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Affghan chief, shut up at length with a small army in Ispahansuspicious of all around him, and conscious that, if his power were destroyed, he neither deserved, nor could hope for mercy,-as his difficulties increased, completely lost his reason, and displayed in his conduct the desperate cruelty and almost judicial blindness of a Massaniello, or a Lope Aguirre. He first invited the Persian nobles to a splendid feast. About three hundred accepted the invitation; and the same day their bodies were exposed in the square before the palace, that the inhabitants might see and tremble. One massacre always produces a necessity for more. The Affghan had never heard the axiom of classical tyranny—
Νηπιος ος πατερα καινων παιδας καταλειπει. . but he had the same fears lest the children of the dead should avenge their parents, and the schools were ransacked for two hundred innocents of the first families in Persia, who were butchered the next day in a field adjoining the city. His Persian guards, who had for his service deserted that of their legitimate king, next fell under suspicion. A dinner was prepared for them in one of the courts of the palace, and, when they were seated, the Affghans rushed in armed. Three thousand thus fell in one hour; a ge neral slaughter of the peaceable citizens followed ; and, after fifteen days, for so long the scene of blood continued, Ispahan was left without inhabitants. This could not endure long.-Mahmood became the object of fear and hatred to his own Affghans. As his reason gradually gave way, he vainly sought to appease heaven by penance and prayer. He retired for fifteen days into a dark vault, receiving scarcelyany sustenance, and passing his time, according to a superstition not uncommon with his countrymen, in the unceasing repetition of Allah! Allah! But he came out from his den still worse than he went in :-a false report that Suffee Murza, the eldest son of Shah Hussein, hąd escaped from Ispahan, carried his terror to its utmost height, and with his own hands, assisted by a few of his confidential seryants, he murdered thirty-nine children and youths of the Suffavean family who were still in his power. Yet then, when two of the youngest princes fled to the arms of their unfortunate father, the captive Sultan Hussein, who received on his own arm a stab intended for his son, we are told that the Affghan tyrant relented on seeing the blood of that king whom he had sworn to treat as a father, and that the life of these only was spared. But this was the last act of tyranny or mercy in his power : his disorder increased, -he tore his own flesh and ate it,--Ashraff, his cousin and one of his generals, was named to succeed him, and Mahmood either died of his disorder, or, according to other accounts, his wretched life was shortened by order
of the new sultan, or, more horribly still, by his own mother, now grown weary of attending on him.
Ashrâff, who succeeded, was, for an Affghan, not inhuman, and in policy he was far superior to this wretched maniac. With singular address he persuaded the Turkish invading army, who had already suffered considerable loss before the walls of Tabreez, that it was impious to make war against an orthodox prince, who, like themselves, was of the Sunnite persuasion, and whom it was their duty rather to support against the wicked heretics of Persia. Many deserted to his side ; and the remainder being defeated in a general engagement, a peace was concluded on terms very favourable to the Court of Constantinople, but better than Ashraff had, at first, any reason to anticipate. Peter the Great was now dead; the exertions of the Russians, on the shores of the Caspian, languished under the influence of an unwholesome climate and a timid government; and the Affghan dynasty might have succeeded in Persia, as well as any of those which preceded it, but for their own intestine feuds, and the talents and courage of Nadir Kooli Khan, a Persian, who had already raised himself from low beginnings into fame and power, and who now supported Prince Tâmâsp, the son of the unfortunate Sultan Hussein, and consequently the rightful heir to the crown of Iran. This young man had hitherto