Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

in no way imperilled by the war of subjection waged by the French upon their co-religionists of Algeria, were as little disposed as the Arabs of the Tell to sell their horses to the Christian who sought their markets. It was averse to the prescriptions of the Koran, wherein the prophet, with the view to reserve to his own people alone the possession of those powerful instruments of war, the horses of Arabia, sought to exclude from the unbelievers their possession, in whose hands they might prove so fatal to the Mussulman religion. It was known to them that Abd-el-Kader, now in the height of his power, punished with certain death every believer convicted of selling a horse to the Christians. In Marocco the exportation of horses was barred by imposts so high that the permission to send them out of the empire had become as impracticable of attainment as illusory to hope. The Tunisian Government when applied to yielded but loathfully and with regret to the imperious necessities of policy; and the Berber or Barb of race could in most cases be obtained only at second-hand, or third-hand from Jews and Moorish dealers who frequented the markets of the tribes. But in that quarter at a later period, when the succeeding partial insurrections of the Algerian tribes had been suppressed by General Pelissier, purchases were readily effected from the Tunisian Arabs themselves, whose instinctive love of traffic prevailed at length over their religious prejudices.

By such means in 1844 the first. depôt of stallions and brood mares of Barb race, assuming the proportions even of a small Government breeding-stud, had at length been founded at Mostaganem, in the province of Oran, by General De la Moricière, who then commanded there. At Coléah also, in the province of Algiers, a depôt of stallions, organized on a military footing, had been established by Marshal Bugeaud; and at Alélick, near Bona, in the province of Constantine, a third by General Randon, while in command of that sub-division of the province.

When the many adverse circumstances are considered under which from 1840 to 1848 these much-required establishments had been progressively created, dating from 1844, by the energy, and even at the personal pecuniary sacrifices on the part of the illustrious soldiers who founded them-setting aside the constant captious opposition and invective carpings of the soi-disant Liberal-Constitutional Party in the French Chambers, and in the press of the day (which the writer of these pages, residing then in Paris, well recollects) blatant of patriotism and economy, opposing alike every Government measure, good, bad, or indifferent, whether for France or Algeria, to the great delectation of the liberal quid nuncs over here, who of course patted them encouragingly-the apparent somewhat late resort to their institution may be readily accounted for in the face of an uprising so wide-spread of the warlike tribes of the three provinces.

Even in 1840 the terrible Hadjoutes still swept in frequent razzias over the plains of the Mitidja, up to the gates of Algiers, plundering and laying waste with fire and sword; while in the subdivision of Bona alone, in the province of Constantine, the administrative measures of the French authorities, military and civil, were complied with and respected since its definitive subjection in 1833. In the province of Oran the Arabs recognised the supremacy of France as regarded only

the port and city of Algiers. In evidence of this, an incident somewhat singular, and highly characteristic of the Arabs, occurred in 1841, which we give as narrated by a French officer. In that year "the column commanded by Marshal Bugeaud was on its march to Taguedem to destroy the fort erected there, at great cost, by the Emir Abd-el-Kader. We encamped upon the Ouad Khrelouk, one of the tributaries of the river Mina. In the night we were roused from sleep by the report of a rifle fired in the middle of the camp. Everyone rushed out of his tent, and hastened to the spot to ascertain the cause of it. An Arab lay upon the ground with his thigh broken. He held in his hand a small but very sharp-bladed knife, and, like all those who are thieves by profession among them, he had no other garment or appendage of apparel than a belt or girdle of leather, furnished with a pistol. The sentinel who had fired the shot related how having observed a bush move, then stop, and then move onward again, he had, suspecting some cunning act of aggression, fired at it at ten paces distance, at the moment of its movement in the direction where the horses of his captain were picketed. At this narration of the circumstances by the old African campaigner, his comrades, incited to rage, would have at once despatched the Arab, but some officers who were present at the moment, and who immediately calmed down the first very natural excitement displayed by the men, sent immediately to report the circumstances to the commanding authority. The Arab was soon transported to the ambulance, and his wound examined and dressed by the surgeons. The next day the army had to resume its march. Our individual was grievously wounded: it was wholly useless to embarrass ourselves with his further transport; to put him to death there and then would but anticipate, in all probability, his fate by a few days. A better and more politic use might be derived from the adventure. The Governor-General decided that he should be left on the site of our encampment, and that a letter should be given to him for the great tribe of the Flittas, upon whose territory we then were. In this letter it was made intelligible to that fiercely hostile population, that their bitter opposition to our rule would become more fatal to them every day; that the continuance of the struggle was hopeless for them; that France was powerful, both in number of warriors and in riches; that Abd-el-Kader, by continuing the war, could only draw down incalculable misfortunes to themselves; and, lastly, that the best thing left for them to do, was to separate their cause from that of the Emir, if they would not see thenceforth their rich harvests ravaged and consumed by fire. At day-break the expeditionary column set out upon its march, and the rear-guard had not yet attained a distance of 1,000 metres from our place of bivouac when it saw several Arab horsemen arrive, dismount, and carry off the wounded man we had left there. On the following day we received the reply of the Flittas. It was addressed- To General Bugeaud, Kaid of the Port of Algiers,' and couched nearly in the following language:

"You say that you are a strong nation, and powerful, and that we cannot struggle against you.

