The Itimad-ad-dowlah has two methods of retaining his dignity, and the duration of his power depends on the address with which he employs them. These are, to remove by exile or death those from whom he has any thing to fear; and to flatter the vanity and the passions of the sovereign, by magnifying his most insignificant exploits, ascribing to him qualities which he does not possess, and administering to his pleasures.
The post of Itimad-ad-dowlah is at present filled by Mirza Sheffea, an old man, of agreeable and easy manners, who surpasses all his countrymen in political knowledge, and not only has very accurate views respecting the interests of Persia, but is not wholly ignorant of those of the European nations.
The following picture of this old minister, was drawn by Kotzebue, in 1817:—
His Excellency is eighty years of age, and of small stature. His voice sounds as if it issued from the grave. He is vain, rouges, and affects an effeminate elegance of manners. In other respects he is really a phenomenon, for he has filled the post of prime minister during the last forty-five years. He said, that, notwithstanding his arduous occupations, the administration of the government under a sovereign like the present was a delight, and by no means too much for his advanced age: whereas the predecessor of his majesty, Aga Mohammed Khan, had frequently harassed him to such a degree, that, notwithstanding the unbounded love which he bore to his country, he had often been on the point of retiring from his office, and even from Persia. We had no difficulty in believing his Excellency, for the treatment which he experienced from his former master was truly barbarous.
Aga-Mohammed-Khan (uncle to the present king) was a eunuch, who, by a successful conspiracy, obtained possession of the throne, and in order to maintain it committed every imaginable act of cruelty. His condition may have contributed to increase his natural hatred of mankind. Determined to be dissatisfied, he sometimes placed confidence indiscriminately in all; at others, in none: and in the end, he distrusted even himself. Addicted to drinking, he would forget one day the orders which he had given on the preceding: and he roared like a maniac, at the sight of the unfortunate creatures, frequently his own favourites, who had been sacrificed by his command. It is not surprising, that with such a character, he should have united a passion for war, which nevertheless, he conducted disgracefully. He was finally murdered by his own guards.
Mirza Sheffea was long the prime minister of this monster. He was obliged to be constantly near his person, and rarely escaped humiliation or insult, of which the following anecdote