HC Deb 13 March 1879 vol 244 cc830-52

who had given Notice that he would move— That it is not desirable that Her Majesty's Government should do anything to facilitate the raising of new loans by Oriental Governments which have failed to meet the old ones, said, that although he was precluded by the Rules of the House from making his Motion, he wished to draw attention to the subject to which it referred. He was in hopes that the proposal that Her Majesty's Government should intervene in the raising of a loan for Turkey had gone off and would not come up again, so he need not say very much on that. But in regard to Egyptian transactions of that kind, he was afraid that our Government were venturing upon dangerous and slippery ground, which might give way beneath them. The House knew that various Missions had been sent out to improve the financial condition of Egypt, and, among other things, to enable her to pay her debts honestly. After the Missions of the right hon. Members for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen Cave), and for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), came that of Mr. Rivers Wilson. Mr. Wilson had, in one respect, been much more successful than his predecessors, because his proceedings had had the effect of largely raising the price of Egyptian stock. It was a question, however, whether that result had been produced by fair means; and he (Sir George Campbell) confessed that he himself had grave doubts on that point. He should boldly and distinctly state that, in his opinion, the present attempt ostensibly to introduce good government into Egypt was nothing less than a great stock-jobbing operation to raise the price of Egyptian funds, and enable those interested in those loans to unload them on the general public. He had asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether Mr Wilson had pledged himself to great financial bodies in Paris, having great political influence, and holding enormous quantities of Egyptian stock, not to reduce the interest before a certain date? and the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied that no information had reached the Government upon the subject, though he did not say that the statement was not true. He (Sir George Campbell) had reason to believe that there was very considerable foundation for it. Those great financial bodies had very much burnt their fingers by meddling with Egyptian loans, of which they held enormous amounts, and unless they could put their bonds on the public above the rate at which they lately stood they were likely to lose millions. Under these circumstances, no doubt, it was a great temptation to do something to get those financial bodies out of their difficulties; and he had been given to understand that some arrangement had been made—he would not say a conspiracy, because that was an ugly word—by which those great financial bodies undertook that they would not throw their stock on the market, and so depress the stock, for a certain time, and that, on the other hand, the Egyptian Government undertook they would pay the interest for a certain period, in the hope—and that hope had been already realized—that the stock in the meantime would be run up, so that ultimately those financial bodies would be enabled to unload their stock on the public, who would be duped by the transaction. There was a general belief abroad, although it might be unfounded, that the policy which was being pursued by the present Finance Minister of Egypt, and which, as it now appeared, was to some extent supported by Her Majesty's Ministers at home, was distinctly opposed to the policy of Mr. Consul General Vivian, and the views he had expressed. The newspapers told them that the present Government of Egypt looked not to the interest of the bondholders only, but sought to reform the Administration in order to benefit the people. That he believed to be a mere sham and a blind. The proof of the pudding was in the eating. Had the people of Egypt been treated more fairly and kindly by the present than by the former Administrations of that country? The truth was just the contrary; they were now, he believed, quite as much, and probably more, ground down than they ever were before. If the English public persisted in supposing that the Administration had lately been carried on in Egypt with a pure and simple regard for the welfare of the people, they were not without the means of knowing better in the shape of the information given by able correspondents of The Times. Some very striking communications on that subject had appeared very lately in that journal. One letter in The Times of that day described the state of things in Upper Egypt. The writer said— We rode on donkeys 200 miles through the more remote districts. Everywhere the most heartrending state of poverty was revealed. Taxation having taken from the Arab every reserve he may have saved in years of comparative prosperity, the failure of the dourra crop through the extensive inundation of this year deprived him of any possible means of subsistence. Near the sugar factories the famine was proportionately greater, as the drain upon the resources of the people is of course heavier where a large area of land has been seized for a crop which returns nothing to the actual cultivator, and where forced labour in the fields and factory deprives the peasant of his most valuable time. It was sad, in the midst of so much want, to see men driven with whips to labour for the English bondholder while the fields were lying untitled. He was afraid there was too much truth in