§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY,
in rising to move—That this House, having taken into consideration the statements that have been made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, is of opinion that—(1.) The deplorable failure of the Soudan expedition to attain its object has been due to the undecided counsels of the Government and to the culpable delay attending the commencement of operations; (2.) That the policy of abandoning the whole of the Soudan after the conclusion of military operations will be dangerous to Egypt and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire,said: My Lords, the Motion which I 1312 have the honour to lay before your Lordships to-night has a double aspect; it passes judgment upon the past, and it expresses an opinion with respect to the policy of the future. Some persons receive with considerable impatience the idea that at the present crisis of our country's destiny we should examine into the past, and spend our time in judging of that which cannot be recalled; but I think that such objections are unreasonable. In one of the gravest crises through which our country has ever passed we depend upon the wisdom and decision of those who guide our councils; and we can only judge whether that dependence is rightly placed by examining their conduct in the past, to see whether what they have done justifies us in continuing our confidence in the difficulties which are yet to come. Now, whatever else may be said of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, I think those who examine it carefully will find that it follows a certain rule and system, and is in that sense, if in no other, consistent. Their conduct at the beginning of this Egyptian affair has been analogous to their conduct at the end. Throughout there has been an unwillingness to come until the last moment to any requisite decision—there has been an absolute terror of fixing upon any settled course; and the result has been that when the time came when external pressure forced upon them a decision as to some definite course the moment for satisfactory action had already passed, and the measures taken were adopted in haste, with little preparedness, and were ill-fitted for the emergency with which they had to cope. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government has been an alternation of periods of slumber and periods of rush; and the rush, however vehement, has always been too unprepared and too unintelligent to repair the damage which the period of slumber has effected. I do not wish to hark back into this Egyptian Question; but it is necessary to point out the uniformity of character in the conduct of the Government. The first commencement of our troubles was the height to which Arabi's rebellion was allowed to go. The Government knew very well the danger of Arabi while he was yet a small man, and had little influence. They were perfectly aware of the mischiefs he was brewing; and they not 1313 only declined to act themselves, but, if they are not greatly belied, they prevented the local authorities from acting—they prevented Arabi being removed, as he should have been removed, from the confines of Egypt. If that had been done, all the evil that followed would have been averted; but while his enter-prize was going on they reposed in absolute security, and they took no effective measures till the pressure of public opinion forced upon them the movement which culminated in the bombardment of Alexandria. That was a very fair illustration of the vice which has characterized their policy, that when they did move the movement was made suddenly, with no preparation, and with no foresight of what was to follow. The Fleet was moved in, and, as a matter of course, Arabi resisted, and the Fleet, as was inevitable, suddenly replied; and then it was found that there were no forces to land and back up the action that was taken. The result of that improvidence was not only that the Khedive's Throne was shaken, and the fidelity of his Army was utterly destroyed, but the town and fortifications of Alexandria, through the vengeance of Arabi, were grievously injured, and that tremendous debt for the injury done to Alexandria was incurred, which still remained a weight upon the Egyptian finances, and a hindrance to all negotiations for the settlement of foreign claims. That was the first act, the first specimen of that period of slumber followed by a sudden and unprepared rush. Then came the question of the Soudan, which was no new question. Before the battle of Tel-el-Kebir the Mahdi was already in arms. It was a matter as to which anybody who undertook to deal with the destinies of Egypt should have arrived at a decision as to the plan on which the Government of Egypt should act. But no decision was arrived at—the thing was allowed to drift; and Her Majesty's Government, plunged in absolute torpor, seemed to have but one care—that they should escape from nominal responsibility, ignoring the real responsibilities which would inevitably be attached to their actions. The despatches, one after another, during that period only repeat the old burden—"Her Majesty's Government has no responsibility as to what takes place in the Soudan." There-suit was that the unhappy Hicks was sent 1314 into the Soudan, wretchedly equipped, with an army altogether beneath the number that he ought to have had, composed of men, moreover, who had been turned out of the Eg3'ptian Army as worthless. The inevitable result followed—a result which Her Majesty's Government had no cause to be surprised at, for they were warned of it by their own confidential agents. Yet they absolutely declined to interfere, and hoped, by disclaiming; responsibility, to escape from the inevitable consequences of their own neglect. The anticipated disaster came. Hicks and his army were totally destroyed, and not a man escaped to tell the tale; and then it was that Her Majesty's Government awoke from the period of slumber, and the period of rush began. They adopted two measures, both of them as inadequate and inapplicable to the circumstances as it was possible to conceive, and both of them big with future trouble. In the first place, they announced suddenly to the world and to Egypt that Egypt must abandon the Soudan. It was impossible to conceive a more stupendous political blunder than that. It was a proclamation to all our enemies that they could enjoy impunity; and it was a proclamation to all our friends that they would be handed over without mercy to those who desired to overwhelm them. But the announcement was made, and from that moment the fate of the garrisons whom they had left scattered over the Soudan was sealed. The fate of the garrison of Khartoum was brought home to them forcibly, and they might have taken seasonable measures for its relief—they might have sent troops upon which they could rely to defend its garrison, and adopted some definite and effective plan of relief. Instead of that, they took advantage of the chivalrous devotion of one of the noblest spirits which this age has seen; and, making use of his self-devotion, they sent him forward on an impossible and hopeless task to accomplish by mere words and promises what they had not the courage to do by force of arms. From that commencement—the abandonment of the Soudan and the mission of General Gordon—all our subsequent troubles have ariseu. But that was not all. Among the garrisons of the Soudan were those of Sinkat and Tokar, which, so long back as November, 1883, were severely 1315 pressed by the Mahdi's lieutenants, and their danger was announced to Her Majesty's Government as extreme. For three months they took no notice of that danger; they allowed the matter to be left to General Baker and a body of Egyptians, whose worthlessness was announced in every page of the Correspondence laid before them. Of course, General Baker, with such a force, was inevitably defeated; but it was not until Parliament met—I think it was not until a Vote of Censure was announced—that Her Majesty's Government determined to make an effort to do that which they ought to have done, and which, if they had not been asleep, they would have done three months before, to make an effort to relieve the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar. When the resolution was come to, when at last the necessity dawned upon their minds, they plunged into the matter with their usual improvidence and want of plan. They sent men to Suakin, apparently with no idea of what they were to do when they got there. Before they started Sinkat had fallen, and before they could undertake any active operations the garrison of Tokar, giving up in despair, had surrendered. Then the planlessness, the aimlessness, of the Government was revealed; they landed their Forces, and, lest they should expose themselves to derision for taking them away without doing anything, they slaughter 6,000 Arabs, and go away absolutely without any result for the blood of their friends or the blood of their enemies that they had shed. They go away guilty of all this bloodshed, leaving behind them absolutely no result, except the enmities and the blood feuds they had created, because they had plunged into the enter-prize without any definite view, and without any fixed plan to guide themselves. These three cases—the case of the bombardment of Alexandria, the case of the abandonment of the Soudan, and the case of the mission of General Graham's Force—they are all on the same plan, and all show you that remarkable characteristic of torpor during the time when action was needed, and hasty, impulsive, ill-considered action, when the moment for action had passed by. Their further conduct was modelled on their conduct in the past. So far was it modelled, that we were able to put it to the test which 1316 establishes a scientific law. The proof of a scientific law is that you can prophesy from previous occurrences what will happen in the future. That is exactly what took place in the present instance. We had had these three instances of the mode of working of Her Majesty's Government before us, and we knew the laws that guided their action. As astronomers, observing the motions of a comet, can discover by observation the future path by which that comet is to travel, so we could prophesy what would happen in the case of General Gordon. My right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) prophesied it in the House of Commons, and was met by a burst of fury from the Prime Minister such as that Assembly has seldom seen. He was told that Egypt was of much less importance than, I think, Sutherland or Caithness, and that everything that was wrong was the result of deficits imputed to him in the finances some 10 years ago; and he was generally denounced because ho would interfere with the beneficent legislation of the Government on the subject of capable citizens and so forth by introducing the subject of Egypt as many as 17 times. Well, that did not prevent my right hon. Friend's prophecies from being correct, and I venture to repeat them in this House. I do not like to quote my own words—it is egotistical—but as a proof of what I may call the accuracy of the scientific law by which the motion of the Government is determined, I should like to quote what I said on the 4th of April, when discussing the prospect of the relief of General Gordon. The Government were proclaiming that he was perfectly safe, and that an Expedition to relieve him was an utterly unnecessary operation, while it was very unreasonable for us to raise the question before Parliament. What I said was this—Are these circumstances encouraging to us when we are asked to trust that, on the inspiration of the moment, when the danger comes Her Majesty's Government will find some means of relieving General Gordon? I fear that the history of the past will he repeated in the future; that, just again, when it is too late, the critical resolution will he taken; some terrible news will come that the position of Gordon is absolutely a forelorn and helpless one; and then, under the pressure of public wrath and Parliamentary Censure, some desperate resolution of sending an Expedition will be formed too late to achieve the object which it is desired to gain."—(3 Hansard,  1616.)1317 I quote these words to show that by that time we had ascertained the laws of motion and the orbits of those eccentric comets who sit on the Treasury Bench. Now the terrible responsibility and blame rests upon the Government, because they were warned in March and April of the danger to General Gordon; because they received every intimation which men could reasonably look for that his danger would be extreme; and because they delayed from March and April right down to the 15th of August before they took a single measure to relieve him. What were they doing all that time? It is very difficult to conceive. Some people have said—I think it is an unreasonable supposition—that the cause of the tardiness of Her Majesty's Government was the accession to the Cabinet of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby). I have quoted some of the earlier misdeeds of Her Majesty's Government, partly for the purpose of defending the noble Earl from the charge—they were almost as bad before he joined them. What happened during those eventful months? I suppose some day the memoirs will tell our grandchildren; but we shall never know. Some people think there were divisions in the Cabinet, and that, after division on division, a decision was put off lest the Cabinent should be broken up. I am rather inclined to think that it was due to the peculiar position of the Prime Minister. He came in as the apostle of the Mid Lothian campaign, loaded with all the doctrines and all the follies of that pilgrimage. We have seen on each occasion, after one of these mishaps, when he has been forced by events and by the common sense of the nation to take some more active steps—we have seen his extreme supporters falling foul of him, and reproaching him with having deserted their opinions and disappointed the ardent hopes which they had formed of him as the apostle of absolute negation in foreign affairs. I think he always felt the danger of that reproach. He always felt the debt that he had incurred to those supporters. He always felt a dread lest they should break away; and he put off again and again to the last practical moment any action which might bring him into open conflict with the doctrines by which his present eminence was gained. At all events, this is clear—that throughout 1318 those six months the Government knew perfectly well the danger in which General Gordon was placed. It has been said that General Gordon did not ask for troops. I am surprised at that defence. One of the characteristics of General Gordon was the extreme abnegation of his nature. It was not to be expected that he should send home a telegram to say—"I am in great danger, therefore send me troops"—he would probably have cut off his right hand before he would have written a telegram of that sort. But he sent home telegrams through Mr. Power, telegrams saying that the people of Khartoum were in great danger; that the Mahdi would succeed unless military succour was sent forward; urging at one time the sending forward of Sir Evelyn Wood and his Egyptians, and at another the landing of Indians at Suakin and the establishment of the Berber route, and distinctly telling the Government—and this is the main point—that unless they would consent to his views the supremacy of the Mahdi was assured. This is what he said no later than February 29, almost when first he saw the nature of the problem with which he had been sent to deal—Should you wish to intervene, send 200 British troops to Wady Halfa … and then open up Suakin-Berber route with Indian Moslem troops … If you decide against this, you may probably have to decide between Zebehr and the Mahdi."—[Egypt, No. 12 (1884) p. 131.]It was impossible that he could have spoken more clearly. But Mr. Power, who was with him, who was one of the three Englishmen in the town, who was the Consular Agent, whom he trusted so much that he sent him down with Stewart upon that last ill-fated journey, and whose decoration and reward he recommended to the British Government—he could speak plainly; he was not the General in command, and there was no appeal to his chivalry in the matter. Power said on the 23rd of March—We are daily expecting British troops—we cannot bring ourselves to believe that we are to be abandoned by the Government. Our existence depends upon England.Well, now, my Lords, is it conceivable that after two months, in May, the Prime Minister should have said that they were waiting to have reasonable proof that Gordon was in danger? By that time Khartoum was surrounded; the Governor of Berber had announced that his 1319 case was hopeless, which was too surely proved by the massacre which took place in June; and yet in May Mr. Gladstone was still waiting for "reasonable proof" that the men who were surrounded, who had announced that they had only five months' food, were in danger. Apparently he did not get that reasonable proof till the month of August. I may note, in passing, that I think the interpretation which the Government has placed upon the language of their trusted officers has more than once been exceedingly ungenerous. They told us that they did not think it necessary to send an Expedition to relieve Sinkat and Tokar because they could quote some language of hope from the despatches of General Baker; and in the same way they could quote the same language of hope from the despatches of General Gordon. But a General sent forward on a dangerous mission does not like to go whining for assistance unless he is absolutely pressed by the extremest peril. All those great qualities which go to make men heroes and soldiers are incompatible with such a course, lead them to underrate danger, and to shrink as from a great disgrace from any unnecessary appeal for exertion for their protection. It was the business of the Government not to interpret Gordon's telegrams as if they had been statutory declarations; but to judge for themselves of the circumstances of the case, and to see that those who were surrounded, who were only three English men among such a vast body of Mahommedans, and who were already cut off from all communications with the civilized world by the occupation of every important town upon the river, were really in danger, and that, if they meant to answer their responsibilities, they were bound to relieve them. I cannot tell what blindness fell over the eyes of some Members of Her Majesty's Government. On reading over these debates I find that the Marquess of Hartington, on the 13th of May, actually gave utterance to these expressions—I say that it would be indelible disgrace"—indelible disgrace—"if we should neglect any means at the disposal of this country to save General Gordon."