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The present condition of Egypt and character of Mohammad Alee-Diversity of Opinions,
Impressions received in the Country Parts and in the Cities--Egypt tried by an unfair standard-Prophecies of Ezekiel-Introduction of the Memlooks—Their debasing GovernmentTestimony of Volney-War of 1802–Rise of Mohammad Alee--Destruction of the Memlook Beys—Exchange of Tyrants-Native Instruction - Colleges, Institutions, and Factories, Grades in Society-Railroads,Steamers—Basha's Household-His Knowledge of the StateAffection for his Wife-Taxation-Effects of the Battle of Koniah-Regeneration of Egypt, a Fulfilment of Prophecy Affairs in the East-Political State of Egypt-Instability of the Turkish Empire-Extent of Mohammad Alee's Territory-Consequence of this returning to the Porte-Symbol of the Euphrates—Right to Independence-Present State of TurkeySooltan's Rule compared with the Viceroy's—Effect of Mohammad Alee's Independence on European Powers-His Hereditary Possession.
The extraordinary diversity of opinions expressed in Egypt as well as in Europe, regarding the character and government of Mohammad Alee, and the present state of that country, over which he rules, is so remarkable, as to demand an inquiry how those opinions have arisen, and how views so different have in their turn been adopted by the visitor and the writer.
Opinions as opposite as the poles, are daily formed and promulgated by the traveller, and these will be found to arise not so much from previously conceived ideas, as from the mode in which he views the country, and the reception he there meets with ; circumstances which must, even to the mind least liable to be prejudiced, tend to bias its judgment. A few years ago, Europe rang with the praises of this wonderful man, and lauded the regeneration which he had been the means of bringing about in this ancient, highly-favoured, but long-degraded land. It has now become the fashion to decry the character of the viceregal occupant of the throne of the Pharaohs. Let us see how these opinions are formed.
A traveller arriving in Egypt, by way of the Red Sea, lands at Cossier, and reaches the Nile in the vicinity of the first cata
DIVERSITY OF OPINIONS.
ract, for the purpose of examining the ruins of Thebes, Luxor, and Karnak, and the other antiquities of Upper Egypt. The impression there received of the former grandeur of this ancient people is brought into the strongest contrast with the present unutterable poverty and wretchedness of the natives. Nay, the trivial circumstance of their inhabiting, in all the squalid misery of want, those mighty monuments of their bygone glory, affects his mind, and warps it from a sober and impartial judgment. Unprovided, perhaps, with the magic signature of Mohammad Alee, numberless obstacles present themselves to his antiquarian researches, and the very difficulty he experiences in procuring a kanghia to convey him down the Nile, (all the boats here belonging to the Basha,) prejudice him against the fellaheen; to obtain redress of whom, for some fancied wrong, he applies to the next ravenous sheykh, who, for a bribe of a few piasters, submits the unfortunate and ignorant accused to the agonies of the koorbag—the rhinoceros-skin whip.
As he proceeds down the river against untoward winds, and suffering daily annoyances from want of the luxuries he has been accustomed to, he meets the conscription-officer and the tax-gatherer, in the full exercise of their hated and oppressive power; the former of whom, he sees dragging the peasant from his home, and followed to the water's edge by the curses of the infirm, and the wailings of the mother and the wife; while many of those who are left behind have purchased their exemption by the mutilation of their limbs, or the partial deprivation of their sight; and moreover he beholds much of this fertile land lying waste for want of cultivation.
Arrived at Cairo, disgusted with the country, and out of humour with himself, he looks with a jaundiced eye upon the modern manufactories, and other improvements made by the viceroy, whose reception of him may no doubt remove some of the impressions he had already received on his voyage down the Nile, but which may be shortly afterwards restored, perhaps, by the company he meets at his consul's, or the renegade European instructors he may find at his hotel, at the faro table, or in the billiard-room.
On the other hand, a traveller landing at Alexandria, receives the opinions of the agent or consul he may be most in contact with, whose judgment may, in turn, have been biassed for or
MODE OF THEIR FORMATION.
against the government by the result of his last presentation at court-by the political feelings towards the Basha, of the nation he represents—or, by the result of the last commercial speculation he has had with Mohammad Alee, who, being the sole merchant of the country, transacts his business in person, and often drives a hard bargain. It is the object of all who are not then in favour, to enumerate to the traveller every instance of oppression or fancied misgovernment ; and to place before him those dreary pictures which almost every country affords of hardship and distress.
