The Company is farther allowed to extract from the mines and quarries
belonging to the public domain, any materials necessary for the works of
the canal and the erections connected therewith, without paying dues; it
shall also enjoy the right of free entry for all machines and materials
which it shall import from abroad for the purposes of carrying out this


At the expiration of the grant the Egyptian Government will take the
place of the Company, and enjoy all its rights without reservation, the
said Government will enter into full possession of the Canal of the two
Seas, and of all the establishments connected therewith. The indemnity to
be allowed the Company for the relinquishment of its plant and moveables,
shall be arranged by amicable agreement or by arbitration.


The statutes of the Society shall be moreover submitted to us by the
Director of the Company, and must have the sanction of our approbation.
Any modifications that may be hereafter introduced must previously
receive our sanction. The said statutes shall set forth the names of
the founders, the list of whom we reserve to ourselves the right of
approving. This list shall include those persons whose labours, studies,
exertions or capital have previously contributed to the execution of the
grand undertaking of the Canal of Suez.


Finally, we promise our true and hearty co-operation, and that of all the
functionaries of Egypt in facilitating the execution and carrying out of
the present powers.


                                           Cairo, 30th of November, 1854.

The grant made to the Company having to be ratified by his Imperial
Majesty the Sultan, I send you this copy that you may keep it in your
possession. With regard to the works connected with the excavation of
the Canal of Suez, they are not to be commenced until after they are
authorized by the Sublime Porte.

                                                         3 Ramadan, 1271.

                         (_The Viceroy’s Seal._)

A true translation of the Turkish text.

                                             KŒNIG BEY,
                                             Secretary of Mandates
                                             to his Highness the Viceroy.

Alexandria, May 19th, 1855.


No. III.



_For the Scheme of a Maritime Canal from the Red Sea to the
Mediterranean, and an Alimentary Canal derived from the Nile._

                                                 Cairo, January 15, 1855.

Having just finished the exploration confided to us by his Highness
Mohammed Saïd Pacha, I think it right to direct the attention of MM.
Linant _Bey_ and Mougel _Bey_ to the principal points intended to serve
as a programme to the precursory scheme which we have agreed to present,
as a preliminary to a more complete report, accompanied by plans, maps,
sections, estimates, and other documents in explanation.

1. For the entrance on the Red Sea side; to show what works it will be
necessary to execute, as jetties, reservoirs, sluices, &c. if the present
port is made use of. To settle the direction of the channel from the
present anchorage of the roads of Suez, to the entrance of the Canal.

2. To show the exact direction of the Canal from Suez, to that part of
the ancient basin of the Red Sea called the _Bitter Lakes_.

3. To explain how it is intended to take advantage of this basin, and
whether, in passing through it, the Maritime Canal is to have one or two
banks, or not to have any at all.

4. To lay down the continuation of the Canal as far as the basin of Lake
Timsah, which is intended to serve as an inland port.

5. Works to be performed in rendering Lake Timsah fit for the object
proposed. To give the length of the quay walls. In its passage through
Lake Timsah, the Canal must be excavated of a greater breadth than in the
rest of its course, in order to allow the vessels to lay at the quays
without obstructing the passage. These quays are to be established, as
far as possible, in the neighbourhood of the fresh water canal.

6. Course of the Maritime Canal from Lake Timsah to Lake Menzaleh.

7. The works to be executed along Lake Menzaleh, or in the lake itself,
for the course of the Canal.

8. Is the opening of the Canal into the Mediterranean to be at the
opening of the ancient Pelusiac branch?

9. To specify particularly the kind, nature, and dimensions of the works
that will have to be executed in jetties, moles, breakwaters, reservoirs,
retaining basins, &c. in order to obviate the objections made up to
the present time, as to the difficulties or alleged impossibilities,
proceeding from alluvial deposits on the coast, and the choking up of the
opening of a Canal into the Mediterranean. This part of the scheme must
be based upon incontestable proofs, exemplifications, and calculations.

10. What is the bulk of water that will enter the Maritime Canal from the
Red Sea at each tide?

11. What advantage may be derived from the height of the tides, both in
the course of the Maritime Canal, in the basin of the Bitter Lakes, and
at the Pelusiac mouth?

12. To calculate for the Maritime Canal at a breadth of 100 _metres_
at the level of low water in the Mediterranean, with liberty to reduce
it to sixty-five or seventy _metres_, in those few instances where the
necessary excavations and removals would be too considerable. The water
line, or depth, is to be calculated at six, at seven, and at eight
_metres_, all below the level of low water in the Mediterranean, in order
that the Company may choose, according to the expense, that one of the
three depths which shall be most advantageous to its interests, combined
with those of the navigation.

13. To obviate the objections relative to the difficulties of navigation
in the Red Sea and in the Gulf of Pelusium.

14. To make a rough estimate of the _maximum_ of all the expenses, and to
state the probable date when the Canal can be opened for navigation.

15. To accompany the scheme of the Maritime Canal, with a scheme for a
Canal of communication, of alimentation, and irrigation derived from
the Nile, taking its point of departure between the barrage and Boulak,
to reach the _Wady_, and come as far as Lake Timsah. The dimensions
shall be so calculated, that, taking into account its fall and its
supply, the Canal may water at least 100,000 feddans at the time of the
inundation, and from 20 to 30,000 during the low water of the river. In
the vicinity of Lake Timsah, with which it will communicate, this Canal
is to be divided into two branches, for simple irrigation; the first to
be directed towards Suez, the other towards Pelusium.

16. To examine whether the sands of the downs on the Isthmus, will
occasion any obstacle to the construction and maintenance of the Canal,
and how they may be turned to account by means of the Irrigating Canal.

17. To furnish a _maximum_ estimate of the secondary Canal derived from
the Nile, and to state the length of time required for the works.

18. To give an account of the nature and quality of the materials, which
can be easily, and without great cost of transport, applied in the whole
of the works, and also the localities from whence they are to be obtained.

19. Finally, to furnish an approximate statement of the _minimum_
anticipated revenues, of the grand Maritime Canal, and of the Canal of
alimentation and interior navigation.

I do not mean to confine the labours of MM. Linant _Bey_ and Mougel
_Bey_, within the mere limits indicated in this programme.

While bearing witness to the good understanding that I have observed
to exist between them, and the identity of their convictions, as to
the possibility of the communication between the Red Sea and the
Mediterranean, by a Canal accessible to large vessels, I beg them, in
case the opinion of either, upon any question whatever, should not be
entertained by the other, to state the difference of their views, and to
assign the reasons thereof.

Finally, the precursory scheme, accompanied by an explanatory map, is to
be finished as quickly as possible.

                                               (Signed) FERD. DE LESSEPS.


No. IV.



By way of Precursory Scheme for cutting through the Isthmus of Suez, by a
direct Maritime Canal from Pelusium to Suez.

The enlightened Prince who now governs Egypt, Mohammed Saïd Pacha,
wishing to withdraw the question of cutting through the Isthmus of Suez
from the uncertainties of theory, and to bring it into practical reality,
has granted a firman by which he concedes to the Universal Company formed
by the capitalists of all countries, who are freely willing to take part
in the undertaking, the construction and working of a Maritime Canal
between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, with an additional Canal for
communication and irrigation, derived from the Nile.

Dictating himself the terms of the Firman of Concession, Prince Mohammed
Saïd has required that the undertaking shall be complete, and that an
attentive examination of the localities be made, in order to profit
by all the advantages offered by nature. He has recommended that the
shortest track be followed, the least expensive, and that which will
admit of the largest ships. His early studies and his experience in
nautical art, have perfectly prepared him for the comprehension of all
the bearings of the scientific question. He has indicated Pelusium and
Suez, as the extreme points of the cutting to be made in that narrow
tract of land, which presents a longitudinal depression across the
Isthmus, of thirty leagues, and which is formed by the meeting of the two
plains descending with a gradual slope, the one from Egypt, the other
from the frontier hills of Asia. He considers that nature has herself
traced out the communication between the two Seas, in the line of this

Towards Lake Timsah, situated at an equal distance from Suez and
Pelusium, another not less remarkable furrow meets the longitudinal
depression at right angles; it is that of the _Wady Tomilat_ (the
fruitful land of Goshen of Scripture). This furrow still receives, for
a considerable length, the overflowings of the Nile, and also appears
to form the natural track of a canal of communication, commencing at
the river and proceeding to connect itself in the central part of the
Isthmus, with the grand line of navigation to be established between the
Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

The Maritime Canal will thus be brought into communication with the heart
of Egypt, by a fresh water canal, which will receive the same navigation
as the Nile, and will serve also for the irrigation of large zones of the
desert, exhibiting at present the most wild and desolate aspect.

Upon these data we have been instructed to make a preliminary report.

Before giving the results of our investigations, it has appeared
necessary to us to justify the idea of a direct track between the two
Seas; for this line never having been executed, although it is the most
natural, it might be supposed that whenever the junction of the two Seas
has been attempted, such difficulties have been met with, that it has
been obliged to be relinquished; but this is by no means the case, as we
shall presently show.

In fact, what M. Lebeau says in his _Histoire du Bas Empire_ (tom, xii.,
p. 490), following Abulfeda, Prince of Syria, historian and geographer,
who was living in the year 753 of the Hegira, is as follows:—

“The coast at Farma (a town a little to the east of Pelusium, on the
Mediterranean) was only seventy miles (106,000 _metres_) distant from
the Red Sea. This space was a very smooth plain, slightly elevated above
the level of the two Seas. Amrou formed the design of uniting them by a
canal, which he would have filled with the waters of the Nile; but Omar
having opposed it, from fear of opening an entrance into Arabia for the
ships of the Christians, Amrou turned his thoughts in another direction.
There was an ancient canal, called Trajanus Amnis, which Adrian caused to
be brought from the Nile near to Babylon, in Egypt, as far as Pharboëtus,
now Belbeïs. He met at this place with another canal, commenced
by Nechos, and continued by Darius Hystaspes, and the two together
discharged themselves into a lagoon of salt water, at the outlet of which
Ptolemy Philadelphus caused a large trench to be made, which conducted
the waters as far as the town of Arsinoë, or Cleopatris, at that part of
the Gulf where Suez now is.

“The whole of this canal, being filled up with sand, had become useless
at the time of the famous Cleopatra. Amrou was not deterred by the
ancient prejudice, which, supposing the waters of the Red Sea to be
higher than the soil of Egypt, created a fear of opening a passage for
them; and he made it navigable for the transport of the corn of Egypt
into Arabia. It is that which is now called Khalig, which passes through
Cairo, but it only goes as far as the lagoon called the Lake of Sheib.
The remainder, as far as the Red Sea, is entirely filled up, although
some traces of it are still distinguishable.”

We have thought it necessary to quote the entire passage, because it
clearly establishes the question of the Canal, and certain facts to which
we shall return hereafter.

After Amrou came the Sultan, Mustapha III., _who took great interest in
the scheme for the junction of the two Seas by the Isthmus of Suez_, and
who intended to execute this work at a time of peace. (See _Mémoires sur
les Turcs_, by M. De Tott, Parts iii. and iv.)

M. Lepère proposed, it is true, the track of the secondary canal between
Alexandria and the interior of Egypt; but his opinion upon the direct
track by the Isthmus of Suez is expressed in these terms:—

“In this project of the Canal of Suez, we have expressly based the choice
of the ancient direction by the interior of the Delta towards Alexandria,
upon commercial considerations peculiar to Egypt, and upon the fact that
the coast near Pelusium does not appear to allow of a permanent maritime
establishment. Nevertheless, we think it right to acknowledge, that,
waving these considerations, it would still be easy (although, on the
contrary, it appeared difficult, and even dangerous, before the invention
of locks) to open a direct communication between Suez, the Bitter Lakes,
and the Ras-el-Moyeh, continued upon the eastern bank of Lake Menzaleh,
as far as the sea near Pelusium.

“We think that a canal opened in this direction would have an advantage
_which the interior canal would not_. In fact there might be constant
navigation upon it, which would not be subject to the alternations of the
rising and decreasing of the Nile. It would be easy to maintain a greater
depth in it than in the first canal, by means of a current fed by the
immense reservoir of the Bitter Lakes.... I will add, that if I did not
perceive some difficulties in excavating, and maintaining at a proper
depth, the channel between Suez and the roadstead, I would propose to
establish a direct communication of the two Seas by the Isthmus, for the
use of corvettes and even of frigates, which would become the complement
of this grand and important operation.”

It will be seen then, that M. Lepère himself acknowledged, that the
direct track was the most advantageous for the commerce of the world,
while the interior Canal was especially advantageous to Egypt. It is
evident that with the two Canals, the one direct, on a large section, the
other on a small section and derived from the Nile, all interests are
most abundantly satisfied.

We will finish these observations by quoting the opinion of two
distinguished staff-officers, MM. Galinier and Ferret, who have surveyed
and well investigated the Red Sea. They have given a clear, rapid, and
judicious analysis of the question.

    “It is not in the accomplishment of this project (the interior
    canal), that the real junction of the two Seas consists. This
    problem will not be resolved, until the Isthmus shall present
    a practicable opening, by which all ships may pass without
    unloading. In order to this, it must be operated upon directly
    from Pelusium to Suez; on this line the desert is narrower than
    anywhere else. It is also in this direction, that the great
    depression of which we have spoken extends, and at the bottom
    of which the grand basin of the Bitter Lakes is situated.
    Everything therefore points out this spot in the strip of land
    for the construction of a canal. Everything, with one single
    exception, which is, that there is not, they say, any port
    at the extremity of this line of navigation; that of Suez
    is partly filled up with sand, and upon the Mediterranean,
    not a harbour, not a single roadstead, which now affords
    any safety. Yet more, some travellers have stated, that if
    it were required to form a port, it would be necessary to
    contend against masses of sand, which, continually shifted
    from west to east by a tolerably rapid current, seem to oppose
    any maritime establishment upon that coast. In fact it is,
    they say, for this reason that Alexander laid much farther to
    the west the foundations of the town which bears his name,
    and which he wished to become the emporium of the world. But
    is the objection very serious at the present time? can the
    obstacle, which occasions this anxiety, resist the constructive
    means which are at the disposal of our engineers? We think
    not. To create a port without the assistance of nature; to
    put a restraint upon the sea; to reduce it to subjection; to
    impose upon it an artificial roadstead; and to maintain that
    roadstead, in spite of the natural causes operating to destroy
    it: is a problem which has ceased to terrify modern art.

    “Let us take the port of Pelusium,—see how easily the
    difficulty would be removed! Suppose the Bitter Lakes to be
    filled with the waters of the Arabian Gulf; by the action
    of the tides alone, more than 700,000,000 cubic _metres_ of
    water might be turned to account, the velocity of which would
    constantly scour the channel, and prevent the accumulation of
    sand at its mouth.

    “After all that has been done by printing, the mariner’s
    compass, steam,—the nineteenth century, by the realization
    of this vast undertaking, would again change the face of the
    globe. But, not to carry our views and our anticipations so
    far, in a zone nearer at hand, Arabia and Abyssinia, the vast
    country of the Gallas, the deserts of the western coast
    of the Red Sea, with their roving populations, attached by
    powerful ties to the vast circle of traffic which our continent
    unceasingly creates and feeds—will enter into the pale of the
    European world. Navigation and industry charged with the supply
    of immense countries destitute of everything, will take a more
    extensive range. In the wake of commerce, enlightenment and
    civilization will penetrate, by degrees, that dreary night
    which envelopes the Mussulman world.”

The advantage of the new track being thus sufficiently proved from a
general point of view, we shall now enter into the details of the scheme
with regard to its execution. We will begin with the levelling of the
line from Pelusium to Suez. These levels were taken by some engineers
attached to the French expedition, and the difference between the level
of high water at Suez, and of low water at Tineh, was found to be 9
_met._, 90, in favour of the Red Sea. Although this result has been
explained by geological and historical considerations, the fact appeared
so extraordinary that several travellers came to the spot to verify it.
Some English officers amongst others, operating first with the barometer,
and afterwards with the boiling water process, were not able to discover
any perceptible difference between the levels of the two Seas. These
investigations, published in a pamphlet which has come before us, and
which were known to the learned world, had occasioned much uncertainty,
when, in 1847, a society established for the investigation of the Isthmus
of Suez, and at the head of which were MM. Négrelli, Robert Stephenson
and Talabot, caused a complete survey to be made by French engineers,
under the direction of M. Bourdaloue, well known for his improved methods
of levelling, and his numerous labours in that particular branch. These
able and experienced surveyors, provided with good instruments, and
accompanied by a numerous staff, were formed into several divisions,
which operated separately, and thus were able to obtain divers

To give still greater facility and more security to the operations of the
engineers, His Highness the viceroy, who had generously provided for all
the requirements of the expedition, condescended to make choice of one
of us to direct the whole of the operations, with the assistance of a
brigade of Egyptian Engineers and a Company of artillerymen, who assisted
in all the operations of levelling and verification.

M. Talabot, the engineer, in a report published in 1847, has entered into
all the details of these operations, and has given an irrefutable proof
of the results obtained. As these results differed very widely from those
obtained by the engineers of the French expedition, it was difficult to
believe in so great an error.

M. Sabatier, Consul General of France in Egypt, having been informed
of the wish of some learned Frenchmen to have a fresh verification,
spontaneously applied to the viceroy of Egypt, and one of us was
appointed to undertake it in consequence.

The verification was made in 1853. It resulted in favour of the surveyors
of 1847. For, the new levels only differ 0 _met._, 1814, from those of
1847, and give as the difference of level between the station on the
quay of the hotel at Suez, and low water in the Mediterranean 2 _met._,
4286, instead of 2 _met._, 6100 found by the operations in 1847.

There cannot be a moment’s hesitation in making choice between the
levellings of 1799 and those of 1847 and 1853, for the two latter
were taken under the most favourable circumstances by experienced
surveyors provided with the best instruments, and were verified several
times without finding any perceptible difference by these various
verifications; whilst the levelling of 1799 was undertaken in the midst
of the vicissitudes and dangers of warfare, in a hostile country, and in
a climate to which the engineers were not accustomed. One part of the
operations was performed with the spirit level; another rather important
portion could only be done with the water level; the surveyors frequently
differed; none of the divisions of these levellings could be verified;
and if the last operations had been retarded ever so little, the
incidents of the war would have made them impossible; the operations had
to be performed with rapidity, and the levels taken in long lengths; with
frequent interruptions, and without the check of any verification. This
is what M. Lepère has stated in his memorial, where he expresses himself

“Pressed for time, disturbed by the hostile demonstrations of the Arab
tribes, frequently obliged to suspend operations, obliged in fine to
take a great part of the observations with a water level, with no
possibility of making any verification, it is not at all surprising that
the able engineers who conducted these operations under such exceptional
circumstances should have arrived at uncertain results.” We have
therefore adopted the levels taken in 1847 and in 1853, as the only true
ones, the only ones that were verified, and the only satisfactory ones.
We give an abstract of them in the following table:—


                                  |  Taken from low water   | Variation
                                  |  in the Mediterranean   | from the
             STATIONS.            |       at Tineh.         | Levels of
                                  |    1853.   |    1847.   |   1847.
    Low water in the              |            |            |
      Mediterranean at Tineh.     | 0 _m._ 0000| 0 _m._ 0000| 0 _m._ 0000
                                  |            |            |
    Stations of the German        |            |            |
      Engineers at Tineh.         | 1 _m._ 5586| 1 _m._ 7400| 0 _m._ 1814
                                  |            |            |
    Station at the Staff 29 L.    |            |            |
      1853, point 26 of           |            |            |
      Bourdaloue’s triangulation  |            |            |
      of the most elevated Lagoons|            |            |
      of Lake Menzaleh at Ras el  |            |            |
      Ballah.                     | 1 _m._ 9800| 1 _m._ 9800| 0 _m._ 0000
                                  |            |            |
    Station 4 L. 1853,            |            |            |
      Bourdaloue’s point          |            |            |
      A, which was found and      |            |            |
      verified.                   | 7 _m._ 8210| 7 _m._ 4300| 0 _m._ 3910
                                  |            |            |
    Bourdaloue’s Station Staff    |            |            |
      at the mouth of the Canal   |            |            |
      (this staff is not certain).| 3 _m._ 8280| 3 _m._ 0800| 0 _m._ 7480
                                  |            |            |
    Station 3 L. 1853, at the     |16 _m._ 5950|16 _m._ 2300| 0 _m._ 3650
      Serapeum, or Bourdaloue’s   | 2 _m._ 4100|   ----     |   ----
      No. 83.                     |            |            |
                                  |            |            |
    Upon the most elevated        | 2 _m._ 0300|   ----     |   ----
      deposits in the basin       | 1 _m._ 8600| 1 _m._ 8000| 0 _m._ 0600
      of the Isthmus.             |            |            |
                                  |            |            |
    Station 2 L. 1853, and        |            |            |
      Bourdaloue’s Station B.     |            |            |
      30, on a block of           |            |            |
      petrified wood, covered     |            |            |
      with sandy secretions,      |            |            |
      placed upon the deposits in |            |            |
      the basin of the Isthmus.   | 2 _m._ 4380| 2 _m._ 1100| 0 _m._ 3280
                                  |            |            |
    Station 1 L. 1853, at the     |            |            |
      Persepolitan monument,      |            |            |
      upon a block of sandstone,  |            |            |
      south of the Bourdaloue     |            |            |
      excavations.                |11 _m._ 6300|11 _m._ 3700| 0 _m._ 2600
                                  |            |            |
    Station on the Caravan Road,  |            |            |
      at the Staff Station,       |            |            |
      3 L. 1853.                  | 2 _m._ 3900|   ----     |   ----
                                  |            |            |
    Station at the staff at       |            |            |
      the starting point          |            |            |
      No. 1, L. 1853.             | 1 _m._ 5186|   ----     |   ----
                                  |            |            |
    Station on the quay of        |            |            |
      the Suez hotel, the same    |            |            |
      as that of M. Bourdaloue.   | 2 _m._ 4286| 2 _m._ 6100| 0 _m._ 1814

The most striking fact to be observed in the examination of this table
is, the slight relief of the ground above high water of the Red Sea,
in the whole extent of the Isthmus. There are only two points somewhat
elevated. The first, proceeding from Suez, is met with before Lake
Timsah, and is that which we shall call the Serapeum bar; its greatest
elevation is 16 _met._, 5950, above low water in the Mediterranean. The
second point is at the outlet of the lake, and its greatest elevation is
fifteen _metres_, at the spot known as the bar of _El Guisr_; but the
line of the Canal may be carried in a direction where but ten _metres_
are met with for some _kilometres_ of length. Supposing therefore the bed
of the canal to be established at the depth of 6 _met._, 50, below low
water in the Mediterranean, the greatest excavation would be at the bar
of _El Guisr_, and would show a total depth of 16 _met._, 50, which is
nothing extraordinary; supposing it even twenty _metres_, the requisite
excavation would bear no comparison with what was executed in Mexico,
during the Spanish occupation. For, in their then difficult position,
and in the absence of tools and improved means, the Spaniards were able
to effect, near the town of Mexico, which was threatened with invasion
by the waters of the neighbouring lakes, the cutting of Huehuetoca, the
total length of which is 20,585 _metres_, and its depth from forty-five
to sixty _metres_, for a length of more than 800 _metres_, and from
thirty to fifty _metres_ for a length of 3500 _metres_. And yet the
expense of this work was only 31,000,000 francs.

The levelling also shows, that by adopting 6 _met._, 50, for the bed of
the Canal, there will be a length of 18 _kil._ in the Bitter Lakes, where
there will not be a shovelful to remove, and for another 18 _kil._ there
will be very little to do; and as these lakes are dry at a depth of 8
_met._, 39, below low water, all the earth-works for the whole length of
them could be performed in the dry, if found advantageous to do so.

The numerous transverse sections taken with the levelling of 1847, enable
us to ascertain approximately the superfice of the Bitter Lakes at the
water line. This superfice is about 330,000,000 _square metres_. If,
then, the action of the tide, which brings two _metres_ of moving water,
be admitted into these lakes, a disposable volume of 660,000,000 _cubic
metres_ of water would be accumulated, and which might be raised to
800,000,000 by adding Lake Timsah and the retaining basins at Suez and
Pelusium to these immense reservoirs.

Before pointing out the various directions of the adopted track, it
appears necessary to arrive at a fixed opinion as to the formation of
the Isthmus and of the downs by which it is partly covered, and also as
to the accumulations of sand which exist both on the coast of Pelusium
and at the bottom of the Gulf of Suez; for it is from the explanation
of these phenomena that we shall start in our justification of the
arrangements of the direct track in general and in detail.

By attentively observing what is passing before our eyes at the present
time, in respect of the destruction and recomposition of continuity, we
may come to an exact conclusion regarding the laws which operated towards
the first ages of the world in the formation of alluvial lands.

