Travels in Morocco, by James Richardson

Chapter 5

Several visits from the Moors; their ideas on soldiers and payment of public functionaries. — Mr. Cohen and his opinion on Maroquine Affairs. — Phlebotomising of Governors, and Ministerial responsibility. — Border Travels of the Shedma and Hhaha tribes. — How the Emperor enriches himself by the quarrels of his subjects. — Message from the Emperor respecting the Anti–Slavery Address. — Difficulties of travelling through or residing in the Interior. — Use of Knives, and Forks, and Chairs are signs of Social Progress. — Account of the periodic visit of the Mogador Merchants to the Emperor in the Southern Capital.

I received several visits from the Moors. As a class of men, they are far superior in civility and kindness to the Moorish population of Tangier. So much for the foolish and absurd stories about the place, which tell us that it is the only city of the Empire in which Christians can live with safety and comparative comfort. These tales must have been invented to please the Tangier diplomatists. The contrary is the fact, for, whilst the Moors of Tangier consist of camel drivers and soldiers, there are a good number of very respectable native merchants in Mogador; nevertheless, a large portion of the population is in the pay of government as militia, to keep in check the tribes of the neighbouring provinces; but their pay is very small, and most of them do a little business; many are artizuns and common labourers. As a specimen of their ordinary conversation, take the following.

Moors. — “All the people of Morocco are soldiers; what can the foreigner do against them? Morocco is one camp, our Sultan is one, we have one Prophet, and one God.”

Traveller. — “In our country we do not care to have so many soldiers. We have fewer than France, and many other countries; but our soldiers do not work like yours; they are always soldiers, and fight bravely.”

Moors. — “We don’t understand; how wonderful! the French must conquer you with more soldiers.”

Traveller. — “We have more ships, and our principal country is an island; the sea surrounds us, and defends us.”

Moors. — “How much pay has the Governor of Gibraltar?”

Traveller. — “About 20,000 dollars per annum.”

Moors. — “Too much; why, the Koed of Mogador is obliged, instead of receiving money, to send the Emperor, at a day’s notice, 20, or 30,000 dollars! or if he does not pay, he is sent to prison at once; his head is not the value of a slave’s.”

It appears that the old governor (who is now in Morocco) positively refuses any salary or presents; his Excellency is a man of some small property, and finds this plan answers best. He will not be fattened and bled as the Emperor treats other governors. He politely hinted this to the Emperor when he accepted office; since then, he has resolutely refused all presents from the merchants, so that the Emperor has no excuse whatever for bleeding him under the pretext that he is afflicted with a plethora, from his exactions on the people. The moneys referred to by the Moors are the custom dues, which are collected by a separate department, and transmitted direct, to the Emperor.

Whilst residing at Mogador, Mr. Cohen arrived from Morocco, where he had been with the merchants. He is the English Jew who assisted Mr. Davidson in his travels through Morocco. His experience in Maroquine affairs is considerable, and I shall offer his conclusions concerning the present state of the Empire. I prefer, indeed, giving the opinion of various residents or natives of the country to our own. Mr. Cohen’s ideas will be found to differ exceedingly from that of the (Imperial) merchants, who, in point of fact, are not free men, and cannot be trustworthy witnesses. As Mr. Elton justly observed, the Europeans are so much involved with the Emperor, that they are almost obliged to consent publicly to the violent death of the unfortunate Jew, Dorman, although he was under the French protection, and likewise a kind of vice-consul.

Mr. Cohen says — “the people of Morocco are tired of their government, tired of being pillaged of their property, tired of the insecurity and uncertainty of their possessions; that is to say, of the few things which still remain in their hands.” Mr. Cohen goes so far as to say — that, were a strong European power to be established on the coast, the entire population would flock to its support. He gives the following instance of the style and manner in which the Emperor bleeds the governors of provinces.

A few years ago, a governor of Mogador presented himself to the Sultan of Fez. He was received with all due honours. The governor then begged leave to return to Morocco. He was dismissed with great demonstrations of friendship. He arrived at Morocco, and the governor of that city immediately informed him that he was his prisoner, the Sultan having a claim against him, of 40,000 dollars. At length, the poor dupe of royal favour obtained permission to go back to Mogador and to sell all he had, in order to make up the sum of 40,000 dollars.

This is the way in which things are managed there. Of Maroquine policy, Mr. Cohen says, “That when the Sultan finds himself in a scrape, he gives way, though slightly dilatory at first. So long as he sees that he does not commit himself, or is not detected, he does what he likes with his own and other people’s likewise, to the fullest extent of his power. But on any mishap befalling him, Muley Abd Errahman, whenever he can, always shifts the responsibility upon his ministers, and if one of them gives his advice, and the course taken therein does not succeed, woe be to the unhappy functionary!”

