Persia/Chapter 6

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CHAPTER III.

OF GOVERNMENT OF THE PROVINCES AND CITIES.

The empire, as has just been observed, is divided into several beylerbeylik. These are subdivided into districts called balook, under officers bearing the title of khan, zabit, or hakim, according to the extent of their jurisdiction.

Each considerable town has, besides its governor, a kelaunter or mayor, whose business it is to collect the taxes. He is a magistrate of high rank, who holds his office of the crown, and appears once a year before the king, an honour not granted to magistrates of an inferior class. His salary is paid out of the royal exchequer. The kelaunter is the channel through which the petitions of the people are presented, and their wants made known to the king: he is on all occasions the representative of the rayas or subjects. He is obliged by his office to ascertain the amount of the property possessed by persons under his jurisdiction, for he has to prepare the list of assessments; and if the paper fixing the sum at which each is assessed were not furnished with his seal, the individual would pay no attention to it at the time of collecting the imposts. The kelaunter, more-ever, acts as judge in cases of theft or quarrels: his decisions, which are, or ought to be, agreeable to the established usage, are given on the spot. On this account he is styled hakim-ourf, judge of the common law. It is his duty also to carry into execution the sentences of the civil magistrate.

The cities of Persia are usually divided into mahals, or quarters. Each is under the superintendence of a ket-khoda, who is accountable to the kelaunter. There is no salary attached to this office, which is merely honorary, and is filled by the most reputable person in the quarter. The duties imposed by it consist in rendering an accurate account even of the most trifling circumstances, such as births, marriages, natural deaths, robberies, quarrels, &c.; and in ascertaining the occupations and means of subsistence of all the inhabitants of the quarter. When troops arrive in a town, the governor assembles the ket-khodas, and informs them of the number for whom lodging and subsistence are required: and it is their business to quarter the troops and levy the rations in such a manner that the charge shall fall equally on every inhabitant. This division of towns into mahals, and the establishment of ket-khodas, are of infinite service to the rebel who makes himself master of a city: it furnishes him with a systematic plan of pillage, which favours the lower classes of the people, but bears so much the harder upon the rich.

It is a custom that has been followed ever since the most ancient times, not to commit the custody of the citadel of a town to the governor, but to an officer called kutwall, who is appointed by the king or the beylerbey, and wholly independent of the kelaunter.

Besides the kelaunter, the ket-khoda, and the kutwall there are in every town other officers for the maintenance of order, such as the darogha, the meer-usus, and the mohtusib. The darogha, or superintendent of the bazars or markets, holds his office from the government. He settles the disputes that occur in the markets, hears complaints, and decides without appeal. If a shopkeeper refuses to execute, or violates his agreement, and complaint is made to the darogha, he obliges him to perform it: or if a debtor should prove that he is totally unable to satisfy claims made upon him, he grants a certain time for the fulfilment of his contract. But if the person complained against be of infamous character, the darogha imposes a fine on him, and orders him to be punished or put in confinement. This magistrate also superintends the morals of the people; and if he detects any of them drinking wine, or in the society of courtesans, he compels them to purchase his connivance at no small expense.

Mr. Scott Waring mentions, as a fact within his own knowledge, that the darogha of Shiraz received fifty toomauns (above 40l.) from an unfortunate Armenian, who was caught in the house of a prostitute, and he thought he conferred a favour on the culprit by allowing him to escape at so easy a rate. Hence the office of darogha is extremely lucrative: for, in addition to the presents and bribes which he is in the habit of receiving, the shopkeepers cheerfully supply him gratuitously with every thing he requires, that they may ensure his protection and favour.

The appointment of the meer-usus, or head of the watch, who is also styled kecheekdjee-bashee, nearly resembles that of darogha, the latter superintending the police in the day-time, and the former at night. It is his office to preserve the peace of the city, to apprehend persons found in the streets at improper hours, and to prevent robberies. He has under him, for this purpose, a number of people, who patrol the streets and keep watch on the house-tops. Each shopkeeper contributes two-pence or three-pence, monthly, to defray the expenses of this establishment. If a housekeeper is robbed, the meer-usus, is accountable for the robbery, and is obliged either to recover the property stolen, or to pay the amount. The latter rarely happens; for this officer is generally connected with all the thieves in the city, and can answer for their obedience to his orders. They rob, therefore, in places not under his protection; and, as he is commonly supposed to participate in their plunder, they are connected together by a common interest.

The mohtusib is an inspector, whose business it is to regulate the price of every article which is sold in the bazar, and to see that the weights are of the proper standard. This duty is usually performed once a week; and if he convicts any person of using false weights, the punishment frequently is death.

Small towns and villages are governed by a ket-khoda, who has under him a pak-kiar, or deputy. The latter attends to the details of the duty, and reports to his principal. Lastly, there is no place how insignificant soever, but what is under the superintendence of a reis, or chief.