Let us first examine what is going on in the English Channel; for this
narrow sea having a large number of ports both on the French and English
coasts, has on that account been the object of numerous observations by

The first well recognised fact is the destruction of the coast from the
point of Barfleur as far as the Somme, a distance of 338 _kilometres_;
and on the other side of the channel, from the Isle of Wight to Dover, a
distance of 250 _kilometres_. This action is produced by the alternation
of frost and thaw, by dry and moist winds, and by the saline evaporation
of the sea. The abrasion observed on the coast of Calvados is an average
of 0 _met._, 25, _per ann._ and on the coasts of Normandy and England
0 _met._, 30. The mean height of the cliffs on either side being sixty
_metres_, it follows that the channel swallows up an amount of 10,000,000
_cubic metres_ of earth and stones every year, which must find a place

The second fact, equally well established, and which, though opposed
to the opinion of the ancients, can no longer leave any doubt on the
mind, is, that rivers, with a few rare exceptions,—such as the Loire
for instance,—only carry to the sea an extremely thin mud, destined to
be lost in the mass of matter held in suspension by the latter; that
the sands of rivers do not in general reach the sea, and that the muddy
or sandy deposits observed in tidal rivers, are entirely owing to the
matters brought by the tide. This discovery has been arrived at as

In making the analysis of the alluvial lands forming the Bay of St.
Michael, it was found that the principal substances of their formation
are silex and the carbonate of lime; that the nearer the sea is
approached, the more the proportion of silex increases; the more it is
receded from, the more considerable the proportion of carbonate of lime
becomes. Now if the basins of the three rivers which discharge themselves
into this bay, the Sée, the Selime and the Couësnon, be examined, they
will be found entirely destitute of calcareous substances. It is the same
with the coasts of the channel and of Brittany. It cannot, therefore, be
either from these rivers or from the coasts that the enormous proportion
of silex proceeds which has just been described. If samples are examined
with a magnifying glass, commencing with those nearest the sea, and
afterwards proceeding farther into the bay, in the first, fragments of
shells are perceived quite distinguishable, then these fragments are
reduced and become so impalpable, that the best glass will no longer
enable us to distinguish the form in the most calcareous portions.

It is, therefore, certain that the calcareous part comes exclusively
from the sea, and even from the bottom of the roadstead of Cancale. As
for the silex and clay, a part in their deposit may be attributed to the
rivers; but it should first be understood how unimportant these three
small rivers are, each discharging not more than an average of eight to
ten _cubic metres_ of water per second. Farther, if the contributions
of the rivers reckoned for anything in the deposits which are made in
this locality, clayey or gravelly stratifications would be seen on their
banks at the parts where the tide is least felt. Nothing of the kind
occurs. The mixture of the calcareous matter, the grains of silex, and
the argillaceous atoms is so intimate, that it is evident it could only
be made at the very centre of the production of the calcareous matter;
that is to say, at the bottom of the sea. If the fluviatile deposit
was appreciable, it would counterbalance entirely, or in part, the
calcareous overplus in the drift taken from the top of the roadstead, as
compared with that taken at the bottom. Far from this being the case, the
progression of the calcareous element, which can only come from the sea,
is seen in proportion to the elevation of the shores. Finally, if the
fluviatile deposit ought to be reckoned for anything, a larger proportion
of clay would be seen upon the brink of the Sée, which traverses fissile
lands, than in the neighbouring channel of the Couësnon, which traverses
lands of a much harder character, furnishing less clay than the fissile
ground of the Sée and the Selime. Now, the contrary is the case; the
drifts of the neighbouring channel of the Couësnon are more clayey than
the others, solely because this channel being more sheltered than the
beds of the other two rivers, the muddy matter which the sea always holds
so abundantly in suspension, and which it deposits in the basins of
ports, can be carried there concurrently with the drifts.

On making the same investigations for the Seine, it was found that the
sands transported by this river do not pass Rouen, and that all the
accretions that are seen lower down, as far as the flats which are met
with at its mouth, are deposits by the sea.

The same results were arrived at for the Scheld.

As to the Meuse and the Rhine, the following deductions have been made.

The abrasion of the coasts of the channel supplies the sea with fragments
of chalk and siliceous rocks, which being rolled about by the sea become
shingle. This shingle forms banks along the English and French coasts,
and forced by the double action of flood and wind towards the straits
it approaches them; but the shingle on the coast of France continually
decreasing in size, reaches the mouth of the Somme, where it finds
the point of Cayeux formed by its accumulation. Stopped at this point
by the waters of the Somme, and by the change in the direction of the
current of the sea which turns towards the Pas de Calais, this shingle
increases the point of Cayeux, so long as its continual collision has not
sufficiently reduced the size of the stones for them to be carried away
by the sea; but when they are small enough, the flood bears them away and
distributes them on the numerous banks which are found between the Somme
and the Pas de Calais. From the inspection of Marine Charts, it is seen
that the fineness of the deposit increases in proportion as these banks
are nearer to the straits, and if the banks disappear in the Straits,
it is because the force of the current does not allow the sands, which
from being sifted for a long time have become finer and finer, to stop
in that passage. They pass it therefore and some go to form the downs
between Dunkirk and the Scheld, others in like manner to form downs on
the English coast, others remaining in the strongest currents are carried
as far as the mouths of the Humber in England, and of the Meuse and Rhine
on the Continent.

If the shape of the English and French coasts to the north and south
of the Straits is observed attentively, it will strike every one that
those to the south are cut out into concave indentations, while those to
the north all affect the convex form. It is because the coasts to the
south of the Straits are abraded by the tide, and those to the north,
on the contrary, are fed by the accretions. As for the muddy matters in
this long course, they can only be deposited in a few perfectly tranquil
creeks, or in the basins of open ports on either coast. Wherever the tide
penetrates they are carried with it, and, when finally it has entered the
northern sea, and made a course sufficiently long to abate its swiftness,
it finds itself in an excellent condition for depositing these muddy
matters, which it holds in suspension. This is what it does at the mouth
of the Humber, where it completely chokes up the port of Hull.

In like manner, the muddy matters form at the mouth of the Rhine, of the
Meuse, and of the Scheld, those immense polders, which constitute such an
essential part of the territory of Holland, and the numerous banks at the
mouth of these rivers are only composed of sand and carbonate of lime.
Now the rapidity of the current, long before reaching the mouth, is not
sufficiently great to carry down the sands; in fact, no trace of them is
perceived; these banks are therefore the production of the sea.

Finally, in order to appreciate at the _maximum_ the power of the
fluviatile deposit in the formation of the coasts, observations have been
made upon the Yssel, that branch of the Rhine which discharges itself
into the Zuyderzee. This sea has but very feeble tides, 0 _met._, 40,
at ordinary high water, and very much resembles the Mediterranean, the
Black Sea, and the Adriatic Gulf in this respect. A muddy Delta has also
been formed at the mouth of the Yssel, of the same shape as those of
the Rhone, the Po, the Nile, &c. &c. This Delta cannot be exclusively
owing to the Yssel, because, although it is true that the tides of the
Zuyderzee are very feeble, on the other hand the shores which surround
it are of an exceedingly friable nature; now, however feeble the tides
may be, they yet attack the banks, and what proves it, is, that the
Hollanders are obliged to defend them. By considering the Delta of the
Yssel as a fluviatile deposit solely, we shall therefore have an extreme
case. Now, this Delta has a superfice of only 1500 _hectares_, while the
superfice of the land in Holland, which is evidently of modern deposit,
is at least 1,000,000 _hectares_. If it is observed that the Yssel only
emits a fifteenth of the whole volume of the Rhine and the Meuse united,
it will give 22,500 _hectares_ for the deposit of the river, against
1,000,000 deposited by the sea; which is scarcely two per cent. of what
the sea has furnished in the formation of the polders of Holland.

From the examination of all these facts, it evidently results, as we have
said, that in seas with tides, the rivers not only do not form banks,
alluvium, or deltas at their mouths, but farther, that the alluvium found
in the regions of these rivers submitted to the action of the tide, is
deposited by the sea.

We shall now prove that these conclusions are equally true for the
rivers of the Mediterranean, notwithstanding the opinion of the Italian
engineers, who have considered the fluviatile origin of their deltas as

To give an idea of the propagation of the waves or billows of the sea
agitated by the wind, they have been compared to a field of corn under
the action of the air. It seems as if the ears of corn had an impulsive
swiftness, which however does not exist, since they do not quit their
places. Farther, if the wind is feeble, it is only the ears which waver
without the stalks being shaken; but, in proportion as the wind rises,
the stalks take part in the movement to a greater and greater depth down
to the root.

The waves have been again compared to the movements of a cord, which
is made to undulate by shaking one of its extremities in the hand. It
seems as if the cord was going at a rapid rate, while in reality it does
not quit the hand that shakes it, only each point of it rises and falls
alternately, and this movement is the greater according as the impulse is
stronger; if the extremity of the cord opposite to that which receives
this impulse encounters an obstacle, as the surface of a wall for
instance, it will strike it at each movement of the hand.

It is exactly the same with the waves of the sea; every fluid molecule
placed at the surface of the billow experiences an oscillatory movement
nearly vertical, so that if a body floating on the surface of a wave is
watched it will be seen to remain in the same place, sometimes in the
hollow of the wave, sometimes on its summit, and if at length it changes
its place, that depends upon other circumstances, such as the force of
the wind or the direction of the currents.

This oscillatory movement which is perceived on the surface of the sea,
is necessarily developed to a certain depth, which will be greater in
proportion as the undulations are stronger at the surface. This fact
has been confirmed by experiment; it has been ascertained in effect
that the agitation of the sea caused by the wind, is communicated to a
certain depth, variable according to the wind, according to the sea, and
the places where the observations were made, and that beyond that depth
the sea is perfectly calm. Thus it may be admitted as an observed and
well proved fact, that the waves require a certain depth for their free
developement; if an obstacle is presented to this developement, there
will be a forcible re-action of the wave against this obstacle which will
be carried off, if it is moveable, and will enter into the system of the
wave. This action of the waves against the deeps is what is called the
_ground swell_.

This established, it has already been seen that the coast of the
sea, as well as the projecting capes, resign to the sea every year a
certain amount of earthy and rocky matters. These matters are removed
by the waves which break upon the shore, the soft portions are quickly
disintegrated by this powerful action, and form muddy sand and mud,
and the hard portions are rounded into pebbles the size of which is
diminished more and more by the prolonged action of the force which set
them in motion and which reduces them to sand; but in proportion as these
matters arrive at a sufficient degree of tenuity, they become susceptible
of submitting to the transporting force of the waves and currents, and
quit the place where they were formed.

This transporting force depends both upon the height of the tides and the
direction of the winds, as well as their intensity, combined with that of
the currents which are observed in all seas. So that while considerable
masses of matter are set in motion along the shores, the rivers,
especially those which traverse a great extent of country, transport as
far as their mouths only muddy matters, so light that they are carried
to a distance, and afterwards deposited in the depths of the sea. This
is remarkably the case with the Nile, whose waters at the time of the
inundation are distinguished by their colour for more than ten leagues
into the sea. All the deposits and accretions of the river up to 20
_kilom._ above its mouth are muddy, while all the banks which are at its
mouth are composed of sand alone.

Thus, all the impediments of the mouth of the Nile evidently emanate from
the sea. To demonstrate it by still farther evidence, we will repeat the
reasoning of the engineer M. Bonniceau relative to the alluvium of the
river Mersey, in his excellent work upon the navigation of tidal rivers:
“If the deposits emanated from the elevated lands in a sensible degree,
the quantities deposited from time to time ought to be proportional to
the quantity of rain that falls at the same epochs, because the same
amount of matters descending from the elevated lands and transported by
the river, ought to be partly regulated by the quantity of water that
carries them; but it is a fact well ascertained, that the accumulations
of sand which exist in the vicinity of the mouth are greater in
proportion as the waters of the river are less abundant, while on the
contrary at the time of the increase, when the Nile contains nearly 0
_met._ 008 of matter in suspension, the sand banks are removed and thrown
back far off into the sea.”

It is said that Alexander the Great was determined in his choice of the
situation for the port of Alexandria by the consideration of the winds
and littoral currents which carry eastward the matters held in suspension
by the Nile, and thus cover the coast with sand. If this theory were
true, no alluvium ought to be perceived westward of the mouth of the
river. Now all the coast from Tripoli as far as El Aritch is covered with
sand banks, which frequently form downs, and these downs are found at the
present time transported several leagues into the interior of the lands
westward of the Rosetta mouth.

The port of Alexandria itself has not escaped the action of the ground
swell, for a sand bank has been formed which occupies a good third of the
total superfice of the roadstead. Happily for the port the accumulation
of sand appears to have been arrested long ago, or rather its increase
has become imperceptible.

The roadstead of Alexandria owes its depth to the disposition of its
sides in respect to the winds and currents. It is like the roadstead of
Algiers, which is everywhere very deep, while the neighbouring ports have
sand banks. It cannot be said that these sand banks are owing to the
presence of rivers, which do not exist in the whole extent of the coast
of Barbary, for the few land streams that are scattered along the shore
cannot be called by that name.

We have seen that the winds and the currents carry the detritus of
the coasts reduced to sand to great distances. The currents however do
not arrest the motion of the waves and the ground swell; they bend to
their forms, and as their direction necessarily tends to the shore, the
sands clear the currents with the ground swell which contains them, and
which thus conducts them to the shore. When the direction of the waves
is oblique to the coast, the sands are borne to a distance, but when it
is perpendicular to the coast, the waves raise the sands brought by the
ground swell into dykes and banks, which protect the low shores. The most
minute and lightest portions are accumulated at the more elevated points
of the flats, where, being dried by the sun, they are soon carried away
by the wind, which leaves them, in its turn, in the shape of downs. The
ground swell, therefore, furnishes the materials of those downs, which
usually border flat shores, and it is that which has drawn from the
depths of the sea the sands of those immense deserts of Africa, and of so
many other plains which are found in various parts of the globe.

“Often,” says M. Jomard, “have I remained for whole hours, contemplating
the origin and progress of the phenomenon of the formation of sands. I
saw the waves break and deposit a small line, scarcely discernible, of
very fine sand. Another wave came, burdened like the first, and this new
line of sand pushed the first slightly on. This, once beyond the reach of
the water, and exposed to the rays of a burning sun, was quickly dried,
and became the prey of the wind, which immediately seized and carried it
off into the air; the less light particles of gravel did not reach so
far, but, subjected to the alternate motion, diminished more and more,
and were converted by degrees into sand.”

We may also say with Colonel Emy, that

“All river bars are deposits, brought or arrested by the ground swell,
and without it these deposits would be repelled into the main as far
as the rivers extend their course. The Delta of the Nile, those of the
Mississippi, of the Ganges, of the Scheld, of the Meuse, of the Rhine,
and the Camargue of the Rhone, were originally bars formed by this same
ground swell.”

The tongues of sand which separate the lake of Thau from the gulf of the
Lion, the tongue of earth upon which Alexandria is built, those which
separate the lakes Bourlos and Menzaleh from the Mediterranean, are bars
of sand formed by the ground swell. The sand bank which separates from
the Red Sea the vast basin of the Bitter Lakes, was, without any doubt, a
ford elevated by the ground swell, which, in tempestuous weather, ascends
this sea with the current of the tides charged with sand. The ford, which
answers at the present time at Suez, was certainly formed in this manner
by the ground swell.

We may say also, that the whole Isthmus of Suez was formed by the
maritime deposits of the Mediterranean and of the Red Sea. We believe
that, previous to historic times, the two Seas were in communication
with each other, that the detritus of the chains of mountains situated
to the right and left, carried down by rain, filled up the space which
separates them, and that when that space was elevated to such a height
that the ground swell could reach it, its action was applied in such a
way that by the meeting of the swell of the two Seas, a bank was formed,
which is no other than the bar of El Guisr. After the formation of this
bank, the combined action of the ground swell, both on one side and the
other, and the accretions from the neighbouring mountains continued until
the Isthmus was dry. Then the soil thus constituted was covered by the
downs, which advanced upon it from the direction of Pelusium, driven by
the north winds, and from the direction of Suez, driven by the winds and
currents from the south.

In this state the Isthmus is at present, and the numerous soundings which
we have asked for from His Highness the Viceroy, will prove whether our
hypothesis is well founded or not.

The same theory may, as Colonel Emy observes in his remarkable work,
throw a new light on important geological facts:—

“For instance, those ancient and elevated plains, composed of sand and
pebbles, the formation of which, it has been attempted to explain, by
the revolutions of the globe and violent convulsions of nature, or which
have been regarded as deposits left by rivers, appear to be maritime
accretions. If is, indeed, easy to conceive rivers capable of bringing
down the fragments detached from mountains, by shocks, and by the
decomposition of the rocks; but how could they extend those fragments
uniformly, and over spaces so extensive as the plains in question?
Moreover, was not the course from the summits of the mountains generally
too short for the fragments of the excessively hard rock found in some
of those plains, to have time to acquire their roundness? The rivers
have prolonged their courses through these accumulations of pebbles;
they may, in overflowing, have covered them with sand and earth, but it
is more probable that they contributed in nowise to the formation of
these accretions, unless it were by transporting the rough materials to
the sea. Nothing but the ground swell could spread these fragments of
mountains so uniformly as they are, convert them into shingle and sand by
a long trituration on the shores, where it had driven them; gather them
either into banks or plains, and thus fill up spaces over which the sea
formerly extended.

“The ancient collections of shingle, pebbles and sand are owing, like
those at present forming in a similar manner, to maritime accretions,
and must henceforth be regarded as an incontestable proof that the
ocean formerly reached and was long stationary at different heights far
exceeding its present level.”

It is not surprising, then, to find on divers points of the Isthmus
pieces of hard stone broken into small fragments, and half rounded,
covering the sand-banks at variable heights above the level of the

But, be it as it may, it is certain that throughout the length of the
line, from the roadstead of Suez to that of Pelusium, the excavations
will only be in light earth, which can be easily removed by hand as far
as the water line, and with dredges down to the bed of the Canal.

The track which we have followed for the Canal was prescribed by the very
nature of the locality, and by the condition that the two Seas were to be
brought into direct communication in the most economical manner.

The line begins at the roadstead of Suez, turns to the east of the
town, making a curve to reach the ancient track, which it leaves to the
west, and follows the channel of the valley until it joins the Bitter
Lakes, which anciently formed the extremity of the gulf of the Red
Sea. It traverses those lakes throughout their length, following their
sinuosities, so as to avoid the inequalities of the ground. On leaving
the lakes, the line crosses the bar of the Serapeum, at its lowest point,
and enters Lake Timsah, leaving the heights of Cheik Ennedek to the east.

The last-mentioned lake is to serve in the formation of an inland port,
in which ships may be revictualled and repaired, while it will be the
point of junction between the Maritime Canal and the Canal communicating
with the Nile.

In traversing this lake, the line forms several curves, in order to avoid
the extensive downs which have encroached upon a part of that region.

On leaving the lake, the line proceeds to the bar of El Guisr, at its
lowest point, and then goes towards Lake Menzaleh, which it follows
directly along its eastern shore as far as Pelusium, and is prolonged
into the sea until it reaches a depth of 7 _m._, 50.

The dimensions of the Canal have been determined by the idea of creating
a grand passage for maritime navigation, open to steam and sailing
vessels of considerable burthen. The Caledonian Canal is the only known
analogous work. This Canal, however, is but 37 _m._ broad at the water
line, and but 6 _m._, 10 deep. The locks, to the number of 23, have been
enlarged so as to admit forty-four gun frigates; they are 52 _m._, 40 in
length between the gates, 13 _met._ in breadth, and have a depth of water
of 6 _m._, 10.

For cutting through the Isthmus of Panama by a maritime canal, as
projected by Mr. Garella, it was proposed that the width of the canal, at
the water line, should be 44 _met._, and the depth of water 7 _met._

Prince Louis Napoleon, who, in 1846, published a remarkable work,
inserted in the _Revue Britannique_, under the title of _Canal de
Nicaragua_, adopted the same dimensions as Mr. Garella, in the project
which he proposed to execute for establishing the communication between
the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

We have assumed on considerations hereinafter to be explained, that
paddle and screw frigates as well as vessels of 1000 to 1500 tons, ought
to be able to traverse the Canal in order to satisfy to the fullest
extent the demands of navigation. We have therefore fixed the width of
the Canal at the water line at 100 _met._; its _minimum_ draught of water
at 6 _m._, 50, below low water in the Mediterranean. The locks, two in
number, are to be 100 _met._ long, 21 _met._ wide, with a _minimum_
depth of water of 6 _m._, 50. These works will be established at the
two extremities of the Canal, immediately before the dykes forming the
channel which on each side unites the Canal with the two Seas. These two
locks will form part of a sluiced barrage, and thus convert the whole
Canal into one immense dam, receiving the waters of the Red Sea during
the highest tides, and storing them up successively in order to raise
the level and create a rush of water in each channel when necessary. The
highest tides of the Red Sea being from 2 _met._ to 2 _m._, 50 above low
water in the Mediterranean, a depth of 9 _met._ of water will be obtained
in the canal at certain times, but a mean super elevation of 1 _m._ may
be depended on, which will usually give a minimum depth of 7 _m._, 50
to 8 _met._ Under these conditions, screw steamers will be enabled to
pass easily along the Canal without the presence of its bed re-acting in
an inconvenient manner on the motion of their screws. We have, however,
calculated the earth-works for three different depths of water, viz. 6
_met._; 6 _m._, 50; and 7 _met._ below low water in the Mediterranean.
If the Company should require a depth of 8 _met._, it would be easy to
obtain it by means of dredges, without stopping the navigation on the

The length of each barrage, including the lock, is 100 _met._; and in
order farther to facilitate the entrance of the rising tide into the
Canal, a third barrage has been added at Suez on the site of the existing
channel. This last work will be separated from the first by a platform
raised above the level of high water, so that the two together will unite
the road from Cairo passing by Suez to Mecca. Its length has also been
fixed at 100 _met._

For reasons of economy the width of the Canal has been reduced to 65
_met._ wherever the height of the ground reaches 6 _met._

To prevent the degradation of the banks of the Canal, the slope has been
fixed at two on the base to one in height, and it is proposed to have a
causeway 2 _met._ broad to receive, 1st. A covering of the broken stones
found along the Canal, 2nd. Any earth falling from the higher grounds,
which would otherwise encumber the bed of the Canal. This is only an
imitation of what has proved so successful on the Caledonian Canal.

The width of the towing path has been fixed at 4 _met._, which is quite
sufficient for a maritime canal where steam towing will be so much in use.

Lake Timsah, situated nearly midway between the two Seas, at the entrance
of the _Wady Tomilat_, will form, as we have said, an inland port, to
which both the outward and inward navigation will tend. On its shores
will be established magazines, stables, workshops for repairs, as
well as 1500 _metres_ of quay walls for mooring vessels and embarking
merchandize. For, as the illustrious author of the work on the canal
of Nicaragua well expresses it, the proposed Canal must not be a mere
cutting destined solely to form a passage from one sea to the other for
the produce of Europe, but it must make Egypt a prosperous state by
enabling her to dispose of her interior produce, and a powerful one by
the extent of her commerce.

As for the two entrances, whether from the Red Sea or the Mediterranean,
all that is necessary is, that ships shall be able to approach at all
seasons, and find certain and effectual shelter in bad weather. Now the
roadstead of Suez is sheltered from every wind except the south-east. It
will therefore be sufficient to prolong the eastern jetty to a certain
distance beyond the western to render the shelter complete.

All the vessels which now take their stations in the roadstead ride out
the bad weather very well, and the magazine corvette belonging to the
English Company which has been anchored there for the last two years and
a half has suffered no damage.

Thus, at the Suez extremity, it will be sufficient to establish two
jetties, forming the entrance channel from the Red Sea, and to prolong
them sufficiently far into the roadstead to reach the required depth of
water, in order that vessels entering may have a draught of 7 _m._, 50 to
8 _met._ at low water. The eastern jetty must be 150 _met._ longer than
the western for the reasons we have just given.

At Pelusium, the two jetties, in order to reach the depth of 7 _m._, 50
to 8 _met._ must be at least 6000 _met._ in length; but if it should be
feared that the channel thus formed would not be sufficiently safe for
the approach of vessels, and in order to meet objections, the real value
of which have yet to be tested, we have projected a sheltered roadstead
in front of these jetties by means of a grand mole from 450 to 500 _met._
in length, placed in such a manner as to afford shelter to vessels in bad
weather, and to enable them to enter the channel at their convenience.

At all events no one can doubt that the Canal would be really and
practically navigable for all vessels willing to avail themselves of the
passage. But it will be asked whether jetties extending 6000 _met._ into
the sea do not present great difficulties; whether a trench of 65 _met._
in width, dug 16 _m._, 50 deep, a part of which is under water, is not an
impossibility; and whether, supposing the engineering difficulties to be
surmounted, the results obtained would be in proportion to the expenses
incurred. Doubts have also been started on the navigation of the Red Sea;
finally, several authors have put the question, without however solving
it, whether, even if the Canal were once established, commerce would not
prefer the old way by the Cape as the safest and most advantageous.

These questions we are about to examine: these doubts we shall endeavour
to clear up.

The Gulf of Pelusium is said to be constantly filled with sand or mud
brought down by the Damietta branch of the Nile, and it is objected
that the advanced works to be established on that part of the shore
would only have the effect of increasing the accumulations. We admit
that this portion of the Egyptian shore has been formed by maritime
alluvium brought by the ground swell, as we have already proved at the
commencement of our memorial. We also admit, that the object of the dykes
forming the entrance channel to the Canal, would be to stop the sand thus
brought by the waves, and to accumulate it against the dyke opposed to
the prevailing wind, namely, against the western dyke.

But most of the ports already in existence are open to the same
objections; and if they were sufficient to prevent the construction
of a port, we may safely say that very few of those we are at present
acquainted with would ever have been formed.

