THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
, in rising to call attention to Parliamentary Paper, "Egypt, No. 22, 1884;" and to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs especially as to the meaning of the first two lines of his Despatch (which comprises the whole of that Parliamentary Paper), viz., the "words—As the original plan for the evacuation of the Soudan has been dropped, and as aggressive operations cannot be undertaken with the countenance of Her Majesty's Government," &c.;also whether any explanation can be given why this Parliamentary Paper, which appeared in the newspapers on the 12th instant, was not delivered to Members of this House until the 17th instant? said, he would recall to the minds of their Lordships the massacres of Sinkat and Tokar, and would point out that it was after those two events that aggressive operations were undertaken at the bidding of the Government. In January, when they had no policy of their own, the Government invited General Gordon to come and advise with them as to what their policy should be. The policy advocated by General Gordon was that he should be sent out to the Soudan in order to determine what should be done. The Government accordingly sent General Gordon out to the Soudan in order to create a policy for them. Turning to the Memorandum written by General Gordon, while on his way to Egypt, a document which he thought had not been sufficiently considered by either House of Parliament, he pointed out what it was that General Gordon 1657 undertook, how Be was aware of the difficulties which faced him, and how he proposed to encounter them. He would call their Lordships' attention to various passages in that Memorandum, and would particularly emphasize as being worthy of notice the passage in that document referring to the arrangement for the evacuation of the Soudan, the measures to be taken for the safe removal of the Egyptian employés and troops, and to General Gordon's opinion that it would be advisable to postpone any decision in the matter until such time as the inhabitants made known their own opinion in respect to the towns of Kassala, Khartoum, and Dongola. The Government, he thought, practically admitted that they had no policy of their own in Egypt until they sent out General Gordon, who was appointed Governor General of the Soudan by the Khedive under their special approbation. The question then came to be, What was he to do—what was the plan for the evacuation of the Soudan which had received the approbation of the Government, and which he was trying to carry out? After the massacres of Sinkat and Tokar, the Government thought it necessary to take active operations by sending a joint military and naval force to the Red Sea littoral. When General Gordon was asked for an opinion on the subject of attacking the forces of Osman Digna, there was only one answer which could be expected from a man like him. He had undertaken a mission single-handed, and when he had left the country he wrote and warned the Government, three times, that he did not expect to be able to execute hi a pacific mission to evacuate the garrisons of the Soudan without fighting. Then he received, either at Abu Hamad or Berber, a telegram from the Government asking whether he would approve their pursuing offensive operations on the Red Sea littoral. When asked whether he approved of these operations, General Gordon said "Yes" at once; and his natural idea, no doubt, was that the Government were prepared to send an organized force from Suakin to Berber. It would have been a wise step to have sent a Cavalry force from Suakin to Berber after the Battle of Tamanieb. That alone would, in General Gordon's own words, have "smashed the Mahdi." The Government, however, were not 1658 ready to follow up the advantage they had gained by a desert march of Cavalry, and thus insure the release of the garrisons, which, in. the words of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was the grand object of Gordon's pacific mission. They were now told that the original plan of the evacuation of the Soudan had been dropped. What was the meaning of that? Did it mean that the Government were now going to leave the garrisons entirely to themselves, and were even going to drop General Gordon? The fact was, throughout all these operations in the Soudan, the Government had had no policy at all. At the beginning of the Session he (the Earl of Galloway) had heard Sir Wilfrid Lawson describe the policy of the Government as one to be summed up in the words "rescue and retire "—a definition which the Prime Minister accepted. The rescue had not yet taken place. Was it the meaning of this despatch that the Government intended to retire without rescuing? The House had a right to demand an explanation. The noble Earl concluded by asking the Question of which he had given Notice.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, he should confine to a small compass the few remarks that he desired to make; first of all, because it would be difficult to go at any length into the different points on which he should like to obtain information, without trenching to a considerable extent on the important debate which would to-morrow take place in their Lordships' House; and, secondly, because, although he expected an amiable and kind reply from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), he scarcely hoped for much definite information. The object of the Question which he had placed on the Paper was more particularly to point out a very important portion of the subject-matter of the coming debate, around which there was much doubt. He desired to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether it would be possible, without prejudice to the deliberations of the Conference, for Her Majesty's Government to give any indication of the provisions they are prepared to recommend during the proposed three years' military occupation of Egypt for meeting the additional expense which maybe incurred in the event of military 1659 operations being undertaken to protect Upper Egypt from the advance of a hostile force under the Mahdi or any of his adherents? In the Correspondence which was lately laid before Parliament there were statements which, judging by the interpretation put upon them in the House of Commons and in the French Chamber, were by no means clear. There appeared to be two interpretations given by the two different Ministries. Nothing, for instance, showed this more clearly than those statements respecting the military occupation, which, as he had said, would form a very important portion of the subject-matter of the debate tomorrow. As regarded it, the Prime Minister's interpretation was in the form of a negative, while that of M. Ferry was in the form of an affirmative. M. Ferry said there was a positive engagement to retire at a certain date. Mr. Gladstone said there was nil engagement to retire only if culled upon to do so by the Powers. There appeared to be a great difference between these statements; and this showed that there was much doubt as to the meaning of certain passages which occurred in these Papers, and which should be made clear before the debate took place. They were, after all, only dry bones without flesh upon them—the résumé, in