§ MR. LAYARD
Sir, if the subject to which I desire to draw the attention of the House were not one of very considerable importance, I should not have ventured to bring it forward at this late period of the Session. It is important because it concerns the interests of a large number of British subjects residing in the East, because it has a direct bearing upon the extensive commercial relations now existing between England and the Turkish Empire, and because it affects the character and reputation not only of this country, but of other European nations. The House may probably be aware that Nubar Pasha, the principal Minister of his Highness the Viceroy of Egypt, has recently visited England, in order to obtain from Her Majesty's Government some mo- 1025 dification of the state of things which now exists in Egypt connected with the administration of justice under Consular jurisdiction, and the relations between British subjects and the subjects of the Viceroy. Nubar Pasha has also visited France for the same purpose. As the whole object of our treaty relations with Turkey, and of the rights and privileges claimed under them, has been greatly misunderstood and misrepresented both in this country and in the East, I will endeavour to explain to the House how the matter really stands. England entered into her first treaty with Turkey as early as the year 1578. This treaty was followed by others in 1606, 1648 and 1675. They were termed, in the diplomatic language of the time, "capitulations." All these treaties were confirmed by the general treaty of peace at the termination of the war with Turkey in 1809. The capitulations consist of a large number of articles; but there are only three or four of them which bear directly on the present question, and I will quote them. The 15th Article states—That in all litigations occurring between the English or subjects of England, and any other person, the Judge shall not proceed to hear the cause without the presence of an interpreter or one of his deputies.The 16th Article—That if there happens any suit or difference or dispute among the English themselves, the decision thereof shall be left to their own Ambassador or Consul, according to their custom, without the Judge or other Governors, our slaves, intermeddling therein.The 24th Article declares—That if an Englishman or other subject of that nation shall be involved in any lawsuit, or other affair connected with law, the Judge shall not hear or decide thereon until the Ambassador, Consul, or interpreter shall be present; and all suits exceeding the value of 4,000 aspers shall be heard at the Sublime Porte.The 42nd Article that—In cases of manslaughter or other crime, the Governors shall not proceed in the cause until the Ambassador or Consul shall be present.It must be borne in mind that there are articles in the capitulations entered into between Turkey and other nations giving still more extended privileges to the subjects of those nations; and that, as our capitulations contain what is called "the most favoured nation clause," we have a right to insist on the same privileges which have been accorded to other countries. When the capitulations were entered into our relations with Turkey were very dif- 1026 ferent from what they are at the present time. The commerce between the two countries was carried on by a privileged company, enjoying rights somewhat similar to those which were then possessed by the East India Company. This company, which was called the Levant Company, was abolished in the year 1825. The commerce of France with Turkey was carried on by a similar company, having a monopoly. The seat of that company was at Marseilles, and it was not abolished until 1835. Formerly, no British or French subject could trade with Turkey who was not a member of one of the privileged companies. Every member was compelled to deposit caution money, or to give security for his good behaviour, and was entirely under the control of the Consul, who was paid by the company itself, and who administered the law according to the articles of the various capitulations. The merchants resided in distinct establishments called "factories," which were usually surrounded by walls, enclosing shops, churches, chapels, and all the requirements for a small colony. The administration of justice by the Consuls being thus confined to these small communities was originally a very small and insignificant matter. The Sultans of Turkey made no difficulty in conceding the rights and privileges in this respect which the treaties had conferred, for two reasons. In the first place, it was admitted that owing to the exceptional position of foreigners in the midst of a, fanatical Mahommedan population they were entitled to exceptional protection from their own authorities; and secondly, because it has always been in accordance with the principles of the Turkish Government to allow non-Mahommedan sects to administer their own concerns without the intervention of the Turkish authorities, a principle which has been acted upon in the case of the Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and other sects inhabiting the Ottoman Empire. No one, however, can suppose for a moment that the great Sultans, the conquerors of a large portion of Europe and Africa, had any intention of renouncing the smallest portion of that authority over their own subjects which they must have considered the essential prerogative and right of a ruler. The House will observe that the articles which I have read apply solely to quarrels and lawsuits between foreigners resident in Turkey, and do not in any way affect Turkish subjects. The law appears to have been administered in a rude 1027 kind of way by our Consuls, and when complicated questions of commercial law arose, the principal merchants formed a body of assessors, who with the Consul, settled the matter in dispute. The Consuls themselves had very slight relations with the outer world, and knew little or nothing of the people in the midst of which they lived. Indeed, I remember one of them, who had been in the service of the Levant Company for fifty years, and who was a much respected and intelligent officer, shortly before his death boasting that he could not speak a word of the nasty languages of the country. After the end of the great war, and the abolition of the Levant Company, our relations with Turkey and other parts of the East underwent a great change. Owing to the improved means of communication with the East, to the development of the vast resources of the Ottoman Empire, and the reforms which were taking place in its internal administration, a large number of foreigners were attracted to Turkey as traders, merchants, and residents. A totally new state of affairs now arose, as this foreign population, no longer confined to the "factories," scattered itself over the country. It was very doubtful whether, after the abolition of the Levant Company, our Consuls, appointed and paid by the Foreign Office, still enjoyed the favours and could exercise the jurisdiction over British subjects which had been previously claimed by the officers of the Company. In order to remove all doubts upon the subject, the Act, 6 &c 7 Vict.c. 94, commonly called "the Foreign Jurisdiction Act," was passed in 1843. This Act conferred upon Her Majesty's Consuls in the East the powers formerly enjoyed by the officers of the Levant Company, and enabled them to exercise Jurisdiction over British subjects residing within the Turkish Empire, according to the terms of the capitulations. Since that time the foreign population has risen in Constantinople to 50,000, and in the Turkish provinces to about 100,000, and in Egypt from 9,000 (in 1848) to 200,000. A very large addition was made to British subjects by the lonians and Maltese, who swarmed to Turkey to obtain a livelihood. These formed probably the most dangerous part of the foreign population in the Turkish dominions. They defied both the Turkish and British authorities—committing murders, robberies, and every manner of crime with impunity. They claimed protection from the British Consuls, 1028 and exemption from the Turkish laws, under the capitulations, and our Consuls were quite unable to deal with them. In consequence, to a great extent, of the state of things which had arisen under British protection, life and property became very insecure in many parts of the East. At length, in order to place some check upon the evil, Consular Courts were established at Constantinople, Smyrna, and Alexandria, and were presided over by professional lawyers sent out from this country, instead of by the Consul. Now, in any observations