The Government of the Algerines.
IT has been noticed that Hay|raddin Barbarossa, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, rendered his kingdom tributary to the Grand Seignior; and that, in the year one thousand six hundred and twenty three, the Algerines threw off their dependence on the sublime Porte. Since that time, the Turkish court have made several attempts to reduce the Al|gerines to their subjection; and, by sid|ing with the numerous pretenders to the regency, so common in this unstable gov|ernment, they have, at times, apparently effected their design: while the Alge|rines, by assassinating or dethroning those Page 122 princes, whose weakness or wants have in|duced them to submit to extraneous power, have reduced their dependence on the sub|lime Porte to a mere name. At present, the Grand Seignior, fearful of losing the very shadow of authority, he has over them, contents himself with receiving a tribute al|most nominal; consisting chiefly of a present, towards defraying the expenses of the annual canopy, which is sent to a|dorn the prophet's tomb at Medina: while, on the other hand, the Algerines, dread|ing the Grand Seignior's interference in their popular commotions, allow the sub|lime Porte to confirm the election of their Dey, and to badge his name, by affixing and terminating it with those of the prin|cipal officers of the Turkish government. Hence the present Dey, whose real name is Hassan, is styled Vizier, which is also the appellation of the Grand Seignior's first minister. As Bashaw, which ter|minates the Dey's name, is the Turkish Page 123 title of their viceroys and principal com|manders, he makes war or peace, negoti|ates treaties, coins money, and performs every other act of absolute independence.
Nor is the Dey less independent of his own subjects. Though he obtains his office frequently by the election of a fu|rious soldiery, and wades to the regency through the blood of his predecessor; yet he is no sooner invested with the insignia of office, than, an implicit reverence is paid to his commands, even by his fero|cious electors; and, though he often summons his divan or council of great of|ficers, yet they are merely advisory. He conducts foreign affairs, at his own good pleasure; and, as to internal, he knows no restraint, except from certain local cus|toms, opinions, and tenets, which he himself venerates, in common with his meanest subjects. Justice is administered in his name. He even determines controver|sies in his own person, besides being sup|posed Page 124 virtually present in the persons of his cadis or judges. If he inclines to in|terfere in the determination of a suit, upon his approach, the authority of the cadis cease, and is merged in that of the Dey. Some customs have been intimated, which restrain the Dey's despotism. These re|late principally to religion, property, and females. He will not condemn a priest to death; and, although up|on the decease of a subject, his landed property immediately escheats to the reigning Dey, yet he never seizes it, in the life of the possessor; and, when a man is executed for the highest crime, the females of his family are treated with respect; nay, even in an insurrection of the sol|diery, when they murdered their Dey, neither they nor his successour violat|ed the female apartments of the slain. A mere love of novelty in the soldiery, the wish to share the largesses of a new sovereign, the policy of his courtiers, Page 125 the ambition or popularity of his officers or children, have not unfrequently caus|ed the dethroning of the Dey; but the more systematic cause of his being so frequently dethroned shall be noticed in our next chapter.