« PreviousContinue »
province by the Sublime Porte, had an unquestionable right to decide what places it was proper for vessels to anchor in. That, if under present circumstances, and when he was on the point of attacking Mohammerah, the English vessel was in the way, he had only to write to the commander, desiring him to leave the place, and the order would be obeyed. Lastly, that having myself been a witness of all the intrigues which had been set on foot to establish British authority in that part of the sultan's dominions, I had long ago advised the Governor of Bassora to act upon these principles, and to prohibit the English from visiting Mohammerah.
** The Turks have no notion of the law of nations, and those present inferred, from my observations, that all foreign vessels which entered the Euphrates were under the pasha's orders. At any rate, my friend, Captain Sharp, who commanded the vessel in question, was requested shortly afterwards to retire from before Mohammerah ; enraged, no doubt, at being deprived of the power of interfering, he set sail and left for good, to the infinite satisfaction of the pasha.”
It is necessary to observe that I cannot vouch for the truth of the above statements, as they occurred in connexion with a ship with which we had no relations; but I can aver that the intrigues set on foot to establish British authority in that part of the Sultan's dominions, and which the French consul asserts himself to have been a witness of, had no other foundation than the visit previously described which was made to the Sheikh of the Ch'abs, and the ascent of the Eulous or Pasitigris, viewed in the contorted light of inter-national prejudices and jealousies.
In the meantime the Pasha had sent on emissaries to Mohammerah, and various intrigues were set on foot according to the invariable oriental practice to procure submission without bloodshed. One of the first persons won over was Ahmed Sheikh of the Haiyadar, at that time residing at Mohammerah, and to whom the government of the place under the Turks was promised. The next, and most important adhesion obtained, and which was the result of personal rivalry, was that of Abd-al-Riza, Sheikh of the Bawi tribe, who occupy the right and left banks of the Eulous, above and below Ismailiyah. There only remained true to Sheikh Thamar, Sheikh Karayid, who lived in southern Mohammerah, with about a dozen followers, and Haji Jabar, Sheikh of the Mohaisen, who dwelt a little above Mohammerah.
When the pasha had fully satisfied himself that there would be no opposition, he advanced boldly to the siege. A few guns were fired to announce the approach of the army, and the unfortunate little port was given up to plunder and devastation. “It is utterly impossible," says the French consul, who triumphantly records the results of his policy, “to exaggerate the pillage, for every thing in the place was seized by the soldiery, who carried off even the women and Children ; when the place was completely stripped, the pasha and his troops gratified themselves by burning it."
As the inhabitants had not offered the slightest opposition to the Turks, they were so little in expectation of being treated like people who had held out in the most contumacious manner possible, that an unfortunate tailor, who was probably in total ignorance even of the capture of the place, having been found busily plying his needle, was seized, and dragged before the pasha, to be punished for his simplicity.
“ The scoundrel 1” exclaimed his captors, as they led him into the presence of the bloated satrap, “while the wuzir gives himself the trouble and the fatigue of coming all the way from Baghdad, to besiege and take the town, he has been sitting and sewing away as if nothing had happened !"
The pasha, in his leniency, was content with ordering the pacific artist to undergo the bastinado. The crowd considered that he had forfeited his head.
The first intelligence that arrived at Bassora of the pillage of Mohammerah was carried thither by those who had made the most booty. Numbers of soldiers (such is the discipline of the Turkish army) came straggling into the town, and were to be seen offering for sale stuffs and copper utensils, which they had secured. The French consul relates that a soldier belonging to the regular troops had made a very rich capture ; he had possessed himself of a quantity of pearls, and sought refuge with his plunder at the consulate. It appears that he did not estimate the integrity of this high official at a higher figure than that of his countrymen. With the victors arrived also great numbers of the victims of the catastrophe. Among others there was an officer, who had taken possession of the wife and daughter of a Persian; and as the latter was anxious to ransom them, he went about among his countrymen and others to raise the money. The officer accompanied him in these visits, but all endeavours to move him to compassion or to moderate his demand were fruitless. He asked about 201., and when any one remonstrated with him, he maintained that the price was low ; he extolled the beauty and the amiable dispositions of both mother and daughter, enlarged upon their personal charms, and appealed, with cruel simplicity, to the Persian's own testimony.
In the meantime, Sheikhs Jabar and Karayid had fled to Fellahiyah, where Sheikh Thamar, finding himself so shamefully abandoned by Abd-al-Riza and Ahmed, was making applications for assistance at the same time to the Persians, and to the Bakhtiyari chieftain, Mohammed Taki Khan.
The shah having received very exaggerated accounts of the wealth possessed by the latter powerful chieftain, the motamidu-a-daulet, or confidential minister, the second functionary at the Persian court, and said to be a man of genius, had been some time in Susiana, engaged in suppressing the power of a chieftain, who is described as having done much to improve the condition of the people under his rule, and the only excuse made for despoiling whom, was that he had carried on correspondence with the exiled princes who formerly visited England.
