Responsibility of the Governors - Empire beautiful and productive - Humane Efforts of the Emperor - Blind Submission to his Will - Great Number of Negroes naturalized - The Moors might be truly formidable. - Emperor's Brother - Fez divided into two Parts - Magnificent Mosques - Commercial Privileges - Indignities which Christians undergo - Singular Supply of Water - The Imperial Gardens - Propensity to defraud - Factories - Exports - Costume - Character - Manner of living - Domestic Vermin.


Having extended my last letter to an unusual length, I broke off rather abruptly; I shall therefore resume the subject in this.

The Governors commanding large districts or provinces in Barbary, are answerable for the crimes and misdemeanors committed in their governments, if they fail to bring the offenders to public justice; consequently they impose very heavy fines on the community, to impel them to seize, and deliver to them, the murderer or robber. The sudden and frequent changes in the public offices keep the most powerful Governors in the empire in continual awe and depression; and the fear of being, in an instant, hurled from the height of prosperity to the lowest abyss of adversity, usually prevents them from amassing great wealth, as it is sure to pass into the Emperor's treasury on their disgrace; and the same cause prevents the forming of dangerous cabals. Yet some of them contrive, during their short-lived administration, to squeeze from their wretched vassals as much money as they can, by every fraudful artifice and despotic violence. The sufferers murmur, and complain; but the government appears to wink at the oppression for a time, and reserves its dreadful vengeance till the annual review, on the plains of Fez, where the collected spoils of the cruel peculator are seized, and himself deposed, imprisoned, and the whole fruit of his rapine transferred to the royal treasury.

This empire is one of the most beautiful and fertile countries, perhaps in the world; but the despotism under which it has groaned, and the capricious humours of its former rulers, destroyed, and prevented the effects of industry; besides, the rapacity of the Sheiks, who are the Bashaws of the country, carried off every thing that labour could collect. The present Emperor is endeavouring to correct these abuses, and to bring about a reformation, which I am sure he will never effect, owing to the great influence of the priests and saints in these states. Although this monarch is humane and impartial, and possesses nothing of the ferocious character of his predecessors, yet seldom a day passes without some executions.

The people regard their Emperor as a god upon earth, and revere him as a descendant of their great prophet. All his commands, right or wrong, just or unjust, they consider as the decrees of Heaven. A blind obedience to the will of their Sovereign, is inculcated in the minds of their youth, more as a matter of religion than of state; and the Emperor may put as many of his subjects to death as he deems expedient, without assigning any other motive for so doing than secret inspiration. When at war with any Christian prince, it is considered as a war of religion, and the Moors who fall in the field of battle, are accounted martyrs.

The number of negroes that have been imported into this country, and are now settled in these states, is astonishing. The amount is little less than three hundred thousand. The Emperor's body-guard, which consists of eighteen thousand horsemen, is chiefly composed of negroes, who enjoy every privilege that despotic power can confer, and are ready upon all occasions to enforce the royal mandate.

The great schools for the Moorish gentry are the chanceries of the Bashaws, where the young men learn the arts of dissimulation and duplicity in the greatest perfection, and become, very, early such great adepts in these valuable acquirements, that in my opinion they are fully able to cope with Monsieur Talleyrand, and the best politicians at the court of St. Cloud. They are very dexterous also in the art of temporizing with an enemy, and deluding him by a thousand little expedients. It is therefore fortunate for Europe, that the Moors are so indolent a set of people; for the immense power this empire might have; were it peopled by an industrious and ambitious race of men, would render it the most formidable in the world.

I shall now return to my own affairs, from the period at which they were left off in a former letter. The Emperor had requested me to report to him, personally, every morning, the state of his favourite Sultana; I therefore waited upon him regularly at five o'clock, and was extremely happy that I was enabled to make the report more welcome each day. After this visit to His Imperial Majesty, I daily paid my devoirs to the blind prince, the only remaining brother of the Emperor now in Barbary, and who took no part in the disputes of former times; and I then called upon the great officers of state.

Finding the Sultana in such a fair way of recovery, the Emperor dismissed his Governors to their respective provinces, and removed his court to Mequinez, his favourite summer residence, leaving me here, to complete the cure of the Sultana, and to attend several of his subjects, who stand high in his favour, in the lower town of Fez. As the attendance required by my patients does not occupy the whole of my time, I employ my leisure in observing such things as appear most worthy of remark.

The town (or rather towns of Fez, this city being divided into two distinct parts, the one called Upper, the other Lower Fez) is the capital of the kingdom of that name, and is supposed to contain about three hundred thousand inhabitants, besides foreigners of their own persuasion. There are upwards of five hundred mosques: one of them in particular, which was built by Edris the Second, and in which his remains were deposited, is magnificent beyond description, and is about a mile and a half in circumference. There is another very little inferior to this, which was erected by the Arabs of Caiwan, and called Carubin. The other mosques have been constructed since. To most of the mosques are annexed several colleges, religious schools, and hospitals for the pilgrims who visit this place, for, in point of holiness, it is considered as next to Mecca and Medina.

The lower town of Fez was built by Edris the Second, about the end of the eighth century, and is taken notice of by Pliny under the name of Volubilis. According to that author, and others, this city ranked amongst the principal inland towns of Mauritania, and was a Roman colony. It is a place of considerable trade; the inhabitants are mostly freed men, engaged in commerce, and reputed to be very opulent and industrious; they have purchased a charter, by which they ensure a kind of independence, and are totally unmolested in their traffic; in short, there are great privileges attached to this town, which are not to be met with in any other part of Barbary. The lower town is almost entirely surrounded by hills, which are highly cultivated, and abound with vineyards, and gardens producing most exquisite fruits.

