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His short period of power has had its ups and downs. He was sent to England on an Embassy to King Edward, and returned to find himself in disgrace. His pluck saved him. He hurried by a marvellous forced march to the Court, and took the Sultan unawares. Before his rivals had learned of his return, he was back in power again. He is a man of most sympathetic nature, and as Minister of War was very popular with the troops. His personal courage and his indefatigable nature are recognised even by his enemies. His wealth and influence over the Sultan made him many enemies, though he apparently never lost his master's regard. He was the Sultan's inseparable companion until lately, and at the present moment is performing the pilgrimage to Mecca, so often the resort of Moslem favourites who feel that it is wise to withdraw from the public gaze, at least for a period. When he left Fez, only a few months ago, to proceed to Tangier on his way eastward, he was the most unpopular man in the country. Upon his shoulders were laid all the misfortunes of Morocco–an unsubdued rebellion, an empty treasury, and a Sultan addicted to the companionship of Christians. His enemies prophesied that a change would take place for the better as soon as he left the capital. They did not realise that they were driving from the Sultan's Court the only man of energy and personal courage. The state of the Government was bad enough, it is true, when he set out ; in a few weeks it was hopeless. Fresh quarrels broke out amongst the Viziers ; fresh intrigues were of daily occurrence, until the Sultan's palace became, not a house divided against itself, but a very marmalade of division and dissension. Such are the two men who gained the Sultan's confidence when he stepped out from the recesses of his palace to take up the reins of government himself, and who have been ever since his principal advisers, notwithstanding that the advice of each was exactly contrary to that of the other. The character of Mulai Abdul Aziz, though full of good points, is one that requires a strong adviser at his side. He is undoubtedly weak and changeable. He listens to every one's advice, and in his endeavour to accept the right one invariably does the opposite. Kind-hearted, and imbued with an intense desire to benefit the condition of his people, he has been actuated throughout by intentions of the best kind, but he does not possess that power of judgment and discrimination which are so necessary to an oriental ruler, who must know that in every word of the advice which is, apparently disinterestedly, given there usually lurks an ulterior motive. One of the Sultan's Viziers in talking over the situation with the writer,
once remarked, “ Mulai El Hassen (the late Sultan) used to ask
** palace, with which no fault can be found; but he was persuaded ** to put up heavy and expensive machinery to work it, when o within a few yards ran a river which was already turning the so three turbines that supplied the power for all the machinery at ::/ the arsenal. In fact the Sultan's extravagance knew no bounds, o and he was ably assisted by his agents in spending the whole o reserves of the treasury as well as the whole revenue of the
country, and in incurring debts of another half-million sterling
. . . .
o in the inside of two years and a half, during which the total : receipts of revenue were certainly not more than £4oo, ooo per : all Ill! IIl.
o: But Mulai Abdul Aziz went even further. His amusements o necessitated the presence of Europeans. Photographers, o engineers, drill instructors, architects, &c., were engaged for his :* service, and the fanatical Moor of Fez saw a crowd of fifteen or 43 twenty Christians daily entering the almost sacred precincts of o the palace. This naturally gave rise to scandals. The Sultan 3 was accused of smoking and drinking with his European o entourage. I think I need not add that there was not one word
of truth in these rumours ; that throughout the Sultan, kind
and sympathetic to his employés, never disregarded the tenets of his religion. He played polo, cricket, and tennis, harmless enough in themselves, but unsuitable in the surroundings of Fez. He rode at times with his European entourage, and adopted on these occasions a modified European costume under his white cloak. English boots and gaiters covered his legs and feet, and caused a shock to the population. He had never been popular in the northern capital of Fez, which the Fezzis, who consider themselves the aristocracy of Morocco, thought he had neglected by his long residence in the south, and the rumours which began to circulate wholesale as to his preference for European society—which was true—and as to his disregard of his religion—which was not—fanned the spirit of rebellion. The subsequent crisis, a crisis still existing, is too well known to require detail here. A Pretender arose, and the tribes to the east of Fez joined him. The Sultan's army sixteen months ago suffered a great defeat. Mulai Abdul Aziz took the field at the head of a reorganised force, and failed to push his way more than two days' journey to the east of Fez. The treasury was exhausted. A loan of a million sterling was raised in Paris, London and Madrid, and spent to no effect. The Pretender remained at Taza, the Sultan at Fez. It became a game of “stale mate.” The money that had been raised in Europe had disappeared with extraordinary rapidity, and the treasury was once more empty. The Sultan had not collected the tribal taxation for a couple of years, and when he attempted to do so the entire country refused to pay. Attempts to raise a loan in England failed, and only by borrowing small sums of money from time to time could the Sultan pay even the interest of the ‘European loan of last year. The French bankers came to the rescue, they paid the coupons, and added the amount to the capital. The government cheques drawn at Fez on the Tangier custom house were dishonoured. It took