Travels through the Empire of Morocco Part 3

In order to have a full view of this Moorish Esculapius, I approached as closely as the mult.i.tude collected round him would allow. He was attended by a negro slave, and two disciples. Ere long, four Moors brought a poor emaciated wretch, to obtain advice and relief from this redoubtable doctor. The unfortunate man was unable, from his reduced state, to stand. Having examined the eyes, tongue, and face of his patient, he made a solemn pause, and appeared to deliberate very profoundly, at length, he decided upon blood-letting _ad deliquium_, and immediately took from his patient eighteen ounces of blood; nor would he, in all probability, have stopped there, had the strength of the poor man allowed him to continue; but having brought on a _syncope_, he was obliged to desist. The arm was tied up with a handkerchief; the doctor received his fee from one of his patient's relatives; and the patient was left entirely to the efforts of nature in his favour. For humanity's sake, I afforded him every a.s.sistance in my power, and, after much difficulty, succeeded in restoring him to his senses; but he was so weakened by the absurd treatment he had experienced, as to have no chance of surviving the day. As the mult.i.tude firmly believed him to be quite dead, this apparent resuscitation astonished the people beyond measure; and from this circ.u.mstance supplies of every kind of provision were poured in on me, from all quarters.

Soon after the above scene, a young woman presented herself, afflicted with a violent tooth-ache. The doctor, after his usual deliberation, resolved to extract the dolent tooth; and taking a string from his box, he fastened it round the tooth, and by a sudden jerk (which, from its force, I expected would have brought away jaw and all), he drew it out. The poor girl bore the operation with exemplary patience and fort.i.tude; and having satisfied the sapient doctor, she retired.

Whilst I was thus occupied in observing the wonderful proceedings of this singular pract.i.tioner, an uproar in another part of the fair attracted my notice. Curiosity prompted me to inquire into its cause, and I found it was occasioned by a wild mountaineer, who had been detected in the act of stealing a Moorish garment. He was seized, and taken before the Cadi, who ordered him the bastinado immediately; which was inflicted with such severity, that I could not forbear interceding for the fellow. The Cadi kindly remitted part of the punishment, and the culprit was set at liberty.

Finding nothing else likely to compensate my longer stay, I summoned my suite, and proceeded on my journey, reflecting on the mutability of all earthly prosperity, which was so strongly exemplified in the history of the Moorish nation. The scene I had just left, argued such a small remove from absolute barbarism, that, more than once, I could not avoid exclaiming: "Are these the descendants of those people, who, for so many centuries, gave laws to the greater part of Spain, and subjected whole provinces to their dominion? But those times are past, and, 'like the baseless fabric of a vision,' left 'not a wreck behind'."

After a journey of six days (which might have been performed in three, but for the delays I have spoken of), we arrived here. His Excellency the Governor, and his suite, came out to meet me. He embraced me very cordially, and conducted me to the castle, where I was served with a sumptuous collation. The Governor being in hourly expectation of the orders of his Sovereign to repair to court, has his route made out, and has requested me to keep myself in readiness to depart at an hour's notice.

I have received several letters by express, from, our Consul-general, complaining of Governor _Ash-Ash_, who has refused granting the regular supplies to our fleet, and the garrison of Gibraltar. From the character I have given you of this man, in a former letter, you will feel less astonished, when I inform you of his shameful conduct. His rapacity and avarice are unbounded. He refuses the regular supplies, insisting upon an additional duty being paid, besides the enormous one already imposed, on articles furnished to the English, contrary to the tariff established by treaty. Accordingly, I laid the following copy of the original tariff before His Excellency, and subjoined the imposition of Ash-Ash. _Order to be observed by the British Vice-consuls, at Tetuan and Tangiers, respecting the English._

DUTY.

Spanish Dollars Cows, calves, and oxen, whether stall-fed or not, per head 5 now 25

Cobs. Cobs.

