GENERAL LYAUTEY'S WORK IN MOROCCO
It is not too much to say that General Lyautey has twice saved Morocco
from destruction: once in 1912, when the inertia and double-dealing of
Abd-el-Hafid abandoned the country to the rebellious tribes who had
attacked him in Fez, and the second time in August, 1914, when Germany
declared war on France.
In 1912, in consequence of the threatening attitude of the dissident
tribes and the generally disturbed condition of the country, the Sultan
Abd-el-Hafid had asked France to establish a protectorate in Morocco.
The agreement entered into, called the "Convention of Fez," stipulated
that a French Resident-General should be sent to Morocco with authority
to act as the Sultan's sole representative in treating with the other
powers. The convention was signed in March, 1912, and a few days
afterward an uprising more serious than any that had gone before took
place in Fez. This sudden outbreak was due in part to purely local and
native difficulties, in part to the intrinsic weakness of the French
situation. The French government had imagined that a native army
commanded by French officers could be counted on to support the Makhzen
and maintain order, but Abd-el-Hafid's growing unpopularity had
estranged his own people from him, and the army turned on the government
and on the French. On the 17th of April, 1912, the Moroccan soldiers
massacred their French officers after inflicting horrible tortures on
them, the population of Fez rose against the European civilians, and for
a fortnight the Oued Fez ran red with the blood of harmless French
colonists. It was then that France appointed General Lyautey
Resident-General in Morocco.
When he reached Fez it was besieged by twenty thousand Berbers. Rebel
tribes were flocking in to their support, to the cry of the Holy War,
and the terrified Sultan, who had already announced his intention of
resigning, warned the French troops who were trying to protect him that
unless they guaranteed to get him safely to Rabat he would turn his
influence against them. Two days afterward the Berbers attacked Fez and
broke in at two gates. The French drove them out and forced them back
twenty miles. The outskirts of the city were rapidly fortified, and a
few weeks later General Gouraud, attacking the rebels in the valley of
the Sebou, completely disengaged Fez.
The military danger overcome. General Lyautey began his great task of
civilian administration. His aim was to support and strengthen the
existing government, to reassure and pacify the distrustful and
antagonistic elements, and to assert French authority without irritating
or discouraging native ambitions.
Meanwhile a new Mahdi (Ahmed-el-Hiba) had risen in the south.
Treacherously supported by Abd-el-Hafid, he was proclaimed Sultan at
Tiznit, and acknowledged by the whole of the Souss. In Marrakech, native
unrest had caused the Europeans to fly to the coast, and in the north a
new group of rebellious tribes menaced Fez.
El-Hiba entered Marrakech in August, 1912, and the French consul and
several other French residents were taken prisoner. El-Hiba's forces
then advanced to a point half way between Marrakech and Mazagan, where
General Mangin, at that time a colonial colonel, met and utterly routed
them. The disorder in the south, and the appeals of the native
population for protection against the savage depredations of the new
Mahdist rebels, made it necessary for the French troops to follow up
their success, and in September Marrakech was taken.
Such were the swift and brilliant results of General Lyautey's
intervention. The first difficulties had been quickly overcome; others,
far more complicated, remained. The military occupation of Morocco had
to be followed up by its civil reorganization. By the Franco-German
treaty of 1911 Germany had finally agreed to recognize the French
protectorate in Morocco; but in spite of an apparently explicit
acknowledgment of this right, Germany, as usual, managed to slip into
the contract certain ambiguities of form that were likely to lead to
To obtain even this incomplete treaty France had had to sacrifice part
of her colonies in equatorial Africa; and in addition to the uncertain
relation with Germany there remained the dead weight of the Spanish
zone and the confused international administration of Tangier. The
disastrously misgoverned Spanish zone has always been a centre for
German intrigue and native conspiracies, as well as a permanent obstacle
to the economic development of Morocco.
Such were the problems that General Lyautey found awaiting him. A long
colonial experience, and an unusual combination of military and
administrative talents, prepared him for the almost impossible task of
dealing with them. Swift and decisive when military action is required,
he has above all the long views and endless patience necessary to the
successful colonial governor. The policy of France in Morocco had been
weak and spasmodic; in his hands it became firm and consecutive. A
sympathetic understanding of the native prejudices, and a real affection
for the native character, made him try to build up an administration
which should be, not an application of French ideas to African
conditions, but a development of the best native aspirations. The
difficulties were immense. The attempt to govern as far as possible
through the Great Chiefs was a wise one, but it was hampered by the
fact that these powerful leaders, however loyal to the Protectorate,
knew no methods of administration but those based on extortion. It was
necessary at once to use them and to educate them; and one of General
Lyautey's greatest achievements has been the successful employment of
native ability in the government of the country.