Some years ago, a number of troops rebelled against the Emperor. At the instance of the prime minister, Ben Dris, they were pardoned; but, instead of receiving gratefully this imperial mercy, the troops broke out afresh in rebellion, which, with great difficulty, was quelled by the Sultan. This, however, being accomplished, he called the prime minister before him, and thus addressed the amazed vizier.

“Now, Sir, receive four hundred bastinadoes for your pains, and pay me 30,000 ducats; you will then take care in future how you give me advice.” Nevertheless, Ben Dris still remained vizier, and continued so till his death. Bastinadoing a minister in Morocco is, however, much the same as a forced resignation, or the dismissal of a minister in Europe. Doubtless Ben Dris thought himself surprisingly lucky that the Emperor did not cut off his head.

It was the late Mr. Hay’s opinion, that Muley Abd Errahman was a good man, but surrounded with bad advisers. The probability seems rather, that he took all the credit of the good acts of his advisers, and flung on them the odium of all the bad acts committed by himself, as many other despotic sovereigns have often done before him.

With regard to the disaffection of the people, as alleged by Mr. Cohen, its verification is of great importance to us, and our appreciation of it equally so.

We might be counting upon the resistance of the Maroquines against an invasion of the French, and find, to our astonishment, the invaders received as deliverers from the exactions and tyrannies of the Shereefian oppressor. The fact is, Morocco will never be able to resist the progress of nations any more than China, especially since she has got the most restless people in the world for her neighbours. Besides, during the last thirty years, many of the Maroquines have visited Europe, and their eyes are becoming opened, the film of Moorish fanaticism has fallen off; even on their aggressive neighbours, they see the exercise of a government less rapacious than their own, and more security of life and property. Still, the Emperor will use every means to build up a barrier against innovation.

Just at this time, a rekos (courier) arrived from Mr. Willshire (now at Morocco), bringing letters in answer to those which I had addressed to him, touching my visit to the Emperor. He writes that he had “already received orders from His Imperial Majesty respecting the object of my mission,” which words give me uneasiness, as they are evidently unfavourable to it, and consequently to my journey to Morocco.

There is a misunderstanding between the provinces of Shed ma and Hhaha. These districts adjoin Mogador, the city belonging to Hhaha. Shedma is mostly lowland and plains, and Hhaha highlands and mountains, which form a portion of the south-western Atlas, and strike down into the sea at Santa Cruz. There seems to be no other reason for those frequent obstinate hostilities on both sides, except the nature of the country. It is lamentable to think, because “a narrow frith” divides two people, or because one lives in the mountains and the other in the plains, that therefore they should be enemies for ever! Strange infatuation of poor human nature.

Here the feud legend babbles of revenge, and says that, in the time of Muley Suleiman, one day when the Hhaha people were at prayers at Mogador, during broad day light, the Shedma people came down upon them and slaughtered them, and, whilst in the sacred and inviolable act of devotion, entered the mosques and pillaged their houses. This produced implacable hatred between them, which is likely to survive many generations; but the story was told me by a Hhaha man, and not improbably the people of Shedma had some plausible reason for making this barbarous attack.

Even before this piece of treachery of one Mussulman towards another at the hour of prayer, the feuds seemed to have existed. It is a remarkable circumstance in the history of Islamism, that many of the most treacherous and sanguinary actions of Mahometans have been committed within the sacred enclosures of the mosques, and at the hour of prayer. One of the caliphs having been assassinated in a mosque, seems to have been the precedent for all the murders of the kind which have followed, and indelibly disgrace the Mussulman annals.

These Hhaha and Shedma people are also borderers, and fight with the accustomed ferocity of border tribes.

Their conflicts are very desultory, being carried on by twos and threes, or sixes and sevens, and with sticks, and stones, and other weapons, if they cannot get knives, or matchlocks. Meanwhile, the Emperor folds his arms, and looks on superbly and serenely. When the two parties are exhausted, or have had enough of it for the present; his Imperial Highness then interferes, and punishes both by fine. Indeed, it pays him better to pursue this course; for, instead of spending money in the suppression of factious insurrections, he gains by mulcting both parties. The Sultan, in fact, not only aggrandizes himself by the quarrels of his own subjects, but he profits by the disputes between the foreign consuls and his governors.

