Page images
PDF
EPUB

the truth. Convinced that the subject is one that can be made of great importance to the commercial interests of the country, we propose to throw out, in a concise and cursory way, a few observations and reflections upon the trading resources and facilities of Morocco, and to offer some suggestions for the improvement of the trade between the two countries. In order to a proper understanding of the latter part of the subject, it will be necessary to make some remarks upon those circumstances that exert an immediate controlling effect upon commerce; such as the nature of the government, character of the people, &c.; and a full comprehension of our observations will be much facilitated by a reference to the following sketch of the coast, which we have thought it useful to subjoin :

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]

3

The government of Morocco is generally supposed to be an unlimited despotism. This is not exactly true. The power of the emporor is limited in many particulars, and by a great many circumstances, and is very different in different parts of the empire. In some provinces his authority is readily acknowledged and obeyed ; in others only a nominal obedience is rendered ; while in others, in the very heart of the country, he has not the slightest influence, and even his name is hardly known.

All along the Atlantic coast, from the straits of Gibraltar to Mogadore, his authority is well established. In the rich and populous district of Suse, he has not much more than a nominal sovereignty; and among the Berebber tribes of Mount Atlas, and in a large district situated directly between his two principal cities, Fas and Morocco, his power is held in the most perfect contempt. He is also controlled by public opinion, and the religious pres judices of his people, which the most daring despot is forced to respect. Certain local customs and privileges also very much modify his power, in places where it is best established. In some parts, for instance, he can permit the exportation of cattle and grain ; in others, it would so offend the prejudices of the inhabitants, that he would not dare attempt it. From the town of Rabat it would be almost impossible to export sheep or cattle, which can be readily taken from Cassa Blanca and Mazagan to the south, or from Tangier to the north. The despotism which reigns in Morocco, although not perfectly unlimited, is, however, exceedingly simple in its form, and for that reason offers fewer impediments to the progress of civil. ization, than would arise from a system of tyranny with a more complex organization. If the emperor should choose to take any steps for the im-provement of his people, he would meet but little of that kind of opposition which has so long thwarted the efforts of the Ottoman emperors. His. authority is not shared with a mufti, or a religious body, like the Ulema; and he would not be interrupted by the insolent pretensions of a privileged class of nobles and soldiery. May it not be hoped that an emperor will soon arise, who will take advantage of the favorable circumstances of his situation, and exercise his power for the redemption of a country which may otherwise, in a comparatively short space of time, stand an isolated monument of Mohammedan barbarism ? The present emperor, Muley Abdrahaman, cannot be expected to do much good; but he has the very considerable honor, for an emperor of Morocco, of not doing much harm: and it will be something for his reign that he has not impeded, by any active exertions, like his immediate predecessor, Muley Suleiman, the im. proving influence of a commerce, however feeble and miserably conducted. His eldest son, who has already been admitted to the honor of the um. brella, the exclusive privilege of imperial power, is supposed to have a comparatively enlarged mind. He is about twenty-five years of age; resides in vice-regal style in the old king.making city of Fas; and, al. though the succession is generally very uncertain, will most probably, without difficulty, step into his father's place.

The population of Morocco, according to Count Graberg de Hempso,*

* Cavalier Count James Graberg de Hemso, author of Speechio Geografico e Statis. tico dell'Impero di Morocco, written in Italian, and published at Genoa. The count is a Swede, and formerly resided at Tangier, as chargé d'affaires of Sweden, and diplo. matic agent for Sardinia. In 1822, he was unceremoniously ejected from the country by the then emperor, Muley Suleiman. It had been represented to the emperor, that the

