HC Deb 11 August 1879 vol 249 cc681-719

, in rising to call attention to the extraordinary interference of the Government in Egyptian internal affairs, and to the serious international complications which had been and were likely to be caused by it, said, that there had been an entire change of policy in the government of that country, and the power of England with regard to Egyptian affairs had diminished instead of increased. Her Majesty's Government, he thought, ought to give some explanation with regard to this subject. The Papers which were published on Saturday last were of considerable importance, relating, as they did, to the Firmans establishing the position of Egypt and its relation to Turkey, and giving a clear account of many points connected with the question. The history of the Firmans was shortly this:—In 1841, a Firman was issued providing that the succession to the Egyptian Throne should follow in the eldest of the male line, and, of course, increasing the tribute. That position lasted some considerable time—namely, until in 1863, Is mail Pasha, an active and energetic Sovereign, succeeded to the Throne. He endeavoured to get greater power from the Porte than had hitherto been known in Egypt. The result was that, in 1866, two Firmans were issued, in which it was arranged that the succession was to be hereditary, the one great advantage being that the Khedive would have to consider not so much the interests of his family as the interests of the country over which he was called upon to rule. The English view of the matter was clearly expressed by Lord Lyons, when writing to Lord Clarendon, on June 6, 1866, he said— I observed to His Highness—Is mail Pasha—that the prosperity of Egypt and the main- tenance of its independence were matters of the highest interest to Great Britain … The tie which connected Egypt with the Porte was, I said, most valuable as a security against foreign aggression, while it did not in any way interfere with His Highness's power in the internal administration of the country. His Highness and his family might, I added, rely on the full support of Her Majesty's Government if … they resisted all encroachments and all attempts on the part of any foreign Powers to establish a paramount influence. The Viceroy, after that, proceeded largely to develop the resources of the country, and also to follow the example of European States, by getting into debt. In 1867, he again applied to Constantinople, and obtained another Firman, which gave him further power over the internal government, enabling him to raise more troops, and which also conferred on him the title of Khedive. A feeling of jealousy, which was subsequently aroused, was caused principally by differences of opinion between the Ministers of the Khedive and the Porte, and the consequence was that, in 1869, there was issued a Firman which somewhat restricted the power of the Khedive to make foreign loans. But the dispute caused Lord Clarendon to send to Lord Bloomfield a most important despatch, containing the following words:— On the other hand, it is to be remembered that the Egypt of to-day is not the Egypt of 1841 … but Her Majesty's Government would deeply regret if the Porte should overstrain its legitimate prerogatives and its rights as regards the Khedive. As regards this last point, Her Majesty's Government have felt it their duty to express their opinion that any attempt in the direction of deposing the Khedive would produce a most unfavourable and mischievous effect. These words show that even at that time, when the Viceroy had less power than after he had obtained the Firmans of 1872 and 1873, we should not have tolerated any such attempt. This is strongly confirmed by a despatch addressed by Mr. Barron, on 15th December, 1869, to Lord Clarendon. Mr. Barron proposed that the Porte should maintain at Cairo an unofficial agent, and then went on to say— The only apparent objection to this course is that it would seem to recognize the independence of the Khedive. This objection will prove, however, to be not substantial. The Firmans of 1841, 1866, and 1867 have created the independence of Egypt. Moreover, Colonel Stanton, at the same period, wrote to Lord Clarendon— December 16—that he had assured the Viceroy he need not apprehend any direct interference on the part of the Porte in the internal administration of the country; and went on— I remarked to His Highness that I was convinced the Great Powers would not consent to any undue interference on the part of the Porte with the internal administration of Egypt. In 1872, the Khedive obtained another Firman, of which he largely availed himself, as it allowed him to contract foreign loans without the consent of the Porte. Every one of these Firmans was obtained on large payments to Constantinople. On one occasion it was £1,000,000; on another it was considerably more. The Porte took care to see that the Egyptian Army did not increase too much; but did nothing to prevent an enormous increase of the National Debt. The Firman of 1873, however, removed in most respects the old badges of servitude, except the payment of tribute, which was on nearly every occasion considerably increased. It gave power to the Khedive to settle the number of his Army without any restriction whatever, and to make contracts with foreign Powers without consulting the Porte. Sir Henry Elliot very clearly defined, in words of which Lord Granville, as Foreign Secretary, entirely approved, the English position at that time. He said—June 27, 1873— All that was desired is that Egypt should remain in the position which she actually holds—practically, independent in all matters of internal administration—while still forming an integral part of the Ottoman Empire. He further pointed out that we should not allow Egypt to fall into the hands of any other Great Power. It was from this position that the present Government had entirely departed. Such was the story of the Firmans; and down to 1873, and for a couple of years after, the influence of England was paramount in Egypt. Nothing could be done in Egypt without the Viceroy having recourse to Her Majesty's Government. Whenever he was in distress he applied to the British Government. That Government purchased the Suez Canal Shares, partly, we were told, from high reasons of State, and partly to assist the Viceroy in his difficulties. The Viceroy greatly developed the resources of Egypt. A large portion of Egyp- tian territory, not previously fertile, was irrigated by him, and produced immense crops. He established sugar factories, and many other industries hitherto unknown in Egypt. He undertook, at the prompting of the great capitalists, through whom he got into difficulties, great public works, which might have been of much utility. His fault was one common to Eastern Sovereigns, that he never calculated where he was going, and whether the resources at his command were equal to the undertaking he had in hand. His Debt was increased so enormously that the result was to hamper his Government exceedingly, and to put him in a most awkward position. He applied to Her Majesty's Government for assistance. The Canal Shares were purchased, and Mr. Cave was sent out to investigate the condition of Egyptian finance. Mr. Cave's Report was, of course, perfectly honest; but much of the information that he gained was derived from persons who were interested in concealing the real state of things and, consequently, it was less trustworthy than Mr. Cave himself would have desired it to be. When Mr. Cave went out the Government had large views with regard to their future course of action in Egypt; but on his return they found that those views would not be acceptable to the country, and nothing was done except that Mr. Rivers Wilson was sent out to Egypt to institute proceedings which proved to be of a temporary character. After that, the bondholders tried their hand in a perfectly legitimate manner, and asked Mr. Goschen and M. Joubert to go to Egypt to establish the basis on which the financial condition of the country should be settled. They prepared an elaborate Report and a scheme, which was adopted by the Viceroy himself. It involved the employment of English officers in connection with the Revenue Department and other important branches of the Egyptian Budget. It was proposed to establish a Finance Board, on which there should be an English member, and an application was made to Lord Derby to nominate a gentleman who should be that member; but Lord Derby declined this responsibility. That was in 1877, and he (Sir Julian Gold-smid) deeply regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not continued the wise policy then laid down by Lord Derby. Complaints arose on all sides. The Viceroy told Mr. Vivian that matters could not remain as they then were, that the people were overburdened, and that one great cause of grievance was that no European resident in Egypt paid taxes. Well, things went from bad to worse. The taxes were collected in advance, and the people were thus additionally pressed. On the 30th of November, 1877, the Viceroy declared that the state of affairs had grown worse, and that the financial administration of the country was at a dead lock. Notwithstanding the collection of the taxes in advance the Revenue fell off. Mr. Vivian, in one of his excellent despatches, dated November 30, 1877, said:— I find the financial position greatly changed for the worse.