« AnteriorContinuar »
ber of troops which have been employed to maintain her dominion over the Arab Tribes, are measures which cannot be fairly appreciated by the repulsive incidents of a protracted warfare, or by the slender results hitherto derived from the possession of the former territories of Algiers. It is acknowledged by the most enlightened partisans of the French enterprise, that very little progress has hitherto been made in the right direction, although no army can have displayed more individual bravery, or a more constant indifference to hardships of every description. The attempts to colonize and administer the country have not been more successful; for the maintenance of the army is the one great necessity to which the civil interests of the dependency have been sacrificed. Every thing in Algeria has as yet been organized for permanent warfare. No one has ventured to prepare for peace, as the probable or habitual state of the country. On the contrary, when it has happened that Marshal Bugeaud, and the officers supposed to be best acquainted with the policy of the Arab tribes, and the resources of Abd-el-Kader, have proclaimed that they had secured the submission, if not the pacification, of the land, the Emir, with his winged horsemen, has been soon again seen in the highlands of the Djerjera, or at the gates of Algiers.
Where the results of a great enterprise are so doubtful, or hitherto so disastrous, there is little, either in military operations or in civil administration, that merits the attention of the reflecting observer; and it is no part of our present purpose to enter into any details concerning this as yet unprofitable warfare. But we gladly avail ourselves of the appearance of the volumes named at the head of this Article, as yet but little known amongst us, to improve, by means of their instructive contents, the very limited knowledge we possess of that singular population which has been called upon to renew, in the nineteenth century, the ancient combat of the Crescent and the Cross; and to dispel to a.certain extent the extreme ignorance of the geography of a part of Northern Africa which still prevails in Europe.
The French, upon their first landing on the coast of Africa, in 1830, were almost as unacquainted with the character of the people they were eventually to encounter upon that shore, as Columbus was with that of the inhabitants of the New World, when he first cast anchor off Hispaniola. They knew that a Turkish Dey of Algiers had insulted a French Consul; and that France was to be avenged. The expedition succeeded. The Dey, the Turkish troops, the Turkish administration, the Turkish treasures, and all traces of the
Turkish conquest, vanished with inconceivable rapidity. The French found themselves invested with the government of a country of which they knew not the extent, the population, or the character; and opposed by a people whom they have since learned to know by the sternest lessons of fanaticism and war. This ignorance may seem exiraordinary, when we remember that the coast of Algiers lay within a few hours' sail of France and Italy; but it was unavoidable and universal. The States of Barbary had continued, down to a very recent period, to practise upon the most frequented sea of the civilized world, enormities which we should not now leave unpunished in the recesses of the Eastern Isles. Algiers was a nest of robbers by the side of the high-road ; and that was nearly all we knew about it. The geography of Barbary could only be studied, in the compendium drawn up by Leo Africanus for the instruction or amusement of his Pontifical patron; or in the scanty though scholarlike pages of honest Dr Shaw, who held for some years the post of Chaplain to the English Factory at Algiers, and published the first edition of his Travels, at Oxford, rather more than a hundred years ago.
The interval had brought us no increase of knowledge with respect to the interior of Barbary. The works of the Arabian geographers, El Bekri of Cordova, and El Edrici of Ceuta, were little known in Europe. It was not till 1836 that a translation of the latter writer was published by the Geographical Society of Paris. Gibbon boasted that he was not ignorant that five of the Moorish tribes still retained their barbarous (or Berber) idiom, with the appellation and character of white Africans. But he adds, that Shaw had seen these savages' with distant terror; and that Leo, a captive in the Vatican, appears to have lost more of his Arabic than he could acquire of Greek or Roman learning. Captain Lyon visited the kingdom of Fezzan, south of Tripoli; our relations with the empire of Morocco are considerable; and numerous expeditions have been made to Timbuctoo. But the central chain of the Atlas, and, still more, the vast regions south of the Atlas, which are confounded under the name of the Sahara, or Great Desert, were wholly unexplored by Europeans; and nothing could be more imperfect and inaccurate than the notions actually entertained of these countries and their inhabitants, by the French themselves, until they had been in possession of the territory of Algiers for several years, and had advanced their outposts far into the land of Dates, and beyond the furthest limits of the Tell.
The extraordinary resources which have enabled the Sultan of the Arabs to carry on the war, even when he had been driven beyond what was supposed to be the habitable region of Barbarythe numbers and varieties of the migratory population from the interior, who frequent the markets and ports of the coast-the
VOL. LXXXIV. NO. CLXIX.
annual movements of the pilgrims, and the gradual establishment of relations with some of the independent Communities of the Sahara-have induced the French government to devote great attention, of late years, to these remote districts and unknown Tribes. A number of enterprising and intelligent Officers have been formed in the army of Africa, who are perfectly familiar with the language and the manners of the Arabs; and who have prosecuted their researches into the topographical and commercial history of the interior with great success.
These gentlemen have been associated with the scientific body named by the French Government, in 1839, for the purpose of exploring the country; and the result of their labours is contained in the interesting and curious volumes of the work, first named at the head of this Article, to which we shall now draw the reader's attention.
