§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]—[See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
, in rising to move the following Amendment at the end of the 4th paragraph:—And humbly to represent to Her Majesty that, inasmuch as the expenses of the prolonged occupation of Egypt by a British Force have to be borne by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, the great majority of whom have no direct interest in the Government or affairs of Egypt, and that the retention of our Troops in Egypt is a cause of suspicion and irritation to Continental Governments, and calculated to weaken the influence of this Country in the Councils of Europe, humbly to pray Her Majesty to take immediate steps for recalling the whole of Her Forces in Egypt,"—said, it was difficult for him to read through the history of our doings in Egypt without feelings of amazement 657 and shame. Outside of that House he had not met anyone who would undertake to defend our policy in Egypt. There was a feeling of intense hostility on the part of the working classes in this country to the occupation of Egypt, and indeed of all classes who were not either bondholders, financiers, or contractors who supplied swords that would not cut, bayonets that were easily bent, guns that would not go off, shells that would not burst, and trusses of hay stuffed with bricks and shavings. There were millions of people in this country who considered public questions, and judged public men in a somewhat rough and untutored fashion. These people had, however, to be reckoned with. They had not learned to distinguish between annexation and stealing, nor did they interpret a temporary occupation as meaning four and a-half years; and the difference between military operations and war was to them quite incomprehensible. Nor did the workmen of this country understand why they were to keep our troops in Egypt to compel the working people of that country to pay exorbitant interest on loans which they never sanctioned or contracted. Such ignorance on the part of our masters was, no doubt, very lamentable and very inconvenient; but we should have to face the fact. He (Mr. Cremer) did not propose to discuss who was answerable for our original occupation of Egypt; but he maintained that our present, unfortunate position in that country had resulted from the Dual Control, which Lord Derby had wisely refused to countenance, and against which the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had duly cautioned us, but which Lord Salisbury had unfortunately sanctioned. What had been the net result of our armed intervention in Egypt? The weight of taxation had not been removed from the shoulders of the people, justice was not simply and fairly administered, the conscription had not been abolished, and there was no security for life and property in the country. Doubtless, something had been done in the interest of the bondholders who had made advances to the Egyptian Government; but what had been done to better the position of those patient drudges—the poor people of Egypt besides imposing upon them an 658 additional burden of four millions to re-build a city which we had wickedly and wantonly destroyed. Many answers had been given to the question why we had interfered in Egypt at all. One answer was that we had interfered because the Suez Canal was in danger; but when our soldiers went there it was discovered there was no danger whatever. Another answer was that Arabi Pasha was a rebel, and ought to be put down. The result had been that we had put down Arabi Pasha as a rebel, and had made him into a hero who was worshipped by the mass of the people in Egypt. We abolished the Chamber of Notables in Egypt; but with splendid consistency we carefully preserved the unrepresentative Chamber of Notables at home. What was the Egyptian difficulty? The best answer to that question was contained in the statement made by the present Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) on the 5th of February, 1884, in which he said—A loan of £1,000,000 has been advanced by the house of Rothschild to the Khedive.…. By the Firman which placed the Khedive on the Throne the Khedive has no power of contracting loans except on the permission of his creditors. … If it be true that the Khedive has borrowed this sum of money from the house of Rothschild, I do not believe they have advanced it upon insufficient security, and I am driven to the conclusion that Her Majesty's Government has practically secured Messrs. Rotheschild the repayment of the loan.This was the whole Egyptian difficulty in a nutshell. Financiers and bondholders had been powerful enough to obtain a guarantee from British Governments for the repayment of Egyptian loans with interest; and if the financiers and bondholders disappeared the problem of the Egyptian Question would be easily solved. But the important question now was how long were they going to stop there? Up till now all the answers that had been vouchsafed to them had been of the most illusory and unsatisfactory kind. He considered he had good warrant for moving his Amendment, seeing that the Prime Minister, four years ago, declared that he and the world were waiting to know what were the intentions of the Government of the day, and whether they meant to withdraw our troops. The world was still anxiously waiting for the information which the noble Marquess complained was not in the Queen's Speech in 1883. 659 Why had the noble Marquess not repaired the omission; and, now that he was Prime Minister, why did he not gratify the anxiety of the world? It was the professed desire of public men to do what was right when they were out of Office and leaving it undone when they were in Office which caused the masses to lose faith and confidence in them. He (Mr. Cremer) had heard that the Government had resolved upon diminishing our garrison in Egypt, and that in a very short time it would not exceed a corporal's guard; but while the British Flag floated in Egypt, and only a handful of our troops remained, the nucleus of future mischief would be there. As successive Governments had professed a sincere desire for the evacuation of Egypt, and yet for some cause or other had never carried those desires into effect, he trusted that the House, by clearly manifesting its will, would help the Government to make up their mind and would cause a withdrawal not only of a part but of the whole of our troops, and clear out, bag and baggage, not next year or the year after, but forthwith; and that the power and influence of this country would no longer be employed to enforce the claims of the bondholders. In using the word "immediate" in his Amendment he did not intend to imply that a telegraphic message should be sent ordering the troops to return within 48 hours. What he did mean was that they should have some definite period fixed for the evacuation. It might be three or six months, or he should be perfectly satisfied if the Government gave a pledge to terminate our occupation by the end of the present year. If some definite period were stated he should be perfectly satisfied, and not press his Amendment; but they had been so repeatedly deceived by so many vague promises that he must insist on some absolute pledge. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
At the end of the 4th paragraph, to add the words "and humbly to represent to Her Majesty that, inasmuch as the expenses of the prolonged occupation of Egypt by a British Force have to be borne by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, the great majority of whom have no direct interest in the Government or affairs of Egypt, and that the retention of our Troops in
Egypt is a cause of suspicion and irritation to Continental Governments, and calculated to weaken the influence of this Country in the Councils of Europe, humbly to pray Her Majesty to take immediate steps for recalling the whole of Her Forces from Egypt."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) had expressed a wish the other night to have some definite issue stated, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), therefore, was glad they had at last reached a distinct and definite issue, and one upon which they would ascertain the opinion of the House before that evening closed. He would not refer to our previous action before the year he was about to refer to; but he had taken a great interest in the Egyptian Question so long ago as 1882, when, for the first time, we were seriously involved—by which he meant by force of arms—in Egypt. He saw at that time the injustice of what we were doing, and had anticipated the evils at which we had now arrived by our interference, as he thought any hon. Gentleman who had gone carefully into the matter would have done. He should like to give what he would call a bird'seye view of how things had gone on in Egypt during the last 11 years. He did not think we had had much to do with Egypt prior to 1876. In that year Mr. Goschen went out to Egypt, and he was armed with a letter from the Foreign Secretary of the day, which was his credential. In that letter the Foreign Secretary declared that Mr. Goschen was a Member of the late Government, and "a person of high position and reputation in this country." Mr. Goschen went out with the avowed object of putting pressure upon the Khedive to pay off the Egyptian Loans of 1862 and 1864, which had been issued by Mr. Goschen's London firm. He originated and obtained from the Khedive the establishment of what is known now as the celebrated Dual Control. One of the arrangements under the Dual Control was that £1,500,000 should be raised from cultivators' estates under the name of "Anticipatory Collection of Land Tax," to pay off the loans he had mentioned; but there was a consideration for that, 661 which was that the Land Tax of the Fellaheen should be gradually lessened until, in 1886, it would be permanently reduced by 50 per cent. No part of this had been done, yet the £1,500,000 had been paid. When Mr. Goschen left the country, after sanctioning and determining that arrangement, a rather curious incident occurred. There was a man called Sadyk Pasha who was the Financial Minister of Egypt, and he objected to that arrangement, because he said the Khedive was plundering the country in concert with Europeans. That Minister was sent off to the White Nile, which was equivalent in that country to a sentence of death. There was a popular story told and believed in Egypt, to the effect that he, having been sent to the White Nile, was there put in a box alive and dropped to the bottom of the river. However that might be, it was certain that he had never been seen or heard of since, and he was just as likely to be at the bottom of the Nile as anywhere else. Mr. Goschen had done one of the most remarkable things in history, for he went to Egypt and put that country into commission for the benefit of the usurers who lent money to the old Khedive. That was a great deed, and fully entitled him to be what he was now—the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this country. Things went on very well for a time; the people were whipped, tortured, and taxed, and by the exercise of those forces they were compelled to pay the amount. Then came the crowning crime of all. These Egyptians had a kind of House of Commons—a Representative Assembly—and they decided to vote that portion of their Budget which did not interfere with the funds out of which the Debts were to be paid. Our officials in that country did all they could to prevent it, sending at last an ultimatum, the rejection of which led to the bombardment of Alexandria—one of the greatest crimes ever committed by this country during the century. Then back came all the hoard of European locusts, screwing and grinding the taxation out of the people. In spite of assurances they had heard in that House, the use of the bastinado and the torture seemed still to be employed in Egypt. ["Oh, oh!"] He had heard, on good authority, that Egyptian Government officials now used the cane for purposes 662 of torture. If that were so, it would appear that we had improved the position of the Egyptian people to the extent of abolishing the kourbash, and introducing the cane. If we were to remain in Egypt, it was worth while to consider what good we had already done there. He should state the case in this way: We had raised the Funded Debt from £90,000,000 to £100,000,000; we had slaughtered many thousands of Egyptian soldiers; we had badly crippled, if we had not crushed, the National Chamber, the only Representative Body they had; we had bombarded their principal commercial city under circumstances of the greatest horror; and, on the whole, it was clear we had increased their taxation, although it was sometimes asserted that we had reduced it. We had promoted the most horrible vice and debauchery in Cairo; we had sown dissension between the Khedive and his people; and had succeeded in crushing out the first little spark of liberty and independence which had been seen in an Eastern nation for generations past. That was what we had done for Egypt. What good had our occupation of Egypt done to ourselves? It had excited against us the anger and jealousy of all the other European nations; it had cost the taxpayers of this country millions upon millions of money, and led to those horrible battles in the Soudan. That money and the lives of our soldiers had been spent in slaughtering a people "rightly struggling to be free." The result was that we had another Ireland some thousands of miles away; just as if one Ireland was not enough. He did not know of any human being who had benefited by the proceedings in Egypt, except Sir Garnet Wolseley and Sir Beauchamp Seymour, who had got their Peerages and their pensions. Our policy in Egypt was now condemned, although he was sorry to say that it was initiated by Members on that side of the House, and supported by Members on both sides. They were all guilty. He was glad, however, to see in the Address which the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) issued as his election manifesto in 1885, the following passage:—"We must not expect recompense for all we have done in Egypt; what we must expect is 663 retribution." In what the right hon. Gentleman had said, it seemed to him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) that he had spoken truly. It was most certain that the longer we went on in national crime the greater would be our national punishment. It was because he wished to put an end to that crime as soon as he could that he cordially supported the Amendment.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester. N.E.)
said, the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) had introduced an Amendment which, while founded on a desire for the withdrawal of the British force from Egypt, had traversed incidentally the whole question of the British occupation of Egypt. He was glad the hon. Member had so connected the subjects, because this would render his task very much easier. He had here to admit that the maintenance of a European force in Egypt was closely bound up with the propriety of our influence over the government of Egypt, and the presence of our troops there must stand or fall by the propriety of our presence there, and the benefit of our presence there to Egypt, to this country, and to the world. He should hope to satisfy the House that our presence in Egypt was not productive of the mischief which the hon. Member and the hon. Baronet described. So far from our object there being for the benefit of the bondholders and with disregard of the interests of the people, he maintained that the interests of the bondholders were the smallest portion of the considerations of the Government. National and international interests were our objects, and a necessary condition of the fulfilment of those national and international objects was the amelioration of the condition of the people of Egypt. He was quite content to rest his opposition to the Amendment on the question whether our presence and control over the Government of Egypt had been and were likely to be for the benefit of the people of Egypt. No doubt there were other considerations which had not been stated to the House, but which must be present to their minds in considering a subject of such great importance. He was far from objecting to the proposition that the people of this country had a 664 right to a full explanation of so great a matter of public policy, and he thought Her Majesty's Government would be the last to deny to them that full explanation. It was quite true, as was stated in the Amendment, that any expenditure by this country must be borne by the taxpayers. It was useless now to go into matters of ancient history, but the question was whether our presence in Egypt was justifiable. He might remind them that no act of the Government in regard to Egypt had been repudiated or censured by that House. The reason why our occupation of Egypt had been productive of heavy charges to this country was on account of the expenses of expeditions and undertakings for objects which he was quite sure the public opinion of the country approved at the time.—["Hear, hear!" and cries of "No!"]—Did not public opinion approve the expeditions to relieve General Gordon and the beleaguered garrisons of the Soudan? It was to those expeditions that the great military expense of the British occupation was due. He could not omit noticing an attack which had been made on an eminent Member of Lord Salisbury's Government. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had gone out of his way to go into a matter which had more than once been the subject of debate in the House. The charge brought against the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been utterly-contradicted and dispelled.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, the charge was that Mr. Goschen went to Egypt in the interest of the bondholders for whom his firm had contracted a loan. Mr. Goschen absolutely denied and dispelled that accusation. Mr. Goschen went to Egypt, he believed, on a mission to advise for the restoration of the financial equilibrium, which was then seriously threatened.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