diplomatic language, of conversations that occurred between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and M. Waddington. To his mind it was an extremely regrettable fact that Her Majesty's Government had not taken Parliament and the country into their confidence, because it was perfectly impossible to judge of the proceedings of the Conference until they were in possession of this information. No subject in all these despatches was, it appeared to him, of so much importance as the financial question. In a letter, written by the noble Earl, to M. Waddington, on the 16th of June, it was stated that the Commissioners of the Dette Publique would be empowered to veto any proposed expenditure which would cause an excess on the Budget, except in certain circumstances of emergency involving "peril to peace and order." Supposing that during the next three years, while British troops still occupied the country, Egypt was invaded by the Mahdi or any of his followers, and the Government were forced to send an expedition, to Egypt of 1660 10,000 men, and to carry on a war at a great distance and at enormous expense, either the English or the Egyptian Exchequer would probably have to meet an expenditure of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, what provision did the proposals of the Government make for such a contingency? The arrangements with regard to France and with regard to the occupation were all practically minor points; but what they all turned upon was the financial question; and it was extremely important, not only in the interests of the country, but also in the interests of the Government, to put the House in a position of knowing something of the plans likely to be adopted. It was something like a public scandal that a formal statement of the arrangements between the Governments of this country and France had appeared in the daily Press; and he challenged the noble Earl to deny that it represented textually that arrangement. As an independent Member of their Lordships' House, he approached the subject with an open mind. He was himself perfectly prepared to be converted to anything, either by the late, or by the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but his present wish was rather to be convinced by the noble Earl; but he must have something upon which he could form a judgment, as he could not go blindly into the Lobby and vote in favour of the Government. He should not say anything as to the merits of the financial proposal to be made; but the point he wished to arrive at was whether it had been arranged that there should be a stable and secure arrangement which should not be altered, and he thought it extremely unfortunate, in that view, that the debate should take place to-morrow without full information being in possession of the House. At the present time, the Government were not only making themselves responsible for the good government of Egypt, but also for the credit of Egypt. If not, they were doing infinite harm to that country. All he wished to ask the noble Earl was, whether, in the attempts which he had, no doubt successfully, made to arrive at an understanding with the Powers, he had considered the important matter of the exterior troubles to which he was exposed? As the Government were prepared to occupy Egypt for three years, during' those three years they might be 1661 responsible for £2,000,000; and he therefore wished to ask the noble Earl, what financial arrangements he intended to make to meet such a contingency; or whether the burden would fall upon the taxpayers of this country?
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, with regard to the Question of the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough), I really do not think I have any reason to complain of anything he said in the short preface he made. He gave Notice of asking a Question on a very important matter—a matter which, I am glad to say, has been considered by the Government; for it would have been wrong if they had not done so; but at the same time, both from the words of his Notice and still more from what he has let fall in his speech, he does not expect it is likely I can give premature and somewhat piecemeal information with regard to the financial question which will be discussed by the Conference. There is one other point upon which I agree very much with the noble Duke, and which is, that it is not a very desirable thing for the public service that this House, or any other House, should discuss matters without a complete knowledge of the whole of the subject. But then there are two ways of dealing with that—either that the Government should be bound, contrary to all diplomatic usage, at the outset of a Conference announced to all the world, to show their cards on the matters to be discussed in that Conference; or whether the House should have a little patience and wait until they can properly-—as it has been pledged that they shall—discuss the whole subject. I do not think, even upon that point, there is much disagreement between the noble Duke and myself. With regard to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Galloway), I listened with both my rather indifferent ears as much as I could, but, unfortunately, without much success, because there was such a buzz of conversation during the whole time— apparently from some information that had reached your Lordships—that I had great difficulty in following him generally so as to understand what he said. I shall therefore confine myself to answering the two Questions he has put to me. One is as to the original plan for the evacuation of the Soudan being dropped. Now, if the noble Earl will merely refer back to the instructions 1662 which were given, he will see that General Gordon was sent out merely on a mission to report from Suakin as to the best mode of evacuation.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Yes; but on arriving in Egypt he was requested to go to Cairo, where, after conference with Sir Evelyn Baring and the Egyptian Government, his final instructions were given by Sir Evelyn Baring, which subsequently received the sanction of Her Majesty's Government and in which General Gordon entirely agreed. So far those were operations in the Soudan with which Her Majesty's Government entirely agreed; but when it became a question of making Zebehr Ruler of the Soudan, and of sending an expedition to crush the Mahdi, it was quite clear the first plan must be abandoned. General Gordon was the means of enabling some 2,000 people to come from Khartoum, and arrive safely in Egypt; and I have no doubt that the effect of his name and reputation produced at Khartoum a very considerable check to the advance of the Mahdi. As regards the complaint respecting the delivery of Parliamentary Papers, I am always most anxious that they should be presented as soon as possible; but in the case referred to by the noble Duke, it appears that your Lordships' House having risen for four days, the messengers did not distribute them in the interval. I think the dates will show that they were sent round on Monday, the 16th of May; and that, if Peers were not in London to receive them, they were sent by post on the evening of the 17th. I hope the answers which I have given will be satisfactory.