HC Deb 23 February 1885 vol 294 cc1052-141



Mr. Speaker; Sir, I rise to move the Resolution which stands in my name upon the Paper, and I am anxious to be permitted, in the first place, to say a few words in order clearly to explain what is the object with which that Resolution has been placed thereon. It is— That an humble Address he presented to the Queen, humbly representing to Her Majesty that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan, has involved a great sacrifice of valuable lives and a heavy expenditure without any beneficial result, and has rendered "— that is, the course pursued by the Government has rendered— it imperatively necessary in the interests of the British Empire and of the Egyptian people that Her Majesty's Government should distinctly recognise, and take decided measures to fulfil, the special responsibility now incumbent on them to assure a good and stable Government to Egypt and to those portions of the Soudan which are necessary to its security. Sir, I need not point out, I am sure, that a Motion which calls for such comment upon Her Majesty's Government is one which involves serious responsibility on the part of him who makes it. For it is, of course, a conclusion to be drawn from this Motion, that I hold, and am prepared to assert, that Her Majesty's Government have failed to conduct the affairs which they have lately been conducting in a manner satisfactory to the public or beneficial to England; and, further, that it calls upon the House to express a distinct opinion both with regard to the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government, and with regard to the steps they ought to take for the establishment of a good and stable Government in Egypt. By asking the House to affirm that such steps are necessary, I imply that, in my opinion, the Government have not heretofore taken such steps, and are not now taking them. But it is not my intention to lay any considerable stress upon the details of these proceedings which have been carried out during these recent years. We have more than once brought the subject before the House. More than once in the last Session of Parliament did we, from these Benches, challenge the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, and state fully the grounds on which we were dissatisfied with it. On two occasions—once when I myself, early in the Session, made a Motion, and again later in the Session, when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) called attention to the subject—full discussions took place. The ques- tion was fully argued out upon the Papers and the other information that was then before the House; and the House on both those occasions arrived at decisions acquitting, to a certain extent, the Government, and refused to accept the Resolutions which we submitted. Now, there were many, I know, on those occasions who, though they felt themselves bound to support the Government, felt also that they were not satisfied in their own minds with the course the Government had taken. There were many who held that the course of the Government was unsatisfactory, but that it was inexpedient to interfere with its responsibility, and they were willing to declare themselves satisfied by the promises and expectations which were held out on the part of Her Majesty's Advisers. Well, Sir, the grounds which satisfied them then, and which led the House to conclude that the further operations about to be undertaken would be of a satisfactory character and would put an end to the difficulties which prevailed, and of which they complained—the expectations which were then entertained to that effect have been, I grieve to say, entirely or largely disappointed. The Government have entirely changed the position which they held last year with regard to the measures of a military character which were necessary; and it will be my desire and my object not to occupy the time of the House by going over in detail the questions that we raised and to which I have referred, but I shall endeavour particularly to draw the attention of the House to that which seems to me to be the kernel of the whole matter, and I wish to draw the House to this conclusion—that if we have failed so far to attain the object that we were anxious and that we expected to attain, it has been due, not so much to particular faults here or there, but to the general spirit in which Her Majesty's Government have conducted these proceedings. I hold that unless a complete and entire change takes place in that spirit, it will still be our lot to fail in what we have undertaken. I am quite aware that Her Majesty's Government are now making great exertions, that they are sending out troops, that they are preparing to lay down a railway, and are beginning to take steps which last year they considered were altogether unnecessary and uncalled for. I have no doubt that the military instructions that have been given, or will be given, to the Commander who is going out will be of a character that will enable him to discharge the military part of his duties. But at the same time that those steps are being taken, at the same time that those brave men are being sent out, at that same time there is a voice that proceeds from the Councils of Her Majesty's Government which deprives the Expedition of half its strength. We have a voice of uncertainty as to what is to be the position that Her Majesty's Government are endeavouring to obtain in Egypt. You cannot expect that these operations, or any operations, can be conducted to a satisfactory conclusion unless you distinctly lay down what you are fighting for, and clearly express your determination to get it. Now, Sir, in almost all the steps that have been taken, and in the debates which have taken, place on this question, there has proceeded some expression or another from the lips of Ministers which implies that their great hope and expectation is to make their remaining in Egypt as short as the period can possibly be made. And that is so perpetually brought forward that it impresses, and must necessarily impress, upon the minds of all that there is on the part of Her Majesty's Government a determination that, so soon as the military measures that are to be undertaken have been completed, Her Majesty's Government will withdraw the troops from that country. Now, nothing can, I venture to say, be more dangerous to our interests than such a declaration. At the present moment our brave and gallant troops are in a position which causes us anxiety. We have full hope and confidence that the same gallantry which has distinguished them hitherto will carry them through; but it is impossible for us not to see that there is a prospect of a somewhat lengthened detention of the troops in that country, that there is a prospect of their being under circumstances of considerable difficulty, and that much depends upon the spirit which we are showing here for the success which they may achieve. If you are talking more about retiring and withdrawing your troops from Egypt as soon as you can, than of pressing forward and securing the objects—and de- finite objects they must be—which are before you, not only do you dishearten and discourage your troops, but you do something which may be very serious indeed in its consequences to yourselves and to them. You will impress upon the Native inhabitants of that country a false belief—I trust it may be a false belief—that after all these operations have been accomplished, after you have made your march to Khartoum, or whatever may be your objective point, after you have defeated your enemies, you will then retire and leave them to the consequences of what would follow after that retirement. Now, I can conceive nothing more dangerous, nothing that would more seriously aggravate the difficulties of our brave soldiers than that such an impression should go abroad. I will illustrate what I mean by taking the case of a particular individual, one of the acknowledged Native Rulers of that country—the Mudir of Dongola. The Mudir is a man who has thrown in his lot with us, and who has behaved with great loyalty and ability, and, as it seems to me, in a very effective manner. If it is necessary for our troops to remain for any length of time near the position which they at present occupy, it will be undoubtedly from the country of the Mudir of Dongola that much of their supplies will be drawn. Now, I ask you to consider what will be the position in which you will leave the Mudir of Dongola if, after having executed any strategical measures that you require, you then retire out of the country, and leave him with the stigma which it would be upon him of having taken the part of the invaders. You have very properly issued a commission to your Commander there to pay especial honour to the Mudir of Dongola; I believe an Order of Merit has been conferred upon him; and, in various ways, he has been marked out as a special object of our acknowledgment and gratitude. But all that must tell fearfully against him if you leave that part of the country when you have obtained your military success without making proper arrangements for its settlement. Now, I hope that nothing I have said, or shall say, will be construed as in the least degree reflecting upon the military conduct of our officers and soldiers. Nothing, I will venture to say, has ever been more creditable to the British Army than the manner in which they have conducted the operations, and in which they have fought the engagements that have taken place. We are proud of them. We are proud of them all, from the Generals, whose loss we deplore, down to the humblest and lowest of those who are still fighting and enduring all the sufferings and privations of the campaign. They have, indeed, raised the name of England. They have done their duty in a manner which deserves at our hands the amplest gratitude, and, at the same time, the most serious consideration. It is precisely because I admire and recognize their great valour and great services to the country that I am particularly anxious they should be supported in a manner which is true and loyal, and which will encourage them and give them heart. Now, I cannot speak on this subject without referring especially to the one distinguished individual who bas filled so much the mind of the public, the mind of this House, the mind of England, and the mind of all the civilized world for so long a period—I mean, of course, the gallant General Gordon. Of course, there can be no doubt that the melancholy event which bas taken place at Khartoum, in the death of that gallant man, has largely quickened the public feeling upon the whole position there. The public mind was full of hope and confidence and joy when we heard the encouraging words with which General Gordon began his mission to that country. We have, from time to time, had reason to doubt whether he was properly and thoroughly supported by the Government. We have had reason to doubt whether they were not trading upon the admirable qualities of his nature. He was a remarkable man—a man of whom it has been truly said that he was of heroic character; a man who was above all things loyal, unselfish, earnest, and fearless, devoted to the duties which he undertook, and ready to spend, and be spent in the service of God and his country. He undertook the service upon which he was sent under circumstances of a very peculiar character. He undertook those services under a wholly different commission from that which was given to him within a very short time, and which altered altogether the position in which he stood. I should say that the conduct of General Gordon and his relation to the Government have been such that while, on the one hand, we feel that when we mention that name a flush of pride rises on our countenances, on the other we cannot avoid a feeling of shame. I remember, on the last occasion when my right hon. Friend the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) brought forward the Motion then before the House, he read a telegram which bad been recently received from General Gordon; and I do not think that I can do better than to open what I have to say with regard to General Gordon by reading that telegram once more. I am sure that it is one that the House will allow me to read. It was a telegram which he sent, I think, on the 16th of April, and which was published in the Blue Book of the 5th of May. It was about the last utterance which we had from him before the termination of the recent campaign. This is what General Gordon said— As far as I can understand, the situation is this: you state your intention of not sending any relief up here or to Berber, and you refuse me Zebehr. I consider myself free to act according to circumstances. I shall hold on here as long as I can, and if I can suppress the rebellion I shall do so. If I cannot, I shall retire to the Equator, and leave you indelible disgrace of abandoning the garrisons of Sennaar, Kassala, Berber, and Dongola, with the certainty that you will eventually be compelled to smash up the Mahdi under great difficulties if you would retain peace in Egypt."—[Egypt, No. 15 (1884), p. 1.] That telegram, at the time it was received, caused a very great sensation in this country, and not unnaturally. It came as the warning of an experienced man, who was risking his own life in a great and difficult service, and who gave you his view of what was likely to be the outcome of the events then in progress. Look at the present moment, and see how those words of his—which were lightly held at that time, and which the supporters of the Government passed by as the words rather of an enthusiast than of a statesman—are being fulfilled, and how those very prophecies are coming to pass. See how the state of things which General Gordon, by anticipation, describes is now the present condition of affairs, with one melancholy exception—namely, that he has not retired to the Equator, but has fallen in the discharge of his duty. He has fallen in the manner which, I doubt not, he was prepared for at any moment of his life, but in one which reflects upon us anything except credit. Permit me now to turn from the last utterance of General Gordon before he was closed up from all outer communications, and to refer to some of those letters which ultimately came from him, showing what he was doing in Khartoum during the later months of the year, and how he was carrying out his work. This is the telegram which was sent by Gordon Pasha to the officer commanding the Royal Navy at Massowah; and I think there is so much spirit about it, it so much illustrates the man, and it contains so much that shows what the true position of affairs was, that I shall not apologize for reading it even at some length. It is dated, Khartoum, August 24, and it is as follows:— Received cipher despatch from you and Egerton, dated 27th April, 1884. We have had a series of petty lights with Arabs from the 12th March to July the 30th, when we were able, thank God, to drive them hack and open road to Sennaar, and we are now relieved from the immediate pressure of Arabs. We are going to attack them to-morrow, and meditate a raid on Berber, in order to let pass to Dongola a convoy which accompanies Colonel Stewart and French and English Consuls. We shall (D.V.) destroy Berber, and return to our pirate nest here. Our steamers are blinded and bullet-proof and do splendid work, for you see when you have steam on the men cannot run away and must go into action. I hope the Euryalus are all well, and hope you like Massowah in September. We are going to hold out here for ever, and are pretty evenly matched with Mahdi. He has cavalry and we have steamers. We are very cross with you all, for since the 29th March we have not had one word from outer world. I have paid as much as £140 for a spy, and you gave that poor devil, so he says, 20 dollars to go from Massowah to Khartoum. However, I have given him £20. One of our steamers has 970 bullet-marks on her, another 850 ditto. Our losses have been slight. We have provisions for five months, and hope to got in more. Stewart got wounded in the arm, but is all right. The rôle of our country has not been very noble in Egypt or the Soudan. I wish I had three or four of your gunners, for our practice is dismal. Kindest regards to all your officers."—[Egypt, No. 1 (1885), p. 106.] It is, I think, worth while to see the freshness of spirit which animates that despatch, and the hard work that it shows was being done by General Gordon in the difficult position in which he was placed, and I think it is also not a little worth while to take notice of his last words, painful as they are, with which the telegram closes. Let me read another telegram from him, dated somewhat later, I think on September 9, in which ho says— How many times have we written asking for reinforcements, calling your serious attention to the Soudan. No answer at all has come to us as to what has been decided in the matter, and the hearts of men have become weary of this delay. While you are eating, drinking, and resting on good beds, we, and those with us, both soldiers and servants, are watching by night and day, endeavouring to quell the movement of this false Mahdi. Of course, you take no interest for suppressing this rebellion, the serious consequences of which are reverse of victorious for you, and the neglect thereof will not do."—[Ibid. p. 122]. No, "we take no interest in the suppression of this rebellion," this rebellion being one of people who were rightly struggling to be free. Sir, I shall be told that Her Majesty's Government are not to blame in this matter; that if General Gordon complained that ho did not receive information of the outer world, it was clearly no fault of theirs that he did not get such information. We shall be told that, unfortunately, the Mahdi's forces had closed in, and that the way had been blocked, so that it was impossible for General Gordon to get communication with the outer world, and that General Gordon must have been aware that that was so. I do not know how far General Gordon may have been satisfied with that explanation, which no doubt suggested itself to him, and which no doubt will be pleaded by the Government as the reason for leaving him without information. But remember what the effect of all this must have been, not only upon the mind of General Gordon himself, who knew what all the circumstances were, but on the minds of the people among whom he was, and upon the minds of the inhabitants of Khartoum, whom he was asking to make these sacrifices, and whom he was calling upon day after day to go with him upon expeditions in steamers from which they could not run away, with whom he was going into engagements in every direction, and whose spirits he was endeavouring to keep up by the exercise of his own great personal influence, and by the constant assurance that they had not been forgotten by the British Govern- ment, and were not to look in vain for help and reinforcements. No one can doubt that, from time to time, language of that kind must have frequently been used by General Gordon; but as time went on, and as these expectations were not fulfilled, and as the help still tarried, the hearts of the people grew sad, cold, and alarmed. And when we hear that, after all, Khartoum fell by treachery, are we quite sure that that treachery was not in any way brought on or caused by this action of the Government? I have heard it said that, as the taking of the city was caused by treachery, the delay which necessarily occurred in the advance of our troops was really of no consequence, because the treachery would have come about whenever those troops came within measureable distance of Khartoum. That is certainly one of the most extraordinary theories ever put forward. I can suggest other reasons why it was very possible that there might have been or was treachery at the last. It might have been that the people were getting hopeless and were getting starved, that they had exhausted their provisions at the time, were living on hard fare every day, and that their condition was becoming most intolerable to them, and that they thought it better, in these circumstances, to open the gates to the Mahdi, thus giving themselves up to the Power that was close to them rather than to wait for the coming of the Power that was at a long distance from them, and that it was better to open the gates to the Mahdi, instead of holding them at the risk of an utter failure and awaiting an assault upon their town, with its attendant massacre and destruction. Or it may have been that those who were guilty of this treachery were inclined to believe that the policy of the English Government was that which had been put forward by a certain number of the present supporters of the Ministry, and that when we had succeeded in getting to Khartoum and in rescuing our own countrymen, we should retire without caring for the interests of anybody else. I do not, for a moment, mean to impute such an idea as that to Her Majesty's Government, or that they intended it. ["Why not?"] I put it indefinitely; but I do mean to say that the language they used was such as to convey that impression. What did we hear about "Rescue and retire"—phrases which were such salves to the consciences of those supporters of the Government who did not like the war, but were prepared to accept the kind of statement that they had to go to rescue General Gordon, and then, as soon as possible, to retire? Sir, we have been too much in these matters the slave of phrases. We have a Minister who is a great master of phrases. He makes them sometimes for himself, and sometimes for other people. But the master of phrases is very apt to become a servant and a slave of phrases, and that is the case in regard to "Rescue and retire." Now, Sir, let me say a few words with regard to the story of General Gordon's employment. General Gordon was, in the first instance, employed by the Government, on very short notice, at a very critical period, for what purpose? To go and report as to the best way of withdrawing the garrisons from the Soudan. That phrase of "going to report" is a very convenient phrase for the Government when there is anything to be done, and it is a question whether they should or should not undertake it. It is like referring a matter with which the Government do not like to deal to a Select Committee. What happens when you adopt this plea, which you can always offer to your supporters if they question it? You can go a step further, by adding to this business of reporting other functions for the reporter. And this was what was done in the case of General Gordon. When he was, in the first instance, sent out to report, he stipulated that he should be considered to be the servant of Her Majesty's Government, and that he should not be considered to be a servant of the Egyptian Government; and that if Her Majesty's Government would take upon themselves the responsibility of deciding that the garrisons should be withdrawn, and direct him to go out and report on the best manner in which they should be withdrawn, he would be willing to undertake that duty; but he must be under orders from the Home Government, and not under orders from Cairo. That was all very well; but there was added to his instructions a very pregnant clause—that he would be at liberty to accept any employment from the Egyptian Government for the purpose of facilitating the matter. That was followed up by more elaborate instructions issued by the Egyptian Government, and which implied that he was to have considerable power and responsibility in the country. He was to withdraw the troops, Civil employés, and Europeans; he was to establish a confederation of restored Sultans as a substitute for the Egyptian Government; he was to report upon the best provision to be made for the Red Sea ports; he was to advise how to counteract the stimulus which would be given by the evacuation of Khartoum to the Slave Trade. That is a somewhat remarkable and a large order. I may remark, in passing, that it is significant that one of the immediate consequences which everyone foresaw would result from the evacuation was the encouragement that would be given to the Slave Trade. He was further to establish an organized Government in the Soudan; to restore tranquillity, justice, and order, and to maintain roads open to commerce. That was a considerable number of duties to thrust upon him. And he was to undertake to discharge all these duties by the magic of his name, and by a commission from the Khedive, without any other kind of support. He found that impossible, and after the first moment of his reception he began to perceive that it was necessary that he should have other support. But when he applied for it, that support was not forthcoming, and he was left to conduct his operations under great difficulties, without the support which he fairly might have expected. Mr. Speaker, when we come to consider the effect of all this upon the Egyptian Government, I think that we must see that we incurred a great debt to that Government in respect of the manner in which we proceed ed with regard to the withdrawal of these garrisons. We had weakened Egypt. We had almost paralyzed Egypt, so that she was unable, of her own power, to accomplish that which we ordered her to perform. We gave her no assistance, but, on the contrary, we impeded and weakened her. What was the history of the withdrawal of the garrisons? It all arose from that unhappy Expedition of General Hicks, which might have been prevented by us; or, if we had not prevented it, we might, at all events, have made it of a more effective character. But whenever any reference was made to Her Majesty's Government on that subject, they were anxious to proclaim that their one great object was to save themselves from all responsibility. The Soudan might be held, or it might be lost; General Hicks might gain victories, or he might be slain or destroyed; but, whatever might be the case, our Representative at Cairo was to be as reticent as possible, and was to refuse to give any advice, or to abstain from giving it as much as he could. Sometimes he was allowed to give a passing opinion; but that, as we know from the right hon. Gentleman himself, is of very little value indeed. When there was a question as to what General Gordon might do with regard to the Mahdi, he was not allowed his own way, but was advised against it. We were told by the Prime Minister that the scheme was not negatived at all, but that only a strong opinion was given against it. That was the sort of thing that was done with regard to General Hicks's Expedition. No doubt, if that strong opinion had been expressed with equal strength to the Egyptian Government, they would have found that it was the wise and the right course to restrain General Hicks from his Expedition. But I remember the right hon. Gentleman said that that would have been an impertinent interference, and that it would not have been a very civil thing to our Egyptian friend that we should advise him not to go and conquer the Soudan. But what was the result? We had already dealt a heavy blow at Egypt, and at Tel-el-Kebir had destroyed a large part of its Army. We had taken the direction of Egyptian affairs. We were holding tight the purse-strings, and Egypt could not in this matter move without our consent. We allowed the Expedition to go on, and we were morally responsible, I hold, for the conduct of the Egyptian Government in the matter. But when the disaster happened, although we had been too timid, too scrupulous and polite to interfere before the mischief was done, all of an instant we became firm and determined, and we decided at once that the Egyptian Government should withdraw the garrisons. That was a very easy thing to say, but not such an easy thing to do; and the Egyptian Government, under Cherif Pasha, made a strong remonstrance against the proposal. To say the least, there were possibilities that the withdrawal might have taken place when it was first ordered. We overbore the Egyptian Government and drove them out of Office. A new Government was formed, nominally by the Khedive, but in reality under English influence—at all events, guided by English counsels. It might have been possible, even at that time, for the garrisons to be withdrawn with comparative ease and safety. In one despatch, it was mentioned that the gallant Colonel Coetlogon was ready to withdraw his garrison from Khartoum had he received directions to do so; and had he received orders to retire while the Mahdi was still at a distance, no doubt the garrison at Khartoum, as well as other garrisons, might have been withdrawn in a manner that was tolerably safe, and so the complications which have occurred would have been avoided. But no Her Majesty's Government sent General Gordon nominally to report, but actually to take upon himself the responsibility of acting as Governor General of the Soudan, and of establishing something like a Government there. I need not, neither do I wish to, go into the history of the whole of these transactions; but the conclusion I wish to draw is that throughout the whole period Her Majesty's Government have been conducting their business with the fatal drawback of having to proclaim to those among whom they were going that their mission to Egypt was only temporary, and that they intended as speedily as possible to withdraw from the country. We heard the other day a few words from the Prime Minister. He is sending out forces; he is making railways, and he is giving instructions to his Military Commander; but his words fly far, and the words which he used the other day with regard to the continued desire and object of the Government to withdraw the Egyptian garrisons, and, as far as possible, to withdraw from the occupation of the Soudan—these expressions, construed as they will be, will continue that fatal impression. I want to get some clear and definite statement as to what it is that the Government are going to war for. Is it at war for some definite and useful object? If so, I hope we shall be told what their object is; for I must say that unless there is some definite object which we are to aim at, I am not one of those who desire to see the prosecution of wars. I know it is necessary to vindicate the honour of the British Army—it is necessary to vindicate the honour of your country; but it is also necessary that you should know that you are aiming at an object which is a worthy object, and which you can recommend as worthy of the great sacrifices which you are imposing on your country. Well, I believe that the object of placing this great country, or so much as we are able to place of it, on a footing of a satisfactory character is worthy of great exertions—even of the loss of life and treasure which further military operations must inevitably entail. If we could be sure that this was really your object, we should have more confidence as to what is likely to be the result of these Expeditions. But I fear that the ingrained difficulty is not removed; that it is not possible to put any confidence in Her Majesty's Government. They will alter their course of proceeding, and thus more than destroy the effect of what they do by words which give a different effect to their proceedings. The Government are very anxious to make out that they are consistent in what they are doing and what they are going to do. I do not want them to prove that they are consistent. I want to see them a little inconsistent, and to see them realize facts. It will be very inconsistent with their past line of action, indeed, if they do for once bring themselves fairly to look facts in the face. I want them to get out of the habit of putting us off by a few fine, sharp phrases, and to tell us in such a way as can be understood by all the world what they really mean to do. Therefore, I have to ask the House to affirm not only that the course of the Government has not produced great results, but that the course which they have followed has rendered it imperatively necessary that they should distinctly recognize and take measures to fulfil their responsibilities. It is that very course which you have taken to minimize your military action at first which has led to the greater demands of the present time; and, just in the same way, any such attempt now to minimize responsibility, or to leave that responsibility unfulfilled, will only increase, and increase ten-fold, the task which will ultimately fall upon you. You are now doing that which you might have done, but which you refused to do, last year, which, if you had then done it, would probably have been more effective and have produced a greater result with a far less expenditure of means. You are now about to send out large reinforcements, and to change your line of attack. You are about to put down that railway from Suakin to Berber, of which you spoke with contempt and disapprobation a year ago. You are about to open up that line which General Graham, after the slaughter at El Teb, might have proceeded upon, and then, by a rapid march, opened a way through the country, and made easier access to Berber and Khartoum. But all these things, which you laid aside then, you are taking up now. If you were right then, how can you be right now? If you were right in rejecting these plans then, it was either because you did not recognize properly the magnitude of the operations, or that you refused to undertake the responsibility so long as things remained stationary. I have stated that it is our duty to recognize our special responsibility. That special responsibility arises from the history of the whole course of these transactions. It arises from the fact, in particular, of your having broken up the Egyptian power; broken it up and weakened it seriously even at the headquarters at Cairo, and utterly destroyed it on the Southern frontier. It is impossible that you can justifiably leave things in that state, and then sit down and say, "Let all these tribes in the South have their own way," after they have gained this victory at Khartoum, which must encourage them so materially and so much further. It is impossible to let Egypt and the South take care of themselves. It is impossible that you can take such a line. You must be held responsible, not only in the eyes of the people of this country, but in the eyes of all parts of the world which have any interest in Egypt. You have been allowed to occupy a position of a very peculiar character there in consequence of the sacrifices which you have made, and in consequence of the efforts which it is supposed you would make for bringing about a satisfactory state of peace and stable government. You will not have that same facility given to you if you fail entirely in the discharge of your duty; and if the result of your interference is not to produce a stable and satisfactory Government, but one that is unstable and unable to discharge the duties of a Government, you will not maintain the position which you ought to maintain in this country and before the world. Day by day we are getting into deeper waters. Day by day our anxiety increases to hear the news which comes from the Army abroad. We admire the gallantry and skill of our officers, the pluck and endurance of our soldiers, but day by day we are more impressed by the gravity of the circumstances. I have felt that it was a serious question whether I was justified in taking the responsibility of calling attention to these matters and submitting a Motion to the House; but I felt that it was my duty to do so, whatever might be the consequences. I, therefore, now call upon the House to pronounce a verdict in this matter once again. We lay before you substantially the same case as was laid before, with the additional experience of the value of Ministerial promises and the successes of Ministerial action. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite smile when I say we lay before you tie same case. In doing so I would ask them, are they really satisfied that the case is not strengthened, is not entirely made out, doubly and trebly, by the results which have followed since the Vote of Confidence which they gave? Are they about now to renew that Vote of Confidence which was given rather personally to the Ministry, than to the plans which the Ministry put forward? Are they prepared still to give carte blanche to the Government to do as they please in these matters, and do they not require a strict account of what they are going to do, and whether they are going to undertake this business in one spirit or the other? There will be some who will support the Ministry on grounds the very opposite to the grounds of support which will be given by others. There will be some who will say—"We will keep these Ministers in Office, because we believe that through them, at last, we shall be able to accomplish the objects we have in view, and possibly that we shall be able to stimulate and keep them up to their military operations on a scale of adequate importance, and to make a settlement of an adequate character." There will be others who will say with the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley)—"We support the Government, because we think that out of them we have the best chance of getting the accomplishment of our own wishes, that Egypt should be left alone as soon as possible." But how can the Government, in such a matter as this, go on with such divided support? How can they go on, when at every stage of their action they are in doubt as to which leg they will stand upon, whether it is a policy of abandonment, or a policy of advance? I care not whether it is a settlement in one way or the other; but how can they arrive at any satisfactory settlement when they are supported by two bodies of men who have such diametrically opposite views of the situation. I have endeavoured to avoid saying anything that would be of a pessimist character. I do not desire to magnify the dangers of the situation. I feel confident that our gallant troops will successfully carry through the task which is deputed to them. I have great confidence in our troops and their Commanders; but all the more, because I have that confidence, am I anxious that they should be relieved from the dangerous and humiliating position in which they are placed by the uncertainty in their instructions. ["No, no!"] Well, I really do not know which line they mean to follow. We are told that it will be necessary to punish, or, at all events, destroy the power of, the Mahdi. Are we told that or not, because that is the case in point? Some think we are, some that we are not. No doubt, there may be different voices in the Ministry on this subject, voices which will be raised not only among their supporters, but among themselves. I do not know how that may be; but I saw a paragraph which I read with great pleasure in the Blue Book presented to us this morning—a paragraph in Lord North-brook's despatch, in which the noble Lord says— Your Lordships will gather from the observations I have made that I cannot recommend Her Majesty's Government to fix any date at which the British troops serving in Egypt should be withdrawn. That is a considerable advance from the position formerly taken up by the Members of the Government—even by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), when we heard that celebrated promise of withdrawing in six months. We found that at the time these six months were expiring, when it was so very important that the promise should be kept, at that very moment came the difficulty with regard to General Hicks and the embarrassment caused by the fact that our troops were actually beginning to be withdrawn. I have no doubt, in fact, nobody can doubt, that our gallant soldiers, if they are properly supported, will perform the task that is assigned to them, although the main difficulty with which they have to contend is the uncertain policy which they are called upon to carry out. On whatever side hon. Members may sit, it is their duty to demand clear explanations in these matters; and it is not only their duty to be satisfied as to the policy adopted, but it is also their duty to be satisfied that the policy adopted will be carried out. It is because I have great doubt whether the Government, as they are now circumstanced, will really do that—whether they are able to throw off, and get rid of, that special taint of, I will not call it humility, but of uncertainty, vacillation, and fear of responsibility—that I doubt whether it will be in their power to give that confidence which the people of this country demand. The people of this country know very well that Her Majesty's Government have the disposal of the power of the country, and that it rests with them to take such measures as they think fit, and that Parliament has no other voice in the matter than to give advice when from necessity they are called upon to give it, and to condemn when censure has been incurred through failure having occurred. But we are too often told—"Do not interfere with plans now in the process of execution." While General Gordon was alive we were told—"Do not interfere with his plans." When we were asking Questions, we were told that these were matters in which we had better not interfere. Now, when we see the result, the failure that has occurred, we are told—"You ought not to censure the past, because it is past." If I thought that what was past had worked a change, that the evil spirit which has been so damaging and hampering us throughout was finally renounced and done with, things might be different; but that is not the case. We have a hard enough task before us in any circumstances. We are beset with difficulties; but, at this time, I may quote words in this House which, were used by a competent observer when the question of an Expedition for the relief of General Gordon was on foot. He said—"There are difficulties, no doubt, in the rescue of General Gordon; but the greatest difficulty, after all, is in the hearts of Her Majesty's Ministers." The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address he presented to the Queen, humbly representing to Her Majesty that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan, has involved a great sacrifice of valuable lives and a heavy expenditure without any beneficial result, and has rendered it imperatively necessary in the interests of the British Empire and of the Egyptian people that Her Majesty's Government should distinctly recognise, and take decided measures to fulfil, the special responsibility now incumbent on them to assure a good and stable Government to Egypt and to those portions of the Soudan which are necessary to its security."—(Sir Stafford Northcote.)


