Page images
PDF

passages in the poem.

children, for my travelling companions.

“But, Lamia, how inadequate seems mere prose, when writing of Florence, indeed of any spot in Tuscany, in its season, as is this, of supreme beauty and enchantment.”

“Then why confine you self to it,” she replies, “when escape

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

When the oil-lamps had, like the stars, vanished with next day's dawn, I started homeward, having, as far as Paris, Madame Ristori, her husband, and their two young

[ocr errors]

THE ANGLO-FRENCH AGREEMENT CONCERNING MOROCCO

THE signing of an agreement between England and France relative to the question of Morocco marks another page in the history of the only Moslem country of North Africa which has been able up to the present date to maintain its integrity. While centuries have rolled by, while Europe has emerged from a state of what was practically barbarism, Morocco, separated by only a few miles of sea, has remained untouched by the changes of civilisation, and if it has moved in any direction at all the movement has been retrograde. Only the echo remains to-day of the former arts and accomplishments of the Moors in Spain; and even in the days when the Moslems of Andalusia were amongst the most cultivated and artistic of the inhabitants of Europe there is little doubt that Morocco . was far behind them. Fez and Marakesh were seats of learning, it is true, but they did not reach the summit of such fame as they ever possessed until the Spanish Moors, driven out from their possessions on the Peninsula, returned once more to Morocco, bringing with them the remnants of their already disappearing civilisation. The necessity for action, necessitated by the presence of Christian enemies, disappeared; the incentive to excel in learning, no longer stimulated by rivalry and by foreign influences, died too. A century or so after the Moors had returned to Morocco they had forgotten nearly everything they had acquired in Spain, and since then they seem slowly to have slid back into a state of inertia and corruption, incurable except at the hands of some northern Power. All that they have retained of their original characteristics is their suspicion of the European and his objects, their fanaticism, and here and there a very little of their art. Their lives are hemmed in by routine and tradition—and of both they have retained merely what is the most unserviceable, Reactionary and conservative to a degree they seem to desire nothing better than the unhappy life that the generality of

