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قراءة كتاب The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

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‏اللغة: English
The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

The Life and Adventures of Bruce, the African Traveller

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

neither personal nor national privileges, but are treated at discretion. Denmark has agreed to pay constantly, in stores, near £10,000 per annum; Sweden and Holland do the same; and to give me the preference over the others, not less than £2000 yearly is distributed by the other consuls in jewels and watches, as private presents to the regency; Venice has spent about £20,000 to make peace, and pays £4000 yearly; France, to rescue its trade, which amounts to a monopoly of every valuable production of the coast, is always giving and always ill-treated; England, only once in the eight or nine years, upon the change of consuls, gives a scanty present: so that our whole weight must consist in the countenance showed us from home, which they now believe they can prevent by any application from hence; and with this I am constantly threatened if I but speak of grievances ever so gently."

Bruce then repeats his request for permission to quit this troubled scene, and to commence his long-wished-for inquiries. But, determined that it should not be thought his object was to shrink from danger, he concludes by saying, "Though, if there is any remonstrance his majesty directs to be made to this regency that may interfere with this journey, I willingly waive it for the sake of his majesty's service."

This letter was scarcely despatched, when he again addressed Lord Halifax as follows: "Since I had the honour of writing last to your lordship, that I had been called before a Turkish judge about the demand of Oran, things have come to what I hope is the extremity, though it is difficult to say what is the utmost length these people may go, after their recent behaviour to the French consul. Two days ago, an English ship was sent out of this port by order of the dey, without any passport endorsed, or without any bill of health or other paper of expedition from the British consulate; a slave of the king's acting as his majesty's consul in clearing her out of the port. As his majesty's commission is thus superseded, it remains with your lordship to consider what remedy is to be applied. I have avoided any explanation farther with the king, that no opportunity might be given to say, as in the case of the French consul, that I did not behave with proper respect; and though my first intention, upon receiving this affront, was to leave Algiers and to return to Mahon, to avoid either ignominy or danger, yet, not having his majesty's leave, and uncertain what turn these people may take concerning our trading-vessels, I have resolved to await your lordship's answer in Algiers rather than desert his majesty's service. Your lordship is so much better a judge of what is necessary in this case, that it is presumption in me to mention it; only, if it be allowed for me to guess by what I have lately seen, all negotiation is but lost time unless force be before their eyes."

A few days afterward, the English sailor who had been imprisoned by the dey appeared before Bruce, hacked, mangled, and covered with bruises. He was sent to Bruce by the express order of the dey, to show, as he said, "that he cared neither for the King of England nor his consul!" Nor were other subjects of complaint wanting, as will appear from the following letter which Bruce addressed to Lord Halifax:

"On the 18th war was declared against the emperor; and some Tuscan sailors and passengers arriving unfortunately on board a French vessel, they were dragged from under the French colours, against the law and practice of all nations, and made slaves; the French consul being too much intimidated, by being put lately in irons, to venture to remonstrate against this affront to their flag. My lord, in this country of murder, chains, and torture, your lordship will not expect me to be more explicit than I am as to measures. I am not certain but that the doctor[7] will be stopped, and my letters seized to-morrow.... I was just finishing my letter to your lordship, when word is brought to me that, this morning early, the master and supercargo of the above-mentioned vessel were carried before the dey, and were bastinadoed over the feet and loins in such a manner that the blood gushed out, and then loaded with heavy chains, the lightest of which weighs a hundred weight. The captain, it is thought, will not live. They are not allowed meat, drink, or clothing, or room to lie in, and subsist wholly on an allowance from me.... The same day it was proposed to give my vice-consul, Mr. Forbes, a thousand bastinadoes, to extort from him a confession of the contents of my papers. He has fled to my house for protection, where he continues in great fear; for, being much affected with the gout, a very small proportion of the thousand bastinadoes would kill him; nor could he satisfy them in a single syllable, as I have never, in writing or copying letters to your lordship, used any hand but my own; and it being now, I fear, the time in which some restraint may be put on my liberty, I can no longer venture to preserve even copies, so beg your lordship will pardon the variations of such letters as are intended as duplicates, as the difference will never be very material."

It is surely impossible for any one to read the above letter without being filled with feelings of astonishment that this country, which, like all others, has so often waged war for trifles, or to repel imaginary insults, should ever have submitted to such repeated insults from so petty and barbarous a government as that of Algiers.[8]

Soon after Bruce's last letter, full of indignation, he again wrote to Lord Halifax, recommending, in the strongest terms, force, as the only way of maintaining the national dignity at Algiers; and fearing lest his advice on so important a measure should be questioned, he refers Lord Halifax to several individuals in England who knew him, "and who," he says, "will, I hope, fully satisfy your lordship that I am incapable of representing anything in a false or aggravated light." After thus boldly recommending forcible measures, which would have been so highly dangerous to his own personal security, he adds: "I myself have received from a friend some private intimations to consult my own safety and escape. The advice is impracticable, nor would I take it were it not so. Your lordship may depend upon it, that, till I have the king's orders, or find that I can be of no farther service here, nothing will make me leave Algiers but force. One brother has already, this war, had the honour to lose his life in the service of his country. Two others, besides myself, are still in it; and if any accident should happen to me, as is most probable, from these lawless butchers, all I beg of his majesty is, that he will graciously please to extend his favour to the survivers, if deserving, and that he will make this city an example to others how they violate public faith and the law of nations."

In order fairly to appreciate the disinterested firmness of the above letter, it should be remembered that Bruce was remaining at Algiers against his will, and that he had long ago repeatedly applied for his majesty's permission to resign the consulship.

A violent dispute now took place between Bruce and the dey about passports. On the taking of Minorca by the French, a number of English passports fell into the hands of the enemy; and the French governor, naturally wishing to embroil England in disputes with the Barbary States, filled up the blanks of these passports,