in rising to move, as an Amendment— That this House, while refraining from expressing an opinion on the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan, regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government to employ the forces of the Grown for the overthrow of the power of the Mahdi, said: The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) taunted the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) with the recollection of some words which were spoken a year ago—["More than that!" "Two years ago!"]—as to the probable duration of the occupation of Egypt. While the right hon. Baronet was speaking I could not help remembering some words which the right hon. Baronet himself spoke not a year ago in referring to General Gordon. I am sorry to disturb the impression of the gracious and generous eulogy which he has passed on General Gordon, by recalling the fact to his mind that in April last he spoke of the plans which he now says we all viewed with such exultant hopes, and he declared them to be "vague and extravagant." Another remark I would venture to make, in reference to his lament at the death of General Gordon, is this—that if there is one cause more than another that has conduced to that catastrophe it is the attitude that was taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), when they got up, as we all remember, in February and March of last year, incessantly importuned the Government with Questions, and brought so tremendous a pressure to bear upon the Government that they dare not—and I blame them for it—they did not dare to comply with General Gordon's own constantly repeated petition to send Zebehr Pasha to Khartoum. I am anxious to stand for the least possible time between the House and the Prime Minister, and therefore I will not enlarge upon the arguments of the right hon. Baronet, but will proceed at once to urge what can be said in favour of my Amendment. It has been represented to me that I should probably get a larger support, if the Amendment had been drawn in words more nearly approaching those of the Amendment the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) has put upon the Paper. No doubt, it may be more exhilarating to have a greater number of fellow-passengers; but that is not very satisfactory, if we are in the wrong train and get out at the wrong station. Now, the propositions of my Amendment turn upon facts which are not touched by the Laodicean plausibilities of my hon. Friend. We have had enongh, and too much, of these general platitudes. It is by appealing to will-o'-the-wisps of this kind that mistake after mistake has been committed by the Government; and it is by attending to such vague generalities as this that the Government, first of all, contrary to the wish of some of us sitting here, felt the necessity of relieving the Egyptian garrisons; secondly, that they despatched General Gordon to Khartoum; thirdly, that they refused to allow him to have Zebehr; and, fourthly, that they performed that slight service to humanity which consisted in the slaughter of 8,000 Arabs at Suakin. None of these things would have taken place if a so-called clique of doctrinaire philosophers had had any weight in the Councils of Her Majesty's Government. If the questions now raised by the Motion of the right hon. Baronet, or raised by the recent announcement of the Prime Minister, were questions of the military necessity of the situation, there probably would be no difference of opinion among us on this side of the House, and very little difference between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite. But this is not a question of military exigency. The announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the other night was, undoubtedly, a new declaration of policy, because that declaration was an answer to the question of Lord Wolseley. What did he ask? He did not say—"What military measures do you sanction my taking?" but he said—"Tell me what is your political object, and then I will frame my measures accordingly." We, therefore, contend that the instructions that have been sent to Lord Wolseley open a new programme of Soudan policy. Now, the real issue raised by my Amendment, and not touched by the Amendment of my hon. Friend, is, whether, for the safe and honourable withdrawal of our troops, and for the defence of the Egyptian Frontier, the destruction of the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum proposed by the Prime Minister is, or is not, necessary? My Amendment contends that it is unnecessary, and I venture to defend it upon two grounds. The first of them is, that it has not been demonstrated that it is essential to destroy the power of the Mahdi. It may be, for anything we know to the contrary—and there are many reasons for thinking it is so—it may be perfectly possible to come to terms with the Mahdi. The Prime Minister admitted the other night that accommodation was not out of the question; he admitted that negotiations might be entertained if they were proffered on the part of the Mahdi. But what chance is there of the Mahdi listening to words of that kind, so long as he hears it announced that the cardinal object of our policy is to destroy his power at Khartoum? In making an announcement of that kind, you are doing something as fatal to the prospects of negotiation and arrangement, as you did something fatal to the prospects of General Gordon's pacific mission when you sent the Expedition to Suakin. You will never get the Mahdi or his emissaries to believe that you are acting in good faith, that you will leave him with certain boundaries, so long as you make declarations of this sweeping and belligerent character. My second proposition, on which I lay more stress, is that even if it could be shown that it is indispensable to destroy the power of the Mahdi, it has not been shown, and assuredly there are many reasons for thinking the contrary to be true, that the power of the Mahdi can be most effectually destroyed at Khartoum. We have always been given to understand that the policy of the Government turned upon waiting for the Soudanese power at the Southern Frontier of Egypt. That, surely, was the policy declared in the despatches written at the beginning of last year. Is it not, therefore, a serious change of policy; is it not fatal to the arguments which you have yourselves used, now to insist upon following the Mahdi to Khartoum, where he is strongest, which is the heart and centre of his power, instead of waiting for him on the frontier, where his power is weakest? You will be committing exactly the same error that destroyed the Grand Army of Napoleon. It was not that he lost a single battle on the march to Moscow; it was not the enemy that slew 250,000 of his men; they were destroyed by snow, and frost, and climate. It is not the Mahdi or his forces we have to fear, but it is the burning climate, the rainless deserts, the illimitable distances. It is the invincible forces of Nature herself you are arraying against you by this change of policy. Sir, I am at a loss to understand how it can be maintained that we are now asked to support the same policy that was announced to us last year. Why, last year, the Prime Minister said distinctly that the re-conquest of the Soudan was an enterprize to which nothing on earth could tempt him, and which he would resist with all his might. When the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) moved a Vote of Censure, the Prime Minister said the right hon. Gentleman was advising the House to use British and Christian forces against a Mahommedan people struggling for their liberty in the Soudan. Now, if this policy is to be insisted on and persisted in; if we are to carry on the campaign not merely to facilitate the speedy and honourable withdrawal of our Forces, but in order to destroy the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum, are we not using British and Christian forces for the destruction of a Mahommedan people struggling for their freedom in "the Soudan? It is very clear that for so remarkable a change of policy, necessitating an enterprize of such enormous magnitude, there ought to be very good reason, and doubtless there are great and considerable objects in the minds of Her Majesty's Government. Well, the Prime Minister the other night gave us three or four of those objects. He said, in the first place, that we were bound to carry on these operations in order to do our bounden duty to those persons in Khartoum to whom the word and honour of General Gordon was irrevocably pledged. Can this be a serious argument? As it will be many months before we can be in Khartoum, can it be supposed that the persons to whom General Gordon irrevocably pledged his word and honour will not by that time have suffered the worst, or made the best terms they could with the Mahdi at Khartoum? Next we were told that the question of the Slave Trade must not be left out of the view and scope of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. But I remember well that last year my right hon. Friend at the head of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) made a very important declaration, which I hope he will not draw back from. He said—"You cannot put down the Slave Trade in the Soudan; you can only succeed in diverting it from one route to another; and the only way to stop the Slave Trade is to stop it at the out ports and put an end to the market." Lord Derby, in "another place," made an equally emphatic statement. But, with the permission of the House, I will read a few words from an authority recognized by both sides of the House—namely, General Gordon himself. In 1877, he was in the heart of the Soudan, and this is what he wrote— The fact is that, even with the British Government in possession of these countries, I do not see how the Slave Trade can be stopped, unless the British Government pushes its frontier up to the frontier of the Negro tribes, and there establish a line of frontier posts. I need scarcely remark," says General Gordon, "that no British Government would be so foolish or go to the expense of doing this, for it would be a dead loss. Further than that, the frontier would have to extend to Lake Tchad. Now, I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides, whether they are prepared, when they profess this enthusiasm for putting an end to the Slave Trade, to extend the frontier of British power down to Lake Tchad? I cannot think that either they or the country will support the Government in any project so chimerical. The last great object is one on which right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House seem to agree, though there is some divergence as to the way in which it is to be carried out, and that is, that we must not overlook the possibility of establishing an orderly Government in Khartoum. This, I venture to say again, is a new departure on the part of the Government; because, last year, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War said— It has been already my duty to repeat the disclaimer which has been made by the Government on former occasions of responsibility for establishing government in the Soudan, We have never made any such disclaimer with regard to Egypt. And this was a perfectly fair and very important distinction. Those words clearly implied that he did disclaim any responsibility for establishing government in the Soudan. It was the noble Marquess who, on another occasion, said that— The evacuation, even if it should lead to the establishment in Khartoum and other places of the Mahdi, or other heads of the insurrection, was the primary object of Gordon's mission. This is to say, that at that moment, at least, Her Majesty's Government did contemplate leaving the Mahdi, or the other heads of the insurrection, to establish a Government in Khartoum. Well, I cannot see for the life of me what has now happened to make it impossible for the Government to acquiesce in the same resolution which found favour in their eyes then. Why should they not now acquiesce in the establishment of government by the Mahdi in Khartoum. I think General Gordon once said that the Mahdi was looked upon as a kind of Pope, and not a Sultan; a spiritual power, and not a temporal. Well, Popes before now have wielded a considerable degree of temporal power in their day; and it would surprise me very much, from all I have heard from others better acquainted than I am with the Soudan, if the Mahdi would not be very glad to establish his authority at Khartoum or elsewhere. Even if he does not, you may depend upon it that some stronger man than himself will rise up and will set up a Government there. And the very reason which now prevents competitors with the Mahdi from arising is your presence, the presence of foreign and alien invaders—it is this which causes all the tribes to combine and rally to his flag. I daresay it will be said that a Government set up there either by the Mahdi, or a successful competitor of his, would be a cruel and fierce Government. Well, I daresay it would; but do not let us forget that though these Oriental Governments are cruel, fierce, and violent, yet, under them, the people often enjoy a degree of contentment and satisfaction which they never could derive from boons conferred upon them by the cast-iron benevolence of foreigners and aliens. I have heard, with great regret, that this idea of looking to the possibility of setting up an orderly Government in Khartoum is now to be recognized by Her Majesty's Ministers as one of their objects. I cannot see in the least what obligation is imposed upon us to give them a stable and orderly Government. This is not the case of Egypt Proper. There, I can quite understand its being said that we broke up a Government, or that we prevented them getting a better one themselves. But in the Soudan we have done no such thing. The Soudanese had themselves thrown off the odious yoke of the Egyptian Government, and we have rejoiced, and do rejoice, that they have thrown off that yoke; but it is no responsibility of ours. Does anyone suppose that if we had not intervened in Egypt in 1882, the Egyptians would have been able to master the Soudanese? There was not the slightest possibility of their doing so. Therefore, I hope that this ideal will not be pursued with too much zeal by Her Majesty's Ministers. If the time comes, and the opportunity offers, I hope they will consent, in the first place, to open negotiations with the Mahdi; and, if that cannot be done, still they will drop the announcement that the power of the Mahdi must be destroyed at Khartoum, and say that the Soudan must be left to its own people to work out their own deliverance in their own fashion. I can well understand, if we had nothing else to do in the world, if we had no other tasks or burdens on our shoulders, it might be contended that we might use our power to do something for these poor people. Even then it would be very difficult to show with any precision what it is that we can actually do. But does anyone dream that we have not now more tasks on our hands than we ever can or will perform? What has been at the root of the debates that have gone on in this House for the last five years? It has been that one side has constantly insisted upon pressing public opinion forward to undertake tasks and duties, involving vast responsibilities beyond our political and military resources, and that the other side has not always had the courage—I will not say, although I had almost said, has not had the honesty—to say to the public plainly, and not only to say it, but to act without yielding upon the principle, that we have already been undertaking responsibilities long past the limits at which they can be effectually discharged. That proposition at least the Prime Minister will give a cordial adherence to. But in spite of the adherence which is given to the doctrine, it has constantly been evaded; and I have never heard, during the last five years, a more gratuitous and flagrant infraction of it than this declaration of policy that we must destroy the power of the Mahdi and set up another Power. We tried it in the case of Cetewayo. In the case of Zululand, we were told by Sir Bartle Frere that it was our duty to civilization to put an end to Cetewayo's power. We did so, and under the same General who is now in the Soudan we established a new Government, a new Authority, consisting of 13 Chiefs. But the whole fabric fell to pieces almost immediately; and if you set up a similar fabric in the Soudan, it will fall to pieces more quickly still. I am not arguing the question upon the ground of morality or justice, though it would not be very hard to show that to carry on a sanguinary war without any beneficent aim is not only a political blunder, but a very hideous moral misdemeanour. I do not care whether it is right hon. Gentlemen on the other side, or on this side, who take up the policy of making us responsible for the Sondan. The point I wish to press is this, that in either case it is a waste of national strength, and a waste unredeemed by any good object, either to the people of the Soudan, or ourselves—a waste that, at any moment, would be a grievous error, but in a moment like this is in the highest degree culpable. To-day, as every Member of the House knows, our serious interests and permanent and abiding objects of policy—even, in some quarters, possibly our territorial security—are menaced in almost every quarter of the globe. At such a moment to tie our right arm behind our back, in order to wage a random and aimless crusade against the barbarians of the Nubian Desert, is not only a tremendous error, but it is one of those signs of infatuation which history marks as the omen of a national catastrophe. I wish the moving of my Amendment had fallen into stronger hands: but believing, as I do, that we are on the eve of the most unjust, the most sanguinary, the most barren war that was ever waged by the forces of this Realm, I feel bound, in spite of private and public ties, to put on record my protest against the first beginning of so unfortunate a policy. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the first word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to insert the words "this House, while refraining from expressing an opinion on the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan, regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government to employ the forces of the Crown for the overthrow of the power of the Mahdi,"—(Mr. John Morley,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I hope, Sir, the House will think I am justified in the desire to follow, without the intervention of any other Member, the two speeches we have just heard. It is quite true that these speeches are contradictory to one another and reciprocally self-destructive. But they both are speeches directed in censure of the policy of the Government, and the importance of this case is such that I think the House ought at the first moment to understand on what footing the Government feel bound to object both to the one and the other. The practice of moving Votes of Censure has attained a frequency during the last five years which may possibly, during the existence of future Governments, be found to establish an inconvenient precedent. But I find no fault with the right hon. Gentleman for the Motion he has made. I will give myself the pleasure of first noticing his speech on two points in which I am in entire sympathy with him. The right hon. Gentleman has dwelt, with the utmost propriety and the utmost feeling, on the loss which the country has sustained in the death of General Gordon. He stated that General Gordon had devoted his life, and all that makes life valuable, to his Sovereign and to his country. Sir, he might have enlarged that eulogium, for the life of General Gordon was not limited even to those great objects. It was devoted to his Sovereign, to his country, and likewise to the world. General Gordon's sympathies were not limited by race, or colour, or religion. In point of fact, he seems to have deemed it his special honour to devote his energies and to risk his existence on behalf of those with whom he had no other tie than that of human sympathy. General Gordon was a hero, and permit me to say he was still more—he was a hero among heroes. For there have been men who have obtained and deserved the praise of heroism whose heroism was manifested chiefly on the field of battle or in other conflicts, and who, when examined in the tenour of their personal lives, were not in all respects heroic; but if you take the case of this man, pursue him into privacy, investigate his heart and his mind, you will find that he proposed to himself not any ideal of wealth and power, or even fame, but to do good was the object he proposed to himself in his whole life, and for that one object it was his one desire to spend his existence. Such is the man we have lost—a loss great, indeed; but he is not all lost, for such examples are fruitful in the future, and I trust there will grow from the contemplation of that character and those deeds other men who in future time may emulate his noble and most Christian example. There is another point in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman with which I cordially concur. He says that he is most anxious to avoid the language of pessimism. No doubt, he did not attempt to dwell at large upon the difficulties the Government have had all along to encounter, and which were, to a great extent, in- herent in the nature of the case. But I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, and so far as my consciousness will go, I will not say a word at this crisis to abate the spirit either of the country or the Army—that noble body which is doing its duty so well to us that we are all the more bound to do our duty to it in return. On this point I entirely sympathize with the right hon. Gentleman. I come now to consider the speech and the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, and his speech I will divide, as all the House will naturally divide it, into that part of it which is retrospective and that part which relates to the future. This is an accusation against the Government, and that accusation constitutes the retrospective part of his speech. I ask the House to note what is the scope and extent of this accusation? When I saw the Notice of the right hon. Gentleman I assumed in my own mind that, to some considerable extent, the debate would be on his part a revival of the debate of last May, and an appeal for the reversal of the decision at which the House then arrived. But I hardly anticipated with what literal accuracy that anticipation would be fulfilled. There is not an act which the light hon. Gentleman has alleged against Her Majesty's Government but what was in the full cognizance of the House when it debated this question last year, on which the House then pronounced its verdict—["No!"]—not an act charged by the right hon. Gentleman of which that which I now say is not strictly and literally true. Why, Sir, we have heard again of the defeat of General Hicks. Not once, but more than once, has the House disposed of that question. We have heard to-night of the telegram of, I think, the 18th of April, in which General Gordon complained that Zebehr had not been sent and that no troops were sent. I want now to carry back the House to the positions assumed in that debate of last May, for that was, after all, a great inquest carried on before the greatest tribunal of the nation. We joined issue then in a manner the most distinct. The right hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) then quoted the telegram of General Gordon, in which he said it would be "an indelible disgrace" not to rescue a number of garrisons, the names of which he re- cited. The right hon. Baronet took advantage of the cheers which he was sure to draw forth by citing such a phrase. The right hon. Gentleman has done the same to-night. Yes; but that phrase which was applicable to the policy of the Government if they should not rescue certain garrisons the right hon. Baronet last year declined, and the right hon. Gentleman this day as the expression of a policy has declined to adopt or to make himself responsible for the recommendation of General Gordon, which if not adopted General Gordon said would be an indelible disgrace. Take the benefit of the phrase if you are prepared to adopt the policy; but unless you are prepared to adopt the policy you are not entitled to the benefit of the phrase. Well, the right hon. Gentleman says that General Gordon complained that no relief was coming to him; the right hon. Gentleman complains of it. But that was in the view of the House when we debated this matter and decided it in the month of May. Then he complains of the extension of General Gordon's commission. He says that General Gordon went out to report, and that other charges were put upon him; that he went out to be a servant of the Queen, and that he was made also a servant of the Khedive. Would it not have been more candid in the right hon. Gentleman if he had stated that those extensions of the commission of General Gordon were due to General Gordon's own suggestion—that they were his counsels to us, and that we gave way to them? We were not acting upon our own initiative, but accepting the recommendations of a man who was making for us the greatest sacrifices, and to whose authority we were bound to attach the utmost weight. [Opposition cheers.] I can understand the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is the history of the extension of General Gordon's commission. Then came the recommendation to send Zebehr; but it was well known that if, when that recommendation was made, we had complied with it, an Address from this House to the Crown would, before 48 hours were over, have paralyzed our action; and although it is perfectly true that the decision arrived at was the judgment of the Cabinet, it was also no less the judgment of Parliament and of the people. Well, then, there was the demand of General Gordon that two squadrons should be sent to Berber. But it must be borne in mind that, in considering a demand of that kind, you cannot wholly keep out of view the previous declarations of the same authority, and that when General Gordon left this country, and when he arrived in Egypt, he declared it to be—and I have not the smallest doubt it was—a fixed portion of his policy that no British Force should be employed in aid of his mission. But, besides that, we had to consider what would be the effect of exposing a Force at a time when the hot season had fairly begun, in the months of April and May—[Cries of "March!"]—to the passage of the desert. I am speaking of the telegram of April, and not of March. Therefore, I am quite correct in the date which I assign; but if it had been March it would still have been the hot season before that Force could have made any great part of the way to Barber. It was extremely doubtful whether we could obtain that military support without which we should not have been justified in risking the lives of our soldiers; and what the position of such a Force would have been upon arriving at Berber I must say it was the duty of the Government care fully to consider. I do not know whether any hon. Gentlemen still think that the despatch of those squadrons to Berber would have produced the liberation of General Gordon at Khartoum. I fear that it is far more likely that they would themselves have fallen victims to an enterprize which was not warranted or supported by professional skill and experience, and that the enterprize would have borne the character of hopelessness from the first. But all these wore matters which were fully and carefully considered in the debate of May 12, and it is my duty now to carry my defence further than the attack of the right hon. Gentleman has extended. The contention of the Party opposite in the debate of last May was, as I understand—and, after listening to the right hon. Gentleman to-night, I am confirmed in that interpretation—the contention was that then and at once it was our duty to send forward the Forces of Her Majesty for the purpose of relieving General Gordon at Khartoum. That was the ground upon which they stood in the debate of last May. Considerations of distance, considerations of climate, considerations of the terrible character of those weapons which Nature wields, ten times more formidable than the sword of any enemy—all these were to be cast aside, and the Forces of the Queen were to be sent either along a railway from Suakin which did not exist, and which, under any circumstances, it must have taken several months to erect, or along the River Nile at a time when the water was low and when the journey was absolutely impossible. That was the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite in May, supported, I grant, by all those appeals to sentiment and feeling for which the character of General Gordon and his exposed position afforded them the most ample opportunities—opportunities of which they were not slow to avail themselves. What, on the other hand, was our position? We never for a moment denied that we were under obligations to General Gordon—I mean obligations not in the sense of feeling merely, but obligations which it might be necessary to carry forward into action. But I remember particularly that in the able speech of my noble Friend, and in the speech which I myself delivered, and which, I think, principally stated the case of the Government, we acknowledged in the frankest manner those obligations. But we stated that they were subject to two conditions. One of them was that to expose the Forces of the Queen to those tremendous risks, of which we have since had but too grievous proof, was an act which could not be done by a responsible Government except upon proved necessity—proved necessity for the relief of General Gordon; and, secondly, that we must be convinced by reasonable evidence that the attainment of that end was practicable. Now, Sir, we deny that the necessity was proved. The right hon. Gentleman has to-night again made us responsible for not having acted upon declarations made by General Gordon at certain dates, but which did not come into our hands for two months afterwards. I think it would have been more candid if the right hon. Gentleman, when he quoted that remarkable communication relating to the events of July 30, had stated that the time at which that communication was received was, I rather think, in the month of November. He quotes a communication in which we are made responsible for the inadequacy of the remuneration given to a messenger; and from his speech it would be supposed that the reproaches of General Gordon were addressed to the Government. They were nothing of the kind; and when General Gordon said—"We are out of humour with you, and find fault with the small fee of 20 dollars," the reproach was addressed to some person of small authority at Suakin. [An hon. MEMBER: Massowah.] Very well, Massowah. But loud cheers followed the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman that only 20 dollars had been given to this messenger. Do hon. Members really think that that is a worthy mode of constructing a solemn accusation against the Government? Our contention was that we must be convinced that a Military Expedition for the relief of General Gordon was necessary and practicable. We had no proof, as we believed, that General Gordon was in danger within the walls of Khartoum. We believed, and I think we had reason to believe from his own expressions, that it was in the power of General Gordon to remove himself—[Ironical cheers and laughter from the Opposition]—and those immediately associated with him from Khartoum by going to the South; and hon. Gentlemen who just now indulged in that interruption must have failed to catch the passage quoted by the right hon. Baronet, in which General Gordon said himself, speaking of it as a thing distinctly within his own power, that he would in certain contingencies withdraw to the Equator. We did not know from the unhappy interruption of the telegraph—we did not know and could not estimate the relations which General Gordon may have formed with others than those who were immediately associated with his own party. But my noble Friend, in the speech to which I have referred, distinctly recognized the obligations which I have described, and we entered into a covenant with the House of Commons that when there was reasonable evidence that General Gordon required the advance of an Expedition, and that the sending of an Expedition forward was practicable as a military measure, we should not lose time in the discharge of our duty. And the right hon. Gentleman, in the speech which he has made to-night, has not attempted to show that after that debate on the 12th and 13th of May we failed in the slightest degree, in one single hair's-breadth, in the absolute fulfilment of that covenant. It is very easy to say now—"Why did you not at an earlier period make preparations—[Opposition cheers]—for going up the Nile? ["No!"] What! here are two hon. Gentlemen cheering, and they are entirely at variance with one another. The answer is very simple. The answer is that the investigation of the proper route for sending a Military Force to Khartoum, at 1,600 miles of river distance from Cairo, with large tracts of desert to be traversed almost entirely destitute of water—the choice between the Nile route and the laying down of a railway from Suakin across another desert also—although it happens that the circumstances are more favourable this year than last—attended with the greatest difficulties as to water—the examination of that question was a problem of the utmost difficulty. If you suppose because at last it was decided to try the river route that therefore it ought to have been decided upon at once—["Hear, hear!"]—well, there may be hon. Gentlemen in this House who think themselves competent to decide any matter, and who are not daunted by any difficulties; but for us ordinary mortals difficulties did exist, and we wore carefully engaged in obtaining information from the best authorities, naval and military and scientific, upon the question of the Nile route and the Suakin route, When the possibility of its being right to send an Expedition to relieve General Gordon had come in view, no doubt much time was spent in the examination of the question. ["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] Well, then, are hon. Gentlemen ready to say that too much time was spent upon it? In my opinion, those who so say are very indifferent judges of the question itself. They take upon their own hands the faculty of pronouncing on a matter which is decided now, but which at that time it was of the utmost difficulty to decide. I do not hesitate to say, Sir, that, as far as the balance of evidence went for a very considerable time—I think I may say for some months—the balance of evidence appeared to be in favour of the Suakin route, difficult as it was. It was not until after that period had elapsed that at length, and with deliberation, and therefore with time, judgment appeared evidently to preponderate in favour of the Nile route. In the meantime we had no reason to believe that Khartoum was in immediate danger. The accounts which reached us all tended in an opposite direction. It is quite true that at times the enemy came near the wall; but it is also true that, as far as we can understand, continuously the steamers of General Gordon bad the command of the river, and the supply of provisions was thereby insured, whereas there was no appearance on the part of the assailants of their being able to overcome the obstacle offered by the fortifications. Under these circumstances we met Parliament upon the 5th of August, and at that time we said that, in our judgment, the necessity of the Expedition had not been established, but that, as Parliament was likely soon to separate, we deemed it necessary at once to place ourselves in a position to make the Expedition should it be required. That was on the 5th of August. The House voted a sum of money, and did so on the full understanding that it was our duty not to remain absolutely within the limit so marked, but to go beyond it, and make such preparations as might appear to be necessary. Well, Sir, what followed? Because this is the the real question which should be brought under the consideration of the House by those who accuse the Government from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. What followed was this—that, having taken that Vote on the 5th of August, on the 7th of August by telegram, and on the 8th of August in a full and detailed Paper, instructions sent by my noble Friend the Secretary for War on the part of the Government were despatched to Egypt. Prom that moment the military preparations have never been relaxed. The operations have been continuous. I believe you will not find it possible to say that from that date forward any delay that could be avoided has occurred. While our preparations were being made we did think the evidence reached a point which showed that a movement forward was necessary. That movement forward was directed, I think, about the 23rd of August, and, either on that date or immediately after, General Lord Wolse- ley undertook the command of the Expedition to Egypt. Therefore, Sir, our contention is that the matter was fully debated and decided in May last. ["Oh!"] It is a matter which, of course, it is open to hon. Gentlemen to reconsider; but, at the same time, it is but fair that we, instead of wearying the House by a revival of those intricate details, should point out that you discussed it and decided it, and, so far as we are aware, decided it rightly. We adhere to the contentions that we then made, and we have adhered to the covenant into which we then entered. Those who say we have not must enter upon a line of proof which the right hon. Gentleman, with his sound judgment and his large experience, the Leader of their Party and the leader of this attack, has thought it best entirely to avoid. Now, Sir, we quite understand, and I find no fault that this debate of May last has been revived, not on account of what the Government has since that either done or failed to do, but on account of the great calamity which has occurred. Even had there been some military delay, which there has not, it had no connection with the fall of Khartoum. If Khartoum had fallen through the exhaustion of the garrison, through the breaking down of the fortifications by assault, or through the failure of provisions, I can understand that some plausible case might have arisen, though oven then we should have maintained that the contentions we laid before the House in May were sound, and were perfectly in themselves irrefragable. But Khartoum was betrayed, What connection has betrayal with the question of a Relief Expedition?




