We have witnessed one of the most remarkable episodes in the history
of the world. In less than a generation we have seen the French
dream of an African empire stretching without interruption from the
Mediterranean to the Congo literally fulfilled. French imperialism did
not end, as the historians would have you believe, on that September
day in 1870 when the third Napoleon lost his liberty and his throne
at Sedan. The echoes of the Commune had scarcely died away before the
French empire-builders were again at work, in Africa, in Asia, in
Oceanica, founding on every seaboard of the world a new and greater
France. In the two-score years that have elapsed since France’s _année
terrible_ her neglected and scattered colonies have been expanded into
a third empire—an empire oversea. She has had her revenge for the loss
of Alsace-Lorraine by forestalling Teutonic colonial ambition in every
quarter of the globe: in China, in Australasia, in Equatoria, and in
Morocco the advance of the German _vorlopers_ has been halted by the
harsh “_Qui vive?_” of the French videttes.

Though thirty centuries have elapsed since Phœnicia first began to
nibble at the continent, it was not until 1884 that the mad rush began
which ended in Africa’s being apportioned among themselves by half a
dozen European nations with as little scruple as a gang of boys would
divide a stolen pie. This stealing of a continent, lock, stock, and
barrel, is one of the most astounding performances in history. France
emerged from the scramble with a larger slice of territory than any
other power, a territory which she has so steadily and systematically
expanded and consolidated that to-day her sphere of influence extends
over _forty-five per cent of the land area and twenty-four per cent of
the population of Africa_.

So silently, swiftly, and unobtrusively have the French
empire-builders worked that even those of us who pride ourselves
on keeping abreast of the march of civilisation are fairly amazed
when we trace on the map the distances to which they have pushed
the Republic’s African frontiers. Did you happen to know that the
fugitive from justice who turns the nose of his camel southward from
Algiers must ride as far as from Milwaukee to the City of Mexico
before he can pass beyond the shadow of the tricolour and the arm of
the French law? Were you aware that if you start from the easternmost
boundary of the French Sudan you will have to cover a distance equal
to that from Buffalo to San Francisco before you can hear the Atlantic
rollers booming against the break-water at Dakar? It is, indeed, not
the slightest exaggeration to say that French influence is to-day
predominant over all that expanse of the Dark Continent lying west of
the Nile basin and north of the Congo—a territory one and a half times
the size of the United States—thus forming the only continuous empire
in Africa, with ports on every seaboard of the continent.

With the exception of the negro republic of Liberia (on whose
frontiers, by the way, France is steadily and systematically
encroaching), the little patches of British and Spanish possessions
on the West Coast, and the German colonies of Kamerun and Togoland,
France has unostentatiously brought under her control that enormous
tract of African soil which stretches from the banks of the Congo to
the shores of the Mediterranean, and from the Atlantic seaboard to the
Valley of the Nile. Algeria has been French for three-quarters of a
century, being regarded, indeed, as a part of France and not a colony
at all. Though the Bey of Tunis still holds perfunctory audiences in
his Palace of the Bardo, it is from the French Residency that the
protectorate is really ruled. Though Tripolitania has passed under
Italian dominion, it is French and not Italian influence which is
recognised by the unsubjugated tribesmen of the hinterland. And now,
after years of intrigue and machinations, which twice have brought her
to the brink of war, France, by one of the most remarkable diplomatic
victories of our time, has won the last of the world’s great
territorial prizes and has set the capstone on her colonial edifice by
adding the empire of Morocco—under the guise of a protectorate—to her
oversea domain.

On the West Coast the tricolour floats over the colonies of Senegal,
French Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Upper Senegal-Niger, and
Mauritania (the last named a newly organised colony formed from
portions of the Moroccan hinterland), the combined area of these
possessions alone being about equal to that of European Russia.

From the Congo northward to the confines of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
stretches the great colony of French Equatorial Africa—formerly known
as the French Congo—the acquirement of which by Savorgnan de Brazza,
counterchecked the ambitious plans of Stanley and his patron, King
Leopold, thus forming one of the most dramatic incidents in the
scramble for Africa. Though potentially the most valuable of the
French West African possessions, being enormously rich in both jungle
and mineral products, notably rubber, ivory, and copper, France has
taken surprisingly little interest in this colony’s development, and,
as a result, it has been permitted to fall into a state of almost
pitiful neglect. There are two causes for the backwardness of French
Equatorial Africa: first, its atrocious climate, the whole territory
being a breeding-ground for small-pox, blood diseases, tropical
fevers in their most virulent forms, and, worst of all, the terrible
sleeping-sickness; second, the almost total lack of easy means of
communication, the back door through the Belgian Congo being the only
direct means of access to the greater part of the colony, which was
virtually cut in half by the broad area lying between the southern
boundary of Kamerun and the equator and extending eastward from the
coast to the Ubangi River, which France ceded to Germany in 1911 as
a _quid pro quo_ for being permitted a free hand in Morocco, and
which has been renamed “New Kamerun.” Though the economic development
of this region must prove, under any circumstances, a difficult,
dangerous, and discouraging task, it can be accomplished if the
government will divert its attention from its projects in North Africa
long enough to make Libreville a decent port, to provide adequate
steamer services on the great rivers that intersect the colony, and to
link up those rivers with each other and with the coast by a system of

Lying on the northern frontier of French Equatorial Africa, and
separating it from the Sahara, is the great Central African state of
Kanem, with its organised native government, its important commerce,
and its considerably developed civilisation, which was completely
subjugated by France in 1903, Wadai, its powerful neighbour to the
east, accepting a French protectorate in the same year. In the centre
of this ring of colonies lie the million and a half square miles of
the French Sahara, which the experiments of the French engineers have
proved to be as capable of irrigation and cultivation as the one-time
deserts of our own Southwest. Off the other side of the continent
is the great colony of Madagascar, the second largest island in the
world, in itself considerably larger than the mother country; while
the French Somali Coast forms the sole gateway to Abyssinia and
divides with the British colony of Aden the control of the southern
entrance to the Red Sea. Everything considered, history can show few
parallels to this marvellous colonial expansion, begun while France
was still suffering from the effects of the disastrous Prussian War,
and quietly carried on under the very eyes of greedy and jealous

The territorial ambitions of most countries have been blazoned to
the world by many wars. It took England two disastrous campaigns to
win South Africa and two more to conquer the Sudan; Russia learned
the same lesson in Manchuria at even a more terrible cost; while
Italy’s insecure foothold on the Red Sea shore was purchased by the
annihilation of an army. Where other nations have won their colonial
possessions by arms, France has won hers by adroitness. Always her
policy has been one of pacific penetration. Trace the history of her
African expansion and you will find no Majuba Hill, no Omdurman, no
Adowa, no Modder River. Time and time again the accomplishments of her
small and unheralded expeditions have proved that more territory can
be won by beads and brass wire than by rifles and machine-guns.

Not long ago I asked the governor-general of Algeria what he
considered the most important factors in the remarkable spread
of French influence and civilisation in North Africa, and he
answered, “Public schools, the American phonograph, and the American
sewing-machine.” The most casual traveller cannot but be impressed by
the thoroughness with which France has gone into the schoolmaster
business in her African dominions. She believes that the best way to
civilise native races is by training their minds, and she does not
leave so important a work to the missionaries, either. In Algiers
there is a government university with nearly two thousand students
and a faculty of one hundred professors, while in more than eighteen
hundred secondary, primary, and infant schools the youth of Algeria,
irrespective of whether they believe in Christ, in Abraham, or in
Mohammed, are being taught how to become decent and patriotic citizens
of France. In Tunisia alone there are something over fifteen hundred
educational institutions; all down the fever-stricken West Coast,
under the palm-thatched roofs of Madagascar and the crackling tin ones
of Equatoria, millions of dusky youngsters are being taught by Gallic
schoolmasters that _p-a-t-r-i-e_ spells “France,” and the meaning
of “_Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité_.” To these patient, plodding,
persevering men, whether they wear the white linen of the civil
service or the sombre cassocks of the religious orders, I lift my hat
in respect and admiration, for they are the real pioneers of progress.
If I had my way, the scarlet ribbon of the Legion would be in the
button-hole of every one of them. We too may claim a share in this
work of civilisation, for I have seen a band of savage Arab raiders,
their fierce hawk-faces lighted up by the dung-fed camp-fire, held
spellbound by the strains of a Yankee phonograph; and I have seen the
garments of a tribal chieftain of Central Africa being fashioned on an
American sewing-machine.

