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held out with varying success against the French, but
was finally forced to surrender and accept exile.
Numerous revolts, of which the most dangerous was
the Kabyle rebellion of 1871, failed to shake France's
hold on the land.

And gradually she pushed her way south until her
soldiers have carried the tricolour to the banks of the
Niger and the Sahara owns her sway. Her laws give
equal justice to white man, brown and black. Her
colonists have reclaimed the wastes and restored
fertility to the long-ruined country; her financiers are
helping to develop the natural resources, the mineral,
vegetable and agricultural wealth of Algeria.

French protectorates were established in Tunisia
in 1 88 1, in Morocco in 1912; so that now, with the
exception of the Spanish zone and the small Interna-
tional zone in the latter empire, all North West Africa
is under French control. And here its story rests.



A CURVING bay fringed with white sands and glistening
rocks and over it green hills. And where the slopes
are steepest a city climbs them to the tree-shaded sum-
mits, a city of white houses crowding together, a city
spreading out in flower-decked gardens and snowy
villas robed with the imperial purple of creepers and
half-hidden in the dark foliage of cypress and palm.

And towering up to the blue sky the snow-clad
peaks of rugged mountains that dwarf the hills and
form a noble setting for this city of Algiers. Algiers,
whose story runs back to Hercules and the Golden
Apples of the Hesperides through many centuries of
storm and strife.

Three hundred years ago! Charles I. sits on an
uneasy throne in England; and Louis XIII. reigns in
France. For I paint an old-time picture.

The sun shines brilliantly on the sparkling waters
of the bay that cream lazily on the sandy shore where
a century before they dashed the ships of the Emperor
Charles Quint to matchwood and saved the Pirate City.
On the curving coast a triangle of high walls, the base
on the foul foreshore, the apex at the fortress of the



Kasbah hundreds of feet above, enclose the white mass
of crowding houses that runs up the steep hillside. The
Algiers of A.D. 1626. The scourge of Christendom.
The plague-spot of the Mediterranean.

Behind the curving mole are crowded a hundred
hulks, the ships that carry the bloodiest, cruellest
pirates of history to harry the coasts of countries as far
apart as Italy and Iceland, to seize or sink peaceful
merchantmen and bring back their crews and passengers
to a horrible slavery. Some of the craft are hoisting
sail to set forth on their dread cruises. On one men
are plugging shot-holes, patching torn canvas and
replacing broken spars by fresh ones sent as tribute
from far-distant Norway repairs needed after the stern
fight with the battered prize alongside, that tall Spanish
galleon. On its deck a number of men, women and
children are being fitted with irons and chained together
two by two unhappy captives whom Death has spared
for a worse fate.

Out from the shelter of the mole darts a long, lean
galley, twenty great oars on either side churning up
the flashing water. And at each oar three wretched
Christian slaves, their feet chained to the deck, toil
with fettered hands, while on their naked backs blood
starts with each stroke of the terrible kourbashes, whips
of bull's sinews, unceasingly wielded by the brawny
arms of negro taskmasters. Poor wretches! Only in
the stinking bagnios at night have they leisure to think
of the days when they were free men, Christian men,
sailors, traders, gentlemen of France, hidalgos of
Spain, merchant princes of Italian cities. And now
slaves! Captured when voyaging by sea they are


doomed to toil under the lash until death releases
them and their broken bodies are thrown into the
merciful water. Some have lost an eye, others have
fingers broken and teeth knocked out, by blows from
the whips or olive-wood batons of the slave-masters.

The city, so fair to view from the bay, is a foul place
of high, almost windowless buildings hemming in
narrow, steep alleys noisome with stench and filth,
where fettered Christians dispute with starving dogs for
offal flung on rubbish heaps. Inside the blind walls
of many of the tall houses are tiled courts in which
fountains play and marble-railed galleries on which
open luxuriously-furnished rooms in which on costly
rugs and soft divans lie fair women of many nations
robed in shimmering silks and decked with jewels
playthings willing or reluctant of fierce, bearded pirates
or still more villanous renegades.

In an open space near a low wall that looks down
on the sea stand two men who seem strangely out of
place in their surroundings. For it is evident that
they are Europeans, yet they are free. One wears a
broad-brimmed hat with a long feather, a gold-laced,
wide-skirted silken coat, gay breeches and silk stock-
ings, and a sword hangs at his side. The other is clad
in the long gown, baggy trousers and heel-less slippers
of a Turk, while a turban is twisted about his grey head.
But equally with the other he comes in for the black
looks of the hook-nosed Jews slinking by and the curses
of pious Mahommedans who lounge past them, spitting
on the ground as an insult to the Christian dogs that
defile the city by their presence.

