Reginald Rankin.

In Morocco with General d'Amade online

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flags, from which a persistent fire was coming.
The mitrailleuse with the Tirailleurs did good work
here inider the direction of its Zouave lieutenant ;
and here, too, one of the bravo fellows ho com-


manded received a mortal wound. lu the teeth
of a terrific fire from the French Hue a tall white
figure advanced alone ; at length it was seen that
the man was waving something like a letter ; tlie
fire ceased, and the Arab, with his white robe
turned to crimson from a bullet through his leg,
walked calmly into the midst of his foes. There
is not the smallest doubt that this letter was a
ruse to gain time, and to minimise the effect of
the out-flanking movement then so brilliantly

It achieved its object ; the line was halted for
a quarter of an hour ; and while the messenger
was despatched to General dAmade the wily
tribesmen gathered on the hills to bar our way.
The soldiers cheered the order to renew the
advance, and climbed the steep face of the hill
like cats, while the cavalry, zigzagging beyond
them on the right, dappled the green field of
Islam with the tricolour of France. The top of
the hill is a shrub-covered plateau, scored by deep
gorges running down to the Mousa valley and
sinking away gradually on its western face.
Settat was not yet in view ; two miles ahead it
lay concealed in a hollow. The tribesmen had
assembled in force in front of us ; they advanced
with great boldness in an attempt to cut us off
from support from the plain. The moment had
come for the men of the a7^me blanche ; the word
was given, the Chasseurs, Spahis, and Goumiers


formed up, and with a cheer they dashed against
the cloud of menacing Arabs. The latter fired
from their saddles, then turned and fled. Lieut.
Crotel of the 3rd Chasseurs, who lingered for
two months and died of the wound, had his chin
shattered ; a Goumier fell mortally wounded ;
a Spahi clung to the high red pommel of his
saddle with both hands as a bullet grazed
his head. The French cavalry galloped hard ;
they caught up only half-a-dozen of the enemy ;
the rest got away down a steep defile ; but the
tactical value of the charge was enormous, for
it freed the right flank henceforward from all
danger of being turned. And now the infantry
pushed on again ; and presently the yellow city
of Settat lay below us, set in a hollow at the
head of its little valley, planted with olives and
watered by a stream. In front of us on the
ridge stood a white kasbah, and beyond it an
entrenched camp ; in both the white-clad men
were swarming. Up the slope against us came
some who saw only the single figures of recon-
noitring oflicers ; they little knew that behind
the crest two battalions of crouching French
soldiers were waiting with their fingers on the
triggers. On they came to within three hundred
yards, and then the thin line rose up and filled
tlie air with a scream of bullets. Yellow, white,
and Ijlue lay the quiet figures on the slope ; '
only a few of the Moors got away ; one faithful


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little horse I watched standing sadly beside a
master who had mounted him for the last time.

In the middle of the firing-line, refusing to
be driven away, a baby donkey was gambolling.
The doudr he knew was a charred ruin ; his
human friends were gone ; I saw him poke his
nose into a Tirailleur's hand. The town now
lay below us on the left, but the fire from the
entrenched camp on the ridge in front was heavy.
While the infantry gained the near kasbah,
fluttering with white flags and deserted by all
but greybeards and women, whose shrill ululalus
— a long tremolo on a high note — sounded above
the noises of the fight, the cavalry were sent on
to the ridge, and charging they cut down forty
of the fugitives. A lad of fifteen was among
them ; a Chasseur was about to despatch him
when his officer humanely intervened, wishing
to spare a boy's life. The latter pulled a dagger
from beneath his cloak and hurled it at his pro-
tector. Fortunately no harm befell him ; the
weapon went through his clothes, grazed his ribs,
and stuck out behind his back ; while half-a-dozen
sabres made an end of his assailant.

