Author Topic: French Colonialism in Algiers  (Read 380 times)


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Re: French Colonialism in Algiers
« on: March 15, 2021, 02:04:16 am »

In 1795–96, the French Republic contracted to purchase wheat for the French army from two Jewish merchants in Algiers, and Charles X was apparently uninterested in paying the Republic's debt. The merchants, who had debts to Hussein Dey, the Ottoman ruler of Algiers, claimed inability to pay those debts until France paid its debts to them. The dey unsuccessfully negotiated with Pierre Deval, the French consul, to rectify this situation, and suspected Deval of collaborating with the merchants against him, especially since the French government made no provision to pay the merchants in 1820. Deval's nephew Alexandre, the consul in Bône, further angered the dey by fortifying French storehouses in Bône and La Calle despite prior agreements.[17]

After a contentious meeting on 29 April 1827 in which Deval refused to provide satisfactory answers, the dey struck Deval with his fly-whisk (then called a fan). Charles X used this slight against his diplomatic representative to first demand an apology from the dey, and then to initiate a blockade against the port of Algiers.
Polignac opened negotiations with Muhammad Ali of Egypt to essentially divide up North Africa. Ali, although nominally a vassal of the Ottomans, eventually rejected this idea. As popular opinion continued to rise against Polignac and the King, they decided that a foreign policy victory such as the capture of Algiers would turn opinion in their favour again.[19]
While the French command had nominally agreed to preserve the liberties, properties, and religious freedoms of the inhabitants, French troops immediately began plundering the city, arresting and killing people for arbitrary reasons, seizing property, and desecrating religious sites. By mid-August, the last remnants of Turkish authority were summarily deported without opportunity to liquidate significant assets.[22] One estimate indicates that more than fifty million francs in assets were diverted into private hands during the plunder.[23] This activity had a profound effect on future relations between the French occupiers and the natives. A French commission in 1833 wrote that "we have sent to their deaths on simple suspicion and without trial people whose guilt was always doubtful ... we massacred people carrying safe conducts ... we have outdone in barbarity the barbarians".[22] One important side effect of the expulsion of the Turks was that it created a power vacuum in significant parts of the territory, from which resistance to French occupation immediately began to arise.[24] The methods used to establish French hegemony reached genocidal proportions and war, famine and disease led to the death of between 500,000 and 1 million of an estimated 3 million Algerians.[25][26][27]

Algerian refugees were welcomed by the Moroccan population, while the Sultan recommended that the authorities of Tetuan assist them, by providing jobs in the administration or the military forces. The inhabitants of Tlemcen, close to the Moroccan border, asked that they be placed under the Sultan's authority in order to escape the invaders. Abderrahmane thus named his nephew, Prince Moulay Ali, as Caliph of Tlemcen, charged with the protection of the city. In retaliation France executed two Moroccans: Mohamed Beliano and Benkirane as spies, while their goods were seized by the military governor of Oran, General Boyer.

Soon after the conquest of Algiers, the soldier-politician Bertrand Clauzel and others formed a company to acquire agricultural land and, despite official discouragement, to subsidize its settlement by European farmers, triggering a land rush. Clauzel recognized the farming potential of the Mitidja Plain and envisioned the large-scale production there of cotton. As governor-general (1835–36), he used his office to make private investments in land and encouraged army officers and bureaucrats in his administration to do the same. This development created a vested interest among government officials in greater French involvement in Algeria. Commercial interests with influence in the government also began to recognize the prospects for profitable land speculation in expanding the French zone of occupation.
Among others testimonies, Lieutenant-colonel Lucien de Montagnac wrote on 15 March 1843, in a letter to a friend:

All populations who do not accept our conditions must be despoiled. Everything must be seized, devastated, without age or sex distinction: grass must not grow any more where the French army has set foot. Who wants the end wants the means, whatever may say our philanthropists. I personally warn all good soldiers whom I have the honour to lead that if they happen to bring me a living Arab, they will receive a beating with the flat of the saber.... This is how, my dear friend, we must make war against Arabs: kill all men over the age of fifteen, take all their women and children, load them onto naval vessels, send them to the Marquesas Islands or elsewhere. In one word, annihilate all who will not crawl beneath our feet like dogs.[14]
The most successful local opposition immediately after the fall of Algiers was led by Ahmad ibn Muhammad, bey of Constantine. He initiated a radical overhaul of the Ottoman administration in his beylik by replacing Turkish officials with local leaders, making Arabic the official language, and attempting to reform finances according to the precepts of Islam. After the French failed in several attempts to gain some of the bey's territories through negotiation, an ill-fated invasion force, led by Bertrand Clauzel, had to retreat from Constantine in 1836 in humiliation and defeat. However, the French captured Constantine under Sylvain Charles Valée the following year, on 13 October 1837.
From his capital in Tlemcen, Abd al Qadir set about building a territorial Muslim state based on the communities of the interior but drawing its strength from the tribes and religious brotherhoods. By 1839, he controlled more than two-thirds of Algeria. His government maintained an army and a bureaucracy, collected taxes, supported education, undertook public works, and established agricultural and manufacturing cooperatives to stimulate economic activity.