The first thing to do was to create a strong frontier against the
dissident tribes of the Blad-es-Siba. To do this it was necessary that
the French should hold the natural defenses of the country, the
foothills of the Little and of the Great Atlas, and the valley of the
Moulouya, which forms the corridor between western Algeria and Morocco.
This was nearly accomplished in 1914 when war broke out.
At that moment the home government cabled the Resident-General to send
all his available troops to France, abandoning the whole of conquered
territory except the coast towns. To do so would have been to give
France's richest colonies[A] outright to Germany at a moment when what
they could supply--meat and wheat--was exactly what the enemy most
[Footnote A: The loss of Morocco would inevitably have been followed by
that of the whole of French North Africa.]
General Lyautey took forty-eight hours to consider. He then decided to
"empty the egg without breaking the shell", and the reply he sent was
that of a great patriot and a great general. In effect he said: "I will
give you all the troops you ask, but instead of abandoning the interior
of the country I will hold what we have already taken, and fortify and
enlarge our boundaries." No other military document has so nearly that
ring as Marshal Foch's immortal Marne despatch (written only a few weeks
later): "My centre is broken, my right wing is wavering, the situation
is favorable and I am about to attack."
General Lyautey had framed his answer in a moment of patriotic
exaltation, when the soul of every Frenchman was strung up to a
superhuman pitch. But the pledge once made, it had to be carried out,
and even those who most applauded his decision wondered how he would
meet the almost insuperable difficulties it involved. Morocco, when he
was called there, was already honeycombed by German trading interests
and secret political intrigue, and the fruit seemed ready to fall when
the declaration of war shook the bough. The only way to save the colony
for France was to keep its industrial and agricultural life going, and
give to the famous "business as usual" a really justifiable application.
General Lyautey completely succeeded, and the first impression of all
travellers arriving in Morocco two years later was that of suddenly
returning to a world in normal conditions. There was even, so complete
was the illusion, a first moment of almost painful surprise on entering
an active prosperous community, seemingly absorbed in immediate material
interests to the exclusion of all thought of the awful drama that was
being played out in the mother country, and it was only on reflection
that this absorption in the day's task, and this air of smiling faith in
the future, were seen to be Morocco's truest way of serving France.
For not only was France to be supplied with provisions, but the
confidence in her ultimate triumph was at all costs to be kept up in the
native mind. German influence was as deep-seated as a cancer: to cut it
out required the most drastic of operations. And that operation
consisted precisely in letting it be seen that France was strong and
prosperous enough for her colonies to thrive and expand without fear
while she held at bay on her own frontier the most formidable foe the
world has ever seen. Such was the "policy of the smile," consistently
advocated by General Lyautey from the beginning of the war, and of which
he and his household were the first to set the example.
The General had said that he would not "break the egg-shell"; but he
knew that this was not enough, and that he must make it appear
unbreakable if he were to retain the confidence of the natives.
How this was achieved, with the aid of the few covering troops left him,
is still almost incomprehensible. To hold the line was virtually
impossible: therefore he pushed it forward. An anonymous writer in
_L'Afrique Française_ (January, 1917) has thus described the manoeuvre:
"General Henrys was instructed to watch for storm-signals on the front,
to stop up the cracks, to strengthen weak points and to rectify doubtful
lines. Thanks to these operations, which kept the rebels perpetually
harassed by always forestalling their own plans, the occupied territory
was enlarged by a succession of strongly fortified positions." While
this was going on in the north, General Lamothe was extending and
strengthening, by means of pacific negotiations, the influence of the
Great Chiefs in the south, and other agents of the Residency were
engaged in watching and thwarting the incessant German intrigues in the
General Lyautey is quoted as having said that "a work-shop is worth a
battalion." This precept he managed to put into action even during the
first dark days of 1914, and the interior development of Morocco
proceeded side by side with the strengthening of its defenses. Germany
had long foreseen what an asset northwest Africa would be during the
war; and General Lyautey was determined to prove how right Germany had
been. He did so by getting the government, to whom he had given nearly
all his troops, to give him in exchange an agricultural and industrial
army, or at least enough specialists to form such an army out of the
available material in the country. For every battle fought a road was
made;[A] for every rebel fortress shelled a factory was built, a harbor
developed, or more miles of fallow land ploughed and sown.
