VI. GENERAL LYAUTEY'S WORK IN MOROCCO
It is not too much to say that General Lyautey has twice saved Morocco from destruction: once in 1912, when the inertia and double-dealing of Abd-el-Hafid abandoned the country to the rebellious tribes who had attacked him in Fez, and the second time in August, 1914, when Germany declared war on France.
In 1912, in consequence of the threatening attitude of the dissident tribes and the generally disturbed condition of the country, the Sultan Abd-el-Hafid had asked France to establish a protectorate in Morocco. The agreement entered into, called the "Convention of Fez," stipulated that a French Resident-General should be sent to Morocco with authority to act as the Sultan's sole representative in treating with the other powers. The convention was signed in March, 1912, and a few days afterward an uprising more serious than any that had gone before took place in Fez. This sudden outbreak was due in part to purely local and native difficulties, in part to the intrinsic weakness of the French situation. The French government had imagined that a native army commanded by French officers could be counted on to support the Makhzen and maintain order, but Abd-el-Hafid's growing unpopularity had estranged his own people from him, and the army turned on the government and on the French. On the 17th of April, 1912, the Moroccan soldiers massacred their French officers after inflicting horrible tortures on them, the population of Fez rose against the European civilians, and for a fortnight the Oued Fez ran red with the blood of harmless French colonists. It was then that France appointed General Lyautey Resident-General in Morocco.
When he reached Fez it was besieged by twenty thousand Berbers. Rebel tribes were flocking in to their support, to the cry of the Holy War, and the terrified Sultan, who had already announced his intention of resigning, warned the French troops who were trying to protect him that unless they guaranteed to get him safely to Rabat he would turn his influence against them. Two days afterward the Berbers attacked Fez and broke in at two gates. The French drove them out and forced them back twenty miles. The outskirts of the city were rapidly fortified, and a few weeks later General Gouraud, attacking the rebels in the valley of the Sebou, completely disengaged Fez.
The military danger overcome. General Lyautey began his great task of civilian administration. His aim was to support and strengthen the existing government, to reassure and pacify the distrustful and antagonistic elements, and to assert French authority without irritating or discouraging native ambitions.
Meanwhile a new Mahdi (Ahmed-el-Hiba) had risen in the south. Treacherously supported by Abd-el-Hafid, he was proclaimed Sultan at Tiznit, and acknowledged by the whole of the Souss. In Marrakech, native unrest had caused the Europeans to fly to the coast, and in the north a new group of rebellious tribes menaced Fez.
El-Hiba entered Marrakech in August, 1912, and the French consul and several other French residents were taken prisoner. El-Hiba's forces then advanced to a point half way between Marrakech and Mazagan, where General Mangin, at that time a colonial colonel, met and utterly routed them. The disorder in the south, and the appeals of the native population for protection against the savage depredations of the new Mahdist rebels, made it necessary for the French troops to follow up their success, and in September Marrakech was taken.
Such were the swift and brilliant results of General Lyautey's intervention. The first difficulties had been quickly overcome; others, far more complicated, remained. The military occupation of Morocco had to be followed up by its civil reorganization. By the Franco-German treaty of 1911 Germany had finally agreed to recognize the French protectorate in Morocco; but in spite of an apparently explicit acknowledgment of this right, Germany, as usual, managed to slip into the contract certain ambiguities of form that were likely to lead to future trouble.
To obtain even this incomplete treaty France had had to sacrifice part of her colonies in equatorial Africa; and in addition to the uncertain relation with Germany there remained the dead weight of the Spanish zone and the confused international administration of Tangier. The disastrously misgoverned Spanish zone has always been a centre for German intrigue and native conspiracies, as well as a permanent obstacle to the economic development of Morocco.
Such were the problems that General Lyautey found awaiting him. A long colonial experience, and an unusual combination of military and administrative talents, prepared him for the almost impossible task of dealing with them. Swift and decisive when military action is required, he has above all the long views and endless patience necessary to the successful colonial governor. The policy of France in Morocco had been weak and spasmodic; in his hands it became firm and consecutive. A sympathetic understanding of the native prejudices, and a real affection for the native character, made him try to build up an administration which should be, not an application of French ideas to African conditions, but a development of the best native aspirations. The difficulties were immense. The attempt to govern as far as possible through the Great Chiefs was a wise one, but it was hampered by the fact that these powerful leaders, however loyal to the Protectorate, knew no methods of administration but those based on extortion. It was necessary at once to use them and to educate them; and one of General Lyautey's greatest achievements has been the successful employment of native ability in the government of the country.