The imbroglio which took place some years since, between the Governor of Mogador and the French Consul, M. Delaporte, is sufficiently characteristic. An Algerine Mussulman, who was of course a French subject, behaved himself very indecent, by setting all the usual rules of Mahometan worship at defiance. This was a great scandal to the Faithful. The Governor of Mogador, in defiance of religion, took upon himself to punish a French Mussulman. The French Consul remonstrated strongly in presence of the Governor, almost insulting him before his people. The Sultan approved the conduct of his governor. The Consul General decided that both parties ought to be removed, and the French Government recalled their vice-consul. The Sultan, promised, but did not dismiss his Governor, or rather the Governor himself would not be dismissed. The French reiterated their complaints, which were supported by a small squadron sent down to Mogador. The Governor was now cashiered, and was besides obliged to pay the Emperor a fine of thirteen thousand dollars, upon the pretext of appeasing the offended Majesty of his royal master. So the Sultan always makes money by the misadventures of his subjects. To indemnify the poor Governor for his fine, he received soon after another appointment. On his return from Morocco, having waited upon Mr Wiltshire regarding the presentation of the Petition of the Anti–Slavery Society, the Vice–Consul explained the great difficulty the Emperor had in receiving a petition which called for an organic change in the social condition of the country, and that, indeed, the abolition of slavery was “contrary to his religion.” I then represented to Mr. Willshire the propriety at least of waiting for the arrival of the Governor of Mogador from Morocco, in order to have a personal interview with him, to which the Vice–Consul acceded.

The difficulties of travelling through Morocco; and of residing in the inland towns have been already mentioned.

In further proof, Mr. Elton related that, whilst the merchants visited the Emperor in the, southern capital, a watch-maker, a European and a Christian, asked permission of the Minister to dwell in the quarter of the Moors, instead of that of the Jews, in which latter the Europeans usually reside.

The Minister replied, “you may live there if you like, but you must have ten soldiers to guard you.” Such a reply from the Minister, and whilst the merchants were protected by the presence of the Emperor himself, is all conclusive as to the insecurity attached to Europeans in the interior towns.

Morocco itself is a city of profound gloom, where the Moor indulges to the utmost his taciturn disposition, and melancholy fatalism. It is, therefore, not an enchanting abode for Europeans, who, whilst there waiting on the Emperor, are obliged constantly to ride about to preserve their health, or they would die of the suffocating stench in the Jew’s millah, or quarter. But, in taking this equestrian exercise, they are not unfrequently insulted. An ungallant cavalier deliberately stopped Mrs. Elton by riding up against her.

The lady spurred her horse and caught with her feet a portion of his light burnouse, dragging it away. He was only prevented riding after and cutting her down, by one of the Emperor’s secretaries, who was passing by at the time.

Mr. Elton had a fine black horse to ride upon. The populace were so savage at seeing an infidel mounted upon so splendid an animal, that they hooted: “Curse you, Infidel! dismount you dog!”

These instances shew the sauciness of the vulgar, and are a fair example of the conduct of the Moors. I am told by Barbary Jews, it would be next to impossible for a Christian to walk without disguise in broad daylight at Fez. Not so much from the hostility of the populace, as from their indecent and vehement curiosity. However, in these cases, I am obliged to give the testimony of others. Mr. Cohen, when travelling through the interior, assumes the character of a quack doctor, the best passport in all these countries. Practising as he goes, he manages to get enough to bear his charges on the way.

Oliver Goldsmith piped, but in Morocco the traveller and stranger physics his way. To Europeans, Mr. Cohen gives this advice — “Never to stay more than one night at any place.” “Mr. Davidson,” he says, “stopped so long at Wadnoun, that all the Desert, as far as Timbuctoo, heard of his projects and travels, and were determined to waylay and plunder him.”

But, on the contrary, with respect to my own experience in the Desert, the people appeared equally hostile or offended at my taking them by surprise. Desert travelling after all is mostly an affair of luck. Six travellers might be sent to Timbuctoo and three return, and three be murdered, and yet the three who were murdered might have been as prudent and as skilful as the three who were successful. The Maroquine Government often shew a perfect Chinese jealousy of Europeans travelling in the interior. When Doctor Willshire, brother of the Consul, returned from Morocco, the Government gave orders that “he should be taken directly to Mogador, and not be allowed to turn to the right hand or to the left, to collect old stones or herbs.” This lynx-eyed government imagined they saw in Doctor Willshire’s botanical and mineralogical rambles, a design of spying out the powers and resources of the country.

The consentaneous progress of Morocco in the universal movement of the age, is argued by the merchants from an increased use of chairs, and knives and forks. Some years ago, scarcely a knife and fork, or a chair was to be found in this part of Morocco. Now, almost every house in the Jewish quarter has them. The Jew of Barbary can use them with less scruple than the orthodox Tory Moor, who sets his face like flint against all changes, because his European brethren adopt them. Many innovations of this domestic sort are introduced from Europe into North Africa through the instrumentality of native Jews. Tea has become an article Of universal consumption. It is, indeed, the wine of the Maroquine Mussulmen. 20 Even in remote provinces, amongst Bebers and Bedouins, the most miserable looking and living of people the finest green tea is to be found.

