Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £46,260, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for the Expenses of Her Majesty's Embassies and Missions Abroad.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, that under this head appeared an item for Her Majesty's Agent and Consul General in Egypt, and in connection with that Vote he desired to occupy the attention of the Committee for a short time in reference to the prospect which was being opened out for us at Suakin. He believed that that was a matter which came strictly under this Vote. It was proposed, as the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had on more than one occasion recently told them, to employ a British Force at Suakin. He should like the Committee to go back to what had happened in Suakin during the last five or six years. He did not propose to recapitulate the whole of the events which had occurred. He only desired the Committee to recall the previous occasions on which British troops had been employed, the enormous destruction of the Arabs following that employment, the great and serious loss of life to British soldiers and British officers, and the futile result of all the operations which had taken place there. He thought it would be found that the result of all the operations in connection with Suakin during the last five or six 735 years, so far from effecting good in the future civilization in the Soudan, was absolutely nil. He did not think it would he denied in any part of the House that this shedding of blood and this waste of treasure had been followed by absolutely no good whatever to any object of public policy either English or Egyptian. In the remarks he proposed to make he should endeavour to keep perfectly clear from Party feeling. He did not make that remark in the ordinary conventional way, but because he thought that it could not be denied that both Parties were equally responsible for this horrible and dreadful waste of treasure and bloodshed. [Cries of "No, no!"] He thought that hon. Gentlemen who said "No" could not have been in the Parliament of 1880. It could not be denied that both Parties were compromised in the history of those transactions, but he only wished the Committee to follow what had been going on during the last 12 months. As he was informed, up to March last, after a considerable interval, Osman Digna and the Arab Tribes and Dervishes had been completely quiet. In March Osman Digna came down to Handoub, a place about nine miles from Suakin, where a fierce encounter took place between his forces and the Egyptian troops who were in the occupation of the Soudan. These encounters were followed by an armistice, and that armistice lasted until September. It would then appear, from information received from the English officer serving under the Egyptian Government in Suakin, that communications were going on between Osman Digma and the Mahdi, who refused to allow Osman Digna to enter into amicable or civil relations with the General commanding at Suakin, and sent orders that the infidels in Suakin were to be put to the sword, and that the Egyptian Government and all its representatives were to be driven into the sea. About the middle of September some of the Arabs entrenched themselves around the wells about a mile from Suakin, on which Suakin depended for water. There were at first about 250 horsemen, but they were subsequently reinforced by 3,000 men on foot. From that time until now every attempt to dislodge those forces from their entrenchments had been entirely 736 futile. It would appear that they had got decent guns, abundance of good ammunition, and as to their courage and bravery, we had experienced them before, and that courage and bravery had not diminished since. The defence of the outworks was most intrepidly conducted, and the operations since had assumed a formidable character, so formidable that General Grenfell felt it his duty to go to Cairo to make representations to Her Majesty's Agent there, and to request that the garrison should be reinforced by a body of British troops. That was the present situation. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury promised the other day to lay the Papers as to the communications of General Grenfell with the Egyptian Government before the House, but unfortunately they were compelled that day to discuss the subject in the absence of those Papers, and they had no means of knowing what representations were made to the Egyptian Government, or what was the general view taken of the situation by Her Majesty's Government in London. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Sir James Fergusson) might be enabled to enlighten the Committee as to the views of Her Majesty's Government. What he wanted to do shortly was to protest against the repetition in 1889 of the kind of bloody and aimless operations that were carried on in 1884–1885. He had no desire to discuss the Soudan policy at large, but to impress upon the Committee how shameful it would be if Parliament allowed the Government once more to embark on a similar purposeless operation without as strong a protest as they could possibly make against them. He was afraid that they were bound to treat those operations as absolutely purposeless. He did not wish for a moment to tie the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to any accidental phrase which might have fallen from his lips in answer to the question, but the right hon. Gentleman had on three occasions repeated a remarkable phrase—namely, the Force was to go from Cairo to Suakin and then back again to Cairo. If that manœuvre was to be shared in by British troops, then he would repeat again a protest against such operations as absolutely purposeless. He would base his protest on this proposi- 737 tion, and he defied the Government to produce one item of testimony in contravention of it. His protest was that Suakin, as Suakin, was absolutely useless for any good purpose. They must either go beyond Suakin, or direct the Egyptian Government to abandon Suakin. The mere retention of Suakin on such terms as it had been retained since the operations of 1885 was absolutely useless for any good purpose. He knew it was said that we were there in order to prevent the nefarious operations of the Slave Traders, but then they had a great body of evidence from our own agents, naval, military, and political, all to the effect that for the purpose of suppressing the Eastern Soudan Slave Trade the retention of Suakin by the Egyptian Government was absolutely useless. He would not trouble the Committee with more than a few extracts. Colonel Schaefer, who was officially connected with the Slave Trade Department, had been instructed to present a report as to the position of the Soudan Slave Trade, and he would only read what that gentleman said in reference to the position of Suakin.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, it was the correspondence that was laid before the House on the Slave Trade in June, 1888. At page 125 of the Blue Book it would be found that Colonel Schaefer first of all described the state of things at Jeddah, which, as hon. Members were aware, was the great market where the slaves brought from the Eastern Soudan were disposed of. Colonel Schaefer said—All the dealers say that they had any such amount of slaves available, and that never before had there been such a glut of slaves in the Jeddah market.He said, further on—I cannot insist too much on the fact that if this is allowed to go on, all measures taken by the Egyptian authorities on the Red Sea Littoral will be thrown away, and representations must absolutely be made at Constantinople, in order to bring about a change in these scandalous proceedings.In a succeeding Memorandum, at page 127, this gentleman explained how it was that the Egyptian Government were very badly situated with regard to means for checking this great evil effectively. 738 He says there are two ways of crushing the Slave Trade. The one is to go to the source, the other is to go to the market. Hon. Members would observe that, according to this view, we must either close the source, which was the East of the Nile, or close the markets. Colonel Schaefer added the operations in the Red Sea Littoral, the retention of the Soudan, and the operations of the cruisers in front of the coast were absolutely useless for the purpose of protection. For obvious reasons, going to the source of the Slave Trade was out of the question, and according to Colonel Schaefer, an attempt to close the market at Jeddah was the only practicable remedy under the circumstances. The only thing the Egyptian Government could do was to try and stop the caravans in their passage; but the stopping of the caravans in their passage was not to be done at Suakin. The retention of Suakin was altogether unconnected with any effective measures for stopping the caravans. In another passage Colonel Schaefer said that so long as no measures were taken by the authorities of Jeddah or other parts of the coast to prevent the landing of slaves from the slave dhows, any other measures would be of no avail. If it were contended that the retention of Suakin was of importance in connection with the operations of the English cruisers who were engaged in intercepting the slave dhows from one coast to the other, they would find that Colonel Schaefer was of an entirely different opinion, for he said, at page 128 of the Blue Book—The coast of the Eastern Soudan is protected by a chain of reefs, rendering navigation extremely difficult. Therefore I do not think that this control"—the control maintained by Egypt—was of any great use. The dhows are always able to see a steamer a long way off, and the crew at once make for the shore and sink the boat, after having landed the slaves.Neither by the retention of the Soudan nor by the employment of our cruisers are we able to prevent the importation of a single slave upon the opposite coast. It was now understood that two now regiments of Egyptian troops were going to be raised, equipped, and transported, and his contention was that the Egyptian Budget would be by no means able to support so heavy a 739 burden. Therefore, from the point of view of the financial embarrassment of Egypt, as well as from the point of view of humanity towards the unfortunate Arabs—an effective operation for the suppression of the Slave Trade—we were simply doing what was worse than purposeless. Her Majesty's Government would soon be driven to consider whether they would not advise the Egyptian Government to abandon Suakin altogether. The only other alternative was to attempt to suppress the Slave Trade by introducing a policy of civilization into the Soudan itself. He should look upon such a policy with the greatest misgiving, as one that would involve us in serious embarrassment. The Egyptians were distrusted by the Arab tribes, and to invite the Egyptians to undertake operations in the Inner Soudan would be inevitbaly disastrous. That, however, would be a matter for future debate. The point now before the Committee was, whether Her Majesty's Government were now to be encouraged in embarking in a course which would inevitably lead to a repetition of the odious transactions which took place at Suakin in 1884–5.
§ SIR LEWIS PELLY (Hackney, N.)
said, that when he entered the House he had no intention of intervening in the debate, but he confessed that he had never himself been able to follow our policy in Egypt. He had, to the best of his ability, watched the course of events in Egypt since he was there in 1880, but he had never been able to understand it. It had been marked by ignorance of Oriental character and modes of thought, and by a vacillation of purpose produced by the exigencies of Party Government. He would not, however, enter further into that subject, but as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had touched on the question of the Slave Trade, he thought that, without arrogance, he might submit to the House some results of his own experience, derived from 15 years' employment in connection with the Arabs from the head of the Persian Gulf to the Mozambique Channel. In accordance with instructions from the Indian Government he had many years ago prepared a Report upon the general question of the Slave Trade. If the right hon. Gentleman would read that Report, 740 he would find that many of the phrases he had used in his speech were in exact accord with the statements contained in the Report. He (Sir Lewis Pelly) added that he had been engaged in chevying many thousands of slaves, and the operations with which he had been connected were conducted with care for the slaves themselves in the general interests of humanity. But the conclusion he was compelled to arrive at at last was, that we were doing more harm than good, and he accordingly tendered to the Government of India, in a respectful manner, the resignation of his appointment. The policy, however, to which he objected had been persevered in, and what had been the consequence? They had recently heard from the Prime Minister himself that the Slave Trade was carried on with increased vigour; and what were the consequences to the slaves themselves? Instead of being taken on the open seas as they used to be, they were now dodged along the coast until an opportunity arrived for taking them over to Asia by sea or overland at an immense loss—probably 60 or 70 per cent. The evils of the trade were admitted on all hands, and so were our good intentions, nor could anyone admire more heartily than he did the dauntless energy, the perseverance, the heroic endurance, and the deliberate daring displayed by our officers and men cruising for weeks in open boats among perilous and unsurveyed reefs. But what he deeply regretted was that our proceedings should be capable of suspicion, and that our motives should be suspected by the Natives, who think that we unite in our cruisers the functions of policeman and Judge, and that the captors benefit in money by an award against the party they have apprehended. He well knew how largely the Natives erred in this opinion. But not the less true was it that they had regarded us with those feelings with which human nature will regard a supposed tyrannical but irresistible force. They consider, in brief, that we have exhibited along the East Coast of Africa that most frightful of spectacles—the power of civilization without its justice or its mercy. But it was not the local Executive, but the Policy that he arraigned. Although actuated with the best intentions, we had done a good deal of harm, and, in his opinion, the slavery pervading Africa could not be eradicated 741 by force used at sea. We must trust to the progress of civilization for slowly eradicating a great and long-standing evil. We must either stop the demand, or go to the source from which the slaves were produced. He had submitted, in former days, that something might be done by spreading civilization in Eastern Africa, and making arrangements for carrying goods from the interior to the coast-line without the aid of slave porters. In Mombassa, for instance, we find what Captain Owen, R.N., has described; one of the finest harbours in the world—its climate is salubrious, and inland lies a magnificent territory, capable of considerable mercantile development. All along the coast-line, at various distances from the sea, produce, whether in ivory, seeds, copal, skins, or what-not, is marketable. Slaves drawn from the interior, having been either taken in war, kidnapped, or sold for debt, carry down the produce as "porters" to the coast. He was glad to add that a few gentlemen had now subscribed a quarter of a million of money as a nucleus for endeavouring to introduce, through Mombassa to Lake Victoria Nyansa, and by the instrumentality of our British Indian traders, civilized means of transit and the ordinary administration of a British Government. Something might be done against the Slave Trade by watching the ports to which the slave craft run on the Arabian coast and at the entrance to the Gulfs of Oman and Persia. But he would repeat that we should never root out slavery in Africa unless we introduced civilization there and the means of transport. We must trust to the slow process of civilizing influences, and not to the force of arms, to get rid of this long-standing curse.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir JAMES FERGUSSON) (Manchester, N.E.)