Sheep and goats, per ditto 2 -- 7 Fowls, per dozen 1 -- 6 Lemons and oranges, per thousand 1 -- 5 Eggs, Per ditto 1 -- 5 Dates, per quintal 4 -- 8 Orange-trees, each 1 -- 2 Figs, raisins, almonds, nuts, rhubarb, oil, honey, soap, olives, and red pepper, per quintal 2 -- 12 Wheat, barley, oats, rice, and bean, per measure 1 -- 6 Straw, by the nett 1/4 -- 1 Pomegranates, amber-wood, %c., per quintal 1 -- 4 Bees-wax and candles, per ditto 14 -- 26 Ostrich feathers, per lb. 2 -- 16 Ivory, copper, sandrach, chohob, and gum arabic, per quintal 5 -- 15 Indigo, per ditto 1 -- 10 Goat skins, per quintal 4 -- 8 Beef ditto, per ditto 3 -- 6 Lion and tiger ditto, each 4 -- 12 Common tanned leather,per quintal 1 -- 5 Morocco ditto free -- 5 Wool and hemp, per quintal 3 -- 6 All shoes and slippers,per hundred pair 4 -- 10 Moorish caps, per ditto 4 -- 10 Mats, each 1 -- 5 Mules, ditto 10 -- 50 a.s.ses, ditto 5 -- 10 Silk alhaiks, ditto 2 -- 5 Haiks of other kinds, ditto 1 -- 3

This is a correct translation of the agreement, and tariff, settled eleven years ago, between the present Emperor Muley Solyman, and the late Consul-general Mr. Matra. Having laid this before His Excellency, I was so fortunate as to prevail on him to request the Emperor to renew it, and to grant an increase of fresh provisions, during the war, to the fleet off Cadiz, and to the garrison of Gibraltar.

It is impossible to doubt for a moment, at at whose instigation it was that Ash-Ash behaved in this infamous manner. It is certainly the interest of the French nation to prevent, if possible, our receiving supplies from Barbary; consequently we cannot wonder that every means should be employed to accomplish this end, and Ash-Ash is certainly the fittest instrument, from his hatred to the English: fortunately, however, he is not a free agent. My friend, and the friend of the English, the good Governor of this place, referred the whole to the Emperor, who has very satisfactorily adjusted every thing to our advantage, and the mortification of the French Consul, and his tool.

At the same time that His Excellency received the answer from the Emperor to the above-mentioned application, a letter arrived, requiring his immediate attendance at Fez; from which place you shall again hear from me.

LETTER X.

_Depart from Larache with a little Army--Moorish military Salute--Numerous Villages--Customary Procession of the Inhabitants--Judicial Arrangements--River Beth resembles the Po--Herds of Camels--Arrive at Mequinez--French Falsehood again put down--Excellent Road from Mequinez--Fertility and Luxuriance of the adjacent Country--Procession to the Sanctuary of Sidy Edris--Multiplicity of Saints--Ceremony demonstrative of the Emperor's Favour--Take possession of my new Residence._

Fez, ---- 1806.

In consequence of the dispatches received from the Emperor, we left Larache the same day. The Governor commands a territory of two hundred English miles. He put himself at the head of his troops, which amounted to six thousand cavalry, divided into squadrons, distinguished by their respective standards. There were in his train, besides, a prodigious number of mules, some carrying field equipage and provisions, others the treasures, consisting of the collected taxes, and presents for the Emperor.

This little army moved on in tolerably good order and discipline. It was preceded by an officer at the head of a small corps, doing the duty of a Quarter-master-general. We were met on our way by several officers, with small detachments of soldiers, under the government of His Excellency. The Moorish mode of saluting attracted my attention; when on a level in point of rank, the officers embrace each other, and then kiss the back of their own hand; but in saluting a superior, they kiss the hem of his garment; upon which he presents his hand, and they salute it. I a.s.sure you, they do all this with considerable grace.

