§ EARL GRANVILLE
I beg to lay upon the Table an addition to the Paper already presented to the House in reference to the despatch of the 19th of September, 1879 (Egypt, No. 11, 1884).
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I rise for the purpose of 1014 calling attention to the despatch of the 19th of September, 1879 (Egypt, No. 11, 1884), from the Foreign Office, recently laid upon the Table, and to the interpretation placed upon it by Her Majesty's Government. The matter of which I have given Notice is not one of leading or paramount importance; and in the present state of anxiety in respect to all that has taken place in Egypt I feel that I have to apologize for the comparative triviality of the question concerning which I propose to offer a few remarks to your Lordships. The truth is that the Prime Minister has publicly placed a certain interpretation upon a despatch of mine which I cannot admit to be correct, and which, if I passed without observation, I should be held to have admitted. The matter has arisen in this way. The Prime Minister the other day received a deputation from a Conference convened by the Working Men's Peace Association, who presented resolutions which were passed at a meeting of that Association expressing horror at the wholesale slaughter of thousands of brave men in the Soudan, and urging on the Government the necessity of redeeming their pledges to the country by retiring, and thus staying further effusion of blood. To these resolutions the Prime Minister answered that they would receive his respectful attention, and added this curious sentence—It cannot be too clearly understood that the covenants under which the country has been acting in Egypt ware not made by the present Government.Well, that was a strange statement, and the Prime Minister's attention was naturally called to it in "another place." He was asked by Baron de Worms whether he could state what were the covenants under which Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned a military expedition to the Eastern Soudan; and whether under them the Government were precluded from giving relief to General Gordon at Khartoum? The answer of the Prime Minister was that—The covenant to which the Question of the hon. Member refers was one made by the late Government earnestly to support the Government of the Khedive.The prime Minister was then asked whether he could produce the covenant, and he said that it depended upon two 1015 consents—the consent of the late Government and the consent of the French Government. Mr. Bourke at once said that, on behalf of the late Government, he would give the consent to the production of the Paper; and, in consequence, the despatch has been laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House. But I must notice, in passing, that Mr. Bourke consented to the production of the whole covenant, and not to a fragment of it. Therefore I saw, with some regret, that when it was produced it showed considerable omissions, and that those omissions materially affected the sense of the despatch. I am bound, however, to say that when I state that, I do not for a moment suggest—indeed, it would be absurd to do so—that there was any intention on the part of the Foreign Office, or of the noble Earl opposite, to produce a garbled despatch. I am quite aware what was the course followed. The despatch was sent to the French Embassy, and it was printed in the form in which it came back from the Embassy; but it is not the less true that, as printed, it did not entirely exhibit the true state of the case. What I have to call attention to in this despatch, and the interpretation which the Prime Minister has put upon it, refers to two points—first, the meaning of the despatch; and, secondly, the Government with whom the alleged covenant was made. The covenant under which, according to the Prime Minister, England has been acting alone in Egypt during all these lamentable occurrences is contained in these few words. The result of the conversation between myself and M. Waddington was an arrangement, upon certain points," that the Native Government should receive our earnest support." Thus it appears that in a conversation I had with M. Waddington, I had said, and I afterwards recorded the fact in a despatch, that the Native Government should receive our earnest support. That is the covenant which, according to the Prime Minister, he has been acting under in Egypt during the past four years. It is material to ask what did I mean by "the Native Government." As the despatch is presented, it is not very easy to see, as nothing is said; but there is one important omission which, by the great courtesy of the noble Earl opposite, I have obtained in a printed form, and 1016 it is now upon the Table of the House. There occur in it these sentences—I thought it right to inform His Excellency that I believed M. de Blignières to be adverse to the present arrangements. I urged that explicit instructions should be given to him. These M. Waddington promised to give, and said he would make M. de Blignières understand that the system of European Ministers could not be resumed."—[Egypt, No. 14 (1884).]These were the important and emphatic words—That the system of European Ministers could not be resumed.The House will remember that an experiment had been tried; Sir Rivers Wilson had been made one of two European Ministers at Cairo; that disturbances had followed; that it had been necessary for the European Ministry to resign; and that the Dual Control was instituted in its place. The great question for the moment was whether the European Ministry should be restored, or whether a Native Ministry should be appointed and supported in its place; and in view of that I pressed that M. Waddington, who quite agreed with me, should make it clearly understood that the European Ministry could not be restored; and we agreed that the Native Government should receive our earnest support. That was the meaning of the words "the Native Government." What that meant was that Riaz Pasha and his Colleagues should receive our earnest support; and because we agreed that Riaz Pasha and his Colleagues, as distinguished from Sir Rivers Wilson and M. de Blignières, were to receive our earnest support, therefore, four years later, the Prime Minister contends that it was under that covenant, and it alone, all the melancholy events have taken place in Egypt. But I will ask the noble Earl opposite to go a step further, and to say to whom was this promise made. If it had been a promise made to the Khedive, I could understand that the Khedive might have misunderstood it, and might have supposed that it was a promise to support him against any insurrection that might arise. But that promise was not made to the Khedive; it was made to the French Government; and will anyone tell me that since that everything that has been done by England in Egypt since the battle of Tel-el-Kebir has been done in pursuance of that covenant with 1017 the French. Government? Is it not a matter of notoriety that ever since then—in fact, ever since the bombardment of Alexandria, not only has England not acted in that country in deference to the wishes of, and in pursuance of the covenant with, the French Government, but in spite of the great reluctance and unwillingness, recently culminating in exasperation, on the part of that Government to whom we profess to be so friendly? When we consider what has taken place in Egypt, when we consider that the results of the course pursued by the English Government in Egypt have been the abandonment of General Hicks, the compulsion of the Khedive's Ministry, whether they liked it or not, to the abandoning the