HC Deb 13 May 1884 vol 288 cc237-306

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th May], That this House regrets to find that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has not tended to promote the success of General Gordon's Mission, and that even such steps as may be necessary to secure his personal safety are still delayed."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said he was proceeding at the time of the adjournment of the debate to point out that the noble Marquess entirely avoided the cardinal point of the question—a course also taken by the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State. The Government had taken up this matter, like a great many other matters, too late. The question which the House and the country were interested in at the present moment was the responsibility which the Government assumed when General Gordon was sent, and the circumstances under which he was sent. The House had heard a great deal about the peculiarities of the country, the period of the year, the climatic difficulties, and so forth; but were these peculiarities unknown and unthought of by Her Majesty's Government when they originally sanctioned that mission? Could it be said that those who thought proper to assume the responsibilities of the government of Egypt were entitled to disclaim all responsibility for those who had been sent out to distant Provinces under the order of that Government? He declined to treat gravely the flimsy veil which separated Downing Street and Cairo, and he thought the time was past when anybody would get up in that House and contend that the Egyptian Government had any longer any serious existence. The noble Marquess repudiated responsibility for the garrisons in the Soudan; but he would like to know upon what grounds that repudiation was made, and if it extended to Sennar and the other garrisons? What was the difference between the different garrisons as a matter of policy? The Government thought it right that the Soudan should be evacuated at a very critical time, when Party feeling was in a very critical state in the country. General Gordon was selected. They had heard a good deal of violent protest against the assumptions made on that side of the House as to the character of his mission; but it was a remarkable thing that none of the speakers on behalf of the Government gave the House any very distinct idea of what General Gordon really was to do. What was the nature of his instructions? Was he to undertake the evacuation of the Soudan, or was his office confined to that of a mere messenger? Would he be doing the Government any injustice to suggest that the practice of "hedging" had been resorted to, and that General Gordon's instructions were framed in such a way that if they turned out well the glory would be given to the Government, but if they turned out ill the responsibility would fall upon General Gordon? ["Oh!"] Did hon. Members opposite think that suggestion unkind, because, if they did, he might tell them that the words were the words of the Prime Minister, substituting for the name of General Gordon that of Sir Bartle Frere. Much had been said of the protests of hon. Members on that side of the House when the announcement of Zebehr's appointment was made. It struck him as very peculiar, though no one had quoted the words of any hon. Member on that side in confirmation of that statement; but the Government ought not to consider it unnatural that some inquiry should be made into such an appointment considering the course the Government had pursued on a former occasion with respect to the Slave Circular. It might very well have been right to have permitted to General Gordon a discretion in the appointment, and if the Government had only dared to do what was right because it was right, it might have justified them in permitting Zebehr to leave Cairo and to be despatched to Khartoum. They had had charges of inconsistency made against the Conservative Party, because, when the Egyptian garrisons were in jeopardy, they urged the Government to take steps to relieve them, and subsequently supported the Vote of Censure moved by his right hon. Friend. But one thing seemed the natural sequel of the other. The Government were bound to relieve the garrisons, and the complaint against them at the time was that the Government delayed sending an expedition until it was too late. When the expedition did start, and did arrive at Suakin, what was the meaning of the 12 miles march into the desert and the bloody battles that were fought? It was all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk of their horror of bloodshed, but what had they to say to these battles? Were they fought for prestige? As long as it was supposed that these battles formed part of a scheme by which the Government were going to relieve these garrisons these battles appeared intelligible. But what was their justification now? Neither the noble Marquess the Secretary for War nor the Prime Minister had explained the object of these battles. Was it that at the time the Government were of opinion that they could assist General Gordon? If that was not the object, they must have been fought merely for the sake of prestige. The noble Marquess asked what the Government could have done? But that question depended on dates. The Government must be presumed to have been familiar with the advance of the hot season, and to have known at what time it would be impossible to move troops across the desert. Her Majesty's Government could not make up their minds as to what they should do. They had waited until the opportunity was lost of sending a force to Berber, and then they came to the House of Commons and told the country about the great desert and the terrible heat at the time when they shattered the Egyptian Government. But, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had said, was it really the case the Government did not mean to leave a stable Government behind them when they left the country, and that General Gordon's mis- sion was simply to gather up the fragments of the Egyptian Administration which they themselves had reduced to powerlessness? Was General Gordon's mission simply to leave a message behind him that Egypt was to wash its hands of the Soudan? Would any Minister answer that question? No Minister had answered it yet. They were referred to those vague and hazy instructions in which General Gordon was to be allowed unlimited discretion, and then the moment he attempted to use his unlimited discretion he was informed that the Government did not approve of what he was about to do. The difficulty which the Government placed in the way of the House discussing those despatches was that they were not familiar with the difficulties of the task; but did the Government suppose that General Gordon was equally ignorant with the House? What did he say about the matter? General Gordon considered himself as having been ill-used, abandoned, and deserted. Why was that? Did he know the difficulties of the task? It was a strange thing to hear observations coming from the Treasury Bench calculated to cast doubt upon the complete familiarity of General Gordon with the whole subject with which he had been intrusted. But the reasoning of General Gordon throughout all those despatches in the Blue Books was that the Government had not kept faith with him; that they had not given him that assistance he had a right to expect in a situation of unexampled difficulty. The Government had declined to give him that assistance which they could have given him if they had been pleased to do so. It seemed to him, therefore, that the Government were in this difficulty. They now spoke as if General Gordon's mission, whatever it was, had failed. It was not so very long ago that the Prime Minister, in passionate language, had asked the Opposition to say why that mission had failed, and to point out on what evidence that opinion was based. At the present time the Government did not seem to be of the opinion that General Gordon's mission had succeeded. What had succeeded? Was it the news of that evening, that morning, or of yesterday which gave the assurance that General Gordon had succeeded in the object which the Prime Minister had sent him to attain? and, if not, what had Her Majesty's Ministers done to aid and assist him? The remarkable condition, of things was this. Her Majesty's Ministers, according to the noble Marquess, had been thinking, were thinking, and would continue to think down to next October, of what they were going to do; but had they communicated to the House one word which would lead it to understand what they were going to do? All they heard was that there were difficulties in the way as to the climate, &c.; but what difficulty was there in Her Majesty's Government telling them what they would do for the purpose of rescuing General Gordon? Possibly, however, they were considering how they could best affect the dearly-loved Radical vote. Everyone expected that the Prime Minister, in the course of his speech the previous evening, would say what the Government were going to do; but what information had the House received? The noble Marquess, he thought, for the first time that afternoon, gave the House some information to the effect that they were thinking of it and were going to think of it; but that it was not true they were going to put off their meditations until October next. The country, however, was desirous to know what the responsibility, which the Government now admitted, was to lead to. Until a very late period they had not admitted their responsibility for General Gordon. Now they had done so. Had they done so in April the probability was that the House would not now be discussing this question. General Gordon had told the Government that a small force of men would get rid of this rebellion; but it appeared that his language about smashing the Mahdi was treated with something like a sneer. The noble Marquess had said that this was not the object of General Gordon's mission; but General Gordon did not say it was. He said that unless the Government assumed their responsibility and aided him in establishing a stable Government and allowed the people to live in peace and quietness they would have the Mahdi no longer at Khartoum, but at the gates of Cairo, and then they would have to smash up the Mahdi. He wished to ask hon. Members below the Gangway, and those who took the views of the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), what it was that justified their vote on behalf of Her Majesty's Government? He should like to know from Her Majesty's Government, or any of the advocates of peace at any price, what explanations had they now received which they had not got on the occasion when it was made to appear that the bloodshed at Suakin and Tamanieb was bloodshed justified by the exigencies of the occasion? He wished to know why it was that they claimed a sort of peculiar patronage of humanity? If there was nothing to justify them in that course he supposed those hon. Members would agree with the words of the Motion, and also in thinking that this was another instance of declaring too late their responsibility for General Gordon, while at the same moment they proclaimed their inability to help him.


When any Member finds that a remark he has made is entirely misconstrued—especially as regards personal relations—it is the custom of the House that he should be allowed to explain it. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for War seemed to suppose from the remarks he made this afternoon that I had made a charge against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of personal insincerity. I can hardly imagine how my noble Friend could have thought so. All I can say is that nothing could have been further from my idea than to make any such charge. I will not enter further into the matter, but will simply say that although many Members might have been in close contact with my right hon. Friend and still differ from him in opinion, yet I do not believe that any one of them could by any possibility suppose he was not sincere in any remarks that he makes.


said, he was disposed to accept two propositions which might be derived from the Motion. One was, that it was the duty of the Government to promote, by every means in their power, the success of General Gordon's mission; the other was, that it was their duty, also, to use every effort to secure the safety of that distinguished General. But the policy of withdrawing from the Soudan was distinctly approved in the debate on the last Vote of Censure. General Gordon had approved of that policy, and was sent to aid in carrying it out. His mission, however, had been worse than abortive. He (Mr. Arthur Arnold) wished that General Gordon had never been sent. As Sir Evelyn Baring had said, General Gordon had undoubtedly a mistaken idea of his own personal influence in the Soudan. At Cairo he was, at his own request, appointed by firman as Governor General of the Soudan. Directly he left Cairo he began to display the inutility of his mission. He wrote from Abu Hamad on February 8, begging that evacuation, but not abandonment, should be the programme to be followed, and that the firman, he had obtained should be changed into one recognizing moral control and suzerainty. For himself he regarded the abolition of slavery in the Soudon as for the present impossible; no proclamation one way or the other could affect the question of slavery there; but he had no doubt whatever that General Gordon's proclamations on that subject had in no way contributed to the success of his mission, while he could well believe that there were Arab chiefs shrewd enough to see in them signs of weakness, and to despise the English for denying that doctrine of freedom with which our name has been known to be identified by all nomad tribes having any communication with the shores of Africa. Those proclamations had not aided, and were not necessary, to the policy of evacuation, to which it was to be regretted that General Gordon had not steadfastly adhered. He wished with all his heart that General Gordon had remained at Jerusalem, and had never had the power to publish his proclamations. He had not been at Khartoum a week before he wanted Zebehr as his successor with £100,000, and with an Anglo-Egyptian firman, changing evacuation into "moral control and suzerainty." Some would wonder why the Government were so squeamish about accepting Zebehr Pasha when they accepted the slavery proclamations. But while they accepted the reasons for the issue of the proclamations, they had never uttered a word in approval of them. He had not so much faith in General Gordon as to feel certain that he was a safe guide as to what would have been the action of Zebehr had he been sent to Khartoum. General Gordon's knowledge of the people told him as early as March 2 that he was a prisoner, not Governor, and he then telegraphed—"I have no option about staying at Khartoum; it has passed out of my hands." The Government had, perhaps, realized the dangers of "the one-man policy" in the case of Gordon, and were not disposed to try it again in that of Zebehr. If that was so, one could not blame them. He could not understand how anyone with the acute mind of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) could suppose that the success of General Gordon's mission was at any time within the reach of probability. The mission was, in his opinion, one of a series of errors which would probably continue if, in the words of Sir Evelyn Baring, "the Government attempted to settle the Egyptian Question by the light of English popular feeling." There wore men in England who did not rank as heroes, but who would stand to be shot against any wall in Egypt before they would sign the slavery proclamations published by General Gordon. At a later stage General Gordon suggested a proclamation of emancipation and the raising of a servile war in a country where, as he said, each man on an average had 10 slaves. That would be a cruel policy, and, if followed by evacuation, would bring upon the slaves great misery and suffering. The fact was that Gordon, brave mid honest man as he was, was best fitted for independent dealing with primitive forms of government. He was an English Saladin, not a Havelock. He had the virtues and defects of a great chief in such an order of society. Directly he came in contact with the complicated mechanism of highly-civilized Administrations such a man had never succeeded. Those who were most earnest for his deliverance knew that while we were ready to make any effort to relieve him, we must acknowledge that, except in circumstances of absolute independence, the employment of such a man was a matter of doubtful policy. He was not inclined to bear hardly upon the Government for inattention to Gordon's telegrams. They were so contradictory, so conflicting, that one felt inclined to exclaim, with Sir Evelyn Baring, oil March 2 — "I am most anxious to help and support you in every way, but I find it very difficult to understand exactly what it is you want." When the Government of this country had despatched an Envoy, he would guard his safety with the whole force of the country, and therefore he accepted without reserve the responsibility of the Government for the safety of Gordon. He would repudiate and endeavour to dismiss the Government if they had not admitted that policy. But the acknowledgement was never withheld. On March 16 it was stated by Lord Granville that they would sanction an advance of British troops to Berber from Suakin if they were satisfied as to the military conditions of such an expedition, and "that it is necessary in order to ensure the safety of General Gordon, and that it will be confined to that object." The House must take into consideration the nature of the telegrams at that time in possession of the Government. On this point General Gordon says, "Khartoum is all right;" then, "Khartoum is as safe as Kensington Park;" in a third, "We are all right at Khartoum, and have plenty of provisions;" in a fourth, "We are all right up here;" in a fifth, "I think we are now safe, and that as the Nile rises we shall account for the rebels;" and in a sixth, "Be assured for the present and for the next two months; we are as safe here as in Cairo." Those were the messages that were received while the question of an advance of British troops from Suakin to Berber was under consideration. The last of those six telegrams was dated March 31. On March 24 Sir Evelyn Baring advised that an effort should be made to help General Gordon from Suakin, "if it is at all a possible military operation." Generals Stephenson and Wood thought it might be possible, but said that General Graham should be further consulted. He supposed that General Graham was consulted, but they had no report of his opinion; and on the 26th of March positive orders were despatched to General Graham that "the Government have no intention of sending British troops to Berber." He had been told that if the troops had gone they must have marched five days without water to a well, and five days from that well without water; having in each case to carry water for five days. If it was an impossible operation, the answer was complete; if not, then he thought the resolution of the Government was one of doubtful expediency. At all events, he would like to see the report of Ge- neral Graham upon the possibility of an advance upon Berber with a view to the relief of Khartoum. He would support the Government in any measures necessary for the relief of General Gordon and for the maintenance of order and good government in Lower Egypt, for which this country had unquestionably become responsible. He agreed with those who asserted that it would not do to play fast and loose with that responsibility. They must either repudiate it or assume it resolutely, with all its consequences. A middle policy would be the most costly, and by its consequences the least popular. It was well known that since the telegrams from General Gordon indicated possible danger the Cabinet had been in constant communication with Lord Wolseley and other military authorities. He took that, together with the emphatic statements of the Prime Minister, to imply that Her Majesty's Government were quite aware of and fully accepted their responsibility as to the safety of General Gordon. He believed that by all dispassionate men it was acknowledged that these difficult problems of Egyptian policy could best be dealt with by the present Administration. He never remembered, in many years' study of political affairs, problems of such complexity. He thought that any Government so engaged was entitled both to forbearance and to support, especially from those who were convinced, as he was himself, that the violence of some and the malignity of others of their opponents was the result of baffled efforts to defeat the policy of popular enfranchisement at home.


