HL Deb 18 May 1885 vol 298 cc655-99

in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, until a settled government has been established in the Eastern Soudan, in the interests of civilization, of the native population, and of commerce, and for the security of Egypt, this country cannot relieve itself of the responsibilities it has incurred through the warlike operations that have during the last two years been twice undertaken in that part of the Soudan, said, the Resolution told its own story. He was not one of those who saw evil in all that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs did; on the contrary, he congratulated him on the efforts he was making to maintain peace, for he did not think that they were in a position, without an ally or friend, to enter into a contest with Russia with a light heart. He hoped that the efforts of the noble Earl might lead to a satisfactory solution of that great question. But in regard to the policy of the Government in Egypt, he confessed he was unable to find anything for satisfaction from beginning to end. If there could be a free expression of opinion in the House of Commons, he did not believe that the Government in regard to this matter would be supported by a majority of the House. He did not know why their troops were ever sent to Egypt; for it appeared to him that it could not matter to England who ruled in that country—whether it were Ismail, Tewfik, or Arabi—provided only one thing', and that was that the Suez Canal was safe. But it was to the interest of whoever ruled in that country that the Canal should be safe, and the only danger the Canal had ever run was the outcome of the interference of this country; because it was well known that Arabi's chief engineer did all he could to induce Arabi to break up the Canal. But the Motion which he was about to submit to the House did not turn upon the question of Egypt, but upon the question of the Soudan; and, looking at that question, he could not help feeling very strongly that when Her Majesty's Government enthroned Sir Evelyn Baring on the seat of the Pharoahs, and announced that they intended to give up the Soudan, that was a very highhanded act on the part of the Government of a country which was nothing but an intruder in Egypt. In doing so they entirely gave the go-by to the Egyptian Government and to Turkey, the Suzerain of Egypt. Let them assume for a moment the position of things reversed, and Turkey in the same position with reference to this country as this country was with reference to Turkey and Egypt, and that Turkey, being dissatisfied with our rule, bombarded Portsmouth, seized London, and occupied England, and then announced that, in consequence of the Government's mal-administration of affairs in Ireland, she would hand over that country to the representatives of the ancient Milesian Kings, of whom, out of 168, history tells us only 20 died natural deaths. He thought that was a fair analogy to draw, and he could perceive no difference in the two cases. However, the point to which he wished especially to direct the attention of the House was the question of the Eastern Soudan; and in doing so he would not again refer to the circumstances connected with Lord Wolseley's aquatic expedition up the Nile, which had at least shown this—that our troops should have been sent out sooner, nor would he dwell upon the delay of Tier Majesty's Government, which was the direct cause of its failure. Every man knew the strong things Lord Wolseley had said with reference to that delay; and how he had written home to a friend saying— What would I not give now for those three months that were wasted while Mr. Gladstone was making up his mind! All those matters were fully gone into a few days since by his noble Friend (Viscount Bury); and, therefore, he would confine himself to the question of the Eastern Soudan. It mattered not what cause took them there, whether it was to smash Osman Digna or to relieve the garrisons who were slaughtered by their delay in starting; it mattered not whether it was to relieve Gordon or for the suppression of the Mahdi. It was sufficient that they had been there, and had done what they had done, and that they were still in that country. The Government and those who supported them had incurred responsibilities which they could not cast aside, and he was anxious to bring those responsibilities home to them. What were those responsibilities? On the 2nd of August, 1883, only 20 months ago, Mr. Power, with two other Englishmen and a guide, and three camels, was on his way to join General Hicks, and described the people around Suakin as very handsome and beautifully built, and although they looked most fierce, they were gentle, civil, and good-natured fellows. Let them compare that state of things, when a party of three Englishmen and a guide, with no armed escort, could travel quietly from Suakin to Berber, with the state of things existing now, when no one could move out of camp unless strongly escorted, like a Cabinet Minister in London. That would give a measure of the responsibilities this country had incurred by its interference. Nothing could show better the results of the policy that had boon pursued than the change that had taken place in the character of that population. In his original Resolution he had asked the House to affirm that the railway that had been commenced from Suakin to Berber should be completed; but many noble Lords had urged upon him that they were not prepared to do so, and he had therefore left it out of his present Motion, though he believed a railway to be the real civilizing element in that country. If, however, the House would affirm the rest of the Resolution, the major would include the minor; for the first thing the Government would have to do in establishing a settled government would be to make a railway. The benefits of a railway, commercially and strategically speaking, would, he believed, be untold. The strategical benefits would be discussed by his noble and gallant Friend who would second the Resolution (Lord Napier of Magdala); but with regard to its commercial value, he believed it was put before Her Majesty's Government that a railway from Suakin to Berber would tap all the unknown wealth supposed to exist in that part of Africa—a fact of which the Marquess of Hartington seemed to be aware when he recently spoke on the subject. General Gordon, in a letter dated the 17th of December, 1882, expressed the view that no real progress could be reckoned on in the Soudan until a railway was made between Suakin and Berber. A railway was a mil quâ non for the well-being of the Soudan. Now, there might be difficulties in the way of the construction of this railway; but they were certainly not insuperable. He had just had a conversation with a gentleman who had constructed 1,200 miles of rail way through a country very like the Eastern Soudan, and who was ready to form a Company for the purpose of completing the railway projected there. At any rate, the Government could not get rid of all their responsibility to those whom they would leave in the Soudan for the next five months. The Government proposed to give the friendly tribes a few thousand pounds in order to induce them to protect the railway that had been begun. They should, at least, make the pounds guineas. The way to treat the friendlies was to pay them well, to organize them, as had been done in India, and to teach them to trust you. They ought to learn that by working for us they would benefit themselves. They would naturally prefer to carry British gold in their loin-cloths, rather than British lead in their loins. If the confidence of the Natives could be gained, the country would surely subside into quietude, and then trade and commerce could be de- veloped. If the Government should now cast aside the responsibilities which they had incurred, and if the treasure and blood of this country had been spent and spilt for no purpose, the policy of Her Majesty's Ministers could only be described as insensate. It was a policy which would make England ridiculous and the laughing stock of the civilized world. Personally, he felt very strongly upon this question of the Soudan, as all those of their Lordships who had had friends and relatives there would no doubt do. The first Expedition had been successful, as it practically opened up the road to Berber; and he understood that it was confidently stated by General Graham that he was prepared to march to that place if he had been instructed to do so. The Government should not have put an end to that Expedition by bringing General Graham and the troops home. The consequence had been a large amount of slaughter and expenditure of money without any practical result; and the second Expedition was deemed necessary through the incompleteness of the first, and the vacillation and inconsistency of the Government. In the second Expedition, every man, whether Native or British, who perished in it, was as much slain by the vacillation and inconsistency of Her Majesty's Government as if slain and done to death by their hands. In their Lordships' House the breath of public opinion circulated freely; they did not inhale the mephitic and Cancusified atmosphere which "elsewhere" numbed the senses and paralyzed independent action, and he trusted that their Lordships would not decline to support him in voting for the Resolution. Feeling strongly as he did the responsibilities the Government had incurred, he wished to purge his conscience of any responsibility in leaving the Soudan to barbarism, after all the waste of treasure and blood which had taken place. For if we now ingloriously retired what records, what monuments should we leave of our temporary occupation of the land of the Pharaohs? Why, nothing but chaos, perpetuated slavery, an accursed name, an abandoned railway, and bleaching skeletons.


in seconding the Resolution, said, he considered that if the Earl of Dufferin's proposals had been carried out Egypt would be now in a much better state. He would not now refer to the causes which had altered the state of Egypt; but say that a great burden had been undertaken by the Government. When they occupied that country, they incurred the full responsibility of government. He believed that, in the first instance, the notion of the abandonment of the Soudan by Egypt was referable to the opinion expressed by General Gordon that the insurrection was the result of the bad government of the Egyptians. It appeared scarcely honourable to restore a government which General Gordon described in such strong terms. But there was a better course open, and that was to improve the government of the Soudan, instead of abandoning all control of it. Few people would now approve the Mission of General Gordon to Khartoum. General Gordon was a great man; but he was sent upon an impossible task. He would not re-open the wound caused by the delays and refusals to relieve him; but by General Gordon's defeat and death their military character had sustained a great blow—he would almost say an irretrievable blow. It was the opinion of that man that the possession of Khartoum and the Frontier of the Nile were necessary for the protection of Egypt. To that end, and also to recover their military character, it was necessary that their Forces should retake Khartoum. That was then the opinion of the Government, and to accomplish the object a railway from Suakin to Berber was a necessary consequence. Why Her Majesty's Government had now abandoned that idea he did not know. At what time had they abandoned it? Just at the very time when success was attending upon General Gordon. From private letters which he had received, it appeared that General Graham himself was most anxious to go forward. English officers were 30 miles from Suakin among the tribes, and were perfectly safe. It was only necessary to get control of the land between the Nile and the Red Sea, and then they would be in a fair way to get the tribes on their side. Their presence between the Red Sea and the Nile would have had a most material influence on the tribes, and would have gone a long way towards the establishment of a settled government at Khartoum, and towards the future security of Egypt. He did not know whether Her Majesty's Government had any reasons which were not before the public, and which had led to the sudden abandonment of this Expedition. He was not aware that it had been caused by the health of the troops. The climate had not been complained of, although warm. The troops had been supplied with all necessaries, and probably suffered no more than the troops suffered in India. It was possible that the want of those troops for other purposes might have caused their withdrawal. They had been called for Reserve and for other purposes; but it had been quite open for Her Majesty's Government, when they made up their minds to go to Khartoum, to supplement the British Army in such a manner as would have prevented the unnecessary abandonment of this Expedition. He most cordially supported the view of the noble Earl who had brought forward this Motion, and he hoped their Lordships would be brought to consider it favourably.