According to our idea the essential question is, to know whether, when
once the port is established, it can be maintained without too great an

Now it appears, that for many ages the sands have ceased to extend the
Pelusiac shore, as is manifest from the well ascertained position of
Pelusium, the ruins of which still remain. Strabo, in his Itinerary, says
that Pelusium is situated at the distance of twenty stadia from the sea.
The French engineers of the expedition have verified this distance, by
measuring 1600 toises, or 3000 _met._ from its remains to the shore.

In 1847, the distance between these two points had not varied, as it is
marked on the plan with the figure 3000 _met._, and at the present day it
is still the same.

In fact, by reading all the accounts of ancient authors, and comparing
them with what actually exists, we arrive at the conclusion that the
shores of the Delta have varied very little in historic times.

The sea sands then have long ceased to accumulate, and the fact may be
explained by assuming that the destruction of the coasts of Morocco,
Algeria, Candia, and other parts,—which destruction, we repeat, alone
furnishes the materials of maritime alluvium, —has abated from some cause
or other. It may also be assumed, that the sands which were formerly
driven by winds and currents into the Gulf of Pelusium, are now cast on
the African coast between Tripoli and Alexandria, and driven inland in
the shape of downs. The fact is, that no new downs are now seen forming
in the Isthmus; those on the seashore being of ancient formation, and
nearly all naturally fixed by vegetation. In conclusion, the extension
of the Pelusiac shore, if such extension there be, is too insignificant
to be taken into consideration.

Now, the direction of the jetties being nearly perpendicular to the
shore, in order to be at right angles with the prevailing wind from W.
N. W., the sand, when the wind is perpendicular to the shore, will be
driven on to the coast and increase its height, as hitherto, no change
being occasioned by the jetties. During the parallel winds, which mostly
prevail, the littoral current, finding an obstacle in the jetties, will
form an eddy to windward, which will increase the force of the current
between the points of the jetties and the mole, so that the sand will be
carried far away; and the probability is, that the bottom will become

It is only the oblique winds then, that will carry the sand into the
angles formed by the shore and the windward jetty.

In calm weather, the sea-current which flows along the coast from west
to east has not sufficient force to affect the equilibrium of the
beach. Thus, to sum the matter up, the most that can be feared is the
accumulation of a small quantity of the loose sand in the Gulf at the
angle of the windward jetty. Supposing that even 10,000 _cubic metres
per ann._ should be so deposited, which, according to what we have said,
is an exaggeration, it would take 100 years to advance the beach 400
_metres_, and such an advance would produce no perceptible effect at the
extremities of the jetties.

It may be objected, that by all these movements of the sands, some
portion will necessarily find its way into the channel, and thus, by
degrees, end in obstructing it. To obviate this inconvenience we have at
our disposal dredging machines, and the most powerful means of clearance
derived from a mass of 700,000,000 _cubic metres_ of water, which can be
stored up, above the level of low water in the two Seas, throughout the
whole extent of the Canal, and in the immense reservoir of the Bitter

But are jetties extending 6000 _metres_ into the sea possible? and if
possible, would they not require so much time and such an expenditure of
money as, practically, to cause the undertaking to be given up?

With regard to the possibility, there can be no doubt, for more than
a century ago the Dutch Government constructed a jetty 8000 _met._ in
length in the Bay of the Lion, near the Cape, in water more than sixteen
_met._ deep, in spite of the continued tempestuous weather which succeeds
the settled calms in those latitudes. Such a work, considering the depth
of water, must have required a quantity of materials at least four times
as great as that required for the two jetties and the mole at Pelusium.
It was undertaken by a nation not over rich, at a time when steam was
unknown, and before the invention of machinery, which saves so much time,
expense and labour. There can be no doubt then, that if the cutting of
the Isthmus is admitted to be advantageous, it will be easy to overcome
all difficulties.

With regard to the method of constructing these works, opinions are
no less divided. Some engineers, grounding their opinions on ancient
constructions, recommend that the moles should be formed of immense
blocks of stone of thirty to forty _cubic metres_. Others are of opinion
that the only means of preserving the roads from the accumulation of
sand, is to construct the moles and dykes of open masonry. There are also
some in favour of walls in hydraulic masonry with vertical facings. But,
our own opinion is, that in so important an enterprise, every theoretical
hypothesis should be discarded, and that we ought to be guided solely
by the experience we have acquired in works of an analogous character
already executed. And this is what we have done in adopting the system of
loose stones, as it has been carried out with success: 1. For the dyke at
Cherbourg which is 3768 _met._ long in a depth of water of 14 _m._, 80;
2. For the jetty at Plymouth which is 1364 _met._ long in a depth of 11
_met._ and more; 3. For the dyke in the Bay of Delaware 1200 _met._ long,
with a depth of 14 _met._; 4. For that of the Bay of the Lion 8000 _met._
long, in depths of more than 16 _met._

Objections to this system may, indeed, be raised on account of the
damage sustained at Cherbourg and Plymouth as well as at Algiers, before
the introduction of factitious blocks, but it is necessary to observe,
that both at Cherbourg and Plymouth, the tidal current is exceedingly
strong, its velocity being as much as 4 _met._ per second; that the sea
at these points is very rough, and that there is reason to suppose that
the damage would not have occurred had the blocks been rather larger, and
the interstices well filled up. With regard to the roadstead at Algiers,
it is, as is well known, constantly beaten over by heavy seas, no other
point in the Mediterranean presenting such difficult conditions. We have
in favour of our system most of the moles erected in the various ports
of the Mediterranean, Genoa, Cannes, Barcelona, Valencia, Cadiz, &c. &c.,
all of which are constructed of natural blocks, the largest not exceeding
2 _m._, 50 cube, and which are nevertheless established at considerable
depths of water. Finally, we have on our side the opinions of the most
distinguished English engineers; opinions which have prevailed in
Parliament, and in accordance with which, all the moles in the harbours
of refuge in course of construction are being made, according to the
system of natural blocks sunk into the sea, at certain slopes.

The bottom of the beach, descending by a very gentle inclination, will,
moreover, have the effect of abating the waves, and diminishing their
action against the jetties. This is a well ascertained fact, and one
which may, indeed, be easily conceived; for, supposing that the bottom of
the sea, from a depth below the limit of the motion of the waves, rises
by an extremely gentle slope, until it meets that limit; this meeting
taking place at a very small angle, the bottom will be almost insensibly
substituted for the limit of motion.

At the point of this meeting the undulating motion is _nil_, it is very
feeble at the adjacent points, and easily abated by the resistance and
friction which the molecules experience against the bottom. The abatement
will thus extend vertically up to the surface, and the waves will then
gradually diminish in volume as they approach the shore.

We have, therefore, adopted the system of loose stones for the jetties
and for the mole, with but slight modifications suggested by our own
experience, modifications which consist in making the jetty-heads in
hydraulic masonry to a certain height, as well as the interior surface of
the windward jetty, which is to serve for the towing of vessels.

What we have said of the gulf of Pelusium we may repeat, still more
forcibly, with regard to the roadstead of Suez. The sands have long
ceased to accumulate in any perceptible manner. And if maritime alluvium
is still brought up by the ground swell and the current, it is driven by
the west and south-west winds on to the eastern shore, without reaching
the extremity of the gulf. In fact, the plan of the roadstead was taken
in 1799, and the soundings of the channel are marked, as well as the
shape of the sandbank, which forms a kind of bar at its extremity towards
the roadstead. In 1847, the plan was taken again with the same soundings,
and it is impossible to find the least difference between the two
results, which also agree with those given by Commander Moresby, in his
excellent chart of the Red Sea.

There is, then, nothing to fear on that side, either from the sand or the
violence of the sea. The jetties will be of the simplest construction,
and as the materials are, as it were, at hand, their erection will
present no difficulty.

With regard to the excavation of the Canal to a depth of 6 _m._, 50 below
low water in the Mediterranean, in a very porous soil, the task, at first
sight, presents what appear to be considerable difficulties. We cannot,
indeed, hope to accomplish the whole of the excavation in the dry, or by
pumping, on account of the nature of the ground. It will be necessary,
then, for all that portion below water, to have recourse to dredging;
and, as the quantity of earth to be removed by this means is 57,205,342
_cubic metres_, at first sight it is difficult to conceive how the work
is to be accomplished. But, upon examining the matter more closely,
nothing is found to frighten the most timorous. In fact, a single steam
dredging machine, of twenty horse power, such as those which have been
employed on the Nile, working night and day, can, in twenty-four hours,
raise 1000 _cubic metres_ of sand, from a depth of seven _metres_.
According to this calculation, and supposing the year to consist of only
270 working days, it would take forty dredging machines five years to
complete the labour; but if, instead of such small machines, dredges of
thirty to thirty-five horse power were adopted, it would be easy to raise
1500 _cubic metres per diem_, and the dredging would be more economical.

The quantity of earth to be raised by manual labour amounts to 17,473,790
_cubic metres_, and the deepest cutting does not exceed 10 _metres_ above
the water. This is a small matter when compared with the earth-works
performed in many canal and railway undertakings, and even with those
accomplished before the present century; such, for example, as the one
mentioned by Michel Chevalier, in his investigations concerning the
maritime canal of the Isthmus of Panama (_Recherches sur la Canalisation
maritime de l’Isthme de Panama_).

“It required,” says he, “the treasure which the Viceroys of Mexico had
at their disposal to undertake the cutting at Huehuetoca, the total
length of which is 29,585 _met._, with a depth of from 45 to 60 _met._,
for a length of 800 _met._, and from 30 to 50 _met._ for 3500 _met._ The
expense was 31,000,000.”

Farther on, he adds:—

“Nowadays, however, in a case of necessity, by displaying the improved
appliances at the command of engineering art, it would be possible to
effect cuttings of great depth, and to remove large quantities of earth
at no extraordinary expense. On the Arles canal, at Bouc, for instance,
the plateau of the Lecque was cut through by a trench 2100 _met._ in
length, by 40 to 50 _met._ in depth, at the culminating point. The
expense was under 4,000,000, and yet the cutting was performed by the old
method. In cuttings of magnitude, the soil is now broken by instruments
of enormous power, and the earth is removed by means of railways and
locomotives. All that has to be done by manual labour is to collect the
loose earth and load the waggons. For so important an object as the
uniting of two seas, even the impossible might be attempted.”

Supposing each labourer to do 1 _m._, 50, on an average, _per diem_,
it would only require 8000 labourers for five years to complete the
earth-works; and not a year passes without a levy of between 30 and
40,000 men being commanded by the Viceroy, in several provinces at once,
for the service of the canals alone.

As soon as the project of a ship canal across the Isthmus of Suez is
ascertained to be useful and advantageous, no difficulties of execution,
however great they may be (and we have proved them trifling), will be
considered obstacles to its being carried out.

It would appear at first sight superfluous to demonstrate the utility
of such an undertaking, for what especially strikes the imagination, is
the magnitude of the results promised by the Canal, and the reiterated
efforts made at several epochs, even in times of ignorance, to open this
communication between the two Seas.

But since the publication of M. Lepère’s memorial, so many objections
have been brought forward and so many doubts raised, that public opinion
is undecided, and it becomes necessary to re-establish the question in
all its integrity. We will therefore examine the principal objections
raised against the direct communication between the two Seas.

It has been said that the navigation of the Red Sea is so dangerous,
and that the monsoons cause such delays, that even if the Canal were
established and freely traversed by ships, commerce would not follow that
route, which would in fact, from these peculiar circumstances, be the
longest and most perilous.

In the first place, there can be no question here about steam navigation,
the circle of which extends daily more and more, for the projected
Canal will be the triumph of steam; it will greatly increase the use of
the screw, and give a new stimulus to British navigation, which will
be charged with the delivery of English coal throughout the whole line
from London to Australia. We will therefore only examine the case of
navigation by sailing vessels. Now, we learn from history, that from
the most distant ages, this navigation has flourished in the Red Sea,
and that after the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope (in 1497), the
Portuguese considered it necessary to have a fleet, which, in 1538,
destroyed all the merchant vessels of the Turks and Venetians. If in
later times commerce took the way of the Cape, we have only to thank the
Turkish sovereignty of the period, which allowed the arts, sciences,
and industry to perish, at the same time that it forbade the navigation
of the Red Sea to the European nations. How can this navigation be
considered full of danger at the present day, when nautical science
and the art of ship-building have made such great progress, and when
everything relating to the winds, the currents, and the coasts of the Red
Sea, is perfectly well known?

To leave no doubt on the subject, we will repeat the most important
observations which have been made on the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

This is what the English traveller, Bruce, says in 1769:—

“Those who are at all acquainted with the history of Egypt, are aware
that the north wind, there called the Etesian wind, prevails during
the six hottest months of the year. The two chains of mountains, which
confine Egypt to the east and west, compel this wind to follow precisely
this northerly direction. It is reasonable to suppose that it would be
the same for the Arabian Gulf, if the course of that narrow sea were
parallel to the land of Egypt. But the Red Sea extends nearly from
north-west to south-east, from Suez to Mocha; there it alters its course,
and proceeds nearly from east to west, as far as its junction with the
Indian Ocean at the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb.

“Thus the Etesian wind, which is due north in Egypt, follows the course
of the gulf, and blows with force in that direction all the summer; that
is to say, that from the month of April till the month of October, the
north-east wind prevails over the whole extent of the Red Sea, descending
as far as the straits; and that from November to March, the wind has
quite a contrary direction, and ascends the gulf from the straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb, up to the Isthmus of Suez.

“It is observed, then, that a vessel starting from Suez, in any of the
summer months encounters a very violent north-west wind, which will carry
it direct from the gulf to Mocha. At Mocha the coast goes from east to
west, as far as the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. Thus a vessel sailing from
Mocha will, in a short space of time, experience variable winds but
mostly blowing from the west, and these winds will soon carry it to the
straits. It therefore no longer wants the monsoon of the gulf, which blew
from the north; and when it has passed into the Indian Ocean, it meets
with another monsoon blowing in an opposite direction, during the six
summer months, to the one which had favoured its progress in the Red Sea.
This monsoon is no less favourable; it blows from the south-west, and
carries the ship full sail, without delay or obstacle, into any required
port of India.

“Returning, the same advantages may be secured by setting sail during
the winter months with the monsoon peculiar to that sea, which then
blows from the north-east, and will carry the ship to the straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb. When the straits are passed it will meet with a south-east
wind in the gulf, exactly contrary to the one in the ocean, but the
course of the ship is also contrary, and this south-east wind, following
the direction of the gulf, will bring it to Suez. All this is clear,
simple, and easily understood, and thus it is, that in the earliest ages
the commerce of India was carried on without any difficulty.

“Thus the philosophy, the observation and the indefatigable perseverance
of man, who endeavours to carry out every project which his interest
suggests, triumphing over difficulties, have taught the navigators of
the Arabian Gulf, that those periodical winds which they had, at first,
regarded as insuperable obstacles to the trade of the Indian Ocean, are,
when understood, the safest and the quickest means of performing the

Mr. Rooke, an English officer, speaks in these terms, of the navigation
of the Red Sea in a letter dated April 25, 1782.

“The construction and management of the vessels are equally singular,
and I fear any description will fall infinitely short of the original;
they were, I believe, designed by those who built them, to bear some
resemblance to ships, but, having few of the properties of those
machines, proceed on a principle totally different from any I before
beheld; that _primum mobile_ to which ships of other countries are
indebted for their voyages is here of little use, and calms are more
favourable than wind to forward their progress; ... they ... seem
equally averse to a fair as to a contrary wind, remaining at anchor
until it subsides into a calm, their busy scene then commences, the
anchor is weighed and the vessel put in motion by means of the boat with
about twenty oars in it, towing till a breeze springs up; when this
begins to be more than what our seamen call a light air, they hurry to
the shore and let go their anchor, and for this purpose always choose a
berth the most environed by rocks and shoals, never thinking themselves
secure but when in the midst of danger; their common time of anchoring
was about two o’clock in the afternoon, for about that time the breeze
generally freshened, and in proportion as that increases they put out
anchors, till they have six in the water, and two or three hawsers
besides, to tie them to the surrounding rocks: ... in what they called
good weather, we had not above two anchors out, and if it fell calm after
sunset they ventured to get one of them up, that they might be ready for
the land breeze in the morning, which generally sprung up at two o’clock
and blew till nine or ten.... I believe, without these land breezes we
should never have arrived at Suez; a circumstance that very frequently
happens to many vessels of this annual fleet, for if they do not make
good their passage before the latter end of May, the northerly winds blow
so constantly as to render it impossible, for vessels that cannot work to
windward, to get up the narrow channel from Tor to Suez.

“When it is remembered that the journey from London to Madras has been
performed in sixty-three days, it is surprising to see the English
neglect so great an advantage when they have the power of securing it.”

Vice Admiral Rosily, who navigated the Red Sea in 1789, on board the
frigate Venus, and who was consulted by M. Lepère, was far from admitting
the dangers and difficulties of the Red Sea to be as great as is usually
supposed. In fact, these dangers, conjured up solely by the ignorance of
ancient and modern navigators, have been accredited by general opinion,
or rather by general mistake. The frigate Venus traversed the Red Sea
in all directions without experiencing either damage or difficulty.
We may therefore rest assured, that no merchant vessel will encounter
any difficulties but those which are inseparable from all narrow seas;
the Adriatic, which is still narrower than the Red Sea, has never been
considered impassable.

The coasts alone of the Red Sea are dangerous, but the number of
anchorages is so great that the sailors of the country never navigate at
night, but anchor every evening. In rough weather they remain at anchor
sometimes for a week or a fortnight at the same place, without daring to
gain the open sea or take advantage of any wind that would be favourable
to an European ship.

The excellent work of Commander Moresby and Captain Rogers on the Red
Sea, written by command of the East India Company, to resolve the
question of its navigation, and in consequence of which the steam service
of the Red Sea was established; this excellent work, we say, if it does
not represent the monsoons to be as regular as is stated by Bruce, does
not contradict the generality of the facts given by that traveller, as
may be judged from the following extracts:—


    “From Suez to Geddah, during the whole course of the year,
    the wind is generally north, and blows, at times, with great
    violence; but it abates usually at the change of the moon.
    During the winter months, from December to April, the south
    wind prevails, sometimes for a few days, and occasionally blows
    fresh, more particularly in the Sea of Suez, where it sometimes
    attains the force of a moderate gust. At this season gusts from
    the west are not uncommon in the Sea of Suez, and are much
    dreaded by the inhabitants in consequence of their violence. On
    the Arabian coast, near Geddah, to the south and north of that
    port, the north and north-west winds sometimes blow with great
    violence during the winter months, and bring with them clouds
    of dust from the land.

    “The south wind, which blows sometimes from October to May,
    generally occasions a current of twenty or thirty miles a day.
    After a gust from the north-west, when there is a light breeze,
    there is generally a current towards the north. It is then
    better to beat along the Arabian side than the Egyptian, as was
    the practice of ancient navigators, who considered the latter
    coast more healthy.

    “The average length of the passage from Geddah to Cosseir
    depends so much on circumstances, that it is impossible to
    assign any fixed term for it. It is, however, rarely more than
    twenty or less than ten days. With the boats of the country it
    takes from twenty-five to thirty days, and sometimes more.”


    “From the beginning of October to the end of April, during
    what we may call the winter months, between the straits of
    Bab-el-Mandeb and Gebel Tor, in about latitude 15° 30´ north,
    the wind may be said to blow continually from the south, with
    the exception of a day or two at the time of the new or full
    moon, when it sometimes blows from the north. But frequently,
    for two months at a time, there is no change.

    “From Gebel Tor to latitude 19° or 20° the winds are variable
    at the same period, and blow as much from the north as from the
    south. One or other of these winds respectively prevails as you
    approach one or the other of these limits.

    “From 21° to 27° the north wind prevails during the same
    season, but half a lunation seldom passes without there being
    one or two days of south wind, especially from the end of
    November to the beginning of March.

    “From 27° to Suez, the wind is, almost constantly, north, and
    seldom interrupted by any wind from the south, unless it be in
    the months of December, January, and February.

    “In June, July, August, and September the north wind prevails
    without interruption, throughout the whole extent of the Red
    Sea, from Suez to Bab-el-Mandeb. Occasionally a change takes
    place, from the land side, principally in August and September,
    and during these months a fast sailer can make thirty-five
    miles a-day, beating from Mocha to Suez. In December, January,
    and February, a vessel will sometimes meet with a good wind
    from Mocha to Cosseir, and accomplish the run in six or seven
    days, whereas it is impossible to do the same from Cosseir to
    Mocha except in summer.”

It appears from these extracts that the Red Sea is easily navigable, at
all seasons, by sailing vessels, and that it is always possible so to
arrange the periods of departure as to traverse it in both directions.

We ought also to take into account the inconveniences experienced in
the voyage round the Cape, resulting from the settled calms succeeding
the continued tempests, the diseases which decimate the crews, and the
disasters which are so frequent on passing the equator. We should also
take into consideration that, if the difficulties are greater during a
good part of the year for vessels going up the Red Sea, vessels coming
down are, for that very reason, sure to meet with favourable winds.

To leave no doubt on so important a question, and on which depends, in
part, the success of the enterprise in contemplation, we will give a
passage from a paper communicated to the _Société de Géographie_, by
Count d’Escayrac de Lauture, the motto of which is,

                       “Aperire terram gentibus.”

    “If the _minimum_ distances which separate the ports of Europe
    from those of India, on the one part by the Cape of Good Hope,
    and on the other by the Canal of the two Seas, be compared with
    each other, enormous differences in favour of the latter route
    will be made manifest. These differences become still greater,
    when it is recollected that, in navigation, a straight line is
    far from being the shortest way from one point to another, and
    that navigators only reach their destination by successively
    following a certain number of courses, which form greater or
    lesser angles with each other.

    “So that instead of steering directly for the Cape of Good
    Hope, mariners starting from Europe or the Atlantic ports of
    North America to go to India, must make the Canaries or the
    Azores; get into the track of the trade winds of the northern
    hemisphere, reach the coast of Brazil, and make Cape Frio, or
    put in at Rio Janeiro. It is only then that they can make for
    the Cape of Good Hope, better named, perhaps, Cape Tempestuous.
    They clear at length the Agulhas Bank, reach Bourbon or the
    Mauritius, and thence proceed to India in the track of the

    “Vessels from the Mediterranean have still greater
    disadvantages to contend against. It frequently takes them a
    fortnight to pass the straits of Gibraltar, in consequence
    of the west wind which prevails in those straits, and the
    rapid current which pours the waters of the ocean into the

    “The consequence is, that the passage to India takes at least
    from five months to five months and a half. The passage back
    is rather more direct, without being to any perceptible degree
    shorter. The coast of Africa may then be followed more closely,
    thanks to the trade winds of the southern hemisphere. The place
    to put in at, in this case, is St. Helena.

    “If we now examine the conditions to which navigation is
    subjected in the three seas nearest to Suez, that is to say,
    the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Oman, we shall
    find that in the Mediterranean the winds blow from the north
    during the greater part of the year, change to the south by
    east towards the spring, and return to the north, passing by
    the west and north-west. The case is nearly the same with
    regard to the Red Sea, where the north wind, which is the most
    frequent, drives the waters in the direction of Bab-el-Mandeb,
    so that when the calm succeeds, a current is observed running
    north. This is evidently produced by the waters which had been
    raised in the south endeavouring to regain their level. The
    south wind usually succeeds the calm.

    “The Gulf of Oman has two monsoons, that from the north-east,
    which prevails with more constancy in the winter, and that from
    the south-west, which blows with force in summer. The change
    from one monsoon to the other is effected, there as elsewhere,
    by a series of calms and gusts of wind.

    “From these circumstances it would appear most advantageous to
    sail to India by the canal in summer and autumn, and to return
    towards the spring.

    “The great shortening of the distance between the ports of
    Europe, and those of India, is not the only advantage which
    commerce will derive by frequenting the canal of the two Seas.
    In fact, vessels will not only reach their destination in a
    shorter time, but will meet on their route with numerous ports
    to put in at, and, what is more important still, considerable
    markets. The voyager, after having followed the easy track of
    the Mediterranean, will sell a part of his cargo in the Canal
    of Suez, or at Geddah; will buy ivory at Massaoux, Souken and
    Berbera, which he will either exchange in India, for opium, or
    carry on to China to obtain silk or tea.

    “He will complete his homeward cargo with the colonial produce
    of Manilla, the Sunda Islands, and Ceylon, with cotton from
    India, or Egypt, with coffee from Abyssinia, or Yemen, with
    gum from Soudan or Hedjaz, with corn from Lower Egypt, or with
    rice from Damietta. And these multifarious operations, which
    now require years, will be safely and rapidly accomplished with
    little capital and small ships.

    “In fact, by reducing the time required for commercial
    operations we also reduce the general costs, make a much
    greater number of these operations possible in a given time,
    and, by that means, give facilities to small traders, by far
    the most numerous class.

    “By opening to navigation an easier and safer route, we bring
    into use ships of less tonnage, and more economically equipped;
    in one word, we throw open the road to India to the coasting

To these details, we will add our own personal observations. We may say
that the navigation of the Red Sea is always easy, from the straits to
Raz Mohammed, because there are no rocks in the middle of the gulf, and
it being always possible to beat when the monsoon is not favourable, and
if some danger is to be feared at Raz Mohammed, from whirlwinds, currents
and rocks, they will disappear as soon as a good lighthouse is erected,
and a station of steam tugs established to assist vessels against the
contrary winds.