I may make, I do not wish to cast any reflection on the persons who have presided over these Consular Courts. They have been, in most cases, men of high character, who have been brought up in England and have studied the law here; and I believe that, without exception, they have discharged their duties with satisfaction to the Foreign Office and to British subjects in the East. The remarks that I am about to make apply to the system, and not to either the Foreign Office or to the Courts. The example of England in establishing Consular Courts was followed by France. The first Judge sent by the Foreign Office to Constantinople was Sir E. Hornby, a gentleman of much experience and of high character. Regular Courts, such as are seen in Westminster Hall, were established, and all the horrors of the law were witnessed at Constantinople and Alexandria—even to barristers in wig and gown. In the other cities of Turkey and Egypt the Consul still remains the Judge, and administers the law to British subjects, assisted, in certain cases, by assessors taken from the principal British merchants. Not only do the Judges and Consuls deal with cases which come within the capitulations, but in consequence of various abuses which have sprung up in the course of time, they now take cognizance of matters and claim jurisdiction in cases which are not only not recognized by the treaties, but which are, in many instances, directly opposed to their spirit. This state of things has given rise to the most serious complaints on the part of the Turkish Government, which has seen foreigners gradually encroaching upon its rights, and exercising powers most dangerous to its authority, and to the peace and good order of the country. It has made urgent representations on the subject to the European Powers, pointing out not only the danger which must arise to Turkey, from the fact of there being Consular Courts and Consuls of some 1029 twenty different nations, exercising independent and conflicting jurisdiction within the Turkish Empire, but the serious inconvenience which such a state of things must entail upon foreigners themselves resident in Turkey. It has shown that murders, robberies, and other crimes are constantly committed with impunity, because, whilst the Turkish authorities have no power to deal with the offenders, these offenders, being subjects of foreign Powers, were cither not punished at all, or only removed for a time, returning to Turkey to commit again the same crimes. Especially in the case of British subjects it was shown that the power of the Consul to punish and remove them from Turkey was so limited that they virtually escaped with impunity. This state of things had become so serious that it was considered necessary to bring it before the Congress held at Paris at the end of the war in 1856. Lord Clarendon was, I believe, the first to introduce the subject. He was followed by other Plenipotentiaries, who admitted the evils that had arisen from the exercise of a foreign jurisdiction in the East, unwarranted by the capitulations. Ali Pasha, the Turkish Plenipotentiary, strongly urged the necessity of dealing with the matter, and the following declaration was solemnly recorded in a Protocol:—Ali Pasha attributes all the difficulties which fetter the commercial relations of Turkey and the action of the Ottoman Government to stipulations which are obsolete. He enters into details tending to establish that the privileges which Europeans have acquired by the capitulation are injurious to their own security and to the development of their transactions by limiting the interference of the local administration; that the jurisdiction by which foreign agents protect their countrymen constitutes a multiplicity of Governments within the Government, and, consequently, an insuperable obstacle to all improvements. Baron Bourqueney, and the other Plenipotentiaries with him, acknowledge that the capitulations apply to a situation to which the Treaty of Peace will necessarily tend to put an end, and that the privileges which they confer upon individuals circumscribe the authority of the Porte within limits to be regretted; that it is opportune to devise modifications calculated to bring all things into harmony… The Plenipotentiaries, then, unanimously recognize the necessity of revising the Capitulations, and decide upon recording in the Protocol their wish that a deliberation should be opened at Constantinople for the purpose after the conclusion of peace.There were several reasons which induced the Plenipotentiaries at the Conference of Paris to consent to this declaration as to the revision of the capitulations; the prin- 1030 cipal one being, that at that time Foreign Powers were anxious to obtain for their subjects the right of holding land in Turkey; and the Turkish Government could not consent to grant any such privilege to foreigners so long as they refused to submit to its laws. Now, the question of the right of foreigners to possess land in Turkey has been very much misunderstood. It is often asserted that no Christian can hold land in Turkey. That is a mistake. A Christian can do so if he is a subject of the Porte. In fact, the laws relating to real property are the same in Turkey as in this country. An alien cannot hold it. In consequence of the declaration contained in the Protocol which I have quoted, the Turkish Government, relying upon the promise there made that the capitulations should be modified, proceeded to take measures for the alteration of the law regarding the possession of land by foreigners. In the so-called "Hatti-Humayoun," or "Charter of rights," issued by the Sultan in 1856, it was declared, that—It shall be lawful for foreigners to possess landed property in my dominions, conforming themselves to the laws and police regulations, and bearing the same charges as the Native in-habitants, and after arrangements have been come to with foreign Powers.This declaration was made on the understanding that the promise entered into by the Plenipotentiaries at the Congress of Paris would be carried out; but, unfortunately, it has not been. England and France have been continually calling on the Turkish Government to grant to foreigners the right to hold land in Turkey. They have made it a grievance that such a concession has not been granted to their subjects; but as they have not fulfilled their part of the agreement, they can scarcely, with justice, condemn the Porte. I believe that negotiations on this subject are still going on. I do not know in what state they now are; but perhaps the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will have the kindness to give the House some information on that point.
I will now explain how justice is administered in Turkey when foreigners are concerned. When the crime, or the matter in dispute, is of a mixed character—that is to say, when a Turkish subject and a foreigner are parties to it—it must be tried in a Turkish Court; the capitulations merely giving jurisdiction to the foreign authorities when foreigners alone are concerned. Under the capitulations an interpreter, or 1031 some person connected with the Embassy, or Consulate, of the nation to which the foreigner in a suit belonged, has a right to attend to see that justice is properly administered. Of late years the Turkish I Government has established a special Court, called the "Tidjaret," for the decision of commercial cases, at which merchants, as well as Native Judges, preside, and which deal with cases in regard to evidence in other matters very much after the fashion of European Courts. Native Judges preside over the Criminal Courts; but when foreigners are concerned, an interpreter from the Embassy of the country to which the foreigner belongs takes his scat by the Native Judge, and is consulted by him as to the verdict. I have had an opportunity of speaking to Mr. Simmons, who for many years has acted as one of the interpreters to the British Embassy at Constantinople, and to whom has been confided the duty of attending these tribunals. That gentleman assures me that during his very long experience—and I believe that Mr. Simmons' experience has been as great as that of any other European in Turkey—he has scarcely ever known a case of injustice. On the whole, justice has been very fairly administered, and it is very seldom that any complaints have been addressed to the British Embassy. So much for cases between Natives and foreigners; but in cases between foreigners it sometimes happens that very considerable confusion and delay arise. According to the old legal maxim, Actio sequitur forum rei, the person against whom a charge is