Moved to resolve, "That, in the opinion of this House, until a settled government has been established in Eastern Soudan, in the interests of civilization, of the native population, and of commerce, and for the security of Egypt, this country cannot relieve itself of the responsibilities it has incurred through the warlike operations that have, during the last two years, been twice undertaken in that part of the Soudan."—(The Karl of Wemyss.)


said, he was sorry the noble Earl had persevered with a proposition which was contrary to the almost unanimous conviction of the people. Among those politicians who would shortly have to face a General Election, he did not know where to find anyone, whether Conservative or Liberal, who was willing to come forward in support of the measures insisted on by the noble Earl in his Resolution and speech, and he had hoped that in their Lordships' House also the universal feeling of relief would have prevailed, and that the Marquess of Hartington's announcement would have been acquiesced in with a good grace. Their Lordships were asked to pass a Resolution hostile to the evacuation of the Soudan, though the recall of the Forces was so much approved everywhere else that in "another place" its announcement called forth congratulations from one of the most eloquent and enlightened of Con- servative Leaders—a noble Lord who was generally excessively adverse to Her Majesty's Ministers. He thought he was justified in appealing to the political friends of that noble Lord not to condemn a measure which they had not the most distant chance of reversing, and which was so decisively approved by those Tories who would bear the brunt of the coming elections. The overwhelming weight of public opinion against the Resolution rendered the discussion purely academic. It was now fully understood that to make and hold a railway in the Soudan would be to inflict on themselves an open wound which would never heal while they were there. To the inhabitants of that region it must be what the Channel Tunnel would be to us—an entrance for aliens who would enslave them. For the time being we had become their enemies, and it would be difficult to bring to a close their blood feud against us. He read in The Times of May 11 that an unquenchable fire of resentment against us burned in the hearts of the Hadendowas. A railway from Suakin to Berber would be a total failure as a commercial undertaking; all it could do would be to destroy the present carrying trade. That the inhabitants well knew, and they would never consent to their own ruin. The Marquess of Hartington's assurances were most satisfactory on every point but one—that of the proposed gift of Suakin to some Foreign Power. It was not ours to give away, though if it were he would regret such a transfer the more deeply, because last year one of the Marquess of Hartington's motives in sending the first of those ghastly Expeditions was to preserve Suakin from being taken by any other Power—an object which might, to some extent, explain and excuse its occupation by us, unless after going there to keep foreigners out we now came away to let them in. But he had a confident hope that with friendly pressure from their supporters in "another place"—those supporters on whom the noble Marquess on the Opposition Bench once conferred the title of "Mahdis below the Gangway"—the Government would reconsider the matter, and remove what looked like a grave inconsistency from an otherwise well-considered settlement. According to the telegram he had already quoted from The Times of May 11, there were not 10 Natives of Suakin who, in their hearts, were not for Osman Digna, and who had not living or slaughtered friends and relatives in his Army; and whenever the English left they would rise and unite with their fellow-countrymen. In Frank Power's posthumous Letters from Khartoum, he described those Hadendowas about Suakin, who in consequence of the efforts to exterminate them were now our formidable enemies, as Very handsome, beautifully built, and like reddish bronze statues. … I never saw one of them unarmed; but though they look most fierce they are gentle, civil, good-natured fellows. He would venture to urge on the favourable consideration of the Government the enfranchisement of Suakin from all foreign, Egyptian, or Turkish misrule, and on that basis to conclude a real and durable peace in the Soudan. Having adverted to the only part of their intention which ought not to be ratified, he could the more warmly join in the thanks and congratulations Her Majesty's Government had received for the moral courage with which they had wiped out a bad debt. They had explained their altered views with a frankness and a dignity which deserved the entire respect of friends and foes. All must make mistakes sometimes; but it was a proof of superior statesmanship that they had not yielded to the moral cowardice of remaining in the vicious circle of a war waged for a railway which had first to be made to render warlike operations practicable. On former occasions he had, unfortunately, had to differ about the Soudan from the noble Earl who led the Government in that House; he hoped it would now not be thought impertinent in him to assure the noble Earl of the grateful sense he should ever entertain of the wisdom, patriotism, and humanity of the actual policy of his Colleagues and himself. Those who expected the Soudanese to take over in a lump all the results of European civilization—cast iron, cotton, capitalists, not to speak of public-houses, police, and prisons for the accommodation of all the adventurers who would not fail to rush into a newly opened out country, builders of railways, and founders of settled governments by paper resolutions—were too much dominated by the idea of a uniform plan for the human species which they would treat as if it all started from the same point, proceeded on one line, and must arrive at an identical goal. They forgot to reckon with the indelible characteristics of different races. The germ of a modern English statesman or Peer had been contained in the contemporaries of Alfred or William the Norman; but Arabs could by no possible process of natural selection and survival of the fittest become the ancestors of men resembling their Lordships. Every race was confined to its own type and ideal, which it might or might not realize, but from which it could not deviate. There was an equivocation of meaning in such words as "barbarism" and "civilization," which would mislead if they proceeded to convert philanthropic formulas and commonplaces into action upon mankind in distant parts of the world. It was a serious mistake to regard nomadic life as necessarily barbarous, because it was incompatible with that particular kind of refinement which we habitually and exclusively called "civilization." The ideas which he had endeavoured to express to their Lordships had been made clearer and stronger in his mind by reading a volume published in ls78 by the celebrated Orientalist, Ernest Renan. From an account he gave of the Soudanese Arabs, it would seem they had been settled where they now were before the Anglo-Saxons came to England. During all that time their political existence had been growing round the great fundamental institution of the family far more entirety than had ever been the case among ourselves. They had never known anything like monarchy, feudalism, aristocracy, or democracy, in our sense of those words. The Soudanese nomads had preserved their language in unchanged purity; while in the towns it had everywhere decayed. It was unfair to accuse the Bedouins of being the principal or the real authors of the Slave Trade, which had its source in the market demand of Turkish cities. If that was stopped the traffic would cease. He believed that negroes were invariably well treated among the Hadendowas. Certainly, on the whole, the Arabs had been benefactors to the Black races of the Soudan. The Islamic movement, which had spread so enormously among the negroes, and the Arabic language and literature were better adapted to the Africans than any European influences, and had done much to help them to evolve a civilization of their own. Respect for the noble Earl's motives had led him on into those remarks on his abstract proposition. His excuse must be that it was impassible to treat any opinion of his with indifference. He would, however, ask him whether he would not be satisfied with having made his speech, without requiring the House to pronounce on the random responsibilities he would so liberally incur; but if the noble Earl pressed the question to a division, he hoped the House would in no way associate itself with theories which—if by any possibility they could be reduced to practice—would exhaust the vitality of England in order to complete the devastation of the Soudan. In conclusion, he begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

Amendment moved, To leave out all the words after the first ("That"), and insert the following words ("this House accepts with satisfaction the promise of Her Majesty's Government to recall Her Forces from the Soudan, and considers the construction of a railway from Suakin by military force through a hostile population would be inconsistent with the pledge just given to Parliament and the country. Moreover this House declines to assume any responsibility for commercial, civilizing, or philanthropic enterprises outside the admitted obligations and interests of Great Britain.")—(The Lord Wentworth.)