' Truly, mon pere, Algiers is a more dreadful place



than I, with all my experience of Mussulman ways,
had any idea of," exclaimed the gaily-clad cavalier in
French, addressing his companion in Turkish garb.

" Ah, Monsieur Napollon, only the good God
knows all the wickedness and misery of this accursed
town. No human brain can imagine it! The suffer-
ings of the slaves in the awful bagnios, the degradation
of virtuous Christian women torn from their
homes across the sea and subjected to the foulest
excesses and brutal lust of these vile beasts in human
form ! Ah ! if only you can succeed in the mission with
which King Louis has entrusted you and buy the
freedom of even our fellow Frenchmen in slavery
here! There are thousands of them alone."

" How many Christian captives are there, think
you, within the walls of Algiers ? "

" Not less than thirty-six thousand. Yet not even
I can tell you the exact number; although for twenty
years I have laboured among them, seeking them out
in the bagnios, carrying them to hospital if their cruel
masters permitted it, giving them the Last Sacraments
as they lie dying on the stones that form their beds.
Yes, twenty years it is," he went on reminiscently,
" since our Order of Our Lady of Mercy sent me to
toil here. And how little good have I done! "

The old man was unjust to himself. He was a
member of one of the Redemptorist orders of priests
founded, as the name implied, to redeem slaves by
ransoming them with money obtained from their rela-
tives or raised by charity. They devoted their lives
to succouring the wretched captives in every way.

" There is a hospital, then, for slaves ? " asked the


cavalier, a Corsican Knight of Saint Michael and
gentleman of the court of Louis XIII. of France.

His name was Giudicelli ; but he was usually known
as Sanson Napollon. He had been the French Consul
at Aleppo, and his monarch, who was then allied to the
Sultan of Turkey, had sent him to Constantinople to
protest against the war waged on France and the
thousands of French subjects seized as slaves by the
pirates of the cities of the Barbary States along the
North African coast Tunis, Algiers, Oran, Sale,
Rabat and others that nominally acknowledged the
Sultan as their suzerain.

And Napollon had come in this year of grace 1626
with letters and Turkish officers bearing the orders of
the Commander of the Faithful that attacks on French
property should cease and French subjects should be
set free.

" A hospital for slaves," echoed the old priest.
" ,Yes. The hospital of Spain, we call it. Fifty years
ago a Capuchin friar was captured by the pirates. He
was the confessor of Don Juan of Austria, who sent a
sum of sixty thousand livres to ransom him. But the
friar preferred to remain a slave and use the money to
found a hospital for other slaves. He died in chains
himself and his body was flung to the dogs to eat."

" God rest him ! A true man, that ! " exclaimed
the cavalier. " But tell me, father, what chance have
I of succeeding in my mission? I have made little
progress so far. I had thought that the Sultan of
Turkey's commands were law unto Algiers ; but the
Pasha pays little heed to them. Who is the real ruler


The old priest shook his head.

" There be many masters in this city. The Sultan's
writ does not run here if it be contrary to their will.
True, his nominee, the Pasha, whom he appoints
every three years, is supposed to be the Chief of
the State. But if the Algerians be not pleased with
him they put him on a ship and send him home to

" But he governs ? "

' To a point, yes. But he rules only with th^ aid
of the Diwan or Council. That is composed of the four
Secretaries of State the Oukilhardji or Minister of
Marine and Director of the Arsenal, the Khasnadji
or High Treasurer, the Khodja-El-Kheil or Grand
Administrator, the Agha or Commander of the Army.
With these are joined certain others representatives
of the Moslem clergy and veterans of the Janissaries."

