Britain and Morocco During the Embassy of John Drummond Hay

“The first contacts between Morocco and England date back to the first decade of the thirteenth century when King John (1167-1216) sent a secret mission to the Almohad Sultan Muhammad al-Nasir (1199-1213) to obtain Moroccan support to counter French threats against England. The mission, however, was a failure. Nothing worthy of note occurred in the relations between the two countries from them until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Commercial exchanges, though limited in scale, became the most effective means of strengthening links between Morocco and England.”



“It became usual for English merchants to obtain Moroccan products such as sugar, ostrich feathers, and saltpeter, despite the protests of Spain and Portugal. In exchange, they would supply Morocco with fabrics and firearms. There was a great deal of correspondence between the Sa’adi Sultan ‘Abd al-Malik (1575-1578) and Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) on the subject of trade. The Sultan issued decrees in favor of English merchants to facilitate their commercial activities and to reduce competition in the sugar trade from Moroccan Jews. With the defeat of Portugal at the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578, the way was clear for Elizabeth and the Sa’adi Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur (1578-1603) to strengthen the economic and political links between their two countries. Political relations were strengthened as a result of reciprocal diplomatic missions and were crowned with an Anglo-Moroccan alliance against Spain in the reign of Phillip II (1527-1598).”


“Economically, commercial relations were strengthened through the creation of the Barbary Company in 1588, al Mansur issued a dah (decree of Sultan) granting special privileges and protection to English merchants in Morocco. Following the deaths of al-Mansur and Elizabeth I in 1603, and in the absence of a strong and stable central authority in Morocco, in 1610 James I (1603-1625) sent a diplomatic mission of Zaydan (1608-1627) headed by J. Harrison. The aim of the mission was to hold talks on the release of English captives incarcerated in Morocco. It seems that the negotiations were difficult as Harrison returned to Morocco three more times between 1613 and 1615 without making any headway in solving the problem of the captives.”


“With the European powers preoccupied by the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), the Moriscos strengthened their contacts with the Dutch, who were at war with Spain, and attacked the English vessels that were in competition with their Dutch counterparts for control over long-distance trade. When, in the reign of Charles I (1625-1649), England went to war against Spain. Harrison visited Morocco again in the hope, on the one had of obtaining help from mujahidin (holy warriors) in Tetuan and Sale in order to confront Spain under the most favorable conditions, and on the other hand of releasing the English captives. Harrison’s labors were crowned with an agreement with the mujahidin leader al-Ayyashi (1573-1641) on 10 May 1627 under England undertook to supply him with provisions and arms in exchange for his help in releasing the English captives.”


“Once Mawlay Isma’il had extended his control over the whole of Morocco, the English were convinced that the Alawites were in a strong position and began to think seriously about strengthening ties with the Sultan. The latter had sent a diplomatic mission headed by Muhammad ben Haddu al-‘Attar to England who returned with a draft Peace and Trade Treaty on 23 March 1682. The Sultan, however, refused to ratify the treaty because of the continuing English presence in Tangier and the increasing complexity of the captive problem.”


“Following Mawlay Isma’il consent to the release of sixty-nine English captives after the withdrawal from Tangier, the path was cleared for both sides to improve relations. In this new context, on 7 July 1714, the qa’ad Ahmed ben ‘Ali ben ‘Abdallah concluded a Peace and Trade Treaty in Tetuan on behalf of Mawlay Isma’il. The crisis over the captives, however, flared up again between 1716 and 1721. A British envoy, Charles Stewart, was sent to Fes and after slow and difficult negotiations managed on 23 January 1721 to convince Mawlay Isma’il to renew the Treaty.”


“It appears that the Khalifa’s protest convinced George II of the necessity of trying to ease tensions in their relations for he sent his envoy, Captain Hyde Parker, to Marrakesh on 1 July 1756. The previous agreements were renewed and signed by Hyde Parker and, on behalf of the Sultan, ‘Umar ben Zayyan al-Dukkali. Khalifa Sidi Muhammad, however, refused to release his British captives following Hyde Parker’s rejection of Morocco’s request for materials which were essential for the building and equipping of ships. The Sultan’s khalifa Sidi Muhammad was very angry at the time, calling the British all sorts of names, and wished that the French or even the Spanish were in Gilbraltar rather than them. He also threatened that he might form an alliance with the French to break the power of the British.”


