HL Deb 04 August 1882 vol 273 cc727-34

, in rising to ask, Whether the Government will endeavour, through the Khedive, to obtain a peaceful solution of the Egyptian Question before commencing active military operations? and to move for further Papers, said, that since he gave Notice of the Question the aspect of affairs had changed; but he did not think it necessary on that account to alter the wording of the Question. He wished to ask it, in order that the Government might have an opportunity of serving one of the objects of his inquiry, by the noble Earl opposite the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in his reply, giving some explanation to the House of the present state of things in the East, and of the manner in which it was proposed by Her Majesty's Government to carry out the policy announced by Mr. Gladstone. He brought forward this question in no Party spirit. He felt the great responsibility of the noble Earl, and he would not enter upon any controversial matters. It was useless to look back on a past, which could not be recalled, but from which a lesson might yet be learnt. He wished to point out one matter of importance. He referred to the Dual Note, the Dual demonstration, and the Dual demand, which resulted in the sittings of the Conference, according to which we were the declared allies and almost the partners of France. He would not for a moment detract from the general importance of the Anglo-French Alliance; but, in regard to our relations with the Porte and the Moslem world at large, its consequences, it must be admitted, had been singularly unfortunate. France had been, and was, the aggressive European Power par excellence in North Africa. France had a few months before our common action seized Tunis and defied Turkey. In the present position of affairs, and linked as we were with France, it was impossible for the Sultan to act as he desired; and, therefore, he found himself unable to comply with our requests, because his acting, as the noble Earl wished, as our mandatory, would have destroyed his prestige as Sultan, and still more so as Caliph, in the eyes of the North African Arabs— the Native race inhabiting the whole of the great southern shore of the Mediterranean. Now matters had changed. France had left us, and there was no reason why Turkey should not deal with us in accordance with the friendly traditions of the past. It, therefore, appeared to him that our only course now consisted in a loyal observance of Treaties—and especially those Conventions guaranteeing the vital interest of the Ottoman Empire—and in a loyal regard for International Law and the comity of nations. The Government had brought forward the question of the Suez Canal, and a few weeks ago he (Lord Lamington) had pointed out that our interests in Egypt began and ended in it, and he should have had no objection to our sending our ships of war to protect our means of communication with India; but he did not think that we had any right to land troops for the purpose of regulating the internal affairs of Egypt. This country should not take any step to prevent the Sultan from exercising his fair rights as Suzerain, or, as had been stated in the other House, as Sovereign of Egypt. Why he feared that full justice would not be done to the Sultan was, because he found a paragraph in the last despatch of the noble Earl, in which he called attention to Arabi Pasha having received a mark of favour from the Sultan, and then called upon His Majesty, before the despatch of any troops to Egypt, to issue a Proclamation upholding Tewfik Pasha, and denouncing Arabi Pasha as a rebel. The Porte said that when they landed troops they would issue a Proclamation that Arabi was a rebel. It should be remembered that Arabi was now the great leader of a great Party. The noble Earl first asked that he should be removed from his position in the Army; but he now demanded that he should be denounced as a rebel. Now, as to Arabi himself, he found that he had received the support of Mr. Blunt. That gentleman, he understood the noble Earl to say, lie knew nothing of; but he had been employed by the Government in Egypt, and he had been of great assistance to our officials there; and, at any rate, Mr. Blunt, a friend of Arabi Pasha and in communication with him, was also in communication with the Foreign Office. He should like to know what were the intentions of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Mr. Blunt, who was, after all, nothing but Arabi Pasha in a frock coat. Although we had not directly employed Mr. Blunt, he had been of considerable service to us, as was testified by Sir Edward Malet, who stated in his despatch, dated Cairo, December 28, 1881, that, although he disagreed with that gentleman as to the advisability of the publication of the national programme in The Times, he was bound to record that he considered himself under serious obligations to him for the manner in which he had dispelled misunderstandings which might have led to difficulties, and that he was anxious to acknowledge that he had in this matter already been of great assistance, and that he felt sure that the confidence which the Egyptians, with whom he was in contact, reposed in him would enable him to render further and essential service to the cause of moderation in the conduct of the movement which was in progress. And yet this man was the personal friend of Arabi Pasha, whom it was now intended to compel the Sultan to declare a rebel. Lastly, he wished to say that we had no reason as yet to believe in any double-dealing on the part of Turkey; and, such being the case, he asked Her Majesty's Government to place the fullest confidence in her action now. He also trusted that we should allow her to fulfil the mission she had undertaken in Egypt at the mandate of Europe, leaving on her the fullest responsibility for its faithful execution. To do otherwise would be most inevitably to launch us on an enterprize, the perils, the dangers, the difficulties, and the extent of which no man could foresee. The noble Lord concluded by asking the Question of which he had given Notice, and moving for further Papers.