Sailing may then be said to have attained the limit of its advantages,
for it will profit by favourable winds to perform the transport service
with economy; and in those parts of the passage where difficulties are to
be encountered, steam will come in aid, by which danger and loss of time
will be avoided.

Another objection which has been raised against the direct canal is, that
being cut through moving downs, it will soon be encumbered by them, and
that the expense of keeping it in order, will consequently be so great,
that it will be necessary to abandon it, if it ever be undertaken.

To refute this objection we will recapitulate the facts in their actual

From Suez to the extremity of the Bitter Lakes, the soil is, it is true,
sandy at the surface, but however sandy it may be, the winds do not
produce any modification in the superficial state of this part of the

This is to be accounted for by the fine sand being kept moist by the sea
water, which reaches the surface by percolation and capillary attraction;
the sand, which is out of reach of the moisture, is coarse sand, or
rather small gravel, bound together by magnesian earth, in such a manner
that the wind has no effect upon it. So true is this, that at several
places in this desert we found, in December, 1854, the traces left by the
tents of the engineers who were employed there in 1847.

The best proof that can be given of the stability of the soil in this
part of the desert is the situation of the banks of the ancient canal,
which still remain all along, as far as the Bitter Lakes. The torrents of
rain which sometimes fall in this locality, may well, in 1200 years, have
worn ravines in these banks, and partly filled the canal. In some parts
even, the banks have been carried away by sudden torrents, but nowhere
are they buried by the sand. Vestiges of antiquity, two or three thousand
years old, may still be seen at the surface of the soil on the very line
through which the canal is to pass. It is only on approaching Lake Timsah
that moveable downs are met with, which surround and cut it in several
places, changing their shape rather than their position; all the other
downs which are met with in the form of chains of hillocks, and which
occupy the space comprised between the bar of El Guisr and Pelusium, have
long been naturally fixed by various plants, which have sprung up there
under the influence of heat and moisture. It is, then, only the downs
in the vicinity of Lake Timsah which require to be fixed artificially.
Now, the fixing of downs has already become a special branch of industry
presenting great advantages. The hills of sand which devastated the
_Landes_ of Bordeaux, and advanced every year into the interior of the
country, rendering it barren, are now transformed into magnificent pine
forests, which yield turpentine, pitch, various kinds of resin and timber.

This change, or rather this miracle, was effected by the simplest
means. After an attentive examination of the facts, M. Bremontier,
engineer-general, to whom we are indebted for the fixing of the downs,
had observed that, in digging at the summit of the most elevated downs,
the sand was moist at a few _centimetres_ from the surface.

Struck by this circumstance, he saw at once that vegetation would be
possible, if the sand could be prevented from being displaced by the
wind. He consequently imagined various means of obtaining this result,
and his efforts were crowned with complete success. He sowed on several
downs the seeds of the maritime pine, which have now become magnificent

After being assured, by long experience, of the advantages which might be
derived from the fixing of the downs, M. Bremontier addressed a report
to the Government of the Republic, in which are found the following

“The surface of the downs, which form the _Landes_ of Bordeaux,” says
he, “being equal to 337,000 _Bordeaux journaux_, of 840 _square toises_,
the amount required to fix the whole of these downs would be 8,000,000
_livres_. Now, a _journal_ (0 _hect._, 33) of sand planted with pines,
gives an annual return of fifteen _livres_, that of 337,000 _journaux_
would therefore be of 5,055,000 _livres_. It is supposed here that the
_Journal_ planted with pines only yields three quintals of resin, and
the price may be taken at five francs the quintal; but the plantations,
at the end of seven or eight years, will produce an immense quantity of
combustibles, and afterwards charcoal, boards, timber for building, and
finally tar. It is true that the pines are not of full value until twenty
or twenty-five years after planting; there will be, however, an interest
of twelve and a half per cent. as a deduction from all expenses.”

Much more simple means are employed at present, to fix the downs by
sowing, for it is mostly considered sufficient to plant branches of
broom, furze, or pine in quincunx upon the down to be sown and to scatter
various seeds broadcast, and cover them lightly with a rake. These are
called _tufted seed plots_. The expense of a _hectare_ is 66 _fr._, 80,
which is made up as follows, as appears from the accounts kept by the
engineers entrusted with these works:—

    460 faggots             at _fr._ 2,50 per C. _fr._ 11,50
    16 _Kilos._ pine seeds           0,45               7,20
    2           rush                 2,50               5,00
    2           furze                0,25               0,50
    6           hay                  0,10               0,60
    Labour 1 day, 90. for a gang    22,10              41,99
              Cost of 1 hectare                  _fr._ 66,79

The gang is composed of—

        A Foreman         _fr._ 2,00      _fr._  2,00
        6 Workmen               1,25             7,50
        12 Women                0,75             9,00
        6 Children              0,60             3,60
                     Total _per diem_     _fr._ 22,10

At the eighth year they begin to yield interest on the capital and cost
of keeping up (which is almost nothing), from the combustible that is
obtained by removing the surplus, from making charcoal, &c. &c. At twenty
years they begin to extract resin from the trees, at thirty years the
produce is most abundant, and continues up to eighty years, when the
wood is fit for building purposes. Then new seed plots are formed in
proportion as the old trees are removed.

The annual produce of resin gathered from a _hectare_ of pines is an
average of five _metric quintals_, which, at the rate of twenty-two
_francs_ per quintal, gives a revenue of 110 _francs_, and represents at
least seventy per cent. of the capital employed.

It will be seen by this statement, that the fixing of the downs has
become one of the most productive operations of Silviculture, and that it
offers one of the most advantageous investments for capital.

It was therefore necessary for us to know, whether the downs which cover
the northern part of the Isthmus could be fixed by the same process.
Now, we have ascertained, 1st. That the greater part of these downs are
naturally fixed by a multitude of different plants, which have found
sufficient moisture for their support; 2nd. That the moveable downs of
the basin of Lake Timsah conceal moisture at a very little depth below
their surface; they may, therefore, be fixed by seed plots, and to do it
there is the immense quantity of bushes and shrubs which grow in the low
parts surrounding the lake, and which give to that region the appearance
of a copse.

Not only will sufficient branches be found on the spot for the tufted
seed plots, but moreover, all the combustibles for the lime, and for the
wants of the workmen, will be furnished abundantly.

It is true, that at the time we made our observations (January, 1855),
tolerably abundant rains had recently moistened the soil; the success of
the seed-plots, which would be destitute of moisture for the rest of the
year, might therefore be doubted; but what is there to prevent the moist
season being chosen for making these plots? and the seed once risen,
the abundant moisture which is felt in this region, especially during
the summer nights, will suffice to support vegetation, as is seen by
the downs fixed naturally. Finally, to remove all objections, the fresh
water canal which will end at Lake Timsah, will supply, if required, the
means of affording, during the early days of the seed-plots, sufficient
moisture for the success of the undertaking.

There is no possible doubt then as to the success which will be obtained
in the fixing of the moveable downs, nor as to the pecuniary advantages
which result from it, for the maritime pine answers well in Egypt,
and other kinds of trees may be found still more productive. The cost
of sowing will be less than in France, on account of the low price of
labour, and the profits will be more considerable and more quickly
obtained, on account of the hotter climate, and the consumption on the
spot of all produce now wanting, and which is obliged to be procured from
a distance.

We estimate the superfice of the downs to be fixed in this part of the
Isthmus at about 2000 _hectares_, but if seed-plots and replantations
were made upon all the downs naturally fixed, 100,000 _hectares_ of
forest might thus be formed. It is for the Company to decide what
extent of country it will be suitable to cultivate in this way. A final
objection has been made to the Canal by assuming that steam navigation,
by the agitation of the water which it produces, would quickly destroy
the banks of the Canal,—banks formed in a moveable soil which would fill
up the trough.

To guard against this inconvenience, which might, in fact, be
apprehended, we have adopted very gentle slopes (two on the base line
to one in height); then we have covered these slopes with stones for
the whole height on which the agitation caused by the passage of
steam-vessels could be felt. We have in our favour the example of the
Caledonian Canal, thus furnished with a covering of stones formed of
simple materials. This is what M. Flachat says, in the description that
he gives of this Canal, according to the reports of the Commissioners of
the House of Commons: “Steam navigation especially demands attention.
Difficult, perhaps even impossible, upon ordinary canals, where it causes
an agitation which rapidly destroys the banks, it is organized on the
Caledonian Canal, and presents nothing but advantages. With a speed
of 11,000 to 12,000 _met._ per hour, all that has been observed is _a
general plashing, which is not more than that produced by a moderately
gentle wind_. The only precaution taken was, to collect on the banks and
made ground all the large pebbles with which the land is filled, and to
cover with them for a foot in height below the line of the water, the
banks which, from the coarse composition of the soil, were too easily
disturbed by the agitation of the waves. But wherever the ground had
a good proportion of sand, there was nothing to be done.” Finally, it
has been assumed, that the Government of Great Britain, yielding to a
national prejudice, would put obstacles in the way of the project of
cutting through the Isthmus, if it should be ascertained to be feasible,
and that the English capitalists would not be disposed to concur in
the undertaking. The future alone can show what truth there is in this
assumption; we cannot at all conceive the opposition of the Government
of a great nation to a project to which the English have especially, in
these latter times, drawn the attention of the commercial world and their
own Government on account of the special advantages which it offers to
England. We have already referred to the writings of the traveller Bruce
and those of Captain Rooke. We will now cite other names.

Captain James Vetch, of the corps of Royal Engineers, author of a very
remarkable pamphlet published in London in 1843, and Mr. Clarkson, Civil
Engineer, propose to trace the Canal in a single straight line from Suez
to Tineh.

The editor of the Engineers’ and Architects’ journal (1844) in giving an
account of the labours of these engineers, adopts in starting from Suez,
the line of the ancient canal as far as the Bitter Lakes, and from the
head of these lakes at Katieh he takes the direction of the Mediterranean
in passing by the great lake Sulak el Bardoil.

The author adds, “It is hardly reasonable to reckon upon a union of the
European powers to effect an undertaking in which England has such a
preponderating interest, in the point of view of our domination in India.
It is true that all the Nations bordering on the Mediterranean would find
large profit therein, but much inferior however to ours.”

The Foreign Quarterly Review, one of the most esteemed periodicals of
England, in an article where it treats of the cutting of the Isthmus,
says that—“the expense compared with the grandeur of the result is so
trivial, that it is astonishing that the thing has not yet been done,
either by a company or by the Viceroy. The advantages of this undertaking
would be immense; for, independently of the great commerce which would be
done there, independently of the opening of Abyssinia and of the interior
of Africa to the arts and civilization, the Red Sea abounds in natural
riches, and the fishermen of the Mediterranean would transport themselves
thither in crowds in pursuit of pearls, mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell,
sponges (the finest in the world), coral, fish oils, &c. &c.”

Mr. Anderson in his pamphlet already quoted, says: “In a political point
of view, the advantages which the English Government will derive from the
Canal are almost incalculable. From Malta troops could be transported
to Bombay in three weeks, to Ceylon and Madras in four weeks, and to
Calcutta in thirty-five days at most, instead of the four or five months
now required by a sailing vessel. Under such circumstances it would
require scarcely half the number of English troops for the efficient
government of India. The facility for despatching ships of war with
munitions and men would thus increase the stability of the British power,
while the cost would be considerably diminished.”

“In a commercial point of view, the advantages would be still more
considerable: British India contains a population of 150,000,000,
including, with the subjects of the British Crown, its allies and
tributaries. China does not contain less than 350,000,000 of inhabitants:
to say nothing of the other rich and populous countries of the East.
Let us suppose that in consequence of the progress and developement
of commerce, each Indian and Chinese should augment his outlay in the
purchase of English produce by one shilling; this modification alone,
insignificant as it appears, would augment the amount of exports by
25,000,000. Now is it not evident that the opening of the Maritime
Canal will greatly facilitate commercial relations, and tend to lower
the price of all merchandize? the 500,000,000 of human beings peopling
India and China are still sunk in ignorance and superstition. With
steam navigation, which will be developed beyond all conception by the
opening of the Canal, these people, brought into daily communication with
European ideas, will enter by degrees into the current of science and

We will terminate these quotations by an extract from a very remarkable
work published in the “Papers for the People,” inserted in the _Revue
Britannique_ (for 1852), and in which the cutting through the Isthmus
is regarded as a practical solution of the maintenance of the British
power in India. We read there:—“If in spite of the concourse of several
adverse circumstances, we firmly believe that our country will be able
to effect the union of the two Seas, it is because this measure will
soon become imperiously necessary for the maintenance of our empire
... all nations would find immense advantage in the creation of a new
route opened to navigation; this evident advantage, offered to the
European states nearer to Africa, has even been seriously adduced as a
fit argument to divert England from an enterprise, the result of which
might be problematical. We encounter here one of the old distrusts of
that worn-out theory, that miserable tissue of mistakes that took upon
itself to teach, that a people is only rich and flourishing in proportion
as its neighbours are indigent and unfortunate. Doubtless the countries
of Europe nearest to the East will derive a considerable profit from the
opening of the Isthmus of Suez, but our egotism ought to find therein a
motive for satisfaction; for we cannot be ignorant of the fact, that the
developement of commerce, whatever the means employed, always ends by
bringing the better part of the profits to the most intelligent and most
numerous firms. For our own part, such is our belief. England, and more
than one other nation by its example, appear to us called to great works
which will throw into shade the most striking deeds of history. Among
these works of the future, it appears to us that the cutting through
the Isthmuses of Panama and Suez stand in the first rank, and which
multiplying and strengthening the ties by which people of all climates,
of all races, of all beliefs are united to Great Britain, will connect
for ever the general prosperity of nations with the happiness of our
country, their security with its power, their independence with its

We believe we have abundantly proved the possibility of constructing the
Maritime Canal with its two entrances, one from the Mediterranean, the
other from the Red Sea, and its interior harbour at Lake Timsah. The
facilities and advantages which it offers to commerce and navigation as
well as to Egypt can no longer be a matter of doubt, and let us say with
the illustrious author of the memorial upon the Nicaragua Canal:—“Think
of the almost miraculous effects which will be produced by the annual
passage across this fine country of 2 to 3000 vessels, which would
exchange their productions for those of the East, and cause life and
riches to circulate everywhere. We may picture to ourselves those shores,
now so solitary, peopled with towns and villages; those lakes now gloomy
and silent, furrowed by ships; those rugged lands fertilised, and the
interior canal carrying the benefits of civilization into the heart of
the country.”

It only now remains to enter upon the financial and economical
considerations of the undertaking; but before approaching this part of
the question, it is necessary to complete the exposition of the scheme by
describing the canal of communication and irrigation which will connect
the interior of Egypt with the Maritime Canal.

This Canal must fulfil three conditions.

It should be of a section sufficiently large to admit the craft and
steam boats that navigate the Nile, in order to allow access to the
interior harbour from all points of Egypt without the inconvenience of
trans-shipment. The volume of water to be supplied to the Canal should be
sufficient, after allowing for all losses by evaporation, infiltration,
and the passage of the locks, for the irrigation of 100,000 _feddans_
(40,000 _hectares_) during the winter, and 60,000 _feddans_ (24,000
_hectares_) during the summer. Lastly, the level of the water ought to
be maintained at the most favourable height for the natural irrigation
of the immense tracts of land in the Isthmus which now remain barren for
want of water.

To fulfil these conditions, the receipt of water for the alimentary and
irrigating Canal may be established a little above Boulak at Kusr el Nil
where the mouth of the Kalidj Zafranieh is, which loses itself to the
north of Cairo in the Kalidj Manjeh, the ancient canal of Trajan and
Amrou; this canal was partly re-excavated by Mehemet Ali to nearly the
same dimensions as those required for the new Canal, and as far as Tell
el Zoudieh. By following this track a great economy is already obtained.
The Canal also exists farther on as far as Belbeïs, but of smaller
dimensions; from Belbeïs, in order to maintain the water at a suitable
height, the Canal is made to pass a little more to the East outside
the cultivated lands, which will give the Company an opportunity of
irrigating and fertilising the bordering tracts at present uncultivated.
The canal then proceeds northward as far as _Ras el Wady_ (head of the
valley), the Pitoum of the Bible. This course exists of small dimensions,
but in several parts of its route it may be turned to account. There
will not be great expense in completing the line as far as Lake Timsah;
life would thus be given to Cairo by traversing it with a navigable
passage, of which it is destitute at present. It would then be necessary,
during the time of the low water, to raise the waters of the Nile to a
height of three _metres_ by means of steam pumps of 500 horse power;
and when the barrage, for which His Highness Mohammed Saïd Pacha has a
project, is completed, the reflux will facilitate, with the assistance of
steam power, the introduction of the waters of the Nile into the Canal
during the six months of the low waters.

The width of the Canal has been fixed at 25 _met._, measured on the water
line at the time of the inundation. This width is sufficient to allow
two steam boats to pass each other without inconvenience. Moreover,
precautionary measures may be adopted at the entrances of the locks, to
prevent collisions, if it should become necessary hereafter.

The depth of the bed of the Canal below the natural surface of the
ground in the first part or first dam, as far as the north of Tell el
Zondieh, is 7 _metres_, that is to say, at the level of the low waters
of the river, and at 14 _metres_ above the level of low water in the
Mediterranean, the fall of the Canal has been fixed at 0,03 in a 1000
_metres_, in order to secure a speed that shall not exceed O _m._, 65
per second, and that shall not destroy the banks of the Canal. This
arrangement will enable us to supply, during the high waters of the
increase, a volume of water for inundating the lands, of 40 to 50 _cubic
metres_ per second, or 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 _cubic metres per diem_.
As the inundation has to be continued during 100 days at the most, and
each _feddan_ of land ought to have a quantity of 8,400 _cubic metres_ of
water, that is to say, two _cubic metres_ of water to each _square metre_
of land, 47,600 _feddans_ might thus be inundated during the 100 days.
This quantity of water is given to irrigate the lands and leave upon them
the deposits of the river, or the mud which is the manure of the Egyptian
soil; but when the lands which the Company will bring into cultivation
have been thus improved by two or three complete inundations, there will
be a greater disposable quantity of water, and the number of _feddans_ to
be brought into cultivation may be augmented.

The lands being thus fertilised and cultivated in two ways; first by
inundations as we have just said, afterwards by irrigation during the
second part of the year, that is to say, during the low waters; then in
order to secure sufficient water for the Canal of which the receipt of
water is above the actual low water, steam machines will be employed at
the backwater of the barrage.

In order to have during the heats of summer a volume of water that shall
be sufficient for the irrigation of 60,000 _feddans_ (24,000 _hectares_),
for the loss by evaporation, and the waste at the last locks of Lake
Timsah, there will be required—

                                                      _met. cub._
             _per diem_                                1,200,000

    For the passage of the locks, the dimensions
      of which are:—length 54 _met._
                    breadth 12 _met._
                    mean fall 3 _met._

    Taking forty passages _per diem_, the
      amount will be                                      80,000

    For evaporation, infiltration and other losses,
      say 15 _per cent._ of the serviceable quantity,
      viz.                                               192,000
    Total quantity of water to be supplied
      _per diem_                                       1,472,000

The height that the water has to be raised being 2 _metres_, and a pump
of one horse power, raising 60 _litres_ per second for one _metre_, pumps
of five and six horse power will give the required quantity.

We establish therefore steam pumps of five and six horse power at the
head of the Canal, as well as a barrage lock with gates both ways, in
order to guard against the great risings of the Nile, and to retain the
waters of the Canal when the river has subsided.

The Company will thus be able to fertilise 100,000 _feddans_, of which
60,000 will be by irrigation, and which will give the richest produce.

The Canal follows the course of the Zafranieh as far as Tell el Yaoudieh,
where there is a lock of 2 _met._, 50 fall; it then leaves this ancient
water-course to the left as far as _Ras-el-Wady_: in this interval there
are three other locks.

Leaving _Ras-el-Wady_, the track of the Canal is directed so as to keep
it as high as possible, and to avoid the downs which occupy the whole
of the valley, and are constantly moving from south to north: all these
downs should therefore be fixed by seed-plots, and their superfice
may perhaps be approximately estimated at 50,000 _hectares_. The
valley called _Wady-Tomilat_ comprises two quite distinct parts; the
first, from _Abasseh-Mollaut_ to the east as far as _Ras-el-Wady_, is
well cultivated; the other from this point, as far as Lake Timsah, is
uncultivated and covered with shrubs, which will furnish an excellent
combustible for the manufacture of lime and bricks, as well as for the
requirements of the workmen, until it is cultivated. At present the
waters of the Nile spread naturally during the inundation for half the
distance from _Ras-el-Wady_ to Lake Timsah. The _Ras-el-Wady_ channel
extends along the valley with a depth of 7 _metres_, and it opens into
Lake Timsah with a double lock, forming together a fall of 7 metres.

Above this lock there is a water-course for irrigation running towards
Suez, and a conduit of water on the Charmeroi system which goes towards
Pelusium, so that, for the whole extent of the Isthmus, there will be
water in abundance for the use of the workmen; the water-course for
irrigation is 20 _metres_ wide, 8700 _metres_ in length, and has a fall
of ,04 per _kilom._, which gives a difference of 3 _met._, 48 in the

So that at Suez the water-line of the water-course will be 7 _met._,00
- 3,48 = 3,52. The depth of the canal being 1,50, it will be seen that
its bed will be 2,02 above the level of low water, and near about that
of high water. There will consequently be no fear of the infiltration of
salt water.

The section of the water-course thus determined, will rule for one-third
of its length, but its breadth will be reduced to 15 _metres_ for a
second third, and to 10 _metres_ for the remaining third.

The water-course of Suez follows the direction and even the bed of the
ancient canal, as far as the Serapeum, the culminating point of the bar
of that name; it then leaves the ancient canal to the east, to avoid the
sands, passes into a solid plain, makes the circuit of the grand basin of
the Isthmus, arrives at the narrowest part, and continues in the plain at
a sufficient height not to let the fresh water pass into the low and salt

If on the Pelusiac side, a conduit of water has been adopted instead of
an open water-course, it is in order to obtain fresh water more quickly
for the whole length of the Maritime Canal, and because the tillage on
the Pelusiac side does not begin until after that of Suez. And the pipes
when they shall be replaced hereafter by a water-course, will serve to
form a good distribution of water in the town which will arise at Port

The advantages of the undertaking are now demonstrated. But it is not
so with regard to the returns which it will give to the shareholders.
Doubt is prevalent in the financial world, in consequence of the widely
different estimates made by the engineers, both as to the cost and the
probable returns. We have therefore directed our investigations more
particularly to this capital point of the question, taking care to guard
against every kind of exaggeration, in order to arrive at accurate and
conscientious results, and at figures as near as possible to the truth.

We are now about to present the result of our investigations in this last
part of our labours.




We have adopted in our calculations for the Canal, the depth of 6 _met._
50 below low water, which will give for the _minimum_ 7 _met._ 50, and
for the _maximum_ 8 to 9 _met._ draught of water, by the disposition of
the locks and the elevation of the tides of the Red Sea. If this figure
should not be found sufficient, it would be easy to increase it by the
dredging machines, a certain number of which will always be kept, and
which would not prevent the navigation of the Canal.

                                                               _met. cub._

    The total quantity of removal required for the excavation
    of the Grand Canal, according to the calculations made
    from the sections, is                                      74,679,132

    Of which the part to be excavated to the level of low
    water in the Mediterranean is                              17,473,790

                                             the remainder     57,205,342

    is below this level.

  EARTH-WORKS IN THE DRY.—For the first part, we have similar
    works executed in Egypt; these are the three Canals dug
    to receive the waters of the Nile arising from the reflux
    caused by the barrage. Two of these canals have a breadth
    of 100 _met._ at the bed; 4 _met._ 50 mean depth, with
    banks 25 _met._ wide. They are all three dug in clay,
    which is very stiff at some points.

    The works having been executed by the Government, the
    pay of the workmen was very low: 1½ _piast._ (0 _fr._
    37½) was given to able workmen; 1 _piast._ (0 _fr._ 25)
    to others, and 30 _paras_ (0 _fr._ 20) to children; the
    corresponding work done was 1 _met._ 25, cube _per diem_.

    If this ratio were adopted, it would evidently be too
    low; for the Company could not, and would not, exercise
    such an authority over the people of the country.

    It is true, that these prices are voluntarily accepted by
    the fellahs in the villages; but they are at home with
    their families, and are able to cultivate some patches of
    land on their own account. They would not willingly leave
    their families, unless to obtain higher wages, which
    would be at the _maximum_, 2½ _piast._ (0 _fr._ 62½).

    An average of 2½ _piast._ (0 _fr._ 62½) _per diem_, must
    be reckoned upon, not including the supply of bread and
    water, which would cost 1 _piast._ in addition. Say,
    therefore, 3½ _piast._ or in round numbers, 0 _fr._ 90.

    At these wages, with good superintendence, 1 _met._ 50,
    cube _per diem_ might be required; for, in the works
    which we have carefully observed, we have adopted the
    formula 2 + _n_ = 8 _met. cub._ to fix the task of the
    workmen employed. In which formula _n_ indicates the
    number of relays of 25 _met._ In the present case,
    supposing the average distance from the centre of removal
    to the centre of deposit to be two relays, the formula
    would give 2 _met. cub._ and moreover the excavation is
    to be made in very light ground. We are therefore sure
    that the figure 1 _met._ 50 cube, is rather below than
    above the mark. The cubic metre will thus come to 0 _fr._
    61.—At this rate the first portion of the earth-works
    would cost                                           _fr._ 10,484,274

  EARTH-WORKS UNDER WATER.—For the second part we assume,
    that it will be done entirely by steam dredges, in two
    series. The first composed of dredges of twenty horse
    power performing the excavations to the depth of four
    metres; and the second composed of dredges of thirty-five
    horse power, making the excavations to the depth of 7
    _met._ 50.