"The powerful and the strong are just.

"Nevertheless, you would take possession of a country which does not belong to you. And, besides, if you are so rich, what have you to do among a people which has

nothing but powder to give you? Furthermore, when He wills it, the Master of the World strikes down the strong and gives the triumph to the weak. You threaten us again to burn our harvests, or to give them in pasture to your horses and your beasts of burden. How often already have we not experienced the like misfortunes! We have had bad years; we have seen locasts, famine-and, nevertheless, God did not abandon us, for we are believers-Arabs; and misery cannot kill the Arabs. "El arbi krou el keib-el onad ma iddih-ou-cheurr ma ikoutelou. The Arab his brother is the dog; the river cannot carry him away; and misery cannot kill him. Therefore we will never submit to you; you are enemies of our religion, it is impossible. Nevertheless, if the Almighty, to punish us for our sins, and the sins of our fathers, should one day inflict upon us that horrible malady, we should even then be greatly embarrassed, we are forced to confess it. Among us the symbol of submission is the presentation of a horse to the conquerors (gada). We know that you only like horses with short tails, and our mares never foal any."

But at a later period the Flittas were nevertheless obliged to give their conquerors horses such as their mares foaled, but their resistance was obstinate, and for some time they were always the foremost to raise the war-cry and to revolt.

It was, therefore, as that distinguished soldier, General Daumas* sagaciously remarked, by no means a just reason for astonishment when even nine years after this restricted acknowledgment of the French supremacy by the Arabs to the port of Algiers, that a population of two million Europeans had not as yet settled in Algeria! In that derisory superscription of the letter of the Flittas, "To General Bugeaud (to the representative of France), Kaid of the Port of Algiers," "What a reply," said the General, "was it to those who impeached the unintelligent domination of the sabre!" "For what?-for the slow affluence of European settlers on the fruitful soil of the Algerian provinces ! But as is invariably the case with the critics, who prescribe at a distance the remedies that party spirit always suggests so readily, and as so easy to carry out, they evinced no disposition to contribute in their own persons towards making up the balance wanting to complete the two million European colonists. It payed them better, and was a safer occupation, to decry the Government in Paris than to help colonise a conquered territory where as yet the unsubjected natives were so little disposed to permit a peaceable share of the rich products of the soil!

While the different modes in which the Algerian Regency should be occupied and administrated were discussed in Paris, Marshal Bugeaud, a man of action, prepared himself for the war like a soldier who understood it. To strike blow after blow upon the enemy's bases of operation, and on every point whence he drew aid and political support; to pursue Abd-el-Kader to the uttermost, and effect ceaseless razzias upon

* A fluent speaker and writer of the Arabic language, he had been appointed French Consul near the person of the Emir Abd-el-Kader, at Mascara, from 1837 to 1839. He was afterwards appointed to the administration of Arab affairs in the province of Oran, then commanded by General De la Moriciére; and subsequently Central Director of Arab affairs in Algeria under the government of Marshal, Duke of Isly. In these various official positions he was placed in constant relations with the indigenous chiefs and the great families of the country. From the wide range of information he acquired from them, he was enabled to publish "Le Sahara Algérien," "Le Grand Désert," and "La Grande Kabylie;" works which by throwing much light upon important war questions, as also upon matters of commerce, and upon internal political administration, rendered more service to France than was ever dreamed of by the Solons of the Parisian press.

the tribes--such was the system of operations by which he was convinced the influence of the Emir could be alone demolished. Words of assurance and promises from the Metropolitan Government were not sufficient for him. "He who would achieve a purpose must have the means" was his reiterated dictum, and he persisted in his demands for reinforcements. Eighty thousand men were placed at his disposition, and the deputies voted the credits demanded for Algeria. The General took the field anew, and followed out to the letter the plan he had laid down to pursue. Flying columns swept ceaselessly over the country in all directions, rigorously smiting the unsubjected tribes, or punishing those who had revolted. The Emir was pursued from bivouac to bivouac, without truce and without repose. His Smala* was captured; Kabylia assailed in a first expedition; the battle and victory of Isly fought and won on the territory of Morocco; Bou-Maza defeated and driven from the Agailick of the Ouarenseris; and, finally, in 1848 Abd-el-Kader reduced to surrender himself a prisoner of war.

