§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £370,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, to meet additional Expenditure for Army Services.
Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £164,750, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, to meet additional Expenditure for Army Services."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The question which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) placed before the Committee on Thursday last, in 1054 so temperate and comprehensive a manner, was intended to elicit from Her Majesty's Government some further information in reference to the affairs of Egypt; and I do not think that anyone who listened to the debate which followed will be prepared to admit that my right hon. and gallant Friend was altogether so successful as to render unnecessary any further attempt in the same direction. We do not ask the Government for information concerning the details of the campaign now being carried on in Africa; but what we do ask for is, that the Government should be prepared to make an intelligible statement of the policy they intend to pursue in Egypt. The only answer which, as yet, we have been able to extract from the Prime Minister is that, until the campaign is over, we cannot measure our position. Put into homelier phrase, I understand that statement to mean that, when the fighting is over, we may be told what we have been fighting for. I have consulted the various Blue Books which have been laid upon the Table of the House, to find out what the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt is, and the only definition of that policy which I can find is one given last month by Earl Granville to the Italian Ambassador—that our policy is an elastic policy, to be guided by circumstances. Now, I think there is a ray of hope ill the definition of "an elastic policy to be guided by circumstances," because one of the most important of these guiding circumstances is the opinion of the House of Commons. I, therefore, venture to lay before the Committee the position we now occupy. I believe we are in this position, as regards this Vote of Credit—for I shall continue to term it a Vote of Credit—that, whenever military operations have previously been carried on, the Government have always been able to show, to the satisfaction of their own Supporters, that the object of the campaign was to promote national interests, or to protect or extend the Imperial rule of the country. But no one will pretend that the campaign in which we are now embarked is for the promotion of national interests. It is altogether disassociated from national interests; for we are utilizing our resources, and spending the blood of our soldiers, for the purpose of keeping together the debris of the repudiated policy of an impotent 1055 foreign Government, and a policy which was enforced against the wishes of every English employé of that Government. English money and English soldiers are being used for the purpose of pulling the chestnuts out of a fire into which the Egyptian Government ought never to have been allowed to put them. That is not only the opinion of the majority of the House, but of the men who are on the spot. There are two important telegrams in the papers to-day—one from General Gordon, and one from General Graham—and I would ask the attention of the Committee to two extracts from these telegrams. General Gordon says—Be sure of one thing; if Her Majesty's Government do not act promptly, General Graham's victory will go for naught, and with the useless expenditure of blood the effect of it will evaporate.He goes on to say—We cannot blame them (the Natives) for rising, when no definite sign is shown of establishing a permanent Government there.The telegram in The Standard newspaper is of a different nature, but it is to this effect—Neither officers nor men have the slightest desire to kill any more of these gallant Arabs, who are an infinitely superior race to the men of the miserable and treacherous Tokar garrison whom they were supposed to have relieved.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Is the noble Lord opposite quoting from a telegram sent by General Graham?
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
No; it is a telegram from a Correspondent of The Standard, who is with General Graham; but I expect that the Correspondent is pretty well acquainted with the views of the officers of General Graham's Force. Therefore, as I said before, we are not fighting to promote any national object. The Egyptian Government having exhausted its resources, both in men and money, the English taxpayer and the English soldier are to make up the deficiency and to keep together the remains of a policy which, at any time during the last year, Her Majesty's Government, by holding up a finger, could have put a stop to. The difficulty arises from the ridiculous system of Government which we have established in Egypt, by which the functions of Native officials are to resist the reforms which their European colleagues desire to introduce, and to continue the abuses which it is the object of the Eng- 1056 lish officials to check. The heads of the Egyptian Departments initiate troubles and difficulties, which the English officials find it impossible to solve. This House has a right to insist, before voting this money, upon a declaration from Her Majesty's Government, either that they will discontinue or reverse the policy which has brought disaster in the past, and must, in the future, produce the like effect. Not only anyone who has taken part in the previous debates upon Egyptian matters, but anyone who has followed those debates, must be struck with the fact that, from first to last, the House has been induced to interfere in Egypt on false pretences. First, the country was told that the bombardment of Alexandria was an act of defence. That ridiculous plea was put forward to keep the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) in the Cabinet. What was the consequence? The Government were prevented from taking steps for the preservation of Alexandria; and, in the end, Alexandria, which they wished to preserve, was destroyed, and their late Colleague, whom they wished to keep, was lost. In the next place, the Prime Minister asserted that we were not at war; and, yet, the right hon. Gentleman has conferred more honours and rewards upon the men who were engaged in operations which were not war than are ordinarily conferred after an arduous campaign. We were told, in the first instance, that our only object was to put down the despotic rule of a pretender and military adventurer—Arabi. We did put down that adventurer; but, in doing so, we found that he was so connected with the military and civil institutions of the country, that, in suppressing him, we annihilated them, and we put up nothing in their place. We were led from one blunder to another, because, from the first to the last, Her Majesty's Government refused to look the facts in the face. I confess I felt some little shame when the Prime Minister got up on Thursday to say that the Government had inherited all their difficulties from the late Government. Now, railway accidents frequently occur in this country, involving serious loss of life; and the effort to connect the Soudan massacres with the establishment of the Dual Control is very much the same as if, when a disastrous railway accident 1057 occurs, and is occasioned by the incapacity of the officials, the directors were to contend that the fault did not rest with them, or their subordinates, but with George Stephenson, who invented the locomotive. That is precisely the same as the defence of the Prime Minister, when he says that all the difficulty has been brought about by the Government inheriting the policy of their Predecessors. I think it can be shown that the difficulty has arisen because Her Majestys Government did not continue the policy they inherited from their Predecessors, and because they chose to give a different character to the Control that had been established, in order to extricate themselves from political difficulties at home. Up to the commencement of November, 1881, the present Government continued the policy of their Predecessors, and at that time there were two despatches—one by the English Government and the other by the French Government—which placed the Egyptian Government in full possession of their views. The French despatch said that the national aspirations of Egypt were much too real, and, in some sense, too well justified, to warrant their being neglected, or to admit of the idea of suppressing them. From November until the end of December, 1881, no further difficulty occurred in Egypt. On the 31st of December, Sir Edward Malet telegraphed home that the Khedive was in a cheerful mood, and he took a hopeful view of the situation. But there was a difficulty at home, a hitch in the negotiation of the Commercial Treaty with France. M. Gambetta was anxious to negotiate that Treaty, and it occurred to him that if he could give to France a tangible proof of the value of the political alliance with England, it might help to overcome the objections which the French Protectionists took to the Commercial Treaty. Therefore, without disclosing a reason, he went to Lord Lyons, and suggested that a Joint Note should be sent, in the name of the French and the English Governments, to the Government of Egypt; and to this Lord Granville was persuaded to assent. The Note was presented on the 8th January, 1882, and within a fortnight it produced a complete revulsion. The first object of the Note was to emphasize the unity of the action of the two Powers; the second, to strengthen the 1058 personal influence of the Khedive, by giving him a guarantee against internal and external danger; and the third, to prevent the interposition of the Porte as the Suzerain. This was a total inversion of the principles which the French and English Governments had laid down two months before. The Joint Note was presented to the Egyptian Government on the 8th January. Three days afterwards there was a collision between the Council of the Khedive and the two Controllers, because the Assembly of Notables wished to have some control over that part of the Budget which did not relate to the service for the Debt; but M. Gambetta would not hear of it. Without consulting us, he telegraphed to the French Representative to resist at all risks; and Sir Edward Malet then said that, unless a compromise were effected, armed intervention would become a necessity. Then M. Gambetta was turned out of Office; and the first act of his Successor was to repudiate his action, and to say that he had misconceived the duties of the Control in Egypt. We were left to face the storm raised by M. Gambetta; and that was the primary cause of our difficulty. The result of this underhand and tortuous policy was that Her Majesty's Government altogether failed to get what they wanted. What they wanted was a Commercial Treaty, and to avoid a war with Egypt. We got a war with Egypt, and lost the Commercial Treaty with France. Therefore, the statement that these difficulties were an inheritance from the late Government is a pure fiction, which may serve the purposes of debate, but will not stand the test of examination for a moment. And now as to the elastic policy. It certainly has been most elastic during the last eight months. On the 11th June instructions were sent to our Representative in Egypt to take and give no advice to the Government of Egypt; but at the beginning of January we sent a telegram to the Khedive, thanking him for his patriotic conduct in adopting the policy of Her Majesty's Government as to the Soudan. Then Her Majesty's Representative was warned to give no advice; and two months later we had to send troops to and spend money in the Soudan. It is clear that if Her Majesty's Government had not evaded their responsibilities 8 or 10 months ago the disasters in the Soudan would never 1059 have occurred; and now we are asked to assent to a campaign which may lead us anywhere and end in anything. The House has a right to insist that the Government should inform them what is the ultimate object of their policy in Egypt. The present position there is an inversion of every moral and political principle that has ever before regulated the action of the Government of this country. We sent a number of Englishmen to represent us in Egypt, to supply the brains, to make reforms, and the machinery for carrying out those reforms, which alone could keep the Egyptian Government in its place, and yet we left the control of affairs more or less in the hands of incapable Orientals. Now, who are the governing classes in Cairo? The majority of them are Turks and Circassians, those very men whom, six years ago, the Prime Minister spoke of as the "anti-human specimen of humanity." We allowed these persons to check and frustrate our benevolent intentions in regard to Egypt and the administration of the country. I cannot exactly understand what object the Government have in continuing to act on their present lines. We may have different views; but, as far as I can see, the action or re-action which characterizes the Government policy in Egypt is not likely to promote the objects of a single section of the House. There are a certain number of hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who wish to see the troops removed from Egypt as soon as possible; there is another section of hon. Members who are anxious that we should do the work we have undertaken, and that before we evacuate Egypt we shall lay the foundation of a good Administration and Government; and then, again, there are hon. Gentlemen whom I may call the thick-and-thin supporters of Her Majesty's Government, who are very anxious that they should adopt such a line of action as will not render it an impossible task to defend them at the approaching General Election. I would ask any of these Gentlemen, are their views in the smallest degree consulted or promoted by the action which the Government is taking? It is perfectly clear that the longer we have been in Egypt, the further off we are from getting out of it. We have not carried out a single reform as far as 1060 I know, although it is said that some progress has been made with an alphabetical list of voters. Then, why are Her Majesty's Government to continue this—if I may so call it—vacuous and fatuous policy? The reason appears to be that the Egyptian Government is an excellent buffer between the Prime Minister and responsibility. If we temporarily took over the Government, we should be forced to do many things that are not now done, and undo much that is now going on. The other day the Prime Minister exclaimed, with exultation, that there was not a tittle of evidence in any Blue Book to show that Hicks Pasha had the right to claim the moral support of Her Majesty's Government. Now, I say that if there is no evidence in the Blue Books to show that Hicks Pasha had a right to the moral support of Her Majesty's Government, their policy stands condemned by that one fact alone; because, if he had had their moral support, all these disasters would have been avoided. The cost of this dual system of administration is such that every day makes it more and more difficult for us to reform the Administration of Egypt. I do not know whether the House is aware of it; but actually, at the present moment, the Egyptian Government are paying a sum which goes in diminution of the cost of troops on the English Establishment. I believe that fact was pointed out last year upon the Army Estimates. Not only are the Egyptian Government obliged to support English troops, but they are also paying the cost of what General Gordon with some irony calls "Wood's Invincibles," the only invincibility of which is their invincible objection to go into action. Making full allowance for the exaggeration of newspaper reports, I may point out that there were two telegrams received on two succeeding days, which give us a tolerable idea of that force. It was stated one day that all the English officers were prepared to send in their resignation, because they were not allowed to go on service, and the next day we were told that all the Natives, rank and file, were about to mutiny because they were going on service. I find in the Papers that there was a distinct warning sent to Her Majesty's Government by one of our most distinguished Consuls, who informed them that if they 1061 sent Egyptian and Turkish troops against the Arabs, they would be to a certainty defeated. Her Majesty's Government paid no attention to this warning, but thought they would be able to shield themselves behind this sham and imaginary Government. If, however, they were responsible for the Administration of Egypt, they should not have so shielded themselves. Let us put the matter in a common-sense point of view, and ask ourselves, is it possible to reform the Administration of a country whose finances are in permanent disorder? It will be absolutely impossible, so long as you have two sets of Administration and two Armies, to improve the financial condition of Egypt. Until the finances are placed in a satisfactory condition, it is idle to talk of effecting any satisfactory improvement. But there is something more grave still. I do not know whether hon. Members have read a remarkable telegram, which comes from Khartoum, and which appears in The Times of this morning. It has been sent by a gentleman who is our Consular Agent at Khartoum—a man who has gone at the risk of his life to assume his duties there, and therefore there is more importance to be attached to his statements than to those of an ordinary newspaper correspondent. He reports an interview which he has had with General Gordon; and, unless the whole of the telegram is an absolute forgery, he shows the existence of a state of things which it is absolutely essential that the Committee should seriously consider. General Gordon announces that it is essential that he should be succeeded as Governor by a man of the name of Zebehr Pasha. Now, we all know something about Zebehr Pasha. We know that he is the chief slave-driver. If Lord Beaconsfield had been in Office and had thought of employing such a person, the present Prime Minister would probably have designated him the "Legree" of the Soudan. General Gordon says—As for Zebehr Pasha's blood-feud with me it is absurd; if a subsidy be granted him for three years dependent on my safety. As for Zebehr's slave-dealing offences, they are bad, but not worse than those of Ismail and other Turks, for the thief is no worse than the receiver.Now, General Gordon has absolute power, and yet his suggestion for the pacification of the Province is that he is 1062 to be succeeded by the man well known as the greatest slave-driver in the country; a man of so murderous a tendency that he could only be kept from murdering General Gordon by the receipt of a sum of money dependent upon that distinguished officer's safety. Is it right that this House should vote money which is to be expended in this way, when they are clearly told that one of the objects of Her Majesty's Government is to employ this man as an agent in extricating them from the political difficulties of the situation in which they are now placed? What does slave-driving or slave-hunting mean? It means wholesale destruction and murder, the sacking of villages, the killing of those who are unfit for slavery, and the sale and captivity of those who are. It means a perpetual repetition of atrocities similar to those which took place in Bulgaria, and promoted in this case for the sake of gain. The Prime Minister was good enough, when the late Government were in Office, to attempt to associate them with the atrocities in Bulgaria, and there was one sentence at the end of his remarkable pamphlet which I always recollect. He said—There is not a cannibal in the South Sea Islands, not a criminal in Europe, whose blood does not boil at the recital of what has been done, and which remains unavenged;but nothing is now said about the atrocities of the Slave Trade. Are we to understand that when Lord Beaconsfield was in Office the blood of every criminal in Europe and of every cannibal in the South Sea Islands was to boil over at the recital of cruelties and atrocities which, when the present Prime Minister is in Office, are to receive approval from a majority of the Members of the House of Commons? There seems to me only one straightforward course for Her Majesty's Government, and that is clearly to accept their responsibility for the present position of affairs in Egypt. That would be far more manly, straightforward, and English than to attempt to delude the House by what I cannot help calling humbug and imposture. It is humbug and imposture to pretend that there is any Government in Egypt except that which is promoted by Her Majesty's Government. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) the other 1063 day gave an answer which it seems to me was exactly the sort of answer which, in accordance with the policy of the Government, ought not to have been given; because, in reply to a Question as to the position occupied by Sir Evelyn Baring, he made this remarkable statement—In matters of importance in which Sir Evelyn Baring thinks it necessary to give advice, it is expected that during our present armed occupation his advice will be followed.I do not know what my noble Friend meant by that; but it is capable of this inference that—as soon as our armed occupation is over, his advice might not be followed. What follows if that be so? We intend, I suppose, to keep a Representative in Egypt after our occupation is over; but, if it is not intended that our advice should be received then, one of two things must happen—either we must perpetually occupy the country, or withdraw our Representative when we cease to occupy it. Answers such as these, I believe, do much harm in the state of uncertainty which now prevails, and accelerate the very evils you wish to avert. In urging Her Majesty's Government to pursue a manly and straightforward course by taking over temporarily the Government of Egypt, I do not for one moment advocate annexation. I think no one could have been, even for a short time, connected with the Administration of India without being aware of the heavy strain upon English resources and English funds caused by the acquisition of a great territory in which Europeans cannot permanently reside. We are alone able to govern that country by annually sending out a large number of civilians and soldiers for the purpose of supplying the place of those who die or who are sick owing to the unhealthy character of the climate. Therefore, I confess I should be very reluctant, unless it was absolutely essential, for this country to annex any great extent of territory which might have to be governed in the same way. But I recollect, when I was at the India Office, that I frequently had the advantage of talking to one of the most distinguished Indian civilians who ever lived, Sir George Clerk, who had been many years in the Service, and who was able to talk of those who were living some 50 years back. Sir George Clerk was, perhaps, one of the best friends the Natives ever 1064 had in the Indian Civil Service; and although his aversion to annexation or even to the temporary assumption of the annexation of a country was very strong, he told me that there was only one thing to be remembered in taking over the administration of the country—namely, that it was the only means of breaking up the incapable and corrupt ring of officials who would intrigue and check all efforts at reform. You may appoint excellent officials, but their efforts will be frustrated by intrigue; but the moment you take over the Government of a country, you can deport or otherwise punish this gang of obstructives as you choose. In the case of Egypt our efforts have been checked by a small ring of Turkish or Circassian officials, and we shall never be able to do anything with them until we become directly responsible for the administration of the country. To this the Prime Minister puts forward two objections. The first is, that it would make the Khedive a puppet. Well, Sir, will anyone dispute that he is not one already? Would the Government dare to leave him and his Ministers for a month to face the consequences of their own acts? If they did, the Khedive and his Ministers would speedily be thrown, bag and baggage, out of the country. The next objection of the Prime Minister is that it would be contrary to the public law of Europe. The late Lord Beaconsfield once remarked that all persons were subject, however eminent, to moments of riotous hallucination, and one of these hallucinations on the part of the Prime Minister is that he is the sole repository and exponent of the public law of Europe. Although the right hon. Gentleman made an indictment against the late Government in the interests of foreign countries, he never received one particle of endorsement from the accredited Representative of any Foreign Power in Europe. If a regard for the public law of Europe prevented the Prime Minister from taking the course suggested, what does he think of the remarkable Proclamation issued a few days ago by General Graham and Admiral Hewett, from which I will read one or two sentences? The Proclamation says—The great God who rules the Universe does not send such scoundrels as Osman Digna as his messengers. Your people are brave, and England always respects such men. Awake, 1065 then; chase Osman Digna from your country. We promise you that protection and pardon shall be granted to all who come in at once; otherwise the fate of those who fell at El Teb shall surely overtake you.Will the Prime Minister say that that Proclamation was issued in accordance with the public law of Europe? Will any Member of the Government say that it was issued in accordance with the public law of Europe? [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Yes.] The right hon. Gentleman opposite is a very able man, but I am curious to hear the arguments by which he can support that contention. It does seem to me to be trifling with the House for the Prime Minister to get up and drag in the public law of Europe—that public law for which he has so extreme a reverence—when a few days before he had given his sanction to a Proclamation which he perfectly well knew was in the very teeth of that public law. Then the Prime Minister has said that it is a serious source of danger to put Christians in places of trust over Mahomedan races. My hon. Friend the Member for South Lincolnshire (Mr. Finch-Hatton), in his very remarkable speech, on which I hope I may be allowed to congratulate him, because it was characterized by the spontaneous debating power and facility of expression which I think are always eagerly welcomed by all sections of this House—pointed out that we are the Rulers of more Mahomedans than the Sovereign of any other country. I greatly question the propriety of a Minister of the Empress of India asserting that it is a serious source of danger to put Christians in places of trust over Mahomedans. Does the Prime Minister believe in that assertion, or is it a mere debating assertion? Who now is the Prime Minister of Egypt? It is Nubar Pasha, who is at the head of three great Departments of the State. The Prime Minister may say that the races who inhabit Lower Egypt are not fanatical; but he must admit that the most fanatical Mahomedans who are to be found reside in the neighbourhood of the Soudan. Yet what is the measure of the Prime Minister for the pacification of the Soudan? He has selected General Gordon, a genuine hero, but who is probably one of the most fanatical Christians to be found in Europe, and he has put up General Gordon in a post of absolute authority over 1066 the most fanatical Mahomedans that can be found, and he is so satisfied with the result that he declines to inform the House of the proceedings of General Gordon. Then, I say that the Government must find some better reason and advance some better objections. It is a serious thing to be asked to vote money, or to sanction an expedition, when those who make the request cannot tell us for what objects they want it. We are now incurring loss of life and a large expenditure of money; trade and commerce have been dislocated; social relations are unsettled, and all for what? Merely in order that a certain number of Turks and Circassians may, for the edification of Her Majesty's Government, attempt to play the part of responsible Ministers at Cairo. Every English official, from Lord Dufferin downwards, has warned the Government that these men are incapable of performing the duties assigned to them; but Her Majesty's Government proceed to invest these men with virtuous qualities and attributes which everybody but themselves know they do not possess. That is the pantomime which has been going on for the last eight months; but what is the cost of your pantomime? You have destroyed three Egyptian Armies; you have deplenished the Egyptian Treasury; and now the English taxpayer is asked to step in and make up the deficiency. I say that it is time this cruel, costly, and murderous farce should be brought to an end. The Prime Minister, in a voice of thunder, on Thursday last, told us it never could be. The right hon. Gentleman occupies a unique position; but if he keeps to the word "never," somebody else must be put into his place who will substitute the two words "at once." Sooner or later Her Majesty's Government must make themselves directly responsible for the administration of Egypt. The longer they delay it, the more difficult it will become, and they will not gain a single friend and not conciliate a single enemy by their delay. What are Her Majesty's Government afraid of? Not of the public law of Europe, which they have already broken, or of setting Christians over Mahomedans, which they have already done. If that be their ground, they may re-assure themselves. This Parliament is in its fifth year, and I have noticed that the first instinct of all moribund majorities is 1067 self-preservation. It is tolerably certain, therefore, that nothing will induce hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they can help it, to put Her Majesty's Government in such a minority as to force on a Dissolution, which might put an end to the political career of so many of them. I thank the Committee for the attention with which they have listened to me. Sooner or later I am certain the Government will have to harden their hearts and do that which we advocate. There are, however, two excuses which Her Majesty's Government cannot make for their past misconduct; they cannot pretend that they have inherited their difficulties from the late Government, or that they have failed owing to the want of Parliamentary support. The Prime Minister's majority is greater, his expenditure higher, and the lost of life he has caused is heavier, than I believe has occurred in almost any other period in the history of the country; and the more money we spend, and the more life we take, the further off we are in getting even an intelligible excuse from Her Majesty's Government for the havoc they are occasioning. Thirty years ago the Prime Minister was a Member of a distinguished Government which landed us in the Crimean War, and which was denounced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) as "a guilty and incapable Administration." Are not those words applicable to Her Majesty's Government now? If they cannot shake off their responsibility, at least they can retrace their steps. They have been compelled to do so in Central Asia, and they may be made to do so in this case. Can any of them suppose that they would lose anything in the public estimation by frankly admitting that they have been wrong in the past? I ask Her Majesty's Government, for another reason, to state plainly their intentions. They regret very much what they are pleased to call the waste of time. Yet more time will be wasted, until we get a clear and definite expression of opinion from Her Majesty's Government as to what their ultimate policy in Egypt is to be. Therefore, I would implore Her Majesty's Government to take this opportunity of allaying that apprehension, suspicion, and anxiety which in the latter phases of this Egyptian muddle has made our position in that 1068 country at once as ridiculous as it is deplorable.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