“When the English occupy a country,” runs a saying which they have
in Africa, “the first thing they build is a custom-house; the first
thing the Germans build is a barracks; but the first thing the French
build is a railway.” Nothing, indeed, is more significant of the
civilising work done by the French in these almost unknown lands than
the means of communication, there being in operation to-day in French
Africa six thousand miles of railway, twenty-five thousand miles of
telegraph, and ten thousand miles of telephone. Think of being able to
buy a return ticket from Paris to Timbuktu; of telegraphing Christmas
greetings to your family in Tarrytown or Back Bay or Bryn Mawr from
the shores of Lake Tchad; or of sitting in the American consulate
at Tamatave and chatting with a friend in Antanarivo, three hundred
miles away. Why, only the other day the Sultan of Morocco, at Fez,
sent birthday congratulations to the President of France, at Paris, by

To-day one can travel on an admirably ballasted road-bed, in an
electric-lighted sleeping-car, with hot and cold running water in your
compartment, and with a dining-car ahead, along that entire stretch
of the Barbary Coast lying between the Moroccan and Tripolitanian
frontiers, which, within the memory of our fathers, was the most
notorious pirate stronghold in the world. A strategic line has
been built six hundred miles southward from the coast city of Oran
to Colomb-Bechar, in the Sahara, with Timbuktu as its eventual
destination, and, now that the long-standing Moroccan controversy
has been settled for good and all, another railway is already being
pushed forward from Ujda, on the Algerian-Moroccan border, and in
another year or two the shriek of the locomotive will be heard under
the walls of Fez the Forbidden. From Constantine, in Algeria, another
line of rails is crawling southward via Biskra into the Sahara, with
Lake Tchad as its objective, thus opening up to European commerce the
great protected states of Kanem and Wadai. From Dakar, on the coast
of Senegal, a combined rail and river service is in operation to the
Great Bend of the Niger, so that one can now go to the mysterious
city of Timbuktu by train and river steamer, in considerable comfort
and under the protection of the French flag all the way. In Dahomey,
within the memory of all of us a notorious cannibal kingdom, a railway
is under construction to Nikki, four hundred miles into the steaming
jungle; from Konakry, the capital of French Guinea, a line has just
been opened to Kourassa, three hundred and fifty miles from anywhere;
while even the fever-stricken, voodoo-worshipping Ivory Coast boasts
two hundred miles or so of well-built line with its rail-head already
half-way from the coast to Jimini. From Tamatave, the chief seaport
of Madagascar, you can go by rail to the capital, Antanarivo, three
hundred miles up into the mountains, and, if you wish to continue
across the island, government motor-cars will run you down, over roads
that would make the Glidden tourists envious, to Majunga, on the other
side. From Djibouti, the capital of the French Somali Coast, another
railway has been pushed as far up-country as Diré-Dawah, in Menelik’s
dominions (fare sixty dollars for the round trip of two hundred and
fifty miles), thus diverting the lucrative trade of Abyssinia from the
British Sudan to the French marts in Somaliland.

France has more good harbours on the coasts of Africa than all the
other nations put together. Algiers, with one of the finest roadsteads
in the world, is now the most important coaling-station in the
Mediterranean and a port of call for nearly all of the lines plying
between America and the Near East; by the construction of a great
ship-canal the French engineers have made Tunis directly accessible
to ocean-going vessels, thus restoring the maritime importance of
Carthage to her successor; with Tangier under French control, a naval
base will doubtless eventually be constructed there which will rival
Toulon and will divide with Gibraltar the control of the entrance
to the Mediterranean. With its entire western portion dominated by
the great French ports of Villefranche, Toulon, Ajaccio, Marseilles,
Oran, Algiers, and Bizerta, the Mediterranean is well on the road to
becoming, as Napoleon once prophesied, a French lake.

But, though good harbours are taken rather as a matter of course
in the Mediterranean, one hardly expects to find them on the
reef-bordered West Coast, which is pounded by a ceaseless and
merciless surf. At all of the British, German, Spanish, and Portuguese
ports in West Africa, save one, you are lowered from the steamer’s
heaving deck into a dancing surf-boat by means of a contrivance
called the “mammy chair,” and are taken ashore by a score of ebony
giants who ply their trident-shaped paddles madly in their desperate
efforts to prevent your being capsized. Alternately scorched by the
sun and soaked by the waves, you are landed, about three times out
of four, on a beach as hot as though of molten brass. The fourth
time, however, your Kroo boys are not quite quick enough to escape
the crest of one of those mighty combers—and you can thank your lucky
stars if you get ashore at all. This is the method by which every
passenger and every bale of merchandise is landed on the West Coast
and it is very dangerous and unpleasant and costly. But when you come
to the French port of Dakar, instead of being dangled between sea and
sky in a bo’s’n’s chair and dropped sprawling into the bottom of a
pitching surf-boat, and being paddled frantically ashore by a crew of
perspiring negroes, you lounge in a cane chair on an awning-covered
deck while your vessel steams grandly in, straight alongside a
concrete wharf which would do credit to the Hudson River, and a steam
crane dips down into the hold and lifts the cargo out, a dozen tons
at a time, and loads it on a waiting train to be transported into the
heart of Africa, and as you lean over the rail, marvelling at the
modernity and efficiency which characterise everything in sight, you
wonder if you are really in the Dark Continent, or if you are back in
America again.

But if the French harbours are amazingly good, the French vessels
which drop anchor in them are, for the most part, amazingly bad.
The _Messageries Maritimes_, a highly subsidised line which has a
virtual monopoly of the French colonial passenger trade, and which
is notorious for its we-don’t-care-whether-you-like-it-or-not
attitude, has the worst vessels that I know, bar none, and charges
the most exorbitant fares. If you wish to visit the Somali Coast, or
Madagascar, or Réunion, you will have to take this line, because there
is no other, but elsewhere along the coasts of Africa you will do well
to follow my advice and travel under the British or the German flag.

The struggle of the French colonial army to maintain law and order
along the vast reaches of France’s African frontiers forms one of
the most thrilling and romantic chapters in the history of colonial
expansion. Theirs has been a work of tact, rather than of force, for,
where England, Germany, Italy, and Belgium have used the iron hand in
dealing with the natives, France, more farsighted, has seen the wisdom
of hiding it within the velvet glove. Always she has conciliated the
Moslem. She has safeguarded the privacy of his mosques and harems; she
has encouraged by government subsidies his schools and universities;
instead of desecrating the tombs of his holy men, she has whitewashed
them; the burnooses of the great tribal and religious chieftains
are brilliant with French decorations; the native _mollahs_ and
_cadis_ are utilised as local magistrates in all except the gravest
cases or those involving a European. To attempt to govern a country
without those, or against those, to whom it belonged, is a blunder
of which France has never been guilty. It has been the consistent
policy of other European nations, on the contrary, neither to trust
the natives nor to treat them with any degree of consideration.
Hence the ominous unrest in India; hence the ever louder murmur of
“Egypt for the Egyptians”! hence the refusal of the natives of German
East Africa to work on German-owned plantations and their wholesale
emigration from that colony; hence the fact that no Italian official
in Eritrea or Benadir dares venture outside the town walls unarmed and
unescorted, nor will in Tripolitania for many years to come. I have
been assured repeatedly by North African sheikhs that, should France
become involved in a European war, her native soldiery would volunteer
almost to a man. That England is far from certain how her Egyptian and
Sudanese troops would behave in such a contingency is best proved by
the formidable British garrisons which she deems it wise to maintain
in the land of the Valley of the Nile.

