Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum not exceeding £104,524, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 18S8, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
I have given Notice of an Amendment which I propose to move to reduce the salary of Her Majesty's Consul General in Egypt by the sum of £500. I need hardly say, speaking of the efficiency of Sir Evelyn Baring, that he is worth the money paid to him; but it is necessary to make this Motion, as it is doubtful whether this is not the only Motion on which the general question of the administration of Egypt can be raised. I also make the Motion because I desire to record a protest on two points. The first has reference to what I may call the non-reduction and non-withdrawal of our civil administration from Egypt—that is to say, the administration through British officers as distinguished from native administration. Secondly, I wish, to say a word or two about Egyptian finance, because, the other night, when the question of Egypt was unexpectedly and without Notice raised by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), the discussion was cut short by the Government giving the House to understand that they wanted to get into Supply, and because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who repeatedly failed to rise until towards the close of the debate, made a somewhat couleur de rose statement the accuracy of which I, for one, am not prepared to admit. With regard to the non-reduction of British administration in Egypt, Her Majesty's Government—in fact, successive Governments of this country—have always professed a desire to withdraw from that country as soon as they could, leaving an efficient Native Administration behind them. Well, are Her Majesty's present Go- 1258 vernment taking any steps towards that object? It seems to me that they are taking absolutely none. An hon. Friend of mine, whom I do not see present, the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. P. Stanhope), discussing the matter outside the House the other day, said with great truth—If you want to withdraw from Egypt and substitute a Native Government the only way to do it is gradually to withdraw your British officers, and transfer the control to Native Authorities.In that way he said—The time may come when it would be possible to get out of Egypt if we only want to get out.It seems to me that no Government of Her Majesty have really shown a desire to get out of Egypt since we went there. On the contrary, it would appear that we are every day more and more Europeanizing the administration not only with regard to European ideas but also with regard to administration through European officers. I will not say that the number of European officers is being increased in Egypt, but certainly there is not any diminution. We nowhere hear of European officers being withdrawn, and we nowhere hear of their salaries being reduced. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that these officers and their salaries are being maintained to the fullest extent. The hon. Member for Wednesbury also maintained as pretty strong evidence that so many British officers were not required in Egypt, that almost all of them manage to go away during the hot weather, and that at this moment nine out of ten of the British officers, who are supposed to be administering the affairs of Egypt, are in reality in this country enjoying an exorbitant leave such as they would never have got in India, or if they had been actively engaged in the administration of the affairs of any other country. They come home here in the hot weather, and it really seems that Egypt can get on quite as well without them. I, therefore, strenuously maintain that Egyptian administration is overmanned by British officials, that it is paying too much in regard to them, and that we are not taking the necessary steps to bring about an administration by purely Egyptian officials. I see no sign whatever that the Government are trying to establish a real native control of the affairs of the country. There are 1259 still less signs that the Government are attempting to call together a real Native Assembly under the decree promulgated? by the Egyptian Government at the instigation of Lord Dufferin, because they know very well that an Egyptian assembly would never suffer to the extent that the present administration suffers for the sake of the interests of Europeans. With regard to Egyptian finance, and the remarks sprung upon the House the other day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I sympathize very much with those hon. Members who assert very fairly that the surplus supposed to have been established in Egypt is altogether a bogus surplus—not a real one, but one manufactured partly through charging the expenses of Egypt on the loans. [Cries of "No!"] Hon. Members say, "No," but I contend that the expenses are charged upon the loans. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has maintained that the charges were justifiable, but, as a matter of fact, they were made partly on the loans and partly—and very largely—on the British taxpayer. That, I submit, is the very worst way in which they can manufacture a bogus surplus. I submit further that the fact that the Egyptians are not contented with our rule, but are harassed and dissatisfied with the burden of taxation imposed upon them, and especially with the land revenue is clearly shown in the despatches of our own Commissioner—Sir Henry Drummond Wolff—to Her Majesty's Government, and the declarations which have been made that the taxation ought to be reduced. Lord Northbrook showed the severity of the burden which has been imposed on the people of Egypt, and the report of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff tears to shreds the assertion so often made by Her Majesty's Government, that our rule in Egypt and our Egyptian policy are satisfactory to that country. So far from Egypt being contented with our rule they are eminently dissatisfied on account of the burden of taxation which it has imposed upon them. I will not again go over the question of the creation of the surplus through putting part of the charges on the loans, and part on the British taxpayer, but I think that in the interests of the Egyptian cultivator one word ought to be said upon the argument of the Chancellor of the 1260 Exchequer as to the non-remission of burdens declared to be unjustifiable, and from which the taxpayers might fairly claim remission. It is said that the omission to reduce the land revenue by £450,000 as promised was justified by the partial remission of the corvée. I decline to admit that we can set the reduction of the corvée against the non-reduction of the land revenue. It was the happy thought of a young gentleman employed as finance agent, who occupied his time cleverly cooking the accounts in order to establish a bogus surplus. I maintain that the partial remission of the corvée cannot properly be set against the land revenue for several reasons; and first, because the land revenue was collected and not remitted for two years subsequent to the year specified in Lord Northbrook's recommendation. The land revenue was collected, and the corvée was not remitted, and we have only now come to the time when it is proposed to remit a considerable amount of the corvée; and the argument is absolutely and wholly inaccurate in reference to the last two years. There is another strong reason why the corvée cannot be set against the land revenue. Lord Northbrook said that the severity of the land revenue has been most felt in Upper Egypt where the crops, consisting of grain, were affected by the fall in prices more than in Lower Egypt, where the crops are cotton, and produce a large revenue. Well, the corvée was remitted, not in Upper Egypt, but in Lower Egypt; therefore, if there is anything in the argument, it is merely this that because the taxpayer in Upper Egypt is taxed too much, a remission was made in the burdens of Lower Egypt, where the taxpayer is better able to bear the burden; and, accordingly, one class has been set against the other. That, I submit, is altogether a fallacious argument.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
The corvée has been reduced in Upper Egypt, though not to the same extent as in Lower Egypt.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
To some extent that may be so; but I took the words from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who explained that the reduction in Upper Egypt was not made to the same extent as in Lower Egypt.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I never spoke about Lower Egypt.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
It was I who referred to this point. I said that the corvée had been reduced to a larger extent in Lower Egypt, but that it had been reduced to some extent in Upper Egypt, where for several reasons it involved a lighter burden upon the cultivator of the land.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
That is all I said, and it is quite enough for my argument; the reduction of land tax was chiefly needed in Upper Egypt, while the chief reduction of the corvée is to take place in Lower Egypt. There is still another reason why we cannot set a personal tax against the land revenue. It is altogether a different tax, and we may as well set it against any other levy the Egyptian Government. What has happened is this—while the Egyptian Government professed to give a reason for not reducing the oppressive land tax in the manner recommended, they have succeeded in putting on the people of Egypt another personal tax. We have heard a great deal about the military service not being levied by conscription in the same way as in the past, and about a great gain having resulted to the people of Egypt in that way. But what has happened to the people of Egypt is this—the Egyptian Government have hit on another expedient for drawing large sums of money from the Egyptian people by levying a tax upon the more well-to-do Natives for exemption from Military Service. That is a large personal tax upon the Egyptian people amounting to about £250,000, just about the sum remitted on account of the corvée. I maintain that if we are to set one tax against another, the fair thing would be to set the new personal tax for exemption from Military Service against the other personal tax—the labour towards public works, which is said to be mitigated, or to some extent remitted. That would be fairer than setting the remission of the corvée in Lower Egypt against the remission of the land revenue which has not taken place. Under these 1262 circumstances, I strongly maintain that there is really no surplus in Egypt, and that, so far from there being a surplus, we have failed to remit the taxation which was shown to be oppressive, and have succeeded in imposing a new tax on the native population to the same extent as the remission of corvée which has been conceded to them. I do not know whether it is intended to have a debate on this subject alone. I rather think that my right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs proposes, and desires, to have a debate upon the whole question of Egypt at once. With regard to the mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, I must say that, as far as Egypt goes, I have had considerable faith in Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, and I am anxious to see the whole of his Reports on the Civil Administration of Egypt. In the White Book, issued in July last, there were two Despatches—Nos. 96 and 97—bearing on that subject. I wish to know whether any further Papers are to be presented, as the Despatches that we have received up to now are just enough to make us wish for more. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has shown sympathy for the people of Egypt, and has represented that we are placing an excessive burden on them, and that they are dissatisfied with the state of the country financially, and do not appreciate our highly civilized processes. But the last despatches are short and scanty, and I desire to know what information has been received from him since that period. Are we to have more information from him—really useful information—and to know what he really thinks of the situation? On both sides; of the House we are anxious to see justice done to Egypt, and I want to know if there are any more of these despatches of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. If such information were before hon. Members we might be wiser and a good deal nearer the evacuation of Egypt—for we are now a very long way from it. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite the Member for Finsbury (Colonel Duncan) has occupied himself very much with the reduction of the Egyptian Army. I have been led to believe that it had been very much reduced indeed, and that its spirit and efficiency were likely to be taken away. I was therefore very much 1263 relieved when I put a Question to the Under Secretary the other day to hear him say that it stands at 9,393 men. Well, I wish to know whether this number consists of soldiers, or whether it includes drivers, coolies, and so on.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I am glad to hear it; but I should like to know how these 9,393 men are to be paid, because no provision seems to have been made for them in the Budget. Hitherto they have been paid by the British taxpayer, and I want to know how they are to continue to be paid. We have had cooked accounts for two years and a surplus which was to enable us to satisfy the demands of the bondholders with a payment of 5 per cent; and I want to know how in future the Army is to be paid.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows very well that the cost of the British Army in Egypt is very much larger than the small contribution we expected to get from Egypt, and which, as a matter of fact, we did not get. I am quite certain that it is a charge upon the Estimates at the expense of the British taxpayer, although it does not so appear in the Estimates. I am glad to find that the Army of 9,393 is a more respectable figure than I had imagined; but is it the fact that that Army has been reduced during the present year; and, if so, have we any hope of leaving Egypt within a measurable time? It seems to me that it has been reduced because we have no expectation of withdrawing from Egypt. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff estimated that 10,000 men would be sufficient for the Army of occupation; but he was willing to come to a compromise by which the Egyptian troops and police together should amount to 16,000 or 18,000, and he was willing to accept 11,000 as a Native Army for the defence of the country. If the Government wish to withdraw 1264 from Egypt they should not only withdraw our troops, for whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to find the money, but also our civil officers, and they should not reduce but maintain in its full efficiency the Egyptian Army, so as to be able to defend the country. The fact has been pointed out again and again that Egypt is a rich country, having troublesome neighbours such as the Soudanese, and until we come to the Millennium it will have to be defended. She is a rich country, with a revenue of £9,000,000 or £10,000,000 yearly, and it is a monstrous thing that so little—not more than £130,000—is put aside for the purposes of defence. As to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's negotiations at Constantinople, and the difference which has arisen between this country and France, the more I study the question the more it seems to me that a great error has been committed by Her Majesty's Government in not trying to make terms with the French Government before attempting to arrange with, the Sultan. The French Government—not only one Government, but successive French Governments—showed every disposition to meet us in a friendly spirit on this subject, and they have gone so far as to say that on certain terms they would be willing to concede the right of re-entry on our part. One of the first Despatches in the White Book, No. 3, is from Lord Lyons to Lord Iddesleigh, and is dated Paris, November 9th, 1886. It refers to the result of a conversation with M. de Freycinet, and shows that the French Government were desirous of coming to friendly terms with Her Majesty's Government. The Despatch says—M. de Freycinet said that it could be hardly necessary for him to repudiate the imputation that France desired that the English occupation of Egypt should be succeeded by a French occupation. Nothing could be further from the wishes or intentions of the French Government. What they wished was that Egypt should be restored to its old condition—that of an autonomous Province, having a Government of its own, under the Suzerainty of the Sultan.In the next Despatch—No. 4—of the 13th of November, from Lord Iddesleigh to Lord Lyons, there was an account of an interview with M. Waddington, the French Ambassador, at the Foreign Office, in which there was this passage—Coming to particulars, M. Waddington said that Lord Salisbury, in the course of a conver- 1265 Sation with him, had declared that, if and when we fixed a date for the withdrawal of our troops, we should stipulate that in case of disturbances arising in Egypt after we came away, we should he at liberty to return. This, His Excellency said, was a suggestion which would meet with much opposition in France, and which was certainly open to objection; but still he was authorized to say that in principle his Government were prepared to accept it, subject to certain limitations, and to a proper arrangement, such as he thought might be come to.As far as we know, Her Majesty's Government did not attempt to come to terms with France; but persevered in sending Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to Constantinople. When he got there, he gave the French agent some idea of what he was about; but the French, agent told him he had no authority to negotiate upon the subject. We come, then, to another Despatch, which also shows our relations with the French Government—No. 34. It is a despatch from Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to Lord Salisbury, and is dated Pera, March 4th, 1887. This is the despatch in which Sir Henry Drummond Wolff speaks of a conversation with the French Chargé d'Affaires, and it proves conclusively that the declaration of the French Government at later stages was correct—that they were willing to do their best to come to terms with us. This was not only the case in regard to one Government, but with successive French Governments. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff says, in his despatch—Yesterday the French Chargéd' Affaires called on me to thank me for showing him the Memorandum I had presented to the Porte. He told me that he had no instructions or qualification to treat with me, that negotiations between England and France must take place at Paris or London; but his anxiety was so great to remove the one point of difference between the two countries, an anxiety felt equally by his Government, which had inherited it from M. de Freycinet, that he knew he should be carrying out their views by urging me to find some means of allaying the strong feeling of irritation which existed in France with respect to our occupation, of Egypt.Another Despatch of May 4th—No. 75—from the Marquess of Salisbury to Lord Lyons, is as follows:—I had some conversation to-day with the French Ambassador respecting Egyptian affairs. He asked me whether it was true, as the newspapers reported, that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff had been instructed to propose to the Turiksh Government that five years should be 1266 the period within which the withdrawal of the British troops should take place. I replied that that suggestion had been discussed, but that nothing was settled. To this His Excellency replied that his Government would be prepared to acquiesce in a proposal fixing the term at three years. I informed M. Waddington that this was a matter on which considerable difference of opinion existed in this country; but I impressed upon him that a stipulation for the re-entry of British troops in case of necessity was the point on which Her Majesty's Government most insisted, and that we had no intention of leaving Egypt until that had been conceded. His Excellency said that, in our previous conversation in November last, this point had been conceded in principle, and that all that required to be settled was the conditions under which the right was to be exercised. I replied that this was one of the cases where the principle was easily effaced by unfavourable conditions.There the despatch ends; not a word more. It is clear from this Paper that the French Government went to the very utmost limit of concession—further than anyone would have expected them to go. They were willing not only to do everything to meet us in a friendly way, and to get rid of the irritation that existed between the two countries, but they also went so far as to say that, subject to certain conditions, they would concede to us the right of re-entry into Egypt. Then I say that the action of Her Majesty's Government in not coming to terms with France has been most unfortunate. It is impossible to settle the matter by Conventions with the Porte, or in any other way, until we have come to terms with France, and the mistake Her Majesty's Government have made in neglecting to come to terms with that country has been a great and almost fatal one. I have said again and again that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff is an able man, but there are blots in his despatches which prove that he misunderstands the Oriental situation in some respects. He speaks of the Egyptians as a feeble and fanatical race. I question the correctness of the description. I will not go into the question whether they are feeble; able bodied they certainly are; whether they are feeble minded I will not discuss; but I deny altogether that they are fanatical. I say that it is an entire mistake to call the Egyptian people fanatical. For generations Europeans have gone among them; they have submitted to Christian domination and Christian administration as the British people would certainly not 1267 have submitted to. It seems to me that if they have had a fault it has been in the nature of not being fanatical enough, and that they have allowed too many Europeans to settle among them and take upon them the government of the country. While I look upon Sir Henry Drummond Wolff as a very able man, I regret that he has espoused that absurd bugbear of the influence of the Sultan as the Caliph of the whole Mahommedan world. To a certain extent, the Sultan may be head of the Mahommedans of Turkey, as the Emperor of Russia is the head of the Greek Church, or the Queen of England is head of the English Church; but he is in no sense recognized as such in Egypt. When Sir Henry Drummond Wolff speaks as if the Sultan as spiritual head of the Mahommedans would be a source of aid to us in Egypt, I submit that the contrary would be the case. The people of the Soudan, for instance, so far from recognizing the spiritual authority of the Sultan as Caliph, hate the Turks, and look upon us as the allies of Turkey—as being no better than the Turks themselves. They call us Turks as a term of opprobrium. The whole foundation of the patriotic movement of Arabi Pasha was a dislike of the domination of the Turks, and a wish to establish the principle of "Egypt for the Egyptians." I very much wish that Her Majesty's Government would accept that principle of the patriotic Egyptians—a principle which has been enunciated by successive Governments, but which in practice has been invariably set at naught. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum of £500, being part of the salary of our agent in Egypt.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A be reduced by £500, part of the Salary of the Agent in Egypt,"—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ MR. MUNRO-FERGUSON (Leith, & c.)
