§ MR. J. MORLEY (Montrose Burghs),
on rising to propose as an Amendment: "That the Item, Class 2, Vote 5 (Foreign Office), be reduced by £100," was received with Opposition cheers. The right hon. Gentleman said: Mr. Lowther, it has been my fortune on various occasions during the last 12 years to take part in discussions in this House upon the policy of various Governments in reference to the Soudan and the policy pursued in that territory. 1479 I never supposed on the last occasion, which is now six or seven years ago, when attention was drawn to that territory, which is so fraught with melancholy and tragic associations, that it would in so comparatively short a distance of time fall to me again to move that which is in effect a Resolution similar to that which, in association, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), I had occasion to move 11 years ago. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will believe that I do not approach this important subject from a Party point of view. In form, no doubt, my Motion is a Vote of Censure on Her Majesty's Government; but I have been perfectly impartial, because in 1885 I moved a Vote of Censure upon Her Majesty's then Government, which was composed of a different Party to that now holding office. ["Hear, hear!"] It was understood, from a statement made the other day by the First Lord of the Treasury, that a night would be conceded to us with a view to discussing the general policy of the British position in Egypt. On the whole, I think very little is to be gained, since the declaration of the new policy of the Government, by opening a general discussion on that subject. I am not at all indicating that it is my view that that subject does not need and does not deserve at the proper time a full discussion. There are many reasons, indeed, why it should be discussed and considered, because, as the First Lord of the Treasury said in a speech in the country, there is no doubt that a change almost amounting to a revolution has taken place in British policy in reference to the Turkish Empire. That being so, considerations arose in our minds affecting not only our position in Egypt, but our whole Eastern Mediterranean policy. These considerations are, I believe, making their way in the minds of the people of this country, who have hitherto never allowed a doubt to be thrown upon the advantage to us of our occupation of Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] I think many of our countrymen feel that amongst the reasons why our hands were weakened in dealing with the humiliating subject of Armenia was that we did not stand before Europe in a position which would entitle us to be 1480 believed—though, of course, we knew better—when we assured Europe that our philanthropic professions in regard to Armenia were disinterested. We know that our position in Egypt was one amongst other reasons which weakened our position in those most unfortunate negotiations. ["Hear, hear!"] I am content to leave that part of the subject to what Lord Salisbury called the "sound and orthodox" view expressed in another place by Lord Kimberley. Those views are that there was a universal wish among all the Powers that Egypt should be able to stand alone without foreign assistance, and that we all in this country looked forward to the time when we shall be able, in accordance with our abundantly-repeated obligation, to terminate our occupation in Egypt, which has been productive of much benefit and many blessings to the people of Egypt—[Ministerial cheers]—but the long continuance of which is fraught with great disadvantages to this country. That was the view expressed by Lord Kimberley, which Lord Salisbury, following him, declared to be the sound and orthodox view. Lord Salisbury made another declaration on the subject when he was defending what is known as the Drummond Wolff Convention of 1887, which, as the House will recollect, was a projected agreement by which Great Britain was to withdraw from Egypt in three years under certain conditions. He stated that Great Britain was hedged in Egypt between two sets of pledges. The first was the pledge to Europe not to assume anything like a protectorate over Egypt, and the second was a pledge to Egypt to perform the task that we had undertaken in reference to that country—namely, not to abandon the people of Egypt either to the mercy of foreign invasion or as a prey to internal troubles. That seems to be a perfectly correct view of the situation. Lord Salisbury tried to find a way out between those pledges in 1887; but, unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he failed. I hope the time may come when a similar attempt may be made. But I frankly admit that the present moment is not propitious for action of that kind, and it has been rendered less propitious—as I think I will be able to show the House—by the unfortunate step which Her Majesty's 1481 Government has now announced to the public and to Europe. I was very glad to hear the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite when I mentioned the benefits and blessings which Egypt had derived from the British occupation. There is no difference between the two sides of the House in regard to the results of British administration in Egypt. But-one of the objections to the new policy of the Government is that it is likely to withdraw from Egypt some of those benefits and blessings, as Lord Kimberley called them, which have resulted from British administration, because you are going to take from the Egyptian taxpayer funds for purposes of your own, which otherwise would be devoted to carrying out improvements in Egypt, by which Lord Cromer himself says Egypt would greatly benefit. ["Hear, hear!"] The question is whether the new policy is merely a defence of the frontier against possible raids, or whether it is something more. Observe the position. By insisting upon remaining in Egypt, which of course you do, you are bound to admit that Egypt is not strong enough to stand by herself; and yet, if we understand the new policy to be what it has been described to be by the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary—and I shall show by-and-by that we are in the dark as to its precise significance—you are imposing on a country, which by hypothesis is not strong enough to stand alone, the duty of governing one of the most difficult territories on the face of the earth. [Cheers.] The first question which we all had to ask ourselves when this new expedition was announced was, What were the grounds and reasons which the Government would give us as justifying this new departure? I need not apologise to the House for asking them to travel rather closely through these grounds and reasons. At the first there is something very peculiar in the manner in which this information has been given to Parliament. [Cheers.] Now that we know what the information amounted to, what the, foundation of the new policy is, I can quite understand that Lord Salisbury, as a man of satiric humour, did appreciate the impression likely to be made by such disclosure even upon that docile Chamber in which he rules. [Laughter.] He told them 1482 in another place that he had looked over the telegrams, and it was obvious that they contained matters ''which could not properly be laid upon your Lordships' Table." But meanwhile, something had happened in this House, and Lord Salisbury's description is so interesting that I shall give it in his own words. He said:—Will the right hon. Gentleman be in a position to furnish the House in an authentic shape with the information which induced the Government to approve of the advance into the Soudan?''[Laughter.] A harmless telegram, just to humour a simple-minded Member of this House. [Laughter and cheers.]
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. GEORGE CURZON,) Lancashire, Southport
I am very loth to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure he would not wish to do an injustice either to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs or to myself. It was only just before coming down to this House that I received a private letter from the right hon. Gentleman asking me to read out those telegrams. I had no opportunity at that late hour of communicating with the Secretary of State, and I read the three telegrams as an act of courtesy to the right hon. Gentleman. Subsequently I communicated what I had done to the Secretary of State, who approved of it, and read out the same telegrams to the House of Lords. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not want to interrupt the argument with a small personal matter, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that I had asked the question on the previous day—[cheers]—and the First Lord of the Treasury, in answer to my question, had very courteously said he would inquire into the matter, and see whether telegrams could or could not be read. [Cheers.] It seems to come to this, that here is a most important decision taken, and yet in respect of the communication of the grounds of that decision, involving military and financial considerations of great gravity, it is not thought to be worth while by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary—who are one personage—to have five minutes' or even one minute's conversation with the representative of the Government in this 1483 House. [Cheers.] I cannot conceive how the right hon. Gentleman has altered that point of view, or made it in any way more favourable to himself or to Her Majesty's Government in relation to their treatment of this House. [Cheers.] If we have only had three selected telegrams, and if that is the whole of the foundation of the case which is to be disclosed to us, I do not think that the Government has treated the House with frankness and with that full confidence in the good judgment of the House which I should think it would always be desirable for a Government, and for a Foreign Minister especially, to maintain in their relations and dealings with this House. The right hon. Gentleman, it is true, said that those telegrams were the foundation of the case.
§ MR. CURZON
No, no. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but this is a very important point. What I distinctly stated was that those telegrams were the foundation of the first part of my statement. In no sense were they the whole foundation of our case. I had made a statement for the grounds of which the right hon. Gentleman asked, and I gave my authority. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was the announcement to this House of the expedition on which the Government had resolved. [Cheers.] That is the case. [Renewed cheers.] The question I asked was this:—Mr. Curzon has, for the benefit of Mr. Morley—[laughter]—selected three telegrams which can be communicated without harm.Nothing could be clearer. [Cheers.] But if that is not the whole foundation of the case, I think the right hon. Gentleman has made his position much worse than it was before. Now we really know that the House has not yet been told the whole case. [Cheers.] If it is so, I hope the Colonial Secretary, who is going to follow, and who of course is a partisan of frank diplomacy—[laughter and cheers]—will tell us what was the foundation of the case, and what was that information—those rumours or other considerations—which induced the Government to approve of the advance 1484 into the Soudan. The House is even worse treated than I supposed it to have been. [Cheers.] Now, as to the reasons themselves, are they to be confided in? I am rather curious to know whether the telegrams which he was good enough to select for my benefit constituted the same information as that which, as we were told yesterday by the First Lord of the Treasury, has been communicated by our accredited agents to the five Powers of Europe. We should like to know what is the justification for the advance into the Soudan as presented to the foreign Governments, if not to this House. There surely can be no objection to a disclosure of that kind. I confess that, if the telegrams which were communicated to us were the same as the information given to M. Berthelot, I am not greatly surprised that he should have asked for éclaircissements and an exchange of views. One of my objects to-night is that there should be, if possible, an exchange of views between ourselves and Her Majesty's Government. We are at present entirely in the dark both as to their justification of the case and as to their policy in the case. What do these telegrams amount to? The first announced that Osman Digna was advancing into the Suakin district; and that the authorities had dispatched messengers with the view of obtaining more precise information. The second telegram, dated February 26, from Lord Cromer stated that information had come from Wady Halfa that merchants who had escaped from Berber had reported that a force of Dervishes, 700 strong, had been detailed for an attack on the Murad Wells; that a second force had been dispatched to Kokreb; that another and larger force had left for Dongola; and that Osman Digna had been sent to Kassala. Lord Cromer added:—Although I cannot vouch for the entire accuracy of these reports, it appears to be certain that some hostile movement, having Kassala for its probable objective, is in contemptation.The third telegram confirmed this news by trustworthy reports which had been received at Suakin. Then, lastly, there came a Dispatch from Her Majesty's Consul at Suakin, stating that for months past 1485 rumours had continued to reach Suakin to the effect that Osman Digna was contemplating the renewal of his old exploits, and that those reports appeared to have some foundation. That is the whole case as far as the information furnished to Her Majesty's Government from Egypt, and furnished by Her Majesty's Government to this House, goes. One peculiar thing about these communications is that they practically all refer to the Suakin district, with the exception of the alleged advance to Dongola, and the force alleged to be at the Murad Wells. There is no danger to the frontier seriously alleged or to be seriously inferred from any of those telegrams or from that Dispatch. They were mere flying rumours; and those flying rumours, as everyone knows who has kept his eye on the region, have been going on in Egypt for the last 10 years incessantly. Lord Cromer himself, in his Report, dated February 3rd, says that there has been a small raid beyond Wady Halfa, and a movement, not of a serious character, in another direction. Then he goes on to say that, though there may be from time to time raids similar in character to these two, yet the Dervishes appear to be maintaining a defensive attitude. Therefore, at that time Lord Cromer did not anticipate anything beyond a repetition of those very slight and inconsiderable performances. The only part of that information with a spark of vitality about it relates to the Suakin district. But then you do not propose to touch the Suakin district. The facts alleged by you affect the Suakin district only, and you pretend that they justify the use of military forces which cannot possibly touch that district. [Cheers.] That is one inconsistency on which I hope the Colonial Secretary will shed some light. Anyone who heard the recital of those telegrams and considered the significance and the purport of them, will agree that so hazardous a proposal was never justified by reasons so flimsy, so meagre, so irrelevant, and so absolutely unsatisfactory. [Cheers.] If it be really true that the Dervishes have advanced to Murad Wells, your military operations will not affect that; on the contrary they will be very much affected by it; because the force at Murad Wells, if there be a force there, would be quite able to cut off your own advance guard which you 1486 are going to send to Akasheh. That cannot be denied by anybody, however little of a military expert he may be. Again, there is an allegation that 10,000 Dervishes have advanced to Dongola. If that is so, it is nothing short of madness to send an Egyptian force of 8,000 or 9,000 men to drive 10,000 Dervishes out of Dongola. Dongola is nearly 300 miles from the frontier, and 250 miles from Akasheh. How are those 250 miles occupied? The rocky gorges of the Nile intervene, and except at high Nile the stream is not navigable, and what you would do is this. Supposing your 8,000 Egyptian troops, who have never yet been tried, were able by magic to drive out those 10,000 Dervishes, even then their position, with the rocky gorges of the Nile at the back of them, would be a position which no man with even the most rudimentary sense of military possibilities, would contemplate without the greatest uneasiness. There are two hypotheses possible. The power of the Khalifa is either collapsing or it is not. [Laughter.] All the best information available appears to show that the power of the Khalifa is rapidly contracting, and that his influence is only over a limited area. If so, there is no danger to Egypt, or to the frontier. The point is whether the present Egyptian frontier is an insufficient one. If the power of the Khalifa is collapsing, then there is no new danger to Egypt. But, now, take the other hypothesis—the hypothesis which the Government appear to have adopted—that Mahdism is in full force, or, if not in such full force as 10 or 11 years ago, still that it will be stimulated by recent events, including the defeat of the Italians at Adowa, and that that constitutes a new danger. If so, I submit that the military proposals of the Government are ludicrously and most dangerously inadequate. I will remind the Committee of what happened in 1884–5. In 1884 Lord Wolseley was sent on an expedition to Khartoum. What sort of military force does the Committee suppose Lord Wolseley demanded and got? He did not demand 8,000 Egyptian troops. He wrote in September, 1884, that he wanted for his operations on the Nile six British battalions for his line of communication only, plus Egyptian troops, then, for moving forward beyond Dongola, five British 1487 battalions, a British camel corps, a cavalry regiment, and I rather think he suggested the Guards—10,000 British troops in all. What was the consequence of that movement? I believe it is below the mark to say that 15,000 Dervishes were killed by British troops, and after that slaughter Lord Wolseley asked for reinforcements to the troops he already had, and, so far as I can make out, his requirements amounted to not much lets than 17,000 British troops on the Nile, plus 10,000 Egyptian and Indian troops at Suakin, plus 8,000 for the line of communication, and this, mind you, after one or two most murderous defeats of the Dervishes. If there is a danger of the kind that the Government seem to have in their minds—of a real and violent advance of the Dervishes under the command of the Khalifa—then the preparations they propose are, as I have said, ludicrously and dangerously inadequate. Do they hold that the appearance of 5,000 troops—Egyptian troops, too, mark you—at Dongola is to spread panic and fright at Kassala, 300 miles away? These are things which the Committee can judge of without Foreign Office information, and could there be a proposal more preposterous than that, or one based upon a more preposterous assumption1? [Cheers.] I saw to-day a specimen of the illusion that seems to prevail on this subject, and the imperfect way in which those who ought to be instructors of public opinion are informed as to the true nature of these operations. I read this in the Standard:—It is gratifying to know that the Italian Commandant at Kassala expects to be able to hold out until the Atbara rises in July. By that date we may trust that the objects of the Soudan expedition will have been attained.It is exceedingly doubtful whether Dongola will have been reached in July, and then you will be merely on the threshold of the enterprise which you have undertaken, if undertaken it you have, of attempting, even indirectly, the relief of Kassala. As to Suakim, it has always been the centre of disturbance. I cannot understand why there is this new excitement about Kassala. Of course, I understand the force of the consideration as to the rescue of the Italian garrison, but Kassala itself is not very important. 1488 That is shown by the indifference and composure with which the Egyptian Government—that is to say, the British Government—have seen the Dervishes in full occupation of that place. They were there in 1894, so that for between two and three years, without any discomfort whatever, the Dervishes were left in full occupation of Kassala. But what is the policy—what are the intentions of the Government? The Under Secretary told us that the nature of the future movement would be decided not only by military, but by political and financial considerations. I do hope, though it is rather late to ask it, that to-night, at all events, we shall have some light shed upon these political and financial considerations. ["Hear, hear!"] It is a pity that before coming down to the House Ministers did not get somebody to exercise the same discriminating selection which was applied to the telegrams to their own varying intentions. As it is, I submit that there never was such an ambiguous, equivocal, vague, and incomprehensible declaration of policy. [Cheers.] We have had misty glimpses of policy, but a firm statement of the views and objects with which you have embarked upon this expedition we have not had either from the Under Secretary or the First Lord of the Treasury. On the contrary, there was considerable contradiction. Now, our proposition is a plain one. I say that 11 years' experience has proved that you have a safe frontier, and nothing except temporary urgent military necessity can justify an advance beyond that frontier. But now the Government appear to have much further views. We did not, as I say, get any firm statement; we got discordant statements which show that this advance is not a development of previous policy, but marks definitely a new departure of some kind or another, and what we want to know, and what we ought to have known before now, is what is the object of that new departure. Are your objects limited or are they unlimited. I remember very well we had discussions in 1888 upon the expedition that was sent to Suakim, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester (Sir J. Fergusson), who was then Under Secretary, will recollect that, whilst there was admitted a necessity for a temporary expedition to drive away 1489 the Dervishes, the Government of that day, through the Under Secretary, repeated, not once, but again and again, their firm intention, the moment the military operations they thought necessary were effected to return to Cairo, and that there was not the slightest intention on the part of the Government of that day to depart from the Soudan policy which Lord Salisbury had inherited from his predecessors, and which he always declared his full intention of accepting and maintaining. Now we have a very different story. The Under Secretary said this:—It had been decided that it would be for both the present and the permanent interest of Egypt that an advance should be made up the valley of the Nile. The British advance, he said, may ultimately extend to Dongola, the importance of which, as one of the granaries of the Upper Nile, is familiar to all those who have studied the Egyptian question. That was the first policy advanced by Her Majesty's Government—a policy to promote the permanent interests of Egypt by securing a new granary at Dongola. But that is only contingent after all, to judge by the language of the Under Secretary, and even upon that the Government will not tell us frankly whether they have made up their minds one way or another that there is to be a permanent advance to Dongola. The First Lord of the Treasury went further. He advocated, as it were, or suggested, two policies, but not inconsistent with one another of course. He did not say anything about the policy of the granary, but he spoke of the advantage of a diversion in favour of the Italian forces. He said:—I am convinced that there is no better method of producing a diversion in favour of the Italian Forces beleaguered at Kassala than the forward movement we are now discussing.That is one of the justifications, that is one of the objects which the Government appear to have in view. But at a later portion of his speech he said—and this is a very remarkable utterance in more ways than one:—We do think that it is not a loss, but a gain, to civilisation that Egyptian influence should be extended southwards in the way we propose.[''Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman adheres to that statement.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
If that means anything at all it means that this expedition is the way proposed, in the interests of civilisation, to extend Egyptian influence southwards. I think that is not only a fair construction to put upon the right hon. Gentleman's words, but the only construction which, I think, those words really bear, and I see the right hon. Gentleman assents to that. I do not agree with my lion. Friend the Member for Northampton that the Khalifa is a sort of William Tell, or——