    Let us see what can be done by both these working night
    and day for 250 days in the year; thus making ample
    allowance for repairs and stoppages.

    The dredges employed at the barrage, of 20 horse power,
    and raising sand from a depth of seven metres, filled
    thirty-three lighters in the day and twenty-eight in the
    night, in all 61 _per diem_, giving a total of 610 to 700
    _met. cub._; but these machines were almost continually
    stopped for want of a sufficient number of lighters.
    These same dredges, on the Seine, removed as much as 500
    _met. cub._ in the day, and an equal quantity at night,
    excavating, it is true, at a depth of only 2 _met._ 50.
    The price paid per cubic metre was 0 _fr._ 75, including
    carrying away and discharging. At the barrage, on account
    of the low price of labour, the cubic metre has not cost
    0 _fr._ 50.

    For deepening the roadstead of Toulon, dredges of
    twenty-five horse power were employed, which raised the
    mud from a depth of 9 _met._ 50 below low water.

    These dredges worked 270 days in the year, and each
    raised 194,755 _met. cub._ The cubic metre of soil
    extracted was fixed provisionally for the account at 1
    _fr._ 20, including the transport and discharge, which
    was at an average distance of several miles in the open

    At the port of Valencia, dredges of thirty-five horse
    power were employed, raising 750 _met. cub._ _per diem_,
    from a depth of 5 to 7 _metres_. A steamer of seventy
    horse power towed the lighters to a distance of fifteen
    miles, and the cubic _metre_ thus raised and transported
    only cost 0 _fr._ 75.

    From these data it may be assumed, that the dredges of
    twenty horse power will raise 500 _met. cub._ of earth
    _per diem_ from a depth of 4 _met._, and we may fix the
    price of extraction, including transport, at 0 _fr._, 75;
    that the dredges of thirty-five horse power will raise
    750 _met. cub._ at 1 _fr._ By causing the dredges to work
    day and night, and assuming, as we have said, an average
    of 250 working days in the year, a dredge of twenty horse
    power will excavate _per ann._                   250,000
    and a dredge of thirty-five horse power          375,000
                                      _met. cub._    625,000

    The total quantity of excavation to be performed by
    dredges being 57,205,342 _met. cub._, if the work is
    to be done in five years, it will be necessary to have
    nineteen pairs of dredges; and, if it be observed that
    for the greater part of the Isthmus, the excavation may
    be done by hand to the depth of a foot at least below
    the level of the Mediterranean, since the bottom of the
    Bitter Lakes remains dry at a depth which reaches 8
    _met._, 58, it will be found that nineteen pairs will be
    amply sufficient.

    Supposing half the work to be done by each kind of
    dredge respectively, the cost is found to be               50,054,674

  CANAL OF COMMUNICATION.—The quantity of earth-work to be
    performed for the canal of communication and irrigation
    is calculated from the sections at 10,320,884 _met. cub._
    from the receipt of water to Lake Timsah. For this work
    men will easily be found, at the rate of 3 _piast._ (0
    _fr._ .75) including all expenses, and each workman will
    do easily 2 _met._ _per diem_, which reduces the price of
    the cubic _metre_ to 0 _fr_. 37½.

    The cost of excavating the canal will therefore be          3,870,331

    For the small canal of irrigation, leading from the last
    channel to Suez, the quantity of earth-work is 2,218,500
    _met. cub._ For this it will be necessary to pay the men
    0 _fr._ 90 _per diem_, and they will easily do 2 _met._
    25 _cub._, which will be 0 _fr._ 40 per _met. cub._

    The cost of this part will therefore be                       887,400
    Add 10 _per cent._ for tools                                6,529,667
    Contingencies                                                 173,654
        Total for the first part                         _fr._ 72,000,000



To give a concise but accurate notion of the expense of the works of art,
we shall fix the prime cost of the materials, compared with the prices
paid in the execution of the works of the barrage, and then it will be
easy to determine the outlay necessary for the present works, as compared
with that of the former.

  ROUGH STONE.—The rough stone used in the barrage comes
    from the quarries of Toura, situated 30 _kil._ from
    the place where it is used. It costs 22 _paras_ the
    _quintal_, or 4 _fr._, 20, the _cubic metre_, delivered
    on the spot. That which will be used in the works of the
    Maritime Canal will come from the quarries of Ataka, on
    the shores of the bay of Suez, at a distance of 20 _kil._
    from Suez. This being a calcareous stone, like that of
    Toura, if it is brought to the boats by a railroad and
    towed by steamers, there is sure to be a saving in the
    extraction and transport. We have however, taken the
    price at 5 _fr._ to cover all difficulties in forming
    establishments, the higher rate of labour, and the cost
    of the railroad. This is the price paid for the blocks
    employed at the port of Cherbourg.

    At the port of Valencia (in Spain), the extraction of
    large blocks, the transport to the quay and loading, only
    cost 4 _fr._ 25.

  HEWN STONE.—The hewn stone for the barrage, came from
    the quarries of Toura and Massara, at an average distance
    of 33 _kil._ from the place where used. These stones were
    first transported a distance of 6 _kil._ to the banks of
    the Nile, by means of bullock carts, then transferred
    to sailing barges, and carried by water to the distance

    The price per _cubic metre_ was 24 _piast._ (6 _fr._) for
    extraction, and 18 _piast._ (4 _fr._ 50) for carriage; in
    all 10 _fr._ 50.

    For the works of the Maritime Canal, stone will be used
    coming from quarries now in work on the banks, at the
    level of high water for the whole extent of the Gulf of
    Suez, and also from quarries on the shore of the Red Sea,
    at a distance of about 10 _kil._ from Suez, which furnish
    a shelly calcareous stone, soft when extracted, but
    hardening by exposure to the air, and also in sea water.

    This stone has been successfully employed in building the
    Grand Hotel of Suez, and has cost 33 _piast._ (8 _fr._
    25.) the _cubic metre_, hewn and delivered at the quay.

    We have adopted this price, increased by 60 _per cent._
    in order to cover the distance, and to arrive more easily
    at the comparison which we wish to establish.

  BRICKS.—The bricks used in the barrage were made by
    steam machines, and cost, on account of extraordinary
    circumstances, 26 _fr._ per thousand. Those which will
    be made by hand or by means of bullock machines in the
    _Wady Tomilat_, will not cost half so much; for they can
    be made in the whole of that valley at the rate of 6 to 7
    _fr._ per thousand, on account of the great quantity of
    combustibles found in that locality.

    We have however assumed, that on account of the expense
    of transport, from Pelusium to Suez, the bricks will come
    to the same price, as at the barrage, which is evidently
    an excess.

  LIME.—The lime cost at the barrage, 8 _fr._ 70 the _cubic
    metre_, delivered on the spot. That which is made at Suez
    comes to 7 _fr_. 75 delivered. This lime is made in the
    valley of Guébé, with the combustibles found there in
    abundance, and which only cost the labour of cutting and

  POZZOLANO.—As the lime used in the barrage was fat lime,
    it was necessary to make artificial Pozzolano, which
    came to 45 _piast._ (11 _fr._ 25) the _cubic metre_.
    This Pozzolano could not be used for sea work, for we
    are convinced by experience that it is affected by the
    magnesia which is found in sea-water. It can, therefore,
    only serve for the works of the canal of communication,
    and, like the bricks, it will cost less than at the

    For the sea masonry, we have happily discovered solid
    masses in the harbour of Suez, anciently formed at the
    time of the Caliphs, or more probably at that of the
    Ptolemies. These masses of masonry are so compact, that
    when fragments are detached, the stone breaks more easily
    than the mortar, which is simply composed of sand and
    hydraulic lime.

    This lime very probably comes from the mountains of
    Ataka, which contain several beds of calcareous marl;
    and there is no doubt that, by making researches, the
    beds that supplied the hydraulic lime may be discovered.
    Samples have been sent to M. Leplay, chief engineer and
    professor at the School of Mines, for analyzation, and
    more will be sent until good beds shall be found.

    On this supposition, it is more than likely that the
    masonry of the Maritime Canal will be less expensive than
    that of the barrage, since it will be enough to have
    hydraulic lime to mix with the sand, which is found at
    all points of the Canal.

  TIMBER.—The timber will come from Anatolia and Caramania.
    Oak and fir planks will be procured from Trieste. These
    materials will not cost more than at the barrage; for,
    though the distance of inland transport is greater,
    the expense of trans-shipment will be avoided by the
    construction of a new lock, which will unite the
    Mahmoudieh Canal, and consequently the Nile, with the sea.

  IRON.—It will be the same with regard to wrought and cast
    iron, which will be procured from England and Russia.

Now, the barrage of the Nile is 1006 _metres_ in length, with four locks,
of which two are double, of 12 _metres_ opening, and two others of 15
_metres_. It is established upon a general platform at 7 _metres_ below
the low water, is 46 _metres_ wide, and four _metres_ average thickness,
with two lines of jaunting piles, and 1600 _metres_ of quay walls, and
only cost 18,000,000 _francs_, including the purchase of steam machines,
to the number of twenty-two, the construction of all works and all the
charges of administration, which were considerable.

If this amount is divided by the total length of 1006, 17,900 francs
will be obtained for the cost of a running _metre_, including all the
accessories of locks, quays, machines, and charges of administration.

  BARRAGE LOCKS.—Adopting this figure, which is too high
    by a good third for the Maritime Canal, the two barrage
    locks and the oblique barrage, being altogether 300
    metres in length, would cost                          _fr._ 5,370,000

    We say that this figure is much too high; 1st. Because
    the barrage was made to support a pressure of 4 to 5
    _metres_ of water, while those of the Maritime Canal
    will never have to sustain more than 2,50 _met._ at the
    _maximum_ height of the water; 2nd. Because the waters
    of the Nile, rising to 7,50 _met._ above the low water
    line, it was necessary to elevate the masonry, piles, and
    arches, to make at the same time a bridge of passage, and
    to increase the weight of the masonry; 3rd. and lastly,
    Because it was necessary to defend the banks of the Nile
    by 1600 metres of quay walls, both at the approaches of
    the barrage and at the head of the three canals, which is
    not necessary here.

    Notwithstanding these reasons, we have adopted the above
    figure, in order to obtain a result, rather in excess
    than below the reality, and thus to give every confidence
    in our valuations.

  JETTIES AT PELUSIUM AND SUEZ.—For the jetties, both at
    Pelusium and Suez, we have said that we should adopt
    the mode of construction by loose stones, as has been
    done in the greatest known works, and in the majority
    of the ports in the Mediterranean, such as Cannes,
    Bandol, Barcelona, Valencia, Cadiz, Genoa, &c. &c.,
    always reducing the width of the causeway according to
    the necessity of the case. Thus, the jetty which is
    to windward in the prevailing winds, has a width of 8
    _metres_ at the summit for its causeway, which is at 1
    _met._, 50, above low water.

    There is, moreover, a parapet 4 _met._ thick and 3
    _met._, 50, high. On the other hand, the jetty to the
    leeward has a causeway only 6 _metres_ wide, and the
    parapet 3 _met._ thick and 2 _met._, 50, high.

    In order to enable the ships to approach the windward
    jetty, and to be towed its whole length, masonry in
    hydraulic mortar has been disposed on the interior slope
    of the jetty from a depth of 3 _met._ below low water,
    as shown on the section drawn on the map. This is only
    in imitation of what is seen in the harbour of Bastia,
    as well as in those of Cannes and Bandol, and the other
    details have been taken from those adopted in the
    construction of the last-mentioned.

    Assuming that the jetty east of Suez will be 4000 _met._
    long, there will be 970,000 _met. cub._ of rough stones,
    which at 5 _fr._ the _metre_ on board the vessels,
    amounts to                               _fr._ 4,750,000

    Taking the transport and sinking at 2 _fr._,
    which is a great deal, we have                 1,940,000
        Total                                _fr._ 6,690,000

    Say in round numbers                                        7,000,000

    For the western jetty, the same amount                      7,000,000

    For the jetty west of Pelusium, if we assume that the
    transport will be for a distance of 150 _kil._ at 0 _fr._
    03 _per ton_, _per kil._ which will be about 0 _fr._ 06
    _per cubic metre_, we shall have 9 _fr._ for the cost of
    transport, to which add 1 _fr._ for sinking; with the
    cost of extraction it will be 15 _fr._ per _cubic metre_.
    The quantity being 1,000,000 _met. cub._ we get an amount
    of                                                         15,000,000

    and as much for the western jetty                          15,000,000

  MOLE OF PELUSIUM.—The defensive mole being 500 _met._ in
    length, its contents will be 250,000 _met. cub._, and the
    cost of its construction                                    3,750,000

  RETAINING BASIN.—The semicircular dyke forming the
    retaining basin will have a developement of 6200 _met._
    and the contents will be 890,000 _met. cub._ its cost
    will therefore be                                          13,500,000

    The shingling on the banks of the canal for a length of
    100 _kil._ is estimated at                                  1,500,000

  QUAY WALLS OF PORT TIMSAH.—The quay walls to be constructed
    in the harbour of Lake Timsah, for a length of 1500
    _met._ are estimated at 1200 _fr._ the running _metre_
    (though we have constructed some entirely of hewn stone,
    which only cost 850 _fr._); the cost of this item will
    therefore be                                                1,800,000

    In order to ascertain in a general manner whether the
    figures which we exhibit are in conformity with the data
    resulting from experience, we have examined the costs of
    analogous works, that we might compare them with those
    which we have determined.

    The dyke of Cherbourg, which is 3800 _met._ long, has
    cost 68,000,000, after all the vicissitudes it has
    undergone from the beginning of the century. It comes
    therefore to about 17,900 _fr._ per running _metre_.
    Its depth is 18 _met._, 80 below high water, while the
    average depth of those projected is only 4 _met._ Now if
    we assume, as is evidently correct, that the bulk, and
    consequently the cost of each, are as the square of its
    height, we find that as the dyke of Cherbourg cost 17,900
    _fr._ the running _metre_, those of Suez should cost
    twenty-two times less, that is 815 _fr._ yet they come to
    1790 _fr._ the running _metre_.

    The jetties of the harbour of Joliette at Marseilles,
    allowance made for all expenses, come to 5500 _fr._ the
    running _metre_. Their foundations are 11 _met._, 50
    below low water. Those of Pelusium ought, therefore, to
    cost nine times less, that is 615 _fr._

    The mole of the harbour of Valencia, which is 560 _met._
    long, and the foundation 8 _metres_, 50, deep, was
    awarded for a sum of 3,000,000 _fr._: according to this
    price the defensive mole of Pelusium should cost less
    than that sum, while we have estimated it at 3,750,000

    The mole of the harbour of Cannes, which is only 150
    _met._ long, has been estimated at 1,300,000 _fr._, which
    is 8666 _fr._ per running metre, but it goes to depths
    of water that reach 10 _met._: its cost is therefore,
    at least six times more considerable than that of the
    jetties of Suez; yet our estimate is more than the fifth
    of that figure.

    We may therefore say that our estimates are in excess
    as regards the works of Suez, and very much more so for
    those of Pelusium, since, in proportion, our figures
    exceed even those of works executed under the most
    unfavourable conditions.

  CANAL OF COMMUNICATION.—For the canal of communication,
    we have first to erect pumps of 500 horse power in
    the aggregate, in order to provide amply for all the
    incidents of navigation, irrigation, losses by filtration
    and evaporation; as, for irrigation and navigation we
    only require 800,000 _metres cub. per diem_, while pumps
    of 500 horse power will supply 1,296,000.

  STEAM PUMPS.—The steam pumps that have been erected in
    Egypt, have come to 2,200 _fr._ per horse power, fixed
    and mounted complete; for this item, therefore, there
    will be an expenditure of                                   1,100,000

  BARRAGE LOCKS.—There will be six barrage locks with
    draw-bridges; the locks will be 12 _met._ wide and 54
    _met._ long between the gates. The cost of each barrage
    lock complete will be 300,000 _fr._ and for the six         1,800,000

  CULTIVATION OF LANDS.—For bringing the lands into
    cultivation we must reckon 200 _fr. per feddan_, or 500
    _fr. per hectare_. It is true that land may be bought in
    the country, all prepared with agricultural buildings,
    magazines, cattle, plant, &c. &c., at the rate of 250
    _fr._ the _feddan_ (625 _fr._ the _hectare_), but the
    agricultural system established on these lands is very

    The expenditure for 40,000 _feddans_, or 16,000
    _hectares_, will be                                         8,000,000

  FIXING THE SANDS.—For fixing the sands we have seen that
    the cost would be 66 _fr._, 80, the _hectare_. It appears
    to us advantageous to carry out this operation on a large
    scale; we have therefore adopted the figure of 24,000
    _hectares_ (60,000 _feddans_). The expenditure for this
    item will be                                                1,603,200

  CONDUIT PIPES.—For the conduit pipes, of which there
    will be a total length of 80,000 _metres_, we adopt
    those on the Charmeroi principle, although there are now
    earthenware pipes very suitable for water courses, and
    which do not cost half what the Charmeroi pipes do. These
    latter, 0 _met._, 10, in diameter, which is the size
    adopted, are laid complete, including the trenches, 1
    _met._, 40 deep, at 6 _fr._, 30 _per metre_. On account
    of the carriage, we put the _metre_ at 8 _fr._, which
    makes an amount of                                            640,000

  LIGHT HOUSES AND BEACONS.—We assume that there will be
    two lighthouses, one at the Damietta point, and the other
    on the Red Sea, at Raz Mohammed. There will be besides,
    two beacons at the head of the jetties at Pelusium and
    at Suez. The lighthouses with their lenticular apparatus
    will cost, the two                         150,000 _fr._
    and the two beacons                         20,000 _fr._
    in all                                                        170,000

    There will be houses for the officers, barracks for the
    workmen, stables for the animals, magazines for the
    provisions, materials, &c. &c., for which we set down an
    approximate amount of                                       1,000,000
    Total cost of Art. II. for Works of Art             _fr._  84,233,200
    Total cost of Art. I. Earth-works                          72,000,000
    Total cost                                          _fr._ 156,233,200

    We assume that it will require full six years to
    accomplish the works, and that the expenses of
    administration will amount to two and a half _per cent._
    on the total cost; therefore for this item will be
    required a sum of                                           3,905,830

    A farther sum for contingent works, unforeseen              2,410,970
        Grand total of the cost                         _fr._ 162,550,000

  DISTRIBUTION OF THE WORK.—Let us now see how this sum
    is to be expended, and in what manner the works may be
    distributed, in order to their completion in the space of
    six years.

    The first thing to be done is, evidently, to bring the
    fresh water into the Isthmus, in order to supply the
    workmen, and to effect the transport of provisions and

    The canal of communication, with its locks, the
    irrigating channel, and the water conduit, may be easily
    executed in the first year, since these works only
    represent 12,539,384 _met. cub._, or, at the _maximum_
    6,269,692 days’ work, at the rate of two _cubic metres
    per diem_. Taking 300 working days in the year, it will
    require 20,898 men. In this part of Egypt from 30 to
    40,000 may easily be had if necessary.

    In the same year the grand yards will be formed at the
    quarries, with all the railways, quays, and landing
    places, for the extraction and supply, on a large scale,
    of the stone necessary for the moles, jetties, and works
    of art.

    Contracts will be made with the manufacturers for the
    supply of dredges, lighters, towing barges, boats, and
    other machines to be employed in the execution of the
    works. In this first campaign, the expenditure will be
    approximately                                        _fr._ 12,000,000.

    In the second year, eight dredges will be mounted in
    the harbour of Suez to excavate the channel and the
    foundations of the jetties. The operations at the
    quarries, the erection of the jetties, and the barrage
    lock, may therefore be pushed on with all desirable

    Fresh water will be thrown into Lake Timsah, to set to
    work all the other disposable dredges; 30,000 workmen
    will perform all the clearance in the extent of the
    Bitter Lakes, and for the remainder of the Canal. They
    will prepare a trench in the ground to 1 _met._ 50, below
    low water, and so form a channel 15 _met._ wide, which
    will enable the barges and machines to pass and repass
    the whole extent of the Isthmus. All the force will be
    applied this year to open a communication between Suez
    and Lake Timsah, and consequently between Suez and the

    The fixing of the downs, and the cultivation of the
    lands, will be commenced. The expenditure of this
    campaign will be approximately                       _fr._ 25,000,000.

    In the third year the communication of Lake Timsah with
    the Mediterranean will be opened, and all the disposable
    force will be employed in making the scouring basin and
    erecting the jetties. The earth-works will be continued,
    the dredging also, the sowings on the downs, and the
    agricultural labours. 20,000 workmen will be employed
    this year, and the expenditure may be set down at    _fr._ 30,000,000.

    In the fourth year, the same works as in the preceding,
    that is, the earth-works will be continued both by hand
    and by the dredges, the jetties, the barrage locks, and
    the quay wall in the Lake. Moreover, the defensive mole
    will be commenced; the sowings and cultivation extended.
    It is estimated that 20,000 workmen will still be
    required, and an expenditure of                      _fr._ 33,000,000

    In the fifth and sixth years, the same operations will be
    continued, but so many men will no longer be required;
    for the dredges will perform the principal part of the
    work, and the operations at the quarries can then be
    pushed on with all possible activity.

    We assume for each of these years an expenditure of
    _fr._ 31,000,000; for both                           _fr._ 62,000,000

    Which will make up the amount of the estimate       _fr._ 162,000,000

    to pay interest to the shareholders on the amounts
    subscribed, in proportion to the paid-up capital, it is
    necessary to take an account of the interest so accruing,
    and to carry the amount to the cost of execution.

    Interest on 12,000,000 _fr._ subscribed the first year
    at 5 _per cent._ for six years                        _fr._ 3,600,000
    —25,000,000 2nd yr. 5 _per cent._ 5 yrs.                    6,250,000
    —30,000,000 3rd  ”       ”        4  ”                      6,000,000
    —33,000,000 4th  ”       ”        3  ”                      4,950,000
    —31,000,000 5th  ”       ”        2  ”                      3,100,000
    —31,000,000 6th  ”       ”        1  ”                      1,550,000
                                                         _fr._ 25,450,000

    Total of interest payable to the shareholders, to be
    added to the estimated amount of expenditure              162,550,000

    Let us, however, carry the _maximum_ capital to be
    applied in the undertaking to                       _fr._ 200,000,000

In presenting the estimate of the works, amounting, as we have seen,
to a _maximum_ of 162,550,000 _francs_, we have been desirous of
meeting, on the data generally admitted, all the objections hitherto
made relative to the difficulties consequent upon the choking up of
the entrance of the jetties and the accretions in the basin of the Red
Sea or in the gulf of Pelusium. We have been fearful of appearing too
bold in pronouncing, in an absolute manner, in favour of dispensing
with the sluices and the works which they necessitate. We need not call
attention to the fact, that the present is but a precursory scheme;
we reserve it for our definitive scheme, to examine an entirely new
theory founded on the experience of the most distinguished engineers of
France, and on the conclusive opinion now before us of M. Renaud, chief
engineer of seaports. We have hopes then, that it will be possible to
dispense with the system of sluices, and that we shall thus effect an
economy of several millions in the execution of the work. M. Renaud has
ascertained that when the sluices open into the sea they lose nearly all
their efficiency, and that in many cases they are worse than useless,
and become detrimental. They deposit, in front of the channel, the
matter which they bring down, and when this matter is not carried off
by traversing or littoral currents, it forms, sooner or later, deposits
or bars, whose summits are above the bed of the channel. It is thus
that the mouths of rivers which flow into seas without tides, are, with
few exceptions, without depth of water; the alluvium which is carried
along the coasts coming within the action of the current of the river,
is driven by that current to a certain distance from the shore, and
deposited in proportion as the current loses its power. Being then less
easily held in suspension than when near the coast, where the depth is
less, they are also less easily carried off by the littoral current;
deposits are formed and rise, until the combined action of the waves and
the current no longer permit any fresh matter to subside.

Whatever may be thought of this explanation, it must be admitted that
the alluvium brought by the sea, no less than that brought by rivers,
prevents our obtaining a depth of water at the mouths of those rivers.
Artificial sluices, therefore, appear to have no power to preserve a
permanent depth of water.

If then we are permitted to renounce the idea of having recourse to the
use of sluices for maintaining the depth of water at Pelusium and at
Suez, it will be very easy by means of dredges to ensure the continuance
of this depth, as is already done at the entrance of several ports, and
particularly at that of the port of Cette.

The employment of dredges will allow of a considerable saving in the cost
of establishing the Canal. The portion of the expenses required for the
sluices would certainly be greater than the capital representing twenty
times the annual expense of dredging.

Another saving (of 3,750,000) might be effected by dispensing with the
intended breakwater or defensive mole at Pelusium. The channel as it is
planned will probably be considered accessible in all winds which are
likely to create a rough sea; there is no occasion then for us to trouble
ourselves with the fear of seeing ships miss the entrance. There are a
great many important seaports, Alexandria for instance, where a ship
cannot enter after sunset, in a much worse nautical condition than that
at Pelusium will be, and near which nevertheless there is no sheltered
anchorage. We may name the port of Liverpool, which is not accessible at
low water for large ships. We may also mention the port of Havre, into
which large ships can only enter during three hours out of twelve, and
yet the number of disasters on those coasts is not relatively greater
than elsewhere.