My hon. Friend who has just sat down, in discussing this complicated question, has made a variety of suggestions to Her Majesty's Government. I think the manner in which he has introduced the subject merits the commendation of the House because of the fair way in which he has put his views forward without the least Party bias in the matter. Of all questions, this is one which ought to be treated altogether 1268 apart from Party politics. I might, however, take exception, as one of the constituents of my hon. Friend, to one or two points in his speech, and I must enter a mild protest against the doctrine he has laid down, that we are more fanatical than the Egyptians. I must also demur to the views he has expressed in regard to the policy which France has pursued with respect to this question. Both sides of the House are more or less responsible for our policy in Egypt. The long and short of the matter is that we have come under certain obligations with regard to Egypt that bind us in honour to stay there until those obligations are fulfilled so long as we can fulfil them, and to stay there no longer. Our going there and the obligations we entered into were endorsed by the country five years ago. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who voted against the policy of the Government were subjected to severe criticism for doing so, and therefore the evacuation of Egypt is not quite so simple a matter as it is sometimes thought to be. Our Egyptian policy is not the brightest page in our history, but if we leave the country without fulfilling our obligations, if we leave it in such a state of chaos and acknowledge our failure, then I venture to say that it will appear one of the blackest acts that can be perpetrated. At the same time, there is a general feeling that the bondholders are hanging on to that unhappy country like a Jot of leeches, and I fear that there is only too much truth in that view of the matter. There can be no more clear case of injury and wrong than the manner in which Ismail wrung that unfortunate country and burdened its millions of inhabitants with a debt in the making of which they had no voice, and of which they knew nothing. I think the creditors of Egypt are entitled to extremely little consideration. They lent their money on indifferent security. They, rushed forward to lend it, and they advanced it on a security the value of which has decreased. I do not think that Egypt can bear the burden of the interest of the debt which she is now paying, and if there is any loss the creditors of Egypt should suffer that loss. The general situation, in regard to the debt, is, I think, a very serious one, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to do something in the way of 1269 mitigating this burden on the country. "With all this, one cannot keep away from the fact that Egypt, at all events, is as yet unable to stand on her own legs, and that some European power, on some pretext or other, is sure to go there if we withdraw. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to give some definite assurance that as many Native officials as possible will be employed. There is, I know, great difficulty in finding a sufficient number of good Native officials, but the effort should be made to do that with, as small a European staff in that country as possible. If then, some intervention, by some European Power, seems to be inevitable, I am of opinion that the work to be done can be done by us as well, if not better, than by any other country. My experience of Egypt is not very great for I was only there for a short time, but while I was there I took advantage of the opportunity to ascertain the views of as many Natives as I could, and I found that they all agreed that if there was to be foreign intervention they would sooner have that of this country than that of any other country. There has been an undoubted improvement in the country owing to our occupation, and I think that the Prime Minister gave a fair account the other day when he spoke of the amelioration of the condition of the fellaheen, and stated that the administration of the country under our occupation had become purer and more efficient. I trust that this country may be able to do even more than has already been accomplished for the benefit of the people of Egypt in the way of co-operation, and for relieving the Egyptians of that burden of debt which I have already alluded to, and in regard to which much still remains to be done. When the time does come—and it cannot come too soon, in my opinion—for the evacuation of that country, we ought to be able to show something for the torrents of blood that have been shed there, for the sacrifices we have incurred, and for the responsibilities which have been cast upon us by our occupation. As to the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, it has been a long one, as well as the bill for it; and I hope that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) will feel it his duty to tax the costs. That 1270 Mission has never yet been shown to have been necessary, and the course pursued in sending out Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has never been justified. I do not mean, for one moment, to underrate the services of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff; but what is the use of employing first-class officials in Egypt and Constantinople at high salaries if they cannot do the work in those countries. In my opinion, the officials who were already in Egypt and Constantinople might have done the work which Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has done. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs has drawn the inference that the late Government approved of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission, because they kept him there when they came into Office. But because the late Government Used some restraint in the matter, it does not follow that they approved of the original Mission, or that they would ever have sent out a Special Envoy. It is not likely, I think, that we can promote continuity in our foreign policy if the restraint which was exercised in this case is to be used as a cloak to cover the mistakes of Her Majesty's present Advisers. I think that a strong case was needed in order to justify the Mission, and I hope a further explanation on that point will be given by the Government to-day. As to the branch of the Mission which was carried out at Contantinople, I am not disposed to attack the policy of dealing directly with the Turks. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) who has just sat down, mentioned some French despatches; but there was a subsequent Paper, which is published in the last Correspondence—a Paper addressed to the Sultan by the Count De Montebello, the spirit of which is not quite the same as that which breathes in the despatches which the hon. Member has read. The Count Do Montebello, in his Despatch, says that in case a Convention should be ratified, the French Government would devote their attention to the protection of their personal interests; that they would protect and guarantee the Sultan against all consequences, whatsoever they might be, which might result from the non-ratification of the Convention; and that as the disinterested policy of France could alone protect the Ottoman Empire against the encroachments and am- 1271 bitious agents of England, the maintenance of this friendship would be considered by His Imperial Majesty as much more advantageous. We have heard a good deal about the European Concert. It is a difficult thing to maintain that Concert in Europe; but it is almost impossible to maintain it in regard to France. It has been said that we ought to have gone hand-in-hand with France upon this question. Unfortunately, our experience has been that it was altogether impossible to go hand-in-hand with her. The corvée has been alluded to by my hon. Friend. What course did France pursue with regard to the partial abolition of the corvée, which we endeavoured to carry out in order to lighten the load which has been placed upon the shoulders of the Egyptian people? The whole of the opposition we met with we received from the hands of France. As in Egypt, so elsewhere. France, in times past, has been giving us more trouble than all the rest of the world together; and until France is prepared to show a changed feeling—and I do not see any sign of that at present—it is impossible to talk of our being able to maintain that hearty understanding with her which we all wish to maintain. There is one very disastrous feature in the negotiations at Constantinople—namely, the delay in the departure of our Envoy after the date he had fixed. I think that in this case the Foreign Secretary allowed this country to drift into a most humiliating position. On the 4th of June, Her Majesty's Government consented to postpone the ratification of the Convention. This is the telegram which was sent by Lord Salisbury from the Foreign Office to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff—With reference to your telegram of the 2nd instant, I have to state that Her Majesty's Government cannot consent to postpone the ratification of the Convention; still less can they discuss the Convention with the other Powers before the exchange of ratifications.The Government, however, soon showed that it did not need much pressure in order to postpone the ratification. The reason given for the delay is contained in a despatch from from Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to Lord Salisbury, dated July 8th, which says—The Austro-Hungarian Chargé d'Affaires called here this afternoon and showed me a telegram from his Government, of which he did not leave a copy, supporting strongly Rustem 1272 Pasha's request for a further prolongation of the term for exchange of ratifications. I am unwilling to refuse any request from the Austro-Hungarian Government, our relations with whom are of a very cordial character. I informed the Turkish Ambassador therefore that I would not object to a few days further delay, provided that some assurance reaches you which justifies you in thinking that ratification would then take place.There is a further despatch from our Ambassador at Vienna, Sir Afred Paget, received on the 16th July, in which he says—Count Kalnoky mentioned to me yesterday the application which, at the request of the Ottoman Government, he had submitted to your Lordship for a further postponement of the exchange of the ratifications of the Egyptian Convention. His Excellency represented that he had only consented to be the intermediary for bringing this request before Her Majesty's Government on two grounds: (1) because it had been represented to him by Baron Calice that if a further delay was not granted, not only would the Convention not be ratified, but the Ministers who had negotiated it would be sacrificed; and (2) because he was informed that Sir William White and Sir Henry Drummond Wolff were both of opinion that for the above reasons it was desirable to give the Sultan a little more time.The reason assigned in this despatch, that, if there was no further delay, the Ministry might not be retained in Office, was, no doubt, a consideration which carried very much weight with the people of this country. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs suggested that it might have been occasioned by some ceremony that was required on the departure of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. Nobody would have objected to that; but the reason that is assigned for the delay in the departure was that the Austro-Hungarian Envoy had asked for it, and that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff had asked the Austro-Hungarian Chargé d' Affaires to procure it from the Porte. We have often been told that all Europe bowed down when a Conservative Government came into Office. Perhaps the Under Secretary will explain, in the course of this debate, upon what special point the Government regarded their foreign policy with most pride? Is it their policy with regard to Bulgaria, or the New Hebrides, of which they have reason to be proud? The beginning of their policy in Bulgaria was marked by the kidnapping of the Prince of Battenberg under the very nose of the British Government. Do they pride themselves on the policy we 1273 have pursued in Turkey, where we have been flouted by the Turks, or is it that which has been carried out in reference to Zanzibar, where we find the French making great progress, notwithstanding the most strenuous efforts of the Conservative Government to restrain them? I hope, at all events, that we shall receive some assurance from the Under Secretary that our interests in the Pacific are not being sacrificed by European intrigue. I am certainly inclined to think that we shall hear much less in future of the advantages and prestige which this country has gained from our diplomacy. Lord Salisbury has said that he had a free hand. That was more than the Liberal Government ever had. They never had a free hand in Egypt, owing to our engagements. But as Her Majesty's Government have a free hand, we have a right to know how that free hand has been shown. Has it been exhibited in the Red Sea Littorel, or in regard to the garrisons there? I think we have a right to know what return the country is to expect for the responsibilities it has assumed and the sacrifices it has made.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
Now that the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has practically come to a conclusion, I think it is time the country should have some indication from the Government as to what is going to be our exact policy in Egypt in future. With regard to the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, I am bound to say that I think it somewhat unjust that very much blame should be thrown upon Sir Henry Drummond Wolff himself for the failure which has taken place. I do not think it lies in the mouth of the Liberal Party to blame him for the want of success which has attended his Mission; because I recollect that when the Liberal Government had an opportunity of recalling Sir Henry Drummond Wolff they did not do so. In these days it is necessary to trace the responsibility home; and it would be most unjust to throw the blame on Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, because, after all, he was merely the mouthpiece of the Government. An Ambassador sent on a special Mission like this is just as much the servant of those who send him out as a lawyer is in drawing up a deed which is to enable a man to inherit land. If you 1274 cannot attach the responsibility to the man or to the system, you must attach it somewhere halfway between the man and the system, and I am afraid that position is filled by that abstract and somewhat invisible person the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Now, what is the existing position? To begin with, there is no question of stopping permanently in Egypt at all. That matter was settled long ago, and therefore there is no use in talking of its being for the interest of this country to occupy Egypt permanently or to conquer Egypt. That question was settled by a Liberal Government long ago; and when we are told that we are not bound to accept their policy, I say if there is one thing we ought to agree upon it is that there ought to be some continuity in our foreign policy. That is more important than anything else; and we are bound, by certain pledges we have given, to evacuate Egypt. The only question is, whether our pledges are going to be real or sham pledges. I am bound to say that if we are only under a pledge to evacuate Egypt when we have educated the Egyptians in self-government that that is more or less a sham, and it puts us in a position which the people of this country do not understand. I believe they want to have our foreign policy made clear and distinct to them, and any Ministry which wishes to be backed up by the people of this country must make its foreign policy clear and intelligible. We only suffer in our contact with other nations if we fail to make our foreign policy clear and intelligible. Therefore, if our pledge is not going to be a mere sham, we ought to take every possible step we can, without further ado, to train the people of Egypt to self-government. The system of dual government and ownership going on at present in Egypt is indirectly doing this country great harm. To begin with, it is throwing a large amount of discredit upon us. It produces a notion abroad that there is something insincere in our policy in Egypt, and by that policy we are setting a very bad example. This idea of occupying a country, and not being responsible for it, is one which other countries will imitate, and, indeed, are beginning to imitate. The Russians may follow the example in Afghanistan and Bulgaria; and France is doing it already in the New Hebrides. That is partly 1275 recognized by the Foreign Office, because it appears that the Foreign Secretary is willing to discuss the New-Hebrides Question and the Egyptian Question side by side.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I have most distinctly told the House that while Lord Salisbury would not object to have these questions discussed together, he utterly declines to consider one as depending upon the other.
§ MR. HANBURY
It is unfortunate then to allow them to be discussed side by side. In 1847 England and France pledged themselves most distinctly never to occupy a certain place, but the question became mixed up with the Newfoundland fisheries, and in the end France was found in occupation of it. I am glad to see that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has given a definite form, to the pledge we have given by naming a term of five years. What struck me when I saw the term, of five years was, why five years? Was it to throw all the responsibility on the Government which might be in Office five years hence? I am bound to say that on both sides there seems to be a disposition to shirk responsibility, and to throw it on some Government which may be in Office five or six years hence. At any rate, it is a step in the right direction to show that we have some definite policy in the matter. But I want to know what is our definite policy with regard to Egypt? Are we going in for philanthropy, or are we going in for Empire? We have to choose between the two. If Imperial considerations can be urged in favour of occupying Egypt, I should be prepared to throw pledges to the winds, because, in my view, Imperial interests overrule everything. But the temporary occupation of Egypt for five years can be nothing better than a sham, because it is putting us on a wrong track and making us neglect our other Imperial interests which we might consider if it were not for the temporary occupation of Egypt. As to Egypt being a good recruiting ground for soldiers we know that there is hardly a man in Egypt worth having in any army. [Cries of"Oh!"] Well, I say so; and I say further that by our present policy we are alienating every power in Europe, and creating a feeling of distrust both in Russia and France, which may tell very severely against us some day before long. Our prestige is 1276 not increased by this temporary occupation—this sort of half ownership of Egypt—because we are tied and fettered and manacled by engagements, by treaties, and by protocols, by which no great nation in Europe ought to submit to be manacled and bound. As to increasing our credit in Europe, we have had to submit to so many evasions and so many limitations in regard to our policy that our prestige and credit have suffered rather than gained. Then, again, as to our military position, which is a very important consideration indeed. I have never heard, and no Government has ever put before us, what the exact idea of our Military and Naval Authorities is of what use Egypt is to us in a naval or military point of view. I think we are entitled to have some information of that kind. If Her Majesty's Ministers could tell us that our occupation of Egypt is of real advantage to the Imperial interests of the people of this country, I should go a long way with them in regard to holding Egypt, but the speeches which have been made in this House all go the other way. The noble Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) not long ago derided the idea of holding Egypt. He said he infinitely preferred that our Fleet as in olden times should fight in the open sea rather than rely upon the ditch, as he called it, which constitutes the Suez Canal. I have heard other naval officers take the same view of the value of Egypt in a naval point of view, and both naval and military men hold that we should be in a better position if we were to strengthen Gibraltar, Malta and Aden, and continue to hold the high seas, where, at any rate, we are invulnerable. I am, moreover, afraid that as a result of the course we are adopting in trusting so much to Egypt we are really neglecting our interests upon the Pacific and in the Persian Gulf, which may be vitally affected by the occupation or non-occupation of Egypt. I do not believe, therefore, that, from an Imperial point of view, we are doing ourselves any good by this temporary occupation of Egypt. Then, are we doing Egypt itself any good by our occupation of the country? It is said that we are stopping there from a sense of duty in order to train up the Egyptian people to self-government. I believe that there is a 1277 great deal of cant, and of very mischievous cant, in reference to this so-called training up of the Egyptians to fit them for self-government. I do not think we are doing anything of the sort, or that it is incumbent upon us to remain in Egypt, or anywhere else, for the purpose of training up the people in self-government. In my opinion the best way to train people to self-government is to leave them to themselves. They learn self-government much better if they are left to themselves. It is asserted that we are introducing some very valuable reforms into the administration of the country. I should be the last to deny it. No one who has read the Blue Book relating to Egypt can deny the truth of the statement, that in certain respects we have been introducing very valuable reforms in the Administration of Egypt; but what, however, I do not find any trace of is, that although we are Indianizing Egypt, as it were, and sending out our traders, we are making no attempt to train the people to self-government, although that is the object we profess to have had in going to Egypt. It is true that we sent out to them some very able administrators; but we did not attempt to train the people themselves to administer their own affairs. The first thing we did when we went to Egypt was to crush their independence and to crush their Parliament. We did that when we suppressed the revolt of Arabi Pasha. It is said that we have made marvellous improvements in the Egyptian Army; but one step we are going to take is to cut off £200,000 a-year from the sum spent upon it, which must have the effect of reducing its efficiency in some form or other. I venture to say that in that respect we are not doing much for the independence of Egypt, and, whether we do it or not, depends very much on the attitude of France. Then, again, as to the training of the Egyptian people in self-government, during the last four years, so far from throwing more power into the hands of the Egyptians themselves, the very contrary has happened. Where the salaries of the Foreign Officials in the country amounted to only £350,000 originally, they have increased now to nearly £500,000, being £460,000; certainly that does not show that, as a rule, we have succeeded in training the people to manage their own affairs. I 1278 am sorry to find so much of this mischievous cant—mischievous not only for Egypt, but for ourselves, and the only people who really benefit by it are the bondholders, for whom, as a class, I have no particle of consideration or sympathy whatever, because when they got high rates of interest, as they undoubtedly did, they could not have expected to get good security, and they must run the risk they voluntarily incurred. The two countries which derive the greatest advantage from our occupation of Egypt are France and Russia, who, I believe, do not wish us to leave, because by staying there we are creating distrust in the mind of Turkey, and affording an opportunity to France to occupy the New Hebrides, and to Russia to work her will in Bulgaria. Therefore, the result is, that we are adding nothing to our prestige, and the only people who are gaining anything are the French and the Russians. It is said that we are to leave Egypt at the end of five years, but during that period the Egyptian people will be kept in a state of uncertainty, which is the worst possible training for them, while our own position, at the end of that time, as far as leaving Egypt is concerned, would be no better than it is now. Shall we be in any better position to leave it then than now? I am afraid that during those five years we shall find ourselves in a worse position in Egypt than at the present moment. Next year a great strain will be put upon the finances of Egypt by the abolitian of the corvée, and the withdrawal of the £200,000 a-year. I do not see how the coupons are to be paid, and if they are not, we shall see the foreign bondholders represented by Foreign Ministers and others, sweeping down upon Egypt like birds of prey, and we shall have even more interference on the part of Foreign Governments in the future than we have had in the past. I honestly believe that the host policy which this country can adopt, if it does not really mean to take stops to train up the people in self-government, will be at once to withdraw from that county. If our pledges are not mere shams, and we really desire to train up the Egyptians to self-government, then I should heartily concur in the policy of our stopping in Egypt for a year or two longer. But I fail to see any signs of 1279 our training the people up in self-government, and if we do not intend to make our pledges real, instead of shams, then I maintain that the best thing we can do is to withdraw from the country as soon as possible; but, at the same time, to inform other Foreign Powers that they are not to go there in our place. I believe that if we had a clear consistent policy of that kind, we should have most Foreign Powers with us, for they have no desire to see us replaced in Egypt by France, while it would certainly receive the sanction of the taxpayers of this country. We should give France clear warning that if she did go in, consequences might follow which might not be pleasant, and everybody would then know exactly what our policy means, whereas at the present moment they do not know what it is, and they are getting sick of the question because they have no idea whatever what direction the policy of either a Liberal or Conservative Government may take.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I have listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member opposite, because I believe there is a fear growing up not only abroad, but in the minds of some sections in this country, that Her Majesty's Government intend to take advantage of the difficulties which they allege to exist in Egypt in order to remain in that country. The idea has also been growing that they intend to make a second India of it. I think that some means should be taken to correct that impression, but, so far from that having been done there are some passages in the last Correspondence in respect of Egypt, which go very far indeed to confirm that impression. At any rate, among these Despatches and Blue Books, there are several letters which are difficult to understand on any other basis, especially when we know the arts which are practised by diplomatists for concealing their real meaning. Yet we take, for instance, Despatch No. 8, which is a telegraphic despatch from the Marquess of Salisbury to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, dated the 4th of June last. We read there, that unless the treaty which was then half completed is ratified "the position of this country"—that is Great Britain—Will be entirely changed. Her Majesty's Government will be released from their en- 1280 gagements with the Porte in regard to Egypt and will remain free to take their own course.We know very well that the Prime Minister did not intend for a moment to lead us to believe that engagements which have been entered into with other powers would be affected by the breakdown of a treaty affecting Egypt. But, why on earth should that break down affect our engagements with the Porte on the same subject? We make one engagement, and then ask another Power to make a second and third engagement, and if we meet with a refusal, then we say that our former engagements are to be regarded as nothing. Now, I know that this telegraphic Despatch has given rise to a great deal of uneasiness among many sections of the community, and is regarded as a declaration that this country will not be bound by previous engagements entered into with the Porte, because the Porte will not enter into a new one. That is the exact position of the matter in plain language, and certainly, it would appear from the language of this telegram, that unless the Turks consent to do just what we want them to do we will break our previous engagements. There are other despatches which go very much to the same purpose. For instance, No. 31, which is another telegraphic despatch from the Marquess of Salisbury to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, dated June the 29th, says—If the Convention falls through, either by non-ratification or owing to the refusal of other Powers to adhere to it, our evacuation will certainly be much postponed, and the date of it cannot now be foreseen.This goes far to confirm the impression produced in my mind that we are to be regarded as being released from our promises as far as Turkey is concerned unless this new treaty is signed. There are a number of other despatches to the same effect. No. 45—a telegraphic Despatch from Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to the Marquess of Salisbury, dated July 9th, says—His Majesty had been told that if he ratified the Convention, France and Russia would thereby be given the right to occupy provinces of the Empire, and to leave only after a similar Convention had been concluded. France might do so in Syria, and Russia in Armenia. Religious feeling had also been excited in the same direction. Under these circumstances, they begged me to advise them as to some formula by which these difficulties might be met.1281 Certainly what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and actuated by similar reasons—namely, self-interest, the same course of policy may be pursued by other Powers in other parts of the Empire. That seems to be a fair argument, and one which Sir Henry Drummond Wolff was fairly entitled to use. I trust to hear some plainer statement than we have heard hitherto upon the subject. Indeed, the whole of our experience in regard to Egypt shows that it is high time that some reform should be introduced into the relations between this House and diplomacy in general. I think it is very hard indeed that we should only now be asked to sanction the expenditure of money which has been devoted to purposes which many of us very heartily disapprove, and yet have had no means of meeting fairly. It would, therefore, be an illogical proceeding on our part to assent to this Vote for the salary of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff.