“Following the death of Sultan Mawlay ‘Abdallah, and the suicide of the British Consul, James Reade, while on a mission to the court in 1758 to sign the Peace towards the British so he extended the treaty for an additional year until February 1759 and agreed to provision Gibraltar. A British mission then came to Marrakesh led by Mark Milbanke who won the admiration of the Sultan because of his conduct and astuteness. They signed an Agreement in July 1760.”


“By contrast, al-Khatib, although the Makhzan considered him to be the only man qualified to enter into the negotiations, was almost totally ignorant of the text of the previous treaties, and he did not possess a copy of any of them. In addition, the Sultan’s letter of the delegation did not grant him wide powers of discretion enabling him to take any decision without obtaining direct instructions. The method that the two men followed in discussing the General Treaty was as follows. They studied each clause by itself, until they agreed to accept it, reject it or subject it to a few modifications. I shall, therefore, first of all, discuss the General Treaty, which was described as a Treaty of Peace and Friendship’, stopping at the discussions that took place concerning each of its clauses. At this first level of analysis, I shall content myself with giving a picture of the proceedings and the circumstances surrounding the negotiations, before each clause reached its final advantages and disadvantages of the treaty for Morocco and Britain. The draft of the General Treaty proposed by Britain consisted of thirty-eight articles. Negotiations centered around fifteen of these clauses. What were the objections that Mahzan raised, and the efforts that al Khatib expended to counter his clever opponent Drummond Hay?”

Source: Britain and Morocco During the Embassy of John Drummond Hay By Khalid Ben-Srhir

Tangier, England’s lost Atlantic outpost, 1661-1684


“English consuls in the pirate cities lived in constant danger. When the corsairs brought in a party of English people taken on board an enemy ship, it was the duty of the Consul to attend the auction at which they were sold and to negotiate the release of any who could prove themselves to have been merely passengers. Any mistake on his part, or any grievance, real or imaginary, which the pirates might raise against the captains of English ships, or against the Governor of Tangier, had to be smoothed over most careful diplomacy, on pain of a popular riot which was very likely to end in the murder of the Consul, unless the Government protected him by rigorous imprisonment.”

The post of Consul at Algiers was held from 1667-1674 by John Ward, who, after many vicissitudes was cut to pieces by an angry mob in front of the palace. The Dey, an old man who had little influence, was unable or unwilling to restrain the rioters, and his wife, “a cunning, covetous English woman, who would sell her soul for a bribe,” in whose hands the chief power was said to lie, appears to have done nothing to save the Consul from his fate. While galleys were still used in the Mediterranean, slavery was practiced, as a matter of course by Europeans as well as Mohammedans, for it was impossible to obtain volunteers for the rower’s bench.

“Two galleys were built at Leghorn in 1671-1672 for use at Tangier” against the common enemy of Christendom,” and Sir Jean Baptiste Duteil, who superintended the work, sent proposals to Lord Arlington for the purchases of slaves to man them. It was usual to employ prisoners taken from pirate ships, but there was some difficulty in finding rowers for the Tangier galleys, which required forty or fifty each. It was proposed to send condemned criminals from England for the purpose, as this would “save the lives of many poor Christians, and clear the country of such idle people.”

“English convicts, however, petitioned against being sent to the galleys, and slaves were finally bought in October 1672 at Malta, where the Chevalier de Princourt and M. Bardou, commissioned by the Kings of England and France respectively to buy slaves for their galleys, arranged to buy all slaves in common at a price agreed between them, and then to draw lots, “and he who wins is to choose a slave first, and then the other is to choose, and so alternately to the end.” At the same time, Dueteil was negotiating with private persons at Malta, but found there were few slaves to be had, “though forty corsairs were out.”