The motamid accordingly despatched an emissary at once to Mohammerah, to remonstrate with the pasha upon the impropriety and injustice of his proceedings. This remonstrance appears to have had some effect, for the pasha withdrew without venturing to pursue the runaway sheikhs any further, or coming to any understanding or permanent arrangement with the chief of the Cha'bs. The French consul relates that another ambassador was sent at a subsequent period by the motamid, with great pomp to Baghdad, but that, instead of meeting with the reception due to the ambassador of a foreign power, he was treated with marked indignity and beaten! If this is true, of which there is not the least likelihood, such an occurrence must have imparted an amusing colouring to the disquisitions of the long sitting commission at Erzrum.
Sheikh Thamar having been thus enabled to hold his ground, the Turks had no sooner withdrawn than Mohammerah was re-established upon its old footing, and its mansions of mud and warehouses of date-tree fronds, being things of easy re-construction, rose from their ashes, like the palm-trees that, burnt down to the root, spring up fairer than ever; this being the reason why they received from the Phoenicians the same name as that bird of rare traditional appearance which is supposed to allegorise the philosophy of comets.
Mr. Layard informs me, that Mohainmed Taki Khan sent a body of Bakhtiyari horse, under the command of his nephew, Aga Arslan, and with their assistance Thamar turned out the sheikh that had been set up by Ali Pasha, while the chief of the Bawis was, after the lapse of a short time, by some pretence or other, induced to visit the Sheikh of the Ch’abs at Fellahiyah. The occasion was taken to shoot him, as well as one of his principal supporters, at a public entertainment, while drinking the coffee which had just been presented to him. This sad event occurred in the principal room of that great edifice consecrated to hospitality, which has been previously described. Sheikh Akil, or Ajil, was appointed at the head of the tribe, in the place of the judicially murdered chieftain, and Sheikh Thamar found himself once more as strong in his small dominions as he ever had been.
This happy state of independence was, however, but of short duration. To play one power against another,--a common feature of Oriental policy, Sheikh Thamar had, while labouring under the panic of a Turkish invasion, made concessions to the Persians, to obtain their aid, of which the black caps were not slow in availing themselves. They had, indeed, at the time of the advance of Ali Pasha abetted the proffered aid of the powerful Bakhtiyari chieftain, Mohammed Taki Khan, which Sheikh Thamar had only been induced to forego, from a feeling that such an alliance was as dangerous as the overt hostilities of the red caps. We have seen that
upon the destruction of the port of Mohammerah, the Persians, also, took occasion to remonstrate upon what they considered to be an infringement of their rights, in an invasion of the Ch’ab territory. When, however, Sheikh Thamar found himself as safely re-established in the
possession of his little port as ever, and he had brought the Bawis into subjection, and appointed over them one whom he deemed to be a trustworthy servant, he forgot the proffers of allegiance made in the hour of danger, and treated the Persians as if their claims were precisely upon a par with those of the Turks. Thus, when Mohammed Taki Khan was obliged to fly before the Persians, Sheikh Thamar did not hesitate to offer an asylum to one who had been a friend to him in time of trouble.
The consequence was, that the motamid became as much interested in suppressing the power of Sheikh Thamar, as he was that of Mohammed Taki Khan. Both were, indeed, placed in the same position of having by a more enlightened and more temperate government than is usually exercised in those countries, and a real desire to benefit their people, succeeded in rendering their territories comparatively prosperous, and were approaching a state too independent for the purposes of the Persian court. An intrigue was accordingly set on foot, which presented a remarkable similarity to that pursued by the Turkish pasha.
The newly-appointed Sheikh of the Bawis was seduced from his allegiance by large promises, never intended to be fulfilled; and the tribe of
Sherifat under Sheikh Madkur, living upon the Hindiyan and in the Zeitun hills, and hence always uncertain in their allegiance, were also easily induced to side with the stronger party. The Persians were thus enabled to march against the unfortunate Sheikh of the Ch'abs with a reinforcement of 2000 foot and 700 horse of the Sherifat, and 1000. mounted Bawis. Thus was poor Sheikh Thamar, simply because he was not strong enough to fight against Turk or Persian, alternately invaded in his territories by each.
Mr. Layard, who happened to be at this very time at Fellahiyah, describes Sheikh Thamar as having collected to oppose this force about 7000 men, of whom 3000 were well armed with muskets and matchlocks, 1000 were horsemen, and 3000 indifferently armed with spears, swords, &c. The sheikh had also three small guns, which Layard says were better mounted than those he had seen in the Persian service, and which were worked by forty Persians, who had been drilled by a fugitive artilleryman from Tehran.