You enter a miserable looking hut, when you are amazed by the hostess unlocking an old box, and taking out a choice tea service, cups, saucers, tea-pot, and tea-tray, often of white china with gilt edges. These, after use, are always kept locked up, as objects of most precious value. The sugar is put in the tea-pot, and the Moors and Jews usually drink their tea so sweet that it may be called syrup. But if any lady tries the plan of melting the sugar while the tea is brewing in the tea-pot, she will find the tea so prepared has acquired a different, and not disagreeable flavour.

Morocco has its fashions and manias as well as Europe. House building is now the rage. They say it is not so easy for the Sultan to fleece the people of their property when it consists of houses. Almost every distinguished Moor in the interior has built, or is building himself a spacious house. This mania is happily a useful one, and must advance the comfort and sanitary improvement of the people. It is as good as a Health of Towns Bill for them.

The merchants having all returned from Morocco, I shall give some account of their visit to the Emperor. The ancient rule of imperial residence was, that the Sultan should sojourn six months in Fez, and six months in Morocco, the former the northern, and the latter the southern capital. This is not adhered to strictly, the Emperor taking up his abode at one capital or the other, and sometimes at Micknos, according to his caprice. He never fails, however, to visit Morocco once a year, on account of its neighbourhood to Mogador, his much loved, and beautiful commercial city. The Emperor himself, before his accession to the throne, was the administrator of the customhouse of this city, where he has acquired his commercial tastes and habits of business, which he has cultivated from the very commencement of his reign. When the Emperor resides in the South, he receives visits from the merchants of Mogador. These visits are imperative on the merchants, if they are his imperial debtors, or even if they wish to maintain a friendly feeling with his government. Upon an average, the visits or deputations of merchants, take place every three or four years; more frequently they cannot well be, because they cost the merchants immense sums in presents, each often giving to the value of three or four thousand dollars. In return, they receive additional and prolonged credits.

The number of Imperial merchants is about twenty, three of whom are Englishmen, Messrs. Willshire, Elton, and Robertson. Most of the rest are Barbary Jews. 21

There is a Belgian merchant who did not go with these. This gentleman, owing nothing to the Emperor, preferred to pay duty on shipping his merchandize, on which by payment of ready money, he gets 25 per cent discount. This plan, however, does not enable him to compete with the Imperial merchants, whose duties accumulate till they are years and years in arrear. And when these arrears have gone on increasing till there is no chance of payment, the Emperor, in order to keep up his firms of enslaved merchants, will rather remit half or more of the debt, in consideration of a handsome present, than encourage merchants to make ready money payments. The largest debt owing by a single firm, is that of a native Jew, viz., 250,000 dollars. The amount of the debt of the united Mogador merchants is more than one million and a half of dollars. The usual course of the merchants is to pay the debt off by monthly instalments.

As an instance of the Emperor’s straining a point to keep solvent one of his mercantile firms, on the occasion of the visit of the merchants to Morocco, his Imperial Highness lent the house of Hasan Joseph (Jews) 10,000 dollars in hard cash, which, to my knowledge, were paid to them out of the coffers of the Mogador custom-house. This was certainly an instance of magnanimous generosity on the part of Muley Abd Errahman. But the Emperor’s genius is mercantile, and he is determined to support his Imperial traders; and his conduct, after all, is only the calculation of a raiser.

It must be mentioned, however, to the honour of Mr. Elton, that on the bombardment of Mogador, he and his lady were allowed to leave at once, having paid up all their government debt. Indeed, the governor of that place, was always accustomed to say to the collector of the returns of the monthly payment of instalments: “Now, go first to Mrs. Elton; she will be sure to have the money ready for you. And we must have money to-day from some of the merchants.” On another occasion, his Excellency called the lady of Mr. Elton, “the best man amongst the merchants.” Mrs. Elton, being a vivacious, energetic lady, was often called “the woman of the Christians.”

The following are the stations at which the merchants stop from Mogador to Morocco, to visit the Emperor.

1st. Emperor’s Gardens; five hours from Mcgador, where are some fine fig trees, and a spring.

2nd. Aïn Omas.

3rd. Seeshouar.

4th. Wad Enfes.

The country, for the first two days, is beautifully rural, scattered over with noble Argan forests, on the third and fourth days, the journey is through plains and an open country. On the second day, after leaving Mogador, you obtain a distinct view of the great Atlas range at the back of Morocco; on the fifth, as you approach the capital, the country is overspread with wild date-palms, palmettos, or dwarf palms. The view of

“Towering Atlas that supports the sky,”

now stands forth, vaster and more magnificent as you approach the capital, and is the only feature of surpassing interest on the journey; but it suffices to absorb all the attention of the traveller. As he gazes on the giant mountain, which seems to support with its huge rocky arms the frame-work of the skies, its head covered with everlasting snow, he forgets the fatigue of his painful route under an African sun; and, lost in pious musings, adores the Omnipotent being who laid the foundation of this solid buttress.

