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Persia Revisited by Thomas Edward Gordon

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There is really no standing army, in Persia as we understand such,
except the royal guard and the weak Persian Cossack brigade at Tehran.
The artillery and infantry which do all the garrison work are militia
regiments, embodied for two years at a time. The conditions are one
year's service to two years' leave, and that they serve under their own
local chiefs and officers. The administration of regiments is given to
Ministers, high officials, and others for purposes of emolument or
distinction, as the case may be. This system gives the influence over
the troops to those who deal with their pay, and not to the
Commander-in-Chief, who is regarded merely as the keeper of the great
gate through which the pay passes after toll is taken. The
Naib-es-Sultaneh, equally with his brother, the Zil-es-Sultan, appears
to have a great dislike to the Prime Minister, whose loyalty to the
Sovereign and his heir could not fail to create strong jealousy in high

I shall now finish with a few remarks on the able and sagacious Sadr
Azem, the Prime Minister, who, by his strong character, resolute will,
and prompt action, has proved his loyalty to the Crown and his fidelity
to the Shah. He became Prime Minister at an unusually early age for such
a high position, and this preferment drew upon him the jealousy and envy
of many in such a manner as often to cause him great embarrassment.
There can be no doubt of his conspicuous energy and talent. His pleasing
manner and happy disposition attract adherents and gain for him their
best services. In addition to his personal qualities, he has an
astonishing knowledge of public affairs, which makes him a most valuable
Minister. With the people he is deservedly popular, for not only is he
liberal and kind, but he understands their feelings and can interpret
their minds.

[Illustration: MIRZA ALI ASGHAR KHAN, SADR AZEM (_From a Photograph by
Messrs. W. and D. Downey_)]

He was beside Nasr-ed-Din Shah in the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim when the
assassination took place, and at once brought his Majesty back to the
palace in Tehran. This happened about two o'clock in the afternoon, and
the Shah breathed his last within four hours afterwards. It appears that
the Sadr Azem immediately grasped the situation, and put himself in
telegraphic communication with the Vali Ahd at Tabriz, four hundred
miles distant. He then summoned all the Ministers, State officials,
military commanders, and the most influential people of the city, to the
palace, and announced the death of the Shah. Under his able guidance,
the prompt recognition of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza as Shah, in accordance
with the will of his father, was effected.

The English and Russian Legations, as representing the two strongest and
chiefly interested European Powers, were immediately informed, and the
Minister of the former, and the Charge d'Affaires of the latter, were
invited to the palace. On their arrival, the Sadr Azem wired to the Vali
Ahd in their presence the allegiance of the whole party who were there
assembled. This was done about four or five hours after the death of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, and the following morning, in consequence of this
decisive action, Mozuffer-ed-Din was publicly proclaimed Shah of Persia.

Thus the electric telegraph, which Nasr-ed-Din Shah introduced into
Persia, has been the means of helping most materially to save the
country from the uncertainty which has hitherto always produced
revolution and civil war in the interval between the death of one Shah
and the accession of his successor.


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