I went down the hill into the town with the
firing-line, and here it was that M. Rdginald
Kann, the well-known war correspondent of the
Temps, so narrowly escaped death. Within a
hundred yards of the walls, from behind which
the enemy still kept up a hot fire, his saddle


shifted, and he got off to put it right. A native
marksman saw his chance, and took three de-
liberate shots at him. They missed M. Kann,
but the last struck and mortally wounded a
soldier who was passing within a foot of him.
His many friends all over the world will rejoice
at the escape of so brilliant a journalist and so
brave a man.

Then the bugles sounded the pas de charge;
the infantry fixed bayonets, and cheering rushed
into the city. All the men except the Jews
had fled. Great numbers of these swarmed out
of their dens, with servile bows and smiles, and
their w^omen came and kissed the hems of our

The gallant Colonel Passard, always in front,
hoisted the French flag over the central kasbah,
while from the hills on the east the discomfited
Arabs fired aimlessly into their lost city. It was
now two o'clock, and the troops had to march
twenty miles before they had finished their
work. General d'Amade had been hard pressed
in his advance up the valley of the Mousa with
his four hundred ; and the enveloping fire of
the enemy had lost him eight men in a quarter
of an hour. To support the General, therefore,
the conquerors of Settat were withdrawn down
the valley, and there it was that the Zouaves
charged up hill against a fort full of tribesmen,
and put them all to the bayonet. The day was


now won ; Settat was taken ; the Arabs were
everywhere put to flight ; at least a hundred and
fifty of their dead lay upon the field. It was
four o'clock in the afternoon, the troops had been
marching and fighting since eleven the night
before; " mangez vos sardines" came the order,
and the force rested for ten minutes on the
heights white with sparaxis. Then the home-
ward march began ; the great square re-formed,
and the gallant French troops set out across the
darkening fields towards Ber Kechid. No enemy
ventured to molest them : at one in the morning
of Thursday, the 16th of January, with none but
wounded men in the ambulances, the French in-
fantry, after twenty-six hours' continuous marching
and fighting, rejoined their comrades.

It was a great performance, of which France
may well be proud.


During the whole of the first part of the nine-
teenth century the trade of Casablanca was in
French and Spanish hands. It was not until
about 1855 that English traders began to settle
there, but by 1870 England had won the place at
the head of the trade of the first port in Morocco
whicli she still retains. It is true that Germany
has made great advances here during the last
thirty years ; but though, according to the latest
official reports, the bulk of the exports from Casa-
blanca go to German ports, they are often sent
thither by English houses. The reason is that
the cereals which form the staple of the export
trade have of late years fetched better prices at
Hamburg than in England. In the case of barley
more especially it was the imports from Morocco
which in 1907 kept down the price of Russian
barley on the German market.

As regards the import trade, it may be said
that there is little or no competition between
France and England. The French hold the mono-
poly for sugar and silks, the English for tea and
cotton goods ; Belgium rules the iron market, and
divides that for candles with England. The Ger-
mans, on the other hand, here as elsewhere, deal



in every class of cheap manufactured goods, and
consequently would be hard hit were the French
to introduce a preferential tariff in their own
favour. The Spaniards, whose oil and wines com-
pete with those of France, would also feel the
effects of any such policy. The German houses in
Morocco are, as a rule, only agencies, and do not
trade with their own capital. They, moreover,
give the natives very long credit in order to work
up a business, but as they have to do with very
litigious customers, who are also far from being
prompt payers, the German traders are placed at
a comparative disadvantage.

It is true that the young Germans who come
out to Casablanca as clerks to acquire a thorough
knowledge of the country and of the language,
form a nucleus of youths who are well pre-
pared to found firms throughout the land, and
thus bring into being tendencies which, in time,
will give Germany a very appreciable commercial
advantage. There are only two Englishmen under
thirty years of age in business at Casablanca at the
present time.