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I ventured to interrupt the Leader of the House precisely on this same point. The Leader of the House seemed to be under the impression that I am almost anxious to join these Dervishes. I have no intention of doing so. [Loud laughter.] I do not regard the Khalifa as a sort of William Tell. I regard him as a very bad man—[laughter]—but I admire the Soudanese for rather preferring the rule of this very bad man to that of the Egyptians.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then my hon. Friend takes my view. I thought my hon. Friend spoke language which seemed to imply that the Soudanee was a sort of Northampton Radical. [Laughter.] I am fully alive to the attractions which the idea of applying a civilising influence to Khartoum has for the philanthropic mind, but everybody knows that if there is one thing which the Soudanese will resist with might and main, it is the restoring of anything like Egyptian influence. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
No words of mine justify the right hon. Gentleman in supposing that I contemplated the restoring in the Soudan of the kind of Egyptian rule which was once supreme. [Cheers.] Neither there nor in Egypt do I wish to see it. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Then I take it that the right hon. Gentleman the other day used an unfortunate expression, but, however that may be, I do not wish to press it. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his colleagues, to tell us plainly, if it is not to be Egyptian influence, if it is not to be the restoration of Egyptian administration—which 1491 I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman thinks as ill of as anybody else—what administration is to be set up. [Cheers.] I think we now know more than we did, before, and we now know where we are. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman holds to his proposition. We are proposing, he says, a way which will give that gain to civilisation that would arise from establishing—we will say—some kind of influence at Khartoum, because we all know that no English Minister dare get up in this place and say he was going to put back the Egyptian Government in the Soudan. [Cheers.] I should like to read to the House, in a sentence or so, an account of what the Egyptian Government in the Soudan was. It is important that the Committee should know, when they are considering the policy which they are invited to embark upon, what are the alternatives. I am glad the right hon. Gentleman repudiates the idea of restoring anything like Egyptian administration in the Soudan.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The merits of the Egyptian administration are surely due in the main to English influence and English administrators, and, therefore, if you are going to have a new form of Egyptian administration in the Soudan, that is English administration. [''Hear, hear!"] The passage I wish to read was written by a certain Mr. Power—I almost forget what his end was, though I am afraid it was a tragic one—who was in Khartoum in 1884, and was a Times Correspondent. He said:—The Soudanese and Arabs are splendid fellows, ground down and robbed by every ruffian who has money enough, ill-gotten, to buy himself the position of a Pasha. For years it has been 'kourbash, kourbash, et toujours kourbash.' This gets monotonous and the poor devils rebel. The rebels are in the right, and God and chance seem to be fighting for them.That is the view of an independent Englishman.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The right hon. Gentleman agrees. Therefore, the restoration of even an improved, Anglicised, Egyptian administration is, I venture to think, a very impossible object. But I want to ask the Committee to 1492 consider one further point. I am going to quote an authority upon this idea, this policy of recovering the Soudan either for Egypt nominally or otherwise. There was a Debate in another place in 1888, and a noble Earl, Lord Dundonald, pressed the Government to take a decided course in the Soudan. He pressed the Government to take very much the line which I gather the First Lord of the Treasury is now in favour of taking. What did Lord Salisbury say? On the 16th of March, 1888, he said:—We do not depart in any degree from the policy of leaving the Soudan. As to the civilisation which the noble and gallant Earl would impose upon the duty of restoring, it could only be carried out by a large and costly expedition entailing an enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure, and for the present a continuous expenditure, which I do not think the people of this country would sanction.[Cheers.] That was Lord Salisbury's view in 1888, and do you think that, when the country realises that some of you, at all events—because there may be differences—are pledged to the task of restoring this civilisation, the country will now, any more than Lord Salisbury supposed it would in 1888, sanction a policy "entailing an enormous sacrifice of blood and of treasure?" [Cheers.] I would like to mention one more view of Lord Salisbury's. Everybody knows that when the settlement of the frontier was made in 1885 two points were retained in the Soudan—Suakim and Wady Halfa. What did Lord Salisbury say even about Suakim? He agreed that it was desirable to retain Suakim, as being of value for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade. That was the English point of view, but what did he say of Suakim from the Egyptian point of view? He said:—I do not think the retention of Suakim is of any advantage to the Egyptian Government. If I were to speak purely from the point of view of the Egyptian Government's own interest I should say, abandon Suakim at once.That was the view that Lord Salisbury held then, and I conceive it to be a very rational view upon the Soudan policy, and, if the policy of the First Lord of the Treasury is to be in any degree the policy of Her Majesty's Government, then Lord Salisbury must have changed his mind; and I submit that the grounds 1493 for that change of mind should be fully and frankly placed before this House, because a more important change of policy than that I cannot myself conceive. [Cheers.] I want to say a word or two to the House about the Italian object. The other night there was some dissent from one quarter of the House from the language used by the Under Secretary of sympathy with the Italians. I understand, though I regret, that dissent. I understand that those who belong to a certain religious communion, are not particularly friendly or inclined to be well-wishers to a Government—
§ Mr. J. MORLEY
In view of the relations subsisting unhappily between the Italian Government and the august head of that Communion. That is a sentiment which is held not only by Gentlemen there, but by at least one important colleague of Gentlemen who sit on the Front Bench opposite. But, for my own part, I frankly say that the sentiments and convictions which make many of us on this side of the House friends and well-wishers to that fabric of nationality and unity and freedom and self-government in Italy which English Liberal Statesmen did so much to help in rearing, and which, I am glad to think and feel and perceive the Statesmen of all Parties in this House are equally rejoicing in, and wish for that Government nothing but what conduces to its prosperity, its stability, and its well-being. [Cheers.] I, for one, like the right hon. Member for Bodmin, look with the deepest misgivings upon their African policy. In their own interests I think it is an exceedingly unwise policy. [''Hear, hear!"] I never saw any sight with much less satisfaction than that of the troops in Naples the last week in December on their way on this miserable and unfortunate expedition. It is because I wish well to the Italian Government that I cannot admit, because that Government has embarked on what many of us think is an impolitic enterprise, that therefore we also should embark upon an impolitic enterprise. [Cheers.] I would make one further observation, which, I think, 1494 not entirely unworthy of attention, and it is this—that by a proffer of anything like assistance in any form to the Italian Government, you are perhaps encouraging that Government to conduct their negotiations with their enemies at this moment with expectations in their minds, which expectations will not be realised. [''Hear, hear!"] I, for one, desire nothing so much as that a fair peace, such as the Italian Prime Minister foreshadowed the other day, shall be made between them and their Abyssinian foes; and I should regret profoundly that any action taken by Her Majesty's Government should in any way check the Italian Government in making this peace. [''Hear, hear!"] Let us go to the other Powers. Everybody knows that our occupation of Egypt is the delicate point in our European position. It is the point, indirectly I admit, which gives us most difficulty, and therefore we should deal with it on every occasion, and from whatever point we approach it, in the most cautious way possible. [''Hear, hear!"] Our interest, especially in the eyes of the prolonged occupation party, has been that the Egyptian question should not be raised in Europe, and that at this moment, in the present state of Europe, it should be allowed to slumber. But what have you done? You have yourselves, on the strength of nothing more than these trumpery telegrams and these idle rumours, raised the Egyptian question in Europe. ["Hear, hear!"] Because a handful of Dervishes are at the Wells of Murad, because Osman Digna is threatening Suakim, as he has been doing off and on during the last 12 years, is that any reason why you should open such a question as this? ["Hear, hear!"] If it was done deliberately, if you had opened the Egyptian question in France and in Europe, with full calculation of the consequences; if it was done after a careful measure of all possible difficulties that might arise, I could understand where you are, though I might disapprove. But the First Lord of the Treasury has used language which shows, at any rate, that in this matter they are entirely in the dark. What was the language of the right hon. Gentleman the other day? In reply to the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, who had said that 1495 this new policy would cause considerable jealousy abroad, the right hon. Gentleman stated that it was true that the newspapers wrote articles which did not promote agreeable relations, but—As for the Government nothing has reached our ears that would induce us for a moment to believe that these gloomy anticipations are correct; nor am I able to see any grounds on which the Powers of Europe are likely to object. Certainly, those Powers that are favourable to Italy have no reason to object, and f do not think that any of the Powers who desire, whatever may happen in Egypt, that Egypt should remain prosperous and secure would have any grounds or wish which would lead them to object to the steps which the Government has taken.[The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: ''Hear, hear!"] That is perfectly logical as far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, but the point I am on is the want of foresight. Does the right hon. Gentleman think to-day what he thought and said last Monday? He hardly can. He may think the objections are unreasonable. Very likely they are; but the Government ought to have foreseen that objections of this kind were morally sure to be raised, and I cannot conceive a more alarming example of want of foresight in opening this question without having taken any means whatever to satisfy yourselves whether you were likely to carry France or the other Powers with you. It is clear that the Government thought it was a matter of no importance; that France and the other Powers would cheerfully assent; and that all would be plain sailing. You see that it is not by any means plain sailing. Considerable difficulties, which I certainly do not want to dwell upon or exaggerate, are already confronting you, and the French Foreign Minister tells the French Chamber that he considers this proposed expedition essentially offensive—that is to say not defensive—and ill-defined in its character; secondly that it is not unlikely to involve unlimited expense; and thirdly, that it would tend to prolong indefinitely an occupation the provisional character of which has been always acknowledged. I do not read with any satisfaction these arguments, and it would be much more agreeable to us if the British Government had not placed themselves in a position in which those very fair criticisms can be made upon their plan and project. 1496 [''Hear, hear?"] I want to know what the International policy of the Government was a few weeks ago. The whole country supposed, and was relieved to suppose, that there was an approach to a still better understanding than had ever existed before between the French and the British Governments. I, for one, was delighted that they came to terms with the French Government about Siam, and I looked forward to the completion of the negotiations about the Niger and Tunis in the same spirit. Where is your consistency in point of international policy? Even supposing France wishes you to stay in Egypt in her secret heart—as some pretend, though I do not hold the same view—surely that is the very reason why you should walk carefully, and should not awaken and ruffle susceptibilities. And for what? We have done it for a policy which you have not explained, which you cannot explain, and which your own supporters, I will venture to say, do not comprehend. [Cheers.] There is no national basis for your projected expedition, and you have given us no information which enables us to understand it. ["Hear, hear!"] There is an old story about Bishop Butler walking in his garden one day engaged in prolonged meditation. He was asked by some friend what was the theme of this meditation, and he replied—I was reflecting whether it was possible for nations, like individuals, to go mad.Sir, I think it must be possible for Cabinets to go mad. [Laughter and cheers.] It is because we conceive you have gratuitously, wantonly, without any fair foundation in the fact or circumstances, entered upon an infatuated policy that we make this protest at this the earliest opportunity that is provided, and in order that that protest shall be definite, though not decisive, I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and which is to reduce the Foreign Office Vote by £100. [Cheers.]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN,), Birmingham, W.
who was received with cheers, said,—Mr. Lowther, as a member of the Cabinet which the right hon. Gentleman opposite believes to have gone mad—[laughter]—I hope I may, 1497 nevertheless, be permitted to congratulate the House, as we do ourselves, upon the return to this House of the right hon. Gentleman, and upon his active participation in our Debates. [Cheers]. We do not always agree with him, and we do not agree with him upon the present occasion, but we feel his presence amongst us and his part in our discussions will certainly add to them a variety and literary finish which otherwise they might have missed. ["Hear, hear!"] And I may say that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to claim, as he has done, that he is pursuing a consistent course in the line Which he has taken to-day. He says that in the past he has been impartial, and I readily admit that statement. He has attacked, I think, the Gentlemen who are now his colleagues as strenuously as he now attacks us, when they were pursuing a policy similar to that which he now condemns. And, Sir, it is a suggestive and instructive fact that the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, like the criticism which has proceeded from every other Member of the House upon the proposal of the Government, is a criticism which comes from men who are in favour of immediate, or at all events of the earliest, evacuation of Egypt. We have to bear that in mind. From such a standpoint, the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly logical and intelligible. It is quite clear that in such a case it is natural for him to exaggerate the difficulties attending the prosecution of our present policy, and to deprecate the value of that policy, whether in Egypt or in Italy. If Egypt has ceased to be any concern of ours, if our duty is to "scuttle" from Egypt at the earliest possible moment, what matters it whether Dervish rule is barbarous, as the right hon. Gentleman himself admits it to be, or whether it is, as the hon. Member for Northampton told us the other day, more civilised than our own? [Laughter.] What does it matter whether Egypt is in danger or whether she has, as the right hon. Gentleman says, an impregnable frontier at Wady Halfa? If we are to go out of Egypt and no longer make it our concern that the prosperity and security of Egypt shall be maintained, caedit quœstio, the whole discussion comes to an end, and I shall be prepared to follow the right hon. Gentleman in 1498 his natural conclusion. The greater contains the less, and every argument we have heard to-night, as every argument which we heard in the same direction the other night, are all, if I may say so, tainted by this preconceived determination of hon. Gentlemen that our duty is to have nothing more to do with Egypt. But let me point out at this stage what seems an extraordinary inconsistency on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. He was talking of the possibility of Egyptian rule in the Soudan. What my right hon. Friend spoke of was Anglo-Egyptian rule, meaning Egyptian rule under English influences. But the right, hon. Gentleman opposite, in speaking of Egyptian rule, described it as a return to a rule so barbarous, so corrupt, that the Soudanese would not submit to it under any circumstances. But at the same moment the right hon. Gentleman argues that we have so renovated the character of the Egyptians ["hear, hear!"] that all possibility of barbarous and corrupt rule had ceased, and we may safely leave Egypt. [Cheers.] But if the Egyptians under our guidance during the last 15 years have become a new people, if we can safely leave Egypt and the reforms we have instituted to the Egyptians whom we have trained and educated, surely in the same way you may leave to them also the responsibility for the recovery of the Soudan. Supposing it were our policy to recover the Soudan in the way the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. Well, I say, in the first place, it is quite impossible to judge of the present policy of the Government unless we can first make up our minds whether the position in Egypt is to remain as at present, or whether we seriously contemplate an immediate withdrawal. I think the admission of the right hon. Gentleman renders it unnecessary for me to dwell largely on the arguments in favour of remaining in Egypt. I would summarise them briefly. In the first place, we point to the advantages which our stay there has conferred upon Egypt. I do not think there is anything in our recent history to which we can look back with greater pride and satisfaction than the peaceful revolution accomplished in Egypt—[cheers]—by a handful of British Civil Administrators and a handful of British officers, supported no doubt in the last resort by 1499 the strength of the British Empire. What was the state of the case when we went to Egypt? The country appeared to be in the last state of decay. Her finances were bankrupt, her army had been annihilated, her administration was corrupt, justice was an empty name, extortion and torture were practised, the administration of every department was feeble and inefficient, the great system of irrigation upon which the prosperity of Egypt depended had almost been allowed to fall into desuetude and had ceased to be capable of providing for the necessities of the country. Commerce and agriculture were almost ruined. We have been in Egypt 15 years, and I say that every traveller to whom I have spoken who has been in Egypt with an impartial mind, whether Englishman or American or even in some cases a foreigner—because I have seen some remarkable articles by a distinguished Frenchman on the subject—admits that the change amounts, as I have said, to a revolution. To those who have not travelled in Egypt I point to Lord Cromer's most interesting Report. A deficit of nearly a million sterling has been transformed into a surplus of over a million. At the same time there has been an enormous reduction of taxation which presses on the people. I do not speak of the regularization of that taxation or its first collection, instead of being extorted by persons making their fortunes out of the collection. Corvée has been abolished, judicial institutions have been reformed, large grants have made for education, and the irrigation system, under the care of British engineers, has been restored to a position which I can hardly say it occupied even in the country's most prosperous days. The second argument I have is that every well-informed person, whether our own authorities in Egypt or those impartial travellers to whom I have referred, agree that at the present time if we were to leave Egypt all this would be undone. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred the other day to a speech of mine, delivered in 1884, in which I protested against a policy of annexation or establishing a protectorate over Egypt. He quoted that speech as though it involved an admission on my part—at all events, in 1884—that we could safely leave Egypt. Whatever may have been the case in 1500 1884—and I deny that even in that year I had any idea that evacuation would shortly take place—whatever I may have thought, or we may have thought, in 1884, I believe that now, at any rate, the vast majority of the English people are convinced that our work is not complete, and it would be dishonourable in us to leave Egypt until it was completed. But I do not mean to be understood as saying that our present policy alters in the slightest degree the position we hold in Egypt. Whatever that position may be with regard to eventual evacuation, the policy announced on Tuesday last does not in the slightest degree affect it. The situation is not altered; we shall be as ready afterwards at least as we were before—[laughter]—to consider any proposals leading to the eventual evacuation of Egypt, and we have never gone back from our pledges in that respect. But all I point out is that in the past no doubt we were too sanguine as to the time at which the fulfilment of the pledges given could properly take place. No doubt, under pressure, statements were made at different times and by different Governments that were not statements that amounted to promises. They were rather in the light of an expression of hopes, and references were made to the periods at which the evacuation might possibly take place. That is a mistake which I do not think we are likely to repeat. [Cheers.] All we say is—and we admit it—that the position in Egypt is such that the difficulties of evacuation are greater than we anticipated, that it will take longer to make a self-supporting people of the Egyptian nation than we imagined to be possible, and I cannot help adding that, if the difficulties attending such a task were great in themselves, they have not been made easy by the action of some of our allies, who have interfered to hamper and embarrass our administration. Now I proceed to argue the question of the "new policy," as it has been called. Although we are prepared to deny that it is a new policy, but a development of the policy of the country, I am prepared to argue that on the assumption that at all events the vast majority of the House are determined that we shall remain in Egypt until our work has been accomplished, and until we can retire without any idea that, by our retiring, we should 1501 sacrifice all the advantages which Egypt has hitherto gained by our presence in that country. I believe the policy I am defending is the only justifiable policy if we continue to hold ourselves responsible for Egypt, and if it be desirable in the interests of Egypt. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman laid the foundation of his argument in an attack on the Government because, as he said, they had only furnished to the House three trumpery telegrams as the basis of their policy. I must say that a greater perversion of the action of the Government I never heard in the course of my experience in this House. What are the facts? The statement of the policy of the Government was made, in the first place, in a speech by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and then in fuller language by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, and I must say a clearer statement was never made of the objects the Government were pursuing and the reason for which they were pursued. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman spoke as though the sole grounds for the policy of the Government were certain rumours which had been current as to the movements of the Dervishes, and that upon those rumours, detailed in three telegrams, we were basing our whole policy. That is absolutely contrary to the facts. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs mentioned in the course of his early statement that we had had notice of movements showing certain ferment among the Dervishes previous to the decision of the Government. That statement might have stood by itself. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman suspected the integrity of the Government, but he claimed to see the original telegrams on which the statement was made, and the telegrams were given to show that the statement was justified; but the Government have never put forward these rumours as being the basis of their policy. I shall, perhaps, repeat a little of what was contained in the argument of my right hon. Friend, but I hope I shall be able to show to the House it is not upon so slender a foundation, we base this policy, which, although not so important as the right hon. Gentleman represents, is no doubt well worthy of the consideration of the House. But for the right hon. Gentleman to base, as he did, his whole 1502 attack upon the Government upon this apprehension of the importance of the telegrams, is a course of argument I can only describe, in his own words, as flimsy, irrelevant, meagre, and hollow. [''Hear, hear!''] I ought to notice another argument of the right hon. Gentleman. I have spoken of the advantages which our rule has conferred upon Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman says this policy will withdraw these advantages from Egypt because it will submit Egypt to a large expenditure. First, the funds are to come from a surplus which we, are not permitted to use in any other way for the benefit of Egypt. Although the assent of the majority of the Caisse has already been given—and we have no knowledge at present which would lead us to assume that the assent of the remainder of the Powers will not be given—to this expenditure, we know perfectly well it has been refused, and would probably be refused, to expenditure for other purposes. Therefore we are not withdrawing from Egypt funds which we can use for the ordinary purposes of administration. I go beyond that, and I say, if this policy should have any of the results contemplated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, if it should have the great result of relieving Egypt from the constant pressure and menace of a Dervish attack, your saving to Egypt would more than compensate Egypt for the capital expenditure, supposing that capital expenditure were not the unlimited sum which the right hon. Gentleman referred to, but a sum within the fair resources of Egypt herself. It has been said that any advance beyond the frontier would be a new departure and a reversal of the policy which fixed our frontier at Wady Halfa. That policy was set aside when we went to Sinkal and Murad Wells. When exception is taken to this expedition it is well to bear in mind that we have already proceeded beyond an impracticable frontier to positions in one case 40 and another 80 miles distant. I want the House to follow me im my view of the situation, and in order to do that I must ask the House to go back for a minute to the circumstances which prevailed when Egypt was forced to abandon the Soudan. There is no doubt that the corruption and inefficiency of the Egyptian Government—athough bad as it 1503 was it did not compare for a moment with the brutal and barbarous tyranny of the Khalifa—predisposed the population to rebel, and when a leader was found who, on the one hand appealed to their religious fanaticism, and, on the other, promised them a redress of material grievances, he found a soil prepared for his operations and was readily supported by the great bulk of the tribes. When at the commencement of the campaign he gained, as he did, easy victories over the inefficient, badly-led and ill-treated troops of Egypt, he enhanced the prestige attaching to his name and was able to go on to conquer the whole country and to establish himself after the fall of Khartoum. At that time the Mahdi was at the height of his power, influence and prestige, and it was absolutely impossible for Egypt to have reconquered the Soudan against the forces of the Mahdi. Such reconquest could have been undertaken only by Great Britain; it could have been carried out only by an enormous expenditure, of blood and treasure. As at that moment the regeneration of Egypt proper had not been commenced, it appeared to the Government at that time—and I have no doubt that at that time the decision was a wise one, nor do I think anyone ever contested it—that it was a necessity of the moment that the Soudan should be abandoned. But even at that time the abandonment was not adopted without great hesitation. We knew perfectly well what it meant for the Soudan; we knew also what it meant in the future for Egypt. Practically, at the moment of the decision, it appeared to be an inevitable one. I must remind the House that that decision was practically reconsidered by the same Government. What happened? An expedition, had to be sent from this country, not in order to recover the Soudan, but for the relief of General Gordon; and when, unfortunately, that expedition arrived in the neighbourhood of Khartoum too late to relieve General Gordon, the Government had then to consider under the altered circumstances, with a large force in the Soudan, whether they were still under that obligation to retire from the Soudan; and that Government decided that it was their duty to remain. [''No, no.''] Does the hon. Member doubt it? I will give him the 1504 date and everything. That Government in 1884 decided that it was its duty to remain and, to use the words of General Gordon, ''to smash the Mahdi at Khartoum." ["Quote.''] Those are the words of General Gordon. ["Oh!"] That is a foolish interruption. The Government decided to follow the advice of General Gordon and smash the Mahdi. Why did they do so? They did so because they believed it was necessary for the safety of Egypt. The Leader of the Opposition has a practice against which I am inclined respectfully to protest; it is to single out for quotation speeches of those who have been his colleagues in the Cabinet in order to fix upon them some special responsibility for the decision of the Cabinet to which they belonged. He has done that on several occasions with regard to the Duke of Devonshire and myself. He knows that, while every Member of the Cabinet has a corporate responsibility for the decision of the body to which he belongs, that that may not necessarily involve his own personal opinion upon the subject. ["Oh!" and laughter.] I suppose there has never been a case in which 16 or 17 gentlemen have met together without differing in opinion on some points; I imagine that in most cases in which they differ the minority yield to the majority and, if that be the etiquette of our constitutional system, the member of a minority is not bound to defend everything to which in private he might have offered objection. I make this observation to introduce a quotation from what was said by the Leader of the Opposition when the decision of the Government to smash the Mahdi was questioned by the right hon. Gentleman the mover of this Amendment. I do not attempt to fix upon the right hon. Gentleman any special or personal responsibility; I only say that, as the mouthpiece of that Government on that occasion he used these words:—For the safety of Egypt I do think it is absolutely necessary that the military power of the Mahdi should be broken at Khartoum.I say that the policy of that Government, the Government which decided upon the evacuation of the Soudan, was, when the opportunity occurred, to reconquer the Soudan when it was less difficult to smash the Mahdi. I see my right 1505 hon. Friend shakes his head. I will make a correction; to use his own words the policy of that Government was that the military power of the Mahdi should be broken at Khartoum, and some kind of orderly government set up in its place. I point to that as showing that it was the opinion of the Government at that time that the safety of Egypt could be secured only by establishing an orderly government at Khartoum. We know perfectly well that that Government did not carry out its intention—it did not smash the power of the Mahdi—and there was a good and sufficient reason. The relations with Russia became extremely critical; a credit of 11 millions had to be asked for, and it was impossible to keep a large force of British troops locked up in the Soudan. ["Hear, hear!"] I quite agree; I understand the object of that cheer. But what is it that we have proved? It is that the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was the spokesman believed it was desirable in itself, on its merits, to smash the power of the Dervishes at Khartoum; but there were circumstances which made it desirable to carry out that particular policy; yet the policy in itself was a wise policy, a desirable policy, and necessary in the interests of Egypt. I think the Mover of the Amendment did some injustice to Egyptian rule when he spoke in such exaggerated terms of its mischievous character in the Soudan. Let him bear in mind what we have been told in the interesting book to which he referred, the account of Slatin Pasha's experiences in the Soudan:—Slatin Pasha points out that in the Soudan, under Egyptian rule, telegraph and post office services were established, Christian churches and schools and Mohammedan mosques were built, the lands were cultivated, and hostile tribes were compelled to keep the peace. But what followed when the Egyptians abandoned the country? We are told in the same book that at least 73 per cent, of the population has been destroyed by war, famine, and disease, while the remainder are little better than slaves; that the slave trade, with all its horrors, prevails in the land; and that great plains once occupied have been reduced to desert wastes.It must be remembered, when the hon. Member for Northampton, following Mr. Gladstone, talks of the people of the Soudan as "rightly struggling to be 1506 free," that the result of that struggle has been that they are now much more slaves than ever they were under Egyptian rule. [Ministerial cheers.] I will not dwell upon the results of the change of rule in the Soudan; but, deplorable as those results are, we have to consider, not the interest of the Soudan, but the interest of Egypt. Egypt is under our protection—Egypt is a dependency of ours. [Ministerial cheer.] But let us ask ourselves, if Egypt were independent and strong, what would be the policy of patriotic Egyptian statesmen? Anybody who knows anything of the opinion, of the most distinguished politicians in Egypt can have no hesitation as to what their answer would be. But do not let the House make a mistake. Every nation has, in these matters at any rate, two policies. It has a practical and present policy; it has a future and ideal policy. I am talking now of the ideal policy, and not of the immediate practical policy of that country; and I say that the aspiration and ideal of every Egyptian statesman without exception is the recovery of the Soudan. [Ministerial cheers.] I particularly desire that I may not be misunderstood on this point. I do not say that if Egypt were independent she would at present enter upon a campaign for the reconquest of the Soudan, but I say that Egyptian statesmen believe that until her influence over the Soudan has been recovered there will never be permanent peace, there will never be permanent prosperity, in the country. They make, and they have always made, it a, grievance against English intervention that by it they were forced to abandon their hope of recovering the Soudan, and it is a curious fact that some of those foreign critics who are now representing the policy of the Government to be a fatal, injurious, and offensive policy have done everything in their power to induce the Egyptians to lay stress upon this particular grievance—that we did not allow them to reconquer the Soudan. ["Hear, hear!"] The opinion of those Egyptian statesmen to which I have referred is, and has always been, that the Nile is the life of Egypt, and that accordingly the control of the Nile is essential to the existence and security of Egypt. I say again that, while this is the ideal of every Egyptian statesman, 1507 I do not for a moment suppose that, even if they were left alone, they would attempt the reconquest of the Soudan with their present resources; but they hope they believe, that sooner or later their influence there may again become paramount. I now come to the practical policy of Egypt. The present policy of Egypt itself is the defence of the Egyptian frontier—that is to say, the defence of all that we call Egypt proper. We are asked to believe that this defence ought to consist of the maintenance of what we have been told is the ideal frontier of Wady Halfa. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) spoke of that frontier as being exceptionally strong, because there was a desert in front of it, through which the Dervishes must pass to an invasion of Egypt. Of course I do not deny that. The desert in front of Wady Halfa is a barrier against conquest, but it is also a screen for raids. [''Hear, hear!"] Experience has shown very clearly that, however excellent that frontier might be, if anything like a conquest of Egypt were attempted by the Dervishes, it is no protection at all against continual incursions and raids, which live made from behind our frontier at Wady Halfa; but a position of permanent insecurity to the village and lands that lie on the inner side of our frontier. That being so, I say that no possibility of our fulfilling our duty to the people who are actually within our frontier exists so long as Dervish power continually threatens the peaceable industry of those people by these sudden raids and incursions; and I say that we cannot leave out of account altogether the fact that, in spite of this strong frontier, it was possible for a very serious invasion to be made—an invasion the forces of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean somewhat underestimated, but which, under other circumstances, might have attained still larger dimensions. I admit that, bad as the situation is at Wady Halfa, it has been borne for some years; and it might have been borne for some years longer but for recent events which have materially altered the situation. The defeat of the Italians has caused a new situation. If we ask the House to go beyond Wady Halfa, it is not in consequence of 1508 three telegrams, which the right hon. Gentleman described as trumpery telegrams; but it is because of the entirely new situation that has been created by the disastrous defeat of the Italian army by the natives in that part of Africa. [''Hear, hear!"] It is no new thing to say of barbarous and savage tribes that their aggressive force is largely determined by what I must call moral as opposed to physical considerations. It is determined by their enthusiasm, by their fanaticism, and by the prestige of success; and a body that would be absolutely inoffensive, that would not stir a step under other circumstances, might be encouraged and driven to a dangerous degree of fanaticism and fury by such an event as that to which I have referred. [''Hear, hear!"] The defeat of Europeans in Abyssinia has encouraged, and, according to the last advice we can get, is likely to still further encourage, a dangerous ferment amongst the Dervishes; and it is now the opinion of all the authorities that if Kassala were to fall—and, though we hope for the best, we cannot be absolutely certain that it is still secure—if Kassala were to fall, the effect might be altogether incalculable upon Egyptian interests—["Hear, hear!"]—because, though we have reason to believe that up to the present time there has been great discontent with the Khalifa—that many tribes have been alienated from his rule by his barbarity and cruelty—it is possible, in the presence of a great defeat of Europeans, with the consequent rising of the courage and the spirit and the hopes of the native tribes, that their intestine disputes may be put aside, and that they may join together in one great effort to destroy that Egyptian civilisation of which we are the protectors. [''Hear, hear!''] That is the position. [Ministerial cheers.] That is the cause of the new policy, as it has been called. That is the cause of the development of our policy; that is the basis upon, which we ask the House to place it. [Ministerial cheers.] We say that it is to the interest of Egypt—almost to the paramount interest of Egypt—that, if possible, Kassala should not fall. [Ministerial cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs made an attempt, which I do not think was 1509 worthy of him—although it has been made by other hon. Members—to distinguish between the interests of Egypt and the interests of Italy in this matter. Sir, the interests of the two countries are inseparable. You cannot separate them. Even if Italy did not appeal, as she does appeal, strongly to our sympathies in her present time of trouble—even if she were put out of the question altogether—it would still be the interest of Egypt to do what she could to prevent the fall of Kassala. [Ministerial cheers.] The advance which we have taken is dictated by this consideration—that it is the wiser policy of Egypt to anticipate the threatened attack—the attack which we believe to be probable, and even certain—in the event of the fall of Kassala; that it is the wiser policy of Egypt to anticipate this attack and to prevent that concentration of the Dervishes upon a single-objective which would, after a success in the first instance, bring them with all the prestige of that success to attack Egypt itself. ["Hear, hear!"] We want to create a diversion. If we were to allow the Dervishes to direct all their efforts against Kassala, and if Kassala were to fall, then all their forces would combine against Egypt. In the meantime we make diversion, which we were told from the Opposition side the other night that Italy would not be thankful for, and which could not be of any use to Italy. But hon. Members who said that were a little premature. If they had waited 24 hours they would have seen that Italy has appreciated the course we have taken; that she has warmly and cordially accepted it, and has thanked us for it. [Ministerial cheers.] It is an incident that, in attempting the defence of Egypt, we are also assisting the Italians. We hope that we may be able to lessen their tasks and enable them to hold their own. I ask, does any responsible politician on the other side of the House object to that policy? Will they make it a ground of additional criticism and complaint that in endeavouring, as we are, to secure the best interests of Egypt, we are also at the same time helping our Italian allies? [Cheers.] The other day, at a public dinner, Lord Rosebery taunted the Government with the isolation in which he said we were placed, and he attributed 1510 that isolation to our policy. The present policy, at all events, does not find us isolated in Europe. [Cheers.] One of the Members who spoke the other night said that all Europe was against us. The right hon. Gentleman opposite made a great point. He complained that the Leader of the House, in pointing out that it was probable that the Triple Alliance, at all events, would support us, and that he could see no reason why the other two Powers should not support us, had shown a want of foresight. What is the case? The case is that Germany has supported us; that Austria has warmly approved the course we have taken; and that Italy has thankfully accepted it, and cordially received the announcement. [Cheers.] As to France and Russia, we wait. [Ironical cheers and counter cheers.] It would be as unwise as it would be discourteous on my part, or on anyone's, to anticipate what the ultimate decision of those countries will be. We have no reason at present to know or to suppose that it will not be found in accordance with the views of the other three Great Powers. [Cheers and cries of "Oh!"] I say, then, that our policy at the present moment is warmly supported by three of the Great Powers of Europe, and it is no longer, at any rate a policy of isolation. [Cheers.] I am convinced that Lord Rosebery, at least, will not make it a charge against us that we have been able, in pursuing the primary interests committed to our charge, to show our sympathy and our good will to a gallant and friendly nation. [Cheers.] The advance which we have decided to make is to Akasheh, some 80 miles from Wady Halfa. The Under Secretary, while of course declining to pledge himself in regard to matters which must depend largely upon military considerations, pointed out that the advance might possibly extend to Dongola—that is, as far as any present intention of the Government is concerned. [Ironical cheers.] But I will add to that. The advance, whatever it may be, will be limited by two considerations. It will be limited in the first place, by the security of the communications which we can maintain ["Hear, hear!"]; and it will be limited, in the second place, by the nature and extent of the resistance we may find 1511 [Ironical cheers and laughter.] I was really under the impression that we were discussing a matter which the Opposition thought to be of exceptional gravity [Opposition cheers], but I should not be in the least aware of it from the interruptions of hon. Members opposite. With regard to the security of the communications, the railway will follow the troops to Akasheh, and it will provide for the communications with the troops because it is not intended to cut them off from their supplies and from Egypt. But let me say one other word, and that is in answer to something which fell from the Leader of the Opposition about the question of permanent occupation. The making of the railway may, I think, be assumed to be a pledge that where we go we shall remain. [Cheers.] We have no idea of handing back to barbarism such territory—be it more or less—as we may recover for civilisation. [Cheers.] But, on the other hand, I desire to make clear another point to which I have already referred. Her Majesty's Government have no conception of such a policy of reckless adventure as was indicated by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean. We do not count upon "incalculable expenditure" and "gigantic military efforts," nor do we propose to "lock up large masses of troops in the rainless deserts and untravelled countries of the Soudan." Nothing of the kind ever entered into our minds. But, Sir, there is a contingency which appears to have entered into the mind of the right hon. Member for Montrose, and which is worth while taking into view. We have no doubt been told by authorities from time to time, as he says, that the power of the Khalifa is waning; that, owing to his extraordinary misgovernment, he has no friends left him but the Bagara tribe; and that the moment news arrived of the approach of the Anglo-Egyptian forces, his followers would leave him, and his empire would totter to its fall. I admit that when I was in Egypt I heard much conversation to this effect, and received similar assurances from, among others, some of the leaders and sheikhs of the tribes in the Soudan. But I think that it would be dangerous to place upon these statements anything like implicit reliance. I do not think it is possible to predict the effect of this 1512 advance. [Ironical cheers.] The advance itself will make clear whether, as is affirmed in some quarters, the Dervish power is hollow and a sham, or whether, on the contrary, it still stands so firmly as to make any assault upon it a dangerous and difficult operation. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] All I say is—and I cannot conceive why it should be the cause of merriment—that this distinctly is the policy of the Government. If this Dervish power should prove to be unbroken, if it is capable of what I have called serious resistance, if to destroy it would put upon the finances of Egypt a strain beyond the resources of that country, and a strain beyond that which a patriotic Egyptian Statesman would himself be willing for the country to undergo, then there is no intention whatever on the part of the Government to enter upon such a policy. [Ironical cheers and cries of "Oh!"] But, on the other hand, if it were found true, as has been suggested, that the power of the Dervishes was entirely broken, that the tribes, tired of the misgovernment which has prevailed, were willing to welcome the advance of the force, then I think it would be very unfair and very unwise to refuse, to Egyptians at all events, the possibility of recovering the position which they believe to be essential to their security. [Cheers.] I say again that that is the ideal. [Laughter and cries of "Order!"] The present policy of the Government is confined to what we believe to be the immediate needs of Egypt. We are not going to take the extraordinary risks which have been depicted in such glowing colours by right hon. Gentlemen opposite; but we do ask that the House will meet the new situation which has been created by recent events, and that they will consent to make the demonstration which will anticipate, and, as we hope, may avert the possibility of a revival of the Dervish power. [Cheers.]
