THE ALGERINE SPY IN PENNSYLVANIA.
THE ALGERINE SPY IN PENNSYLVANIA: OR, LETTERS WRITTEN BY A NATIVE OF ALGIERS ON THE AFFAIRS OF THE United States in America, FROM THE CLOSE OF THE YEAR 1783 TO THE MEETING OF THE CONVENTION.
PHILADELPHIA: PRINTED AND SOLD BY PRICHARD & HALL, IN MAR|KET BETWEEN FRONT AND SECOND STREETS. M.DCC.LXXXVII.
I DO certify, that on this twenty-eighth day of August, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, a book intitled
J B. SMITH, Prothon.
TO THE PUBLIC.
ABOUT a fortnight ago a large packet was dropped in my store in the dusk of the evening, as I suppose. It remained un|noticed till next morning, when, happening to perceive it, I opened it, and, amongst other written papers, found a letter directed to me, which is subjoined.
In the course of that day and the next, I occasionally dipped into the papers; but as to sell books, not to criticise them, is my bu|siness, all I shall say is, that the style, if we consider that the work is but a translation, is tolerably smooth and easy; and the senti|ments (due allowance being made for the disposition and education of an Algerine) are not unworthy of the public attention.
As these states abound in critics equal to any in the world, it may be presumed, that some of them will condescend to read the book which they criticise. If these gentle|men will favour me with their remarks, they Page vi shall be added, by way of appendix, to the third or fourth impression. This addition will increase the value of the work, by ren|dering it at once more bulky and amusing.
I confess that, although a bookseller, I am not fond of large volumes. A huge folio has an imposing air of dignity, which is very apt to deter people from having any thing to say to it, as my shelves can testify; but a snug little pocket volume, neatly bound and lettered, is like an easy good natured friend, who is ready to sit down with us near a good fire, or to take a walk on the com|mons. If we happen to be otherwise engag|ed, we part from the one, or pocket the other, without trouble or ceremony.
As for the Algerine gentleman, I declare upon the word of a faithful citizen, that I do not know him. If he has ever favoured me with his custom, I am highly obliged to him, and, when he gets rid of his melancho|ly, I shall be happy in presenting him with a copy of the work and a glass of wine into Page vii the bargain, which, as he is now a good christian, I hope he will not refuse.
With respect to the translator—but let him speak for himself—
I am the Public's most obedient humble servant, W. P.
Mr. WILLIAM PRICHARD.
AS the publication of the herewith en|closed letters will probably excite some de|gree of curiosity concerning MEHEMET, the spy, I wish it were in my power to gratify it. The letters, written in different lan|guages, but chiefly in Arabic, were deliver|ed into my hands with a note, which contain|ed a request that I should translate and pub|lish them for the good of the United States. They were all without dates, which omission will be excused, when it is considered that they are but copies; but the principal facts mentioned in them are so notorious and re|cent, that dates seem unnecessary.
Whether they will either instruct or amuse, I will not pretend to say; but I am confi|dent, that they will do no harm. The Al|gerine spy, although as such inexcusable, is by no means an indecent or immoral writer.〈1 page missing〉Page [unnumbered]〈1 page duplicate〉Page [unnumbered]
THE ALGERINE SPY IN PENNSYLVANIA.
TO SOLYMAN, AT ALGIERS.
WHEN I parted from thee, a train of ideas, at once melancholy and pleasing, took possession of my mind. I was conscious, that I had undertaken an office of the highest consequence to my country and the Musselman faith; that, if successful, I should rank with those, who have gained immortal honour in this world, and the joys of Paradise; that, if unsuccessful, I should suffer disgrace and imprisonment, (death I disregard) pitied by men of sensibility and insulted by fools and knaves. I ingenuously confess, that I was greatly dejected; but was relieved from this anxiety of mind (if relief it Page 12 could be called) by the most distressing sickness I had ever experienced. My head grew giddy; a nausea succeeded; large drops of cold sweat issued from every pore; with difficulty I staggerd to my bed, and, clasping my hands, recom|mended my soul to Allah. I slumbered, as I suppose, about four hours; when, finding myself considerably better, I ven|tured on deck.
To thee, who, from a very early period of thy life, hast been accustomed to hard|ships and perils on this turbulent element, this account of my sea-sickness will ap|pear perfectly ridiculous. If I expected to excite compassion, I would have ad|dressed this letter to the gallant leader of our warlike troops, or the venerable in|terpreter of our most holy law. The first has often experienced dangers in the con|flict of arms, and the no less perilous in|trigues of a court; but I am confident, that his tremors have been greater du|ring a voyage to Constantinople, than when exposed to the roaring cannon or the equally destructive whispers of court-sycophants. Page 13 The last has never been at sea; but he has often read with exquisite sensibility the description of a voyage by the royal Israelite.
I shall not trouble thee with a minute account of my distresses during the whole voyage; the offensive sinell and taste of the water; the roughness of the captain, which I at first mistook for brutality, or the sneers of the sailors, who, having been informed that I was a Frenchman, re|garded me with eyes at once expressive of hatred and contempt.
Thou must remember, that when my proposal of embarking for the American continent was accepted, it was suggested to me to appear in the character of a na|tive of the south of France. My know|ledge of the French language, the predi|lection of the citizens of the new states for their allies, and the swarthiness of my complexion, induced me to follow this advice. This circumstance exposed me to the insults which I have just mention|ed. But the consciousness of the weighty Page 14 commission, with which I was charged, repressed my resentment. I conversed with them freely in English, which I un|derstand perfectly and speak with tolera|ble fluency; and very soon conciliated their favour. They partook of my wine, and liberally offered me their grog, which is a mixture of water and a spirituous li|quor, highly esteemed by the inhabitants of the new world. The dispensation, which I obtained, permitting me to drink wine, must, I think, include all ferment|ed and even distilled liquors. But as wine only is mentioned, I beg you will consult our great spiritual guide on this occasion, and inform me of his sacred de|termination.
After a short voyage I landed yester|day in the bay under a promontory, which with a disdainful superiority, looks down on the ocean, and even its brother Ceuta on the opposite coast. It has been in the possession of the English more than eighty years, who took it from the Spaniards, and, notwithstanding several attacks and sieges, are still masters of it.
Page 15Thou mayest remember with what stu|pidity both these nations were charged by several of our countrymen during the last war, the one for attacking, the other for defending this useless rock, as it was rash|ly termed. But their accusations would have ceased, had they considered, that this Pillar of Hercules is no inconsidera|ble prop of British opulence and glory.
I lodge in the house of Solomon Mendez, a Jewish merchant, to whom I brought letters of introduction, and shall soon embark for Lisbon, from which port I shall take passage for the new world.
Farewel—Be mindful of the man, who in the midst of infidels will preserve his friendship inviolate. Protect me by thy eloquence and influence, from the open attacks or insidious machinations of my powerful enemies, who most proba|bly suggested this enterprise for the sole purpose of accomplishing my ruin. Let not the offspring of thy friend experience the want of a father in his absence; but above all counsel, assist and console the Page 16 treasure of my heart. Assure her, that as she has constituted my chief felicity in Africa, no European or American shall ever rival her in my affection.
LETTER II. TO THE SAME.
IT may be disputed, whether the pos|session of this rock has been beneficial to Great Britain. The expence of defend|ing it has been perhaps greater than the commercial advantages derived from it. But it is undoubtedly true, that the Sub|lime Porte and its dependencies in the Mediterranean, are highly interested in its continuing under its present masters. No true Spaniard can behold it without indignation, and consequently a wish, that it should be reunited to the kingdom from which it was violently rent, and has been ignominiously retained. It has been, I believe, the principal source of enmity betwixt Spain and Britain, since it was conquered, and has induced the former nation to co-operate with France in all her plans for reducing the power of the latter. Spain, if repossessed of Gibraltar, would probably abate of her attachment to France, to whose views, it must be con|fessed, Page 18 she has long been blindly subser|vient. The loss of that vast tract of country in America, now called the United States, by diminishing the power of Britain in that quarter of the globe, has lessened the terrors, and consequently the enmity of Spain. A new nation has started up in America, which, if actuated by ambition, (and what power has long resisted its impulse) may invade, harass and subjugate several of the Spanish pro|vinces. The enthusiasm of the invaders, the debility of the invaded, the poverty of the states and the wealth of the pro|vinces, will render the conquest of Peru and Mexico by no means difficult. The Bourbon union already regards the Ame|rican confederacy with a jealous eye, and will never forgive this new people for having it in their power to attack their possessions in the west, although the temp|tation may be resisted for a long series of years.
The wars amongst the christian powers have generally, I might say invariably, promoted the interest of the Ottoman Page 19 empire. Here then is a certain source of animosity, which must advance the splendor and power of the Porte, and may restore thousands of Moorish fami|lies to the possession of their estates in the fertile, but neglected provinces of Spain.
You must here permit me to make a short digression in favour of toleration. Had Spain, when she threw off the Moor|ish yoke, permitted those people to re|tain their religion, she would still have held the first rank amongst the powers of Europe. Moderation would have recon|ciled our forefathers, or, at all events, their immediate offspring, to the supersti|tions of the Nazarenes. They were un|doubtedly an industrious, as well as a brave and intelligent people. Their ex|pulsion weakened Spain at least as much, as the banishment of the protestants re|duced the internal resources of France in the reign of Lewis the XIVth. I shall not attempt a regular dissertation on the fatal effects of religious intolerance; but shall only remind thee, that the followers of Mahomet have been more indulgent Page 20 to those who profess christianity, than the different sects of christians have frequent|ly been to each other.
It must be confessed, that there are schisms even in our holy religion. The disciples of Hali (not to mention inferior sects) differ in some particulars from the followers of our prophet; but we defy the most virulent christian to prove, that either the Ottoman or Persian govern|ment has racked, burned, or even impri|soned, on a religious account, those who dissent from the established mode of wor|ship in these respective countries. Some brutal Turks and Persians have been known, it is true, to speak insultingly to, and even spit upon, a christian in the streets. But in all possible cases the dis|pensers of justice never fail to redress the injury by punishing the aggressor. Here then lies the difference between maho|metans and christians in this particular; the rabble amongst us are sometimes guil|ty of religious rancour; but in christian countries, persecution always proceeds from those who are, or at least are sup|posed Page 21 to be, the most enlightened. What glory to the generous followers of the bold and intrepid Mahomet! What dis|grace to the pretended disciples of the meek and humble Jesus!
LETTER III. TO THE SAME.