I do not intend to occupy the attention of the Committee for any length of time. I have already expressed my views on the question of our policy in Egypt generally, and I can only say that I remain of the same opinion. I think our best chance—in fact, our only chance—of being able to fulfil our promises in Egypt is to be found in realizing the facts of our occupation and responsibility. In one respect I differ from the noble Lord opposite (Lord George Hamilton). I think that in his powerful, and what I may call controversial speech, he has lost sight of the circumstance that, although not, perhaps, in accordance with the intention and wish of the Government, we are, nevertheless, in reality realizing the facts of our position in Egypt more and more every day. We are obliged to realize them. The noble Lord states that the Prime Minister very much deprecates the idea of the military, political, and financial affairs of Egypt being conducted by English officials. But what are the facts? There is a remarkable instance in to-day's papers. The Secretary of the Interior, Sabet Pasha, has differed from his English subordinate, and, of course, he is at once dismissed. Now, I do not blame the Government for this action. I thoroughly approve of it; but I think this ought, to some extent, to be a comfort to the noble Lord. The logic of circumstances has been too strong even for the strong will of the Prime Minister himself, or the wonderful resources of his argument. It is to my mind so clear, that I shall make no further remark about it, as I do not wish to weary the House. The only remark I want to make is upon another and a very important question which has come into prominence within the last day or two; and that is in regard to what is happening in a portion of Egypt or the Soudan. I am not now talking of the Western Soudan, of Kordofan or Darfour, or of Suakin, but of Khartoum, a most important point geographically, and, indeed, one of the most important positions in the world. It does appear to me that, as regards this part of the Soudan, Her Majesty's Government have not yet lost their initiative. I do not think they will be able to keep it long 1069 unless they make use of it; but for the time they have the option of taking several courses. If they adopt the drifting policy the current will quickly carry them with it; but at present it is possible for them to adopt one of two or three alternatives. There is especially one alternative, and I trust the Committee will allow me to say that to that alternative, at least, there are very strong objections. It is impossible to ignore the rumour which is current that General Gordon is to be replaced by Zebehr Pasha. It is in everybody's mouth. I do not go so far as the noble Lord. I do not imagine that the Government have made up their minds to use Zebehr Pasha as their agent. I have no reason to believe that; but I do own that the course suggested by General Gordon is one of the alternatives in these great difficulties. The Prime Minister, in reply to a Question last Friday, did not deny the truth of the rumour. He merely said that the Government had come to no decision. Allow me to say why I trust this may still be true, and that, if the Government have this course yet under consideration, and do come to the opinion that it ought to be followed, they will not commit the House and the country to it without telling us the reasons why they have formed such opinion, and giving us an opportunity of forming and expressing our opinion. I confess that I do not think this is an unreasonable request, for really it is impossible to imagine a course which, at first sight, at the first blush, would be more contrary to all the traditions and all the antecedents of our policy with regard to the African races, and especially in regard to the Slave Trade. It would be a new departure, more complete than anything else. Who is this Zebehr Pasha? He is undoubtedly a strong man; but he is also chief of the slave traders. He is a man who has obtained great power and enormous wealth by means of the Slave Trade. He is not only a very large slave-owner; he is very different from that. He has been the principal instigator of the horrible slave hunts. He was the chief organizer of that caravan traffic which was marked across the desert by the skulls of dead men, women, and children—a traffic accompanied by even greater horrors and atrocities than the old Western "Middle 1070 Passage" to America. General Gordon knew him very well. He had a long contest with him, and in no part of his life did he show his wonderful power to greater advantage. He finally succeeded in defeating him, and his lieutenant found it necessary to put Zebehr's son to death. What did General Gordon say in 1879 of Zebehr? I am not going to weary the House with long extracts; but there is one short one I should like to quote. What does General Gordon say at page 337 of that most interesting book entitled General Gordon in Central Asia, published in 1879, of Zebehr Pasha? He says—That it was he (Zebehr) who devastated the whole country, and that he alone is responsible for the Slave Trade of the last ten years.What was that Slave Trade? I find this passage at page 343, under the date March 31, 1879—This evening a party of seven men, slave dealers, with 23 slaves, were captured, and were brought to me, together with two camels. Nothing could exceed the misery of these poor wretches—some were children of not more than three years old; they had come across that torrid zone from Shaka, a journey from which I and my camel shrink.Let me give another extract from the instructions sent to General Gordon by Lord Granville. They are the main instructions on which he is now acting—You are also desired to consider and report upon the best mode of effecting the evacuation of the interior of the Soudan, and upon the manner in which the safety and the good administration by the Egyptian Government of the ports on the sea coast can best be secured. In connection with this subject, you should pay especial consideration to the question of the steps that may usefully be taken to counteract the stimulus which it is feared may possibly be given to the Slave Trade by the present insurrectionary movement, and by the withdrawal of the Egyptian authority from the interior."—[Egypt, No. 2(1884), p. 3.]We must not forget that these are the instructions to General Gordon, and very proper instructions they are. Therefore, if General Gordon has given us this advice, I must confess that I am not prepared blindly to follow even him without knowing the grounds on which he is acting. Pray do not suppose I disparage the qualities of this wonderful man. I know no man like him. I go further than that; I believe him to be a hero. As a personal administrator, he has the intuitions of genius. He is utterly regardless of all selfish, con- 1071 iderations. He despises money. He ares nothing for fame, he cares nothing or pleasure, for life, or for death. He seems to have no temptations. Perhaps he may have one temptation. If you will read his striking journals and letters you will feel—I do not know why—that, perhaps, he is weary of life. ["No, no!"] Well, he says so; and I confess it sometimes occurs to me that it would he the greatest possible delight to him to be a martyr. Undoubtedly, he is a deeply religious man. In this world, God's guidance and government are to him the strongest and greatest realities of life; and so we find this—that while personally one of the humblest of men, thinking nothing of his own faculties, he has the power of unlimited self-confidence in himself, because he believes himself to be God's instrument. He has wonderful resources in action. He gets out of difficulties in a way no other man could. No wonder that, with all these qualities, these savages look on him not as a man, but as a demi-god. If he really advises this action, I think we are bound to consider it; but we cannot, as I say, blindly follow his advice. There is one simple reason why I am not inclined to do this, and it is this. I have more confidence in what General Gordon does himself than in what he recommends others to do. I have so much confidence in his personal action that, although I confess I was staggered by the notorious Slave Proclamation, which must, I fear, be taken to deal with slave dealing as well as with slave holding, and although I cannot but regret that it was issued, I am not going to blame General Gordon for that Proclamation until I know the grounds on which it was issued. And for these two reasons. First, I know the wonderful administrative ability of the man; and, secondly, because I know how he hates the Slave Trade, and I only state the simple truth when I say that he would gladly lay down his life to stop it. But this confidence, I confess, is in Gordon's personality—in what he would do himself—hut not in what he instructs others to do, when he is not by their side to influence or control them. Remember what must be the necessary consequences if such a man as Zebehr is to assume the place of General Gordon. First of all, Gordon would be gone. All his wonder- 1072 ful influence would be gone with him—the influence of his personality, of his courage, of his unselfishness, of his enthusiasm—all that would be gone with him. His daring and his ability would no longer be feared, and his devotedness and power to help would no longer be there to be almost worshipped. If Gordon could remain, I confess that I should look on the future of the Soudan with great confidence. I believe he would do great work in a short time at little cost to Egypt, with less loss of life than by any other means; that he would establish a beneficent Government; and that he would strike a blow against slavery such as has never been struck before. But that is not what we have before us. I do not know whether the Government have ever asked him if he would remain. I should like the Government to say whether he has ever been asked to remain. What we have to deal with is different; it is not with Gordon as Governor of Khartoum, but with Zebehr Pasha in his place. Do not let the Government suppose that they will get rid of responsibility simply by placing Zebehr in Gordon's place. We cannot let him alone; we cannot let that man, with his cruelties and his slave trading, alone if we put him there. If General Gordon puts him there, the Government have rightly stated that they are responsible for what General Gordon does, as long as they do not disavow him. But if they allow this man to be put there, they will be responsible for the impetus he will, in all probability, give to the Slave Trade, and for the cruelties which will be revived under his rule. Remember where you would put him. You would put him in a place where he would be more likely to do harm than in any other place in the world. Khartoum is a remarkable place, in a wonderful position. Besides being the emporium of commerce, it is the great mart of the Slave Trade. It is the high road to the Red Sea, where an outlet is found for the slaves, and it is at the junction of the two branches of the Nile, to which the slaves are easily brought down and floated in vast cargoes of men, women, and children, and thence sent to Lower Egypt. I do not know whether the Government contemplate this course; but I think it is time we should know if they do contemplate it or not. It is most necessary to see that 1073 they do not commit the House and the country without giving us an opportunity of forming and expressing our opinion upon it. To put this man Zebehr, the chief of the slave traders, at the head of the Government, would, indeed, be a remarkable result of our occupation of Egypt, and a remarkable fulfilment of the excellent instructions of Lord Granville to General Gordon, that he was to do all that he could to prevent any impulse being given to the Slave Trade. There may be an explanation, but we ought to be in a position to judge before any action is taken. There are only two more remarks with which I will trouble the House. We cannot be perfectly sure that, in recommending Zebehr Pasha's appointment, General Gordon may not change his mind, for he has already changed his mind in another instance, as a Memorandum received from him when he got to Egypt shows, with regard to the restoration of the small Sultans in the Soudan. He says—My idea is that the restoration of the country should be made to the different petty Sultans who existed at the time of Mehemet All's conquest, and whose families still exist; that the Mahdi should be left altogether out of the calculation as regards the handing over of the country."—[Egypt, No. 7 (1884), p. 2.]He has found it necessary, for a good reason, I dare say, to change that opinion. He has authorized the Mahdi to become the Ruler of Kordofan. I do not blame him. His difficulties are far beyond anything we can imagine or comprehend here. But he may be recommending not what he would do himself, but what others would do, and not such a course as might be the final conclusion of his own judgment. I do not think that the House of Commons, or the vast majority of the people of this country, would regard the appointment by Her Majesty's Government of this slave trader consistent with the traditional policy of this country with respect to the African races, and with respect to the Slave Trade. For generations we have been the champions of the slave in every part of the world, and one of our boasted historical traditions has been that we have never ceased for many years to do what we could to stop this terrible evil. We have pressed upon and persuaded other countries to follow our example in this respect, and 1074 sometimes they have suspected our motives. I am sure, however, we shall in this matter lose much of our moral power with other nations if we pursue this policy with regard to the Slave Trade. I need only give one example—that of the Congo. What we desire there is, that there should be no possibility of a re-opening of the Slave Trade; but we shall certainly lose our power of argument with the Portuguese with regard to slaves on the Congo if we take the course I have mentioned, unless we can give them reasons based on arguments far more overpowering than any that can be drawn from our own recent policy in Egypt, and the arguments that have been adduced in its support in this House.
SIR GEORGE ELLIOT
said, it was with great reluctance that he rose to trouble the Committee; but he could not refrain from making a few observations upon the subject of Egypt. He had, on one or two occasions, risen in the House rather to sympathize with the Government in the difficulties in in which they were placed in Egypt than to condemn their policy. Recent transactions, however, clearly showed that the difficulties connected with the administration of the affairs of Egypt were getting worse and worse. Having had the opportunity of witnessing the course of affairs in Egypt, he could not help thinking that the evils surrounding the situation had grown from bad to worse as a result of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. The Egyptian story was a very sad one. In the first place, there was the difficulty with regard to the concert of Europe, and then there was the bombardment of Alexandria. That was followed up by the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, which was the principal feature of a very serious and terrible expedition. The cost of the expedition, both in loss of life and money to Egypt, as well as to our own country, was very great; it was very embarrassing to Egypt, and very discouraging and disheartening to us at home. And now the country was experiencing the evil of the undefined responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. He certainly believed that the Government were desirous, according to the light which they were possessed of, and which, perhaps, was greater than his, or greater than that of anybody else in the 1075 House, because they were in possession of all the facts, of doing what was right and proper; but it was very strange to him that they did not realize more thoroughly and more fully the great reponsibility which attached to the position they occupied. In his opinion, if the Prime Minister and his Cabinet were to make it known that for a certain period—he did not suggest a very long period—they would stay in Egypt, and put the administration of the country upon a thoroughly sound footing, they would do a great deal to lessen their own responsibility, and to add to the material well-being of Egypt itself. Seeing that the affairs of Egypt had now got into such an embarrassed, confused, and chaotic state, and having regard to the welfare of the county, he did not believe that Europe, or the world, would find fault with Her Majesty's Government if they took up the bold position he recommended, because they had already incurred great responsibility in the eyes of Europe in the part they had taken up to the present time. If we were justified in going to war to maintain our rights over the Suez Canal, and to protect the interests of our commerce passing through that great highway to India, he could not understand, as he had previously said in his place in Parliament—and he had some knowledge of the situation of Egypt—how we could maintain the independence of our communications with India, unless we had the control of Lower Egypt. Why did we fight for the Canal? Because the safety of that great waterway was indispensable to the interests of this country; and, to his mind, it was impossible for anyone to have that control over the Suez Canal which was necessary to provide for its safety, unless they were in possession of the littoral of the Red Sea. He did not wish to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, or to pass Votes of Censure upon them; but he desired to urge upon them the importance of taking decisive steps in order to assume a responsibility which had been practically avowed, and which, if taken promptly and boldly, would immediately lessen the difficulties of the situation.
§ MR. LAING
said, he trusted the Committee would allow him to say a few words upon this Egyptian Question, in which his connection in India led him 1076 to take considerable interest. He felt that the policy which had been put forward by one or two hon. Members below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House was one which would be fatal to the interests of their Indian Empire. He felt, also, as an independent Liberal, that it would be no less fatal to the interests of his Party, if it sympathized in any degree with the policy which had found expression from one or two mouths below the Gangway. What was the theory of that policy? Why, that our presence in Egypt was a crime and calamity; a crime, because we were putting pressure on a nation struggling for its independence; and a calamity, because it was involving us in still larger responsibilities, when those of our extensive Empire were heavier than we could bear. The practical conclusion they drew from those premises was a very logical one; it was, that we ought to be ashamed to find ourselves in Egypt; that we ought to apologize for our presence; and that we ought to get out of the country as quickly as we could. That policy was now known as the policy of "Rescue and retire." He maintained that that policy was not approved by the majority of the country, or by the majority of the House, or indeed, by the majority of the Liberal Party. "Rescue and remain" would more happily describe the policy which met with most favour in the House and in the country. "Rescue and retire" might be applied to the outlying parts of the Soudan, the parts which it was impossible for us to maintain under our control; but as regarded Egypt Proper, and possibly as regarded the ports of the Red Sea and Khartoum, that was not a policy which the country would approve of. It was perfectly evident that the Government had lost—nobody could deny it—a great part of their popularity and prestige through the events in Egypt during the last six or eight months. It was not because they had come to act resolutely, but because they were not resolute sooner, and because they did not go much farther many months ago. The majority obtained on the Vote of Censure was a very respectable one; but no one for a moment supposed that it expressed the opinion of a majority of the House of Commons. It was a majority obtained, not in favour of that irresolute policy and 1077 shirking of responsibility which had led to the disasters in the Soudan; it was obtained partly by what no man need be ashamed to confess—namely, loyalty to his Party, and general confidence in the present Government, apart from Egyptian questions; and partly owing to the feeling that the Government had, at last, begun to recognize the gravity of the situation. The despatch of the 5th of January, shattering of the Egyptian Government, was, in fact, the turning over of a new leaf; the sending of General Gordon to the Soudan, and the despatch of a force to Suakin, with instructions to fight the battle of Teb, were indications of a more resolute course of action. And, again, what weighed very greatly with a number of Liberal Members in the House was the fact that hon. Members opposite did not announce a policy of their own. They felt, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had very happily said—that they ought not to give a blank cheque to Gentlemen who would not announce a policy. The only hon. Member opposite who did venture to formulate a policy was the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill); and even his policy was so overlaid with explosive epigrams and abusive epithets that the House did not know whether to treat it seriously or not. He (Mr. Laing) was not at all certain that, if the noble Lord could succeed in putting the Government in a minority by catching the votes of a few Liberal Members, he would not have turned round and advocated the immediate evacuation of Egypt, and the recall of Arabi. These were the reasons, undoubtedly, which led to the majority upon the Vote of Censure a few nights ago. A much better test of the real opinion of the House was obtained the other evening when the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) moved the adjournment of the House in order to censure the Government for having allowed a military force to go to Suakin, and to fight the battle of El Teb. On that occasion, if hon. Members opposite had not, for some reason best known to themselves, got up to support the Motion for Adjournment, and afterwards voted with him, the hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) would have found them- 1078 selves in the remarkable position of being two Tellers without anyone to tell. That showed to his (Mr. Laing's) mind the weakness of the Peace-at-any-price Party. He was sorry, however, to say that the language repeatedly used by the Prime Minister seemed, in some degree, calculated to support the views of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. The Prime Minister, as well as the hon. Member for Carlisle, was constantly saying that our presence in Egypt was a great misfortune—a misfortune which he (Mr. Gladstone) apologized for as being due to diplomatic entanglements in which he had been involved by the fault of the late Conservative Government. The right hon. Gentleman never missed an opportunity of proclaiming to the House his anxiety to retire from Egypt, and used language which he (Mr. Laing) was afraid came perilously near that of some of the hon. Members below the Gangway—groaning under the responsibilities of an Empire of 300,000,000 of people, wishing we could contract and turn our great Empire into a second-rate State, and anxious that we should retire behind the "silver streak," which he would make the boundary of the Kingdom. ["Oh!"] He did not mean for a moment to impute such deliberate opinions to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; but he did say the right hon. Gentleman had used language quite recently, in debates in the House of Commons, which produced such an impression out-of-doors, and which did a vast deal of mischief. It was the holding of such language that was the main cause of that loss of prestige and popularity which had been sustained by what was, a few months ago, the strongest Ministry this country had ever known. Why were we in Egypt? Was it true we were in Egypt only by the misfortune of diplomatic entanglements produced by the Predecessors of the present Government? No; decidedly not. It was not true. It was true that the late Government made engagements, with regard to the Law of Liquidation and the Dual Control, which were very unwise and embarrassing; but they made them with very good motives towards France. France was a party to the Dual Control in the interest of her own bondholders, and we followed suit. The establishment of the Dual Control, however, was 1079 not the real reason why we now found ourselves in Egypt. We were driven there by the inevitable force of circumstances. As long as we had an Indian Empire we could not afford to have Egypt—the half-way house between India and England—either dominated by the influence of any Foreign Power adverse to our own, nor could we afford to see Egypt fall into a state of anarchy and confusion, and dominated by military adventurers. That was the urgent motive which took us to Egypt. The immediate cause of our presence there was not so much diplomatic entanglement, but the massacre which occurred at Alexandria. And here he might observe that hon. Gentlemen who talked about our expedition to Egypt, and the bombardment of Alexandria, as if they were national crimes, always conveniently put out of sight the occurrences which immediately preceded them—namely, the massacres at Alexandria. If foreigners murdered and massacred English subjects, the Peace-at-any-price Party regarded it as an incident worthy of no special notice; but if the English proceeded to revenge the massacres, and to teach barbarous races that they could not kill Englishmen with impunity, the Peace-at-any-price Party ransacked the dictionary to find language to express their indignation at such blood-guiltiness. He (Mr. Laing) distinctly affirmed that we could not, if we wished to retain our Indian Empire, afford to have it proclaimed to the whole world that any military adventurer who could get a few thousand Native troops to mutiny could set up his own authority, and either encourage directly, or connive at, massacres of English subjects by a fanatical mob like that at Alexandria. If we were going to tolerate that state of things, we had better give up India at once. There was not the least doubt that the safety of our Indian Empire was the main cause of our present responsibilities and anxieties. If we had no Indian Empire, what need we care whether the French were at Cairo, or the Russians at Constantinople? Why need we trouble our heads about the movements of Russia in Central Asia? If we were content to retire behind the "silver streak," we should, no doubt, save ourselves a great deal of expense and anxiety and trouble, and we should be able to attend to domestic 1080 affairs; we might, as a second-rate State, be secure for a generation or two, if we trusted to the jealousy and rivalry between Continental Powers continuing. But did we not feel that our great Indian Empire was one of which we had the greatest reason to be proud? India was now enjoying peace and tranquillity such as she had never enjoyed for centuries. England was gradually educating the Natives up to the point that in future generations they might be able to share in their own government. Were we now going to throw all our efforts away, either through the selfish fear of taking the responsibility which belonged to us, or because of over-scrupulousness in not being able, in case of necessity, to maintain by the sword an Empire which was made by the sword? The history of India showed very clearly the contrast between a decided line of policy which he advocated, and the line of policy which had been adopted with regard to Egypt. The case of the Punjaub was as near a parallel to that of Egypt as could be found. There was a rising of the soldiery which endangered our Indian Empire; but it was suppressed. After the victory of Goojerat, did we say—"Our responsibilities are too great; we will not cross the Indus?" Suppose such language had been held, what would have been the state of India in the Mutiny? It was our resolute action in annexing the Punjaub which had proved our sheet anchor. The instance of the Punjaub was another proof of the fallacy of the contention, in which he was sorry to hear the Prime Minister indulge, that annexation was unpopular in India; that the Indians preferred a Native Government. Why, anyone who had the least practical acquaintance with the state of things in India must know that exactly the opposite was true. Those Provinces which were the most loyal, and most contented, and most prosperous, were those which had been annexed to the British Empire within recent time. Everyone knew that the Punjaub and Scinde were the most loyal Provinces in India, and they were Provinces in which the National Government had been suppressed, and in which direct and immediate British rule had been established. Let us compare the case of the Punjaub with the case of Cashmere, which was left under Native Government. It was not 1081 true that the Natives were better off under Native government. On the contrary, they were infinitely better under British rule. The Native population only began to grumble and to become discontented when they had been under British rule for generations, and had forgotten the state of things which existed under the old Native Government. He could not pretend to say what difficulties might arise in the case of the actual annexation of Egypt; but he ventured to say that, if they could look only at the interests of humanity, and at the benefit to the Native population, annexation would be the best thing that could happen. Again, what did history teach them as to Egyptian nationality? Why, there had been no National Government in Egypt since the days of the Pharoahs—since the conquest of Cambyses! They had had since then the rule of the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Circassians, the Mamelukes, and, finally, the Albanians. But as to the mass of the population, they had been under the kourbash of taskmasters from the time of the Pyramids down to the present day. The only thing approaching to an aristocracy in Egypt were the descendants of the Turks, the Mamelukes, and the Circassians, and in saying that he spoke of the military aristocracy. The