Sufferings In Africa

by James Riley

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Chapter XXIX

New orders arrive from the Emperor — Mr. Wiltshire is grossly insulted by Moors—A description of the city and port of Swearah or Mogadore—its inhabitants, commerce, manufactures, &c.

About the last of November, a courier came to Mogadore from the emperor to the governor, ordering him not to suffer a Moor to serve either a Christian or Jew under any pretence whatever, or to live in their houses, under the severest penalty: this letter was no sooner read, than the news flew to every part of the town. In consequence of this order, Rais Bel Cossim, Bel Mooden, and a Moor of the name of Soliman, who had been constantly in and about Mr. Willshire’s house, durst not return to take their leave: the life of a Christian previous to this was not safe, even in the city, without a Moor in company t® ward off the insults of the boys and those of the Moors who were vicious or fanatical. New orders had also been given to the guards of the water-ports not to allow any one to go on board vessels, except the captains and crews, without a special order from the governor.

On New-year’s day captains Mackie and Henderson, of whom I have before spoken, dined with Mr. Will- shire : when they went down to go on board their vessels, Mr. Willshire and myself went to take a walk round the water-port, it being low tide: the guards ran after us, seized hold of Mr. Willshire, and turning him round, bid him, in an insulting tone, to go back, uttering the most abusive language; and drawing their scimitars, they threatened to cut him down. We had no Moor with us to witness this insult, but Mr. Willshire’s spirit could not brook this indignity, and he rebuked these fellows in a very resolute manner, bidding defiance to them and the Alcayd, and told them that if they offered to touch him again, he would revenge himself instantly, and at any rate would complain to the emperor, and would cause them to lose their heads for insulting a consul and a merchant. I advised him to return to the port, which he did j but the Moors were so enraged, that they ran with all speed to the Alcayd, and told him that Mr. Willshire had beat them; that he called them hard names, and defied the ppwer of the Sultan. Immediately soldiers were sent after him, who came up with us before we got to his house: they insisted on taking him before the Alcayd forthwith by force, if he would not go without; he told them, however, that he must and would wait for his Jew interpreter Nahory, and that then he would come: this answer was carried to the Alcayd, and in a few moments Ben Nahory made his appearance, and they went before the Alcayd together. The Alcajd reprimanded'Mr. Willshire for having cursed the Sultan, and advised him to settle the business, by giving a present to the guards, or they would depose against him before the Cadi , which if they should do, he would be obliged to go up to Morocco to the emperor, and he (the governor) sgid he could not be answterable for the result. Mr. M illshire defended himself so well by the help of his interpreter, who was a cunning Jew, that his accusers began to lower their tone a little : he stated that he had the Sultan’s letter, which ordered the governors and Alcayds to sec his person protected from insult, as well as his property, and that the late order had deprived him of the aid and evidence of a Moor, to which he was entitled by that letter: he added, that he would write the Sultan an account of the insult immediately, and of the villany of the port guards, but would not pay a blanquille, (i. e. a farthing) to anyone. The Alcaytl said he was ordered to protect him and the other Christians in the port, and wished them to be respected, but they must respect themselves, and by way of an excuse, remarked that the consuls at Tangier did not go down with the captains that have the honour of dining with them, to their boats after dinner; that this was derogatory to the etiquette due to their office; but, at the same time, calling the guards, he told them that Mr. Willshire was the Sultan’s consul; that they must never lay a finger on him ; but if he should wish to go off in one of the boats of the vessels in port, they must permit him to get into the boat, but prevent it from going off Until they sent him information, in order that he might give a permit for him to go on board. He further told the guards that they had done very wrong, and if they were not careful in future he should dismiss them.' The guards were very angry, and said it w r as intolerable for a Moor to be insulted with impunity by a Christian dog, and that, they would swear against him before the Cadi that instant; that they did not fear his (the governor’s) power, and they would appeal to the Sultan and abide his decision. As they were.going to the Cadi, the Alcayd told them if they did contrary to his orders it would cost them their heads, and bid them return to their duty immediately ; and in order that there might be no further complaint on their part, he would make inquiry, and have justice done to them as well as the consul: thus ended the affair, which I at first was apprehensive would be attended with more serious consequences. Mr. Willshire, however, took care to send presents to the Addals, or four assistants of the Alcayd, who took occasion to convince the Alcayd, that the guards were in the wrong—however we durst not go out walking or riding as formerly, but were obliged to restrict ourselves to the city, and I had time to examine it within and round about.