A few days ago I addressed to your Lordships a few words, from which you might gather that my feeling is, in this matter, with my noble Friend. But it by no means follows that we are to be bound to vote for an adverse Resolution, even when two and two make four; and I have heard the suggestion somewhere, about how far it is expedient to commit one House of Parliament to an abstract expression of opinion on a course of policy which has already been determined on by the Executive Government, with at least the silent sanction of the other House. But my doubts as to my course have been relieved and solved by the adverse and counter Motion and speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I should, indeed, be ashamed of myself if I could vote for this Amendment—so weak, so inconsistent in its terms, so at variance with everything that is reasonable; and when I turn from the words of the Mo- tion to the speech of the noble Lord, I am confirmed in my private opinion that it is my duty to vote with my noble Friend (the Earl of Wemyss). The noble Lord who has just sat down has referred to how this matter may be dealt with at the elections; but we in this House at least are free from such influences, and can state our opinions freely on questions of public policy; and, being free to do so, it is our duty to do so. But, my Lords, the noble Lord on the Cross Benches is, I believe, thoroughly wrong in his impression of the state of public feeling. There is, no doubt, a general sense of relief in getting out of a great difficulty which is felt by those on both sides; but my belief is that, as regards the people, there is a great mass of opinion wholly unformed which is passive on this question, and which desires to be informed on the merits of it; and I do not think that these persons will be much enlightened by the speech of the noble Lord on the Cross Benches. The noble Lord spoke of the courage of the Government in wiping out a bad debt; but is that a debt due by the Government, or by others to the Government? The noble Lord must remember that it is a debt duo by the Government—a bad debt—and yet the noble Lord says they were brave in wiping it out. I will pass, however, from this matter to lay before your Lordships seriously the grounds upon which I disagree with the course which the Government has pursued in this question; but it is impossible to state these grounds without going a little into the whole of the Egyptian Question. It is very easy to attack the Government on the whole of their Egyptian policy—I rather suspect there are one or two Members of the Government who could do it admirably. But that is not my object. It may be the duty of the Opposition to find fault with a course which has been full of difficulties and mistakes, and which the Government themselves would admit has been full of misadventures; but sitting on this side of the House, and not concerned immediately in the political contest, I feel that it is my duty to say wherein I think the Government has been right, as well as where it has been wrong, and where there were difficulties more or less insuperable. At the very beginning of their coming into Office the clouds were gathering on the horizon over the Nile Valley, and it was impossible not to see that there were great difficulties in their way. In the first place, I think that the Government started with this great difficulty—that our English and British interests are identified with the strength of one of the great remaining Mahommedan Empires in the world. We may give what reason for it we like; but it is a fact that there is not at present a single Mahommedan Government in the world with which Europeans are in contact which is not in a state of hopeless decrepitude and decay. You have the Government of Persia, you have the Government of Turkey, you have the Government of Egypt, and those smaller Governments which have been already swallowed up by the ambition of France. That is a difficulty for which Her Majesty's Government are not responsible. They could not make the Egyptian Government a good Government; and they have had the additional difficulty of having to deal with the traditional jealousy of the French people, and their claim to exercise a superior influence in Egypt over that exercised by other nations. And I must, in passing, say that France has one great claim to influence in Egypt which we have not. It was through the genius of one of her sons, and against the influence and the power of this country, that the Suez Canal was conceived and cut. These were insuperable difficulties with which the Government had to deal. I do not admit that the evil of the Dual Control was entirely owing to the late Government. The Dual Government was a very great improvement—at least, we all used to think so and to say so—upon the previous condition of things; but it brought us into intimate contact with French officials in a degree and in a manner that might awaken jealousies and cause friction. These were among the difficulties of the problem with which Her Majesty's Government had to deal in the beginning, and for which we ought to give them due credit in regard to the course which they pursued. Then came Arabi's rebellion. Having had some private means of observing the growth of misgovernment in Egypt, the crowds of adventurers who settled upon her, and the hundreds and thousands of them who were enjoying salaries and doing nothing at all, and believing at first that Arabi's rebellion was a rebellion of the Native Egyptians against the monstrous misgovernment of their country, I had a great amount of sympathy with it. But further inquiry convinced me that there was no hope in Arabi; and it was impossible for any English Government to allow the Government of Egypt to fall into the hands of Janissaries, who I believe would have been a purely military Government. There would not have been an Army full of civilized officers, such as the Army of France or that of any other European country, but one simply of Janissaries. When that rebellion arose I recognized the duty of Her Majesty's Government to support the Khedive. Any other English Government in their place would, I think, have taken that course; I doubt whether any other Government would have found it possible to shrink from it. Then we get a step further. When our Fleet was sent to Alexandria the bombardment of that place if Arabi was obstinate was inevitable in consequence. Our ships would not stand by and see powerful fortifications raised against themselves. I do not think that the Government can be held responsible for the bombardment of the forts of Alexandria. It was a bombardment of the forts—not of the town—and that destruction of property which took place in the town arose, not from the bombardment by our ships, but from the excesses of the population and the troops of Arabi. Therefore, I cannot say I think the Government were to blame for that. But look at the consequences; look at the irritation in Egypt caused by the immense loss of property in connection with the military operations. The English Government offered the French Government co-operation in the military operations. The French Government refused that co-operation, and left us to act alone. I have asked myself again and again whether up to this step there is any point in the course of their policy at which we could reasonably say that the Government could have taken any other course than that which they pursued; and I have not been able to fix on any one which any other Government would not probably have taken. Then we come to the landing of the Army. The bombardment of Alexandria was found to be insufficient, and we had to land our Army and to fight the Egyptian Army. That campaign ended in the destruction of the Egyptian Army—in the complete demoralization and destruction of the Egyptian Army. That, in itself, was a most deplorable consequence. It destroyed the only arm in Egypt for the maintenance of order and good government, and it threw upon us an immense responsibility. The only circumstance we can rejoice at in reference to the history of that Egyptian Campaign is the conduct of our troops on this and on all other occasions. I suppose there never has been a Military Expedition so nicely and accurately planned and crowned with such complete success. But that, I maintain, threw on us the full responsibility of our being the masters of Egypt. We had bombarded Alexandria; we had landed our troops; we had destroyed the Egyptian Army; we were the masters of Egypt. And now we come to the summit of the watershed from which the two different policies divide. This is the point at which I venture to think Her Majesty's Government began to err. They did not see, or would not acknowledge, that we were the complete masters of Egypt and responsible for its government. And here I cannot but allude to a sentiment expressed by my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, and repeated more or less by several of his Colleagues, and that is the general doctrine that England is over-weighted by her duties as they stand at present—a dangerous doctrine for any English Government to lay down. I had the honour to be a Member of the Government under Lord Aberdeen before the Crimean War, and I remember well the painful force with which accusations were made against us, not so much that we did this or did the other, but that we were a Government at whose head was a statesman who had spoken so loudly in favour of peace that all the Governments of Europe believed that he would never go to war. It is, I think, dangerous for any Government, and especially for any Prime Minister, to be credited all over the world with holding the doctrine that England is over-weighted with her duty. There is a sense in which we may all possibly agree with this doctrine which the Government have preached over and over again. In Parliament there are many obstructions to legislative functions. We cannot, either of us on either side, carry all the measures that we should like to see pass; and in that sense I can understand that a great Parliamentary Leader like Mr. Gladstone should fret under the difficulty of his position, and should say that in respect of legislative work we are over-weighted. But if you say that England is over-weighted by her Empire in the world, that is a very different thing; and I am afraid that is the opinion which is attributed to him, and, what is more, it is the mistaken policy on which the Government have acted. The Government have been often taunted with having no policy. I do not agree with that. They have always had a policy, and it was founded on that doctrine to which I have referred—that we were to get out of Egypt as fast as we could. There have been circumstances in which I should entirely agree with that policy. There are very few of us—I doubt whether any party in the country has formed a deliberate desire to conquer and annex Egypt. We did not wish to go there in a military capacity, but the force of circumstances sent us; and if we could see in Egypt a good and firm Government established it would be our duty to go out and leave it to conduct the administration of that country. But what I cannot understand is that men in the position of my noble Friends should delude themselves into the belief that in course of a few weeks or months, or even in the course of a year, a year and a half, or two years, having destroyed the Egyptian Army and put the Egyptian Government completely under their feet, they could almost immediately set up a Government in Egypt which would be able to hold its ground against any other Power. To establish a settled and firm Government in Egypt after all that has occurred must be the work of a long time. I myself have no belief in a firm or settled Government in the hands of Turkish Pashas. There may be good men among them; but the great mass of the Turkish Pashas are incurably corrupt. But the Government of Egypt has hitherto been a Government of Turkish Pashas; and how my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government could have been led to suppose that under such a system of rule it would be possible to establish a firm and settled Government I am at a loss to understand. Then the next great step was the announcement of the withdrawal from the Soudan. As to that I will only say this—that if it was determined to withdraw from the Soudan for political and financial reasons, it was our absolute duty, being the masters of Egypt, to see that the garrisons in the Soudan were safe. That I hold to have been an honourable obligation which should have been fully recognized. Our repeated declarations that we would not hold the Soudan were fatal to their safety. They could not get out; it struck terror into their hearts; it inspired their enemies with courage, and rendered their delivery almost impossible. We come, my Lords, to the next step, which was the sending out of General Gordon. Now, here, again, I have never been able to see the great debt which attached to my noble Friends below me for sending out General Gordon. He had governed the Soudan with universal acceptability, except to the slave traders. He was beloved by the people; he had a personal influence such as no other man ever had in that country; and I think it was not unnatural that the Government should say—"Here is the man to get us out of this difficulty." But then the policy was monstrous that you should send such a man as General Gordon—perhaps the noblest character of our modern times—and intimate that on no account would you help him. If you sent General Gordon you were bound by every obligation of honour as well as policy to hold yourselves in readiness to rescue him by arms. As things then stood, to many of us in this country it seemed possible that the personal influence of General Gordon—so pure, so powerful, so magnetic in its character—might have been able to withdraw the garrisons without fighting. We thought it was possible. I confess that I did; and, therefore, I was not sorry to see General Gordon sent. We come to the time when it was perfectly well known—in May, 1884—that General Gordon was besieged. I remember very well, somewhere about the 10th of May, when I first heard that the Government would not acknowledge that General Gordon was besieged or beset. I think there was some dispute as to the particular word that ought to be applied; but the Government knew from the end of April that they could not get a communication from General Gordon, and that they could not get a communication to General Gordon. They were giving large bribes to individual Arabs to get messages sent through; and that was the time, I think, when the moral obligation of the Government came into force, and when not a moment ought to have been lost in organizing an Expedition for his relief. But the time was lost; we did not know how to make up our minds; and from. May to August no determination was taken by the Government. I cannot help saying that I believe that delay, leading to the fall of Khartoum, will remain a permanent blot on the memory of the Government of this country. When Lord Wolseley's wonderful Expedition—for, as regards the conduct of the soldiers and the energy of every man in that Expedition, it has been one of the most wonderful Expeditions—it has been the admiration of the world—was known to have failed in its main purpose, when it was known that the life of Genera] Gordon had been sacrificed at the last moment, not only by delay, but by treachery in his own camp—when that was fully known the Prime Minister came down to the House of Commons, and announced that After mature deliberation the Government had determined that it was still their duty to go on to Khartoum, to overthrow the power of the Mahdi, to open up the Berber route, to construct the Suakin Railway, and, in short, to go on with the Expedition. What was the secret of that determination? The noble Lord (Lord Wentworth) talks of the universal assent with which the miserable retreat from the Soudan is now received. Does he not know that there was the same silent assent to the announcement of the Government that they would carry on their victorious arms to Khartoum; does he not know that public opinion to a large extent in this country is, and on such subjects always must be, as clay in the hands of the potter? The Government are responsible for the policy, and especially when a man so distinguished, so eloquent, and with the illustrious career of Mr. Gladstone announces a policy of this kind they are willing and ready to agree with it. That announcement was made on the 19th of February. My noble Friend the Marquess near me (the Marquess of Ripon) the other night tried to make out in conversation with me that it was made at a time when it was doubtful whether General Gordon was killed or not. My noble Friend is kind to the Government; but I cannot agree with him as to the fact that there was no doubt as to the death of General Gordon. The truth was that the spirit of the country up to that time was in a state of ferment and excitement. The Government has always shown itself sensitive of the ups and downs of public opinion; and against that policy which they themselves announced there was the firm everlasting operation of this doctrine of overweighting—that England is overweighted, and too weak to do this—and that the moment public excitement relaxed—as it was sure to do when there was no more fighting, and no more telegrams giving accounts of glorious actions and bloody fights—the doctrine of overweighting, that fatal doctrine of overweighting had then its place, and intimations, first taken up by and made through the Press and then in Parliament, were made that it was a matter for consideration whether we should go to or fall back from Khartoum. I think all these variations of policy have been the source of the greatest evil, and will be in future times, which are not far distant, a source of great danger to this country. Another reason has been found out now for going back from our resolution to go to Khartoum, and that is, that the Mahdi is not quite so strong as we supposed him to be. I never believed in the invasion of Lower Egypt by the Mahdi. My reason for wishing the Expedition to be sent to Khartoum was the reason which the whole country felt at the time, and to which the Government gave way—namely, that the honour and interests of England were concerned. But if this argument is to have any weight, if it turns out that the Mahdi is not so strong as he was before, what is the real lesson to be learnt from that? I, for one, should be glad if we are to go out of the Soudan to hear that the Mahdi had established a powerful Government there. The only chance for peace in that country is that one great man should establish an Empire. That has been the natural course of civilization in the Monarchies of the East. But I complain that we are not restoring the country to one man who would be able to found a settled Government for the benefit of the people; we are restoring the country to absolute anarchy, where every tribe is cutting the throats of the other, and where the Mahdi is one of a dozen struggling Chiefs, who leave the country, as centuries before, in misery and desolation. That is no excuse for the Government in the vacillation they have shown on this subject. It may be said that the policy of the Government may sometimes in such cases be guided by events. It is impossible to deny that. There was a great occasion in the civilized world not long ago when the course of events seemed wholly out of control, when, as in this case, everything happened that was unexpected. There was a memorable case in which a great magistrate, a great ruler, had to consider "what does this wonderful course of events indicate to me as my duty to my country?" That was the case of President Lincoln, called from the position of a lath splitter to the government of almost the mightiest people in the world. He came to the conclusion that the course of events and the will of a Higher Power dictated to him a policy full of danger and difficulty which he may have avoided by saying—"We are overweighted." He said— Looking to the indication of the Supreme Governor of the world, looking to the events which it is clear to me are intended to be brought about, I will declare—although I have no right to do so, but as an act of war—that slavery is ended forever in the United States. He took that tremendous responsibility upon him. He did not consider himself or his people to be overweighted; and, through one of the mightiest and most terrible struggles we have ever known, he abolished for ever slavery in the States of America. Now, I do think that in all this course of events our duty has been indicated by a Higher Power; and to me it is plain what that duty is. Look to the great Continent of Africa, and consider for a moment what it involves. It is one of the four quarters of the globe round which the commerce of the world has circulated for nearly 400 years, and yet until the other day was almost unknown in its interior. Now, suddenly all the nations of the world have awakened to the value of that Continent as a field for colonization and commerce. In the South at the Cape and up in the East and West the Portuguese Government; on the West Coast the beneficent enterprizes of the King of the Belgians; and Germany for the first time, too, has exhibited a desire to open that great Continent to the civilization of the world. It is clear how events are tending; and, in my opinion, we ought to take our part in this great and magnificent work. We have already done three parts of our work. We have shown the Arabs our power. They have felt our power both on the coast of the Red Sea and up the Nile, and they were beginning to waver in their resistance to us. Now, my Lords, I believe that the possession of Khartoum by a great civilized Power, or, if you like, by a great civilizing Company, such as that which the King of the Belgians has established on the Congo, would open for us a mart of commerce the extent of which is unknown. My noble Friend the late Viceroy of India stated the other night, in the course of the conversation that ensued, that he confessed he had great doubts as to how far civilization could be promoted by war, and I heard murmurs of applause on the Bench below. I must say that I never heard a sentiment expressed, especially by an ex-Viceroy of India, and assented to by a Government, which was absolutely of so small value. If my noble Friend asked me how I should define civilization, I should reply that my noble Friend himself is the very impersonation of civilization. I remember some years ago, at a dinner party, when the conversation turned upon the difficulty of defining civilization, Lord Macaulay replied—"Civilization; why there is no difficulty in the least in defining it; we are civilization; we gentlemen who sit round this table." And I should consider my noble Friend, especially in his capacity of Viceroy of India, when exercising his most beneficent rule there, as the very impersonation of civilization. He went to govern a country which is more or less governed by the sword; and he encouraged the conquered in obtaining larger authority over the conquerors, and increased the liberty of the Native Press. These are acts of the highest civilization. My Lords, it was the great conquerors of India—it was Clive, Warren Hastings, and Dalhousie, and all the long list of Governors General—it was they who enabled us to civilize India by securing it. And, my Lords, it has ever been so in the history of the world. I will almost lay it down as a general rule that no order and no civilization can be begun among any people until the sword has opened the way. Archbishop Whateley, indeed, maintained this thesis—that no savage or barbarian people have ever risen to civilization except by contact with a higher race, and that that contact has been almost invariably due to conquest. I apply that doctrine to the Arabs. The account which the noble Lord on the Cross Benches has given was most poetical. He said all the good in the Soudan had been due to the Arabs. I do not know where he obtains his information from. My information is very different. The Arabs for many hundred years have been the curse of that country. They are especially a conquering race; they are also an uncivilizing race. They brought no civilization with them. They are a race of warriors, of robbers, of murderers, who hate manual labour of all kinds, who hate argiculture, and who leave everything in the way of labour to their women and slaves. There are large parts of that country which have been wholly devastated by them, and others in which the whole population has been either reduced to slavery or altogether exterminated. Need I quote authorities against the statements of the noble Lord? I should like to quote one, to which I hope he will be disposed to give due weight. General Gordon says— The Arab himself would consider it a disgrace to practise any manual labour. He is especially a hunter, a robber, and a warrior, and after caring for his cattle devotes all his energies to slave-hunting and war. This is General Gordon's opinion of those Arabs of whom the noble Lord says that they have done so much good for the Soudan. There is one important point to which I now desire to allude, and that is the value of the Soudan as a field for commerce. I have seen no allusions to the statistical information on this point. General Gordon, while Governor of the Soudan, stated that the debt of the Soudan was £327,000, its revenue £579,000, and the expenses £651,000, leaving a deficit of only £72,000 a-year; and anyone who wishes to see how that small deficit could be converted into a surplus has only to read the journal of General Gordon while Governor of the Soudan. He shows that the government of the country from Cairo was so bad that it had reduced some Provinces to beggary, and that there was the most gross jobbery on the part of the Khedive. There was, for instance, a contract for rails for £660,000, and the Khedive undertook that he should pay 10 to 20 per cent on the materials which were not used. Only £150,000 worth of material was taken, and the Khedive accordingly had to pay 10 to 20 per cent on £450,000, and this he wished to lay as an additional debt on the Soudan. Again, there were two steamers, which cost £10,000 each, which he wished to be taken off his hands; but while all the profits earned by them were to go to him the whole burden of their cost was to be thrown on the Revenue of the Soudan. That was the way in which the Soudan debt had been accumulated; and if a decent Government were established there would soon be a rising Revenue and a large surplus. General Gordon had estimated that 18 Black battalions,costingabout£200,000 a-year, would be ample for the whole of the country. We have already broken the back of the resistance in the Soudan, and I believe that very little perseverance on the part of the British Government would have enabled it to establish a stable Government. Under these circumstances, I say we are turning our backs without having any information from the Government; we are turning away from undertaking our share in a great duty—the duty which the other Governments of Europe are undertaking with a light heart, but from which we are turning away, because, forsooth, we are "overweighted." I will only allude to one other matter, and that is the speech made by the Secretary of State for War in the House of Commons the other night. I know nothing of the Marquess of Hartington's opinions, and have not seen him for many months; but on reading that speech it seemed to me to be that of a Minister speaking against his own heart, and in obedience to the cry—"For Heaven's sake let us keep at least together." The Marquess of Hartington did his duty, and announced what the Government had decided to do; but he said not a word of defence. There was a passage which I could not read without a feeling of shame and humilia- tion, and it was that part of his speech in which he stated that the Soudan would be abandoned "unless some other civilized Power undertakes it." What is the power that is to take up the burden from which Great Britain shrinks? Is it Italy, which has shown considerable public spirit in this matter, and seems to desire to take part in the civilization of Africa? Is it France? Is it Belgium? Is it Russia? Or is it Bismarck? Well, my Lords, I can only say my belief is this—that if the British people should see now or a short time hence one or other of the Great Powers of Europe landing at Suakin and taking up the duty which we have laid down; if we should see them establishing a successful Government in Upper Egypt and opening up the millions and millions of people who lie between Khartoum and Suakin, and perhaps imposing differential duties against England and her commerce—we shall bitterly regret the day when we had a Government whose policy appeared to be animated by the consideration that England is overweighted with her responsibilities.