said, that he did not rise so early to interpose between hon. Members and the House. On an ordinary occasion he would rather allow the debate to proceed further; but the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley) were of so grave a character that the Committee would feel they deserved an immediate reply, and possibly what he (Sir James Fergusson) should be able to say, in answer, might remove some misconceptions from the minds of hon. Members, and place the 742 subject, at any rate, on a foundation of fact. No one could take exception to a right hon. Gentleman in the position of the right hon. Member challenging the policy of the Government, and, at all events, asking the most distinct explanation of the nature and intention of the operations which were known to be contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman had abstained from recapitulating the events of late years, although he had alluded to them; and certainly the memory of costly expeditions in the same region, of terrible loss of life, and of acknowledged failure in material objects would discourage any Government from embarking in any similar undertaking. But when Her Majesty's Government came into Office they found matters in a certain stage. Her Majesty's Forces and the Egyptian troops had been withdrawn from the Nile Valley. He did not question whether the resolution in its entirety—whether Dongola, for instance, might or might not with advantage have been held—was wise or not; but the frontier post was fixed at Wady Haifa, and Suakin was the only point retained on the Red Sea. There Her Majesty's Government, who had gone only as far as advice, had counselled the Egyptian Government to remain; and it had been the deliberate policy of the English Government ever since to maintain a purely defensive attitude, with as small a force as might be adequate for the purpose, and, in the meantime, by spending all the money they could spare on the improvement of the country, to place the finances of the Egyptian Government on a better footing to enable it to meet the necessary expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman had remarked upon the absence of any advantageous objects resulting from the waste of blood and treasure in the Soudan. That was a melancholy fact, for which Her Majesty's present Advisers were certainly not responsible. He was not going to rip up old sores, or to renew old complaints, or to make taunts against those who were responsible. The question for him was the present and not the past. As regarded the recent sequence of events and the new disturbances on the frontier, they were not material to the present issue. The Prime Minister had lately used a remarkable expression with respect to 743 the petty warfare which was going on—namely, that it was "the surf upon the advancing wave of civilization." Egypt was not the only country which had a troublesome frontier and troublesome neighbours, against whom she had to maintain a defensive war. Russia had such troublesome frontiers and neighbours, and so also had India, where we were sometimes obliged to take up more than a simple attitude of defence. The right hon. Gentleman, referring to the present situation, had alluded to the attack upon Suakin, and to the intrepid attitude maintained by the besiegers. No recent attempt had been made to dislodge them, and it had now come to this—either that the troops must be withdrawn to Egypt, or a British Force be sent to support them. He would remind the Committee that there were only two kinds of policy of a military nature that were possible in Egypt with regard to Suakin and the Nile Valley. Either Egypt must remain there entirely on the defensive, or operations must be resumed on a scale sufficient to drive back the hostile forces to a great distance and to render them incapable of resuming the attack. It was agreed on all hands that the latter policy was abandoned; and, therefore, there was no alternative possible, except the purely defensive policy we had adopted, and from that there was no intention to depart. It was quite true that the garrison at Suakin must be put on a scale adequate to meet any future emergency, and to cope with a large force from the interior, furnished with arms of precision, and understanding how to use them. It was, therefore, obvious that in face of the pertinacious attacks made on the place it was necessary that reinforcements should be sent, in order to maintain the defensive attitude which had been adopted. It must be borne in mind that any attempt to advance beyond the lines which the Soudanese had taken up was immediately stopped, and that had been the case for several weeks. What was to be done? Were the Arabs to be allowed to remain threatening Suakin, firing shots into the place, killing and wounding the inhabitants and some of the defending forces, and shutting up the garrison, even if it was not seriously threatened? Was it possible for the Egyptian Government 744 to allow matters to remain in that position? Did the right hon. Gentleman suggest the alternative that the Egyptian troops should be withdrawn, and the place left to the tender mercies of the Slave Traders? Did the right hon. Gentleman seriously suggest that that was the course which the Government ought to adopt?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that was a course which he thought the House would consider it very improper to adopt. The only course, therefore, was adequately to defend the place; and, accordingly, a force was being sent there which, in the opinion of the Military Authorities, would be sufficient for the purpose. Her Majesty's Government had authorized the employment of a portion of the small British Force now in Egypt in support of the Egyptian troops, who were dispatched for the defence of the place. The General in Egypt, an officer of great ability, was of opinion that the force would be sufficient for the purpose, and he was absolutely certain that there would be no failure. The Military Authorities did not entertain the slightest doubt of the success of the operations in driving away the Arab Tribes. He could assure the Committee that there was no intention of doing more than defend Suakin. The policy of the Government was simply to defend the place, and that object had been hitherto successfully accomplished by the Egyptian troops without the aid of British troops. They had shown their ability to defend themselves without our assistance. There had been unfortunate exaggerations with regard to the situation in which Suakin was placed. The Correspondent of The Times said, a little while ago, that the town might be taken by a rush. That was not the case; and now the British Authorities did not entertain the slightest doubt that the force to be employed in the defence of Suakin would be able to drive away the besiegers, but that in any case the capture of the place was absolutely impossible. There was no intention to do more than defend Suakin, and he had no doubt they would be able to defend it. The Egyptian troops had shown, without the aid of British soldiers, their ability to maintain themselves in several hot engagements. 745 Let them hope, then, that that was one of the last recurring waves by which barbarous troops were seeking, as the right hon. Gentleman had said, to sweep away civilized Government and drive the Egyptians into the sea. The right hon. Gentleman said that Suakin was of no use for the suppression of the Slave Trade. [Mr. JOHN MORLEY: Hear, hear!] That was not the opinion of many persons of high authority. They were of opinion that if we were to give up the station from which our ships were able to operate conveniently along the littoral, the Slave Trade would very soon assume much larger proportions. And it stood to reason, because, à priori, if you removed your Forces to a great distance you could not act with the same effect. The right hon. Gentleman had said that a man-of-war was a very large object, and that when the slavers saw it they kept out of the way. As soon as it was out of sight, then came the time to run across the sea. That was a sensible observation, but naval officers were sensible men; and as the same idea had occurred to them, they employed boats and they fitted out native craft which could creep along the coast and watch the trade. It had been said that there were only two effective ways of stopping the Slave Trade—the one at the source and the other at Jeddah, and that the best way was to go to the Ottoman Government and secure its co-operation and assistance. Well, that was exactly what was being done. He was happy to say that during the last fortnight some slave dhows were chased by boats from a man-of-war. They landed in the neighbourhood of Jeddah; the Mahomedan Governor was appealed to, and he, without the slightest delay, sent the police, and, though some of the slaves had been removed, a considerable number were recovered, in consequence of his energetic proceedings, and set free. The right hon. Gentleman had said that we were going to impose new burdens upon the Egyptian Government by this increase in the Army of Defence. Well, it was hard to please everybody. There had been many statements of late in the newspapers to the effect that the Egyptian Force was too small for the work it had to do. He thought that the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had expressed that opinion. [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: Hear, hear!] The matter 746 was referred to the Egyptian Government, and the latter proposed—it was not suggested by Her Majesty's Government—to make a small increase in their Army, so that it might not be necessary to keep troops on the Nile without relief, and to transfer them when any emergency threatened Suakin. That Increase would be only a couple of battalions of Black Troops and one squadron of Cavalry, and the expense would probably be less than £52,000. The burden imposed would not be considerable, and it was capable of diminution. The right hon. Gentleman said that, with the low Nile and the consequent diminution of the Revenue, that would be a serious strain upon the resources of Egypt. He was happy to say that, owing to the improvements going on in Egypt, and the better condition of the people and the Revenue, it was not contemplated to impose any considerable increase of taxation on account of this increase. It would be interesting to the Committee, and would show the result of the policy of the Egyptian Government, encouraged by Her Majesty's Government in their attitude of defence, if he were to refer to a Despatch recently presented to Parliament from Sir Evelyn Baring, inclosing a Report from Mr. Clarke showing the extraordinary improvement in the condition of the Egyptian peasantry during the last two or three years. The Despatch was full of the most interesting details in proof of that result.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he believed Mr. Clarke was Second Attaché, or Secretary. According to his able Report, the financial resources had so much improved within the last three years that there would be a surplus this year on the assigned revenue of nearly £500,000, in spite of the expense connected with the defence of Suakin and the loss caused by the low Nile. It was a mistake, however, to suppose that this was by any means the lowest Nile known within the last few years. The Nile in two former years had been absolutely lower; neither was 747 there any interference with the channel of the Blue Nile. On the contrary, the colour of the water showed that the Blue Nile was flowing down. The irrigation works had considerably modified the loss which would have been otherwise felt, and probably about 250,000 acres would be out of cultivation, entailing a loss of £200,000 upon the Revenue, which would be made up in a great part from other sources. In short, the improvement in the Revenues of Egypt was making up for the new burden. With regard to what had fallen from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Hackney (Sir Lewis Pelly), who was, no doubt, a great authority on the subject, he must remind the Committee that many years had passed since his hon. and gallant Friend was at Zanzibar, and the means of coping with the Slave Trade were more effectual now than they were then or ever were before. It was true that the overland Slave Trade was the cause of more misery than the sea-going Slave Trade. The slaves carried across the open sea were but the remnant of those who were dragged from their homes and carried across sandy deserts. They were more used by the merchants as carriers of ivory and valuable merchandize overland than for the purposes of sale. Some of those who survived wore sold to plantations in Africa, and only the remnant was shipped across the sea. Still, if we did nothing to put down this traffic we should be untrue to our tradition. It was entirely untrue that our efforts to suppress the Slave Trade had been unsuccessful, because the activity of our cruizers on the Coast of Zanzibar had been so successful as to drive the traffic into now and less guarded points. But were we doing nothing to check the traffic at its source, and to wean those who indulged in it to better courses? He might point to the fact that Her Majesty's Government had proposed to the Government of Belgium to initiate a fresh Conference of the Powers on the lines advocated by Cardinal Lavigerie in order that some further effort might be made to check this long-standing evil. Again, what were we doing in concert with the Germans on the Coast of Africa at this moment? He was sure that the words in which the concert had been announced to the world by the Emperor of 748 Germany as well as by Her Majesty's Government, put it beyond doubt that it was intended to strike a heavy blow at the Slave Trade if it could be got at. What was the object of the trading companies which Her Majesty's Government were encouraging in East as well as in West Africa? It was the development of legitimate trade; and was it not by the development of legitimate trade that the Slave Traffic in West Africa had been put down? It had been shown that by fostering a trade in palm-oil and other products a better living could be got. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] Well, that was not his opinion. It was, undoubtedly, the policy of the Government to encourage lawful commerce in, and the settlement of, East Africa, so as to compete successfully with the costly and ruinous system of slave-carriage. If roads were pushed into the interior of the country, so that cheap and easy carriage could be afforded for produce, this terrible system of slave porterage would no longer be necessary. It was by developing legitimate commerce that the Government hoped to contend with the slave operations inland as well as on the coast. It was not alone on the Coast of Africa that this work had been prosecuted with success. He would read to the Committee an extract from the Blue Book to show what had been done in the Persian Gulf—for the Persian Gulf was the object of many of the slavers who started from the East Coast of Africa—On the Persian Gulf much good work has been done by officers and men, though but one capture has been effected. This has not been for want of zeal and energy on the part of the officers and crews of the vessels employed upon the service, as will be seen from the Reports of the Senior officers, who have had charge of the Division during the year, which I enclose for their Lordships' information, as they give a clear and intelligent account of the manner in which the work is carried on during the running months September and October, and April to June. I agree entirely with Commander Gissing, that the strict blockade which has been established on the Arabian Coast during the past two seasons, has, to a great extent, stopped the transport of cargoes of slaves in large numbers from Africa to the Arabian Coast and the Persian Gulf.This Despatch was from. Admiral Richards. He would also read an extract from another Despatch—Though the actual result in release has been so small, still I think the moral effect of our 749 presence on the coast acts as a strong deterrent sufficient to prevent any fairly rich Arab, or owner of a good dhow, embarking in it; at any rate, at present it is not a trade as it used to be, but merely a smuggling business at the best, carried on by Arabs who enjoy the spice of danger which a possible encounter with our boats or ships give to it, and were our cruizers withdrawn, I feel sure it would revive again, as all the Arabs I have ever talked to not only see no harm in it, but consider that God gave the Africans for servants, and resent our preventing their getting them for that purpose. The coast here to be protected is very large, and landing places almost everywhere; also the population inhabiting the country is against us in this matter to a man; therefore it is no wonder if some get through the watch we keep.He was happy to think that he had a son at this moment engaged in the service on the coast of Africa. In his judgment, no more honourable service could be followed by officers of Her Majesty's Navy; and he trusted that the Committee would neither say nor do anything which might allow it to appear that we were indifferent to this work which had been pursued so long and with such success as well as with such blessings to the human race.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had called attention to the subject, and that the Committee had heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Sir Lewis Polly). The impression which he had derived from a perusal of the Blue Books dealing with this subject was that the great majority of naval officers of the present day coincided in believing precisely what the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney had stated. He found that it was said by those who had personal experience of this subject that we had not succeeded in putting down the Slave Trade, but that we did more harm than good. The slaves were subjected to terrible sufferings. The Slave Trade was not very great after all; it was only domestic slavery, and the Arabs treated their slaves very kindly. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State stated that Her Majesty's Government had counselled the Egyptian Government to hold Suakin. Was this strictly in the interest of the Egyptian Government; if not, in what interest?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he had not stated that Her Majesty's Go- 750 vernment had counselled the Egyptian Government to hold Suakin. What he said was that they had accepted the defensive position as they found it, and were prepared to support the Egyptian Government in maintaining it.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he must have misunderstood the words used by the right hon. Gentleman, but the right hon. Gentleman had certainly used the word counsel. Now he (Sir George Campbell) was not a Party man, and he did not wish to speak of one Government more than another, but of the English Government in general. He wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government did not counsel the occupation of Suakin?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, there was no use in merely playing at words. The hon. Member might come to that conclusion if he liked. Her Majesty's Government had counselled the Egyptian Government to maintain their defensive attitude, and not to make any fresh advance.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that if the Egyptians wanted to keep Suakin it was only because they had a hankering after the Soudan. He thought it was very hard indeed that the Egyptian Government should be encouraged in holding Suakin in the hope of recovering the Soudan. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, that that was an object which could only be injurious to Egypt herself, and he should be glad to know whether there was some hope that the Government might revise their policy of encouraging the Egyptian Government to hold Suakin. If this place was to be held at all, it should be held honestly, on our own account, rather than make the Egyptian Government the scape-goat. He differed altogether from the version which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State of the past history of these matters. The right hon. Gentleman had dealt very lightly with that part of the history that did not suit him. He acknowledged that serious blunders had been made by the late Government in their Egyptian policy; but that was no argument to be urged in justification of the present position of affairs. He had no wish to do more than review the history of the period for which Her Majesty's present Go- 751 vernment were responsible. He believed that the war in the Eastern Soudan was really and truly a popular rebellion against the Egyptian Government; it was a genuine rising of people struggling to be free. How had this new war begun? The right hon. Gentleman said nothing about that, but would have implied that the Mahdists came down from the interior of Africa and gratuitously attacked the Egyptians. It was not a gratuitous attack on the part of the Mahdists. On the contrary, it was a matter of history that the Egyptian Government and the English officers representing this country were the aggressors who had brought on the war. He did not know whether he would be in Order in quoting the remarks of a noble Lord in "another place," but the bare facts of the matter made it perfectly clear that it was the fault of the Representatives, both of the Egyptian and the British Government, that the war at Suakin had been brought on. Unfortunately our policy was a "kill and retire" policy. There were hopes a short time back that the policy of "kill and retire" was at an end so far as Suakin was concerned. The present Government found a condition of peace prevailing at Suakin. For 18 months the out posts had not been fired upon. Officers could go out shooting for 20 or 25 miles without molestation. That was the state of things which Her Majesty's Government found on entering into Office; but last December, in pursuance of the unfortunate policy of trying to regain the Soudan, the Tribes were stirred up and a war begun. Colonel Kitchener imagined that he was strong enough to nip Mahdism in the bud; and, with the aid of friendly tribes, an expedition was got together for the purpose of attacking Toka—a place 40 miles off. Our precious Ally and his tribes at once took to plundering the cattle of the enemy, who, getting Osman Digna to assist them, rallied and defeated us. The result was that we got into a war with the local tribes.