commercial class was composed of foreigners—English, French, and Italians. And when they came to the smaller class of traders, they found it composed of Maltese, Greeks, and those miscellaneous races included in the term Levantine. Those were the elements out of which they thought they could make a Constitutional Government, and then wash their hands of all responsibility. Well, there never was a wilder theory. The Egyptians would never be a nation, unless for generations we, or some other Power, took them in hand; gave them just and equal laws; educated the fellahs, who were by no means deficient in natural intelligence, and did everything for them as we had done for the ryots of Bengal—educate them up to a point at which they could be employed in the administration of their country, and could be allowed some degree of self-government. If that were not done, what would become of Egypt, if we followed up the present aspirations for an early withdrawal? Why, Egypt must 1082 fall back into a worse position than she was in before. She was not in a condition for self-government. If we were to withdraw, Egypt would become an arena for the contentions of the diplomatic Representatives of all the nations of Europe, and such a withdrawal would probably lead to an European war. Practically, it might be said—"If we step out, France steps in." If we had an Indian Empire, France had a North African Empire, and she could not tolerate any rule in Egypt which would make it a centre of Mahomedan propaganda. He maintained that we had gone to Egypt in accordance with the most righteous of all laws—the law of necessity. It was a most fortunate combination of circumstances that when it became necessary for some Power to step in there and assert the cause of civilization and Christianity, and to restore order, England was the only Power to do it. This was a task of difficulty and danger, no doubt; but he believed that we should be able, single-handed, to carry it to the end. It was one of the first international rules that Treaties expired with a state of war. Why should Treaties, entered into long before the commencement of hostilities, be maintained by us, when the whole burden and the heat of war was thrown upon ourselves? Our Treaty with France expired the moment that the French Admiral steamed out of the harbour at Alexandria. When that event took place, we had, so to speak, a clear sheet of paper in our hands. We should take our own course in this matter, and, having undertaken our task in Egypt, we should go on with it. One word on the finances of Egypt; and here he would just advert to what might be thrown out against him for making these remarks—namely, that he was speaking in the interest of the bondholders. He was doing no such thing. He would say at once that, in his opinion, the one point of all others on which resolute action by the English Government was required was that of finance. He thought the Law of Liquidation was an iniquitous law; he looked upon it as a law made in the interest of the bondholders against the taxpayers of Egypt. He thought that that law should be modified, and that a heavy income tax should be imposed on those who derived benefit from the public funds of 1083 Egypt. Certainly, he could not be accused of speaking in the interest of the bondholders when he said that the finances of Egypt required to be taken in hand in order to place them on a sound foundation. If it were true, as he believed it to be, that good government meant good finance in all countries, it was especially true in the case of Eastern countries. Let the agricultural class in Egypt pay only that moderate rent which was in this country paid to the landowners, and then there would be a fair surplus of income for carrying out the work of the Government; and, upon those conditions, they might secure in Egypt a prosperous state of things, and make the people fairly happy and contented. But as long as the present uncertainty lasted it was impossible to have good finance. Everything was paralyzed. Who was going to rebuild the houses at Alexandria, which had been burned down, when no one knew whether in six months or six years we were going to retire from Egypt? There would not be the least difficulty in our way if what he had pointed out were taken in hand resolutely. Those dangers with which the Prime Minister tried to terrify them when he spoke of the extent of our responsibilities, and the difficulty of a Christian Power governing a Mahomedan population, were partly true, but to a very great extent untrue. They were true, no doubt, as applied to the Southern Soudan, but untrue as a general proposition, or as applicable to Egypt Proper. It was difficult to govern any Eastern population, especially Mahomedan populations, where the race was turbulent and warlike; and it would be most difficult in a country naturally strong and intersected by mountain ranges. The attempt to occupy Afghanistan, or the Southern Soudan, if it were not absolutely impossible, would be well-nigh impossible, even if we were to strain our resources to the utmost. On the other hand, the physical geography of Egypt made it singularly easy to occupy that country, and two or three garrisons along the Valley of the Nile would be sufficient to keep it in perfect order. He held that it would be infinitely easier to keep Egypt in order than it was to keep the Punjaub in order, because, in the former, they had a quiet and pacific race, singularly unwarlike, as recent experience had shown. 1084 The inhabitants were the remains of a population which, as he had said, had crouched under the lash of the taskmaster; and, if there were any truth in Darwinian theories, the characteristics he had mentioned must be expected to continue in a race which had been in that state for 4,000 years. Turning again to the question of national finance, Egypt was not like a poor country which could never pay its expenses; it was a country singularly fertile in resources, and nothing was wanted there but to put things right at the beginning, and then agriculture and trade would extend and the Revenue increase. He ventured to say that if Sir Evelyn Baring, who understood the finances of India, received the full confidence and support of the Government for three years or less, he would leave those finances in a most satisfactory condition—a condition which would support a proper Army of Occupation, and, at the same time, decrease the amount of taxation on the mass of the population. There could be no doubt as to what we ought to do in the case of Egypt, and he was glad to be able to look upon the present policy of Her Majesty's Government as much more satisfactory than it had formerly been. With regard to the Estimate before the Committee, they were called upon to reject the Vote at the next Division. But he supposed hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their hearts, really approved of the Expedition to Suakin and of the battle at El Teb quite as much as did hon. Members on that side of the House. Well, those operations had been carried into effect, and they had to be paid for; and it would be simply childish to object now to the cost, merely because hon. Members were dissatisfied with the tone of the Prime Minister's speeches. He had nothing more to add, except to say that, in speaking as he had done of the Prime Minister and the tendency of some of his speeches, he did not wish it to be supposed that he was saying one word in derogation of the high character of the right hon. Gentleman. His (Mr. Laing's) present opinion did not prevent him thinking that the right hon. Gentleman and Sir Robert Peel would go down to posterity as men who were in their time the two greatest Home Ministers that the country had ever seen; but it was of vital necessity for the country at the present time to have a good Foreign Mi- 1085 nisters. And when he said that he meant that the present crisis ought to be met in the spirit of a Chatham or of a Dalhousie; and, if that were so, the result could not be otherwise than satisfactory. That he believed to be the universal sentiment of the country, and he entirely disputed the right of one or two hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to speak for the Liberal Party, or even for the Radical section of that Party, in this matter. His own belief was that the nearer they approached the genuine working classes of the country, the more it would be found that they were thoroughly determined, happen what might, that they would never hand down this great Empire to their sons loss great and less glorious than they received it from their fathers.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he rose to say a few words upon this very important question. It was not his intention to oppose in any way the Supplementary Vote then before the Committee; indeed, he would have supported a much larger Estimate for military operations, the only complaint on his part being that they had been undertaken too late to prevent that great sacrifice of life which had occurred in consequence of delay. During his absence abroad, he had had the advantage of hearing the opinion of foreigners, and of ascertaining the views of the Continental Press upon the policy of Her Majesty's Government. In the first place, foreigners were astonished at the vacillating and incomprehensible policy that had been announced by Her Majesty's Government. They could not comprehend their policy, and it was impossible to take up a newspaper abroad, or to enter into conversation with any foreigner of intelligence, without being met by expressions of astonishment at the course Her Majesty's Government were pursuing with regard to Egypt. He found that foreigners likened the Prime Minister to the Egyptian Sphinx, with this difference—that whereas the Sphinx, when her riddle was interpreted, destroyed herself, the right hon. Gentleman, even if he were disposed to follow her example, might be assured of a long life, because it would be a very long time before his secret was discovered. With regard to the Proclamation of General Gordon to the people of the Soudan, it was all very well for The Times and other autho- 1086 rities to say that the last clause of that Proclamation clearly related to domestic slavery, and guided all the others; but any man in his senses who read the document must have come to the conclusion that it was the general traffic in slaves, and not merely domestic slavery, that was signified by the Proclamation. Hon. Members knew that when General Gordon took office and started upon his Egyptian expedition, it was upon the condition that he should take no orders from the Khedive; that he was positively and solely the servant of the English Government, and that they alone were responsible. Hon. Members on those Benches were, therefore, justified in their opinion that the Proclamation of General Gordon was directly sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government, and that it was in direct contravention to all former historical precedents on which we prided ourselves so much. And there, again, foreigners expressed their astonishment that we, who had been the champions of freedom, and who had spent millions and sacrificed so much in putting down the Slave Trade, should now go back upon ourselves and sanction what we had constantly and universally condemned. In his opinion, the criticism of foreigners was perfectly justified by the Proclamation of General Gordon, which now ran through the whole length and breadth of Africa. But there was another point upon which foreigners had, on several occasions, expressed their astonishment—namely, the course which proceedings were taking in our Parliament with regard to this question. Having watched with interest, as they always did, the debates in that House as reported regularly in Galignani's Messenger and other newspapers which circulated throughout the whole of France, they were astonished to find that two of the most eminent right hon. Members of the Liberal Party who, as it were, kept the outposts on the other side of the House, and certainly very often turned the flank of the enemy, should vote for the very policy which they had condemned. Had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) been in his place, he (Sir Eardley Wilmot) would have taken the opportunity of expressing his regret that so distinguished a Member of the Liberal Party, who was inferior to no man in the country in talent and 1087 ability, should have voted contrary to his opinions. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) also had concluded a great speech with these words—"I decline to give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury;" but the right hon. Gentleman must have been aware that he was himself drawing a bill of exchange upon a Government which he knew to be discredited. He (Sir Eardley Wilmot) said that the action of those two right hon. Gentlemen had not raised the character of the British Parliament in the eyes of foreigners. Then he came to the view of foreigners as to what ought to be the policy of the English Government in the present crisis. Their opinion was that we should go boldly into Egypt, and assume the Protectorate of the country. They spoke to this effect—"We admire the British character; we know your honour; we will give you the Protectorate for a certain term of years. Administer Egypt as best you can, and at the end of whatever period it may be, come to us, and then, if we find that the affairs of Egypt under your auspices have been wisely administered, let us put our heads together and institute an independent Egyptian Government." In that way the road to India, the great highway of commerce, would be protected under the eyes of the Great Continental Powers. That appeared to him to be the general opinion in France. The suggestion was a wise one, and embodied a policy which he thought the Government would do well to adopt. But the present policy of the Government was neither one thing nor another; it was vacillating and unintelligible, and did not commend itself either to this country or to any of the European States. Then as regarded the future. They were considering what was to be done, and how they could extricate themselves from the difficulties which surrounded them. Were they to evacuate the Soudan? He said, with all respect for the opinions of those who differed him, that the evacuation of the Soudan was an impossibility. They had the duties and responsibilities of a great nation to discharge; it was not more than half-a-century ago that we emancipated our own slaves; and it was our bounden duty to hold the country until the horrors and iniquities of that accursed traffic, the Slave Trade, 1088 had been rooted out. No doubt, one of three courses might be adopted—the total abandonment, the total retention, or the partial retention of the Soudan; but he was most strongly of opinion that the partial retention of that country was the best policy under the circumstances. By drawing a line from Dongola along the Nile down to Khartoum, and then straight across the Soudan, and from Kassala to Massowah, a parallelogram would be formed embracing a vast region over which we might extend the blessings of a wise administration, and in that way prevent the abominable iniquities of the Slave Trade. He said that General Gordon, who, during his five years' rule in the Soudan, had done wonders, was the proper man to be made Governor of that country; and under his administration he had no doubt that the Eastern portion of it, at any rate, might be brought into a state of order and peace. There then was the proposal to hold only the littoral of the Red Sea; but foreigners were generally of opinion that to hold to a line 20 miles from the coast would not prevent the incursions of the wild tribes of the interior, and that the country, under such an arrangement, would be in a constant state of disturbance. He asked Her Majesty's Government to make up their minds quickly as to what should be done; and it was not only he, but General Gordon himself, who asked them to be prompt, in order to prevent the continuance of the present disturbances. He respectfully asked Her Majesty's Government to put an end to this position of uncertainty, hesitation, vacillation, and bad management. If the Prime Minister were present, he would remind him that Lord Bacon had said—"The first quality of statesmanship is boldness; the second, boldness; and the third, boldness." The want of that great quality in the Councils of the Government had been the cause of great evils in our management of the Egyptian embroglio. He could not help saying that the truth of that proposition had been manifested in the case of his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), whose possession of the quality of boldness, in an eminent degree, had enabled him to take and to retain a strong hold upon the public opinion of the country. Finally, he urged upon Her Majesty's 1089 Government the adoption of a bold and energetic policy, as the only means by which they could put an end to the Slave Trade and settle the Egyptian Question in a manner satisfactory to the people of this country and to Foreign Powers.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
said, he hoped that the House and the country generally would suspend their judgment in regard to the Proclamation of General Gordon until that gallant officer had an opportunity of explaining it himself. Having long known General Gordon, he felt quite convinced that there was no greater or more determined enemy of slavery than General Gordon himself, and he had no doubt in the world that General Gordon believed the course he was adopting was the one best calculated ultimately to destroy the Slave Trade. Of course, he (Sir Harry Verney) did not know what explanation General Gordon might offer; but he thought it was quite possible that he would be able to offer one which would amply justify his course of action. General Gordon might have deemed it expedient to select the most cruel slave-hunter and slave-driver in the country, because he might be convinced that Zebehr Pasha in command of Khartoum was the only man who would be able to put down the Slave Trade. General Gordon might know that the previous connection of Zebehr Pasha with slave-trading, slave-hunting, and slave-driving rendered him the fittest man to put down the Slave Trade in the end. He (Sir Harry Verney) was quite certain that General Gordon's first object was to pacify the Soudan; and in order to accomplish that object, he might have found it necessary to put a man in power who was able to control others. He would not be surprised to find that that was the case. He knew that one of General Gordon's objects was to find out who were the men best fitted to govern the Soudan in connection with Egyptian rule; but when General Gordon got to Khartoum, he might have found that that was impracticable. His great object must be to put down the Slave Trade; but he might feel that, in order to secure the pacification of the country in the first instance, it was necessary to put in power those who were really able to rule it. Zebehr Pasha, although he had made his fortune by dealing in slaves, would probably, if 1090 placed in power, do his utmost to put down the trade. He was afraid that he was the only Member of that House who had been in the plantations and seen all the horrors of slavery. He was almost the only one who had voted against the continuance of slavery in the British Possessions in the year 1834, and who knew all about the horrors of the "Middle Passage." No one could be more opposed to slavery than he was, and he felt confident that General Gordon, in his proceedings, must have had in view the limitation and final suppression of the Slave Trade. He thought nothing that had been stated by the Prime Minister warranted the construction put upon his language as to India by the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing). He did not believe that any man had a higher opinion of the value of our Indian Possessions to this country than the Prime Minister. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman speak warmly and authoritatively on that subject, and he could not believe that the expression of the hon. Member for Orkney was at all warranted by any words that had fallen from the Prime Minister. His (Sir Harry Verney's) own opinion was that our Possession of India was one of the brightest jewels in the Crown. No greater responsibility was ever committed by the Almighty to any nation in the world than had been committed to us in the government of India, and no greater benefits had ever accrued to another country ruled over by foreigners than had accrued to India. He thought no greater attention had ever been paid to the welfare of the Indian people than by the noble Marquess the present Secretary of State for War when he was Indian Minister, and conducted the Administration of that great Empire. He (Sir Harry Verney) entertained strong feelings in regard to India, and he believed it had been governed by the best Civil servants, to be found in the world—the most able, the most upright, and the most honourable who had ever administered the affairs of any country; and he repeated that India was one of the brightest jewels in the British Crown. He had, however, only been induced to rise in order to express his anxiety that hon. Members should not too hastily form a judgment in regard to the course taken by General Gordon, in the absence of full information. He 1091 was quite sure that when they received full information the country would approve the steps which General Gordon was taking in order to put a stop to the foul and horrible system of slavery.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, he wished to say a few words as one who was closely connected with the shipping interests of the country. He was of opinion that the action of Her Majesty's Government throughout all these transactions had been such as to destroy our commerce, and very materially to interfere with the progress of that commercial prosperity in Egypt with which this country was closely identified. He was quite satisfied that he was expressing the opinions, not only of those who usually acted with him, but of hon. Members on both sides of the House, when he ventured to say that it had been proved, in the course of the debate, that the Government had constantly vacillated in their policy, and had frequently changed their views. He had no desire to repeat what had already been stated by previous speakers, who had dealt with the subject very exhaustively; but he thought they were in a position to form some opinion as to the state of the facts presented by Her Majesty's Government, together with what had been advocated on that side of the House. So far, the only excuse which Her Majesty's Government had offered for their vacillating policy was that the origin of all of it was the former existence of the Dual Control; and, secondly, that they were now doing everything in their power to remedy the mistakes they had originally made. With regard to the Dual Control, he would only say that Lord Granville himself admitted that the Dual Control had been of great benefit to Egypt. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), who addressed the House early in the debate, clearly pointed out that it was not the Dual Control, but really the Dual Note, which had led to the original complications. France did not continue her alliance with this country, as Her Majesty's Government had anticipated; and when France retired it became at once apparent that the state of things was entirely altered, that a new responsibility was cast upon Her Majesty's Government, and that that responsibility was to protect Egypt, which they professed to take under their charge. 1092 Unfortunately, they had not done that; and they had not only broken their faith with Egypt, but with Europe as well. In the course of the debate some of Her Majesty's Ministers had stated that we owed a great deal to Egypt. He was afraid that one of the cardinal mistakes which had guided the policy of Her Majesty's Government was that they had regard to the interests of every other country in the world, while they were neglectful of our own. In Alexandria a large English commercial interest had been gathered together for many years past, and he was surprised to learn that such was the state of uncertainty occasioned by the policy of the Government, that not a single warehouse destroyed at the time of the bombardment of Alexandria had been rebuilt. No commercial house would go to any expense, because it was not known how soon Egypt would be abandoned altogether. The Government told the House that we had rights in Egypt; but those rights had been crippled. They told the House that it was impossible for us to exercise a Protectorate over the whole of Egypt, but that we might remain to protect Egypt Proper. What the country wanted to know, and especially those connected with the commercial interests, was what Her Majesty's Government meant by protecting Egypt Proper? Hitherto they had shown such vacillation and such uncertainty in their policy that the country had a right to expect them to state distinctly now what they meant by protecting Egypt. In the course of the debate there had been a statement from the Government that they considered the Protectorate of Egypt to extend not only to Egypt Proper, but to the littoral of the Red Sea. That was not the original policy of Her Majesty's Government; but it was one of the changes of front which had occurred during these debates. What he wanted to know was, whether they were prepared, and how far they were prepared, to protect the littoral of the Bed Sea? Were they prepared to remain there in sufficient force to be able to protect the shipping and the trade of the district; or were they going to occupy it with such a miserable force that at any time the Mahdi and the inland tribes might come down to Suakin and destroy their power? That was a very likely thing to result, unless Her Majesty's 1093 Government were prepared to state boldly and firmly that they would never leave Egypt until she was settled, until she was completely tranquillized, and until her enemies were totally defeated. The House had received no such statement yet from Her Majesty's Government; but the Government complained of the Dual Control, and tried to make the country believe, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that they were victims of the conduct of the former Government. It was all very well to talk of the obligations of the late Government; but if that Government had been in Office, he believed they would never have allowed Egypt to be brought into such a state as that in which it was in at present. They would have had sufficient firmness to protect British interests. When the Government talked of the Dual Control, he could not help thinking that they had entered into a Dual Control themselves. A Dual Control for the protection of a weak country by two great ones might be of advantage; but they had altered the whole aspect of affairs, and, instead of having a Control which consisted of two great Powers over a weak one, they had joined with Egypt in a Dual Control—a great country with a weak one; and such a state of things was absolutely disastrous to the interests of the weak one. Instead of assuming the responsibilities which devolved upon them after the bombardment of Alexandria, they had formed a Dual Control which was certain to be fraught with dangerous results. What might have been predicted had happened in Egypt. They had weakened the country they professed to protect; they had turned out the Administration of the country they professed to govern; they had refused her every means which she could use for strengthening her power; and they had allowed British soldiers to join the Egyptian Army, and had then permitted that Army to be destroyed. What was their policy now? To his mind, it was a policy of extreme danger and of extreme weakness. They had now a Dual Control of a different kind. They had tried a Dual Control with different nations; but they had now a Dual Control with a single man at the head of it, and their difficulties were caused, to a great extent, by the extraordinary position in 1094 which they had placed General Gordon at Khartoum. Everyone admitted that General Gordon was one of the bravest of British soldiers, and one in whom every confidence might be placed; but surely no man was ever placed in such a position as that which General Gordon occupied at the present moment. They had placed him in a position of almost irresponsible power. They had promised to uphold everything he did. What was the consequence? They had General Gordon asking General Graham to go up with his troops to assist him at Khartoum; while, on the other hand, they had Her Majesty's Government forbidding General Graham to leave the neighbourhood of Suakin. On the one hand, General Gordon was making peace with the False Prophet; and, on the other hand. Her Majesty's Government were fighting a battle with the high priest of that False Prophet. Such a state of things was unparalleled in the history of the country; and he could not help thinking that Her Majesty's Government had placed Egypt in a position not only most embarrassing, but most disgraceful. He believed that the only result of the present policy of the Government must be a heavy loss. There must be a further expenditure of money, and he feared a further loss of valuable lives. He thought the Government ought to speak with no uncertain sound, and that they should satisfy the earnest wish of the country as to their policy. Was General Graham to be ordered to advance?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