said, he thought that the hon. Member who had just sat down had, with the exception of the Prime Minister himself, passed the severest censure that could have been passed upon the policy of the Prime Minister, for the hon. Member had shown that every step that General Gordon had taken had been praised and defended by the Government up to the time of the present debate. Even if General Gordon had made mistakes, those mistakes had been accepted and condoned by Her Majesty's Government. The issue of the present debate was very simple; it was whether Her Majesty's Government had done what was in their power for the safety of General Gordon and the successful evacuation of the Soudan? Their contention on that side of the House was that the Government had not done anything to support General Gordon, but that, on the contrary, they had deliberately thwarted him at every step, and now at his hour of utmost need they had deserted and betrayed him. General Gordon had advocated the sending of Zebehr to Khartoum, and this recommendation had been endorsed by Nubar Pasha, by Sir Evelyn Baring, and by the Khedive himself. If Her Majesty's Government had assented to the request he did not know that any Vote of Censure would have been proposed by the House. It seemed to him that it was evident that General Gordon thought—and thought rightly—that Zebehr was better than anarchy, and that in certain contingencies and in certain circumstances he would have been better for the presence of Zebehr. General Gordon was refused the support, moral and military, for which he asked. It was evident that he had asked over and over again for military assistance; he had asked for Indian Moslem troops to be sent to Wady Halfa; he had asked that the Berber-Suakin road should be opened; and he had asked that British troops should be sent to Berber. The Secretary for War had said it was not safe to send out British troops under present conditions; but the noble Marquess confused the present state of affairs with the situation in March last. There was little doubt that Gordon knew more about the dangers of the Soudan than anyone else; and there was his statement that it was as safe to send troops to Wady Haifa or Berber as for tourists to go up the Nile. This was in the middle of March last, when General Graham's victories had scattered the forces of Osman Digna and spread the fame of British arms through, the Eastern Soudan. At that time it would have been possible for 500 Cavalry, or 1,000 Infantry and 500 Cavalry, to have gone from Suakin to Berber, and their advance would have prevented the spread of revolt. Fanatical movements always spread by neglect; and a remarkable illustration of this was furnished by the fact that, while Tewfik Bey was able with 70 black troops to defeat Osman Digna with 3,000 men, five months later it took 5,000 British soldiers to cope with the forces of Osman Digna. Every recommendation of General Gor- don had been scorned and neglected, and no steps had boon taken to support him. There never was a purer fiction for a greater effort of the imagination than to describe as a "war of freedom" the movement of the fanatical, savage, cruel, bloodthirsty, and barbarous chieftain. The warlike hordes from whom the Mahdi got his principal support had been slave dealers in the Soudan for generations, and General Gordon told us distinctly that this war of slave dealers, communists, and pillagers against established order and government was a war of one-third against two-thirds, many of whom were terrorized into submission. What was meant by saying that the Mahdi must be smashed up was that if we did not cope with him in the Soudan we should have to cope with him in Lower Egypt; and if we refused to deal with him other Powers would insist on doing so. Indeed, remonstrances had already been addressed to us by France and other Powers. The Government had failed to support General Gordon; they had misrepresented the movement in the Soudan for their own purposes, and after deluging the Soudan with blood they were allowing a wave of barbarism to overspread the Soudan and to threaten Egypt.


Persistent efforts have been made all the Session to frown down references to Egyptian affairs. Timid and complacent Members have been whipped into the traces of the Party team and put to silence, while coteries of local wirepullers have been incited to brand as renegades or obstructionists all who troubled Ministerial equanimity. But the attempt has not succeeded. A throb of anxiety beats from one end of the country to the other. Those who have given voice to it are the truest interpreters of that public opinion which has been so often and so menacingly apostrophized. The ebbing tide of national confidence bids fair to leave the cavillers stranded on the shore of the popular current. No one denies, no one doubts, that the Government are beset with difficulties. Whichever way they turn there are troubles. Whether they go forward, or go back, or stand still, they are equally assailed by a raking fire of censure and criticism. But they have their own paralytic policy to blame for this. There is no more desire, on the other side, to gain Party advantage out of Ministerial embarrassment than there is on this to evoke Party sympathy out of Administrative blunders. In such circumstances both sides act very much alike. No Opposition, either Liberal or Conservative, means mischief to the country. But neither will mourn over just as much mischance as will serve to discredit their antagonists. The Prime Minister says that the Resolution before the House needs little discussion. I agre with him. A bald recital of the facts ought to be, and would be, sufficient to carry it, were it not for Party vassalage. Let the touching telegrams from General Gordon be placarded broadcast; let the cross of manliness and devotion he has raised in far Khartoum be upheld at home, and it will arouse a spirit which will shatter the equivocating and huckstering state-craft whose highest effort is to— Promise, pause, prepare, postpone, And end by letting things alone. You may dispute the wisdom of Colonizing the Soudan. But it was Colonized at the instance of able men who knew more of Egypt and its requirements than we do. We found there thousands of settlers trading on the faith of Egyptian assurances. The Khedive is bound by ties of kinship, interest, and humanity to protect them, just as we are to protect men of our race planted in the Possessions we have dotted over the surface of the globe. We destroyed his means of doing so, and commanded him to abandon the country. By that act we assumed his obligations. We acknowledged our responsibility when we requisitioned General Gordon, and despatched General Graham to Suakin. Their orders were to rescue the emigrants and soldiers, and retire. They have not been rescued, and are in more peril than ever. The task the Government took on itself has not been executed. It cannot be parried; it must not be repudiated. It is not the institutions, but the spirit of a people that protects its liberty and sustains its freedom. A moral inertness may have grown parasitically over popular energies; but although it has cramped, it has not killed their ancient vigour. If Ministers are unable to unloosen the Gordian knot that their own ineptitude has tied, they must follow Alexander's example and cut it. They desire to dissociate Gene- ral Gordon from the garrisons. This is impossible. They sneakingly suggest that he should sacrifice his comrades in captivity and decamp. But they mistake their man. It was the helpless to help, and the hopeless to save, that sent him on his forlorn and chivalrous mission, and he spurns such cowardly counsels. When the intrepid Blake was called on to capitulate at Taunton, he refused with the laconic reply that he had not yet eaten his boots. General Gordon has all the generous audacity of the Commonwealth commander, and will be equally daring and tenacious. He may not have eaten his boots; but his ability or his inability to hold out does not acquit us of our accountability for him, and for those with him. The Government say they cannot now depatch troops up the Nile. Perhaps not. That, however, is not the opinion of all experts. This is the hottest, but it is not the most unhealthy season of the year. But they could have done so. They did not, or they would not when they might, and now they must bear the odium attaching to their supineness, or negligence, or both. Some hon. Members do not trouble themselves about the difficulties of the expedition, only about its price. In the lugubrious and sombre pictures they have drawn every line is a sovereign. The chink of coin, and the dust of trade, are ever present in their arguments and appeals. I, too, am an economist; but I do not approve of the niggard and ungenerous parsimony which looks only at the cost of the Public Service—not at the mode in which it is performed—and which would put the work of the State on the same footing as the supply of a workhouse, and have it done by tender, which is meanly mercantile, instead of being broadly national. Life is not existence, but effort. Men cannot vegetate like cabbages. When a nation halts to count the expense of doing its duty, it parts with the essence of its virility. Other hon. Members object to an expedition because scores of lives may be lost to save one. Very likely. But England's amenability for the safety of her citizens, and the redress of their wrongs, is no perfunctory engagement prescribed by charter. It is comprehensive and far-reaching, and cannot be measured with the arithmetical precision of a haberdasher's yard-wand. There may be occasions when all the resources of the Empire must be staked on exacting reparation for a solitary act of injustice. Blood, it is too true, has often been spilt like water for a statesman's place or a despot's lust. Every sympathetic man longs for the time when intelligence will march over prostrate prejudices and animosities. But that has not yet arrived. And the men who entered with so light a heart on the Campaign of 1882 can not, with any show of consistency, ply Parliament with pusillanimous appeals for peace at the price of national reputation and good faith. That there will be men slain if an English Army goes to Khartoum is incontestable. But the number will be greater from the decrepitude and nervelessness of Ministers. If they had acted with decision at first, there would have been no war. If they had moved to the relief of Sinkat and Tokar sooner, we would have saved the slaughter, the purposeless slaughter, at El Teb and Tamanieb. If they had sent 500 sabres to Berber after General Graham's victory, the road to Khartoum would now be open, and the refugees on their way to Cairo. [An hon. MEMBER: That is your view.] Of course it is my view. I am not accustomed to speak other people's views. It is my practice to think for myself, and when I have arrived at a conclusion to express it. This I understand to be the function of a Representative. It is this, at least, that I am here to discharge, and I mean to discharge it. But the Government refuses, and our Envoy will only now be reached over hecatombs of valiant and fearless Arabs. In public, as in personal business, the first requisite of success is to have a clearly defined object. To know what you want, and to strive steadily to secure it, is half the battle. But the Cabinet has been shifty and infirm of purpose. The ends sought have been vaguely and ambiguously defined. There is scarcely a definition given by one Minister that has not been contradicted by another—sometimes by the same man himself. Like the chameleon, they take their hue from the air they breathe. Incidents have controlled their policy when their policy should have controlled the incidents. This indecision and indefiniteness are easily explained. There are differences amongst themselves—they have to be compromised. There are compacts with other Powers—they have to be fulfilled. There are pledges to their supporters—they have to be kept. Their assurances to Europe, their promises to their friends, and their internal divergencies, have produced halting, spasmodic, and capricious action. If they move in one direction, they impinge on the susceptibilities of other States; in another, on the peace predilections of their followers or their own gratuitous and haphazard engagements. I do not cite all this to their disparagement. It is no discredit to a dozen intelligent men to say that they disagree over so complicated a question. As for their inability to adjust their performances to their professions, that is inevitable. They stirred every passion, and pressed every prejudice into service, against their opponents. The curses of 1878, 1879, and 1880 have come home to roost. But great national purposes should be superior to the prepossessions of politicians, and beyond the convenience of factions. There are times, and this is one of them, when minor considerations should yield to public security and honour—when the nation should be preferred before Party. The position of the Government can only be rightly understood, and the guarantees they have given can only be gauged, by recalling the objects of the intervention. What are these? Ignoring contradictions and verbal fencing, stripping the subject of superfluities and sophistry, and going straight down to the primal granite as proved by fact—Why did they go to Egypt, and for what end do they remain? Why? To protect British interests. And for no other reason. They may tickle their self-conceit by protestations of their disinterestedness, but no one believes them. English statesmen are often illogical, but never idealistic. You gather people's convictions not by their conversation, but by their acts. Our acts acclaim that we do not fight for the Soudanese, or the fellaheen, or for sentiment, but for self-interest—enlightened self-interest. I am not debating or defending, only stating the doctrine. But, brushing aside the casuistry by which this vacillation has been shrouded, our deeds proved that it was not abstract sympathy for the Egyptians, or Platonic love of liberty, or even land-hunger, but a belief that interests vital to the Empire were imperilled by the nationalist rising that sent our ships to Alexandria, our troops to Tel-el-Kebir, our agents to Cairo, and our Emissary to Khartoum. Egypt may remain under the Vice-royalty of Tewfik, or any other equally incompetent, illustrious, or ignoble Pasha, provided our resources are assured. We do not want a stone of his Pyramids, or a rood of his territory. But if our interests are not safeguarded by him we will protect them themselves. This is the philosophy of our policy — blurred, obscured, and inarticulate, perhaps, at times, but indubitable. Is there a partizan present so purblind as to argue that the disciplined inaction, the timorous irresolution— which has paralyzed energy and destroyed hope, which has compromised property and imperilled lives we had stipulated to defend—will not impair our influence and damage our interest? Some hon. Members contend that we should leave Egypt right out—pluck up the institutions we have tried to plant, and abandon General Gordon to the paws of the panther or the spears of the Hadendowa. We can do so. But, apart from the craven baseness of such a course, what will be the consequences? What? Rampant anarchy, usury, outrage, plunder. Blazing torch and gory scimitar will bathe in blood the verdure of the classic valley—a reign of desolation as desperate and as devastating as ever afflicted a long-suffering people. Are hon. Members prepared to precipitate such chaos and such carnage—to add to the fury of fanaticism the ravages of servile war? You may disapprove, I certainly do so, of the strategy—diplomatic, political, and military—that has led up to the existing complications. But you cannot evade the consequences they entail. Although statesmen's views on speculative points may be wide as the poles asunder, we must accept the fatality of deeds done. If the Government leave Egypt amidst existing turmoils, not even the commanding personality of the Prime Minister will prevent its overthrow. General Gordon is accused of inconsistency. The charge cannot in equity be sustained. He has never faltered in his purpose, though he has varied his suggestions to the exigencies. All his plans have been rejected. He has been systematically contravened, thwarted, restrained, and trammelled. Not a single request he has made has been complied with, not a solitary proposal has been acted upon. And the Cabinet, after having committed every error the circumstances allowed, is shabby enough to attribute their own failure to their baulked but sedulous and heroic Agent. But whatever may have been General Gordon's changeableness, the Government certainly have revised their original decision respecting the Soudan more than once, and they may with advantage do so again. At first they disowned all liability for it, and ordered its entire and immediate evacuation. That was found impracticable, as well as injudicious and cruel. Then the Red Sea ports were to be retained, as well as the country up to Wady Halfa. But if the Delta is to be defended, General Gordon's last advice must be adopted. It will be disastrous to Egypt if the centre of her trade with Central Africa, and the control of the river on which she depends for existence, were to pass into hostile hands. It will be fatal if she has to submit to the formation of a powerful and aggressive State on her defenceless frontiers. The Mahdi may be master in Kordofan, but there must be a barrier to his advance on Upper Egypt, or Cairo might share the fate of Berber. That barrier cannot be held by Egyptians, demoralized by defeat and disaffected by superstition. Here, again, the Government are confronted with their initial difficulties—hampered with the dual authority, and haunted by a morbid dread of incurring responsibility. There are two ways open to them. They can rule Egypt by Eastern methods—that is, by the bastinado and bribery. But that would be repugnant to our traditions, trainings, and convictions. However faulty any plan they may sanction may be, it must conform in some measure to Western ways and ideas — it must be just, law-abiding, and progressive. Ministers think they can attain this conformation by a bifarious bureaucracy, by a hierarchy of administrators controlled by foreign advisers. They cannot. They may as well try to mix oil and water. A treble barrier of prejudice, aversion, and avarice is arrayed against them. They have lavished administrative ability and experience on the enterprize; but neither genius nor devotion can work miracles. And only a miracle can evolve success out of the forced junction of Occidental and Oriental agencies. As the Government dare not leave Egypt, as they cannot legalize torture and corruption, and as their scheme of partial intervention and bipartite functionaries has broken down, they have no option but to avow the occult authority they have all along wielded. It is impossible to enjoy the advantages of a Protectorate, and shirk its responsibilities. If we are to array intelligent and independent Egyptians on the side of the new institutions, we must give some guarantee for their permanence. If our interests are identified with the well-being of Egypt—if order at Cairo means safety at Suez—Ministers can not hesitate to take the measures that will insure that well-being, and prevent a disorganized, distracted, and trouble-tossed country drifting from confusion to anarchy, and from anarchy to despair.