I am but reflecting the opinions of many highly placed and intimately
informed European officials in North Africa when I assert that
Germany’s repeated interference with the French programme in Morocco
was due as much to military as to political reasons, the Germans using
this means to hinder the expansion of that mysterious _force noire_
which has long been a bugaboo to the War Office authorities in Berlin.
Whether this was the true reason or not for Germany’s attitude in the
Moroccan business, no one knows better than the German general staff
that, in the event of war, the Republic would be able to advance a
great black army to the banks of the Rhine in thirty days—and that she
would not be deterred by the scruples which prevented her utilising
her African soldiery in 1870. It has been repeatedly urged, indeed,
that the numerical inferiority of the annual French conscription, as
compared with that of Germany, be made up for by drafting a corps of
black troops drawn from French West Africa into the continental army.
France has already recruited very close to twenty thousand native
troops—which is the strength of an army corps—in her West African
possessions alone, and as any scheme for drafting it into Algeria,
so as to enable the French troops stationed there to be available
elsewhere, would instantly arouse the Arab population to revolt, it is
highly probable that this African army corps would, in case of war, be
employed on the European continent. Though France’s African army does
not at present number much over fifty thousand men—all well drilled,
highly disciplined, and modernly armed—the French drill-sergeants in
Africa are not idle and have limitless resources to draw from. The
population of the negro states under French protection runs into many
millions, and would easily yield twenty per cent of fighting men,
while the acquisition of Morocco has added the Berbers, that strange,
warlike, Caucasian race, to the Republic’s fighting line. Nothing
pleases the African as an occupation more than soldiering, his native
physique, courage, and endurance making him, with amazingly little
training, a first-class fighting man. It is no great wonder, then,
that Germany looks askance at the formidable army which her rival is
building up so quietly but so steadily on the other side of the Middle

No small part in the winning of North Africa has been played by the
Foreign Legion—how the name smacks of romance!—that picturesque
company of adventurers, soldiers of fortune, and ne’er-do-weels,
ten thousand strong, most of whom serve under the French flag in
preference to serving in their own prisons. In this notorious corps
the French Government enlists without question any physically fit man
who applies. It asks no questions and expects to be told any number
of lies. It trains them until they are as hard as nails and as tough
as rawhide; it works them as a negro teamster works a Kentucky mule;
it pays them wages which would cause a strike among Chinese coolies;
and, when the necessity arises, it sends them into action with the
assurance that there will be no French widows to be pensioned. So
unenviable is the reputation of the Legionnaires that even the
Algerian desert towns balk at their being stationed in the vicinity,
for nothing from hen-roost to harem is safe from their depredations;
so they are utilised on the most remote frontiers in time of peace and
invariably form the advance guard in time of war. It is commonly said
that when the Legion goes into action its officers take the precaution
of marching in the rear, so as not to be shot in the back, but that
is probably a libel which the regiment does not deserve. Wherever
the musketry is crackling along France’s colonial frontiers, there
this Legion of the Damned is to be found, those who wear its uniform
being, for the most part, bearers of notorious or illustrious names
who have chosen to fight under an alien flag because they are either
afraid or ashamed to show themselves under their own.

Several times each year it is customary for the commandants of the
French posts along the edge of the Sahara to organise _fantasias_ in
honour of the Arab sheikhs of the region, who come in to attend them,
followed by great retinues of burnoosed, turbaned, and splendidly
mounted retainers, with the same enthusiasm with which an American
countryside turns out to see the circus. At one of these affairs,
held in southern Algeria, I could not but contrast the marked
attentions paid by the French officials to the native chieftains with
the cavalier and frequently insolent attitude invariably assumed by
British officials toward Egyptians of all ranks, not even excepting
the Khedive. Were a French official to affront one of the great Arab
sheikhs as Lord Kitchener did the Khedive, when he exacted an apology
from his Highness for presuming to criticise the discipline of the
Sudanese troops, he would be fortunate indeed if he escaped summary

At the _fantasia_ in question luxuriously furnished tents had been
erected for the comfort of the native guests; a champagne luncheon
provided the excuse for innumerable protestations of friendship; a
series of races with money prizes was arranged for the visitors’
horses; and, before leaving, the sheikhs were presented with ornate
saddles, gold-mounted rifles, and, in the cases of the more
important chieftains, with crosses of the Legion of Honour. In return
for this they willingly agreed to capture and surrender certain
fugitives from justice who had fled into the desert; to warn the
more lawless of their tribesmen that the plundering of caravans must
cease; to furnish specified quotas of recruits for the native cavalry;
and to send in for sale to the Remount Department a large number of
desert-bred horses. And, which is the most important of all, they go
back to their tented homes in the desert immensely impressed with the
power, the wealth, and the generosity of France.


Here, in the native quarters of the remote towns of the Algerian
hinterland, the disciples of Pan-Islam find eager listeners to their
creed of Africa for the Africans.

_Photograph by Em. Frechon, Biskra._]

Not content with these periodic manifestations of friendship, the
French Government makes it a point occasionally to invite the native
rulers of the lands under its control to visit France as the guests
of the nation. Escorted by French officers who can talk with them in
their own tongue, these colonial visitors in their outlandish costumes
are shown the delights of Montmartre by night, they are dined by the
President of the Republic at the Élysée, they are given the freedom
of Paris at the Hôtel de Ville, and they finally return to their own
lands the friends and allies of France for the rest of their lives.
“It doesn’t cost the government much,” an official of the French
Colonial Office once remarked to me, _à propos_ of a visit then being
paid to Paris by the King of Cambodia, “and it tickles the niggers.”

Straggling down here and there into the desert from some of the
North African coast towns go the trade routes of the caravans, and
it is the protection of these trade routes, traversing, as they do,
a territory half again as large as that of the United States, that
is entrusted to the twelve hundred _méharistes_ composing France’s
Saharan forces. By a network of small oasis garrisons and desert
patrols, recruited from the desert tribes and mounted on the tall,
swift-trotting camels known as _méhari_, France has made the Saharan
trade-routes, if not as safe as Fifth Avenue or Piccadilly, certainly
very much safer for the lone traveller than lower Clark Street, in
Chicago, or the neighbourhood of the Paris _Halles_. It has long been
the fashion to hold up the Northwest Mounted Police as the model for
all constabulary forces, just as it has been the fashion to extol
the English as the model colonisers, but, taking into consideration
the fewness of their numbers, the vastness of the region which they
control, and the character of its climate and its inhabitants, I give
the blue ribbon to these lean, brown-faced, hard-riding camel-men who
have carried law and order into the furthermost corners of the Great

Though comparatively unfertile, the Sahara vastly influences
the surrounding regions, just as the Atlantic Ocean influences
the countries which border on it. Were commerce to be seriously
interrupted upon the Atlantic, financial hardships would inevitably
result in the countries on either side. So it is, then, with the
Sahara, which is, to all intents and purposes, an inland ocean. Ever
since the caravan of the Queen of Sheba brought gifts to King Solomon,
ever since Abraham came riding down from Ur, it has been customary
for the nomad Arab rulers through whose territories the desert trade
routes pass to exact heavy tribute from the caravan sheikhs, the Bilma
trans-Saharan route alone being plundered annually to the tune of ten
million francs until the coming of the French camel police. Many of
these great trade caravans, you will understand, are literally moving
cities, sometimes consisting of as many as twelve thousand camels, to
say nothing of the accompanying horses, donkeys, sheep, and goats.
To outfit such a caravan often takes a year or more, frequently at
a cost of more than one million dollars, the money being subscribed
in varying sums by thousands of merchants and petty traders dwelling
in the region whence it starts. It is obvious, therefore, that the
looting of such a caravan might well spell ruin for the people of a
whole district; and it is by her successful protection of the caravan
routes that France has earned the gratitude of the peoples of all
those regions bordering on the Great Sahara. But the days of the
caravan trade are numbered, for the telegraph wires which already
stretch across the desert from the Mediterranean coast towns to the
French outposts in the Congo, the Senegal, and the Sudan, are but
forerunners to herald the coming of the iron horse.

France’s path of colonial expansion in Africa has been remarkably
free from obstructions, for, barring the Algerian campaign of 1830,
and the German-created incidents in Morocco, she has acquired her
vast domain—close on half the total area of the continent—at a
surprisingly low cost in money and lives. The only time, indeed,
when her African ambitions received a serious setback was in 1898,
at Fashoda (now known as Kodok), on the White Nile, when the French
explorer, Major Marchand, yielded to the peremptory demand of Lord
Kitchener and hauled down the tricolour which he had raised at that
remote spot, thus losing to France the whole of the Western Sudan and
the control of the head-waters of the Nile.