He has never been asked to advance. I did not like to interrupt the hon. Member just now, but the statement he made had not the slightest foundation.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said, the House were in this difficulty—that they were obliged to rely upon the statements which appeared in the newspapers. Her Majesty's Government told them that there were telegrams. Then why did they not produce those telegrams, and show the actual position of General Gordon? The House were not in a proper position to discuss the matter in the absence of the telegrams. As, however, the information in the possession of the Government was not put before the House, hon. Members were obliged to have recourse to the statements which appeared in the papers. Would Her 1095 Majesty's Government, at this eleventh hour, tell the House if they were going to remain in Egypt to protect, not merely European interests, but the general interests of Egypt herself? What the country wanted to know was, whether they intended to remain in Egypt, so as to be able to protect, not only Egypt Proper, but the littoral of the Red Sea; or would they leave Egypt, as had been stated, he believed, by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney), to "stew in its own juice?" That was the language of one of the Ministers of the Crown. Did they propose to continue that policy? The country demanded more; they demanded that we should remain in Egypt with a firm government and a firm hand until the prosperity of the conntry could be assured, because we could not leave her bankrupt and exposed to her enemies. If not, Egypt would have been in a far better position if she had never been allied to this country at all. Her Majesty's Government had taken upon themselves a deep responsibility, and they were bound to fulfil that responsibility in the interests of England, of Egypt, and of the European Nations. He did not ask the Government to drag in any Treaties the country had entered into. He was a believer in the faithful observance of Treaties; and upon the fidelity which Treaties were maintained would depend the peace of Europe. But what he did say was, that having taken upon ourselves new responsibilities, we were bound to fulfil those responsibilities in the face of Europe and in the face of the world. Therefore it was that hon. Members on that side of the House would again and again appeal to the Government, in the interests of this country and of Egypt, to fulfil those obligations they had unhappily brought upon themselves. It would not do to act upon the policy hitherto pursued. There had been a new policy from day to day, and England had never been able to know what the real policy of the Government was from day to day. The House had been told that the policy of the Government was "Rescue and retire" but a policy of "rescue and retire" was a fatal policy, and was the unfortunate policy which had led to the present complications. If they had not sent away the troops from Egypt, the late massacre would have been 1096 avoided. They paid no attention to the remonstrances addressed to them; but they believed in their own vacillating policy, and imagined that things would be brought right by the chapter of accidents. They had been deceived once, and they were now deliberately deceiving the country. Now, if they had their eyes open to the real state of things, they ought to act as English statesmen in the interests of England and in the interests of Egypt, and for the peace of the world. He knew that he was addressing the House under a great disadvantage in not being able to speak to the Amendment of his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley). Hon. Members on that side of the House would have been glad to take a Division upon that Amendment, but the Government declined to give them the opportunity. It had always been the hereditary view of Members on that side of the House that the Government of the Queen must be maintained, and they were, therefore, unable to support the Motion for the reduction of the Vote. They were placed in the position of being bound to support the Government; but they warned the Government that they were not, by continuing that mistaken policy, to expect the Opposition to come forward in their support again on a similar occasion. He believed that if the Government did not at once take a bold and decisive policy, there would be more lives of English soldiers sacrificed, and that blood would be shed and lives lost owing to negligence, want of energy, and want of courage on the part of the Government of the day. He hoped the House might yet be able to receive such a declaration from the Government as would give confidence to the country. To talk of leaving the Egyptians to "stew in their own juice" could not give confidence either to this country or to Egypt. He believed that there were many hon. Members opposite who did not approve of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but who would do everything in their power to maintain the interests of commerce and the interests of Egypt. He asked the Government to speak out, and tell the House what their future policy would be; and, although late in the day, England would only be too gratified to learn that Her Majesty's 1097 Ministers were not afraid of the responsibilities they had brought upon themselves
SIR HENRY FLETCHER
said, he desired, as a military man, to make one or two observations upon the Vote now before the Committee; and he thought it would be well that one of the officials connected with the War Office should give the House some information regarding that Vote. They were asked to vote £307,900, and out of that sum £209,050 was expenditure due to military operations in Egypt. He believed that the whole of that expenditure was not confined to the expedition lately sent to Suakin and that neighbourhood, because he saw among the items several which could not possibly be connected with that expedition, but which must have relation to military movements in other parts of Egypt. He referred, for instance, to the item for Metals, and also to an item of £2,900 for Camp Equipage. He had thought that the large number of troops we had had in Cairo were in barracks, although we had not a large number there for the last few months, except Cavalry. There was another item of £13,300 for Miscellaneous Expenditure, which he also thought would require some explanation. Without alluding further to these items, he wished to make a few observations in connection with the expedition to Suakin, and the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. The first expedition of Baker Pasha was to relieve Tokar; but Sinkat had already fallen, and though some Members of the Government said that we had relieved Tokar, he believed that garrison had surrendered many days before the expedition even landed at Trinkitat. There was no doubt that Baker Pasha's expedition was a most unfortunate move both for the Egyptian Government and for the Government of this country. He had had placed under his command the gendarmerie, which he had used the greatest care to make efficient as gendarmerie; but they were never intended to act as regular soldiers, either in Egypt Proper or in any expedition into the Soudan. He (Sir Henry Fletcher) well recollected reading in the papers that when this expedition was first started from Cairo, a large portion of Baker Pasha's so-called Army were very loth indeed to go on this expedition, and, in 1098 fact, on one occasion they were so resolute in their determination not to enter the trains for conveyance to Suez, that the officer commanding the Cavalry of that expedition had to charge and drive the men before him into the trains. This expedition had been very unfortunate. A very large loss of life occurred; many English and other foreign officers sacrificed their lives in the endeavour to keep these men to the front; but they were determined that they would not face the foe, and they fled by hundreds and thousands, and were cut and mown down, notwithstanding the exertions of the English and other European officers. That expedition failed completely; and what happened? They had to retire to Suakin, and when they arrived at Suakin the remainder of Baker Pasha's force turned mutinous; and, no doubt, it was wise to disband them, and apply for further help from the English Government. He would like to know why the gendarmerie were used in this expedition? The Egyptian Government, he believed, had a large force of Egyptian soldiers who had been under training for many months by that brave and gallant soldier, General Wood, a man who had devoted his time and his energies to this cause, and he feared had also, in some degree, ruined his health by the exertions he had gone through; and at the moment when it might have been supposed that that Egyptian Army would have been made use of, they were not utilized, although Her Majesty's Government had stated that that Army was in such an efficient state that they would be able to order the withdrawal of all, or, at least, very nearly all the English troops from Cairo, and place the safety of Egypt in the hands of that Egyptian Army. Something must surely have happened to show that that Army was not of such value as the Committee had been led to believe; and he thought it was a most fortunate day when the Government resolved to reverse their decision to withdraw the English troops from Cairo, and that, at any rate, a small portion were available for the expedition which had been sent to Suakin and the neighbourhood. He would also like to make one or two allusions to a telegram which was sent from the Adjutant General of the Forces in England to Cairo. He quite admitted that that despatch was very concise, and was 1099 very well framed; but he thought there were one or two points in it which would help to show that England was now practically, if not really, reigning in Egypt. That despatch directed a battery of Artillery to be taken from General Wood's forces up to Suakin, and in that despatch he found the words "Baring will give authority." He would like to ask the Government whether any intimation was given to, or any leave asked of, the Khedive or General Wood in respect to this authorization? The only name mentioned in the despatch was in this way—"Baring will give necessary authority." Those few words alone, he thought, proved that the Government were in command of the Egyptian Army; otherwise they would have no right or authority to use those words. At all events, no field battery was used in the expedition to Tokar or Suakin, although it had once been stated that a field-battery and guns would have been of the greatest assistance to General Graham; and he believed that they would have saved the lives of many officers and men of the Cavalry when they charged and endeavoured to disperse the rebels. There was one thing, at any rate, which he thought Her Majesty's Government ought to do. During these debates he had not heard one word from the Treasury Bench, thanking the officers and the men for the devotion which they had shown in the expedition. These men laid down their lives, willingly and gladly, in answer to the call of duty; and he thought it was only due to them that some recognition of that should be made from the Treasury Bench in honour of those brave and gallant soldiers. One lesson to be learned from this expedition was that these Arab rebels were a foe not to be despised. They were armed simply with spears and knives; but with those old-fashioned weapons they were able to inflict great injury on our Cavalry. They lay down as our Cavalry charged upon them, and as the horses went over them they sprang up and hamstrung the horses, or, if they failed in that, they speared the riders. It was the old story; and there was no doubt that the proper weapon for the Cavalry in these irregular engagements with wild tribes was the lance instead of the sword. When these men crouched down, it was impossible for the troopers 1100 to reach them; but the lance would be much more effective. There was another circumstance in connection with this expedition to which he wished to call attention. He thought it was a most fortunate thing that, through the wise policy of the late Government, the Suez Canal was available, and was made use of for the transit of our troops from England and from India, because there was a troopship on the way home from India with a regiment—the York and Lancashire—of old soldiers who had served for many years in India, together with a small body of the 10th Hussars, who were also old Indian soldiers. These old soldiers were, no doubt, of the greatest service in mixing with the younger soldier, and in helping to maintain that discipline and courage which he was proud to say all had shown in this expedition. But he saw, from a telegram from Lord Northbrook, that the Jumna, which was on its way home, had on board the 10th Hussars, and he suggested that, if necessary, the Aden Cavalry, about 300, might be brought, who were used to irregular warfare and had been abroad; and he was sorry they had not been made use of, as he believed they would have saved the lives of some of the British Cavalry who fell in the recent engagement. One question now to be considered was, what was to become of Suakin when this expedition against Osman Digna was ended? The papers stated that a fresh expedition was to start from Suakin, most probably tomorrow morning—in fact, that it had already advanced seven or eight miles into the desert. The force, he believed, had orders to find Osman Digna, if possible, and his rebel army; but they were not to follow him up into the mountains. He agreed that it would be bad policy to follow these Arabs through defiles and passes in a mountainous country, where they would probably find no water, and where they would be exposed to great risk of defeat; but the question was, if they could not find Osman Digna, what was the intention of the Government with regard to Suakin? It had been stated that the policy of the Government was to give up a certain portion of the Soudan; but it was also said that the littoral of the Red Sea was to be maintained. If we were to hold our route to India, there was no doubt that Suakin and the littoral of the Red Sea 1101 must be held; but the matter came to this—if the English troops were withdrawn from Suakin, how were the Government going to garrison that town? In a few weeks, the climate of Suakin would be such that the English troops would not be able to exist there. Were they going to garrison it with those Egyptian troops who, it had been said on many occasions, were not to be relied upon; or would they employ foreign mercenaries? If he might make a suggestion, he did not see why the West India regiments, who had been taken from the West Coast of Africa, should not be employed to garrison Suakin, and the other places. They were men with whom he had served many years ago in the West Indies, and he knew that they were a most quiet, frugal, well-behaved body of men—men who were most obedient to their officers, and who could stand any climate such as that at Suakin. He would suggest to the Government to consider whether they would not employ those men to garrison Suakin, instead of putting a number of English soldiers there, at the risk of their lives. Now, he would pass to another part of the Soudan. General Gordon was at Khartoum. He had sent many telegrams, saying that all was going well, and that there was no fear for Khartoum, or that part of the Soudan. He had made the Mahdi Sultan of Kordofan, and in a great measure given the Mahdi encouragement in regard to slavery; but during the last few days telegrams had come from Khartoum putting quite a different face on the picture. General Gordon was was now reported to be to a certain extent in danger, and he had suggested various things being done for his safety. One was, that a certain number of English troops should be sent up the Nile to help to secure his safety, in case he wished to withdraw. But it must be borne in mind, in considering this suggestion, that in a few weeks the climate would be unbearable for English troops, and if the Egyptian troops were sent without being backed up by English troops, he feared the result would be very serious. General Gordon was also reported to have asked for two squadrons of Cavalry to be sent from Suakin to Berber to open up that route. He (Sir Henry Fletcher) had no idea what the distance was between Suakin and Berber; but he believed it was a 1102 very considerable distance—perhaps several hundred miles—and if these squadrons of Cavalry were sent there, wells were not very numerous, and unless a line of communication was kept between the advancing squadrons and Suakin, they would be in danger of being cut off by the various tribes. This was only a report from Khartoum; and he should like to ask the Government whether they had received any information in connection with the matter, because it would be, he thought, a most extraordinary thing if General Gordon had made this suggestion? It was also reported from Khartoum that the retirement of the garrisons was imperilled, and that General Gordon had demanded the immediate decision of the Government. He believed General Gordon had said that it was a question, not of days, but of hours, whether the telegraph wire might not be cut, and he would be prevented from communicating with Cairo. This was a most important matter, and the Committee ought to have some explanation from the Government as to what they intended to do, if this statement was true, He also wished to urge the Government not to be content with sending a small force up the Nile. A considerable force ought to be sent if the safety of General Gordon and the garrisons he was trying to withdraw was to be secured. There was no doubt that General Gordon had been checkmated by the indecision of the Government. The Mahdi was now all powerful. He had been made Sultan of Kordofan, and he could now do almost what he liked in that portion of the Soudan. It also had been recommended that Zebehr Pasha should be appointed to succeed General Gordon. Zebehr had always been known in this country as the greatest slave dealer in the Soudan; and it was a question for the Government whether a man who had that character, and who bore in Egypt the name of the "Scourge of Central Africa," should be appointed Governor of that portion of the Soudan. We were now practically reigning in Egypt, and the sooner Her Majesty's Government said so openly and distinctly the better. A few months ago, to show that we were reigning in Egypt, we dismissed the Ministry of Cherif Pasha and appointed the Ministry of Nubar Pasha. Whether Nubar Pasha was any better than Cherif Pasha was, he thought, very 1103 doubtful; but when that change of Ministry took place, a Fellah who was asked by an Englishman whether he considered that the substitution of Nubar Pasha for Cherif Pasha was better for Egypt, replied—"One Pasha very like another Pasha." He (Sir Henry Fletcher) thought that was true; but, for the sake of this country, he must urge the Government to give some explanation of their policy, if they had one. The country was looking for an explanation of their policy. The Prime Minister told the House, a few nights ago, that his determination was to quit Egypt immediately matters were put in order and things became tranquil. There was no doubt that English troops would have to be kept in Egypt for many years to come, in order that Egypt might be put in order; and what would keeping a large number of English troops in Egypt mean? The Egyptian Government was in such a miserable state with regard to its finances that it would be impossible for it to find sufficient money to pay for the maintenance of these troops; and then, if Egypt could not pay for their maintenance, it would be hard on the British taxpayer that he should have to pay to provide for these troops, when it was said that we were not reigning in Egypt, or taking possession of Egypt. He hoped that to-night the Committee might get some true and explicit explanation from the Government, and also that they might be informed whether these rumours that were flying about, as coming from Khartoum, were true or not; because, if it was true that General Gordon had been checkmated by the policy or by the vacillation of the Government, the whole country would feel more strongly than ever that the Government was not worthy of support, and would resolve that a better Government should be brought into power. There was no doubt that the feeling in the country was very strong, as had been proved last week at one of the elections. He knew Brighton well, and, being down there, he had asked the people what was the cause of this change in their political views, and why something like 500 Liberals had supported the junior Member for Brighton? The answer he got from every man who was well informed, and who watched the action of the Government, was that they voted for the junior Member for Brighton 1104 because they were tired of, and had no faith in, the vacillating policy of the present Government. At the recent election in Somersetshire there was also a considerable majority for the Conservative candidate over the majority in 1880, and there was no doubt that that majority was augmented by the policy of the Government in regard to Egypt. He had simply spoken an an old soldier, anxious to keep up the honour of England and English troops, and he trusted the Government would now give some explicit explanation.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he also deeply regretted that more had not been said from the Front Ministerial Bench in praise of the zeal and gallantry of the forces on the Red Sea Coast. The attitude which had been taken by the Party of which he was a humble Member was one of admiration for the exploits of our soldiers and sailors whenever they did their duty, as they had undoubtedly done their duty of late. But they had never considered that the Forces of Her Majesty should be politicians. It was their duty simply to obey and carry out their orders, wherever they might be; and whether the cause in which they were engaged was just or unjust—whether the war in which they were called upon to take part was a necessary or unnecessary war—they equally regarded the gallant deeds of our soldiers and sailors to the country with satisfaction and praise. For that reason, they felt that the exploits of the Queen's Forces were deserving of the admiration and thanks of the country. But the persons who were responsible for the present war, and for the many blunders which had marked the policy of this country in its dealings with Egypt during the last two years, were not the Queen's Forces, but the Ministers of the Crown; and the Conservative Party held themselves free to criticize those Ministers, without any detraction from their admiration of the gallantry of the troops. There could be no doubt about the responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers. They were clearly responsible for everything which had taken place in Egypt; because, undoubtedly, after the successful battle of Tel-el-Kebir, in September, 1882, they had been in comple control of the country. That control had necessarily been increasing, as everyone foresaw it must 1105 increase, week by week, and even day by day. At the present moment no single step could be taken, and, as a matter of fact, no single step was taken, either in regard to the policy or the administration of Egypt without the previous assent of Her Majesty's Representative at Cairo. An interesting and remarkable letter appeared in The Times some days ago, purporting to give the views of a distinguished foreigner resident in Egypt as to our policy. He gave a list with winch he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) would not trouble the House, but which ran somewhat as follows:—That no alterations in regard to prisons, legal procedure, cattle disease, police, sanitary arrangements, sites for custom house or schools—much less in regard to the more important questions of State finances, debts of the fellaheen, and the higher branches of administration, &c.—could be dealt with by the Egyptian Ministers without previously consulting Sir Evelyn Baring; and the writer concluded with the remarkable but natural expression—Why not do away with this sham altogether, and acknowledge to the world that you are really administering the affairs of Egypt?The advantages of such a course were apparent, except, as the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had stated, the Government would thereby be deprived of the useful buffer which now existed between themselves and English public opinion. If they were to assume in name the Government of Egypt, Her Majesty's Ministers would be amenable to public opinion for every act that was done in Egypt. They were in truth morally responsible now; but it was convenient for Ministers, who were not able to make up their mind a week beforehand, to be able to throw the blame of their own vacillation upon the unfortunate dummies whose own power of organization and activity was paralyzed by the employment of British officials, while the administrative power of the English officials was destroyed by the necessity of working through these Egyptian dummies. He had ventured, in the last debate upon this question, to put before the House, with considerable diffidence, what seemed to him to be the only policy for freeing ourselves from our difficulties. He had suggested that we should undertake the definite administration of Egypt. He 1106 did not advocate the annexation of Egypt, nor even what was commonly called a Protectorate over it, unless, indeed, such Protectorate could be obtained by negotiation or purchase from the present Sovereign. But what he advocated was a definite Administration publicly acknowledged before the world by English officials in Egypt, for a given period, such arrangement to be brought about by negotiation with the Suzerain of Egypt, the Sultan of Turkey. We could do nothing without the assent of the Sultan; but with his support we could do what we pleased. Nothing, he thought, would be more easy than to obtain that assent, if the Government were willing to cast aside their old prejudices and wild theories with regard to Turkey, and approach the Porte in a fair and conciliatory spirit. Turkey was fully sensible of all the difficulties of the matter, and was not blind to the position in which she found herself placed; because Turkey, no less than this country and France, was menaced by an Arab Revolt. Turkey must realize the awkwardness of the position, and, in view of recent occurrences in the East, must know that her power was seriously menaced by the possibility of another crusade such as that which took place in 1876 and 1877. She would, therefore, be willing to obtain the support of this country in the event of certain contingencies, and in return would give us the right to administer the affairs of Egypt. But we must go to her in the spirit in which Lord Palmerston or Lord Beaconsfield would have approached her, and admit her rights without usurping them. If that course were followed, we should, no doubt, obtain her cordial assent to a British Administration in Egypt for a period of years. What would be the advantage of that step? Our present difficulties in Egypt arose from the uncertainty which prevailed as to our policy in Africa. We were unable to deal with French intrigues, because France was extremely active in making partizans, and French agents would go to influential persons in Egypt for the purpose of spreading their own ideas, saying—"You cannot depend upon the English. They are always talking about going out of Egypt; and when they go you will have to be left in the lurch." He did not know whether Her Majesty's Go- 1107 vernment had any idea of the strength of French intrigues in Egypt at this moment. There was one active just be fore the movement of Arabi, which was found to be a most serious obstacle to our operations. He had no doubt that similar intrigues were going on now. Only that morning there was an interesting letter in The Times from Alexandria, in which the Correspondent—one of the most intelligent in Europe—stated—Matters, however, have now arrived at such a point that, unless we wish to wreck the entire Administration, our policy must be altered. Some of the best of the English officials openly declare that, unless measures be taken to prevent French intrigue, they will resign their positions. The treble Administration is wholly indefensible; and seeing that our efforts to conciliate our quondam allies receive no return and only result in the ruin of Egypt, it is clearly advisable that they should cease.The writer went on to give instances of successful administration in Egypt, solely managed by Englishmen, or from which Frenchmen were excluded, and thus concluded—Against this take the railways, which are under an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Native, and concerning which the complaints of a useless bureaucracy are perpetual. The position of the Domains' administration, in which a Frenchman, who is worse than useless, has just been re-appointed at a large salary, is, unfortunately, notorious. In the Daira corruption is rampant, and the English member is outvoted in every attempt to effect the smallest reform. My own remarks on the futility of half measures must have become nauseous. Will the Government listen to General Gordon's opinions? His words are as applicable to Egypt as to the Soudan. He says, 'We cannot blame this people for rising, when no definite sign is shown of our establishing a permanent Government.'Were we alone made responsible, the French officials would cease to exist, or would understand that their opportunity for paralyzing our efforts was at an end. In consequence, we should have some chance of bringing that administrative power, which undoubtedly did belong to British officials, especially British officials trained in the East, to bear upon the affairs of the country. We should at once have the administration working smoothly; and it was upon regular and beneficent administration that the welfare of Oriental people mainly depended. It was upon sound administration, far more than in theoretical forms of Constitutional Government, nicely-planned Legislative Assemblies, and paper fabrics of that kind, which 1108 were comparatively valueless to these people—it was upon the administration of a country that the prosperity of the people, their finance, and all which went to make them happy and secure depended. If that administration were in the hands of Englishmen, he had not the smallest doubt that the troubles, difficulties, and disasters in Egypt, the bad finance, the corruption, and the suffering amongst the fellaheen would practically cease in a very short time, and with them would cease many of our political troubles. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, he limited his advocacy of an English administration of Egypt strictly by the condition that we were able to do it by a friendly arrangement with the Sovereign Power. He had already stated, and he would reiterate it tonight, that we could not play fast-and-loose with the rights of the Turkish Government any more than we could with the rights of a Christian Power. Whatever might be thought of the Turkish Government, whatever might be thought of the Turkish system, or of the Turkish people, there was no doubt that the Sultan was the rightful Sovereign of Egypt. If they once seriously broke International Law in this case, as they had broken it over and over again of late, they would furnish to other Powers a fatal precedent, and the privilege of doing the same when it suited their purpose. They would give Russia, for instance, an excuse when it suited her to make her final attack on Asia Minor. They would, in short, set up an example which might be fatal to themselves. Whatever might be our confidence as to the respect other countries entertained for us, for our reputation and for our power, there could not be the smallest doubt that England, before long, would have to defend what was the widest and wealthiest Empire in the world against very serious aggression. When that day came, we should require the support, not only of all the material strength we had, and of the vast Possessions which Her Majesty's present Government lost no opportunity of weakening, but we should require to be supported with the consciousness of moral and international right in our dealings with the people of the world. He would not weary the House by saying anything upon the other branch of his policy, which he had ventured to put 1109 forward on a previous occasion. Since he had had the honour of a seat in the House, he had always maintained that the only way in which this country could successfully conduct her foreign policy was by an understanding with, and the co-operation of, the German Powers. That view had been received with ridicule; but he took it that our foreign alliances were the key-stone of successful operations abroad. It was a reversal of the policy of Lord Beacons-field in this respect which had led us into our difficulties with Egypt; it was the reversal of that policy which gave the Ministry such confidence in France, that they were led along blindfold by a noble and ambitious French statesman. He believed that the German Powers represented the greatest force, both moral and material, in Europe, and that we could not look for support or for a successful alliance elsewhere; that our interests were largely, if not entirely, identical with theirs; whereas our interests clashed with those of Russia, and more or less rivalled those of France. Believing that, he only hoped it was not too late—though there were indications abroad, in the recent rapprochement between Berlin and St. Petersburg, that it might be rather late, he hoped it was not too late—for Her Majesty's Ministers to recur to the understanding that Lord Beacons-field had with Berlin, which undoubtedly enabled him to carry on his policy in Egypt and elsewhere with safety and success. These were the three branches of the policy he would recommend to Her Majesty's Government—a definite administration of Egypt by England; a friendly understanding with the Porte; and a close alliance with the German Powers. In criticizing the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt with regard to this Vote of Credit, he had said just now that the Opposition laid no blame on the Army or upon their operations, which had been conducted with great skill and gallantry, but that they did lay blame on Her Majesty's Ministers. He had come across, the other day, a very interesting paragraph in a French paper, which so tersely and epigramatically gave the cause of the failures of Her Majesty's Government, that he would venture to trouble the Committee with it. This French paper said of the British Government— 1110It goes on from contradiction to contradiction, and systematically decides to do on the morrow, what it abstains from doing to-day, when too late to be of avail. England has seen nothing, has foreseen nothing, and has let herself be surprised by events.It would not be possible to sum up the failure of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in more appropriate language than that. The grievous slaughter of the Arabs at El Teb was almost a counterpart of the destruction of, or the injury to, Alexandria. Both were brought about by the same causes—namely, a failure to realize the coming danger, and the failure to take action in time. It would not be appropriate to go back into the circumstances attending the disaster to General Hicks. They had been gone into with so much detail, and with so much effect, that he should only be wearying the House if he were again to discuss them. He might point out that energetic action, at the time of General Hicks's expedition in June or August last, would have prevented almost all the troubles which had occurred in the Soudan. He might point out that the Government were bound, either to support General Hicks in his entreaty not to be sent on that useless expedition—that fatal expedition into the wilds of Kordofan—or, if they suffered him, in spite of his protests, the Ministry were bound to see that he was supported by a sufficient and effective force. He might point out that later the Government should have been more speedy and energetic in taking action for the relief of the garrisons on the Red Sea Coast. They were really responsible for allowing Baker Pasha to march his undisciplined cravens to what was almost certain butchery—to what intelligent opinion, throughout England and Europe, knew to be certain massacre, and of which the Government had been warned over and over again. They were responsible, for they must have known that the expedition of General Baker could have but one result. He might point out, above all, how the Government had neglected their duty with regard to the brave and unfortunate garrison of Sinkat. So long as the history of this country remained he believed the betrayed and cruel fate of that brave garrison and its gallant leader would be a lasting stain, not only on the annals of this country, but 1111 on the character of Her Majesty's Ministers. Her Majesty's Government had been repeatedly warned of the perilous condition of affairs—they had had solemn despatches from their Representatives on the spot telling them of the painful and desperate condition of Tewfik Bey and his men; they had been warned over and over again by the active and intelligent newspaper correspondents of this country, who had given so much valuable and accurate information as to the course of events in that part of the world. 80 long ago as September, 1883, Tewfik Bey had sent, through Consul Moncrieff, a clear statement as to the state of affairs in the Soudan. He had shown that notwithstanding, by a most gallant defence, he had beaton off, with a mere handful of blacks, an attack of Osman Digna and 3,000 Arabs, the whole country was in a state of dangerous ferment, and he would require reinforcements at once if an end was to be put to the revolt. No notice was taken of Tewfik's appeal. No help was offered him; and the Committee might judge—they might gauge exactly—the danger of neglecting a movement of this kind, by comparing the fact that in September last, Tewfik Bey, with a force of 70 blacks, was able to beat off successfully Osman Digna and his 3,000 Arabs, with the fact of the desperate resistance that the same Arabs had recently offered to the disciplined troops of Her Majesty. Such was the cost and such was the danger of allowing these fanatical movements to develop. It might be worth the while of the Committee to consider how sluggish the Government had been in making up their mind to send any expedition at all into the Soudan. This was one of the most extraordinary instances in history of the way in which a Government was forced against its will to take action even at the twelfth hour. He had made a note from the official despatches, showing exactly how the mind of the Government had been made up on this question. In the first place, the news of General Baker's defeat reached this country on the 5th February last. The Committee would remember the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), whose ingenuity was far in excess of his accuracy of statement—["Oh, oh!"] Well, that was his (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett's) opinion, and he 1112 was only sorry some hon. Members did not agree with it. He could give a great many proofs in support of his view if necessary. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board, who was the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, seemed still to be, in this House, the principal Minister for Foreign Affairs, because he was frequently put forward to answer any serious and important question on foreign affairs, and was generally put up to make statements when the Prime Minister did not feel himself sufficiently safe in making one. On the 6th February, the day after the receipt of the news of General Baker's defeat, he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had put a question to the Government. The question was, whether they would now take steps to go to the relief of the garrisons; and this was the extraordinary answer he got from the Prime Minister, who appeared to be somewhat agitated at the time and, therefore, perhaps, did not realize what he was saying. ["Oh, oh!"] He would read the answer, and then hon. Members who interrupted him could form their own opinion. The Prime Minister, when the news of the dreadful disaster to Baker Pasha's force, which had caused the expedition of General Graham, reached this country, on being asked what steps the Government intended to take, used these words—"The Government are not called on or justified to adopt any measures of any kind." Well, he did not hear the objections which were raised a minute ago when he said the Prime Minister was agitated. It seemed to him the kindest view to take of it to say that the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat agitated when he made that statement. Later in the same day, the Government went so far as to order arms and ammunition to be sent to Admiral Hewett, but no men, though a few hours after that they ordered 150 Marines to be sent. The Marines were a useful force. They were now being mounted on horses in order to supply the deficiency in Cavalry. The Committee would notice what a useful force the Marines had been to the Government. After putting down the Fenian movement in Dublin, they were now sent, on horseback, to reconnoitre against the forces of Osman Digna. That same night Sir William Hewett asked for 500 Marines. Next day, February 7th, the 1113 Government got so far as to order 280 Marines to go to Suakin, and the number was soon afterwards increased to 350. On the 9th, Admiral Hewett was ordered to take the command at Suakin. On February 10th, they sent out to General Gordon, who was out of reach of the telegraph, asking "if he could suggest anything for the relief of Sinkat and Tokar?" And on February 11th, they had Lord Northbrook's despatch, asking "if there was any chance of relieving Sinkat and Tokar by arms or negotiation." The right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) took credit to the Government for having taken immediate steps to relieve the garrisons in the Soudan; but the relief, up to the 11th February, consisted merely in the despatch of 350 Marines. On February 12th, Admiral Hewett telegraphed that Sinkat had fallen, and that the garrison had been cut to pieces; and the Prime Minister, with a somewhat remarable levity, which in anyone else would have been styled "anti-human," made a play of words as to whether the despatch referring to the unfortunate garrison said "cut up" or "cut to pieces." On February 12th, the Cabinet at last made up their minds to do something practical, for they telegraphed—Steps have been taken to relieve Tokar—sufficient force will reach Suakin on the 19th or 20th.But, so far from that promise being fulfilled, sufficient force was not at Suakin until the 26th. If the force had reached Suakin on the 19th or 20th, the garrison of Tokar would not have surrendered. The plea that the measures they had taken had been delayed till receipt of information from General Gordon would not hold water, and he had noticed that the Government had not of late laid much stress on it. If they had wished for General Gordon's opinions, they could have telegraphed in clear and unmistakable terms—"Baker has been badly beaten; what shall we do to relieve the garrisons?" But they did not do that—they asked General Gordon if he could make any suggestion for the relief of Sinkat and Tokar. There was no evidence that General Gordon knew of the desperate straits of these places, or even of the defeat of Baker Pasha. These, he thought, were sufficient reasons why they should criticize and examine the right of Her 1114 Majesty's Government to large Supplies for an expedition which a little foresight would have rendered altogether unnecessary. There had at last been a gleam of light in the policy of the Governmeht—their conduct seemed to have been marked by a ray of intelligence. ["No, no!"] He was not so hard-hearted in his judgment of Her Majesty's Ministers as some of his hon. Friends seemed to be. It was, he thought, about a week ago, when, for the first time since this question was opened, Her Majesty's Government showed some signs of an appreciation of its gravity. The indignation of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was excited by a statement from the Prime Minister to the effect that it must be remembered that there were other questions involved than merely the defence of Suakin; that the Arab movement threatened to spread to Arabia, and to involve the peace of the Ottoman Empire, and of French Provinces in North Africa; and various considerations of that kind. This, though it excited the horror and indignation of the hon. Member for Carlisle, was yet the first gleam the House had of the Government's perception of the real seriousness of the occurrences in Egypt and the Soudan. If Her Majesty's Government went on developing in the same way, in the end they might realize some of the elements of statesmanship, though it would in all probability be too late to undo the evils they had brought about. The Committee would, perhaps, here allow him to say a word or two with regard to General Gordon's position at Khartoum. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had never, either in or outside the House, criticized General Gordon's action. The Government had sent a remarkable man to fulfil an impossible mission; and the remarkable man they had sent out was doing remarkable things, although the objects of the mission appeared to remain impossible. They did not blame General Gordon for issuing what was now the notorious Slave Proclamation, however much the Government might play upon the difference between domestic slavery and what they called "slave-hunting." There could be no doubt that General Gordon's Proclamation did authorize not only domestic slavery, but slave-dealing. There was something probably less offensive and 1115 less cruel than slave-hunting, and something more than domestic slavery, and that was slave-dealing—namely, buying and selling slaves like any other merchandize in open market. As the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had pointed out, that involved great and grievous cruelty. It involved the breaking up of families, the separating of children from their parents, brothers from their sisters, wives from their husbands, and the greatest possible disruption of social ties which could be inflicted on the human race. Nevertheless, that it was which General Gordon's Proclamation had authorized in the Soudan. There was plenty of proof that such was the case. General Gordon had said, in effect, to the people—"Knowing your regret at the severe measures taken by the Government for the suppression of the slave traffic, and seizure and punishment of all concerned, according to Convention and Decrees, I confer upon you these rights—that henceforth none shall interfere with your property. Whoever has slaves shall have full right to their services, and full control over them." But domestic slavery was not forbidden by the Convention, though slave-dealing was. Therefore, it was clear from this and from the phrase "full control over them," that it was the slave traffic which the Proclamation made legal. It was obvious, therefore, that slave-dealing was allowed; and General Gordon had been obliged to allow it under the conditions under which the British Government had sent him out. General Gordon was sent out to accomplish an impossible task, and one most obnoxious to him. Though the Government had, in scattered forms, certain opinions of General Gordon's, which might be quoted to show that he believed the Soudan was a costly and difficult possession, yet there could be no doubt his original view was that they should not abandon the Soudan—that was to say, the Soudan between the White Nile and the Red Sea Coast, That he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) believed to be General Gordon's view at this moment. He believed General Gordon did not wish to abandon the Soudan, and that he felt they could not with honour abandon and leave it to anarchy. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had ventured to protest against the abandonment of the Soudan. He was sorry that the 1116 Party of which he was but an humble Member had not seen their way to taking up that view strongly—he regretted that the abandonment of the Soudan had not been protested against from the whole of the Opposition Benches. He did not say the more remote parts, such as Darfour and the Equatorial Provinces, should be held—although it was an extraordinary fact that at this moment Darfour and the Equatorial Provinces were well governed, better governed, in fact, by European officials, than any other part of the Dominions of the Khedive. With regard to what was called the Eastern Soudan—that was to say, the vast region between Dongola and the bend Westwards of the White Nile—between the White Nile and the Red Sea Coast—it was not only contrary to the interests of civilization, but he believed it to be contrary to right, for us at this time to abandon it to what was really slavery and barbarism. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex had quoted from a telegram from The Times Correspondent at Khartoum—a most extraordinary telegram; but the noble Lord had not given the most important portion of it. General Gordon had stated, according to the Correspondent of The Times, who was also our Consular Agent—The emissaries of the Mahdi will succeed in raising the tribes between this and Berber. This is not owing to disaffection, but to fear caused by the pronounced policy of the abandonment of the Soudan.And General Gordon went on to say—We cannot blame them for rising, when no definite sign is shown of establishing a permanent Government here.Then he said—Be sure of one thing. If Her Majesty's Government do not act promptly, General Graham's victory will go for naught, and with the useless expenditure of blood the effect of it will evaporate.And he added—I do not believe we shall send any more telegrams, for it is no longer a question of days, but of hours.In this state of things, were Her Majesty's Government going to put Zebehr Pasha in power at Khartoum? That would be a disgraceful thing for them to do. Let them ask General Gordon to undertake himself the administration of the Eastern Soudan; or, if he were unwilling to accept the office, let them 1117 send some other distinguished Englishman thither, such as Sir Samuel Baker. In no other way could a satisfactory result be achieved. The Government had declared, some time ago, that their main hope was bound up in the restoration of the ancestral Sultans of these Provinces; but little had been heard of this idea of late. What had become of the Sultans—where were they? The Government had tried the experiment of sending one out; he took with him 23 wives, and only got, so far as was known, to the first post on the Nile. Since his arrival at that place he had been in a state of hopeless inebriation. The idea, in the face of a fanatical crusader like the Mahdi's, of expecting to restore the ancestral Sultans and small tribal Chiefs, whose power had been broken for two generations, was most absurd, and only showed to what extremes Her Majesty's Ministers had been driven in their hopeless indecision and vacillation in regard to this question. The only plan, as he had said, was to place the administration of the country under a British Governor General, with the consent of the Sovereign Power, and to back him up with all the moral support possible. As to the argument of the cost of the administration of the Soudan, it was only used by the Government to cover their retreat. He had it on the very best authority that the Soudan could pay its own expenses. He did not believe General Gordon was in favour of the abandonment of the Soudan, for that gallant officer had declared that under a good Administration the country would pay its own expenses. It was on record, according to the figures of the Government, that in the last year of its independent administration, the Soudan only cost £96,000 above its Revenue. What was our Expedition, which had as yet only touched the coast of the Red Sea, costing us? Had it not cost us £500,000 already, and had we seen the end of the expenditure yet? Was not General Gordon asking us for troops, and were the Government going to abondon this country to anarchy? He knew that was a favourite panacea of the Treasury Bench, and that it had been deified by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney). That hon. Member had told them that anarchy was "a new birth." If it was a new birth, all he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) could say was that a great 1118 many peoples had had a new birth under the present Government. To his mind, anarchy was the greatest curse of a people; and he believed that the rule even of Zebehr Pasha was better than hopeless anarchy, which would be the result of abandoning the Soudan to its ancestral Sultans. They had been told that Her Majesty's Government were going to evacuate the Soudan altogether. Now, he had asked the other day what they were going to do in such a case as that of Kassala? Here was a great town, a great commercial centre, second only to Khartoum in importance, and which in the last 20 years had increased largely in respect of population. Twenty years ago it contained 8,000 inhabitants; now it had at least 25,000. Besides the rest of the population, there were now in Kassala 6,000 or 7,000 Egyptians—men, women, and children. How were they going to remove these people from Kassala and get them down to the Red Sea, a distance of 300 miles, and provide for them afterwards? Again, were these people to be denied compensation, unlike the people at Alexandria, for the destruction of their property? All these questions would have to be faced by Her Majesty's Government. He protested against the abandonment of the Soudan on the ground of trade also; he protested against it on the ground brought to the notice of Sir Evelyn Baring, their Agent in Egypt, by the committee of merchants, who stated that the exports of the Soudan were £11,000,000, and the imports £2,000,000, and that there were 3,000 Egyptian and 1,000 European commercial houses in the Soudan. Were the Government going to give up the great route for trade with the interior of Africa? He protested against such a policy, on the ground that it was the most ruinous and costly policy that could possibly be adopted by this country. The Government would be driven, step by step, to further action. They could not recede; they could not abandon the Soudan; they would not be allowed to abandon it. Already the Government had been met with remonstrances from Prance, from Turkey, and, as he believed, from other European Powers. Why, then, should they neglect this opportunity? He was convinced that, if the secret diplomatic history of these campaigns I could be read, it would be found that 1119 the action of the Government, in despatching General Graham's force to Suakin, had been influenced by the pressure put upon them by Foreign Powers, and that pressure was not likely to cease. Her Majesty's Government were losing all the trade of the Soudan, and casting away the means of doing good to the people, by their half-and-half policy. [Mr. JESSE COLLINGS: Oh, oh!] He appealed to the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) to get up in his place, and give the House his idea as to what the Government were going to do. Hon. Gentlemen on those Benches wanted to know, and the country wanted to know, how far Her Majesty's Government were going to retain their hold upon Egypt, and how far they were going to hold the Soudan? The policy of Her Majesty's Government had long been one of hesitation in re spect of Egypt; but it was now becoming a policy of costly and sanguinary vacillation. He believed he should be correct in saying that, since August last, when Her Majesty's Government foolishly refused to acknowledge responsibility in the case of Hicks, 45,000 Egyptians and others had been slain, owing to the weakness and indecision of the Cabinet. How much more bloodshed and destruction of property would be required before Her Majesty's Government made up their minds to take the only course consistent with interest and duty, and their own honour—namely, that of declaring distinctly and clearly that they would secure the appointment of a British Governor General, and superintend the administration of the Soudan for a certain period? In thanking the Committee for the indulgence shown to him, he took the opportunity of expressing a hope that the present debate, and others which had recently taken place in that House, would result in forcing the hand of Her Majesty's Government a little further, and in making them adopt a more firm and consistent and honourable policy with respect to Egypt.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, he did not wish to follow the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) into the rather ambitious scheme of policy which he had sketched. He did not suppose that that was the right occasion for taking stock of the whole Egyptian situation. As for the Soudan, the hon. Member for Eye had reproached hon. Gen- 1120 tlemen on that side of the House, who repudiated interference in that question, with a partiality for anarchy. But he had forgotten, as it was very often forgotten in discussions on the Soudan, that there had always been anarchy there, and that ever since the Egyptian Government had been responsible for the Soudan, the anarchy which they created had been more savage and ferocious than any other. His (Mr. John Morley's) authority for that statement was the Report of Colonel Stewart. The hon. Member admitted, at least, that the Leaders of the Opposition were as little inclined as Members on those Benches to accept his policy of annexation of the Soudan. He might not have risen to speak on this question but for the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), who reproached some of them who sat below the Gangway with misleading, or doing their best to mislead, the country. It was certain that there was a vital difference of opinion as to the policy to be pursued in Egypt between some of them who sat there, and the hon. Gentleman; and whether they, or the hon. Gentleman, represented the feeling of the constituencies, remained to be seen. For his own part, he had no fear either of meeting the present constituencies, or the constituences enlarged as he hoped they would be, and placing before them the issue between the hon. Member and themselves. It was from that point of view that he rather deprecated what seemed to him a new departure on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) said, on Thursday last, that it would be necessary to provide for the security of Suakin during the short interval which would elapse before the final decision was come to as to the permanent garrison. That clearly indicated that Her Majesty's Government had made up their minds that Suakin was to be held. Well, that, in his view, was certainly an advance from the position taken up by Lord Granville no further back than January last. On the 9th of that month, Lord Granville wrote to Sir Evelyn Baring that, although he was favourably disposed to the retention of Suakin by Egypt, yet Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that further information and discussion would be necessary before the 1121 question of that and other ports could be definitely decided. About the game date, the Khedive himself said, in a long conversation which he had with the Correspondent of The Times, that, as regarded the Eastern Soudan or the littoral of the Red Sea, the Egyptian Government had no direct interest there; that it cost them money; and that, as they received it from Turkey, they must formally offer to restore it; but that its destiny did not affect Egypt. In view of these declarations by the Khedive and Earl Granville, which showed that the former had no interest in the Red Sea, and that Her Majesty's Government had not made up their minds as to the retention of Suakin, he should be interested if the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would disclose to the Committee what had been the course of information and discussion that had led Lord Granville and the Government from the position of the 9th of January to the position taken up by the noble Marquess on Thursday night, and by Lord Granville himself, in a slightly different form, on Monday last. The question of the retention of the ports was a matter of vital importance, because he might remind the Committee, without egotism, that he had ventured last year to make what had been called the most gratuitous form of mistake—a prophecy. He said, on the occasion referred to, that if we did not leave Egypt then, the Soudan would retain us in Egypt; and he would now venture upon another prophecy, and say that if we remained in Suakin we should remain in the Soudan. And we should remain in the Soudan, because it was perfectly clear that after the defeat of General Baker's force the Egyptian Government could not hold Suakin and the Red Sea ports. If, as General Gordon said, it would be an iniquity to hand back the Soudan generally to the Egyptians, he failed to see why it would be a less iniquity to hand back any particular portion of the Soudan. Then it remained to be decided whether the ports should be held by Turkey or by ourselves. It was true that Lord Granville had said that Her Majesty's Government concurred in the proposition to retocede those ports to Turkey; but nothing more had been heard of that; and it remained, there, fore, for us to garrison Suakin and the 1122 Red Sea Ports. And if that were all, we might undertake the work; but it was obvious, from all the arguments used by the supporters of annexation in the Press, that the acquisition of Suakin and the Red Sea ports really meant the making of a railway to Berber, and through that to Khartoum and Sennaar. In that case the advocates of extension would speedily spring up, and quote passages from the Report of Colonel Stewart, in which he said—"If you wish to put down the Slave Trade, you will find no better way of doing it than that of opening a way through Khartoum to legitimate trade." Therefore, if Her Majesty's Government wanted to find themselves settled in the Soudan, and ultimately on their way to Central Africa, they could take no better course to that end than by establishing themselves, on however insignificant a plea, and with however small a number of troops, at Suakin. He confessed he was alarmed, not only by a sentence of the noble Marquess, but by the express statement of the grounds on which the Prime Minister justified our remaining in that place when he said—We are there on good grounds; first, because Suakin is a vent for the Slave Trade, which we ought to stop; and, secondly, because it is important that we should arrest communications between the movement of which the Mahdi is the head, and a movement for which the tribes in Arabia are only too likely to be ready.So far as the last reason was concerned, he submitted that the very way to spread the movement from Africa to Arabia was for us, who were Christians, to remain in Suakin. Indeed, the announcement of our intention to remain there had not been made many days before a telegram informed us from Jeddah that the Mahommedans in Arabia were so excited at the prospect of a Christian people establishing themselves in Suakin, that already the insurgent and discontented movement had received a further impulse. He contended that it was exactly because we were Sovereign of a great Mahommedan community that it should be our special care to abstain as much as possible from meddling in Mahommedan troubles. As for putting down the Slave Trade, the retention of Suakin was not at all necessary to that end. What we wanted for the purpose was, as Colonel Stewart said, a number of small boats 1123 for cruising off the coast—not men-of-war's boats, for they were too conspicuous—and with these far more could he done towards putting an end to the Slave Trade than by the possession of any portion of territory inland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) spoke, with great force and pathos, of the duty which England had imposed upon herself of repressing slavery and the Slave Trade. That, no doubt, was one of the most glorious pages of our history; but when we found the best authorities telling us that we should do much more to repress the Slave Trade by stopping the market in Egypt, and putting down domestic slavery, he thought we ought to pause before committing ourselves to new engagements of which we should never see the end. Sir Evelyn Baring, in November last, warned Her Majesty's Government to abstain from all interference in the Soudan, which he said would not only make the policy of withdrawal a matter of extreme difficulty, or, so far as the present generation was concerned, of impossibility, but would involve a great risk that we should be led to establish British authority on a permanent or quasi-permanent basis over the greater part of the Valley of the Nile. It was because he saw that this was the beginning of a new departure that he ventured as early as possible to utter his protest against it. So far as the Vote before the Committee was concerned, he was not able to follow his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) into the Lobby. But if the question was raised as to the retention of the Red Sea ports, he should not acquiesce, by vote or otherwise, in a step which he looked upon as the beginning of a most dangerous policy.