Halfway is called “the Neck of the Camel,” where there is a well in the midst of a scene extremely desert and dreary. Here all the donkeys of the party of merchants died from want of water. The water of this well is not permitted to be drunk by animals, in obedience to the solemn Testament of the Saint who dug it. The poor horses and mules were tied close up to the well, looking wistfully at the water when drawn for the biped animals, and snuffing the scent; but they were not allowed to taste a drop. Two horses broke loose and fought, their combat being aggravated by thirst, “See!” cried the Moors to the merchants, “the Saint is angry with you for having wished to give his water to horses.”

Our merchants, however, in defiance of the Saint (this invisible enemy of the lower creation) and of his supporters, got a supply of water, which during the night, and en marche the next day, they distributed to their steeds. The accommodation on the way, and at the capital is very bad, even the waiting-room near the palace, appropriated to the Christians, is but an old dilapidated shed, with one of its sides knocked out, or never filled in. “Everything,” say our merchants, “is going to rack and ruin in the capital. The Emperor will not even repair his palaces, or the jealousies in which he keeps his women; money is his only pursuit and his God.”

Their residence in the capital was very disagreeable, all being cooped up in the Jews’ quarter, and obliged to subsist on victuals cooked by these people, which made certain of them unwell, for some of the Barbary Jew’s food is very indigestible.

The presentation of the merchants to the Emperor was conducted as follows: At nine in the morning, they were admitted into a garden in presence of about two thousand imperial guards, all drawn up in file, looking extremely fierce. Passing these bearded warriors, they were conducted into a large square lined with buildings, where, after waiting about five minutes, the gate of the palace was suddenly thrown open, and the Emperor rode out superbly mounted on a white horse, followed on foot by a group of courtiers. His Imperial Highness was attended by the Governor of Mogador, who walked by his side.

The first persons presented to the Shereefian lord were the officials of Mogador, who were introduced by the Governor of that city; afterwards came some Moorish grandees; then the Christians were presented, and finally the Jewish merchants. The latter were introduced by the Governor of Mogador, the Jews taking off their shoes as they passed before the Emperor. One passed at a time, with his cadeau behind him, carried by an attendant Jew. As the merchants moved on, his Imperial Highness asked their names, and condescended to thank each of them separately for his offering.

The merchants carried in their hand, an invoice of their respective presents, and gave it to the Governor, for the articles on their delivery are not exposed before the eyes of the Sultan. To open the budget would be a breach of good breeding, and would shock the Imperial modesty.

Fifteen merchants were introduced, and the ceremony of presentation lasted about twenty minutes; this being concluded, the merchants were permitted to perambulate the gardens of the Emperor, and to pluck a little fruit. They were afterwards delayed a fortnight, waiting to present a cadeau to the Emperor’s eldest son. Such are the details of this journey, which I got from the merchants themselves. Mr. Willshire, being a consul and great customer of his Imperial Highness, also received a gift of a horse in exchange. The united value of the presents to the Emperor, on this occasion, was fifty thousand dollars, which amply indemnifies him for his money-lending, and the credit that he gives. They consisted principally of articles of European manufactures. His Imperial Highness afterwards sells them to his subjects on his own account. Of course, amongst this mass of presents, there are many nice things such as tea, sugar, spices, essences &c., for his personal comfort and luxury, as well as for his harem, besides articles of dress and ornament.

It will not be out of place here, to give a brief account of the commerce of Morocco. In doing so, we must take into consideration the prodigious quantity of imports and exports, of which there are no statistics in the Imperial custom-houses, and no consular returns. Let us estimate the population of Morocco at its general compensation of eight millions, and suppose that each spends a dollar per annum in the purchase of European manufactures. This will raise the value of imports at once to eight millions of dollars per annum. It is notorious that the contraband trade of Tangier, and Tetuan, and the northern coast generally doubles or trebles the commerce that passes through the customhouse; but the legal trade is not well ascertained.

Mr. Hay once sent, I believe, to the Agent of Mogador, a list of questions to be answered by the consular department. The gentleman, who was an unsalaried vice-consul, appalled at the number of interrogatories, immediately replied, “That he had his own business to attend to; he could not sit down to compose consular returns, which would require weeks of labour; and if it were considered part of his duties to answer such questions, he begged to resign at once his vice-consulship.”

As to the Barbary Jews, who have charge of some of the vice-consulates, they are necessarily incapacitated, by reason of their want of education, for such an employment. It is, therefore, hopeless to attempt to give any accurate account of the commerce of Morocco, I can only annex a few details of those things of which we are actually cognizant.

