Tangier and the West

        King Charles II of England sent Admiral Edward Montagu, First Earl of Sandwich, to take possession of Tangier in 1661. Louis Almeida, the last Portuguese governor of Tangier, sailed to Lisbon, after ceding the key of the hot city to the its new master, the United Kingdom. On September 6, 1661, King Charles II appointed Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough, as Governor and Captain General of all the forces in Tangier. When Peterborough landed with his fresh 3,000 Irish troops, he found the town derelict, and under constant attack from some 17,000 Berber rebels. Lord Peterborough cleaned the city, by destroying most of the Muslim’s religious temples which did not agree with King Charles’ taste, act which infuriated the local people, and made them more rebellious.
     King, Charles II used to say: "Tangier is the richest jewel of my crown”.


        Three months later, on May 3, 1662, some 500 British troops led by the colonel Fines, ventured out of the garrison and headed towards the Old Mountain a couple miles away of the citadel of Tangier. Before getting there they were cleverly ambushed by the warriors of Ghaïlan, and wiped out. Now it was for the British to live with the haunting specter of the Moors. The harassment of the city by Ghaïlan's warriors forced Mr. Peterborough’s return to London. The British Crown substituted him with Bill Rutherford, known as the Earl of Teviot. British chroniclers wrote that Teviot quickly won the respect of the local population with his personal “gallantry and charm”. But local historians told rather a different story. They said that only local shopkeepers liked Teviot, because of his extravagance. They said also that he was scared of the rebellious Berbers, and that he cuddled a musket and a sword in bed with him every night.
         On May the 3rd, 1664, the brave Count Teviot, surrounded by no less than 500 heavily armed troops, ventured out of the fort to the outskirts of Tangier. Teviot should have known better. The choice of that date was ridiculous. It was two years to the date since Colonel Fines and his 500 troops fell in the deadly ambush of Ghailan's and his warriors. Tempting coincidence, even further, the foolhardy Earl Teviot, actually, led his 500 troops along exactly the same route towards Sidi Amar’s cemetery of the Old Mountain where the Ghaïlan’s highly organized force ambushed him and his 500 and cut them to ribbons. Only nine English troops survived, which was convenient for King Charles and his Royal Treasury, because it is an historical fact that when they die, the 491 soldiers were all owed two years back pay.
        In 1680 the British suffered another major blow, when the troops of Moulay Ismaïl ambushed and killed 119 officers and troops. Their heads were stuck on staves and placed round the outer garrison walls as little propaganda lesson to Englishmen inside. Later on, the British were besieged inside the walls of Tangier, by thousands of mounted Berber warriors of the Rif. These were the tribesmen of the Temsaman, Beni Oueriaghel, Bakkioua and Ghellaïya tribes, which were commanded by the Caïd Amar Ben Haddou, governor of the city of el K’sar el K'bir.
        Slowly but painfully, it became clear to King Charles of England that Tangier was not worth all the hassle, quite apart from the fact that maintaining the city cost him 13 per cent of England’s total annual income, besides the astronomical cost (two million pounds over 15 years) of building the harbour mole which was done by two English engineers, Mr. Henry Shere and Sir Hugh Cholmley, who also built the famous mole at Whitby in England.
       Most western chronicles tell how the British evacuated Tangier in 1684, but few bother to explain exactly why, before leaving, they destroyed that lovely long and curved mole. Some historians say the Brits blew up the mole. Not true. About 2,000 British soldiers demolished it with sledge-hammers over a period of three months. They did, however, blow up the York Castle on the Kasbah hillside and several other forts. The explosion at York Castle was captured on canvas by Winceslaus Holler, King Charle’s favourite painter. All the Tangier’s destruction was masterminded by the famous Charle’s special agent Mr. Samuel Pepys. This is the famous Pepys who was appointed Treasurer of the city in 1665, and became secretary to the Admiralty in 1687.
       After the continuing shift of its European governors, Tangier was finally restored to the Sharifian kingdom. Now, it was the turn of the Sharifian governors to administer Tangier. Its first Sharifian governor was the same one who recovered it from the British, the Pasha, Amar Ben Haddou Rifi. He was succeeded, after his death in 1686, by the Caïd Ali Ben Abdellah El Hamani; himself substituted by the Pasha Ali Ben Abdellah, who was replaced, after his death in 1713, by his son Ahmed Ben Ali.                                                                                  
            The Sultan Moulay Ismaïl redistributed the lands surrounding Tangier among the people of el Fahs and the Moujahidins who took part in the expelling of the British from the city, in reward for their heroism, and decreed in 1686, the repopulating of Tangier. Entire families were drawn to Tangier from the localities of Bni Msaouar, Beni Arose, Beni Idder, Benighorfet, Tetouan, Fes, Meknass, Gibraltar and Spain. After two centuries of absence, Tangier was finally restored to the Sharifian Kingdom. The city was a model of tolerance, and Muslims, Jews and Christians cohabited together as neighbours, in good harmony.