Sir, my hon. Friend and Colleague says he is the representative of no one but himself. I am bound to say, from my own knowledge of the part from which he hails, that I think my hon. Friend's statement is true. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite doubt that statement. My hon. Friend and Colleague used to make many prophecies in 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879; and I will refer hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they wish to know how far they are wise in relying upon the testimony of my hon. Friend, to his attitude in 1879 when he thought the opinion of this country was strongly in favour of Lord Beaconsfield's policy. My hon. Friend then spoke just as picturesquely and as eloquently as he has spoken tonight against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Yet we know that within six or eight months of that torrent of eloquence, which nobody admires more from a literary point of view than I do, his prophecies were all scattered to the winds, and the present Prime Minister came in with an overwhelming majority even from those parts of the country where the influence of my hon. Friend might have been expected to carry most weight. My hon. Friend has said that we ought sometimes to prefer the interests of the nation to those of Party. I agree with him. In my short Parliamentary experience I have shown that I am not incapable of taking that course. But it is a very extraordinary thing that the interests of the nation should require a man to vote ten or a dozen times during the Session against his Party. It is an extraordinary thing that, whether it is the restriction of the importation of cattle—[Cries of "Question!"]—


The hon. Gentleman must be allowed to proceed with his argument.


It was barely an argument, Sir; it was an allusion and an illustration. My hon. Friend talks as if he were a mixture of Pharisee and Diogenes. He implies that all hon. Members who have voted these nine or ten times with the Government have preferred the interests of the Party to those of the nation, and must have voted from some blind or corrupt motive. I, for one, venture to repudiate that suggestion. As to what my hon. Friend has said upon the immediate issue submitted to the House by the Motion of the right hon. Baronet, I find it difficult to answer. It is difficult to answer because I do not find facts and arguments, but only magnificent rhetoric. We have got beyond that. In my opinion, we are on the eve of the most vast and far-reaching catastrophe which has ever overtaken the Realm. I believe that from the Prime Minister down to the very humblest Member of the House who has taken the trouble to ascertain the facts of the situation, and to view them tolerably largely, all will agree that we are on the eve of most calamitous events. By calamitous events I do not mean the fall of Khartoum—I do not mean any disaster that may befall General Gordon and Colonel Stewart—I mean the engulphment of the interests of this Empire in what the Prime Minister, quoting ancient history, described as "that terrible land—the Soudan." The hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) said he hoped to hear from some of us who sit below the Gangway on this side how we reconcile the vote we are about to give to-night with the vote which we recorded on a memorable Saturday afternoon some weeks ago. Some of us gathered up courage to vote against the Government on that afternoon. [A laugh.] Well, most hon. Gentlemen will agree that it is no light matter to vote against one's friends. I, at all events, am not like my philosophic and eloquent Colleague—for to me it is a matter of searching of heart, and I say the very fact that some of us did find occasion to testify our disapproval of the policy of the Government—a policy forced on them partly by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), and partly by hon. Gentlemen opposite—that, I say, is a guarantee that if we vote for the Government to-night we know what we are doing, and that we are voting from honest conviction. It would be presumptuous for me to go at length into the question raised in the debate; but I should like to say a word about a charge against the Government from various parts of the House that they did not send Zebehr to the Soudan. Now, if there is one person in the whole world who is more responsible than another for not sending Zebehr, it is the right hon. Member for Bradford. The right hon. Gentleman will possibly say—and I gathered from his speech it was his opinion—that the Government had made up their minds before he made his memorable and most powerful speech against the appointment of Zebehr. Let us look at the order of the facts. On the 18th of February came the despatch from General Gordon requesting that Zebehr Pasha should be sent. On the 22nd of February Earl Granville set forth his reasons for not considering the proposal. On February 28th Sir Evelyn Baring returned to the charge by saying that he thought it would be the most advantageous course to send Zebehr. On February 29th Earl Granville said the matter was under the consideration of the Government. On March 4th Sir Evelyn Baring again informed Earl Granville that General Gordon was pressing for Zebehr without delay. On March 5 Earl Granville still holds out, but leaves the question open. It was on March 11, and not before March 11, that Lord Granville finally declared against compliance with General Gordon's wishes. Now, what happened on March 10th? On that morning the Anti-Slavery Society blew a tremendous blast on their trumpet. On the evening of March 10th the right hon. Member for Bradford blew a blast on his trumpet too, and it was the day after that Earl Granville made up his mind. I should not be surprised if some of the occupants of the Government Bench went that day to the Cabinet and said that after the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford it was impossible for them to send Zebehr. Whether that was so or not, the Government quailed before these ferocious philanthropists. Whether they were right or wrong I do not say. I do not judge them harshly. The Jingo in a drab coat—the fiery Crusader in a broad-brimmed hat—I admit is no joke. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, rallying an audience by playing philanthropic melodies on the Jingo drum, is, I admit, a very formidable as well as a very truculent figure. The counsels of Gordon, of Stewart, of Baring, of Nubar—all unanimous for the despatch of Zebehr—are overborne by the discordant clamour of a heterogeneous crowd of bondholders, humanitarians, sentimentalists, political opponents, and distinguished members of the Society of Candid Friends. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, in the course of that powerful speech he made, when he was an opponent of General Gordon, dropped a very remarkable sentence. "I have more confidence," he said, "in what General Gordon proposes to do himself than in what he recommends other people to do." What did the whole of his powerful indictment of the Government turn upon, except that he was blaming the Government for accepting and acting upon his own maxim? Well might Sir Evelyn Baring say that, although Her Majesty's Government must judge of the importance to be attached to public opinion in England, any attempt to settle Egyptian questions by the light of English feeling—I am not sure that he might not have said by the darkness of English feeling—was sure to be productive of evil. These words are of great importance. The danger of settling these complex and difficult questions by the light of English opinion would be very great and enormous if we were quite sure that we heard in this House and in the organs of opinion the true sentiments of the country. But how much more dangerous is it, if Her Majesty's Government and if Parliament are not to hear the true voice of the country, but are to mistake for it, and are to have pressed upon them, the counterfeit and spurious version of it which it may please half-a-dozen irresponsible writers sitting here in London to pass off as public opinion? How dangerous will it be if the policy of the country is to be settled in deference to a few adroit journalistic ventriloquists, who have the art of passing off their own single voices for the passionate murmurs of indignant crowds from every part of the country? That is always the danger I have feared from our involving ourselves in Egypt, because we shall never be able to take the wise course of listening to statesmen on the spot—I do not say soldiers on the spot—but have listened instead to what General Gordon himself once called the ignorance of English opinion. I am not going to follow the example of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) by discussing whether it was or was not wise to send General Gordon. I have my own opinion upon that. We all know the Polish story of Mazeppa, who was bound by thongs to the back of a wild courser of the desert, with spur and bridle undefiled. I think it is questionable whether statesmen did well when they bound the fate of a Government and the destinies of a nation to a man who is a hero, no doubt, but who is no safe guide of the policy of this country. A great deal has been said about the Government not accepting all General Gordon's suggestions as to what they ought to do. I do not yield to anyone on either side of the House in my admiration of what is picturesque and romantic, and devoted and noble, and original in General Gordon's character. In these days, of all others, we ought to prize a man to whom money is dross, and fame as idle breath, who cares little for his life, and to whom death has no terrors. I have no want of respect and admiration for General Gordon's character. But you cannot transact the business of a great Empire upon the principles of a romance of mediaeval chivalry; and it would have been impossible for any Government to follow the random zig-zags of General Gordon's purpose. We know he changed his mind, not only about Zebehr, but about the Khedive and Nubar. He asked for five English officers, and before Sir Evelyn Baring had time to send them he changed his mind and said he did not want them. One day he deplores the violence of Turkish rule, and another he is for having the Turks to help him. There is no end to all his changes of purpose and of view. Situated as he is in the midst of terrible emergencies, I should be the last man to criticize what he says with pedantic narrowness. At the same time, if you are going to make allowances for him, surely it is fair that you make allowances for Her Majesty's Government too. You have no right to find fault with them for being unable, like panting time, to toil after General Gordon. I must apologize to the House for detaining it so long. We know what it all means. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be offended with me if I say so; but we know that this debate is part of a whole series of operations which have been carried on with desperate energy, the whole end and object of which is to plunge Her Majesty's Government deeper and more irrevocably into the morass of protectorate and annexation. Any weapon that will drive them further in this deplorable direction is good enough for the purpose. One day it is slavery; another day it is the annexation of Merv by Russia that is made the reason for our annexing Egypt. Constantly we see the cloven-hoof appear. Though we are told—"It is quite true you cannot send a military expedition to the Soudan," yet it is added—"You may still give General Gordon the moral support he requires by announcing that you are going to do "—what?—" to guarantee the debt." Yes, Sir; and that is what is at the root of it. I do not for a moment deny that there is noble and chivalrous feeling at the bottom of many minds about General Gordon. But I say that what is going on is an attempt to exploit the sentiment about General Gordon in favour of a policy which I for one feel, whatever may be the fate of Parties or of Ministries, would be fraught with the utmost disaster to the whole Empire and to all classes of those who send us to this House.