I will not trespass long upon your Lordships' time, for I am placed in a somewhat difficult position. After my experience of Votes of Censure in your Lordships' House, I am hardly aware of the position in which this question stands—whether it is really a Motion made in which one or two individual Peers in your Lordships' House of great distinction take an interest, or whether it is a Motion supported by the whole Opposition in regard to the conduct of the Government in this respect. [The Earl of WEMYSS dissented.] The noble Earl shakes his head; therefore, I take it that I am not to speak except to answer what he himself and those who support him have said. With regard to the noble Earl himself, I cannot help remarking upon the great change the noble Earl has made in his Motion—a great change over which the noble Earl himself very lightly glided. In his Motion he laid down originally that it was absolutely essential to the honour of this country, and essential for a great many other things, that a certain railway should be made from Suakin to Berber. Absolutely essential to the honour of this country that a railway undertaken as a military railway to carry out certain military operations which are not to be continued? That that is essential to the honour of the country? But the noble Earl found even his most ardent Friends could not support him in such a proposition as that, and he has judiciously omitted it from his Motion. There is one point on which I entirely agree with the noble Earl in his eloquent and in his perfectly true description, only equalled by the eloquence of the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll), of what the British Army has done in Egypt. The noble Earl quoted an expression of the Duke of Wellington, to the effect that the British Army was fit to go anywhere and do anything; but I am not quite sure that that is perfectly consistent with the language the noble Earl has used for many years with regard to the state of the Army. But I accept it as a truism at the present time. I certainly could not agree, however, with the noble and gallant Field Marshal (Lord Napier of Magdala) when he said that irretrievable disgrace had been suffered by our military force. It appears to me utterly absurd to say that of soldiers who in every single engagement have distinguished themselves to such a degree, and whose efforts have always been crowned with victory. It may be perfectly true that the Government at home, who are not called upon to expose their persons to climate or enemies, have been unwilling to expose the British Army to future difficulties; but in saying that irretrievable disgrace has visited that force I do not understand what the gallant Field Marshal can have meant. I hold, on the contrary, that the military reputation of this country stands on as high a pinnacle at this moment as it has ever done.