greater part of their Empire; the retention of Suakin, which was no special object to the Khedive or to the Native Government; the tremendous slaughter which has been committed without any apparent effect upon the safety of Suakin or the solution of any other of the difficulties of Egypt; the sending of General Gordon on his lamentable and hopeless mission to Khartoum; the abandonment of garrison after garrison in the Soudan; the suffering the barbarous tribes to advance from Obeid to Khartoum, and from Khartoum to Berber, and to make themselves masters of the whole country of the Soudan; and, considering that these have been the prominent and salient features of English policy in Egypt, is it not somewhat surprising to learn that all this has been done in pure deference to the French Government, simply because we were under the covenant with the French Government made five years ago, in a conversation between, myself and M. Waddington, and because that covenant contained the words that the Native Government should receive our earnest support? My Lords, I do not intend now to criticize any particular point in the general policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt. For that other opportunities will occur. I am only dealing now with the particular contention of the Prime Minister, that the whole of his conduct is covered by my pledge in this despatch, and that it is under the covenant I made to France that he has done all that he has done, and neglected all that he has neglected to do. To attach such results to such, a covenant as appears from 1018 these words is not mere sophistry, but derision.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I will; my Lords, confine myself entirely to the point which the noble Marquess desired to elucidate—namely, the contention between himself and Mr. Gladstone, though the noble Marquess managed, as is usual with him, to put in a few words of bitter censure on the Egyptian policy of Her Majesty's Government. In the first place, I should like to give some explanation as to the Paper in question, as to which I admit the noble Marquess has given a perfectly true and historical account of how it came to be produced at all. Having received the full assent of Mr. Bourke to the presentation of the despatch on behalf of the late Government, there only remained M. Waddington and the French Government whose consent it was necessary to obtain. The first six paragraphs of the despatch were of a personal and confidential character as between the noble Marquess and M. Waddington; and I had not the slightest doubt that both of them would wish that the personal passages should be omitted. I therefore sent to M. Waddington the despatch, saying that I presumed he would not object to its publication, but that probably he would prefer that the personal passages should be omitted. In reply, M. Waddington said he had no objection to the publication on condition that those passages were omitted, and that an additional passage of a similar private character should also be omitted. I then presented the despatch which, constituted the agreement made between the noble Marquess and M. Waddington. The noble Marquess is good enough to say that there is not the slightest suspicion that we had in any way tampered with the despatch; but I am bound to say it never crossed me that the previous sentences which were omitted really bore on the question of the agreement. Further, after hearing the explanation of the noble Marquess, I do not see how they do so apply. The noble Marquess said very truly that Mr. Gladstone had stated that we had inherited a covenant from Her Majesty's late Government, and that Mr. Gladstone quoted this despatch when pressed to do so—The result of our further conversation was an agreement on the following points:—1. That 1019 the Commission of Liquidation should have power to deal with the Unified Debt as well as the other liabilities of the Egyptian Government. This concession M. Waddington made unwillingly, but said that he had no alternative, as his own counter proposal met with no support from any of the Powers. 2. That before any money was appropriated towards payment of the creditors, a sufficient sum should be set aside to provide for the expenses of Egyptian administration. 3. That the Native Government should receive our earnest support. 4. That the two Governments should make it clearly understood to the Khedive that they would not tolerate the establishment in Egypt of political influence on the part of any other European Power in competition with that of England and France, and that they were prepared to take action to any extent that might be found necessary to give effect to their views in this respect."—[Egypt, No. 14, (1884.)]That appears to me to be a most complete declaration on the part of two great Governments to give support to a smaller Government. The noble Marquess has complained that Mr. Gladstone rests solely upon this despatch; but I do not know that this was the case. I think it was perfectly impossible that Mr. Gladstone should not also take into consideration that it was primarily the late Government, followed, it is true, by France, and subsequently by other Governments, who forced the late Khedive to resign and put the present Khedive in his place, subject to his following their advice in all important particulars; and this was the origin of the position in which we find ourselves. I have often given credit to the noble Marquess for having so steadily supported the present Khedive, and for having contended that England's honour was bound up in supporting him. I could quote from five or six different speeches of the noble Marquess in and out of Parliament passages in which the noble Marquess has expressed in the strongest words that we were pledged to have recourse to force if we wished to fulfil our obligations.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I said in consequence of obligations incurred by the action of Her Majesty's present Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Exactly; I am coming to that. The noble Marquess chooses to anticipate the argument which might be used. The noble Marquess says—" In consequence of the action of the present Government." It is open to me to dispute that, and to say that it is perfectly impossible to disconnect the action of Her Majesty's Government 1020 following on the assurances and acts of the late Government. But that is a matter of opinion on which the noble Marquess is, no doubt, a much greater authority than myself. I will, however, just quote from that greater authority. Speaking on May 15, 1882, the noble Marquess said—With respect to Egypt itself, it appears to me that Her Majesty's Government, both by the engagements which they themselves have entered into, and by the engagements which they have necessarily inherited from their Predecessors"—the absolute words of Mr. Gladstone—are bound to give their support to the present Viceroy of Egypt, so long as his Government is in accordance with the principles which they approve. They are bound to give him that support, not merely as a matter of sentiment, not merely in words or in notes, but in something strouger if the need should arise."—(3 Hansard  651.)My Lords, that was the explanation of our obligations and the acts of our Predecessors given two years ago by the noble Marquess before he was challenged with regard to this matter; but now that he is challenged he gives a most able and, I quite admit, a most ingenious explanation of the facts.
§ Amended extract of despatch from the Marquess of Salisbury to Mr. Malet, of 19th September 1879: Presented (by command), and ordered to lie on the Table.