The hon. Gentleman has made up his mind, no doubt, by careful investigation. I admit that betrayal might have been connected with the policy of the British Government had the policy been the abandonment of General Gordon. But the policy was this—not that he should be abandoned, but that he should be succoured by the military power of Her Majesty when it appeared that he was in danger, and that succour was required. But what really happened? The betrayal occurred at a time when it was perfectly well known that the Army of Lord Wolseley was at any rate on the way to the relief of the citadel. It is perfectly well known that he was not abandoned at the time when the Soudanese troops—on whom that generous hero had fondly relied—opened the gates to the opposing hosts. Generally speaking, one would say that this is a probable hypothesis—that betrayal could not take place at the period when the British Forces were advancing, and were within what may be called a short distance of Khartoum. It wag a short distance, because Lord Wolseley's Force had reached that point upon the river at which steamers commanded it, and from which consequently the force could rapidly have been brought up to the beleaguered town. But there is this hypothesis of starvation, which some hon. Gentlemen, always ready to catch at any straw which may possibly entail condemnation of the Government, are ready, upon the surmises of a newspaper correspondent, to elevate into a fact. [Several hon. MEMBERS: The Blue Book] Those who thus confidently appeal to the Blue Book have not carefully examined it. [Ironical cheers.] Oh, I am going to prove it. You need not be afraid. Generally speaking, the accounts sent by General Gordon had made no reference to the scarcity of provisions; but, on the contrary, held out an expectation that the provisions were abundant. For example, in the telegram of the 24th of August, which reached us, I now see, on the 25th of November, he says— We have provisions for five months, and hope to get in more. But on the 14th of December came this telegram— Our troops in Khartoum. —I must first explain that this is a verbal statement, believed to be trustworthy, which was given by a messenger Sent from General Gordon. General Gordon wrote on a slip of paper— Khartoum all right. But the messenger who brought this message said— Our troops in Khartoum are suffering from lack of provisions. Food we still have is little, some grain and biscuit. We want you to come quickly. He then proceeded to give directions which appeared, unhappily, not to be very reconcilable with coming quickly. You should come by Metammeh or Berber, Make by these two roads. Do not leave Berber in your rear. It was not very easy, but I do not dwell upon that; the message goes on— In Khartoum there are no butter nor dates, and little meat. All food is very dear. Now, that is the statement of the messenger. But the hon. Gentleman has failed to see that that scarcity was relieved. Subsequently to this we saw that the steamers of General Gordon had made successful foraging raids and brought provisions into the town. And we had from General Lord Wolseley this passage on the 11th of January. He gives an account saying that— The messenger who left Korti on the 18th of December with letters for Gordon has just returned, He was one day in Khartoum, and left it on the 28th of December. And what was his report? Gordon was in perfect health, and the troops on the five steamers he saw were well and happy. The steamers seize cattle and grain, and take them up the river to Khartoum.