' Who are these Janissaries? ' :

" Men recruited at depots established at Constanti-
nople and Smyrna for service here. The worst scoun-
drels of the Levant. A criminal in Turkey has but
to say that he is willing to go to Algiers, and he is set
free to do so. There are thirty thousand of them here
in the ' Invincible Militia.' Each is entitled ' Effendi,'
or ' Lord,' exempted from all taxation and lodged free
in barracks, sure of a pension when no longer fit to
serve. See, there go some of them. Veterans those,
by their leathern caps and gilded scabbards. Notice
how scornfully they look down on the citizens! Ah,
now there will be turmoil! "

The group of swaggering soldiers, from whom peace-
ful civilians had shrunk aside, found their way blocked


by a crowd of sailors from the pirate ships in the harbour
below. These were men of all races, Berbers from the
Kabyle mountains, Soudanese negroes, Spanish Moors,
renegades from Italy and France. Between the sea-
rovers and the Militia was deadly hatred and jealousy ;
for the sailors could not aspire to any honours ashore,
while the soldiers, although each one of them could
hope to become General or even Pasha of Algiers,
earned small pay compared with wealth that came the
seamen's way from the plunder of vessels and the sale
of prizes and slaves. How lucrative their piracy was
may be judged from the fact that between 1613 and
1621 they captured 447 Dutch, 193 French, 56 German,
60 English, and 120 Spanish ships. To say nothing
of those of other nations or those sunk, burned at sea
or sold in foreign countries to avoid paying the Pasha
his lawful dues of a fifth of their value.

Now fierce looks and angry words are exchanged
between these representatives of the Army and the
Navy and swords are drawn. The fray begins and
men fall.

The old priest plucks at his companion's sleeve.

" Come away, my son ; too much hangs upon your
life to risk it idly. And when these Moslems come to
blows the Christian may chance easily to meet his

Hastily he pulls Napollon aside as a party of sailors
in European garb come running by them to the assist-
ance of their mates, plucking their hangers out of the
sheaths and cursing in good Anglo-Saxon.

" Stand not in their way, I beg you ! " whispers the
Redemptorist. ' These are worse than any Turk.


English pirates Christians, an it please you, who
league with the infidel to war on their own kind."

Hastily the pair turn down a side street, and the
sounds of the fray die away behind them. As their
pace lessens the cavalier looks at the passers-by. White
men and elderly women in rags, chains clanking on
their wrists and ankles, stagger past them under the
weight of heavy burdens. Unkempt, unclean, devoured
by vermin, with matted hair foul with dirt, their haggard
faces and wasted forms telling of starvation and suffer-
ing, they hurry on, afraid to pause a moment to shift
their loads or wipe their streaming faces. Poor slaves,
death would be a boon !

One has found it. Two old men totter along
carrying between them a naked corpse of a European,
a skeleton clothed only with tight-drawn skin. As
Napollon watches them they throw the body on a filth-
heap; and before their backs are turned a pack of
starving mongrels are tearing the body to pieces.

The cavalier shudders.

" God! That such things should be! " he cries.

" Alas! my son, there is worse in Algiers." And the
old man sighs,

Suddenly his face brightens as a slave comes towards
them, bending under a heavy load. Unlike all the
others that Napollon has seen, this man is smiling and
seems to toil cheerfully. As he reaches them he stops
for an instant.

;< Is all well with you, Father? " he asks.

" Aye, with me. But with you? " cries the old man.

" God be praised, yes. Your blessing ! "

The aged priest with tear-filled eyes raises his hand


and blesses him, and he goes on again, nodding a
cheerful farewell to them.

: ' Who is that?" asks the cavalier with curiosity.

" Father Francis, one of our Order," replies his
companion. " You know that by our rules we are
bound, when the money we have brought here to buy
the liberty of the captives is spent, to free slaves by
offering to take their place ourselves and give up our
freedom in exchange for theirs. Father Francis has
done that."

" How noble! How God-like! "

" It is only our duty," said the old man mildly. " I
myself wore chains for five years in place of a young
Italian whose poor family had no money to ransom him.
But then the Father Superior thought that I could do
better work free and sent five hundred livres to purchase
my liberty. He forbade my exchanging myself again."

" What is this ? Who are these men ? " cried

Four or five Jews were dragging along the rough
street by ropes a hurdle on which lay the bleeding,
naked body of a white man, who moaned feebly as he
was bumped over the ruts. Beside the hurdle, shouting
out abuse, ran a number of Mahommedans and Jews
mixed who struck at him with sticks, hurled stones and
spat in the face of the dying wretch.

The priest turned sadly away from the awful sight.

' These are Spanish Moors and Jews who, because
the Christians drove them out of Spain, seek to revenge
themselves by buying at random some Spaniard who is
a slave here and putting him to death. These men will
drag that poor wretch round until he is dead."


They had reached a long street closed at both ends
and known as the Badestan.

" Ah, here is the spot to which I wish that I could
bring all the Christian monarchs and peoples of Europe
to behold a sight that should fire them to war upon this
accursed city until not one stone remained upon another.
It is the Slave Market. Look! "

At one end of the Badestan a large crowd of Mos-
lems were gathered. Some sat on mats in front of a
coffee-house, smoking chibouques and drinking from
small brass cups. Some lounged against the waUs,
others stood about. Their eyes were turned on a group
of men, women and children, all except the youngest
chained and all mother-naked. They were captives
brought in by pirates the day before and now exposed
for sale. Europeans, all.

The men's backs were bleeding from the whips of
the slave-traders ; and, prodded with swords, they were
forced to run up and down before the buyers. The
white skin of some of the female prisoners was striped
and torn by the lash. But the wretched women suffered
more from the lewd gaze and the rude handling of
appraisers of their value and would-be purchasers, who
pawed them and felt them all over as though they were

The sales concluded, weeping children were torn
from their mothers, young girls from their parents, wives
from their husbands, to be dragged away to the harems
of bestial brutes in human form.

The cavalier crushed down a mad desire to draw
sword and rush in among the crowd of buyers and
lookers-on and strike blindly until he fell dead himself.


But he registered a solemn vow to spend every crown
he possessed in ransom of as many wretched slaves as
he could.

And well he kept his oath. At his own expense
alone he bought the freedom of over two thousand
French slaves, besides liberating others with funds
supplied by the King or various cities in France ; and
he left no French subject in chains when he finally
sailed from the Pirate City.

A true historical picture this of life in Algiers.
Sanson Napollon earned but little thanks from his
ungrateful countrymen and was killed by the Genoese
in 1633.

Spread me another canvas!

Over the blue waters of the Bay of Algiers a majestic
fleet of white-sailed warships is strung out from Point
Pescade to the Mole. At the peak of bomb-vessel,
frigate and line-of-battle ship floats the white ensign
of the Bourbons ; for it is a July day in 1830 and a Bour-
bon king sits on the throne of France. From the
open ports the grinning muzzles of the guns look out
and bark defiance at the Algerine forts too far away for
the cannon-balls fired from ship or shore to do aught
but splash harmlessly in the sea between.

But not so high up above the doomed city. The
grey mass of Sultan Kalassi, the big fortress that tops
the hill over Algiers, is wreathed in smoke as it fruit-
lessly answers the shot and shell that rain on it from the
French siege-batteries. The dead bodies of its artillery-
men lie across their heated guns, and its fire dwindles.
In vain Fort Bab Azoun and the Kasbah try to aid it.
Below the brow of the hill the storming-columns are


forming up, and their blue ranks are tipped with
gleaming steel.

Suddenly a sheet of flame shoots up to the cloudless
sky; and in a pillar of smoke a mass of stones, bricks,
and human bodies is flung up to fall far and wide, most
of it on the terrified city below, crushing to death scores
of its people. The despairing commander of the
fortress has blown it up.

In the Kasbah the Tyrant of Algiers, Hussein, the
last of the Deys or Pashas, rushes madly out to the
crowds of soldiers and citizens who have come to beg
him to surrender to the all-conquering Frank.

"Never! Sooner would I blow up my palace,
Kasbah and city ! " he cries and, brandishing a loaded
pistol, runs towards the powder-magazine.

But his subjects fling themselves on him and disarm
him by force ; and he slinks back into his harem to await
his doom among his weeping women.

Scarcely has the smoke of the explosion died away
over the wrecked Sultan Kalassi Fort 1'Empereur,
they call it now, rebuilt and serving as a military prison
than a battalion of gallant, red-breeched infantrymen
dash over the smouldering ruins and plant the flag of
France on them.

And on this day, 4th July, 1830, the Dey of Algiers
surrenders his city and himself to the victors, and the
hellish rule of the Pirate Lords is ended for ever.

A Picture of To-day. In bay and harbour lie great
grey hulks of battleship and cruiser and the topheavy
shapes of destroyers moored alongside low, flat sub-
marines. On most floats the tricolour of France; but


the Stars and Stripes or the White Ensign, the Red,
White and Green, and the Yellow and Red of Spain
are seen.