In the first volume, M. Carette, a Captain of engineers, has, from a prodigious amount of oral testimony, drawn up a complete account of the roads or tracks known to the Arabs, in the southern part of Algeria and the regency of Tunis, with the distances between the respective stations or villages on these routes. All the Tribes and classes of the interior are represented in the northern parts of the country by emigrants, who are drawn from the Sahara for the purposes of trade or of labour. Thus the inhabitants of the little town of El Bordj, in the Oasis of the Ziban, have been from time immemorial the privileged boatmen of the port of Algiers ; and the first native who rows an European ashore is probably an Arab of the Sahara. From the concurrent testimony of these individuals, a vast body of information has been collected ; and in spite of the difficulties attending the undertaking, the result has placed in our hands a pretty complete Topographical account of the country. The nature of these difficulties may be conceived, when it is stated, that the Arabs have no distinct or uniform mode of computing either time or distance. In some of the Communities of the Sahara, where the use of the public spring for the purpose of irrigation is an interest of first-rate importance, a rude sand-glass, or Chlepsydron, is employed to allot the stated periods, during which the stream is to flow in a particular channel. But the Arabs had no regular mechanical admeasurement of time before the French invasion. The eight periods of the Arab day are determined by the visible course of the sun, and by the habitual observances of religion; which are announced from the Minarets of the Mosques. The same vagueness prevailed as to measures of distance. The Roman mile was employed by the Arabian geographers, and is still in use among the people. But its real length is extremely
uncertain ; for the universal definition given of a mile by the Arabs is, the distance at which you can no longer distinguish a man from a woman.' M. Carette has adopted the Parasang, which is equal to the old French League, or to three Roman miles, as the most convenient mode of expressing distances, which are still unavoidably inaccurate. The mathematical geography of the interior is quite in its infancy. The routes which he has been able to lay down in his Itineraries are mere tracks or paths, seldom wide enough to allow of the passage of more than one beast of burden; for the population of Northern Africa invariably travel in file; and even upon the broad military roads, which have recently been constructed by the French, the Moors and Kabyles may be seen travelling in their accustomed string, never marching abreast. But the existence of these regular tracks throughout the country, is in itself a fact of the greatest importance; for they are the means of intercourse between the Tribes, and the result of peculiar migratory and mercantile habits, which have existed for ages.
The second, and by far the most interesting, of M. Carette's contributions to this Collection of original materials, elucidates these peculiarusages by his researches into the geography and commerce of Southern Algeria. This name is used to designate that vast and mysterious region, hitherto confusedly described by all geographers as the SAHARA, or GREAT DESERT; and which is most imperfectly indicated in the best maps, anterior to those annexed to the volumes before us. M. Carette lays down with precision the natural boundaries and divisions of this extensive and unknown territory; he describes the basins into which it is divided, and the numerous Oases which maintain a distinct and independent people; he shows that the manners of these Tribes differ in the most remarkable manner from those of the Northern Arabs, as well as from the ferocity of the Tuarichs of the real Desert, or the savage Fetichism of the Negro; and he points out the great lines of commercial intercourse, by which a very considerable amount of traffic actually takes place, between the interior of what is called the Great Desert, and the manufactories of civilized Europe.
The third volume of the Collection, and the last which has as yet appeared, is composed of historical and geographical notices by M. Pellissier; in which he examines the various attempts of the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the French, and the Italian Republics, to found settlements upon the northern coast of Africa. We may have occasion again to revert to these curious and pertinent annals of African colonisation and warfare; but it is sufficient in this place to observe, that they all teach the same lesson,
namely, that all these enterprises ended in complete failure. St Louis, Don Sebastian, Charles V., and Doria, landed on the fatal coast of Barbary only to tarnish the fame of European Chivalry, and to expose their lives in a hopeless contest. The issue of these minor Crusades was even more immediately and decisively disastrous than that of the great Christian campaigns in Palestine; and we are reminded by the more recent incidents of African warfare, that, however the policy, the spirit, and the military resources of Europe may have changed, since the era of those earlier expeditions, the enemy to be subdued, and the climate to be encountered, are now identically the same as in the middle ages. .
· The history of the Portuguese establishments in Morocco,' says M. Pellissier, presents an application of the two systems which have been discussed with reference to the French occupation of Algeria. In the north their dominion was limited, but the consequence was that their positions were constantly blockaded, and opened no channel to improve. ment and civilization. In the south their power was for some years extensive, brilliant, and prosperous; but it ended in catastrophes which disgusted the Portuguese, and induced them to abandon their conquests. They administered the government of the Arabs by Arab chiefs; and they used all the means of government which are said to be peculiarly applicable to the Arab race. Razzias, to use a modern but strictly national expression, were not spared. Why, then, did they not succeed? We have pointed out in this memoir the minor faults they committed, and we have shown how great was the power of the Chereefs against which they contended. But these causes of failure may exist every where, and may every where be surmounted. The real question is, what did they offer to the Arabs to quell the antipathies of race and of religion? The advantages they at one time offered to the tribes vanished when the Chereefs had consolidated their power; and thenceforward the spirit of their religion and their nationality acted without a check, in opposition to the Christian invaders.'-(Pellissier, p. 172.)
The religious intolerance which was the chief incentive of the African, as well as the Syrian Crusades, would admit of no compromise with the infidel; and the sanguinary excesses of those wars were justified or applauded by the superstition of the age.
. Strangely enough, the modern French occupation of Barbary, in which there is not a trace of religious fanaticism, or even as much of religious interest as might become a Christian people, has shown itself as intolerant as the fiercest wars of the faith. In the name of civilization, and for the mere purposes of territorial dominion, the natives have been treated with the rigour of persecution rather than that of war. They have been persecuted, not as Mahometans but as Arabs. Their whole social usages have been attacked, and overturned by their new masters; and the