HC Deb 05 November 1884 vol 293 cc996-1022

, in rising to move the following Amendment:— Humbly to pray Her Majesty to direct Her Ministers, in the interests of freedom and commerce, and for the security of Egypt, to efficiently support General Gordon in establishiug a stable and civilized Government at Khartoum, said: The debate on the Address has already occupied 10 days, and of this time not two clear days have been given to the consideration of Imperial questions. Five and a-half have been taken up with debate on the administration of Criminal Law in Ireland, against which consumption of time the Government have made no serious protest. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Oh!] It was only the night before last, on the fifth evening, that the Prime Minister objected to the prolongation of the debate; but that objection was a very perfunctory one. The fact is, the Government are too fearful of the Irish Party to oppose any serious resistance to them. One night has been given to the consideration of the all-important subject of trade, and this the President of the Board of Trade actually described as "a waste of time." One night was taken up by a debate upon the revolutionary incitements of the same Minister. Moreover, the Government now propose to monopolize every day, and thus render it necessary to debate Imperial questions upon the Address. With this explanation I hope no Radical organ will have the audacity or the unfairness to blame me for bringing forward the subject of this Amendment. The House was considerably surprised, and not a little amused, at the references of the Prime Minister on the first night of the Session to the Egyptian policy of the Government. Had our information been limited to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, we might well have concluded that little or nothing unsatisfactory had taken place in that country; that General Gordon and the Ministry were lost in admiration of each other; and that the costly Expedition of Relief which is now toiling its weary way towards Khartoum had been despatched at the right moment, with the utmost forethought, and without a day's hesitation or delay. What are the facts with regard to Her Majesty's present Ministers in Egypt? Their conduct of affairs in two years and a-quarter has cost Egypt and England 50,000 human lives. It has caused an expenditure to Egypt and to the British Empire of close on £10,000,000 a-piece. That enormous sum of £20,000,000 might just as well have been thrown into the deep sea for any benefit that any people, creature, or interest has derived from it. Neither England, nor Egypt, nor Europe, neither Fellaheen, nor Soudanese, nor British are any the better for this deplorable waste of resources and of human life. General Gordon has been cruelly deserted and left to the chance of fate during six perilous months. Our old ally of Constantinople has been alienated by the injustice and persecution of the present Government. Germany and Austria have been driven from us by the affronts and blunders of our Ministry. France, their boasted friend, for whom they sacrificed everything, has been turned into bitter hostility towards us. And, most remarkable Nemesis of all, the inventor of the Concert of Europe, now sees the nearest approach to that European combination directed against himself. Continental Europe has united in an act of vigorous protest against the financial repudiation which the advice of the British Cabinet has lately forced upon the Khedive. That protest has right on its side. For the first time in English history the name of this country has been associated with an act of public dishonesty. The Khedive has, by the advice of the Ministers of England, violated a solemn and International Treaty. The puppet of the British Cabinet has broken its formal and binding engagements with the Bondholders and with the States of Europe in order to find the means to meet the liabilities in which the blind and blundering policy of the same British Cabinet has involved Egypt. The £8,000,000 or more of extra Debt, which that country has incurred since July, 1882, are due to the mistakes of Her Majesty's present Ministers, and to them alone. £4,000,000 are owing to the Alexandria indemnities. That liability was incurred because the British Government neglected the dictates of common sense, and the warnings of those who knew Egypt, and refused to provide a landing force when Alexandria was bombarded. A little foresight and courage would have preserved the city, and ended the war then and there. The remaining £4,000,000 are due to the half-hearted and ever-shifting policy our Ministers have pursued with regard to the Soudan. The horrible sacrifice of human life, the 40,000 and 50,000 human souls that have been there untimely slain, the millions that have been sunk in that abyss might, for the greater part, have been saved, had the Indian Brigade been, as Sir Charles Wilson advised, sent to Khartoum after Tel-el-Kebir. All Europe knows these facts. Every Government, every organ of public opinion among the nations, has been crying shame upon the British Cabinet for the black scene of carnage and ruin that has overwhelmed Egyptian territory since their blasting touch fell upon that unfortunate country. When, in addition to the disastrous mismanagement in Egypt and the Soudan, the Khedive was directed to break his pledges, and violate the International compacts to which England also was a party, in order to pay for the losses that British policy had inflicted upon Egypt, there came a general and unanimous protest. Other Governments still deem the pledge of nations as sacred as the word of a gentleman, though Her Majesty's present Ministers hold the pledges of England at a very different estimate. But the details of the Prime Minister's statement are even more extraordinary than its general purport. The Government were long "silent with regard to General Gordon, because they had nothing to say." They had nothing to say because they were willing to do nothing; because, from the beginning of March to the end of August, they had not the courage to make up their minds to take any step in support or to relieve their gallant agent. According to the right hon. Gentleman, General Gordon is deeply grateful to the Cabinet for the aid they have given him. Was there ever such an astonishing perversion of the facts? Not on April 8, as the Prime Minister said, but on March 11, or barely three weeks after his arrival at Khartoum, before he had received an answer to his suggestions and advice, it was that General Gordon sent a formal message of thanks to Sir Evelyn Baring and Her Majesty's Ministers. There his gratitude abruptly stopped. Nor did he after that message of March 11, change his policy and recommend Zebehr, as the Prime Minister asserts. Seven weeks before April 8, the right hon. Gentleman's date, and three weeks before March 11, had General Gordon advised the despatch of Zebehr. From the 11th of March to this