What is the date?


I have given the dates. I will give them again to the noble Lord. The date of Lord Wolseley's was on the 11th of January. The date from Khartoum, which is probably the most important, is the 28th of December, 14 days after General Gordon had very prudently and properly intimated that there had begun to be scarcity of provisions. Well, then, the hypothesis of starvation, as far as testimony is concerned, falls utterly to the ground, because subsequent reports show that supplies had been received which were obtained by the excursions of the steamers. There was no repetition whatever anywhere of any intimation of want of provisions.


That messenger brought a copy of the 14th of December despatch of Gordon's with him, complaining of the shortness of provisions.


Possibly, but along with that despatch—Gordon did not confine himself to sending one copy of a despatch; his object was to insure that his despatches should reach their destination; and so he sent them by different persons on different days as opportunity offered. It was plain that the despatch of December 28 overrides the account of December 14, and represents a state of things in which there was not the smallest reference to a scarcity of provisions. Has it never occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that there might have been a connection between the betrayal of Khartoum and the policy of the British Government—in this respect, that the betrayal of Khartoum might have been suggested by the approach of the British Army? The right hon. Gentleman has not taken that into his view.


I alluded to it.


I think that the right hon. Gentleman alluded to it as a supposition altogether extravagant and out of the question. I am, therefore, within the mark when I say that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken it into view. That is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman sitting in this House; but there are the opinions of others who have been near the scene of action which are of an entirely different effect. There is a message which was sent off by Lord Wolseley on Saturday, and which, let me say, is not expressing any opinion of his own, but expressing opinions carried to him by those lately in Khartoum, and it runs thus. It was sent off on Saturday, and I saw it in the middle of Sunday. I imagine it came into the hands of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) early on Sunday— In conversation to-day (Saturday) with two colonels of Gordon's troops lately from Khartoum, I expressed regret at being too late to save Gordon, and at not having started from England at least a month earlier. Both said that, under no circumstances, could we have "been in time, for the men who betrayed him had long ago agreed with the Mahdi to betray him, and would always have done so, whenever you arrived. Khartoum was betrayed on January 26 because the traitors had heard of your victory, and of your being on the river near Shendy, and feared you would arrive and save Gordon. This hastened their proceedings. The same story has been told by several others lately, then comes an undecipherable word, and— from Khartoum. It, therefore, does appear that that which the right hon. Gentleman deems so absurd and imaginary is, nevertheless, the opinion—I might possibly call it the intelligence, but I will not so far presume at the present moment—brought by gentlemen who have lately held important commands under Gordon, and by several others lately from Khartoum. Therefore, Sir, as to the question of time, I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman made very slight efforts indeed to substantiate his accusation. He merely cast ridicule upon any other hypothesis, and he has made not, as I have said, the smallest attempt to connect the fall of Khartoum with anything done by the Government since they took the judgment of the House upon their policy, or the smallest attempt to show in any degree that they have fallen short of the pledges that they then gave. Now, Sir, I come to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, which, in some respects, is different from his speech. I have with sorrow to admit the expenditure of much treasure. I admit with great sorrow the expenditure of lives of the greatest value, such as those of Sir Herbert Stewart, General Earle, Colonel Eyre. [An hon. MEMBER.: Burnaby.] I might go further with the enumeration—indeed, one might say that it would never end, for, in point of fact, there is no man engaged in that campaign who has not well and truly done his duty by his country. There is some comfort—you may say it is a slight one—in the reflection that, bad as this treason was towards such a man as Gordon, there is no reason at present to believe that a great effusion of blood attended the occupation of Khartoum. There is another subject of great satisfaction—I do not say it controverts the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman—to observe that, while the old valour of the British soldier has been manifested on every occasion without the smallest exception or derogation, and while on each trial as it arrived fresh proof was given of his power to put down the enemy opposed to him, there has been added to that valour, on the part of the soldiers, the laudable characteristic of consummate skill on the part of their Commanders, and, with regard to the Departments of Supply, a state of organization which has shown an efficiency of action very different from that which has characterized some of our wars in recent years. But I admit, Sir, that qualifying or consoling considerations do not traverse the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that there have been no efficient results. He desires the House to commit itself to the declaration that these proceedings, which have entailed such loss of life and treasure, have produced no beneficial results. In my opinion, that is an exaggerated statement. There have been beneficial results—to the Soudan not largely, I admit. The purpose for which we are in the Soudan is the safety of Egypt, and it was for the purpose of defending Egypt that we first concerned ourselves with the affairs of the Soudan. My hon. Friend (Mr. John Morley) who moved the Amendment has, in the exercise of an entirely justifiable freedom, said he thought the Government had been wanting in courage, and even in honesty. I quite understand what he means—in not resisting the influences that were urging us on. I am very glad to be challenged in the face of day on that point. Want of courage there may have been, want of judgment there may also have been, for it is not for me to arrogate to myself or my Colleagues infallibility. I have often owned in this House that the difficulties of the case have passed entirely beyond the limits of such political and military difficulties as I have known in the course of an experience of half a century. Therefore, I do not ask the House to believe that what we have done is necessarily right, but as to honesty of purpose, painful as the course we have had to pursue has been to me, I felt that we had no alternative. We have been bound from the time that we first covenanted to keep the Khedive upon his Throne, and at no point have we had before us the choice or the possibility of return. It is well for my hon. Friend, arguing the matter on its merits, to say that it has been an unhappy policy. Well, Sir, I will go into that matter at large, but this is not the best moment to do so; I only wish to assure him that there has been no want of honesty, but possibly want of judgment has made me, at least, a party to these decisions, which, sad and deplorable as they may have been in themselves, were yet unavoidable under the circumstances and at the moment when we were called upon to take them. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, exaggerates when he says that there have been no beneficial results; he complains that we are always saying that our stay in Egypt is to be as short as possible. But he will have great difficulty in finding any passage in any speech by any Member of the Government in which it is not stated that the stay would be as short as was compatible with the objects for which we went there. It is the fulfilment of these objects which we have steadily kept in view, and for which we have proceeded step by step in the long course of these transactions. I will not dwell long upon the fact, important as far as it goes, that the Slave Trade has been materially checked and interrupted by the military proceedings in the Soudan, and that the theatre of war, which might have been largely extended, has been limited in its scope, and has been, at all events, kept off Egypt itself, for whose tranquillity we specially care. In Egypt something has been done for civilization and improvement. To begin with, she now has a representative Government. [Loud laughter.] Is it very patriotic, for I think that is the favourite phrase, for hon. Gentlemen opposite to treat the matter so lightly? I remember when a representative Government was set up at Constantinople a few years ago we heard a good deal about it, although it was quite new. I was going to say that I did not dwell very greatly on the beginnings of representative Government in Egypt. I quite admit that it must be tested by its working. But the effort made so far is a real and apparently a substantial effort. A beginning has been made of Courts of Justice. That is of a very important character. I do not say that they are perfect, but I believe that they are honest and upright. Moreover, I believe this is the first occasion on which real Courts of Justiciary have been introduced into Egypt. There were two horrible abuses which disfigured the government of that country, and inflicted an infinity of suffering on the people. One of them was the kourbash. A law has been passed against the use of the kourbash, and the evidence is, I believe, satisfactory and convincing that that law is obeyed. So far as we can learn that gross and monstrous abuse has been brought virtually to its conclusion, and how much is involved in those words will be apprehended by those who recollect that there is too much reason to believe that within the last half-century, not in the view of the Government, yet through the in- strumentality of subordinate officers of the Government, corporal punishment and torture similar to that have not been entirely unknown in the Indian Dominions of the Grown. Well, Sir, the other of those monstrous abuses was the corvée—that is to say, the abstraction of the people from their land for the purpose of compulsory and unremunerated labour. A beginning', and I believe a good beginning, has been made towards the abolition of that outrageous system—a system under which such was the inequality that prevailed that whereas upon the estates of wealthy men, such as Pashas, it amounted in money to one piastre and a-half, on the little crops of the Fellaheen the burden of it amounted to 24 piastres per acre. The laws that have been introduced, I believe, permit the application of the commutation of that labour into money, which will apply fairly to the different descriptions of land in the country. Then, Sir, I cannot go by the case of Colonel Moncrieff. Operations of immense value to Egypt have been set on foot under his able inspection for the purpose of improving and extending that system of irrigation upon which the wealth of the country principally depends. These are very great results, and results which have been attained in an extremely short space of time, in the midst of military and political difficulties, and in the face of an apparently approaching financial confusion and bankruptcy. With regard to that financial confusion and bankruptcy, I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman tonight that the agreement by which it is to be averted has not, I believe, been signed, yet I believe I may correctly say that it has been concluded. The difficulties which have faced us and caused so much labour last summer have, I believe, been overcome; and let mo say that whereas one of the greatest embarrassments by which we were confronted in the arrangements which we found subsisting for the Dual Control on the part of this country and of France—one of the greatest dangers raised by that arrangement—was the danger of rupture with. France and the interruption of our friendly relations with that country, we are now in a position of cordial friendship with France which has enabled the French Government, in conjunction with us, to conduct the difficult question to its present state of maturity—maturity which I can describe as substantial, and as to which I believe a very few days will see the question formally concluded. These are highly beneficial results, and entirely traverse the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. But the right hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with denying that any beneficial results have been brought about by our action in Egypt; he likewise desires us by his Motion, and not only us—for that would be a comparatively slight matter—but he requires Parliament to recognize its obligations—that is, to outer into a covenant to establish a good and stable Government in Egypt and those portions of the Soudan which are necessary for the security of Egypt. With regard to Egypt, I have shown him that the labours of the British Power have not been slight and have not been abortive. But has the right hon. Gentleman considered what this means? A pledge on the part of Parliament to establish a good and stable Government in those portions of the Soudan. What, Sir, does that mean? The right hon. Gentleman has not defined it; he is open to the reproach which he makes against us; for the indefiniteness of the purpose he has in view, he must expect to be told that he cannot be cordially supported, and that no one can understand what his policy really is. He has not given us an interpretation of his own words. He probably thinks it would be imprudent to do so. He cannot at once obtain the benefit of being vague and of being explicit. I take his statement as it stands, and I cannot trace in the words ho uses—namely, "the portions of the Soudan necessary for the security of Egypt"—any narrower interpretation than this, that he means you to engage by your power, whether with the people or against the people, to establish a good and stable Government in Khartoum, and all that lies to the East of Khartoum. That is what I understand to be his moaning. Sir, would that be a resolution compatible with common prudence to be taken by I this House? What is the meaning of it? It means the establishment of a British Government over aliens, it means the establishment of Christian Government over Mahommedans, it means committing your gallant Army to a struggle from year to year in a tropical climate with people who are courageous by birth and courageous by fanaticism. It means a despotic Government to be established and upheld by British hands against those who hate it. Well, Sir, we can give no such pledge, and I trust that the House will give no such pledge. In the teeth of common prudence, in the teeth of every reasonable calculation that it is possible to make, in the teeth of all the forces of Nature arrayed against you, I will say the right hon. Gentleman might as well, when he speaks of thus placing a permanent yoke on the neck of these people to be maintained by British authority and power—he might as well speak of chaining the sands of the desert when the tempest is howling over it. The right hon. Gentleman has brought no charge against us except those which have already been disposed of, and I have endeavoured to show very briefly that his prospective recommendations are unwise and unsafe. I must say a few words on the Amendment of my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend is, in the first place, perfectly right, I think, in declining to give any opinion on the measures which have been from time to time taken by Her Majesty's Government. With, the view I have of the difficulties of the decision we have arrived at, I am weak enough to believe that Gentlemen sitting in this House have means of judging even inferior to ours, and it appears to me, therefore, that the House is perfectly right in declining to be committed by a positive judgment to the several steps we have taken to the best of our ability. But my hon. Friend traverses our resolution to employ the Forces of Her Majesty's Government to overthrow the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum. I have great respect for the motives of my hon. Friend, but I have already stated that considerations connected with the Soudan itself appear to us to prevent the adoption of any other resolution in the present juncture than that at which we have arrived. I will mention one consideration which it might be our duty to take into view in connection with the Soudan. I decline entirely to enter into any positive compact on the subject. This is a very different question from the acknowledgment of our obligations to General Gordon. They were determinate obligations. Here our obligation is simply to do that which reason and prudence will justify when we have the facts of the case before us. I take the case of the Government at Khartoum. We must recollect that the case of Khartoum is a peculiar one. When General Gordon went to the Soudan he had the plan in his mind of establishing local Sultans throughout the Soudan, but he said that the case of Khartoum was exceptional. Khartoum was a new foundation; there is no local Sultan; there are no traditions; it is a town of very great importance; it is a point through or from which there might come forces, moral or physical, which might have a very important influence upon Egypt. But what we say is, that we are not prepared at the present moment to say that there is no obligation upon us to use, according to circumstances, reasonable efforts, if we go there, to leave behind us an orderly Government. Khartoum is not a place occupied by wild and admittedly savage tribes. It is to some extent a commercial town, with the regular habits of settled life, and we could not say now at a stroke, without going further, that we will abandon at once and for ever the idea of doing anything for the establishment of a Government at Khartoum. There always remains the safety of Egypt; but there is what relates to things lying beyond Egypt which precludes us from coming to a decision of that nature. I will not follow my hon. Friend in what he has said as to accommodation with the Mahdi. Any accommodation of a reasonable character with anyone is an object much to be desired; but I am sorry to say, as matters now go, the expression of a keen anxiety on the subject would, I am afraid, tend very much to defeat its own end. My hon. Friend stated that the present question is a question of military policy.