In pa.s.sing through villages (which in this part are very numerous, and formed of a much greater collection of tents than those described in a former letter), we were received by a great concourse of men, women, and children, shouting, and making a noise exactly resembling the whoop of the North American savages. I was informed, that this was their usual mode of expressing their joy and mirth, on all great and solemn occasions. A venerable Moor, the chief of the surrounding villages, accompanied by the military and civil officers, and by the princ.i.p.al inhabitants, advanced to kiss the garment of His Excellency: this ceremony was closed by a train of women, preceded by an elderly matron, carrying a standard of colours, made of various fillets of silk; and by a young one of great beauty, supporting on her head a bowl of fresh milk, which she presented, first to the Governor (or, as he is otherwise called, the Sheik), then to me, and afterwards to all the officers. This ceremony is always performed by the prettiest young woman of the village; and it not unfrequently happens, that her beauty captivates the affections of the great men (sometimes even the Emperor), and she becomes the legitimate and favourite wife.

When we arrived at any village, His Excellency halted to receive the report of the commanding officer; and to inquire if any murder, robbery, or other crimes, militating against the laws and const.i.tution of the empire, had been perpetrated. This excellent man patiently listened to all the complaints made to him; and after hearing both parties with the greatest impartiality, he ordered such delinquents as stood fairly convicted to be punished by imprisonment, or fine, according to the nature of their offences. At one place where he held a court of justice, he received information of a band of a.s.sa.s.sins who had lately committed several murders and highway robberies, and had violated many young women, whom they afterwards destroyed. By this prompt and judicious arrangement, they were all secured, and brought before him. He ordered them to be dragged in the rear of his troops to Fez; there to receive whatever punishment the Emperor might think fit to award them.

We performed our route by short and easy stages, on a road which is perfectly level, and very different from those between Tetuan or Tangiers and Larache. We generally halted about two o'clock in the afternoon, and encamped; struck tents again at four in the morning, and then moved on regularly without noise or confusion.

On approaching the river _Beth_, we halted, to allow the baggage to cross, which was expeditiously conveyed in a large ferry-boat; the horses and mules were obliged to swim over, a spectacle curious and diverting enough. I pa.s.sed over with the Governor; after which the boat went backwards and forwards till the whole of the troops were transported across the river, when we encamped, the side which we had quitted being occupied by another little army, headed by the Governor of another district. The two opposite camps had much the appearance of two hostile armies previous to a battle.

This river very much resembles the _Po_ in Italy, and is perfectly navigable. On each side are immense fields of corn and rice, intersected by tracts of waste land covered with broom and heath, and spots of pasture-land on which large droves of camels graze. To prevent the camels from straying, they have one of their fore legs bent at the first joint, and tied up: they are attended by boys, who take them out early in the morning, and at night bring them back to the tents, before which each camel takes his place as regularly as our cows do in their stalls.

The next morning we reached a castle, and a ruinous walled town, occupied by soldiers, and slaves, who look after the herds of mules belonging to the Emperor. It is situated on a hill, whence I had a prospect of the immense plain we had first traversed, upon which not a single tree is to be seen.

About noon, on the sixth day, we approached a lofty mountain, which terminated this extensive plain, and formed the commencement of a chain of high hills, which we ascended and descended successively, and at length descried the large and populous city of Mequinez: we pa.s.sed by a long aqueduct, a remnant of ancient architecture, and several Roman ruins, and reached one of the great gates of the town, where we were met by a strong detachment of soldiers commanded by the Governor, who, after the salutations and ceremonies usual on such occasions, escorted us to the palace of Eslawee, the Governor of Larache, where I was kindly received and most hospitably entertained by all his relations and friends.

On the morning after our arrival at Mequinez, an express arrived from the Emperor with an answer to a representation which I had made concerning the loss of a French privateer on the coast of Barbary; I had sent it at the same time with that respecting the tariff, and expected the answers together. The affair was this: a French privateer attempted to board several of our transports, laden with bullocks, from Tangiers for Gibraltar; but had scarcely succeeded with one, when the Confounder gun-brig, which was appointed to convoy them, came un.o.bserved, within pistol-shot, and after an obstinate engagement of two hours the Frenchman ran on sh.o.r.e, and went to pieces immediately under the Moorish battery. This was considered, by the French Consul and his party, as an open violation of neutrality, and also a gross insult to His Imperial Majesty; and as such it was represented to him by Governor _Ash-Ash_, seconded by a letter from the French Consul, and supported by all his partisans. On our part, the statement was founded on simple facts, which perfectly satisfied the Emperor, and Governor _Ash-Ash_ received a severe reprimand, accompanied by the remark, that His Imperial Majesty regretted the English had been so pa.s.sive on this occasion, and that his subjects did not exterminate every Frenchman that presumed to land on his sh.o.r.es without his permission. You will feel a.s.sured that this additional triumph on our part gave me no small satisfaction.

