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Proto-Coulter, circa 1859 - On Morocco

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    Posted: 29 January 2007 at 4:07pm
Some sad facts, some mad frothing...









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
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

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
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
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

Alas! why should we respect the national existence of any community of
Mahometans? Have we effaced from our memory their treachery and
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
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.
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