The French in Algiers viewed with concern the success of a Muslim government and the rapid growth of a viable territorial state that barred the extension of European settlement. Abd al Qadir fought running battles across Algeria with French forces, which included units of the Foreign Legion, organized in 1831 for Algerian service. Although his forces were defeated by the French under General Thomas Bugeaud in 1836, Abd al Qadir negotiated a favorable peace treaty the next year. The treaty of Tafna gained conditional recognition for Abd al Qadir's regime by defining the territory under its control and salvaged his prestige among the tribes just as the shaykhs were about to desert him. To provoke new hostilities, the French deliberately broke the treaty in 1839 by occupying Constantine. Abd al Qadir took up the holy war again, destroyed the French settlements on the Mitidja Plain, and at one point advanced to the outskirts of Algiers itself. He struck where the French were weakest and retreated when they advanced against him in greater strength. The government moved from camp to camp with the amir and his army. Gradually, however, superior French resources and manpower and the defection of tribal chieftains took their toll. Reinforcements poured into Algeria after 1840 until Bugeaud had at his disposal 108,000 men, one-third of the French army.

One by one, the amir's strongholds fell to the French, and many of his ablest commanders were killed or captured so that by 1843 the Muslim state had collapsed.

Abd al Qadir took refuge in 1841 with his ally, the sultan of Morocco, Abd ar Rahman II, and launched raids into Algeria. This alliance led the French Navy to bombard and briefly occupy Essaouira (Mogador) under the Prince de Joinville on August 16, 1844. A French force was destroyed at the Battle of Sidi-Brahim in 1845. However, Abd al Qadir was obliged to surrender to the commander of Oran Province, General Louis de Lamoricière, at the end of 1847.

Abd al Qadir was promised safe conduct to Egypt or Palestine if his followers laid down their arms and kept the peace. He accepted these conditions, but the minister of war — who years earlier as general in Algeria had been badly defeated by Abd al Qadir — had him consigned in France in the Château d'Amboise.

The Siege of Laghouat was an episode of the French Pacification of Algeria. General Aimable Pélissier commanding an army of 6000, besieged the city of Laghouat in November 21, 1852. The decisive storming of the city occurred in December 4 and the French captured the city. The brutal treatment of the inhabitants of the city was part of the scorched earth tactic of the French army one of the first instances of recorded use of chemical weapon on civilians.

The storming of Laghouat[1][2][3][4] turned quickly into several days of massacres[citation needed] to punish the population that was treated as combating enemies. The battle also witness the several deaths on the french side including that of general Bouscaren, that added to the fervor of the French soldiers to want to take revenge on the population setting an example for other towns and cities throughout the south of Algeria. About two thirds (2500 to 3000 out of a total of 4500 inhabitants remaining in the besieged city) including women and children were massacred[citation needed].

The massacre has left a deep trauma in the Laghouati population that endured until today.[4][3] The year of the "Khalya" arabic for emptiness is commonly known to the inhabitants of Laghouat as the year, when the city was emptied of its population. It is also commonly known as the year of Hessian sacks, referring to the way the captured surviving men and boys were put alive in the hessian sacks and thrown into digged up trenches. Many reports of the battle were written by army chiefs and soldiers as well as visitors of the city after the massacre that reported the morbid atmosphere of the city following the siege.

Surviving women were so afraid for their young sons of being collected by the French forces, they came up with a ruse to hide them. They dressed them as girls and put an earring on one ear. The tradition of protecting young boys from evil with an earring survived until today[citation needed].

The level of brutality of the massacre of Laghouat was both a show of force as well as part of the long scorched earth tactic of the three French generals that took the fortified city. By ordering the massacre of the population[citation needed], the French were eyeing all the remaining Saharian territories beyond Laghouat. During the battle of Laghouat several tribes and other city republics and fortresses delivered help to try and stop the advance of the French, namely Ghardaïa (and therefore the whole of the Mozabite confederation), Metlili, and Ouargla. The nobles of the latter cities after witnessing or hearing of the atrocities committed in Laghouat, quickly sought a peaceful agreement to surrender their cities or sign treaties keeping their autonomy within the protection of France.