Mr. Goschen, in going to Egypt, had no private interest or object whatever. That he has before stated publicly in this House, and that charge ought to be buried in oblivion. It is utterly unworthy of the hon. Baronet.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that was so; but the hon. Baronet added that it was in connection with a loan to be negotiated by his own firm. He maintained that Mr. Goschen went to Egypt in the interest of the Egyptians, to place the finances on a better footing, and the result of his visit was that the burdens of Egypt were lessened. The hon. Baronet might well have waited till the Chancellor of the Exchequer had a seat in the House—which would not be long. When the right hon. Gentleman was there he would be well able to maintain his own position. Meantime, he repudiated the charge on the right hon. Gentleman's behalf. He had now to deal with the part taken by the present Government in the occupation of Egypt. It should be remembered that Lord Salisbury, when he took Office in 1885, succeeded to the position then existing, and inherited the engagements previously undertaken. He was much mistaken if the people of this country were not anxious that a Government should fulfil its inherited obligations, even when they became onerous. Her Majesty's Government had steadily set their faces to reduce the British Force in Egypt, and the consequent charge upon the British public, to the utmost of their power. Last May the British Force amounted to 11,000 men; in the autumn it was reduced to 9,000; and now, by the altered state of circumstances, it was in course of reduction to about 5,000. While every Government had been anxious to reduce the Force, circumstances had occurred which necessarily postponed the fulfilment of that wish. Last autumn intelligence wasreceived that a considerable force of rebels was coming down the Nile. There was much dissension among their troops, and considerable difficulty was experienced in preventing the best of them from deserting to the Egyptian lines. But, so far as the British taxpayer was concerned, he ventured to tell the House that, when they were able to bring down the number of British troops to 5,000, the cost to this country would be only about £50,000. But, whether the cost had 666 been large or small, it had been justified by the circumstances. The hon. Member said that the great majority of the taxpayers had no direct interest in the government and affairs of Egypt. Of course, it was quite true that few English taxpayers, beyond the bondholders, had a direct interest in the affairs of Egypt. But the great body of the people were units in the body politic, and, as such units, they were affected by our relations with the Great Powers, and, in that sense, everyone was interested in our occupation of Egypt. There was no country in the world which had foreign interests more wide and varied than those of this country. He was glad to find by the words of the Amendment—that the occupation of Egypt "weakened our interests in the Councils of Europe"—that the hon. Member did recognize that the Government ought to have influence in the Councils of Europe, and that he put far from him that theory of parochial politics which held that Great Britain ought to have no such influence, and ought to pursue a course of absolute isolation. But he denied, on three grounds, the allegations of the Amendment that our presence in Egypt was a cause of suspicion and irritation among foreign Governments. First, we were there with the consent of the European Powers. In March, 1885, a Convention was signed in London with the five Powers for the loan of £9,000,000, part of which was applicable to the payment of our troops. It was clear, then, that at that time the Powers recognized the presence of our Army in Egypt, and our control over the government of the country. The Leader of the Opposition had spoken emphatically on this assent of the powers to our continued presence in Egypt. Secondly, not only were we there with the consent, and by the mandate, of Europe, but the Great Powers had abstained from pressing the Government on the question of the duration of our stay, and from raising objections to it, and with the increasing recognition on their part that our objects in remaining in the country were not selfish, much had been effected towards the removal of all cause of jealousy and ill-will. We were there for the good of Egypt and the world, and were ready to enter into solemn engagements for the neutralization of the country, and of the great highway which traversed it. To nothing 667 was this improved state of things more owing than to the conciliatory and dignified attitude of the late Lord Iddesleigh. It had always been a great satisfaction to him to have assisted his noble Friend's labours, and it was a pleasurable thought that it was by Lord Iddesleigh's wish that he was at the Foreign Office. Thirdly, we were in Egypt also with the consent of the Sovereign Power. Previously to the Convention signed at Constantinople in October, 1885, we had not the sanction of the Sublime Porte. The presence of a European Power in the Turkish dominions was naturally a source of uneasiness to the Porte. But when the Sublime Porte appointed a distinguished Turkish officer to act with a British statesman, it became clear that we had obtained the authority of the Sovereign Power, and one source of jealousy both in Turkey and the rest of Europe was removed. He denied, therefore, that suspicion and irritation were aroused by our presence in Egypt, and he hoped the Government would more and more justify the occupation. He would ask the House not to revive past discussions, which could only serve to increase our difficulties. Our military occupation was only a means to an end, and if our force was entirely withdrawn there was nothing immediately to take its place. The memory of those contests in which British soldiers saved the country from supreme disaster was so fresh that they could not leave the Egyptian army, wonderfully efficient as it undoubtedly was, without the support of a British reserve. The considerations which the Government had in view in their occupation were well known to the world. Egypt was an inherent part of the Turkish Empire which it had been the policy of this country to maintain and support. We desired, therefore, to make Egypt strong and a strength to the Turkish. Empire. Our first object, therefore, was to reestablish financial equilibrium, to organize a sound system of administration, and to ameliorate the condition of the people. By the creation of an effective army and police, we hoped to establish a strong Government which should recognize the supremacy of the Sultan as the head of the Mahommedan world. ["Oh, oh!" from the Opposition.] He was surprised to hear that objection. It would be contrary to all traditions of the British Government if we were to be 668 in Egypt without the fullest recognition of the supremacy of the Sultan. Aided by the co-operation of the Turkish Government, unprecedented success had attended our control of Egyptian affairs during the last year and a half. The ferment caused by Arabi's insurrection had calmed down, crime had diminished, and brigandage had almost disappeared; justice was now well regulated and honestly administered, punishment—which had often failed to attend grave offence—was now impartially administered, and punishments were moderate in amount. The prisons, which had been in a scandalous condition, were also well managed, and there had been no increase of taxation; and, indeed, the burdens of the people had in some respects been lightened, although he regretted that it had not been found possible immediately to reduce the Land Tax, which was a heavy burden and more oppressive even than it was in India. It had been reduced by the partial abolition of the corvée, which really operated as a heavy impost on the cultivators, and last year the Revenues of Egypt were able to bear a charge of £200,000 for this work. Then the Expenditure of the country had been regulated. There was no longer any waste, and the finances had been put in order. Enormous advances had been made towards that end. Last September in Committee of Supply he told the House that there was a good prospect of the Revenues rising in 1885–6 being sufficient to repay the 5 per cent coupons deducted from the debt. The Revenues had been amply sufficient for that purpose. More than that, they had sufficed to pay in full the interest on the Suez Canal Shares. Then there was the £200,000 he had mentioned in relief of the corvée, and there was a surplus of about £60,000 over all. Since that Estimate had been made out they had heard that on the Domain and Daira lands the loss on the year had not been £350,000 as estimated, but only £200,000. This showed that the finances had attained an equilibrium, and that by the economy with which they had been administered and by the improved condition of the country. A very curious circumstance struck one on looking at the Customs Revenue, which had risen 20 per cent in the last three years. The exports had been diminished and the imports had increased. More 669 wheat had been imported than exported, and this had taken place in spite of a poor cotton crop. Instead of the people subsisting on the coarser kinds of grain, they were now large consumers of wheat. There was a surplus estimated for next year, and that after cutting down every Estimate that seemed to be excessive, and providing for every charge that could possibly come against the Revenues of Egypt—providing for, among other things, £400,000 for the loss on Domain and Daira lands, although this year the loss had been only £200,000. The hon. Member asked, "What are you doing for irrigation?" A million of money had been devoted to irrigation with the best results. Not only was the land better supplied with water, but the area of cultivable land was increased. He had seen something of the country, and, like Scinde, it only existed by irrigation. That eminent engineer, Colonel Scott Moncrieff, had directed the irrigation works of Egypt with the best results. He wished the revenues were able to admit of much more money being spent on irrigation and other works. But, unfortunately, they were not. In the course of years, no doubt, more revenue would be available; for instance, when the interest on the Suez Canal Shares fell in; and it could only be by the application of all the surplus revenues that any great advance could be made with those public works which were so urgently required for the development of the resources of the country. The hon. Member asked what the Government had done for Egypt? He replied that order had taken the place of cruelty; that taxes were raised without exactions; the Civil Administration was working thoroughly well, and public security was maintained by a police which, though not perfect, was very promising, and was gradually taking the place of the Native Army, which was in course of reduction. It had been reduced in the present quarter from 17,000 to 10,000 men. But he freely admitted that much remained to be done. They had organized and improved administration, no doubt; but they had to see that it was so permanent that it would not fade away like an exotic, as soon as the atmosphere of British counsel was withdrawn. A country which had so long been the victim of much misgovernment and oppression could not attain in a few 670 years such an administration as could be regarded as permanent. No doubt there had been mistakes in our administration of Egypt. It might be that we tried to do too much for the Egyptians, and too little by them. He thought it a great mistake, especially in governing Oriental nations, to humiliate the Rulers in the eyes of their subjects. Their object should be to guide the Natives that they might be capable of governing themselves—to enlist their sympathies and feelings in the honest administration of their country. Perhaps we had sometimes erred by hurrying on the Native Administration too fast; and, secondly, in not guiding them to do that which they were willing to do, instead of doing it for them with the best intention. Among the chief difficulties they had to face in Egypt was the intolerable and pressing Debt. He could not admit that it was unable to bear it; but it was a very terrible thing that the margin of revenue available for the development of the country should be so narrow, and that it should be a source of constant anxiety to us whether the country would be able to meet its engagements; but, as a proof of the improved state of the country in the last few years, he might mention that within the last two years the amount of surplus upon the assigned revenues to the service of the Debt was £900,000, and it would have been £1,100,000 but for the application of £200,000 for the relief of forced labour. That was to say that there had been a surplus of £450,000 in each year and there was a surplus estimated for the present year of £435,000 on the assigned revenues applicable to the general administration of Egypt, and which enabled the Government to make both ends meet. Egypt was not like India, where three-fourths of the money borrowed by the Government or guaranteed by them was applied to works profitable and remunerative to the country. The Debt of Egypt had been too much wasted, and perhaps had been made the means of plunder. The country had not reaped by any means the full advantage of that expenditure, and it must remain a load on the country for many years to come. For himself he might say that he believed, if Europe had only in view the improvement of the condition of that country as much as possible, it would be easy to lighten the 671 burden of that Debt on the country by the cooperation of the Powers, greatly to reduce the burden of interest, and to provide such a sum as would carry out the works of development in Egypt which would make the incidence even of such a Debt as that comparatively light. The House was aware how grievously the Capitulations pressed upon Egypt. That a large number of persons should be entirely free from the laws and exempt from the taxation was a great injustice, which no one could contemplate without regret. The jealousies of the Powers indeed prevented many things from being done which were most necessary, but it could not be right that those living by and in a country should be neither subject to its laws nor contribute to its revenue. He hoped that in the future, when confidence in our doings and intentions should be fully established, we might accomplish something for the removal of this blot upon civilization, this shame on the acts of the European Powers, and this undoubted hindrance to any real improvement of the country. Hon. Members spoke about the vice and the misery caused to the country by our presence there. Who were those people so obnoxious? They were the scum of the Levant—men who, whatever might be their conduct, were not amenable to the police of Egypt. That was a disgraceful state of things, and was not due to the British occupation. He had said that the efforts of the Government were directed to arriving at a full understanding with the Sovereign Power, not, indeed, for the purpose of perpetuating our stay in Egypt, but to secure the establishment of such relations as might render our ultimate retirement consistent with the interests of this country, of Egypt, and of the Ottoman Government. If they were enabled to carry on their work unhampered, they might fairly expect to render Egypt entirely self-supporting, and to bring great relief to the industry of the country, and all this without any charge on the British Exchequer. Egypt would reap all the advantages of her geographical position without being the shuttlecock of speculators or the object of the jealousy of foreign Powers. But in order to the accomplishment of this object it was surely necessary that England should enjoy the confidence of the 672 Powers. That confidence they hoped to deserve and to receive; but it had been stated in this House, and never more clearly than by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), that under no circumstances could we depart from Egypt until we had fulfilled our engagements and responsibilities there. The time would not be long, but our duties there, though in course of fulfilment, were not yet done. He believed that if we went on in the course that had been pursued with so much good to Egypt we should reader that country, still so rich in resources, self-supporting and prosperous, and in that happy result Egypt would owe something to the circumstances of the British occupation, which, however we might regret its having imposed a burden upon this country, was being turned to the advantage of Egypt with perfect honesty to the rest of the world, and with no desire to the selfish advantage of England.
§ MR. CAINE (Barrow-in-Furness)
said, he had hoped that the statement of the Government in reply to the Amendment before the House would justify him in voting against it; but, having listened with great attention to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir James Fergusson), he was bound, to say that, unless further assurance were given by the Government, as to their intention to retire from Egypt at some reasonable time, he should be obliged to vote in favour of the Amendment. If the right hon. Gentleman, in one of his sentences, correctly defined that intention we should never get out of Egypt at all. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the determination of the Government was to stay in Egypt until we had removed "insuperable" difficulties; but if we had to remove insuperable difficulties, we should be there till the crack of doom. Why were they in Egypt at all? Were they there to establish good government, sound finance, and a Native Administration, or were they merely bum-bailiffs to the bondholders? They had had a clear answer to that question from the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State, who had told them that the interests of the bondholders were, and should be, the smallest object of their consideration, and that their main purpose was the amelioration of the condition of the people. If, in re- 673 sponse to the Amendment, the Government were at once to evacuate Egypt, everyone knew that with the British Army the present Government would also evacuate, and the present Khedive would go with it. That fact must be taken as a clear admission that, so far, they had failed in the object with which they began to occupy Egypt. Now, he had no hesitation in saying that the reason why they were not succeeding in their efforts to get out of Egypt was because they had never got into Egypt. They had not a free hand, and if they could not get that free hand, which was so much wanted, then, he thought, they ought to come out. The House had not heard that night that the Government were making any effort to bring about an agreement among the Powers of Europe to give them a free hand. With a free hand, he believed they could accomplish everything that the Government seemed to desire, and leave the affairs of the country in the hands of a Native Administration, with some prospects of success. One of the first wants of the country was a Code of civil and criminal law; and he wished to know if any attempts were being made to introduce such a Code in accordance with European models. He was not aware of any such attempt. There was a case of a Belgian, who was tried on a charge of murder and convicted, and, on some technical plea, he received a sentence of only four months' imprisonment; but, on its appearing that the man had been five months in prison, without trial, he was let off at once. If that was the sort of administration of which the Government were proud, he could not congratulate them upon it. There were offences committed against the Egyptian Government itself, and yet the offenders escaped punishment altogether. The reason why Her Majesty's Government could not get on in Egypt was simply because of the Capitulations, which had been so eloquently denounced. What was wanted, in order to ameliorate the condition of the people was, that national prosperity itself should be improved; but he saw no chance of that improvement being effected until the burden of taxation could be shifted from the oppressed Fellaheen to those who, more than any others, were thriving upon Egypt—the 674 scum of the Levant, a class with which it was impossible to deal, owing to these Capitulations. The taxation was nearly all got from the peasants, while all Europeans—English, French, and Italian traders—and the scum of the Levant escaped scot free. Until the Europeans were taxed, it would be impossible for any Member of the Government to get up and say that they were doing what they ought to do to bring about a happier condition of life for the Egyptian people. There was one item he should like some information about from the Government—namely, that there was about £250,000 received for exemption from military service. Now it seemed an extraordinary thing that, in a country which could be content with an army of 10,000 men, they should have to tax the poor people for relief from military service. It was a ridiculous tax, and ought, if possible, to be removed. One source of taxation from which a considerable revenue might be derived in Egypt was the liquor trade, which was chiefly in the hands of Greeks and the scum of the Levant, who sold most poisonous and deleterious liquor. There was no country in Europe which did not derive some profit from the sale of intoxicating liquor; but in Egypt, if the question were left to the Native Government, it would make short work of the traffic and prohibit it altogether. If these liquor shops which so extensively prevail in Cairo and most of the great towns in Egypt were to be allowed to continue, he could not see why £200,000 or £300,000 might not be made out of them by a heavy licence duty. The reason which prevented it at present was the Capitulations with the Greeks and others. We ought to ask the Powers of Europe, whether or not they would consent to let us tax foreigners as they ought to be taxed; and, if not, we should go out and leave the country to itself. Unless we had a free hand we should never get out, and sooner or later we should get involved in a war with one of the Great Powers, which might insist on our going out. Unless he heard a very distinct statement from the Government that they intended to use every effort in their power to get the Powers of Europe to consent to the abolition of the Capitulations, and to get a free hand in Egypt, 675 he should feel it his duty to vote with the hon. Gentleman the Mover of this Amendment.
§ COLONEL DUNCAN (Finsbury, Holborn)
said, that he was in a somewhat difficult position; because, while he differed from the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment (Mr. Cremer), he was, at the same time, dissatisfied by omissions in the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, detailed as it had been. They had hoard, among other things, that £250,000 was to be devoted to the abolition of the cruel corvée, but, in the papers that morning, he had seen that, owing to the interference of the French, that money could no longer be devoted to the purpose.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I did not make that statement. What I said was, that £200,000 of last year's expenditure had been devoted to the partial abolition of the corvée, and that it was the intention of the Government of Egypt to dispense with the corvée altogether as soon as it was possible to do so.
