HC Deb 19 May 1884 vol 288 cc672-3

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, for the satisfaction of those who believe that it has never been brought to the knowledge of the Mahdi and of the Soudanese who are engaged in Military operations what the object of the mission of General Gordon is, he will consider the feasibility of conveying to them that Her Majesty's Government, in sending an English General to the Soudan, only desire to effect by peaceful means the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops, Egyptian employés, and other Foreigners, who may wish to leave the Country; and, whether he will take steps to enter into diplomatic relations with the Mahdi, or whomsoever else may be the governing power in the-Soudan, in order to prevent, if possible, all further effusion of blood, to establish a fixed frontier between Egypt and the Soudan, and to effect an arrangement by means of which General Gordon and those who may wish to accompany him will be enabled peaceably to withdraw from the Soudan?


As regards the first part of the Question, I have the fullest conviction that the pacific object of the mission of General Gordon is and must be perfectly well known to the Mahdi and to all persons of any position in the Soudan. Of that I entertain a moral conviction. As we have no diplomatic relations with the Chiefs and others, it is not possible for me to say more on the subject. The hon. Member will recollect that the Proclamations of General Gordon on the subject have been made public as far as he could make them public; and, as a matter of fact, his mission was a fact of great notoriety, and he put himself in communication with the Madhi, although I do not know that we are in possession of the terms. Likewise, in the neighbourhood of Suakin the Proclamations were made by the English authorities, which distinctly pointed to the pacific end of General Gordon's mission, and expressed a strong desire that the chief tribes in that portion of the country should go to Khartoum for the purpose of making arrangements with General Gordon. Then, Sir, with respect to the second part of the Question, all I can say to my hon. Friend is that I hope he will not expect an answer of a definitive character—at any rate, unless he shows me how to go to work, and how we are to enter into diplomatic relations with the Mahdi or the governing Powers in the Soudan. But whatever measures the Government take will be in the direction indicated by the Question—to make effective arrangements with regard to bringing all the difficulties to an end.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the difficulties have not arisen through General Gordon asking for assistance to put down the insurrection and smash the Mahdi?


The hon. Member is perfectly justified in his reference; but I am speaking of General Gordon's mission to the Soudan, and of the public and formal declaration of General Gordon to the people of the Soudan when he arrived at Khartoum. How far his later communications to the Government have become known in the Soudan, in the present state of our communications from that quarter I am not able to state.