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he maintained that the war in December last was a war in which friendly tribes were induced to attack the local tribes. Notwithstanding that they were accom- 752 pained by British officers, they were defeated by the local tribes, and Colonel Kitchener himself was wounded. The force he led returned defeated, and the enemy pressed on and besieged Suakin. That was the state of things which had been going on over since. It wag, therefore, entirely due to our aggression that the peace which Her Majesty's Government found existing in this part of the world had been broken; and now we had been driven into our intrenchments, and were, to a certain extent, besieged. What was the policy being pursued on the spot? Colonel Kitchener had been withdrawn to another appointment, but what had become of his policy? In a recent letter Colonel Kitchener stated that he was in favour of peace, but insisted that the people should give up Mahdism. What right had Colonel Kitchener to interfere? Were we going to embark in a religious war in Africa? He hoped that they might understand that, Colonel Kitchener being withdrawn, his policy would also be abandoned. It was not very often that he agreed with The Times, but in an article in The Times the other day he thought it was very well exposed what was going on, where it said that—The military people had got a few hundred Dervishes in front of them; they saw nothing else, and their instinct was to go and pound those Dervishes without stopping to inquire what substantial interest is secured when they have done it, or what new hosts of enemies may be raised up in the process.He could not, however, agree with the other part of the article of The Times, because it suggested that we should establish a Protectorate over the Eastern Soudan. He did not know exactly what a Protectorate meant. When they did not want to annex a country, nor to commit the Government definitely one way or the other, they always talked of a Protectorate. It was of no use to talk of a Protectorate unless we meant to take possession of the Eastern Soudan. He was glad that the Government disclaimed that policy, but he wished that their practice might be such that they would not be drawn into it against their will. He, therefore, wanted to known what their policy was? The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State said it was the policy of the Government to stop the Slave Trade. It was hardly necessary to go into the question of the Slave Trade that day, because there was 753 the Slave Trade Vote on which it might be gone into by-and-bye. But the Slave Trade was always brought forward to justify everything. He admitted the dreadful horror of the Slave Trade, but the Slave Trade by sea to Arabia was, he believed, a comparatively small trade. It was not a trade in gross, but only a trade in detail, and in a letter from the Anglican Bishop of Zanzibar, the other day, it was declared to be a comparatively small trade. In fact, in Persia, Arabia, and other Mahomedan countries there was no predial slavery, the slaves being employed in domestic service and becoming members of the families in which they were engaged. However, he admitted that the Trade, as far as it went, led to extreme horrors; but what he wanted to know was how the holding of Suakin did anything substantial to stop the Slave Trade. No doubt our operations did tend to stop the small, detailed, dribbling Slave Trade which existed. We did not stop it, but we did something now and then to interfere with it. Our officers, in the course of a year, boarded and captured a good many dhows, but in 19 out of 20 cases there were only one, two, or three slaves in them—there was not one case out of 60 in which 20 or 30 slaves were captured at one time, and our officers were paid not in proportion to the number of slaves captured, but to the amount of the tonnage of the dhows. A cruiser capturing a dhow received £5 per ton for the capture. What he wished to know, however, was what was the substantial use of holding Suakin for this purpose. There might be a difference of opinion whether we did good—even a little good—by retaining Suakin. He held that it did worse than good; we did positive harm. There were plenty of other places from which our cruisers could go out—such as Aden and the Egyptian ports. What he contended was that Her Majesty's Government must make up their minds whether, in order to stop slavery in the Red Sea, it was necessary to take possession again of the Eastern Soudan. It was quite absurd to carry on a war in the neighbourhood of Suakin with the idea of doing anything material to stop the Slave Trade. There was one point which the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State had admitted. The town of Suakin was not in the least danger. It was only connected by 754 the mainland by a causeway, and if it wore considered expedient to stop the communication with the main laud, that causeway could be easily banked up. Sir Andrew Clarke reported that the town of Suakin was perfectly safe as long as the British ships commanded the harbour. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary asked whether the unfortunate people of Suakin should be deserted and left to the mercy of the Arabs. Now, who were the people of Suakin. They were Mahomedans like the Arabs, and one great difficulty was, that they always were in communication with the Arabs, and were friendly with them. He did not think, therefore, that there was any ground for apprehension on that score if Her Majesty's Government made up their minds that there was no particular advantage to be derived from continuing to hold Suakin. If the Government could make out that for naval purposes there was really any object in holding that place, let them hold it; but they must face the fact that the British taxpayer would have to pay for it. He thought it was a foolish thing that they should do so; on the other hand it would be much to their credit to give up the policy of holding Suakin. The Committee were entitled to know more clearly what was the policy of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman told them that we were going to fight in the immediate neighbourhood of Suakin and not to go any further. It seemed to him that we were likely to go much further; he thought we were likely to drift, and if we did not succed in putting down the Arabs at once we should have to go much further. If Her Majesty's Government wanted to hold Suakin why not be content with holding it. They were told that there would be no difficulty in holding it. The people of the town were accustomed to shells which did no harm, as the Arabs could not produce the large weapons which were produced in our arsenals. Then why not let them fire away their ancient shells? If they waited long enough the enemy would go away, and we should continue to hold the town, as we were perfectly able to do now, without any more fighting. It was a dangerous, absurd, and unnecessary policy to send. British troops to fight the Arabs on the mainland when, as had 755 been shown, the town of Suakin was perfectly secure. He would suggest—if they thought that in order to put down the Slave Trade a European Power was justified in holding the Soudan—they should make it over to the Italians, who were ambitious of having a slice of Africa and were extremely good colonizers. We had better not grab everything for ourselves. With regard to the Egyptian Army, he only touched upon that question because it had been opened up by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary. He agreed that it was now a great deal too small, and he was glad to hear that it was to be increased, although he had his doubts as to the financial facilities for defraying the cost of that increase. It was quite clear that the Egyptian Army was not sufficient as it stood at present, and if they sent out two or three battalions to Suakin they would be obliged to send reinforcements of British troops to Wady-Halfa. He maintained that we were not fairly treating either the Egyptians, the English soldiers, or anybody concerned. We had starved the Egyptian Army, and were continually oscillating in our policy. What was necessary was the establishment of a good and efficient Egyptian Army. It was stated to be the policy of this country to make Egypt self-supporting, but that object would never be attained until there was an efficient Egyptian Army. Hitherto sufficient financial support had never been allowed to the Egyptian Army. In fact, although we had reduced the British troops in Egypt, it was really the British Army that was defending Egypt, and not the Egyptian Army. The position of the Prime Minister was that Egypt must be defended; that we had not succeeded in defending it yet, and, therefore, we must stay there. Of course we must stay there because we had not taken the proper means to make Egypt self-supporting. The first step should be to provide Egypt with a proper Army, but to do that it was necessary to provide her with means. Only a few months ago the strength of the Egyptian Army was reduced, very much against the representations of most competent officers. He regretted that the House could not have the presence there that day of the late hon. and gallant Member for the Finsbury Division of Holborn 756 (Colonel Duncan), who was well acquainted with the Egyptian Army, and had always warned them against the suicidal policy of reducing it as it was reduced last year. They were now obliged to increase it again the moment they got into trouble. It was unfair to say that it was owing to the cowardice of the Egyptian soldiers that we could not successfully fight the Arabs in the Soudan. He thought there was overwhelming testimony to the excellence of the Egyptian soldiers, and if it only had fair play it would be a very good Army indeed. They could not expect the Egyptian troops to go out in their present condition and cope with an enemy which had defeated some of our best battalions. No doubt some increase of the Egyptian Army was necessary, but he protested against the view that it was required for the prevention of the Slave Trade. What they wanted was a self-supporting Army, and to get that they must give sufficient money. They could not have an Army without money. The right hon. Gentleman said that two battalions of Infantry and a squadron of Cavalry could be got for £52,000. He (Sir George Campbell) did not believe it. It was certainly anything but a sanguine estimate. It had always been represented that the Egyptian Army could be maintained for an absurdly small sum. What they must do was to face the bondholders, and insist on getting a proper Budget allowance for the Army. What country in the world could defend itself on 3½ per cent of its revenue? Most countries spent 50 per cent. We certainly did, as well as other countries, and yet 3½ per cent was all that the Egyptian Budget allowed. If it was our bonâ fide intention to retire from Egypt as soon as possible, and to leave the Egyptian Army with the duty of defending Suakin, we ought to do our utmost to strengthen the Egyptian Army. He had only a few words more to say on the financial aspect of the question without desiring to enter into general financial details. He wanted to know whether it was really the case that the finances of Egypt were as properous as they were supposed to be? He would not, however, enter into that question now, nor the question of the administration of Egypt. If the Government succeeded in bringing the present Session of Par- 757 liament to a close before Easter next, there might be other opportunities afforded for discussing that question. There had been two or three prosperous years in connection with the finances of Egypt, and they had been able to do many things in reference to the Loan and the Budget. He wished, however, to know whether Her Majesty's Government were prepared to do justice to the Egyptian fellahs, whose crops had suffered from the low Nile. Would there be a remission given, such as was given in India, or would the full revenue be extorted from the unfortunate fellahs? He would not criticize the policy of Her Majesty's Government further. It seemed to be simply this—that we were in Egypt, and meant to stay there. He wanted to know why the Cadastre had been stopped? It had been stopped, and he wanted to know why? He believed he could forestall the answer. It had been stopped because they wanted to save money to pay the coupons. But why had it been stopped altogether? Was it for want of money, or for some other reason? We had been assured by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State, on the authority of a Mr. Clarke, that there was a great improvement in the Egyptian finances, and also in the condition of the fellaheen, who were really prosperous and better off than ever. This was very satisfactory as far as it went; but they only had it on the unsupported testimony of Mr. Clarke, a gentleman he had never heard of before. Who was this Mr. Clarke? Could they place reliance on his report? It was contrary to the experience of the last 100 years. Were we, then, to accept the view of Mr. Clarke, a subordinate of the Egyptian Mission, as an authority on this great subject? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would have something else to tell them as to who Mr. Clarke was. At first he had thought that Mr. Clarke was some eminent authority, but it would appear now that he was only an understrapper connected with the Egyptian Mission, filling some capacity the right hon. Gentleman did not quite know what. He could not, therefore, accept Mr. Clarke's authority. He had only one word more to say, and it was in connection with the mixed tribunals. He desired again to express his opinion that they were a very great 758 evil. The Egyptian tribunals were the power by which the claims of the bondholders were enforced in Egypt as no other country in the world would enforce them. So long as they were maintained the Egyptians would be slaves to the foreign bondholders, and full justice could not be done to them.
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, the history of our dealings with Suakin was not such as to fill us with much pride; in fact, for his part, he was inclined to regard it as little short of a national disgrace. What he would suggest to the Government was, that they should give careful consideration to the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell). In 1885, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was in Office, a similar state of things to that then existing in Suakin, was existing in Massowah; and Lord Granville, who was then Foreign Secretary, offered, with remarkable generosity, the Port of Massowah to the Italian Government. He said with remarkable generosity, because it was obvious that Lord Granville had no right to do anything of the kind. He would point out to Her Majesty's Government that they now had an opportunity of performing a similar act of generosity. Having persuaded the Italians to take possession of Massowah, it ought not to be impossible to persuade them of the advantages of Suakin. He was not present when the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) made his statement, but he presumed the right hon. Gentleman had expressed reluctance to abandon Suakin for fear that the Port should fall into the hands of some unfriendly European Power; and there was no difficulty in discovering who that unfriendly Power was. It seemed to be thought that there was a danger of Franco taking possession of the place. If, then, Her Majesty's Government could persuade the Italians to go there, it would be satisfactory to everybody.
§ MR. LEGH
Well, he was sure that the hon. Member would agree with him that it could not be desirable to have the French at Suakin. And, although they might not please the French by the 759 arrangement he proposed, they would, at any rate, please the Italians; and it could not possibly signify to the Arab Tribes or the Dervishes whom the Italians would have to fight. These people were indifferent as to whether Suakin was occupied by Italians or Egyptians. If the arrangement he proposed were adopted, it would be the means of keeping the French out of the Port, if there was any danger of their ever getting there, and would prevent the disagreeable consequence that might attach to the sending of British troops there.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, he found the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite so extremely unsatisfactory, it was so clear that Her Majesty's Government were simply drifting and did not know what they were going to do in regard to Suakin, that he begged to move the reduction of the Vote for Egypt by the sum of £500.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, &c., be reduced by the sum of £500, part of the Salary of the Agent in Egypt."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ MR. DE LISLE (Leicestershire, Mid)
said, he rose to support the general outline of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), and the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Sir Lewis Pelly). He thoroughly agreed with the general expression of the opinion of those hon. Members, though he certainly differed from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, in allotting blame for the unfortunate condition of affairs which still existed in Egypt, and in allotting the responsibility for what had occurred in the past. To his mind it served no good purpose to renew the discussions as to which of the two political Parties in this country were most to blame for the condition of Egypt. The point the House had to deal with was the question of the Slave Trade. Had the British House of Commons and the British people an interest in the endeavours to suppress the Slave Trade—were they endeavouring to do their duty to mankind, to Christianity, and to civilization, or were they merely angling for Votes in the British constituencies? He believed the British 760 people were able and willing to support an honest, progressive, and just policy; and, therefore, he was not afraid, in brief outline, to put such a policy before the constituencies. He himself joined in the regret which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle had expressed that the reply they had received from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) was not of that perfectly satisfactory kind which everyone on that (the Ministerial) side of the House hoped it would be. With regard to the Slave Trade, he believed that the French, the Germans, the Belgians, and the Italians, and all the other civilized Nations of Europe, were in earnest in dealing with the question, and he thought it had been conclusively shown that the way in which we were dealing with it was not satisfactory. If we wanted to deal with the Slave Trade in an effectual manner, we must deal with those who purchased the slaves and with those who sold them. It was nothing short of a waste of time and money and energy to deal merely with those who were the means, and what he might call the instruments, of the passage of the slaves from one country to the other. We had hitherto been dealing with the carriers of slaves, but if we wanted to put an end to the traffic we must deal with the purchasers and vendors. If we wanted to deal in a satisfactory manner with the traffic we must deal with the Sultan at Constantinople, with the Port of Jeddah in Arabia, and with Bagdad at the head of the Persian Gulf. This was the intelligent way to deal with the matter, and not to go on spending millions of money as we were doing now. Diplomacy would effect a good deal with the Sultan of Turkey, and he (Mr. De Lisle) maintained that we should be justified in seizing the Port of Jeddah if it was essential to put an end to the trade, which he believed it was. What was the use of trying to catch slave ships travelling along these coasts—what was the use of keeping our sailors on this sea where it was extremely difficult for any European to live? What was the use of expending men and money in this way when, by merely assuming dictatorial powers at Jeddah, they could put an end to the traffic at once? If they were not prepared to deal effectually with 761 the Slave Trade, let them acknowledge it at once and cease those mistaken efforts which were worse than useless; but if they were prepared to deal with it, then Jeddah was the place to begin. He was sure that if they adopted a course of this kind, public opinion in Europe would support them in their proceedings. He did not say how this was to be done, but believed diplomacy would point out the way. He was firmly convinced, however, that Jeddah was the point to which their efforts should be directed. As to Suakin, he had to say this, that he could not support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, as he did not wish to put Her Majesty's Government into a difficulty. He sincerely agreed, so far as he had been able to ascertain from what the right hon. Gentleman had said, with the motive which had dictated the Motion he had placed before the Committee. Our action at Suakin had now been sufficiently clear and vigorous. If we were prepared to take Suakin and hold it as we did Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus, let us do so; but if we were to go on wasting lives for years without accomplishing anything, and without a set purpose before us, the sooner we left the place the better. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), or some Member of the Government, would state clearly what their object was in sending this expedition to Suakin. If they were going to spend more money on Suakin and carry out expensive operations, was it with the view of adequately defending it and holding it permanently? He did not wish to go into the question of general policy, although he believed that this question of Suakin was one which turned upon our general policy in Egypt. He believed that if we wanted to make the nations which clustered round the Red Sea enjoy our civilization, we should have to go back to Khartoum, which was the civilized centre of that part of the world. There was a time when Khartoum was the centre of a glorious Christian civilization. He remembered conversing with a Catholic Missionary, who, at one time, had a congregation of 11,000 people in Khartoum, but all of whom had since been massacred through our vacillation, and this gentleman had told him that within a radius 762 of 30 miles round Khartoum there were still to be seen the foundations of 34 Christian churches of the third and fourth centuries. If we went back to Khartoum it would be quite possible to restore the state of things which existed there some hundreds of years ago. He would not go more fully into this question, but would merely say that if we wished to justify our position in Egypt, we should take measures to re-establish some civilization in Khartoum and to control the power of the Egyptians in the Valley of the Nile. With regard to the bondholders, he held that many of the crimes which Great Britain was guilty of in connection with Egypt were owing to a great deal too much deference being paid to the interests of these people. As a matter of fact, he regarded the bondholders as the bloodsuckers of Egypt. Egypt had been a tributary country since the days of the Pharaohs, and a subject country she would remain; but at the expense of the bondholders should her regeneration be effected.