§ COLONEL DUNCAN
said, he thought that the explanation of the right hon. Baronet left the matter very much as it stood before, as they had heard that morning that the money which had been devoted to the abolition of the corvée was no longer to be used for that purpose. He trusted that they would hear from some Member of her Majesty's Government, whether some steps were to be taken to persuade the other Powers to allow this money to be so employed; certainly no better purpose could be chosen for its expenditure. He had also hoped that they would have heard of the scheme which had been brought forward allowing the Domain and Daira lands to be sold in lots to the cultivators. He would also have liked to have heard from his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State something more as regards proposed economy in the administrative charges in connection with the Government of Egypt. The truth was, that he feared that, in order to collect the interest on the Debt a very large European staff, highly paid, had been appointed; that in each department the best paid men were foreigners; that these offices were, therefore, practically closed to the lawful ambition of the Natives, so that we were not only political Shylocks, taking our 676 pound of flesh, but making the victims pay for the price of the butcher's knife. To make ourselves popular it was necessary to enlist the brains of the best Natives, who had, at present, no chance of serving their country in its administration. When he had first seen this Amendment on the Paper, he had regretted it as being unnecessary, and loading to a purely academical discussion; and he could not say that his opinion had been changed. In his opinion the debate had been unnecessarily prolonged, and was peaceful even to dulness, and he believed the Amendment was one which would defeat its own purpose. Those hon. Members who, like himself, were most anxious to see the deliberate withdrawal of the British troops from Egypt, felt that such an urgent Amendment would do more than anything else to defer or postpone that desired result. Again, it was hardly a fair attack on the Government. Let them consider what changes had taken place in the last year. At this time last year Suakim had been garrisoned by English and Indian troops; at the present moment there was not a man of either; it was entirely kept by Egyptian troops. We then had men fresh from battle 100 miles to the South of the Southern Frontier of Egypt. Now we had not one there, or at Wady Halfa. In a very short time our troops in Egypt would have been reduced to 5,000 men. Then, again, they had seen changes such as had been described in the cheering statements of the right hon. Baronet; they heard that the revenue was increasing, that the people of the villages were living on better, and enjoying greater quantities of, food than they ever had before, and that the state of the Native Army was most satisfactory. On the whole, then, they had heard that the state of Egypt had decidedly improved. That had been done under Her Majesty's Government, and he thought that it seemed like spurring a willing horse to bring forward an Amendment such as this. There was one suggestion which he thought should be made to Her Majesty's Government with the view of creating a trustworthy National Government, and that was with regard to the use of our Forces in connection with a Native Government. After such an event as the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, it had been 677 necessary to bridge over the interval between the old Government and a new one; but there came a time when the Government was not strengthened, but weakened, by foreign bayonets, and when the people were apt to think that their Native Rulers were merely puppets in the hands of others. He would suggest that a further withdrawal of 1,000 men might be made, and that 2,000 men should be stationed at the end of the Southern Railway at Assiout and 2,000 at Alexandria, the end of the Northern Railway; so that, while within easy reach of Cairo in case of disturbance, the presence of British bayonets should not remind the people that their Rulers were mere puppets in the hands of a foreign Power. At the same time, Cairo would be left entirely in the hands of the Egyptian troops of the Khedive. He believed that this would be a wise thing to do; he had confidence in the loyalty of the Egyptian Army, and until foreign soldiers ceased to be seen in Cairo, there would not be a real Native Government. The best Egyptian statesmen had refused to share in the councils of a Government propped up by foreign bayonets. The two positions of Assiout and Alexandria would be retained for strategic reasons. He believed that by taking such a course we should unite the country in a shorter time than we could if we kept our soldiers always visible before the eyes of the people. They all knew that the time must come when our withdrawal should be completed. No Party in that House desired that our occupation should be a permanent one, and our only method was to give the country a National Government, with a free hand to a certain extent; and not to insult that Government in the eyes of the people, but to use our soldiers for military purposes only. He must say, in conclusion, that he objected to the criticisms which had been passed upon the Services. During the course of this debate, allusion had been made to a body of men to which he had for many years had the honour of belonging; and he could testify that when the evacuation of Egypt did take place, there would be no memories brighter to the Egyptians than those connected with those soldiers who had lived among them for so many years, and whose conduct to the Natives had been beyond all praise. 678 From General Stephenson—a man without fear and without reproach—who had endeared himself to the people of all nations in Cairo, down to the youngest private soldier—all had realized that they were bearing, not their own reputation only but the reputation and honour of their country on their shoulders. He could speak of one sad experience of his own. It had been his lot to superintend the carrying out of the evacuation of Dongola, and to conduct 13,000 homeless people through English camps, near which and in which they sometimes rested; and he never heard during the whole of that long and weary march of a single complaint against an English soldier of assault or insult. Was that net enough to make them feel proud of the Services which had been criticized in this debate? If it was not, he did not know what was. It had been said, "The Services are becoming our masters." Well, if there was a country in the world where, in time of political danger, the people had not to ask, "What of the Army?" it was our country, and the proudest boast of the soldiers and sailors of England was that they were the Services. Like a man's arm, which hung motionless by the side until moved by the will, the Army did not act until prompted by the National will; and the powers given to it were given by Parliament, which declared whether and where its services should be actively required. It was not the Army, but Parliament that declared war, and those soldiers who had seen most of war and its hurts were by no means anxious to see their country involved in it. The Army rejoiced to do its duty when called upon to do so by the nation; but to accuse it of forcing the country into war was both an intolerable and a most unjustifiable accusation. He felt proud of the results of English work in Egypt, and he felt confident that that work would continue while England remained in Egypt. But in the interests of the Egyptian people, for whom he pleaded when he first entered the House, he now pleaded that the evacuation might not be too long deferred. Even if we had the mandate of Europe, he cared far more for the interests of the Egyptian people, and he believed that we might build up a prosperous and happy nation if we only allowed them to be free.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, that in the month of April, 1876, the Khedive issued an order, by which the loans were changed from their original position and were placed in another category. Mr. Goschen called on Lord Derby, then Foreign Secretary, with regard to the matter in August of that year. Bondholders who objected to the new decree met, and asked Mr. Goschen to go out to Egypt to represent them. The French bondholders also met, and appointed a representative. They went out to Egypt for the purpose of modifying the new decree. Lord Derby sent out a despatch regarding the matter, dated August 2, 1876, stating that Mr. Goschen had undertaken to represent the interests of English bondholders of Egyptian Stock, with the view of obtaining some modification of the late decree of the Khedive in favour of the bondholders; and instructing the British representatives to give such unofficial assistance as they properly could to Mr. Goschen in bringing his protest under the consideration of the Khedive; and informing his Highness that Mr. Goschen was a member of the late Cabinet, and a person of high position and reputation in this country. The official information, therefore, fully justified the statement made by the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). In the Queen's Speech they were told that the objects for which we went to Egypt had not yet been attained. He had been anxious for some time to know what these objects wore, and still he was as much in the dark as ever. In his opinion the real object, and the only object, for which we went to Egypt was simply to put down Parliamentary Government in that country. And what we remained there for he did not know. The late Khedive of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, wanted money, and he borrowed it on his own personal security. A claim was made by the Chamber to vote one-half of the Budget. We opposed it; we prevented it. And we had crushed the attempt made by the Egyptian people to govern themselves. He thought the Egyptian people ought to have repudiated the burden laid upon them. These were not engagements entered into by the Egyptian people, or by the Egyptian Government. They were the personal loans of the Viceroy of Egypt; and the people of Egypt were not responsible for them. Our representative in Egypt 680 wired home that armed intervention would be necessary if we tried to prevent the Chamber from voting the money. We did prevent them, and by and by armed intervention was necessary. That was the beginning of all our troubles in Egypt. We had crushed the Parliament which Ismail called together for the purpose of getting a sum of money. Lord Dufferin was sent out as a Special Commissioner, and he made a valuable Report, in which he suggested that a new Chamber should be appointed. That Chamber had never met, and never would meet, because we had interfered in Egypt, and had gone there contrary to the will of the Egyptians, and were remaining there contrary to their will. If we left Egypt to-morrow, the Khedive and the present Government must leave with us, because they only existed there in virtue of our presence. They were now told that our troops remained in Egypt in order that we might have an influence over the Government of the country, that our objects were both national and international, that we interfered to restore order, and, further, that we were there to strengthen the Turkish Empire. If Her Majesty's Government desired to benefit, the Egyptian people, he would ask, would they allow the law of liquidation to remain in its present position? They were also told that we were going to remain in Egypt until we organized a stable Government that would last. If that was their intention, he thought they would remain, as the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said, until the crack of doom. We were maintaining in Egypt a Government alien in race, in language, and in religion to the great bulk of the people. And whenever we took away the force by which we maintained that Government it would tumble down, and the country would go back to the condition of things which existed before we interfered. As long as we remained in Egypt he believed we would do harm. We had crushed out the aspirations of the Egyptian people and of the Soudanese. We were spending our money in trying to establish a Government which would tumble to pieces whenever we took away the force which supported it. If Her Majesty's Government wanted to do something for Egypt they might, as had been done in the case of Belgium, neutralize Egypt and place it under the guarantees of all the Great 681 Powers. He could not see why we should throw increased burdens on the taxpayers of this country, and so diminish their comforts in order to benefit the Egyptian bondholders. As far as foreign influence was concerned, the present Government, as he had said, could not last after our troops had evacuated the country. We must allow the Egyptian people the right to govern themselves; for, as long as we kept up the bureaucracy in Egypt, contrary to the wishes of the Egyptian people, we were not doing any permanent good to the country. Another consideration which ought not to be loft out of sight, was that our conduct was seriously irritating the French nation. The French Government had remonstrated with us about our prolonged occupation of Egypt. He thought it was a blessing to us that France had got Germany on her hands at the present moment, otherwise there would be more chance of war between France and England, on account of Egypt, than there was a chance of war between France and Germany.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
Sir, I rise, not to enter upon the controversial field of Egyptian policy, nor to follow preceding speakers into details, extracted from the Blue Book, which serve to confuse the House and to darken counsel. I intend only to state what I know regarding the country and its people. I have been acquainted with Egypt—or rather with the Nile Delta and Lower Egypt—on and off during a large part of my life. More particularly, after the military and political events of 1882, I visited the country in 1883. I then had access to the best sources of information, European and Native; and my Oriental experience enabled me to gauge the value of such information. I now propose to submit briefly to the House my evidence in this great case. Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment, the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer), asked several very pertinent questions, which I will answer. He asks whether the landed interests have been promoted in that country? I answer, yes, largely. He asks whether property is really secure there? On the whole, yes. He asks whether the burden of taxation has been lightened? Yes, in some degree. He asks whether irrigation has been ex- 682 tended? Certainly, it has. He asks whether the Conscription has been abolished? Why, no; yet, inasmuch as the strength of the forces has been brought down to a few thousand men, the Conscription must sit quite lightly on the millions of the Egyptian people. He might have remembered, however, that this is a trouble which Egypt has in common with all the great European countries, except the United Kingdom. Lastly, the Mover asks virtually, whether the Egyptian Administration has improved under British guidance and supervision? Now, may I beg the House to consider with me, for a few moments, the matters on which that Administration has undoubtedly improved since 1882. In the first place, much has been done for the settlement of the Land Revenue, and all the landed interests connected therewith; a matter which concerns the people more fundamentally than any other. Some of the most highly qualified Anglo-Indian experience has been brought to bear upon it. The land tax has been more equitably assessed, and, at least, a beginning has been made of a registration of tenures in detail, such as many countries, more advanced than Egypt, hardly possess as yet. The miscellaneous imposts, though not abolished, have been mitigated in their incidence. The police has been advantageously re-organized; this work was begun by Valentine Baker, who brought to it not only natural aptitude, but experience gained in Turkey. It would be rash to say that distresses akin to torture have been wholly stopped; but such malpractices are certainly checked. The administration of justice, though still only imperfect, has been steadied, strengthened, and purified, in some degree, at least. Gaol discipline, a subject never understood in an Eastern country, has been humanely introduced, and the condition of the prisons is much less barbarous than before. Something has been said about the Liquor Laws; well, it is hardly for us to preach the doctrine of stopping this traffic by Executive force. But assuredly this traffic, and all that concerns it, is better regulated than before, despite the difficulties caused by the Capitulations to which preceding speakers have alluded. Then something has been done for sanitation in a most insanitary country The hon. Member for Hackney (Sir 683 Guyer Hunter) was, during the prevalence of cholera there, despatched on a sanitary mission, and, by his skill and devotion, did yeoman's service in the cause of humanity. Then much has been done to consolidate the ancient patriarchal system in the village communities, so that they may have some notion of managing their own local affairs. Thus the lesson of local self-government begins from the bottom. Although it may be impossible to resuscitate the defunct Chamber of Notables; although the able and sincerely-made efforts of Lord Dufferin to establish an electoral system may not as yet have borne fruit; still the foundations of local administration have been laid, and the people have been placed in a better position for managing their own affairs hereafter. The Native Egyptian officials have been sustained. To controvert this proposition, mention has been made of several Native statesmen who are in retirement. But a longer list might be given of those who are in active service. The extension of irrigation strikes every observant traveller. If it be impossible to abolish altogether the forced labour for the repair of the canals, still that labour is devoted to reproductive and remunerative works on the spot—works necessary to secure to the people their means of livelihood. This particular labour is not felt by the people to be oppressive. We may wish to substitute a better system, as has been done in India; but, if that cannot be done just yet, we may remember that the existing system is not an unmixed evil. Railways constructed by British engineers, of which the management has been greatly improved under British supervision, have done more than anything else for Egyptian civilization. From what was said by one preceding speaker, it might be almost inferred that railways had stopped the internal communication by water. But still many vessels ply on the Navigation Canal between Alexandria and Cairo. A good system of public accounts has been set up. Preceding speakers have declared the skilled officers employed therein to be too highly paid. But for financial administration it is the truest economy to have experts of standing and position, and that must involve expense. Lastly, we do something for the suppression of slavery. I fear that this evil still exists secretly; but it is rendered 684 illegal, and is stopped so far as Government can stop it. Now, I entreat the House to think for an instant on all these matters—the land, the taxes, the police, the Courts of Justice, the prisons, the liquor law, the village system, the sanitation, the Native Service, the irrigation, the railways, the public accounts—and say whether the modest improvements claimed in all these respects do not make up an aggregate not unworthy of England? There is yet one particular to which I must advert. From the language of the hon. Mover and of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker-mouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), it will be inferred that, in 1882, we wantonly bombarded Alexandria. It was not, however, the city of Alexandria, but the forts that we bombarded. The forts were quite apart from the city. One or two shots might have reached the city, but that was all. No appreciable damage whatever was done to the town by the bombardment. I have been to the place and examined it for myself; and I affirm that the real destruction done by our iron-clads was to the forts alone. The destruction of these forts was a fortunate thing for British interests. These fortifications were strong and well constructed. So long as they were in the hands of the Khedive, or even of the Sultan, who may be assumed to be friendly to England, well and good; but if they had fallen into the hands of a European Power they would have been dangerous to us. Although this consideration afforded of itself no justification for destroying them—certainly not—yet the fact that they were destroyed was a fortunate thing for England. It is not just to England to say that we wantonly bombarded Alexandria, inasmuch as the forts were in one place, and the city in another. The partial destruction of Alexandria was caused by the Native mob. We might, indeed, have prevented that by landing soldiers or marines. Still, it was the Native mob, and not the British, who injured the city. Again, it was not the Native, but the European, part of the city that was wrecked. The quarter that suffered most was the noble square that had been built up by the Europeans during the last 30 or 40 years. I rode round the ruins of the houses, and know that to be the case. Again, the hon. Baronet the Member for Cocker- 685 mouth referred to the Europeans in Egypt as a swarm of locusts eating up the resources of the country. Yes; but these metaphorical locusts pay for what they eat; whereas the real locusts do not! That makes all the difference, economically. Not only do they pay for what they consume, but they thus open up an additional market for the Natives of the country; they buy what the Natives have to sell; they create artificial wants; they cause prices to rise and wages to be augmented, and they thus give an impetus to industrial activity locally. Some disparagement has been uttered this evening, with some justice perhaps, against certain classes among these Europeans. Still, I believe the great majority of them, British, French, Italians, Austrians, Greeks, are respectable and industrious people, who repair thither to work, to thrive, and to prosper, promoting the prosperity of the Native population pari passû with their own. But I heartily agree with the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine), in objecting to the system of Capitulations, and in affirming that all the European residents should obey the laws of the country and contribute towards its taxation. Further, Sir, something has been said—with what object I do not know exactly—regarding the Mahommedan dynasty and the rival sects of Islam. But the point, politically, is this. The course pursued by us towards the Sultan as Suzerain, and towards the Khedive of Egypt, has redounded to the credit of England throughout the Mahommedan world. For it is seen that it is England which sustains the status of these two Sovereigns—a status dear to the heart of Islam. Lastly, I maintain that we have yet to complete the performance of our duty towards the people of Egypt; a consideration weightier than anything urged on the other side in this debate. We have undertaken that duty by force of arms, and we are bound to carry it on to the end—not a bitter, but a happy end. If we teach the people as soon as possible to manage their own affairs, beginning with the village commune, and working upwards to the top of the administration, we may ultimately realize something of that Constitution which was foreshadowed by the beneficent Administration of Lord Dufferin, and so enable the people of Egypt to walk alone. Then, and not till then, can we quit our 686 hold on Egypt with honour and justice. This time may be sooner, or may be later. It is probably rendered later by Motions such as that which we are now debating. These Motions have a bad effect in Egypt. They make the Natives think that the heart of England is not in the work. They make the Europeans think that the English administration in Egypt will not be continuously supported. If hon. Members opposite wish that Egypt should be evacuated by an early date, they will do well to support the execution of necessary reforms, refraining from the interposition of indirect obstacles. Such a policy would be as good for England as it would be for Egypt.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
said, he thought the remarks of the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs might be summed up in these words—that Egypt was a sort of paradise, and that England had a special mission, at an enormous expense to the taxpayers of this country, to take care of the people of Egypt. From that proposition he (Mr. Chance) most decidedly dissented, for he was not aware that any desire existed on the part of England to take over the control of the domestic affairs of Egypt; and still less was he aware that they approved of the expenditure of £35,000,000 which had been incurred since the bombardment of Alexandria, and which might have been better spent in attending to the affairs of England, Ireland, and Scotland, in lessening the burdens of the taxpayers. Indeed, he contended that our interference in Egypt was brought about by consideration for the interests of bondholders and usurers, rather than by any desire to benefit the people. He thought the existing complications were due to a ring of Jewish bondholders, whose object was to obtain a successful termination to a "bulling" expedition. The bombardment of Alexandria, too, was absolutely unjustifiable. It had been said, further, that we went to Egypt for the good of Europe; if that was so, it would be to the advantage of the British taxpayer if Europe paid a portion of the cost we had incurred in administering the affairs of Egypt. Then it was urged that we went to Egypt and remained there to organize the country, and place it in a safe and secure condition, and in this way to benefit the people of the 687 country. It had been stated that there had been an improvement as regarded the land, and that property was much more secure. That was exactly what was said with respect to Ireland when coercion had been introduced. Then, as to taxation being relieved, that was done in the way which was known in private life as "flying the kite." But, sooner or later, the day of reckoning would come, and what had cost us £35,000,000 would cost the Egyptian people a good deal of suffering. As to the improvement of irrigation, he recollected that the progress of Lord Wolseley's Army was marked by the destruction of all the irrigation all along the line of march. Beyond that, all the improvement was said to be due to the eminent British officers employed in the country. That was just what was said of Ireland. It seemed to be a cardinal maxim of Her Majesty's Government that they could do everyone else's business better than anyone else; and the only business which they were delicate in tackling was the business of the English nation. It was only in Egypt that the Government seemed determined to adopt any measures. In England and Ireland they promised them and suggested them; but they usually disappeared during the Parliamentary Session in the dim and distant future. The English Army in Egypt had been compared to an army of locusts; but the right hon. Baronet opposite said that whereas locusts did not pay for what they ate, the British Army did. He (Mr. Chance) did not know, however, whether that covered the desperate outbreak of immorality and drunkenness which had marked the occupation of Egypt by the British troops. Then, as to the alleged improvement in the prisons, last year Mr. Clifford Lloyd had been sent to Egypt, and he reintroduced into the prisons an instrument of torture which even the Sultan of Turkey had prohibited. We had not yet re-established the Chamber of Notables; but, happily or unhappily, in the case of Egypt, the Birmingham programme with regard to Ireland seemed to be in full force, for they had made some small village councils there.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the Amendment. He is not entitled to make those con- 688 stant references to Ireland on the Amendment now before the House.