… The troops and Government employés are many months in arrears of pay, and among the latter class the greatest distress and misery prevails. … This miserable state of affairs is not only bringing the Khedive and his Government into disrepute abroad, but it is also greatly discrediting him among his own people, who murmur at the payment in full of the bondholders, while his employés are left unpaid … It is quite impossible that such a state of things … can be allowed to continue. Nevertheless, it not only continued, but grew worse. Then, in February, 1878, M. Waddington urged upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of joining with Prance in the demand that an independent Commission should be appointed; and this demand was to be made "in the interest of the French and English bondholders." This will be found in a letter of Lord Lyons to Lord Derby, of the 5th of February, 1878. Lord Derby replied on the 8th of March, 1878, and, as the result, directed our Representative to urge on the Viceroy the necessity of the appointment of the Commission as suggested by M. Wadding ton, and to state that Her Majesty's Government thought it very desirable that Captain Baring should be placed on the Commission, and that if the appointment of a second Englishman was deemed necessary, they would name Mr. Rivers Wilson for that purpose. This interference on the part of England and France was not made on behalf of the over-burdened people of Egypt, but solely in the interest of the bond-holders of France and England. The policy of the two Governments was the same, to endeavour to wring the utmost penny from the prostrate and impoverished people on behalf of their creditors. After a good deal of negotiation the Commission was appointed, with M. de Lesseps as President, and Mr. Rivers Wilson as Vice President. Then came an extraordinary act. On the 16th of April, 1878, the Marquess of Salisbury wrote to Mr. Vivian that, in the opinion of the French Government, the institution of the Finance Commission ought not to stand in the way of payment of the coupon then accruing, and that he was to urge that view upon the Khedive—Her Majesty's Government thus adopting and acting on the policy of the French Government, still solely in the interest of the bondholders. The reply of the Khedive was that he would do all in his power to comply with the demand of France and England, at whatever cost to the country; but that the responsibility would not rest with him, as the steps necessary to secure payment of the coupon would entail "ruinous sacrifices." [See Mr. Vivian's despatch of the 18th April, 1878, published in the Blue Book.] Being so pressed, the Viceroy did pay; but who could say at what cost to the people? Well, he had shown an extraordinary interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the financial affairs of Egypt, entirely on behalf of the bondholders. The Viceroy, finding himself thus pressed, thought naturally that if he could obtain the services of some Englishman in whom Her Majesty's Government had confidence, he might be able to put his affairs in Order; and in May, 1878, he offered Mr. Rivers Wilson the post of Financial Minister. The Commission sat; the Revenue continued to fall; the Report of the Commission appeared; page after page of their Report described the lamentable state of the country; and he could not help admiring the admirable manner in which this was depicted in the communications of Mr. Vivian to the Government at home. The Commission found great difficulties in their way, because the moment they began to investigate carefully the great sources of Egyptian prosperity they found that taxation was excessive, that there was great corruption, that the tax collectors made large sums, and that many of them had recourse to means of compulsion to which he did not desire further to refer. In spite of that, the money did not come in as it had come in in previous years. The Commission and Mr. Vivian alike described the sapping of resources which had been going on in order to meet the pressing obligations of the Egyptian Government. Even in 1877, it had been practically impossible to continue the extravagant rate of interest which the Government had hitherto paid its creditors. The Commission of Inquiry showed the Revenue to be diminishing, notwithstanding all the devices to maintain it. The people were overburdened, and the only way to cure the evil was to reduce very largely the interest paid to the creditors of Egypt. The Swedish Representative in Egypt also pointed out with remarkable clearness the total incapacity of the country to pay the large amount of interest claimed from it. Then came a fresh complication. Our acquisition of Cyprus excited the jealousy of the people of France, and the result of communications with the French Government was an arrangement, not stated in our Blue Book, that we should not take action in Egyptian affairs without consulting the French Government, so that the two Governments might act in entire unison. He did not object to a fair understanding between the two Governments. That, when possible, had always been our policy; but that was far from saying we should do nothing in a country in which our interests were largely concerned without the concurrence of the French Government, actuated, as it was, mainly on behalf of the bondholders. But the promise was given, and had since been the cause of many difficulties. But to return to Egypt. The Commission reported that the Khedive accepted, without reserve, all the conclusions of the Commission, including the limitation of his power and the restitution to the State of the family property. The Khedive thereupon renewed his offer to Mr. Rivers Wilson; Nubar Pasha taking care, at the same time, to state that it was the Viceroy's own wish, and that he did not admit that, a foreign Government could demand to appoint an Egyptian Minister as a matter of right. And yet we had demanded such an appointment for one of our own Civil servants—a proceeding which did not appear to be justified under any circumstances. Mr. Rivers Wilson accepted; but as that was done without reference to France there was another manifestation of jealousy, which was allayed by Lord Salisbury in a despatch of September 10, 1878, characterized by considerable judgment and common sense. The final result was that, in consequence of the awkward understanding at the time of the occupation of Cyprus, M. de Blignières was appointed Minister of Public Works, with authority equal to that of Mr. Rivers Wilson. Mr. Rivers Wilson found things as bad as they had been described, and growing from bad to worse. Still, he acted on the old lines of Egyptian finance, and contracted a new loan at high interest to pay the coupons coming due. In connection with that, an arrangement of an unprecedented character was made by the Government with Messrs. Rothschild, who required that the Daira lands should be managed by three persons—one Egyptian, one appointed by France, and one by England—who were to remit the rents, or so much of them as might be required, to meet the new obligation. Messrs. Rothschild, in the interest of those who proposed to subscribe to the new loan, were quite right to endeavour to carry this proposal; but the Government ought never to have agreed to so novel and so serious a responsibility. Nevertheless, they accepted that arrangement, requiring that the English Representative should not be deprived of his function without their consent; and, although they did not pledge themselves to pay the interest, they still undertook a serious responsibility. Mr. Rivers Wilson used at least £1,200,000 of the loan so obtained for the payment of a coupon on November 1, 1878. The House would see how great was the responsibility of the Government in all this. But they went even further, and on the 21st of November Lord Salisbury instructed Mr. Lascelles to draw up, in concert with the French Consul General at Cairo, an Identic Note to the Egyptian Government, advising them to issue a decree suspending the functions of Mr. Goschen's contrôle, subject to the understanding that it should be ipso facto revived, should either the French or the English Member of the Egyptian Cabinet be dismissed without previous agreement with his Government. [See No. 273 in the Blue Book.] Here was another piece of startling interference; but, of course, Nubar Pasha obeyed. But this act of the Government was entirely at variance with the official answers given by the Government in the House of Commons. Now, perhaps, it would be well to say a word about Nubar Pasha, who had been Prime Minister during nearly all the period of lavish Egyptian expenditure. His friends said he was not responsible for it, but had endeavoured to check it. It might, or might not be so; but he could not help bearing in mind that Nubar, a poor Armenian arrived in Egypt 25 years ago perfectly penniless; and that he was now in possession of an enormous fortune. He (Sir Julian Goldsmid) would not say that he had made his fortune out of the expenditure that was going on; but he was not irresponsible for that expenditure, and the fortune was made while it was going on. Nubar Pasha was a man of remarkable ability—he had that versatility of character, that power of adapting himself to circumstances, which was characteristic of the Armenian people; and the result was he was enabled to work in a satisfactory manner with Mr. Rivers Wilson. He and Mr. Rivers Wilson were the two active Ministers. Nevertheless, the position of matters became more serious from day to day; the financial situation was critical. Mr. Rivers Wilson endeavoured to maintain the inordinate rate of interest to the bondholders. More than a year's arrears of pay were due to the Egyptian employés, who were in a state of semi-starvation. Nubar Pasha was, consequently, not popular with the Egyptian people, and the Viceroy was encouraged to dismiss him. The Government at this time were constantly pressed for information as to what was going on; but their reply was that they could not give information because they were acting with the French Government and negotiations were still going on. In this the Government had acted not quite fairly with the House of Commons, for, at a later date, M. Waddington had made a statement in the French Assembly without asking the permission of this Government; and the English Government might, therefore, have made a statement to the House of Commons without asking the permission of the French Government. That was a position which he did not like to see the Government take up; he deeply regretted it. In March, he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether Mr. Rivers Wilson was the servant of the Khedive, and whether he could be dismissed without the consent of the Government? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, on that one occasion, departed from his usual reserve, and expressly stated that Mr. Rivers Wilson was the servant of the Khedive; that he was under his control; that the Government had no direct communication with him because he was not their employé; and, therefore, the Khedive had the right of dismissal. That statement was utterly inconsistent with what appeared in a despatch which had been laid on the Table. The Government would have done well not to publish that despatch, as they had not published many others, if they desired to maintain their character for consistency in this matter. Shortly after, however, encouraged by their unpopularity with the people, the Khedive took the further step of dismissing his European Ministers. There were many reasons why Mr. Rivers Wilson had not been successful. It was thought that he was only working in the interests of the bondholders, by endeavouring to keep up the rate of interest, and by paying all the Europeans their salaries, when many Natives did not receive theirs. It was held, too, that he was of no use in alleviating the oppression of the people, having no more control over the collectors of taxes than he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had over the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that he had committed many errors of judgment in his relations with the Khedive. Being in the position of a receiver to an estate, he took no care to refrain from wounding the susceptibilities of its owner. These errors hastened his dismissal, which was precipitated by the fact that the arrears of pay due to the Army were very considerable; the officers were, practically, starving; and they came together, as was not uncommon in Eastern countries, to make an appeal to the authorities and the European officials. The consequence was that a disturbance took place, which might have been prevented if Mr. Rivers Wilson had had foresight and anticipated events; but he did not. He was dismissed. There was much excitement on the subject. Never- the less, the Government left Mr. Rivers Wilson, and the Trench Government left M. de Blignières in Egypt for some time to form the nucleus of a Party against the new Egyptian Government. Mr. Rivers Wilson was left in Egypt until he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) asked a Question in that House, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer then said that he had sent out a telegram telling Mr. Rivers Wilson to return. He asked for the date of the telegram; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, fortunately, forgot the date. However, Mr. Rivers Wilson was at last re-called, and that was the wisest step the Government had taken. The Government then had an excellent opportunity to retire from the indefensible position they had taken up. That was admirably pointed out in an article in The Times, on the 25th of April. Hoping it might prove that the Government would so retire, the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) and other hon. Members of the House asked for information from the Government; but very little was vouchsafed. They were told, as usual, that Her Majesty's Government were acting in concert with the French Government, and that in the meantime they could not answer the Questions. But that was not the answer given "elsewhere;" nor was it consistent with the statements previously made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said that Mr. Rivers Wilson was the servant of the Viceroy. To show the contradiction, he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) would call the attention of hon. Members to passages from a despatch from Lord Salisbury to Mr. Vivian, dated the 25th of April, 1879, in which Lord Salisbury said that the dismissal of Ministers whose services the Khedive had solicited was "a grave and apparently intentional discourtesy to friendly Powers." There was another passage, to the effect that if the Khedive declined the services of the European Ministers whom the Powers had placed at his disposal they must conclude it was the result of a settled plan, and the two Governments reserved to themselves entire freedom of action with a view to secure the good government of Egypt. Obviously, that was entirely at variance with the explanations the Government had given and with the policy which had been previously pursued. The Govern- ment had stated in that House that they did not consider they had any right to prevent the Khedive from dismissing Mr. Rivers Wilson; whereas, in the despatch from which he had quoted, the Khedive was informed that if he persisted in dismissing the European Ministers the Government would have to take other steps. What happened next? It did not appear from the Papers laid on the Table; but it was well known that the bondholders, who were persons of great influence, especially with the French Government, brought great pressure to bear on the two Governments, which at last culminated in the demand made by the French Government that the Khedive should abdicate. That demand was supported by the British Ministry. Her Majesty's Government had not given the House any reasons for that extraordinary act; and although the House had been promised Papers on the subject, over and over again, no Papers had been given. The Government, in the first place, did a thing entirely beyond their rights—they invited the Euler of a friendly State to resign. They went beyond even that, for they stated that it might be the duty of the Western Powers to submit certain representations to the Sultan, from whom the Khedive held his power. They appeared, therefore, to have asked the Sultan to abolish his own Firmans, and to interfere in the internal affairs of Egypt itself. In that respect, also, the Government had taken upon themselves a most serious responsibility. Having invited the Khedive to resign and threatened that, if he would not do so, they would call upon the Sultan to interfere, and the Khedive having refused, the next information we had was that the Porte had ordered the Khedive to resign—a thing which, under the Firmans, it had no power whatever to do. It was an obvious violation of the privileges Is mail had so dearly purchased. Nevertheless, he obeyed; and Tewfik Pasha was appointed in his place. It was not known exactly what communications had passed between our Government and the Porte. Attempts were made to elicit information. The noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs asked in that House what were the reasons which had induced Her Majesty's Government to adopt so extraordinary a course as to demand the Khedive's abdication? and other Members asked other Questions. As usual, no explanations were given; or, if any, misleading ones. The French Government, on the other hand, had honestly avowed that they had acted solely in the interests of the bondholders, and he believed the English Government followed in their footsteps, because they did not like to be left behind. The Government had thus supported the revival of the most pernicious form of Turkish authority over the internal government of Egypt. Great complications would surely follow, for it should be borne in mind that at Constantinople everything was controlled by the harem, as had been shown recently by the fall of Khaireddin. We had countenanced a very extraordinary proceeding. We had gone to the Government of Turkey because, as the House would doubtless be told, the people of Egypt were oppressed and misgoverned. Surely, it must appear ludicrous to go to the Sultan and ask him to interfere, when he himself had been a far greater offender in the matter of misgovernment than the Khedive. Consequently, he was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government had taken a very fatal step. If the Government of the Sultan could abolish the authority and the power which they granted by one Firman, there was no security against their issuing another Firman to place the new Ruler of Egypt under other influences, in opposition to the wishes of the Governments of England and France. In fact, the difficulty which had occurred with regard to the new Firman which was to be granted to Tewfik Pasha, and the fact that it gave him less authority than his father had enjoyed, proved this. But it was said the Porte really acted under English and French authority. If that were so, then, as far as England and France were concerned, they had assumed a joint responsibility for the government of Egypt which, up to the present time, had led us, and which might lead us hereafter, into serious complications. The interests of the two countries, especially considering that France was guided by the wishes of the bondholders, might possibly diverge, and then a very grave responsibility would have been incurred by the Government. It was now intended to establish a Commission of Liquidation, of which, despite the errors of judgment and the mistakes he had committed, it was reported that Mr. Rivers Wilson was to be a member. A reliable communication from the correspondent of The Times stated that the new Ruler of Egypt did not desire to see that gentleman re-appointed; and, therefore, for that and many other reasons, in his opinion, Her Majesty's Government ought to hold their hands. He hoped that the Government would rather allow someone else two years' leave of absence from the duties of his Office in this country to look after the finances of Egypt. The following had been the general results of the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government during the last three years:—They had brought about the dethronement of the Khedive, who, whatever his faults, and they were many, had appealed to them in times of difficulty and distress. They had endeavoured, indeed, to assist him at the time of the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares; but since then, he feared, the confidence of the Khedive had been misplaced. They had restored the baneful Turkish influence of the harem over Egypt, which it was the interest of this country to abolish, and they had reduced our influence, which was formerly paramount in Egypt, to a position of minor authority dependent on France; and, if the Commission of Liquidation were really appointed, subject to the will, also, of the other great Powers. Her Majesty's Government had been driven by the bondholders into a course of action which was against international courtesy, and also, he believed, against the rights which the Viceroys of Egypt had acquired under the Firmans of the Sultan. The effect upon the population of Egypt had been to reduce them to a state of the greatest misery. The two Governments had taken a position of joint responsibility involving the most awkward questions, which must of necessity hereafter lead to many international complications. Such, then, were the general results of what the Under Secretary of State was always calling "high policy." That phrase of "high policy" appeared to him (Sir Julian Goldsmid) to be only another expression for constant interference, and the lamentable results he had referred to were caused by constant interference in the affairs of Egypt. It was a course of action which, was deeply to be deplored, and which he thought required, nay demanded, adequate explanation from Her Majesty's Government.