that. The same correspondent went down the Nile, and he said— The first news we heard when we reached Luxor was that the Viceroy had given a magnificent entertainment to the Europeans at Cairo. It is, of course, but right that money should be spent in Cairo, but the account of these festivities jarred unpleasantly on our feeling after the scenes we had witnessed during the past eight days. We next heard that the Khedive had sent two Englishmen to investigate the reports of the distress, and a few days later came the news that they had reported 'the accounts of the distress in Upper Egypt as greatly exaggerated.' That was, apparently, the evidence of an impartial witness. With respect to the late proceedings at Cairo, another correspondent of The Times, on Monday last, stated that, notwithstanding an authoritative declaration made last May that all the arrears of pay were to be paid, the claims of the Army were neglected, that that most dangerous element was brought to a state of almost excusable disaffection; that in vain Mr. Vivian had remonstrated against the dangerous folly of disbanding an unpaid Army; it was to be expected that an outbreak must result. He would ask—Was it true that the present Finance Minister of Egypt refused to pay the just dues of those officials, and that Mr. Vivian remonstrated against that refusal? Another correspondent said that all those men were in arrears of pay, some of them for a few months, some for a year, and some even for two years; that severe hardship and privation resulted to them and their families in consequence; that they had petitioned again and again peacefully for what was owing to them, and were told that there was nothing for them, because all the taxation was mortgaged to pay the Public Debt. Were Her Majesty's Ministers supporting a Government which, while it paid the bondholders in full, treated its own officials in that way? He was very much afraid that there was a great deal of truth in these assertions, and if Her Majesty's Government could not say that they had information in their possession which enabled them distinctly to contradict them, then he must believe that it was true, as stated by the correspondent, that for the last two years, the affairs of Egypt had been administered in a most monstrous and unjust manner, entirely for the benefit of the foreign bondholders, and not for the benefit of the inhabitants of the country. He was aware that Lord Salisbury had candidly avowed that Her Majesty's Government had become involved in their present policy because they found it necessary to stand well with France, but he hoped they would not persevere too far in the course they had adopted. He trusted the Government would hesitate before involving the country in a course which was not creditable to its position. If there were any truth in the universal belief that Mr. Vivian was of one way of thinking and Mr. Rivers Wilson of another, he would ask upon what ground Her Majesty' s Government had supported the views of Mr. Rivers Wilson rather than those of Mr. Vivian? He wished to know, also, whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered the plans for the government of Egypt, which had succeeded in paying the coupons in full and in raising the price of Egyptian bonds in the market, were really good plans? His own apprehension was, that when the French financial bodies had been enabled, by the higher prices, to "unload" their bonds, they would snap their fingers at the Government, who would then be left face to face with the question of the government of Egypt. He hoped the Government would say something which would relieve the public from that apprehension. He should like to ask Her Majesty's Government on what general grounds they had thought it desirable, to a certain extent in the case of Turkey, and in a decided degree in the case of Egypt, to assist, by the appointment of Commissioners and others, those Governments, which had not been able to pay off their old loans, to raise new ones? Clever as Mr. Rivers Wilson undoubtedly was—and he (Sir George Campbell) gave him credit for that—he had raised the price of the bonds, not by any action of his own, but because it was generally believed that he had the support of Her Majesty's Government, and of the Government of France. Great was the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government if, by any action of theirs, they had led a credulous public into supposing that the Government of Egypt was solvent. A debate on this subject took place the other day, and he found that in The Times of the next morning there was attributed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer a very distinct and strong statement, to the effect that Egypt was a country whose resources would enable her to pay the whole of her debts, as well as everything else. He did not hear any such statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, but it had remained uncontradicted. A further statement had also been made which would lead the public to suppose that Mr. Rivers Wilson was, to a certain extent, a Representative of the British Government. He maintained that statements of that kind had a considerable effect in misleading the public, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would inform the House that they did not countenance them. He trusted that the first object of Her Majesty's Government was the decent government and fair treatment of the unhappy people of Egypt, and that they regarded as a matter of only secondary importance the claims of the French and other foreign bondholders.


said, he rose not so much for the purpose of discussing the very wide question raised by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), as to endeavour to extract from Her Majesty's Government some information with reference to an even more important question—that was the finances of Turkey. At the same time, it could not be denied that, especially in the circumstances of the present Government, and in view of its financial history in connection with both Turkey and Egypt, the question, raised was one of wide interest throughout the country, and deserved more discussion than it was likely to receive on that occasion. He rather thought that, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer were in a different position in the House from that he now occupied, there would proceed from the Opposition side of the House a very able exposition of the principle which the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had endeavoured to illustrate. The proposition, as it appeared on the Paper, was, perhaps, not one to obtain the general assent of the House. The proposition was, that it was not desirable that Her Majesty's Government should do anything to facilitate the raising of new loans by Oriental Governments which had failed to meet their old ones—that was, their old loans. Of course, the House would at once recognize that there might be the doing something towards facilitating the raising of new loans, something in the nature of a political character, and animated by political relations to the Government putting forward the loan. There was no necessity to come to any immediate illustration which might not be of a very pleasant character to allude to, but he might take the relation between Russia and Turkey with regard to the indemnity. Undoubtedly, there was a relation of an international—a political—character, and which must be carefully discriminated from those existing between this Government and the French Government and Egypt in relation to loans which had been put forward by the Khedive of Egypt. He thought, therefore, he should be careful to guard against the general admission that under no circumstances was it possible for the Government of Great Britain to lend assistance to the placing of loans in view of certain political relations and international considerations. Having said that, he could not but join his hon. Friend in reprehending very much the attitude of the Government towards Egypt. No doubt, it was the Government's misfortune; for it could not possibly be their intention; but it was the fact that no Government which had ever existed had contributed as much as the present Government had done to favour stock-jobbing operations by the course they had taken in their action towards Egypt and Turkey and the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares. Unfortunately, their action in these matters had been foreseen by persons who were well able to discount beforehand the profits which would be made. He did not bring this as a charge against the Government; but it was their misfortune that when action was expected of them, such was the effect upon the Stock Exchanges of Europe. What, then, must be the effect if the Government admitted the principle of interfering on behalf of private creditors into the affairs of other nations? The House ought to have explicit information from the Treasury Bench as to whether the Government was contemplating any arrangements with regard to Egypt or Turkey which were likely to involve on the part of Great Britain the guarantee of loans which had been placed upon the market on behalf of the interest of private creditors, whether in England or in France. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state distinctly that it was impossible for the Government to contemplate such a course, because, as long as it was supposed that they were likely for one moment to aid in the guaranteeing of these loans—as long as there was supposed to be a chance of their guaranteeing the position of Egypt for the purpose of supporting the claims of the English, or the English and French, bondholders—so long would the supposition affect the Stock Exchanges, and could not fail to be disastrous and prejudicial to the prestige of the country. He hoped, therefore, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would get up and state distinctly that Her Majesty's Government had no such intention. As to Turkey, he was afraid Her Majesty's Government had placed themselves in a position in which it was almost impossible for them to avoid doing that of which his hon. Friend complained. He should like to know in what position they stood in with regard to the De Tocqueville scheme, and whether they contemplated entering in any way into any scheme for the rehabilitation of the finances of Turkey as they had done for the rehabilitation of the finances of Egypt? Were they prepared to appoint Commissioners, or any body whatever, under such a scheme as that? No doubt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find it very difficult to answer that question; and why? Because Her Majesty's Government had undertaken responsibilities with regard to Turkey which were of a political character, and one could not conceal from himself that, in regard to these responsibilities, very serious questions arose as to the financial condition of Turkey. If Asia Minor was to be reformed and organized in such a manner that it should be able to contribute to the defence of the territories of Turkey, to which Her Majesty's Government had pledged themselves, it of course followed that the whole financial Turkish system became a subject of interest and responsibility at once to Her Majesty's Government. But the Government could not at once assume and disclaim responsibility, and he wanted to point out the dangerous position in which this country was being placed. If the De Tocqueville scheme had been carried out, and an International Commission had been administering the finances of Turkey, there would have been nothing whatever left to enable Turkey to carry out that which she had engaged to do under the Anglo-Turkish Convention. The more closely they criticized that Convention—and especially in view of the present financial difficulties—the more impossible did it appear to them that it should ever become a practical fact, or that Turkey would ever be able to carry out the engagement into which she had entered. We were in this ridiculous position—that the Government must either undertake themselves to administer the whole of the resources of Turkey, or else they would be unable to secure that the Turkish Convention should be carried out. Turkey would probably go to other countries, and French financiers might, perhaps, find her money to go on for a few years. She would thus incur deeper obligations with the claim of Russia still in existence, and eventually the people of this country might find they were bound at any cost to defend the whole of the Turkish Empire against Russian aggression. He had endeavoured to sketch the situation to the House, and he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fill up the intermediate lines.