During this eventful period the European horse had wholly disappeared in the French-African cavalry regiments, and indeed almost from the army there, except for draught service. Incapable of supporting the incessant forced marches in the exhaustive summer heats, dearth of food and water, and of seconding efficiently the impetuous charges required to fall upon the fleet Arab cavalry, he had to be replaced by the indigenous horse captured from the enemy; bought wherever he could be had in the three provinces, or brought from Tunis, whence up to this time considerably more than one thousand had been imported for the supply of remounts to the cavalry, and that of the government breeding stud, and dépôts d'étalons.

Some notion may be formed of the consumption, and of the deterioration of the race in a war so protracted and arduous, wherein the friendly and subjected tribes could not give their wonted attention to breeding, and in whose markets, when visited for purchases, though

*The Smala was a kind of movable capital, organized by the Emir to meet the necessities of his situation, and to bring around him those chiefs of tribes who were resolved to follow his fortunes with all they possessed. An agglomeration of tribes and fractions of tribes, or households (déiras), the Smala became in this manner a moving refuge, to which the Arab tribes, in the hope of the greater security it would proffer, brought their treasures, their herds, their women, their children, their aged, infirm, and sick. Thereby no less the Emir thought to oppose a counter allurement to the proclamations of the French, offering protection to all the tribes who would come over to them. This immense moving capital, as it were, with a population of upwards of 20,000, would, had definitive emigration been the Emir's intention, have been the most appropriate form of effecting it; but it exhibited little military judgment on his part to have all his own movements clogged, as it were, by the impedimenta of such an assemblage of non-combatants, with an enemy so indefatigably enterprising and war-skilled hovering ever around; for it followed the Emir's movements--now advancing into the more cultivated territory, or retreating to the Sahara as his fortunes fluctuated. Its political value as an establishment was vastly diminished therefore by the necessity of the watch and ward, day and night, of four tribes of warriors set apart for the protection and guidance of the Smala in its wanderings-a force which in his razzias upon the enemy would have frequently given him a most valuable numerical superiority. Some notion may be formed of the extent of ground covered by the tents of the Smala from the fact that when in the Sahara the encampment was lost in the far distant horizon of the desert, and when in the Tell the tents filled the vast valley and covered the slopes of the mountains.

presenting sometimes from 200 to 500 horses, scarcely 10 or 12 could be bought for the use of the cavalry. Yet the degree of blood in their conformation was always a noticeable feature; the ancient barb race transmitted in spite of all to its progeny the distinct seal of its nobility, for the race had never yet been sullied by intermixture with stranger types. But the ills and sufferings of war, the life of the bivouac, severe work before the complete development of the organs much less of the growth, paucity and poverty of food, with all that affects the equine health, and renders the rearing and training of their horses difficult to the Arab during political commotions, had brought the barb of Algeria to the condition of a rich family reduced by misfortune to a state of poverty.

As we write these lines, which but imperfectly condense the light thrown upon the condition to which in many parts of Algeria the barb race had been reduced at that period of the struggle, as witnessed by a French officer of the writer's personal acquaintance, who had served some years in Africa, and traversed the Regency in every direction, corroborated as it was by the testimony of a skilled hippiast and military veterinary of the army of Africa, our thoughts revert to those descendants of the barb and Arabian here in our own home of England. Here, where by causes happily not compulsory, but far less creditable to our honour as a nation in the present day, blink it or deny it as we may, those descendants have been deteriorated in a much greater degree from what they were in the transmitted qualities of their ancestry, by the selfish misuses to which they have been subjected from mercenary motives such as the uncultured Arabs of the Algerian Tell, and Sahara would scorn.

[blocks in formation]

ENGRAVED BY J. SCOTT, FROM A PAINTING BY THE LATE R. B. DAVIS.

The gloomy woods

Start at the flash, and from their deep recess,
Wide-flaming out, their trembling inmates shake.
Amid Carnarvon's mountains rages loud
The repercussive roar, with mighty crush
Into the flashing deep, from the rude rocks
Of Penmanmaur heaped hideous to the sky
Tumbled the smitten cliffs; and Snowden's peak,
Dissolving, instant yields his wintry load.
Far seen, the heights of healthy Cheviot blaze,
And Thule bellows through her utmost isles.

Thomson.

« ZurückWeiter »