made is brought into the Court of his own Consul. When several foreigners of different nationalities have to be proceeded against each has to be brought into his own Court, and, in cases of appeal, the, appeals must be made to separate tribunals, one, perhaps, sitting at Trieste, another in London, another at Aix, in France, and another at New York. Under such a system it is evident that there I must be in many cases an entire miscarriage of justice. We formerly sent criminals to Malta and the Ionian Islands to be tried, and often it was impossible to get a verdict against them. The result was that they returned to Turkey to repeat their offences. In order to justify the protection thus afforded to foreign criminals, the Turkish police are said to be frequently cruel and arbitrary in dealing with strangers; but it is scarcely to be won- 1032 dered at that, exasperated at being constantly bearded in their own capital, and seeing crimes committed upon them with impunity, they should have been driven to deal somewhat severely with such criminals as they could lay their hands upon. At one time it was determined that after a British subject bad been twice convicted of crime British protection should be withdrawn from him; but that innovation caused so many complaints, and gave rise to so many scandals, that the British authorities were obliged to withdraw it. I will mention a case, showing the operation of these Consular Courts, and the nature of the independent jurisdiction which they claim. A very eminent British naval officer employed by the Turkish Government, Admiral Slade, was raised to the rank of a Turkish Pasha, and for a long time was in command of the port of Constantinople, rendering important services to the Turkish Government. Acting within his strict rights, he one day removed some Maltese from a ship which they had, it was believed, piratically seized in the harbour. They at once brought an action against the Pasha in the English Consular Court, and as he naturally refused to appear, not recognizing its jurisdiction over him for acts performed in the discharge of his duty as a Turkish Admiral, judgment went against him by default. They were actually going to arrest him under a warrant issued by the Court, when the Pasha threatened to take some very summary proceedings if they attempted to do so. The case was then referred to this country, and having been examined by the Law Officers of the Crown, was felt to be so monstrous in its character that it was immediately given up. Such was the state of things in the Turkish cities that a man who was seen to commit a murder and had entered a foreigner's house could not be arrested unless the officers of justice were accompanied by the Consul, or representative of the Consul, of the nation to which the offender and the person in whose house he had taken refuge belonged. Thus, if a Greek were seen to commit a murder, by merely walking into the next house he might defy the authorities to arrest him, unless accompanied by the Greek Consul, for whom it might be necessary to send a distance of twenty miles. If a violent outrage were committed by a band of brigands, it might become necessary that the Consuls of the nations to which they 1033 respectively belonged must be summoned before one of the number could be touched, It followed from this state of the law that the most atrocious crimes were often committed with impunity. Many other abuses have arisen under the capitulations, which, render attempts on the part of the Turkish, Government to improve and reform their local administration almost impossible. I will mention one or two of them. Complaints are constantly made of the state of the harbour of Constantinople. It is alleged, that, owing to the mismanagement and confusion that exist there, the interests of British merchants and of British commerce are seriously affected, and that British shipping is exposed to damage and loss, and the Turks are held responsible. Now, from what does this state of things arise: Is it solely on account of the misconduct or negligence of the Turkish authorities Allow me to quote from the very interesting work of Admiral Slade upon Turkey, published last year. No one has more experience of Turkey than that distinguished officer, and, having himself held command of the port of Constantinople, he can speak with authority. He writes—European vessels pay no port or anchorage dues in any provincial harbour of the Turkish Empire. At Constantinople, they pay, without reference to tonnage or length of sojourn, dues varying from one to two shillings per vessel, according to her flag. For example, the Great Eastern might he in the Golden Horn for a year, and her anchorage due would be twelve piastres, Twelve piastres, once representing as many dollars, now represent two shillings. In 1864 the Porte, at the instance of its Admiralty, proposed to improve the harbour accommodation on consideration of a graduated moderate scale of anchorage dues, and, in expectation of assent, suitable buoys with mooring chains were brought from England. The European Legations declined the proposition.… The English have made their harbour master out of a servant in search of a place, out of a shipchandler in difficulties, out of a hydropathic doctor in want of patients, but never out of a sailor.There is no control by the Turkish authorities over the captains of British vessels. In time of war a British ship, or a ship belonging to an enemy and hoisting the British flag, might place herself alongside a Turkish ship of war. She might be laden with gunpowder, and might be intended as a fire-ship. The commander of the Turkish man-of-war would not dare to interfere with her. Such a state of things would seem incredible unless we had the statement from Admiral Slade. He says, in the work which I have quoted— 1034The Turkish captains were restrained from exercising the right of keeping clear water around them—exercised by men-of-war in every part of the world, exercised afterwards freely by the allied fleets in Beikos Bay—by fear of misrepresentation. The naval reader will exclaim indignantly, 'Why did not Hassan Bey or Ali Bey weigh Captain Tomkins or Captain Lefevre's anchor, and let him drift to the devil, if he pleased?' I will tell him why. Captain Tomkins or Captain Lefevre would have made a report to his Consul, who would have forwarded it with elucidatory remarks to his Ambassador, who in his turn would have sent a dragoman to the Porte with a demand for pecuniary compensation to Captain Tomkins or to Captain Lefevre for the anxiety and ill-usage he had suffered by his own statement, and a request for the dismissal of Hassan Bey or Ali Bey from his ship for over-zeal.With such a state of things existing in Constantinople, is it possible that the Turkish administration can be satisfactory? Foreign ships become the refuge of every villain; under the capitulations no Turkish officer has a right to board them; they claim complete immunity under a foreign flag. Admiral Slade wished to obtain some control over the harbour by making regulations affecting foreign boatmen. The British Government were quite willing that he should do so; but the French Government, rather than consent, issued an order prohibiting any French subjects from acting as boatmen in the Golden Horn. Again, under the capitulations, Consuls claim exemption from the payment of Custom House dues. The Consuls of this country are for the most part highly honourable men, and would not take advantage of this privilege. But I am afraid that there are Consuls of other nations who do not bear so high a character, and who are not so scrupulous. Moreover, most of the Consuls in the Levant are either merchants themselves or are closely connected with merchants. It may be easily conceived how such a privilege may be used to defraud the Turkish Customs to an enormous extent, and it is a well known fact that, in consequence of its existence, the Turkish revenue suffers most seriously. Under the capitulations foreigners again claim exemption from various taxes. A short time ago the Turkish Government placed a tax upon horses; but this was at once protested against by the Russian and French Embassies on the ground that it was a personal tax, from which they were exempted by the capitulations, and the Government were obliged to give it up, because they could not levy a tax upon their own subjects which foreigners had refused to pay. It was 1035 only after some years' discussion that foreigners were induced to pay the common house dues, and even now they object to pay the licence tax, to which a Turkish subject keeping a shop is liable.