[Footnote A: During the first year of the war roads were built in
Morocco by German prisoners, and it was because Germany was so
thoroughly aware of the economic value of the country, and so anxious
not to have her prestige diminished, that she immediately protested, on
the absurd plea of the unwholesomeness of the climate, and threatened
reprisals unless the prisoners were withdrawn.]
But this economic development did not satisfy the Resident. He wished
Morocco to enlarge her commercial relations with France and the other
allied countries, and with this object in view he organized and carried
out with brilliant success a series of exhibitions at Casablanca, Fez
and Rabat. The result of this bold policy surpassed even its creator's
hopes. The Moroccans of the plain are an industrious and money-loving
people, and the sight of these rapidly improvised exhibitions, where the
industrial and artistic products of France and other European countries
were shown in picturesque buildings grouped about flower-filled gardens,
fascinated their imagination and strengthened their confidence in the
country that could find time for such an effort in the midst of a great
war. The Voice of the Bazaar carried the report to the farthest confines
of Moghreb, and one by one the notabilities of the different tribes
arrived, with delegations from Algeria and Tunisia. It was even said
that several rebel chiefs had submitted to the Makhzen in order not to
miss the Exhibition.
At the same time as the "Miracle of the Marne" another, less famous but
almost as vital to France, was being silently performed at the other end
of her dominions. It will not seem an exaggeration to speak of General
Lyautey's achievement during the first year of the war as the "Miracle
of Morocco" if one considers the immense importance of doing what he did
at the moment when he did it. And to understand this it is only needful
to reckon what Germany could have drawn in supplies and men from a
German North Africa, and what would have been the situation of France
during the war with a powerful German colony in control of the western
General Lyautey has always been one of the clear-sighted administrators
who understand that the successful government of a foreign country
depends on many little things, and not least on the administrator's
genuine sympathy with the traditions, habits and tastes of the people. A
keen feeling for beauty had prepared him to appreciate all that was most
exquisite and venerable in the Arab art of Morocco, and even in the
first struggle with political and military problems he found time to
gather about him a group of archaeologists and artists who were charged
with the inspection and preservation of the national monuments and the
revival of the languishing native art-industries. The old pottery,
jewelry, metal-work, rugs and embroideries of the different regions were
carefully collected and classified, schools of decorative art were
founded, skilled artisans sought out, and every effort was made to urge
European residents to follow native models and use native artisans in
building and furnishing.
At the various Exhibitions much space was allotted to these revived
industries, and the matting of Salé, the rugs of Rabat, the embroideries
of Fez and Marrakech have already found a ready market in France,
besides awakening in the educated class of colonists an appreciation of
the old buildings and the old arts of the country that will be its
surest safeguard against the destructive effects of colonial expansion.
It is only necessary to see the havoc wrought in Tunisia and Algeria by
the heavy hand of the colonial government to know what General Lyautey
has achieved in saving Morocco from this form of destruction also.
All this has been accomplished by the Resident-General during five years
of unexampled and incessant difficulty; and probably the true
explanation of the miracle is that which he himself gives when he says,
with the quiet smile that typifies his Moroccan war-policy: "It was easy
to do because I loved the people."
THE WORK OF THE FRENCH PROTECTORATE, 1912-1918
Owing to the fact that the neglected and roadless Spanish zone
intervened between the French possessions and Tangier, which is the
natural port of Morocco, one of the first preoccupations of General
Lyautey was to make ports along the inhospitable Atlantic coast, where
there are no natural harbours.
Since 1912, in spite of the immense cost and the difficulty of obtaining
labour, the following has been done:
_Casablanca._ A jetty 1900 metres long has been planned: 824 metres
finished December, 1917.
Small jetty begun 1916, finished 1917--length 330 metres. Small harbour
thus created shelters small boats (150 tons) in all weathers.
Quays 747 metres long already finished.
16 steam-cranes working.