and other authors, cunsists of four distinct races, viz: Amazirgs, Moors, Arabs, and Jews. The Amazirgs, or Mazirgs, M. de Hemso observes, are the direct descendants of the most ancient inhabitants, not only of Maghrib el Acsa, but even of all Northern Africa, from the banks of the Nile. A writer, however, in the London Quarterly, questions whether they ever occupied this extent of territory. The Amazing tribes extended from th Atlantic ocean to Sewah, or the oasis of Jupiter Ammon; but of their permanent residence eastward of this or on the Nile, (the irruptions of predatory tribes being left out of consideration, there is no historical evi. dence. They were also the original inhabitants of the Canary islands, and furnished the mummies which have frequently been found in the caves of Teneriffe. It is by them also that the great desert of Sahara is peopled. The chief Amazirg tribes now dwelling in Morocco, are the Berebbers and Shelluhs; the former occupying the hills in the northern part, and extending eastward towards Algiers; the latter spreading from the neighborhood of Mequinez. It has been a subject of much dispute whether there is any radical difference in the language of these two tribes. Mr. Jackson maintains that they are perfectly distinct. M. de Hemso, on the other hand, asserts their close resemblance. He says:

He says: “A Spanish priest in Tangier who, in his various journeys through Maghrib el Acsa, had often spent the night among the Shellubs of Beni Hassan and Temsna, and who had also had much intercourse with the Berebbers, with whose language he was tolerably well acquainted, assured me, that between these two dialects there is at least as much resemblance as between English and Low Dutch. With respect to the characters of the two tribes, he used to say that the Shelluhs appeared to him to be the French of Maghrib, and the Berebbers the Belgians.” The question of language is, however, unimportant to our present purpose, and we must leave the Maroqueen philologists to settle the question among themselves.

The next to the Amazirgs, in point of numbers, are the Moors. It is generally conceded that they are the descendants of the Moors who were driven out of Spain after the conquest of Granada. They are by far the most interesting class, in a commercial view. They are much the largest proportion of the population of the cities and seaports. They hold all the offices, and it is with them that the merchant comes directly in contact. A knowledge of their character is, therefore, essential for any one having dealings with them; a knowledge which, in some instances, has been pretty dearly bought. M. de Hemso draws a pretty highly-colored, but tolerably correct picture of them. He says: " I who, during a period of twelve years, have lived among and dealt with Moors, of various districts, and who have studied with attention their character and dispositions, cani conscientiously assert, that their character is made up of every thing that count had, in some European publication, spoken disparagingly of his government; in addition to which the count had the audacity to ask payment for twenty gans, which, at the emperor's order, he had procured from Sweden. A party of soldiers made their appearance at the Swedish consulate just at dark, and, without allowing the count a single moment for any kind of preparation, hurried him down to the water-port, and despatch. ed him in a boat for Gibraltar. The count and his nation were compelled to pocket the affront. This anecdote illustrates the improvement which has within a few years taken place in the diplomatic intercourse of the country. An emperor of Morocco would not now dare to think of committing such an outrage.

is meanest and vilest in the heart of man. They are now, and will be for ages to come, exactly the same barbarians they were in the days of Sal. Just and Procopius : that is to say, they are fickle, perfidious, cruel, and incapable of being restrained either by fear or kindness. Even their countenance has in it something sinister and revolting, which cannot be contemplated without an involuntary shudder.” This is certainly not very flattering ; but it is impossible to deny that it is pretty nearly true. The worthy count has, perhaps, laid on the color a little too thick in some places; but then he had had twelve years experience, ending in a gross outrage, and a regular swindle of twenty pieces of cannon by the imperial Diddler, and a little exaggeration can be readily pardoned. He ought not, however, to have been quite so indiscriminate in his denunciations. The truth is, that the varieties in the character of the people, in the different districts into which the country is divided, is one of the most important elements in the calculation of the prospects of mercantile success an element which has hitherto been entirely overlooked in the general and sweeping abuse of common superficial observers. True it is, that as a nation, the Moors are the most perfectly demoralized people upon the face of the globe, with the exception, perhaps, of their brethren in the other Barbary stales. The most atrocious and disgusting vices are the common practice; and their utter contempt of truth, and of the commonest principles of honesty, has been and is the theme of all who have come in contact with them. But it must be observed, that there are different degrees of depravity in different districts, and that a thorough knowledge of these, and of the local characteristics of particular towns or provinces, will very much qualify our notions upon the subject. Take, by way of illustration, the town of Rabat. This city is situated on the Atlantic coast, between Cape Spartel and Mogadore, at the mouth of the river Bure-greb. It is directly opposite the town of Salle, once so celebrated for its corsairs, but which has now fallen into decay, partly from the suppression of its piratical trade, partly from the filling up of its side of the harbor with sand, brought down and deposited by the river, and partly from the superior activity and enterprise of its rival, Rabat. Salle, half in ruins, is now scantily inhabited by a miserable, Christian-hating, bigoted population. It is impossible for a Christian to set foot within the town, even under the protection of Moorish guards; and the traveller arriving by land, is compelled to make a detour round the walls to reach the ferry, from fear of being stoned ; and even then he will be fortunate if he escapes insult from the Salle vagabonds surrounding the boats on the beach. On crossing the river, a distance of less than a quarter of a mile, the change is found to be very great. Rabat is a large and flourishing town, of about twentyfive thousand inhabitants. The native bigotry and ferocity of the people have beenqualified by the residence among them of a number of Moorish merchants, who are in the habit of making frequent expeditions to Gibraltar, Marseilles, Genoa, and Leghorn, and who, by their intercourse with Europeans, have become disabused of some of their prejudices, accustomed to the sight of Christians, and polished into a toleration of the refinements and habits of civilized life. Rabat has also some political privileges peculiar to itself, the remains of the customs and laws by which it was governed two or three centuries since, when it existed as a kind of republic, varying its degree of independence from time to time, as it was more or less able to resist the encroachments of the kings of Fas or Morocco.