§ MR. PICTON
We are asked to vote a sum of money for the Diplomatic Service, and included in that Vote I find a sum of £10,000 for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I have already told the House that the money voted on a former occasion is quite sufficient for this Mission, and that no further sum will be asked for. The Committee are not asked, in the present Estimate, to vote any money for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission at all. The Vote now asked for is for other services altogether.
§ MR. PICTON
But the other services included in the expenditure of this money would not have entailed so large a sum unless this £10,000 had already been spent for the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. At any rate, I do not think we should have been called upon to vote the money if Sir Henry Drummond Wolff had not been sent out to Constantinople. The same thing applies to the whole of our Diplomatic Service. The House of Commons is only asked to vote the money after all the mischief has been done. I do not think that that is a fair position in which to place the Representatives of the people, and I hope to see the day when an entire re- 1282 form of the System will be made. Under all the circumstances, I shall vote, with a free conscience, against the item for the salary of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
Although we are now approaching the end of the Session I feel bound to make a few remarks upon the discussion which has taken place today, and especially with reference to the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury). My hon. Friend asks why we are in Egypt—whether we intend to remain there, and especially whether we are going in for glory or for Empire? I submit that we are going in for neither the one nor the other. We are going in for a third alternative altogether, and that is duty. There are three courses—England, honour, and duty; and the third course has always been recognized by Englishmen from the days of Wellington and Nelson down to the present moment. We have been clearly told that we must make up our minds as to whether we are to remain in Egypt or to leave it. If it is considered that England has no longer a duty to discharge in Egypt, or that she is no longer able to fulfil the duty she has undertaken, then the sooner he leaves that country the better. She must even bear the taunt of "scuttling" out of the country. I am thoroughly in accord with what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, that the system of dual ownership in Egypt is doing no good to the people of Egypt or to England—no good whatever. If it does any good at all, that good is of a temporary, a transient, and an evanescent character. You may annex Egypt or not; you may exercise a protectorate over it or not; but at present neither one thing nor the other is being done. We are pursuing no definite course; we are neither governing directly, nor protecting without interference. Nevertheless, we have still a duty to perform. If we are going to adhere to what we have declared before Egypt, Europe, and the world, we must remain in Egypt for the present. Knowing the country well, I warn my countrymen that if we do our duty to Egypt we must remain there for a considerable time. There is no use in fixing five, 10, 15, or 20 years, or any shorter time. That is only creating what my hon. Friend de- 1283 precates—a period of uncertainty. My voice will always be raised for doing our duty, for standing by our declarations, for fairly calculating the cost, and taking the consequences. Holding as I do, for the reasons I have stated, that it is our duty to remain in Egypt, there is no use in going back upon old controversies, and no advantage in flogging a dead horse in the shape of arguments that have been answered over and over again. "We are in Egypt somehow; this much is beyond doubt, and there we must remain for the present and make the best of the situation. That being my argument, I want to show how we can do this. We may try to educate the people of Egypt in the art of self-government. I wish the Egyptian Administration God-speed most heartily in that mission. If you think you can succeed in this, then by all means try it; but I, for one, am of opinion that if you accomplish the task you will achieve a unique thing in the annals of Asia. As for Egyptian Parliaments, Assemblies of Notables, Village Councils, and the like, if we think we can establish them at once we are very much mistaken. Perhaps, in the course of a few years, we may by gradual steps be able to do something; but if they trust to this I warn my countrymen that they may be placing their reliance upon what may prove to be a broken reed. We may, however, do a grand work in Egypt. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is in his place. If he is, I am anxious to assure him, in reference to all the doubts he expressed the other day as to the well-being of Egypt, and in answer to his inquiry as to what benefit we are conferring on the people there, that we are doing a good and valuable work if only we can make it last. I was delighted to hear what was said by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) as to the good reports which he gathered on the spot, both from officials and non-officials, announcing the good which we are conferring in every way upon the people of Egypt. Nor are those reports exaggerated; if anything, they are well within the mark. I know myself, from visits paid to the country, that we are doing yeoman service in Egypt for the cause of humanity. In the settlement of tenure, in the land revenue, in the pro- 1284 vincial police, in the local police, even to village watchmen, in the education of the people, not only in elementary schools and classes, but in the higher branches of education, in the administration of justice, and in social matters, we are rendering great service to the Egyptian people, and rendering them fit hereafter to administer their own affairs. We are doing all this; and if we find that we have a hard task before us, and are subjected, politically and diplomatically, to censure, we must be content to bear that censure, and to continue our efforts with un-diminished zeal and vigour, fortified by the consciousness that we are doing our duty, and conferring great good upon the Egyptian people. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston referred to the feeling of foreign countries on this question. Now, I have been a constant traveller on the Continent, and I know something of the feeling of foreign countries, and I venture to say that the views my hon. Friend has expressed are altogether illusory. Russia, I think, likes our staying in Egypt, perhaps for reasons of her own. As to Germany, I would confidently appeal to every Englishman who knows the Germans whether Germany has anything to gain by our leaving; and Austria has not the slightest objection to our staying there. Assuredly, Italy, seeing that she has designs of her own in Upper Egypt, does not object to the presence of England in Lower Egypt. Then, who alone objects? My hon. Friend alludes to France. He seems to think that France rather likes our staying in Egypt, because it helps her designs in the Now Hebrides. Not at all. I am confident, from my knowledge of France and French diplomacy, that France does not like our staying there. France, then, is the one and the only nation that has the slightest objection to our remaining in Egypt; but I submit that we cannot commit a dereliction of duty for the sake of conciliating France. No doubt, France has morally every title to consideration from us; it is a great thing to conciliate her; but there is no good to be gained in doing so by making unworthy concessions, or by the abnegation of duty. As to our military position in Egypt, there was a great deal of truth in what was said by the hon. Member for Preston about our fundamental policy being to increase our power in 1285 the Mediterranean by strengthening Malta, and in the Red Sea by strengthening Aden. We must not trust too much to what a great naval authority in this House has called the ditch of the Suez Canal. We have other and better routes in the open ocean. Admitting to the full everything that may be said against the employment of a large force for holding Egypt, I venture to say that if Her Majesty's Government took the views of the highest naval and military authorities they would find a universal consensus of opinion that the occupation of Egypt is not a bad thing for our Eastern Empire. It gives us great prestige with our Native Mahommedan subjects all over the world, because, although a Christian Power. England has the largest number of Mahommedan subjects among all the Asiatic Powers. So far as our naval position is concerned, I freely admit that it greatly depends upon the neutralization of the Suez Canal. By neutralization I understand the Canal being closed to all Naval Powers in the event of war, and I admit that our naval position must materially depend upon the utilization of the Suez Canal or not. I confess that I have never yet been able to find out what is to be done with the Canal in the event of war. But, be that as it may, of all countries in the world I believe that it would be the easiest for England to occupy Egypt. I venture to say that, with our power in the Mediterranean, with the possession of Gibraltar and Malta, Alexandria and Port Said, a very moderate European force could hold Lower Egypt, which is all the part of the country we should think of occupying. A limited force at Alexandria, a small garrison in the citadel of Cairo, a detachment at Ismailia, midway in the Canal, one or two ships of war at Alexandria and Port Said, with the Mediterranean Squadron constantly cruising about, would suffice for the purpose. We have, in fact, as I have said already, got to make the best of it. After all, considering that Egypt is the highway to the East for our commercial enterprize; considering, also, that our traders and our capitalists—not the bondholders, but the trading and enterprizing capitalists—have a large stake in the country, we must do our best there, and I think it will not be a very 1286 bad thing for England if she has to perform that great duty.
§ MR. P. STANHOPE (Wednesbury)
I am glad the hon. Baronet who has just sat down has been so frank in stating his views with regard to Egypt. I hope, at all events, it will have the result of eliciting from Her Majesty's Government some expression of opinion as to whether or not they are in accord with the policy which the hon. Baronet has just sketched out for the future government of Egypt. The hon. Baronet has told us that, for 20 years to come, we may probably look forward to maintaining our position in Egypt. I hope the public will consider whether the despatch of Lord Salisbury to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, dated the 29th of June, in which he held the Porte responsible for our occupation of Egypt, is in accordance with the statement of the hon. Baronet. I do not believe that the people of this country would look forward with calm contemplation to the period of occupation which has been indicated by him. If we go back to the declaration of the late Government, we shall find that it means that we have decided, as soon as possible, to evacuate Egypt. What is the meaning of the term "as soon as possible?" If it means that the Government is to come to the House of Commons every succeeding Session, and tell us that a great many improvements have still to be made in that country, and that we must remain there until they are finished, that, I say, is not evacuation "as soon as possible" in the sense in which the term is generally understood. We must make up our minds to leave Egypt without delay, and I believe that the steps taken by the present Government and by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) for our gradual withdrawal have been in the right direction. But I hope we shall take some further steps to relieve the Egyptian people of the excessive charge for the present Civil administration of the country. I wish to call attention to the supposed enormous benefits which we have conferred on Egypt in connection with the Civil administration. I have a knowledge of Egypt extending over a period, at all events, equal to the time spent in that country by the hon. 1287 Baronet opposite. I am acquainted with most of the public works in Egypt, and I know most of the Native statesmen and European officials who are at present in that country; and while I have to admit that, generally speaking, we have given an honest character to Egyptian administration, I maintain that we have done so at a charge which I do not think the Egyptian people should be called upon to bear. They have now, for instance, a Financial Department, and we have in that Department a Financial Adviser, probably a competent official, who receives a salary of £2,000 or £3,000 a-year; we have an Assistant Minister of Finance; and, again, we have another gentleman, Blum Pasha, also a most competent official, well acquainted with the needs of the country. I venture to say that the Financial Department of Egypt can be very well performed by any one of these gentlemen alone. Then the Railway Department is administered by three gentlemen, an Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Native, all of whom are in receipt of heavy salaries; and I say with regard to this Department, also, that it can he perfectly well administered by one official. Then there is the Caisse de la Dette, which is a most expensive, incompetent, and certainly a most irritating institution for Egypt, interfering as it does with every branch of the Administration. I think if we were to take the opinion of our officials in Egypt upon the subject, it would be found that they unanimously condemn the constitution of the Caisse de la Dette. In addition to these there are the Department of Customs, the State Domains, and the Daira, in which three are a number of officials all receiving high salaries at the cost of the Egyptian people. I venture to hope that Her Majesty's Government will, in making a military withdrawal, also make a civilian withdrawal from Egypt. I hope they will diminish the number of highly-paid and unnecessary European officials, and, as far as they can, train up such Native talent as is available for the purpose of filling these posts. I am certain that even now there exists in Egypt a large number of young men whose knowledge is sufficient to enable them to fill these posts, and who would discharge the duties of these offices at smaller salaries, while, at the same time, they would give 1288 greater satisfaction to the Natives of the country. It must not be supposed that the Egyptians are particularly pleased with seeing every post in that country filled by foreigners; and I have no doubt that in this respect the Egyptians have the same feelings as Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen with regard to official positions in their country being filled by people of their own race. I must protest strongly against the system of imposing upon the Egyptian Administration all kinds of highly-paid officials, whose appointment has generally been the result of a desire to perform a job in the interests of a particular individual. Then I think that the Government should take up the question, which is a very important one, of the Capitulations in Egypt. At present you have an institution, which I admit works well—the system of international tribunals; but the business of these tribunals is very much restricted by being confined, as it is, solely to disputes between Natives and foreigners. You have side by side with these tribunals Native tribunals, which I think are, on the whole, making satisfactory progress, and which I would like to see put into a more important position, so as to take the place of the international tribunals, which, after all, are only an interference on the part of Foreign Powers with the administration of justice in Egypt, and cannot be regarded as permanent. Then, above all things, there is the important question of occupation. I hope Her Majesty's Government will not regard the question of Egypt from the point of view of the hon. Baronet who has just spoken. I cannot well understand how the hon. Baronet is satisfied, from his experience of official opinion in Russia, that Russia is anxious that we should remain in Egypt. I have myself some knowledge of Russia and of Russian statesmen, and I must say that I have never heard from the latter one expression of opinion favourable to our remaining in Egypt; and I should be very sorry if England were to give to Russia an example of bad faith and breach of agreement with regard to the occupation of Egypt, an example by which I am afraid that Russia or any other Power would be glad to profit. I think we should not regard the French people in this matter as more or less hostile; but that we should approach them in a spirit of confidence and good- 1289 will, and endeavour to come to some terms of arrangement by which we should be enabled to evacuate Egypt with satisfaction to ourselves and to them. I do not believe this would be an impossibility; I believe we might come to an arrangement under which, while foregoing any special privileges in Egypt, we might obtain from France some concession with regard to the reduction of debt, and consequently the remission of taxes, which would be the very greatest boon to the people. I will go one step further. I have never been able to see why Egypt should not be neutralized and placed under the guarantee of Europe in the same sense as Belgium is under that guarantee at the present moment. It is not too much to expect that Egypt, inhabited by a gentle and pacific race and having men of experience amongst its Administrators, might be, within a shorter period than is generally expected, able to conduct its own affairs with credit and success, so that the country might continue an independent State under the guarantee of Europe, and, free from foreign intrigues and influences, perform its duty as guardian of the Suez Canal and commercial communications with the East. I do not regard that as by any means an impossible eventuality; and, for the reasons I have stated, I must protest in the strongest language against any further prolongation of occupation of Egypt. This is a subject on which I believe the English working classes have a very strong opinion indeed. I do not agree with the hon. Baronet opposite that the English democracy desires to continue and make permanent our occupation and responsibility with regard to Egypt. I think, on the contrary, it is every day more apparent that, while we are anxious to keep what we have and to strengthen our hold on what is honestly and really our own, we do not desire to extend our responsibilities or charges in connection with them, nor break faith with Europe. as we should be doing, by endeavouring to effect a permanent occupation of Egypt, of which we are only the temporary guardians.
§ MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
After what has fallen from hon. Members with regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in reference to Egypt, I may, perhaps, be allowed also to approach the same subject, and to say 1290 that the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken seem to have as much force and consistency as we are accustomed to expect from gentlemen who profess to be Radical idealists. The conditions of existence which the hon. Gentleman supposes might possibly be realized in another state of things; but, as the world is now constituted, I do not see any chance of his views being carried out. As an example, the hon. Gentleman says he would like to see Egypt made a second Belgium. That might be possible if he could transfer the population of Belgium, to Egypt; but his suggestion cannot be looked upon as practicable, having regard to the fact that the Egyptians have been a conquered and effete race since the days of Cambyses. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Richard Temple) has spoken of an occupation of Egypt extending over a period of 15 or 20 years. I think that is a wise and statesmanlike suggestion, because I believe that the next 15 or 20 years will see a great revolution in the East. Our policy in the past has been to maintain the integrity and independence of the Ottoman Empire; but I believe, if we look at the state of affairs in the civilized world, we shall find that the main idea which dominates every Cabinet in Europe is to effect its painless extinction. If we look at the political game going on in Europe we shall see that the mind of every European statesman is occupied with the question as to who is to share the plunder when the Ottoman Empire falls to pieces. We Englishmen do not want to attack an ancient Ally, nor do we wish to hasten the process of disintegration which is assuredly going on; but I think our duty imposes upon us the necessity of remaining in Egypt, because when the shadowy suzerainty of the Sultan fades away it will rest with us to preserve law and order for the Egyptian people. I cordially agree with the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham that the true perception of duty is what ought to guide every politician; and, happily, with us the term "duty" is synonymous with the cause of civilization and freedom, not only in regard to the British Empire, but throughout the world. It is our duty, as well as our pleasure, to do what we are doing in Egypt—namely, to enable the people to enjoy such amount of Constitutional government as they are capable of. I believe 1291 our occupation of Egypt has been long enough to show that the people of Egypt are incapable at present of governing themselves in the true sense of the word. Although they are a dark race, and are intellectually and physically our inferiors, I do not wish to be understood to mean that so long as their country is in the hands of Europeans they cannot do a good deal in the way of government; and I hope the Government will not say one word which will propagate the idea that we are about to leave Egypt and abandon our position there to some other European Power at an early date, which would be the certain result of an "Egypt for the Egyptian's" policy. I cordially agree with the hon. Baronet when he says that he is disgusted with sham professions of speedy evacuation. I think that these are not only injurious to the honour of this country, but especially damaging to the interests of the Egyptian people. The one thing which is required in Egypt is a sense of safety. The people want stability in their institutions, and to exist under a Government that will give confidence to the investors of capital. Egypt was the granary of the world in the days of the Pharaohs; it remained one of the fairest portions of the earth until the Turkish conquest and occupation; and there is no reason why it should not be so again under stable government. France is, no doubt, jealous of our occupation of Egypt; but she must accept the accomplished fact. We are there, and she has retired; she has her own ideas with regard to Tunis and the North of Africa, and she need not be jealous of our remaining in Egypt. On the other hand, Russia has no desire to see our departure; she has her own programme. She is, of course, an aggressive Power, and intends at no future date to absorb the whole of Central Asia, and I do not believe it will be worth our while to contest it with her. For my part, I should be glad to see the Valley of the Tigris restored again to the condition described by Xenophon. Lastly, I think that Austria and Germany will be glad to see us remain in Egypt: and, with a great statesman who has enjoyed, and will for many years enjoy, the confidence of this country, I believe our true policy is to cultivate the friendship of the Teutonic Powers of Europe. We should, in my opinion, be condemned by posterity if 1292 we were to take any step towards withdrawing our influence from Egypt at a time when we are doing our best to promote the welfare of the country. Sooner or later the Ottoman Power will disappear; if we do our duty now we shall then have an indisputable right to remain in Egypt, and the Sovereignty of the Pharaohs will lapse to the Crown of England.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I think it is to be regretted that, on an occasion when due notice has been given that a debate would take place on the question of the occupation of Egypt, so few Members should be present in the House. If there is one thing more than another which is confirmed by history it is that the origin of wars has always sprung from times in which it has been impossible to get the people of the country to take an interest in the situation. I think it is unfortunate that when a question of great importance, not alone to the people of Egypt, but to the people of England, in their relation to the Powers of Europe, there should be such a deplorable absence of Members from this House. The great difficulty, in approaching this question of Egypt, is that it is a matter for a volume, and not for a speech. It is a question which cannot, within the limits of a speech, be approached in such a manner, at any rate, as will make it intelligible. I propose only to deal with three chief points in the observations which I have to make, and which ought permanently to be before the public in connection with the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. The first of these points is the relations of this country to France as regards our occupation of Egypt; the second is the question of the exile and continued detention of Arabi Pasha; and the third point I wish to deal with is one of the utmost importance, which I have over and over again brought forward in this House without receiving upon it any satisfactory reply from the Government—namely, the fact that the reduction of the Land Tax of Egypt to the extent of £450,000 a-year, which was recommended by Lord Northbrook in 1883 as absolutely essential to the welfare and lives of the people of that country, which was embodied in the Financial Agreement of 1885, and in the Imperial Decree which followed, has never been granted to the Egyptian 1293 people. It is by withholding that reduction of £450,000 a-year that you have shown a bogus and unreal surplus, out of which you have paid a portion of the Coupons of the Egyptian Debt. You have, therefore, robbed the unfortunate fellaheen in order to have enough money to pay the bondholders. I take the first question of our relations with France in connection with our occupation of Egypt, into which it is, of course, manifestly impossible to enter in full detail. I would venture to refer hon. Members who take an interest in this matter to the despatches which passed between Lord Granville and M. Waddington in the month of May, 1884, because those despatches are of extreme importance, as bearing on the good faith and present action of the Government of England, in considering the attitude adopted by Lord Salisbury—namely, that of requiring the signature of the Convention as a condition of the evacuation of Egypt by England. A preliminary interview took place with regard to the Financial Convention of 1885; and M. Waddington subsequently wrote to Lord Granville requesting that their understanding should be put into writing, in order that there might be no mistake about future negotiations. They drew up a Memorandum—No. 11 in the Despatches, Egypt, 1884—which Lord Granville stated actually represented their intentions. In that Memorandum it was stated that M. Waddington declared to the then English Foreign Secretary that the Government of the French Republic was inspired by the confidence that Her Majesty's Government would conform distinctly to the solemn declarations made on repeated occasions that they would do nothing to prejudice the international situation of Egypt, which was secured by Treaties and Firmans. This was the basis of the understanding between England and France. But by the 5th Article of the proposed Anglo-Turkish Convention the present British Government proposed to sweep away the existing international relations of Egypt, and to substitute for them an entirely new system; and because the French Government, in a friendly way, refused to consent to our having the right of re-entry into Egypt after evacuating the country—a matter which was never discussed between the Representatives of the two Powers, and which utterly alters the international 1294 situation in Egypt—they are told by Lord Salisbury that this frees the hands of the English Government from the pledges and solemen engagements, over and over again repeated, between the two countries. Lord Granville stated, in a despatch dated the 15th of June, 1884, that he was delighted at the French Government's consent to abandon the old control, as it enabled the two nations to enter into a frank exchange of views; and he goes on to say that—Her Majesty's Government will, at or before the expiration of the English occupation propose to the Powers a scheme of neutralization based on the principles obtaining in the case of Belgium.We have heard the hon. Member for the Loughborough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle), who has appeared to-day as a great authority on foreign affairs, declare that no sane man could talk of making Egypt a second Belgium; but here it was laid down by Lord Granville and M. Waddington, the Representatives of France and England, in the most solemn manner that the English Government would make proposals for the neutralization of Egypt on the same basis as that on which Belgium now stands.
§ MR. DE LISLE
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to say that I never asserted that Lord Granville was a sane man in every sense of the word.
§ MR. DILLON
I say that France is entitled to assume that the word of Lord Granville, when he spoke as Foreign Minister of England, binds this country, and that England would not within three years of that declaration, if her Imperial Dominion pointed in that direction, be prepared to scatter to the winds every pledge and understanding that we have given to the European Powers. If an hon. Gentleman like the Member for Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) stands up and declares that a Foreign Minister of the day is not a sane man, I say we must not be surprised if the French Government look upon these proceedings with the greatest disgust. Lord Granville declares in the same despatch that the evacuation of Egypt would be effected, if not before, at latest in the early months of 1888. I would direct the attention of hon. Members to the wording of some of the despatches in connection with what I have read from the despatch of Lord Granville. Sir Henry 1295 Drummond Wolff announced from Constantinople on the 31st of May that, according to the information received from the French Ambassador, although the French Government would not take any exception, on the whole they objected to the right of re-entering Egypt. This was an entirely new principle; and although they protested against it in the first despatch in a friendly way only, there was nothing to lead this Government to suppose that the French Government would allow this country the right of re-entry. I will now turn to Despatch No. 18, in which Lord Salisbury uses words which are utterly inconsistent with the previous understanding arrived at between this country and France. In acknowledging the telegram from Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, Lord Salisbury points out as essential that—Her Majesty's Government have no intention of leaving Egypt without having ample security that the social order which they have established there is no longer endangered by external attack or by internal trouble.That, I think, is the first time the term "social order," that we have been so accustomed to in the case of Ireland, is brought into this question. This is an entirely new departure. The language of Lord Salisbury is most vague and indefinite. Who is to be the judge of whether there is ample security that "social order" in Egypt is no longer endangered by external attack or by internal trouble? Is it Sir Evelyn Baring? Then there is the Despatch No. 31 of Lord Salisbury, which has already been quoted—a most menacing despatch, and one which will be heard of over and over again on the platforms in the country unless we get a satisfactory answer from the Government on this subject. In this despatch Lord Salisbury says—If the Convention falls through by non-ratification, or by the refusal of other Powers to adhere to it, our evacuation will certainly be postponed, and the date of it cannot be foreseen.This, in plain language, means that if the ratification falls through our departure will be indefinitely postponed, which is only another way of saying that there will be a permanent occupation of Egypt. But I venture to say that the people of this country will not be deceived by any such language, and that if our occupation is to be prolonged the question of Egypt will become like 1296 that of Ireland, a burning question in this country. I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I desire to say a few words on the subject of the great injustice that has been done to Arabi Pasha. I think it is a cruel thing that this man has been put out of public sight for so many years; and until justice is done it will be the duty of Irish Members year after year to remind the House and the British Government what are the facts in his case. Let me recall the memory of the House to the circumstances. When Arabi Pasha was taken captive he was put on his trial on three charges; first, he was charged with being accessory to the incendiary fires in Alexandria; in the second place, he was charged with rebellion; the nature of the other charge I do not remember at this moment. Two of the charges were withdrawn, and the only charge proceeded upon was that of rebellion, of which Arabi Pasha was no more guilty than any Member of Her Majesty's Government. For political purposes it was considered necessary by the English Agents that Arabi Pasha should admit the charge of rebellion; and he was warned that, unless he did so, he would be abandoned to the Egyptian Government, who would have him shot without any trial at all, and to the charge of rebellion he therefore pleaded guilty. It was distinctly understood that he should be banished to a country to be arranged upon by his friends, and he was given to understand that his banishment would not be perpetual, but that in a short time he would probably be recalled to Egypt. It is a monstrous thing that this man, who was really a patriot, and did his best to serve Egypt, and would have continued to serve if you had let him alone, should be condemned for the remainder of his life not to see the country which he loved and served so well. Nothing can be more monstrous than to suppose that Arabi Pasha was guilty of rebellion. He was, at the time of the bombardment of Alexandria, the recognized War Minister in Egypt; and not only was he that with the consent of the Khedive, but shortly before that time a Special Commissioner of the Sultan, who had come from Constantinople to arrange the affairs of Egypt in connection with the British Government, confirmed him in his Office of War Minister, and decorated him. Up to the date of the bombard- 1297 ment of Alexandria and the landing of the British troops, Arabi Pasha was acting with the full approval of the Khedive; but when the British Government got hold of the Khedive hey compelled him to declare Arabi Pasha a rebel. I am compelled to ask this question. If Arabi Pasha was a rebel, against whom was he a rebel? Is it that he was a rebel against the bondholders? I will tell the Committee—he was in rebellion first of all against the kourbash; he was in rebellion against the excessive taxation of the fellaheen, and against some of the abuses which you have succeeded in crushing out. There is not a ingle reform that has been instituted by the English Government which was not part of the programme of Arabi Pasha, and which he was not in process of carrying out when you committed that most outrageous thing recorded in English history—namely, the bombardment and burning of the town of Alexandria, with no excuse under the sun. Arabi Pasha before the bombardment of Alexandria wrote a letter to The Times, in which he appealed to the good feeling of the people of England, and said that every exertion in his power was being made for the preservation of order and for the protection of the Egyptians. In spite of that this unhappy man was treated as a rebel. Now, I ask if it is not time for the English Government to act with some generosity towards this man? If there is a scrap of honesty in the declarations of the English Government, that they wish the people of Egypt to govern themselves, is it not high time to bring back the one man who can gain their good feeling and confidence? If you want a strong man on whom you can base a good representative Government in Egypt, I do not know where you can go if not to Arabi Pasha. I have seen enough lately of the generosity of the mass of the people of England to make me believe that if they were to support an appeal for the release of Arabi Pasha, that appeal could not be resisted by the Government. If the Government will not give us some hope that they will do justice, however tardy, in this matter, I say that as soon as the Irish Question is off our hands—as it very soon will be—I shall make a further appeal to the people of England on behalf of Arabi Pasha. The hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) has an- 1298 nounced to us that the people of Egypt are a dark race, and inferior to Europeans in intellect. I have never been in Egypt, but I have known many who have been there, and I protest against any such doctrine as that which the hon. Member has laid down. I think it is a monstrous and outrageous doctrine to say of the people of Egypt, that they are a race only fit to be treated as slaves. I am, however, obliged to the hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire, although the Government will not be, for supplying us with a test of the policy of the Government, and also with the means of telling the people of England what is at the bottom of this policy of Egyptian occupation. The Government go on the doctrine that Egypt is to be kept down; that her people are to be robbed and treated as an inferior race. "When the proper time arrives, we shall appeal to the people of England on that issue, and ask them whether they wish to be parties to any such transaction.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) in respect to the case of Arabi Pasha. There is no instance which history records of a more iniquitous political imprisonment than that of Arabi Pasha. I do not think the present Government are responsible for it. I am sure they are not. The Gentlemen who are responsible for the imprisonment of Arabi Pasha are my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) and his Colleagues.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Oh! he was not in the Government at that time. Then he is not responsible, but his Predecessor was responsible, and the Government which he joined was responsible for the imprisonment of Arabi Pasha. I know what the plea is, because it has been frequently put forward in this House. It is that Arabi Pasha and his colleagues were banished from Egypt by the Egyptian Government, and that we cannot interfere. That answer has been given to me when I have asked questions on the subject. Obviously we are responsible entirely for what the Egyptian Government does, and if we said to the Egyptian Government "these men ought to be allowed to go back to 1299 Egypt," they would be allowed to do so. I think it is a most vicious principle to allow our Colonies to be converted in this way into prison houses for persons who rightly or wrongly—I think Arabi Pasha was in the right—quarrelled with the Government of the country to which they belong. I hope that Her Majesty's present Government, in view of the fact that they are in no sort of way responsible for Arabi Pasha and his friends being sent to Ceylon, will look into the matter strictly, and will use their best efforts to bring about some arrangement by which these men may be, if possible, allowed to go back to Egypt. I see sitting there the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst). When he occupied a seat in this part of the House he spoke very strongly of the iniquity of imprisoning Arabi Pasha and his friends; and as he is now sitting near the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) I hope he will repeat to him privately the excellent reasons he gave publicly in the House for Arabi Pasha being released. Now, with regard to the Mission of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, which is the direct question before the Committee, I admit that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff is a most able diplomatist. At the same time, I think his Mission and the Treaty which was the outcome of the Mission were radically at fault in this—that we did not act with Europe in the matter. I do not mean to say that the Treaty was secret, but that the Treaty was made in a private fashion; it was not made in concert with Europe. With regard to Egypt we ought to act in concert with Europe; and, under these circumstances, we should not go privately to the Sultan and endeavour to conclude a Treaty with him. That Europe was opposed to it we know perfectly well. So far as I can see from the despatches, the first intimation of what was going on was obtained by France and Russia from the Turkish Government themselves, and no sooner did they know what we were contemplating than one of the strongest protests which I have ever read on the part of a friendly Power was put in against our action. I object to this separate action on the part of England—it is contrary to all principles we have ever initiated in the East; and if we take upon ourselves to induce the Sultan 1300 to make a concession or arrangement that is opposed to the views of Europe, we may be certain that Russia, France, and other countries will seek to do the same. The most important despatch which has been written by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff is Despatch No. 96. It seems to me upon reading that despatch that it is admitted by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, who was sent out by the present Government, that we are in an absolutely vicious circle in Egypt. On the one hand, we say we will not leave Egypt until the Egyptians show that they are perfectly contented and satisfied; and, on the other hand, according to the despatch itself, we are acting in such a manner that the Egyptians cannot be contented and satisfied. That practically means that we shall stay there for ever. If the Government do intend to remain for ever in Egypt, it would be more reasonable to say so than to pretend to Europe, and occasionally to this House, that we are anxious to leave Egypt, and then make the conditions so impossible for Egypt that we can never leave the country. I hope the Government will consider well what Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has said. I should like them to tell the House specifically whether they agree or disagree with the despatch of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff in which he says the Egyptians are overtaxed, and that further taxation must produce discontent; and, in the event of their agreeing with it, to tell us what they intend to do? Do they intend to act upon Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's recommendation, which is that taxation should be reduced, or do they intend to go on as now, which to all intents and purposes means that we are acting there in order to render it impossible for us to leave the country? We hear a great deal about the benefit of our presence to the Egyptians. We are told that the Egyptians—I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) used this argument the other day—are less highly taxed than before. The taxation, taking the Budget as an authority, is somewhat less than it was in the highest year of the Khedive Ismail's Government. But it must be remembered that at the time the Khedive Ismail was there, there was a nominal taxation and a real taxation. The object of the Khedive was to put the revenue nominally as high as 1301 possible in order to induce persons to subscribe to the Egyptian loans. As a matter of fact the taxation was not really levied. I very much doubt whether one-third was really levied in the country; but now whatever the taxation may be—I think it is £5,000,000 sterling—it is bonâ fide taxation, and levied. I quite admit that there is a more regular system of government now than before. There may be many minor abuses done away with; but at the same time there is a more grinding oppression now than then, because now the taxation, which is almost the same as in one of Ismail's years, when I think it rose to£10,000,000 sterling, is levied from the people; therefore they are paying infinitely more than they ever did under Khedive Ismail's Government. I am exceedingly glad to think that common sense in regard to this matter has reached hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), who has come forward as one of the unmuzzled Giceros alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), and a very able speech he has made on the matter. He has asked, what are you doing in regard to representative government? He has pointed out that you have increased the number of European officials, but that you have done nothing to teach the Egyptian people the first elements of representative government. Then we had a 6peech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple), who believes he himself might, perhaps, in the course of 15 years, be able to give the Egyptians some notion of representative government; that anybody else would require 25, but that he could do it in 15 years. If we persist in our present course, there is no chance of their ever learning anything of representative government. It is said we are going to teach them how to manage their own affairs; and yet we have a Member of the Conservative Party pointing out that we have done nothing—that our present system is not one which will sow the seeds of any species of self-government. Under these circumstances, I should also like to ask the Government what they have to say for the plea that they are trying to establish some sort of local Egyptian Government? Are 1302 they doing so, or are they not? If they are not, how can they ever hope to be able to leave the country? Then we have been told that punishments are less, and that the kourbash has been abolished. I believe the kourbash has been abolished; but I recollect the case of an English regiment being marched into a village, and proceeding to flog half the inhabitants. That hardly seems consistent with the abolition of corporal punishment. It seems to me that it would rather lead the Egyptians to believe that corporal punishment was part and parcel of the Constitution of Great Britain, for I myself do not understand why an English regiment should be sent into an Egyptian village to flog the inhabitants any more than it should be sent into an Irish village or an English, one for that purpose. Nothing shows more strongly to what horrible expedients we are obliged to have recourse. We have our Army there, and we endeavour to maintain what we call order, in defiance of the fact that we are doing the best we can to create discontent and dissatisfaction. I have not been in Egypt for seven years; but, from what I can learn, we have not got much to show for the occupation of the country. We are certainly not there for the benefit of the Egyptians. I take what Sir Henry Drummond Wolff says; we have paid him a considerable sum for giving us his views with regard to Egypt, and I suppose we may take his views as being the views of the Government. The view Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has laid down in his own despatch undoubtedly is that we are not there for the benefit of the Egyptians, but there to place the Egyptians in such a position that they must be discontented with our rule. We are told we are there to maintain the integrity of Egypt—a very good thing undoubtedly; but I have never understood why the British taxpayer should be called upon to pay money for such, an object. We have put ourselves entirely in the wrong with Europe; we have a very good idea of what France and Russia think. What is to be lamented in this case is that France and Russia are in the right, and we are in the wrong. I was reading last Sunday an article in The Observer—the Committee knows that The Observer is edited by a very able gentleman, Mr. Edward Dicey. What does he say in regard to the 1303 speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson), in which it is asserted that we are simply in Egypt for the good and benefit of the Egyptians themselves? Mr. Dicey says it is all nonsense; that the Government would do much better, if they intend to stay there, to state the real reason why we are there; and the real reason must be that it is our road to India. I should like them to tell us what is the real reason why we stay in Egypt. I have asserted, and I still assert, that there was a meeting of the Naval and Military Authorities, at which it was held that it was perfectly useless to hope to keep open the Suez Canal for chips of war, and to send our merchandize under convoy by the Canal, or to send our troops by the Canal in the event of our being at war with a great Mediterranean Power unless we were in occupation of Egypt. This is the main reason for our stay in Egypt. But an enemy of ours might at any time say to some captain whose ship was possibly Dot worth more than £50,000—"We will give you £100,000 if, when you are going through the Canal, you will scuttle your ship." Such a thing as the scuttling of a ship would close the Canal for three weeks. As a matter of fact, we have Cyprus on the one hand—I regret that we took it—we have the Red Sea on the other, and we can hold the Canal against any Power in the world. We can by our hold, mainly in the Red Sea, prevent any ship of war belonging to the country with which we are at war passing through the Canal. That ought to be our policy, and that we ought to be perfectly satisfied with. You will say then what is the use, which I cannot see, of having an Army in Egypt? We can close the Canal, and we should close it in the event of war. What should we do with our Army? It would be in the air. We should have to send an Army merely to invite some Mediterranean Power to send another Army to endeavour to send us out. We should have work enough to do to defend India. The Government say we are there in order to benefit Egypt; but they do not even admit the risk in case of war of having an Army in Egypt, an Army which would be unsupported so to speak, and which would be snapped up 1304 because it would be an unduly small Army, by some Foreign Power. Anyhow, we should have to defend Egypt; we should have to isolate a vast number of troops there, and the whole thing appears to me to be an utter mistake. I should like some gentleman connected with the Army or Navy to tell us whether they really do believe Mr. Dicey is right, and that it is any advantage to us with regard to our road to India to occupy Egypt; whether, in the event of war with any great Naval or Mediterranean Power, it would be any advantage to us to have an Army in Egypt. I believe it would be a serious disadvantage to us, and one of the reasons which I am opposed, and always have been opposed, to our holding Egypt in this way, is that it would very much endanger the safety of the Empire in the event of war. Let us hear from the Government what they have to say on this matter. They are exceedingly vague upon the point. They put forward one reason for our stay in Egypt, and then they put forward another. One never can follow them. I never have been able to pin these gentlemen to any specific statement as to whether we are really in Egypt for the benefit of the Egyptians, or for the benefit of ourselves, or for the benefit or safety of the Empire. I do hope the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) will not follow the bad example sot him, but will plainly and distinctly tell us whether he adheres to what he said the other day—namely, that we are in Egypt solely for the benefit of the Egyptians, or whether we are there in order to maintain our road to India, which, I say, is a false road, because in the case of war we should always have to go round by the Cape.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
I stated exactly the reverse. When concluding my speech I stated that undoubtedly the paramount consideration for us in regard to our remaining in Egypt must be the interests of this country.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I am glad he says so, because I have no doubt I have convinced him it is not our paramount interest to remain in Egypt. Let some military man tell us whether strategically it would be advantageous in case of war for us to occupy Egypt or not, and whether it is necessary, in order to 1305 maintain our position in India, that we should do more than close the Canal to all foreign ships of war. We are told that if we leave Egypt France will go there on financial grounds. I confess that, looking at the amount of money that Egypt has cost us, it will only be a damnosa hereditas for the French. I cannot see any practical objection to the French going there, and I think they would very soon be tired of it. They might get some slight prestige by being in Egypt; but I am not a very great believer in the prestige of nations. I perfectly admit that the French and the Germans and others have put forth the plea that Egypt must pay the interest on their debt, and if they do not pay it there ought to be some interference on the part of the Great Powers of Europe. I quite admit that they hold very strong opinions in favour of the Egyptians being forced to pay this interest—their feeling on this point is as strong as that of Her Majesty's Government, indeed stronger. We are in Egypt, and undoubtedly France does wish us to withdraw, and it seems to me it would be quite possible to negotiate our withdrawal on condition that Egypt is made perfectly neutral, and that in the matter of these debts it were agreed that Egypt should either pay or not pay as she pleases. If we were to retire from the place on these conditions I do think we might obtain some assurance or guarantee from France and the other Powers that no Power should go there at all. Now, I do not wish to exaggerate the matter at all; but one of the factors that led us to go to Egypt at all was the powerful influence of the bondholders. Undoubtedly, the bondholders still have a powerful influence; but the Government, and the Government which preceded it, never would grasp the nettle. The Government have got into a mess. The Government which preceded this was continually saying that it was not their fault that we were in a mess, but that it was the fault of their opponents. But we were there, and no Government had the moral courage to take upon itself to say it would withdraw entirely from the position. We had got into a false position, and because we were in it we endeavoured to maintain it. I think that not only good faith, but our own interests, oblige us to withdraw. I do not understand this system of saying we 1306 will withdraw and yet we will come back if it be needed on the part of Egypt, or if there is any desire on the part of the Egyptians that we should do so. We went there with a clear and distinct understanding that our occupation would not be a permanent one, but that we would withdraw. Our good faith is at stake on the side of our withdrawal, and yet now in this Convention we practically assume a species of protectorate over Egypt, and we want to have exceptional rights there. If we simply look at the thing as one of the European Powers, and not as a Power wishing any exceptional rights, I cannot help thinking that we should come to some sort of an arrangement that we should be able to withdraw from Egypt, and be able to induce the European Powers to assent, not only to the neutralization of the Suez Canal, but also of Egypt. The question I particularly want to put to the Government is—"What are you going to do in face of Despatch No. 97 of Sic Henry Drummond Wolff." You are there faced with a statement of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff that you are forcing from Egypt an extortionate taxation, and that from the fact of all these bonds being held out of the country you are positively ruining Egypt, for you take from the country one-half of its entire Revenue. No country can stand such a drain. If half our Revenue were taken away we know perfectly well that we should be ruined. Now, are you going to stand upon the advice of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, your own Agent in Egypt, or are you not? I do hope the Government will feel that they are not bound by the Act of their Predecessors—that they will feel they have carte blanche so far as evacuation is concerned. I am persuaded, from my observations at meetings in the country, that the Conservative electors, as well as Liberal electors, are most anxious that a settlement should be come to. They could understand it if the Government said they meant to stay in Eygpt; but they do not like the present shilly-shally policy; they do not think the policy now being pursued by the Government is calculated to promote the interest of Europe, or of Egypt, or of the British Empire.
§ SIR ALGERNON BORTHWICK (Kensington, S.)
The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) has 1307 brought the debate hack to practical ground. Hon. Members who have spoken previously have treated the Committee to a good deal of ancient history, and as though, in some respects, there was a near approach of the Millennium. From these extremes the hon. Member has brought us back to the real facts of the case. The hon. Member wishes to know why we are in Egypt. We are distinctly there to serve British interests. We are there because Egypt is the Charing Cross of the world—the great centre of traffic. We have 80 per cent of that traffic, in connection with which we are in Egypt doing police duties; and we must do it so long as any danger to the prosperity of the country is involved. We are there to serve British interests, and we are there, I hope, for the benefit of the Egyptian people, though I confess that I do not see we have as yet accomplished as much as we ought to have accomplished. I notice that during the occupation of Egypt wealth has increased on the banks of the Nile in certain instances. This is due in great measure to the English gold that was left there owing to our late Expedition; but beyond that, out of Egypt itself, and for Egypt itself, no demonstrable benefit has yet occurred. It is a small country, with 6,000,000 of population, taxed almost beyond the power of bearing the taxation—a country which has been plundered from time immemorial. From these limited resources £5,000,000 or more is taken annually and poured into foreign coffers; £5,000,000 going from that small cultivable land—from a country whose whole imports and exports amount to only £20,000,000 sterling—is a burden under which the country is now groaning. To the relief of that burden we have not brought our proved financial capacity, for I am persuaded that we might easily so arrange the affairs of Egypt as to secure a great remission of taxation. Instead of that, we have been hampered by our position; we have been hampered by our changes of Government, and by our many negotiations with Foreign Powers; and instead of relieving the Egyptians, we have overborne them with a number of highly-paid officials, who, to a certain extent, have done mischief instead of good by standing in each other's way. If we wish to evacuate Egypt, the first thing 1308 we must do is to enable Egypt to stand by itself. Have we done this? I protest that we have done exactly the contrary. If we wish to remain in Egypt, then we ought to organize the country in a manner becoming British intelligence, and consonant with British justice. And we are not doing that. We are neither doing the one nor the other. It is impossible that Englishmen can be in a country without a certain amount of substantial benefit flowing from their presence—such as the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) alluded to when he spoke of the state of the prisons, and many other beneficial arrangements which have been made in Egypt since we went there. But we harass and hamper the Government of the country. We do not allow it to negotiate with Foreign Powers about those Capitulations that are so inconvenient to it, and we will not negotiate ourselves. The one chance we have had is, to my mind, through the two Conventions of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. In the first Convention we obtained the permission of the Sovereign Power to be in Egypt. That gave us a locus standi. By the second Convention we obtained still larger advantages, and I regret that it has not been carried out. But, as it has not been carried out, we must remain for the present as in the past, but, I trust, in a different spirit, and more in accordance with the wishes of the Egyptians themselves. There is an immense number of reforms which ought to be carried out if we remain in the country. It is unjustifiable that we should remain there without consulting the Egyptians themselves, and without carrying out the reforms which we are there to carry out. The state of their finances has been cruel to them in the extreme. The lands to which I have alluded as being so heavily burdened have been sold up by those "gombeen men" whom they have in Egypt in the persons of the great body of bondholders. They have sold up the lands in Egypt to the extent of nearly £1,000,000 a-year in the last two years, and these lands are almost unsaleable now that they are unable to bear taxation. These hardships perpetrated upon the population could not dispose them to look with kindness upon our rule, and I am perfectly certain that the Egyptians have not yet learnt to appreciate—as I think 1309 they might if we were to set about it in a different way—that we are really thinking of their interests. As it is, and as far as our interests are concerned, there is no doubt—I do not speak as a soldier—that strategically that country is of vital importance to our trade connection with the East. A picture has been drawn by the hon. Member for Northampton, who is himself no soldier, of the position of an army "in the air;" and the hon. Member supposes that we would have a large English Army there in case of foreign war, and without any supports whatever. English Armies from the beginning of history have always derived support from the soil, or from their Allies, or from aid that has been arranged for. In Egypt it is obvious that in any case of difficulty we could not only draw soldiers from India, but if we were there with the consent of the Sultan we could also have the aid of Turkish arms in defending the country; and such a combination as that would resist almost any difficulty that would be presented to the soldiers of England and their leaders. My only intention in taking part in the debate was to raise a voice on behalf of the poor fellaheen. I believe that these poor creatures, who have suffered through centuries, should at last understand that if they are under the protection and under the direct government of so great and so well-intentioned a country as this, they are justified in looking to us for hotter treatment, substantial and financial, than they have yet received at our hands.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I think it is to be regretted that this Vote should have come on at so late a period of the Session, because there is really no one of the many questions which this country has to deal with, either at home or abroad, that is of greater magnitude, and might become of greater danger, than the question of our position in Egypt; and it is much to be wished, therefore, that there should have been an attendance in the House proportionate to the gravity of the question, and one from which an expression of opinion would have had its proper effect upon the minds of the Government. The debate has ranged over a great number of subjects. I hope to say a few words upon the most particular of these questions—namely, what is our present position in Egypt, and what are the steps to 1310 be taken towards evacuation? I must, however, say a word ubout the negotiations which Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has been conducting, and which we have not hitherto had an opportunity of discussing. It is not of much use criticising or condemning the Convention. The Convention is dead, and it is like shelling an abandoned town to point out the faults and follies which lay in the Convention. But although the Blue Books have little practical interest now, and although they do not tell us very much about the real position, there is one point on which they are very interesting. They seem to have been put together by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) with a view to dramatic effect, because the first Blue Book tells the story of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's successes and triumphs, and the second Blue Book tells us the story of his more rapid fall. In the first of the Blue Books we see him working on the Sultan and his Ministers, and rolling Sisyphian stone up the steep incline of Turkish obstinacy and procrastination; and the second tells us why the same stone came down again very rapidly and landed at the bottom, where the Special Mission landed, in a morass of ridicule and humiliation. We are all agreed as to the nature of the special Mission. It was invented in order to find something for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to do. We are all agreed that the Convention was devised in order that there might be some excuse for his staying there so long.
§ MR. BRYCE
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for having asked that question. I answered it in the last debate upon this subject. We did not withdraw him for the very reason dwelt upon by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury). We thought it very undesirable that as soon as a Ministry came into power, finding negotiations in progress and an Envoy on the spot, we should immediately produce a breach in the continuity of policy by forthwith recalling that Envoy before we had any knowledge of what had passed, and what the Mission was likely to effect. The hon. Member for Preston taunted us with not having withdrawn Sir Henry 1311 Drummond Wolff; but, at the same time, he dwelt upon the necessity of continuity of policy. We knew when we came into power in February, 1886, that our tenure of it was very uncertain, as events proved; and we felt that we should not be justified in suddenly recalling an Envoy who had been sent out by our Predecessors, and who had already concluded a Convention, and who was carrying on further negotiations. We never approved of the sending of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff; we always thought it absolutely unnecessary. If it had rested with us we should certainly have recalled him; but knowing bow short our own tenure of Office was likely to be, we felt it would be an unfortunate step, and one which might expose us to just blame, if we were forthwith to recall him, and interrupt all that had been going on in Egypt and at Constantinople. Now, we have had very different accounts as to the value of this Convention. In the debate on the 9th March last the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) adjured us not to refuse the Vote for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, saying that that gentleman was conducting most important negotiations—I think his words were "negotiations of the utmost value"—that France and Russia were behaving very amiably, and would very likely ratify the Convention which was being prepared. The House yielded to the entreaty of the right hon. Gentleman, and the Vote was passed. When the question came up again the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs deprecated the Convention, and said too much must not be made of it. Lord Salisbury has said, in a speech, I think, delivered in the country, that "it matters very little whether the Convention be ratified or not." I put it to the Committee whether, in face of those recent declarations of the Government that they attached so little importance to the Convention that it does not signify whether it is ratified or not, there is anything to show for the long duration of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission but the very heavy expense it has entailed upon the country? We are happily now at the end of this costly joke, but I do not know that we should have been at the end of it now if it had not been for the pressure this House 1312 put upon the Government to recall Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, because his long continuance had made us the laughing-stock of Europe. It was perfectly clear as early as the 26th June, as hon. Members may see by turning to the Papers, that the Turks did not intend to ratify the Convention, and it was absolutely certain on the 1st of July that there was no chance of ratification. Sir Henry Drummond Wolff was kept there until the 15th July, and possibly might have been there still, but for the sentiment the country was beginning to show on the subject. This is now past history; but there are some points on which it is necessary to say a few words, because they are errors which may be repeated. Let me point out what were the mistakes which may be repeated. Let me point out what were the mistakes which in our view were made. In the first place, it was a great mistake to send Moukhtar Pasha to Egypt at all. When he arrived there he had long discussions as to the Army, and he was found advocating a larger Army, and when the Convention had been negotiated he worked against it, and against Her Majesty's Government. Only the other day, about a week ago, we saw a telegram stating that France had sent out to Constantinople a series of despatches containing instructions or directions which were to be submitted to Mukhtar for his guidance. It looks as if we had in Mukhtar in Egypt a very unfortunate and, perhaps, troublesome focus of intrigue. I think his position there was very unfortunate for ourselves—one which made it more difficult for the Government to carry out the reforms they desired to see, and which thwarted the Government in attempting to negotiate the Convention. It is easy to get the Turk into Egypt, but not easy to get him out again. Why did Her Majesty's Government allow an Envoy of the Sultan there whom it may now be found impossible to withdraw? The second fault which I have to find is that Her Majesty's Government began by negotiating with the Turks. It is quite clear the real difficulty in this matter does not lie at Constantinople, but lies at Paris. It really would have been better if, as was suggested by M. Waddington as far back as the Autumn of 1886, at which time these two Blue Books begin, there had been an arrangement made 1313 with France. France, as appears by the despatches, was then willing to consent to an English re-entry in case of need. It appears from a despatch of Lord Iddesleigh as if such an arrangement were possible, but Her Majesty's Government refused. I think it is perfectly clear that France was then holding a view in regard to the possible re-entry of England entirely different to that subsequently held by Comte Montebello after we had entered upon separate negotiations with the Porte. It would have been better, because, as the result proved when France chose to interfere she was able to prevent the ratification of the Convention. As soon as France appeared on the scene, and began to work on the mind of the Sultan and his advisers the special mission went down like a nine-pin—there was no longer any question of ratification. I put it to the Committee whether, even supposing it was known France would refuse to consent to our re-entry, it would not have been better to have ascertained her views beforehand, and to have saved the disappointment and humiliation of these long and fruitless negotiations throughout which Her Majesty's Government seem to have shown very little knowledge of the method of Turkish diplomacy. If we had come into contact with the Turks for the first time Lord Salisbury and his Envoy could not have shown more simplicity and less knowledge of the way in which Oriental diplomacy is conducted than they appear to have shown in these negotiations. The third complaint we have to make against the conduct of the Government is that the Convention contains a proposal for the joint occupation of Egypt by England and Turkey. I shall very likely be told that would not have happened, for the Turks would not really have occupied Egypt, but that when the time came for sending their troops along with ours their troops would not have been ready. It is, no doubt, possible that might have happened, but we cannot tell. Such an arrangement might have been the means of enabling the Turks to re-occupy Egypt, and the re-occupation of Egypt by the Turks would have been to sacrifice everything that has been gained. It would have been a thing most alien to the feelings of the Egyptian people, and would most likely have tended to 1314 undo whatever reform has been accomplished. The idea of the Turkish Government in Egypt affecting any reforms as like the idea of harmonizing fire and water. Now here, Sir, I think we may leave Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission with the recollection, however, of the bill we shall have to pay for it. Now, I want to say a word or two about the condition of Egypt itself. I believe that, in spite of what has been said tonight by several hon. Members on both sides of the House, there has been an improvement in the condition of Egypt. It may not have been nearly so great an improvement as the authors could have wished or might have expected; but I believe that on several points the condition of the people is substantially better than it was, and that the sentiment of the people towards us is not, on the whole, a sentiment of hostility. Lord Salisbury, speaking at Norwich—I do not think he would have ventured to use the same words in the House of Lords, where he could have been contradicted—claimed that all the improvements in the state of Egypt were due to the Mission or to the presence of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff. Can any claim be more baseless than that? Hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well that whatever improvements there are in the state of Egypt are due to the policy which was begun in 1884, and which has been carried on persistently by every Government since then. I do not take any more credit in the matter to the Liberal Government than to the Conservative Government; but it was the Liberal Government of 1884 which began these reforms, and whatever amelioration there has been in the state of Egypt is as much due to the efforts of the Government of 1884 as to anything that has been subsequently done. But, Sir, I cannot see that the benefits claimed from the negotiations of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff have been any greater as regards our position towards Europe than they have been in regard to our position towards Egypt. Lord Salisbury claims that they have shown our good faith with Europe, and, in some mysterious manner, set us free. Lord Salisbury said—If the Convention falls through, either by non-ratification or refusal of the other Powers to adhere to it, our evacuation will certainly be much postponed, and the date of that cannot now be foreseen.1315 He was claiming that the non-ratification of the Convention with the Porte would have the effect of putting us in a different position as regards Europe, and he made the same claim as regards the Turks. He said that the non-ratification by the Turks would have the effect of releasing us from our engagements with the Turks. Surely there is a complete mistake in the statement of the case. It is true the offers made to the Turks would fall through if the Convention were not ratified; but all pre-existing engagements, all preexisting assurances as to our intention to evacuate, and our determination to take no gain for ourselves out of our position in Egypt, would remain entirely unaffected by the failure of the Convention. If I have got a contract with you, I may offer a fresh contract, and you may consider it, but, if you ultimately refuse it, it does not release me from the obligations of the pre-existing contract. Our position, in spite of Lord Salisbury's claim, is exactly the same towards the Turks as it was before this Convention began. The only difference is, as far as I can see, that the Convention contained an expression of our wish to evacuate Egypt.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that I stated to the House, on the occasion of the last debate, that what Lord Salisbury referred to in saying our engagements were at an end was simply the engagements under the Convention which were conditional.
§ MR. BRYCE
That is not what Lord Salisbury said. His words meant a great deal more than that. The noble Lord said—The position of this country will be entirely changed. Her Majesty's Government will be released from their engagements with the Porte in regard to Egypt, and will remain free to take their own course.Now, these are very large words, and they are not sufficiently explained by saying they refer merely to the negotiations in respect to the Convention, because it is obvious they do not. Lord Salisbury's words must be taken to have a wider meaning, and to apply to the whole position of this country in regard to Egypt. Now, Sir, it is also claimed 1316 that we have given a proof of our good faith to the Nations of the world. I do admit that Her Majesty's Government gave that proof by their fixing a date for evacuation, which has always been refused previously, and I believe they made that proposition in perfect good faith; but, unfortunately, we are not taken at our word. It is not believed even in Constantinople, or in Paris, or, I am afraid, in Egypt, or perhaps in the other countries of Europe, that we are sincere in what we say about evacuation. I believe we are in accord in the desire to leave Egypt; but I do not think other Governments give us much credit for that desire. I believe that they think that when we get up and talk about evacuation we are acting a solemn comedy, and that we do not intend to evacuate, but that we only say we do in order that our statements may be read in foreign countries. We know that is untrue. We know that we all desire to evacuate Egypt, and I am sorry that the negotiations in connection with this matter do not seem to have altered the opinion of Europe in that respect. Now I come to the question of the future; and I have one or two queries to put to Her Majesty's Government. Are we going to leave Egypt; and, if so, what steps are we taking in order to bring about the evacuation of the country? We have heard a great many different opinions to-day as to the reasons for our staying in Egypt. I think that in this way we have had one of the most illustrative debates out of the many that have taken place about Egypt, because several Conservative Members have, from their point of view, put different objects before us. They have asked what is our reason for staying in Egypt? Each of them has given the reason they individually assign. The alternative was put very well by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury) when he said we might stay either for Empire or philanthropy, and he concluded to his own satisfaction, and I think to that of most of us on this side of the House, that neither Empire nor philanthropy in this case was sufficient to require us to remain in Egypt. Then the hon. Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle) gave us his reason, which was that there will probably be a break up of the Turkish Empire, and then we could lay hold of Egypt—that 1317 when the Turkish Empire is broken up into pieces we may pick up some of the pieces. Then we had a most impressive speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Evesham Division of Leicestershire (Sir Richard Temple). He said that we are staying in Egypt neither for philanthropy nor for Empire, but solely for duty, though he subsequently explained duty to mean practically what we call philanthropy. Then we had the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick). He said we stayed in Egypt for the sake of British interests. That hon. Member has put it perhaps in a sharper and neater way than anyone who has gone before, because, although he spoke of sympathy for the fellaheen, the ground which he took for our remaining in Egypt was that our interests required us to keep our grasp upon the centre of trade, and, as I think, he also desired to convey the centre of military strength. I believe we are in Egypt for none of these reasons, but simply because having made certain improvident engagements, engagements which we should not make again if the matter were to be done over again, we have never yet been able to see our way to get out of the country. The engagements were made by both parties in this House. [Cries of" No, no!"] But, as hon. Members challenge me, I shall have to say what I did not intend to say, and that is that they are chiefly due to the conduct of Lord Salisbury's Government in 1878 and 1879. I should not have raised this matter, however, had it not been for the challenge of hon. Members. It was the conduct of Lord Salisbury in 1879 that more than anything else was the approximate cause of our presence in Egypt in 1882. Just let us ask ourselves what we have to gain? I do not believe we have anything to gain in Egypt as regards trade, because the Suez Canal is one of the great interests of the world which may be left to take care of itself. It is to the interest of the whole of Europe to keep this canal open, therefore, so far as the trade question goes, with all respect to the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I believe that British trade interests would be just as well cared for if there was not a British soldier on the Nile. I believe that the trade through the Canal would be as profitable to the country if 1318 we had nothing to do with Egypt whatever. As regards the military question, I do not presume to enter upon it, nor do I consider this House competent to judge of it. But we have had the opinion very strongly stated of a Member of the present Government, a naval officer of experience and ability, and he has told us that the Canalis no use to us at all. As far as I am able to form an opinion I should have thought that the Canal in case of war would be likely to be more dangerous than beneficial. Now, there are certain positive injuries which our position inflicts upon us. It embarrasses and embitters our relations with Foreign Powers, it creates or intensifies irritation in France, it makes it more difficult, as the Government have found, to their cost, to deal with France on all the other questions in every part of the world which turn up. We are told that Russia and Germany acquiesce in our being in Egypt. It does not necessarily follow that their acquiescence is due to any goodwill. It is better in these matters to be perfectly candid, and if there are Powers in Europe like Russia and Germany which desire to see us continue in Egypt, I believe it to be very largely because they can see our hands are full as long as we are in Egypt, and because they are powers which look with some satisfaction on the existence of a permanent cause of discontent and irritation between ourselves and the French Republic. There is very little disinterested goodwill and philanthropy in Europe at this moment, and I am sorry to say, if it be true that there are Powers in Europe which are glad to see us in Egypt, I do not think it is out of goodwill, but because they are glad to see us embarrassed, and because they wish to see diplomatic irritation fostered between us and other Powers. Now, what do these considerations bring us to? I agree that if we are to consider the interests of the Egyptian people, if we are to consider what would be called our philanthropical mission, it may be well that we should remain in Egypt some time longer, but I do not admit that that kind of philanthropy constitutes any duty. We have duties in other parts of the world, and we cannot attend to them all equally. There are some duties closer to us than the duty to the Egyptian people, and I believe we shall not discharge those other duties which our 1319 Empire and Colonies impose upon us if we combine with them the duty of directing the interests of Egypt any longer. We are told we must stay in the country until we set up a good Government. I agree that a settled Government is a plant of slow growth; you cannot mature it in an Eastern country in a few years. If we had to stay in Egypt until a stable Government were established, it would certainly be a work of one or two generations. I believe we have a much shorter and simpler matter to consider than the forming of habits of self-government in the people of Egypt, and that is the question of leaving Egypt as soon as she can stand alone. It is not a question of creating self-government; it is not a question of completing our reforms; but it is merely a question of leaving Egypt in that state that when we leave the Throne of the Khedive will not immediately topple over. I hope and believe that that is not a very distant prospect; on the contrary, that with proper methods it is a very near prospect. I do not ask the Government to name the day or the month when they will quit Egypt, because I do not see that the naming of the day or the month would in reality bring us any nearer the goal. All I ask them to tell us is whether they assent to the very obvious measures which must be taken in view of evacuation, such measures as the reduction of financial charges and the creation of an adequate Egyptian Army. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) spoke as if the question of the Egyptian Army was one of cost, and as if it were necessary for the Egyptian Army to be composed of 11,000 or 12,000 men. I do not believe that. I believe that an Egyptian Army smaller than 12,000 men may be sufficient—that is, an army of the proper quality. What is wanted is that it shall be a reliable army, and the best authorities assure us that it will be made more reliable by having an increase of black troops. High Military Authorities consider that the Egyptian Army might be greatly strengthened and improved in quality and discipline by drawing men from Nubia. Then, Sir, there is also the question of the reduction of the English Army. Our Government began the policy of reducing the English Army in Egypt, and I am glad to see that the present Government have followed it up 1320 and that the Army has been, and I hope and trust will continue to be, proportionately reduced. I believe we may reduce it till it consists of but one regiment. The Government admit that there is no longer any necessity to re-occupy Dongola. There was some talk about the re-occupation of Berber; but even Dongola is now out of the question. I believe that if we persevere we shall be able to reduce very largely the charge for the English Army of Occupation, while, at the same time, the Egyptian Army can be brought up to such a state that it may be fairly trusted to stand by itself when our troops are ultimately withdrawn. I think, also, that much good will he done by promoting and opening up trade. If there remain any danger from the Soudan at all, it would be best met by fostering or encouraging the trade which flows into it. If these measures are taken, and if, at the same time, negotiations are carried on with France for the purpose of endeavouring to amend the Capitulations, and for the purpose of reforming the civil establishments, for the neutralization of the Canal, and, if possible, to make an arrangement of a self-denying nature between the two countries for safeguarding the future of Egypt, I believe the day of evacuation may be very early indeed. But even supposing these things cannot come to pass; even supposing that the question of the Capitulations cannot be arranged as we desire, I believe our interests call upon us to quit Egypt very shortly. I believe that within two or three years at the outside we may succeed in withdrawing the last of our troops I find it hard to express sufficiently strongly the sense which I entertain, the sense which I believe is universally entertained in this House, the sense which I think to-day's debate shows is very largely entertained on the other side of the House also, that the sooner we quit Egypt the better it will be. Even of those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have advocated the longer occupation of the country, I think there is scarcely one, except perhaps the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle), who does not say we ought not to occupy it unless we are able to do certain things which we know we cannot do. It is, I believe, the strong wish of this country that our occupation should cease. It has 1321 been admitted in principle by Her Majesty's Government's statements, and though they have said some unfortunate things in the course of the negotiations which have taken place, which might seem to point another way, I hope and trust that their deliberate and settled purpose is to reduce our army, and so to consolidate and improve the English Army that in the course of two or three years at the outside our responsibility will be at an end.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
I think it would be hardly respectful to the Committee if I delayed longer replying to the various speeches which have been made and to some of the remarks which have fallen from hon. Members of an extremely weighty character. At the same time, Sir, I must apologize to the House if I have to go over the ground which it has already been my duty to travel over on more than one or two occasions during the present year. It has been said by some speakers that this debate has become inevitable, in consequence of the limited opportunities which have been afforded for discussing this question; but I venture to think that if the debates which have taken place with regard to it were added together they would make one of very considerable length. Undoubtedly, the Committee has to consider new interpretations which are now put upon its position on former occasions in which Egypt has been referred to in the present Session; but I think I ought not to complain that the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) and other hon. Members have thought it necessary before the end of the Session to claim the attention of the House once more for this important subject. Of course, while some facts have been spoken about that are new, I must say for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), who opened this debate, that his speech was something like the metrical version of the Psalms which he and other Scotchmen are familiar with—"Another version of the same." In season and out of season, my hon. Friend, ever since I have had the honour of a seat in this House, and I believe for many years before, has harped upon the same string. Still, out of respect to him, I must refer to a few things that he said. He has 1322 expressed a doubt as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government being in accord with their declarations. Well, J. venture to assert that neither in my own humble person, who have spoken several times upon the subject, nor on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of the Prime Minister himself, has there been the slightest divergence of declaration about the policy of the Government in Egypt. The hon. Member asks us whether we are taking any steps to withdraw? We are taking the only steps which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, would justify us in withdrawing—that is to say, we are introducing harmony and order into the administration of Egypt. We are lightening the burdens of the people as much as possible; and we are designing reforms, which we have placed in all their fulness before Parliament on the Reports of our Agents, and which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, are absolutely necessary to render the country really self-supporting and to relieve it of those burdens which have been unjustly laid upon it. These things have been declared again and again, and I cannot admit any—I defy anyone to prove that there has been any—inconsistency in the declarations of Her Majesty's Ministers upon these matters.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I did not say there was any inconsistency of the Government; but that there was inconsistency between their declarations and their practices.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I hope that our practices have accorded with our declarations. At any rate, it will be my duty to show that they have. My hon. Friend has referred to the duty of gradually substituting Native for European administration, so that while we must inevitably direct and guide the Administration of Egypt while we remain there, we shall not omit to provide a substitute for that Administration by building up a reliable Native Administration. Other hon. Members have followed up that observation, and have insisted that, so far as our influence in Egypt goes, it should be directed towards, as far as possible, introducing a Native Administration in place of the European Administration. That is exactly what has been the desire of Her Majesty's Government to effect, and what, I am glad to say, is being 1323 carried out; and I wish to give proof to the Committee of that assertion. Within the last few months the Office of Postmaster General—a very important official in Egypt—became vacant, and in filling it up a Native was appointed in place of a European.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Well, when we come to speak of Natives in Egypt, of course, we mean the various Oriental races which are to be found there. I question very much whether we should find many competent administrators in that country unless they were Turks or Armenians.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Still later the post of Harbour Master of Alexandria became vacant. Many authorities would have preferred that a European should have been appointed to that post; but here, again, we felt that our intention having been declared to substitute Native administrators for European administrators as soon as it was possible, a Native was appointed. I can assure the Committee that those appointments were made in discharge of the injunction of Her Majesty's Government, and in fulfilment of their promise to appoint Native administrators wherever it can be done consistently with the efficiency of the administration. That must be our aim, or we shall render ourselves worthy of the worst imputations which have been cast upon us to the effect that our declarations were all a mere sham. Something has been said by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, and other Members, about our neglecting to assemble a Native Parliament—and when I say our assembling a Native Parliament, I mean the Government of Egypt doing so, because it is not we who make these appointments, but that Government—and I think the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) talked about the Egyptian Government having set aside the Native Parliament altogether. Now, Sir, there never has been a Native Parliament in Egypt; I do not think there has ever been one anywhere in an Oriental country. I can say, for my own part, that had a Native Parliament, as we understand it, been set up in Egypt under Lord Dufferin's scheme of 1882 and 1883, it would have been utterly premature, and a great 1324 mistake. But, as I explained to the House on a former debate this year, there has been assembled a small House, I think it is called, of Notables, in which the districts are represented; and I told the House then that their deliberations had been very beneficial, and that they had shown an aptitude for administration, and that the Natives felt that their interests were represented in that Assembly. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy also returned to the charge about the surplus, which he said was imaginary. Upon this point I can only repeat what I stated to the Committee the other day. I said that there had been no portion of the loans used to balance the Revenue and Expenditure in Egypt except to pay for the war expenses, and for that purpose it was expressly designed by the Convention of March, 1885, that a portion of the £9,000,000 loan should be so treated. I said that the surplus of the year 1885–6, which enabled the Egyptian Government to pay 5 per cent deducted from the interest on the Unified Bonds, was earned by increased revenue, and not procured out of the loans.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I will come to that directly—I have not omitted to notice the reference of the hon. Member for East Mayo to that point. Perhaps before I come to that the hon. Member had better allow me to refer to the allegation of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy that the excessive land assessment in Upper Egypt was continued, and no relief was obtained from the abolition of the corvée or reduction of taxation. That is a mistake. There has been a certain reduction of taxation out of that £450,000; I think it amounts to £70,000 a-year. I told the House repeatedly that there has been no large reduction of taxation pure and simple, because it was thought by the Egyptian Ministers that relief would best be given to the cultivators by the abolition or the large reduction of the corvée or forced labour for clearing canals. In all Egypt, speaking from memory—for I really cannot possibly, in the compass of time at my disposal, quote passages, although I am certain of the facts—in all Egypt about 56 per cent of the whole of the corvée labour has been 1325 got rid of; but in Upper Egypt the reduction has only been 23 per cent. But it must be remembered that in Upper Egypt the corvée labour is not so oppressive, because it is applied in the neighbourhood of the cultivators' own fields, so that they get the benefit of their labour, instead of being taken far from their fields, as used to be the case, and being compelled to give half the labour of the year to the clearing of the canals for the benefit of other people—their own land lying idle the while. Now, as to the £450,000 derived from the Land Tax, it was intended that £200,000 of it should be available for failures of payment. A considerable portion of that sum accordingly has been so applied—I think about £120,000—a certain sum in reduction of excessive assessments—and the remaining £250,000 was applied last year, and will be applied this year, in substituting a hired labour by contract for the corvée; and I am glad to say that an additional sum of £15,000 was provided last year out of the ordinary Revenue in addition to the £250,000. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy referred to the new impost we have laid on the people—the smart money paid by people drawn for the Conscription who wished to escape military service. Well, in the first place, this as an exceptional tax for military service has always been the law and practice in Egypt, and if those who are drawn for the Conscription are allowed to evade service by payment, I do not think that the amount raised in that way can be called an addition to the burdens of the people. Let me say that those burdens will diminish considerably in amount on the reduction of the Egyptian Army. As the Egyptian Army has been reduced to 9,300 men—being a much smaller amount than it has ever stood at within our memory—undoubtedly the Conscription and payment for substitutes will be very much lighter. I will now for a moment remind the Committee that while this tax, which appears novel in the Revenue of Egypt, has been imposed for a particular purpose, that purpose being the relief of the people of Egypt, there has been some substantial progress made in extending taxation to foreigners, who have hitherto been exempted from it—a matter which I have already pointed to this year as being one of the greatest 1326 blots in the administration of Egypt. It has not been the fault of Her Majesty's Government or their Agents in Egypt that those taxes were not laid upon foreigners two years ago. There has been considerable difficulty in the matter; but still I am glad to say that the House Tax will be paid, and the arrears will be paid from 1886. There is also proposed a Stamp Tax and a Professional Tax, to which all foreign residents will contribute. Those taxes, when they come into full vigour, will undoubtedly give a considerable addition to the Revenues of Egypt, and will in time, I hope, enable the taxes levied on the Native population to be still further reduced. The hon. Member says that the White Book—rather than the Blue Book—laid before the House is very small. Well, the last one is not very voluminous; but the volumes describing the progress of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission are very extensive. I have always thought that the way to enjoy anything is not to have quite enough of it, and certainly not to have too much. I think the hon. Member was in error in pointing to the last Blue Book amongst the Papers as comprising the fruits of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's mission. Let me remind him of Book No. 5, which is entirely devoted to Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Reports on the state of Egypt, and the measures which in his judgment were necessary for the improvement of that country, and which appeared in evidence in the debate last February. That, I think, is likely to prove to the Committee that Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission has been of real value to Egypt and to this country. I think his despatches have not been without flattering acknowledgment from hon. Members in the course of the last few days. I have already informed hon. Gentlemen and the Committee of the force of the Egyptian Army—that it consists of 9,300 soldiers of all ranks; and I am glad to say that only last week I had the pleasure of conversing with a distinguished officer of the Egyptian troops, who was lately in command of the advanced posts at Wady-Halfa, and who commanded in a successful action fought with the Dervishes last spring, the Egyptian Force being unassisted by British troops. This officer spoke with perfect confidence of the Egyptian Force as being able to 1327 defend the frontier. It was a mixed force of Egyptian troops and Black troops. For reasons which I will not enter into at this moment it is not desirable that the proportion of Black troops should be so large, but side by side with other troops they form a valuable force. What qualities the one description of troops lack, the other supplies. This officer told me that, in his opinion, it would not be necessary, so far as he could foresee, to send a single other British soldier up the Nile. That is something we ought to consider satisfactory, and to have accomplished in two short years. The hon. Gentleman asked why has the Egyptian Army been reduced, and we have to make arrangements based upon that reduction; whilst the hon. Member for Aberdeen says he believes that the army could be reduced to a single regiment.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
The British Army was reduced because, in the opinion of the highest military authorities, it was safe to reduce it. It has not been reduced hurriedly, but step by step. When Her Majesty's Government came into Office in July, 1886, the British Force in Egypt consisted of 13,000 men; in May it consisted of that number; in August it was reduced to 11,100 men; and it has been successfully reduced since that time, as prudence has dictated, until it now stands at 4,500men. That is a good deal, I say again, to have accomplished in that space of time. Besides this, the Egyptian Army, as the Committee knows, has been reduced to its present figure. We know what mistakes have been made in times past. I do not wish to re-open old sores by imputing blame to those who previously had the management of those affairs; but the Committee will remember what mistakes was made by reductions effected too precipitately; therefore it is now considered most important not to insist upon making reductions higher than the authorities in Egypt consider safe. I do not think that the Committee, with the figures which I have quoted before them, will think that the reduction has been too slow; the reductions will not stop there, if Egypt continues as it is going on now, and no more signs of external or internal danger and difficulties present themselves. I am hope- 1328 ful that the Army of Occupation may be still further reduced next year, though I scarcely think that they will be effected to the extent suggested by the hon. Member (Mr. Bryce)—namely, so as to leave only one British regiment in Egypt. The total expenditure in Egypt for military purposes is £367,000, and how large a reduction this is upon the amount as it originally stood, the Committee will see when I state that in July, 1886, the expenditure on European troops was £467,000. The extra cost is now £170,000; and let me point out that the presence of those troops in Egypt does not involve a burden upon the British taxpayer in addition to his ordinary military expenditure, for those 4,500 troops, if they were not quartered in Egypt, would have to be quartered in the United Kingdom, and the extra expense caused by their being in Egypt is paid for by the Egyptian Treasury.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
The right hon. Gentleman says that the total expenditure for military purposes is £367,000. Does he mean that that is the cost of the Native Army, or whether that includes the cost of the European troops?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I think I am correct in stating that that is the total military expenditure in Egypt; that that sum includes the cost of the military occupation.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I would like to ask the hon. Baronet how it is possible for the British and Egyptian troops to be maintained at an average cost of £34 per man?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Of course, I do not include in this pensions, which amount to a formidable item, and have been greatly swelled by the great losses in the Soudan. Well, Sir, an hon. Member asks why we did not come to some arrangement with France, and it seems to me rather unprofitable now to ask such a question. It is now an old story. The footing upon which we went into Egypt in 1885, was that a Convention had been entered into between Her Majesty's Government and the Porte in October, 1885 whereby there should be an inquiry into the condition of Egypt, and the cost of the administration, and whereby an ulterior Convention was to be formed. That has been the ground of our action or two years past; and is it not late in 1329 the day to ask why France was not consulted, and an agreement come to first, before we contracted that ulterior Convention? The policy pursued has been a continuous policy founded on the Convention of March, 1885, in London, and followed up by the Convention of Constantinople of October in the same year. But it is quite plain, from the extracts which have been read to the House to-day, that the French Ambassador in London was in formed that if a period were to be named for the evacuation of Egypt by the British troops and officers, there must be a right of re-entry, otherwise we should run the risk of incurring the same difficulties and dangers again from which we have now hardly emerged. It was also plain that the French Government accepted that in principle, and that it was only at a much later period that the opposition of the French Ambassador at Constantinople began. Well, Sir, something has been said about the readiness——
§ MR. DILLON
Will the right hon. Gentleman refer to the despatch in which it is pointed out that the French Government accepted the principle of our right of re-occupation, and in which it is shown that it was only later that the opposition of the French Government began?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I apologize to the Committee for necessarily detaining it, but at the same time there must be a limit to the reading of extracts. If the hon. Member will refer to "Egypt, No. 8." page 5, he will find there, in a despatch from Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to the Marquess of Salisbury, from Serapia, received on June 8, 1887, these words—… Count Montebello proceeded to inform me of the points to which his Government objected. He said he had told the Grand Vizier that his Government did not object to the right of re-occupation, but to the manner in which the right was accorded. It gave England rights equal to those of Turkey, and this in perpetuity. In fact, by the Convention, England and Turkey were to be joint Sovereigns of Egypt.Then if the hon. Gentleman will turn to "Egypt No. 7," page 3, he will find in a despatch from Lord Lyons to the Earl of Iddesleigh of 19th of November, 1886, that there was a difference of opinion between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of France. Lord Salisbury suggested that 1330 if disorders occurred it might be necessary to provide for a temporary return of the British troops.M. De Freycinet held that such a necessity would be most unfortunate, but he would not absolutely object to its being contemplated. It was a question which he would be ready to consider in conjunction with the other Powers of Europe.It had, moreover, been suggested that it would be desirable that certain reforms should be effected as a preparation for the departure of the British troops. M. De Freycinet was of opinion that these reforms should follow, and not precede, the evacuation. At first Her Majesty's Government could not agree in that view; they held that to leave the country in the hope that reforms would follow, with all the difficulties of securing the adhesion and concurrence of other Powers, whose views regarding the Debt and the Capitulations were often very different to ours, would be to postpone, perhaps indefinitely, the enactment of the reforms in Egypt which were considered essential to its improvement and good government, and to restore all the dangers from which we had escaped. There are many other extracts I might read, but I think I can employ the time of the Committee more profitably than by going into them. However, if the hon. Member were to look at page 25 of the same volume, he would see a very important passage in one of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's despatches relating to a conversation which he had with the French Chargé d'Affaires at Constantinople, in discussing the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, which, as I told the House last March, were not secret. In this passage these words occur—M. Imbert said that the one thing by which France would really be satisfied would be by naming the date of evacuation. By this means the tension would disappear at once, and Franco could then cordially co-operate with us in the arrangements necessary for the future government of Egypt. In the proposal I had made, this date was not fixed, and a condition was inserted for re-occupation in case of disorder. This was in no respect leaving the country. His idea was that we should name the date of evacuation, that in the interval an arrangement should be made for the preservation of peace, and that within a limited period after our departure we should have the right of re-entry for the purpose of restoring order if disturbedWell, Sir, the result was that there is a difference of opinion as to the dura- 1331 tion of the right of re-entry; and here, again, we come to the old story which the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) has re-opened in calling upon the House to say how long we are to remain in Egypt. He said he would not ask us to give days and hours—
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
But he said we should fix a limit, and having done so we should stick to it. Well, prophecy in the past I believe to have bean very unfortunate in this Egyptian Question, and I, for one, have uniformly claimed that we should be relieved from the necessity of making pledges which, having once been made, have almost always led to disappointment. Let me tell the House that when I was in India an officer, who had returned to Bombay, told me that he was at Suakin when an announcement was made from this Table that Egypt would be evacuated in six months. He said that within his knowledge the result of that announcement was that the Cadi of the town had gone over to the enemy, declaring that he had a wife and family to look after, and that if we were going to leave in six months he could not leave them to have their throats cut. The evacuation will not be accelerated by pledges of that kind. On the contrary, by pledging ourselves to do our best to carry out reforms so far as our influence extends, we shall be far more likely to accelerate the time of our departure than by entering into any fresh prophecy on that subject. I must say that the speech of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) was one which gave me great pleasure to hear, because it was a speech that was judicial in its character, and, on the whole, free from Party recrimination in its tone. The hon. Member is one of those persons who are willing, in this business, to attach no more blame to one Party than to another, and he merely wished to know what was to be done in the future. He asked one or two questions which I think are entitled to a reply. He said that the creditors of Egypt were entitled to very little consideration. Sir, may I say once for all, and impress it on the Committee, that for us to disregard the rights of the creditors of Egypt would in no degree enable the Egyptians to escape from their obligations to these creditors? Other 1332 nations are not willing that the creditors should be disregarded. We heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when we debated this point not long ago, say that he looked to the reduction of the burden of the Debt of Egypt as an object for which we should strive. In 1885 there was a happy omen—or, rather, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) pointed to it as such—that we were able to contract a loan for the rescue of Egypt from its financial difficulties by a Joint Guarantee of the six Great Powers of Europe. I think it would be a still happier omen if by some such means Egypt could be still further relieved. The burden is not much according to the nominal amount of capital and rate of interest; but I accept all that has been said by hon. Members as to the terrible burden it must be upon a country where nearly half its total income is taken away to pay foreign bondholders. It is not universally true to say that the payment of interest upon capital which has been imported into a country is a drain upon the resources of that country. It may be that a poor country borrowing in the cheapest market has got its money's worth in the expenditure of the capital on remunerative public works, and it would be an abuse of terms to say that it is an insufferable burden upon Egypt that she has to pay a certain number of millions sterling on capital which has been laid out in the country. But I am sorry to say that a great deal of the capital invested in Egypt has been absolutely wasted—as much as if it had been actually thrown into the sea. A certain amount has, no doubt, been spent upon works which are remunerative, and which are improving the country; but, no doubt, a considerable portion of the capital has gone in waste and plunder, and constitutes a substantial loss; and it is a grievous thing indeed that £5,000,000 sterling out of £9,500,000 which are raised by taxation in Egypt should be devoted to the payment of interest. What I said the other day I assert now, that the best way to alleviate the burdens of the people of Egypt is by rendering them more capable of discharging their liabilities. I did not say much the other night about what has been done in the way of irrigation, and the cultivation of Egypt depends upon irrigation just as does the cultivation of Upper Scinde. 1333 When the irrigation works get into disrepair, and the vicissitudes of the seasons are experienced, the results are extremely unfortunate. But by the scheme which was referred to by hon. Members not long ago for the creation of a large reservoir in Upper Egypt, it is calculated that the cultivable area of the country will he increased by not less than 90 per cent. If that can be done, as engineers say it can be done without a very formidable expenditure, an immense water reserve will be created which will supplement the volume of the Nile in seasons when the river does not rise to its normal height. The hon. Member for Leith, and also the hon. Member for Aberdeen, both stated that the departure of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff has been unduly delayed. Well, Sir, it was delayed three weeks from the date when the Convention ought to have been ratified. It was delayed three weeks, and the reasons which were given some time ago were, of course, a figure of speech. When we say we are not at home, we do not always mean literally that we are not at home—it was an Oriental way of saying that the Sultan was not at home, and Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, as I think, adopted a wise and dignified course in remaining sufficiently long in Constantinople to enable the Sultan to ratify the Convention if he felt so disposed. The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick) said something which I ought not to miss giving a reply to. He said that, owing to the pressure put upon the cultivators, land had been expropriated for non-payment of taxes within the last few years. I can assure my hon. Friend that he has been entirely misinformed. I said shortly in the House the other night, referring to some figures, which I am glad to have with me now, that I had inquired as to how much land had been expropriated within the last three years for the nonpayment of taxes. I find that in 1884, 62 taxpayers, with 855 acres of land, with a rental of £2,200, had their property expropriated; that in 1885, 122 taxpayers, owning 1,189 acres of the value of £4,359 were affected in this way; and in 1886, 369 taxpayers, holding 2,816 acres, of the value of £8,904, had their property expropriated. That is all the land which had been expropriated, so that my hon. Friend has been totally misinformed on that point.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I cannot say what quantity of land was sold by the usurers, but I can say that the influence of the usurers has become infinitely less than it was before British influence was exercised in Egypt. The trade of the usurers is almost gone in consequence of the revenue being more honestly collected and more easily paid over. The wretched cultivators have not now to go to the local usurers for money, paying anything for it that he chooses to demand. No doubt the usurers know that they cannot get the assistance of the tax collectors in getting in their usurious interest.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much land has been sold by foreign creditors under judgments issued by foreign tribunals?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
That is another point altogether. I cannot say what land has been sold under the ordinary process of law in Egypt. I can only say what has been sold in connection with the land revenue which was the point in question.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
In reply to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), and in reply to those who say that we are doing no good in Egypt, I wish to observe that no one can allege—and I do not think it would be right in us to say—that our stay in Egypt will be prolonged unless British interests are involved in our being in that country. Hon. Members have questioned—particularly, I think, the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce)—the military and naval advantages which accrue to us from the route through Egypt. Well, Sir, I would recall the recollection of the hon. Member to the circumstances under which we were called upon to quell the Indian Mutiny. I would ask him to remember the advantage it was to us to be able to communicate with India through Egypt, and to be able to send our troops with great expedition on occasions when a month earlier or later meant everything. Why, the French attach the greatest importance them- 1335 selves to the Egyptian route for communication with their own Eastern possessions.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
We had the right of passage which was given us by the Khedive, who was a friendly Power. I contend it is of the greatest importance to us to secure and preserve that route to India; but it is the object and desire of Her Majesty's Government that the Suez Canal should be a free highway to all the world. The question of the neutralization of the Canal is a mere question of terms. Her Majesty's Government are quite agreed that it is extremely desirable that the Canal should be free to all the world, and I hope that it will not take much longer now for us to bring about an international agreement by which this will be secured, and by which all difficulties will be removed from the settlement one way or the other of this important question. Reference has been made to the jealousies and rivalries of other Powers. The reason why such jealousies unfortunately exist, is because we are a great Power, because our posessions are very wide, and it cannot be helped if other nations desire to share in the commercial prosperity which our world wide possessions have brought us. I cannot think, however, that the existence of commercial rivalry should be allowed to degenerate into international animosities and enmities—we should never grudge a share of our expansion to other countries. Competition in trade may exist without its producing ill feeling; but I must say that nothing would be gained, we would not even gain the respect of foreign nations, by hauling down our flag and turning tail in Egypt. I think there is not much difference of opinion on either side of the House as to the difficulty of fixing a date for the evacuation; but I am here to declare that Her Majesty's Government are as little anxious as any hon. Member to prolong our stay in Egypt. We shall be as glad as anyone to leave it as soon as we can do it with safety to ourselves and with security to the Egyptian people for those benefits which we have gained for them by our presence there, and I think the history of the past few years shows how great the rate of progress has been 1336 owing to the presence of our influence in that country. I hope the Committee will consider that enough has been said on this point. The policy of Her Majesty's Government has been avowed, and in a few days financial papers will be laid upon the Table which it has not been possible to produce earlier, but which will fully illustrate the assertions I have with confidence made. Is it now too much to ask the Committee, as in this Vote for Diplomatic and Consular Services there is no more money asked for for Sir Henry Drummond Wolff's Mission, that this Vote should be passed at once?
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I think we have now come to the parting of the ways on this Egyptian Question. I think this has been a very satisfactory debate in more than one way. I do not know whether we are clearing our minds of cant, but, at any rate, we are clearing our speeches of hypocritical phrases, and we are looking at this question from a free and open standpoint. There are two courses or policies to be adopted in Egypt, and we have heard both these policies supported by strong speeches on both sides of the House. We have one policy supported by the hon. Baronet who represents Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple). He is in favour of remaining in Egypt as long as we remain in India. He does not say we ought to remain permanently, but he says he does not believe in retiring within at least 20 years—and when you have been 20 years there you may expect to remain longer. The speech of the hon Gentleman is a strong defence of our occupation. The first reason he gave in favour of our remaining in Egypt was that our duty would compel us to remain there. He did not define what our duty is, and therefore I hope that hon. Gentlemen who take the same side as the hon. Gentleman to-night will define it. He told us that practically our duty and our interest are the same—that it was our duty to attend to British interests, and that our true vocation was to go all over the world governing people who could not govern themselves. The hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick) went still further, and told us that we must look at this matter from the standpoint of our interests, and must give up all pretence in the matter of 1337 philanthropy. The right hon. Gentleman opposite himself agreed, when taunted by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), that a great Parliamentary consideration for us was our own interests in Egypt; so that it comes to this—that we are there, and are remaining there, not for the benefit of the Egyptian people, but in our own interests. The hon. Member for Worcestershire protested against looking at this question from the standpoint of ancient history. Well, certainly, the history of this matter is very ancient—it is five years since we went to Egypt, and that is such along time back that the hon. Baronet tells us that we must not go into the reasons which induced us originally to go there. I dare say not. It will not look well if we bring up the fact that we went there to suppress an attempt made to replace a despotic Government by a Constitutional one. Though we live in freedom ourselves, we went there to crush national feeling. That is ancient history, and we are now called upon to wipe it out. The hon. Baronet told us of all the advantages we have conferred on Egypt. His speech put me very much in mind of one of the chapters in his book, which describes what Indian officials are in the habit of doing for each other. They meet for the purpose of expressing their strong belief in the system which they are carrying out, and the great benefits which it bestows upon everyone, and then they congratulate themselves upon that happy result.
§ DR. CLARK
I do not think it is. The great blessings and benefits we have conferred upon Egypt seem to me to be these—we have increased the body of foreign officials in that country from about one-twelfth to one-ninth of the total governing body of the country. The cost of the Government of Egypt is £4,500,000, and you pay about £500,000 to the foreign Pashas who are governing the country. What you have done is to replace the Turks and Circassians, who themselves were foreigners, by French and English Pashas, who are more expensive than the old Pashas formerly there. I look upon this question from two standpoints. You can either abandon Egypt, leaving it to its fate, or you can, on political or other grounds, re- 1338 main there permanently. I listened with great amusement to the constant applause given to the arguments of the hon. Member for Worcestershire in favour of remaining in that country. The Solicitor General applauded his speech, so that not only in unofficial, but also in official circles of the Government Party, Members are in favour of our remaining in the position in which we are now placed in Egypt. Well, if you carry out the policy of letting Egypt and Morocco develop themselves in their own way, you would be free from all this responsibility; but if the policy recommended by the hon. Baronet is carried out, the result will be that you will break your solemn engagements, you will do a dishonourable thing, and will leave a blot upon your escutcheon. ["No, no!"] Well, we pledged ourselves, when we went to Egypt, that we would derive no advantage from going there. We went there to put down Arabi Pasha, and we said we would leave without taking advantage of our presence in the country. But now it seems we are to take advantage of it. It is said the Sick Man will soon die, and that we must be on the spot to succeed him. Well, if that policy is to be carried out, what is to prevent Russia and other countries following our example? If we are to annex Egypt, what is to prevent Russia following our example in Asia and in Europe, and what is to prevent France following our example in Syria and Asia Minor? I may frankly say that a great deal could be said in favour of such a policy as that being carried out. If we adopted a policy of that kind, no doubt we should be able to do a great deal of that which the right hon. Baronet says we all desire to do. We should be able to benefit, to a large extent, the Egyptian people. If you declare a Protectorate over Egypt, the Capitulations would cease, and English law—Colonial law—would exist, and a great deal of the trouble our presence was causing would disappear, and in that way, no doubt, temporary benefit would result to Egypt. But, at the same time, I think it would be exceedingly harmful to follow that course. I think, so far as Egypt is concerned, if we have done any good, the good we have effected is very little compared with what Egypt would herself have done if we had not gone there and crushed her 1339 national leaders. I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), whom I first saw in prison some years ago, is going to do something for those national leaders. I think that Arabi Pasha, and the other national leaders of Egypt, are quite on a par with the Irish National Party. They are as much the representatives of their nation as Mr. Parnell, Mr. Dillon and others are representatives of the Irish. Seeing that we are going to crush the National League in Ireland, it is natural that these Irish Representatives should sympathize with the Egyptian national leaders. But, as the hon. Gentleman says, all this is ancient history—it is all ancient history that we went to Egypt to crush the national feelings of the Egyptians. The Egyptian people were refused the power they claimed—that is to say, the power of spending their own revenues. This country forbade it, and that is why we went to Egypt. The only thing satisfactory in the speech of the hon. Baronet was the statement that the Chamber had again met. The Chamber did a great deal of good at the beginning of Tewfik's reign, and if it is to be set to work again there is some hope for Egyptian affairs; but I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not given us any more definite statement. We have tied the limbs of the Egyptian people, and we tell them that we will allow them to walk whenever they are able to walk. But so long as you tie their limbs and prevent them from using them, how is it possible that they will ever be able to walk? So long as we remain in Egypt they will never be able to establish a satisfactory Government. As I say, there are only two courses open to us, either to leave Egypt or to enter into some definite understanding with the Powers of Europe on the question. Let those Powers absolve us from the Resolution which Lord Dufferin assented to, and let us arrange for a Protectorate over Egypt for 50 or 100 years to enable us to do something for the country. But this policy of drift, which we see disclosed in the despatches of Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, has no other result than that of increasing the discontent of the Egyptian people.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR (Kincardine)
There is one question which has risen up in the course of this debate on Egypt on which I think it my 1340 duty to make a few remarks. It is the question relating to the military force occupying Egypt. My hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) in his able and comprehensive speech, expressed a strong hope that the small force now in Egypt of 4,500 men from the English Army might soon be reduced to the strength of one battalion. I earnestly hope that no Government will be so insane as to lower the occupying force in Egypt below its present strength. I warmly advocate the withdrawal of the whole English force as early as possible; but I deprecate, in the strongest terms, the unwise attempt to hold that country by a battalion, exposing it and the honour of England to disgrace by the total insufficiency of the men to resist even a trifling insurrection. My hon. Friend the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple) has in his high-minded speech urged upon us that it is the duty of England to occupy Egypt, and he repeated that word "duty" so frequently during his speech that I am bound to say, from personal knowledge and from observation of his distinguished career, that the word "duty" in his mind means a devotion to the public interest of the highest nature, and that his recommendation to us to retain possession of Egypt is a sincere desire to promote the welfare of the Kingdom. I am, however, fully satisfied that if the duty devolved upon him of finding the ways and means of men and money to carry out his own advice, he would think twice before he continued to put that advice in force. This view I take in connection with the military forces of the Kingdom. I believe at this moment that we have undertaken duties which require the aid of these forces to an extent far beyond their strength can provide for. I may enumerate these military requirements by stating that Ireland is now held by 40,000 troops and constabulary, and, so long as discontent exists in that country, not a single battalion—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) lately said—can be withdrawn. In India we have now 70,000 English troops; and, having lately increased them by 10,000, we not only cannot reduce them, but may be expected to be called on to increase the numbers. Then for our 1341 Colonies and garrisons abroad—even in time of peace—we require at least nearly 20,000 men; and, on the slightest alarm of war, we must largely increase that number. Then, as regards Egypt, it is true that we have reduced the force there to 4,500 men; but I do not believe there is any statesman or soldier who would affirm that this strength can safely be maintained, except under the supposition that peace and thorough contentment prevails amongst the population of Egypt. So long as good government exists, taxation is light, and oppression done away with, it is possible to risk the safety of that small force; but should discontent spring up and insurrectionary movements take place, or foreign interference be threatened, then it would be necessary to raise the Army in Egypt to 20,000 men. My hon. Friend will therefore see that if he had the duty of providing for our garrisons he would have to consider the forces available at his command. I have shown that 140,000 Regular troops are, even in peace time, needed for the occupation of countries which England's duties have constrained us to hold. This strength, deducted from our entire Army, leaves but a small number of effective troops at home, in England and Scotland. If additional duties are imposed upon the troops, additional strength must be made to the Army; and as voluntary enlistment is now carried to its utmost, resort must be made to conscription, which no statesman would dare to attempt.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I desire to set myself right with the Committee as to the cost of the Egyptian Army. This year the cost is £E367,000, including the battalions at Suakin; in addition to which there is £171,000 for the European Army.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
I do not wish to put the Committee to the trouble of a Division. I am content with having raised this debate, which, I think, has been a very useful one. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has twitted me with having repeated my views upon this question. Well, I admit it. I pointed out years ago the dangers and difficulties which we should incur in this business. If the Government would take my advice they would enter into terms with the French Government, and bring about a settlement as soon as possible.
§ (Cries of "No, no!"]
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I do not wish to detain the Committee for more than a moment or two; but I should like to draw attention to the very large salaries we are paying our Repesentatives in the countries out side Europe. Without offence to them, I wish to say——
§ THE CHAIRMAN
Before the hon. Member can enter into that question, the Amendment before the Committee, which is a specific one, must be disposed of.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Before we proceed to a Division—and I hope hon. Members who are present will take part in it and will not leave the House until it occurs—I wish to say a word or two. I really cannot help expressing my strong disapprobation of the answer which has been received from the right hon. Baronet, who appears to be in charge of this Vote. We have heard from time to time protracted debates on the Egyptian Question. Well, are we going to leave Egypt, or are we not? Though the right hon. Baronet has had an opportunity of giving an expression of opinion on this matter, he has not given an answer which will satisfy either this country or other European nations. I feel sure that when the country hears what he has had to say as the responsible spokesman of a responsible Government, it will share the dissatisfaction which hon. Members on this side of the House feel. We have heard to-day many strong speeches about Egypt, and I cannot help noticing the fact that hon. Gentlemen who spoke upon this subject, and notably hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House, gave us personal reminiscences of their own and observations of their own in regard to that country. I thought, Sir, that their observations might be very usefully set to that well-known tune, "I know what it is to be there." In this House we hear too much of these minor points. In the observations which are wasted on these minor points the major ones are often apt to be obscured—they are frequently obscured by the tendency of hon. Members opposite to deal with matters of little or no importance. Now, to-day, I could not help being struck with the manner and the speech of the hon. Baro- 1343 net the Member for a Division of Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple). He sailed into the combat just like a second Lord Nelson, with his colours nailed to the mast, and he told us that in Egypt England must do her duty. He told us—or rather he asked the question—whether we were for philanthropy or for the interests of the country; and he told us the results of his observations both locally and generally, and he told us that we were there neither for the one purpose nor for the other, but merely to do our duty. He told us it did not matter how we got there, but that, finding ourselves there, we could not shrink from the responsibility which we had incurred. That is all very well; but what are we doing whilst we are there? From all sides we have heard that the condition of the Egyptian people is not being improved; and who is paying for all we are attempting to do? Why, the taxpayers of this country are paying for it. That is the reason we are discussing this Vote—that there is a certain amount of money to be paid in connection with our stay in Egypt. Well, that being so, I maintain that if the English people, who pay for the maintenance of our troops in Egypt, and who pay this Vote at the present time, express a desire for information, they should be told how long they will be called upon to bear this burden. I really think that, dealing with the matter in a more practical light, the right hon. Baronet who has charge of this Vote should have given us some approximate account of our period of occupation. Well, he has not done that. It is not only the people of this country who have to be dealt with, but it is also foreign nations. I am not going to open up this vexed question now; but we have heard from the hon. Member for Mid Leicester (Mr. De Lisle), an hon. Member who evidently has been spending his holidays in Egypt, a great deal about the international arrangement between the various Empires of Europe. Well, Sir, so far as I can gather from the hon. Member's observations, our stay in Egypt is not only unjustifiable, but, worse than that, it is practically doing serious harm—and it is not satisfying the people who have to pay for our stay there. I did hope to have an opportunity of making a few remarks upon this question at an earlier period of the day; but at this late hour, and as the 1344 House is anxious to proceed to a Division, I would ask the right hon. Baronet how long this last plague of Egypt—the English occupation—is to last? Sir, we hear that in the days of yore one of the worst plagues that infested the land of Egypt was darkness; but that in the land of Goschen there was light. Well, let us hope that, as the Government possess a right hon. Gentleman of that name, they will, in another session, at any rate, attempt to throw some light on the Egyptian Question, banishing the difficulties which have hitherto perplexed this House. There is a great deal of talk about philanthropy in connection with this matter. Indeed, we can hardly meet anybody who takes up the Egyptian Question who will not tell us of the philanthropy of the English people in prolonging their stay in and their hold upon this unfortunate country. But what does this philanthropy amount to? Why, it simply amounts to pounds, shillings and pence. But we have been told, not by one Member, but by at least a dozen Members to-day, that our stay in Egypt has no connection with English interests; that though this country still holds Egypt, it is not for our own purposes, it is not for the sake of our commerce, it is not for the sake of our capitalists, hut for the sake of the people of Egypt. Well, Sir, the people are not misled by these statements, for it is considered, and it will continue to be considered, as the hon. Member for Northampton has shown, that our stay in Egypt is connected with the fact that Egypt is considered the key of India.
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.