MY host, I have already informed thee, is a Jew. Thou wilt consequently suppose him to be guilty of those vices too generally attributed to his degenerate nation. Those, of whom thou hast any knowledge, living under a government which despises, insults, and even robs them of the fruits of their industry, are necessarily reserved in their conversation and austere in their domestic concerns. If poor, they are scoffed at by the popu|lace; if rich, they are plundered by their superiors. But in Gibraltar (and I be|lieve throughout the British dominions) they are as fully protected as any other denomination of men. They are, it is true, excluded by law from all the offices of state, nor can they purchase lands. But as their commerce is extensive, their influence is by no means inconsiderable. Their immense property in the national Page 23 funds gives them a degree of weight equally advantageous to themselves and the public. They are by interest, the strongest of all ties, attached to the coun|try which protects them, and by their correspondence with each other, how|ever widely dispersed, are enabled to col|lect intelligence of all the designs of fo|reign cabinets. It may occasion some astonishment, that Britain, which liberal|ly encourages their commercial enterpri|ses, should preclude them from possessing landed property. I will not say, that this prohibition proceeds altogether from wis|dom; but I am induced to think, that it has been productive of the happiest con|sequences. If the Hebrews had been permitted to purchase lands, many of them would have become mere farmers; an useful race of men, I confess, but on a narrow scale, if compared with mer|chants. The cultivator of the earth in a country not arrived at maturity, is un|questionably the first character; but in a more advanced state of society he must yield to the merchant. In the former state the landholder assists his country Page 24 simply by his own exertions, or those of his immediate relatives, and may be just|ly deemed a patriot; in the latter, the merchant, by advancing the credit of his nation and often by depressing that of the enemy, by a few strokes of his pen creates fleets and armies, and often without bloodshed insures success. He is equally a patriot and more of the states|man than the landholder.
Our imagination is highly delighted, when we read the histories of ancient Greece and Rome. We are dazzled by the splendor of their victories, and are apt to attribute more praise to them, than they deserve. But Alexander, at the head of united and victorious Greece, paid the highest tribute to the utility of commerce. If, in the madness of false heroism, he destroyed Tyre, he endea|voured to repair the injury by founding Alexandria; and Rome, incapable, by her genius, of commercial greatness, was long retarded in her progress to univer|sal dominion by the policy, wealth and valour of Carthage. Hence this state Page 25 was entitled to her particular hatred; others she merely conquered and ensla|ved; but Carthage she utterly destroyed.
It might be entertaining, and perhaps useful, to trace the probable progress of Carthaginian power, if, in the last Pu|nic war, she had subdued her imperious rival. Possessed, at that time, of a very lucrative commerce, she would have aim|ed at extending it. Conquest would have been but her secondary object. Her daring navigators had already visited all the discovered parts of the world, and had made considerable progress along the coast of Africa, lying on the Atlantic ocean, towards the equator. After a few more attempts, they would have doubled the cape of Good Hope, and the trea|sures of the east would have rewarded her beneficial industry. That nation, which the silver mines of Spain, at that time the Mexico of Europe, could not corrupt or enervate, would have prosecuted her plan with the genuine spirit of com|merce, which encourages a degree of foreign industry, as the reward of supe|rior Page 26 skill and exertion. Her factories would have increased to cities; these cities, by a happy contagion, would have acquired over the adjacent countries a species of dominion, which, being found|ed on mutual benefits, would have no less advanced the interests, than con|ciliated the affection of the original in|habitants. War, as I have said, would have been moderately attended to. Re|leased from the dread of a rival, she would have levied armies and equipped fleets solely to maintain (allow me the expression) the police of the world.
LETTER IV. TO THE SAME.
I HAVE given thee an imaginary sketch of the probable power of Carthage, (if she had subdued her rival) a name, which ought to be mentioned in the an|nals of Africa with no less honour than Egypt herself. Let us now review the effects, which the ambition of Rome pro|duced in the human character.
That nation, which boasted its origin from the union of robbers, was necessari|ly, even in its infancy, incited to war by the hope of plunder. Incapable of in|dustry, and confined within very narrow limits, the Romans could not exist with|out distressing their neighbours. Having established a place of refuge for malefac|tors, their numbers rapidly increased by the accession of all the banditti of Italy. Their first chief was supposed to have been the son of Mars. His actions cor|responded with his pretended birth. The Page 28 murder of his brother inspired his follow|ers with the highest opinion of his hero|ism. Who more fit to reign, said they, than he, who is not restrained by the ties of nature? This sentiment pervaded all their designs, and was infused into their children. It was glorious not only to die for their country, but to assassinate their enemies, and even to kill their own offspring.
Thou art sensible, that I am not in|dulging a romantic fancy. Every page of the earlier part of their history is stain|ed with insidious assassination or open murder. A Scaevola is recorded as a hero, for having thrust into the flames the hand which failed to murder a king at open war with his nation; and a Bru|tus is exalted to almost divine honors for having condemned to die two of his sons, whom the laws of his country might have banished without his unnatural interven|tion.
But thou wilt say, that the Romans were, at the period I allude to, emerging Page 29 from barbarism; that great souls, unen|lightened by found philosophy and true religion, are necessarily guilty of exces|ses. That they were barbarians at this period, is granted; but let me ask thee, at what time were they enlightened? Their kings, with the sole exception of Numa, were the worthy leaders of the greatest desperados we read of. Their perpetual wars in Italy (I might have called them massacres) ought to have united the whole world against them, as the pests of human nature.
Nor can we attribute their ferocious exploits to the examples of their kings. After the regal authority was abolished, their ambition was insatiable. Italy soon became too narrow a space for their cru|elty and thirst of false glory. Having re|pelled Pyrrhus, who had brought suc|cours to his allies, the Tarentines, they attacked Sicily, at that time allied with Carthage. This war roused the Cartha|ginians, who being hitherto chiefly em|ployed in commercial pursuits, or engag|ed in war as an inferior object, could not Page 30 behold the encroachments and usurpati|ons of the Romans without feeling a just resentment. They armed, they fought; and after experiencing triumphs as well as defeats, were exterminated by their ungenerous rivals.
Thus fell Carthage, the emporium of commerce, the nursery of humanity! And so implacable was the fury of her conquerors, or so destructive have been the ravages of time, that the works of her artists, and the writings of her poets, statesmen and philosophers are no where to be found, except the comedies of Te|rence and the Periplous of Hanno.
Perhaps I have heightened this picture from a predilection for a people, who were the ornament of Africa, and masters of the place of my nativity; but I am of opinion, that every impartial person who reviews the Roman history with the eye of philosophy, must execrate the insidious policy and unbounded ambition of that restless and domineering people.
LETTER V. TO THE SAME.
ALTHOUGH comfortably lodged, I am impatient to enter on my office; but am doubtful, whether I shall take, passage from some port in France for America, or from Lisbon. In the mean time my host, to whom alone the object of my travels is known, endeavours to render my abode in this place as agree|able as possible. He has introduced me to all his acquaintance, some of whom are men of letters; the rest are mer|chants. His wife, although sufficiently domesticated, partakes of all the amuse|ments of the place; she visits, and is vi|sited by, several respectable families. In deportment an Algerine, a Frenchman in dress and language, I was at first the object of their amazement; but after the second visit it abated, and I am no long|er the theme of their whispers. Accus|tomed to women who are reserved, bash|ful Page 32 and timid, I at first blushed when spoken to and answered their questions with diffidence and hesitation. Strange, thought I that the man, who, in his haram, inspired awe and even terror, should in his turn, be awed into silence, and shrink from the eye of female ob|servation! But I soon suppressed these unmanly feelings, and entered into the spirit of their conversation, which was decent and lively.
Thou wilt probably be amused with an account of our conversation. We were seated in a large room, which was rendered as cool as possible by a free ad|mission of air; but the ladies, whose constitutions, I presume, were more sus|ceptible of heat, than those of the men, kept fanning themselves perpetually, com|plaining, at every pause in the conver|sation, of the intense heat of the wea|ther. They frequently rose from their seats with seeming hurry, and, stepping hastily to a mirror, adjusted their neck-dresses with the greatest composure. Their conversation was as unguarded, Page 33 as their looks and motions. They spoke of their absent friends without reserve, and sometimes with acrimony; that a matron was anxious to be divorced from her husband, and that a virgin was eager to elope with her lover. I heard with astonishment more than three female voices at a time. A discourse directed to one lady, was interrupted by another, and the half-uttered question was muti|lated by the premature answer. A lap|dog occasionally attracted their notice, which, by turns, they fondled, kissed and even spoke to with all the rapture of maternal tenderness.
This scene, which, if related to me, I should scarcely have believed, was inter|rupted by a man, superbly, but fanciful|ly drest, bearing in both hands an ob|long japanned machine, on which several beautiful vessels were arranged, filled with a smoaking liquid. Imagining him to be one of the guests, I rose from my seat and bowed to him according to the Nazarene fashion. A roar of laughter proceeded from the females, and even Page 34 gentlemen could scarcely abstain from smiling, whilst a blush of sensibility over|spread the cheek of the attendant; for such I now discovered him to be. He presented the japanned utensil to each of the company in turn, who took hold of a species of plate which supported the vessel, filled with the hot liquor. This was sipped by all the company with evi|dent marks of satisfaction, although but a few minutes before they had all com|plained of the intense heat of the wea|ther. Having attentively observed the ceremonial, I was not at a loss how to act. But as the attendant approached me, his blushes were renewed and the laugh was repeated, although not so ob|streperously as at first. Just at this in|stant a boy entered in great agitation, and whispered his business in the ear of a lady, who was observed immediately to turn pale. A dozen essence-bottles were instantly applied to her nostrile, and as many fans were in motion. I was truly distressed for the lady; but what was my surprise, when I was inform|ed, that her fainting was occasioned by Page 35 a misfortune, which had happened to her monkey, who, in attempting to climb a tree, had fallen and slipped his shoul|der. She sighed, wept and wrung her hands, whilst tears of sympathy trickled down the cheek of these tender hearted ladies. At length the fair mourner, sup|ported by two of her particular friends, was conducted to an inner apartment in all the dignity of sorrow. I embra|ced this opportunity of retiring to my apartment, by no means edified by a company where the absent had been ma|ligned, a stranger insulted, and a dog caressed; and where more sorrow had been lavished on a monkey, than would have been felt for an expiring child.
How different, my friend, are these women from the beloved of my soul; who is more intent to hear, than eager to speak; who, satisfied with my love, aims not at the admiration of others▪ with whom silence is wisdom and reserve is virtue!
LETTER VI. TO THE SAME.
