Firman of Mohammed Said Pasha
Ferdinand de Lesseps, Opening of the Suez Isthmus. Report and official documents, Henri Plon, Paris, 1855.


Having had the advantages for Egypt of linking the Mediterranean and Red Seas by a shipping route for large vessels drawn to our attention by our friend M. Ferdinand de Lesseps, who also brought to our notice the possibility of forming a company of investors from every nation to this effect, we have considered the plans which he has presented to us and have granted to him by these presents sole powers to form and manage a universal company for the opening of the Suez isthmus and the running of a canal linking the two seas, with the option of undertaking or commissioning to be undertaken all construction and other work, with the proviso from the company that he pay in advance any compensation to the individuals concerned in the case of compulsory purchase for the public good. All this in accordance with the restrictions and conditions set out in the clauses below:


    M. Ferdinand de Lesseps will form a company, which he is authorized by us to manage, under the name of the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal, for the opening of the Suez isthmus, the running of a route specifically for large ships, the creation or adaptation of two adequate entry points, one on the Mediterranean Sea and the other on the Red Sea, and the setting up of one or two ports.


    The director of the Company will always be appointed by the Egyptian government and elected, as far as possible, by the Company's major share-holders.


    The duration of this concession is ninety nine years, from the day that the canal between the two seas is opened.


    Construction will be carried out entirely at the expense of the Company, to which all the necessary land which is not privately owned will be handed over free of charge. Any fortifications which the government sees fit to build in connection with this project will not be charged to the Company.


    The Company will make an annual payment to the Egyptian government of fifteen percent of the net profits appearing on the Firm's balance sheet, without prejudicing the interest and dividends generated by the shares, which it reserves the right to take into its charge when they are issued, without any guarantee on its part concerning the execution of the project or the running of the Company. The rest of the profits will be shared as follows:

    75 % to the Company,

    10 % to the founding members.


    The fees payable for passing through the Suez Canal, agreed between the Company and the Viceroy of Egypt and levied by Company agents, are to be equal for all countries, with no special concessions being stipulated to the benefit of any one country.


    In the case where the Company should judge it necessary to connect the Nile to the passage through the isthmus by a navigable route, or where the shipping canal should follow an indirect path watered by the Nile, the Egyptian government would hand over to the Company state-owned lands which are at present uncultivated, so that these could be irrigated and cultivated by the Company or at its expense.

    The Company will be in possession of these lands, tax-free, for ten years from the day that the canal is opened; - for the remaining 89 years of the concession, it will pay tithe to the Egyptian government; after which, it will no longer be in possession of the above lands unless it pays the afore-mentioned government a tax equal to that levied on lands of a similar type.


    To avoid any difficulty concerning the lands to be handed over to the concessionary Company, a plan drawn up by M. Linant-Bey, our engineering representative with the Company, will indicate the lands covered by this settlement, both for the channel and other constructions to do with the shipping canal and the feeder canal from the Nile, as well as for areas under cultivation, in line with the specifications laid down in clause 7.

    It is furthermore understood that any speculation on the state-owned lands to be handed over is prohibited from this moment, and that for lands previously owned by individuals, which their owners should at a later date wish to irrigate using water from the feeder canal built and paid for by the Company, a fee of ... per feddan under cultivation should be payable (an Egyptian feddan is approximately half a hectare, or one and a quarter acres) (or a fee agreed upon amicably between the Egyptian government and the Company).


    Finally, the Company is granted the right to extract free of charge from state-owned mines and quarries all the necessary materials for the building of the canal and related constructions, also to import duty-free any machinery and materials from abroad for the operation of its concession.


    On expiry of the concession, the Egyptian government will take the place of the Company, assuming possession unreservedly of all rights to and becoming the owner of the Suez Canal and all operations associated with it. The compensation payable to the Company for the loss of its equipment and personal effects will be decided by amicable agreement or by arbitration.


    The Company statutes will be submitted to us at a later date by the director of the Company and must win our approval. Any subsequent modifications must previously have been given our sanction. The afore-mentioned statutes should give the names of the founders, and we reserve the right to authorize this list, which will include the names of those who will have contributed initially to the implementation of the great Suez Canal project through their work, research, financial backing or other efforts.


    Lastly, we pledge our loyal and willing cooperation and that of all Egyptian officials in support of the profitable exercising of the present rights.

    Cairo, 30 November 1854.

    To my loyal friend, of noble birth and high rank,

    M. Ferdinand de Lesseps.

    Since the concession granted to the Universal Company of the Suez Canal must be ratified by His Imperial Majesty the Sultan, I am sending you this copy to be kept in your possession. Work on drilling the Suez Canal will not be started until Turkey has given its authorization.

3 Ramadan 1271.

O. Seal of the Viceroy.

Translation from Turkish text, (into French, ntr.)
Secrétaire des commandements (Secretary-in-chief) of
His Highness the Viceroy,