said, that having only just returned from Egypt, he could confirm everything that had fallen from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) as to the miserable condition of the people of that country, in consequence of the maladministration of the finances. While in Egypt he met the gentleman whose letter appeared in The Times of that morning, and that gentleman stated to him then exactly what had appeared in The Times. The hon. Member for Kirkcudbright (Mr. Maitland) accompanied him, and, were he in the House, could confirm what had been stated by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. One of the gentleman who had been sent to inquire into the condition of the people, and who, from his knowledge of Arabic, was admirably qualified to do so, was unfortunately taken ill of small-pox soon after leaving Cairo. But if anyone on the spot were to say the distress was exaggerated, he could not have made use of his eyes. In his (Colonel Alexander's) progress down the Nile, he stopped at various places, and all he saw there proved that the statement of the writer in The Times was by no means exaggerated. The people were so many living skeletons, resembling very much what they had heard as to the condition of the people of India during the Great Famine. He was in Cairo when the outbreak among the officers took place. There was no doubt that arrears of pay extending over about two years were due to these officers, and that the Government acknowledged the justice of their claims might be inferred from the circumstance that almost immediately after the outbreak, three months' arrears of pay were paid them. He was afraid that, as Mr. Rivers Wilson and M. de Blignières were Members of the Government, they had consented to the action of Nubar Pasha in withholding from these officers the satisfaction of their just claims. It was useless to look for improvement in the country as long as such things were done.


said, he wished to know what was really the present position of Mr. Rivers Wilson, who went out to Egypt, having obtained leave from Her Majesty's Government for two years? He put a Question to the Government not long ago as to whether Mr. Rivers Wilson had tendered his resignation; but from all he had yet learnt about it, by means of public information, that gentleman was at the present moment holding an official position in Egypt. Was he holding that position by his own authority, or had he consulted Her Majesty's Government, and received instructions from them to remain in Egypt? If he had received such instructions, he was not the servant of the Khedive, but the Commissioner of England.


wished to elucidate the exact position of our Government in the transactions referred to. Most unfortunately the action of the Government had, perhaps unavoidably, been used for stock-jobbing. There were three steps which the Government could take for assisting a foreign Government by facilitating and raising of loans. The simplest thing was for our Government to guarantee the loan; but he presumed there was no question about that —that there was no intention on the part of England to adopt that course. Another way of supporting a loan, and of encouraging capitalists to invest their money for Her Majesty's Government to adopt, was to concur with a foreign Government in appointing an officer for the purpose of collecting the revenue appropriated to its payment. The strongest example of that course that could be taken was that taken by Her Majesty's Government in the instance of the Daira loans. Two gentlemen were appointed by the English and the French Governments at the suggestion of the Khedive, and a formal undertaking was given by the Egyptian Government that those gentlemen should not be removed from the administration of the Daira lands. That was clearly ensuring to the creditors that the revenues of that estate should remain in their hands, and that the creditors should get them; but a grave question might arise if the Khedive insisted on removing them. There was also a third way of backing up the credit of a foreign Government, and that was when that Government applied to our Government to recommend an official for the collection and administration of the revenue. An instance of this was the appointment of Mr. Rivers Wilson. In such a case there was no absolute security given to the creditors that the gentleman appointed might not be removed, and that the revenue might not be diverted from the purposes to which it ought to be applied. The appointment of Mr. Rivers Wilson by the Egyptian Government was looked upon with great confidence by the creditors and, as great anxiety existed in connection with the subject, it was extremely desirable that the Chancellor of Exchequer should point out the exact position which that gentleman and his colleagues occupied, and should inform the House whether they were removable by the Khedive or not. He wished also for some information from the right hon. Gentleman with regard to another matter. It was notorious that the Turkish Government were engaged in endeavouring to raise new loans, and that the first difficulty they had to encounter in doing so was the alleged priority of the claims of the Russian Government for precedence in relation to the War Indemnity. Now, he should like to know, whether Her Majesty's Government had any information as to whether any negotiation or inquiry had passed between the Turkish and Russian Governments on the subject, whether he could state what they were with reference to the priority claims, and to what extent that priority was claimed for the War Indemnity? If that difficulty was got rid of by the Turkish Government, the second difficulty, of course, was what security could they give for a new loan? Had any proposal for the appointment of Commissioners to collect certain Turkish revenues been made, or would such a proposition be entertained if made? Until they gave some satisfactory security, nobody would be likely to lend them the money which they wanted. It was believed that it had been proposed by the Turkish Government to allocate certain of their revenues—the Customs, the revenues from Cyprus, and others—to the payment of the interest on the new loan which was sought to be raised. It had also been thrown out that it would be a great inducement to capitalists to invest their money if the administration of the revenues in Turkey were placed in the hands of Commissioners nominated by the English and French Governments. Was Her Majesty's Government prepared to follow such a course? It was perfectly well known the Government would not guarantee a loan. Therefore, that was a point which it would be well to have cleared up; for the feeling was, he thought, entertained by many hon. Members on both sides of the House that it would not be wise for the Government, by entangling itself directly or indirectly by guarantees in any of the three ways he had specified, to encourage financiers to advance their money. The less they had to do with them, the better would it be.