There is an interesting bit of secret diplomatic history in this
connection. The story has been told me by both French and British
officials—and there is good reason to believe that it is true—that
the French Government had planned, in case Marchand was able to hold
his position until reinforcements arrived, to divert the waters
of the White Nile, at a point near its junction with the Sobat
River, into the Sahara, an undertaking which, owing to the physical
characteristics of that region, would, so the French engineers
claimed, have been entirely feasible. France would thus have
accomplished the twofold purpose of irrigating her desert territory
and of turning Egypt into a desert by diverting her only supply of
water; for this, remember, was in those bitter, jealous days before
the Anglo-French _entente_. It was, indeed, the intelligence that the
Khalifa proposed, by doing this very thing, to bring Egypt to her
knees that caused the second Sudanese expedition to be pushed forward
so rapidly. (I should add that the idea, once so popular in France, of
turning the Sahara into an inland sea, has been proven impracticable,
if not impossible.) It is safe to say that England’s prime reason for
clinging so tenaciously, and at such heavy cost, to the arid tract
known as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, is to safeguard Egyptian prosperity
by keeping control of the head-waters of the Nile. To illustrate
how completely the Nile is the barometer of Egyptian prosperity, I
might add that the last time I was in Khartoum the officials of the
Sudanese Irrigation Service complained to me most bitterly that they
were being seriously hampered in their work of desert reclamation by
the restrictions placed upon the quantity of water which they were
permitted to divert from the Nile, a comparatively small diversion
from the upper reaches of the river causing wide-spread distress among
the Egyptian agriculturists a thousand miles down-stream.

Because the map-makers from time beyond reckoning have seen fit to
paint the northern half of the African continent a speckled yellow,
most of us have been accustomed to look upon this region as an arid,
sun-baked, worthless desert. But French explorers, French engineers,
and French scientists have proved that it is very far from being
worthless or past reclamation. M. Henri Schirmer, the latest and most
careful student of its problems, says: “The sterility of the Sahara is
due neither to the form of the land nor to its nature. The alluvium of
sand, chalk, and gypsum which covers the Algerian Sahara constitutes
equally the soil of the most fertile plains in the world. What causes
the misery of one and the wealth of the other is the absence or the
presence of water.” Now, an extensive series of experiments has
proven that the Sahara, like the Great American Desert, has an ample
supply of underground water, which in many cases has been reached at
a depth of only forty feet. There is, incidentally, hardly a desert
where the experiment has been tried, whether in Asia, Africa, or
America, where water has not been found within two thousand feet of
the surface. Though usually not sufficient for agriculture, enough
has generally been found to afford a supply for cattle, railroads,
and mines. Three striking examples of what can be accomplished by
scientific well-drilling in arid lands are the great wells of the
Salton Desert, the flowing wells at Benson, Arizona, and a supply of
seven hundred thousand gallons of water a day from the deep wells on
the mesa at El Paso, each of these supplies of water being obtained
from localities which were superficially hopelessly dry.

It should be borne in mind, in any discussion of North Africa, that
until the early ’80’s the Great American Desert was as primitive,
waterless, and sparsely settled a region as the Sahara. Its scattered
inhabitants practised irrigation and agriculture very much as the
people of southern Algeria and Tunisia do to-day, and, like them, they
constructed buildings of unburnt brick and stone. Though the Indian
was able to find a meagre sustenance upon the American desert, just
as the Arab does upon the African, it was of a kind upon which the
white man could not well exist. The unconquered Apaches plundered
wagon-trains and mail-coaches just as the Tuareg occasionally plunders
the Saharan trade caravans to-day, and the only white men were the
soldiers at scattered and lonely posts or desperadoes flying from the
law. There is, indeed, a striking similarity between the conditions
which prevail to-day along France’s African borders and those which
existed within the memories of most of us upon our own frontier.

Then the railways came to the American West, just as they are coming
to North Africa to-day, and the desert was awakened from its lethargy
of centuries by the shriek of the locomotive. The first railroads
to be constructed were designed primarily as highways between the
Atlantic and the Pacific seaboards, with hardly a thought of revenue
from the desert itself. But hard on the heels of the railway-builders
followed the miners and the cattlemen, so that to-day the iron highway
across the desert is bordered by prosperous cities and villages, by
mines and oil-derricks and ranches and white farm-houses with green
blinds, this one-time arid region, which the wiseheads of thirty years
ago pronounced worthless, now yielding a wealth twice as much per
capita as that of any other portion of the United States.

What has already been accomplished in the American desert, French
brains, French energy, and French machinery are fast accomplishing
in the Sahara. Thanks to the recent invention, by a non-commissioned
officer of France’s African forces, of a six-wheeled motor-sledge
driven by a light but powerful aeroplane engine, the problem of rapid
communication in these desert regions, which have hitherto been
impassable to any kind of animal or mechanical traction, has been
solved. As the new vehicle has proved itself capable of maintaining
a speed over sand dunes of twenty miles an hour, it promises to be
of invaluable assistance to the French in their work of opening up
the waste places. Not only have French expeditions explored and
charted the whole of the unknown regions, but they have thoroughly
investigated the commercial possibilities of the immense territories
which have recently come under their control. These investigations
have shown that the Sahara is very far from being the sandy plain,
flat as a billiard-table, which the pictures and descriptions in our
school geographies led us to believe, and which the reports of those
superficial travellers who had only journeyed into the desert as far
as Biskra, in Algeria, or Ghadames, in Tripolitania, confirmed, but
is, on the contrary, of a remarkably varied surface, here rising into
plateaus like those of Tibesti and Ahaggar, there crossed by chains of
large and fertile oases, and again broken into mountain ranges, with
peaks eight thousand feet high, greater than the Alleghanies and very
nearly as great as the Sierra Nevadas.

An oasis, by the way, does not necessarily consist, as the reading
public seems to believe, of a clump of palm-trees beside a brackish
well, many of them being great stretches of well-watered and
cultivated soil, sometimes many square miles in extent, and rich
in fig, pomegranate, orange, apricot, and olive trees. The oasis
of Kaouer, for example, with its one hundred thousand date-palms,
furnishes subsistence for the inhabitants of a score of straggling
villages, with their camels, flocks, and herds. There are said to be
four million date-palms in the oases of the Algerian Sahara alone, and
to cut down one of them is considered as much of a crime as arson is
in a great city, for its fruit is a sufficient food, from its leaves
a shelter can be made which will keep out sun and wind and rain, and
its shade protects life and cultivation. Many date plantations and
even vineyards have flourished for several years past in southernmost
Algeria by means of water from below the surface, while the chief of
the French geodetic survey recently announced that a tract in the very
heart of the Sahara, nine degrees in longitude by twelve degrees in
latitude, is already sufficiently watered for the raising of grain.
The reports of these expeditions and commissions bear with painstaking
thoroughness on the productivity of the soil, the suitability of
the climate, the existence and accessibility of forest wealth, the
presence and probable extent of mineral veins, and on transportation
by road, rail, and river over all that huge territory which comprises
France’s African empire.

The story of French success in the exploration, the civilisation,
the administration, and the exploitation of Africa is one of the
wonder-tales of history. That she has relied on the resources of
science rather than on those of militarism makes her achievement
the more remarkable, for where England’s possessions have largely
been gained by punitive expeditions, France has won hers by pacific
penetration. Look at Senegambia as it is now under French rule,
and compare its condition with what it was as Mungo Park describes
it at the end of the eighteenth century; contrast the modernised
Dahomey of to-day, with its railways, schools, and hospitals, with
the blood-soaked, cannibal country of the early ’60’s; remember that
Algeria has doubled in population since the last Dey, by striking
the French consul with his fan, turned his country into a French
department—and you will have a bird’s-eye view, as it were, of what
the French have accomplished in the colonising field.

If French Africa becomes in time a rich and prosperous dominion—and I
firmly believe that it will—it is to her patient and intrepid pioneers
of civilisation—-desert patrols, railway-builders, well-drillers,
school-teachers, commercial investigators—that the thanks of the
nation will be due; for they are pointing the way to millions
of natives, on whose activities and necessities the commercial
development of Africa must eventually depend. So I trust that those
at home in France will give all honour to the men at work in the
Sahara, the Senegal, and the Sudan or rotting in the weed-grown,
snake-infested cemeteries of the Congo and Somaliland; men whose
battles have been fought out in steaming jungles or on lonely oases,
far away from home and friends and often from another white man’s
help and sympathy; sometimes with savage desert raiders, or in action
against Hausa, Berber, or Moor; but oftenest of all with an unseen and
deadlier foe—the dread African fever.