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the grounds on which the First Lord of the Treasury and the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had on previous evenings defended this expedition had been pulverised by the criticism of the right hon. Member for Montrose. He was interested, therefore, to hear what the Colonial Secretary would have to say, and he saw at once that the right hon. 1513 Gentleman was endeavouring to draw a red herring across the trail by dwelling on the advantages and benefits which Egypt had enjoyed from our occupation. Those benefits he did not deny; but the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that, whatever other Statesmen had said, he himself had always been in favour of our remaining in Egypt. The fact that we governed the Egyptians prevented them from learning self-government, and we were to wait for the impossible event of their being able to stand alone. The right hon. Gentleman said, ''If we are to go out of Egypt, I agree with the right hon. Member for Montrose." Then the right hon. Gentleman, speaking for the Government, meant that we were not to go out of Egypt, though Lord Salisbury had said that our presence there was a danger, and that our object ought to be to get out as soon as possible, and secure the neutralisation of the country. The Colonial Secretary's speech was most dangerous as throwing out a defiance to all Europe. [Cries of "Oh!"] Did that speech not convey that we had no intention of leaving Egypt for many a year? [Cries of "No!"] That was the impression that would be created abroad when the right hon. Gentleman's speech was reported in the foreign newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman's policy was a remarkable one. He seemed to disagree, with everybody. Not only had he always been for remaining in Egypt, but always for taking the Soudan. He went further, and said that was the policy of the Liberal Government, and he fell back upon a vague pious opinion expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, that we ought to smash the Mahdi, or that the Mahdi ought, in the interests of the world, to be smashed.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No, Sir, the hon. Member paraphrases everything I say. What I did quote the hon. Gentleman as having said was that to break the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum was absolutely necessary for the security of Egypt.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that if his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition ever was betrayed into making such a remark, then he was not so wise as he had generally regarded him to be. [Laughter.] We had been in Egypt a great many years, and the power of 1514 Egypt still existed, although the Khalifa, the successor of the Mahdi, still existed in the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman went on to give the House some curious revelations as to what happened in the Cabinet, but he really could not understand whether the right hon. Gentleman was speaking in his corporate or incorporate capacity, whether he was speaking for the Cabinet or for himself. He suspected, however, that when he spoke about seizing the Soudan, and remaining for ever in Egypt, he was speaking solely for himself. The right hon. Gentleman went on to explain that the Egyptian Government in the Soudan was, taking it all round, a very excellent Government, and he quoted Slatin Pasha. Against him he would quote General Gordon, who said again and again that the Government of Egypt in the Soudan was rather worse than hell. The right hon. Gentleman drew a dreadful picture of how the Soudanese were being misgoverned, and he really thought that we ought to plunge into the desert in order to give them the blessing of Egyptian Government. He, on the other hand, wanted the Soudanese to be independent of any sort of dependency either upon us or upon Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman complained of the right hon. Member for the Montrose Burghs dwelling upon the telegrams as to the grounds on which we were, going to invade the Soudan. Surely the House had a right to assume that the telegrams furnished the best grounds the Government could give, not in regard to the policy, but in regard to the question whether it was likely that the Soudanese were at this moment going to invade Egypt. It would appear that the Foreign Office had been good enough to convey to foreign Governments reasons which they had not disclosed to the House, but those reasons, according to the statements of M. Berthelot, had not at all events convinced the French Government that there was the remotest possibility of Egypt being invaded. No doubt there was a ferment among the Soudanese. It was because there was war going on on the southern frontier. Instead of the Dervishes being likely at present to invade Egypt, they were all hurrying towards Kassala. Osman Digna must have acquired some knowledge of war, and he was not such an 1515 absolute fool when he could defeat the Italians in the south, to seize that moment for making an incursion into Egypt. If ever the Egyptian frontier was safe, it was so long as the Dervishes were employed in fighting the Italians at Kassala. Then the other reason advanced for the expedition was that we were anxious to afford aid to the Italians. He had been taken to task the other day for expressing his strong disapproval of Italian policy in Africa. As a matter of hard fact, the majority of the Italian nation were entirely with him. They were naturally sorry, no doubt, that an Italian army had been defeated, but at the same time they were thoroughly opposed to the African policy which had been forced upon them. Always the Radicals, and a large portion of the Conservatives under the Signor Rudini, were opposed to the policy of taking any territory on the Red Sea. They were against the Triple Alliance, and all these incursions into Africa. Who were the persons who wished to push us into the enterprise? Who else could they be but ourselves? In his speech in the Italian Chamber, Signor Rudini specifically and distinctly implied that we had urged them to go forward for our profit and benefit, but he himself would have nothing to do with such a policy. Such were our staunch allies. If we promised to go to help them, they expressed their gratitude, but at the same time said they were not going to be led by us into any expedition into Ethiopia, but were going to retire from there as soon as they could. With all respect to the Italians, they were not quite the class with whom he would care to go tiger hunting in Ethiopia. The Colonial Secretary argued that we were affording moral aid to the Italians by going 100 miles, and said that we ought to make the expedition, because if we did not Kassala would fall, fanaticism would be excited, and the Soudanese would take Egypt. It seemed to him that, according to the right hon. Gentleman we were not in any way going to help Italy, but to frighten the Soudanese. Surely it would be reasonable for us to wait until we saw what the Soudanese would do. Why not wait until they invaded Egypt? [''Oh!'' and laughter.] The invasion of the country was a mere contingency. 1516 It was well to recollect that by our present action we were not alone compromising ourselves in regard to Egypt and the Soudan, but we were raising a great European question. If funds were to be provided for the expedition, they must be taken from the reserve of the Caisse de la Dette. It was said the consent of the majority of the Great Powers was required before those funds could be taken. The French Prime Minister had given the opinion that unanimous agreement was required. Whether that was so or not, it was remarkable to him that Her Majesty's Government did not obtain consent for the using of these funds before they commenced the expedition. Without the aims and objects of the expedition being really explained to them, the European Powers were asked to give their consent. Could any conduct be more liable to blame than that of the present Government in regard to this arrangement? Assuming that the consent of the majority was required, they knew that Europe was divided into two camps. There was the Triple Alliance of Germany, Austria, and Italy on the one hand, and there were Russia and France on the other. It was very evident that we must take a side. Not long ago the whole country was indignant at the telegram of the German Emperor to President Kruger, and now it was said we wanted to make up matters with the German Emperor, wished to curry favour with him by coming to the aid of the Triple Alliance. With regard to the expedition, they were told first of all that we were only going 100 miles. But the army was to build a railroad behind it, and it would go a little further if it was attacked. The 100 miles were in the Soudan, and, rightly or wrongly, the Soudanese objected to their country being invaded by the Egyptians. The probabilities, therefore, were that we should be attacked. Surely the Colonial Secretary was trifling with the House, for he knew perfectly well we should be attacked. If we were, we should go to Dongola. If we were attacked there we should go still further—to Khartoum. It was the old story of the Irishman trailing his coat in the fair and asking someone to trample upon it. The right hon. Gentleman said it was impossible to predict the effect of 1517 the advance. To him it was not in the least impossible. His prediction was that we would go the 100 miles, then to Dongola, then to Khartoum, then to Dafour, and unless we were defeated, we would do our best to create ill-feeling against the Government of the Khalifa, and to establish the Egyptians in the whole of the Soudan. He had been accused of sympathising with the Dervishes. He had no particular sympathy for the Dervishes, but he thought the House did not quite understand what the Soudan was. There were a few towns in the Soudan which were inhabited by a mongrel and despicable people. The mass of the people outside the towns were Arabs, and they were what we called Dervishes. He had not the slightest doubt that the Government of the Khalifa was a very bad one. Slatin Pasha told them that the Khalifa was at the head of one tribe with its headquarters at Dafour, that this happened to be the predominant tribe, with the necessary result that the Khalifa had become the governor of the country. It was well known what took place at Suakin and other places. The Dervishes were perfectly ready to sacrifice their lives for the independence of their country. They wished to prevent the Egyptians going into their country, and the best proof of the strength of that feeling was that, although their Government was execrably bad, they stood by their Khalifa because they believed he gives them the best opportunity of defending the independence of their country against Egypt. He did not wish to raise the question of the evacuation of Egypt. He was very strongly in favour of that, evacuation as speedily as possible, because he agreed with Lord Salisbury, who had told them again and again that he was anxious to get out of the country as soon as he could, and to induce Europe to agree to some neutralisation of the country, and that he considered that so long as we were, there we were incurring a great and serious danger. In fact, Lord Salisbury went so far as to say to M. Waddington:—You must not suppose, as you do, that we are anxious to remain in Egypt, our one object is to get out of Egypt. We think that our troops could be more usefully employed in India, and all our best Generals are of that opinion.1518 He did not know any Statesman who had shown himself more anxious and desirous of getting out of Egypt than Lord Salisbury, but it was absurd to say that this expedition, followed by annexation, would tend to our arriving at that evacuation, and to our establishing a neutralised Egypt, with the consent of all the Power's of Europe. That was not the reason why the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose moved his Amendment. He did it specially and solely on the ground that, assuming we were in Egypt for 100 years or for one year, he was opposed to us engaging in these wild and reckless expeditions to the Soudan. His right hon. Friend held that the best defences of Egypt were the deserts which separated her from the Soudan, and that her frontier, to all intents and purposes, was Assuan. They did not know where they were to go or what they were to do. This foolish expedition seemed to be the outcome of a coalition Government. One set wanted to go too far and the other not far enough, so they struck a bargain. No doubt the First Lord of the Treasury was one of those who was in favour of this adventurous policy, and possibly he was under the influence of the Colonial Secretary. There must be some painful influence exercised over Lord Salisbury to make him break all his resolutions and to rush into that wild expedition against which he had again and again protested. [Cheers.]
§ MR. T. W. LEGH (Lancashire, Newton)
said, he must remind the Member for Montrose, when he asked for definite plans, of what occurred in 1885. When the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, who then spoke for the Government, was asked a question he declared that it would be unwise at that momentous time to make a statement.
§ MR. LEGH
February 26th 1885, and the Member for Monmouth made a protest against retiring from Khartoum. Now, the action of the Government was denounced as a kind of ebullition of jingoism. He thought that feeling was not shared in this country. The movement appeared to be one of the most remarkable of modern times. Here was a country, no matter what the Member for Northampton might say, 1519 which was 15 years ago in a state of comparative quiet. It was a mild form of administration which existed, compared with the state of things which existed under the Khalifa. It was calculated that 75 per cent. of the population had perished by war or pestilence. The facts were familiar to hon. Members. The Member for Northampton was not a sentimental politician, nor was he. He thought there was nothing more dangerous in foreign politics. He would admit at once that the condition of the people tyrannised over was not a sufficient excuse for making war upon them. The only excuse was if danger to Egypt existed. He thought the question as to what was or was not the position of the Italians, was entirely a subsidiary question. The more important point was whether Egyptian, territory was really in danger, and upon this point they had conflicting opinion. The Member for the Forest of Dean denied that danger existed, and there was no man in Europe not in an official position whose opinion carried greater weight. On this particular question his views were shared in France, but it was very easy to deny that danger existed. It was very easy for the Member for Monmouth, who posed as a military expert, to say that no danger existed, but if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition lived at Wady Halfa, he might be inclined to alter his opinion. [Laughter.] In this connection he pointed to the high authority of Sir A. Milner, who showed clearly the danger which existed and which would continue to exist on their southern frontier. As regarded Wady Halfa, the Member for the Forest of Dean pronounced in favour of the frontier, but Wady Halfa was not a frontier at all. It was an isolated camp in the desert on the bank of the river. It was a mere outpost of civilisation, and a stronger line between civilisation and utter barbarism could not be drawn. [Opposition cheers]. The present state of things was purely a temporary arrangement. He did not believe that any Egyptian official was ever in favour of the evacuation of the Soudan, and the reason why the evacuation took place was that in those days there was no army and very little money, but the Egyptians had never given up the hope of recovering the lost province. And why should 1520 they? There was a distinct understanding that if the chance arose they should go back there; there was then no question of civilised powers approaching, no prospect of anyone wishing to acquire the Upper Nile Valley. The accusation that this expedition was entered upon simply in order to prolong the English occupation of Egypt, was totally unjustifiable. [Cheers.] What were they going to gain from the expedition—["Hear, hear!"]—beyond providing for the security of Egypt itself? It was perfectly clear that in the eyes of some people it was impossible to do right. They were first found fault with because they were going to do nothing to help the Italians; now they were found fault with because they were going to do too much for them under the guise of pushing their own schemes. Then they were told they were violating French susceptibilities. He thought this was due to the exaggerated notions of the character and objects of the expedition. The accusations of the Member for the Forest of Dean were exaggerated. The idea that they were aiming at securing provision for the whole of the Soudan at once, was, he believed, an entire delusion. If he thought the advance was of that character, he should be reluctant to give it his support. Since the advance from Suakin to Tokar had been made there had been undisturbed peace at Suakin. There was no occasion for the apprehensions that were felt by hon. Gentleman opposite. Those who were opposed to our occupation of Egypt were of course perfectly consistent in opposing the present expedition, but all those who were in favour of it must regard the present step as the only logical one. We should not improve our position in Egypt, or hasten the day of evacuation, if that day should ever arrive, by shirking our responsibilities. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
I do not wish to stand between the Committee and those Members who wish to speak, who are, I know, very numerous, for more than a very few minutes, but I wish to say this, that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies has, in his speech, sketched out views as to the future policy as regards the Soudan which were, I think, much more definite than the 1521 views which he gave us of the present policy. ["Hear, hear!"] Though, to some extent, the division which will take place to-night may be taken as expressing the difference of views as regards the whole question of the policy to be adopted in the future, as sketched out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, it must also be taken to a certain extent as expressing the difference of views on the question as to how far the step which is now being taken by the Government can be connected with this much larger future policy which has been put forward as an ideal policy. That policy, it was said, has two objects, the first being to relieve Kassala. I hope in the course of the Debate we shall be told much more than we have been, in what way this expedition is to be connected with the relief of Kassala. But admitting that to be a desirable object, and even admitting that steps should be taken under British auspices to achieve that object, ought not those steps to be taken by way of Suakin instead of in the manner proposed at present? That is a point which, I think, deserves considering, and may well influence Members in voting on this question. As to the larger issue of future policy, even if it were admitted that we should in the future look forward to the spread of Egyptian, influence over the Soudan, and the gradual absorption in the natural course of events of the whole of the Soudan, so that it may be brought within the pale of civilisation and into trade relations with Europe (a view which can be expressed with a great deal of force), I still wish to know how the present step is connected with that policy. If the hope is entertained that in the course of time Egypt should reabsorb those parts of the Soudan over which the Mahdi's power has decayed, how is this decay to be tested? Are you going to begin to test the actual strength of the Khalifa and to find out whether the time has yet come when Egypt can extend her influence by advancing 80 miles into the desert? [Opposition cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies has held out the hope that the objective of this expedition may eventually become Dongola, that Dongola may become dissatisfied with the Khalifa's rule, and that the expedition 1522 may find a friendly Dongola which may be occupied without risk and without fighting, and which may be permanently held. If that is really his hope, is it the best way to begin by a movement towards Dongola which is principally intended to draw towards that part of the Soudan the Khalifa's forces? ["Hear, hear!"] Much depends upon this point. If your two objects are to save Kassala and to find out whether the time has yet come for an Egyptian advance up the Nile, surely the most effective way to relieve Kassala would be from Suakin, and, by thus concentrating the Khalifa's forces in that direction, it would be possible to make an advance up the Nile much more safely and at a much more seasonable time of the year. I think those are points which will weigh with many who will take part in the Division, and upon which much turns. [Cheers.]
§ MR. H. M. STANLEY (Lambeth)
said, that a great many Members on the opposite side of the House professed to entertain a horror of the slave trade which was carried on on the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba, but when it was proposed that three or four millions of slaves should be relieved in the Soudan they sat silent and stolid. [Ministerial, cheers.] The great Republic across the Atlantic, in order to free four million slaves, spent 800 million pounds and sacrificed a million lives; but their Party, because they thought the time had come to do something to relieve the slaves in the Soudan from their oppressive taskmasters, was called by the hon. Member for Northampton the stupid Party, and they were said to be supporters of a mad Cabinet. Egypt owed assistance to the besieged garrison at Kassala, because that garrison captured the town from the Dervishes and had maintained it for years. Moreover, no one could deny that the Valley of the Nile belonged to Egypt, and Egypt was entitled to claim her own whenever she was in a position to do so. Her Treasury was now overflowing, her credit was equal to that of any Power in Europe, her army was in excellent condition, and was led by British officers, in whom the soldiers had perfect confidence. Europe, America and Asia had for the last 15 years helped to swell the population of Egypt, and the country must naturally need expansion in the direction of the Upper 1523 Nile. We were, absolutely, bound to prevent the present movement from ending in worse confusion than that of 1882, for during the last year a military State had been founded on the eastern flanks of the Upper Nile which had an army of 120,000 men armed with breechloaders and rapid-firing cannon, and its munitions of war were said to be abundant. As these weapons and modern munitions—Lebel rifles and rapid-fire cannon—were not manufactured in Abyssinia, they must have been imported from Europe. What European nation, or nations, had been so unscrupulously enterprising as to arm these barbarians against a civilised Power which went to establish civilisation in the Switzerland of Africa with the concurrence of Europe? Whoever they were, they were capable of undoing our work in Egypt by supplying the Dervishes, through the Abyssinians, with similar weapons of precision and rapidity of fire.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
asked who were the nations that had supplied these arms and ammunition to the Abyssinians?
§ MR. STANLEY
said, that he was not paid to explain every possible thing to which he might happen to allude. It was for the hon. Member for Northampton to exercise his wit in order to discover who those nations were. If an Italian army of 18,000 was annihilated by these barbarians of Abyssinia so armed and equipped, what chance would an army of Egyptians of similar strength to that defeated Italian army have of resisting an army of Dervishes armed with the best weapons? Given two years of preparation, there was nothing to prevent such an overwhelming Dervish army being formed as would need two British Army Corps to keep it within its proper bounds. Before the disaster of Adowa, this possibility was not dreamed of; but now, instructed by that event, we should be blind not to see that our duty lay in preventing that dire contingency. Kassala, in the occupation of either the Dervishes or Abyssinians, was a positive danger to Egypt, because, through the intercourse that might be established between the Dervishes and those European Powers which had assisted Abyssinia, would give 1524 the fanatics those resources for hostilities which had hitherto been denied them by their isolation. Alone, the Dervishes were unable to overcome the obstacles of Wady Halfa and Korosko, but with Europeans to back them they would become most formidable. The statement made on Tuesday last by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was very moderate and sensible. It explained the motive for the advance on Akasheh. To hon. Gentlemen opposite it was a movement fraught with grave and serious consequences. To the supporters of the Government it was wise, and was an attempt to distract the attention of the Dervishes from that town upon whose fate depended the issues of the future. It was proper, therefore, that the military advisers of Egypt should suggest the necessity of the movement. If it succeeded in saving Kassala by withdrawing the attention of the Dervishes from it, the occupation of Akasheh would have been proved to be wise. If it failed in its object then clearly another step forward must be made, and Berber must be occupied. If that second step failed and Kassala fell, there would be no alternative but the re-occupation of Khartoum and the perfect establishment of Egyptian authority. For, if Kassala fell, the Italian troops would be withdrawn to Asmara, and the intermediate country would be overrun as far as Kerens by the Abyssinians, and the Egyptian Soudan would be open to the influences of those European Powers who had been the cause of the triumph of Abyssinia over Italy. It was incumbent on us to thwart the intrigues that would be set on foot for the invasion of Egypt. It would be clear to those hon. Gentlemen who were amenable to reason that this movement regarded from a military point of view was a military necessity imposed upon us by the events around Adowa. But he wished to point out what effect this advance up the Nile might have upon the evacuation of Egypt. Naturally were substantial guarantees given to us that the peace of Egypt would not be disturbed on our retirement; that no European Power would seek to replace us in that country; that Egypt would not launch out unaided and unguided 1525 on the conquest of the Soudan, and that her present prosperous condition would he maintained, there would be no difficulty in coming to an immediate decision as to evacuation, having in view always our close friendship with France. But if we had hoped that such guarantees were possible it was now too late to think of them. Things could not be restored to what they were when we fed ourselves with hopes that the time was rapidly approaching to consider the questions whose settlement should precede evacuation. A new African power had been founded which threatened to be formidable, and whose status was another important factor to be considered. The battle of Adowa had enlarged our views. We could not erase it from history, nor be unmindful of its consequences. We could not order the Shoans back to their distant country, nor could we restore the wounded prestige of the Italian troops. Immediate evacuation was therefore out of the question, nor could we entertain the thought of it, things being as they were. But those who hoped for our departure from Egypt might have the satisfaction, in knowing that fate, was preparing for our evacuation in another way. For just as Ulundi preceded the independence of the Transvaal the fall of the Khalifate of the Soudan would certainly hasten the absolute independence of Egypt. Therefore, as the independence of Egypt depended upon the subjugation of the Dervishes, and the removal of that anxiety, it seemed to him it would be a wise policy for those who longed for an evacuation to do all in their power to assist the Government in their efforts, to pray for their success, and bless every forward step they take. Might he ask the hon. Member for Northampton to look at the subject from that point of view, and instead of denouncing the movement on Akasheh to stand up like Balaam and bless it. Might he ask the right hon. Baronet who sat near him to regard this movement from an Anglo-Egyptian standpoint, and remain satisfied that the nearer we were to secure permanent rest for Egypt by the establishment of her rule over her long-estranged provinces, the nearer we should be to leave her soil for her own native rulers. He might ask his right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin to reflect that just as ho was alarmed at the 1526 advance of the Egyptian troops towards Dongola the Khalif at Omdurman was more alarmed still. His right hon. Friend had said: "You are throwing away all your resources; you are tying up your best forces; you are exposing yourselves to the weakness of the situation; you are locking up your troops in the Soudan, and national humiliation far beyond anything we have been accustomed to may possibly occur." Surely now that his right hon. Friend was more composed in his mind than when standing up he must admit that that picture was somewhat overdrawn, and his colours a little too lurid. He knew from sad experience that there was something peculiar in the atmosphere of the House, and he had found that it had had a peculiar effect on other Members besides himself. He found that some when they stood up were almost inclined to be dumb, while others were too loquacious. [Laughter.] He remembered well the feelings he had when he first stood up in the House. A sort of vertigo possessed him—[laughter]—and it was possible that the hon. Member for Northampton was in that state—[ironical laughter]—when, swaying backwards and forwards on the floor of the House, he tried to alarm his right hon. Friend and the younger Members of the House. His right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin said that all our best forces were engaged in this little venture, that we were locking up our best troops in the Soudan; but he was quite sure that every one who heard him would believe that our best troops, or a considerable portion of them at least, were outside Egypt altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] He thanked the House for the kind attention paid to him. ["Hear, hear!''] He was principally addressing his remarks to Members on his own side of the House. The opposite side of the House would remain as obdurate as ever. He sought to prevail on some of his Friends near him to stand up for this policy of Her Majesty's Government, and to pray for the success of the troops who were now beginning that venture, he hoped, towards Khartoum. [Cheers.]