“Still, he hoped to have both galleys ready for sea, with oars and sails, by the spring of 1673. “A list of slaves belonging to his Maties Bagnio at Tang”, dated 1677, contains seventy-nine names. The galleys gave occasional support to the King’s frigates in engagements with pirates near Tangier, but after four years they were superseded by “galley-frigates,” and the slaves were made over to Mr. Shere, the engineer, for work on the Mole.” 


“In time of peace, there was a certain amount of sport to be had; no more than twelve Englishmen might hunt or shoot at a time, and the officers who in a moment of excitement passed the boundary, was liable to be taken prisoner and made a slave for life. Lancelot Addison, a chaplain at Tangier, wrote in 1663: “Wild boars are no rarity in this diocese, which the Moores hunt and kill in a manly pastime. In 1669 Lord Howard was sent from England on a special embassy to the Moorish Court, with instructions to conclude, if possible a treaty of peace and commerce which would ensure for Tangier free trade and intercourse with the interior of Morocco.”

“The Ambassador sailed from Plymouth in the Mary Rose on 23 July, and reached Tangier on 11th August “safely,” though sickly.” The secretary to the Embassy was Mr. Thomas Warren, merchant of London, who carried on a considerable trade in gunpowder and saltpeter with Morocco. His agents at this time were negotiating for the sale of a large quantity of powder to the Emperor Er Rasheed II.,”

“”Letters to the Governor of Tangier from the Emperor and his chief advisers at this time gave ample proof of the futility of negotiating with the Moorish Government. It must be admitted that Ismail had some ground for his indifference to the proposals of the English. He had but too little reason to fear the military resources of Charles II., of who he spoke of as “an old woman, a slave to his Parliament”; he knew from his own spies that Tangier, by which alone he judged of England’s strength, was left ill provided with men an ammunition.”

“The defeat of his troops in October 1680 had been recounted to him in a carefully edited form by the Moorish commanders; he could see for himself that his enemies had followed up their victory only by an open willingness to treat for peace. His Ambassador told him that all the presents sent to him from England were tribute paid by the English King, and every mark of friendship and every attempt at conciliation he counted for a sign of weakness and fear. Ismail was firmly convinced that no European kingdom could prosper without his help, for the English, French, and Dutch were all rivals for his favor.”

“In 1682 the Dutch bought from him a treaty of peace and commerce at the price of six hundred quintals of the best powder and a large and richly furnished State coach. At the same time, a French Ambassador was at the Moorish Court, and the English Consul at Salli learned from some of the Moors that he was attempting to plan with the Emperor a joint attack upon Tangier. Whether this be true or false, I know not,” remarked Mr. Onby, the Consul, “but this is what I pumpt out of them, they all being very shy of telling anything of new.”

“At any rate, Kirke had suspicious of a Franco-Moorish plot, and asked for a cipher, as his letters “often happened to be broken up as they passed through France.” The persistent demands of the English for peace by sea caused great annoyance to the Emperor, who would not at first admit that he was powerless to grant their request. The Salli rovers paid not the slightest heed to the four months, true agreed to at Whitehall, merely thinking it a splendid opportunity to capture English trading vessels, while the King’s frigates lay idly by, bound to inaction by their orders. The Emperor was deaf to all remonstrances, for her knew that the pirates of Salli, though owning his suzerainty, would have paid little respect to his authority had he tried to impose upon them an unwelcome peace.” 

Source: Tangier, England’s lost Atlantic outpost, 1661-1684

The Works of Sallust

“From the plains of Catabathmos, (which are the Boundaries separating Egypt from Africa) following the Sea-coast, the first City is that of Cyene, a Greek Colony from Thera. Next, are the Two Syrtes: Between them lands Leptis; and them Altars, raised to the Two Brothers Phileni, which limited the Dominions of Carthage toward Egypt: Afterwards are found other Punic Cities.”

“All the other Territories, quite to Mauretania, are occupied by the Numidians. The Moors are situated nearest to Spain. Above Numidia, as I have learned, live the Getulians; some in Huts, others wild and roaming. Beyond these are the Ethiopians; and, further on, Regions utterly scorched by the Rays of the Sun.”