My good friend Eslawee obtained leave likewise, to repose himself and his army for three days in his native place. This condescension was esteemed as an excellent omen. At the conclusion of the appointed time, we set off for this our ultimate destination. The road from Mequinez to Fez is excellent, extending along a pleasant and s.p.a.cious plain, encompa.s.sed by high mountains, and intersected by small rivers, over which are stone bridges. These rivers are divided into several branches, which are again subdivided by the inhabitants, and carried in ca.n.a.ls to water their lands. The prospect of the country is every where luxuriant in the extreme, and continually presents the most interesting objects. A scattered ruin, a large village, a meandering river, or a fine natural cascade, vineyards, woods, corn-fields, meadows, and saints' houses, surrounded by beautiful gardens and shrubberies, all lying in endless variety, formed the most picturesque landscapes.

As we left our quarters at Mequinez rather late, we encamped at eight o'clock in the evening at the opening of the plain I have just described. The next morning we set off much earlier than usual, but had not proceeded far when our progress was interrupted by a prodigious mult.i.tude of people, who pressed forward with such eagerness, that we were obliged to stand aside, and allow them to pa.s.s. Men, on horseback and on foot, women, and children, formed a procession which extended as far as the eye could reach. They were advancing in several divisions, each division preceded by a man bearing a standard, and by a band of music (if the horrible discord produced by their instruments could be dignified with the name of music), the people accompanying the band with their voices, shouting, bawling, and bellowing their national songs with the greatest vehemence.

These people were on their way to visit the sanctuary of _Sidy Edris_, the founder of Mahometanism in this country: it stands on the mountain _Zaaron_, at the western side of the plain of Fez, and near the city of Mequinez. Close to the sanctuary is a village, the inhabitants of which are held in the highest veneration, their huts and tents being consecrated to the Mahometan devotion, and, as well as the sanctuary, forming asylums for malefactors, which are never violated even by the Emperor. After this visit to the sanctuary, they attend an annual meeting, where they feast for three days, amusing themselves with dancing, fighting with wild beasts, and committing all kinds of excess in the ancient Baccha.n.a.lian style.

Formerly saints sprang up in Barbary like mushrooms. A Moor, seized in the night with a slight fit of insanity, was considered in the morning as a new saint, and as such he was revered, and his name added to their list of saints. In consequence of this, he was permitted to do whatever his fancy directed, without suffering the smallest molestation. Hence many worthless wretches feigned madness, in order that they might, with impunity, gratify their avaricious and revengeful pa.s.sions, or their violent and ungovernable l.u.s.t. The number of these impostors a few years back was incredible, and they literally held sovereign rule, from their numbers and great influence over this superst.i.tious and fanatic people; but since the accession of Muley Solyman to the throne of Morocco, their influence and their numbers have considerably decreased. The country has been in a great measure swept and cleansed of imposters and other profligate persons, and the rest approach more and more towards a tolerable degree of civilization, under his paternal care and example. His chief study and attention appear to be directed to the welfare and happiness of his people.

We received no further interruptions; but reached this place on the 26th of April. On approaching the walls of the imperial palace, His Excellency formed his little army into a line of two deep. They fired a _feu de joie_ with great precision and correctness. This done, they filed off to the place allotted for our encampment. Shortly after, two black slaves arrived from the palace, with a large bowl of fresh milk, and several cakes of bread, which were presented with much ceremony to His Excellency the Sheik, and received by him with marks of the most profound respect. This compliment was also paid to me, and to all his officers. This ceremony in Barbary, indicates that the person so honoured is a friend and favourite at the court of Morocco. The other Governors, with the exception of three, received the same honour, successively as they a.s.sembled on the plains of Fez, to be afterwards reviewed by the Emperor at the anniversary celebration of the birth of Mahomet. The three disgraced Governors were arrested the next day, thrown into prison, and condemned to remain there at the pleasure of the Emperor. Their whole property, amounting, as I am told, to several hundred thousand dollars, was confiscated.

