Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/59

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PERSIA.

with his extortions. They murmur against the man, but they submit to the divine will of which the monarch is the organ. Let him give what order he will, in a paroxysm of anger, of intoxication, or of any passion whatever, it is instantaneously executed. Neither long services rendered to the state, nor tried integrity, nor distinguished merit, can skreen a man from his capricious cruelty. If but a look, a word, manifests his sovereign will, the head of the ablest minister, or of the most successful general, falls beneath the sabre of a Gholam. This tyranny finds no barriers but in religion. The same Persian who sacrifices a benefactor, a son, a father, in obedience to a royal firman, would rather die than drink wine, or be guilty of any violation of the precepts of the Koran. The despotic Nadir Shah could vanquish powerful rivals, destroy the Sofis, conquer India, threaten Turkey, and strike terror into all the East: but when he attempted to alter religious opinions, his efforts totally failed.

Notwithstanding the preceding statement of the nature of the royal power, and the excesses to which it tends, it would be wrong to assert that all the monarchs of Persia have been tyrants. The present sovereign, Feth Ali Shah, enjoys the affection of his subjects; and travellers relate of him but few of those acts of barbarity which were so frequent under most of his predecessors. It ought moreover to be observed, that the people are seldom the victims of the cruel caprices of the monarch, which generally reach only such grandees as are about his person. At the court of Persia, a man frequently goes to sleep in prosperity, and awakes stripped of every thing; yet the Persian is never the wiser for these catastrophes: there, as in every other country, the crowd of courtiers eagerly push forward on the road to fortune and favour.


CHAPTER II.

OF THE GREAT OFFICERS OF THE EMPIRE.


SECTION I.

OF THE ITIMAD-AD-DOWLAH, OR PRIME MINISTER.

The first personage of the kingdom, next to the sovereign, is the Itimad-ad-dowlah, whose dignity corresponds with that of Grand Vizir anong the Turks, or our prime minister. In petitions addressed to him he is styled Visir azem—supreme Visir, but in familiar language he is denominated Itimad-ad-dowlah, a compound word signifying pillar of the empire. This minister