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MANNERS OF TUNIS.
try, and visited all the principal remains of an. tiquity, and most considerable cities of modern times. In the course of this, I had found one ancient maritime city at a distance from the shore, and a part of another under the sea; and I had seen the ruins of many Roman towns, the names of which could not be distinguished.
MANNERS OF TUNIS.
VISIT OF HER LATE MAJESTY
TUNIS, after being under the dominion of the Khalifs, the Emperor of Marocco, the Moors, and the Emperor Charles the Fifth, submitted to Sinan Bashaw, a Turkish officer, in the year 1574. His successors have become absolute sovereigns. The Bey of Tunis can bring into the field from forty to fifty thousand of his militia, three fourths of whom are cavalry; he has also in his service about six thousand Turks, who are feared and hated by the Moors. The whole population of the country has been estimated at 7,000 Turks, 100,000 Jews, 2,386,000 Moors and Arabs, and 7,000 Christians, free and slaves.
The subjects of the King of Naples, alone, who were in slavery at Tunis, in the year 1808, amounted nearly to two thousand. Among these were a Sicilian lady and her five daughters, who
were in the hands of the first minister of the Ma. rine; and each of the daughters, as she grew up, was devoted to the barbarian. If a wife threw herself at the feet of this Christian monarch, and besought him to ransom her husband, he would ask, “cannot you find another husband as good as he ?" If a husband implored him to ransom his wife, this legitimate sovereign would exclaim, “what, are women so scarce in my dominions !"
The Bey of Tunis rises two hours before day, eats and prays, and administers justice every day in the week, except Friday. Any person who finds himself aggrieved, repairs to the hall of justice, and repeats, "justice, master!" till the Bey answer, and demand what he would have. Two instances will serve as a specimen of the justice administered here.
A tribe of Arabs designed to complain of the oppression of their chief, who was appointed by the Bey, and to demand his removal. The chief, aware of their intention, entered the hall before them, and thus addressed the sovereign. “In the discharge of my duty, I have been obliged to act with severity towards your subjects; for I could not otherwise obtain the annual tribute. For this they are going to complain against me; but I hope your justice will continue me in my appointment, and I beg you to accept of this small present. At the same time, he laid down a purse containing 10,000 piastres (about 6661.). Fifty of the complainants soon after entered the hall, and cried, all together, against their oppressor, demanding another chief in his place, and laying down a purse, containing likewise 10,000 piastres.
“My friends," said the Bey, after the proper
DECISIONS OF THE BEY.
officer had taken both the purses, “I was fully aware of the justice of your complaints; and I have most severely reprimanded this man, who has sworn on the head of our holy prophet that he will, in future, be good to you; therefore take him to your hearts, and be good to him. And as for you,” continued the Bey, addressing the chief, “ let it be known to all these people that, if the smallest complaint be made against you hereafter, , your head shall
pay the forfeit.” Both parties were satisfied; and it must be owned that the decision was as just as could possibly be made by a judge who had taken a bribe from each. In the other case, perhaps neither party was satisfied, though the same impartiality was shewn to both. The award, however, conveys an excellent lesson.
An Arab, who had a hen, agreed with his neighbour, who had a quantity of eggs, that the hen should sit upon the eggs, and the produce should be equally divided between the owners. Unfortunately, the hen hatched thirteen chickens, which rendered the equal division a matter of some difficulty, and disputes arose concerning the possession of the odd bird. The affair was brought before the Bey, and the hen and chickens were produced, in evidence of the fact. The Bey having heard the story, sent for his cook, to whom he consigned the feathered family; he then ordered fifty strokes of the bastinado to be given to each of the Arabs, telling them that it would teach them the consequence of quarrelling about trifles.
Hahmoud, began to reign in the year 1782, and the duration of the government is without example in the country. He was the only sovereign who dared to punish a Turk with the same impartiality that he would a Moor. In his youth, Hahmoud was much addicted to wine; and one night, while he was drinking with his favourite slaves, he heard a noise in the court below. On demanding the cause of it, he was informed that it proceeded from some people belonging to the Dey of Algiers, who were making merry over wine. The intoxi. cated Bey, indignant at their inebriety, instantly ordered their heads to be taken off; his minister retired to obey his command, and the noise ceased. The next morning, when Hahmoud enquired for the Algerines, he was reminded of the order he had given ; and, almost frantic, he asked if he had been obeyed. The minister replied, that, imagining morning might change the mind of his master, he had only sent them to prison ; the prince thanked him, and, from that time, never tasted wine or strong liquors.
Notwithstanding this self denial of the sovereign, and in defiance of the prohibition of the prophet, a thousand pipes of wine are annually drank in Tunis.
The Bey of Tunis reserves to himself the privilege of driving a carriage with four wheels; the consuls, and people of the country, being only allowed to have carriages with two. Hahmoud had lately become fond of driving a gig, himself; and the American Consul having a very handsome gig, his highness sent for it, without ceremony, saying that he wanted it, and the consul must get another.
The lower class of Moors, when called upon to pay their taxes, uniformly plead inability. The tax-gatherer, accustomed to this pretence, puts
them under the bastinado; and, generally, before they rise from the ground, they draw forth the bag, and count out the cash. A European gentleman, who stood by on such an occasion, asked the man whether he had not better have paid the taxes at first ? “What,” cried he, “pay my taxes without being bastinadoed! no no.” It must be observed that this seeming absurdity does not proceed so much from the love of being beaten, as the fear of being thought to possess money.
The first operations of arithmetic are not known to one person in twenty thousand of the inhabitants of Tunis, though our numbers are borrowed from the Arabians; but the merchants are frequently very dextrous in the addition and subtraction of large sums by memory. A proof, if proof were wanting, that memory is a faculty which improves by being used. The Tunisians have also a method of transacting business by putting their hands into each other's sleeve, and touching the arm with such a joint or finger; each denoting a particular number. The Thalebs, who pass their time in reading and devotion, pretend to such knowledge, by the combination of numbers, that they compose of them magic squares, which, when worn about the neck, procure the favour of princes, or ward off misfortunes. Extreme ignorance creates presumption on one side, and credulity on the other.
I met with a travelling derviche, who, armed with these numerical charms, provoked me to shoot at him with a loaded pistol ; assuring me that it could do him no injury. I thought it most prudent, however, to try the experiment first upon a sheep, which he said would be equally protected by