An unaccustomed silence hung over the labyrinth of court-yards,
corridors, gardens, mosques, and kiosks which compose the imperial
palace in Fez. The chatter of the harem women was hushed; the
white-robed officials of the household slipped through the
mosaic-paved passages like melancholy ghosts; even the slovenly
sentries at the gates, their red tunics over their heads to protect
them from the sun, seemed to tread more softly, as though some great
one lay dying. Within the palace, in a room whose furnishings were
a strange jumble of Oriental taste and European tawdriness, a group
of men stood about a table. Certain of them were tall and sinewy
and swarthy, their white burnooses, which enveloped them from their
snowy turbans to their yellow slippers, marking them unmistakably
as Moors. Of the others, whose clearer skins showed them to be
Europeans, some wore the sky-blue tunics and scarlet breeches of the
_chasseurs d’Afrique_, some the braided jackets and baggy trousers of
the _tirailleur_ regiments, some the simple white linen of the civil
administration, while across the chest of one, a grizzled man with the
épaulettes of a general of division, slanted a broad scarlet ribbon.
At the table sat an old-young man, a man with an aquiline, high-bred
nose, a wonderfully clear, olive skin, and a fringe of scraggy beard
along the line of his chin, a man with a weak mouth and sensual lips
and heavy-lidded, melancholy eyes. The man with the scarlet ribbon
unrolled a parchment and, bowing, spread it upon the table. One of
the native dignitaries, with a gesture of reverence which included
heart and lips and head, dipped a quill pen into an ink-well and
tendered it to the silent figure at the table. “Your Majesty will have
the goodness to sign here?” said the soldier, half-questioningly,
half-commandingly, as he indicated the place with his finger. The
man at the table gravely inclined his head, reached for the pen,
hesitated for a moment, then slowly began to trace, from right to
left, the strange Arabic signature. “Inshallah! It is done!” he said,
and throwing down the pen he sunk his face into his hands. “Vive la
France!” said the general solemnly, and “Vive la France!” echoed the
officers around him. Well might the one lament and the others rejoice,
for, with the final flourish of the Sultan’s pen, Morocco had ceased
to exist as an independent nation and France had added an empire to
her dominions.

“The world is a peacock,” says a Moorish proverb, “and Morocco is the
tail of it.” Now, however, it has become the tail of the Gallic cock,
for when, on March the thirtieth, 1912, Sultan Mulai-abd-el-Hafid
signed the treaty establishing a French protectorate over his country,
Morocco entered upon a new phase of its existence. With that act there
ended, let us hope for all time, a situation which on more than one
occasion has threatened the peace of the world. Not since the English
landed in Egypt a third of a century ago has an event occurred which
so vitally concerns the future welfare of Africa; not since the Treaty
of Tilsit has France won so decisive a diplomatic victory or added
so materially to her territorial possessions. By the signing of that
treaty France laid the final stone in the mighty colonial structure
which she has built up in Africa, and opened to Christianity,
civilisation, and commerce the door of a region which has hitherto
been a synonym for mystery, cruelty, intolerance, and fanaticism.

Though scarcely forty hours of travel by train and boat separate the
departure platform at the Quai d’Orsay station in Paris from the
landing-beach at Tangier, though its coast is skirted by the tens
of thousands of American tourists who visit the Mediterranean each
year, less is known of Morocco than of many regions in central Asia
or inner Africa. Though a few daring travellers have made scattering
crow’s-feet upon its map, there are regions as large as all our New
England States put together which are wholly unexplored. It is almost
the last of the unknown countries. As its women draw their veils to
hide their faces from the men, so the Moors have attempted to draw a
veil of mystery and intolerance over the face of their country to hide
it from the stranger. What strange tribes, what ruins of an earlier
civilisation, what wealth in forests or minerals lie behind its ranges
can only be conjectured. Its maps are still without the names of
rivers and mountains and towns—though the rivers and mountains and
towns are there; the sole means of travel are on camels, mules, or
donkeys along the wild, worn paths, it being the only country of any
size in the world which cannot boast so much as a mile of railway; its
ports and the two highways leading from the coast to its capitals, Fez
and Morocco City, were, until the coming of the French, alone open
to the traveller—and none too safe at that; the foreigner who has
the hardihood to stray from the frequented paths is taking his life
in his hands. Few of the maps of Morocco are, so far as accuracy is
concerned, worth the paper they are printed on, being largely based on
unscientific material eked out by probabilities and conjectures, there
being less accurate information, in fact, about a country larger than
France, and only two days’ journey from Trafalgar Square, than there
is about Abyssinia or Borneo or Uganda. Even the names which we have
given to the country and its inhabitants are purely European terms and
are neither used nor recognised by the people themselves, who call
their country _El Moghreb el Aska_, which means literally “Sunset
Land,” the term Morocco being a European corruption of the name of one
of its capitals, Marrakesh, or, as it is known to foreigners, Morocco
City. A land almost as large as the State of Texas, with snow-capped
mountain ranges, navigable rivers, vast forests, a fertile soil,
an abundant water supply, and an ideal climate; a land of walled
cities and white villages, of domed mosques and slender minarets,
of veiled women and savage, turbaned men; a land of strange peoples
and still stranger customs; a land of mystery and fatalism, of
suspicion and fanaticism, of cruelty and corruption, of confusion and
contradiction—that is Morocco, where, as an Arabic writer has put it,
a wise man is surprised at nothing that he sees and believes nothing
that he hears.

This empire which has come under the shadow of the tricolour is,
above all else, a white man’s country. Unlike India and Tripolitania
and Rhodesia and the Sudan, Morocco is a country which is admirably
adapted for European colonisation, being blessed with every natural
advantage that creation has to offer. Its only objectionable feature
is its people. Lying at the western gateway of the Mediterranean,
where the narrowed sea has so often proved a temptation to invasion,
its Atlantic ports within striking distance of the great lanes of
commerce between Europe and South America and South Africa, Morocco
occupies a position of enormous strategic, political, and commercial
importance. The backbone of the country is the Great Atlas, which,
taken as a whole, has a higher mean elevation than that of any other
range of equal length in Europe, Africa, or western Asia, attaining
in places an elevation of nearly fifteen thousand feet. Snow-clad,
this mighty and isolated wall rises so abruptly from the plain that
it needs but little stretch of the imagination to understand how the
ancients believed that on it rested the heavens—whence, indeed, its
name. Personally, the thing that surprised me most in Morocco was
the total absence of desert. Either because of its proximity to the
Sahara, or because of its camels, or the two combined, I went to
Morocco expecting that I should find vast stretches of sun-baked,
yellow sand. As a matter of fact, I found nothing of the kind.
Traversed from east to west, as I have already said, by the strongly
defined range of the Atlas, the greater part of its surface is really
occupied by rolling prairies, diversified by low hills, and not at
all unlike Ohio and Indiana. Though admirably adapted to the growing
of cereals, the strict prohibition against the exportation of grain
has naturally resulted in discouraging the native farmers, so that
immense tracts of fertile land remain uncultivated. The alluvial soil,
which is remarkable for its richness, frequently reaches a depth of
fifteen feet and could be brought to an almost incredible degree of
productiveness by the application of modern agricultural methods. What
greater praise can be given to any soil than to say that it will bear
three crops of potatoes in a single year and that corn is commonly
sown and reaped all within the space of forty days?

Unlike its neighbouring countries, Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripolitania,
Morocco does not lack for navigable waterways, for it possesses
several large rivers which could be navigated for hundreds of miles
inland, though at present, owing to the apathy of the inhabitants, and
the unsettled condition of the regions along their banks, they are
used for neither traffic nor irrigation. The chief of these is the
Muluya, which, with its tributary the Sharef, provides northeastern
Morocco with a valuable commercial waterway for a distance of more
than four hundred miles. The most important river of northwest Morocco
is the Sebu, which empties into the Atlantic, while in the central
and western districts the Kus, the Bu-Regreg, the Sus, and the Assaka
will, under the new régime, prove invaluable as means of opening up
the country.

A very large number of people seem to be under the impression that
Morocco is unhealthy and suffers from a sweltering heat. Nothing
could be farther from the truth. The climate is, as a matter of fact,
extremely healthful, malaria, the scourge of the other countries of
North Africa, being unknown. In the regions lying between the central
range of the Atlas and the sea the thermometer seldom rises above
ninety degrees or falls below forty degrees, the mountain wall serving
as a protection from the scorching winds of the Sahara. During the
winter months the rains are so heavy and frequent along the Atlantic
coast that good pasturage is found as far south as Cape Juby, while in
the interior the rivers frequently become so swollen that travel is
both difficult and dangerous. The unpleasantness of the rains (and you
don’t know what discomfort is, my friends, until you have journeyed in
Morocco during the rainy season) is more than compensated for by the
beauties of the spring landscape. For mile after mile I have ridden
across meadows literally carpeted with wild flowers, whose varied
and brilliant colours, combined with the peculiar fashion in which
each species confined itself to its own area, gave the countryside
the appearance of a vast floral mosaic. After seeing these gorgeous
natural combinations of colour—dark blue, yellow, white, and scarlet,
iris, marigolds, lilies, and poppies—I no longer wondered where the
Moors draw the inspiration for that chromatic art of which they left
such marvellous examples in the cities of southern Spain.