The evils arising from this state of things do not end here. The exceptional position of foreigners under the capitulations gives rise to constant claims, many of them of the most unjust and outrageous nature, upon the Turkish Government. When a foreigner conceives that he has been interfered with, or that he has not received the protection he considers himself entitled to under the capitulations, he appeals to his Embassy, and the affair is at once made a diplomatic question. A claim for indemnity is put forward, and urged with all the weight, I will not say the violence, of foreign diplomacy. The Turkish Government appeals in vain to the sense of justice of the Power concerned, and asks for a fair judicial investigation. The Embassy considers its reputation at strike unless it can summarily enforce the claim of its protected subject, and the Porte is compelled to give way rather than have a disagreeable quarrel. These demands for indemnities involve some shameful frauds, and the manner in which the Turkish Government has been frequently treated in regard to them is altogether disgraceful. When I was attached to the Embassy at Constantinople, I often felt a sense of shame when directed to support claims of this I nature, and blushed for the honour of my I countrymen. Enormous sums of money have thus been extorted from the Turkish Government, and the embarrassment in which the Turkish finances are now placed may be partly traced to this cause. In the case of the British Government, I am convinced that there is a desire to deal honestly and justly with the Porte; but I am not so sure that this is the case with some other countries. In speaking of! Egypt I shall have to return to this question of indemnities, and to point out a still greater abuse of the system. But, before leaving this part of the subject, let me ask how we can expect the Sultan to encourage the settlement of foreigners in his dominions, and the investment of; European capital in enterprizes which might prove beneficial to his country, when every stranger who settles in Turkey is an additional source of trouble and danger to the Turkish Government, renders all well-ordered administration impossible, and only looks to the means whereby he 1036 can plunder the Turkish Treasury? But bad as the condition of things arising out of the capitulations is in Turkey, it is infinitely worse in Egypt. In Turkey the European Powers have confined themselves generally to the privileges granted to them by the capitulations, and only cases between foreigners in which no Native is concerned have been dealt with by the Consuls and Consular Courts. But in Egypt, owing to gradual encroachments made of late years upon the undoubted rights of the Viceroy, the pretensions of the European Powers are carried far beyond these; and they insist that all cases in which a foreigner is defendant, whether the accuser or plaintiff be a foreigner or Native Egyptian, should be tried in the Court of the Consul of the nation to which the foreigner belongs; thus transferring the jurisdiction of the Viceroy over his own subjects to a foreign tribunal. Monstrous as this claim is, still it might be expected that, following the legal maxim and their own practice in other cases, foreigners would submit to the Native tribunals, where a Native was the defendant. But even in such cases means are found to evade the express stipulations of the capitulations, and to frustrate the ends of justice. This can be, and is, done in one of two ways. Either the case is taken away from the jurisdiction of the Native Courts altogether, and placed in the hands of the Consul, who makes a diplomatic question of it, and demands a direct and summary settlement, not according to the law, or the decision of a competent judge, but according to the view which he may himself take of it; or, availing himself of his right to have an interpreter from the Consulate present at the trial, the plaintiff takes care that that officer shall never be forthcoming; and the necessary formalities not having been complied with, he refuses to accept the decision of the Court if not favourable to him, or he prevents any decision from being given, and then addresses his complaint to his Consul. Thus almost every case in which a European and a Native are concerned is made a diplomatic question, and a claim not only for the amount which it is sure is put forward, but a large additional sum by way of indemnity is usually added. A short time ago some Italian claims, which had been increased to an enormous extent by demands for indemnities, were urged upon the Egyptian I Government. Instead of allowing these claims to be fairly investigated before a legal 1037 tribunal, the Italian Consul, after failing to induce the Egyptian Government to recognize them, referred the matter to the Italian Government. Upon the faith of his representations two armour-clad vessels of war were sent to Alexandria to enforce the claims. When the Consul announced the arrival of these vessels to the Viceroy find read a peremptory demand for the payment of the claims upon him, I am informed that the Viceroy asked him, "Whether the Italian Government wished him to become a tributary to Italy, or whether this was the method adopted in Italy to settle legal questions?" The Consul had no answer to give. However, the Viceroy deemed it more prudent to settle the matter by paying what was demanded of him than to expose himself to the consequences of a bombardment or blockade of Alexandria. And yet everyone acquainted with the matter is convinced that the greater part of these Italian claims were absolutely fraudulent. I do not venture to say that they were so; but this I will state, that the manner in which they were enforced naturally leads to the inference that they were so, and that those who put them forward did not dare to submit them to the investigation of a proper tribunal. But suppose the Viceroy had refused to pay these indemnities, a number of vessels would probably have been seized, or the port would have been blockaded, and in the end he would have had to pay in addition a bill of many millions of francs for losses inflicted upon merchants, shipowners, and others of different nations. Of course, under such circumstances, the Viceroy thought it prudent to pay at once. Such cases show that it is necessary to remove questions of this kind from the region of diplomacy; for, under the existing system, they can lead to nothing but misunderstandings, and must constantly endanger the peace of Europe. It is especially, I contend, the interest of this country to put an end to such a state of things, and to assist the Egyptian Government in introducing a better system under which claims of this nature can be settled in a just and judicial manner. No less than sixteen Consuls of as many different nations are at present resident in Alexandria and Cairo, with Consular Courts wherein casesbetween foreigners and subjects of the Viceroy are heard. Even the Persian Consul claims this right to an independent jurisdiction. The position of foreigners in Egypt and, 1038 the scandals to which it gives rise are so well summed up in an article in The Times that I cannot do better than read an extract from it—To illustrate the confusion fomented, it is pointed out that there is scarcely a single department of the national Administration free from interference. Even a murderer, if he be a foreigner, cannot be arrested by the police unless they be accompanied by a Consular delegate; while every minor police regulation—such as the control of drivers of public vehicles, &c.—is sot at naught; because, if a foreigner, the man knows he can appeal to his Consul, and if a Native he complains of the immunity allowed to his alien competitor. So with questions of ordinary taxation. Each Native trader is required to pay a licence duty; the foreigner refuses, and thus one is weighted against the other, and the worst animosities of race are created. In the same way all the most important industries of the country are impeded. For the welfare and development of commerce and agriculture a sound mortgage law is essential. No such law is possible in Egypt. If a fellah giants a mortgage to a European, he knows that in case of any question the decision will be made by the Consul of his creditor, and this not according to any uniform practice, but according to the mortgage law of the nation to which the creditor may happen to belong. Hence the agriculturist is driven to the Native moneylender, and usury becomes inevitable. Similar considerations influence the Viceroy in guarding against any steps that might tend to throw land into the hands of Europeans. …. The crowning evil still remains. In Egypt, as in all other Eastern countries, rulers and people are alike ignorant of the true principles of trade and finance. Hence the Viceroy becomes the prey of specious adventurers, and these adventurers, relying on their nationality, constantly lead him into the most injurious commitments, and then trust to the threats of their Consul either to enforce fulfilment or to obtain preposterous indemnities. Such cases can