said, that, as at that period of the year the time of the House was very precious, he should not detain them many minutes. It was all the less necessary to speak at any length on the subject, because his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Sir Julian Goldsmid) had gone fully into the history of the question. At the same time, he did not agree with those hon. Members opposite who seemed to show impatience at his hon. Friend's speech, for he could not think they really desired that Session to pass over without something like a full discussion of these Egyptian affairs, and, indeed, in the interest of the Government itself, it was most desirable that that discussion should occur. He contended that the Members of that House had been misled by the action of the Government and by their words, and the few minutes he would occupy would be employed in pointing out the way in which it had been done. His hon. Friend had rather based his speech on what might be called the other side of the question—namely, the deception practised towards the Khedive. For his own part, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) must at once say that he had not the smallest sympathy with the Khedive, nor did he deplore in the least what had occurred to him. He wished, also, to take that opportnnity of saying he was not one of those who thought we had no concern in the affairs of Egypt. On the contrary, he had, perhaps, a higher belief in the necessity of our interesting ourselves with the affairs of that country than had even many of those who sat upon the Treasury Bench. He maintained, however, that that House had been misled by the policy of the Government and by their words. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House several times that the Khedive had a perfect right to dismiss Mr. Rivers Wilson and his French Colleague. Those answers were made not only to the House of Commons, but also to the Khedive, because, of course, they were telegraphed to Egypt, and many persons thought they had a great deal to do with the dismissal of those Ministers. That was the view put forth by his hon. Friend; but what he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) particularly rose to complain of was, that the House had been misled throughout by the Government, because it was unaware, and it was even now not officially aware, that the Government had declared in Egypt for a far stronger policy, and had really taken the affairs of the country into their hands, when, in that House, two months later, they were telling it that they had not. In the despatch of the 8th of March, which had never been officially presented to the House by the Government, and which was the foundation of their later policy, but regarding which he could see no reason why the criticizers of the policy of the Government should not quote it, they expressed themselves in these terms— The Governments of France and England accept the expression of the determination of the Khedive to conform to their decisions and they take note thereof. The two European members of the Council are to have the right of generally imposing an absolute veto upon all measures of which they disapprove. In consideration of these concessions, the Powers abstain from insisting on the return to office of Nubar Pasha. The Khedive will understand the serious responsibility which he has assumed by giving rise to these new arrangements, and the gravity of the consequences to which he would expose himself, if he should not prove able to insure their complete execution, and if difficulties should arise subsequently to interfere with the progress of the Government, or if public order should be disturbed. It would thus be seen that Her Majesty's Government had contemplated all those acts which afterwards happened. They had contemplated the impatience of the Khedive, and had foreseen the possibility of an èmeute being got up in Cairo. In this despatch, they distinctly told the Khedive that he would be driven from his Throne if he did not act as they wished him to act. But what he complained of was, not the conduct of the Government towards the Khedive, but their conduct to Parliament and the country, in not informing them of the very grave responsibility they were undertaking on behalf of this country. Although it might be contended that there were reasons of high policy, as they were acting in concert with France, for concealment, he maintained that even in that case Her Majesty's Government ought to have said they would not answer; and they had no excuse for giving the House totally misleading accounts of their policy. In April, however, the Government, on two occasions, gave answers to Questions put in that House which led hon. Members to believe that there was no intention to drive the Khedive from his Throne, and that he would be allowed to dismiss his European Ministers and return to his old courses if he pleased, with nothing from us but remonstrances. But at that very time the Government had decided that, in the event of the Khedive acting as they knew he was likely to act, he should be driven from his Throne. [Mr. BOURKE: Nothing of the sort.] True, the Government never said he should be driven from his Throne. When he was driven from his Throne they did not say so; but they instructed the Turks to say so, and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester had pointed out, in making the Turks take that action the Government had reversed the whole past policy of this country with regard to Egypt. This country had always maintained with other Powers that they were not to act through the Porte, but to foster a virtual independence of the Egyptian Government. Her Majesty's Government, however, as he had stated, said they accepted the determination of the Khedive to conform to the decision of England and France, and took note thereof; they pointed out the serious responsibility which he incurred through the new arrangements, and the gravity of the consequences to which he exposed himself if he failed in their complete execution, or if there was an émeute in Cairo. And yet the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State now said that they did not tell him that he was to be driven from the Throne. If they did not tell him that, it was difficult to understand what else the veto of the European Powers could mean.


said, that he was sorry that the discussion of that important subject had been left till the end of the Session, owing to the neglect of the Government to furnish at an earlier period the information which would have enabled his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Sir Julian Goldsmid) to bring the subject forward in a fuller House. For himself, at the same time, he was bound to say, having listened with the very closest attention to the speech of his hon. Friend, which began, one might say, with the Egyptian Deluge, and brought them down through a long series of years to the last historical fact—that he did not quite share the opinions which that hon. Gentleman had expressed. No doubt, as his hon. Friend had said, great inconvenience had been caused by the undue reticence of the Government with regard to the policy they were pursuing in Egypt. While he sympathized to a great extent with the Government in the action they had taken, he felt all the more sorry that they had not been more candid with the House. Had they been so they would have met with more sympathy and greater support. Egypt was a kind of lottery bag or tee-totum for all sorts of swindlers, gamblers, and money-lenders on the Stock Exchange; and, considering that every single act of Her Majesty's Government in regard to that country was, in some way or other, immediately discounted in the Money Market and the Stock Exchange, therefore there was a serious responsibility resting on the Government, and it ought to be very frank and candid as to its policy. We could not at present get any unbiassed opinion with regard to affairs in Egypt, or a true history of events which were taking place there, because, in every single instance, and in the case of every newspaper of influence in this country, the correspondents were biassed, because they represented different interests. He wanted to point, in some way, in direct contradiction of the statement made by his hon. Friend, to two facts with regard to the policy of this country in respect of Egypt. One was that from 1866 there had been, off and on, a joint action between the Governments of France and England with regard to Egypt. That was a very important matter, because it showed that Her Majesty's Government, in the policy they had been pursuing, had only been carrying out, to a certain extent, the policy initiated by their Predecessors. [Sir JULIAN GOLDSMID: No, no!] His hon. Friend said "No, no;" and that compelled him (Mr. E. Jenkins) to prove the truth of what he said. He would take the Papers delivered to them on Saturday, and he found on the 3rd page a reference was made to these words in a letter from Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon— I observe that although. England and France might, as far as they were interested in the matter, or it depended upon them, have con- sented to any arrangement made between the Porte and the Powers, yet it might be as well to abstain from giving any opinion with regard to that arrangement. That showed that, at that time, conversation was taking place between the French and English Governments as to the policy they ought generally to pursue in Egypt. His hon. Friend was historically incorrect in regard to another statement he had made—namely, that the policy of Great Britain had been, as far as practicable, to make Egypt as independent as possible of the Porte. His hon. Friend could surely have never taken the trouble to read these Papers, because, if there was anything clearly shown, it was that the policy of both Liberal and Conservative Administrations had been rather to preserve the authority of the Porte; to what end it was not necessary to say. The despatches from Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Granville, and Lord Granville's replies to them, conclusively showed that to be the case. A despatch from Sir Henry Elliot to Lord Granville, dated June 27, 1873, stated that any attempt on the part of the Viceroy to weaken the ties which bound Egypt to the Ottoman Empire would always be regarded with unqualified disapprobation; and Lord Granville had not only discouraged the Khedive from seeking to break away from the control of the Sultan, but had warned him that if he attempted to do so the British Government would be prepared to take very strong measures indeed. He (Mr. E. Jenkins) was aware that they could have no very useful debate that night, one cause of which was