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the Mamalukes have increased, become masters of all the riches and strength of the country, and in short, gained such an ascendancy over the Ottomans, that the power of the latter is reduced almost to nothing. On seeing them subsisting in this country for several centuries, we should be led to imagine their race is preserved by the ordinary means; but if their first establishment was a singular event, their continuance is not less extraordinary. During 550 years that there have been Mamalukes in Egypt, not one of them has left subsisting issue; there does not exist one single family of them in the second generation; all their children perish in the first or second descent. Almost the same thing happens to the Turks; and it is observed, that they can only secure the continuance of their families, by marrying women who are natives, which the Mamalukes have always disdained67. The means, therefore, by which they are perpetuated and multiplied, are the same by which they were first established; that is to say, when they die, they are replaced by slaves brought from their original country. From the time of the Moguls, this commercehas been continued on the confines of the Cuban and the Phasis, in the same manner as it is carried on in Africa, by the wars among the numerous tribes, and by the misery of the inhabitants, who sell their own children for a subsistence. The young peasant, sold in Mingrelia or Georgia, no sooner arrives in Egypt, than bis ideas undergo a total alteration. Though now a slave, he seems destined to become a master, and already assumes the spirit of his future condition.—As in such states money is the only motive, the chief attention of the master is to satisfy the avidity of his servants, in order to secure their attachment. Hence, that prodigality of the Beys, so ruinous to Egypt, which they pillage; that want of subordination in the Mamalukes, so fatal to the chiefs whom they despoil.' And, 'no sooner
67 ' The wives of the Mamalukes' says Volney, 'arc, like them, slaves Ill-ought from Georgia, Mingrelia,' he.
is a slave enfranchised, than he aspires to the principal emplo^Tnents".'
Profligate and unprincipled as were many of the Ptolemies and the Caesars, their rule was wise and beneficent in comparison of that of the Mamalukes. The land of Egypt, and all that is therein, it is foretold, will be made waste by the hand of strangers. That this prediction is at present fulfilling with the utmost exactness, the following facts, as related bv Volney, one of the most recent as well as most judicious travellers into that country, will be sufficient to evince.
The houses, the canals, the ports, and a large part of the cultivated lands, have been suffered to fall into ruin or decay. A few particulars will illustrate this assertion. In the neighborhood of modern Alexandria, 'the earth is covered with the remains of lofty buildings destroyed; whole fronts crumbled down, roofs fallen in, battlements decayed, and the stones corroded and disfigured by saltpetre. The traveller passes over a vast plain surrounded with trenches, pierced with wells, divided by walls in ruins, covered over with ancient columns and modern tombs, amid palm-trees and nopals, and where no living creature is to be met with, but owls, bats and jackalls.' The environs of Grand Cairo 'are full of hills of dust, formed by the rubbish, which is accumulating every day.' The whole of the desert to the south of Rosetta, 'formerly intersected with large canals, and filled with towns, presents nothing but hillocks of a yellowish sand, very fine, which the wind heaps up at the foot of every obstacle, and which frequently buries the palm-trees.' What is called the New Port at Alexandria, 'the only harbor for the Europeans, is clogged up with sand,' in consequence of which ships are frequently lost. 'It will perhaps be asked, in Europe, why do they not repair the New Port? The answer is, that in Turkey, they destroy every thing and repair nothing.' The Old Port,
Into which none but the ships of Mahometans are admitted, will be destroyed also, 'as the ballast of vessels has been continually thrown into it for the last two hundred years. The spirit of the Turkish government is to ruin the labors of past ages, and destroy the hopes of future times, because the barbarity of ignorant despotism never considers to-morrow*9.'
'Every year,' says Savary, 'the limits of cultivated Egypt are encroached upon, and barren sands accumulate from all parts. In 1517, the sera, of the Turkish conquest, lake Mareotis was at no distance from the walls of Alexandria, and the canal which conveyed the waters into that city was still navigable. At this day the lake has disappeared; and the lands it watered, and which, according to historians, produced abundance of corn, wine, and various fruits, are changed into deserts, where the sorrowful traveller finds neither shrub, nor plant, nor verdure. The canal itself, the work of Alexander, necessary even to the subsistence of the inhabitants of the city he built, is nearly choaked up. It only receives the waters, when the inundation is at its highest point, and preserves them but for a short space of time.—The Pelusiac branch, which discharged itself into the eastern part of the lake of Tanis or Menzale, is totally destroyed. With it perished the beauful province it fertilised70.'