My friend finding himself thus perfectly secure, appeared in high spirits, and proceeded to the palace to prostrate himself before his sovereign. He was received with every mark of the highest approbation and favour. At his return to the camp, he came to me with a smiling countenance, and related the flattering reception he had met with. He then informed me, that the Emperor had given orders, that a convenient house should be immediately provided for me, and that an officer of the household was coming to conduct me to my new habitation. This officer arrived while we were talking, and I followed him to my place of residence, which I found exceedingly neat and commodious. This I continue to occupy, and am furnished abundantly with all the delicacies which the city of Fez affords.

I have exceeded the bounds of moderation in this letter already, and must therefore postpone my introduction till my next.

LETTER XI.

_Imperial Review of eighty thousand Cavalry--The Palace--Introduction to the Emperor--Visit the Seraglio--Beauty of the Sultana--Her Indisposition--Her Influence over the Emperor--His Person described._

Fez, ---- 1806.

Late in the evening of the day of my arrival, I was visited at my house by an officer, who informed me that his royal master would review his troops the following morning, and that, if I chose to be present, I must repair to the palace precisely at four o'clock.

I was there exactly at the time, and in a few minutes the Emperor appeared, mounted on a beautiful white horse, attended by an officer of state, holding over him a large damask umbrella, most elegantly embroidered, and followed by all his great officers, body-guards, and a numerous band of music. He was greeted with huzzas in the Moorish style by the populace, and received at all the gates and avenues of the town with a general discharge of artillery and small arms, the people falling upon their knees in the dust as he pa.s.sed. The streets were covered with mats, and the road, as far as the plain where the troops were drawn out, was strewed with all kinds of flowers.

The army was formed into a regular street of three deep on each side, each corps distinguished by a standard; it extended to a great length, through the immense plain of Fez, and presented a grand military spectacle. There were not less than eighty thousand cavalry. This review was finished in six hours, and His Imperial Majesty was so much pleased with the steady, orderly, and soldierlike appearance of his troops, that he commanded a horse to be given to each of the officers, and an additional suit of clothes and six ducats more than is customary to the men. No other exercise was performed on this occasion, than charging, firing off their pieces, and priming and loading at full gallop, by alternate divisions. Thus an incessant fire was kept up during the day.

The ground being perfectly level and good, no accident occurred. The dress of the Moorish army differs very little from that of the people. The officers are distinguished by their turbans, from the privates, who wear red caps. They are considered most excellent hors.e.m.e.n, and appeared to be supplied with very fine young horses, and well appointed. I can say but little of the infantry and artillery of His Imperial Majesty, not having had an opportunity of seeing them a.s.semble in any sort of exercise. The cavalry are unquestionably most capital marksmen, and very capable of annoying and hara.s.sing and checking the progress of an invading army. The men are stout, strong, and robust, accustomed to a continual state of warfare, and, from their simple and moderate manner of living, fully adequate to sustain the fatigues and privations of the most arduous campaign.

In the Moorish army there is a prodigious number of blacks, who are reckoned very loyal, and perfectly devoted to the Emperor. This accounts for so many black governors being at the head of the most important districts and provinces of Barbary,