Of military instruction. Declaration of policy.


I do not mean to raise a controversy with my hon. Friend. His object is, I will not say the withdrawal—the instant withdrawal—of the British Force from the Soudan, or the neighbourhood of the Soudan. I do not think he committed himself quite so far as that; but I imagine that I do not overstate the purpose of his Amend- ment, when I say it is that he is opposed to all further military operations, unless it be the operation of retirement. Well, has he considered the position of military matters at present? The Army, he will readily believe, generally, is prevented by physical obstacles from descending the Nile in the hot season now approaching. With a low river, which has already begun, it is impossible to descend the Nile, As I stated to the House on Thursday, two plans of military action were pointed out to us by the General—one of them proceeding on the supposition that we were to overthrow the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum, and the other proceeding on the supposition that we were not to overthrow his power. My hon. Friend adopts the latter of these suppositions; but what I wish to place before my hon. Friend is this—that in the one case as much as in the other further military operations are necessary. The representation of the necessity of an Expedition to Suakin, and of making from Suakin provision that the route to Berber shall be rendered safe against Osman Digna and his forces—that demand, that necessity does not depend upon our adoption of the policy of destroying the Mahdi's power at Khartoum, but is inherent in the nature of the case as it stands. Therefore, I should not be acting above-board with my hon. Friend if I did not point out to him that, in order to secure the proper and safe retirement of the British Army, if it were to retire, and if we adopted that policy, it would still be necessary that an Expedition from Suakin should be made on military considerations. Under these circumstances, I think the House will understand that it is quite impossible for us to accede to the Motion of my hon. Friend, however much we honour the motive by which it is prompted, and however much we may wish that that prudent policy in foreign matters which he recommends should prevail in the councils of this country when there is yet time to avoid laying the foundation of those enormous difficulties which, when once that foundation is laid, cannot be escaped. I hope, Sir, that the House will deal decisively with this Motion. I almost think I shall carry with me the sympathy of the right hon. Gentleman opposite in uttering that sentiment. This is a serious crisis in the face of the world. It cannot be advantageous for any of us that we should present to the world at this moment nothing but a disparaged Government and a doubtful House of Commons. If the House, on reconsidering the issue of last May, or on any other ground, is prepared to condemn what we have done, by all means let it condemn it. But, even then, I would say let the House, if it is prudent, eschew those entangling engagements which the right hon. Gentleman has embodied in his Motion, and which, if it adopts them, will be the seed and the beginning of a series of new difficulties still worse than any with which we have yet had to contend. If the House believes that we have gone grossly wrong, that we have palpably failed in our duty, by all means let it condemn us, and we shall cheerfully accept its decision. But if it believes that we have, upon the whole, not only with fair intention, but without palpable error of judgment on main considerations—if it believes that we have performed our obligations as Ministers of the Crown, then lot it not withhold from us some distinct expression of its confidence, which will fortify, I will not say our hands—that is a small matter—but the hands of the country in the face of the world. If we receive that Vote of Confidence, we shall persevere in applying as we best can what are known to be our principles to a state of facts more difficult and entangled than any which has recently marked the history of this country. We shall endeavour, Sir, to maintain the honour of the British name, to fulfil every engagement into which we have entered directly or constructively, and to discharge every duty, onerous though it may be, which is inseparable at a crisis of this kind from the possession of a great and a worldwide Empire.


Sir, I confess that I rise under considerable difficulties to address the House after the eloquent oration of the Prime Minister to which we have just listened; but the more I consider that oration the more the conclusion is forced upon me that, however great may be the rhetorical force displayed, it has failed utterly and entirely in its object of vindicating the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman told us, in words which I think came somewhat late, how he appreciated the services of that great man who is now no more. He paid a tardy tribute to General Gordon; and that tribute, tardy as it was, removed from my mind certainly, and perhaps from the minds of others, somewhat of that amazement and regret which must have been felt by all those who listened the other day to the speech of the Prime Minister, when he passed over the subject without a recognition even of the services of that fallen hero. I could not help thinking that he himself bore mute testimony to the rightness of this Vote of Censure. The right hon. Gentleman did not pay a tribute to General Gordon, because he felt the responsibility which would attach to him as the Head of the Government for his loss. That mute testimony was, perhaps, stronger than the words he used to-day. But I must say that, in listening to the defence which the Prime Minister made, one would scarcely have imagined the gravity of the accusation which he had to meet. This Vote of Censure, if it means anything, is not merely a condemnation from the mouth of the recognized Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, but it is a condemnation spoken by him as the mouthpiece of the people of England. It has seldom fallen to the lot of Parliament, therefore, to discuss questions of greater gravity, or a subject more worthy of consideration, than the Vote which is now before the House. The Prime Minister defended himself by saying that the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition were mainly retrospective, and that, as regards his prospective argument, he was not prepared already to enunciate any policy which should take the place of the want of policy hitherto displayed by Her Majesty's Ministers. With regard to the retrospect contained in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, all I can say is that I think he was, if anything, too kind in his criticism, and that it is in the retrospect of the Government policy that the whole gist of this accusation lies. Their policy has been one continuous chain of failures—no link is wanting—one continuous chain of acts of vacillation, the result of their policy of shifting the responsibility which, by right, rested on their shoulders, on to the shoulders of others. How did the Prime Minister meet this? Why, Sir he assured the House that, after all, there was little to complain of with regard to the policy which Her Majesty's Government had adopted respecting General Gordon. And how did he attempt to prove this? Why, he read that famous despatch of many months ago, in which General Gordon alluded to the "indelible disgrace" which would fall upon Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister, in alluding to that despatch, said the debate was a repetition of the debate of May last. It is, but with this difference—that the "indelible disgrace," only foreshadowed in the despatch of General Gordon, is now an accomplished fact—the "indelible disgrace" which Gordon foretold, and which Her Majesty's Government in its short-sightedness failed to see, is now a fact recognized by the whole world, except, perhaps, the Prime Minister, and those who occupy the Treasury Bench. The Prime Minister then went on to say that the purpose for which we went to the Soudan was the safety of Egypt. I should have thought if there was one phrase which the Prime Minister would have avoided it was that; because, if the object of the Government in going to the Soudan was the safety of Egypt, how is that compatible with the statement, repeated over and over again, that so soon as the force of the Mahdi can be crushed Her Majesty's Government intend to retire? If the safety of Egypt is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, that safety can only be insured so long as England's force is paramount in Egypt. It appears to me illogical and absurd in the extreme that the Prime Minister should meet the arguments of this side of the House by endeavouring to conciliate his Friends on the other side, and explain his policy by saying we are occupying the Soudan in order to preserve the safety of Egypt, while he also declares that as soon as the force of the Mahdi is crushed they intend to retire. Then, again, the Prime Minister congratulated the House upon the wonderful achievements which had been performed by Her Majesty's Government, and on the way in which the punishment of flogging by the kourbash had been abolished; also on the fact that the corvée did not exist as formerly; and that, to some extent, they had introduced a system of irrigation. Does the Prime Minister mean to say that the policy which he has adopted in Egypt, and which he is still pursuing unchanged, the Forces we are sending out, and the blood we are shedding, had for its object the result of doing away with certain inhuman flogging in the prisons, of abolishing a bad system of enforced labour, and of introducing a better system of irrigation of the land? Why, in the first place, the necessity for these reforms had almost ceased to exist years since. I have had some experience of Egypt, and I know perfectly well that the cases of the application of the kourbash were extremely rare in 1875–6; that the corvée was equally rare; and that, as regards irrigation, it has existed throughout Egypt since the days of the Pharoahs. I do not propose to go into those old questions of policy, which, as the Prime Minister said, have been so often presented to the House, during the various debates, in successive Sessions; but I do think, at a moment like this, when the whole country, almost without exception, condemns the invertebrate policy of Her Majesty's Ministers, it is for those who agree with that majority to place, as clearly as they can, before this House and before the country, that chain of events which, as they become history, are forgotten, but which, nevertheless, explain the reasons of the disasters which have now fallen upon us. At the time of the bombardment of Alexandria, I ventured to say in this House that the first shot fired gave us not only the right, but imposed upon us the necessity and the duty, of establishing a fixed and definite form of government in Egypt. I say that the shunting of responsibilities by the Government began with that event. When Lord Alcester fired that shot, he fired it not in the capacity of an Admiral under the circumstances of naval warfare which led the great Nelson to disregard the signals by placing his glass to his blind eye, but he did so because the political responsibility, which of right belonged to Her Majesty's Government, had, in the first instance, been shunted by them upon his shoulders. Upon him rested the responsibility which, of right, did not belong to him; but in the exercise of that responsibility, wrongly placed upon him, he fired the first shot at Alexandria, which was, as I said before, the beginning of our obligations towards Egypt, and of the Government policy of shift and drift. The first shot having been fired by our political Admiral, this was followed by the landing of Forces in Egypt, under the command of our political General. Upon him, again, was shunted the responsibility, which, of right, belonged to Her Majesty's Government; and thus we have two links of the chain, which can he unfolded to interminable length, as the record of the persistent vacillation of incompetent Ministers. After that, as we know, came the battles of Tel-el-Kebir and Kassas-sin—victories, no doubt, not secured by Her Majesty's Government, but by the bravery of our soldiers. They were followed up by the occupation of Cairo by English troops. Then there was a pause, and during that pause many disasters took place. The result was that which always follows the shunting of responsibility—namely, disaster; because this timidity in carrying out our obligations had impressed upon the people, whose government we had taken over, that we were conscious of our own weakness. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War, anxious to conciliate hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, immediately followed up the military successes of Tel-el-Kebir and Kassassin by the declarations at the Mansion House, and in this House, that the time had now arrived when, in a very few months, the last English soldier would leave Egyptian soil. What was the result of that declaration? Why—these are matters of history—the results were the massacre of the Army of Hicks Pasha, the destruction of Moncrieff's and Baker's troops in the neighbourhood of Suakin, and the massacres of Sinkat, Tokar, and other garrisons. Then the Government were awakened to the necessity of taking action, and employed their Force at Suakin against Osman Digna, with the result that English blood and English discipline naturally overcame the mere brute courage of Arab hordes. But did the Government follow up that result? Did they follow the advice of competent military authorities, and open up the route from Suakin to Berber? They did nothing of the sort; they again shunted their responsibility. For the same reason that the railway was not made from Sibi to Quetta, that route from Suakin to Berber was not opened up. It was not done because the Government were afraid of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway; they were afraid of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) and the junior Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley)—those philosophical statesmen who consider that they can govern every country by giving it independence. The railway from Suakin to Berber wa3 not made; but the Government required still further to shunt their responsibilities, and they found a willing and able man on whose shoulders to put them. General Gordon was sent, like the scapegoat of Holy Writ, into the Desert, to try to catch up the failing policy of Her Majesty's Government; and if not able to do so, to be sacrificed for its sins. No sooner had he been sent to the Desert than Her Majesty's Government felt themselves free, once again, from those obligations which were imposed upon them, and turned their attention to other lines of policy to divert the minds of the English public from the blunders they were committing in foreign policy. The Egyptian Question gave way to Reform demonstrations in England. Bucolics were the order of the day. Whitechapel hop-pickers paraded the streets, and paid a tribute to blushing Liberal statesmen, who bowed their acknowledgments from the balcony of the Reform Club. Her Majesty's Ministers seated themselves on a powder magazine, and smoked the calumet of peace, without thinking of the consequences. While they were occupying the country with this cry of Reform, Gordon was perishing, day by day and hour by hour, within the walls of Khartoum. The Prime Minister thinks little of that, and he tries to prove that General Gordon was not in a position of danger. I recollect that, when in this House, the Minister for War told us that if General Gordon attempted to establish a good Government in the Soudan he would be exceeding the instructions given to him, I pointed out that General Gordon had been ordered to do his utmost to establish a good form of government in the Soudan. All this seems to be forgotten. General Gordon went forth with the command of Her Majesty's Ministers to do his utmost to save the garrisons; and he had, on his arrival, to write despatch after despatch, pointing out the "indelible disgrace" of the inaction of the Government. The Prime Minister contents himself with saying that we have introduced reforms into Egypt; have done away with the kourbash and corvée, and have improved the system of irrigation; and he thinks that is an answer to this Vote of Censure. He tells us that we—the Opposition—are unwilling to accept the responsibility of the position; but we say that the terms of this Vote of Censure are the measure of the responsibility we are willing to undertake. That is a position which is, I think, a just and fair one for the Opposition to take up. The Premier thinks otherwise. When it comes to the question of responsibility, he makes a sort of appeal ad misericordiam. He says, at this moment of danger, are we to present to Europe and England the spectacle of divided counsels; or, in other words, would we show to the nations the weakness of the Government? The acme, I say, of bad government and of the endurance of this country has now been reached. I confess, when I look through the long, sad history of Government failures, I begin to despair of possible improvement on their part; but when I hear, from the lips of the Prime Minister, that all we have to do now is to smash the Mahdi, and then to retire, I begin to think that the difficulties of the situation must have affected the intellectual eyesight of every Member of the Cabinet. But one crumb of consolation is afforded by the Prime Minister. He tells us, in a spirit of exultation, that an Agreement is about to be concluded by which the financial control of Egypt shall be handed over to the Great Powers. I ask the House to consider this. Are we so blind, so little accustomed to the ways of the world, as to believe that the control of the finances of Egypt does not mean the control of the administration of Egypt? The Premier and every Member of the Cabinet have inveighed, in no measured terms, against the Dual Control—a Control which they themselves allowed to continue, and which was terminated not by them, but by the French Government. And now the Prime Minister comes down and congratulates the House upon a Control far more dangerous than the old one—a Multiple Control. Such a Control by the Great Powers means giving them the power over that in which we have the greatest interest. England has far greater interests in Egypt than any one of the other Great Powers. England can have but one voice under this new arrangement. If ever, at any time, it was important for us to obtain the control of the administration of Egypt, there is no period of our history when it was so important as it is now. I know it is difficult to treat this subject without introducing into it other circumstances not directly connected with it; but I must make one observation—that the position of this country, and the advances of Russia on the Afghan Frontier, render it more important than ever that England should have the ruling vote in Egypt. A man, who was certainly the greatest Ruler and the greatest General, perhaps, the world has ever produced—Napoleon I.—speaking of the importance of Egypt in the 5th volume of his Memoirs, in a despatch addressed to the French Directory, dated October, 7, 1798, said— The possession of Egypt is decisive for India. That European Power which is the mistress of Egypt is, in the long run, the mistress of India. There is no man who does not know that England's adversity would be Russia's opportunity; and, if that is the case, we must consider whether this is the moment, after spending millions of money, and sacrificing thousands of lives, to support the Party which says that all we have to do is to chasten the Mahdi for his bad deeds, and then to scuttle out of the country as quickly as we can. I will not believe that the common sense of the country will tolerate such a policy as that. We may admit that a mechanical and servile majority is prepared to vote at the bidding of a tyrannical Prime Minister, and to sacrifice its political conscience. But I deny that the decision of this majority would represent the feeling of the country. As to the proposals to negotiate with the Mahdi, the moment we do that we give him the right to that title which we dispute. The moment we enter into negotiations with the False Prophet, the news will go through the Desert, to Cairo, and to India, that the Agents of the Queen negotiated with one whom they could not overcome owing to his Divine origin. What would be the effect of such a policy in India? It would be said that we went with "bated breath and whispering humbleness" to the Mahdi, and asked him to make a Treaty. Then France, seeing our failure, would be obliged to assert her power. She would advance to Syria, if necessary, to assert the supremacy of her Forces over her Mahommedan subjects. This is no imaginary picture. The policy advocated by the junior Member for Newcastle(Mr. John Morley) and his Friends is simply one of peace with dishonour, and would inflict a lasting danger on our rule over our Mahommedan subjects in India. All this is of essential importance to the subject we are discussing. The moment we scuttle out of Egypt, other Powers will take advantage of our weakness, and the high road to India will be endangered. We recollect how the Prime Minister wrote in The Nineteenth Century for August, 1877— Suppose the Canal is stopped; what then? …. It seems to be forgotten by many that there is a route to India round the Capo of Good Hope. … Supposing that, in time of war, we wore compelled to resort to this route. … the result would be a loss of three weeks to Bombay, and less to Calcutta, as compared with the present route by Brindisi. But as the Continent cannot be counted on for war time, we must make the comparison with the voyage from Southampton, which lengthens the present passage by some days, and thus reduces the loss below three weeks. … This will hardly make the difference to us between life and death in the maintenance of our Indian Empire. He speaks of a delay of three weeks, and minimizes the importance of such a delay. Has not the House and the country had a sufficient example, in the case of Gordon, of the terrible effects of delay? His life has been sacrificed to it; and if we were to adopt the Prime Minister's view, the existence of India would be sacrificed to it. However hon. Gentlemen opposite may be carried away with partizan spirit, they must recognize the danger of allowing India to be threatened, for surely, in their hearts, they must be Englishmen first and partizans afterwards. Let it not be forgotten that Egypt is of greater value to us than to any other country in the world. We have already accepted the responsibility of the position. The Prime Minister says the safety of Egypt is our guiding principle. The safety of Egypt means that Khartoum should not be imperilled. England must maintain its supremacy in Egypt. That is the policy of the Conservative Party, and I believe it is the policy of the people of England. It will be cowardly, as well as reckless and extravagant, to waste further blood and treasure without a definite object. The Government ought to feel bound to declare their policy clearly. In conclusion, I would remark that there are men in this country who seem to think that the England of to-day is the same as she was at the time of the great battle of Waterloo. But other Powers have grown up since then. The Germany of that day was a chaotic mass of small States; France had been weakened by revolution and by a disastrous war; Russia was but a small, weak Power as compared with the Russia of to-day; and England had the undisputed command of the seas. This is all changed. New Powers have consolidated their strength and their Empires; while England, under 50 years of Liberal Administration, may have economized, but has not strengthened her resources. To that class of politicians who still believe England to be what she was, I commend a more accurate study of the strength and condition of the Powers to which I have alluded. They are cosmopolitan philosophers rather than patriotic statesmen. There may be some who admire the stoical equanimity with which these hon. Gentlemen look upon events, such as the death of General Gordon, as beyond human control; but while we marvel at the calmness of their resignation, we must regret the absence of patriotic spirit which characterizes it. Those politicians are economists before everything else. They look upon England as a large producing establishment, the resources of which must be utilized to the utmost for the purpose of providing for the material requirements of the people, forgetting that the prosperity of a country, like that of an individual, begets the jealousy of neighbours; and that to maintain that prosperity, and to keep open those vast channels of enter-prize, those sources of wealth, like our Indian Dominions and our Colonial Possessions, England must be strong, bold, and, while avoiding useless acts of annexation or spoliation, must be able to assert, if necessary, by force of arms that position among the nations of the world by which alone she can endure and exist co-ordinately with them. It must not have divided counsels. We must not seek to be aggressive, but to maintain ourselves with honour and dignity. I say that our present Government is an incompetent Government, which is acting to the detriment of the interests of the country, and that it is the duty of every Member who places patriotism first and Party afterwards to support this Vote of Censure.