that the necessary Papers had not been produced. They were, therefore, thrown on old Papers and facts which had leaked out. He hoped, however, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of his statement with regard to the history and adventures of Mr. Rivers Wilson in Egypt, would give them information which would enable them to arrive at some idea as to the nature of the policy the Government was pursuing. As yet they did not know what the ultimate aim of the Government was, or its motive, for the Government had given them no clue to guide them in the matter. They virtually nominated Mr. Wilson to the post, and, in doing so, accepted a vast responsibility. He (Mr. E. Jenkins) was never more astonished in his life than when the Chancellor of the Exchequerrose and said that Mr. Rivers Wilson went out as a Minister to the Khedive, who had the right to dismiss him from his post. In the same speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer said something which did not quite agree with this statement—namely, that the exceptional interference was due to the fact that this country had not only a large financial interest in Egypt, but was interested in a political sense, and that it was of great importance, in the interests of this country and European peace, that Egypt should not fall into a state of anarchy and bankruptcy. It was impossible to reconcile one part of the speech with the other, any more than it was possible to reconcile one portion of the policy of the Government with another portion. The House, in his opinion, ought to face the question as to the right of the Government to interfere on behalf of the creditors of Egypt. He could not say that it would not be right on any occasion for one Government to interfere with another Government on behalf of the creditors who were subjects of the interfering Government. Occasions might arise when that would be justifiable, and he was not prepared to say that the occasion had not arisen in regard to Egypt. But the question was, had our Government interfered? They would probably hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether this country had adopted the principle laid down by the French Government; but it seemed perfectly clear that the French Government—moved by a strong body, the Credit Foncier—acted under the influence which was brought about by financial pressure. He knew from the highest authority that no French Minister could have faced the people if he allowed England to act alone with regard to Egypt. There could be no doubt that the Khedive had obtained from a large number of persons in England vast sums of money; but they did not propose to go so far as to say that we should be justified in supporting those creditors against the Khedive, or taking strong action against him with regard to those creditors. The Khedive had been distinctly told that he must keep Mr. Rivers Wilson in his position, and that serious things would arise if he did not do so. The Khedive, however, did not keep Mr. Wilson in his position, and serious things did arise, and then the Government did not do what it had threatened. He did not blame them, as his hon. Friend had done, for interfering too much; but he did blame them for not interfering in the case of Mr. Wilson. The Government was bound to carry out its policy with a strong hand. He did not wonder that the public were mystified. It was a toss up whether it was a Stock Exchange intrigue or Imperial policy, and he trusted some information would be afforded by the Government on the subject. He ventured to say that the country was prepared for a strong policy with regard to Egypt. The Government was suffering her to drift into error. Egypt was as badly off now as over she was. The ex-Khedive had plundered her, and no attempt at recovery had been made, and the present Khedive was as corrupt and intriguing as his father. That was all that had come of the Government policy up to the present moment. The Government had threatened to interfere, but had not interfered with sufficient strength. What they wanted was an earnest, vigorous, and intelligent policy in Egypt. The Government could not ignore the policy it had assumed. Our interests in Egypt were, and our stake in her prosperity had been, vastly increased by our own action, and by the change in the circumstances of Eastern affairs. We were bound boldly and vigorously to assert and vindicate our interests; and he could not help saying that he did not think we should allow Russia or Germany to interfere for political purposes in the affairs of Egypt. The Government ought to declare their policy candidly and clearly; but he saw no signs of definiteness, clearness, or boldness in their existing policy. So far as could be seen, they were only tinkering at a great question, and subordinating public interests to the narrow interests of Party, and, perhaps, to the private advantage of individuals. He would be glad if the Government could clear themselves, at all events, from that charge, and be able to show that in the policy they were carrying out they had a definite and consistent purpose in view, and were moved by motives of Imperial policy, rather than by whims, caprices, and the exigencies of the moment.


regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not pursued an independent policy with regard to Egypt. In the year 1867 the British Government complained that Egyptian affairs were being subjected to the undue influence of France, and in consequence of their remonstrance the Khedive placed his military schools under English direction. At that time there was a jealous co-partnership between England and France in respect of the affairs of Egypt, each country endeavouring to prevent its rival from gaining any undue advantage. A similar state of things existed now, notwithstanding the excellent opportunity the Franco-German War had afforded us of making English influence paramount, for since that war France had ceased to have that interest which she formerly had in Syria. At the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department was very emphatic in his announcements of the interests of England. Egypt was named by him as one English interest. It was also understood that Batoum was a point with which we should allow no interference; and, as to the Suez Canal, that we should not allow any other country to interfere with that. But on the conclusion of the war the Government abandoned the position they had taken up. Instead of giving us a rubbishy island like Cyprus, they ought to have purchased the suzerainty of the Sultan over the Suez Canal. Such a step would have secured it to this country as a permanent high road to India. As it was, the state of things was this—that in the event of a European complication, if we should happen to be at war with Italy, we could not send our troops to India through the Canal, for Italy could blockade the entrance, and we should have to employ half our Navy to maintain a passage for our troopships through the Canal. In the event of our being at war with any naval Power, we ought to abandon the route to India by the Canal, and send our troops by way of the old one round the Cape, seeing that our Government had failed to secure the passage of the Canal at all times. With fast steamers this would not take much more time than was now required for the passage of slow troopships to India viâ the Canal, while, from a sanitary point of view, the Cape route possessed great advantages. At present, it took from 30 to 40 days for our troopships to carry troops through the Canal to Bombay, and there were abundance of vessels in which the troops could be conveyed round the Cape in the same time. This latter course would also be beneficial to our soldiers, because they could, both out and home, be landed and acclimatized, so that they should not suffer from any sudden change of climate. The Government ought, therefore, to consider what would be the best route to India, if complications were to arise between us and a maritime Power. The objection to the Cape of Good Hope route on the score of expense was, he believed, not well founded, as the saving in the Canal dues would neutralize the cost of transport for the longer distance. The cost by the Suez Canal route was as much as from £20 to £26 a-head; but probably there were many ship-owning firms that would undertake the conveyance of troops by way of the Cape of Good Hope for about three-fourths of that sum, or from £15 to £16. He would not enlarge on that subject, but had merely thought it right to call the attention of the Government to the possibility of transport round the Cape of Good. Hope.


said, that having been last winter in Egypt he could bear testimony to the deplorable condition of the people. Nothing he had seen written, or had in that House heard spoken, had given an adequate idea of the state of starvation and destitution to which a very large proportion of the poor inhabitants of Egypt were reduced. It might be said this was not the business of the people or the Government of England. It had been said, particularly on the Liberal side of the House, that we ought to attend to our own business, and not go round the world, looking after the affairs of every people that might be oppressed by a bad Government. But that was an absolute blunder in the case of Egypt. During the time he was in Egypt, and since he had come back, he found our Government had been doing nothing but dunning the Khedive and the people of Egypt, while the Khedive, for whom, by-the-bye, he had nothing to say, had protested their inability to pay the interest on the bonds. It was, in point of fact, impossible for them to do so. The greatest possible sum that could be got out of the population was extracted from them. Their whole savings had been devoured. Even their clothes and house utensils were seized, and many of them had been bastinadoed, almost to death, for refusing to give up that which was out of their power. Yet our Government was insisting that they should pay to the last farthing. He hoped that before this debate closed they should hear from the Government something that would show they were going to give up that policy. He trusted that they would, in this matter, part company with France, and would begin to have some consideration for the people of Egypt. Instead of seeking to extract more from them than they were able to pay, something should be done for this cruelly-wronged people. As long as Egypt continued to be the prey of foreigners its people would continue in this state; he, therefore, hoped they would hear that the Government of England did not intend any longer to continue those Jewish practices, but would really endeavour to make some arrangement by which these people should pay less.