said, he trusted the Government would do nothing in the way of facilitating any foreign loan whatever, for he did not think it was in any way the business of our Government to go about as knighterrants seeking to remedy the financial difficulties of another country. He was of opinion that Her Majesty's Government would hereafter be called seriously to account for lending Mr. Rivers Wilson to the Khedive in the extraordinary manner they had done. The loans, he might add, on which that gentleman was now endeavouring to pay 7 per cent interest, had not been raised at par, and we were consequently assisting in the maintenance of an usurious rate of interest which the Government ought, in his opinion, rather to use its influence to reduce, seeing that the condition of the fellaheen was miserable in the extreme. If Her Majesty's Government were to proceed in a similar manner in other countries, they would entail a responsibility from which he thought England ought to shrink. It was also a matter worthy of consideration, how far the English public service was to be made use of for the employment of foreign Governments. We were maintaining upon our Civil Service a man who was in the service of a Government which was only half-civilized, and certainly despotic. He doubted whether the majority of the people of England, if they considered this question apart from the financial point of view, would wish one of our public servants to be employed for such a purpose. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would recall Mr. Rivers Wilson, or, although he received no salary, would ask him to resign his office in our public service, for his employment in the service of the Egyptian Government and in that of our Government were incompatible, and he (Sir Julian Goldsmid) strongly objected to it.


confessed that it was with some difficulty he rose to speak to the various questions that had been put to him in the course of that conversation. He would, however, endeavour, as well as he could, to answer those questions; but he must ask hon. Gentlemen to exercise a little consideration if he was not able to speak so fully as they might wish. With regard to the Motion which his hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) would have moved, if it had been in his power to do so, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was glad that that was a Motion which could not be submitted to the House, because it would have been difficult to have arrived at a satisfactory vote upon it. He sympathized with the views which he believed animated the hon. Gentleman, and he sympathized with the greater part of what had been said by the hon. Gentleman, and by others who had taken the same line with him. At the same time, to lay down so very broadly the proposition that it was not desirable Her Majesty's Government should do anything to facilitate the raising of new loans by Oriental Governments which had failed to meet the old ones, would, he thought, be to take a position which the House would find it rather difficult to maintain in all imaginable circumstances. On the other hand, to negative such a proposition would give rise to a very false impression in another way. An hon. Gentleman—he believed it was the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins)— pointed out that such a Resolution would stand in the way of any step that might, in conceivable circumstances, be taken on political grounds for maintaining the financial credit of some country with which we were in alliance. For instance, take the case of the Guarantee that was given in 1855 to Turkey, in order to enable her to raise a loan at the time for the purpose of carrying on a war in which we were allied with her. That was an operation that gave rise to discussion at the time, and if such an operation were proposed again, no doubt it would be very seriously discussed. It was an operation against which Parliament would be slow to pledge itself, without duly considering all the circumstances of the case. There was another conjuncture which might occur. It might be that it would be possible to facilitate some operation by which a Power which had failed hitherto to pay its loans might pay them, and in that way to redeem its position from bankruptcy. He only gave these illustrations of cases in which it might be right for the Government to take a course which would be at variance with such a Resolution as that, but he wished it to be understood that he had not in his mind the idea that either the one or the other was likely to occur. They wished, however, to reserve entire liberty of action, in order that they might be free, if any case should arise, to come to Parliament and make such a proposition as might be suitable at the time. He had already stated that Her Majesty's Government would not, under any circumstances, pledge that House or pledge the country to any guarantee of assistance of that character without the previous consent of Parliament, and he could repeat that pledge with complete security. He had been asked a good many questions, some of them bearing upon political considerations, part bearing upon the condition of the population of Egypt, some of them bearing upon the effect of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government upon the stock-market, and some of them upon the particular question of the position of Mr. Rivers Wilson. He hoped he should not be required to go into the question which was raised by the hon. Member for Dundee, as to any correspondence between Russia and Turkey as to a priority of charge upon the revenues of Egypt. He should not be doing well if he were to enter upon that question at present. The House was quite aware that at the time of the Congress of Berlin the subject was mentioned and embodied in the Protocols. By referring to the Protocols, hon. Members would see what view was taken by Her Majesty's Government at the time, and that view was the view which they still maintained; but, at all events, he would rather not at the present time go more fully into that. He would wish next to refer to a matter of great interest, and although it was rather a bye-question, as regarded the Resolution on the Paper, it was one of considerable importance—he referred to the bearing of anything that had been done, or was contemplated, by Her Majesty's Government on the fellaheen of Egypt. There was an impression abroad, and it had been reflected in some of the speeches to-night, that the operations of