months to collect enough money eventually to pay them. The Sultan's creditors became nervous. Then came a fall in the local currency, owing to the large introduction of debased coin, struck for the Sultan in Europe. The Moorish Government made a large profit over the introduction of this money, especially as they have so far neglected to pay the mints for its manufacture. The troops which had been sent to various parts of the country to quell the rebellion were no longer paid. They sold their arms and horses and deserted. The rebellion itself made little headway. The Pretender is as powerless as the Sultan to take action. He remains at Taza, surrounded by a few faithful tribes—just as the Sultan remains in Fez with a few troops. The prestige of both is at a low ebb, and the mass of the population, whose interest in the actual political outlook is very small, have taken advantage of so unusually favourable an opportunity to throw off every Semblance of obedience to the Government, and on the whole are quiet and peaceable. Without intervention—financial intervention and possibly more—the atmosphere could not be cleared, and as long as Morocco remained in its existing condition it threatened danger to Europe. The Government was, and is, incapable of keeping order in the country, and it is only owing to the natural restraint of the tribes that some serious disaster—some serious attempt to loot the coast towns at all events—has not taken place. The French frontier has had to be more strictly guarded than ever, and it has required all the patience and tact of the French officials there to avoid serious collision with the tribes. With the exception of the bombardment of one of the “ksour” of Figuig and the punishment of a few raiders, frontier fighting has been entirely avoided. There cannot be more than one serious opinion as to on whom the duty of intervention should fall. The interests of France in Morocco are incomparably greater than our own. We have a considerable trade with the coast towns of the Atlantic, and the neutrality of the Straits of Gibraltar is of great importance to us. So long as both of these were guaranteed there was no need for more. We desire no territory, and wish for no political influence in the country's administration. With France it is otherwise. Her interests are enormous. Geographically and politically, Morocco forms an extension of her great possessions in North Africa, and she has hundreds of miles of frontier to protect. But France's interest in the country is best understood when it is remembered that in no direction can one leave Morocco by land without entering French territory or French spheres of influence. When the idea of these Anglo-French negotiations was first mooted the writer was in Fez. The suspicions of the Sultan had been aroused by an article in the Spectator. He set on foot inquiries in other directions, and discovered evidence, which it was pretended had been obtained from a French official source, that pourparlers were either being entered upon or would shortly be so. The writer himself was able to confirm that they were, to say the least of it, probable. The Sultan was much alarmed. He sent for the writer of this article late one night. On arriving at the palace I found his Majesty witnessing a performance of the cinematograph. The film being shown was what amounted to a grotesque parody of King Edward's Coronation, and which the Sultan informed me had been specially taken in the Abbey, and which doubtless had been supplied to him as a genuine representation of the ceremony. The Sultan was much depressed, and he poured into my ears his fears for the future as we sat in two large armchairs with the ever-changing pictures on the screen before us. Film succeeded film, picture succeeded picture ; but neither of the audience, which consisted of only the Sultan and myself, paid much attention to what was being portrayed. I was puzzled at first to realise why this annoying accompaniment of cinematograph was considered a necessary adjunct to our Conversation, but the Sultan's voice was at times almost broken by distress, and I believe he did not wish me to see the expression of his face. A cinematograph representation was probably the only excuse he could think of for receiving me in almost total darkness. At times he was pathetic. “I have tried,” he said, “to do so much for my country, to improve it in every way, and now the European Powers talk of dividing it up, or giving it away. It is very hard. I have tried to follow every one's advice.” Poor man, he had. Could he have been from the first a little less amenable to advice, the rebellion would not have taken place, the treasury would not be empty, the country would not be hopelessly financially embarrassed, and the Anglo-French agreement regarding Morocco probably would not have been signed to-day. It was hard For whatever may have been his faults, the Sultan has never been influenced by anything but a real desire to do his best. And yet there is no reason, now that the work of advising him falls into the hands of France, that he may not yet see accomplished much of what he desired to reform alone, but was incapable of doing. The following day I had another long conversation with the Sultan. He was sincerely alarmed. He seemed to expect almost immediate danger, and told me he had decided to send his jewels to London to be deposited in a bank for safety. A few days later these jewels were despatched, packed in old biscuit tins, not from any desire, I fancy, to conceal them, but for the reason that it was less trouble to bundle the tiaras and necklaces into tins than to pack them in any other way. Whatever the idea the act was typically Moorish. Official denials of the negotiations put the Sultan's mind somewhat at rest ; but the Governments of England and France are mistaken if they think that the Moorish officials have not expected for some time since the termination of an agreement of some sort. Officially the Sultan has appeared perfectly