Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bonaparte Puts Sunni Clerics in Control of Egypt

The divan or governing council to be established in each Egyptian province was envisaged by Gen. Bonaparte as being staffed primarily by the Sunni clerics, who might thereby bestow a sense of legitimacy on these institutions.

From a Gutenberg e-text of Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Memoirs of Napoleon, Volume 03, ed. and trans. R.W. Phipps., 1891:

From the details I have already given respecting Bonaparte's plans for colonising Egypt, it will be seen that his energy of mind urged him to adopt anticipatory measures for the accomplishment of objects which were never realised. During the short interval in which he sheathed his sword he planned provisional governments for the towns and provinces occupied by the French troops, and he adroitly contrived to serve the interests of his army without appearing to violate those of the country. After he had been four days at Cairo, during which time he employed himself in examining everything, and consulting every individual from whom he could obtain useful information, he published the following order:

HEADQUARTERS, CAIRO, 9th Thermidor, year VI [27 July, 1798].


Art. 1. There shall be in each province of Egypt a divan, composed of seven individuals, whose duty will be to superintend the interests of the province; to communicate to me any complaints that may be made; to prevent warfare among the different villages; to apprehend and punish criminals (for which purpose they may demand assistance from the French commandant); and to take every opportunity of enlightening the people.

Art. 2. There shall be in each province an aga of the Janizaries,* maintaining constant communication with the French commandant. He shall have with him a company of sixty armed natives, whom he may take wherever he pleases, for the maintenance of good order, subordination, and tranquillity.

Art. 3. There shall be in each province an intendant, whose business will be to levy the miri, the feddan, and the other contributions which formerly belonged to the Mamelukes, but which now belong to the French Republic. The intendants shall have us many agents as may be necessary.

Art. 4. The said intendant shall have a French agent to correspond with the Finance Department, and to execute all the orders he may receive. (Signed)


While Bonaparte was thus actively taking measures for the organization of the country . . . General Desaix had marched into Upper Egypt in pursuit of Mourad Bey.



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