the present Government of Egypt— he referred to the Government which had been revised within the last few months—had been calculated to place an increased pressure on the taxpayers of Egypt. It had been asserted by his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Colonel Alexander), and by others who had either themselves witnessed the condition of the country, or who had received intelligence on the subject from trustworthy sources, that the condition of the population of Egypt was very miserable. Now, he was not disposed for one minute to question the perfect accuracy of those statements. He believed the position of that population was very depressed and mournful; and, though Her Majesty's Government could not go about like knight-errants, undertaking to remedy all that was wrong in the world, yet it had been an object of theirs, if possible, to accomplish an act, which in their opinion would be most beneficial—to improve the condition or lighten in some way the burden of this unfortunate people. He believed they were a most interesting people. He believed they were industrious, patient, and self-denying; but so far as he had been able to gain any information on this subject, he was inclined to believe that the pre- sent condition of these people was owing, not at all to any recent step which the Government of Egypt had taken, but to a long course of misgovernment. He knew that his right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. S. Cave), and Mr. Rivers Wilson, had both been struck with the evils of the present financial system as bearing upon the condition of the people, and an improvement in that system was desirable, not only on account of humanity, but also because it would contribute more than anything else to the prosperity of the country. They believed, and that belief had been confirmed by the opinions of most persons who had in any way studied the subject, that the distress of the population of Egypt was greatly caused by the exactions of subordinate officials, tax-gatherers, and others, who took a great deal more from the people than was paid into the Treasury, and often used violence to extract it. They also believed that one feature of the system of Egypt which caused great suffering was the administration of the Daira lands. The Daira was a landed estate, of enormous extent, belonging to the Viceroy. That estate was managed entirely by himself, of course, with the assistance of stewards and bailiffs, and not upon the system of leasing out any portion of it to anyone; and the result had been that they had an enormous estate spread over Egypt, embracing some of the most fertile and productive portions of the country, which had been administered upon the system of a single farm, and had been worked to a very great extent practically by forced labour. In old times the work was avowedly done by forced labour; latterly that had not been possible, but the system was still not satisfactory. The people had suffered very much indeed from the refusal of the Khedive to break up his estate into farms and small holdings and let them out to the people, who were obliged, therefore, to make a living by accepting labour not nominally forced, but which was very inadequately paid for. That had a great deal to do with the existing misery and poverty of the people, and that idea was borne out by the letter in The Times to-day. The impression formed by persons who had studied the subject was, that it would be of the greatest possible advantage to Egypt that the Daira should be taken out of the hands of the Khedive and out of the mischievous system in which it was, and that it should be let out in parcels to the people, who would then farm portions of it at a reasonable rent, and so make their profits by farming. This had been one great object to which Mr. Rivers Wilson and his colleagues had addressed themselves. After inquiry, the first thing that occurred to them was to get the Khedive to give up the Daira and allow it to be farmed. The whole of the history of the last few months centered in this—upon the pressure put on the Khedive to give up this personal administration of his, which, in the finances generally, and especially in regard to the Daira, was doing so much mischief—to give that up to proper authorities and so to enable proper reforms to be made. That was the object with which the Commissioners were working when they brought about the great change in the system of the government of Egypt; and he was convinced that if Mr. Rivers Wilson and M. de Bligniéres had fair play and were enabled to carry through their reforms, the great improvement in the Government of Egypt was an object which they might fairly hope to attain. He did not wish too strong a meaning to be attached to some words which fell from him the other day. He did not wish to express in a detailed manner an opinion, in a precise way, upon the extent to which Egypt was solvent. The country had great resources. Those resources were imperfectly developed because of bad government, and they would be developed if Egypt had fair play—that was, good government, good administration of its lands and of its taxes, and if, at the same time, the expenditure of the country were kept within limits. That was the point at which the Government of Nubar Pasha had been aiming; and he believed if that Government had time and fair play it might produce very considerable results. With regard to the fellaheen, he wished to impress upon the House that it was not the view of the Government that any pressure should be placed on the unfortunate taxpayers of Egypt; but, on the contrary, that such a system should be adopted as should at once improve the wealth of the country and relieve the pressure upon the people. He gave a flat contradiction to the idea that the Government had in any way pressed upon the Government of Egypt that they should oppress the taxpayers or should take steps of a character which was unfair to the officers or any others with a view to pay bondholders. The Government had done nothing of the sort; they had, neither directly nor indirectly, put any pressure on the Government of Egypt to pay the bondholders. That was not their business. He was speaking now of recent proceedings, because he understood that an impression of this kind had gone abroad. With regard to the May Coupons that was a different matter, and he had explained the other day how it was that Her Majesty's Government had supported the French Government, to a certain extent, in the representations made by France in May last. Those representations were made under the belief that there was money, which it was necessary to put pressure on the Khedive to get from him—that it was a case where he could pay if he chose. But the Government had also joined in the demand, that M. de Blignières should represent to the Khedive that he would not be justified in taking any steps to increase the burdens of the people for the purpose of paying that Coupon. Their impression was that there was painful extravagance. One form of that extravagance was in building palaces. Money was spent in building and enlarging palaces really of no use at all, and they did not hold that that was an expenditure which justified the refusal to pay the claims of the creditors. But it never was in the view of the Government that any additional pressure should be put on the taxpayers to provide these funds. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) put questions, which raised in a legal form the questions which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to consider. He said there were three ways in which one Government might assist another to raise a loan. First, there was a direct guarantee. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that that plan was entirely out of the question in the present circumstances. They never thought of such a thing. But, in saying that, however, he guarded himself with the general observation which he made in the beginning —that he did not intend to tie up the hands of the Government, in case circumstances should arise which ren- dered it necessary to make any proposals to the House. At present, however, the idea was entirely out of the question. There was no question of giving a guarantee. Then the hon. Gentleman said we might adopt a second course, which was a less strong form of guarantee, but which gave considerable support. "You may," he said, "adopt a system similar to that under which administrators and receivers are appointed for the Daira lands." Well, they all knew what the object of that system was—the object was to get the Daira lands out of the hands of the Khedive. When the Government of Nubar Pasha had persuaded the Khedive to resign the whole of the Daira lands for public uses, it occurred to them that the best use to which they could immediately apply this property which came into their hands was to raise upon it a loan by mortgaging it, so as to enable them to meet the pressing demands of Egypt—to pay off debts running at high interest and to pay officers and others whose salaries were due. In order to raise that loan the Government of Nubar Pasha addressed themselves to leading financiers, and those gentlemen said— "The security you offer is in itself ample, the lands are sufficient to cover the loan; but how are we to know that we shall not be defrauded of our security by its being made away with under the pressure of circumstances which the Ruler of Egypt might find too strong for him?" Upon that representations were made to the French and English Governments, and it was said—"If you will undertake to recommend first the appointment of gentlemen who may administer these estates, and will be responsible for seeing that the revenue is paid to the mortgagees, we will advance the money." In these circumstances it was thought right, after full consideration and discussion with the French Government, to take the step of nominating gentlemen, who were not to be removed without the consent of the English and French Governments, and a diplomatic engagement had been made to that effect. It was asked—"What will happen supposing the Khedive breaks that engagement?" But they did not contemplate that he would break an engagement which he had entered into in the exercise of his constitutional power. The Government had been asked whether they in- tended to do anything of the same kind for Turkey, and he could only say that up to the present time most assuredly they had no idea of the kind. He saw very great difficulties and objections to any step of the kind. What was done for Egypt was on a small and limited scale; and with regard to suggestions of a vast and vague and unlimited kind in relation to Turkish finances, he had never been able to see that it was possible to enter into any engagement without undertaking an amount of responsibility and power in the direction and management of the whole affairs of Turkey which he should never think of undertaking. It might, therefore, afford the hon. Gentleman who had asked the question some consolation to know that such a scheme was not contemplated by the Government. With regard to the third mode of assisting the country, the hon. Member said, it might be done by appointing collectors who should collect certain allocated revenues. Upon that he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) might say that there was nothing of the kind in contemplation, but he wished to distinguish between two different ideas. Take, for instance, the Customs of Alexandria or Smyrna. If they were placed in the hands of certain officials nominated by the English Government, that would bring the suggestion to very nearly the same as the second which the hon. Member had proposed, and would raise difficulties and objections of a very similar character, because if they allocated the revenues of a particular port they must give the officers powers, which would raise questions of a difficult and embarrassing kind. But if it was merely meant that they were to place at the disposal of the Turkish Government gentlemen whose characters they knew, and whom they could recommend as to honesty and ability, he did not think the proposal was open to the same objection as the other. They knew very well that one of the great difficulties of an Oriental nation was the corruption of its servants, and that constantly the amounts of revenue which were raised and paid by the taxpayers were intercepted on their way to the Treasury. And, moreover, they knew that there was an ignorance of the principles of administration which very often caused a great deal of waste and loss of power, and it had been the practice from time to time of nations who had felt themselves behind in these matters to employ English or French officials, or people of other nations, because they thought them better informed or more trustworthy than their own officials. In China there was an English collector of Customs, and the same was the case in other places.


asked whether these officials were appointed by the Government employing them?


replied affirmatively, and proceeded to say that in cases in which any Government with which they were on friendly terms had applied to them to recommend the persons who were trustworthy, they had felt that those Governments were making an application which was perfectly natural and which might be complied with, but they had always been particularly cautious and reserved. They had, as a rule, said—"We will not undertake any such responsibility, but what we will do is to give you a list of gentlemen whose names occur to us"—gentlemen very often who had served their time in England or the Indian Service—"we will place this list in your hands, and offer any facilities for you to make enquiries, and if you like to make any bargain with those gentlemen, do so by all means," but they had abstained from entering upon any direct responsibility. In that way Mr. Romaine and several other officers were selected. The single instance of an exception being made was that of Mr. Rivers Wilson. With respect to him they had done that which they had not done in any other case. They had given him leave for two years to undertake his office. It was not correct, however, to say that they recommended him. His services were sought for by the Egyptian Government, and they were granted by us, but not tendered by us. He made that distinction because he thought it was important. The case of Captain Tyler some years ago was not exactly similar. That was a case in which that officer wished to undertake certain duties outside his own country, and it was on account of Her Majesty's Government feeling that it was important that the assistance sought for should be given that they gave him leave. As far as Mr. Rivers Wilson was concerned, the Government assented willingly to his application for leave, because they believed good would result from his appointment. 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; but the precise circumstances were these:—The Khedive insisted upon the resignation or dismissal of Nubar Pasha, and it then became a question as to the course which should be taken by Mr. Wilson and M. de Blignières. 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. He might say that the French Government gave similar advice to M. de Blignières. This exceptional interference in Egyptian affairs was due to the fact that this country had not only a large financial interest in the country, but was also interested in it in a political sense. As far as the first-named consideration was concerned, hon. Members knew that the Turkish Loan of 1855, which was guaranteed by this country, rested to a considerable extent upon the payment of the Egyptian Tribute; and that Egypt was indebted to us in respect of the annuity for the payment of which its Government rendered themselves liable at the time of the purchase of the Suez Canal Shares. But far beyond this was the political aspect of the question. Her Majesty's Government felt it to be of the greatest importance to the welfare and interests of this country and of European peace that Egypt should not fall into a state of anarchy and of that state of confusion which resulted from financial embarrassment and bankruptcy, and they thought that if financial affairs in Egypt got into a bad state, interference might take place from other Powers, and complications of a difficult character might arise. It was with that in view that they took the course they did in connection with the Administration. They were at any time perfectly prepared to discuss the propriety of that course, but he thought the House would feel that it was one which should be discussed fully and not incidentally in a conversation of that kind. He thought he had substantially answered the questions which had been put, and if he had omitted any of them, he might, perhaps, be reminded of them. The course they had taken was consistent with their policy of several years past, and, at the present moment, while they were looking with hope to the success of the Egyptian experiment, they had not in contemplation any arrangements in regard either to Turkey or anywhere else of the kind which had been suggested, and which seemed so much to have alarmed several hon. Members of the House.


wished to know, whether Mr. Rivers Wilson corresponded directly with Her Majesty's Government or through the Consul General of his dominion?


in reply, said, that Mr. Rivers Wilson did not communicate with Her Majesty's Government directly, but did so through our Consul General at Cairo.