AS soon as the company had retired, my friend entered my apartment, and in|formed me with great delicacy, that the aukwardness of my deportment had in|duced the gentlemen to make very par|ticular enquiries concerning me; that he had however satisfied their curiosity by informing them, that I was a French gentleman, addicted to study and fond of retirement; that in some of the let|ters, which I brought with me, hints were given him of an apprehended de|rangement in my intellects, to prevent which, travelling had been prescribed by my physicians; but that, for his part, he believed I was only a philosopher. I thanked him for this explanation of my behaviour, and am determined to im|prove upon the idea in my travels.
Page 37At supper I was introduced to a Rab|bi, highly esteemed for his probity and admired for his learning. In the course of our conversation, I discovered, that he entertained a very exalted opinion of his own understanding, and was by no means willing, that his abilities should be overlooked by others. The disgust, occasioned by the tender hearted ladies, was now worn off, and I felt myself dis|posed to relish absurdities of another na|ture.
I happened to mention, that the pre|sent age was greatly indebted to ancient Greece for literature and science, and bestowed some encomiums on Aristotle. At the name of this celebrated philoso|pher I observed the cheek of the Rabbi to glow with indignation. "That Aris|totle, cried he, has enlightened the world, I readily acknowledge; but it is well known from whom he derived his learn|ing. He attended his pupil, Alexander the Great, in his conquest of the East, and after the taking of Jerusalem, was intrusted with the writings of Solomon Page 38 and the rest of our sages, which the Le|vites had preserved in the temple. From these volumes he extracted that mass of knowledge, which he published as his own, and then destroyed the originals." This instance of national pride reminded me of a story, pretended to be believed in the West; that an apostate Monk and a profligate Jew composed the sacred al|koran, which our illustrious prophet pro|mulgated for the benefit of the elect. How confirmed in error must that infi|del be, who can utter so improbable a fiction?
The Jews are, I think, the principal merchants in Gibraltar; but may it not be asked, in what part of the world, where they are on a footing with the rest of the inhabitants, are they not the most industrious and wealthy part of the com|munity? Wholly employed in com|merce, they always educate their chil|dren for the mercantile profession. We rarely find young persons among them, who aim at applause by a contemptible display of unnecessary literature or su|perficial Page 39 science. Yet there are amongst them men, whose genius and acquire|ments might entitle them to seats in the first academies of the world. As pru|dence is their characteristic. they are more solid than shining. They are no longer the object of religious fury. Even Spain is become tolerant, and Portugal has ceased to be barbarous. The de|scendant of Jacob can now find an abode in every civilized country, and, as long as he obeys the laws, mav bid defiance to rapacity and bigotry.
It may be reasonably supposed, that the genius of the Hebrews, which for ages has been oppressed by the rude hand of fanaticism, will now spread and flourish anew. Every nation, which pro|tects them, is entitled to their exertions. But whilst they promote the good of the country where they reside, by a benefici|al commerce, they ought not to neglect those arts, which, by adorning, improve human nature. Agriculture is ready to reward their industry a hundred fold; their lutes and harps need not continue Page 40 on willows; edifices, although inferior to Solomon's palace, may give mankind an idea of their former skill in architec|ture; they may range through nature from the hyssop to the cedar; and whilst they wait the coming of their Messiah, they may render themselves worthy of his presence, by charity and benevo|lence.
May the light, which shone from Mec|ca, irradiate the minds of these infidels, and guide them into the paths of truth!
LETTER VII. TO THE SAME.
MY host is very desirous of giving me an insight into the manners and amuse|ments of the Nazarenes, that they may not appear altogether strange to me on my arrival in the new world. He is ful|ly acquainted with the object of my tra|vels, and will doubtless be secret, be|cause it is his interest to be so. To have attempted an enterprise of this nature, without imparting the secret to at least two foreigners, would have been little short of madness. Although an oecono|mist by nature and habit, I may require more money than the sum I shall take with me. To draw bills in the new states on a merchant at Algiers would expose me to inevitable destruction, either from their government or the populace. I have therefore settled a mode of corre|spondence with Solomon Mendez at this place, and shall make similar arrange|ments at Lisbon with Moses d'Acosta.
Page 42It may be asked, as I travel in the character of a French gentleman, why I have not established a correspondence with some mercantile house in France? To this I answer, that, although it is right, for many reasons, to assume the character of a Frenchman, I think it highly dan|gerous to intrust my secret with any of that nation. An affected or real attach|ment to these new republicans, the hope of conciliating their favour, or the dread of his own government, might induce a Frenchman to betray me. Even the va|nity of being the subject of public dis|course might stimulate him to my ruin. But from Jews I apprehend no manner of danger. They will not betray me from either patriotism or vanity. Their im|mediate interest will prompt them to be faithful, and they have much to hope from my future patronage in Algiers.
I might immediately proceed through a part of Spain to Lisbon; but I shall be less exposed to discovery by taking pas|sage in an English vessel. The mariners of that nation are rough and unsuspici|ous. Page 43 When they hear I am a French|man, they will conclude they know the worst of me.
I had written thus far, when I was in|vited down stairs to partake of the amuse|ments of a ball. I accepted the invitati|on for two reasons. I am supposed to be a Frenchman; and a refusal might have brought my country into question. I am going to the American states; it is there|fore necessary that I should be as much acquainted as possible with the English fashions.
On my entering the room, I made a low bow (a circumstance I am careful never to forget) and seated myself in a chair, which separated two matrons, whose respectable countenances challenged that veneration, which from their dress and behaviour they seemed unwilling to claim. The hot liquid, which is called tea, was handed round in the manner, which I have already described. They drank it, because, I presume, they were cold; and they fanned themselves immediately af|terwards, Page 44 because, I am confident, they were hot. The contest betwixt the tea and the fan continued for some time. At length the tea retired, and the fan, which had received great assistance from the handkerchief, remained master of the field. The musicians now entered, and, having neglected to tune their instru|ments before their admission, reminded me of the discordant harmony mention|ed by one of the Roman poets. But this was probably done from the view of rendering by the contrast their music doubly agreeable. The instruments being now ready, I looked round with some impatience for the dancing girls, who, I supposed, were ready in the next room. In the mean time, a young gentleman, approaching with a hat in his hand, made me a low bow. I thought, I could do no less than make him another. He bowed again, and proceeded to another gentleman, who, after giving and re|ceiving a bow, took the hat, and walk|ing with becoming gravity towards one of the matrons, between whom I was seated, bowed to her. To convince the Page 45 company, that she was both young and active, she rose from her seat with such agility, that her ascending bosom and his descending nose were almost in contact. The gentleman threw back his right leg, and, drawing his left leg towards it, bowed most profoundly, his eyes very modestly fixed on the ground during a few seconds. The lady with an air of complacency and dignity looking full in his face, and, placing both her hands on her waist before, gently threw back her left foot, and, in a manner, which I can|not describe, seemed sinking beneath the level of the floor; then rising graceful|ly to her natural height, she tendered him one of her hands, which he gently received with one of his. He now con|ducted her towards a door, which open|ed into another apartment. I at first imagined they were going to enter it; but both suddenly turning, he bowed, and she sunk and rose again. The mu|sic now began, and the lady expanded the lower part of her apparel in a man|ner to me altogether new and astonishing. After a very short space, he bowed and Page 46 sunk again, then both turning half round, the bowing and sinking was repeated. The gentleman with his right hand now took hold of the lady's left hand, (con|sequently only one half of her garments remained expanded) and both of them, moving slowly and majestically, advanced towards the middle of the room, when, describing nearly a semicircle, they re|treated in opposite directions. The lady's left hand, being now at liberty, restored her garment to its full expansion. They continued in motion about two or three minutes, approaching, crossing and re|treating, when the lady, extending and waving her right hand in a most bewitch|ing manner, the gentleman also extend|ed and waved his; and they advanced towards each other, till the tips of their fingers met. Then retreating and again advancing, their left hands performed the same graceful ceremony. They con|tinued approaching, crossing and retreat|ing about two minutes longer, when the lady, with a languishing look, letting her garment drop into its natural position, extended both her arms, and advanced Page 47 to meet the gentleman, who with his arms also extended, approached her with more than usual briskness. After turning round, they repaired to the spot, where the ceremony began, from which, after three more sinks and as many bows, the gentleman lead her to her seat; and after one more bow and a concluding sink retired.
This serious mummery concluded, I imagined the dancing girls, according to the Algerine fashion, would be now in|troduced; but, to my great astonishment, it was repeated by almost all the compa|ny. A pause of about ten minutes suc|ceeded, when the ladies, having quitted their seats, began to adjust their dresses, which I could not perceive had been dis|composed; their fans were not neglected and their handkerchiefs were well em|ployed. After some consultation, attend|ed with many bows and sinks, the males and females formed two distinct rows, each male opposite to a female at about the distance of three feet. Hitherto their countenances had been settled and even Page 48 severe, their conversation carried on in whispers, and their demeanor more ex|pressive of devotion than festivity; nay, I had been almost tempted to believe, that they had been engaged in performing some religious ceremonies, not unlike the rites of the ancient Corybantes, or the extatic evolutions of our holy dervises. But how was I deceived!—One of the musicians stamping with his foot by way of signal, the sprightliest notes were heard. In an instant gravity was put to flight, and in my opinion, decorum suffered not a little. Smiling, capering and nodding ensued. A gentleman turned a lady round with one hand, then with the other; some|times three turned round together, some|times four, and, occasionally, even six. The circle appeared to me their favourite figure; but, to prevent giddiness as I sup|pose, they sometimes practised the right line. One figure gave me much satisfac|tion, which, after some observation, I dis|covered to be the arithmetical 8.
Thus far they proceeded on mathema|tical principles; but in the course of their Page 49 fooleries, I thought I perceived a degree of mystic morality. The lady at times fled from the gentleman, as if she was of|fended; whilst he, from the hope of ap|peasing her anger, followed her with be|coming tenderness; but deeming her im|placable, and conscious of his own dig|nity, gives over the pursuit and flies from her. She, justly apprehensive of losing him entirely, follows him in turn; a re|conciliation ensues, and their hands are reunited. It was altogether the most di|verting scene I had ever beheld, and I had every reason to be pleased, that no hired dancing girls had been introduced. The ladies and gentlemen, some few in|advertencies (which ought not to be men|tioned) and one or two slips, (attended with no bad consequences) excepted, per|formed their parts with grace and agility, and, as I was the sole spectator, were en|titled to my warmest applause.
I have as yet received no letters from Algiers; but, should any arrive at this place after my departure, they will be dispatched to Lisbon by Solomon Men|dez. Page 50 An English vessel, in which I have already engaged my passage, will sail in a few days for that celebrated port. Thou wilt doubtless give me a particular ac|count of all that has been done or is do|ing at court or in the city. If Fatima's grief has subsided, she will inform me of my domestic concerns. I have invested her with sufficient authority for the go|vernment of my haram; but in dubious cases she will apply to thee for advice. Her beauty at first inflamed my heart; her discretion, I am certain, will secure my esteem.