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies had challenged some of those on the opposite side of the House who were not in favour of the immediate evacuation of 1527 Egypt to criticise the policy of the Government. He, therefore, ventured to offer a few criticisms in the capacity of one who believed that it was the duty of this country to fulfil the obligations we had undertaken in Egypt. But he did not want to increase those obligations, and he believed that whenever the Soudan was touched these obligations were increased. Therefore he wished to seek for a rational explanation of the course the Government was taking on the basis of their own declaration. He agreed with his hon. Friend the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that it was of considerable importance to consider the aspect of the question as regarded the Suakim side rather than the Nile side. Two reasons were put forward by the Government for this expedition. First of all, that assistance to Italy was necessary, and secondly, that the Nile rontier was threatened. If it really was the primary motive of the Government to render assistance to Italy, he could not conceive why they did not attempt it by way of Suakim. At Suakim a base was established 10 years ago at the cost of innumerable lives and the expenditure of much money. Suakim was within striking distance of Kassala. Troops and stores could be conveyed thither by sea, avoiding all the enormous difficulties of transport up the Nile, to accomplish which he observed that the Government had had to take in the valuable assistance of the tourist agency of Messrs. Cook & Son. Then there was no possible question as to the effect that an advance from Suakin would have upon events at Kassala. The less incredible and absurd the assumption that by an advance from Dongola the Arabs would be drawn off from Kassala towards the Nile, the more certain it was that an advance from Suakim would draw off the Arabs who were said to be menacing the Nile frontier. The disregard of these great questions made it certain to his mind that the real object of the expedition was not to render any material assistance to Italy. He did not doubt for a moment that there was a desire to the kindly good will of Italy; but so far as kindly feeling to Italy went there were many people who felt that the real kindness to Italy would be to do everything to induce her to desist from her disastrous 1528 attempt to establish a footing on the Red Sea. Let the Government be honest in the matter and confess that it was their own advantage and interest they were considering. What had been the experience of this country with regard to the relief of beleagured garrisons in the Soudan? The events of 1883 and 1884 were very striking examples of the difficulties which attended those operations. There was at that time a tremendous outcry both inside and outside the House in favour of a relief expedition, when the garrisons of Tokar, Sinkat and Kassala were in danger. A force of 3,000 men was sent down from Cairo under the command of a man who, in spite of everything, he was proud to speak of as his friend, the late General Baker; but he and his personal staff alone escaped, and the rest of their force were found afterwards on the battlefield mangled corpses. At the second battle of Teb 3,000 Arabs were slaughtered. Next, a force went up to Tokar to relieve the garrison, and what was found? Instead of the helpless, beleagured victims, a few aliens were found, living on the best of terms in a mud village with the Arabs. Sinkat and Kassala were not relieved at that time, and he had not heard it reported that any massacre of the garrison took place; and he ventured to express his firm conviction that had the conditions of his going to Khartoum which General Gordon himself imposed, been observed by the Government of the day, that heroic man would not have perished there. Even if it were true that this expedition was intended for the relief of Kassala, what followed? The Government would concentrate in the province of Dongola a very strong attacking force and would deliberately, by their own provocation, enormously increase the danger which they alleged as their second reason. Such a concentration of Arabs meant incessant and hard fighting, for whenever the Arabs meant business they would not make it an affair of outposts. Neither Egyptian troops nor even the Soudanese battalions were fit to operate in such a manner at this time of the year, to say nothing of the strain on the British officers; and he would remind the Committee that, in the not improbable event of the British reserves being obliged to be called up, they would 1529 have in the climate to contend with a foe quite as deadly as the Arabs. He would not spend time in discussing what had been so admirably put by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean as to the hollowness of the argument that their advance was a defensive movement for the sake of the Nile frontier. His right hon. Friend had shown conclusively how effective a barrier the Great Desert was. The Secretary for the Colonies had used a most extraordinary expression that evening. He had said that this desert was a screen against Arab attacks. But how could a desert be a screen against anything? Could anything be more ridiculous than to ask the Committee to suppose that the more fertile regions above Dongola were less likely to harbour forces willing to attack than the bare stretch of desert between Dongola and Wadi Halfa? The right hon. Member said that this movement was only an experiment, and that the troops were to try their way and were not to do anything that would imperil the safety of their communications. The limitations laid down by the right hon. Member were the security of the communications and the resistance that might be met. He held that the only reasonable excuse for an advance of this kind would be a settled and definite policy showing something worth doing. If the movement was going to be undertaken as an experiment, to distract attention from Kassala, and to give the Dervishes an opportunity of engaging in their fanatic occupation of fighting, it would be an act of criminal folly. He believed that this movement was going to be a big thing, very probably an exceedingly big thing. Would the Government deny that it was their intention in certain circumstances to go to Khartoum and to reconquer that portion of the Soudan? The House and the country ought not to be led blindfold into the Soudan. Would not the Government consent to be guided by experience in this matter? If their policy was good it would stand examination before the world. No Member felt that he knew what the policy of the Government really was. Half the sin, and mischief, and misery of the events of he years 1883, 1884 and 1885, which, to their shame took place under a Liberal Government, resulted from the fact that 1530 the Government listened to the popular outcry which impelled them onwards from one blunder to another. If one lost one's way in the desert, one could not turn back but must stumble blindly on. That, he feared, was what would happen now. He begged hon. Members to realise that it was their duty to act and vote on this occasion as if they were individually responsible for the course proposed to be taken. For his part he found it impossible to vote for a line of policy of which he did not understand the object, and could not foresee the result.
§ COLONEL BLUNDELL (Lancashire, Ince)
said, that Dongola was the commercial centre of the northern Soudan, and was a place of considerable importance. It belonged to Egypt in 1884, but since it had been given up it had supplied material proof that Egypt was worsted in the encounter that took place twelve years ago. The population of Dongola were not of the same type as the Dervishes, and the people along the riverbanks would very much prefer the rule of Egypt to the rule of the Dervishes. No one could suppose that if Egypt had had money and an army which it could rely upon it would have retired from Dongola. His own opinion had always been that it was the duty of Egypt to progress up the Nile. General Gordon in his journal said:—The Soudan, if once proper communication was established, would not be difficult to govern. The only mode of improving the access to the Soudan, seeing the impoverished state of Egyptian finances and the mode to do so, without an outlay of more than £1,000, is by the Nile.He then showed the different cataracts situated between Khartoum and Assouan, and remarked as follows:—Place steamers on the open spaces between the Cataracts; build small forts at the Cataracts, and a sure and certain road is open for ever. The same crews would do for these steamers, for a weekly service would suffice. Camels should be placed at the Cataracts for the transhipment of goods from steamer to steamer. … After the first outlay, which certainly would not be more than £10,000, for we have the steamers, I think £5,000 would be enough. The thing would pay for itself. Of course it would be letter to make loop tramways worked by animals Inn to keep camels at the Cataracts. I worked it this idea quietly during the time I was in the Soudan before. I even took one steamer up from Wady Halfa to Dongola to begin the chain of steamers.''1531 That was an admirably simple statement of a great scheme, but he thought General Gordon did not fully appreciate its difficulties, for there were not only the cataracts to be reckoned with, but long reaches of rapids as well. He held the opinion that Egypt, if she stood alone, could not possibly forego the opportunity that presented itself of recon-conquering that lost province of Dongola, and we had no business to prevent her from doing it whilst she was under our tutelage. As long as we kept to the river and made our communications perfectly safe behind us, both for the low and the high Nile, there would be little or no risk. The time of year was not the best for the contemplated movement, but in spite of that, if the army could be depended on, an advance to Dongola could be undertaken without any great danger. Egypt with Dongola would be much more formidable than Egypt without Dongola, and the chances of our retiring and leaving Egypt would be increased and not diminished by the recapture of Dongola. But he urged that the Government should halt at Dongola, where, however, the troops would command the river to Debbeh and Korti, and be in a position to advance further up the Nile if that should be thought necessary at any future time. For the present he should not believe that it would be to our interest to go beyond Dongola. An advance to that point could not fail to have some effect upon the Dervishes who were at Kassala. He recommended the Government to adhere to their proposal, but not to carry their plan too far, and he trusted that care would be taken to secure communications with Wadi Halfa both at high and low Nile, so that the difficulties which our troops experienced during our last operations in these regions might be avoided.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, that he was one of those who had been very much gratified during the last few months to find that the pacific foreign policy of the present Government had been a continuation of a policy which he had the honour of supporting under the last Administration. But on this occasion he felt that a totally new foreign policy had been suddenly sprung upon them, a policy which the country did not understand, and the motives for which were still hidden from 1532 the House and the country. He had long realised that our rule in Egypt had been attended with great benefit to the people, and he had been unable to join those who advocated a sudden evacuation of Egypt. No one who had read the admirable and able book written by Mr. Milner a year or two ago could for a moment doubt that the people of Egypt were happier under our rule than they ever were under native rule. Their industries had been developed; their army had been organised, whatever might be the benefit thus conferred upon them, and they had been enabled to claim to be among those few nations who were able to pay the interest on their debts. It seemed to him that this country was in great danger of a useless war and useless expenditure. The first point that was suggested in respect of Egypt was that the first portion of these expenses should be paid by Egypt, and the Exchequer of this country—for the present, at any rate—would be able to have the assistance that it was proposed to render Egypt paid out of the sufferings of that poor and miserable country. [An HON. MEMBER: "Surplus savings!"] He was somewhat astonished to note how the House looked upon this proposed advance into the Soudan without seeing before it war with all its horrors, war with all its enormous amount of individual suffering, in order to accomplish some object which might be clear to the Government but which certainly was hid from the great majority of the House. In the speech of the Colonial Secretary he heard about helping Italy, about helping Egypt, but not a word about helping England. The Colonial Secretary's policy was undertaken in order to help Egypt on the one hand and Italy on the other. He had always great difficulty in understanding the policy of those who tried to hit two birds with one shot, it was generally a failure. If this country was going to help Italy, let it look and see why we should help her. Had we anything to do with the foreign policy of Italy which had led that country into her present straits? He sympathised with the Italian nation—a nation of old memories, of modern history, excellent in its way, but a nation which in the midst of the poverty of its own people had overtaxed itself for those warlike excursions, and which, as some 1533 might think in this country, had by bad generalship been overwhelmed with a catastrophe almost too difficult to paint in words. But were we going to be quixotic also? Were we going to help the Italians in the Soudan? Let us help Italy by helping her out of Kassala not to keep it. Kassala was 200 miles from the Italian base of operations at Massowah; but that was not the proposition of the Government. We were to go forward up the valley of the Nile, 500 or 600 miles from Kassala, to make a deviation in favour of Italy, and in order to do something towards bringing about the Government of Egypt over the Soudan. It was a policy he could not understand. If, on the other hand, it was said that Egypt was menaced by the Dervishes, he had to say that he very much doubted this. There was nothing in the present position of the Dervishes, so far as was known in the House, which differed from what had existed for many years past. Some years ago, in conjunction with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Morley), he took some pains to inquire into this subject; and they came to the conclusion that if Egypt was threatened by the Dervishes, or from the South, by far the strongest position, from a military point of view—about which he could give no personal opinion—was that the frontier lines should be established at the old frontier line at Wady Halfa, and anyone who crossed that line in a hostile spirit should be opposed. It was the strongest military and by far the strongest moral position. That was the proper arrangement. To defend Egypt from the attacks of the Dervishes was not to go travelling into a desert with outposts, it was a weak military policy as compared with saying to the Dervishes "We do not allow you to come beyond the frontier lines of that civilisation which we have taken so much pains to encourage." He believed that this was not only the strongest military policy, but he felt certain that it was the strongest moral position which the Government could take up. There were one or two other points which surprised him in the Colonial Secretary's speech. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that if we find that we are welcomed at Dongola we will stay there, and bring the frontier of Egypt there; but if, on 1534 the other hand, we find that we are not welcomed, and that a military force is brought against us, then we are to retire to our old position. Whether or not that object was worth fighting for, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was about the last one which would receive ready acceptance by the English people. The whole argument, indeed, showed emphatically that the Government had no settled policy. On the contrary, it was the weakest of all policies, because they were trying to do something step by step not knowing whither they were going nor what it was likely to lead them to. If there was any defeat to our forces, or drawback to our success, we did not know where we were to stop. A great country like ours could not afford a defeat; it meant the expenditure of more money, the sacrifice of more lives, the killing of more Dervishes. As to the cui bono of this policy, therefore, he was entirely in the dark; he saw nothing ahead but a great deal of trouble for the Government, just in the same way as when he and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Morley) stood out against the occupation of the Soudan, and the means the Government of that day took to endeavour to reconquer that country. He recollected his right hon. Friend trying to prevent a railway from being made from Suakin to Berber. If this conquest of the Soudan was going to take place, then he thought we had better have that railway. The rails had been bought, carried out, brought back again, and now they were lying near one of the camps as a memento of one of those attempts to occupy the Soudan which was an utter failure. Another subject we had to face was this: "What does France say?" If France said, practically and morally, "We will not allow England, we do not approve of England, going on with the attempt to conquer the Soudan. It means England staying longer in Egypt, more cost and larger armies in Egypt." In that event, what position was the Government in? Were we going to give up this great scheme of the occupation of Dongola and the upper waters of the Nile because the Government of France would have neither part or lot in the matter, and because they were opposed to the policy which had suggested it? If so, then the Government 1535 would have to retire. He protested against this country entering on a policy which meant, in all probability, a large destruction of human life in the course of the marches into the Soudan. It was, besides, a most useless way to help the Italians out of the straits into which we did not get them, and out of which we were not bound to help them. As far as our Government of Egypt was concerned, we had quite enough in hand already. There were thousands and thousands of acres yet remaining to be brought into cultivation, in addition to the work already achieved for Egypt by the energy and talent of Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff and others. There was no occasion to provide further camping grounds for the Egyptians; they had plenty at home; and he trusted before this policy was again considered by the Government they would feel that it was a policy on which they ought either to hesitate or let the country see their whole plan. It seemed, however, to be a policy, small or great, which had to be carried out probably at the expense of the people of this country and the blood of its soldiers.
§ MR. H. SETON-KARR (St. Helens)
said, he was not an African explorer, or an Egyptian authority, but he was a loyal supporter of Her Majesty's Government inside and outside the House of Commons, and who intended to support them in their policy in Egypt through thick and thin. He did not uphold their policy as a servile supporter of the Government, but because he believed it to be the right and best policy. And he would not treat the Vote from a Party point of view. There was a point which had been passed over by the opponents of the Government's policy. They had founded many of their arguments on the hypothesis that the circumstances and policy of our interference in the Soudan now were more or less on a par with the circumstances of the policy carried out in 1884–5. He wished to compare the circumstances of those different periods. There was one significant difference between the present advance towards Dongola and the policy of the Liberal Administration in 1884. At the present moment we were assuming the most direct and avowed responsibility for the Egyptians in the Soudan. That was 1536 not so in 1883–4. On the authority of Sir Alfred Milner, one of the greatest authorities on the Egyptian question, at the time of the destruction of Hicks Pasha's force the Government disclaimed all responsibility for the affairs of the Soudan. When Hicks Pasha's expedition was sent out it was foredoomed to failure. The troops were Egyptian; they had not the advantage of being led and officered to any extent at all by British officers. They were the most miserable creatures, as far as material for fighting was concerned, that could be conceived. It was entirely in consequence of the Government of the day having cut the Soudan adrift and allowed Egypt, with poor resources, almost insolvent, with a miserable army beaten before it started, to undertake a task for which it was incapable. What chance was there under these circumstances for any operations in the Soudan succeeding. How could any man compare the situation then with the situation at the present day? Now everything was altered. The Egyptian Army was led by British officers. It was a different force from what it was in 1883. With British influence behind it, led by British officers, and with a large surplus in the Egyptian treasury, the Egyptian Army was as likely now to succeed as before it was foredoomed to failure. What was the alternative policy of hon. Members opposite? Either we must carry on an expedition which would establish Egyptian rule in the Soudan, or adopt the alternative of cutting the Soudan adrift. The abandonment of the Soudan in 1883 was not a deliberate policy decided on by the Government at the time. It was squeezed out of them. Everyone acquainted with the Soudan question conceded that the Soudan could not be deliberately abandoned while under the rule of the Mahdi, and it was only because Egypt was so weak and had no money that the Government of the day decided to retire from the Soudan. He believed that the present Government were adopting a course which would be good, not only for England, but Egypt. In the past they had seen that the miserable policy hon. Members opposite had advocated had only led to failure. He submitted that it was impossible to continue that policy. Any other action than that Government 1537 were now adopting would be disastrous. The true reason why their policy should be supported was this—that it was the best for Egypt and for the Soudan, was absolutely necessary for the security of the country, and he trusted that it would lead to the Soudan provinces, and even the Equatorial provinces, at some time being thrown open to civilisation, the present tyranny of the Mahdi being put an end to, and the security and prosperity of Egypt finally secured. [''Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he wanted to approach the question from a point of view somewhat different from that of most speakers, but still as a Member of the House of Commons, forgetting for the moment that he was an Irish Member. The first consideration with hon. Members was the relations in which this country stood to France. The extension of British dominion over Egypt and the Soudan could not be divorced from European politics as if France and Russia did not exist. The Colonial Secretary seemed to have forgotten their existence. Their opinion was of more importance than the fighting power of the Khalifa. The Under Secretary declined to answer without notice the Question which he still adhered to, the statement that no communication had been received from France in answer to our announcing the expedition. Did he adhere to it in view of the statement made by M. Berthelot yesterday, that communications were passing between the two Governments, and the French Government were asking for an explanation? The Under Secretary was entitled to say that, pending negotiations, no information could be given, but not to say no answer had been received. He was bound to tell the truth and the whole truth, but not to give an answer which would deceive the House. To the relations between this country and France and Russia he attached more importance than to the dangers or the expense of the expedition. No language could have been more offensive and insulting to this House than that of the Marquess of Salisbury. First of all the Prime Minister refused to read to the House of Lords any telegrams or communications received as to the military and political character of the expedition. Then, a little later, 1538 when challenged by Lord Kimberley, he said that the Under Secretary had selected, for the benefit of Mr. Morley, three telegrams which could be read to the House of Commons without doing any harm. They were read, not for the information of Mr. Morley, but for the information of the House of Commons; and it was an outrageous and insulting thing for the Marquess of Salisbury to speak in this way of the House of Commons. Was it to be an accepted doctrine for the future that a question would not be answered with truthfulness? The Under Secretary left upon the House of Commons a totally false impression—that he read the telegrams for the decision of the Government.