Though the country has, unfortunately, become largely deforested—for
what Moor would ever think of planting trees, which could only be
of value to another generation?—a wealth of timber still remains
in the more remote valleys of the Atlas, the pines and oaks often
attaining enormous size. Though Spanish concessionaires are profitably
working gold mines in the Riff country, and the great German firm of
Mannesmann Brothers has acquired extensive iron-ore-bearing properties
in the Sus, and though large deposits of silver, copper, lead, and
antimony have been discovered at various points in the interior, the
mineral wealth of Morocco is still a matter for speculation. It is not
likely to remain so long, however, for history has shown that it is
the miners who form the real advance-guard of civilisation.

To the stranger who confines his investigations to the highways which
connect the capitals with the coast, Morocco gives the impression of
being very sparsely settled. This is due to the fact that the natives
take pains to avoid the highroads as they would the plague, the
continual passage of troops and of travellers, all of whom practise
the time-honoured custom of living on the country and never paying
for what they take, having had the natural result of driving the
inhabitants into less travelled regions, though traders and others
whose business takes them into the back country find that it is far
more densely populated than most foreigners suspect. Heretofore it
has been possible for almost any foreigner, by the judicious use of
bakshish, to obtain from the authorities an official order which
required the people living along the roads to supply food both for
him and his escort and fodder for their horses. Now, this was a very
serious tax, especially among a people as poverty-stricken as the
Moorish peasantry, and as a result of it the heedless traveller often
caused much misery and suffering. But if the occasional traveller
proved so serious a burden, imagine what it meant to these poor
people when the Sultan himself passed, for, able to move only with an
army, without any commissariat or transport, and feeding itself as it
went, he devastated the land of food and fodder as though he was an
invader instead of a ruler, sweeping as ruthlessly across his empire
as the Huns did across southern Europe, and leaving his subjects to
starve. Is it any wonder, then, that the desperation of the wretched,
half-starved peasantry has vented itself in repeated revolutions?
The coming of the French is bound to change this deplorable and
demoralising state of affairs, however, for, once assured of
protection for their crops and justice for themselves, the fugitive
country folk will quickly flock back and resume the cultivation of
their abandoned lands.

One of the facts about Morocco that will probably surprise most
people—I know that it surprised me—is that the Berbers, who form
fully two thirds of the population, are a purely white race, as white
indeed, barring the tan which results from life under an African
sun, as we ourselves. Though the generic term Moor is applied by
Europeans to all the inhabitants of Morocco, there are really four
distinct racial divisions of the population: the Berbers, who,
being the earliest-known possessors of the land, are the genuine
Moroccans, and are, when of unmixed blood, a very energetic and
vigorous people, indeed; the Arabs, who are the descendants of the
Mohammedan conquerors of the country and possess to the full the
Arab characteristics of arrogance, indolence, and cruelty; the
negroes, brought into the country as slaves from Central Africa in an
influx extending over centuries, this admixture having resulted in
deteriorating both the Berbers and the Arabs, the infusion of black
blood showing itself in dark skins, thickened lips, low foreheads,
sensual tastes, and a marked stupidity; and lastly, but by no means
the least important, the ubiquitous, persecuted, and persecuting Jews.
The Berbers dwell for the most part in the mountains, while the Arabs,
on the contrary, are to be found only on the plains, it being the
weak, sensual, and intolerant amalgam produced by the fusion of these
two races, and tinctured with negro blood, which forms the population
of the Moorish cities and to which the name “Moor” most properly

Between the Moor of the mountains and the Moor of the towns there
is as wide a gulf as there is between the natives of Vermont and
the natives of Venezuela. The town Moor is sullen, suspicious of all
strangers, vacillating; the pride, but none of the energy, of his
ancestors remains. In his youth he is licentious in his acts; in his
old age he is licentious in his thoughts. He is abominably lazy. He
never runs if he can walk; he never walks if he can stand still; he
never stands if he can sit; he never sits if he can lie down. The
only thing he puts any energy into is his talking; he believes that
nothing can be done really well without a hullabaloo. The men of the
mountains are cast in a wholly different mould, however, from that of
the men of the towns. Fierce enemies and stanch friends, they like
fighting for fighting’s sake. They are intelligent and industrious;
though fonder of the sword and the pistol than of the plough and the
hoe, their fertile mountain valleys are nevertheless fairly well
cultivated. They are a hardy, warlike, and indomitable race and have
never yet been conquered. It is well to remember in any discussion of
these people that, through all the vicissitudes of their history, they
have never before had the flag of another nation flying over them. All
the successive invaders of North Africa have been confronted with the
problem of subduing them, but always they have failed and have gone
back. Not only that, but once the Moors went invading on their own
account, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, conquering all southern
Spain, holding it for five hundred years, and leaving behind them the
architectural glories of Seville, of Cordova, and of Granada to tell
the story. Unless I am very much mistaken, therefore, it will cost
France many lives and much money to make them amenable to her rule.

The decadence of the Moors is primarily due to two things: immorality
and racial jealousies. They are probably the most licentious race, in
both thought and act, in the world. Compared to them the inhabitants
of Sodom and Gomorrah were positively prudish. This extreme moral
degeneracy is in itself enough to ruin the sturdiest people, but,
as though it was not sufficient, the two principal races, Arab and
Berber, hate each other as the Armenian hates the Turk, this racial
antagonism in itself making impossible the upbuilding of a strong and
united nation. In fact, the only thing they have in common is their
religion, which is the air they breathe, and which, though incapable
of producing internal harmony, unites them in hostility to the

There is less public spirit in Morocco than in any place I know. No
Moor takes the slightest interest in anything outside his personal
affairs, and no one ever plans for the future—other than to hope that
he will get a comfortable divan and his share of houris in Paradise.
The last thing that would occur to a Moor would be to spend money on
anything which will not bring him in an immediate profit, so that,
as a consequence, trees are never planted, mines never worked, roads
never made, bridges never built. He does not want civilisation. He
does not believe in modern inventions or improvements. What was good
enough for his father is good enough for him. Why lug in railways and
telegraphs, and similar contrivances of the devil, then, when things
are good enough as they are?

There is no cause for the other European nations to envy France the
obligations she assumed when she declared a protectorate over Morocco.
She has a long and hilly road to travel before she can convert her
latest acquisition into a national asset. Before Morocco can be thrown
open to French settlers its savage and hostile population will have
to be as effectually subdued as were the Indians of our own West.
The tribes of southern Morocco are especially hostile to the French
occupation, and many military experts believe that the protectorate
will never be enforced in those regions without a long campaign and
much shedding of blood, while one eminent French general has openly
asserted that it will take at least a dozen years fully to subdue the

Personally, I am a firm believer in the future of Morocco and the
Moors under the guidance and protection of France. I have seen too
much of what France has accomplished in far less favoured regions, and
under far more discouraging conditions, to think otherwise. Nothing
illustrates the latent possibilities of the Moorish character better
than an experiment which was made some years ago. At the request of
the Sultan, the British minister to Morocco asked his government
for permission to send a body of Moors to Gibraltar for the purpose
of being instructed in British drill and discipline. The War Office
acceding to the request, two hundred Moors, selected at random from
various tribes throughout the empire, were sent to Gibraltar and
remained there for three years, the men being occasionally changed
as they acquired a knowledge of drill. They had good clothing given
them, slept in tents, and were allowed by the Sultan a shilling a
day, receiving precisely the same treatment as British soldiers.
During the three years they were stationed on the Rock, there were
only two cases in the police court against them for dissolute conduct
or disorder. The soldiers of what civilised nation could have made
such a record? Colonel Cameron, under whose superintendence they were
placed, reported that they learned the drill as quickly and as well
as any Englishmen, and that they were sober, steady, and attentive to
their duties. (The Moors, it should be remarked, are noted for their
abstemiousness, the precepts of the Koran which forbid the use of
spirits and tobacco being rigidly observed.) This tends to show that
Moors, living under a just and humane government, and having, as these
men had, proper provision made for their livelihood, are not a lawless
or even a disorderly people, and that they are capable of being
transformed, under such a form of government as France has established
in Algeria and Tunisia, into the splendid warriors which their
ancestors were in Spain. It was, as I think I have remarked in the
preceding chapter, the knowledge that France, in acquiring Morocco,
would obtain the material for a formidable addition to her military
forces which was, it is generally believed, one of the motives that
inspired Germany’s persistent opposition to a French protectorate.

