Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
729 of 1105



MOROCCO, Empire of, a Mohammedan state, which occupies the northwestern corner of the African continent, from which it received its Arabic name of Maghrib (West), which it still bears in the Mohammedan world, and which was extended in the middle ages to all Mohammedan Africa of the west. The area of Morocco is about 219,000 English square miles. The estimates of its population vary from 2,500,000 to 8,000,000; 5,000,000 is probably about correct. Its political organization is the simplest in existence. The sultan is the whole government. There is neither above nor beside him a written law (except the Koran and its commentaries), nor council of the empire, nor ministry. No discussion, no publicity, no control, no report or returns, still less a press to annoy him in his autocracy. It is the most perfect example of personified power. Some servitors, secretaries after a fashion, are the instruments of his will; one of these, whom we may honor with the title of minister of foreign affairs, and who resides at Tangier, where all the European consuls live, is intrusted with the management of the relations with foreign powers. The sultan places commanders at the head of his troops, and governors over the cities, both of whom receive their orders directly from him and report to him. The administration is reduced to almost as great simplicity as the government. A chief issuing what orders he pleases, and a herd which obeys, in trembling, on pain of death, or at least confiscation and imprisonment, is the whole administrative system of Morocco. This state, which borders on civilization through Algeria, Spain, and its commerce with Europe, has not been penetrated so far by any of those flashes of civilization which begin to illuminate, more or less clearly, all the other regions of Islamism: Tunis, Egypt, Turkey, Persia; a contrast which is both a singular spectacle and a scandal.


—Supreme power has for three centuries remained in the hands of a single family, entitled Sharifs because they claim to be descended from Mohammed, a genealogy which no one thinks of discussing, and which redoubles the respect which the people yield the sultan. The latter takes advantage of this to make himself a caliph of Islam in the west, on an equality with the sultan of Constantinople in the east; thus uniting in himself a double power, spiritual and temporal. On the death of one of these princes, his heir, on assuming power, finds himself in conflict with his brothers, and frequently with rebellious tribes. The rivalry of brothers and relatives is a more prominent trait among Mussulman dynasties than among Christians, because the rules for the transmission of power are not derived from the Koran. Mohammed neither designated his successor, nor indicated any rule of succession; this was the cause of intestine wars which divided his disciples and his posterity. The omission was remedied by choosing the eldest surviving descendant, but this rule, whose authority is sanctioned neither by law nor custom, is not respected by the excluded descendants, whenever ambition possesses them. In Morocco the risk of civil war is increased by the custom prevailing among its sovereigns, of marrying a large number of the daughters of great families, in order to create a support among the wealthy and powerful. On this account nearly all the new reigns begin by the armed protest of some relative.


—Tribal rebellion is another permanent character of the situation, connected with the one just mentioned, because claimants do not fail to excite that traditional spirit of independence which is favored by the physical features of the country. Morocco is divided into two almost equal parts, communication between which is difficult, on account of the long and lofty chain of the Atlas mountains which run from northeast to southwest; on the west the Tell, on the east the Sahara: these are two countries, and, as it were, two different peoples. Besides, a branch of the Atlas range turns to Rabat, and cuts the Tell in two parts, which communicate only by a narrow passage in which Rabat is built, between the mountain and the sea. Hence, a new division singularly favorable to revolts, and which explains why the kingdom of Fez or of Mequinez at the north, and that of Morocco at the south, constituted, for long periods, independent and almost always hostile states.


