Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

of pirates. In this calling they gained fame and wealth, collected a strong naval force, ravaged the seas, and spread the terror of their name in every corner of the Mediterranean. Horuc, the elder brother, was called Barbarossa, and this chief of the pirates was the ally to whom Eutemi, king of Algiers, applied to aid him in expelling the Spaniards from Oran. The proposal was joyfully accepted by Barbarossa, who repaired immediately to Algiers with five thousand men. He was received with enthusiasm, and, by his profuseness and artifices, so strong a footing did he gain with the people, that he murdered Eutemi, usurped his authority, and declared himself king of Algiers. He ruled with cruelty, and made war on the king of Tremecen, whom he vanquished, and whose dominions he seized. Two years after his usurpation, he was slain by the Spaniards, in attempting to escape from Tremecen.

His brother Hayradin, not inferior to him in talents and ambition, succeeded to the throne of Algiers. He was likewise called Barbarossa. Thus the dynasty of the pirates was established, and from that day to this the sceptre of empire, however legitimate may have been the descent of power, has been wielded by the hand of a pirate. This second Barbarossa, finding himself harassed by the Arabs and Moors on one side, and by the Spaniards on the other, sought the protection of the Grand Seignior, and Algiers became a dependency of the Ottoman Porte. This relation has subsisted under various modifications ever since. It was a wise step for Barbarossa ; he obtained forces to drive away his enemies, and even strengthened his power by conquests. His successful attack on Tunis, and his subsequent expulsion from that city by Charles the Fifth, are curious events in the history of those times; and not less so is the hazardous expedition of Charles against Algiers, five or six years later, in conjunction with the great admiral, Andrew Doria, which terminated in a disastrous and total failure.

Barbarossa was raised to the dignity of Bashaw of the empire, and a new viceroy appointed over Algiers. The Porte exercised the power of appointing governors, till the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Algerines, weary of the oppression of their foreign masters, obtained the privilege of choosing their own governors, who were from that period called Deys by Europeans. They still paid tribute to the Grand Seignior, and submitted to the authority of the Bashaws appointed by him; but in the year 1710, they expelled the Turkish Bashaw, and from

that time the powers of this office were united with that of the Dey, and the form of government was instituted, which has continued to the present time.

The Algerine government, as it now exists, cannot be better described, than in the words of Mr Shaler.

• It is in fact,' says he, “a military republic with a chief elective for life, and upon a small scale resembling that of the Roman Empire after the death of Commodus. This government ostensibly consists of a sovereign chief, who is termed the Dey of Algiers, and a Divan, or great Council, indefinite in point of number, which is composed of the ancient military who are or have been commanders of corps. The Divan elects the Deys, and deliberates upon such affairs as he chooses to lay before it.

• Such is the theory of the Algerine Government. The credit and importance of the Divan would naturally vary according to the character and abilities of the reigning sovereign; it was formerly a real corps in the state, held regular sessions, had funds attributed to it, and claimed to determine upon all the measures of government; but it has dwindled into a mere phantom; its existence even would be doubtful if, in the year 1816, Omar Pashaw had not formally convened the Divan to deliberate upon the negotiations of the Regency with Great Britain. Since the removal of the residence of the Deys of Algiers into the Citadel, the Divan may be regarded as a dead letter in their constitution. The Dey appoints his own ministers, which are the Hasnagee, whose authority extends over the national finances and interior concerns; the Aga, who is commander in chief, and may be termed minister of war; the Vikel Argée, or minister of marine and foreign affairs ; the Khodgia de Cavallas, who may be denominated Adjutant General, and superintendant of the national domain ; and the Bet el Mel, or judge of inheritances. The post of the latter functionary has risen to great consideration on account of its pecuniary importance. These ministers form the cabinet council of the sovereign, and with him constitute in fact the real government of Algiers, free of any control by the pretended Divan. The election of the Deys of Algiers should be confirmed by the Grand Seignior, who is their acknowledged Suzerain (paramount lord). This recognition is never refused, and is by custom given with the rank of Bashaw of three tails, which is his ordinary title. That of Dey is hardly known in Algiers, and is used only by foreigners; it was probably originally a nickname, as its literal meaning in the Turkish language is simply, 66 uncle."

• The Deys of Algiers assume and exercise all the rights of

[ocr errors]

sovereign authority immediately on their election; their solemn installation takes place only when they receive the firman of the Grand Seignior recognising their election, with the Kaftan and sabre of state, which are usually sent as soon as may be by a Capidgi Bashi or state messenger. In times of prosperity Algiers sends a present to the Grand Seignior once in three years, which is usually transported there with their ambassador by a foreign ship of war ; and such is still the credit of the Regency, that it is always the government most favored here, which obtains this mission as a mark of honorable preference. This present is always magnificent, often amounting in value to half a million of dollars; and it appears to be the only dependence which they recognise upon the Ottoman government, whose flag even, in the intoxication of their fancied power, they have not always respected. In return for these presents the Porte usually sends them a vessel of war, with military and naval stores, &c. and gives them permission to recruit in its dominions.