§ MR. CURZON
No, no, no; I have already contradicted that; I cannot allow this misrepresentation to be repeated. I read them as the authority for a certain part of my statement. I cannot allow the hon. Member, after hearing this contradiction, to go on repeating the statement that I read them as the ground for the decision of the Government.
§ MR. DILLON
said, he must repeat that that was the impression left upon the House, and anyone who read the Report of what was said must derive, that impression, whilst the language of the Marquess of Salisbury showed that the telegrams read to the House were selected for the purpose of leaving the House in ignorance, and that others that were important were suppressed. Then the Under Secretary stated that the newspaper reports of the communications made by M. Berthelot to Lord Dufferin were wholly unfounded and incorrect, while anyone reading that morning's papers, must see that they had been well-founded and correct, for M. Berthelot speaking in the French Chamber said: In any case it would lead to prolong indefinitely an occupation, the provisional character of which had certainly been acknowledged by the British Government. Before according their co-operation and concurrence the French Government have had to ask for explanations on these various points. He begged the Chamber to content itself with these indications, inasmuch as an ex change of views was now going on between the two Governments. The House was now entitled to some explanation of the views 1539 of the French Government that had been laid before the British Government. Surely the Government must have known it to be their duty, before they embarked on this forward policy in the Soudan, to consult the French Government. He did not say that they were bound to ask the leave of the French Government; but surely it was treating the French Government with discourtesy and incivility, and even with insult, for the Government to have made their first communication with the French Government in the shape of an announcement that it had been decided to make this movement. If it were the desire of the Government to maintain friendly relations with France—which he regarded as the true foreign policy of England—they ought to have long ago approached the French Government in a conciliatory spirit and told them the grounds upon which the advance into the Soudan had been decided. But it would seem as if the Government had informed The Times of this expedition before they had informed the French Government, and as if they had turned on The Times to preach a crusade to Khartoum. He thought that England had no reason now, as on many occasions before, to be thankful to The Times. That newspaper had never omitted an opportunity of outraging the feelings of any country with which England had a dispute. [Cries of "No, no!"] He could prove that charge up to the hilt. All the trouble with America and the Transvaal had been due to the insults of The Times. Unfortunately, a grossly exaggerated opinion of the influence of The Times prevailed abroad. [Cries of "No, no!"] No one who had travelled over the world, as he had, could doubt the truth of what he said—that The Times was, for some old historical reasons, treated in many parts as the mouthpiece of England. Of course, they all knew it was nothing of the kind. He had never known The Times to be right—[laughter]—and its conduct in regard to recent complications with foreign Powers reminded him of what he had heard John Bright say of it when a boy in his father's house in Dublin: "So wrong is The Times always," said John Bright, "that I have come to regard it as the organ of the devil on this earth." [Laughter.] What had been the conduct of The Times on 1540 this question? The announcement of the expedition was made by The Times on March 13th; and on March 14th it published an article announcing, in the most authoritative way, that the expedition was an expedition to reconquer the Soudan. It said:—When the withdrawal from the Soudan was resolved upon twelve years ago, Egypt could not afford the necessary force to retain her conquests without the risk of facing military and financial disaster. England could not, or would not, assist her in that task. Now, years of English administration, as Lord Cromer's Report for 1895 shows, have given Egypt a powerful army and a solvent exchequer.Then it went on:—The time has come for beginning to regain and to hold firmly what she once won lightly and held feebly, but what was after all conquered for civilisation. In discharging this duty, she will obtain guarantees for her own permanent security, which must he wanting while the Soudan is given up to the dominion of sheer barbarism.No European Power, reading that article, and believing it to be inspired by Her Majesty's Government, could have any confidence in the declarations of the Government in regard to their policy in Egypt. Writing on March 17th, The Times again said:—For our own part, we trust that the movement on Akisheh is the first step to such a policy.He considered that such language on the part of The Times was calculated to arouse the ill-feeling of the European Powers against this country. But that language paled into insignificance before the language used by The Times that morning——
I have given the hon. Member the fullest latitude; but I can hardly see the relevancy of his present remarks to the Vote for the Foreign Office, which is under discussion.
That is so. For the Soudan expedition the Government are responsible to this House, and they may be criticised and attacked for it here. But The Times is not responsible for the expedition; and the House cannot constitute itself into a Court to decide between the hon. Gentleman and that newspaper.
§ MR. DILLON
said, he would not pursue that point further. As the First 1541 Lord of the Treasury had complained on Tuesday that the criticisms of the foreign Press tended to aggravate the feeling between France and England, he thought he was entitled to call attention to The Times articles, which he considered much worse. He agreed with Mr. Gladstone, that the true policy of England was to cultivate the friendship of France and Russia, instead of the friendship of the Triple Alliance. By far the most important point in this question was that the expedition was in furtherance of the interests of the Triple Alliance. The Secretary for the Colonies stated with evident gratification that all the Central Powers had approved of this move; and there was something minatory in the right hon. Gentleman's attitude when he added that "as regards France and Russia, we wait." He objected to that policy entirely. It was foolish and insane as long as the British occupation in Egypt continned, to the usefulness of which a good understanding with France was necessary. The right hon. Member for the Montrose Burghs made a great mistake in supposing that the Irish interruptions to the Under Secretary's speech the other day, when he made certain sympathetic allusions to Italy, were due to their hostility as Catholics to the Italian Government for its treatment of the Pope. That was not so. It was because the Irish Members were strongly of opinion that the Italians had no right to attack Abyssinia. The Abyssinians were an ancient race, doing no harm to anyone, and simply occupying the country which they had inhabited for centuries. They were semi-civilised at least; they wore a Christian people, and it was a monstrous thing to invade their country. He had been in Italy recently, and was in correspondence with those who knew Italy well, and he challenged any hon. Member to contradict the statement that the vast majority of the Italian people hated and abominated this African policy. It was disliked equally by the Conservatives and the extreme Radicals in Italy, and he objected to England bolstering it up in the interests of the Triple Alliance. This expedition to Dongola would have the effect of encouraging and even compelling the Italian Government to continue the war when they wished to make peace; and the continuance of the war must involve bankruptcy and 1542 ruin. It was the policy of Crispi, who was a broken and ruined statesman, and who would never be Prime Minister of Italy again. One of the best-informed of the English correspondents in Rome—the correspondent of The Daily Chronicle—wrote that, in spite of the official thanks presented to Lord Salisbury, the statement of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had given qualified satisfaction. It placed the Italian Government in an embarrassing position by delaying their pacific programme in Africa. The Radical journals in Italy declared that while England had hitherto done nothing for Italy, she wished now to compel Italy to continue the war in spite of herself. He believed that four-fifths of the Italian people would vote against this Dongola movement and the whole African policy. This plea of coming to the rescue of Italy was a false plea. True friendship would counsel her to retire from Africa and to make peace with Menelik on any reasonable terms. Irish Members were always opposed to these buccaneering expeditions. They had suffered much themselves; and felt it to be their special duty in the House of Commons to raise their voices against these tyrannical attacks on weak and unoffending Powers. Had hon. Members looked at the extracts from the Russian papers published during the last few days? The Russian people were not going to allow the Italians, or anyone else, to trample on the Abyssinians, with whom the Russians had close relations. A meeting of the Red Cross Society of St. Petersburg was recently held, when it was decided to send out medical help to the Abyssinians, and Russian officers were accompanying the expedition. The. British Government might have to face, not only the fighting power of the Khalifa, but that of France and Russia also. The Colonial Secretary had boasted that Germany had agreed to the British proposals—Germany which the other day insulted England so much. The other week he saw the toast proposed—"All the members of the Royal Family, one excepted." Now, this country was crawling at the feet of the German Emperor. It was embarking on this great enterprise in the interests of the Triple Alliance, at the head of which was a Power which grossly insulted 1543 England last Autumn, and slapped her in the face when she was in difficulties. Then there was not a man on the Ministerial side of the House who was not ready to insult the German Emperor; now they were ready to accept his patronage. If he were an enemy of England he was not sure that he should not vote in favour of this expedition.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, the form in which the discussion had been carried on was most inconvenient. It would have been much better if it could have taken place with the Speaker in the Chair, because now the only result which this Motion could have would be the reduction of the Vote by £100, which would be utterly inadequate to the case, or the resignation of the Ministry, which would be far more than adequate. Therefore he had a difficulty in voting for it, and, indeed, he was not sure that he should not give the Government his support. [Laughter and cheers.] But he felt it necessary to say that he considered this adventure most dangerous and hazardous. If it was to be undertaken for the benefit of the Italian Government, he believed that, instead of doing good, they were, likely to do much mischief to Italy. All true friends of Italy would preach to her that having sustained this great reverse, she would do well to imitate our great example on similar occasions and retire from a position which had proved too strong for her. [A laugh.] He feared that this adventure now being embarked upon would not be ended so quickly as seemed to be anticipated on the Front Bench. [Irish cheers.] Egypt had always been a snare with this country, from the time that the Emperor Nicholas had suggested its acquisition to us in 1853, and there was always this about Egyptian adventures—for they were adventures—that when we entered into them we never knew how far they were going to lead, how much blood and treasure they were going to cost, or how many years were going to elapse before we got rid of them. It was so in 1882 when we went with a light heart into the expedition which ended in disaster at Khartoum. Who asked for this expedition? The House had had nothing to show that Italy asked for it or that Egypt asked for it. On the contrary, there was everything 1544 to show that Egypt did not ask for it because he observed that Lord Salisbury, in reply to a Question in the House of Lords by Lord Rosebery, distinctly guarded himself. He said:—Of course I do not bind myself to saying that the instructions we have given correspond with the original suggestions of the Egyptian Government.No, of course they did not. If the Egyptian Government had suggested anything it would have been the reconquest of the Soudan. Nor, it was clear, had the Italian Government asked for this intervention. To say that Dervish forces were advancing from Berber on Dongola and Kokreb and on the Wells of Murad, did not suggest that Kassala was in any greater danger; on the contrary, it suggested that Kassala was in less danger, because it showed that the Dervish forces were going away from that place. Did the Committee realise that Akasheh, to which this expedition was to advance, was 600 miles from Kassala, as far as London was from the Orkneys? If London were threatened, would they think much of an ally of ours that should send a force to the Orkneys? Would that be a useful diversion? (An HON. MEMBER: "Certainly.") Well, he thought not. He should prefer Gravesend. The Colonial Secretary had suggested that this expedition had some other purpose than to create a diversion in favour of Kassala. He had drawn to the House what he called the ideal of Egypt, which was the recovery of the Soudan. Yes, that was the ideal of Egypt, and never let it be forgotten that when we went to Egypt the first thing we did was to lose this ideal—we lost the Soudan for Egypt. But if the Government wanted to reconquer the Soudan once again and to get possession of Khartoum, to Berber they must go, and to no other place, and they must go from Suakin. Not to Akasheh, but to Berber they must go. Was the Colonial Secretary prepared to go to Berber? Did the Government mean to go to Berber? Had they considered the route from Suakin to Berber, or were they to go again over that interminable thousand miles along the Nile? The right hon. Gentleman had sought to minimise the expedition. He had used very remarkable words in doing so—words such as, he ventured to say, had 1545 never before been used in relation to an expedition of this character. For the right hon. Gentleman said that the expedition was to be limited by the security of its communications and by the resistance it might meet with. [Opposition cheers.] Then, if there was strong resistance, we were to withdraw, but if there was little or no resistance we were, to go on. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "No, no!"] It was so. [Cries of "No !"] If not, what did the words of the right hon. Gentleman mean? He said the expedition would be limited according to the degree of resistance. Surely those words meant something, and he had taken them to mean what they obviously implied. [Opposition cheers and Ministerial cries of "No!"]
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman has misrepresented me. [Cheers.] I said the exact reverse of what he attributes to me, because I said that any territory which we recovered to civilisation would never be brought back to barbarism. [Cheers.] But I pointed out that among the contingencies which we had to keep in view was that of the entire failure of the Dervish power, in which case we should be perfectly justified in going on even to the recovery of the Soudan, but that, if we found that from the nature of the resistance that this would involve a strain on the resources of Egypt which we were not entitled to place upon her, then we should be satisfied with the advance we had already made. [Cheers.]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he had endeavoured fairly to construe the meaning of the words used by the right hon. Gentleman, and he could not see that the right hon. Gentleman had, by his interruption, shown that the construction placed upon them was wrong. Notwithstanding, therefore, the explanation just given, he repeated that the statement made by the Colonial Secretary in his speech conveyed the meaning that if strong resistance was met with the expedition would not advance. In other words, the advance was to be not an expedition of conquest, but simply a kind of reconnaissance en force. And yet it could scarcely be that, for the object of a reconnaissance en force was to get touch of the enemy, to get information about him and his plans in order to advance; but in this case we should be at least 1546 600 miles distant from the enemy—as far as London from the Orkneys, and even if we did find the enemy, and he resisted, we were not to persevere. [Opposition laughter and Ministerial cries of "No."] The Colonial Secretary had made another remarkable statement. He made it hastily, perhaps, for surely he could not have intended the words to bear the sense which might fairly be put upon them. ["Hear, hear!"] The right hon. Gentleman said that "Egypt was under our protection." That was not so, and it was a serious matter for a Cabinet Minister to openly claim in that House, and in the face of all Europe, a protectorate by England over Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] There was no protectorate by England over Egypt. [Opposition cheers.] Every idea of such a protectorate had been solemnly repudiated over and over again by British Governments—by Lord Granville, by Mr. Gladstone, and by Sir Stafford Northcote. Indeed, all the allies the right hon. Gentleman had had on both sides of the House—[laughter]—had again, and again repudiated any idea or intention of annexing Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] Again and again, moreover, we had given pledges that any final settlement of the Egyptian question should only be made with the concurrence of the other European Powers? In addition to this, by the protocol of 1882, we had bound ourselves not to seek any advantages, political, commercial, or territorial, that was not equally enjoyed by the other Powers; and finally and beyond this, we had agreed, in 1883, to the neutralising of the Suez Canal, by which we had pledged ourselves—however much we might be in occupation of Egypt or the Soudan—in time of war as in time of peace, to allow our possibly greatest enemies to use the canal equally with ourselves, for the purpose, it might be, of sending an expedition against us to India. ["Hear, hear!"] We had done all this, and in face of it our presence in Egypt could certainly not be called a Protectorate. It was so limited that it could scarcely be called an occupation. It was at most only a strictly limited occupation, limited in regard to time, purposes and power; and a crowning proof of how little was our protectorate over, or our power in, 1547 Egypt, was the fact that we had to go the other Powers to ask them to be allowed to use Egyptian money for her own protection against the wicked Dervishes. ["Hear, hear!"] He contended that we could not permanently remain in Egypt with advantage to ourselves, or with advantage even to that country itself, and in this connection he would make a quotation from Lord Dufferin, whose knowledge and experience of the question were very great. ["Hear, hear!"] The words ought to be engraven on the mind of every British Minister. In 1883 Lord Dufferin wrote: "The Valley of the Nile could not be administered with any success from London." He believed Lord Dufferin was thoroughly right in that statement. If any advantages had been gained by our presence in Egypt, they were the result of our remaining in the lower Valley of the Nile, and he feared even those advantages would be lost by undertaking such a hazardous, long, costly, and dangerous enterprise as the advance on Dongola. ["Hear, hear!" and Ministerial cries of "No!"] The Colonial Secretary had recalled the circumstances under which, in 1884, Her Majesty's Government desisted from their resolve to "smash the Mahdi." He said that the Government of that day intended to reconquer the Soudan and put an end to the Mahdi's power, and that they only desisted because the state of affairs with Russia became critical—in other words, because we could not undertake such a task as the conquest of the Soudan, and at the same time confront any trouble that might arise in Europe. But might not matters again become critical? Were not the Government now confronted with troubles with European Powers? Had they a friend in Europe? Had they a friend in the world? He scarcely knew where to find one. Yes, they had one, who had just been defeated by the Abyssinians. [A laugh.] Surely that was a warning even to the right hon. Gentleman himself not to enter into an adventure in the Soudan which would lock up our troops and lock up our ships [a laugh] at a moment when we might be confronted by some European Power. What would be the position of the Government if they got to Dongola or to Khartoum and then found themselves 1548 in face of some serious trouble with a European Power? He held that no success for Italy could possibly come out of this adventure. Either the Government in going 80 or 90 miles were not going far enough, or they were going too far. His belief was it would have been better to leave things as they were. No good could be done for Italy, but much mischief might be done to ourselves. One of his main objections to this adventure was that, if it succeeded, the result would be that more English officials and troops would be sent out, a strong position would be taken on the lower valley of the Nile, and there would be a still further postponement of the period when we were to fulfil our pledges to leave Egypt. He believed our continued occupation of Egypt had injured our position, not only with Turkey, but with our own fellow-Mussulman subjects. It had made an unnecessary permanent quarrel with France, with whom he for one would be on good terms. The Government attached far too much importance in their general scheme of policy to Egypt. If they wanted to show a vigorous foreign policy, if these 19 men of genius [laughter] desired to show how able and strong they were in regard to foreign affairs, let them show it in Siam [Opposition cheers], in Turkey [renewed cheers], in the Transvaal, in Venezuela, and the United States. He would rejoice at the triumph of their policy in these places. But with regard to Egypt, he would say quieta non movere. Let them rather diminish their responsibilities in Egypt than increase them, for to do the latter would make it more difficult for them to leave the country. Finally, let him remind the Government of words written long ago:—Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it.[Laughter.]