We have not deducted from the amount of expenditure any of the returns,
which will be received during the execution of the works, and which will
not fail to be important:—thus the inland Canal of communication being
finished in the first campaign, there will be the transport of all the
agricultural produce along it for five years. In the second year the
Canal going as far as Suez, there will be, for four years, the lock dues
and the profits of transport, which may be valued at an average annual
value of 1,000,000 _fr._ There will be, moreover, the profits arising
from the cultivation of the lands, which will increase every year, and
will not be of less average annual value than 1,000,000 _fr._ This
already makes an income of 8,000,000 _fr._

Finally, during the last two years, passage may be afforded, as was done
on the Caledonian Canal to all ships of small tonnage, and to all steam
boats that may choose to take advantage of the cutting, and in this
manner a return of several millions will be obtained.

We might have brought these sums forward as a deduction from the
interest payable to the shareholders, but we have preferred leaving them


It is impossible not to recognise _à priori_, the immense advantages
offered to commerce by the new route that we present, and it appears from
thence quite natural to assume, that the navigation formerly carried
on in the Red Sea, and which continued to prosper, notwithstanding the
discovery of the Cape, will resume yet more propitiously the ancient
route; since there will no longer be any trans-shipment, no longer any
transport across the desert, no longer any obstacle whatever. Steam
and sailing vessels will find, on the contrary, an opportunity of
revictualling in Egypt with fresh provisions, which are found there in
abundance at the lowest prices. Steam vessels will take in coals there,
which will cost less by half than at present. Finally, travellers who
now prefer the route by the Cape, on account of the inconvenience of
trans-shipment, the fatigues of the desert of Suez, and the high price of
the passage, will no longer hesitate to adopt the shortest line, when it
shall be more easy, more certain, and more economical than the other.

There are, however, timorous minds from which has emanated the opinion,
that the Maritime Canal at the best, could only serve for steam
navigation, for sailing vessels would find, according to them, no
advantage from the moment they should be subjected to passage dues; and
the proof they say, is, that the rate of freightage has sunk so low
_viâ_ the Cape, that it could bear no deduction arising from any passage
dues whatever.

Let us therefore examine the facts attentively, in order to resolve this
question in a manner at once clear and practical that shall remove all

In treating of the navigation on the Red Sea, as compared to that
on the ocean, to reach India, we think we have demonstrated that at
present, with the means of steam-towing, with the aid of lighthouses,
and the knowledge acquired of the winds, the currents, and the coasts
of the Red Sea, a sailing vessel will meet with more facilities on this
latter, than on the Ocean in the passage of the Cape; but let us admit
the circumstances to be equal on either side, by way of the Canal 2000
leagues at least are economised in the passage between Europe and the
regions of the extreme East. This saving is equal to a saving of two
months out of five. For, in making the passage of 480 leagues from
Marseilles to Alexandria, the ships consume ten days on the average at
the favourable season.

A diminution of two months out of five, must necessarily produce a
corresponding advantage in all the expenses which press upon merchandize:

1. The average value of imports and exports between Europe and the
extreme East, being about 600 _fr._ per ton, the saving in the interest,
on the capital employed at the rate of six _per cent._ will be 6 _fr._
per ton.

2. A ship of 500 tons burthen, costs at the least, fully equipped,
150,000 _fr._, and pays seven _per cent._ _per ann._ to the assurance
companies when it navigates the Chinese waters. It only makes at present
two voyages in the year including the return; with the Maritime Canal it
will be able to make three, which will effect a saving to the owner of
two _per cent._ that is 3000 _fr._ or 6 _fr._ per ton.

3. The capital represented by the ship ought to yield an interest arising
from the freight, of at least twelve _per cent._ on account of wear and
continual reparation. By enabling the ship to make an additional voyage,
the Canal gives the means of saving four _per cent._ that is, 6000 _fr._
or 12 _fr._ per ton.

4. This same ship has a crew of fifteen men, exclusive of the captain.
Taking the pay of each man at 70 _fr._ per month, and that of the captain
at 600 _fr._, it will be found that a saving will be made of 2500 _fr._
which is 5 _fr._ per ton.

5. Although it may be said that the insurance upon merchandize is not
determined by the duration of the voyage, but by the risk which the ship
runs, according to the route it takes; we do not the less persist in
maintaining that the facilities of navigation in the Red Sea being at
least equal to those _viâ_ the Cape, the rate of insurance must be lower
upon merchandize exposed two months less to the chances of navigation.
This rate is usually two and a half _per cent._ upon merchandize going to
China; we do not think we are beyond the truth in assuming a diminution
of half _per cent._ in favour of the passage by the Canal, which would be
a farther saving of 3 _fr._ per ton.

By adding up the figures thus obtained, we find a saving of 32 _fr._ per
ton on merchandize which shall pass by the Canal: this _minimum_ figure
of 32 _fr._ calculated for a diminution of 2,000 leagues; will increase
in proportion to the distance gained by the ports nearest to the cutting;
for Constantinople, for instance, the saving will be more than double, on
account of the 4300 leagues gained by her navigation. Leaving 22 _fr._ of
the increased profit to the advantage of navigation, there will remain
10 _fr._ per ton for passage dues in favour of the Company, a figure
which is less than two _per cent._ on the estimated average value of the
merchandize, at 600 _fr._ per ton. Now, silks, indigos, coffees, sugars,
tobaccos, gums, cottons, woollens, wines, spirits, &c. &c. are of greater
value than this figure; there is only rice and coal which do not reach it.

It will doubtless be objected to our calculations, that the freights to
Australia being on an average only 50 to 60 _fr._ per ton on merchandize,
if the 32 _fr._, which we show as an advantage presented by the Canal,
were forestalled in the freight, there would only remain 20 to 30
_fr._ per ton for the shipowner, who would evidently suffer loss. It
will thence be concluded that our valuations are exaggerated. But at
present the shipowner who despatches his vessel to Australia at the
rate of 60 _fr._ per ton, is equally at a loss by the merchandize; and
if he consents to make the speculation, it is for the advantage that
he finds in the freight of the passengers. Well, the speculation will
not be altered by opening the Canal; the shipowner will still lose on
the merchandize and gain by the passengers: only he will lose less than
at present by the one, and gain more by the other. It is the same for
China and the other parts of the extreme East. The freights are so low
in relation to the distance and the chances of navigation, that loss
appears to result from them. But it is clear that then the shipowners
are interested in those operations of commerce that are very lucrative,
and are moreover indemnified by the passage of numerous emigrants,
functionaries, &c. &c. The opening of the Maritime Canal, far from
being hurtful to these operations, will, on the contrary, be eminently
advantageous to them, and the shipowners will find their ultimate profits
increased by it. Our calculations, therefore, remain intact, since
they are based upon practical data, known to every one, and which are,
moreover, according to the general usages of commerce.

Let us now endeavour to give an idea of the commerce in imports and
exports, which is carried on between Europe and India, China, &c.

Trade has so much increased for a period of ten years, and especially
during the last three years, in consequence of the discovery of gold
in Australia; and every year its developement is such, in relation to
the preceding year, that it is impossible to settle its statistics even
approximately. For the figures given for one year are already erroneous
before they make their appearance. It is, however, possible to throw
some light upon this question, which has been the subject of so much
controversy, and to give a _minimum_ figure.

Mac Culloch, in his statistics of 1842, gives the following figures for
the tonnage of merchandize imported and exported by the commerce of

                             _Imports._ | _Exports._
                               Tons.    |   Tons.
    Cape of Good Hope             4950  |    16,408
    Eastern Coasts                 152  |       240
    Ports of the Red Sea          ----  |       409
    Islands of Cape Verd          1118  |      2883
    St. Helena and Ascension       330  |      3977
    Mauritius                   28,650  |    16,397
    Singapore and Ceylon       191,378  |   202,101
    Java                          2346  |      8672
    Philippine Islands            3411  |       301
    Other islands of India        1141  |       686
    China                       32,818  |    28,297
    Australia                   22,865  |    51,234
    New Zealand                   1341  |      9651
    Islands of the South Sea       388  |      1018
                          Tons 290,888      342,274
         Grand total                 Tons   633,162

    Mr. Anderson, of the East India Company, estimates the
    tonnage of English ships in relation with the places
    dependent on the East India Company, for the year 1841
    at                                                       Tons 727,587

    Deducting the commerce with the Cape and the other places
    in the vicinity, estimated at                                  30,309

        There remain, Tons                                        697,278

    To which he adds the tonnage of the ships trading to
    Batavia and the other Dutch and German possessions            200,000
            Grand total                                      Tons 897,278

Thus Mr. Anderson gives, probably for the same year, a tonnage greater by
a third than Mr. Mac Culloch.

We will now compare some of these figures with those that have been
officially collected by M. Arnaud Tison, delegate from the Chamber of
Commerce of Rouen, in his travels in China during the years 1850-54.

    In 1851, 976 ships entered the ports of Australia,
    measuring                                                Tons 234,215

    In the same year 1014 ships cleared the ports,
    measuring                                                Tons 263,894
                                                    Total, tons   498,109

This figure is seven times greater than that given by Mr. Mac Culloch,
and as the discovery of gold was not yet made at that time, it may
be said that at present the figure given by M. Arnaud Tison ought to
be doubled to be correct. The total value of imports and exports was

For China, the single port of Shang-Hai exported in 1851, 35,000 tons of
tea, which is more than the figure given by Mr. Mac Culloch for all the
produce imported from China.

The commerce of the two single ports of Shang-Hai and Canton, in imports
and exports, without reckoning opium, was estimated in 1851 at 400 to
500,000,000 _francs_, which answers nearly to 800,000 tons, taking the
average value per ton at 600 _fr._, and which makes twelve times as much
as the estimate given by Mr. Mac Culloch.

At Manilla, the commerce in 1851 was 51,773,232 _fr._ of which about
24,000,000 were exports, and the remainder imports. This figure answers
to the activity of 86,300 tons, taking the average value of the ton at
600 _fr._ It is more than twenty times the estimate of Mr. Mac Culloch.

For Java we have not been able to procure any positive information,
but according to the periodical publications (_Revue des deux Mondes_,
_&c._) and according to the reports of travellers, the increase of
business every year is much greater than in the Philippine Islands. We
shall not therefore be charged with exaggeration, in fixing the figure
of commercial activity in these colonies at 100,000,000 or about 150,000
tons, for the year 1851.

Mr. Anderson estimated the commerce between Europe and Indo-China at
£26,000,000, or 650,000,000 _francs_, thus distributed:—

    The commerce between Europe and the Indies is
    estimated at                                      Exports £12,000,000
                                                      Imports   8,000,000

    The commerce with Singapore, China, Java, &c.
    &c. at                                                      6,000,000
    Amount of the commerce with places to the east
    of Egypt                                                  £26,000,000

We have just seen from the researches of M. Arnaud Tison that Shang-Hai
and Canton alone gave to commerce in 1851 an activity represented by the
figure of 400 to 500,000,000 _francs_, which is quadruple that attributed
by Mr. Anderson in 1841, to the entire commerce of the China Seas,
including the Philippine islands, Java and Singapore.

We are therefore quite sure of being below the reality in fixing
the amount of commerce with places to the east of Egypt, in 1851 at
100,000,000, instead of the 26,000,000 in 1841. At the time we write,
this figure of 100,000,000 sterling is perhaps quadrupled and carried to
10,000,000,000 francs, and when the Canal is opened, this latter sum
will be a mere mistake.

In fact not only the greatest part of the commerce of Europe with the
extreme East will be carried on through the Maritime Canal, but moreover
all the activity in operation between America and China, will abandon
the route of Cape Horn for that of the Isthmus, which will be easier,
shorter, and more certain.

For the farther support of our opinion, we have the vast countries which
are at present completely without the sphere of the commercial activity
of the world, and which, upon the opening of the Canal, will furnish a
contingent which cannot be estimated now, but which will be considerable.
Abyssinia, Yemen, Hedjaz, Mascata, and the coasts of Africa, will deliver
quantities of merchandize; such as the coffee of Yemen and Abyssinia,
gum arabic, wax, skins, ivory, wool, indigo, &c. &c. Mules and animals
for the slaughterhouse abound in Abyssinia, and are sold at a low price.
A mule may be had from 25 to 100 _fr._, an ox for 10 _fr._, a sheep for
3 _fr._; timber and cabinet woods abound in the vast forests which have
never felt the axe. Along the coasts of the Red Sea are very rich mines
of sulphur, which have just begun to be worked; lead mines, quarries of
marble and porphyry; extended beaches suitable for the establishment of
salt pits, &c. &c.

New occupations will arise, such as whale and cachalot fishing in the
South Seas; pearl fishing in the Persian Gulf and Indian Sea, as well as
the pursuit of mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell and coral. A great part of
the Mediterranean fishermen will transport themselves to the Indian Sea,
to pursue their occupation, and increase the activity of the navigation
in the Maritime Canal.

We may therefore be sure that the cutting through of the Isthmus will
increase ten-fold the operations of commerce and navigation; that, as
with every undertaking based upon a true principle, the consequences
cannot be calculated, and that the idea most exaggerated in appearance,
will always be surpassed by the reality.

As, however, we are addressing ourselves to the commercial world, and
have to convince all minds, even the most timid, it is necessary that
we should fix upon a figure, and that this figure should not startle
any one. We have adopted that of 4 milliards (4,000,000,000) of francs,
answering to 6,000,000 tons, which, according to what we have been
showing, is without doubt, already exceeded at present, or certainly will
be, before the close of the undertaking.

We have likewise assumed that of the 6,000,000 tons, 3,000,000 only will
take the route of the Canal.

If we had followed the method of estimating adopted in the railway
schemes, it would be necessary to make a statement of all the merchandize
exchanged between Europe and America on the one part, and Indo-China on
the other; then to multiply the figure thus obtained by a coefficient,
never less than 3, and which sometimes reaches to 10. The result of this
operation would give an enormous product, nevertheless probable. But
to remain within the circle of ordinary ideas, instead of tripling the
actual figures, we have diminished them by half.

    The commercial activity obtained according to these
    bases, will produce an annual revenue from passage
    dues, at 10 _fr._ per ton, of                        _fr._ 30,000,000

    For anchorage dues at Port Timsah, from half the total
    number of ships, which we suppose will stop there;
    1,500,000 tons, at 1 _fr._ per ton                          1,500,000

    The canal of communication with the Nile, supposing
    it only transports a fourth of the merchandize which
    traverses the Mahmoudieh, will show an activity of 15,600
    tons of merchandize, which may easily pay 10 _fr._ per
    ton, since at present it costs 27 _fr._; 50 _fr._ from
    Cairo to Suez, by Canal, and the journey takes three
    days. The transport by barge may be done at the rate of
    12 _fr._, 50; there will remain an advantage of 5 _fr._
    by way of the Canal, and the journey will be two days
    less. This item will therefore bring in a revenue of        1,560,000

    The cultivation of the lands produces on an average 100
    _fr. per feddan_, or 250 _fr. per hectare_, as results
    from the labours of seven years, which one of us employed
    upon a tract reclaimed from the marshy desert of Lake

    Supposing the Company brings into cultivation only 60,000
    _feddans_ (24,000 _hectares_), it would receive a return
    of                                                          6,000,000

    The downs which cover the southern part of the Wady and
    the north-eastern part of the Isthmus, as well as those
    of Lake Timsah, are to be fixed. Let us assume that the
    Company will perform the operation extensively, and carry
    the figure to 60,000 _feddans_ (24,000 _hectares_). We
    have said that the _hectare_ gives at the end of 20
    years, a _minimum_ return of 100 _fr._

    By making the allowances to ascertain the actual revenue,
    it is reduced to 41 _fr._ 50, per _hectare_, which for
    24,000 _hectares_, is                                         996,000
        Grand total of annual returns from the Canal           40,056,000

    From this amount must first be deducted two and a
    half _per cent._ for the charges of maintenance and
    administration, and one _per cent._ for redemption, in
    all three and a half _per cent._                            1,201,680
        Balance                                          _fr._ 38,854,320

    The Government’s share fixed at fifteen _per
     cent._                                        5,828,148

    The founding members’ share fixed at ten
    _per cent._                                    3,885,432
    Balance in favour of the shareholders                _fr._ 29,140,740

Representing a dividend of about ten _per cent._, over and above the
interest of five _per cent._, taking the capital at 200,000,000 _fr._

We pass over in silence a multitude of sources of revenue, which will
not fail to be pretty considerable; such as the supply of water to the
population of Suez and Port Timsah, the rent of stations for watering
ships, the rent of all the magazines and buildings, which have been
employed in the execution of the Canal, the towing of vessels by the
steamers purchased by the Company for the service of the dredges and the
transport of materials.

There are other branches of revenue that will acquire great importance
hereafter; among others, the fishing in the Canal, the produce of the
works to be established at the fall of each barrage lock, and the sale of
Arab horses.

The current established by the action of the two barrage locks, will
draw into the Canal a multitude of fish, both from the Red Sea and the

The falls of the fresh water Canal will be made available to the
agricultural operations of the country, such as grinding corn, husking of
cotton, peeling of flax, laying of thread, &c.

The situation of the Isthmus of Suez, upon the confines of Arabia and
Syria, which supply the best breeds of horses, and whither Europe has
always had to repair to regenerate the equine species, will become a
locality, than which none can be more favourable for the formation and
maintenance at a trifling expense, of an establishment for breeding and
rearing horses. The valley _Wady Tomilat_ will again become what it was
in the times of Scripture, the land of _Goshen_, which name signifies in
Hebrew and Arabic _Pastures_; the land that Joseph prevailed upon Pharaoh
to grant to the Israelites, _because it was the most fertile country in

We are so convinced that the preceding estimates of revenue will be
rapidly exceeded, that we propose to the Company to have a clause
inserted in the Statutes by which the tariffs shall be lowered as soon
as the dividends shall exceed twenty _per cent._, in order to make the
community of the world participators in the advantages of this grand and
useful undertaking.

With this last observation we will terminate our labours, which are only,
as their title indicates, a preparatory work, intended to fix public
opinion upon the merits of the undertaking, and to lead discussion on to
a limited and well defined ground.

These labours will be followed by a regular scheme, wherein all the
details of execution will be developed, and wherein the most recent
statistical documents, drawn from official sources, will furnish the
basis of all the calculations of revenue.

We have confined ourselves in this preliminary exposition to the
establishment of the approximate _maximum_ presumed expenditure, and we
have sought to guard against any exaggeration in estimating the revenue.
All our calculations are based upon documents, which any one may verify
and appreciate at their worth.

We entertain the hope, that the undertaking will be favourably received,
for there will be profit and honour for those who take the first part in
it; and it will not only offer incontestable advantages, but it will
be moreover the grandest work of progress and of civilization that the
nineteenth century will have produced.

    Cairo, 20th March, 1855.

                                     (Signed) Linant _Bey_. Mougel _Bey_.


No. V.



_Translation from the Turkish._

                            The 12th of the Month of Djemazul Akhir 1271.
                                                       (1st March, 1855.)

Your very humble servant has the honour to address you as follows:—

M. Ferd. de Lesseps is about to return to your Highness. He is indeed,
as your Highness was graciously pleased to observe to us, a guest who of
himself deserves all possible attention and consideration. His object in
coming here had reference to the affair of the Canal; an undertaking of
the most useful character. During his stay in Constantinople, I have had
the pleasure of seeing him several times, and of conversing with him at
length on various subjects. He has had the honour of being presented to
his Majesty the Sultan, by whom he was received with the highest favour.

In conformity with the Imperial order on the subject of the Canal, the
question of this interesting undertaking is now under the consideration
of the Council of Ministers. M. de Lesseps, not being able to wait until
the end of the conferences, has decided on taking his departure. I shall
shortly have to acquaint your Highness in detail with the result.

                                               (Signed) MOUSTAPHA RESHID.


No. VI.



                                       The Camp, Marea, 30th April, 1855.

I had the honour of submitting to your Highness the memorial of your
Engineers MM. Linant _Bey_, and Mougel _Bey_, for the construction of the
Canal of the Isthmus of Suez.

This is intended as a precursory scheme for the cutting through the
Isthmus. It is accompanied by a map indicating the configuration of
the ground and the nature of the soil. It has met with your Highness’
approval, and you have requested me to give it the most extensive
publicity in order to call the attention of all competent persons in
Europe and America to a question which interests the whole world, and to
invite their examination and observations.


Your Highness has decided to send immediately, to the Counsellors of His
Imperial Majesty the Sultan, the explanations which they require for the
ratification of the scheme for the communication of the two Seas.

For my own part I shall proceed immediately to Europe, I shall make it my
especial business to get the official documents relative to the affair as
well as the precursory scheme of MM. Linant Bey, and Mougel Bey, printed
and published. Arrangements will be made in order to collect within a
limited time the opinions of those competent persons who shall be willing
to aid the enterprise with their information and suggestions. In the mean
time your engineers will be preparing the elements of their definitive

Agents will be appointed in every country to collect the communications
and arrange the correspondence.

When the definitive scheme of the engineers is completed, and when the
remarks received from each country have furnished a mass of information,
a commission will be appointed, composed of engineers of known ability
in hydraulic operations, and chosen in England, France, Germany, Italy
and Holland. This commission will give its opinion upon the scheme of
your Highness’ Engineers, and point out the modifications, or alterations
which it shall think proper to be adopted. Every means shall be placed at
the disposal of the Commission for visiting the Isthmus of Suez, should
it be considered necessary to see the localities before deciding.

Your Highness has been pleased to limit at present the consideration of
the track. After having passed in review the numerous schemes presented
to Governments, or to the public, for more than fifty years, you give
full liberty for the application of the means that science shall
recognize to be best for making a communication between the Red Sea and
the Mediterranean, by cutting through the Isthmus of Suez at any point of
the Isthmus, eastward of the course of the Nile; but you have declared
that you will not authorize the Grand Maritime Suez Canal Company to
adopt any track that might have its point of departure on the coast of
the Mediterranean eastward of the Damietta branch, and which would cross
the Nile.

It will not be until after the adoption of the track of communication
between the two Seas, and when all the advantages and all the
responsibilities of those who take part in the enterprise are clearly
determined, that capitalists and the public will be invited to subscribe
for shares, and the representatives of those interested will finally
decide upon all questions affecting the administration, the execution and
carrying out of the undertaking.

Allow me now to point out to your Highness, the preparatory operations to
which MM. Linant _Bey_ and Mougel _Bey_ have to apply themselves previous
to presenting their definitive scheme.

They have—

1st. To trace out on the ground the line of the Maritime Canal in detail,
with all its angles and curves, and transfer the line so traced on to a

2nd. To take the levels throughout this line, extending them into the two
Seas to a depth of ten _metres_ of water.

3rd. To make profile sections wherever the formation of the ground
requires it.

4th. To take soundings along the line, and carry them out to a depth of
ten _metres_ below the level of low water in the Mediterranean.

5th. To collect specimens of the various soils met with in their

6th. To settle the prime cost of manual labour and of all the materials
that will be employed in the construction of the Canal.

7th. To establish positive data that will serve to estimate the number of
workmen of all kinds necessary for the execution of the works.

For my own part, I shall make it my business to collect the most recent
statistical documents that will afford the means of ascertaining
positively the _minimum_ valuation of the returns.

When the time has arrived for commencing the works of the Maritime Canal,
a large number of machines, and a considerable quantity of materials,
timber, iron, coal, &c. &c., ought to be procured from Europe. The Suez
Canal Company will find the advantages of certainty, economy and facility
of transport, which do not exist at present, in the continuation of the
railway to Suez, and the establishment of the Towing Society, with which
is connected the amelioration of the Mahmoudieh Canal, and also its
communication with the port of Alexandria.


The communications which I have received from Europe bear witness to the
ever-increasing interest with which the scheme of opening the Isthmus of
Suez is everywhere received.

Amongst those who have spontaneously offered me their co-operation,
there are some who have placed considerable sums at my disposal as a
contribution to the preliminary expenses of the undertaking. These offers
already amount to more than 15,000,000 francs. I have not thought it
proper to avail myself of them, but I have noted the names of those who
have made them in order that they may take their appropriate place in the
list of subscribers.

Certain founding members have already been named; they have subscribed an
engagement, under conditions, to contribute to the expenses preliminary
to the regular organization of the Company. The first list of founding
members, fulfilling the conditions required by Art. 11, of your
Highness’s Firman, contains fifty-five names belonging both to Egypt
and to Europe. Your Highness who leaves to me the charge of completing
this list by the addition of persons of all countries who shall actually
contribute to the establishment of the work, has desired that the total
number should not exceed 100 if it can be avoided.

Your Highness has been pleased to approve of the provisional appointment
of M. Ruyssenaers, Consul General of the Netherlands, as principal agent
of the Company in Egypt; he deserves in every respect this mark of

Such are the preliminary proceedings that have appeared to your Highness
calculated to promote the success of your grand enterprise.

I beg your Highness to inform me whether I have fully understood your

                                               (Signed) FERD. DE LESSEPS.


I have made myself acquainted with the report which you addressed to me
on the 30th of April, and I approve the document which is to serve you
in place of instructions. I appreciate the zeal which you have displayed
in this affair, and the friendly interest you have taken in it has
afforded me real satisfaction.