said, that he was one of the small band who had consistently opposed the Government policy in Egypt from the bombardment of Alexandria down to the present time. Holding, therefore, the views he did, he had heard the other day with astonishment and alarm the declaration of the Prime Minister that it was the intention of the Government to overthrow and "smash the Mahdi;" but he was glad to say that the speech of the Prime Minister that evening had to a large extent whittled away the most dangerous portion of his previous utterances. The Prime Minister, in answering the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, was powerful and convincing; but it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman did not really reply at all to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). This, he hoped, arose, not from a want of power, but from a want of will on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to answer it. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was very desirable that the Government should not commit themselves to any decision at the present moment. What he did say was in the nature of an excuse, which he (Sir George Campbell) admitted might be a justifiable and a valid one as far as it went. The right hon. Gentleman told them in effect that if they were going to retreat, it was necessary to send these regiments to Suakin for the purpose of keeping the road clear for the troops to return. He (Sir George Campbell) hoped that that was the only policy contemplated, for it was the only one which, he believed, was consistent with a prudent regard for the interests of this country. They must all feel that the reconquering of that great Empire in the heart of Africa was an enormous undertaking; and, looking to their position with France, Germany, and Russia, he thought they would do well to be wise in time. He, therefore, trusted that the Government were about to reconsider their policy, and to follow a more pru- dent course in the future. If the Soudanese were to have a Government of some kind, why not let them have the Government which, as far as he knew, they had chosen for themselves—namely, the Government of the Mahdi? What we called treachery at Khartoum the Soudanese might, perhaps, term a popular revolution. Why should we condemn their Leader unheard? Why should we not come to terms with him? We had no reason to assume that he was not a highly-respectable Mahommedan gentleman. He agreed with the whole of the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle, except that part of it in which his hon. Friend seemed to assume that the rule of the Mahdi must necessarily be a hard and a cruel rule. The Mahdi was a religious man, and his rule might be a good one. A year ago Her Majesty's Government came to the decision that the Soudan ought to be abandoned, and it would be very inconsistent for them now to determine to reconquer that country under circumstances of enormously-increased difficulty. The policy of our going to Khartoum to overthrow the power of the Mahdi was utterly unjustifiable. It must involve us in a great war which would cost us thousands of lives and tens of millions of money; and in face of the dangers threatening us in various parts of the world it would be a monstrous infatuation to send away from this country every efficient regiment we possessed, and to leave ourselves without any adequate means of defence at home. He trusted Her Majesty's Government were not influenced by religious fanaticism, for it would be monstrous for the Government of the Queen, who had so many millions of Mahommedan subjects, to embark on a crusade against this Mahommedan Leader. In his opinion, there was no danger of the Mahommedan s in India being opposed to us in consequence of our pursuing a fair policy towards their co-religiouists in Africa. He should be astonished if we were let into this great war and expedition by the man whom, of all others, he regarded as the apostle of peace. Was it for this that he and other Scotch Members had sworn by all their gods to support the principles of Mid Lothian in 1880? For his own part he venerated the Prime Minister, and for that reason hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be carried away by a kind of Maelstrom of Jingoism. Let the right hon. Gentleman read the articles he wrote in 1877, and let him not abandon those with whom he then sat.


said, he gathered from the speech of the Prime Minister that he was under the impression that his policy in the Soudan had been attended by considerable success, and that the fall of Khartoum and the murder of Gordon were merely unfortunate incidents for which the Government were in no way responsible. But he did not believe that the people of England endorsed the impressions of the Prime Minister; and he felt that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) only inadequately conveyed the deep indignation felt throughout the country against the present Government. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman had framed his Resolution in accordance with the convictions of 99 Englishmen out of every 100, it would mean something to the effect that all the bloodshed in the Soudan, culminating in the fall of Khartoum and the murder of General Gordon, was solely due to the timid purposes and vacillating policy of Her Majesty's Government. The course pursued by the Government had rendered almost impossible the attainment of the end which they had in view—that of the establishment of a good and stable Government in the country. It had brought Egypt to a state of anarchy and bankruptcy, and landed this country in a series of the gravest complications with more than one Power in Europe, besides involving the most terrible sacrifice of life and the death of gallant officers and soldiers who died for their country, but died in vain. Could anything be more heart-stirring than the news we heard last Friday of the death of the youngest and one of the most distinguished Generals in the British Army, dying in full retreat before that same enemy whom he had defeated so brilliantly and so decisively only three weeks before? And why was he in full retreat? Because the fall of Khartoum had set free the Forces of the Mahdi, and enabled him to act on the offensive. And why had Khartoum fallen? Because the Prime Minister, deaf to every warning and every entreaty, had deliberately abandoned to his fate the here who for 11 months, alone and unaided, had upheld the cause of civilization and the honour of England against Arab fanaticism. The Prime Minister had told them that for six months he was weighing the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the alternative routes. On March 31 last, Gordon wrote that 500 determined men could put down the revolt. Notwithstanding that, on Thursday last the Prime Minister told them that almost all the time Gordon could have secured his own personal safety. That was an argument worthy of the Prime Minister who abandoned Sinkat almost within reach of an English Force, but it was an outrage on the honour and humanity of General Gordon. Two squadrons of Cavalry, as had been suggested by Sir Herbert Stewart, if sent to Berber at the proper time, could have enabled General Gordon to effect his retreat from Khartoum. The refusal of the Prime Minister to send those 500 men was now involving a summer campaign in the Soudan—an undertaking the terrible character of which could be well appreciated by Indian officers. What were they now going to do with the Expedition which was being sent to Suakin? If it was necessary for the safety of Lord Wolseley's Army to open up the way between Berber and Suakin, the work must be done regardless of any sacrifice. But if the troops were to be there throughout an African tropical summer, wholesale murder could only be the result, and the undertaking would only add another to the long list of massacres. It was easy to talk glibly about smashing the Mahdi; but he, for one, thought our duty was to take care that the Mahdi did not smash us, for the question was one, not of victory, but of retreat, and how far General Buller could extricate his force from its critical position. Then, again, suppose the Mahdi retreated to Kordofan, were we to follow him in the tracks of General Hicks's Army? And what if the forces—not of the Mahdi, but of Nature in Equatorial Africa—proved too strong for us—where would their prestige be then? It would be gone the way of their Army—swallowed up in the Desert sands. He did not advocate a policy of revenge and retreat; but only that a decided course should be adopted and carried out with adequate means. If it were true, as he had been told by good authorities, that it would require 40,000 men to recapture Khartoum, where were the men to be found in the present state of the Army? It was said that the voice of faction ought now to be hushed, and that both Parties should join to defeat the dangers threatening the country; but while he agreed that that was necessary, in his view one duty at least was clear, and that one preliminary step was to dismiss the Government, which was responsible for all the incalculable evils and disasters which had befallen us in the Soudan. They were now embarked in an enterprize which must tax the resources of the country, in which they could reap no honour or glory, and in which failure might bring ruinous consequences. He believed that so long as the present Government remained in Office they could not expect God's blessing to rest upon the undertakings of this country. The sands of the existence of the present Parliament were running out. Its record was an unbroken one of evil, a record of triumphant sedition at home and needless and useless bloodshed abroad. It had one last opportunity of atoning for its past shortcomings, and, by dismissing the Government, the author of all their misfortunes, of proving that even at the eleventh hour it represented the just and deep indignation of the English people.


said, that, having been for many years closely associated with Egypt in matters of business, he naturally took a very great interest in all that concerned the fortunes of that country. The circumstances under which this discussion were held were of very grave and anxious moment to that House and the country. They had lost a brave and eminent man, perhaps one of the most distinguished servants this country had ever had. They had sacrificed many valuable lives and vast expenditure in an endeavour to secure the safety of General Gordon. They had been brought face to face with an Army that was most powerful, and had to equip an armament greater than any since the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny; and now they were brought face to face with a Motion which was intended to call on Her Majesty's Government to vindicate themselves in this matter. It was only natural, indeed it was almost inevitable, that under the present conditions the public mind was in the first instance disposed to attach great blame to the Government for all that had happened and was happening in Egypt. He said it was natural, because that was by far the easiest way for the public mind to deal with a matter of that kind. It thus rid itself of all necessity for investigation and consideration; and it was inevitable that an Opposition should take that opportunity for malting an attack on the Government of the country. When, however, he came to examine the indictment which had been framed by the Opposition, he confessed that he had been unable to discover any adequate proof in support of it. He granted that many interesting and startling side issues had been raised by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, and also in the speeches of those who had followed him; but he could not see that at the back of those side issues there had been any real argument in support of the Motion. He found that the right hon. Gentleman based his arguments on such statements as that the present Government had weakened Egypt, and that Egypt was, therefore, unable to deal with the state of affairs of the Soudan after the defeat of Hicks Pasha. If there was one thing clearer than another to his mind, it was that Egypt had been weakened long before the present Government came into Office, at the time of the Dual Control, when the financial arrangements of the country and its Revenues wore pledged under that arrangement. The facts, if he mistook not, were these. When the news of Hicks Pasha's defeat reached Cairo, Cherif Pasha proposed to apply to Turkey for assistance to put down the rebellion in the Soudan; and failing-Turkey, asked this country if it was willing to undertake the work, because Egypt was without funds for such an undertaking. If that were so, be thought no one would have been bold enough to have come forward at that time with a proposal to send an English Force to the Soudan. Since November, 1883, their education with reference to Soudanese matters had been improving; but at the time of the defeat of Hicks Pasha no Minister would have ventured to make a proposal of the character he had mentioned. If any other argument were necessary to show that Egypt was weakened long before the time when the present Government became responsible for her internal or external affairs, it was clearly shown in the fact that the Egyptian Government was unable of itself to put down the insurrection of Arabi Pasha. That being the case, he asked how it was that the right hon. Gentleman rested his argument for holding Her Majesty's Government responsible for the affairs in the Soudan on the idea that Egypt had been weakened by the present Government? He did not understand from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he for a single moment attempted to make out that he held the Government to blame for what had transpired in the Soudan before the defeat of Hicks Pasha; and he believed it was now held by all the best military authorities that there could not have been a more reckless or more unfortunate attempt to help General Gordon than by sending a small Cavalry Force to attempt the passage to Berber. If so, he did not understand the Opposition to say an error was committed in sending the Relief Expedition by the route they did. On that subject there was a general consensus of military authority that the only possible time at which the Expedition could be commenced was that at which it was commenced, and the only route was that actually taken by Lord Wolseley; and certainly the Government might fully claim their share of credit for the admirable manner in which the force was equipped, and the wonderful way in which the work had been continued. Unhappily, the fact remained that Lord Wolseley was not able to save General Gordon's life; but he did not find in any of the statements put forward any argument against the Government in regard to the steps they took respecting the Expedition. No doubt they were face to face with a considerable difficulty in the Soudan at this moment; and here he might say that he could not support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), because, although he had no objection to accommodation being arrived at with the Mahdi, he did not think it possible at a time when the Mahdi virtually held a pistol at their heads. The time might come for negotiation; but it would not be successful now. As to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, he thought it was in a certain measure contradictory, because if the Government were to take the best steps they possibly could to arrange matters in the Soudan, surely it was out of the question and somewhat inconsistent that they should be expected at the same time to effect that without military operations and the loss of life and heavy expenditure. For that reason he could not see how the two parts of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion hung together.


said, there was not that unanimity of accord on the Ministerial side of the House which they might have expected to see. The only point upon which hon. Gentlemen on the other side appeared to be agreed was in the determination to put all differences of opinion on one side and vote for the Government. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), in his Resolution, had refrained from expressing any opinion as to the future policy of the Government; and yet that hon. Gentleman was one of those who believed that 30 Members might, if they had spoken out, have prevented the bombardment of Alexandria and the first invasion of Egypt. He had a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Member; but it led him to a very different conclusion to that at which the hon. Gentleman had arrived, for he felt it his duty to oppose the Government, and to warn them against carrying out a policy which in the future might prove more disastrous than over to British arms. Was the hon. Member for Newcastle the man who said a year ago that he, at least, would not go a step further upon this road until he knew where he was going? They wanted to know what course the Government intended to take in the future, and what policy they proposed to pursue after they had destroyed the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum? At one time General Gordon stated that 500 determined men might put down the rebellion; but now things were come to such a pass that 20,000 troops were required. Twelve months ago General Gordon told them that he would undertake to put down the rebellion with £200,000 or £300,000. How did they stand now? The truth was they had spent over £10,000,000. The present Government—a body of Radical economists—came into power to reduce the Income Tax; and now they must have the Income Tax at 6d., and would most probably divert the Sinking Fund of the National Debt. With all this they would not be able to meet their liabilities in Egypt. He could not but feel that the more the Government believed that their doctrines were right, the more they must admit that their tactics were wrong. They desired peace, and had to acquiesce in four Expeditions. They desired to economize, and had muddled the finances of Egypt, and demoralized their own. The fact was the Government had been, and were now, carrying on a war with no definite end in view, and carrying it on with a nation struggling to get free. They knew the effect which the utterances of Her Majesty's Government as to the evacuation of the Soudan had on the Mahdi. They were told that when the Mahdi heard that they were going to give up the Soudan he and his followers were greatly rejoiced, and that he sent out emissaries in various directions to collect new forces. So that at the very moment that they were using all the resources of the Crown to put down the Mahdi they were raising his spirits and recruiting his forces. He thought the House might well complain that whatever the policy of Her Majesty's Government was they had not the sense to keep it within their own minds. The Prime Minister had no right to wink with one eye at the House of Commons and with another at the Mahdi, while using language which they were told the British soldier was bitterly lamenting. A great deal had been said about the Berber-Suakin route; and the right hon. Gentleman very naturally asked why it was to be opened this year, when last year it was declared to be impracticable? Earl Granville had said that for a large body of European troops of all arms the Military Authorities regarded an Expedition by that route as impossible. When the noble Earl made that statement in November, was he aware that Hicks Pasha's Army had crossed that Desert in numbers of more than 1,000 at a time? But now their enemies were increased, Osman Digna was in better courage, and the difficulty of making the railroad in the hot weather was greater than ever. When the Prime Minister took credit for this—that the Government held themselves bound throughout to support Gordon, it seemed rather inconsistent that all those months they should have been unable to make up their minds as to the route. The difficulties of the Suakin-Berber route were very great; but what he complained of was that the Government did not until the last moment make up their mind to overcome them. He did not desire to treat this question in a Party spirit; but if the Opposition were to go into the Lobby with a minority, he thought, nevertheless, they were bound to register a protest against the course pursued by the Government; although, on the other side, those who were the apostles of peace and retirement would be found in the same Lobby as those who were responsible for the war, and for forcing upon them a North African Empire which would be more dangerous and difficult for them than their Empire in South Africa. They had a right to make a protest, because they were undertaking an Expedition of which no one could, see the object. Was it to relieve Gordon? He had already perished. Was it to save Khartoum? Khartoum was abandoned. Was it to set up a fresh Government? How was it to be maintained? Was it to conquer the country? The Soudan would be a costly and a worthless possession, unless they confined themselves to those portions of it which were necessary to the safety of Egypt, and as to that no definition of any kind had been given. If there was one thing more than another which added a sting to the privations which their Army had to encounter it was the fact that they had no goal to their operations. He rejoiced that the Conservative Party would by this Resolution enter their protest against the policy which had involved this country in such grave difficulties and responsibility.