§ MR. ALLISON (Cumberland, Eskdale)
said, he was glad that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. De Lisle) agreed with them on that (the Opposition) side of the House, but was afraid that that agreement would be of very little use unless he also voted in the same Lobby. At any rate, they might take it that the hon. Member's agreement without his vote was better than nothing. He (Mr. Allison) was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had taken the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the Committee to the operations in which we were engaged at Suakin. He thought that these operations, after all the warnings we had had in the past, were full of danger and hazard to this country. We had had many warnings. He remembered the case of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who on one occasion had drawn a subtle distinction in this House between what he called "military operations" and "war;" but he confessed that that right hon. Gentleman had been out-Heroded on the present occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), because he 763 had described the operations as a promenade from Cairo to Suakin, and from Suakim to Cairo. A few nights before he made that statement the right hon. Gentleman had informed the House that he was no prophet. Therefore, whilst the expedition from Cairo to Suakin would take place, it was by no means certain that there would be a return from Suakin to Cairo as prophecied. They could not tell how far the right hon. Gentleman's prophecy would be fulfilled. They had heard that it was the Party on that (the Opposition) side of the House who was to blame for previous trouble in the Soudan; but though he (Mr. Allison) was not in the House at that time, he believed hardly any protest was ever made on the other side of the House against those operations. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Sir James Fergusson) that the Government had the best intentions. Well, he never yet knew a Government who had not the best intentions on occasions of this kind. They, no doubt, intended that these operations should be limited and small in their character, but he contended that by the single operation of going to Suakin in the manner they were doing now, they were binding themselves by a chain of circumstances from which they would not be able to escape. That had been their universal experience. All would remember what had happened in Burmah, where our operations were merely to be a military promenade for the purpose of extending the trade and commerce of this country. He remembered the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. J. M. Maclean) giving the weight of his experience in favour of that expedition, on the ground of the commercial advantages which would accrue. [Mr. J. M. MACLEAN: No, no!] Well, the hon. Member spoke in that sense to a great extent. So far from the expedition to Burmah being a mere promenade, the country was still far from settled, and trouble existed in those parts of Burmah that were already in our possession and had been settled long ago. In Suakin we found exactly the old circumstances cropping up again. Once more we had the name of Osman Digna familiar to our ears. The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty had told them the other night that Lord Ashbourne's Act had knocked the bottom out of 764 the Land League. Well, Osman Digna was like the Land League. He had been destroyed over and over again, but he always cropped up again, full of vitality, just as did the Land League. With all this experience before them they ought to pause in these new operations they were undertaking. A great deal had been said about the Slave Trade. Well, nothing was more familiar to the Committee than when engaged in operations of this character, to have the veil of some excellent cause thrown over what was being done. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State made admirable use, at the conclusion of his speech, of the feeling which all entertained with regard to the Slave Trade, but the same state of things as that existing at Suakin was to be found at the present moment in East Africa. We were told that in order to put down the Slave Trade there certain operations were necessary, but we had it from the authority of men on the spot that those operations were doing nothing to suppress the Slave Traffic, but were rather making matters much worse than they were before. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State had quoted the opinion of the Emperor of Germany with regard to the position on the East Coast of Africa; but that was an opinion which was not usually quoted on the side of peace, and the operations in the East of Africa did not commend themselves any more to his (Mr. Allison's) mind because they had the approval of the Emperor of Germany. The opinion of a late hon. Member of that House—whose death all Parties on both sides deplored—namely, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Finsbury Division of Holborn (Colonel Duncan), had been quoted by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy, who had made a mistake in attributing to the late hon. and gallant Member an expression in favour of the enlargement of our forces in Egypt.
§ MR. ALLISON
said, he was glad to have the correction. The hon. and gallant Member had said that he had such confidence in the Egyptian Army that he was in favour of reducing the British troops from 5,000 to 4,000, and concluded his speech with an emphatic expression of his opinion that the 765 evacuation of Egypt should not be long deferred. Well, the natural result of the operations which were about to take place would be that our troops in Egypt would need to be reinforced, and that certainly was a condition of affairs which should not lead the Committee to sympathize very heartily in the operations which Her Majesty's Government were undertaking. As he had said before, they had had many warnings, and with these warnings in view, he believed the wisest policy would be to withdraw from Suakin altogether. The Amendment before the House was one he was bound to vote for, unless the Government could give a more intelligent idea of their intentions and policy of remaining in Suakin than they had hitherto offered. Up to the present they had heard nothing upon this point, except the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State as to the abolition of the Slave Trade, while even those on the right hon. Gentleman's own side of the House, who had long experience in this matter, and wore best qualified to judge, entertained a very strong opinion that our position at Suakin did nothing in the direction of putting an end to the Slave Trade, which all so much deplored. There was always the danger of our being drawn into much larger operations than were originally contemplated, and this danger it behoved the House to do its best to avoid. He was, therefore, glad that the attention of the Committee had been drawn to this question. He hoped the Government would pause before they entered into what might easily become a most dangerous and hazardous and highly expensive expedition to this country.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. E. STANHOPE) (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
I propose to make a few observations on a very limited point indeed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley), who has moved the reduction of the Vote, has based his Motion on the fact that he cannot clearly understand the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and it will be my object to make that policy absolutely and perfectly clear. The object of the policy of the Government in sending English troops to Suakin is to raise the siege of Suakin. This is no secret purpose, it is no hidden 766 intention; it is not intended to start an expedition for the re-conquest of the Soudan; it is not intended to embark in large operations. We hope and believe we shall accomplish quickly and easily the purpose we have in view. What is the position in which Suakin is at the present moment? It is always daily shelled by the guns of a hostile force who have taken up a position within easy reach of it. I notice than an hon. Member opposite has said that the people of the Soudan suffer no inconvenience from this, but personally I should have thought that very considerable inconvenience would result to the people, who are deprived of their water supply, and are liable day by day to be killed by shells bursting amongst them. But, undoubtedly, as the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said, Suakin, at the present moment, is reasonably safe. And why is that? Why, it is because Suakin is protected by the guns of English ships lying opposite to it. The intention of Her Majesty's Government, in the operations which are about to take place, is not only to raise the siege of Suakin, but to enable Suakin to hold its own without the protection of British ships lying off the shore. Well, the Government has taken the very best possible advice on this subject, and we have been advised by Sir Evelyn Baring, and we know also the opinions of the officers commanding the British troops in Egypt, and the Egyptian Army, and these authorities recommended the expedition in the full belief that it can be very shortly and quickly brought to a successful issue, and that then our troops can be brought back to Egypt. I should like to say this to the House—What is the alternative of the policy of the Government? I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) has proposed that we should simply withdraw from Suakin under the guns of an enemy, who is at the present moment attacking the place.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
I left the whole question of the Soudan policy open. All I said was that retirement was one alternative, and that undertaking the government of Egypt was another. I did not express my own solution of the difficulty.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
What is the alternative to the policy the Government are now taking? The right hon. Gentlemen accepted the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary's statement—"That therefore the right hon. Gentleman must be in favour of withdrawing at the present time." Is the right hon. Gentleman in favour of retiring from Suakin or not?
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
But the House should discuss it. The alternative is immediately to withdraw entirely from the defence of Suakin, and allow Suakin to be taken by the tribes now besieging it. I will not dwell upon the cruelty of any such course. Is the English name to be so sullied as that for a moment we should think it right that friendly tribes, who have been acting on our behalf, and the people of Suakin who have been on our side, should by a sudden reversal of our policy, be handed over to our enemies who are waiting for us outside? Think what position the Government of Egypt would be in. The Government of Egypt has undertaken the defence of Suakin. Are we to say to that Government that they are immediately to withdraw from Suakin? Does not everyone see at once the whole of our frontier policy would be in much greater danger than it has hitherto been, and that we should approach the Egyptian Government in this matter under far greater difficulties than we have ever before encountered? I, therefore, contend that the policy of immediately withdrawing from Suakin and handing the tribes over to their enemies is absolutely and entirely impossible. "Whether it was wise or not originally to advise the Egyptian Government to take possession of Suakin I will not argue. The present Government are not responsible for that. That advice was given by our Predecessors, and the present Government find themselves, in the person of the Egyptian Government, occupying Suakin. That leaves us no alternative. We must occupy Suakin for a limited purpose, and, that purpose being effected, we have no desire to attempt any of those great schemes mentioned to-day. We desire simply to make Suakin safe from the attacks to which it is subjected.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he entirely acquitted the Government from blame in getting into this mess with regard to Suakin. He did not think be was exaggerating when he said that he had divided former Houses of Commons at least 50 times when proposals had been made to expend money on expeditions of this kind. He did not think the House very clearly remembered what had taken place before, and what had led to our going to Suakin. We gave an assurance that we would defend Egypt—a most foolish assurance—he had been against it altogether—and we included in that assurance that we would also defend the Red Sea Ports—namely, Suakin. Well, in consequence of that assurance we sent troops to Suakin—troops went there and came back again. Hostilities took place, and he would remind the Committee of what occurred there. He had the honour of proposing to the House a Resolution to the effect that there seemed no adequate cause for their troops remaining at Suakin and fighting there. Well, the whole Conservative Party as one man came and voted with him. That so shocked his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) that he positively said that the Conservative Party was guilty of a "dirty trick." He Mr. Labouchere) did not see anything dirty or tricky in the action of the Conservative Party. He was delighted to see that for once the Conservative Party were wise, and were convinced by the arguments he used. It was a little strange that any hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House should get up to defend our holding Suakin when they themselves, when in Opposition, were strongly against it as to be accused by an hon. Member of the opposite Party as being guilty of a "dirty trick." What was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs? Why, he had heard that speech delivered, not once, but 50 times, and not by the right hon. Gentleman alone, but by his Predecessors. Gentlemen in his position at once fell back upon the Slave Trade. They always said—"You are going to put an end to the noble policy which has always distinguished England." Why, again and again it had been pointed out 769 to these Gentlemen that these operations at Suakin had absolutely nothing whatever to do with the Slave Trade. That argument of the Slave Trade was used, because it was too absurd to say that this country would defend Suakin for no other earthly reason than we had said, in a hasty moment, that we would do so. At the moment when we gave this assurance to Egypt we were, as a matter of fact, registering our own intentions, because Egypt was not independent, but simply under our foot. When we declared that we would defend Suakin for the Egyptians we simply meant that we would defend Suakin, in some sort of way, for ourselves, probably to prevent some other Power from going there, or some reason of the kind, but certainly there was no engagement with Egypt of any sort or kind. Some Liberal Gentlemen fell back on the Slave Trade, but that was an old hare. We had, no doubt, done a great deal of good in trying to put an end to the Slave Trade, but this plea for the suppression of the Slave Traffic was one which, in a great many respects, was responsible for a great deal of harm. What had the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State said? He had said—"What are we doing in connection with the Germans?" Well, what on earth had what we were doing at Zanzibar to do with what we were doing at Suakin? His own impression of what we were doing at Zanzibar was allowing ourselves to be humbugged and led by the nose by Prince Bismarck. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State said—"Look at the Charters we have given to Companies along the Niger—what a noble work we are doing!" Why, the Niger Companies were just the men to enable Gentlemen—and there were some of them in that House—to obtain large dividends by driving out the ordinary traders and putting huge duties on imported goods; and, under the pretence that they were making a war against the liquor traffic, they were simply sending to the Natives exceedingly bad liquor, putting heavy charges upon its exportation. The North Borneo Charter was another noble example of what we were doing for the suppression of the Slave Trade he supposed. Why, in that Charter there was a clause—and no 770 one was more strongly against it than the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for India (Sir John Gorst)—that we were to give up slaves. He would not pursue that point, but he was simply answering the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he endeavoured to convince them that the occupation of Suakin was part of a great and noble scheme to secure commerce to the whole world and to put down the Slave Trade. To secure commerce indeed! Did anyone think that by sending our troops to Suakin we were opening up the Soudan? We were doing nothing of the kind. How could it be supposed that we should make the Natives admire our commercial policy and love us by bombarding them? As a matter of fact we were doing in Suakin everything we could to prevent, and hinder, and hamper legitimate trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State had told them that the Government were going to send down Egyptian troops at the cost of £52,000 per annum. Was that to put down the Slave Trade?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, the hon. Gentleman was mixing up the two things. The sum of £52,000, which he had mentioned, was simply the estimated cost of the addition proposed to the Egyptian Army. It had nothing to do with the present operations.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the addition to the British Army was on account of the operations taking place at Suakin. He was told that it was simply absurd to talk about the Slave Trade in connection with Suakin. It was well known that slaves were never exported from Suakin. The Red Sea was a sort of wide river, generally very calm. The Arab dhows come along, the coast-lights were shown, and they took over the slaves during the night and ferried them across to Arabia. It had been pointed out that never were the slave markets at Jeddah so full as at the present time. But we did not blockade the coasts, and the great proof of that was that the Soudanese were able to export cannon and guns and ammunition to their heart's content. The Government evidently thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State had not a good defence for these operations. What did he say? He said he would 771 be frank with the House. Ministers always said that. The right hon. Gentleman said his object was to raise the siege of Suakin, and nothing beyond that. Well, supposing they did that, Osman Digna and his friends would go away. The Government said they were not going to stay at Suakin. Well, when the British troops left, Osman Digna and his friends would immediately come back again and throw up earthworks and begin to bombard the place again. That had been done dozens and dozens of times. We had heard again and again of Osman Digna and these Native tribes being driven away into the Desert and nothing being heard of them. We brought back our troops, and no sooner had we done that than Osman Digna and his friends re-appeared. It was the height and climax of absurdity to say that we were going to send British troops down there to raise the siege of Suakin and provide the place with bread because it was open to the sea-shore. It was not necessary to provision the place, and it was absurd simply to drive away the unfriendly Soudanese, and to leave the district as soon as we had done that. They were told that the presence of British troops would rally the Egyptian troops, and they were told that it would be cruel to leave the friendly tribes to fight it out with the unfriendly Soudanese. Why, as to the friendly tribes, it was merely a question of £ s. d. Leave these people alone, do not encourage them to fight each other, and they would either fight it out and have done with it, or shake hands. Let us leave them alone—friendly tribes fighting against their own country were the most contemptible people under the sun. Who were these friendly tribes? They were simply people who wanted to sell to the soldiers, sutlers, and the like, and if it was feared that by evacuating Suakin we should leave these people to a melancholy fate, why not take them with us? We could easily induce the Egyptian Government—for we could do anything with it—to leave the Soudan alone, and we should soon have in Suakin a happy family of tribes. He simply protested against the use of so many British troops in that town. No one had explained who was to pay for this. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had said it was a simple operation—that we were going from 772 Cairo to Suakin and coming back from Suakin to Cairo. Well, our men would go from Cairo to Suakin, but it was doubtful how many of them would ever return to Cairo, judging from what had happened in the past. He wanted to know why British blood and treasure should be expended in a cause that was absolutely and entirely indefensible? He trusted the House would join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in recording a protest against this system. He knew the difficulties of the Government, and that they would like to be strengthened by the House. They found themselves in possession of Suakin, and had some difficulty in getting out of it. Then let the Committee strengthen the hands of the Government. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite support the policy he was advocating, which they had voted for on a previous occasion, and put an end to this expenditure of blood and treasure. He was sure that if they consulted the body of English opinion, even outside the House, they would have exhibited, as they had in the past, the strongest feeling against any further operations at Suakin.