The best thing for the Government to do would be to show themselves able to retrieve that reputation.


That is entirely begging the question. We may have been perfectly wrong. General Gordon himself may have been perfectly wrong in thinking that, by perfectly peaceable means, he, by his great authority and his knowledge of the country and the people, would be successful, without military assistance, when he left this country. He expressed a strong opinion that he would be able to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion, and he may have been wrong; but that has abso- lutely nothing to do with the military reputation of the British Army. The noble and gallant Lord said the reason why our policy was wrong was that our officers were anxious to go on. I should like to know whether that desire to go on is confined to British officers? Take French officers, and especially Russian officers—you will find that men in the Military Profession are always anxious to go forward, whatever the opinion of those at home as to matters of policy may be. Then the noble Earl said it did not signify what the cause was that took us to the Soudan. I am bound to say it signifies very much. It was, if possible, to save General Gordon. I do not believe it was a question of time—that is purely a matter of opinion. I believe that treachery would have had effect at whatever time the Relief Expedition might have arrived. Then the noble Earl went on and gave from Mr. Power's letters—charming letters—a description of the happy state of the Soudan before these operations took place. The noble Duke contradicted that by saying that the Government was perfectly detestable. The noble Earl, however, omitted two or three matters entirely in dealing with those letters. I refer to some of the passages relating to the perfect abomination and cruelty practised by that Government.


All I intended to convey was that the country was perfectly safe and quiet at the time that Mr. Power made the journey which he describes.


I am glad the noble Earl gives up entirely the question of good government. I beg him to refer to the letters when he gets time, and he will find the descriptions of the cruelties and abominations of the Government there exceeds anything General Gordon himself has said. Then the noble Earl compared our position in Egypt to that of Turkey conquering this country and announcing her intention of cutting off Ireland from us. As to that I must say that if anybody should conquer this country, I believe they would find that, on the whole, our administration is somewhat better than that existing in Egypt. If the Government in Egypt was entirely destroyed and put an end to, I admit there might be some obligation to replace it. But I cannot see, because you go to a country which is badly governed, and you are there for a certain time and for a certain object, that it is an obligation which surpasses every other consideration that you should be obliged to put a good Government in its stead. The arguments we have heard, except those from the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, have been en tirely advanced with regard to the necessity of going to Khartoum. The noble Duke, in a very remarkable and most important speech, stated the same kind of principle, with which I entirely disagree; but his statement of the facts was very fair and straightforward. He began by thanking God that we, in this House, had no constituencies, and that we could therefore say exactly what we liked. That is an advantage of which the noble Duke has taken full avail. The noble Duke said the feeling of the people was quite different to that of the Government, and that the people would like us to take Khartoum—


I said there was a great mass of unformed opinion, and that the people were waiting to be informed.


That is a very different thing indeed. I certainly understood the noble Duke to say that, from his knowledge, the opinion of the country was that we should go on. Whether there is a certain amount of unformed opinion I do not know; but I feel perfectly convinced that the feeling of this country is not that we should expose our Army to all the evils of conquering Khartoum and remaining there. The noble Duke was not enamoured of the Government existing in the Soudan up till recentlj7. Neither is he favourable to the Arabs; and the result he came to was that it is the duty of this Government to be not fearful of extending their responsibilities and of establishing a despotic Government at Khartoum with the object of civilizing the desert that surrounds that city. That was the only practical suggestion that the noble Duke made, and I think it goes very much beyond the range of practical policy. The noble Duke has referred to Mr. Gladstone; but I deny that Mr. Gladstone has ever shown—when there was a necessity for war—any desire to shrink from it. The noble Duke, Mr. Gladstone, and myself were associated together in the Crimean War; and during the Franco-German War we took measures which would have entailed war if certain matters had arisen with regard to Belgium. Mr. Gladstone laid down the other day, in language which electrified the House of Commons and the country, that he was prepared to go as far as possible to maintain the honour of the country; but to say that Mr. Gladstone is opposed to going to war when a real necessity arises is a very different thing. The noble Duke forgets one thing when he disputes the opinion of the House of Commons and of the constituencies. There is, I believe, no absolute Sovereign in the world who can command the energies of a nation to that degree that a Government in this country can, if it is backed up by the opinion of the nation. I believe that our latent power—I do not say our immediate power—of defence—in some cases even of aggression—is greater in a degree than we ourselves realize, or than is realized by other countries; but I am convinced that the power can only be usefully put into action when the opinion of the country is unanimously in favour of its exercise. Therefore, in moulding your policy you cannot exclude from sight the views which the people of England will take of the course proposed to be pursued. I believe that self-government will be better for the Soudanese people than the imposition of a foreign and Egyptian Government. To the establishment of a purely English Government in the heart of Africa, which is the only other alternative, this country will never consent. I will not enter into the question of civilization by war. No doubt civilization sometimes follows war. That, however, appears to me a very different thing from instituting war voluntarily, on the strength of vague opinion, which you cannot be sure of carrying out. The chief tendency of this debate has been to show that, in the opinion of some distinguished individuals in your Lordships' House, it is desirable that we should go on and conquer, and even for an indefinite time keep, Khartoum, with the view of creating a stable Government, which the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) himself has told us is a thing which could only be done in many years' time.


