Travels in Morocco, by James Richardson

Volume 1


Having made a limited tour in the Empire of Morocco a few years since, I am enabled to appreciate the information imparted to us by the lamented Richardson, and am desirous of adding a few observations of my own upon the present state of affairs in that part of the African Continent.

The following work of the indefatigable traveller demands, at the present moment, a more than ordinary share of public attention, in consequence of the momentous events now passing in the Straits of Gibraltar, where the presence of powerful armaments entails on the Governor of our great rock-fortress, a duty of some delicacy, situated as he now is in close proximity to three belligerent powers, all of whom are at peace with Great Britain. But distinguished alike for common sense and professional ability, Sir William Codrington, it is to be hoped, will steer clear of the follies committed by Sir Robert Wilson in 1844, and will command respect for the British name, without provoking bitter feelings between ourselves, and our French and Spanish neighbours.

It is scarcely possible that either France or Spain can contemplate the conquest of the entire Empire of Morocco, as the result of the present impending crisis, the superficial extent of the territory being 219,420 square miles, and the population nearly 8,000,000, 1 of which a large proportion live in a state of perpetual warfare, occupying inaccessible mountain fastnesses, from whence they only descend to the plains for the sake of plunder. The inhabitants may be classified as follows: 4,000,000 Moors and Arabs; 2,000,000 Berbers; 500,000 Jews, and the remainder are of the Negro race. The regular Army consists of less than thirty thousand men, but every Arab is an expert irregular horseman, and the Berbers make good foot-soldiers.

These indeed are, in ordinary times, rarely to be depended on by the Emperor, but so powerful an incentive is religious fanaticism that, were he to raise the standard of the Holy War, a large Army would quickly rally around him, deficient perhaps in discipline, yet living by plunder, and marching without the encumbrance of baggage, it would prove a formidable opponent.

Let us, however, suppose, that the present action of France and Spain should result in the subversion of the atrocious system of Government practised in Morocco: a guarantee from the conquerors that our existing commercial privileges should be respected, would alone be required to ensure the protection of our interests, and what an extended field would the facilities for penetrating into the interior open to us! We must also remember that Napoleon III. in heart, is a free-trader; and, should Destiny ever appoint him the arbiter of Morocco, the protectionist pressure of a certain deluded class in France would be impotent against his policy in Western Barbary, a country perhaps more hostile to the European than China. Sailors and others, who have had the misfortune to be cast on the inhospitable shore of Northern Africa, have been sent far inland into slavery to drag out a miserable existence; and, at this moment, there are many white Christian slaves in the southern and eastern provinces of the Empire.

Should the war not result in conquest, the least we have a right to expect, is that toleration should be forced upon the Moors, and that European capital and labour should be allowed a free development throughout their Empire. A flourishing trade would soon spring up, nature having blessed Barbary with an excellent soil and climate, besides vast mineral wealth in its mountains; lead, copper, and antimony are found in them. The plains produce corn, rice, and indigo; the forests of cedar, ilex, cork, and olive-trees are scattered over a vast extent, and contain antelopes, wild bears, and other species of game; Barbary also possesses an excellent breed of horses. The principal manufactures are leather, shawls and carpets.

England has, but a short time since, succeeded in emancipating her Jewish brethren from their few remaining disabilities; an opportunity may now be at hand, of ameliorating the condition of those in the Empire of Morocco, who are forced to submit to a grinding persecution, and are merely tolerated because they are useful. They supply many wants of the Moorish population; are the best, and in many handicrafts, the only artificers, and are much employed by the government in financial occupations. They are compelled to occupy a distinct quarter of the town they inhabit; are permitted only to wear black garments, are forbidden to ride, the horse being considered too noble an animal to carry a Jew, and are forced to take off their shoes on passing a mosque. Even the little Moorish boys strike and ill-treat them in various ways, and the slightest attempt at retaliation was formerly punished with death, and would now be visited with the bastinado. They are more heavily taxed than any other class, and special contributions are often levied on them.

Alas! why should we respect the national existence of any community of Mahometans? Have we effaced from our memory their treachery and inhuman cruelty in India; their utter worthlessness in Turkey; their neglect in taking advantage of the richness with which nature has blest the countries in their possession; and their conquest from Christendom of one of the fairest portions of Europe.

Civilization cries aloud for retribution on a race whose religion teaches them to regard us as “dogs.” Surely, far from protecting and cherishing, we should hunt them out of the fair lands they occupy, and force them back on the deserts which vomited them forth on our ancestors ten centuries ago. Brief periods of glory at Bagdad, Cairo, and Granada, should not protect those who are now slaves to the lowest vices that degrade human nature. No administrative reforms are at all practicable; their moral maladies have attacked the vital element; the sole cure is conquest, and the substitution of Christian Governments in Northern Africa, and Turkey in Europe and Asia. Russia, France, Austria, Greece, and Spain are weary of the excesses of their savage neighbours; none can be honestly inclined to stay their avenging swords.

I have, in these prefatory remarks, extracted a few particulars from the short chapter on Morocco, contained in my work on the “French in Africa,” and in advocating a crusade against the Mahometan races, I believe I am recording the sentiments of millions of Europeans.

It now only remains for me to give expression to that universal feeling of regret which prevails among my countrymen at the untimely fate of poor Richardson, and to offer my congratulations that he has bequeathed to us so pleasing an addition to his former works as the following narrative of his “Travels in Morocco.”

Author of “The French in Africa.”

Army and Navy Club,
November, 1859.

1 According to Xavier Darrieu.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59