day the Prime Minister and his Colleagues have received from General Gordon nothing but indignant contempt and most richly-deserved reproaches for their shuffling, their desertion, and their unworthy suggestions that he should meanly abandon those whom he was sent out to save. On the 16th of April, General Gordon told the Government that henceforth he would act for himself— I leave to you," he added, "the indelible disgrace of abandoning the garrisons, with the certainty that you will eventually be forced to smash up the Mahdi under greater difficulties. That certainly every man of sense has long foreseen; and it is now at hand. In August once more, the veil that for five months concealed from our knowledge those most heroic struggles and the perils and sufferings of that terrible siege was lifted. For a moment the story of the terrible dangers, the daily assaults, the marvellous resources of that great spirit was unshrouded. Another message from Khartoum reached the Government. Again the biting words of truth come from the Christian hero, whom you have sent out unprotected to cope with— The tremendous dangers that affected the whole of Egypt, and countries beyond, and whose every warning you have treated with contempt. You are the cause of all the evils that have befallen Egypt; and— If the rebels kill the Egyptians their blood will be upon your heads. The Conservative Party maintained, during the debates in April and May, that General Gordon was shut in by the Mahdi's hordes, and unable to leave Khartoum. It was, indeed, clear from all the intelligence that came from the Soudan, and especially from Mr. Power, that, owing to the neglect of the Ministry to notice any of General Gordon's warnings, the storm he predicted on March 1 had burst upon him, and that he was completely beleaguered in Khartoum. The Prime Minister deliberately took a contrary view in face of the clearest evidence. Thus he stated on April 3— General Gordon is under no constraint and under no order to remain in the Soudan. Neither is he under any inability to leave the Soudan at this moment. A British officer sent out to rescue 60,000 human beings, under no constraint of honour or duty not to stand by those he went out to save! Now, we have in the latest Blue Books the fullest evidence that the Prime Minister was absolutely wrong, and that he had no evidence whatever in support of his statements. Thus, on July 31, Gordon writes emphatically— Reading over your telegram of the 5th May, 1884, you ask me to state cause and intention in staying at Khartoum, knowing Government means to abandon Soudan, and in answer I say I stay at Khartoum because Arabs have shut us up and will not let us out. I also add that even if the road were opened the people would not let me go unless I gave them some Government or took them with me, which I could not do. No one would leave more willingly than I would if it were possible. With reference to the incredibly mean suggestion of the Government, that he should desert those whom he was sent out to save, repeatedly made by Ministers in April and May, he says— I shall not leave Khartoum till I can put someone in. I will not leave these people after all they have gone through. And to stamp his sense of the shabby parsimony of the Government which denied him all the support he asked for, though it is now involving the expenditure of millions in a Relief Expedition, Gordon says— The only reinforcements the Soudan has received since the 27th November, 1883, date when Hicks' defeat was known at Cairo, is seven persons, including myself, and we have sent down over 600 soldiers and 2,000 people. The people here and Arabs laugh over it. Not one pound of money you gave me got here. It was captured at Berber. And, after telling the Government that he is making some decorations to distribute among his faithful soldiers in honour of the defence of Khartoum, he adds these stinging words— You will not be asked to pay for them. The House will remember the efforts that were made by some Members on this side to induce Her Majesty's Ministers to send relief to Berber before it was too late. The appealing telegrams that came from the Governor and the residents of that unfortunate place during April last are well known. I will only quote one out of a dozen. Sir Evelyn Baring telegraphed a message on April 23 from Berber— We are in great danger. …. We have only 60 cases of ammunition. Pray send am munition and troops. If Berber falls there is no longer any hope for Soudan. The Prime Minister was then able, in face of the strongest evidence to the contrary, to state that there was no risk of Berber sharing the fate of Sinkat, and, moreover, that— The fall of Berber would make no essential change in the position of Khartoum. All help was cruelly refused, and within six weeks Berber fell. General Gordon tells the result in these words— According to all accounts, 5,000 were massacred at Berber; and he says— Had not Berber fallen the route from Wady Haifa along the Nile would have been a picnic. Thousands of women and children were carried off into slavery by the Arabs. What have the Government done to rescue these helpless victims of their laches and delay? Like the wives and families of the brave garrison of Sinkat, they have been abandoned to a most atrocious servitude. At last the decision was taken, late in August, to make tardy preparations to do that which should have been done in March and April. How Ministers were able to make up their minds, even in August, Heaven only knows! But I shrewdly suspect that pressure from Foreign States had much to do with it. Other Governments did not regard the devastating invasions of the barbarous fanatics and slave-hunters from the Soudan as the efforts of "peoples rightly struggling to be free." What has this delay cost England? Last March, Gordon asked for the mere prestige of 200 British soldiers at Wady Haifa. Then the fate of great districts was trembling in the balance. With his vast and intimate knowledge of the Soudanese, Gordon said the prestige of those 200 men at Wady Haifa, and five officers, would cause the swelling revolt to collapse. This request, and every other suggestion General Gordon made, was treated with indifference and scorn. The five officers were not sent, the 200 bayonets at Wady Haifa were refused him. His urgent representations, those of Colonel Stewart and of Sir Evelyn Baring, as to Zebehr, were rejected. The £200,000 and the 2,000 Turkish troops, with which he offered to restore order in the Soudan, were also denied him. No Indian troops were sent to Berber. General Graham's gallant Army was not allowed to open the Berber road in March. That bloody and wanton Expedition was hurried back from Suakin to Cairo without any results except the fruitless slaughter of 6,000 Arabs. For six months Gordon was deserted, abandoned, and betrayed. Alone in that remote and desolate region—left to face treachery within and the furious hordes without, with no resources but those of his