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
said, he felt constrained to take part in this debate, because he had joined with a number of influential Members of the House in putting before the Government an alternative plan for putting an end to the present difficulty, which he and others had thought had some promise about it—some promise that did not seem to be present in the circumstances of the alternative schemes with which they had been favoured that afternoon. It seemed to him, in the first place, that the pivot upon which all these difficulties turned was the political question, which had not been referred to at all. As a matter of fact, Suakin did not belong to Egypt. It belonged to Turkey, and was a tributary of Turkey. It was the Turks who conquered it originally, and in 1830 it was leased to the Egyptians for a portion of the Egyptian tribute. Turkey, therefore, would have the reversion of Suakin whenever we left it. That was a phase of the question which was a very important factor indeed in considering how the problem was to be solved. Were we prepared to abandon Suakin to-morrow, in order that it might fall into the 773 hands of a great slave-dealing and slave-owning Power? If we were not prepared to do that, and the English conscience would revolt against such a thing, were we prepared to face the alternative—namely, that Suakin and the Littoral of the Soudan should inevitably fall into the hands of some other European Power which had no friendly feeling towards us in view of the policy we had sustained for many years past in the Red Sea? It seemed that when they put the question simply, whether or not it was right to abandon Suakin when we were there, no doubt vicariously on behalf of the Egyptian Government—having behind the Egyptian Government the real owners of the place to whom its reversion was going if we abandoned it—we could not face the abandonment of Suakin to Turkey, or the nominees of Turkey, without a feeling that it would bring great disaster upon us. Now, if it were impossible, or rather unwise, to adopt the policy of abandonment, no doubt the great difficulty we had to face was the fact that the tribes of the Soudan—the Haddendowas, and other tribes of the Eastern part of the Soudan, would not submit to the domination of Egypt. They had a continuous tradition of tyranny and oppression from the Egyptians in their memory, which made them determined, at all hazards, not to submit again to Egyptian rule; and it was a fact, as he had been told by a friend who had lived for some years in the Soudan, that while an English officer could go out from Suakin amongst the Arab tribes, and be invited to hunting parties, and be treated like a prince, if he went out the town by another gate with an Egyptian fez upon his head he would be immediately shot as a representative of the most tyrannous Power that the Soudan Arabs had had to deal with in the course of their past history. And what the Egyptians had done in the past the Egyptians were doing now. There were a great many people in Egypt who were determined that the trade of the Soudan should go down an unnatural channel—that was to say, down the Nile, and in order to secure that end they had taken measures to divert the internal trade from the ports on the Red Sea, and were starving out those tribes from those advantages of trade and culture and civilization which were their natural heritage. The fact was, we had closed 774 the whole of the ports in the Eastern Soudan, preventing ingress or egress from them, the Egyptians being determined that the produce that reached these ports from the Upper Nile should go down the Nile and become the property of the Egyptian merchants who traded in Central Africa. It was true, and it was a very good thing indeed, that the Government of Egypt had recently modified their policy, and modified it with great promise of securing lasting benefit to the country. There were four or five of these tribes who divided the Littoral of the Soudan. Each one of these had its own trading port on the coast. We compelled them all to come to Suakin for purposes of trade, and if there was one thing which embittered the relations between the internecine tribes it was to compel them to cross each others' frontiers from time time in order to get to a common port for trading purposes. It seemed to him that if we were to settle the question of the Eastern Soudan and Suakin, we must go there and attach ourselves, not to the Egyptians, but to the Soudanese tribes themselves. The Soudanese were really the most interested people in putting down the Slave Trade. None of them were interested in that trade which was in the hands of Arab dealers from Jeddah. No doubt the Haddendowas and the Littoral tribes now sympathized with the Mahdi and his Dervishes and with the Arab traders, but why? Because the Arab Dervishes and slave traders sided with them in the traditional hatred they bore the Egyptians. So long as they had before their eyes the fact that our object was to restore them to the ancient domination of the Egyptians, so long should we have them hostile to us, and so long would the difficulty exist. If, however, we taught them to believe that we were not only going to introduce trade, but also cotton growing and sugar growing on a considerable scale, and sent amongst them some Englishmen in whom they had confidence to give them an assurance that it was not intended that they should become subject to the domination of the Egyptians, we should have them then as our best possible allies in putting down the Slave Trade. Be it remarked, as had been said many times already in that House, that the great horrors of the Slave Trade were those which occurred 775 on the overland route, and one effect of our interference which he should like to mention was this—that the poor little children who were imported into Turkey, and had been imported into Egypt, and who were mutilated for certain purposes, were formerly taken by sea to Arabia and Turkey, where the mutilation was done with care and prudence, were now mutilated before the slave dealers set off with them on their journey. The mutilation was effected in a way that cost the death of 90 per cent of these children. It seemed to him that the penalty we paid for our ineptitude in dealing with this question was a terrible heritage for the conscience of this country. He could not help feeling that when we considered that it was not merely men and women, but children, who were carried off in this way, but that this infernal traffic in these poor children was made so much worse by the conditions under which it was carried out increased our responsibility enormously, and that it was our duty to meet it, as we could meet it, if we adopted a rational policy—namely, that of making the tribes themselves along the coast, through whose country these little children were carried, our allies in putting down a traffic which they detested, and which they would be only too willing to exchange for trade and culture, and the advantages of civilization, which we could so easily give them. It seemed to him that there was another reason why we should not only hold Suakin, but adopt a policy of this kind. It was the shocking fact that any man who chose to go there now would see the country within 10 miles of Suakim covered with the bones of 150,000 of the bravest of these Littoral Tribes who were killed in defending themselves, not against us, but against Egyptian domination, which they had refused to accept. It seemed that England, in the face of history and in the face of heaven, would never release herself from the penalty of shame which attached to this terrible hecatomb unless she did something to improve the condition of this Eastern part of Africa, by making that portion of the country over which we had some authority the highway by which something better should be imported into this dismal Continent, with its terrible history and vicissitudes in the past. He 776 would conclude by expressing a hope that the English Government would not abandon the Soudan, and that their policy would rather be in the direction of conciliating the Soudanese tribes, and assuring them that in the future they would not be dominated, as they had been in the past, either by Turkey or Egypt, but would be the foster children of England, the mother of civilization and progress.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
said, there were very few hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, or on the other, who would not concur with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) in deprecating the renewal of what he described as purposeless and abominable military operations at Suakin. There could be no doubt that the series of campaigns undertaken in the Eastern Soudan by this country were amongst the most unsatisfactory and discreditable in our military annals, though they were illustrated by great acts of valour and heroism on the part of our officers and soldiers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had said that both Parties were compromised in these operations, and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr Labouchere), or some other hon. Member on that side of the House, had said that the Conservative Party had approved throughout of the conduct of the late Government in the Eastern Soudan. Now, he (Mr. J. M. Maclean) was bound to say, though he was not in Parliament at that time, yet as having followed the discussions which occurred in the House with great interest, and taken some part in the discussion of the matter outside, that the line taken by the Conservative Party at that time was distinctly this—that either those operations should be conducted in a thorough manner, or else that we should leave the Soudan entirely alone; and it was a fact that the Conservatives approved of the policy of going to the Eastern Soudan, but what they complained of was the execution of the policy—the indecision of purpose which so often paralyzed the strong right arm of England. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne said—"Why should we renew these purposeless operations?" Well, that question might be replied to 777 in this way—"Why should our action be purposeless?" What was one of the chief causes of the failure of the expedition sent to recover the Soudan? It was because, in the first instance, the troops sent were entirely Egyptian troops, and a great disaster followed, and the tribes were emboldened to assume an aggressive attitude and finally to gather in such numbers that they even confronted British troops. Well, but the Government, in the present operations they were going to carry out at Suakin, were avoiding the great blunder that was committed by their Predecessors. They were sending British troops to stiffen the Egyptian troops, and they, therefore, undertook defensive operations against the Arabs with a pretty certain assurance of success. It was said that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had spoken as though this were simply to be a military promenade to Suakin and back again, and the right hon. Gentleman was taunted with having told the House the other evening that the troops were simply to go to Suakin and then return to Cairo. But he (Mr. J. M. Maclean) apprehended that the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion was simply speaking of the financial aspect of the operation—namely, that the cost of this expedition would be simply the cost of sending so many troops from the Egyptian garrison to the Soudan and bringing them back again to Cairo, and that that cost would entirely fall upon the Egyptian Government. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman thought that that was all we were to undertake he might have founded himself upon the famous precedent of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the beginning of the Crimean war, when he put down an estimate for taking the Guards to Gibraltar and bringing them back again to England. But he did not suppose that the Government proposed to undertake any futile operations of that kind. They intended to relieve the siege of Suakin, but he was bound to say he should like to have some more definite statement from the Government as to the extent to which these military operations could be carried. He had a great distrust himself of wars of 778 limited liability. He did not believe it was possible to say they would send so many troops, and then that they would only carry on hostilities within a certain radius of that place. Even if they drove the Arabs away and filled up the trenches and did away with the possibility of a fresh seizure of the positions now held by the enemy, yet as soon as we advanced our outposts, unless the tribes were thoroughly defeated, they would make fresh attacks, and we would have to send fresh expeditions. He maintained, therefore, that the Committee ought to have some straightforward answer from the Government as to their policy in remaining at Suakin. He thought with his hon. Friend (Mr. Howorth), whose excellent speech he had listened to with great admiration, that they were bound in every case to hold a place like Suakin. He did not hold, as some people did, that Suakin was essential to the suppression of the Slave Trade. This debate had been remarkable for letting in some light on the sufferings caused by our crusade for the suppression of the Slave Trade, and he thought that the British public would do well to study such speeches as that of the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Sir Lewis Pelly) and learn the misery we brought upon the unfortunate people we sought to save, these miseries being greater than the cruelties inflicted by the slave-traders themselves. From all that he had read and heard, and from his knowledge of Oriental feeling, he had always thought that it would be impossible for us to do away with the Slave Trade unless we could close the market to which the slaves were supplied. It was often said, "We suppressed the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa, why should we not do it on the East?" But not all the cruisers of the British Navy could have suppressed the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa if slavery had not been abolished in the West Indies and the United States, the great markets for slaves. Unless we could suppress the trade in Arabia, in Turkey, and in Egypt, we should find it impossible to do away with this infamous traffic, whatever steps we took in the way of cruisers and blockades. But, if we did not remain in Suakin for the suppression of the Slave Trade, why were we bound to remain there? We were bound to 779 remain there in order that no Foreign Power should possess itself of the place. We had the responsibility of governing Egypt and maintaining our communications through the Red Sea to India and Australia, and when we saw every other European country snapping up every strategical position that was by any possibility left open to them, in order to appropriate it to their own service, he asked was this the time to abandon Suakin, which gave entrance by sea to the Eastern Soudan, and was absolutely necessary for the defence of Egypt? An hon. Member had referred to something he (Mr. J. M. Maclean) had once said in that House with regard to the annexation of Burmah. He defended that annexation precisely for the reason he defended the holding of Suakin—because it was necessary to put an end to foreign intrigues in that country, and to secure the defence of India. For exactly similar reasons, he said that it was absolutely necessary that we should rule Egypt and continue to hold Suakin. But then, as we were there, surely it was time that we should abandon the barren and fruitless policy of simply remaining there, and saying that we would raise the siege of the town and continue to hold it, and that we would never do anything more. He regretted that the policy of this country with regard to the Soudan, since the death of General Gordon, had been a policy of despair. The Government declared that they adopted a purely defensive policy. We had certain positions bequeathed to us, and we must continue to hold them; but was this to be the end of all our boasts that we had gone to Egypt in defence of the cause of trade and civilization throughout Eastern Africa? Why, he maintained that the condition of the Soudan at that present moment was a disgrace to English rule. What opening had the Soudanese obtained for their trade, and what chance had they to enter into peaceful relations with us? Surely it was worth while for the Government to re-open relations with the Chiefs of the tribes, and prove to them that, if they would only have recourse to legitimate trade, we would do the utmost we could to insure the peace and prosperity of the Soudan. The Government were told by hon. Gentlemen that they had responsibility enough already, and why 780 should they take any more upon their shoulders? Why, it was this dread of responsibility which led to so many evils in everything we undertook, and why should we be afraid of responsibility? The responsibilities of this country, ruling as she did at the present moment over so vast an Empire, were infinitely smaller than they were 50 or 60 years ago. We had now all the resources of India at our back, and had not an enemy there that we need dread, and we had Australia not only secure against attack, but able to give us assistance either in India or in Africa if we should want it. Surely, then, we had power to advance our interests in Egypt and Eastern Africa, and we should not shrink from making the attempt. While he heartily approved of the resolution of the Government to hold Suakin, not only in the interest of Egypt, but of England, who was the real ruler of Egypt, he should be greatly pleased if the recommendation made by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Howorth) were accepted, and the Government showed a more far-reaching and generous desire to reconcile the people of the Soudan to our rule, and to the ways of modern civilization.
§ MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said, he doubted very much whether Her Majesty's Government would derive much gratification from the speech they had just heard. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, however, might feel some satisfaction with that speech, for it showed very plainly what were the necessary results of the policy Her Majesty's Government had undertaken. It was plain from the hon. Member's (Mr. J. M. Maclean's) remarks that the sending of British troops to Suakin would entail upon this country further operations, such as we had had in the past. The hon. Member spoke of doing the work thoroughly at Suakin, and it was impossible to see how that statement could be reconciled with the statement of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State appeared to have given up the whole case of the Government, because he declared that Suakin was in no need of defence at all.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, the hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. He did not say that Suakin had no need 781 of defence, but that there was no danger of its being taken.
§ MR. PAULTON
said, that was precisely the same thing. If the place was in no danger of being taken it could not be said to be in any need of additional defence. The place was in no danger of its being deprived of its water supply, and what was going to happen there? Why, Her Majesty's troops would, no doubt, be able to drive back the Arabs from their entrenchments, and it was possible that the outworks of Suakin might be extended a certain distance, but the Arabs would only retire for a few miles, and the moment they had an opportunity would return again. Our policy could only result in one of two things—either the most useless and wanton slaughter, such as we had already had, or a permanent English garrison at Suakin. With regard to the renewed slaughter policy he felt very strongly. He had seen a great deal of the horrible slaughter that went on in connection with the previous expedition, and he could fully bear out the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, that the expeditions which we had undertaken against these Arabs had been absolutely useless. Suakin was spoken of as important for strategical purposes, but it was very difficult to find out what strategical advantage the position of Suakin gave to its possessors. It was said that a Foreign Power might take possession of it if we abandoned it, and all he could say was that, if any Foreign Power did take it, he wished them joy of it. He was sure that France, for one, was far from desiring anything of the kind. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) had spoken of the necessity of re-opening communication with the interior; but by this policy which we were commencing, of hostility and stirring up difficulty with the tribes of the Soudan, we were doing everything we could to prevent the opening of a trade in those regions. He believed if Suakin were abandoned its inhabitants would experience no difficulty with the tribesmen. He did not think there was the slightest danger of the slaughter of the inhabitants, because, as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy had pointed out, the majority of them were Mahomedans, and such persons as would be fully 782 disposed to co-operate with the tribes in the trade which they desired to carry on. They were told, when General Graham's expedition went to the relief of Tokar, that the operations entered upon were to prevent the massacre of the garrison. Well, the expedition achieved its object after a most appalling slaughter of the bravest men in the country, and, when Tokar was reached, it was found that the garrison were on the best possible terms with the Arabs. A few huts were demolished, the arms of the Arabs were taken away, and all their ammunition destroyed; but nothing else was done, and the result of that vast expenditure of money was absolutely nil. The Egyptian troops were perfectly well able to hold Suakin, and he concurred with the remarks which had been made on the improvement of the Egyptian Army. He wished in this matter to give the greatest possible credit to General Grenfell and others, who had done very much to reorganize the Egyptian Army; but he thought we were going the wrong way towards maintaining the efficiency of that Army by adopting the policy of sending British troops to their support whenever they had an obvious duty to perform, giving them no opportunity of showing whether or not they were efficient for the purpose. They had had it clearly stated that it was not from the Egyptian Government that this demand was made for British troops. An admission had been extracted from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that this step was taken on the initiative of the British Government; and, for his own part, he believed that it had been entirely arranged at Cairo, and the obvious result of this step seemed to be so futile and useless that he had felt bound to utter this protest against it. The remarks made by Lord Salisbury were extremely pertinent. Speaking on a Vote of Censure in "another place," on the 12th of February, 1884, Lord Salisbury said—It is idle to hope that any real impediment to the slave traffic can he interposed by the attempt to control the shores of the Red Sea, and to imagine that in so unwholesome a climate your ships can at all times of the year prevent the passage across by which the Slave Trade is maintained."—(3 Hansard,  575.)That was the view at that time of the present Prime Minister, and if that be 783 still the view it was, no doubt, the view of Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, the retention of Suakin could not have, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, any appreciable effect upon the Slave Trade. He (Mr. Paulton) did not hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs one word or argument in favour of retaining Suakin. The right hon. Gentleman fully admitted that nothing could be done in the neighbourhood of Suakin towards the suppression of the Slave Trade. He believed the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary spoke of negotiations and operations in the neighbourhood of Jeddah.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
I never said that nothing was done in the neighbourhood of Suakin towards the suppression of the Slave Trade. On the contrary, I said a great deal had been done. Dhows have been fitted out under British crews, and I have before me a list of 13 vessels taken in two years by one of these dhows.