I returned very late from the review, and had scarcely dined when a messenger came to request my early attendance the following morning, to be presented to His Imperial Majesty. I repaired betimes to the palace, which is an immense pile of buildings, enclosed by a strong wall and a large deep ditch. It has four great gates, plated, both on the outside and in, with sheets of iron. I entered the front gate, and by a covered way reached a s.p.a.cious court, surrounded by a piazza, under which several field-pieces and small mortars were placed. Here I was met by Sidy Ameth, a black officer, who acts as master of the ceremonies, and lord in waiting. He received me with great politeness, and conducted me, through another gate and covered way, to a second square more s.p.a.cious than the first. In the centre was a most beautiful white marble basin, into which played a fountain of water clear as crystal. Over it was a kind of rotunda, supported by columns of elegant black marble. This superb square is paved with small pieces of marble, intermixed with pebbles of various colours, in the mosaic style. It is formed by four wings of the building. The front wing, exclusive of its magnificent entrance, contains several apartments and waiting-rooms, occupied by the great officers of state; the right, the library, and the treasury of the Emperor; the left, a superb mosque, and a school-room for the use of the Emperor's children, where they are taught to read and write, and study the Alcoran; and finally, the back, the great hall of audience, in which His Imperial Majesty was seated cross-legged upon a kind of couch, under a crimson velvet canopy, most beautifully decorated with figured work in gold.

I was introduced by Sidy Ameth; and after making my obsequious reverence, I stood at a great distance, waiting the Imperial commands, when His Majesty was graciously pleased to order me, by signs, to draw near, and then, by means of an interpreter, he informed me, that, in consequence of the good I had done his subjects during my residence at Larache, he had long been anxious to see and consult me. He desired me to ask any favours I chose, either for myself or my country, and they should be granted immediately. I thanked His Majesty for his condescension, and then presented him with a patent pistol, with seven barrels, which he examined very attentively in every part, and appeared highly pleased with its construction.

He commanded the hall to be cleared, and in a very friendly and familiar way told me the nature of his complaint; after which he summoned the chief eunuch, and desired me to follow him to the seraglio, to prescribe for his favourite Sultana, who was seriously indisposed. On leaving the hall of audience, we turned to the left, and arrived at a gate, which terminated the piazza on the right side of the square. Through this gate we entered a large pa.s.sage, paved with marble; on each side were marble benches, upon which the eunuch informed me, the inferior eunuchs and the female attendants of the seraglio slept. This pa.s.sage conducted us to another square, on the right of which is the Imperial bath. It is almost impossible to form an idea of the elegance and convenience of this structure, which is used only by the Emperor.

Adjoining the bath is a refectory, which is constantly supplied with every kind of refreshment. The other sides of this square contained the apartments of two or more ladies of His Imperial Majesty. It would be tedious to enumerate the several squares through which I pa.s.sed; they differ only in splendour and magnificence, according to the rank and taste of those ladies to whom they belong: they all communicate from one piazza to another, by means of pa.s.sages, such as I have described. I was extremely indebted to my black conductor for giving me an opportunity of seeing the whole of the seraglio; for I returned by a much less circuitous route than that by which I went, the apartments of the Sultana being just behind the Imperial bath. But where shall I find words to give you an adequate idea of their lovely inhabitant? Conceive every thing that is beautiful, and you may possibly arrive near the mark. She is rather below the middle size, exquisitely fair, and well proportioned. When I first saw her, she was in a very doubtful state, and I reported accordingly to the Emperor; he was sensibly affected, and besought me to exert my utmost skill, to preserve a life of so much value to him. Happily, my efforts have been crowned with success, and I hope a very short time will restore her to perfect health. She controls him in every thing, and is considered, from her absolute dominion over him, as the fountain of all favours.

The gardens of the seraglio are beautifully laid out by Europeans, and contain several elegant pavilions and summer-houses, where the ladies take tea and recreate themselves; baths, fountains, and solitary retreats for those inclined to meditation: in short, nothing is wanting to render this a Complete terrestrial paradise, but liberty, the deprivation of which must embitter every enjoyment.

Muley Solyman, the present Emperor, is about thirty-eight years of age, in height about six feet two inches, of a tolerably fair complexion, with remarkably fine teeth, large dark eyes, aquiline nose, and black beard; the _tout ensemble_ of his countenance n.o.ble and majestic. He governs Barbary with discretion and moderation; in the distribution of justice, or in rewarding his subjects, he is just and impartial; in his private conduct no less pious and exemplary, than, in his public capacity, firm and resolute, prompt and courageous. In my next letter I shall give you a brief account of the succession of Sovereigns from the time of _Edris_ to the present reigning family.

LETTER XII.

_Succession of the Sovereigns from their Founder to the present Emperor._

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