own heroic soul, and his sublime confidence in the Almighty. And now, at the twelfth hour, not 200 British soldiers, but 6,000 bayonets, are on their way to Khartoum. Not the £200,000, for which Gordon asked in March, are being spent, but over £2,000,000 are the outcome of five months of shirking and delay. The Prime Minister stated that no disparaging or questioning word as to General Gordon had passed from the mouth of any Member of the Government. I remember how that cruel and heartless despatch of April 23, which conveyed from the Cabinet their message of abandonment to General Gordon, imparted to him a change of purpose, and a deliberate perversion of his mission— Tell Gordon we do not propose to supply him with Turkish or other forces for the purpose of undertaking military expeditions, such being at variance with the pacific policy which was the object of his mission. That was the message sent to a man who the Ministry knew to be in deadly peril, who was surrounded by savage foes, who had nothing but worthless and beaten troops at his back, whose chief lieutenants had proved faithless to him, who was cut off from all communications with the outside world, who had warned Ministers repeatedly and in vain of the coming storm, whose advice and requests they had constantly rejected. Gordon's last message in March through a faithful and trusted companion was— We are daily expecting British troops; we cannot bring ourselves to believe that we are abandoned by the British Government. Our existence depends upon England. Notwithstanding this, and the full knowledge of his dire peril, the Cabinet sarcastically asked for more information, and told him that no support would be sent to enable him to meet "the tremendous danger that affected Egypt." There has been no change, no inconsistency on Gordon's part. You sent him out on a definite mission. That included the withdrawal of the 22,000 Egyptian soldiers and the 40,000 civilians in the Soudan. Besides, he was to establish an organized Government if possible. He exhausted pacific means. He even told you it was necessary to recognize slavery. He sent a message to the Mahdi. His overtures were repulsed with insult. Then he warned you of what was coming—not once, but 20 times. On February 29, General Gordon said— There is not much chance of improving, and every chance of getting worse. He told you that the Peaceful two-thirds of the population were terrorized over by the Communist, one-third incited by the Mahdi. And he asked for the prestige of 200 British troops at Wady Haifa. Sir Evelyn Baring strongly emphasized this on the 16th and 24th of March—that is, just after Graham's victories at Teb and Tamasi had made it easy to open the Berber road. I have given these hurried quotations—and many more could be given—to show how consistent Gordon was; how constantly and sensibly he warned you of his position, and how, after refusing to do one single thing that he advised, you left him alone to face the storm which burst as he predicted, and which has been surging and raging around him and his gallant companions ever since. The most cruel and reckless act of all was the withdrawal of General Graham's force just when it might have been of use. That was done in defiance of the direct advice of Gordon, of General Graham, and, I believe, of the highest military authorities at home. Yet with all this information as to Gordon's perils, need, and request for help, and with his last indignant message of indelible reproach in his pocket, the Prime Minister was able to tell Parliament on the 24th of April that there was "no military or other danger threatening Khartoum." He is still, with light heart, able to forget all that has happened since March 11—the long betrayal, the indignant reproaches of Gordon; and he dwelt upon the fact that Gordon, with premature gratitude, thanked the Ministry eight months ago for support they never gave him. Ask General Gordon now his deliberate opinion of your conduct, and then publish it if you dare. Further, the Prime Minister affirms that the policy of the Government has not changed with regard to Khartoum. If that means anything, it means that Khartoum is to be abandoned to a fanatical and aggressive barbarian. It means that a great commercial emporium and military position of the first importance for Egypt and the countries beyond, is to be given up to the Mahdi's hordes and to ruin. It means that the great trading interests of Egypt in the Soudan, the prospect of opening up and civilizing the vast regions between the Red Sea and the Nyanza Lakes, is to be abandoned. It means that for the first time in our history, under the blighting influence of a craven English Ministry, civilization and order are to recede before anarchy and barbarism; that millions of suffering people are to be given over to black superstition, and to the cruellest form of slavery. Give up Khartoum to the False Prophet and to anarchy, and you will be forced to send expeditions up the Nile every few years in order to defend Egypt. Early in this Session I ventured to submit to this House a Resolution protesting against this cowardly and disastrous abandonment of so commanding and valuable a position. The policy of the Government has directly encouraged slavery, for the abandonment of the Soudan means the development of slavery. General Gordon warned the Ministry last February of what must happen, when he said, on February 21— I answered (questions regarding the liberation of slaves) that the Treaty of 1877 would not be enforced in 1889 by me, which, considering the determination of Her Majesty's Government respecting the Soudan, was a self-evident fact. Sir Evelyn Baring also writes on the same date to Earl Granville— It was obvious from the first that a revival of slavery in the Soudan would result from the policy of abandonment. Knowing that he is powerless to stop slavery in the future, General Gordon evidently intends using it as a concession to the people, which will strengthen his position in other ways. So that in addition to all the other human misery which the Government policy has caused, "a revival of slavery" is its clear and proclaimed result. What could be more distinct than these statements. As in South Africa so in Egyptian territory you have developed slavery. Have the Ministry ever considered that it is in the ability of a Power established at Khartoum to abso- lutely ruin Egypt? I have it on the authority of Sir Samuel Baker, who knows the country better than anyone else, except General Gordon. Sir Samuel Baker states that any Government could dam the Nile at Khartoum, divert its channel, and thereby make Egypt absolutely sterile. Egypt is the Nile. All its fertility and its resources depend upon that great river. What could be done if the course of the Nile was diverted for six months, and its fertilizing flood turned away? Khartoum is a great commercial position. The trade with the Soudan amounts to many millions. A deputation of Egyptian merchants