said, that the Papers before the House had so many blanks in them, and gave so little information on several important points, that it was all but impossible to form a fair judgment of the conduct of Mr. Rivers Wilson. He ventured, therefore, to ask the House to suspend its judgment on that point till it was in possession of fuller information. Not very long before he had made a few observations on the treatment of Mr. Rivers Wilson by the Government, and had complained that he had not had the support of Mr. Vivian, the British Consul at Cairo. As was well known, the French Consul had been dismissed by his Government in consequence of his having adopted the same attitude towards M. de Bligniéres; but Mr. Rivers Wilson had cause to complain both of the British Consul, and that it did not appear that any notice had been taken of the action of Mr. Vivian. He wished also again to point out that, on March 13, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the Khedive had a perfect right to dismiss Mr. Rivers Wilson. If, on that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman had read to the House the joint Note of March 8, he would have allowed them greater insight into the position of affairs. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) need not quote that Note to the House; but it was clear from it that most serious consequences would follow if the Khedive took upon himself to dismiss Mr. Rivers Wilson—indeed, that was the phrase used in the Note. After that, could it be properly said that the Khedive had a perfect right to dismiss Mr. Wilson? The strength of Mr. Wilson's position in Egypt was due to the ignorance of the Khedive as to the nature of the serious consequences of shaping his policy in disobedience to the joint Note; but, of course, when the Khedive was informed by telegraph of the words used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on March 13, he must have deduced from them that no serious consequences would follow from his dismissing Mr. Wilson; the words must have seemed to him as a hint on which he was to act. What wonder, then, that he took the hint and dismissed the Minister. That was not a bad example of the want of frankness of which he (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) complained the other night with regard to Cyprus. In respect to many matters of foreign policy, he thought they had reason to complain of the want of openness on the part of the Government, for which he held the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs responsible.


said, it struck him, as a City man, that the Money Market was at the bottom of a good deal of this discussion, and he could see no good in it, except it led to a diminution of the extortionate interest which the people of Egypt had to pay for the loans contracted by their Rulers. The Khedive might be a good man or bad man; but he (Sir Andrew Lusk) remembered the time when, 15 years ago, the great houses in the City were offering the Khedive money at 12 per cent, and now, when what they all foresaw had come, it was not for us to interfere. There ought, he maintained, to be no consideration shown to the Egyptian bondholders, who ought to have known they subscribed to a loan on such unreasonable terms that a time must come when Egypt would be unable to bear the burden. They could not complain of not getting their money, for they had got it back nearly twice over already in the shape of exorbitant interest. He hoped that they had heard the last of this matter, and that it would settle down into a more quiet state of things.


said, that the difficulty of those who were discussing this question was, that they had not got any official information. He had, therefore, been anxious to postpone his remarks until the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had enlightened the House and the country; but as it was said that the hon. Gentleman did not propose to do anything of the kind, he (Sir George Campbell) was forced to do the best he could. He brought this subject before the House about two months ago, and in consequence of what was then said he put his trust in the Government; but his confidence had received a very rude shock in consequence of what had since taken place, or had been revealed through other than official channels. Appearances, it must be confessed, were very much against the Governments both of England and France, for it seemed as if the action of those two countries had not been taken so much in the interests of the Egyptian people as of the European creditors of the Egyptian Government. If the deposition of the late Khedive were considered entirely by itself, it perhaps might be justified on the ground that he was too clever by half, extravagant, and not to be depended on. He (Sir George Campbell) was rather inclined to believe that the new Khedive would, if he had fair play, do better than his father. It was said that he had one excellent qualification, which was, that he spoke English in its very best form, that of broad Scotch. He was afraid, however, that the question was not the simple one of the propriety of deposing the late Khedive, who, he might point out, by-the-bye, was not an Egyptian, but an Armenian, by birth. It was believed throughout Europe, and with some show of justice, that the interests of Egyptian creditors were solely those which moved the English and French Governments, though he hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able in some degree to modify this impression. If it was true, the result would be to establish in Egypt what might be called a "Shylock Government." In the interest of creditors, who were determined to have their pound of flesh from the poor Egyptian people, and greatly as the interests of England had been neglected in favour of those of the creditors of Egypt, he was afraid that they would be more neglected in future under this Shylock Government. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) had disowned any sympathy with the usurers who had made Egypt the field of their operations, and he (Sir George Campbell) was inclined to agree with him. As regarded the future, he was afraid that many efforts were being made to coerce the new Khedive into the belief that if he did not entirely submit himself to the creditors' interest—thus sacrificing the people over whom he ruled—the fate which had befallen his father would befall him. For instance, most persistent efforts had been made to set up Prince Halim as Ruler of Egypt; and the creditors, if displeased with Prince Tewfik, might use Prince Halim as their tool. There was another danger which lurked behind the cry of justice to Nubar Pasha. Up to the present time, the new Khedive had very wisely discouraged Nubar Pasha's return to Egypt; for, no doubt, his return would be accompanied by an attempt to resume his policy. Another form of coercion of the present Khedive, and of triumph for the interest of the Egyptian creditors over that of the Egyptian people, was the return of Mr. Rivers Wilson to that country, and this was a danger which appeared nearer than any other. The very best authority—namely, the present Khedive himself—had stated to the correspondent of The Times that efforts were being made to force Mr. Rivers Wilson on him again. Men of all political views condemned the Egyptian career of Mr. Rivers Wilson. The Consuls General of England and France were themselves of opinion that serious faults were committed by Mr. Wilson while he was in Egypt; and he (Sir George Campbell) certainly agreed on this occasion with the diplomatists, and not the financiers, for he thought that the former had the interests of Egypt at heart, while the latter had not. He hoped, therefore, that the Government would not send Mr. Wilson back to Egypt, even as the head of a temporary Commission of Inquiry. If the Government did so, the Egyptians, and everybody else, would believe that the interests of the unfor- tunate people were more than ever to be subordinated to those of the financiers. He (Sir George Campbell) was quite ready to accept a Commission of Liquidation fairly and honestly conducted; and he was quite willing that any competent man, who had not committed himself to the side of the creditors, should be placed on it. He was willing that Mr. Romaine, or Mr. Baring, or even M. de Bligniéres, should be put on the Commission. He hoped that the frank appeal of the new Khedive would be listened to by the Government, and that he would be allowed a fair chance. He now wished to say a word upon the complications which had recently arisen from Her Majesty's Government calling in the intervention of the Sultan in this matter. That seemed to him to be a very grave error. Having heard so recently the testimony of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) regarding the corruptness of the Court of Constantinople, it would be a terrible misfortune for Egypt and the world if the result of our intervention was that the Sultan and the corrupt Pashas of Turkey should have an opportunity of squeezing Egypt. It was bad enough for it to be squeezed by European creditors. If the Pashas at Constantinople were to give it another squeeze, God help the unfortunate people! He was very much inclined to believe that if Egypt were well-governed, and under a well-regulated system of economy, and if it were connected with Turkey by a fair bargain, it would add much to the strength of Turkey—would supply many things which were wanting to Turkey. Seeing that parts of European Turkey had been granted complete autonomy, and the Dominions of Turkey in Europe had been greatly diminished, he would look with great hope to any arrangement which would extend the Mahomedan Empire in Western Asia and Africa, which had not hitherto been completely conjoined with that Empire. We, at any rate, had no reason to be jealous of a Mahomedan State there. We had always made it a cardinal point in our policy to maintain such an Empire, and by an Empire he meant a great State. He believed a great Mahomedan State would be the best barrier against Russia, and an independent Mahomedan Government would be the best means of extricating us from those schemes of joint occupation on the part of France and other European Governments with which we were seriously threatened. How could that object be effected? The Turkish Empire was, he believed, as an Empire, effete, and it was impossible of revival in the old form. Still, he thought, by means of this new system of autonomy which Her Majesty's Government had favoured, they had really the means of accomplishing a great Mahomedan revival. Egypt might be made self-governing and independent of the will of the Sultan and Pashas at Constantinople, and constituted a member of this revived Mahomedan State. The right way in establishing her as a self-governing, promising, respectable member of a great Mahomedan Confederation was to give a fair chance to this new Khedive. He ought to get a fair measure of independence, and not be subordinated to England and half-a-dozen other Powers.