Mr. Speaker, I am not sorry to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), and to say at once that there are some points upon which I entirely agree with him. I am glad to follow him for another reason, which is that though I have myself sometimes ventured to pass what he would, perhaps, call a candid criticism upon the acts of the Government, I think I can claim my hon. Friend among the band of candid friends who have criticized the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I trust that the House will permit me to say a few words upon the subject, and I think I may venture to promise two things. I will not continue the strain of personality, which upon this very important question has characterized the last two or three speeches. I do not share in the view of my hon. Friend with regard to the attitude which has been taken by the Press in regard to this matter, for I know how much he has himself contributed to the moulding of public opinion by means of the Press; and I am sure there are many hon. Members of this House who are deeply indebted to him for the constant valuable instruction he has given, and for the tone which he has adopted. There is another point, however, on which I agree with him in his speech, and that is where he said that we have not a narrow question before us this evening, but, as he properly said, one in which vast issues are involved. It is not merely the question, grave as that is, of the safety of General Gordon, but the attitude which the House, the country, and the constituencies intend to take in reference to some of the most important matters which could be submitted to their consideration. It is now too late to enter upon minute criticisms, which might be based upon extracts from. Blue Books. What now mainly concerns us is to realize what depends upon the action we shall take, not merely in view of what is contained in the Blue Books, which we have had the pain to peruse, but of what has been stated by Her Majesty's Government in the course of this debate in explanation and defence of the course which they have pursued. We have to consider before giving our votes how those explanations affect in the first place the past, in the second the safety of General Gordon, and in the third how they affect some greater questions which appear to be looming in the distance with regard to the future of Egypt, and which the Prime Minister touched when he made allusions to the future career of the Mahdi. With regard to the past, there is one point to which my hon. Friend alluded on which I should like to say a word, much as has been said upon the subject—and it is the question of Zebehr. Now, I wish to state in the fullest and frankest way that I consider that Her Majesty's Government were not only justified, but that it was absolutely necessary for the interests and reputation of this country, to refuse the appointment of Zebehr Pasha, and that not only upon the grounds which have been put hitherto, although those grounds are strong. When that appointment was under discussion I asked myself what would be the position of the Representatives of this country abroad amongst Mussulman States, who for years and years have been urging that there was one point upon which this country would not enter into a compromise or listen to reason, and that was any question connected with slavery. That is the language which our Representatives have always held, and I should not envy the position of a Representative of England to whom a Turkish Pasha could be able to reply—"When it is not inconvenient to yourselves you pursue this philanthropic doctrine; but when it is necessary to utilize a slave-owner and a slave-dealer, when the exigencies of your own country seem to require it, you do not hesitate to do so." Now, it seems to me that that would be a crushing retort, and in all these questions I think we ought always to ask ourselves up to what point our philanthropy leads us, and not to be so inconsistent in our philanthropy, as I am afraid we often are. So much for the appointment of Zebehr Pasha. But I agree entirely in what has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). [Cries of "Oh!"] That the very fact—hon. Members, although they cry "Oh!" will agree with this—that the very fact that the appointment of Zebehr Pasha was refused made it still more incumbent on Her Majesty's Government and on this country to do all in their power to sustain General Gordon, and to make up for that loss which he believed he had suffered in not obtaining the services of Zebehr Pasha. Let me for one moment turn to what my hon. Friend, who has just sat down, said with, regard to General Gordon. He compared General Gordon to a wild courser, and there was some approval of the simile; and he pointed out, in language that could not be misunderstood, that it was a mistake on the part of Her Majesty's Government to have confided, as he well put it, the honour and the credit of England into the hands of General Gordon, whose character he then proceeded to describe. He paid a tribute to his moral qualities; but he said, in the most plain language, that he was not a man to whom we could safely confide such a delicate mission as this. But were the Government not responsible for the appointment of General Gordon? At the time when General Gordon was sent out, did they not speak of having given him the widest discretionary power? Were they not then acquainted with his character, which was not an unknown character? His mode of acting, his mode of thinking, his rapidity of judgment, and his inconsistencies if you like, had all been published to the world in the history of General Gordon, and of General Gordon's famous career. When they appointed a man such as General Gordon, I ask the House, had they not a second string to their bow? Had they no policy whatever which they intended to pursue in the case General Gordon did not succeed? Is it possible to conceive that Her Majesty's Government sent General Gordon upon this mission without having contemplated what they would do in an alternative likely to occur, and which has occurred—namely, that General Gordon should find insuperable difficulties when he arrived at Khartoum? Well, General Gordon asked Her Majesty's Government for support, and he made various proposals to them. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the Government had supported him, and began to explain to the House by what means they had supported him. The list was not very long, because it was confined in the end to this—that they had pleaded here that the Proclamation in regard to slavery was not a mistake on the part of General Gordon. But I am bound to say, beyond that slavery instance of support, I cannot discern that Her Majesty's Government have taken any active steps beyond the despatch of telegrams containing comments, negatives, and inquiries, by which they have facilitated the accomplishment of his mission. Did they suggest any alternative to General Gordon, or did they do anything he asked them to do? Now, Her Majesty's Government have naturally directed their attention to the question of answering the various allegations made against them—that they did not do what General Gordon asked. How far have they succeeded in that defence? I hasten from this point in regard to the mission of General Gordon to another important point which has not come out in the debate as many others have come out. In speaking of the establishment of a kind of local Government in the Soudan, a very important distinction made by General Gordon himself very early in his telegrams, but which has been omited in the discussion, is this. He said— It is necessary to make special provision for Khartoum, Dongola, and Kassala, for this reason—that in those three places there are no Sultans to whom you can restore the country. Now, in all the arguments which have been pressed in opposition to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it has always been said—"Can you reestablish order throughout the whole of the Soudan;" but the particular point to which General Gordon refers in all his telegrams—the point on which he has set his heart—is the hope of being able to establish a settled Government at Khartoum, a city of 50,000 inhabitants. When he reached that city, it clearly appeared to him impossible to hand over a city of that size until there was some kind of authority established in it, and it was to that point that he directed his attention. Now, I put it to the House whether it is not a unique operation in history which he was conducting—namely, to hand back again to barbarism a city of 50,000 people, which had previously been under some kind of government, however bad? Was not that a kind of operation which required great delicacy, and in which General Gordon required much support? But in all the telegrams from Her Majesty's Government, except in one asking General Gordon himself to stay, I can find no indication what over that Her Majesty's Government ever appreciated this difficulty, or thought they had any responsibilities in regard to it. Her Majesty's Government have declined all responsibility for the extrication of the garrisons and for the extrication of the Khartoum employés, and I do not think they have said much about the extrication of Native Christians in those cities. But can the Government, can England, so entirely decline that responsibility which Her Majesty's Government seem so anxious to decline? I put it to hon. Members below the Gangway—I know they think there is nothing to be said on the other side of this question; but, remembering the situation, it is right that the point should be put before the country. We wrapped the Union Jack so tightly around the Euler of Egypt that he could not stir himself; we had taken the whole of his Army; and we would not allow him to move a step. There was an Egyptian Army, but it was under English officers, and, being in possession of Cairo, we said—"You must not move a man." Do not let it be said that Egypt could not have re-conquered the Soudan. That argument has been pressed too much. It has been said that all the more distant garrisons in the Soudan cannot be reached. I demur to the doctrine that, because some garrisons are so distant that they cannot be reached, we are not, therefore, bound to save those which we can reach. Why not make an effort to reach those which are nearest—those garrisons which are not so entirely beyond your reach, but which you have always been able to reach when there was even a weak Government established at Cairo? The Egyptian Government may say—"We think that, when our brethren, our husbands, our kith and kin, are endangered there, and you have got our Army in hand, and you are in our territory—we think, at all events, we have a right to make a claim upon you to do the utmost you can for our kindred; and we consider it cynical and interested on your part to decline all responsibility even to the extent we think reasonable." Now, I think I have put a very reasonable argument before hon. Members on this point, even if they do not agree with me. General Gordon, at all events, saw what his duty was towards those employés he was obliged to use while he was Governor General, and whom General Gordon, with the approval of Her Majesty's Government by their Agent at Cairo, was obliged to have. He thought he was bound to those people, and I will say no more on that point, because it has been alluded to over and over again; but I regret to think that in no one single telegram to General Gordon can I find any trace of approval on the part of Her Majesty's Government as regards those declarations that he made, that he would not fly unless he took those men with him. There was no declaration on that subject even from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his speech last night, and the first acknowledgment —the real acknowledgment—was made in that able speech to which we listened from my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War. He has acknowledged, and he has acknowledged differently from those telegrams, that the safety of General Gordon must not be the only object of any movement. He has acknowledged that there are other duties which General Gordon must perform before he can leave Khartoum with honour. One word as to the impression made upon my own mind by the answers which have been made with regard to the claims for assistance put forward by General Gordon. It has been said over and over again that General Gordon did not ask for troops to be sent to Khartoum. No, Sir; but he asked for troops to be sent to other points where he thought they would give him equal support. He asked for them to be sent to various points; but Her Majesty's Government have felt that in no single instance could they comply with his request. Had they no confidence in General Gordon's knowledge of what might be done, and of the value of 200 or 300 English soldiers in that country? Had they no confidence in General Gordon's suggestions with regard to these military operations? If they had not, why, then, do they ask him and consult him now, when he himself is shut up, as to the means by which he is to be extricated? When General Gordon gets that telegram, if ever he gets it, will he not say—"What is the use of my giving any opinion to Her Majesty's Government upon these points when they have rejected as absurd, or have not acted up to one single proposal I have ever submitted?" I admit the force of much that has been said by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War when on his responsibility he speaks of military impossibilities or of military difficulties being so great that military movements ought not to be undertaken. Of course we are bound to give the greatest weight to those declarations; but the noble Marquess did not deal with all the suggestions that were made. He dealt with the difficulties of the Suakin and Berber route; but let me say that we must not forget who General Gordon is, and what he believes can be done with difficult material. General Gordon would have been contented with 200 or,300 English troops, at anyone of several points which he indicated, because, although my right hon. Friend has ceased to believe in the moral effect of British soldiers—[Cries of "No, no!"] I hear hon. Members say "No, no!" I do not think they could have heard the speech of my noble Friend, because my noble Friend said that after the actions at Suakin the difficulty of dealing with Osman Digna, and the whole situation showed that there was no moral effect in British soldiers. [Cries of "No!"] Then I am to understand that there is moral effect in British soldiers? [Cries of "No!"] Then I cannot make out what hon. Members mean. I believe myself that there is moral effect. I believe in the moral effect of 200 or 300 men if we had been able to place them at any of these points. I believe in the prestige of the British soldier. [Cries of "Oh!" and interruption.] I shall be quite prepared to deal with any hon. Member who may differ from me; but I must ask to be allowed to proceed with my argument. I believe in the prestige and moral effect of the British soldier, and I believe that many of us entertain a similar belief. I know it is a word that is not liked—anyway on this side of the House. I know there is some objection to the word because it is French; but it has been an English possession, and that possession is now at stake. The possession of it has been the talisman by which we have been able to hold India, and by which single officers have been able to go under great difficulties to distant places, and so wield Native forces as to be able to achieve marvellous results. Who was it who was shut up in Khartoum? It was Chinese Gordon—a man who, with almost impossible materials, had done impossible things; who had led ever victorious armies, and had been extremely successful; and was he to understand that during all these months when he was asking for assistance there were no resources whatever that could be employed? It was suggested that troops should be sent to Dongola. The answer was that if a battalion of troops were moved to Dongola there would not be a force sufficient left in Egypt Proper. Well, that was a difficulty which might, have been dealt with, and I regret this fact—that during all that time there were apparently no efforts whatever made even by Native assistance acting under English officers to establish any kind of Civil government in Khartoum. A proposal was made, I think by General Gordon himself, that two English officers should be sent to Berber; but it was considered too dangerous to send English officers to Berber, which is not surrounded, while it is assumed that there is no danger to General Gordon in Khartoum, which is surrounded. I have seen no attempt on the part of Her Majesty's Government to second the efforts of General Gordon to establish some kind of Civil government in Khartoum, and I cannot see that any attempt has ever been made to render him any kind of assistance. Can it be said that there was no Englishman at any point beyond the limits of Egypt who could arrange a service of messengers to send to General Gordon? I am certain that there are numbers of English officers who would willingly have volunteered to let General Gordon know that he was not abandoned. If messages have not readied him, I venture to think that greater efforts might have been made, and ought to have been made at any cost, to establish communication with him. Well, Sir, that being the past, I now come to the question of the moment, which is far more important to all of us—what are the declarations of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the future? Are we satisfied? Can any of us be satisfied with what Her Majesty's Government have declared in this respect? Some of us have been taken to task—I personally have been taken to task in the matter. It has been said—"Can anyone who has served with the Prime Minister "—and I am proud to have served with him—"can anyone doubt him when he announces his intention to send an expedition to the relief of General Gordon?" No, Sir; I would entertain no such doubt if my right hon. Friend had made such an announcement; I would have entertained no doubt if my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War had made such an announcement; but even to-night he told us, and he gave his reasons for the conclusion, that an expedition could not be launched; and he further told us that it would be necessary to have evidence both as to its necessity and as to its practicability. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told us—I do not wish to misquote his words — that we must have satisfactory and reasonable evidence of the danger which has to be met. Now, there is a difference between myself and my right hon. Friends who sit on that Bench. As regards the necessity of the case, it seems to me to be proved. Till when are we to wait? Are we to wait until we know that Khartoum is further surrounded than it is at this moment? Are we to wait until we hear of some catastrophe at Khartoum? Then it will be too late. As to the practicability, I should have thought Her Majesty's Government had had full warning enough now to be able to tell us tonight whether an expedition would or would not be practicable. My right hon. Friend said—"We have an engagement with General Gordon; we have an engagement with the country as well;" but I wish that everyone should realize this—that it is not only Her Majesty's Government who are responsible for the safety of General Gordon. It is the country which is responsible also. We are responsible, every one of us, and I think we ought to look twice before we give our votes. We ought to consider the effect our individual vote may have upon our individual responsibility for General Gordon. It is not enough to be responsible. What is the good of responsibility if General Gordon's life should be sacrificed? Is there no danger? I will not quote extracts from the Blue Books. There have been many given on both sides. But I will ask if General Gordon and Colonel Stewart were a brother, or son, or any relation of ours, should we, or should we not, think they were in danger from day to day? It is because I do not see that Her Majesty's Government even now realize the danger in which General Gordon seems, according to the evidence produced to us, to be placed, that I do not see my way to be satisfied with the declarations of Her Majesty's Government. There is one point more to which I wish to call the attention of the House—a point which has filled me with alarm—and it is the allusion of my right hon. Friend to the position of the Mahdi. It is represented now that the Mahdi is the liberator of the Soudan.


Does my right hon. Friend make that remark to me?




Then my right hon. Friend is mistaken. I certainly never represented the Mahdi as the liberator of the Soudan.


I am sorry that I misunderstood my right hon. Friend. I am glad to understand that my right hon. Friend has not done so; but other Members have, and my right hon. Friend spoke of the people of the Soudan fighting for freedom, and of the emissaries of the Mahdi who worked upon them. This is a matter of the gravest importance. I may be mistaken, but I believe my hon. Friends below the Gangway, or, at least, a great many of them, are convinced—and that is the reason why they are so reluctant that any operations should be undertaken—that the whole of the Soudan is engaged in a struggle for freedom. Such sentences were uttered as that the nation was struggling for freedom; and when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), in his eloquent speech, spoke of the cause of freedom in the Soudan, there were loud cheers that seemed to endorse that sentiment as the sentiment of hon. Members below the Gangway. ["No!"] I am glad of that expression of dissent, because I do not wish to gain any advantage in debate from a point like that, and I am relieved if I understand there is not this feeling, that the Mahdi is leading a triumphant body of emancipated subjects who are coming down to join as one body in liberating the people of the Soudan. There was no part of the speech of my right hon. Friend which struck me more with an impression of the dangers which might have to be incurred. We must remember that we have to look to anarchy and fanaticism as well as to emancipation in the Soudan. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) spoke of the danger of attributing to English opinion too much weight in these matters. But what does Sir Evelyn Baring, a statesman on the spot, say? His remarks were quoted by my hon. Friend as those of a proper authority, and he says that—"There is danger in the anarchy and fanaticism which may arise in the Soudan." That is a danger in which all Europe is interested in various ways, and it is a danger which we may have to face. It is not by magnifying the difficulties of every operation which may have to be undertaken that we shall be able to face that danger which I believe is growing upon us. I thank the House most cordially for having listened to me so patiently. There is only one point more on which I wish to say a word before I sit down. It seems to me to be a deplorable and lamentable thing that we cannot discuss these most delicate and difficult questions without their being obscured by the smoke of the battle of Party spirit. The condition seems to have been broken, that foreign affairs should be taken out of the arena of Party politics. And see what is the result of the change which has taken place. We have no more continuity of national will. We have nothing but a spasmodic policy, and we see ruinous quarrels between rival Parties over these difficult questions of foreign affairs, and we are presenting an edifying spectacle to Europe, which is looking on to see what profit it can obtain from these dissensions among ourselves. I was once gently rebuked by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for holding this view. He thought it was a necessary condition of Party warfare. But when the time of trouble is upon us, surely we all feel how our difficulties are increased by the fact that we cannot discuss these questions without these Party conflicts. The spirit of Party surely must not absorb us, and Party spirit ought not to stop our mouths when we think it our duty on any occasion to say that we see danger to the State in any course that is being pursued. I do not think that even criticism could be more damaging than silence when the country believes that that silence does not really mean unanimous opinion. I believe that, even from the lower standpoint of Party politics, it is useful that independent expressions of opinion should be given on matters of national policy. I trust, therefore, that we may be forgiven—those of us who speak out on this occasion—and I venture to claim this—that a Party has a reputation as well as its Chiefs, and that a Party has a character to lose. I say to the Liberal Party that I trust the day will never come when it will have to stand before the country as an apologist for minimizing national duties, and for a dogged refusal to look facts in the face. I trust the Liberal Party will forgive those of us who do feel strongly for speaking out. Her Majesty's Government will have a large majority to-night variously composed. It will comprise many who have studied these Blue Books, but who have an unalterable and unassailable opinion that in these matters Her Majesty's Government can do no wrong. On the other hand, it will contain some, who, stifling the memory of the pang they suffered as chapter after chapter of the story of General Gordon's fortunes were placed in their hands, will vote for Her Majesty's Government because it possesses their confidence on other questions. But we have some experience of majorities thus obtained. Before the Division is taken everyone understands the nature of a certain portion of these votes; but after the Division is taken it is another story. Then the teaching of events is forgotten in the joy at the size of the majority, and the figures obtained are quoted as a certain proof of unequivocal approval, on every platform of the country. My noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs went a little further. He has said in advance, before the Division is taken, that it would be a faithful reflex of the opinion of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but I do not believe that one-half of those who sit on this side of the House adopt that opinion; I do not believe that all who sit upon the Treasury Bench hold that opinion. I doubt whether my noble Friend entirely agrees with himself in that opinion. At all events, I am not prepared to contribute to a majority which will be accepted in the light of an approval of all that has been done, and as expressing satisfaction with all the declarations that have been made. Therefore, I must decline by my vote to swell a figure which would be put to such a use.