There exists a peculiar institution, or society, in this city, which we believe has never yet been noticed by any writer. It is called the Itarbane, or the Forty. This society, although called the Forty, numbers several hundred. Its object is, in case of the emperor's death, or any political convulsion, to enforce the laws, to protect the persons and property of the Jews, and to prevent those excesses which, upon such occasions, are always commitied in other cities. Should there occur any political difficulties, the Itarbane take possession of the city, place sentinels in all the streets, prevent the assembling of mobs, and punish, with the severest penalties, any infraction of their regulations. Owing to this custom, EI Millah, or that quarter of the city devoted to the Jews, has never been pillageda thing that cannot be said of any other city in the country. Alt the members of this Itarbane are highly respected and respectable, and the meanest of them are treated by the bashaw and his officers with the highest consideration. Property in Rabat is probably as safe as in any city of Europe. How erroneous is it then, to include in one sweeping denunciation, towns and provinces which differ so much from each other in social and political characteristics—or to consider as universal many of the obstacles to commercial enterprise which are, in a great measure, dependent upon local circumstances !

« In addition to these two classes of inhabitants, there are quite a number of Arabs, chiefly Bedwins, who inhabit the sun-burnt plains of Maghrib. They live in low, black tents, generally grouped together into a small village, or douah, of three or four hundred inhabitants. They raise a little grain, but their chief dependence is upon their flocks. When the land is exhausted in one place, they readily strike their tents and seek a new place to en-. camp; and, in the course of their wanderings, undergo hardly any change either in manners or language." It is from them that some of the principal articles of trade, as wool, wax, and sheep-skins, are obtained.

The Jews are the next most numerous class. They are chiefly the de. scendants of those who were driven out of Spain. Although kept in the most degrading subjection to the Moors, the greater part of the trade of the country is in their hands ; from which, however, owing to the exactions of the government, very few amass any wealth. The Jews who dwelt among the Berebbers of Mount Atlas, and who are supposed to have been established in the country from remote antiquity, enjoy a comparatively happy lot. They are generally agriculturists, and live in freedom and comfort. The following is M. de Hemso's summary of the whole population : Berebbers,

2,300,000
Amazirgs,
Shellubs,

1,450,000
Moors, Ludaya, Arabs, &c.,

3,550,000 Bedwin, and other pure Arabs,

740,000 !

339,500 Negroes,

120,000 Christians,

300 Renegades,

200 Total,

8,500,000 This estimate is undoubtedly exaggerated. A writer in the London Quarterly thinks, and probably with justice, that Balbi's estimate of six

Jews,

.

[ocr errors]

.

.

« PreviousContinue »