—(3 Hansard,  224.)And after that announcement by the Minister chiefly responsible, the Secretary of State for War, three months 1320 elapsed before any step was taken for doing that which he admitted that the Government were bound to do under the penalty of indelible disgrace. It has been said that General Gordon was destroyed by treachery, and that that treachery would have happened at any time when the British Army came near Khartoum's What does that extraordinary theory mean? It means that the Mahdi had agreed with Farag Pasha that it would be much more comfortable to go on besieging, and that they should go on besieging until Lord Wolseley's Force came and made it dangerous to continue doing it any longer, and that then the previously-arranged surrender of the place should take place. Have those who put forward this extraordinary theory not heard or read of the hard straits to which the Mahdi and his followers were for a long time reduced—how they were suffering from fever, from cholera, from small-pox, from the difficulty of feeding themselves, how there were constant threats that the Mahdi's men would desert his cause, and how very hard it was for him to maintain his position? Depend upon it that if the Mahdi could have shortened that period of trial by one hour he would have done so. But supposing this theory to be true—supposing the danger was so extreme, and that the moment General Gordon was in Khartoum treachery was certain sooner or later to do its work, and that its execution was only delayed until the necessary emergency arrived—what does that prove? Does it not show that the sending of General Gordon to Khartoum was an act of extreme folly? I do not know of any instance of such a man being sent to maintain a position like Khartoum without a certain number of British troops going with him. If British troops had been there such treachery would have been impossible. The sending of General Gordon by himself, to rely alone on the fidelity of Egyptian troops, for whose allegiance he had no kind of security, was an act of the extremest rashness; and if the Government can succeed in proving—as I do not think they can—that this treachery was inevitable, they only pile up additional reasons for condemning the expedient by which they sought to cover their previous action. I must confess that it is very difficult to separate this question 1321 from the personal matter which, it involves. It is very difficult to argue it on purely abstract grounds, without turning for a moment to the character of the man who was thus engaged, and the terrible risk which he ran. When we consider all that he underwent, all that he sacrificed in order to serve the Government in a moment of extreme exigency, there is something infinitely pathetic in reflecting on what must have been his feelings as day after day, week after week, and month after month passed by, and he spared no exertion, no personal sacrifice, to perform the duties placed upon him, as he lengthened out the siege by inconceivable prodigies of skill, ingenuity, and resource, and as, in spite of it all—in spite of the deep devotion to his country which had prompted him to this great risk and undertaking—the conviction gradually dawned upon him that this country had abandoned him. It is terrible to think what he must have suffered when, at last, as a desperate measure to save those whom he loved, he parted with the only two Englishmen with whom, during those long months, he had had any converse, and sent Colonel Stewart and Mr. Power down the river to escape from the fate which had become inevitable to himself. It is very painful to think of the reproaches upon his country, and his country's Government, which must have passed through the mind of that devoted man through successive weeks and months of unmerited peril and neglect. No wonder he should have at last written that tragic letter, which has only appeared yesterday before the world—the letter he wrote on the 14th of December—All is up; I expect a catastrophe in 10 days' time. It would not have been so if our people had kept me better informed as to their intentions.The Government had no intentions to keep him informed of. They were merely acting from hand to mouth to avert a Parliamentary Censure or a political crisis. They had no plan, no intentions to carry out. If he could have known their intentions, that great hero would have been saved to the English Army, and a great disgrace would not have been enrolled on the history of the English race. My Lords, by the light of this sad history, what are our prospects for the future? Was there 1322 ever a time when clearness of plan and definiteness of policy were more required than they are now? I am not going to say that the policy of the Government is bad. I should be paying them an extravagant compliment if I said that. They have no policy at all. As my right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Gibson) epigrammatically described their policy the other night, they are going to Khartoum to please the Whigs, and they are going to abandon it to please the Radicals. I dare say that that is as true as any other description of their policy that can be given. But at such a crisis of our country's fate, in both Houses of Parliament, in the Press, in society—everywhere—you hear people asking "What is their policy?" You get no answer. You get no answer from themselves. Here and there you get a faint echo of a policy, something vague and ill-defined, like the distant sound, to which you can attach no definite meaning. You sometimes seem to see for a moment the phantom of a policy; but if you try to grasp it, it escapes you. We used to think that the policy of the Government was the evacuation of the Soudan as soon as the military operations were over. A very bad policy ! But even that does not seem now to be their policy. We do not know whether they are going to evacuate the Soudan or not. They do not know who are going to hold the Soudan; they leave themselves open as to that; it may be the Italians, the Turks, or the Chinese. Only one point they put their foot down on, and that is that Egypt shall not hold the Soudan. I confess I thought that when they swept all the, rest away they might sweep that away also; for there is the portion of the Soudan which the Earl of Dufferin thought should remain under Egypt, and which must always follow the destinies in some sense of "the Egyptian Government." Then we were told that they were to "smash the Mahdi;" but now we are to make use of the Mahdi. To smash the Mahdi is not the best way of inducing him to take a favourable view of your operations. If you smash the Mahdi, you may do it so thoroughly that he will not be of any use in the future; and it is possible he may retain a certain resentment for the process of being smashed. It is possible either that the Mahdi, in fulfilment of his claims to the 1323 religious position he occupies, will have to decline to have any dealing with the infidel; or that if you crush him so entirely by force of arms that he will consent to treat with you, he will have lost all position in the eyes of his fellow-countrymen, and you will not find his influence of any assistance in the solution of the terrible problem which you have in the Soudan. They have no policy, in the same way, as to the railway. It is a very important measure making a railway. It is very difficult work; it is unprecedented in history to project a railway into an enemy's country, and follow it up by conquering the country. Whether that is possible or not, the construction of the railway did seem to imply some policy. If the Government are going to make a railway, and then leave it to the first comer to take and do with it what he liked, that is an extremity of generosity which can only belong to a Government which lives from hand to mouth. It appears to me that, on this matter of our Egyptian policy, though I do not say that you can lay down the precise steps by which the end is to be obtained, still it is a time when we ought to conceive to ourselves what the end of our policy is to be—that we should clearly define it, and follow it out with consistency and persistency. Now, let us examine broadly what are the interests of England in this matter. With Mediterranean politics, as such, we have no great reason to concern ourselves. France may be mistress in Algeria and Tunis; Morocco may go its own way; and it is said that Italy has views in Tripoli; but Egypt stands in a peculiar position. It is the road to India. The condition of Egypt can never be indifferent to us; and, more than that, after all the sacrifices that we have made, after all the efforts that this country has put forth, after the position that we have taken up in the eyes of the world, we have a right, and it is our duty to insist upon it, that our influence shall be predominant in Egypt. I do not care by what technical arrangements this result is obtained. Technical arrangements must necessarily conform, among other things, to the International Law and the Treaty conditions of the world; but the substance of the thing must be this—with all due regard—I do not wish for a moment to disturb the rights of the 1324 Suzerain—but with due regard to those rights, the interests of England in Egypt must be supreme. Now, the influence of England in Egypt is threatened from two sides. It is threatened on the North diplomatically by the position which the Powers are taking up with respect to Egypt. I do not think it was necessary that the Powers should have taken up that position. I believe that, with decent steering, it might have been avoided; but it has not been avoided, and we undoubtedly have to face, at all events, the inchoate claims which will demand the utmost jealousy and vigilance of Parliament. I do not know what are precisely the arrangements which the Government are said to have arrived at with respect to the Guarantee. I greatly fear that it may include the idea of a Multiple Control, and to the idea of a Multiple Control I believe that this country will be persistently and resolutely hostile. But, diplomatically, we have to guard Egypt from the superior influences of any Power but our own from the North. From the South at the present moment we have a danger of another kind. We have the forces of fanatical barbarism let loose upon the South of Egypt. Owing to the blunders that have been committed, those dangers have reached a terrible height. They undoubtedly will require a very strenuous effort on the part of this country to conquer. But unless we intend to give over Egypt to barbarism and anarchy, unless we intend to sacrifice all the advantages for civilization that we have won there, and all the value of the services which that country may render to British interests as its path to the East, we must contrive to check this inroad of barbarian fanaticism which is impersonated in the actions and character of the Mahdi. Now, General Gordon never said a truer thing than when he said that we could not do so by simply drawing a military line, and that we might as well draw a military line to keep back fever. If the insurgent Mahommedans reach the North of Egypt, it will not be so much by their military force as by the moral power of their example that they will threaten the existing state of things in Egypt and the interests of all the European Powers, and, most of all, of our own. We have, therefore, to check—it is absolutely necessary that we should oheck— 1325 this advance of the Mahdi's power. Her Majesty's Government, in those glimpses of policy which they occasionally afford us, have alluded—I cannot say they have done more—to the possibility of setting up a good Government in the Soudan. I quite agree that a good Government is essential to us in the Soudan. That is the only dyke that we can really erect to keep out this inundation of barbarian and fanatical force. I entirely concur with them if that is their view, which I cannot certainly determine. I entirely concur with them that it is the duty of this country to see a good Government erected in that country, a Government upon which we can rely, and which shall have power to stem the forces which the Madhi has set in motion. But they speak of a Government as if it was a Christmas present that you can give a country and then go away. England, it seems, possesses a great many good Governments in store to give away; she can always give one to a nation when it requires it; or rather, like the ostrich's egg, they can leave it in the sand to hatch itself. But a good Government, like any other organized being, must pass through the stages of infancy to maturity. There must he a long stage of infancy during which this Government is unable to defend itself; and if it is to exist for any useful purposes, it requires, during that period, protection and security, which it can only derive from the action of an external Power. It is that protection and security that England must give. She must not desert her task in the Soudan until there is that Government which can protect Egypt, in which her interests are vital. I do not say whether it should be done by the Nile or from Suakin. I think I see a noble Lord, one of the greatest ornaments of this House, who has conducted an Expedition, not over 250 miles from Suakin to Berber, but over 400 miles, and that with success, over the same burning country, and his opinion, as given last year, is that the Suakin and Berber route is the route by which the Soudan should be held. In that opinion I do not say that I concur—that would be impertinent; but it is an opinion to which I can humbly subscribe. Whether it is to be done by a railway or not is another matter; but I fully believe that by using the Suakin 1326 and Berber route, we may maintain a hold over that portion of the Soudan which may enable us to perform that which is our primary duty—namely, to repress these forces of barbarism and fanaticism, to protect Egypt from further incursion, to nourish the civilization which they protected and secured, and which would find such abundant root in that fertile country; and, above all, to quench, and check, and ultimately to destroy, the Slave Trade, which has been the curse of Africa. All those advantages can be readily obtained if England will lay down a determined policy, and will adhere to it. But consistency of policy is absolutely necessary. You cannot envelop your policy in obscurity, trusting to chance and taking this or that side, according as Parliamentary exigencies require. You cannot do that without fatally damaging the prestige of your power and the chances of your success. We have to assure our friends that we shall stand by them; we have to assure our enemies that we are permanently to be feared; and it is only on the conditions on which our enemies dread us and our friends trust us that we can be successful in dealing with our enemies. My Lords, we must not conceal from ourselves that the blunders of the last three years have placed us in presence of terrible problems and difficulties, which will require all our manhood to overcome. We have great sacrifices, too, to make. I earnestly trust that this railway, of which I hear so much, may be made. It will be an enormous benefit to Africa. But do not conceal from yourselves that the task is one of no slight magnitude. To throw forward a railway into a country which is not in our possession has never been done before. When you have thrown it forward you will have to guard it against a population who know the country thoroughly, who are very difficult to reach, and who are singularly hostile to any Christian or civilized effort. If you carry this railway forward, you will not only have to smash the Mahdi, but you will have to smash Osman Digna as well, and to smash him so completely that he will not only not be able to resist at the moment, but that he shall be unable to turn back and take up the railway when it is made. All those things involve great sacrifices. They involve the expenditure 1327 not only of much money, but more of that English blood of which the noblest has already been poured forth. They involve the creation of blood feuds that you will have great difficulty in dealing with, and we are not so strong as we were. At first all nations sympathized with us; now they look upon us coldly, and even with hostility. Those who were our friends became indifferent; those who were indifferent have become our adversaries; and if our misfortunes and disasters go on much longer, we shall have Europe interfering, and saying that they cannot trust us—we are too weak—that our prestige is too broken to justify us in undertaking the task. My Lords, those are great dangers we have to face. They can only be faced by a consistent policy, which can only be conducted by a Ministry that is capable of unity of counsel and decision of purpose. I have shown you that from this Ministry you can expect no such results. They will only produce after their kind; they will only do what they have already done. You cannot look for unity of counsel from an Administration which is hopelessly divided; you cannot expect a resolute policy from those whose purpose is hopelessly halting. It is for this reason, my Lords, that I ask you to record your opinion that in a Ministry, in whom the first quality of all—the quality of decision of purpose—is wanting; from such a Ministry you can hope no good in this crisis of your country's fate. If you continue to trust them; if you continue for any Party reason—if Parliament continues—to abandon to their care the affairs which they have hitherto so hopelessly mismanaged, you must expect to go on from bad to worse; you must expect to lose the little prestige which you retain; you must expect to find in other portions of the world the results of the lower consideration which you occupy in the eyes of mankind. You must expect to be drawn on, year by year, step by step, under the cover of plausible excuses, under the cover of high philanthropic sentiments—you must expect to be drawn on to irreparable disasters and disgrace, which it will be impossible to efface.
Moved to resolve,
That this House, having taken into consideration the statements that have been made
on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, is of opinion that—?
in rising to move the following Amendment:—To leave out from 'That' to the end of the Motion, and insert 'an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly representing to Her Majesty that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan has involved a great sacrifice of valuable lives and a heavy expenditure without any beneficial result, and has rendered it imperatively necessary in the interests of the British Empire and of the Egyptian people that Her Majesty's Government should not employ British forces to occupy the Soudan or to prevent the exercise by the Egyptian people of their right to select their own government,'said, he was always loth to occupy the time of the House; but at a moment when friends of peace were being assailed with opprobrium and ridicule no opponent of this most unhappy and unhallowed war ought to conceal his convictions, and it became his duty, however inadequately, to represent those opinions before their Lordships. Ever-increasing burdens had been laid upon the people, fresh responsibilities and growing dangers were incurred by the successive sanguinary crusades of the Government against Moslems and False Prophets. He had never thought it either wise or right to invade and conquer Egypt in 1882, and more than once he had expressed that opinion to their Lordships. If he considered that the blood lately shed, the slaughter of the enemy, the appalling and irreparable loss of so many of our own best and bravest men, were the fatal and necessary consequence of going to Egypt at all, these butcheries would be the strongest possible addditional condemnation of the fundamental error. But admitting, even for an instant, the comfortable doctrine of whoever was able to believe the bombardment of Alexandria to have been neither crime nor mistake, no case at all had ever been made out for the delusion that British interests in Egypt could be maintained either by sending agents to 1329 intervene in the affairs of the Soudan, or by withdrawing troops from where they might at any time be wanted to defend their already enormous Empire, in order to make new conquests in the remote deserts of Africa. He knew the valour of their soldiers, the heroism of their officers; but the more he admired them the more he hated to see them ordered on duties as to the purpose of which one dared not say—"May God defend the right!" Would that they might never fight for spurious prestige—the object of duellists and bullies—but only like Christian soldiers, in defence of their country. But the men who fell in battle would not be the only or the principal victims. There were millions who would suffer—perhaps starve—through the direct and indirect effects of war, taxation, and waste of productive energy; and, however bad they might think the Mahdi, his overthrow would add nothing to the happiness or welfare of the mass of the English population, who would have to endure most of the ruin and misery caused by war. But were they justified in speaking so harshly of the Mahdi if they compared his actions with our own? Was he invading and slaughtering us, and while so engaged was he praying to God to assuage the violent passions of the enemies who dared to resist him—as one of our chief pastors was said to have prayed about the Soudanese? Other fanatics than Arabs had caused their present troubles. They had no right to speak of a campaign to "smash up" the Mahdi as if it were a trial sent by the Supreme Dispenser of glory—which was very good for them—provided always they thankfully and piously followed those chosen saints who governed them. Rive years ago another celebrated campaign took place, but of a very different kind, for it was against blood-guiltiness, and brought to power the makers of the arrangements that followed Majuba. One of the victorious heroes—of Mid Lothian—spoke a week or two ago at Epsom, and earnestly recommended more war, at the same time urging the maintenance in Office of those Ministers who had brought us where we were, and this was represented as a patriotic duty. The noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery) might have given another reason; but he either did not know or forgot to mention that almost immedi- 1330 ately afterwards he would himself become a Member of the Cabinet in which he was so warmly expressing his confidence. The safe and speedy withdrawal of their Army from the Upper Nile appeared to him the first necessity, and no reinforcements ought to have any object but the rescue of Lord Wolseley if, by a rash advance, he had become unable, without help, to get out of the country. They could not with honour or safety to themselves sacrifice that brave little Army, either by withholding from it the means of return, or by sending it on to fresh losses and risks, the avowed object for which had disappeared, and, indeed, had been proved not to have existed as a possibility. Whatever the natural condition of the Soudanese might be, ours was peace, and a heavy burden of proof rested upon those who would deprive us of it. How often were the aims of war as worthless as they were wicked! For example, war was not justifiable if made to save the places or restore the political reputation of Ministers guilty of a long course of violence and vacillation. Neither ought the forces of England to be used as a remedy to save from collapse the rotten speculations of a secret society of Semitic financiers and Levantine usurers. An unrighteous war would become the parent of other wars, and must corrupt the conscience of the nation. For, of aggregates as of individuals, Cowper's lines were true—Faults in the life breed errors in the brain, And these reciprocally those again.Their Lordships might have observed in the unfortunate occupiers of the Front Bench instances of that action and re-action of conduct and character on each other. There was a large mass of peaceful public opinion in the country that would be for ever grateful to their Lordships if they would prove their power and their will to interpose their protection between the people and those dangerous men who would inflict on it the horrors of war; and he would entreat all of them, even the Members of the Government, before it was too late, to deliberate, without passion or panic, as to what were the real duties and interests of their country.
To leave out from "That" to the end of the motion, and insert "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, humbly representing to Her Majesty that the course pursued by Her
Majesty's Government in respect to the affairs of Egypt and the Soudan has involved a great sacrifice of valuable lives and a heavy expenditure without any beneficial result, and has rendered it imperatively necessary in the interests of the British Empire and of the Egyptian people that Her Majesty's Government should not employ British forces to occupy the Soudan or to prevent the exercise by the Egyptian people of their right to select their own government."—(The Lord Wentworth.)
