Friday, August 17, 2007

Bonaparte Taxes and Sanctions Egypt

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 216-217. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

CAIRO, 27th July, 1798.

We have at Cairo, Citizen General, a very fine mint. We require all the ingots which we left at Alexandria, in exchange for the coin given to us by the merchants. I beg you will therefore assemble the merchants to whom the said ingots were given, and ask to have them back. I will give them in exchange corn and rice, of which we have enormous quantities. . . . We have driven 2,000 of the best mounted Mamelukes into the Nile. . . . "


How Bonaparte acquired his corn and rice is not stated, nor has history left on record what the merchants of Alexandria thought of the operation of the French General. Unfortunately a French gunner was assassinated in Alexandria, and this laid the city open—-as Rome, Venice, and other cities in Italy had been laid open—-to numerous vexations. No less than fifty hostages were taken on board the fleet, nor was this all.

CAIRO, 30th July, 1798.
Bonaparte, General-in-Chief.

It being just that the commerce of Alexandria should contribute, like that of Cairo, towards the keep of the army, &c. "

Art. i. A contribution of 300,000 francs shall be levied on the principal merchants. . . . This sum must be paid in twenty-four hours after the publication of the present. "

Art. 2. All persons who were employed under the late administration must pay a share of the contribution.


"CAIRO, 30th July, 1798.
Bonaparte, General-in-Chief, having proofs of the treason of Seid Mohamed el-Koraïm, whom he had overwhelmed with benefits, orders—

Art. i. Seid Mohamed el-Koraïm shall pay a contribution of 300,000 francs.

Art. II. In default of acquitting this debt, five days after the publication of the present order he shall have his head cut off.


And poor Koraïm, either unable or unwilling to pay this price, had his head cut off, and carried through the streets on a pike, as a warning to all traitors not in a position, or unwilling, to purchase immunity. Bonaparte had been informed that Koraïm had concealed his money in a cistern, where it may possibly still lie, for his servants, though tortured, either would not, or could not, reveal the hiding place.

Damietta, Rosetta, and other towns were also to contribute towards the expenses of the French army, each in due proportion.

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