The Persians advanced along the banks of the Hedyphon, from the plain of Ram Hormuz, and first encamped above the village of Kareibah. They thence advanced to the canal previously described as the Ommu-lsakhar, and being detained there in constructing a bridge, they were attacked during the night by the Ch’ab Arabs, and so roughly treated that, although not actually driven off the field, they made no further advance, but hastened to retire ; deeming it probably impossible to capture the city from that quarter. Subsequently, a plan was formed, at the suggestion of the Bawis and of the old Wali of Arabistan, of floating the troops down the river Karun to Mohammerah, and of advancing on Fellahiyah from that point.
This plan was put into execution in the autumn of the same year (1841) when the Motamid, after assembling his troops at Shuster and Disful, floated them down the rivers to Band-i-Kir and thence by the Karun to Ahwaz, where they were joined by the disaffected tribe of the Bawis. Thus reinforced, the Persians advanced upon Mohammerah, which offered no greater resistance to the Persian forces than it had previously done to the troops of the sultan, who, however, had taken good care to leave very little in the shape of plunder for the invaders that followed in their track.
Mohammerah having thus successfully passed from Arab to Turkish, and then into Persian subjection, the Tajiks advanced by the Dorak canal upon Fellahiyah. Sheikh Thamar, who had been enabled however, with his small body of followers, to oppose a successful resistance to the Persians when, aided by the defences of his numerous artificial canals, felt that he was too vulnerable when attacked from the quarter of Mohammerah to offer any effectual resistance, added to which, he found to his infinite mortification, that his own people were beginning to flag in their allegiance at such a trying conjuncture. Nothing remained for him then but flight, and he hastened to convey his wives and family, and whatever property was available, on board_a bagalah, in which he set sail for Koweit on the Persian Gulf. The Persians were thus enabled to take possession of Fellahiyah without bloodshed, and Sheikh Fars was nominated chief of the Ch'ab Arabs in place of Sheikh Thamar, and as a vassal to Persia.
The Turks were not, however, prepared to give their consent to an arrangement so peremptorily enforced by the Motamid, and the Sublime Porte protested energetically the rights which, territorially speaking, they held upon the basin of the Euphrates, and which the canal of Haffar, being an artificial cut from the Eulæus to the Euphrates, included Mohammerah. The question got mixed up at the same time with other disputed boundaries, more especially those of the Pashaliks of Erzrum and of Suleimaniyah in Kurdistan, and a mixed political commission composed of Turkish, Persian, Russian, and English commissioners, was appointed to sit and investigate these delicate matters at Erzrum. Sheikh Thamar was called before this commission to give evidence, and was afterwards sent back to Bassora, where Mr. Layard informs me that he has an impression that he died shortly afterwards. The commission, after a very prolonged inquiry and discussion, have drawn up a treaty, which has received the approbation of the shah, and I believe only awaits that of the sultan to be carried into effect.
THE ROYAL VICTIM-BRIDE.
BY THOMAS ROSCOE, ESQ. Why beam no more on Spain's famed land the hopes once glowing bright? Why hushi'd the soul of music's swell,-young steps all bounding light ? Eyes flashing joy to ves that spake, -fond childhood's heart-glad tide Of bliss too brief-Love's thrilling throbs in breasts that never sigh'd ? Swift, joyous as soft glancing fawns, or fairies' feet, they flew Through the wild maze, and rapturous peals from proud spectators drewThe people of the brave free land, who on that bright young brow Saw Isabel's saint's diadem wreath'd with the Cid's sword-vow. Her glorious morn dawn'd full and fair o'er Spain's re-waken'd fame, And every free hearth's worshipper hail'd glad the patriot flame, And Victory's hero fann'd the fire,-proud guardian of her crown, And manliest monarch-chiefs aspired to share that maiden's throne. At midnight, hark! what cries are those that startle through the gloom, And ring 'mid those proud palace halls as 't were the knell of doom ? Whose traitor-swords, war's stormiest breath, appal Spain's young loved queen With dread and darker revelry, and other sights, I ween! And woman's shrieks mid clash of arms-wild cries for one loved name; And borne on ducal Victory's wings that pray'd-for succour came: But ah ! what boots all guardian care 'gainst foul assassin artsHis queen and country's saviour, twice, sad exile soon departs. Deep clouds shroud Spain's young glory--the queen of all the land;— The muttering thunders gather at the black magician's wand !Enchain'd her hero spirit-entranced her beauty's power, And who may tell what dark spells wrought in that unholy hour ? She woke from out that demon-trance--She woke a victim-bride, The splendour of her bright reign gone-no consort at her sideThe honour of the land of Cids stain’d with a stain so deep Not Ebro can wash out, nor find her tears enough to weep. Then ask not from those palace-halls why music's mirth has fled ; Nor why that bright, once happy one now droops her royal head ?No guardian spirit flew to save, ere that dread sorcerer's spell Pass' o'er her, and her life's young bloom, --love's-glory's sceptre fell.