said, that the people of this country were divided into two classes—those who wished to remain in the Soudan, and those very sorry that they had ever gone there. He belonged himself to the latter class. He had never been able to understand the reason of the first Expedition to Suakin. It was ostensibly sent out to rescue a garrison which was annihilated before they began operations against the Arabs. He was equally at a loss to understand why the second Expedition was undertaken. Those murderous Expeditions had, in fact, always been incomprehensible to him. But whatever the conduct of the Government had been in the past, they were now pursuing what he held to be the right policy; and he should, therefore, have no hesitation in supporting them, as against the Resolution of the noble Earl. The successes of their troops would not be considered less great because they were now abandoning an undertaking which ought never to have been begun. It was said that they ought not to leave the Soudan, lest it should lapse into anarchy. But they should leave intact the system of tribal Government which prevailed in that region; and, consequently, there was no special reason to apprehend anarchy. The tribes would still remain subject to their own forms of Government. Glorious as the work of civilization in the Soudan might be, he did not think that it was their duty to undertake it. They had done their fair share of duty as a civilizing Power. Their object in keeping India, for example, was not to benefit themselves, but simply to benefit the inhabitants of that vast country. Were they obliged to establish a second India in Africa? He did not underrate the power of this country; but he thought they had quite enough on their hands without undertaking anything more.


observed that the noble Earl (Earl Granville) had adroitly confused the good conduct of the soldiers in the field with the military reputation of the country. The soldiers had been placed in circumstances of difficulty, not by their own act, and had behaved nobly. The military reputation of the country included the capacity of the Government to organize, and direct to a successful issue, a military operation. In that the Government had ignominiously failed, and their military reputation had correspondingly suffered. When the Return of those who had died in Egypt should be furnished, the public would read that melancholy record with shame and sorrow, and would grieve that so many good lives had been lost to so little purpose.


said, he had listened with disappointment to the speech of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He had expected to hear some reasons given for the extraordinary change of policy which had taken place. The noble Earl had vindicated the character of their soldiers; but that vindication was quite unnecessary. The noble Earl had thought it to be necessary, owing to some misunderstanding of what was said by the noble and gallant Lord the Field Marshal (Lord Napier of Magdala) who sat on the Cross Benches. The noble Earl seemed to think that the noble and gallant Lord had said that indelible disgrace had fallen upon the British Army; but what he did say was, that owing to the death of General Gordon and the capture of Khartoum an indelible disgrace had fallen upon them—his noble and gallant Friend said nothing at all about the Army. Only a short time ago, the noble and gallant Lord passed a well-deserved eulogium upon the gallant way in which their soldiers had behaved. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was also mistaken in supposing that the noble and gallant Lord had said anything about the government of the Soudan; what the noble and gallant Lord commented upon was the fact that that country was so peaceful that it had been possible for three Englishmen to travel 30 miles from Suakin and be safe. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had made use of an argument which was generally brought forward in debates of that kind, and had asked whether the House wished the country to incur the great expense of going to Khartoum and establishing a settled Government there, and so on. But he would remind the noble Earl that what the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) and his noble and gallant Friend (Lord Napier of Magdala) recommended to be done was what Her Majesty's Government a few weeks ago said they intended to do. They did not want a justification of what the Government announced as their policy a short time ago; what they wanted was a justifica- tion of the change that had since taken place. He would not go into the details of all "this sad, eventful history;" he would limit himself to what had taken place in the Soudan. He believed their misfortunes in that country originated in the fact that they allowed their Representative to tell Egypt that she must abandon the Soudan, without making any provision for the evacuation of the garrisons, and without making any provision for their safety ourselves. He did not think it was possible for him to use words too strong to express what he felt on that point. He thought no nation was ever guilty of a more cowardly or criminal act than this country was, in compelling Egypt to abandon her own soldiers—not allowing her to do anything for them, while not taking any step to secure their safety ourselves. The result of that was, that General Gordon was sent on his Mission to Khartoum. And that was the only point upon which he could not agree with the noble Duke. He could not understand how Hor Majesty's Government were to be justified for thinking that General Gordon could possibly carry out such an undertaking; for their Lordships would remember that he was sent, not only to report on the best means of evacuating the garrisons, but that he was allowed by Her Majesty's Government to accept the post of Governor General of the Soudan, and that it was his duty, not only to report upon the garrisons, but to take means for evacuating them, and to check the Slave Trade. He could not understand how the Government could think that that great task could be successfully accomplished by one man, sent out unaided, as General Gordon was. He wanted to impress upon their Lordships that there was no doubt about what the duties of General Gordon were, and about the objects of Lord Wolseley's Expedition. The object of sending out that Expedition was primarily the rescue of General Gordon and those whom he wished to bring away, and also to provide a proper defence against an attack on Egypt. There were also other aims—namely, the evacuation of the garrisons, crushing the Mahdi, establishing some sort of orderly Government, and checking the Slave Trade. All those details were specified, and some of them were not possible to be carried out. General Gordon was killed and Khartoum was taken, and the garrisons could not he saved. But there remained other work for the Expedition to do. After the failure of the Expedition in its primary object of rescuing General Gordon, Her Majesty's Government formulated distinctly what their intentions were and what their policy was. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said, in a debate on the 18th of February, that orders might have been given to Lord Wolseley to retreat on the fall of Khartoum; but the noble Earl dismissed that idea, his own words being that there were overwhelming objections to that course, both military and political, because it would not only have exposed Egypt to great danger of invasion, but it might have exposed England to injury and insult in other parts of the world. The noble Earl said it was necessary to explain to General Wolseley what the policy of the Government was—namely, to check the advance of the Mahdi, and for that purpose to destroy the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum. At the same time, the Prime Minister made a very similar statement in "another place." He said the Mahdi had become powerful by the fall of Khartoum, and the Government were determined to destroy the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum; and in many words he said what the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had said in few words—that it was necessary to do so for the safety of Egypt, and that they were in honour bound to set up some form of Government in the Soudan, and to check the Slave Trade. The noble Earl spoke very clearly on that point. He said the Government must explain that what they desired to see was a settled Government in the Soudan, the best that could be established, and that some arrangement must be made with the Egyptian Government by way of subsidy; and that the establishment of a settled Government in the Soudan faithfully interpreted the desire of the Government. The noble Earl finished by saying that, as far as their interests were concerned, their policy was that they should hold their own in the country for the benefit and advantage of the people, and in the best manner that could be arranged. The Marquess of Hartington, in the other House, spoke, if possible, more strongly, and in the same direction. He said that after the fall of Khartoum the lesson must be taught, not only to Central Africa, but to the whole Empire, that the policy of the Government would not be reversed; that it concerned the safety of their Indian Empire, and so on. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies also spoke perfectly clearly and strongly. He said it was clear that, with a fanatical Army and Chief at Khartoum, Egypt would not be safe, and that they were bound to secure the Khedive from the danger of an irruption from that quarter; that the Government did not say that Khartoum and Berber were to be held by this or that Chief, but that they did say they must be held by some power that was not opposed to the maintenance of peace, and that was not a danger to the independence of Egypt. "What he wished to impress upon their Lordships was, that Her Majesty's Government, only a very few weeks ago, announced as strongly and plainly as men could speak that their policy was to go on to Khartoum; that they considered it necessary to do so for the safety of Egypt; that their object was to set up some stable form of Government there, and to put a check on the Slave Trade. The way in which that was begun was by giving instructions to Lord Wolseley, and he therefore determined to concentrate his troops in summer quarters; a railway was to be constructed, and an autumn campaign was to be undertaken. Having those instructions from Her Majesty's Government, Lord Wolseley spoke in the same strain himself. Speaking to one of General Gordon's officers, who had escaped from Khartoum, he said— We mean to destroy the power of the Hahdi at Khartoum, no matter how long it will take; and he further said— You know Her Majesty's Government are incapable of drawing hack from any enterprize they have begun. That was an unfortunate statement for Her Majesty's Government. It was perfectly certain that they were not only capable of drawing back from an enterprize they had begun, but that they were actually incapable of continuing in any enterprize on which they had started. From those facts it was clear that the Government formulated a strong and distinct policy a short time ago; and what he desired to find out, if the Government would give them any information, was what had occurred to change the policy of the Government. It had been given as a reason by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and by the Prime Minister in the other House that, owing to present circumstances, it was necessary to hold the whole of the military resources of the country available for service, including the Forces in the Soudan. That was perfectly natural and understandable; but surely no one would dispute that the whole military resources of the country were available wherever they might be required for the purposes of the Empire. But the real reason came out shortly after. The Marquess of Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain in the other House explained, practically, that the Government had changed their policy because, as they said, though the Government policy had changed, circumstances had changed also, that the Mahdi was no longer in Khartoum, that he had not advanced as they had expected he would do, and that the same necessity for going to Khartoum no longer existed. But although the Mahdi was not personally at Khartoum, he had only withdrawn temporarily. It was very dangerous to trust to rumours as to the strength or weakness of the Mahdi. Before Abu Klea Lord Wolseley himself reported that he did not expect any resistance; and the Mudir of Dongola, of all authorities, said that the Mahdi's forces were decimated by sickness, that his men were dying of starvation, and that he was being deserted. Exactly the same thing was said now, and, for all they could tell, with no more truth than on former occasions. He entreated Her Majesty's Government not to place reliance, as they did, on rumours that the Mahdi's strength had fallen off, and that his men had dispersed. No doubt, for a time they had done so, in order to complete their agricultural operations; but no sooner would the backs of our soldiers be turned than infallibly they would re-assemble, and the Mahdi would be as strong as before. He would remind their Lordships that the Mahdi himself, in a Proclamation which he made not long ago, said he had no intention of following us any more, and that he was going to stop and let the sun do its work upon our troops. Now, Her Majesty's Government said that because the Mahdi did not follow them up, and because his men appeared to have fallen off, there was no necessity to go to Khartoum. Her Majesty's Government, by the course they wore pursuing, were really signing the commission of the Mahdi as a Mahdi. He required success to prove his title to be a Mahdi; and if they left the country, as the Government said they were going to do, he would be successful; he would have conquered, and they would be unsuccessful. They had not done a single thing that they went to the Soudan to do; they had not rescued General Gordon—they were too late; they had not taken Khartoum—they were too late; they had not evacuated a single garrison; they had not checked the Slave Trade. They had done none of those things which the Government two or three weeks ago said they were determined should be done: and if they did none of those things, not only would the Arabs think we were beaten, but they would have a right to say that we were beaten. He believed that Khartoum was so situated geographically that it must always be of great importance. They could not over-estimate its position. Khartoum was the most important point of North Africa for commerce. All the trade of the Soudan went by Khartoum. If they wished to get rid of the Slave Trade, to work the railway, and to introduce some other kind of industry, they must go to Khartoum. Unless they gave the people something else to do, the people must go into the only business they had, which was the Slave Trade. If they wanted to protect Egypt and make it safe—to set up some form of Government, even if they had to nurse it for awhile, and to stem the barbarism of the Mahdi—the only point at which they could do that was at Khartoum. Let thorn make their railway to Berber, bring out the produce of the vast Provinces of the Soudan—and let them remember what a vast produce General Gordon sent out before, when he was Governor General; let their goods go into the country, let them establish their influence, and they would not only do more to check the Slave Trade than by any other means, but they would erect a real barrier against the incursions of nomadic tribes and of religious fanaticism—the only real barrier that could keep back the tide of that fanaticism from Egypt. If they went down to Dongola or Wady Haifa, or any other line that might be chosen, nothing would keep back the fanaticism of the Mahdi from getting at the tribes behind them. There were things that could not be got over, and among them was the importance, geographically, ethnographically, and commercially, of Khartoum, and the necessity of communicating with it by railway. If that were carried out, as the Government intended a short time ago, then the blood that had been shed would have some justification. But if nothing was done to carry out the policy which they promulgated three or four weeks ago, there was no justification whatever for the blood that had been shed and for the money that had been spent. In that case Her Majesty's Government were guilty of, and ought to be indicted for, wilful murder, for they would have done nothing to carry out the aims and ends which they had said they had in view.