“Now, during this War, the Roman People had Governors of their own, in most of the Punic Cities, and in the Territories lately belonging to Carthage. Great Part of the Getulians was subject to the Jugurtha; so were the Numidians, as far as the River Mulucha. The Moors were all under the Sovereignty of Bocchus, who knew nothing of the Romans, farther than their Name; neither was He before known to them, by any intercourse of War or Peace.”

“The Moorish King, after long…and Balancing within himself, at last, declared his Affiant to this proposition. Whether his hesitation proceeded from Perisdy, or from Perplexity, is not clear. In truth, the Inclinations of Princes, as they are generally impetuous, are also unsteady, and subject to thwart one another. Now, as a Time and Place were settled for a Treaty, Bocchus, in the Interval, frequently called, now for Sylla, anon for the Minister of Jugurtha, caressed each and made the same promises to both. Thus they were equally pleased and filled with equal Hopes.”

“But the Night preceding the Day appointed for the Treaty, the Moorish King, after he had called together his Counsellors, and then, his Mind suddenly changing, sent them all away again, is reported to have had many and strong conflicts within himself, insomuch that the frequent Changes of his visage, and external agitations, corresponding with the distractions of his spirit, manifested his Agonics, though he said nothing. At last, he sent for Sylla, and, comfortably to his counsel, prepared to deceive and seize the Numidian Prince.”

Source: The Works of Sallust By Sallust

The Barbary Company or Marocco Company 1585

“The Barbary Company or Marocco Company was a trading company established by Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1585 through a patent granted to the Earls of Warwick and Leicester, as well as forty others for an exclusive trade period of 12 years See Cawston, p.226  “The Barbary Company was separate from the Turkey Company and the Venice Company (1583), who also operated in the Mediterranean and later merged into the Levant Company in 1592, was established with many of the same merchant investors, with a focus on trade along the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Many of its members were naturally also trading for the dominant Levant Company, whose success perhaps implied the commercial defeat of the Barbary Company.” 

Source: Shakespeare Survey With Index 1-10

“Morocco was at that point the main source of sugar for the English market, prior of course to the development of the West Indies plantations in the 1600s. After the settlement of the Essex affair, Elizabeth wrote Muley Hamet of such matters as the release of prisoners and the difficulties of some English merchants in Morocco. An Act of the Privy Council had arranged the deporting of “negars and blackamoores“, who great numbers in England irritated Spain, and fostered trouble against her. Elizabeth’s release of Moorish captives later had the double advantage of both Spain and Barbary.” 

Source: Shakespeare Survey With Index 1-10

“Diplomatic relations between England and Barbary had always been a compromise, in a sense compromising. The questionable alliance was put in terms of the advice offered Elizabeth in 1586, that “Her Majesty in using the King of Fez, doth not arm a barbarian against a Christian, but a barbarian against a heretic”. But the heathen hand, though welcomed against Spain, was rarely taken in public. The military prowess of the Moors, typified in the Battle of Alcazar, coloured the drama of the day. But the diplomatic exchange waited upon emergencies. The Armada brought a Moroccan emissary to England, and Essex’s raid on Cadiz in 1597 inspired eventually the embassy of 1600. For two years later, emboldened by England’s success, and hopeful of her active support, Muley Hamet, King of Barbary, proposed the grand design of the total conquest of Spain.” 

Source: Shakespeare Survey With Index 1-10

“Queen Elizabeth sent Minister Roberts who remained in Morocco for three years, and obtained some privileges for the English, particularly that in future none of the English should be made slaves in his dominions. By the treaty signed at Mequinez in 1728, these privileges were extended, it being stipulated that British subjects taken on board of foreign ships by the Maroccans should be immediately released and sent to Gibraltar: that provisions and other supplies for his Britannic Majesty’s fleets and for Gibraltar might freely be bought at the market prices in any of the Moroccan seaports; and that Moors, Jews, and other natives of in the service of British subjects there should be exempt from taxes of all kinds. Thus considerable benefits accrued to the nation through this chartered company, whose exclusive trade does not appear to have been long maintained.” 

