1. Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That a sum, not exceeding £798,802, 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 1897, for a Grant in Aid of the Expenditure incurred in connection with the Egyptian Expedition to Dongola.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,), Bristol, W.
who was received with Ministerial cheers, said: Before I state to the Committee the reasons which have induced Her Majesty's Government to make the proposal which has been read from the Chair, I should like to inform the Committee what is the actual cost of what may be properly called the Egyptian expedition to Dongola. I do not 1440 include in that cost the sum of, £145,000 which, as the Committee will see, stands in a subsequent Estimate for garrisoning Suakim and neighbouring places by the Indian troops. That is an item which has nothing to do with the Egyptian Government, except, of course, that the services which the Indian troops were thus able to render were of very great importance and usefulness to the Egyptian Government in successfully carrying on the Dongola campaign. ["Hear, hear!"] But I think the Committee will feel that under any circumstances it would not have been right for us to have imposed that expenditure upon the Government of Egypt. [Cheers.] Therefore it is proposed now as a separate Vote altogether, and has no reference to the expenditure which I am about to explain to the Committee. The cost of the expedition, properly so called, was £733,000. That included the extension of the railway and telegraph from Sarras to Abu Fatmeh, on the way to Dongola, of £185,000 and also the cost of the gunboats purchased for the purposes of the expedition. I need not remind the Committee that both these items are, so to speak, still to the good and will render valuable service in the future. ["Hear, hear!"] They altogether form nearly one-third of the total cost of the expedition. The cost of the expedition in another and more important way was, I think, equally small when compared with the results achieved. No more out of the whole Egyptian force than 47 persons were killed in action, 235 fell victims to cholera, and rather more than 100 to other forms of disease during the months the campaign lasted. Probably with regard to that latter point, as many lives would have been lost if the troops had remained at home. I do not think that any more complete success was ever obtained by any expedition that was ever undertaken. [Cheers.] I do not say this as wishing to take any credit whatever to Her Majesty's Government. The credit is due, of course, to Sir Herbert Kitchener—[cheers]—and the gallant officers and men under his command, and last, but by no means least, to Lord Cromer and the authorities at Cairo. [Cheers.] I think when we compare the 1441 cost which I have quoted with the anticipations which were held out upon the subject to Parliament last spring, there is a good deal to be said, or rather a good deal that might be said. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs told us, in so many words, that the Cabinet must have gone mad in sanctioning this expedition. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, in a Debate upon the Budget, criticised me very severely for not having made any special provision for this expenditure. But why? Because he said that in the year 1884 Parliament had to be called together in the autumn to increase the income tax by 1½d. in the pound in order to pay the expenditure then incurred in the Soudan, and again in the year 1885 a Vote of Credit of no less than £4,500,000 was taken for the same purpose, when the Sinking Fund had actually to be suspended in order to provide it. Those were the anticipations the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite held out to the country last spring as the probable expenditure upon this campaign. Those expectations have been absolutely falsified. One thing, and one thing alone, has proved correct, that is, the anticipation that I should be called upon to ask this House to vote a certain sum of money. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton said that if history repeated itself in policy it would also in cost. I ventured then to say that history had not repeated itself in policy, that we and the Egyptian Government had taken warning by the occurrences of 1884 and 1885, and the manner in which this expedition had been planned, and the mode in which it had been conducted, were not the same as the policy of those days, and that therefore the result would be very different. But I should like to point out to the Committee that if the anticipations which I had every right to form at that date had been realised I should not have had to ask the House to vote a single penny of the cost of the expedition. I have said it has cost £7,33,000. As the Committee will recollect, £512,500 in English currency was advanced by the Commission of the Caisse to the Egyptian Government for the purposes of the Dongola expedition. That sum, together with the surplus fund at the disposal of the 1442 Egyptian Government, would have practically enabled it to have defrayed all the cost of the expedition. The Committee are well aware why it is I stand before them asking for this Vote. The decision at which the Commission of the Caisse arrived—that this expedition was, so to speak, extraordinary expenditure, which they were justified in aiding by a grant from the reserve fund at their disposal—was set aside by the Mixed Court of Appeal in Egypt, and the Egyptian Government were directed to repay the Caisse the sum advanced, with interest. That sum, as the Committee will see in the Paper that has been circulated, amounts to £528,000, and as soon as that decision had been arrived at by the Court, as soon as the Egyptian Government had intimated—and I think it was quite right to intimate—that having agreed to abide by the jurisdiction of the Court it was bound to carry out its judgment, and therefore to repay the money, we lost not a day in informing the Egyptian Government that we would, as far as we were concerned, hold them harmless in the matter—[cheers]—and ask Parliament to recoup them the expenditure they had to repay. I do not wish—I could not speak with authority—to say anything as to the legal merits of the judgment of the Mixed Court of Appeal. The view of the Egyptian Government and their legal advisers has been ably set out in the Papers presented to the House. But, I am bound to say that, in my opinion, a situation has been created in Egypt, by that decision, of a remarkable kind. The Committee are well aware that the Egyptian Government is practically, in financial matters, in leading strings under the authority of the Great Powers, and that authority is largely exercised by the Commission of the Caisse (which is a Commission composed of the representatives of the Great Powers), and among the duties specially delegated to that Commission was the duty of receiving a certain portion of the annual surplus accruing to the Egyptian Government and devoting it to a reserve fund for unforeseen contingencies, primarily, I suppose, in the interests of the bondholders. But they were specially authorised to devote from time to time, on the application of the Egyptian Government, a portion of that reserve fund to meeting any extraordinary expenditure which might be required by 1443 that Government beyond the ordinary expenses of the Budget of the year. Acting on that authority, which was specially vested in them by the Great Powers whom they represent, the Commission of the Caisse by a majority (as they have often decided before by a majority) voted £512,000 to the Egyptian Government. After considering the matter, they deliberately resolved that the expedition to Dongola might properly be included among the extraordinary expenditure to which the reserve fund might properly be devoted. But what has been the decision of the Mixed Court of Appeal? That Court, acting, as far as I can understand, upon the view that there is a certain difference between the terms of the decree of 1876 and the Law of Liquidation of 1880—a difference which Lord Cromer, who himself took part in drawing up the Law of Liquidation of 1880, asserts to his own knowledge was not a real difference, but a mere drafting difference not intended to make any real difference at all—acting, I say, upon that view, the Mixed Court of Appeal have decided that any one member of the Commission of the Caisse might appeal to them against the decision of all the rest of the members of the Commission, and might thus enable this Mixed Court of Appeal—which itself is the creature of the Great Powers in Egyptian affairs—to override and set aside the decision, all but unanimous, of the Commission of the Caisse on a matter which was specially entrusted to them by the Great Powers. [Cheers.] The decision seems to me to be almost absurd. Hero is a reserve fund which, at the time of the Dongola expedition, amounted to £2,750,000. A considerable part of it was not needed for any other purpose. It had been accumulated by the wise financial administration of the Egyptian Government acting under our advice. Its very existence was due to no other cause. ["Hear, hear!"] The Egyptian Government decided that it was necessary that part of this fund should be applied to the cost of the Dongola expedition. We, who are responsible after all for the safety of Egypt—a responsibility in which no other Power shares with us anything at all—[loud cheers]—we supported the view of the Egyptian Government. The majority of the Great Powers took the same view, but the whole thing is overturned and set aside by the decision of the 1444 Mixed Court of Appeal. I am bound to say that, in my opinion, when next year the time arrives at which the constitution and the powers of these Mixed Courts have to be reconsidered, a very grave question ought to and must arise as to what shall be their powers and authority in the future—[cheers]—and whether they shall be allowed in this way to interfere in affairs which have been deliberately entrusted by the Great Powers to another tribunal altogether. That is for the future. For the present the Egyptian Government had no option but to repay this money, and we felt that we had no option but to recoup them. The terms upon which we have made the advance are these. We have made an agreement with the Egyptian Government that while the advance is outstanding—and in the advance I include £270,000 included in the estimate to which I will subsequently allude—while the advance is outstanding they shall pay 2¾ per cent. interest on the money, being the same rate paid on our own Funds, and that it shall rest with the two Governments from time to time to agree as to the repayment by the Egyptian Government of the capital sum by such instalments as may be found possible and convenient. ["Hear, hear!"] The Egyptian Government have willingly accepted that proposal. [Opposition laughter.] I hear a suggestion that it is not surprising that they should. The hon. Member for Northampton will probably find fault with me for advancing the money on too easy terms. [Mr. LABOUCHERE: "No."] He may say there is no technical security. That is perfectly true. Owing to their financial fetters the Egyptian Government are unable to give any such technical security. But we have the word of the Egyptian Government, which we trust, and we have this further fact—that we are in occupation of Egypt—[laughter and cheers]—and the fact that we have been compelled to make this advance, through, certainly no fault or action of our own, is, I think, rather likely to prolong that occupation. [Renewed cheers and laughter.] I have no doubt that will be regarded by Gentlemen opposite with great objection. I have never concealed my own opinion that if you regard the occupation of Egypt solely as an abstract question there is not a little to be said against the advantages of that occupation to this country. But the 1445 matter has long passed beyong the region of abstract questions. Owing to a long chain of events, for which no Minister and no Government can be held specially responsible, Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues were forced into the occupation of Egypt. From that day to this, though Governments have been in office whose leading members ardently desired that that occupation should cease, this country has never been able to terminate it either with honour or safety. What is the main cause of the prolongation of that occupation to the present day and the probability of its prolongation much longer than was anticipated? I believe mainly this—that France, especially, has never allowed us a free hand in Egypt.
THE CHANCELLOR OF tub EXCHEQUER
Why should she? Because she voluntarily declined to join us in going to Egypt, and she cast upon us by that act the sole responsibility for the safety of Egypt, and I have always felt that we might justly have demanded that we should have a free hand to perform that responsibility. But there is one thing to be said. I cannot understand how anyone who objects to allowing the Egyptian Government to use half a million of its own surplus—which is not wanted for any other purpose—in, the recovery of its lost province of Dongola, and insists that the Egyptian Government shall be bound hand and foot by financial fetters, which prevent it from profiting by those conversion economies which are due to its admirable financial administration—I cannot understand how anyone who holds the view that the Egyptian Government must continue to be so fettered, can at the same time contend that Egypt is fit to stand alone. I do not wish to dwell more on the past or even the present. Now I come to say something as to the future. Of course, the fact that the Egyptian Government has been refused permission to use its own surplus in this way has an important effect on the financial situation, and we have had very carefully to consider whether we should sanction a further advance in the policy which was adopted last year, or whether that policy should be reversed. What was our policy last year? It was, for reasons which seemed to us 1446 sufficient, the restoration to civilisation of the province of Dongola. ["Hear, hear!"] But since that expedition was undertaken we have never concealed, either from Parliament or from the country, that in our view there should be a further advance in the same direction—[cheers]—and that Egypt could never be held to be permanently secured so long as a hostile power was in occupation of the Nile Valley up to Khartoum. [Cheers.] We have had to consider whether that policy should still be pursued. I think there is one thing of which we and others may be quite certain. If we believe any policy to be right with reference to Egypt this country will not be worried out of it—[cheers]—by hindrances and difficulties such as the refusal of this money. [Cheers.] We believe that the policy is right, and we intend that it shall be still pursued. [Cheers.] But we intend that it shall be pursued prudently and gradually, for it certainly would not be either to the political or financial advantage of Egypt that more territory should be restored to her than she can properly administer or properly defend, and, there fore, what we propose is that the policy shall be continued in the coming season first of all by an advance to a very important point of the Nile called Abu Hamed, which lies to the north-east of the extreme limits of the present province of Dongola. I ought to say, however, that that advance will be an Egyptian advance. Hon. Members, no doubt, will remember the rumours that were spread about widely last year as to the enormous preparations that were being made in this country for expeditions to the Soudan and other matters of that kind. The same rumours have been repeated, and the names of eminent commanders have been suggested for the work. These rumours now are as void of any foundation as the rumours were last year. [Cheers.] This is to be as that was, an Egyptian advance in the first place to Abu Hamed, and afterwards possibly beyond. [Cheers.] How far I do not think it right to say. But this I will say, that in our opinion the main work to be done in the coming season should be, firstly, the consolidation and connection of the districts already under the dominion of the Khedive; and secondly, the acquisition of important strategical positions which may be of the utmost value in the future. [Cheers.] 1447 We propose to contribute to the work to the extent that has been named in the Estimate—£270,000. How is that money to be expended? It is to be expended in purchasing material for a light railway between Wady Haifa and Abu Hamed across the chord of the great bond of the Nile, along a route which for generations has been the main caravan road from Cairo to the interior of Africa. The Egyptian Government will construct that railway, and they will bear all the other expenses that are likely to be incurred in the coining season. I have had conferences both with Sir Herbert Kitchener and with Mr. Dawkins, of the Egyptian Financial Department, and I have satisfied myself both as to the nature of the operations to be undertaken, their probable cost, and the means of the Egyptian Government to meet them; and I can state that it is not in our contemplation to ask Parliament during 1897 for any further expenditure in this matter than that which is now proposed. We believe that in the policy which I have indicated and in the Vote which we propose towards carrying it out we shall be meeting the desires of the great majority of the people of this country. [Cheers.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
That I am not prepared at the moment to tell the hon. Member. But the main cost of these railways is always the material, and the vote which we propose will be for all the material required for the railway. That line, we believe, will not only be of very great value for military purposes in the comparatively near future, it will, we hope, some day be a commercial highway of great importance between Egypt and the interior of Africa. [Cheers.] I do not suppose that I shall be able to convince right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have always consistently opposed this policy, that we are right in our belief that it is necessary for the security of Egypt that a hostile Power should not permanently be situated at Khartoum or that we have acted wisely in undertaking this task; but I think I may venture to appeal to hon. Members who approved of our policy last year whether the result of that policy—whether the success of that expedition 1448 in the manner which I have described does not justify them in reposing in us confidence for the future. [Cheers.] There is one word I would venture to say even to the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, in speaking on the Address in answer to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, was good enough to compliment me on the possession of common sense in this matter. But, then, he went on to say that I had deviated into philanthropy. Has philanthropy no claims upon us in this matter? [Cheers.] I do not wish to underrate any of our responsibilities, let us say for the Armenians or for any of the subjects of the Sultan of Turkey. But these responsibilities are not nearly so great or so special as our responsibility for the inhabitants of the Soudan. This country solely, deliberately, and, I think, unwittingly compelled the Egyptian Government to abandon the Soudan. Our people were told at the time by Mr. Gladstone and others, who, I have no doubt, believed it, that it was a proper thing to relieve the inhabitants of the Soudan, who were rightly struggling to be free, from the tyranny of the Egyptian Government. But what do we see now? From the reports of those who have been so unfortunate as to be prisoners of the Khalifa; from the condition to which the once fertile province of Dongola has been reduced under that Government; from the delight of the population at welcoming back that Egyptian Government who were supposed to appear to them in the light of tyrants; we may be quite sure that, there never was a case in any part of the world in which an unfortunate and helpless population groaned under a more ruthless, more barbarous, and more fanatical tyranny than the peaceful inhabitants of the Soudan under the rule of the Khalifa. [Cheers.] Is it because the skins of these men are black, is it because the religion is Mohamedan, that the claims of humanity, which were so strong with the right hon. Member for Montrose in the matter of Armenia, are nothing to us now? [Cheers.] I will not believe it. I am no believer in the mission, even of so powerful a country as this, to redress the wrongs of humanity all over the world. But here is a case in which the task is ready to our hand. Here is a case in which, as the 1449 right hon. Gentleman himself has said there is reason to believe that this baleful power of the Khalifa is of itself crumbling to decay. Here is a case in which we may fulfil that responsibility which undoubtedly rests upon us. I believe the great majority of our people will desire that that task should be undertaken and that responsibility fulfilled. [Cheers.]