§ MR. CHANCE
said, he was only doing so by way of illustration; but he would drop that line of observation in obedience to the ruling of the Chair. He wanted to know what advantage the British taxpayer was receiving in return for his money? Already we had an Estimate of £31,000,000 for the Army and Navy. But the cessation of our interference with Egypt would in a very short time lead to a reduction of the Budget, and of the taxes which the British taxpayer had to pay.
§ MR. O. DALRYMPLE (Ipswich)
The strangest charge that could have been brought against the statement of the Government earlier in debate was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) just now.
Notice taken that 40 Members were not present. House counted; and 40 Members being found present,
MR. C. DALEYMPLE
said: The charge the hon. Member for South Kilkenny brought against the statement made on behalf of the Government was a strange one,—namely, that it was wanting in detail. Whatever else the statement may have contained, it certainly contained a great deal of detail; and the speech of the hon. Member for South Kilkenny was proof of that in itself, because it followed the speech of the Under Secretary of State (Sir James Fergusson) in details, until the abundance of the illustration in which he indulged was ruled out of Order, and brought his speech to a termination. The hon. Member complained of the statement on the part of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Evesham Division of Worcestershire (Sir Richard Temple), to the effect that improvements had occurred in the condition of Egypt. The hon. Member denied the existence of improvements there; but the hon. Baronet was able to say that he had travelled in Egypt; and he has this advantage over many Members of the House, that he has the widest possible acquaintance with Oriental customs, and is able, by general knowledge, to testify that Mahommedan nations, throughout the world, regard with great favour the manner in which this House has up- 689 hold the authority of the Sultan and the Khedive. The attacks made on the Government are inconsistent one with the other; therefore, it seems to me the probability is that the course followed by Her Majesty's Ministers is the right one. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark), who spoke early in the debate, was severe on our presence in Egypt, and upon all that we had done there. I took down his words. He said, "If you come away from Egypt now, things will go back again to where you found them"; and yet he is going to support an Amendment that suggests that we should come away at once. I should have thought that the statement he made was au argument for remaining in Egypt longer, and not for coming away. We had a strange speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine). I take it that the hon. Member came down to the House for the purpose of speaking in favour of the Amendment; and he made his speech, it seems to me, not because, but in spite, of the statement of the Government. The hon. Gentleman has travelled in Egypt, and he has found—what I am not aware that anyone has denied—that there are evils existing there. All that is contended is that progress is being made in the direction of the removal of the evils. The hon. Member condemned the Government of Egypt, and it seemed to me that he proved too much. Would he, as well as the hon. Member for Caithness, say what Government should be left in Egypt if we go away? If he takes such a very low view of the Government of the country, surely that is a reason why we should continue there. We should remain until a better Government is established. Taking it at his own estimate of its merits, it seems to me that the hon. Member has supplied us with an argument for remaining there, rather than for coming away. Has anyone said that our work in Egypt is done? No one has said so. The Speech from the Throne distinctly says that our work is not yet accomplished. The best argument of all for our remaining there is that we propose to finish our work before we come away. Then, the hon. Member was very severe on the condition of Revenue, but all that can be said about that is that there is improvement taking place, and figures were quoted to 690 prove that such is the case. The hon. Member is severe on the octroi. But who has ever said that there are not abuses connected with these matters? It appears to me that one of the results of our continuing in Egypt at present will be that these evils will be remedied. And the hon. Member, still speaking as if no statement had been made on behalf of the Government, referred in tones of the greatest contempt to the scum of the Levant. But an expression of opinion has already been given on behalf of the Government with regard to this matter. The Under Secretary of State has condemned the immunity from trial under Egyptian laws which this scum of the Levant possesses. The Capitulations were strongly condemned. Then, again, the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness recommends that Revenue should be derived from the liquor shops in the future; but says that the Capitulations stand in the way of that arrangement. The Government have assorted that the Capitulations are at the root of many of the evils which exist; and there, again, they are in agreement with the hon. Member who is about to support the Amendment. Lastly, the hon. Member argued in favour of the Government having a free hand in Egypt; which is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs hinted would be of great importance if we were to deal more successfully with Egypt in the future than we have done in the past. But, surely, even the hon. Member, though he has made his speech, and, as I understand, is going to support the Amendment, is for all that of opinion that progress has been made to some extent. I gathered that from his speech, and therefore it seems to me that the course he proposes to take is directly inconsistent with the opinion he has expressed. Let me say one word with regard to an expression which occurs in the Amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer), as to the great majority of taxpayers of this country having "no direct interest in the Government or affairs of Egypt." I think that that is one of the most mischievous and misleading suggestions which could possibly be made. I think it was perhaps the most mischievous statement made in recent years, and there have been a great many mischievous state- 691 ments made latterly—that it is not desirable for the people of this country to take interest in foreign affairs. The House would remember where the illustration was used that, as Pericles said of women, "The less they are heard of the better," so, it was said, the less this country heard of foreign affairs the better. That view has been at the root of the mischief that has occurred in many parts of the world; and, to my mind, it is the reverse of a wise teaching to suggest to the people of this country that they should not concern themselves about foreign affairs. I do believe that considerable progress has been made in Egypt, and I am convinced that one great cause why there has not been even greater progress, has been the constant reference which has been made in former years to our intention of coming away from that country as speedily as possible. I believe that if such statements had never been indulged in—I believe that if it had never been dangled before the eyes of Egypt and of the world that we were always on the point of leaving—much greater progress would have been made. Language of that kind, I contend, was calculated to undo all the good being done. It was calculated to encourage intrigue, the mists of which, we are told to-night, are continually rising in Egypt; and was calculated to paralyze the efforts this country was called upon to engage in. I believe the statement made in the Gracious Speech from the Throne describes with essential accuracy the real position—that we have not yet accomplished our task in Egypt, but that a substantial advance has been made. That statement is vindicated by the facts that have been laid before the House. Those facts are not small or unimportant in view of the great difficulties that we have had to encounter in Egypt—difficulties which will not be lessened, but will be greatly increased if the Amendment that is being moved finds acceptance in this House.
§ MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
I beg very respectfully to ask the indulgence of the House for a few minutes, and I venture, Sir, to do so on two grounds—in the first place, because I have not yet trespassed upon its time or patience; and, secondly, because I do not desire or intend to prolong, as far as I am concerned, this debate by 692 speaking for more than a very few moments. I wish, Sir, to explain, very briefly, my reasons for the vote which I intend to give on this Amendment. Although I intend to vote against the Amendment, still I feel great sympathy with the hon. Member who has moved it, and I hope and believe that the course he has taken will have a very good effect in drawing the attention of the Government to the highly important questions of policy involved in the Amendment—not that I think that the Government is not fully aware or cognizant of the importance of the subject; but because I think it very desirable that upon the attention of the Government should be impressed the fact that the people of this country do hold a strong opinion upon the question of our position with regard to Egypt. Sir, I should be very much inclined to vote for the Amendment tonight, were it not for the word "immediate" introduced into it. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) said we could not criticise too closely the wording of a Motion of this kind; but it appears to me that on this occasion the wording of the Amendment has a great deal to do with the opinion which we must form in giving our vote upon it. It does appear to me that the word "immediate" is of great importance on this occasion, and whilst I am strongly in favour of an evacuation of Egypt at the earliest possible moment, I do feel that before that evacuation can be carried out something must be done. I confess I am a great deal disappointed that nothing fell from the Government to-night whilst I was in the House in confirmation or support of what we have heard, and what we have seen in the newspapers, as to the withdrawal of our troops from Egypt. I have been led to believe—I did believe, and I do still believe, and I think it possible it was only through an oversight on the part of the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that he did not refer to the fact—that troops have already been brought to England, and that a further withdrawal is in progress. I think it was a pity that the right hon. Baronet did not impress that fact upon the House, because I think that to Members on this side it is a matter for great congratulation that a distinct step in advance has been taken 693 —a step we were not able to obtain even from the Government that preceded right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which was a Government with which we were in much greater sympathy than we are with the present Government. I do very humbly and respectfully offer my congratulations to Gentlemen on the other side of the House on the Government—which I may describe, without wishing to speak in any way offensively, as composed of stiff-necked Tories and weak-kneed Whigs—being the first Government to approach in any way the policy which we desire to see carried out in Egypt. Sir, I say I am very strongly in favour of the evacuation of Egypt; but there is something that must be done before we can carry out that evacuation. When an Oriental civilization is destroyed, it is almost, if not quite, impossible to restore it; and it seems to me that as we destroyed the civilization, such as it was, that existed in Egypt before we went there, upon us is imposed the duty of establishing some form of Government which will succeed, and be an efficient substitute for, that which we abolished. Sir, I rejoice to hear that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, there is much improvement in the material and social condition of Egypt. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) did something, I think, to destroy that optimistic view—perhaps not to destroy it, but to qualify it; and I confess that his remarks were, to a great extent, in accordance with my own small experience. When I was in Egypt I was not able to learn that our influence there was doing any very great good. I fully admit and fully recognize the fact that our Representatives, and the men holding important positions in Egypt, are men of great ability, and are doing the best according to their lights. But, Sir, it appeared to me, as an outsider, that these efforts were neutralized by the fact that, whilst all responsibility appeared to be thrown on the Khedive and his Government, we—that is to say, the English Government as represented in Cairo—did not allow them any real power or voice in the Government of the country. It may be—I believe it is—the fact that matters have improved very much since then. I think there has been a distinct improvement within the last two or three years. There has been an im- 694 provement, so far as I can judge; but I confess that I incline much more to the view of benefits which our rule is conferring on Egypt, which has been expressed by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness, rather than that expressed on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I think it is very possible—I think it more than possible, I think it is extremely likely—that, if we had time, we could establish a good, stable, and, in every way a satisfactory Government in Egypt; but it appears to me that it would be too long a process to effect that. I hope we shall be able to evacuate the country in a shorter time than would be necessary to bring about such a state of things as that. We must establish, at any rate, a stable form of Government before we can leave, having destroyed the Government which existed there; and I therefore do not think that our own unaided efforts will enable us soon to leave the country with a satisfactory result. We have endeavoured, during the last five or six years, to work single-handed in competing against the influences around us in Egypt, without seeking—nay, without permitting—any assistance to be rendered to us by other Powers. I cannot help thinking, Sir, that this should be, not an English nor an Anglo-French question, but that it should be an European question. It does seem to me that it is the duty of Europe as well as of England to make satisfactory provision for the government of Egypt. I very much regret that there has been so long a delay in the reply of the English Government to the Commission which sat in Paris on the Suez Canal some time ago. I have not looked up the Report of the Commission; but, so far as I remember, the two grounds on which the English Representatives could not agree to the Report were, first, that the Representative of the Porte was to be President of the Commission; and, secondly, that a special Commission was to be instituted to deal with Egyptian affairs. The English Representatives considered that the European supervision then existing in Cairo was not only a sufficient, but a better means of considering those questions. I do not wish to detain the House by going into details; but this is a most interesting subject for examination, and I do believe that the points on which this Go- 695 vernment could not give their consent, or adhere to the recommendations of the other Powers, were susceptible of modification, and were open to argument. I have said, Sir, that I do not think that this question should be an English nor an Anglo-French one. I think that here has been the mischief at the bottom of all our troubles in Egypt. The main cause, it appears to me, of these troubles lay in the Dual Control that was established. This question has been made far too much a duel between England and France; but I feel very strongly that it ought to be—first of all—an European, and, secondly, an Egyptian question. In the first place, why did we ever go to Egypt; and, in the second place, having gone there, why did we remain? I think the answer will be that it was on account of the importance to us of the Suez Canal. I do not deny the importance of the Suez Canal to us, but I venture to think that, in proportion to their commerce, the Suez Canal is as important to other nations as it is to this country; and that its neutral character, in time of peace, it is to the interest of every other nation, as well as to our own interest, to preserve. But in time of war, if, unhappily, the time should ever come when we are embarked in war—and I pray God it may not—our great object, it seems to me, would be to prevent hostile vessels of other nations either from passing through the Canal, or taking possession of it; and I am not at all sure that the best means we could adopt for effecting that would not be to take some of those obsolete ironclads which the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford) is so anxious to relieve our Navy of, and sink them in the Canal. That would probably be a very effective method of overcoming the difficulty; and I am not at all sure that the noble and gallant Lord to whom I have referred would not agree that that is a course very likely to be adopted by the English Government, under such unfortunate circumstances. Well, I do not think that our interest in the Suez Canal is sufficient ground for rendering our intervention in Egypt continuous. The second ground on which I oppose this Amendment is, that it is an Egyptian, as well as an European affair—that we cannot leave Egypt defenceless. It may be matter for dispute 696 whether or not our rule has been beneficial to Egypt; but of this I feel quite sure—there cannot be two opinions about it—that the substitution of French rule for English rule would only land the Egyptian out of the frying-pan into the fire. If our ride is bad for Egypt, I am convinced that that of France would be worse. We cannot blind our eyes to the fact that even with all her present complications and difficulties, it is not at all impossible that France might desire to step into Egypt, should we leave it. Sir, there is another danger to Egypt—namely, the danger of an Arab invasion. I really think, especially after the remarks that fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Holborn (Colonel Duncan), in that able and manly speech, if I may say so, that he delivered, that the Egyptian Army is now approaching a condition in which it can be relied on to provide for the defence of the country. The Egyptian Army has improved in a most rapid and remarkable manner, and the result is almost entirely due, I think, to the efforts of General Grenfell and those able men who have assisted him in doing the work to which he has devoted so much time and energy. One of the most painful and grievous sights I ever witnessed in my life was the shipping of the reinforcements from the Egyptian Army to the Soudan. I shall never forget the painful and horrible thing it was to see the panic-stricken, terrified mass of men and boys driven at the point of the sword, and with revolvers at their heads, into the trains and into the vessels, to be shipped off to the Soudan. I asked myself, "Is it possible that these men can ever make soldiers?" Two short weeks afterwards—I remember the day well: it was this day three years ago—these unfortunate people who were permitted by Her Majesty's Government—and I think it was to the shame of the Government that they were so permitted'—to go with General Baker to the relief of Tokar, were massacred almost to the last individual by the Arabs on the field of battle. A more appalling and horrible sight than that field presented cannot be imagined. It will never fade from my memory. Sir, I cannot help feeling that an enormous amount of credit is due to the men who have raised up such a Force as the present Egyptian Army from such material 697 as tins. I believe that an Egyptian I Army, officered by Englishmen, would be quite sufficient to repel any attack from Lower Egypt by the Arabs; and, moreover, the information I received the other day from the Government as to our opening up the trade of the Nile, will go much further to restore order and settle the Government in the Soudan than any of those miserable expeditions which Her Majesty's Government engaged in some two or three years ago. Then, there is one other point upon which I desire to say a word, and I refer to it with great diffidence; because, on the part of the Government, we heard tonight that there is no feeling against us in Europe on account of our Egyptian policy. I wish I could honestly believe that there is no ill-feeling towards us on account of that policy. I think all the information we are able to gather in a private capacity is to the contrary. I cannot help feeling that there is no subject with regard to which our good name has so much suffered in Europe, as it has in reference to this question of Egypt. There is, undoubtedly, a strong feeling against us in France. I say it with all submission to the words which have fallen from the Treasury Bench to-night. I should only be too glad if I could think that those words were an accurate statement of the case; but everyone who reads the foreign newspapers—even the Paris newspapers, which are no great indication of the real feeling of the country—anyone who endeavours to follow the political opinion of Europe, must come to the conclusion that there is a strong feeling in France on this Egyptian Question. The Paris Press does not scruple to accuse us of unworthy motives; and, moreover, it appears to me there is a feeling amongst others of the Great Powers that we are not acting quite straightforwardly—that is, that we say one thing and do another; or, at any rate, that we do not act up to our professions. Anything which in any way can tarnish our good faith in Europe is unworthy of our policy; and I do most earnestly hope that if this debate has no other result, it will have the effect of inducing Her Majesty's Government to do all in their power not only, as I believe they are now doing, to improve the material condition and prosperity of Egypt, but also to endeavour to settle the question by 698 bringing the other Governments of Europe into participation in the responsibility and difficulties that surround it. I thank the House for the patience and attention with which it has listened to my remarks.
