§ SUPPLY—conisdered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Question again proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £2,300,000, be granted to Her Majesty, beyond the ordinary Grants of Parliament, towards defraying the Expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1883, in strengthening Her Majesty's Forces in the Mediterranean."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. M'COAN
said, when the discussion was adjourned he was endeavouring to recall the attention of hon. Members from Blue Books and marine gunnery to the subject before the Committee. He had asked the question whether our interests in, and our obligations with regard to, Egypt warranted and justified the proposed military action of the Government? And he ventured then to say that an impartial and honest review of the actual facts and circumstances of the situation would compel an answer to that query in the affirmative. He again asked the Committee what were our interests in connection with Egypt? Though these, of course, had been more or less stated in detail by every speaker who had addressed the Committee, he still felt it necessary to re-state them. They were—first, the Suez Canal; secondly, our trade with Egypt; and, thirdly, the subordinate, but still important, interest of the bondholders to whom Egypt was indebted. Now, as regarded the Canal, he could, of course, say nothing new on that subject. Its vital importance to England had been recognized by every hon. Member who had taken part in the discussion; and, indeed, so vital was it, and so inseparably was it bound up with our interests in our Indian Empire, that if we had in Egypt no other interest, that alone would justify the Government for having taken military action. As he had observed, our interest in the Canal was not merely one of enormous political weight, but there was also the minor, but still considerable interest, of the proprietary shares in that Canal. That interest was now of the market value of about £9,000,000; and upon that point he ventured to express his approval of the original purchase of the shares, which only cost the country £4,000,000 four years ago. He thought that the increased value of our stake in the Canal was one which called for the acknowledgment of every thorough-going Liberal in the House; and he, for one, felt grateful to the late Conservative Chief for the action taken by him in this matter. But, besides our ownership of these shares, there was the additional fact that four-fifths of the whole traffic passing through the Canal was British.—a fact which, in itself, constituted an 1761 interest of the very highest importance. There was also our trade with Egypt, which represented £13,000,000 sterling a-year; and he was quite sure that if it were possible to conceive that trade to be annihilated, there would be a loud cry raised from Manchester and other places interested in the Egyptian trade. He thought the importance of that question alone would entitle the Government to the vote of every commercial Radical below the Gangway on the other side of the House. Then there was the interest of the bondholders. Now, it seemed to be the fashion with many hon. Members in that House, and with many persons out of it, to speak of that interest with much less respect than he thought fairly belonged to it. The bondholders were far too commonly regarded as being no better than Irish "gombeen men"—as usurers who exacted exorbitant interest from the Government of Egypt from year to year. But there was absolutely no justification—so far as nine-tenths of the present holders of these bonds were concerned—for such an opinion. He had himself owned Egyptian Stock, and during the greater part of the past 20 years had been much interested in Egyptian finance. In the fewest possible words, he would, therefore, tell the Committee what was the foundation of the claim which the bondholders might fairly prefer, and for which they might justly ask Government support. Exclusive of the Daira Debts, the Egyptian National Debt proper consisted of five loans. The first of these was negotiated in 1862, towards the end of the Reign of Said Pasha, and amounted to £3,292,800, of which sum the Egyptian Government received only £2,500,000. The next, which took place in 1864, early in the Reign of Ismail Pasha, was for £5,704,000, of which the Government received only £4,864,063. The third loan, that of 1868, was for £3,000,000 nominal. This was secured upon the railways, which even then constituted a perfect guarantee; and it was actually repaid in cash in six yearly instalments of £500,000 each. But, although this loan was so amply secured and so speedily repaid, only £2,640,000 was paid into the Cairo Treasury, so that in six years the Egyptian Government by this transaction lost £360,000 over and above the interest. Now, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. 1762 Goschen) would probably address the Committee with the great authority that attached to anything which he might say on the subject, it would be right for him (Mr. M'Coan) to mention that the firm of which the right hon. Gentleman was then a member were the contractors for all three of these loans. The right hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, be able to explain to the Committee how the large margins shown by the figures he had just stated were disposed of—how much of the loans went to Cairo, and how much remained in London. The right hon. Gentleman might or might not find it convenient to state this; but, at all events, he would have a personal knowledge with regard to some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 of the Debt incurred up to the time indicated. Then there was the large loan of 1868, amounting to £11,890,000, of which amount the Egyptian Treasury received only £7,193,334. In other words, nearly £2,750,000 sterling remained in the hands of somebody. He now came to the loan of 1873, which was of the nominal amount of £32,000,000; but of, this the Egyptian Treasury received £20,740,077 only, and of that sum £9,000,000 consisted of bonds of the Floating Debt of the Government at that time, which were bought up by the contractors at rates as low as 63 per cent, and paid into the Egyptian Treasury as cash at 93 per cent, a circumstance which, Mr. Cave subsequently remarked, "materially enhanced the profit accruing to the negotiators of the loan." For these reasons, he said that whenever Egyptian finance was spoken of, it was only just that the whole blame should not be thrown upon the late Khedive. A full share of it belonged to those who had helped him to incur these huge debts. The figures he had quoted showed that out of a total of £55,870,000, the Egyptian Government received only £35,000,000 in cash. Of these £35,000,000, it had, so long ago as the year 1875, repaid, in interest and sinking fund, £29,570,994; but, notwithstanding, in that year it still remained indebted in the sum of £46,734,000. If the present bondholders stood in the shoes of the original contractors for these loans, the moral strength of their claim to consideration would be much less than it was. But there were pro- 1763 bably now no original holders of the bonds. These had passed into the hands of persons who had, from time to time, bought them long ago at their full market price; and persons who had so bought, and who received but a moderate rate of interest on their purchases, stood in a very different position from that of the "gombeen man" to whom they were far too commonly likened. They had a substantial claim, which the Government were, in fairness, bound to recognize and support. From the condition of things which he had described, the state of Egyptian finance became rapidly more and more embarrassed, and in 1875 the Cairo Government still owed to its foreign creditors nearly £47,000,000, and as it could not pay the high interest accruing thereon a state of bankruptcy was imminent. In the following year Mr. Cave was sent out to investigate the state of affairs, and afterwards made the valuable Report with which hon. Members were familiar. Later on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) went out as Delegate of the English, and M. Joubert as Delegate of the French, bondholders. The materials for a careful and exact judgment on the situation had already been provided by Mr. Cave's investigation; and Messrs. Goschen and Joubert proceeded to devise some scheme which should relieve, not the Egyptian Government, but its creditors. He happened to be at Cairo at the time, and could speak from personal recollection of what occurred. He was bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon had lent himself very readily indeed to the suggestions of M. Joubert; and the result was a settlement much in favour of the French as against the English bondholders, which imposed conditions on the Egyptian Treasury that he ventured to say at the time would, in the result, prove to be perfectly unworkable. However, owing to the joint pressure put by those Gentlemen upon the Khedive, the scheme was adopted and put into execution. The best feature in it was the creation of what was known as the Control. This consisted of two English and French gentlemen named by their respective Governments, and who, with the consent of the Khedive, exercised a most extensive ad- 1764 ministrative control over the affairs of Egypt. They were, in fact, appointed over the head of the Khedive, who was himself a most able administrator. But, although he submitted to this supersession, he did not like it, as also did not the large body of dismissed Native employés, whose posts were given to Europeans. The scheme was borne with till 1879, when, its working having become intolerable, it was put an end to, under circumstances which resulted in the deposition of the Khedive himself. It was, however, soon after revived on a different basis by his successor. The new Controllers were not invested with any actual administrative power; but they had the right of supervising the whole fiscal system of the country, and of reporting thereon to the Khedive and their own Governments. With the deposition of the previous Control the European employés, who had been imported into the Egyptian Service, had been dismissed; but one of the first steps of the revived Duumvirate was to re-import these gentlemen, and to add largely to their number. In fact, a very army of European employés was re-organized at a cost of £300,000 a-year to the Egyptian Government. Against this, Native feeling again gradually revolted. The dismissed officials found voice, and complaint became general amongst all classes. In this way, and to this extent, grew up what had been miscalled a National Party. The Turkish and Circassian officials found voice, and they extended their influence amongst their fellows until the little wave of discontent that he had spoken of widened out over the whole country. Still, it must in justice be admitted that, notwithstanding the angry feeling thus provoked, the Control reformed many abuses, and conferred great benefits on the country. The further history of what was falsely called, the "National movement" in Egypt had been told by several speakers, especially by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but he ventured to add, with whatever might be the weight attached to the opinion of one who had known the country for many years, that the movement of Arabi Bey had not behind it a shred of National feeling in any sense in which that term could be rightly employed. It was simply and purely a military revolt—a 1765 revolt began and promoted in the interests of the class to which it brought promotion and higher pay; and Arabi Pasha had, therefore, no sort of claim on our sympathy as the exponent of National feeling in Egypt. But, besides our interests, which were in themselves quite sufficient to justify the action of Her Majesty's Government, there was another consideration which went to the same conclusion, and that was our Treaty obligations. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen behind him cried "Oh, oh !"at the idea of reviving our obligations; but they seemed to have forgotten that under the Treaty of 1841 we entered into a positive engagement to maintain and uphold through all time the settlement of Egyptian affairs that was then arranged. That Treaty was still in force, and the five Powers who were parties to it then were bound by it now. Unless we were to abrogate Treaties and all the moral and political obligations which they entailed, he maintained that those arising under that particular Treaty were substantial, real, and strong at the present moment. Then, not only were we direct parties to that Treaty, but we had also been parties quite as directly to every one of the Organic Firmans since issued by the Porte to the Governors of Egypt. By the settlement of 1841 the Porte virtually acknowledged the semi-independence of Egypt. The successive Firmans, to which he had referred, slightly modified some of the details of that settlement; but, whatever modifications took place, we and the four other Powers were parties to the whole. Therefore, he said, by that Treaty and by those successive Firmans there was imposed upon this country an obligation from which in honour we could not recede. If that were so—and he ventured to challenge contradiction upon any of the facts to which he had alluded—he thought they had a mass of justification which amply warranted the action of the Government; and he, for one, was "Jingo" enough to regret that the Government had not recognized the force of those obligations upon itself without any reference whatever to the Concert of Europe. He believed that the Government had made out a strong case for action, and he ventured to hope that it would be carried to its only logical, consistent, and safe con- 1766 clusion in the establishment not of a self-aggrandizing control over Egypt, but of an efficient Protectorate, under the cover of which the best interests of the country itself might be further promoted, and the liberties and welfare of its people be permanently secured.