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
I think no one in the House will conceal from himself the gravity of some of the language which has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. [Cheers.] I should have thought that if ever there was a moment at which it was most desirable not to allow a whisper to fall that might break the harmony amongst the European Powers, this was the moment. [Cheers.] If ever there was a moment when neither by word nor by act should you increase the irritation felt notoriously in some quarters, I should have thought that this was the moment. [Cheers.] How can the right hon. Gentleman suppose that the language that he used in the earlier part of his remarks about the action of France and Russia in relation to the affair of the Caisse can be regarded as anything but a direct, and I venture to think, a most imprudent challenge to these Powers to question the sincerity of our plea for remaining in Egypt—a direct challenge to them to take up a new position? The First Lord of the Treasury, the Secretary for the Colonies, and other Gentlemen opposite have done us the justice to say that since the present Government has been in office we on this side have been scrupulously careful to use no language and take no action that should in any way multiply difficulties or make embarrassments for Her Majesty's Government in respect of foreign policy. Have they done us that justice? I hope they will believe that in the remarks which I have already made, and in those which I shall proceed to make, there is no desire whatever to take party advantage of those most delicate and dangerous transactions. It is impossible to deny that the position in Egypt is, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, an absurd position, that it is of a very intolerable character, and so on; but it is precisely because we hold that view, because we hold that the position is absurd in its present attitude towards France and other Powers in respect 1450 of Egypt, that we question the expediency of an indefinitely prolonged occupation there; and that is the very foundation of our case. [Cheers.] That is our general case; and I am not now going into the general question of the occupation of Egypt, because after all the general question is entirely secondary, and merely incidental to the particular question which we are called upon to discuss this afternoon. But it makes me wonder the more that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is generally distinguished by strong common sense, should have gratuitously and without occasion raised it, not only for our consideration, but for the consideration of foreign Powers who think themselves interested in the large general question. I will only say this upon it. I know many hon. Gentlemen opposite think that those who hold the view that the time may come when we shall have done our work in Egypt, and who question the expediency of the expedition to Khartoum, are almost guilty of high treason. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] I confess that I have never heard upon the general question a full, an intelligent, and a deliberate statement, either on this side of the House or on that of the precise gains which the people of Great Britain get out of our occupation of Egypt. I am not saying that is the only view that ought to be taken. We have responsibilities there which we cannot avoid; I know it full well, and I have no desire to evade them; but if you are going to raise, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, the general question, I do hope the House and our constituents will ask explicitly and plainly what are the advantages we are to gain from an indefinite, prolonged occupation of Egypt against the consent of some of those who, rightly or wrongly, think themselves interested. That is a question well worth considering and discussing, and I expect that, after a few weeks are over, after the language of the right hon. Gentleman, it is a question which will be unpleasantly forced upon us. As to the prophecies of last year, the right hon. Gentleman was very magnanimous, or at least thought himself so, when he said that he had no desire to recall them and their falsification which events had brought about. The right hon. Gentleman reminded the Committee that I had used the word "madness" in connection with the action of Her Majesty's 1451 Government in undertaking the Dongola expedition. But I am not yet repentant for the use of that word. I am by no means repentant, because it is perfectly clear that what we foresaw last year is going to come true, and the Dongola expedition is now avowed to be the first step of a large, prolonged, costly, and dangerous set of operations which it is nothing short of madness in the present position of the world for the Government gratuitously and without any active occasion to plunge into. [Cheers.] We were not the only persons who prophesied last year. We were assured last year by, I think, every hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Bench opposite that this expedition was to be an Egyptian expedition, conducted by the forces of Egypt alone, and to be defrayed out of the resources of Egypt alone. There was your error, which we pointed out at the moment. You have forgotten when going into the prophecies which you think have been falsified that there were other warnings and remonstrances used. I particularly made a pointed charge that you had embarked on this enormous enterprise, so far as we knew, without making sure that you carried the Powers with you, and especially one particular Power. Then the First Lord of the Treasury said,That is not so; we have no reason to suppose that the Powers make any objection to the step on which we have embarked.The Colonial Secretary used language of the same kind on the same occasion, and, I think, the Chancellor of the Exchequer also. But it is now clear that our warning, our prophecy if you like, in March last was abundantly justified. The very circumstance that has compelled you to come to the House to-day to ask the sanction of the House for this advance, as you call it, exactly shows that our warning was well inspired, that your confidence that you had the Powers with you and carried them along with you, sanctioning, approving, and aiding this expedition, was entirely wrong, and—most important point of all—of the prophecies made last year your prohecies have been falsified, and not ours. [Cheers.] Nothing could be more explicit. There was the confident language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Egypt would be able to defray the expenses of the expedition and that no penny would come out of the 1452 pockets of the British taxpayer. He has referred to the discussion that took place between my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton and himself across the table, but he did not quote the strongest and most definite expression of my right hon. Friend's opinion. My right hon. Friend said,If the Committee think that Egypt is going to pay when all is done, they will be very gravely disappointed. Sooner or later England will have to pay, for the policy that has been adopted is, yours, and the initiative is yours.[Cheers.] Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and said, "The Egyptian Government have undertaken this expedition"—what a farce it is to talk of the Egyptian Government; all through the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech tonight he made me smile when he spoke of the Egyptian Government undertaking this or that, because it means Her Majesty's Government and no other—With their own forces and at their own cost... It is probable that some charge may be imposed upon us in connection with the dispatch of special service officers in the movement of the British troops now in Egypt, but I, at any rate, have no reason to anticipate that any of the temble prognostications of the right hon. Gentleman will be fulfilled.Does the right hon. Gentleman now contend that my right hon. Friend made a false prophecy when he said "sooner or later England will have to pay?" The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us—the particulars are not over full, but they are still sufficient—the conditions under which that advance has been made. As I understand it, £733,000 has been advanced. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then, £528,000 has been advanced at 2¾ per cent. interest, to be paid, I suppose, in the ordinary way, and the principal to be repaid in instalments as may be convenient to the Egyptian Government. But I should like to know whether the right, hon. Gentleman expects the Egyptian Government to make provision for the repayment of the instalments. No date is fixed when the Egyptian Government are to repay. I wonder how the Egyptian Government, which, remember, has no money to spare from current purposes, is to be expected 1453 to be ever able to repay those instalments. I do not believe that money has ever been advanced on security so childish as this, because we all know that the Egyptian Government will not be able, without starving those services which we are proud to see undertaken for the benefit of the people of Egypt, to repay those instalments. [Cheers.] Why do you not have the courage of your own policy and say to the House: "It is our policy; the initiative was ours; all these philanthropic pretensions which we make are ours; we will pay for them?" Surely, if all those operations are to be undertaken for the satisfaction, as the right hon. Gentleman has told us, of our own philanthropic instincts, it is rather hard that Parliament should be called upon to pay £500,000 for the past satisfaction of our philanthropy, and to advance a number of half-millions of money before those operations come within sight of a close. [Cheers.] I do not know why in this Estimate the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not add the £145,000 to be repaid to the Government of India for the extra expenses, and which are to be left out of the cost of the operations. ["Hear, hear!"] If those expenses were added, the public at home would see what the real cost of this expedition has been. It has been over £900,000; and the arguments used in defence of that expenditure, if they are to be worth anything at all, are arguments why the British taxpayer should find the money and why we should not go through this empty formality of veiling it under the form of "an advance." Let us look at the pleas which the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends advance for what has been done. The first was the defence of the frontier. It now appears that the frontier was in no sort of danger. The second plea was that the primary object of the operations, as Lord Cromer called it, was to relieve the Italian army from pressure at Kassala, and so prevent the possibility of that place falling into hostile hands. But there is a great deal of evidence to show that, though the Italian Government in the first instance did, no doubt, press Her Majesty's Government to render them some aid, the Italian Government and their military officers on the spot desired nothing so much as 1454 to leave Kassala and evacuate the territory round about it at the very moment when Her Majesty's Government were saying that the relief of the Italians was one of their great objects. It is very difficult to suppose that anything could have happened in Kassala after the Italians evacuated it, as they desired to do, which would have affected that policy. The third plea was that the "fertile granary of Dongola was to be added to the Egyptian territory." Now, this year, we have got an entirely different set of arguments. The old arguments are all dropped, because everyone can see how hollow they were. The first of the new arguments is that we are going to continue these operations in order "to avenge the follies of our old Soudan policy." Lord Cromer, I think, used language about "the shade of Gordon beckoning us on to Khartoum." And Lord Salisbury, in another place, said that our object under this head was "to efface" what had taken place 12 or 13 years ago. But there again, if you are going to avenge your own follies, you ought surely to pay. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not understand upon what principle the people of Egypt, the Egyptian Treasury, is to be loaded for the present, and with the prospect of an indefinite load for the future, in order to avenge our policy. The second new argument is that we are going up the Nile in order to "extirpate a vile and cruel despotism, compared with which the worst performances of the Palace at Constantinople are bright and saintly deeds." Then, thirdly, the occupation of Dongola is justified because it is "on the highway to Khartoum." Does it not strike the House, as I am sure it will strike the country, as a most ambiguous and equivocal course, that while we had one set of arguments for the Dongola expedition last year we now have another set of arguments used retrospectively about the Dongola, expedition and prospectively as to projected expeditons to places named by the right hon. Gentleman on the way to Khartoum? But we are not to stop even at Khartoum. The First Lord of the Treasury carries us still further. I confess I heard his language with considerable alarm on the opening night of the Debate on the 1455 Address. The right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion:—We hold that the position of Egypt cannot be regarded as satisfactory until the control of the country over large parts at all events of the Soudan has been re-established.["Hear, hear!" from the FIRST LORD of the TREASURY.] We are not to stop at Khartoum, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman cheers that.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I do not quite follow. I made no geographical limitations.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
But surely going to Khartoum is one thing, and acquiring control over large parts of the Soudan when you get to Khartoum is another. And I think the right hon. Gentleman is right in using wider language than was used by the Prime Minister and even that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For when you get to Khartoum, what will you have to do? Undoubtedly your first task will be solidly to establish an Egyptian Administration there. Do you suppose, when you have got an Egyptian Administration there, that there will be no frontier difficulties? it is as certain as anything can be that the old difficulties and conditions will return, and I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman frankly faced that and was prepared not only to admit that the policy of the Government is to go to Khartoum, but all the liabilities which going to Khartoum will involve. The Secretary for the Colonies last year distinctly said that if Egyptian statesmen had their way, or were able freely to declare their opinion and judgment, they would not be content, or Egypt could not be regarded as secure and as possessing full guarantees of prosperity, unless they had their old Soudanese territory restored to them in its entirety. Having regard to all the facts and forces of the situation, I greatly fear an extension of your operations will be forced upon you by the necessities of the case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer twitted us with being deaf to the claims of philanthropy and humanity in dealing with these unfortunate people, and said—How is it you can be so anxious about Armenians while you forget the victims of worse despotism in the Soudan? There is no discrepancy whatever between the attitude 1456 taken by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House and in both Parties as to Armenia, and the position taken with regard to the Khalifa. When you taunt us with being deficient in philanthropy, with being indifferent to the fate of these unfortunate people, I would remind you of the language used by Lord Salisbury only nine years ago. On March 16, 1888, in another place, Lord Salisbury said:—We do not depart in any degree from the policy of leaving the Soudan.and with regard to the question of restoring the country to civilisation declared that thatcould only be carried out by a large and costly expedition, entailing an enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure, and for the present a continuous expenditure.[Ministerial cheers.] The question of humanity must, after all, be settled; your decision must be guided by considerations of policy, and you may depend upon this, that you will not carry out your expedition to Khartoum and all your operations incident thereto without inflicting an amount of suffering, and perhaps causing an amount of disorder and chaos which will far outweigh any advantages you have got out of your present partial, and possibly temporary, expedition. As far as the Armenians are concerned, there you had definite responsibilities which were imposed upon you by your own action. I am not one of those who desire to carry out all these obligations regardless of all the diplomatic and military hazards which might befall. [Ministerial cheers.] I desire that England should take her share in putting down desperate atrocities in Armenia, but I hold she should, at all events, choose her time for executing these humane and philanthropic operations in the Soudan. This is the point which I have strongest in my mind, that you could not possibly have chosen a more inopportune moment than you took last year and than you are taking now for these operations. The House will remember the language of the Queen's Speech with regard to the condition of affairs abroad and the language of the Colonial Secretary as to the anxieties of his own Department, and yet this very moment, when there is good ground—I do not say for anything 1457 like alarm, but for anxiety and circumspection—this is the moment at which you announce a policy which, if carried out, will have military effects which will certainly involve locking up a considerable, probably a great, body of troops and will also involve you in diplomatic difficulties; this very moment when you know, we all know, that we are within sight and measurable distance of new conditions of sea-power, new conditions in regard to the balance of marine power in the Eastern Mediterranean—this is the moment which you choose to take a step which will endanger more than ever it has been endangered before your military and naval policy in the Eastern Mediterranean, and which will make it more difficult to readjust that policy, as undoubtedly it will be found necessary in some respects to do, and this change is announced in language the most inopportune and imprudent. [Cheers.] Under cover of your military success in the Dongola expedition—a success which, from a military point of view, we all admire, whether we approve or disapprove of the expedition—under cover of the natural satisfaction and exultation which it has created inside and outside the House, you are embarking upon a policy which has been before now repudiated and condemned not only by Mr. Gladstone, but by the present Prime Minister himself. [Cheers.] I do not want to say more. I have been for about 12 or 13 years from time to time raising protests—unsuccessfully, I admit—against this Soudan policy. But I have not been wholly unsuccessful. We withdrew from the Soudan policy of Mr. Gladstone in 1885; and that withdrawal was entirely approved of by Lord Salisbury himself. Not only that, but in 1887, remember, he took steps which, if the French and Turkish Governments had been wiser, would have terminated our occupation of Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] After all this, it is deplorable to see steps being boldly announced, and likely to be taken, which will embark us on what I think to be a series of costly, perilous, and thankless operations. [cheers.] And, quite apart from the thanklessness, the cost, and the bloodshed involved, these operations are to take place at a moment in the history of the world and of diplomatic relations when they must be fraught with the 1458 gravest risks. We shall be very fortunate if we escape from them—for they will be long operations—without repulses and humiliations of which what happened the other day in the affair of the Caisse was only a beginning. ["Hear, hear!"] I put a question to-day to the Under Secretary as to the action taken two days ago by the Governments of France and Russia. The right hon. Gentleman informed us that the Russian and French Consul Generals had told the Egyptian Government that, if they wanted an advance, their business was to get it from the Caisse, and that they had no right, according to the law, to take the advance direct from Great Britain. I express no opinion as to their legal position; but the House will feel, I am sure, that the fact that such action has been taken by France and Russia at this moment—though not, perhaps, momentous in itself—is a sufficient indication of the temper of the Powers with which we have to deal—a temper which will not, I fear, be improved by what has taken place in this House this afternoon. [Cheers.]