§ COLONEL HUGHES-HALLETT (Rochester)
I am unable to join, issue with the last Speaker in any of his observations from the fact that he has told us he is perfectly in accord with hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House, inasmuch as he intends to vote against the Amendment. The hon. Member's view is in sympathy with ours as to the word "immediate;" for, if that word had been eliminated the Mover of the Amendment would have received more support than I fear he will have. I think, if I may be allowed to say so, the House must have been very much struck by the admirable speech which fell from the hon. and gallant Member for Holborn (Colonel Duncan). The views he gave us could not fail to commend themselves to, and have great weight with, the deliberations and councils of this House. The scheme that he unfolded was an excellent one—that of having 2,000 men on the northern and 2,000 men on the southern point of the railway system, Cairo being the seat of the Egyptian Government. But it appears to me that hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches have lost sight of the fact that, although Egypt may be in their opinion but a secondary consideration in the Councils of this Realm, that country still forms a link, and a very important link, in that great political chain which, if I may use the metaphor, secures the British vessel of the State. In proposing suddenly and peremptorily to evacuate Egypt; in proposing to denude her at once of British troops, to deprive her of British protection, to abandon her entirely to probable internal dissensions, and possibly to anarchy and revolution; hon. Members are advocating a policy which may leave our interests in Egypt—which are of no small magnitude—at the mercy of Continental complications and Egyptian entanglements. Indeed, it seems to me that this would be the inevitable result of our leaving the country suddenly to its own internal Government. To hold his own in these troubled waters, the Captain who manages the British vessel of the State has to consider his position, and consider 699 it very carefully in all its bearings. The contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite appears to me to be that we have no business in Egypt at this time, that we have no greater interest in the Suez Canal or in Egypt than other Continental Powers. It is easy to talk glibly—as I am afraid hon. Members do talk—of suddenly evacuating Egypt and of abandoning her by the withdrawal of all our troops, as though we possess no interests, national or international, in that country—as though India were at this moment in the hands of Russia, and not a Possession of our own, and as though we had no interests to protect or defend eastward of the Island of Malta. A great many Members—I cannot say all, because the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) admitted the truth—ignore the fact that it was not the Tory Party that originated this great trouble in Egypt. It was not the Tory Party that originated the war of 1882, which commenced with the bombardment of Alexandria. But, Sir, that bombardment of Alexandria had this effect—it pledged not only the Government of the day, but successive Governments, to a policy in Egypt which they cannot relinquish until they have obtained the objects for which we entered the country. That war was not the fault of the Tory Party, but was the product of the vacillation of the Cabinet presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The Tory Party, however, having accepted the legacy left by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, are bound, as the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs very rightly pointed out this evening, to fulfil all the obligations, engagements, and responsibilities that were tied up in the covenant thus handed over to them. Sir, those obligations, engagements and responsibilities have not yet been fulfilled. Assuming for a moment that in order to carry out the view of the Mover of the Amendment announced in the House to-night, we withdraw our troops to-morrow from Egypt and finally evacuate the country; do hon. Gentlemen suppose for one moment that order and good government would spring up there in a night like a mushroom? It is impossible for us to quit that country until, what the hon. and 700 gallant Member for Holborn (Colonel Duncan) very rightly suggested as necessary—a reliable Government is established on a firm and secure basis, and is seen to flourish there. At this moment such a Government does not flourish there. But, following out the idea of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I do not think that Her Majesty's Government will throw any impediment in the way of that course being carried out. One other consideration is this, that if we evacuated the country very suddenly—for I know the country well—I do not hesitate to say that a very short time would elapse, after our peremptory withdrawal of troops, before a revolution would break out. Unfortunately, the present Ruler of Egypt is not a man of very strong or courageous character. There are a great many people who will go so far as to say that he is not altogether to be trusted. Certainly it is an open question that he is not held in very great respect or regard by his own people who, I believe, if they were asked the question would say they would infinitely prefer the return of their old Ruler Ismail to the present Khedive. Why is it that the people have no great regard or respect for the present reigning Prince? It is because Her Majesty's Government, through a misplaced humanitarianism, elected to try Arabi Pasha not by Egyptian law, and according to Egyptian customs, but under those of an alien European Power, depriving Tewfik of the Royal prerogative of mercy. I am afraid the latter owes his unfortunate position to that spirit of humanitarianism which sometimes sways the councils of Government and leads them into Quixotic actions. Looking into Egyptian History for the last few years, we see that all this trouble has arisen from the fact that the action of the Government presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), was in direct contradiction all the time to Ministerial declarations, instructions, and promises. But, Sir, having, as I said just now, accepted the covenant and legacy that has been handed down to us, Her Majesty's Government is obliged to make the best of it. At the same time we have now staring us in the face very heavy interests in Egypt, associated, in 701 particular, with that great highway the Suez Canal. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would not accept that argument; but I repeat it, because I know it is right. Her Majesty's Government must bear in mind that so far as they are concerned great responsibilities and interests are involved in this question of the security of the Suez Canal—interests which may at any time be affected and even imperilled. Therefore I cannot but think that until Her Majesty's Government can satisfy themselves that on the evacuation of Egypt, on the embarkation of the last British soldier from the pier at Alexandria, they can feel confident that a firm, stable, and reliable National Government has been established—and established permanently—they cannot, in my opinion, speaking as a humble Member of this House, be content to leave Egypt as its protecting Power, and to watch in future the course of events in that country from the congenial shores of Great Britain rather than from the muddy banks of the Nile.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
It is idle to talk, as has been done, of our disinterestedness in Egypt, which has been demoralized, as any country would be demoralized, by the presence in it of foreign troops for four years. The only thing we want is the establishment of a Government which shall be the tool of this country. The English have hunted Arabi and his half-drilled troops, and after dubbing Arabi a rebel they have sent him out of the country. I do not know whether England desires to kindle a war between France and Germany, so that she may annex Egypt, but I feel bound to say it looks very like it. If so, it is a bloodthirsty policy, and the people of Europe regard English conduct in Egypt with the greatest jealousy and indignation. At first, it was thought the occupation would be of only a temporary character; but now it has lasted for five years, at an enormous expense to this country and Ireland. England has slaughtered the Egyptians wantonly; for they have done nothing against the British Empire; they have offered no insult to the flag. This slaughter has taken place merely to gratify a wish to extend the already over-bloated British Empire. The extension of that Empire has been made through merciless shed- 702 ding of blood and the laying waste of other lands. It was so in India, in Africa, and Now Zealand. Everywhere slaughter has preceded annexation, and it looks as if the slaughter in Egypt is to be the forerunner of annexation. The Irish people view the proceedings in Egypt with the deepest abhorrence and disgust; and the originator of all this is the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). The tree he planted has borne suitable fruit. If he were so fortunate as to secure a seat—
§ MR. W. REDMOND
I was about to mention the connection of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with the affair.
§ Mr. W. REDMOND
I should be very glad to be allowed to explain what I was saying as to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. W. REDMOND
Well, Mr. Speaker, I respectfully maintain that the origin of the Egyptian difficulty is to be traced to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I regret very much he is not in the House. Mr. Goschen went to Egypt to float a loan. It is not my intention to impute motives—no doubt, the motives of the right hon. Gentleman were of the most honourable description; but it is extremely unfortunate that the Egyptian difficulties date from the intervention of the right. hon. Gentleman. From that time to this there has been nothing but misery, war, and famine in Egypt. I happened to be in that country shortly after the bombardment of Alexandria; and I felt ashamed to see the Natives crouching at street corners, or flying into the back streets at the approach of a white man. I was utterly ashamed of the British ruffianism which I witnessed in the streets; and I am not surprised that the people looked on the flag of England with the same loathing with which it was regarded by the Irish people. Everywhere there was ruin, misery, and havoc, and over all floated the Union Jack of England, the symbol of liberty. I believe the time will come 703 when, by a combination of the Powers, England would be compelled to leave Egypt.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I must apologize for taking part in this debate, because the subject of it does not directly concern the part of the Empire to which I belong, and because I have already addressed the House. But as the wisdom of the House has decided—I believe for ever—that Ireland is to remain an integral portion of the United Kingdom; all that concerns the best interests and the welfare of the Empire to which I belong is, I think, deserving of the careful attention and consideration of Irish Members. The hon. Member who has just sat down spoke as an Irish Member, and he appears to have one remedy, and one alone, for the ills of all the nations. The hon. Member suffers from Home Rule on the brain. The hon. Member seems to think that on one occasion he ran the risk of a very great calamity, of which, however, there really was no danger; and it is that he was afraid, when at Alexandria on one occasion, that he might have been mistaken for an Englishman.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I wish to correct the hon. and gallant Member if he will allow me. That misfortune has not vet befallen me.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I think the House will support me when I say that, the Party to which the hon. Gentleman belongs is a Party whose deepest aspiration is the downfall of the Empire. [No!] The hon. Member regards our position in Egypt as a manifestation of the abominable character of British rule; and he is of opinion that if our rule were withdrawn from other parts of the world, those countries would be peaceful and contented. If that does not show hostility to the Empire, I do not know what an enemy is. And now let me say a word or two about the Amendment. The Amendment before the House is very carefully drawn. It covers a very large amount of ground, and I imagine that hon. Members opposite, when they go back to their constituents, will point out that the battle fought in the House to-night was a battle engaged in by them in order, if possible, to show to the country that the Conservative Party, in reality, desire to embark in a dangerous, an adventurous, 704 and a meddling foreign policy. The Amendment represents to Her Majesty that—The expenses of the prolonged occupation of Egypt by a British Force have to be borne by the taxpayers of the United Kingdom, the great majority of whom have no direct interest in the government or affairs of Egypt, and that the retention of our troops in Egypt is a cause of suspicion and irritation to Continental Governments, and calculated to weaken the influence of the country in the Councils of Europe,and prays Her Majesty "to take immediate steps for recalling the whole of her Forces from Egypt." Now, Sir, I believe that I am speaking the sentiment of the whole of the Conservative Party when I say that they are opposed to anything like an adventurous foreign policy; and that they believe the worst course the Government could pursue would be to meddle with those unfortunate foreign complications that have arisen—and are likely to arise—from time to time in Europe. One of the greatest benefits which Prince Bismarck has conferred on diplomacy is that he has stripped it of that reserve, and of those circuitous methods which have hitherto been adopted by diplomatists in all countries. Now, recognizing as I do the present critical condition of Europe, when there is, as it were, a smell of gunpowder in the air—and I am fully conscious of it—I will not say a word that can help to create irritation abroad; but I believe that the way to keep out of and to avoid complications which might lead us into trouble and disastrous wars, is for us to speak our mind so clearly as to what the policy of England will be, that there can be no mistake in any country as to what we intend to do in certain contingencies. I believe the foreign policy of England is naturally, and ought to be the most simple foreign policy of any great nation in the world. We have a line that we mean to stand by—a line starting from England, and passing on by Gibraltar, Malta, Egypt and Aden to India; and our Government and our Diplomatists should be judged by the clearness and closeness with which they stick to that line, with which the vital interests of our widely-scattered Empire are bound up. If the Government go beyond that line, I believe the verdict of the country will be against them. This debate has, to a considerable degree, run off into side issues. The hon. Member who 705 moved the Amendment asks why we went to Egypt, and why we should stay there? These are no doubt two questions that interest the country very greatly, and I think it would be as well that we should be perfectly candid and straightforward in regard to them. I speak as an outsider, but I venture to say that the opinion of the outside public in this country has long been made up on these three points—as to why we went to Egypt, why we remain there, and how long we intend to stay there. The Mover of the Amendment apparently imagines that we went to Egypt to bolster up the bondholders. Why, Sir, the British public might just as soon go to war for the Irish landlords as for the Egyptian bondholders. It would be just as philanthropic to devote the blood and treasure of the Empire to one as to the other. The British people know that we went to Egypt because Egypt is a link in the chain which binds this country to India. It has been remarked that the Suez Canal could very easily be stopped up and closed, and a speech of the noble and gallant Lord the Member for Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford), in which he said that he could himself close the Canal in a very short time, has been cited. But that is not the point. If in time of war the noble and gallant Lord held one end of the Suez Canal and an equally clever officer held the other, it would be very difficult for any other Power to get control of the Canal, or to close it. I fully realize the fact that the Suez Canal is a link in the chain which binds us to India. I do not think the French have any right to complain of our action, because before we embarked on the Egyptian Expedition our Government invited France to join them; but M. Gambetta and M. de Freycinet answered that the French people were not inclined to take part in the operations. Therefore the French cannot throw in our teeth that we prevented them from participating in the work of restoring order in Egypt. We invited them, and they refused to cooperate with us. We went alone, and we have spent millions of money and shed a large amount of blood—I am afraid much innocent blood, too. I am not defending our policy in Egypt; but I say that we have made great sacrifices, and that those sacrifices have been willingly assented to by the English people, 706 for objects which were thought to be vital to the best interests of the Empire. And why are we staying there? We are doing so because, up to the present moment, the Government of Egypt has not been stable enough to remain unassisted and alone. I believe that the moment the Egyptians can do without our assistance, or the assistance of other nations, we should abandon Egypt; but that can be left in the hands of whatever British Government may be in Office at the time. What we wish other nations to clearly understand is that, although we do not desire to annex Egypt, yet we will not suffer any other nation, as long as we have a ship or a sailor, to step into our Egyptian shoes. There is one remark which was made by my right hon. Friend who spoke on behalf of the Government to which I feel bound to demur. It has been said that we went to Egypt to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire. Sir, I believe that the English people will not re-echo that sentiment. I have been a good deal in Egypt, and I have mixed with its people, and I believe it is impossible to mix with the Fellaheen and the Egyptian people without being struck by their many good qualities. Their patience, their temper, and their industry always attract Europeans. But they have been ruled with tyranny. What has been the curse of Egypt? It is that they have been ruled by the Turks; and I do not think that the British people would ever have spent a shilling, or shed a drop of the meanest blood of an Englishman, if they had thought for a moment that it was to bolster up the authority of Turkish rule in that country. The English Government did not feel keenly about the integrity of the Turkish Empire in putting their hand upon Cyprus. Our whole action in this matter, I believe, bad been influenced distinctly by the desire for self-preservation on the part of the British Empire. It is quite evident that we did not feel very much about the integrity either of Turkey or Egypt when we did what I have said with regard to Cyprus. Our only desire was to secure the preservation of our Indian Empire. We took Cyprus because we believed it to be on that line which we mean to maintain. We went to Egypt because we thought that it was a link in the chain which we mean to maintain, and which we must maintain. We intend 707 to remain there until we have made that link secure; and if the day comes, as I believe it may, when we shall be able to establish in Egypt a stable Government and retire from the country, then, looking at the enormous improvement that has taken place, looking at the absence of gross and abominable Turkish oppression which has existed, and at the progressive development of the resources of the country, I believe that we shall in the end be able to say that our blood and our treasure have not been spent in vain.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Sir JOHN GORST) (Chatham)