                                                         3 Ramadan, 1271.

                         (_The Viceroy’s Seal._)

A true translation of the Turkish text.

                                             KŒNIG BEY,
                                             Secretary of Mandates
                                             to His Highness the Viceroy.

Alexandria, May 19, 1855.


No. VII.



The interest which has recently been manifested in the improvement of
our means of communication with India, China, &c. _viâ_ Egypt and the
Red Sea, seems to have revived the speculations, first broached during
the occupation of Egypt by the French forces under Napoleon, as to the
feasibility of opening a communication between the Red Sea and the
Mediterranean by a Canal through the Isthmus of Suez.

Various statements upon this subject have lately appeared in the
newspapers and periodicals, both of this country and the Continent, and
a kind of prospectus proposing the formation of a Company to execute the
undertaking, has just been put in circulation in London.

These statements and speculations, in so far as they have come under
the cognizance of the writer of the following pages, are, in a great
measure, superficial, crude, or erroneous,[6] and, therefore, calculated
to mislead rather than inform the public in regard to the practicability
and utility of an enterprise, whose importance it is scarcely possible
to overrate, considering the nature and magnitude of the interests which
would be involved in its successful accomplishment.

The writer has had the means of obtaining information relative to this
matter, which he considers may be relied on, and having devoted much of
his attention to this Canal question, he deems the present time opportune
for submitting to the public some facts and observations tending, he
ventures to believe, to lead to more correct conclusions on this very
interesting subject than any which have as yet been published.

These facts and observations will be found arranged under the following

    1.—_The physical practicability of the enterprise._

    2.—_The political arrangements requisite for effecting it._

    3.—_The advantages or disadvantages of navigating by the
    proposed Canal route, as compared with the route by the Cape of
    Good Hope._

    4.—_Financial considerations._

    5.—_General observations as to the political, commercial, and
    moral benefits which would be derived from the accomplishment
    of the undertaking._

That facility of intercourse creates commerce, and commerce carries with
it civilization, is an axiom founded on universal experience.

Where seeming exceptions to it are found, they may be traced to the
blind selfishness of human legislation, counteracting the natural laws
established by the all-wise and beneficent Governor of the universe.

A project, therefore, which, by severing two continents, proposes to
change the whole course of commerce and communication between the eastern
and western worlds, and approximate by many thousand miles the knowledge
and industry of the west to the ignorance and barbarism of the east,
presents considerations of a nature to excite the imagination, and to
awaken some of our best feelings in its favour.

In dealing with it, the writer, however, purposes to limit himself
to a strictly practical view of the subject. He will state his facts
with accuracy,—place every circumstance, whether for or against the
undertaking, as far as his information enables him to judge, impartially
before the reader,—and thus leave him to form his own opinion as to the
practicability of accomplishing the contemplated enterprise, and of its
utility should it be accomplished.

The writer deems it proper to add, that the matter was some time since
submitted by him to the consideration of Her Majesty’s Government,
and that the extract from M. Linant’s Survey of the Isthmus, herein
given, appears in the “_Commercial Tariffs, Regulations, &c., of
Foreign Countries, part 10, presented to both Houses of Parliament, by
command of Her Majesty, 14th July, 1843_,” being part of those valuable
compilations, for which it is well known the country is indebted to the
talents and industry of Mr. Macgregor, of the Board of Trade.


The improvement of our communication with the East has been, for some
time past, an object of much public solicitude, and in proportion to the
progress made in its developement, its importance becomes more and more
manifest. The establishment of a steam communication with India, &c.,
_viâ_ the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, although as yet only in its
infancy, has already been productive of considerable benefit, both to
Great Britain and her Oriental dependencies.

But, although the steam communication presents a greatly improved means
of transit by this route for passengers and letters, it cannot, except in
a comparatively very limited degree, be made available for the general
purposes of commerce. The transport of all articles of merchandize of
moderate value, compared to their bulk or weight, must, from the small
stowage-room afforded by steam vessels, and the expense of the transit
across Egypt, continue to be effected by means of sailing vessels
navigating by the long and circuitous route round the Cape of Good Hope.

The principal object, therefore, of the contemplated Canal, would be to
open a shorter route between Europe and the East, which could be availed
of by sailing as well as by steam vessels, and thus serve the general
purposes of commercial intercourse.

Previously to proceeding to treat of the practicability of opening such a
canal, it may be proper to explain how it has fallen to my lot to deal
with this subject:—

In the year 1841, I visited Egypt. While there, my attention was, among
other matters, directed to the question which has so frequently been
mooted, although never hitherto, I think, satisfactorily treated, viz.
the practicability of re-opening the ancient Canal through the Isthmus of
Suez, said to have once joined the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

In following up this object, I became acquainted with M. Adolphe Linant,
of Cairo, a French Civil Engineer, of considerable reputation, and who
has been in the employ of the Pacha of Egypt, for, I believe, upwards of
twenty years.

I found that M. Linant had devoted a great deal of time and labour to
the practical investigation of this subject, had recently completed an
elaborate survey of the Isthmus, and was in possession of much detailed
information derived from a personal examination of the localities through
which the proposed Canal would have to be cut. Under certain conditions I
induced him to furnish me with a memoir on the subject, accompanied by a
manuscript map of his Survey of the Isthmus of Suez, and of Lower Egypt,
in which the site of the ancient and track of the proposed Canal are laid
down with great minuteness. In short, the map, now in my possession,
which is on a large scale, contains a far more complete view of Lower
Egypt than any hitherto executed.


The co-operation, or, at least, the concurrence of the Pacha of Egypt
would be indispensable.

Having suggested the expediency of the interposition of one or more of
the European powers to remove any political impediments which might stand
in the way of this enterprise, it appears necessary to take a brief view
of the interest which they would each have in promoting it.

_Great Britain_, from the vast extent of her commerce and political
connections with the East, would, undoubtedly, derive the greatest
advantage from it; but most of the other nations of Europe would derive
benefit in proportion to the extent of their commerce; and those, having
ports in the Mediterranean and Levant, or indeed anywhere nearer to the
proposed communication than the ports of Great Britain, would gain more
in proportion.

_Holland_, next to Great Britain, would, from the extent of her trade
with the East, have a direct interest in the accomplishment of the
proposed enterprise. Her commerce would be improved, and her political
connection with her extensive colonies of Java, &c., would be much
strengthened by it.

_France_ would derive most important benefits. It would create almost a
new commerce for her, in which, through her ports in the Mediterranean,
she would have the advantage over us in importing direct the indigo, &c.,
of India, of which she requires such large quantities for the use of her
manufactories, while the shorter route which would be opened to India,
&c., would give a stimulus to her exports.

_Austria_, there is every reason to believe, would give a cordial support
to the undertaking. She is making active and judicious efforts to extend
and improve her commerce; and there is little doubt of her co-operation
in promoting an undertaking so well calculated to further her views in
that respect. The merchants of Trieste have been the first to avail
themselves of an arrangement which the writer of this succeeded about
two years since in effecting with the Pacha of Egypt, by which he agreed
to relinquish the high rate of transit duties in Egypt, imposed by the
treaties with the Porte, and to substitute as low a rate of duty as would
admit of the transit through Egypt of goods to and from India, &c. Under
this arrangement, two cargoes of India produce have been already brought
from Bengal to Suez in sailing vessels, thence transported across Egypt
to Alexandria, whence they were brought to Trieste.

The Chamber of Commerce of that port are, it is well known, anxious
to extend their trade with the East in this direction; and it is
stated, that a proposal was, a short time since, made by some Austrian
capitalists to the Pacha, for opening a Canal through the Isthmus.

_Greece_ would obtain a decided benefit by it. Her numerous small vessels
would be well adapted for trading with the ports of Africa and Arabia in
the Red Sea, and they would soon be seen covering these coasts.

Italy, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the minor northern states, and
even America, would all participate more or less in the improved route
for eastern commerce, and, taking a just view of their own interests,
would hail it as a benefit.

Even _Russia_, although possessed of an over-land communication with
Central Asia, India, and China, would gain an advantage by the Canal, as
she could open a maritime intercourse with the east through her ports in
the Black Sea, which would be less costly, and susceptible of greater
extension than a land transit.

It hence appears, that all the European powers would have an interest,
more or less, in promoting this enterprise; and there appears to be
reasonable grounds for concluding, that if requested by one or more of
the first-rate powers, either to undertake the work himself, or permit
it to be undertaken by private capitalists, under such an arrangement as
would connect his name with it, and secure to himself and his descendants
a pecuniary benefit from it, as already suggested, Mehemet Ali would be
induced to co-operate in it.

The guardianship of such a passage between Europe and the East, would
serve to enhance the importance of his political position, and to
strengthen those relations of mutual interest between the ruler of Egypt,
and the communities of Europe, which would form the most efficacious
guarantee for the continuance of the Government of Egypt in the family of
Mehemet Ali.

The association of his name with so magnificent an enterprise, would, I
consider, be another powerful motive to a man so ardently imbued with the
love of fame.

Should a firman or other formal act from the Sultan of the Ottoman
Empire, in his character of sovereign of the soil, be deemed requisite
for securing a permanent and indisputable right to make and keep open the
Canal, I should suggest that point being left to the management of the
Pacha, who, I have some reason to think, would obtain it much more easily
and promptly than if it were attempted through the medium of European


Before entering on a comparison of these two routes with regard to
their navigation by sailing vessels, it may be well to consider what
advantages the contemplated Canal would afford in facilitating the steam
communication with the East _viâ_ Egypt and the Red Sea, commonly, though
very erroneously, denominated “the Overland Route.”

In order to make this properly understood, it will be necessary to give a
brief account of the present arrangements for the transit through Egypt
of the mails, passengers, and packages, to and from India, China, &c.

It is, no doubt, generally known, that this communication is carried
on by the steamers of a private Company, which ply monthly between
Southampton and Alexandria, touching at Gibraltar and Malta, and by
smaller steamers belonging to the East India Company, which ply monthly
between Bombay and Suez, chiefly for the purpose of conveying the
mails. The private Company have now also placed two steam ships, the
“Hindostan,” and the “Bentinck,” of 1800 tons, and 520 horse power each,
to ply between Suez and Calcutta, touching at Aden, Ceylon, and Madras.
The vessels of that Company, both on this side of Egypt, as well as
on the other side, convey goods as well as passengers, and the mails;
but the East India Company’s vessels plying between Suez and Bombay,
do not receive goods, and have but limited, and comparatively inferior
accommodations for passengers.

The mails, passengers, and packages, are, of course, disembarked from
the steamers coming from England at Alexandria, and are re-embarked at
Suez in the steamers proceeding to India on the outward route, and _vice
versâ_ on the homeward route.

It now remains to show how their transit across Egypt, between Alexandria
on the Mediterranean, and Suez on the Red Sea, is effected, with the
present cost of it, in order to estimate how far it would be improved by
the contemplated Canal communication.

I shall now proceed to consider what advantages the Canal would present
to sailing vessels navigating between Europe and the East.

    The distance from the English Channel to Calcutta, _viâ_
    the Cape of Good Hope, by the route taken by the best
    sailing vessels, may be put down at                    _miles_ 13,000

    _Viâ_ the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and Indian Ocean,
    it is about                                                     8,000

    Gain in distance by the latter route, to or from Calcutta       5,000

    By the Cape route to Bombay it is about                        11,500

    By the Red Sea route                                            6,200

    Gain in distance to or from Bombay                              5,300

This is, of course, assuming the navigation by the Mediterranean and Red
Sea route to be of equal facility with the Cape route. And I shall now
endeavour to examine this part of the question with the accuracy which
its importance demands.

The first point which presents itself in this consideration, is the
influence of the monsoons, or periodical winds, which prevail throughout
the Indian Seas, and in the southern part of the Red Sea.

The south-west monsoon, which blows much stronger than the north-east
monsoon, prevails in the Indian Ocean, between the east coast of Africa
and the coasts of India, &c., from May until October, blowing with the
greatest force during the months of June, July, and August.

The north-east monsoon prevails from October to May, but is of much less
force than the south-west monsoon.

In order to estimate the difficulties or advantages of these periodical
winds, to a sailing vessel navigating by the Red Sea, as compared with
the route by the Cape of Good Hope, we must, for vessels bound to or from
the most important commercial ports in India—the Presidencies of Madras
and Bengal, as also Ceylon, Singapore, Java, China, &c., suppose her
placed at a point a few degrees to the southward of Ceylon from or to
which she would have to proceed, whether navigating by the Cape of Good
Hope, or by the Red Sea route.

Now, it is well known, that from this position a vessel steering for the
coast of Africa towards Cape Guardafui (the southern extremity of the
Gulf of Aden), and thence to the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb (the entrance
of the Red Sea), would carry the wind a-beam, and could therefore make
her passage to or from the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb, and the given point
to the southward of Ceylon, during the whole of the south-west monsoon.

As the north-east monsoon blows in an exactly opposite direction to the
south-west monsoon, and is much more moderate, a sailing vessel could
make good her course between the Red Sea and the same point south of
Ceylon, equally well as in the south-west monsoon, and therefore during
the whole year could effect this part of the passage with tolerable

Vessels proceeding to or from Bombay would have to arrange their passages
to suit the monsoons. Sailing from England, or other places in Europe,
so as to have the south-west monsoon in their favour; and sailing from
Bombay for Europe so as to have the north-east monsoon in their favour.

It hence appears that the monsoons present no particular difficulties
in the voyage between India, &c. and the entrance of the Red Sea, more
than in the ordinary route by the Cape of Good Hope; but that, on the
contrary, for ships trading with the eastern and most important parts of
Hindostan, and to Ceylon, Malacca, Singapore, Java, China, &c. this part
of the voyage would be made with more certainty than an equal distance in
the Indian Ocean, of a voyage by the Cape of Good Hope route.


The length of the Red Sea from the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb to Suez is
1200 miles, its medium breadth about 150 miles, and its direction nearly
N. N. W. and S. S. E.

Its coasts on either side are fringed with coral rocks, which render it
dangerous in navigating it to approach near its shores.

In the southern part of it, say from the latitude of Jidda to
Bab-el-Mandeb, being about one-half of its whole length, the southerly
monsoon predominates nearly two-thirds of the year, commencing in October
and ending in May or June. The northerly winds then set in, and continue
about four months, say June, July, August, and September.

Outside the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aden, the wind generally prevails
from the eastward for six months, say, from October to May, and from the
westward during the other part of the year.

In the northern part of the sea, from Jidda to Suez, but more
particularly near to Suez, the prevailing winds for nine months of the
year are northerly, and in the months of June, July, and August, it is
very difficult for sailing vessels to beat up to Suez. In this part of
the Red Sea southerly breezes are at all times but of short duration.

The best time for vessels to sail from Suez for India, &c. is therefore
about the end of August, which will enable them to clear the Straits of
Bab-el-Mandeb in September, before the easterly winds commence in the
Gulf outside.

From all these facts it will appear,

1st. That the passage between India, &c., and the Gulf of Aden, may be
made with ordinary facility by sailing vessels.

2nd. That some delay would be experienced by sailing vessels in the Gulf
of Aden during certain portions of the year, whether bound to or from
India; and also by vessels _coming from India_, in the northern part of
the Red Sea, during the greater part of the year.

Against these difficulties in the Red Sea route must, however, be set off
the delays by calms and contrary winds, between the trades experienced by
vessels navigating by the Cape route. In order to ascertain how nearly
they may balance each other, and consequently whether a saving of time in
navigating by the Mediterranean and Red Sea, proportionate to the shorter
distance, as compared with the voyage round the Cape of Good Hope, might
be effected, I would beg leave to submit the following questions to the
consideration of experienced nautical men.

1st. Is the navigation by a sailing vessel, between England and Pelusium,
say 3000 miles, of equal facility as a similar distance from England on
the Cape route?

2nd. Is the navigation to or from the given point, to the southward of
Ceylon and Cape Guardafui, more certain than that of an equal distance
between the same point and the Cape of Good Hope?

3rd. Would the impediments in the navigation of the Red Sea and Gulf of
Aden, already pointed out, be greater or less than those experienced from
calms and contrary winds between the trades in navigating by the Cape of
Good Hope route? And, assuming that the answer to the second query should
be in favour of the Red Sea route, would that gain set off against the
difficulties of navigating the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, and reduce the
latter to a par with the impediments between the trades just alluded to?

4th. Would not the nature of the coast of Egypt, at the embouchure of the
Canal in the Mediterranean, present considerable difficulty and danger
to sailing vessels approaching it for the purpose of seeking the Canal
entrance? The coast, it is well known, for a distance of upwards of 150
miles to the eastward, as well as to the westward of the Canal entrance,
is destitute of any sheltered anchorage, is exceedingly low, and not
easily discoverable until within a short distance of it, and very shallow
at a distance of two leagues from the shore. A good light on the pier
or breakwater might obviate some of the danger, but still it is to be
apprehended, that sailing vessels approaching this part of the coast,
with the wind strong from the north and north-west, and which is very
prevalent, would incur considerable risk of getting embayed and being
driven ashore.

If the result of this investigation should be such as to place the
difficulties and facilities of each route on a par, it will then follow
that a gain in time of from four to six weeks would be effected in
navigating to or from India, &c. by the proposed Canal, as compared with
the Cape of Good Hope route.

Before concluding this part of the subject, I think it well to advert to
another objection which may possibly be raised against the Canal passage,
namely, the difficulty of tracking a vessel of heavy burthen through
the Canal, from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, against a current of
three to four miles an hour, which would be the velocity of the stream
constantly flowing from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean.

To this may be answered, that the same northerly winds which prevail
as already stated, for the greater part of the year, in the upper
or northern part of the Red Sea, also blow across the Isthmus, and
consequently the vessel would be for the most part able to stem the
current by using her sails. In default of this, a sufficient number of
dromedaries would track a vessel of almost any size, or posts placed
along the banks of the Canal for warping would effect the object on
occasions, which would be of but rare occurrence, of a failure of wind.

It is to be considered also, that as the beds of the Bitter Lakes and of
the Lake Timsah, would form two very extensive basins in the course of
the Canal, nearly half-way between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea,
these would become halting places or inland ports, and here steam tugs
would no doubt, among other accessories, be found, should the Canal ever
become a general channel of intercourse.

_From_ the Red Sea _to_ the Mediterranean the vessel would, of course, be
carried along by the stream.


In a political point of view, the facilities which the Canal passage,
combined with steam navigation, would afford to Great Britain, as
regards the government of her Indian empire and dependencies, are almost

From Malta troops could be placed in Bombay in _three weeks_; in Ceylon
and Madras in four weeks; and in Calcutta in five weeks. And by means
of the frequent intermediate coast communication in India, which the
extended and comprehensive plan of steam navigation anticipated to result
from the opening of the Canal passage would afford, troops and stores
could be rapidly moved from one station to another.

Let any military man compare this with the present mode of effecting
similar operations. The long sea voyage by the Cape of Good Hope, of four
or five months, in a sailing vessel;—the men worn out, and requiring
almost as many months more after debarkation, to recruit their health
and strength, so as to be fit for active duty;—the length of time,
and great fatigue, in moving between distant military stations;—and I
think he will admit, that India might, with the facility alluded to, be
efficiently governed with one-half the number of European troop which
is now required. The facility for despatching ships of war, and stores
of all kinds, to or from India, &c., need only be glanced at to be at
once appreciated. The stability of British power in India would be
thus increased, while the cost of maintaining it would be considerably

To estimate the importance of the proposed communication in a commercial
point of view, it is necessary to take into consideration the extent
of the field of operations for commerce, which the vast and populous
regions of the East present. India contains 100,000,000 of subjects of
the British Crown, and there are 50,000,000 of adjacent tributaries and
allies; in all, 150,000,000 in the Peninsula of Hindostan, exclusive of
the island of Ceylon. Little has as yet been done to stimulate the people
to improve their resources and ameliorate their condition and habits; but
of late years more attention has been directed to these objects, and the
trade with British India has been rapidly on the increase.

China contains, it is estimated, not less than 350,000,000 of
inhabitants, said to be inclined to industry, and to be peculiarly
addicted to traffic. A timid and jealous system of government has for
ages hermetically sealed, as it were, this vast country and population
from intercourse with the rest of the world. British valour has now
removed the barrier, and opened this almost new world to European

Let us suppose that the people of India and China should, from improved
intercourse, require to the extent of one shilling _per annum_, for
each individual, in value of British manufacture or produce. Even this
seemingly insignificant amount would produce an annual increase of
25,000,000 in our exports. The opening of the Canal route would tend
greatly to facilitate our intercourse with the 500,000,000 of people who
inhabit India and China, and hence its commercial importance must be
sufficiently obvious.

The application of steam power to the purposes of navigation, is
doubtless one of those mechanical discoveries destined to effect a
great moral revolution in the human mind throughout the world. The
printing press has contributed, in an immense degree, to the progress of
civilization, by furnishing a means for the spread of thought. But it
seems scarcely to admit of a question, that the power of steam, applied
to navigation, will exercise a more extensive, a more rapid, and a more
efficacious influence in accelerating the civilization of the world than
even the printing press.

Five hundred millions of human beings inhabiting Hindostan and China
remain to this day enslaved by debasing superstitions, and sunk in mental
darkness and delusion. What a field is here opening to the Christian
philanthropist! To aid in the removal of ignorance and superstition
by the diffusion of useful knowledge, and an enlightened religion; to
plant industry and the arts where indolence and barbarism have hitherto
prevailed, are noble efforts, tending no less to elevate those who engage
in them, than the object of their exertions. The opening of the proposed
communication would obviously subserve the promotion of such objects, and
therefore can scarcely fail to excite an interest in the mind of every
sincere well-wisher to his fellow creatures.

The preceding statement and observations will, I trust, be sufficient
to show that the object of which they treat is, at least, of sufficient
importance to warrant an effort being made to ascertain, in the manner
suggested, whether it be practicable or not, and if found practicable,
whether, and in what manner, the Pacha of Egypt would be disposed to
concur or co-operate in it. If the information and suggestions therein
given should lead to such a result, the chief object of their publication
will be attained.





A good deal is alleged by those trading from Britain to the East Indies
against the policy of any part of the British nation lending patronage to
such an undertaking, which, it is presumed, would benefit the countries
bordering the Mediterranean more than our own; though, if the canal in
question would be the means of most materially shortening the distance
between the two most important portions of the British Empire, little
doubt can be entertained of the benefit conferred on the extensive
commerce of the two countries, even though some other nations would
receive a greater proportional advantage in the accomplishment of the
measure; and though the commerce of other nations might increase in a
greater ratio than the British, still all would participate in facilities
to be obtained; and in the case of war arising, it is but too obvious,
that the power possessing a naval superiority has the means of closing
such a channel of commerce to its enemies, by stationing cruisers at each
extremity. So much may be urged with a view of removing the prejudice
of British interests against the measure; but it will readily be
believed, that if the British fail to patronize the undertaking, other
nations and powers will do so shortly: and it is therefore manifest, if
British subjects were chiefly concerned in advancing the capital, and in
executing and managing this great work, it would be vastly more for the
benefit of Britain, than if any other nation or Government lent their
resources. But undertake it who may, it is most probable, that both the
funds and the energies of execution will come from this country; and it
is too probable, that if the measure is executed by any other parties
than British, the work will be upon a cheaper and less effective plan of
navigation, permitting only small craft to navigate, unfit for British
commerce in the East, though sufficient for the small traders in the
Mediterranean, who would consequently, in such a case, reap the entire
benefit. I am decidedly of opinion, that British capital and British
energy would alone execute the work in a truly useful and permanent
style. But the measure is daily becoming so much more obvious as one of
practical facility, that it cannot long be postponed in some shape or

The conclusions may now be recapitulated in general terms:—

1st. That a ship canal between the two Seas, which contemplates an
extended commerce between the countries of Europe and the Indian Ocean,
should be free from the effects of all fluctuating causes, arising from
inundations or floods, &c.

2nd. That it should be a measure irrespective of the commerce of Egypt
and the Nile, or rather that it could not combine these objects in the
same measure, with any good results; though it would be the means of
greatly improving the commerce of Egypt by accessory measures.

3rd. That the mean fall from the level of the Red Sea to that of the
Mediterranean (say thirty feet) is sufficient to keep the artificial
channel clean, if the fall be properly economised; and also that it would
be able to preserve its mouth in the Bay of Pelusium in a navigable state
at all seasons.

4th. That a navigation of still water with locks could not be long
maintained with advantage, under all the circumstances of the case.

5th. That a broad and deep stream like that of the Dardanelles could not
be produced by natural operations, assisted slightly by art; but that the
attempt would be pregnant with mischief in some quarters, and result in

6th. That a direct and perfectly controllable channel, of a uniform
size and shape and incline, would be the safest and most appropriate
undertaking of which the circumstances permit, and under the imperfect
information we possess.

It must, however, be confessed, that no definitive opinion can be given,
or very satisfactory estimates assumed, until a new and detailed survey,
having the express objects in view, is completed, comprehending the
necessary levellings and borings and maritime surveys of the ports at the
termini of the Canal.

With respect to the land survey, were all the necessary persons and means
duly prepared to commence operations in the beginning of October, it is
probable the investigation might be completed in the beginning of the
following May, and a true solution given to this great geographical,
commercial, and engineering question.