waited on the British and French Consuls not long ago, and this is what they said— Is there any example in history of a civilized nation retiring before savage tribes? … To abandon the Soudan would be to give it up to barbarism. … Importation in the Soudan Provinces, represents a value of nearly £2,000,000. There are in the Soudan more than 3,000 Egyptian commercial establishments, and more than 1,000 Europeans. There is at present in Cairo £500,000 worth of goods destined for the Soudan. Is all this to be lost? A civilized Government at Khartoum could really maintain order and repress slavery in the vast regions east of the White and Blue Niles, and between Abyssinia and Khartoum. Armed steamers on the Niles would effectually prevent any large force from crossing from Kordofan, and could cut off the slave caravans. If the traffic with the North and East is destroyed, the Slave Trade must die out. If you abandon Khartoum to these marauding hordes, whom the Prime Minister exalted into the character of "peoples rightly struggling to be free," slavery must prevail throughout the Soudan. There never was such a figment of the imagination as the idea that this fanatical slave-dealer, who kills and enslaves his prisoners and who offers his victims the choice of the Koran and the Sword, is the leader of "peoples rightly struggling to be free." We were told on the first day of this debate by the Prime Minister that General Gordon's heroic struggles against the Mahdi had averted— Tremendous danger from Egypt and the neighbouring countries. A very different story were we given all last Session. Then the Mahdi was an innocent patriot. "This movement was overrated," the danger was slight. Now, the Prime Minister had forgotten all his old statements. Naturally, even his marvellous memory cannot carry itself through all the evolutions and variations of his policy. He now affirms that the Mahdi is and has been a Tremendous danger to Egypt and the neighbouring countries. What a commentary this confession is upon the long inaction of the Government and their six months' desertion of General Gordon. As to the starting of the Expedition, the Prime Minister would have us believe that there has been no delay, and that a delicate consideration for the health of the troops has prevented them from moving earlier. Would he venture to call the Commander-in-Chief in support of such an assertion? Is it not a fact that the preparations were undertaken six weeks, if not two months, later than they ought to have been; that the most precious season of the year for ascending the Nile was lost owing to this decision of the Ministry, and that the Nile transport alone has cost an extra £100,000 in consequence of the delay? Had we not information that Khartoum was only provisioned up to the end of September, and that but for a miracle its gallant defenders must have been starved out months before the arrival of this costly Expedition? So much for the Egyptian policy of the Government. Once more I ask, whom has it benefited? No one knows when this bloody and costly farce will be ended. I say "farce," for what has it accomplished? What benefit has the action of the British Government in Egypt been to any people, interest, or creature in this wide world? Are we more respected among the nations? Are our interests more secure? Has our trade been increased? Is our military, administrative, or political repute higher. Are the British people better off? Are the Fellaheen of Egypt more prosperous or contented? Have the divers races of the Soudan derived any advantage from the policy of the British Ministry? Will even the Mahdi in the long run be the better for it? I trow not. The British Cabinet, their policy and their blunders, are by turns the laughing-stock and the cause of bitter indignation throughout Europe. Every Government is protesting against the act of financial dishonesty that the English Government has forced upon the Khedive, and is crying shame upon the black scene of carnage and ruin that marks our occupation of Egyptian territory. So far from preserving the precious waterway to the East for our trade and forces—the Canal in which our interests are greater than those of all the rest of the world together—the Prime Minister has actually offered it to any and every Power that would accept the gift. He has proposed to neutralize Egypt and the Suez Canal in favour of our rivals and our foes, and has put it in the power of any hostile and unscrupulous enemies to block or to destroy the shortest route by which our ships and our reinforcements go to India. We have lost the trade with the Soudan, and our traffic with Egypt has been injuriously affected by the disturbance and disaster of the last two years. Is Egypt better off? Egypt owes at least £8,000,000 more than it owed in 1882, and has just committed, under the Northbrook-Tewfik Decree, an act of financial repudiation. The resources of the country have been diminished. The valuable trade with the Soudan has been cut off. The Fellaheen are burdened with debts, and the so-called reforms in the administration have, owing to their half-and-half and hesitating character, been more vexatious than beneficial. A thorough British supervision of the whole Administration might have been easily established in 1882, directly after Tel-el-Kebir. Had this been done, Egypt long since would have had a truly beneficent Government, and we should have now the blessings, instead of the curses, of her long-suffering people. But the British Cabinet had not the courage or statesmanship to accept the responsibility which their own acts threw upon them. The result is now evident in the waste of millions of treasure and the slaughter of scores of thousands. As for the pandemonium in the Soudan, the cruel and needless butchery, the vacillating and imbecile incapacity to grasp or to let alone, the cowardly desertion, the chances thrown away, the tardy and costly Expedition of Relief, the perils, the heroism, the indelible reproaches of the chivalrous Gordon—who could think of all this hideous congeries of pusillanimity and woe without indignant disgust? It is like a horrid nightmare; yet it is all too real for the wretched victims of British ineptitude, and for the fame of this ancient land. Arabi was turned into a national hero because the Ministry shut their ears to the warnings of all who knew Egypt. Alexandria was ruined, and £4,000,000 of indemnities incurred, and Tel-el-Kebir rendered necessary, because the British Cabinet would not, in July, 1882, send 2,000 bayonets to act with the Fleet. The Soudan was given over to the Mahdi, and 40,000 lives sacrificed, because the Ministry shirked responsibility, and would not despatch the Indian Brigade to Khartoum in October, 1882. General Hicks and his 13,000 men were sent to their doom, because the British Government, that had smashed the Egyptian Army to pieces, had too little courage to telegraph six words of direction, or even advice, to Cairo. Baker's 2,500 conscripts