The Moors never pray for their sovereign to journey among them, for, so disturbed has been the condition of the country for many years past, and so numerous have been the pretenders to the Sherifian throne, that recent Sultans have rarely ventured outside the walls of their capitals with less than thirty thousand followers behind them, so that when they had occasion to pass through the territory of a hostile tribe, as not infrequently happened, they fought their way through, leaving ruin and desolation behind them. Though both Mulai Youssef and his predecessors have always resided at one or the other of the two official capitals, the coast city of Tangier has heretofore been the real capital of Morocco.

Here lived the diplomatic and consular representatives of the foreign powers and, with a cynical disregard for the Moorish Government and people, ran things between them. Though considerations of safety doubtless entered into the matter, the chief reason for making Tangier the diplomatic capital was the extreme inconvenience to the foreign legations of being obliged to follow the court in its periodical migrations from one capital to the other. Therefore the diplomatic folk remained comfortably in Tangier—which, incidentally, can readily be overawed by a war-ship's guns—and the Sultan appointed ministers to treat with them there and thus carry on the foreign business of the state.

When questions of great importance had to be negotiated special missions were sent to the capital at which the Sultan happened to be [Pg 44] residing, the departure of these ambassadorial caravans, with their secretaries, attachés, kavasses, servants, and body-guards, not to mention the immense train of pack-mules and baggage camels, providing a spectacle quite as picturesque and entertaining as any circus procession. That feature of Moorish life disappeared with the coming of the French, however, for the foreign ministers will doubtless shortly be withdrawn; and hereafter, when any negotiations are to be conducted anent Morocco, instead of a diplomatic mission having to make a two-hundred-mile journey on horses or camels, the ambassador at Paris of the power in question will step into his motor-car and whirl over to the Ministry of the Colonies in the Rue Oudinot.

I know of nothing which gives so graphic an idea of the amazing conditions which have heretofore prevailed in Morocco, and to which the French are, thank Heaven, putting an end, as the speech which a former British minister, Sir John Drummond Hay, made some years ago to the reigning Sultan, and which was, probably, the most extraordinary address ever made by a diplomatic representative to a foreign ruler.

“Your Majesty has been so gracious as to ask me,” said Sir John, looking the despot squarely in the eye, “to express frankly my opinion of affairs in Morocco. The administration of the government in Morocco is the worst in the world. The government is like a community of fishes; the giant fish feed upon those that are small, the smaller upon the least, and these again feed upon the worms. In like manner the vizier and other [Pg 45] dignitaries of the court, who receive no salaries, depend for their livelihood upon peculation, trickery, corruption, and the money they extract from . The governors are likewise enriched through peculation from tithes and taxes, and extortion from sheikhs, wealthy farmers, and traders. A Moor who becomes rich is treated as a criminal. Neither life nor property is secure. Sheikhs and other subordinate officials subsist on what they can extort from the farmers and the peasantry.