As mankind multiply and make progress in arts and civilization, new
wants arise, and the ingenuity and industry of man is taxed to discover
new sources of wealth, maintenance, and occupation: and we find, under
the dispensations of an all-wise Providence, that at suitable seasons
resources are unveiled which have been long provided but concealed until
the fit occasion presents itself. Amongst the numerous administrations
of the same wise and merciful design, it is not unreasonable to believe
that the completion of navigable channels across the Isthmuses of Suez
and Darien are enterprises amongst the events designed to minister to the
growing wants and improvement of the human race.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the preceding pages an endeavour has been made to show the superiority
of a direct communication between the two Seas (which would provide for
the speedy passage of large ships at all seasons), over a communication
partly through the medium of the Nile, which would be interrupted in the
dry season, and prove tedious at all times; and it now remains to say a
few words on the comparative value of railways.

Railways, under present circumstances, would expedite the transmission
of passengers by the steam ships across the Desert, and might be useful
in the transmission of light and valuable goods between the Nile and
the Red Sea; but it must be greatly doubted if a sufficient traffic
could thereby arise to pay the construction and maintenance of eighty
miles of railway between Cairo and Suez. On the other hand, were it
contemplated to construct a railway between the bay of Tineh and Suez,
the cost, including the improvement of the harbours at either terminus,
would nearly equal the expense of the proposed Canal; but the _means_
of keeping the terminal harbours deep and clean would be foregone from
want of means of scourage; and to the expense of the railway would have
to be added the expense of unloading and reloading the cargoes of each
shipment; so that it is manifest that a railway direct between the two
Seas could stand no competition with the proposed Canal, which, besides
its value as a commercial channel, would facilitate the steam navigation
with India in the highest degree, by permitting the steamers to make a
continuous voyage; and by permitting supplies of coals being sent direct
to Suez and Aden, &c., the detention of steamers at Suez and Alexandria
would be avoided, four or five days would be gained in the transmission
of passengers and mails, and the expenditure in the price of coals would
be much reduced.

The Author again acknowledges his obligations to the able statements of
Mr. Maclaren’s paper of 1825, connected with this subject, and now quotes
that author’s opinions and those of the writer in the Foreign Quarterly
Review of 1836, as to the feasibility of the proposed measure:—

“Yet it is certain that the project must not only have been practicable
but easy, since it was accomplished in early times by men who were
unprovided with many of those resources which modern art supplies. In
fact, when the ground is explored the supposed difficulties vanish,
and we discover that Nature has furnished such singular and unexpected
facilities for establishing a water communication between the two Seas,
that she has left little for man to do to complete her work.”—MACLAREN,
_Jamieson’s Journal_, 1825, p. 274.

“Were European civilization and a regular Government permanently
re-established in Egypt, the undertaking would be found not only
practicable but easy; so great, in fact, are the facilities which the
ground presents, that though the Canal (taking the magnitude of its
section into account) would certainly be the largest that exists, the
expense would be considerably less than that of some small works of the
same kind executed in the west of Europe.”—_Ibid._ p. 290.

“There is little doubt that if the French had remained in Egypt, and
especially with Napoleon at the head of the Government, they would have
carried their project (of canals) into effect. The expense, compared with
the magnificent result, is so trifling, that the wonder is that it has
not been carried into effect before now, either by a company having the
support of Mahommed Pacha, or by the Pacha on his own account.”—_Foreign
Quarterly Review_, 1836, p. 362.

“A glance at the map which accompanies the Topographical Survey of the
French engineers is quite sufficient to demonstrate with what facility
and at what moderate expense a ship’s canal might be constructed from the
Red Sea to the Mediterranean.”—_Ibid._ p. 368.


No. IX.




6th July, 1855.


This undertaking, one of the grandest and most useful of the age, has for
some time attracted a considerable share of public attention. There is
but one opinion as to its immense results, but the question of the track
has been a subject of discussion, which, in the absence of authentic
documents and an exact knowledge of the localities, may mislead public

Two tracks have been proposed: one _direct_, which is to unite the two
Seas by a Canal in a straight line from Suez to Pelusium; the other
_indirect_, which, starting from Suez, joins the Nile below Cairo, and
terminates at the port of Alexandria.

In the eyes of all who are acquainted with Egypt the direct track alone
appears practicable, the indirect track however has recently found its
advocates in some European journals; the following particulars, collected
on the spot, will enlighten public opinion upon this point.

In the first place there is a difference of length between the two
tracks, which is not unimportant. The direct track being the shortest,
would certainly not, of itself, be sufficient to give it the preference,
especially if the other were both most economical and most advantageous;
but it appears that besides having the advantage of being much shorter,
the direct track also has the recommendations of being more economical,
more advantageous, and more easy of execution.

1st. The indirect Canal has to cross the Nile, and this condition
is almost impossible to be carried out. The crossings of rivers are
attended, as is well known, with difficulties, even when there is only a
draught of water of 2 to 3 _met._: what would they be for a Canal which
is to be 8 _met._ deep? And even one of the most decided partisans of the
indirect track has not hesitated to declare frankly, considering this
immense obstacle, which alarms but does not discourage him: “that the
maintenance of such a depth presents difficulties which have never been
surmounted nor even attempted.” It is true that at first the help of the
barrage was reckoned upon in risking the crossing of the river; but this
barrage can only serve at the low waters during four or five months of
the year, at the time when the lands are irrigated to prepare for the
summer crops; the reserved waters of the Nile will never, even at their
_maximum_, be more than 4 to 4½ _met._, which is very far from 8 _met._
Above the barrage, at the point where the ships are to cross, the breadth
is 2000 _met._ and if a transverse channel were dug there, how could it
be prevented from filling with alluvium and mud? During the increase of
the waters, how could a current of five miles an hour, be crossed by
sailing vessels against the wind blowing from the east and south?

Against this formidable obstacle to the crossing which cannot be avoided,
an expedient not less surprising, and still more impracticable, has
been devised; the barrage is set aside, the employment of it being too
hazardous, and the Nile is to be crossed by a bridge Canal. But can we
form an idea of a Canal 8 _met._ deep crossing a river like the Nile
above the barrage? According to the very calculations of those who
propose such schemes, there would be required 1,213,147 _met. cub._ of
water _per diem_ to supply the upper basin, and as this enormous quantity
of water would have to be raised thirty _metres_ above the level of the
two Seas; the engines required for this purpose must represent 5620 horse
power by calculation, corresponding to 6000 horse power in those to be
provided; not to speak of the obstacles that such a colossal work would
oppose to the ordinary navigation, it would be an expense upon that point
only of 50 to 60,000,000 _francs_. And the bridge Canal after all these
sacrifices, would not be more firm or more durable than any construction
of that kind. And moreover for this super elevation of level there would
be required ten locks in addition to the fourteen already on the line.

2nd. The indirect Canal will be detrimental to the Canal works, so
necessary to Lower Egypt, and will partly interfere with that admirable
hydraulic system, which is at once the pride and the fertilization of
the country. It will be in vain to make circuits to avoid the branchings
of the network; as the termination is to be at the port of Alexandria,
it will be absolutely necessary to pass between the Mahmoudieh Canal and
Lake Mareotis; and then the flow of all the waters into the Lake which
is destined to receive them will be prevented. Passing through the Lake,
as the railway does, seas of mire will be met with, so much dreaded on
the Pelusiac coast. It has already been necessary to raise again and
again the embankment of the railway which was disappearing in the Lake,
and for three years it has been necessary to labour unceasingly at the
repairs which are continually required; what will it be when a dyke must
be constructed at least 6000 _metres_ in length, to heights of 7 to 8
_metres_, without knowing where to procure the necessary earth for these

3rd. The indirect Canal cannot terminate in the port of Alexandria
without causing still greater confusion there than it causes in the Canal
works. In the first place the port of Alexandria is not _immutable_, as
has been supposed. It has not escaped the action of the ground swell,
which has choked it with sand to a good third of its extent. The part of
the port which has been selected is frequently agitated by the north-west
winds, and the surf is then so violent in rough weather, that even small
craft dare not approach it. The rock is found there at a small depth
below the sea, and as it would be necessary to extend the dykes of the
Canal to 250 _metres_ into the harbour, to obtain a draught of water
of 7 _met._, 50 to 8 _met._, the rock would have to be excavated under
the water. Add to this that in this direction all the grand magazines
and all the Government works would be encountered; there is not the
least free space between the railway and the Mahmoudieh canal. But let
us suppose all these difficulties overcome, there are others which
the Canal raises, and which it multiplies the more it is employed. The
port of Alexandria, the only military port of Egypt, is then besieged
by hundreds of merchant vessels, and by the sailors of the whole of
Europe. Let there be a contrary wind ever so slight, or some requisite
repairs to the locks, and that the movement is arrested, just fancy the
impediment, without taking into account the political dangers of such an
accumulation. Moreover it is not only at Alexandria that this intolerable
inconvenience would arise; it might happen, in consequence of accidents
easily to be foreseen but impossible to be prevented, that Egypt should
see all on a sudden 8 to 10,000 foreign sailors stationed on a point of
her territory, because the forty vessels at least which traverse it every
day have been forcibly detained at some part of the passage during twenty
or five and twenty days consecutively.

To these conclusive reasons, it would not be difficult to add others; but
these must be sufficient to warn unbiassed minds against the indirect

The inconveniences, or rather the impossibilities of the indirect track,
become more striking when compared with the conditions of the direct
track and its incontestable advantages.

1st. To begin with, the direct track is only about one third the length
of the other. That would be 400 _kilometres_ long, and the direct track
is only 155, which would be reduced to 120, as will be seen. Near about
the middle of the Isthmus, the Bitter Lakes are met with, which give 18
_kilometres_ of navigation ready made, and not requiring a single turn
of the shovel, as the Viceroy’s engineers say, and 18 _kilometres_ in
addition are three parts excavated by nature itself; 120 _kilometres_
therefore remain, that is to say, 30 leagues at the most.

2nd. The direct track is the easiest. There are only two salient points
in the entire Isthmus that it is necessary to traverse by partly turning
them; one, the Serapeum, which, according to the levels checked in 1853,
is 16 _met._, 5950 high; and the other El Guisr, which is 11 _met._,
6300. With the depth of the Canal, this would make a cutting of 20 or at
most 24 _metres_ at some points. There is certainly nothing in such a
work to terrify our engineers.

3rd. The direct track is the most natural. The Isthmus is traversed
by a longitudinal depression, formed by the meeting of the two plains
descending with an imperceptible slope, the one from Egypt, the other
from the frontier hills of Asia. The Bitter Lakes, filled with the waters
of the Arabian Gulf by the action of the tides only, may easily form a
reservoir which, with a surface of 280,000,000 _square metres_ by a rise
of 2 _metres_ of moving waters, would not receive less than 560,000,000
_cubic metres_, for the service of the Canal, below the water line at the
level of the two Seas. Lake Timsah, situated at about an equal distance
from Suez and Pelusium, is like an inland port where ships can be
revictualled and repaired. Moreover, by another favour of nature, towards
Lake Timsah a second not less remarkable hollow abuts perpendicularly on
the longitudinal depression, it is that of the Wady-Tomilat (the fertile
Goshen of the Bible). This hollow still receives the overflowings of
the Nile for a great part of its length, and forms the natural track of
a communication starting from the river and joining, at the central
part of the Isthmus, the line of maritime navigation which would be
established between the Arabian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

4th. The direct track is the most useful. It serves at the same time the
interests of commerce in general and the political interests of Egypt and
the Ottoman Empire. It will require but little to maintain it, and as
there will be very few works of art, navigation will not be exposed to
those interruptions which it would have to dread on the indirect track.

To these evident advantages of the direct track, to these relative
facilities which had attracted the attention of the sovereigns of
Egypt, of Amrou and Mustapha III. for example (see Lebeau, _Histoire du
Bas-Empire_, tom. XII. p. 490, and the _Mémoires du Baron de Tott sur
les Turcs_, pts. III. and IV.), before attracting that of the nineteenth
century, there is but one objection, and it is this:—

It is impossible, they say, for large ships to approach Pelusium; and the
direct Canal is chimerical, because it cannot open into the Mediterranean.

This oft-repeated objection is but specious, and cannot stand before
an examination of the facts. The entrance to Pelusium is certainly a
difficult and costly work, but it is perfectly practicable, and engineers
have overcome very different obstacles with resources much inferior to
those now at their command.

It is well in the first place that it should be known that the level of
the two Seas, excepting the difference of the tides, which are pretty
high at the south in the Red Sea, and almost nothing at the north in
the Mediterranean, is perceptibly the same. The commission of 1799
had found for the Arabian Gulf an elevation of 9 _met._ 90; but its
labours, performed in the midst of all the dangers and disturbances
of war, had not been verified, and the genius of Laplace resting upon
accurate theoretical views, had formally denied the possibility of such
a depression within a distance of scarcely thirty leagues. Afterwards,
towards 1840, some English officers had proved by the barometer and the
boiling water process that there was no difference of level; and in
1843, Prince Metternich, having been informed of these labours, sent
instructions to Egypt to induce Mehemet Ali to interest himself in
the grand undertaking of the cutting of the Isthmus: his dispatch is
still in the Archives of the Austrian Consulate at Alexandria. In 1847
a commission of French engineers, sent out by M. Paulin Talabot under
the direction of the learned M. Bourdaloue, and assisted by Egyptian
engineers directed by M. Linant, chief engineer to the Viceroy, put
the fact beyond all question, and M. Paulin Talabot had the honour of
stating it in a memorial that has become famous. Our Academy of Sciences
bestirred itself for the honour of the ancient Egyptian commission.
M. Sabatier, Consul general of France, asked the Viceroy for a fresh
verification, which M. Linant was charged to undertake in 1853, and which
confirmed, saying an insignificant variation, the labours of 1847.

So that the considerable super-elevation of the Red Sea cannot be
reckoned on for facilitating the approaches from the Mediterranean at the
other extremity of the Canal; there is only the difference of the tides.

As a depth of 7 _met._ 50 to 8 _met._ is not found before Pelusium or
Tineh, but at a distance of 6000 _met._ into the sea, it is assumed that
it is practically impossible to prolong the jetty of the Canal to that
distance, because the waters are but _liquid mud_, and that _clouds of
earth_ would interfere with the progress of the vessels and the solidity
of the works.

This is a complete mistake.

Because Herodotus has said, that the Delta is a present from the Nile,
his inaccurate assertion has been repeated without verifying it, and his
metaphor has passed for an incontestable truth. But it is an absolute
fact, and it is only necessary to ask those who have been at Pelusium,
that the water there is as limpid as at Alexandria or Jaffa. The banks of
_travelling mud_ seen by Admiral Sir Sidney Smith have no more reality
than the _present from the Nile_, and for the twenty years that these
coasts have been traversed in every direction by steam boats, no one has
ever met again with those muddy banks. The truth is, that the waters of
the Nile, which, at the time of the inundation are distinguished for
more than ten leagues into the sea, carry far out into the Mediterranean
and deposit in its depths, the masses of earthy matter which they hold
in suspension (near 1/8000) which do not reappear on the coasts but in
imperceptible quantities; the truth is, that a handful of sand may be
taken up from the sea beach, at Pelusium, without finding the least
particle of mud. The Viceroy’s engineers have proved that the coast,
from El-Arish to Tripoli, is pure sand, and the soundings taken along
the shore give the same result. Far from the Nile forming accretions at
Pelusium, it is an axiom now admitted by science that the muddy or sandy
deposits observed at the mouths of rivers are entirely owing to matters
brought by the tide. The rivers have no part therein; and the excellent
observations made by most able hydrographers at the bay of Mount St.
Michael, at the mouths of the Scheld, the Meuse, the Rhine, the Yssel,
have superabundantly proved it. The accumulations of sand at Pelusium and
Suez, like the whole Isthmus, have been formed by the maritime deposits
of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The thorough investigation of the
motion of the waves has demonstrated that the bars of rivers are due
to the ground swell alone. The Nile, therefore, has no influence upon
the approaches to Pelusium, as Herodotus supposed, and as is still the
common opinion; and this is so true, that for 20 _kilometres_ above its
mouth there are accretions of mud, while below there is nothing but sand.
Finally the accumulations of sand are more considerable in proportion as
the waters of the river are less abundant.

Setting aside from the question the hypothetical assertions, it remains
therefore incontestable that the only difficulty at Pelusium, is the
length of the jetties in the sea. Pelusium, with its ruins, is at the
same point where Strabo saw it, where the Egyptian commission saw it,
which found the twenty stadia of the Greek geographer between the shore
and the town quite correct. But are jetties of a league and a half into
the sea possible, or are they indeed a work that cannot be executed? The
answer to this question is easy: a hundred years ago, the Hollanders,
not so rich and not so skillful as we are now, although quite as bold,
erected at the Cape, in the bay of the Lion, at a depth of 16 _met._, in
spite of the most frightful tempests, a dyke of 8000 _metres_, that is, a
work of at least four times the extent of that required for the entrance
of the Canal at Pelusium.

As for the harbour of Suez, the work there would be comparatively
trifling because it is sheltered from all the winds, excepting that from
the south-east, and ships keep the sea there very well, as is proved
by the English Magazine corvette, moored there for two years, without
sustaining any damage.

What is to be deduced from these observations?—That it is possible to
make a canal 100 _metres_ wide from Suez to Pelusium, with a draught of
water of 8 _met._, below low water in the Mediterranean, with parapets,
towing path, &c. and available for the passage of screw and paddle
frigates, and vessels of 1000 to 1500 tons burthen, and that this canal,
following the straight line between the two Seas is the only practicable
one, as it will be one of the grandest and most useful works ever
performed by man.

To conclude, this track is the only one that the prince who now rules in
Egypt will allow. Well informed himself in nautical arts and sciences,
the inheritor of the policy of Mehemet Ali, which he approves while he
practises, he has declared in dictating his own terms for the firman of
concession, that he would have the shortest and least expensive track,
and one that would be available for the largest ships. It is not in
the scheme of an inland canal that the real junction of the two Seas
consists; the indirect canal cuts through Egypt, and not the Isthmus;
its extent is not only tripled, but the cost of execution and maintenance
are enormous, and the existence of a canal constructed upon these
conditions would be always uncertain and precarious while the direct
track, which unites so many advantages, has none of these drawbacks.



[1] I think it to the purpose to insert here a letter, which I addressed
to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador, on my
leaving Constantinople:—

                                       _Pera_, 28th February, 1855.

    “There are questions which require to be boldly met in
    order to be well resolved, as there are wounds which must
    be opened in order to be healed. The frankness with which
    you received my first remarks upon a subject, the gravity
    of which I do not affect to disguise, encourages me to
    submit to your consideration a point of view from which
    it appears to me advisable to contemplate the question
    of the Isthmus of Suez. The great influence which your
    character and your long experience naturally give you the
    right to exercise in the decisions of your Government on
    all Eastern questions, makes me especially anxious to
    neglect no opportunity of enabling Your Excellency to
    form an opinion from a perfect acquaintance with the case.

    The results already obtained from the intimate alliance
    of France and England, testify sufficiently to the
    advantages that the European balance and civilization
    in general derive from that union of the two peoples.
    The future and the welfare of all the nations of the
    universe are therefore concerned in maintaining intact,
    in preserving from any attack, a state of things, which,
    to the everlasting honour of the Governments that have
    brought it about, can alone, with time, ensure the
    blessings of progress and of peace to the human race.
    Thence the necessity of getting rid, beforehand, of all
    causes of rupture, or even of coolness, between the
    two peoples; thence, consequently, the paramount duty
    of anticipating amongst future contingencies, those
    circumstances calculated to awake ancient feelings of
    antagonism, and to raise, in the bosom of either nation,
    those emotions against the violence of which, the wisdom
    of Governments is powerless to struggle. The motives for
    hostile rivalry are tending successively to give place to
    that generous emulation which gives birth to great things.

    Looking at the situation of affairs in a general way,
    it is scarcely to be perceived upon what ground and
    upon what occasion, those struggles, which so long
    desolated the world, could be renewed. Is it financial
    and commercial interests that could cause division
    between the two peoples? Why, British capital thrown
    into all the undertakings of France, and the immense
    developement of international commerce, have established
    ties between them which become closer every day. Is it
    political interests and questions of principle? Why, the
    two nations have but one common aim, one same ambition:
    the triumph of right over might, of civilization
    over barbarism. Is it, finally, a sordid jealousy of
    territorial extension? Why, they acknowledge, at the
    present time, that the globe is vast enough to offer to
    the spirit of adventure that animates their respective
    populations, countries to make available, human beings to
    withdraw from the state of barbarism; and, moreover, from
    the moment that their flags wave together, the conquests
    of the one profit by the activity of the other.

    At the first glance, then, nothing is perceived in the
    general state of affairs that could impair our cordial
    relations with England.

    If, however, we look closer, an eventuality presents
    itself which, causing the most enlightened and most
    moderate cabinets to partake in popular prejudices and
    passions, is capable of reviving old antipathies, and
    of compromising, with the alliance, the benefits to be
    derived from it.

    There is, in fact, a point of the globe with the free
    passage of which the political and commercial power of
    Great Britain is bound up, a point, the possession of
    which France had, on her part, aspired to in former
    times. This point is Egypt, the direct route from Europe
    to India, Egypt bathed once and again with French blood.

    It is superfluous to define the motives which would
    not allow England to see Egypt in the possession of a
    rival nation without opposing it by the most energetic
    resistance; but what should also be taken into serious
    consideration, is, that with less positive interests,
    France under the dominion of her glorious traditions,
    under the impression of other feelings more instinctive
    than rational, and therefore more powerful over the
    impressionable spirit of her inhabitants, would not, in
    her turn, leave to England the peaceable sovereignty of
    Egypt. It is clear that, so long as the route to India is
    open and certain, that the state of the country ensures
    the facility and promptitude of the communications,
    England will not set about creating the most grave
    difficulties by appropriating a territory which, in her
    eyes, has no other value than as a means of transit.
    It is likewise evident that France—whose policy, for
    the last fifty years, has been to contribute to the
    prosperity of Egypt, both by her counsels and by the
    concourse of a great number of Frenchmen distinguished
    in the sciences, in administrative capacity, in all the
    arts of peace or war—will not seek to realize, in this
    direction, the projects of another epoch, so long as
    England does not interfere.

    But let one of those crises occur which have so often
    shaken the East, let a circumstance arise wherein England
    should find herself under the rigorous necessity of
    taking a position in Egypt to prevent another power from
    forestalling her, and tell us then if it is possible that
    the alliance could survive the complications which such
    an event would occasion. And why should England consider
    herself obliged to become mistress of Egypt, even at
    the risk of breaking her alliance with France? For this
    single reason, that Egypt is the shortest and most direct
    route from England to her Eastern possessions; that
    this route must be constantly open to her; and that,
    in whatever concerns this mighty interest, she could
    never temporise. Thus, from the position given to her
    by nature, Egypt might still become the subject of a
    conflict between France and Great Britain; so that this
    chance of rupture would disappear if, by a providential
    event, the geographical conditions of the ancient world
    were changed, and, that the commercial route to India,
    instead of passing through the heart of Egypt, were
    removed to its confines, and, being opened to all the
    world, could never be exposed to the chance of its
    becoming the exclusive privilege of any one.

    Well! this event, which must have been the design of
    Providence, is now within the reach of man. It may be
    brought about by human skill. It is to be realized by the
    cutting of the Isthmus of Suez, an undertaking to which
    nature opposes no obstacle, and wherein English capital,
    as well as that of other countries, will certainly take

    Let the Isthmus be cut through, let the waves of the
    Mediterranean mingle with those of the Indian Ocean,
    let the Railroad be continued and completed, and Egypt,
    in acquiring an increased importance as a productive
    country, as a country of internal commerce, as a general
    storehouse and common transit, loses its dangerous
    pre-eminence as an uncertain and contested passage of

    The possession of its territory being no longer an object
    of interest to England, ceases to be a possible bone of
    contention between that power and France, the union of
    the two peoples is for the future unalterable, and the
    world is preserved from the calamities which a rupture
    between them would produce. This result affords such
    securities for the future, that it is sufficient to
    point them out, to attract to the undertaking destined
    to produce it, the sympathy and the encouragement of the
    Statesmen whose efforts are directed to the settlement
    of the Anglo-French alliance upon an immoveable basis.
    You, my Lord, are one of those Statesmen, and you have
    too large a share in questions of high policy, to which
    I am a stranger, for me not to entertain the wish to
    communicate to you my aspirations.


[2] These very sensible observations are taken from a correspondence
which appeared in the “Times” of the 13th June last.

[3] The other two were Mr. Stephenson for England, and M. Négrelli for

[4] As the work of the Viceroy’s Engineers will be published, an extract
only is here given, which will suffice to make known the importance of
their labours, and show the practical results of their investigations.

[5] Extracts from _Communications with India, China, &c. Observations on
the Practicability and Utility of opening a Communication between the Red
Sea and the Mediterranean, by a Ship Canal, through the Isthmus of Suez.
By Arthur Anderson. London, Smith, Elder & Co. Cornhill, 1843._

[6] Since writing this, an article on the “Suez Canal” has appeared in
the Foreign and Colonial Quarterly Review, which, although containing
some inaccuracies of minor importance, and professing only to take a
general view of the subject, the writer would exempt from the above

[7] Extracts from _Inquiry into the Means of establishing a Ship
Navigation between the Mediterranean and Red Seas_. _By James Vetch,
Capt. R.E., F.R.S. London, Pelham Richardson, 23, Cornhill, 1843._




[Illustration: Sketch shewing the MAHMOUDIEH CANAL, THE RIVER AND


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