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
thought they might congratulate themselves upon the return of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis (Mr. Gibson Bowles) after an invigorating absence. He would have to comment presently upon the hon. Gentleman's remarks as an example of the curious differences of opinion upon the other side of the House 1549 Which the Debate had revealed. One of the most interesting speeches of the night was that of the hon. Member for North Lambeth, who evidently spoke what a good many of his friends were thinking. The hon. Gentleman said it was the business of an Opposition to simulate feeling. Certainly anything he had said or should say on this subject he deeply felt, and while he might be stupid——
§ MR. H. M. STANLEY
asked the hon. Baronet if he was simulating feeling, or was he in earnest when he said we were bound for Darfur, because, if so, he was as wide——
§ SIR C. DILKE
said, he would deal with that question presently, when he came to the real causes of the expedition. His contention was that the reasons which had been given for undertaking the expedition were so poor, feeble, and weak, that there must be some real and stronger reason behind. When the hon. Member expressed astonishment that he (Sir C. Dilke) suggested the possibility of an advance in the direction of Dafour being in the minds of some hon. Members, he himself talked about Khartoum, and not only that, but ended his speech with the words "to Khartoum." The hon. Member for North Lambeth talked about the object being the freeing of four millions of people from slavery. The hon. Gentleman thought it was our duty to restore what he called civilisation to the whole of the territory inhabited by these tribes, but the hon. Gentleman knew what had been the result of attempts on the part of other States to restore the blessings of civilisation, attempts with which he himself had been connected. The Member for North Lambeth spoke of the Egyptians lying down before the Dervishes and allowing them to beat them with sticks. What chance, then, would they have of standing up against the Dervishes? And yet the hon. Member was a party to a policy which on the face of it involved the sending of these very Egyptian troops to free from Dervish power four millions of slaves. ["Hear, hear!"] There had been references to the holding of exaggerated views. Might he suggest that the hon. Member for North Lambeth put some exaggerated views before the Committee when he talked of France arming the Dervishes against the English? The hon. Member described 1550 the horrors of the position of Egypt after the fall of Kassala, which he foresaw, if France armed the Dervishes. He imagined that in his secret heart the hon. Member was trusting to the Dervishes to defend Dar Fur against the French.
§ MR. H. M. STANLEY
I must ask the right hon. Baronet to be more precise in his quotations. I never mentioned the French.
§ SIR C. DILKE
Oh, that I freely admit. He never mentioned the French, but he spoke of those who had armed the Abyssinians against the Italians, and who, if Kassala fell, would arm the Dervishes. If that did not mean France, could the hon. Member tell them who was meant? [Cheers.] The division of opinion on the other side was not confined to the Members for Belfast and Kind's Lynn. The Colonial Secretary frankly admitted that he had changed his views. He went to Egypt in favour of evacuation, and he came back converted. The evacuation view was very recently held by the Prime Minister, and he firmly believed that the view he held of evacuation was still held by the Prime Minister. It was never so well put as by him, and he had never withdrawn from that view; he had taken up the ground from the British point of view that the holding of Egypt was a weakness for this country and not a strength. The Secretary of State, in his speech to-night, very clearly expressed the view stated by the Member for King's Lynn. The Colonial Secretary held—he took down his words—that the Egyptian army is to halt before superior forces and not to advance unless it could be done easily and cheaply. [Laughter.] It was not to retreat, but to stop wherever it was, however indefensible might be the position at which it arrived. The walls of Jericho were to fall down, and if not, then they were to halt before them and not attempt to take up any particular frontier as the right one to be taken up The First Lord of the Treasury told them that the Dervishes were well aware of all that took place in the House, but if they heard of the arguments held by the Secretary for the Colonies, he imagined that they would be calculated to encourage them [cheers and laughter] to call up their reserves to oppose the advance and to resist every step. Surely there was a very curious difference of opinion as to 1551 what wore the realreasons of this advance. The hon. Member for King's Lynn quoted the classical version—danger to Italy and Egypt. The hon. Member for Newton minimised that, threw over Italy and agreed with the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in thinking that it was not a great military invasion, but that the danger lay in raids. They were going, in fact, to give up a good frontier for a bad one. What was the condition of our Indian frontier? We had as good a frontier in many parts of India as could be imagined, but there were perpetual raids on the inhabitants on these frontiers. We did not, however, constantly advance our Indian frontiers in consequence, because, even if we did, the same raiding would continue. ["Hear, hear!"] It would be cheaper to give old-age pensions for life to all these raided villagers than to advance our frontiers indefinitely. The present situation was very similar to that which existed in 1885; then, as now, Dongola was in question and the Caisse de la Dette, was in question. We were in occupation of Dongola at that time, but altogether refused to stay there. The military advisers who advised the Government of that day that in all probability there was a far better frontier than Dongola nearer home were most of them living now, and some of them were advising the present Government. Were they advising the Government now that Dongola or Akasheh would be better as frontiers than that we possessed Three telegrams only had been laid before the House, which, almost as soon as they had been laid upon the Table, had been virtually repudiated as being the basis of the proposed policy; they had had, therefore, no sufficient case for this new departure in policy. When such a departure had been taken previously they had had the dispatches of Lord Cromer and the opinions of the military advisers laid before them, but now they had nothing of the kind. Egyptian statesmen were vouched to them as having strongly recommended the course which the Government were about to take. What had been the position of these Egyptian statesmen in the past? In 1884, when, as the Secretary of State for the Colonies had told them, the decision to leave the Soudan was generally accepted—a decision which no one had regretted since—all these Egyptian 1552 statesmen were in favour of staying there. In 1885, when we came away from Dongola, it was against the wish of the same men. Why, then, was their opinion vouched now as being conclusive? The Government had been wiser, it was admitted, than these men, then why might not the House of Commons be wiser than they now? Many hon. Members thought that Spain would be wiser if she came to terms with Cuba, but it would be useless to say so to a Spaniard. Very often the outsider saw most of the game. Moreover, most of these Egyptian statesmen were in favour of our evacuating Egypt. On the occasion of the Debate on the question on the evacuation of Egypt in May, 1893, there had been a difference of opinion between himself and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in regard to two of them—Riaz Pasha and the late Khedive—but it turned out that both of them were in favour of evacuation. The classical reasons for this expedition were, the diversion in favour of Italy and the danger which existed, but a third reason had been advanced by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, namely, what might be called the gradual and cheap re-conquest of the Soudan. The, argument of a diversion in favour of Italy had been greatly weakened by that Debate. It had been given up by the hon. Member for the Newton Division, and the arguments of his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick were, he thought, conclusive upon that point. If that were intended it was clear that the expedition would have gone to Suakin. The policy of the present Prime Minister of Italy, the Marquis of Rudini, was to retire from all these African possessions. Moreover, it must be remembered that in the past King Menelik had been the staunch ally of this country, he had been the trusted friend of Gordon, and the last messages sent to Gordon were sent through him. He was strongly against the Dervishes, and offered to advance against them with us. The argument that this advance of the Egyptian troops up the Nile was to operate as a diversion in favour of Italy had been given us that night, while that of it being intended to avert danger from the Egyptian frontier had been reduced to an absurdity by the admission of the right hon. 1553 Gentleman the Secretary of State that the conquest of the Soudan could be cheaply and easily effected. The arguments derived from danger to the frontier and from the ease of conquest of the Soudan, were absolutely incompatible with each other. If there were serious danger to the Egyptian frontier, or of an invasion of Egypt by a large army of Dervishes armed with repeating rifles, how could it be met by sending a few thousand Egyptian troops to Dongola. But was the frontier in danger? Within two years after the decision to retire from the Soudan was taken, Sir Evelyn Wood had said that the Wady Halfa frontier was perfectly safe, and that we might withdraw every British soldier from the frontier, and that he was perfectly prepared to defend it with the Egyptian troops. That opinion had been justified by subsequent events, and Wady Halfa had turned out to be an easily and cheaply defensible position. It might be said that the frontier was liable to raids—but those raids were not of the importance of those to which we were accustomed on our Indian frontiers. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted certain authorities to show that no permanent peace or prosperity could be looked for in Egypt until the Soudan had been reconquered. But there had been peace and prosperity in Egypt now for a sufficient number of years to enable us to judge of the value of those authorities. There was, moreover, the official evidence of Lord Cromer, who relied upon that peace and prosperity as a proof of the benefit which British rule had conferred upon Egypt. It was admitted by the Government that the frontier of Wady Halfa was a very strong one, such as we had deliberately taken up in India. It was protected by the most formidable deserts in front and on either side. Those who spoke of Dongola being a granary from whence the Dervishes drew their supplies were faced with the fact that the people of that place were continually dying from starvation. Gordon himself had described Dongola as likely to cost too much to hold, and went on to say:—The whole way we go we are accompanied by the people on the hanks, who cry out, 'We are miserable! we are miserable!'1554 And that portion of his diary in which that was recorded was headed " We are miserable." That was Gordon's description of this so-called granary of Dongola. He further said that the deserts around Wady Halfa divided two distinct peoples who had not the slightest sympathy with each other. Could Hon. Members conceive a stronger military frontier than that The hon. Member for North Lambeth thought that the Egyptians ought really to go as far as Khartoum; but, surely, the ultimate object in view was not Dongola, or Berber, or even Khartoum, but Darfur and Equatorial Africa. They had to meet suggestions that it was ultimately intended to form an alliance between Egypt and the Congo State for the conquest of all the intermediate territories. He believed that such a policy would be most unpopular in Belgium, and that it would be equally unpopular in this country when the real facts of the case became generally known. The foundations of our Empire were upon the sea, and if we went into the deserts of Africa we should get further and further away from our base, and should become weaker every step we took. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out the great advantage to civilisation that would ensue if these countries were subjected to British rule. At enormous distances from the sea even the countries who understood best the government of uncivilised people became singularly weak. ["Hear, hear!"] Gordon had said that we could not afford to employ such servante as were needed to govern these countries of the interior. The Congo State had had to employ the dregs of the Belgian population in some advanced posts with consequences that were known. Our government might be good at Cairo, but it would be a very different thing in the heart of Africa; and even at Uganda, where we had things, comparatively speaking, our own way, those who had been at the head of affairs had been so short of men that they had been obliged to employ if not the dregs, at least unfit members of the British population as governors of provinces and in other posts. ["Hear, hear!" and cries of "No."] Was it not known to the House? It Was the undoubted fact that we had had to employ a person who, by his training, was entirely and notoriously unfit for the position to which he had 1555 been appointed. The Secretary of State had asked whether the prosperity of Egypt was not our concern. He answered that it was our concern. We could not dissociate ourselves from it. But the conquest of the Soudan was a curse to Egypt, and not a blessing. It was the greatest drag on her prosperity. It wrecked and ruined the Government of Ismail Pasha, and he believed we should be acting still in her interest if we prevented her from entering on the enterprise again. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. CURZON,
who was received with cheers, said: At a rather earlier period of the evening the hon. Member for East Mayo, the leader of one of the sections of the Irish Party, intervened in this Debate. I hope I am not disposed to be unduly sensitive, but I am in the recollection of the Members of the Committee who heard that speech when I say that the earlier part of it, directed against myself, was offensive both in character and imputation. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman accused me of having wilfully deceived the House of Commons, and he alluded to two statements I had been called upon to make in discharge of my duties from this Bench in answer to Questions. I replied yesterday, in answer to a Question, that no reply had yet been received from the French Government. That was a true answer, or I should not have given it to the House. [Cheers.] He also accused me of having given to the House and the country a false impression of the views of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs. Let me inform him that that impression was derived from the words of the French Minister for Foreign Affairs himself, communicated to the British Ambassador at Paris, and repeated by him to us. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman went on to say, as a part of his charge, that the Government had made a rude and brutal statement of their policy to the French Government. Considering that the hon. Gentleman has not seen the Dispatch, I do not think I am much concerned to notice the particular adjectives that he has chosen to select from his redundant vocabulary. [Loud cheers.] He went on to say in this extraordinary farrago of invention and imagination that we had been urging and compelling the Italians to continue the war, that we had put difficulties in the way of their making 1556 peace with King Menelik and the Abyssinians. I ask sensible men to say how any diversion or any movement in the direction of Dongola could possibly prevent peace being come to between the Italians and King Menelik? [Cheers.] I believe negotiations have already taken place, if terms have not already been arrived at, between these two parties, and I find it very difficult, in referring to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, to ascertain the Parliamentary terms in which to describe a speech which, if I had not been a Member of this House, I should have called absolute nonsense. [Loud cheers.] Before I leave the question of the Italians at Kassala I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke committed an error in saying that the Italians went to Kassala at the request of the British Government.
§ MR. CURZON
The Italians did not go there at our request. They went there on their own initiative and responsibility, and subsequently admitted to us in a protocol that this was Egyptian territory and that they would be prepared, should Egypt at any time be ready to resume occupation, to hand it over to the Egyptian Government. ["Hear, hear!"] There are two questions raised in this Debate to-night. The one is the large question of our policy in Egypt and of our continued occupation or evacuation of that country, and the other is the smaller and narrower issue raised by the contemplated expedition. The former of these topics has rather shrunk into the background, and has been crowded out by the interest that attaches to the recent announcement, and this only will I say upon it, that the question of remaining in or evacuating Egypt has been decided, at any rate for the present, not merely by the voice and opinion of those who sit on these Benches, but by the policy and attitude of those who sit on the other side of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] Out of the past 13 years the Liberal Party has been in power for six, and during that time they, on that side of 1557 the House, who always profess to be so much more interested in the fulfilment of these pledges than we are supposed to be, did not find themselves in a position to carry out those assurances. I do not say it in an attitude of reproach, but rather of recognition and praise. I remember that before the campaign of 1892 the right hon. Member for Montrose and Mr. Gladstone made certain declarations in the country which we thought were of a most ominous character, which filled us with apprehension, and which led us to think they were going to reverse the policy with reference to Egypt. They came into power in 1892, and the only thing that these ardent advocates of evacuation were able to do in furtherance of their end, during their three years of power, was to increase the British garrison of Egypt by 1,000 men. [Cheers.] I do not complain of this in the interest of that continuity of policy which Lord Rosebery is always extolling, but which by his speeches he does his best to destroy. [Cheers] I welcome this policy on their part, but I submit that it is absurd for them, or any of their followers below the Gangway, to come down to this House and require us to do that which they did not do, which they could not do, and which they never had the slightest intention of doing themselves. I turn to the smaller and narrower question raised by the particular issue before the Committee. Before we go to a Division to-night I should like the Committee to contrast the picture presented to it in the speeches from the opposite side of the House with the actual and sober realities of the case. We have been shown a picture of the Egyptian troops being dragged on step by step into the heart of Africa, of the English troops following at a respectful distance, and from time to time pulling them out of difficulties—in fact we have heard a story of general disaster and lamentation and woe. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment described our policy in a speech which was a "nice derangement of epitaphs—[cries of "Oh!"] I need hardly say that I have no wish to offend—he described our policy as "gratuitous, wanton, and infatuated," to use his own words. [Some cheers and counter cheers.] The other day the 1558 right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean drew a picture of our being drawn into Dar Fur, the heart of the African Continent, but I observe that he has since acquired a greater faculty of perspective, and that in the speech just delivered he dealt rather more gingerly with Dar Fur. But, whether they predict that we are going to Dar Fur or Khartoum, I ask, Are not the imaginations of hon. Members opposite coloured by recollections of the deplorable failure of the policy of their own Party in 1884? [Cheers.] What are the facts of the present situation? The Egyptian troops have been ordered to make an advance for the moment of 80 miles. This advance has been sanctioned by the military authorities, who not only have expert knowledge, but who are familiar with every yard of the ground. It will be prosecuted with care, and attended by every possible precaution. As the Secretary for the Colonies has informed the Committee, this is to be followed by the railway, which is to be laid upon the old embankment. A defensive position will then be taken at Akasheh. If the summer heats are found to be unfavourable to any other movements the troops will remain there, and if it be found desirable or possible—[ironical Opposition cheers]—to pursue this expedition to that which is its natural and admitted objective, namely, Dongola, that will be done. These are the two pictures which have been presented to the Committee this evening. Is there any resemblance any point of contact, between the lurid phantasmagoria which has been conjured up by the imagination of hon. Members opposite, and the sober realities which I have attempted to put before the Committee? [Laughter and cheers.] I return to a point which has caused a good deal of discussion this evening. We have said that one of the objects of this movement is to execute a diversion in favour of Italy, and from more than one quarter we have been asked what good can accrue to the Italian position at Kassala from a movement upon Dongola, which is 600 miles away. Well, this movement is made upon the responsibility of the military advisers of the Government, who presumably know more about the matter than any 1559 of us here. The right hon. Gentleman opposite may think that such a movement can be of no benefit to Italy, and the hon. Member for Northampton may say that it will be more of an obstacle than a benefit to them, but the Italians are probably better judges of the question than the hon. Member for Northampton, and they are of opinion that this movement to Dongola will be of great benefit to them. ["Hear, hear!"] If Kassala holds out, as we all hope, we shall have assisted the Italians to maintain their position; if it falls, we shall have taken precautions to deprive such a disaster of its significance as far as it relates to Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] I must here refer to a point taken by my predecessor the late Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs with reference to this advance. He asked "Why do you not advance from Suakin in the direction of Dongola?" I am somewhat surprised at the unanimity of the suggestion as to Suakin which has come to-night from hon. Members opposite. Imagine for a moment, if we had proposed to move from Suakin, what is the reception we should have had from those Benches? [Cheers.] I was a Member of this House, in 1891, when it was proposed to make a small forward movement from Suakin, a movement intended to recover the oases of Tokar in order to defend the position of the friendly tribes in that locality and to prevent slave-raiding in the neighbourhood of Suakin. What did the right hon. Member for Mont-rose Burghs say on February 23, 1891? [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman came down and, with reference to a strictly-limited advance for 40 miles for a definite object, he said:—We are allowing the Egyptian troops to push into the Soudan, and we shall have to send our own troops, as we have sent them before, to rescue the Egyptian troops. We are raising the protest now because we believe the present course is inevitably destined to land us in disasters as great as those from which we escaped not very triumphantly in 1885.[Opposition cheers.] Where are the disasters predicted in 1891? I am not disposed, if a prophet proves himself to be a false one in 1891, to admit, unless there is good reason, that he is likely to be a true prophet in 1896. [Cheers.] The late 1560 Under Secretary asked us, why not advance from Suakin? The reasons are very easily stated to the House. In the first place, as I have already indicated, the military advisers are not in favour of that movement.
§ MR. CURZON
It is not for me to explain to the hon. Member the fact. In the second place the main ground of objection to the present movement, as I gather, is that it may possibly have future developments and expansions that we cannot at present foresee. If we had started from Suakin, where should we have gone to? Is there any stopping-place between Suakin and Berber? Is it not an infinitely more serious movement than that from Wady Halfa to Dongola? The Nile route to Dongola, whatever he may say about it, has an objective; the route from Suakin goes nowhere, and has no objective except Berber; and the only result of a forward move from Suakin would have been that we should attain the peculiar and somewhat inglorious ideal depicted by the right hon. Member for Bodmin—that of having gone forward only in order to come back again. [Cheers.] How an advance from Suakin to Berber would have helped Egypt, or how it could have diverted from the Egyptian frontiers the, dangers by which they are threatened I am at a loss to imagine. Take another point raised this evening. We have defended this movement as necessary to save Egypt from danger. On the other hand, hon. Members opposite tell us that we have practically invented this danger, and one might almost suppose that in their hearts they believed that we had instructed Lord Cromer to send us the particular telegrams to which so much attention has been called this evening. Can any reasonable man suppose that it would be the object of this Government or of any Government deliberately and want only to go and manufacture any situation likely to lead to trouble and to complications? No, Sir. The facts in the possession of the Government prove that there is a general ferment among the Dervish forces in the Upper Soudan, one wave of which is directed against Kassala, another wave of which threatens the Nile Valley. The hon. 1561 Member for Northampton said, "Why not wait till this attack is delivered?" ["Hear, hear!"] I submit that if a responsible Government have reason to believe that danger threatens the frontiers for which they are responsible, it is their duty to take steps to avert that peril before it happens. [Cheers.] I should like to ask what would have been said in this House if a few weeks or a few months from now this possible storm had burst on the Egyptian frontiers without any steps to anticipate it having been taken by those who are responsible? [Cheers.] But then it is said this is merely a pretext on behalf of your Party or of your Government to remain in Egypt. I think a moment's reflection will show that there is no force in such a suggestion. There is no need of an excuse for remaining in Egypt now. I have already pointed to the example, the precedent of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite; but I go further, and ask whether there is a single hon. Member in the House who is prepared now to get up and say that Egypt is capable of standing alone?