My Lords, I should not have risen to join in this debate but that I understand it is the intention of my noble Friend who opened this debate to press his Motion to a division; and I wish to explain why I do not propose to vote with him. With respect to the past history of this question, very much has been said to-night which is very valuable, but which it is needless to repeat. It is impossible to exaggerate the failure of the Government in Egypt. They have failed in every object which they undertook. They have failed to make their railway; they have failed to check the Mahdi; they have failed to set up a Government in the Soudan; they have failed to rescue numbers of persons; they have failed to relieve the garrisons that have been slaughtered, and they have failed to rescue the heroic General Gordon. They have committed all these failures, and they have committed them at a terrible price—at the price of Arab blood, poured out like water upon the desert, for no cause or reason whatever—blood which has been as much thrown away, blood that is as much causelessly shed, as blood that is shed—I hardly like to use the word, but it has already been used by noble Friend—by any vulgar murderer at home. Of course, I do not accuse the Government of anything but the most philanthropic and benevolent motives; but I am speaking not of motives, but of results; and, remembering that the only justification of the terrible sufferings of war is that there should be some definite cause which is really worth striving for, that no such cause has been attained by the Government, and that no adequate efforts have been made by them to secure their object, I say that it has been sacrificed by sheer mismanagement, blundering, and indecision and delay. It is not adverse fortune abroad that has condemned all their efforts to failure, but adverse imbecility at home. I repeat that all this noble Arab blood has been causelessly shed. What must be said of that blood, though happily less in quantity, still most precious, of our own countrymen—men drawn in many cases from families with which your Lordships are familiar—and also of men drawn from all classes in the country, for whom your sympathy is not the less keen—men who freely gave up their lives for their country's good, and never grudged the sacrifice, but who, we feel, have not given up their lives at the bidding of their country, but only to keep in power an incompetent Government at home. It is impossible, I say, to exaggerate the terrible failures of the Government; but, at the same time, it is impossible to reflect without sorrow upon the state of things which we leave behind us. My noble Friend who introduced this Motion very pointedly showed, by reference to the letters of Mr. Power, the difference between the state of the Soudan and the attitude of its people towards us before those operations commenced, and what its state and the feelings of its people are now. He showed that we have turned the greatest friendliness into the greatest hostility; and it is an hostility which will not only strike ourselves. We have sown Hood feuds in the desert from one end to the other; we have pointed out to Osman Digna and to the Mahdi, who are their enemies, whom they are and whom they are not to trust; and having marked upon them the stigma of that hostility, so that there can be no mistake in the minds of those Chiefs as to who are their enemies, we have left these men, who in friendliness to us have sacrificed their safe position, un- protected, undefended, to the savage vengeance of their foes. A further question is, in what state do we leave—not only the tribes of the desert—in what state do we leave the power of England? The power of England depends in no small degree in a belief of the reality of her professions and the strength and honesty of her purposes. We have induced our gallant General, Lord Wolseley, openly in the sight of all Egypt and of all the world, to commit himself to promises that have not been kept, to threats that have not been fulfilled, and to a profession of power which has been reduced to impotent bravado. He is honest, resolute, and brave enough. He has no doubt of the truth and reality of the words he has been speaking; but he has found to his cost that he is an agent on behalf of principals who have not the capacity or the courage to act up to the words which they have authorized him to speak. The great disgrace does not fall upon him alone, but it falls upon England, and upon England's cause throughout the world; and it affixes the stigma of insincerity to any declaration which in any part of the world for many years to come we may make. It will be remembered everywhere against us that we have asked for the friendship and alliance of men whom we have afterwards abandoned to their fate; and that through the most trusted General of our Army we have made promises and have announced intentions which within a few weeks we found that we had not the resolution to maintain. My Lords, all these things are very painful to think of; and, if any good could be done by casting censure upon Her Majesty's Government, I should feel no hesitation in doing it. But this is not a mere Vote of Censure. It looks to the future as well as to the past; and when it looks to the future I must ask what there is in the present state of affairs which justifies us in departing from that rule which, I admit, is not absolutely inexorable, but which is generally observed—that the devising of policy should be left to the Government, and that the judgment of policy when it has been devised should be left to Parliament. I have not got the exact form of my noble Friend's words; but we are asked to say that a settled Government should be established in the Eastern Soudan. I think that was a reasonable demand two months ago; but what has taken place since then? Our strength in these countries is not the mere strength of the sword—it is the strength of the power which we can exercise over the feelings, over the allegiance, and over the belief of their inhabitants. We can do nothing if we are look upon from one end of the country to another as enemies, or if we are looked upon with distrust. And what my noble Friend asks us to do is not merely to carry out the policy to which we assented six weeks ago; but he asks his to do it in the face of circumstances which have been fundamentally altered by the action of Her Majesty's Government. Another retreat has taken place; another abandonment has taken place; another disavowal of our former promises; another indication of the instability of our purpose, and the worthlessness of our resolutions. It will be weighted with all the disgrace of the last fortnight that we shall undertake this duty which my noble Friend asks us to declare it to be necessary to undertake before we leave the Soudan. I am not prepared to say that my noble Friend is wrong, and that these things ought not to be done; but I ask whether circumstances exist which would justify us in stepping outside the well-known path of a Legislative Assembly, in laying down a policy for the future? I say that the circumstances are no longer the same as they were; because by the action of Her Majesty's Government we have lost much of our physical, and all of our moral, force. Whether we ought still to undertake this duty I cannot tell until I have more information. No information has been given to us. We have so little information that, actually, after promising again and again that he would explain to us the policy of the Government in Egypt, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) has left it to his Colleagues in the other House, and ho has never to this day told us what the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt is. I hope that is a sign of grace; I hope it shows that he was acting with great reluctance in regard to the policy into which he was forced by his Colleagues. But, be that as it may, it is an indication of the paucity of the information we have received. What resolution we may come to when we know all the circumstances of the case, when all the correspondence is laid before us, when we are really able to ascertain what the opinion of the Gene- rals on the spot is, when we know more of the steps that have led up to this disastrous abandonment, I do not attempt to forecast. I do not wish to pledge myself at all; but I do not feel that, as we stand now, we are in a position to make this declaration of policy which my noble Friend asks from us. And I have one more cause for hesitation which prevents mo voting for the Resolution. This may mean a large war—a long succession of military operations. In whose hands will those military operations be placed? In the hands of the present Government? Is there the slightest ground for believing that they will be conducted with vigour or success? On the contrary, everything in the past points to the probability that they will be planned with as little foresight, will be conducted with as much procrastination, and will end in as much disaster, as those which they have already carried on. I decline to do anything to set on foot a series of operations of which that would be the issue; and believing that no advantage will result to the House from adopting this Resolution—though I believe heartily in many of the sentiments which have fallen from my noble Friend in the course of his eloquent speech—I feel that I should not be justified in voting with him.