said, he would not detain the House long, after the speeches they had listened to already from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; but there was a few remarks which he was anxious to address to the House. He should not, in any case, have risen for the mere purpose of adding to the words of reproach and censure which had been directed against Her Majesty's Government, not only from those Benches, but from hon. Members opposite, against the equal blindness and meanness of the course which Her Majesty's Government had seen fit to pursue with regard to General Gordon and the Soudan, ever since the day they first sent him out as a scapegoat into the Nubian wilderness to bear the responsibility of their own Ministerial blunders and their own political sins. It was not the voice only of Party, or of any combination of Parties, that had rung out within those walls its condemnation of the policy of the Government. Far beyond the domain of Party, outside the limits of those walls, in tones not of idle recrimination, but of earnest and indignant remonstrance, they could hear the angry murmurs of a people at length aroused to a true estimation of the peril in which their heroic fellow-countryman was placed, and to the fact that his peril involved the country's shame. He said "the country's shame." There was now hanging on the slender shred of General Gordon's life a legacy of indelible disgrace, far deeper and more enduring than even the refusal of the abandonment of the Soudan garrison which he himself had stigmatized in those words. No denunciation or reproach on his part could strengthen the effect of those two melancholy telegrams, the publication of which had aroused so profound a sensation through out the country. It was only necessary to read those telegrams aloud. It mattered little how the Vote of Censure was decided. If to-night, as they had been told by the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen, the Government secured a large majority, it would but weaken the belief of the country in the value of its Parliament as in any way a true exponent of the real feeling of the nation. The real censure upon the Government was recorded in the last words of General Gordon, that last message wrung from him in his abandonment; and whatever might be the result of the vote that night, those telegrams would find their place in all future history in connection with, and as a sufficient comment on, the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt during the last six months. He would say this—that all the cheers that might greet a victory on the part of the mere mechanical majority of the Government that night, should they even win that Pyrrhic triumph, however loud and prolonged those cheers might be, they would not drown the echo of those two ringing, stinging words, "indelible disgrace." Never since, in the history of this selfsame land of Egypt, the children of Israel in bondage were bidden to make bricks without straw, had a man been sent out to perform a more desperately difficult task, under more impossible conditions of fulfilment than General Gordon in his mission to Khartoum. Every request he had made was refused; every suggestion he had offered was overruled or disregarded. He pointed out that our policy in the Soudan would entail the certainty of anarchy and bloodshed, unless Zebehr was sent to consolidate some form of Government. He did not wish to dwell further upon that point, except to point out what had been the result of that ancestral policy upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, dilated with so much eloquence a few weeks ago. The result of that policy was that England was offered the alternative—to use the words of Colonel Stewart—of anarchy and bloodshed, or of entering into an alliance and appointing, as Ruler of the Soudan, a man who had been branded by Lord Granville as the king of the slave-hunters. He had devastated the regions of the White Nile. He did not intend to enter further into any points of the past policy of the Government, especially considering the hour of the evening which had been reached. The only point on which he desired to offer one or two brief remarks had reference to the delay in taking the necessary steps to secure the personal safety of General Gordon, and those remarks he would make from no Party point of view. In fact, his main object in rising—and he would not have risen at that time of the evening under any other circumstances—was to explain and urge upon the serious consideration of the Government the proposal which he had ventured to make some 14 days ago—namely, that the Government should lend their countenance, and should give some slight and inexpensive assistance to a volunteer effort for the immediate relief of General Gordon. In answer to a question he had addressed to the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government already so fully recognized their obligations as to the personal security of General Gordon that it would ill become them to devolve upon a voluntary effort the fulfilment of those obligations. That was, he owned, a sufficient reply to his question, so long as there was any reason to suppose that the Government understood the immediate necessity for sending out the assistance as well as their obligation to render it. But it had been already stated by the Prime Minister that there was no intention of taking any immediate action for the relief of General Gordon; still, in his opinion, it was the immediate necessity for such assistance that justified his Volunteer scheme. It was said that General Gordon could hold out until the month of November. The last news received from him showed that he had only provisions up to September. Even, however, if, as far as food went, he could hold out to November, and could resist attacks during all those months also, yet it must be remembered that the real danger was from within, and not from without. He knew this had been already denied in some sort of way by the Prime Minister himself; but did the right hon. Gentleman deny that in Khartoum, as in every large city, there must be a large faction in the city, who, he would not say sympathized with the hostile troops, but who were disaffected towards the Government of Khartoum? They knew very well that General Gordon had recognized this fact, or why had he levelled houses in Khartoum, and intrenched himself in an inner line of fortifications? Each day that passed, with its fresh calamitous incidents at Khartoum—the treachery of the Black Pashas and defeat of Gordon's troops—the return of the riddled steamer from Shendy and the massacre of the fugitives—the mere fact that the city was day after day hemmed in, and fired on, by the rebel Arabs—each piece of evil tidings, whether true or false, increased the hostile faction in the city, and, however much the Government might console themselves with the thought that General Gordon was amply supplied with provisions and ammunition to resist a direct attack, they could not deny in their own hearts and consciences the great and increasing danger to which he was daily and hourly exposed from the treachery of his troops, and the sudden rising of the disaffected rabble of Khartoum. So much for the immediate necessity of sending assistance. As to the ability of the Government to send assistance, the right hon. Gentleman, with an apt quotation from the Roman, and fortified by a reference to the Persian, had proclaimed his inability at this time of the year to send any assistance to General Gordon. He would almost agree that Her Majesty's Government could not in the middle of summer send English troops, and he knew that the right hon. Gentleman would not send Indian troops who could render that assistance. They could not send Egyptian troops. To send out Egyptian troops would only insure the sacrifice of the officers who were sent out with them, and hand over to the hostile tribes a consignment, carriage paid, of arms and ammunition. That was what they could not do; but what they could do was this, and it was not much to ask. They could extend their countenance to the sending of a Volunteer expedition of 1,000 Englishmen, to start at once, or as soon as might be, from Suakin, prepared even to face the summer heat of the Desert in so good a cause. They would have to be mounted on Indian horses, or it might be found possible to procure horses on the Arabian Coast. They would require 530 camels for the conveyance of ammunition and water, and of the rations for men and horses, and with such a force he believed they could reach Berber in nine days. He was, of course, well aware that the whole force could not expect, under the summer heat of the Desert, to reach Berber; but if the 1,000 men were selected with judgment, and animated by a proper English spirit of determination, at any rate the largest portion of such a force would be at Khartoum within 18 days of the time of starting. Such an expedition would not only relieve General Gordon and secure his safety, but would place this country in a position to settle the question of the Soudan. General Gordon had himself told Her Majesty's Government that 500 determined men would put down the rising in the Soudan. All he asked now was the permission of the Government to purchase stores, arms, and ammunition, and that the Government should give them, as they thought they might at least ask, Government transport as far as Suakin. He was well aware of all the objections which might be urged against Volunteer expeditions; but he maintained that this was one of those occasions in which Volunteer assistance should be gladly and willingly and could be properly accepted by the Government. If the Government could or would send English troops the necessity for such a proposal would fall to the ground; but, failing that, he thought it would be almost criminal to refuse sanction to this proposal. It would, he knew, command the approval of the country, and would secure hearty and generous support. It would be for those who projected the scheme to find the men and the money. All they asked was for the Government to extend to them that necessary recognition and countenance that would be necessary to consecrate any Volunteer expedition, and, further, to give to the expedition that slight material assistance which he had alluded to, and which would entail absolutely no charge on the finances of the country. He said that this proposal would entail no responsibility on the Government; but he would also assert that the refusal of the proposal would entail further and heavy responsibility on the Government for the security of General Gordon after his (Mr. Guy Dawnay's) disclaimer of any Party spirit in presenting this scheme. He wished to avoid any remark which might have the appearance of a threat, in regard to the future, or of casting blame upon the Government for its conduct in the past. He would only urge and entreat the right hon. Gentleman not lightly and without serious consideration to throw away this last loophole of escape which the proposal offered to the Government against the charge brought against them by the Motion of the right hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)—a charge they otherwise could not avoid. If they refused this proposal they could not avoid, and they could not escape the condemnation of the country for having wilfully disregarded the steps which were necessary to secure the safety of General Gordon.


Mr. Speaker, I must be allowed to express, not only on behalf of the Government, but on behalf of the whole House, our feeling of the gallantry which has prompted the suggestion made by the hon. Member who has just spoken. That suggestion, whatever we may think of its practicability, is most creditable to his courage and to his public spirit. There is no one in this House, having heard the hon. Member, but must feel convinced that it is a bonâ fide proposal earnestly made by him. At the same time, I think the hon. Member's argument would destroy, if it were accepted, the whole case and position in this debate of the Conservative Party, because he told the House that no other means of rescue at the present time was possible; that all those various means of rescue thrown out in the course of the debate were impossible of adoption.


I said there were two alternative schemes of rescue; one by English troops, which I feared the Government could not adopt, the other by Indian troops, which I was afraid that the Government would not adopt.


I shall come presently to the question of the employment of Indian troops; but I will for the moment confine myself to thanking the hon. Member for the gallantry of his proposal, while pointing out to him that that proposal has not been received with any favour in the country or in this House. The Government are of opinion that any steps which are necessary to be taken in this matter should be taken on the responsibility of the Government. Now, Sir, one remark with reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). I shall have to deal with other statements made in the part of the House where my right hon. Friend sits; but I wish, first of all, to further correct the impression already partially corrected in the course of his speech concerning the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as to what has occurred in the Soudan. My right hon. Friend never spoke of the Mahdi as a liberator; I think that the argument was that the Mahdi retained his power and position in the Soudan by trading upon the anti-Egyptian feeling almost universally existing there; that it was this feeling which might not unfairly be represented as a desire for liberty by which the Mahdi alone maintained his supremacy. As to the other speeches which have been delivered against the Government since my noble Friend spoke in their support, the first was that of the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Griffard). Sir, I will not describe that speech as containing those quibbles of the law which learned lawyers frequently address to the House; but I must say that the hon. and learned Member did certainly take a number of rather small points. I can, however, assure him, with reference to the point on which he laid the greatest stress, that no orders were sent to General Gordon by Her Majesty's Government as to his not going himself to the Mahdi other than the advice contained in the Blue Book before the House—there are no others, except those which the hon. and learned Member may have derived from his imagination. The speech of the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) was one which on many points differed from those which proceeded from other parts of the House, and which have been directed against the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member did not make to-night quite so grand an oration as we are accustomed to hear from him; but he said the House would have accepted Zebehr as Governor of the Soudan, in which, however, he diametrically contradicted almost all the speakers who have addressed the House in this debate against the policy of the Government. I shall leave him to settle that matter with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), and others who have expressed their opinion that the House would have done nothing of the kind. And I shall also leave him to settle it with Lord Salisbury, his Leader, who has expressed a similar opinion. There are some matters that cannot be set aside by words, and I think the utterances of the noble Lord in "another place" and those of my right hon. Friend and others in this House are amongst them—they cannot be got over by a mere statement to the contrary. Sir, perhaps one of the most remarkable speeches of this evening against the Government policy was that of the senior Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen), who spoke of the efforts which had been made throughout the whole Session to frown down discussion of the Egyptian Question. But, Sir, those attempts have not only been singularly unsuccessful, but they have been so in a degree which altogether transcends the experience of this House in respect of similar discussions. We have had many discussions upon that subject, some of them, in our opinion, most unnecessary. I think, from the concluding words of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon, that I shall have his sympathy when I say that these discussions on foreign affairs, treated as they have been during the present Session, are frequently most harmful to the interests of the State. When I had the honour of holding the Office of Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs discussions on foreign affairs were undoubtedly increasing in number; but since I ceased to hold that Office they have continued to increase more rapidly, and I cannot but agree with my right hon. Friend in thinking that irregular discussions on delicate questions of foreign policy are calculated to have a most hurtful influence upon the policy of the Government. I would repeat the warning which my right hon. Friend addressed to those who sit opposite to us, that if ever they again become the Government of this country they may find the practice which they have set going in the last few years highly inconvenient.


You set it going yourselves.