(Tangier during the 17th, by Mallet)

The American Legation of Tangier

       In 1821, the Sultan Moulay Sliman made a gift, to new independent country of US of America, in the form of a real estate, located inside the ramparts of the old fortified Medina. The imposing building was the first piece of property acquired abroad by the US government. From 1821 until 1956, the U.S. diplomatic mission to Morocco was located here in the old, walled Medina of Tangier. The Legation has been deeply involved in Moroccan-American relationships for over 150 years. During the American Revolution so many American ships called at Tangier that the Continental Congress sought recognition from the "Emperor" of Morocco. This was accorded, in effect, in 1777, making Morocco the first country to recognize the fledgling American republic. Negotiation of a formal treaty began in 1783. It terminated in the signing in 1786 of the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the American signatories.  

        Tangier figured prominently in our relations during the "Barbary Wars," the only period of our long association marked by any degree of tension. This was in due course resolved, and the "taxing power from the shores of Tripoli" was dissipated. The 1786 treaty was renegotiated in 1835 under unusual circumstances. By this time James R. Leib occupied the Consulate at Tangier, for which President Washington had requested funds in 1795. Leib was instructed to go to Fez, where the Sultan was holding Court, to renegotiate the treaty of 1786. But he refused-for reasons probably unique in American diplomatic history.

      In 1833 Leib had accepted from the Sultan a lion and two horses as gifts to the Untied States. He sent an urgent communication to Washington recommending the use of the horses in Tangier and seeking authorization to ship the lion to Washington. Washington replied suggesting getting rid of the lion but sending the horses to Washington if they were good. The cost of feeding the lion was $1 per day, and Leib's salary was $2,000 a year. By the time he was instructed to proceed to Fez, Leib had spent $439.50 on the animal, but had not received a reply to his appeal to Washington to take the lion off his hands. He could not sell the animals for fear of offending the Sultan, and he was disinclined to put himself in a position to receive further marks of the Sultan's esteem for the United States which might prove equally costly to him.

      Leib solved his problem in the traditional bureaucratic fashion: he sent his Vice Consul, John F. Mullawny. The treaty was renegotiated by Mullawny and signed at Meknes in September 1836. It is still in force today, probably the most durable treaty in American history.

       Leib's successor was persuaded to accept yet another gift of lions from the Sultan, only when the Pasha assured the Consul that he (the Pasha) would lose his head if he did not deliver the lions, and began depositing them on the street in front of the Consulate. This time, however, Washington came promptly to his aid by authorizing shipment to the USA.

      Early in the Civil War, Confederate ships called at Tangier. After this indiscretion was called to the attention of the Moroccan Government by the American Government, life at the Legation was occasionally disturbed by hostile crowds, protesting the U.S. Navy's interference with Moroccan trade. On several occasions it even became necessary for U.S. Marines to come ashore to move prisoners which had been taken from Confederate ships, through town to U.S. warships. For a while following the Civil War the pace in Tangier dropped of considerably bringing isolation to the inhabitants. Mark Twain in "Innocents Abroad" described it then as "clear out of the world",   the "completest exile."