Upper Fez is situated on one of the highest of the hills which almost encircle the lower town, and contains the imperial palace and seraglio, several old palaces occupied by the sons of the Emperor, and the habitations of the principal officers in the household. Contiguous to these, is the inclosed town belonging solely to the Jews, who are about thirty thousand in number, having one hundred and fifty synagogues. On that part of the wall of the Jewish town which overlooks Lower Fez, are placed several heavy pieces of ordnance, which, in case of an insurrection in the latter, would very soon demolish it: as the lower town is by much the most populous and extensive, this precaution may not be unnecessary. The Jewish town is commanded by an Alcaid, who cannot however shield its unfortunate inhabitants from oppression and insults. These people are obliged to walk barefooted through the Moorish streets; and they suffer the greatest outrages without a murmur, nay, some of them have been actually murdered in the act of selling their goods to the Moors. No Christian is allowed to appear publicly in the streets of Fez, without a special permission from the Emperor, and a military escort.

These towns are supplied with water in a most singular manner from a river, called Rasalema, which takes its source in a valley near the road to Mequinez. It issues from a rock, about eight or ten feet above the ground, in a stream, that, from the form of the valley through which it runs, appears a continued waterfall. It is conveyed into the Emperor's garden by means of a large wheel, about twenty-five feet in diameter, round which, at regular distances, are small buckets, which, as the wheel goes round, are alternately filled, and emptied into a reservoir at the top of the wall of the garden. From the reservoir the water is also conveyed to the upper and lower towns by aqueducts.

On the outside of one of the western gates of Upper Fez are the gardens of the Emperor, surrounded by a good stone wall, within which are a number of spacious walks, shaded by rows of tall trees, on each side, and intersected by parterres and grass-plots, on which are elegant pavilions, some in a pyramidical, others in a conical form, where the Emperor frequently retires, to take his repose, or to amuse himself with his courtiers. These pavilions are between thirty and forty feet in height, covered on the outside with varnished tiles of different colours, and contain three and sometimes four neat apartments, furnished in the most simple style imaginable, having in general nothing more than a carpet, several couches, a few arm-chairs, a table, a clock, and a tea-equipage of china. The cornices round the walls of these apartments are embellished with passages from the Koran, and other Arabic sentences, carved in cedar-wood.

The propensity to cheating, so prevalent in all Barbary, is no where so notorious as in the lower town of Fez; and the Europeans who trade with the Moorish merchants here must employ the same means as themselves, or submit to be most flagitiously imposed upon.

I have visited several manufactories of carpets, mats, silk, linen, and leather, of which the merchants export great quantities. I have also seen some beautifully embroidered shawls, scarfs, and sword-knots, of the manufacture of this country. Their exports besides are, elephants' teeth, ostrich feathers, copper, tin, wool, hides, honey, wax, dates, raisins, olives, almonds, gum-arabic, and sandrach. They carry on a considerable trade, by caravans, to Mecca and Medina, the inland regions of Africa, and to the farthermost parts of the coast of Guinea; from which last place they bring gold-dust, and a prodigious number of negroes, some of whom are destined to serve in the Emperor's armies; the rest are slaves in the Moorish houses and fields.

The dress of the Moors is composed of a linen shirt, over which they fasten a cloth or silk vestment with a sash, loose trowsers reaching to the knee, a white serge cloak, or capote, and yellow slippers: their arms and legs are quite bare. The principal people are distinguished by the fineness of their turbans, their linen shirts, and cloth or silk garments, which are richly embroidered with gold; when they go abroad, they cover this dress with an alhaik, differing in quality according to the circumstances of the wearer; and which they fold round them like a large blanket. They never move their turbans, but pull off their slippers, when they attend religious duties, or their Sovereign, or visit their relatives, friends, priests, or civil and military officers.

The Moorish gentry are clean in their persons, in their manners tolerably genteel and complaisant, far from being loquacious, though not prone to reflection. They possess an unbounded degree of duplicity and flattery; are perfectly strangers to the notions of truth and honour, promising a thing one day which they utterly deny the next. They are less irascible than many other nations; but when grossly injured, seek revenge in assassination. They are more vindictive than brave, more superstitious than devout, firmly attached to their ancient customs, and wholly averse to every kind of innovation.

The Moors, in general, are extremely fond of fruit and vegetables, which contribute very much to their contentment. The peasants eat meat only on certain great days. They are excessively dirty in their cooking, and the style of their dishes is not at all adapted to the taste of an Englishman. Their soups are made most intolerably hot with spices; and their favourite dish is cous-ca-sou, which appears to me to be prepared in the following manner: The meat and vegetables are laid alternately in a large bowl, and seasoned; then the whole is covered with fine wheaten flour, made into small grains, very like the Italian pastes. It is raised into the form of a pyramid, and I should imagine stewed, or rather steamed, as the outside remains perfectly white, which it would not were it baked. The whole of the inside, when brought to table, is mingled almost into one mass; the meat separating from the bones, without the smallest difficulty: it does not contain any gravy, and the Moors eat it by handsfull.

I generally live upon mutton and veal, both of which are very good: the bread and butter are excellent, but the latter will not keep more than twenty-four hours without becoming rancid. My greatest annoyance here is the infinite number of bugs and fleas, which infest me by day and night most intolerably.