always be reserved as political weapons, and, of course, those Powers contrive to obtain the most whose representatives are the least scrupulous.I could mention a number of cases to illustrate this statement to the House, but I will confine myself to one. Two foreigners of different nations come to Egypt with machinery for a watermill. They erect it upon a stream to which they have no right whatever, and which irrigates some neighbouring lands. The owners of the stream and lands appeal to the authorities. The owners of the mill can only be proceeded against in their own Consular Courts. After a long lawsuit it is decided that the foreigners had no right to erect the mill. They then put forward claims upon the Government for loss of money on account of having had to abandon their mill, the machinery of which they declare has been destroyed, and they succeed by diplomatic pressure in 1039 obtaining a large payment from the Viceroy by way of indemnity. I will read from an official Report to the Viceroy one or two cases in which names are mentioned, and which I should consequently not have ventured to bring before the House had they not been thus authenticated—A Consulate-General of Brazil exists, although there is no Brazilian settled in Egypt. The Consul General, an Italian, has been obliged, in order to constitute for himself a nation, to take all the members of his family under the protection of his flag. His nephew, Abd-Allah-el-Athem, an attaché to the Consulate, became bankrupt. The disputes arising out of this bankruptcy have been adjudicated against the will of the creditors by the uncle of the bankrupt, who has overruled all exceptions to the bankrupt's transactions. The refusals of justice on the part of the Consul General of Greece have been so flagrant that one day, in full session of the French tribunal, on appeal in action brought by a Greek against a Frenchman, the president, M. Tricou, sent for the plaintiff and addressed him, verbatim, in these words—' Your suit is struck off the list. Go and tell your Consul that when he shall render justice to Frenchmen, I will myself render justice to his countrymen.'Now, I would ask the House whether it be possible for a subject of the Viceroy or for the Viceroy himself to obtain justice when such a state of things exists? Nubar Pasha, in an official note, has stated that an Egyptian who has let his house to a foreigner would in most cases, in the event of the tenant refusing to pay the rent, rather abandon the house altogether than seek redress in a Consular Court. Let the House consider the position of an unfortunate Native who has to bring an action for a just debt against an association of three or more persons of different nations. He would have to pursue each one in a separate Consular Court. In one Court he might obtain a verdict in his favour, in the others he might fail to obtain justice. If he appealed from the Consular Courts in Egypt he might have to go, according to the nationality of each defendant, to Aix, to New York, and to Rio Janeiro. It would be absurd to imagine that the unfortunate Native could hope to get justice in such a case, even if he ventured upon, or could bear the cost of, such appeals. A still more absurd case might be imagined, and might, indeed, occur, and has indeed been instanced by Nubar Pasha. Suppose a band of marauders, including Englishmen, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Italians, and Greeks, were to attack an Egyptian village, to sack it, and to murder its inhabitants. The Egyptian 1040 authorities would be utterly powerless to punish—perhaps even to arrest—the criminals. They would have to prosecute each individual in his own Consular Court, and it may be easily imagined how much justice they would be likely to get in some of those Courts. I need scarcely point out the monstrous character of such a state of things, which would not be tolerated for one moment in any other country of the world. Supposing, again, that a man were wounded and robbed in the street, he might, by the intervention of the Consul, succeed in arresting the robber; but he could not compel a single witness to attend who did not belong to the same nation as the robber, and, consequently, he would probably fail to obtain justice. It must be remembered that this question of Consular jurisdiction and the abuses to which it has given rise, may very seriously affect the position of this country in Egypt, as well as the independence of that country. Thousands of French subjects are now employed on the Suez Canal, and may ultimately form a kind of permanent colony in Egypt. They would all claim to be under the exclusive jurisdiction of their own Consular Courts. No action could be brought against them, no redress obtained, except by appeal to the French Consul. Under such circumstances, the pretended neutralization of the Suez Canal would be simply an absurdity. The Company, or any of its officers, might close the canal any day against a British or other ship, and redress could only be obtained by an appeal to a French Consular Court. I need not dwell longer upon this subject—the danger will be evident to the House—nor need I point out the very serious source of uneasiness to the Egyptian Government which arises from the presence of a large population of foreigners in Egypt not amenable to the laws and authorities of the country. The question of indemnities is one worthy of the consideration of this country, on more than one account. The Viceroy has been compelled to pay within the space of four years no less a sum than 72,000,000 francs, or nearly £3,000,000 sterling, as indemnities to foreigners, without including the vast sums which have been shamelessly wrung from him by the projectors of the Suez Canal. How much of that sum was fraudulently obtained I will not venture to inquire. The result has been that the finances of Egypt have been seriously embarrassed, and that the Viceroy has had great difficulty in finding the means of pay- 1041 ing the annual interests upon the Egyptian loans, which are held for the most part in this country. The Viceroy is denounced for his cruelty towards the unhappy cultivators of the soil, from whom the last farthing is wrung, and who are borne down by the weight of taxes and imposts. I have no doubt that these unfortunate creatures are exposed to great hardships and distress; but it must not be forgotten that the European Powers, by supporting monstrous and fraudulent claims for indemnities, and by compelling the Viceroy to satisfy them without reference to their justice or injustice, are to a great extent responsible for the oppression which may exist, and which arises in a great measure from the necessity of finding the means of paying these claims. At one time Mehemet Ali Pasha was anxious to give encouragement to foreigners to settle in Egypt, and to give the country the advantage of European industry, intelligence, and capital. He could not then anticipate the result of his enlightened efforts. He had a right to expect fairer and juster treatment from the nations who boasted of their civilization. He gave foreigners the right to bold land in Egypt, but on the express condition that they should be subject to the Egyptian laws as regarded that land, and that they should pay the taxes and do all that Egyptian landholders would do. Conditions to that effect were inserted in the title-deeds of land sold to foreigners; but the foreign landowners now neither obeyed the laws nor paid the taxes, and in this they were uniformly supported by their Consuls. Nubar Pasha has laid all these facts before the French and English Governments, and the answer he has received from the noble Lord has been placed on the table of the House. All Nubar Pasha proposes as some remedy to this state of things is a return to the capitulations, and that instead of Consular Courts there should be established in Egypt Egyptian Courts, presided over partly by European and partly by Native Judges, to adjudicate on subjects in which Natives may be concerned. He does not wish to interfere in any way with the Consular Courts where foreigners alone are concerned; he only proposes one departure from the capitulations. It is this—According to the capitulations, an interpreter must always be present in Court in cases where foreigners are concerned, in order to see that justice is done. Nubar Pasha desires to do away with this condition, and, instead, he pro- 1042 poses to constitute the Egyptian Courts upon the most liberal principles. He proposes that they should be composed of three Native and three European judges; and in the event of this being objected to, he is even willing to agree that the Europeans should form the majority. All that he stipulates for is that the President of the Court should be a subject of the Viceroy. Instead of the presence of the dragoman or interpreter, he proposes that the utmost publicity should be given to the proceedings of the Court, that counsel should attend, and that a superior Court of Appeal should be instituted, composed, if insisted upon, of a majority of European judges, and that justice should be administered as it is in European countries. It must be remembered that at present the proceedings of the Turkish Courts are not public. Moreover, it is the intention of the Viceroy to train up a certain, number of young Egyptians to the profession of the law, and to educate them for the administration of justice. If this scheme were carried out, instead of there being, as now, sixteen different jurisdictions to which the subjects of the Viceroy; are liable, there would be but one, presided over by European and Native Judges. This seems to me to be a just, reasonable, and practical proposal; even the noble Lord admits that there is nothing whatever in it opposed to the spirit of the capitulations, or even to their letter. I might almost say that the Viceroy has not gone far enough; but even this very moderate and just proposal has excited a great outcry amongst the foreign residents in Egypt. The British and Maltese merchants, in an indignant memorial addressed to the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), which has been recently published in The Times, declare that—The Government of the Viceroy has submitted to Her Majesty's Government a proposition to abolish the jurisdiction of the British Consular Law Courts in Egypt.But this statement is entirely opposed to the truth. All that the Viceroy asks is that the jurisdiction of those Courts should; be limited, according to the express terms of the capitulations, to cases in which foreigners alone are concerned, and that they be not permitted to interfere with his undoubted rights and prerogative of dealing with his own subjects. A letter, signed by a Mr. Bell, who appears to speak in the, name of the British community in Egypt, has appeared in The Times, together with 1043 the memorial. Amongst the reasons which it gives why Her Majesty's Government should decline to accept the Viceroy's proposal, there is one which will best show the pretensions of foreigners established in Egypt, and how ridiculous and utterly untenable they are. Mr. Bell states, in justification of the action of the British Consular Court over the Viceroy and his subjects, that in one case the payment of bills accepted by the manager of the Viceroy's private estate, and protested, could only be obtained—By a formal demand addressed to the British Consular Court, that the Viceroy, having failed to meet his engagements, should be immediately declared a bankrupt. A private intimation that this formal demand had been made for a declaration of bankruptcy was communicated to the Viceroy's agent, and he thereupon sent to the office of the holder of the bills the money to meet them.Now, let the House imagine for one moment a foreign Court with independent jurisdiction established in this country declaring the Queen a bankrupt! Could such a state of things be conceived in any other country of the world but Egypt? Can it be a matter of surprise that the Viceroy should consider this foreign jurisdiction as injurious to his dignity and independence? It appears to me that the fact of such a proceeding as that described by Mr. Bell having taken place would alone justify the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) in accepting Nubar Pasha's proposal. I do not advocate the withdrawal of the protection of our Consuls altogether from British subjects in the East. I know that the time is not yet come for this step, although I trust that it is approaching; nor do I suggest that the noble Lord should consent to the proposal of the Egyptian Government without having first satisfied himself that justice shall be properly administered in the case of British subjects. Nubar Pasha, in his note to the Viceroy, which has been laid upon the table of the House, declares that the Egyptian Government is willing to give satisfactory security upon this point, and to meet foreign Governments more than half way. The noble Lord might even avail himself of this opportunity to obtain from the Turkish and Egyptian Governments a, reform of the law with regard to the admission of Christian evidence in criminal cases. Already, in civil and commercial suits, this has been done; and it is now virtually accepted, I believe, even in criminal cases: 1044 but the noble Lord would be quite justified if he were to call upon the Egyptian Government to abolish the law which still exists upon this subject before submitting British subjects to the control of Egyptian Courts. It has, I know, been suggested to the Egyptian Government that before calling upon the European Powers to accept the proposal made by Nubar Pasha, the best plan would be for the Viceroy to establish mixed Courts, and to allow the world to see how they worked. He has been told, "Institute your Courts, choose your European and Native Judges. Have justice well and impartially administered, and you will see that foreigners will then avail themselves of them, and you will obtain what you require from foreign Governments without any difficulty." But the objections to such a course appear to me to be very grave, if not altogether insurmountable. There are four that present themselves at once. First, English and French subjects might be induced to avail themselves of the Egyptian Courts, but others would not, and an additional element of confusion would consequently arise, and in mixed cases miscarriage of justice would ensue, some defendants appealing to the Local Courts, and others to the Consular Courts; secondly, the Egyptian Government could not venture upon a trial of this kind, unless they received the fullest assurance that the decrees of the Court should be carried out and its jurisdiction enforced—otherwise the authority of the Viceroy would further suffer; thirdly, the Viceroy could not call upon his Mahommedan subjects to submit to the jurisdiction of a Court presided over by European Judges, whose authority was not recognized by Europeans themselves; and lastly, the subjects of the Viceroy would be placed in this most unfair and disadvantageous position, that whilst foreigners would be able to appeal from the decision of the Egyptian Courts to a Court of Appeal established in Egypt, the Native of Egypt, when pursuing a foreigner in his Consular Court, would have to appeal to a Court established in some distant foreign country. The proposal made by the Viceroy, is, I think, a fair and reasonable one. He is willing that Commissioners named by the principal European Powers should be appointed to proceed to Egypt to inquire into the whole subject of Consular jurisdiction in that country, and to report to their respective Governments upon it, with a view to the adoption of the scheme which 1045 he has put forward. The French Government has already appointed a Commission of Inquiry, which has made a Report. Although I have not seen that Report, I understand that it is in many respects favourable to the proposal of the Viceroy. But whilst the Viceroy is prepared to agree to the appointment of an International Commission, he very justly insists that before it commences its labours a certain basis for its proceedings shall be agreed upon by the European Powers, and that that basis shall be the capitulations. Usages and abuses have sprung up in Egypt which, are entirely opposed to those treaties, and the Viceroy cannot admit their validity, and recognizes this as a point of departure in any future inquiry. It is, I believe, stated that the French Government have refused I to accept this condition. But I cannot believe that a great and just nation like France would insist upon supporting that which is a manifest abuse and a flagrant wrong when dealing with a weak Power. I have heard that the Emperor himself is fully alive to the great abuses which have sprung up under the capitulations, to the injustice to which the Natives of Egypt are exposed in consequence, and to the danger of the present state of things to the authority of the Viceroy. He cannot but feel that whilst the European Powers hold the Viceroy responsible for the safety of the lives and property of their subjects residing in Egypt, they are depriving the Viceroy of the only means that he has of securing that safety. The noble Lord (Lord Stanley), in his despatch of the 18th October last, which has been laid upon the table of the House, has fully admitted the evils to which the present system of Consular jurisdiction in Egypt has given rise, and has shown that that system is entirely opposed to the letter and spirit of our treaties. With the views expressed in that despatch I cordially agree. But I trust that the noble Lord will do more than write a despatch, and that he is prepared to act with energy in the matter, without being deterred from doing that which is just and right by any outcry which may be raised against him amongst the subjects of this country established in Egypt, who are, of course, determined to prevent, if possible, the reform of abuses of which they are partly the authors, and of which they have long profited. Let those gentlemen be reminded that after all they have no more right to the exceptional protection which they claim in Egypt, than British residents 1046 who chose to