found a precarious refuge from his enemies in Mazenderan, and had received very little more than promises from his Turkish and Russian patrons. Under the protection of Nadir Kooli his affairs assumed a more favourable aspect; the Persian spirit revived; the Affghans, in their turn, lost courage; Ashraff was at length defeated in a decisive engagement under the walls of Ispahan ; and, after disgracing himself by the murder of his prisoner, the old and defenceless Shah Hussein, fled towards Shiraz with all the spoil and treasure which he had time to remove. Tâmâsp, at the side of Nadir, re-entered the solitary palace of his ancestors, and, under the habit of a slave, discovered his own mother, who had thus escaped, during so many years, the violence of the Affghan conquerors, and now enjoyed the delight of seeing her son King of Persia. The triumph of the new sovereign appeared complete when he received the head of the unfortunate Ashraff, who, abandoned by his followers, was found wandering in the desert of Baloochistan, and killed by one of the petty chiefs of that wild country. But these flattering prospects soon disappeared; and Shah Tâmâsp found that Kooli Khan had driven out the usurpers from the palace of his sovereign with no other intention than to place himself in their room. Of this man, indeed, whose services were too necessary and too great to make him a safe servant to an unsettled government, the new king had long entertained a jealousy; and the first demand
which Nadir made on their triumphal entry into Ispahan,--the power of levying and coining money in Khorassan,-of which province he had been declared governor,) was little less than a claim. to independent sovereignty. Nadir, too, began to dream dreams, or to pretend that he dreamt them, pretty clearly indicative of his own future greatness, and admirably qualified to give confidence to his superstitious adherents. Tâmâsp had only one course to pursue, which he appears to have chosen with sufficient prudence. He took advantage of his general's absence in the province of Herât, raised an army of his own, and marched in person against the Turks in Erivan. Had he obtained any considerable success, he would at least have divided the admiration of Persia with his sub. ject, and ensured to himself the support of all those by whom Nadir was opposed or dreaded. But the experiment completely failed; he was defeated with great loss, and, worst of all, he concluded a peace by which he abandoned the whole country beyond the Araxes to the Turks, and ceded five districts of Kermanshah to the Pâchâ of Bagdad. The disgrace of this treaty was aggravated by its containing no stipulation for the release of the Persians who had been made prisoners during the war.
Nothing could be more propitious than all this to the views of Nadir. Had the king, after his defeat, continued to keep the field; had he supported his misfortunes with dignity, and, as Nadir himself did on a similar occasion, encouraged his troops by praise and the hope of better fortune, his case would even then have been far from desperate. Men can bear reverses patiently, because they hope that their next trial may yet be successful; but when their leaders throw up the game, and calmly acquiesce in their losses, this hope is lost, and the degradation and calamity are felt without alleviation. An unsuccessful war may change for the better ; but an inglorious peace is, to those who submit to it, certain ruin. A dutiful remonstrance' was immediately published and circulated through the country by Kooli Khan, in which he said every thing which could fan the general discontent into a flame, and make the Persians despise their sovereign. The king had lost his army and was not likely to raise another. Submission now was his only resource; and, after a little previous manoeuvring on the part of the vassal, which shows that there still existed in the country a strong veneration for the Suffavean blood, Tâmâsp was compelled to exchange his throne for a captivity, which the policy or compassion of Nadir made not more severe than was necessary. His son, an infant only eight months old, was proclaimed the nominal king, and the general became regent during his minority.