        Growing disorder led to the establishment in 1880 of an International Sanitary Commission for the Tangier Area. It gradually assumed a governing role, with the diplomatic corps serving as the Commission. Colonialism was waxing strongly in Africa, and France, Germany and Spain were casting covetous eyes upon Morocco. The United States, just beginning to make itself known as an international power, stood for an Open Door policy in Morocco. Samuel R. Gummere, our Minister in Tangier, successfully represented this point of view at the Algeciras conference, and it was incorporated into the Act of 1906. Following the elimination of German influence in Morocco, however, France and Spain divided the country into protectorates, while the area around Tangier became an international city. For some time after World War II, the United States did not participate in the Tangier Government. The Legation, however, exercised jurisdiction over American citizens and protégés. Ultimately, the United States did participate in the Tangier Government and continued to do so until restoration of Moroccan independence.

         World War II ushered in a new phase of Legation activity. Because of strong German influence in the French protectorate and Spanish sympathy for the Axis, the Allied presence in Africa was isolated in Tangier and Gibraltar at the strategic entrance to the Mediterranean. The Legation became a testing ground for the newly-formed Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in establishing effective intelligence operations. It was also major focus of the preparation and execution of the North African landings (Operation Torch), prepared in part by Ambassador Murphy and carried out under General Eisenhower. This effort provided the backbone for the first U.S. military expedition in the west, doomed the Axis in Africa, and laid the groundwork for the landings in Italy and France.  

       Architecturally the Legation has an intriguing background. The Original structure, a stone building of the 18th century was incorporated into an enlarged complex surrounding an attractive courtyard. During the first half of the 19th century a reception room was constructed over the picturesque rue d'Amerique. After 1891 the Legation was further enlarged by the construction of the 3-story building along the same street and connecting with the reception area.

       In 1910 Minister Maxwell Blake arrived in Tangier, where he was to remain for a quarter of a century. In the 1920's he obtained the gift of two pieces of property across the street from the original structure, one a former theater. This enabled him to embark upon an ambitious program of construction and restoration-largely at his own expense. The most significant of his additions was a Moorish pavilion, overlooking, a new courtyard, in which antique doors, ceilings and tiles discovered in Fez and other parts of the country were used. Elsewhere in the legation the Minister added handsome 18th century lanterns, iron grillwork and marble mantelpieces. When Minister Blake completed his work, the Legation had grown into an imposing edifice of more than 30 rooms. The noted American architectural historian, Charles Peterson, who carried out a detailed study of the Legation in 1975, concluded that Minister Blake's additions in the "Mediterranean Revival" style popular in the 1920's have "considerable architectural interest and merit." Certainly the Legation as it stands charms the eyes and soothes the spirits of visitors weary of the contemporary mode.

       With the end of the French Protectorate in 1956, all embassies moved to the capital, Rabat, but the American Legation continued as a Consulate for another five years until a new consulate was built outside the old Medina. Thereafter, the American Legation building served as an Arabic language school for American diplomats (8 years) and a Peace Corps training center (3 years). In 1976 the Old American Legation (as it is known in Tangier) stood empty and in a sad state of disrepair. Concerned about it fate, a group of American citizens established a public, non-profit organization. The Tangier American Legation Museum Society (TALMS). They obtained a lease from the Department of State to rent the Legation building. Since the American Bicentennial celebration in 1976 -- TALMS has been operating a museum and cultural center at this location with one American employee, the Director/Curator. The labor of restoration, preservation and activating the institution has been endless, but rewarding.
       In 1880, the Sultan Moulay El Hassan visited Tangier, were he sojourned for seven months, during which he inspected the city’s weak sides, which he fortified and armed with British Armstrong cannons. Moulay El Hassan I did also establish a military academy of the Harrabas, in the quarter of the Kasbah, and appointed  his British military counselor, the commander Henry MacLean, its dean.

Tangier Avenue Mohamed VI (Ex Avenida de Espana

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