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VOLNEY'S DESCRIPTION OF EGYPT IN 1785.
The horrors that were perpetrated by this hated race, steeped in infamy, and black with crime, are too disgusting to be enumerated, for Egypt under them became “the basest of kingdoms." Split into cabals, torn and distracted by civil broils, and the continual bloodshedding of rival Beys, the Egyptians groaned under a succession and a multiplicity of tyrants, the baneful effects of whose demoralizing influence still hang over and weigh down a people who, under their sway, became a disgrace to the very form of human nature. “ True it is,” says Volney, in 1785, “the Porte still retains there a Pasha ; but this Pasha, confined and watched in the castle of Cairo, is rather the prisoner of the Memlooks, than the representative of the Sultan. Strangers to each other, they are not bound by those natural ties which unite the rest of mankind. Without parentswithout childrenthe past has done nothing for them, and they do nothing for the future. Ignorant and superstitious from education, they become ferocious from the murders they commit, perfidious from frequent cabals, seditious from tumults, and base, deceitful, and corrupted by every species of debauchery. And what could be expected of the condition of the people under such masters—without commerce or arts—for the most simple of these are still in a state of infancy? The work of their cabinet-makers, lock-smiths, and gun-smiths, is extremely clumsy. Their mercery, their hardware, their gun and pistol barrels, are all imported from foreign countries ; with difficulty you can find one watch-maker at Cairo who knows how to repair a watch, and he too is an European. Every thing the traveller sees or hears, reminds him that he is in the country of slavery and tyranny. Nothing is talked of but intestine dissensions, the public misery, pecuniary extortions, bastinadoes, and murders. There is no security for life or property. The blood of men is shed like that of the vilest animals. Justice, herself, puts to death without formality. The officer of the night in his rounds, and the officer of the day in his circuit, judge, condemn, and execute, 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. Were even the appearance of criminality necessary to expose to the danger of punishment, this would be tolerable ; but frequently without any other reason than the avarice of a powerful chief, or the information of
DEGENERATION OF EGYPT.
an enemy, a man is summoned before some Bey, on suspicion of having money. A sum is demanded from him, and if he denies that he possesses it, he is thrown on his back, and receives two or three hundred blows on the soles of his feet, nay, sometimes is put to death. Unfortunate is he who is suspected of being in easy circumstances! A hundred spies are every moment ready to accuse him, and it is only by assuming the appearance of poverty that he can hope to escape the rapaciousness of power."
It is a recorded fact, that scarcely a sailor knew the compass ; and so utterly hopeless did the master-mind of Volney consider this scene of desolation's triumph, when in one of his walks he saw, under the walls of Alexandria, two poor hungry wretches sitting on the dead carcass of a camel, and disputing for its putrid fragments with the dogs, that he was forced to exclaim, “I am, above all, led to believe that Egypt can never shake off this yoke.” But He who upholdeth all things--who can curse and none can
and bless and none can curse—who can bring down and raise up, even from the dead, by his power, hath promised that He “shall smite Egypt; He shall smite and heal it; and they shall return even to the Lord; and He shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them.”—Isaiah xix. 22. Let us see how this is being brought about :-and in the contrast exhibited at present to the traveller in Egypt, although we must allow that much more could, and, it is to be hoped, will be done ; yet, it is also to be acknowledged, that by means of her present governor, Egypt, like her own fabulous bird of old, is even now rising from her ashes.
At the commencement of the present century, Egypt was subject to still greater desolation than it previously experienced; for, in addition to the increasing broils and exactions of its own masters, it became the theatre of war between France and England. A partial calm, however, took place on the removal of the armies in the early part of 1803, when the Albanians and Memlooks formed that memorable combination against the Turkish power, which it is supposed was fanned and fostered by the emissaries of Napoleon, in order to pave his way into British India.
During the two following years, nothing but anarchy and confusion prevailed. The arts of peace were so far neglected, that the natural produce of a country which ought to be the granary of Africa, and is one of the richest in the world, was incompetent
THE RISE OF MOHAMMAD ALEE.