The city of Mogadore, called Swearah by the Moors and Arabs, or the beautiful picture, is situated on the Atlantic Ocean, in latitude 31. 15, (thirty-one degrees, fifteen minutes north,) and longitude 9— (nine degrees) west from London. It is built somewhat in form of an oblong square: its length from north to south is about three fourths of a mile, and its greatest breadth is not more than half a mile : it stands on a peninsula that has been recovered from the sea, which washes its walls on the W. N. W. and south sides every tide, and is sometimes completely surrounded by water at high spring tides. The walls are built of stone and lime, generally six feet thick at their base, and about twenty feet in height, surmounted with small turrets ; and have batteries of cannon on them at every angle: the walls generally are made of rough stone and small sea pebbles, mixed and cemented tegether by liquid lime-mortar, filling up every crack solid; they are plastered over with this kind of stucco within and without, and are thick, solid, very firm and hard. On the eastern angle as you approach the gates, there is a round tower built of hewn stone, thirty feet high, mounted with about forty pieces of brass and iron cannon, that command the approaches of the city on theeast side, assisted by the four batteries on the N. E. angle, and a heavy battery on the water-port. It is divided into three ports —el Ksebah, or the strong and lion-like fortress, is the southernmost, and is surrounded by a double wall on the east and south sides; a single wall, but very thick, next the sea, where there is a strong bombproof battery, mounting about forty pieces of cannon of different calibers, and most of them are of brass: this is its whole defence on the seabord. Vessels of war might anchor, in smooth weather, within half cannon shot of the town in thirty fathoms water, rocky bottom. This town is separated from the main town by a strong wall, whose gates are regularly shut at 8 o’clock every evening, and not opened until broad daylight the next morning. The Christian merchants reside in the fortress, and the four Jew merchants keep their goods in it. The next is the main town, where the market is held, and where the artificers live : there is a very handsome square set apart in that section of the town for a grain market, surrounded by small shops, kept by Moors and Jews: these shops are on the ground floor, have a door, but no window to them, and are so very small that the keeper can sit at his ease in the centre and reach every article in them. They, among other things, manufacture at Mogadore large quantities of haicks, which are made of woollen yarn spun-by hand with a common iron spindle, and wove in common rough looms similar to such as we made use of, even in America, not more than fifty years ago—they throw the shuttle by hand, and weave their pieces about five yards long and six feet wide, and they are sold from the looms at about two dollars each, but are not allowed to be exported by sea: they also make axes and many other iron tools, such as adzes, scimitars, knives, &c. East of the main town, is the town occupied by the blacks, in a corner or kind of a triangle made by the outer wall: it is said to contain two thousand free blacks t this part is also walled in by itself, and has its gates shut every night. The negroes that are free enjoy nearly all the p rivileges of the Moors, being of the same religion; still they are not allowed to live together promiscuously.