§ MR. PAULTON
said, he did not hear the right hon. Baronet mention those facts; but he understood it was agreed on all sides that the naval operations in the neighbourhood of Suakin had done very little, if anything, to diminish the Slave Trade. But even supposing that some good had been done by the naval operations in the Red Sea in reference to the suppression of the Slave Trade, he maintained that the results of the retention of Suakin by British troops were not worth the loss of treasure and the bodily suffering which ensued. They had received indications of the policy which would be pressed on the Government. When they had driven the Arabs to a short distance from Suakin, the Government would have pressed upon them the necessity of keeping a garrison at Suakin in order to maintain the position. And so the old story would go on. No one blamed more strongly than he did, in his humble way, the policy, or, it might be said, want of policy, of the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He deplored and regretted it most deeply. But that policy had some excuse; no doubt it was a policy of vacillation, but the very fact of it being such a policy showed that the operations were undertaken unwillingly; every means were 784 resorted to to obviate war it was said there was necessity for. At any rate we had gained something by it; we had gained experience that ought to have been of value to the Government in the present circumstances. He regretted to find that the experience—the miserable, sad, and deplorable experience—which was gained in those two years had been entirely lost on the Government, and he wished to enter his strongest protest against the resumption of a policy which was so disastrous, not only to this country, but to the best interests of Egypt and the Soudan.
§ LORD CHARLES BERESFORD (Marylebone, E.)
said, that surely the question of the policy of retaining Suakin depended entirely on what we were going to do in Egypt. If we were going to remain in Egypt it was imperative that we must keep a garrison at Suakin, because, if we did not, the Mahdi's host would soon appear in Egypt. They would appear there a great deal quicker if we gave up Suakin than if we did not. He agreed as to the horrors of the war in which we were last engaged. It was a most painful thing to have to shoot down and to destroy one of the most gallant enemies ever opposed to English arms. At the same time he believed our intervention at that time was necessary. He believed it was necessary to send English troops to stiffen the garrison that was at Suakin at this moment, because, if we did not, we stood a very good chance of the garrison there being unable to cope with the fanatical men they had to fight against. He appealed to hon. Members opposite whether it would not be a grave thing to this country, which was actually supporting the Government of Egypt, and which was actually responsible for Suakin being in the possession of the Egyptians, if the troops sent out to retake the Wells wore not competent to do so? He conceived that by sending a regimentor two out the garrison would be able to recapture the Wells. On the other hand, if the troops at Suakin were beaten—and he conceived there was every likelihood of them being beaten if they undertook aggressive action against the Arabs—we might have to send out six or seven regiments. In such a case our expenses and responsibilities would be enormously increased, and then we should only be very much 785 in the same position as now. What was best to be done was a very difficult question to decide. His own opinion was that we should never get the Soudan question, which had become a fanatical and a religious question, settled until we gave a Company, independent of our Government, a Charter similar to that given to the East India Company, and allowed them to begin commerce in the way the East India Company did, which was more or less at the point of the bayonet. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Perhaps he put it in the wrong way. [Cries of "No!"] Well, the result had not been very bad in India. We had got a very great trade with India, and he did not think there were many Englishmen who would care to give up India. Our merchants went out to India and had bayonets to defend their merchandize. The Natives, however, gradually came in and began to buy. He believed that if the same method were carried out in the Soudan—if we allowed a Company to get a Charter—we should have an enormous trade developed between that country and this. Until that was done we would never have real peace in the Soudan, and we would always have the difficulties under which we had laboured for years. He had always, publicly and privately, expressed the opinion that our going to Egypt was a mistake. The reason why we went to Egypt was, in his opinion, a mistaken reason; it was that we were afraid of the Suez Canal being blocked in time of war. But surely anyone who knew anything about it would say that the best thing to do in time of war was to block up the Canal. He believed it was a Conservative Government which entered into some sort of Convention which could never be carried out when war was declared. Any Minister upon the Treasury Bench would not dare to say that the Convention would be null and void if war were declared; personally, he certainly considered it would be. He mentioned this because he believed that the question of the retention of Suakin depended upon what the policy was going to be with regard to Egypt, and he held most firmly that we had no right to think of giving up Suakin unless we also intended to give up Egypt. If we were to give up Suakin we must increase our forces in Egypt. Our responsibility would in- 786 crease, and we should have to enormously increase our expenditure with no good result whatever.
§ MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, &c.)
, said, he desired to make a few observations to the Committee by way of explaining the exact grounds upon which his right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had moved the reduction of this Vote. His right hon. Friend at the commencement of the discussion made some observations upon the general question, and asked the Government for an explanation of their policy. It was not until the Government had had an opportunity of stating what their policy was intended to lead to, that his right hon. Friend moved a reduction of the Vote. The fact was that they had not been able to discern that the Government had any fixed purpose in the matter whatever. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) was very loud in disclaiming any secret purpose. They did not accuse the Government of having any secret purpose, but what they were afraid of was that there was no purpose whatever in view. It was a question, fortunately, which could be discussed, it seemed to him, without any regard for Party considerations or Party interest. It was quite true that it was a former Government which practically brought us into the position in which we were at Suakin; but the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) had distinctly stated that the present Government had encouraged the Egyptian Government to remain at Suakin, so that there could be no matter of reproach between the two Governments. He (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) was free to own that, in his humble opinion, the whole of our policy in Egypt within the last half-dozen years had been one series of mistakes. Of course the mistakes were committed with the best motives and intentions. Indeed, he believed it would not have been possible within the capacity of most men to have avoided them. But let them not indulge in any recriminations of the sort, because such recriminations did not advance the country one step from the position in which it found itself, and Her Majesty's Government had, at least, 787 been long enough in Office to have made up their own minds on the subject, and to have formed conclusions as to what ought to be done. With regard to the immediate operation which was proposed, he confessed he did not share the fears expressed in some quarters as to its successful result. The Government had had the opportunity of consulting, perhaps, two of the most capable men who could be found—Colonel Kitchener and General Grenfell—and if they acted on the advice of those officers he should say we ought to feel every confidence as to the result of the operation, whatever it might be. Upon that point let him say that as several hon. Members had spoken of the Egyptian troops having been used, and having been found to fail, he understood they were entirely Black troops who would be used at Suakin, and the Black troops bad not been found to fail when put to the test. What seemed to him to be the most important point was, even supposing this operation was successful, what would occur. Having driven the enemy away from Suakin we were to retire. Having succeeded in the purpose we had in view we would withdraw, but our troops would not have gone far on their way up the Red Sea when the very men we had chased away would be around Suakin again. He did not see what ultimate advantage was achieved by the whole proceeding; therefore, we had to consider: What do we stay at Suakin for; and is it a good policy for us to remain in the occupation of Suakin? That was the real point at present before the Committee. One thing was abundantly clear on the slightest examination of the Blue Books which had been presented to the House, and that was that our retention of Suakin had bad no palpable effect on the Slave Trade. The Blue Books contained some most remarkable Papers from Colonel Schaefer, who was a most competent officer, and who described the state of things as being as bad as it ever was. Colonel Schaefer said there was absolutely a glut of slaves at Jeddah. He said that he sent a man ashore accompanied by an Egyptian officer in uniform, so that there could be no mistaking the party for Natives. They asked a boatman whom they casually met whether they could buy a slave, and this man directed 788 them to 18 houses, in all of which they found an excellent choice of slaves. This was what was going on at Jeddah, and it proved that we had not in any way succeeded in closing the slave market. As Colonel Schaefer, with great common sense, pointed out, there were only two ways of dealing with the Slave Trade. One was to go to the source, and the other was to close the market. To go to the source was impossible, but to close the market, if that was to be done at all, must be done by influencing the Turkish Government. It had been said that some efforts had been made in that direction. Certainly this was a peculiarly favourable time for some strong and united effort in that direction. Public opinion, not only in this country, but in Europe generally, had been much aroused on the subject of the African Slave Trade by Cardinal Lavigerie and other men, who had in the most public-spirited and philanthropic manner directed attention to it. He ventured to say that by efforts in that direction far more would be done towards remedying the lamentable state of things in Southern Soudan than by any military occupation of Suakin, either by ourselves or by any Egyptian force. His hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. J. M. Maclean) made a statement from which he could not help expressing his dissent. The hon. Gentleman said that of late years we had been failing in whatever we undertook. He (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) did not see any failure in any undertaking of this country on which the country had thoroughly made up its mind. Where we had failed was where we had gone blundering on, dealing only with the necessities of the hour, without any definite or fixed policy, and it was because of the danger of that occurring in this instance that he and his hon. Friends ventured to appeal to Her Majesty's Government. We bad been in Suakin—or the Egyptian Government, which came to very much the same thing—for several years. Now there arose an emergency; something had to be done. Let this necessity be the occasion of the country making up its mind upon this subject.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
said, he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the 789 Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) that nothing could be more fatal than to go blundering on; that nothing could be more fatal than to adopt a policy suited merely to the needs of the passing hour, without the smallest consideration as to what might be the result of that policy in the immediate future. He could well understand that the right hon. Gentleman gave utterance to such a remark. That remark must be based on the right hon. Gentleman's most terrible, the most bitter, the most mortifying experience as a Minister; and, that being so, it was a remark the Committee would do well to take to heart. Not only was it a remark which came well from the right hon. Gentleman, but it was a remark which ought to appeal with peculiar force to right hon. Gentlemen who were sitting on the Treasury Bench. In the last Parliament but one he, in his humble capacity, was associated with his right hon. Friends in protesting vigorously, month after month, and sometimes week after week, against the blundering policy which was pursued by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was a Member. They held at that time, and they asserted freely, that nothing could be more fatal than to proceed in Egypt without making up their minds as to what should be the definite policy of this country. The whole sum and substance of the accusations brought against the Government, accusations which were largely supported by the House, and largely supported in the country, was that the Government had no policy whatever, that they had not made up their minds what they would do with the Soudan, and that until they did make up their minds on that subject it was improper for the House of Commons to vote Supplies. He had heard several speeches delivered in the House that afternoon, and he had made himself acquainted with the tenour of some of the speeches delivered before he came down to the House. He owned he had great sympathy indeed—whether it was more than hereditary sympathy he could not say—with the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) as a protest against the sending of British troops to Suakin. His memory was very fresh indeed as to the struggle which the 790 Opposition in the year 1885 made—he thought at an Afternoon Sitting—against the sending of British troops to Suakin by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Morley) was a Member, The speeches made on that occasion by Sir Stafford Northcote, by the right hon. Gentleman the present President of the Board of Trade (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and others, taking up practically the arguments which had been used more or less on both sides of the House this afternoon, were most instructive. The Motion of refusal to grant Supplies was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) much on the ground on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne had made the same Motion that afternoon. The hon. Member for Northampton had the pleasure and the pride of leading into the Lobby the entire Tory Party of that time, and of coming within an ace, or rather within 15 votes, of defeating the Government of the day. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) thought he should be able to show the Committee by one or two extracts, or, at any rate, by one extract, from the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) how very dangerous it was to think that by merely sending an expedition to Suakin, in order to defeat and disperse the rebels, we would secure the permanent safety of that place. But before he turned to that, he desired to allude to a remark which fell from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham (Mr. J. Maclean). The hon. Gentleman said he understood that the remark of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, to the effect that the British troops were to go to Suakin and then return to Cairo was merely to be taken in a financial sense, and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury seemed to cheer that observation. And then the hon. Member for Oldham went on to say—"And the cost of that expedition will naturally fall upon Egypt." Why? He was at a loss to know. He had never heard anyone argue, or attempt to argue, that Egypt as it existed at present—Egypt proper—had any interest whatever in Suakim. It had none whatever. He did not know whether the Government would 791 support that assertion. Certainly it was an assertion which, in the bye-gone days to which he had alluded, would have commanded the support of those who now sat upon the Treasury Bench. What interest had the Government of Cairo—what interest had the rulers over what might be called Egypt proper—in the holding of Suakin? He knew of none; absolutely none. The hon. Member for Oldham, having asserted that the cost would naturally fall on Egypt, went on to prove that the United Kingdom of Great Britain had an immense interest in the holding of Suakin. That seemed an intelligible proposition. That proposition had a great deal of argument in its favour, but if Great Britain had a great interest in the holding of Suakin, why should the cost of the operation naturally fall on Egypt? Egyptian finance was embarrassed; it had been extricated from insolvency with great difficulty; and if that was so, and if it could be admitted that Egypt had no direct interest of her own in the holding of Suakin, and if it was asserted that the United Kingdom had a great interest in the holding of that place, how could they argue that the cost of the expedition should naturally fall on Egypt? He protested against such a doctrine. What did it come to? It came to this—that these expeditions were undertaken, and hon. Members, like the hon. Member for Oldham, wore of opinion that the cost should naturally fall on Egypt. Egypt, under pressure of our representations, might pay the cost, but sooner or later Egypt would not be able to pay. Then she would come down on the British Exchequer to make up the deficit. The Committee seemed inclined to be forgetful of what had happened. We had had to make good sums of money again and again on account of the shortcomings of the Egyptian Budget. Not long ago we had to make good the sum of £500,000 which Egypt had undertaken to pay. The odds were very considerably in favour of the cost of this expedition ultimately falling on this country. But the cost of the expedition seemed to him to be not the only point which was to be taken into consideration. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) had announced that the Egyptian Army was to be increased, and 792 that that increase was to cost the Revenue of Egypt some £52,000 a-year. £52,000 was not much to this country, accustomed as it was to voting away vast sums of money, but £52,000 to a Budget like that of Egypt, which was balanced within a few shillings, was a very considerable sum, so that not only would Egypt be put to the cost of the transport of these troops to Suakin and back, but also it appeared that on account of this Suakin Expedition, and of the position, generally, of the Soudanese Arabs around Suakin and on the frontier of the Nile, the Egyptian Army was to be largely increased. He thought the policy of increasing the military charges which Egypt proper was to bear was very dangerous. It would bring about a state of things in Egypt which would lead to great difficulty—it would bring about what we had been most anxious to avoid—namely, International interference. International interference in Egypt always took the form of exertions on the part of the Powers to make further exactions from the Egyptian people. He protested against the doctrine, which appeared to be the doctrine of the Government, that the cost of the holding of Suakin was to fall on the Egyptian Revenue. If that proposition was put forward, it must be supported by the convincing argument that Egypt had a direct interest in the holding of Suakin against the Soudanese Arabs, and that unless it was held against the Soudanese Arabs in the interest of Egypt the whole safety of that country would be imperilled. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham said that we ought to hold Suakin, because it was wise for this country, or, at any rate, it was of the utmost importance to this country to prevent other people going there. He believed that the hon. Gentleman alluded to the French and the Italians, and that he also spoke of a possible German or Turkish occupation. He (Lord Randolph Churchill) did not say it was a policy which he should be prepared to support, but he thought strong argument could be adduced for rendering the position of Great Britain on the Red Sea a very strong and formidable position. But he did not think the position was rendered strong by sending a battalion of Scottish Borderers there. If it was intended to go in for a great policy of making our- 793 selves masters of the ports of the Red Sea not held by other Powers, he could understand the proposition being made for the despatch of large military and naval forces. That he could quite understand. He thought it might be a risky policy for the Government to go in for at the present day, but, at any rate, there was much to be said for it. But what were we doing at the present moment? We were sending a small detachment—a force of some 500 men, without auxiliaries and without Cavalry—a small detachment of Infantry to reinforce Native troops who, he supposed, numbered some 1,500. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: More.] Certainly under 3,000. [Mr. E. STANHOPE: More.] Well, that did not strengthen the ground of the Government. He could understand that 500 British troops might be a valuable reinforcement to 1,000 or 1,500 Natives, but if there was a force of over 3,000, or even 4,000, then it seemed to him that 500 British troops might be as a drop in the ocean, and very inadequate for the purpose of stiffening the fighting qualities of the Native troops. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had said that these troops were to go to Suakin, and, having stiffened the courage of the Native troops, they were to dislodge the besiegers of the town. But to dislodge the besiegers of Suakin was no new matter. It had been found that these besiegers were difficult people to dislodge. They had before been dislodged with the greatest possible effort and at the greatest possible cost, and the moment they had been dislodged, or at the moment we had retired, they had returned. This had happened not once, but no less than three times. The Arabs had been dislodged from their position three times, but three times they had returned just as if they had never been there before. Yet it appeared that we were going to withdraw our troops the moment the besiegers had been dislodged, in spite of the fact that, according to all experience, the besiegers were perfectly certain to return the moment we left. He appealed to the Government, with their previous experience and their previous knowledge on this question, and bearing in mind the line they took when they sat in Opposition against just the same sort of policy which seemed to be adopted at the present moment—he appealed to the Govern- 794 ment to give the Committee a pledge as to what was really to be the nature of the operations which the British troops were going to undertake. Were they going to be satisfied with going to Suakin, fighting the Arabs, and slaughtering, no doubt, a good many of them, and then going away? If that was so, would the Government say on what ground they believed that Suakin would be a bit safer or a bit freer from attack after our troops came away than it was at the present moment? Now, he wished to quote to the Committee a passage from a speech of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), made on the 15th of March, 1884. The speech was made in the very debate to which he had already alluded, when they were very nearly successful in putting the Liberal Government in a minority. The noble Marquess seemed to have taken up exactly the same position which the Government took up now—namely, that the mere sending of troops for the dislodgment of the besiegers would be all that was necessary, and that then Suakin would be perfectly safe. The noble Lord said—and he asked the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to the words, for they were very interesting—We are asked what is the object of the Force which is still in the neighbourhood of Suakin. I maintain that that Force has already probably—for we have no certain information—accomplished one of the main objects of its mission, and the safety of the port of Suakin and the coast of the lied Sea in that neighbourhood is now probably entirely secured; and I maintain that it could not have been so secured while the large armed force assembled under Osman Digna was still in the immediate vicinity of Suakin, not only threatening it by their presence, but openly and distinctly avowing their intention to attack it."—(3 Hansard,  1723.)That precisely described the situation at the present moment. The noble Lord had a right to be confident, because he had not got the experience we had. The noble Lord might then have thought a military demonstration in that part of the world would have contributed to the permanent security of Suakin. What was the state of the case? Nearly all the features of the attack upon Suakin which the noble Lord had to deal with were reproduced at the present moment. He did not know whether the forces of 795 the Arabs were so strong now as then. That was a point upon which we had no certain information; but, apart from that question, the danger of Suakin was very much the same as it was at the time when the noble Lord was responsible for sending a military expedition, when he cleared the neighbourhood of the attacking forces, and told the House of Commons that the safety of the port of Suakin and the coast of the Red Sea in that neighbourhood was entirely secured. The noble Lord said—That great object has probably been accomplished, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) wants to know whether the English Force is going to be immediately re-embarked. But, Sir, before a decision is come to upon that point, we think it would be desirable that the Government should have some more certain information as to the state of the country, and as to whether there is still any hostile gathering of the tribes threatening the security of Suakin."—(Ibid.)The noble Lord was more cautious than the present Government were disposed to be, because he would not pledge himself to re-embark the British Forces the moment the besiegers had been dislodged. But that was a pledge he understood the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had given. The troops were to go to Suakin; they were to clear the place of the attacking force, and then they were to return, totally irrespective of the state of the country. That was indeed a most important question, and he should not have thought it necessary to have troubled the Committee that afternoon if he had not so clearly before his mind the whole of the incidents of the former expedition. They were so fresh that he wondered that the Government had not them clearly before their minds. The determination to send a British force to Suakin—a small British force—seemed to him to be the beginning of the letting out of the waters. In this matter a very good principle for the Government to adopt was principiis obsta. We had been, as far as we could, pursuing, and hoping that we might pursue, the policy of gradually withdrawing our troops from Egypt. He did not know whether the gradual withdrawal was a policy which commended itself to everybody on his side of the House; with that he had nothing to do. That policy was the announced policy, and immense 796 success had attended that policy. If hon. Members compared the garrison of British troops in Egypt in 1885 with what it was now they would find that an immense success had attended that policy. Certainly it was a policy to which he, for one, was strongly attached. He would fifty times sooner send troops to Cairo than to Suakin. At any rate, they knew the duties the troops would have to perform at Cairo; they knew there was more or less probability that we might get them away from there in a certain time; but when once we began these operations in the Soudan there was no limit we could possibly foresee as to our responsibilities. We must recollect that a victory over the besiegers was not certain. When British troops were fighting with Native soldiers the Native soldiers before now had been seized with panic, and had fled, and in their flight had carried away British soldiers with them. Suppose this slender force of British troops was to be unsuccessful in dislodging the enemy. We were bound to take that into consideration. It was not quite certain that 500 British troops with some 3,000 or 4,000 Native allies would be successful against the followers of Osman Digna. What would be the result of such an event as that? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham was very brave and courageous in the views he advocated that day. The hon. Gentleman said—"Why be afraid of an enterprize which was necessary, and might develop into an enterprize for the total conquest of the Soudan." He (Lord Randolph Churchill) confessed that he was afraid of that, and he did not know how those sitting at present on the Ministerial side of the House would explain to their constituents why they supported the repetition of a policy which he thought did great harm to the Party opposite. He was not ashamed to confess his cowardice. He was very much afraid of any repetition whatever—he was very much afraid of any commencement of a repetition of the operations of British troops in the Soudan. He could quite understand what he might call the slovenly policy of preventing, with our naval forces, Arabs taking the town of Suakin. He admitted it was a policy to be criticized; but he looked upon it as a thousand times better than the policy of beginning to scud British troops to that part 797 of the world. We were accustomed to say in our homely language that a burnt child dreaded the fire. But Her Majesty's Government was not the burnt child. There [pointing to the Front Opposition Bench] was the burnt child, and he was certain that no power on earth, not even the possibility or the probability of repealing the Union, would induce right hon. Gentlemen opposite to make another expedition to the Soudan. There was the burnt child; and he appealed to the present Government, before it was too late, to reconsider most carefully its determination to hold Suakin by British troops. He could not see what real success was to attend our efforts. He was certain that the cost would ultimately fall on the British Treasury, and he could not see what material gain we were going to make as compared with the situation as it existed at the present moment. He thought the House of Commons, even if they were not successful in persuading the Government to reconsider their decision, were right in discussing this grave question, because, undoubtedly, with the knowledge hon. Members possessed of the intentions of the Government, if they had not discussed these proceedings, the responsibility of the proceedings would have rested on the House of Commons, and not on the Government alone. Quite apart from any Party considerations—he did not think these Egyptian matters ought to be Party matters—quite apart from any Party feeling whatever, with the information at his disposal, he was glad that a protest had been raised on this occasion, and he strongly joined in the protest against the despatch of another expedition of this character after the bitter and mortifying experience we had of previous enterprizes of the same kind.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Sir, I have listened with great interest to this debate, which has now lasted four and a-half hours, on a question, I admit, of very great importance. The noble Lord who has just sat down (Lord Randolph Churchill) has asked us whether this is the beginning of other operations in the Soudan, and has protested against the course which Her Majesty's Government propose to take, on the ground that it is the beginning of operations in the Soudan. 798 Now, I think nothing could have been more clear than the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) that the sole object of the transfer or removal of some British troops from Cairo to Suakin is to insure the relief of Suakin from an attack which is now being made on it, and which threatens the security of that town and its population. The alternative which is suggested to us by those opposed to that policy is, that we should withdraw altogether from Suakin. What would be the result of that withdrawal?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
That is the course suggested by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. [Cries of "No, no!"] I venture to assert that unless we withdraw from Suakin at the present moment in the presence of the enemy which has already interfered with the supply of water to the town, some steps must be taken by which the enemy itself should be compelled to withdraw. Therefore, those who object to the course the Government have thought it necessary to take must be prepared for the other alternative, which means that we should withdraw in the presence of the enemy. Now, we have been challenged as to our policy. The policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Egypt has been set out clearly in the Convention we endeavoured to arrive at with the Porte, and which means that so soon as adequate security for peace in Egypt has been provided, Her Majesty's Government desire to withdraw altogether from that country. That policy is clearly defined in the Convention which Sir Henry Drummond Wolff endeavoured to draw up, and there has been no variation of or departure from that policy. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) has referred to events which occurred in 1884 when a large expedition was sent out from this country in order to deal with the Soudanese insurrection. There is all the difference in the world between the proposal which is now about to take effect and that which the noble Lord the Member for Rosendale (the Marquess of Hartington) advocated from this Bench. In this case we are assured by those on whom we can place absolute reliance that the measures that are about to be taken will be successful for the purpose 799 they have in view, that there will be no necessity whatever for the continuance of the British Force in Suakin, and that the result will be to give security to the town of Suakin, just as the result of repelling attacks has been to give security to the place during the last two or three years. The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) has referred to the increase contemplated in the Army of Egypt. That is an increase which is about to be made at the instance of the Egyptian authorities themselves; but I may remind the noble Lord of what has been accomplished since we have been responsible for the policy, if I may so call it, of the Government of Egypt. The cost of the Army of Egypt in 1886 was £503,000; in 1888 it was £309,000; and the reduction which has been effected in the two years that Her Majesty's present Government have been in Office, so far as the English Army of Occupation is concerned, has been one-half of the strength of the Force, while the charge to the Exchequer of Egypt has been reduced from £200,000 to £110,000. We have been asked why there is any necessity to hold Suakin. Our reply is that, in the opinion of the Egyptian Government, Suakin is necessary for the security and safety of Egypt, and those who are acquainted with Egypt, and are capable of giving an opinion which is worth having upon a question of this kind—Gentlemen like the noble and gallant Lord the Member for East Marylebone (Lord Charles Beresford)—will bear out that view. But whether that be a correct view or not, that is the present view and deliberate opinion of the Egyptian Government itself, and one for which they are responsible. Now, we have been asked whether this expedition will result in the permanent security of Suakin. That is the view of the military authorities on the spot. They are deliberately of that opinion, and I confess I regard their judgment as of greater value than that of ordinary laymen. They are of opinion that the course they propose to take now will result in a permanent security of Suakin, and in the permanent relief of Suakin from the attacks of those Arabs who are now threatening the place. We have no intention whatever of blundering on as the noble Lord said.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The distinct policy of the Government is indicated in the Convention to which I have referred. We should not be justified in the position we occupy in Egypt in allowing Egypt to be overcome by any temporary misfortune, any temporary difficulty in which she might be involved on her frontier. But we believe in the strengthening of the Egyptian Administration; we believe in the strengthening, so far as its capacity for warlike purposes is concerned, of the Egyptian Army, and we believe we shall succeed in building up there a self-governing Empire which shall be capable of resisting attacks from the tribes on its borders; resisting those attacks to which the noble Lord at the head of the Government referred to the other day. It is against these attacks which the Egyptian Government has to contend against, which any Government in Egypt will have to continue to contend against, and so long as we are there we shall be bound to give such assistance as is necessary to enable the Government to do their duty and their work, and I trust and feel it will be accomplished without material sacrifices on the part of England at any time.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cocker mouth)
said, that the concluding remark of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury was most extraordinary. He thought that this Government was in power to prevent the self-government of a neighbouring nation, yet that day the right hon. Gentleman had said that the great object of the Government was to build up a self-governing Empire. That was a most extraordinary statement for this Government to make, and he certainly was not aware that that was its policy. Now, in his opinion, this debate had been about the most useful one they had had during the whole of this Session. What grand statements they had had that day from all sorts of grand men—[Laughter.]—he meant from men who really understood the subject. How satisfactory it was to hear the hon. and gallant Member for North Hackney (Sir Lewis Pelly) explain that all these operations to put down the Slave Trade were all nonsense; that they did no good 801 at all, but really did more harm than good. That was all new to the people of this country, who had hitherto been bamboozled into voting money for the suppression of the Slave Trade. And then another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Mid Leicestershire (Mr. De Lisle), explained that the whole policy in Egypt was the policy of getting money for the bondholders. And then, again, it was very satisfactory to him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) at any rate, to hear his right hon. Friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) explain that the policy which we had been carrying on in Egypt in the last few years had been a series of mistakes. He told the right hon. Gentleman that long ago. And then they had the Government policy stated very ably by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson). The Government policy in this matter was, that we should send a lot of troops to defend a town whose capture was impossible. This was the old story about military operations—not war, but military operations. The most startling part of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was that in which he explained that we were going on in exactly the same old way—talking the same nonsense, doing the old wickednesses, with exactly the same result. He thought the noble Lord was more correct than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman had put the matter forward on another ground. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there was no danger at all; the troops were to go to Suakin, and then were to go back, a policy of marching and counter-marching in which the Government was so well versed. This, as he had said, had been an instructive debate. Let them look for a moment at what it all came from. All this trouble, all this talk about Egypt, and all this difficulty, arose from the old, bad policy that we could govern a Nation by force, and not by the will of the people themselves. It was on the day when we crushed out the Egyptian Home Rule movement by fire and sword at Tel el Kebir that we prepared for a series of events which had been a blot on the history of this country. What 802 he rose for, however, was to ask the Government if the time had not come for them to be a little original, for them to take a little line of their own, to follow the advice the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) had given them so kindly. If they would follow the advice of the noble Lord a little more than they did, how much better it would be! In spite of all assertions to the contrary, it was quite clear there were only two policies with regard to the Suakin business; one was to do the thing thoroughly—take the town and keep it against all comers, and say, "It belongs to the English Nation, and we will keep it." That was a logical policy, and he saw that a logical Friend of his over the way approved of it. He had respect for such a policy; but it was not his policy, and he was not afraid to say so. He maintained that the rational, the right, and the proper thing to do was to withdraw altogether from the place and leave it to the people themselves. He was for letting people, in all parts of the world, govern themselves. He remembered reading in a Cambridge newspaper a passage in reference to the fall of Khartoum—a passage which showed that in Cambridge, at all events, there was a little common-sense. It was—Khartoum has fallen. We are delighted to hear it. It belongs to the people of Africa, and they ought to get it for themselves.With that he quite sympathized. We could not get better going on in this way; we must get worse. That was well put by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. J. M. Maclean) when he said there was no limited liability when we went to war. Of course there was not. When we went to war, we were led on and on. Do not let it be said he was wise after the event. He predicted all these troubles long ago. He remembered that at the beginning of the Egyptian trouble he said if the Government went on as they started, they would have a turn at the Mahdi before long. Every one laughed, and thought the statement ridiculous; but everyone knew now that it was not long afterwards that we did go out to fight the Mahdi and Osman Digna. What was the use of fighting Osman Digna? We had killed him 15 times already, and the Mahdi people as long as we would light with them would always come up 803 smiling. He could not improve upon what the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had said. The noble Lord put it very clearly. We were just going on in the old way, and we would have the old horrors over again. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was not alone in that. Last Sunday, taking up The Observer—the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury did not read it—he noticed one article upon this Soudan business. In the article it was said the probability was that we were in for another march up the Nile Valley, and probably another attack on Khartoum. He did not think that was a pleasant prospect for anyone, but it was certainly on the cards. It was more than probable that we should learn very shortly of a horrible battle, such as we used to read of two or three years ago, slaughtering Natives who were only trying to defend their own country. What he wanted to impress upon the Committee was that all these horrors went on a few years ago, and the people of the country—he did not say applauded, but submitted to them. Why? Because, he was sorry to say, they were initiated and carried on by a Liberal Government. But do not let the present Government lay the flattering unction to their Tory souls that the people of this country would ever allow a Tory Government to do it. He was not saying that by way of reproach. He was sorry the English people had allowed any Government to do it. He was only saying that as a matter of fact they allowed a Liberal Government, but they would not allow a Tory Government to do these frightful things in the Soudan. He appealed to the Government to be wise in time. Why not learn the lesson of experience? Why not take the advice of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington? Why not strike out a line of their own and withdraw from this place in time, so as to avoid another hideous blunder and unpardonable crime?
