§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I think that, in moving the Military Estimates, it may be convenient that I should make a short statement strictly confined to the principal matter to which these Supplementary Estimates apply. If any further explanation is required it will be in my power, as well as in that of any other Member of the Government, to address the Committee again. It may be assumed that the principal object of discussion will be the item of £100,000 for the expenses of the Military Expendition to Tokar. This Military Expedition was, as the Committee are aware, undertaken after the defeat of Baker Pasha, primarily for the relief of the garrison of Tokar, but also with the object of providing for the security of the Port of Suakin. Her Majesty's Government, in advising the Egyptian Government, and in assisting the Egyptian Government to evacuate the interior of the Soudan, have undertaken the protection of the Red Sea ports, and especially the Port of Suakin. That port was, and had been for some time, threatened by bodies of the insurgent tribes; and after the defeat of Baker Pasha's force the danger of Suakin was greatly increased, it being not only threatened but actually attacked and fired upon by small parties of Arabs. After the defeat of Baker Pasha, the fall of Sinkat, and the surrender of Tokar, the Port of Suakin was menaced by two very considerable bodies of warlike and victorious tribes, who occupied positions surrounding Suakin and directly threatening the place. These bodies had announced their intention, directly they had disposed of the Egyptian garrisons, to take Suakin and to drive the British Force into the sea. I altogether deny 677 the truth of the assertion which has been made in this House, in the course of the different irregular discussions on this question which have already taken place, that the advance of General Graham from Trinkitat to Tokar was an unnecessary and an unprovoked advance. In the first place, General Graham had received no accurate or authentic account of what had taken place at Tokar; and, indeed, it was not until after the battle of El Teb, and until he had advanced to Tokar itself, that he learnt for the first time accurately what had taken place in reference to the surrender. Until then he did not know but what he might find some portion of the Egyptian garrison holding their own in Tokar. Therefore, it became absolutely impossible for General Graham, charged with the commission with which he was charged, to have returned to Suakin on receipt of information which, however probable it might have appeared to him, was not certain information; and he would not have been justified in abandoning the advance upon Tokar, or the mission upon which he had been despatched. But even if General Graham had been aware with certainty that Tokar had fallen, I should still maintain that he could not have discharged the whole of the mission upon which he was sent—namely, the effectual protection of the Port of Suakin, without making the advance which he did make, or without fighting the battle he did fight. The force which General Graham found in position at El Teb was encamped not very distant from, but directly threatening, Suakin. Therefore, if that port was to be satisfactorily defended, and if a large British Force was not to be permanently shut up in the place for the purpose of protecting it, it was absolutely necessary that General Graham should not retire in the face of a victorious force in such a position, but that he should take efficient measures to defeat and disperse it upon the spot where it was encamped; or it was inevitable that he would find, on his retirement from Trinkitat to Suakin, that it would have followed him and offered him battle, and he might have been compelled to fight under circumstances far less advantageous and less desirable for him than those under which he did actually fight. General Graham, having fought successfully the battle of El 678 Teb, proceeded to Tokar; and having released the remains of the Egyptian force which he found there, he retired with his force to Trinkitat, and has himself returned to Suakin, and I believe that the greater part of his force will leave Trinkitat to-day. In concert with Admiral Hewett he has issued a Proclation to Osman Digna and his followers, which is the one, I believe, that has been referred to by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). It is unnecessary that I should refer to the exact terms of that Proclamation until we have received further and more accurate information with regard to it, seeing that the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has promised to make known its terms as soon as possible.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The noble Lord merely asked that Notice should be given of the hon. Gentleman's Question, referring to the actual terms of the Proclamation. Undoubtedly it is the fact that Proclamations have been issued, and that under those Proclamations Admiral Hewett and General Graham have called upon the forces under Osman Digna to disperse, and Osman Digna and his adherents have been warned that, in the event of their not so dispersing, they will be dispersed by force. I may add that reinforcements have been sent to General Graham to enable him to make that declaration good, and to take the necessary measures for the dispersal of Osman Digna's forces in the event of their not complying with the Proclamations which have been issued. General Graham has been directed not to undertake any operations at a considerable distance from Suakin. It is believed that the force under the command of Osman Digna is at a spot about 10 miles from Suakin. It appears, however, that there is in the neighbourhood a considerable number of tribes who are believed to be friendly, and others who are believed to be wavering, and who, there is every reason to believe, will be disposed to take that side which is the strongest. And although General Graham has been directed not to undertake, with the force under his command, any operations at a distance from Suakin, 679 it is extremely probable, though, of course, we cannot speak with any certainty as to the fact, that the spontaneous dispersal of Osman Digna's force, or their forcible dispersal by General Graham and his troops, will have the effect of inducing those tribes which are either friendly or wavering to open out the Berber and Suakin route; and, if that object is accomplished, I need not say that very great aid and assistance will have been given to the mission which General Gordon is undertaking, and to the work in which he is at present engaged.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
Will the noble Marquess state what are the precise instructions which have been given to General Graham?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I cannot, at this moment, give the precise instructions; but I may state that yesterday afternoon a telegram was received from General Graham saying that he had conferred with the Admiral at Suakin, and that they proposed to issue a Proclamation calling upon Osman Digna's forces to disperse, and that they proposed to land troops at Suakin for the purpose of enforcing the Proclamation; and they recommended that, if it be necessary, the force under General Graham's command should advance upon the position occupied by Osman Digna. They say that, in their opinion, after the victory gained at El Teb, the operation would not be one that would be seriously resisted; but they think, at the same time, that it would be necessary to take every precaution. The only instructions which have been given to General Graham on the subject from home are that we approve the intentions and recommendations contained in the telegram, and of which I have given a general description. I believe, and I am prepared to maintain, that there is nothing whatever inconsistent in these operations, or in the instructions which have been given to Admiral Sir William Hewett and General Graham, with the policy which Her Majesty's Government have hitherto adopted in the Soudan, and which has been announced in this House. General Gordon's mission was one mainly for the purpose of withdrawing the Egyptian garrisons and the Egyptian officials from the interior of the Soudan, and also to make such 680 arrangements as might be practicable for the government of the Provinces when the garrisons had been withdrawn. General Gordon has explained that the question of evacuation is so mixed up with that of the interests of the people of the Provinces that it is impossible to separate them; but the evacuation, which he still considers the right policy, must be a matter of some time, and he does not appear to have excluded the idea or the possibility of the employment of some armed force against those who resist the measures he has taken for withdrawing the garrisons and the Egyptian officials from these Provinces. We were asked, the other day, why we were engaged in war with Osman Digna, the lieutenant of the Mahdi, whom General Gordon had appointed Governor of a Province in the Soudan? I think the position of the Mahdi, and the position of Osman Digna in regard to us, are totally and entirely different. The Mahdi is not threatening any position which the British Government has undertaken to defend. The Mahdi is not, as far as we are aware, actually engaged in obstructing the measures which General Gordon has been directed to take for the evacuation of the Soudan. On the other hand, Osman Digna is not only by word, but also by deed, menacing and threatening the positions which the British Government have already announced their intention to protect, and he is still engaged in opposition to those measures, and to the peaceable withdrawal of the Egyptian garrison and officials from that portion of the Soudan. We have no intention of undertaking any operation for the purpose of punishing or taking any revenge upon Osman Digna. We have no intention of undertaking any operation for the purpose of exterminating or of making war upon his adherents, so soon as they shall cease to menace the positions which we have announced our intention to maintain and to protect. There appears also to have been, the other day, some misrepresentation in the minds of hon. Members as to our intention immediately to withdraw General Graham's force. There is, I believe, every reason to hope that within a short period General Graham's force will have accomplished the purpose for which it was sent—that is to say, the relief of what remained of the garrison 681 of Tokar, and the effective protection of Suakin. When this is done, I should be disposed to think that the retention of a force of any magnitude, such as that at General Graham's command, will be entirely unnecessary; and probably it will be easily in the power of the Navy to provide for the security of Suakin during the short interval which may elapse before the final decision is come to as to the permanent garrison—a garrison probably of moderate dimensions—by which Suakin is to be held. I do not think that there is anything further upon which it is necessary for me, on this occasion, to detain the Committee. I am quite aware that the Vote which I am asking the Committee to grant affords an opportunity for the discussion of any question connected with the policy of the Government, either in the Soudan or in Egypt in regard to the expedition, which it may be thought desirable to debate; but I am of opinion that, considering the lengthened and numerous discussions which we have had on the subject within a very short time, it is not necessary for me, on the part of the Government, to volunteer any further exposition of our policy than that which has been already given, reserving to myself, and also, of course, to all the other Members of the Government, the power and the right to answer any further Questions which it may be desired to put to us in regard to our Egyptian policy. And I venture to hope that if it is the real object of hon. Members—which I assume it is—to obtain some clearer exposition in regard to our policy in the Soudan, it will be found that this discussion in Committee is a more convenient discussion, and a more convenient way of attaining that object than would have been a formal discussion on such a Motion as was proposed to be made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley). I beg, Sir, to move the Supplementary Estimate which has been placed in your hands.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £370,900, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, to meet additional Expenditure for Army Services.
If I had any doubt before as to the necessity, however reluctantly, of obtruding myself on the Committee, it would have been dispersed by the speech of the noble Marquess in moving these Estimates; for if the position was one which was unpleasant and dubious in the first instance, it becomes doubly so by the prospect opened out by the noble Marquess, that this is not the end of the warlike operations in Egypt; but that, on the contrary, so far as I can learn, the occasion, if not absolutely forced upon the Government of a further expenditure of life, and perhaps, of money, is at least not avoided by them in the slightest degree, and that an opportunity of using the force they have assembled at Suakin and Trinkitat is now to be seized for the purpose, as we are now told, of giving a further lesson to those tribes who have ventured to oppose Her Majesty's Government. Now, what is the position at the present time? We understand that the force which has been sent to Suakin and Trinkitat was assembled there with definite work to carry out, with a definite programme before them; and that upon the satisfactory conclusion of the duties that force was sent to Trinkitat to execute, it was to be withdrawn at as early a period as might be. Now, however, we learn that a Proclamation has been sent out, of which the noble Marquess did not vouchsafe to give us the terms, although, from the fact of his having answered it, they must be in his hands at the present moment. A Proclamation has been issued against Osman Digna, giving him to understand, on terms with which we are unacquainted, that unless he submits himself, or permits Her Majesty's Government to take their course, his tribes are to be dispersed by the British Forces; but that no further steps will be taken against Osman Digna's forces when they shall have ceased to be adherents of that person. It is said that there is a difference between Osman Digna and the Mahdi. The noble Marquess says there is nothing inconsistent in the operations against Osman Digna and the position we occupy in respect to the Mahdi. He says the Mahdi is not an obstruction. But will the noble Marquess venture to say that the offer made to the Mahdi, and the position in which he now stands in respect to 683 General Gordon, and I presume to Her Majesty's Government, is one merely of neutrality, purchased, however temporarily; or whether he is in a position in which we are likely to receive from the new Sultan of Kordofan that cordial support which Her Majesty's Government desire? That is a point upon which we should very much like to have an explanation from the noble Marquess at some future date. In the first place, may I be allowed to express my personal regret at being obliged to make use of the Forms of the House in a sense which to outsiders might imply that we, who sit on this side of the House, propose to refuse to join in that which is necessary for General Graham's gallant force? I regret also that the noble Marquess sat down without one word of approval, as far as I could gather, of the manner in which that force carried out the arduous and difficultduties with which it was charged, and, above all, without one word of praise for the gallant Commander, who has fully justified the choice made of him, and who has borne out the anticipations which all those who have the honour of his friendship might well have formed, and who has performed his duties in a way which leads us to hope that if opportunity should again arise his services will again be employed. The noble Marquess might also, I think, have spared one word in praise of the courage and endurance of the men, the bravery with which they fought a determined enemy, and the cheerfulness and goodwill with which all those very difficult operations were carried out. At least do not let it be said that the Committee are insensible to the value of such services and such operations. "We have been told several times that it is not our duty to ask any Questions of the Government, either with respect to General Gordon or the Government, while operations are going on. Although I think that doctrine has been hardly pressed, and speaking for myself, I have religiously abstained from asking the noble Marquess a single Question which might hamper and impede the Government. But so far as I am able, with the indulgence of the Committee, I will endeavour to deal only with that which is public and before the House. We have been told, on more than one occasion, that the opportunity 684 for discussing the policy of the Government would be upon the occasion when the Vote for the services rendered was proposed. But what is the reply which the Government give us? We accept their challenge. We take the earliest opportunity for placing a Motion on the Paper by which the whole of these questions can be raised; and we are met by what I cannot help characterizing as a somewhat narrow, although, it is true, an accurate construction of the Rules of Debate. We might have thought that the Government would have taken an opportunity to show, not only the Opposition, but the country, what their policy is to be in Egypt, and to what these expeditions tend. It would not have hindered, but facilitated, the progress of Business if they had given a day, or even more, for that purpose. The immediate result, in a Parliamentary and practical point of view, would have been that only one speech could in that case have been made, and one question raised; whereas many speeches can now be made, and many questions raised, on the Vote of all three Services employed in connection with the Egyptian Government. I believe that a frank and candid explanation at an early date would have done much to save them from the perpetual torment, as I well know it is, of unlimited inquiry. I hope this will be accepted as my apology for speaking at rather greater length than is customary in Committee. My feeling is very strong, and I ask the Committee to look carefully, and see whether, in all probability, under the circumstances in which we are placed, this is not likely to be only the first of many similar Estimates, unless the Government are content to take a broader view of the question than they have yet taken. If they like to live, as it were, from hand to mouth, and only ask the House to come forward when they find these expeditions necessary, and only deal with the question partially instead of dealing with it as one general question, Votes in Committee will come almost perpetually before us, and what is being done now as an exception will be a matter of common practice in the future. I venture to say that what has happened in the past, at El Teb and elsehere, is what will happen in the future at Assouan or in the vicinity of the Littoral, which, at the present time, you have not made up 685 your minds to abandon. Let me take this opportunity of doing justice to the memory of a brave and unfortunate man—and let me ask the Committee to go back for a short time to the position in which we were placed in respect of the expedition which brought this state of things about. I do not wish to go back beyond the time when the Government first asked for a Vote for warlike operations which were not in Egypt. They told us that they went there to put down tyranny, and to promote the settlement of Egyptian affairs. Twenty months have passed, and we wished to know, and we have a right to know, how the Government have used the power at their command, how the tyranny of one person or another has been put down, and how the settlement of Egyptian affairs has been promoted? In my opinion, and in the opinion of most persons who have examined the question, if we wish to know what has led directly to the present state of affairs we must go back to the time when General Hicks was sent to Khartoum. He was engaged by the Egyptian Government, with the entire concurrence of Her Majesty's Representative. Let me here, in justice to General Hicks, correct an expression which has been used "elsewhere," that he was only a retired officer serving a Foreign Power. True, it may be, in a literal sense, that he was; but it was not so in the spirit. He was an officer who had served long in the Army, and he had entered with the full knowledge of your Representative into the service of a Power with whom you were in close alliance, and whose country, in point of fact, was lying under your military occupation. I am sorry that I shall have to trouble the Committee with one or two extracts, but they will be as few as possible, and are merely for the purpose of illustrating the case which I wish to make out. General Hicks made the campaign in Sennaar. He achieved victories, which, in Lord Dufferin's opinion, led to the complete re-establishment of the authority of the Egyptian Government, and in regard to which Lord Dufferin himself has placed his opinion on record in the despatch dated December 14, 1883. He there says, speaking of the campaign of Sennaar—Had General Hicks's offensive operations terminated here, all would have been compara- 686 tively well. A deep river and a considerable tract of desert separated the liberated territory from the Mahdi's bead-quarters, and breathing time had been gained for effecting the defensive operations suggested by Colonel Stewart, and for the establishment of a just and decent Administration at Khartoum and Sennaar, as well as for negotiating with some of the disaffected tribes."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884) p. 136.]Then he goes on to say that he was not aware of the cause which led to General Hicks's disaster and defeat. General Hicks returned to Khartoum at the end of May. He continued to telegraph to Sir Edward Malet, as he had previously done, concerning his operations; and I understand that Sir Edward Malet not only allowed, but encouraged, him to believe that in so doing he was acting for the best interests of the British and Egyptian Governments. What I want now to point out is this—that this unfortunate officer in what he did was led, I do not say by any absolute fault, but, at all events, was allowed to be led by the English Government into the position which terminated in his unfortunate defeat and disaster; for, although on the 22nd of May Sir Edward Malet had already sent a note to Cherif Pasha, in which he disclaimed responsibility on the part of Her Majesty's Government for the operations in the Soudan, or for the appointment or action of General Hicks, I believe, as a matter of fact, that this information was never communicated to General Hicks; but that, on the contrary, he rested in the belief that what he did was with the approval and knowledge of Her Majesty's Government. Surely, Sir, an officer so appointed, with the assent of the Representatives of the British Government, if the British Government intended to disown his proceedings, the only candid and straightforward course proper to take was to inform him of the fact. That course appears not to have been taken. On the contrary, it seems to be perfectly plain according to a telegram, with which I will not at this moment trouble the Committee, that General Hicks constantly and plainly asked whether Cherif Pasha's orders had been repeated, and whether steps had been taken to support him in his military arrangements. There is one point on this part of the question which I ought to mention. General Hicks, in a telegram dated June 28 to Sir Edward Malet, earnestly requests reinforcements, without which he says 687 his presence there is of no use. After asking if Cherif Pasha had repeated his orders, and whether steps had been taken to support him, he goes on to say—I must urgently request that distinct orders be sent that all directions I give, especially as regards the organization of the forces now collecting, as also for all military arrangements for and during the campaign, may be obeyed. If this is not done, my being here is of no use, and I beg to suggest that I may be recalled."—[Egypt, No. 22 (1883), p. 72.]The telegram of the 21st of May, to which this was a reply, does not appear in the Blue Book, nor is there any information about it. But, in the absence of information to the contrary, I am justified in assuming that this was an answer to a despatch which General Hicks quoted in his private correspondence. General Hicks said that orders had been sent by Cherif Pasha to Suleiman Pasha that no military movements were to be made without his advice and assent, and that virtually he was Commander-in-Chief. That telegram must naturally have led General Hicks to believe that he was receiving the support of Her Majesty's Government through their Representative. He was not satisfied with the arrangements, and subsequently to that Suleiman Pasha was relieved of his command, the fact being reported to Lord Granville. General Hicks received from Sir Edward Malet a telegram saying that after this concession he hoped he would not press his resignation; and this General Hicks held rightly, as I imagine, to be a direct request to him, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to continue in his command. That telegram does not appear in the Blue Book; but I am informed, upon authority which I will give to the noble Marquess if he desires to have it, that it was sent. On the 18th of August General Hicks was appointed Commander-in-Chief. Lord Granville was informed of this through Sir Edward Malet, who telegraphed his congratulations, adding that the act was a spontaneous one on the part of the Egyptian Government. Sir Edward Malet said that he was debarred by his instructions from giving advice, the policy of Her Majesty's Government being to abstain, as much as possible, from interference with the action of the Egyptian Government in the Soudan. But that is not all. On the same day 688 General Hicks received a telegram from the Khedive in cipher in English, which I also give on the same authority I have just referred to. The telegram commences—It is with pleasure that I hereby appoint you Commander-in-Chief of the Soudan expedition, with the rank of Lieutenant General, and I have no doubt that your previous knowledge of the country will be of great advantage.The Khedive's telegram then goes on to say—In my opinion, without complete success in that quarter (that is, the Soudan), the work would be but half finished, and would have to be begun again. So long as that Province is not subdued there can be no lasting peace in the Soudan, and I hope that you will employ your best efforts to accomplish its reduction.
I am informed that it was received on the 18th of August, and I will verify the telegram if necessary. Let any hon. Member put himself in the position of an officer so appointed, and so acting, receiving as he believed from the Representatives of Her Majesty's Government in cipher in English a message of that sort. How was it possible that an officer, under such circumstances, should not suppose that he had, if not the formal, at least the moral support of Her Majesty's Government? There is also this fact—that the cipher telegram was received almost simultaneously with one from Sir Edward Malet, congratulating him on his appointment; and although it is true that on the 22nd of May the Government had disclaimed all responsibility on account of the operations in the Soudan, they had not acquainted General Hicks with the fact, but had left him in ignorance of their action, although they requested him to push on the work to the end. No wonder he complained that the departure of Lord Dufferin, who had approved of the course he had taken, and had placed his opinion on record, was a great blow to him. From that point begins what I may call the second policy of Her Majesty's Government—that is to say, in no way giving advice to the Egyptian Government, although General Hicks was never acquainted with that fact by Her Majesty's Government. He was allowed to start on his hazardous expedition; the wise counsel of Lord 689 Dufferin, as appears from the Blue Book, that the expedition should be confined to Sennaar, was overlooked—by whom I do not presume to say—and General Hicks was allowed to start on the hazardous enterprize of reconquering Kordofan—an enterprize as to which he informed Sir Edward Malet, in a telegram (No. 18, page 27, of Nov. 22), that when he considered that defeat might mean, not only the loss of Darfour and of Kordofan, but also of Sennaar, and possibly of Khartoum, he thought that no risk ought to be run, and he said—" Do me the favour to submit this to the Egyptian Government." I have now endeavoured to go through this history, and I ask the Committee to pardon me if I have wearied them. I have wished to show how intimate was the connection between the Egyptian Army and the British Representative; how close it was with reference to the operations in the Soudan; and how probable by analogy that such disasters might happen again if Her Majesty's Government accepted even the limited responsibility as far as Assouan or Wady Haifa. General Hicks's despatch of the 3rd of October warned the Government of the precarious nature of his operations. He was a man of sound judgment; but his judgment was set aside and disregarded. So little do the Government appear to have understood the position in which he was placed, that actually on the 6th of September, almost on the very day that General Hicks started, they commenced negotiations for the reduction of Her Majesty's troops then in Egypt, although General Hicks was starting on this admittedly hazardous expedition, admittedly with inadequate means, and with absolutely no Reserve behind him, except Sir Evelyn Wood's Army, which was enlisted for service in Egypt Proper only. Two days before the disaster Her Majesty's Government decided to evacuate Cairo. If the Mahdi had followed up his success after the annihilation of General Hicks's Army, with such a Reserve as was seen in the hands of General Baker, and with Her Majesty's Forces withdrawn from Cairo, in what a position would Her Majesty's Government have been for the defence of Egypt Proper, their responsibility with regard to which they have never yet repudiated? It matters little whether the Government can evade, 690 as they think, their responsibility by a disclaimer on paper. The broad fact remains, and will not be misunderstood either in this House or in the country, that Her Majesty's Government, having Egypt in their power, and the Egyptian Army really, though not nominally, in their hands, allowed General Hicks to start on his expedition, and allowed the Egyptian Government to embark in such a hazardous enterprize, and never lifted their little finger to prevent these operations. Let me turn from this, which, after all, is only a melancholy retrospect, to what is likely to be the position in regard to following out the instructions that have been given to General Gordon. If ever there was a remarkable document presented to the House it was the instructions to General Gordon and the following Papers. And do not let the noble Marquess taunt me with making an indiscreet use of these Papers. They are before the world, and free for anyone to comment upon them at his discretion. I would not willingly do anything to hamper or impede the delicate negotiations that are going on. But, still, this is a matter on which it seems to me it is perfectly fair to comment. On the 18th of January in this year, Lord Granville, in a despatch to General Gordon, says—Her Majesty's Government are desirous that you should proceed at once to Egypt, to report to them on the military situation in the Soudan, and on the measures which it may be advisable to take for the security of the Egyptian garrisons still holding positions in that country, and for the safety of the European population in Khartoum. You are also desired to consider and report upon the best mode of effecting the evacuation of the interior of the Soudan, and upon the manner in which the safety and the good administration by the Egyptian Government of the ports on the sea coast can best be secured."—[Egypt, No. 2 (1884), p. 3.]On the 26th of November, in one of the telegrams received, Tokar and Sinkat were reported to be in danger; and this despatch is almost, I think, if not quite, the earliest notification in which we see that Her Majesty's Government were in any way anxious that the security of the Egyptian garrisons should be considered. Now, Sir, General Gordon writes a very remarkable Memorandum, in which he explains clearly the position in which he stands. In his Memorandum, received February 1, he says that— 691Her Majesty's Government have come to the irrevocable decision not to incur the very onerous duty"—here follow words which would almost appear to be ironical if they were not in a serious Paper:—Of securing to the peoples of the Soudan a just future government."—[Egypt, No. 7 (1884), P. 2.]Her Majesty's Government have given us this leading instruction to General Gordon—that it was their irrevocable decision not to incur the onerous duty of securing' the just future government of the Soudan. General Gordon is a man who, as we all know, would not be afraid of responsibility in any form; like a wise and practical man, he places on record the leading points of his expedition, and, to use his own words, keeping paragraph No. 1 in view—namely, that the evacuation of the Soudan is irrevocably decided upon, he says it will depend upon circumstances in what way that is to be accomplished. Now, let me ask the attention of the Committee for one moment to a point in the programme of General Gordon which, I think, has hitherto escaped remark. His idea is—That the restoration of the country should ho made to the different petty Sultans who existed at the time of Mehemet Ali's conquest, and whose families still exist; that the Mahdi should be left altogether out of the calculation as regards the handing over the country; and that it should he optional with the Sultans to accept his supremacy or not."—[Ibid.]Adding, that to hand over to the Mahdi the arsenals would be a mistake. The passage to which I desire to call the attention of the Committee is that in which, after saying there will be little or no difficulty in handing over the Soudan to those who were the former Rulers of the country, he makes certain exceptions. And what are they? He says that—The most difficult question is how and to whom to hand over the arsenals of Khartoum, Dongola, and Kassala.And I agree that, although the policy of General Gordon, in pursuance of the instructions of Her Majesty's Government, is plain enough as regards the portions of the country referred to as having Rulers to whom you can hand them over, yet exception is made with reference to these three important places, with regard to which I hazard the 692 humble opinion that they should not be given up. Whoever looks at the map will see the importance of these places for purposes both offensive or defensive in respect of the Frontier of Egypt. I do not wish to comment in detail as to the other points which may be still left in doubt. We are a little anxious to know if the handing over of Khartoum, whether it be to Zebehr or to any other person, is within the scope, as I understand it to be, of General Gordon's instructions; but that being a point, perhaps, of difficulty, I will, therefore, not touch it. I proceed on safer and sounder ground, and I ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to give the Committee some information as to what we may expect the policy of Her Majesty's Government to be in respect of the other places. There is the policy of Cherif Pasha, to which, perhaps, I should do an injustice if I did not quote it in his own words. The policy of Cherif Pasha, and the policy of the Egyptian Government, to which they adhered until Her Majesty's Government displaced them, is thus stated—The first objection which presents itself to the mind in contemplating the possibility of the abandonment of the Soudan by Egypt is the Firman of the 7th August, 1879, which formally prohibits all alienation of territory on the part of the Khedive. But, even supposing Egypt to have an absolute right of giving up her possessions in the Soudan, it is right to examine what the consequences of it will be. In the actual state of affairs, the Government maintains its authority over the whole of the Soudan, excepting the Province of Kordofan and the districts in the neighbourhood of Suakin. It is a question of abandoning to the insurrection the whole of the Eastern Soudan, the Moudiriehs of Berber and Dongola, as well as the whole course of the Nile, from its source to a point to be defined as the Southern Frontier of Egypt. The False Prophet would then find himself regarded as the sole authority over these vast regions. … Egypt would thus have contributed to the increase of the prestige of the False Prophet. … Deprived of her natural frontiers, and consequently vulnerable on all sides, Egypt would be obliged, to ensure her security, to keep on foot a considerable force, and one beyond her means."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884), pp. 145–6.]And this, in respect of the latter portion of it, does not appear to be an overrated statement. What is the report made to Her Majesty's Government? It is to be found on page 129 of the same Blue Book, where Sir Evelyn Baring, writing on the 3rd of December, and alluding to the alternative policy of abandoning the Soudan and occupying 693 Egypt only as far as Assouan or Wady Haifa, as the case may be, says—General Stephenson and Sir Evelyn Wood are of opinion that, if the Egyptian Government be left to rely exclusively on its own resources, and the Mahdi advances, Khartoum must fall. … If Khartoum is abandoned, they think that the whole of the Valley of the Nile, down to Wady Haifa or thereabouts, will probably be lost to the Egyptian Government.He goes on to say—I hare not the passage here, but I shall be in the recollection of the Committee—that the limitation of the territory of the Egyptian Government can only be regarded as an embodiment of that policy in respect of which they had placed on record that if it were adopted a heavy addition must be made to the Egyptian Army. Now, I do not know whether the Committee fully realize the extent of territory to be abandoned. The territory between Assouan and Khartoum extends over something like nine degrees, or, roughly speaking, 600 miles; and I understand that 500 miles is what may be fairly computed as its lateral dimensions. To whom is this territory to be ceded? Is it to be left outside the sphere of our policy? Are we to be indifferent while tribal warfare is continually going on; or are we to subsidize and encourage friendly tribes, and use them as a barrier? Then, with regard to the Western Frontier. It is true that either Wady Haifa or Assouan control, to a great extent, the Valley of the Nile; but the Western Frontier is a source of danger which you cannot altogether afford to disregard. Again, what position will Her Majesty's Government take with regard to the garrisons of the Littoral? Still more is the necessity of working upon those garrisons pointed to by the answer which the noble Marquess has given to-day. Are these, in the opinion of the noble Marquess, to be used only for defensive purposes—the forces being shut up at Suakin, and presumably at analogous places? If so, I ask the Committee to consider what a prospect of tribal warfare, and what a fruitful source of future Estimates, is here opened up. I ask the noble Marquess to tell the Committee whether the garrisoning of these places is to be on the same principle as was acted upon in the case of Aden? We formerly occupied Aden alone, and afterwards a small extent of country inland; but, practi- 694 cally, we shut ourselves off from all connection with the interior of the country, so much so that I believe officers were at one time prohibited from going any distance from the lines of the garrison. We ask, are these garrisons to be kept for defensive purposes, and for defensive purposes alone? The noble Marquess spoke of their being occupied for such time only until they can be safeguarded by the Navy, and until such further time, as I apprehend, that the defence of the garrisons can be entrusted to troops, either British, or under immediate British command. I should not be in Order if I laid any stress upon this now; but what a pleasant prospect is thus opened up for the Navy, especially if it be occupied with operations in connection with the Slave Trade; or, still more, if, as we heard the other day, by formidable hints thrown out by Ministers, they were to be occupied with a view to prevent communications between the Soudan and the head-quarters of the Slave Trade in Arabia. That, I think, is not a very lively prospect of the duties which will devolve on Her Majesty's Navy. I believe there are many creeks along the coast where, under shelter of the land, dhows can be used for the purposes of the Slave Trade. But how are these garrisons to be manned? Have the Government made up their minds upon this point? I speak not only of the littoral, but also of the interior garrisons; and I ask if they are to be manned by Imperial, Turkish, Indian, or Egyptian troops? As I understand the position, you say to the Turkish Government—" We are willing to allow you to garrison these forts at your own cost "—that is to say, you will not place any charge on that account upon the Egyptian, or, presumably, on our own, Revenue. But, if that be the ground taken up, the communications have, as I think the last Blue Book shows, fallen through. Either the Turks cannot, or will not, garrison these places, or lend troops for the purpose at their own expense. Her Majesty's Government do not, I presume, intend to pay that expense themselves; and probably they are of opinion that the Egyptian Revenues are not in a condition to bear it. Now, as regards the Indian troops. I hope there is no intention of employing them in this service, and, were there any intention of that, I should myself 695 deprecate such a proposal. However fitted Indian troops may be for active service and for temporary employment, I believe it would be in many ways the greatest mistake we could commit to employ Indian troops at a distance, or for any length of time away from the country in which they ought to serve. Then, as to Egyptian troops. I presume that it is not contemplated that you can, at the present time, place upon them a great amount of reliance. I do not think that recent experience has shown that anyone in responsibility, or in their senses, would be justified in relying entirely upon these troops. But I think I may say, on the other hand, that it would be a mistake to go so far in the opposite direction as to condemn them altogether, or to say that at no time, and under no circumstances, can they be made valuable auxiliaries of the British Forces. Practically, it comes to this. You cannot, or you will not, employ Turkish troops; you will not employ Indian troops, and you do not like to employ Egyptian troops alone; and, therefore, you are driven either to the employment of mercenaries—I am sorry to apply that term to soldiers of any nation, even Egyptian under English officers—or you must use that more scarce commodity, the British Forces. Well, then, unless we have some explanation, it appears to me that grave danger is involved in that course. There is no less danger involved than the duality of the Army. This is not a time when you can stand up and say that an Egyptian Army exists independently and separately of the forces under British control. Why, see what happened not many days ago. There is a telegram of the Adjutant General with instructions that the Royal Artillery were to take over guns and equipment—from an English Battery? No—from a Camel Battery which had started from Cairo, and which was to be brought back at once. The Adjutant General may, in this case, be excused on the ground of emergency; but how is this duality going to work? The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War was asked a Question on the 3rd of March concerning the troops in Egypt, and he replied—We have received information that a Brigade—at any rate a body—of the Egyptian Army has been sent to Assouan. General 696 Stephenson has received instructions, if Sir Evelyn Baring and the Egyptian Government should think it necessary, to send a British force to some point up the Nile in support of that force. We have also telegraphed a request that in the event of their having been sent, the fullest information should be transmitted as to the destination and composition of the force; but I have not heard that any orders on the subject has yet been issued.I want the Committee to consider the grave question which is here involved. It may be a disgrace to be beaten; it is no disgrace for the best troops in the world to be overpowered; but supposing the troops are sent to the frontier—I care not whether they are Egyptian or British—you must bear in mind if you support them by British troops that those who attack them attack an integral part of the British Army, and the troops by which you support them must come from your own forces. One word, partly in connection with what has passed to-day, and partly in connection with a statement made by the noble Marquess two days ago. It seems to me, whether it be General Stephenson, General Baker, General Graham, or any other officer in command, you have no right to throw upon Commanders—I care not whether Naval or Military—responsibility for the principle by which they are guided in their movements. The policy must be the policy of the Government, although the details may be, and rightly are, left with those who have the Executive responsibility in carrying them out. But when we hear of communications between an Admiral and a General which open up an entirely new campaign, and when we hear that these have been approved by Her Majesty's Government, it seems to me that a greater responsibility is being thrown upon Commanders than you have any right to ask them to undertake. We have a right, therefore, to take the earliest opportunity of asking Her Majesty's Government to inform us, not in detail as to what troops are to be moved hither and thither, nor what garrisons are to be defended, but as to the broad outlines of their policy. We desire to know, then, of what policy they have signified their approval, to what policy they intend to adhere, and whether if, upon the lines of that policy, their subordinates act in a loyal and temperate spirit, Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to the utmost extent to 697 assume responsibility for their acts? Now, Her Majesty's Government want to put down anarchy and to restore order in Egypt—with what success the past 20 months have shown. The Prime Minister, the other day, expressed his indifference to comments which might appear in the Foreign Press. Now, although I touch that point with great reserve, I submit that there may come a time when the Foreign Press may represent, not only its own, but foreign opinion, and that if disorder gains head you cannot escape criticism, perhaps, too, at a time when you will not be able to escape interference. The Prime Minister himself, in moving the Vote of Credit, stated that we were in no sense mandatories—that other Powers only acquiesced in our action. I have no doubt that, so long as their material interests are not affected thereby, they will confine themselves to representations alone. And what is now your position? You have shattered the Army of Egypt; you have altered, and are altering, its Government; and to say the least of it, you have complicated its finances. The Government must know that they are standing, so to speak, upon a quicksand, which, although not yet covered by the tide, trembles beneath their feet. Already in the bazaars and in Cario—as the saying is, from Pasha to donkey-boy—there is the impression that the Government have not checked these disorders, and that these disorders are not checked, with a view of bringing about a state of things which must necessitate the permanent occupation of the country. There is no confidence and no stability. I am not going to use expressions about blood-guiltiness—if bloodshed is to be necessary it is only that you may use the means of war to the ends of peace. But I say that the Government must brush away these cobwebs which obscure their view; they must put aside this pretence, if I may so call it, which deceives no one—neither the Khedive, nor the Prime Minister, nor any man in England. They must put aside this duality of government. You may respect the power and the position of the Khedive; but let it be known that it is England's arm that puts down tyranny, and keeps it down; that it is England's force which protects Egypt alike from internal anarchy and external menace; and that it is her 698 well-known justice which give impartiality to Egyptian tribunals. I remember hearing the Prime Minister, in a former debate in this House, speak with an eloquence which, if I may venture to say so, was never surpassed, even by himself, upon a great work in which the Government of which he was the acknowledged Leader was engaged, and he made use of a famous metaphor which I presume to quote from memory only, because his cadences must live in the mind of everyone who was present—the right hon. Gentleman spoke of "those who, like Phaeton, with unequal hands attempt to guide the chariot of the sun." It is with a firm hand, and with undeviating course alone, that the Government can conduct the Business of the State. Difficulties there have been, and will be; but those difficulties can only be surmounted by your approaching them in a brave and candid spirit. We know that the task which Her Majesty's Government have undertaken is not the work of a day. There is nothing inconsistent with their utterances in the face of day to say—"We will remain in Egypt until our work is done." What we ask on both sides of the House, and what the country has a right to ask, is that the Government should say what they mean; and, having done that, should do what they say. I fear that the Leaders of the Liberal Party move along too much, as the Spanish proverb says, "with the beard on the shoulder;" they are continually looking behind; they are anxiously watching for that Nemesis of Liberal Governments—hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. Impulsive and timorous by turns, no Government can hope to succeed in such work as they have undertaken. Though they may have adopted the motto of "rescue and retire," their action has been for the most part "rescue" too late and "retire" too soon. I hope the Committee will pardon me for having detained them so long; but I have felt it my duty to make these observations. The issue is too great, the questions before us are too vital, for those who speak with responsibility in this House always to mince words, however carefully they may weigh them. I have endeavoured, to the best of my limited power, to point out to the Government some of the difficulties in which their policy has involved them. I 699 earnestly entreat them—and I am sure the Committee will join in that entreaty—to look those difficulties in the face, to approach them candidly, and, above all, as far as they may, to take the House and the country into their confidence. That confidence will not be, I feel sure, abused. Your position abroad will not be misunderstood; and even the restrictions which, for the time, it may be necessary to impose upon the otherwise independent action of that Khedival Government which you wish to restore, will be amply condoned in the recollection of those under our rule in Egypt, who, though aliens in race, will be knit to us by a reign of prosperity and peace.
Very well, then, Sir, I will take it that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman does not move any Amendment. I rise to make a short statement to the Committee. It sometimes happens—indeed, I have often noticed—that a debate in Committee has been conducted with the same formality as a debate in the House, and has been as protracted as a debate in the House. I hardly know that this discussion has assumed that character; if it should assume that character I may feel myself justified in rising again to address the Committee. At present, I rise simply because I have the practical object in view of ascertaining, as far as I can, what is the real object and purpose of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and likewise of clearing up, but clearing up by bringing together, the repeated declarations which Her Majesty's Government have made on the subject of their policy, which hon. Gentlemen opposite find fault with on all occasions on the most conflicting grounds. They find fault with it as being too pacific and too warlike, and as being too slow and too quick. In fact, it has united in itself every attribute, however conflicting, only with this one condition—that all the Government do is mischievous. I will endeavour to clear this perplexed and confused issue so far as I am able. In one respect I am disposed to pay a compliment to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, not only for the tone and moderation in 700 which he always is able to couch his arguments and remarks, but likewise for the additional light which be has cast, I will not say upon the policy—that, probably, he would disclaim—but upon the views and intentions of the Opposition. The ideas of which we have had a glimpse in particular speeches from one Member of the Opposition and another, have been combined by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, and put together and have come out with something of the character of a complete and comprehensive plan aimed at by the speeches of the Opposition on this question. So far I think that I have this advantage—that when I touch that portion of his speech I shall show that we do desire to be most distinctly at issue upon the policy which we propose, and have always proposed, to pursue, and the policy which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman recommends, so far as we can discern it. Now, Sir, the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I think, naturally divides itself into three parts—one of them is a part purely retrospective, and is simply a revival of the debate which, after five nights, we terminated about a fortnight ago. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, at great length, went over the communications with General Hicks, and of the responsibility, or non-responsibility, of Her Majesty's Government for his movement or for his fate. Well, Sir, if ever there was a res judicate in Parliament, that is a res judicate. That formed the staple of the speech with which the Vote of Censure was submitted to the House, and I will not go farther into that part of the question—for I should be unjustifiably wasting the time of the Committee if I were to go any farther into that part of the question—than to say that there is not the smallest shred of evidence that General Hicks at any time supposed that he had, or was to have, either the material or moral support of the British Government. There is not the smallest shred of evidence in the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, or in any other speech—plenty of argument—made by right hon. Gentlemen opposite that General Hicks must have thought it; and no argument or evidence whatever to show that General Hicks did think he had that material or moral support. There is no 701 evidence to show that he was not perfectly aware that, in any communication he may have had with Lord Dufferin, he was receiving more than the personal opinion of Lord Dufferin—not the slightest evidence. The only piece of evidence worth having which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman adduced was the telegram addressed to General Hicks by the Khedive; because that telegram distinctly went to show that the expedition to Kordofan arose directly from the orders of the Khedive conveyed to General Hicks, and that the British Government in no way intervened, and were in no way responsible. [Colonel STANLEY: It was in English cypher.] In English cypher. The English are responsible because a telegram is conveyed in English cypher! If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman thinks that an argument worth laying before the House, and founding upon it what was to be a Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty's Government, I may say that with that argument I am not prepared to cope. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman goes back to the condition of Egypt generally. He has described our difficulties—difficulties which came to us with the inheritance of the previous Government. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes; it is well to meet with inarticulate cries what cannot be met in any other way. Show me—assert, if you venture to assert—and I know there will be no Gentleman belonging to the late Cabinet will venture to assert—that we did not find ourselves in Egypt pledged to the earnest support of the Khedive and his Government. That is an engagement under which we have been, to the best of our power—very badly, indeed, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite—that was the engagement—the benevolent but most unwise engagement—which the late Government made, and which has been the basis of the whole of our policy, as it is now the cause of the whole of our embarrassments in Egypt. I go along with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman when he describes the difficulties of the situation. We are as sensible of them as anyone; and I think that he and his Colleagues should have been a little more sensible of them; because I have shown they were distinctly warned of what was to come before they contracted the engagement. But why should the right hon. and gallant Gentleman 702 exaggerate the difficulties? Why should he say that "for 20 months you have been going on in Egypt and nothing has been done?" Is that true? He says we went to restore tranquillity in Egypt. Tranquillity has been restored. ["Oh, oh!"] Go on with your inarticulate modes of expression; they are extremely suitable and very convenient when no others are available. Tranquillity prevails in Egypt, and until the disasters in the Soudan there was no apprehension with regard to its tranquillity. I will not say absolutely that there is no apprehension at this moment; because, undoubtedly, the advance of a portion of Wood's Army to Assouan is a prudential and preventive measure, adopted for fear the sympathetic influence of the disturbance in the Soudan should produce uneasiness, or even disturbance, among the population of Upper Egypt, who are not quite so easily controlled, and not quite so removed from the possibility of excitement, as the population of Lower Egypt. And that, Sir, is the object of the expedition to Assouan. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has treated it as if it were a measure indicating a policy of advance. It is nothing of the kind. We have been in Egypt pledged, while we remain, to maintain the tranquillity of Egypt, and, of course, that tranquillity must be maintained. While we remain under that pledge that tranquillity must be maintained by the use of the force which is available for the purpose, at the point where it appears to be wanted. It is simply the execution of a portion of the original engagement, for which a part of Wood's Army has gone to Assouan, and for which it is possible that a portion of the British troops may be advanced, either to or towards Assouan, in order to give them support. It has nothing whatever to do with the slightest variation of policy. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman made an appeal to us in the peroration of his speech in entreating us to remain in Egypt until our work was done. If there is one declaration more than another that we have reiterated until the House must be sick of hearing it, it is that very declaration; and it now comes out as the climax of a great Opposition speech, addressed to us in total forgetfulness of the language which we have used, so often and so freely, that really it requires a special petition for the indulgence of the House 703 if one were to attempt to use it again. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is rather displeased with me for having said I do not look to the guidance of the Foreign Press upon this occasion with very great confidence, and that I was not very disposed to follow it. He says that the Foreign Press may, at certain times, embody foreign opinion. I am one of those who think that in certain cases foreign opinion is a most important element in the materials of consideration for the Government. I think, for example, that if we had difficulties in some quarter of the world, where the countries of Europe had no special interests of their own—in that case their opinions upon our conduct in those difficulties would be of the greatest importance. But at present our position in Egypt is this—we are not doing our own work, nor seeking our own ends; we are doing the work of Europe, and of civilization in general. I must own that I think it would be a very unsafe course indeed for us to say the Foreign Press is to guide us, and to indicate to us the extent to which we are to go—we paying the cost, we shedding the blood as well as finding the treasure. It would be all very well for them to look on and to say—" Oh, my fine fellows, you must not be satisfied here, but you must go a great deal further." These are the circumstances under which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman asks us to have great regard for the opinion of the Foreign Press. Well, I think that it is not a very safe course that he advises, and I entirely decline to follow him in these particulars, although, where an impartial opinion can fairly be expected from the Foreign Press, I am as ready to admit its importance as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, perhaps more so. I have spoken thus far retrospectively of the condition of Egypt. When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says nothing has been done, I will not go over all the particulars, but I say a good deal has been done. Order has been established; industry is proceeding upon its regular footing; the greatest and most baneful anomalies which existed in Egypt, and which it was most difficult to remove—especially that gross and cruel anomaly of the exemption of foreigners from taxation-have been removed. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that is nothing. 704 Why, what was the main cause—the main pretext and the main handle—that was given to discontent—aye, and to just discontent—in Egypt? I believe that very considerable reforms have been effected, and very considerable reductions made, in that other and twin grievance of the Egyptian people—namely, the exorbitant and unnecessary number of foreigners who were employed in the adminstration of Egypt. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has gone into these exaggerations; but the Committee, I am quite sure, will bear in mind that although the work has been rudely checked and arrested—and it is difficult to speak confidently of its ultimate issue—yet great progress has been made; and even at the present moment much has been done, and much that is of the greatest importance, towards the establishment of a better and more stable state of things in Egypt. Now, I want to draw the distinction rather more strongly than it was drawn by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman mingled in his speech two questions, which for us at the moment are very distinct. I mean the question of policy and proceedings in the Soudan, and the question of the policy and proceedings in regard to Egypt Proper. It is impossible for us, in my mind, to form any new conclusion, or modify any old conclusion, with regard to Egypt Proper, until we have been enabled to arrive at some settlement of the formidable question still open in the Soudan. I do not think that that is altogether an immoderate assertion to make. At any rate, it is our belief, with military questions as yet not brought absolutely to a conclusion—though I trust they are very close to it—yet with our soldiers in the Soudan, and until we are able to say that we have closed that chapter, it is idle for us to endeavour to say, or consider, what our exact position in Egypt may be. We cannot, until these operations are concluded, measure exactly the effects of the disaster in the Soudan upon Egypt; and that we should be able to measure that exactly is absolutely necessary in forming a just view of the steps we may have to take in Egypt. But, Sir, it is here that I have to notice the remarkable development of ideas in the speech of the right hon. and gallant 705 Gentleman, though I see, or think I see, that we cannot enter with advantage on the consideration of a policy for Egypt Proper until we are enabled, in some degree, to close this chapter in the Soudan, and especially the military chapter. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is under no such difficulty. He has got his plan cut and dry, and he has told us what it is. It is that the Egyptian Government should be swept clean away; it is that the Khedive may be maintained, or shall be maintained, as a puppet in the hands of the British authorities—[Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: He is that now.]—and that the political, the military, the administrative, the judicial, and the financial government of Egypt shall all be done, both in fact and in word, as a British operation. That is to say, we are to assume the government of Egypt. Now, Sir, that is what we shall not do. And one objection which I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has overlooked is this—it would be a gross breach of the public law of Europe. Even if there were no breach of the public law, I hope that this country will well consider its course—will consider the future that will lie before it—before it undertakes the government in Egypt of a Mahommedan people. I hope the country will take note of the declarations of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman; and I undoubtedly say that he may well find fault with our policy if he measures it with his own, for, no doubt, he thinks his own to be wise and just. In our view it is neither the one nor the other. So much with regard to Egypt. But I come now to the Soudan; and though I do not think that this Vote affords a very appropriate opportunity for dealing with the affairs of Egypt, or the policy in Egypt Proper, yet I quite admit it does afford fair opportunity for comment and criticism with regard to the Soudan, subject, of course, to the general rules of prudence. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman commenced his speech by saying that if he had had doubts as to the necessity of raising a discussion at the present time those doubts would have been removed by the remarks of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington); and he treated the remarks of my noble Friend as involving a great change with respect to the views and intentions of the 706 Government as to the Soudan. Sir, there is no change whatever in those views and intentions, and there was no change whatever, expressed or implied, in any of the words of my noble Friend. The questions of policy with regard to the Soudan are these—they refer partly to the beleaguered garrisons of Tokar and Sinkat; partly to Suakin and the coast of the Bed Sea; partly and mainly to the interior of the Soudan; to the mission of General Gordon, and the plans which General Gordon may adopt or recommend. It is needless to dwell upon the questions of the two garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar; that question has been entirely disposed of by the one unfortunately having been destroyed, and by the other having been partly rescued and having partly gone over to the other side. With regard to Suakin, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman appeared to think that the plans of the Government had undergone a change, and that such change had been in some way announced in the speech of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington). There was nothing of the kind. My noble Friend said nothing to modify the declarations we have uniformly made, to this effect—that after the affairs relating to the two garrisons were disposed of, the object of the forces would be a defensive object, and would have reference mainly to Suakin. I have said that, because, although I admit there are other points on the coast of the Bed Sea which may become the objects of interest, there is no other point at which there appears as yet to be any likelihood of difficulty or danger. The security of Suakin has always been professed as an object of policy by Her Majesty's Government under the existing circumstances; and we have stated, in the strongest manner, that any operation undertaken outside of Suakin, whatever its form or character might be, would be, in its aim and in its substance, strictly a defensive measure to prevent the placing of that port in a position of danger—not merely of danger while we had a large British force on the coast, but of danger when we had reached a point which we seek to reach with all the expedition we can—namely, the point of withdrawing the military force which is now in Egypt. Therefore, let it be understood that we stand exactly where we did in relation to the defence of Suakin and with re- 707 gard to military measures. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in this part of his speech, commented on the duty we owe to those who are acting for us in naval or military matters, or in civil matters, not to throw upon them the responsibility of any principles which are applied to the conduct of the war. Certainly, Sir, I should almost have thought that such an appeal was unnecessary; because it refers to a principle so elementary that even the most incapable Government must be supposed to be perfectly cognizant of it, and the House of Commons would never tolerate for one moment the slightest departure from it. I do not understand in the least degree how it was that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman applied that principle to the circumstances before us, because in the circumstances before us what he had to say was that a certain Proclamation had been issued. Certainly it had. What were the object and the principle of that Proclamation? What I understand the object of that Proclamation to be, though it is impossible to speak positively without having it under my eye, is to assure and give notice to the people, in the first place—and especially to the soldiers, rather than, perhaps, to the Chiefs—with whom we were in action last week that if they will disperse, and cease to threaten Suakin, they are perfectly safe; and, in the second place, that the purpose for which a British Army is there, and for which British influence and responsibility are undoubtedly at this moment engaged in the Soudan, is to relieve the people from the grievances from which they have been suffering; and what is that but another mode of expressing, in perfectly intelligible language, the relief of the people from the Egyptian supremacy, which has been carried on under Governors who have not studied, and could not be expected to study, the habits of the people? That, I understand, is the object of the Proclamation. It is sought to throw the responsibility on Admiral Hewett and General Graham; but we adopt the Proclamation; we are responsible for it; and if there is a question upon it, let the Government be challenged here. I have, I hope, stated explicitly what is our position with regard to Suakin. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I think, has asked a great deal more—though that is, per- 708 haps, a matter of detail—than he himself could possibly at this moment expect us to explain. He wants to know precisely what are the ultimate arrangements for the security of Suakin, and other ports on the Red Sea. Now, I think that is asking what he can hardly expect us to answer. There are rights at Suakin other than our rights. There are the rights of Egypt, which are not yet abandoned; there are the rights of the Sultan, which we have never questioned, and which we have every reason to respect; and it is too much that now, within five or six days of a considerable military operation, undertaken for the security of Suakin, with which we are at the moment charged, without our being able yet to say that the force menacing Suakin has finally been dispersed—it is too much to ask what are our final arrangements for the security of Suakin. The principle upon which we go I have explained explicitly. We shall have to consider, subject to the correction of the House of Commons, what will be the best form of providing ultimately for the security of Suakin; but the withdrawal of the British Forces from that region undoubtedly is an object which we admit to be an object of desire and of urgency, and one which we shall endeavour, with all possible speed, to attain. Then the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has entered upon a discussion with regard to General Gordon. As to General Gordon, I have no more to do than to say that we make ourselves responsible for all the measures which he adopts. But the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has also been discussing prospectively the actions of General Gordon, and has been quoting General Gordon's plans, and he has been showing that some portions of these plans will be very difficult to carry into effect. I think that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is rather open to the remark which was made the other day with regard to Suakin by the hon. Member for Newcastle—that you are endeavouring to withdraw from the House of Commons, and by discussions across the Table, the power of deciding these matters. He invites the Government to take the House and the country into their confidence. Yes; but he invites the Government to take the whole world into their confidence. He invites us to 709 take every discontented man in Egypt—every man in arms in the Soudan—into our confidence, although he knows that there are strong prudential reasons which make that extremely difficult. We do not think it well to discuss now the future plans of General Gordon. What I say is this—so long as General Gordon continues to be in the Soudan the agent of the Egyptian Government, with our concurrence and authority, we will make ourselves responsible for his acts. I do not think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman goes the right way to work in describing General Gordon's acts and intentions. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted from an important Paper by General Gordon a passage in which he said—Her Majesty's Government have come to the irrevocable decision not to incur the very onerous duty of securing to the peoples of the Soudan a just future Government. That, as a consequence, Her Majesty's Government have determined to restore to these peoples their independence, and will no longer suffer the Egyptian Government to interfere with their affairs." [Egypt, No. 7 (1884), p. 2.]The right hon. and gallant Gentleman might have gone a little further, and said General Gordon entirely concurred in these views, and told the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in this document that he did concur in them, and went there with his whole heart to give effect to them. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman must, I think, have felt that in describing that document he left out what was the most important thing of all. General Gordon said—Although it is out of my province to give any opinion as to the action of Her Majesty's Government in leaving the Soudan, still I must say it would be an iniquity to reconquer these peoples and then hand them back to the Egyptians without guarantees of future good government."—[Ibid.]The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may meet us, and say he does not propose to hand them back to the Egyptians without guarantees for good government. He proposes to take them over himself. That is virtually the upshot of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said. What was the meaning of that part of his speech where he described the wide range of country between Assouan and Khartoum? What was the meaning of that, and of the want of government for that country, except that we ought to undertake the government of the country and be re- 710 sponsible for it? [Colonel STANLEY dissented.] The right hon. and gallant Gentleman may shake his head; but it is in vain to shake his head in the teeth of his own words. As I understand him, the military, the financial, and the political administration of Egypt are to be carried on, in substance and in name, by the British Government. What follows? First of all, to provide for the two courses of the Nile, until you come to the country properly called the Soudan; and then, possibly, taking a moderate view of the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, to leave out Kordofan and Darfour; but as to Sennaar, and the Eastern Provinces of the Soudan, it is evident that he contemplates a virtual annexation in the name of Her Majesty's Government. I have endeavoured to make it understood that the Government feel themselves precluded from any profitable discussion of the general policy in Egypt; but as to the Soudan they remain precisely where they were. They are there for certain purposes. They will make provision for these purposes; they will endeavour, as soon as is compatible with these purposes, to withdraw the military forces in that region; and they render themselves fully responsible for all the measures that General Gordon may take. Under these circumstances, I can quite understand the dissatisfaction of hon. Gentlemen opposite with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. But in the course of the 12 nights which we have, wholly or partially, devoted to debates on Egypt out of the 25 Sittings in the present Session, I should have supposed that the affairs of Egypt had occupied nearly as large a share of the time and attention of the British Parliament as is due to them. We do not wish, in any degree, to restrain or check that liberty of criticism which belongs to the rights and duties of Members of Parliament; but we believe that no Government, under any circumstances of equal difficulty, have ever gone further in explaining its views, its intentions, and the principles of its policy, than we have done with regard to the affairs of Egypt.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
rose to Order, and said he had an Amendment on the 711 Paper; but if the hon. Member's Amendment was taken first he was afraid he would he cut out.
The hon. Member for Northampton did not rise when the Question was put, and I called upon the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy; but as the hon. Member for Northampton has an Amendment to reduce the Vote by the larger amount, it is more in Order that he should be heard first.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he was very glad to have heard the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, because it had given, at least, a vague notion of the policy of the Opposition; but that policy, or the indication of a policy, was too vague to induce hon. Members on this side of the House to place Egyptian matters in the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite instead of in the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers. They had proposed no Amendment, and he did not know whether they intended to oppose the Vote or not. They had made a broad railing complaint against what the Government had done; but they had not said whether this money ought to be paid by this country or not. The Prime Minister had complained more than once that there was a tendency on the part of hon. Members to talk a good deal about Egypt. Well, he considered that he had two mandates to talk upon Egyptian matters—one from his constituents, the other from the Prime Minister. His constituents had recently passed a resolution thanking him for having, in every way he possibly could, opposed any further money being spent upon Egypt; while the Prime Minister had himself more than once pointed out that one of the great evils of these expeditions was that they must necessarily interfere with business, both at home and abroad. The Prime Minister had, in his opinion, truly stated what ought to be the view of the House when he said they ought to consider well whether they would increase the responsibility of this country by taking under the sway of England—for that was what hon. Gentlemen opposite wished—a large Mahommedan population. They might think what they would; but, unquestionably, the vast mass of the people of Egypt strongly objected to our interfering in any sort of way in the government of their country, with 712 our ideas of civilization, connected with different religions. Anyone, he thought, must admit that when we talked about civilizing the Egyptians we were talking of civilizing them against their own wish. Hon. Gentlemen opposite asked the Government to do so; but the Prime Minister had stated that we had an engagement with Europe, and our engagement with Europe was to put up some sort of Government in Egypt, and remain there until something like law and order had been restored in that country. But the Prime Minister had said that tranquillity and order did now exist in Egypt, and that some sort of institutions of a liberal nature were gradually growing up there. Therefore, we had fulfilled our engagement to Europe by what had been already done. It could not be said that we were there for any gain to ourselves; and, indeed, if we were offered Egypt as a gift we should make a great mistake if we accepted it. In that case we should have to maintain, at least, some sort of an army there; but what he objected to particularly in this Vote was that Parliament was asked to vote this sum of money not only for Egypt Proper, but on account of the military operations in the Soudan. As the Prime Minister had said, the question of Colonel Hicks was a question in res judicata; that was perfectly true. Colonel Hicks went there by his own free will, or, rather, by the will of the Egyptian Government, without any responsibility on our part, and he was defeated; and, his army having been defeated, the House had a perfect right to protest against any other expedition being sent there, because the only ground on which an expedition could be sent there was the restoration of order in Lower Egypt. Therefore, the House had a right to say that advantage should not be taken of that in order to send a second expedition to the Soudan. He admitted that the Government had been in great difficulties owing to the action of their Predecessors; but why had they pledged themselves not only to defend Egypt Proper, but also the ports on the Bed Sea? That he had never been able to quite understand. These ports were many hundreds of miles away from Egypt, and we had determined to advise Egypt to give up the Soudan. Why, then, should the Government 713 have said they would defend these ports, they being really ports of the Soudan? The Prime Minister had told the House that the recent operations were of an essentially defensive character, and that the battle—or he would almost say the slaughter—at El Teb, was for the defence of Suakin. He would accept the right hon. Gentleman's view; but he must then point out, as a necessary consequence, that we were there in the interests of Egypt, and for Egypt. The Prime Minister had stated that he was not prepared to say what would happen when we withdrew from Suakin; but it might be taken as an assumption, until something else was said to the contrary, that Suakin, being an Egyptian port, would revert to Egypt. We had, therefore, gone to defend an Egyptian port. We had defended it by the slaughter of these people; but, still, this was the sole excuse to justify us in going there and slaying these Arabs. There were two theories put forward with regard to Suakin; and he must observe, with all respect for the Prime Minister, that they had been put forward since it was determined to charge the British nation with the costs of the expedition. One theory was with regard to the Slave Trade. It had been stated several times by Gentlemen on the Front Bench that in order to put down the Slave Trade in the Soudan it was necessary to defend Suakin. As a matter of fact, the coast of the Soudan was not very far from Arabia. The Bed Sea might be considered a species of lake; but the ports on the Red Sea were not essential to the taking of slaves over from the Soudan to Arabia. They were taken down to the coast, put in dhows, and ferried over to Arabia. Consul Moncrieff, in a Report last year, had mentioned the different ports on the coast to which the slaves were ferried, and he specially excepted Suakin. He believed that no slaves had ever been sent there; but if the Egyptian sway was re-established, could it be supposed that that would put an end to slavery? These Egyptians were the people who had been at the bottom of the Slave Trade. They were the people who had always encouraged the trade; and he believed that if the Egyptian flag again floated over Suakin it would become a great entrepôt, and there would be a great increase in the Slave Trade. The ground upon which 714 the Committee was asked to vote this money was that it was possible the insurrection or movement of the Mahdi might extend to Arabia. He had been surprised to hear the Prime Minister use that argument, because he had understood that the right hon. Gentleman's "bag and baggage" policy applied to the whole of the Turkish Empire. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] He was sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman dissented from this, for he thought the less there was of Turkish rule the better it would be for the whole world. He should, in fact, be glad to see the "bag and baggage" policy which the Prime Minister had suggested with regard to Roumelia adopted in Arabia; but, anyhow, he could not see why they should spend all this money in order to prevent the movement of the Mahdi extending to Arabia. In Arabia there were Turkish Governors who oppressed the people; and it would be advantageous to Arabia if there were some national movement in that country. He thought he had shown that we had no reason, either in regard to the Slave Trade or to the Turkish Empire, to defend Suakin; that we went there, and our only ground for going there was for the benefit of the Egyptian people. The Egyptian Army having been vanquished, we then sent our men there and spent our money. It followed, therefore, that Egypt, and not England, if anybody, ought to pay the cost. It might be said that Egypt could not pay; that the fellaheen were already over-taxed. He quite admitted that; but he held that there were two sources from which the money might be taken. The first source was the bondholders; but if that was objected to, then there was the Egyptian Tribute. He considered that the bondholders were at the bottom of the whole of the mischief in Egypt; and he further considered that the Egyptian Debt was one of the greatest swindles that could be conceived. We had established a Control there which had gradually acquired power; but there was, as far as he could see, but one point underlying the whole of our interference, and that was that the bondholders should receive their money. Lord Salisbury wrote despatches insisting that the coupons should be paid; our agents wrote back that that could not be done without cruelty and oppression; but, still, Lord Salisbury 715 insisted that the coupons should he paid, and that culminated in an outbreak. We had crushed Arabi, bombarded and destroyed Alexandria, and destroyed the Egyptian Army at Tel-el-Kebir; and what was all that for? He could not see any other reason than the benefit of the bondholders. It was frequently stated that we were under some species of international obligation to see that the bondholders received their interest; but what was this international obligation? At one time, before the Law of Liquidation took place, there were certain International Tribunals; and any subject of any European State who did not receive his due interest could sue in these International Tribunals. But Egypt was bankrupt, and could not pay; and therefore it was proposed—he thought England put herself at the head of the movement—that there should be some sort of composition agreed to; that all the 14 Powers should say—"If you will pay our subjects so much, we will engage that none of our subjects shall sue for any excess in the International Tribunals." That was the basis of the Law of Liquidation; but Lord Salisbury had said—and this was a most important factor in the matter—the costs of the Administration were to come first, and the bondholders afterwards. At the present moment Egypt owed £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, which she would have to borrow; and, consequently, we should have to go to the Great Powers, and either suggest that the Sinking Fund should be arrested for a time, or that the interest on the Debt should be lowered. In any case, we should have to get the interest on this £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, not from the fellaheen, because they could not pay any more, but from the bondholders. The question was, whether the British artizan was to be taxed for a matter which in no way concerned him, in order that the Egyptian Shylock might have his pound of flesh? We must put aside entirely the idea that the fellaheen were to be unceasingly taxed, because they could pay no more; and the question was, whether the bondholders should pay, or whether the artizans of this country should be taxed, This was essentially an Egyptian matter; and when Her Majesty's Government went there to defend Suakin for the Egyptians, that involved the necessity of their accepting the view that the 716 Egyptians themselves ought to pay. He held that the bondholders ought to pay; but if hon. Gentlemen objected to that, then there was the Egyptian Tribute, and they knew what that was. He knew it was said that this Tribute had been the cause of the evil, and that innocent people would suffer in consequence; but surely the mortgagee could not have a better title to the estate than the owner. The Turks were very astute, and they had mortgaged the other day the Tribute of Eastern Roumelia. He hoped the bondholders would insist upon getting it. If gentlemen would buy bonds which represented an unjust Tribute they must take the consequences, and if they lost their money they had only themselves to blame. He had endeavoured to give a practical turn to the debate. He had stated what his object was, and he was now going to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £206,150. He left two items in. The first was a trifle to be included in the Estimates for chaplains. He really thought it would be monstrous to insist upon a Mahommedan population paying for our chaplains. He had also left in an item for nurses. That also was a work of charity, and he saw no objection to the payment of the amount charged; but he would ask the Committee to refuse to vote the rest of the Estimate—namely, £206,150. He had no doubt that he would receive the usual answer, that the money had already been expended and must be paid; but, in this particular instance, that argument did not quite hold, because, although the money might have been expended, the real question was, who ought to pay it? His contention was that Egypt ought to pay it; and, therefore, in conclusion, he begged to move that the Vote be reduced by the sum of £206,150.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £164,750, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1884, to meet additional Expenditure for Army Services."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he was unable to support the Amendment, and he intended to oppose it for this reason. He thought the amount which the Government had assigned for the purpose of this Supplementary Estimate was in itself wholly inadequate for the dis- 717 charge of the responsibility they had incurred. Therefore, as he thought that a larger amount was required than the amount asked for, he certainly could not support the reduction moved by the hon. Member for Northampton. It seemed to him that they had gained one considerable advantage from the discussions which had taken place during the Session. They had, for the first time, obtained from Her Majesty's Government an admission that they had incurred vast responsibility by the duties they had undertaken in connection with Egypt. That admission had been candidly made by Lord Granville, and it had also been quite as strongly made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke). If he (Mr. Tomlinson) dwelt upon the admission for a moment, it was because, although it had been strongly made by the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman, it would appear, from the arguments of other Members of the Government, that they only appreciated the real extent of their responsibility very imperfectly. Even the President of the Local Government Board, while admitting the immense responsibility which now attached to this country, appeared to him (Mr. Tomlinson) to occupy his mind with the things more immediately in view, and to endeavour to draw away the attention of the House from what was really one of the most serious of their responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman, on more than one occasion, had spoken of the great responsibility which arose in reference to the defence of the coast of the Bed Sea; but he (Mr. Tomlinson) could not help thinking that there was another responsibility which was of overwhelmingly great importance—namely, the defence of that portion of Egypt which lay upon the coast of the Mediterranean. He contended that that was a responsibility which had arisen directly in consequence of the action of the present Government, and it was a responsibility which would still remain, even if we were able to withdraw our troops from Egypt. If we could not be said to have incurred it to the full extent after the bombardment of Alexandria, certainly we did so after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir; but he thought that the responsibility for the defence of the Mediterranean portion of 718 the Egyptian coast distinctly arose out of the circumstance of the bombardment of Alexandria, one result of which was to destroy the existing defences of that city. From time immemorial Alexandria had been a fortified city, and its position was such as to demand that it should be fortified. It was the key of the Nile, and the Nile might be said to be Egypt itself. But either during that bombardment, or shortly subsequent to that event, the British entirely destroyed the defences of Alexandria. They not only destroyed those portions of the military stores which might be said to be comparatively worthless, but they destroyed all the modern effective artillery. There were within the city a large number, although he did not know exactly how many, of Armstrong guns. No doubt they were used with some effect against the British Fleet; but after the bombardment those guns were entirely destroyed. He did not know whether the extent to which the destruction of guns was carried out had ever been fully stated in any Paper laid before Parliament; but he had seen an extract from a Paper published in Egypt which gave a statement showing the extent to which the destruction was carried. The document in question was an extract from a despatch which gave an account of the dismissal of Arabi, and then went on to say—After 10 hours' bombardment our fortifications were annihilated; 400 cannons were destroyed, and the greater part of our artillerymen were killed and disabled.He believed there was a mistake in the statement in reference to the destruction of these 400 guns. It did not take place during the bombardment, but was deliberately carried out by the orders of the British Commander after the bombardment was over. He had it upon good authority—the authority of an experienced military man, who was out there a short time afterwards—that the destruction of these guns afforded a remarkable instance of the progress made by modern science. All that was done was to apply a small quantity of gun cotton to a particular part of each gun, and it was at once rendered quite useless. His own opinion was that such an act of simple and deliberate Vandalism ought to have been prevented.
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is going a little 719 further than he is justified in going by the Vote now before the Committee. I do not think the question of the bombardment of Alexandria is involved in the Vote.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he was prepared to submit at once to the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman; but he had been anxious to explain why it was that he opposed the Motion made by the hon. Member for Northampton for the reduction of the Vote. The point he wished to put to the Committee was that, so far from the present Vote being adequate to enable the Government to carry out the responsibility they had incurred in Egypt, it was a great deal too small; and it was only by leaving out of consideration the responsibility for the defence of the Mediterranean coast that it could be considered sufficient. But as the right hon. Gentleman had ruled that he could not go more fully into that question he would pass it by. But, whether in reference to the coast of the Mediterranean or the coast of the Red Sea, it appeared to him that our responsibility for everything that had happened had been distinctly brought about by our own action. Whatever power had been left in the hands of the Egyptian authorities and the Egyptian Government, it was perfectly clear from Lord Dufferin's despatches that the policy of the Government was entirely dictated by Lord Dufferin himself. He could read extracts from Lord Dufferin's despatches to show that the purposes for which our Army was sent there were entirely limited to the internal defence of Egypt; an external defence of that country being entirely outside their operations. In 1883, in laying down the conditions on which he estimated that 6,000 men would be sufficient, Lord Dufferin said that, even on the assumption that Egypt could be secured by diplomatic means from being involved in disturbances in the Provinces, a considerable force would still be required. Therefore, everything outside the internal defence of Egypt Proper, which included, in the first instance, the defence of the Northern boundaries, and also the defence of the Soudan, had been deliberately left out of account, in order that the Government might not be brought face to face with the real financial problem of Egypt. What he contended was, that if there were difficulties 720 which required the employment of a force to control the proceedings of other Powers outside Egypt Proper, the obligation to find that force fell upon the British Government. Consequently, such an Amendment as that which had been proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton was one which they could not, in honour or self-respect as a nation having the slightest regard to right and justice, accept at all. The hon. Member for Northampton had, first of all, suggested that the expense of these operations might be thrown upon Egypt, leaving a chance of recovering it by some arrangement with the bondholders. Now, he (Mr. Tomlinson) thought their experience in regard to the six months' loan raised at the rate of 6 per cent for the purpose of carrying on the administration of Egypt showed pretty clearly that the influences which were exercised in connection with the rights and privileges of the bondholders would prevent any part of the money coming from such a source as that. In regard to the Egyptian Tribute, the Government had asserted over and over again—and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had that night reiterated the assertion—that they had no intention, in anything they were doing in Egypt, to interfere with the rights and privileges of the Sultan. Then, with that limitation, how it could be supposed that any part of the Turkish Tribute could be applied to the payment of the expense of the war at Suakin was to him perfectly unintelligible. He did not think many Members would be found who were prepared to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton. He (Mr. Tomlinson) had hoped that he might have been able to go a little more fully into these matters, and especially into the important question how far the duty had devolved on this country of providing for the defence of Alexandria. That was an important point, and one which had not been entered into before. At the present moment the defence of Alexandria was practically left to our Mediterranean Fleet; and, as far as he knew, no Estimate had been taken for the cost of strengthening the defences. It had, however, been ruled by the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair that he could not discuss that question at length; and he would, therefore, only say that he intended strongly to oppose the Amend- 721 ment which the hon. Member for Northampton had moved.
§ MR. RYLANDS
remarked that the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) seemed to have arrived at the conclusion that hon. Members on that side of the House would not be disposed to vote for the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. The hon. Member for Preston seemed to entertain the idea that, on the whole, the sum asked for by Her Majesty's Government was insufficient; and it seemed to be of very little consequence to the hon. Member whether the taxpayers of this country should have their burdens increased or not. Now, whatever might be the view of hon. Gentlemen inside that House, he (Mr. Rylands) ventured to say that out-of-doors there was a strong feeling against these recurring charges being laid on the National Exchequer. There was a very strong impression that it was a gross injustice that the industry of the country should be seriously burdened in order to confer advantages upon a people who ought, if such expenditure was necessary, to take steps for bearing the burden themselves. Personally, he was somewhat unfortunately placed in this discussion, because he did not entirely concur in the views of some of his hon. Friends near him when they contended that the Government should leave Egypt at once. Now, although we had committed at first what he considered to be a crime, yet he was bound to say that after the bombardment and destruction of Alexandria he thought, when they had shattered the Government of Egypt, they were necessitated, in order to preserve the Egyptian State from absolute anarchy and destruction, to afford an opportunity, by the development of the administration of Egypt, for the good government of that country. Therefore, when his hon. Friend seemed to argue that they ought at once to leave Egypt to take care of itself, and to take no further interest in that country, he was not at all able to join with him. On the contrary, although, as he said, he believed that the Government had committed an act which, in the very strongest terms, he had denounced as a crime, yet he had always considered that, having so shattered the Government of Egypt, and having destroyed the only National movement on which there seemed to be any possibility of develop- 722 ing that country, if they left Egypt now, and left the Egyptians to "stew in their own juice," they would commit a blunder, which was, perhaps, worse than a crime. Therefore he had never joined with his hon. Friends in thinking that they ought now to withdraw from the country. On the contrary, it had always appeared to him to be the most statesmanlike course that the Government should accept their responsibility fully and without disguise. The mischief had been done, and the Government, by pretending that they had no responsibility, were trying to establish the fiction of an Egyptian Power which did not actually exist. Originally the Government did too little. They ought to have stopped the expedition of Hicks Pasha, and thus have prevented the catastrophe which had taken place. Now, however, they were doing too much. Having done too little for some time, they were now doing too much. In regard to the policy of the Government in the Soudan—as far as it was a policy—of withdrawing from the Soudan and giving up to the Soudanese the management of their own affairs, he entirely approved of that policy; but he thought they ought to let that policy be well known in the East of the Soudan, in the way in which General Gordon had made it known in the West. What had been the consequence of thus making it known? General Gordon had obtained a very large amount of sympathy from the Mahdi's followers, and the various tribes in the neighbourhood of Khartoum. He had told the Soudanese that in rebelling against the intolerable tyranny of their Egyptian Rulers they were patriots, and not rebels. Her Majesty's Government were constantly calling them rebels. They were not rebels; but they were actuated by a patriotic desire to throw off the Egyptian yoke; and if we had taken as much pains before the battle of El Teb to let the Natives understand the policy we intended to carry out, and had made them realize, as General Gordon had made them realize in every part of the Soudan, that we had come to free them from an intolerable yoke, and that we were not going to treat them as rebels, we might have prevented all the late bloodshed which we now so much deplored. A policy of conciliation might have failed; he could not say that influences might not have 723 been brought to bear which would have prevented such a policy from being successful; but he saw nothing in their acts to induce him to believe that if anything like the same effort had been made in regard to Osman Digna as was made in another part of the Soudan by the Proclamation of General Gordon, we might not have prevented a collision by convincing the Soudanese what our objects were, and that it was a British Force which had appeared in the field, and not an Egyptian Force. He was afraid that the same efforts now would not be attended by the same success; and although we had issued a Proclamation, with a view of obtaining the dispersal of Osman Digna's forces, he was afraid that unless Her Majesty's Government were extremely careful they would be led on. It might possibly happen that having fought one battle and destroyed 3,000 of these wretched men, in order, he supposed, to re-establish the prestige of the defenders of Egyptian rule, the danger might arise that when we undertook the defence of the littoral of the Red Sea we might be drawn from Suakin in order to disperse the rebels, as we still chose to call them, who had congregated a few miles distant, and were threatening our communications. The Prime Minister said that the instruction given to General Graham was that he should not go to any considerable distance. What did a considerable distance mean? It must not be forgotten that something more had been said. They were told that friendly tribes would do certain things in opening up the route to Berber. He contended that that was a very dangerous step, and we might be dragged by these friendly tribes into further complications; and he was afraid that it would end in the old story of the British Government finding itself placed in a position which would involve either loss of life or property. The honour of the country might be endangered, and they might find it necessary to defend these friendly tribes. He did not think, therefore, that this Vote of Credit was the last Supplementary Estimate they were likely to have. They had been trying, in times past, to check the Expenditure of the country; but he ventured to tell the Committee that unless they did something to put a stop to the kind of policy which was being pursued now, 724 there would be very little hope of making any serious impression upon the Expenditure of the country. His strong desire was to see, as quickly as possible, the policy of the Government carried out; of absolutely withdrawing from the Soudan, and leaving the Soudan under a Government of its own Chiefs; washing our hands, in point of fact, of all the complications which might arise from our having even partial possession of this enormous tract of country. He should also be very glad to see the Government, as quickly as possible, establishing and developing the administrative autonomy of Egypt; but, at the same time, while he was quite of opinion that the British Government should not withdraw from Egypt until that object had been accomplished, he thought the way to secure its accomplishment was not by continually telling everybody that they were going to withdraw at the earliest possible opportunity. As far as his judgment went, it seemed to him that their withdrawal from Egypt was so remote that, as far as possible, they ought to let it be understood that while they were doing all in their power to create a sound administration, and to bring a new administration into activity, their work would not be fully accomplished until there was a sufficient amount of intelligence and patriotism in the Egyptians themselves to justify their being intrusted with the management of their own affairs—it must always be remembered that they were creating the primary elements of authority, and that it was something like putting the Government into tutelage. They had, as it were, to bring Egypt through its childhood, and teach it how to walk in the hope, at no distant day, of witnessing in it the strength and experience of manhood. What he wished to urge upon the Committee was this—that inasmuch as they were doing so much for Egypt, and that all this expense, trouble, and responsibility was thrown upon them in order to secure the interests of the Egyptian people, they had a right in return to expect that the Egyptian Government should pay the costs, and not the people—the hardworking taxpayers—of this country. If he were asked how the Egyptian Government were to raise this additional money, whether they were to impose an additional taxation upon the fellaheen, 725 he should say certainly not. One thing that was most essential for the progress of Egypt was to release the springs of her industry by reducing the taxation imposed upon the fellaheen. No doubt somebody must suffer; and it appeared to him they had a perfect right to take the Revenue of Egypt; to set apart from it the sum necessary for the administration of the Government of the country; and then if, above that, they had any sum available for the payment of its debts, let them pay those debts under certain conditions to the bondholders. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had indicated that Egypt was a bankrupt State. If that were so, this Law of Liquidation was only another mode of expressing the idea of bankruptcy; and this bankrupt State, having other obligations to meet, would be justified in making a composition with its creditors. If Egypt was unable to pay its debts, let the country be passed through a National Bankruptcy Court. Her Majesty's Government should clearly understand that if they were going to raise Egypt, they must take from the shoulders of the people a very considerable financial burden. They had a right to say—" We expect Egypt to pay for its own administration; we expect that this charge now imposed upon us for the protection of Egypt should be repaid by-and-bye. Therefore, we say that Egypt must make another liquidation, and you must assist in passing it through another Bankruptcy Court, which will relieve the people of Egypt, and give to the creditors as much as they can reasonably hope to obtain." He thought they had a right to say that to the Government, and that the Government would be perfectly justified in making such a representation to Egypt. By taking that course Egypt would be greatly benefited, and, at the same time, the British taxpayer would be relieved of the burden which he now had to bear, and which was very unjustly imposed upon him.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he thought that the policy indicated by his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) in the last speech was the true policy which Her Majesty's Government ought to adopt. The reason why the taxpayer of this country was called upon to contribute to the cost of restoring order in Egypt was because the foreign 726 Debt of Egypt was so large, and the interest so heavy, that a sufficient sum was not left for conducting the Government of Egypt at home. His hon. Friend said Egypt was practically bankrupt, because she was not able to pay the interest upon her foreign Debt, and, at the same time, to conduct her Government at home, and every 1s. voted by the House of Commons to make up the deficiency was a contribution from the industry of this country towards the interest to be paid to the bondholders. If Egypt was not able to pay for the defence of the Soudan, and found it necessary to apply to this country for assistance, it amounted to this—that so much was paid by this country to the bondholders. They ought to compel the Egyptians to abandon the Soudan, if they could not afford to keep it. The Provinces there cost more than they were worth; and, in his opinion, Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in enforcing the evacuation of those Provinces. At the same time, he thought it would have been better for everybody if they had enforced this principle sooner. The evacuation would be in the interests of the Egyptian people themselves, for the purpose of restoring good government in that country. It appeared to him that the Egyptian people should pay the cost of restoring good government, and not the taxpayers of this country. There was only one way in which that could be done; and it was, as the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had said, let Egypt make another Act of Bankruptcy; let Egypt do as Spain had done for so long a period—pay no interest at all to the bondholders until the bondholders were reduced to such an abject condition that they would be obliged to take whatever Egypt chose to offer to them. If the bondholders refused to accept the composition and a reduction of the interest, let them go without it; because the expenses of carrying on the Government of Egypt, coupled with the expense of paying the bondholders, were more than the taxpayers of Egypt could endure; and Her Majesty's Government, who were actually the Rulers of Egypt at the present moment, ought not to enforce this taxation for this double purpose upon the English people. It would be a mere act of humanity to take the course suggested by the hon. 727 Member for Burnley, because it was impossible to screw any more out of these Egyptian people. So clearly did Her Majesty's Government realize that fact that they were obliged to come to the wealthy taxpayers of this country, in order to defray the burdens which ought to fall upon the Egyptians themselves. They were in Egypt for the genuine purpose of restoring a sound and stable Government in that country; and it stood to common sense that the people of Egypt should pay for it, and not the people of this country. Therefore, the bondholders should submit to a reduction of a third, or a quarter, or a half, of their interest. He hoped Her Majesty's Government would take that matter into consideration.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he did not wish to go into the questions of high policy which had been discussed that night. The views he entertained differed somewhat from those of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere); but he had no desire to outbid the hon. Member. He should, however, like to express the regret he felt that Her Majesty's Government had not been able to furnish the words of the Proclamation of Admiral Hewett and General Gordon, and to repudiate the version of it which had appeared in The Standard. There appeared to be some hesitation on the part of Her Majesty's Government upon the subject. If they had come to the conclusion that they were bound to defend Suakin against the attacks of people who were 10 miles away from that place, it would have been better to have taken up a position there, instead of going to El Teb and fighting a battle at a long distance from Suakin. At the same time, he was ready to admit that, from the point of view taken by Her Majesty's Government, it would be necessary to prevent any attack on the part of the tribes now assembled around Suakin. The Proclamation, however, which appeared in The Standard was, if authentic, a very important document. The words of the Proclamation were given between inverted commas, and nothing could be more widely different from the statement of Her Majesty's Government than the terms of that Proclamation. He was certainly surprised that the Government had not been able to repudiate the Proclamation altogether. The statement 728 of the Prime Minister was materially different. The right hon. Gentleman only said that the tribes were warned that we intended to protect Suakin. He had not objected to that view as put forward by the Prime Minister; but in the text of the Proclamation, as transmitted by the Correspondent of The Standard, there was this—You have already," said the Proclamation, "been warned that the English Force have come here, not only to relieve the garrison of Tokar, but to redress the wrongs under which you have so long suffered.It was impossible to construe that into anything like the use of moral force; it could only mean physical force. The Proclamation went on to say—Nevertheless, you have gone on trusting that notorious scoundrel, Osman Digna, well known to you all as a had man, his former life in Suakin having proved that to he the case. He has led you away with the foolish idea that the Mahdi has come on earth. The great God who rules the Universe does not send such scoundrels as Osman Digna as His messengers. Your people are brave, and England always respects such men. Awake, then, chase Osman Digna from your country. We promise you that protection and pardon shall be granted to all who come in at once; otherwise the fate of those who fell at El Teb shall surely overtake you.The Prime Minister had told them that there was to be no attack upon Osman Digna unless Osman Digna attacked the British Forces, and no vengeance; but, according to this version, protection was only to be given to all who came in at once, otherwise the fate of those who fell at El Teb was to overtake them. They were not called upon to disperse; but the Proclamation simply meant—" If you do not come in we will kill you." He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade make gestures, which seemed to indicate that those parts of the Proclamation which he had just read did not meet with his approval. He sincerely hoped that the Proclamation would be altogether repudiated by Her Majesty's Government. He need not dwell upon the utter absurdity of these naval and military gentlemen entering into theological questions in a Proclamation of this sort. Of course, the translation might be more or less inaccurate, and he hoped to hear that there was not the slightest truth in the fact that Admiral Hewett and General Graham had entered into any theological questions at 729 all. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might say "Oh!" and, for his part, he hoped the Proclamation was not true; and if there was a possibility of these naval and military gentlemen having entered into these theological questions, and of their having spoken of Osman Digna as a scoundrel, besides expressing their opinion that the great God who ruled the Universe did not send such messengers, it seemed to him that their representatives must have gone ridiculously wrong, and he trusted that another interpretation would be given to the Proclamation when it was produced by Her Majesty's Government. He was not prepared to take any great exception to the view of this matter which had been expressed by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, however, said emphatically that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw from Egypt until they had effected the objects which were originally set forth as the objects of Her Majesty's Government—namely, the establishment of a strong, stable, and just Government there. But if they were to remain in Egypt until they set up a strong, stable, and just Government, it seemed to him that they would stay there until the end of time; and he had been sorry to hear Her Majesty's Government make a statement of that kind. For his own part, he hoped they would retire when they had set up a tolerable Native Government. He had said rather more than he had intended upon the question of high policy, and now he came to the point upon which he had originally intended to address the House—namely, the question of charge. His views on that point were very much in accord with those which had been expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) and his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Macfarlane). He was one of those who had throughout this matter consistently opposed the use of force in Egypt. He was, therefore, in a far more consistent position than hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, who, in his opinion, had never maintained any consistent policy at all. Hon. Members opposite had never joined his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Law-son) and himself in opposing the ex- 730 pedition to Egypt; but they wanted to make capital out of that expedition now, in order to worry and depreciate Her Majesty's Government. If Her Majesty's Government had got into a hole, it was not for him to show them the way out of it. They had gone into it of their own accord. If he could give them a little helping hand out of it he should be glad to do so. But, as a Representative of the taxpayers of the country, he thought he was bound to do his best to protect the interests of those taxpayers, and to show that no greater burden was imposed upon them than could be justly and honestly imposed. He was sorry to say that whatever Government was in power, whether Liberal or Conservative, there seemed to be too great a temptation, and too frequent a habit, of endeavouring to get out of a difficulty by putting the burden upon the unfortunate British taxpayer. Whether it was a quarrel between Newfoundland and the United States, or between Egypt and her rebellious subjects, the taxpayers of this country had still to pay the money. They were told that the fellaheen could not pay; that the bondholders would not pay; and, therefore, that the British taxpayer must pay. That was the only practical conclusion to which this Supplementary Estimate seemed to bring them. The Notice which he (Sir George Campbell) had placed upon the Paper-was somewhat different from that which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had moved. His hon. Friend, as he (Sir George Campbell) understood, proposed to negative the whole of the Vote, with the exception of the items for the services of chaplains and nurses; whereas he (Sir George Campbell) had intended to move the reduction of the Vote for expenditure due to military operations by a sum of £109,050. He had not intended to ask the House to reject the item of £100,000 for the expedition to Suakin. He thought, under all the circumstances, that the taxpayers of this country were bound to pay the £100,000 asked for the expedition to save the lives of the garrisons. He admitted that the expedition had turned out to be an attempt to save people who did not want to be saved; and his own opinion had always been that it would be much better for the garrisons to save themselves in their own way. Like discreet and prudent 731 men the garrison of Tokar had saved themselves. But he did not ignore the fact that the feeling of the country, in reference to saving the lives of the garrisons, was exceedingly strong; and as the expedition to Tokar had been undertaken for the purpose of saving life somebody must pay for the expense. The question was, who was to pay for it? He did not think it was fair to put the charge upon the fellaheen of Egypt. They could not pay it. Nor was he prepared to impose that part of the charge upon the bondholders. No one would tell them that the bondholders had any extremely sentimental desire to save the lives of the garrisons, and he did not think they would have undertaken the expedition on that account, and therefore the cost ought not to be put upon them; and as there was no one else to pay it, it became necessary that we should do so. Therefore, on that ground, he was of opinion that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who was to come after him, ought not to reject this charge, notwithstanding the fact that, so far as the expedition itself was concerned, it had turned out that instead of saving life the result was said to have been the sacrifice of the lives of some 2,500 Arabs, besides the loss of a considerable number of our own people. As a matter of sentiment, notwithstanding the loss of life, he thought they must pay for the expedition; and the Notice he had placed upon the Paper was intended to cut off the rest of the charge on account of military operations in Egypt—namely, £109,050. He had listened attentively to the statement of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War, and he was unable to gather from them why this sum was to be charged against the taxpayers of this country. It seemed to him that it must be paid, and perhaps it was inevitable that they should pay the ordinary cost of the British troops; but what he looked upon as unfair was that they should be required to pay the extraordinary cost of the maintenance of our troops in Egypt. If they were to remain there until a stable Government was established it was exceedingly probable that they would have to be reinforced, and that the whole arrangement would have to be revised. The bargain 732 which was distinctly made between Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons was that while the country might be charged with the ordinary expenses of the troops employed in Egypt, no extraordinary charge attending their employment was to be paid by the British taxpayer. It ought to fall upon the people connected with Egypt, including the gentlemen who had obtained from a Commission the enormous sum of up wards of £4,000,000 awarded to them in the shape of compensation for the losses they had suffered at Alexandria. It seemed to him, in the absence of any explanation whatever of this charge of £109,050 in excess of the £100,000 for the expedition to Suakin, that it ought not to receive the sanction of the House. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) that they had not yet heard the last of these Estimates, and that they would be called upon to meet a good deal more if they once admitted the principle. He agreed with his hon. Friend that these charges ought to fall upon the bondholders, and that the charge for preserving and protecting the country should be the first charge before they paid the bondholders anything. No doubt the bondholders, at any rate, did not recognize this position, and it almost made his blood boil when he read the City articles in the newspapers on the subject. Whenever any misfortune happened in Egypt there was a cry of rejoicing on the part of the bondholders, and the bonds rose because they felt that every new misfortune would only make it more certain that the British Government would have to secure payment in the end. He thought the House of Commons could not too quickly undeceive the bondholders on that head. Before they heard anything of the military rebellion, there could be no doubt that the Dual Control was established to make the Egyptians pay as much as possible to the bondholders. Since then Nubar Pasha had come to the front. He was an able financier, no doubt, a foreigner, and, practically, an agent of the bondholders.
The hon. Member must confine himself to the Question before the Committee—namely, the military expenditure in Egypt.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that if that was so right hon. and hon. Mem- 733 bers on both Front Benches had gone considerably wide of the mark, and he hoped he was not trespassing nearly as much as they had done. He was urging as a reason why this money should not be laid on the taxpayer of this country, but should be laid on the bondholders, that Egypt was being administered by agents of the bondholders. Nubar Pasha and Mr. Vincent were the agents of the bondholders imported from Paris and from Constantinople. His contention was that the bondholders were, to all intents and purposes, creditors who were in possession of a sequestrated estate, and that, therefore, this extraordinary charge should be imposed on the estate, and not on the British taxpayers. In order to simplify the position, he would take the case of an insolvent estate. He would suppose an estate of that kind protected from the encroachment of the sea by a dyke. Supposing the sea broke through that dyke and threatened the whole estate, and some expense was incurred in repairing the mischief, would the creditors of that estate be paid in full? By no means. Money would have been paid by the estate to save the estate, and that was the principle which ought to be applied to Egypt. Her Majesty's Government might tell him that, although agreeing with him in principle, his view could not be carried out on account of the Law of Liquidation; but he denied that proposition altogether; and it seemed to him that the only force which had been given to it was due to a somewhat imprudent assertion on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers. He denied that there was any international agreement on this subject. He did not see why the claims of the Egyptian bondholders should be enforced by the arms of England, any more than the bonds of Turkey, or Peru, or of any other insolvent State. The Law of Liquidation was nothing more than a composition between Egypt and her creditors. The original agreement for International Courts had come to an end; and it seemed to him that, Courts or no Courts, the simple fact was—as had been stated by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macfarlane)—that Egypt was again insolvent. The sea had broken in through the dyke, and they must save the estate. This view of the matter should be faced at once. They 734 must say to Foreign Powers—"Either we must all pay the cost of the estate, and undertake to protect it by an international agreement, or Egypt must be left to the Egyptians, leaving the creditors to take their chance like the creditors of all other estates." He would not object to a neutralization of the Canal, and its protection by international agreement; but there were difficulties in the way which rendered it unlikely that that arrangement would be carried into effect. Then, as to their leaving Egypt to herself, the only fear was that if they left it France alone would take possession of it. For his own part, he did not think anything of the kind would occur. He believed the French people, as distinguished from the French Press, were a thoroughly peaceful people, and would not allow their Government to do anything of the kind.
I must again call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that he is not confining his observations to the subject before the Committee. He is certainly giving a much greater development to the phase of the subject with which he is dealing than any other Member has done.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he would strongly advise Her Majesty's Government to say boldly to the creditors of Egypt that before they were paid the necessary expenses of the administration of the country must be defrayed. He wished now only to say one or two words with regard to the views of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War (Colonel Stanley) and his hon. Friend the junior Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). The policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Soudan was simply that they proposed to abandon it. He did not undertake to say whether that was a right or a wrong policy. He was not prepared to say it was wrong; and he would ask the Conservative Party whether they were prepared to support the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the late Secretary of State for War in what appeared to be his wish, in a roundabout sort of way, to retain the Soudan either for Egypt or for England? He had sometimes compared Her Majesty's Government to an elephant in a quicksand. How was the elephant to be got out of the quicksand? 735 It certainly could not be done by poking it and prodding it. That course, which only forced it into greater difficulties, appeared to be the object of hon. Members opposite. They only asked Her Majesty's Government to explain what their policy was in order that they might attack it whatever it might be. ["No, no!"] Yes; and that had been especially the case in regard to Teb? Until it was known that the British troops were going to advance on Teb the Conservative organs howled at Her Majesty's Government. The advance took place, and the Conservative organs turned round and cried out—"What a horrible bloodguilty Government this is." The Chairman had warned him that he was not to take the licence which had been taken by hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches in going into the general question. His own impression had been that the general question was to be discussed that night. He should be glad, however, if the Chairman would allow him, to say one word in regard to the statement of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). The hon. Member had made a statement the other evening, which he must confess had hurt him very much. Generally speaking, he agreed with the hon. Member on this question; but the hon. Member had said that Her Majesty's Government had sent into Egypt a set of Anglo-Indian officials, whose Anglo-Indian ideas had caused all the harm which had occurred. He denied that altogether. His contention was that Her Majesty's Government had not followed Anglo-Indian ideas in Egypt, but had, on the contrary, followed the crudest English ideas. The Army had not been officered by a Sepoy Commander, but by one of English experience, who had been assisted by raw English officers, ignorant of the language and the manners of the Natives. No Native Army in India could have subsisted under such a system. As to the Civil administration, that seemed to be under Mr. Clifford Lloyd. He denied that this gentleman was an Indian official. They knew nothing about him in India, although he (Sir George Campbell) believed that during a part of his life he had been employed in a very subordinate capacity as an uncovenanted servant in Burmah. Mr. Clifford Lloyd had been in Ireland; but Her Majesty's Government had not 736 succeeded in that country until they had got a real Anglo-Indian official to work under Lord Spencer. He repeated that it was the crude English system of importing lawyers with usurers behind them, and such like, into the country that had caused all the evil; and he maintained that if they had tried that system in the Punjaub, he, for one, would not have been here at this moment, because the Natives would have risen and cut the throats of the English officials. He would not weary the Committee by going further into the subject. He would only say again that, while he was ready, on the part of his constituents, to pay £100,000, he objected to putting on the country the £109,050 which was included in the Vote. He hoped the Committee would reject that charge, in order that Her Majesty's Government might be induced fairly to face the question, and to insist on placing the expenditure on the shoulders of the bondholders, whose property had been saved by their operations,
§ MR. COLERIDGE KENNARD
said, he embraced that early opportunity for addressing a few words to the Committee, because the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was enabled, towards the commencement of the Sitting, to inform the House that Her Majesty's Government had received congratulations from a group of Foreign Powers. His object in rising was to ask the noble Lord upon what subject Her Majesty's Government had received those congratulations, and whether any of the Great Foreign Powers had omitted to join in them? He should be glad, if possible, to be able to participate in the feelings which had been expressed. Had Her Majesty's Government been congratulated upon the slaughter of several thousand men which had taken place in the Soudan; upon the fact that they had adopted a more responsible and definite policy; or upon the sudden development of the "plan" which the Prime Minister had alluded to in the early part of the Session—a plan which, up to that moment, had been shrouded in mystery? He desired to know—and he felt sure that many would share in that desire—whether that plan was founded and fashioned upon the lines of the policy which the Prime Minister had adumbrated, and, 737 more than that, which he had passionately declared to be the policy which would actuate him for all time—namely, the policy of encouraging struggling nationalities? He ventured to think that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had since that time been more or less embarrassed by the recollection of the "hands off" policy of the Prime Minister as declared in in Mid Lothian; that they found it difficult to shake themselves clear of that defined and declared policy; and, further, that the Prime Minister had been torn with remorse at the lives which had been lost, and the blood which had been shed, in the pursuit of a policy which was in diametric opposition to the policy with which the Government came into Office—that was to say, the restoration of the rights of nationalities. But there was an alternative policy which it was possible, but improbable, that Her Majesty's Government had before them. He could scarcely believe, even after reading the Proclamations of General Gordon, Her Majesty's Agent in the Soudan, that the commercial interests of slave dealers could have actuated the Government in their present course of action. He thought he had special justification in calling the attention of the Committee to General Gordon's early Proclamation, because the words of the Prime Minister still rang in his ears. He had asked the right hon. Gentleman last week whether Her Majesty's Government had seen fit to disclaim the principle apparently contained in General Gordon's Proclamation with reference to slavery, and the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was—We have not disclaimed any portion of the Proclamation of General Gordon, because we are perfectly certain that such a Proclamation has never been issued.He (Mr. Coleridge Kennard) had waited until now, and he ventured to ask the Prime Minister whether he would declare then, as he declared on the occasion referred to, that he still disbelieved in the reality of the Proclamation? They had been referred, on various occasions, to the complications which had attended the negotiations of Her Majesty's Government. He held in his hand a Paper which had been issued to the House, and from which it appeared that, on the 11th of June, Lord Granville wrote as follows:— 738The Italian Ambassador has paid me a visit at Walmer Castle, and during his stay there I had some conversation with him on Egyptian affairs. His Excellency assured me that the Italian Government desired, as heretofore, to maintain a friendly attitude and to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government in that country. I said that we still adhered to the intentions we had publicly announced, and that our policy was, however, of a somewhat elastic character, and must, to a certain extent, be guided by circumstances.It was to the elastic character of the policy of Her Majesty's Government that he (Mr. Coleridge Kennard) desired to call the attention of the Committee. Lord Granville continues—I informed him that we had been on the point of withdrawing the British garrison from Cairo, and of considerably reducing the total of our forces. … But whilst giving the Khedive advice, we felt bound to assure His Highness that we were prepared to defend Egypt Proper from outside attack.He asked Her Majesty's Government to explain Lord Granville's sentence. Was its meaning that they had entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, in respect of Egypt Proper; in short, whether this did not constitute a Protectorate? If not, what was the meaning of Lord Granville's words? But it appeared that at last Her Majesty's Government were understood by Foreign Powers to have a definite policy, and he hoped it was of a more responsible and energetic character. Lord Granville, it appeared, had received a visit from the Austrian Ambassador also, and his despatch on the subject was to the effect that His Excellency had had with him a conversation on Egyptian affairs to the same effect as that which Lord Granville had with the Italian Ambassador; that Count Karolyi asked whether any communication had passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Turkey or France with regard to the Soudan. He (Mr. Coleridge Kennard) asked the attention of the Committee to what followed. Lord Granville said—After receiving my reply in the negative' His Excellency went on to say that the Austrian Government perfectly understood our position in Egypt, and wished that our troops might not be withdrawn until there was every security that the change could be effected without danger to the security and tranquillity of the country.Lord Granville did not appear to have said to the Austrian Ambassador, as he had to the Italian Ambassador—namely, 739 that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to defend Egypt from outside attack. The policy of Her Majesty's Government seemed to have become rather mixed about that time. Then there was the despatch in which Lord Granville stated that the French Ambassador had called on him on the 15th of June.
said, he must point out to the hon. Member that the question before the Committee was the reduction of the Vote. Although, no doubt, the question of the Egyptian policy of Her Majesty's Government had been referred to in the speeches of several hon. Members, the hon. Member was going a great deal beyond the observations which had been made on that subject in the course of the discussion.
§ MR. COLERIDGE KENNARD
said, he was, of course, desirous of confining his observations within the proper limits. Having in his hand a Paper which had been issued to Members on Egyptian affairs, he thought that a few observations upon that subject might not be out of place. He had referred to the despatches of Lord Granville detailing his conversations with the Italian and Austrian Ambassadors, and he would ask whether he might be permitted to refer to the despatch relating to the visit of the French Ambassador?
said, he would point out to the hon. Member that the furtherance of the Rules and Regulations of Debate was for the convenience of the House. It was hardly necessary to say that if every hon. Member were to read such copious extracts there would really be no possibility of getting through the Business of the Committee. The hon. Member would, of course, be able to judge whether the observations he had to make were in the spirit of the Rules.
§ MR. COLERIDGE KENNARD
said, he had but small experience of the Rules of the House, and he should readily submit to the ruling of the Chair. He would now pass to the question of money in connection with the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. Lord Granville said he had stated to the French Ambassador that it was clear that the Egyptian Government were incapable of holding Khartoum, and that he was convinced that public opinion would not countenance a considerable expenditure of money, or the risk of loss 740 of life, which must result from an expedition of English troops with that object. Now, he ventured to urge upon the Committee that Her Majesty's Government, in asking for this grant of money, were doing the very thing which Lord Granville had deprecated. A considerable expenditure of money had been incurred in the teeth of Lord Granville's despatch, and a considerable loss of life had attended the expedition to the Soudan; and it was upon their own words that Her Majesty's Government would be judged, because they had gone directly contrary to the declaration of Lord Granville to the French Ambassador. His desire to avoid anything in the nature of an infringement of the Rules made him unwilling to trouble the Committee with further references, or to enter more fully than he had done into this subject; and he would, therefore, conclude by a further appeal to right hon. Gentlemen opposite to state upon what ground Her Majesty's Government had received the congratulations of Foreign Powers.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he looked upon this Vote as representing but a small proportion of the money that would have to be spent before they could withdraw from Egypt. He confessed he had never looked upon the occupation of Egypt with any degree of satisfaction; indeed, he was ill of ease when he found that the speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen below him made no mention whatever of the expenditure that would be incurred on account of the force required to be in Egypt. For his own part, he did not believe that they could carry out the occupation of Egypt and provide for the many reliefs required for the efficiency of our scattered forces, with a smaller force than 30,000 men added to the Army at home, including therein the depôts; and how far the country would be content to allow the large consequent increase of military expenditure remained to be seen. He had always considered that the Prime Minister had shown great wisdom in endeavouring to set up a stable Government in Egypt as the only means of getting rid of the occupation of that country. They had quite as many Mahommedans to govern in India as they knew what to do with; and he said it was not desirable to try to extend their rule over the Mus- 741 sulmans of Egypt. With regard to the movement of General Graham, he thought that, so far from being objected to on political grounds, it must be regarded as a purely military operation, and one which had been well carried out. In conclusion, he expressed his firm conviction that the sooner they got out of Egypt the more satisfaction it would eventually be to the country.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was anxious to make a few observations upon this very important subject, and he must thank his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) for the clear and lucid statement in which he had placed the case before the Committee. He had been exceedingly surprised at the answer given to that statement by the Prime Minister; but, before going into that part of the question, he desired to say one word with regard to the statement of the noble Marquess who introduced this Vote to the Committee. The noble Marquess had, in a very perfunctory way, slurred over the whole of this important question. When he knew that the subject of Egypt would be introduced the noble Marquess intimated that the present Vote afforded a convenient opportunity for the discussion; but he gave no intimation whatever of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, although he was aware that the great object of his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) in placing his Motion on the Paper was that Supplies should be stopped until some definite reply on the part of Her Majesty's Government was forthcoming. That reply was still pressed for from the noble Marquess. But there was another omission in the noble Marquess's speech to which his right and gallant Friend had alluded. Whatever they might think in other respects of the action which had been recently fought, it was quite certain that no Army ever conducted itself better, did its duty better, or was commanded better, under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. He believed that everyone in that House would agree with this statement; and, as an old soldier, he was glad to bear his testimony to the gallantry which their troops had displayed. The Prime Minister had told them that it was a very unwise thing, in a discussion of this kind, to go back to ancient history; he said the House was sick of hearing 742 about Hicks Pasha, and the different events which had occurred in Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was not above stating that the whole of those misfortunes had arisen from the policy of his Predecessors in Office. If that was not going back to ancient history he was unable to understand the meaning of the term. Was it not a fact that the main argument which the Party opposite addressed to the constituencies at the last General Election amounted to this—"If you will replace the present Government we will produce a very different state of things?" The result had shown that the first part of their programme was peace—"Peace at any price." But he would call the attention of the Committee to the two actions which had been fought. He asked, whether the prestige of Ministers was not as low as it could be before Tel-el-Kebir? Where would that prestige have been if that battle had not been fought and won? The Ministry was at that time discredited, not only on the ground of that disgraceful retreat in South Africa, but on many other accounts. In order to understand the position at the time of Tel-el-Kebir it was necessary to go back to the day when the French and English Fleets sailed so proudly into the harbour at Alexandria, and to remember that those Fleets went there for the express purpose of protecting life and property. It was well-known that the order given by the Government was that not a man should be landed; and when the massacre of 400 people took place in the streets of Alexandria, they were not prepared to hold out to the citizens a helping hand. They stood by and did nothing, and that, he maintained, was the cause of all that had happened since. They well remembered how, just before the bombardment of Alexandria, the French Fleet hoisted its flags and sails and sailed away. He asked the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War where was the Dual Control then? As a matter of fact, they were masters of the whole situation; and everything that happened afterwards was the result of the action of this country, and not of any Ducal Control. Let him go one step further. He recollected reading a despatch written by Sir Edward Malet, and in the latter part of which some remarkable words of Dervish Pasha were 743 quoted. Dervish Pasha had been sent to Egypt as Turkish High Commissioner, and what did Dervish Pasha say to him? He said—I have brought Arabi into Alexandria; I have got the Egyptian Army in Alexandria to be under your control.What was the meaning of that? Why, the meaning of it was that after the bombardment of Alexandria—if Her Majesty's Government had done that which any reasonable Government would have done, which the present Opposition would have done if they had been in power—there should have been a force of 5,000, or 6,000, or 10,000 men landed, in which case Arabi would have laid down his arms, and no further expenditure would have been incurred. As it was Arabi escaped, and the battle of Tel-el-Kebir followed. The noble Marquess, speaking at the Lord Mayor's dinner, gave it as his opinion that Arabi was not a great General, and that the troops they had overthrown were not of any particular value. Only very recently additional evidence had been afforded of the cowardice of the men they confronted at Tel-el-Kebir. Well, having annihilated the Army in Egypt by force, Her Majesty's Government maintained their authority in Egypt solely by force. They upset every institution in the country, and yet they had not the pluck or the courage to state what they had done; they endeavoured to relieve themselves of that responsibility which alone rested on them by saying that they were merely supporting the Khedive's Government to carry out the various reforms. He heard the Prime Minister the other night make one of the most extraordinary statements he ever heard any man make. The right hon. Gentleman said that one of the reasons why Her Majesty's Government were so embarrassed was on account of the legacies, especially with regard to the maintenance of the authority of the Khedive, that had been left to them by the late Government. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) asked whether it was politic for a man in the position of the right hon. Gentleman to condemn, especially at a time of such difficulty as the present, the previous Government for supporting the Khedive? The words of the Prime Minister were very clear upon the subject. He stated that if he had been in the position of the late Government ho would not have supported 744 the Khedive. In the interest of Egypt a more unfortunate statement could not possibly have been made in the House of Commons. But the right hon. Gentleman said more; he said that so long as they remained in Egypt, so long as they had control in Egypt, it was only a Dual Control—it was shared by the Khedive and Her Majesty's Government—and it was a violation of International Law to depart from that state of things. Why, if there had ever been violations of International Law, they consisted in the bombardment of Alexandria and the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. It would certainly not be a violation of International Law for the Government to state—"We have conquered; and until we have re-established order in Egypt we shall command in Egypt, and we shall put on one side the Government which we know and feel to be ineffectual and unable to do its work." Still, there was something more than that. He desired the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War to consider whether it was fair that a country like Egypt should be called upon to support two Governments, with all their costly apparatus? Her Majesty's Government had established themselves in Egypt; they were giving high salaries to the best men they could find—no one found fault with them for doing that—but they had not assumed the responsibility attaching to them. They ought to let the world know they were doing that which they were bound to do—namely, having occupied the country, they meant to govern it until it could find a good Government for itself. He ventured to say that all Her Majesty's Government's so-called reforms, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister had said, had, with perhaps one exception, signally failed. They had brought under taxation the salaries of officials belonging to other nations which formerly were not subject to taxation; but in every other instance the efforts at reform made by Her Majesty's Government had signally failed. Let them consider the cases of the Army and the Police. What did Her Majesty's Government do in respect to the Army? They would not allow Turks or Arnaouts to be enlisted; but they brought up the unfortunate fellaheen, and forced them into the Army? The fellaheen made as worthless soldiers as could be found; indeed, their worthlessness had been 745 sufficiently proved within the last few weeks. If the Egyptian Army was all the Government had declared it to be, surely it would have been a wise and proper step to have sent a regiment or two to fight side by side with the British troops now engaged in the Soudan. The Government would then have seen what the Egyptian Army was worth—whether it was worth any confidence at all. While he was talking about the Army let him mention one fact. The Government had moved some troops to Assouan. He did not know whether they amounted to one regiment or two regiments, or a brigade, because the Government had not told the Committee. It was, however, known that some English troops had been sent in support. Supposing an attack was made upon the Egyptian troops, and the English soldiers were kept in the background, would it not be regarded as an attack upon the English Army which had been made? If the enemy were victorious, what would Her Majesty's Government have to do? Why, they would have to send more British soldiers to the front. The Committee ought not to be deceived in this matter. If Egyptian troops were sent to the front, British soldiers would have to be sent to look after them. That was what the Government were really doing, knowing, as they did, the weakness of the Army they were supporting. He advised the Government not to try to escape from the responsibilities of their acts. He had no desire to go further into the Dual Control than to say that every one of the men who were acting for the Egyptian Government, from Nubar Pasha downwards, looked to the English Government for information as to what was going to happen; and part of the information imparted was that, as soon as possible, the English would leave the country. Under such circumstances, how could they expect reforms to go on; how could they expect the Egyptian officials to carry out that which Her Majesty's Government believed to be right, when the officials knew that the changes were offensive to all the men with whom they would have hereafter to deal? As a matter of fact, the Egyptian officials would do the work of reform grudgingly; and the very moment the backs of the English were turned, the old system would be revived; indeed, it was very probable things 746 would become much worse than they were now. Would the Egyptian Army ever be fit? That was a question which ought to be considered most carefully. He was of opinion that the Army would not become efficient for a very considerable time. As to the Police, there was one answer which the House had never yet received from Her Majesty's Government, and he should like to have it that night. Why was it that they allowed the Police to go to Suakin, and from there, under Baker Pasha, to Trinkitat, and from there to the battle of Teb? Why did they not send part of their Regular Egyptian Army? They said their Regular Army was meant only for Egypt; but they had taken the Littoral of the Red Sea, and Suakin was to be part of Egypt. Their argument, therefore, fell to the ground. His own firm belief was that the Government meant to finesse to the very last. They would not send the Egyptian Army to the relief of Sinkat and Tokar, because it was commanded by British officers; but they sent the Police, who were commanded by a man not now a British soldier. The Government allowed Baker Pasha to go without taking any of those precautions which they might have taken, and ought to have taken. The relieving force was sent too late to save Sinkat. They allowed Tewfik, a most courageous man, who stuck to his post to the very last, and his brave little garrison, to be massacred, together with hundreds of poor women and children. It was not until this country cried out, and said what a discredit was being cast upon the English Government and upon the English nation by the proceedings in the Soudan, that the Government made up their minds to send a force for the relief of Tokar. It was this change of policy which earned for the Government the majority in the Division a few nights ago. Had they not altered their policy there were many men on their own side who would have voted against them, notably, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who said that the Government had mended their ways, and therefore he was prepared at the last moment to give them his support. These were matters now of history; but it was well they should be remembered. He asserted that if the Government had done their duty in the first instance there 747 would have been no necessity to shed blood; they would have had a bloodless victory. The whole Egyptian Question would have been settled in a very easy way. Now they found themselves in the midst of the greatest complications. It might be no consolation to the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the Treasury Bench; but he could not help feeling that a generation at least must elapse before men would be found in Egypt fit to govern that country. What did Her Majesty's Government go to Egypt for? It was absurd to say they went for any other reason than to protect their own interests. They went to Egypt to protect the Suez Canal; to see that the highway to India was safe. No doubt the question of good government cropped up afterwards; but the security of the Canal was the main object of their going to Egypt. And now they found that matters had got into such a state that it would be very difficult for them to retire He was most anxious that they should not retire. He was anxious they should not retire, not only in the interest of Egypt, but in the interest in this country. He recollected reading in the newspapers, and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War would be able presently to state whether it was correct or not, that, in the first instance, Her Majesty's Government not only meant to give up the whole of the interior of the Soudan, but they meant to give up Suakin. He also heard, at the same time, that France was delighted at the idea of a port on the Red Sea being given up. He humbly, but earnestly, asked the Committee to consider what might arise supposing they were in a great hurry to leave Egypt. What would please the French nation more than that they should go to the relief of Egypt; what would please them more than that they should have a Protectorate over Egypt and the Littoral of the Red Sea? It was their day dream, and their night dream to have the whole of the North of Africa and Syria under their domination; and, therefore, it was that he thought it was most extraordinary that the Prime Minister should say the other night that they meant to remain at Suakin for a short time, and that mainly to prevent the spread of the Slave Trade. That seemed to him to be the most remarkable utterance ever made by a Prime Minister of this country; 748 because at the very time it was made an Envoy of the Government was at Khartoum encouraging the Slave Trade, and Kordofan and Darfour had been handed over to Sultans who were the very life and soul of slavery. The brother-in-law of the Mahdi was to be placed in power, and he was one of the greatest slave dealers in the world. How, therefore, was the increase of the Slave Trade to be prevented if the country was to be handed over to the tender mercies of the Mahdi and his followers? But there was another very serious consideration in regard to the Soudan. Why were they to say, at the first blush, that the whole of the Soudan must be evacuated? He could understand the evacuation of Kordofan and Darfour; but why were Khartoum and Sennaar and Kassala to be given up? He was glad to see that at last, after grave consideration, Her Majesty's Government were thinking of making an ally of King John of Abyssinia, and of giving him an outlet into the Red Sea. If they had done that sooner, they might have rescued by this time the garrisons in the South, because they might have been able to retire through Abyssinia without any difficulty whatever. Upon an occasion like the present it was very difficult to go into all the matters one naturally wished to go into. The questions, however, which had been raised in the course of the evening ought to be debated till the Committee got from the Government an assurance as to their intentions, which up to the present moment they had not received. All that they had heard from the Government was—" We mean at the very first opportunity to leave Egypt; we mean, as soon as possible, to withdraw our troops." [General Sir GEORGE BALFOUR: Hear, hear!] Yes; his hon. and gallant Friend cried "Hear, hear!" but then he always cried "Hear, hear!" to everything that was said in the House. The Government had been questioned as to Hicks Pasha's expedition; but they had not as yet returned an answer. They professed to know nothing about that expedition; but it was his belief that they knew everything about it. The right hon. Gentlemen the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had asked—" Could we have prevented General Hicks from going into Kordofan after having been so victorious 749 m Sennaar?" Did the Committee imagine that the Egyptian Government would for one moment have consented to abandon the Soudan, if their troops had not been completely thrashed? As a matter of fact, Her Majesty's Government were fully aware of what had happened, and was happening, in the Soudan. Knowing what the Egyptian troops were worth, they allowed Hicks Pasha to go to certain destruction before they could make up their minds that they would proclaim that Kordofan and Dar-four was no longer to belong to Egypt. But in proclaiming the evacuation of the Soudan, surely they had taken a great deal upon themselves. As a matter of fact, they had taken upon themselves the sole control of Egyptian affairs; otherwise how could they proclaim the abandonement of the Soudan, which up to that time was part and parcel of Egypt? The Prime Minister made a distinction between Egypt Proper and the Soudan; but he showed that there was some affinity between the two by sending troops to Assouan. In conclusion, he asked for a distinct statement from someone in authority as to what were the intentions of the Government; because, to say that they intended to stop in Egypt until things were quiet and, at the same time, to say that the Khedive's Government was responsible, was equivalent to saying, so far as they could by words say, they themselves were not responsible. He held Her Majesty's Government to be absolutely responsible for the administration of Egyptian affairs; and he pointed out that if the Government wished to have Egypt quiet, contented, and prosperous, they must at once declare their intentions; they must boldly declare that they meant to hold Egypt until they found that they could hand it over to a strong and satisfactory Government, a Government which would be a safeguard and protection to the people.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) charged Her Majesty's Government with throwing the finances of Egypt into confusion. Now, he (Mr. Villiers Stuart) ventured to reply that it was not Her Majesty's Government, but Arabi Pasha, who had caused the crisis in the Egyptian finances, and that if Arabi's career had not been stopped, the ruin of Egypt would have been consummated. 750 The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), and other hon. Members, had attributed the demand which had been made by Her Majesty's Government for a Vote on this occasion to the fact that Egypt could not afford to pay the sum required herself. But as the object of the present military expedition was to prevent Suakin, and other ports on the Red Sea, from falling into the hands of any Foreign Power, and to secure our road to India, he (Mr. Villiers Stuart) asserted that those considerations, and not any financial considerations, were the real reasons why England was asked, and justly, to agree to this Vote. Egypt had already contributed too much. What was their object in going to Egypt? It was to maintain the safety of their route to India; and as Suakin and the other ports of the Red Sea were part and parcel of their road to India, why should Egypt be required to pay any portion of the expense incurred? As to the finances of Egypt, he maintained that the country was perfectly able to weather the present crisis, without sacrificing her credit and without failing in any of her obligations. Her financial position would have been decidedly satisfactory but for the trying crisis through which she had been, and was still, passing. The only wonder was that, under the circumstances, she had stood the strain as well as she had. The most embarrassing element in her financial position had been the compensation awarded for the destruction of property during the burning of Alexandria. He regretted that it was thought necessary to admit the claims for compensation; but there was no use in crying over spilt milk. The Commission had been notoriously generous in the awards it had made. He was told that, in many instances, the sums awarded for ruined buildings had been larger than the houses originally cost. It seemed to him very questionable whether it was fair to throw upon the unfortunate peasantry, already so heavily taxed, the cost of the havoc caused not by any orders of theirs, but by the orders of the rebel Chiefs, by whose proceedings they had suffered quite as severely in proportion as the merchants of Alexandria had. Both the awards granted by the Commission and the cost of the military operations in the Soudan were but tem- 751 porary causes of disorder. When these temporary causes had passed away there were plenty of hopeful elements in the future. The loss of the Soudan had been a gain to Egypt. Her Majesty's Government had done yeoman service to Egypt in causing the severance of the connection between Egypt and the Soudan. The Soudan had been an everlasting strain upon the resources of Egypt, inasmuch as it had involved the maintenance of a large Army and of numerous depôts; it had involved Egypt in many petty wars with her neighbours. The only persons who profited by Egypt's occupation of the Soudan were the army of officials who were quartered in the country. Those officials were far away from Cairo, and they enjoyed unrestricted indulgence in tyranny and rapacity. There was a still more important respect in which Egypt would gain by the loss of her Equatorial Provinces. The retention of the Soudan involved the maintenance of a standing Army of more than 30,000 men. The mortality amongst the troops was very great, and the conscription necessary to keep up the numbers was most exhausting; he had heard that as many as 500 men each month were required to fill up the gaps. Perhaps the most cruel of the burdens which the unfortunate peasantry of Egypt had to bear was the conscription, because they lived in constant dread of being dragged in chains to serve in the Soudan. They regarded the condemnation to serve in the Soudan as equivalent to a sentence of death. The country suffered a very heavy loss by the fact of labourers being drawn in such large numbers from the cultivation of the land; he should assess the loss to the country under this head alone at £600,000 a-year, putting the value of each man's service at £20 a-year. After the temporary disturbance had come to an end Egyptian finance would be at once relieved, and there would be increased production, the peasantry being left to till the soil instead of being sent to the South in chains never to return. Another hopeful feature was the rapid development of prosperity which would follow a more reasonable system of taxation; but it was not only that production would be increased, but they might look forward to a diminished cost of administration when the system of taxation was simplified. There were 752 53,000 officials employed, each of whom was in his own sphere a petty tyrant, and the cost of these was £1,640,000; but if the cost of these were heavy to the Government, it was far heavier to the people, because it was eked out by levying black mail upon the unfortunate peasantry. With the indulgence of the Committee he would narrate a significant incident exemplifying the tyranny of these men. A farmer went to the Government offices and paid his tax, and having obtained his receipt he was leaving the building when a Saraff, or orderly officer, stopped him and required him to pay a second time. He produced his receipt, but the Saraff refused to recognize it, and he was arrested and bastinadoed.
The hon. Member is exceeding the limits of legitimate debate upon the question before the Committee.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
apologized to the Committee; but, as several hon. Members had been discussing the finances of Egypt, he wished to show what her prospect of solvency was.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON
said, that, on rising to address the House for the first time, he ventured to claim to the full the kind indulgence of the Committee; and he believed he should not make the appeal in vain, if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, who were now practised debaters, would recall to their memories the feelings with which they first addressed the greatest Representative Assembly in the world He felt that some apology was due from him for intervening so early in the debates; but he thought that perhaps such an apology might be found in the fact that he had twice been in the country which was the subject of debate, and had attempted to learn as much of the language of the country as would enable him to converse with the inhabitants, and so learn their views upon the questions of the day. He had been very much struck with those views, and he held that they had a very important bearing on the question of what our policy should be in Egypt. In holding that view he thought he might appeal to the principle maintained by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and especially by hon. Members on the opposite side, that Native populations ought to have a considerable, 753 if not a paramount, voice in the question of who should govern them. He had been surprised to find that the opinion of the fellaheen in Egypt was very much in favour of that country being placed in some form or other under the protection of England. He was surprised to find that they knew sufficient of current politics to take that view of the question, and he found that their reason was this—their requirements were just laws and just taxation, and they found in this country, and in this country alone, a guarantee that a Mahommedan population could be ruled by a Christian Empire with just laws and just taxation. He was further surprised by the extraordinary fertility of the country, which everyone was aware of, but which must be seen to be appreciated. Once a-year the Nile became both landlord and tenant of the country; once a-year he retired from his holding without claiming any compensation for improvements. The fellaheen were an extremely laborious population; and that fact, together with the richness of the soil, ought to make it easy for any country, that undertook the Protectorate of it, to govern Egypt. These two facts formed a great portion of the indictment against Her Majesty's Government for not having been able to ameliorate the finances of the country, but rather having left them in a worse condition than they found them in. He had hoped that the Committee would hear that night, in the speech of the Prime Minister, some indication of what his policy was to be with regard to the future. He had listened, of course, with great admiration to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but he must say also with some disappointment, because he could find no indication of any policy whatever, or that he had taken either that House or the country into his confidence. But there were certain portions of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that had deserved something more in the way of notice from this side of the House than what he had been pleased to call incoherent groans. The Prime Minister told us that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Stanley) had proved only what Hicks Pasha must have thought of his instructions, and not what he did think; but he should have thought that one less skilled in metaphysical subtleties 754 must know that the two things meant the same. If it was proved what a man must think, surely that proved what he did think. The right hon. Gentleman complained that by the action of the late Government this country was pledged to support the Khedive and his Government; but his contention was that if they had adequately supported the Khedive at the right moment they would never have been in their present position. If the Government had given the Khedive that adequate support which hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House would have been willing to give him, Arabi's movement would never have reached such a head that it was necessary to bombard Alexandria. There was another matter which he thought needed some explanation. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they would remain in Egypt until their work was done, and that the House was sick of hearing that from the lips of Her Majesty's Government. He stated also that they were not doing their own work in Egypt, but some one else's work, although he did not say who that someone else was. Then the position of the Government was that we were to remain in Egypt until that someone else's work was done, but who that someone else was was not defined. For his part, he thought the money of this country was not to be used to do someone else's work, but to do our own. He thought also that the Prime Minister had been somewhat unfair to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded him (Colonel Stanley) with regard to the Soudan. He assumed that there were only two alternatives as to the government of the Soudan, and he said they were to hand over the government of the Soudan either to the Khedive or to the Government of Her Majesty the Queen. He ventured to think he could show that there was a third alternative which should be adopted; but what surprised him most in the speech of the Prime Minister was the solemn warning he addressed to the House against the possibility of this country engaging itself in the government of Mahommedans. He had expected that the right hon. Gentleman would go on to the logical conclusion of that argument, and say they ought to give up the government of India. Had the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that India was the greatest Mahommedan country, and that 755 this country was, therefore, the greatest Mahommedan Power? But while he had looked in vain for any indication of a policy beyond what the right hon. Gentleman had already vouchsafed to the House, he thought they must require a firm and decided policy by the Government before they could agree to this Vote. In the absence of such an indication, he thought he should be justified in going back to the past for an indication of policy; but he would not do so for two reasons—first, because the future had such grave issues that they might well confine themselves to the future; and, secondly, because the late policy of the Government, to which he could alone refer, had been dead and buried for some weeks. It had been the subject of an all but unanimous Vote of Want of Confidence throughout the country. The Government had passed a Vote of Censure upon themselves by a reversal of their policy, and he ventured to say that that House had passed a real, though not a numerical, Vote of Censure on the Government upon the last occasion when the question was tried. ["No, no!"] He could perfectly well understand hon. Gentlemen opposite dissenting from that view, and he admitted its historical inaccuracy; but perhaps he might borrow from the Prime Minister an expression which he had introduced, and say it was a Vote of Censure in its nature, though not in its form. He was thinking rather of the speeches than of the votes of some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, as he had said, the late policy of the Government was dead and buried, and it was not his intention to exhume it merely in order to gibbet it. They must look to the future, and ask for some indication and declaration on the part of the Government; but there were certain questions that could not now be ignored. He had been talking about the Government of Egypt; but he was not sure that either he, or the House, or the country, understood what the Government of Egypt was at the present moment. Was it the Khedive, alternately dependent and independent? Was it Her Majesty's Government, alternately responsible and irresponsible? Or was it the Sultan, the Suzerain of Egypt—he believed hon. Gentlemen opposite were fond of that title—whom, he would venture to say, 756 the Government had relegated to the position of something like a Registrar-General of the loss of his own Provinces? They were entitled to ask what the Government of Egypt was to be in the future? They were also entitled to ask one question, and that was whether this country was going to continue to crown the Mahdi with the one hand and to chastise his followers with the other? Were they going to continue to follow the policy indicated by the Prime Minister with regard to Suakin—that they must hold it, because otherwise it might become an avenue of the Slave Trade? That was what the right hon. Gentleman said in answer to the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), when this question was last raised. Were they to continue to support that policy on the one hand, and to support the Slave Trade at Khartoum on the other? The Committee were entitled to ask whether the money they were about to vote was to go to make a crown for the Mahdi, or a bowstring for Osman Digna; or was it to go to strike the fetters from off the slaves when they reached Suakin, or to rivet them upon the slaves when they reached Khartoum? He remembered that when this question was last debated in that House, on the Motion for Adjournment made by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), the Prime Minister was very much astonished that Members on this side of the House should have supported the hon. Baronet in that Motion, and he advanced to the Table in something like a threatening attitude towards hon. Members on this side. He and several other Members bent their heads to the coming storm; but the storm was suddenly diverted, and fell on the devoted head of the hon. Baronet opposite. The Prime Minister did, indeed, tell the hon. Baronet that from him, at least, he should hear no word of reproach; but all he could say was—"Heaven help the hon. Baronet when he met a more candid friend than the Prime Minister!" He was also reminded that there was one point upon which the hon. Baronet and the Prime Minister agreed, and that was the policy, greatly adopted by the Prime Minister, but first enunciated by the hon. Baronet—the policy of "rescue and retire." That policy that House could not trust to the right hon. 757 Gentleman, because it was not new to the right hon. Gentleman. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that at the General Election of 1880 the Prime Minister came forward in order to rescue the Liberal Party, and then to retire; but he ventured to say that the right hon. Gentleman, had not rescued the Liberal Party from any of its difficulties—unless it were the difficulty they felt as to the choice of a Leader—but he had plunged the Party into deeper difficulties, and the country with it. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members opposite might say "No, no!" but he would ask them whether the Prime Minister had rescued the Liberal Party or not? [An hon. MEMBER: What from?] From the difficulties in which they were notoriously placed before that General Election. The difficulties were so many that he would not take up the time of the Committee in reciting them. Nor would he argue with hon. Members opposite as to whether by the great but unconvincing speech the Prime Minister made on the proposed Vote of Censure, he rescued his Party; or whether by their many and unconvinced votes they rescued him. But on one point, at any rate, he should not be at issue with hon. Members opposite, and that was that the Prime Minister had not retired. Rescue? Alas! they were too late for rescue in Egypt; and he thought the word "rescue" was one which could never pass the lips of the Prime Minister without something like a pang of remorse. He admired, and he envied, the great powers of the Prime Minister, and the many hours they enabled him to devote the Public Business; but he could not say he envied the right hon. Gentleman the few hours he was able to devote to repose. Were there no dreams which came across those hours? Were there no visions of the eyes of women and children straining, and straining in vain, for the first glint of light upon British bayonets that never arrived? We were trusted at Sinkat; but the hearts which trusted us were now dead and cold, and in their graves lay buried the honour of this country. He ventured to ask, under these circumstances, for a plain, candid, and straightforward declaration of policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and for this reason. He believed no such momentous question as this had been asked 758 before in the lifetime of this generation. It was not only that it affected the lives, the property, and the happiness of the labourious population which he had attempted to describe. Nor was it only that it affected the Suez Canal and our highway to India. But because this question opened up, in all its vastness, the great Eastern Question—a Question which for this country he conceived to be whether they were or were not to maintain their hold on their great Dependency of India? He would remind the Prime Minister, if he might do so, that the chief difficulty they had in the point of contact between the East and the West on this question was the way in which they must deal with the Mahommedan population of India. He would also remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Mahommedans were Fatalists, and, perhaps without knowing it themselves, were worshippers of strength and success. By that test alone they would try the pretensions of the Mahdi, and by that test alone they would try the pretensions of this country. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman also of another thing—that not only were the Mahommedans Fatalists, but they were religious enthusiasts; and he would tell the Government that they would make a very great mistake if they attempted to guage the extent of the devotion of the Mahommedans to the religion of their country by the cold indifference with which the religion of this country was treated by Her Majesty's Government when it was a question of supporting it in this House. With them religion was a passion which was always at red-heat, which anything might set ablaze in a moment; and if once the green flag of the Prophet should be unfurled, this country would see a religious war such as this generation had never heard of. Therefore, it was well worth their while to see that the Mahommedans of India should make no mistake as to what our policy was, and as to where we would circumscribe the boundaries of the Mahdi. There was one wand, and one alone, by which he believed we could rule the East, and the Prime Minister, great conjuror as he was, would do well to see that he attempted to conjure with no other. That wand was the prestige of England, the rooted conviction of millions that when England 759 said a thing she meant it—the conviction, founded on a long series of strong, defensible, and timely actions, that England must succeed. This had been difficult and hard to obtain; but their forefathers had obtained it for them, and it was hard that they should lose it. But, hard though it was to lose that prestige, he would remind Her Majesty's Government that it would be harder than ever to regain it.Nee vera virtus, cùm semel excidit,Curat reponi deterioribus.He would venture to say that Her Majesty's Government had lost that prestige to a very great extent, and by so doing had made our Empire more precarious than it had been; and he thought he was not going beyond bounds when he said they had degraded the proud name of English citizenship, which alone bore any relation to the civis Romanus sum. They had degraded it to the cry of the hireling on the Bed Sea—"Thank God I am not an Englishman!" This was a serious state of things, which the Government would do well to take into account as an important factor at the present moment. He thought he might call on the Prime Minister at that critical period to declare plainly what was going to be their policy in the East. He did not think that by so doing there would be any danger, either to the military operations which might be in progress, or which might be required, because he believed that by that course the military operations would be rendered, to a great extent, unnecessary; and he ventured to think that he might appeal with some force, and perhaps under peculiar circumstances, to the Prime Minister to make a frank declaration of policy, because at that moment the right hon. Gentleman stood in a peculiar position with regard to this country, and with regard to the whole world. Probably it was no exaggeration to say that as regarded intellectual attainments, added to experience, the Prime Minister stood a head and shoulders above any of his contemporaries in that House. He was reminded that once there was one who could have claimed, or at the least could have debated with the Prime Minister, the palm of pre-eminence. There was one who might probably have been called to Her Majesty's Counsels had he 760 been a live last week, and if he had been so called he would have taken that House and the country into his confidence by making a fair and a frank declaration of policy. The spirit of that man still lived on these Benches, and seemed to haunt the memory of this House; but he slept where the voice of the country could not awaken him. Alone the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister survived of the great Twin Brethren of Parliamentary debate, and he therefore was doubly responsible for coming frankly forward at his country's call. He (Mr. Finch-Hatton) thought there could be no doubt what-ever that great interests would be served, and great searchings of heart would be set at rest all over the world, if they could only obtain from Her Majesty's Government the declaration which they demanded. He would frankly own that his own humble individual opinion was that the only policy which this country could pursue with regard to Egypt at the present moment was—first of all, to declare frankly for a Protectorate over that country; and, secondly, to complete the pacification of the Soudan, not for the benefit of the Egyptian Government, not to place it under the English Government, but to secure to it, by the unrivalled experience of General Gordon and the aid of his manifold gifts, an autonomy friendly to this country. That, he thought, would be the best solution of the Soudan difficulty. Further than that, they should tell the Mahdi, in unmistakable terms, that if he attempted in any way to unfurl the banner of a religious war he would be at once and finally crushed by the might of a Power which, when she struck in earnest, never struck in vain. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister would see his way to giving them some frank, some manly declaration on this point, and that he would leave the platform of diplomatic enigma, which was unworthy the dignity and the talents of the Prime Minister of England. He summoned the right hon. Gentleman, like Achilles, to come out of his tent when his counsels were demanded by the great Chiefs of the nation; and he warned him that if, in spite of the summons, he refused to speak, he would, like Achilles, bring ten thousand woes upon his country; like him, he would see the honour that might have been his in 761 the solution of this great question transferred to the brow of another; and like him, too, condemn his followers to a 10 years' siege before the citadel of Power. He thanked the Committee for the extreme indulgence which had been extended to him.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
congratulated the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Finch-Hatton) on the success of his first speech in the House. He was sure they had all heard that speech with great interest; he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had done so especially, because he thought the best part of it was that in which the hon. Member had been preaching from his (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) text. He was not going to reply to a great deal that the hon. Gentleman had said, because he observed that the hon. Member's remarks were very much like bits of the speeches which had come from other quarters on the Opposition side of the House; and though speeches were excellent by way of criticism, they did not suggest any policy of their own. ["Oh, oh!"] What he meant was that they did not suggest any distinct policy, fie desired to say a word or two about the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart), because although that hon. Gentleman had not spoken long he had brought up the old superstition about the Suez Canal. He had really thought that everyone was agreed that their remaining in Egypt had nothing to do with the protection of the Canal; he was glad that no Member of the Cabinet had brought up anything of that sort. The only person who believed in that superstition about the Canal was, he thought, the Archbishop of York, who had written a prayer on the subject. He observed to-day that their going to Egypt was put on a different footing to the theory that they had gone there for their own purposes, because the Prime Minister had said that they were not merely doing their own work in Egypt, but the work of Europe, and of the world and civilization in general. It, therefore, appeared that they were engaged upon a philanthropic expedition, and that they would hear no more about British interests from the Government. Yesterday the Prime Minister had seemed a little surprised—he did not know that the right hon. Gentleman was to blame—that the House should be perpetually discussing 762 the Egyptian Question. The right hon. Gentleman said—We have had five nights on the Vote of Censure, and we have had besides seven discussions on the subject.Well, why not? If the Egyptian policy of the Government was a good, and a great, and beneficent policy, as they were told it was during all last year, and, indeed, until this Soudan business came about, surely it must be satisfactory to the Government to have it discussed in the House. Like fine gold put through the furnace, the more it was discussed the brighter it would shine in the country. On the other hand, if the policy of the Government was one which involved them in discredit and danger, if not in disaster, that was the more reason for discussing it constantly. So far from seven debates and a discussion on the Vote of Censure being sufficient, it was likely that this subject would be discussed twice a-week until the 12th of August. What subject was there which it was so necessary to discuss? They were having great marches and countermarches in the Soudan—they had the country evacuated in one part and invaded in another; they had ships of war at the Red Sea ports; they had Proclamations issued defending the Slave Trade; and they were actually told that a great slave dealer had been appointed to rule over a part of the Soudan. Surely, then, it was right that Parliament should discuss this matter, and should try to find some way out of this chaos of contradiction in which they found themselves. The case would be ludicrous if it were not so lamentable. It was clear that, notwithstanding the seven discussions and the five nights' debate, they had arrived at the right opportunity for discussing the whole Egyptian Question, for there was no saying more commonly used by Parliamentary men than that very old saying ascribed, he believed, to Mr. Disraeli. That statesman had once said—" Expenditure depends on policy." Nothing was truer than that when they had to pay the bill which was necessary in consequence of their policy, that was the right time to discuss the merits of that policy. And here he wished to mention a thing which he had before remarked upon in the House, and it was this—that when the Belief Expedition was proposed, he did not oppose it because he 763 believed it was simply and solely an expedition to relieve the garrisons. The sending of that expedition showed that the Government felt themselves responsible for what had, up to that time, gone on in the Soudan. If they had not been responsible it would not have been necessary to mention the matter at all; and yet there were any number of speeches and despatches on the question, and they never could get over the fact that responsibility was recognized when they sent troops to the relief of Tokar. But when Tokar fell the whole scene was in a moment changed; there was then no one left to rescue; and, in his opinion, the fact of advancing as they did do intensified the danger. Let him read to the Committee what appeared this morning in a Daily New's telegram, which, he thought, would bear out what he said. The telegram was as follows:—(Through Reuter's Agency.) Suakin, March 5, 6.40 p.m. It is now reported that the English entered Tokar just in time to save the population, as the rebels returning from the battlefield were threatening to slaughter them all in revenge for their defeat. The Arabs and the townspeople had previously been living amicably together.Did not that prove that by sending troops the Government had caused the very danger they wanted to avert? The people of Tokar had given themselves up to the Arabs, preferring, as no doubt they were right in preferring, a Moslem foe to a Christian friend. No doubt the money, or the bulk of the money, the Committee was asked to vote had been already expended; and the question they were discussing was really whether the policy which had led to all this expenditure was to go on or not? The Vote of Censure of the right hon. Gentleman opposite referred really to the Soudan; but the Committee now had an opportunity of discussing the whole policy of the Government in Egypt; and, as far as he was concerned, he did not wish to blame Her Majesty's Ministers for anything like vacillation and inconsistency. He was inclined to think that they had been too consistent throughout—he only wished they had vacillated a little more; but, so far as he knew, they had carried out the policy which they declared two years ago when they commenced warlike operations against Egypt. What was the Egyptian policy the right hon. Gentleman declared openly and frankly to the 764 House? Why, he had said the whole object of the Government was to defend the rights of the Sultan; to defend the rights of the Khedive; to defend the rights of the bondholders; and to defend the Egyptian people. That was a very clear policy; and he did not think it was quite fair to say it was a legacy from the Tory Party. He did not, so far as he was concerned, think there was any necessity for going to Egypt to defend the rights of the Sultan; to defend the rights of the Khedive; to defend the rights of the bondholders; or to defend the rights of the Egyptian people by our Military Forces. It had been explained that night that the only right the Sultan had in that country was the right of drawing a lot of money from the people for doing no service whatever. Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister used to talk about a "bag-and-baggage policy," it did seem strange to him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) that the right hon. Gentleman should be a party to sending out British troops for the purpose of maintaining the authority of the Sultan. He never had been able to see why it was wrong in the Tory Party not to protest against the Sultan oppressing the Bulgarians, and not wrong in the Liberal Party to come in and allow him to oppress the Mussulmans. But what were the rights of the Khedive? His rights were the rights of oppressing and misgoverning the people over whom he ruled. The Prime Minister the other night had not approved of his (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) finding fault with the Khedive and calling him "a miserable man." Well, the Khedive was a miserable man; and in saying that he was not using language too strong, for he had a high precedent for it. The Home Secretary, who was a model of moderation and respectability in his language, had the other day called the Government "a miserable Government." ["No, no!"] [An hon. MEMBER: What Government?] This Government. He begged pardon—he had misled the Committee—he was not speaking of the present, but the late, Home Secretary. The Prime Minister had reproved him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) for speaking as he did about the Khedive, because, the right hon. Gentleman said, the Khedive had been true to us. Why, of course he had been true to us since the fall of Arabi Pasha—what would have become of him 765 if he had not? The Khedive, no doubt, was true enough now, because if he were not he would very soon find himself at the bottom of the Red Sea. He was told that the party of the Khedive in Egypt, all told, consisted of six footmen of his household. The policy of Her Majesty's Government was that of keeping the Khedive in his power and on his lands, and he did not think that was a policy which they ought to pursue. The other reason why they were to vote this money was, as the Prime Minister had explained, the rights of the bondholders. That was the real thing, no doubt, and right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite knew well enough that was the real thing; because when they started and initiated and supported that policy two years ago, warmly urging it on the Government, where was it done and how? Why, it took place at Willis's Rooms, when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition rode the British lion round the room until he roared again. Who was in the chair on that occasion? Why, no other than the Chairman to the Bondholders' Committee, and that, to his mind, threw a flood of light on the whole question; that showed that, in reality, the expedition to Egypt was only the sending out of British troops to act as bum-bailiffs. The Government had enabled the bondholders to get the blood of these poor people in security for the payment of their loans—land which was formerly not allowed to be taken as security. The only pleasant thing he saw about the whole Egyptian business was the prospect in the near future of the bondholders being obliged to relinquish some of their plunder. He came now to the question of the rights of the Egyptian people. Why were they to go and slaughter the people of Egypt in order to protect their rights? What were the rights of independent people? Why he should say that the first right of an independent people was the right of self-government—that was the noblest right they could have—a right they were all so proud of in England; and before this debate concluded he should like some one to tell them why the Egyptian people were to be an exception to that rule, which they were so anxious to see applied to all other nations? The Egyptian people wished simply to govern themselves; to 766 vote their own Budget; to manage their own affairs; and that was a simple enough demand. [A laugh.] The hon. Alderman (Mr. Alderman W. Lawrence) laughed; but he did not know anything about it. The Egyptian people wished to vote their own Budget; and that was the origin of our whole quarrel with them; that was why we bombarded Alexandria, and why we had gone to Cairo. But do not let the Committee take his word for it. ["No."] An hon. Gentleman would not take his word for it; but he would give him an authority—he would give them the authority of Mr. Mackenzie Wallace, who had written one of the most interesting books which they could read upon this question. That gentleman, in his work, had alluded to Arabi and the rebellion, and had said that in the national movement there were some undeveloped germs which might have borne fruit. But the British Government had crushed those germs, and to his mind the history of the world hardly showed a more melancholy transaction, particularly as those germs had been crushed by a people who were proud of their freedom. Our action was too bad for France—["Oh, oh!"]—and hon. Gentlemen who cried "Oh, oh!" should remember how the French had sailed majestically out of the Harbour of Alexandria. The French would not bombard the place, and because they refused we upset all the international arrangements which had existed. Other nations had not wished to have anything to do with it, and had looked with a kind of cynical contempt on the whole business. Why did we do this thing? We had heard about how the French had killed Rome; how Austria had pulled down Hungary; and how Russia had oppressed Poland; but these countries were military despotisms, whereas we were a nation of reformers—we were constantly introducing Reform Bills. He dared say hon. Members, when they were boys, delighted in reading the lines of Campbell with reference to Poland—Found not a generous friend nor pitying foe, Strength in her arms, nor mercy in her woe …Hope for a season bade the world farewell, And Freedom shriek'd as Koseinsko fell.Freedom, he thought, must have uttered some sort of cry when that performance 767 took place, and the hope of establishing free institutions in Europe, Africa, and Asia, must very much have sunk when a free nation like our own indulged in such dark deeds of despotism. When they were discussing that Vote of money let them discuss the policy which, in his humble opinion, they ought to pursue. To his mind there were only three courses open to them. First of all, they might go on, if they liked, with this dismal farce, which had brought them into their present position—the farce of the Dual Control. He maintained that it was a farce, because it was fighting against the laws of nature. They could not divest power from responsibility if they tried to do so; and the Government themselves admitted that he was right in this description of the matter, because, as he gathered from their speeches that night, they only wished to persevere in that policy for a little while longer. Then there was another course. They might take the bold course, which, no doubt, many hon. Members in the House would be prepared to take—namely, the course of annexing the country; but in that case, as the Prime Minister had declared that night, they would be utterly untrue to Europe, and to the pledges they had made in the House of Commons. He need not say that that was a course that would not be generally approved of; and it would not be a wise course either. This system of governing countries against the will of the people themselves had never answered, so far as he was aware. They had an illustration of that near home. Let them look at Ireland, which was only a few miles from them. There they had to govern by means of an Army against the will of the people, and what was the consequence? Why, the consequence was that hon. Members were worn out with sitting up until 6 o'clock in the morning sometimes, and the House of Commons itself ran the risk of being brought into ill repute. [An hon. MEMBER: We have India.] Well, as for India, they had not done with her yet. She had given them a great deal of trouble; and it was very possible that one of these days they would have other difficulties to face in that country; but, at any rate, he did not wish to deal with the question of India at present. Then there was a third course—they could leave Egypt to the 768 the Egyptians, and let them manage their own affairs. The first step towards that would be to release Arabi, and allow him to return to the country from which he had been ruthlessly expelled. He did not blame the Government for what they had done in regard to Arabi, because he believed that in this matter, as in many other matters, they had acted on false information given them by their agents abroad. ["No, no!"] The noble Lord opposite said "No, no!" but he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had a better opinion of the Government than had that noble Lord. What he would say was that, for some reason or other, Arabi was libelled and persecuted. With regard to Arabi's character, some words written by Mr. Mackenzie Wallace were worth quoting—and the Committee would bear in mind that this gentleman was not a follower of his, because he talked about "fussy people at home," meaning those of them who sat below the Gangway on the Ministerial side. Speaking of Arabi, Mr. Mackenzie Wallace said he was a dutiful son, a good husband, and a kind father, and, on the whole, a respectable man; and he summed up Arabi's character in these words—Never since the days of Mehemet Ali, or perhaps from a much earlier date, was there a man who had such a firm hold on the country as Arabi, for he had not only the Army but Police at his disposal, and consequently was in a position to terrorize to any extent he chose.["Hear, hear!"] He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) thought some one would say "Hear, hear!" to that—that was what the Prime Minister called a trap. Well, Arabi was not only in a position to terrorize to any extent he liked—But he also enjoyed, as I have shown, the sympathies of nearly every section of the Native population. Arabi did not acquire or preserve his influence by terrorism, for at the commencement ho had no power to injure anyone; and during the whole time of his power he never caused a single individual to be beheaded, hanged, or shot. If he had gone to the poll with Tewfik, and all corrupt practices had been excluded, he would have obtained the votes of an overwhelming majority of the free and independent electors. If we did not mean to create really good government, why did we destroy the National Party which had a far better chance of preserving order of some kind than the Khedive?Well, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said what he thought with a view of clearing up Arabi's character. What had come 769 over this country? It was all very well to attack the Government; but the Government only acted according to the will of the people. ["No, no!"] That, at any rate, was his opinion; and he wondered what would come over the people of this country if they could sanction the kind of policy he had described. Many hon. Gentlemen present could remember Garibaldi's entry into London; the most wonderful ovation that the country had, perhaps, ever seen. They would remember how the Metropolis rejoiced at the sight of so great a supporter of freedom; and he could remember the reception given to General Haynau by men with whom he had, as a rule, but little sympathy—namely, the brewers' men. General Haynau met with this reception at the hands of a people who wished to show their love of freedom, and hatred of oppression; and yet the same people who had received Garibaldi with rejoicings, and Haynau with displeasure, now sanctioned the banishment of Arabi to Ceylon. He regretted very much that they should have acted in that way, and he did not suppose that the mischief done could be repaired in an hour. Those who had begun this course of policy, no doubt, thought it was best to stick to it; but he had a firm and implicit conviction that the day would come when true Liberal principles would again influence the people of this country; when Egypt would be handed back to her rightful owners; when the principles of freedom would reign there, and a better and happier day dawn upon a people who had so long been grievously oppressed.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had contributed a most humorous speech to the discussion of that evening; but he regretted that he should have echoed the outcry about the bondholders, because he (Lord Eustace Cecil) never could understand why the bondholders should be expected to pay for that which properly the Government ought to pay for, nor could he understand why the salaries of certain Members of the Government should be applied to pay for the disturbances put down in Egypt. But, passing from that subject, he would point out that they had had two most notable speeches that evening from the Treasury Bench; and he was bound to say that those speeches 770 were more remarkable for what they did not say than for what they did say. The Prime Minister had made a great many observations and statements in the course of his speech; but as to anything in the nature of a statement of policy, it was conspicuous for its absence. Hon. Members on those Benches did expect that the right hon. Gentleman would have told the Committee why they were in the Soudan, and how long they were going to remain there, and that he would have given a sketch of the Government policy, showing what the future relations between Egypt and this country were likely to be. But not one word of that could he discover in the eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He had listened to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, who had opened this discussion; and he must join his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) in regretting that the noble Marquess had not seen his way to say something in praise of that gallant Army which had done so much for the country, and he would add for Her Majesty's Government, in the Soudan. Whether it was, as he believed it to be, an omission, or whether the Secretary of State for War was so taken up with the business of his statement and the justice of his case, he knew not; but he trusted that, if the noble Marquess had another opportunity of speaking in this discussion, he would not neglect to say that which ought to be said by the one Minister who presided at the War Office in respect of their gallant Army. But there was one thing which the noble Marquess did say which he (Lord Eustace Cecil) had paid particular attention to—namely, that the Army of Osman Digna was to be dispersed. Now, that was a very important admission for the noble Marquess to make, and for this reason, as he should presently show. As far as it was known, the encampment of Osman Digna was at a distance of about 10 or 12 miles from Suakin; they were told, however, that another portion of his forces, consisting of some 2,000 or 3,000 men, was encamped at a distance of about Right or 10 miles further away. That was the information of that evening, at any rate; and they might, therefore, presume that there was still a very considerable body of Arabs in arms. Supposing that General Graham, acting on his instructions, went out to disperse 771 this force, and Osman Digna, showing more generalship than he had shown hitherto, retired into the Desert, he would then ask whether their troops, headed by General Graham, were to follow Osman Digna into the Desert, to whatever distance he chose to take them; because, if that were to be the case, all he would say was that they had nothing in the shape of warlike resources for the purpose. Their transport, as the noble Marquess knew, was utterly deficient; and the inevitable consequence would be that their men would be completely exhausted in a short time, and probably overwhelmed, and the Prime Minister, besides having to answer, as he was afraid he would have to answer, for the lives of so many men, women, and children at Sinkat, Tokar, and El Teb, would have to answer for the loss of a British Army. Now, he desired to dwell for a moment on one part of the question which seemed to have escaped the attention of the Committee. They had heard a great deal about the general policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt, a subject undoubtedly well worth entering into; but the Committee had heard almost absolutely nothing beyond what his right hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Stanley) had said on the subject of the military policy. He conceived that the military policy of Her Majesty's Government was especially cognate to the subject they were dealing with, and the Estimates then under consideration. In his opinion, the same language applied to the military policy as applied to the general policy of the Government; and he might say, bearing in mind the motto "Rescue and retire," which had been used so often, that "Too late" applied to the military policy of Her Majesty's Government. To go back two years, to the time when Sir Beauchamp Seymour bombarded Alexandria, they all recollected, and all knew, that, when the moment arrived for landing a portion of the forces, so as to prevent further depredation or the spreading of the flames of Alexandria, that force was not to be found. The Admiral had only a very small number of Marines and troops with him; and it was owing to the want of that force—at least, many hon. Gentlemen thought so at the time—that the rebellion of Arabi was not put down. Again, if he might refer to that most gallant deed of a most 772 gallant Army and General at Tel-el-Kebir, he thought that Her Majesty's Government had much more reason to be proud of their good fortune than their good merits. That Army, as he had said, performed a very gallant deed under discouraging circumstances; but supposing that Arabi, as he had supposed just now of Osman Digna, had known something of the strategy of the olden time, and had led Sir Garnet Wolseley and his force into the heart of the Desert, where would the Prime Minister and his policy have been at that moment? He had not the least doubt that, under those circumstances, the Army must have been lost; because it was not provided with proper transport, proper cavalry, proper medical arrangements, or, in fact, with the equipment necessary to the force. That deficiency was, undoubtedly, due to a want of foresight, and he believed the military policy of Her Majesty's Government at the time was but a happy-go-lucky policy. He did not believe that when Sir Garnet Wolseley went out to Egypt Her Majesty's Government had any clear idea of what would be the result of the operations, or of what would happen in the event of defeat. Well, that led him to the consideration of what the future was to be. He had shown—and he believed that any hon. Member who looked back to those times would see—that entire ignorance prevailed as to what was going to be done. Lord Wolseley had stated that the establishment necessary for keeping order in Egypt would be about 10,000 or 12,000 men. What did the Government do? Within a year or 18 months of that time that Army was reduced—he admitted on the advice of the responsible Agents of the Government who were in Egypt—to 7,000 men. The Government did not seem at that time to have been fully warned, nor did they seem to know what was going on in the Soudan, whether or not through the fault of their Agents at Cairo he was unable to say. He thought they were bound to expect from the Government that, at all events, they should not be in a hurry. Her Majesty's Government knew perfectly well that the state of things in Egypt was, to say the least of it, critical. They knew it was impossible to rely on the Egyptian Army, or on the Egyptian Police, and he held it was their duty to the country 773 and the taxpayers to do what had to be done in Egypt themselves. Because, supposing that anything like the policy which the Prime Minister stated at the Mansion House had been carried out, and the Army had been withdrawn, it was perfectly evident to anyone who considered the subject that they would have been obliged to do the whole work over again. What actually did take place showed an amount of hurry and precipitation on the part of Her Majesty's Government, which, in his opinion, was totally unjustifiable. Well, then they had to consider what was to be the establishment of their troops in Egypt in the future, and that was a question which he thought required a great deal of consideration. He had been greatly in hope that the noble Marquess would have given the Committee somewhat more than the very meagre information which he had supplied as to the views of Her Majesty's Government on the establishment in Egypt that would be necessary in the future. All that the noble Marquess had told them was that the policy of Her Majesty's Government, from a military point of view, was a defensive policy, and that he supposed that Suakin would have to be occupied by a permanent garrison; but what sort of permanent garrison it was to be he had not stated. Possibly the question of Allies had something to do with this; but, however that might be, the question was one on which Her Majesty's Government should make up their minds in justice to the troops who were at Suakin. Let the Committee consider what the country was like, and where it was situated; it was in the 19th degree of latitude, or, in other words, well within the tropics; it was, undoubtedly, a most unwholesome and unhealthy place; and he believed the Adjutant General had spoken of its un-healthiness both publicly and privately. Their troops, again, were young soldiers, and often very young men. It was only the other day that he had asked the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War a Question respecting two regiments which had been sent to the Mediterranean; but to that Question he had received no answer. These regiments, let it be remembered, were not going to the seat of war, because in that case he should not have addressed any Question to the noble Marquess 774 upon the subject; they were simply going to a Mediterranean garrison; and therefore he saw no harm in asking whether it was not the case that more than two-thirds of the men who composed them were of under two years' service. The noble Marquess absolutely declined to give any answer to that Question. The inference was, of course, that the service of the men had been correctly stated; and he had already reason to know, on the best authority, that it was so. But they had information to the effect that the troops in Egypt—some of them certainly—were not of long service, and that was an important consideration if they were to remain there indefinitely. He made use of that term because the Government seemed to have no definite policy of any sort. There was very great risk of the troops being exposed to an unwholesome climate, and it was possible that some form of illness might break out at Suakin which would seriously compromise the health of the garrison. His right hon. and gallant Friend had asked, very naturally, with what troops the forts were to be garrisoned—were they to be Indian troops, or White troops, or were mercenaries to be made use of? Now, he had repeatedly advocated, considering how much of the British Army was employed within the tropics, the enlistment of more or less Black troops. He believed that a mixture of Black troops and White troops would be the best for a permanent garrison. But, however that might be, it was a very important point; and he thought the noble Marquess was bound to lay before the Committee some sort of scheme, because their occupation could not be for so short a period as six months, as he had once told them it would be. They knew very well that the occupation of Egypt, whether it ended in a Protectorate or anything else, must be of considerable duration; and if he were to say six years, and probably longer, instead of six months, he believed he should not be far from the mark. Therefore, he said that the noble Marquess was bound to consider this question, and to furnish some idea of what arrangements he had made for the health of the troops, as well as the protection of the country. Now, taking the question of the fortified posts, there was the littoral of the Red Sea, there was Suakin, 775 Massowah, and other similar places. Were those positions on the Red Sea to be defended entirely by the Navy, or was there to be anything there in the shape of fortifications? Then, with regard to Assouan; a great deal had been said about that lately, and they bad been told that two Egyptian regiments, commanded by English officers, were to go there; and they had also heard that an English regiment was also under orders to proceed, it was not known exactly where, but to some place in Upper Egypt. Now, it was for Her Majesty's Government to decide what was to be the boundary line to be defended in Upper Egypt, if they were going to pursue the policy of giving up the whole of the Soudan; but at that moment the Committee was completely in the dark upon that matter. It was believed that something in the nature of fortification was to be erected; and, if so, it must be done more or less in a permanent way at the right places. But the point to be considered was, when all these things were done, who was to bear the expense? That was a question which would have to be decided between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Egypt. But it was not only the question of fortifications, but that of the health of British troops, that had to be considered; there must be a certain number of hospitals established at different points, and for all these things money must be found somewhere or other. Now, were they to have these things provided for at 12 o'clock at night by a Supplementary Estimate, brought in as this had been? All he would say of this Estimate was that to him it was only another proof of want of foresight on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He had looked over the Estimate, and he found that there was, first of all, £100,000 charged for the expenses of the expedition to Suakin, of which no details whatever were given. They were asked to vote a lump sum for the expedition without the smallest detail being supplied, while the £270,900 for ordinary and extraordinary expenses should, from his point of view, have been brought into the Army Estimates of last year. Her Majesty's Government must have known that they were likely to remain in Egypt for a longer time than six months, which period the noble Marquess himself knew had been 776 extended; and there was, therefore, no excuse for not providing for another six months. He (Lord Eustace Cecil) said that the present Estimate should only have been taken for the expenses of the expedition to Suakin, because what was the result of the present arrangement? It was that if anyone wanted to go carefully into the Estimate it would be almost impossible for him to do so, because the expenses of Egypt and the expenses of Suakin were mixed up together, and nobody could tell what belonged to one and what belonged to the other. Again, there were certain little items in the Estimate about which he desired to ask some questions. There had been a great deal of talk lately about the deficiency of field guns in the recent operations; and they had been told that, on military advice, Her Majesty's Government did not think proper to send out field guns. He had no reason to quarrel with that advice; but he found here a charge of no less than £22,000 put down for metal. Now, as he had had the honour of being in the War Department, it occurred to him that the sum of £22,000 was a considerable sum of money to spend on guns; and therefore he asked, seeing that no field guns were sent with the force, why was this money spent? Was it spent at Suakin, or was it spent in Egypt? Upon that point there was nothing whatever to inform the Committee. It was now so much the custom to lump these matters together that the House of Commons had no control whatever over the expenditure. He knew that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) was a great financial reformer, and he directed the attention of the hon. Gentleman to this matter, because it was well known that he was anxious to have both efficiency and economy in the Public Service. He was quite sure the hon. Gentleman would agree with him that it was impossible for the Committee to go into the Estimate as thoroughly as it ought to be, and, at the same time, to vote a lump sum of this kind. Then, again, he saw that a very large sum was put down for saltpetre and sulphur, and also a large sum for gunpowder and gun-cotton. All these things came in his Department when he was at the War Office in former days, and he recollected that guncotton was made use of for torpedoes; but why did this expedition 777 to Suakin require all this supply of materials? His belief was that the Government found that their stores wanted replenishing, and that they availed themselves of the opportunity offered by this Estimate to put this item into the list. He thought this extremely likely, although, of course, he was not in a position to prove it; and, therefore, he felt that such criticism as the Estimates used to receive from the hon. Member for Burnley and other Gentlemen was most necessary in the present instance. But at that hour it was quite impossible to give the matter the attention which it demanded; and, therefore, it was perfectly clear that the Estimate would have to be discussed again. There was something to be discussed besides the general policy of the Government; and if these matters were to be thoroughly considered they could not get at the root of the business unless they had the information afforded which it was in the power of Her Majesty's Government to give. And that was exactly the point he wished to arrive at. In small things and in great they could get no information from the Government. The Prime Minister had, as usual, made them an exceedingly eloquent speech; but it was, at the same time, entirely deficient in information. The right hon. Gentleman had been reminded of what took place four years ago, and he would be reminded of it over and over again. There were the speeches delivered in Mid Lothian, and there was the authorized version of them published, from which hon. Members might refresh their memories. He recollected perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman denounced Lord Beaconsfield's Government on the ground of its adventurous policy, not only with regard to India and Africa, but in all parts of the world. He should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, at that moment, what he thought of his own policy? Was it adventurous, or was it not? Lord Beaconsfield, at all events, accomplished peace with honour; but that could not be said of the right hon. Gentleman, for he had accomplished peace with dishonour. Looking at Egypt, it was perfectly true that they had had successes there—military successes; but had there been financial or administrative successes? He said that the more they looked into this question the 778 more plainly they would see how far the deeds of the right hon. Gentleman were from his words. The right hon. Gentleman, after only four years of administration, must have found how difficult a matter it was to make his deeds tally with his words; and be (Lord Eustace Cecil) could not but think that when he denounced the late Government, in the House and out of it, the idea never entered his mind that in three or four years he would find himself in a more difficult position than that of the Government which he wanted to displace. He could not say he was sorry for the experiences of the right hon. Gentleman, because it would give him, at all events, a fuller appreciation of the difficulties which the late Government had to encounter, and because the more he had to do with this unfortunate mess, as he must call it, in Egypt, the more he would regret that he had not adopted a consistent, firm, and courageous policy, not only in military affairs, but in matters relating to the civil administration of that country.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, he did not rise to go into the historical aspect of the matters which had been touched upon that evening, and he did not propose to enter into any recapitulation of what might be called the ancient history of this subject, with a single exception. He had been very much struck with the statement of the Prime Minister that one unmitigated benefit, one real innovation of the highest value, had resulted from the interposition of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt, and that this great benefit which had been conferred upon the people of Egypt was the cessation of the odious anomaly, as the Premier described it, of the exemption of foreigners from taxation. Now, the Premier had laid great stress upon the fact that foreigners had commenced to be subject to the Common Law, and that, whereas previous to the interposition of Her Majesty's Government foreigners were exempt from taxation, that would not be the case in future. That was all very fine, and he had no doubt whatever that the Prime Minister, when he made the statement, was altogether oblivious of another Ministerial statement made two years ago by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in reply to a Question on that very subject. Of course, matters were changed. At 779 present it was the interest of the Government to demonstrate the great benefit resulting from British intervention in Egypt; and, at the time he referred to, he thought it was their business to deny that Arabi's insurrection had any reasonable ground underlying it. He (Mr. O'Donnell) was one of those who believed that there were very reasonable grounds for that insurrection, and, amongst others, that the scandalous exemption of foreigners from taxation justified a considerable amount of discontent on the part of the Egyptian people. It was for that reason that he asked, on the 22nd of June, 1882—Whether it is true that the European population of Egypt have been practically exempt from the payment of taxes; and, whether Her Majesty's Government have recommended the cessation of this exemption?In reply to this, he was informed that foreigners were not exempt, and that the Egyptian Government had full powers to compel recalcitrant foreigners to pay their taxes, the inference being that on that ground Arabi's insurrection had no justification. The exact words of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs were—As regards taxation, the foreigner in Egypt stands, legally, in the same position as the Native inhabitant, except that the Capitulations exempt him from the capitation tax or tribute. This tax is, however, no longer levied in Egypt…… And that the Egyptian Government have occasionally had recourse to vigorous measures to recover the amounts due."—(3 Hansard,  27.)What could be the reason for this extraordinary contradiction between the two statements from the Treasury Bench? To-day they were told that the establishment of equality between Natives and foreigners in Egypt only commenced with the rule of Her Majesty's Government in that country; less than two years ago they were told that the position of equality between foreigners and Natives in respect of taxation had been already established. He asked whether the former statement was made in order to take away all justification from the discontented Egyptians? He was ready to admit that the Under Secretary of State had not a shadow of foundation for the statement he made two years ago; but was it not remarkable that that statement should be made from the Treasury Bench without any contradiction—a statement wholly destitute of 780 foundation? He had no doubt that the exigencies of policy required that statement to be made; but they were now told of the enormous good derived from equality before the law which had descended upon Egypt from the supremacy of Her Majesty's Government. As a specimen of what might be described very mildly as the inaccuracy of the present Cabinet in the face of difficulties, he certainly thought that this deserved a place in the records of the time. Attempts had been made to draw from the Prime Minister some definite declaration as to the time during which the British troops would remain in Egypt; and the only reply, so far as he could gather, vouchsafed by the Prime Minister was that the British troops would remain in Egypt until a stable self-supporting Native Government had been established in Egypt under the fostering care of Her Majesty's Ministers. He could not but regard that statement and that promise as just about equivalent in another sense to the description given of the state of Egypt two years ago by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. How was the policy of the Government preparing Egypt for Native self-government? Were they preparing Egypt for Native self-government by dismissing an increasing number of Native officials from posts where they could alone learn the most elementary; part of self-government? Were they preparing Egypt for Native self-government, and to resume her place among nations, by increasing the number of foreign officials in all the important posts? Where were the Natives whom they wished to co-operate with them in the government of Egypt? Even Cherif Pasha was too much an Egyptian to co-operate in the sanguinary sham which the Government had set up in Egypt. Who was there in Egypt to co-operate with the Government? Nubar Pasha, that Armenian adventurer who went there a quarter of a century ago penniless, and who was to-day rolling in the possession of hundreds and thousands of pounds, the result of the system of greasing the palm which he had enjoyed? Year after year he had been the tool of the vulture-beaked blood-suckers of Egypt. That was the sort of man to co-operate with the Government in Egypt. There was another form of co-operation which Her 781 Majesty's Government had introduced in to Egypt—Native co-operation by thousands and thousands of peasants, who knew not one end of a gun from the other, were, in order to carry out Her Majesty's Government's policy of slaughter, sent to fight fanatic warriors, and were slaughtered like sheep in the shambles. That was the kind of co-operation permitted under Her Majesty's Government to the Natives of Egypt. Any observations he made on the Government were not addressed merely to this particular Government; he was not such a coward as that; for at the bottom, and in reality, there was not an act of bloody treachery carried out by the Government in Egypt or elsewhere which had not the sanction of the majority of that House. If the blood that had been shed from human veins during the few years he had had a seat in that House could take concrete form and appear in that House it would rise above the highest Benches in the House, and there would be an end to some of the long-winded orations, and the breath of hon. Members would be choked in the blood they had caused to flow. If he criticized Her Majesty's Government, he only criticized them as the head and front of the offenders in that House. There was no intention on either side to withdraw from Egypt. This country had entered Egypt under false pretences. Alexandria was bombarded under false pretences. The people in the Soudan had been massacred under false pretences. He saw on the placards of that evening's newspapers announcements of fighting near Khartoum, and defeat of the rebels. Even General Gordon was setting to the work of throat-cutting in the Soudan. The Government would stop there until a superior Power drove them out; but some day Providence, which never failed to punish a guilty nation, though they were as proud as Spain in her proudest day, would demand from this House and from this nation an account of the blood which this House and this nation had shed, through their plundering cupidity and greed, for supremacy and power.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the total sum asked for by the Government was £370,900, and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) proposed to reduce that amount by £206, 150; but the hon. Member made out his calculations in a very peculiar way. He 782 said he would only allow two items to remain—namely, the charge for clergymen and nurses; but he could not see why the hon. Member had selected the particular sum he had named for reduction, seeing that the clergy only cost £1,500, and the nurses £2,900. But the hon. Member was above arithmetic, just as the Roman Emperor was above grammar. That, however, was a very small matter. A much more important matter was the extraordinary tactics adopted by the Government. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have felt that the Government were pursuing a rather unusual course. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) gave Notice of his Question for to-morrow, he referred to the great number of instances in which, during the last three years, it had been the practice of the House to consider questions of this kind on a Vote of Credit. For reasons well known to himself, the Prime Minister had chosen to call this a Supplementary Estimate. The Prime Minister was a great master of phrases. Sometimes they meant anything, and sometimes they meant nothing; but in this case the phrase meant a good deal. It meant an attempt to get the judgment of the Committee without giving the House in full an opportunity of discussing the policy of the Government in Egypt; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose conscience he supposed smote him, had got together one or two cases in which the late Government had brought forward Votes for war or for military operations—or, rather, for preventing war—in the form of Supplementary Estimates. At the very most, that answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was an undignified tu quoque; but the answer of the Leader of the Opposition was a very pertinent one. These cases were before the Rule of November, 1882. When the Prime Minister brought forward, in the Autumn Session of 1882, those wonderful Resolutions about Procedure, he tried to take advantage of the weariness of the House, and they only now found how tightly the fetters they then too hastily agreed to were to be bound round them. It looked innocent enough to pass those Resolutions. When the Army Estimates had been entered on, and when the Navy and the Civil Service Estimates had been entered on, it 783 looked innocent enough to say that on two days a-week the poor Government might be allowed to go into Committee without a discussion as to whether the Speaker should leave the Chair or not; but the Government had not the courage to say what use they were going to make of these Resolutions. They did not say they intended to print Votes of Credit under the guise of Supplemetary Estimates. They had kept the terms of the understanding to the ear, but broken them to the heart, as they always did; and the Committee were now engaged in this very important discussion, of which it was impossible to overrate the importance, and full justice was not done to hon. Members by having an opportunity of discussing the question as a whole on the Motion that the Speaker should leave the Chair, and of deciding whether they should or should not censure the policy of the Government in Egypt. The Prime Minister always slipped and slid out of a fair discussion. He evaded the discussion on the Suez Canal, and he slipped out of the difficulty into which he had got just in time to save the Estimates of a tottering Government, knowing that under the gagging Rules of November and December, 1882, the Government had a reserve upon which they could not be challenged—they had misapplied those Rules under most extraordinary circum stances. That was an extremely unfair use of those Rules. When the Prime Minister, dealing with an obsequious supporter, hinted that he had a great deal more to go through, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman in a way that would pin him down to his words——
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was sorry to have exceeded limits, and he would proceed without saying anything that was disagreeable to the Chairman.
The hon. and learned Member is not obliged to leave out anything because it is disagreeable to me, but to confine himself to the Question.
§ MR. WARTON
said, that what he meant was that he wished to speak agreeably to the Chairman's ruling. That was all he was endeavouring to do. He was as respectful to that House as 784 he could be, because he knew that time was of importance. The reason why hon. Members on that side were anxious to have an opportunity of fully challenging the policy of the Government was that that policy had not yet been put clearly before them; and he apprehended that the charge against the Government was that their policy had been marked by an utter absence of that power of seeing even * the immediate future, which every statesman ought to possess; that they had always been blundering and wrong in every step they took, and had never been able to see the facts of things as they were. While they had been talking about blood-guiltiness, and making observations about justice, they reminded him of the old saying that "They are hypocrites who cannot discern the signs of the times." That was as true now as ever it was; and it was a curious Nemesis that waited on Ministers who did not fully state their policy. The misfortune was that the Government deluded themselves, and they would some day wake up to find that Egypt was not to be governed by fine phrases. Their policy had been most contradictory. Did they mean to put down slavery? Whether they did or did not intend to do so was not of much matter; because, while one clay their Agent issued a Proclamation on behalf of slavery, the next day the Prime Minister said they must protect Suakin, because if they did not do so they would be protecting slavery, forgetting that if they protected Tokar. Suakin, and other places, they could not put down slavery. In the long years while this Egyptian policy had been going on he had never troubled the Government about Egyptian affairs. He had been anxious to give them credit, as long as he possibly could, for honest intentions, for he held strongly the doctrine that, to a certain extent, the Queen's Ministers ought to be trusted; and it was not till he had been driven to the conclusion that the present Government could not be trusted that he had felt the necessity of saying he must oppose this proposal. As to the amount of the Vote, what certainty was there that it would not be doubled, tripled, quadrupled? How could anyone tell what the amount would be before they got to the end of the matter? After their troops had retired from Egypt, 785 and left it under a perfectly sound Government, it might be all very well to talk of Supplementary Estimates; but, entering, as they now were, on a mission of which they could not see the end, the Government ought at once to bring forward their proposal in the form of a Vote of Credit. It was the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), who was now sitting so cosily upon the Treasury Bench, who used that unhappy phrase about evacuating Egypt in six months. It was that announcement which did so much harm; and he (Mr. Warton) supposed that was the reason why the Government would not say anything on the subject, or give the Committee any information as to their intentions. He thanked the Committee for their kindness in listening so patiently to him; and he hoped that when he spoke on future occasions he would not incur the Chairman's displeasure.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
moved that the Chairman do now report Progress. He assumed the Government would not resist the Motion. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Gentlemen who interrupted him were probably not aware that the Prime Minister himself admitted that the debate was introduced by a speech of such importance that two or three nights might possibly be occupied in the discussion of the Vote. There were many hon. Members who wished to address the Committee; therefore, he moved that Progress be now reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Lord George Hamilton.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he was afraid it would not be of much use if the Government did object to report Progress; but he must protest, on behalf of the Government, against the assumption that the Government had no objection to reporting Progress. He understood that a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen still wished to address the Committee; but when he considered what had been the state of the Committee during the last few hours, and the notorious difficulty that had been experienced in keeping the debate alive, he thought it was to be regretted that some of the hon. Gentlemen who, it was now understood, were so anxious to ad- 786 dress the Committee did not make that anxiety more evident at an earlier period of the debate, when it was perfectly easy for them to obtain an opportunity to speak. The Government did not propose to oppose the Motion; but they intended to put the Vote down for tomorrow, in the hope that it would then be disposed of.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he only rose in consequence of the last words of the noble Marquess. Of course, hon. Members understood that Supply would stand for to-morrow—it always did stand for Friday—and that it would be open to the Government to put down what Supply they liked. It would be open to the Government to put down this particular Vote; but, looking to the state of the Paper, and seeing how late Supply would be reached, if reached at all, it would, no doubt, be convenient to the Committee that it should be understood that the Vote should not be taken to-morrow.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.