§ MR. CURZON
The hon. Member for Northampton stands this evening, as he has often stood before, entirely alone. [Ministerial laughter and Opposition cries of "No."] There are other hon. Members who think so too; but is any hon. Gentleman who is acquainted with the conditions, who really has studied the Egyptian controversy, prepared to say that Egypt is sufficiently strong, if the protection and influence of the British Government are withdrawn, to stand alone? [Cheers.] I may also point out that it will hardly lengthen our occupation of Egypt to take such steps as may help her to stand alone. [Hear, hear.] I saw in the paper only this morning that the present Minister of the Interior (Mr. Gorst), who has just returned from Upper Egypt, had reported that there was very serious alarm at this contemplated ex- 1562 pedition, not because the fellaheen thought it would mean a prolongation of the British occupation of Egypt, but because it might lead to their evacuation of the country, [Hear, hear.] I venture to think that this argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite arises from imperfect knowledge of our pledges and of the conditions under which we remain in Egypt. We have heard a good deal in this Debate about the pledges and the assurances of different Ministers and Governments. I will ask the Committee to remember this, that at whatever juncture or by whatever Minister those assurances have been given, they have never been unqualified. They have always been accompanied and affected by conditions, clearly expressed, incapable of misapprehension, and couched in a formula which has never varied. That formula has always been this, that no English Government could or would evacuate Egypt until three conditions have been fulfilled—firstly, until we have secured Egypt against the danger of external attack; secondly, against the danger of internal anarchy and disorder; and thirdly, against the recurrence of native maladministration. Again I put the question to the House, is any hon. Gentleman prepared to get up and say those conditions have now been fulfilled; that the frontiers of Egypt are secure; that if we left Egypt to-morrow there would be no recurrence of disorder or anarchy among the population, or that the Egyptian Government could be trusted to keep the peace and rule as we desire to see the country ruled? Certainly the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion thought not. His only idea of Egyptian government tonight, when speaking, was the rule of the kourbash. [Cheers.] He made it perfectly plain to the House that it would be a shame and an iniquity to give back the Soudan to Egyptian rule, because it would mean the rule of the Pashas. If Egypt is to give the Soudan the old rule of the Pashas, am I not right in drawing from 1563 that the inference that if we withdraw from Egypt it would be the rule of the Pashas that would again prevail at Cairo? [Cheers.]
§ MR. CURZON
The right hon. Gentleman certainly asked that, but he went a good deal further than that. He not only indicated what would be the aspect of Anglo-Egyptian rule in the Soudan, which he typified by the mention of Lord Cromer, but he went on to express clearly what, in his opinion, would be Egyptian rule in the Soudan. To that I pin him [cheers], and if Egyptian rule has one quality at Khartoum, it has the same quality at Cairo. [Cheers.] I do not know where the difference lies, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me an argument which I should not myself have thought of in favour of our remaining in Egypt. ["Hear, hear!"] The object for which this forward movement is taken is one which is inseparably connected with, and is part of, the whole work that we are doing in Egypt. We have had tonight an admirably clear and convincing account of what that work has been from my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. He has pointed out the British quality and the British merits of that work. But may I say this, that, though it has British merits, of which we are all proud, and even though it may have British defects, which I am sure none of us would wish to continue, at any rate it has not been pursued in Egypt for exclusively British objects or British ends. [Cheers.] Our policy in Egypt has been no policy of selfish or arrogant monopoly. It has not been a policy that has been pursued by underhand or by corrupt or insidious means. [Cheers.] It has been carried on in the light of day. and we ask nothing better for it than the advertisement of the world. ["Hear, hear!"] One more observation I would like to make; and it is an observation 1564 which I think ought to govern the whole of our duty and policy towards Egypt. It is this, that our task in Egypt is not to rule Egypt ourselves. Our work there is not one of conquest or subjugation or dominion. Our work is, on the contrary, to teach the Egyptians how to rule themselves. [Opposition cries of "Oh," and Ministerial cheers.] I point to what we are doing there, and I point to the fact that, if the initiative springs, as it does spring, from British brains, the execution at any rate is for the most part left in Egyptian hands. ["Hear, hear!"] Progressive advance in the direction of self-government is the secret and the solution of the whole Egyptian problem. The path which we are following may be a long and arduous one, and the progress upon it, although it may appear, if you read the Reports from year to year, to be relatively rapid, is inevitably, in the flux and tide of human fortunes, deliberate and slow. ["Hear, hear!"] In that task, however, we shall persevere until we have accomplished it, and the military security of the frontier, which is the main object of the expedition now contemplated, will be one of the conditions and evidences of our success. [Cheers.]
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.),
who was received with cheers, said: We have heard an animated, I was almost going to call it a bellicose speech from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs—a speech, I think, of ability which we all recognise—[cheers]—but which in tone may, perhaps, be accounted for from the pride and glory of an Under Secretary declaring his first hostilities abroad. [Laughter] We have heard a great deal from him which is intended to demonstrate how impossible it is that under any conceivable circumstances the evacuation of Egypt by Great Britain should take place. He has brought what he considers very convincing arguments of his own, and borrowed others from my right 1565 hon. Friend, to prove that under no possible circumstances can England do that which she has pledged herself to do. ["Hear, hear!"] Upon the evacuation of Egypt I propose to say very little. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes, but what I will say I think will be to the purpose. I will state my views upon the subject of the evacuation of Egypt in the words of Lord Salisbury's Government, who proposed to evacuate Egypt, who drew up a convention for that purpose, which was ratified, and by which, if it had been carried out, Egypt would have been evacuated many years ago, and that without conquering the Soudan. [Cheers.] Lord Salisbury was perfectly prepared to evacuate Egypt without subduing the Mahdi, without putting an end to the Dervishes, and to leave the Egyptians alone, face to face with the Soudan and the Dervishes. [Cheers.] All I desire to say on the subject of the evacuation of Egypt is contained in a single sentence in a State Paper giving an account of the Drummond Wolff Convention by Sir Drummond Wolff, authorised and sanctioned by the Prime Minister, and it is a declaration of English policy on this subject to Europe:—It has more than once been suggested that England should take permanent possession of Egypt. To have done so would have boon a violation of the traditional policy of England, of her good faith to the Sultan, and of public law. In time of peace it would have exposed her to constant jealousy and danger, and in time of war it would have been a weak point entailing a perpetual drain upon her resources.[Cheers.] That is the sound and orthodox doctrine which Lord Salisbury declared it to be. The question, however, we have to discuss to-night is the question of the policy of this expedition. What I had hoped the Under Secretary would have contributed towards to-night was to explain what that policy was. He contributed, in the first instance, the telegrams, but they did not do a great deal, apparently, to explain the policy. ["Hear, hear!"] He has spoken with great eloquence on many topics to-night, but has not explained to us 1566 what the policy or the object of the expedition is. He has not told us whether it is to stop at Akasheh, or go on to Dongola, or whether he agrees with the hon. Member for Lambeth that, if it does not accomplish its object at Dongola, it must go on to Berber and then on to Khartoum. We have had a number of different accounts of this policy. I have endeavoured to gather from the various Members of the Government what is really intended to be the object of this policy. We are told, first of all, that it is to relieve Italy. I have never heard the smallest answer to the arguments which have been adduced to show that this operation cannot possibly relieve Italy from the difficulties in which she is placed, and it is perfectly plain, I think, from the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that that is not what he mainly relies upon. The Secretary for the Colonies began his speech by expounding the necessity, the propriety, and the expediency of occupying the Soudan. That was the real point of his speech and his ideal policy, and when the Secretary of State for the Colonies has got an ideal he is very apt to pursue it, and I venture to say when he set forward this as his ideal you may take it pretty well for granted that that is the object of himself and of the Cabinet which he controls. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] When you know the ideal policy of the Secretary for the Colonies you may know pretty well what is the real intention that is aimed at. He spoke of the transactions of past Governments, and he was good enough to quote a statement of mine. Ho said he did not charge me with holding that opinion, because he thought it was the duty of Ministers to defend opinions they did not hold themselves if they were the view of the majority of the Cabinet. I suppose it is a doctrine which may be held esoterically if it is not openly avowed, though no doubt in the present Administration the right hon. Gentleman 1567 feels it necessary to stale that doctrine very plainly. [Laughter.] But what was the purpose of it? Was it that in the Government of that day the right hon. Gentleman was defending a policy which he did not approve of himself, and that all the time he held the ideal policy of evacuation of the Soudan? I cannot think that. [Cries of "No."] What was this doctrine propounded for?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I only qualified my quotation of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman by saying I did not quote it in order to fix upon him any responsibility for the doctrine he then, enunciated.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I will make a, quotation which I will not qualify [laughter], and which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not want me to qualify or make any allowance for. This was a speech made at a critical moment when the Tory Government had just succeeded to office and the right hon. Gentleman did not at that moment entertain exactly the same opinion of a Tory Administration which he cherishes now. When it was doubtful whether the Government could be formed or not, the right hon. Gentleman said:—I never supposed he (Lord Salisbury) would have the slightest difficulty in forming a, Government. There are numbers of able men ready at a moment's notice to undertake any office, from a Secretaryship of State to a Lordship in Waiting, but the difficulty would be in the choice of a policy. With regard to Egypt, for instance, would they adhere in Office to the policy propounded in Opposition? If so they would countermand the evacuation of the Soudan. They would at once alter the orders given to Lord Wolseley. The expedition to Khartoum would be again undertaken, and the province of Dongola would be occupied for an indefinite time by British troops. That is a policy which would be extremely popular with those persons in Egypt who made their profit by foreign occupation and military expeditions.[Cheers and laughter.] I have no doubt that is the opinion which was sincerely entertained—[Mr. CHAMBERLAIN: "Hear, hear!"]—in consideration of the views of the majority of the Cabinet. Consequently the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman's policy has not always been the 1568 occupation of the Soudan. He did then not think that the occupation of the Soudan was advisable.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
What is this ideal policy to amount to? The views, I believe, entertained by many hon. Members have been stated. We have been told that you must go to Dongola, and if you do not get what you want you must go on to Berber, and then on to Khartoum. I want to know whether that is not his real meaning, and, if it is not the avowed intention, whether it is not the necessary and inevitable consequence. [Cheers.] That is the real truth; that is the question which will be asked not only in this House, but throughout the country. Having expounded this view of the necessity of crushing the Mahdi or the Dervishes in the Soudan before any good can be done by going there for the purpose of civilising the Soudan, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think this was rather a large order to lay before the country at once; and, therefore, having sketched out the ideal policy and having indicated what he thought was the thing that would ultimately be, done, he thought it was necessary, in order to reassure some timid minds, to shadow out for them a different policy. There was to be an ideal policy, which is what I believe to be the real objective of the Government; but there is to be a practicable policy; and what is that? The practical policy is one that is to be limited by the amount of resistance. Was there ever such a policy offered to the English nation by a patriotic Government? [Cheers.] It collects an armed force; it sends forward Egyptian troops to meet the Dervishes; and, if the troops meet with resistance, then their action is to be limited. That is what is going to help the Italian Government [laughter]—announcing beforehand that you are sending an expedition that is to be limited by resistance. If anybody meets you and makes it unpleasant for you, 1569 you will not go any further. This is the armed expedition which is to put down the Mahdi and to annihilate the Dervishes. You are going in the summer; if the weather is hot you will not go any further. [Laughter.] If it is unpleasantly warm, that is resistance which will limit your operations. If you meet 700 Dervishes spoken of in the telegrams, supposed to be somewhere on your line of advance, your advance will be limited by their resistance. Is that the serious policy, the practical policy, which is put before us? If the Egyptian troops, who are going under the protection of England, as the right hon. Gentleman said, are cut to pieces, as they have been before, are you going to be limited by that resistance? Everybody knows that nothing of the kind will happen; that if you meet with resistance you will follow it up. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes; but it is the practical policy that is offered to the country so that they may not be alarmed at your ideal policy, which, as the Under Secretary knows, has aroused alarm in this country. Therefore it is told a cock-and-bull story of this expedition coming to a stop when it meets with serious resistance. This is the policy of a great Government supported by a great majority! What will the country think of a policy of this kind? If this expedition does nothing else, it will provoke that resistance which is to stop it. You invite your enemies to come forward, especially if they are capable of offering resistance. What will you have done when you stop on meeting resistance? Assuming you find it is offered by a formidable force, if you do not go further you will stop at a bad frontier instead of remaining at a good frontier at Wady Halfa. Therefore I am anxious that the country should know what the ideal policy is. That means a very different thing; it means entering upon a long, dangerous, and uncertain course, of which you do not think it wise to state the objects. You are lifting up your anchor on a very perilous shore, not knowing whither you are going 1570 to drift. If you once start this expedition no man knows how far it may carry you. [Cheers.] You say that this policy is to depend upon military, financial, and political considerations. What the military conditions are you do not pretend to know. Unfortunately, in those regions deplorable experiences, and we have no reason to believe that they are different now to what they were in those days. As to the financial conditions, this is very certain—that if this movement extends to anything like your ideal it is the British taxpayer who will have to bear the cost. [Opposition cheers.] Of the political considerations involved, we know that they are the most dangerous that affect our situation in the politics of Europe. ["Hear, hear."] As when a disease attacks the human body it always fixes on the weak spot, I have always predicted that when difficulties surrounded England, as unhappily they have surrounded her during the past few months, the Egyptian Question would certainly be raised. But one thing I did not apprehend—that, surrounded as you are by difficulties in every quarter, you would raise this danger yourselves. [Opposition cheers.] Sir, it is our duty to enter our protest to-night against a policy which we believe to be fraught with future danger to this country. We know that you have a great and overwhelming majority which will support your policy to-night. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes; but from these Benches we have faced majorities almost as great upon questions of a similar character. I remember that during the controversies upon the question of Afghanistan, and on the question of Africa in the years 1878 and 1879, we were defeated by majority after majority; but we maintained our protest against a policy which you then believed had the support of the country, but when the general election of 1880 took place that policy was condemned. [Opposition cheers.] We believe your present policy 1571 to be as dangerous as the policies you then pursued. We believe the country already regards with great and just alarm this uncalled-for addition to the anxieties, already too many and too great, by which we are surrounded, and we believe it will condemn a policy which, at a time when we ought to be engaged in collecting and consolidating our resources at home, has for its object the engagement of the interests and forces of England in the midst of the deserts of Africa. [Opposition cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
(who was received with loud Ministerial cheers): There was something familiar in the ring of the right hon. Gentleman's peroration. [Laughter.] He tells us what the verdict of the country will be when the time comes for a verdict to be taken on the issues now discussed; but it seemed to me that that particular genus of peroration is more appropriate to the months that just precede the General Election than it is now in the months that follow the General Election; and we cannot help entertaining the view that we who have been just returned to power by the people have not in the few months that have elapsed succeeded in so unduly losing that confidence as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think. [Ministerial cheers.] I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman hesitated through the whole course of his speech between two absolutely inconsistent lines of argument. He never could make up his mind whether we proposed to do too much or to do too little. [Laughter.] When he wished to poke his peculiar fun at the Government, then we were doing too little; when he wished to air his eloquence and to speak in the prophetic vein of which he is so great a master, then we were doing too much. [Laughter.] And between the criticism which he directed against the pusillanimity of the Government and the criticism which he directed against the impudence of the Government, I found it difficult to make out on which of those two foundations the right hon. Gentleman desired to rest 1572 his case. [Laughter.] Sir, the fact is that the policy of the Government is neither open to the charge of pusillanimity nor to the charge of reckless audacity. [Ministerial cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite are surprised that the Egyptian Government, and we, in our relations with the Egyptian Government, should wish to cut our cloth according to our measure. The notion that we should measure the magnitude of our military operations in Egypt by the financial and military resources of Egypt appears to hon. Gentlemen opposite to be utterly unworthy of a great country. Nevertheless, it is the only policy that is consistent with common sense. [Ministerial cheers.] I never heard of a country that did not run straight to disaster which had not the sense to refrain from embarking on undertakings too big for its capacity, which did not deliberately say:—We are prepared to do that which our military and financial resources enable us to do, but we are not prepared to embark on any undertakings, however specious and however attractive they may be, to which our resources are unequal.I have but three or four minutes left in which to address the House, and yet in that time I think I can almost put the case in a nutshell. We have been criticised from a great many points of view. Take them in turn. Put yourself in the position of the African critic. He, according to hon. Gentlemen opposite, says that this diversion will have no effect upon the fate of Kassala. I need only remind the House of what was said in the admirable speech of the Under Secretary—that whoever else may entertain that opinion, it is not entertained by the Italians themselves. [Cheers.] Then put yourself in the position of the French critic. We have been taunted in this House with having imperilled our position in Europe by arousing unnecessarily the susceptibilities of French public opinion. I quite agree that if we are to wait, before undertaking any action in Egypt or elsewhere 1573 until we have in every case and in every particular obtained the unanimous consent of every Power in Europe, we shall no doubt be doomed to impotence. [Cheers.] And I should have thought that the recent history of Europe was full of lessons which would not have been lost upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite in that particular regard. [Cheers.] But this I boldly say, that there is nothing in the course which Her Majesty's Government are at present taking which need excite the smallest feeling of suspicion or alarm in the breast of any Frenchman. What we are doing has no relation to our occupation in Egypt, or, if it has a relation, to the length of time which that occupation is to last. As far as I am able to estimate the conditions of that problem, the fact that what we are going to do must inevitably have the effect of diminishing or destroying the power or prestige of the Mahdi, will remove one of the difficulties which we have always felt to be an insuperable barrier to the immediate loss of English control and English authority within the limits of Egyptian territory. [Cheers.] Now put yourself in the position of the Egyptian critic—of the Egyptian statesman considering whether the course we are pursuing is one that ought to be pursued or not. There are three things which I can imagine the Egyptian critic saying. He might say, in the first place, that this is a policy not directed to the benefit of Egypt, but to the benefit of Italy. That is a statement which we do not admit for a moment. The peculiar circumstances of the Italian position, the fact that the possible fall of Kassala might have led to a great recrudescence of Mahdism, may have had—and we never have denied it—a great effect upon our decision as to the particular moment at which some further movement south along the Valley of the Nile should take place. We hold, as many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House hold, that the position of Egypt cannot be regarded as satisfactory until the control of that country over large parts, at all events over the Soudan, has been re-established. Then the Egyptian critic may say, Is this a mere advance to be followed by a retreat? It is not. [Cheers.] We mean to advance, and 1574 where we advance we mean to stay—[cheers]—and everything which is gained for Egypt by this expedition will, we believe, be gained for ever. Time prevents me from developing this scheme further. But on consideration of all the circumstances of the case, considering our relations to all the forces which are now active in the Soudan and in Egypt, we are distinctly of opinion that, in the interests of Egypt, and of Egypt alone, we have been well advised in initiating the policy on which the House is now asked to pronounce. [Cheers.]
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 145; Noes, 288.—(Division List, No. 63.)
§ Original Question again proposed:—Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.