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. John Morley) had exercised, both in and out of the House, a most unfortunate influence on the Egyptian policy of Her Majesty's Government. He hoped the Committee might infer, from some of the remarks which had fallen from him, that the hon. Gentleman felt that influence to be on the wane. There was one passage in the eloquent speech of his noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton), who introduced this subject to the Committee that evening, with which he 1124 was unable to agree; and that was the passage in which he called on the Prime Minister to come forward and state what was his policy with reference to the Soudan and Egypt generally. He thought the Prime Minister had been called upon often enough to state his policy. Hon. Members had had many specimens of the kind of answer which the right hon. Gentleman thought it incumbent upon him to return to those appeals; and, for his own part, he was unwilling to call upon the right hon. Gentleman to state once more in this debate the views with which the House was unhappily too familiar. They had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman on Monday last, and he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) feared that if he were present he would only re-state them with redoubled vigour and energy. He hoped that the views which had been expressed in the course of the debate, especially those of hon. Members sitting behind the Treasury Bench, might have some effect upon the conduct and policy of Her Majesty's Government, and that the opinion of the country, already expressed with sufficient clearness in the public Press of all classes of politics, might be brought home to them by the language of their own supporters. He looked forward, therefore, with some hopefulness to seeing the Government go forward in the direction in which hon. Gentlemen on those Benches desired thorn to go, and he did not wish for any more explanations which might have the same unfortunate result as that of which they had reason to complain. He did not, for himself, regret that his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) was on Thursday last precluded from bringing forward his Motion on going into Committee of Supply. If he had done so, it would have been the more incumbent on Her Majesty's Government to stand by their previous utterances. But, as the matter stood, the mouths of hon. Members opposite had been opened in a manner that was not unsatisfactory to hon. Gentlemen on those Benches. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt, which had always been more or less in accordance with the feelings of the country, contrasted very strongly with the statements drawn from them by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), and others who had advocated a totally 1125 different line of policy; and he believed that that duplicity of conduct and language lay at the bottom of all the misfortunes and difficulties that were now before them. He believed, moreover, that the same contradiction which prevailed between the statements of Her Majesty's Government and their conduct, and of which he and his hon. Friends so much complained, was prejudicially affecting both the military and the civil government of Egypt. The Government had throughout, from the beginning of the last Session of Parliament to the present time, said one thing while they were doing another. Under the pressure of circumstances, stronger than the Government itself, they had occasionally done the right thing; but they had always vitiated their action by the premature statement of their intention to withdraw, which stopped further progress in the right direction. Her Majesty's Government should have adopted a perfectly different line of conduct, and, instead of making premature declarations, they should have remained silent when asked to state when they intended to retire from Egypt, and then the result would have been far more in furtherance of their actual policy than the language which they had unfortunately held. But what could they expect from the Prime Minister when they found him catching at the language of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and describing the policy of Her Majesty's Government as a policy of "Rescue and retire." The word "re tire" had such a magical effect upon his conscience and sympathy that he could not refrain from turning round, and, as it were, expressing his sympathy with the sentiments of the hon. Member. This anxiety to announce a policy which was inconsistent with the views of the country, and inconsistent with much of the line of action which had been adopted by the Government, equally affected the military as well as the civil situation. In that day's Times there was a telegram from Khartoum—he was not sure whether it was one of the telegrams which had been alluded to by other speakers—to the effect that General Gordon was greatly embarrassed in carrying on his work by the premature statement of the Government that the whole of the Soudan was to be immediately aban- 1126 doned. It was quite evident General Gordon would have profited very much by a little more ambiguity and reticence on the part of the Government, because it must be recollected that the uncompromising and unqualified statements of the Prime Minister were telegraphed not merely to Cairo and Alexandria, but to the remotest parts of the Soudan, where the Arabs were in arms against us. As he was upon the subject of Khartoum, he ought to say he agreed very much with the views which were expressed just now by his hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett). He could not help thinking that events would prove that it was premature, dangerous, and impolitic to announce that the Egyptian Government would be required to withdraw from the whole of the Soudan. It was not merely that the question of slavery might cause that policy to be reconstructed as time went on; but in the interest of the civilized world, in the interest of all the enlightened and scientific men who took so much trouble now-a-days in penetrating the most barbarous regions of Central Africa, a reversal of the Government's present policy might be necessary. Scientific men were disgusted beyond measure at the surrender on the part of the Government of the great advances towards civilization which recent enterprize had brought about. It was a disgrace to this country that it should take the lead in abandoning the Valley of the Nile, which had been laid open to civilization by the heroic efforts of our great travellers. He believed that what he might call the Mesopotamia of the Nile and the town of Khartoum were points of the greatest consequence, which might by-and-bye require to be reconquered and handed over to Egypt, or some other civilized country. The scientific men were very strong and powerful in the Metropolis. Many of the scientific gentlemen with whom he was acquainted were supporters of the general policy of Her Majesty's Government; but the whole of the Government's Egyptian policy was by them unanimously condemned. He should not be afraid if the Government were to announce that they would undertake what was called a Protectorate of Egypt, although the term was a little ambiguous. He was not frightened by the examples of Pro- 1127 tectorates which the Prime Minister put before them the other day. A' Protectorate of Egypt founded upon the analogy of that of the Ionian Islands would not be a very serious or objectionable thing. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking ex cathedra the other day, laid it down as an uncontrovertible principle that there was no alternative between the policy which the Government had pursued and the policy of absolute annexation. That was a most exaggerated and unwarranted view of the question. The Government themselves had given them an example of something between those two policies in the authority exercised in Egypt during the presence there of Lord Dufferin. There was no actual annexation then; but the policy now pursued by Her Majesty's Government was certainly very decidedly different from that which prevailed during Lord Dufferin's presence in Cairo. Lord Dufferin was responsible, in an indirect way, for all that occurred; indeed, no step was taken in civil and military government in Egypt without his authority and cognizance. The only drawback to Lord Dufferin's position was that everybody knew that his period of retention of office, or of power, could not last very long, and that it was extremely doubtful what successor might be appointed. No successor was appointed, and his (Mr. Sclater-Booth's) impression was that a great change for the worse took place on his departure in the policy of the Government. He had the opportunity of witnessing the departure of General Hicks from Egypt to the Soudan. General Hicks went as it now turned out, on a forlorn hope; but he went under the eye of Lord Dufferin, who was in power at the time, and whose complete control over the Government of Egypt was undoubted and unquestioned. It might be well for the Government to say that they renounced responsibility when they washed their hands of the whole business; but the multitude who witnessed General Hicks's departure believed that Lord Dufferin was probably on the ground, and that, if not responsible, he was a silent party to the proceedings. The people who witnessed the procession through Cairo thought more of Lord Dufferin's presence at that moment than of the protests and repudiations which 1128 were to be found in the Blue Books. The Prime Minister said the other day that some progress had been made in improving the civil government of Egypt. No doubt, something had been done; but how much more might have been done in the 21 months which had elapsed since the battle of Tel-el-Kebir? The irrigation of Egypt had been surveyed and reported upon. Nothing, however, had been actually begun, yet the expenditure of a small sum of money upon irrigation in Egypt would produce immediate results, and would have been productive ere now of considerable profit. The plan for the sale of the Domain lands was settled last year; but it was not carried out, owing to the departure of Lord Dufferin. The same might be said with regard to the indemnities. His right hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) had clearly shown that the Government were deeply responsible in the matter of the indemnities. It was not only that their action at Alexandria was the indirect cause of the destruction of the city, but when the Khedive was restored to power he was hand and glove with the Commander-in-Chief of the British Forces, and he voluntarily promised to make good the damage. The indemnities might have been settled; but nothing had been done, because of the financial difficulty which was always weighing on the Government of Egypt. Again, as to the military establishments. They had seen how little reliance could be placed upon the forces organized, whether by Baker Pasha or by Sir Evelyn Wood. But the time was rapidly approaching when Sir Evelyn Wood, and all the officers who took service under him, would relinquish their appointments. They only engaged to serve the Egyptian Government for two years, and that period would come to an end at the close of the present year. In this respect there was a difficulty in store for the Government. How were they going to replace Sir Evelyn Wood and his officers? Certainly, some officers had been enlisted and sent out within the last few weeks; but the confusion in the Egyptian Army would be very great in the course of a few months, unless some real steps were taken to avoid it. He felt that until that was done the withdrawal of our forces would not only be impossible, but absurd. With regard to the finances 1129 generally, they had heard that something like an interchange of civilities had taken place between the house of Rothschild and the Government. If that was done the other day, why could it not be done six months ago? If Mr. Vincent was coming to London within the next week to arrange for some further operations, why could not Sir Auckland Colvin have entered into the same negotiations when he was in London last June? He (Mr. Sclater-Booth) thought the house of Rothschild would have been quite as ready to assist the Egyptian Government then as now. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg) contended that financiers were the enemies of Egypt, and that cotton merchants were its friends. He (Mr. Sclater-Booth) believed that cotton-growing and finance were of equal importance to the permanent welfare of Egypt; merchandise, commerce, and finance were essential to Egypt's success. Even now, at the eleventh hour, he would appeal to the Government to make up their mind, and act without reserve in the direction that not only hon. Members who sat on the Opposition side of the House, but, judging from certain speeches which they had made, hon. Gentlemen opposite desired. He wished them to act in accordance with their duties and engagements towards Egypt and the Egyptian people—duties and engagements which were very serious, and could not be evaded. He wished them to act in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of the people of this country. In doing so they would fulfil the expectation of all rational politicians in Europe without any exception; they would consult the interests of Englishmen both here and in India; and even in reckoning with their own supporters they would see they would gain more credit by following the sagacious advice of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), than by siding with the narrow-mindedness of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), or the cynicism of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere).
§ MR. M'COAN
said, that what, to his mind, was the strongest argument against this Vote—namely, that Egypt could very well afford to meet the expenditure herself—had hardly as yet been touched on. Whatever might be the case in Egypt Proper, it could 1130 not be pretended that we had any national interests in the Soudan, and these operations of General Graham must consequently be regarded as undertaken on behalf of Egyptian interests with which we were in no way immediately concerned. Primâ facie the cost ought, therefore, to fall on the Cairo Treasury, which, if some very obvious and practicable financial reforms were carried out, would be well able to bear it. Before justifying this statement, however, he begged to avail himself of this opportunity to refer very briefly to some other alleged reforms which the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) and the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had both claimed to have been already achieved by our Agents in Egypt. Thus credit had been taken for great progress in the establishment of the new Native Courts; while the fact was that this reform, the initiative in which was due to the late Khedive, had advanced very little beyond the point at which he left it. Some few Belgian and Dutch Judges were, indeed, now idling about Cairo at large salaries; but not a single one of the proposed new tribunals was yet open. As regards the so-called "Legislative Assembly," projected by Lord Dufferin, and for which great credit had also been taken, he need merely say that that was about the most worthless delusion of the whole. So, too, as to irrigation; Colonel Moncrieff had, indeed, made a survey and report; but not a single mile of new canal had yet been made, nor a mile of even the existing ones cleaned out. The whole irrigating system had been neglected since the deposition of Ismail, and was now in very much worse condition than when he left it. Similarly as to the police; that, to be sure, had been "re-modelled;" but with the result that it was, at that moment, everywhere more inefficient than it had been any time within the past 20 years. And so too, lastly, as regards the prisons. Mr. Clifford Lloyd had, it was true, cleaned out and otherwise improved the state of the gaol in Cairo; but in the interior—at Tantah, Damietta, Rosetta, Mansourah, Assiout, Kenneh, and elsewhere, absolutely nothing had been done in this direction. He could affirm this on the authority of wholly trustworthy information, and it 1131 was but right that the truth should be known. But whatever might be the difficulty and failure as yet as regards these various reforms, those to which he desired to call the attention of the Committee were still more important, and, if carried out, would effectually and permanently set right what was the main difficulty and danger in the Egyptian situation—its finances. These were—(1) the Tribute to the Porte; (2) the abolition of the Capitulations; (3) the equalization of the Land Tax; (4) the revision of the Law of Liquidation. As regarded the Tribute, the Committee would, perhaps, remember that this heavy tax on Egypt, for which the Porte had never rendered the least equivalent, originally stood at £376,000 a-year; but, in 1866, was raised to £675,000, in consideration of the Firman which in that year conferred on Ismail Pasha the title of Khedive, and made the succession hereditary to his eldest son. To this was subsequently added another £85,000, for the cession of Massowah and Berbera, raising the black mail now paid to Turkey to a round sum of £760,000 a-year. It was obvious that that was a monstrous payment, extracted from the blood and sweat of a population on whom the Porte had never conferred a benefit, and which there was absolutely nothing but a corrupt personal bargain to justify. This heavy drain should, therefore, be reduced to at least its original figure, and a saving of £384,000 a-year be thus effected. The fact that the Porte had mortgaged the present sum for its Tribute Loan supplied no argument against such an economy, as those who bought the stock of that Loan did so at their own risk, and speculatively took their security with all its "equities." As regarded the Capitulations, if we are to exercise any power over Egyptian Administration, the raison d'être for those would be wholly gone. As it was, the immunities which they unjustly conferred on some 100,000 foreigners most seriously affected the Customs, Excise, Land Tax, and many other branches of the Revenue, to which justice could not be done so long as these old checks on Turkish misrule remained in force. I With the precedent of the French in Tunis, there should be little difficulty in their abrogation; and if anything like broad and equitable reform was to be 1132 effected, that must be done. If it were done, the Revenue might expect to gain at least £250,000 a-year. But, financially, the equalization of the Land Tax was even more important. At present, nearly three-fourths of the whole 4,900,000 acres of tilled land in Egypt, held under the miri tenure, paid an average tax of 22s. an acre; while more than a fourth, chiefly owned by the Pashas, Beys, and other favourites of the Viceroys—held under what was called the oushurieh tenure—paid only an average of In an acre. It was under this latter tenure that Nubar Pasha, for instance, held his large estates, which were nearly all the gift of the late Khedive. Well, if that gross injustice to the fellaheen, who paid the higher rate for generally worse land, were redressed by the lower being raised to a level with the higher rate, the demonstrable gain to the Treasury would be above £850,000 a-year. But quite as urgent, and more immediately fructuous, would be a reduction of the interest paid on the bonded Debt under the Law of Liquidation. At present this involved a yearly charge of £3,382,406, exclusive of the interest paid on the Domain and Daira Loans, which were separately dealt with. Well, it was obvious that this was a monstrous charge on a total Revenue of less than £9,000,000 a-year; and the only remedy for it was a reduction of, at least, 1 of the 4 per cent—plus a Sinking Fund—now paid on the Unified Stock. This alone, even without touching the Preference Stock, would represent a saving of some £550,000 per annum. For that the increased security, given to the Stock by our presence in Egypt, would be far more than an equivalent; and in view of this there would not, he believed, be any difficulty in effecting the necessary modification of the law under which the existing interest charges were fixed. If, then, these several reforms were effected, it would be seen that, what with economies and new revenue, the resultant gain to the Treasury would roundly exceed £2,000,000 a-year,—a sum more than enough to place Egyptian finance on the very soundest footing, without calling on the British taxpayer for a penny. But these great and fructuous reforms could not be expected so long as the present shilly-shally no-policy of Her Majesty's Government was adhered to. 1133 They were possible only under an avowed British Protectorate, and for that and all the blessings it would confer on the Egyptian people they supplied an unanswerable argument.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I only rise for the purpose of making two observations which will not be long—neither one nor the other. The first observation I wish to make is, that I do not understand the new policy of silence taken up by Her Majesty's Government. I am quite sure that the speech of my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton;, at the opening of the debate to-night, was well worthy of an answer; also the speech which followed by an old Colleague of the Government (Mr. W. E. Forster), every word of which must have gone to the heart of the Government, and must have been a warning to them that they must take great care what they are doing, if they mean still to guide the Councils of this great nation. That right hon. Gentleman touched upon the subject of Khartoum, and upon the suggested advent to power of Zebehr Pasha, and the consequent increase in the Slave Trade, which is a matter much more likely to touch the feelings of every Englishman than any of those stories of Bulgarian atrocities of which we heard so much a few years ago. This policy of silence is to my mind most wonderful. I do not know whether any Members of the Government were present when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) made his speech; but, whether or not, that speech is also one which requires to be answered, and which must be answered before the debate closes. This policy of silence, this policy of retiring from the debate before they have extricated themselves from the position in which they find themselves, is a new policy. When this debate began last Thursday, both the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) and the Prime Minister said they would make short speeches, as they would, in all probability, have to speak again in the course of the debate. The noble Marquess most faithfully kept his promise, and his speech was short; but the Prime Minister as faithfully forgot his promise, and his speech was long; but, at all events, I think we are entitled to ask that before this debate closes we may have that further statement from the 1134 Government which we were promised when the debate was opened, especially considering the speeches which have been made on this side of the House and the important speeches which have come from, at least, two Members on the other side in the course of this evening's discussion. It is difficult to account for the silence of the Government. I wonder whether it is because they are not agreed. We have often charged them with being disagreed in the Cabinet; but that charge has always been denied, although, in the long run, events have always proved the charge to be well founded. After a charge of this kind has been made, we always find that some Member of the Cabinet drops out of it. On this very Egyptian Question, one of its most important Members left the Cabinet. That right hon. Gentleman left them the very moment the bombardment of Alexandria took place, because, as he said, he considered their policy had been wrong from the very beginning, and that he could no longer go with them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), to whom I refer, left the Cabinet, and when he took that course of action, you may depend upon it there were other Members of the Cabinet very much of his way of thinking. There are, very probably, Members of the Cabinet who still agree with the right hon. Gentleman, although they have not left their Colleagues. The Government say they represent the action of the Liberal Party as a whole; but we know that, on this matter, the Liberal Party is disagreed, and that there are Members of the extreme Radical Party in the Cabinet—we have every reason to believe, indeed, that the Cabinet are by no means agreed as to the policy that is to be pursued. Is that the reason of their silence, then, or is it because, as they say, they have so often explained their policy that it is no use repeating it over and over again? Only the other day, the Prime Minister said he had repeated the policy of the Government, and explained it so often, that he thought he required the indulgence of the House in venturing to repeat it again; and the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), in "another place," has said that as the Government had repeated their policy 16 or 17 times, he 1135 must decline to repeat it again. But, if they have so often repeated their policy, they have never yet explained it to the satisfaction and to the intelligence of the country. It so happens that the Members of the Government have spoken not only inside, but outside this House; and their voices have been weakened, in attempting to explain their policy, by the fact that there has been such a wide difference between their statements—even the explanations we have had, with all the eloquence and ingenuity of the Prime Minister himself, have been nullified by the widely different explanations which have been given in "another place." Let us inquire what really is the policy of the Government—let us examine it for one moment; and I now here come to my second point, on which I will detain the House for a very few minutes. From the speeches we heard on Thursday night, we may be able to gather what is the policy of the Government, and where it is that we differ so essentially from them; and that is the point I want to accentuate to-night. The Prime Minister, in the speech in which he introduced the Reform Bill, said he would have to consider the question affirmatively and negatively. I should like to take these very words of his in considering this question of the policy of the Government. Let us consider what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman negatively, and what has fallen from the Government, affirmatively, and I think we shall see what is the feeling of the Government and how the feeling of the Opposition—which I believe to be the feeling of the country—differs from that of the Government. Let us take the negative side first. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought forward this Motion (Colonel Stanley), in a speech which it was not difficult to understand, for the reason that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke as plainly as a man could speak, has given his view of what the policy of the Opposition would be; and the Prime Minister could not help acknowledging that such was the case, because he said—"We have heard in it something like a clear and comprehensive plan arrived at by the speeches of the Opposition, and we hare this advantage—that we are and desire to be at distinct issue with regard to their policy so far as we can discern it." 1136 I am glad that those words were spoken. I am glad that now, after all the taunts that have been thrown out, to the effect that we had no opinions, and never suggested a policy, and had nothing to put before the country, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, than whom there can be no better judge, says he is at distinct issue with us as to our policy. The sooner the country knows that the better; for it is no use our saying "We find fault with your policy" unless we have one of our own to suggest. I am quite ready to meet the point as to our policy; but it has been already met by my right hon. and gallant Friend. We have it now, on the authority of the Prime Minister, that he discerns what it is, and that the Government are at distinct issue with it. Let there be no mistake about that. Now we come to another sentence of the Prime Minister's. He goes on discussing the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend, and says—We cannot enter with advantage on the consideration of a policy for Egypt Proper, until we are enabled in some degree to close this chapter in the Soudan, and especially the military chapter.I do not quite know whether that means that the policy of the Government is to change, because of the events which have happened in the Soudan, or not. The Prime Minister does not express himself on that point; but he goes on to say—The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is under no such difficulty—he has got his plan cut and dry, and he has told us what it is. It is that the Egyptian Government should be swept clean away; it is that the Khedive may be maintained, or shall he maintained, as a puppet in the hands of the British authorities.Well, I should like to ask what the Khedive is at the present moment; I should like to know what power the Khedive has? If he expresses a single wish, you say it shall not be carried out; if one of his Ministers disagrees with the Minister you have placed under him as Under Secretary, you say that Under Secretary is to have the power, and the Minister is to be dismissed, and you dismiss him accordingly. You say—"The political, military, judicial, and financial government of Egypt is to be conducted not only in word, but in fact, on an English plan." What is the position of the Egyptians in Egypt—have they any part or parcel in this 1137 policy? They have an Army; but can they stir without our advice or direction? When you come to judicial matters, have you not destroyed all the elements of justice that were to be found in the country, and have you not set up your own Courts and Judges to administer the judicial system in submission to dictates from England? And as to finance, do you believe that the Egyptian Government, as a Government, can spend one single shilling without your leave and approval? We might suppose that England had assumed the Government of Egypt; but that is what the Prime Minister said Her Majesty's Ministers would not do. But that is exactly what you have done in actual fact, only that you will not acknowledge it. You have destroyed the Government of Egypt; you have absolutely annihilated the Army; you have, to use your own words, "dismissed and shattered" the Cabinet of the Khedive; you will not allow any of his Ministers to have the slightest authority in the Cabinet or elsewhere without your permission; and yet you say that all this is what you will not do—you will not assume the Government of the country. That is the negative side of what we find; now let us come to the affirmative side, and see how far you can go along with us, and where it is that we differ from you. Before, however, I enter upon that, I must refer once more to the reasons the Prime Minister gave for not assuming openly this power which he exercises actually. He said itWould be a gross breach of the public law of Europe. I hope this country will well consider …. before it undertakes the government in Egypt of a Mahommedan people.As to the breach of the public law of Europe, what have you done with the Khedive? You have, in the first place, shattered his Government; you have, in the next place, absolutely changed the relations on which he stands towards his Suzerain, the Sultan of Turkey; you have forced him to give up the greater part of his Empire, and to withdraw from it—and when I say the greater part, I mean in size, not in importance. What more can you do to degrade that Sovereign in the eyes of his people, and how can you say that, if assuming the actual Government is a gross breach of the public law of Europe, you have not committed that breach? Now let us 1138 come to the affirmative side of the right hon. Gentleman's policy. The Prime Minister said—The right hon. and gallant Gentleman"—meaning my right hon. and gallant Friend—"…. made an appeal to us …. entreating us to remain in Egypt until our work is done. If there is one declaration more than another that we have reiterated until the House must be sick of hearing of it, it is that very declaration, and it now comes out as the climax of a great Opposition speech, addressed to us in total for got fulness of the language which we have used so often and so freely that it requires a special petition for the indulgence of the House if one were to attempt to use it again.