§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [SECOND NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th February],
That this House, having read and considered the Correspondence relating to Egypt, laid upon the Table by Her Majesty's Command, is of opinion that the recent lamentable events in the Soudan are due, in a great measure, to the vacillating and inconsistent policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government."—(sir Stafford Northcote.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
rose to move, as an Amendment to Sir Stafford Northcote's Motion—That this House, whilst declining at present to express an opinion on the Egyptian policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued during the last two years, with the support of 897 the House, trusts that in future British Forces may not be employed for the purpose of interfering with the Egyptian people in the selection of their own Government.He said, there had been a very interesting debate on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and no doubt there would be many more able speeches delivered from both sides of the House on the question; but he did not know that when they divided the Egyptian Question would be very much altered or advanced. His humble object in pressing the Amendment was, if possible, to try to do something which might lead to some advantage to the Egyptian people when all these Party fights were over. He thought they were a people whom we had not treated as we should have liked to be treated ourselves, and a people to whom we owed something. He would take for his text some words that fell from Lord Granville the other day in the House of Lords to the effect that—From the Atlantic to the Vistula it is everywhere admitted that the people should have a share in their own government.He wanted to know why the Egyptian people were to be excluded from that most excellent political canon? He believed that it was in the unjust and high-handed proceedings of this country towards the Egyptian nation that all the present troubles had their origin. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was, no doubt, perfectly justified in his Motion in alluding to the lamentable events in the Soudan. They were lamentable, no doubt, and he was himself very much horrified at the massacres that had taken place there; in fact, he had read nothing that had horrified him more since the day that our own troops massacred the Egyptians at Tel-el-Kebir. But there were other lamentable facts; and one very lamentable fact, indeed, was that the Egyptian Government had for so long been allowed—not, perhaps, with our sanction, not for certain by our advice, but by our connivance, as we were ruling in Egypt—to send troops from Egypt who were really slaves driven at the point of the bayonet, to put down those unfortunate people in the Soudan. The people in the Soudan, he maintained, were justified in their rebellion; indeed, when it was a question between established Governments and rebels, he thought that, as a rule, the rebels were generally 898 in the right; but, of course, there were exceptions to that rule. General Gordon had said the people in the Soudan were justified in their rebellion, and he afterwards said that the Egyptian Government in the Soudan was nothing more nor loss than the worst form of tyranny. And the same opinion was entertained by Baker Pasha. He thought it was enough to make every Englishman ashamed to think that for many months past those wretched fellaheen had been driven out from their homes in chains to put down the rebellion in the Soudan. These were harrowing facts. And they could not get over the fact that the English Government was more or less responsible for these proceedings. If they read the Blue Books it would be found that over and over again our officials said they were not responsible for what went on in the Soudan; but he could not help agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition when he said—"You cannot get rid of responsibility by crying out that you disclaim responsibility." Our Government was put into a position by the initial error of going to Egypt, by which they could not help being a party, becoming a party, to the horrible things they heard of. Their policy was very well described by Lord Derby in one sentence when he remarked that the policy of the Government was to keep Tewfik on his legs. If they kept him on his legs they were responsible for both his legs; therefore they could not say they were responsible only for his leg in Egypt, and not for the other leg in the Soudan. He was surprised, when the Prime Minister told them long ago that a financial control was sure to end in a political control, that he did not put an end to that sort of thing; and how the Leader of the Opposition could approve of a Dual Control he could not understand. The right hon. Gentleman knew what troubles arose from time to time to his own Party from the Dual Control between himself and the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock in leading the Party. He wished to know why the right hon. Gentleman now came forward with a Vote of Censure? He was a year too late. Some time ago the right hon. Gentleman had declared to the country that the Egyptian War was unnecessary and unjustifiable, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said so himself in the House, and had proposed a Resolution 899 to that effect; but the right hon. Gentleman would not help him, and when asked why, he said because he could not think of going into the Lobby with him. He would have condemned the Government willingly long ago for vacillation; but the right hon. Gentleman had come forward with his Motion at the wrong time. In fact, just as the Government were beginning to do right and get out of the Soudan, he came forward to condemn them. The right hon. Gentleman did not condemn them for doing wrong, as he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) wished to do. He condemned them for not having succeeded in doing wrong, which was a very different thing. For the interests of the world and everybody concerned, it was very much better that the Arabs should have beaten the Egyptian troops, than that the latter should have beaten them. The Soudanese had been the worst treated people on the face of the earth. [Mr. HEALT: Except in Ireland.] He hoped they were not going to have an Irish debate, as they had one every other night. Nobody would suffer from the abandonment of the Soudan except a few rascally Pashas, who were, he believed, the greatest scoundrels to be found anywhere in the world. When the right hon. Gentleman censured the Government for getting out of the Soudan, he should also have censured them for ever getting into it. He could not vote for the right hon. Gentleman's Motion. He should support the negative, because he assumed all the Government were doing now was attempting to rescue these unhappy people whose lives were in danger; and, though arguments might be made against it, he thought so strong was the opinion in this country that the rescue should be attempted that the country would back them up. He for one was not disposed to throw any severe censure upon the attempt, because he did not think they could do anything else in the Soudan. But the Vote of Censure should be upon those who got us into this trouble, and he would toll the House who they were. They were the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) and Lord Salisbury. They began it at Willis's Rooms in 1882, when they went and made fire and thunder speeches, under the presidency of the chairman of the bondholders. That was at the bottom of the whole thing; and not only were they responsible, but 900 their Party also admitted their responsibility for egging on the Government to do the deeds which he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and very few other Members had opposed. The whole of the Tory Party voted for the expenditure of the Egyptian War, except the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham). He wished the Primo Minister had listened to his true friends on that occasion, instead of to the voices of the Tory Party at Willis's Rooms. Ever since they had got into Egypt they had been trying to get out of it, and they could not get out; but that was the history of their foreign transactions—we joyously got into a country, and dolefully got out of it. It was so with the late Government, only when they got in they tried to stop in. We got into Afghanistan; we had great difficulty in gutting out; and everyone was very glad when we did get out. ["No, no!"] Well, he did not desire to introduce what the Prime Minister called controversial matter. We got into Zululand, and then into the Transvaal, and at length we got out. We had begun by acting unjustly to these countries, and had ended by acting justly. As they had done with other countries, so let them do with Egypt. That was the sole end and object of his Motion, and the Government ought to support it, because they had solemnly asserted they did not mean to stay in Egypt; but they wanted strengthening by somebody like himself, because there was no doubt there would be a popular clamour to stay in Egypt. As a friend remarked to him the other day, "Englishmen liked to get something;" and he felt quite sure that if the Tory Party got into power they would say that, having got Egypt, they had better keep it. That was just what he did not want. Getting Egypt and keeping it would inflict cruel wrong on a great number of people. It was all very well to talk of "reforming the Government;" but that was not what we went for. We wont to Egypt to get money, and if their Tory Friends got into Office they would be sure to go upon that principle. The hon. Member for Water-ford (Mr. Villiers Stuart), who knew the country intimately, stated that our presence in Egypt had brought back the usurers whom Arabi banished, and who were now engaged in dispossessing the Natives of their land. Formerly the 901 usurer could not take the Native's land; now he could make sure of either getting his money or the land. Arabi drove out these pauperizers of the people; but we had them brought back, by converting unsecured debts into first class mortgages. That was not a right policy. It was a policy of British interests, at the expense of the interests of that country; and he contended that British interests should not be regarded at the expense of the rights and liberties of other nations. The policy of the Government, as he understood it, was to render what the Prime Minister termed a small service to humanity by attempting to rescue these unfortunate people who were in the beleaguered garrisons. He saw no particular objection to that policy, which he might describe to be this—rescue and retire. He thought it was time they should retire. They had been told by the Prime Minister that the Government went to Egypt with the intention of giving it a fair start. We had already been 18 months there, and what had we done? First of all, we bombarded Alexandria; a large portion of it was consumed by fire, and multitudes were left to perish in the desert. Then we destroyed the Army at Tel-el-Kebir—an exploit which had given rise to great laudations and rejoicings—an army which, it now appeared, lay down its arms screaming when it saw the enemy. For this they had made a great warrior a Peer and given him £25,000. Having done all this, we next connived at another army being sent into the Soudan. We had crushed out the National movement which had Arabi at its head, and which represented the real feeling of the country, although no one would believe him when he said that would be the case; and we handed the leader of that movement over to his bitterest enemies, who were thirsting for his blood. If that had been done by a Government with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) at its head, he would have had to go out of Office in a fortnight. We next set up the Khedive. They had heard the Prime Minister speak many words of praise of Tewfik, and it was popular now to describe him as next door to being an angel; but he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would quote the words of Tewfik's own father, who knew him even better than did the right hon. Gentleman. Ismail Pasha, one of the 902 shrewdest, though not perhaps one of the best of men that ever lived, had said of Tewfik, "He has neither head, heart, nor courage"—a pretty good opionion for a father to have of a son; but he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) believed that Ismail was right. Notwithstanding all the eulogiums they had heard passed upon the Khedive from the Treasury Bench, he thought Tewfik the most contemptible Potentate living; and he challenged the Treasury Bench to tell the House any good of him. The only good thing he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had heard of him was that he had but one wife. A friend of Tewfik's father was speaking to him of Tewfik, and said, "I suppose he would be out of the country directly the last British regiment left?" And Ismail replied, "Bless you, he would be out long before that." They had supported the Egyptian Government, which had ground down the fellaheen more cruelly and brutally than ever it had been done before, and they had virtually created anarchy while pretending to put it down. He would ask the Treasury Bench how much more they could have "started" the Egyptians for the promotion of Christianity and civilization—which they were told all wars were for? That was what the Manchester Radicals supported war for; they were even more anxious for those objects than to sell their goods, though he was not sure that that had not something to do with it. He agreed with General Gordon, who said that those who had attempted to civilize the Soudan stood quite as much in need of civilization as those whom they attempted to civilize, and who told them of the remorse he felt in having carried civilization to the Moodies, who said—" We do not want to be civilized; we do not want to see the Pachas; we want our lands; and you may go away." He hoped the Government would stand firm, and not be led away by the clamours of public meetings called by the Lord Mayor. The Egyptians did not want our Evelyn Barings, our bondholders, and our Europeans governing them; they wanted us to go away, and, above all, to get rid of the abominable government of Turks and Circassians, supported by the Egyptian Government for the benefit of Jews and bondholders and stony-hearted traders. He had foolishly thought that the great Election of 1880 had put a stop to that sort of thing for 903 ever, that there would be no more bullying of weak nations for British interests; but he was misled. When the Government came in they said, "We are pledged to do this because the Tories did it be-fore." [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no.] He was very sorry, but he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say the other night that the whole trouble had arisen from the Tory Party. He accepted the explanation, however, and added that he only meant to say that the Liberal Party came into power to reverse the policy of the Tories. He thought that was the meaning of the Mid Lothian campaign, and of the principles which were taught them—those noble and generous principles which, he believed, so long as the Government had adhered to, had been successful. The Prime Minister had said that his principle was to acknowledge the equal rights of all nations, and he was delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak in the same strain on Tuesday night. He spoke in the old Mid Lothian strain, and he was glad to hear him repeat it again to-night, because it gave him confidence in supporting him, believing that he was returning to the paths of justice, and that after consideration and reflection he would come to the conclusion that Egypt was no exception to the rule laid down for other countries. It was probable that some hon. Members might say, "How do you propose to act?" That was a fair question, but it was a difficult one. He was no prophet, but he would say what he believed. The only thing he heard said in reference to Egypt was, "You are in a horrid mess." Was there no Statesman to keep us out of the moss? Where was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who said the other day that he saw no way out of it? When no one suggested anything this gave him confidence to speak; for he was a modest man, and if anyone else had come forward, he should not have liked to interfere. He said—Let us be just and fear not; let us withdraw our troops and leave the people cither to stew in their own juice, or establish a Government of their own; let us withdraw and tell Egypt that it shall no longer be a happy hunting ground for bondholders and usurers.In reference to the National movement in Egypt he expressed the opinion that the Government had been misled by their officials. Arabi was supported by 904 all sections of the people. Quoting from Arabi's National programme, issued in December, 1881, he said it insisted that, among other things, the country should be governed by a Council of Deputies, that foreigners should pay taxes like other people, that the freedom of the Press should be respected, that the Army should have the full complement of 18,000 men, and that all men should be equal before the law. It also said that the principal object of the National party was the intellectual and moral regeneration of the country by a better observance of the law, and to aid in obtaining for Egypt the blessing of self-government. Surely a party with a programme such as that was not a party to be ruthlessly destroyed by the Armies of England. What sense could there be in such a course? That programme was such a one as the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) might have put forward in this country—it was a Reform programme, and how would he like the Armies of Russia to slaughter him and Mr. Schnadhorst? He said, without joking, there was just as much sense and justice in that course as there was in our proceeding to Egypt.! Mr. SULLIVAN: A good deal more.] No, I do not know that. That observation came from a Party man. No; let them, he said, have done with this miserable business, because nobody could look back on it with pleasure, and the Government, he was quite sure, were in their hearts—he would not say ashamed of it, but bitterly sorry for the course they had been unadvisedly led into. Let the Egyptians work out their own political salvation. By doing that they would be true to the real Liberal policy—to the great principles of peace and of justice which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) was the noblest living exponent. By doing so, and by our upright and honourable conduct towards others, we should do more than all the armies that ever marched, or all the fleets that ever sailed, to secure for England the respect, esteem, and friendship of other nations.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had received an anonymous letter, stating that the writer and his friends had been discussing in reference to this matter which of the two was the greater fool, the hon. Member for Carlisle or himself. It seemed to him that in this particular 905 case they were not such absolute fools, because, while most hon. Gentlemen in that House did not know precisely what they would have done, or what they would not have done, in Egypt, he and his hon. Friend, at least, knew exactly what they desired to have done in that country. The Leader of the Opposition brought forward a Motion of Censure on Her Majesty's Government for acting in a vacillating manner in Egypt. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Law-son) enunciated one cardinal article of the Liberal faith, that when this country was connected with a country like Egypt, we should, in no sort of way, interfere with their political institutions. He preferred that Amendment to the original Vote; but when a Vote of Censure was proposed it seemed to him that everyone on that side of the House, as well as hon. Gentlemen opposite, should consider the effect of its being passed. What would be the effect of passing the Vote of Censure? The right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, if the Motion were passed, would become the Advisers of Her Majesty, and then the country would lose the services of those now sitting on the Treasury Bench. Naturally, therefore, he had endeavoured to find out whether the hon. Gentlemen opposite had any policy with regard to Egypt, and although he had listened attentively he had been unable to find that they had any. He observed that they indulged in some high festival the previous night, either as a sign of triumph of their success in "another place," or to condole over their future failure in that House. One of the eminent Leaders then explained that they were not going to state what their policy was, because their great medicine man—Lord Beaconsfleld—had told them that it was very bad policy to do so; and having explained this, he went on to give another reason, which should have saved him from the necessity of giving the first—namely, that they did not happen to have any sort of policy at all. It was Lord Salisbury who made this speech. Of course, he did not make the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) answerable for that, and Lord Salisbury explained it by saying that he had not seen any of the confidential documents that might have passed. He confessed that Lord Salisbury would have in his mind the fact that when he was in power 906 he inaugurated a system of not laying before the country a great many documents; and the excuse given seemed a fair and reasonable one for him to make. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech, and referred to what he called "our friends, the Press," and he (Mr. Labouchere) thought he had gathered from them what the policy of the Government really was. It was the old and exploded Jingoism, that Jingoism which had been weighed in the balance and found wanting at the last General Election. It was that they wished to revert to. The object of hon. Gentlemen opposite was the establishment of a British Protectorate in Egypt, and it was ridiculous to suppose that the Radicals were such very innocent and simple persons as to allow salt to be put upon their tails in this matter. It was not because they thought that the right hon. Gentlemen who were now in power might have interfered less that they were going to exchange against them right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who unquestionably would interfere more. That would be a case of jumping from the frying-pan into the fire which could hardly be expected at their hands. He was not prepared to say that the Government had not made mistakes; but he ascribed them mainly to the circumstances of the case. The primary cause of the whole situation of affairs in Egypt was that the Conservatives had insisted on interfering in that country; and the primary fault of the Liberals was that on coming into Office they did not break away from the policy of their Predecessors in regard to Egypt as they did, with the approval of the whole country, in regard to Afghanistan. The lesson to be gathered from the present complication was that Liberals ought not to endeavour to carry out an anti-Liberal policy. It was, perhaps, just as well that they had not succeeded in the attempt. Her Majesty's Government, while they had been in Egypt, had been continually confronted with their own principles. They had felt themselves obliged to a certain extent to act in one way; and, on the other hand, in thus acting they felt they were not conforming to the principles of the Liberal Party. It was said that they were under engagements there, through the establishment of the Dual Control, to maintain Tewfik Pasha on the Throne; but since then 907 the Dual Control had been done away with, and the necessity of maintaining Tewfik ceased. He must confess that at one time he was almost of opinion that it would be a good thing to take possession of Egypt because of the importance of the Suez Canal; but an article in The Nineteenth Century, written in 1877 by the Prime Minister, clearly defined the position which England should assume with respect to Egypt and the adjacent countries, and that article had absolutely converted him. Having quoted a passage from the article in question, the hon. Member remarked that the right. hon. Gentleman seemed not only to have been a Cassandra prophet, but to have been obliged to aid in developing the course of events which led to the fulfilment of some of his own evil predictions. It was to be regretted that he had not shown more firmness and determination and broken off entirely our connection with Egypt. For himself, as the supporters of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carlisle were in the minority, he would have the pleasure not only of voting for his hon. Friend's Amendment, but also with the right hon. Gentleman when he proposed to negative the Vote of Censure. Dismissing the past, the practical question was—What were they going to do in Egypt? The Prime Minister said they had a mandate from Europe; but on looking at the Papers he saw no proof of that. They had in the Conference at Constantinople signed the Protocol de Désinteressement with other Powers, and they asked for a mandate; but the Conference broke up without granting their request, although there had been since acquiescence on the part of the Powers in what we had done. We were, therefore, not in the same position in regard to Egypt as Austria occupied in regard to Bosnia. They had established order and tranquillity in the Delta; an Army had been formed under Sir Evelyn Wood; and, as they had lately been told by an Under Secretary of State in November last, that life and property were as secure in the streets of Cairo as they were in London. The Mahdi was but a temporary incident, which would pass away in a few months; and, therefore, he asked, was the policy enunciated last year of clearing out of Egypt as soon as they had started Liberal institutions—although he did not think much 908 of them—and had organized an army and secured tranquillity to be still adhered to? He did not wish to palliate the massacres and other cruelties perpetrated by the rebels in the Soudan; but it should be remembered that, as the despatches showed, the Soudanese had learnt these practices from their Egyptian opponents. If General Gordon succeeded in pacifying the country, that would, indeed, be one of the most magnificent triumphs of peace over war that it was possible to imagine; but it seemed rather a doubtful policy, while sending General Gordon on his mission of peace, to attempt the relief of the garrisons. The question was, was it our duty to do so? He did not complain of the Government sending to relieve Tokar; but, at the same time, he thought no blame attached to them for not having relieved Sinkat before they sent out General Gordon. He saw by the Blue Books on the subject that when we undertook to defend Egypt we undertook to defend the ports of the Red Sea; and, as far as he could gather, our object was to put down the Slave Trade. But he very much doubted whether we should succeed in doing anything of the kind. In the course of a conversation with Sir Edward Malet he had asked him whether the possession of Suakim and those other ports of the Bed Sea would really put an end to the Slave Trade, and Sir Edward Malet had replied that he did not think it would. It appeared that some of the slaves were taken to Tripoli and some to Egypt; but that most of them were taken across the Red Sea, which was narrow enough to allow of their being carried over to Arabia in a night. We should not gain much then by the possession of Suakim and the other towns on the Red Sea; but supposing we had possession of them, what were we going to do with them? If we returned them to Egypt, they would fall into the hands of Governors who would certainly encourage slavery. Only a short time ago, upon a change of Governors taking place, there were found a number of persons in prison who had been kept there without any trial merely on a vague charge of disaffection. If we were to recognize the independence of the Soudan, the best thing that could happen would be that the Soudan should have these towns as its ports. A great deal of abuse had 909 been lavished on the Soudanese and on the Mahdi; but he thought that we were somewhat hasty, when we considered the mode in which the Egyptians had governed that country, in saying that the Soudanese and the Mahdi were entirely wrong in rising against them. Why should we call them scoundrels? As a matter of fact, the worst Arab of the desert was probably superior to the very best Pasha who ever lived at Cairo or Constantinople, the Khedive included. He asked hon. Members opposite whether we ought to occupy Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptians, or for our own advantage? We had been told some time ago that it was necessary for us to have Egypt on account of the Canal; but little now was heard of the Suez Canal. It seemed to have almost passed out of men's minds; and as its possession appeared of doubtful advantage to us, he thought it might be fairly said that we should derive no benefit from holding Egypt. What did the Prime Minister say with reference to the Canal? He used these words—Suppose the very worst—the Canal is stopped. What then? We shall he the greatest losers. But it is a question of loss, and of loss alone. It is a tax, and a tax only. What will Russia have gained after she has brought into the hard form of fact the impossible and the incredible? The answer is that she will have introduced an average delay of about three weeks in our military communications with Bombay, and less with Calcutta.… It seems very doubtful whether confident reliance can be placed upon the Canal for our military communications with India under the varied and shifting contingencies of war… Why is the territorial occupation of Egypt needful or useful for the military command of the Canal in time of war? Why will it not suffice, supposing this command to he necessary and to be practicable, to secure it by the proper measures at sea, and, if needful, by land, at the proper time?The Canal, then, was no advantage to England; and, as regarded expense, we might judge the future from the past. It had cost us about £2,000,000, and was very likely to cost us another £1,000,000. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to have an idea that we gained by the mere enlargement of Empire; but Egypt was not a rich country, and if we were to take it to-morrow, he did not think that it would be found that it would pay. That was not his view. To hold Egypt would require the establishment of a very large Civil Service, and a 910 considerable number of troops; and he thought that, until we had altered and amended everything which required alteration and amendment at home, we ought not to undertake unnecessary responsibilities abroad. He observed that as soon as Conservatives came into Office they began shouting for some great war and to boast about their great Imperial instincts; but we should consider whether what we had done hitherto had in any way benefited the Egyptians. We had bombarded Alexandria, and we had added £5,000,000 to the Debt of Egypt; and what advantages had been given in return? Perhaps in some minor details they would be better governed; but as to Liberal, representative, institutions, Sir Evelyn Baring had said that he was not prepared to say that any Native Minister could be found capable of carrying out the policy proposed by Lord Granville. Nubar Pasha, it was well known, was essentially the man of the bondholders, an astute Armenian, who had had £100 a-year and was now worth £1,000,000 sterling; while, as for Tewfik, the fact that his subjects did not like him took away his sole title to his position. Then, again, as to the fellaheen, were they any better off financially than before? The fact was, everything had been sacrificed to the bondholders. Even Lord Salisbury had written a despatch about the payment of the coupon. It was as follows:—The French Ambassador has communicated to me a telegram which he had received from his Government, stating that there is every reason to believe that the Khedive can pay the coupons of the Unified Debt if he chooses to do so. M. Waddington having expressed a desire that you should act with your French colleague in urging this view on the Khedive, I sent you a telegram this afternoon stating that Her Majesty's Government authorized you to do so.He believed that was the only case on record of such a telegram being sent. Then the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had gone out to Egypt, not in the interests of the fellaheen, but of the bondholders. He had a perfect right to do what he could in the interests of those whom he represented; indeed, he was bound to do it; but the future financial position of Egypt was based upon the Report of the right hon. Gentleman and M. Joubert, two gentlemen who were avowedly sent out to do the best they could for the bondholders. 911 Then there was the question of the Moukabala. He really hoped the Prime Minister would look into this matter. He was the financial genius of the House, and it did appear to be a most extraordinary case. The fellaheen paid a certain rent for their land, and had been allowed to compound for that rent by paying a very large sum—£17,000,000—one half of which was paid by them and one half by the large landholders; £7,000,000 of this was paid in hard cash. But the right hon. Gentleman wanted money for his bondholders, so he calmly made an arrangement to a very large extent disregarding all the rights of the fellaheen with respect to the Moukabala.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he did absolutely nothing of the kind. The arrangement referred to was arrived at four years after his own plan had been adopted. On the contrary, he made it a condition of his going to Egypt that the rights of these people should be respected.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
withdrew what he had stated respecting the right hon. Gentleman; but, he added, it did not signify who had done it, the people had suffered. Everything pointed the same way. Lord Granville's despatch said—" You must not go to the Soudan unless you can pay for it." No matter what happened to the country so long as the bondholders were satisfied. The very troubles in the Soudan were caused by the bondholders. Ismail used to pay blackmail to the Chiefs there, and so kept them quiet; but the money was wanted to pay the coupon, and so the disturbance arose. He asked the Prime Minister whether it was not true that he agreed more than anyone else on the question of Egypt with the hon. Member for Carlisle and himself? It seemed to him that their views and his were identical. It was no secret that a few days ago the rag-tag of finance and the bobtail of whiggism presented, or intended to present, the right hon. Gentleman with a manifesto, because they thought the Government ought to interfere more energetically in Egypt. He had not seen the document, but he could not gather that the names appended to it were of the slightest importance. It seemed to him that his hon. Friend and himself had pursued a more open and honest course. They had not secretly 912 handed round a manifesto addressed to the right hon. Gentleman, nor used any back-stairs influence. If the right hon. Gentleman would only realize the fact of his own strength, he would see that he had nothing to fear from pursuing consistently and determinedly the course he had laid down in his great Mid Lothian speeches. M. Guizot had said that the fault of the present age was that the feeble wish much and will little. He believed there was no man who wished more anxiously to clear away these foreign complications than the right hon. Gentleman. He felt sure that no one more than the Prime Minister was anxious for our withdrawal from Egypt, and that he would have the support of the country in doing so. All he asked was that he would not only wish it, but will it. He begged to second the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "whilst declining at present to express an opinion on the Egyptian policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued during the last two years, with the support of the House, trusts that in future British Forces may not he employed for the purpose of interfering with the Egyptian people in the selection of their own Government,"—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
Mr. Speaker—Sir, the House, I am sure, will understand that, after the extraordinary indulgence with which I was treated on the former occasion, I have not the least intention of entering into the general course of the debate. Two very interesting speeches have been made by my hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Amendment. With a great deal of what has fallen from them, I sympathize. As to what might be called criticism, I leave that to be dealt with in the general course of the debate. I will only say three things that I think necessary. First of all, I think the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was very happy in his description of the Soudan policy in the words "Rescue and retire," and, in fact, that is the idea on which the Government desire to act. And if the word "rescue" be sufficiently extensive 913 so as to include the political objects that we have in Egypt, it might be described as our view of the whole of our Egyptian policy. The next thing is to say that I am sorry my hon. Friend the Mover of the Amendment commented so freely and unfavourably upon the present Ruler of Egypt. It is impossible to leave Egypt without a Government, and my hon. Friend has no other Government to substitute for that of the Khedive; and I regard any word the hon. Baronet said in disparagement of the Khedive and his Government as not only unwarranted by facts, but as highly impolitic, and calculated to prolong the very thing that he does not desire to prolong—namely, intervention in Egypt. Lastly, Sir, it is quite a mistake to suppose that I have ever attempted to vindicate what we have done by saying that the Tories have done the same. What I attempted to show was that there were certain engagements binding upon us and settled upon us when we came into Office, and under these engagements we have been compelled, as a matter of good faith, to act as we have done. That is all I say upon the merits of the case; but I wish to explain in a very few words the course we take with regard to the Amendment. We must vote against the Question which you, Sir, have put from the Chair—that the words of the Amendment take the place of the original Motion. The reasons for that course, I think, I shall make quite clear. It is certainly not that we have greater sympathy with the words of the original Motion than with the words of the Amendment; but we must do it upon this, as I think, very plain ground. My hon. Friend asks the House to decline to express an opinion on the Egyptian policy of Her Majesty's Government. Well, Sir, I hold it to be quite impossible, alter the merits of our proceedings have been raised in a formal manner by the Leader of the Opposition, and issue has been regularly joined upon the subject, that the House can, with credit, retire from the responsibility of deciding upon that question. We shall take our part, therefore, in voting with the right hon. Gentleman that his own words shall stand part of the Question, in order that we may afterwards ask the House to join us in putting a negative upon those words. That is the first, and, perhaps, it is a sufficient consideration, that leads us to join in opposing the 914 adoption of the words of the Amendment; but I am bound to say, on looking at the Amendment, that there are other reasons also which I draw from its terms. I find, in the first place, that I do not think it is desirable to ask the House to lay down a rule of policy to be pursued in Egypt, and for this plain reason, that it tends to carry over from the really responsible persons, the Executive Government, a great responsibility and to impose that responsibility upon the House. It would be very much better, I think, that we should collect the judgment and inclination of the House, as we can, and should remain liable to be judged by the House than that the House should take upon itself the responsibility of laying down a rule for our guidance. And that is illustrated when I come to look at the actual rule that my hon. Friend has laid down, because I do not think it would be satisfactory to the House or to himself. We are asked to affirm "that in future the British Forces may not be employed for the purpose of interfering with the Egyptian people in the selection of their own Government." Sir, the question before us is a much wider one. The interference that has existed in Egypt is a much wider interference than the interference of the British Forces. In the first place, it was an interference of the British people; it was the constitution of a Government under British influence; it was the contraction of certain engagements, both to another Great Power and to Egpyt, which engagements bound and fettered us in our subsequent actions; and if my hon. Friend wishes the House to express an opinion at all on these matters, his Motion ought to be framed, not merely to cover the simple matter of forcible intervention, which is the symptom and effect of causes long previously existing, but the intervention, as a whole, with all its essential characteristics. Sir, on these grounds, which I have not stated at any length, because I think the House will understand them, and quite apart from any general concurrence in many of the sentiments of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, though by no means in all of them, I think I have said enough in explaining to the House the practical course which Her Majesty's Government will think it their duty to pursue.
Sir, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has spoken with a levity which shows he has not realized the depths to which the country has been sunk by the action of the Government. I do not believe that either the events of the past week, or the speech of the Prime Minister, have improved the position of the Government in the eyes of the country. I listened with the greatest attention to every word which fell from the Prime Minister on Tuesday night, and I wondered if, in the annals of Parliament, a more inadequate defence was ever offered to so grave an accusation. The Prime Minister denounced the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) for not having declared a policy of his own in the Soudan; but when the bones of two Egyptian Armies, commanded by English officers, are blackening under the African sun; when the Soudan garrisons are delivered to starvation and massacre—it is too late to offer an alternative policy. The mischief is already done, and the disgrace which the Government has brought upon the British name is irreparable. The Primo Minister dwelt, with complacency and satisfaction, upon the reforms which he has initiated in Egypt in the land survey, in the prisons, and in the Constabulary. But what has all that to do with the question at issue? The country wants to know why, with 7,000 British troops at his disposal at four days' distance, the Prime Minister abandoned the garrison of Sinkat to its fate? The country wants to know how it is the orator of the Bulgarian atrocities has become the participator in the Soudan massacre? The blood of these heroic defenders, and the blood of their women and children, is upon the head of the Prime Minister, and upon the Prime Minister alone. Six months ago Consul General Moncrieff warned him of their danger, and yet last Monday, after the massacre, the Prime Minister told the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) that the question—the question of their being relieved—was not ripe, although he knew, days before, that the wretched garrison were chewing leaves to assuage the pangs of hunger. The people of England will not be disposed to relieve the Prime Minister of his responsibilities so easily as he has relieved himself. 916 They know that the Khedive, whose capital is occupied by British troops, whose revenues are collected by British officials, whose subjects are crushed down to the earth by taxation for the benefit of British bondholders, is a mere cypher in the hands of British Ministers. Sir Edward Malet and Sir Evelyn Baring are the true Rulers of Egypt, and they take their orders from Downing Street. Ever since the defeat of Arabi, Her Majesty's Government have wielded unlimited power to pursue whatever policy seemed best to them. By their victory at Tel-el-Kebir they have crushed out the germs of national feeling and independence; they have dispersed the Army and laid Alexandria in ruins; and they are bound in honour to do all in their power to defend the interests of that country, which they have rendered powerless to protect herself. The honour of England and the best interests of Egypt both point in the same direction. They cannot be separated, and they both are sacrificed to Party considerations. A powerful section of the Liberal Party, whose object it is to cut England adrift from her Colonies, and to repudiate her National obligations, determined that our troops should be recalled from Egypt at the earliest possible opportunity. It was to retain the support of this section of the Liberal Party that, this time last year, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) indicated six months as the farthest limit of our Military occupation. It was to retain the support of this powerful section that Her Majesty's Government adopted the diastrous doctrine that the officers of the Soudan were outside the limits of Her Majesty's Government's considerations. But was ever a more extraordinary and inconsistent doctrine promulgated than this? That the Khedive, whose political existence depends on the presence of our troops in his capital, who is hardly allowed a voice in the administration of the affairs of Egypt Proper, should, at the same time, possess unlimited authority over the vast territories of the scattered populations of the Soudan—a country as large as India. The first direct result of this policy was the destruction of General Hicks and his army. I will not again go into the painful and humiliating events which 917 led to the destruction of that gallant officer, except to say that he was as much the victim of the cruel indifference of the English authorities, as of the infatuated incompetency, if not the actual treachery, of the Egyptian Government. Sir Edward Malet went out of his way to impress upon the Egyptian Minister, Cherif Pasha, that he did not endorse the just and reasonable demands of General Hicks; and I believe, and I think, the country will agree with me that this cruel and hostile declaration on the part of Sir Edward Malet materially contributed to the destruction of General Hicks and his army, for the Egyptian Government, knowing that General Hicks was not supported by the English authorities, treated him as the Prime Minister has treated the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar—they left him to his fate. He started on his expedition without money, without transport, with unpaid, untrustworthy troops, reinforced by the refuse of General Baker's Army, and supported only by the "congratulations" of Sir Edward Malet. His last appeal was disregarded. Not even the command of language possessed by the Prime Minister will be able to persuade the country that General Hicks was not deliberately sacrificed to the pretended non-intervention policy of Her Majesty's Government. I say, pretended, because the steps taken by the Government, on the news of the disaster at Bashgill, illustrate the falseness and absurdity of this theory in a very remarkable manner. For Lord Granville, whose policy, as he is never tired of telling us, is to abstain from interference with the action of the Egyptian Government in the Soudan, now issues an order to the Egyptian Government that, on pain of instant dismissal from their posts, all military operations are to cease in the Soudan, except those for the relief of the outlying garrisons. He need not have made that exception, for the proclamation of that order had already cut off their retreat and sealed their doom. This was the last desperate effort of a dishonoured and panic-stricken Government to escape from the consequences of their sins; and it resulted, like everything else, in failure. What took place at Suakim on the news being made known, was an example of what occurred all over the Soudan. But although the non-inter- 918 ference policy had broken down, as regards British interference in the Soudan, it was still in force as regards the relief of the garrisons. Although Her Majesty's Government had put a stop to military operations with a high hand, they steadily refused to move one single British soldier to rescue Sinkat. Tewfik and his 600 heroes were left to perish, and 1,000 women and children were delivered over to outrage and the slave gang; and why?—in order to conciliate the non-intervention party, and secure their support at the next General Election. Truly, the Prime Minister has fairly earned their support; and I trust the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), will prove themselves truly grateful. But the nonintervention party are not the people of England; and the people of England will never forgive the Prime Minister his cruel desertion of the Egyptian garrisons. It is not so long ago that the Prime Minister professed to have such a horror of blood-guiltiness that he surrendered the Transvaal, rather than avenge the defeat of Majuba Hill. The country has now had an opportunity of testing the sincerity of his professions. The murdered victims of the Irish assasination societies, our faithful Native Allies in the Transvaal, and now the Egyptian garrisons of the Soudan, whose heroism more than atones for the cowardice of the wretched rabble sent to relieve them—all tell the same story. They say—" We stood by Her Majesty's Government in their hour of need; we trusted in that Government for help and protection in our hour of peril, and they betrayed us to our enemies. "There is every prospect that this Vote of Censure will be defeated in this House by a large majority, as I understand that both the Whigs and the Home Rulers are likely to support the Government. There will, in that case, be great cheering on the Liberal side when the numbers are declared; but your cheers will not be able to drown the cries of the victims of the policy which you support, which are ringing in the ears of the country. This partizan victory upon which the Government relies, so far from restoring to them their lost reputation, will only add additional force to the contempt and indignation with which 919 they are regarded by every honest Englishman.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
Sir, the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) involves a rebuke to Her Majesty's Government for interfering with the military revolt headed by Arabi Pasha. The rebuke is, no doubt, administered more in sorrow than in anger; but I cannot admit that it is deserved at all. The Amendment assumes that, but for our interference, the movement would have resulted in a National Government; but those who know Egypt are unanimous that it would have resulted in a military despotism, or a state of anarchy terminating in the occupation of the country by some other Power. Would Her Majesty's Government have done its duty, or fulfilled the wish of the great majority of the people of England, had it permitted either of these events to happen? Is there any doubt that the step it took was taken with the approbation of the great bulk of the Members of this House, and of their constituents out-of-doors? Was it not even reproached for not interfering sooner, instead of first exhausting all means of inducing other Nations of Europe to share the task of restoring order in a country in which it was the interest of all Europe that order and good government should prevail? The other Powers deliberately left the task to England, which her vast interests in the East specially marked out for it. As for the question of how far Arabi's movement was a National movement, I was assured on all hands, by men of various classes, that his recruits were brought to his camp in chains, and that whenever his recruiting sergeants appeared, the male villagers fled to the mountains and deserted their farms. I was further informed that his agents imprisoned the women to extort from them where their husbands and brothers were hidden. Such incidents as these are inconsistent with the supposition that he was generally regarded by the people as a great national champion of the rights of the people. If the dealings of Her Majesty's Government, since Tel - el - Kebir, are chargeable with any fault, it is in having been too conscientious, too scrupulously unwilling to supersede the independence of the Ministers of the Khedive; too anxious to allow them as much freedom of action as possible. Sir, recent events 920 have proved that such freedom of action is not compatible either with the carrying out of these internal reforms in Egypt, which are necessary to insure good government, or to secure it from serious military disasters and a fanatical invasion from the South. The time has manifestly come for adopting a different treatment, and for assuming "temporarily" not a half-and-half Protectorate, but a complete one for a limited period. We need not insist on the name; but the time has come when the thing itself cannot longer be postponed. I desire, quite as much as they, to see the day arrive when we shall be in a position to withdraw from Egypt, and to leave it an independent and self-governing country; but those who are eager for that result ought to be foremost in advocating the taking of the reins into our own hands now. We cannot leave with credit, nor, indeed, with safety, until we have reformed the administration of the country, and rescued it from the misgovernment and cruel oppression under which its people groan. Put we shall never succeed in any important internal reform while we endeavour to carry it out through the medium of Turkish Pashas. I have repeatedly heard the Government at Cairo referred to as the Egyptian Government, whereas it ought to be designated "the Turkish Government in Egypt." It is almost entirely alien. Riaz Pasha is a Jew, born in Egypt; Cherif Pasha is a Turk; Nubar Pasha is an Armenian; Mehemet Ali was an Albanian. It consists of corrupt materials from top to bottom. Office is accepted by its Turkish and Circassian constituents with the traditional idea of plundering the people, and enriching themselves. They are to a man, in their hearts, bitterly opposed to all reform. How, then, can it be expected that they will be the intermediaries of any reform? If the Administration were reformed, the hope of their gains would be gone. It is they that have hitherto frustrated all our efforts at reform; they are plausible and specious, and wily and deceptive, to the last degree; they will pretend to be enthusiastic for reform at the very moment that they are considering in their hearts the best method of averting any changes in the old abuses by means of which they have grown rich. But the establishment of good government is the most essential 921 condition to our safely leaving Egypt to shift for herself. It was gross misgovernment that gave the revolt of Arabi its powers for mischief. It was gross misgovernment to which must be attributed the disastrous rebellion in the Soudan. were we to leave Egypt tomorrow, with the cruel grievances of the people all unredressed, depend upon it that in no long time another Mahdi would arise there to rally the discontented round the flag of fanaticism, and to leave us to do our work there all over again. A period of honest administration is necessary to teach the people what good government means, and to fit them for representative institutions. The strong hand is necessary to thrust aside those who stand in the way of honest administration. Now that we have learned to conjugate the imperative mood, there is a good prospect that we may succeed in achieving these objects. There is one man in Egypt who would be glad to see our reforms carried out, and that is the Khedive. That is the very fact that makes him unpopular with the Pashas. Thanks to the obstruction of these last, we have not got very far with our reforms as yet; for one thing I fear we have begun at the wrong end. The ignorance of the people, and the fact that they have hitherto been treated as slaves, renders it necessary that good government should come first—representative institutions afterwards. The hopes of the people had been staked upon England; to her they looked to reform their grievances; these hopes have hitherto been disappointed, and they are losing their faith in us—that is a serious matter just now. This idea of reform at the hands of England is not of recent origin. Years ago I have been asked eagerly, by many a peasant proprietor groaning under oppression, whether there was any hope of England taking Egypt. I have often heard it doubted whether the fellah race were capable of self-government. I myself, having an acquaintance with them extending over many years, feel no hesitation in saying that they are by no means deficient in intelligence, and that, though not fit for representative institutions, yet they would be apt pupils, and that after a few years of honest and beneficent government, they might be trusted with the franchise, and a scheme of representative government might then, 922 but not sooner, be introduced with every hope of success. Lot us pass in review a few of the grievances which the people of Egypt most loudly complain of. The most easy of these to redress is the date tax. This only produced a gross revenue of £84,000 a-year, from which has to be deducted the cost of collection. It might easily be commuted for the addition of 1s. per acre to the land tax; or, better still, by equalizing the land tax and sweeping away the exemptions on the Pasha's lands. The latter course would remove a deeply-resented grievance. The mischievous nature of the date tax is fully explained in the Report which Her Majesty's Government honoured me by publishing last year. The cruelties, inequalities, and injustice of the forced labour system are a serious element of discontent, as well as loss, by its interference with cultivation. It cannot safely at present be abolished; but it might be greatly improved, and the sufferings of the people relieved by furnishing them with tools and food. The market duties are also much complained of, and give opportunity for extortion, for there is no such thing at the receipt of custom as a table of tolls. They are extremely vexatious, and nothing escapes them. For instance, there is a humble and useful industry prevailing throughout Egypt, of collecting camel and buffalo dung and drying it for fuel. In a country where there is very little wood and no coal, this unsavoury article is almost a necessary of life to the poor. The market dues are not devoted to the improvement of the towns at the gates of which they are collected, but to the Imperial Exchequer. There are a host of petty taxes necessitating the employment of an army of collectors—or rather blood-suckers—who extort far more than their due. I once saw quite a fleet of boats waiting at a railway bridge. On inquiry, I found that they were awaiting the convenience of the tax-gatherer, that they might pay for the privilege of passing "under" the bridge. Then there are the brutalities of the conscription. It is sickening to see men brought in gangs, heavily ironed, to the recruiting station, as I have seen happen, in a town filled with gendarmerie, officered by Englishmen. Another abuse is the unrestricted use of the courbash, men being savagely beaten on the soles of their feet, at the caprice or 923 ill-humour of the tyrants who rule them. I am not prepared to say that at present corporal punishment could be entirely dispensed with; but it might be regulated and, we may hope, by degrees abolished. There are minor reforms, but they will never be carried out through the agency of Turkish Pashas, or their subordinates; neither will the cure be effected by Europeans living in Cairo, and drawing heavy salaries there and leaving the Provinces to take care of themselves. We want men on the spot, travelling Commissioners passing from Province to Province, and seeing that the reforms ordered are carried into effect. The greater and more difficult tasks are the purification of the administration of justice in Native Courts, and the reform of the mixed tribunals; the effecting of a liquidation for the village debts due to usurers. The capital amount of this debt is not so serious as the exorbitant interest paid on it. We want also some check upon the despotic powers of the Mudirs, that is, Governors of Provinces, as well as of the Sheiks, governors of villages. Another most necessary step is the reform of the State Domain and Daira management. And finally, the equalization of the land tax. The exemptions enjoyed by the privileged lands is a cause of chronic discontent, and a serious loss to the Revenue. More than one quarter of the entire cultivated land of Egypt, or, in round numbers, 1,300,000 acres, pay only from one-third to one-half the land tax paid by the smaller proprietors. The redress of this injustice would not only remove a much-resented grievance, but it would at once give buoyancy to the Revenue of Egypt; but it will never be carried out by the Pashas. If Nubar Pasha is sincere in his zeal for reform, let him volunteer the reform of this great wrong, and begin by submitting his own estates to the process. I have, at the risk of wearying the patience of the House, glanced at the positions of the task we have to accomplish, to show that time is necessary to complete the work we have undertaken, and which is as yet barely begun. We cannot in honour leave it undone. We should place ourselves in the humiliating position of the man who began to build, but was not able to finish, and we should forfeit all the advantages which we have spent so much blood and treasure to acquire. As to the general question of 924 the Soudan, Egypt has not the administrative ability to govern it, nor the military strength to hold it; and assuredly no one would, for a moment, contemplate England's undertaking to hold it for her? It exhausted her finances, it drained away her able-bodied men, whom she could ill-spare for she really has not enough men to develop her own resources. The Soudan was the occasion for the cruellest phases of the conscription, and the one result which might have justified, in our eyes, her occupation of it—namely, the suppression of the Slave Trade, has not been accomplished, and never will be accomplished, under the auspices of Egyptian officials. The most effective blow that could be dealt at that horrible trade of slave-hunting would be the suppression of domestic slavery in Egypt itself. I think, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government have conferred a distinct benefit upon Egypt by terminating her dream of an Equatorial Empire. But the question of Khartoum and a limited territory in its neighbour's land is different; that may yet be saved, and General Gordon is the man to bring that result about. If there is any man living who has the genius to make an effective army out of the raw material now at Khartoum, it is the man who, with much smaller means to begin with, organized the force that put down the formidable Taeping rebellion in China, and earned the title of "the ever-victorious." Sir, the battle is not yet lost. If we only now profit by the lessons of the past, and adopt a resolute and determined policy, we may yet accomplish all that we hoped to do when the battle of Tel-el-Kebir placed the fortunes of Egypt in our hands. After a few years we may be in a position to withdraw our forces from the country with honour, and to point to a regenerated, self-governing and independent Egypt, as the grandest justification of our action. But it is because the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle points to a premature withdrawal, that I do not feel justified in supporting it. Any such course would perpetuate in Egypt the misgovernment that has produced such disastrous consequences in the Soudan; and, believing that a premature withdrawal would bristle with mischievous consequence and involve discredit and reproach to England, I must oppose the Amendment now before the House.
§ MAJOR GENERAL ALEXANDER
said, he did not consider the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet went far enough. Having carefully perused the Papers, he had been irresistibly impelled to the conclusion that the lamentable events de-tailed were not only in a great measure, but entirely, due to the vacillating and inconsistent policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. Lord Granville did not deny the charge of inconsistency, but pleaded that it was the inconsistency of a man who put up his umbrella when it rained, and closed it again when the sun shone. He would rather compare the conduct of Her Majesty's Government with that of a man who, notwithstanding the threatening appearance of the sky, obstinately insisted upon going out without any umbrella at all. Her Majesty's Government had fixed for themselves an arbitrary line, which they limited to Egypt Proper, affecting to ignore everything that might transpire beyond that line, but forgetful, apparently, that without the concurrence of the Mahdi, those very pleasant and comfortable arrangements could not possibly be carried out. It did seem to him scarcely credible that the Prime Minister, at the Lord Mayor's banquet, on the 9th of November, should have talked so jauntily about the great improvement in the condition of Egypt, and the consequent contemplated withdrawal by Her Majesty's Government of half the garrison, when only four days previously the unfortunate army of Hicks Pasha had been completely annihilated, and had naturally ceased to exist. It was only by the merest accident that the troops ordered to withdraw had not embarked and been well on their way to this country. They were detained, as Lord Granville, in his somewhat cynical and cold - blooded style, wrote to the Turkish Ambassador, because a great disaster had occurred in the Soudan, "which might possibly produce inconvenience, or even danger, to Egypt." That word "inconvenience" did appear somewhat strange when applied to the effect produced by the slaughter of a brave Commander and his whole army; but only important to Her Majesty's Government in so far as it might affect their policy—if policy it could be called—in Lower Egypt. There was no doubt that the Government had, from the very first, given 926 their approval to the appointment of Hicks Pasha, and Lord Dufferin wrote to Lord Granville in high terms of the good effects which Hicks's victories were producing. Her Majesty's Government were always ready to appropriate the results of victory, while taking the very greatest possible precaution against incurring any risk of participating in any of the disadvantages incidental to defeat. The Correspondence teemed with passages showing the nervous dread of Her Majesty's Government and their Agents being held responsible for the actions of Hicks Pasha, and their anxiety upon every occasion to disown him when in any difficulty or trouble. This was shown in the despatches from Sir Edward Malet to Lord Granville. Poor Hicks Pasha evidently thought that his movements might be of some interest to Her Majesty's Government, for they found him writing on the 28th June, saying to Sir Edward Malet—Will you tell mo if any steps have been taken to support me, and ensure my military arrangements being carried out?And again he wrote—We have no money, and a good deal is required; pray represent this.The unfortunate man might as well have appealed to the wind. Sir Edward Malet did nothing whatever for him, except to send copies of three telegrams to Lord Granville, showing the unfortunate position in which he was placed. Disaster came at last; and although Sir Evelyn Baring, who had succeeded Sir Edward Malet, reported, in conjunction with his military colleagues—General Stephenson and Sir Evelyn Wood—that the invasion of the Mahdi would be the cause of danger to Lower Egypt, Lord Granville still insisted upon maintaining irresponsibility for affairs in the Soudan. It was impossible to conceive of greater folly than that displayed on this occasion by Her Majesty's Government. If they desired to repudiate the action of General Hicks, then he maintained they ought to have insisted on—or, if they liked the word better, they ought to have advised—his immediate recall by the Egyptian Government. But if they approved of the expedition, which he fancied they did, then they ought to have supported Hicks Pasha by every means in their power; and the proof of what 927 he asserted was to be found in the fact that the Government were obliged at last to accept the responsibility which they had so long and so obstinately declined; for Lord Granville, writing on the 4th of January to Sir Evelyn Baring, said that those Egyptian Ministers and Governors who refused to adopt the policy recommended by Her Majesty's Government must cease to hold their Offices. But even when this miserable fiction of irresponsibility had at last reluctantly to be abandoned, and a Government of puppets had been established, with British Under Secretaries standing behind them, at a cost to the Egyptian finances, he believed, of some £15,000 a-year, when we at last recognized what every other country in Europe had well known, but to which we had resolutely for a long time shut our eyes—that Queen Victoria was the real Khedive, and that Sir Evelyn Baring was her real Prime Minister—we found that Sir Evelyn Baring, although an able financier, had been so demoralized by the work which up to that time had to be performed, that he allowed the nominal Prime Minister of Egypt—Nubar Pasha—to oppose the appointment of General Gordon. The greatest fault which must be charged against Her Majesty's Government was their persistent refusal to relieve the unfortunate garrisons in the Soudan, even when they were quite close to the coast line. The question of holding or abandoning the Soudan might have been left open; but the duty of the Government with regard to relieving the garrisons was imperative and perfectly clear. Their unwillingness or their inability to perform this duty, had greatly compromised the influence of this country in Europe. We might affect, if we liked, to despise the opinion of any particular country; but we could not afford to contemn and despise the unanimous opinion of our conduct as it had been expressed by united Europe. The fall of Sinkat appeared especially hard when they thought of its Commander, Tewfik Bey, whose conduct was worthy of the highest praise. To leave such a man in such a position was not the way to encourage loyalty to the British connection. There was ample proof that the Government could, if it liked, have relieved Sinkat, in that it was now about to relieve Tokar. If it could relieve Tokar now, and believed it 928 to be its duty to relieve Tokar now, the Government could have relieved, and it was its duty to relieve, Sinkat two months ago. In that case, this horrible massacre of women and children, as well as men, could not possibly have occurred. A good deal was heard in the last House of Commons about a "mechanical majority." There was something worse than a mechanical majority, and this was a servile majority, which was ready to vote "Aye" or "No" at the behest of an imperious Minister. He at one time entertained the highest respect for a Cabinet Minister; but when he saw a Cabinet abounding in the choicest talent, headed by the foremost orator in Europe—an orator who could sometimes, as he did the other night, make the worse appear the better reason—when he thought of the miserable failure of the Cabinet where a dozen good commonplace men of business would easily have succeeded, then his respect for these Cabinet Ministers was greatly diminished—if, indeed, it had not absolutely disappeared.
MR. W. C. CART WRIGHT
denied that the majority, with which he should probably vote, would be a servile majority. He did not remember hearing a word from any speaker advocating the maintenance of the authority of Egypt over the Soudan. Then came the question whether we had done all that was really incumbent upon us in regard to the complications which had resulted in the present difficulty. For his own part, he confessed he was not altogether satisfied in regard to the action taken in the past by Her Majesty's Government. He could not disassociate the English Government from all responsibility in regard to the Soudan, for Lord Dufferin, in his Report on the lines on which Egypt should be administered, had expressly advocated the retention of Sennaar and Khartoum, and this view had been endorsed by Lord Granville in November last, when he instructed Sir Evelyn Baring to advise only a partial evacuation of the Soudan. It was certain that nowhere in the Blue Books was there to be found any remonstrance against what the Egyptian Government was trying to do in the Soudan, while yet on a thousand points advice was being constantly given by the English Government. It was said that British officers had gone into that country on their own responsibility; and that, therefore, no 929 obligation rested on us in regard to what befell them. Technically they had, no doubt, but morally he thought it was otherwise. If these officers had not enlisted in the Egyptian Service with the written assent of the British Government, they had done so with its full knowledge, and without one word of disapproval on its part. To pretend, therefore, to have no cognizance of their participation in the Soudan Expedition was a quibble like pretending to ignore the character of Princes under the transparent veil of an assumed incognito. He did not think there would have been any danger in sending British troops to support the Egyptian troops. He held that the Government could not entirely escape from the responsibility entailed by what had latterly occurred in the Soudan, especially in regard to the slackness they had shown in the measures taken for rescuing the beleaguered garrisons. The question before Liberal Members was whether they were justified by what had taken place in Egypt in withdrawing their confidence from Her Majesty's Ministers. Whatever might be their opinion of the policy which Her Majesty's Government had pursued in Egypt before the 4th of January, it was undoubted that since that date they had taken a new and a firm departure. All were agreed that this country should not burden itself with the maintenance of Egyptian authority in the Soudan. Next to a precipitate evacuation of Egypt an annexation of that country would be the most fatal step that could be taken. Nothing had done the reputation of England more harm in the East than the annexation of Cyprus. But between a precipitate evacuation and an annexation of the country there was a mean course that should be adopted. We were bound to support the man we had set up, and who leaned upon us because he could not walk alone. We could not do better than support Nubar Pasha. He had had the honour of Nubar Pasha's acquaintance for many years, and he had never known an Oriental who possessed greater intellectual powers, who had a more correct idea of the principles upon which a country should be governed, or who had such large and liberal ends in view. It was to him was due the establishment of the International Tribunals in Egypt, which was one of the greatest 930 reforms that had been effected in that country. On the whole, after having carefully listened to the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and of other hon. Members, he had come to the conclusion, although not with perfect satisfaction, that he ought to vote against the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote).
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
said, he was reminded, by the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, of a phrase of Lord Palmerston's—namely, that speeches might influence opinion, but would not influence a single vote. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright) had delivered a speech which proved that the case of Her Majesty's Government, in his own opinion and that of his constituents, was a bad one, and which concluded with the statement that, notwithstanding the opinions he held, he was justified in supporting Her Majesty's Government. That was a question to be decided between the hon. Member and his constituents; but there was not a single argument put forth by the hon. Member against the case as it had been stated by the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition; nor, on the other hand, was there any argument in support of the case as presented by the Prime Minister. At an earlier stage of the debate the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt should be one of "rescue and retire." If the hon. Member for Carlisle would allow him to make an alteration in that phrase, he would put it "rescue or retire," for, if the Government now at the eleventh hour did not put forward a policy of rescue, the indignation of the country would make them retire. Hon. Members opposite were glad to find in the determination now expressed by the Government, of sending troops for the purpose of giving aid to the unfortunate garrisons, a means of satisfying themselves that the policy of Her Majesty's Government deserved their confidence. He, however, did not share that opinion; and he believed it would not be shared by the great majority of the people of England. He would point out that if the Government were not justified in interfering before the fall of Sinkat, they were not justified in interfering now; but, on the other 931 hand, if they were justified in interfering, they were greatly to blame for allowing the gallant Tewfik and his troops to be first half-starved, and then to fall before the spears of the Arabs. He defied Her Majesty's Government to escape from that dilemma. All the eloquence and sophistical rhetoric of the Prime Minister could not contradict that; even his oratory would fail to convince the common sense of the country; and it would judge for itself upon the now notorious facts. What was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? Did he attempt in any way to prove that responsibility did not rest on Her Majesty's Government? Yes; and he failed. How could he get out of the despatch of the 4th of January from Lord Granville to Sir Evelyn Baring, in every word of which responsibility was written; if the Prime Minister really held a different opinion, he ought to issue a new edition of Johnson's Dictionary. The British Government insisted on the abandonment of the Soudan, although that abandonment involved the massacre of the garrisons and people of Sinkat and Tokar. The withdrawal of the military forces from the Soudan gave the Arab hordes the power to massacre; and, therefore, through the abandonment of the Soudan, the Government became responsible for these terrible events. And yet the right hon. Gentleman said the Government had no responsibility. He would venture to say that the Prime Minister had not touched the question at all. The Prime Minister said the Conservative Party did not challenge the policy of the Government because it was vacillating, but only because it was wrong. That was a very large word; but Her Majesty's Opposition really said nothing of the sort. They said the policy of the Government was vacillating, and that they were, in consequence of such vacillation, responsible for the events that had happened in Egypt. The Prime Minister, evading the real point at issue, had endeavoured to fix the responsibility for the present state of affairs in the Soudan on the authors of the Dual Control. That might be an exceedingly ingenious method of fogging those who were not conversant with the question; but it did not in any way affect the real merits of the case. When it was necessary for England to interfere, after the massacre at Alexandria, the Opposition 932 dropped all Party feeling, and loyally supported the Government. The Opposition now said that the policy of the Government was wrong, because it was vacillating and inconsistent. If the Government, as the Prime Minister had said, considered that it was no part of their duty to protect the Soudan, and that by so doing they would be oppressing the Soudanese, why did he not mate the evacuation a sine quâ non for English interference in the first instance? If the protection of the Soudan was wrong at the present time, it was wrong when they first interfered in Egypt. The rebellion in the Soudan did not date from yesterday, but from years back; and if the crusade on behalf of the oppressed nationalities were to be undertaken, it was quite as necessary before Tel-el-Kebir, and would have afforded a very cogent reason for not going to Egypt at all. Out of that dilemma it appeared to him it would be very difficult for Her Majesty's Government to get. To his astonishment the Prime Minister had stated that the Conservatives were in the main responsible for the condition of Egypt, owing to the creation of the Dual Control. That was a good stock argument, which did very well when a better could not be found. But the Dual Control certainly had not in its inception any political object whatever—certainly not as far as the leading principle was concerned. Its sole purpose had been misrepresented, for it was not to protect usurers and bondholders, but to ensure the revenues of Egypt flowing into the coffers of the State, instead of into the pockets of the Khedive and his favourites. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister could not blame the Conservative Government for protecting the creditors of the State. Did they advocate the principle of repudiation, and condemn the Government which enforced legitimate claims? It appeared to him that that was the argument of the hon. Members for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) and Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson); and if that were so, he could refer them to a recent instance in which Her Majesty's present Advisers sanctioned a loan by bankers in this country to Egypt. How would it be if some Gentlemen turned round and said the Government were assisting the cause of the bankers? And yet that argument was as good as saying that the late Go- 933 vernment had the protection of the bondholders as their object. But did they know that the late Khedive was very much under the control of France; and although he (Baron Henry de Worms) had nothing whatever to say against France, could it possibly be to the advantage of England that the French should be dominant in Egypt? If not, that was a good reason why the Government of Lord Beaconsfield preferred half a loaf to no bread, and shared the responsibility with France by means of the Dual Control. At that time the Khedive had with him a certain M. Barraud, whose influence over him was enormous, and who was in direct communication with the Government of France. The principal posts in Egypt were all filled by Frenchmen, and it could not possibly be to the advantage of England, as Lord Beaconsfield, with the sagacity of a great statesman, saw, that France should have preponderance over England in the affairs of Egypt. That led Lord Beaconsfield eventually to carry out that arrangement with regard to the Suez Canal, which gave to England a control in some degree proportioned to the commerce belonging to her. And when hon. Gentlemen opposite considered that the arrangement of the Dual Control was entrusted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), surely that ought to lead them to think that this terrible Dual Control was not established solely in the interests of usurers and bondholders. He would ask also whether, in the course of his great Mid Lothian campaign, the Prime Minister ever condemned the Dual Control, although he now thought that to do so was a very convenient way of getting out of his difficulty? It sounded well to say to the country that all the difficulties we were encountering in Egypt were the result of that Dual Control, which was established by Lord Beaconsfield and carried out by Lord Salisbury, but for which the present Government were not responsible, and against which the Liberals had protested. What was the real cause of our difficulties? He had on a former occasion pointed out to the House what it was that had brought about this state of things. It was the Joint Note—a political instrument which bound France and England together in Egypt. He ventured to say that to the Joint Note signed by Eng- 934 land and France might be attributed the rebellion of Arabi Pasha. When it was issued, the advice, or rather the command, given to Egypt was that Arabi should be deprived of his command as colonel in the Army and banished from the country. At that time information was sought for in vain in the Blue Books; and it was only through the instrumentality of the French Yellow Book, in which were published despatches of the Government here to Lord Lyons in Paris, that it was ascertained that the Note was issued by Her Majesty's Government in conjunction with France, and that it was never intended to be acted on. The natural result was Arabi's rebellion; and if Arabi had not rebelled, and the rebellion had not assumed the proportions it ultimately did, Her Majesty's Government would not have been under the necessity of commencing a war in Egypt, while if there had not been a war in Egypt, and no Tel-el-Kebir, Her Majesty's Government would have assumed no responsibility at all. In the course of the debate a great deal had been said about oppressed nationalities, and the Prime Minister had said that, in order to protect the 29,000 men who were distributed over a country as large as Germany, France, and Austria combined, 500 men had to be sacrificed at Sinkat; but nothing whatever had been said about British interests, which it was the first duty of every British Minister to protect. The rebellion in the Soudan must not be taken as relating only to the Soudan itself, but as affecting the safety of Lower Egypt. The frontier line proposed by the Government was so utterly absurd that he wondered at its having even been suggested. But the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to think much of the safety of Lower Egypt, but mainly as to how soon we could get out of the country. Link by link he (Baron Henry De Worms) had traced the course of events, and shown that to the blunder of the Joint Note the present condition of affairs was due. Did we go to Egypt only to quell the rebellion of Arabi Pasha? If we did, we ought to have retired when that rebellion was quelled; if not, every rebellion should be quelled by the Forces of Her Majesty. The Government policy in Egypt had not been in accordance with the professions of the Prime Minister in the Mid Lothian 935 Campaign; but it was an endeavour to reconcile it with the irresponsible utterances of the Prime Minister when he was trying to oust Lord Beaconsfield, that had landed the Government in its present Egyptian difficulties. He ventured to think this country had other interests in Egypt than the mere protection of Tewfik Pasha; this country had to protect British interests. That was our first duty, and he called the attention of the House to the fact": that now, more than ever, were British interests in Egypt in danger. By the policy adopted by the Government just now and when they were in Opposition' the power of Turkey had been so weakened that she was no longer able to offer any barrier whatever to Russian advance or to Russian ambition. The blindness of the Prime Minister to the advances which Russia was making astonished every Englishman. Russia was advancing on Merv, had lately concluded a Treaty with Persia which could have but one object, and that was the making of that country a Russian Ally when Russia should invade India. He also reminded the House of another fact, that now all the Powers of Europe had more influence in Turkey than England had. It was of the greatest importance to this country that it should maintain the road to India through Egypt. France was in possession of Algeria and Tunis; Austria, of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Russia controls Bulgaria and Servia; Roumania is governed by a Prussian Prince. A former Liberal Government abrogated the Black Sea Treaty, and Russia re-obtained, by the Treaty of Berlin, Bessarabia and one of the mouths of the Danube, while on the Eastern shore of the Black Sea Batoum was ceded to her. Who could doubt that in some future European war Constantinople and the right of ingress and egress to the Black Sea would fall into her hands? Under those circumstances, it was of the greatest importance that England should not allow Egypt to sink into a state of anarchy. Egypt should be well governed, not only in the interests of the Egyptian people, but also in the interests of England herself, and in the interests of India, Egypt being the great highway to that important part of our Dominions. It was our interest to protect the Suez Canal, and we had not only important commercial interests at stake, but there 936 were great Imperial interests at stake also. He protested against the idea that we were a mere nation of shopkeepers. It was not a mere question as to whether the ships of this country were delayed three weeks or more by the stoppage of the Canal, but whether this country, whose commerce represented that of the whole world, should or should not be able to protect the Suez Canal, and prevent hostile nations in the moment of danger and general war swooping down upon India from Central Asia, paralyzing the influence of Turkey, and closing the road of England through Egypt. These interests the Government were imperilling by the vacillating policy they were pursuing, for which he believed they stood condemned in the mind of every Englishman; and for the reasons he had stated he felt it his duty to support the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
Sir, I gather from the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down that he is more interested in the present immediate policy of the Government, and in what they would do in the future, than he is in their past policy. If that be the case, I agree with him, and think the country care very much more about what should be done now than about what has been done in the last year, or in the last two or three years. The question is not whether the Government has always done what is right in the matter, but whether the course of action in which they are now engaged be really to the interest of the country and of Egypt. But we cannot altogether forget that that which has been brought before us is a Vote of Censure, and a Vote of Censure is a serious matter. It cannot be voted upon and it cannot be discussed simply upon the merits of the censure without some consideration of the consequences. Sir, we must remember that we are not an Oxford Union, and that we are not one of those associations which we see throughout the country in which young gentlemen, and, perhaps, sometimes gentlemen who are not young, come together and play at Parliaments, with the idea of teaching one another to talk and to make learned speeches, an art which, perhaps, it would be better not so much to cultivate. It is, however, no exaggeration to say that this 937 Vote of Censure, if taken seriously—and every Vote of Censure ought to be taken seriously—is one upon which the fate of nations may depend. There has been a Vote of Censure in "another place." It has been carried by a very large majority. I am not one of those who treat that with contempt. Why, the House of Lords is one of the powers of the country. It is not a matter of no moment, and it becomes all the more important that the House of Commons, if it does not agree with the House of Lords, should very clearly show the reason why it does not agree with it. Now, let us consider what would be the result of the House of Commons imitating the House of Lords. I want to put aside consequences, except in so far as they relate to the matter in hand—that is, our duty in Egypt and our relations with Egypt. Of course, there are very few men on this side of the House—I am sure on the other side as well—who cannot help thinking that there are other consequences—consequences in regard to home affairs as well as to foreign affairs; but let us simply take the consequences with regard to Egypt. If this Vote of Censure succeeds, one of two results must follow. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) and the hon. Baronet who moved the Amendment (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said what would follow must be a change of Government. That would not necessarily result. There might be a Dissolution and change of seats for many of us; but what would be the effect of that on the Egyptian policy? Why, at the very time that promptness and decision and active energy on the part of a Government are required there would necessarily be delay and uncertainty. ["No!"] That must be so; and then comes the other alternative of a change of Government. But when we look forward to that result on any particular question we must consider not only what we are losing, but what we are getting; and, as far as regards Egypt itself, I confess that although I do not entirely agree with the action of the Government until quite lately, yet I see no reason to believe that the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been more likely to receive my approval. I cannot gather confidence from them in Egyptian matters, either from anything they did while they were in Office, or 938 from anything they have said while out of Office for the last year or two; and I cannot gather it from the Motion now before us, or from the arguments by which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) supported that Motion. Now, as regards the Motion itself, I need not refer to that wonderful reply of the Prime Minister. I do not know that I ever heard a speech that was more admirable. I think he had a very difficult task, and certainly he was equal to it, both in point of skill and the eloquence with which he discharged it. And I think my right hon. Friend was probably right in saying that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote) brought forward no arguments in support of his case. It is quite true that the Motion said the policy of the Government had been vacillating and inconsistent; but the arguments said—" You have been consistent all through in a false policy." That is a very serious charge no doubt, but I think that is what might fairly be said by anyone who read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman; or if he could have heard it before he saw the Motion he would have supposed that the Motion attached to that speech must be a charge of consistency in a false policy. I do not in the slightest degree coincide with that charge, but I must confess that I am afraid that I shall now be at variance with many Members on this side of the House when I say that I think there was some reason for the charge that the Government did not quickly enough realize the true policy. I think that they did not quickly enough realize the meaning of what happened more than a year ago—that they did not realize what that battle of Tel-el-Kebir meant. Now, there are those who think that the battle of Tel-el-Kebir ought not to have been fought. I do not now enter into that question. I take facts as I find them. That battle put us in the position that after it there was no Power in Egypt except that of the English Government. I do not think Her Majesty's Ministers quickly enough realized that fact, or I am sure they would have felt that where there is power there is responsibility, and that where you have the power you cannot get rid of the responsibility. We were, in fact, after that battle, the sole governors of Egypt, and on us has rested ever since the responsibility of what has been done and 939 of what has not been done. No doubt, it is easy to be wise after the event; and I do not ignore the difficulties of the Government—difficulties which were great both with regard to Foreign Powers and to public opinion at home. At first I do not think the country realized what that battle meant; I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite did not realize what it meant; but I think the country is now somewhat in advance of the Government in that matter. It is rarely, indeed, in history that we have seen, such a fact as that immediately realized; I am not at all surprised that there has been this delay; and though it is easy to see why there has been the delay, it is, I am afraid, also very easy to see the consequences of our not only taking power, but taking it from those who had it before, and preventing their using it and not fully using it ourselves. I do not think I am exaggerating the position in which we were placed by what happened then. The Prime Minister said—We had taken the responsibility of military operations which reduced the country; the Army was entirely broken up, and the institutions of the country were gone. We had before us the work of reconstitution.Well, how did we begin that work? By giving excellent advice. Advice is a good thing, but I cannot conceive anything less likely to succeed than the attempt of a Western nation to govern an Oriental country by advice to Oriental administrators. The Western idea, the Christian idea of government is perfectly different from the Oriental and the Mussulman idea. The Oriental idea of government is a strong, very often an unjust, despotism to individuals; but by its very strength and fierceness it sometimes gives peace and a certain happiness to the people. Our idea, on the other hand, is just government, and we look at matters far more carefully. But if we take things in hand and say to such a country—" You are to be governed by Western nations," and you take from their Governors power, unless you see that your advice is followed, the result is almost certain to be a weak sort of despotism, which of all kinds of government is the worst—worse oven than an unjust Government. Well, what has been the result? There has, I am afraid, been as yet very little result in fact, though a good delay of possible result hereafter. There are better relations between the 940 Natives and the Christians and the English and other foreigners; but when we come to reform of the Native Administration, I fear that until very lately we can point to very little that has been achieved. I do not dwell upon that; but we have the reports in the newspapers—we have seen the statements in The Times, showing how things have got from bad to worse; and I confess that I have seen no real answer to them. And remember this—there is one thing that we have done; we have kept order. But what does keeping order mean? It means preventing any rebellion against the Pashas, however corrupt; it means taking away the sole check to an Oriental Government, which is the fear of rebellion. Again, we have levied taxes, and taken care that taxes should be paid that would not otherwise have been paid. By your clover officers you have levied the taxes with greater effect, no doubt, than the Government could do before. The only result was that matters were getting from bad to worse; and I own that, terrible as were the Soudan disasters, and shocking as was the disaster to Hicks Pasha's Army, yet it has been a good thing for Egypt. And for this reason—that it has forced Her Majesty's Government to realize the facts, and has obliged them to displace that Government, to whom they were merely giving advice, and at the same time wearing out the souls of clever, public-spirited, and devoted Englishmen, who tried to carry out these reforms, but found it impossible to do so through a Ministry composed of Pashas or their agents. That has obliged us in England to get rid of that Government, and to put in its place Nubar Pasha, a very able man, I believe, who sees what the real position of matters is, and is not merely willing to hear advice, but will act in accordance with it; and so there is hope in the words used by the Foreign Secretary in "another place "—I trust I am not out of Order in referring to them—in which he says, that "we have a right to see that our advice on all important questions is followed." That, I take it, means that it shall be followed. That fact makes me more hopeful as regards Egyptian affairs, and renders it comparatively easy for me to vote with the Government. If it had not been for this change, while I could not have voted with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I am afraid 941 I should have been, most reluctantly, unable to have voted with the Government. Let us turn to the Soudan. How could the Government for a moment suppose—having the power which they have in Egypt, and having the consequent responsibility attaching to it—how could they suppose they could divest themselves of all responsibility with regard to the Soudan? I was delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about what ought to be our views as to the Soudan. I am glad to see in despatches which have come to-day—what I knew were General Gordon's views, expressed in his terse and powerful words—that we should be, indeed, acting disgracefully if we attempt to reconquer the Soudan and put it back under the oppressive rule of the Egyptian Pashas. Sir, there have been different causes assigned for the insurrections in the Soudan. Perhaps they have all had something to do with it. Among those causes are mentioned the efforts to put down the Slave Trade, though these have not been very successful; hatred of those efforts, and the fanaticism of the Mahdi; but the real reason why be has been able to raise and support a large army is the abominable oppression that the people suffered under. My right hon. Friend says that be cannot sanction the attempt to reconquer the Soudan. But I ask why, when you bad power in Egypt, did you not protest against the attempt at its reconquest? Why, when Hicks Pasha's Army was going forward to reconquer it, did you not see that that attempt was made with your assent, and, further than that, by your help—a help, it is true, not enough to insure success, but quite enough to incur responsibility? Who made the Khedive safe in Lower Egypt, and, therefore, left him free to use all his forces in Upper Egypt? Who but the English Army? Then take the effect on Egypt itself. There seems to be a supposition that you bad only to do with Egypt Proper, and bad nothing to do with the Soudan. I do not think you can separate one from the other. Suppose it was so. What was the effect upon Egypt itself? I cannot conceive what the Government was thinking about. Their clever agents must have informed them that Lower Egypt would be affected by the operations in the Soudan. I will 942 take two illustrations. Many allusions have been made to-day to one of them—the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) alluded to it. That was the horrible manner in which that Army was recruited, in which men were sent to fight with their wives in an agony of tears—they themselves almost frightened to death—the refuse of the Army that had fought us at Tel-el-Kebir. I am afraid that one regiment that fought us bravely was sent there. Those men would not have gone—the Egyptian Government would not have ventured to send them—if it had not been for our Army, which prevented the possibility of a refusal. A question was asked on this matter of my noble Friend the Under Secretary, and I was perfectly astonished with his answer, which was that he bad no Report. Why, there have been current stories in the newspapers for weeks, and it was the business of the Government to get a Report. Take another effect upon Egypt—the finances of Egypt. I will not say much about the finances, for I have not the technical knowledge which enables me to do so. But there are two or three broad facts. One is that we found, a long time before Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt was tremendously in debt. We found an enormous sum owing to the bondholders—much more than Egypt can pay. I cannot conceive anything which the people of England would more strongly disavow than that English forces should be used to wring taxes out of the starving peasants—to secure the payment to speculators, who well knew the risks they were running, of loans which we well know Egypt is powerless to pay. There may be difficulties with Foreign Governments. But if we are to interfere at all—to have anything to do with that matter—it ought to be to try and make favourable arrangements between the bondholders of this insolvent country, knowing very well, as we do, the reason why it is insolvent. I merely mention that debt to show what was the position of Egypt. Egypt was heavily in debt, and I am sorry to say that debt has been increased since the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. We have not particulars of all the indemnity claims; but I believe they reckon by millions, and will have to be well looked into. I am afraid that justice will require our carefully scrutinizing them. There are large 943 claims for the pillage of Alexandria. I should like to ask two questions with regard to that subject. Did the English Government or English residents make any claims in France for pillage at the time of the Commune? Is it usual for these claims to be made? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: Yes.] Has there been any attempt to get the French Government to pay for the English property pillaged at the time of the Commune? If you said an indemnity was to be paid, claims would start up very quickly. I confess I think that point comes up. Again, it is our business to protect English taxpayers, but I do not think the English taxpayer will ask that the poor starving fellaheen shall pay for what belongs to us. I very much doubt whether we can avoid responsibility for what happened after the bombardment. No doubt it was only an error of judgment; but our Commanders did not think it right to land our forces, which would have prevented that pillage. But these are side remarks, and do not apply to my particular argument, which is that we found a great debt, which has since been largely increased. It became our duty to see that this burden should not be still further increased. Well, was it possible for the clever men we had in Egypt not to see that what was happening in the Soudan would almost certainly much increase the debt? We have, indeed, acknowledged our responsibility in this matter. We said—" Turkey shall not send troops unless we can be sure that they will not increase the cost to the Egyptian Government." Well, then, what I say is this—When Hicks Pasha was sending his pitiful letters, by which, brave man as he was, he was trying to bring before his friends at Cairo that he was in a hopeless position, which, consistently with his honour as a soldier, he could not refuse to maintain, why could not our Government step forward, why could not Sir Evelyn Baring step forward, and say—" We think you are unwise, but this will cost money. Remember that you can only get money by the help of our Army protecting your tax-gatherers—that help for this purpose shall not be given." They did not take that course. What has been the result? The increase of the debt by nearly £1,000,000, which is to be advanced by Messrs. Rothschild. There have been a good many questions about that loan. I do not imagine that 944 the Government has guaranteed that loan. I do not think so, because the Government would have told us so if they had. But I have a greater fear than that—namely, that the Government have left the Messrs. Rothschild to suppose that we will so far guarantee it that we shall see that these wretched Egyptians pay it. I had rather we paid it ourselves than that. But at last the Government have acknowledged their responsibility with regard to the Soudan. On January the 8th we had forced Cherif Pasha to resign because he would not adopt our policy. Nubar Pasha was appointed, and Sir Evelyn Baring informs Lord Granville that he had "accepted office entirely concurring in the wisdom of abandoning the Soudan." That, again, is a proof to me that the Government now at last realizes the situation. But can anyone deny that from that moment, at least, the Government were responsible for the military operations in the Soudan? This brings us to Sinkat. How sad and humiliating is its story? What are the facts regarding Sinkat? For nearly a month before we dismissed Cherif Pasha because he would not adopt our policy, before we put up Nubar Pasha on condition that he would adopt it, General Sartorius sent word that the garrison was in great straits. It was commanded by a brave man, and brave men are rare in the Egyptian Army. But I do not think he was in the Army; he was in the Civil Service. The Government could have relieved Sinkat. [An hon. MEMBER: How?] How? By doing a week or two ago what they are doing now. What is said to be happening at Tokar now? Notwithstanding the successes of the enemy—notwithstanding the taking of Sinkat—directly it is supposed that the Government are really using their power—the rebels, or whatever you choose to call them, are dispersing. Does any military man doubt that, if these 3,000 or 4,000 men had been sent a fortnight ago from Cairo—there would have been plenty of time—Sinkat would have been relieved? What did we do? We did not do that. We made it much more difficult for Baker Pasha to succeed, because we let it be known that we were going to withdraw from the Soudan. I do not blame the Government for that resolution. I think it was the right resolution. I do not blame them for that resolution becoming 945 known, but they ought to have foreseen the consequences at Suakim of its being known, and have guarded against them. The right hon. Gentleman said—[Interruption from below the Gangway]—I shall say exactly what I think. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister seemed to think that the position of the other garrisons of the Soudan was not very different from that of Sinkat and Tokar. There was this great difference—that as in our administrative so in our military operations, our responsibilities must be measured by our power. It was in our power to relieve Sinkat; it is in our power to relieve Tokar; I do not know that it is in our power to relieve Khartoum. I believe that the course we are taking there and in the South is by far the best course, and that the heroic genius Gordon may possibly make by the prestige of his name a fresh arrangement there. I rejoice that the Government have taken their present policy. By that we are more likely to strike a blow against slavery than anything we have yet done. But, I repeat, I cannot think that our position with regard to these two garrisons was anything like the other garrisons, because our responsibility is measured by our power, and it was perfectly within our power since January 8 to relieve that starving garrison. Now, I am glad indeed we are going to relieve Tokar. [LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Too late.] I do not think so. I believe the attempt will be successful. I believe it means a great deal; and it makes me feel not only that I can vote for the Government, but I believe that the policy of the Government ought to be strengthened in what they are now doing. It is impossible that 3,000 or 4,000 men can be landed there, and this garrison relieved, without giving the most effectual evidence to all the Egyptians and to foreign nations that we have at last realized our position and the fact that we alone have power in Egypt, and that, therefore, upon us the responsibility rests. I dare say the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) do not quite approve of this. My hon. Friend said it ought to be done because the country wished it. It ought to be done because it is a work of humanity, and because it would be disgraceful if it were not done. I dare say he supposes it means 946 more active interference in the Egyptian and Soudanese affairs. I believe he thinks it makes our withdrawal less possible. I do not think so. I believe a half-hearted and halting policy in avoidance of our real responsibility to be a policy of all others which will make withdrawal impossible. There are only two alternatives—the alternative of immediate withdrawal—that is, the alternative of not caring for our interests in Egypt, not caring about our road to India, not caring for our relations with Foreign Governments, for our probable replacement by other countries—by France, and others. More than that. The alternative of going in to upset a Government and then running away and leaving it in anarchy—leaving it, in the words of my hon. Friend (Mr. Courtney), to "stew in its own juice" after we have lighted the fire. There is the other alternative, the acceptance of responsibility while we remain in Egypt. We must fulfil our duties there—we cannot shirk them. If we try to shirk them, we shall only make them more difficult to fulfil. We English people care very little for the taunts and reproaches of foreign nations, unless there is some reason for those taunts. but then we are sensitive. Public opinion at home will oblige the Government to fulfil its duties. And more than that, circumstances will oblige it to fulfil its duties, because circumstances, day after day, make it utterly impossible to avoid them. I am one of those who think that too much was said of our motives in going to Egypt. We did not go to Egypt merely to pre-vent anarchy. We should not have gone to Morocco for that. We went there because we were determined that the road to India should not fall under the control of other Powers. We may have said too much about motives in going in, but I am not sure that we have not felt too little about our duties when we got in. We must do our duty now that we are there. I am not, however, sure that any of us would have done better than the Government in all the circumstances of the case. At last they have discovered what those duties are, and from what has happened during the last two or three weeks I shall give them my hearty support. Who ought to give a Government support more than the man who thinks that at last they were doing 947 what they ought to do? I am now going to close my speech, which I do not imagine has given any real satisfaction to the Government or to the Opposition, with this remark, which I hope the Leader of the Opposition will not altogether disregard—I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he does not think it the most patriotic course—I am not sure it would not be the wisest course, even from a Party point of view—to be content with the discussion which has taken place, and not to force his Motion to a Division?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Sir, I am glad to have the opportunity of following my right hon. Friend, who is also a candid Friend, because he has put the Opposition case, which we have to meet, so much more plainly and strongly than they have been able to do, that I think I shall have something to reply to. I have never had any personal experience of canvassing, as I represent a very large constituency; but I have been told by my hon. Friends who have canvassed in small boroughs that it often happens that a voter, after expressing all sorts of unfavourable opinions and lecturing them for a long time, winds up by promising his vote. Well, Sir, the Government must be thankful for any mercies, great or small; and I beg, therefore, sincerely to thank my right hon. Friend for the promise of his vote. Before I come to a detailed examination of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, there are one or two observations which I must make on the discussion which took place at a period when the House was less full than at present. We had a very fiery speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Thirsk (Colonel Dawnay), and we had a very valuable speech from the senior Member for the County of Waterford (Mr. Villiers-Stuart), a speech of which I can only say that I greatly regret that it was delivered to an almost empty House. I will say of those two speeches that I differ from almost every word of what the former hon. and gallant Member said, and that I am disposed to agree with the most part, if not the whole, of what my hon. Friend behind me said. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry De Worms), in reply to the observation of the Prime Minister on the subject of the Dual Control, said that no one in 948 this House had protested against the Dual Control. When challenged, he confined himself to the Prime Minister, whom I leave to speak for himself, for he quoted his own speech on Tuesday night; but, practically, the hon. Member said that the matter had passed without notice in Parliament.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
I said, with the exception of the remarks the right hon. Gentleman quoted as having been made in 1876.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I am a very much more humble individual than the Prime Minister, but I will quote myself. There were two Controls, and it has been pointed out that our main objection was to the Political Control established by Lord Salisbury, and not to the first Control. The Political Control was established by the Decree of November 10, 1879. The first occasion we had of speaking of it in this House was upon the Address in 1880. Many of us had spoken of it in the country; but in the House nearly all who took part in the debate alluded to the creation of that Control. I ventured to say—There was no allusion in the Speech to the affairs of Egypt.And here is a remarkable fact, that this grave measure, the Political Control, was not announced to the House either in Her Majesty's Speech, nor by the presentation of Papers at that time—There was no allusion in the Speech to the affairs of Egypt. Never had this country been committed to so largo a scheme fraught with dangerous complications for the future without the knowledge of Parliament as was now the case with respect to Egypt. The Papers on the subject were last year kept back till they were too late to be of use; and the documents issued showed that the European Controllers were really to exercise almost the whole powers of government."—(3 Hansard,  115–16.)That speech did not stand alone; similar speeches had been made by many hon. Members on the same side of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) told us just now that the Government had not soon enough realized their responsibilities, although he did not go on to put before us the practical policy which would have come of realizing those responsibilities at an earlier time. But he expressed doubts in the earlier portion of his speech with regard to our general policy in Egypt rather than strong censure. Let me call the attention of the House 949 to the fact that the Opposition, now that they have the Papers before them, have ceased to blame our general policy in Egypt. ["No!"] Well, that is my impression. They appear to me, from the debate of to-night, to concentrate their attack upon a single point. But I do not desire to evade discussion on our general policy in Egypt. On the contrary, I wish to challenge it, and I wish to take up the challenge made in the speech and in the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition—that we have been vacillating and inconsistent with regard to our general policy. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have been vacillating and inconsistent, and he appears to deny to us the merit of having been right even by chance and accident in our vacillations. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) most pithily attacked, in his speech, the vacillation and inconsistency of our general policy. Now, let me remind the House what our general policy has been. In 1882 we declared that—Until the administration of affairs has been reconstructed on a basis which will afford satisfactory guarantees for the maintenance of peace, order, and prosperity in Egypt, the occupation of that country by our troops must continue.But for the mistaken policy of Cherif Pasha's Ministry as to the interior of the Soudan, it is my belief that we should already have obtained those satisfactory guarantees for the maintenance of peace, order, and prosperity. In 1883 we stated that—It would have been an act of folly to withdraw our troops until we saw a reasonable prospect of tranquillity, security, and stability throughout Egypt, or in the Egyptian Government; but we have not by any means lost the hope—we have not lost the belief—that we shall come to see that tranquillity, security, and stability re-established.The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock asked us if we ventured to assort that all the conditions mentioned by the Prime Minister as conditions precedent to evacuation had been fulfilled? Certainly, they have not been fulfilled; and it is because they have not been fulfilled that we have not evacuated the country. The noble Lord did more. He ridiculed our whole proceedings as regards Egypt Proper; and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) has stated in a 950 much milder manner the same thing tonight. He has thrown a great deal of doubt on the progress that has been made, and he used the words—" There has been very little result to show." The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers-Stuart) is a greater authority on the present internal condition of Egypt than my right hon. Friend, and he gave testimony to the very serious and real progress made, notwithstanding that he put both sides of the case and made every deduction that could be made. Sir, the Opposition in the beginning of this debate seemed inclined to attack us generally upon the character of these reforms in Egypt. Now, they have told us to-night that the character of these reforms, and the certainty of their execution, have been jeopardized by the fact that we have upset the Egyptian Ministry; and that we have left them no shred of power, but we have left the power to what has been called to-night by the hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (General Alexander) a puppet Ministry. Sir, I assert that Nubar Pasha is a far more able Minister than any other Oriental statesman, and that he is equal in ability to a European statesman of the first rank. Nubar Pasha is a man who agrees with us in our policy of reform in Egypt. Many of the reforms we instituted there are reforms with which he has throughout his life been connected, and we have, for the first time in Egypt, an active hard-working Minister, who has thoroughly convinced himself of the necessity and importance of these reforms. We do not, by interfering and procuring reforms, weaken the hands of a man like Nubar Pasha; but we confirm his action, and our principle has been throughout to interfere to the minimum extent which is consistent with the security and the development of the country. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock ridiculed and attacked the Constitution which has been framed for Egypt. That Constitution, at all events, deserves respect, because it was devised by a most able man—Lord Dufferin.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I understood the noble Lord to do so. I am sorry if I ascribed to the noble Lord the sentiments of someone else. At all events, as regards the special matters of 951 reform, which have been criticized and ridiculed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, there are great improvements which have been made, and very solid reforms which have been accomplished during the last 12 months, and they have been devised by a very able man as a security for the liberty of the Egyptian people. We were told by the Leader of the Opposition that the state of the irrigation in Egypt has not improved. Now, as a matter of fact, we are prepared to assert that that important matter has been dealt with in a very satisfactory way. We were told, too, that the cadastral survey has been starved. Well, that means that 44 European employés have been dismissed, and the reduction of that European staff, which was enormously too large for its purpose, is one of the main reforms which have been effected. We were told, also, that the Capitulations were a very bad thing, and that no real progress could be established in Egypt so long as they continued. I am very much disposed to agree with that sentiment, and to concur in that view; but let me point out that the freedom of foreigners from taxation is a portion of those Capitulations, and a very essential portion, on which we have made our attack; and I may say that we have secured the concurrence of all the Great Powers of Europe in abolishing the exemption of foreigners from one form of taxation. I maintain that, in all these matters, most serious progress has been made during the past 12 months. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) mentioned finance just now, and expressed grave doubts as to its condition. Now, if Egyptian finance had been fortunately and happily confined to Egypt Proper, it would have been in a very manageable condition at the present time. Three circumstances have interfered with it; but only two of them are really grave. The cholera did not have any very enormous effect upon the finance; but the two unfortunate circumstances are the Alexandria indemnity and the concealment of the deficits which have arisen from the operations in the Soudan. With regard to the Alexandria indemnity, I can assure my right hon. Friend that wherever similar indemnities have been claimed by foreigners in all parts of the world in con- 952 sequence of similar operations, they have always been acknowledged and paid. For instance, there were the operations by the French at Sfax, when a large amount of British property was destroyed, and the British claim was paid by the French Government, and was, as a matter of fact, paid out of the Tunisian taxes. Now, the right hon. Gentleman will be glad, I am sure, to learn that the condition of Egyptian finance proper, apart from the Soudan, is a sound condition; and I may mention to him that it is reported to us upon the highest authority possible that, notwithstanding the stagnant condition of trade, due in great part to the cholera epidemic, the surplus revenues in the hands of the Commissioners of the Public Debt for the half-year ending the 25th of October last were £471,000. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend, passing on from the general position of the Egyptian Government and the reforms, came to the subject of the expedition to the Soudan. We have had a little variation in the course of this debate from the ordinary monotony of the charges against Her Majesty's Government. The variety, as it usually does in the dull proceedings of this House, came from the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, when he varied the attack upon Her Majesty's Government by making an attack with regard to these operations upon the Khedive. He stated the other night that the Khedive, in his opinion, had played a criminal part towards General Hicks. He gave the House no information on the subject, and he quoted no authority and no opinion in support of so grave a statement. But while our opinion of the Khedive is entirely different from that of the noble Lord, I must point out to him that, at all events, if his views of the Khedive'3 character are right, the Khedive was carefully chosen for his position by the Government which is represented by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am sure that I may congratulate the House upon the fact that the noble Lord, in asserting that the Khedive has played a criminal part, stands entirely alone, and that that view is not shared by any of the Leaders of his own Party, or, indeed, by any Members of this House. I am glad that the noble Lord thinks somebody else criminal besides Her Majesty's Government; and I am only sorry that 953 he selects an unfortunate Foreign Prince as the object of his attack. Now, the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Leader of the Opposition would, I am sure, be the first to repudiate these charges against the Khedive, in the selection of whom he took so large a part. The right hon. Gentleman has often strongly supported the character and position of the Khedive. The right hon. Gentleman asked on one memorable occasion—What are you to take as the voice of the people of Egypt? Are you to take the voice of the first adventurer who raises a military power in order to overawe the voice of the country, or would you rather not listen to the words of sense and prudence of those who are responsible for the administration of that country?That speech was made on the same day as that on which Lord Salisbury demanded the removal of a military adventurer from supreme power in Egypt. I think the noble Lord stands quite alone in supposing that the Khedive organized the massacre at Alexandria, or that he played a criminal part with regard to General Hicks. The Leader of his Party in this House said, on the contrary, that the Khedive had acted with the most perfect good faith throughout; and that, I believe, will be the opinion of Parliament and the country. The Leader of the Opposition, and the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope), in his speech from the Front Bench on Tuesday, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) to-night, have said that we ought to have stopped General Hicks's expedition. But let the House remember that at the time at which it is said we should have stopped that expedition of General Hicks, that officer was at the head of a conquering force—a force which, in its most recent engagement, had inflicted on its enemy a loss of 500 men, with a loss of only two of its own number, and which was apparently driving its enemy everywhere before it. What would my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford and the right hon. Gentleman opposite have said of us if at that time we had violently interfered to put back the frontier 500 or 600 miles behind this conquering army, and had withdrawn the army itself against the opinion of every representative military man, and against the unanimous local opinion, and had incurred by doing so the hatred of the whole country 954 against us without exception? Nothing but defeat would have brought acquiescence in the withdrawal of the troops from the Soudan in the minds of the governing people of Egypt. The hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (General Alexander) attacked us, with that great strength of lung with which he is so eminently gifted, in the dead hours of the night which he did so much to waken, for what he called the repudiation of General Hicks. Now, last year we had a very long and careful debate, announced weeks beforehand, about the state of Egypt. That debate took place on the 9th of August last year. At a convenient time before the debate Papers were issued, for we have found from experience that the most convenient time to issue Papers is two or three weeks before a debate. If they are issued earlier hon. Members forget them, and if later the time is too short to enable hon. Members to read them. Well, about three weeks before that debate—on July 24—there was circulated among hon. Members a document bearing on the so-called repudiation of General Hicks. I refer to Egypt No. 13, the telegraphic despatch to Mr. Cartwright No. 57, of the 7th of May. That despatch reads as follows:—I notice that in your despatch of the 10th ultimo you inclose a telegram from General Hicks to Sir E. Malet, on the 'subject of the military operations in the Soudan It is unnecessary for me to repeat that Her Majesty's Government are in no way responsible for the operations in the Soudan, which have been undertaken under the authority of the Egyptian Government, or for the appointment or actions of General Hicks."—[Egypt, No. 13 (1883), p. 65.]That policy may have been a wise, or it may have been an unwise, policy; but that policy of repudiation was before you at the time of that debate. It had been for three weeks in the possession of every Member of the House—there it was, printed at full length, and yet not one syllable was expressed in condemnation of it—though the Soudan was by no means ignored in the debate, and was the subject of comment at considerable length by my hon. Friend who opened the debate, the junior Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), who referred to it with a good deal of prescience, by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Selater-Booth), who followed my hon. 955 Friend, and I think by other Members; but those two Members, at least, spoke at length of the Soudan, but not one word was said in condemnation of that policy which you now take on yourselves unanimously to condemn, and not one word either by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), who is so cross with us to-night. The Leader of the Opposition, in his remarks the other night, made a different charge against us. I understood him to say—be was not very clear on the subject, but I thought he said, and the statement was very distinctly made on his side later—that we are responsible in another way for General Hicks's disaster, because we ought to have sent General Wood's Egyptian Army to his succour. One hon. Member was so enthusiastic that he interrupted the Prime Minister, who mentioned that force with approval, by shouting out—"But you would not use it." With regard to that charge of not sending General Wood's Egyptian Force to relieve General Hicks, let me tell the House what is the position of that gallant and useful force. [A laugh.] Hon. Members opposite laugh at that statement; but, with respect to what an hon. Member said the other night of its character, I assure the House that every military man in authority in Egypt who has come across that force believes in the character of it.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I will tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman why there is some doubt whether it ought to go even to Suakim, and why there is a difficulty. Every man in General Wood's Egyptian Army was enlisted on the faith of a personal promise that he should not be sent to the Soudan. Service in the Soudan is regarded by Egyptian soldiers as so horrible—it is regarded as such certain death—that the only way General Wood found of getting a thoroughly efficient and trustworthy body of volunteers together was to promise, on the word of an English officer, that they should not be sent to the Soudan. General Wood told me last autumn a remarkable story, that while he was absent from Cairo on leave they tried to get some of his non-commissioned officers from him, but that they failed, although they did get four of his buglers away to join General 956 Hicks's Army. When Sir Evelyn Wood returned to Cairo he was justly angered at what had been done in carrying off these four men, and he insisted that at any cost they should be brought back to him. He said it was a violation of his distinct personal promise that they should not be sent to the Soudan. The end of the story is characteristic, and throws light on the condition of affairs in the Soudan. One man, after a great deal of trouble and expense, was brought back, and General Wood believed that the three others had been purposely kept behind; but he found that this man represented the four, the other three having bolted to their homes and made good their escape. I think the fact that men could only be obtained in such a way for General Hicks's Army throws a strong light on the wisdom of the Egyptian Government in resolving to retain possession and control of the Soudan. It has been said by one right hon. Gentleman opposite that in recommending the abandonment by the Egyptian Forces of the Soudan we have exposed ourselves to international difficulties, because we have recommended the abandonment of the subjects of other Powers. Hon. Members opposite, and hon. Gentlemen who ought to know better, are very fond of believing rumours which they see in the newspapers from all parts of Egypt. We know of no European subjects of other Powers in the Soudan.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The Greeks in the Soudan are not European Greeks from the Kingdom of Greece; they are the local Greeks, who have been there for generations. There are a great many of them in the Soudan, and it is extremely doubtful whether they wish to leave it, and whether they would rather not remain. General Gordon's opinion is that they do not wish to leave. We know, of course, of a brave man—Lufti Bey—who has for years been waging incessant wars in the equatorial regions against neighbouring tribes who are not connected with the Mahdi, and of Colonel Coetlogon, and another gentleman, in Khartoum, and these gentlemen are the only three Europeans of whom we know anything in the whole of this enormous tract of country. But we have not abandoned these gentlemen. On the contrary, we are going to bring 957 them out, if they want to come. The interior of the Soudan is a possession which it is admitted now on both sides of the House has always been a source of danger and a drain upon Egypt; and to the Soudan itself the Egyptian administration has always been a curse. Egypt is unable to reconquer that country. The Khedive himself agrees in that view. I am certain of it, from the evidence of gentlemen who are personally not very friendly to the Khedive. I believe that General Gordon himself has avowed that that is undoubtedly the fact, and we have selected General Gordon to carry out our views with regard to the evacuation of the Soudan, which, in spite of the assertions made in this House and out of it, are his views as well as our own. The Opposition have stated that we have shown great vacillation with regard to the employment of General Gordon; and I will ask the attention of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock to this matter. He spoke of our vacillation in regard to the employment of General Gordon. One right hon. Gentleman who spoke before the noble Lord in this debate said that we had actually accepted the resignation of his commission. That statement is not true. The noble Lord only asked questions in the first part of his speech. He said he wanted to know more about General Gordon's appointment. He then went on to tell us a most extraordinary story. I will quote his words from the only verbatim report I have seen of his speech. He said—General Gordon, in the summer of last year, offered Her Majesty's Government to accept service in the Soudan. The Government telegraphed to him—'The Government decide to accept your offer; wait letter.' General Gordon waited for the letter, and in the letter found the words—'The Government decline your services.'Then the noble Lord asked us—Is there no vacillation, no inconsistency there?And he added—That is a statement which I believe General Gordon is prepared to vouch for.Now, before I go into a detailed examination of this extraordinary story, I will answer the noble Lord's request for further information with regard to the employment of General Gordon. We have stated previously every fact with regard to it which we could collect by inquiry 958 among ourselves—that is to say, not only the acts of the Government collectively in the matter, but the acts of individual Members of the Government who have seen General Gordon. There is only one further fact which I have to add. It is that shortly after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, Lord Granville saw and consulted with General Gordon, especially as to the Slave Trade in the Soudan, upon which he is so high an authority. General Gordon at that time gave us most valuable advice, which we took and acted upon. That is the only additional fact I can give the noble Lord as to General Gordon's employment. But now with regard to this extraordinary story which the noble Lord told the House. He has, no doubt, a great many social friends, and, like many popular Members of this House, he has the very unhappy habit of telling all the good stories he hears from them in the House of Commons. It is a very unfortunate habit. When he told this story the other night we knew it was not true, and that he must have been misled and deceived with regard to it; but we did not know what could be the foundation upon which the noble Lord had spoken. I will now tell the House the real story.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have seen the original letter and the telegram which the noble Lord thought he quoted the other day. I have seen the originals.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
They are military telegrams; but I see no reason why they should not be laid upon the Table. No doubt the noble Lord will ask for them. The real story is this—and, no doubt, the noble Lord will appreciate it as a good story, not only against Her Majesty's Government, but against the Turkish telegraphs. What are the real facts? In October of last year General Gordon telegraphed from Jerusalem, where he was then living, to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief for leave to accept service—where? Not in the Soudan, which was the word which the noble Lord, unfortunately for himself, quoted in the story—but on the Congo—under the King of 959 the Belgians. His Royal Highness replied by telegram—" Secretary of State declines to sanction your employment." That was the telegram in reply; but in transmission—and this is the good part of the story which the noble Lord has got hold of—the Turkish telegraphist altered the word "declines" to "decides," and the telegram reached General Gordon in a sense absolutely the reverse, and altogether contrary to the sense in which it was sent. Hence the contradiction with the confirming letter, which, of course, was exactly contrary to the words of the telegram. That is the whole story, and I do not think the noble Lord will move for the Papers now. I can only echo the words of a much greater authority than myself, and a much older Member, and ask the noble Lord to be a little more careful in his facts. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) told us another of these singular stories which have been going about with regard to General Gordon's Mission. He quoted what purported to be the words of General Gordon against announcing the policy of the evacuation of the Soudan. As a matter of fact, I can, on the contrary, inform the House that General Gordon wished that the decision to evacuate the Soudan should be proclaimed everywhere, and proclaimed as loudly as possible; and, as hon. Members will see from the Papers which have this day been circulated, General Gordon strengthened the instructions to himself in that sense. Another story was that which was alluded to by the Prime Minister, and which related to the £40,000. I can inform the House that beyond Assouan, where he was as safe as he would have been if taking a railway journey in this country—where the country is perfectly tranquil and properly governed by police, and as safe as any part of Egypt Proper—General Gordon had no large sum in his possession, and there was no large sum with the party which immediately preceded and followed him. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock repeated a story about the wrong man having been sent to the Sultan of Darfour.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord is gathering caution as he 960 proceeds. No doubt he asked a question; but questions often convey impressions that they are asked from a reliance on their truth, and this question certainly gave a sort of impression that the noble Lord believed in the truth of the story that the wrong man had been sent to the Sultan of Darfour. Now, General Gordon knows Darfour, and he knows Cairo. He knew who was the best man to select, and I really feel that we must trust to General Gordon's judgment even against that of the noble Lord.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord cannot expect General Gordon to tell us that he selected the wrong man. General Gordon himself selected the persons who were to accompany him, and I cannot conceive that any man who knows the Soudan as well as General Gordon could select the wrong man.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I hear the hon. Member for Eye say "The Egyptian Government," as if General Gordon had been deceived by them. General Gordon has been Governor General of the Soudan—the most successful Governor General that ever ruled that country—and he is not a man to be deceived by the Egyptian Government; and he is likely to know better even than the hon. Member for Eye. Before I leave the Mission of General Gordon, let me assure the House that we have now every reason, as we have had strong reason all through, to believe that General Gordon's Mission will be an absolute and triumphant success. We have received this evening from Sir Evelyn Baring a telegram which left Cairo at a quarter to 6 o'clock to-night. He says—Following from Gordon—' Telegraph between Khartoum and Shandy repaired. Am leaving for Khartoum. Believe you need give yourselves no further anxiety about this part of the Soudan. People, great and small, are heartily glad to be free from union which only caused them sorrow.I now come to that part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) in which he spoke of the relief which he desired might have been sent to the garrison at Sinkat, and to the question of the relief 961 of Tokar. The right hon. Gentleman hardly alluded to the possibility of any chance of success for the relief expedition of General Baker. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that General Baker would have told us, and would have told the authorities at Cairo, what he thought as to the chances of success? General Baker throughout expressed the gravest doubt as to the possibility of the force under his command reaching Berber, or of opening the road from Suakim to Berber; but he never expressed a doubt with regard to the relief of the garrisons at Sinkat and Tokar. On the very day on which he started he informed the Government at Cairo that he was marching with every "chance of success"—those were his own words. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) the other night attacked us for our waste of time, after the 5th. It was on the 5th itself that we acted. The moment we had heard of the defeat we stopped the Orontes, which was on its way home with troops, and telegraphed to Aden to stop the Jumna, which was due on the 12th; we sent a force from Malta to Suakim; and immediately sent to Admiral Hewett the whole force for which he asked. And this is now the one point of blame to which the Opposition are narrowing the whole of this great Vote of Censure. We thought we should not be justified in making an attack ourselves, or in reducing our Forces in Egypt Proper, until we had a reply from General Gordon to the message we immediately addressed to him. We received a full reply only on the 12th; but on the 11th we were in possession of partial information as to General Gordon's views, and on that partial information we immediately acted. The facts on which we acted are contained in the Papers now before the House. We knew it was too late to make it possible to relieve the garrison of Sinkat. No despatch of forces would have rendered it possible to relieve Sinkat. A right hon. Gentleman opposite has asked why not have despatched a force a week earlier from Cairo; but no despatch of troops from Cairo would have saved Sinkat.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The hon. and learned Member for West Staffordshire asks "why not?" but I repeat distinctly that no despatch of 962 forces from Cairo would have saved Sinkat. The time made it absolutely impossible, and Sinkat held out much longer than there was any reason to suppose it would from the Papers in our possession.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
If we had acted on the 5th it would not have been any more possible to have relieved Sinkat. Then there is the question of the relief of Tokar. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) expressed grave doubts whether we shall be able to relieve Tokar, and whether we shall be in time.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I was under the impression that he bad expressed a doubt. We shall have a large force at Suakim on the 19th, the Jumna will be there to-morrow, the Orontes on the 17th, and a force from Cairo on the 19th; and we have every reason to believe we shall succeed in the operation of relieving Tokar. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) on Tuesday, and other hon. Members to-night, have ridiculed the notion that it was necessary for us to ask General Gordon's advice. I have shown that if we had not asked General Gordon's advice it would have made no difference to the military situation. The noble Lord assumes that it would, and he ridicules our asking for it. Let the House remember the nature of General Gordon's mission. General Gordon's mission was not only at the wish of the Government, but at his own wish, and it can only be accomplished in his own way—his only chance of success was in a perfectly pacific mission. General Gordon pointed out to us the idea before he left, and he is now carrying that idea into successful execution—the idea of assembling all the leading men of the Soudan, and ascertaining their views about the government of their country. He goes to the men of the Soudan as their friend, and he, in a great measure, shares their views. He is receiving their suggestions for the future government of the country, and he has their sympathy and confidence. It is a grave question whether even at Suakim 963 —even at that distance from General Gordon and the Nile—an attack upon any of the tribes, even in a mission of relief, might not be supposed to be other than a mission of relief, and might not have been fatal to the success of General Gordon's mission. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock asked my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on Tuesday night what was the distance from Berber to Suakim, as though the distance was so great that the two matters could have no connection with each other. The connection is sufficiently close for General Gordon to have sent messages to Khartoum to the various Chiefs to join him at Suakim. That shows how close the connection is. I have stated to the House the reason why it was necessary for us to consult General Gordon. I have told the House that we were in partial possession of General Gordon's views on the 11th at night, and that we acted on the 12th. It has been stated in the Press—and this is another curious story with regard to General Gordon's mission—that General Gordon answered our inquiries by saying that if we would mind our business he would mind his. I need hardly assure the House that there is no truth in that statement. He treated the matter as most serious, and one upon which he hoped he might give us a clear opinion.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I do not think it is desirable to state the terms of General Gordon's replies. I do not know what position my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State may take; but I myself would not produce the telegrams of General Gordon. I should think it undesirable, and I do not hesitate to give that opinion. I believe the House generally will not concur in the view put forward by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) that we wasted a day in telegraphing instead of acting. I have shown what view we took, and how we acted; I have shown we did not waste an hour nor a second; but that the minute we knew of that defeat we took action. But, Sir, I think we did right in consulting General Gordon. I believe we should have been criminal in the highest degree if we had acted without consulting General Gordon. And now let me say a few words about the 964 point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), as to our general responsibilities in Egypt. We are doing in Egypt more than we undertook to do. We are acknowledging our responsibilities in a higher degree, and I will state in what degree. We always stated that we should maintain order in Egypt Proper. We are doing more than that. We are maintaining order on the Somali Coast of the Red Sea. That is a large addition to our responsibilities; but I believe that it is an addition which the House and the country will think it right we should make. There is another reason for that view. I do not speak of the argument as to the security of our route to India; but I do speak on the question referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford of the Slave Trade. Indeed, I might say the Slave Trade was very greatly in our view in the acceptance of this responsibility, and I do not believe that this country will ever complain of their rulers accepting large responsibility where the Slave Trade is concerned. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock said the other night that we had reversed the past policy of this country with regard to the Slave Trade.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I said the original object of the conquest of the Soudan was to put down the Slave Trade.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The original object of the conquest of the Soudan had wholly and entirely failed. The Slave Trade had not been suppressed by the conquest of the Soudan. That is the opinion of all who know the Soudan, and it is the opinion of General Gordon. I daresay the noble Lord has read the admirable Report of Colonel Stewart. He shows not only the oppression of the Natives, the over-taxation of the Soudan, and the constantly-increasing deficit; but he shows, also, the increase of the Slave Trade. The House knows General Gordon. They know his views, and they know his character; and I would ask the House whether they think General Gordon would have undertaken his present mission if he had not been convinced that, on the whole, the direction of his present mission would be towards the suppression of the Slave Trade? General Gordon has not changed his opinion on that point. 965 He said, as long ago as 1877, writing to his sister—I now hold the Khedive's place here, and I, who am on the spot with unlimited power, am able to judge how impotent he at Cairo is to stop the Slave Trade.And again—When you have got the ink which is sucked up with blotting-paper out of it, then slavery will have ceased in these lands.The other night a right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite, with extraordinary inconsistency, attacked us for having weakened General Baker's hands by stopping the employment of Zebehr Pasha, a most notorious Slave Trade advocate. Does the noble Lord mean that we ought to have allowed Zebehr Pasha to proceed?
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
We interfered to stop Zebehr Pasha. General Gordon has been, by his own wish, especially instructed by us upon this question of slavery in the Soudan. His opinion on this subject is one which has been expressed by those who best understand the question of the Slave Trade, and that is that the Slave Trade is a question of market. You cannot put down the Slave Trade in the Soudan; you can only succeed in diverting it from one route to another; and the only way to stop the Slave Trade is to stop it at the out-ports, and to put an end to the market. Well, this matter, then, is not affected by the withdrawal of troops from the interior; and we are not only relaxing our efforts on the coast of the Red Sea, but we are, by our present measures, enormously increasing our power of suppressing the Slave Trade by the measures we have taken. We have a stronger British hold on the coast of the Red Sea than we ever had before, and there is less probability that slaves will be run. Our responsibilities, which I admit were great before, are being enlarged in this matter. We do not deny them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford seemed to think that we intended to deny them.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
It is a pretty large responsibility that we have undertaken. We have said from the first that we would defend Egypt Proper, and that responsibility in itself is a very large one. The distance from Alexan- 966 dria to Wady Haifa, for instance, is 887 miles; there is a railroad for 359 miles only, and there are 528 miles of road. There are about 500 miles of road to Assouan. There is a coast line of 2,240 miles, without counting the sinuosities of the coast. Surely that is a pretty large responsibility, and I do not know that we have attempted to evade it. Our engagement is to secure peace and order in Egypt Proper, and peace and order in Egypt have not yet been disturbed The country at this time is as safe as England. Our responsibility on the Coast of the Red Sea and on the Somali coast is mainly to prevent their occupation by a slave-holding Power. The Party opposite offer us no alternative policy. Some of its less responsible Members seem to desire that we should send British troops into the burning Deserts of Central Africa in order to bring away the Egyptian garrisons.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
We have been told that we ought to relieve the garrisons. The view I take of the matter is that no alternative policy has been put before us by hon. Members opposite. I thought some of them had got a principle. I thought the Mansion House meeting was in favour of the retention of the Soudan; but I fail to gather from the speeches of our opponents in this House which of the two policies they really favour—whether Egypt ought to keep or ought to abandon the Soudan. At all events, put before us one principle and one policy. Now, Her Majesty's Government have a principle and a policy, although some persons think them wrong. I began my speech by stating what they were, and I have stated what are the responsibilities we have undertaken.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have stated them as clearly as I can. If the hon. Member for Eye is not satisfied by what I have already said, I will repeat a little. Our policy is to withdraw Egyptian rule where it has been a curse—and to maintain, strengthen, and improve Egyptian rule where it means national government, where it has any life, or where, as on the coast of the Red Sea, it may be used by ourselves or other European nations for promoting freedom and preventing sla- 967 very. At the three main points whore decisions on these principles have to be made, we are served by three of the ablest men who ever belonged to this country—Sir Evelyn Baring at Cairo, Sir William Hewett at Suakim, and General Gordon on the Nile. Few countries can boast of such men—men of immense courage and the highest possible sense of duty. We ask for, and we follow, the advice of those men. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope), the other night, quoted the Prime Minister's speech, where he asked if we had, or had not, sent the best men. The hon. Member replied, yes; we had sent the best men to Egypt; but with what instructions, and with what support? I reply, that General Gordon drafted his own instructions. We knew the main lines of his policy; we knew that they were in accordance with our own views; we knew that he favoured the withdrawal of the Egyptian Forces from the Soudan; and, believing him to be the highest authority, that he knew more of the condition of things, and that he was better able to form a judgment on the subject than anybody else, we asked him to draft his own instructions. We showed that he had the highest confidence that could be placed in any man. General Gordon has had all the support for which he asked. He will have, I make no doubt, any support which he can need in the prosecution of his mission. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock has said that it was true we had sent the best men to Egypt, but we had not followed their advice. I say that we have implicitly followed the advice we have received from General Gordon. Almost in the same sentence as that in which the noble Lord said we had not followed General Gordon's advice, he ridiculed and blamed us for consulting General Gordon before we took military action at Suakim. We have been told by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) that we attempt to evade our responsibilities in these matters. I declare, on the other hand, that we do not evade them, but that we admit them, and ourselves state them to the House. We may have conceived a wrong policy, and, if so, it is your duty to censure us for that wrong policy. But it is a policy which has been frequently and fully declared to the House; and I maintain that we 968 have rather gone beyond, than fallen short of, the true conception of our responsibilities.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) and the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Cartwright) have certainly made the most singular speeches, and given the most peculiar reasons, for the votes they are about to give, that probably the House has ever heard. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the House of Lords have expressed a decided opinion on the question now before us, and during the whole course of his speech he fully explained, and gave all his reasons, why he entirely agreed with the view of the House of Lords; but he said that, while he concurred with the House of Lords, he still had good hopes in regard to the conduct of the Government in future, although, perhaps, hope may only tell a flattering tale.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
The right hon. Gentleman strongly objected to their past action; but expressed a hope that, for the future, it would be satisfactory. But for the hope the right hon. Gentleman expressed, I agree in almost every word that fell from him. In fact, so strong was the language used by the right hon. Gentleman, that the President of the Local Government Board, who has just sat down, said it was the strongest indictment against the Government which had yet been made. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to what he called the powerful speech of the Prime Minister the other night. It struck me that that speech was remarkable for its eloquence and its marvellous ingenuity, and it was full of all the arts of debate. But when persons came to read it over the next day they came to a different conclusion. At the time that speech was being delivered, the ears of all within this House were eagerly strained, and every heart was beating with anxiety to learn what steps the Government were taking to rescue the garrisons that were in such deadly peril; and every eye was watching that one solitary figure of General Gordon as he rode across the desert waste, going to see what he could do for the relief of the garrisons. And yet the right hon. Gentleman spoke for an hour and a-half, 969 without even attempting to touch upon the subjects about which all were so anxious to hear. I say that the Prime Minister, in that speech, failed entirely to grasp the situation which at that moment existed, and he disappointed the whole country in the way in which he trifled with the matter. ["Oh!"] Yes; I say it was trifling with the country, and when every person in this House, or out of it, was straining his ears to hear what the right hon. Gentleman had to say in regard to the relief of these garrisons, and what the Government were going to do to accomplish that object and release those who were in such vital danger—at that moment the right hon. Gentleman chose to speak for at least an hour and a-half without touching the point upon which everyone was so anxious to hear him. More than that, the right hon. Gentleman tried in every possible way to trail a red herring across our path, and to draw us away from the real point at issue. The Prime Minister taxed the right hon. Gentleman near me with having delivered a speech which was at variance with his Motion; he said that the Motion talked about vacillation and inconsistency, whereas the speech simply talked about a wrong policy. If the Prime Minister wishes to add to the Motion the words "that the policy of the Government, for the most part, was wrong and weak," I do not suppose that a great number of Members on this side of the House will object. But my right hon. Friend did point out what vacillation there had been and what inconsistency. They have been repeated to-night by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) most effectively, and I need not go further into the matter now. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister tried to place the whole blame for what has taken place in Egypt upon what he calls the Dual Control. He said that he had no great objection to the original proposition in 1876 compared with what took place in 1879, and that it was the action of Lord Salisbury which he thought was the most objectionable. Although, of course, he objected to some extent to what took place in 1876, he had nothing like so great an objection to it as to what occurred in 1879, and the right hon. Gentleman quoted, with great effect at the time, the warning which he gave in 1876. Now, I should like to remind 970 the right hon. Gentleman—although it is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board did speak in 1880 upon that matter—that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was silent during the debate. Not one word was said by him as to the action of Lord Dufferin—not one word as to the action of the Dual Control. The Prime Minister stated in a second debate, when he was charged with not having alluded to the matter in the former debate, that his mind was so much occulted at the time with the doings of the Government in other parts of the world that he really had no time to turn his attention to this particular point. Now, the real issue between us is this. Did the Government ever realize to themselves—did they ever let the world or Egypt know—what was their true responsibility after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir? It is because they have failed ever to realize to themselves what their responsibilities really were; it is because they shrunk from taking the undoubted responsibility which attached to them after that battle, that all the evils that have occurred in Egypt have happened. We are asked—" Have you no policy of your own? What would you have done more than we did?" Well, this is a very fair question to ask; but to it I would answer that we, at all events, would recognize the full measure of that responsibility which, by our action, we had taken upon ourselves. It is by your action that you have become the conquerors and masters of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had said, in very forcible language, that there was no other Ruler in Egypt but yourselves, and no other Minister in Egypt but your Agents and Representatives. During all this time and trouble Her Majesty's Government has been acting, to a great extent, as if the real practical government of Egypt rested with them, their Under Secretaries, and officials; but when any blame had to be thrown they invariably cast it upon the Egyptians, whereas they were themselves practically at fault. No policy? I say that our policy is that we should act up to the measure of our responsibilities. But the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said he is prepared now to defend the shores of the Red Sea, and to defend 971 Egypt Proper against all comers. Yes; but that is a responsibility forced upon you by circumstances which have happened since. During all those terrible times in the last 12 months you have shrunk from your responsibilities—you have never avowed them to yourselves, and you have never explained them to others. No one wants to annex Egypt, or to enlarge the boundaries of this great Empire, for enlargement of its boundaries does not strengthen an Empire. Beyond that, Sir, what we ought to proclaim is what our responsibilities now are—the responsibilities which you have put upon the country. What are those responsibilities? I have no difficulty in giving an answer to that question. I have no hesitation in saying that in this great national crisis in Egypt circumstances have made us clearly masters of the situation. There is no Government in Egypt but our own, and the sooner that fact is recognized the better. The only Government now which. I believe will be satisfactory, so far as the government of the country is concerned, is one which will openly and avowedly recognize that fact; but they must take up the responsibility which that avowal entails, both as to the external and internal affairs of Egypt; and they must throw aside for the present this idea of withdrawing the British troops—for they cannot withdraw them for a long time to come—as well as their present notions about reforms which have not yet been established. The right hon. Gentleman has tried to persuade us to-night that the reforms have been going on so well; but when we look into the state of the case, we find that nothing can be further from the fact than the statement of the right hon. Gentleman; because we have it clearly shown in the Blue Books that those reforms are still in their infancy. Now, Sir, let us throw away the flimsy veil about this Anglo-Egyptian Dual Control; let us take such steps as time and circumstance may show to be necessary in order to govern Egypt as it ought to be governed, and not with the object of our own selfish interests; because we all know that we shall be glad to see their Government restored to the Egyptians the moment it can be safely and properly done. Only let this be known—that meanwhile we are the governors of Egypt, and that we mean to rule, and I believe that no one will have 972 more benefit from it than the Egyptians themselves, and that no one will be more grateful; at the same time, I feel that when the responsibilities you have cast upon yourselves with regard to Egypt are known and appreciated the battle will be soon won, and in half the time that has been spent in pursuing your present policy Egypt will be restored to her own rule. The right hon. Gentleman says we have had no indecision and no vacillation. Why, it was your vacillation and inconsistency, so far as the Soudan was concerned, which has brought about the present state of affairs. You, first of all, gave advice as to the abandonment of the Soudan, which was not followed. You then, when pressure came, refused to give advice. Again, when the pressure became still stronger you were forced to give advice, and when your advice was not taken you compelled the Egyptian Government to accept it. Do you call that a consistent policy? No one can get up sympathy for, and I know that few people will have any sympathy with, the Egyptian rule in the Soudan. The administration there had been almost uniformly unfortunate, and even judged by an Oriental standard there is no doubt that the Government of the Soudan was extremely bad. No one could, therefore, desire that any effort should be made to force upon the Soudan the Egyptian rule, which had so utterly failed. There is no doubt that this question of the Soudan was a question of vital importance to Egypt. The policy laid down by the right hon. Gentleman is that he would only have interfered in Egypt in matters of vital importance; and I ask whether there can be any matter of more vital importance to that country than the government of the Soudan? Lord Dufferin had pointed out the dangers that would arise from misgovernment of the Soudan, and he likewise pointed out what would be the results of good government there—that the Revenue might be increased, and that other advantages would accrue. The expenses of maintenance were enormous. It was clear that the withdrawal from the Soudan would be a heavy blow to the Khedive, whose authority was very much concerned in the action of the English Government; it was clear that if the country were handed over at the time it would bring great danger to the frontiers of Egypt; 973 and it was clear that there was great difficulty in Egypt as to the governing and meeting the expenses of government in the Soudan. How was it, then, that Her Majesty's Government could make up their minds to say that the Soudan was nothing to them; how could they possibly shut their eyes to these facts? Do you think it any answer to say that your attention was occupied entirely by events that were taking place in the heart of the country—that it was impossible to think of what was going on beyond its frontiers? I say it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to shut their eyes to what was occurring in the Soudan. Everyday of delay made the danger more imminent; every shilling spent by the Khedive's Government made the financial position more difficult; and every soldier taken away from him made the presence of English soldiery at Cairo more compulsory. It was then, I say, and not now, that the Government ought to have considered the question of the Soudan. Well, Sir, Her Majesty's Government say they have always placed their best men in Egypt and taken their advice. But it is not so, and it would have been more fortunate for this country if they had. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded very properly to that excellent Report of Colonel Stewart with respect to the Soudan, and to the Report of Lord Dufferin. And what was their advice? They said that, in their opinion, it would be wise to give up the Western part of the Soudan, which had been conquered, and to confine the dominion of Egypt in the Soudan to the Eastern portion. The Prime Minister laid it down that those who gave advice were responsible for carrying out that advice. Her Majesty's Ministers gave advice to the Egyptian Government, and they ought to be responsible for seeing that the advice was carried out. You had it in your despatches that General Hicks had gone forward to reconquer the country around Sennaar—that he had accomplished all that Lord Dufferin wished to be done; and then there was the despatch sent not by Lord Dufferin, but by someone on his behalf, stating that—General Hicks had fortunately completed his work before the rainy season.That was the very policy you had ad- 974 vised. The rainy season was over; General Hicks was collecting his Army to make an excursion into the Western part of the Soudan, but there were difficulties in the way. Sir Evelyn Baring did not seem perfectly happy about it, and a telegram, dated the 5th of June, came from him to this effect—Your Lordship is aware that it is impossible for the Egyptian Government to supply arms for the Soudan, and the operations are in considerable danger unless conducted on a large scale, and unless the Army is well supplied in every respect.Under these circumstances, the question arises as to whetherGeneral Hicks should be instructed to con-fine himself to the purpose of maintaining the supremacy of the Khedive between the Blue and the White Nile.Why, that was the policy of Lord Dufferin which you pressed on the Egyptian Government. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; but it is, nevertheless, a fact. You did press that policy on the Egyptian Government, and you made yourself in consequence responsible for Lord Dufferin's advice. Now, this question was asked you distinctly—"Will you give this advice or not?" and the answer was—"Her Majesty's Government will give no advice; they are not responsible, and will not assist you in any way; take your own course." Sir, the fact is, they were afraid of the responsibility they had incurred; they dare not acknowledge their responsibility either to Egypt or to the world. There was their vacillation and inconsistency, and it is from that inconsistency that half the evils have come upon Egypt, which have brought about these disasters. That, I say, was the turning point of the Government policy. Well, Sir, with the knowledge of all the disturbance in the Soudan, and of all the difficulty as to the movement of General Hicks, Her Majesty's Government were at the time pressing forward the withdrawal of British troops from Egypt. It is all very well to say that there is a telegram from the Khedive, or his Prime Minister, asking whether the troops might be withdrawn. We all know the story of that telegram; it came from Downing Street, and it was on the 9th of November, at the Guildhall dinner, that the Prime Minister announced that the troops were to be withdrawn, and the announcement, I believe, 975 was received with more solemn and significant silence on the part of those present than any statement ever made by a Prime Minister in that room; it created, indeed, a considerable amount of consternation. Meanwhile events move rapidly. There was the disturbance in the Eastern Soudan; there was the defeat at Sinkat, and the massacre of men and women there on the 18th of October; and on the 19th of November there was the defeat of Colonel Moncrieff near Tokar; Suakim was attacked, and a great battle ensued; and on the 22nd of November they heard that General Hicks and his Army were annihilated. It is no wonder, therefore, that the Government withdrew the order for the withdrawal of the British troops. There can be no doubt why that order was given. It was given in order that when Parliament met the Government might be able to say that the British troops had been withdrawn; it was given for Parliamentary reasons. But now General Hicks's Army is destroyed; and what is the telegram that Her Majesty's Government sent to Egypt? They asked—" Does that event involve any danger to Egypt Proper? "Do you not think that subject might have been considered before? They had received distressing telegrams from General Hicks; they had told him they could give no advice and no assistance; they knew he was in great straits, and very likely to be cut off; but they had not thought for a moment what would happen if he were destroyed. They had taken no precautions; they had nothing to fall back upon; and the very first question to their Egyptian Agent is—" Will the defeat make any difference to the defence of Egypt Proper? "Why, of course it would. One would think that anyone but a mere child would have considered what would have to be done in the event of defeat, and that anyone but a child would have taken precautions to have measures in readiness before that defeat occurred. Then comes the question—" Will the Government give advice? "Well, they do give advice, and they recommend the abandonment of the Soudan up to the Second Cataract, although they were told by Sir Evelyn Baring that if that course were pursued it would give a great impulse to the Slave Trade. According to the principle laid down by the Prime Minister, from the moment 976 you give advice your responsibility begins. That was the only reason why the Prime Minister said he could not give advice before; and when he did give this advice to the Egyptian Government he assumed a responsibility which no accident can shake off. From that moment it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to see that the safety of the garrisons was provided for. They had been warned in despatches sent after consultation between General Stephenson, Sir Evelyn Wood, General Baker, and other military authorities, that if there was to be a withdrawal from the Soudan it should take place only after the withdrawal of the garrisons; they were warned that they should allow those garrisons gradually to be brought in; but they neglected the warning, and took no steps of the kind. On the 12th of December the Khedive and his Ministers held a solemn Council, and placed-themselves absolutely in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. They were in your hands before, no doubt; but that is only a partial statement of the case. Well, the Egyptian Government did not quite like following out your suggestion, and they hesitated to do so; but on the 4th of January you insisted that they should follow your advice; and, surely, from that point your responsibility begins. But did you take action of any sort or description for the safety of the garrisons? Do not say you were taken by surprise; that you did not know they were in danger; because you were warned on the 18th of November, and again on the 26th of November, that there was great fear for their safety. You had heard on the 20th of December that there was no news from Tokar, and that it might fall at any time. What is the use of the Prime Minister saying there was no time to assist these garrisons? Time! You had heard all about them. Time! You had been warned over and over again from the 21st of December. The Prime Minister said he would only act, or take responsibility by acting, in Egypt beyond what he called a point of sufficiency. Point of sufficiency! How far would these garrisons) go before the point of sufficiency was reached? Was it not enough that Hicks's Army had been sacrificed? Was Sinkat also to be sacrificed before the point of sufficiency had been arrived at? 977 If that was a point of sufficiency, it was a vanishing point. The Government cannot shake off responsibility; but I believe not only this country, but all the world, will lay the blood of everyone massacred at Sinkat on their heads. You say you had Baker. Baker, no doubt, was sent out with your assent, and no doubt he was allowed to take certain persons with him; but those persons were enlisted not as troops, but specially as civilians and police—persons who were not to go on foreign service or to the Soudan—persons who were enlisted on the clear understanding that they were not to leave Egypt Proper, and who so detested the service on which they were going that, if stories are true of the force that went with Baker Pasha to the relief of Sinkat, 200 got out of the railway carriages rather than go forward on the expedition. That was your force. You cannot shake off this responsibility. How easy it would have been for you at that time to send out troops. Troops! What would have been the effect of troops? If accounts are true, now that orders have been given for troops to go to Tokar, the effect is that the Arabs are scattering all over the plain; and if it had once been known that the English Government were going to interfere for the protection of these garrisons, you may depend upon it that Sinkat would have been saved. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) says he has confidence in you, because you are now following the advice of General Gordon. General Gordon! No doubt there is not a person in this House who does not place implicit confidence in him; but what had you to do with General Gordon? He was nothing to you while all these matters were going on. You had no policy about Gordon whatever while all this was going on. You never saw him or spoke to him. You never heard of him. If the Papers are true, that is so. I have got the Correspondence about Gordon. Take the first time you said anything about Gordon. It is no policy of yours. On the 1st of December you ask Sir Evelyn Baring—"If Gordon were willing to go to Egypt, would he be of any use? "That was no policy of yours. You had no policy down to the 10th of January, and it was not till later that you give any information as to the prospects of Khartoum. You had no 978 policy as to whether you would relieve Khartoum or not. It is not clear that, until you heard from Sir Evelyn Baring on the 16th of January that the Egyptian Government had applied for British officers to go to Khartoum, you considered whether you would send Gordon. It was not till the 16th of January, long after you knew all about these dangers, that you had any policy of relief except Baker Pasha for these wretched people in Khartoum and other garrisons. I sincerely hope that General Gordon may succeed; but if the policy is to be that stated in the Papers delivered to us today, General Gordon will have to stay there a long time, or his policy will fail. But the risk you ran was a risk which no Government had a right to run. You shifted all the responsibility on to Gordon the moment you got hold of him; but it was putting him in a position of the greatest danger and peril. It was, as you knew, a matter of the greatest doubt whether he would reach Khartoum safely or not; and it was a risk you had no right to put upon him. It may be, as the Prime Minister says, a great triumph of peace over war if Gordon is happy enough to succeed; but it is no thanks to you. You had no policy at all. You had no means at your disposal for carrying out the evacuation of these garrisons; and you had to trust entirely to Gordon and to Providence to do that which you ought to have done. It is the vacillation; it is the inconsistency—now advising, now refusing advice, now advising again, now interfering, and now not interfering, that has laid upon you this vast responsibility; and even now, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford has intimated that he is satisfied, I do not believe the House is satisfied that you realize the full responsibility that rests upon you. You are the Rulers of Egypt, and the Rulers you must remain, whether you will or not; and I say that the people of this country have made up their mind that they will not have any more of this weak tampering with affairs in Egypt. Egypt, so far as you are concerned, is of the greatest importance to us. It is quite necessary in thinking of Egypt to bear in mind that we have the highest interests there; that British interests are the interests of civilization, and of the whole world. You may depend upon it that if you leave Egypt the country 979 will call you to account. Blood and treasure have been wasted; blood shed like water, and treasure scattered over the land. This work has been done, and we will not leave Egypt in order that it may be done again; nor will we leave Egypt in order that it may be done by some other Power. This country will call you to account unless you recognize the full measure of responsibility which the present state of things has cast upon you; and if it casts upon us the practical rule of Egypt we will let the world know, and we will let Egypt know, that we are ruling, and by that means I believe peace and order will the sooner be established. The people who will reap the greatest benefit will be the Egyptian people, and so we shall the sooner be able to restore to them their own Government.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—[Mr. John Morley.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.