—The history of the empire turns in great part on the struggles in these three great territorial regions between the sultans, wishing to establish unity, and their undisciplined vassals: they recall by many traits the feudal period of European monarchies, in which civilization finished by giving to unity such instruments as roads, the printing press, posts and a regular system of administration, the use of which is feared by the Mohammedan mind. Struggles with Spain began toward 1859. Commencing in the neighborhood of Ceuta by misunderstandings which might have been amicably removed, the war was ended by the capture of Tetouan and a treaty of peace, or rather by a capitulation which was signed April 26, 1860, and which secured numerous advantages to the victorious army, among others, a tribute of 100,000,000 francs, and the cession of the port of Santa Cruz de Mar-Pequefia, opposite the Canary islands. The pecuniary obligations of Morocco not having been fulfilled, a new treaty became necessary in 1861, and finally loan was raised, which England negotiated with Morocco to release her from Spain, England taking Spain's place in collecting the customs duties given as guarantee. These more or less bloody incidents are merely episodes of that implacable hostility which sometimes smouldering and sometimes active, always exists between the people of Morocco and that of Spain, scarcely separated by the straits of Gibraltar, but profoundly opposed to each other in memory of the Moorish dominion in Spain followed by the expulsion of the Moors by the Spaniards. This irritation is maintained by the sight of the Spanish flag floating over the four presidios (Ceuta, PeÑon de Velez, PeÑon de Albuccmas and Melilla) and the Zafarine islands. Morocco is now at peace with the other nations of Europe, rather through the absence of all immediate contact than in virtue of the numerous treaties concluded to regulate peace and commerce. Among the latter it is proper to mention that of Tangier, concluded with France Sept.10, 1844, which is most favorable to France. England obtained, Nov. 9, 1856, two treaties, one political, the other commercial, which secured important advantages. But, up to 1872, no influence was able to obtain the establishment at Fez, the capital of the empire, and near the emperor, of diplomatic representatives of Europe. France, first of the European nations, obtained from the emperor the right of accrediting near him a minister plenipotentiary (M. Tissot), whose reception was attended with a certain celat—The ports which serve as commercial communications with Europe are eight in number: in the Mediterrnean, Tetouan; in the straits, Tangier, on the ocean, in going from north to south, Larache, Rabat, Casablanca (Darbeida), Mazagan, Safi, Mogador (Soueyra). Santa Cruz of Barbary or Agadir (not the Santa Cruz ceded to Spain), the best anchorage on the coast, is unfortunately closed to commerce. On the side of Algeria which joins Morocco on the east, commerce with Tlemeen, Lalla-Maghrnia and Nemours is established through Tafilet, Figuig, Teza and Oudjda. In the middle ages this route had acquired such an importance that Tlemeen became a city of 100,000 inhabitants, and the capital of the kingdom; but wars between the two states, and in our day, the Algerian duties, have thrown the commercial current northward toward the Mediterranean and the straits, in spite of the almost impassable barrier of Rif, and on the west toward the ports of the ocean, to the great loss of France and the gain of England. These two nations have most of the trade with Morocco, but especially England, which possesses in Gibraltar a very convenient station for contraband as well as legitimate trade. Next in order follow Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands. Commerce has in Morocco a field of operation whose area is estimated at from fifty-three to seventy-five millions of hectares, peopled with from five to six millions of inhabitants, Moors, Berbers, Arabs and Jews Commercial operations amount to a sum of from forty to fifty millions of francs, which gives only seven or eight francs per head, and indicates extreme barbarism. The returns of 1871 place the imports at 22,830,000 francs, and the exports at 19,530,000 francs. England represents the greater part of these figures: thirteen millions of imports, and fifteen millions of exports. These low figures are the consequence of a brutalizing government, hostile to all agricultural, industrial and social progress, obtaining its revenues from monopolies, exactions, prohibitions and confiscations; turning one of the most beautiful, well-watered and fertile countries in the world into the home of the poorest and most unfortunate of people. For want of security for life and property, and a regular freedom of exchange, traffic is reduced to almost nothing. Its elements, however, are very numerous. Morocco abounds in cereals (wheat and barley) of as good quality as in Algerian Tell; almonds, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, wax, bark, animals, leeches, etc. Numerous flocks furnish wool, skins and other valuable articles; the wool finds its principal sale in the French market for common cloth. By way of the Sahara caravans arrive, some of which come from Soudan, bringing gold dust, ostrich feathers, gum, ivory, blue stuffs and citrons. In return, the ports of Morocco receive from Europe, cotton stuffs, sugar, tea, spices and drugs, raw and woven silk, cloth, arms and ammunition, hardware, iron, and especially money from France, whose merchants do not like those of England, endeavor to pay in merchandise rather the money. From this unequal competition it results that English commerce has acquired a preponderance in Morocco which France and Spain, owing to their position, might compete for with advantage. The abolition of custom houses on the Morocco frontier of Algeria might be an efficacious means of establishing this equilibrium. The movement in the ports during 1870 was 1,307 ships arrived, with a tonnage of 201,127, and 1,306 ships cleared, with a tonnage of 200,336. The flags which hold the first rank are those of England (617), spain (363), and France (172).


—All efforts to obtain precise information about the budget are vain. L'Annuaire de l'économie politique (year 1863) gives a first résumé, which places the receipts at 2,600,000 piasters (of 5 francs 25 centimes) or 16,000,000 francs, and the expenditures at 990,000 piastres, or a little more than 5,000,000 francs. If we notice that this valuation puts the tax paid the sultan at merely two francs a head, we shall accept it only with reserve. The fiscal income, if not the expenditures, must be much greater in a country of arbitrary government like Morocco. It appears clearly enough, however, from the harsh conditions which the emperor signed in his last treaty with Spain that there was little reality in the mysterious mountains of treasure which were said to be accumulated at Mequinez. Two-thirds of the expenditures are devoted to maintaining the negro guard, made up of slaves brought from Soudan, and to the payment of certain troops more or less regularly equipped and disciplined. There is no navy, notwithstanding the extent of the coast; the inhabitants of Sale never devote themselves to the sea except in view of piracy, which the mountaineers of Rif practice from time to time.


—Such, in its prominent traits, is Morocco, the last remnant of the powerful empires founded by successors of Mohammed in the west of Europe and Africa. After having resigned, under the Almoravide and Almohade princes, from Timbuctoo to the heart of Spain, Islamism, driven back step by step, has concentrated in this remote corner of Barbary its prejudices, its fanaticism, its hatreds, and also whatever virtues of hospitality and bravery it retains. The conquest of Algiers by the French separated this branch from its trunk and roots, and we may foresee a near future when, in Morocco also, the political power of the Koran will yield in an unequal struggle against civilization, unless it consents to receive its light and join in its progress.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Calderon Ouadro geografico, estadistico, historico, politicodel imperio de Marrueccos, Madrid, 1844; Renou, Description geographique de l'empire de Marve. Paris,1846; Rohlfs, Reise durch Marokko, 2ded., Bremen, 1869; Maltzan, Drei Jahre im Nordwesten von Afrika, 2ded., 4 vols., Leipzig, 1868; Amicis, Marocco, Milan, 1876; Pietsch, Marokko, Leipzig, 1878; Hooker, Journal of a Tour in Morocco, London, 1878; Leared, Morocco and the Moors, Bremen, 1873; Augustin, Marokko in seinen geographicher, historischen, religiösen, politischen, militärischen und gesellschaftlichen Zuständen, Pesth, 1845.


729 of 1105

Return to top