In this connection it should be remembered that
to the Moors the buyer is the most important per-
son in the firm, and that he ranks in their eyes far
above its principal. A countryman who has come
in to sell his grain will ask for Don So-and-so, who
is the agent of an English firm, and if he cannot
come to terms with him he will go on to another


buyer, instead of addressing himself to the agent's
employer. Consequently the German youths who
are now commencing their business life in Casa-
blanca in subordinate positions have far better
opportunities of getting into touch with the natives
than any man trained in England and coming out
in later life possibly can have, and thus it is pro-
bable that, unless the condition of Morocco became
such as to induce large investors to interest them-
selves in Moroccan undertakings, far more small
businesses will in future be started there by Ger-
mans than by Englishmen. This is the real reason
which induced Germany to stand up for the open
door in a country where Germans can settle as well
as trade. Count Tattenbach, now German Ambas-
sador at Madrid, must have the credit for having
pointed this out to his Government at least sixteen
years ago ; and it must not be forgotten that this
determined the line of policy which Germany has
subsequently followed in Morocco.

We must remember that the Hinterland of
Casablanca, which forms the province of Chaouiya,
is an agricultural and ranching district. Cereals,
skins, and wool form the staples of its export trade,
which also includes coriander seed, cinnamon, fennel,
canary and linseed, as well as maize, lentils, and
chickpeas. Until the Act of Algeciras the export
of wheat and barley from Morocco was prohibited,
for the reason that it was absolutely necessary in a
country where communications are difficult and the


inhabitants void of foresight to prevent the distant
districts being stripped by an excessive export of
the stock of grain which they absolutely require.
The same reasons induced the Sultan up to 190G
to forbid the exportation of transport animals and
cattle, a rule which, owing to various circumstances,
had in practice fallen into abeyance at Tangier for
years. The Act of Algeciras, by expressing a wish
that the export duties on cereals may be reduced,
has given encouragement to the grain trade ; and by
the same treaty his Shereefian Majesty has agreed
to increase the number of cattle which each Power
has the right to export from Morocco, through
any open port, from 6000 to 10,000 per annum.
He, however, reserves the power of temporarily
prohibiting such exports from the ports of any
district in which there may be a dearth of cattle.

Of the animal products, exported wool goes to
France, Germany, Italy, and England, and hides,
sheep and goat skins to these countries and to
Spain and Portugal.

The Chaouiya, with its Black Earth or " Tirs,"
which forms the first of the series of terraces
separating the coast from the foothills of the Atlas,
and which rivals the central districts of Russia in
fertility, is, as has been said, a country of agricul-
ture and of ranching.

Experiments have shown beyond all possibility
of contradiction that the soil of Morocco, and more
especially that of the Chaouiya, can grow every


kind of produce, and that all the plants of the
temperate and subtropical zones can thrive in it.

Up to the present time, however, the insecurity
of the country districts and the weakness of the
Kaids has made it impossible for any European to
undertake farming or cattle-breeding in person.
Such is the state of things which led to the
establishment by the Treaty of Madrid in 1880
of the system of " Protection " which has played
so great a part in the modern history of Morocco.

Though the European cannot carry on such
undertakings himself he can do so through a native
partner. Since 1880 the Sultan has allowed a special
code of legislation to be established which pro-
tects an Arab to whom a European has entrusted
his business interests against his own Govern-
ment. The foreign firms established in the country
have not failed to take every advantage of the
system. Some advance money to the Moors in
return for a share in the produce of their harvests ;
but it is more usual for them to send at the proper
season a native agent into the interior to buy up
cereals on the markets, or from the growers them-
selves. The grain is then brought into Casablanca
to be cleaned and prepared for export.

It must be remembered that the statistics of
the grain trade in any given year do not give the
slightest clue to the productivity of the harvest.
The Arabs take every precaution to escape the
extortions of their Kaids, and after every harvest


they bide the greater part of their wheat in under-
ground cellars or " silos," where they often keep it
for years.

This is one reason why it is, at present,
difficult to predict what will be the future of
Morocco as a grain-growing country under a new
order of things. It is equally difficult to form any
true conception of the results of the Protection
system as a whole, without speaking of Casablanca
in particular.