Warehouses and depots covering 41,985 square metres completed.
_Rabat._ Work completed December, 1917.
A quay 200 metres long, to which boats with a draught of three metres
can tie up.
Two groups of warehouses, steam-cranes, etc., covering 22,600 square
A quay 100 metres long on the Salé side of the river.
_Kenitra._ The port of Kenitra is at the mouth of the Sebou River, and
is capable of becoming a good river port.
The work up to December, 1917, comprises:
A channel 100 metres long and three metres deep, cut through the bar of
Jetties built on each side of the channel.
Quay 100 metres long.
Building of sheds, depots, warehouses, steam-cranes, etc.
At the ports of Fedalah, Mazagan, Safi, Mogador and Agadir similar plans
are in course of execution.
Total Commerce Total Commerce
Fcs 177,737,723 Fcs 386,238,618
Fcs 67,080,383 Fcs 116,148,081
National roads 2,074 kilometres
Secondary roads 569 "
Approximate area Approximate area
21,165 17 hectares 1,681,308 03 hectares
1. Creation of French courts for French nationals and those under French
protection. These take cognizance of civil cases where both parties, or
even one, are amenable to French jurisdiction.
2. Moroccan law is Moslem, and administered by Moslem magistrates.
Private law, including that of inheritance, is based on the Koran. The
Sultan has maintained the principle whereby real property and
administrative cases fall under native law. These courts are as far as
possible supervised and controlled by the establishment of a Cherifian
Ministry of Justice to which the native Judges are responsible. Special
care is taken to prevent the alienation of property held collectively,
or any similar transactions likely to produce political and economic
3. Criminal jurisdiction is delegated to Pashas and Cadis by the Sultan,
except of offenses committed against, or in conjunction with, French
nationals and those under French protection. Such cases come before the
tribunals of the French Protectorate.
The object of the Protectorate has been, on the one hand, to give to the
children of French colonists in Morocco the same education as they would
have received at elementary and secondary schools in France; on the
other, to provide the indigenous population with a system of education
that shall give to the young Moroccans an adequate commercial or manual
training, or prepare them for administrative posts, but without
interfering with their native customs or beliefs.
Before 1912 there existed in Morocco only a few small schools supported
by the French Legation at Tangier and by the Alliance Française, and a
group of Hebrew schools in the Mellahs, maintained by the Universal
1912. Total number of schools 37
1918. " " " " 191
1912. Total number of pupils 3006
1918. " " " " 21,520
1912. Total number of teachers 61
1918. " " " " 668
Moslem colleges have been founded at Rabat and Fez in order to
supplement the native education of young Mahometans of the upper
classes, who intend to take up wholesale business or banking, or prepare
for political, judicial or administrative posts under the Sultan's
government. The course lasts four years and comprises: Arabic, French,
mathematics, history, geography, religious (Mahometan) instruction, and
the law of the Koran.
The "Ecole Supérieure de la langue arabe et des dialectes berbères" at
Rabat receives European and Moroccan students. The courses are Arabic,
the Berber dialects, Arab literature, ethnography, administrative
Moroccan law, Moslem law, Berber customary law.
The Protectorate has established 113 medical centres for the native
population, ranging from simple dispensaries and small native
infirmaries to the important hospitals of Rabat, Fez, Meknez, Marrakech,
Mobile sanitary formations supplied with light motor ambulances travel
about the country, vaccinating, making tours of sanitary inspection,
investigating infected areas, and giving general hygienic education
throughout the remoter regions.
Native patients treated in 1916 over 900,000
" " " " 1917 " 1,220,800
_Central Laboratory at Rabat._ This is a kind of Pasteur Institute. In
1917, 210,000 persons were vaccinated throughout the country and 356
patients treated at the Laboratory for rabies.
_Clinics for venereal diseases_ have been established at Casablanca,
Fez, Rabat, and Marrakech.
More than 15,000 cases were treated in 1917.
_Ophthalmic clinics_ in the same cities gave in 1917, 44,600
_Radiotherapy._ Clinics have been opened at Fez and Rabat for the
treatment of skin diseases of the head, from which the native children
The French Department of Health distributes annually immense quantities
of quinine in the malarial districts.
Madame Lyautey's private charities comprise admirably administered
child-welfare centres in the principal cities, with dispensaries for the
native mothers and children.