Whatever may be said of the indolent habits of the Moors, they were once, and still are, a commercial people. Spain, the neighbour of Morocco, still feels the loss of the Moors. They were the really industrious classes settled in Spain. The merchants, the artists, the operatives, and agriculturists unfortunately have left behind them few inheriting their habits of perseverance. Little, indeed, can be expected in Spain, where the maxim is adopted, that “nobility may lie dormant in a servant, but becomes extinct in a merchant.” Spain lost upwards of three millions of intelligent and industrious Moors, a shock she will never recover.

The bombardment of a commercial city of this country would not do the injury which is commonly imagined. The ports are numerous though not very good. A single house or shed on the beach of Mogador, or Tangier, is a sufficient custom-house for the Moors. There are no great deposits of goods on the coast, for as soon as the camels bring their loads of exports, these are shipped, and the camels immediately return to the interior, laden with imported goods or manufactures.

Mogador is the great commercial depôt of the Atlantic coast, and therefore “the beautiful Ishweira, the beloved town,” of Muley Abd Errahman. Its trade is principally, however, with the south, the provinces of Sous and Wadnoun, and the Western Sahara. Mogador is also the bona-fide port of the southern capital of Morocco. Two-thirds of the commerce of Mogador is carried on with England, the rest is divided among the other nations of Europe; but of this third, I should think France has one half. The port of Mogador has usually some half-a-dozen vessels lying in it, but from twenty to thirty have been seen there. They are usually sixty days discharging and taking in cargo. Each vessel pays forty dollars port-dues, which must press very heavily upon small vessels, but it is seldom that a vessel of less than one hundred tons is seen at Mogador. The grand staple exports are only two, gum and almonds; upon the sale of these, the commercial activity of this city entirely depends. English vessels come directly from London, the French from Marseilles; but so badly is this commerce managed that, at the present time, Morocco produce is higher in Mogador than it is in London or Marseilles; for instance, Morocco almonds are cheaper in London than Mogador.

Mazagan, and some few other ports, export produce direct to Europe, but Tangier is the next commercial port of the empire. There is an important trade in manufactures and provisions carried on between Tangier and Gibraltar. The Fez merchants have resident agents in Gibraltar. Curious stories are told of Maroquine adventurers leaving Tangier and Fez as camel-drivers and town-porters, and then assuming the character and style of merchants in Gibraltar, throwing over their shoulders a splendid woollen burnouse, and folding round their heads a thoroughly orthodox turban in large swelling folds of milk-white purity.

In this way, they will walk through the stores of Gibraltar, and obtain thousands of dollars’ worth of credit. The merchant-emperor found it necessary to put a stop to this, and promulgated a decree to the effect, that “he would not, for the future, be responsible for the debts of any of his subjects contracted out of his dominions.”

This was aimed at these trading adventurers, and the decree was transmitted to the British Consul, who had it published in the Gibraltar Gazette while I was staying in that city. Up to this time, the Emperor, singularly enough, had made himself responsible for all the debts of his subjects trading with Gibraltar.

The trade in provisions at Tangier is most active, bullocks, sheep, butcher’s meat, fowls, eggs, game and pigeons, grain and flour, &c., are daily shipped from Tangier to Gibraltar. The garrison and population of Gibraltar draw more than two-thirds of their provisions from this and other northern parts of Morocco.

This government speculates in and carries on commerce; and, like most African and Asiatic governments, has had its established monopolies from time immemorial, of some of which it disposes, whilst it reserves others for itself, as those of tobacco, sulphur, and cochineal. All the high functionaries engage in commerce, and this occupation of trade and barter is considered the most honourable in the empire, sanctioned as it is by the Emperor himself, who may be considered as the chief of merchants. The monopolies are sold by public auction at so much per annum. On its own monopolies, government, as a rule, exacts a profit of cent per cent.

The following is a list of the monopolies which the Emperor sells, either to his own employers or to native and foreign merchants.

1. Leeches. — This is one of the most recently established monopolies, dating only about twenty years back. The trade in leeches was set on foot by Mr. Frenerry; it brought, at first, but a few dollars per annum, and now the monopoly is sold for 50,000. Leeches are principally found in the lakes of the north-west districts, called the Gharb.

2. Wax. — This monopoly is confined almost exclusively to the markets of Tangier and El–Araish. It sold, while I was in the country, for three thousand dollars.

3. Bark. — This is a monopoly of the north, principally of the mountainous region of Rif. It is farmed for about sixteen thousand dollars.

4. The coining of copper money. — The right of coining money in the name of the Emperor, is sold for ten thousand dollars to each principal city. It is a dangerous privilege to be exercised; for, should the alloy be not of a quality which pleases the Emperor, or the particular governor of the city, the unfortunate coiner is forthwith degraded, and his property confiscated. Indeed, the coiner sometimes pays for his negligence, or dishonesty, with his head.

5. Millet, and other small seeds. — This monopoly at Tangier is sold for five hundred dollars. The price varies in other places according to circumstances.