The fourth division, is the Jews’ town, or Millah: it is very confined, and occupies the N. W. angle of the city: the sea washes its outer wall every tide, and has nearly beat it through on the west side; it is divided from the principal town by a high strong wall. The Millah has but one gate, which is on its eastern side, near the north city gate: this is always strongly guarded, and has a governor or Alcayd t» adjust and settle disputes between the Jews, and between them and the Moors. The water-port is two hundred yards south of the city, within the outer-wall—this is a wall built of hewn-stone, with several arches, through which the tide flows and ebbs: the wall is about twenty feet thick, and has a strong battery of heavy cannon well mounted on it, for the defence of the harbour: it is extremely well built; its arches are well turned, and the whole work would bear a comparison with an European fortress. The harbour spreads itself before the town to the south, and is shielded from the sea by an island about two miles long, and half a mile broad, only distant from the water-port point about five hundred yards. Between the island and water-port, the vessels enter, keeping the island side close on board, until they run down half the length of it, when they may anchor in two and a half fathoms at low water, within a cable’s length of the island, and with good cables and anchors ride safe during three quarters of the year; but vessels drawing over fourteen feet water, cannot ride secure on account of the shallowness of the harbour. ' In the months of December, January, and February, strong gales prevail from the westward, vrhich heave in such heavy swells round the two ends of this island, that what seamen call the send, or swing of the sea, breaks the strongest cables, and forces all the vessels in this port on shore. In the winter of 1815, an English brig was driven on shore with a full cargo, and totally lost; another parted her cables, and was drifting fast towards the water-port* when the master and crew deserted her in their boat, in hopes of saving their lives; but the boat was upset, and all hands were either drowned or dashed to pieces against the rocks; the brig’s cables, however, caught round some craggy rocks, which held her through the remainder of the gale, though within a few feet of the rocks astern. An American schooner’s crew were also lost in this port a few years ago, together with her supercargo, in consequence of quitting the vessel, and taking to their boat, while the captain, who was soliciting assistance from the other vessels in port, was saved, and the schooner was also finally saved, though she had been totally abandoned : it is in the winter a very dangerous port, and any vessel entering it, should have three good cables and anchors, to moor her head and stern by, and should strike her yards and topmasts immediately.

The island is called Mogadore by the Europeans, and was thus named by the Portuguese or Spaniards, when they first partially surveyed this coast, and thence the European name of Mogadore, is derived for the town, and not from the sanctuary or saint- house near it, which in Arabic is called Milliah. This island serves as a State Prison for the Moorish empire: it is fortified and strongly guarded, commonly containing not less than one thousand State prisoners, who have mostly been Alcaydes and military men, and who are frequently pardoned and restored to their former posts again, after a few years trial of their fortitude and patience there in irons. Provisions are sent to the island twice a week in good weather. All communication with the island is forbidden to strangers, under pain of death. On a rocky point, without the water-port, the nearest to the island, stands a circular battery to defend the entrance of the harbour, and protect the island: on the east side of the harbour, near the Sultan’s palace, there is also a circular battery, well.built of stone, calculated to mount twenty guns, but the guns that had been mounted on it were taken away, under an impression that they might fall into the hands of the Arabs, who attacked Swearah during the quarrel for the succession, which was terminated in the elevation of the present Sultan, Muley Soli- man, to the Moorish throne.