for its own support. It was then that a poor Albanian soldier, of obscure origin, conceived the bold idea of not only reducing this country to a state of regular and settled government, but of regenerating it by means hitherto unknown—and strictly prohibited by the tenets of Mohammadanism—the introduction of the arts and sciences, commerce, tactics, and manufactories, together with the habits, manners, and customs, of European Christian nations. Even to hint at this, he had obstacles to contend with of no ordinary magnitude, and materials to work with of the very lowest and worst description. It was then that the buoyant spirit of this man raised him to the surface of that troubled sea, and the talents, courage, and daring of Mohammad Alee, shone forth as the rescuer of a country, in one of whose markets (if report speaks true) he himself had been sold as a slave. Personal prowess
and military skill must ever be respected in a country where every man is more or less a soldier, and where the unsheathed sword remains the sceptre ; but with his military prowess, or his exterminating war with the Wahabees, we have at present nothing to do. It was the order of his master, and it was as natural for him to attempt the rescue of Mekka and Medina, as for the Crusaders to war for the restoration of Jerusalem under Godfrey de Bouillon ; and as to the massacre of the five hundred Memlooks—a deed conceived in treachery, and executed under the faith of hospitality-it was a dark and bloody crime, let it be varnished as it may, that no chronicler dares defend. Yet, humanly speaking, it produced the regeneration of the country; for, possessing, as the Memlooks did, a power equivalent, if not superior, to that of the viceroy, and determined to resist what they termed innovation, even the bitterest enemies of Mohammad Alee must allow, that, as long as their rule existed in Egypt, no one step could he have taken towards her improvement : and, in the hour of their downfall, (even if Mohammad Alee be a tyrant,) Egypt exchanged five hundred tyrants for one. From that period
power; and the tide of science and of learning, that once swept over the land, and too long had ebbed, exposing the filth and offal of its degenerate condition, has returned, and the sullen murmur of its measured swell is already heard, chasing from these ancient shores those unclean beasts, which for centuries wallowed in its polluted mire.
HIS IMPROVEMENTS IN EGYPT.
One of the first acts of Mohammad Alee was to invite artizans and manufacturers to come and settle in the country ; and he shortly afterwards procured engineers from several countries of Europe, to explore the different parts of his dominions. But he did a greater work that even this—he sent, at the expense of the state, a number of Egyptian boys to Europe, to be instructed in the different arts and sciences—many of these were educated in British universities, and are now teachers in their own. He caused a vast number of his people to be collected and instructed in the different trades necessary to more civilized nations. He erected dock-yards, arsenals, and manufactories, that have not only given employment but trades to many thousands that heretofore knew but the handling of a mattock, or unsheathing of a yatagan. Not contented with having them educated in other countries, he erected and endowed polytechnic and military schools, with colleges of law, physic, divinity, and belles lettres ; in these he clothes, maintains, and pays several hundred boys, the first of whom had to be dragged by the kidnapping conscription officers from the filth of mud hovels, the raggedness of a torn blue shirt, the pains of hunger, or the fare of bad beans and dowrah bread, and the more pleasing task of raising water in a bucket from the Nile, and remaining in a state of the most blissful ignorance, to receive the blessings of education.*
He has attempted, and is carrying into effect, that great step towards civilization in any country, the introduction of grades in society. By the security he has given to life and property, he has brought into the cities the wares, and also the manufacturers of Europe, hundreds of whom are every where settled in the
* The following is a brief summary of some of the labours of Mohammad Alee in Egypt:-In the naval college there are 1,200 pupils ; in the military, 1400;
in the Eugeun, 100; in the veterinary hospital and school, 150; there is also a school of music; and, in addition to the several institutions and factories that I have mentioned in these current remarks, I may add 1,000 men in the turboosh manufactory at Founah. There are printing establishments and paper mills at Boolack ; sugar manufactories; chemical works for saltpetre and chloride of lime at Old Cairo; powder manufactories and pyrotechnic schools; together with power loom, calico printing, dying, bleaching, and woollen cloth manufactories, copper mills, glass works, and brass and iron foundries, &c.
country ; and by the protection he has afforded, and the respect he has caused to be shown to all who travel here, he has opened up a field for scientific research till now unknown in any Mohammadan country; and the daily number of arrivals at his capital of European savans, and wealthy travellers, fully attests this. But it is not alone in Egypt, or under his immediate eye, that this exists; for the traveller of 1837 can proceed through places such as the hill country of Judea, and the mountains of Syria, with as great (perhaps greater) safety than through many of the large towns of Europe ; though, a few years ago, it required both bribes, promises, and often force of arms to effect a passage through these countries.
He has established courts of justice, and in his own person hears petitions, and gives redress to manifest grievances. In 1819 he commenced and completed that great national work, the cutting of the Mahmoudie canal, and although he has long delayed, and may never commence the railway from Suez to Cairo, yet he has opened a safe and direct passage for us to India, by way of the Red Sea, on which our steamers now ply.* And, as an instance of the liberality of the Basha, as well as of the state of the arts here, I may mention that part of the machinery of the British steamer, which, at the period of our visit, became damaged in her passage from Bombay, was, at his cost, and by his artizans, repaired at Cairo. Had not this been the case, the vessel must have returned to England to be repaired.
He has also introduced and established the cotton trade in Egypt; a commerce particularly well suited to that country. He has, it is true, made a demand of soldiers that the population of Egypt cannot afford; but these he has washed, shaved, clothed, disciplined, and armed, like Europeans. He has, since 1827, by native hands, furnished, armed, and manneda navy little inferior to any in Europe. He has caused a toleration of religious opinion unknown in any other Mohammadan country, and has afforded protection even to the
* Notwithstanding the outcry raised about his not commencing this road, although the rails have long been completed at Cairo, those who are at all acquainted with the country must know how utterly foolish such an attempt would be, in a place where the sand-storm of an hour or the caprice of a few Bedawees could destroy the work of months.