Sir, of course I cannot complain that the hon. Member opposite (Sir Julian Goldsmid) should have invited us to discuss this question. That was perfectly right and natural, and the Government are perfectly willing and quite prepared to enter into such a discussion; but I must protest against one or two features which I have observed in the course of the debate this evening. In the first place, it seems to me that there is far too great a tendency on the part of hon. Members to take up all the stories which they hear, to draw inferences from those stories, and to attack the character of one and another of the persons who have played an important part in recent proceedings in regard to Egypt, and who are conspicuous in the eyes of the world. The effect of some of the observations of this nature which have been made has not been, and is not, I think, likely to be, of great advantage either to Egyptian or to English interests. It is a great pity, I think, that we should have had those attacks upon the character and position of Nubar Pasha, Mr. Rivers Wilson, Mr. Vivian, and other persons who might be named, because some of the things which have been stated have been said upon imperfect information. Those statements, be it remembered, go far beyond the walls of the House. They are, to a great ex- tent, inaccurate; and they are calculated to produce a prejudice which may be seriously mischievous. With regard to Nubar Pasha, I am not prepared to say that, in all ways and in every respect, he has been right and wise in all his policy; but I can say that there is no Eastern statesman, with whom Her Majesty's Government, or, at all events, I am acquainted, who has shown more acuteness, or a more perfectly honest desire to improve the condition of that country to which, whether he was a native of it or not, he has devoted so large a portion of his time and attention than Nubar Pasha. And I say, also, that any reflections which may be cast upon him come exceedingly ill from any Englishman, because there is no doubt that, over and above the anxious wish which I am sure has animated him to do the best he could for his adopted country, Egypt, there has always been in his mind and conduct a strong evidence that he has desired to secure the friendship of, and to work well with the Government of, England. He has played a great part in very difficult circumstances on more than one occasion. It was to his great exertions we owe the foundation of those international tribunals which were established in Egypt, and which, I think, have very beneficially superseded the old system of Consular jurisdiction. He was one of those who always stood up for English interests in all the questions which arose in which we were concerned; and I regret exceedingly that anything should be said, as I think unnecessarily, in this House, which should cast reflections upon his conduct. It certainly is my duty, on behalf of the Government, emphatically to repudiate any such reflections, and to express the great acknowledgments which England, Egypt, and, to a great extent, Europe, also owes to that distinguished man. I am also sorry to have heard the observations which were made with regard to Mr. Rivers Wilson, as to whose abilities and whose position in this country there is no question about. Mr. Wilson devoted himself to a most difficult task in Egypt in a position of the greatest embarrassment; and he has certainly shown great ability in the way in which he has discharged his duties. It is almost impossible for anyone going into a particular position under such circumstances as Mr. Wilson did to fail to give offence more or less to all parties. Had he made himself a partizan on the one side or the other, he might, although he might have made bitter enemies, have also made strong supporters and friends; but he went straight to his point, looking neither to the right nor to the left, not favouring this class or that class, but doing his best for Egypt, and, by doing so, he has exposed himself to much of the criticism that has been uttered against him. With regard to Mr. Vivian, I think, also, that some of the remarks which have been made in this discussion have been both unfair and ungenerous. He has done his duty well as the Consul General of this country in Egypt, and has endeavoured to do it in the way which seemed to him to be the best; he has given his candid opinion to Her Majesty's Government upon all questions which arose from time to time; and I cannot see that there is any justice whatever in the reflections which have been cast upon him. Hon. Gentlemen who are in the habit of making these criticisms seem to get hold of every rumour on the Stock Exchange, or in the Money Markets of Alexandria or Cairo. These rumours are taken up, paraded as facts, and, ultimately, they culminate in what we are told is the highest authority—the Constantinople Correspondent of The Times newspaper—and the result is naturally inconvenient to the parties concerned. Then, what happens? We are pressed for information; questions are put to us as to so-called facts founded upon imperfect evidence, and we are obliged, in that manner, to make certain statements on the subject. If the Government decline to do so, and withhold any information which they possess, they are told that they are keeping the House in the dark, and that it is very wicked of them to do so. The result is that, when we do make a frank and explicit statement, the statements so made are used for personal or Party purposes, and telegraphed out to Egypt, and, it may be, produce consequences of the gravest import. I do trust that in discussing this question—if it is to be discussed much longer—hon. Gentlemen will endeavour to bear this in mind. I hope they will remember that what we say in this House goes far beyond our own walls, and may cause results which it is difficult for us to foresee. Before going further, I desire to notice the attacks which have been made upon me by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), the hon. Baronet the Member for Rochester (Sir Julian Goldsmid), and others, of having been wanting in candour and fairness in the statement which I made to the House in the month of March last upon this subject. I entirely dispute that there is any justification for the attacks which have been so made. What was the position of affairs at the time I made the observations which I offered on the 13th of March? It was a very peculiar one, for there had been a tumult in Cairo, in the course of which insults had been offered to Mr. Rivers Wilson and M. de Bligniéres. The Khedive had interfered, and, through his authority, had restored order, apparently with great ease. I do not, however, wish to make any remarks upon the point. The Khedive followed this up by dismissing Mr. Rivers Wilson, and the position of affairs then became a matter of natural anxiety. I was questioned upon the subject, and I made a speech which occupies, I see, several pages of Hansard. In the course of that speech I said— It was not possible now to define the exact position of Mr. 'Wilson, because, unfortunately, the position of the Egyptian Ministry itself was in a very unsettled state, owing to the crisis through which it had recently passed. When Mr. Wilson went out, he went as the Minister of the Khedive, who had the right to dismiss him from his post whenever he thought fit. … It then became a question as to the course which should be taken by Mr. Wilson and M. de Bligniéres. They consulted their respective Governments, and Her Majesty's Ministers expressed to Mr. Wilson their opinion that it would be undesirable for him to resign, but that he was to be guided very much by the arrangements which might be come to with the Khedive. They had no control over Mr. Wilson, who was then and still remained perfectly free to take his own course; but they gave the advice, and instructed the British Consul in Egypt to give Mr. Wilson his moral support."—[3 Hansard, ccxliv. 851.] That was the precise state of the case; it was through the Khedive's own act that Mr. Wilson was appointed, and not from any promptings on the part of the British Government, and all that the Government had done was to advise Mr. Rivers Wilson not to resign, when their advice on the point was asked; but there was no doubt but that the Khedive had a perfect right to dismiss him. They came to that conclusion in concert with the Government of France, a conclusion, however, in the first instance suggested, I believe, by Consul Vivian, that it was not desirable to interfere so as to try and compel the Khedive to retrace the step he had taken in calling for the resignation of Nubar Pasha, but that, as far as the European Ministers were concerned, they thought it right for them to remain in the Cabinet with a certain right of veto. Her Majesty's Government accompanied that suggestion by what has been quoted by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea in the despatch of the 8th of March. In that despatch, we stated that if the concession which, we proposed was made, we would abstain from further pressing Nubar Pasha on the Khedive; but we added to Mr. Vivian— It will be your duty to warn him that any further difficulties or disturbances of the public peace will be regarded as the result of his action, and he must expect that the consequences will recoil upon himself. When the Khedive, in this summary way, had dismissed Nubar Pasha, there were, of course, suggestions of all kinds afloat. It was urged that he should be compelled to retrace his steps and replace Nubar Pasha; but the two Governments came to the conclusion that violent action of that sort was not desirable or necessary, and that the right thing to do was to spare the Khedive's feelings; and we thought the best course would be that a better position should be found for the European Ministers in the Cabinet, at the same time warning him that in the event of any disturbances of the public peace the consequences would prove serious for him. We all know what happened. That arrangement, though accepted in words, was, in a short time, broken in spirit, and the Khedive took the steps which led to what has since occurred. The general principle on which we have acted in these Egyptian matters has been not, as has been suggested, to interfere in the interests of the English or any other creditors of the Khedive. It has been a mere accident, and an incident of the position, that we have been obliged to interfere with the measures taken by the Khedive which were likely to be prejudicial to his creditors. It was not that we were interfering for the sake of the creditors, but for the sake of preventing anarchy and misrule in Egypt. The cardinal principle of the English policy in Egypt upon which we acted was that Egypt ought to be maintained in a flourishing and, as far as possible, independent position, and that English interests should be, I will not say predominant, but that they should not be overshadowed by the interests of any other Power. I do not wish to weary the House by going into the reasons for that policy, as I think they are sufficiently obvious. Well, when we saw the Khedive