Again, another visitor appears furnished with such recommendation as insures him a certain degree of attention at court; a deal of pains is consequently taken that he shall see every thing in the best possible light, and it is the business of the officials to make the most favourable representations to him of every circumstance connected with the state of the country, in order to raise it the more highly in his estimation. Thus, he is led to see thriving manufactories, public schools, and splendid hospitals, together with well-disciplined troops, fully qualified instructors, artizans skilful in their different departments, and a well-fed population crowding the principal and most opulent parts of the city. To all these his views are at first generally confined, and in the din and bustle of such movements, the court paid to himself, and the interest excited by the novelty and diversity of the scene, he knows not, or hears not, of the misery without. Poverty and oppression are studiously kept out of sight, and should he ascend into the country, he is borne along in all the ease and luxury which can be furnished, and with such supplies for his comfort, that he has no opportunity of demanding from the inhabitants what they could not possibly procure. Yea, more than this—it is a positive fact, that he is frequently supplied with every necessary for his journey, at the expense of the very man whose government he is going to review. In a word, his first impressions are received, and his opinions formed, from the extreme good he has witnessed and enjoyed in the neighbourhood of the city, as those of the other are formed from his observations of the extreme ill seen in the country parts.
Egypt has been tried by the standard of civilization and refinement at present to be met with in the countries of Europe ; whereas, to make a fair comparison, we should try her by the
PROPHECIES RELATING TO EGYPT.
state those countries were in at a similar or parallel epoch of their progress, when it will be found that the fellaheen, or lower class of Egypt, are now in a far better condition than when England, in the age of her escape from barbarism, placed collars on the necks of her serfs, bearing the names and titles of their owners.
To try Egypt fairly, we must inquire what she was at the beginning of this century, under her Memlook governors. But it has been altogether forgotten or overlooked, that about 2500 years ago, an artist, then a captive at the Babylonish court, who, seeing coming events in the light of actual occurrences, was enabled to draw with the unerring pencil of inspiration a picture of what this land was yet to be-wasted by the hand of the stranger, and sold into the possession of the wicked. Is not this literally true?-does not every line and touch in this picture still stand out in bold relief-has it not come to pass what the seer predicted—is she not“ desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities in the midst of the cities that are wasted ?” We are told that “the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away, and there shall be no more a prince of the land. They shall be a base kingdom—it shall be the basest of kingdoms.” Was ever prophetic language more literally fulfilled ; yea, in the full force of each and every jot and tittle! For centuries was this fertile land laid waste and governed by strangers, without a sceptre, and without a prince ;-compared with the pomp and splendour, the wealth and honour of three thousand years gone by, she is desolate within herself, by reason of her bad government and want of cultivation ;—placed in the midst of a vast desert, by which she is on every side surrounded—her cities, if cities they can be called, rising out of, and many of them formed of the very materials and rubbish gathered from the ruins of the ancient metropolis—and within the walls, and upon the very roofs of some of her most stately temples and gorgeous edifices, the Arabs build their huts, nay, absolutely erect their villages. And she is base, too, because degraded by crimes that make man blush for his fellow, and make us wonder how it were possible that man's form could have clothed the spirits of wretches such as then possessed the country.
In the year 1230, a prophecy which remained outstanding against this land was began to be fulfilled. The Moguls and Tartar hordes, by invading Persia, became lords of that great
INTRODUCTION OF THE MEMLOOKS.
territory which extends from the Caspian to the Tigris, and returned from the conquest with a vast number of captives from Georgia, Circassia, Mingralia, and other countries bordering on the great Caucasian range.
Struck with the fine athletic forms and fair complexions of this noble race, their masters conceived the idea of forming a band of warriors, who from that period received the name of Memlooks, or military slaves, and who were in a short time introduced into Egypt. These, in time, deposed their masters, became lords of the country they were sent to protect, and erected a new dynasty of their own, with the title of Egyptian Sooltans, under which Egypt continued up to the year 1517, when—"the sword, the bow-string, or poison, public murder, or private assassination now became the fate of a series of tyrants, forty-seven of whom are enumerated in the space of two hundred and fifty-seven years." At this period the Ottoman Sooltans rose up, and for ever put an end to the dynasty of the Memlooks; yet was not the race destroyed, though their power was abridged, for now the full outpouring of denunciation came upon the land—it was left without a prince, and became a country of strangers. And here, instead of drawing from the usual historic records, I would pause, and turn to the descriptions of one who, though he denied the truth of the Great Original, yet retinted the picture of Ezekiel with such fidelity, as to ratify all the threatenings which it had shadowed forth.
In ordinary cases, it might be expected that even a foreign race would, by intermarriage and naturalization, become assimilated to, and form part of the people of their adopted country. But, no; it is a fact, startling but undeniable, that every Memlook who ruled in Egypt during the whole of that long period, was born in a distant land-sold as a slave, and adopted to fill the place of one who, too proud to intermarry with the natives, had no family of his own—and left no successor by the wives introduced from the slave-markets of Constantinople. So truly remarkable was this, as to drag from Volney the observation, that—"on seeing them existing 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 continuation is not less extraordinary.” Many have been the causes brought forward from ancient writers, and from the analogy of natural history to account for this ; but it has been forgotten that the land was to be “wasted by the hands of strangers.”