said, that much that had been advanced by hon. Members opposite commanded his admiration and likewise his respect. For instance, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Brodrick) had made a speech which ought to induce him to enter the Lobby in support of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley). Nevertheless, although the opinions of the hon. Member would logically lead him in that direction, he (Mr. Picton) had no doubt that the hon. Member would be found in the opposite Lobby, voting in support of the Resolution, against the policy of which he had protested. The hon. Member told the House he objected to the bombardment of Alexandria. He (Mr. Picton) agreed with the hon. Member, and he imagined that most of them now condemned that bombardment, as in the highest degree objectionable. The hon. Member further regarded the original sending out of General Gordon as most objectionable. So did hon. Members on that (the Liberal) side of the House, or, at any rate, a great many of them, and, he was inclined to believe, the majority of those who were now present. The hon. Member said he had no doubt that he would find the hon. Member for Newcastle in the Lobby supporting the Government, and he wondered why. In his (Mr. Picton's) humble way, he would endeavour to enlighten the hon. Member. He presumed that if his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle found himself defeated upon the Amendment, he would, as a dernier resort, support Her Majesty's Government. A certain King of old based his claim to popularity among his subjects on the ground that, whereas his father had chastised them with whips, he would chastise them with scorpions. It was on the same principle that the Opposition now asked for the support of the Liberals—namely, that whereas there had been a great deal of war under the guidance of the Ministry there would be a great deal more war if they passed the Resolution moved by the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition. He (Mr. Picton) could not pretend to be satisfied with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, or with the mode in which it had been carried out; but the hon. Member for Newcastle, after all, if his Amendment were not accepted by the House, would be content to continue his support to the Government owing to the greater hostility which he bore to the Opposition. The Amendment was intended to act upon the better consciences of Ministers as a wholesome tonic. Her Majesty's Government had repeatedly declared their opposition to schemes of conquest and aggrandizement. Over and over again, Europe had been assured that they did not intend to enlarge the limits of the Empire by annexing land either in Egypt or the Soudan. The dictates of the better consciences of the Ministry were inscribed on many official documents which had been laid upon the Table last year and recently. For instance, in the former set of documents the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), in a despatch to Mr. Egerton, dated April 23, 1884, told that gentleman that he was to assure General Gordon that expeditions against the Mahdi were beyond the scope of his mission, and were at variance with the pacific policy which was the purpose of his mission. The despatch went on to say that the special purpose of the mission of General Gordon was to secure the safety and withdrawal, if possible, of the Egyptian garrisons; but added that that object was to be secured by pacific means. It was not intended that the operations should include or involve measures for the purpose of crushing the Mahdi, or suppressing the revolution by force. That was a distinct declaration in the sense of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle—namely, that the suppression of the Mahdi by force was no part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. For a long time the tone of the despatches was in strict accordance with that declaration. He might quote, if it were necessary, Despatch No. 89 in the Blue Book, where the Foreign Secretary most strenuously repudiated any responsibility, either then or in the future, for any failure that might ensue in the withdrawal of the Egyptian garrisons from the Soudan. What was the reason for the emphasis with which any kind of responsibility, except for the safety of the Egyptian garrisons, was repudiated? It was not only the difficulty of maintaining them, but the injustice of making war against the Soudanese, who were only contending for freedom. As had been accurately stated by more than one hon. Member in the course of the debate, the Prime Minister had, on various occasions, expressed his sympathy, to a certain extent, with the Soudanese in their struggles for tribal liberty, and the right of managing their own affairs. In fact, the despatches throughout implied and suggested that the Mahdi's success was in consequence of the spontaneous rising of Islam to maintain its freedom from Christian rule. With that he did not think they had any right to interfere. Then, he would like to know what had occurred since these despatches were written which had so considerably altered the policy of the Government? Khartoum had fallen, and the heroic General Gordon, alas! had disappeared from the world. He (Mr. Picton) acknowledged that those tragic events were something terrible to contemplate; but, surely, it must be acknowledged that they formed an additional proof of the firm resolve of the Soudanese to maintain their own independence, for, if anything could have kept them from asserting that independence, it would have been the influence of the man who had so much sympathy for them. The death of General Gordon was a terrible grief; but he could not but think that it was a fatal rebuke to the initial mistake of sending him out. At any rate, it shed a lurid light on the testimony which proceeded from a hundred different sources that this so-called rebellion was not the work of a small knot of conspirators, but was the almost unanimous consensus of a whole people. Then, he asked, why should they go on to attempt the impossible, for impossible it would turn out to be in the long run to suppress this insurrection? On all sides, anything in the shape of vengeance was repudiated. They were told—but he was afraid that the story was too good to be true—that the Mahdi had seized the traitor who opened the gates of Khartoum, and had hanged him. He could only hope that it might turn out to be true, because he held that any man who acted treacherously and falsely deserved such a fate; but, at the same time, he would far rather that the Mahdi should be the traitor's executioner than ourselves. General Gordon, like most other men of heroic mould, despised a spirit of revenge; and the very worst tribute they could pay to his memory would be to sin against the example he himself had set. It was needless, however, to argue in that strain, for he was certain that the almost unanimous feeling of the country would be against anything like the manifestation of a spirit of unchristian revenge. They heard a great deal about prestige in various articles of the Press, and in some of the speeches delivered in that House. Prestige was a French word, and it seemed to him to express a very un-English idea. It might be proper for a people who, under the malignant influence of Imperialism, had been trained up to think far more of glory than of truth and right; but if, by prestige, hon. Members meant reputation, he would ask whether, in this ancient Kingdom, we had much need to be nervous about our reputation? If it was a reputation for fighting qualities that we were anxious about, he wished to ask why, after more than 1,000 years of fighting, and generally fighting of a victorious character, we should be so timid upon the subject now? Nor could it be said that this very campaign had lowered our prestige in this respect. Had there been any real defeat? Although he detested war, he was not insensible to military courage. He could admire the quality of pluck wherever he saw it; and he held that never had British troops given more direct proof of their heroic qualities than they had done in the campaign in the Soudan. When the House considered the difficulties attending the passage of a waterless desert; when they remembered the separation of the column from its base; when they remembered the overwhelming odds against which the troops had to contend, he thought the march to Gubat and the subsequent retreat, so far as it had proceeded, formed one of the most extraordinary achievements in our military history. If this were so, it only furnished all the stronger reason why they should protest against the useless waste of such noble lives as were now in peril. As for the rescue of General Gordon, for which they were sent out, death had interposed an impregnable barrier against that; and although they must return in grief and sadness, it was certainly impossible for them to return in disgrace. He had heard, when the idea of a retreat was suggested, an insidious reference to Majuba Hill, and similar occurrences in English history; but he thought that the circumstances in this case wore very different. They were different because, in this case, our Army had been continuously victorious; and he would go so far as to say that, just because we should now withdraw from victory, whereas, in the case of Majuba Hill, we withdrew from defeat, this retreat would be only less honourable than that, for it was probable that there was not another nation in the world who would have dared to make such a retreat as that which this country made from Majuba Hill. No other people would have had the moral courage to have made such a retreat. There were other considerations alleged in defence of aggression; for instance, the interests of trade, on which, however, he need not dilate, because he did not think there was much trade to be done in the Deserts of the Soudan. At any rate, a destructive war was not likely to encourage a profitable trade and commerce. Then, again, they were told that the fanaticism of Islam ought to be repressed. Why? Was there no such thing as Christian, fanaticism? They sometimes found that a revival of any religion was necessarily accompanied by a certain amount of fanaticism, and yet that it carried a certain degree of moral regeneration with it. He could point to several instances which had occurred in his own country; and we had no right, therefore, to speak of the revival of Islamism as necessarily implying mere destruction. Narrowness and bigotry were not unfrequently inspired in dealing with religions of our own. But General Gordon himself gave us a better example; for when General Gordon was engaged, on a former mission, as Governor of the Soudan, he related in his epistolary diary that he had watched the enemy on the other side of the river engaged in prayer; and somehow, from the earnestness which they showed, he was induced to entertain some misgivings. The prayer, he paid, was an earnest prayer for Celestial aid in an undertaking in which the men who prayed knew they needed help from some unknown power in order to avert danger; the Native might not know who was the true God; but God knew him, and moved him to prayer in order to avert destruction at the hands of Gordon's followers. Mahommedanism had not always been a curse; and in its early days, before it was oppressed by the Turk, it had often been associated with the progress of literature, art, and science. Much of the terminology of science was derived from the Arabic. [Cries of "Question!"] He ventured to think that that was the Question, because there was no reason to suppose that, if the Mahdi was successful, a deluge of barbarism would necessarily follow his success. But, at the same time, if it were felt necessary to prevent the increase of Mahommedanism in Egypt, surely the Southern Borders of Egypt were the proper place in which to draw the line. He was one of those who thought that we were first bound to consider the higher interests of our own country, which were not necessarily associated and hound up with those of bondholders, financiers, and capitalists. He attached greater value to the interests of the labouring millions of the country, and he was certain that those interests would not be served by such indefinite wars as that in which it was now proposed to enter. The expenses of civilization were continually increasing; the work of promoting science and art continually required more money; while, at the same time, the cost of barbarism—for such he must consider warlike operations—was also becoming more expensive. Both could not continue to be carried on; and if he were asked which ought to be preferred, he would say "sacrifice your warlike operations." It was foolish to suppose that the democracy were in favour of war. Could it be true that the toilers of the country were favourable to an everlasting policy of bloodshed and waste? It might be true that the idlers at the shop windows, who gazed at a senseless picture of a military square fighting against Arabs, were in favour of war, or that the loungers in the music halls, echoing sanguinary choruses, were eager for war; but the ordinary democracy—the democracy of organized industry—were impatient of war, and disgusted also. They knew that a blood tax robbed them of their earnings and retarded education, science, and art; they believed that a warlike policy engendered feelings of bitterness, and encouraged, on the part of our rulers, a fooling of recklessness which was both dangerous and perilous. The working classes did not comprehend why slaughter and destruction should be so much more honourable than constructive labour. They had not yet, unfortunately, had their due weight in the Councils of the nation. The new Reform Bill would help them to some extent; and he believed that when they became fully conscious of their power they would speak in a voice which neither contemporary nor future Rulers would dare to disobey.


Sir, I think we are all of us familiar with our old friend, the Dual Control; but the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Picton) has introduced us to the novelty of a duality of Ministerial con- fidence. One feels great difficulty in understanding what is the particular proposition which Her Majesty's Ministers call upon their supporters to approve and support by their votes. No one, I think, who heard the Prime Minister to-night, and who is familiar with his marvellous powers, but must have been struck with the effect which his speech has had upon the House. Not even his eloquence could give a spark of vitality to a case hopelessly dead. Why, Sir, it was apology from beginning to end; and we have exhausted all the subterfuges of language from the familiar cry of past history—the uselessness of repining over spilt milk, and so forth—to show that it is not necessary to sit in judgment upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in the past. But, be it observed, that the form in which the Resolution is framed is one which renders some little contemplation of the past a necessary preamble in enabling the House to form a judgment upon the most important part of the question—namely, what Her Majesty's Ministers propose to do in the future. Important as it is to see what Her Majesty's Government have done in the past, I believe that nine-tenths of the House, and nine-tenths of the country, are more interested in knowing what is the course to be pursued in the future, and that they are no longer content to be put off with language which palters with the national interests in a double sense. Even to-night, although no word was uttered by the Prime Minister to retract the engagement to overthrow the power of the Mahdi, yet it was impossible not to observe how immediately some of his followers caught at some proposed alteration in his tone, and, assuming that he might, perhaps, have altered his mind, with that hope promised that they would still give him their support—not that he had altered one word of what he had stated before, but because there was something in the tone in which he spoke which induced them to hope for an alteration. I must say that I was a little amused to hear the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Sutherland), who addressed the House for the first time to-night, and who told us that he has been familiar with Egyptian affairs, uttering some of the sentiments he did, and referring to some supposed facts. I am afraid that the debates in this House and the Blue Books have not been called to his attention. He seems to have been under the impression that the Soudan was abandoned by the Egyptian Government, and that Her Majesty's Government had nothing to do with it. He does not appear to have read the despatch of Lord Granville of the 4th of January, in which, in language very different from the ordinary ambiguity of diplomacy, he informed the Egyptian Government that if a particular Minister would not do what Downing Street required, they must find another Minister who would. Since that time they have assumed and directed everything; and the pretence of an Egyptian Government has long since been exploded. Of that fact the hon. Member for Greenock (Mr. Sutherland") appears to have been in entire ignorance; but it is a most important factor in the situation. We are constantly taken back to the Dual Control. For my part, I do not want to discuss the question of the bombardment of Alexandria, which the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) said that he deplored, and regarded as a great mistake. But we have not heard Her Majesty's Government say, or any one of Her Majesty's Ministers admit, that it was a great mistake. Further than that, when dealing with the mode in which Egyptian affairs have since been managed by Her Majesty's Government, one cannot help thinking that some hon. Members opposite do not seem to have been aware that the mission which was undertaken by General Gordon was one which had a double object in view. General Gordon was not sent on a purely pacific mission. He was not sent out with the view of converting the Mahdi, and, if that would not do, of then coming back again; but General Gordon was sent with a double mission—namely, to aid and assist in the evacuation of the Soudan, and to surrender the government of the Soudan to those from whom it had been taken—the Egyptian Government. Again, I must say that I am amazed at the arguments we have just heard, and I think the Prime minister is labouring under the same delusion, because we hear, from time to time, about a people struggling for freedom—of a people oppressed by military power seeking to establish their freedom. I think the close of the oration of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—the hon. Member for Leicester—was a little at variance with the earlier part of it, because the hon. Member told us that the rebellion is an outbreak of Islamism. Is that freedom? Is that the notion the hon. Member has of freedom—the Koran or the sword? If that is the sort of struggling for freedom that is meant, I congratulate the Prime Minister and his ally on the views they entertain of the right of private judgment, whether in regard to religion or any other matter. But with reference to the subject more immediately before us, I cannot help thinking that the great difficulty throughout our whole discussion has been that people will not call things by their right names. I do not know whether it is admitted that we are at war even now. Are they "military operations" still, or are we at war; and if we are at war, with whom are we at war, on what account, and with what object? [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] Some hon. Member opposite says "Hear, hear!" but, nevertheless, he is going to support the Government, who have always refused to answer that question. Is it the real meaning that this is a military operation, and that we are only executing it for the purpose of establishing orderly and stable government? The hon. Member who last addressed the House took some objection to the use of the word prestige, which he said was a French word; but whether we call it "character" or prestige, we are obliged to admit that, in either case, we borrow from a foreign language the word we use, the only difference being that the one word is a little more novel than the other. Both mean the same thing, and I believe that, in regard to the government of any nation, whether in the East or in the West, the character which the nation possesses is one of the most important elements in the maintenance of peace, and that if a Government allows it to be known that their rights and their interests may with impunity be disregarded, they will have wars enough on their hands. That is the object of maintaining prestige, or character, or whatever the hon. Member likes to call it. Why did General Gordon go? The hon. Member says that he was called away upon a pacific mission. But what was the mission? Was it the re-establishment or suppression of the Slave Trade? Was that a pacific mission; or was it for the purpose of carrying out the views of Her Majesty's Ministers in England in connection with the Government of what the Prime Minister has called "Egypt Proper," although I do not know whether I am correctly stating that or not? It is, however, a proposition we could understand, if it were so. But what had General Gordon to do at Khartoum at all? Was he to retire the garrisons? What does General Gordon himself say on that subject? He says—"You send me out with six other persons; and if I am to endeavour to effect that object, why the Arabs will only laugh at the notion." That was General Gordon's view of the matter. But before he got there he was invested with a power which Her Majesty's Government themselves described as having a much wider range and involving a much more important mission than that of the mere retirement of the garrisons, lam afraid hon. Members opposite have again omitted to refer to the Blue Books on that subject; and I will remind them of what was said just 12 months ago in this House by the Prime Minister. I cannot find the precise quotation at this moment; but the effect of it was that General Gordon's original commission had been absorbed in the wider one he had received from the Egyptian Government, with the sanction and authority of Her Majesty's Government, and for which the Government of this country had undertaken to give him both their moral and political responsibility. If that was what General Gordon had to do, and if the Prime Minister undertook the full responsibility of what General Gordon did, what is the meaning of the cry which has been raised from time to time, as an apology for the Government, that they had not sufficient knowledge of what General Gordon's wants were? "It is very unjust," says the Prime Minister, "not to remember that we did not get General Gordon's messages until a much later date than they were gent to us." Are these things matters which were not thought of before? Did the Government suppose that by the mission intrusted to General Gordon he would be sent to Khartoum, and left unsupported by reinforcements, or aid of any kind whatever, until the Government got return messages from General Gordon as to what he wanted? With almost grim humour, in the month of May, a despatch was sent to him, in which he was asked to state what his objects were in remaining in Khartoum if he found it impossible to effect the objects which Her Majesty's Government had at heart. What did General Gordon reply? General Gordon said—"The reason I am here is that the Arabs have surrounded me, and I cannot get out." Was that a contingency wholly beyond the contemplation or imagination of Her Majesty's Ministers? Did they really contemplate that while they were remaining in their seats in Downing Street, and doing nothing to aid and assist General Gordon, they would not receive a despairing cry from him when it was too late to despatch that kind of help that would be of assistance to him? Let me pass on to what has been stated as an excuse for the Government for not having sent aid at an earlier period. The case of the Government, as stated by the Prime Minister to-night, is about the most extraordinary statement I ever heard. That statement is, that after having accepted full responsibility, and having made a pledge to Parliament that they would recognize their responsibility to General Gordon, for some reason or other they did not wake up to a sense of the situation until the 5th of August. Were no preparations desirable before that date? Can the Government protect themselves from responsibility by saying, after the discussion in May, and after having obtained a Vote of Confidence, they remained considering the matter for months, allowing the period to go by when preparations could be made, on account of want of knowledge as to what General Gordon wished? And then, when they ultimately did come down to the House of Commons, what is it that was done? Was it anything that Her Majesty's Government can now look back upon with satisfaction? They proposed a Vote to the House of Commons of a character which, I venture to say, is the most discreditable that can possibly be imagined. No Minister could possibly, for a single instant, have imagined that it was either adequate to the circumstances of the case, or that it was not imposing the grossest deception upon the country, to endeavour to lead the country to suppose that it was at ail adequate to the requirements of the occasion. Then, what followed? The Expedition started, and with regard to that the Prime Minister has given us a little information to-night. I was very glad to hear, although it was read for another purpose, the despatch from Lord Wolseley, which was received on Sunday; because I find that in it Lord Wolseley, who is a high authority on military matters, and who has taken so important a part in these operations, expresses his regret at being too late to save General Gordon, and for not having started from England at least a month earlier. If, therefore, the Government had been alive to a sense of the situation, would they not have started the Expedition from England at least a month earlier? Then it is said that that would not have saved General Gordon; but that depends upon a somewhat curious conversation with gentlemen who came from Khartoum. I presume they were not in the councils of the traitors; and, therefore, that they only give, from conjecture, what the traitors in Khartoum intended to do. The argument to be derived from that conversation is that the Government ought never to have sent the Expedition at all at any time. The real truth is that the Government, in this as well as in other things, have contented themselves with phrases instead of action. When they were told that General Gordon was surrounded, the Prime Minister objected to the phrase "surrounded," and said he was not surrounded, but "hemmed in." But what are we to say now, after our more recent experience? The Prime Minister has suggested tonight that it is only a repetition of the debate which took place in May last, and that we are not to judge by the light of subsequent experience to see whether the statements as well as the prophecies of the Government reflect any light as to what was the issue of that debate. The grand proposition then was, "Gordon is in no danger. We do not admit that there is the least danger to General Gordon." The Prime Minister and others, in the course of that debate, pointed out that they had the most complete belief in the success of Gordon's mission, and that it was an unreasonable and unwarrantable anxiety that was disturbing the minds of hon. Members on this side of the House. But what did General Gordon himself say on the subject? Did he be treat it? General Gordon regarded himself as having been abandoned. In the despatch which has been already alluded to, and I think that the Prime Minister made an unfair use of that despatch—I refer to the one which was quoted by my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote)—the first demand made by General Gordon was for military aid. He not only requested that Zebehr should be sent, but he demanded military aid, and both of his requirements were refused. It was only when General Gordon received the intimation from Her Majesty's Government that he was not to receive assistance from English or Turkish troops, that he used that phrase which will ever remain stamped on the Government who sent him there—that his abandonment by Her Majesty's Government would entail indelible disgrace upon them. [An hon. MEMBER: He did not say that.] I will read the exact words if the hon. Member desires it; but probably it is unnecessary to detain the House, because I believe the passage has been road already a great many times the hon. Member seems to question the accuracy of my quotation; but I still believe it to be accurate. Even if the interruption were well-founded, and my remarks were open to verbal criticism, and I had used some word, owing to lapse of memory, for the moment, which was a misuse of words—which, however, I do not think I did—there can be no doubt that General Gordon spoke of the indelible disgrace which the desertion of him by Her Majesty's Government would fix upon them. And now lot me ask what is to be done, for that is a question far more important than anything we can discuss as to what is past? The Prime Minister, adverting to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), has suggested that there were reasons and considerations which may justify the course which the Government proposed to adopt. What I complain of is that the same uncertain and ambiguous language is still persevered with, and Her Majesty's Government will not tell the House or the country what it is they are going to do in Egypt or the Soudan. Every kind of effort has been made to bring them to a clear and definite statement of what they mean to do; and yet they evaded the responsibility. I believe that the country would gladly condone what is past if they could be satisfied that the Government mean to adopt a straightforward policy in the future. But what answer do we get on that subject? The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister says that Egypt has benefited by the abolition of the knur-bash and the coryée. I expect you will find that the facts are not all one way, and that there is a considerable difference of opinion as to them among those who have come from Egypt. But is that what we want to know when we are considering whether we are right in despatching 20,000 troops from this country at the present moment? Nothing can more accurately describe the position this country holds than what was said by the hon. Member for Newcastle. We are threatened with great danger—we are threatened in every quarter of the world with great peril; and I think the people of this Country would like to know, before they see the tenth legion sent away to the African deserts, what is the policy that is to be pursued by Her Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister has avoided telling us that to-night. It is one thing to say that we must overthrow the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum; but it is another to state distinctly whether we intend or not to assume a Protectorate over Egypt until she can be safely left to herself. Has anyone attempted to give a solution of that difficulty? With regard to the comments which have been made upon the definition of those spots which are necessary for the safety of Egypt, I should have thought that anything more rash than to attempt to define them could hardly be imagined. To do so would have been to assume a degree of military knowledge and minute geographical experience which I suppose my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) hardly affects to possess. But surely the language of the Resolution is intelligible enough. It does not indicate spot A or spot B, but only such spots as are necessary for the safety of Egypt. Do the Government accept that proposition? Are they going to enforce the possession of such spots as are necessary to the security of Egypt, and to provide that Egypt herself shall not be invaded, or her interests imperilled, either from the Soudan or elsewhere? I believe that a declaration of that sort would go far to satisfy the minds of many people in this country; but that is exactly the declaration which, from the first moment up to the present hour, Her Majesty's Govern- ment have refused to make. They will not tell us what they intend to do. The phrases which they use are delusive; they may mean anything or they may mean nothing. They may mean that the Prime Minister will go to-morrow into the same Lobby with the hon. Member for Newcastle, for the maintenance of Khartoum as an outpost of Egypt; or they may mean that they intend to take Khartoum, as General Gordon intended to take it, and fix a stable Government there. The House of Commons and the country are entitled to know what it is that Her Majesty's Government mean. Everybody listened with rapt attention when the Prime Minister came to that part of the subject in order to know what the policy of the Government was; but, exactly at that part of his speech, when, after a few observations which were somewhat complimentary to the hon. Member for Newcastle and deprecatory to those who take extreme views, the Prime Minister allowed the matter to drop. Is that a satisfactory answer to the Resolution of my right hon. Friend? Here is a Ministry challenged to say what their policy is. They are challenged by a vote in the House of Commons to recognize their responsibility. They say that they do so, and that they will take care, when they are called upon, to act in pursuance of their declarations. But when directly challenged, the Prime Minister has nothing further to say, in answer to the challenge, than what the House has heard to-night. I claim the agreement of every Member opposite to the proposition, that if there is no place which is fixed and certain, that if there is nothing adequate in its importance to the British Empire—aye, and for the interests of Egypt, of which they are at present the protectors—all the blood which has been shed, and all the blood which is about to be shed, will rest upon the heads of those who are waging a useless and sanguinary conflict. I could understand the hon. Member for Newcastle, and those who think with him, objecting to war altogether. That is an intelligible, although I believe it to be a very fatal, proposition to put forward before the world. I could understand a proposition of the character that, inasmuch as we are in possession of Egypt, and as the Soudan may be—I do not say that it is—or some parts of it may be, necessary for the maintenance and security of Egypt, that is an adequate motive by reason whereof the Forces of the Crown should be launched into the Desert; but I do not understand the half-hearted, ambiguous, vacillating statement that it may become necessary to do this, that, or the other, without any definite proposition of what it is sought to establish. Then it comes to this—that we are to hear, day after day, sickening aocount3 of bloodshed; we are shocked by the ever-increasing note of woe, as each telegram arrives from day to day telling of some gallant life sacrificed, and of some noble career checked. All this, however, would be less hard to bear if there was some great object in view; if we were assisting the cause of freedom in some distant country where freedom had been struck down, or if we were lighting the torch of civilization; but if we are going on from day to day to support Her Majesty's Ministers in a policy which they will not explain, or which the cannot explain, because they have no settled line of policy, then I maintain that each of these battles deserves the strongest animadversion. No hon. Member opposite, or any Member of the Peace Association, would speak more strong by than I would against proceedings which, having no object to attain but merely to save the occupants of Office for the time being, should wage this causeless, wicked, wanton, and unnecessary conflict.


said, he did not intend to trespass long upon the attention of the House; but, as a Member who represented an Irish constituency, he wished to avail himself of the opportunity of expressing an opinion which he believed to be held not only by his constituents, but by the people of Ireland generally, with reference to the action of the Government in prosecuting what must be deemed a most causeless and disastrous war. It appeared, from the statement made by the Prime Minister that evening, that General Gordon was despatched to the Soudan for the purpose of establishing good government and peace in a vast territory by the exercise of his influence alone. Now, he did not know what the estimate of General Gordon's influence might be; but he thought it must be the opinion of very many persons in the country that the Government, in de- spatching a single British officer to a country like the Soudan, in the belief that, however great his influence might be, it would be sufficient to bring about peace and good government to a people who had been oppressed and almost robbed of their nationality, must have been prejudice indeed. General Gordon's mission to the Soudan naturally failed; but it did not appear, from the action of the Government, that they had ever anticipated that it would fail at all. Since the failure of General Gordon's mission became apparent, arrangements bad been made which, as hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench said, were tardily made to afford relief and rescue General Gordon. Undoubtedly, General Gordon was a brave man, and the sympathy expressed for him was shared by every man in the country who knew the feelings by which General Gordon was animated, and the sympathy he felt for all nationalities that were struggling to be free. But the persona who sent General Gordon upon that mission to the Soudan, and who did not understand or believe that failure was possible, and who did not, in sending out General Gordon, make some arrangements for his protection and for his rescue, if failure overtook him, had committed an act of a most useless character, and had wantonly sacrificed the life of a brave and gallant officer. General Gordon went out to the Soudan for the purpose of bringing peace and good government to the people of that country. He should have thought that the lesson which might have been derived from the overthrow of Arabi Pasha in Egypt might have been sufficient to convince the Government of this country that it was not possible for any Englishman, no matter how excellent his personal qualities might be, to exercise sufficient influence to govern the people of a country like the Soudan by his own personal influence alone. However, General Gordon went out to the Soudan, and found himself, in the end, blocked in at Khartoum. An Expedition was therefore despatched from this country for the purpose, and for the purpose alone, of rescuing General Gordon. That Expedition could no longer succeed in carrying out the object for which it was originally sent out. General Gordon was dead. His friends had, in one way or another, been disposed of at Khartoum, and that city was now in the hands of the Mahdi. So long as General Gordon was to be rescued at Khartoum; so long as he was unwilling to leave the men who had stood by him in that city, the feeling might be easily understood which prompted the Government to send out an Expedition for his relief. But, now that there was nobody to be relieved in Khartoum, he (Mr. W. Redmond) maintained that the object for which this war was initiated had distinctly ceased to exist; and he believed that it was the opinion of nine-tenths of the people, not only in Ireland, but in this country, that to proceed further with that war would be only wantonly to sacrifice the lives of innocent men, and to jeopardize the liberties of the Soudanese people, who were, after all, as the Prime Minister had said, only struggling to be free. It was apparently out of the power of Her Majesty's Government to bring peace and good government to the people of the Soudan. It might reasonably be understood that it would be a much easier task for a person in the position of the Mahdi to bring tranquillity to the Soudan, than for an army of British soldiers. It was a great mistake for the Government of this country—and it had been manifested in other interests besides this—to believe that where ostensibly their object was to bring liberty to a struggling country, the only means of securing that liberty was to enforce it at the point of the bayonet. Surely it would be far better to place the work of restoring tranquillity in the hands of some Native of the country, in whose liberty he would himself have the deepest personal interest. The reason why the government of Ireland by this country had become not only ludicrous, but dangerous, was that no Irishman, or person conversant with Ireland, had ever been entrusted with the task of tranquillizing the country. It was precisely for the same reason that Her Majesty's Government now found themselves in a dangerous and difficult position in the Soudan. They declared that it was their desire to bring tranquillity to the Soudanese people; but, instead of allowing someone who was acquainted with the country and the habits of the people to build up a peaceful and orderly Government, which, being based upon the good will of the people, would success- fully succeed in tranquillizing the country—instead of placing that task in the bands of a man like the Mahdi, they were endeavouring to establish that good government by storming cities, burning villages, and robbing the people right and left. He did not know, nor did he care, whether Great Britain would allow the present Government, or any other Government that might come into power, to prosecute so aimless and wicked a war as that which had been initiated in the Soudan; but he did know this, and he was satisfied that every one of his Colleagues would bear him out when he stated that nine-tenths of the people of Ireland viewed with unmitigated indignation and horror the action of Her Majesty's Ministers. Having treated Ireland so badly, they were now on the eve of bringing the same desolation and misery into existence in another country and among another people. The Government, and the action of the Government, had been arraigned from the Front Opposition Bench by the hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last (Sir Hardinge Giffard), and the right hon. Baronet who opened the discussion (Sir Stafford North cote). By those right hon. and learned Members the action of Her Majesty's Government in the Soudan had been severely criticized; but it appeared to him (Mr. W. Redmond) that the only difference there was between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in this matter was that, while the Liberals were prepared to go on with the war to a certain extent, the Conservatives were not at all averse to the idea of war, but were only anxious for power, because they had a notion that that war might not have been sufficiently prolonged and sufficiently bloody to meet their views. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench to criticize the action of the Government; but they said that, so far as the smashing up of the Mahdi was concerned, they thoroughly agreed with that. All they wanted to know was, what was to be done afterwards? He presumed that the Conservative Party would not be content with the smashing up of the Mahdi, which he sincerely hoped Her Majesty's Government would not succeed in doing; but that they would like to occupy the Soudan and Egypt Proper afterwards. Ever since the English Government went to the Soudan and Egypt, with their money and their bayonets, there had been no peace; but, on the contrary, nothing but misery for the Soudanese and the Egyptians. He sincerely believed that so long as English money and English bayonets were employed in the Soudan and in Egypt, so long would the people of those countries be in a state of anarchy and rebellion, and so long would peace, order, prosperity, and good government be banished from those countries. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in the course of his speech, attempted to justify the war in the Soudan at the present time; and one of the reasons he gave, in the grandiloquent speech he delivered, was that the Soudanese had banished from their country all the Egyptian garrisons. The right hon. Gentleman also regarded with satisfaction the mercies which he considered to have boon showered on the people of Egypt by the abolition of the knur bash. For his own part, he (Mr. W. Redmond) would like the people of the country to be polled, and asked their opinion with regard to the respective merits of the knur bash and British taxation; and he felt pretty confident that their reply would be that the knur bash was nothing at all to be compared to the misery which had been brought upon them by our invasion. There had been a great deal of talk in the course of the debate of the gallantry and heroism of the British troops; but, so far as he and his hon. Friends were able to understand the matter, it would seem that it was the general opinion in Ireland that the British troops had as much as they could possibly do to hold their own; that they had not quite succeeded in doing this; and that, at the present moment, our brave soldiers of the Soudan were retreating as fast as they were able, pell mell, with the followers of the Mahdi at their heels. If it had cost so many lives, and taken so many men, to meet the few of the Mahdi's followers who had been brought face to face with them up to the present time, how many soldiers, how many lives, and how much treasure would it cost to face the whole power of the man, whom British statesmen had, to their cost, estimated so low, and whom they now knew was not to be despised? There could, he believed, have been an amicable arrangement arrived at long ago with regard to the Soudan had the Government only shown their wish to make overtures to the Mahdi and approached him as a man who had power. Some arrangement might have been arrived at which would probably have resulted in the saving of General Gordon's life, and have avoided the disasters and bloodshed which had taken place, not to say the necessity of the war now being carried on in the Soudan. The one great mistake was that which had always been the besetting sin of England, and which had generally brought her to her knees; the Government were too proud to recognize that this dusky warrior of the Soudan was a foe worthy of consideration. They hoped to deal with him by means of a couple of battalions of British troops, which they thought were sufficient to sweep the Mahdi out of their was and, without looking into his position, they launched their soldiers at him and declared war. Even now, at the eleventh hour, they might make overtures to him; but the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had declared that whatever else they might do the Mahdi must be smashed up. Hon. Members opposite, however, had pointed out that the Mahdi had now nothing else to do but to fight with all his might and main, seeing that the head statesman of this proud nation declared that it was their intention to smash him up, and destroy his power. The Government blamed the Mahdi for fighting; but how could they do that consistently, having sent him word that it was their intention to smash him up? In making these remarks he had no other wish than to give expression to the opinions which he believed to be held by nine-tenths of the people of Ireland, which opinions clearly pointed to a desire on the part of the Irish people to see the Mahdi successful. They did not wish to see the Mahdi injuring the people, or infringing the rights of the people of any country; but they recognized in him a man of a peculiar race and creed, fighting to protect his country and faith from another people hostile to them—a patriot struggling for his liberty; and as such the people of Ireland wished him every success. And he was sure, when the time came for the Irish Members to give their votes, that they would go distinctly and unanimously to show that the feeling of the Irish people was that the British nation had no business in the Soudan, and that the British Government should allow the Soudanese and Egyptians to govern themselves according to their own lights and customs, and that it was the desire of the Irish people that as long as the English nation retained its hold in the Soudan, by tyrannizing over people that seemed weaker than themselves, so long as British troops occupied the Soudan, so long would there be in Ireland fervent and hearty prayers that the Mahdi might be successful, and drive the British troops out of Egypt, and that the time might not be far distant when the Mahdi and the Irish people would congratulate together on having achieved the same object, of freeing themselves from British tyranny.

Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—{Mr. Ooschen,)—put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.

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