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, in rising to follow the noble Marquess and the noble Lord I can assure your Lordships that I do so with great difficulty and diffidence. To follow the noble Marquess at any time is no easy task; but to follow him on this occasion, when Her Majesty's Government must admit at once that the efforts they have made to rescue General Gordon have failed, renders the task still more difficult. We deplore, I think I may even say, more than the noble Marquess opposite or any noble Lord in this House the fatal end which has come to the mission of General Gordon, and, before I endeavour to meet the observations of the noble Marquess, I would say one word to express my personal grief at his death. I had known him myself probably better than most; and in common with all who knew him I felt not only that admiration for his career which all of us feel, but an affection for the simplicity of his character and the charm of his manner which I shall ever preserve during my life. I would also express, in a word or two, the grief which I feel at the loss of officers and friends of my own, and I would mention particularly General Earle, as I am able to speak with perfect knowledge of his high soldier like qualities, his great powers of administration and his devotion to his duty—a devotion in which he was not exceeded by any officer in the Army, and which undoubtedly would have enabled him to perform still greater services to his country than in the successful action in which he lost his life. I will not detain your Lordships by any further observations of this kind, though I should not omit to mention that the Navy has also its losses to deplore in the deaths of Lieutenants Pigott and de Lisle. My Lords, the noble Marquess has travelled over the history of many years, and, with his great power of language and his choice of epithets in 1332 describing the conduct of the Government, has gone back to the beginning of the whole of these transactions—the first beginning of Arabi's rebellion, and the event which the noble Marquess called, with elaborate inaccuracy, the bombardment of Alexandria. [Opposition laughter.] I repeat, with elaborate inaccuracy; because it is known to every man who has taken the trouble to examine into the circumstances of the case that the attack by Her Majesty's Forces upon the forts of Alexandria was conducted by my hon. and gallant Friend (Lord Alcester) in such a way that hardly a shot fell into the town, and the burning of Alexandria was caused by the forces of Arabi. The noble Marquess then went on to mention the unfortunate Expedition of General Hicks to the Soudan, the loss of Sinkat, and, indeed, all the transactions which have taken place since the beginning of the Egyptian troubles. In his reference to each of these the noble Marquess, in my opinion, was hardly accurate in the manner he dealt with them. For example, I will take the first—what ought the Government to have done to Arabi? The noble Marquess said that the moment we found Arabi was troublesome we ought to have exiled him from Egypt. How was it possible for Her Majesty's Government to have done anything of the kind? There is no man who ought to know that better than the noble Marquess. When the present Government succeeded to Office, the British Government was not in possession of complete power in that country. Then the noble Marquess went on to say that we should have sent an Army at the time of the attack on the forts of Alexandria; but he must himself recollect that our relations with the Powers in Europe were then such that it would have been impossible for this country by itself to send an Army—in point of fact, to invade Egypt. That was a course which I do not believe the noble Marquess himself, or anyone on the other side of the House, would at that time have recommended. My Lords, the noble Marquess criticized the Government for having, after the loss of the Army of General Hicks, issued a Proclamation making it known to the whole of the Soudan that, in their opinion, the Egyptian Government should abandon the possession of that country. 1333 Well, he might consider that that was an injudicious proceeding; but that was certainly not the opinion of those who knew the country best, including General Gordon, who always contended that the main cause of the insurrection in the Soudan was the misgovernment by Egyptian officials, and therefore that it would be a policy which would be satisfactory to the people of the Soudan that they should be told that the Egyptian Government would cease in that country. The noble Marquess then, in very eloquent terms, denounced the Government for not having sent British troops to rescue the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar before the Army of Baker Pasha was defeated at El Teb. It appears to me that the Government at that time had every reason to suppose that the Army of Baker Pasha would have been victorious over the Soudanese. [Opposition laughter.] Noble Lords may laugh—indeed, I should be inclined to laugh myself if I had never studied the particular details of the case. It is all very well to laugh now, and to suppose that the Egyptian troops at that time were believed to be unequal to resist the troops that fought against them. It has only been found, more or less, by gradual experience that these troops—those who went with Baker Pasha—were not perfectly capable of meeting the Soudanese. Those troops who went with General Baker, I happen to know, were some of the finest men in the Egyptian Army; they were as big as our Guards, and if they had only stood the attack of the Soudanese for a few minutes they would have had the victory. [Opposition laughter.] I do not understand the laughter of noble Lords opposite at the very terrible massacre of those men. ["Oh!"] I repeat, and history will prove it, that from the type of General Baker's troops we had every reason to believe that they would give a good account of the enemy they had to meet there. The noble Marquess says—Why did we not send assistance before Baker's troops were in danger? What was the reason of our sending the Expedition at all? It was not because of any pressure of public opinion, or any agitation in the newspapers, or anything of that sort. It was because of the generous instinct of an English Government desiring to rescue, if possible, two garrisons almost within 1334 gunshot of the sea shore that were in a position of great danger from the hordes that surrounded them. I say that on all these occasions the motives which the noble Marquess has attributed to the Government for their action are not deserved; and that when those occasions arose we did what we conceived to be our duty in order to meet the difficulties which confronted us. And now I come to the terms of the noble Marquess's Motion. He asks your Lordships to say that—The deplorable failure of the Soudan expedition to attain its object has been due to the undecided counsels of the Government and to the culpable delay attending the commencement of operations.I listened with attention to the noble Marquess's speech, in order to discover what ground he had for saying that the counsels of the Government were not decided in respect of the measures to be taken for the relief of General Gordon. I discovered that the noble Marquess differed entirely and completely from the view which the Government took from the very first on that matter; but I could not find anything in his speech to enable me to answer that part of his indictment. The noble Marquess, no doubt, however, endeavoured to prove that the Government had shown culpable delay in the commencement of the operations; and on that part of the Motion I will, with your Lordships' permission, say a few words. The noble Marquess here again went back rather far in his attacks on the Government. He went back to February and March of last year, and he quoted two telegrams to show that even at that time it was clear that General Gordon required to be supported by military force. Well, my Lords, there were telegrams from General Gordon about that time, making many suggestions, among others to the effect that Zebehr should be sent to Khartoum; that there should be a demonstration at Suakin; that some troops should be sent to Wady Halfa—
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
And that some Egyptian troops should be sent to Wady Halfa. Many suggestions were made; but when the noble Marquess read those telegrams he did not go fairly into the matter, and did not read to your Lordships other telegrams 1335 which showed, at any rate, that at that time the Government had no reason to suppose that the force against General Gordon was really a very powerful force, or that lie was in any real danger. For example, there were two telegrams received later than those which the noble Marquess quoted, because they served his ease. In one of these Gordon put the force of the enemy round Khartoum at 1,500 or 2,000 men, amongst whom there were, perhaps, not 150 determined men. And again, in a telegram from Khartoum, dated April 1, General Gordon says—I wish I could convey to you my impression of the truly trumpery nature of this revolt, which 500 determined men could put down.I say, then, that at that time Her Majesty's Government had no reason to believe that General Gordon might not be able to give a good account himself of the opposition he had to face there; and, indeed, he was nearly doing so on several occasions. I simply state this to show that the telegrams read by the noble Marquess do not give a complete and accurate account of the circumstances of the case at that time. I will now go on to what happened in the month of May. The noble Marquess referred to the discussion which took place in the other House of Parliament at that time, and he read an extract from the speech of my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) on May 13, and he said that, although the Marquess of Hartington had said that the Government were pledged as soon as they saw the necessity to do their best to rescue General Gordon, nothing whatever was done for three or four months from that date. In making that statement I do not think the noble Marquess was fair to Her Majesty's Government. It is clear that there is a distinct difference between the preparations for a campaign and the actual military operations. From the very beginning of the mission of General Gordon to Khartoum the Government had been carefully considering the different measures with a view to sending a Force to Khartoum if that should become necessary; and when the necessity became more urgent in May those preparations—namely, the examination of the different routes and certain other preparations—took a more definite form. I need not detain your Lordships 1336 by describing the different routes by which Khartoum can be reached—the Massowah route, the Suakin-Berber route, and the Nile route. It may be readily understood that operations by any of these routes are very serious in a military point of view. The Government, having carefully considered all the difficulties as to all these different routes, came to the conclusion that the route by Massowah must be put on one side, and that the route from Suakin to Berber was the one that afforded the best prospects of success. That was about the month of April or May of last year. To make that route successful it would have been necessary to have constructed a railroad, because the supply of water was so small that it would have been impossible to march a large force along that route without the help of a railroad. On June 14, I think it was, certain preparations were made for the construction of a railway from. Suakin. Engineers were sent there and a certain amount of plant, with the view of being prepared to enter upon the construction of a railroad as soon as the weather would enable troops to be sent to that place. Piers were made so as to facilitate the disembarkation of the materials for the railroad. But in order to make that railway it would have been necessary to have sent troops to Suakin, and to have so far obtained the mastery of the situation as to give security for the undertaking. At that time of year, during the months of May, June, and July, Suakin is probably the very worst place on the whole of that part of the Red Sea. It would not have done to have sent English troops at that time to Suakin to conduct operations of that sort. Therefore, all that was done was to make those preparations in June of last year. I have now to endeavour to explain the reasons why it was considered necessary, after full consultation, to alter the route from Suakin and Berber to the Nile. About the month of May the attention of the Government was more particularly directed to the Nile. There were some disturbances in Upper Egypt which necessitated the sending up of one or two battalions thither. A system of patrol of the Nile was established under Captain Bedford and other naval officers. A short time afterwards it was necessary to push on a portion of the Egyptian Army to Assouan and 1337 Wady Halfa. It was about the month of June that news reached us of the fall of Berber. Now, that Berber should be in the possession of the enemy made an entire difference in the situation as to sending an Expedition from Suakin to Berber. There are 100 miles of desert, with only one well on the last stage to Berber. Then, at the last moment, came the position of the Mudir of Dongola. It was thought desirable to send Major Kitchener to the neighbourhood of Dongola. His reports were satisfactory. The Mudir of Dongola defeated the troops of the Mahdi; and we believed it probable that a small force of British troops in the neighbourhood of Dongola would check the progress of the Mahdi, and that Gordon might be able to join hands and bring the garrison of Khartoum away across the desert or by Shendy and Berber to Dongola. An officer of the Royal Navy (Captain Hammill) was sent at the end of May to the Second Cataract to survey the cataracts, with the view of sending steamers. It was said that until the month of August, when the Vote of Credit was taken and the troops actually in motion, no preparations were made to relieve Gordon. But we had been occupied in making those preparations which were necessary if the Government decided to carry on operations. I must ask your Lordships' attention to this—that whether the operations were to be from Suakin or by the Nile, there were two limits in point of time over which the Government had no control. It would not have been right to send a large English Force to Suakin during the worst months; and, secondly, we could not get steamers necessary for the transport by the Nile past the cataracts until the river rose, about the middle of August. And, as a matter of fact, I believe that all the steamers that could be got up, leaving a sufficient number to carry on communications below, were actually taken up during August and September, so that no time was lost in that respect. I mention these facts to show that it is not correct to say that no preparations were made for the purpose of acting when the Government came to the decision that action should be taken for the relief of General Gordon. The reason why the commencement of opera- 1338 tions was delayed undoubtedly is this—the Government were most reluctant, and had been from the first, to involve English troops in an Expedition into the interior of Africa, and they hoped that circumstances might have arisen which would have enabled General Gordon to get the better of his antagonists and to come away from Khartoum with the Egyptian garrison of that place without the necessity of being assisted by British troops. I think that was a proper feeling on the part of Her Majesty's Government. We knew that when Gordon went to Khartoum he believed in his heart his mission was a pacific one, and that he would be able to execute his task without the support of British troops. I say distinctly Her Majesty's Government are not ashamed to confess that they were most reluctant to send an Expedition into the Soudan. I am not going to argue that if the Expedition had started earlier, or that if some other arrangement had been made, it might not have been successful. It is impossible for any man to prove that, any any more than to prove that if the arrangements had been in the hands of the noble Marquess his plans would have been successful. Some have entertained the view that success was impossible; but all I can say is that the Government arrived at these decisions with a full sense of their responsibility. Then the noble Marquess turned to the future policy of the Government in regard to the present position of the Soudan. I feel it far more profitable to examine that part of his speech which deals with the future. He says that the policy of abandoning the Soudan was dangerous to Egypt, and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire. He asked what was our policy, and he assumed that the Government had no policy whatever. Now, what are the circumstances of the case? The Government sent out an Expedition, which, unfortunately, failed just at the moment that we expected it to succeed, and when success was almost within our grasp. It then became necessary to consider and decide what orders should be given to Lord Wolseley with respect to the conduct of the Forces under him; and what the Government had to do was to give those orders to Lord Wolseley which he required in substitution for his first orders 1339 —namely, to do his best to rescue General Gordon. Having that decision to take, I believe the decision we took deserves the approval of your Lordships. The decision was to inform Lord Wolseley that it was his duty to prevent the power of the Mahdi spreading into those Provinces which were undisturbed, in order that Egypt might be protected against any danger from the forces of the Mahdi, and that for that purpose it would be necessary to overthrow the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum. I entirely respect and admire the frank and gallant manner in which the noble Lord (Lord Wentworth), representing opinions, undoubtedly, at the present moment, not popular in this House, has proposed his Amendment. I respect those opinions, and regret that events have forced us to go into the Soudan. Do not let the noble Lord suppose that Her Majesty's Government are engaged in these operations with any desire or inclination for them, or for their deplorable consequences. The noble Lord says that orders should now be given to Lord Wolseley to retire with as much expedition as possible from the position he now occupies. There I venture to differ from him; for I think if such orders had been given they might have brought on a military disaster, and affected most seriously the safety and prosperity of Egypt. The obligations we have entered into in Egypt render it necessary that British Forces should protect that country, and, in a military point of view, retiring before the Mahdi would have endangered the safety of Egypt. Immediately on receipt of the news of the failure to relieve Khartoum Her Majesty's Government announced to Parliament the orders they had given to Lord Wolesley. What more does the noble Marquess want? Does he want Her Majesty's Government to say what is to be the future government of the Soudan? What means have we at present of saying what it shall be? When the Expedition left Cairo instructions were given to Lord Wolseley with respect to the government of the Soudan. Of course, the main part of these instructions were to rescue General Gordon; but certain instructions were given with regard to the future government of the Soudan, which, as they are very short, I will venture to read— 1340The Egyptian Government would be prepared to pay a reasonable subsidy to any Chief or number of Chiefs who would be sufficiently powerful to maintain order along the Valley of the Nile from Wady Haifa to Khartoum, and who would agree to the following conditions:—
- 1. To remain at peace with Egypt, and to repress any raids on Egyptian territory.
- 2. To encourage trade with Egypt.
- 3. To prevent and discourage by all possible means any expeditions for the sale of and capture of slaves.You are authorized to conclude any arrangements which fulfil these general conditions.That appears to me to be a very clear expression of policy. A very able officer, Sir Charles Wilson, attached to Lord Wolseley's Staff, had instructions to assist him in carrying out this policy with respect to the future government of the Soudan. It would be his duty to find out what Chiefs there are, and on the conditions I have stated to put them in positions of authority. The Mudir of Dongola, who has distinguished himself very much as a courageous man, and who has a great reputation among Mohammedans, might, it was then thought, have been placed in authority at Dongola, and possibly also at Khartoum. Her Majesty's Government have as yet received no Report from Sir Charles Wilson as to those who might possibly, under certain circumstances, be placed as Rulers in that country. I maintain that Her Majesty's Government have explained that what they desire to see is a settled Government established in the Soudan, the best that can be arranged, and are even prepared to go so far as this—that some aid may be given by the Egyptian Government by way of subsidy in order to keep some hold over the good faith of those who may be appointed Rulers. The noble Marquess has very usually abstained from expressing any opinion himself as to what ought to be done. I do not remember in the whole course of these Egyptian debates so often brought on by him any occasion on which, how-over wise after the event, he ever gave Her Majesty's Government any advice as to what they ought to do. [Laughter.] Noble Lords opposite laughed; but I should like to ask them to mention any date on which any distinct and plain line of policy has been brought forward by the noble Marquess in respect of this Egyptian matter. There was only one occasion on which the noble Marquess went out of his way to express a decided 1341 opinion, and that was at the moment General Gordon arrived at Khartoum to damage him in the opinion of the country, by blaming him for his Proclamation with regard to slavery, and for his suggestion to send Zebehr Pasha to the Soudan. The present suggestion of the noble Marquess I understand to be that it would be desirable to place the Egyptian Government in the same position as before the war with respect to the Soudan. That is a proposal in which Her Majesty's Government cannot concur. How is it possible for the finances of Egypt to stand the cost of the administration of the Soudan? Does not the noble Marquess know that the cost of the Soudan has been one of the causes of the present financial difficulties? Does the noble Marquess believe that the Egyptian Government can again embark on a career of expenditure which will oblige them to borrow large sums of money without credit?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I recommended what the Earl of Dufferin recommended. I did not recommend the restitution of those parts of the Soudan to be governed by Egypt which were the cause of financial embarrassment.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
Does the noble Marquess not recollect that the Earl of Dufferin's recommendation was made before the defeat of Hicks Pasha? Does he think that the Earl of Dufferin would make the same recommendation now? It is very well for the noble Marquess to shelter himself behind the Earl of Dufferin's recommendation, made under different circumstances. As I have said, the recommendation would be contrary to the feeling of the people of the Soudan, and involve a drain on the finances of Egypt which they could not bear. Where are the troops to come from to carry out the administration of the Soudan? I can conceive of no recommendation which, under the present circumstances, is less likely to do good than that of the noble Marquess as to the policy he would have wished the Government to announce on the receipt of the news of General Gordon's death. The wording of the Motion of the noble Marquess was very remarkable. When a Motion was introduced in the other House of Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition in that 1342 House, it contained the somewhat vague recommendation—That the Government should distinctly recognize and take decided measures to fulfil the responsibility incumbent upon them to secure a good and stable government in Egypt and those parts of the Soudan necessary for its security.The words "to secure a good and stable government in the Soudan" faithfully interpreted the desire of Her Majesty's Government. Then there was a meeting of the Conservative Party the other day—I think it was Monday—[The Marquess of SALISBURY: Tuesday]—at which a rather curious thing happened. Some of those present made speeches against the Leader of the Conservative Party in the other House, on the ground that the words of his Resolution were not strong enough, and I believe that that is the explanation of the Resolution moved by the noble Marquess.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl is somewhat unfortunate in his dates; the Notice of the Resolution was given on Monday, and the meeting took place on Tuesday.
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
Then I suppose that "coming events cast their shadows before;" but, at all events, it is not likely that speeches would have been made against one Leader of the Opposition without the other Leader knowing something about it beforehand. This, at all events, is clear—that this Resolution differs from that of the Leader in the other House. The noble Marquess, instead of saying that it is the duty of the Government to obtain a good and stable government for the Soudan, asks this House to say that the policy of abandoning the whole of the Soudan is dangerous to Egypt, and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire. That, as I understand it, is a very different thing. But what does it mean? It means that, in order to secure the safety of Egypt and the interests of the Empire, it is necessary that this country should hold part of the Soudan after the conclusion of the military operations; and the noble Marquess has said in his speech to-night that Egypt should hold part of the Soudan. That is a policy to which Her Majesty's Government cannot agree. We do not think that the circumstances of the present time justify any such policy, and that it might be dan- 1343 gerous to the interests of the country. I The noble Marquess, in making the observations 'which he did, said some things with which I entirely agree. I agree that after the sacrifices which this country has had to bear in Egypt it is right that England should have a preponderating influence in Egypt. The noble Marquess discussed the danger and importance of the Mohammedan fanaticism which is extending to the Soudan. It is difficult for us, or for anyone, however much he may have been brought into contact with Eastern nations, to gauge the importance and value of that movement. For my own part, my opinion is that it is not to be estimated so highly as the noble Marquess has done. I do not think it is a "terrible danger." I do not deny that it is a danger and a power, and a danger and a power which we must meet; but I do not think that those who are really fanatics in that country are the majority, or are extraordinarily numerous. I think that they find it difficult to resist that wave of fanaticism; but the real fanatics are not the majority. I believe that these tribes of the Soudan are tribes who are ordinarily peaceful and industrious men, many of them interested in trade. I myself think, and hope, that this wave of fanaticism may subside as rapidly as it has risen. But I do not think that it is likely that it will be made to subside by the continuance of hostilities for any length of time, though it is necessary to show that we can hold our own. It may be by the influence of commerce and trade against fanaticism that we shall succeed, and I know of no better remedy than that. There is a great amount of commerce in that country, and many of the tribes are engaged in carrying goods from one part of the country to another. They are to some extent consumers of English and other products; and I hope that when matters are put on a better footing the influence of trade may destroy and defeat the influence of fanaticism. As to trade, my own personal opinion and feeling is that it is probable that this railway, which we have commenced for military reasons at Suakin, may have a beneficial result upon the difficulties that are now before us. As far as the Government are concerned, our policy is a clear one; we should hold our own in that country for the present, and arrange its govern- 1344 ment, so far as we are able, for the benefit and advantage of the people. I trust that other noble Lords who may follow the noble Marquess will not follow his example in attributing unworthy motives to Her Majesty's Government; but at least give us the credit of having endeavoured honestly to do our duty under the very difficult circumstances in which we have been placed.
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
The noble Earl who has just sat down has asked why my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) has not set out the details of a policy which Her Majesty's Government might follow with advantage. It is new to me to be told that it is the duty of a Leader of the Opposition in this House or the other to set out a policy for the guidance of those at the head of affairs. It is sufficient for us to point out where we think they have failed in the duties which have been imposed upon them, and to ask your Lordships to agree with us in that view. The noble Earl, in the latter part of his speech, wanted to know what my noble Friend behind me wished should happen at the conclusion of the military operations in the Soudan. As I understand, my noble Friend said that at the end of the military operations it was necessary that the Government set up should be supported until it had grown strong enough to stand by itself. Those, I think, are reasonable views, and ought to meet the approbation of your Lordships. There was another part of the speech of the noble Earl in which he complained of the tone of my noble Friend behind me in the first of the two propositions which he has put upon the Papers. My Lords, in the first part of the Resolution my noble Friend behind me asks the House to say that—The deplorable failure of the Soudan expedition to attain its object has been due to the undecided counsels of the Government and to the culpable delay attending the commencement of operations.But what does the noble Earl tell us? He has told us that they were, for many months, anxiously considering what to do. That does not look like decision. The noble Earl has proved conclusively everything the noble Marquess has said. He tells us that in April there was an idea of making a railway from Suakin to Berber, and the Government at first thought of adopting 1345 this proposition. In passing I may say that this course was proposed by a gallant friend of mine—one probably of the most promising officers in the Army—General Stephenson. General Stephenson thought the line from Suakin to Berber was the best, and for holding that opinion, and not agreeing to the line taken on the Nile, was superseded. And now at the last moment the Government come forward to tell us that what ought to be done is to make a railway from Suakin to Berber, the very thing which my gallant friend suggested in the first instance. The noble Lord says there was no indecision; but at the same time he tells us that they had been hoping from day to day that something might turn up, and therefore they had not come to any fixed resolution as to what should be done. And although General Gordon, in April, telegraphed stating the straits to which he was reduced, the Government were considering and consulting the Military Authorities from April to September before any step was taken for his relief. ["No."] Well, Lord Wolseley left this country on the 1st of September, and therefore I say it was from April to September that the Government were considering what was the best mode of acting in that country, and if that is not indecision then I do not know what the English language means. The conduct of the Government seems to be most inexplicable. With regard to the character of General Baker's Force which went to Suakin, I understand that they were taken in chains and compelled to go. The noble Lord says that if General Baker had had 500 able men he would have put down the rebellion; but the point is that he had 500 men who wished they were anywhere else than there. What would any military officer say if he had 500 men placed under his command who had been put under his authority by being taken up in chains? I wish now, my Lords, to go a little into the question of the general conduct of the Government since they have been in Office, and the want of decision they have shown not only in regard to Egyptian affairs, but in regard to the affairs of the whole Empire. It will be in your Lordship's recollection that the Prime Minister during the autumn made a vast number of speeches. He seems to take the 1346 opportunity of stopping at the various railway stations in the country to inform the people what his views are on every kind of subject. I find that in Edinburgh, on the 1st of September, he gave a description of the Government of the late Lord Beaconsfield, which I shall be able to show your Lordships before I sit down is much more applicable to the Government of which Mr. Gladstone himself is the Head. The right hon. Gentleman said—If I could have addressed the Government of Lord Beaconsfield, especially in its latest years, while Lord Salisbury was its Foreign Minister, I would truly have addressed it in the words of Tennyson—'The children born of thee are fire and sword,Red ruin and the breaking up of laws.'Wherever their policy went spontaneous war, gratuitously provoked, waited on their footsteps, and law, on the other hand—I mean the highest of all law, European law—shrunk abased and despised.Now, I think that the Members of Lord Beaconsfield's Government and those who supported his policy during the six years that that Cabinet existed have no reason to be ashamed of the comparison presented by that period with the period included in the present Government's tenure of power. My Lords, we left Europe in peace, and the country was honoured and respected by all the nations of the world. We steered the country through far greater difficulties and dangers than our Successors have had to deal with. We retained the friendship of all the Powers of Europe; we strengthened the position of this country in her Indian Empire. We were trusted by all the loyal Colonists in all parts of the globe, and, turning to domestic affairs, although I am bound to admit that there were some clouds which threatened in Ireland, yet we had the assurance of Mr. Gladstone that that country had not been in so satisfactory a condition for some years as when he took Office. What is the condition of the Empire now? When the present Ministry came into power one of their first acts was an apology to a great and friendly State for an insult offered, needlessly, as I thought, and as many thought, by the Prime Minister. A little later we had to deplore the humiliating defeat at Majuba Hill. We have found as time has gone on that Ireland, instead of being in a more satisfactory 1347 condition, is at the present moment on the verge of a rebellion. They have tried the patience, though they cannot diminish the loyalty, of our Colonies. They have jeopardized India both in its internal and its external relations, and they have deluged the Soudan with the blood of our brave soldiers and with that of our warlike enemies, who, according to the Prime Minister, are merely fighting for their liberties. I say that the country has been brought into this critical situation by the weak and vacillating conduct of the Government both at home and abroad. I do not rest my charge against them on the opinion of this country, or on the general condemnation of their policy throughout the civilized world. I call Ministers themselves as my witnesses. With all deference to the Foreign Secretary, for whom privately I entertain the greatest respect, I think there is scarcely anyone in the Government, except himself, who is altogether satisfied with the condition of foreign affairs, or of our relations with Foreign Powers. I was very much struck with a passage contained in the Papers recently presented to us, which show the position that this country holds in the opinion of a very eminent man on the Continent. In a letter from Mr. Meade an account is given of a conversation which that gentleman had with Prince Bismarck on Colonial subjects. Prince Bismarck, in the course of that interview, observed that up to within a few years ago he had done everything he could to facilitate English policy in Egypt and elsewhere; but that for some time past he had been treated in a different manner by England, "whose action," he said, "did not accord with her professions." Can there be anything more humiliating for an Englishman than that Mr. Meade, our Agent, in giving information to our Foreign Secretary, should be able to say that Prince Bismarck was of opinion that England did not act up to her professions?
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND AND GORDON
I am trying to show that the Cabinet has no policy upon any subject. I doubt, my Lords, very much whether anyone in the Cabinet, except the Colonial Secretary, is altogether 1348 satisfied with our position as regards our Colonial Possessions. It was a strange thing to happen in Africa that it should be necessary to send a Force from this country, not of our soldiers, but of volunteers, to restore order and re-establish our prestige in that quarter. I doubt whether anyone in the Government, except the First Lord of the Admiralty, is altogether satisfied with the condition of the Navy; and what I say is, that the weak and vacillating conduct which has characterized the Government in every Department has produced the existing state of things in Egypt. My Lords, I want to say one word more. I do not think that I shall find any Member of the Cabinet, in this House at all events, endorsing the opinions—the revolutionary and socialistic opinions—which have been put forward by certain Members of the Cabinet in the other House. I say that the Cabinet is divided, that they have no policy, that they cannot agree upon a policy; and my point is this—that they were from April to September trying to find a policy, but that their indecision prevented them from doing so. That indecision was caused because they are a divided Cabinet, and because no two Members of the Cabinet agree upon the same thing. Will any Member of the Cabinet say what is the policy in Egypt? I listened to the noble Lord, and failed altogether to find that there was any. I do not think that they can be satisfied with what is going on in that country. The noble Lord admitted that it was a very lamentable state of things, and that the loss of blood and treasure was such as everyone must deplore. The noble Lord said that the references to the bombardment of Alexandria were in the nature of an elaborate exaggeration; but I cannot see what difference there is between the bombardment of these forts and the bombardment of a city, when no precautions are taken for the subsequent protection of the citizens. It is certain that from the bombardment of Alexandria down to the time of the death of General Gordon there was no consistent action taken by Her Majesty's Government. They have destroyed the existing Government in Egypt. I fail to see what Government has been supplied in its place. We are told that there will be one, but we are not told how that Go- 1349 vernment is to be maintained. They ordered the abandonment of the Soudan, but at the same time they took no steps to relieve the garrisons by which it was retained. General Gordon was sent to the Soudan positively without any assistance at all except his own unexampled faith and valour, and he was left in Khartoum with three Englishmen. General Graham was also sent, but he was sent when it was too late to relieve the fortresses in the Eastern Soudan. He attacked and destroyed Osman Digna; but instead of following up this action, which might have tended to the relief of Khartoum and General Gordon, he was stopped altogether, and the General, having failed to relieve those fortresses, and having gained a signal victory over Osman Digma, retired. I believe that Osman Digna at the present moment is in the same position as that in which he was when vanquished; the only difference being that he is in larger numbers and in greater force. The Government resisted the appeals of General Gordon as long as he was able to make them. He was listened to, but nothing came of it. The gallant dash of Sir Herbert Stewart across the desert cost great loss of life and great expenditure of treasure; but what is our position now? We have a small Force scattered over a large portion of the desert, trying to concentrate upon some point where we may oppose the advance and resist the attack of the Madhi. The Madhi is now reinforced by the fall of Khartoum, and we have now despatched to that country the flower of our Army to endeavour to vanquish him. But, the flower of our Army having been sent to smash the Madhi, I know not what will happen when that operation has been performed. I think that we ought to know what is to take place, and what protection is to be given to the tribes who, trusting the promises of this country, have deserted a heartless tyrant, and who should not be left to the will and pleasure of those from whom they have deserted. My Lords, we have now occupied Egypt for three years, and it appears to me that the condition of that country now is worse than when we went there first. Is there any indication on the part of Her Majesty's Government that they are going to adopt any consistent or decided policy? Is there any idea ex- 1350 pressed by them which would lead us to believe that they realize the great gravity of the situation, and that they have at last seen the impossibility of guiding the interests of this great country by the vacillating and weak counsels that have hitherto prevailed? I fear that we have no such intimation; and unless Her Majesty's Government rise above the paltry considerations of Party politics, whatever may be the fate of this Motion proposed by my noble Friend, whatever may be the successes which the Government may achieve by means of their mechanical majority in the other House of Parliament, I venture to predict that it will not be long before they are driven from the Offices they have discredited by the indignant voice of the nation they have betrayed.
THE MARQUESS OF HUNTLY
said, he was surprised to hear the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon) say that the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (the Earl of Northbrook) had conclusively proved everything which the noble Marquess had brought forward. He listened attentively to the two speeches, and he thought the reasons which the noble Earl gave, and which induced the Government to select the Nile route as against the Suakin-Berber route, were conclusively put and ably argued. As he understood those arguments, they were that in the months of June and July it would have been impossible to send English troops to Suakin, that in the meantime British troops had been advanced up the Nile to the assistance of the Mudir of Dongola, and that it was desirable to protect them by conciliating the tribes and getting a friendly bulwark against the Mahdi's invasion. Those reasons were very conclusive to his mind, and did not bear upon the face of them the charge brought forward so recklessly against the Government that they had not done anything in this matter until September. The noble Duke remarked that he could not understand the difference between the bombardment of forts and the bombardment of a city. For his part, he considered that the bombardment of a town was an outrage against civilization, while the bombardment of forts was an act of war. The second part of the noble Marquess's Motion, which asserted that the policy of abandoning the whole of the Soudan after the conclusion of 1351 military operations would be dangerous to Egypt and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire, would, he thought, meet with a great deal of assent on the Ministerial side of the House. But the Government themselves appeared to be under somewhat of that impression, for British troops had during the whole of the past year occupied Suakin. He contended that the Government had been quite right in attempting, through General Gordon, to withdraw the garrisons from the Soudan by pacific means. It had, however, turned out a most unfortunate matter. A great deal had been said about the indecision of Her Majesty's Government; but the disasters were in great measure due to grievous bad luck. He should have been glad if pacific means had been adequate to quelling the Arab tribes; but he believed that they were not. This Arab movement was very widespread, and throughout all Mahommedan countries there were many prayers being offered up for the success of the Mahdi. It would, therefore, be very unwise to underrate the power of the Mahdi. He did not say that it was absolutely necessary to "smash" him, but it certainly was absolutely necessary to stop him. As a great nation ruling over a vast number of Mahommedans, we were bound to put down the Mahdi. The Government had been well advised in following the advice of General Gordon as to the Egyptian garrisons; but now that the insurrection had spread, they were wise in adopting the present military measures, which, he hoped, might lead to the establishment of such a Government in the Soudan as would secure order and give peace to the country. They were bound to defend those of the Mahommedans in Egypt who had stood by us throughout these operations, and they ought not to retire from the country until they had left there a Government which would protect those who had supported us in these difficult circumstances, and we ought not to hand these people over to a man who was nothing more than a barbarian and a cruel despot. The railway to Berber would bring incalculable advantages. If it were successfully completed, and Suakin held by this country, we should have an excellent opportunity of promoting the civilization and prosperity of the Soudan. He did not wish to defend everything that had been 1352 done; but it was very easy to prophesy disaster, and when disaster occurred to say, "I told you so." They must remember that, in dealing with these Oriental matters, they were dealing with a country which did not belong to them, and they were tied by arrangements with other Powers. There was no doubt that the circumstances of the time were very critical; but he believed that the policy of the country might be safely left in the hands of the present Government, and he intended to cordially support them.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
supported the Amendment, which, he said, meant the withdrawal of the British troops, and that no further military operations should be carried on beyond what were necessary to extricate our troops now in the Soudan. It had been objected to such a course, among other things, that the Indian Mussulmans would be excited by our retiring. But, in his opinion, there was no fear of that; they would be more excited by the continued purposeless slaughter of Arabs. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment had called it an unhallowed war, and the sole origin of it all was the bombardment of Alexandria, the authors of which ought to have been brought to judgment. It was said that we could not retire from the Soudan because of the consequences to those of its inhabitants who had been friendly to us. He thought the tribes were well able to take care of themselves; but he would take the case of the Mudir of Dongola, because that had been given as an instance by Sir Stafford Northcote. Whether the Mudir of Dongola could remain safely, or whether he should retire along with Lord Wolseley, was entirely a matter within the judgment and discretion of the Mudir of Dongola. He thought that he might have been compromised by the decoration delivered to him by Lord Wolseley, and, in his place, he would retire. As to military prestige, he thought that the credit of our troops had never stood higher than it did now; and our prestige had been amply maintained by Lord Charles Beresford's exploit in repairing his boiler under fire. He deprecated further military operations in the Soduan, on the ground of its climate; there was nothing like it in India. That afternoon, a writer professing to be a competent authority had made light of this 1353 deadly climate, and said that the unwholesome nature of the water could be remedied by boiling the water before drinking it. But how, he would ask, was it possible to boil the water for a whole army? As to the railway from Suakin to Berber, its construction had been advocated by many who would be glad to see it made by the Government, in order to buy it cheap when constructed. But its construction would lead to its protection by this country for an indefinite time. Those who knew what the climate of the Soudan was said that the rains would very shortly come, and, after that, the troops would all be down with fever. Then, again, it was said that the Government ought to establish a stable Government in the Soudan. How could they do so, when they had not yet been able to establish a Government in Egypt Proper? The Government could not point to a single reform that they had introduced into Egypt. He wished, before he sat down, to ask the Government why they had induced the Italian Government to occupy Massowah, or why they had not dissuaded them from doing so? In his opinion, by so doing they were alienating the Turks and violating the rights of the Sultan, and in abandoning our ancient alliance with the Ottoman Empire, they were acting like the dog of the fable who abandoned the substance for the shadow.
§ LORD BRABOURNE
said, if everyone who was compromised in this matter were to retire he was afraid that the political life of Her Majesty's Government would be of short duration. Neither could he agree with the last speaker that the Italian soldiers could be of little use to us. No braver soldiers were to be found; and he heartily rejoiced that Italy, for whom England had so often felt warm sympathy, now, in the hour of England's necessity, returned that sympathy, and that the Italian soldiers, who had fought bravely by our side in the Crimean war, were again ready to become our loyal allies. He would frankly own that it was with very considerable regret that he recognized the necessity of the Motion made by the noble Marquess. At a time when the position of public affairs was very critical, he should, indeed, have rejoiced if it had been possible for Great Britain to have presented to the world the spectacle of a firm and strong Government 1354 and a united Parliament; and he ventured to think that the people of England and Scotland and the loyal population of Ireland cared little what political Party held the reins of power in comparison with the strong desire they had that the honour of their country should be maintained, and her obligations duly discharged. Therefore, he held it to be the paramount duty of every man to support the Queen's Government, as such, provided he could find reasonable cause for the belief that in giving that support he would be able to secure the objects which the country so ardently desired. He (Lord Brabourne), if he could cherish such a belief, would be ready to forego—or, at least, to postpone—criticism upon the past. He would deprecate attack in the present, and would look with renewed hope to the future. But, unhappily, whilst the conduct of Her Majesty's Government constantly tempted criticism and invited attack, their feeble utterances seemed to exclude that hope which alone could justify abstention from one or the other. He would not weary their Lordships with long extracts from Blue Books or Parliamentary Papers. The issues before them were not such as could be decided by references to this or that speech, to this mistake or that inconsistency. It seemed to him that the issues in the present debate were of a broader and simpler character. The question which he asked himself was this—Had Her Majesty's Government from first to last had any clear and definite policy with regard to Egyptian affairs; or, if so, had they taken wise, reasonable, fair, and adequate measures to insure the success of their policy? It was impossible to look back at the history of Egyptian affairs without seeing that from first to last their policy had been conspicuous by its absence. They had gone upon a policy of drift and dawdle; they had dawdled, on in the hope that something would turn up. The complaint he had to make was that, whereas they had adopted this drifting and dawdling course, the country had a right to expect that Her Majesty's Advisers would have shown some little foresight and sagacity, and an intelligible line of action in dealing with such a problem. The truth was, that when the present Government came into Office they had only one defined and 1355 certain principle upon which they were agreed—namely, that everything done by their Predecessors was wrong, and affairs both at home and abroad profoundly unsatisfactory. One exception, indeed, he must in justice make, and of that he had been reminded by the speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond and Gordon). Mr. Gladstone, in his famous Mid Lothian campaign, had certainly stated that the condition of Ireland was satisfactory. It must, however, be remembered that in his more recent campaign in Scotland, the Prime Minister had admitted that he had made this statement in contradiction to Lord Beaconsfield's announcement to the contrary—when, in fact, he knew nothing about it; for he had been so much occupied in picking holes in Lord Beaconsfield's foreign policy, that he had been unable to pay any attention to Ireland. So far as Egypt was concerned, however, the Government had commenced their career by attributing everything that went wrong to their Predecessors, and especially to that "Dual Control," which was described as the child of the wicked Lord Salisbury. Here, however, an exception must also be made in the Prime Minister's favour; for, speaking at Leeds in October, 1881, he had stated that although there might be risks in the Dual Control, he wished to give the credit which was due to those who had gone before him, that the joint intervention of Prance and England had been beneficial to Egypt, and that he had not the least reason to doubt that they would be able to maintain a thoroughly united action. But for the rest of his Colleagues and supporters, they seemed to have "Dual Control" on the brain, and everything that went wrong was attributed to this act of their Predecessors. At last, however, the country grew sick of this excuse, for it was obvious to everyone that at some period or other in their existence a Government must itself be responsible for the consequences of its own acts. He (Lord Brabourne) had been wrong in saying that the Government had only been agreed upon one principle. They had been united upon another, and it was that of continually shifting their own responsibilities on to the shoulders of somebody else. They had deprived the Egyptian Government from the first of all power and responsibility, 1356 and yet they continually shifted responsibility on to the shoulders of the Egyptian Government, apparently desiring to keep for themselves the power without the responsibility, whilst they left to the Egyptian Government the responsibility without the power. In the same way they shifted responsibility on to Gordon; and after reading the recent Papers, and listening to the halting utterances of the Foreign Secretary on the first night of the Session, he could not help fancying that there was a latent intention that responsibility should be thrown on Lord Wolseley. It could not be too strictly laid down that whilst it was undoubtedly right and wise to leave to a General in command the widest discretion as to his strategical movements, it was the Government, and the Government alone, which must be held responsible for their policy. The excuse put forward by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Huntly), that the Government had had grievous bad luck, was the poorest that had ever been offered to Parliament. It was the excuse of the ruined gamester. The complaint he made, and he ventured to say that it was a complaint which would be re-echoed throughout the country, was this—that instead of their having adopted a policy of drifting and dawdling, they ought, as public men, to have accepted the high responsibility which attached to Members of Her Majesty's Government, and should have exhibited some little foresight, some little sagacity, some clear and definite plan in dealing with Egyptian affairs. They had sacrificed many valuable lives, and had shed the blood not only of their enemies, but of their own countrymen. In a single sentence he dismissed the idea that they could withdraw from the Soudan in the way suggested by his noble Friend who moved the Amendment. If they withdrew, there would be, first, the destruction of all persons who had shown any friendliness towards ourselves, and in that attempt to promote peace they would probably produce and promote an amount of war and bloodshed which could hardly be contemplated by the noble Lord (Lord Wentworth). He could not hesitate to condemn the policy of the Government, not only for its results, but because he was afraid if it was not checked by the action of the British 1357 Parliament a similar policy might continue, and similar and even greater disasters might occur. And now let him (Lord Brabourne) say something of General Gordon and his mission. It had been alleged, as if it was some excuse for the Government, that General Gordon had volunteered his services. No doubt, General Gordon had done that which British soldiers had often done before, and would always be ready to do—he had expressed his readiness to be of service to his country. But General Gordon had actually started on his way to the Congo, on behalf of the King of the Belgians, when he was summoned to London by a telegram from the Government. Now, why was General Gordon sent out? Because our Government had forced the Egyptian Government to consent to the evacuation of the Soudan, and in honour they could do no less than send out a British officer of rank to assist in that evacuation. He blushed to think that any Minister could suggest that General Gordon had exceeded his instructions in endeavouring to obtain order and good government for the Soudan. He denied emphatically that Gordon had in one iota exceeded his instructions. The whole life of General Gordon was a life of obedience to orders and of self-devotion; and the suggestion would fall to the ground at once if reference was made to the instructions themselves. On the 14th of February, Mr. Gladstone, in answer to a Question put by Lord Randolph Churchill, said—The direct action and direct functions in which General Gordon was immediately connected with this Government are, I think, pretty much absorbed in the greater duties of the large mission which he has undertaken under the immediate authority of the Egyptian Government, with the full moral and political responsibility of the British Government."—(3 Hansard,  893.)And here are the instructions of the Egyptian Government—We trust that your Excellency will adopt the most effective measures for the accomplishment of your mission in this respect, and that after completing the evacuation you will take the necessary steps for establishing an organized government in the different provinces of the Soudan, for the maintenance of order and the cessation of all disasters and incitements to revolt.But what did the Government do when they had got General Gordon in the 1358 Soudan? They refused him every request he made. Take his demand for Zebehr Pasha. It was not his (Lord Brabourne's) business to defend the noble Marquess for anything he might have said or left unsaid in this matter. But here were the facts. General Gordon asked that Zebehr Pasha should be sent as a necessity under the circumstances. Why? Because Zebehr was a native of the place, and had local influence which could be used against the Mahdi. It was said that he must not be sent because he was a slave-hunter, and the reputation of England would be compromised. General Gordon may have thought that this danger ought to be run in order to avert more serious and more real disasters. What reason did the Prime Minister give for having refused the request for Zebehr?—Because within 48 hours an Address to the Crown from Parliament would have paralyzed our efforts.That was an unworthy reason. If the Government did not trust General Gordon, why did they employ him? If they employed him, why did they not trust him? His demand for Zebehr was either right or wrong, and if they trusted him and desired to grant his demand, they should have boldly done so and justified their conduct before Parliament, let its decision be what it might. Take another instance of the indecision of the Government. Referring to Lord Hartington's speech on 13th of May, Mr. Gladstone, upon the 5th of August, repeated the statement in that speech that—An Expedition for the relief of General Gordon would not be justified for the purpose of enabling General Gordon to smash or overpower the Mahdi, nor for the purpose of giving a satisfactory government to the inhabitants of the Soudan."—(3 Hansard,  1758.)So long ago as the 27th of February, General Gordon had telegraphed—"If Egypt is to be quiet, Mahdi must be smashed up," and had warned the Government that if this was not done, then they would have to do it later at a vastly increased sacrifice. And now, when their delay in taking General Gordon's advice had brought so much misfortune upon us, the Prime Minister, in this very week, speaks of theResolution of the Government to employ the forces of Her Majesty's Government to overthrow the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum.1359 They were going to do now, at an enormous cost, that which a little foresight and energy would have enabled them, a year ago, to do with comparative ease. It had been said, though not in their Lordships' House, that whatever offences of delay might have been committed by the Government had been known to the House of Commons last May, and had then been condoned by their rejection of a Vote of Censure. He (Lord Brabourne) protested against any such doctrine. Neither House was estopped or debarred from a Vote of Censure to-day by what had occurred last May. At that time many men, hoping against hope that the policy of the Government might still succeed, had been reluctant to sever political ties, and to displace the Government at a critical time. But it might well happen that such men might change their minds, when they found how their hopes had been disappointed and the policy of the Government had failed. Their Lordships must not be deceived by those who would have them to believe that we were fighting against a people struggling to be free; the people struggling to be free were those whom the Mahdi attacked and attempted to enslave. If they read General Gordon's despatches they would see that two-thirds of the Soudanese by no means desired the Mahdi; and the people were being slaughtered by the Mahdi owing to the negligence of the Government. All the expectations of the Government had been falsified by the result; and all the prophecies of the Opposition had become true. Nor was it the Opposition alone which condemned the Government policy. Let their Lordships listen to a friendly description—Mr. Gladstone wishes strongly, but wills feebly, and be allows himself to drift here and there at the mercy of circumstances. His Egyptian and Soudanese policy has always been to tide over difficulties by some temporary expedient, instead of meeting them boldly, and he mistakes a Parliamentary victory for statesmanship.These were not the words of any Tory, nor even of one of the abhorred occupants of the Cross Benches, but they appeared in a newspaper of yesterday's date, the proprietor and editor of which was that notorious Radical, Mr. Labouchere, one of the great supporters of the Prime Minister. The question then arose, What course should they pursue? 1360 For his part he could not hesitate. He should vote for the Motion. He well knew what would be the result in their Lordships' House. They would return the same verdict which would be given by any other body of intelligent and impartial Englishmen. Possibly, indeed, a different verdict might be given in "another place." Their Lordships as yet did not tremble beneath the despotism of a political organization which visited independent thought and action with a ruthless ostracism. But behind their Lorships' House, and behind the House of Commons, there was another tribunal to whom the final appeal must be made. The final appeal would ere long be made to the people in their constituencies. He (Lord Brabourne) wondered with what cry Her Majesty's Ministers would face the constituencies. It could not be the good old Liberal cry of "Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform." With regard to Reform, indeed, they would probably seek to monopolize the credit of that extended franchise which had been freely conceded by men of all political Parties. But Peace! Since their accession to Office they had given us nothing but war. And Retrenchment, and the reduction of taxation which we had been so boldly promised, had passed from us like an idle dream. He feared the Prime Minister would hardly venture upon another manifesto with a promise to repeal the Income Tax! Would they try to conjure once more with the name of Gladstone? Another name would be uppermost in the hearts of the people. The name of Gordon would not yet have been forgotten. The people of England would remember how the Government eagerly made use of his heroic qualities behind which to shelter themselves in their hour of political necessity—how they sent him forth into the wilderness with the burden of their sins and their failures upon him; how with empty phrases and hollow words here at home they praised his courage and sagacity at the very moment that they were rendering the one of no avail by refusing every request and every suggestion dictated by the other. Aye, and they would remember something more. They would remember how the Government sought to shift their responsibility on to the hero's shoulders by the miserable excuse that he had exceeded his instruc- 1361 tions; how they refused him succour, and drifted and dawdled until it was too late; and how, at last, they left that great patriot to perish, and to perish with the bitter reflection that he owed his death, not so much to the savage hordes by whom he was encompassed, as to the delay and neglect of those who governed his own country. And why was all this? Not because Her Majesty's Ministers were not as good patriots as any of us—not because they did not know what was necessary to be done, and were not willing to do it; but because, from first to last, they had been tied and bound by the exigencies of their political position—because it was a dire necessity to them to keep united that mixed multitude of politicians which sustained them in Office, and because they dared not, by prompt and vigorous action, offend and alienate that section of their Party who objected to any action at all. He said boldly that Gordon had been sacrificed to the political necessities of a feeble Government; and if Englishmen were Englishmen still, if there was any of the spirit of the old race still left, if virtue was not dead, and patriotism was not extinct among them, the result of an appeal to the constituencies would be to drive from Office and relegate to private life the men who for five weary years had misrepresented the people abroad and misgoverned them at home, without a policy and without a principle!
said, he had listened with great attention to every word that fell from the noble Marquess in moving his Resolutions, in a speech worthy of the occasion and of his great powers, but which it appeared to him might be all summed up in the trite remark that it was easy to be wise after the event. Let them examine for a moment the Resolutions of the noble Marquess. First of all, the noble Marquess attributed failure of the Soudan Expedition to the undecided counsels of the Government and to culpable delay in commencing military operations. Now, of all the charges in the world vacillation was the one that could least be substantiated against the Government. If they erred it was by too obstinate an adherence to the fixed policy of noninterference in the internal affairs of Egypt, and especially of the Soudan, so long as that could be actually 1362 avoided, and it was only when the absolute necessity arose that they departed from the prescribed line of action; but although they even then did so with reluctance, it was impossible to deny that they did so with vigour. Then as to the culpable delay in commencing military operations. Of course there was delay, and of course there were hopes entertained till the last moment that military measures would not be required. It was the custom of civilized nations to exhaust the resources of diplomacy before making appeal to the final arbitrament of the sword. Of course there was hesitation to send an army into the desert. Those who had seen the desolate shores of the Red Sea, the fever-smitten banks of the Nile, and the boundless, pitiless, and shifting sands of the desert, sympathized with hesitation in sending fair-haired armies of Anglo-Saxons into those inhospitable regions. The noble Marquess might not have hesitated, and especially in the cool shade and irresponsible freedom of Opposition he would not appear to have been a prey to any hesitation; but for those who were responsible for the decision and the result, who had to draw the route and sign the cheques, they naturally, and very properly, hesitated before committing the country to this vast expense and the regiments employed to such hardships and privation. Had they not hesitated they would have been unworthy to hold the reins of power. Secondly, the noble Marquess said the policy of abandoning the Soudan after military operations was dangerous to Egypt and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire. Did the noble Marquess see no danger to the Empire in our remaining in the Soudan after the close of military operations? A Government must consider many things—it must look beyond the geographical limits of any one country. It could not always only consider what it would like to do. It had to consider what it was possible for it to do in the circumstances; next it had to consider what was politic, and then it had to consider what was honest. The Foreign Office and the India Office knew how all the Powers of Europe and the two Americas watched our proceedings. They knew how infectious a thing a high-handed and annexationist policy was, and although he or many others 1363 might regret not founding after military operations a magnificent Colony in the Soudan to grow cotton and corn and oil and wine, and to become a first-class market for our home manufactures, yet they must remember what was possible, what was politic, and what was honest. Then let them consider for a moment the military position. The campaign was not yet over; it had, indeed, only just begun, and it was too early to judge it. When the campaign was first decided upon what did the Government do? Whom did they consult? They consulted the one man in England most competent to give them good advice—they consulted the same high authority, who, had he been in Office, the noble Marquess himself would probably have consulted—namely, Lord Wolseley. He gave them his advice. Others, it appeared, tendered different advice; the Government naturally followed Lord Wolseley's. Would the noble Marquess have done otherwise? It was true the first object of the campaign—the rescue of that heroic man, General Gordon—had not been attained, and all concurred that that was deplorable. He endorsed the word "deplorable" used by the noble Marquess in this connection—but the Papers presented to Parliament showed that this first object—the rescue of General Gordon—had been for a long time past impossible. They now knew that for a long time past the Mahdi had held Khartoum in the hollow of his hand—that he had played with it as a cat with a mouse. But the ultimate aim of the campaign was not jeopardized, nor for one moment doubtful. Let them calmly consider what had happened. They had lost two able Commanders and some brave men. They could not have campaigns without casualties—wars, like revolutions, were not made of rose-water. But if they had no campaigns they would have no Generals, and he was one of those who believed that the demand would always produce the supply both of able Commanders and of brave men in the ranks of the British Army. People forgot that peace had its victims as well as war—that the barrack square was reponsible for more deaths than the field of battle; only the former passed unheeded, while the latter, being more glorious, were telegraphed all over the world. Nothing was more remarkable, in his opinion, 1364 than the gross exaggeration that had become habitual with us in forming an estimate of current events. People compared this Expedition with the Crimean War and with the Indian Mutiny. To do so was to lose all sense of proportion. Then people conjured up theories of widespread revolt in India and elsewhere. Nothing could be more false. He knew India pretty well, and he knew there was no unrest in the Native mind there now. The Natives of India were loyal, from the Nizam, the Maharajahs Scindiah and Holkar, downwards to the poorest ryot of Bengal or rajpoot of Central India, and were occupied in following the arts of peace, in making railways and other things. Either the noble Marquess believed in the existence of a national crisis and in its gravity, or he did not. For his own part, he did not think that the noble Marquess did believe in its existence. The noble Marquess was made of sterner stuff than to be led away by all the sentimental nonsense of the day; he knew armies were not made only for the parade ground But still the noble Marquess was in a cleft stick. He either believed in the gravity of the crisis or he did not. If he did, he might do worse than follow the patriotic practice of former days, when Her Majesty's Opposition, in a national crisis, considered it a duty rather to strengthen than to weaken the hands of the Executive. The historian had told them of a time when "none was for a Party, but all were for the State." Unfortunately, that was a long time ago, and things had not improved since then. But possibly the noble Marquess did not believe in the gravity of the crisis after all; and in that case he would only say that the Resolutions were drawn with his accustomed skill and ingenuity, and proceeded on the well-known tactics of endeavouring to make others believe what he did not believe himself. He would say no more than to express his conviction that the end of the campaign would fully justify the course taken by the Government, and his belief that the country retained undiminished and unwavering confidence in the Government of Mr. Gladstone and in the generalship of Lord Wolseley.
THE EARL OF JERSEY
said, he thought the noble Lord (Lord Thurlow) had made a new departure that 1365 night, and had hinted that there was another object for the Expedition besides the relief of General Gordon. In his (the Earl of Jersey's) opinion, if the Government were to retain the confidence of the country they would have to show a far more decided front than they had done. The language of the Motion did not criticize the conduct of the campaign, but the policy of Her Majesty's Government. They found fault with the Government that, having been warned in February last year of the great danger in which General Gordon was placed, they had taken no steps till August. It was high time that the policy of the Government should be tried by its results. In the past they had succeeded in nothing, and the future only seemed to point to a vindictive Expedition, followed by a hasty evacuation. History could show nothing that could equal the baseness and weakness with which General Gordon had been treated. In March, Sir Evelyn Baring had pointed out General Gordon's peril, and yet nothing was done till August. He wished to have an explanation from the Government as to how long a time the construction of the proposed railway from Suakin to Berber was likely to take, and what was to become of the line when the Soudan had been evacuated. He denied that a substantial beginning had been made in the introdution of representative institutions into Egypt, as alleged by the Prime Minister. The policy of the Government had, he urged, been one of waiting on events, and then of revenging themselves upon somebody whenever they had failed in consequence of their own indecision and vacillation. When they had failed to relieve Sinkat and Tokar, they revenged themselves upon Osman Digna; and now that they had failed to rescue General Gordon, they proposed to "smash" the Mahdi. If they were determined to evacuate Egypt, according to their repeated declarations, on what ground did the Government justify their interference there during the last three years? If, as he contended, England had important interests in Egypt, how were they to be secured by our abandoning that country? Four-fifths of the trade that passed through the Suez Canal was British; and it was of the greatest importance that the Canal should be so guarded that no 1366 other Power would be able to use it in a hostile manner towards us. Whoever was master in Egypt must be master of the Suez Canal; and it was our imperative duty to see that no other country had control of the latter. It was for that purpose we went to Egypt, and for it we must remain there. They really required to have what noble Lords opposite so much disliked, a scientific frontier; and whether the line was drawn at Khartoum, Berber, or any other place, they must fix that as the limit of Egypt which they would defend against the Mahdi or any other Arab invader. They must also direct and control the Government of Egypt, and, without any offence to other Powers, let it be clearly understood that they intended to remain in Egypt for good. The future of Egypt was in the hands of this country, and for that reason he was glad that this Resolution had been proposed. The Government were alienating the goodwill of that great German Empire with which they ought to be in friendly alliance; there was now also a gloomy shadow over the frontier of Afghanistan, which was not likely to be dispelled by such a half-hearted policy as that which had been pursued in Egypt; and he, therefore, thought that their Lordships' House would fail in its duty if it did not raise a warning voice against a system which had tarnished the honour and threatened to impair the strength of the Empire.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, it appeared to him that the Government were not ready to vindicate their policy. He wished to call attention to the emptiness of the Benches on the Government side of the House. If the Government had a good cause there was reason to suppose that those Benches would not have presented that empty and ridiculous appearance which they now showed. One after another noble Lords on his own side of the House had risen to deliver their opinions as to what the Government had done in Egypt, their sins of omission and commission, but hardly a noble Lord rose from the Ministerial side to respond; and the question was going entirely by default. He hoped by-and-bye that their Lordships would have some light thrown on the question from the Ministerial side; at present he had nothing to do but thrice to slay the slain. Nothing which had been said by 1367 his noble Friends in the previous course of the debate had been contradicted by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty in his defence of the Government. It seemed to him that the noble Lord spoke in very halting phrases, and made a very lame defence indeed. From the beginning of this Egyptian matter it seemed to him that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been well described as a policy of alternate abandonment and hurry. Sometimes the Government were hurrying to action, and anon they were retracing their steps. After the bombardment of Alexandria, and even up to the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, they advanced gaily enough; but after that time the Government appeared to have thought that in handing over the crippled resources of Egypt to a Khedive, who was only nominally a Euler, they sheltered themselves from responsibility; by merely declaring that they had no responsibility, they thought that they avoided the reality of that responsibility. During all that time, however, the country had known well on whom the responsibility rested. When General Hicks went into the Southern Soudan, Her Majesty's Government would not give him even the semblance of advice. They said that they avoided even advice on the matter. General Hicks went forward and met his doom like a man and a British soldier; but his doom lay at the door of Her Majesty's Government, who could give no decided opinion. They had the power of preventing that Expedition if they had chosen, and if they really believed, as they said they did, that Egypt ought to give up the Soudan. But the fiction of Khedivial responsibility was kept up, and it was even now being maintained, although all Europe knew now that it was a great pretence and a farce. In January, 1884, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a great change of front, and said that the Bed Sea littoral was to be handed over to the Turkish troops. He also said that Khartoum not only ought to be surrendered, but that it must be surrendered. The Government threw off the flimsy disguise of Khedivial responsibility, and assumed for a moment the real responsibility which must be left on the shoulders of the Government. At this time General Gordon went out to the Soudan. And at this time the garrison of Sinkat 1368 fell. That massacre took place unavenged. It was not until too late that the Government awoke to their responsibility in this matter, and that they thought of sending out an Expedition. General Graham was ordered out to Suakin. Why was he ordered out? Was it not that the Government felt that the indignation of the English people was so great that unless something was done, not only the garrison of Sinkat, but the Government of Her Majesty, would be sacrificed? If that was not the reason, why did General Graham go out? It was true that General Graham won two great victories; but he was stopped in the mid career of victory; and those victories were changed from real victories for the British arms to unjustified massacres by the fact that they were utterly objectless. Gordon, having arrived at Khartoum, wrote on February 27 stating that the power of the Mahdi must be destroyed. "It is easy now," he said; "but it will be difficult hereafter." This warning of General Gordon was not followed up till August. The noble Earl the First Lord of the Admiralty tried to make out that there was no delay on the part of the Government. Mr. Gladstone said that the whole of the time between February 27 and when the Expedition went out at the end of August was employed in making preparations for the Expedition; but he left their Lordships to judge whether there was any solid foundation for such a statement as that. How could it be said that all the time between February and August was taken up in organizing an Expedition of the character that ultimately went out? The battle of El Teb was fought in February; and on the 3rd of March General Gordon wrote—If I could be mean enough to try to escape I should he unable to do so.Yet it was even now asserted by Ministers that it was open to General Gordon to escape at any time if he had chosen to do so; and they insinuated that if he did not do so, it was because of his own obstinacy.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he did not attribute the use of the word obstinacy to the Prime Minister; but that was 1369 the fair inference to be drawn from his observations. The telegram from General Gordon which he had just quoted showed that General Gordon could not have escaped even if he had wished to do so. On the 16th of March last Sir Evelyn Baring, telegraphing home, said that the Suakin-Berber road must be opened. That was the first mention made of this route. It was then fully discussed, and referred to the military advisers of the Cabinet. Sir Frederick Stephenson, one of the ablest and truest soldiers that ever served England, strongly advocated the Suakin-Berber route, and gave his reasons for preferring it to the Nile Valley route. He did not complain of the Government deciding on the Nile Valley route; but he did think that since General Stephenson was superseded on the avowed ground that he preferred the Suakin-Berber route and could not be asked to assist in carrying out the Expedition up the Nile Valley, it was at least due to that gallant officer, now that the Government had at last decided on opening up the Suakin-Berber route, that some mention should be made in the House of the fact that he was the first to propose it. On the 3rd of April Lord Hartington, in the face of repeated applications from General Gordon, stated that he did not know that General Gordon wished for any troops. Yet on the 4th of April General Gordon wrote that all was up with him; that he was surrounded, and that if God did not protect him there was no one else to do so. From that date to the 19th there was a veil over the state of affairs at Khartoum. But on that day a message came to a friend of General Gordon's in England saying he was "hemmed in." Two days after, when the matter came before Parliament, Mr. Gladstone proceeded to explain what he understood by being "hemmed in," and drew a distinction between that and the town being surrounded. It was a few days before this—on the 16th of April—that General Gordon wrote those memorable words in which he said he would leave to the Government the "indeliable disgrace" of deserting the garrisons. There were also two letters—one on the 19th and the other on the 16th—which showed the idea which he entertained of his cruel abandonment by Her Majesty's Government. On the 23rd of 1370 April the noble Earl opposite sent a despatch to Mr. Egerton for transmission, in which, referring to General Gordon, he said—We do not propose to supply him with Turkish or any other forces for the purpose of a military expedition, such being beyond the scope of the commission he holds and at variance with the pacific nature of his mission, and if with this knowledge he continues at Khartoum he should state the cause of his intention of so doing.That was a distinct intimation that the Government intended to abandon General Gordon. On the 23rd of April Berber was closely invested, and on the 24th April Her Majesty's Government declared that there was no risk at Berber. That had been stated by the First Lord of the Treasury. He had said "Berber is in no danger." Soon afterwards Berber shared the fate of Sinkat, and 5,000 men were sacrificed, with the noble Commander of that place. Just at that time a debate took place in the House of Commons, in the course of which Sir Charles W. Dilke declared that the Government would send aid to General Gordon when they thought it advisable, and would not be hurried by any number of debates on Votes of Censure. They had been applied to in February for relief. They sent out in August. And this very fact showed that they had been culpably negligent. He did not for a moment say that the Relief Expedition was not hurried forward with all despatch; neither did he say that it was not successful so far as it had gone. Far be it from him, too, to say that the noble soldiers had not thoroughly well done their duty. One might find fault with the officials who planned the Expedition; but everyone who did so should make it distinct and clear that he did not include those who were under orders to go and so nobly went. The doings of Her Majesty's troops in the Expedition were beyond all praise, and demanded no praise from him, as their fame had been sung in one universal pœan. The fact, however, now remained that they were in a very dangerous position; but he would not go deeply into military details, but would merely point out that by the laches of Her Majesty's Government in not establishing in the early part of last year the Suakin-Berber road, the troops were now without any available base, far away to the North 1371 down the Nile. It must be difficult for them, in the present state of the Nile, to bring their provisions and supplies from their base to the forward position in which Lord Wolseley now found himself. The fact was that, like everything else that had been done, the Suakin-Berber road had been adopted too late. No greater authority on the subject of railway construction in the East existed than Sir Richard Temple, who, in February of last year, had drawn up a Memorandum on that road, in which he said that by taking an average of the time occupied in the construction of Indian military roads, it might easily be determined how long it would take to construct such a road and how much it would cost; and he said that if it were then begun—that was in February last year—and pushed on with full power and full command of money, it might be ready in nine months. The road was 280 miles in length, and the daily average of work could hardly be put down at more than a mile, and at that rate the road would be ready in nine months from this time. He even thought a few months might be added to that to allow for delay; and, therefore, if the railway, which was to be so long in construction, was only now begun, what good would it be for the base of operations for the troops during the next ensuing summer? They were told that the object of Her Majesty's Government was to chastise the Mahdi at Khartoum and to withdraw from the country. If they were to withdraw, of what use was it to make a railway, which would not be ready for nearly a year? The Government were not going to establish a stable Government at Khartoum or in the Soudan, as they had heard from the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, the statement of the First Lord was to the effect that the one thing the Government would not do was to keep troops at Khartoum to establish a stable Government in the Soudan.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
was also understood to say that the noble Viscount had misapprehended the obser- 1372 vations of the First Lord of the Admiralty.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Lord the First Lord of the Admirality said that the worst of all policies would be that our troops should remain for any time in Khartoum for the purpose of confirming the belief that a stable Government would be established in the Soudan.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he would call another witness as to the intention of Her Majesty's Government. On the 5th of August last year the Secretary for War stated that it was probable that General Gordon, before retiring from Khartoum, might desire to establish some stable form of government, "That, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, would be exceeding his instructions." That was very much what he understood the First Lord to say—namely, that it was not within the scope of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government to form anything like stable government in the Soudan. Part of General Gordon's instructions were to the following effect:—After the complete evacuation you will take the necessary steps for establishing an organized government in the different Provinces of the Soudan,and, therefore, he was bound to say that the Secretary for War was somewhat imperfectly informed of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government; and as the First Lord of the Admiralty displayed the same ignorance, he would leave the Government to settle the matter of their policy between them. This ignorance of their policy only showed that the Resolution proposed by his noble Friend was fully justifiable, and fully borne out by facts; and there being no settled opinion on the part of the Government on this very important question, it behoved that House to express an opinion as to what that policy should be. He would not enter into what that policy should be, as his noble Friend had gone into it in a most thorough manner. His noble Friend had given no uncertain sound, and he was persuaded that the House would fully agree with him in the policy he had enunciated. This policy of abandonment, of which General Gordon was so cruelly made the victim, had been adopted by a Minister who, only a few years ago, fell violently foul of the late 1373 lamented Leader of the Conservative Party, because, as he said, he did not fully appreciate the Bulgarian atrocities. Worse atrocities than those had been committed in the Soudan. Twenty thousand people, at the very least, had been murdered, all garrisons favourable to this country and who acted under its protection, and that had been done by the culpable apathy and negligence of Her Majesty's Government. If no settled Government were established in the Soudan, what would be the position of our allies? The people of the friendly tribes had been told by the Mahdi that he would come and "skin" them, as they expressed it there. The declaration of retirement had been the great difficulty of General Gordon and Lord Wolseley. If the Government had recognized their responsibilities in time, the journey up the Nile would have been, as General Gordon stated, a mere picnic. The friendly tribes now knew what they had to expect; and could it be wondered at that they had been made bitterly hostile? He thought that this Motion of Censure upon the Government was fully deserved, and he was quite sure that throughout the country one unanimous voice of condemnation would be heard against their policy.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
observed, that the noble Marquess opposite, in the earlier portion of the debate, referred to the preference given to the Nile route, and he wished to say a few words upon that subject. The noble Lord opposite had said that he hoped an apology would be given to Sir Frederick Stephenson by the War Office authorities for having first neglected his advice and then adopted it; but he could assure the House that General Stephenson would never claim such an apology for himself. It was perfectly true that they asked his advice, as, of course, they should ask the advice of a distinguished and gallant General who had local knowledge to give them; but the question of the adoption of the Suakin route as against the Nile route was one dependent upon time and other conditions. He was quite prepared to admit that if the railway had been completed, and Berber had been in their hands, it would have been the more certain and safe route for the troops to arrive at Khartoum than the route adopted. But let them just look at the character of the problem they 1374 had to solve, and the nature of the two routes. The Suakin-Berber route involved the crossing of 100 miles of desert with one single well. It was only in very small bodies, of not more than 300 or 400 each, that troops could have crossed the desert. But at this time Berber was not in friendly hands, both ends of the desert were in hostile hands; and, looking at these facts and the general character of the route, he ventured to think he was below the mark considerably when he said that they would have required 30,000 or 40,000 camels going backwards and forwards to support an army adequate to the occasion in the neighbourhood of Berber or Khartoum. At present, as the noble Lord said, they were adopting that route. He admitted it; but it was to be remembered that they were not now tied by time in the way they were last year, when that route was proposed. They had got the whole time before them to complete, at any rate, a great portion of the railroad before the cool weather arrived, when it would be possible to move large bodies of troops. The noble Lord doubted very much whether the railway would be open before nine months had passed. On that point he wished to give no over-sanguine estimate; he could only say that the gentlemen whom they had employed as constructors, and who had a vast amount of experience, gave them a much more favourable account of that; and they might fairly hope, before the summer was over, at any rate, a considerable portion of the road would be completed, and that that portion of the road which, though presenting the greatest difficulty for animals and men to cross, would be the easiest-made portion of the railway, would be finished at a comparatively rapid pace. It was on the distinct advice of Lord Wolseley that it was decided to adopt the Nile route. The advantages of that route were manifest for three reasons. In the first place, they had a very considerable portion of that route easily navigable. They had a base—although at a considerable distance from the sea, still it was a base—at Wady Halfa. There was also the great advantage that by following the river route each boat was able to carry supplies for its crew for 100 days. He thought that Lord Wolseley's plan, in spite of the difficulties he had had to undergo, had been perfectly justified by 1375 its success. But there was a third reason, and that was that, in addition to the military advantages, from a political point of view it was of great importance that the advance should be made along the Nile, because there was great danger of the spread of fanaticism among the tribes of Upper Egypt and Nubia, and it was eminently desirable that a Force should appear on the Nile, with a view to securing the allegiance of the wavering or disaffected tribes. They knew the great importance of Dongola, and of conciliating the allegiance of the Mudir of Dongola, and it was indispensable that a brigade should be prepared in order to advance as quickly as possible from Assouan and Wady Haifa to Dongola. Therefore, by going up the Nile, they combined with the military advantages the great political advantage of giving strength to the allegiance of the tribes among whom they passed. He wished again to assure his noble Friend that no one had the slightest idea of casting the slightest slur on his gallant friend, Sir Frederick Stephenson. But, while fully recognizing the great ability of Sir Frederick Stephenson, it was only fair to state that he had had none of the peculiar experience of the modes of passing cataracts which had fallen to the lot of Lord Wolseley, in the Rod River Expedition. The whole problem was changed, and it was of no use now underrating the difficulties and dangers of the Soudan Campaign. They must face them, or they would become more grave. He ventured to think that retirement, if possible, would be accompanied with the greatest dangers, and unless a check were now given to the barbarian fanaticism which was now flooding Khartoum, it would probably in future years cause far greater difficulties and dangers than at the present time.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, the noble Earl had not yet explained why the Government had selected the Suakin-Berber route at the present time, if it were so impracticable last year.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, it was all very well to talk about the railway; but when were they to have the railway? This was the first time that a railway had been pushed forward 1376 into an enemy's country. As to the assertion that we were not tied for time, it seemed to him that we were very much tied for time. He failed to see any difference between March of last year and March of this year, except that last year we won two victories, and this year we had been obliged to retreat. Last year, however, everything was in readiness for an Expedition, but the vacillation of the Government prevented a start being made. The railway was sent out, and what had become of it he did not know; but he supposed that the taxpayers of England would have to pay for that railway, as well as the new one which was now to be laid down. He had listened to the speeches of noble Lords who were Members of the Government, and had heard them applauded by Members of the Government, but not by noble Lords behind them. The debate had been brought about by the deplorable loss which the country had sustained by the death of General Gordon. The people of this country had watched that hero's career with the keenest interest ever since he was first despatched to the Soudan now more than a year ago. Every telegram, every scrap of information had been read with an excitement growing more intense as the dangers to which he was exposed became more pressing and the wretched feebleness of the Government became more apparent. When he first heard that Her Majesty's Government had decided to send General Gordon single-handed into the Soudan, he thought that a more insane expedition never had been planned or one more likely to lead to the most disastrous complications for this country in the future. The difficulties which were in all conscience terrible enough to daunt anyone less courageous than General Gordon had been increased a hundredfold by the declaration forced from the Khedive's Government by our Ministers at home that Egypt was to abandon the Soudan. How was it possible that the garrisons which General Gordon was sent out to remove in safety could be so removed if every tribe in the Soudan was driven into the service of the Mahdi for self-preservation, acting under the impression that when the garrisons were removed, the Mahdi, being master of the situation, could deal with them at his pleasure? But there was just one chance 1377 that a man of such extraordinary resource and ability, having a knowledge of the Soudan far in advance of anyone who could possibly have been employed, might, if he was honestly supported by the authorities at home, with the prestige such support would give him, have been able to carry out the wishes of the Government and extricate the garrisons with safety from their perilous position. That chance might have been realized if the Government at home had been prepared to carry out as far as lay in their power the wishes of the agent they had employed, who being on the spot, and having information at his command, and a knowledge of the people he was dealing with, must have known better than anybody else what was best to be done. But how did the Government behave in this respect? Every single request which was transmitted to them by General Gordon from the first to the last had been either directly refused or the carrying out of it postponed until it was too late. It was needless for him to enumerate the requests which were made and which were refused. They had appeared in despatches, and in the public Press, and each succeeding demand, tardily published by the Government, with their reasons for its refusal, had excited among General Gordon's fellow-countrymen a feeling of irritation and disgust. The cruel, the disgraceful treatment of General Gordon would form for ever one of the blackest pages in English history. The Prime Minister the other night declared in feeling language that though General Gordon was dead, yet his example would remain as a benefit to future generations of Englishmen. But what was the use of feeling language or national monuments now that General Gordon was dead, when they would not hold out a finger in time to save him while he was alive? The Prime Minister did not say, however, what would be the effects of the example set by Her Majesty's Government in having sent this heroic Englishman to the Soudan, for the purpose of tiding themselves over a few months of Parliamentary criticism, and then having deserted him, without remorse, notwithstanding his pleadings for succour and assistance, and left him to his cruel fate. The Prime Minister the other night tried to show that, owing to the hot season, nothing could 1378 have been done to avert this terrible disaster. What was the difference between the climate of the Soudan in March, 1884, when the Government declared a Relief Expedition impossible, after having won two victories over the Arabs which would have assisted materially in opening up the route from Suakin to Berber, and the climate of the Soudan in March, 1885, when those victories of last year had been forgotten, when the Mahdi had obtained possession of Khartoum, and when the man we sought to rescue was no more? The other arguments which he had heard used by the Government had been that it was not their fault that Khartoum was lost, as it fell in consequence of treachery: and that the reason why General Wolseley's Expedition started so late last autumn was owing to the difficulty of deciding whether the Suakin or the Nile route was the better one to adopt. The latter was about the most ridiculous excuse that could well be brought forward. Did it take the Government six months to arrive at the determination that the Nile route was the best, and was it necessary to wait until the river began to fall? Then, as to the fact that Khartoum fell through treachery, and that it could not be avoided, he quite admitted that it fell through treachery—treachery of the blackest and most flagrant kind. But through what treachery? Was it alone the treachery of those cowardly Pashas who opened the gates to the Mahdi's troops? There was a worse treachery even than that. There was the treachery of the Government that deserted and deceived the man they themselves had sent into such deadly peril, refusing every request which he made, and betraying him and the town he had so gallantly defended by withholding the much-needed support which could easily have been sent in time. They were now entering upon a campaign in the Soudan which was likely to cost this country dearly. They had no information as to what they were fighting for. The Government had, according to their precedent, declared no policy. They were ruled by men who engaged in warlike operations without any definite aim, who sacrificed the blood and treasure of this country without giving a reason for so doing, who slaughtered thousands of unfortunate Arabs without 1379 any purpose, and who were at that very moment increasing the difficulties and dangers of our gallant troops in the Soudan by refusing to lay down a policy—a Government which, had it not been supported by an enormous majority in "another place," obtained on false issues by false promises and pledges, which had been broken, would long since have been discarded by the country, which they had so disgusted, misruled, and dishonoured, and thus saved this great Empire from disaster, discredit, and disgrace. A definite policy was now required; they had been too long without one. Englishmen were tired of this un-English Government, and the Party which would take up a decided line with regard to Egypt and the Soudan, who would not be afraid to take advantage of that position which our sacrifices had entitled us to, would be supported by the almost unanimous opinion of the people of these Realms.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I do not think that any Member of the present Government will regret that this Motion has been brought forward; and we are very willing that the opinion of Parliament on the Egyptian policy of the Government during the last two or three years should be taken. For in cases of emergency, and no doubt this is one, the essential point is not who shall be Minister—the one thing all-important is that the Minister, whoever he may be, shall possess, and be known to possess, the confidence of Parliament. And I cannot conceive a situation more false, or in its results more fatal, than that which would be created by an Opposition who were able to say—"We could turn you out on a Vote of Confidence if we pleased; but we prefer, though having the majority on our side, to remain in the position of irresponsible critics." That would not be a Constitutional state of things, and it would be one under which no Government could either carry on war, or negotiate successfully. I think, therefore, that the Party represented by noble Lords opposite has done right in bringing this question to an issue; and I can assure them that we on our side ask no indulgence and no forbearance beyond that which we believe any set of men placed in circumstances of unprecedented perplexity and difficulty might claim, and are willing to bear the full re- 1380 sponsibility of whatever we have said or done, or left unsaid or undone, not claiming for ourselves infallibility, but willing to admit that we have made mistakes, if you can show us what those mistakes are. I have no criticism to offer on the terms of the Motion made against us by the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury). It is plain-spoken and uncompromising, and raises the question fairly; but I may observe that in "another place," where the fate of Ministers is more apt to be decided, the corresponding Motion does not seem to have been framed or supported in such a manner as to show any great desire to secure a victory. Things may have altered, and second thoughts may be best; but assuredly the appearance is that of a demonstration rather than of a battle. This Motion does not raise, in either of its branches—and I am glad it does not—the question whether it was wise, in the first instance, to go to Egypt at all. I can well understand that there may be, on that point, a reasonable difference of opinion among men who usually think alike. In my view, the strongest argument in favour of the course actually taken is the certainty that if we had not occupied the country and put an end to anarchy, some other Power would have stepped in and taken our place, and done so, and probably would have done it with much less concern for purely Egyptian interests, and with a much more exclusive desire of national advantage than we are ever likely to show. But that matter is settled, as I conceive, by many previous debates. There is no doubt that public opinion was at the time, and has been ever since, in favour of that occupation, and it is useless to go back to controversies which are now merely historical. I refer to it now only to say that, while I quite understand the language of those who think we ought, in 1882, to have left Egypt alone, I do not see any step that has been subsequently taken which did not follow almost necessarily from that first proceeding. And although the second part of the Motion of the noble Marquess opens a wide field of controversy, I do not gather that it is desired now to discuss the diplomatic history of the last two years as regards the annexation of Egypt. There are, no doubt, many persons who think that we ought at once, on occupying 1381 the country, to have taken the whole control into our own hands, and treated Egypt as being practically a Province of the British Empire. We have never accepted that view. In the first place, I conceive that we should have been doing what we had no right to do. In the next place, we should have utterly thrown away that good understanding with other Powers interested in Egypt which, on the whole, has been maintained during those transactions, and which, I believe, will still survive, uninjured, the present complications. And, lastly, we should have been giving the signal for a general scramble, which might very probably have ended in a European war. These reasons influenced us, and from the first—from Tel-el-Kebir, and even earlier, to the present day—we have steadily kept in view the fact that our occupation was temporary and provisional only, and that our object must be to put the Egyptian Administration in such a position that, guarded and guaranteed from external interference, it should be able to stand alone. I believe it is that determination which is the real cause of much, or most, of the opposition that we have met with. There may not be many persons who will say in so many words "annex Egypt;" but there are very many who wish matters so carried on that annexation, or something equivalent to it, shall be the inevitable end. Now, my Lords, accepting the view of our position which we took, assuming that it was our duty during our temporary occupation to do for the Egyptian Government what they would, if well advised and able, have done for themselves, what was to be our attitude in regard to the Soudan? The noble Marquess says its abandonment was a mistake—that we ought not to have pronounced in favour of its evacuation.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I do not quite follow the noble Marquess, unless he means that, while it was right to do it, we ought to have kept the decision secret from all parties concerned, which, as far as I can see, would have been utterly impossible. At all events, we knew that the Soudan could not be held by Egypt, except at heavy cost; that ever since its acquisition it had been 1382 a dead loss to the revenues of that country; and that, even under such a zealous and capable Governor as General Gordon, order was very imperfectly maintained there. We knew that an increase of burdens on the Egyptian people meant not merely inconvenience, but starvation. In our view, after the failure of Hicks Pasha's Force, it would have been simple madness to attempt the reconquest of the Province. Therefore, all we had to do was to endeavour to save the garrisons; and we must remember that they were scattered all over the country, in places where we had nothing to do with sending them, and where it was most difficult to reach them. Then, as to the despatch of Hicks Pasha's Army, the noble Marquess complains that we allowed that Army to be sent. I quite agree that if it had been possible to have known at that time all that we know now of the state of the Soudan, that is a step which I think we should not have taken. But you must judge it, not by what we know now, but by what we knew then; and we must remember that hostilities had been going on for some years, and that the Egyptian Forces had generally been successful; and it would have been a high-handed and invidious act to interfere by force to prevent the actual Rulers of the country from attempting to suppress an insurrection in one of their own Provinces, which they were confident of being able to put down. I do not think there are many people who will contend that it is our duty to reconquer the Soudan for Egypt. It is, in our belief, a very worthless possession. To regain it at our own cost would have been imposing an unjustifiable burden on this country; to regain it at the cost of Egypt, which was already bankrupt, would have been cruelty to the Egyptian people. We determined, therefore, and I believe the great majority of the public here thought with us, to confine ourselves to the attempt to rescue the garrison at Khartoum. That was the policy of "Rescue and retire," which has been so much criticized, but which I believe to have been entirely sound. It simply meant this—that we would not endeavour to extend or to maintain Egyptian control over a country which, even if conquered, Egypt could not hold without ruin. But, my Lords, I will not 1383 attempt to deny that, in one respect, circumstances have undoubtedly altered since Tel-el-Kebir. We have learnt much—and by no possible means could we have known it beforehand—as to the position and as to the objects of that mysterious personage, the Mahdi. We were naturally inclined to believe, in the first instance, that he was a local Chief, desirous only of setting free his country from Egyptian rule, and who would be satisfied when that object was accomplished. In that view of his position, had he been disposed to allow the garrisons to withdraw peaceably, we were not disposed to quarrel with him. If it was a gain, as we do not doubt, to Egypt to be quit of the Soudan, and if the people of the Soudan wished to be free from Egypt, what ground of difference was there? And it was in that spirit that we sent out General Gordon on his mission. The objects with which he was sent out were fully set out last year. There have been various criticisms upon that mission by the noble Marquess and those who succeeded him. The noble Marquess called it a hopeless and impossible task; but, my Lords, that was not General Gordon's own view of it. He had been Governor General of the Soudan; and he