Though the reins of Moorish power are already firmly in the hands of
the French Resident-General at Fez, there is no reason to believe that
the French expect, for the present at least, to depose the Sultan,
it being to their interests, for obvious reasons, to maintain the
pleasant fiction that Morocco is still an independent empire to which
they have disinterestedly lent their protection, In August, 1912,
Sultan Mulai-abd-el-Hafid, appreciating the emptiness of his title
under the French régime, abdicated in favour of his brother, Mulai
Youssef, who is known to be friendly to France. The new Sultan, who is
the seventeenth of the dynasty of the Alides and the thirty-seventh
lineal descendant of Ali, uncle and son-in-law of the Prophet, is
known to his subjects as Emir-el-Mumenin, or Prince of True Believers,
and as such he exercises a spiritual influence over his subjects which
the French are far too shrewd to disregard. The position of the Sultan
of Morocco has, indeed, become strikingly similar to that of his
fellow-ruler in the other corner of Africa, the Khedive of Egypt, for,
like him, he must needs content himself henceforth with the shadow
of power. Even if the imperial form of government is permanently
maintained (and this I very much doubt, for it is characteristic of
the Latin races—as Taine puts it—that they always want to occupy a
“sharply defined and terminologically defensible position”), its real
ruler will be the Resident-General of France, whose policies will be
carried out by French advisers in every department of the government
and whose orders will be backed up by French bayonets. So long as
Mulai Youssef is content meekly to play the part of a puppet, with
French officials pulling the strings, he will be permitted to enjoy
all the honours and comforts of royalty, but let him once give ear
to sedition, let him make the slightest attempt to undermine the
authority of the French régime, and he will find himself occupying a
sentry-guarded villa in Algiers near the residences of the ex-Queen of
Madagascar and the ex-King of Annam, those other Oriental rulers who
thought to match themselves against the power of France.

The Sherifian umbrella, which is the Moorish equivalent of a crown,
is hereditary in the family of the Filali Sherifs of Tafilelt. Each
Sultan is supposed, prior to his death, to indicate the member of the
imperial family who, according to his conscientious belief, will best
replace him. This succession is, however, elective, and all members
of the Sherifian family are eligible. It has generally happened that
the late Sultan’s nominee has been elected by public acclamation at
noonday prayers the Friday after the Sultan’s death, as the nominee
generally has obtained possession of the imperial treasure and is
supported by the body-guard, from whose ranks most of the court
officials are appointed. I might add that all of the Moorish Sultans
in recent years have been so extremely bad that no successor whom they
could appoint, or who could appoint himself, could by any possibility
be worse. The present Sultan knows scarcely half a dozen places in his
whole empire, and has spent most of his life in two of them—Marrakesh
and Fez—having held, up to the time of his accession to the throne,
the important post of Khalif of the latter city. 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
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 dignitaries of the court, who
receive no salaries, depend for their livelihood upon peculation,
trickery, corruption, and the money they extract from the governors
of provinces. 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.
Then again, even the jailers are not paid; they gain their livelihood
by taking money from prisoners, who, when they are paupers, are
taught to make baskets, which are sold by the jailers for their own
benefit. How can a country, how can a people, prosper under such a
government? The tribes are in a constant state of rebellion against
their governors. When the Sultan resides in his northern capital
of Fez, the southern tribes rebel, and when he marches south to
the city of Morocco, eating up the rebels and confiscating their
property, the northern tribes rebel. The armies of the Sultan, like
locusts, are constantly on the move, ravaging the country to quell
the revolts. Agriculture is destroyed, the farmers and peasantry only
grow sufficient grain for their own requirements, and rich lands are
allowed to lie fallow because the farmers know the crops would be
plundered by the governors and sheikhs. Thus it happens with cattle
and horses. Breeding is checked, since the man who may become rich
through his industry is treated as a criminal and all his possessions
are taken from him, as in the fable the goose is killed to get the
golden eggs.”

France, in pursuing her Moroccan adventure, will do well to bear
in mind two danger-spots: the Riff and the Sus. Unless she treads
carefully in the first she is likely to become embroiled in a quarrel
with Spain; with the natives of the Sus she will probably have trouble
whether she treads lightly or not. Sooner or later France is bound to
come into collision with Spain, for, with Morocco avowedly a French
protectorate, I fail to see how she can tolerate Spanish soldiers
on its soil. Spain, basing her pretensions on her expulsion of the
Moors from Granada in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, has always
considered herself one of the heirs of Morocco. In fact, a secret
treaty was signed between France and Spain in 1905 which distinctly
defined the respective spheres of influence of the two powers in that
country. By the terms of this treaty Spain was acknowledged to have
predominating interests in those regions adjacent to the ports of
Ceuta, Melilla, and El Araish, as well as in the Riff, a little-known
and exceedingly mountainous district, believed to be rich in minerals,
which lies in the northwestern corner of the empire, two days’
journey eastward from Tetuan. Spain distinctly engaged not to take
any action in the zone thus allotted to her other than to proceed
with its commercial exploitation, but it was stipulated that, should
the weakness of the Sherifian government make the maintenance of the
_status quo_ impossible, she should have a free hand in her sphere.

France, meanwhile, steadily continued her “pacific penetration”
of Morocco, pushing her Algerian railways closer and closer to
Morocco’s eastern frontier, mobilising troops at strategic points, and
overrunning the Sultan’s dominions with “scientific” expeditions and
secret agents. Spain soon began to regard with envy and impatience
the subtle game which the French were so successfully playing, but
it was not until 1910 that she found the opportunity and the excuse
for which she had been eagerly waiting. Some Spanish labourers, who
were working on a railway which was being laid from Melilla to some
mines a few miles distant, were attacked by Riffian tribesmen and a
number of the Spaniards were killed. Spain jumped at the opportunity
which this incident afforded as a hungry trout jumps at a fly, and a
few days later a Spanish army was being disembarked on Moroccan soil.
A sharp campaign ensued which ended in the temporary subjugation of
the Riffians and the occupation by Spain of a considerable tract of
territory extending from Ceuta eastward to Cabo del Agua and southward
as far as Seluan, thus comprising practically all of Morocco’s
Mediterranean seaboard. A Moorish envoy was sent to Madrid and, after
protracted negotiations, a convention was signed which permitted Spain
to establish a force of Moorish gendarmerie, under Spanish officers,
at Melilla, Aljucemas, and Ceuta, for the maintenance of order in the
districts near those places. Until this force has shown itself capable
of maintaining order, the Spaniards assert that they will remain in
occupation of the territory they now hold. Emboldened by her success
in this adventure, and greedy for further expansion, Spain, in June,
1911, sent a vessel to El Araish (Laraiche) on the Atlantic coast, and
a column was despatched from there to Alcázar, which lies some twenty
miles inland. The region was apparently perfectly calm at the time,
and the reasons given by Spain for her action—that mysterious horsemen
had been seen upon the walls of Alcázar—appeared, in France at least,
to be mere pretensions and raised a storm of indignation. As things
now stand, France has proclaimed a definite protectorate over the
whole of Morocco, an arrangement to which the Sultan has consented.
Despite that proclamation, however, Spain continues to occupy a rich
and extensive district of the country with an army of forty thousand
men. By what means France will attempt to oust her—for oust her she
certainly will—is an interesting subject for speculation and one which
is giving both French and Spanish diplomats many sleepless nights.