6. Cattle. — The cattle exported from Tetuan, Tangier, and El–Araish, for the victualling of Gibraltar, is likewise a monopoly; it amounted during my stay to 7,500 dollars. In consequence of an alleged treaty, but which does not exist on paper, the Emperor of Morocco has bound himself to supply our garrison of Gibraltar with 2,000 head of cattle per annum, 1,500 of which must be shipped from Tangier, the rest from other parts of the Gharb, or north-west. British contractors pay five dollars per head export duty, the ordinary tax is ten. It is estimated, however, that some three or four thousand head of cattle are annually exported from Morocco for our garrison. The Gibraltar Commissariat contractors complain, and with reason, that the Maroquine monopolist supplies the British Government with “the very worst cattle of all Western Barbary.”

These monopolies do not interfere with the custom-house, which levies its duties irrespectively of them. Leeches pay an export duty of 2s. 9d. the thousand; wax pays an ad valorem duty of fifty per cent; bark pays a very small duty, and millet scarcely a penny per quintal.

Independently of these monopolies, there are exports of merchandise of a special character, and requiring a special permission from the Sultan, such as grains and beasts of burden; and, if we may be permitted, bipeds, or Jews and Jewesses.

His Imperial Highness has absolute need of Jews to carry on the commerce of the country. No male adult Jew, or child, can leave the ports of Morocco, without paying four dollars customs duty. A Jewess must pay a hundred dollars. The reason of there being such an excessive export-duty on women is to keep them in the country, as a sort of pledge for the return of their husbands, brothers or fathers, in the event of their leaving for commercial or other purposes. Slaves are not exported from Morocco. Besides the payment of special impost on exportation, wool pays a duty of three dollars per quintal, and two pounds of powder when dirty, and double when washed. A bullock pays export duty ten dollars, and a sheep one. Sheepskins eight dollars the hundred, bullock-skins three dollars per quintal, and goat-skins the same. Of grain, wheat pays an export duty of three-fourths of a dollar per fanega, or about a quintal. Barley is not exported, there being scarcely enough for home consumption.

Horses are exported in small numbers, by special permission from the Emperor, A few years since when Spain threatened the frontier of Portugal, the English Government found it necessary to come to the aid of the latter country, and Mr. Frenerry was commissioned by our Government to purchase of the Emperor five hundred horses for Portugal.

His Imperial Highness called together his governors of cities, and shieks of provinces, and after a long debate, it was unanimously decided that so large a number of horses could not be sold to the Christians without danger to the empire, whilst also, the transaction would be contrary to the principles of Islamism.

Should an individual wish to export a single horse, he would have to pay sixty dollars, a duty which entirely amounts to a prohibition, many of the boasted beasts not being worth twenty dollars. A mule pays forty, and an ass five dollars. Mules are much dearer in Morocco and in other parts of Barbary than horses. Camels are rarely exported, and have no fixed import.

The Queen of Spain, some time ago, solicited the Sultan for four camels, and his Imperial Highness had the gallantry to grant the export free of duty.

There are several exports which are not monopolies. These are principally from the south. The following are some of them.

Ostrich feathers. — These are of three qualities; the first of which pays three dollars per pound, the second quality one and a half dollars, and the third, three-quarters of a dollar. Many feather merchants are now in Mogador visiting at the feasts of the Jews, who reside in Sous and Wadnoun, and have communications with all the districts of the Sahara.

Elephants’ teeth. — Ivory pays an export duty of ten per cent. During late years, both ivory and ostrich feathers have lost much of their value as articles of commerce.

Gums. — Gum-arabic pays two dollars per quintal export duty, and gum sudanic an ad valorem duty of ten per cent. But now-a-days only the very best gum will sell in English markets; the inferior qualities, as of all other Barbary produce, are shipped to Marseilles. One looks with extreme interest at the beautiful pellucid drops of Sudanic gum, knowing that the Arabs bring some of it from the neighbourhood of Timbuctoo.

Almonds. — Both the sweet and the bitter, in the shell, or the oil of almonds, pay three dollars per quintal. Ship-loads at once are exported from Mogador direct for Soudan.

Red woollen sashes are exported at five dollars per dozen. The Spaniards take a great quantity. Tanned skins, especially the red, or Morocco, are exported at ten per cent, ad valorem. Slippers pay a dollar the hundred. The haik or barracan is exported in great numbers to the Levant by the pilgrims. The vessels, also, that carry pilgrims from Morocco, return laden with these and other native manufactures. Barbary dried peas are exported principally to Spain, paying a dollar the quintal. Fez flour pays one dollar and a half per fanega; dates pay five dollars the quintal; fowls and eggs, the former two dollars per dozen, the latter two dollars per thousand; oranges and lemons pay a dollar the thousand.