Source: The Early Chartered Companies (A.D. 1296-1858) By George Cawston, Augustus Henry Keane

The Tomson brothers, Richard, George, and Arnold, with their kinsman Jasper, were merchant adventurers. Richard, a servant of Cecil and holder of monopolies in almonds, dates, capers, and molasses had been accused of bringing into the trade as many interlopers as there were members of the Barbary Company. Doubtless, the Tomsons’ service to Cecil gave them safety at home and gun-running made them popular with the Moors.

Source: Shakespeare Survey With Index 1-10

“Elizabeth’s death in 1603, and a civil war in Morocco that same year, ended the period of British co-operation with the Moroccan monarchy. James I intervened more directly into the affairs of trading companies, adopting the Spanish government’s model of intervention in commerce. King Charles I was unable, or unwilling, to protect British commerce–and even British coastal communities such as Bristol and Plymouth–from the ravages of Barbary corsairs; this was one reason British merchants drove him from the throne. Some in Parliament called for war against Turkey, and, during the reign of Cromwell, Turkish ships supplied royalist forces in Ireland.” 

Source: The Barbary Origins of the British Empire

“Charles II, in addition to receiving the Portuguese garrison as a wedding gift from the family of his bride, Catherine of Braganza, sent the British fleet against Algiers and so gained control over the western Mediterranean. Though Britain’s possession of Tangier was brief, it was regarded as the beginning of a British empire in Africa. During the two decades of occupation, the British colony there replicated British life, trying to create a miniature London impervious to the Moorish world around it. Unlike the imperial ventures in America or in Ireland, in North Africa the British encountered powerful and well-organized societies which could not be simply conquered. Tangier was a middle ground for the British imperial idea, between the trading companies which brought the British into Asia, and the occupation and conquest of British America.” 

Source: The Barbary Origins of the British Empire

“While European and American literature are full of stories of captives held in the Barbary states, there are no first-person accounts of Moors held as captives in Europe. And yet there were thousands of Moors taken captive by the European powers. According to Matar, their stories do not survive because very few of them returned to their native lands. In his fourth chapter, “Moors in British Captivity,” Matar recovers what he can of the stories of Moorish captives. He also notes the different kinds of captivity in Barbary. A slave (‘abd) was purchased, while a captive (aseer) was held for ransom. Slavery (‘ubadiyya) and captivity (asr) were different institutions. All of the North African states were engaged in the trans-Saharan slave trade, as well as trade in gold and other goods. The capture of European sailors was a different facet of the economy (pp. 114-115). For Matar, though, the real focus of this chapter is on the European enslavement of Moors. Europeans did not differentiate between the status of their captives; raids by European powers in retaliation for the piracy of Morocco or Algiers and the bombardment of the North African cities were among the factors, he argues, in the economic and political decline of these polities in the eighteenth century (pp. 131-132).” 

Source: The Barbary Origins of the British Empire

“The Levant Company formed, in 1592, as the result of what could be called a “merger” between two earlier merchant corporations, the Venice Company and the Turkey Company, themselves both Elizabethan foundations. Attempts to explain the merger as reflecting a “regionalist” approach to Mediterranean trade are vexed by the long career of the Barbary Company, which, despite significant overlap between its membership rolls and those of the Levant Company, was to continue trading independently with the littoral states of North Africa well into the 18th century.”

Source:  The Levant Company Between Trade and Politics: or, the Colony That Wasn’t Martin Devecka

“The formal beginning of Anglo-Ottoman relations dates from the correspondence between Elizabeth I and Murad III in 15791  which led in May 1580 to an Ottoman pledge of safeconduct (ahidname) for English merchants in Ottoman-controlled seas and ports in the eastern Mediterranean (the Levant) and along the Barbary coast of North Africa This document is usually considered equivalent to a grant of trading privileges to the English.” 


“Brotton traces how the anxieties, suspicions and xenophobia of Elizabethan Anglo-Islamic relations emerged in tension with the establishment of such trading enterprises as the Barbary Company, the Levant Company and the Turkey Company, whose activities brought riches, tastes and fashions home from an international trade in fabrics, food and munitions with Muslim countries.”

Source: Gloriana and the Sultan — England’s unlikely alliance Jerry Brotton’s study of how Queen Elizabeth I allied herself with Islam against the arch-enemy Spain makes for fascinating reading Marcus Nevitt