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said that everyone now knew where the £120,000 promised to the Voluntary Schools had gone. It had gone into the sands of the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had quoted some of the pledges given on this subject last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he had not quoted the strongest words of all. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was pressed over and over again to say whether Parliament would be asked for money in connection with this expedition in the present year. The right hon. Gentleman was warned as to the probability of a difficulty in connection with the Caisse; and yet he insisted on replying that he had no reason to expect that any call would be made on Parliament in the present year, except for the salaries of a few special service officers. "There would be no obligation to provide any large expenditure." Now the right hon. Gentleman came down with the cheerful announcement practically that an expedition was going to Khartoum. [Cries of "No!"] Well, the expedition was going forward, and the opinion and intention of Her 1459 Majesty's Government were that eventually the expedition would reach Khartoum, The right hon. Gentleman said it was an Egyptian expedition; but the expedition which the House was now asked to pay for was also an Egyptian expedition. The graver part of the case was that the right hon. Gentleman had entirely departed from the past policy of prudent Leaders of the Conservative Party on this question. He said that we were not going to he worried into leaving Egypt. It was quite proper not to be worried into anything opposed to our interests; but the Government had declared over and over again that the occupation of Egypt was contrary to our military interests, and, in the words twice expressly approved by Lord Salisbury, was "a burdensome drain" on us. It realty looked as though the Government had been worried into remaining in Egypt against the dictates of Avisdom and prudence. The statement that what had occurred was likely to prolong our occupation, made in the menacing language and in the formidable and distinct manner adopted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was, he feared, a declaration that the policy of the Conservative Party on this question had changed since 1888. A very important book had recently appeared by Sir G. Clarke and Mr. Thursfield, and in the introduction to that book the authors jointly signed a statement discouraging the idea that the occupation of Egypt could be in any way a strength to this country. The Under Secretary had hitherto been inclined to go beyond the other Members of the Government in his defence of this policy of remaining in Egypt. He congratulated the light hon. Gentleman in bringing the other Members of the Government gradually into agreement with him. But the right hon. Gentleman had gone out of his way to attack him and the right hon. Member for Montrose during the Recess for their statements on this question last year. Personally he wished to say that he adhered to every word that he said last year on this question, because he believed his predictions as to the nature of this expedition were being completely justified. He said then that if the expedition were merely going 200 miles it was doing what vas not necessary for the defence of Egypt; that, "elated by 1460 apparent success at first, the expedition would be pressed on to Khartoum and Darfur, and that ultimately a British force would have to be sent." He did not believe in these alarming reports as to the dangers to Egypt which were conjured up last year. Let the Committee remember the extreme variety of the excuses which had been made for this expedition. Last year it was said that the Egyptian frontier at Wady Haifa was indefensible and liable to Dervish raids, which were a positive danger to Egypt. The Government were told, when they said this, that the present frontier would be still less defensible. They had the Sirdar now declaring that the present frontier was no better than the old; that Dongola was a province that would be subject to raids, and that the Egyptian Army had been increased by four battalions, two squadrons, and one battery for the purpose alone of holding Dongola. Did not that confirm the statement which had frequently been made on the Opposition side that the occupation of the province was never likely to be anything else but a serious drain on the finances of Egypt? It was first said that the object of the expedition was to help Italy out of her difficulties in Abyssinia. There was no evidence that the Italian Government had ever asked us to undertake the expedition. On the contrary, it was opposed to the Italian policy, which was to quit the country, as both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of Italy had since declared. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had now advanced a new reason for the expedition. The right hon. Gentleman talked about civilisation and philanthropy. In the case of countries so far removed from the strong arm of England as countries in the interior of Africa, there was no more dangerous doctrine than the doctrine of a crusade on behalf of civilisation and philanthropy. All the Powers of Europe had decided to undertake such a crusade in Africa, and there was not a man who was acquainted with the state of affairs in that country that would not say that the Powers had done more harm than good; and that it would have been far better, in the interests of civilisation and philanthropy, if Africa had been let alone. [Cheers.] There had, in fact, been a most extraordinary reversal of policy on the part of the Government. 1461 Lord Salisbury had made a speech declaring that we would gladly accept a present of Egypt from Russia.
§ SIR C. DILKE
In the House of Lords at the opening of the Session. If the hon. Gentleman has not read the principal speech of his own Leader it is a curious thing. [Laughter.]
§ SIR C. DILKE
said he was only a plain person of plain intelligence, and he was so astonished at the statement of Lord Salisbury that he read three or four different reports of the speech. The noble Lord referred to the offer made by the Emperor Nicholas of the partition of Turkey, in which our share was to be Egypt, and said that if that offer were renewed it would be gladly accepted. That was a, complete change of front on the part of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] In fact, there seemed to be no real, definite policy behind this expedition. Some hon. Members on the other side of the House supported it because it would strengthen our hold on Egypt. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, but there were others who advocated it on exactly opposite grounds. The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Stanley) had declared that it was our interest to quit Egypt; but that we should never be able to do so until we had reconquered the Soudan, put down the Dervishes, and crushed the Khalifa. Every reason that had hitherto been given for the expedition—to give assistance to the Italians, to improve the Egyptian frontier, to add a rich province to Egypt—had all broken down, and it was impossible not to believe that the new reason advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—the cause of civilisation and philanthropy—was simply put forward in the hope that it would prove a good popular cry. [Cheers.] The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had attacked him on two occasions for having suggested that it was impossible to stop short of Dar Fur, and that they would have to go on until they had joined one great sphere of influence with another. That view, however was confirmed by Captain Lugard, who knew Africa thoroughly and who had defended the expedition. Lord Salisbury had given up the idea, of 1462 the route through Africa, and the idea of leasing a strip of country had fallen through. The country they were going to was a disputed country, a no-man's land. The Government were not only running the risk of enormous and perpetual expansion without any prospect of sufficient gain to the country, but they were also running the risk of international complications, He repeated that there had been an absolute change in the foreign policy of the Government, and especially in that portion which bore upon the retention of Egypt. It had been a sudden change, and it had not been a change which could have been rightly affected by the opinion of foreign Rowers, because it involved change as to a matter of fact—which was the military interest of this country in the occupation of Egypt. As late as 1888 Lord Salisbury twice approved this language upon the question—that it was a drain on the military and financial resources of England, and that it was a perpetual drain on the home resources. Yet within nine years, without the smallest attempt at consecutiveness in their foreign policy, the Government turned right round on this question, and seemed rather glad of the excuse they had given for remaining, he feared permanently, in Egypt. [Cheers.]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said he was always glad to follow the right hon. Gentleman, because the right hon. Gentleman had a way of ignoring important facts. He thought it had always been the view of bon. Gentlemen on that side of the House that if this movement was begun they should go to Khartoum. But the right hon. Gentleman very carefully passed that over. The right hon. Gentleman on a former occasion had asked if it was not likely that they would be drawn on step by step, that the Egyptian forces would be attacked and the British officers sacrificed, and he said also that there lay in front of the Egyptian army one of the most frightful powers in the whole world. From that utterance they might obtain a verdict as to the character of the right hon. Gentleman as a prophet. Other speeches which had been made had been equally violent, and had proved equally wrong, especially that of the right hon. Member for West Monmouthshire. The conscription of to-day was not a burden on the Egyptian people. The Egyptian 1463 army was welcomed by the Egyptians of the present day because it was well paid.
§ SIR C. DILKE
That is the case with the Nubian recruits, I admit; I was speaking of the Egyptian fellaheen. But the Nubians are a limited class.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said the service was welcomed by the Nubians, and as there was no great difficulty in getting them as recruits the conscription was not a serious burden on the Egyptian fellaheen. The right hon. Gentleman was thinking of the Egyptian conscription at the time he was in office, when these poor wretches of fellaheens were dragged in chains—[Sir C. DILKE: "So they are now"]—from Cairo and other parts of Egypt down to the Red Sea, and there dispatched unarmed to be butchered by the Dervishes. The right hon. Gentle man apparently knew very little about the state of Egypt now. [Cries of "Oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman should be cautious before he made such speeches as that to which they had just listened—[laughter]—because he was responsible for the terrible blundering, the muddling, the slaughter, and the cost that took place in regard to Egypt and the Soudan. It was the right hon. Gentleman's policy of alliance with France alone that had caused these results.
§ SIR G DILKE
said he had stated in that House, and had repeated the statement again and again, that it so happened that he was absent from the country on business of the Crown at the time, and that he never saw the Joint Note until after it was issued.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said that was the first time the light hon. Gentleman had made that statement in that House. [Laughter.]
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said he recollected the statements of the right hon. Gentleman much better than he did himself. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman had frequently told them that he was not responsible for a, special alliance with France, but the statement with regard to his absence from this country they heard that night for the first time.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said that as Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the right hon. Gentleman 1464 was the guiding spirit of the foreign policy of the Government of that day. The Foreign Minister of the time was in the other House, and was a very able but easy-going gentleman, who did not take very much control of foreign affairs—[laughter]—and the right hon. Gentleman forced his polity upon the Government in every phase, and his policy and that of the then Government was to go behind the backs of the other Powers to present a Joint Note with France to the Khedive on January 6, 1882. It was repudiated by all the other Powers and by the Suzerain, and it led directly to all the troubles which followed. The forced evacuation of the Government of that day cost the lives of over 100,000 people, who were slaughtered under circumstances of the greatest cruelty. They knew what General Cordon's protest was, and how he asked how as a gentleman he could do this thing. The right hon. Gentleman was a prominent Member of that Government, and he held him responsible for what had happened. The right hon. Gentleman had attacked the Government for giving as a ground for their movement in the Soudan that they wished to help Italy, a member of the Triple Alliance, and said distinctly that he objected to that policy. [Sir C. DILKE: "I made no attack on the Triple Alliance."] The right hon. Gentleman practically implied that he would revert to a similar policy as had been adopted in the past. [Sir C. DILKE: "No."] Then the right hon. Gentleman had no policy except that of scuttle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had used language which, he was sure, was approved by everyone on the Government side of the House, because he distinctly stated that this country would not be bullied out of its policy and its position. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: "Hear, hear!"] Oh, of course. [Laughter.] They perfectly understood the right hon. Gentleman's cheer. They knew that he would be bullied out of anything by a foreign Power. [A laugh.] They did not expect the approval of the right hon. Gentleman, and it was positively refreshing to have a statement from the Treasury Bench which had met his approval. He sincerely hoped the policy of the Government would be persistent and tenacious, and that nothing would check the forward movement until we had obtained possession 1465 of Khartoum. He confessed there was one point upon which he did not quite understand the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In respect of it he hoped some further explanation would be given, though he would not press for any declaration if, in the opinion of the Government, such a declaration would do harm. Lord Salisbury had clearly said it was the intention of the Government to go to Khartoum. There seemed to be some drawing back in the matter on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He trusted he was mistaken. He was persuaded that if any Member of the Government was able to assure the House there was no intention to stop short of Khartoum, the declaration would be received with unanimous favour on the Ministerial side of the House. In all the language the right hon. Gentleman used with regard to the necessity of a firm and consistent dealing with the aggression and opposition of other countries he had the entire support of hon. Members on his own side. If similar language were used with regard to other items of policy the Government would occupy a stronger position in the country than they had recently occupied, and certain very deplorable events would not have happened.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I had not intended to take any part in this discussion, for I was entirely satisfied with what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Montrose and my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean, in whose opinions I entirely concur, but this Debate has taken an aspect of a far larger and more formidable character than anything connected with an expedition even to Khartoum. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the liberty I had taken in complimenting him upon his prudence and common sense, but I am sorry to say that he has to-night preferred to earn the applause of the hon. Member for Sheffield. [A laugh.] We know what the policy of the hon. Member for Sheffield is; he has stated it pretty plainly to-night; he has said that what we have to do is to hold language towards France and Russia such as I regret to say has been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nov, I rise for the purpose of protesting against that language; I say it is mischievous language, it is dangerous language. As I said in the Debate on the Address, these 1466 are questions which involve not. £500,000 but millions if you choose to embark in a spirit of defiance and hostility upon this Egyptian question with the great military Powers of Europe. It is because the language the Chancellor of the Exchequer used to-night on behalf of the British Government, and which has been applauded by the Member for Sheffield, who has put upon it that interpretation which will be put upon it to-morrow by Europe—[Sir ELLIS ASHHEAD-BARTLETT: "Hear, hear!"]—that the vote I shall give tonight will not be mainly concerned with the question of an expedition either to Dougola or Khartoum. I shall register my vote against this Motion because I desire to make a public protest against the language of menace and defiance which has been employed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I had hoped and believed it was the intention and the labour of Lord Salisbury and of Her Majesty's Government that those Powers—particularly Russia and France—with whom we have formerly had differences, should be brought into harmony with the British Government for purposes of the greatest importance, and, therefore, I desire to protest in the most emphatic manner against the language that has been used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to-night.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I must entirely disclaim having used any language of menace or defiance. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Let us see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said. The question as to the appropriation of this money arose before the Caisse. The right hon. Gentleman admits the financial arrangements in Egypt are arrangements in which the Great Powers of Europe have a, recognised voice. The question arose whether or not in the Caisse the voice of the majority was to prevail or whether the minority had a veto upon it. That was referred to the tribunal, which it is not disputed is the legal tribunal, to determine that question. They determined, not in our favour, but in favour of the protest of Russia and France. That was a legal decision. The language which the right hon. Gentleman has used to-night is a protest against that legal decision. What did he say? He said that 1467 legal decision is one that will induce Her Majesty's Government at an early period to do what they can to raise the whole question of Egyptian administration before Europe and the reversal—["Oh!"]—I am extremely alert not to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman. He will have an opportunity of replying, and I trust he will take the opportunity of removing that impression, which, I confess, unless it is removed, I regard as one of the greatest dangers to which it is possible to expose this country at this moment.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Really, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me on this point, very likely through my own fault. I alluded to the necessary revision, in the year 1898, of the powers of the Mixed Tribunals, owing to the expiry of the term—I believe it is a five years term—for whch certain powers and duties are given to these tribunals—and I said upon that revision this matter must be reconsidered.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
In a sense that should be a reversal, that should be in derogation of the rights of the Great Powers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
No, not at all. I protest against that. In order to defend the authority of the superior and international tribunal in the Commission of the Caisse.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is to do away with or reverse what has been done, and legally done, on the appeal of Russia and France in this matter. What can be the consequence of this at this moment, when you ought to have desired more than anything else to have left this question alone? When you should not have allowed these sleeping dogs to lie, but up rises the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this Vote and without any reason whatever demands the raising of the Egyptian question in Europe. He told Europe that we are dissatisfied with the arrangements at present existing as between the Great Powers. What is the situation? We have a legally and internationally established trust deed, under which these proceedings have been taken. There has been a legal decision, the legality of which has not been disputed, and now Her Majesty's Government come forward and 1468 make the public announcement that, like a defeated litigant, they are determined to overthrow the final court, and they demand in the face of Europe that the existing arrangements in Egypt shall be overthrown. What for? To prevent Russia and France doing again what legally they have done on the present occasion. Do you think that that is going to be upheld? How is it possible to suppose anything of the kind? After all, this action against which the eloquent denunciation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was directed belongs to the present international law governing the relations of the Powers in Egypt. The hon. Member for Sheffield applauds the Government for having, as he says, told Russia and France that we will not be bullied. That is a very natural interpretation of the unwise language which has been used. [Cheers.] It is still more unwise to point to the fact that immediately upon this decision being contrary to our wishes we demand at once a reversal of that decision.