getting into great difficulties; when we saw him parting with such politically valuable securities as the Suez Canal Shares, we thought it was time to stir ourselves, in order to see whether any mischief was brewing. There was no knowing to what straits the Khedive might be driven, or what expedients he might not have resort to. We knew very well that Egypt could not be independent of European opinion, and we thought it necessary to guard against the evils which were impending; and, therefore, we helped the Khedive by the purchase of these Shares. At the same time, we wished to know whether this help would be sufficient to relieve the Khedive from his embarrassments, and that was the reason for the mission of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen Cave). The Khedive rejected our counsels. Then came upon the scene the bondholders, who referred their interests to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) and M. Joubert. They went to Egypt to see what they could do with regard to bringing about the desired financial arrangements. The Government so far assisted them that they placed at their disposal men who were capable of giving them assistance. That led to the establishment of the system of control. That went on for a short time, and then there was a further inquiry, and Mr. Wilson was allowed to go out to assist the Khedive; and that, in its turn, led to the change which afterwards took place, and to his becoming Finance Minister in the Cabinet of Nubar Pasha. That was not promoted by England; it was the suggestion of the Commission of Inquiry; and when the Khedive, thinking he had better act on this suggestion, sent for Nubar Pasha and authorized him to form a Ministry, he invited the assistance of Mr. Rivers Wilson, which the Government was willing he should give. He went as the Minister of the Khedive; and at the time the system of control was suspended, because under the new Administration there seemed no reason for it going on; but it was suspended with the understanding that if the new arrangement with a European Minister should fail control was to be renewed at once. That arrangement did fail, and the consequence is that the control is about to revive. I am authorized to state that Major Baring is to represent England on that Body, and that his going out will be acceptable to the Khedive, who has expressed his confidence in Major Baring. He will go as the English Member of the Body of Control. With regard to the suggested temporary Commission to which reference has been made, nothing has at present been decided; but I cannot admit that if Mr. Rivers Wilson was employed on that Commission for definite and well-ascertained purposes there would be any reason to object or to complain of the arrangement. The whole of this difficulty arises very much in this way—European affairs had been conducted in Egypt for a great many years under what are called capitulations. Under that system great power was given to the Consuls, who administered justice in a very exceptional fashion. As matters went on, that was found to give such an advantage to foreigners of all nations resident in Egypt that it greatly interfered with the conduct of the Egyptian Government. With the aid of Nubar Pasha, the Khedive succeeded in bringing about a system of international tribunals, which were established under international agreements, and which, therefore, acquired an international character. These tribunals have laid down certain principles, and have adjudged that certain financial decrees of the Khedive are of importance and matters of contract of which they were bound to take cognizance. It therefore became a matter of international arrangement that these decrees should be maintained, and that they should be considered as having an international force. But these decrees were of such a character as to bring Egypt under obligations which it was impossible for her to fulfil without some modification, and the great object was to get rid of these difficulties in a way which would get rid of this embarrassment and difficulty. On all sides persons were making claims which were justifiable and were not to be set aside, and it was necessary that a door should be left open for the Government, and that the people should be relieved from cruel exactions, for we were told, with perfect truth, that the unfortunate fellaheen were suffering very much, and were miserably oppressed. I am perfectly aware of that, and it is one of the reasons why we are anxious to see a better system introduced. But you cannot change these things in a day. The exertions which wore made by Nubar Pasha during the few months while he was in power wore producing a very much better state of affairs; but the whole thing has been broken up, and the re-action has brought about a much worse state of things than that which existed before. We regret it exceedingly, and we cannot help saying that it is absolutely our duty to continue the exertions we have made, and to prevent the ruin which must come upon Egypt if matters are allowed to slide into anarchy. Prince Tewfik may be exceedingly well-intentioned; but we must remember that his position is one of difficulty, and that he really needs the support of powerful friends. We have been told that in all these things we have been acting for the bondholders; but I deny it. The bondholders are a powerful force in various countries, and the action of this force is perfectly certain to bring about more and more complicatons, and possibly political complications, if we are to stand aside. We know several other Powers who will not take that view. A good deal of observation has been made on the action of Germany; but other Powers will follow the same course as Germany. They cannot stand by and see the Khedive repudiating his international obligations, and we must not stand aside and see it either.


said, he desired to point out that the right hon. Gentleman had not answered his point about the revival of Turkish authority.


In regard to the revival of Turkish authority, I really do not know precisely what it is we are accused of. The action which was taken was taken by the Porte. We recognized the Khedive's right to dismiss Mr. Rivers Wilson; but, at the same time, we warned him that if he took that line he would be guilty of great discourtesy to us, and that serious consequences might ensue. When he took that step, and it became necessary for us to take some measures, we suggested through the Consuls that he should abdicate as the best means of preventing any more serious consequences which might ensue. He did not take the advice at once; he referred the matter to the Porte; and, subsequently, the Porte sent an order for him to abdicate. It was a matter the two Powers never brought before the Porte, but in which each acted as he thought best; and I am bound to say the Sultan, as the supreme Suzerain of Egypt, was entirely in his right in saying—"This is a dependency of the Porte; the administration of my vassal is bringing Egypt to ruin, and the effect will be prejudicial indeed." [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen seem to think there is something wrong in any action of the Sultan done for the purpose of preventing serious evils which everybody recognizes as likely to happen; but what has been the result? The result has been that a new Firman has been formulated; and, perhaps, as it has not been published, I may state what it does. The order of succession will be left untouched; the Khedive is to be prohibited from contracting any foreign loans; before making any convention with foreign Powers he must communicate with his Suzerain; and the Sultan is to have full control over the finances of Eygpt. I think, under that new arrangement, there will be a better chance of avoiding the great danger to Egypt which might be threatened in working over a difficult period. I do admit that the difficulties of the situation are not entirely at an end; but I cannot admit that there has been anything in the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government which renders them open to censure.


said, that when he was recently in Egypt he was told that Mr. Vivian was informed three weeks beforehand of the intended tumult. What made Mr. Rivers Wilson unpopular, in his opinion, was that he made great efforts to effect economy, particularly in endeavouring to diminish the number of the Khedive's palaces, of which there were no fewer than 44. Mr. Rivers Wilson was placed in very difficult circumstances, and discharged his duties with great ability. If it were necessary to send someone out again, no one was calculated to render more useful service than Mr. Wilson, considering the experience he had already gained. This was, at least, the impression he had derived from what he had seen and heard on the spot. He quite agreed with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said with regard to Mr. Rivers Wilson and Nubar Pasha, both of whom had rendered great service to Egypt.


could not help thinking, from what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had read of the new Firman, that matters had become even more complicated than had been feared—if, indeed, the independence of Egypt was not altogether gone. The new Firman had not been published; but it appeared that the Sultan claimed, and had exercised a right of deposition, which might be arbitrarily extended, and a new condition had been introduced, by which the Khedive could not contract a loan without communication with the Sultan. Egypt was thus brought back into subjection to the Sultan, from which she had been for many years striving painfully to emancipate herself. It was now obvious that the Government throughout had no policy. They did not understand the conditions under which they were bound to act, and the consequence was, their action had not been consistent with itself. Two conditions were paramount. First, the peasants should not be recklessly plundered and reduced to misery by extortion; and, secondly, the administration should be efficient and economical. After that, the creditors had a fair claim to consideration; but it was intolerable that the claims of creditors should be put foremost. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Christchurch (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) told them the other evening that Turkey must be decentralized; he (Mr. Courtney) would say the true policy was rather disintegration, especially so far as Egypt was concerned; but now they had created a new power on the part of the Sultan, which did not exist before. The situation was one of considerable embarrassment. The deposition of the late Khedive was altogether a mistake. He was a more able man than the present. Why not have left the Egyptians alone? He would have allowed them to stew in their own juice, and they would have worked out a solution for themselves. He should not have taken any part in this discussion; but after the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he must most strongly protest against the new right of intervention on the part of the Sultan recognized by the new Firman.