them live, and they imagine that under any other circumstances than those in which they actually exist, they would be still more unhappy. Miserable as is the existence of the larger part of the population they seldom complain of their misery, and have become accustomed by centuries of experience to the dangers and uncertainties which always accompany an oriental and despotic government. Influenced by an intense belief in fatality—that even the oppression which has been from time immemorial their lot is the direct manifestation of God's power—they drag on their weary lives unconscious of, or perhaps incapable of realising, any other state. While they needed little from without—for it is only in modern times that the trade of Morocco has become significant —they took precautions lest even that little should alter the condition of their lives. They have successfully closed their country against the whole world, for although at the seaports a certain number of Europeans reside—Tangier can scarcely be considered an integral part of Morocco—the interior remains untouched; and even to-day the European residents of the inland towns can almost be counted upon the fingers of one's two hands, and such as there are, are practically consular officials, a few missionaries, and the European employés of the Sultan. Patriotism, as we understand it, does not exist; for Morocco has always been, and still is, little more than a collection of semi-independent, and often quite independent, tribes, who from religious grounds, or from fear of the consequences, have acknowledged as the religious sovereign the Shereef, or descendant of the Prophet, who holds the throne. It is this religious prestige which the Sultans of Morocco possess that has formed the sole cohesive factor in the Moorish Empire. In everything else, even in actual government, the system is purely tribal. The representative of the Sultan in each district is a member of the tribe he governs, and his powers are practically limitless so long as he can collect and forward to headquarters the taxes due from those under him. The one feeling which to any extent binds these tribes together is the desire to remain as they are, and never to become the subjects of a foreign Power. There are many individual Moors, it is true, to whom the uncertainty of life, the insecurity of property and the difficulties of trade, have proved an incentive to a desire for foreign intervention, and who realise that without foreign intervention no improvement will come about. But even though the desire to keep the foreigner out of Morocco is general amongst the people of that country, it is extremely doubtful whether tribal jealousies and suspicions are not too strong to allow of any united action should such be considered necessary. This factor in the temperament of the people has been clearly exhibited during the late rebellion, where tribal feuds have caused as much fighting as have the opposing causes of Sultan and Pretender. There is no doubt that many a tribe has taken the part of one side for the sole reason that his neighbours, and hereditary enemies, have chosen the other. So long as Europe remained indifferent the Moor has been able to maintain his exclusiveness ; but the trend of expansion, mercantile as much as territorial, which has lately so largely increased amongst the European peoples, has threatened to break down Morocco's self-imposed barriers. Yet had there been solely this desire for expansion it is possible that the Moors might still for many years to come have withstood the pressure. But there were two other agencies at work, one from without, the other internal. A reciprocal desire to be on better terms with each other, to rid the atmosphere of all questions which under the influence of the uncertain temper of nations might at any moment bring about war, has happily brought England and France into accord. Each nation has realised that the causes of friction were adjustable, and each has recognised the good qualities of the other. In trade, in colonial expansion, we are not rivals, and yet for years past both have failed to realise this fact. It needed the personal influence, and the recognised tact, of King Edward to lead the way. Both countries responded, with the result that, after years of haggling and recrimination, a rapprochement, as nearly perfect as is possible, has come about, to the great mutual advantage of the two Powers concerned, and a guarantee for the maintenance of the peace of Europe. It is this excellent understanding between England and France that has decided the fate of Morocco. But there was a second and internal agency at work that rendered the necessity of settling the Morocco question more imperative than would otherwise have been the case, and has no doubt facilitated the negotiations. As long as the Sultans had maintained the traditional policy of their country, a policy of conservative exclusiveness, there had been little or no success on the part of the European Powers which were desirous of throwing the country open to trade. Formerly they were content to spend their lives, as their predecessors upon the throne had done, in the simplicity of Arab tradition, with its semi-barbarous state of brocaded banners and ragged troops. It is true that Mulai El-Hassen introduced a few of the comforts and luxuries of Europe into the palace, but in a manner that neither excited the hostility of his subjects or depleted his treasury. He saved money at all times, and left at his death a not inconsiderable fortune, the greater part of which his son, the reigning Sultan, has allowed during the last two or three years to pass into the hands of commission agents, whose business has not been altogether run on lines that would be approved of in strict commercial circles. Mulai Abd El-Aziz, the reigning Sultan, came to the throne at the age of fourteen some ten years ago. For the first few years of his tenure of the throne, until 1901 in fact, he was under the strict tutelage of his Grand Vizier, Si Ahmed Ben Musa, who, however harsh his methods may have been in his oppression of the people, managed to keep the young Sultan securely seated. But Si Ahmed died, and there was no genuinely strong man to take his place. The Sultan—an unknown quantity—emerged from the palace and took up the threads of government himself. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, a clever fanatical Rabat Moor, retired—with fortune —and the two principal posts at court were filled by two men of very different types. As it is more than possible that both of these men may play a not unimportant rôle in the immediate future of Morocco a few words as to their characters may not be amiss. The first, and elder, of the two is Si Abd El-Karim Ben Suleiman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a clever and capable man, thoughtful and scholarly, but lacking a little in energy. He is typical of the old school of Moorish politicians, except that he had been in Russia, France, and Algeria, as a special envoy, and has thus had opportunities of judging of the relative state of his own country. He is reactionary, in so far as he considers that any radical reform would risk the resentment of the population, and cautious and slow in his methods. Yet probably of all the Sultan's Ministers of State he has the clearest view of the real political situation, and recognises its necessities. His tact and his habit of giving serious consideration to all questions that come before him ought to render him very useful to both the Sultan and the French Government in the understanding which they must arrive at in the course of the next few months. The second man, who has been more than any other the guiding star of Morocco policy during the last two years or so, is Si Mehdi El-Menehbi, a young Arab of the south, with all the energy and grace of a leopard, and an impatience and restiveness entirely his own.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »