§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
, in rising, according to Notice, to call attention to the enforced abandonment of Khartoum, and of the Eastern Soudan; and to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it will he highly discreditable to this Country if Her Majesty's Ministers, who are responsible for Egypt, abandon these territories to slavery and barbarism, and that the only satisfactory settlement of the disorders in the Soudan will be the appointment of a British Governor General to restore order and to develop civilization in those Countries, in friendly co-operation with the Sovereign Power,said, that he had had this Resolution upon the Paper for two successive Friday nights, and it was only for the convenience of the Government that he had not brought it forward. In view of the present condition of affairs in Egypt, the question was, if possible, of more gravity than it had ever assumed before. The importance of the news from Khartoum could hardly be exaggerated. The House had been made aware, from the statement just made by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, that the communications between the Government centre of the Soudan and Her Majesty's Representatives in Egypt had been cut off for some days; and he, therefore, desired to call attention to a remarkable statement, almost prophetic in its character, which came from General Gordon upon this subject a few days ago, and in regard to which he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had endeavoured in vain to obtain a declaration from the noble Marquess. On the 1654 6th of this month, General Gordon told the Correspondent of The Times, who was also Agent General of Her Majesty at Khartoum, that—The emissaries of the Mahdi would succeed in raising the tribes between Khartoum and Berber. That was not owing to discontent, but to fear, caused by the announcement of the policy of the Government in regard to the abandonment of the Soudan.The Correspondent said—We cannot blame these people for rising when no definite sign is shown of establishing a permanent Government here;and he added these important words—If Her Majesty's Government do not act promptly, General Graham's victory will go for nought, and with the useless expenditure of blood the effect of it will evaporate.He begged the attention of the Government to the concluding sentence—I do not believe we shall send any more telegrams, for it is no longer a question of days, but of hours.The telegraph wire was now broken, and communication between Khartoum and Cairo was at present impossible; and, for all Her Majesty's Government knew, a grave catastrophe might have happened in that region. The Resolution he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had placed on the Paper, in his judgment, afforded the only means of escape to Her Majesty's Government from the embarrassments in which they had involved themselves and the country, and the only hope in the future for the people of these vast regions now depending upon us. It would be in the highest degree discreditable to this country if Her Majesty's Ministers, who were responsible for the Government of Egypt, were now to abandon the Soudan to slavery and barbarism. The only satisfactory settlement of the disorders would be the appointment of a British Governor General to restore order, and to develop civilization in those countries, in friendly co-operation with the Sovereign Power. His proposal was perfectly feasible, and had practically been resorted to before. Both Sir Samuel Baker and General Gordon in previous years had held, for a brief period at any rate, complete command in those regions, and that complete command had been exercised with the most beneficial results. The gravity of the situation was not confined to the Soudan. Another newspaper Corre- 1655 spondent, the Correspondent of The Standard—telegraphed on Thursday that the serious state of affairs in Egypt was causing the gravest apprehension—A steady downward movement towards chaos having set in. Not only were brigandage and crimes of violence largely on the increase, but the collection of taxes was becoming daily more difficult; dissensions existed in high quarters, which gave rise to great discontent; officials refused to work; and the people, left to their own devices, were rapidly acquiring a lawless and reckless spirit hitherto unknown in Egypt.The Correspondent went on to say that the result of his own observation enabled him to echo the universal cry of discontent which came from all parts of Egypt as to the remarkable and manifest failure of our attempt to introduce judicial and other reforms, and at the absence of a fixed and steadfast Government. That was a most deplorable picture. General Gordon was in extremis at Khartoum, finding that his Slave Proclamation was completely useless, and that the Administration of Egypt itself was falling into a state of utter and ruinous chaos. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) asked the House, and through the medium of the House he asked the country, what possible alternative there was for Her Majesty's Government but to declare their policy, and, as he suggested, to announce to the world that they intended to undertake the entire Administration of Egypt, and to bring about order, good government, and civilization in the Soudan? It was the uncertainty which prevailed with regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government that was creating the present state of confusion and disorder in Egypt, and that had brought about the recent disasters. The distinguished Prime Minister of Egypt—Cherif Pasha—whom the Government had driven from Office not long ago, while still in power, although he was at the time dependent upon Her Majesty's Government, and knew that his fate rested in their hands, was bold enough to state to Sir Evelyn Baring—I earnestly beg you to submit these views to Lord Granville in the name of His Highness the Khedive and of His Government, and to request an early reply, which will put an end to our present state of uncertainty—an uncertainty which exhausts us by increasing every day the difficulties we have to overcome."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1884), p. 174.]That was very strong language, indeed, 1656 for an Egyptian Minister completely in the hands of the Government to use, and it was just as applicable now as it was on the 2nd January, when Cherif Pasha used it. Yet that Minister had been driven from Office by the deliberate action of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had stated that the policy of Her Majesty's Government in regard to the Soudan, or with regard to Egypt generally, had been a policy of grievous uncertainty. He had carefully examined their policy, and he had been able to make out six different phases of policy—or rather six different policies—pursued by Her Majesty's Government within the last 16 months. The first was the policy of drift and shirking which was pursued after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir-up to the 4th of January, 1884. Her Majesty's Ministers tried to disclaim responsibility; they refused to give advice which would have been beneficial and have saved thousands of lives; they kept screaming over and over again that they were not responsible. That policy of shirking came to an end on the 4th of January last, when, in their now famous Note to the Egyptian Government, they drove Cherif Pasha from Office in the most offensive way, and proclaimed what might be termed their responsibility in word, though not in deed. The next policy, even more disastrous, was a policy of reckless, helter-skelter withdrawal or scuttling out of the Soudan anyhow. The Egyptian Government was ordered to get away as fast as it could; regardless of the consequences, caring nothing for the garrisons, for the Egyptian soldiers, for the civil population, or anything else. That policy lasted until the 17th or 18th of January, when they made up their minds to come to the third phase, which was to send out General Gordon to conduct the withdrawal of the garrisons. In the first instance, their policy was one of absolute withdrawal; but, on the 18th of January, they decided to send out an English Governor General to superintend that withdrawal. That policy, however, was modified very soon afterwards by the course of events, which rendered it impossible to carry out a naked policy of withdrawal, even under the direction and with the help of General Gordon. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, decided upon attempting a sort of 1657 reconstruction of the Administration of the affairs of the Soudan, while, at the same time, they intended to withdraw as quickly as possible. That was the fourth phase of their policy. One part of this attempt at reconstruction, upon which the Prime Minister had waxed very eloquent, was the installation of petty Sultans upon their ancestral Thrones; and to that end Proclamations were issued at Khartoum in reference to domestic slavery and the Slave Trade. But the petty Chiefs could not be discovered, or, when discovered, they were found to be incapable of conducting the ordinary affairs of Government. That policy having failed, a fifth period followed—namely, a period of hesitation and dispute in the Cabinet as to the extent of military operations to be undertaken. This was from the 4th to the 12th of February. After the news of Baker Pasha's defeat arrived, Ministers began to discover, what all the world knew before, that there was a dangerous Arab revolt, and that armed interference was necessary; but before that the Mahdi had been made Sultan of Kordofan, and all that region had been abandoned to barbarism. No doubt, at that period, certain remonstrances had been made to England by the Governments of Prance and Turkey, as to the danger which would arise to Turkish and French Possessions if the Arab revolt were allowed to spread, and the whole Press of the world was deprecating their abandonment of this region to slavery and barbarism. The Government accordingly came to the conclusion that this Arab revolt must be put down by warlike operations. That was the fifth period, and the fifth period was partly altered and extended by a sixth policy, which was declared by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War the other day, to the great pleasure of the House, and to the utter confusion of a considerable portion of his Colleagues in the Cabinet. That policy amounted to the indefinite prolongation of the period of General Gordon's Governorship of the Soudan.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he would not say an indefinite; but, at any rate, an undetermined period. He had certainly put that construction upon the language used by the noble Marquess on Monday last.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, the noble Marquess distinctly stated that it was better General Gordon should remain for a longer period than was contemplated, rather than adopt the alternative of appointing Zebehr Pasha; and he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) thought he was justified in terming that an indefinite prolongation of General Gordon's Governorship. He wished now to suggest a seventh policy—namely, his own policy, the one which was involved in the Resolution he had placed upon the Paper, and which he thought was the only satisfactory and complete solution of the difficulty. This was a solution into which Her Majesty's Government were most certainly drifting, and one which for their own interest and credit, and for the repute of the country, they ought to adopt as soon as possible. Events were marching on faster than the Government could control them. Already the Ministry had found themselves unable to abandon Khartoum and the greater part of the Soudan. They had drifted on from struggle to struggle, from war to war, from massacre to massacre, from the expenditure of £200,000 to the expenditure of nearly £1,000,000 without any reasonable cause, and without any possibility of excusing themselves. It would be far better to acknowledge openly to the country that their policy hitherto had been unfortunate through circumstances which they alone had not foreseen; that they now perceived they had been led into a mistake, and would at once repair it; and that now they found themselves obliged to adopt a distinct and resolute policy. The Government had exaggerated the misgovernment of the Soudan for the purpose of debate. If Egyptian oppression had been so gross and atrocious as Her Majesty's Government said it was, why was it they had not forbidden the expedition of General Hicks and any attempt to reconquer the Soudan in 1883? They used no steps to prevent that reconquest; and by so doing, according to their own showing, if the government of the Soudan by Egypt had been atrocious, Her Majesty's Government stood convicted of having lent their support to the attempted re-imposition of one of the most hateful tyrannies in the world, which they had themselves so frequently 1659 denounced, of an oppression worse than anything practised by the Turks. The effect of the policy of abandonment by Her Majesty's Government had been most unfortunate. The mere announcement of it cost the lives of a large number of persons on the Red Sea Coast. The House would remember that a very able authority at Suakin told them that the news had come like a thunderclap upon all who were interested in that district, and that it had utterly paralyzed General Baker's efforts. Friendly tribes who were wavering had actually made an advance half-way to Sinkat for the purpose of relieving the garrison. Their action was paralyzed at once by the news of the intended abandonment of the Soudan. These Arabs felt that they could not run the danger of continuing the expedition, without being satisfied that England intended to stand by them. The House heard now, from information which came from General Gordon, that he also was paralyzed at Khartoum in the same way, by the announcement that we intended to abandon the Soudan. And what was the town of Khartoum, which the Government proposed to give up to barbarism and slavery? It was the great commercial entrepôt of Central Africa; it stood at the junction of the two Niles, in a position of rare value, not only with regard to commerce, but also for the defence of Lower Egypt; Khartoum enabled the Power who held it to control the Slave Trade from the regions Southward and Eastward, and it had a population of about 40,000. It was also a position of great strategical and political value; and while he spoke of the importance of Khartoum he ought to add one word as to Kassala—a town of 25,000 inhabitants, only second in importance to Khartoum—the centre of a district of unsurpassed fertility, rich in every kind of grain, and abounding in cattle and wild animals. It was easy to retain, because it was close upon the Abyssinian Frontier. There were 6,000 civilians in Kassala; and he wanted to know what the Government proposed to do with them if they were removed to Egypt? Ministers had directed compensation to be paid for the injury inflicted by our Fleet in the bombardment of Alexandria, and also for the destruction occasioned by the incendiaries; and he presumed that the least they could do would be to support 1660 the unfortunate people whom they forced against their will to remove from the scene of their natural avocations. A good deal had been said as to General Gordon's opinion in the matter. Gordon was a remarkable man, and at times expressed remarkable opinions; but, with the greatest deference to General Gordon, there could not be the slightest doubt that the opinions of the gallant Officer were not always the same. General Gordon, before he came under the unfortunate influence of Her Majesty's Government, was undoubtedly strongly opposed to the abandonment of the Soudan; and he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) believed that, in his heart, General Gordon was still opposed to its abandonment, and if he could have his own way would not abandon it. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) believed it would be far better for the Soudan and for Egypt if the Government would proclaim General Gordon, or some other capable Englishman, Governor General, with full powers to restore and sustain order. If the Government sent a telegram to that effect to General Gordon, and General Gordon then replied that he was not of the same opinion, he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) would be satisfied; but he would be satisfied with nothing short of that. He believed that General Gordon was still in favour of retaining the Eastern Soudan—a vast district stretching from the White Nile to the Red Sea, and from the Nubian Desert to the mountains of Abyssinia—a territory from 700 to 800 miles in length, and from 400 to 500 miles in width. It was a district not to be despised—not a mere barren waste, but of astonishing fertility, as Sir Samuel Baker had testified. These regions were of the utmost importance to us—their trade was considerable, amounting to £2,000,000 exports into Egypt alone. Sir Samuel Baker's opinion was that if the Soudan were in English hands, in a few years we should be entirely independent of the United States both for cotton or corn. Many other high authorities, among them Lord Dufferin—one of those remarkable men whom the Prime Minister was so fond of praising in the House—had said that—Some persons were inclined to advise England to withdraw altogether from the Soudan; but she could hardly he expected to do so. He had pointed out that these territories were 1661 capable of producing au almost inexhaustible supply of cotton and sugar; and that, instead of being a burden to the Egyptian Exchequer, they might, by good management, be a source of wealth to the country, and not cost it one farthing.Moreover, all Continental countries combined in condemning the course of abandoning the Soudan. He also had to complain of the neglect of which the unfortunate Tewfik Bey had been the victim; and must be allowed to express his firm conviction that 28,000 lives sacrificed since August last might have been saved had the Government acted with energy and promptitude. As to slavery, nothing for a long time had caused so much dismay as the declaration in favour of slavery by Gordon. Gordon was compelled to take that step by the conduct of the Government. Taking Sir Evelyn Baring's version of the Proclamation, there could be no doubt that the Proclamation had endorsed not only slave-hunting, but the buying and selling of slaves. He did not blame Gordon for that Proclamation; he had been sent out with nothing but a walking-stick, and he had been coerced by the conduct of the Government into the sanction of slavery. He was amazed that so little notice had been taken in that House of the Proclamation of the Mahdi as Sultan of Kordofan—a savage, sensual conqueror, whose hands were red with blood of General Hicks and his 10,000 men—while the Government was on the Eastern Coast fighting the Mahdi's lieutenant and slaughtering his followers by thousands. He asked what sort of policy was this? He did not wish to be understood as pressing the despatch of British troops to Khartoum; but General Gordon's advice to Sir Samuel Baker was that 4,000 Turkish reserved troops or Indian troops should be sent there, and the whole placed under the command of an English General, and also that Sir Samuel Baker should be proclaimed Governor General of the Soudan. He protested against the policy of Her Majesty's Government as being misleading; as being cowardly and humiliating, injurious to the interests of trade and commerce, and encouraging to slavery. It was dealing a deadly blow to the interests of civilization. He protested against the wavering and craven spirit which animated that policy, and against the Government's denial and abnegation of their responsibilities. He 1662 did not believe these responsibilities were too heavy for the spirit and genius of the English people. There was plenty of enterprize and energy and governing power left in the people of this country to undertake the burden of setting matters in order on the banks of the Nile—enough, if need arose, to deal with an Empire twice the size of the one we possessed. It was this new policy of retreat and denial of responsibility which made the task so difficult, and involved pain and disgrace on this country, and caused nothing but loss of life and suffering and ruin to the unfortunate people with whom we were brought into contact.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
, in rising to move the following Resolution of which he had given Notice:—That this House is of opinion that the necessity for the great loss of British and Arab life, occasioned by our Military operations in the Eastern Soudan, has not been made apparent,said, he did not know if the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) represented the views of the Conservative Party as regarded the matter under notice; but if he did, all he (Mr. Labouchere) could say was that the policy advocated by them could only be expressed by the one word "grab." Still, there was some excuse for the hon. Gentleman. On one pretext or other we were to take every country that we considered rich and beneficial to us. We were to take Egypt and the Soudan, and then go forward and take other countries, until at length we came down to the Atlantic and South Africa, the whole Continent being one great Empire. That, fortunately, was not the policy of the Government. But while the Opposition criticized the action of the Government in this way, the Radical Members had also a complaint to make against them. The Vote of Censure was rejected in consideration of certain pledges, or rather assurances, being given by the Government with regard to the limitation of their military operations near Suakin. It was understood with regard to that port that we had entered into some general pledge to maintain the independence of Egypt against any attack from the Soudanese, not only in Egypt Proper, but in what were called the ports of the Red Sea. Soon after that, they were told that that was not 1663 the only reason operations were undertaken at Suakin, but that another object was to prevent that place being used as a port from which to carry slaves across the Red Sea. But Consul Moncrieff had expressly stated that Suakin was one of the places from which there was no slave traffic. Later on the holding of Suakin was stated to be necessary in order to prevent the Turks from being attacked in Arabia by the Soudanese. Up to the Vote of Censure it had been a policy of rescue and retire on the part of the Government; but, at that period, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, in explaining that policy, went further, and declared that, to all intents and purposes, we were now going to establish our own sway in the Eastern Soudan and the ports of the Red Sea—not against the Soudanese, but against Foreign Powers. That was, in effect, the policy proclaimed by the noble Marquess. It was a new departure; and then the Government fell back upon our old friend the route to India. Ships were sent to Suakin; troops followed, the object of these operations being declared to be one of humanity—to relieve the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar. Well, Sinkat fell before this small service to humanity could be performed; but Tokar still remained. The battle of El Teb ensued. The country were horrified at the loss of life which occurred on that occasion—they did not know what the aim and object of the slaughter was. In the ranks of the Arab Army we found the very persons fighting who it was said we were to relieve in Tokar. The Radicals had protested against this policy of the Government, but had protested in vain, being in a small minority. The battle of El Teb was then described as a defensive operation, in the sense that defensive operations were necessary in order to defend a part. He (Mr. Labouchere) had not thought much of the explanation; but he had understood the meaning of it. But what was the plea for the next advance—was it the defence of Suakin, or was it not? The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, when questioned on the matter, had been unable to give a full reply. He had simply stated that he did not think the instructions which had been sent to General Graham had been altered in any material respect. If 1664 that were so, then General Graham had no authority to advance on Berber, and it was perfectly easy for the noble Marquess to say so. The Prime Minister had already said so—that there was no intention to engage in offensive operations. Well, but an advance of 275 miles across the Desert could hardly be called defensive operations to prevent the Arabs taking Suakin. They had a right to learn distinctly what were the present policy and intentions of the Government, and what were the present orders given to General Graham. Were they simply going to defend Suakin for a month or six weeks, or were they going to advance into the country, involving themselves in hostilities against those with whom they had no quarrel? He did not know what quarrel they had with any of these tribes. They sent Gordon to Khartoum to evacuate the Soudan, and the Prime Minister told them that the Soudanese were to be left to enjoy themselves in their "ancestral homes." These ancestral homes appeared to be their tombs. How were these men to understand that they were to have their ancestral homes; but that for some mysterious cause a large number of them were to be slaughtered first? At the recent battle 4,000 Arabs had been killed, and 6,000 wounded. How were these Arabs, who had been fighting for the independence of their country, to understand our policy and their own position? They had a perfect right to go to Suakin. Suakin was in the Soudan, they were Soudanese, and had a much better right to enter the place than the Egyptians or the English. The Soudanese had a perfect right to rebel against Egyptian rule, according to our own Proclamation, and yet we slaughtered them. What did we slaughter them for, he asked? He should move his Resolution, and, though he might not get many to follow him into the Lobby, yet do not let the Government be deluded by that. These massacres were most horrible and repugnant to the feelings of humanity of the people of England, who remembered that when the Liberals came into power it was not to carry out a policy of war. They wanted a distinct understanding why these Arabs had been killed, and a distinct undertaking that no more should be killed. It really seemed to him that they were serving the God Moloch, and that to him they 1665 felt themselves obliged to sacrifice a certain number of human lives every year and then retire. One year they had sacrificed to him in Afghanistan, and when they had killed enough they had gone away, saying they had no right there. Another year, they had sacrificed to him in Zululand, and had afterwards sent back to the Zulus their King. Another year, it was in the Transvaal, and there they killed a number of Boers. [Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT: No; they killed us.] At least, if we lost our own men, we had done our best to kill the Boers. Then we went to Egypt on a mission of civilization, the force of which the Egyptians did not quite see. We killed a few thousands more, and made the General who performed the feat a Peer with a pension. That was not enough, however. Now it was the turn of the Soudan, and they went there and sacrificed 10,000 or 20,000 more lives. Why did they do that? The Government would not say—they appeared to desire to shirk all responsibility. They first sent General Gordon to the Soudan, saying—" He is a good and capable man. It is perfectly true he changes his opinions every day; but what of that? So do we." The Pall Mall Gazette, the other day, had stated that whenever Gordon was in doubt as to what course to pursue, he pitched a coin in the air and left the result to Providence—head or tail. Did the Members of the Cabinet pitch a coin in the air to decide their policy? Was it the fact that one Minister said one thing, and another another thing? The noble Marquess was a sort of Moltke in this matter. He would tell them nothing, and General Graham did not seem anxious to gratify curiosity. The noble Marquess never received any information; but it never occurred to him to ask for anything. He left it all to General Graham, and then he told them it was perfectly monstrous for the House of Commons to interfere in the military operations. If the Government did not know what course General Graham was expected to pursue and what course he intended to pursue, was it not easy enough to ask him? Let it be distinctly understood that there was no desire on the part of the Radicals to interfere with essentially military operations; but there were always political considerations connected with these operations, 1666 and it was like laughing at the House to say that they had no right to make inquiries as to probable operations at Berber, which was 275 miles away from the port Her Majesty's Government declared to be their object to defend. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. RICHARD
, in seconding the Resolution, said, he was anxious to take that opportunity of recording his indignant protest against the horrible butcheries going on in the Soudan, and on pretexts which, in his opinion, without testing them by any high ideal of Christian principle, but on the ordinary principles of justice, humanity, and sound statesmanship, were wholly without adequate justification. If there were any class of persons in that House who were entitled to look back with some satisfaction to the course they had taken in regard to this miserable Egyptian business, it was that small minority, of which he was one, who, from the first, deprecated and denounced our armed intervention in Egypt as being unjust, unnecessary, and unwise, and as likely to involve us, as it had involved us, in vague and vast and dangerous responsibilities, the end of which no man could foresee. Unfortunately, hon. Gentlemen opposite could not share that satisfaction, because they, as a body, with two or three individual exceptions, were so far from disapproving of armed intervention that their quarrel with the Government was, and is, that they did not intervene soon enough, or decisively enough, or on a sufficiently large scale. And even now, so far as he could make out, though they were very chary of betraying their own notions of Egyptian policy, they were the advocates of a policy of intervention that should be unlimited both as to time and space. He held the same views that he expressed at the beginning of this business, that it was a fatal mistake on the part of the Government to invade Egypt, for it was an invasion, and an unprovoked invasion. But when he looked at the people who now most loudly condemned the Government, he found among them those who sanctioned, who encouraged, who stimulated them into the course they took, and he held that those who had backed the Government in this enterprize must more or less share their 1667 responsibility for all the consequences that had ensued. He considered that the true friends of a man were those who, seeing him enter upon a false and dangerous path, warned him against the first step, and pointed out to him the perils he must incur in that direction, and not those who stood by to goad him on, some by flatteries and some by reproaches, and who, when he had become implicated in the difficulties and embarrassments of which he was forewarned, joined to taunt and upbraid him. The Government, in his opinion, had committed two capital errors—the first, by going into Egypt; and the second, by going into the Soudan. He did not scruple to say that he was one of those, referred to the other night with so much disdain by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), who regarded our presence in Egypt as a crime and a calamity—a crime, because he held it to be criminal to attack a friendly nation who had done us no wrong, to bombard its forts, to slaughter thousands of its people, to take possession of its country, usurp its government, and lay upon it heavy financial burdens, merely because it suited our convenience to do so. The hon. Member for Orkney made, on that occasion, a most open and cynical avowal of pure national selfishness as a sufficient and satisfactory foundation for our foreign policy. He said, or plainly implied, that we wanted Egypt; that it was necessary and convenient for us to have it, on account of our Indian Possessions; and therefore we had a right to seize and to hold it. Why, that would be a justification for any act of spoliation, and reminded him of the words of one of our poets—So may the ruffian who, with ghostly glide, Dagger in hand, steals close to your bedside; Not he, but his emergence forced the door; He found it inconvenient to be poor.It seemed to him that there was a certain number of Englishmen who held this principle—that if anything was supposed to be conducive to British interests, we had a right to do that thing, whatever violation it might involve of the principles of morality or the law of God. But he ventured to declare his conviction, which might perhaps astonish and affront some hon. Gentlemen, that there were greater and more sacred things in God's universe than British interests, and those were the 1668 interests of truth and justice and humanity. The second capital error the Government had committed was going into the Soudan. Having disclaimed all responsibility in regard to that country, they ought to have adhered to their policy. It was understood that the expeditions of Hicks Pasha and Baker Pasha were undertaken without their sanction and against their advice. It was true that the Commanders of those expeditions were, or had been, British officers, but they were not in British service; and, for his part, he had no respect for those mercenary soldiers who sold their swords to whoever would buy them, and were ready to fight anywhere, or for any cause, without the smallest concern as to whether it was just or unjust. These men went at their own risk, and, of their own accord, placed their lives on the hazard of the die, and he protested against our being called upon to protect them when living, or to avenge them when dead. Moreover, he could not see what obligations lay upon us to relieve the beleaguered garrisons. The plea urged was the plea of humanity. Well, he had no faith in promoting philanthropy by war. He could not see what "humane" objects could be attained by wholesale slaughter and devastation. And, in this case, he doubted very much whether the interests of humanity would not have been better served by our abstinence than by our action. Take the case of Sinkat. Judging by what took place at Tokar, the probability was that if the garrison had surrendered, they would have been perfectly safe; but we had encouraged them to hold out, and they had attempted to cut their way through the foe, and so were slaughtered; furnishing another illustration of the saying, for which there was good authority, that "They who take the sword shall perish with the sword." But he wished especially to call the attention of the House to the reductio ad absurdum of the argument of fighting for humanity afforded by the case of Tokar. The only object of the forward expedition was to relieve the garrison of Tokar. So said the Prime Minister, so said General Graham; for, after the first battle, he issued a proclamation in which he said—"The object of the expedition is achieved—Tokar has been relieved." But Tokar needed no relief. 1669 It had surrendered nearly a fortnight before we went near it, and a portion of the garrison was found afterwards fighting con a more with the enemy against us. And when we took possession of the town, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War told us that there were some 700 persons within its walls, who apparently were dwelling there safely and contentedly under the protection of Osman Digna's army, their only danger having arisen from our appearance there, as shown by the remarkable telegram cited by his (Mr. Richard's) hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), which stated that, after the battle, the Arabs were threatening to massacre them in revenge for their defeat. So that it came to this, that we slaughtered 2,000 or 3,000 Arabs to relieve Tokar, which needed no relief, and to rescue 700 persons, who were in no danger save from our intervention, and we called that rendering a service to humanity. He had no doubt as to the perfect sincerity of the Prime Minister, when he said that we went into the Soudan in the interests of humanity, nor did he doubt that it was that prospect and hope which reconciled him to the expedition. But when the control of events in that country was placed in the hands of naval and military officers, it was not difficult to predict the result. He was not going to say anything disrespectful of the Military Profession. It was not a profession that he admired. To his feeling it was a dreadful profession; but it was a profession—the business of the soldier was to fight, and it was no wonder if he liked to have an opportunity of fighting; but it was difficult to conceive of anything more mischievous than to place the issues of peace and war at the discretion of naval and military officers, who had placed before them some of the strongest temptations that could assail the human mind in favour of fighting. They knew that if they were victorious, however great might be the odds in their favour and against the enemy, they would be hailed as great conquerors; they would be covered with the most extravagant eulogies; that all kinds of honours—decorations, titles, pensions, would be lavished upon them in unmeasured profusion; that they would become the idols of society, feted and feasted, flattered and 1670 caressed; and in the hands of men so tempted we put the issues of peace and war, upon whose decision the lives of hundreds or thousands of human beings depended. And so, in this case, of course, when the discretion was left with the military, they fought. He never spent a more miserable day than he did last Sunday week. As he watched the crowds of men and women flocking into our churches and chapels—churches and chapels professedly dedicated to the worship of Him whose special and characteristic title was the Prince of Peace—another picture obtruded itself on his imagination in spite of himself, that of scores, hundreds, thousands of men lying weltering in their blood in that remote Arabian country, many of them doomed to prolonged and lingering agony; and all this havoc was committed upon them by the hands of English Christians, and for no offence that he could find except that they were defending their country against invasion. He regretted more than he could express that the present Government had got itself involved in this tremendous fiasco. It was impossible to see where this business would end; but he took this opportunity of recording his solemn protest against our invasion of Egypt in the first place, and then against our entering the Soudan, and still more against any further military operations when every pretence for them had been removed.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House is of opinion that the necessity for the great loss of British and Arab life, occasioned by our Military operations in the Eastern Soudan, has not been made apparent,"—(Mr. Labouchers,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that, in the two speeches with which the debate had commenced, the House had had the advantage of hearing a clear statement of two opposite schools of foreign policy, which had at least this in common, that they were both schools of extreme thought. On the one side they had the speech of the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), who placed before the House 1671 the most far-reaching schemes of policy. The vision of the hon. Member seemed only to be bounded by the limits of the Continent of Africa. The hon. Member appeared to be anxious, as far as he (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was able to follow him, that this country should undertake the responsibility of the government of the Soudan in its widest sense, and that, hardly satisfied with that, we should step further than the limits of the great watershed of Central Africa, and should arrogate to ourselves extensive rights over regions upon the banks of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic; for the hon. Member thought fit, in that wide and comprehensive style with which the House was so familiar, to allude to matters not only in Egypt and the Soudan, but also on the Congo; and he seemed to think that these questions ought to be treated together, and that the influence of England ought to be made predominant on the banks both of the Nile and of the Congo. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) really must ask the permission of the House to leave the Congo alone for the present, and to confine whatever observations he might have to make to the subject immediately before the House, which in itself was quite far-reaching and wide enough. So, on the other side, in reply to the hon. Member for Eye, there was the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who moved a Resolution to the effect that the recent military operations had not sufficient justification, and criticized Her Majesty's Government for having originally gone too far, and for being inclined to go too far now. The two speeches, to a very great extent, answered each other. He thought that it must occur to most hon. Members that when there were two schools of thought like those respectively represented by the hon. Member for Eye and the hon. Member for Northampton, in all probability political truth lay somewhere between them, and that the course advocated by neither school was really that of real wisdom. He wished to call the attention of the House to the actual words of the Motion which the hon. Member for Eye had placed upon the Paper, but which he did not move. The hon. Member had intended to call attention to the enforced abandonment of Khartoum and of the Eastern Soudan, and to move— 1672That, in the opinion of this House, it will be highly discreditable to this Country if Her Majesty's Ministers, who are responsible for Egypt, abandon those territories to slavery and Barbarism, and that the only satisfactory settlement of the disorders in the Soudan will be the appointment of a British Governor General, to restore order and to develop civilization in those Countries, in friendly co-operation with the Sovereign Power.The House must see in a single moment what a very large and comprehensive plan that Notice of Motion unfolded. The effective portion of that Motion was that there was to be a British Governor General appointed for the whole of the Soudan. He ventured to ask the House whether that was a subject which it would, on a Saturday afternoon, and at a Sitting called more for the purpose of discussing certain Votes in Supply, be willing even to enter upon, much less to decide? The empty condition of the Benches of the House was a sufficient answer to such a question. After the long debates that had recently taken place upon the Egyptian Question, the House could not be anxious to plunge again into this large question, more especially when the large proposition of the hon. Member had not, in the main, been supported by any new argument, he having contented himself by again bringing up those allegations and assertions which had been prominent in former debates, and which made him (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) think that he was listening to a second edition of the speeches which the hon. Member also had made in the discussion upon the Vote of Censure and in Committee of Supply, when the whole Egyptian Question was fully gone into. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) desired to notice, and take exception to, one assertion which the hon. Member was fond of repeating in his speeches, not only this but last year—he meant his repeated assertion that this country was not upon good terms with the German Powers, owing to the policy of the Government. As on former occasions, so again he begged now most clearly to contradict the truth of the hon. Member's assertion. He believed that at no time had the relations between this country and the two great German Powers been more friendly or more cordial. The hon. Member appeared to have gathered his information on this point from foreign newspapers which 1673 did not hold the highest position abroad. Not only were our relations with those Powers most cordial, but Her Majesty's Ministers were fully sensible of the very great importance to this country of maintaining the most friendly relations with those Powers. The hon. Member had spoken of General Gordon as being in extremis. That was one of the hon. Member's characteristic phrases, phrases of exaggeration, with which the hon. Member liked, as it were, to deafen his own ears and to alarm himself. It was perfectly true that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War had informed the House just now that a steamer had been fired upon near Khartoum, and that the telegraph wires had been cut. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) did not wish to make out that that intelligence was not the cause of anxiety to Her Majesty's Government; but there was no need for the note of alarm sounded by the hon. Member, in order to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the fact, the importance of which they were fully aware of. The hon. Member for Eye, as on a former occasion, had thought fit to justify his proposition by quoting the authority of Mr. Power, whom he described in one part of his speech as Her Majesty's Consul at Khartoum, and in another as Agent General. Mr. Power was a man of distinguished bravery, and he had remained at his post at Khartoum, notwithstanding that he had had full permission to leave, when the town appeared to be in danger. That being so, it was all the more unfair to bring up alleged quotations from conversations, when, in reality, a good deal would turn upon particular words, the exact character of which could hardly be known to hon. Members, which quotations might place Mr. Power in a very unfair position. In these circumstances, he must protest against such quotations being brought forward. Then the hon. Member went on to refer to the internal condition of Egypt. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was sure it was not the wish of the House to enter on that subject; and, until the question was gone into thoroughly, he did not think there was much use in entering upon individual points. The hon. Member also referred to the position of Kassala, and as to what was being done with regard to a possible advance 1674 upon Berber. With regard to that point, General Graham's present instructions did not admit of such an advance. With regard to Kassala, Her Majesty's Government had no reason to suppose that that garrison was being hard pressed; but, even if it were, they believed that when the moment came to withdraw the garrison, the withdrawal could be easily accomplished, because of the friendly disposition of the neighbouring King of Abyssinia. On the Vote which would shortly be moved there appeared a part of the expenses of a mission, which was to attempt to come to terms with the King of Abyssinia in regard to those various points which, for some time past, had been causing a difference between the Government of Abyssinia and the Government of Egypt. The House was aware that the Governments of Egypt and Abyssinia had long been separated by certain difficulties—frontier difficulties regarding the possession of the inland districts of Bogos and Galabat and the commercial access to, and sovereignty over, the Port of Massowah and the adjoining coast. There were also certain religious difficulties in regard to the facilities for the consecration of the dignitaries of the Abyssinian Church by the representatives of the Coptic Patriarch, all of which awaited settlement. The Abyssinian Church, he need not remind the House, was a Christian Church, a fact well known, he believed, from the interesting account of it in the work of the late Dean Stanley on the Eastern Churches. All these points it was hoped to settle, and it was clear that if a settlement was arrived at, the retreat from Kassala and the neighbouring garrisons would be greatly facilitated. Reference had been made to what his noble Friend the Secretary of State for War had said the other night, and the hon. Member for Northampton had attacked the Government for alleged inconsistencies in their policy relating to the Red Sea Coast. The hon. Member said that the first allegation on the part of the Government was that the possession of parts of that coast would facilitate operations with respect to the Slave Trade, and that the Government had since dropped that line of argument and adopted another. That other he called "our old friend—communication with British India." No doubt, those two arguments were different, 1675 but they were not inconsistent. There was nothing upon which the House was more unanimous than the suppression of the Slave Trade; and what the Government maintained was that the Red Sea Coast ought not to he in the hands of any Power which might desire, either openly or secretly, to encourage slavery. The suppression of the Slave Trade was a British interest, and there were no places, as his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton had pointed out, where greater facilities existed for running in cargoes of slaves, than certain points on the shores of the Red Sea. The coast, therefore, must be closely watched, if the Slave Trade was to be be put down at all. Only last night, the Committee of Supply voted the money for an increase of the Slave Trade grant; and as he stated, in the debate on the Vote of Censure, the arrangements with regard to the suppression of the Slave Trade which were in future to be carried out would cover the whole Eastern Coast of Africa from Zanzibar to Suakin. The Zanzibar Agency had been re-organized, and the whole cost of it taken over by the Foreign Office; a considerable increase in the Consular Staff had been made on the Coast from Zanzibar to Suakin inclusive, although, owing to the Consul at Suakin, Mr. Baker, receiving, though only temporarily, the Khartoum salary, he had not had to include the cost of that Consulate in the Vote at present. It was also an incident in the contract made, and now paid, by the Foreign Office, instead of by the Post Office, with the British India Steamship Company, that they were to give special facilities for the movements of these Consuls South of Aden; and by the activity of those gentlemen, combined with that of the Consul at Suakin in the Red Sea, they believed that, along the whole East Coast of Africa, they would so trouble the movements of the slave dealers as to accomplish that which had been universally recognized to be so desirable—namely, to cut off the access of the slave dealers to the slave markets; and there would be that constant supervision of the coast which would be the cause of great trouble and annoyance to the slave traders, because they would never know when they would be pounced upon. The result would be that the operations of the slave traders would be 1676 exposed to such uncertainty and trouble that the Government believed that the trade would rapidly decrease. Therefore, from a Slave Trade point of view, there was a great deal to be said for the statement of the Government, that it was most important that the Red Sea Coast should be under the control of some civilized Power. Another argument in connection with the Red Sea Coast, which was put forward by his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board and the Secretary of State for War, and which he himself did not shrink from, was that the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, like the Suez Canal, were British interests also, because they were the road to British India. The communication between the Mediterranean and British India was a matter of interest to this country, and would always be so. This country, as he had explained in some detail in the debate on the Vote of Censure, had always asserted an interest in those seas. Aden was one of the most valued possessions of the British Crown; and the maintenance of the lighthouses in the Red Sea had always been treated not merely from a commercial point of view, but also as a political question of great moment. The acquisition of the Island of Perim had always been regarded as a bright ornament in the history of British naval enterprize. He would again remind the House that this country owned the two small islands of Moussa and Aubad in those seas. Lord Salisbury, when Secretary of State for India, had also, with great sagacity, made a Treaty in regard to the Island of Socotra which prevented any other Foreign Power acquiring it. The possession of those islands was a proof that they desired that the possession of the land and territory in the neighbourhood of the Red Sea, and especially about its mouth, should be a matter in regard to which this country should have a voice. All these facts showed that, quite irrespective of Party, the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden were regarded as British interests, and had been so for years. In conclusion, he would say that he had listened also with great interest to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Merthy Tydvil (Mr. Richard). He welcomed the hon. Member on his return to take part in their debates; for whether or not any 1677 Member of that House agreed with his hon. Friend, he was sure that all regarded him with respect and sympathy for the perfect consistency which he had always manifested in the expression of his principles. It was not the good fortune of the Government al-. ways to be in agreement with his hon. Friend, deeply as they sympathized with his principles; but he would none the less hope, although his hon. Friend had on that occasion expressed the intention of voting against the Government, that he might long be spared to promote that great cause of peace which, let him assure him, was valued deeply by Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he was sorry that the noble Lord who had last addressed the House (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was not in his place at that moment; but he had no doubt he would return before very long, as, of course, he (Mr. Bourke) would have liked to have addressed the few observations he he was about to make more to the noble Lord himself than to any other person in the House. The speech of the noble Lord was remarkable both for what it did contain and for what it did not contain. It certainly did not contain one scrap of information on those points on which the House wanted information. Neither did it deal with the very exhaustive and powerful speech of his (Mr. Bourke's) hon. Friend the Member for Eye, and only very slightly with the remarks of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). The noble Lord did refer to some of the points of the speech of the hon. Member for Eye; but they were by no means the most important part of the speech. They might be said to embrace only the fringe of the subject. The same remark applied also to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton. The noble Lord said that the two speeches to which he had just referred represented two different schools of thought, and that the policy of the Government steered a course which lay between the two.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that what he had said was that political truth probably lay between the two extremes.
§ MR. BOURKE
Exactly; and it was only natural to suppose that the Government had followed what they conceived to be the political truth. As a result, 1678 this country, Europe, and the people of Egypt believed that "political truth" and Her Majesty's Government had fallen between two stools. What they quarrelled with the Government for was, that they had adopted one policy—representing one school of policy—at one time, and another, representing another school, at another time. The natural result was that disaster and confusion and the condition of things in which they found themselves at the present time. The noble Lord must have amused the House by his concluding remarks addressed to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard). The hymn of peace in the future which the noble Lord sung at the conclusion of his speech was strangely inconsistent with the action of Her Majesty's Government from first to last, and particularly with the events now taking place near Suakin. The noble Lord was, no doubt, perfectly sincere in the observations which he addressed to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil; but if he spoke in the same strain to his Colleagues, he might well say, in the words of the Psalmist—I am for peace, but when I speakThey are for War.Certainly, that had been the result of the deliberations of the Government. When the noble Lord put forward the policy of the Government as a policy of peace, one might say with Hotspur—Never did bare and rotton policyColour its workings with such deadly wounds.For every step they had taken had brought them into deeper and deeper difficulty. From the time they had thrust the Sultan out of authority in Egypt every step they had taken had been marked by blood and carnage. The only subject which the House had been anxious to hear discussed by the Government was that of slavery; and as that was the last opportunity on which they would be able to discuss the policy of the Government with regard to Egypt, he thought it was desirable before the debate closed that they should have some further explanation of their future intentions than they had at present. The noble Lord, however, had told them nothing. He had certainly told them something with respect to the Slave Trade—that they had come to an arrangement with the British India Steam Packet Company which would enable them to go to the places where the trade 1679 was carried on; but he (Mr. Bourke) thought that the contract with the Company which was lying on the Table did not apply to the Red Sea Coast at all. The only contract which existed was for ships to go between Aden and Zanzibar.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURIC:
What I said was, that the number of Consuls on the East Coast of Africa had been increased, and that it was a particular article of this contract that the Company should give facilities for carrying these Consuls about. I also stated that arrangements had been made, by which one one of the Consuls was to have been sent to the neighbourhood of Suakin, but that Consul Baker, who was the Khartoum Consul, was brought down to Suakin, so that the particular appointment did not figure in the arrangements.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, the noble Lord took credit for making the contract; but that did not alter his point at all, because the contract did not apply to that part of Africa—the Coast of the Bed Sea—which was the subject of their discussion. But it seemed to him to be a small point, and he should not have alluded to it if the noble Lord had not made so much of it. These Consular matters were of no importance whatever, for now that a Proclamation had been issued legalizing slavery in the Soudan, there would not be the same carriage of slaves across to Arabia as there had been, because the slave traders, now that the status of slavery had been recognized, would find a sufficient market in the Soudan itself. The great and urgent question was, what steps were they going to take to protect those responsibilities which they had undertaken in the face of Europe with regard to the protection of the ports in the Bed Sea? They were responsibilities such as were absolutely new and unknown to this country, and had been enforced upon them because they would not undertake lesser ones. He had no faith whatever in the policy of keeping these ports in the littoral of the Bed Sea being effective, either in preserving the peace of the Soudan, or of stopping the Slave Trade under the conditions upon which Her Majesty's Government had now placed slavery. By their Proclamation they had legalized the Slave Trade in the Soudan. The Government had made a capital error in their Soudan policy. No Government 1680 could ever exist in Egypt without a peaceful Soudan; and he had no faith in the arrangements which the Government said they were making for the government of the Soudan. The restoration of the Sultans, if there ever had been any, would lead in the end to anarchy. He could not believe, neither did he believe the people of the Soudan would, in a policy which proclaimed the Mahdi Sultan on one side of the Soudan, while his first lieutenant, Osman, was attacked and his people slaughtered on the other by the British Forces. It was a state of things, moreover, which he did not believe the people of the Soudan would ever understand, and until Her Majesty's Government changed their policy, he did not believe they would ever have peace in the Soudan. The Prime Minister had stated that General Gordon's mission was a peaceful one; but the country was utterly unable to understand what his policy was, for it was an assertion which bewildered this as well as other countries. The operations at Suakin and Tokar had been carried on with the consent and approval of Gordon, and the Government were clearly responsible for that policy. It was upon that question that the House wanted information. Her Majesty's Government had made themselves responsible for his policy, and the House wanted to know something about it, and he hoped that before that debate concluded they would have some information as to what that policy was. Apart from the question of the Slave Trade, they wanted to know, was the Government of the Soudan to be given back to Zebehr Pasha, or to somebody whose views differed from Zebehr Pasha's? He believed that the country was utterly deceived and dissatisfied with the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and that, if things did not alter, it was perfectly clear that for the whole of that Session the House would be in a state of irritation with regard to Egypt. In his opinion, the time had come when Her Majesty's Government ought to declare that they were met by such difficulties in their Egyptian policy in Parliament that they ought to say that it was impossible for them to carry on the Business of the country. What he said, therefore, recognizing the fact of an irritated House of Commons, and that questions would be constantly arising with 1681 regard to Egypt, was, that the best thing Her Majesty's Government could do was to take that Constitutional course which every other Government would take under a similar circumstance—to appeal to the people of the country as to whether they ought, or ought not, to change their policy in Egypt. He was quite satisfied that the Legislative Business of the country could not be satisfactorily carried on under the present circumstances, or until they had a satisfactory policy in Egypt. Things were steadily getting worse and worse. When he (Mr. Bourke) had spoken previously of the dissatisfaction in Egypt, the Prime Minister had said he spoke from unauthentic information; but every report they had from that country showed that the people were getting disgusted with us, and were very much dissatisfied with our government. Those who had formerly looked upon us as friends, now regarded us as enemies. No reforms had been carried out in Egypt—[" Hear, hear!"]—hon. Members might say, "Hear, hear!" but, considering our vast interests there, that was not a question to be trifled with. The President of the Local Government Board had said that we were in Egypt for three reasons. From necessity, in consequence of Treaty rights, and on account of our interest in the Suez Canal. Those were vital interests which it was the duty of the Government to preserve, but which they had gravely imperilled. He was confident that he had never said as much with regard to the anarchy which prevailed as he might have done. Beyond all this, however, there were the assertions with which the Government went to Egypt—that they would put down anarchy, restore order, and give to the Egyptians all the blessings of a free people. How had those assertions been borne out? Every step they had taken in that direction, and especially the miserable Constitution they had given the country, had proved an utter fiasco. Lord Dufferin had told them it would be so unless they supported it, and they had utterly failed to support it. They had swept away one system of government and had not substituted any other for it, leaving the country with no system at all. He did not know what the intention of his hon. Friends was; but when he read the words of the Motion he said it was 1682 a truism, and he for one would not vote against it. He trusted that the Government would tell the House that they meant to restore peace to the Soudan, and that they meant to stay in Egypt until they had established a very different government from that which was carried on now by the puppets who were in nominal authority, and that they would support such a government so long as British Forces were in the country. With respect to the Motion before the House, which affirmed that the necessity for this recent taking of life was not apparent, it was impossible, from the scanty information, and from the want of justification which the Government had given in that House for the enormous sacrifice of life on the part of the English and the dreadful massacre of the enemy—it was impossible for him to say "No" to the Resolution.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, there were two sets of opponents to the Government's Egyptian policy. The objection of hon. Gentlemen on the other side was intelligible and consistent. That of some of his hon. Friends near him was scarcely so. Three weeks ago they voted, with alacrity and enthusiasm, confidence in the Cabinet, and approval of its policy. Now, they refused to ratify that confidence, and they wanted a day or two since to deny Ministers the means of giving effect to their policy. When the Israelites were in Egypt, they were required to make bricks without straw. The English being now there, they were required by his Friends to make war without money. His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) detested war. So did most men. But war was often a voluntary self-sacrifice for the holiest centres of human affection. He (Mr. Cowen) was for peace. So were they all. So, too, to utilize his hon. Friend's simile, were thieves, provided they could retain possession of their plunder. There was something more sacred than life—justice; something more precious than riches—freedom. And war was often requisite to win and maintain both. He abhorred the cowardly selfishness that would wall out the circling world from their efforts and their sympathies, or that would only fight for the lowest needs of existence, and not for the nobler elements of national purpose. Honour was before interest, and duty before 1683 danger. But to go to the Resolution before the House, were the operations referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) necessary and commendable? War was honourable and indispensable when civilization had to be preserved, national rights upheld, and their native country defended. Did their doings on the shores of the Red Sea come under such a category? What were they for? The Government had repeatedly pronounced the Soudan to be a costly and dangerous appendage to Egypt. They commanded—for no other word expressed their action—the Khedive to abandon it to the unchecked dominion of the slave holders and slave hunters. They despatched General Gordon to Khartoum to effect its evacuation, and to coax the tribes into allowing the garrisons to retire. Our Emissary had confirmed the Mahdi's conquests, and made him a Sultan at El Obeid. Yet we slew the Mahdi's men at El Teb and Tamanieb. By what process of political legerdemain did they reconcile scattering shot and shell amidst the Soudanese by General Graham, and peace proclamations by General Gordon? If they meant to keep the country, their dual operations might be defensible. If they meant to leave it, the fighting a week past Friday, and on Thursday last, was unmitigated murder, the stain of which no Party whitewashing would ever be able to erase. These dauntless Arabs were not our enemies. According to the Ministerial hypothesis, they were our particular friends—men they would wish to save and to serve. How, then, did they justify drenching their land with tears, and manuring it with corpses? Was there no bloodguiltiness in this sanguinary carnage? What availed their maudlin moralizing, if it could not stop such tumultous slaughter—the heart-borne anguish that, while they wrangled in wordy conflict, was stunning with the cries of death many a gentle home? Had all their holy horror of fighting for prestige evaporated, or was it all cant—intolerable cant? Attempting to rescue the beleaguered garrisons was right; but when one was slaughtered, and the other had surrendered, what need was there for further bloodshed? To protect Suakin, say the Ministers. But Suakin was never seriously menaced. The tribes should have been told that 1684 we meant them no harm. The form of sending such a message was kept, but adequate opportunity for reply was not given. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] Bring every explanation of Ministers to the test of fact, and they were resolvable only under two heads—either they intended to keep the Soudan, and they had fought for that purpose; or they intended to relinquish it, and they had fought for that illusory entity, military glory, a motive which, when the Liberals were in Opposition, was denounced by every adjective in the vocabulary of vituperation. The Government were desired to define their policy. That was almost a work of supererogation. The Prime Minister defined it years ago, when he foretold that the first site we secured in Egypt, be it by larcency or by eruption, would be the certain egg of a North African Empire. The right hon. Gentleman was fulfilling his own prophecy. The site had been got—got by larcency—and a new Empire was being founded. Annex Egypt! Why, it was annexed as tightly as India. The marvel was, that men versed in affairs should have ever dreamed when we once went there, overthrew the Government, and destroyed its defences, that we could leave as easily as a crowd leaves a public meeting. Whenever England planted her authority amidst a semi-civilized people, she maintained it. ["No, no!"] He said "Yes, yes." Once there, every step she took fastened her more firmly. From the character of the two races, retention and advance on our part was inevitable. It was our destiny and theirs. We could no more escape from it than a man could escape from his shadow. Civilization marched at the rear of conquest. This experience was as universal and unvarying as cause and effect. The Government were either deceiving themselves or deceiving the country, when they fostered the hope of acting differently. Many Liberal Members bemoaned the situation. It had brought the Government embarrassments that were serious, and might prove fatal. They now realized the possibility that the Reform Bill might be strangled, not by the House of Lords, but by Egypt. But if such should be the case, who would be to blame? They would; and for this reason. It was an open secret that at least 30 Liberal Members were 1685 opposed to the original Egyptian enter-prize; but they had not the manliness to say so, when their saying so might have stopped it. They saw their Friends drifting to the rapids, and they had not the courage to warn them of the danger. They were afraid to speak their minds. It might have disconcerted their Chiefs, and that would have been Party profanity. Or it might have displeased the Caucus, and that would have been treason. Now, all remonstrances were unavailing. The Government could not recede. There was no armour against inexorable fate. Circumstances, which they could neither create nor control, would guide their course. The Army of Occupation might be diminished, or increased, or withdrawn; but British supremacy was as surely settled on the banks of the Nile as on the banks of the Ganges. Its form might vary, but its essence was assured. The Prime Minister's metaphorical egg had been hatched, and the brood had taken wing. What the Government was desired to do was to acknowledge this—to shake themselves clear of the atmosphere of mystery and doubt, and apply plain words to palpable facts. Why all these Delphic deliverances, and these equivocations, about obvious and self-evident truths? If we were not the Rulers of Egypt, who were? The Khedive had no more initiatory power than the Mahdi—in some respects not so much. What did we do there? or, rather, what did we not do? We made and unmade Ministries, contracted loans, controlled the Exchequer, and decreed Constitutions. We waged war, surrendered Provinces, broke Treaties, and abrogated Conventions. We superseded Judges, supervised Courts, pardoned prisoners, and pensioned rebels. We raised, equipped, and officered a Native Army, organized a mercenary gendarmerie, and stiffened the two by British troops. We commanded the whole as directly and peremptorily as we did the garrison at Gibraltar, or a brigade at Aldershot. We planned public works, constructed roads, designed irrigation, abandoned railways, re-organized prisons, reconstituted schools, suspended newspapers, and appointed sanitary inspectors. In a word, we directed the external policy, regulated the internal administration, manipulated the finances, constrained the judicature, requisitioned the military, enacted laws, dictated the 1686 political and devised the social mechanism of the country. There was not an official, from the meanest subaltern to the most pretentious Pasha, who did not hold his post at our pleasure, and whom we could not order or admonish, coerce or command at will. If that was not government, what was it? But we did all that vicariously, by men in buckram, behind whose clumsy and forbidding lineaments we worked like a showman moving marionettes. This duplex action was costly, confusing, complicating, and deceiving. Let the Government throw off their vizor, and frankly assume responsibility for what they had done, were doing, and proposed to do. They, as his right hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke) had said, had destroyed the Dual Control, and established a Dual Administration, which was even more mischievous. They had unsettled every institution, for no perceptible advantage, and produced a chronic irritation, which was only kept from warming into passion by the presence of English soldiers. Let them dispense with the hampering interference of sulky, incompetent, and corrupt intermediaries. Every irresolute and enigmatical utterance of Ministers only added to the prevalent Pertubation. Every rumour of remaining increased the stability. Men of ability would rally to our rule, if this uncertainty was removed. They would not do so while it remained, as they feared they might suffer for supporting us. There were matters respecting General Gordon's mission that required to be, but had not been, explained. No sensible man complained of his not having initiated a Quixotic crusade against slavery. Slavery was embedded into every fibre of the social life of the Soudan. It could not be extirpated by an Army, much less by a Proclamation. But ignoring slavery was one thing, and according it plenary indulgence for the past, and open sanction for the future, was another and a very different thing. That General Gordon had done. The Prime Minister was, at first, so shocked by the Proclamation, that he said he did not like to admit even to his own mind that it had been issued. Now, however, its publication was not only admitted, but endorsed. It might bring us untold troubles. It would surely be cited against us when we came to deal with other slave-patronizing countries. It was 1687 trifling to tell us that the Proclamation had only reference to domestic slavery. The words used were "slave traffic." There would be no traffic in slaves without there was slave holding. By an incomprehensible but common inconsistency, the Government were checking the Slave Trade at Suakin and legalizing it at Khartoum. The British people would endure a great deal from the Government; but they would not stand the instalment, at their instance, of a state at the junction of the two Niles based on the grossest and most degrading vices of civilized life. It would be a standing menace to Egypt and to liberty. What authority had General Gordon to tell the Soudanese that the exalted Sultan—these were his own words—was going to send an army of the Faithful to the Soudan to reconquer the country? Had he, or had he not, warrant for making such a statement? "Was his announcement that English or Indian troops were to be sent to help him untrue, or only premature? Would the same reason that had driven us to hold Suakin not drive us to retain Khartoum, either as a protected State, or an integral part of Egypt? They might resist it, but events might again be too strong for them. Certainly, they were setting in that direction. But whatever we might do, or we might not do, the worst thing that could be done was to drift into additional responsibilities. An English poet who travelled over Egypt 150 years ago, and afterwards wrote a history of the country, which might be consulted even now with advantage, described in homely verse the danger of dallying. The Ministers might usefully apply the advice it conveyed—Tender-handed stroke a nettle,And it stings you for your pains;Grasp it like a man of mettle,And it soft as silk remains.Let the Ministers grasp their nettle, and many of their difficulties would crumble up. But if they did not do so their difficulties would be increased, and the danger would be augmented.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that he was sure that the attention of the House and of the country ought to be drawn to the fact that during this important discussion the House had not been favoured with the presence of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that doubtless the right hon. Baronet would take part in the debate later on, when he would have an opportunity of giving such an explanation of the state of the Treasury Bench, as regarded the absence of his Colleagues, as he might think fit.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
A Cabinet Council! What did he (Lord Randolph Churchill) care for Cabinet Councils? Who cared for Cabinet Councils? A solemn agreement had been made between the authorities on the other side of the House and the authorities on his side of the House—an arrangement that was extremely inconvenient to many hon. Members—that the House should have an opportunity—the only opportunity they would have for many days of doing so—of discussing certain very important Votes connected with Egypt at 12 o'clock on a Saturday, when the subject might be properly and adequately discussed; yet of so little importance did Her Majesty's Government consider that agreement to be, so thorough was their contempt for the present House of Commons, so little did they care for the opinions of the country, so little for the opinion of their followers or for the reproaches of their opponents, that they had fixed upon the very time when this discussion was to be entered upon for holding their Cabinet Council.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, it had been perfectly open to the Government to have held their Cabinet Council at some other time. In fact, he ventured to say that the country would not have been a bit worse off if they had indefinitely postponed their Cabinet Council. A Cabinet Council at which the Prime Minister was not present was not likely to lead to much.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that the House was beginning at last to get a little information. The House had the satisfaction of knowing that the Prime Minister's indisposition had terminated, and that he was able once more to give his mind to the consideration of public affairs, although he was not able to come down to that House.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, that, in any case, what an awkward position the House of Commons was in. Here they were discussing the affairs of the Soudan, and the only Representative of the Government was the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice)—at least he had no reason to suppose that the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board represented the Government on Foreign Affairs—and they were discussing those affairs on certain information of a limited kind, and on certain suppositions. The Government were in Council, and until the House was informed of the determination at which the Cabinet had arrived it was almost useless for them to discuss this question, and the time that was being occupied in discussing it was merely being wasted. The speech of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was the most startling proof of the incompetence, the incapacity, and the inutility of the present Government. The noble Lord, in his speech, gave them one, and only one, piece of information. He gave them, indeed, the history of two Judges, and also one of the Abyssinian Church, and had elaborately reviewed in a favourable spirit Dean Stanley's work upon Eastern Ecclesiastical Establishments. The noble Lord had also informed them, in the most solemn manner, that it was his duty to remind the House that there were lighthouses on the Red Sea; a remark that had reminded him (Lord Randolph Churchill) of the observation of Mr. F.'s aunt in Little Dorrit, who had interrupted a most interesting conversation by remaining that there "were milestones on the Dover Road." There was only one grain of wheat, one item of information, in the noble Lord's speech—namely, that General Graham was not to be permitted to advance to Berber. [Lord EDMOND FITZMAURICE: He had no instructions to do so.] If a certain matter was not within the instructions of the General, it was clear that the General had not power to act in that matter; and he said that they had, at last, obtained from the Government what they refused to state last night—namely, 1690 that General Graham was not to be permitted to advance to Berber. At present, that was what the Government said; but, for all they knew, the result of the consultation they were now holding was that General Graham would be permitted to advance to Berber. Let the House observe the way in which the Government treated the public. When they wanted to get Votes, either of Confidence, or of Money, they had never the slightest hesitation in leading the House of Commons into a delusion, and allowing it to remain under that delusion. He said they brought that criticism on themselves. They were endeavouring to get a Vote from the House of Commons in the teeth of some opposition, whether bonâ fide or not he did not know, from their Radical Supporters, by endeavouring to induce them to believe that General Graham was not to be permitted to advance to Berber, and yet they had reason to suppose they knew that the force of circumstances would be so strong, the appeals of General Gordon so irresistible, that General Graham must advance to Berber. [" No, no!"] He had been right once or twice in these matters, and he might be right again. He was right about the relief of Tokar, and hon. Members opposite interrupted him then, as they did now. He said it was perfectly monstrous, that the House of Commons should be called to vote money for operations which might lead the country into enormous expenditure and to an immense amount of liability, and perhaps danger, while, at the same time, they were not only refused information, but the Government took themselves off from the House of Commons in order to avoid inconvenient questions. He did not know whether the Representatives of the people ever before received such treatment from the hands of a responsible Government. They were told that General Graham was not to advance on the road to Berber, and the House of Commons must take that statement for what it was worth, and deliberate upon it. If that were so, it simply came to this—that Her Majesty's Government had ordered to be fought two sanguinary battles, in which the killed and wounded were to be counted by thousands, battles in which their soldiers had been butchered by the savages of the Soudan; and, in consequence of the determination 1691 of the Government not to go further, these battles had been fought for no purpose whatever. No doubt, it was stated by the Prime Minister that these battles were fought for the defence of Suakin; but they knew, from what fell from the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, that, within a few weeks' time, the British troops were going to evacuate Suakin. Then, their guilt became double; for those two battles had been fought for the defence of a place which was to be evacuated. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: No.] He heard the noble Lord say so. Was the noble Lord so stupid as to say that they were going to remain indefinitely at Suakin? The climate would prevent them doing so. It was these continual reservations, evasions, and concealments on the part of the Government of which they complained; they were obliged to draw information out of them as it were with a corkscrew. Two bloody battles had been fought, not for the purpose of relieving General Gordon and opening the road to Berber and enabling the garrison of Khartoum to escape, but for the purpose of protecting Suakin, which was now to be evacuated, and Her Majesty's Government asked the House of Commons to give them money for that. The House, he would submit, had no answer to make, except one of a direct negative. He agreed with the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere)—that the necessity for the great loss of British and Arab life in the Eastern Soudan had not been made apparent. [The Marquess of HARTING-TON here entered the House.] The Cabinet Council had been unusually short; and the noble Marquess would, no doubt, in the course of the afternoon, inform them of the results of the Council. To go back to what he was saying, he hoped hon. Members who supported the Government would insist upon a clear statement of their policy. It was the duty of the House of Commons, before they voted a single penny, to insist upon that. In his opinion, not only had no necessity for that great loss of life been demonstrated, but they had every reason to believe that a further loss of British and Arab life must be incurred, in order to extricate the Government from the position in which they had allowed themselves to get. In the Estimates to be placed before the House, 1692 there was a Vote of £1,500 for the Mission of General Gordon. He thought they had a right to call on the Government, before they voted that money, to state clearly to the House what had been the acts of General Gordon up to Thursday, when they last heard from him—what despatches they had received, how far he was carrying out his plans, and what were their hopes. It was perfectly impossible that the Government could allow the public mind to remain in the state of anxiety in which it now was about General Gordon. They knew that his original plans had been abandoned. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War threw some doubt on the conversation reported by Mr. Power, Her Majesty's Consul at Khartoum, with General Gordon, and said that conversation was imaginary, and rested on no evidence. He did not know what the noble Marquess called evidence. Her Majesty's Consul at Khartoum hold a conversation with General Gordon, and, by the authority of the General, telegraphed it to The Times, in London, and the noble Marquess said that it was not evidence. Till they got some information from the Government, they must be satisfied with the information thus telegraphed home. They knew that General Gordon was in great danger; they knew that he had sent away a part of the garrison of Khartoum; they knew that the tribes were in revolt between Khartoum and Berber, and they wanted to know what progress General Gordon had made, up to the moment when the Government had heard from him last, with respect to the relief of the Egyptian garrisons in various parts of the Soudan? The Government must remember that General Gordon was sent out with unlimited powers, and that the Prime Minister had distinctly said—"No matter what he does, we are responsible." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) said he would not vote with the Opposition, because it would be giving a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) was bound to say he would sooner give a blank cheque to Lord Salisbury than a blank cheque to General Gordon. Her Majesty's Government had given that blank cheque to General Gordon; but, before the House endorsed that cheque, they must know what he was 1693 doing. He must have been at Khartoum three weeks at least, and he had been in constant communication with Her Majesty's Government. They wanted to know the purport of those communications before they voted money; and, if it was inconvenient to make any statement as to General Gordon now, then let them postpone the discussion. Now as to the Slave Trade question. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had alluded to the Slave Trade, and had talked of the money that had been voted last night in connection with the suppression of the Slave Trade, taking considerable credit to himself for having put down an increased Estimate this year for that purpose. But what a waste of public money it was for the House of Commons to be voting the sums proposed by the noble Lord for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and to be, at the same time, allowing General Gordon at Khartoum to encourage and permit the Slave Trade. General Gordon had stated very deliberately, just before he went out, that the Slave Trade must be stopped at its source, and the view which had been taken up by Her Majesty's Government, that it could be put down by a few vessels along the vast extent of the coast of the Red Sea was not only absurd on the face of it, but was directly opposed to the views of General Gordon. They knew that General Gordon, with the sanction of the Government, had issued a Proclamation which authorized and encouraged the Slave Trade; and if they voted the money now asked on account of General Gordon's Mission, the House would be sanctioning his Proclamation allowing the Slave Trade. The Government had not condescended to answer any of the questions addressed to them about the Slave Trade. There could be nothing more powerful than the appeal made to them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), one of their own Supporters, who always gave them a friendly lift whenever he could, imploring them to relieve the House from its anxiety about the Slave Trade in the Soudan. Of course, no notice was taken of the right hon. Gentleman's appeal; no notice would be taken of the eloquent and powerful speech of the hon. Member for Newcasle (Mr. Joseph 1694 Cowen). They could get no information. The Government gave a blank cheque to General Gordon, and the House of Commons was called upon to give a blank cheque to the Government. The noble Lord said they were going to hold Suakin, in order to prevent the Slave Trade being carried on by the Red Sea, and that they were to give up the place after holding it for some time to the Turkish Government. Now, he found that Lord Granville, in his original despatch to Cherif Pasha, stated that it was the intention of the Government that the littoral of the Red Sea should be restored to the Sultan. So that they were now to place the littoral of the Red Sea in the hands of the Turkish Government, he supposed for the purpose of suppressing the Slave Trade, while at Khartoum, where they were going to establish Zebehr Pasha as Governor, Proclamations giving encouragement to that trade were issued. These were things which only required to be stated to show their absurdity; but they knew there was very little use in stating them in the House of Commons. While the House was discussing, the Government were holding Cabinet Councils; but let not hon. Members who objected to these things be discouraged, for there was a public out-of-doors who were watching those discussions—[" Hear, hear!"]—with a keen and intelligent sympathy, and who wished to be informed, as well as a few isolated Members of the Radical Party, what were the purposes and the policy of the Government. When he thought of the events which had recently occurred in the Soudan, and of the slaughter and bloodshed which had overtaken our own troops, and the savage tribes who had resisted them, he was reminded—and he also wished to remind the House—of a speech made in 1880, at Dalkeith, by the Prime Minister to certain ladies of Scotland, who had made a presentation to Mrs. Gladstone. He would quote that speech now, simply because it exactly described the present situation, and put before the public in the clearest, most intelligible, and most forcible manner, what was the position of Her Majesty's Government in the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman said—I speak to you, ladies, as women;and he then went on thus— 1695Of all these words—peace, retrenchment, and reform—the one word upon which I will say a few more special words on this occasion is the word peace. Is this, ladies, a time of peace? Cast your eyes abroad over the world. Think what has taken place in the last three or four years. Think of the events which have deluged many a hill and many a valley with blood; and think, with regret and pain, of the share, not which you individually, but which your country collectively, has had in that grievous operation.The right hon. Gentleman continued—If we cast our eyes to South Africa"—but he (Lord Randolph Churchill) for that would now substitute the words "North Africa"—What do we behold? That a nation whom we term savages have, in defence of their own land, offered their naked bodies to the terribly improved artillery and arms of modern European science, and have been mowed down by hundreds and by thousands, having committed no offence, but having with rude and ignorant courage done, and done faithfully and bravely, what were for them the duties of patriotism. You may talk of glory, you may offer rewards—and you are right to give rewards to the gallantry of your soldiers, who, I think, are entitled, not only to our admiration for courage, but to our compassion for the nature of the duties they have been called to perform—but the grief and the pain none the less remain.Perhaps the House might have noticed in the telegrams that morning a statement that General Graham had burnt the villages he had occupied. Might he venture to give the House one small passage of the speech from which he had been quoting, which would explain, in a very graphic manner, what that meant? The Prime Minister, still addressing those Scottish ladies, said—But I am trying to point out the responsibility of the terrible consequences that follow upon such operations. Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? And when, going forth from their villages, they had resisted, what you find is this—that those who went forth were slain, and that the village was burned. Again, I say, have you considered the meaning of these words? The meaning of the burning of the villages is that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter.In the case of the Eastern Soudan, then, they might say that the women and children were driven forth to perish amid the and rocks and wild wastes of that country. Was it not a little extraordinary that those words, used by the right hon. Gentleman when he was endeavouring 1696 to destroy the Government of the day which was opposed to him, described precisely the military operations in which the present Ministry were engaged? After that speech to the ladies, they were told that—A vote of thanks was, on the motion of Mr. Tod, accorded by acclamation to Mr. Gladstone, who then left the town, passing down rows of torch-bearers drawn up to illuminate the streets in his honour.He would ask the Prime Minister to go back to Mid Lothian, to the locality where he addressed those ladies, and to deliver that speech to them again. He would ask him to deliver that speech again to the House of Commons in his own manner before he called on them to vote Supplies for military operations. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, in his opinion, could not possibly be resisted. Nothing but those receiving official salaries could possibly vote against it. That Amendment asserted that the necessity for the great loss of British and Arab life in the Soudan had not been made apparent, and he should certainly support it, and he did not see how the House of Commons could do otherwise.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Sir, at the beginning of his speech the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) called attention to the fact that my Colleagues were absent from the House; and I thought it only right and just to him to state that they were attending a meeting of the Cabinet which was then being held. The noble Lord then asked whether the Prime Minister was present at that meeting, and it is, perhaps, better that I should at once tell the House that the meeting of the Cabinet had been called at the Prime Minister's house; but, in consequence of this Motion to day, the meeting was held here, Ministers having first seen the Prime Minister, and then come down to this House. But I am sorry to say that the illness from which the Prime Minister has been suffering for some days past is by no means over. The noble Lord blamed the Government for having fixed the holding of a Cabinet Council for the very time at which it had been settled to take the discussion upon the military expenditure in Egypt. Now, I would ask the House to observe how singularly reckless was the statement of the noble Lord as to the time settled by the House 1697 for taking the discussion on the Egyptian military expenditure. This afternoon, Sir, was not settled by the House for any such purpose at all; and, at the time the summonses were sent out for the Cabinet Council, we had no reason to believe—certainly I had none—that any such discussion would take place. The Motion before us is an Amendment on the Order to go into Committee of Supply, and Supply (Civil Services, remaining Supplementary Estimates for 1883–4) is the only Order on the Paper for to-day. On that Motion for Supply there stand a large number of Amendments. I notice that there are no less than 10 Motions down upon the Paper on going into Committee of Supply. The first Amendment is with regard to the Business of the House; the second refers to the Treaty with Portugal; the third relates to the British Museum; the fourth concerns the duties on Gold and Silver Plate; the fifth deals with the Census and the population of Scotland and various other parts of the United Kingdom; the sixth, which was brought forward by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), but was not actually moved, relates to the Soudan; and the seventh, which we are now discussing, is an Amendment of which Notice was only given at a very late hour last night. So much for the noble Lord's allegation that the Cabinet Council was called for to-day in order that Ministers might be absent from this discussion. The noble Lord proceeded to remark upon what he considers our decided policy in regard to the evacuation of Suakin. He must, I think, have known that the statement to which he referred was a statement as to the evacuation of Suakin by the expeditionary force under General Graham, and he represented to the House that the statement was that Suakin was to be evacuated by the naval force as well, for he said that we were for giving up Suakin altogether. It is the case that Suakin is not a place in which it would be desirable to keep a large force of British troops for several months, nor, indeed, in which it would be desirable to keep them a week or a day longer than is absolutely necessary even at present. The climate is not one in which it is desirable that a British force should be employed at all if it is possible to avoid it; and the very reason 1698 for these operations was that the force should not be kept at Suakin at this season of the year. The House approved the policy of General Graham's expedition being sent to Suakin. General Graham's forces being at Suakin, they could not have been withdrawn if Osman Digna's camp had been allowed to remain within 10 miles of that port. The noble Lord speaks as though these unhappy Arabs were in the place where they habitually dwelt. That, however, is not the case. They were collected together from various quarters for the purpose of menacing or attacking Suakin; and, as a matter of fact, less than 200 Arabs usually live in that particular valley. It would have been, therefore, necessary, I repeat, for General Graham's force to have remained at Suakin if Osman Digna's troops had been allowed to remain in the vicinity of that town. The noble Lord went on to speak about the Slave Trade, and he quoted General Gordon's well-known words, that the Slave Trade ought to be stopped at its source. Was it candid of him to endeavour to lead the House to believe that the source of the Slave Trade of which General Gordon spoke was in the Soudan? ["Oh, oh!"] That source is on the Upper Congo. General Gordon has stated, over and over again, in documents that are before the House, that if he is allowed to carry out the policy of the evacuation of the Soudan and to leave the Soudan, then it is his ambition to proceed at once to the upper waters of the Congo. ["Oh, oh!"] It is not for me to say where the source of the Slave Trade is. I myself know nothing about it. But General Gordon, who has much more knowledge of the matter, says that that source is the Upper Congo; and he has informed the public that if he is allowed to complete the evacuation of the Soudan, he then wishes to devote the remainder of his life to the suppression of the Slave Trade on the upper waters of the River Congo. The noble Lord told us that the public out-of-doors are watching this discussion, and that statement was cheered by some hon. Gentlemen on this side, who must think that if the people out-of-doors have been in the habit of watching the utterances of the noble Lord, they cannot have received any strong impression of his consistency. The noble Lord loudly cheered the statement made by the hon. Member 1699 for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen), in his vigorous speech, that the Arabs were not warned that we were going to attack them; or that, if they wore, we did not wait for any reply. The statement of the hon. Member for Newcastle was inaccurate, because we did wait to receive a reply, and we received two replies to the communication we made to them. But the noble Lord went far beyond that statement which he cheered; for he accused General Graham of corresponding with these Arabs in the English tongue. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: I merely asked the question.] The noble Lord smiled as he made that explanation. I have before complained that he always makes his boldest assertions in the form of a request for information. His suggestion in this instance was that General Graham had written his letters to Osman Digna and the Arabs in the English tongue, there having been no statement whatever in any of the newspapers to justify the putting of such a question. The noble Lord's serious contributions to our debates are few and far between, because he takes an inconsistent line for attacking the Government. Any stick is good enough to beat a dog with; and any argument is good enough for the noble Lord when he wishes to throw something at the head of the Government. He told us the other day that the fighting at Suakin involved the most atrocious massacre ever witnessed in the history of the world. I allude to the extremely dramatic speech he made a few days since. He called it anti-Christian.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
The noble Lord repudiates the expression "anti-Christian," and the hon. Member by his side (Mr. A. J. Balfour) says the words used were "anti-human." Well, I have not his speech with me; but, at all events, he spoke with the greatest excitement, and he applied the most violent language to the military operations which have taken place. That is a matter which I leave the noble Lord to settle with the Gentleman who is to stand as his Colleague in contesting the representation of Birmingham at the next General Election—Colonel Burnaby.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Colonel Burnaby was acting under the orders of the military authorities. [Cries of "No!" and Order!"]
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I was under the impression that he was visiting Egypt as a traveller. [Cries of "No!"and Interruption.]
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I believe it is the fact that Colonel Burnaby himself asked that he might be attached to the Army in a nominal capacity, and that he was not sent out by the Government from this country to act with the Army, but went to Egypt as a traveller, and was attached in some honorary capacity to the Intelligence Department; but it was not necessary that he should have taken part in the fighting at the battle of El Teb by firing on Arabs with a shot gun. As to the policy of keeping the troops at Suakin, I can only say that the House has approved of the policy of General Graham's expedition. In the last debate in which that policy was questioned, we were distinctly asked if any attack would be made on Osman Digna's fortified position in the event of his remaining in the neighbourhood of Suakin. Our reply then was the same as before. We asked—Does, or does not, Osman Digna's force threaten our position at Suakin? We stated that it could not be allowed to do so; but that if his force dispersed it would not be followed. The same statement was made to Osman Digna himself, and that the information reached him is proved by the fact that the letters sent by General Graham were replied to. But I say that, as Osman Digna's forces did not disperse, but continued to threaten Suakin, if General Graham's expeditionary force was not to remain there indefinitely, it was necessary that Osman Digna's troops should be dispersed. The hon. Member for Newcastle asks us whether we are fighting for military glory? I ask my hon. Friend to believe that nothing in the world would ever induce me to be a party to fighting for military glory; and if I did not believe that the position of Osman Digna, in a fortified camp, 1701 within 10 or 12 miles of Suakin threatened our position at Suakin—if I did not believe that a fair opportunity would be given to the Arabs to leave their position, nothing would induce me to support, by vote or speech, the military operations which have taken place. The hon. Member for Newcastle said that Suakin was not in danger, and that the town could have been defended against attack.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
Even then, it must be remembered that Osman Digna's force was encamped in the same position. Whether it was quite as large as it was three days before I cannot tell; but that Osman Digna, with several thousand men, was encamped at that very spot we knew, and that was reported to us. I come now to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bourke), who attacked my noble Friend (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) for what he said about slavery and the Slave Trade. The right hon. Gentleman said that the only subject the House was anxious at all about was that of slavery.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
But the right hon. Gentleman attacked my noble Friend for what he said about slavery and the Slave Trade. I failed altogether to gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech what policy on that subject he wished to recommend to the Government; but I do not believe that the House, as a whole, whatever may be the case with any individual Member—and I know there are some who are prepared to face it—nor do I believe that the country, as a whole, will be prepared to see the establishment of a Slave Power on the Coast of the Red Sea. He asked us, also, how we were to carry out the duty we have undertaken of protecting the ports of the Red Sea. The permanent protection of the ports of the Red Sea, when there is no large hostile force in the vicinity, is not so difficult or so dangerous as some persons may suppose. Those ports are very few in number. The greater part of that coast is an iron-bound coast, with only some small creeks and ports into which none but the smallest dhows can enter. The 1702 considerable ports on the Coast of the Red Sea are but two in number. It is true there are three opposite Aden; but they are perfectly tranquil, and as to them there is no reason to apprehend danger. The two considerable ports to which I have referred are—first, Massowah, which is quite tranquil; and, next, there is Suakin, which can beheld in ordinary times without much difficulty. Probably a force of 100 Marines, or even an English ship of war, would be sufficient to hold it if necessary. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn, in referring to the general policy he would recommend, at the conclusion of his speech revealed the whole policy of the Opposition. The policy of the Opposition, it appears, according to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, is to make the government of this country impossible in circumstances of very great difficulty. [" Hear, hear!"] I do not wish to overstate what was said by the right hon. Gentleman, and I will repeat the actual words he used. He said that—The time had now come when Her Majesty's Government ought to declare that they are met by such difficulties in their Egyptian policy in Parliament that they ought to say that it is impossible for them any longer to carry on the Business of the country.And then he told us that it was our duty to appeal to the people. The phrase "appeal to the people," which was the invention in England a few days since of Lord Salisbury, has been long the property of the Bonapartist Party in France, who have used it as their sole policy, and who said it was the sole policy they had to offer to the people of that country. The right hon. Gentleman asks that we should appeal to the people upon the sole point of our Egyptian policy, on the ground that he and his Friends would make it impossible for us to carry on the Business of the country. [" No, no!"] They may make it very difficult for us to carry on the Business of the country; but I doubt whether, from the support we shall receive, they will make it impossible; and I can only tell him that, so long as it is possible for us to carry on the Business of the country, we shall do our best to carry it on. But if he should have his way, and if the Party opposite should make it impossible for us to carry on the Business of the country, then I 1703 say to the right hon. Gentleman he must be aware that we shall not appeal to the country only upon the Egyptian policy of the Government, but also upon those measures the carrying of which, he told us, is to be rendered impossible by the Party opposite repeatedly delaying them by discussing and rediscussing over and over again the policy of the Government in Egypt.
§ MR. BOURKE
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks; but I think it is necessary to state what I really said. What I said was, not that we meant to make the government of the country impossible, but that the conduct of the Government respecting their policy in Egypt, and their reticence with respect to it, and the many observations which they have made, have made the government of the country impossible in this House.
said, he would not imitate the example set by the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) in treating the House to an electioneering speech. He had listened very carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to see if it contained any answer whatever to the questions put by his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), or to the question which had been urged over and over again in the House. He must say that he was very much disappointed at the extreme poverty of excuse which the Government had exhibited. Whenever they were asked to give an account of the military operations at Suakin they were only able to repeat the old story which they told the House after the bombardment of Alexandria. That bombardment was carried out because the Fleet was menaced; but it never seemed to occur to them that the Fleet could withdraw; and, in the same way, the late engagement had taken place because Osman Digna's force menaced our troops, who were about to embark and evacuate the town. Would the Government tell the House of Commons what was the real object of the military operations which had taken place at Suakin? They said they went to Suakin for the purpose of relieving the garrison at Tokar; and yet, when Tokar had fallen, they still persevered in advancing to Tokar, and in 1704 slaughtering an immense number of Arabs, for the purpose of relieving a garrison which had surrendered. What was their policy and purpose in continuing these military operations? The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said that they had called upon Osman Digna to disperse. What business, he should like to know, had the Government to call upon him and his troops to disperse? If they were not at war with these Arabs, and merely went to the Soudan for the purpose of rescuing the garrisons which were now rescued, and afterwards intended to withdraw the forces from Suakin, what right had they to ask Osman Digna to disperse? Yet, because they would not disperse, they were slaughtered. The Government had made a great point, as they thought, by having issued Proclamations. In his opinion these Proclamations were all moonshine. They were not bonâ fide Proclamations. They were issued, not for the purpose of producing any impression upon those to whom they were addressed; they were simply issued for the purpose of throwing dust in the eyes of the House of Commons. They were carefully prepared and carefully recorded, and an account was sent home to this country, in order to persuade people who knew better that the purport of those Proclamations found their way among the people to whom they were addressed, in order that they might have an opportunity of complying with them, and before our troops were sent against the people. In his opinion no such thing occurred. He would guarantee that of all the thousands of men who had lately been fighting these battles at El Teb and Tamanieb, and whose homes had been burned and destroyed, not one knew that any such Proclamations had ever been issued, much less that they had ever seen them. He could not understand how a Government which denounced the policy of their Predecessors in the Transvaal on account of its "blood-guiltiness" could reconcile to their consciences or their logic the conduct they were pursuing in regard to Suakin. The Government spoke about Osman Digna menacing the safety of our troops at Suakin; but when the Boers were actually threatening the Colony of Natal, and within its territory, why did they not attack them? They said they would 1705 not attack them because they refused to be guilty of "blood-guiltiness;" but those men who said that were the very persons who, two years ago, bombarded Alexandria because it was threatening our ships at sea; and they had now slaughtered between 3,000 and 4,000 Arabs because Osman Digna was encamped 14 miles from Suakin, and could not, therefore, prevent the peaceful embarkation of our forces.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
said, that the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had stated that the House had approved of the expedition to Suakin. He (Mr. O'Donnell) was anxious to know upon what occasion the House approved of the expedition to Suakin in the sense referred to by the right hon. Gentleman? He certainly understood that the House of Commons had approved the expedition to Suakin for the purpose of rescuing the garrison of Tokar, but with no other object. He wished to know, therefore, by what authority a Cabinet Minister came forward and claimed that the expedition for the relief of Tokar had attained a scope and significance which were never contemplated when the House consented to the expedition? It was a mere juggling with words—and juggling in a sense not creditable to the right hon. Gentleman, or to the straightforwardness of an English Minister—for a Cabinet Minister to state to the House that the expedition to Suakin was authorized to carry on an aggressive and offensive campaign, when, in reality, it was only authorized to land at Suakin as a basis from which to carry out rescuing operations for the benefit of the Tokar garrison. The Tokar garrison had surrendered previous to the battle of El Teb; and it was a matter of notoriety in this country that the garrison had so surrendered. The slaughter at El Teb, therefore, was a gratuitous slaughter. The right hon. Gentleman had also laid great stress upon the alleged necessity of holding Suakin. He (Mr. O'Donnell), however, wanted to know not only where the necessity existed for holding Suakin, but the necessity for being there at all? The reasons for being at Suakin were pure assumptions on the part of the Government. Where was the necessity of suppressing the Slave Trade? In the first place, it would be necessary to suppress 1706 the Slave Trade on that side of the Soudan where General Gordon held sway, before any suppression of the Slave Trade could take place in the Eastern Soudan. Who said that the possession of Suakin was necessary for the suppression of the Slave Trade? The Slave Trade in the Bed Sea could only be suppressed by cutting off the communications between the Soudan side and the Arabian side of the Red Sea. That, however, was a matter of maritime police. All the Government had to do was to strengthen their squadrons in the Red Sea sufficiently to supervise, in an efficient manner, the passage of the Red Sea by the dhows laden with slaves. He would go much further than that. If the Government desired to suppress slavery, the first thing they had to do was to restore the Abyssinian sea coast to the Abyssinians, for it was at the expense of the Abyssinians that a large and most valuable portion of that Slave Trade was being carried on by the slave traders in the Soudan. Had they gained anything, however, even on the assumptions of the Government, by the recent operations? He found that The Times Correspondent, in a telegram published in a stop-press edition that morning, stated that—The troops are now returning to Suakin, and it is to be hoped the expedition is at an end. We can do no more. If we advance into the mountains, we can but fight the rebels when they choose to fight us, and for as long as they choose to hold out. Should we go to Berber, even under these circumstances, we could accomplish nothing, for when once the army had passed, the road would be no safer than it was before. We have now two cards left—first, negotiation, which may probably fail, Osman Digna being apparently a thorough fanatic: then a thorough supervision of the Red Sea ports and all the other outlets both on this and on the Djeddah side, by which means we can, if we choose, put an absolute stop to slavery, and thoroughly check Osman Digna and his friends. As to thoroughly subduing the rebels, who are ready to fight us wherever we may meet them, it is altogether out of the question.But had they not that resource before slaughtering these thousands of Arabs for the purpose of stopping slavery? They had not obtained a single advantage to-day, after all this horrible and cowardly massacre, that they did not possess before. And these people whom the Government were slaughtering were said to be rebels, for The Times Correspondent said— 1707As to thoroughly subduing the rebels.…. it is altogether out of the question.Rebels against whom? Against Her Majesty's Government? The Government were the lords of the Soudan. Against the Turk? Was he to understand that the Members of the Ministerial Bench were only the Viziers of the Sultan of Turkey in the Soudan? Was the great humanitarian deliverer of Bulgaria now nothing more than the Pipewallah of the unspeakable Turk? Therefore, on the pretext of defending Suakin and defending the expedition to Suakin, which was never sanctioned in the sense now arbitrarily assumed by the Government, and on the pretence of suppressing the Slave Trade, which could only be suppressed to-day by exactly the same means which were in their power previous to the slaughter, the Government had committed wanton butchery after wanton butchery, and in the history of murder and rapine there was no page more foul than that which told of the action of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. Negotiation, it would seem, was all that the Government had now to rely upon. They had now to resort to negotiation with Osman Digna, whom they had exasperated a thousand-fold by slaughtering his followers and by the destruction of his villages. Why had they not recourse to negotiation previously? The placing of a white flag on a stick in the sand was the method of negotiation according to Liberal interpretation. They published a Proclamation, forsooth ordering Osman Digna to disperse his forces. Had they not read another Proclamation, published in the newspapers, purporting to proceed from the heads of the Military and Naval Forces of the Government at Suakin, and addressed to the tribes in the Soudan, ordering them to abandon Osman Digna, on the ground that he was a man stained by every kind of crime? Osman Digna, in this conciliatory Proclamation, was denounced to his people as a scoundrel, and then the Government published another Proclamation calling upon Osman Digna's forces to disperse. Why, the thing was a hideous hypocrisy; it was a sanguinary hypocrisy; it was leading this country into a trap, out of which there was no exit except the exit of massacre. He knew the object of this policy. It was to monopolize the Coasts of the African Continent, in order 1708 to secure the central portion of Africa, with its vast population, as a market for Lancashire and Yorkshire. It was not a wise way to set about carrying out that object. For a time they might succeed in sending into the interior of Africa sized cotton goods over a pathway composed of the corpses of the Arab population; but, in reality, they were playing a dangerous game; they were playing the game of their commercial and political rivals. In Egypt, if they had acted with discretion, they could have ruled by the love of the people. But Her Majesty's Government cast aside their opportunity. Had they endeavoured to obtain the goodwill of the Natives by conciliatory and fair means, they might have succeeded; but they had thrown away their chances, and adopted the narrow and short-sighted policy of looking only to the immediate dangers of the day. A few years ago, the heads of the National Party in Egypt were inclined to seek for a friendly alliance with the English; but their advances were contemptuously rejected. We cast aside the chance of reigning in Egypt by the love of the people; we cast down the National Party; we allied ourselves with the Tewfiks, Nubars, and other adventurous scum which had collected in Egypt for a generation, just as we were now allying ourselves in the Soudan with the slaveholders instead of the people. As a consequence of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government, Egypt was now a difficulty on their hands, and the Soudan was a still greater difficulty; and when, in a year or two, French diplomacy had carried out its objects, Abyssinia would prove another difficulty to be confronted. France was our foe in Africa, and every slaughter of the Natives by British troops would strengthen the hands of France. What was the policy of Her Majesty's Government at the present time? Were they going to withdraw from Suakin, or march on to Berber? The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board had told them little or nothing. It was to be regretted that the Prime Minister had so severe a cold; but, at the same time, everyone who had a particle of sympathy with that illustrious individual—and even he (Mr. O'Donnell) might sympathize with him at the present moment—must feel glad that he had been spared the shame 1709 of that repudiation of all his professions which had been carried out by his Colleagues within the last few days. Were the professions of the Premier definitely thrown over, or were we once more to have a temporary return to the policy of ostensible humanitarianism? The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board objected to this discussion, because it interfered with the progress of Public Business. Her Majesty's Government thought it was no concern of the British public that the British name should be associated with rapine and slaughter, contrary to the solemn declarations of the Government. He, however, declined to accept the right hon. Gentleman as a safe guide upon policy in the Soudan, because he remembered that he was not a safe guide upon policy in Egypt. The door between the right hon. Gentleman's memory and his imagination had been too often left open—he presumed entirely by accident—to accept him as a safe guide upon the present occasion. The right hon. Gentleman told them that if they did not remove their discussions of the foreign policy of the Cabinet from the path of the progress of Public Business, then the Government would appeal to the country. Though the right hon. Gentleman "aid that the Government would appeal tomorrow, he (Mr. O'Donnell) should still hesitate to accept his assurance. On what ground would the Government appeal to the country? What were the soaring pinions with which they would swoop down upon the constituencies? The pinions were those of a carrion vulture, gorged with its meal of massacre—[Laughter.]—massacre that was the horror of all honest men, but the object of amused laughter to the Radical Party. He congratulated that Bashi-Bazouk Government upon having transplanted Bulgarian horrors into the Soudan. He must again say that among all the bloody pages in a history of world-wide rapine, there was no page more red and more foul than that which recorded the policy of assassination which the Government were carrying out in Africa.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, there was nothing but truth in the assertion that the discussion then going on was initiated for no other purpose than the humiliation and embarrassment of the Government. At the same time he was 1710 free to confess that recent events in the Soudan had produced a feeling of great regret and horror throughout the country, and that feeling he entirely shared. But he was now asked to pass a disguised Vote of Censure on the Government. He was asked to say that he had more confidence in hon. Members opposite than in the Government. He could not say that. He had heard of these massacres with the greatest horror; but he was not, therefore, prepared to say that he had confidence in hon. Members opposite. The Opposition were greatly responsible for what had occurred in Egypt, and he did not forget what happened two years ago, and the meeting at Willis's Rooms. When the war was carried on, as hon. Gentlemen opposite urged that it should, they then turned round and said it was an unnecessary war. So, recently, the Opposition had hounded on the Government to undertake these operations which they now condemned. That was very inconsistent—not to use a stronger and less Parliamentary word. If he voted for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) it would be because he wanted to put hon. Gentlemen opposite into power. He would not be led astray so as to give a random vote.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, that after the remarks of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) he felt bound to say a few words, for he intended voting for the Resolution of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). He did not regard it as a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. He regarded it as partly condemnatory of the particular action to which it referred, but much more as an expression of protest as to the reserve of the Government in respect to a point which he considered of vital importance. His hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Joseph Cowen) was bitterly discontented with the attitude of the Government, because he was in favour, apparently, of an annexation which he regarded as inevitable—an annexation not only of Egypt Proper, but also of the Soudan. As he (Mr. John Morley) was resolutely averse to the annexation of a single inch of the Soudan, he should have been glad if his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had taken the opportunity, 1711 which he had been challenged to take, of telling the House, once for all, what was to be their policy in reference to the Soudan, and what steps Her Majesty's Government were taking, or were going to take, in order to carry out that evacuation for which they professed to send General Gordon to Khartoum. His right hon. Friend thought, if they wanted to put a stop to the African Slave Trade, they must, in General Gordon's view, get to work at the Upper Congo. He (Mr. John Morley) believed there was nothing General Gordon would rather do than, at that moment, be allowed to go from Khartoum, and betake himself to what he regarded as the serious centre of his great work. He kept asking himself what it was Her Majesty's Government were waiting for at Khartoum. General Gordon had done the best part of what he was sent to do; and he saw no method, at present, being pursued by Her Majesty's Government for facilitating the rest of that work; and when the House was told, as they were the other day by one of the Leaders of the Conservative Party, that their policy was the holding of Khartoum, then the time had come for the Leaders of the Liberal Party to tell the House that their policy was to abandon Khartoum. That might be a right policy or a wrong one; but it was, at least, the policy in respect of which Her Majesty's Government, in the first instance, sent General Gordon to Khartoum. On the 15th of January, Lord Granville, speaking to the French Ambassador, said—It seemed clear that the Egyptian Government were incapable of holding Khartoum, or of reconquering the country by themselves, and whatever the feeling might be here (in London) at the moment, he was convinced that public opinion would not countenance the considerable expenditure of money, or the risk of loss of life, which must be attendant on an expedition of English troops with that object."—[Egypt, No. 5 (1884), p. 15.]That was Lord Granville's statement, and he should be glad if some hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench would tell the House whether Her Majesty's Government still held to the policy of leaving Khartoum and of leaving the Soudan. He must be excused for being a little suspicious. He was the last person to wish to say a word, or give a vote, that would embarrass Her Majesty's Ministers; but the House had a right to be on its guard, because, in reference to Suakin, the 1712 Prime Minister, in reply to his hon. Friend's (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) exclamation, that the sooner we were out of Suakin the better, said he thought so too; but we were there in the interests of peace and humanity, and not in our own interests. But a very few days after that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War got up and said that we were there in pursuance of British interests, because it was on the line of our communications with India. If such arguments were going to re-appear on the Liberal side of the House, he was at a loss to know why his right hon. Friends had come into Office at all. As he had already said, he was as much in favour of British interests, in their true sense, as any hon. Gentleman opposite; but he had yet to be persuaded that the holding of Khartoum, or the annexation of the Soudan, was, in any shape, conducive to British interests. On the contrary, he thought it would be a supreme British disaster. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bourke) had called on the Government to remain in the Soudan, because, if they left it, there would be anarchy in their place. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War was not afraid of that reproach when he deliberately abandoned Candahar—and wisely and prudently did so, in his (Mr. Morley's) opinion. When the Government determined on the retrocession of the Transvaal, they did not then allow themselves to be frightened our of their policy by the prospect of anarchy. When they sent Cetewayo back they knew that anarchy might possibly, and would probably, follow. But they did not refrain on that account. They thought of higher interests than the pacification of a barbarous land, and took a line which he thought then, and thought still, to be a wise line. He, therefore, hoped Her Majesty's Government would lose no time in announcing that they proposed to adopt the same course in the Soudan. Something was said by his hon. Friend about public opinion. In his view, the Government were in danger of mistaking a shadow and a phantom for public opinion, and of accepting for real public opinion an odious compound of financial cupidity, bastard Imperialism, and, worse than all, truculent philanthropy. He had only one other remark to make—and for him it was a 1713 serious one. He would go no further on this road until he was informed, on good authority, where that road was leading them to. Therefore, he would support the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Sir, this debate appears to be considered by hon. Gentlemen opposite as only a means of embarrassing the Government and impeding Public Business. But I think, when the country comes to read what has been said to-day—especially by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard), and both the hon. Members for Newcastle—it will be felt that there is some truth in our assertion that Her Majesty's Government have failed in their duty of disclosing their policy to the House of Commons. Again we ask, and we shall persist in asking, what the Government propose to do, not in the far distant future, but during the next week or 10 days; and, in my humble opinion, we ought not to allow this Vote now put down in Supply to be taken until we get some answer to that question. The Prime Minister, a few days ago, told this House that, in his judgment, it was impossible for Her Majesty's Government to arrive at any decision upon their policy in regard to Egypt Proper until this chapter of the Soudan had been in some degree closed. But what is it with which we are now face to face? Two battles, which have been well called massacres, have been fought on the Coast of the Red Sea. It may be that those battles were not only justifiable, but absolutely necessary, to promote the policy which the Government have adopted; but nothing is told us by the Government but this—that what has been done at Suakin and in the neighbourhood has been done in defence of Suakin, and in order to enable the earlier withdrawal of British troops from the seaboard. I want to know what is to come of this? Those two battles have been fought. Osman Digna and his people have been defeated with terrible slaughter. Are the British troops to be immediately withdrawn from Suakin, or are they not? If they are going to be withdrawn, what are you going to put in their place in order 1714 to carry out the policy announced in the House the other evening by the noble Marquess opposite the Secretary of State for War? If they are not to be withdrawn, what is to be the further step in the policy which the Government are pursuing? Do they propose to protect the Red Sea littoral, according to the extraordinary statement of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by telling four or five Consuls to take periodical voyages in the ships of a Company plying between Aden and Zanzibar?
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
The right hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what I said. He is speaking of that part of my speech entirely referring to the putting down of the Slave Trade.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
What interest have we on the Red Sea littoral except to put down the Slave Trade? That, at all events, is what I understand to be the main object of British intervention in that region. But everybody knows that the Red Sea Coast is of very great length, full of creeks and harbours; and can it be supposed that by anything which the noble Lord has told us this evening the policy of the Government can be carried out? We are to hold Suakin and these other ports. How? We have had no information on this point. If it is the unsuitability of the climate that makes the difficulty, how do the Government propose to occupy these places in the summer now coming on? I cannot believe that the Government have allowed these battles to be fought, and have left the direction of affairs purely at the option of the military commanders on the spot, without some instructions as to the contingencies before them, and the necessities that may arise in another part of the Soudan. And what is the position of General Gordon at this moment? We have been told more than once that Her Majesty's Government consider it impossible, in the interests of the Public Service, to give us full information as to the position, views, and object of General Gordon at Khartoum. That is an excuse which, for a time, Parliament has been ready to admit. But for a time only. General Gordon has now been at Khartoum for three weeks. He went there with a definite statement of his own ideas as to the manner in which the evacuation of the Sou- 1715 dan was to be carried out. As we know, the Representatives of the old reigning families were to be restored as rivals of the Mahdi. But we now hear that nothing of this sort has been done. The Mahdi has been made Sultan of Kordofan. General Gordon went to the Soudan the determined enemy of slavery and the Slave Trade, and yet he has issued that Proclamation of which we have heard so much. All this would be unaccountable but for the presence of some overpowering necessity in regard to which Her Majesty's Government will tell us nothing. General Gordon went to Khartoum as the ambassador of peace. He commenced by declaring all arrears of taxes to be forgiven, and by opening the prison doors. But we have since heard that expeditions have been made up the Nile, and threats have been made that troops will be sent to subdue those who will not submit to his authority. What is the last news that has come to us from General Gordon? The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs almost laughed at any credit being given to the remarkable telegram from the Consul at Khartoum.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Then I suppose he docs attach some importance to that telegram. The following are the words attributed to General Gordon:—There is a certainty that as time advances the emissaries of the Mahdi will succeed in raising the tribes between Khartoum and Berber. This is not owing to disaffection, but to fear, caused by the pronounced policy of the abandonment of the Soudan. … We cannot blame them for rising when no definite sign is shown of establishing a permanent Government here.And this expectation is already being realized, for the telegram read by the noble Lord at the beginning of the Sitting was to the effect that the tribes were rising, that the telegraph wires were cut, and that steamers had been fired upon. Are the Government too late again, and is General Graham's victory to go for naught? What is the position of General Gordon at present? The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs denied that General Gordon is in extremis. I truly hope he is not; but how does the noble Lord know that? The news that the tele- 1716 graph wire is cut is three days old; but, looking at the opinion of General Gordon expressed in this telegram, which, until the Government say otherwise, we are justified in considering bonâ fide, I am bound to say that it seems to me that Her Majesty's Government are incurring the gravest responsibility in connection with the position in which they are leaving Gordon at Khartoum. Do they mean to do anything? Do they mean to utilize these victories of Graham in the neighbourhood of Suakin, in order to attempt that march on Berber which Gordon has recommended? The recommendation may be right or wrong; but it is the advice of Gordon, to whom they have committed all authority in the Soudan. If they are now going to disregard it, why are they going to disregard it, and what are they going to do in its place? What is their policy? I do not usually agree with the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). On the contrary, I hold very different opinions as to the policy to be pursued in the Soudan; but I must say that, so far as the terms of the Amendment are concerned which he has placed before the House, I do agree with him. If these battles and the loss of life which we all deplore have no better result than the immediate withdrawal of British troops from the Soudan, I say they are in no degree justifiable. We ought to have some clear and definite statement from the Government; and, if we do not get such a statement, I shall certainly support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ MR. BRYCE
said, he was not surprised to hear that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) approved of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), for he (Mr. Bryce) looked upon it as being cleverly framed with the view of endeavouring to unite the votes of those who differed on every other point. He would ask his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) whether he could think that giving a vote which might turn out this Government and bring in the Leaders of the Opposition would accelerate either the withdrawal of England from Egypt or the restriction of our responsibilities in the Soudan? He trusted that the Liberal Party in 1717 that House would decline to be led into the trap that was prepared for them.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I think it is impossible for the House to go to a Division on this question with any satisfaction after the manner in which Her Majesty's Government have treated us. Some question has been raised as to what was the expectation of this discussion coming on to-day. I can only say that on Thursday night, and again last night, when arrangements were made for the course of Public Business, it was distinctly understood that this would be given as a special opportunity for discussing this subject—a subject of most pressing public importance, one as to which the House has shown Her Majesty's Government the greatest indulgence, and upon which it is really impossible that we can allow the course of Business to proceed without some clear and satisfactory explanation being given by the Government. We find, however, that the Government have absented themselves from the Treasury Bench during a great part of this debate, and we are told that this is owing to the fact that they were holding a Cabinet Council. But we all know—many of us have experience of what Cabinet Councils are—that it has been the universal practice, I think I may say, that when a special Sitting of the House has been appointed for a Saturday for the discussion of Business of special importance, the Cabinet Council, if held at all on that day, must be fixed for such an hour as not to interfere with the Business of the House. And we find that, when the Ministers who have absented themselves do come into the House, they leave us just in the same position as we were before. Certainly, the least that we can expect is that, when attention has been challenged to any subject, Ministers will come into the House to listen to what we have to say; and the treatment we have received today is, I think, an abuse of our patience and good nature. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has been labouring all through the Session to obtain from those who agree with him something like an expression of their agreement with him, and dissatisfaction with what was going on on the Bench occupied by their Leaders, and one after another those hon. Members have confessed that the 1718 Government does not satisfy them. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) seemed to think that he settled the matter in a couple of sentences, when he said he disapproved of a good deal that the Government had done; but he knew that this Motion amounted to a Vote of Want of Confidence, and that, therefore, he would not support it. But I would ask him what is the value of that sort of confidence in Her Majesty's Government which is so easily satisfied? What is the state of the case? We see battles fought, one after another, each entailing enormous slaughter of the enemy and very serious suffering and loss upon our own part also; and yet we receive from Her Majesty's Government absolutely no guidance or indication as to the object they have in view in all this. We do not ask that Her Majesty's Government should tell us all the steps that they intend to take. We want to know what they are fighting these battles for. Is it, or is it not, for the purpose of opening the road from Suakin to Berber, and possibly to Khartoum? That would be a perfectly intelligible policy; but we have never been told that that would be their policy. And now to-day we are told, in an irregular way, as far as we can understand it, that it is not intended that that should be the policy of the Government. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), I think, used the expression that it was not within the instructions of General Graham to advance to Berber. Some hon. Members understood from that that it is his instructions not to go to Berber. We want to know what is the exact meaning of that? Is the matter entirely left to General Graham's discretion? Is General Graham furnished with any scheme of a policy which he is to carry out; and, if so, what is the general object of that scheme? Is the object to evacuate Khartoum, or is it to reopen up the way to Khartoum? I do not say anything about annexing Khartoum. We do not ask to annex Khartoum at all; but we say that it is of the greatest importance that you should provide, in some way, that Khartoum should be furnished with a stable and a satisfactory Government. You cannot allow the matter to drift into chronic anarchy, as I expressed it the other day, and we want to know what is your view with regard to that point? Have you 1719 still the intention to withdraw from Khartoum? Are you fighting all these battles and killing all these people to facilitate that withdrawal? I am bound to say that I think the Government have no right whatever to plead the necessities of military policy for silence upon such a question as that. "We do not ask them to tell us anything inconvenient to their military policy; but we wish to have some light on these points; and we have a right, and are bound, in the discharge of our duty to the country, to inquire what the policy of the Government now is. Hitherto they have put us off with various excuses. At one time we were told, in regard to General Gordon, that the Government were not responsible for what was going on, and that, therefore, they should not be questioned; at another time we were told by Her Majesty's Government that they were fully responsible, and that, therefore, they should not be questioned; and now the Government put us off with the assertion that answering such questions might lead to inconvenience. I cannot help thinking that there were passages in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) which threw a new light upon the position and attitude of the Government. Knowing the ability of the right hon. Gentleman, and how conversant he is with all questions of this character, we naturally expected that some light would be thrown on the subject when he rose to take part in this debate. But we received very little information from him in regard to the matter in hand. His speech, however, contained some very significant hints of another kind. I do not know whether it was meant for an electioneering speech or not; but I do know I never heard such very remarkable topics as were introduced in it, just as if it could be intended for no other purpose than that of creating prejudice. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about an appeal to the people, which we say ought to be made upon such a new policy as this, he talks of it as "Bonapartist." That is the sort of language that he uses, and it is a new view for a Member of the Government like the right hon. Gentleman to take. And then there was one thing I was sorry for, and I think, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will be sorry for it too, 1720 and that was that the right hon. Gentleman should have descended in the middle of his speech—should have gone out of his way, in fact, to make a little electioneering attack on my noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), and that at the expense of a gallant officer whose name there was not the slightest occasion for introducing, and whose conduct was no part of the subject for discussion. Colonel Burnaby, he said, had been in the Soudan; and he suggested that Colonel Burnaby had no business to be there. But Colonel Burnaby, while in the Soudan, was under military authority, and I understand he was publicly thanked for his services there. Under these circumstances, I do say that a more ungenerous, a more uncalled for, and a more extraordinary reference to an individual in no way connected with the subject before the House, I never heard. We have before us a Motion upon which we are prepared to vote, and I have thought it right to say a few words before the Question is put, hoping that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War may be able to tell us something that will be more satisfactory than anything we have yet heard. The Motion that has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is precisely the same as the Motion of which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) gave Notice. It is not intended to stop the Supplies, but it demands an explanation before the Supplies are granted. That is a demand which I think we have every right to make.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not intend to detain the House, in replying to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, for more than a few moments. In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman has said, at the beginning of his speech, that there has been a general understanding in the House for the past two or three days that a discussion upon this subject should be initiated at the Morning Sitting of to-day. I do not know what understanding may have existed between the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who has initiated this discussion; but this I can say—that, so far as I and my hon. Friends who sit on this 1721 side of the House and the Members of the Government are aware, there was no understanding of the kind.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney), at the previous Sitting of the House, at 20 minutes before 1, had asked hon. Members to withdraw their Motions from the Paper, pointing out the advantage it would be to all parties to bring them on at the Saturday Sitting, when Supply stood as the first Order.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I cannot quite see the relevance of that observation as regards the explanation of the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition. What I wish to point out, in the first place, is that I am prepared distinctly to assert that no one in this part of the House had any idea, until late last night, that this matter would be brought on at all to-day. In the next place, I would call the attention of the House to this circumstance—that last night I appealed to hon. Members who had Notices on the Paper that they should withdraw them, in order that Supply might be taken at once, and a Saturday Sitting obviated. That suggestion, I think, was only coldly supported by the right hon. Gentleman opposite at the time. He admitted that it would be convenient if that course were taken; but he seemed to have some doubt whether he would give it his warm support or not. It now appears that he all along intended that a Saturday Sitting should be taken, and that it should be devoted to a discussion of this subject. I think it would have been better, more convenient, and more in accordance with the ordinary practice of this House, if the right hon. Gentleman had yesterday stated the intention of himself and his Friends. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has also made some observations, following upon those of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), upon the action of the Members of the Government; and the right hon. Gentleman says that when it is found necessary to to hold a Cabinet Council on days when the House sits, the Government ought to take care to fix upon an hour which will not interfere with the other Business of the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman will explain what very convenient hour for holding a Cabinet 1722 Council could be fixed before 12 o'clock in the day, especially when the Prime Minister is suffering from indisposition, I shall be very much obliged to him. As the matter stands, I can only say we probably might have made other and better arrangements, if we had had the slightest idea that a serious debate of this kind was going to be raised; but, as we were left in ignorance of that, it was impossible to do so. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) and the right bon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition have repeated their demand for further information as to the intentions of the Government; and they have, under cover, as I understand it, announced their intention of voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Northampton, in the same spirit and in the same intention as they had in supporting the Motion which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Lancashire (Colonel Stanley) intended to move the other day. Now, Sir, I wish to point out that although the effect may be the same, and, if the Motion is carried, may prevent Supply being proceeded with, yet the Amendment is one of a very different character indeed. This Amendment is not one calling upon the Government to give further information, and it is not one proposing to defer the grant of Supply until further information is given; but it is one which asserts that the necessity for the expenditure of life in those military operations has not been made clear; and, therefore, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Gentlemen opposite, are prepared to pass a Vote of Censure upon the military and naval officers, and, consequently, upon the Government, for having undertaken these military operations. If that is their intention, I do not think the country will support them. I do not in the least complain of that course being taken; and I hope it will be thoroughly understood and appreciated, not only in the House, but throughout the country. All I desire to point out is that it is much to be regretted that hon. Members opposite did not make up their minds to take this course at an earlier moment. The hon. Member for Northampton gave them an opportunity last week of condemning these operations, when, although hon. 1723 Gentlemen opposite did not see their way to support the Government, at the same time they did not see their way to support the hon. Member for Northampton. Well, Sir, this demand for further information may, I think, be pressed somewhat too far. I endeavoured to give, on Monday last, all the information which I thought it in my power to give then as to what was going on in the Soudan; and I really do not know that events have advanced so far, during the course of this week, that it is possible or right for any Member of the Government to make any declaration or announcement of policy very much in advance of that I made last week. Speeches have been delivered, in the course of this debate, by my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), and by my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and they stated on the part of the Government what, in our opinion, it is possible to state; and, however violent may be the appeals addressed to us for further information, those appeals, I can assure the House, shall not draw from me, at any rate, or from any Member of the Government, any statement of policy, or any information, which we think would be injurious to the interests of the country—those great interests we are endeavouring to secure under such difficult circumstances. Sir, we are asked what is the object of the force which is still in the neighbourhood of Suakin. I maintain that that force has already probably—for we have no certain information—accomplished one of the main objects of its mission, and the safety of the port of Suakin and the coast of the Red Sea in that neighbourhood is now probably entirely secured; and I maintain that it could not have been so secured while the large armed force assembled under Osman Digna was still in the immediate vicinity of Suakin, not only threatening it by their presence, but openly and distinctly avowing their intention to attack it. That great object has probably been accomplished, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) wants to know whether the English force is going to be immediately re-embarked. But, Sir, before a decision is come to upon that point, we think it would be desirable that the Government should 1724 have some more certain information as to the state of the country, and as to whether there is still any hostile gathering of the tribes threatening the security of Suakin. I am also asked whether this force is now going to march to Berber, and whether that course has not been suggested by General Gordon. My noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his speech to-day, has already stated that the march to Berber is not within the limits of General Graham's instructions; but when I am asked whether, in any circumstances, General Graham will be allowed to advance on Berber, that is a question which I distinctly decline to answer. If it were intended that General Graham should attempt to advance on Berber, or, equally, if it were absolutely decided that he should not do so, I consider that an announcement at the present time in either of these cases would be extremely prejudicial to the success of the objects in view, and also to the success of our policy. Then we are asked as to our general policy in the Soudan, and what will be the outcome of General Gordon's mission. Sir, the information we have received from General Gordon from Khartoum has not been by any means full or detailed. General Gordon himself said, long before he reached Khartoum, that he thought the important operation in which he was engaged would be one of very considerable length, and that, above all things, it would be necessary to have patience. I do not think that such a time has elapsed as to enable us to gauge it in a sufficient manner as to warrant our despairing of the success of General Gordon's mission in the manner in which he proposed to carry it out. General Gordon has been in communication with some of the leading Chiefs in the neighbourhood of Khartoum itself. He has been endeavouring to open communications with the Chiefs of the other garrisons, and he has been taking such measures as he thinks best fitted to carry out the instructions which were given to him. The Government have been greatly surprised with the recommendation or suggestion which has come from General Gordon in reference to a proposed successor in the person of Zebehr Pasha. That was the subject of communication between Sir Evelyn Baring and General Gordon while the 1725 telegraph was open, and is still the subject of communication between the Government and Sir Evelyn Baring; but until a final and complete decision on all these subjects has been arrived at by the Government—a decision which I have promised shall be communicated to the House when, in our opinion, it can be communicated without detriment to the Public Service—I absolutely decline to make any partial statement. Under these circumstances, it is open to the Opposition and the House to refuse to grant the funds necessary for carrying on the Public Business; but let them distinctly understand that, in doing so, they will raise the issue of confidence in the Government. The Government have stated, as fully as they think their duty requires, or as it is possible for them to state, what their policy is on these subjects; but if you insist on knowing that which we think we are unable, consistently with our duty, to make known, you are taking a course which deprives us of the confidence of the House of Commons, and will make it impossible for us to conduct the affairs of the country.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 94: Majority 17.—(Div. List, No. 39.)
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I rise, Sir, to a point of Order. Just after you had announced the numbers, I heard the Secretary of State for the Home Department say, from his place—"This dirty trick has not succeeded." I ask you, Sir, whether that is language which ought to be used in this House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Language of the kind described by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), used publicly in this House, would undoubtedly be a great breach of the Privileges of the House. But I do not know under what circumstances the expression was used—whether it was used in private conversation, to what it was intended to refer, or whether it was intended to be heard. I, therefore, wish to draw a distinction between words used in the confidence of private conversation and words used in a debate in this House. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the 1726 Secretary of State for the Home Department will offer an explanation.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have no hesitation in saying that I should never have thought of using words of this character, as you, Sir, have expressed it, in public debate in this House. As to the expression of my own private opinion to my own friends upon transactions of this character, I consider myself free.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I think, Sir, that whatever may have been the character of the expression—whether used publicly or privately I will not enter into—but as it is before the House at this moment, the right hon. Gentleman has no right to bring forward charges of such a character. Under the circumstances, to allow such an expression as that, in the present day, to go by unchallenged would be the grossest possible insult to those sitting on this side of the House, and we should be guilty of the gravest possible dereliction of duty if we did not call attention to it. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) was good enough to say, a little time ago, something of the same sort, but in perfectly proper language. [Cries of "Order!"] I believe I am perfectly in Order. The noble Marquess, I say, in more correct language, implied a somewhat similar charge. I can only say—and the noble Marquess may not have been informed of what had passed—that when I spoke of its having been understood that today would be a day on which we should have a discussion on the question of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in reference to Egypt, I spoke of an engagement entered into, first of all in this House, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was perfectly well understood when we were discussing the course of Business on Thursday. If the debate had not gone on yesterday, of course matters would have been different; but it was clearly understood that these four Votes would not be taken late on Thursday evening, but might be conveniently taken on Saturday morning. That is the understanding to which I referred, and if anybody characterizes that as an arrangement otherwise than a perfectly straightforward one, I shall be glad to hear what he has to say. The observations of the Secretary of State for 1727 the Home Department were observations which gave pain to those who heard them on this side of the House; but it is clear that the accusation which they conveyed is an accusation altogether untenable.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) has alluded to an understanding to which I was a party on Thursday evening. That understanding I will describe literally. It was that we should endeavour to get through the Votes in Supply that night, except five; and that, failing to get these five on Friday, we should devote to their discussion Saturday morning. The suggestion was never made that Saturday should be given up to a Motion which, practically, amounts to a Vote of Want of Confidence.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I want to say a word or two of explanation in consequence of a phrase used by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote). He has, I am sure, spoken with the courtesy which always characterizes him, and he has said that the words I used have given pain to himself and hon. Gentlemen sitting on that side of the House. Now, however much we may enter into conflict in political contests, I wish to state that that was not my intention; and I regret that my language, which I certainly thought was private, reached the ears of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that it has been regarded by them as offensive. I am sorry that they should have so considered it, and I would venture to withdraw it.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
In order that there may be no mistake as to what was arranged between the Representative of the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Opposition, I may say that it was arranged on Thursday night that the discussion on General Gordon's Vote and the Soudan expenses in Khartoum and Suakin should be taken at 12 o'clock on Saturday. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked, at the hour of 10.30, if that arrangement held good; and the right hon. Gentleman certainly said that if the House did not get into Committee before 11 o'clock that arrangement would hold good. I want to point out to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that 1728 that arrangement must have been within the knowledge of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) when he stated that no such arrangement had been entered into; or else that the noble Marquess, although the responsible Leader of the House, is in the habit of allowing his Colleagues to conclude arrangements to which be is not a party. Further, I wish to say that it is not the Opposition who have prevented the Government from getting into Supply; but my own impression, and I believe that of every other Member of the House, is, that the discussion would be taken on going into Supply.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to remind the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock and the House that the Question before the House is that I do now leave the Chair; and the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien) is in possession of the House. Before the hon. Member for Mallow rose, the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) rose to a point of Order, and that point of Order has been decided. It is not in Order to continue the discussion. The Question is, that I do now leave the Chair.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I only wished, Sir, to make a statement in the nature of a personal explanation, which the House is usually kind enough to allow. [Cries of "Order!"] Mr. Speaker will tell me if I am out of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the noble Lord wishes to make a personal explanation, by the indulgence of the House he will be permitted to do so.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I merely wished to explain that there had been an arrangement that the discussion should take place to-day. The noble Marquess gave a flat contradiction to that. I think that, under these circumstances, I have a right to make a personal explanation as to what the arrangement was, and to point out——
§ MR. SPEAKER
The noble Lord is exceeding the limits of a personal explanation. I call upon Mr. O'Brien.