settle for the sake of gain in any other country. We do not have Consular Courts in South America—and the taxpayers of this country may with reason ask, why they should be compelled to support expensive establishments in Turkey and Egypt merely to promote the trade and speculations of persons who chose to go to those countries. Nor will the noble Lord, I hope, be deterred from doing that which is, right and just, by the unwillingness which other Powers, some of whom may have a direct interest in maintaining the present system, may show to go with him. I feel convinced that if England boldly adopts a just and liberal policy in this matter, and admits the undoubted rights of the Egyptian Government, other nations will be unable to take a different course. And if France, as I have reason to hope she is prepared to do, will unite with England in. putting an end to the present disgraceful state of things, and in supporting the just and legitimate demands of the Viceroy, I am certain that a new system will be introduced into Egypt, and, indeed, ere long into the whole of the Turkish Empire, which will be equally advantageous to the interests of Europeans and Natives. I will quote one or two extracts from the noble Lord's despatch, which will prove that he has taken what I conceive to be a proper view of this important question, and that there only now remains for him to carry out the policy which he has laid down—Her Majesty's Government cannot doubt that the system which now prevails in Egypt in regard to suits in which foreigners on the one hand and the Government and people of Egypt on the other, are concerned, is as injurious to the interests of all parties as it is certainly without warrant of any treaty engagement. Her Majesty's Government are perfectly willing, therefore, to lend their aid to the Egyptian Government in an attempt to establish a better system, and if the Egyptian Government succeed in obtaining the concurrence of other Powers for the same purpose, you may assure Nubar Pasha that the cordial co-operation of Great Britain will not be withheld from so salutary a work. They would hail with the utmost satisfaction such an improvement in the judicial system of the Ottoman Empire, and specifically of Egypt, which is so important a part of it, as would justify them in altogether renouncing any judicial action in that country, and leaving the disputes of their subjects, and the crimes which they may commit, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the local Government, as is the case in other countries. With such feelings, Her Majesty's Government are certainly not inclined to hold out for a jurisdiction to which they have no treaty right, which they submit to be an usurpation, though brought about by force of circumstances, and which is as injurious to British interests as it is derogatory 1047 to the character and well-being of the Egyptian Administration.Fortunately, the principal commercial communities of this country are prepared to give their support to the noble Lord in this matter. I had hoped to have seen in their places this evening my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bazley) and other Gentlemen connected with our commercial interests, who formed part of a deputation to the noble Lord a few days ago on this subject. They would have supported me, I know, on this occasion, They naturally perceive that the present system of Consular jurisdiction in the East, and the pretensions of foreigners residing in the Turkish Empire and in Egypt, are so outrageous and unjust that they must tend to interrupt the good feeling which ought to exist between the European Powers and the Turkish and Egyptian Governments, and to discourage and prevent the development of those commercial relations which exist between England and the East, and which are already becoming of such vast importance to this country. These views are entertained at the same time by almost every organ of public opinion of authority in this country, and have been advocated with great ability and power by The Times, and other leading newspapers. In conclusion, I would again quote from the work of a gentleman who has had more experience than most persons with regard to the working of the capitulations, Sir Adolphus Slade. He says—The necessity of framing capitulations is the 16th century for the protection of a few European trailers was a disgrace to Turkey; the strict enforcement of them in the 19th century is a reproach to Europe. They were framed on behalf of limited associations, self-restrained by bye-laws, and self-responsible for the conduct of their servants and employés; they are now enforced in favour of 50,000 Europeans of various nationalities and callings at Constantinople, and twice as many thousands or more domiciled in provincial cities, in pursuit, one and all, per fas et nefas, of one object—gain, and though divided by clashing interests, united by the common bond of rancour against the dominant race. Probed to their source, the occasional outbreaks in Turkey, called fanatical, would be seen to be the natural reaction against the overbearings and insolence of foreigners and protected natives. 'Would you abolish the capitulations?' asks the Levantine. Not altogether, so long as the separation of administrative and judicial functions in Turkey remains indistinct; but we would modify them in the interests of society by drawing a line between protection and impunity, between privilege and licence.These are wise words, and I cannot do better than call the attention of the noble 1048 Lord earnestly to them. I trust that he will lose no time in taking some step which may put an end to the state of things they describe. The first thing, it appears to me to be done, is to come to an agreement with the French Government for the appointment of an International Commission, founded upon the basis suggested by the Egyptian Government, and empowered to inquire into the working of foreign Consular jurisdiction in the Turkish Empire and Egypt, and to ascertain what may be the rights and privileges which foreigners may have a right to claim under the capitulations. When the facts of the case are thus ascertained, it will be for England and France to act in a just and generous spirit towards Turkey and Egypt; to retain only those privileges which are absolutely necessary to the protection of their subjects in the East; to be prepared to remove that exceptional protection still further as those countries advance in the path of civilization and of reform; and to give assistance to the Turkish and Egyptian Governments in placing their internal administration, and especially that part of it which relates to law and justice, on a footing which may be equally beneficial to foreigners and to their own subjects.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he wished to point out that it was the weakness of the Egyptian Government, after the revolt of Ali Pasha, which led to the granting of the existing concessions to foreigners. He hoped the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would not treat this question as an Egyptian one merely, but would go to the root of the evil, and endeavour to carry out all the recommendations contained in the Protocol of Paris. At the time when the capitulations were entered into there was in Turkey a poll tax on Christians, and one object was to exempt foreign residents from this badge of servitude. Circumstances had wholly changed, and it was absurd that foreigners should be exempted from every impost except customs' clues. Foreign residents ought to be placed on an equal, but on no better footing, than Natives, and there was no reason whatever why they should not be required to pay their fair share of taxation. There could be no question that the Consular jurisdiction had given rise to great abuses on the part of the Consuls of third-rate Powers, and so reluctant were people to interfere that murder might be committed in Turkey by foreigners almost with impunity. Indeed he could mention 1049 one case in which a murder was witnessed by an English Consul and another Englishman. It was committed by an Italian, and the victim was a Greek; and though the English Consul interfered, and compelled the police to take the man up, the Italian Consul evidently thought he was going beyond his duty, and the end of the matter was that the man who committed the murder was allowed to get off to Genoa, and what became of him afterwards he could not tell. It was a wrong system that the Government of a country should not have jurisdiction over all its inhabitants, and there would be less inconvenience in the Egyptian Government having it now that Christian evidence was to all intents and purposes admitted. Mixed Courts having at our instance been established in Turkey, it was discrediting them in the eyes of the people if we did not allow our own subjects to be tried in them. He believed they were as impartial as the tribunals of Spain or Portugal. He trusted that there would be joint action by the European Powers as to these capitulations, with due regard to the right of the Turk in his own country.