§ SIR WILLIAM HA HARCOURT
The reconsideration that the right hon. Gentleman holds out is one to deprive the Powers of the rights that they at present bold. Surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot be of opinion that I have ever been a captious critic of his sentiments and opinions, but I cannot fail to day to express my great regret at the use of language which I hope will not bear the interpretation that it conveys to my mind. I trust we shall have a, very different statement from the Government which may avert consequences that I cannot help thinking would be of the gravest character. ["Hear, hear!"] Certainly, unless that is so I must record my vote against this proposal, not principally in reference to the character of the proposal itself, but as a protest against the spirit in which it has been introduced and the consequences which I believe might follow. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY of STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has 1469 already, on his own behalf, repudiated what I believe the majority of the House will consider to be the most unwarrantable interpretation that the right hon. Gentleman has put upon his words. Those hon. Members now in the House who had the advantage of listening to the clear and emphatic statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot have found in that speech one word which can legitimately be said to have been provocative of irritation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated what is a historical fact, that our responsibilities and position in Egypt arose from the fact that after the rebellion of Arabi Pasha in 1882 France, who had previously shared the condominium with ourselves, declined any longer to take part with us. Rightly or wrongly, she deliberately desisted. We were thereby left alone ["Hear, hear!"] Since that time, it is true that we have not, either at Cairo or Paris, received from the French Government the support which we should have been glad to receive, and which might have facilitated our task. ["Hear, hear!"] It is true also, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that if we had had a free hand we might have proceeeded even further than we have done in fitting the Egyptian people for self-government To rest upon that the interpretation of something imprudent, something provocative to France, is to place on the statement an interpretation which neither the words nor the sentiment behind them for a moment justified. [Cheers.] Put the leader of the Opposition says that the particular phrase which excited his ire, and which to-morrow will raise the consternation of Europe, was the intimation by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that when the time for the revision of the Mixed Tribunals conies in the natural course of events, we shall take into consideration the manner in which the recent decision was arrived at. As we are on the subject of the Mixed Tribunals, let me add one word which may possibly be of information to some hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Montrose reproached us for having embarked on this Egyptian policy last year without making sure that we had the consent of the Powers. Well, Sir, when we had embarked on this policy we very soon ascertained that we did have the assent of the 1470 majority of the Powers. [Cheers.] Nothing could more clearly prove that than the fact that the Caisse of the debt advanced the £500,000; a decision which was given by four to two of the Commissioners of the Caisse—England, Germany, Austria and Italy being on the one side, and France and Russia on the other. Now comes the important point. What we have been dealing with to-night is not the decision of the Caisse, but of the Mixed Tribunals. On the tribunal which decided against the majority of the Caisse neither England nor Austria was represented at all. ["Hear, hear!"] It has appeared in the Blue Book on Lord Cromer's authority, and it has been currently reported, that the decision of the tribunal to which so much legal authority has been attached, was one in which the two parties were equally divided. There were eight members of the Court five Europeans and three natives—and as the vote was four to four, by a course that is not enshrined in law, but has grown up in practice, the decision was given to the side having the majority of Europeans. It has been assumed throughout this Debate, and cannot be denied, that the decision, in its consequences, if not its motives, was affected by the political predilections of the Powers. [Opposition cheers.] If, then, it can be shown that among the Powers that voted on the tribunal two Powers who took part in the original decision were not represented at all, and if it is admitted that the decision was mainly political and not judicial, can there be anything very astonishing in the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that when a year hence the time comes for revision we shall have to take into account the constitution of the tribunals and the manner in which the decision was arrived at? [Cheers.] Passing on to other points, I may say that. I cannot help noticing a very marked contrast between the tone and phraseology of this Debate and that of our similar proceedings a year ago. Then the House was crowded on both sides, and loud were the cheers as adjective after adjective from the repertoire of right hon. Gentlemen opposite was hurled at our devoted heads. ["Hear, hear!"] This evening, at any rate, the Benches opposite cannot be said to be crowded—["hear, hear!"]—and, with the exception of the remarks the right 1471 hon. Gentleman has directed against the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the invective used has been of a very chastened order. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Member for Montrose still adheres to his conviction that we are mad. [Laughter.] A more sensible form of lunacy than a campaign conducted to this brilliant issue I can scarcely imagine. [Cheers and laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman thinks we are mad because, in the present condition of the world, we have undertaken this expedition in the Soudan. Was the moment any less inopportune when last autumn right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite were continually urging us to undertake a single-handed expediton in another part of the world? [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has asked whether these advances to the Egyptian Government are ever going to be repaid; and he said we shall not be able to obtain repayment without starving the Egyptian Government. ["Hear, hear!"] There seems to prevail an idea among some hon. Members that the Exchequer of the Egyptian Government is in an improverished and depleted condition. What are the facts? What are the financial resources at the disposal of the Egyptian Government? They have, in the first place, a Reserve Fund—through the successful conversion of some parts of the debt in 1890, and from the interest on the money thus accumulated, of £2,305,000. They have further, a. General Reserve Fund, constituted by the decree of 1888, which, at the present moment, after deducting liabilities, shows a surplus of £2,235,000; and, finally, there is a Special Reserve Fund in which there is at the present moment a sum of £235,000. This is the impoverished Government which we are alleged to be starving and to which we are making an advance that cannot be paid. I admit that these funds are not at its sole disposal—[Opposition cheers]—but it has behind it resources amounting to £4,795,000. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman alluded to what no doubt is a very unfortunate fact in the situation.—namely, that Egypt financially, and as a consequence politically, is, to adopt the phrase of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, held in leading-strings by the Powers of Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] But it cannot be contemplated that those powers possessed by other nations—at 1472 any rate, it is not likely—will be permanently used by them to the detriment of Egyptian success and advancement, and it is scarcely likely that, when measures are being taken by us to recover to Egypt her old provinces and to secure for her that commerce of which she has been deprived, and to make a still further advance in her prosperity, merely political considerations or the prejudices of the Powers should permanently tie up this great sum which she has saved by her own economies and which she must one day be permitted to use to her own advantage. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose went on to say, "Why do you not pay this sum yourself?" I do not know whether that is a serious question. I noticed it did not excite a single cheer on his own side of the House, and I do not think it would have been received with enthusiasm upon either side. So long as the Egyptian Government are willing and anxious to pay I do not think we need needlessly disturb susceptibilities here by discussing whether or not we should pay. I come to another point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in which I must correct a very grave misapprehension into which he and the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean fell. That was with reference to Kassala. I must say I admire the courage of the right hon. Gentleman in mentioning Kassala at all, because last year, when we said that one of the purposes of this expedition was to bring relief to the Italians in their beleaguered position, he said—What a preposterous assumption it is that you can give any relief to the Italians at Kassala by making a military movement 500 miles away!It had precisely the effect we anticipated and which we desired. [Cheers.] There is not a shadow of doubt that our advance up the Nile did detach from Kassala the Dervish forces who were at that time threatening Kassala. It cannot be doubted that the fact that the Italian troops are still in the occupation of Kassala is due to the advance we made up the Nile. We had received communications from the Italian Government in which they urgently requested us to make some forward movement in order to assist them.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
This is a very important point. The Under Secretary is making a statement in reference to communications from a foreign Government asking our intervention and in respect of which military assistance was given. I venture to suggest to him that, having made that statement to the House in contradiction of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean, he is bound to lay that correspondence on the Table of the House. [Cheers.]
§ SIR C. DILKE
May I also be allowed to explain that that statement is in contradiction of personal knowledge which leaves no doubt on my own mind as regards the Marquis di Rudini and of the statement made by the Duke of Sermoneta at the time of his resignation?
§ MR. CURZON
I am not aware whether the principle laid down by the Loader of the Opposition is a correct one. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House tells me that the principle applies where a quotation is made. I have made no quotation. [Cheers and Opposition cries of "Oh!"] I have stated the fact, not for the first time in this House, and I have stated it on my responsibility as a Minister of the Crown, and I therefore cannot accept the contradiction of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose says that we have dropped our old arguments and have adopted a set of new arguments. We have done nothing of the kind. The arguments which we employed to justify the advance last year are the arguments which, in so far as they have not been rendered obsolete by our success, we continue to use to-day. [Cheers.] Last year this expedition was justified by the Government on the ground that it would protect the frontiers of Egypt from a danger by which we believed that they were threatened. That danger has, we are glad to say, turned out to be much less than we anticipated, and therefore that need for the advance has disappeared. The second cause was the desire to render assistance to the Italians. That we have succeeded in doing, and therefore that cause has also receded into the 1474 background. The third cause was that we hoped to recover for Egypt a part of her lost provinces in the Soudan. That we are engaged in doing, and that course we hope to continue to a successful end. [Cheers.] But we are now told this evening, for the first time, that new arguments have been used, and that the argument that we should atone for our mistakes and follies in the past and that we should endeavour to rescue the poor people of Khartoum from the tyranny of the Khalifa involves an entire change in the situation. Those are the considerations which were present to our minds last year, just as they are present this year. ["Hear, hear!"] The arguments upon which the advance was justified stand exactly where they were. What has occurred since last year only goes to prove that we were right, and to add force and intensity to them. ["Hear, hear!"] There only remains one more point with which I need deal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean laid the very greatest stress upon an allegation that the speech which has been made this evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated a total reversal of the policy of the Government. None of us on this Bench were conscious of such a reversal having been accomplished. ["Hear, hear!"] I listened with interest to hear the right hon. Gentleman's evidence, and it amounted to this—that Lord Salisbury, in another place, had made a speech in which he raised a purely fanciful and hypothetical condition, and said that if an offer, made many years ago, were repeated now it was one that might be accepted. Are we really, on the basis of this hypothesis, to accept the view that the whole of the Cabinet have entirely reversed their policy of last year? But there was another reason, another proof, given by the right hon. Gentleman, and that was that I—poor I—[laughter]—had brought the Government to this change. I am bound to confess that my influence has never been estimated by myself, and I believe not by anybody else—[laughter]—at that value. It is, indeed, a new character which is put upon me to-night—which I must modestly repudiate—of being the person to lead the Government, so to speak, by the nose to adopt a policy 1475 which they had previously repudiated and with which they would otherwise be in disagreement. It is not the case. There is no change in the policy of the Government. ["Hear, hear!"] The policy of the Government as regards Egypt and as regards the Soudan remains exactly where it was last year, exactly where it has been at every point since the rebellion of Arabi in 1882 and since the rebellion of the Mahdi in 1884 and 1885.
§ MR. MORLEY
Do you mean to say that Lord Salisbury's declaration of 1888, which I have just read, is the policy of to-day?
§ MR. CURZON
The right hon. Gentleman quotes what was said in, 1888, but he does not pretend that the conditions are not entirely changed. ["Hear, hear!"] Undoubtedly Lord Salisbury said in 1888, as everybody said, I believe, on both sides of the House, that the Soudan could not be reconquered, and that it would be inadvisable, if not impossible, to do so. Rut those circumstances have changed, because, not merely has the Egyptian Government made strides in the recovery of her financial credit and in the improvement of her resources which no one could have anticipated, but the powers which at that time were dominant at Khartoum—the powers of the Mahdi—are a very different thing from the powers of the Khalifa at the present time. ["Hear, hear!"] What was impossible in 1880 turns out to be feasible now. But that does not indicate a change of policy. The policy of the Government has always remained the same. As I understand it, the policy of the Government in Egypt is, by persevering stages, to fit the Egyptian nation for the task of self-government—[Irish laughter and Ministerial cheers]—and to enable them in future to be ruled by an independent Government based on the affections and attachment of their own people. ["Hear, hear!"] In pursuit of that object, the British Government have already conquered great difficulties. They have enormously improved the financial and judicial administration of Egypt; they have given peace and prosperity to her people, and they are now engaged in the task of endeavouring to recover for them the frontiers which, owing to our mistaken policy in the past, were lost to them. 1476 [Cheers.] That is the continuity of policy which has been observed and to which the Government will adhere—[cheers]—and I cannot believe that this House would ever give its support to any Government which was so faint-hearted and so selfish as to abandon that work. [Cheers.]
§ MR. LEONARD COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said he desired to address a few words to the House, and he would endeavour to do so in measured and careful language, because he conceived that some of the heat developed in the Debate had arisen from misconception of the words which had been employed, and that that heat and misconception might easily pass from the area of that Assembly and excite persons elsewhere, and lead to consequences which we should all most sincerely regret. ["Hear, hear!"] He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that, when the question of the reconstitution of the Mixed Tribunals came up 12 months hence, it might, in view of the character of the judgment just given, be necessary to consider the composition of those tribunals and their competency to undertake such a question as was submitted to them. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "Hear, hear!"] That in itself ought not to excite resentment elsewhere; it was necessary; it was inevitable. It was provided that from time to time these tribunals should come under international review and the scope of their jurisdiction would have to be considered, but he thought the connection of this question with the judgment recently delivered might excite, and justly excite, some feeling unless there was further explanation.
§ MR. COURTNEY
hoped they would be allowed to get out of that atmosphere. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others who had spoken had a little misconceived the ground of the judgment and the situation in reference to which that judgment had been delivered. His right hon. Friend said Egypt was in leading strings, Egypt was under bonds and could not do as she liked with her own, and he used other phrases of a similar character. But how 1477 was it that Egypt was under leading strings? Egypt was bankrupt, and the position would be best understood if he likened the law of liquidation to a deed of assignment for the benefit of the creditors of Egypt. Under that law-Egypt was to be carried on as a going concern, its wants to be provided for, and its surplus revenue was to supply a fund to meet contingencies and provide for redemption of debt. But the contingencies that might arise were to be those that arose from the carrying on of Egypt as a going concern. For example, there might be a low Nile, and then recourse might be had to the reserve to make good the loss; or if there arose any internal difficulty bringing about an increase of expenditure or a decline of revenue, then the temporary difficulty might be met by recourse to this fund. It was only for contingencies that arose in Egyptian territory that the reserve was to be employed. He had, speaking elsewhere, used an illustration to make the position clear, and this he repeated. Suppose a going concern in the shape of a colliery and trustees invested with the management of that colliery, these trustees being under conditions of appointment required to provide for the expenses of working the colliery, and lay aside profits to provide a fund to meet contingencies and for the redemption of debt. If an accident occurred in the working of that colliery that was obviously a contingency arising out of the working of that colliery, and the expenses would be met out of the reserve. But suppose the trustees, wisely or unwisely, resolved upon working a pit a, mile off which had been abandoned years before, would that be within the functions of the trustees and the range of their duties under the deed of arrangement? ["Hear, hear!"] Surely to set about the working of the distant pit would be ultra vires on the part of the trustees, and they would naturally go back to those from whom they derived authority before taking action outside their trust. ["Hear!"] The judgment of the Court proceeded on the ground that the Caisse had not competency to undertake to support a transaction which lay outside the original going concern. If new enterprises were undertaken they must go back to those who created the deed of arrangement. This was the view taken by the Court. He had an opportunity of talking 1478 about this to one of the most distinguished international lawyers in the country, who was entirely in favour of the advance to Dongola, and he held the judgment of the Court to be entirely right. There was another name he might mention, not that of a lawyer, but of a gentleman thoroughly conversant with the history of these transactions, and it was a name that would command respect in the House, and again the opinion was that the judgment of the Court was just. It was useless to quarrel with the Court, and we could not alter the law. To do that we must go back to the Powers that created the law. He wished to dispel the idea, that Egypt belonged to the Egyptians; that was not so now; it belonged to the creditors, and it was not for us to shake off the fetters the creditors of Egypt had put upon the country. ["Hear!"] The money had to be repaid, and then arose a question which had to be considered in the light of the limitations laid down by the Court. Egypt under the new law of liquidation could not borrow, and yet we were going to advance money to Egypt which Egypt was going somehow to repay. How could that be? It appeared to him like the experiences we had had in the history of the development of railways. When a railway company some years ago exhausted its borrowing powers, or could not raise money under them, it still got into debt and gave certificates of indebtedness under the system known by the phrase now passed out of use—Lloyd's Bonds. If, in accordance with the law of liquidation, satisfaction of this debt could not come out of the surplus any more than the original sum, then the satisfaction of the debt interest and instalments must come out of curtailments of ordinary expenditure.
THE CHANCELLOR OF this EXCHEQUER
reminded his right hon. Friend that Egypt had power to borrow to a certain extent.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said this was for contingencies in respect to which she could fall back on the fund, contingencies that happened in ordinary administration. We were to be repaid under some sort of Lloyd's Bond. He would not vote against this payment; we must make it, whether it be repaid or not. In respect to the £270,000 for the railway, he asked when was that railway going to be made 1479 before March 31? ["Hear!"] Surely, then, this should come into the next financial year.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said then would come the cost of making the railway. The situation was not encouraging. One hon. Member found encouragement in the language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and deduced from this language that there was a change of policy.
§ SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said he did not refer to a change in the Egyptian policy or the policy in regard to Egypt; he was referring to the change of tone and manner in dealing with it by the Treasury.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said the hon. Member appeared to think the tone and manner of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, contrasted with that of last year, would affect the judgment of the country. The judgment of the country was fickle, some people said; but he thought the judgment of the country appreciated sobriety of judgment and would not support a policy where this was lacking. In the spirit of that old-fashioned sobriety of judgment he held the opinion as to this expenditure which he had expressed last year, that it was impolitic, inexpedient, and dangerous. He did not wish to keep the Soudan in a state of oppression and discomfort any more than any other part of the world. But was this country able to do what the Under Secretary talked of? Were they able to conquer the Soudan and hand it over to Egypt, and, having trained Egypt in self-government, could they leave her with anything like equanimity to administer the Soudan so conquered? ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that Lord Salisbury in 1888 measured the forces better than he did to-day. He was not able to entirely persuade himself that Lord Salisbury changed his views, in spite of the language which his right hon. Friend said he used on the first night of the Session. He had some reason to believe that Lord Salisbury was no more fond of this forward policy than he was himself. ["Hear, hear!"] If his Lordship had his own way, he believed he would maintain the moderate and sober position which he occupied nine years ago. The change of circumstances which had ensued did not warrant any 1480 change in the attitude to be adopted. The policy of moderation and abstinence from enterprise of a wild and visionary character was, above all, the policy to be maintained in relation to the other Powers of Europe; and was most important to their position, not only in Europe, but throughout the whole world. He hoped the course of the Debate would not tend to worsen the position of this country in relation to other Powers. He should be deeply sorry if any words of his tended to excite worse feelings than existed. His sole purpose in rising was to endeavour, if possible, to state a view of the case which might lead some fellow Members on his side of the House to understand how things were looked at differently by other people than they were here, and to inquire whether there was not some reason for the attitude they assumed when they in this country were sometimes disposed to think they were too suspicious, too angry, and too intolerant in their judgment of the British people. [Cheers.]