But in order to convey a tolerably adequate idea of the complete debasement of Egypt, and the extreme wretchedness of its' inhabitants, it will be necessary that some other particulars should be specified. 'The greater part of the lands are,' says Volney, 'in the hands of the Beys, the Mamalukes, and the professors of the law; the number of the other proprietors is extremely small, and their property liable to a thousand impositions. The peasants are hired laborers, to whom no more is left than barely suffices to sustain life. The rice and corn they gather are carried to
69 Volney, vol. I. p. 5, 7, 31, 234.
70 Sarary's Letters on Egypt, vol. II. p. 230.
the table of their masters, and nothing is reserved for them but dourra or Indian Millet, of which they make a bread without leaven.' This bread, ' is, with water and raw onions, their only food throughout the year; and they esteem themselves happy, if they can sometimes procure a little honey, cheese, sour milk and dates,—Their habitations are mud-walled huts, in which they are suffocated with heat and smoke, and frequently attacked by maladies arising from uncleanliness, humidity, and unwholesome food; and, to fill the measure of their wretchedness, to these physical evils are added continual alarms, the dread of the robberies of the Arabs, and the extortions of the Mamalukes, family feuds, and all the anxieties of a perpetual civil war. This is a just picture of all the villages, and equally resembles the towns. At Cairo itself, the stranger, on his arrival, is struck with the universal appearance of wretchedness and misery. The crowds, which throng the streets, present to his sight nothing but hideous rags and disgusting nudities. It is true, he often meets with horsemen richly clad; but this display of luxury only renders the contrast of indigence the more shocking. Every thing he sees or hears reminds him he is in the country of slavery and tyranny.—There is no security for life or property* The blood of men is shed like that of the vilest animals.— The officer of the night in his rounds, and the officer of the day in his circuit, judge, condemn, and execute71 in the twinkling of an eye, without appeal. Executioners attend them, and, on the first signal, the head of the unhappy victim falls into the leathern bag, in which it is received for fear of soiling the place.' In the year 1784, Egypt was afflicted by famine; and 'the streets and public places swarmed with meagre and dying skeletons, whose faultering voices implored, in vain, the pity of passengers.—These
71 Sir Henry Blount, who travelled into Egypt and the Levant in the year 1634 and 1635, observes, that in Egypt executions are more frequent* and attended with more circumstances of barbarity, than in any other part of Turkey. £arl of Oxford's Coll. nf Voyages, 1745, fol. vol. I. p. 529.
wretches expired, leaning against the houses of the Beys, which they knew were stored with rice and corn, and, not unfrequently, the Mamalukes, importuned by their cries, chased them away with blows. Every disgusting means of appeasing the rage of hunger was tried, every thing the most filthy devoured; nor, shall I ever forget, that, when I was returning from Syria to France, in March, 1785, I saw under the walls of ancient Alexandria, two wretches sitting on the dead carcase of a camel, and disputing its putrid fragments, with the dogs71.'
Nor are there any circumstances, which promise the degenerate and degraded natives of Egypt, that the yoke which presses so heavily upon them shall be shaken off: from no quarter arises a probability of independence, which might dissipate that thick gloom which at present envelopes all their prospects, which might enlarge the scanty horizon of their hopes, or even shed upon their sorrows a feeble and fluctuating ray of consolation. In Egypt it is not in any particular family, but in a large body of men, that power is hereditary. Accordingly the military tyranny of the Mamalukes does not betray those symptoms of degeneracy and growing feebleness, which the Asiatic governments almost uniformly present. By their valor and personal expertness the Mamalukes are still distinguished. To destroy or to reform them, 'a general league of the peasantry is,' says Volney, 'necessary; and this it is impossible to form. The system of oppression is methodical.—Each province, each district, has its governor, and each village its lieutenant, who watches the motions of the multitude.— This lieutenant transfers a portion of his authority to some individuals of the society he oppresses, and these become his supporters: jealous of each other, they strive who shall best merit his favor, and he employs them alternately to effect their mutual destruction. The same jealousies and inveterate hatreds pervade also and disunite the villages.