were hurried to a like butchery for the self-same reason. Tewfik Bey and his brave garrison were left to perish within gun-sound of the British Squadron, because the same shuffling Ministers could not make up their minds a fortnight sooner to send out General Graham. That brave officer and his efficient little Army were allowed to slay 6,000 Arabs without rhyme or reason, or result, and then recalled in hot haste back to Cairo, just when their bloody victories promised good fruit. The Berber road might have easily been opened by General Graham in March, and Khartoum then relieved. But the chance, like a hundred others was thrown away, in deference to a feeble little splutter of Radical agitation at home. Berber itself was left to fall, and 3,500 human souls allowed to perish, because the Government could not in April last decide to risk one-tenth of what they are now, at the twelfth hour, doing. That delay is costing the country Lord Wolseley's costly Expedition. For the Government now to throw away all the results and fruits of the efforts of our soldiers and the heroic struggles of General Gordon would be an act of impolicy, of surrender, of moral cowardice so pernicious and so discreditable to this country that it is impossible for Parliament and the country to protest against it sufficiently.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the seventh paragraph, after the word "provision," to insert the words "Humbly to pray Her Majesty to direct Her Ministers, in the interests of freedom and commerce, and for the security of Egypt, to efficiently support General Gordon in establishing a stable and civilised Government at Khartoum."—(Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


said, that the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had thought it necessary to explain why he interrupted the course of Business on the present occasion with a speech on Egyptian affairs. That explanation was due not so much to Members on the Liberal side as to Members on the opposite side, because it was a matter which was notorious to everybody that the general feeling of the House, quite irrespective of Party, had been and still was that whatever discussion might take place on Egyptian affairs had very much better take place at a later stage when the House had those proposals before it for the grant of money alluded to in the Queen's Speech. Hon. Members had, therefore, cause to complain of the course pursued by the hon. Member for Eye, who had thought fit to interpose between the House and very important Bnsiness. In the few observations which he should make in reply to the hon. Member he should not follow him over the extensive ground, which more suo, he had covered. The hon. Member had alluded to almost every subject under the sun—for example, to the evacuation of Candahar, the Bulgarian atrocities, and the war in the Transvaal, and to many other subjects not connected with the Question before the House. In fact, the hon. Member had made a speech which was really only distantly connected with the Amendment before the House. The Amendment contained a clear proposal, and why the hon. Member should have considered it necessary to introduce other matters, some of them of detail with which the House was frequently occupied last Session, rather puzzled him. He regrettted that the hon. Member had not followed the example set by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), who had placed an Amendment upon the Paper, but had refrained from proceeding with it out of deference to the feelings of Members on both sides of the House. The hon Member for Brighton during the Recesstravelled from Brighton to Alexandria and back again, and embodied the results of his observations in a pamphlet, copies of which he had sent to all the Members of that House. He regretted that the hon. Member for Eye had not followed that example, and embodied the result of his study of the Egyptian Question in a pamphlet, and distributed it amongst Members, so as to allow the House to proceed to the consideration of the Franchise Bill. But, though he had gone over a great deal of ground, the hon. Member had not taken the trouble to quote the most recent information which had been before the House. If he had read the last Blue Book he would have seen that there was important information upon the subject in the instructions to Lord Wolseley. One might imagine, from the hon. Member's speech, that the Government had never intended to try to establish, either in communication with General Gordon or without such communication, a stable and civilized Government in Khartoum and the Eastern Soudan. Now, it was notorious that in the original instructions to General Gordon the desirability of establishing some form of stable Government at Khartoum was strongly pressed upon him. The hon. Member would recollect that in the Blue Book, Egypt, No. 2, there were instructions to General Gordon, and in a subsequent Blue Book, No. 7, there was a memorandum of General Gordon, a portion of which partially reproduced those instructions in which the desirability of not leaving those countries in a condition of anarchy was pressed upon him by the Government. And in the instructions to Lord Wolseley a most striking and important passage at page 113 appeared to have escaped the hon. Member's attention. [Mr. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT: No.] If it had not escaped his attention, why did not the hon. Member allude to it? He supposed it was because such an allusion would not have chimed in with the indictment the hon. Member had made against the Government. He was, however, astonished that the hon. Member, knowing those Papers were in the hands of everyone, should have passed the matter by altogether. The passage in question was this— As regards the future government of the Soudan, and especially of Khartoum, Her Ma- jesty's Government would he glad to see a Government at Khartoum, which, so far as all matters connected with the internal administration of the country are concerned, would he wholly independent of Egypt. The Egyptian Government would be prepared to pay a reasonable subsidy to any Chief or number of Chiefs who would be sufficiently powerful to maintain order along the Valley of the Nile from Wady Haifa to Khartoum, and who would agree to the following conditions:—1. To remain at peace with Egypt, and to repress any raids on Egyptian territory. 2. To encourage trade with Egypt. 