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
hoped Her Majesty's Ministers would take heed of the wise and sober words winch had fallen from one of their most distinguished supporters. ["Hear, hear!"] That debate, it seemed to him, would not be useless if the Committee could get some clearer explanations than they had at present from the Government. The whole history of the relations of the Government towards this expedition in the Soudan had been a position of evasion. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said he spoke as a Minister of the Crown. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be an excellent Minister of the Crown; but as a matter of hard fact he was not a. Minister of the Crown—[laughter]—but was in that House as Lord Salisbury's secretary—[renewed laughter]—and, he assumed, did his best to express in his own words the views of Lord Salisbury. The Under Secretary fell foul of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean because he complained of what had transpired last year with respect to the Italian demand to this country to aid them in retaining Kassala. The Under Secretary told the House last year that such a demand had been made.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said that the Italian Ministers themselves confronted the right hon. Gentleman with a denial that any such demand or request was made, and he, therefore, desired to know under what circumstances this very hole-in-the-corner demand, which was put forward now as a plea for this country engaging in vast expense in order to subdue the Soudan, was made. ["Hear, hear!"] Would the right hon. Gentleman give them the Papers? Was there any communication made by the Italian Ambassador to Lord Salisbury? Was there any communication made by the Italian Ministry to the Ambassador of this country in Italy? Was it a private or personal demand on the part of those who reigned but did not govern? Was it a demand made through another Emperor? Was it a demand made through the German Emperor? [Ministerial cries of "No!"] He wanted this matter to be cleared up. The right hon. Gentleman had been referring to documents. [Mr. CURZON: "No!"] At any rate, he did refer to some species of document, but he would not tell them if the communication was verbal or in writing, and the Government seemed to be absolutely ashamed of what they had done. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] Then let them produce their documents. It was a fair and reasonable demand to ask the Government to lay before the House of Commons, which was responsible for the action of the Government, the statement which they said was made, either in writing or verbally, to induce them to engage in an expedition for which they were now asking a, million sterling and would have to ask for more. Such a positon had never before been taken up by any Government. He was sorry to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer speak as he had done. He had always believed the right hon. Gentleman was a wise, sober, and cautious man, but he seemed to speak that night with the reckless zeal of a convert. Who had got him over? Was it the Leader of the House or Lord Salisbury, or the Minister of the Crown—[laughter]—who sat next him? To put it vulgarly, this guardian of the purse appeared to have been "got at." The Chancellor of the Exchequer had thrown down the gauntlet to Egypt. He told them he wanted to change the Egyptian 1482 tribunals. In 1898 there would be an opportunity of reconsidering the whole matter as to what tribunals were to decide in questions relating to Egypt. Why did the right hon. Gentleman want to change them? Because they went against this country. Simply and solely because the Courts in Egypt decided against them they were going to ask Europe to alter the nature and character of those Courts. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we were in Egypt and had a right to decide everything.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EX-CHEQUEK
I did not say that. I said we were in Egypt, but I never said we had a right to decide everything.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
remarked that he took down what the right hon. Gentleman said at the time, but he could not now make out his own writing. [Laughter.] At any rate the right hon. Gentleman said they were in such a position in Egypt that they were bound to look after the safety of that country, and they had a right to do so. He believed the right hon. Gentleman went as far as that.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked had it not reached the right hon. Gentleman that several Powers in Europe considered this country had no right to be in Egypt, that they remained there against their pledges, and were dishonouring themselves by doing so? "Temporary" as far as our occupation of Egypt was concerned, meant 15, 20, or 30 years, and there was not the remotest intention at present of leaving the country. It had been said we were there by the wishes of Egypt. But its Ministers and Assembly protested whenever they had a chance against our being there. The Ministers were told they must understand that their places depended on being our subordinate instruments and slaves, and to talk of the country having any voice in the matter under such circumstances was ridiculous. Then it was said we were occupying Egypt to teach the people self-government. Let the people of Egypt learn self-government by governing themselves. We have not yielded to the Egyptians a vestige of self-government. We had distributed well paid employés all over the country, and we governed by those employés who 1483 could not say their souls were their own. He joined with the right hon. Member for Bodmin in hoping that the Egyptian Government would not be recouped. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said they had the right to borrow up to £1,000,000 sterling. They had the right to temporarily borrow that sum for current expenses and issue Treasury bills. But this Vote was not in the nature of Treasury bills but a permanent loan, only to be paid off when they had the money. It was most desirable that the Egyptian Government should understand that it could not wage wars and bully the money out of others. [Cheers.] Dr. Johnson said that patriotism was "the last refuge of scoundrels." [Laughter.] The last refuge of a Minister when he had no better reason to give for his policy was a general plea of philanthropy. [Renewed laughter.] When the Chancellor of the Exchequer got down to that he had got down to the lowest abyss. Were we to go careering about the world to look for a country which was in difficulties, and when we had found one to undertake an expedition to make that country our own? If that was the right hon. Gentleman's philanthropy it should, like charity, begin at home. If Armenia had been as easy to get at as the Soudan we should have made an expedition there. The Chancellor of the Exchequer sneered at the Armenians. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] He said, "Are black men nothing?" He himself believed the Soudanese were brown rather than black—[laughter]—but what did it matter whether a man was a Mahomedan, Buddhist, or Christian? He would prefer to spend money in defending the Armenians than the Soudanese. He understood the Soudanese were ready to be killed rather than submit to foreign rule. It was said we remained in Egypt because the Egyptians were not capable of governing themselves. Yet we were going to impose on the Egyptians the obligation of governing the Soudan. There were two reasons why the expedition to Dongola was undertaken. The first was that we might keep well with France and Germany, and the next that we might back up the Triple Alliance. But a stronger reason still was that we ourselves might extend our territory on the southern frontier of Egypt and increase the area of our dominion in that part of the world. 1484 It was perfectly absurd to tell the House that we were likely to get out of Egypt quicker because we had undertaken this Soudan expedition. He intended to do his utmost by his vote—a miserable way of doing it when in such a minority—to show that Radicals would have no part in this policy of continuous occupation of Egypt, and still less in this expedition which was undertaken by a vague jingo feeling to be developed and kept up every year to first take one country and then another. The right hon. Member for Bodmin said he did not think Lord Salisbury had changed his mind. But there was no question but that Lord Salisbury had changed his policy. A few years ago Lord Salisbury declared that it was impossible to conquer the Soudan. The answer was now, "We are showing you we can conquer it." That was a gambler's answer. It was no argument that we should conquer the Soudan because we could do so. But we had not conquered the Soudan. He believed Lord Salisbury was a more sensible man than the majority of his Party. [Ministerial laughter.] Lord Salisbury had made a concession, but he had always noticed that concessions Lord Salisbury made to hon. Gentlemen were in words rather than deeds. There were only two strong Little Englanders in this country—Lord Salisbury and himself. [Much laughter.] Lord Salisbury in the exigencies of his position as Leader of the Conservative Party had changed his policy but had not changed his own opinions. The right hon. Member for Montrose said that the Government must have been mad in undertaking this expedition to Dongola. Hon. Members might have heard of a monarch called King Cambyses, who, having acquired and squatted Egypt, tried to conquer the Soudan. The consequence was that when he got there his friends came to the conclusion that he was mad, and he disappeared. [Laughter.] The Government had only to go on asking for money for these expeditions, and they would cease to live as Ministers of the Crown. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ARNOLD-FORSTER (Belfast, W.)
thought we should pause before we went any further in the Soudan. We had pledged ourselves over and over again as to what our policy in Egypt should be. He had refreshed his 1485 memory as to the terms of those pledges, and they were such as, if made between honourable men in private life, would constitute a strong obligation. He would dike to put this question to a simple test. He would like to take his own, or any other constituency, and try to ascertain if 90 out of any 100 persons could put down on paper what were in their opinion the advantages to be gained, not by Egypt but by the people of Great Britain and Ireland, by the policy of the Government. Though it was possible that the other 10 might be able to formulate reasons which would satisfy themselves, he undertook to say that every one of them would differ. No doubt the English officers in Egypt had been doing magnificent work; but wherever a British officer was put down to do a piece of work he did it well, and made the country in which he worked better than he found it. The work they had done in Egypt might be a very good thing for Egypt, but was it an equally good thing for the people of this country; for, after all, he had an infinitely greater regard for the people of this country than he had for the people of Egypt. It was suggested that the waterway of the Nile and that the commerce of Egypt were of great importance to this country, but he did not see that we need lose the commerce of Egypt if some international arrangement was arrived at, and even if we had ten times the amount of commerce which Egypt offered to us, it would not compensate for ten minutes of the international conflict that might be forced upon us by our remaining in the country without: some such arrangement. It could not be contended that Egypt was of any military advantage to this country. There was a consensus of opinion on that point. That was the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief and of the Primo Minister, and it was only common sense to say that it could not be a source of strength to this country to have 3,000 men in Egypt, with a base 4,000 miles from the centre of the power of this country, and separated from it by powerful and it might be hostile Powers. Moreover, it was also the universal opinion that the very idea of using the Canal as a means of communication in time of war was preposterous. It was clear, therefore, that, from a military point of view, no advantage accrued to this country. On the other hand, there could be 1486 no doubt that the danger which was inherent in the situation was something extraordinary. He had always held very strongly that there were matters on which we came into conflict with French opinion, to combat which it was undoubtedly right that the whole power of this country should be used; but he admired the French nation and had no desire to run the risk of a quarrel with them on this matter. It might be shown that we had a good argument here and there, but the main fact remained that we were pursuing this policy in direct hostility to Franco and Russia, whether they were right or wrong. No one had a greater belief than he had in the power of this country. He believed that still, even in the changed state of the world, the British Empire was the strongest Power existing, on one condition and one condition only, that the whole force and power of the Empire was exerted with the consent and enthusiastic support of the Anglo-Saxon population, and he did not think it possible to secure the support of the country in a campaign arising in Egypt on this question with that unanimity which could alone justify the Government in undertaking it. There might be reasons for this policy which had not been confided to the House and which might throw a totally different light on the question, but if that was so, he did not see why the House should not be told of them. There was an old fable of the giant who recuperated his strength every time he touched Mother Earth. He would reverse that fable and say that every yard we went from the only element which was the source of our strength, we endangered our position in the world. He had no wish to appear as an alarmist about dangers from abroad, but he would point out that in India we were governing a great country that was a great strain on our powers. We kept up there 70,000 British troops and a native force of 200,000, and we did not find that excessive for the purpose. Were we now to take in hand a second India, were we to undertake the administration of another great country without taking any of those precautions which experience had taught us ought to be taken? He could not see any compensation held out at the present moment for the efforts we might be compelled to make, and he would feel much happier in his mind if he thought 1487 that Her Majesty's Government realised that there were only two alternatives in this matter. One was that by the diplomacy of their great chief, some arrangement might be made by which this bone of contention between the Powers of Europe might be removed, and by which this country might administer Egypt with the full consent of the Powers of Europe. The other alternative was to continue their policy in defiance of the other Powers of Europe. If the Government were going to adopt the latter course let them, at all events, take ordinary, reasonable precautions, such as reasonable men of business would take when undertaking a great risk. Let them double the army and double the navy, strengthen the Mediterranean garrisons, and make all the preparations necessary for a contingency which every man in the House knew was not inconceivable and not altogether improbable; for, he contended, when the Government were deliberately adopting a policy which brought them into constant and irritating conflict with two great Powers, they did run risks which it was absolutely futile to ignore.
§ MR. H. M. STANLEY (Lambeth, N.)
said that if his hon. Friend below him was not an alarmist of an extreme character, he did not know how he would define the word. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the hon. Gentleman was even more so than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose. "What are you doing in Egypt?" they asked one after another. "We do not understand your policy. You are offending France and you are offending Russia, and you are preparing for a great war." That was the meaning of the speeches he had heard so far. He entertained the very opposite view, and he could see nothing at all alarming in the situation in Egypt or in any purview of the world he could take round about it—["hear, hear!"]—and, if we kept our temper, he did not see why we should not emerge successfully from the dismal possibilities that were suggested. The British troops were merely acting as policemen in Lower Egypt. They were Egyptian troops, under the leadership of British officers, who were marching up the Nile. There was nothing at all alarming in the position of affairs. Two P. and O. steamers could, if necessary, bring away the entire British force; and all the fleets of France and Russia could 1488 not prevent them. In going to Abu Hamed and building a railway from there to Wady Haifa the Government were taking a more important step than even the march upon Dongola. At Abu Hamed they would command the entire White Nile. It was a splendid strategical position, and, possessing it, they might be said to cut the Soudan in two. The right hon. Member for Montrose took an extremely dismal view of the case. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman what were the Government doing in Egypt more than Russia was doing in Siberia, or France between the Senegal and the Niger? They were building railways to exploit their territories. Egypt was doing exactly the same thing, and the British Government merely stood by approving and advising. The same tone of exaggeration was heard now that had marked the discussion last year, when it was said that we were locking up our forces in the Soudan. The right hon. Member for Montrose said these were delicate and dangerous transactions. What was delicate and dangerous? Staying in Egypt until we thought it absolutely necessary that we should leave? The only imprudent language used had been that of the right hon. Gentleman himself. As he listened to the right hon. Gentleman he got a beautiful insight into the causes of the instability and vacillation of the Gladstonian Government of 1880. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to be saying:—It was I who caused all that vacillation; it was I who caused that railway to be laid down and then taken up again; it was I who sent the expedition too late to Khartoum; it was I who caused General Gordon to be lost; it was I who sacrificed the interests of the Soudan.
§ MR. STANLEY
said the right hon. Gentleman had stated that he had been for the last 12 or 14 years a most energetic opponent of these Soudan expeditions.
§ MR. STANLEY
repeated that he read in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks the reason for the vacillation of the Gladstonian Government. That Government showed the same singular timidity which was manifested by the right hon. Gentleman now. The present Government knew exactly what they were going to do. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] They were not going a mile further than their strength would permit: every advance would depend on financial and political considerations. At present their objective was Abu Hamed, and it was as easy of access as his house was from there. [Laughter.] He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to take courage; he had studied the question as much as any man in the House, and he believed this expedition to Abu Hamed would result in remarkable consequences, not only to Egypt, and the Soudan, but to the whole world.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)
moved to reduce the Vote by £72,500, which was approximately the amount that Ireland would have to contribute.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
As I informed the hon. Member the last time he tried to raise that question, it would be distinctly out of order on a Supplementary Estimate.
THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The matter cannot be discussed on this Vote; it is not relevant. Even if the hon. Member succeeded in diminishing the amount it would not relieve Ireland from contributing her share.