A word, in passing, upon the region known as the Riff. It is more
discussed and less known than any other quarter of Morocco. Nothing
has been written upon it except from hearsay and no European has
penetrated across its length and breadth, and this although it is
but two days’ ride on horseback from Tetuan. Situated in the very
heart of the Great Atlas range, and accessible only through narrow
passes and over rough mountain trails, this region has, from time
beyond reckoning, been the home and the refuge of that savage and
mysterious clan known as the Riffs. Their feudal chieftains live in
great castles built of stone and lead much the same lives as did the
European nobles of the Middle Ages. The passes giving access to the
Riff are commanded by hilltop forts impregnable to anything short of
modern artillery—and to get within range of them the artillery would
need to have wings. They are a people rich in possibilities, are these
Riffs, and one whom it is wiser to conciliate than to fight, as France
will doubtless sooner or later learn. Brigands by nature, farmers in
a small way by occupation, disciples of the vendetta, scorners of the
law, suspicious of strangers, their only courts the gun and dagger,
the Riffs have more in common with the mountaineers of the Blue Ridge
than any people that I know. They have nothing in common with the
other inhabitants of Morocco except their dress, wearing the universal
brown hooded _jellab_ and over it the toga-like white woollen _haik_,
a skull-cap of red or brown, a belt with pouches of gaily coloured
leather, and in it, always, a muzzle-loading pistol and the vicious
curved knife, while over the shoulder slants the ten-foot-long Riff
rifle, coral-studded, brass-bound, ivory-butted, and almost as
dangerous to the man behind it as to the one in front. The Riffs are
fair-skinned, blue-eyed, and quite frequently red-haired, and claim to
be descended from the Romans, which is no unreasonable assumption on
their part, as the Romans were adventuring in Morocco—they called it
Mauritania—long before Cæsar’s day.

The other danger-point in Morocco is the Sus, a “forbidden” and
unknown country through which only a handful of European travellers
have ever passed, all in disguise and all in peril of their lives.
The Sus is the rich and fertile valley lying between the Great Atlas
and the Anti Atlas, and touching the Atlantic coast at Agadir. It is
said to be thickly populated; it is believed to contain rich mines;
it is fanatical to the last degree. Its Berber inhabitants, who are
separated from the Arabs of the surrounding regions by a totally
distinct language known as the _Tamazight_, or Tongue of the Free,
though acknowledging the religious supremacy of the reigning Sultan,
have always maintained a semi-independence, having never submitted to
Moorish rule nor paid tax nor tribute to the government of Morocco.
Twice within the last three or four decades Moorish Sultans have
invaded and attempted to conquer the Sus, but each time they have been
driven back across the Atlas. The origin of the people of this region
is lost in the mists of antiquity. According to the Koran its original
inhabitants were natives of Syria, where they proved themselves such
undesirable citizens that King David ordered them to be tied up in
sacks and carried out of the country on camels, since he wished to see
their faces no more. Arrived in the vicinity of the Atlas Mountains,
the leader of the caravan called out in the Berber tongue “_Sus!_”
which means “Let down! Empty out!” So the exiled undesirables were
dumped unceremoniously out of their sacks, and the country in which
they found themselves, and where they settled, is called the Sus to
this day. The people of the Sus have never liked the French, and
there is little doubt that they will oppose any attempt to treat them
as a province of Morocco, and consequently subject to French control.
It is obvious that France will sooner or later be obliged to send an
expedition into the Sus for the purpose of asserting her power as
well as to counteract the German influence which is rapidly gaining
ground there, for the Sus, remember, is the region where Germany’s
interests in Morocco are centred and provided the excuse for sending
her gun-boat to Agadir and almost provoking a European war thereby.
Germany still retains her commercial interests in the Sus Valley, and
France will be obliged to step gingerly indeed if she wishes to avoid
stirring up still another _affaire Marocaine_.

If France accomplishes nothing more in Morocco than the extermination
of the slave trade she will have performed a genuine service to
humanity. Though slavery has been abolished in every other quarter of
Africa, no attempt has ever been made by the European powers to put
a check upon the practice in Morocco. Something over three thousand
slaves, it is estimated, are imported into Morocco every year, most
of them being brought by the terrible desert routes from Equatoria
and the Sudan, the trails of the slave caravans being marked by the
bleaching bones of the thousands who have died on the way from heat,
hunger, or exhaustion. Many smug-faced people will assure you that
slavery has been wiped out in Africa—praise be to the Lord!—but I can
take you into half a dozen Moroccan cities and show you slaves being
auctioned to the highest bidder as openly as they were in our own
South fifty years ago. There is a large and profitable demand for
slaves, particularly girls and boys, in all of the Moroccan cities, a
young negress having a market value of anywhere from eighty dollars
to one hundred and twenty dollars. Although, as I have already
remarked, the bulk of the slaves are driven across the Sahara by the
time-honoured method, exceptionally pretty girls are often brought
from West African ports in French vessels as passengers and disposed
of to wealthy Moors by private sale. So great is the demand for young
and attractive women that girls are occasionally stolen from Moorish
villages, the slave-dealer laying a trail of sweets, of which the
native women are inordinately fond, from the outskirts of the villages
up to neighbouring clumps of trees, behind which he conceals himself,
pouncing out upon his unsuspecting victims as they approach. If France
succeeds in stamping out the slave trade in Morocco as effectually as
she has in her other African possessions, she will prove herself, as
our missionary friends would put it, the flail of the Lord.

Of all France’s ambitious projects for the exploitation of North
Africa in general, and the opening up of Morocco in particular, the
one which most appeals to the imagination, and which, when executed,
is likely to be of the greatest benefit to the world, is her
astounding scheme for bringing South America a week nearer to Europe
by means of a railway from Tangier, in Morocco, to Dakar, in Senegal.
The route, as at present planned, would run from Tangier, via Fez,
to Tuat. From Tuat the Sahara would be crossed and the Niger gained
at Timbuktu. Though about three hundred miles of this section would
lie through the most hopeless desert country, it presents no great
obstacle to engineers, the Sudanese line from Wady Halfa to Khartoum
proving how easily the difficulties of desert construction and lack
of water can be overcome. The third section would be from Timbuktu
to Dakar, where the French within the last few years have created a
magnificent naval port and commercial harbour. Already Timbuktu and
Dakar are in regular communication by a mixed steamer and railway
service, the journey taking, when the Senegal is in flood, but five
days. As such a system would have, of necessity, to be independent of
the Niger and Senegal river services, which are not always reliable, a
line is now under construction which will bring Timbuktu into direct
rail communication with Dakar, thus eliminating the difficulties
and uncertainties of river navigation. From Dakar to Pernambuco, in
Brazil, is less than fifteen hundred miles, which could be covered
by a fast steamer in three days. There are already regular sailings
between these ports, but with the completion of this trans-African
system (and, believe me, it is far from being as chimerical as it
sounds, for the French do not let the grass grow under their feet
when they once get a clear right of way for railway-building) ocean
greyhounds will be placed in service between Dakar and the South
American ports, it being estimated that the traveller who purchases
his ticket via Madrid, Gibraltar, and then over the Moroccan-Saharan
system, can journey from Paris to Rio de Janeiro in twelve days. It
is obvious that in some such scheme as this lies the future of the
French Sahara, as well as the enormously increased prosperity of the
Moroccan hinterland and of the Niger-Senegal possessions, for it was
just such a transcontinental line, remember, which brought population
and prosperity to the desert regions of our own West.

It is no light task to which France has pledged herself in agreeing
to effect the regeneration of an empire so decrepit and decadent as
Morocco, but that she will accomplish it is as certain as that the
leaves come with the spring. The changes which the coming of the
French will effect in Morocco stretch the imagination almost to the
breaking-point. Already the wireless crackles and splutters from a
mast erected over the French Residency in Fez. With the proclamation
of the protectorate the waiting railway-builders jumped their
rail-heads across the Moroccan border as homesteaders, hearing the
signal gun, jump their horses over the border of newly opened lands.
Two or three years more and the traveller will be able to purchase
through tickets to Fez and Marrakesh as easily as he can now to San
Francisco or Milan. At Tangier, Rabat, El Araish, Mogador, and Agadir
harbours will be dredged, break-waters built, and wharves constructed,
while the filthy, foul-smelling cities will be made as clean and
sanitary as Tunis and Algiers. Under French control Tangier, with its
ideal climate, its picturesque features, and its splendid situation,
will rival Cairo and the Riviera as a fashionable winter resort. The
Moorish peasantry will be permitted to till their farms in peace,
undisturbed by devastating armies, while the warlike Riffs can have
their fill of fighting in French uniforms and under the French flag.
This is no empty vision, remember. Peace, progress, and prosperity
are bound to come to Morocco, just as they have come to those other
African regions upon which the Frenchman has set his hand. Just how
soon they come depends largely upon the Moors themselves.