3. To prevent and discourage by all possible means any expeditions for the sale of and capture of slaves. You are authorized to conclude any arrangements which fulfil these general conditions. The main difficulty will consist in the selection of an individual or of a number of individuals having sufficient authority to maintain order. With regard to the details of the plan, Her Majesty's Government relied very much upon the information they might receive from Lord Wolseley, who was on the spot; and he was in a position to say, from recent letters received from Lord Wolseley, that this matter was occupying his attention. Beyond that he was not at present disposed to go, and the House would feel that to give premature information on the subject was not desirable. But he must protest against the fundamental error which ran through the hon. Member's speech that Her Majesty's Government, neither at this nor at any other time, attached any importance to establishing a stable and efficient Government at Khartoum, but simply desired to withdraw as rapidly as possible, regardless of consequences. One word more upon a certain portion of the hon. Member's speech. The hon. Member alluded to the Slave Trade, and one would imagine from what he said that Her Majesty's Government did not at all realize the importance of that matter. It would be easy for him (Lord Edmond Fitz-maurice), if he choose to dive into Blue Books, to weary the House with one quotation after another, showing that this question of Slavery and the Slave Trade had never been absent from the mind of Her Majesty's Government. But those very instructions to Lord Wolseley contained a prominent mention of the Slave Trade. He had just read one of them, which was— To prevent and discourage by all possible means any expeditions for the sale of and capture of slaves. He was quite aware that the questions of domestic slavery and the Slave Trade, though closely connected, were in some respects distinct. It struck more at the roots of the habits and custome of the people to do away with domestic slavery than if any number of Firmans were issued to-morrow abolishing the Slave Trade. He was sure the House would recognize that Her Majesty's Government had not neglected these questions, and that they would believe that everything possible would be done, though the Government had not attempted to deceive the House as to the real difficulties of the task they had undertaken. He had thought it right to address these few observations to the House; but he did not believe it was the desire of hon. Members opposite themselves that he should attempt to follow the hon. Member for Eye over all the ground which he had travelled. The hon. Member had argued in every direction; and if he were to attempt to follow the hon. Member, he should have to detain the House at very great length. The condition of the Benches opposite was a proof that he was right in believing that it was not the intention of the House to-day to enter upon a debate on Egyptian affairs. He had, nevertheless, thought it his duty to protest against the attack of the hon. Member; and he had now only to thank the House for the attention with which they had listened to him, especially as he was labouring under a physical difficulty in addressing the House.


I do not think it necessary to detain the House at any great length; but, after the observations of the noble Lord, it may be desirable to say a few words in justification of the course taken by my hon. Friend. The noble Lord has made it a matter of complaint that my hon. Friend has, in the course of his speech, dealt with a considerable number of topics, and taken a wide view of the conduct of Pier Majesty's Government not only in Egypt, but in South Africa, Afghanistan, and the Soudan, and the noble Lord implied that that was rather wandering from the subject. But the case, as it presents itself to the mind of my hon. Friend and of a large number of persons in this House, and in the country, is that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in these matters must be taken as a whole, and as throwing light upon each portion of their action; and when the question is raised as to whether any steps ought to be taken for facilitating the establishment of a stable and civilized Government at Khartoum, it is reasonable for anyone raising the question to point to the conclusion that, from the experience we have had of the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government, we have no reason to think that they have any intention to do anything at all. Therefore, my hon. Friend is right, and is perfectly consistent with himself, in drawing attention to these matters. The noble Lord said just now, with regard to the establishment of stable government at Khartoum and in the neighbourhood, that if my hon. Friend had quoted the despatches in the last Blue Book, it would be seen that instructions to do so had been issued. But these instructions were of the loosest character, and we require something more in order to see whether there is substance or consistency in them. There is one portion of the despatch which impresses on the Commander of the Expedition that he is not to go to Khartoum if he could possibly avoid it, and another in which permission is given him to assist, or to give encouragement, in the establishment of any Government, whatever it may turn out to be, which will present some appearance of stability, and will enter into some agreements with regard to the Slave Trade and other matters. That is really, after all, very little more than that pretence of doing a thing which has been so severely commented upon in the Scriptures—"Go in peace; be ye warmed, be ye filled," without doing anything to assist the needy. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, as the noble Lord truly remarked, put down a Notice of Amendment which raises in a broader and larger form the question of our Egyptian policy as a whole, and has not thought it expedient to bring it forward. My hon. Friend thought it would be better that a serious debate of that character should take place when we have full information, which we shall get when the Government bring forward their Estimates, and explain what the cost of their policy may be. But we do not know when that may be done. We know, as we have just heard, that the Franchise Bill is to have precedence of everything; and we do not know when we shall have an opportunity of discussing those Egyptian matters. In the meantime, my hon. Friend observes that since the first night of the Session, when there was some conversation on the subject, new Papers have been laid before us; and very naturally, considering the amount of information he possesses on the subject, he has claimed the right of calling attention to the matter, and has expressed very clearly and with great ability his views of what has been done with regard to Khartoum. I agree with the noble Lord that for a full discussion of the subject the time will come best when we have before us the Vote which the Government are going to propose, and which must be accompanied by a full explanation of their policy. Looking at the fact that every day is of importance in these matters, and that the Government may from day to day commit the country to something which we should be sorry to see it committed to, I do not think it all unnatural or to be regretted that my hon. Friend should, before parting with the Address, have taken the opportunity of making some observations upon this very important subject.