The long front of Algiers with white mosques
dwarfed by the massive stone blocks of six-storied
buildings is gay with fluttering flags and crowded with
a swarming mass of humanity of many races. French,
Spanish, Maltese, Italians, city-dwelling Moslems in
red caps and store clothes, country and desert Arabs
stately in camel-rope-bound turban, white hlafa and
flowing burnous, cheery blue-eyed, sandy-haired Berber
labourers in ragged garments, white-veiled women and
gaily-clad children, all wedged together on the pave-
ments of the long boulevard behind the lines of troops
with fixed bayonets keeping the roadway clear.

And these soldiers, white, brown and black, tell the
story of the past hundred years in Algeria. Dark blue,
red-braided shell-jackets and baggy red trousers mark
the Zouaves, the gallant French infantrymen whose
predecessors conquered North Africa in a century-long
campaign. Turquoise-blue, yellow-braided jackets
and trousers for the Tirailleurs Indigenes, the Arab and
Berber soldiers who, now as in bygone days when they
were called Turcos, fought shoulder to shoulder with
their French comrades against German foes. Grinning
negroes in khaki with long tassels to their red caps
Senegalese these to tell how France's African Empire
has extended.

And now from warship and fort the guns roar and
the white smoke drifts away over the sea; and the
mountains and hills that have echoed the sound so
often in the past centuries look down impassively on


man and his frail handiwork. And along between the
lines of soldiers comes a gay procession.

A Frenchman in uniform with drawn sword, but
whose cap-band of silver oak-leaves marks him a Civil
Officer, leads it on a powerful bay horse well trained
and walking steadily along in strong contrast to the
savaging, screaming stallions behind it. White or grey
almost without exception, silken-coated with long
manes and tails to their fetlocks, high-peaked saddles,
headstalls and bridles gay with red, purple or blue
velvet stiff with heavy gold embroidery, they ar^ the
priceless, dearest possessions of the men who bestride
them. Bearded, well-featured, hawk-eyed these riders,
whose fathers, or mayhap themselves, for some are
white-haired, have fought the French in fierce razzia.
or desperate rebellion ; and the curved, silver-hilted
scimitars bared in their sinewy hands have assuredly
drunk deep of Christian blood, for they have passed
from father to son through many generations.

And now these Arab caids, chiefs of tribesmen from
the sea to the Sahara, robed like princes in scarlet
burnouses heavy with gold embroidery and adorned
with enamelled crosses and stars of French orders of
chivalry, with their long red boots thrust into silver
stirrups, are riding peacefully behind a Frank, obedient
to his signal.

And behind them on lean, lithe horses with tossing
manes come other Arabs in the same Bedouin dress,
white headgear wound around with camel-hair cord,
an inner white burnous flung back over the outer red
one showing open red shell- jackets, baggy breeches
and wrinkled red leather boots. These are the famous


Spahis, recruited from the warlike tribes of the South,
whose curved sabres have flashed on many a battlefield
in Africa, Europe and Asia under the silken folds of the

Then handkerchiefs flutter, hats are raised and
cheers go up as, drawn by big artillery horses ridden
by French gunners, a high carriage comes by in which
sits a small, white-haired man whose hat is waved in
incessant reply to the greetings from crowded pave-
ments, balconies and roofs.

He is dressed in sober civilian garb and looks a
modest, unassuming gentleman. Yet in his honour
the guns roar, the flags wave and chieftains whose
ancestry dates back to Mahomet's time escort him
through the city in which for centuries the Christian
was a dog and less than a dog.

For he is the President of the French Republic
and France rules in Algeria to-day.

A night picture this. Bowered in palms and flower-
ing bushes on the steep hillside of Mustapha above
the bay stands a fairy palace. The white dome, the
graceful arches, blaze with a myriad lamps and dim the
stars. Lights twinkle among the dark vegetation,
outline the paths, shine from the foliage. Into the
still night music floats out over the sea far below.

An immense chamber with carved cedar ceiling,
chiselled white columns and walls gleaming with bright
mosaics and gay with painted scenes of Algeria and its
peoples. Large as this great salon is it is yet too small
for the gay crowds that fill it and overflow out into the
tiled corridor outside, the marble staircase, the galleries
that look on the pillared Court of Honour of the Summer


Palace of Algiers. For to-night the Governor-General
of Algeria gives a State Ball in honour of the

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Online LibraryGordon CasserlyAlgeria today → online text (page 6 of 18)