I will tell the hon. Member for Eye one or two facts. In the last Parliament no questions of foreign affairs were ever asked by myself or by anyone now on this Bench without at least three days' Notice to the House. But at the present time Questions on foreign affairs of the most delicate character are invariably asked without Notice, and I fear that the House will never be able to return to the better practice of former times. The senior hon. Member for Newcastle, in his able speech, the effect of which, however, was much destroyed by the crushing answer of his Colleague in the representation of that town, strongly opposed the policy of the evacuation of the Soudan; and he said that when we interfered at all we took responsibility for the future of the Soudan upon ourselves. The hon. Member agrees with most of the Opposition speakers in desiring to retain, the Soudan in some way for Egypt. That is an absolute difference of policy between the hon. Member and the whole of the Opposition and Her Majesty's Government. Nothing will ever induce us to give that fatal advice to the Egyptian Government; it is an absolute breach between us which nothing can bridge over, and which nothing can cause us to forget. I would point out also that the opinion of General Gordon on this matter is the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. General Gordon believes as strongly as we—or, at least, he did believe all the time that we were hearing from him every day—that it would be a fatal policy for Egypt to attempt to retain her sovereignty over the Soudan. The hon. Member for Newcastle told us we could have sent troops at one time, that we would not send them when we could, and that if the heat afterwards prevented our sending them it was our fault. I ask when we could have sent those troops? Was it before the 27th or 28th of February, up to which time General Gordon was saying that this absolutely pacific mission was almost certain of success? If he thinks that in the month of March we might have sent troops up the Nile, not for a short expedition, but in order to secure the future possession of the Soudan for Egypt, I should like to know whether they would not have arrived there at the very hottest period of the year? And when the hon. Member admits that the conditions are insuperably difficult now, I ask whether they would not have attached to the expedition which he recommended? The hon. Member, amidst tremendous cheering from the Opposition, told the House that he was accustomed to think for himself; but the fact that we are sometimes inclined to congratulate him upon is' that he thinks not only for himself, but for the other side; he always appears to state the views of the Opposition with much more eloquence than they are accustomed to use themselves. Now, the main lines of attack upon the policy of Her Majesty's Government have been three. We have been attacked by the hon. Member for Eye to-night, and by the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin yesterday, for not having sent men to Wady Halfa. I thought the proposal a piece of Irish fun on the part of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin, and I hardly thought it serious on the part of the hon. Member for Eye; but, to my amazement, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon seems to have taken up this view. He said that to avoid a Vote of Censure we ought to have changed the position of affairs in the Soudan by sending 200 men to Wady Halfa, which is on the frontier of Egypt Proper, and at the Second Cataract, and that that movement would affect the proceedings higher up in the centre of the Soudan. But a far more serious attack has been made upon the Government on the two other heads—by the hon. and learned Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) to-night, and by the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) yesterday—on the ground that we compromised General Gordon's safety by our proceedings at Suakin, and by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), as well as by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), for not having sent a force across the Desert during these operations from Suakin to Berber. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock, with that daring imagination for which he is noted, said that the soldiers at Suakin all wanted to go to Berber. But that does not at all tally with the information which has been supplied to me. The words of Sir Evelyn Baring have been quoted against us on this point; but I will deal with that in one moment. The hon. Member for Eye laid more stress, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire laid less stress, on our not sending Zebehr. That is the fourth line of attack, but it is one which may be passed by with ease, because the Opposition are themselves greatly divided upon the subject, and the majority seem to approve the policy of the Government in refusing to sanction the appointment. With regard to the sending of a force from Suakin to Berber, there is in the possession of the House a long and elaborate despatch giving our reasons for not sending that force. The opinion of Sir Evelyn Baring has been given in both senses, but with great moderation. In one despatch, showing reasons for not sending the force, he said— I cannot agree with the proposal mentioned in Colonel Stewart's telegram that a force of British or Indian Cavalry should be sent through from Suakin to Berber."—[Egypt, No. 12 (1884), p. 138.] Later on, in April, he said that it was the opinion of General Stephenson that it was a matter of extraordinary military risk, but not an impossible operation. Thus General Stephenson was of opinion that it was "not an impossible operation." Why, Sir, nothing is impossible for the forces of this country. If you will only expend enough blood of our troops, and allow enough men to die of fever and heat in the Desert, it is possible to do anything; oven the heart of Africa could be reached by our troops. But there are such things as virtual impossibilities, and it is virtually impossible to conduct operations in the Soudan at this time of the year, or at the time when it was suggested that the expedition should have been undertaken. It is a noticeable fact that in the North of Africa the hottest weather comes before the longest day; and it would be within that season that the operations would take place. We have placed before the House, in the Papers No. 13, our reasons at full length for not sending that expedition; and, at the same time, I think I have shown tonight that the opinion which has been said to be in favour of its possibility at such a time is virtually against its being sent, and it is the only one which can even be thought to be in its favour. The right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire yesterday, and another Member of the Opposition, the hon, and learned Member for Launceston, to-day have argued that the safety of General Gordon was endangered by our operations at Suakin. In February the Opposition repeatedly attacked us with their whole force—horse, foot, and artillery—for waiting for the opinion of General Gordon. We never said we would not undertake these operations, but that nothing would induce us to undertake them unless we were confirmed by the opinion of General Gordon. We have had no opinion from General Gordon against these operations; and although his telegrams are not altogether consistent with one another, we gathered that they would, on the whole, help him in his progress. It is remarkable that the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire was one of those who made some of the strongest of observations on the subject of immediately undertaking these operations. When we asked for time in order to consult General Gordon, he said it was an insult to the House to wait General Gordon's opinion; but now he says that the operations conducted with General Gordon's approval endangered his safety. Now, with regard to the Wady Halfa proposal, it was the main ground of the attack of the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin; and to my amazement, as I have said, it was echoed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon. Sir, it appears to me that this "200 men policy" is a pretence policy, a scarecrow policy, a wooden gun policy; a policy of bravado that could not be pursued without loading to disaster. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) also recommended that policy; and he also told us that at the time of the Suakin operations, if the people believed that a British Force was coming, they would disperse, and when the troops went, and it was falsely reported that the Arabs had dispersed, the right hon. Gentleman said—"Of course, I told you they would when they heard you were coining." But they did not disperse on that account, and I doubt that they would not be scared by 200 men at Wady Halfa. The Opposition, as I have pointed out, are not agreed in their attacks upon us; and, having dealt with them, I will put before the House what has been the policy of Her Majesty's Government. General Gordon's commission was a pacific commission, received by him in the manner which has been described to the House this evening in the speech of my noble Friend. The account given by my noble Friend is so impossible of contradiction that I will not trouble the House by going over it again at this hour of the morning (12.40 A. M.). General Gordon was not only sent on a pacific mission, but he was sent at his own suggestion, with instructions that were drawn out by himself. I was one who met General Gordon on the day he left the country, and I heard his conversation, which tallied with the account of it given by the noble Lord. He spoke with absolute confidence, and without the shadow of a doubt, of being able, by pacific means, and without the least thought of military support, to effect a pacific arrangement which would lead to the withdrawal of the garrisons. It is one of the curious difficulties under which we labour—as it would be a difficulty to any Government—that up to this moment we do not know, and we have not the evidence before us from which to deduce, the reasons which prevented that pacific policy being carried out. We do not know how it is that, as regards certain garrisons, the Mahdi has been unwilling to come to a friendly arrangement and to let them leave the Soudan—that is a matter on which we have no information at this time. The primary object of General Gordon's mission was Khartoum. He was asked for by the Egyptian Government to conduct the retreat from Khartoum. Those were the terms in which they asked for an English officer, and it was on a telegram containing those terms that we sent General Gordon. He began by attempting to carry out his pacific mission, and in pursuance of that mission he sent away from Khartoum women and children, the men who were left from General Hicks's expedition, and a certain number of fellaheen, and the greater portion of them have now reached Egypt Proper. That was the beginning of General Gordon's mission. Now, General Gordon suddenly changed his views as to the character of his mission, because, on the 27th of February, without any reason as to which we have information—this again shows how deficient the information in the possession of the Government has been—on the 27th of February, General Gordon, having given us no hint of this intended change of views, told us he was now sending out troops to show his force, and in a telegram later in the same day he said that an expedition would start immediately to attack the rebels in the vicinity, and that he had put out a Proclamation in which he stated that he was compelled to use severe measures, and that whoever persisted in disobeying him would be treated as they deserved. We have no information as to the cause of this sudden change. We know there was no immediate danger at Khartoum, because on the same day that that change of policy was announced Mr. Power telegraphed— Town of Khartoum peaceful. People coming in with food, everything cheaper; and country people in market. Gordon is working wonders with the people."—[Ibid., 102.] Therefore the change of policy does not appear to have grown out of any immediate danger to Khartoum. By a despatch, which will be found on pages 115 and 116 of Egypt, No. 12, it would appear that about that time General Gordon conceived the idea of remaining in Khartoum a much longer period than up to that time he had conceived, and it was in connection with this idea that he desired that Zebehr should be sent to him. It has not been mentioned by previous; speakers that General Gordon's policy from the 27th of February was connected with the idea that Zebehr and himself were to remain in Khartoum together. Sir Evelyn Baring's advice to the Government to agree to the employment of Zebehr was always subject to the condition which General Gordon refused to accept. They were not agreed about Zebehr, for General Gordon always demanded that Zebehr should be there with him. Sir Evelyn Baring never consented to that proposal, but always said it was impossible, and insisted that if Zebehr were to go, the two should never be there together. That point must be borne in mind in connection with the proposal to send Zebehr. From this date General Gordon began to talk about smashing up the Mahdi. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Launceston (Sir Hardinge Giffard) told us to-night, in the course of his speech, that we sneered at this phrase of General Gordon. I will be quite frank with the House; I do not sneer at it all, but I do mention it with disapproval. I am not in full possession of General Gordon's views and reasons—we have not the evidence before us to show us what those views are—but on the evidence which I have, I do think it was a mistake for General Gordon to talk of attacking and smashing up the Mahdi. On the same day on which he began to use this language, he told us that the Mahdi must be smashed up, and that at the present time it would be comparatively easy to destroy the Mahdi. Well, Sir, I need not impress it upon the House, because no one will contradict my statement that at this time he conceived the idea which I have put before the House that Zebehr must be with him for a considerable time—he always spoke of the combination of Zebehr and himself being an absolute necessity. But for that point he might have had Sir Evelyn Baring's support with regard to Zebehr. As the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), and other Members of the Opposition, think we ought to have given in to General Gordon's views, and have sent Zebehr, I will ask the House once more whether they consider that any Government, on whichever side it might have been—even a Government which included the hon. Member for Eye himself—would have received the support of Parliament and of the country in sending Zebehr in the manner which was proposed, even if the differences between Sir Evelyn Baring and General Gordon could have been reconciled? We know what would have been said. It would have been said that Zebehr was to be sent out with British money and with the moral support of the country, and he was to be made a K. C. M. G., and to be decorated with honours by the Queen of this country. That is a position which no Government could take up—which no Party in the House would support. We did not reject General Gordon's proposal suddenly. We expressed strong disapprobation of it; we pointed out the evils and dangers of its adoption; we had the gravest doubts whether, if we felt it our duty to acquiesce in it, it would not mean our own resignation. So strong was our opinion that it was not wise to go against General Gordon, that we did not take an absolute and final decision until we had weighed the matter in its every aspect. Now, Sir, the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) continues to hold the opinion that the House would have taken Zebehr. He told the House to-day that we had not given reasons enough to explain the refusal of Zebehr. I think I can give the noble Lord another reason contained in the words of his own Leader. Lord (Salisbury, speaking on the 6th of March, said— Why Zebehr is a slave-driver—the king of slave-drivers—a man stained with every cruelly and every crime that can disgrace humanity."—(3 Hansard, [285] 630.) These are Lord Salisbury's words, and I give them as a sufficient answer to the noble Lord. Well, Sir, we had a great deal of sneering at the suggestion that General Gordon, even after his change of policy with regard to smashing up the Mahdi and his adoption of a more war- like operation, was still safe at Khartoum. It is impossible to argue with regard to words like "safety," without some examination of the evidence which lies behind them. Hon. Gentlemen quoted several statements of General Gordon as to the safety of Khartoum. There are a great many others; besides, there is this very remarkable fact—that there was no change in the language used by General Gordon with regard to the military safety of Khartoum from the earliest day he wrote on the subject down to the latest day on which we received information. Before General Gordon went to Khartoum there was a panic. It was supposed the town would not hold out three days; but from the time he got there he had always used the same language with regard to the safety of the place. On the 20th of February he told Colonel Coetlogon that Khartoum was now as safe as Cairo, and he added that Colonel Coetlogon's services in a military capacity were wasted, however much they might be desired in a civil capacity. On the 8th of March he said he had provisions for six months. On the 13th of March he began to speak of how rapidly provisions were coming into the town, and he said they were coming in far faster than at usual times. He continued to make these statements throughout the month. I will not weary the House by reading these statements; but on no less than 15 occasions during the month of March he gave the same assurances. On the 4th of April it is supposed by hon. Members that he suddenly changed his views; but on that day he said that Khartoum was all right. On the 5th of April he said—"The town is all right, and we have plenty of provisions." On the 7th he said—"We are all right up here;" and in a later telegram, which is undated, he said—"Our position will be strengthened when the Nile rises. If I can suppress the rebellion I shall do so." And then, in the most despondent telegram of all, he says—"I have provisions for five months." He does not tell us that the provisions were continuing to come in at the same rate. The only doubt which can be suggested as to the provisions is the difference between "six months" in one telegram and "five months" in another. That is a difference which I cannot explain. But that General Gordon is in difficulties with respect to provisions is inconsistent with the telegrams which we have received from time to time. Now, Sir, the hon. Members who believe in the absolute imminence of danger to Khartoum rely upon the telegrams of Mr. Power to The Times. I am bound to say Mr. Power is not at all free from pessimism. On the 30th of December last, Mr. Power reported that there were no arms and no food, and that in three days the town might be in the hands of the Mahdi. When I saw General Gordon himself, on the day on which he left this country, I read that telegram to him; but it produced no impression on his mind; he laughed at the idea of any danger to Khartoum. As a matter of fact, there were plenty of arms, there was plenty of food, and, certainly, the town did not surrender in three days. Granting, for the sake of argument, that we are entirely wrong in the view we take as to the military safety of Khartoum, granting that the Opposition are right in every word they urge, supposing that General Gordon's statements are to go for nothing, and supposing that he is in immediate danger, I should like to ask the House what is their impression, derived from the course of this debate, as to the policy which would be pursued by the Opposition were they to come into Office? Would the Opposition send an expedition, which has been recommended during the debate, of 12,000 men, in the hot weather, into the interior of the Soudan; or would they take precisely the same course we are taking—namely, to obtain proper information as to the various roads and ways of reaching the interior of the Soudan, and to generally make themselves prepared for any scheme that might become necessary, in the manner recommended by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) this afternoon? My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) does not appear to agree with the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) as to the need for an actual expedition at the present moment. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock wants the troops to start to-morrow; but no other speaker has recommended an immediate expedition. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford speaks of the moral effect of the announcement of an expedition; but this, again, is an argument in favour of a pitiable policy of sham to which I have alluded to-night—a policy of saying you are going to send an expedition, when you do not really know at what time you are going to send it. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock wants an immediate expedition, and he said the result of a change of power would be certain rescue now instead of uncertain rescue in October. When the noble Lord says that a change of power would mean immediate rescue instead of an autumnal expedition, I would like to know whether he has given any real consideration to the subject—more consideration, for instance, than he has given to the proposal with regard to half-sovereigns? I want to know whether he has taken any steps to inform himself as to the military possibility of an expedition in the hot weather such as that which would, he says, be the result of a change of Government now? Does he know anything about the roads, or the difficulty of the various roads, or anything about the distances? There are four principal roads by which troops may advance in the event of an expedition being sent. Each of these roads is thought by most military authorities to be impassable in the height of summer, and all of them are thought to be impassable by certain military men. Some persons think that an expedition could be sent by steamer up the Nile. They remind me of a Member of this House who, during the American War, at the time of the Trent affair, recommended the despatch of a naval expedition to the Upper Lakes of America, entirely forgetting the existence of the Falls of Niagara. Although the difficulties of the Nile are not so insurmountable as those of the Falls of Niagara, the cataracts make the Nile the slowest route by which an expedition could possibly pass. Of the four roads of which I speak, the one from Massowah to Khartoum is 650 miles. The second, from Korosko to Berber, is about 570 miles, of which the bad part, between Korosko and Abu Ahmed, is 250 miles across the Nubian Desert, which is waterless. Colonel Stewart, who has been there twice, gives it as his opinion that that Desert is impassable for an army. There is only one well, and the water is unfit for use by man. Then the road by Wady Halfa is 870 miles long, of which 150 miles are cataracts, and this route would be impracticable for an immediate expedition, owing to the length of distance and of time. Probably the most practicable road would be that from Suakin to Berber. That is 445 miles long, of which 240 or 250 are desert. The difficulty of that road, as has been explained to-night in one of the speeches, lies in the last 100 miles. There are along that road a stretch of 54 miles in one place and a stretch of 53 miles in another without a drop of water. I think the House ought to have some idea of the difficulties and the conditions of an expedition in the summer time such as is suggested by the noble Lord. A suggestion has been made to-night that Indian troops should be employed on the Berber and Suakin road; but Black troops cannot do without water any more than White troops; and I might even say that, in the opinion of military authorities, the Black troops, owing to the number of their followers, are more difficult to deal with in this respect than White troops. And there are other considerations, which will be appreciated by the House, which make it difficult and undesirable to employ Indian troops in that portion of the Soudan. All these questions of distance and road are questions which the Government have to consider with the greatest care, which they are bound as responsible for the business of this country, both at home and abroad, to consider with the greatest care. We have proclaimed our responsibility for General Gordon in the strongest possible way, and I have nothing to add to the words of the Secretary of State for War, which had a deep effect even on the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). For the protection of General Gordon we intend to do that which can practically be done; but we intend to do it according to the best information available to us; and we do not intend to be driven into doing it before we understand its necessity, and before the time has come when it must be done for the interest and honour of this country—we do not intend to be driven to do it any sooner by repeated Votes of Censure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon has expressed a wish that the Liberal Party should not minimize the responsibility of the Go- vernment and the nation. I am not one of those who desire to minimize the national responsibility. I have never expressed that desire; on the contrary, I have frequently shown the House that my views are in the opposite direction to that; but we must not be led away by any idea, however strong, of national responsibility, to commit the country, without due information, and due regard of possibilities, to a course which might be more fatal to it than any adventure undertaken in the past. Hon. Members who have spoken against the Government have almost all of them shown what I may call the cloven hoof. I do not use the phrase in any disrespectful sense, but only with respect to the policy they recommend to the House; but they have all gone beyond the terms of the Motion, which speaks about the safety of General Gordon; they have all gone beyond the recommendations in the Motion, having regard to the honour of this country, and almost every one of them—and certainly the great majority of them—has told us that it is the duty of this country to hold the Soudan for Egypt. I will proceed to verify that statement. The hon. Member for Newcastle and one other Member have made that statement distinctly to-night, and I have quoted it in their presence without remark. With regard to other speakers, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) said the Government told the House that General Gordon's mission was pacific; but he asked whether they intended to desert the garrisons if pacific means fail. He spoke not only of Khartoum, but of all the garrisons; and he went on to say the whole difficulty arose from the absurd decision of the Government to have nothing to do with the Soudan. It was the decision of Sir Evelyn Baring and Nubar Pasha, and all who considered the interests of Egypt; and it was a decision arrived at, not only in Lord Dufferin's time, but since then, on different facts from those known to him when he was there. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock has taken the same line in the course of his speech, and has said it was the duly of the Government to rescue all the garrisons placed in peril; and the right hon. Member for Ripon has told us that we shall have to resist the Mahdi's advance, and that we ought to resist it in the Soudan itself. He said that by our policy we shall be driven to resist the Mahdi's advance at a point of the Mahdi's own choosing; and, supposing he does advance, we shall have to resist him on the frontier of Egypt Proper. Does he not see a very wide distinction between the facility and possibility of resisting the Mahdi when he invades the country of the Khedive, and attacking him in a country where he has the support of the whole population? I do not believe that, in the opinion of the country, whatever may be the opinion of the country with regard to the position of General Gordon—upon which there is a natural and proper feeling—we should increase the responsibilities either of this country or of Egypt in connection with the Soudan. I know that the adoption of that policy would gain a cheap popularity for the moment in the City, and would probably send up Egyptian Funds. If we were to express our view that it was desirable to "smash up" the Mahdi, or "to do for" the Mahdi, or to take any such course, the effect would be to lead to our remaining permanently in Egypt, and not only to the permanent occupation of Egypt, but of the interior of the Soudan, which is a far more difficult matter. I would say of that proposal, which has been recommended by several speakers—among others, by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock—what the most powerful man in the Conservative Party said recently of the demand of his own noble Leader — "I will resist to the uttermost this extravagant and despotic demand."