Sir, I have no wish, and I see no reason, to prolong this discussion, since there is no dispute as to facts, and I am bound to say that in by far the greater part of what has been stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) I am inclined to agree. And first let me dispose of one or two questions which have been raised incidentally. As to the question of the right of foreigners to hold land in Turkey, and the conditions on which they should be allowed to hold it, I may remark that that is a matter which has been for some time under discussion, and I think we have practically settled the terms on which land may be held. I have always felt that in principle the Turkish Government were quite justified in the reservations and conditions they laid down; but Her Majesty's Government had to consider how those conditions would practically work in some parts of the Empire where Europeans are not numerous, and where Consular assistance is not at hand, I believe, however, that question has now been arranged between the two Governments. With regard to the abuse of Consular jurisdiction, I cordially sympathize in what has been said by the hon. Gentleman. It is an anomaly, even if it be a necessary one, that we should remove British subjects from the 1050 territorial jurisdiction of the country; but I quite agree that it is an intolerable abuse if that protection is extended to a large number of persons who have no claim upon us, as, for instance, in those cases in which Natives of the Ionian Islands have I claimed the privilege. Maltese, of course, have a right to protection as British subjects; but with regard to all those cases which used to be numerous in former years, when protection was extended to Natives who were dependants upon Europeans, I think the hon. Gentleman will bear me out in saying that this has been diminished of late years, and I do not think the abuse I now exists to any considerable extent. At any rate, if a case is brought before me in which it does exist, I shall be ready to do all in my power to remedy it. With regard to the claim of Europeans to exemption from local taxes, I am not aware that it has ever been made the subject of complaint on the part of the Porte. I am bound to admit that, like many other things bearing upon our connection with the Turkish Empire, it is somewhat anomalous, and I can quite understand that arrangements which were perfectly natural and harmless when but a very small number of foreigners were settled in Turkey, are quite inappropriate to the circumstances of the present time. The main question is the question whether or not we can get rid of Consular jurisdiction as regards Egypt. Now, upon that point I have stated what are in principle the views of the British Government in a despatch from which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, and I therefore need not repeat them at any length. Ever since the Crimean War and the Treaty of Paris, not only the British Government, but I believe all the Great Powers of Europe have concurred in the feeling that the exercise of this Consular jurisdiction was an anomaly which it was desirable to remove. There is no doubt that jurisdiction extra territorial of that kind is in itself an evil. The only justification there can be for it is that it may be a necessity. But I if it ceases to be a necessity, it ceases to be justifiable. The real question is not whether you desire to give up these rights, but whether you can find an effective substitute for them. You cannot give up these exceptional rights unless you are satisfied that you can substitute for them the jurisdiction of an independent and impartial tribunal, and the difficulty is how to find in a country like Egypt sufficient security for the establishment of such a tribunal. 1051 Egypt, as we all know, is a country absolutely despotic, both in theory and in practice. I am not saying that judges would on that account be necessarily servile, but I am afraid that it would be difficult to find men who in any case where their own Government was concerned would not think it their duty to take the part of the Government of their own country, and we all know that the Egyptian Government is very often concerned in the questions that arise. There is no part of the hon. Gentleman's speech with which I more thoroughly concur than with respect to the great abuse and inconvenience of resorting to diplomatic agency for the determination of private matters; but it is because I hold that opinion that I think it essential to have Courts you can rely upon, because it is a lesser evil to have a Court which is anomalous in principle, but which works tolerably in practice, than a Court which may be constituted according to European notions of what is right, but which does not practically give justice, and the result of the working of which would be that its decisions would be continually appealed from, so that diplomatic questions would our way but I do not say that they cannot be overcome. With regard to an International Commission, I do not apprehend that there is at present between the leading Powers of Europe any considerable difference of opinion. I believe they are all of opinion that such a Commission should be established for the purpose of ascertaining how such Courts as we all desire in principle should be established. The only points of difference are upon questions which are comparatively matters of detail. With regard to the claim put foward by the Egyptian Government no longer to admit the capitulations and to ignore usages, that is a claim to which I should find it very difficult to give a positive answer either one way or the other, for there are usages and usages. A usage which has become an unwritten law must, I think, be practically regarded as part of the law of the country, but the same claim cannot be made for a custom that has sprung up within the last dozen years, and which has never been sanctioned or tolerated, but only submitted to through the weakness of the Government. I need say no more upon that, because there is very little in dispute between us. The one point upon which I should be inclined to question the view which the hon. Gentle- 1052 man takes is his wish that whatever we do should be done, not for Egypt only, but for every part of the Turkish Empire. Now, as to that, I am open to conviction, but as at present advised I doubt the policy of that course. Turkey is a very wide Empire, and it contains provinces in various stages of civilization. We have far greater interests in Egypt than anywhere else in that Empire, and there is a greater appeal there to European feeling and a greater influence of European ideas than can be found in the remoter provinces of Turkey. After all, too, if you are to establish a system of territorial jurisdiction which is to work well, the best chance of getting it to work is to establish it experimentally, and then, if you find it work well in one part, you can extend it to another. At the same time, we must be very much guided on this question partly by the views of the Porte, partly by the view which the other Powers may take, and partly by such light as may be thrown upon it in the course of the investigation which is to be held. The question of principle, as I understand, which the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise is, "Do you regard the for Consular authority as desirable?" Now, I agree with him that it is not desirable. The hon. Gentleman further asks, "Do you wish to see a better system of jurisdiction substituted?" I certainly do, but if you ask me how that is to be done it is a matter of great difficulty. We have to consult the Porte, the Egyptian Government, and the other great Powers, and many questions of detail will arise as to which we do not altogether see our way. All we say is that time and deliberation will be required, and I can only assure the House that the Government will not lose sight of the subject, and that their anxious desire is so to deal with it as to bring about a state of things more satisfactory than the present.
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, he wished to warn the noble Lord not to be led astray by the extraordinary statements which had proceeded from some of our countrymen in Egypt. He could readily understand that our countrymen there were so accustomed to special privileges that they were very unwilling to part with them. Egypt was now becoming so intimately bound to this country, and especially to Lancashire, by commercial relations, that he hoped the noble Lord would not allow that state of things with regard to our Consular Courts 1053 in Egypt which was so discreditable to us to remain in their present condition. It depended on the noble Lord very much whether the proposed new Courts would or would not be sanctioned by the other Governments.
MR. J. PEEL
said, that he was at the head of the firm which had signed the document of which the hon. Member for Southwark had so much complained. They knew very well that there was no tribunal in Egypt which could judge fairly between the buyer, being the Pasha, and the seller, the British merchant. He believed he was the oldest British merchant engaged in the Egyptian trade, and he had never heard of the decisions of the British Consular tribunal being called in question by any Native whatsoever. Any one who knew anything of the transactions between the British and the Pasha would gay that where justice was obtained it had been obtained by the Consular Courts, Though he would have no objection to see any system established which would do justice to other countries as well as our own, he would hesitate a long time before he would consent to have the transactions which passed between British merchants and the Pasha settled by an Egyptian tribunal,
§ MR. A. EGERTON
said, that in a case where so many nationalities were concerned it was clear that nothing could be done without reference to them. The noble Lord had held out a hope that foreign nations would be willing to appoint a Commission to settle this question, but it would be more satisfactory to the mercantile community if they were assured that steps were being taken to have the matter immediately referred to this International Commission.
§ MR. AYRTON
begged to enter his protest against Her Majesty's Government giving up British subjects to a Government which was utterly unconscious of purity of administration. [Mr. LAYARD: No!] The hon. Gentleman might say "No," but he maintained that the Government of Egypt was one into which corruption in every form entered. The idea of justice was foreign to such a Government, and to contemplate giving up British subjects in defiance of treaties to such a Power was most monstrous. If he could tell the House what was going on in Egypt, the hair of hon. Members would stand on end. [Mr. LAYARD: Oh!] Perhaps he had as authentic information and 1054 knew as much of what was going on in Egypt as the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard), and he felt bound to say that nothing could exceed the corruption which prevailed there. This scheme had originated in the fact that there was one person connected with the Egyptian Administration who had had the advantage of an European education, who had a great deal of information and had made a fortune. That person had established himself in Western Europe and had created fin opinion purely fictitious as to the character of the Egyptian Government. [Mr. LAYARD: Oh!] The hon. Member might shake his head, but the fact was that those who took an interest in the affairs if the Levant became either very violent Turks or very violent Greeks—they were either desperate Philo-Turks or Philhellenes. Now, he was neither a Philo-Turk nor a Philhellene, because he had received great courtesy both from Turk and Greek; but he was speaking only of the Egyptian Government, which he believed to be so bad that it was utterly impossible to entrust it with any power over the destinies of British subjects. He hoped, therefore, the noble Lord would never consent to the establishment of an Egyptian tribunal such as that which was advocated by the hon. Gentleman. In any scheme that might be adopted, he hoped the noble Lord would make it a sine quâ non that to every decree pronounced by the Court affecting the rights of British subjects, the consent of the British Consul should be required.