said, he agreed that this was not a fitting occasion on which to debate the Egyptian Question. The greater part of the speech of the hon. Member for Eye was devoted to a glorification of General Gordon at the expense of Her Majesty's Government. Against General Gordon's motives and intentions he (Sir George Campbell) had not a word to say; but he thought it was patent on the face of the Blue Book that General Gordon's conduct was a mass of contradictions and inconsistencies, and the Government were quite justified in taking notice of these inconsistencies and contradictions when General Gordon urged upon them particular courses, and reproached them for not complying with his wishes. He was thoroughly convinced that the garrison of Khartoum would have been very much better without Gordon, and that they might have made their own terms with the rebels. There was no reason to suppose they would have been massacred, as there was no instance of the massacre of those who submitted to the Mahdi. General Gordon said he dare not leave Khartoum, because he was afraid the garrison would follow their natural bent and join the Mahdi. If that were their natural bent, there was no reason why they should not follow it. His belief was that it had been an unmitigated misfortune that General Gordon was ever sent to Khartoum at all; but being there, the Government were bound to do their best to get him away. He principally rose to declare his individual opinion that the instructions issued to Lord Wolseley were the best that could have been issued under the circumstances. The Government accepted the obligation to get General Gordon out of the scrape he had got into, and incidentally to do the best they could to enable the Egyptians shut up at Khartoum to get away. Looking to the career of Lord Wolseley, we might have confidence that he would not, for the sake of any glory to be got by fighting, carry the Expedition one step further than was necessary, and that he would bring it back as quickly and cheaply as he could, and with as little loss of blood as possible. The question of the administration of Khartoum was one of the impossibilities of the situation that we had brought upon ourselves by going to Egypt at all. We were not bound to spend blood and treasure for the purpose of holding territory which did not belong to it. If we could set up a decent Government there, we might do it; but, if we could not do that, we could not help it The tone in which the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) spoke of slavery indicated a sense of the difficulty of doing anything to diminish it, rather than a zeal for the mitigation of slavery. By the Law of August, 1884, slavery was made illegal in Egypt Proper, and severe penalties were attached to the infraction of the law. It might surely have been said that something had been done to give effect to the law, and to insure that it did not remain a dead letter.


said, he considered the instructions given to Lord Wolseley were such as had never been given to a General before. It was a most extraordinary thing that Lord Wolseley's instructions should have been, in part, drafted by himself. The form in which they were drawn up implied that General Gordon would retire from Khartoum to meet Lord Wolseley, and leave his garrison behind to be butchered by the Mahdi. That was an imputation which ought not to be cast upon General Gordon, and ought not to have appeared in the instructions. We knew that Gordon would not come away and leave those who had stood by him to be butchered. He knew from the character of General Gordon that he would remain at Khartoum to the bitter end. It was said that further instructions were to be sent through the Consul General at Cairo, and if such instructions had been sent, he desired to know how they had been worded? He felt convinced that Wolseley must go to Khartoum, because Gordon would not leave the garrison. If steps were to be taken to insure the safe retreat of the soldiers, the civil employés, and the women and children, who had been estimated to number from 8,000 to 15,000, had the Government thoroughly weighed all that was implied in such a retreat? That of Moses and the Israelites would be nothing to it, surrounded as the fugitives would be by the forces of the Mahdi. They could advance only at the rate of fives or six miles a-day, and the furnishing of water and supplies would be a great difficulty. General Gordon could succeed only by remaining at Khartoum; by facing the Mahdi, beating him off, and scouring the country for miles round. Therefore, the orders that were given to Lord Wolseley required him to do a thing that was almost impossible. It was quite possible that General Gordon might be sent down to the Equator as a prisoner, unless the Government looked ahead. Unless a definite course was adopted and carried out by the Government, he much feared that before long we should hear of a great catastrophe.


said, he had no inclination to protract the debate unnecessarily; but the subject introduced by the Amendment had such urgent, pressing claims on the attention of the nation, that it must be considered of a most important character. If anything were wanted to justify the Motion made by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), it would be found in the speech from the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice); and, listening to that speech, a curious effect must have been produced on the minds of hon. Members who remembered an answer given by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) last Session. The only two Members of the Government present during the speech of the hon. Member for Eye distinctly contradicted each other on a simple matter of fact—namely, the instructions to General Gordon to establish a settled Government at Khartoum. The words used by the noble Marquess opposite, on the 5th of August, were— It is probable that General Gordon, before retiring from Khartoum, might desire to establish a settled form of Government. That, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, would he exceeding his instructions. His mission, and his primary object, were to evacuate the Soudan. Certainly, no instructions were ever given to General Gordon to establish a settled form of Government." — (3 Hansard, [291] 1787.) Then what said the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his speech, in which he disclaimed any intention to reply to the hon. Member for Eye? He said the fundamental error of the hon. Member was that he ignored the fact that Her Majesty's Government had said they would establish a Government in Khartoum. Diametrically opposed to this was the statement of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, which was that no such instructions had been given.


I quoted the instructions given to General Gordon from the Blue Book, Egypt, (No. 2).