said, he was not disposed to find fault with the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) for bringing foward this Amendment. There had been a considerable amount of irritation and impatience at the prolonged occupation of Egypt, and if such impatience existed out-of-doors it was only right and natural that it should find vent in the House. Whatever might be the value to themselves of such debates as they had that night, he did not think that it was by any means so certain that debates upon subjects of foreign policy strengthened the position of the British Government abroad. That was, however, the price which we had to pay for discussing questions of this kind in a popular Assembly. If Egypt was ever to be brought into such a condition that it could safely and honourably be evacuated by the British Government, it could only be by a steady and continuous line of policy. Any interruption of that steady and continuous line of policy was certain to postpone the day on which the evacuation of Egypt could take place; and if the effect of the debate which had taken place that evening, and the Division which he supposed would ensue, should be to lead either Foreign Governments or the Egyptian people to suppose that the British Government had any idea of abandoning the task it had undertaken, or that having put its hand to the plough it was disposed to look back, he was sure that the effect of the debate and the Division would be to defeat the very object which the hon. Gentleman the Mover of the Amendment had in view. Upon one point they were all agreed. The late Government, the present Government, and those hon. Members below the 708 Gangway opposite who had moved and supported this Amendment, were all agreed as to the wisdom of evacuating Egypt as soon as they possibly could do so. The reasons for the determination of the Government to effect that at the earliest possible moment was not any pressure which was now put upon us by Foreign Governments. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) stated, at an earlier period of the debate, that the Government were not aware that any pressure was being exerted at present by any of those Governments who were parties to the Convention of 1885. No doubt, there was agitation in certain foreign countries on the subject of the British occupation of Egypt; but the sayings and writings of agitators abroad were not yet sufficiently powerful to influence the conduct of a British Government. While our occupation of Egypt was assented to by those Powers who were parties to the Convention of 1885, we could very well afford to disregard the attacks made upon us by foreign newspapers and agitators. The real difference of opinion between the hon. Members who moved and supported the Amendment and the present Government—he was, probably, right in adding the late Government—was that while they desired to limit the occupation of Egypt by a period of time—whether it be one month or six months—the view of the Government was that it must be limited, not by any particular period of time, but by the fulfilment of the objects to which the occupation of Egypt had been directed. To put a period of time to the occupation was the way to prevent the fulfilment of that object. On one occasion, several years ago, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), on the part of the then Government, was incautious enough to state that it was hoped Egypt would be evacuated in six months; and it was owing probably to that statement, in no small degree, that Egypt was not evacuated yet. He (Sir John Gorst) felt sure that any attempt on the part of either the House of Commons or the Government, or any responsible Member of the Government, to declare that Egypt should be evacuated within any defined period of time would result in the defeat of the object for which that declaration had been made. 709 What was the object for which we were now in Egypt? He really must protest, on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), against the extremely hard measure which he had received from his supporter the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). That hon. Member said that the late Government, presided over by the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), "went to Egypt for the purpose of putting down Parliamentary government." Now, he believed that he (Sir John Gorst) had made use of language very much like that; but that was at a time when he held an irresponsible position on the other side of the House, and when it was part of his duty to endeavour to draw the right hon. Gentleman. He would, however, have never thought of making use of such language towards the Leader of the Party to which he professed to belong—and now that he filled a responsible position he must protest against the Government of the day being supposed to have gone to Egypt, or to remain there for so unworthy an object as the suppression of Parliamentary government. The object for which they were in Egypt was admirably stated in the Speech from the Throne—"We are in Egypt, and we shall remain in Egypt until we can leave that country with an assurance of external and internal tranquillity." The moment the Government could leave that country with an assurance of this kind, he supposed it was the policy, both of the present and of the late Government, to withdraw. It was idle to say that no progress had been made there, although it might suit the purposes of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, whose object was to heap obloquy upon the British Government, to assert so. He would remind the House of some of the advantages which had been conferred on the Egyptian people. First of all there was the entire abolition of the kourbash. Anyone who knew Oriental countries, and the way in which Oriental Governments were accustomed to collect their taxes, would recognize the immense and beneficial revolution which the abolition of the kourbash had been. Instead of the Fellaheen having their taxes extorted from them by torture, they now only paid what was legal, without being subjected to violence. If that 710 reform stood alone as the one achievement of the British Government, he thought it was one of which they might be justly proud. Another reform had been accomplished under our auspices. The corvée—or forced labour—had been almost wholly abolished; it would have been entirely abolished if it had not been for a little accident which happened in the course of the negotiations. Last year the corvée was partially abolished, and this year there would have been £250,000 applied for the almost total abolition of the corvée in the present year. It was not true to say that this proposal had been opposed by the French Government, but differences of opinion as to the details of the scheme had arisen. Then there was the administration of justice. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) most justly condemned the administration of justice by the Foreign Consuls; but what the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) had alluded to was the administration of criminal justice by the Native Arab tribunals. Before we went to Egypt the administration of criminal justice by the Arab tribunals was a mockery. He did not say that the administration of justice was perfect now; but he was justified in saying that the administration of Native justice by the Native tribunals was enormously improved. Besides that, we had succeeded in re-opening trade with the Soudan The Suakin coast was now thrown open again to commerce, and it was very likely that in that way the whole country would be pacified, and peace and good order prevail. Immense improvement had been made in the military organization of the country; military service was not now unpopular with the Natives—who had proved themselves good soldiers at Wady Haifa—recruiting had improved, and the men composing the different corps were not only more happy and more contented, but made, he was told by military authorities; good soldiers. All these were substantial achievements, and to leave the country at the present moment would be to destroy all that had been done. They were carrying out the task which had been undertaken by Her Majesty's Government in Egypt and making substantial advance towards the assurance of 711 "external and internal tranquillity." But it was said, "If everything is going on so well, why do you not leave the country?" The answer had been given by those who had spoken in favour of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Barrow had himself admitted that if we were to leave Egypt now all the good already accomplished would be thrown away, and that, one would have thought, was a sufficient answer to the Amendment. He should have thought, indeed, the hon. Member would have withdrawn it. It was not the case that the Egyptian people were opposed to the Government. The hon. Member for Barrow would himself admit that at the present time the Egyptian people acquiesced in the Government—which was the most that could be expected from an Oriental nation—and showed no strong desire for a change. But there were certain conditions which must be fulfilled before the Government could withdraw its forces if it was desired to avert an immediate revolution. What were the conditions under which a withdrawal might safely take place? First of all, there was the question of Finance; for any country which depended for its Revenue upon the price of agricultural produce could not be said to be entirely out of financial danger. The Egyptian Government had taken steps to get rid of the Daira and Domain lands; not only bad they endeavoured to effect the sale of those lands, but they had attempted to get those Egyptians who were entitled to pensions—and the number was enormous—to take land in commutation of their pensions. A large extent of land would thus be disposed of in the course of the present year. The additions to the Egyptian Civil Service were now made in the most sparing manner; very few foreigners were appointed; in fact, like all other Governments, the Egyptian Government had embarked upon a career of economy, but it would take some years of economy before the reductions would tell upon the expenditure. Another reason why they could not withdraw from Egypt was the existence of the Capitulations. He would go so far as to say that he did not think it was possible for the wisest Government in the world to govern a country in which such things as these Capitulations existed. The hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness had given 712 a good example of their mischievous effects. Every civilized Government levied much of its taxation upon alcoholic liquors. What could be a more monstrous thing than to have in your capital town persons representing 17 nationalities establishing liquor shops over which the Government of the country had no control, and could not even levy a tax? He remembered a remarkable illustration of this which occurred at the time the English Fleet was at Besika Bay. A number of Greeks came down and established liquor shops on the shore, and when the seamen went off on leave they were seduced into those liquor shops and made drunk. It appearing, after conference with the authorities, that the Turkish Government had no power to put a stop to this state of things, the Admiral took the law into his own hands, smashed up the shops, and spilled the liquor, with the result that the British Government had to pay compensation to the owners. The Government had been asked, What were they doing to get rid of the Capitulations which were the cause of all this mischief? He would answer the question by saying that if we evacuated Egypt we should never get rid of these Capitulations, and it would come sooner or later to a question of the surrender of the Capitulations as the price of the evacuation of Egypt. It was impossible to evacuate until a stable Government were established. If we were once out of Egypt, we might depend upon it we should have no lever by which to get the Capitulations abolished. There was another obstacle to our leaving Egypt, and that was the Joint Administrations. A great part of the administration of the country was not in the hands of the Egyptian Government at all, but under the joint administration of Englishmen and Frenchmen, who sot themselves to thwart each other. The railways and the Daira and Domain lauds were so managed, and while this system of joint administration was upheld, it was impossible for any Government, however able, to manage successfully the affairs of the country. He (Sir John Gorst) hoped that he had shown that substantial progress was being made towards the objects which had been stated in the Speech from the Throne with regard to Egypt, that it was im- 713 possible, at the present moment, to evacuate Egypt without sacrificing all the progress that had been made, and that there were certain conditions which must be fulfilled before any Native Government could be expected to undertake the administration of Egypt. In the first place, the finances must be put on a sound and permanent basis; in the second place, they must get rid, somehow, of the Capitulations; and, in the third place, they must get rid of the Joint Administrations. When the European Powers had been persuaded to give up these ridiculous Capitulations, and to put a stop to these absurd Joint Administrations, the time would, he (Sir John Gorst) thought, have come when Great Britain would seriously consider whether her mission was not accomplished; and, he thought, that no Government which might then be in Office would be so indifferent to the burdens thrown upon the taxpayers by the occupation of Egypt, as to wish to prolong the occupation for one moment longer than the honour and interests of our country demanded.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, E.)
I cannot help thinking that our unfortunate occupation of Egypt has been the beginning of great evils all over the world. It has set the ball rolling; it has brought us into antagonism with Prance in the Eastern hemisphere, in Madagascar, and elsewhere. We have been told by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that we are following a continuous policy, with a view of getting out of the country speedily. I think the right hon. Gentleman is altogether mistaken in expressing that opinion. I see no evidence of such a design, but just the contrary; and the speeches which we have heard from the Government simply amount to an elaborate argument why we should stay in Egypt. We are told, in fact, that when the Millennium comes, we may think of evacuating Egypt. When Lord Dufferin went to Egypt he did apply himself to the task of making the country self-governing, but now there is nothing being done in that direction. The work of Lord Dufferin has been set at naught, and Egypt is governed by a Sovereign who is a mere puppet in our hands. No step whatever is being taken to secure self-government, and by im- 714 posing foreign methods upon Egypt more and more, we are making it more impossible that we can leave it ourselves. From what I know of the Oriental character, after that method Egypt will never be able to perform the work of self-government. I have always believed that money has been the moving spirit of our going to Egypt, and money is now the moving spirit which is inducing us to stay there. We have always taken an optimist view of Egypt, but I know that Oriental people do not altogether agree in our modes of government. You may have put down brigandage, but in the first instance you created it. We have heard a great deal about the abolition of the kourbash, but I believe that there is less security for property and less peace in the country than were in existence before we went there. It was not until after your occupation and your attempt to govern Egypt in your own way that brigandage sprang up. You say that you have secured better Courts of Justice in the country, but have they been successful? Judge West was sent there, and made a very unfavourable Report, which has never been produced. The Under Secretary admits that heavy burdens are still imposed upon the Fellaheen, and we are told that this is because there are financial necessities. That means paying the bondholders. But why are we so anxious to maintain the credit of Egypt? We are not so anxious to maintain the credit of Turkey. Turkey repudiated its debts long ago. We are simply bribing foreign countries to assent to our occupation of Egypt by paying foreign bondholders. It is only on this account, and because the foreign bondholders are a strong power in France and on the Continent, that the power of France and other foreign Powers has not been brought to bear upon us in a more vigorous and active manner. I think that an attempt should be made to establish a Native Government like that of one of the Native States of India, and that we should make an arrangement with France that, if we go out, she will pledge herself not to take our place. So far as we are concerned, I am afraid that our connection with Egypt is the worst thing that could have happened. It would be far better to leave Egypt to herself.
§ MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
Perhaps I may he allowed to say a few words in reference to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer). I am afraid that our present occupation of Egypt has given rise to much suspicion among some Continental nations, and so long as we remain there under the present conditions there will always be a certain amount of irritation in certain quarters on the Continent. It would, therefore, be better that we should boldly, wisely, and courageously declare that we are in Egypt because it was a political necessity to go there, and that we intend to stay there. If I believed that by remaining in Egypt for a few years we could succeed in establishing a strong and independent Native Government, it might be our policy merely to stay there, and I would earnestly desire to assist in the work. But having lived in the East for some short time, I believe that that is an impossible task. Any man who has had any experience of the dark races—and I have had some short experience of them both from Asia and Africa—must know that they are incapable of self-government. Consequently, to go on protesting, as Her Majesty's Government does, that we are about to leave Egypt, is misleading to our friends, and only tantalizing to our enemies. I am afraid that, unhappily, Europe is on the verge of a great war, and anything we could do to divide the war interests on the Continent, by a friendly alliance with Austria, Germany, and. Italy, would have a tendency to insure the preservation of peace. This would place a great peace barrier down the centre of Europe. If we tell Italy, Austria, and Germany that we intend to remain in Egypt, they will be our friends, because it is to their interest that we should do so; but our protestations that we are going to leave Egypt in no way tend to diminish the irritation of France and Russia, while they will undoubtedly increase our difficulties. If I believed England would ever, under any possible circumstances, grant Home Rule to Ireland, I would say "Do so at once," for we should remember the old proverb—"Bis dat, qui cito dat." And it is because I believe Home Rule never will and never can be granted that I now oppose it. But anyone who takes into consideration the character of 716 the Egyptian people and the circumstances of that country must be aware that they are a people who are not fit for self-government. Therefore, I think it would be wise on the part of Her Majesty's Government to declare that we intend to remain in Egypt, and to take upon ourselves the responsibility of governing the country and securing the welfare of the people, because necessity compels us, and because it is not conceivable how future events can alter present necessities so long as our Empire lasts.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
I do not think that any part of the House has any right to complain of the hon. Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) for having brought forward his Amendment and raised this discussion. Everyone must admit that he stated his case with great fairness, and considering the strength of his opinions, with great temperance. The only part of the speeches which have been delivered in support of the Amendment to which I demur, is the history which has been given of our occupation of Egypt, and its application to the facts of the case. Much of that history has been very far from correct. I must also observe that the fact that Mr. Goschen has now taken his place in the present Ministry, as an adversary of the Party to which I belong, cannot prevent me from expressing my regret that the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), and one or two other Members should have thought fit, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman, to renew charges against him which he, in a previous Parliament, refuted to the complete satisfaction of the House. My hon. and learned Friend the Under Secretary for India has said that such a discussion as this ought not to be raised in the House, because it is embarrassing to the Government. But, having regard to the increasing interest and disquietude that exist, in regard to the occupation of Egypt, it is only right that the opinion of the House of Commons should be expressed. In times past we have suffered too much from the House of Commons not expressing the mind of the people on matters such as this. Many of our mistakes in Eastern policy might have been avoided if the opinion of the people had been more unmistakably expressed in the House of 717 Commons. Therefore, I find myself in considerable agreement with the hon. Member who has proposed this Amendment in regard to the interests of England in this matter. We gain no profit from our presence in Egypt. We have made the most solemn promises not to continue our occupation. It puts us to considerable expense, even when a financial equilibrium exists; and there is no denying the fact that, although we occupy a perfectly good position, both legally and morally, so far as the other Powers of Europe are concerned, it makes our position in the Councils of Europe less easy and manageable than it otherwise would be. Egypt has been to us what Homer called it 30 centuries ago, bitter Egypt. It has been a very bitter possession, and, as far as our interests are concerned, I admit that the sooner we are out of it the better. But, turning to the words of the Amendment, I find we are asked to assert, upon rather doubtful and disputable grounds, a proposition which is both general and immediate—that we ought to withdraw forthwith. The hon. Member has, no doubt, explained this by saying that he does not desire that a telegram should be sent off, ordering the evacuation of Egypt in 48 hours; but that we ought to fix a date, and an approximate date, such as three or six months, or the end of the present year, when we should withdraw our troops.
§ MR. BRYCE
But I do not see, and the hon. Member has not explained, how it is possible to pull up thus suddenly our tent-poles and depart. Now, what is our position in Egypt? We are not in Egypt for our own benefit. We are not there because we have anything to gain. We have, in fact, nothing to gain. We are not there for the sake of the Suez Canal. In the speeches of the two Under Secretaries in the present debate, I am glad to notice that there was not a word about the Suez Canal. I was sorry to hear the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs revert to the old phrases about the integrity of the Turkish Empire. The so-called traditional policy of England to maintain the integrity of the Turkish Empire should, after the taking of Cyprus, and the arrangements of the 718 Treaty of Berlin, have been relegated to the limbo of departed foreign policies. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Paulton) when he said that the importance of the Suez Canal is being less and less regarded by the people of this country. I believe that its importance to this country has been immensely exaggerated. It is quite as important to other commercial countries as it is to us, and as a trade highway is, indeed, more important to the Mediterranean countries than to us. If public opinion had been a few years ago in the state it is now, we should never have gone to Egypt for the sake of the Suez Canal. It is now regarded as an international highway, which, so far as commerce goes, may be left to take care of itself, and whose value to us, even for military purposes, has been enormously exaggerated. If, then, we are not in Egypt for our own interests, what are we there for? We are there to maintain order, and to discharge certain engagements. I do not desire to discuss how those engagements came to be contracted. They are mainly engagements for which the Party on this side of the House are not responsible, having been entered into before 1880; but they were entered into under the influence of ideas which at one time prevailed on both sides of the House; and I will not, therefore, inquire who ought to bear the blame of the errors that were committed when the Dual Control was established. What the Amendment suggests is that we should throw over those engagements, and get out of Egypt as quickly as we can. We have a very delicate task, which is not to be solved by merely dilating upon the difficulties of our present position, but by considering what would happen if we changed it by immediately retiring. That is the point to which the supporters of the Motion ought to have addressed themselves. The House has heard difficulties stated which make immediate retirement impossible. It ought to be remembered that we cannot rely on the quiet now prevailing on the Southern Frontier of Egypt. The storms which troubled the Soudan have passed, but the waters are still heaving; and a longer time ought to be allowed for them to subside before the danger from that quarter can be deemed to have vanished. Then there is the position of the Khedive. I do 719 not believe the Government of the Khedive is so unstable as it has been represented to be. It is becoming more stable under the better administration we have succeeded in fostering. But there can be no doubt that it would be made more stable if this administration can be maintained for some time longer. The people are beginning to see how much just and honest government may do for them, and they have it now before their eyes; but time must be given them to realize the benefits of just government, and to appreciate what is being done for them, before they will be induced to walk in the path we have chalked out for them. I can confirm the two Under Secretaries in the account they have given of the reforms which have been effected, and I am glad that, to a great extent, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) has concurred in that view, it is also an important fact that the irrigation works have not only been greatly developed and improved, but are now being honestly managed, so as to benefit the people. Formerly, the water would only have been let out for the benefit of the Pashas, and others who desired to get it would have had to pay heavy bribes. But now the water is fairly distributed, so as not only to benefit the people generally, but also to inspire them with confidence in the Government. As regards the question of military exemptions, referred to by the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness, the tax paid for such exemptions no doubt seems heavy, considering the poverty of the people, but it is voluntarily paid by the people, who pay it rather than enter military service, and it considerably mitigates the severity of the system of conscription. In former times the amount of such a tax would have gone into the pockets of the military director, or other official responsible for the collection of taxes, while the people who paid it would have been left for military service all the same. No doubt it will be said that my statements are of an official or ex-official character. But the information from which I speak comes mostly from private sources, and a statement may happen to be true even when it comes from an official or ex-official quarter. I am sorry to be obliged to admit that if we were to go away at the present moment, the result of our 720 reforms and of all the progress made would be largely lost. This was a consideration which weighed with the late Government during the six months they held Office. Of course, that was a very short time to enable them to enter into the consideration of large questions of foreign policy, but they were induced to believe that, inasmuch as reforms were advancing satisfactorily and steadily, it was unwise to interrupt them. The late Government, during their short tenure of Office, conceived it to be their duty so to influence the administration of Egypt as to enable it ultimately to stand alone. Their Egyptian policy was governed by this view and hope. The British force guarding the Southern Frontier was withdrawn to Assouan. The total force in Egypt was largely reduced, and still further reductions were in contemplation when we quitted Office. We came, further, to a resolution for the re-opening of trade with Soudan, both in the Nile Valley and from Suakim, and we were able to effect considerable retrenchments in the expenditure of Egypt. I believe that still further retrenchments can be effected, and that the financial burden borne by this country may be thus removed. I am glad that the Government are at length resolved to give effect to the resolution taken by their Predecessors last July for the removal of the restrictions on trade, for nothing will more tend to the pacification of the Soudan. It has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Finsbury (Colonel Duncan) that 4,000 troops would suffice for the British garrison—2,000 at Alexandria, and 2,000 at Assouan. I am inclined to agree with him. Probably we might, with safety, even reduce the troops below that figure. The general tranquillity of the country is now such that less than 4,000 British soldiers may suffice to maintain order, and it would doubtless improve the position of the Khedive in the eyes of his subjects if they saw him surrounded exclusively by his own troops, instead of by foreign soldiers. But the process of effecting these reforms is necessarily slow, for both the Khedive's Government and we, as its advisers, are hampered by the Capitulations and rights of interposition guaranteed to other Powers. Hon. Members who have read the last Blue Books will remember that it took three years 721 to effect so small a change as the extension of the House Tax to foreigners. Sir Evelyn Baring has pointed out a difficulty in connection with the administration of Egypt which has been commented on by the Under Secretary for India—namely, that owing to the necessity of obtaining the consent of other Powers, great delay is experienced in effecting reforms, and that is especially the case with regard to the salaries of officials, and to the incurring of expenditure which may be expected to prove reproductive. It en-often happens that, by a slightly very larged expenditure, you may very largely increase your receipts, and thereby benefit the public revenue. But it is impossible, under the present system, to incur any such small additional expenditure without the consent of the Powers who are parties to the Financial Convention; and so we are compelled to forego many advantages, and to submit to vexatious delays. In that state of things, we cannot expect that the desired reforms can move rapidly forward. One thing would greatly facilitate those reforms—if we could remove from the minds of the French people the jealousy and distrust with which they view our occupation of Egypt. The French Government and people, no doubt, desire to see us out of Egypt. That feeling is a natural one; and however strong we may believe our moral position to be, however conscious of the honesty of our intentions, experience shows us that we must reckon with these feelings of suspicion; and the best thing the French Government can do, if they desire us soon to leave Egypt, is to abandon the somewhat contentious and unaccommodating spirit which they have exhibited, and to treat us more frankly and cordially. I hope, and venture to believe, that the present Government share the views I have been endeavouring to express. There certainly is a great contrast between the language which we hear from the Conservative Party now and that which we heard in the debate of February, 1885. Hon. Members who sat in the Parliament of 1885, and who now sit in this, will remember the language used by the right hon. Gentleman now the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), as to the 722 duty of England to make permanent provision for the Government of Egypt, and to occupy the country as far as Berber. Their language imputed, if it did not openly proclaim, a permanent protectorate of the country. Hon. Members, I think, will recognize in the past and present language held by the Tory Party the difference between critics in Opposition and Ministers speaking with the responsibility attaching to Office. I now gather from the speeches of the Under Secretaries that the Government regard our evacuation of Egypt as a thing to be distinctly and earnestly desired and worked for, and which they hope before long to attain. They agree in the view which we hold that the duty of Britain is to endeavour to place the Egyptian Government as soon as possible upon its own basis; and whenever they see a prospect of its being able to stand alone, the time will have arriven when our troops may be withdrawn. The Under Secretary for India now represents our position in Egypt as being, in fact, purely philanthropic. He says nothing about the old ground of British interests, and describes us as standing on the new and higher ground of philanthropy. But there must be a limit even to philanthropy; and even though philanthropic objects might be served by a protracted occupation of Egypt, it does not follow that we are to remain there, at risk and cost to ourselves for their attainment. Our aim should be so to guide her internal administration, so to improve her relations with the other Powers that now possess rights of interference, as to secure that every year shall mark a distinct advance towards the moment of our permanent retirement. There is reason to believe that a comparatively short time, at the present rate of progress, if steadily maintained, will enable the Native Army and the Native Administration to be brought to a condition permitting them to be left to themselves. One word remains as to how hon. Members on this side of the House who desire the evacuation of Egypt, but do not think it possible at this moment, can deal with the Amendment of my hon. Friend. I cannot vote for it, because, although I sympathize with the ends it seeks to attain, I believe it might defeat its own object; and I regret that my hon. Friend thinks it necessary to go to a Division, because many hon. Members, besides myself, 723 will be unable to vote with him, although we really sympathize with him. I think my hon. Friend would have done better if he had couched his Resolution in such terms as would have permitted the House to express the opinion that the time has come when the evacuation of Egypt should be regarded as in the near future. Entertaining that view, I do not see how I can accept the Motion of my hon. Friend. But I feel as strongly as he does that this is the goal upon which our eyes should be fixed. Every possible step should be taken towards its attainment; each month and year ought to bring it more within our reach, and it will be a fortunate day for this country and for Egypt when we are able, having discharged the duties which still detain us, to embark from the shores of that country the last of our troops.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I do not complain of the speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bryce), who was Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the late Government. It is only natural that he should endeavour to fasten upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House the responsibility for the position of affairs in Egypt. But I think, if I may be allowed to say to him, that that responsibility rests entirely upon the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member, and on hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. I prefer, myself, however, to date the events which we are now discussing from the year 1882. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh!] The hon. Gentleman opposite makes an exclamation. It appears to me that there was no occupation of Egypt before 1882. The whole of the policy we are now discussing is a policy which took its origin in 1882. But it is not desirable to go back into past history. We have to do with the present condition of affairs—we have to deal with present engagements, not of this or that Government, but with the engagements of England. I hope that this House will be content to regard the engagements this country has solemnly entered into with a deep sense of the responsibility of the people who have entered into them, and as binding alike on the one Government and on the other. Therefore, Sir, it is in no spirit of recrimination and with 724 no desire to obtain Party advantage that I have made these few observations. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down referred, I think with commendable praise, to the fact that the House of Commons is not only at liberty, but that it is its duty to take notice of circumstances and conditions which relate to the Foreign Affairs of the country. I agree with him. I know it has placed some difficulty in the way of Foreign Affairs; but with a democratic Constitution we must be prepared to encounter these difficulties, and to feel strong in the assurance that the nation and the House of Commons will maintain and discharge the obligations of the country. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in stating that we are in Egypt for no profit or advantage of our own, and whether it is this Government or the last Government, or any previous Government, I am prepared to maintain that the principle always adhered to in the discharge of international obligations has been that we have sought no particular preference for ourselves. Therefore, the promises and the engagements into which we have entered with good faith will be kept in perfectly good faith. We remain in Egypt until our duties are discharged, until our international obligations have been fulfilled, until we have been able to establish that Government in Egypt which the hon. Gentleman has stated to be necessary—a Native Government, a strong Government, a Government capable of holding its own and of discharging its duties as a great civilized Power. The hon. Gentleman has also referred to the fact that the late Government found that the work which was then in operation in the direction which I have indicated was progressing, and that it was progressing slowly; but that the aim which they had in view was being attained—namely, that Egypt should be able to stand alone and govern itself in the face of the world. He likewise said that the objects they had in view and the objects we have in view would be lost if the aim which the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) has in view was attained—that our withdrawal from Egypt at the present moment would produce a condition of anarchy which would imperil every advance that has yet been made in the social improvements of the people and the finances of the country. The hon. 725 Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Caine) gave testimony to the same effect. He said that the inevitable effect of our immediate withdrawal would be revolution—that as soon as the English troops were withdrawn the Government of the Khedive would fall. I think I heard an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House state that our withdrawal from Egypt would be no great misfortune—that Egypt would be in a position to govern herself. But that would not be the case. Egypt is subject to international obligations and engagements. The hon. Member appears not to be aware that the Powers of Europe would not permit revolution in Egypt; that they would themselves intervene, and that that would bring us into conflict with them in the endeavour to restore order and to set up a more stable government. To talk of revolution is not only to imperil the condition of Egypt, but to light a brand in Europe which would be fatal to the interests of this country, of Egypt, and of all other countries on the Continent. The right hon. Gentleman also spoke of the relations which exist with regard to France in this matter. He said that the departure of the English Army from Egypt would be hastened if France and the other Powers would heartily co-operate with England in the endeavour to bring about the reforms which are necessary to the stable government of Egypt. Sir, we recognize—to a certain extent, we sympathize—with the susceptibilities of France and of Frenchmen in this question. We are aware that they have a feeling with regard to Egypt, which not only justifies, but requires the greatest possible consideration to be paid to Frenchmen in their relations with us and with Egypt. But we desire to point out that what we seek to gain is not an advantage for England, but an advantage for Egypt, in the better government of the country and in the constitution of a Government which will enable us to depart, having completed and discharged the duties which we think we are bound to accomplish. We have reason to believe that France recognizes not only the advantage to Egypt, but to herself and all Europe, of conceding the conditions which are necessary to the security and good government of Egypt. The hon. Gentleman spoke with some doubt as to the Capitulations and the tribunals, which interfere with the good govern- 726 ment of Egypt, being given up. I have better hope than the hon. Gentleman. I believe we can place the subject so reasonably before the Powers of Europe that they will be disposed to join in the honest endeavour which we are making for the good of Egypt and of their own subjects. The Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst) and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) have, by their speeches, made it unnecessary for me to refer at any very great length to the debate which has passed; but I must allude to some observations which fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and the hon. Member for Caithness (Dr. Clark). I confess I did feel great regret that in this House insinuations should be made and charges should be repeated against my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) which had been disposed of in the face of the right hon. Gentleman himself, and by himself, in 1882 and 1884. It is not for Gentlemen in this House to make charges behind the back of the person accused. It is the custom, which is well observed, to give Notice to a Gentleman against whom a charge is to be brought, and, at least, to give him an opportunity of answering it face to face. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) will probably soon be in a position to give an answer to any person who has any charge to bring against him in this House. I think it would have shown better feeling if the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) had thought it right to wait until such a time as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have defended himself. But I will read a letter which I have received from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen). He says—I send you a copy of the main conditions I made when I went in an honorary capacity to Egypt. You will see how very clear I made my position, and how I reserved my entire political liberty. I went not to exact payment, but to arrange a compromise; and the relative sacrifices to be made by different classes of creditors. With regard to the connection of my firm with Egyptian loans, I stated in the House that they had had no part in the issue of loans subsequent to 1866. They were only concerned quite with the first loan, and had nothing to do with subsequent Egyptian finance. I, as you know, have been out of business for 22 years.727 Well, I think that the character of our public men is of value to this House, and that a charge should not be lightly made against one who has held high Office in this House, or even against an ordinary Member of this House, and especially, as I said before, when the Gentleman charged has not a chance himself of answering the charge. And now, Sir, I will read the conditions which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) made. In a letter of July 4, 1876, to the Council of Egyptian Bondholders, Mr. Goschen lays down the following conditions of accepting the mission to effect a compromise between the Khedive and the bondholders—1. That it must be understood that if I undertake to represent the interests of the bondholders I should do so simply with a view of securing, if possible, their more equitable treatment, and advising with regard to the propriety and expediency of accepting or rejecting proposals that may be made by others, but that I should not, under any circumstances whatever, be involved myself in any financial transactions or combinations.If any financial combination favourable to English bondholders should be proposed by English capitalists in whom the bondholders would have confidence, I should wish to be able at once to consider my functions at an end.2. That my position should be entirely honorary. I should also expect that in any negotiations of which I was cognizant no paid agents of any kind should be employed. To speak quite plainly, what I mean is this—that no money should be made by anybody out of the protection of the interests of the English bondholders.3. That I can undertake no duties that would interfere in any way with my perfect freedom of political action. I could not urge any steps on the English Government which, though useful to the bondholders, I might deem politically inexpedient. I am bound to say that this may fairly be considered by bondholders as a reason for preferring their interests to be placed in any other hands.Now, Sir, these were the conditions under which Mr. Goschen went to Egypt in 1876, and I appeal to any Gentleman who has any knowledge of business, any knowledge of political life, to say whether they were not conditions highly to his credit in every sense of the word. I have here a Report published in 1881 which gives the decree resulting from the interposition of Mr. Goschen in Egyptian affairs. Referring to the Controller of Receipts, the decree says—It will be his duty to see that the agents of collection do not collect more than the authorized taxes. Collections cannot be enforced on the taxpayer of the direct taxes until after they have been countersigned by him.728 The object was to prevent any oppression or irregularity. Well, Sir, what was the remark made by the Consul General in Egypt at the time, Mr. Vivian? He said—The powers of the English and French Controllers General of Expenditure and Audit will certainly be extensive, but I do not think they trench upon the Khedive's administrative independence, nor are they greater than recent disgraceful disclosures show to be absolutely necessary to insure the faithful and honest observance of any arrangement, while the frauds and exactions which are crushing the Fellahs make me attach great importance to the powers given to the English Controller General of appointing and dismissing the tax collectors in the provinces.Then, Sir, it is suggested that by an intrigue of Mr. Goschen, a Minister, an administrative Minister, Sadyk Pasha, was arrested and conveyed away. Mr. Vivian says—How grossly the ex-Minister abused the trust confided to him, how greatly Egypt has suffered from his dishonesty and mal-administration, and how far others were implicated with him, will probably now never be known; but as he was the great stumbling block to any chance of financial reform or honest administration, his fall, however it was brought about, can only be regarded as a great public benefit.Now, Sir, I hope I have disposed of the illusions which have existed, if they have existed in anybody's mind, as to the circumstances connected with Mr. Goschen's mission to Egypt. I believe, for I was in the House at the time, that these illusions were dispelled by Mr. Goschen's explanations in 1882; but if they were not, the House has now all the facts of the case before them, and I hope hon. Members will join with me in deprecating any further references to the matter. I have now only to thank my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Holborn (Colonel Duncan), for his interesting speech. He made suggestions which certainly were of very great value. It is, however, within his knowledge that a large reduction of troops has lately been effected by the exertions of Her Majesty's present Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman pointed to possible still further reductions, and he was followed by an hon. Gentleman, the Member for Aberdeen, the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce), who advocated still greater reductions. I can say for myself that further reduction of our force in Egypt will be possible, 729 and will be desirable, but such reduction must be associated with the condition that we are still determined to fulfil the obligation which we went there to carry out—namely, that the Government of Egypt shall be protected by England until it is capable of discharging its own duties and of standing alone as a strong native independent Government. Until that day comes, as I hope it will very soon, in the interests of this country and in the interests of good government, and in the discharge of the international obligations into which we have entered, we are bound to remain in Egypt.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
Mr. Speaker, it might, perhaps, be convenient to the House if the Amendment which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston (Mr. Cremer) were allowed to be withdrawn, with the view of presenting to the House the Amendment in a somewhat modified form; for instance, with the word "immediate" omitted, and the words "in the near future" added at the end. I think it would tend towards the conclusion of the debate if the House were to turn its attention to the suggestion which I take the liberty of making.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
Upon the understanding that I am permitted to introduce it in the altered form. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
Then, Mr. Speaker, the proposal of my hon. Friend (Mr. Cremer) stands before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith), who spoke with that suaviter in modo which is so conspicuously at his command, attempted to measure, not illusions, but opinions that are based upon hard and strong facts. Of all the calamitous enterprizes that were ever entered into by responsible Ministers of Her Majesty, I regard, and I believe the country regards, the Egyptian enterprize as the most calamitous, and the most disastrous—as the heaping of horrors upon horrors' head. In viewing this Egyptian matter we have to travel back, not into the regions of ancient history, but to a time that is within the recollection of each of us. We are all well aware of the conditions of things 730 that obtained in Egypt when French and English financiers had, between them, the almost exclusive and absolute control of the railway system in Egypt. We know what the action of those financiers led to. We know how the Khedive at first coquetted with Franco and England, and finally insulted both nations by dismissing the responsible Ministers of France and England. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) referred to-night to the enormous taxation that the taxpayers of Great Britain have to bear in consequence of this Egyptian business. My hon. Friend the Member for the Haggerston Division of Shoreditch (Mr. Cremer) takes, in his Amendment, exactly the same view as the hon. Member for Kilkenny; and, Sir, as my hon. Friend (Mr. Chance) put it to the House, if England had acted in the wise and prudent manner in which France acted when an insult was given to the Embassies of both nations, this House would not have been troubled with the Amendment now under consideration. The condition of things in Egypt went from bad to worse, until, in an evil hour, Her Majesty's troops were sent into that country—until Her Majesty's ironclads were sent out to batter down the Forts of Alexandria. [Laughter.] I refer to that, Sir, as an evil hour, and before I resume my seat I will show hon. Members opposite, whose risible faculties are so susceptible of being aroused, that it was not only an evil hour for England, but a hundred times more evil an hour for the unfortunate people of Egypt, at which this country took possession of Egypt. This House is informed that it was in the interest of British commerce that all this business was undertaken. No word has been repeated more in the course of this debate than Suez. The Suez Canal, I am prepared to admit, is an important factor in the commerce and navigation of the world; but hon. Members opposite and this House would arrogate to itself too much if they claimed for England anything like a monopoly of the navigation and commerce of the world. It is a notorious fact, in connection with this Egyptian matter, that the Government of England invested nearly £4,000,000 in the purchase of the Shares which the Khedive held in the Suez Canal. Hon. Gentlemen will, I am sure, 731 admit that the Suez Canal does form a very considerable and important factor in our relations with Egypt. A series of letters were written upon the purchase of the Shares in the Canal, from which I will, with the permission of the House, make one or two quotations. Sir Samuel Baker addressed a most important and interesting letter to The Times, and in it, referring to the purchase of the Khedive's Shares, he declared—That the Canal is positively indispensable to our commerce, and that we are determined at all hazards to keep that highway opened and undisturbed.Now, no person, no matter in whatever quarter of the House he sits, will quarrel with that determination; but I submit that Her Majesty's Government went the most roundabout way to conserve their rights so far as the Suez Canal was concerned. Consequent upon our troops and ironclads going to Egypt, there were many complications in that unfortunate and unhappy country. One of the leading men in the service of the Khedive, Arabi Bey, revolted against the Khedive, and thence occupied in Egypt a position far stronger than that occupied by the Khedive, because his position was one based upon the affection of the people. But that did not suit Her Majesty's Government. France declined to interfere; but Her Majesty's Government stepped in and did interfere, involving this country in the expenditure of an amount of money that it is startling to contemplate. I have looked up the Egyptian Vote for 1885–6, and I find it amounted to £2,300,000. That for 1886–7 amounts to £2,793,560. This is not an expenditure to be regarded lightly; the Egyptian matter, generally, is not one to be lightly discussed. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen express the hope that we shall soon get rid of this Egyptian difficulty. It seems, Sir, that exception is taken to the word "immediate" in the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Cremer); but if hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere when they say it would afford them the greatest gratification to get rid of our Egyptian troubles, why should they object to this word "immediate?" There is no time like the present, and I am fully persuaded that the country will sympathize with my hon. Friend (Mr. Cremer) in the Amendment he has moved. I submit to the judgment of the House 732 that it is obvious Her Majesty's Government ought, in the interest of good Government, and in the interest of the people of Egypt, to accept this Amendment. The condition of the people of Egypt has been anything but what it ought to have been, but if they were left to themselves they would be able to manage their own affairs in a manner which would be eminently satisfactory to themselves. If the Forces which are now in occupation in Egypt were brought back to this country, I am sure they would be received on their arrival here with open arms. What is their function in Egypt? They are simply an Army of occupation in the country protecting the Khedive, who, I submit, standing in my place in the House of Commons, would, if the English Army evacuated Egypt, follow them and, perhaps, open a residence in some fashionable centre of London. The people of Egypt would soon forget the calamities and the sorrows which were brought upon them by the action of our troops. I never take up any illustrated paper which contains pictorial representations of the engagements in which the British Forces took part in Egypt without experiencing a sickening sensation. When I see the poor naked savages represented as being driven under foot by the Cavalry of Great Britain; when I see men of dusky skin represented as pierced with British bayonets; I ask myself why it was these unfortunate men were so treated, and the only reason I could find was that it was simply because they were defending their homes. It is not because they are of an Oriental race; it is not because their skins are of a different colour from ours that they are not our equals in the sight of Almighty God. Their homes are as sacred in their eyes as the palatial mansions in the West End are to their owners. Their feelings towards their wives and children may be as strong, and, perhaps, stronger and more tender than the feelings of those who live in palatial residences in this country. Sir, it is because, in my opinion, the occupation of Egypt by our troops is fraught with mischief and misery to the people of Egypt, and is attended with enormous expenditure to this country, from which the taxpayers of Great Britain do not derive a scintilla of advantage, that it 733 affords me the greatest pleasure in supporting the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Cremer), in which the House is asked to humbly pray Her Majesty to take immediate steps for recalling the whole of her Forces from Egypt.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether I should be in Order in moving an Amendment by way of an Amendment to that now before the House?
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
Then, Sir, I beg to move that the Amendment now before the House be amended by leaving out the word "immediate," and adding at the end of the Amendment the words "in the near future." The last section of the Amendment would then read—"humbly to pray Her Majesty to take steps for recalling the whole of her Forces from Egypt in the near future." I move this alteration with the sanction of the mover of the Amendment (Mr. Cremer), and on the suggestion of my hon. Friend the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce). The Party on this side of the House has been largely responsible for the policy which this country has pursued towards Egypt. Our expenses in that country has led us to wish that we were freed from the responsibilites which have been incurred by this country; and I hope from the speeches which we have listened to from the other side of the House, and from responsible Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, that this Amendment will be acceptable to the House as a whole. We wish to give the world to understand that our desire is that our occupation of Egypt shall be for as short a period as possible. It has been declared to-night that our whole object is to leave behind in Egypt a Native Government, strong and independent. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that the best way of ensuring the independence of a Native Government in Egypt is for us to withdraw our troops rapidly, and to take every day a less active part in the government of that country. I am one of a small body of Members of this House who has opposed from the outset any interference by force in Egyptian affairs. All 734 through I have consistently opposed the advancing steps which have been made by the Government of my own Party in that direction. As I understand it, there is now comparatively little difference of opinion between the two sides of the House upon this subject. I admit there is a difference between going into a country and the manner of leaving it; it is one thing to take a decisive step at the outset and refuse interference, but it becomes a question of policy, to some extent as to how the withdrawal is to take place. Already a large proportion of Her Majesty's Forces has been withdrawn from Egypt, and we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) that it is both practicable and desirable that there should be an early reduction of the remnant of the Force left in that country. If that be so it must clearly be the intention of Her Majesty's Government that there should be an early and an absolute withdrawal of Her Majesty's Forces with the view of leaving the government of Egypt to the people of that country, and I think we shall make a substantial advance, if the House is able to agree upon the Amendment now submitted to it. By the adoption of this Amendment we should not compromise or unduly tie the hands of the Government; but, on the other hand, we should, by this unanimous expression on the part of the House of Commons, be doing, at this critical moment in Europe, a great service towards the removal of the feelings of irritability which prevail at any rate in France, if not elsewhere. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, without detaining the House one moment longer, I beg to move the Amendment to the Amendment I have suggested.
Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, in line 9, to leave out the word "immediate."—(Mr. Illingworth.)
§ Question put, "That the word 'immediate' stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 127: Majority 120.—(Div. List, No. 3.)
That the words 'and humbly to represent to Her Majesty that, inasmuch as the expenses of the prolonged occupation of Egypt by a British force have to be borne by the taxpayers
of the United Kingdom, the great majority of whom have no direst interest in the Government or affairs of Egypt, and that the retention of our Troops in Egypt is a cause of suspicion and irritation to Continental Governments, and calculated to weaken the influence of this Country in the Councils of Europe, humbly to pray Her Majesty to take immediate steps for recalling the whole of Her Forces from Egypt' be there inserted."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 97; Noes 263: Majority 166. (Div. List No. 4.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion made and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Parnell,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.