§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [FOURTH NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to 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.)
And which Amendment was,
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 be employed for the purpose of interfering with the Egyptian people in the selection of their own Government,"—[Sir Wilfrid Lawson,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, that, after listening carefully to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition, he could not but conclude that his Resolution must have been prepared before he had read the Egyptian Papers, and that it indicated what he expected, and not what he really found there. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) asked why we should have aided Tewfik in Egypt and not in the Soudan? But the cases were altogether dissimilar. Of course, those who considered that the revolt of Arabi was really a national, and not a merely military movement, would disapprove of our having interfered at all. But, rightly or wrongly, Her Majesty's Government believed that in supporting the Khedive's Government against Arabi's demands for an increase in the Army, larger pay, and more promotion, they were acting in the interests of the people of Egypt. The hon. Baronet the Member 1209 for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) read out what he termed the programme of Arabi. No doubt, on paper, it was one with which many hon. Members would heartily sympathize; but Rulers must be judged by their acts rather than by their words, and, looked at from this point of view, Arabi's was a military revolt, and not a national movement. It seemed to him that we were quite justified in supporting the legitimate Government in Egypt. The case of the Soudan was very different. He gave all credit to the Egyptian Government for the best intentions; but, unfortunately, they could not exercise a sufficient control over their officials. Colonel Stewart's Report clearly proved the misgovernment of the Soudan. For instance, he said—I am firmly convinced that the Egyptians are quite unfit in every way to undertake such a task as the government of so vast a country with a view to its welfare, and that, both for their own sake and that of the people they tried to rule, it would he advisable to abandon large portions of it. The fact of their general incompetence to rule is so generally acknowledged that it is unnecessary to discuss the question.One Governor to whom he expressed his dissatisfaction naively excused himself by saying that he only robbed the poor and never interfered with the rich. Colonel Stewart did not appear to accept the limitation, and observed generally that—He thought there could be no doubt that the whole local government was in league to rob and plunder. Nor were the Egyptian officials even loyal to their own employers. General Hicks stated that in his opinion, more than half of the Government employés were partizans of the Mahdi, and that in the event of any reverse, the dangers would begin with the Government officials.If the soldiery were undisciplined and unruly, it was only fair to remember that many—he might say most of them—were in the Soudan entirely against their own will, and that their pay was greatly, in some cases as much as two years, in arrear. The military service in the Soudan was both hateful and deadly to the Egyptian soldiery; and, lastly, the Soudan was a constant drain on the Egyptian Treasury, costing habitually £200,000 a-year, while last year it would amount at least to £600,000. General Gordon's view on the subject was stated in the Memorandum—I must say it would be an iniquity to reconquer these people and then hand them back to the Egyptians without guarantees of future 1210 good government. It is evident that this we cannot secure them without an inordinate expenditure of men and money.And, he added—Indeed, one may say it would be impracticable at any cost.It was, then, quite clear that neither in the interests of the Soudanese nor of the Egyptians should we have been justified in assisting to reconquer the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) went further, and maintained that Her Majesty's Government ought to have interfered to prevent the Egyptian Government from attempting to put down the revolt of the Mahdi. He said that after Tel-el-Kebir we had the power—we had also the responsibility. But had we the right? No doubt we had the force which would have enabled us to insist on the abandonment of the Soudan, but we had not the moral right to do so. The Government of the Khedive at that time was strongly in favour of retaining the Soudan, and we should have been acting in opposition to Cherif Pasha, whose opinion was entitled to great weight, the Khedive, and, in fact, to the opinion of every man of any authority at that time, in insisting on its evacuation. Such, then, being the views of the Egyptian Government, supported as they were by other high authorities, he could not think that Her Majesty's Government would have been justified in using their power to compel Egypt to abandon her great dependency. They would have been severely and justly blamed if they had taken such a course. The right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) had expressly told them that he did not advocate the mission of English troops to the Soudan; nor did he maintain that we ought to have insisted, on its being abandoned; but if we were not prepared to adopt either of these courses, it would have been useless and undignified to tender advice. But then it was said, why should we interfere now? Well, the whole circumstances had so greatly altered that the Egyptian Government themselves were now in favour of retiring from the Soudan. They were informed, in Sir Evelyn Baring's despatch of the 8th of January—The Khedive now accepts cordially the policy of the abandonment of the whole of the 1211 Soudan, which he believes, on mature reflection, to he the beat in the interests of the country.Nubar Pasha, the present Prime Minister, entirely concurred in the wisdom of that course. Nay, Cherif himself had greatly modified his views; in his communication of the 2nd of January last, he said that his Government found itself compelled to apply, either to us or to the Porte, for a contingent of 10,000 men to be sent to Suakim. And if that was not done at once he and his Colleagues had determined to retire from the shores of the Bed Sea and the Eastern Soudan. The right hon Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had told them that recent events had lowered the prestige of England. What evidence was there of that? He himself believed the prestige of England in the Soudan never stood higher. The right hon. Baronet told them that General Gordon's mission was—To tame this fanatical Mahdi and all his savage followers, who have just conquered two Egyptian Armies; … to withdraw 27,000 men from the Mahdi and his followers—their greatest enemies in the world—in peace and safety.… He is to do all this by his own personal influence.Well, that certainly sounded almost a hopeless mission; yet General Gordon had been received by the tribes with enthusiasm, and he himself had telegraphed—"Have no further anxiety about this part of the Soudan." It would be difficult to have stronger evidence of British prestige. Perhaps it would be said that, as regarded the latter case, that was not the prestige of England, but of a great Englishman. But the prestige of England abroad was due to the individual character of our countrymen. It was impossible not still to feel much anxiety for General Gordon himself, but he believed that danger was greater from treachery behind than from any open foe in front. His hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), in his interesting speech, said he only consented to go into Egypt because he expected we should have to come out again. That seemed a very extraordinary argument. One could understand those who, like the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, said we ought never to have gone at all; but if we were right to go, if we were wise in spending several millions of money and 1212 sacrificing many valuable lives, it would be folly to leave the country once more a prey to the same dangers. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle spoke of leaving the Egyptians to work out their own political salvation. But Egypt, was no new country. For 6,000 years it had been mainly ruled by foreigners, Arabs and Ethiopians, Persians and Assyrians, Greeks and Romans, Turks and Circassians. Then they had heard something of leaving the Egyptians to "stew in their own juice." But if we were to leave Egypt now, that was not what would happen. Egypt for the Egyptians even now would mean Egypt for the Turk, the Arab, and the Greek. The country would be only too likely to relapse once more into anarchy until some European Power—Franco, or perhaps we ourselves—once more intervened. He was sorry to hear the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle endorse the saying of the last Khedive, that Tewfik had neither head, nor heart, nor courage; the hon. Baronet did not hesitate to characterize him as "the most contemptible Potentate living," and yet he asked them to leave the destinies of Egypt in his hands. It seemed to him that Tewfik had shown great courage and prudence; but if he was so feeble and contemptible, to leave Egypt now would be to hand it over to some new military adventurer or some Foreign Power. Again, they had heard a good deal during that debate with reference to the finances of Egypt, which several speakers had painted in very gloomy figures. The right hon. Member for Bradford spoke of Egypt as bankrupt. He did not, however, refer to figures; and the figures did not seem to bear out that contention. The total Revenue for 1883, according to the figures contained in the Blue Book just issued, was put at £8,800,000, and the Expenditure at £8,600,000, showing a surplus of £200,000. Of course, under the circumstances, those figures would not be realized, though they might take them as representing the normal condition. But it was quite true that under the Law of Liquidation, out of that amount, £4,400,000 was set aside for the interest and redemption of Debt, leaving only £4,400,000 for the civil and military government of the country, which, however, was just about the usual cost. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary 1213 for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) told them that the deficiency for civil and military expenditure this year would be £500,000, while the surplus on the Revenue assigned for the Debt was £250,000, so that the net deficit was only £250,000. But the hon. Gentleman told them, on the one hand, that great economies were being effected; the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) pointed to one item where in Cairo alone there would be a saving of £30,000 a-year; and, on the other hand, by better administration, and especially by a juster and more equable irrigation, the produce of the country would, in his own words, be "immensely increased." The drain to the Soudan would now cease, and various exemptions would be abolished. Another large increase of Revenue would be derived by the sale of the Daira domains, which comprised over 400,000 acres of the best land in Egypt, which at present contributed scarcely anything to the National Revenue. No doubt it was unfortunately true that the fellaheen were far from being in a satisfactory condition, but that was due not so much to the national taxation as to the misgovernment and injustice which had hitherto prevailed, and to the enormous rates of interest charged by local moneylenders. And that raised one of the most important questions which they had to face. The question of finance was of great importance, because nothing would more benefit the Egyptian peasantry than some system by which they might obtain the necessary advances on more reasonable terms. But of course that was impossible if the financial condition of Egypt was really as bad as the right hon. Member for Bradford supposed. Under the old Egyptian law, when a peasant borrowed he pledged his crops, no doubt, but the creditor could not take his land. His family could not, therefore, be driven from their homes. He had fixity of tenure, but not free sale; his holding was a sort of life tenancy. But that had been now altered. The creditor could seize the land, and evict the peasant. That was a change in the law which the fellaheen had not comprehended, and for which they were not prepared; and it was, as it seemed to him, the greatest difficulty, and one that 1214 required the immediate and careful attention of Her Majesty's Government. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart), in his admirable speech, had pointed out other reforms which were most necessary. There was one point, however, in which, though with great diffidence, he was not sure that he quite concurred with his hon. Friend, who said that we must "give Egypt good government first, and representative institutions afterwards." He ventured to think the wise course would be to give them some power at once and extend it by degrees, because he thought that a period of good government entirely from without would leave them even more unable to govern themselves. He could not, therefore, support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carlisle. If we were right to go to Egypt at all we should be unwise to leave our work unfinished. "We had now the power to secure the blessings of a good Government to Egypt, and he believed it was our duty to do so. In conclusion, he should cordially support the Government, believing that when the impartial historian came to deal with the events connected with our intervention in Egypt, he would record that not only in the victory of Tel-el-Kebir, but even more, perhaps, in our subsequent endeavours to promote the prosperity and welfare of Egypt, we had been writing a page in English history of which our children would have no cause to be ashamed.
§ MR. MARRIOTT
Mr. Speaker—Sir, the question before the House is not, as has been imagined from a good many of the speeches delivered on this side of the House, and especially from the speech made by the Prime Minister himself on the first night of the debate, whether the late Government were right or wrong in establishing the Dual Control; and it is not whether the present Government were right or wrong in not reversing the policy of the late Government in Egypt as they did in Afghanistan, and as they did in South Africa after Majuba Hill; but the question is, whether the calamities and the disasters which have undoubtedly occurred in Egypt are due to the vacillation and inconsistency of Her Majesty's present Government. Sir, great credit is due to Her Majesty's Government for the 1215 able men they have employed in Egypt, and that credit has been claimed with no little ostentation. Why, Sir, when the names of Lord Dufferin and Sir Evelyn Baring are mentioned as being among those who have been thus employed, I am reminded of some cunning and clever old solicitors, who, when they have any difficult cases to conduct, employ the best counsel they can get, probably the Attorney or Solicitor General, not, perhaps, expecting them to be in Court; not, perhaps, even taking their advice, although it may assist them to have the pleasure of a triumph, but only to be able to say—" We, ourselves, are shielded from all responsibility." But the advice of Lord Dufferin has not been acted upon; and because it was not acted upon Her Majesty's Government have been guilty of both vacillation and inconsistency. At the present time, fortunately, the House is well acquainted with all the facts of the case, and consequently I shall not have occasion to refer to Blue Books, but to dates well within the memory of the House. On the 10th of April, 1883, the Government knew what was the right policy to adopt in the Soudan. On that date they had Lord Dufferin's despatch in their hands, saying the right thing was to limit the Government of Egypt to Sennaar, and to give up Kordofan and Khartoum. They knew on the 3rd May that Hicks Pasha concurred in that policy. They knew that in August in that despatch of the 5th, where Hicks Pasha pointed out all his difficulties, and almost implored that he should not be sent on, how short of money he was; how discontented were his soldiers, and how slight was the Army under his command. In that touching despatch, which cannot be read without making one's blood thrill, he closes by saying that Lord Dufferin's advice on the 10th of April previous was the right advice, and that they ought to limit their operations to Sennaar. Knowing, then, the opinion of their most trusted agent, Lord Dufferin, and knowing also the opinion of Hicks Pasha, what did the English Government do? It does not recommend any line of policy to the Egyptian Government, and it asks its agents to take no steps in the way of assistance—not even to give advice to the Egyptians. Then we come to what the hon. Member for 1216 Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) calls "the fatal 4th of January," and what do the Government do? They turn their coat quite entirely, and change their policy from beginning to end, and say—" Hitherto we have recommended, but now we insist." There is a vast difference between the policy of the 4th of January and that of the 10th of April. And why on earth should there be that difference? The Egyptian people were the same, their nation also; the Government was the same, resting, as usual, upon, and governed by, British bayonets; and yet, why this change of front? Simply because these calamities had happened, which everyone who knew Egypt had foretold; and had the Government listened to the advice of him they themselves sent, and acted on the opinion of Lord Dufferin and Hicks Pasha, millions of money would have been saved, and at least 11,000 human lives. Well, Sir, this action with regard to the Soudan has not been exceptional on the part of Her Majesty's Government. If there has been any consistency in their policy it has been consistency in vacillation and consistency in inconsistency. Why, Sir, if we go back to the commencement of this case, I see in this case, as in some others, Her Majesty's Government has a singular faculty of creating difficulties in order to have the credit, and to enjoy the advantages to be derived therefrom, of removing them. It was Her Majesty's Government who created Arabi, who was at first a simple soldier, with not one follower in the country. If it had not been for the line of action pursued by Her Majesty's Government Arabi would never have exercised any power in Egypt. When he first attempted a rebellion—at least, not a rebellion, but a mutiny—in order to get extra pay, what did Her Majesty's Government do? Why, if you examine the Blue Books, you will find that they cautioned and threatened 10 times, and never struck once. They sent an Ultimatum which was afterwards explained away. They sent out big men-of-war which remained idle and unemployed, for they refused to give the Admiral commanding them orders to act; and as the result of their weak and hesitating policy, they gave Arabi a hold on Egypt that made the Egyptians think he was the strong man, and England the coward. Arabi was 1217 like a shying horse, and, just as a shying horse will got accustomed to the steam roller on the Thames Embankment, so did Arabi get so accustomed to ultimatums and notes and big vessels and big guns, that he came at last to regard them without fear at all. A consideration of the dates will show vacillation throughout the policy that has been pursued by Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. Thus, on the 11th of June, 1882, after the riots at Alexandria, when the English Consul (Mr. Cookson) was insulted and dragged from his carriage, at that time English vessels with English guns, and manned by English seamen, were in the harbour of Alexandria. In the course of the debate in this House on this subject, we have heard the name of one great Liberal statesman mentioned not with that honour he deserves—I allude to Lord Palmerston—and I venture to say that if that noble Lord had been at the head of the Liberal Government on the 11th of June, 1882, and any English Minister or Consul, or even any Englishman, had been insulted as Mr. Cookson was, retribution would have been demanded, if not exacted, on the next day, and the Egyptians would have been promptly called to account for the insult offered to the English nation. But what did we do? There were our men-of-war in the harbour, and yet nothing was done until the 11th of July; and even then Her Majesty's Government, not wishing to have the responsibility thrown on them, left it to the Admiral in command of the Fleet to take what steps he liked, when the necessity of the occasion arose. We know what he did. He bombarded the place, but there were no troops sent to support him. It is perfectly clear to all people—in Egypt, at all events—that, if the Admiral had been properly supported on that occasion, there never would have been war in Egypt. The war itself, therefore, was the result of the vacillation and inconsistency of Her Majesty's Government. There is one bright spot in our Egyptian policy, and that is the way in which the war was conducted by the naval and military authorities. Our sailors and soldiers did their duty well, despite the sneers of some carpet critics, whom we hear now and then in the House. But after Tel-el-Kebir, England was master of the 1218 situation. This country then had an opportunity of rendering the greatest service to Egypt, to England, to Europe, to the whole civilized world—she had everything practically in her own hands for the purposes of the Government. She found in Egypt three classes of people: First, there was the Khedive, Tewfik; secondly, there were the official classes, who had always carried on the Government of the country in former times, consisting of Armenians, Copts, and aliens, and not including one single Egyptian; and, thirdly, there were the fellaheen, a people easy to lead, easy to guide, and easy to govern; but the greatest cowards that almost ever existed, and having no more notion of self-government than the monkeys in the Zoological Gardens. Her Majesty's Government might have done one of two things: they might have said to the Khedive—" Now that we have driven Arabi out of Egypt, you can govern the country according to your own plan, and we know what will be the result. Probably Riaz Pasha will be called to the head of affairs, and corruption and bribery may have to be resorted to, and many lives lost, but a stable Government must be formed." Or Her Majesty's Government might have said they would take over the rule for a certain period, and in that time establish a stable and a just Government. What did we do? We followed neither of these courses. We said—"You shall govern, but you shall do it in our way. You shall govern, but it shall be in accordance with English ideas." To anyone who knows the Eastern mind, that is asking an absolute impossibility at the present time. Nothing proved that more conclusively than the trial of Arabi. I know what occurred in Cairo when the discussion took place with regard to Arabi. The Khedive and his Ministers said—"You try him if you like, and take all responsibility, or, if we do it, let us do it according to our laws." What did Her Majesty's Government do? They said—" No; you shall try him; but you shall try him according to the rules that guide an English Court of Law." It was absurd. You might just as well ask a Mussulman to carry out a religious service according to the forms observed in the English Church. Our forms of legal procedure are unknown in Egypt 1219 and the East; and to have a counsel in Court addressing them in favour of the prisoner was, to the Egyptian mind, repugnant. The result was that, in reality, Arabi never was tried at all. The whole thing was a farce. Lord Dufferin was called in, and arranged the matter. Arabi, I say, was never tried, and he is now enjoying himself in Ceylon. That is what annoyed the Egyptians—not to be permitted to govern their own way, and, while we had the power, telling them they were responsible. This policy has, undoubtedly, led to very bad results in the country. I know that, on the first night of the debate, the Prime Minister went through a variety of heads, and showed the country was improving. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman got his facts from the Blue Books. I can only say I have before me some few facts which differ in toto from the Prime Minister's facts, and I will give some of them with the permission of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), speaking in the course of this debate, has alluded to a gentleman who is well acquainted with Egypt. He has been a merchant there for 17 or 18 years, is there now, and is likewise the representative of our leading journal, The Times—I mean Mr. Moberley Bell. I received a letter from him, dated the 2nd of this month, from Cairo, in which he gives an answer to certain questions. I cannot say whether those answers are correct or not; but they are given on the authority of a man who knows the country well, and I will mention a few of them to the House. Take the Army first, and what has taken place will prove its accuracy. He says, speaking of it—More progress has been made there than any where, mainly because it has been placed absolutely in the hands of Englishmen. Yet it has not yet proved itself sufficiently fit; when forces were required for the Soudan, it was not fit for employment, and was made to do police duty.Whether the report I have heard to-day is correct or not I know not; but here is what this gentleman says—As to the Constabulary, the attempt to make a force has been an entire failure; and as to the urban police, they have been even a worse failure than the Constabulary,' into which they have now been merged.Then, as to Representative Government, 1220 ho says the whole idea is a mistake; and the greatest satire on it is the fact that the man who received the greatest number of votes was the consistent opponent of Representative Government—Riaz Pasha. It is the lazy, ne'er-do-well of the village, or only those who can bribe most freely, that are elected. The result of what has taken place is that each Minister seeks to dodge the Chamber by spending the money first, and getting the Vote afterwards. That is the opinion of an acknowledged authority, writing on the spot, of the Representative Government with which we have blessed the fellaheen. Again, no progress has been made with regard to education, and Mr. Bell finishes up with saying—That from the 1st of October, 1882, to the 1st of October, 1883, the time has been absolutely wasted.That is also the opinion of people on the spot, and I believe it is the general opinion in Egypt; for, notwithstanding the glowing account given by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as well as by others who agree with him, both here and in "another place," of the reforms that have been effected, the universal opinion of competent judges in Egypt itself is that Her Majesty's Government have reduced the country to such an inextricable mess and such a state of chaos that no one knows or sees their way out of it. Men who wish to see the country thrive, who take a lively interest in the fellaheen, who desire to see capital invested in a land possessing so rich a soil and beautiful a climate, tell us they have no confidence, and hold up their hands in despair, saying they know not what will become of this poor and afflicted country. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) used the right motto when he uttered the words "Too late." That is absolutely the motto upon which Her Majesty's Government have acted in Egypt, and it is through their acting on that motto that all these various calamities have occurred. It was so with the cholera. Take, again, the abandonment of Darfour, Kordofan, and Dongola. We recommended their abandonment at one time; we insisted when they were lost. Take, again, the retirement from Berber. We recommended that step, but insisted upon it when it was too late. And thug throughout the whole of this miserable 1221 Egyptian policy we have been too late to be of any good to the country, or to redeem the character of this Empire. I do not agree with every particular in all that has been said about the Khedive by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. One characteristic he has which, to my mind, ought to recommend him. He has always been faithful and loyal to this country. There is, too, a mistake which the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock has not made, and, I believe, never will make; but it is a mistake which the Khedive has made, in common with the majority of the people of this country. He has placed implicit reliance in Her Majesty's Government; and the result of that reliance and confidence has been the pitiable condition to which he is now reduced. Now, Sir, I have gone at some length—I hope not at too great a length—into the facts of the case; and the question then comes—How ought Members of this House of Commons to vote? I must say the exhibition that has been given in the course of this debate is somewhat singular. Some reasons for a want of confidence in Her Majesty's Government have been given from that side of the House; but, Sir, out-and-out the strongest reasons for want of confidence in the Government have proceeded from this side. Why, Sir, not only do all the Members on this side differ, but it seems to be the height of their ambition, while they support the Government, to give them as many and as hard kicks as they can. The only consensus amongst them is the consensus of abuse; and yet they say they will still support Her Majesty's Government. But why? Is it because the country is reduced to such a state that, bad as the present Government is, a better one is impossible? It is bad, they say, but a better is impossible. Well, they must try. But assuming, Sir, that the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government is as bad as hon. Members on this side of the House say it is, what security have they that it is to be better in the future? Do they not know what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government? I listened with very great attention to that eloquent, energetic, and most vigorous speech made by the Prime Minister on the first night of the debate, and it is in no words of disrespect I say it; but, having listened to the speech, it 1222 produced on my mind the same effect as from reading the Blue Books; and that is, that up to this moment Her Majesty's Government do not recognize the seriousness of the position in Egypt. No person in England can speak in more solemn and moving tones, or thrill the whole heart of the country more than the Prime Minister, when he talks of Bulgarian atrocities and bloodguiltiness with regard to South Africa; and yet here, though some 11,000 lives have been sacrificed, awakening the indignation of the whole Empire; though blood has been poured out like water upon the and wastes of Egypt; though, at the present time, Egypt and this country—indeed, the whole Empire—is surrounded with difficulties, the Prime Minister in that speech, so far from rising to the occasion—so far from, speaking in solemn tones of bloodguiltiness—like Ollivier, under the Empire in France, when he drifted into the Franco-German War, seems to treat the matter with a light heart, and throughout it offers what he himself has called "decoys" for the cheers of the House. He speaks of this as a historic debate. What, I ask, is this? Is it true that so many lives have been lost; that, perhaps, at this moment at Tokar there are men, women, and children, a miserably panic-stricken band, who go in fear and trembling of their lives, besieged by a ruthless barbarian horde, when they know that there are British ships and British bayonets at Suakim? And yet, when it is so, are they to be slaughtered and butchered, helpless as they are, by the savage foe? Is this true or not? Is that the reason why so little sympathy has been shown on that Bench for those who are suffering?—and of those sufferings, I believe, Her Majesty's Government are the cause. Is distance to remove and limit our sympathy? I say, "No." I must say it does strike me—I cannot explain it, and I cannot understand it—how people can give the reasons they have with regard to this vote, and yet, in spite of their own convictions, support Her Majesty's Government. I, for one, cannot; and I do not intend to; and I say that, in the policy which Her Majesty's Government have pursued in Egypt, they have forsaken all the traditions of the Liberal Party, as they were understood under Lord Melbourne, Lord Russell, and 1223 Lord Palmerston. In not giving my vote to, and in not remaining a supporter of, Her Majesty's Government on this occasion, I in no way forsake the Liberal principles which were acted upon by Lord Melbourne. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government laughs; but I ask him, was Lord Palmerston a Liberal Minister or not, and did we, did England, occupy a higher position under his Leadership than now or not? The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government professes, and has often professed, a great regard for the opinion of the Press of the country, and when he was under the Leadership of Lord Palmerston he rendered great services to the Press of this country. At the present time, does he despise the Press of the country? The Press of every country, be it Germany, France, or Italy—indeed, there is no Press in Europe that is not holding this country up to ridicule as having disgraced itself. [Laughter.] I observe the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department is laughing. Were this House but for one moment to become a Palace of Truth, and we could see the working of the right hon. Gentleman's mind, I think it would be found that he disagreed more with those sitting on the same Benches with him than he does with those sitting on the opposite Benches. What I say is, that the Government have not only lost the confidence of the country, but of the Liberal Party. ["Oh!"] I say this with all seriousness, and I will tell them of the step I intend to take—and they will approve of it—and I should not stand here to say what I say if I did not feel that the majority of my constituents agreed with me. The step I intend to take is this. As soon as I have voted in this Division I shall ask one favour, and it will be the last, of the Government, and that will be, that they shall grant me the Chiltern Hundreds, so that I may go down to test whether a majority of my constituents at Brighton have or have not lost their confidence in me, or whether they have clone so as regards the present Administration.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Sir, I think it will be admitted that the House exercised a wise discretion in allowing the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to address it after the hon. Baronet, 1224 for he has made one of the most scathing, one of the most eloquent, and one of the most patriotic speeches delivered in this debate; and I rejoice, therefore, that I was relieved from interfering to prevent the House enjoying that speech. I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), who I think achieved a great Parliamentary success in one respect. There is nothing more stimulates interest or keeps it alive than a startling paradox. The hon. Member for the University of London succeeded in achieving that success. He announced that the events of the last few days had greatly raised the prestige of England. That, if I may venture to say so, was about his sole contribution to the debate, because in a single sentence he disposed of the main question, by saying that the House had quite decided that the defence of the Government was invincible, that the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon had nothing in it, and that we should pass on to consider the state of the finances of Egypt. Now, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just left the House (Mr. Marriott) said the disaster to General Hicks was foreseen by everyone who knew anything of Egypt. But in that he made a slight mistake. There were some who saw and foresaw nothing, for we find in the Speech from the Throne that Her Majesty is made to describe that dreadful catastrophe as an utterly unforeseen one. Unforeseen by whom? Unforeseen by Her Majesty's Ministers; and why? Because they deliberately chose and refused to see and hear what everybody else saw and heard. The Prime Minister said they were accused of vacillation and inconsistency when they were consistent throughout. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Devon fancied he saw in the Blue Books gleams of sanity and intervals of common sense, and he gave the Government credit for them, but the right hon. Gentleman would have nothing of it. They would not see, they would not hear, from the beginning to the end of the Egyptian business, anything connected with the Soudan, and so they commenced reorganizing the Army, re-organizing the finances, and a whole new system of government in Egypt totally irrespective of what was going on in the Soudan. 1225 Let us take two points—the Army and finance. What has been the result here of excluding all reference to the affairs of the Soudan? The hon. Member for the University of London told us we were going on remarkably well with regard to finance, but that a great change had lately been made. No doubt a great change has been made. There was a new loan of £1,000,000 by the Messrs. Rothschild, guaranteed morally, if not technically, by Her Majesty's Government. In what condition is the Army? Does it exist in any practical sense? Has it now got any officers? If it has, are they satisfied with their men? We know that days ago—weeks ago—the Army of Egypt was so demoralized that for all practical purposes it had ceased to exist. The right hon. Gentleman and his Cabinet thought they could re-organize Egypt without thinking of the Soudan. We have been told recently that we must not say a word about General Gordon, that the whole responsibility rests with him, and that anyone who says anything about his Egyptian doings is committing something like a crime. What does General Gordon say about separating the affairs of Egypt from the Soudan? I shall read it to the House. It was given four years ago. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman cheers that; but does he not know that it is equally applicable this year and last year? The affairs of the Soudan are far more dangerous now than they were in 1880. This is what he said—If you care for the prosperity and quiet of Lower Egypt, do not be oblivious of what goes on in the Soudan. Lower Egypt may be the head and chest; the Soudan is the belly.But the Government appears to have been oblivious of all that was going on in the Soudan, and so the solemn farce went on without the slightest attention being paid to the Soudan. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken told us, with perfect truth, that so long as we were served in Egypt by Lord Dufferin that distinguished man and consummate statesman did not fall into that error. But when Lord Dufferin gave advice to the Government, what I want to know is, whether he gave it as their agent or as an isolated individual? Here was Lord Dufferin's advice in April, 1883—The Egyptian Government has constituted a special bureau for the superintendence of the 1226 affairs of the Soudan. The Head of the New Department, Ibrahim Bey, called upon me yesterday.… I ventured to impress his Excellency with my belief that the recent disturbances were mainly to be attributed to the misgovernment and cruel exactions of the local Egyptian authorities at Khartoum, and that, whatever might be the pretensions of the Mahdi to a divine mission, his chief strength was derived from the misery and despair of the native population. If the Egyptian Government were wise, I added, it would confine its present efforts to the re-establishment of its authority in Sennaar, and would not seek to extend its dominion beyond that province and the bordering river banks."—[Egypt, No. 13 (1883), p. 54.]Well, we have been told that the opinion of Lord Dufferin was not official, and that the Egyptian Government might disregard it, as they did disregard it. Lord Dufferin's suggestion was sanctioned and approved by Her Majesty's Government in an official despatch by which responsibility for his suggestion was accepted. It was clear that Lord Dufferin had many interviews with, and was in agreement with, General Hicks; and it is clear, further, from the manner in which Lord Dufferin spoke of General Hicks, after his unfortunate and miserable death, that the gallant General left Cairo with the full consent and approval of the noble Lord to enter on a campaign which had been arranged between them, and which Hicks was prepared to carry out. This is shown further, I think, by the letter which Lord Dufferin wrote to Colonel Stewart on his return from the Soudan, and in which he thanked the gallant colonel for having, in spite of innumerable difficulties, placed at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government, as well as at that of the Egyptian Government, a mass of carefully-analyzed and useful information on all the various points to which his attention had been directed, and which could not fail to prove of the greatest assistance to those who were interested in ameliorating the condition of that region. It is clear, I think, from what I have said, that Colonel Stewart set out for the purpose of furnishing information first and foremost for Her Majesty's Government, and it is equally clear that, as long as Lord Dufferin remained at Cairo good advice was given to the Egyptian Government by him; but that advice was not backed up by Her Majesty's Ministers in Downing Street, and when Lord Dufferin left Cairo there was despatched that 1227 abrupt and almost brutal telegram with which our Representative was told to press upon the Egyptian Government that they alone were responsible for everything connected with the Soudan. I have no doubt that had Lord Dufferin remained two or three months longer in Cairo the miserable disaster which befell General Hicks would have been avoided. For whether the noble Lord was or was not backed up by Her Majesty's Ministers at home, he would, I believe, have succeeded in preventing that most disastrous expedition. The next period to which I would refer is that when Her Majesty's Government, relieved by the departure of Lord Dufferin from Cairo, proceeded upon the course of total abstinence from responsibility and advice. It was in vain that Hicks Pasha wrote those plaintive and melancholy letters to which reference has been made. Her Majesty's Government did not look at them. It was nothing to them whether General Hicks and his Army went to death or not. At the time the Government were announcing that the evacuation of Egypt by British troops was about to take place, it was necessary for Party considerations that the Prime Minister should be able to announce to the startled and disgusted citizens at the Guildhall that the evacuation was about to become an accomplished fact; and so they foresaw nothing, as they now have told us in the Queen's Speech. Before the change of policy, communicated by the despatch of the 4th of January, there was a month of vacillation and doubt, and that was at the time when Baker Pasha's Force was being organized to perform duties for which it was not competent, and for which it was not originally intended. We have been told in the course of this debate that Her Majesty's Government had no reason at the time to suppose that Baker Pasha's Army was unequal to the task which he was commissioned to undertake, although we have also been told that we could not send a real Egyptian Army, in that the men composing it were enlisted upon terms which precluded their being sent into the Soudan. But the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said that though Suakim, Sinkat, and Tokar were in the Soudan when General Baker was despatched they are not in the Soudan now. I 1228 certainly understood the noble Lord to say that politically and geographically the littoral of the Bed Sea might be regarded as being no longer in the Soudan.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURTCE
I said nothing of the sort. What I said was that it was necessary to distinguish between the geographical and the political Soudan, which hon. Members had frequently in the course of this debate confused.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Then what I wish the noble Lord now to do is to tell the House whether at the present moment he regards Suakim, Sinkat, and Tokar as belonging to the political or the geographical Soudan; because if they are not now regarded in both aspects, why were they so regarded at the time when Baker Pasha's Force was despatched? The only reason, as far as I can understand, for sending the heterogeneous, miscellaneous, and totally incapable force to the Soudan was that the real Army of Egypt could not go because of the terms of their enlistment. Then we were told that the Army which Baker Pasha took with him was one on which reliance could be placed to give a good account of any force which might be opposed to them; but Baker Pasha's own opinion was that he was marching with them on to certain death; and when he arrived at Suakim he did not put himself at the head of the demoralized array of blacks and fellaheen, but took steamer at once to Massowah, in order, if possible, to find men upon whom he could better rely than upon the miserable policemen who had been put under his charge for the execution of a difficult and perilous enterprize. The Government say that they could not have presumed to give the Khedive any advice with regard to the Soudan for fear of hurting his dignity. But what was their action? Have they not interfered at all points with the Khedive? What was the knowledge of the Government with regard to the composition of Baker Pasha's Force? Writing on the 3rd of December Sir Evelyn Baring says—As regards the Egyptian portion of the gendarmerie, reports are freely current here to the effect that the men have openly declared that they will not fight, that they will join the Mahdi, or, if attacked, throw down their arms and run away, &c. Possibly these reports are somewhat exaggerated. It is, however, quite certain that the service on which they are about to be 1229 engaged is exceedingly unpopular with the men, and that some 200 of them deserted between Cairo and Suez."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884), p. 128.]It is clear, therefore, that the whole power of that force depended upon the Black troops, and did not they interfere with the composition of that force? With regard to the appointment of Zebehr Pasha, Sir Evelyn Baring, writing on the 9th of December, says—Whatever may be Zebehr Pasha's faults, he is said to he a man of great energy and resolution. The Egyptian Government considers that his services may he very useful in commanding the friendly Bedouins who are to be sent to Suakim, and in conducting negotiations with the tribes on the Berber-Suakim route and elsewhere. I may mention that Baker Pasha is anxious to avail himself of Zebehr Pasha's services. Your Lordship will, without doubt, bear in mind that up to the present time the whole responsibility for the conduct of the affairs in the Soudan has been left to the Egyptian Government. It appeared to me that, under present circumstances, it would not have been just, whilst leaving all the responsibility to the Egyptian Government, to have objected to that Government using its own discretion on such a point as the employment of Zebehr Pasha."—[Ibid. 137.]How cruel it is to remind the Khedive of his responsibility for everything that, occurred up to that point. Lord Granville, however, who had received verbosa et grandis epistola from the Anti-Slavery Society, yielding to their influence al-together, put aside all these pretences as to the sole responsibility of the Khedive, and interfered vitally with the force by refusing to sanction the appointment of Zebehr Pasha. How can it be said, in these circumstances, that there has been no vacillation or inconsistency on the part of the Government? The fact is that, to use the words of the poet, the consistency of the Government has been "constant to a constant change." Thus it was that General Baker, with his heterogeneous and pusillanimous force, was sent to encounter certain defeat. The vast loss of life that has resulted from the expedition is entirely due to the vacillating and inconsistent policy of Her Majesty's Government. Then I come to consider those most painful and lamentable days which followed the defeat of Baker Pasha. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) told us that the moment the Government heard of that defeat on February 5, they lost not a single instant in ordering two ships to go to 1230 Suakim for the purpose of saving the lives of the remnant of the force, and that, in giving that order, he thought that they had done everything that it was in their power to do. But did they do all in their power? Could they have done nothing else but send those ships? The right hon. Baronet went on to say that Sinkat must have fallen before English troops could have relieved it. But the Government did not know at that time that it was on the eve of capture. It is not improbable that, as General Gordon said in one of his recent telegrams—The rumour that the British troops were coming would have had more effect than even their actual arrival.But were there no British troops within speedy reach? Why, there were British battalions at Aden, which is only two days' sail from Suakim, who might have reached the port in time to save the starving garrison of Sinkat from slaughter. But what steps did the Government actually take in the matter? They sent telegrams to General Gordon, which, if he had read them in the sense in which they were read to this House by the Prime Minister, he would have regarded it as a personal insult, had they been addressed to himself. To ask a man of General Gordon's humane, gallant, and chivalrous nature whether an attempt to relieve a starving and helpless garrison should be put aside lest it should inconvenience his movements or should subject him to personal danger is an insult. Such, then, being the main facts of the case, I ask what reasons have been assigned by hon. Members opposite for the House of Commons shrinking from discharging its plain duty to express its own opinions and those of the country? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who condemns the past conduct of the Government quite as severely as we do, says that they are repentant, and that he believes in their promises of amendment, and that, therefore, he will give them the benefit of his vote. I was reminded by the right hon. Gentleman's speech of Denman's peroration in defence of Queen Caroline, when he suggested that the House of Lords should, in acquitting the Queen, say to her—"Go and sin no more." That was very much the result of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He has always been sanguine and hopeful in his 1231 judgments of his political Friends. He hoped that the Government would maintain the Pretoria Convention. He hoped to govern Ireland without any exceptional legislation, and he then hoped that that exceptional legislation would be sufficient. His hopes and his wishes, I am sorry to say, have been disappointed. Another main objection that has been brought against this Vote of Censure is that it contains no direct explanation of future policy. But I will ask the Prime Minister two questions. He has had a long experience. Does he remember a Vote of Censure which on its face bore an explanation of future policy? And does he remember a Vote of Censure the terms of which were agreeable to the Minister against whom it was directed? The Vote of Censure declares this—that those who support it would not adopt the policy which it censures. What, in the present case, is that policy? It is a policy of vacillation and inconsistency, and those who support this Vote of Censure are bound to avoid vacillation and inconsistency. [Laughter.] I notice that the Prime Minister laughs at this assertion, and I understand him to ask what those words mean. I will proceed to explain them. They mean that England, having now openly assumed the full and undivided responsibility for the re-organization and protection of Egypt, shall no longer palter with any dangers that may menace her externally or internally; that Her Majesty's Ministers, be they who they may, shall maintain a severe and statesmanlike silence as to the time of possible retirement; and that they shall not permit any fancy sentimentalism nor Party expediency to shorten by one single hour the term of England's occupation and of England's control of Egypt and Egyptian affairs. And, in conclusion, I would remind this House that it is exactly 100 years ago since the House of Lords, by a courageous vote, enabled the Sovereign and people of this country to shake themselves free from the yoke of an Administration which retained, indeed, the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons, but which had, as the result showed, forfeited the support and alienated the affections of the constituencies of the country. Will this House, when the Division is called, associate itself with the other House of Parliament in expressing the deliberate opinion and judgment 1232 of the country on these lamentable transactions? Will this House, by adopting that course, become, as it ought to become, the organ and mouthpiece of a brave, humane, high-spirited, and, therefore, justly indignant people?
§ MR. WADDY
said, he could not give his adhesion to the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), because the reason upon which it was based appeared to him (Mr. Waddy) to be utterly unsupportable. It was impossible for the House and for the Government to allow the matter to pass over without having an opinion distinctly expressed. It would have been difficult before—it was perhaps still more difficult now—because there had been a vote in the other House which rendered it absolutely necessary that this House should accept the challenge, and should distinctly state that they did not agree with the conclusion at which the House of Lords had arrived. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) had successfully appealed for Conservative cheers, and had told the House that he was now going down to Brighton, when he might appeal to Conservative votes. It was quite possible the hon. Member might imagine that, under these circumstances, his possibility of success was greater than it would have been if he had appealed to his constituents before giving his vote in that House. He was rather struck with the notion that the hon. Member should have reserved that appeal to his constituency until after he had given his vote in the Division to-morrow. He thought it was a little too late for the hon. Member to go down to Brighton after he had done the mischief; and if he wanted to know whether he was or was not representing the views of his constituents, it would have been well for him to go down to Brighton before he gave his vote as a Member of that House. They were told that their policy was humiliating and wretched; that they ought to be ashamed of themselves; that they did not believe in what they said; and that they were tied and bound to the chariot wheels of the Premier. They did not believe that. They certainly were unaware of their changed condition; and they did think that there were persons on that side of the House of sufficiently independent views to be able to judge for themselves. The reasons which the 1233 right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition gave for the Motion he had made had been already satisfactorily dealt with. They were told that they were guilty already of interfering with the Egyptian people in the selection of their own Rulers. He did not believe in it for a moment. He did not believe that Arabi was the representative of the people. On the contrary, he believed that Arabi traded on the misgovernment and tyranny to which the people had been subject. He did not believe that the Mahdi was the representative of the people; but that just as one was an adventurer in a military plot, so the other was an adventurer in a fanatical and religious plot. If we did interfere with the Mahdi, he did not think we should be committing ourselves to one side or the other. The right hon. Baronet had stated his opinion that it was a vacillating and inconsistent policy which the Government had been pursuing; but he (Mr. Waddy) did not propose to examine the grounds for that opinion. They were told that the Government had been wading in blood; and a great many similarly extravagant statements had been made that were quite unworthy of responsible statesmen. But the real fault that had been found with the Government was one with which they must grapple. The real point raised was, that the conduct of the Government was reprehensible, because they had been responsible for producing the events, which everybody deplored, in the Soudan. How had that been argued? It had been argued very frequently by confounding the two Governments—the English and the Egyptian. With respect to the Soudan, the Mahdi was very likely making use, for his own purposes, of the feeling of the people, and he might, if they liked, be regarded not only as an ambitious, but as a wicked plotter; but what had given him his present power? "What been done by the Egyptian Government had been spoken of as if it had been done by Her Majesty's Government, thus making the latter responsible for the misdeeds or errors of the former. The noble Lord opposite, for example, charged Her Majesty's Ministers with sending bad or worthless troops to Suakim under Baker Pasha; but they had really no more to do with the sending of those troops than had the Czar of Russia. It was said Her Majesty's Government 1234 ought to have advised the Egyptian Government, and had not done so; and he had been waiting to hear someone on the Opposition side manfully follow out the results of that advice. Nobody could say that if this country, with its power and influence in Egypt, and with its right, if it gave advice, to have that advice followed—no one could help seeing that if we gave that advice we should be bound to insist upon its being followed. That amounted to the dethronement of the Egyptian Government, and practically to annexation by this country. The question was, whether we were or were not prepared to begin in Egypt in this century exactly the same history as we had begun many years ago in India, and by degrees to annex Egypt. The conclusion was inevitable that if we once began, under such circumstances, to give advice, we must go on, and insist upon that advice being taken; and when the Egyptian authorities were unable to carry it out, we must help them to do it. He considered that, if there had been any inconsistency at all on the part of the Government in this matter, it had been in that into which they had at last felt themselves forced in regard to Tokar. He thought the verdict of the British public would be that, even in regard to that, we were going to the extremest limits of our rights and duties. The noble Lord blamed Her Majesty's Government for not giving Hicks Pasha material support; but it was not a fact that they were ever requested by that officer to send such support, or that he had addressed imploring or despairing telegrams to the Government when our troops were being withdrawn. What was this Soudan rebellion? Was it a matter in regard to which we, as a United Kingdom, had anything whatever to do? The Soudan, according to Colonel Stewart's Report, was—A place which is likely to remain—much of it, at all events—in the future, as in the past, a comparative desert.But it was said that humanity had summoned us there. Was the rebellion in the Soudan, then, an attack upon innocent and unoffending people, whom we were called upon in a spirit of chivalry to go and save? He did not understand that this country, even when there was iniquity being wrought in different parts of the world, was called upon to 1235 go and put everything right. We could not undertake to go to war here, there, and everywhere, because we believed that iniquity and wrong were being perpetrated. Why, then, should we have gone to the Soudan? That the Mahdi was making use for his own purposes of the excited feelings of the people was very likely; and he might, if they thought fit, be regarded not only as an ambitious, but as a wicked plotter; but what had given him his present power? The real causes of the uprising were shown in a Report of May 14th, in which Colonel Stewart said that up to the time of the rising in the Soudan the grossest robbery and tyranny were practised by the officials, that the local government was in league to rob and plunder, and that murders were committed by the Bashi-Bazouks and other troops, who considered that they were in a conquered country, where they might do whatever they pleased. The real cause of the rebellion was misgovernment and oppression; and all that the Mahdi did was to apply a lighted match to the fully-prepared tinder. What he wanted to know was, what would have been said on the opposite side of the House if the Government had sent British troops to put down such a rising? They would have been told that they had done in the South what they had done in the North—that they had sent British troops to quell the uprising of a down-trodden but a generous people. That was the sort of language with which the Government would have been taunted if they had been foolish enough to send troops to put down the insurrection. Another reason was given why we should have gone to the Soudan. It had been said that we should have gone to the Soudan because there were Englishmen there, in command of foreign troops, on an expedition which Her Majesty's Government had never ordered, and in regard to which they had accepted no responsibility whatever; that because Englishmen were there, therefore British soldiers should be sent. That was a proposition which he entirely denied; the fact of an Englishman—however gallant, able, and brave—accepting an Office under a Foreign Government did not throw any responsibility upon the English Government. To take the instance of Hobart Pasha, who had accepted a high position 1236 in the Turkish Navy, it could not be contended that his appointment threw responsibility upon England. If it was to be said, because General Hicks—whose memory they must all deplore—was an Englishman, and that because he was deceived as to the character of the troops he had under him, and to a certain extent, perhaps, as to the nature of the military operations before him, that, therefore, this country had anything to do with the matter, that was a proposition to be entirely repudiated. They had heard from time to time astonishing statements from the other side of the House as to the deplorable condition in which General Hicks was represented to have been, but it must be remembered that it was with his own Government, the Government of Egypt, that General Hicks had communicated; and, further, was it really a fact that General Hicks had taken up his command in a desponding state of mind? General Hicks first spoke of a heavy disaster having happened to the rebels; on the 23rd of May there was Lieutenant Colonel Stewart's Report; on the 26th of May General Hicks reported that the rebels at Duem had dispersed, and in another despatch of the 30th of May that the rebels were demoralized; and that there was no limit to the devotion and fidelity of his own soldiers to the Khedive. Then in June reinforcements had been sent to him; and on the 2nd of July he said that he was prepared to make the campaign with the forces given to him. The man, in fact, who, as they were told, knew that he was going to his doom, had said that his doom was not probable. On the 21st of August, again, he gave as his opinion that all would soon be quiet. On August 28 there was a communication from Consul Moncrieff in a very cheerful tone; and on September 1 he reported that the movement in the Eastern Soudan seemed entirely to have collapsed; and that it merely rested with the Egyptian Government to secure the total failure of the Mahdi. He invited the attention of the House to the terms of the Resolution before it, which were—"That this House, having read and considered the Correspondence relating to Egypt," &c. Hon. Members opposite might laugh at Blue Books, but they ought to remember that the words of the Amendment implied the fact of 1237 having read them. They bad been reading and considering that Correspondence, and it formed the information given to Her Majesty's Government and to this country, and upon which alone the Government could act; and these Papers showed that the Government had had no reason to believe that there was any call for intervention on their part. They heard no more of General flicks for some time, and the last heard directly from him was a communication to Sir Edward Malet on September 6, in which he said that it was reported that the disturbances in that part of the Soudan had been suppressed; and that the Mahdi was no longer believed in. The first intimation of any reverses had come on October 29, and that was of a comparatively small reverse; and on October 31 there was a telegram actually stating that it was rumoured that the Mahdi had been routed and 12,000 of his troops slain. In fact, down to the 12th of November, there had been cheering hopes expressed. Cherif Pasha said that the Army of Occupation consisted of 6,000 or 7,000 men, and he proposed the reduction of that Army by 2,000 men, on financial among other grounds. On October 31 orders were given for the withdrawal of the troops, but that order was given before any intelligence arrived about Hicks Pasha. At last the bad news came from Sir Evelyn Baring. On the 22nd of November the news came that Hicks Pasha's Army had been destros'ed, and the same day Lord Granville telegraphed to know whether the present state of the Soudan was a cause of danger to Egypt Proper, with which alone they had relations. On the same day a gunboat was sent to the Red Sea to maintain authority there. They had been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government had withdrawn their troops in the face of great dangers. What was the fact? On the 24th of November information came from Sir Evelyn Baring that it was not desirable to withdraw the British garrison from Egypt, and on the 25th this bloodthirsty Government, anxious to withdraw their troops, telegraphed that they had decided that the preliminary steps for the withdrawal of the British Forces should be postponed. Lastly, it was said they had stood by and seen garrisons slain. At the very first moment it was possible to interfere, 1238 he ventured to say, it would be the judgment of the House Her Majesty's Government did interfere. As long as the Egyptian Government was keeping control of this matter itself we could not interfere. We had no right to do so. But directly it became clear that the mischief in the Soudan would interfere with the work we had taken in hand, the Government did not hesitate a single day. We had no right to involve the country in the expense and bloodshed that might have ensued if we had gone further. They were told by Gentlemen on the other side that they did not mean annexation; but until the Egyptian Government were decidedly beaten, until they were prepared to accept our help, and even to ask for it, which they had never done, we had no right to force that help upon them, and to say we would advise them with the almighty power we held over them. That would have been annexation; it would have been practically to make Egypt a British Colony, and we should have been involved in an expenditure of money which Her Majesty's Government could not justify to the House or the world. The charge against the Government, which had been made by the use of strong language, and by the careful forgetting of the real issues between ourselves and the Egyptian Government, had, he thought, fallen to the ground. Caring very anxiously indeed for those responsibilities and those liabilities which had been east upon it, the Government had steered the course of this country in the midst of that which had been, no doubt, disaster. But the disaster was not ours. It was the disaster of the Egyptian Government. That Government had been told from the first that if they went on enslaving those people we would not support them with English men or with English money. But as long as it was only a question of keeping Egypt Proper in order, and repairing mischiefs which had arisen, English men and English money would have been at their command. He entirely sympathized with the expression of opinion which had fallen from the opposite side—and it was the only thing he sympathized with—that after what had taken place the Government would not be too ready to state how soon they would be prepared to evacuate the country; but he did hope that nothing that had taken place 1239 would tempt them to involve us in responsibilities which we were altogether unwilling, nay more, unfit and unable, to take. The Soudan did not belong to them, and to it our money should not go, and in it English blood should not be spilt.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had last addressed the House was the first Englishman in the House, and he hoped he would be the last, to approve the desertion of Sinkat. In so doing the hon. and learned Member made himself accessory, to use a legal phrase with which he would be familiar, to the massacres in the Soudan. Members of the Opposition had asked the Government to explain certain facts, and had only obtained smug apologies in reply. For a long time he believed in Her Majesty's Government, because the country was always assured that things were proceeding satisfactorily in Egypt; but he found that he had been living in a fool's paradise, and that the Government knew it, because all the time their Representatives in Egypt were informing them that things were as black as they could be; that the state of things in the country was altogether dispiriting, and that the position on the Red Sea littoral was critical. If we had nothing to do with the Soudan, why was General Gordon in the Soudan issuing Proclamations, deposing one Sultan, placing another in his stead, and declaring, in the name of Her Majesty's Government, that slavery had their approval? This was the fourth night of the debate, and it was the first occasion on which any hon. Gentleman had been found on the other side beyond the Treasury Bench to support Her Majesty's Government. The House had had from the Prime Minister a fanciful and fantastical account of the occupation of Egypt, based, not upon actualities, but upon falsities. The facts which history would record were the preventible massacres at and burning of Alexandria, the carnage at Tel-el-Kebir, and the defeats and massacres in the Soudan. They had been told of the wonderful social reforms which had been effected in Egypt; but what were they? Sanitary reforms, accompanied by the cholera; the new Legal Code, which had made the creditors more cruel than before to the fellaheen; slavery, recognized by General 1240 Gordon on behalf of Her Majesty's Government; a re-organized Army of men who were mutinous and could not fight; a Suez Canal, sold by a treacherous Government to a Company of Frenchmen. It was an open secret that there were two Parties in the Cabinet, one in favour of establishing an English Protectorate in Egypt, and one in favour of immediate retirement from that country—two policies which were absolutely irreconcilable. The Prime Minister was the exponent of the policy of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), with which he was in much more sympathy than with that which the Government were now pursuing. How could a Cabinet which were so divided in their Councils hope to carry on a consistent government of Egypt? They divided their corporate conscience into three parts, and entrusted a third portion severally to the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, the hon. Member for Northampton, and to the Caucus. They were so generous that they retained no conscience for themselves. If Her Majesty's Government were to dissolve Parliament at once, the country would send them to a place for the detention of incapables, there to be confined during Her Majesty's pleasure. He advised the Prime Minister to avail himself of this opportunity of going into retreat. He had often expressed, apparently with sincerity, his wish to do so. Now was his opportunity. There were the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) ready to jump into his place. Still the question was asked, and remained unanswered—" Why was not Sinkat saved? "The Prime Minister answered—"Because there was a Dual Control four years ago." Was that a sufficient answer? Or, again, was it enough to say that Baker Pasha, under no military necessity to undertake the expedition unless he were hopeful of its success, did undertake it, and failed? He failed because the Government failed him. No doubt, if General Gordon died the death he had courted, the Prime Minister would tell them that he need not have gone unless he thought the chance hopeful. The action of the Government was cowardly, for they endeavoured to protect themselves by throwing the blame of their vacillation upon other people. 1241 The question still remained unanswered—"Why was not Sinkat saved?"
§ MR. SLAGG
said, he had been impressed by the very great diversity of opinion that had shown itself in this debate, both as to what Her Majesty's Government ought to do in the future and what it was their duty to have done in the past. He was also impressed by the fact that that diversity was not con-fined to Members on that side of the House. Members on the Liberal side had put some limit to their differences, and had expressed agreement on some fundamental points. They were pretty generally agreed, for example, that Her Majesty's Government could not possibly have escaped intervening at one time or another in the affairs of Egypt, and they were also agreed that the duration of that intervention should be limited to the shortest possible time. As to the Soudan, he believed they were generally agreed that in the past their responsibility should have been very small, and that in future they should have absolutely no responsibility at all. But when they turned to the conflict of opinion on the Benches opposite they found it ranged over an illimitable area, extending even to the annexation, not only of Egypt Proper, but the whole of the Soudan. Within the limit of difference manifested on the Liberal side, however, there had been room for the expression of great variety of opinion in the matter of time and degree. It was much to be deplored that the prophets who had appeared on the scene at this later period had not manifested their foresight earlier. They had been very tardy. They would have been very useful to the world at large if they could have declared authentically all they knew about the inevitable success of the Mahdi, had made it certain that the Egyptian Army in the Soudan would be hopelessly beaten, and had given a clear premonition of the cholera and all its attendant complications. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle seemed to have known pretty well everything that was going to happen. He could not, however, agree with the picture drawn by the hon. Member for Carlisle, which pourtrayed Arabi as a patriot at the head of a brave and noble-spirited army, surrounded by reforming Pashas, who, having wiped off the national obligations, were about to govern Egypt 1242 by and for the Egyptians. He had failed to discern the sacred attributes of patriotism in a man whose rallying cry to an overtaxed people was, "More pay for the Army." The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) sneered at commercial interests. He (Mr. Slagg) ventured to say those commercial interests were of the profoundest importance. The hon. Member had spoken of the Manchester Radicals and Cotton Jingoes as being very much to blame, and being mean-spirited, because they attached so much importance to these things. He maintained that there was a marked distinction between the bondholders and the legitimate merchants trading in Egypt. In his opinion, the bondholder exercised an influence wholly inimical to the Egyptian people. He had no sympathy with his exactions, or with any aspect of his operations, for he uniformly exercised an evil influence on the people of Egypt. On the other hand, the legitimate merchant exercised an important beneficial influence. He did not mean to say he went there out of motives of pure benevolence; but while his commercial operations were of advantage to the merchant they were of inestimable benefit to the people of Egypt, and he hoped nothing would be done to destroy that state of things; and the Government had done some good in their day, if they had only pre-served to the Egyptians their commercial system at a very critical period. The commercial prosperity of Egypt had been entirely created and sustained by British capital. To give the House some idea of the importance of the commercial aspect of the matter, he might mention that since 1860 the crops in the country had been trebled solely through the influence of British agency and the employment of British capital. Cotton seed, which formerly was thrown away or burnt up in the baths, had been made by English merchants an article of enormous value. It alone produced an immense quantity of oil, and half our supply of oil-cake for cattle feeding came from Egypt. This industry kept an immense number of hands employed at high wages. In addition to that, there had been established, through the English commercial agencies, credit associations throughout the country, which had been successful in reducing the usurious rate of interest. 1243 These, he submitted, were considerations of no light character, and it behoved the Government to look after them. The English merchant in Egypt took no bonds, drew no salary, and did nothing whatever to oppress; and when the hon. Member for Carlisle spoke slightingly of Cotton Jingoes he was speaking on a subject on which he was not well informed. He ventured to say the Government had made a great mistake when they allowed themselves to be induced by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), at the close of last Session, to promise a certain and complete withdrawal from Egypt within a specified time. He knew no one practically acquainted with the affairs of Egypt who did not consider that that was a promise which it would be absolutely impossible to fulfil. It ought to be remembered that they had not intervened in the affairs of Egypt at the suggestion of the House or at the instance of any particular Party, but at the desire of the whole of Europe; and he thought it would be a great mistake to leave until we had entirely fulfilled the business of our mission. With regard to the Soudan, hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were so tender-hearted on account of the Egyptians, seemed to forget the possible horrors and dangers which would attend an expedition of British soldiers sent to occupy that vast territory, and he hoped the Government would carry out the policy of evacuation which they had announced. As to the Egyptians in the garrisons, they ought not to have been there at all. He hoped the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Soudan would be a "bag and baggage" policy of the greatest completeness. The only possible excuse that could be urged for their presence in that country for any purpose but that of rescue would be on account of the Slave Trade. But Egypt was responsible for that Slave Trade, which had been created and supported by the Egyptians, and the first and greatest step they could take towards the suppression of the Slave Trade was the withdrawal of Egyptian influence from the Soudan. That trade had been fostered by the Khedive and his Pashas; it could not be conducted by the tribes of the Soudan unaided; and when the Egyptian middlemen were withdrawn there was every reason to hope that the 1244 traffic would languish and expire. The handing over of the government of the Soudan to the Soudanese themselves would not only strike the most serious blow to the Slave Trade, but would be the most conclusive step towards the establishment of commercial relations with it; and a frank acknowledgment of the justice of the cause of these wild tribes against their Egyptian oppressors would more effectually promote a settlement of the country than all the Pashas, Bashi-Bazouks, and British Governments together could effect.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the last speech was essentially a Manchester speech, and the impression it was calculated to produce was that the House and the country were thinking more of the capabilities of Egypt to produce cotton and oil-cake than of the present condition of the people of that country. Whatever might be the opinion of Manchester, the hon. Member was vastly mistaken if he thought his speech was at all in harmony with public opinion generally. It was surprising to hear him speak of garrisons being in the wrong place, when the country was resounding with the records of their gallant deeds. It was the duty of soldiers to go where they were ordered by their Sovereign. The hon. Member spoke of certain fundamental points on which the Ministerialists were agreed; but he omitted one, and that was, whatever their opinions might be, to vote with the Government. Hardly one unofficial Member on the Ministerial side had ventured to defend the course the Government had taken, and yet they were going to vote for it like sheep. He sympathized with the remark of the Prime Minister, that the Leader of the Opposition had not declared a policy; but the omission had been supplied that evening by the noble Lord (Lord John Manners). But did anyone suppose that if his right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) had enunciated a policy as clearly and distinctly as one could wish it would have made the difference of a single vote on the Ministerial side of the House? The Birmingham Caucus had destroyed the independence of the Liberal Party, and they could not give effect to their opinions by their votes, because they had become delegates instead of Representatives. It was admitted that although the Division would be in favour of the 1245 Government, it would not express the opinion of the country, for the reason repeatedly given for supporting the Government was that a Vote of Censure would destroy it and place the Conservative Party in power; that meant that if the country were appealed to it would not support the Government. If an adverse vote was given by the House, it would be necessary that the country should be appealed to, either by the present Ministry or by their Successors; and if the opinion of the country was in favour of the Government it need have no fear of the result. It was because the Liberal supporters of the Government knew that the country would sweep them from power if appealed to that they were determined not to afford it the opportunity it desired. The Ministerial speeches had entirely evaded the charges made by the Opposition. As an oration the speech of the Prime Minister was magnificent; but as an answer to the indictment presented so clearly and incisively by the Leader of the Opposition, it was worthless. It consisted mainly of petty criticisms and gross misrepresentations. He said that the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was not in accord with his Motion: but no one had repeated that assertion since the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock had refuted it. The Prime Minister denied that the Government had been inconsistent. He was prepared to acknowledge that most of the difficulties that had arisen were created by an attempt to adhere to a slavish consistency which, however, had led them into the most inconsistent conduct it was possible to conceive. Their policy was to avoid all responsibility. The Prime Minister mildly condemned the Dual Control, and endeavoured to prove that the present condition of things was mainly owing to it; but he utterly failed to show any connection between them. It was impossible he could do so. We had a partner in the Dual Control, and we had not in the intervention. This clearly showed that the one thing was entirely independent of the other. The hon. Member for Newcastle had pointed out truly that our responsibilities were owing much more to the Joint Note, for which the present Government were responsible, than to the Dual Control; but the fact was that, altogether irrespective of Dual Control and Joint Note, our 1246 interests were so vast that it was impossible for us to see anarchy arise in Egypt without stepping in; if we had not done so someone else would, and would have settled matters with but little regard for our interests. If the Government had from the outset taken a strong course there would have been no massacre of Alexandria, no battle of Tel-el-Kebir, and no massacre at Sinkat. He had said that the Prime Minister had grossly misrepresented the charges we made against the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said—"We, who have the charge of the interests of 300,000,000 people, think we have sufficient to do without taking upon our shoulders the additional burden of re-conquering the Soudan." This was a complete misrepresentation of the charge against the Government, which was not that they did not recognize the Soudan, but that they did not prevent General Hicks from attempting to do so. The only answer was that made by the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) when he said—"Would you have had us stop General Hicks in his victorious career?'" Her Majesty's Government, while desirous to shake off all responsibility for the event which actually occurred, would, if General Hicks had been victorious, have been quite prepared to take credit for the success. But, feeling considerable doubt as to the success of the enterprize, they took care to safeguard themselves by repudiating all responsibility. After Tel-el-Kebir, Her Majesty's Government had the sole responsibility on their shoulders. The first necessity was to restore confidence. Lord Dufferin wrote home—As long as men's minds are shaken by the expectation of change, every public, private, commercial, and political interest in the country is compromised and endangered.How did the Government proceed to give to Egypt the prime element of stability? By immediately beginning to speak of withdrawal. Even as late as the 11th of the present month they still adhered to that insane policy of withdrawal; for Lord Granville, on that day, telegraphed to Sir Evelyn Baring—It has been suggested by a military authority that, to assist the policy of withdrawal, a British force should be sent to Suakim sufficient to operate, if necessary, in its vicinity."—[Egypt, No. 5 (1884), p. 2.]
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he accepted the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman; but he would observe that the most essential feature in the case at that time was the relief of the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar. To ask whether a British Force should be sent to Suakim to assist the policy of withdrawal was to trifle with the situation, and showed completely that the Government had failed to rise to the occasion. "But," says the Prime Minister, "we gave Egypt an Army, small, it is true, but efficient." After what we had heard, however, of the condition of that Army during the last few days he thought nothing more would be said about its efficiency. They were afraid to employ it. The right hon. Gentleman also said—" We have given them legislative institutions and a new Constitution, and we have preserved for them that which they loved so much, a Native Ministry." The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) had shown that the Constitution was totally unfitted for the Egyptian people. Moreover, the people did not want a new Constitution and new laws so much as they wanted the just administration of the existing laws. They wanted a stop put to the peculation, dishonesty, and oppression under which they had so long suffered at the hands of their Native Rulers. The Dual Control, at any rate, did one good thing—it entirely put an end to central corruption. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] His authority for that was one which the right hon. Gentleman would recognize. It was the present Prime Minister of Egypt, Nubar Pasha, who said to him in Egypt twelve months ago—" The Dual Control put an end to central corruption, but it did not touch the corruption in the Provinces, and it is that from which the fellaheen are suffering so much." And so, with reference to a Native Ministry, which the right hon. Gentleman tells us is so dear to the Egyptians, Nubar Pasha had told him that the people had no confidence in Native Rulers, but, on the contrary, looked to England as the only hope of relief from their intolerable oppression. Turning next to the subject of the garrisons, and our failure to relieve them, he said it would be difficult in all future time for any Englishman to hear 1248 the names of Sinkat and Tokar uttered in their presence without blushing with indignation and shame. The right hon. Gentleman said it was no fault of Her Majesty's Government that the garrisons were not relieved; that they believed Baker Pasha would have been successful. But Baker Pasha did not arrive at Suakim with a view of relieving Sinkat till December 27; whereas from the 3rd of November, when an attempt to relieve it had failed, it was known that the place was in danger, and since that time repeated messages had been received representing the danger of the garrison. On the 4th of December Tewfik Bey sent word that his troops were starving. But Baker Pasha did not get definite instructions to relieve the garrisons till the 9th of January, and only then with qualification. General Wood, writing to Baker Pasha on that day, by direction of Sir Evelyn Baring, said—If it is absolutely necessary to use force in order to relieve the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar, you can do so provided that you consider your force sufficient and that you may reasonably count on success.Two months after it was known that Sinkat was in deadly peril, a month after the Government had been informed by Tewfik Bey that he was starving and could not hold out, Baker was instructed to resort to force in order to relieve Sinkat; but only if—It was absolutely necessary, and he had a reasonable ground for expecting success.Absolutely necessary! How else was it possible to relieve Sinkat? Reasonable ground for expecting success! What Englishman, knowing the condition of Sinkat, could have declined to go to its relief, whatever were his hopes of success? But what had Baker Pasha to give him success? A parcel of riffraff and police. The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) had sufficiently shown the condition of Baker Pasha's Army. A large part of the force consisted of policemen—men whom the Government had ordered should not be trained as soldiers. Lord Dufferin, some time before this, had written to Baker Pasha, saying—I am instructed to inform you, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, that in their opinion the constabulary under your command should not be allowed to acquire the characteristics of a military force.1249 This was the force which, according to the Prime Minister, they had every reason to believe would be successful. This was the force behind which the Government with their craven cowardice had taken refuge. In addition to the policemen, there was also a number of black troops with Baker Pasha; but what was to be expected from them? Did they go away in such a manner as to give reason for hoping that they would really assist Baker Pasha? They refused to get into the train, and were driven in by cavalry. They were told that their Chief would accompany them, and because he did not they said they would not go, and when they were made to go they declared they would not fight, and they kept their word. What had been the conduct of similar expeditions? On October the 25th, a force of 150 gendarmes, proceeding to reinforce Tewfik at Sinkat, were cut to pieces by 150 or 200 Arabs. "They made no effort at all," Consul Moncrieff writes to Sir Evelyn Baring, "but were killed in flight." Only 15 men escaped. On November the 3rd, 550 soldiers, with one gun, on the way to relieve Tokar were surprised by a small party of Arabs, amounting to 150 or 200 men, when the Egyptian soldiers immediately ran away. "It was a regular stampede," writes Commander Darwall. It was with such troops as these that Baker was sent off to almost certain defeat. It was from such troops as these that the Government anticipated success. This force of Baker Pasha's was intended to relieve Tokar first and then Sinkat, but they knew that Sinkat was in much greater peril than Tokar. Baker Pasha might have got to Tokar, but how was he to have got to Sinkat? His force,' however, never reached Tokar, and the unfortunate garrison of Sinkat, with hundreds of women and children, have perished to our everlasting disgrace. He hoped sincerely that the news that had been circulating in the Lobby to the effect that Tokar had now shared the fate of Sinkat was not true. He did not know whether the Government had received any information on this point. [Lord EDMOND FITZMAURICE: No.] They might then hope it was not true, but if it was no one would be surprised. Well, at last, the Government were moving. It always seemed to require some disaster to awaken them to their duty. 1250 Troops were to be sent to relieve Tokar The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) said that England's prestige in the Soudan had never stood so high as at the present moment. A more extraordinary statement he had never heard. Prestige! The less said about that the better, he thought. He said the mere rumours of our sending troops had dispersed the rebels. If this was true it would be the strongest condemnation of the Government, and showed how grossly they had neglected their duty in not making, at least, a show of force before. But such was not, unfortunately, the case, and the danger of Tokar was becoming more and more imminent. All this, the Government acknowledged, might have been prevented if they had taken action a month ago—if they had done what they were doing now a fortnight sooner. The present attempted relief of Tokar was the greatest condemnation that the Government could have passed on their own previous inaction. What had occurred to lead them to change their policy? The inhabitants of Sinkat had been massacred, but it was known long since that they were in imminent danger of massacre. The Government had remorselessly and ruthlessly denied the request that the whole country was making to them to relieve these garrisons; but not until one garrison had been massacred would they move a hand. It was in their power to relieve these garrisons and they pitilessly refused. They had been told of the ovation which General Gordon had received on his arrival at Khartoum; but much of the enthusiasm on the occasion appeared to be due to a Proclamation which had been posted on the walls of Khartoum promising a revival of the Slave Trade. If this were true, it was a new thing that an English officer should have been instructed to invite and permit the renewal of that trade, which the English nation and General Gordon himself had been doing their utmost for many years past to suppress. No more shameful story was to be found in the annals of the country than the sacrifice of the garrison of Sinkat. The inmost convictions of the Liberal Party went one way, but their votes would go another. He had no doubt, however, that the verdict of the House on the Motion before it would be in favour of 1251 the Government. They were determined to prevent an appeal to the country. But although the Conservative Party was prevented by the subservient majority opposite from obtaining the verdict of the country upon this issue, the time would come, and could not be long delayed, when they would be able to appeal to the people. [Ministerial cheers.] Let hon. Gentlemen opposite, then, vote according to their consciences, and the constituencies would be given the opportunity they desired. They might depend upon it that when that opportunity arose the country would remember with shame and indignation the disgraceful position in which it had been placed by the Liberal Ministry. Under that Liberal Ministry they had suffered many humiliations, but this last one was the greatest of all; and he predicted that when the country was appealed to it would sweep from power the Minister who was prepared to shed tears at the Bulgarian atrocities, but who could look on with calmness and indifference at the slaughter of brave men and helpless women and children within the sound of British guns—a tragical and shameful episode which he devoutly trusted might never again sully the page of English history.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened with very great attention to the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Ritchie). The hon. Gentleman said a great deal with much force; but, with one exception, he said nothing that was not said before, and that exception was a sentence which I took down at the time—namely, that the Government went wrong in consequence of their persistent consistency. Well, considering that we are asked to divide on a Motion condemning the Government for their inconsistency and vacillation, it strikes he that that one original remark did rut give much support to the Motion.
§ MR. RITCHIE
What I said was, that a slavish regard to what they considered consistency led them into the most inconsistent conduct possible.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I took down his words. He has put a gloss on them now, which I have no doubt was his meaning.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
There was another speech delivered this evening to which, as to several others, I also paid great attention. I mean that of the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), who spoke on this side of the House. That hon. and learned Member did me the kindness to give me a Notice which would be of some interest to me. He told the House that he proposed, after the Division, to-morrow, to apply for the Chiltern Hundreds; that he was a good Liberal all the same; but that, disapproving of the policy of the Government on the subject involved in this debate, he would ask for the Chiltern Hundreds, and go down to Brighton to test the sense of the constituency on the matter. I had the pleasure of seeing a good deal of my hon. and learned Friend during the time I held the Office of Secretary of State for War; and although, since the debate on the Clôture Resolution, it has not been my fortune to see so much of him, yet, from the opportunity I had then of gauging them, I fully appreciated the nature of his principles; but I nevertheless promise him that I am be little reluctant to show sport that I shall be happy to give him the Chiltern Hundreds when he applies for them, so that he may have the interview with his constituents he desires; and I only hope, for his sake, that he will not have the bad success which most hon. Gentlemen have had who asked for the Chiltern Hundreds under similar circumstances, for there are two or three cases where that has occurred in which the experiment was not attended with any great success to those who made it. Sir Robert Peel asked for the Chiltern Hundreds when he changed his policy as to Catholic Emancipation, and was defeated. Again, Mr. Milner Gibson, when Member for Ipswich, changed his politics, and was defeated. I can only suppose that the hon. and learned Member thinks that personal attachment at Brighton will be stronger than the ties of Party feeling. But the hon. and learned Member was not satisfied with justifying his own conduct in this matter. He thought it necessary to make one of the most violent personal attacks upon my right 1253 hon. Friend at the head of the Government that I ever heard in this House, certainly from anyone sitting on the same side and calling himself a Liberal. He compared my right hon. Friend and his career for some time with several of his Predecessors in high Office, and especially with Lord Palmerston; and he said, with the cheers of the House, that, at any rate, my right hon. Friend must notice that the course he was taking was condemned strongly by public opinion abroad, by public opinion as expressed in the Press of almost all foreign nations; and in that respect he wished my right hon. Friend to be compared with the estimation in which Lord Palmerston was held by Governments and the Press abroad. Sir, my right hon. Friend is not the first Minister who has been violently attacked in this House on account of the manner in which his public course has been received by the public opinion of foreign countries. A most powerful attack was made on a great Minister between 80 and 40 years ago exactly on the same grounds as those taken by the hon. and learned Member for Brighton; and what was the answer of the best of Liberal statesmen of this country at that time to that attack? He said, in the great Pacifico debate of June, 1850—So long as we continue the Government of this country, I can answer for my noble Friend that he will act not as the Minister of Austria, or as the Minister of Russia, or of France, or of any other country, but as the Minister of England.And the Minister who was so described was the Minister with whom my right hon. Friend is now put in comparison. Lord John Russell gave that reply to the attacks made upon Lord Palmerston, I repeat those well-known words, and say that my right hon. Friend is not the Minister of Austria, or the Minister of Russia, or of Germany, or of France, or of any other country, but the Minister of England, strong in the support of the heart and soul of the nation. I hope that the House will now allow me to say a few words on a question personal to myself, which was introduced, to my great surprise, by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who wound up the debate on Friday night. The right hon. Baronet says that I am in conflict with my right hon. Friend about the Dual Control. He says— 1254The Prime Minister and the President of the Local Government Board uttered opinions against the Dual Control; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, in July, 1882, that the endeavour of the Government had been to carry out in Egypt that joint political influence between England and France which was established by their Predecessors, and, in his humble opinion, wisely established. I set that opinion of the right hon. Gentleman against those of his Colleagues, and I leave them to settle the matter between them.But, of course, quite unintentionally, he entirely misrepresented what I said about the Dual Control. If he had looked in Hansard a few lines above, he would have seen that I first described the two systems of Dual Control, and I used these words as to the second—I do not now raise the question of whether that was a good arrangement or not; … however good it might have been … it contained elements of great danger, and without our touching them those elements … led to the trouble which has now been brought upon us. Having inherited that state of things, and that policy, what were our efforts in the furtherance of order? … In the first place, our endeavour was to carry out," &c.—(3 Hansard,  2008–9.]These words were exactly in consonance with what my right hon. Friend had expressed. I then stated that we hoped, by a joint action with France, to get through these dangers. It was not fair-to quote these concluding words and not the preceding sentence in which I had discussed the dangers which we saw in the Control. Now, Sir, having passed from that personal matter, I may say as to this long debate, as of all long debates and analogous proceedings in Courts of Law, that it has cleared the issue of much extraneous matter, and has eliminated many doubtful points of controversy which have been raised, so that, at the end, we have so reduced the matters in dispute that there are only two or three to decide. I think that these questions are—In the first place, were we consistent in disclaiming responsibility for the Soudan, and were we right in so doing? Secondly, were we responsible for not relieving Sinkat? Thirdly, were we wrong in postponing the Expedition to Suakim, until we had consulted General Gordon? And fourthly, have we a future policy, and what is it? It is to these points I propose to address myself. First of all, as to the responsibility which it is assumed we had in connection with the Soudan, and whether 1255 we were consistent and right in disclaiming that responsibility? Now, what I am going to say is, I think, conclusive on one branch of this question. I hope to show to the House that it does not he with the right hon. Gentleman and those who act with him, and who have supported him in this debate, to censure us in this matter. They were fully aware in Parliament for six months what our policy was, and if they gave any indication whatever, it was rather in favour of that disclaimer of responsibility than against it. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Stafford Northcote), in his speech last Session on the Address, very gingerly touched the ground of responsibility. He said—We should like to know whether, whenever there is a formidable rebellion there, Her Majesty's Forces are to be used to suppress it? According to the newspapers at the present moment there seems to be something like one now in Egypt, and it may easily assume proportions which would endanger and shake the governing body of that country and the Throne of the Khedive.And he went on to say—If we have assumed such relations as involve us in dealing with her rebellious subjects whenever they become formidable, I am bound to say that the prospect is one not likely to be of a very satisfactory character to the people of this country."—(3 Hansard,  111,)This meant, I submit, that he did not look with favour upon our undertaking any responsibility as to the Soudan operations at that time. A few days afterwards the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was asked whether Government had any reason to believe the alarming reports of the progress of the revolution in the Soudan, and, if so, what steps they had advised the Egyptian Government to take? The noble Lord, in reply, said that the suppression of the rebellion in the Soudan was a matter left entirely to the Egyptian Government, and that neither Lord Dufferin or Sir Edward Malet had been concerned in the arrangements made. A week afterwards, on the 1st of March, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) referred, in his discursive speech on Egypt, to the events in the Soudan, and my noble Friend, in reply, used these words—Officers serving there were in no way serving the British Government. There was no desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government 1256 to widen the sufficiently extended sphere of the responsibility of this country in Egypt.A few days afterwards the first Blue Book on Egypt, No. 1 (1883), was published. In that Blue Book, on page 36, Sir Edward Malet, on the 28th of October, 1882, wrote thus—I have now been asked by the Egyptian Government to submit to Her Majesty's Government a request that English officers be allowed to accompany the force, which they will endeavour to equip as quickly as possible; and I gather that they would be glad to avail themselves of the services of an English Chief of the Staff.On the 7th of November, Lord Granville writes to Sir Edward Malet that the Government are unwilling to take any responsibility for any military expedition to the Soudan, that Colonel Stewart and two other officers may be sent to make inquiries, but that it must be distinctly understood that those gentlemen must not act in any military capacity. Well, Sir, I have thus shown you that in the Blue Books, distributed early in last Session, nothing can be clearer than the resolution of the Government that they would have no responsibility for the affairs of the Soudan, and that they would not allow any British officer to go in any way under their direction or control. But there was no objection taken at the time by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to the course we pursued. The Blue Books distributed last year up to the latter part of July are six in number, and range from October, 1882, to May, 1883. They were all presented before the debate of the 9th of August. They contain no less than 38 military Reports on the Soudan, including the long Report of Colonel Stewart. They are sometimes hopeful, sometimes despairing—Condition of the Soudan one of great disorder." "If the Mahdi advances, there is no Egyptian force to meet him." "Alarming news received." "Danger hardly as imminent as at first supposed." "Garrisons in good spirit." "Second Mahdi hung by the first." "General oppressed by late news, and wants two more regiments." "Egyptian troops very demoralized.Lord Dufferin's general Report says—I have left altogether out of account the requirements of the Soudan." "Reinforcements to the extent of another 10,000 men have been despatched to Khartoum, but they seem to be raw, undisciplined, and disheartened levies." "Both Colonel Hicks and his companions have 1257 entered the Egyptian service on their own responsibility; nor have either Sir E. Malet or myself been concerned in the arrangement.Then Lord Granville, in No. 13, page 65, on May 7, says—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.All this was before the House, and in the possession of hon. Members on the 9th of August. A great deal of stress has been laid by hon. Members opposite upon the despatch from Lord Dufferin, in which it is said that Lord Dufferin acted in a manner very different from the instructions which he received from Lord Granville. On the 1st of April, Lord Dufferin says, in No. 13, page 54, that the head of a new bureau for Soudan affairs called on him. He seemed an intelligent and well educated person. Lord Dufferin impressed upon him that disturbances were due to misgovernment and the cruel exactions, and the despair and misery of the population. He considered that they should confine their efforts to Sennaar, and establish a just, humane, and intelligent administration. In Lord Granville's answer to that despatch, on the 20th of April, on page 62, Lord Granville approves of his havingImpressed on the head of the new Department the advisability of pursuing a modest and more humane policy.It is this despatch which is said to be, as it were, a reversal of the policy explained during six months in the despatches laid on the Table, because, when the head clerk of a new office called upon him, Lord Dufferin gave him a few words of kindly advice. But Lord Granville ends as he began, with the instructions that the Government are determined not to take part in the affairs of the Soudan. Well, Sir, I think I have shown pretty clearly, at any rate, this—that during the whole of that six months the policy of Her Majesty's Government was quite plainly expressed to the House. And now I will show how the House in the August debate took it, and to what extent there was any objection to that policy on the part of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. On the 9th of August there took place the debate on the Motion of my hon. Friend 1258 the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). The object of the Motion I take to have been to get a clear statement of the views of the Government, and to strengthen their hands in carrying out their intentions in regard to the prospective evacuation of Egypt Proper, and the hon. Gentleman was met with a frank statement by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke). The hon. Member for Newcastle used these words—There was the Soudan. … Were they going to take even an indirect responsibility for an enormous territory like that? … The Egyptian Government was hopelessly unable to maintain even a semblance of order there. … Were they going to acquiesce in the military occupation of the Soudan? … If they did, the task of governing half India would be child's play compared with the difficulties and embarrassments that would accompany the attempt to introduce even the semblance of order into the Soudan. The fact was they could not afford to be responsible."—(3 Mansard,  2126–7.)Now, there was a long debate on the Motion of my hon. Friend. Three or four of the hon. Gentlemen spoke on the Front Bench opposite, and I have read their speeches. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) disapproved of the policy which had been announced from this side of the House on four or five different occasions, and which is set forth in the Blue Books as the distinct policy of the Government—namely, that they would take no responsibility for the administration of the Soudan, why did he not say so at any rate then? From the beginning to the end of the debate, no one attempted to cast the slightest blame upon the policy of the Government, which was as clear as crystal, and which had been repeated over and over again in our speeches, and in the Blue Books. It is clear that in the opinion of hon. Members opposite we were right in our policy on this question up to the month of August. So it follows that, in the opinion of the Opposition, between August and December we ought to have changed our minds, and to have adopted altogether the opposite policy. And yet we are now charged with vacillation, and with inconsistency, merely because we persevered in our policy. I am, however, bound to say that in certain quarters there is a considerable, and, indeed, a dangerous amount of vacillation. For 1259 instance, we have had, not many miles away, a considerable amount of vacillation on the part of hon. Members opposite upon this very question. What has happened within the last few days? I read an announcement of a meeting which was called at the Mansion House for last Friday, and the notice was that the meeting was to be held for the purpose of condemning the abandonment of the Soudan by Her Majesty's Government. However, when we came to read the speeches at the meeting, there is nothing about condemning the abandonment of the Soudan, but simply a condemnation of the policy of Her Majesty's Government—a subject on which it is always very easy to get up a meeting. The fact is, that when the notice of the meeting was first drawn up there was in the minds of the gentlemen who convened it the idea that the proper policy was the retention of the Soudan. In a day or two this was not found to be popular, and was given up. The vacillation and the inconsistent policy, therefore, seems to have left us, and to have crossed the floor of the House to take up its abode with hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Where did the right hon. Gentleman see the circular stating that the object of the meeting was to condemn the abandonment of the Soudan?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I saw it in the notice of the meeting which appeared in the newspapers.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
It is really too bad to be interrupted in this manner. I will show the hon. Member the words of the actual notice in the newspaper from which I cut them.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
I think I have now shown pretty clearly that if our policy with regard to the Soudan was wrong for six months, hon. Gentlemen opposite approved of it. First of all, they approved of it in almost express words, and lately they approved of it by complete silence when the Papers laid upon the Table explained it in the fullest and clearest way. Therefore, if we 1260 have been sinners in any respect it is not for hon. Gentlemen opposite to pass a Vote of Censure upon us. The next charge which has been brought against us—if it can still be said to be the subject of debate—is the non-relief of Sinkat. I had certainly hoped to have heard no more of that charge, after my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, who spoke in the debate a few days ago, had so completely dealt with every portion of it. [Sir R. ASSHETON CROSS: Oh!"] I do not, of course, mean to say that he persuaded the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire. That, no man could do; but my right hon. Friend so completely answered the charge, that I should be guilty of unnnecessary repetition if I went over all the facts again. We hold our opinion upon that point, and you are welcome to hold yours. I can only assert that the Blue Books show that the defeat of Baker Pasha was entirely unexpected both by us and by his own friends. [Laughter and cries of "Oh!"] I merely assert that as being our contention. So much for the second of the charges against us. Now, let me deal with the third charge, which is that we postponed sending an expedition to relieve Sinkat for the purpose of obtaining General Gordon's advice. What are the facts? General Gordon left Cairo believing that Baker Pasha was about to advance upon Tokar, and when Baker Pasha was defeated General Gordon was altogether out of telegraphic reach. General Gordon left—nobody denies it now who reads these Papers—essentially to carry out a pacific policy; and whatever might have been thought as to the employment of a Mussulman Army, there was grave doubt, indeed, as to the propriety of despatching an English Army. I want here to draw attention to the extraordinary misrepresentations of the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) on Friday night with regard to the terms of the message to General Gordon. I have no doubt they were unintentional misrepresentations. The right hon. Baronet took up the print which had only been distributed that night, and asked—What, in fact, was the nature and the terms of the message which was addressed to General Gordon?And he then read the telegram— 1261Earl Granville to Sir Evelyn Baring, Foreign Office, February 11th, 1884, 1.45 P.M. Send on following to Gordon:—'It has been suggested by a military authority that to assist the policy of withdrawal a British force should be sent to Suakim sufficient to operate, if necessary, in its vicinity. Would such a step injure or assist your mission?' "—[Egypt, No. 8 (1884).]The right hon. Gentleman went on with great indignation to say—Not one word about the beleaguered garrisons.But is that the fact? Why, Sir, printed immediately above it is the telegram which had already been sent—Ask Gordon whether he can suggest anything respecting Sinkat and Tokar.And General Gordon's reply to that telegram, which did not arrive till after his reply to the telegram the right hon. Gentleman quoted, and which is No. 7 on the Paper, was—About Tokar and Sinkat you can do nothing except by proclaiming that the Chiefs of Tribes should come to Khartoum to Assembly of Notables, when the independence of the Soudan will be decided. As for money, it would be well to try, but difficult to arrange."—[Ibid.]And the answer to the telegram about Suakim, No. 6 on the Paper, was as follows:—As to sending forces to Suakim to assist withdrawal I would care more for rumour of such intentions than for forces. What would have greatest effect would be rumour of English intervention.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
Yes, but forming part of a continuous message. One portion was sent at half-past 2; another at 4; and a third at 7. They were each parts of the same message. General Gordon follows with a telegram, at 7, saying—Not least probability of any massacre of women, children. Efforts of rebels confined to raising revolt among their neighbours."—[Ibid.]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
The first message applies to the sending of forces to Suakim, where he says—About Tokar and Sinkat you can do nothing except by proclaiming that the Chiefs of 1262 Tribes should come to Khartoum to Assembly of Notables, when the independence of the Soudan will be decided.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
That answer is dated an hour later than the previous telegram. When we got that answer, we had both of the telegrams before us. We have to telegraph a distance of many thousands of miles. These telegrams leave almost together, and General Gordon, having two in his possession, sends an answer to each, and when he sent the answer about Sinkat and Tokar, he had before him not the second telegram only, but the whole of our telegrams, including the proposal to send a force to Suakim. In the speech which he made on Friday night, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) ought to have quoted the first and second of these telegrams together. General Gordon received them together, and he answered the second first; so that, in answering the first, General Gordon must have had the second before him. The right hon. Gentleman, however, tossed the Paper down and said—" Not a word about Tokar and Sinkat;" and he produced in the House and in the country an effect which the recital of the telegrams as they were received can alone put right. Having dealt with the question of the third charge brought against us, let me say a few words about the future policy which we have been challenged to declare and the question whether we propose to deviate from the line which we laid down last year and which we have pursued ever since. I understand our policy to be this. In the first place, we shall continue to promote the evacuation of the Soudan; and to do so, if possible, by peaceable means after the relief of Tokar. We have sent an Expedition to relieve Tokar, and when that Expedition has done its work, our policy will be to carry out the evacuation of the Soudan by peaceable means. In the second place, our policy is firmly and unhesitatingly to continue the occupation of Egypt until the objects for which we first went there are accomplished. Our third intention is to keep in view our prospective retirement from Egypt at a time when the Khedive's Government shall be in a fit state to administer the affairs of the country 1263 without our assistance; and our fourth object is, in the meantime, to restore as far as we can the finances of Egypt, which Lave been greviously burdened in the expenses resulting from the disturbances at Alexandria and the operations in the Soudan. To that policy I believe there is an alternative policy. I can imagine a statesman—shall I say a bold, shall I say a rash, shall I say a reckless statesman—who might propose that Egypt should be permanently annexed. There would be great charms, I admit, for some people in the adoption of such a policy. In the first place, it would save £2,000,000 a-year to the finances of Egypt. The credit of Egypt stands at about 5 ½ per cent; while our credit stands at 3 per cent. Therefore, as I have said, if we were to give the benefit of our credit to Egypt, she would gain something like £2,000,000 sterling a-year. With that, of course, would go the clearing out of the Turkish Government from Egypt. I use the words advisedly when I say the Turkish Government in Egypt, because the governing class in Egypt are not and never have been Egyptian. It would, therefore, only be the substitution of one stranger for another. This would be for Egypt, no doubt, an advantageous policy. I do not, for one moment, dispute that. But what would be the effect to us? To us such a policy would be perilous in the last degree. It is one thing to protect the road to India; but it is another thing to bring India into the range of European politics, which would be the result of Egypt being made a part of England. The consequence would be that Egypt would be practically, as Asiatic Russia is striving to be, a part of Europe. I wish to impress upon the House that there is no middle course between the two which I have described. No middle course will result in the restoration of the finances of Egypt in the sense in which hon. Gentlemen wish them to be restored. To my mind, the recent proposals which have been made, even within the last few days, really amount—if they do not nominally amount—to the annexation of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), on Friday last, said—It is time that when English officers fight in defence of Egypt they should fight as officers of the Queen, and not as officers of a shadow.But if the Army of Egypt—I am not 1264 speaking of our Occupying Army—is to be the Queen's Army, of course the Civil Service of Egypt must be the Queen's Civil Service, and Egypt must be as much a part of our Empire as India is at this time; as India has been since the abolition of the Company, and as Bosnia and the Herzegovina are a part of Austro-Hungary. It is no use, therefore, talking about a Protectorate. A Protectorate with an Army, which is the Queen's Army, and with a Civil Service, which is the Queen's Civil Service, means nothing but annexation. But the scheme is even more formidable than the right hon. Gentleman formulated it on Friday last. I refer to the speech made by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) on Saturday last. I am sorry he is not now in his place. I do not know whether the noble Lord is the proximate Leader of the Tory Party; but, at all events, he says he does not know who its Leaders are. I am not now going into the long list of abusive epithets which the noble Lord showers in that speech upon my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and those who act with him. I can only say that when he makes use of those epithets—We only call it pretty Fanny's way,May I add with Pope?—Lord Fanny spins a thousand such a-day.Without discussing his epithets, let me tell the House what is the conclusion at which the noble Lord arrives. The noble Lord said—The occupation of Egypt by the British Forces will be called a Protectorate of Egypt by the British Empire, having for its object the establishment in process of time of a Government at Cairo.He further said—We are now in Egypt by the sufferance of Europe; but we must endeavour to be in Egypt by the mandate of Europe.He goes on to say that there must be aCongress in which Turkey shall he adequately represented, and the rights and powers of the Sultan loyally protected.He also says that, in dealing with Mahommedan races, we should not shrink from prosecuting our aim even by force of arms, meaning, I suppose, some other Great Powers to assist us—We should not shrink from dealing comprehensively and boldly with the financial indebtedness of Egypt, even though such dealing 1265 should involve some pecuniary liability on ourselves.These words are very serious words; but I do not exactly know what the noble Lord means by the pecuniary resources of this country being drawn upon in any connection with the debts of Egypt. I can, however, name one way in which the finances of this country would be very seriously affected by any such proposal as that which he makes; such, in fact, as that which is made by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire. I put it at a very low figure indeed; but if 10,000 English troops are permanently stationed in Egypt, that means an addition of 20,000 men to our Army. I assume for a moment, that the 10,000 men in Egypt are to be paid for out of the finances of Egypt; but I do not know whether it is possible for us to charge the consequential increase of our Home Army upon the same revenues. This addition of 10,000 men means a charge on our finances of £1,000,000 a-year. If the Army in Egypt is to consist of 15,000 or 20,000 men, the charge to us would be £1,500,000 or £2,000,000 a-year. That charge would be incurred for our Army alone quite irrespective of the large annual charge which must also fall upon us in connection with our Fleet. This is certainly not the time to follow up in detail all the remarks of the noble Lord; but is the House prepared, quite irrespective of what the noble Lord intimates that we should have to do in connection with the Debt of Egypt, to burden the finances of this country for the sake of Egypt to the extent of something like £2,000,000 a-year? Sir, I repeat again that there is no middle course—no practical middle course—between the policy which the Government have adopted, with the approval of the House of Commons, and the policy advocated gingerly and tentatively by the right hon. Baronet opposite, and boldly by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock. For my part, I hope the House will not be led away, by the charm of a scheme of this kind, from the reasonable, sensible, and practical course which Her Majesty's Government have recommended, and which they intend to carry out.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
said, that at the outset he must ask the House to excuse him for having interrupted in an 1266 undoubtedly disorderly way the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had just sat down. He must, however, say that he had interrupted the right hon. Gentleman in order to point out the difference between the deduction he sought to extract from the production of the two telegrams in the Blue Book, and the conclusion any other man would logically and seriously draw from them. Those two telegrams showed what was the opinion of General Gordon upon matters on which he might have been consulted, and should have been consulted, before he started. As the Government of Her Majesty chose not to consult him on these questions, they had now no excuse to offer for not earlier moving to the rescue of the beleaguered garrisons in the Soudan, except that they did not know General Gordon's opinion on these undoubtedly vital points. Such an excuse might satisfy hon. Gentlemen such as the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Col-lings), whose only consideration was what might or what might not play into the hands of the Tory Party; but it could be no excuse for permitting horrible massacres of men, women, and children, such as those which had recently occurred in the Soudan, when British aid was easily within reach. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Childers) made much of the fact that for months hon. Members appeared to have acquiesced in the oppression, or rather in the subjugation, of an oppressed people by force of arms, because they had said nothing during all that time when steps could have been taken to have prevented all that had occurred in the Soudan; and because they said nothing, the right hon. Gentleman therefore drew the conclusion that they must have approved of all that was being done. No such conclusion as that, however, was possible, because the Opposition chose to say nothing; it might indicate rather a disapproval than an approval of the policy that was followed. As the Government themselves confessed, Her Majesty's Ministers staked their policy and risked the sincerity of their doctrines on the military success of Hicks Pasha, and nothing greater or more probable than that. Into the military aspect of the question, however, former speakers had already entered to a sufficient degree, and he should 1267 not have risen to trouble the House if it had not been that the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) and others always offered to speak for what they called the whole North of England. Why, the other night, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) offered to speak for the whole of England North of the Trent. Well, he (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) happened to represent a small oasis in the middle of that Northern waste. He represented a district whose air was not darkened by the cloud of words which, at the last General Election, swept over the political horizon of the country, and where ignorance on such matters certainly had not increased since that date. He believed it was owing to the healthy open-air tendencies of the vigorous and robust political views of the workmen who lived there that he owed his return in 1880; and, that being, so he felt bound to enforce here the views his constituents held. It was not necessary that he should harrow the feelings of the House with recriminations on the subject of the massacres which had taken place in the Soudan, or with inquiries whether such high military authorities as the hon. Member for Ipswich believed or did not believe in the success of the Expedition of Hicks Pasha, and of that of Baker Pasha. He desired to go a little further back, and to inquire into the validity of the defence of that part of the Government position which had not been seriously defended at all—namely, the admission that these horrors arose out of the fact that they did not do something which hon. Members on that side of the House said they ought to have done, but which Her Majesty's Government said they ought not to have done. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer very naturally considered they ought to carry their minds even further back—indeed, as far as they possibly could. It was neither profitable, nor necessary, to follow the Prime Minister into the Joint Control. It was only necessary to note that, with his accustomed ingenuity, the Prime Minister had been very sparing in his mention of the earlier Joint Control instituted by Lord Derby, or, if he had mentioned it at all, he had done so solely in connection with the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), 1268 and had studiously kept out of sight the name of that Minister who, if anyone, shared the initial responsibility of the whole measure. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) to draw distinctions between the financial Control of 1876 and the political Control of 1879; the two were in either case so much alike that Lord Granville's own despatches spoke of the second Control as a "revival" of the first. The Prime Minister's own Cassandra prophecy of 1876 was uttered before what he called Lord Salisbury's Control was thought of; it therefore applied to and condemned Lord Derby's, and not Lord Salisbury's Control. And yet Lord Salisbury was the Minister whose name was now kept in the front. All that was very ingenious, but also very characteristic of the Prime Minister; but, perhaps, after all, he had bettor reserve his tu quoques for the seclusion of the Cabinet Council-room, where he might amuse himself as he liked by bandying recriminations across the Table with the man who was Foreign Secretary to the late Government, but who was the Prime Minister's trusted Secretary of State for the Colonies. No inconsistency! What were they to say to the initial and fundamental inconsistency of undertaking practically the government of one-half of a country, and yet disclaiming all responsibility for the other half? What would they say if a stronger Power than England were to become, in the same sort of way, charged with a practical Protectorate over England, and yet were to profess to have no responsibility for the integrity of England's Indian or Canadian possessions? But this was what the Government did or sought to do in the case of Egypt and the Soudan. They pretended to suppose that they could undertake the practical government of Egypt Proper, where the cultivable soil was comparatively fertile, where the population was unwarlike and submissive, where a sufficient revenue could be raised, where the climate was endurable, where Englishmen would gladly accept service, and where many comfortable posts could be found for them. They pretended to suppose that they could undertake that part of the duty in which the conditions were thus easy, and could escape responsibility for the 1269 other and greater half of the Egyptian Dominions, where all those conditions were reversed, and where the duty was in a proportionately excessive degree unattractive and difficult. But that sort of inconsistency was no new thing in the councils of Her Majesty's Government. It was all of a piece with the way in which, in another part of the world, they reserved a Suzerainty and yet sought to escape the inevitable responsibility for the misconduct of those whom they required to acknowledge that Suzerainty. But the worst of the Egyptian business was, that the Government were not prepared even to face the necessary consequences of their own untenable position. They chose to think that they were under no responsibility for the maintenance of Egyptian supremacy, and they therefore gave no sort of countenance or aid to the efforts for its vindication. That was, as the House knew by their own confession, because of their belief that that Egyptian supremacy in the Soudan ought not to be maintained. They thought the Soudan was a danger and a weakness to Egypt. And so very likely it was; but, unfortunately, they could not summon to their vacillating minds courage enough to insist that Egypt should be relieved of that danger and that weakness. The reasons advanced for this were curious indeed. One of the pretended reasons why they did not say so, in tones which they know must be listened to, was that they thought that the supremacy practically could be maintained—maintained, that was, by the sword—the sword of the still successful General Hicks, and that, therefore, the abandonment of it would be very unpalatable to the Egyptian Government. Had it come to this, then, that Liberal Ministers, even when they desired and considered to be just, the emancipation of an oppressed people, whom they had it in their power to emancipate, were, nevertheless, content to sit still and say nothing about it as long as—what? As long as the continued subjugation of that people by pure force remained a matter practically feasible, and as long as to advise emancipation might, therefore, be unpalatable. It struck him, that after all they had done to the Egyptian Government, it was rather late for them to begin thinking of what was palatable or not to the Egyptian 1270 Government. Nor did it seem very creditable for a Liberal Government to say that it was upon such a ground that they refused to give advice which they knew they could insist upon seeing followed, and which they said they believed on the highest grounds of Liberal principle to be the only true and good advice. In future, at all events, we should know that when Liberal statesmen said that they were in favour of the autonomy of a people, they did not intend to concede that autonomy until it had become no longer practicable to keep down the people with the sword. This was a policy which had a characteristic resemblance to the policy of Majuba Hill; but it was strangely unlike the pretended beliefs of the irresponsible advocates of Bulgarian and other autonomies. Here, then, they had inconsistency in taking up an originally untenable position, and vacillation as soon as the consequences of the original inconsistency became difficult to face. Seeing all this, they need not wonder that the Prime Minister should eagerly resort to such trite artifices of debate as pretending—what nobody believed—that he could not see in the facts detailed to the House by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) any grounds for the terms of his Motion. Such another artifice was the way the Prime Minister claimed to have his policy defined for him by those on that (the Opposition) side of the House. But let him (Mr. Stuart-Wortley) say one word as to this demand for a definition of the Opposition's policy. He did not suppose anyone believed the demand to be seriously made; for if there could be anything more foolish than that any Opposition should so declare itself, it must be that anyone else should expect it to do so. But if the demand was not seriously made by the Ministerialists generally, least of all could it be so made by the Prime Minister. No one, probably, had more often than he made such a demand when in Office, or more often repudiated it when in Opposition. No one could know better than he its value as an artifice of debate. Naturally, he desired to divert the attention of that House and of the public from the terms of the right hon. Baronet's Motion; because it dealt with the past and the past alone, and included in its purview 1271 nothing but those admitted acts of the Government which had preceded, and which it charged to have caused, the disastrous perplexities of the present. Naturally, the Prime Minister wished to draw attention away from this dark and sinister record of what had been done and what had been omitted by himself and his Government. Listening to what had fallen from the Prime Minister and hon. Gentlemen opposite, one would imagine that it was not the Government, but the Opposition, who were on their trial—one would imagine that the only use of the present debate was not to review the proved acts of responsible Ministers, but to judge of the possible actions of certain other persons who might become responsible Ministers in the event of a contingency which had not yet arrived. This debate had no such useless or dangerous purpose—he said dangerous, because he believed that the condition of Egypt had come to be such that any sudden new departure in policy must be either injurious or impossible. It was to be feared that they had irretrievably injured and undermined the power of self-help in Egypt—the Government of that country had come to depend, like a hot-house plant, upon artificial nursing and support from a Power external to itself. For a state of affairs so unhealthy it was difficult enough to say what should be the remedy. Prolonged occupation might mean a further enervation of the national character; while withdrawal of support might bring the greatest injury to the enfeebled organism. But it would, above all, be unjustifiable for any statesman to advise either of these courses without first being placed in a position to form a responsible judgment upon materials accessible to Ministers alone. Whether a prolonged or permanent occupation of Egypt was or was not destined to become necessary, whether it was a Liberal or Conservative Government by whom it would have to be carried out, it would always be to Her Majesty's present Advisers and to their treatment of Egypt that the prolonged occupation would be chargeable. The Government had, surely, enough to answer for as it was. Let them not seek to provoke a premature declaration from the Opposition, lest, in the necessary nature of those declarations, there should be recognized a stronger than all previous 1272 condemnations of their own policy. Let them not provoke speculation into the future; let them answer for the past. They would, surely, have enough to do to discharge themselves from the blame arising out of the massacres and bloodshed which this Motion affirmed, and which hon. Members opposite, whichever way they might vote, scarcely denied to be the direct and disastrous result of what they were pleased to call their consistent and determined policy.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he must congratulate his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Stuart-Wortley), who had just sat down, on having observed a certain amount of decorum in the speech which he had delivered, and upon having abstained from those violent and reckless assertions which the House had been too much in the habit of hearing from hon. Members opposite. His hon. Friend had proceeded altogether on a wrong assumption, because he believed that Her Majesty's Government had been erroneous throughout. Now, he (Mr. Bryce) did not propose, at that stage of the debate, to weary the House with any quotations from the Blue Books. He would rather endeavour to express the feeling which he believed to exist among a considerable section of Members who called themselves independent Supporters of the Government. They were Members who were not prepared to maintain that the Government were infallible, but who disapproved of the Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and were still more opposed to the Resolution moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote). Why must they oppose that Resolution? It was because they considered not merely that the policy of the Government had not been vacillating and inconsistent, but for a stronger reason—that the Government, although under great temptations to abandon a firm line of principle, had taken and adhered to a true policy throughout. He might put their policy in these words. They had looked upon the Soudan as being altogether outside the sphere of English action—that we had nothing to do with it, and that we had no title or interest or reason to interfere in the affairs of the Soudan. It was upon that view that hon. Members on that side of the House felt disposed to 1273 give their support to Her Majesty's Government. They had been told that they were slaves, and that they were going to vote against their consciences in order to please some mysterious body outside. Gentlemen on the other side of the House seemed to know much better what went on here than they did themselves. He might say that if they were slaves, at any rate they were unconscious and contented slaves; and he could not say that he knew of any hon. Member on that side of the House who had expressed a desire to vote against the Government, except the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), who had, that evening, openly avowed that desire. Why did they think the Government entitled to credit for having adhered to a policy of abstention in the Soudan? It was because they considered that the danger of English intervention in the Soudan was one of the greatest dangers which could possibly menace the Egyptian policy of this country. Did hon. Members know what an attempt to rule the Soudan meant? It had been openly avowed by many hon. Members—avowed a few minutes ago by the hon. Member for Sheffield, that he and his Party disapproved of the withdrawal from the Soudan. Now, the Soudan was not only an enormous country, thinly-peopled, unhealthy, poor, and full of deserts, but it was a country where boundaries were not defined. If the Government had gone into that country, there was no reason why they should have stopped anywhere. Their action would have meant the creation of an immense Empire in Equatorial Africa. The danger to the strength of a country like England lay in its strength. She was so powerful that she was obliged to be careful, because experience taught us that we were likely to destroy any weak country we came into collision with, just as a powerful iron-clad was to destroy any weak vessel she came into contact with. Suppose we were successful, we could not abandon our conquest; if we met with a reverse, it would be said that we must avenge that reverse; and we should be led on until we established an Empire in Equatorial Africa like that of India. It must also be borne in mind that England could not govern a country under her control in the way in which Egypt dealt with her Dependencies, or as Russia managed 1274 her Asiatic Provinces. England could not attempt to govern the Soudan without introducing her own civilization; without sending there an army of English soldiers and civilians to keep the country in order, and apply to it the same ideas of administrative progress and government as existed in England itself. He quite admitted that Her Majesty's Government might have rendered a service to civilization by creating an Empire in the Soudan; but there must be some limits to British intervention. Even England, with all her power, must feel that there should be some sort of limit placed on that power. We were not called upon to carry our intervention into every part of the world. We could not afford, so to speak, to lock up our available capital in investments at the same moment in all parts of the world, because, if a pinch came, where should we find ourselves in the case of a difficulty? Hon. Members had spoken upon the assumption that the Soudan was a part of Egypt. The hon. Member for Sheffield said, in so many words—"You cannot expect the Government of half a country to escape the responsibilities of the other half." But the Soudan was not part of Egypt, nor did we go to Egypt to assume the government of the country. That was a matter which had always been disclaimed. It might be thought, from some of the speeches which had been delivered in the course of the debate, that we were in the position of universal successors or heirs, who came into a property and took it with all its liabilities and all its debts, and were bound to fulfil all the engagements connected with it which had been entered into. Our occupation of Egypt was for the limited purpose of re-establishing order, and, as far as possible, bringing into working order local institutions, and thus enabling the country to stand alone. We had nothing to do with the Imperial policy of Egypt, and we could not assume any responsibility for that Imperial policy. He would go as far as to say that it appeared to him Her Majesty's Government were no more responsible for what happened at Sinkat and Tokar, or in the Soudan, than they were responsible for what went on in one of the islands of the Western Pacific, where, also, there were many things happening which humane men must deplore. The House had been treated with expressions of 1275 horror about the slaughter of the garrison of Sinkat. Did hon. Members remember that we had by the Treaty of Berlin made ourselves responsible for the good government of Armenia and Macedonia? Far greater horrors had gone on there, and not one voice had been raised from hon. Members on the Conservative side of that House about the non-fulfilment of our responsibilities. "We ought to discharge the duties already incumbent upon us before undertaking, like knights-errant, the task of redressing wrongs all over the world. He had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for the North Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Guy Dawnay) the other night, not without sympathy for the genuineness of that hon. Member's feeling, but with astonishment at his assumptions, and he could not help wondering how it was the hon. Member came to persuade himself we were responsible, in this country, for what had occurred in the Soudan, except on the hypothesis that, wherever there was an opportunity for an English soldier to go, an English soldier ought to go. It was remarkable to notice the way in which hon. Members opposite—perhaps not so much in the House as out of it, where they were under much less restraint—had dilated upon the horrors of Sinkat, because they thought it was a means of drawing the country away from the real point at issue. They tried to put it on the score of humanity, but ignored the plain facts of the case. These were operations of war; and he did not see why, in operations of war, they should sympathize more with one side than with another. If the arms of the Khedive had been successful there would have been much slaughter of the Native troops. They must regret the slaughter, no matter on whom it fell; but they must not be led away by mere appeals to their feelings of sympathy. If Her Majesty's Government had now interfered at the last moment, it was not because they recognized any responsibility on their part to do so, because they had expressly declared that the question of the Soudan was out of the scope of their interference, but it was simply from a feeling of humanity and their desire to rescue the garrisons. It was considered desirable to rescue the garrisons in order that a useless trouble might not further be prolonged. He was not prepared to say that the Government 1276 had been right in all their acts. He thought it possible that they had been too tenacious in following out and continuing the policy they had declared, and which the House had approved. Let it be remembered that the House had approved of their policy, and had agreed to the view of the Government that we had nothing to do with the affairs of the Soudan, and that, if the Government were to err in any direction, it were far better to err in a direction of keeping this country out of a responsibility which Parliament had encouraged them to disclaim. He might be asked what were our duties with regard to our future relations with Egypt? He believed that the country desired that English troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible; but, in wishing that, he felt sure that they did not desire our retirement a day sooner than was necessary for the proper accomplishment of our plan of organization. With regard to a Protectorate, he did not for one moment think that the country wished for anything of the kind, because it involved, not only the danger which had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but also other dangers relating to the general attitude and policy of England in the East and her relations with the other Powers. With reference to the reforms which it was the wish of the country to see established, the desire was that there should be an alteration of the Law of Liquidation, and that some means should be taken to relieve the peasantry in their present difficulties. If there was one thing desired among the working classes of this country, it was that the Government should be relieved of the groundless imputation of having been moved to their action in Egypt by mercenary motives. He believed it would give great satisfaction to those Members who had approved the policy of Her Majesty's Government hitherto, if an emphatic disproof of this were given. But he repeated that in desiring to withdraw from Egypt they did not wish that our work there should be left undone. Her Majesty's Government had over and over again said that the withdrawal from Egypt should be their proper aim. They desired the Government to adhere to that pledge; but they did not wish any time to be specified, because it might lead to a recurrence of the same difficulty 1277 and miscalculation which had already occurred. We were bound to carry out our reforms in a satisfactory way; but when this had been attained, the sooner we left Egypt the better.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, although he had thought, on listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he had made the most extraordinary speech delivered in the course of the debate, yet he must confess that he was more surprised by the speech of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce), who began by stating that the Government ought not to be censured, because they had not gone to Egypt to take the government of that country on their shoulders. The hon. Member then went on to inform the House that, although at the present time English troops were moving for the relief of Tokar, or to do what they could to defend that town, yet by so doing we had not increased our responsibilities. He thought it only necessary to mention these statements to show how fallacious they were, and time would prove whether the country would acquit the Government of responsibility in case their preparations for the relief of Tokar were insufficient. Again, he would like to know who had been responsible for the government of Egypt since the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had deposed one Egyptian Administration that was not sufficiently subservient, and installed in its place another Administration which was the mere puppet of English rule? But he would turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on which he desired to make one or two observations. The right hon. Gentleman had taunted his (Mr. Grantham's) hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) with having, in his speech, mentioned but one new fact; but, if that were so, his hon. Friend stood in a much superior position to that of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to his speech, for, even if the latter had said anything true, he had suggested nothing new whatever. What truth was there in the attack made by the right hon. Gentleman on the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), whose speech he had described as the most violent and unscrupulous attack that had ever been made on a Liberal Prime Minister from 1278 those Benches? But surely the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman was very treacherous indeed; because, unless he (Mr. Grantham) was mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman was in the House on a former occasion, when the Prime Minister was attacked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—then Mr. Harcourt, now Sir William—who came into the House as a Liberal, and who made one of the most violent attacks on the Government of the day that could be conceived, on the ground of their having obtained their position by false pretences. He (Mr. Grantham) well remembered reading the violent language which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department made use of on that occasion, but for which he was soon after promoted to the Office of Solicitor General. Again, it was not many years ago that another right hon. Gentleman, also a Colleague of the Head of Her Majesty's Government, the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), made a far more violent attack upon his Chief than the hon. Member for Brighton had made that evening, and he, again, was rewarded by promotion to the position in the Cabinet which he now occupied. There was, however, this great difference between the two right hon. Gentlemen and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brighton, for they had attacked the Prime Minister in order to force him to buy off their opposition by giving them seats in his Administration; and, as he had pointed out, they had been rewarded—the one with the Solicitor Generalship, and the other with the Presidency of the Board of Trade. Since that time they had been among the most servile of the right hon. Gentleman's followers; whereas the hon. and learned Member for Brighton attacked the Prime Minister at his own cost, and was ready to vouch his condemnation of their conduct by an appeal to his constituents. His hon. and learned Friend said—" I admit that my language is strong, but I am expressing the opinions of my constituents. I shall go down to them and place my seat in their hands." Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the Conservative Party did not oppose the policy of the Government with regard to Egypt 12 1279 months ago, and that it did not he with the Opposition now to criticize their policy with regard to the Soudan. But they must not forget that the circumstances originally known to the Opposition had entirely changed during the Autumn of last year, so far as concerned the position of affairs in the Soudan. They must remember that Her Majesty's Government stood in the position of trustee with regard to Egypt, and that Egypt was in no other position than that of ward, and the moment it was found that Egypt would be ruined materially, financially, and politically, it was the duty of the Government, as trustees, to alter its policy with respect to Egyptian affairs. But what happened? They found, in November of last year, the British Representative, Sir Evelyn Baring, writing, on the 19th of that month, to Lord Granville, and telling him plainly that the position of the Egyptian Government in the Soudan was bad. He said that the Egyptian Government had no funds to meet the emergency, that they had already sent every available man to the Soudan, with the exception of the forces of Hicks and Baker, and that if those forces were destroyed Egyptian authority would cease over the whole of the Soudan, unless some assistance were given. What he charged upon the Government was this—that, knowing that Hicks Pasha could meet with nothing but disaster, they would not stir a hand or utter a word, either to assist or encourage him, lest they should become responsible; and, although despatch after despatch were sent, warning them of all—of his impending fate, and then of his utter destruction—they were still craven-hearted, and would not move a finger to help the Egyptian Government in their dire necessity, lest again "they should be considered responsible." They guarded themselves in the way which had so often been referred to in the course of this debate. They said, in the despatch of the 20th of November—We cannot lend English or Indian troops. If consulted, recommend abandonment of Soudan within certain limits."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884), p. 93.]He would like to know what the Government meant by saying there was no responsibility incurred by that recommendation. It was clear the question 1280 as to what should be done had boon a matter of consultation for some time between Her Majesty's Government and the Egyptian Government. But the position became worse, because what was only rumoured before was afterwards confirmed by the despatch in which Sir Evelyn Baring gave Lord Granville an account of the way in which the army of Hicks Pasha was destroyed, an event which could only be compared to the overwhelming of the army of Pharoah in the Red Sea. Well, what did the Government do then? Lord Granville, writing to Sir Evelyn Baring, said, in reference to his telegram—I have to instruct you, after consultation with General Stephenson and Sir Evelyn "Wood, to report your opinion as to whether the present state of affairs in the Soudan must he considered as a cause of danger to Egypt Proper. If such should he the case. Her Majesty's Government will he glad to learn your views as to what measures are desirable."—[Ibid. p. 94.]And yet Her Majesty's Government said there was no responsibility on them at all. The first observation he wished to make was that it was a lasting disgrace on the name of Lord Granville, that when he heard of the destruction of that brave man, General Hicks, and his army, his despatch did not contain a single word of sympathy for the General himself or those who died with him. The telegram of the 25th of November showed clearly and unmistakably the disgraceful way in which Her Majesty's Government prepared first of all to do something—to inquire into the matter—and that when they perceived that they might be held responsible, they threw the whole of the responsibility on the unfortunate Government of Egypt. Of the despatch of the 25th of November, only an extract was given in the Blue Book, and hon. Members could not possibly tell whether something of far more importance had not been kept back; but it said that Her Majesty's Government could do nothing in the matter which would draw upon them responsibility for the operations in the Soudan, and it went on to state that the responsibility would rest with the Egyptian Government, who must rely upon their own resources. That was the reply of Her Majesty's Government, in spite of the fact that telegram after telegram and letter after letter had been sent by 1281 Sir Evelyn Baring informing them that the Egyptian Government had no resources; that they had despatched every available man to the Soudan, and that they relied on the British Government to protect them from the consequences which must follow the defeat of General Hicks and his army. He would not go through the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because there was little in it that had the slightest bearing on the question before the House, but would pass from it in order to make some observations on the real issue before the country; for, unless it could be shown that the Motion of Censure on Her Majesty's Government, and the reasons on which it was based, were in accordance with the views of the country, they were not justified in occupying the time of the House with its discussion. He admitted at once the correctness of the observation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), that, unless there were some special reasons, it was the duty of the House to support the Executive Government in cases of national difficulty. He quite agreed with that; but he said there were occasions when the Government of the day had shown itself so miserably weak and incompetent, that no amount of strength and support given to it could prevent that Government falling again into similar difficulties and errors. He repeated that the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman had his assent; but he was unable to forget that when Lord Beaconsfield was in Office, neither the Prime Minister, nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, or any other Liberal Leader in Opposition, rendered the Government of the day assistance during those trying and eventful difficulties which culminated so triumphantly for the Conservative Party in the Treaty of Berlin. What was the charge which they made against Her Majesty's Government? It was not only that recent mishaps, but that all the misfortunes of Egypt since the year 1881 had been brought about by that vacillating and half-hearted policy which was the certain outcome of divided Cabinets and divided counsels. The same want of courage, and the same vacillation which first allowed the forts of Alexandria to be repaired and manned, and guns to be mounted on them, to 1282 hurl defiance, if not destruction, on the British Fleet, and then witnessed the burning of Alexandria and the murder of English subjects, without allowing a shot to be fired, or a sailor to be landed—that same vacillation and want of courage that brought about the destruction of Alexandria, brought about also the massacre of the brave garrison of Sinkat, together with its noble Captain, Tewfik Pasha, and 1,000 innocent women and children. What was it that saved Egypt from anarchy and ruin after the criminal blunders of the Government at Alexandria? It was the voice of indignant England which would have hurled the Government from power, if they had not adopted a more patriotic course; it was the expression of that indignation which led to the victory of Tel-el-Kebir, and it was the same spirit and the same indignation which had led to those measures that were now being taken for the relief of Tokar. From the year 1882 down to the present time, what was it that all Europeans and all well-wishers to Egypt had enforced upon Her Majesty's Government? Time after time, to quote their own Blue Books, they had assured the Government, in the most positive and uncompromising terms, that nothing but the presence of a British force for some time longer could assure the tranquillity of Egypt, or prevent the recurrence of disturbance. The hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) said Her Majesty's Government had accepted no responsibility. It was for what they had not done that they were blamed; they never would have accepted any responsibility had they not been compelled to accept it by the English people. It was said contemptuously that this Jingoism was simply an agitation of the bondholders in this country and in France. He repudiated entirely that assertion, which he thought came with a very bad grace from Her Majesty's Government, because they knew full well the nature of the Reports which came from Lord Dufferin, and which were to be found in the Blue Books. There were several of these Reports; but he would only refer to one, which he thought of too much importance not to be mentioned to the House. It was on page 57 of Blue Book No. 13—the despatch in which Lord Dufferin, writing to Lord Granville, enclosed 1283 a Petition from the inhabitants of Alexandria, and which, after enlarging on the continued presence of British troops in Egypt, went on to refer to the American missionaries in Alexandria, all of whom, he said, were in favour of the retention for a considerable period of the British Army in that country. Lord Dufferin added—That the document must he regarded as the genuine and spontaneous expression of the convictions and wishes of the European colony in Lower Egypt.Having stated so much, he went on to say that another document had been placed in his hands—namely, a memorandum from the American Missionary Society, respecting which Lord Dufferin continued—The Society to which these gentlemen belonged has, as your Lordship is aware, been for many years established in the East, and has won for itself a very high and honourable position. … It will probably surprise your Lordship as disagreeably as it did me, to find that the unanimous and deliberate opinion of the gentlemen in question was very much in accord with that of the European community at Alexandria. They assure me, in the most positive and uncompromising terms, that they consider that nothing but the continued presence of a British force for some time longer can assure the tranquillity of Egypt, or prevent the recurrence of disturbances."—[Egypt, No. 13 (1883), p. 58.]It was manifest, from the Reports which Her Majesty's Government were fully aware of, that it was the uncertain sound of Her Majesty's Government, and the want of courage on their part, that led not only to the difficulties which culminated in the destruction of Alexandria, but to those difficulties which had resulted in the destruction of Egyptian influence in the Soudan, because, just in the same ratio as the friends of Egypt lost confidence in Her Majesty's Government, the enemies of Egypt gained confidence in the course they were pursuing. While Her Majesty's Government occupied their proper position in Egypt there was not much likelihood of the Egyptian Government being really defeated so far as the Soudan was concerned. They charged the Government of Her Majesty with inconsistency and vacillation, and want of courage throughout the whole of their Egyptian management; but the recent fall of Sinkat enabled them to make the charge with increased force, because it was to the inaction of the Government that the 1284 disaster which befel that brave garrison was to be attributed. Let him ask, when they proposed a Vote of Censure on account of the weakness of the Government, which led to the garrison of Sinkat being massacred and the women and children being outraged, and afterwards murdered, what was the good of the Prime Minister getting up in the House and deliberately saying, and occupying an hour and a-half in saying it, that the Dual Control established by Lord Salisbury was a mistake? That was no answer to the poor people who were begging for assistance lest they should be murdered. When those people were sending despatch after despatch, to the effect that they were starving, it was no consolation to them or their friends to say that Her Majesty's Government had improved the cadastral survey of Egypt, and had also increased the irrigation of the country, whereby the crops might be made more valuable. England was now in the position of trustee of Egypt, and if the trustee allowed its ward to act in a foolish way, or in a way disastrous to its own interest, it was necessary that the trustee should be discarded, and another chosen in its stead. He rejoiced that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote) had brought forward this Vote of Censure, No doubt they would fail to arrive at the real opinion of the country by the Division which would be taken upon the Motion; but, fortunately, they could do so by an appeal to the constituencies, and when that appeal was made there was little doubt what the result would be. What had been the consequence of the policy of the Government? They came into power with the old boasted cry of "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform!" They boasted of being an economical Government; but what had been the result of this policy of Her Majesty's Government—this policy of always doing everything too late? Why, the result was that it was a most extravagant policy; they had to pay for what they required millions, whereas if they had done their duty earlier they might have satisfied their needs by the expenditure of a few thousands. Not only had they spent millions of money needlessly, but they had involved the country in a war which would not have been necessary had they acted wisely and prudently. Their extravagance 1285 had shown itself in the expenditure of money, although it was a shame that the country should have been required to spend its treasure unnecessarily. What was that, however, compared with the extravagant expressions which had now to be used by General Gordon, in the hope of rescuing the troops of the Egyptian Government in the Soudan? If it was true that General Gordon had found it necessary to abandon the time-honoured practice of England, in the pursuit of which she had spent millions of money—namely, the practice of suppressing the Slave Trade—if it had been necessary that an English General Officer should openly proclaim he would allow slavery to be carried on, if only for a time, our protection of the Egyptian Government had, indeed, been purchased at a price which was too high for even this country to bear. He well remembered the extraordinary conduct in 1878 and 1879 of the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister. The then Government of Her Majesty were in great difficulty owing to the Russo-Turkish War; but hon. Members well remembered the unpatriotic way in which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to frustrate the policy of the then Leader of the Government. The conduct of the right hon. Gentleman was excused by his Friends, and it was afterwards excused by the country, because they believed he was acting in the cause of outraged humanity. If he did, where were his feelings now? He had had many opportunities of protecting outraged humanity; but he had always, somehow or other, contrived to neglect them. He had an opportunity at Sinkat of protecting that brave garrison which was subsequently massacred to a man. But the right hon. Gentleman preferred that humanity should be outraged rather than his Government should accept any responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of preventing the outrages which, no doubt, were committed upon those unfortunate women and children of Sinkat previous to their massacre; but he preferred that their humanity should be outraged rather than weaken the support he got from the Radicals, or disturb the position which he held in the Radical Party. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford told the House, there were times when it was the duty of the House 1286 to lead the Government. He (Mr. Grantham) agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, because the whole history of the present Government had been a history of divided counsels, followed by disaster. In 1880, owing, no doubt, to their divided counsels, they stood by in Ireland while a rebellious and murderous organization got hold of the country, and almost broke the bond which united that country to England. In 1881, they witnessed the same thing in reference to that unhappy country the Transvaal. That, no doubt, was owing to divided counsels; because the Ministers of Her Majesty, when out of Office, held language very different to that they held when in Office. Then, again, hon. Members knew what happened in Ireland in 1882, owing, again, to divided counsels. What had happened, however, in Egypt was far worse than that which occurred in Ireland and the Transvaal, for the weakness and vacillation of Her Majesty's Government had been written in letters of blood on the sands of that unhappy country. Many Governments had made mistakes in their foreign and domestic policy; but those mistakes had always been in upholding the honour and credit of this country. It had been reserved for the present Government to make mistakes dishonourable and discreditable to England. It had been reserved for the present Government that, during every year of their existence, there should be times when loyal subjects of the Crown had publicly to proclaim their shame and humiliation at the thought of being Englishmen. In Ireland loyal men had been obliged out of fear to join the ranks of the rebellious in that country. In the Transvaal pretty much the same thing happened. Englishmen hung down their heads with shame and humiliation at the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government; and they were obliged to declare they were not Englishmen, or that they had ceased to belong to the Mother Country. It was only last week that it was reported in the newspapers that English people in Egypt were ashamed of their nationality. In that shame he believed a large majority of the people of this country shared. The different speakers on the Ministerial side of the House had one and all condemned the policy of the Government, though they had one and all declared their intention of supporting the Government. 1287 It might be in consequence of such inconsistency that Her Majesty's Ministers would obtain a majority. If, however, the Government had as much courage as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), they would dissolve. If they did that they would assuredly be hurled from power; indeed, their destruction would be as complete as was that of Pharoah and his hosts in the Red Sea.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
asked the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) if there was any truth in the statement that Tokar had fallen; and whether he was able to give the House any information as to the state of affairs in the Soudan?
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked whether the Government had received any information in confirmation of the Proclamation of General Gordon establishing the Slave Trade at Khartoum? It was stated in that evening's papers that the issuing of such a Proclamation had been confirmed.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
, in reply, said, that no information had reached the Government as to the alleged fall of the garrison of Tokar. In reply to the Question of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), he also had to state that no information beyond that given at an earlier hour that evening had been received at the Foreign Office. Of course, he did not propose to oppose the Motion for the adjournment of the debate; but he hoped it might be convenient to hon. Members that the debate should conclude to-morrow.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.