§ MR. RICHARD
I am quite aware that there are Gentlemen in this House who listen with some degree of prejudice to whatever I may say on any subject involving questions of peace and war. They are pleased to assume that I belong to what is called the "Peace-at-any-price Party." I do not know exactly what that phrase means. If, in its application to myself, it means that I love peace and hate war too much, I own that the charge lies very lightly on my conscience. But, in truth, it is only an opprobrious nick-name, invented by political partizans wherewith to smite their adversaries when no more convenient or effective weapon is at hand. I do not know whether the House is aware of the origin of this foolish phrase. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has traced its genesis. He says that, so far as he knows, it was first used by Friedrich von Gentz, the celebrated German political writer, and one of the Secretaries of the Congress of Vienna, who, in 1815, applied it contemptuously to Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington a few months before the Battle of Waterloo. It has been applied with the same want of discrimination ever since, by a certain class of persons, to all who are not prepared to run to the same excess of riot with themselves in enterprizes of violence and blood. No doubt there is a body of persons, not very numerous in this country, who, from profound religious convictions, hold views about war that are not generally accepted. I am not ashamed to acknowledge that I am one of them. But I have never obtruded those views on this House, because I feel that this is not an Assembly before which it is safe to hazard an appeal to any high or ideal Christian principle. We can be very zealous, even almost ferocious, Christians in this House on occasion, especially when it concerns the outward and ceremonious acknowledgment of Christianity. But no one would be safe from ridicule here who would attempt to bring our national policy, and espe- 1767 cially our foreign policy, to the test of a severe Christian morality. There is another class which may be regarded as the antipodes of the "Peace-at-any-price Party"—namely, the "War-at-any-cost Party," who are always ready to inflame public opinion to the fighting point, but who are careful to keep far away from the privations, the hardships, and the horrors which war entails. They indulge in what the Americans call "high-falutin" declamation about national dignity and glory and the honour of the British Flag. But when these are brought into peril by their own counsels, they preferred sending forth poor follows, whom they hired at 1s. 4d. a-day, to bear the brunt of the conflict while they stayed at home wrapped in luxury and ease. And yet these are the men who crow over us, who vaunt themselves as the only true patriots, and as the advocates of a spirited and heroic policy. Spirited and heroic! I call it cowardly and contemptible. I am fortified in this view by the authority of a great and distinguished politician. A Minister was defending the Government to which he belonged against the charge of not being sufficiently prompt to enter into war, and in doing so said—There is nothing easier than to he brave with other people's blood, and to he generous with other people's money. If Her Majesty's Government had, in the course of a war, to sacrifice all their own fortunes and then to go into the field and be shot, he would say it was a brave and generous action for them to undertake such a war. But as long as the two duties fell, the one exclusively and the other mainly upon other people, he disputed the application of these two adjectives, brave and generous, to the act of a Government which plunged a nation into war.These were the words of the Marquess of Salisbury. These words, which were applied to a Government, would apply also to Parliament. Sometimes I have thought that I would move in this House a Resolution to the effect that when a majority voted in favour of war, those who had so voted should be at once incorporated into a regiment, and sent to the front to receive the first fire of the enemy. If that were the law I would answer for it that there would be fewer wars. I have given Notice of a Motion, which I am afraid I shall not have the opportunity to move, to the effect that the recent deplorable events in Egypt are the natural result of the policy of 1768 intervention in the internal affairs of that country initiated by the late Government, and unhappily adopted and perpetuated by the present Government. It may be said that I am going back to the region of ancient history. But so far is this from being the case that it is little more than three years since we wore officially and irrevocably committed to what is called the system of the Control. Yesterday there was a passage at arms between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman charged the Prime Minister with having attacked his Predecessors as regards their Egyptian policy. But the charge seemed to me entirely unfounded. I thought the Prime Minister treated them with remarkable leniency, probably because he felt he had practically condoned their policy by adopting it. In tracing the history of this intervention in Egypt, I have been struck with the manner in which our statesmen seem to have been dragged into it, as by some mysterious influence against their own better judgment. Everybody knows how it originated. In 1875 the late Khedive, Ismail Pasha, applied to the British Government for two persons acquainted with accounts and book-keeping to help him in the administration of his finances, which had fallen into a confused and tangled condition. How this confusion and entanglement arose is a long story upon which I cannot now enter. It is a dreary and discreditable story— discreditable to all concerned. But I may say, in a sentence, that the unfortunate Khedive, having learnt the fatal secret of raising loans in the Money Markets of Europe, fell into the hands of speculators and usurers, who fooled him to the top of his bent, and plundered him and his country in the most merciless fashion. Mr. Stephen Cave, to whose Mission I shall presently refer, in the able Report he presented on Egyptian Finance, shows that the entire proceeds of loans nominally aggregated to upwards of £68,000,000 only amounted to £45,500,000. The minimum rate of interest charged on the revenues of the country in respect to these loans was from 12 to 13½ per cent. and the maximum 26½ per cent. No wonder that the finances had got into a confused condition. But when the Khedive made the 1769 application to which I have referred, I believe nothing was further from his mind than any idea of a foreign official to control his finances. All he wanted evidently was a couple of clever clerks to act, as he said, "under the direction and orders of his own Minister of Finance." But the Government, instead of acceding to or refusing his request, did something quite other than what he had asked. They sent Mr. Stephen Cave out to make a thorough inquisition into the finances of Egypt. I believe no more competent person could have been found for such a task, if it had to be undertaken, and he did his work in an able and honourable manner. But, in sending him, Lord Derby evidently had some foreboding that they might be entering on a perilous path; therefore, in the instructions he gave to Mr. Cave, he earnestly impressed upon that Gentleman—To be careful not to commit the Government to any course of proceeding, by advice or otherwise, which might be taken to imply a desire to exercise any undue influence on the internal affairs of Egypt.That was surely a wise precaution. But, unhappily, it was departed from afterwards. Then followed the Mission of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) and M. Joubert, and they, for the first time, recommended the appointment of Controllers. The very name showed that the suggestion was a Trench one; but I believe that Lord Derby still refused to appoint a Controller in the name, and with the authority of the British Government. But in November of that year an Anglo-Trench Control was decreed by the Khedive, and in December Lord Derby again refused to appoint, but allowed an Englishman to accept the appointment of Controller. Lord Salisbury, who meanwhile had succeeded Lord Derby at the Foreign Office, went further and agreed to the appointment of an Englishman, Mr. Rivers Wilson, as a Member of the Cabinet of Egypt. But the Government were still careful to declare in very emphatic language that they disclaimed all responsibility for his appointment. This came out very clearly in a debate which took place in this House in March, 1879, on a Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who is en- 1770 titled to the credit of having early foreseen and persistently proclaimed the danger of this meddling in Egyptian finance. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, made a speech marked by the sound judgment and sober sense which usually characterize his speeches, in which he laid down the principle on which the Government acted when Oriental nations applied to them for help as respects their finances. He said—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.…We will place this list in your hands, and offer any facilities for you to make inquiries, 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.…The single instance of an exception to the rule being made was that of Mr.Rivers Wilson. With respect to him they had done what 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.…When Mr. Wilson went out, he went as the Minister to the Khedive, who had the right to dismiss him from his post whenever he thought fit."—[3 Hansard, ccxliv. 850–831.]Well, Mr. Rivers Wilson thus went out on his own account and on his own responsibility, and he was made Finance Minister in the Khedive's Cabinet. But no sooner was this done than the French Government became jealous, and demanded to have a French Minister in the Egyptian Cabinet. This was con-coded, and M. de Blignières was appointed, so that we had the extraordinary spectacle of two foreigners sitting as Cabinet Ministers in the Government of Egypt. This did not last long, as it was not likely it should. I will not inquire how these gentlemen fulfilled their duties; but one thing is certain—that their administration led to universal discontent among the people, so that the Khedive was obliged to dismiss his foreign Ministers. Mark what happened 1771 then. Although Mr. Rivers Wilson was not appointed, was not even recommended by the British Government, although the right hon. Gentleman had declared that the Khedive had absolute right to dismiss him from his post whenever he thought fit, yet his dismissal was made the occasion of a violent quarrel with him on the part of our Foreign Office. He was told by Lord Salisbury that—The precipitate and causeless dismissal of the two Ministers constituted a grave and apparently intentional discourtesy to friendly Powers,and that if he did not reinstate them—He deliberately renounced all pretensions to the friendship of England and France.Now, here was a complete change of front. Hitherto, Mr. Rivers Wilson was regarded as merely a private British citizen, who made a bargain with the Khedive to serve him as his Minister for certain considerations, the Government disclaiming loudly all responsibility for his appointment. Yet, when the Khedive, driven by the force of a hostile public opinion, and in the exercise of his rights as a Sovereign, dispensed with his services, that is treated, as a violent affront to the British Government; and Lord Salisbury not only lectured him in the style I have cited, but threatened him with deposition unless he obeyed his orders to reinstate the dismissed Ministers. The Khedive refused to obey, and he was deposed. Then the present Khedive was placed on the Throne. I do not wish to say anything disrespectful of that Potentate; but it is impossible not to feel that when he succeeded to power he was the mere creature of England and France. He had, therefore, to do whatever these Powers wished. Then began the new form of the Control, no longer as a private arrangement, but as a matter of elaborate Treaty engagements, which, for the first time, committed the English nation to the obligations and responsibilities it involved. I have here before me, but I will not inflict it upon the Committee, the text of the Decree by which the Khedive constituted the Control. The very title of this instrument is most significant—The Articles of the Decree of the Khedive, under which the Administration of Egypt is now carried on. This recognizes the fact that the whole Administration of Egypt 1772 was to be carried on by the Control, and so it virtually was. I should have thought that no man of ordinary sagacity could have read these articles without feeling that they contained the germ of certain difficulty and discord. And what infinitely aggravated the mischief was the fact that it was a Joint Control. We had entered into partnership with another nation who had different aims and divergent interests. No one attaches more value than I do to a cordial good understanding between England and France. But I am very much of the opinion of my lamented Friend, Mr. Cobden, as to relations with other States, which was "Friendship with all, alliance with none." This was the state of things when the present Government came into Office. I heartily wish that they had refused to accept this part of the sinister inheritance bequeathed to them by their Predecessors. It is scarcely possible to believe, looking at the composition of the present Cabinet, that they could have approved of it. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister read yesterday an ex-tract from a speech, in which he had expressed strong disapproval of a scheme mooted in 1876 for meddling with Egyptian finance, far slighter than that which was afterwards embodied in the Control. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman hardly did sufficient credit to his own vigilance and prophetic sagacity by the extracts which he read from that speech. I venture to quote two or three other sentences from the same speech—I hope it will not he thought that I am premature in calling attention to the very slight and at the same time appalling outline of the scheme which it is proposed to substitute for the scheme of the Khedive. I shall he glad if any explanation is given which will remove the difficulties and apprehensions which we may feel in connection with it. Let me say that while I can understand the motives connected with recent transactions which have led Her Majesty's Government to feel that it may be a matter of importance, for reasons connected with their own conduct and proceedings, to bolster up Egypt, I think that in the whole of that matter they are treading upon tender ground. This is a question on which the public mind is extremely sensitive, and unless they are very cautious in the proceedings they adopt they may bring serious consequences upon Parliament and on themselves."—[3 Hansard, ccxxvii. 1424.]And they have brought serious consequences on Parliament and on them- 1773 selves. And my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs never concealed his dislike of the Control. Speaking to his constituents, in 1879, he said that—Lord Salisbury had virtually taken the Government of Egypt into our hands and those of the French Republic, and had reversed the cardinal principles of our Egyptian policy.What was the condition of things in Egypt under the Control? It has been said, and I dare say truly, that there was a great increase of material prosperity. That is one side of the question; but there is another side which verifies the language of my hon. Friend, that we had virtually taken the Government of Egypt into the hands of England and France. The Revenue of Egypt is £9,000,000 or £10,000,000. About one-half of this is sent out of the country to pay the foreign bondholders, which is as if £40,000,000 of our Revenues were sent out of the country, while nearly all places of trust and power and emolument in Egyptian administration are monopolized by Europeans. Let me show how rapid has been the growth of this under the Control. At the beginning of the year 1879 only 744 Europeans were in the pay of the Government of Egypt; and these, it must be remembered, already filled all the offices both in the Courts, Railways, Telegraphs, Port Trusts, &c, where foreigners were naturally required, or had been employed under the Consular Convention of 1870. But at the close of 1879, 208 had been added to that number, with salaries aggregating £60,000 a-year. In 1880, 250 more were appointed, with emoluments of £02,000 a-year; and again, in 1881, a further batch of 122 Europeans was introduced drawing £26,016 a-year. The total number actually receiving pay in March, 1882, was 1,325; and the total pay was £373,000 a-year, which is about one-twelfth part of the entire available Revenue of the country, to which must be added that there are between 60,000 and 100,000 Europeans in Egypt who live nearly tax free. Then there arose the National Party. And is it any wonder that a National Party should rise? It was time it should rise, and the Egyptians would have showed themselves utterly devoid of dignity and self-respect if they had not revolted 1774 against such a state of things. I believe there is a real National Party in Egypt. Of course, all the European office-holders do all in their power to deny or discredit that Party. It is most unfortunate that, in circumstances where accurate and impartial information is most necessary for the formation of an intelligent judgment, the Government at home has so often to receive its impressions from agents who, consciously or unconsciously, are swayed by their own interests and passions, or who blunder from sheer ignorance. There was a flagrant illustration of it in the case of the Transvaal. To the last moment our Representatives there declared with the utmost confidence that the discontented Boers were only a small body of ambitious and disorderly men, while the great bulk of the people were delighted with the annexation of their country. And so, I believe, it has been to a large extent with regard to Egypt. It may be said that the present Government, having come in after the country had been committed to the policy of intervention, could not have done otherwise than they have done. I am very sorry to be obliged to say in regard to a Government, which I have, to the best of my ability, hitherto supported, that I cannot acquit them of having committed very grave errors in the management of this business since it has come into their hands. There were especially three grave errors into which they seem to have fallen. The first was when Lord Granville, in an evil moment, permitted himself to be seduced into signing the Dual Note prepared for him by M. Gambetta, which committed the country to vast and vague obligations in Egypt, both moral and material. The second was the adoption of what is called the Ultimatum; and the last and most fatal of all was the sending of the Fleet to Alexandria. I ask, again, what was the Fleet sent to Alexandria for? Up to that time, so far as I can see from the Papers, there had been a series of intrigues and counter intrigues in the country, but no serious outbreak of violence. Why was the Fleet sent? Various reasons have been assigned—indeed, reasons so various and contradictory as to indicate some embarrassment in finding a consistent answer. But it seems to me to stand forth clearly from the documents in our hands, that it was sent, in 1775 fact, to depose one Government, and to install another in Office; in other words, to uphold the Ultimatum, which was presented, let it be remembered, not by the Governments of England and France, but by their subordinates in Egypt on their own authority, for Lord Granville expressly declares that—The terms of this Note had not been previously submitted to Her Majesty's Government.And what did this Ultimatum demand? It demanded not only the resignation of the whole Egyptian Ministry, but the deportation of Arabi Pasha from the country, and the banishment of two other Members of the Cabinet into the Interior. Was there ever so monstrous a demand made on the Government of an independent country? But another reason assigned by Lord Granville in his despatch of May 15 is that the Fleet was sent" to protect British subjects and Europeans. "Well, how have you done that? Up to that time British subjects and Europeans had been apparently quite safe in Egypt. There were rumours of disturbances in the Provinces, as there always are in those countries. But since the arrival of your Fleet all British subjects and Europeans have had to floe precipitately from Alexandria, leaving their property to the mercy of the fanatical Natives. The Government could not fail to have been aware that the appearance of a British Squadron in Egyptian waters would produce danger to European residents. They had been warned of this even by Sir Edward Malet, in a passage which Lord Granville has reproduced, but the warning coupled with a strange assurance that—The political advantage of the arrival of vessels at Alexandria would he so great as to outweigh in consideration the danger which might possibly accrue to Europeans in Cairo.What the political advantage is is not revealed. But we have more evidence on this point. On May 15, Sir Edward Malet writes that he and his French Colleague had called on Arabi Pasha, and warned him that if order were disturbed he would be held personally responsible. His answer was very significant—He would guarantee public order and the safety of the Khedive so long as he remained Minister; but that, in the event of an Anglo- 1776 French Squadron arriving, he could not guarantee public safety.But, taking the objects defined by the Prime Minister a little while ago in justification of this armed intervention, it seems to me that every one of those objects has been injured or imperilled instead of being promoted by intervention. What did he say those objects were? To maintain the rights of the Sultan, the rights of the Khedive, the rights of the people of Egypt, and the rights of the foreign bondholders. The rights of the Sultan ! I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman was the last man in the world to care for the rights of the Sultan. I am quite certain of this—that if the people of England could be polled, they would protest, by an overwhelming majority, against one penny of British money, or one drop of British blood, being expended to maintain the authority of the Sultan in Egypt, or anywhere else. It was not without a great sense of relief that many of us learnt that the project of sending Turkish troops to restore order in Egypt had fallen through, for we know from their operations in Bulgaria and elsewhere in what fashion Turkish troops restore order. But have you maintained "the rights of the Sultan?" He does not think so; seeing that he has protested firmly and persistently, and in every form of language he could employ, against your Naval intervention, as derogating from his Sovereign rights and undermining his authority, and undoubtedly your plan placed him in a position of the greatest embarrassment and humiliation. But "the rights of the Khedive, "how have you maintained them? Why, he owes his life not to your protection, but to the forbearance, or the corruptibility, of Arabi's soldiers. He had the courage not to accept your offer to run away on board your ships; and he was left to his fate, and it was not owing to anything you have done that he did not perish in the confusion and turbulence you had provoked. But when that turbulence is over, as I suppose you hope it will be some day, when you have desolated Egypt with war and restored some kind of order, and the Khedive is re-installed in authority, do you think that he will be more acceptable to the people of Egypt for having been imposed upon 1777 them by foreign swords? Well, then, we come to "the rights of the people of Egypt." How have you protected them? You have bombarded a city of 200,000 inhabitants. ["No, no!"] Well, you have bombarded their earthworks and fortifications. But I maintain that a great deal of the mischief done to the city was done by the bombardment. You have, for a time at least, destroyed a great part of the industry and commerce of Egypt; you have plunged tens of thousands of the people into privation and misery, and made them responsible for enormous burdens hereafter. Lord Granville says that we have not yet demanded compensation for the disorder and massacre of the 11th of Juno. But he intimates we intend to do so. And there are ominous intimations in the Italian papers that millions upon millions' worth of property belonging to that nation have been destroyed by the bombardment and the conflagration which ensued, for which indemnity will have to be demanded of somebody. Who will have to pay? Will you impose that upon the Egyptian people, whose "rights" you have undertaken to maintain? I care not about the rights of the bondholders. I say in the language of a very sober journal, The Economist—To link our national interests to the claims of the bondholders is the sure way to imperil them.It seems to me monstrous that the blood and money of the working people of this country should have to be expended to protect the investments and to collect the coupons of speculators in Egyptian Stock. But I confess I cannot see how, by plunging the country into what may be a prolonged anarchy, you have bettered the condition or prospects of even the bondholders. But, perhaps, the hardiest—I may almost say the most audacious—plea put forward is that the bombardment of Alexandria was a strict act of self-defence. Now, look at that plea for a moment. You send your Fleet to the waters of a foreign nation, which nobody pretends had up to that time attacked or molested us in any way. You send it avowedly in a menacing attitude, and with hostile purpose; and when the Government and people of that country take some precautions to fortify their coasts against this invading 1778 force, that is treated as an affront, and you pour your infernal fire upon them "in strict self-defence." I find a man prowling about my house with obviously felonious purposes. I hasten to get locks and bars, and to barricade my windows. He says that is an insult and threat to him, and he batters down my doors, and declares that he does so only as an act of strict self-defence. I own that I thought non-intervention in the internal affairs of other nations was one of the principles of the Liberal Party. In the very first speech ever delivered by Earl Grey in the House of Lords as Prime Minister, when he was expounding the policy of the Liberal Administration of which he was the head, these were the words he used—Our true policy is to maintain universal peace; and, therefore, non-interference is the principle—the great principle—which ought to be, and will be, heartily adopted by the present Administration.My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State seems to say that he also holds the principle of non-intervention, but with an exception. A witty French writer says that those who hold a principle with an exception are like a man who should take some precious essence and put it into a bottle, which he corks and hermetically seals, but leaves some small unseen crack at the bottom of the bottle through which all the precious contents gradually ooze out. Such are those who hold a principle with an exception. No language can adequately express the disappointment, surprise, and pain with which I see the nation led into this miserable embroglio in Egypt by statesmen whom I have so deeply honoured and so implicitly trusted as I have the Prime Minister and Lord Granville. I have not been accustomed to use flattering words towards the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, because I should not regard myself as of sufficient importance to make any tribute from me of much value to him. But now that I am obliged to dissent from his policy, I may be permitted to say that I have yielded to no man living in intense admiration of his transcendent abilities, and profound veneration for his character. The name and fame of men like him form a part of the common inheritance of the Liberal Party, and, indeed, of the nation at large; and not 1779 the least painful misgiving I feel at the present moment is lest these unhappy events should cast a shadow on the close of a great and illustrious career. At any rate, I am glad that I have had an opportunity of delivering my own soul. I cannot vote for this money, which to me is nothing else than blood-money; and as it is only by refusing to support the Vote that I can put on record my practical protest against proceedings which in my conscience I believe to be as impolitic as they are immoral, and which open before us a future full of ominous and perilous possibilities, I am determined to record my vote against this proposal, even if I have to walk into the Lobby alone.
said, he had hoard with pleasure the speech of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but the hon. Baronet would, perhaps, forgive him for saying that there was an important defect in his speech. The hon. Baronet told the Committee everything upon which the great majority of the House was agreed. He said we were in conflict with a military movement in Egypt; he described the great interests and duties this country had in Egypt, and drew the conclusion that we were bound to maintain law and order in Egypt. So far, he thought, the great majority of the House, with the exception, perhaps, of the hon. Member who just spoken, and one or two other hon. Members, was agreed; but the hon. Gentleman did not state and discuss those points of the case upon which the Committee would very much like to be informed. He did not describe what the events were which led to the conflict, or how far those events were preventible or not. He thought the Committee were entitled, in voting this money, at all events, in their speeches, to ask the Government how they had brought the country into this unfortunate position? The Committee had no opportunity on this occasion of expressing their opinion on the policy of the Government by voting, because they could not put any Resolution on the Paper, and could not take any vote in the House or in Committee without standing between the Government and that Supply which they were only too ready to give to the Executive in its need. Therefore, there was no opportunity of taking the sense 1780 of the House or the Committee; but they had a right in debate to point out the errors and faults by which the Government had brought the country into this unhappy conflict with military despotism in Egypt, and to ask for an explanation. It seemed to him that there were two forces which the Government might have invoked to control the military movement in Egypt. These two forces were, in the first place, the Suzerain Power of the Sultan; and, in the second place, the National movement as represented by the Chamber of Notables. Unhappily, the Government had by their policy brought themselves into conflict with both forces, and that not in pursuance of any distinct policy, but because they had allowed themselves from the very outset to be led by their Ally, the Republic of France, or rather by M. Gambetta, the greatest of the Republicans, into a course to which the Government had, when they took Office, expressed their disapprobation. The Under Secretary of State in his speech had said that the Government had treated the National Party with sympathy, and had also said that they had raised no objection to the National movement until it had become military. It would have been very much more consonant with facts if the hon. Gentleman had said that Her Majesty's Government had discouraged and repressed the National movement Egypt until they had thrown it into the arms of Arabi, and had, through their own misconduct, identified it with the military movement. He would try to make that good. The Government had had every reason to regard with favour the Chamber of Notables, because at the time of the military revolt, in September, 1881, the Chamber had come in a most unexpected manner to their rescue. When, on the 30th of September, events took an unexpected turn for the better, relief had come from an equally unexpected quarter. Arabi had summoned to Cairo in support of his demand for a Constitution the Members of the Old Chamber of Notables; and those gentlemen on their arrival had gone in a body to Cherif Pasha, and had entreated him to form a Ministry, offering him their personal guarantee that if they consented the Army would submit, and it was by that means that the military movement had 1781 been put down. The Government had had, therefore, every reason to look with hope and favour upon the meeting of the Chamber of Notables. That had taken place soon after the despatch of Her Majesty's Government on November the 4th; but the Ally of Her Majesty's Government had been of a different opinion. They had been told in the month of December by M. Gambetta that the approaching meeting of the Chamber of Notables made him uneasy—They might support the Khedive's authority, or they might make common cause with the colonels.And the Government had been induced by M. Gambetta to meet the Chamber of Notables before they had assembled with that identical communication which had been regarded by the Porte as an infringement of its Sovereignty, and it had not been calculated to inspire confidence in the Chamber of Notables. It had not been a great length of time before the Chamber of Notables had put to the test the words which had been used in the despatch of November 4, about having "no desire to diminish national institutions," because, not long after they had assembled, they had made a reasonable proposition with reference to the Egyptian Budget, which he (Mr. Gorst) thought was the key-stone of the present trouble, which he would contend had arisen from the conduct of the English and French Governments, with regard to the Budget. In the Egyptian Budget there were two distinct sections, one which related to the revenues assigned to the payment of the Public Debt; and, with reference to that part of the Budget, no claim whatever had been made at any time by the Chamber of Notables to interfere with it; but there was a second part of the Budget which related to revenues not so assigned, and which had no connection with the Public Debt, and with which the Controllers had no direct right to interfere. The Chamber had claimed the right to discuss and vote that second part of the Budget, which was free from all international obligations, with the understanding that they should not interfere with the part of the Budget subject to international obligations. How had that proposal been received by the English Government? Recollecting, he (Mr. Gorst) supposed, their de- 1782 spatch of the 4th of November, they had said—That they did not wish to commit themselves to a total or permanent exclusion of the Chamber of Notables from handling the Budget.Therefore, it had been accepted without positive opposition by Her Majesty's Government; but that again had been only for a day, because the next day they had been informed by M. Gambetta that he had a—Very strong objection to any interference by the Egyptian Chamber with the Budget.He had said that—It behoved France and England to be very firm, lest any appearance of vacillation on their part should encourage the pretensions of the Notables to lay their hands on the Budget.And in obedience again to their French Ally, within a few days Her Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion—That the proposal of the Notables could not be agreed to.Had that been to diminish liberty, or to tamper with the institution to which liberty had given birth? And were the Government of England at that moment, in obedience to their French Ally for the time being, running counter to the most cherished traditions of our national history? Well, M. Gambetta had not been content with sending a mere intimation to the English and French Agents in Egypt that the proposal of the Notables could not be agreed to. He had sent a very strong instruction directing M. Sienkiewicz—To concert measures with Malet, and to insist upon Cherif Pasha absolutely rejecting the demands of the Notables, and not to listen for a moment to the proposed compromise or anything of the kind.The Government were warned by Sir Edward Malet that the breach with Cherif might throw the Notables into the arms of Arabi, and their own officer had written—I should prefer to give the Chamber the right, and to wait until this right is abused before interfering. It must be borne in mind that the Egyptians have distinctly, for good or for evil, entered upon a Constitutional path— that the Organic Law of the Chamber is their charter of liberties.A few days later, on the 20th of January, he (Sir Edward Malet) had written 1783 a remarkable passage, which he (Mr. Gorst) thought justified him in saying that it was the dispute with the Chamber of Notables about the Budget which gave the key to the whole position. On the 20th of January, Sir Edward Malet had written—Armed intervention will become necessary if we adhere to the refusal to allow the Budget to be voted by the Chamber.Well, notwithstanding the advice, and the warning, and the hypocritical provisions which had been made by the Government in their despatch, they had permitted M. Gambetta to adhere to his determination to trample upon the national liberties of the Egyptian people, and they had compelled Cherif Pasha to refuse the Organic Law of the Chamber, that had been the cause of the destruction of his (Cherif Pasha's) Ministry. In the despatch in which Lord Granville summed up the whole action of the Government he used the words—It appears as if the opposition to the law had come from Cherif Pasha himself, and that the English and French Governments had supported him in his opposition.
said, he was about to read it. Cherif Pasha, had stated on the 10th, to the Chamber, that he could not accept the Amendments; and the Controllers General objected that by such an arrangement they would lose their hold on the finances. There had been, at all events, an instruction to the British and French Agents to support Cherif Pasha, and they had supported him so effectually that he had been turned out of Office. The language used on that occasion by the Chamber of Notables to the Khedive would mark the sympathy and respect of a liberty-loving Assembly like the present. They had said that the discussion of the Budget was not one which affected Foreign Powers. The Controllers had then very soon reported to the Governments that the power in Egypt belonged to-day to the Chamber of Delegates, and to certain Military Chiefs, "to whose influence the Chamber submits." But whose fault had it been, he would ask, that the Chamber had submitted, but that Government which had rejected the 1784 reasonable demands of the Chamber? They were then told again by the same Controllers that—Cherif's Ministry fell only because it would not disregard the opposition of the English and French Governments to the pretensions put forward by the Chamber to vote the Budget.At the influence of the Controllers it had been destroyed. As a further illustration, he would point out that on the 14th of May, when Arabi convoked the Chamber of Notables for the purpose of deposing the Khedive, but ostensibly to take his part, one of the first suggestions made by Sir Edward Malet, after the massacre at Alexandria, had been to suggest to the Khedive again to summon the Chamber of Notables. They had learned from the public journals that the Chamber of Notables was now assembling in Cairo, and that some of them had actually forced their way through the camp of Arabi to Alexandria for the purpose of learning the actual state of the country. Therefore, he would say that the Chamber of Notables was a body to which the Government should have trusted; but, owing to the dislike of M. Gambetta to the free institutions of that country, they had been persuaded to place themselves in hostility to that body; and, because of that difference, they had driven the National Party into the hands of the Military Party. They compelled them to throw themselves into the arms of Arabi, and they had now allowed Arabi to pretend to be the head of a National Party, instead of being the head of a military organization. He would ask the Government to point out to the House that in the commencement of the unhappy war in Egypt they had not, by their neglect, been guilty of the pillage and destruction of Alexandria. There was an amusing and remarkable incident in connection with the matter which had occurred at the beginning of the trouble. The Government had written a despatch to their Minister at Paris on the 10th of December, in which they had described the actual position they wished to assume in the Egyptian crisis as an "attitude of a pacifying and calming character." That had been their policy, and the Ambassador, or Mr. Adams, who had been acting for the Ambassador, road that "elegant" description of the policy of the Government to M. de St. Hilaire. 1785 M. St. Hilaire had been so struck by that singular and charming phrase of the British Government that he had begged for a copy of it; and, said Mr. Adams, "I ventured to give it." And so those two diplomatists had rejoiced together over those words like the two old women over "that blessed word Mesopotamia." He wondered whether the British Government had recollected their "attitude of a pacifying and calming character" when they had stationed their iron-clads before the forts of Alexandria? He should have thought that it would have had as little of a pacifying character as it was easy to perceive. This matter had been already touched on by several speakers, so that he Mr. Gorst) would deal with it very shortly; but as he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) in his place, perhaps he might beg him, when he addressed the Committee, not to approach to within a measurable distance of calumny by insinuating that he (Mr. Gorst) meant, in what he was saying, to find fault with the sailors of the Fleet, and not with Her Majesty's Government. The object the right hon. Gentleman would have in making such a representation would be apparent; but he (Mr. Gorst) would defy the right hon. Gentleman to sow dissension between him and his constituents. His constituents were independent, and thought for themselves, like the constituency the right hon. Gentleman himself once represented. They did not, like the constituency the right hon. Gentleman now so fitly represented, take their political principles on trust from a Radical grandee. Well, the proposal to send the iron-clads to Alexandria was first made by the French Government, and it was only assented to by Lord Granville on the understanding that there should be three Commissioners sent at the same time to Egypt from England, France, and Turkey. Lord Granville said—Such a demonstration could hardly in itself be a sufficient remedy or safeguard for the present condition of affairs: but it might be useful as a moral support to the three Commissioners if it were decided to send them.Before the three Commissioners were sent, a telegraphic communication was despatched to Sir Edward Malet, asking what effect such a course would have on the life and property of European sub- 1786 jects at Cairo. On May 14th Sir Edward Malet, in accord with his French Colleague, spoke of the danger which the arrival of the Fleet might cause to Europeans at Cairo; but it was said—Its arrival in support of the Khedive, who now seems to have with him all hut the Military Party, diminishes the danger.In consequence of the unfavourable Report received from Sir Edward Malet, giving his and the French Agent's opinion that the appearance of the ships would be likely to place British and French subjects in danger, the ships were sent to Suda Bay. There, again, the intention to send ships to Suda Bay was persevered in for one day only, because, as in every other case, the view of the French Government was adopted. The French desired that the ships should go to Alexandria, and on the following day orders were sent that instead of going on to Suda Bay they should go on to Alexandria. There was a remarkable instance of the manner in which Her Majesty's Government allowed themselves to be influenced by the French Government to do what they thought was wrong. The other Powers were not, in this case, invited to co-operate, and it was to be found in the official documents that the Prime Minister regretted it, and that the Government thought it a mistake. So that they had here Her Majesty's Government doing an act which the Prime Minister regretted, and which the Government thought was wrong. However—As the French Government held absolutely to it, and as they have gone so far to meet the views of Her Majesty's Government, they have concurred in the course taken.He (Mr. Gorst) should like to ask any Member, who hereafter might address the Committee, to produce a single instance in which the French Government had altered their views in deference to the wishes of this country. It appeared to him to be a ridiculous mockery, when, on every single occasion, Her Majesty's Government yielded their own opinion to the opinion of the French Government, and when they even did acts which they themselves thought wrong to please the French Government, that in not one single particular had the French Government ever altered its 1787 plans to meet the views of Her Majesty's Government. After a very careful study of the Papers, he had failed to discover a single instance of the kind. Then the Squadron went to Alexandria. And let him point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister that if if the other Powers had been invited, and they had joined in the expedition to Alexandria, the objection which he had pointed out against having troops ready to land and to assist in the operations of the Fleet would never have been raised, and there would have been no fear of offending the European Concert, which, according to the right hon. Gentleman, had been done. When the hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry de Worms) questioned Her Majesty's Government as to the reasons why they had not had troops to prevent the destruction of Alexandria after the bombardment, the right hon. Gentleman put forward two. In the first place, he had said that the sacking of the city was not a natural consequence of the bombardment by the Fleet, and that first reason he gave on the 17th instant. Well, many hon. Members had pointed out the numberless warnings that Her Majesty's Government had received on that head. When he (Mr. Gorst) addressed the House on that subject some little time ago, he was only able to point to the opinion of the Correspondent of The Standard in support of his contention. But as soon as he had access to the Official Papers he was able to discover the quarters from which they had serious warning. They had first a warning from Sir Edward Malet, who told them that Arabi Bey had informed himself and M. Sienkiewicz that, in the event of an Anglo - French Squadron arriving he could not guarantee public safety. The British residents in Alexandria made a communication to Mr. Cookson, which Mr. Cookson thought so important that he asked the leave of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to telegraph straight to London, and which Lord Granville in turn thought so important that he gave the necessary instructions for it to be so telegraphed; and this was the opinion of the British residents in Alexandria, telegraphed by Mr. Cookson on the 30th of May. One would almost think, so accurately did it describe what occurred, that those who 1788 prepared the message had the gift of prophecy.The small Squadron, actually in port could only silence the fire of the Egyptian forts, and when those forts were disabled then would commence a great danger for Europeans, who would he at the mercy of soldiers exasperated by defeat, while the English Admiral could not risk his men ashore, as his whole available force for shore operations does not exceed 300 men, although the Squadron was sent here to safeguard European life and property.What an unfortunate enterprise "To safeguard European life and property !"Most of the Englishmen left Alexandria, and the few who remained, with all the rest of the Europeans on shore, were massacred, and the whole of the property on shore was destroyed. The Khedive told the Government on the 12th of June—If the Egyptian garrison apprehends any hostile action on the part of Europeans, there is danger of a general conflagration throughout the country;and Sir Edward Malet thought this so important that he not only telegraphed it to London, as he was bound to do, but communicated it by telegraph to Sir Beauchamp Seymour. Dervish Pasha warned them, on the same day, that danger might ensue if they assumed the aggressive—that immediate calamities might be produced by aggressive action —and on June 14 Sir Edward Malet told them that the Agents of Austria and Germany had telegraphed to their Governments that any armed intervention, not excepting Turkish, would place the lives of their countrymen in danger, and that the only means of avoiding the most serious calamities was his (Sir Edward Malet's) departure and that of the Fleet. That communication was considered so important that it was not only sent direct to the Government by their Egyptian Agent, but Count Karolyi thought it his duty to communicate it to Sir Henry Elliot, by whom it was communicated to the Foreign Office. On June 15, again, the Italian agent, Martino, telegraphed to Marsini—Make no mistake. At the first news of an armed intervention, even exclusively Turkish, all the Colonists will fall victims to a fanaticism which has no longer any limits.That, again, was thought of such importance that it was communicated officially by the Italian Ambassador in London to Lord Granville. So that 1789 Her Majesty's Government had warnings from every quarter, and from every kind of person, through every sort of channel—they had notice that this would be the probable effect of the action of the Fleet. And how, after that, could the Prime Minister state on the 17th of July—It is not arguable, in our opinion, that it was a natural or a probable consequence of the bombardment of the Fleet that an army estimated to number from 10,000 to 15,000 men should evacuate and burn and pillage the town.The other reason the right hon. Gentleman gave was even more extraordinary than the first, and in mentioning it he would not occupy the time of the Committee more than a minute. The right hon. Gentleman's second reason was that preparations adequate to cope with the Egyptian Army would, most certainly not have been allowable under the Instrument which was called the "Self-Denying" Protocol. He (Mr. Gorst) had not seen that "Self-Denying" Protocol, and he did not think any other hon. Members had.
I say I did not call it the "Self-Denying" Protocol. That is what it has been called; but it was not my phrase. It was an engagement entered into by the members of the Conference.
I take the words of The Times report, according to which the right hon. Gentleman stated—Our judgment is that preparations adequate to cope with that army would most certainly not have been allowable under the instrument which is called the 'Self-Denying' Protocol.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, that, to prevent misapprehension, he would state that he had read the document in question yesterday to the House in answer to an hon. Member opposite.
said, he was anxious not to misrepresent the Prime Minister. The Instrument he referred to stated that—The Government, represented by the undersigned, undertake, in any arrangement which may be made in consequence of their concerted action for the settlement of the affairs of Egypt, not to seek any territorial advantage, nor the concession of any commercial advantage for 1790 their subjects which those of any other nation shall not be equally able to obtain.
said, there seemed to be a difficulty in this matter; and he should very much like to know why these documents were concealed?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he had read to the House yesterday the Instrument in reply to a Question. Either on Thursday or Friday last the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) had asked him when the Instrument would be produced, and he had then said that the proceedings of the Conference being secret he could not answer the Question at once. A telegram was sent to Lord Dufferin asking if he knew any reason why the Instrument should not be placed before the House, and a reply was received yesterday from Lord Dufferin stating that his Colleagues would allow it to be communicated. That being so, he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had at once read it.
said, that was not the "Self-Denying" Protocol, or the Instrument which had been called the "Self-Denying" Protocol. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms) had referred to it, and had been told by the Prime Minister—
said, that a verbal ambiguity had arisen in regard to his answer to the hon. Member for Greenwich. Two or three days after giving that answer he had explained that the document the hon. Member was referring to was not the "Self-Denying" Protocol, and that an arrangement had been made between the Members of the Conference in regard to their action.
said, the statements of the Government were so contradictory that the Committee was getting mixed up. What he had himself read was a document signed by the different Governments on entering the Conference. He now remembered the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs reading a Protocol or an extract from the proceedings of the Conference; but he challenged the Government to show, either by the one document or the other, 1791 that they were prevented from having in Alexandria Harbour a force sufficient to land and prevent the pillage and sack of the place. Her Majesty's Government might escape, and, no doubt, would escape, a Vote of Censure in this House—no Vote of Censure could be brought forward with a chance of success; but they would not escape the con-sure of the whole civilized world. They talked of the moral law and of blood-guiltiness; but they might depend upon it that, whether or not they escaped any censure from the Imperial Parliament for the pillage and destruction of Alexandria, they would merit and would receive the condemnation of history.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
At the commencement of the speech to which we have just listened, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham stated that he was unable to move an Amendment to the Vote before the Committee, not, of course, because that would be inconsistent with the Orders of the House, because we have already had an Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), and the hon. and learned Member could have moved an Amendment in a similar way if he thought fit to do so; but he considered it improper to move an Amendment which might embarrass the Government at a time of national emergency. While, however, the hon. and learned Member hesitated to embarrass the Executive in a time of great need, he did not consider himself do-barred from making a speech in which, at great length, he brought charges against the Government which he might have condensed into an Amendment; but, with a modesty for which I am bound to give him the greatest credit, he assumed that no speech he could make could possibly embarrass the Executive. Well, the hon. and learned Member went on to say that he admitted the existence of a military despotism in Egypt; and he added that the Government might have invoked, in order to deal with this military despotism, two forces—they might either have called in the authority of the Sultan, or have appealed to the influence of the National Party, as represented by the Chamber of Notables. Well, I confess I should have thought the Papers would have shown conclusively that, from first to last, Her Ma- 1792 jesty's Government had invited and suggested the interference of the Sovereign of Egypt. We appealed to the Sultan of Turkey to exercise the duty of Sovereignty in restoring order in that country, and the real charge is not that we did not make this appeal, but that we did not enforce it in season and out of season, and independently of our Ally, the Republican Government of France. He taunts us, in fact, because throughout these proceedings we have not on every occasion acted independently of our Allies. Apparently he sets very small store upon the French alliance. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, that cheer may represent the opinion of hon. or of some right hon. Members opposite; but it is not the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. It has been throughout a cardinal point in our policy that, as far as possible, we would maintain that alliance which has existed for so long, and with such great advantage to the two countries. The Committee is aware that, in an eloquent speech which he made a few days ago in the French Chamber, M. Gambetta declared that the alliance was fraught with many benefits to France; and it has been rather unfairly urged, I think, that, therefore, it is of no advantage to England. But, on the contrary, I am persuaded that every word M. Gambetta used with regard to the interests of Franco may be used with equal force with regard to the interests of England. Everywhere throughout the world we meet the French nation, and we must meet them either as friends or foes; and I, for one, say better lot us meet them as friends than as foes. Our relations with France extend over so many and such vast interests that it is of the utmost importance that our negotiations with them should be, as far as possible, of a friendly and confidential character; and, that being the case, in this matter of Egypt it has been from the first the desire of the Government to make to their Ally any concession which did not involve any sacrifice of principle. The hon. and learned Member went on to charge us with deceiving the Sultan with reference to the despatch of the iron-clad Invincible, which took place in the month of October last year. The charge of the hon. and learned Member is that, whereas the Invincible was sent 1793 to Alexandria on the demand of the Consuls as a refuge for British subjects, we told the Sultan that it would be withdrawn as soon as the Turkish Commission was withdrawn.
What I said was that, after having sent out the Invincible to protect life and property, we pretended to the Sultan that it had been sent out because his Commissioners had not been withdrawn.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
No doubt it is true that, while, on the one hand, we said we sent the Invincible to protect British life and property, on the other hand, we said it would be withdrawn as soon as the Turkish Commission was withdrawn; and what I have now to say to the hon. and learned Member is that there is absolutely no inconsistency between the two statements. What was the statement of the Sultan to us? It was that the incident had terminated, that order had been restored, and that the presence of our ships was no longer necessary. We said, in reply—"If you are convinced that order is restored, and that the incident is terminated, you will show your conviction that that is the case by withdrawing the Commission; and, when you have given that proof, we shall be ready in turn to withdraw our ships." The hon. and learned Gentleman then went on to speak in terms of great severity of the despatch of Lord Granville, dated November 4. He said it was distinguished by its intense hypocrisy, as it laid down, in one of its paragraphs, as a cardinal principle, that we were concerned for the prosperity of Egypt and the good government of that country, whilst it was elsewhere stated that our interest was in the safety of the Suez Canal. I fail altogether to conceive the precise inconsistency between these two statements. It appears to me that the well-being and prosperity of Egypt was intimately bound up, on the one hand, with the safety of the Suez Canal, and, on the other hand, with the reasonably good government of the Egyptian people. The hon. and learned Member went on to complain that the Government allowed themselves to be placed in opposition to the National movement, and drove the Chamber of Notables into the arms of Arabi Pasha. It seems to me that that is absolutely the reverse of the facts as they happened. So far from the Chamber having 1794 been driven by the action of England into the arms of Arabi Pasha, on the contrary, as time went on the Members of the Chamber separated themselves from Arabi. In the first instance, the Chamber was convoked on the initiative of Arabi Pasha; but subsequently they separated themselves from him, and refused to sit when they were convoked without the consent of the Sultan; and it was the President of the Chamber of Notables, one of its ablest Members, who demanded the retirement of the military leaders and the banishment of Arabi Pasha, and in that way laid the foundation for the despatch which the hon. and learned Member refers to as the Ultimatum of the Consuls General. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman says he will make his charge good; and he does so, in the first instance, by proving that M. Gambetta was hostile to the Chamber of Notables. There is no doubt that at one time M. Gambetta was hostile to the Chamber, and that hostility was based upon the fact that that Chamber of Notables was convoked at the instigation of Arabi Pasha, and would prove to be creatures of his.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not state it as appearing in the Papers; but as an inference drawn from the facts which appears to me extremely reasonable. I should think that, considering the circumstances in which Arabi Pasha rose to power, and considering that one of his first acts was to summon the Chamber of Notables, it was a reasonable inference to suppose that he had assured himself beforehand that their view was likely to be favourable to his schemes. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not prove his case by proving that M. Gambetta was hostile to the Chamber of Notables. Her Majesty's Government were never hostile to it; but the hon. and learned Member says they showed their hostility by objecting to the proposal of the Chamber to control the Budget. As to that, I would say that the Chamber made a claim which, in the opinion of the Government and in the opinion of the Controllers, was in contravention of the existing international agreement; and it is not competent for the Chamber of Notables or the British Government to permit an infraction of international 1795 agreement without, at all events, consulting the Powers concerned. All the Controllers and the British Government did was to point out that the arrangements were the subject of international agreement, and could not be altered without a fresh agreement. But the English Government did not express itself as at all unfriendly to a modification of the Control—on the contrary, negotiations were going on for a compromise, and were proceeding very favourably, when matters assumed a critical appearance, owing to the action of Arabi Bey and the Military Party. The whole matter, I will venture to say, is still in suspense. The question of the Control, no doubt, is an extremely difficult one. In the first place, it is perfectly certain that, whatever objection may be taken to the Control, it has been of immense advantage to Egypt. There is no doubt that it has legalized the collection of taxes, that it has prevented extortion, that it has secured the honest collection of the Revenue and lessened the burdens on the people, and that in that manner it has given an extraordinary impetus to the material prosperity of the country. Of course, if the sentiment of Egypt was opposed to the Control, and if they preferred a corrupt system of administration to the stern integrity and inflexible honesty of European administration, then I say that it may well be a question for consideration whether we are entitled to force the better system upon the people against their will. All I urge is that that, at all events, is a matter for the subsequent consideration of all the Great Powers, and not for the isolated decision of the British Government. I observe that in the French Chamber the other day, M. de Freycinet acknowledged the undoubted existence of a National sentiment in Egypt, and said that the time, perhaps, would come when due consideration must be given to it; and I say that when that time comes, the influence of the British Government will be used in order, as far as possible, to give due effect to all reasonable National aspirations on the part of the Egyptian people. Then the hon. and learned Member added to his indictment the charge that, in deference to this French alliance, we ordered our ships first to Suda Bay, and then sent them on to Alexandria. That matter is explained 1796 in the Papers, and the explanation is a simple one. The British Government were naturally anxious that the sending of the ships should not provoke an outbreak—a massacre or disaster—at Alexandria, and they wanted to be assured that their presence would not provoke such an outbreak before they finally gave an order that the ships should go to Alexandria. It will be found, on reference to the Papers, that Sir Edward Malet, while he asked at one time that the ships should be delayed, subsequently informed Her Majesty's Government that it was then most desirable that their arrival should be hastened. Our action as to the sending of the ships was guided by the information we received from our Agents. The hon. and learned Member went on to say that while we had recommended and desired that the other Powers should be invited to co-operate in the Naval Demonstration, we had again yielded to the desire of France, and refrained from giving that invitation; and he says that whilst the Prime Minister stated that we had done this in consequence of the French compliance with our wishes in other respects, the most careful examination he had been able to make of the Papers had failed to show him any single proof of such compliance on the part of the French. I must say I cannot understand how the hon. and learned Gentleman can have given any careful attention to the Papers without finding in those very documents, from which he quoted, proof of the statement of the Prime Minister. What is the fact? Why, in the very Paper in which the French Government propose that English and French ships alone should be sent to Alexandria, the French Government conceded to the English Government that the Sultan should be invited to send a military force to Egypt. Up to that time the French Government had persistently opposed the introduction of Turkish military intervention, and at that date, for the first time, they yielded to the representations of the English Government. This point seemed to us to be at the time of the very highest importance. Then the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the concluding part of his speech, called the Government once more to task for not having a sufficient force at hand at the time of the bombardment, and he says we received innumerable warnings as to 1797 the certain consequence of the bombardment. In the first place, he refers to the despatch of Sir Edward Malet, which was one of those earlier despatches to which I have already referred, and in which we were warned that the mere presence of the Fleet in Alexandrian waters would be productive of danger to the population—an opinion justified, no doubt, by the state of things that existed. He stated that Arabi Pasha made the threat that if the Fleet did not withdraw he would not be responsible for order. That was a threat which Arabi Pasha made directly on that occasion, and subsequently through other channels; but the hon. and learned Member seems to have failed to observe that a short time afterwards Arabi Pasha, himself and the Prime Minister of Egypt both joined in assuring Sir Edward Malet that when the Fleet arrived there would be and should be no disturbance. The hon. and learned Member adds that the residents in Alexandria also warned the Government; but here, again, he has failed to study the Papers with sufficient care and accuracy. What the inhabitants represented to the Government was that the Squadron then in Alexandrian waters was insufficient for its purpose. As a matter of fact, there was only one iron-clad—the Invincible —and two small despatch boats at Alexandria; and the residents represented that that was not enough, and that from such a Squadron only 300 men could be landed. In consequence of these representations the Government sent another iron-clad directly, and two or three days afterwards three more; and the result was that when the bombardment took place there were three or four times the number of men at the disposal of the Admiral. The hon. and learned Member went on to say that we were warned also by the Khedive and Dervish Pasha. At the time we received these warnings the Khedive and Dervish Pasha were mainly the channels through which Arabi Pasha wished to convey to the British Government a menace to prevent the bombardment, and to induce the Fleet to withdraw; and this, the hon. and learned Member suggests, was the course we ought to have taken. It was a menace from the very man who at that time was preparing and organizing the outbreak that subsequently took 1798 place. The hon. and learned Member concluded by saying that we should be condemned by the whole civilized world for not having taken precautions to prevent a massacre. I would answer him by saying that in the sense in which such words are ordinarily used, there never has been a massacre since the bombardment and in consequence of it. It is true an hon. Member asked a Question in the House the other day as to the thousands of persons who were killed in consequence of the bombardment. I will answer him by referring to a telegram which appeared in The Times newspaper, I think, on Friday last. The Correspondent of The Times in that telegram declared that up to that date he had only been able to ascertain that five persons, in all, had been killed since the bombardment, and that he did not believe there had been any more. Of course, there has been deplorable destruction of property, which I think we may say could hardly have been foreseen. It was not possible to suppose that a strong army that was in no possible danger of offensive operations would let loose the convicts, the scum of the place, in order to destroy the property of innocent people, and retire from the town. That disaster, much as we regret it, could not have been foreseen, and if it had been foreseen, I do not think it could have been prevented. The mischief was done before it would have been possible to have landed troops from the ships, and no force that could have been landed could have prevented the incendiary fires that took place. I should like to turn now for a few moments to the speech delivered from a very different point of view, at an earlier period of the evening—the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard). The hon. Member had said he was sometimes described as a member of the "Peace-at-any-price Party." I understand him to admit that he is a Member of the Party that would never concede, under any circumstances, the right of military intervention in the affairs of another country, unless we ourselves were directly attacked. But I am prepared to allow that there is a difference between a view of that kind, extreme as I hold it to be, and what might be represented as "Peace-at-any-price principles." Certainly, I shall not approach the argu- 1799 ment of the hon. Gentleman with any prejudice, or scorn, or contempt, for I honour him for the consistency with which, on this and on all occasions, he has courageously advocated the views he holds. But my hon. Friend went on, in a tone and spirit which he will allow me to say was hardly worthy of him, to say that those who differed from him, and held views not so strong as to nonintervention as his own, might properly he described as the"War-at-any-cost-Party"—the Party that inflames others to bloody deeds, and remains at home wrapped in luxurious ease. I do not think it is necessary to impute cowardice and selfish motives to those who like myself believe that the honour and the interest of this country imperatively demand a military intervention. I, for one, at all events, have never accepted the doctrine of absolute non-intervention: and I cannot, for the life of me, understand how that policy of international arbitration, which has one of its most distinguished advocates in the person of my hon. Friend, can ever become a practical policy, unless it is coupled with the idea of an international police. The present appears to me to be a case for the intervention of an international police, and it seems to me that the special circumstances have thrown the duty and burden upon this country. Well, my hon. Friend went on to say that our action was, in his opinion, the irrevocable consequence of the policy of the late Government, unfortunately adopted by the present Government. Sir, it is not my business to defend the policy of the late Government, and, certainly, I am not prepared to say that we are adopting it; but that statement of my hon. Friend, in any case, does not convey the whole truth in this matter, because I venture to say that whatever may be our opinion as to the wisdom of the arrangement which constituted the Dual Control, and which involved this country in a constant interference in and supervision of the internal affairs of Egypt, if no such arrangement had been made, and no Control had existed, there is every reason to suppose that a state of things would have been brought about which would have threatened anarchy and disorder in Egypt; and, under these circumstances, the same duty as that we are now discharging would have fallen 1800 upon us. Sir, the cause of our intervention is the danger of anarchy in Egypt. Anarchy in Egypt would affect British interests of paramount importance, and I would say the interests of civilization generally. Now, what are these British interests? They are not— certainly not exclusively, certainly not primarily, or chiefly—the interests of the bondholders. I believe the total amount of the Egyptian Debt is something like £60,000,000 sterling, and I suppose it is probable that £30,000,000 of this amount is held in this country. I am not going to abuse the bondholders as being necessarily the enemies of the human race. I do not think it follows that because a man lends his capital to promote, in many cases, the material prosperity of other countries, that, therefore, he is to be represented as a usurer unworthy of any sympathy. But, on the other hand, any person who engages in a speculation of that kind must take the risks of it, and he is not entitled to call on his Government for military intervention in order to protect his investment. That is a position, however, which has been recognized in the past by the holders of Egyptian Bonds. They have already had to submit to a considerable reduction of the original terms on which they entered into these loans; and in the future, as in the past, they must make their own arrangements, and must not call on Her Majesty's Government to support them. But there are other interests, less questionable, more direct, and more important. There is, in the first place, our interest in the Suez Canal, the great highway of all nations, and, above all, the road between this country and our Eastern Possessions. I had the curiosity to have some figures prepared for me as to the British traffic on this Canal; and I find, on the best estimate that could be made, that £50,000,000 sterling in goods of different kinds pass through the Canal both ways and annually. In other words, one-seventh of the whole foreign trade of this country passes through the Canal at the present time. The fleet engaged in carrying this enormous trade is worth about £15,000,000 sterling, and four-fifths of the entire shipping passing through the Canal is British. As showing also our direct interest in Egypt, I may mention that of the total Egyptian exports, amounting to £7,000,000, £5,500,000 are 1801 British, while the French portion-is only £410,000. I hold that the security of that great highway is of paramount importance to this country, and we are bound to protect it against risk. Then, again, there are the private interests—the private commercial interests—which we have in Egypt. Probably there is between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000 of English capital engaged in private, peaceful, and legitimate undertakings in Egypt. Men so engaged in trade, whether in Egypt or any other country, have a right to look to their Government for reasonable protection. I have seen it assorted outside this House that we should give notice to British traders everywhere that they trade at their own risk, and that the British Government will give thorn no assistance and no support. Sir, I am not prepared to agree to such a doctrine as that. I only wish to point out to hon. Members what its immediate consequence would be. If you withdraw from those persons engaged in legitimate occupations the protection which hitherto they have been entitled to claim, you will withdraw also, I expect, a very large proportion of that enormous foreign trade which gives employment to so many of our people and contributes, not only to the prosperity of this country, but to the prosperity of other countries where these great commercial enterprizes are undertaken. I say it is a monstrous notion that all these great interests are to be sacrificed by this country to the ambition of a military adventurer—not to promote the National interests of the country, not to secure freedom in Egypt, not to secure the introduction of liberal reforms, but purely and solely in order that a military adventurer may continue his career unchecked and without opposition, I would ask also—though I do not intend to dwell at any length upon it—what effect would the holding of such a doctrine as this have upon our position, not merely in Europe or Egypt, but throughout the East? It has been said, and said truly, that we are a great Mussulman Power—that is to say, that millions of Mahomedans own our rule, and I cannot conceive anything more dangerous to the security of our people and to the security of our Possessions than that an idea should get abroad that we could be set at defiance with impunity under such circumstances as these. Well, 1802 Sir, my hon. Friend attributes the whole of the difficulties which have arisen in Egypt to the existence of the Control. He speaks of the number of Europeans who have been imposed upon the Egyptian people, and who draw largo salaries, and whom the Egyptians look upon with jealousy. But I would point out to him, in the first place, that the great majority of Europeans in the service of Egypt are not appointed by the Control at all, but are in the direct appointment of the Egyptian Government, which may also dismiss them at any time. I quite admit it is natural that there should be some indignation amongst the most intelligent of the Egyptians, who see places that they fairly might desire to occupy themselves filled by foreigners; and certainly' it will not be the duty of this country, when order is restored in Egypt, to use any influence it may possess in order to replace these Europeans in office. But, in my opinion, it would be entirely a mistake to assume that there is the slightest connection between what I would call this National sentiment, which I am inclined to think exists, and which is hostile probably to the control of the Egyptian administration by foreigners and the military movement that has for its leader Arabi Pasha. From first to last Arabi has never said a word against the Control. On the contrary, in a Manifesto he issued early in these proceedings, he admitted that the Control had been of immense material advantage to Egypt; and from first to last, throughout these proceedings, it will be found that his object, as tested by the result of his proceedings, has been to secure personal advantage for himself and his abettors. Let me follow that out for a moment. In February, 1881, the first military riots took place. What was their object? What view was put forward as justifying them? They had nothing to do with the increase of liberty in Egypt, with Constitutional reforms, or the Dual Control. But in connection with them a claim was made for the dismissal of an unpopular Minister of War, and a protest was made against the promotion of certain Circassians to the detriment of Egyptians. That riot, being successful, was followed almost immediately by an increase in the Army charge to the extent of something like £50,000 a-year. Again, in 1803 September, when the second military riot took place, the chief object insisted upon by Arabi Bey and the mutinous I colonels was an increase in the Army from 12,000 to 15,000 men, and that riot was almost immediately followed by an increase in the Army charges. The demand was for an increase of £280,000 in the Estimates; but that was finally compromised, and an actual increase made of £120,000 per annum. Then, in March, when another demonstration was threatened, the personal character of this conspiracy was still more clearly shown, for its object was to secure the promotion of a number of lieutenant colonels without the examination demanded bylaw— the object was to secure the promotion of men who could not pass the examination; and no words were uttered at that time, or at any other time, as to any Constitutional reform being required. And so the result of the movement up to the time of the bombardment was this— that 560 officers had been promoted, the numbers of the Army had been increased, and the Military Estimates had been enlarged by something like £200,000 per annum, while all the military opponents or rivals of Arabi had been proscribed, and some of them banished. These were the only "reforms promoted by Arabi Bey, whose action is now represented as a great National movement. If there is any doubt whatever remaining as to the position of this man, I think the Papers will show what is the opinion of the most intelligent Natives about him. There is, for instance, on record the opinion of Cherif Pasha, the most able, the most intelligent, and the most courageous of Egyptian statesmen. He accepted Office at the request, in the first instance, of the Army and Arabi Pasha; but with the greatest reluctance, well knowing that with a mutinous soldiery the situation would necessarily become intolerable. Accordingly, a short time afterwards he found himself in opposition to the Army, and the same Army which had promised obedience to him demanded his subsequent withdrawal and retirement. Then, at that period, there was an interesting conversation reported of Sir Edward Malet with the then Minister of Egyptian Foreign Affairs, Mustapha Pasha, who was supposed to be a creature of Arabi, and who declared in March that the condition of things had become intolerable, that the 1804 promotions made in the Army would only lead to further discontent and further promotions, and that settled government, under the circumstances, was hardly to be hoped for. Lastly, in May, Sultan Pasha, the President of the Notables, is reported as having demanded the retirement of the military leaders, and the withdrawal of Arabi from power. Subsequently, Arabi returned to power, not as leader of the National movement, hut in opposition to the Chamber of Notables, the most