["Hear, hear!"] Oh, yes. Hon. Gentlemen cry "Hear, hear!"—they cheer "until our work is done." But let us have the issue raised a little more clearly. The question is, what is your work? The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), 13 months ago, took it upon himself to say your work would be over in six months; but your work has not begun. The Prime Minister, at the end of last Session, said he hoped that within six months there would not be a British soldier left in Egypt. ["No, no!"] Well, some Member of the Government said it—either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for War. Your work had not begun when you made these declarations. When we come to the great feast on the Lord Mayor's Day, we find an announcement made to an astonished and silent gathering of citizens, to the effect that your work was done, and that the order had been given for the troops to retire. Why, I say, at that time, your work had not begun. In spite of your want of foresight, you must have known, from the statements of your Agents, what the danger before you was, and yet you did not dare to face it. You knew that Parliament was to meet in February, and that you had given a pledge, as far as you could, to your supporters below the Gangway, which pledge you could not redeem, but which you did not care at that moment to disavow. Circumstances compelled you to refrain from any attempt at withdrawing the British troops before the meeting of Parliament. This is where our difference lies. I have ventured to speak over and over again on this point, and I venture to repeat before the face of the Committee what I have said over and over again, that you have never openly recognized 1139 and acknowledged your responsibilities. You have done what events have forced you to do; but you have been ashamed of telling the world what your responsibilities are, and of acting up to them. You have been content to call things by wrong names; and, if I may so say, to play false with yourselves. I will quote a few sentences which fell from a Member of the Government in "another place." I have the more right to do so because they refer to something which was said by myself. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in "another place," said an obligation had fallen on us by the course of events, and referred to something I had said to the effect that we were occupying Egypt, and that we did not mean to annex Egypt, or to remain in permanent occupation of it; but that it would be an act of treachery to Europe, to Egypt, and to ourselves, if we withdrew our troops before there was a reasonable prospect of a suitable Government being set up. I dare say I used words very like those; but I added a sentence that should also have been quoted by the noble Earl, showing my notion of what the responsibility of the Government was. I added that they should state openly and in the face of day—"Here we are and here we intend to remain—we are the only people who are the Government of Egypt—it is perfectly useless setting up the Khedive as a Government, and Secretaries of State, with Under Secretaries under them, so that you are not responsible for the acts of those Secretaries, unless you choose to be." I said it was useless to set up Egyptian Ministers whom you could turn away at a moment's notice if they did not do what you wanted them to do, and I asked if it was your intention to support your own Ministers against those of the Khedive, why did you not acknowledge it at once? The real evil is that you have been always putting before the people of Egypt the provisional character of your power and responsibility in their country, and that you have unnecessarily accentuated that fact. You have led the people of Egypt to believe, you have led the people of Europe and the Mahdi to believe, that your policy is to scuttle out of Egypt the moment you can get out of it with credit to yourselves. This is where we entirely differ from you; we do not want to call it ugly 1140 names; but where our policy is really distinct from yours is in the fact that we hold England to be responsible for the Government of Egypt, while you do not. We say you have made her responsible—that it is in consequence of your acts that this responsibility rests with us. If the people of Egypt are left to believe that six months from. January, 1883, six months from August, 1883, or six months from now—March, 1884—we are going to retire from Egypt, how can you possibly imagine that any of the tribes or the people in that country will rally round your standard? How can you expect them to be with you, when they know that within six months they may be deserted by you, and that the people, in opposition to whom they have taken up arms under the British flag, may fall upon them and punish them for what they have done?. If they have read the history of the past few unfortunate years, they may know well enough what penalty they may have to pay for rallying round our standard; they may know that the tribes who helped us in Afghanistan suffered severely in consequence, and that a similar fate attended those South African tribes who rendered us assistance. The present Government in South Africa did not remember the old precept so intensely valuable and necessary for Governments to remember—namely, that if you require the help of your neighbour you must not disappoint him. Then there is another question before us. You have ruined Egypt; you have brought her at the present moment almost down upon her knees; and the question is, how is she to be got up again and revived? She should be revived just as Ireland ought to be revived, by restoring confidence and inducing capital to flow into the country—by making people believe that if they invest their money in the country they will be quite sure it will be safe. The Natives know perfectly well that the Government of Egypt is in your hands, and they should know that you are going to keep it until you see that it is safe and firm. Prosperity will then be restored; but if you go dangling before the eyes of Egypt the prospect that in this six months the country will be evacuated, or in that six months you will have retired, you will not get anyone to invest a single shilling in the country. In this we see the fundamental 1141 difference between our policy and yours. You are afraid of the Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway. You are afraid of their threats. My right hon. and gallant Friend used a simile which I thought a very good one; you are like a man who always has his beard over his shoulder, looking to see who is following him. We are not, and that is the difference between our policy and yours; and in that policy we believe the country is on our side, and I am certain that if you want to get out of Egypt with honour and credit to this country you will have, sooner or later, to adopt this policy which we have put before you. Do not say it is your policy—it is not. The Prime Minister understood this well enough, for he said—"That is exactly what we will not do;" and that is the difference between us. One word before I sit down as to the Soudan. No doubt this question of the Soudan is a difficult and delicate one; but there is no doubt about it that the difficulty is of your own creating. No one can possibly doubt that after reading the Blue Books. If you had given advice on your own responsibility; if you had followed out Lord Dufferin's policy—if Lord Dufferin had remained in Egypt, you would never have had one of the calamities which have occurred. It is because you withdrew Lord Dufferin from Egypt and turned away from his policy that all these difficulties have come upon you—difficulties from which you do not know how to extricate yourselves. How are we situated at this moment? You have this distinct warning from your own trusted officer—that it would be a heavy blow on the authority of the Khedive if you withdraw from the Soudan; that there is a fanatical population there which would be a great terror to Egypt; and that you would have to keep a powerful force outside Egypt Proper in order to restrain that fanatical population in Upper Egypt. There was another matter which always impressed itself strongly on my mind—namely, that the population of Upper Egypt is also fanatical, and that their rising was added to enormously by the disaster which occurred to Hicks Pasha. I read in a letter from either your own officer, or from a newspaper correspondent, a description which impressed itself upon me very forcibly. The writer said— 1142You talk of erecting fortifications either in Assouan or somewhere else, and you talk about placing guns and armies there; but you might as well use fortifications and armies and guns to exclude the cholera from Egypt, as to keep out the influence of the Mahdi.The influence of the Mahdi will be felt inside your fortifications, and that is what you will have to deal with; you will have to face the enmity of the population inside Egypt Proper, as well as of Upper Egypt, as the result of withdrawing from the Soudan. General Gordon has given you a note of warning which you must not neglect. He has told you distinctly that the emissaries of the Mahdi are, at the present moment, engaged in raising the tribes between Berber and Khartoum. He has told you distinctly that it is not owing to the disaffection of the tribes that they are doing this, but because of the forecast you have unwisely published of your policy of abandoning the Soudan before you have taken proper precautions for its good government. General Gordon is a man whom you have trusted entirely in this matter; that is his opinion. It is the opinion of the officer in whose hands you have placed yourselves; and it should, therefore, receive the greatest consideration from you. An hon. Friend of mine the other day pointed out that General Gordon, in his first despatch, expressed amazement at the fact that you had determined upon abandoning the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who answered, accused my hon. Friend of not having read through the despatch, or through another despatch, in which that sentence was qualified; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the qualifying words were words not warning you against the abandoning of the Soudan, but saying—It is my strong opinion you cannot but help Egypt to retain that part of the Soudan which has not been already taken from her.That is a very different thing. In this matter of the Soudan, unless the Government act promptly, the victory of General Graham will go for nothing, and affairs will be in a worse condition practically than that which they were in before. The Government must at once announce their intention of remaining in Egypt until they obtain their object. I do hope they will take these things to heart, and that, at all events, they will break this policy of silence to which I 1143 have referred. I hope they will explain, as far as they can, the conversation that took place between General Gordon and our Consular Agent at Khartoum. I cannot expect right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite me to go down on their knees and recant all they have said, and reverse all they have done; but I can assure them the country expects that in the future they will act with firmness, and that they will give up this policy of waiting on events, of drifting, of having no policy at all. The country expects that they will rally, and put before themselves the facts as they stand, and will recognize at once, and proclaim to the world, that we are practically and really the Governors of Egypt, and intend to remain so as long as we believe it to be to the interests not only of England, but of the civilized world, and of Egypt herself. I see the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) is about to rise. I am glad of it, as I was afraid this policy of silence was going to continue through the whole night. If any observations of mine may draw from the noble Marquess anything he would not otherwise have said I shall not have spoken in vain.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) has concluded his observations by referring to the policy of silence which he says Her Majesty's Government have adopted during this debate. I think I can very easily explain what has actuated Her Majesty's Government in not obtruding themselves in great numbers on the attention of the Committee. The debate was practically opened by the speech—of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in not too high terms—of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley). That speech was answered, as the right hon. Gentleman has admitted, very fully by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government. The remainder of the debate during last Thursday night did not appear to us to be such as to call for any further reply from any Member of the Government; and it was our strong belief, as I stated at the time on the Motion for Adjournment, that, so far as the public interest was concerned, and without any detriment to the public interest, the debate might have been very well suffered to conclude on that 1144 evening. Those among us whose fate it was to attend the greater part of that evening saw the manifest and evident difficulty with which the debate was kept alive at all. ["Oh, oh!"] We saw that, at one time, the Benches opposite were occupied by only two or three Gentlemen, and we saw the active efforts made by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Winn) to induce hon. Members to rise. On the urgent representation of hon. Gentlemen opposite that there were numerous hon. Gentlemen who desired to continue the debate we assented to the adjournment. It had been intimated, I believe, to hon. Members who sit opposite that if they deemed it to be incumbent upon them to take any great part in the prolongation of the debate, it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to occupy any considerable time of the Committee in repeating declarations and explanations that had already been given. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) has said that the Prime Minister has admitted that the policy of the Opposition had been distinctly laid down in the speech of the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire, and that we are now diametrically opposed. I cannot recollect, during the progress of the debate, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, or any of his Colleagues, or any hon. Gentleman on this side, has supported the policy which was enunciated in that speech with which this debate was opened; and the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) himself, in the observations he has just made, has not so much attempted to support the particular line of policy laid down by his right hon. Colleague, as to endeavour to prove that the policy enunciated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was practically the same policy as that pursued by Her Majesty's Government. Before I sit down I will say a few words, although it is not necessary that I should do so, upon what I conceive to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt, and the difference between that and the policy proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but, before I proceed to that part of the subject, there are one or two points upon which I should like to make a few observations, and I can promise the Committee that I will do so as 1145 shortly as I can. I am indebted to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) for having pointed out to me that I had, perhaps, made an omission in my opening remarks in not having made any reference to the gallant conduct of Sir Gerald Graham and the troops under him in the operations which have just taken place. I did not do that, because I had already spoken of that in the few observations I made in reply to Questions on the first day after the engagement at El Teb. I took the very earliest opportunity of expressing the sense which the Government and I myself had of the exertions made by all who were concerned—both by the military authorities in Egypt and by General Graham—of the excellence of the dispositions made by the officers and troops engaged, and of the gallant conduct they had displayed, and the admirable manner in which they had carried out the operations. It did not, therefore, occur to me that it was necessary, on a merely formal occasion, to repeat the acknowledgments I had already made, as I thought sufficiently, on that occasion. On Thursday evening the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) also criticized some of the arrangements which had been made with regard to the operations between Suakin and Tokar, and I was surprised to hear him blame the military authorities for not having despatched, as a portion of the force, a regiment of the' Army commanded by Sir Evelyn Wood. That was a matter which, in our opinion, was of the very highest importance in relation to the success of these operations. It must be remembered that Sir Evelyn Wood's Army is not only an untried army, but is also an extremely young army. It has only been organized for a period almost under one year, and that the operations about to be conducted by General Graham were of a very trying and a very difficult character. We were ignorant of the exact numbers of the force we should have to deal with; but we knew it was one of a warlike and fanatical spirit. The peculiar dispositions which would have to be employed made it necessary that all portions of the force should be competent, and that we should be risking a reverse to the British arms, which might have been fatal not only in its immediate consequences, but in ulte- 1146 rior results, if we had trusted any part of the success of the operations to troops which had not been thoroughly tried. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and also, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for Horsham (Sir Henry Fletcher), referred to-night to some details of the Supplementary Estimate I am now asking the Committee to vote. I think it will, perhaps, be convenient that we should postpone any minute discussion of those details until we have an opportunity of discussing them on the general Army Estimates and the general Votes; but I may, perhaps, mention that the manner in which the Supplementary Estimate, Vote 12, which has called forth most criticism, is composed, in addition to the Egyptian War Expenditure, briefly stated, is as follows. We ask for £40,000 out of £122,000, in order to defray charges which are outstanding on the Vote of Credit 1882–3. Of that amount, £25,000 is for tents supplied for the expedition by the Indian Government. Further, we ask for £30,000 to replace stores issued to the Egyptian Government; and we also ask for £50,000, which is the rough estimate of the value of the stores sent to Suakin. These stores have been issued from the Reserve in Egypt, and they have been replaced by the purchase and manufacture of stores, representing as nearly as possible the stores sent out. These stores have been distributed as fairly as possible, and a rough estimate of them has been included in Vote 12; for instance, rifles and ammunition sent out have been replaced by the purchase and manufacture of a large quantity at home.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
A large portion of all these items is due to the necessity of providing for the expenses of the Army of Occupation in Egypt during the whole 12 months, instead of for six months, for which the original Estimate was taken. The Vote has been exceeded; but no real practical charge came on the country, because the Capitation Grant allowed by the Egyptian Government paid those excesses. But, going from the details of this Supplementary Estimate, I should like to say one or two words in reference to the Amendment before the Commit- 1147 tee. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) moves to reduce the sum by a considerable amount, which practically includes all the expenditure in respect to the occupation of Egypt and the recent military expedition. I understand him to move this reduction principally on the ground that this expedition, if for the advantage of anyone, is for the benefit of the Egyptian Government, and therefore ought to he paid for by the Egyptian Government. My hon. Friend admits that it is impossible, or not easy to make the Egyptian taxpayer pay more than he does at present, and that this expense ought to be met either by a reduction of the Turkish Tribute or by the bondholders. I am not prepared to say that, in principle, I am very much disposed to go contrary to the contention of my hon. Friend; but the Committee must look not at what is desirable now, but at what it is possible to do. My hon. Friend is as well aware as I am that the Egyptian Government, and also the arrangements under the Law of Liquidation, are international obligations which cannot be abrogated by a stroke of the pen, by the action of the British Government, or by a vote of this House. I am very far from saying that it may not be necessary ultimately for the Government to propose to the parties who are interested some modification of the Law of Liquidation. Through recent events Egypt has incurred many losses and many expenses. It is possible that the necessity for a prolonged occupation by our military forces, or the re-organization of her military forces, may involve her in still further expenses; and it is also possible that the reforms that are being introduced may, in the first instance, cause some increase in the Public Expenditure. All these things may increase the annual Expenditure of Egypt to an extent which will be incompatible with the maintenance, in its present form, of the Law of Liquidation; and I am far from denying that this question will be a proper subject to be raised by the English Government; but it is one which must be raised in a regular manner, and on a consideration of the whole position, in concert with the European Powers. It will be a question which will occupy considerable time, and involve considerable negotiation; and if it is undertaken at all, it would be de- 1148 sirable to deal with it as a whole, and not in an incidental way upon a small sum such as that we are asking the Committee to vote on the present occasion. If my hon. Friend is somewhat premature in asking that this great question of the financial condition of Egypt should be incidentally decided upon a Vote in Committee, I think the right hon. and gallant Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley), and other hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, are also somewhat premature in asking the Government, at this time, for a precise and definite explanation as to the exact arrangements which are to be made in the future for the garrisoning of Suakin and other Red Sea ports. That is also a small part of a very much larger question. I fully admit that the whole of the military arrangements in Egypt may require—and, indeed, will require—further consideration. The conditions of the problem are, to a certain degree—and perhaps to a considerable degree—qualified by the decision which has been forced by circumstances upon Egypt to evacuate the military occupation by her garrisons of the Soudan. It is possible and probable that the Government of Egypt will have to make arrangements for the defence of the Southern Provinces of Egypt against invasion by warlike tribes, of a different character from those arrangements which were necessary when it was supposed to be in the power of Egypt to occupy and to hold the Soudan. And it is also possible that the fanatical spirit aroused by the success of the religious movement may cause some disturbance and trouble in Egypt Proper, and that garrisons of a somewhat different character from those which were originally contemplated will be required. I am perfectly willing to admit that there appear to be some recent events which throw some doubt on the value of the fighting capacity of Sir Evelyn Wood's Army as it is at present composed. We have asked Sir Evelyn Wood and Sir Evelyn Baring to send us the fullest information on that subject at the earliest possible date, and it in a question which must occupy the earliest consideration; but I submit to the Committee that this question of the military arrangements for the defence of the frontier and the interior of Egypt itself is one which must also be looked at as a whole, and that it would be pre- 1149 mature on the part of Her Majesty's Government at this period to declare in what way the military garrisons which are to hold the Red Sea ports are to be ultimately constituted. Some question has been raised by the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), as to the expediency of the policy of holding the Red Sea ports at all. The noble Lord appeared to express some doubt as to whether the recent military operations in the neighbourhood of Suakin had been intended for the protection of the Red Sea ports; and he seemed to suggest that they were really intended to intrench Egypt in the position in which we had announced we did not think she should or could be—that is, of holding the Soudan. The hon. Member for Newcastle expressed some doubt as to whether the British Government should make itself responsible for the protection of the Red Sea ports. Perhaps it may be sufficient to say that no part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government than that of assisting the Egyptian Government in the protection of these ports was more fully explained and stated in the debates which had previously taken place, or more fully acquiesced in by all parts of the House. It appears to me that there are several reasons why it is essentially necessary that the British Government should take care that those ports are held either by a civilized Power, or by a Power which is under the influence of civilization. In the first place, I consider it a matter of importance to British interests that the ports of the Red Sea should not be in a position which would tempt any other European Power to occupy them. We know very well that there are other European Powers which would not be averse to the occupation of the ports on the Red Sea. It appears to me that the importance of the Red Sea, as being on our line of communication with our Indian Possessions, makes it of great importance that no other European Power should be established in any of these ports. Further, it is of great importance, in reference to the prevention of the Slave Trade, that these ports should be in the possession of either a civilized Power, or of a Power under the influence of civilization. If, as we hope and trust, satisfac- 1150 tory arrangements are made on the Nile, and in Egypt itself, which will preclude the Nile routes being used for that traffic, the only route for the export of slaves from the interior of Africa will be by the Red Sea ports, and it is by the exercise of control over those ports that that traffic may be most effectually checked and put an end to. Finally, in the interests of the Soudan, and in the interests of civilization, it appears to me very necessary that these ports should not be in the hands of a barbarous Power, such as the Arab Tribes, which have lately been menacing it. Whatever may be the Power which is to hold the interior of the Soudan—whether it be the Egyptian Government or the Native Sultans, or whether, as some hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to desire, this country, or someone supported by this country—it is certain that, sooner or later, after more or less prolonged disturbance, trade will revive, and the trade of the Soudan must always go to Suakin, and probably Suakin will always be the principal route of that trade. The only way by which we can hope that the real and the best influences of civilization will ever penetrate to the interior of the Soudan is through the medium of trade; and it is in the interests of the Soudan itself and of civilization that the principal ports of exit for the trade should be in the hands of a Power which is under the influence of civilization. Under these circumstances, I think there is ample reason, without any reference to the interior of the Soudan at all, why the Government of England should have given assistance to the Egyptian Government in defending the Red Sea ports, and especially Suakin, against the threatened attacks by the Arab Tribes. As to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in the Soudan itself, the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), as I understood him, regretted the decision which Her Majesty's Government had come to, of recommending the Egyptian Government to evacuate the whole of the Soudan. I do not know that it is necessary that I should follow the hon. Member at any length into that part of his observations, because he admitted that the views he held were not fully shared by the responsible Members of the Party to which he belongs. In my opinion, 1151 there is overwhelming evidence that the Egyptian Government has done nothing for the civilization of the Soudan, and has done nothing for the protection of the country. General Gordon had arrived at a conclusion long before recent events took place. His firm opinion before he left this country was that the insurrection which had broken out in that country was an insurrection justified by the misgovernment of the Soudan by the Egyptian Government. The hon. Member said that good and efficient Government had been established in some Provinces in the Soudan by a European Power. I believe that is the case; but I do not think the hon. Member showed, and I do not think it is possible to show, that the Government to which he referred had received any real assistance or support in the successful Administration it had established in those Provinces of the Soudan from the Egyptian Government. The Egyptian Government did nothing to support that Power; on the contrary, it was the Egyptian Government which made the task more difficult than it otherwise would have been; and I know nothing that will prevent the exertions of such men being continued effectually, and perhaps more effectually, under some system of autonomy, than the nominal rule of the Egyptian Government.