It is only natural, of course, that the protected
and extra-territorialised Arab should attach himself
closely to his employer. He, however, lives in
security from the arbitrary exactions of the Kaid,
and can, as a rule, obtain capital at a cheaper rate
than his unprotected fellows ; for at Casablanca the
natives usually borrow from the Jews and from rich
Arabs at 60 per cent., whilst lenders in the interior
charge their debtors 5 per cent, from market day
to market day, or more than 260 per cent, a year.
Too much importance need not be attached to the
fact that the employers are constantly receiving
little presents in kind from their proteges ; for in
Morocco, as in India, where the " Nuzzer " is still
presented at state ceremonies, inferiors never ap-
proach their superiors without a gift. The richest
European merchants used to be in the habit of
accepting presents which were practically forced
upon them by the manners and customs of the
country, and to refuse which would, generally, have


been a lack of tact. On the other hand, it cannot
be denied that, in some cases, unscrupulous Euro-
peans have not hesitated to do a trade in Protec-
tions, or have even used the system as a means
to acquire landed properties by foreclosing on
mortgages which they have forced upon their

However, the system had grown to be indis-
pensable in a country where life and property are
at the mercy of a Sultan's whims, and where a
favourite, after being loaded by his master with
wealth and honour, can at a moment's notice be
stripped of them again and plunged into the depths
of poverty. On the other hand, it is to the dis-
advantage of the Protection system that it has
given foreign powers pretexts for unduly inter-
fering in the internal administration of Morocco,
and that, by falsifying the basis on which taxation
is imposed, it has shifted the burden from the backs
of the richer natives to those of the poorest section
of the population.

If the French take over the administration of
the Chaouiya, introduce the Common Law, and
institute a regular revenue survey, they will soon
efface the last relics of a system which will then
have outlived its usefulness. Morocco can only be
the gainer by its disappearance. It is well known
how the development of Egypt was hampered by
the capitulations before the conclusion of the
entente cordiale ; although it nmst be added that


advocates of the " Mixed Tribunal " system are still
to be found there.

To return to the economic resources of the
Chaouiya. Its second great source of wealth is
derived from cattle-ranching, for the province sends
thousands of beasts to the ports of the Western
Mediterranean, whilst the wool from its sheep
farms supplies the markets of France, Germany,
and England. In the Casablanca district sheep-
farming is a most important industry.

As free grazing rights are the law in Morocco,
Europeans are able to place their flocks in the
hands of Arabs whose villages are in suitable
localities. These Arabs are usually paid by being
given a certain number of lambs, and the right of
disposing of the milk, butter, and cream. At
certain times of the year sheep are very cheap, and,
in a few months, the sale of their fleeces often
repays the purchaser a quarter of their prime cost ;
whilst, owing to the free-grazing law, they have
cost next to nothing to rear. If the Arab is
honest, and, as he has an interest in the trans-
action, he has every reason to be so, and if the
grazing land has been properly selected, such
undertakings yield very good results. But, as
always where the mdtayer system is in force, the
employer is entirely in the hands of his native
partner, since it is almost impossible to carry out
any eflective supervision.

There are scarcely any manufactories at Casa-


blanca. A steam saw-mill, a flour-mill, and two or
three other small and primitive establishments
exhaust the list of the European concerns. The
water in the neighbourhood is scanty and brackish,
and it would, therefore, be very difficult to run
either a tannery or a wool-washery, although any
one interested in the latter subject would do well to
study what has been done by Englishmen in that
direction in the Cape and in Natal.

Natives make poor factory hands. The native
women make woollen carpets, remarkable for their
crude colouring and inartistic patterns ; and, un-
fortunately, they have begun to use imported
aniline instead of the old vegetable dyes, and have
thus still further depreciated their products.

Slippers, and reed and alfa-grass mats, are also
made. The reed matting, which is very cheap, is
used to keep the grain in the granaries from contact
with the damp soil and walls.

But the whole future of the Chaouiya depends
on the answer to two questions of paramount im-
portance : —

Are the French going to occupy the province
permanently ?

When the terms agreed upon by the entente
cordiale expire in 1934, will the door be kept open
to the trade of the world ?