His first steps were not propitious. He sustained a severe defeat from the Turks commanded by their able and amiable vizier Topal Osman; but he soon was able to retrieve the fortune of the campaign, and with it all the ancient possessions of the Persian crown in the neighbourhood of the Tigris and Euphrates. The veil which he had hitherto worn was now no longer necessary: news arrived of the death of Abbas the Third, the poor child who had been elevated to a nominal sovereignty; and who was now so proper to assume the vacant throne as a valiant warrior of native Persian blood, and by whom the Persian name had been restored to its ancient lustre? The officers of his army were unanimous in their entreaties that he would not abandon the country which he had saved, and Nadir, though, of course, reluctant to receive so great a burden, was compelled to yield to the wishes of his friends. He only, however, accepted the crown on condition that his subjects should renounce the heresy of the Sheahs, and return with him to the orthodox Sunnite persuasion. This was a measure of very doubtful policy, and one for which it is not easy to assign an adequate motive. Nadir cannot be suspected of having been influenced by any religious zeal, and he had till now professed himself a zealous defender of that faith which the majority of his subjects followed. It is possible that, as the Sheah religion was associated in the minds of the Persians with their saintly Suffavean dynasty, he was anxious to get rid of whatever might perpetuate such dangerous recollections; but the hazard of the experiment was far greater than its probable advantage, and is a strong proof of Nadir's wonderful popularity at this moment that, though his subjects did not imitate his apostasy, they do not appear to have seriously resented it. The new Shah, indeed, was too wise to employ any offensive zeal in the execution of his own cdict, and, though the Ullema murmured, the laity were content to follow their own form of worship without caring for the opinions of their sovereign. The remaining acts of Nadir, his reduction of the Affghans, his invasion of India, the encouragement which he afforded to commerce, and the hideous cruelties which stained his declining age, and compelled at length his own servants to secure themselves by his murder, are pretty generally known to European readers.
• His character,' says Sir J. Malcolm, “is, perhaps, exbibited in its truest colours in those impressions which the memory of his actions bas left on the minds of his countrymen. They speak of him as a deliverer and a destroyer ; but while they expatiate with pride upon his deeds of glory, they dwell with more pity than horror on the cruel enormities which disgraced the latter years of his reign ; and neither his crimes, nor tbe atteinpt he made to abolish their religion, have subdued their gratitude and veneration for the hero who revived in the breasts of his degraded countrymen a sense of their former fame, and restored Persia to her independence as a nation,
Immediately on the death of Nadir Shah, the Affghans in his service left the army under the command of Ahmed Khan, and proceeding, by rapid marches, to Candahar, laid there, by the help of a corps of Usbegs, and of a large convoy of treasure which they intercepted, the foundation of that separate kingdom of which the singular manners and extensive power have lately become well known to Europeans through the work of Mr. Elphinstone. Aly, the nephew of Nadir, was declared King of Persia, but his reign was short and inglorious. He was dethroned and blinded by his brother Ibrahim Khan, who in turn received his merited death by the hands of his own officers. After his overthrow, no obstacle seemed to remain to the succession of Shah Rokh, the grandson of Nadir and son of the unfortunate Reeza Kooli whom that tyrant had deprived of sight. But the hostility which Nadir had shown to the prevailing religion of his country, though his own abilities and popularity had, during his life, suppressed the storm, was severely visited on his guiltless descendant. A strong party among the priests, headed by a person named Meerza Syud Mahomed, denounced the young king as the associate of christian merchants, and as inheriting all his grandfather's malignant heresy. Shah Rokh was assaulted before he could assemble his troops, and immediately deprived of sight by his cruel enemy, who ascended the throne under the name of Soliman. But, by another of those revolutions which, though they are of usual occurrence in the east, would perplex in Europe the most adroit sceneshifter of a pantomime, Solimân himself was taken prisoner and put to death by Yusoof Aly; and the blind Shah Rokh, after a very short captivity, was again placed on the throne, which he again changed for a dungeon on the defeat of his protector by Meer Aclum, an Arabian chieftain, and the Affghan general Ahmed Khan Abdállee. This last, however, who had sufficient wisdom and moderation to prefer the consolidation of his power in his native country to the vain ambition of a wide but distracted empire, abandoned Persia once more to the contests of her provincial governors, stipulating only, with equal prudence and generosity, for the erection of a petty principality in Khorassan in favour of the unfortunate grandson of Nadir. For the western half of Persia, now forever dismembered from its eastern provinces, a bloody but uninteresting scramble succeeded, which was terminated ai length in favour of Kurreem Khan, the most deserving of the competitors, and one of the bestand ablest sovereigns which any nation has enjoyed. This excellent man was originally a private soldier in the camp of Nadir Shah, and, in this situation, as he often used to relate, a circumstance occurred to him, to which he ascribed with amiable enthusiasm, no small part of his subsequent honours.