I must apologize to the House for intruding upon them at so late an hour as the present; but I feel that we cannot allow this debate to close and a Division to be taken without some notice of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. I may make this general remark upon that speech and on the case which the right hon. Gentleman has presented—that the stronger is the argument he has put before the House the more has he confirmed the Motion of my right hon. Friend. I put it on this ground—he has argued with a great deal of ingenuity, I admit, to a certain point, and with a good deal of force against this, that, and the other suggestion for a remedy for the diffi- culties in which we are placed; but I want to know how it is we are placed in those difficulties? To whom are we to look as the Party who are responsible for the position in which we are now placed? If General Gordon is, unfortunately, in such a position that we cannot see that his proposals are likely to succeed; that his plans are likely to be carried out, or even that his personal safety is secured, what have the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues been about that they have allowed such a state of things to arise? It is not General Gordon to whom we are to look. We have to look to those who employed him. If he is deficient in many respects, if he is not the man to conduct such operations as these, it is you who encouraged and undertook the work he was to do, and it is you who must be held responsible for it. I make this general observation, because it seems to me to be half of the difficulty in which we are placed in regard to this Egyptian Question that the great object of the Government appears to be, not to obtain any particular result, or to solve any problem in a satisfactory national sense, but to shield themselves from responsibility, and to throw the responsibility upon others. Where they can do it, they are always glad to throw it on their Predecessors; where they cannot do that, they are ready to throw it upon their allies, on the Government of Egypt, on the Khedive—upon anybody—even upon the men they employ. The grossest injustice is done to General Gordon, a man who commands all our sympathies, and the sympathies of the whole country. Gross injustice is done to him by the manner in which his efforts are spoken of, and his proceedings criticized, by those who are ready enough to shelter themselves under his name, while ready enough to take credit for any success he may achieve. The junior Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), in his very able speech, was pleased to speak of General Gordon as a man whose conduct was to be characterized as a series of "random zigzags." I dispute entirely the propriety of that observation, if it is applied to his policy; for he has kept his main object in view, and never departed from it. He is a man of great fertility of resource, and is ready to adapt his mission to the changed cir- cumstances in which he is placed; but if the changes he makes are to be called "random zigzags," how is it that many of them have been brought about? Not by any change of policy on his part, but by a change of circumstances, for which, in the main, the Government are responsible; and I say it is against them, and against their "random zigzags," that protests ought to be made. What could be a greater instance of "random zigzags" than the very action of the Government in employing General Gordon at all? It was a very hurried proceeding. Recollect what happened. The difficulty that has arisen in the Soudan was a difficulty that had been caused, and directly brought about, by the action of the Government themselves. It was they who, in the course of last autumn, imposed on the Government of Egypt an absolute direction that they should abandon and withdraw from the Soudan. They did that with such overbearing force that they broke up the Government of Egypt itself. They broke up the idol which they had established, and which they thought might stand by itself, and they reduced it to a nonentity. Then, how could they carry this into effect? It was possible for them to say, having given their orders, they left the Egyptian Government to work the matter out for themselves; but they did not do that. They had an offer made to them, by or on behalf of General Gordon, that he was ready to place himself at their disposal. He was a man who had the greatest possible knowledge and advantage in dealing with the Soudan. The Government knew that perfectly well. How long had they known it? How long had they had an opportunity of consulting him in the months during which these things were going on; and why did they never consult him at all until he came in that hurried way, and in the course of one or two days, when he did not know whether he was to go to the Congo or to the Soudan? Why did they, in that hurried fashion, send him off with a mission, and such a mission as that? They told him to do one thing, but, at the same time, they gave him permission and a hint, and even encouraged him, to do quite another thing. They sent him to report, and now, when we come to some of the hairsplitting defences of their conduct, we find the Government always ready enough to say—"Oh, yes; these things may be right or wrong; but, so far as we were concerned, we never gave him these instructions." No; all you told General Gordon, who you knew desired to go out, was not merely to report about, or to conduct an evacuation of the garrisons, but to do such work as he might think fit, and which might be intrusted to him by the Khedive. What was the result? Duties were thrust upon him, which he accepted, but which were of a very different character from what he had contemplated, and you never seem to have taken into consideration the possibility that he might fail in the attempt he was making. That was not a point, so far as General Gordon was concerned. He believed that he would succeed in what he undertook; but, so far as you were concerned will any Member of the Government say that the Government believed with the same confidence that General Gordon believed, that he would succeed? Did the Government believe it? If they did believe it, they must have a very great power of credulity. Or did they only think and hope it? I believe they only thought and hoped it, and considered it worth trying; but if they only thought it was an experiment worth trying, what sort of statesmanship was it that had nothing in reserve? It was not a question of how far General Gordon might fail, but how far you were prepared for his failure, and for that change of plan? And it was no very great length of time that passed in the matter; for we have it from the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles W. Dilke), as we see in the Blue Book, that it was a very short time indeed before General Gordon found that his plan must be materially altered, and even abandoned. It was somewhere in the middle of January that General Gordon got his instructions in this country. He reached Khartoum on, I think, the 18th of February, and it was within nine days after he arrived at Khartoum that he found himself obliged materially to alter the proposals he had made. What was the state of the case? In nine days—that was no great length of time—you ought to have been prepared to say what was the policy which you were about to recommend. There is a despatch—I will not inflict it upon the House at length now—but there is a despatch to which I earnestly entreat the attention of the House—written by Sir Evelyn Baring as early as February 28th—and that, as it seems to me, is the pivot upon which the whole of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in this matter turns. It was the parting of the way. Sir Evelyn Baring said— I may now submit to your Lordship my views on the main point at issue, after having carefully considered the different proposals made by General Gordon. He says two alternative courses may be adopted—one to evacuate the Soudan entirely, and make no attempt to establish a settled Government there; the other to make every effort to set up some settled Government to replace the former Egyptian Administration. Then he says General Gordon is obviously in favour of the second of these courses. He himself is in favour of the second course, and he very plainly calls upon the Government to pronounce between them. Her Majesty's Government never do pronounce opinions. They leave one thing on their own responsibility, and another thing on General Gordon's responsibility. They never choose their time, and it is because of that that we find ourselves in the position in which we now stand. I must say that Sir Evelyn Baring's opinions—I do not speak of General Gordon's—have been treated with much less respect than they deserve. The right hon. Gentleman said just now that Sir Evelyn Baring had never agreed to the proposal about Zebehr; that he never agreed to Zebehr being sent to Khartoum, to be there with General Gordon. I do not know, then, how the right hon. Gentleman explains the passage in the despatch of the 28th March—the long despatch of Lord Granville to Sir Evelyn Baring, which is to be found in the Blue Book, No. 13, page 3—where Lord Granville says— In consequence of the confidence expressed by General Gordon that Zebehr would not injure him you withdrew the objection that you had previously to Zebehr being sent to Khartoum, and supported his recommendation. I do not myself approve—I could not have approved—of Zebehr being sent there; but I say you had no right to pass over and misrepresent Sir Evelyn Baring's opinion. There are a good many other matters that the right hon. Gentleman passed over in a very free and easy and rapid manner which I think we should find, if we were to look closely into them, would not bear minute examination. There was, for instance, the question of sending troops to clear the road from Suakin to Berber. That might not be possible now; but there can be no doubt that it might have been possible then. It was a stroke of a military character that might easily have been struck just after the success of General Graham. That was the time when it should have been done. There might have been difficulties even then; but you yourselves have added very much to those difficulties, because the main, almost the only one you hear of is the want of water. If you have to conduct a march through a country where there is a scarcity of water it is obvious that one of the first things you have to consider is the desirability of providing a camel corps. Well, steps had been taken, without your authority, to form a camel corps, and you ordered that the camels should be sold and the corps broken up. This difficulty, therefore, is one arising out of your own conduct and your own action. I do not venture to speak on military questions. I have no authority on military matters, but I know that there have been military opinions expressed to the effect that this march might have been done, and is capable of being done. I speak of men of no small eminence when I mention Lord Napier of Magdala and General Malcolm, who had command of one of the divisions of the Army which marched into Abyssinia; and, therefore, knew the country well. They believed that the march could be done; but we find we are now told that the thing is impossible. Then I come back to what I said at the beginning. If it is impossible now, how are you to justify yourself in having allowed the matter to get to the point at which it is impossible? That is the question; that is the point my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) makes in his Resolution. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) says this is a "pale and colourless Resolution." If the vote of to-night could be different from what it is likely to be I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would have held very different language as to the paleness and colourlessness of the Resolution. He would, no doubt, accredit it with being quite sufficient to mark what the opinion of the House and of Parliament is, and I venture to say that it would have been held by the country to be very different from "pale and colourless." My right hon. Friend challenges your whole policy from the beginning, your want of foresight, your want of vigour and straightforward conduct, which has been characteristic of all your proceedings in this matter. Never was there a case to which the old saying of "meddle and muddle" more completely applied than it does to this. You embark General Gordon in an undertaking which you felt to be one of difficulty, in an undertaking of which the Prime Minister said in the House— If it were put forward by me it would be absurd; but it is put forward by a man of such character and authority that we believe it will succeed. You allowed him to bring forward that scheme, and allowed him to act on it, and yet you do not give him his head. You do not give him what he wants, or allow him to do that which he desires to do. You tell him, on the one hand, to take a pacific policy; and, on the other, you embarrass that pacific policy by your operations. What did he tell you as to General Baker's force at Suakin? While he was in Cairo, as Sir Evelyn Baring says, he objected to that force being there, and said the garrison should be reduced to 150 men. Why did he do that? Why, because it was inconsistent with the policy he wanted to carry out. You took no notice of his objection. When we spoke of the danger to which Sinkat and Tokar were exposed, we were asked to wait for the opinion of General Gordon. Why did not you take his opinion yourselves with regard to the employment of General Baker's force at Suakin? Why did you allow that force to be destroyed—for you were morally guilty of sending it to destruction, seeing that you could have prevented its going out? You allowed it to go out at the very time when your own agent, your own great man, was going on his expedition, and was urging you not to permit it. You cannot shield yourselves in this matter; you cannot play fast and loose in the way that you have endeavoured to do, throwing all responsibility on others if anything goes wrong. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), in the course of his observations, criti- cized what fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in the discussion of that point—namely, the sending of the expedition to save Tokar. The right hon. Gentleman says that my right hon. Friend stated that it would be an insult to General Gordon if we proceeded without consulting him. But my right hon. Friend never said anything of the kind. What he said was that it would be an insult to General Gordon if there was any question raised as to the matter being one that affected General Gordon's personal safety; and what he intended to convey to the House—and did convey, for I remember the time well — was that to a man of General Gordon's bravery and patriotism, and self-sacrificing disposition, it would have been an insult to say— "May we undertake this operation, which it is important should be undertaken, without putting you to too great risk of losing your life?" That was what my right hon. Friend said, and, no doubt, it will find an echo in General Gordon's breast. I might have taken notice of other matters in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but I feel it is impossible to go further at this hour. Before I sit down, however, I wish to state to the House my own conviction in this matter. I know perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman yesterday challenged us and said—"Speak as you like. The House will to-night decide in our favour." We know that. I admit that, for the sake of saving appearances, the right hon. Gentleman afterwards included the words "and the country." [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I will not delay the House by going into the matter now—we shall be able to see what he said in the reports of his speech; but, practically, the right hon. Gentleman, having a bad case to defend, throws down his gage of battle and says—"Let us fight it out in the Division Lobby." I will call on the House to bear this in mind, that they will be responsible for the vote they give to-night. The Government have endeavoured to cast off this responsibility, but not with any great success. They have endeavoured to cast the responsibility here upon their Predecessors, there upon the Egyptian Government, or General Gordon, or I do not know who. But though they have done that, they have not succeeded in getting rid of the responsibility they have cast upon these persons. They will be able to get rid of it if they are able to obtain from this House a vote clearly supporting and sustaining them. The responsibility will be transferred from their shoulders, where now it rests, to the shoulders of their supporters. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen who sit behind the Government, and who are convinced of the soundness of their arguments and of the course which they have pursued, will give them their support to-night with extremely good consciences, and will feel perfectly justified in the responsibility they will take on themselves. If there are any who have doubts, if there are any who feel other than satisfaction at the explanations that have been given, I must say I think that in voting against this Resolution they will be taking a course which they can never hope to justify to the country, and which they will hardly be able to justify to their own consciences. Gentlemen who think that they are right in supporting the Government in a policy which is one of so delicate, so difficult, so important a character as this, who think that they are justified in giving the Government a clearance for the whole course of their policy with regard to the mission, of General Gordon, are, indeed, incurring a heavy responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that the question of Egypt—he did, to a certain extent, except the particular case of General Gordon—that the question of Egypt generally was one of but secondary interest. If he would persuade the House and the country that matters affecting Egypt and our position in it—the conduct we pursue there and the manner in which we uphold the honour of the English name and advance the interests of England—are matters of secondary importance, he is misleading the country. These are not matters of secondary importance. It is a matter of the very deepest concern to our national interests, our national welfare, and our national honour; and we cannot but trust that, though this debate will close with a majority for the Government of probably a very overwhelming character, this House will not be the last tribunal of appeal, but that the country will be awakened by the discussion to study the question.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 275; Noes 303: Majority 28.