Gold is brought from Soudan over the Desert, and is sometimes exported. I have no account of it, and never heard it mentioned in Morocco as an article of any importance.

Olive-oil is exported from the north, but not in great quantities. The amount exported in a recent year was about the value of £6,000 sterling. The olive is not so much cultivated in Morocco as in Tunis and Tripoli.

Besides the articles above mentioned, antimony, euphorbium, horns, hemp, linseed, rice, maize, and dra, orchella weed, orris-root, pomegranate peel, sarsaparilla, snuff, sponges, walnuts, garbanyos, gasoul, and mineral soap, gingelane, and commin seeds, &c., are exported in various quantities. 22

It was reported in the mercantile circles, that representations would be made to the Emperor to place the trade of the country upon a regular, and more stable footing. All nations, indeed, would benefit by a change which could not but be for the better. But I question whether his Imperial Highness will give up his old and darling system of being the sovereign-merchant of the Empire. It is not the interest of Great Britain to annoy him, for we have always to look at Gibraltar. But it would be desirable if Christian merchants could be found to undertake the duty, to have all the vice-consuls of the coast Christians, in preference to Jews. By having Jewish consuls, we place ourselves in a false position with the Emperor, who is obliged to submit to the prejudices of his people against Hebrews. British merchants ought to be allowed to visit their own vessels whilst in port, to superintend, or what not, the stowing or landing of their goods, as they are entitled to do by treaty. Spanish dollars are the chief currency in Morocco; but there are also doubloons and smaller gold coins. This currency, the merchants manage very badly. A doubloon loses sixteen pence, or four Maroquine ounces in exchange at Mogador, whilst at the capital of Morocco, three days’ journey from this, it passes for the same value it bears in Spain and Gibraltar.

As to the revenues of the Government of Morocco, our means of information are still more uncertain and conjectural, than those we possess regarding commerce. A French writer asserts, that the tithes upon land assigned by the Koran and the capitation tax on the Jews, produce from twenty to thirty million francs (or say about one million pounds sterling) per annum. This, perhaps, is too large a sum.

About a century ago, the revenues of Moocco were estimated at only £200,000 sterling per annum. But if Muley Abd Errahman has fifty millions of dollars, or ten millions sterling in the vaults of Mequinez, he may be considered as the richest monarch in Africa, nay in all Europe. It is positively stated that Muley Ismail left this amount, or one hundred millions of ducats in the imperial treasury, which Sidi Mahommed reduced to two millions. It may have been the great object of the life of the present Sultan to restore this enormous hoard. No country is rich or safe without a vast capital in hand as a reserve for times of trouble, war, or famine. But it is not necessary that such reserve should be in the hands of a government.

This, a Maroquine prince cannot comprehend, and he decides as to the riches and poverty of his country by the amount he possesses in his royal vaults.

In treating of trade, and comparing its exports with the peculiar products and manufactures of the cities and towns, hereafter to be enumerated, we may approximate to an idea of the resources of the Maroquine Empire, but everything is more or less deteriorated in this naturally rich country.

Cattle and sheep, grain and fruits, are of inferior quality, owing to the want of proper culture. No spontaneous growth is equal to culture, for such is the ordinance of Divine Providence. Half of this country is desert. The iron hand of despotic government presses heavily upon all industry. If we add to this defective state of culture, the miserably moral condition of the people, we have the unpleasant picture of an inferiority civilized race of mankind scattered over a badly cultivated region. Not all the magnificence of the glorious Atlas can reconcile such a prospect to the imagination. But, unhappily, Morocco does not constitute a very striking exception to the progress of civilization along the shores and in the isles of the Mediterranean. Many countries in Southern Europe are in a state little superior, and the Moorish civilization is almost on a par with that of the Grecian, Sicilian, or Maltese, and quite equal to Turkish advancement in the arts and sciences of the nineteenth century. The only real advantage of the Turks over the Moors consists in the improvements the former have made in the organization of the army. Whoever travels through Morocco, and will but open his eyes to survey its rich valleys and fertile plains, will be impressed with the conviction that this country, cultivated by an industrious population, and fostered by a paternal government, is capable of producing all the agricultural wealth of the north and the south of Europe, as well as the Tropics, and of maintaining its inhabitants in happiness and plenty.

20 Maroquine Moors drench you with tea! they guzzle sweet tea all day long, as the Affghans gulp down their tea, with butter in it, from morning to night.

21 Native Jews manage most of the business of the interior, and farm the greater part of the monopolies. But the Emperor must have some European merchants connected with these Jews to maintain the commercial relations of his country with Europe. The Jewish High Priest of Mogador is a merchant, it being considered no interference with his sacred functions.

22 See Appendix at end of Vol. II.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/r/richardson/james/morocco/chapter1.5.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33