Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/66

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51
PERSIA.

ally erect themselves into petty independent princes. Their courts are little inferior in splendour to that of the sovereign; they are composed of the same officers, only their establishments are not so numerous. This, however, is rather a picture of what has been the case under former monarchs; for the present king has had the prudence to adopt a politic precaution for ensuring the permanence of his authority.

When Hadjee Ibrahim had advanced him to the throne, he of course held the appointment of visir: but the king, to counteract the power of this high office, conferred similar dignities on two other persons, who were looked upon as the second and third ministers of state. The authority, therefore, of visir of the empire was divided among three persons; and though Hadjee Ibrahim undoubtedly enjoyed by far the greater share of influence, yet, when the king found it politic to make away with his benefactor, he had formed a party who readily undertook the execution of his wishes.

Feth Ali has pursued the same system in all the cities of his empire. The governors of districts may be considered as the civil officers of the state: they have no authority over the troops; but the commanders, in cases of exigence or alarm, are subject to their requisitions. The commandant of the citadel is another independent authority; so that the office of Beylerbey, which was formerly committed to the charge of one person, is now divided among a considerable number; and, as it is impossible for so many interests to coalesce, the king is sure to be informed of whatever may be done contrary to his orders. His government has been disturbed by only two rebellions; and it is probably owing to this system of counteracting the power and authority of his ministers and officers of state, that his reign has been of longer duration than is usually the case in despotic monarchies.

Each of the Beylerbeys is to the utmost extent of his power a despot, and the connivance of the king is purchased with extraordinary presents. This system of tyranny descends in a successive series from the king to the servants of his governors and officers of state: it returns, however, to its first source, and the government requires pecuniary satisfaction for the oppressive administration of its servants. A striking illustration of this system is given by Mr. Morier:

Mahomed Nebee Khan, from having been originally a scribe, and successively a shopkeeper, a merchant, an ambassador, and governor of Bushire, was at length raised to the visirship of the province of Fars, where, like all the Persians in authority, he was guilty of great extortions. He was sent for by the king, and his adventures afford a specimen of what generally happens