Alexander, Major-Gen. Dawson, C.
Allsopp, C. Deasy, J.
Amherst, W. A. T. De Worms, Baron H.
Archdale, W. H. Dickson, Major A. G.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Digby, Colonel hon. E.
Aylmer, J. E. F. Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Donaldson-Hudson, C.
Balfour, A. J. Douglas, A. Akers-
Barne, F. St. J. N. Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Eaton, H. W.
Bateson, Sir T. Eckersley, N.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Ecroyd, W. F.
Egerton, hon. A. de T.
Beach, W. W. B. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Bective, Earl of Elcho, Lord
Bellingham, A. H. Elliot, Sir G.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Elliot, G. W.
Beresford, G. De la P. Elton, C. I.
Biddell, W. Ennis, Sir J.
Biggar, J. G. Estcourt, G. S.
Birkbeck, E. Ewart, W.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Ewing, A. O.
Boord, T. W. Feilden, Lieut.-General
Bourke, right hon. R. Fellowes, W. H.
Broadley, W. H. H. Finch, G. H.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Finch-Hatton, hon. M. E. G.
Brooke, Lord Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W.
Brooks, W. C. Fletcher, Sir H.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Floyer, J.
Bruce, hon. T. Folkestone, Viscount
Brymer, W. E. Forester, C. T. W.
Bulwer, J. R. Foster, W. H.
Burghley, Lord Fowler, rt. hon. R. N.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Buxton, Sir R. J. French-Brewster, R. A. B.
Cameron, D.
Campbell, J. A. Freshfield, C. K.
Carden, Sir R. W. Galway, Viscount
Castlereagh, Viscount Gardner, R. Richardson-
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Garnier, J. C.
Chaine, J. Gibson, right hon. E.
Chaplin, H. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Christie, W. L. Giles, A.
Churchill, Lord R. Goldney, Sir G.
Clarke, E. Gooch, Sir D.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Gore-Langton, W. S.
Close, M. C. Gorst, J. E.
Coddington, W. Grantham, W.
Cole, Viscount Gray, E. D.
Collins, T. Greene, E.
Commins, A. Greer, T.
Compton, F. Gregory, G. B.
Coope, O. E. Guest, M. J.
Corbet, W. J. Halsey, T. F.
Corry, J. P. Hamilton, right hon. Lord G.
Cotton, W. J. R.
Cowen, J. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Hamilton, I. T.
Cubitt, right hon. G. Harris, W. J.
Curzon, Major hon. M. Harvey, Sir R. B.
Dalrymple, C. Hay, rt. hon. Admiral Sir J. C. D.
Davenport, H. T.
Davenport, W. B. Healy, T. M.
Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P. Herbert, hon. S.
Dawnay, hon. G. C. Hicks, E.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Hill, Lord A. W.
Hill, A. S. Northcote, H. S.
Holland, Sir H. T. O'Brien, W.
Home, Lt.-Col. D. M. O'Connor, A.
Hope, right hon. A. J. B. B. O'Connor, T. P.
O'Donnell, F. H.
Houldsworth, W. H. Onslow, D. R.
Hubbard, rt. hon. J. G O'Sullivan, W. H.
Jackson, W. L. Paget, R. H.
Kennard, Col. E. H. Parnell, C. S.
Kennard, C. J. Patrick, R. W. Cochran-
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Peek, Sir H. W.
Kenny, M. J. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
King-Harman, Colonel E. R. Pell, A.
Pemberton, E. L.
Knight, F. W. Percy, right hon. Earl
Knightley, Sir R. Percy, Lord A.
Laing, S. Phipps, C. N. P.
Lawrance, J. C. Phipps, P.
Lawrence, Sir T. Plunket, rt. hon. D. R.
Leahy, J. Power, R.
Leamy, E. Price, Captain G. E.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Puleston, J. H.
Legh, W. J. Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.
Leigh, R. Rankin, J.
Leighton, Sir B. Read, C. S.
Leighton, S. Redmond, J. E.
Lennox, right hn. Lord H. G. C. G. Redmond, W. H. K.
Rendlesham, Lord
Lever, J. O. Repton, G. W.
Levett, T. J. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Lewis, C. E. Ritchie, C. T.
Lewisham, Viscount Rolls, J. A.
Loder, R. Ross, A. H.
Long, W. H. Round, J.
Lopes, Sir M. St. Aubyn, W. M.
Lowther, rt. hon. J. Salt, T.
Lowther, hon. W. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Lowther, J. W. Scott, Lord H.
Lynch, N. Scott, M. D.
Marcartney, J. W. E. Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Mac Iver, D.
Macnaghten, E. Severne, J. E.
M'Carthy, J. Sexton, T.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Sheil, E.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
M'Mahon, E. Small, J. F.
Makins, Colonel W.T. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Manners, rt. hon. Lord J. J. R. Smith, A.
Smithwick, J. F.
March, Earl of Stanhope, hon. E.
Marriott, W. T. Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F.
Marum, E. M. Stanley, E. J.
Master, T. W. C. Storer, G.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Strutt, hon. C. H.
Mayne, T. Sullivan, T. D.
Miles, Sir P. J. W. Sykes, C.
Miles, C. W. Talbot, J. G.
Mills, Sir C. H. Thomson, H.
Milner, Sir F. Thornhill, A. J.
Molloy, B. C. Thornhill, T.
Monckton, F. Thynne, Lord H. F.
Morgan, hon. F. Tollemache, hn. W. F.
Moss, R. Tollemache, H. J.
Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R. Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Tottenham, A. L.
Mulholland, J. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Newdegate, C. N. Wallace, Sir R.
Newport, Viscount Walrond, Col. W. H.
Nicholson, W. N. Warburton, P. E.
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Warton, C. N.
North, Colonel J. S. Watkin, Sir E. W.
Watney, J. Wroughton, P.
Whitley, E. Wyndham, hon. P.
Williams, General O. Yorke, J. R.
Wilmot, Sir. H.
Wilmot, Sir J. E. TELLERS.
Wolff, Sir H. D. Crichton, Viscount
Wortley, C. B. Stuart- Winn, R.
Acland, Sir T. D. Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.
Acland, C. T. D. Clarke, J. C.
Agnew, W. Clark, S.
Ainsworth, D. Clifford, C. C.
Allen, H. G. Cohen, A.
Allen, W. S. Colebrooke, Sir T. E.
Allman, R. L. Collings, J.
Amory, Sir J. H. Collins, E.
Anderson, G. Colman, J. J.
Armitage, B. Corbett, J.
Armitstead, G. Cotes, C. C.
Arnold, A. Courtauld, G.
Asher, A. Courtney, L. H.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Baldwin, E. Craig, W. Y.
Balfour, Sir G. Cropper, J.
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Cross, J. K.
Balfour, J. S. Crum, A.
Barclay, J. W. Cunliffe, Sir R. A.
Baring, Viscount Currie, Sir D.
Barnes, A. Davey, H.
Barran, J. Davies, D.
Bass, Sir A. Davies, R.
Bass, H. Davies, W.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. De Ferrières, Baron
Beaumont, W. B. Dickson, J.
Biddulph, M. Dickson, T. A.
Blake, J. A. Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C. W.
Blennerhassett, R. P. Dillwyn, L. L.
Bolton, J. C. Dodds, J.
Borlase, W. C. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Brand, hon. H. R. Duckham, T.
Brassey, Sir T. Duff, R. W.
Brassey, H. A. Earp, T.
Briggs, W. E. Edwards, H.
Bright, J. Edwards, P.
Brinton, J. Egerton, Admiral hon. F.
Broadhurst, H.
Brogden, A. Elliot, hon. A. R. D.
Brooks, M. Errington, G.
Brown, A. H. Fairbairn, Sir A.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord C. Farquharson, Dr. R.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Fawcett, rt. hon. H.
Bryce, J. Fay, C. J.
Buchanan, T. R. Ferguson, R.
Burt, T. Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B.
Buszard, M. C. Findlater, W.
Buxton, F. W. Firth, J. F. B.
Buxton, S. C. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Caine, W. S. Flower, C.
Cameron, C. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Campbell, Lord C. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Campbell, Sir G. Forster, Sir C.
Campbell, R. F. F. Fowler, H. H.
Camphell -Bannerman, H. Fowler, W.
Fry, L.
Carbutt, E. H. Fry, T.
Carington, hon. R. Gabbett, D. F.
Causton, R. K. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Cavendish, Lord E. Gladstone, H. J.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Gladstone, W. H.
Chambers, Sir T. Gordon, Lord D.
Cheetham, J. F. Gordon, Sir A.
Gourley, E. T. Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-
Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Grafton, F. W. Mason, H.
Grant, Sir G. M. Maxwell-Heron, J.
Grant, A. Meldon, C. H.
Grant, D. Mellor, J. W.
Gurdon, R. T. Milbank, Sir F. A.
Hamilton, J. G. C. Monk, C. J.
Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V. Moore, A.
Moreton, Lord
Hardcastle, J. A. Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.
Hartington, Marq. of Morley, A.
Hastings, G. W. Morley, J.
Hayter, Sir A. D. Morley, S.
Henderson, F. Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.
Heneage, E. Noel, E.
Henry, M. Norwood, C. M.
Herschell, Sir F. O'Beirne, Colonel F.
Hibbert, J. T. O'Brien, Sir P.
Hill, T. R. O'Donoghue, The
Holden, I. Otway, Sir A. J.
Holland, S. Paget, T. T.
Hollond, J. R. Palmer, C. M.
Hopwood, C. H. Palmer, G.
Howard, G. J. Palmer, J. H.
Howard, J. Parker, C. S.
Illingworth, A. Pease, Sir J. W.
Ince, H. B. Pease, A.
Inderwick, F. A. Peddie, J. D.
James, Sir H. Pender, J.
James, C. Pennington, F.
James, W. H. Philips, R. N.
Jardine, R. Playfair, rt. hn. Sir L.
Jenkins, Sir J. J. Portman, hn. W. H. B.
Jenkins, D. J. Potter, T. B.
Jerningham, H. E. H. Powell, W. R. H.
Johnson, E. Power, J. O'C.
Jones-Parry, L. Pugh, L. P.
Kingscote, Col. R. N. F. Pulley, J.
Ramsay, J.
Kinnear, J. Ramsden, Sir J.
Labouchere, H. Rathbone, W.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Reed, Sir E. J.
Lawrence, W. Reid, R. T.
Lawson, Sir W. Rendel, S.
Lea, T. Richard, H.
Leake, R. Richardson, T.
Leatham, E. A. Roberts, J.
Lee, H. Roe, T.
Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S. Rogers, J. E. T.
Lloyd, M. Rothschild, Sir N. M. de
Lubbock, Sir J. Roundell, C. S.
Lusk, Sir A. Russell, Lord A.
Lymington, Viscount Russell, C.
Lyons, R. D. Russell, G. W. E.
Macfarlane, D. H. Rylands, P.
Mackie, R. B. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Mackintosh, C. F. Samuelson, B.
Macliver, P. S. Samuelson, H.
M'Arthur, Sir W. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
M' Arthur, A. Seely, C. (Nottingham)
M'Clure, Sir T. Sellar, A. C.
M'Coan, J. C. Shaw, T.
M'Intyre, Aeneas J. Sheridan, H. B.
M'Lagan, P. Shield, H.
M'Laren, C. B. B. Simon, Serjeant J.
M'Minnies, J. G. Slagg, J.
Magniac, G. Smith, Lieut-Col. G.
Maitland, W. F. Smith, S.
Mappin, F. T. Smyth, P. J.
Marjoribanks, hon. E. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Martin, P. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Martin, R. B. Stansfeld, rt. hon, J.
Stanton, W. J. Webster, J.
Stevenson, J. C. West, H. W.
Stuart, H. V. Whitbread, S.
Summers, W. Whitworth, B.
Talbot, C. R. M. Wiggin, H.
Tavistock, Marquess of Williams, S. C. E.
Taylor, P. A. Williamson, S.
Tennant, C. Willis, W.
Thomasson, J. P. Wills, W. H.
Thompson, T. C. Willyams, E. W. B.
Tillett, J. H. Wilson, Sir M.
Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury- Wilson, C. H.
Wilson, I.
Trevelyan, rt. hn. G.O. Wodehouse, E. R.
Villiers, rt. hon. C. P. Woodall, W.
Vivian, Sir H. H. Woolf, S.
Vivian, A. P.
Waddy, S. D. TELLERS.
Walker, S. Grosvenor, right hon. Lord R.
Warterlow, Sir S.
Waugh, E. Kensington, rt. hn. Lord
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