§ MR. KNOX
said he would move the reduction as a matter of protest. This was a question for the taxpayers. The taxpayers of England could look after themselves; but on behalf of the taxpayers of Ireland he objected to this enormous expenditure on a futile expedition. Unless they attacked the expenditure year after year, and voted for economy, however unpopular it might be, they would not release the people from the burden of taxation that was pressing on the country. He did not take the extreme line of contending that 1490 Ireland had no interest in any Imperial expenditure outside her own shores. Ireland was as much interested as any other part of the Kingdom, in expansion in regions where white men might labour and flourish. But he denied that the mass of the people either in Ireland or Great Britain were in favour of expansion in the Nile Valley. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had used language about the tribunals of Egypt which would have been out of order if applied to the Courts of this country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that he intended to consider whether the Court that had decided against him could not undergo some change. Many international lawyers were of opinion that the decision of the Court was right; yet the right hon. Gentleman said that when the opportunity arrived he should upset the Court. Against such language he protested, because it might be expensive language for Ireland as well as Great Britain. The threat to establish a different sort of mixed tribunal, or perhaps an exclusively English tribunal, was a threat deliberately directed against France and Russia. They had been told that the first cause of the expedition to Dongola was to relieve the Italians, but as against that there was the statement of the late Minister for Foreign Affairs in Italy, that the Italians did not want our intervention. There was, he knew, a conflict of opinion as to what was really said at an interview at the Foreign Office, but whether the Italians asked for this aid or not, Irishmen had no desire to pay for what had been done or to do anything that would encourage the Italian Government in their disastrous policy in Africa. The real object of British policy had been to checkmate France. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that France and Russia would not "worry" England out of Egypt. Well, he did not suppose that they would be able to worry England into keeping her pledges by anything short of force. Irishmen knew by long experience that force was the only thing that would make the English people keep their plighted word. When the Government said to the French and Russians that they would not be worried out of Egypt, they were telling the French and Russians that if they wanted to get the British out of Egypt they must take more formidable measures 1491 than worry, and must use their armies and navies to do it. As the representative of a country which had to pay far more than its full share of Imperial expenditure, and which contributed far more than its fair share of fighting men to the Army that in the case of war would be sent to wage a hopeless contest against Powers that were infinitely stronger than England, he protested against the right hon. Member's note of menace against France and Russia. In Ireland they had no reason to regard France in any other light than in that of an old ally and friend, and for the last 80 years France had been, on the whole, more friendly to England than Germany had. France had shared with England the folly of the Crimean War, and had helped her on many other occasions. He failed to see any ground for the Government taking this attitude against France on the present occasion, unless it were that they were the catspaw of Germany. Of course the German Empire had supported the action of England before the mixed tribunal, but it was not out of love for this country. It was because Germany knew that anything that would embroil France and England would be to her advantage, for a dispute between the two countries would divert the attention of France from her lost provinces and the attention of the people of this country from affairs in South Africa. It was thus to the interest of Germany to aid England in making this new departure in her Egyptian policy. Ministers had said that England would clear out of Egypt as soon as the Egyptian people were fit to govern themselves. It amused Irishmen to hear of this preparation of Egypt for self-government. For 700 years England had been teaching the Irish people how to govern themselves, and apparently they were not yet fit to do so. At any rate, England refused them self-government. If England was not to fulfil her pledges to Europe by leaving Egypt until she had fitted the people for self-government, 700 years, judging from Irish experience, might elapse before that consummation was arrived at. There was not the slightest possibility of Egypt being able to govern herself in the ordinary European sense within any reasonable period of time. If the British Government would consent to some system of European control for Egypt, the reality 1492 of their pledges might be believed in. But if they said that they would not leave Egypt until the occurrence of an event which they knew was not likely to occur in the lifetime of any man in that House, they were practically telling Europe that they were going to break the pledges which they had solemnly given. The right hon. Member for Bodmin had spoken of Egypt having been handed over to her creditors. He protested against this notion of handing over a country to its creditors as if it was a limited liability company. Why was it that this doctrine had not been applied in the case of other European countries? There was hardly a self-governing country in the world that had borrowed money abroad and that had not afterwards gone into bankruptcy and refused to pay. Even Italy had taxed its coupons, which was a gross breach of faith with the creditors. Why had not Italy been forced to pay to the uttermost farthing? The reason why the doctrine had been applied in the case of Egypt was because her people were helpless. If Egypt had been allowed to go on her own way, the fellaheen might have been subjected to some injustice, but they would not have been as heavily taxed as they were to-day. Sir Edgar Vincent, in his book on the Finances of the Ottoman Empire, pointed out that since the English had taken possession of Egypt the yield of the taxation of tobacco had increased sevenfold. That showed how the policy of the British administration of Egypt had been to screw the last farthing out of the people for the benfit of the bondholders. In fact, the policy which was being pursued in the case of Egypt was the same as that which had been pursued in Ireland for so many years. They had been told that there was to be no further expenditure on the Egyptian expedition this year. But was the financial year meant or the calendar year? They were not told how far the Government intended to go. Perhaps to the Mountains of the Moon. What they did know was that further sums would be demanded time after time for these expeditions which did not serve the interests of the mass of the people either of Ireland or Great Britain. They were told that these expeditions would destroy the tyranny of the Khalifate; but, bad as the Khalif might be, he doubted whether he was much worse than 1493 some of the other Mussulman potentates who had been backed by British power—for instance, the Sultan of Morocco. The cruelties of the Khalif might go on for a long time if it were not that the Government thought the territory could be obtained without much trouble and without any European Power interfering. He should protest against this proposal at every stage and at every opportunity allowed to the Irish Members. They might try whether worry might not bit by bit force the Government to deal with the definite grievances of the Irish people. He believed greatly in the power of worry, and he believed that France and Russia had done an ex-
§ cellent bit of work in protesting as they had done. Though their protests might not have kept back this expedition, still in the end those protests would tell, because they had prevented the Government from regularising their position as they might have done. The Irish Members, therefore, would "worry, worry, worry," until they forced the Government to pay attention to Ireland's definite grievances, and as an instalment of that "worry" he moved the reduction of the Vote by £72,500.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 29; Noes, 139.—(Division List, No. 18—appended.)1495
|Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-Lyme)||Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H.||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Brigg, John||Hogan, James Francis||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Ure, Alexander|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Macaleese, Daniel||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Clough, Walter Owen||McKenna, Reginald||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Colville, John||McLeod, John||Wilson, John (Govan)|
|Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Pinkerton, John||TELLERS FOR THE. AYES, Mr.|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||Knox and Mr. JamesO'Connor.|
|Gilhooly, James||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampstead)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lnc., SW.)||Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||Hopkinson, Alfred|
|Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness)||Dane, Richard M.||Houston, R. P.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Johnston, William (Belfast)|
|Balfour Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Kenny, William|
|Balfour, Gerald William (Leeds)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Kenrick, William|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Knowles, Lees|
|Barry, A. H. Smith-(Hunts)||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Mnc'r.)||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Finch-Hatton, Hon. Harold H.||Loa, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)|
|Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. H. (Brstl.)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'nsea)|
|Bethell, Commander||Fisher, William Hayes||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Bhownaggree, M. M.||Fison, Frederick William||Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham)|
|Bigham, John Charles||Flannery, Fortescue||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (L'pool.)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Forster, Henry William||Lorne, Marquess of|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Fry, Lewes||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Bucknill, Thomas Townsend||Gilliat, John Saunders||Macdona, John cumming|
|Butcher, John George||Godson, Augustus Frederick||McCalmont, Maj.-Gn. (Ant'm, N)|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Goldsworthy, Major-General||McKillop, James|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh||Gordon, John Edward||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r.)||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. G'rg's.)||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Graham, Henry Robert||Monk, Charles James|
|Clarke, Sir Edward (Plymouth)||Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'y)||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Gretton, John||More, Robert Jasper|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds)||Havelock-Allan, General Sir H.||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Heaton, John Henniker||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Helder, Augustus||Penn, John|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hill Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down)||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Pierpoint, Robert||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Wharton, John Lloyd|
|Pryce-Jones, Edward||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Purvis, Robert||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm.)|
|Pym, C. Guy||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Renshaw, Charles Bine||Strauss, Arthur||Wyndham, George|
|Richardson, Thomas||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir Matthew W.||Thornton, Percy M.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Warkworth, Lord||TELLERS FOR THE NOES, Sir|
|Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)||Warr, Augustus Frederick||William Walrond and Mr.|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)||Anstruther|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Webstor, Sir R. E. (Isle of Wight)|
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
resumed the Debate on the main question. He said there could be no doubt of the strength of the controversial case against the policy and proposals of the Government in regard to the Soudan; and that some of the language used in presenting those proposals might be open to exception. In the first place they were confronted with the problem of "Who is to pay?" and with the unsatisfactory results of the attempts which had been made to solve it. Then there was the query whether the Dongola expedition was just what was needed, when it took place, to soothe the lively suspicions of the European Powers regarding the motives underlying our action in trying to save the Armenians. There were also the questions whether the security of the province which had been recovered for Egypt could be set against the massacres which had taken place under the Sultan, and whether anything was better calculated than the Dongola expedition to reduce our position of "splendid isolation" to one of sheer impotency at Constantinople. There was further the unfortunate impression that had been made by the number, the variety, and the general futility of the reasons offered in favour of the expedition. There was also the feeling amongst those who particularly desired the evacuation of Egypt, that the road to that goal hardly lay through Dongola. He was not sure that that view was entirely correct; but the feeling existed on both sides of the House and everywhere abroad that the occupation of Dongola was a step rather against the evacuation of Egypt than in that direction. It was not surprising, therefore, that there was a, strong opposition to the Vote. But there were strong elementary 1496 facts connected with the present situation which underlay all else. They had to regard accomplished facts which relate to the future of Egypt and to the policy of the Government as the acting trustee for Egypt. The expedition, however ill-timed, was a success. Dongola was occupied. The weakness of the Khalifa was exposed. So long as the Khalifa was all-powerful, or was supposed to be, he was able to hold the Nile against all comers. He stopped the development of Egypt; but he was the foe to all advances upon the Nile valley. The expedition to Dongola had changed all that. In his view the pivot of the whole question of the movement into the Soudan was the condition of the Khalifa's power. Once that power was broken up, whether from internal causes, or external causes, the re-occupation of the Nile valley became easy and opportune. The break-up of the Khalifa's power meant anarchy in the regions over which he had exercised his despotism, and a condition of weakness upon the Egyptian frontier that would oblige us to interfere. But it involved more than that. It created a standing temptation to other Powers, whether advancing from the West, or through Abyssinia, to establish claims in the Nile valley. Therefore, if we did not allow Egypt to go forward we would leave interests on the Upper Nile open to others. Indeed, by standing deliberately aloof now we would almost invite other Powers to go in, to the prejudice of Egypt, for whom we were trustee, as well as to our own prejudice, and while our interest in the matter was important that of Egypt was vital. Having occupied Uganda, our influence should extend until it met the influence of Egypt. He believed that this policy would rather remove obstacles to our evacuation of Egypt than tend to unnecessarily prolong our occupation, for one of the great objections to quitting the 1497 country was the want of a settled frontier for Egypt towards the south. The breakup of the power of the Khalifa was therefore the beginning and end of his belief that the forward policy had become the right policy. It was right first because, whether they liked it or not, it was practical and opportune; and, secondly, because it was necessary to prevent new dangers and developments which were dormant so long as the Khalifa's power was not known to be so broken as to invite attack on the part of other Powers. It might, of course, be said that while acting professedly in the interests of Egypt we were doing it with our own money. But so far as that was concerned Egypt left alone could do it without us, if the Powers did not hold her purse-strings, and if they drew those strings absurdly tight—as they had often done for political reasons to suit themselves—he did not see why we should not case the tension for reasons which suited us. It suited us to lake that course now, for being on the Upper Nile we wanted the valley opened, and we preferred that it should be occupied by a Power that would at least be neutral. Our obligations to Egypt and to ourselves in this matter coincided, apart from the question of our actual occupation of Egypt at the present moment. Therefore, however much the Government might be blamed, and as he thought rightly blamed, for the time and the manner in which this expedition was conceived and carried out, he was unable to vote against the granting of the sum of money which was asked for.
§ MR. SHARPE (Kensington, N.)
said the Soudan expedition, so far as it had gone, was not alone absolutely necessary, but its extension further up the river Nile was most essential if this country desired to retain the place it occupied among the nations of the world. England was not merely a European Power; it was a great Asiatic Power also; and Egypt being a country with a double face—one towards the Mediterranean and the other towards the Red Sea—it was absolutely necessary if we wished to retain India, and to continue to be the predominant Power in Asia, that we should see that Egypt retained its security, and became a civilised, powerful, and well-governed country. As regarded our power to hold Egypt from India, he would remind them that 1498 about 100 years ago its feasibility was proved triumphantly and successfully by the great Lord Wellesley. At the very time when England was engaged in a death struggle with France he sent a few thousand troops from India, landed them at Kosseir on the Red Sea, sent them 100 miles across country to the Nile, and got them down by river to Lower Egypt, with the result that the great Napoleon was obliged to evacuate Egypt, as his troops were caught in a trap. That was a power that we still had—and still more in this age of steam. ["Hear, hear!"] He tendered the Chancellor of the Exchequer his warmest thanks for the patriotic and bold spirit with which he had asserted the position that England ought to occupy in this matter. It was a great and serious trust that had devolved upon this nation, and it had devolved upon them by the deliberate action of France, when invited to join, in refusing the invitation. This country had proved how successfully it could make Egypt happy, flourishing, and powerful. The average Englishman might not know all the reasons for these matters of high policy; but he believed, nevertheless, that any assembly of operatives or artisans, or of men of any class in the country would say, if the facts were laid fairly and fully before them, that they ought not to abandon the position they had occupied in Egypt.
§ MR. W. A. McARTHUR (Cornwall, St. Austell)
said he wished to give the reasons which induced him to give his vote in favour of Her Majesty's Government. He did not propose to enter into the earlier question raised by the right hon. Member for Montrose. He felt, as he supposed all of them on that side of the House felt, that to a considerable extent very grave mistakes had been made by Her Majesty's Government in the conduct of this matter. Of course, he spoke without knowledge as to any possible European complications that might have ensued if the Government had taken the course that he would have desired, but he thought it would have been better if the Government had felt themselves able boldly and plainly last year to tell the House of Commons what they intended to do. It was a course, whatever might be the opinion of individual Members of that House, that he felt perfectly certain would have gained 1499 them credit in the country, and would have made them more popular in the country even amongst the Members of the Liberal Party. He thought it was a pity that the Government last year did not feel justified in saying that they thought the time had come to undertake what was practically the reconquest of the Soudan and the establishment of Egyptian or English influence up to Khartoum—for his own part, he should not be at all afraid to say beyond Khartoum. The expedition to Dongola had been a brilliant success; there was no question that we had not only conquered a former enemy of this country, but that we had delivered a vast population who regarded us as their saviour, from a grossly tyrannical and unjust rule. Ministerial cheers.]
said that whether the Soudanese were the enemies of this country or not they had been under the dominion of the most tyrannical and cruel Power in this world. Any one who had read the extraordinary book written by Slatin Pasha, and who yet said that the Soudanese were not a nation who ought to have been delivered from such gross tyranny, was not a politician imbued with the ideas that dominated the old Liberal Party. [Ministerial cheers.] Whatever in his view might be the mistakes which the Government had made in the conduct of this matter—and he thought that grave mistakes had been made—he was compelled by his conscience, and by the declarations which he had made not only in that House, but to his own constituents, to give his vote in favour of a forward rather than a retrograde policy. [Ministerial cheers.] He had always claimed and been allowed to take a perfectly free hand in regard to foreign or colonial affairs, and he never would admit, whether he was a Member of a Government or of an Opposition, that either foreign or colonial affairs were matters to be brought within the purview of Party politics in that House. [Ministerial cheers.] He had said on a former occasion that he was prepared to support any definite policy proposed by a responsible Government in regard to Egypt, but what would become of the vast population we had taken 1500 under our protection if we left Egypt? It was quite impossible for us to leave Egypt, even if we wished to do so, without leaving the country as we found it, without restoring to Egypt those provinces which were hers when we first intervened in the affairs of the country. He did not say that was a policy which would pay England in a monetary sense, but it was a policy which made for righteousness—[Ministerial cheers]—for civilisation, for peace in those disturbed districts of the world, for liberty for an enslaved and oppressed people. [Cheers.] He did not, agree with those who thought that England had enough territory to take care of, that England was not capable of taking charge of more native races than she had charge of at present; and, holding the views he did, he felt it would be unworthy in him if he refrained from voting for the proposition Her Majesty's Government had now made. [Cheers.]
