Antiqua Print Gallery First Franco-Moroccan War
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First Franco-Moroccan War

The principal cause of war involved the retreat of Algerian resistance leader `Abd al-Qādir into Morocco following French victories over many of his tribal supporters in the French conquest of Algeria. Al-Qādir had begun using northeastern Morocco as a refuge and a recruiting base as early as 1840, and French military movements against al-Qādir heightened border tensions at that time. France made repeated diplomatic demands of sultan Abd al-Rahman to stop Moroccan support for al-Qādir, but political divisions within the sultanate made this virtually impossible. (Opposition to moves appeasing the infidel French was significant enough that there were several conspiracies to depose or assassinate al-Rahman.)
Tensions were again heightened in 1843 when French forces chased a column of al-Qādir supporters deep into Morocco. These men included Alawī tribesmen from Morocco, and French authorities interpreted their actions as a de facto declaration of war. While they did not act immediately, French military authorities threatened to march into the sultanate if support for al-Qādir was not withdrawn, and the border between Algeria and Morocco properly demarcated so that defenses against future incursions could be set up.
By early 1844 French troops had constructed a fortification at Lalla-Maghnia, the site of a Muslim shrine near Oujda, and clearly not within territory traditionally claimed by the Ottoman Regency of Algiers. An attempt to dislodge these troops peacefully in late May 1844 failed when Alawī tribal fighters fired on the French and were eventually driven back to Oujda. Rumors surrounding this incident (including reports that the shrine had been defiled and that French troops had entered Oujda and hanged to governor) fanned the flames of jihad in Morocco. Amid escalating troop buildups and skirmishes in the frontier area, French Marshal Thomas Robert Bugeaud insisted that the border be demarcated along the Muluwiya River, a position further west than the Tafna River which Morocco considered to be the border.
The war began on August 6, 1844, when a French navy under the command of the Prince de Joinville conducted a naval bombardment of the city of Tangiers. The conflict peaked on August 14, 1844 at the Battle of Isly, which took place near Oujda. In that particular battle, a large Moroccan force led by the sultan's son Sīdī Mohammed was defeated by a smaller French imperial force under Marshal Bugeaud. Essaouira, Morocco's main Atlantic trade port, was bombarded and briefly occupied by Joinville on August 16th, 1844. The war was formally ended September 10 with the signing of the Treaty of Tangiers, in which Morocco agreed to arrest and outlaw al-Qādir, reduce the size of its garrison at Oujda, and establish a commission to demarcate the border. (The border, which is essentially the modern border between Morocco and Algeria, was agreed in the Treaty of Lalla Maghnia.)
Sultan Abd al-Rahman's agreement to these terms, which amounted to a capitulation to French demands, threw Morocco into chaos, with Alawī and other tribal areas threatening secession in support of al-Qādir, and calls in some circles for al-Rahman to be deposed in favor of al-Qādir. The sultan and his sons eventually regained control over the sultanate, and were able to marginalize al-Qādir's calls for jihad by pointing out that without their support, al-Qādir was not a mujahid, or holy warrior, but merely a mufsid, or rebel. By 1847 the sultan's forces were in jihad against al-Qādir, who surrendered to French forces in December 1847.

(Source Wikipedia)