knew the people better than anyone, and he himself volunteered to go. He certainly did not regard it as a forlorn hope; and we were encouraged to send him by his own description of what he was likely to be able to accomplish. We had fair ground for expecting that the insurgents at Khartoum would be content with the evacuation of their country; that they would be willing to make arrangements for the withdrawal of the garrisons; and that they would be satisfied, having got what they wanted, to remain on good terms with Egypt. I do not think that was an irrational or an unreasonable belief. Now, what has passed at Khartoum is very obscure, and I suppose will always remain so. But one thing has come out clearly. We are not dealing with a merely local disturbance. We are not fighting a Chief whose only object is to restore independence to his own tribe or country. The Mahdi is the head of a religious war—a Mahommedan crusade—and it does not follow that if we leave him alone he will leave us or Egypt alone, or even that the fire he has lighted will stop there, or be 1384 confined within the limits of Africa. The best proof is that when we were willing to withdraw from Khartoum, and when we might have reasonably supposed that he would have been glad to facilitate our retirement, he has not abated his hostility, and has not accepted any offers of peace. Well, that fact alters the situation completely. We are not bound either to defend or to attack Khartoum; but we are bound to protect Egypt from attack. We have assumed that duty as a result of our occupation; and while the occupation lasts we cannot withdraw from it. If, therefore, you ask what we are now trying to do, I say exactly the same as last year. We have not varied as to the object, though we have been compelled to change the means. We tried negotiation, while there seemed a chance that negotiation might succeed: it did not succeed, and then there was no alternative but to send out an Expedition. Surely that is the natural and ordinary course of things; and it is very idle to censure us, as some people do, for not sending out a vast and costly Expedition in the first instance, when there was fair ground to hope that the necessity for such an Expedition might have been averted. I do not think the question will be asked, whether we had a right to expose so valuable a life as that of General Gordon on an occasion of great public importance? All England applauded the courage and promptitude with which he accepted that perilous mission. But why did we applaud it? Because we knew, and all the world knew, that it was a mission that involved great personal risk. If it had been otherwise, the applause would not have been given. It is nothing new that English officers should be sent, and should volunteer to serve on hazardous missions; and, in this case, I think no one will deny that the object to be attained was worth the risk. You would undoubtedly have a right to blame us if it can be shown that we had failed in any way, or at any time, to give General Gordon that support which might have helped him. But I venture to affirm that you cannot show that. I have heard some very confident assertions that we have failed in this respect; but assertions are not arguments. ["Oh, oh!"] I want to know what request of his, if possible to be acted on, with a single exception, have 1385 we refused or declined to comply with? The exception which I make is his desire that Zebehr Pasha might be sent out to help him. That is the sole instance of a refusal. We may have been right or wrong in deciding not to send Zebehr—if we had been thinking only of our own responsibility we were undoubtedly wrong—but we were governed by considerations of a very different kind. We knew that General Gordon had seen but little of Zebehr since the time when they were opposed to one another in the Soudan. We knew that the very generosity of his nature might lead him to rely with undue confidence on assurances of reconciliation and promises of support. We could not shut our eyes to the fact that those who had far better opportunities of knowing Zebehr than General Gordon had believed him to be untrustworthy, and thought that if employed by us he would betray his employers, and in that single instance we overruled General Gordon's judgment; but it was in the interest of General Gordon's safety and success, and by the advice of those who had the best means of judging of the character of the man whom he proposed to us to employ. It is said that he at one time asked for Turkish troops to be sent to him. That is true; but, as a matter of fact, no Turkish troops were available, or could have been sent to him within such limits of time that they would have been of any use. It is natural that, with the public grief for General Gordon's death, there should have been mixed a desire—as there always is in such cases—to make somebody responsible for the disaster which we all lament. And the popular charge against us is—and it has been echoed in this House—that, by undue delay in sending out an Expedition to rescue him, we sacrificed General Gordon's life and the lives of the garrison whom he went to save. A graver offence, if you could prove it, it would be difficult to bring against any set of public men. If it were justified, I, for one, should regard a Vote of Censure and removal from power as an inadequate rather than excessive expiation. But where is the proof? We know generally, though not precisely, what it was that caused the fall of Khartoum. We know that it was the work of treachery in the garrison itself. We have no reason to doubt 1386 the authenticity of that telegram, of very recent date, in which General Gordon spoke of the length of time that he should be able to hold out. We know that, as regards ammunition, he was abundantly provided. We had a telegram from him, in September, stating that he had then provisions for four months; and, since that date, we heard of a very large capture of provisions and supplies which must have replenished his stores for a considerable time. So far as I know, there is not the shadow of a proof that the want of supplies had anything to do with the fall of Khartoum. Now, my Lords, as to the date of the Expedition, I need not point out that to send out a force of sufficient strength for the purpose during the hot weather was simply impossible. The river would not have been navigable, and the climate destructive. The sole question at issue, therefore, is, whether, supposing it had been in our power to send out the relieving force under Lord Wolseley a month earlier, that month would have made any difference in the result. Where is the evidence that it would? As far as it is possible to judge, the treachery of the garrison was an incident that might have occurred at any period of the siege. Probably—though I admit all is conjecture—it had been long planned; and, although the noble Marquess ridiculed and discredited the theory, I see nothing improbable in the idea that the final act was precipitated by the very knowledge that a relieving force was on its way and near to Khartoum. Reference has been made to telegrams from Gordon in which he assumes that he has been deserted. My answer is that the communications were often interrupted; and, in the absence of news, General Gordon at times may have thought so; but I deny, in the most unqualified manner, that anything was said or done, or left unsaid or undone, here that could point to the belief that he was not to be rescued if necessary. Naturally, we did not choose to launch out into an enterprize of that kind till we were assured of its necessity. Who would? But the idea that it might be necessary was never absent from our minds; and I say, with confidence, that the intention of leaving Gordon and his party to take their chance, making no effort to relieve them, was never at any moment entertained. It is hardly ne- 1387 cessary to make that assertion, because, obviously, no Government could have acted on a policy of that sort without insuring its own destruction—to say nothing of other motives. But I am asked—"Could you not have sent out a small force before the hot weather set in?" Of what use would a few hundred men have been? There was no large force to send; and the 200 or 300 men who have been referred to would, in all probability, never have reached him. Reference is made to that telegram, of the 14th of December, in which it is said—"This would not have happened if you had kept me better informed as to your intentions." I do not like to criticize a document so pathetic; but what does it refer to? Probably—it is only guesswork—to communications which failed to reach him, as we know they repeatedly did. And how that letter is to be reconciled with later documents in an opposite sense I do not see. I do not like to speak too confidently; but the absolutely conflicting character of the telegrams from Khartoum is obvious—it has long been a source of perplexity—and till we know the facts more accurately it is impossible to build upon them. Another question has been asked—why, after the defeat of Osman Digna near Suakin in the spring, did you not order an advance to Berber by that route? The reasons against taking that course seemed to us conclusive. Only a small force could have crossed the Desert owing to the want of water; the season was getting late; the feeling of the tribes was entirely unknown; and to send so small a force into a country where they were liable to attack, at any moment, by enemies of infinitely superior force, seemed to the Government to be too rash a proceeding to be justified as a military operation. We have been told to-night, in a sort of triumphant tone, that we could have used the Suakin-Berber route last year, and that this is shown by the fact that we propose to use that route now. I do not pretend to be a judge of military operations; but it seems to me there is all the difference in the world between sending out a small force into a country full of enemies whose strength is unknown—which would have been the case last year—and sending it out to meet another force, already on the spot, which will make a junction with 1388 it. If we are asked why we chose the Nile route in preference to that by Suakin, we answer that we acted after full deliberation, and after taking the opinion of the best military authorities; and we say further that, so far as the operation itself is concerned, the choice of that route has been justified by results. The doubt was whether Khartoum could be reached in the cold season. Well, Khartoum has been reached in the cold season, reached in ample time to have relieved the garrison if that garrison had not been betrayed, as it might have been at any moment since the siege began. I do not know whether it is necessary to go back to the question of General Baker's defeat, which we discussed last year, and for which, of course, the noble Marquess holds us responsible. The answer which I gave then I give now—that the defeat of a disciplined force of 3,000 or 4,000 men, though not very good troops—that is admitted by everyone—by 1,200 Arabs, half-armed, was not a contingency for which any man could be blamed for not having foreseen. We know now—we did not know then—the desperate fanaticism of these Arabs, and I do not think the Government should be charged with rashness, even though the Expedition was unsuccessful. As to the Expedition of General Graham, and the assertion that it was useless, and that, in making it, we were guilty of merely useless and vindictive slaughter, the answer is, we should probably have lost Suakin had it not been for the success gained by that force. Passing from what is done, and considering what remains to do, what is our object, and what is our policy? That is the question which is repeatedly put to us, and ingenious phrases have been invented to indicate that if we do not intend to make Khartoum and the Soudan permanently British, or place it under British protection, all that we are doing is mere objectless slaughter and massacre. I do not agree in that; and I think it is easy to define in general terms what we want, and what we intend, though details are not at present possible. We have taken on ourselves the duty of protecting Egypt from attack while we occupy it. We do not propose to occupy it permanently, though it is impossible now to fix a precise date for our withdrawal. On that point we are pledged to this country, 1389 and pledged to Europe; and if a contrary policy is adopted it will not be by us. But it is clear that, with a fanatical Army and Chief threatening it from Khartoum, Egypt cannot be safe; and we are bound to secure the Khedive from the danger of an irruption from that quarter. We do not say that Khartoum and Berber ought to be held by this or that Chief; but we do say that they must be held by some Power which will not be systematically and on principle opposed to the maintenance of peace, and the independence of Egypt. Khartoum in itself is not our concern; but Khartoum must be made incapable of doing mischief to its neighbours, and if in that process the civilization of the Northern Soudan is promoted, that is a result which we are glad of, though it is not primarily what we aim at. Whether we should have gone into Egypt three years ago, if all the results which have followed had been foreseen, is a question which may be reasonably asked; but we have done it—we have taken certain responsibilities on ourselves; and as, on the one hand, we will not unnecessarily enlarge them, so, on the other, we shall not shrink from any cost or any labour—and I do not believe the English nation desires us to do so—that maybe necessary to enable us to maintain our pledges, and to keep good faith with those who depend upon them. With regard to another point, it is a little premature, I think, to ask whether we will keep permanently a railway which is proposed to be laid down for military purposes, or what steps we shall take for its defence. Once let us restore order in the Northern Soudan, and I should have no fear as to the safety of the road if it continues. Nor do I believe that there is the slightest need for that policy of indefinite occupation which has been pressed upon the Government, and which we have always disclaimed. Once break the power of this military fanatical leader, and the local tribes and Chief's will want very little assistance and very little support, whether from England or Egypt, to enable them to hold their own. So much for the future; as for the present, though, no doubt, the situation is grave, is there anything to cause any despondency? We have lost distinguished officers and brave men, and that is a loss which we deeply deplore. 1390 We are involved in heavy expenses, and that is also matter of regret. But our arms have not been discredited; and no one can affirm that nothing has been done for Egyptian administration, except those who know nothing, or care to know nothing, as to what has really passed. As to this coming vote, I do not affect a doubt what it will be. It is a foregone conclusion. I regret to think that the present Government is in a minority in your Lordships' House; but we have the satisfaction of being well assured that the verdict of this House will not be the verdict of the other branch of the Legislature, and we believe it will not be that of the country.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
My Lords, if any testimony were needed to prove the culpability of Her Majesty's Government in going to Egypt, the testimony of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) would suffice. I will not enter into any historical controversy, because I feel, by their conduct in the past, that they are not to be trusted with the very important issues which have at present to be decided. There can be but one conclusion gathered from what he has said, and that is that the Government had no right to go into Egypt, because they evidently had no idea whatever of what they would do when they got there. Just look at what the noble Earl has said as to the reason why the Government did not make greater improvements in Egypt. He said their position was so temporary, and that they had to be very careful not to give the impression to Foreign Powers that they were trying to make Egypt a Province of England. Then, again, as to the Mahdi, what was the excuse the noble Earl made in reference to their dealings with him? He said that if they had had any experience about the Mahdi, as they now have, they never would have got into that position. I venture to say that out of the noble Earl's own mouth the Government is condemned. What right had they to bring British Armies into Egypt if they had so little knowledge of what they would do when they got there? It seems to me that every word of the noble Earl's speech is only calculated to increase the apprehensions of the country. The country, my Lords, is sick of words, and is longing for something solid, and the noble Earl tells us that what they are doing now is only 1391 what they were doing last year, and the Prime Minister has stated that he would proceed upon the old principles upon which his Government is founded. Such are the words of which the country is so weary and so sick. The country sees with apprehension 20,000 of her sons shut up in the Deserts of the Soudan, and the country wants to have some assurance that these vague expressions and empty phrases may be explained. It is an easy matter to treat, in the light and jaunty way in which the noble Earl has treated it, the whole matter connected with the sad and grievous and distressing case of General Gordon; but I would ask your Lordships to go into that case a little more carefully, so that you may feel whether or not the Government is to be trusted with these greater obligations for the future. When the Government sent General Gordon on his mission, they ought to have felt that they were taking a step of the utmost gravity. When the Government sent Gordon on his perilous expedition it is only natural to suppose that they ought to have taken every conceivable precaution for his safety. There was at that time no praise too great for him. The Prime Minister said that he was the only man who understood the situation and the country, and other Ministers spoke of him in similar terms. But I cannot find in the Papers one trace of such careful provision. It seems never to have occurred to the Government that this Expedition might have failed, that Gordon might have been betrayed, or that Lord Wolseley might find himself in the Desert in the midst of hosts of treacherous foes. How could they show the honesty of their speech regarding him? When they refused the repeated requests of this man, who alone could be the judge of what was good and desirable for the safety of this distant part of the Soudan, one would have supposed that they would, at least, have suggested some counter-proposals. For this I look in vain through all the Papers. I can find no trace of any counter-proposal from the Government. Instead of affording him the assistance he requested, I do, indeed, find one single suggestion, and that is, that the Governor General of the Soudan, responsible for 30,000 lives scattered over this district, responsible to the English Government and to the Khedive to bring away his garrisons, 1392 that this gallant officer and high-minded gentleman should have run away. I believe the reason why no move was made by the Government was, that they were waiting for an answer to that unworthy suggestion; for it was not until three days after his telegram, stating the impossibility of such a proceeding, that an Expedition for his relief was proposed. He had given Her Majesty's Government every warning as to what was transpiring; but they shut their ears and eyes to all that was going on. Yet the Government professes to be surprised and astounded at the turn events have taken. But does the Government know nothing of the propagandism that has for some time been going on in the Mahommedan world, of the missionaries that have been going about in all directions in Mahommedan countries, of the ferment that has taken place within the last few years in the great cities of the East, resulting in the massacres of Jeddah and Cairo? Everyone who has studied the Eastern Question knows that this epoch is one at which Mahommedans have been expecting a great deliverer, who should restore to them their predominance over the Western nations. It was strange that the Government should be so blind to a movement of Mahommedan fanaticism coming from the centre of Africa at this time; but the fact is that by the blindness and madness evinced in their taking no notice of these warnings, they have gone the very best way to set up the Mahdi themselves. The more we look into the case, the more we see that the Government has been totally deficient in foresight and knowledge; and I cannot imagine anyone, having regard to their conduct in the past, looking with equanimity and a light heart upon the conduct of the grave operations in which we are now engaged in the Soudan being in their hands. With regard to the undertaking on which we were now embarked, our right policy would be to announce that we do not leave the Soudan until we have established quiet; that we shall not leave Egypt until the people are able to stand alone; and if they do it, we must make it quite clear that no other Power interferes there besides ourselves. A great deal has been said about the desert character of the Soudan. I cannot but think that great misrepresentation has got about 1393 on this subject. So far from its being a mere desert place, inhabited by wandering tribes, there are in it 15,000 Christians and 40,000 Egyptians, while there are a number of commercial houses, some in the hands of Natives and some of Europeans. It was a region where commerce was spreading, and likely to spread. Sir Samuel Baker had said that the Soudan will be the granary of the world, and that Khartoum will be the richest commercial city in Africa. He has also stated his opinion that if the Soudan were in the hands of England, she would be independent of America for her corn supply. In Sir Samuel Baker's opinion, the possibilities of that region were immense, when it passed into civilized hands. Would it not be a fit occupation for England to open up to civilization the great district which seemed to have drifted into our hands, and which would offer so rich a field for our commerce and manufactures? But behind the question of the policy to be pursued by this country in the Soudan is the more immediate question whether it is possible for a Government, vacillating, uncertain, and ignorant as they have shown themselves, to take up and carry out a new and vigorous policy. They are hampered by past engagements to Foreign Powers, by engagements at home, by distracting factions in their midst, and it is impossible for them to decide upon and to carry out any definite line of policy. I see dangers to our Colonies, dangers from Russia and other Powers, and dangers in South Africa; I see Ireland needing a firm and bold hand, and a distinct policy to be adopted for our Navy. I ask whether it is possible for a Government like this to carry the ship of State safely through these troubled waters? The only possible inducement for those who sit on this side of the House to dislodge the Government in a moment like this is the deepest and gravest sense of duty. No man in his senses could wish to take Office at this juncture; on the other hand, if no man can be found on those Benches to assume that responsibility, then I say that the Conservative Party would be false to its history and false to the country if they declined the grievous but most honourable task. Those who sit on the Conservative Benches must take their full share of responsibility; 1394 and if they are really called by the absolute demands of the country to take this heavy task upon them they will succeed on this one condition—that they tell the country plainly what their policy is, so that they do not let any ambiguity arise, such as exists at present, but proceed with firmness and honesty on their course, and then, I believe, they will be supported even by their opponents.
§ Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(the Earl of Camperdown.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at Twelve o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.