So far as an outsider can see, it would appear
that France will have to occupy the country per-
manently for exactly the same reasons as those


which have forced England to put off withdrawing
from Egypt. It is true that both France and
Spain are doing their best to organise the police
on the lines laid down by the Act of Algeciras, but
even when they have accomplished a task which is
made still more difficult by the mode of thought of
the Arab recruits, it cannot be supposed that a
force of 400 to 450 men will be strong enough to
keep order in a province which is torn from top to
bottom by religious and racial hatreds. It may be
said, on the other hand, that the Act of Algeciras
was only intended to preserve order in the coast
towns open to trade, and in their immediate en-
virons. It was not foreseen that if the French
received the submission of the tribes they had
been forced to punish for the share taken by them
in the sack of Casablanca, they would necessarily
be forced to protect them from being massacred by
their co-religionists who had not laid down their
arms. Yet, unless the whole province of Chaouiya
is permanently occupied, it will be a seething sea
of anarchy ; the trade routes will be cut, transit
trade will go elsewhere, and those who have already
suffered so much by the bombardment and its con-
sequences will have no security for their compen-
sation. Thus the French cannot shirk the task of
pacifying the province ; their withdrawal will spell
the ruin of the European colony.

If we can draw conclusions from what has taken
place in Algeria and Tunisia, it is clear that a


system of ultra -Protection in Fiscal matters tends
rather to prevent foreign merchants and professional
men from settling in such a country than to re-
strict the importation of non-French goods. In
1882 the whole of the trade between Germany and
Algeria amounted to 1,480,000 francs. In 1906
the total amounted to 12,000,000 francs, the
Algerian wines being paid for by German leaf-
tobacco, chemicals, and machinery. Everywhere
in North Africa the labourers, the small farmers,
and the market gardeners are Spaniards, Italians,
and Maltese. Thus Fiscal Protection does nothing
to check the immigration of the working classes.
The one measure which could prevent Morocco
being developed by foreign as well as by French
capitalists would be the introduction of any kind
of sur-tax, or increased payments for permission to
reside there, which would place foreigners at a
disadvantage as compared with Frenchmen.

On the other hand, it is certain that if the world
of trade can be assured that the French occupation
will be a lasting one, and will not close the open
door, there would be an immediate influx of capital
into the country. Englishmen, even under the
conditions actually existing in Algeria, have created
there, with the help of French auxiliaries on the
spot, some very important businesses, and would
certainly not be the last to come forward with
their capital and take their share in opening up
its neighbour. Thus the question of immigration


has little importance for ourselves. The Germans,
on the other hand, have always looked on Morocco
as a country in which they can settle as well as
trade. The experience of the colonists from Wur-
temburg, who have been established on the sea-
board of Palestine since 18G9, justifies their idea
up to a certain point.

It would, however, be impossible for Germany
to take possession of Morocco politically except at
the risk of a war with France and England. All
the leading German statesmen, such as Prince
Billow, say that the only interest they have here
is to keep the door open to commerce and coloni-
sation. If this is the real state of things, it should
not be difficult to strike a bargain.

Public opinion in Algeria seems to be that
France, in order to secure the right of occupying
the Chaouiya, should agree to do so on the terms
on which England occupies Egypt. The Algerians
would even be willing to agree to the creation of
an effective Customs frontier between Algeria and
Morocco provided the actual produce of the two
countries was reciprocally admitted free under
some such arrangements as were established by
the treaty of 1875 between Mozambique and the
Transvaal. Even though a permanent occupation
of the Chaouiya by the French were to lead to an
increase in the number of German immigrants, it
must be remembered that such emigrants have
readily been absorbed elsewhere by the populations


on the spot. It Is only since 1870 that French
civilisation has lost its attractions for the South
Germans and the Illiinelanders.

The French Colonial Party could not feel hurt
by an occu})ation of the Chaouiya undertaken under
such conditions, and could have no reason to cry
out that their system of Fiscal Protection had not
been introduced there. French trade would lose

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Online LibraryReginald RankinIn Morocco with General d'Amade → online text (page 5 of 18)