• Though the election of the Dey of Algiers is by the institutions of the Regency vested in the Divan, it is usually the result of the intrigues of a predominant faction amongst the Janissaries, and is generally a sanguinary tragedy. A Dey is murdered to make room for some more fortunate adventurer; his immediate friends and adherents perish, or are plundered and exiled, and the public business or tranquillity is not interrupted beyond twentyfour hours. These revolutions succeed each other with a rapidity, which can hardly be credited by those who are unacquainted with the barbarous character and manners of the Turks. A Dey of Algiers, while alive, is the most despotic and implicitly obeyed monarch on earth ; but his reign is always precarious, and it is by mere accident if he dies a natural death. Any Turk who has been regularly enrolled in the corps of Janissaries is eligible to the eminent post of Dey, except the natives of Bosnia and of Crete ; no other qualifications are required, and the caprice of fortune has sometimes raised the most obscure and ignoble characters to the throne. Tradition points out the graves of seven adventurers who were raised to the throne and perished on the same day; as a mark of contempt they were interred in the public highway. Neither can a person elected refuse or resign the honor of ruling in Algiers; he must either reign or perish. pp. 16-19.

The kingdom of Algiers is divided into three provinces, Oran on the west, Titterie in the middle, and Constantine on the east. Each of these provinces is governed by a Bey appointed by the Dey. These subordinate officers rule with the same despotic

sway as their sovereign. They are required to collect the taxes from the people, and once in three years to appear in person at the seat of government, when they are expected to give enormous presents to all the persons high in power, to secure their own continuance in office. "I am informed on respectable authority,' says the author, that each visit of the Beys of Oran and Constantine costs to those governors not less than three hundred thousand dollars. On these occasions it is necessary to bribe all the officers of the Regency, according to the different degrees of their credit and influence. No part, however, of these extraordinary contributions goes into the public treasury.' Here we have the secret of the extreme oppression, practised by these Beys on the people. The continuance of their office depends on their success in plundering those under them, and on this principle is the administration of government conducted through all its departments, from the highest to the lowest. Power is employed to sustain itself, by extorting from the weak the means of bribing the more powerful, and this in addition to the amount necessary to gratify the rapacity of the subordinate officers themselves.

The government of Algiers exhibits a very extraordinary peculiarity, as to the mode in which it is perpetuated.' It is a rule seldom violated, that all the principal officers shall be taken from among the foreigners, who have been incorporated into the body of Janissaries. The desire of establishing a hereditary succession, or of keeping up a family influence, which has been so strong in other ages and countries, and which may perhaps be considered a trait deeply seated in human nature, seems never to have shown itself here. Children derive no consequence from the station their fathers have held; and the whole mass of the natives of the country, that is, nearly a million of people, have submitted for three centuries to be ruled and scourged by a handful of foreigners, consisting of Turks and renegadoes collected commonly from the most worthless population in the Levant, who, as Mr Shaler says, ' are generally the sweepings of prisons, and the refuse of society in those barbarous countries.' The number of these foreigners now embodied in Algiers is about four thousand.

• Agents are maintained by the Regency in Constantinople and Smyrna to engage recruits and charter vessels for their transportation hither. On their arrival they become ipso facto soldiers, are denominated Janissaries, and are incorporated into the differ

ent barracks of the city, to which they are supposed to belong during life, whatever may be their subsequent fortunes. In these quarters, if not called by some happy accident into the administration, they rise by seniority to the highest grade of pay, and become members of the pretended Divan ; where they must be very inept indeed, if they do not obtain some profitable employment.

• The pay of the Janissaries at its commencement, on their arrival as recruits from the Levant, hardly exceeds half a dollar per month, but by length of service is gradually increased to about eight dollars, which is the maximum. Of late years, however, it has been a common practice of the Deys of Algiers to augment the

pay of the Janissaries, in order to enhance their popularity. A corps thus constituted, is of course always ripe for a revolution. Their rations consist of about two pounds of indifferent bread daily, and all who are unmarried are lodged in very spacious and conmodious barracks; they find their own clothing, and their own arms and ammunition, which latter are furnished to them by the government at moderate prices. A Janissary, when equipped for battle, has one or more pairs of large pistols in his belt, with his scimitar or yatagan, á dagger in his bosom, and a long musket on his shoulder; all which are as highly ornamented as his circumstances will permit. When, costume included, he is not unfairly represented by the knave of diamonds in a pack of cards.' pp. 27, 28.

From this description of persons the Deys are chosen, and all the great officers of state appointed.

The military establishment is composed of natives, as well as Turks, and amounts to about fifteen thousand men. They are stationed in different parts of the country, and employed chiefly in collecting the revenue. These are distinct from the Janissaries, and very loosely organized. The naval force consists of three frigates, two corvettes, two armed brigs, five schooners, one polaccre, and one xebec ; in all, fourteen vessels.

To illustrate the mutation of human affairs in Algiers, arising out of the peculiar nature of the government, Mr Shaler relates the following anecdote.

During the summer of my arrival here, an old Turk called on me, announcing himself as a Rais, or Captain in the navy; and informed me that he had made a voyage from this place to Constantinople, with Commodore Bainbridge, as attached to the Algerine legation carried there by that officer in former times. He expressed the most friendly regard for the Commodore, and to inquire after his health and welfare appeared to be the principal

« PředchozíPokračovat »