representative body in Egypt, and in opposition also to the Khedive and the Sultan. My hon. Friend went on to say that the Government made three cardinal errors in the course of their policy, and that the first of these was the Dual Note; the second, what my hon. Friend called the Ultimatum of the Consuls General; and the third, the sending of the Fleet. But I say that all these things hang together. The judgment of the Committee upon them will, of course, be influenced by the view they take of the situation. If my hon. Friend is right that it would be just and expedient to withdraw altogether from Egyptian affairs, to leave Egypt to anarchy, and to run the grave and serious risk of the interruption of the Suez Canal, and of danger to the lives and property of European and other subjects, then, of course, these three steps in the Government policy must be condemned. On the contrary, if it is evident to the Committee now, as it was evident to the Government after the military riots which had taken place, that some kind of interference was necessary if British interests were to be protected, then these were three steps which are easily to be justified. The Dual Note did not go further in principle than Lord Granville's despatch of the 4th of November, to which reference has already been made. That despatch was received with universal approval, not only by the Great Powers, but also in Egypt; and the Dual Note only put in another form the views which it expressed, and promised what at that time the Government were determined to afford—namely, the influence of this country in support of the Khedive against a military adventurer who was threatening his authority. Then the Ultimatum was described by my hon. Friend as the most monstrous demand ever made upon an independent Government. I have 1805 already pointed out that this so-called monstrous demand was originally the demand, not of the English Government, but of the Representative Chamber of Egyptian Notables; and as to the sending of the Fleet at the time it was sent, in view of the dangers which were threatening British and other European people in Egypt, I say that the Government would have been open to the severest condemnation unless that step had been taken by them. When my hon. Friend declares that the sending of the Fleet was the sole cause of the disaster which has since happened, I think he has not studied the Papers with sufficient care. Those Papers would have shown him that long before the Fleet was sent information was in the hands of the British Government that anarchy was rife in the Province. This information came to us, in the first instance, from our Agents in Egypt. My hon. Friend is disposed to distrust everything that comes from British Agents; but the Government do not share this distrust, and they relied on the information which they received as to the attempts made to rouse the fanaticism of the people, and as to the probability of general anarchy in Egypt if effectual measures were not taken to prevent it. And I do not doubt, if the Fleet had not been sent, that the loss of life, great as it undoubtedly is, would have been very much more serious. I hope my hon. Friend will receive what I say as being said with perfect sincerity. The Government have not entered upon this business without a full sense of its gravity, without a sense of the deep responsibility which their action casts upon them, and without the greatest possible reluctance. But there was a duty thrown upon Europe and upon Turkey, but primarily upon this country, to see that all the interests which had been created and which existed in Egypt should not be put in danger by a military revolt which it was in our power to put down. We have thought it our duty to interfere, and we have interfered with the sole purpose of putting down this military revolt, and of liberating in this way the National sentiment, to whose free expression we shall be prepared to give the most serious consideration. When those duties are accomplished we shall retire, having sought and having claimed no selfish advantage for ourselves.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I do not think that any Member of this Committee can possibly conceal from himself the occasion on which we are at the present moment assembled. We have before us the consideration of the military action of Her Majesty's Government, taken upon what the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has chosen to call the determination to put down military tyranny in Egypt. I do not in the least quarrel with the way in which he has described that action; but, at the same time, we cannot conceal from ourselves that we have entered upon a very grave undertaking. It is impossible for us to enter upon that task with a light heart, because, when once the sword has been drawn, we know not, considering what has occurred in Europe and what may occur hereafter, when that sword can be again sheathed. Now, there are two sentiments expressed in the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) with which, although we have probably arrived at our conclusions, for different reasons I entirely agree. I agree with him in feeling the greatest surprise and pain at the action which Her Majesty's Government have taken. The other conclusion I agree with is one which relates to a fact which Her Majesty's Government have not con sidered, and which I think they ought to have considered, in the course of these transactions; and that is that we (the English) were, before these transactions took place, on good terms with all the people of Egypt, and that the people of Egypt looked up to us more than to any other European Power. I am afraid it will be a long time before we can restore those good relations with the Egyptian people, which, up to the period I speak of, so happily existed. But I am very glad to hear from Her Majesty's Government that, at all events, they recognize the vast interests which we have in Egypt. Those interests seem to me to be almost paramount, and the despatch of Lord Granville contains the statement, with which I agree, that—The situation of Egypt on the most direct maritime route between England and her Indian Possessions and Australian Colonies gives to this country a special interest in Egyptian affairs. In addition to this British capital and industry have been largely employed in the introduction into Egypt of the great works of modern improvement, and a largo British com- 1807 munity is resident in the country. Its prosperity cannot be affected without involving the material welfare of many British subjects.This sentence of the despatch has been substantiated by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I think we cannot attach too much force to it. If the Committee will allow mo, I should like to recall one sentence of what is now a famous despatch written by the late Government on the 6th of May, 187 7, in which they showed, at all events, that they were perfectly well aware of the enormous interest that this country had in Egypt in connection with the Suez Canal. The words of the despatch, which has now become an historical document, are these—Foremost amongst British interests is the necessity of keeping open uninjured and uninterrupted the communication between Europe and the East by the Suez Canal; and to blockade or otherwise interfere with the Canal and its approaches could not be regarded by the Government in any other light than that of a menace to India and a grave injury to the commerce of the world;and it was added that—Such a course could not be consistent with the maintenance by them of a passive neutrality. Moreover, the maritime interests of the world were so largely involved in Egypt that an attack on the Canal could scarcely be regarded without concern by the neutral Powers, and certainly not by England.These are not English interests, they are world-wide interests, and we are so intimately connected with them that it is our duty to see that the interests of the civilized world are kept safe from the anarchy and the state of terrorism described by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I very much regret that the question, upon which I should not have said one word, as to whether the original blame in this matter rested with one Government or another, has been introduced into this discussion. In this respect I shall not follow the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. But I cannot help saying that the question he raised in 1876 was one of small importance comparatively, and that his speech which has been referred to was made in 1876, and not in 1879, as he seemed to wish to represent to my hon. Friend behind me. If anyone will read it I think he will say it is simply a haphazard speech of the moment, and that it is not to be considered as a 1808 prophecy. But coming to the year 1879, when—although the right hon. Gentleman says that 1876 saw the groundwork of our policy laid—the famous step was taken, you will not find that the Prime Minister can quote any speech of his in that year in which he is able to say that he foretold anything which is supposed to have come from the action taken at that time. Yet, if the right hon. Gentleman had given warnings in 1870, when a small matter was before the House, and if he really thought that the groundwork of British policy, and of the threatened complications, was then laid, it would surely have been his duty in 1879 to have repeated those warnings in every possible form and shape. But he allowed everything to pass without a word. I will now pass from that matter, being quite content to allow the case to rest on the acceptance by the whole of Europe of what took place in 1879, as described in the despatch of Lord Granville to Lord Dufferin of the 11th of this month. His words were—A declaration was at the same time signed by the Representatives of England, Austria, Germany, Italy, and France, engaging to accept the decisions of the Commission, and agreeing that the law to be framed on its recommendations should be recognized as obligatory in the International Tribunals.And if we go a step further in the despatch we shall find Lord Granville saying—It was undoubtedly working well for the material prosperity of the country, and promised to do so for the future. Her Majesty's Government accepted it as a fact, and gave it their unreserved support.Hon. Members may be quite sure the Government would not have done that if they had not thought the system introduced by the action of their Predecessors was working well. I hope, before the debate closes, we may hear the Prime Minister backing up the doctrines which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, not only on this point, but on a great many others also. The right hon. Gentleman said that this arrangement had undoubtedly had a beneficial result in Egypt—that there had been no extortion since it was in operation, and that it had worked an enormous amount of good to the inhabitants of the country; and with the acceptance of the arrangement by 1809 the Powers of Europe, by Her Majesty's Government, and by the President of the Board of Trade, I am content to leave all the frivolous arguments as to what occurred in 1876 and 1879, and to pass on to much graver matter. The question we have to discuss at the present moment is as to whether the action of Her Majesty's Government has really been conducive to the prosperity of Egypt, to the peace of the world, and to the interests of the Empire? The burden of proof in this matter lies upon Her Majesty's Government. The situation of Egypt when they came into Office, by their own confession, was perfectly healthy; they had no fault whatever to find with it, they uttered no -word of condemnation of what their Predecessors had done, and they descried no cloud in the future. But what is the state of Egypt at the present moment? Our interests there are, practically, in the greatest possible danger; lives have been sacrificed, and property lost to an extent to which I need not now allude, and a state of anarchy has arisen which will with great difficulty be put an end to, and I charge this upon Her Majesty's Government as the result of the action they have chosen to take. It is through their want of foresight that they have allowed affairs in Egypt to drift into their present position, and I believe they have done this because there has been in their Councils disunion, and, consequently, in their action weakness and vacillation. They have never been able, it seems to me, to make up their minds whether they would maintain strict union with France throughout, or whether they would leave France and apply to Turkey. France, as everyone knows, is completely opposed to Turkish intervention, and there was a broad line of distinction between the policy of the English Government and that of the Government of France on this one point—that is to say, the English Government were throughout the negotiations wishing, if it could possibly be managed, that the Turks should come in as the Sovereign Power in order to set matters in Egypt right. On the other-hand, the French Government said they were always opposed to intervention; but that of all interventions the intervention of Turkey was the worst. The Prime Minister told us last night that the great anxiety of the Government was that we 1810 should not be isolated, and that any action they might take should be taken in concert with the Powers of Europe, or, at all events, with France. What has been the result? They have got a Conference, and the result of that Conference is what the Prime Minister calls a "negative advantage," which means that the Powers themselves are not willing to be parties to military action in Egypt, and that we are, therefore, isolated from them. But the Government had another policy. They said if the Great Powers will not interfere they may give a mandate to some Power to act for them. But, unfortunately, they have not been able to arrive at that conclusion. We have it from the right hon. Gentleman that the Powers refused to issue a mandate to any Power to exercise military action. And then he goes on to say that, at all events, he has this entire satisfaction—that they have the moral support and concurrence of Europe in the policy they are pursuing. If that is all the result obtained from this great Conference, it is a very small one. It may be very satisfactory to know that the Great Powers are not going to quarrel with us over what we are fighting about; but if that is all we are to have for our delay and trouble, it is not very much. The Prime Minister goes on to say—"We have great hopes of getting France to join us;" but the result is that we are as badly off with her as with anybody else. We have the declaration made only yesterday that France, so far as she is concerned, holds herself prepared—for what? Why, to guarantee with us the free use and safety of the Suez Canal. But that is altogether beside the question; indeed, it was expressly excluded by the Prime Minister himself, so far as the Conference was concerned. We are not, then, entitled to look to France now for any individual or material concurrence in Egypt beyond this matter of the safety of the Suez Canal, so that the result of all the negotiations which have been carried on for so long a time is this—that, so far as we know, we are left absolutely isolated to take our own action alone. We have, then, suffered all the consequences of the delay which has taken place; but, by independent action long ago, we might have put a stop to the whole proceedings, without the loss of a single life or of 1811 any treasure. If we Lad simply put our foot down months ago, we might, I say, have stopped all this. The result of the want of firmness of the Government, of their want of decision, of their vacillation, of their weakness, is that we are now left in a perfect state of isolation to carry on this war in Egypt— to put down this military anarchy; and we know not how many complications may arise when once the sword is drawn. I do not wish to detain the Committee; but there are one or two points which I must touch upon, because they are broad points, which ought to be remembered. If this has been the view of the Government hitherto, I want to know why it was that they consented, so early as the month of January, to present this Dual Note with Prance? There is no doubt that an assurance has been given of what is called "sympathy and support" to the Khedive. That has been given in all kinds of despatches. But the Government tell us that this Dual Note, given in January, is of an extraordinary character; and they say themselves that the considerations which induced Her Majesty's Government to join in the Note are indicated in the document itself; and they believed that the announcement on the part of the two Governments of" a firm determination"—(I hope the Committee will lay a considerable stress on that word "firm," for it is rather an extraordinary word)—of "a firm determination" to support the Khedive and the proper authority, might have had the effect of averting the danger with which that authority seemed to be threatened. If the status quo was menaced, those people who chose to menace it would find England and France arrayed against them. That is a strong assertion to make for England and France. Turkey had not been asked; it was a Dual Note, not a Treble Note. It was to be the duty of England and France, if the status quo was menaced in any way, to array themselves against anybody who menaced it. An extraordinary occurrence took place immediately afterwards. It was quite evident that after the Note had been presented there was some hesitation and misgivings within the Government as to what they had done. How it arose I cannot say; but a curious conversation occurred between Lord Lyons and M. Gambetta, which is well worthy of close 1812 consideration, for M. Gambetta pointed out, somehow or other, that Her Majesty's Government wanted to explain away the Note which they had given, and M. Gambetta felt—I suppose at that time his courage was screwed up—he felt very much annoyed at that, and said—If you explain that away the whole value of the Note will be gone, and we shall have to write a new one.He begged Lord Lyons, in words which cannot be mistaken, that the Government should give no explanation of the Note whatever, and that they should lot it go out in its bare integrity as it was. But what happened? I suppose there were occasions on which the Cabinet had their differences. Later on, certainly, I do not know how it came to pass, but the whole of Europe understood the Note as any rational man who road it would have understood it, that if the status quo was menaced, material support would be given to the Khedive to hold him in his position. But was that the real interpretation? Nothing of the kind. No material support was for a moment suggested, but only moral support, which was supposed to be quite as effectual; and there was nothing more meant in that Dual Note of the month of January than was meant in that most innocent despatch of the 4th of May; Europe must have been extremely astonished at that. An explanation never was given to the Khedive at all—he was left alone with the understanding that that Note really meant what it said, and that the Government said what they meant when they wrote it. That led the Khedive to go on trusting implicitly in the assurances of Her Majesty's Government, and must have largely influenced his conduct, for the Khedive, as the Prime Minister has himself stated, has behaved most loyally and truly throughout to Her Majesty's Government. Matters now go on rapidly, and we find M. Gambetta saying what would be the direct consequence if any explanation of the Note was offered. He says, and the words are very remarkable—"You will swell the arrogance of those who are opposed to you"—swell the arrogance, that is, of Arabi Bey. And the arrogance of Arabi Bey certainly did swell, until it has now swollen to a very considerable extent indeed. Matters continued to go on, and the Government 1813 had warnings given to them by a great many people. Sir Edward Malet gave them a great many warnings, and he implored them to let it be known that they were going to do something—I now come to the month of May—and to let it be known, at all events to Turkey, that England would interfere. He writes again on the 23rd, and says—The present situation, which is so grave, arises from the belief that the Powers will not interfere, and that France will not allow Turkey to interfere. For Heaven's sake, do something to dispel this illusion. If you are going to interfere let them know it.But the great mischief that has happened is that you have encouraged the belief among the disturbed population of Egypt that whatever they did you would not interfere. That is conduct which I deplore as utterly unworthy of Her Majesty's Government. The Government were aware of it, and they soon found the difficulty in which they were placed. They knew they had written that Note, and they implored France, in a letter of a most extraordinary character, to act with them. They said—We have great practical reason to act together in this matter—whatever happens do not sacrifice the great advantage which we have got from our joining on this point.But you do not want the matter to be known—you insist on secrecy—a secrecy which you know must be exploded in a few months. They knew the whole difficulty they were in, and they implored France to relieve them from it; but they had not the moral courage to break from France, or, at all events, to tell her, and let it be known what they really meant to do. What happened then? That was in May, and you then have that most deplorable despatch that was ever addressed to a British Government from their Consul at Alexandria. I will not read it again, but it described the deplorable state of Alexandria, and begged and implored assistance. [Mr. GLADSTONE: We sent it.] The Prime Minister says they sent it; but I say they did not—not adequate assistance. What did you do? You sent a Joint Note, and the story of that Note is very curious. Some suspicion had gone abroad that at last the English people would do something more than was expected, and by the full authority of the Government a Dual Note again was 1814 presented. That Note, I am bound to say, in the most positive terms, demanded nothing short of the exile of Arabi from Egypt altogether with his rank and pay; and it went on to set forth that if he was not banished the English and French Governments would insist on their conditions being fulfilled. Now, can you conceive a stronger point than this—that this great English Government, having sent one Note, and not having acted upon it, should again insist in still stronger terms, and say—"If this condition is not fulfilled, we shall insist upon its fulfilment?" The only conclusion I can come to is that the Egyptian— Arabi himself—well remembering the fact that Her Majesty's Government had spoken out before, but had not acted, thought he knew exactly with whom he was dealing, and came to the conclusion that the second Note meant no more than the first. He believed, no doubt, that he and his friends had only to stay in their position, and to go on with their arrogance swelling, and that the English Government would stand by with their arms folded doing nothing. That is exactly what they did, and they are much to blame. They ought never to have written either of those Notes unless they meant them to be backed up, and I have never heard a word of explanation upon that point. Either they meant what they said, or they said what they did not mean; and if they said what they did not mean, I say distinctly that that is not the sort of action which any English Government ought to hold out to the country. Many of our troubles have started from that point, and what is the result of the whole story? Nothing was done; and then came that terrible massacre. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has told us, for the first time, that it was not a massacre, because we are to believe some newspaper telegrams which appeared in The Times saying that only a few people had been killed. Only to-day I asked a Question of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about a newspaper story of another massacre elsewhere; and he said we were not to take newspaper paragraphs when they talked of massacres, because they were all wrong.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
I think there is some confusion here. I was not speaking of the undoubted massacre of 1815 June 11th, but of the events subsequent to the bombardment.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
Then that will do equally well for my argument at the present moment. It backs up my argument that there was a massacre on the 11th of June. I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman when he referred to one massacre. The fact is there have been so many, and I thought he was referring to that of the 11th of June. There was, then, an undoubted massacre on the 11th of June. There can be no doubt about that—I see the Prime Minister smiling; but this is not a matter about which a single smile ought to come from an English Minister—it is not a question on which a single smile ought to pass across the face of an English Minister.
SIR R. ASSHETON GROSS
Even if I have made an error, which I deny, this is not a matter on which a smile ought to be produced by a British Minister. The question is far too grave—it is far graver than the massacres in Bulgaria. Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe in the massacre of the 11th of June—in the terrible horrors which passed through the whole City of Alexandria on that day, when life and property were both destroyed? That is a state of things into which we have been brought entirely by the action of Her Majesty's Government. The massacre of the 11th of June did take place—I observe that the right hon. Gentleman still smiles—and the British Consul was insulted and wounded; and though we are going to ask some day that reparation shall be made, none has been made as yet. That was the state of affairs on the 1lth of June; but what is the case now? The arrogance of Arabi has certainly swelled to vast dimensions; and not only has he ignored the Khedive, but the authority of the Sultan as well; and yet he is allowed to go free. We had warning from our Admiral that forts were being built in opposition to our ships. We requested that their erection might be stopped: it was stopped for a time; but soon it went on again, more forts were built, and our ships, which were sent there, as I understand, as a refuge for British subjects and Europeans who might be there in need of help, were no longer safe at their moorings in the 1816 Harbour of Alexandria. We were put to all this trouble entirely through the action of the Government, which made it necessary either that our ships must run away, or that there must be a bombardment of the town. [Mr. GLADSTONE:: Of the forts.] Of the forts I mean. Nobody accuses the Government of wishing to bombard the town. If the action of the Government had been much firmer, none of these efforts would have been necessary. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not smile upon this point. If the Ministry had shown a firm determination that the forts should not be built, they had the power to prevent it; but it was not until those forts became real dangers that they took effective steps to prevent it, and we know the mischief that has happened since. The events of the 1lth of June had shadowed out to the Government that there were not troops enough, and that if the bombardment did take place it would be followed by massacre. In consequence of the despatch of the 30th of May we did take steps to prevent massacre, but we did it only by halves; and this, at all events, may be depended upon—that if we had only sent more troops the Admiral would have made use of them. He did not confine himself to the 300 he had before, but he used all the forces at his command; and I must hold the Government responsible, to a great extent, for the massacre which did take place. Now, I want to know—and it would be extremely interesting to have it cleared up—why it was that at that point, after the bombardment, and as soon as the massacre was heard of, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) left the Government? It was such a curious point at which to leave. He approves the bombardment, lights the match, and after it is all over he changes his mind, and immediately runs away. That must mean one of two things. Either he repents the action he took, or there were great dissensions in the Cabinet before that action was taken. It is clear that when the orders for the bombardment were given, that meant war. Why did he stay and give those orders for war, or, having given them, why did he not stay and bear the brunt of the consequences? We have never heard any explanation from him on that point; but we are thoroughly entitled to have ample explanation before the debate is 1817 over, because it might show that throughout all the previous conduct of the Government there have been great dissensions in the Cabinet as to whether action should or should not be taken. However, at last, we are compelled to go to war, and the Prime Minister comes down and asks for a Vote of Credit. He knows quite well that when a Minister comes down and demands a Vote of Credit on such a matter, that Vote will be given to him, and that fact necessarily deprives the debate of some of the interest it ought to have. But there is one question I would like to ask. We are told that this Vote of Credit is sufficient only for three months, and we very much want to know whether the Government calculate that the war, or whatever it may be called, will only last three months, or whether at the end of that period we are likely to be asked for more money? We were told that on Saturday the Prime Minister would give us a full account of the amount of the Vote of Credit; but he did not appear in his place on that day. Of course, we all know what his engagements are, and after a good deal of questioning we did get from the Secretary of State for War the announcement that we were going to be asked for £1,300,000, of which sum £900,000 was to be for the Army, and £400,000 for the Navy. We went away thoroughly satisfied that that was all that would be required, even though we thought the sum so small that we were almost tempted to ask whether there were not any shillings or pence in the calculations. But in the middle of the day an error of £1,000,000 was discovered. It was not £1,300,000, but £2,300,000, that was required. We were tempted to ask how it was, if the Cabinet had decided on the 6um, that a Cabinet Minister should make such a difference between his announcement at 12 and his announcement at 2 or 3 o'clock, when the other £1,000,000 was added? We should have thought very little about, and might have imagined that there had been a mistake about, the amount for the Navy, had it not been that the Prime Minister told us yesterday that, of the £1,400,000 which is nominally for the Navy, no less than £1,200,000 is really for the Army—for the transport of troops. How, then, was it that the Secretary of State for War was not aware of the sum? 1818 That wants explanation. [Mr. GLADSTONE: It is taken for the Navy.] Yes; but for Army purposes. The Secretary of State for War must have known that, in addition to the £900,000 required for the Army proper, no less than £1,200,000 of the balance was required for transport or other Army purposes. We cannot help thinking that a great deal of money has been spent already, and that the Government have undertaken a greater task than they are aware of, and have not laid before the House anything like the expenses which they will be asked for before the war is over. I believe they have totally miscalculated what the war is to be, and what it is to cost, and that they have now only asked the House for a first instalment of that cost. We have unhappily been brought into this war by the incaution, the vacillation, and the want of concert of Her Majesty's Government. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear!" but he is not a Member of the Cabinet, nor can he tell us why the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has separated himself from the Prime Minister, especially at so peculiar a point. Although we shall readily vote the amount now asked for, we shall hold the Government responsible for this war, because we believe it is entirely owing to their action that there has been any occasion for the Vote of Credit at all.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Hugh Shield.)
expressed a hope that the debate would be allowed to finish to-morrow. Hon. Gentlemen should remember that every day added to the debate was a day added to the Session.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.