Swearah or Mogadore, was built by Sidi Mohammed, the father of Muley Soliman, who spared no pains or expense in making it correspond with its name: it is the only tolerable sea-port in the Moorish dominions, except Tangier, and the only one in which foreign vessels are allowed a kind of free- trade, or one without special licenses: the houses are built of rough stone and lime; are from one to three stories high, and nearly all have flat terraced roofs: the streets are narrow, and some of them almost entirely covered with houses arched or projecting over them, particularly in the fortress part: the buildings at first, it is said, were erected under the inspection of artisans, who were brought from Europe for the purpose: it is by far the nearest town in the empire, and is computed to contain about thirty thousand Moors and blacks, and six thousand "Jews. During the contest for the succession, at the death of Muley Eitzid, who reigried ’ a short time after the death of Sidi Mohammed, Swea- rah was attacked by surprise in the night, and about three thousand of the assailants entered the fortress part over the walls, and actually got possession of the streets; but they were soon destroyed by the garrison and town’s people, from the roofs of their houses: and the army before it, consisting of field- Moors and Arabs, were put to flight. It has been since visited and nearly depopulated twice by the plague, which spread terror and devastation in all the western part of the empire. Mercantile trade was here encouraged by its founder, and flourished to a great extent; large quantities of wheat were sent from hence to Spain and Portugal; sheeps’ wool and the gums were also shipped in great abundance; namely, gum-sandarach, arabic, &c. &c.— almonds, olives, dates, dried figs, and large quantities of olive-oil, bees-wax, and honey—annis, cummin, worm, and other medicinal seeds—pomegranate peel, and many other drugs—goat, calf, and a few camels’ skins, and camels’ hair—haicks for the Guinea trade, and many other articles. Their imports were bar-iron and steel, knives, and other cutlery, raw cotton, and many kinds of manufactured cotton goods, woollen cloths, silks, and silk handkerchiefs, teas, sugars, spices, gold and silver ornaments, pearls, amber beads, small Dutch looking- glasses, German goods, platillas, nankeens, lumber, &e. &C. There were at one time no less than thirty Christian mercantile houses established there: the duties on imports are ten per centum, taken in kind when the goods are landed, except on the articles of iron, steel, and cotton, on which the duties are paid in cash at the same rate: (the government allowing the importer a short credit on the duties:) this is the duty the Sultan is entitled tp by the Koran as tithes, or tenths, according to their sacred code, for he is the religious, as well as the temporal sovereign. The duties on exports are regulated by an imperial order, and are not steady.

Trade has been depressed of late years by enormous duties on exports, and by prohibitions, so much so, that there are now only two respectable Christian establishments in Mogadore, and those who conduct them are forced to put up with every kind of insult and imposition: they do no business to a profit, and must, if it does not sqon alter for the better, quit the place altogether. It is the policy of the present emperor, who is absolute, to keep the people as poo i as possible, that they may not have it in their power to rebel; for a rebellious army cannot be supported there without money, or kept together without an immediate hope of plunder, and the Moorish government has very little to fear from a partial and ill organized insurrection, the chiefs of which must have money as well as bravery, and display good conduct, or they will soon be forsaken. The Sultan commenced his system by shutting the ports of Santa Cruz, Saffy,Rabat,Azamore, Daflbeida,&c. and ordering the foreign merchants residing in them to go to Mogadore, or Swearah, where he said they should be protected. Soon afterwards they began to prohibit the introduction of some articles, then the exportation of many—- such as wool, wheat, olive oil, &c. and laid a duty that amounted to a prohibition on several other articles of exportation; when the people murmured, they were told it was a sin to trade with men who did not follow the true and only holy religion on earth: that their prophet had strictly forbidden such traffic as would be liable to corrupt their morals and defile them in the sight of God: that this sin had been committed, and that God was now taking vengeance of his people by sending the locusts and the plague that followed them, laying waste the country, and unpeopling so many fine cities. These were arguments which had great weight with the superstitious Moors, aided by the plague which at that time raged with dreadful fury and swept off three fourths of the inhabitants of Mogadore, Saffy, and several other towns; the whole garrison of el Ksebbah on Ten- sift river, &c. &c. Several of the Christian merchants died also of the plague, and many of the most respectable mercantile Moors: this caused an almost total stagnation of business, which stagnation has been increasing, if possible, ever since, owing to these causes and other heavy commercial restraints imposed by the present emperor.

Should any- of the maritime nations declare war against the Moors, Mogadore might be easily taken and destroyed, though the place could not be retained any length of time: a few sloops of war of a light draft of water might enter the harbour and sail down near the south end of the island, where they might land troops and take possession of it, which being high, commands the town; here they might construct batteries and beat down its walls at their leisure. The country near it is covered with nothing but drifts of sand for a distance beyond cannon shot. The Moors are very awkward gunners, though as brave as men can be, believing that if they venture even up to the very mouth of a cannon, they cannot die one moment before the time appointed by fate, nor in any other manner than that which was predestined by the Almighty before they were created, and even from the foundation of the world.

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