Moved, "That there be laid before this House further papers respecting the Affairs of Egypt."—(The Lord Lamington.)


said, that what the noble Lord (Lord Lamington) had just asked for from the Government was no more than was required by the law of nations, by the law of the land, and by the higher moral law. The tribute of admiration due to Mr. Bright for his consistency had been withheld in some quarters, on the ground that he ought to have left the Cabinet earlier; but some of his Friends said that this was not possible, as he and a portion of the Cabinet did not know of the orders for the bombardment until it was too late. He (Lord Stanley of Alderley) had only lately read that Mr. Goschen was one of a firm which had largely contributed to raising the Egyptian loans; if that were so, it was not fitting that Her Majesty's Government should have sent him as Ambassador to Constantinople. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) denied that that war was for the bondholders; but the sending of the Dual Note and of the Fleet was on their behalf, and it might be asked how was it that the greater part of the noble Earl's despatch to Lord Dufferin of July 11 referred to the Egyptian Debt and the Control, and but a very small portion of it to the Suez Canal and other British interests? How-was it, too, that the Foreign Office had disregarded the remonstrance of the Egyptian Government with regard to the smuggling carried on by the large European population, who contributed nothing to the Revenue of the country; and yet, in March last, the Foreign Office had instructed the Consul General to secure the retention of Mr. Caillard at his post of Director General of the Customs, with a salary of £3,000 a-year. What excuse, again, was to be offered for the law of liquidation passed by a European Commission in April, 1880, by which £17,000,000, paid by the Egyptian cultivators to redeem in perpetuity half the rent of their land from 1885, was confiscated? That was done by repealing the law of Monkabala. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople could, indeed, argue that this was just and honest, on the ground that he himself had in a similar manner been deprived of some £20,000 with which he had bought up his Ulster tenant right. The noble Earl's despatch to Lord Dufferin of July 28, which had lately been delivered to their Lordships, was not written in very suitable language, and it was diplomatically wrong, since it spoke of the Sovereign power as though it had only the same rights in Egypt as any other of the European Powers. The withdrawal of France from supporting Her Majesty's Government by the recent Vote in the French Chamber was a reason of expediency which should influence Her Majesty's Government to listen to the entreaty which the noble Lord had just addressed to it.


My Lords, I do not think the House will expect me to follow the remarks of the noble Lord who has just sat down (Lord Stanley of Alderley), except to express my great astonishment that he has thought it right to repeat insinuations against a man of such high character and honour as Mr. Goschen—insinuations which have been utterly disposed of amid cheers from both sides of the House in "another place." With regard to the Question which was asked by the noble Lord (Lord Lamington), your Lordships will remember that, a short time ago, a very interesting debate took place on Egyptian affairs, when I asked the House to sanction the course taken by the Government, to which it appears the noble Lord is himself opposed. The speech which the noble Lord has just made would have been a valuable contribution to that debate, although whether it would have succeeded in preventing your Lordships giving your sanction to that policy—which you did unanimously, though with some strictures on the past policy of the Government—I do not know. But I do think this is an inconvenient way of renewing that debate, by leaving a Question upon the Paper which the noble Lord does not ask, and which he admits is no longer applicable. However desirable, therefore, the noble Lord may think the discussion, I must declare that for the present I do not think it would be convenient again to go over the same ground that we so lately travelled.


said, he desired to call the attention of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), as well as that of their Lordships, to the recent Proclamation of Arabi Pasha which had recently been extensively circulated in Egypt, and in which he declared that he was the Representative of the Sultan, and that troops were to be sent from Turkey to assist him. It was important to notice that among the signatures attached to the Proclamation of the Government established at Cairo there were those not only of persons connected with Arabi Pasha, but of persons who were at the head of the Christian and Mahomedan religions, and also of two Members of the Family of the reigning Khedive. These signatories declared that they adhered to the rebel cause. The document was of great importance, as it bore upon the question of succession to the Khedive, and that was one of the principal factors in the consideration of the ease; and it was significant that the Representative of the reigning Family had also signed the document which would place the Khedive in a position of hostility to his immediate relatives, and also in a position of strong hostility to that Party at Constantinople which had supported his rival to the Throne of Egypt. It was unfortunate that the difficulty of a disputed succession—always a matter of vital importance in an Oriental country—had arisen in the country; but there could be no doubt that it was so. Indeed, it was quite possible that the troubles which had grown up in Egypt might be traceable to no other cause than the intrigues connected with this question of succession. He trusted, therefore, that, in dealing with the question, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would keep that fact carefully in view, and that it would be fully considered by the Government, who had pledged its honour to support the Khedive.


said, he wished to make a few observations. He bad to complain of the difficulty which existed in obtaining information from Her Majesty's Government—


My Lords, I rise to Order. There is no Question before the House, and I do not think the noble Earl is in Order in discussing this matter upon a mere Question which has not been put.


It is always understood that in this House a Question may be discussed; but I understand there is a Motion for Papers.


said, he would not detain their Lordships long. He must say he was sorry when he thought that the answer which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) had given would not be considered satisfactory. It would have been more so, both to that House and the country, if the noble Earl had told them that the Government were determined to act in a friendly manner with the Government of the Sultan; but he had made no declaration of that sort, and any measures which should bring this country into open acts of hostility to the forces of the Sultan would be a grievous calamity.


My Lords, at the risk of being considered disorderly, I wish to say one word in answer to the request of my hon. Friend (Lord Houghton), who speaks with considerable authority on this subject, and it is that I do not in the least share with him his apprehensions as to the importance of the document or the signatures attached to it, and issued by Arabi Pasha under his Proclamation. Whether the document has been signed by those persons, and whether it has been done under compulsion or not—as to which I am entirely ignorant—is a matter of little importance.


said, he had been desired by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley of Alderley), who could not speak again, to say that he did not intend to cast any aspersion on the character or reputation of Mr. Goschen. He was a great admirer of the ability of that right hon. Gentleman. As to the question before the House, the irresponsible speeches made by another right hon. Gentleman long since were really at the root of these difficulties.


, in reply, said, he had no wish to embarrass the Government; but those who desired to maintain our alliance with the Ottoman Empire were bound to express their feelings, but he would, by permission, withdraw his Motion. In bringing the subject forward, he had merely vindicated his right, as a responsible Member of the Legislature, to express how much he desired to see Treaty obligations fulfilled and maintained.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.