said, he would accept the explanation, or admission, of the noble Lord. The hon. Member for Greenwich (Baron Henry de Worms), when the noble Marquess made the statement in August last, quoted the following from the instructions given to General Gordon— We trust Your Excellency will take most effective measures to establish an organized Government in the different Provinces of the Soudan, for the maintenance of order, and the suppression of the incitement to revolt. On the face of it, therefore, he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) was rather inclined to the opinion of the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but the fact that there was this very divergence of opinion between two Members of the Government, amply justified the Amendment which had been brought forward. The noble Lord had accused the hon. Member of travel- ling over a very wide field of discussion; and, no doubt, he did so, and it must become more wide as they considered the manner in which the Government had dealt with difficulties in different parts of the world. He (Mr. Finch-Hatton) would not attempt to follow the hon. Member; because, so far as he was aware, no apologist had successfully defended the course pursued by the Government, and, until that was done, it was not worth while to attack where there was no defence. There was no necessity to slay the slain. But it should be noted that the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State diverged equally wide of the Amendment, when he brought in the inevitable question of the Franchise Bill again as a block to proceeding further in this matter. Now, he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) failed to see what the Franchise Bill had to do with the policy of the Government at Khartoum, or the establishment of one in the Soudan. The noble Lord had, however, followed an illustrious example when he interposed this screen of the Franchise Bill. The Prime Minister in that speech, which would long remain memorable, when he spoke of the obstruction of the Opposition, reminded the House that there had been 17 nights of Egyptian debate, and expressed his astonishment, saying the question of Egypt was not one of pressing vital importance, but that one would have thought from the protraction of the debates that "Khartoum was in Yorkshire, and the Soudan in Caithness." Well, if that were the case, perhaps General Gordon might come within the sympathies of the right hon. Gentleman under the new centrifugal theory—"bringing people at a distance within the range of your sympathies;" or, perhaps, that theory was not for general application, but only to be applied when it was required to secure a disloyal Irish vote; but he considered this was a question of instant importance, for there was no knowing when it would have to be decided—perhaps, by telegraphic instructions—and there was no knowing, especially after the suppression of the debate promised towards the close of the Session, when the House might have the opportunity of discussing it. Therefore, there should be placed before the country the opinion of the House; and, if it could be obtained from Her Majesty's Government, a statement of their views whether or not, on leaving Khartoum, they intended to establish a stable, settled Government there. With regard to leaving Khartoum, so far as its continued occupation by British troops was concerned, hon. Members on both sides had made up their minds; but if General Gordon was not remaining there in order to provide for the establishment of such a Government, then what, in Heaven's name, was he waiting there for, and why did he go to Khartoum at all? The Government might reply, in the words of General Gordon, that he was waiting to get out; but if that was the case, why did he ever get in? Would it not have been much better to have kept him in this country than to have sent him to Khartoum, in order that after a certain time he might be got out again? If that was the case, we had wasted money with no object. Should it be said, in a couplet similar to that used about a King of France— The British Chief, with many thousand men, Went up the Nile and then came down again? It was surprising that the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State did not accept the Amendment, if the facts were as he stated them. The noble Lord laid stress upon the instructions given to Lord Wolseley; but, summed up in a word, they were all you "may" and not you "must." There were no instructions for the settlement of a Government in Khartoum. Her Majesty's Government, it was said, would be glad to see a settled Government there; and, no doubt, it would be a relief from several embarrassing questions. They were told that the main difficulty would consist in the selection of an individual, or a number of individuals, having sufficient authority to maintain order. What did the abandonment of Khartoum without the establishment of a settled Government there mean? It meant the loss of the whole of the money and lives which had been sacrificed ever since General Gordon set out from these shores. It meant the loss of millions of money to this country without a single counterbalancing result of any kind whatever; and, further, it meant the undoing of the work of the last 30 years carried out by such men as General Gordon in the interest of freedom and civilization. The only people who would benefit by the aban- donment would be the slave-dealers, who would be free to follow their infamous trade. There must be many Egyptians, and perhaps Europeans, in the different garrisons to the south of Khartoum who were looking to England for help, but who, if Khartoum were abandoned, would be the first to be sacrificed. Let not the House or the country forget that if Khartoum and the Soudan were abandoned without a stable Government, they would abandon a country which had been for some years under a civilized form of government. He would ask whether history recalled a single instance of anything of the kind being done by a Power which claimed to be in the position of England; and whether, if it did recall such an instance, the perpetrators ranked among the benefactors of mankind? But there was another aspect of the case well worthy of the serious consideration of the House. Egypt at that moment was indebted to the amount of £8,000,000, and we should be expected either to find the money or the security. If we abandoned Khartoum without a settled form of Government, any Power which chose to take possession of it would be absolutely master of the Nile, able to divert its waters into the surrounding desert, and by so doing to turn the fruitful fields of Egypt into a barren wilderness in less than a month. If that were done, what would become of the security for our money? From a military point of view, Khartoum must always exercise very great effect upon the destinies of Egypt; and from a commercial point of view, it was the great emporium of the trade between Egypt and the Soudan; in fact, no one could go through the bazaars of Cairo without finding that the name of Khartoum was in every mouth. He wished that the House would give very careful attention to this Amendment, and that all hon. Members would think it their duty, on that occasion at least, to prefer the interests of their country and Empire to those of their Party. He trusted the House would think, with the hon. Member for Eye—to whom he (Mr. Finch-Hatton) thought the thanks of the House were due for having brought the subject forward—and many others, that, at any rate, the country ought to have a decided and definite statement from the Government whether or not they meant to establish a responsible Government in Khartoum when the British troops left the town.

Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty."