Open main menu

The New International Encyclopædia/Mehemet Ali

MEHEMET ALI, mā′he-mĕt ä′lē̇ (1769-1849). Viceroy of Egypt. He was born in 1769 at Kavala, a little town in Macedonia. Left an orphan, he was taken into the service of a captain of the Janizaries. He learned much of military matters and of intrigue, made a rich marriage in 1787, and was thus able to obtain a commission as an officer in the irregular troops of the Sultan. Through relations which he formed with a Marseilles merchant he amassed wealth in trade. He received a command in Egypt to coöperate with the British against the French invaders, and at length became commander of the Albanian or Arnaut Corps. In 1805 he was recognized by the Porte as Viceroy of Egypt and Pasha of Three Tails, but was soon involved in disputes with the Mamelukes (q.v.), who had long practically ruled Egypt. The struggle was finally terminated in 1811 by the massacre of the greater number of these at Cairo. The rest fled to Upper Egypt, but were expelled by Mehemet in the following year. They then took refuge in Nubia, but in 1820 he followed them there and completely vanquished them. From 1811 to 1818 he carried on war against the Wahabis in Arabia, who were subjugated by his adopted son, Ibrahim Pasha. Shortly after he conquered Kordofan, added it to his dominions, and opened a great trade in slaves from the interior of Africa. About this time he began to reorganize his army on something like European principles, built a fleet, and erected fortresses, military shop-works, and arsenals. He sent a strong force to assist the Sultan in suppressing the Greek revolt in 1824, but his new fleet was destroyed at Navarino in 1827. In 1830 the Porte conferred on him the Government of Crete, but this did not satisfy his ambition. He determined to annex Syria to his dominions, and in 1831 despatched an army under Ibrahim Pasha, who overran the country, defeating the Turks at Horas, July, 1832, and by his victory at Konieh (December 20, 1832) brought the Turkish Government to the brink of ruin. Russia now stepped in, and a treaty was concluded (May 4, 1833) by which Syria was handed over to Mehemet. Neither of the belligerents was satisfied, and Mehemet continued to plot till Sultan Mahmud II. declared war in 1839 against his dangerous subject. At Nisib, June 24, 1839, the Turkish army was crushed by the forces of Mehemet Ali, but the European powers again interfered, and Mehemet was compelled to give up Syria and Crete and to content himself with the hereditary vice-royalty of Egypt (1841). Mehemet was at once a remorseless tyrant and an able, progressive administrator, and did much to develop Egypt. He cleared his dominions of robbers, executed great public works, and may be said almost to have introduced the cultivation of cotton, indigo, and sugar into the country. He also established a system of national education in Egypt. He died August 2, 1849. See Egypt.