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
said, he desired to offer a few remarks from a practical point of view, and he was emboldened to do so with the indulgence of the House, because during his Eastern Service he had had some indirect experience of the operations of the Slave Trade. He had governed the British Stations at the 804 mouth of the Red Sea—and the present question related to the Red Sea; and he had organized the Consulate at the very Jeddah that had been referred to in this debate. He submitted that the question was whether we were to hold Suakin or to retire from it. He understood the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington to say there was no alternative to be suggested, but he submitted, with deference to the noble Lord—
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he had said he could understand what he admitted to be the slovenly policy of holding Suakin by a naval force, but he was opposed to the policy of sending British troops there.
§ SIR RICHARD TEMPLE
submitted that that alternative was not sufficient. He now understood that the alternative of the noble Lord was to hold Suakin by naval means. But surely Suakin must be held properly by a force on land as well as on sea. The question arose, how we came to be there? We were there on account of the action of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he did not hesitate to say he heartily concurred in that action. They had good reason to place us there; we were there, and we must acquit ourselves like men in that situation. We could not honourably abandon the Egyptian garrison which had been placed there under our auspices. It had been asked what interest had Egypt in Suakin? Why, she had the interest of a conqueror. Suakin was hers by conquest since the beginning of this century, and, as far as he knew, Egyptian statesmen were very unwilling to give up possession of the place. But if they could not hold it without our assistance, he submitted that we were bound to hold it ourselves—he was not afraid to say so—in justice to British interests, in discharge of British obligations, and in the cause of humanity. [Laughter.] He did not hesitate to say, in the presence of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the cause of humanity was much interested in this matter. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) stated triumphantly that the Slave Trade had nothing to do with this matter. But, on the contrary, this had always everything to do with the Slave Trade, and hardly with anything else. Pray, who were now menacing Suakin? The Arabs of the Soudan. These Arabs came from 805 the interior; and was it supposed they had no reason? In what way did the possession of Suakin by an Egyptian garrison affect them? Suakin was essentially a coast position. It was an island joined by a causeway only to the main land. It in no way caused them trouble; it was not a thorn in their side; it was surrounded by harmless and friendly tribes who were peaceful towards us, and not harmful towards them. What, then, was the reason for the attacks upon the place? Did the Committee suppose that the action of the Arabs was without reason? Of course they had a reason, and it was connected with the Slave Trade. The Arabs were fighting for the Slave Trade, and nothing else. They were not, indeed, fighting for the right of hunting slaves, because it was well known they could not be prevented from slave hunting, for in that, in the very heart of Africa, they were too unhappily secure. But it was for the right of exporting slaves from this African coast of the Bed Sea that they were contending. For that exportation Suakin was the seat, and therefore it was that they were threatening the place. They were desirous to keep open the road across the Red Sea to Arabia, and hence it was that they were so anxious about the possession of Suakin. He would not now stop to explain how the slaves were captured in their native villages down South, dragged across the desert, and packed on the Nile boats down to Khartoum. It was from Khartoum thrt the horrid traffic bifurcated. Part went on to Egypt, thence to Syria and Turkey, and that was being checked by British inrerposition. Fart went to the coast near Suakin, and thence across the Red Sea to Arabia. Hence truly the value of Suakin, either to the Arabs for conducting the trade, or to us for suppressing it. It was true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had pointed out, our success in suppressing the Red Sea Slave Trade as yet had been small; nevertheless the position of Suakin was of the greatest importance to the Slave Trade, and the possession of the town by a slave trading Power would greatly facilitate all the operations which went on on the neighbouring coast. No doubt our success in suppression had been small, but was that any reason why we were not to 806 persevere in trying to do our duty? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) quoted some evidence which showed that the Slave Trade was still going on at Jeddah. That was nothing new. He (Sir Richard Temple) had known for many years past that Jeddah was the great slave market, and his answer to the evidence the right hon. Gentleman had cited was, that in former times the Slave Trade was greater than it was now. Much had been said about the danger that we ran in occupying Suakin for fear of complications in the Soudan. He admitted as much as anyone opposite that, however possible our occupation of the Soudan might have been a few years ago, that occasion of striking a blow against the Slave Trade in the interior of Upper Africa had passed away. If such an enterprise was ever possible it was no longer possible. But that was no reason why we should not stick to Suakin. The position of Suakin did not necessarily involve us in any operations in the interior of Africa. It was a highly defensible and tenable position, and we could defend it by naval means, and we could, if necessary, occupy one or two positions on the coast to protect our water supply. Like all the stations on the coast, the place was comparatively healthy, though the climate might be hot, and it was surrounded by friendly tribes with whom we need not interfere, so that there was absolutely no temptation whatever for us to migrate into the interior, or to extend our arms or policy there. All we had to do was to prevent the attacks of the Arabs from time to time. He admitted that as soon as the Arabs were dislodged they came back again. [Laughter.] But what was the inference? He supposed that that laughter meant that the inference was that we ought to scuttle out of the place. His inference was very different. Why, that was the very reason why we should never withdraw British troops. Suakin was regarded as an integral part of Egypt, however much that might be disputed by some. But be that as it might, the Egyptians were there by right, and we could not interfere with that right against their will. But if they were neither willing nor able to hold the place, then we were justified in doing so—first, in discharge of our duty towards Egypt; secondly, for doing our 807 utmost in the cause of suffering humanity; thirdly, for the protection of British interests in the upper waters of the Red Sea.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 101; Noes 136: Majority 35.—(Div. List. No. 324.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. TAPLING (Leicestershire, Harborough)
said, he proposed to call the attention of the Committee to a subject of considerable public importance, and he did so in order to give the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir James Fergusson) an opportunity of saying what had been done in the matter. He referred to the very unsatisfactory position at present occupied by English medical men practising in Switzerland. Hon. Members were aware that during recent years a large part of the popularity Switzerland had acquired had been due to the writings of English medical men practising there, and to the advice given by doctors over here to their patients to go to Switzerland. Hitherto, English medical men had practised in Switzerland without any molestation whatever, but this year a law, long in abeyance, had been enforced, and English doctors had either been fined or threatened with expulsion. The law had been put into execution in only two cantons, and it had affected particularly three medical gentlemen—namely, Dr. Wise, Dr. White, and Dr. Holland. He was given to understand that the action of the Swiss Government was due to steps taken by a number of Swiss doctors, who, of course, had some interest in preventing English medical men practising in the country. He understood that the ground for the action of the Swiss Government was that British medical men had not taken out a Federal diploma. Dr. White, for instance, sent his diplomas to the authorities at Geneva, and they were marked "insufficient." All the three gentlemen had degrees which would qualify them to practise in Great Britain and Ireland, and Dr. White was an Irish doctor, and the other two were Englishmen. The Swiss Government had taken a very arbitrary course in subjecting these gentlemen to fines, and, of course, he need hardly point out that if English 808 or British doctors were to be prevented from practising in Switzerland, a great deal of hardship would be inflicted, not only on the numerous British visitors to the country, but also to the rather large English Colony established there at the present moment. The English Colony in Switzerland would, no doubt, be in a position to ascertain for themselves what native doctors possessed sufficient claims to command their confidence, but that would not be the case with the ordinary tourist or visitor to the country. It was obvious that many tourists and visitors were not able to explain their ailments in either French or German sufficiently well, and, therefore, if they were debarred from the services of a medical man of their own nationality great hardship and inconvenience would be inflicted upon them. He had particulars of several cases of what he might call tyrannical interference on the part of the Swiss authorities. Let him take the most recent case. A short time ago a letter appeared in The Times giving an account of the treatment to which a lady had been subjected. A lady travelling with the writer sustained some slight injury to her eye. The writer sent for Dr. White, who was a personal friend of his. First of all he asked the hotel-keeper to fetch Dr. White, but the man refused to go because Dr. White had no Federal diploma. That seemed very extraordinary to the writer, but he then sent his own servant. Dr. White came and attended the lady; he explained, however, that he was not able to take a fee, in fact, he doubted whether the preliminary attention had not involved him in serious penalties. He (Mr. Tapling) understood that the Swiss doctors objected to the want of reciprocity between their country and this. Of course, he had already pointed out it was not a question of medical degrees. There would be nothing to prevent Dr. White going back to Ireland. It seemed absurd that any one of these doctors could attend a patient in this country, but that when the patient found himself on the shores of the Lake of Geneva he could not be attended by the same doctor. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Aberdeen (Dr. Farquharson) would correct him if he was wrong, but he understood that there was nothing to prevent a Swiss doctor practising in this country. The 809 only disabilities under which they laboured were, that they could not hold a Government appointment, or recover fees in a Court of Law, unless they obtained an English degree. He thought he might say, on the part of English doctors, that they would be quite willing to be put on the same footing in Switzerland; they would be quite willing even to confine their practise to patients of their own nationality. These were very shortly the circumstances of the case. It was not until this year that any difficulty had arisen. He knew his right hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had been in communication with the Swiss Government on the subject for some time past, but he though the ought to take this opportunity of drawing the attention of the Committee to the subject, which was really of considerable importance to British travellers abroad, and of enabling the right hon. Baronet to give them, he hoped, the satisfactory assurance that not merely a modus vivendi had been arrived at, but that in the future the position, so to speak, of English medical men settling in Switzerland would be to some extent secure.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said, he could quite bear out what his hon. Friend had said. In this country we had free trade in doctors. Any foreign doctors could come here and practise and the public might make their choice. It was very hard, indeed, that an old and effete law should be dug out in Switzerland without any notice, and that English doctors should be subjected to fine and imprisonment if they did not comply with it. It was very hard to English residents if they were not able to obtain medical advice from their own countrymen. Personally, he would always prefer to be treated by one of his own countrymen. There were one or two cases of great hardship in Switzerland. He knew of a case of illness in which a medical gentleman staying in the locality at the time was consulted. The chemist refused to make up the medicine prescribed until the prescription was countersigned by a legally qualified practitioner on the spot. He (Dr. Farquharson) hoped that, by the exercise of diplomacy, some justice migh be done the English practitioners and the English residents in the foreign health resorts.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that the subject to which his hon. Friend the Member for the Harborough Division of Leicestershire (Mr. Tapling) had called attention, undoubtedly involved a substantial hardship to many of our countrymen, both professional men and private persons. English people residing in Switzerland for their health were anxious to be attended by their own countrymen, but of late English medical men had been debarred from practising in some of the Swiss Cantons. Her Majesty's Government had for some time endeavoured to remove the prohibition by friendly reciprocal doctrines, and in 1886 power was given to make regulations granting the right to medical men holding foreign diplomas to practice in the United Kingdom, provided that reciprocal advantages were given to our practitioners abroad. The Swiss Government had not been very willing to enter into the arrangement, and he did not think that was surprising. The unwillingness arose from no unfriendliness to the Government of this country, but from the apprehension that if the doors were opened their country would be so invaded by medical men from Germany and France, that their own professional men would be seriously injured. The various objections made had been combated by the Foreign Office, and he believed we were now much nearer an arrangement than we had been for some time. He was glad to say that during the last summer, by special arrangement made in some of the Cantons, medical men whose services were desired were permitted to practise. The Swiss desired that they should have reciprocal advantages in this country. By the Medical Act of 1886 power could be given to foreign doctors to practise in this country, and we had been able to show that the Swiss Government were under a misapprehension in supposing that they had no reciprocal advantages. But they were not satisfied yet that we were able to give them full reciprocal advantages. For instance, there were fewer Swiss patients in the United Kingdom than their were English paitents in Switzerland. Again, they thought that while they might receive the right to practise in the United Kingdom, the right might be refused in the Colonies. Her Majesty's Government had asked the Colonies whether they were willing 811 to admit Swiss practitioners as a reciprocal favour, but they had not yet received an answer. He did not think there was anything else between the two Countries, but at present a reply was awaited from the Swiss Government to the last inquiries. He hoped the means which had been adopted would be effectual in removing the hardship which he had admitted. At any rate, every endeavour was being made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to remove the hardship.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
said, that this was not at all a questian of reciprocity. The point was whether English, Scotch, or Irish practitioners who might be resident for a time in one of the Swiss Cantons might not be permitted to treat purely British cases. It was not intended that English practitioners should be permitted to set up in Switzerland against the Swiss practitioners. Instead of treating this matter on the reciprocity principle, to do which would be nonsense, the Government ought to see that if British subjects in Switzerland desired the services of British medical men they should be able to secure them.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he thought that an improved state of things might be brought about if the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Fergusson) brought some pressure upon the General Medical Council, so that the powers under the Medical Act of 1886, which were permissive, would be put in force, and foreign medical practitioners registered. There ought to be real reciprocity. If foreign medical practitioners could apply to the Home Secretary and be placed in the same position as medical men were in in France, he thought the views of the Swiss would be met.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he hoped they would now be permitted to turn to the financial aspect of the Vote. He had an Amendment on the Paper with regard to the Ambassador in Austria.
It being half after Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again upon Monday next.