LETTER VIII. TO THE SAME.
I AM induced to think that sea-sick|ness resembles the small-pox, with which we are never afflicted a second time; but I speak with becoming diffidence, not chusing to build an hypothesis on a single fact.
My voyage from Gibraltar to this beau|tiful port was in every respect delightful. The winds were favourable and gentle, the sea as smooth as I could have wished, and the azure of the sky seldom obscured by a cloud. I found myself so much at ease, that I was almost constantly on the deck.
Doubtless, thought I, if the sea was never agitated by tempests, a considera|ble part of mankind would prefer it for their abode; like the Chinese and Hol|landers who, with their families, reside Page 52 on rivers in floating mansions. Several occupations might be followed as well on the sea as the land. Raw materials, sup|plied by the cultivator of the earth, might be manufactured by the inhabitants of the ocean. A tarif, regulating the com|merce of the terraqueous globe, might easily be established; fish might be bar|tered for flesh and vegetables; and, since the ladies on both elements must have ornaments, pearls might be exchanged for diamonds; nor would the powers of the earth have any reasonable excuse for waging war, as long as any part of the ocean remained uncolonized. Archime|des asserted, that, if he had but a spot to stand upon, he would play at tennis with the ball which we inhabit; for the esta|blishment of my system, I require but the annihilation of tempests. Nor should the sea-scurvy be mentioned as an objection by the medical faculty, till the plague is eradicated by their skill; the latter dis|order being at least as destructive as the former.
Page 53Before we passed the rock of Lisbon, I observed a particular archness in the looks of the sailors, which gave me no uneasiness, as I was acquainted with the cause of it. My friend, Solomon Men|dez, had informed me of a custom amongst English mariners, of exacting a tribute from all on board on their first seeing this celebrated rock. I readily complied with an usage which, like many others as per|tinaciously adhered to, has no foundati|on in nature or reason. The wine was produced; the sailors wished me health with a surly benevolence, and we jovial|ly entered this noble port, which for se|veral years was the centre of commerce between Europe and Asia.
Thou art not unacquainted with the exertion of maritime enterprise and mili|tary prowess, which distinguished this people in the fifteenth century. The se|crecy with which they conducted their plan of deposing king Philip, their pru|dence in chusing the duke of Braganza for their monarch, their conquests in Asia, and their settlements in Africa and Ame|rica, Page 54 contributed to render them a rich and a glorious nation. They may even at present be considered as a people pos|sessed of a considerable share of commerce; but their national valour is no longer the theme of panegyric.
The mere historian is capable of giving us a regular detail of events. It belongs to the philosopher alone to trace the rise and fall of national character, and to in|vestigate those causes, which exalt men to heroism, or sink them in servitude. I confess myself unequal to the task; but shall only remark, that the revolution in Portugal was simply a change of masters. Don Juan was certainly a brave and hu|mane Prince; but the royal authority, on the deposition of Philip, was in no respect restrained or regulated. Thus their political happiness depending on the characters of their succeeding princes, the Portugueze have shared the fate of other nations in similar circumstances; they have been wisely governed.
Page 55It has been my fate, since I left Al|giers, to travel with Englishmen and so|journ with Jews. I am lodged at the house of Isaac d'Acosta, whose civility makes ample amends for his extreme bigotry. Methinks I hear thee exclaim, are not bigotry and civility incompatible? By no means; a wolf subdued by his keeper, is a harmless animal in his pre|sence; and this Jew, not entirely re|covered from the dread of the inquisition, is a tractable being.
May the great inquisition of reason be established throughout the world! Thus shall our holy faith be established in the hearts of the barbarous idolator, and the obstinate Jew and Christian!
LETTER IX. TO THE SAME.
THE Hebrew religion being odious to the people and obnoxious to the go|vernment, my host is but little troubled with the company of the Portugueze. Nor is his disposition or talents suited to liberal conversation. To me he is dis|tant; to his family morose. How dif|ferent from Solomon Mendez, whose house was the abode of cheerfulness! I am impatient to begin my voyage, con|fident, that I shall find more society on the Atlantic than in this populous city. But let me not be hasty or unjust. Per|haps his reserve is the result of constitu|tion; or his affairs may be deranged; or his domestic felicity impaired. He has probably been rendered unhappy by a disobedient child or a false friend. In short, I am willing to assign any reason for his supercilious distance, rather than attribute it to a bad disposition.
Page 57Yesterday after dinner I had some conversation with a Rabbi, who is in ap|pearance less arrogant, than his brother at Gibraltar, but more base and wicked. As a specimen of his conversation, I shall relate a tale, which he told. "When God created Adam, said the Rabbi, he formed him so high and large, that his head reached the heavens, and his sides extended from the east to the west. The angels, terrified at his appearance, im|plored the protection of the Creator who, to rid them of their fears, put his hand on the head of Adam and re|duced his size to one thousand cubits; but, according to other Jewish doctors, to less. His first wife was called Lileth, who, being formed of as good earth as himself, disdained to submit to his au|thority, and flying up into the air, refu|sed to return to her husband, although entreated by hosts of angels." From this improbable fiction he inferred the extreme degeneracy of man, and the in|herent obstinacy of woman. At the conclusion of this legend, equally im|probable and absurd, Isaac nodded as|sent; Page 58 but his family discovered evident marks of dissatisfaction. I wanted no further proof of the baseness of this sanctified villain, who aimed at in|gratiating himself with his patron by destroying his peace of mind. The cause of his discontent was now evident. A domestic traitor imbittered his life, and established in his bosom that worst of in|quisitions, a distrust of his own family.
I shall certainly disclose my senti|ments to d'Acosta on this head before my departure; my conscience otherwise will not be at rest.
As my stay will be short, I shall not have it in my power to give thee an ade|quate idea of this city, which I am told, is as well built, as it was before the earth|quake. Portugal is not my object. Her weakness is too well known at Algiers to create apprehensions. Ignorance, sloth and barbarism characterise her sons, and her daughters are the victims of pride and superstition. Her streets swarm with monks, and her convents Page 59 are crouded with nuns. Too eager in the pursuit of commerce, she neglected agriculture and manufactures. Her gold, which enriches others, is dross to her, and the precious stones of the Brazils can scarcely procure bread for her chil|dren. Yet this country was not always contemptible. Her people were once industrious, and her priests were learned. She could boast a Camoens and a Gama, and was governed by an Emanuel and a Braganza; whose names are at this day less known in Portugal, than in any other part of Europe. Surely this na|tion was ordained to accumulate wealth to reward the industry of the English and the valour of the Algerines!
A philosophical history of commerce, would be an invaluable present to man|kind. But if ever it should appear, I will venture to predict, that its princi|ples will be but little attended to. The ambition of princes and the avarice of merchants will never be restrained or re|gulated by systems. The custom-house books alone will be read by the former. Page 60 If the imports have been productive, no|thing further will be required. The merchant, in summing up his accounts, will be perfectly content, if there be a consiberable balance in his favour; but experience evinces, that Britain has derived more solid wealth from the tin mines of Cornwall, than Spain from the silver mines of Mexico; and the nutmegs of Borneo, have been more beneficial to Holland, than the diamonds of Brazil to Portugal.
LETTER X. TO THE SAME.
THE ship, in which I have enga|ged a passage, will sail for the new world to-morrow. I shall soon behold a region, which has never been trod by an Alge|rine. A mixture of hope and fear, of delight and terror, occupies my heart; but religion and patriotism support me in the conflict. I consider myself as an|other Empedocles. Anxious to explore the causes of those convulsions, which agitate Aetna and lay waste the fair fields of Sicily with liquid fire, he pe|rished in the glorious attempt. My fate may be similar; but my glory shall be greater. He died without accomplish|ing his object; but if I arrive in the new states, which have lately been the political Aetna of the world, I shall seize every opportunity of acquiring and com|municating information.
Page 62A vast field lies before me. An ex|tensive coast, abounding in harbours; an immense tract of country, divided into thirteen states, but united, with respect to national exertion, under one head; a soil, capable of producing all the ne|cessaries, and most of the luxuries of life, the greater part of which is still covered with the noblest timber, and abounds in the most useful mines, the inexhaustible materials of future navies; towns rising into cities, and cities already aspiring to be the emporiums of commerce; the in|habitants free, active and intelligent; their governments mild and enlightened; religion promoted by a benevolent tole|ration, and morality enforced by the brightest examples; these blessings have been founded throughout Europe, as eminently possessed by the new states. The echo has reached Algiers and at|tracted the attention of her vigilant re|gency.
But as in all matters of consequence, vague conjectures are indulged and hasty conclusions are drawn; as facts are often Page 63 exaggerated by fancy, or misrepresented by interest; as truth has been too fre|quently violated by enthusiasm, and phi|losophy itself has been the dupe of hy|pothesis, it was thought necessary to em|ploy a man of observation and experi|ence, who, by residing on the spot, might separate the specious from the solid, and, divested of prejudice, be directed solely by candour. After many consultations, the eyes of our governors were fixed on me. My friends imputed to me the necessary qualifications, and my enemies in silence expressed their approbation. I accepted the office with affected joy; for had I hesitated but a moment, my courage and my patriotism would have been questioned; and the malice of my enemies would have been as effectually gratified by my disgrace at home, as it can be by want of success abroad. The former was inevitable; the latter is but probable.
All letters of consequence from me shall be sent under cover to Solomon Page 64 Mendez at Gibraltar, who will take care to forward them to Algiers. All letters diected to me from Algiers must also come through his hands.
Having now arranged our mode of correspondence, I must trespass on your patience with respect to my private con|cerns. I received from the treasury the day before I sailed, two thousand Jo|hanneses for the purpose of defraying my expences, with assurance of a re|ward adequate to my trouble and risque. A part of this sum I have deposited in the hands of Solomon Mendez; the remainder I take with me, to|gether with a sum belonging to my|self.
No man of prudence ought to de|fer the disposal of his affairs till the hour of sickness. My will therefore, which I delivered, properly executed, to thee, will convince Fatima that I have not been unmindful of her at|tachment and fidelity; the rest of my Page 65 property, (some few marks of my es|teem excepted) is settled on my child. The younger part of my slaves I have emancipated; the rest will not only have freedom, but competency; I owe no money, and all that I could claim from others, was either received or compounded before I failed; so that this executorship, if I should die, will be attended with as little trouble as possible.
Perhaps what I have just written will appear to thee to be the result of timidity. But wilt thou rashly con|clude, that I want courage, because I am prudent? Once for all, let me tell thee, that I go prepared to execute my commission, with a mind as un|ruffled, as when under thy command I assisted in repelling the enemies of our faith and country. I anticipate the honours, which our government shall bellow on me; I hear the shouts of applauding thousands; I grasp the hand of congratulating friendship; I Page 66 am clasped in the folds of exulting love—farewell—let Fatima know —but enough—
LETTER XI. TO THE SAME.
I AM arrived. I tread on the western continent. A native of Algiers is lodg|ed under the roof of a Pennsylvanian. Yet the genius of the state seems uncon|scious of danger, and the unsuspecting croud are as busily employed in their af|fairs or pleasures, as if I was at home ex|tended on my sopha. So let them be. Released from the fatigues and perils of war, let their young men indulge in dis|sipation, and their maidens in festivity; let their farmers resume their long ne|glected ploughs, whilst their merchants anticipate their ideal thousands. I am pleased with their bustle. The more they are occupied, the less notice will they take of me. The mind, which is eager in the pursuit of wealth or pleasure sel|dom stops short to indulge curiosity. The cloud, which prevented the Carthagini|ans from perceiving Aeneas and Achates, Page 68 those illustrious spies, was undoubtedly the hurry of business.
I have delivered my letters of intro|duction to the gentlemen to whom they are addressed. These letters describe me as a French gentleman, who wishes to see the country before he engages in either commerce or agriculture. Some hints are given of a domestic misfortune, which has rendered his own country disagree|able to him. I decline dining abroad, but in the afternoon occasionally visit a few families. As it is known that I came last from Lisbon, no French letters could be expected from me. I am yet at an inn, which is crouded with foreigners, but shall remove shortly to lodgings in a private family, which admits but one stranger. The few Frenchmen whom I have seen, finding me distant, are deter|mined to be equally so. Their pride in this particular is far from being disagree|able to me.
A part of my money is deposited in a bank, which in its principles resembles Page 69 many of the European banks; but as I am not thoroughly acquainted with its plan, I shall not entrust it with all my stock.
You cannot as yet expect any thing particular from me. In general I am pleased with the appearance of the peo|ple. Their deportment is gentle and un|assuming, and my ears have not as yet been offended with many oaths.
I observe a particular class of men, their hair loose and unpowdered, their hats uncocked, their linen without ruffles, and their coats, which are generally light coloured, with mohair buttons. Can these be the officers and soldiers of the late ar|my, who, having parted with their mili|tary dress, still affect an uniformity in ap|parel? I am convinced I am right; and I think I perceive in them a command|ing look and an air of dignity, which are more readily acquired in camps than cities.
I was called to this employment so sud|denly, that I had not time to read many Page 70 books written on American subjects. The British colonies on this continent were as little known to the Algerines be|fore the last war, as the most remote parts of Europe and Asia. We had often heard of Peru and Mexico through the medium of Spain; but a Pennsylvanian was less known to us, than a Greenlander or a Chinese. They shall however have no reason in future to complain of our ne|glect. Due attention shall be paid by us to their national ensigns on the ocean; nor shall their government or resources continue unnoticed. They have invited all the mercantile world to their ports. Our countrymen, more modest than o|thers, shall visit only their coasts. Se|veral nations have complimented them with splendid embassies. Averse to mag|nificence and ostentation I live among them without ceremony, and shall not flatter their pride or excite their avarice by promises of commercial treaties never intended to be performed. If my em|ployment was known, it is probable that I should be condemned to die by their tribunals, unless torn in pieces by the po|pulace. Page 71 How ungrateful, how ungene|rous would such conduct be, since it can be proved, that the councils of nations, as well as the behaviour of individuals, may be benefited by a consciousness of their being narrowly watched!
I spend a part of the day in walking through the city, partly to preserve my health, and partly to imitate the air and manners of the people. My head is per|fectly reconciled to my hat, and my in|step, which at first was sorely oppressed, cheerfully submits to the tyranny of the buckle. My body, which was at first ren|dered almost incapable of action by my Lisbon taylor, performs its evolutions, according to the discipline of the coun|try, with ease and agility, and at my meals I handle my arms with sufficient dexterity. How dull must the Russians have been, who spent a century in at|taining accomplishments, which I have acquired in a few weeks. But as vanity is dangerous and offensive, I suppress its emotions.
Page 72When I suryey my person in a mirror, I rejoice for two reasons; first, that I re|semble a Christian, and secondly, that I am not observed by an Algerine. I have so much the air of a Christian slave on his first landing at Algiers, that if Fatima were to see me in this dress, I should risque the loss of her affection.
LETTER XII. TO THE SAME.
THESE Philadelphians seem to me as well calculated to excel in commerce as to triumph in war. Their river is crouded with shipping, and their ware|houses and shops with merchandise. Al|most every man I meet is or seems to be a merchant. I am frequently jostled in the street; but how can I be offend|ed, since I as frequently jostle others. Even the pride of a Castilian (if a Cas|tilian could condescend to mix with tra|ders) would not be offended at their well meaning bustle. But as I have no|thing to sell, and want to buy but a few trifling articles, I shall not expose myself a second time to the risque of suffocation in a place, which they call the City Cof|fee-house.
It is surprising to see the immense quantities of rich manufactures imported Page 74 into a country, which, as I am informed, has no silver mines or any other rare pro|duction of nature. These importations, I am led to think, can only injure the country by introducing a premature lux|ury with its concomitant evils.
In most nations there are three sorts of tyranny; the first civil; the second ec|clesiastical; the third I shall call the ty|ranny of fashion. The first is well known at Algiers; the second has been heard of; but the third is altogether unknown. The Pennsylvanians have known but lit|tle of the first, and nothing of the second; but the greater part of them is grievously oppressed by the last.
The origin of fashion is perhaps co|eval with the creation of man; but the more enlightened are of opinion, that, immediately after the fall, she sprang from the head of Eve, as Minerva is said to have issued from the brain of Jupiter. At first simple and artless, she indulged herself in innocent levities. She form|ed a head-dress of flowers for Eve, and Page 75 another of green leaves for Adam. But the father of mankind, with becoming dignity, rejected the present, till, per|suaded by Eve, he consented to wear it to screen him, as he said, from the too powerful rays of the sun. After this suc|cess the influence of fashion extended to their sons and daughters. Her inventi|on grew more lively and her exertions more varied. In these days, it is record|ed, she was attended by simplicity, a nymph whose cheeks vied in freshness with the blushes of the morn, and whose limbs, frequently exercised in the chase, excelled in symmetry and strength. Guid|ed by simplicity the reign of fashion was gentle and delightful. The maidens, obeying her dictates, were lovely and tender; and the young men, who were then under the dominion of reason, were sincere and affectionate. The fragrant fields, the delicious fruits and the trans|parent streams, constituted the luxuries of man, whilst the harmony of the soul was improved by the music of the groves.
Page 76But as happiness, since the great trans|gression, has been inconstant and fleet|ing, a gradual degeneracy took place. The young men became thoughtless, ir|regular and dissipated. Rejecting reason and disdaining the guidance of simplicity, many of them were seduced by the syren voluptuousness; others pursued the fan|tom false glory, and not a few were in|fatuated by the daemon avarice. The maidens finding the young men growing inattentive to their charms, and deter|mined at all events on exciting admirati|on, were, with much reluctance, com|pelled to dismiss simplicity and call in art to the assistance of fashion. By this alliance fashion was at first strengthened; but afterwards weakened. The maidens, it is true, triumphed in the contest, but soon abused their victory. Many of them, by the advice of art, formed a league with levity and caprice, and some of them have gone so far as to set huma|nity at defiance, and are closely allied to deceit and cruelty. It is difficult to say, how this unnatural warfare will end; Page 77 but it is very probable, that, unless mat|ters are speedily compromised by fair concessions, the young men will have re|course to insensibility and neglect, and the young women will yield to peevish|ness and despair.
LETTER XIII. TO THE SAME.
I HAVE seen the building, which they call the University; but know no|thing of its regulations. A worthy ci|tizen lately told me, in the joy of his heart, that boys are well instructed in it on the English plan, and at a pretty cheap rate.
I am truly astonished, that the wisdom of the state has not established a system of education adapted to its constitution and government. Are they not aware, that the education of youth ought to be particularly attended to in republics? I am convinced, they are. Their good sense is unquestionable; but they appear to me too much attached to the customs of the old continent▪
In the universities of Europe, as I have been well informed, great pains are Page 79 taken to render the students as useless as possible to themselves, their families and their countries. What benefits can be derived from societies, where, after much mis-spent application and an irreparable loss of time, a young man is imperfectly instructed in two or three unnecessary languages; where reason is fettered by logical rules, and religion involved in metaphysical subtilties, and where the mind, too often disgusted by unsuitable studies, loses all relish for either elegant literature or useful science. Boys, even in their infancy, are too often designed for a particular profession by their pa|rents or friends. This is evidently ab|surd, in as much as neither their talents or inclinations can be consulted at so early a period. But the absurdity is enhanced, when the youth, destined to the mercantile profession, must pursue those studies, which as he advances in life, he will find altogether useless and and scarcely ornamental, and which are only calculated to render the lawyer a wrangling sophist, and the divine an art|ful polemic. Would any man in his Page 80 senses apprentice his son to a taylor, when he intends him to be a shoemaker?
When I know more of their plan of education, I shall inform thee more fully on that head, and shall only ob|serve at present, that the most power|ful operations of nature are performed in the simplest manner. The soil, the shower and the sun, are sufficient to produce the towering oak, as well as the humble shrub.
LETTER XIV. TO THE SAME.
THE legislative authority of this state is lodged in a single house, elected by the people, and is called the Assembly. The executive power, elected also by the people, is lodged in a Council. The president of the council is appointed by the joint ballot of the assembly and council. The judicial authority is se|parate from both. Every seventh year a Council of Censors is elected by the people, who are authorised to point out all violations of the constitution, and in short all state misconduct. This coun|cil has also the right of calling a con|vention, who are empowered to explain and amend the constitution. This short sketch may give thee some idea of this republic.
The constitution, which seems to have been dictated by wisdom, has been great|ly Page 82 censured by some political writers. Their grand objection appears to be, that as the legislative authority is lodged in a single house, there can be no ba|lance. Even if this be granted, to what will it amount? As the house can never be unanimous in any serious attempt on the rights of their constitu|ents, the minority will always operate as a check, till the people are alarmed. I am greatly mistaken, if this check will not be adequate to the danger; if not, what can be said, but that the people have been weighed in a balance, and found altogether light and unworthy of political freedom. In short, no form of republican government can long oppress a brave and enlightened people. If their constitution is experimentally found to be good, they will maintain it; but the best will prove defective, if they are ignorant of their rights, or in|attentive to the preservation of them.
Men of lively imaginations are fond of similes. The constitution of Pennsylva|nia, says one, is like a loaded waggon— Page 83 and he fairly proves the resemblance. A good constitution, says another, is like a pair of scales—and he also establishes his simile.
When I was a lad I was thought to possess a tolerable knack of making simi|les. In middle aged men fancy begins to flag; however I will try my hand.
The superiority of a single legislature is thus proved.—
The constitution of Pennsylvania may be compared to a foot-ball, which is kick|ed from goal to goal by two parties or sets of players, with alternate triumph. The spectators are deeply interested in the success of the one or the other party. Well kicked, says one; there it goes, cries a second; here it comes, exclaims a third; what a fall neighbour Bustle has had, roars a fourth; he is up again, like a clever fellow, bellows a fifth. Huzza! huzza!—But if a second foot-ball should be introduced, the greatest confusion Page 84 would ensue. Two foot-balls at once! What a solecism in that manly exercise!
The constitution of Pennsylvania may be compared to a piece of beef transfix|ed by a spit, and placed horizontally be|fore a rousing fire. The spit (and with it the beef) is turned round regularly by an ingenious piece of mechanism called a jack, which is proved, by daily experi|ence, to be equal to the talk. But should a speculative cook introduce a second jack, which should attempt to govern the other end of the spit, who can affirm, that this innovation would be productive of any solid advantage? On the contrary, would not this second jack be at once an expensive and useless article, not to mention Betty's extraordinary trouble in winding up two jacks, and her mistress's loss of temper in finding the dinner every day either too much or too little done.
The constitution of Pennsylvania may be compared to a hen's egg, (a sound Page 85 one, I mean; an addled egg will not suit my purpose) placed between two hands, the fingers of which are intermix|ed with each other. The ends of the egg being equally pressed by the hands, the egg will continue unbroken, al|though the greatest strength should be exerted. But should another egg be placed in contact with the first, the least pressure would infallibly crush both; and thus the hands would be in a filthy condition.
In a republic parties must exist; per|haps you will say I have already caught the infection; but I sincerely hope, it will not be imputed to partiality, that I adduce but one simile in confirmation of the opposite opinion.
The constitution of Pennsylvania is like a wheel-barrow. That state has but one legislature, and a wheel-barrow but one wheel.—Good—Now if this wheel-barrow be managed carelessly or rashly (and those who direct wheel-bar|rows are as liable to neglect and inadver|tency, Page 86 as those who superintend states) it will most probably be overturned, and its contents discharged into the kennel; whereas if a double wheeled wheel-bar|row had been provided, it would not have been by half exposed to so much danger; but your marketing most proba|bly would have been brought in safety to your door.
Whilst these infidels are disputing a|bout government, mayest thou continue an ornament to thy country, and a terror to a corrupted populace, whose vices, if they were ruled by even the mildest laws, would merit the severest punishments!
LETTER XV. TO FATIMA.
TWO of thy letters are now before me. Why wilt thou tear my heart with thy tender complaints? Art thou not al|ways present to me? Thrice every day I address myself to Allah to comfort thee in my absence.
Even this absence, which thou callest cruel and intolerable, ought to endear me to thee. To render myself worthy of thy charms, thy tenderness, and thy vir|tue, I defied the terrors of the raging ocean, and have ventured to breathe the same air with profane christians. But my rewards, though slow, will more than compensate my toils and dangers. Al|giers will acknowledge my services, and Fatima will again bless me with her love.
Our child, thou sayest, is sickly. Thy maternal care may be excessive. Fatima, Page 88 remember, that thy child, however dear, has no right to rob me of thy health.
In Pennsylvania enthusiasm is frequent|ly found; but the influence of superstiti|on is trifling. I have lately heard the rhapsody of a female preacher. I figure to myself thy extreme surprise on this occasion. Yes, Fatima, a female preach|er, in a garb, long, white and flowing, her head uncovered, her hair in natural ringlets, her countenance by turns ex|pressive of pity and anger, of joy and terror, proclaimed to an attentive audi|ence the coming of Christ. Yet she is not supposed to be mad. Although wo|men are forbidden by one of the first Na|zarene teachers to speak in their church|es, or to appear in them with their heads uncovered, yet this woman, in violation of both these precepts, dared to appear in the manner I have described. She was not only listened to attentively, but even excited tears. Fatima, this woman, thus apparelled, or, to speak more pro|perly, almost unapparelled, preached to Page 89 a crouded congregation in a civilized country.
What shall I tell thee of a city, where women appear barefaced in the streets, and, what is still more extraordinary, the men behold them with insensibility. I saw this very morning a man in decent apparel accost a well-dressed woman; grasping her ready hand, he led her a|cross the street, and she thanked him with a smile, to which no man but her husband could be entitled. Even in the churches they gaze on the men with un|daunted eyes, nor have I, since my ar|rival, seen a blush on a female cheek, a child about ten years old excepted, who walking carelessly, had been in danger of falling. When the cheek ceases to blush, the heart, I conclude, is grown callous to shame. Yet are they lovely in the ex|treme. Nature has profusely adorned them with charms, but a bad education diminishes the lustre of their beauties. They often speak before they are spoken to; they smile in the presence of men, and a giddy girl, the other day, not more Page 90 than sixteen, at the tea-table, the room full of company and in the sight and hear|ing of her venerable parents, laughed immoderately at the distress of a young gentleman who had scalded his lips in sip|ping his tea somewhat hastily. She threw herself backward in her chair, then for|ward, and continued agitated by convul|sive laughter more than two minutes, her cheeks glowing, her eyes darting fire, and her bosom rising and falling during this paroxism of outrageous mirth. At length rising hastily and tripping light as a wood|nymph, she darted out of the room, and retired up stairs. After a short absence she returned to the company with a coun|tenance, as composed, as if she had been guilty of no indiscretion.
If this young woman were blest with thy conversation, how would thy precepts and example at once enlighten her un|derstanding and improve her conduct! She would learn from thee, that not even the beauty of a Houri can atone for the levity of laughter.
TO — AT ALGIERS.
THE attention paid to the body of a deceased friend in this city is decent and amiable; but the manner to a stranger must appear particular and ludicrous.
A man is employed to announce the death of a citizen. For this purpose he raps at all the doors, and in a loud and solemn tone of voice invites the family to the funeral. I went yesterday to pur|chase a pair of gloves at a shop, the mis|tress of which is pregnant. Whilst I was busied in trying them on, a trumpet|er of death, thrusting his funereal face into the shop, pronounced the doleful invitation in shrill and tremulous ac|cents. The woman turned pale and had scarcely strength to call for a glass of water. Mentioning this affair in compa|ny, I was told, with an air of indiffe|rence, Page 92 that the woman must have had weak nerves and was probably a stran|ger.
In one of my late walks, I perceived a number of these men, whom in a for|mer letter I conjectured to be the offi|cers of the late army, entering the door of a large building. Finding that they were followed by several not dressed in uniforms, I took the liberty of entering with them. I perceived a great number of them seated on benches, placed at equal distances with great exactness. I sate down amongst them, prepared, if questioned, to have told them, with the greatest politeness, that I was a French gentleman on my travels, and would be extremely happy in being honoured with their acquaintance; but not one of them took the least notice of me or of each other. Their ladies, who seemed also to wear uniforms, were seated separate from the men. An awful silence pre|vailed, which I had hitherto imagined was not numbered amongst christian virtues, especially when ladies are present. At Page 93 length, the men began occasionally to groan, and the women to sigh. An air of serious sorrow was diffused over all their faces, which (with shame I confess it) affected me with horror. Not a word was uttered; but the sighs and groans were repeated with scarce any in|termission. Surely, thought I, this is a scene of inchantment. For what pur|pose are these people assembled? mirth cannot be their object; for they are all serious, and some even sorrowful; nor can mercantile business be transacted in such profound silence. Have they com|mitted excesses during the war, which they publicly meet to expiate? This cannot be the case; for their humanity was as conspicuous as their valour; be|sides, with what cruelties can their wives and daughters be charged, who seem equally sorrowful and penitent? A thought now prevailed in my mind, which I am ashamed to confess even to thee. I suspected, that I was seated amongst some of those benevolent Ge|nii, whose marvellous exploits are the Page 94 subjects of our romances. Impressed with this idea, and determined on being convinced, I trod, as if by accident on the toes of my next neighbour. The young man withdrew his foot somewhat hastily and looked as if he felt pain; but continued as silent as before. He is composed of flesh and blood, thought I with much satisfaction, and doubtless their females, many of whom were pret|ty, are equally so.
At length I concluded, that they were assembled to see and hear one of those exhibitions (I think they are cal|led tragedies) with which the Nazarenes are extremely delighted, because they make them weep; but that the per|formers had disappointed them.
The whole assembly, as if a signal had been given, rose at once from their seats, and quitted the house; and I re|paired to my lodgings, ruminating on the strangest scene I had ever beheld.
LETTER XVII. TO THE SAME.
THE object of my voyage to this continent, was to inform our illustrious regency of the actual strength of these states, and their future probable exer|tions; of the manners and pursuits of the inhabitants; their commerce, manu|factures and agriculture; their govern|ment and laws.
Confident that the substance of my let|ters will be more attended to than their style, and that little method can be ex|pected from a man, who commits to paper partial and incoherent information collected each day; I continue with cheerfulness to execute my commission, not doubting, that due allowance will be made by my illustrious masters for the weakness and incapacity of their slave.
Page 96The strength of these states does not consist in numerous and disciplined ar|mies, or well appointed fleets. When his country demands his service, every citizen is a soldier. The army, which repelled the British forces, it is true, exists no more, except a few companies sufficient to check the inroads of the Indians; but their militia in the midst of peace is preserved in decent disci|pline. The people being free and their enemies remote, there is no occasion for a standing army.
The last war, has convinced these states of two serious truths; they are too strong to be conquered, and too weak to think of conquering others.
Although an Algerine, devoted to the service of my country, you, must permit me at times to be the philosopher—at least in words. There can be no excuse for one nation making war on another, but the want of sustenance. This peo|ple if but moderately industrious, will not for ages make use of this plea. Page 97 Their soil is productive and their cli|mate not unfavourable; nor is their po|pulation by any means proportioned to their extent of territory.
Their governments are censured by several amongst themselves. These cen|sures are the strongest proofs of the ex|cellence of their governments, since no man is punished for his censures. Were an Algerine supposed to have imagined only in a dream what a Pennsylvanian speaks, prints, publishes, maintains and glories in, he would suffer the severest tortures.
The manners and behaviour of the people correspond with their govern|ment. No man creates or feels terror. The national countenance is therefore mild, and the national deportment man|ly. There are undoubtedly some un|worthy citizens; but the noblest soil often nourishes the most venemous ser|pents.
Page 98Of their private virtues I can only say, that benevolence must prevail a|mong a people, who build hospitals and never enquire about a man's religion.
The Pennsylvanians, said an exiled foreigner to me, are inhospitable.
They have given thee a country, said I.
They want the graces, said a fop.
But they are modest, said I, and capa|ble of improvement.
They do not, said a dancing master, sufficiently encourage merit.
A worthy blacksmith, whispered I, with whom I have some acquaintance, will give thee employment.
Their women are distant and insensi|ble, said a coxcomb.
They are fully apprised of thy merit, said I.
Page 99Yet it must be confessed, that the tra|ding part of the community is discon|tented. By excessive importations the manufactures have been greatly injured, and the merchant begins to think, that commerce on a small scale would have been more advantageous, than the wild plan, which has been pursued. As soon as the war was over, the American re|publics seemed to have inconsiderately adopted the commercial plan of Holland. That commonwealth, superabounding in men, wisely encouraged commerce. Si|tuated in the centre of Europe, her ships supplied one nation with the produce and manufactures of another. She even esta|blished colonies in Asia and America. Her councils at home were wise and steady, and her triumphs abroad were at once brilliant and solid. Her heros pro|tected her merchants, and her merchants honoured and rewarded her heros.
The American states are in a very different situation. The number of in|habitants bears no proportion to the ex|tent Page 100 of their country. The arts are still in their nonage, and many of them in their cradles. Why therefore did her statesmen borrow maxims from rich and triumphant Holland, when Switzerland, laborious and frugal, could have furnish|ed them with better.
May I venture to say, that there is a taste in government as well as the polite arts. Inattentive to the want of propor|tion and symmetry, we are too often captivated by the brilliancy of the co|lours.
LETTER XVIII. TO THE SAME.
I HAVE given thee a hasty sketch of the constitution of Pennsylvania, and intend shortly to acquaint thee with the system, which constitutes her a member of a confederation, consisting of thir|teen states represented by a Congress.
The constitution of this congress, which assisted by patriotism, was found adequate to the exigences of war, is dis|covered to be defective in peace; like a ship, which having resisted the fury of the storm, is endangered by the hollow swell during a calm.
A Convention consisting of members from all the states, is expected to meet in this city for the purpose of revising the confederation. It is expected, that their resolves will silence all disputes by Page 102 remedying every grievance. For my part I doubt the success of their delibe|rations, although sanctioned by the pre|sence and enlightened by the wisdom of their late commander in chief.
General Washington, who has done as much as any hero, and a great deal more than most, who have been flatter|ed with that title, resides, as a private gentleman, on his estate in Virginia. Those who are honoured with his con|versation, are delighted with his affability, vivacity and solid sense. In the field he has manifested the qualities of the general and the hero; at his abode he displays the accomplishments of the gentleman, and the virtues of the husband and friend. But the most arduous task remains; the talents of the legislator are now expect|ed from him.
During the heat of the war the con|federation was formed by the noblest efforts of patriotism and wisdom. But patriotism was sometimes more active Page 103 than judicious; and wisdom often saw defects, which she could not remedy.
The state of Rhode Island, the least considerable in the union, has hitherto defeated the best commercial plans. She has refused to send members to this con|vention, and by this conduct will defeat unanimity, and countenance defection and revolt.
The state of Massachusett's Bay is now convulsed by the desperation of factious individuals; but the wiser part of the community happens to constitute a majority. Some blood however has been shed, and more is apprehended. In Massachusett's Bay, an ignorant mul|titude, headed by Shays, have attempt|ed—they know not what; but in Rhode-Island the opposition to foede|ral measures is conducted by the go|vernment, the members of which are guided by their private interest which they perfectly understand.
Page 104As interest is generally a more pre|vailing rule of action than justice or patriotism, it is highly probable that Rhode-Island will persevere in her op|position; and compulsive measures, should they be adopted by the other states, will but excite resentment and provoke resistance.
Ever attentive to the welfare and glory of my country, I have revolved in my mind the means of rendering this very probable revolt beneficial to Algiers, and glorious to the Sublime Porte, by establishing an Ottoman Malta on the coasts of America. An European Bon|neval was received, honoured and pro|moted by the ministers of the Porte. Is not an American Shays entitled to equal rewards, if capable of rendering equal services? Should this idea merit your approbation, I will immediately (but with due caution) commence a negociation with Shays, the Massachusetts insurgents, and the refractory leaders of the revolt in Rhode-Island. They will without doubt ex|pect a large sum of money, in which, I think, Page 105 they ought to be gratified. But the gold, for greater security, must be conveyed to their ports by a very respectable fleet, and presented to their leaders by a Ba|shaw of Three Tails at the head of about one hundred thousand spahis and janiza|ries. This army, acting only on the de|fensive, will effectually protect them from the resentment of their late associates; and, as all nations ought to pay for pro|tection, these new subjects may be per|mitted to pay their tribute to the sultan in a certain number of virgins.
The dominion of the island being thus secured, free ports must be established for the Algerine vessels, whose cruises, it is true, will not be rewarded by the capture of many American vessels, (the navigation of the states being almost to|tally ruined by disunion and faction) but their defenceless coasts, bays and rivers may be plundered without the least risque, and their young men and maidens trium|phantly carried into captivity.
Page 106The resentment of an offended noble subjected Spain to the yoke of our fore|fathers for ages. May not this mad in|surgent, in order to gratify his pride and satiate his resentment, involve his coun|try in similar evils?
LETTER XIX. TO THE SAME.
THE republican form of government is extremely flattering to the pride of man. Orators, poets and philosophers, have sounded its praises, whilst the civi|lized part of the world has listened with rapture. Who is not soothed by the splendid dreams of Plato and Rousseau? Who is not roused by the thunder of De|mosthenes and Cicero?
But in all matters, which involve the welfare of nations, fancy should be re|strained and judgment alone consulted.
In every form of government the peo|ple are undeniably the source of authori|ty. The throne of the greatest despot, as well as the tribunal of the humblest magistrate, is founded on the consent of the governed. I may be told, that des|potism Page 108 is generally established and always maintained by force. But can the per|sonal force of one man controul and sub|due a nation? Alas! the depravity of thousands must co-operate with the ambi|tion of their leader, and the power of the supreme tyrant is supported by inferior tyrants for the gratification of their own passions.
I have often lamented the situation of our Deys. No sooner is one murdered, than another is elected by the murderers of his predecessor. Should he dare to decline this honour, his refusal is follow|ed by instant death. To preserve his own life, he is obliged to act the tyrant, and reluctantly consents to murders, which the brutal soldiers demand and execute with rapture. The authority of the Dey is founded on the soldiery—and surely the soldiers are men.
Has not Constantinople herself often beheld an emperor triumphant in the morning and a headless trunk at night, whilst his trembling successor is compel|led Page 109 by the janizaries to accept the sem|blance of authority, as a sanction for their rapine and cruelty? Let no man call him a monarch, who is every hour exposed to the sabre of a popular janizary. The shrine of the saint may be gazed on; but the offerings are the property of the priests. But I may be told, that these are the excesses of a ferocious soldiery.— Are not these soldiers men?
Let us now visit Russia, the most ex|tensive monarchy in Europe. A woman, without any natural right, has been rais|ed to the throne of that country by the soldiery, who by this single act govern the monarchy and the monarch. She takes care to supply them with pay and plunder, and they continue to respect the work of their own hands. Here one part of the people (all could not be pre|sent at the election) chose a sovereign for the whole, and for fashion sake are content to be called subjects. Therefore the authority of this autocratix is derived from the people.
Page 110The French monarchy shews great attention to the nobility and soldiery; and for very good reasons. The soldiery and nobility support the crown; and are not nobles and soldiers men? If not, what are they?
The last monarchy I shall mention is Sweden. The illustrious monarch of this country, the worthy nephew of the immortal Frederick (and he too derived his authority from the people, who were constantly represented by two or three hundred thousand delegates, elected with great caution and fully instructed in the principles of government) this king of the Goths▪ I say, resenting that one part of his people should be oppressed by an|other, formed a wise resolution, that there should be no longer any complaints on that head. Assembling therefore both parties, he by the advice of proper coun|sellors, chosen from the body of the peo|ple, brought the contending parties to reason. The rights of both nobles and people were placed in his hands, and he seems determined to keep them as pled|ges Page 111 of their affection. Surely all must confess that his authority also is derived from the people.
It can be proved, I think, (without citing any more examples) that all human authority and power are derived from the the people; because, I apprehend, that, if there was no people, there could be no human authority or power.
What minion of despotism, after seri|ously perusing these arguments and ex|amples, will deny, that authority pro|ceeds from the people? Or what enthu|siastic demagogue, who is capable of con|viction, will insist, that dominion not on|ly proceeds from, but is inherent in, the people? The first ought to reflect, that there can be no stream without a source; and the second must be convinced by ob|servation, that rivers invariably seek the ocean. There is occasionally a partial reflux of power, but it never reaches the fountain head.
LETTER XX. TO THE SAME.
I AM pleased that thou hast received in good condition the map of these states. It will shew thee at one view the amazing extent of the country. The rivers are numerous and deep; the harbours capa|cious and secure; the cultivated land is generally extremely productive, and the soil, which is still covered by forests, planted by the hand of nature, promises equal fertility.
Their constitutions, formed by a great majority of the people, inculcate as much liberty as men in society can enjoy. New laws, when necessary, are made by dele|gates freely chosen, and administered by officers, who glory in being deemed the servants of the public. The people, tem|perate and laborious, seem only to want encouragement, which may excite emu|lation, and systems, which may direct Page 113 their exertions. The phantom of foreign commerce, no longer pursued with inor|dinate avidity, must soon yield to the so|lid efforts of domestic industry, guided by the wisdom of the philosopher and pa|triot. If this encouragement is given and these systems established, the Ameri|can republics will no longer be tributary to European industry, and the speculati|ons of our Algerine statesmen will be found altogether ideal and illusive.
I expect with impatience permission from the regency to return, which I beg you will solicit with all the ardour of friendship. My domestic concerns may require my immediate presence, and claim all my attention, especially as in this sta|tion I can render no essential service to my country. What refinements of policy can be apprehended from popular assem|blies, who are more studious to increase the happiness of the people than to create enemies? Their ambition ought not to be dreaded by foreign powers; nor should their factions invite foes, since, on the first appearance of hostilities, they Page 114 would undoubtedly unite in repelling in|vasion. Even the unworthy conduct of Rhode-Island will not stimulate the other states to oppress or desert an unenlight|ened or unprincipled sister; nor could the Porte derive any advantage from the possession of that island. Its wealth would not pay, nor its territory feed, a sufficient garrison; nor would the annoyance of the trade of all the other states (according to the present situation of commerce) de|fray the expences of twenty Algerine rovers. In short, the American states, rich in the productions of nature, are poor with respect to the improvements of art. They are too strong to be conquer|ed, and too weak to attempt conquest.
I have lately heard of a society in this country, called Free-masons, who are re|markable for inviolable secrecy. Rather than disclose a secret, they would endure extreme torture and submit to be torn in pieces. What admirable spies would these men make, if employed by their country at foreign courts! But perhaps their established reputation would render Page 115 their exertions ineffectual, just as a very skilful gamester, when his talents are known, finds no body willing to play with him except for trifles. I too am possessed of a secret, but am by no means desirous of appearing to possess it. Am|bition is best concealed by a show of po|pular humility, and secrecy rendered se|cure by apparent frankness.
SOLOMON MENDEZ TO MEHEMET.
WITH the greatest anxiety for thy welfare and life I snatch this opportuni|ty to inform thee, that thou must never think of returning to Algiers. If this letter should find thee in Philadelphia, how happy shall I be! The Rabbi, with whom thou hadst some acquaintance at Lisbon, has effected thy ruin by the black|est calumnies. How thou hast offended him I know not; but I am well inform|ed by an intelligent friend at Algiers, that he has represented thee to the regen|cy as a christian and a fugitive from thy country. By order of the Dey, thy lands, house, furniture and slaves (two excepted) are confiscated to the state. Thou art proclaimed a traitor; conse|quently if ever thou shouldst be found within the territories of Algiers, thy life will be forfeited, Unhappy man!—But Page 117 perhaps thy fortitude will raise thee above thy distresses.—I sincerely hope so—
The sum, which thou didst entrust to me, is at thy disposal. None of thy bills, if thou hast yet drawn any, have been pre|sented to me. Thy frugality allows me to hope, that thou hast not expended the money, which was thought adequate to thy probable necessities during thy abode in America. Thy oeconomy, even when there was no immediate occasion for it, was remarkable and exemplary. It is now absolutely necessary. If enough shall re|main to render age not altogether uncom|fortable, what more canst thou require? besides thou mayest rely on my assistance. In all exigencies look on me as a warm disinterested friend. My house, my purse, my credit, are at thy service. Can I do less for a man, who thought me worthy of his confidence, not only in pecuniary matters, but even in an affair on which his life depended?
Page 118Having now administered comfort to thee with respect to thy future prospects, I request that thou wilt read the inclosed let|ters with becoming fortitude. Thy child they will inform thee is in heaven; and that thou art preserved from the machi|nations of two domestic traitors, ought to afford thee extreme happiness.
HOW shall I inform thee of thy mis|fortunes? What language shall I adopt, which, whilst it reveals thy ruin, may ad|minister consolation and inspire forti|tude? Mehemet, thou art declared a trai|tor! The malice of thy foes is triumphant. Thy friends are struck with terror. My|self alone dared to speak in thy favour to Osman; but was commanded to be silent. "His traitorous conduct, said this haughty favourite, is too evident. A letter from a Rabbi at Lisbon cre|ated suspicion, and the flight of the part|ner of his bed and his chief gardener has confirmed his guilt." I still had the boldness to request, that he would peruse the inclosed letters. He condescended to read them, but in the greatest hurry; then returning them, expressed himself in these very words, as well as I can re|member, "Wretch! begone, Dost thou Page 120 hope to impose on my understanding by such shallow devices? After having taken with him his money and jewels, does he think, that the flight of his favourite slaves will not be attributed to the design of meeting him in some christian country, where, after having embraced the super|stition of these infidels, they will unite in reviling our laws and religion?"— Thus thy greatest misfortune being re|garded as a proof of thy guilt, I was incapable of making any reply, and de|parted in silence.
What I have written will inform thee, that Fatima and thy chief gardener are fled. The inclosed letter, which arri|ved about a week ago from Spain, will doubtless give thee the particulars. Fa|tima's jewels and apparel remain; as for cash, no more has been supplied by me, than what was necessary for domestic uses. There remain in my hands of thy property, thirteen hundred and fifteen Johannesses, besides the above mentioned Page 121 jewels, which shall be immediately paid to thy order.
I am extremely sorry to inform thee, that thou must resign all hopes of return|ing. Thy slaves, house, gardens and furniture, have been publicly purchased by Achmet, the tool of Osman, who, it is supposed by thy friends, will soon take possession of his villainously acqui|red property. How will thy friends be mortified, when they see this renegado possessed of thy abode, where taste and magnificence were united!
Mehemet! thy youth has been honour|ably spent. Let not fortitude desert thee in the meridian of thy faculties. Algiers has now no claim on thee. Thy child died a few weeks before the departure of his unworthy mother, and thy friends will rejoice to hear, that thou art happily situated in a country where the adoration of but one God is enjoined.
Solomon Mendez has frequently writ|ten to me concerning thee in the most Page 122 friendly manner. His character is so well established, that I might safely re|mit thy property to him; but I shall wait till I hear from thee.
How will thy enemies exult, should they hear, that thou hast yielded to des|peration or melancholy!—How will thy friends rejoice, when they are informed, that philosophy has triumphed over rapa|city, and that Mehemet is happier in his retirement, than Osman in the zenith of false glory!
ALVAREZ TO SOLYMAN.
BEING informed by Maria, former|ly Fatima, who, having received baptism according to the rites of the church, has consented to be my wife, that you are authorised by Mehemet to superintend his business during his absence, I think it reasonable, in order to relieve you from suspence, to inform you, that we arrived in this port, after a very short passage, in perfect health. As I am un|der no obligation to Mehemet, no apo|logy for my conduct is due to him. His behaviour to me, I confess (due allow|ance being made for education and ex|ample) was humane and liberal. The money therefore, which he gave as the price of my freedom, shall be restored to him speedily and with interest. As he has frequently acknowledged my industry and fidelity, he will then be in my debt.
Page 124He will probably say, that I have rob|bed him of Maria; but as he shall have no just reason to complain of me with re|spect to any part of his property, her va|lue also, according to the current price of beauty at Algiers, shall be paid to him. As for her affections, he may rest assured, that he never possessed them. She endured his company, because she was his slave, and her mildness of tem|per prevented her from expressing dis|content.
Let it not be said, that I made use of unjustifiable methods in gaining her heart. As long as their child was living, I con|sidered her as united to Mehemet by that tie. I pitied her situation and esteemed her for her gentleness and discretion. But on the death of the child, pity pro|duced affection and esteem ripened into love. My eyes and behaviour at first testified my sentiments. She saw, and did not disapprove. At length I ventur|ed to disclose my passion. She listened, and consented. A virtuous affection re|moved her natural timidity. Our love Page 125 was mutual and ardent; the coast of Spain not distant. We ventured and succeeded; but by what methods must remain a secret. Convinced by my ar|guments, she is now a christian and my wife. The liberality of some merchants supplied us with decent clothing, and their patronage will afford me the means of supporting a family by industry.
When you write to Mehemet, you may acquaint him that I retain a due sense of his mildness and forbearance. Not to be severe is meritorious, in a country where slavery is established. I am no longer his slave, and am therefore capable of be|ing his friend. As for Maria, she does not speak of him with disrespect. She is a christian and forgives him.
I am, Sir, Your most obedient Humble servant, ALVAREZ.
MEHEMET TO SOLOMON MENDEZ.
RUINED, didst thou say?—No; I am preserved. I am free and delight in the freedom of others, and am no longer either a slave or a tyrant. At once a christian and a Pennsylvanian, I am dou|bly an advocate for the rights of man|kind.
On the receipt of this packet, instantly dispatch the inclosed letters to the young couple. The letter to Alvarez contains a deed, which gives to him and his wife an immediate right to the half of my pro|perty, and to the remainder at my death. Supply them with a thousand dollars, in order to free them from debts, if they have contracted any, and to enable them to repair to Philadelphia. If that sum be not sufficient, supply them with more. Convinced from a perfect knowledge of Page 127 the fluctuation of our councils, that the charge I undertook, exposed me to more danger in Algiers than America, I brought with me a greater sum than even thou wert aware of; a part of which, since the account of my ruin, as thou callest my deliverance, I have laid out in the pur|chase of two extensive farms; on one of which I shall reside myself; the other is the property of Alvarez and his wife. Him I shall regard as my friend and Ma|ria shall be unto me as a daughter.
Insult not my understanding by be|stowing the name of generosity on this conduct. If I can be just to this ill treated pair, my mind will be at ease, nor can I in this instance, lay claim, to the merit of philosophy. At sixty the tumult of the passions ought to subside, without any assistance from philosophic resignation.
Yet I must confess, that, on the receipt of thy last letter, I was greatly shock|ed. A fever ensued, attended with a delirium. My extreme temperance alone Page 128 preserved my life. At length the fever abated; I am restored to health and peace, and am even astonished, that my mind should have been so long the seat of unworthy passions. Was my love the result of reason? by no means; I have therefore discarded it. Was my ambition founded on justice? Alas! treachery and virtue are incompatible. How am I afflicted, when I recollect, that, in all possible cases, the laws of the country, which I meant to betray, would have protected me from insult and injury. An open enemy may chal|lenge esteem; a spy is a mean and de|testable character. I have written to Solyman at Algiers, concerning a sum of money belonging to me, which is in his possession. He will remit that sum to thee on my account, which will re|main in thy hands, till the arrival of Maria and her husband in Philadelphia. When my family (they are all that Me|hemet can now lay claim to) shall ar|rive, I shall close my affairs in Africa and Europe, and establish my future tran|quillity Page 129 on the pillars of freedom, justice, friendship and religion.
Algiers! thou, who hast often beheld me, animated by glory, or incited by ava|rice, preparing to encounter the raging tempest and the furious battle; who hast often welcomed thy returning son, adorn|ed with trophies and loaded with spoils; who hast often seen him encouraging the ardour of youth and soothing the woes of age; honoured for his valour, and scarcely envied for his magnificence. Al|giers, thou witness of my glory and dis|grace, farewel! And thou Pennsylvania, who hast promised to succour and protect the unhappy, that fly to thee for refuge, open thy arms to receive Mehemet the Algerine, who, formerly a mahometan, and thy foe, has renounced his enmity, his country and his religion, and hopes, protected by thy laws, to enjoy, in the evening of his days, the united blessings of FREEDOM and CHRISTIANITY.