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I did not mention the Egyptian Government at all. I advocated the restoration of order under a British Governor General, with the consent of, and co-operation with, the Sovereign Power.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The hon. Member advocates the appointment of a British Governor General of the Soudan; but I think, in advocating that policy, the hon. Member stands almost alone, and I do not know that there is anyone in this House who would support the proposition that the British Government should make itself responsible for the good government of the whole of the Soudan. Sir, the hon. Member has referred to Kassala, and the other garrisons, with their trading populations; and he asks, how are you to withdraw those large populations which have grown up under the Egyptian Government? General Gordon tells us that these garrisons are perfectly secure from any attack which might be made against them, and that there is not the slightest 1152 reason to fear that the garrisons and the Egyptian officials may not be withdrawn. I do not see, after the withdrawal of the garrisons, that the trading populations will have anything to fear. The problem which General Gordon has to solve is the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops and the Egyptian officials, who have made themselves detested, and justly detested, by the people whom they have oppressed. The peaceful trading population have, I believe, nothing to fear from the people of the country; and, indeed, it has long been known that there are a considerable number of that class who intended remaining at Khartoum, whether the Egyptian garrison were withdrawn from that point or not. Then, Sir, I am not at all surprised that the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), should have referred to the statement which appeared recently in the newspapers, as to Zebehr Pasha being appointed Governor of Khartoum, in succession to General Gordon. Sir, the objections to such an appointment must be obvious to the Committee; and I can assure the Committee that no one could have been more surprised than Her Majesty's Government when the first suggestion of such a course was made, and when it first appeared that General Gordon was contemplating its adoption. I need not take up the time of the Committee in repeating the obvious objections that there would be to such an appointment; but I desire to point out that the more obvious those objections are, and the more they are such objections as would be likely to occur to a person in General Gordon's position, the more necessary it is that Her Majesty's Government should satisfy themselves fully as to the reasons which have induced him to make such a suggestion; as to the reasons which have induced him to think that Zebehr Pasha, under the circumstances, would pursue an altered course of conduct, and what are the certain guarantees which, in General Gordon's opinion, render it safe in the interests of humanity that such an appointment should be made. We have, of course, asked from General Gordon full explanations upon that point; and, as soon as they have been received and considered, the Government 1153 will lose no time in coming to a decision. But what I want to point out to the Committee is, that we owe so much to General Gordon, who has gone on an expedition of an extremely dangerous, difficult, and delicate character, and who is known not only to be opposed to slavery—not only a man of ordinary humanity, but one who has devoted the greater part of his life, and is well known to be willing to sacrifice it, in the cause of humanity, and in protecting the welfare of the people in whom he takes so much interest—that it would not be just to General Gordon, and the character of the mission he has undertaken on behalf of the Government, to set aside summarily any suggestions he should make until Her Majesty's Government have before them all the reasons which have induced him to make them. But I can assure the Committee that the suggestion has not received the assent of Her Majesty's Government; on the contrary, we have expressed our surprise, and the strong objection we feel to make any such appointment. We are most anxious that General Gordon should, as rapidly as possible, complete his task and return from Khartoum, and from the dangerous and critical position which, of course, we are aware that he occupies so long as he remains there. It would be far better, in our opinion, that General Gordon should remain a longer time to complete the work himself, than that he should receive the assistance of, or leave the succession to, an objectionable agent. All that I can state further is, that, on a matter of such cardinal importance, Her Majesty's Government will lose no time, when full information is before them, in coming to a decision, and also in announcing that decision to the House in a form in which the House will be enabled to pronounce judgment upon it. Sir, we have been called upon over and over again, in the course of this discussion, to make some further declaration as to our policy in Egypt itself. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Sir R. Assheton Cross) is, I am sorry to say, not satisfied with the declaration of the policy laid down; he is not satisfied that we shall stay in Egypt until our work is done. He says we do not understand the completion of our work in the same sense as he and his hon. Friends understand it, and he refers to the speeches which have 1154 been made by myself and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as to the possible limit and character of our occupation, as showing that we have no idea of what the work to be accomplished is. Sir, I have already made some observations in my speeches in this House and in the country upon this subject, and I will not weary the Committee by repeating them. But I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that he was inaccurate in saying that my right hon. Friend had announced his intention of immediately withdrawing the British garrisons from Egypt. All that my right hon. Friend said was, that the Government thought the time had come when they might possibly effect a further reduction of the garrisons; and I firmly believe that, in the condition in which Egypt was, if these events in the Soudan had not occurred, the presence of 2,000 or 3,000 troops in Egypt, for the purpose of supporting our Agent and the British officers by whom he is assisted, would have been amply sufficient for the maintenance of that security which we as well as the right hon. Gentleman opposite desire. The right hon. Gentleman says we do not understand what our work really is. We admit, as far as it is possible to admit, that our duty is to remain in Egypt until a stable Government is established there, which can rest upon its own foundation, and which will inspire confidence not only in the people of that country, but also in those whose presence is so necessary there as furnishing the capital and the energy requisite for the development of the resources of Egypt. These declarations can only be supplemented either by further words, or further acts. Some have suggested that we should announce our intention of maintaining the occupation—the military occupation—of Egypt for a definite term of years. Sir, that is not a solution of this question which appears to my mind to have in it any elements which would commend it to the judgment of the Committee. It appears to me that any confidence which was based upon such a declaration on the part of Her Majesty's Government would be a confidence which, from the very nature of the declaration upon which it was based, would be one which would materially diminish during the term, and which would in the end totally vanish. It seems to me that there would be far 1155 greater confidence and security if the British Government should declare its intention of remaining in Egypt so long, and no longer, than was necessary for the establishment of a firm and stable Government. Then, Sir, it is suggested that there are acts by which Her Majesty's Government may supplement what has been done already. I understand what is first pointed at to be the substitution of Englishmen for Egyptians in the high Offices of State. I doubt very much the wisdom of such a step. I have a strong opinion that, for the immediate and actual purposes of Egyptian administration, such substitution would not be of advantage to the people of Egypt. It is of no use making comparisons between our Government in India and the Government in Egypt. I believe we secure, in the main, a good Government for India; but our officials charged with the Indian Government have the assistance of a trained Civil Service which has been in existence for years, and which, I understand, is conversant with the ordinary Business of the country, and with the wants and necessities of the people. But, in Egypt, if the great Offices of State are placed in the hands of British officials, they have no such Civil Service to their hand as they have in India; and, therefore, I believe that the substitution of Englishmen for Egyptians in every Department of the State would not tend to the immediate advantage or to the improvement of the Administration. And, further, the substitution suggested would have, in our opinion, that great objection which I pointed out when I addressed the House on a former occasion. The government of Egypt by English officials would be the entire exclusion of Egyptians from all positions of trust and responsibility; and it would bring into use a system which would absolutely, and for ever, exclude the possibility of a Native Adminstration. Whenever a system of that kind, resting upon the foundation of British administration in all important Offices of the State, is withdrawn, the whole system must fall away; and, although it may be said that this is only advocated as a temporary arrangement, it is one which from its very nature must, unless it leaves anarchy behind it, be essentially of a permanent character we are, therefore, not disposed to adopt that policy, if it be the 1156 policy which is recommended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. We fully admit that, so long as our military occupation continues, we are responsible for the main lines of the policy of the Egyptian Government. We admit that we have increased that responsibility by the action which we have thought it necessary to take on a very recent occasion, and that our responsibility is increased by the advice we have given with respect to the Soudan. We fully acknowledge that responsibility; but we believe that we can best discharge it, and best secure to Egypt good adminstration in the present and the future, by availing ourselves of such elements as exist in Egypt, with the hope that those elements may widen, strengthen, and increase until Egypt is capable of being governed by a Native and self-supporting Administration.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, there are two observations of the noble Marquess opposite the Secretary of State for War to which I wish to draw attention. In the first place, the noble Marquess spoke of the prolongation of this debate, and he likewise referred to the character of the discussion on Thursday last. I will not ask now what was the character of that discussion; but I think everyone who has attended to the course of the debate of this evening must feel that there was very good ground indeed for those who asked for another evening on which to continue that discussion. And I think it will be generally felt that the discussion which has taken place this evening, in respect not only of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen on this side, but in respect of those which came from the opposite Benches, including the speech of the noble Marquess himself, has very well justified the lengthened debate which has taken place. I must say that the speech of the noble Marquess does, on more points than one, appear to us to indicate something like a new departure, and to place matters on a different footing from that on which they stood the other night. Sir, there is another point to which I wish to call attention. The noble Marquess said, with reference to more than one matter brought forward, that these were grave questions, which it would not be easy or discreet to discuss upon so limited a point as the amount which we are now asked to vote in the form of a Supplementary Estimate for Army Services. I 1157 agree that it is not the most convenient way of discussing our present and future policy in Egypt, to take the discussion on the question of how much money should be given under a Supplementary Vote for Army Services; but, at the same time, I am bound to point out that it was no fault of ours that the discussion should be so taken. We were anxious to challenge the policy of Her Majesty's Government as a whole in what appeared to us to be a legitimate way. My right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) had given Notice of a Motion that would have raised this question in the most legitimate and convenient form, and which would have given us an opportunity for discussing that which we were anxious to discuss. But the Government, availing themselves of the Forms of the House, and declining to give us any other opportunity, forced upon us the discussion in the form in which we were obliged to take it. I should not have made these remarks, had it not been for the observations of the noble Marquess, who complained of our having raised the larger question on so small a basis.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I believe the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I did not complain of the issue being raised on this Vote. I said that several points had been raised which involved very large questions, and that explanations were asked from the Government on what was a very small part of a much larger question.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I agree with the noble Marquess, and I say that the reason for this was that we were prevented debating the question in a more convenient form. The position in which we stand is clearly understood by the whole of the Committee. We shall have to pronounce an opinion on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and that Amendment is one which I expect the great body of the Committee will decline to accept. We, at all events, find ourselves unable to accept it; although, at the same time, we do not approve the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in several matters connected with their Egyptian policy. Sir, some advantage has been gained by the form which the Motion of my right hon. and gallant Friend has taken. It is un- 1158 doubtedly a fact that we have not before us a Division on a matter which involves a Vote of Confidence in the Government; but the mode in which this discussion has been taken has had the effect of setting free the tongues and minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have spoken very freely, and in a way that would not otherwise have been open to them. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) or the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) would have withheld their opinions had such a Division been before us; but, undoubtedly, their task has been made more easy by the mode in which the discussion has been taken. Sir, what we feel with regard to the position of affairs and the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt is this—that there is very great danger of prolonging a crisis which is of a very serious character, and which may at any moment assume a dangerous development. I cannot help feeling that the present state of affairs in Egypt is extremely critical, and that the manner in which the Government have dealt, and are now dealing, with that state of affairs, has been such as to encourage and increase the difficulties of the situation rather than remove them. We are anxious, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government and the country should realize, as far as possible, the great issues which are involved in this question; we are anxious that they should see how great are the national interests at stake, and to how great a degree the very character of this country is concerned. It is not only a question of interest, however; it is a question of the duties of the country. It appears to me that we sometimes neglect to consider how very great are the duties which the Government, by the course of their policy in Egypt, have taken upon themselves not only in foro conscientiœ, but in the eyes of the civilized world, and how serious it will be, as far as our character alone is concerned, if we fail to discharge those duties. Now, it does seem to us that the Government are hardly sufficiently alive to this fact. They do not seem to think that if we fail to accomplish what we have taken in hand, through any unwillingness or misconduct on our part, we shall bring upon ourselves a large amount of well-deserved punishment which no number of elo- 1159 quent speeches, no tactics in the House of Commons, will enable us to do away with. We stand to be judged by the manner in which we conduct ourselves in this business. Although it is undoubtedly the duty of us all to avoid doing anything that may weaken or embarrass Her Majesty's Government in this matter, yet we ought not to shrink from telling them the truth, or telling them why we think they are going wrong. Now, Sir, we complain that the Government do not tell us all they ought to tell us in regard to their plans. It maybe they will say—"The truth is, we do not altogether know what our plans are; we must leave a great deal to the course of events; we cannot tell at present what may be the outcome of these matters." That may, or may not, be true; but, if it be true, it is a very great defect in their position. What is really of importance is that they ought beforehand to know their policy. If they appear to be uncertain of that, they actually increase the difficulty in Egypt itself, and they render nugatory the exertions which they are making to get out of the position in which they stand. How long they are to remain in Egypt is one question. I have no doubt there is great force in what the noble Marquess said about fixing the term, and I am glad to see that in this matter he has advanced from the position which he originally occupied. I have no doubt, in my own mind, that that little sentence of the noble Marquess which he spoke at the beginning of last Session, and to which, perhaps, at the time he attached very little importance, has weighed upon the proceedings in Egypt, and that it has not been forgotten, but has been spread and magnified, and, by producing the impression that the Government are not in earnest, has brought about the very feeling which they are anxious to avoid. Again, the Prime Minister came forward, and, putting words into the mouth of my right hon. and gallant Friend as to what my right hon. and gallant Friend thinks should be done in Egypt, said—"That is exactly what we are determined not to do." Now, Sir, the words which the Prime Minister used—the words which he quoted from my right hon. and gallant Friend—do not very materially differ from what has been told us by the noble Marquess. It may be considered by the 1160 Government wise to use such language; but we cannot help thinking that, in using it, they are opening a door by which they themselves can retreat. They are endeavouring to build a bridge by which they may advance or retreat; but they are so careful in the building of the structure, that we can see more of the retreat than the advance. The confidence of the people in the Government, therefore, is shakened, and the spirits of those who are mischievously inclined are raised, and so the evil goes on increasing and increasing. You may say that, having regard to the conduct of the Government—sometimes so particularly scrupulous, sometimes so strangely violent and, as it would seem, unscrupulous—they are at one time straining at a gnat, and at another time swallowing a camel. They have oftentimes to swallow camels because they strain at gnats. They have to meet these difficulties in the largest and most grievous form, just because they have been afraid, or unwilling, or too fastidious to deal and grapple with them properly. You might have stopped all this business in the Soudan, by a little strong language judiciously addressed to the Egyptian Government at the time Hicks Pasha's expedition set out; you might have stopped this miserable business, but you would not do it. What is the reason the Prime Minister gave us for not doing it? He said it would not have been very cordially received by the Egyptian Government, if we had proposed at the moment that they thought they were advancing to victory that they should not advance. I dare say not; but the difficulty then would only have amounted to a little want of cordiality; whereas, now, you have humiliated the Egyptian Government in a way that no Government was ever humiliated before. You see how your reticence or scruples at one moment, brought upon you great difficulty in the end. I ask, what are the obligations that I say we have incurred? What are the obligations you have incurred to Egyyt itself, because that is probably what you have to look at? "You have two obligations," says the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. "You have the obligation to maintain tranquillity in Egypt, and you have also the obligation to maintain the Government of the Khedive; I want to know how far those obligations are con- 1161 sistent one with the other, and, if there is anything inconsistent between them, which is the one which must be considered as the dominant obligation?" No doubt, we are bound to do all that we can to maintain tranquillity in Egypt; but it must be tranquillity not resting upon a force of bayonets or upon overwhelmning military armaments; it must be, as far as possible, tranquillity resting on good government or good administration, and upon a just adherence to all those rules of economy which bring about national prosperity. That is what we desire to see, and no doubt we desire to see that arrived at through the agency of the Khedive and a Native Ministry, if it can be done; but how is that to be done? You can see now, for yourselves, everybody sees for themselves, that it is impossible. If you were to leave the Khedive and his Native Ministry alone, it would be absolutely impossible to secure tranquillity in Egypt. If you withdraw your supporting or your controlling hand, you will run the risk of most serious evils in Egypt, and you will hereafter be called upon to interfere in some violent and unsatisfactory manner. How are we to avoid a misfortune of that kind? It must be by one of two processes; it must be either by strengthening the the Native administration, or it must be by controlling it. Are we going to strengthen it, or to control it? Let us know how that is to be; and, whether we take the one line or the other, whether we try to combine both strength and control, let it be clearly understood that it is upon us that the responsibility rest; that we do not shrink from acknowledging that responsibility; that we declare ourselves prepared to act upon it; and that we shall proceed with all due regard for the feelings and position of those with whom we deal; and that we shall proceed on our own lines, our own responsibility, our own convictions whenever it is necessary so to proceed. Now, Sir, that is where I think we have hitherto somewhat failed. We have failed to make that sufficiently clear; and it is because of that that we have found our difficulties have increased, instead of diminished. Your system, which promised extremely well at one time, the system which, I venture to say, during the time of the late Government and the earlier part of your own 1162 experience, promised very well and very fairly—your system now has crumbled in your hands. You see, by the information which we receive each day—such information, for instance, as we received yesterday, to the effect that an Egyptian Minister has had to resign because he could not work with the subordinate whom you have placed practically over him, though nominally under him—you see how much your system has failed. We wish to impress upon your attention the necessity of recognizing and dealing with that state of things; otherwise you will have a state of chronic anarchy; you will absolutely destroy what you have already very much weakened—namely, the principle of authority; you will destroy all confidence in the Government; you will destroy all respect, either for the nominal Rulers whom you are supposed to be supporting, or for yourselves. You will have chronic anarchy, which will spread, not only over the Soudan, not only over the littoral of the Red Sea, where you will have enough on your hands, with that large undertaking which you now seem ready to prepare for, but you will have that anarchy spreading over Lower Egypt itself. The dangers with which we are now beset are very considerable; because, after all, what is our position in Egypt—what is it that we are doing there? How is it that foreign nations generally assented, as they have assented, to our taking this remarkable position upon ourselves? It is upon the assumption, upon the theory, that we are conscious of what we are about, that we have the great object of maintaining the country tranquil, peaceful, and prosperous, and that we have the power, and the will, and the determination to do it. But if you once shake the confidence of foreign nations in your power or your determination, you will raise all those serious questions which the Prime Minister is so very much afraid of raising. It is very likely you will come across all the difficulties about the public law of Europe. You will raise them in the most serious form, if you fail to accomplish that which is the main object you have before you, and for which you have been permitted to remain where you are. Sir, I do not wish to enlarge upon the evil effects which may flow from want of confidence. Everybody admits there is a great work 1163 to be done; everybody admits that there are great capacities in Egypt, which may still be developed; and, no doubt, as was said by the hon. Member for Wicklow (Mr. M'Coan), a little while ago, Egypt, if she has her resources developed, and if confidence is maintained, may still show that she has great recuperative power, and that she will be able to rid herself of her difficulties, financial and otherwise. But the foundation of all that is that there should be confidence and credit; that there should be confidence that Egypt herself is to be allowed to be quiet, and that she is to be encouraged by another Power to proceed in the path of self-reformation. I do not doubt that the language which the noble Marquess has used to-night is greatly in advance of that which we have heard on former occasions. He has undertaken to do some things from which the Government has hitherto shrunk. I think what he says about our duties on the littoral of the Red Sea goes far beyond what was said by the Prime Minister the other night. If we have brought nothing else out of the Government, we have, at all events, obtained from them a very large advance in regard to the littoral of the Bed Sea. Perhaps it is even a larger advance than the noble Marquess himself was quite conscious of when he spoke of the duties that we had in regard to the protection of the Red Sea ports. The Red Sea, I believe, is something like 2,000 miles in length; and if we are to maintain ourselves there for such purposes as those which the noble Marquess spoke of—and I do not say he is wrong—it is a great and serious responsibility which we are taking upon ourselves. And as we take large responsibilities one after another upon ourselves, it is all the more important that we should show that we are serious and in earnest in the matter, and that we are not taking up these responsibilities for a few years or so, but that we are taking them up with the firm intention of carrying out the work before us. If that is so, if that is the spirit in which the Government are acting, all may be well; but I cannot help feeling that we are in a position of considerable anxiety. I fear the time, to which the hon. Member for Orkney pointed, may come when England may be placed in a position which looks a little like retiring from 1164 her great place in the front rank of nations. Depend upon it, if that time ever should come, if England should ever wish, or be tempted, to step back from that position into which she is by the force of ages and by her own energies, it will be a time not only of great loss and sorrow and great humiliation for England herself, but it will be a time which will bring great sorrow and misfortune and difficulty to the rest of the world. Her position is not one that concerns herself alone; it is a position which is of importance to the whole civilized world; and I anxiously trust that the spirit which has brought us so far and maintained our great Empire up to this point will not fail us now.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 13; Noes 178: Majority 165.—(Div. List, No. 29.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he had one or two questions to put, but did not wish to put the House to the trouble of a Division. The account stood thus—Grand total for Egypt, £371,000; repaid by the Egyptian Government, £162,000; net payment by this House in respect to the expedition, £209,000. They were told that £100,000 was on account of the expedition to Tokar, and which, he thought, the English Government were obliged to pay. Perhaps the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) would explain the item of £109,000? He believed the noble Marquess had said that £40,000 was part of the expenses of last year, and that the remainder had yet to be received by the Egyptian Government. If so, his (Sir George Campbell's) objection fell to the ground.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, the explanation was substantially what his hon. Friend (Sir George Campbell) had just said. The great portion of the money represented arrears from the Egyptian Expedition in 1882. He could not, however, give the exact figures.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that, on the understanding that the Committee was not called upon to pay any additional sum, he would not propose the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to,