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
said he would not have intervened in the Debate but for the unfortunate speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast. His hon. Friend alluded to him and other naval men. If naval men could have heard that speech, not a single one of them would have approved of it, for a more chicken-hearted and miserable speech it was impossible to conceive. He was amazed that such weak sentiments should come from a generally strong man, and he entered his emphatic protest against such views as the hon. Gentleman had expressed being uttered by a supporter, or a pretended supporter, of Her Majesty's Government. He was equally amazed at the speech of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for the Forest of Dean, whom he had always regarded as a strong Imperialist, He expected anything from the hon. Member for Northampton, but he was surprised that the right hon. Baronet should utter the sentiments he had given expression to. Two admirable speeches had, however, been delivered from the Opposition benches, and they could well be put as a set-off to the miserable speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast. The Government had nothing to fear from their supporters. There had been no halting or hesitation as regarded Egypt, whatever might have happened in respect to their educational policy. The Members who sat around him were prepared 1501 to support as one man the forward policy in Egypt. The situation had greatly altered since some naval men did express rather strong views in regard to the Suez Canal. He remembered Lord Charles Beresford saying that the Suez Canal would be no use to us in case of war, and that it might be our duty to block it. Those, however, were now ancient opinions. If we wanted to evacuate Egypt we could not do so with honour. We had a duty to perform before the world. We were in Egypt by the force of circumstances, and there we would have to remain for some indefinite period, whether we liked it or not. Whether it involved a million now or to-morrow, we could not acquit ourselves of our responsibilities. Allusion had been made by the hon. Member for West Belfast to an international agreement. We had held joint Government and joint control, but that did not answer. If joint control by two Powers did not answer, was it likely that joint control by four or five Powers would answer? Naval men unanimously regretted the necessity cast on the Conservative Government in 1886, to agree to the policy of neutralising the Suez Canal. It was the Government which hon. Members opposite supported which landed us in that unfortunate policy. In 1885 the Conservatives came into office but not into power. The French Ambassador called upon Lord Salisbury's Government to take action under the Note sent to the Powers by Lord Granville, and Lord Salisbury very propery replied that there would be a General Election in the autumn, and he was not sure he would come back with a majority. After the election the Conservatives were quickly turned out, and in came the Government led by Mr. Gladstone. The French Ambassador approached Mr. Gladstone, asking him to ratify the action of Lord Granville. Mr. Gladstone said "No, I am about to bring in a Home Rule Bill, and whatever happens to that Bill, there must be a Dissolution upon it," and, God be praised, the Bill was defeated. There was a Dissolution, and the French Ambassador was put off on that score very properly. Lord Salisbury came into power with a large majority, and then the French Ambassador returned to the charge. Nothing amazed and delighted him more than to 1502 see the sagacity which their distinguished Leader manifested on that occasion. Lord Salisbury would not, having regard to the safety of our Indian possessions, agree to any policy of neutrality unless provision was made for the passing of troops through Egypt in case of the canal being blocked. The French Ambassador disapproved of that proposal, but ultimately agreed to not more than 1,000 troops passing through Egypt in one day, and to arms being packed in arm chests. Where would we be if we evacuated Egypt? How would we pass our troops through Egypt if the canal were blocked? Being in Egypt were we not in a better position to guard the neutrality of the canal than we should be if Egypt were in the hands of another Power. The Government had a, moral obligation in this matter from which they could not depart, and hon. Members ought to be like a band of brothers, hand in hand in support of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cornwall (Mr. Courtney) in his charming speech made allusion to the good effect of our rule in Egypt. The details were worthy of attention. We have abolished forced labour, we have abolished the courbash, we have reorganised the finances, and we have largely extended the irrigating waters of the Nile. So that now, districts which were once barren were fertile. The occupation of Dongola was, in itself, an argument against the policy of withdrawal. One hon. Member had said he thought the policy of the Government was ill-timed, but it appeared to him that the success of the expedition was a pretty strong proof that it was well-timed. ["Hear, hear!"] But he thoroughly agreed with that hon. Member when he said that, having gone to Dongola, the operations should go further, should go on to Khartoum, and even further than that. [Ironical Opposition cheers.] For his own part, he did not care how far the Government went; the further they went on to the reconquest of the Soudan the better he should be pleased. He had always supported the forward policy of England in Egypt, and he hoped that policy would be continued. For those reasons he should heartily vote for the grant. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said that for upwards of 10 years he had consistently supported in that House the 1503 policy of the right hon. Member for Montrose and the hon. Member for Northampton on this question. Ever since the first occupation of Egypt he had taken every opportunity of protesting against that occupation. The hon. Member for St. Austell had said that the English people were able to take care of and to civilise more native races than we now had sway over. In his judgment the experience they had had recently of certain parts of South Africa—Matabeleland, for instance—were not calculated to encourage humane men in the desire that we should carry on the work of civilisation farther; and for his own part, he agreed with the statement made by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean that the general results of European interference' in the interior of Africa had been enormously to increase suffering and loss of life among the native population. Civilisation in Africa, as understood by European interference, meant the establishment of European vices—the introduction of drink and murderous weapons; and travellers had stated that the track of European civilisation was marked by the skeletons of hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants who had been cruelly slain. He objected to this Vote, in the first place, because it was in reality a grant to Egypt, and in the shape of a mortgage on the country, which would be used by England as an excuse and a justification for indefinitely postponing her occupation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the money was to be advanced to Egypt as a loan, though it was called in the Estimates a grant in aid; but no attempt was made by the Government to explain how the money was ever to be repaid. No answer had been made to the statement of the right hon. Member for Bodmin and the hon. Member for Northampton that, in view of the present condition of Egypt, it was impossible for the Egyptian Government to repay the loan for at least a great number of years. Part of this loan was to be expended in connection with the construction of a railway, and until someone came along and paid England for it, it would be used as an ample argument by England for retaining possession of it. In face of this, was it any matter for surprise that Russia and France should have protested against this loan? The 1504 Government seemed to have given the go-by to this important fact. England stood pledged in the face of the whole of Europe to evacuate Egypt as soon as her work was done there. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] Yes; but would any responsible Minister rise in his place and say that that work included the re-conquest of the Soudan, and all the serious consequences which undoubtedly would result from it? ["Hear, hear!"] Europe could interpret the action of the Government in this matter in no other sense than as a declaration that England held Egypt, and meant to hold it. What he said last year he would now repeat, that he believed the Dongola campaign, or any other campaign for the reconquest of Egypt, was a matter of trifling importance as compared with the opinion of Russia and France on our proceedings. He never doubted that the expedition to Dongola, with the superior weapons, discipline, and command of the Egyptian troops, would be successful; and brave as the Dervishes undoubtedly were, there could be no doubt that any further expedition forward towards Khartoum would be equally successful; but he held that the troubles of this country, and of Egypt, would begin in real earnest when Khartoum was reached. Our embarrassments with Russia and France would then greatly increase. He therefore further strongly objected to the Vote for the reason that he believed it would be calculated to have long, far-reaching, and dangerous consequences to the relations of this country with France. He objected also to the form of the Vote. Last year they had a distinct pledge from the Government, when they were defending their action in the beginning of the Dongola campaign, that no English money beyond the mere expense of the officers would be asked for. But now, after the expedition had been brought to a termination, they were asked to vote the sum of. £798,000 to be applied to Egypt. Yet we had no account furnished—no details given to us such as were afforded in the ordinary Estimates of the year. They had no means, therefore, of checking this account. He should like to know who certified it? The Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing in the Vote did not even deign to give the Committee any details as to how the money was to be spent, Was the account to 1505 be checked in the Egyptian Treasury, or by the Comptroller General and the Financial Department, who looked over the Estimates and certified the expenditure by the House of Commons. They were entitled, before they were asked to vote this money, to know whether a new system was to be started in the House of Commons of voting large sums of money to the Egyptian Government, the expenditure of which was to be checked and accounted for, not by the Audit Office of this country but by some institution in Egypt. They had no means of knowing whether a portion of the money might not be disposed of for some purpose different to that for which that House voted it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I can assure the hon. Member, if it is any comfort to him, that I went through the whole details of this expenditure with Mr. Dawkins, of the Egyptian Finance Department. He accounted to me for the whole of the details, and I am perfectly satisfied. [Cheers.]
§ MR. DILLON
said that was a very important concession, on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. There was another matter on which he would like to say a word or two. They were told last year, and they had been told again this year, that the British Government had nothing to do with this expedition practically speaking—that it was an Egyptian expedition and that it would be undertaken by the Egyptian Government. He thought that it was positively absurd, it was a perfect mockery, for a responsible Minister to stand up in the House of Commons and talk about the Egyptian Government doing this and agreeing to that, when they knew perfectly well that the Egyptian Government sat on the Front Treasury Bench, and that the Khedive was a mere puppet in the hands of British Ministers, and was not allowed to do anything except as Lord Cromer ordered him. They had heard, through this Debate, a great deal of talk about the horrible and diabolical tyranny of the Khalifa, and the desire of the English 1506 Government to put an end to it and to set free the subject populations of the Soudan, who were represented to them as groaning under this tyranny. But he had never heard any proof brought forward as to the character of this diabolical tyranny, except the book of Slatin Pasha. It was a most interesting book, but he must confess that he should not be disposed to receive all his statements as gospel truth without some corroborative evidence. He really thought it was an outrageous thing to justify this expedition of the testimony of Slatin Pasha's book, which was quoted in that House as proof positive and sufficient of the tyranny of the Khalifa. Personally, he had his grave doubts about this "frightful tyranny." He was certain of one thing—that the tyranny of the Khalifa was Christian civilised government compared with the conduct of their ally the Sultan of Turkey. He defied anyone in that House to prove that the Khalifa, who was denounced as a most infamous tyrant, had ever been guilty of the cruelty of which the Sultan of Turkey had been guilty in the last two years. It was all humbug—it was to quote the now classical words of Mr. Cecil Rhodes, a sample of "unctuous rectitude." The Chancellor of the Exchequer was wroth because his speech was described as an exasperating and defiant one. He should be very much surprised if that was not the interpretation put upon it to-morrow by the European Press. The right hon. Gentleman said the judgment of the Court of Appeal created a position in Egypt that was intolerable.
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman said that next year, in the ordinary course, the constitution of the Courts would come up for review, and it would be necessary to raise the whole question of jurisdiction and composition. In what connection would that reconsideration be conducted? To lessen the power of France and Russia in Egypt, and for no other object. ["Hear, hear!"] To put a check on the power of veto of France and Russia would be the object, and certainly France and Russia would exhibit more patience and forbearance than he 1507 gave those Governments credit for if they quietly acquiesced in a rearrangement of the Court of Appeal when it was avowedly made to reduce their power and influence. It reminded him of proceedings in Ireland. The Government did not like the composition of the Court, but never quarrelled with the Court until a verdict was recorded against them, and then the remedy proposed was to pack the Court, to get a verdict or to destroy its jurisdiction altogether. France and Russia would have something to say upon that matter, and he would be very much surprised if, before the country was engaged much further in this great invasion of the Soudan, we did not find a deal more concernment with a country much nearer to England than the Soudan, and the scene of operations or friction transferred from. Wady Halfa and Dongola to much nearer home. These were the reasons why he opposed the whole policy of this grant. There was another aspect of the case to which he would only allude for a moment, for he would be out of order if he were to bring it into debate. This policy of invasion of the Soudan entailed the building up of a gigantic empire in the heart of Africa. This was what the Tory Party meant, and if these provinces were conquered they would not be handed back to Egypt to be governed, for that would be ridiculous. A great empire was to be built up in the heart of Africa, a great railway and various other developments would follow, entailing a great increase in the Army, of which the beginning was already seen. He would not enter into these matters in detail, but, as an Irishman, and believing that the people of Ireland did not share in the advantages of enormous military and naval expenditure, he protested from an Irish point of view against every addition to that expenditure, and he protested especially against this, which would not bring the blessings of peace and prosperity or any kind of advantage to the inhabitants of the Soudan, but fresh wars, fresh massacres and miseries.
MR. R. PIERPOTNT (Warrington)
said he had heard with considerable interest allusions made with a sort of model piety from the other side of the House as to the way this country should fulfil its engagements and the promise given long ago to go out of Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] But were engagements only to be kept by 1508 this country, and by no other country? Had France never entered into any engagements concerning the Regency of Tunis? France had entered into engagements concerning Tunis, engagements as precise and binding as ever this country entered into in regard to Egypt. One or two extracts from official correspondence will show the nature of these engagements. Lord Lyons to Earl Granville, May 10, 1881:—He (M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire) begged me to report at once to Her Majesty's Government in the name of the Government of the Republic and in his own name, and in the most formal and explicit manner, the assurance that the French Government did not intend to annex Tunis. If it should be found necessary to occupy for a time certain points in the Regency with French troops, the occupation would, His Excellency said, be of an essentially provisional character, and would cease as soon as sufficient security had been obtained for the punctual execution by the Bey of the new arrangements, which would be effected by the Treaty which he would be required to make.Then, again. M. Barthélemy St. Hilaire to Lord Lyons, May 16, 1881:—Your Excellency remembers that on several occasions in my conversations with you I repudiated the idea of the conquest or annexation to Prance of any part of Tunisian territory. I have no difficulty in repeating here what I have already told you... We have no more desire to annex Bizerta than any other part of Tunis.He knew Tunis pretty well, and had, he thought, been more often there than the right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Dilke) had been to Egypt, and he was there three weeks ago. He had known Tunis for a good many years, and he could see nothing whatever in Tunis to lead to the belief that France had the slightest intention of ever fulfilling these engagements; apparently they had not the slightest intention of doing so. He remembered the city of Tunis when the French quarter of the town was very little better than waste land, and it is now built over with streets and boulevards, with French names, and no doubt the French had done exceedingly good work in the city and Regency of Tunis. M. St. Hilaire engaged that France would not annex Bizerta, but, in fact, the French had not only annexed it, but when he was there two years ago they had formed a naval station there. They had dredged the Lake of Bizerta, they had cut a channel between the sea and the lake, they had thrown out two piers 1509 into the sea, and they were forming a naval station with forts and guns in the rear of the lake. For himself, he confessed, though perhaps his opinion was not worth much, he regarded the Bay of Bizerta as a dangerous place to lay a fleet in, but it would be a dangerous place for any country at war with France with the French torpedo boats in the lake. That was what had taken place in regard to French engagements so far as Tunis was concerned, and this was an example of how other countries kept their engagements. One very strong reason why this expedition of the Egyptian Government, with the aid and advice of the English Government, should make the advance in the Soudan was that any Power, whether barbarous or civilised, that held the Blue Nile and the Atbara had the fortune and the very life of Egypt in the hollow of its hand. As Sir Samuel Baker had pointed out, it was possible for such a Power, "by throwing a dam across the empty bed during the dry season, to effectually deflect the stream when risen by the Abyssinian rains, and thus prevent the necessary flow towards Egypt," which could be ruined either by flood or famine. Sir Samuel, who was a great authority on these matters in the Soudan, said in a letter he wrote to The Times in 1888:I have seen a spot about 230 miles from the mouth of the Atbara where the river might he deflected without difficulty, and be forced to an eastern course towards the Red Sea.At the end of the same letter he said:—If I were myself an enemy of Egypt, I know the place where I should commence the fatal work upon the river Atbara.He thought these were very strong considerations, indeed, as to why this expedition should take place; besides the considerations which had already been given. He would not suggest that it was the intention of France or Russia, or both together, to take possession of the Blue Nile and the Atbara River. He would merely repeat that any Power, whether civilised or barbarous, which held the 1510 Atbara and the Blue Nile could actually dictate terms to the Egyptians themselves or any superior Power that held Egypt. That was a terrible danger to contemplate, and England, being in a position of a foster-mother to Egypt, would be very wrong, indeed, not to take every possible means to maintain the safety of the country she had taken in charge.
§ MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Burnley)
was bound to say he took a very different view, in this matter from that which had been expressed by the hon. Member for Warrington. That hon. Member had laid it down as his first proposition that France, having made certain engagements—which he did not think could be denied—with regard to Tunis, France had not respected those engagements, and was at present in possession of Tunis. He would point out to the hon. Member that, at all events, so far as Tunis was concerned, France had regulated her position in Tunis by diplomatic exchanges with the foreign Powers, and consequently the position of France in Tunis would be a legitimate and legal position, whereas our position in Egypt was something of a very different kind. The hon. Gentleman had told them that very often foreign questions and difficulties were initiated in that House. Was there ever a speech delivered in that House more likely to initiate foreign trouble than the one just delivered? It was an unprovoked attack on France. France, so far as he knew, was not called into question in that Debate except indirectly as regarded Egypt. But the hon. Member actually went out of his way to make a violent and hostile attack on France, and that was what he called smoothing down difficulties in the House of Commons! He desired not to treat so much the financial as the international aspects of the case, and what, he asked, would be the result to-morrow morning of Continental appreciation of the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He ventured to predict that it would be said 1511 in every capital of Europe that the British Government had now entered upon a new and determined policy with regard to Egypt, that they had made up their minds to disregard obligations and engagements, to flout Russia and France, and instead of allaying the irritation of those countries to provoke and increase it. That was the Government which was at the same time seeking to establish the concert of Europe? The most dangerous and fatal thing with regard to the Armenian difficulties had been that this country had not a good understanding with France and Russia, and was unable to go openly to them as friends without causes of difficulty and complaint between them. He was quite certain that if the Egyptian question had not been an open sore they should have had the concurrence and assistance of France in the settlement of the affairs of Turkey, and thousands of Armenian, lives would have been saved. This was an international question of the gravest importance, and one which was bound to expand and extend as time goes on. Did the Government suppose that by what was called "a firm policy" and "putting their foot down"—one of the favourite expressions of hon. Gentlemen opposite—they were going to settle the Egyptian question, and that the French nation—an avowedly high-spirited nation—were going to tamely accept the fact that they had announced their intention of resisting any kind of interference on their part? France had a perfect right by international agreement to take all the steps she had taken in the matter. He did not say that she had been wise. The French Government had often been extremely ill-advised. They would have been wiser had they pursued a less bickering policy. But they were perfectly justified in the general attitude they had taken, and by denouncing the French Government they had not settled the Egyptian question, but possibly had raised international questions of the highest importance. The hon. and gallant Admiral in his breezy speech referred to the neutrality of the Suez Canal, but did not attempt to controvert the statement of the hon. Member for West Belfast—a naval expert—that in the opinion of naval men the Suez Canal would be absolutely useless in time of war. When we first occupied Egypt it was believed that we 1512 occupied the nearest military route to India. But this view was now exploded, and the raison d'être for our occupying Egypt for strategical advantages no longer exists. We were called upon to pay a million for what had already been done, and what was to be done in Egypt—in the form of an advance which Egypt was to pay when it could. It was a mortgage upon Egypt, and no doubt it was thought that, as mortgagee, we should have a better claim on Egypt than we already possessed. The most important part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's declaration was that, when the continuation of the Mixed Court of Appeal came up next year, the Government intended to assume a different attitude, and he, himself, supposed they intended to say what hon. Gentlemen opposite had not the courage to say openly:—We have done all these things. We have spent this money. We have advanced into the interior of Africa. Egypt is unable to bear the burden of this enterprise, consequently we, the English Government, having done all this, can claim to announce that our occupation is not a temporary one, which we formerly said it would be, but the permanent occupation of the country.
§ MR. STANHOPE
said he knew the right hon. Gentleman did not, but all he had said led to that conclusion. It was the conclusion that would be drawn from his words by every responsible person in Europe. That being so, was it right that we should make this profound change in our foreign policy and put this enormous charge on our Exchequer, that we should free ourselves from obligations and engagements entered into years ago, without having this matter more fully discussed with the correspondence and papers before us. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ CAPT. BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
denied that the Chancellor of the Exchequer used words provocative to France in his speech. Was it wise on the part of the hon. Member who had just spoken (who, although he had not occupied a responsible position in office, was well known on the Continent) to put the worst interpretation that could be put upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, and misinterpret and 1513 caricature his meaning? Was it wise on the part of an hon. Member who advocated international arbitration and peace to try asfar as he could to provoke the underlying grievances that existed. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. friend had observed that France had put herself right with other countries by diplomatic arrangements. That was no doubt true, but was it untrue of England in relation to Egypt? Could it be said that this country had not constantly undertaken diplomatic intercourse with France and other countries in relation to Egypt? He recognised to the full France's susceptibilities in regard to Egypt, but we had our susceptibilities also, though he did not think that in either case they were so enormous that they could not be settled ultimately by diplomatic arrangements. Differing as he did from hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the evacuation of Egypt, he was one of those, and he believed there were many on his side of the House, who would gladly be out of it; yet he strongly supported the recent action of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Mayo said he had always been consistent in his opposition to our policy in Egypt, and remarked that the occupation of the country in the interests of civilisation had been marked by misery and slaughter. It was true that the advance of civilisation in its inception had always been accompanied by many dreadful acts, but no man could read the history of the Continent of Africa without recognising that the atrocities of civilisation, if hon. Gentlemen liked to call them so, faded into a shadow by the side of the slaughter and misery which existed before its advance. There could be no man in the House who could say that the rule of the Khalifa had not been accompanied with terrible cruelties. His right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin had given a very clear account of what he considered to be the operation of the Mixed Tribunal and of the Caisse; but he thought his right hon. Friend scarcely left on the House an impression of the true interpretation of the rules which, as he understood, guided the Mixed Tribunal. His right hon. Friend told the House that the Caisse had control over certain surpluses to apply them in particular ways, although there were circumstances when the surplus remaining could be 1514 used for extraordinary and exceptional purposes; and the right hon. Gentleman went on to point out cases in which it could be so used, and he left the impression on the House that he was quoting cases laid down by the rules of the Tribunal. But the fact of the matter was that the Caisse was allowed to use their surplus for extraordinary circumstances, and the question was whether the advance to Dongola could be considered an extraordinary circumstance or not. That of course was a matter of opinion, but his right hon. Friend would, he was sure, see that the illustrations he gave were not drawn from the rules which governed the Caisse, and that the real interpretation was to be gathered from the word "extraordinary."
§ MR. COURTNEY
What I endeavoured to explain was this—I wanted to put before the Committee the view I understood the Mixed Tribunal took of the interpretation of the law.
§ CAPTAIN BETHELL
said he knew his right hon. Friend intended to put that view before the Committee, and he was only telling him that a wrong impression was left in his mind, and he thought in the minds of other Gentlemen. He would now like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a rather complicated question, and it was this. The right hon. Gentleman had not told the Committee why the Egyptian Government agreed to go to the arbitrament of the Mixed Tribunal. He presumed that the Egyptian Government were advised by their British advisers, and it was rather difficult to see why it was necessary for the Egyptian Government to appeal to the Mixed Tribunal. A good deal had been said in reference both to France and Russia by various speakers. Personally he believed our true policy was, as far as we could, to work harmoniously with France and Russia. Touching them as we did in so many quarters of the globe, we were more likely to be benefited by friendly intercourse than by meeting with objections on questions of policy at many turns. At the same time we had our interests in Egypt to guard, and, though he regretted that we were there, and that it was impossible to withdraw, he fully recognised that, while admitting the rights and susceptibilities of France, we must continue 1515 to guard our own without, he hoped, sacrificing the friendship of other countries.
MR. J. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvon, Eifion)
said that he had never lost an opportunity since he first became a Member of the House, many years ago, of recording by his vote his strongest opposition to the occupation of Egypt. He had always done so, mainly on the ground that we were pledged by our word of honour to give up that occupation. That that pledge had been given solemnly and in unequivocal terms had been admitted by successive Governments both Conservative and Liberal. He should have thought that in an assembly of honourable men and a nation of honest people an admission of that kind would absolutely conclude the question, and that it would have been unnecessary to go into arguments of expediency. But if questions of expediency only were considered, he held that in this respect as well as in private life "honesty is the policy." It had been generally admitted that all the troubles in relation to the Eastern Question during the last two years, and the humiliating position which Great Britain had occupied, arose from the fact that we were universally distrusted on the continent of Europe. What was the reason of that distrust? Was it necessary to go further in search of an answer than the admission that, having gone to Egypt under a distinct pledge, we had calmly and unblushingly broken our word. It was argued that we were entitled to break our word in respect of Egypt, because France had done so in respect of Tunis. That amounted to this—"true, we have acted dishonestly; true, we are great rascals, but then the French are bigger rascals than we are." Was that an argument that could be addressed to any self-respecting people or nation. The conduct of other nations was not the measure of our honour, and we ought, out of self-respect, to carry out our obligation. The hon. Member for St. Austell said that whether we were right or wrong the mistake could not be rectified, but he omitted to state why the promise we gave was that we would withdraw as soon as Egypt was strong enough to maintain itself. But now we saw that Egypt was strong enough not only to maintain itself but to conquer 1516 the Soudan. Again, it was asked if we retired, what would become of the Egyptians. We had been in occupation for 15 years, but Egypt existed long before that, and from the earliest dawn of history down to 15 years the Egyptians had been able to govern themselves and carry on their affairs without the supervision of the English Government. What they had done in the past they could do in the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer put the argument solely on the ground of philanthropy. With respect to that argument, he thought he was justified in applying to it the same description as the right hon. Gentleman himself applied to an argument of the Welsh Members in reference to Welsh disestablishment. The Welsh Members had urged that the cause of religion even in the Established Church would be benefited by disestablishment, and the right hon. Gentleman denounced that argument as a piece of nauseous cant. He thought he was entitled to retort and say that the argument that we were going to declare war against the Soudanese on grounds of philanthropy was a piece of nauseous hypocrisy. If Germany approved of our breaking our word, was that a good reason for breaking it? The reason of Germany's attitude was apparent. Since the war of 1870, the policy of Germany had been to isolate and weaken France as much as possible. Therefore, any policy which was likely to set France and England by the ears was certain to meet with the approval of Germany. These were the considerations which induced Prince Bismarck to suggest that England should interfere in Egypt. We were bound by our pledges and every consideration of honour to evacuate Egypt, and, therefore, he should vote against the proposal of the Government.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I hope that the Committee will now consent to bring this Debate to a conclusion. ["Hear, hear!"] The Members on both the Front Benches who are concerned in the matter have now spoken, and several independent Members on both sides have also spoken. We are dealing with a subject of great international delicacy and complexity, and I cannot help thinking that probably all has been said on this subject that is to the public advantage. I do not wish to 1517 press my view on the subject, but I express that view as a Minister of the Crown—["hear hear!"]—and not merely as a Minister in charge of the business of the House and desiring to bring a Debate to a conclusion. I honestly do not think, after all that has been said on both sides of the question, that any further public object can be served by the continuation of this discussion. I do think it, therefore, for the general advantage that we should draw the Debate to a rapid conclusion, and I hope the Committee will take this suggestion in good part. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said that he quite appreciated the spirit of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, whose advice, he thought, might very well have been given at an earlier hour, and perhaps applied to right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. He rose for the purpose of putting two or three questions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Was the new railway to be a continuation of the old one? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "No."] Was the cost of the railway already made included in the money which they were asked to vote, and was any useful traffic developing? The only excuse for constructing these desert railways was that they would open up trade. Were there any returns showing that in the way of business the first railway had been a success? With regard to the second railway, they had been told that the material required had been ordered by the Government, and that the Egyptian Government would defray the rest of the cost of making the line. He wanted to know why the Egyptian Government could not pay the whole bill. Then, did the sum of, £270,000, which they were asked to vote for material, include the cost of material for building the line or only the rolling stock? He heartily reciprocated the appeal which the Leader of the House had made that nothing should be said in that discussion to make the position of this country difficult abroad. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that a more courteous disposition towards France might have been exhibited by occupants of the Front Ministerial Bench who spoke earlier in the evening. The somewhat bitter discussion at the commencement of the Debate could not be viewed as having a tendency to promote the peace 1518 of the world. He thought that a great deal of excuse might be made for any resentment on the part of France for the incidents in Egypt. We ought to try to allay any bitter feelings that might be entertained by France towards this country. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not desire to encourage further discussion, but upon the financial question a suggestion has been made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in voting this large amount of money. We should not introduce the practice of voting these large sums without some full information being given to the House of Commons. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will lay on the Table of the House the details of this expenditure. That would be a security we ought to take in pursuance of the practice of the House of Commons—namely, the presenting of the most detailed information as to the expenditure of a Vote of public money.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I will take care that information is duly laid on the Table. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Before Report"] No, not before Report. I may point out that it does not refer to the actual sum voted, and therefore the details are not in the same position as in an ordinary Estimate which is composed of details. We are voting a lump sum, but full information will be laid on the Table of the House in due course. With regard to what has fallen from the hon. Member, I think he might have spared us his last remarks. [Cheers.] I do not know whether it tends to the peace of the world to attribute discourtesy to Ministers of the Crown with respect to a foreign nation. [Cheers.] I am quite sure, however, that any misinterpretation of remarks does not tend to the good of his own country. [Cheers.] With regard to his particular question I have to say that it is almost absurd to ask whether a military railway, in the first instance made from Sarras to Abu Fatmeh for an expedition for the recon-quest of Dongola, pays as a business undertaking. [Cheers.] That railway has not been laid for more than six 1519 months or so, but I have no doubt, being as it is the only railway past the cataracts of the Nile to Dongola, that traffic will increase in due course, and I believe it will commercially pay in the end. With regard to the proposed railway to Abu Hamed, I have stated to the Committee that the Vote is for material. That includes material for railway construction
§ purposes in this country and also for rolling stock. The Egyptian Government, as I have said, will pay for the construction.
§ Original Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 169; Noes, 57.—(Division List—No. 19—appended).1521
|Allhusen, Augustus Hny. Eden||Garfit, William||Monk, Charles James|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Gedge, Sydney||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Gilliat, John Saunders||More, Robert Jasper|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Godson, Augustus Frederick||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness)||Gordon, John Edward||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Goschen, Rt. Hn. G. J. (St. G'rges)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Balfour, Gerald William (Leeds)||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Penn, John|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Graham, Henry Robert||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Green, Walford D. (Wednesbury)||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Gretton, John||Platt-Higgins, Frederick-|
|Bemrose, Henry Howe||Gull, Sir Cameron||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Bethell, Captain||Gunter, Colonel||Pryce-Jones, Edward|
|Bhownaggree, M. M.||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord Geo.||Purvis, Robert|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Bond, Edward||Heaton, John Henniker||Richardson, Thomas|
|Bowles, Capt. H. E. (Middlesex)||Helder, Augustus||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Cavendish, E. E. (N. Lanes.)||Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampste ad)||Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh||Rutherford, John|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Seely, Charles Hilton|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Hutton, John (Yorks, U. R.)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.)||Isaacson, Frederick Wootton||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r)||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Jolliffe, Hon. H. George||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Kenny, William||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Kenrick, William||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Knowles, Lees||Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne (Beds.)||Lawrence, Edwin (Cornwall)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Lea, Sir Thomas (Londonderry)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc, S. W.)||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn-(Sw'ns'a)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Dane, Richard M.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. (Essex)||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Darling, Charles John||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Davenport, W. Bromley-||Long, Col. CharlesW. (Evesh'm)||Warkworth, Lord|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (L'pool)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lorne, Marquess of||Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)|
|Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Webster, Sir E. E. (Isle of Wight)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lucas-Shad well, William||Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Wharton, John Lloyd|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Macartney, W. G. Ellison||Williams, Joseph Powell (Bir.)|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r)||Macdona, John dimming||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||McArthur, William||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Finch-Hatton, Hon. Harold H.||McCalmont, Maj.-Gen. (Ant'mN)||Wyndham, George|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||McKillop, James||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Malcolm, Ian||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Fison, Frederick William||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES, Sir|
|Forster, Henry William||Melville, Beresford Valentine||William Walrond and Mr.|
|Foster, Colonel (Lancaster)||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Anstruther.|
|Fry, Lewis||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Oldroyd, Mark|
|Brigg, John||Gourley, Sir Edward Temperley||Pinkerton, John|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Griffiths, Ellis J.||Pirie, Captain Duncan Vernon|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Haldane, Richard Burdon||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh|
|Caldwell, James||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Reid, Sir Robert T.|
|Cameron, Robert||Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H.||Roberts, John Byrn (Eifion)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Joicey, Sir James||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Channing, Francis Allsten||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Clough, Walter Owen||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cumb'land)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Lloyd-George, David||Stanhope, Hon. Phillip J.|
|Davitt, Michael||Lough, Thomas||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Macaleese, Daniel||Tennant, Harold John|
|Donelan, Captain A.||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||McKenna, Reginald||Ure, Alexander|
|Ellis, Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh)||McLeod, John||Wedderburn, Sir William|
|Engledow, Charles John||Maden, John Henry||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Evans, Sir FrancisH. (South'ton)||Morley, Rt. Hon. John (Montrose)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Morton, Edward John Chalmers||TELLERS FOR THE NOES, Mr.|
|Fenwick, Charles||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Labouchere and Mr. Dillon.|