My Lords, I do not rise to protract this debate, but to answer one question that has been repeatedly put by speakers in the course of this discussion. We have been asked—"What is the meaning of the change, or the apparent change, in your purpose—why do you not go to Khartoum, as you said you would do some months ago—why have you abandoned that intention now?" Well, if there has been any modification of opinion on that subject, it is not confined to one side of the House; because, if I recollect aright, earlier in the Session the noble Marquess opposite laid it down in very positive terms that we should not go to Khartoum.


I never said anything about going to Khartoum, or leaving the Soudan.


The noble Marquess told us he believes that the circumstances are altered. That is true; but if that is a plea for him, it is equally a plea for us. If I am asked why we do not propose to go to Khartoum now, my answer is, what are we to go there for? Do you mean to go merely in order to come away again? What would be the use of that? We spoke, no doubt, of breaking the power of the Mahdi; but for what purpose did we desire that his power should be broken? We do not object to any person who may be the Ruler of Khartoum. We have all along disclaimed any intention of establishing a permanent influence there. From first to last our object has been one and the same—namely, to take such steps as seemed to us necessary and likely to be effectual for the protection of Egypt. That is the only interest we have in the matter; and we believe that the necessary lesson has been taught to the Arabs, and that after the experience they have had of the English arms they will not attack us again, nor attempt to molest our Egyptian garrisons. We also believe that the Mahdi is no longer a dangerous enemy; and, therefore, why should we throw away any more lives merely for the purpose of advancing to Khartoum? If we were intending to abandon Egypt, and to leave to the mercy of any invading Power those Egyptian Natives whom we had undertaken to protect, then I quite admit that the charge which has been made against ns would be true. But we have not avowed any intention of that kind; we have not formed and such intention; and so long as we hold ourselves responsible for the defence of Egypt, which so long as we occupy it we do, then, whether Egypt will be defended most effectually on the Frontier or by aggressive operations in the Soudan may be an important military question, but it is not a question of policy. It has been said by some noble Lords that there has been no justification for the Arab blood shed; but the justification is very clear and perfectly conclusive to my mind. Who are these Arab tribes? They were engaged in an aggressive movement for the propagation by force of arms of their religious views. We have checked them; we may feel tolerably sure that after the defeats they have sustained they will not repeat their attempt; and, therefore, the operations in which we have been engaged have had the desired result. I cannot pass entirely without notice the remarks of the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Argyll), who ranged over various topics which were, no doubt, very important, but most of which have been discussed by your Lordships on several previous occasions. I must protest, however, against a doctrine which the noble Duke avowed plainly and frankly, and which I think is accepted by a good many of your Lordships. The noble Duke said that we should fail in our duties to civilization, and should not be realizing the designs of Providence, if we did not undertake to subjugate that country of the Soudan in the interests of civilization. The noble Duke was very indignant with us that we had declined to undertake that task; and he was still more indignant that we had declined to do it on the ground that we are over weighted already. I maintain that it is not our business to take possession of every part of the world which is inhabited by savages, and which it might be in our power to civilize. I want to know where obligations of this kind are to end. Have we no duties nearer home? Is it assured that our civilization is so perfect that we have nothing to do within a few miles of the place where we are now sitting? Can we say that we are so absolutely free from poverty and distress that we can afford to spend millions upon millions on the improvement of races with whom we have no connection? And, further, if it be the duty, which I do not admit, on the part of any Power which is civilized to conquer savage races for the purpose of improving their condition, then I contend we have done our full share of that work, and are doing it now. I do not go into the question how far our object has been to benefit them, or how far our presence has been an unmixed benefit; but when we consider the millions of people whom we have to look after at home, and the claims upon us of our Empire with its immense population, I think it is rather extraordinary on the part of anyone, whether he be an Englishman or a foreigner, to say to us—"You have not done your share in the civilizing work." The noble Duke said that other nations were going into Africa and undertaking the duty which we had refused to undertake; but the other nations referred to hero only tried to colonize Africa because they had no Colonies elsewhere. We have established our hold on all those parts of the world which are best suited to European Settlements; they have only taken those parts which we have left. The noble Duke then proceeded to draw a graphic picture of the benefits which would arise from our occupation of the Soudan. I do not pretend to be an authority on the subject, but I have read the writings of recent travellers in that country; and I believe those countries hold out very different prospects from those which are claimed for it. Trade, no doubt, exists; but the only trade is that in slaves and in ivory, the former of which we are putting down, the latter of which will soon come to an end when the few elephants which remain are destroyed. But even if I am wrong—if we are to derive great benefits from the trade of the Soudan, is it necessary for that purpose to conquer the country? You can hardly imagine a more savage race of people than the great majority of those who inhabit the West Coast of Africa; but it is a matter of old observation that our best trade is done with races there with whom we have no connection as rulers, or in any way except as traders. There is one other remark I would make. We are told that by holding the Soudan we should induce the Arabs to accept our civilization, and make ourselves popular with them. I can name a country a good deal nearer home where we have effectually established our political and administrative power, and where we have not succeeded, nevertheless, in gaining the affections of the people. I very much doubt whether at any time we could bring, unless at quite disproportionate expense, that vast and desert country within the reach of civilization, even if we could reckon upon peace and the absolute non-interference of other European Powers, which, as we know, is not a condition likely to be realized.


said, that this subject involved, not only the policy of the Government in the Soudan, but their whole policy. This question, indeed, was a pivot on which the judgment of the country would be asked on the whole Government policy at the next Election. In listening to the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, he had hoped to hear a policy enunciated which would serve as a kind of rock to which they might cling in the midst of the political devastation which surrounded them. He had been disappointed, however. He maintained that the function of the Opposition was not one merely of criticism; they ought to place an alternative policy before the country. He did not think it would have been difficult for the noble Marquess to have given some indication in that respect; but in the absence of such an indication they could only assume that the fatal error which clung to the character of the Liberal Party was also characteristic of the Conservative Party—namely, a persistent trimming. He regretted that neither from the Government nor from the Leader of the Opposition had their Lordships received the indication of a definite policy with regard to the Soudan. The statement of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) as to spending millions in the Soudan came with a very bad grace from a Government which had already wasted some £10,000,000 in Egypt, and that for no apparent object whatever.


said, that the supposition of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) that the Mahdi was overawed by our Forces was quite unfounded, and the anxiety of the Government to withdraw from the Soudan would greatly embolden him. If he were quiet now, it was reculer pour mieux sauter—he was a fanatic who would convert all whom he captured to his form of Mahommedanism on pain of death. But as to the Government—in the words of the Poet Cowper, late a Clerk of their Lordships' House, wrote what was applicable to the Ministry— They trust in armies, but their courage dies; —not the courage of the troops, who want support at home. The Ministry also trust— In wisdom, wealth, in fortune, and in lies —not lies by themselves, but in their believing reports of the enemy being daunted; and, in the words of the poet which follow:— And all they trust in fails them, as it must, If he command in whom they place no trust.


in reply, said, that he had listened with some astonishment to the speech of the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby), and the reasons which had been given for the occupation of the Soudan. He did not believe in blank cartridge Motions, and was anxious to divide. Without having had any communication with the Leaders of the Conservative Party, ho had expected they would have supported this Motion, especially having regard to the fact that the House carried a somewhat similar Resolution by a large majority on the 25th of February; but he was disappointed in this reasonable expectation, and having regard to the empty state of the House at that moment he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion. He was quite satisfied with the debate that it had aroused.

Amendment and Original Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn. House adjourned at a quarter before Nine o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.