HL Deb 05 April 1886 vol 304 cc703-20

, in rising to call attention to the detention of Zebehr Pasha at Gibraltar, and to the effect of such detention upon the Sûdan provinces; and to move— That the time had come when, under certain conditions, his presence in the Sûdan might prove valuable in the interests of Egypt and the pacification of the Sûdan provinces, said, he should like to divide the Motion into two separate parts. First, he wished to call attention to the slender justification for Zebehr Pasha's further detention, and to its possible and unfavourable reaction on the mind of Upper Egypt. Secondly, he would try to persuade the House that, to quote the words of his Notice— The time had come when, under certain conditions, his presence in the Soudan might prove valuable in the interests of Egypt and the pacification of the Sûdan provinces. Might he ask their Lordships' pardon beforehand for a bold inversion, of Parliamentary usage, in that, so far as this latter part of his Notice was concerned, he criticized nothing and he suggested something? Let him advance another plea for a patient hearing. He would eschew Blue Books and their interpretations and teachings. This determination might be to their Lordships' comfort and need not hurt his cause; for he was often amused at the double debt a passage in a Blue Book would contrive to pay when it had been taken by the throat and well shaken by speakers of opposite wishes and opinions. He confessed personal leanings and attachments to the cause he was undertaking. But let him assure their Lordships that he should not presume to occupy a moment of their time were he not sincerely convinced that considerations of policy and equity might thus be presented which could not be assigned to the amiable promptings of interest and friendship. Before going further he had better explain the nature of his own relations with Zebehr Pasha, and with the circumstances of his detention at Gibraltar. Zebehr Pasha was now living with a small retinue in the Governor's cottage at Gibraltar—a summer dépendance of the convent or Government House. The establishment was placed in charge of an officer of the garrison. This individual's duties were to administer prudently all moneys allowed by the Imperial Treasury for housekeeping and other expenses, to forward and to receive the Pasha's correspondence through constituted authorities, to attend to his wishes as far as might be, and to observe such friendly and courteous relations as might sweeten the bitterness of banishment from home and kindred. Up to no later date than the 10th of last month "this individual" was their Lordships' humble servant, himself. He took over these duties early in December; so for three months he saw a great deal of and talked a great deal to Zebehr. At first Zebehr used only to tell him of the moving adventures of his old life in the Bahr-el-Ghajal. But as they came to know each other better they used to talk of the Soudan, of General Gordon, of the Mahdi, of the Slave Trade, of the Cairo Pashas, of duties and taxation, and of many unhappy and far off things. These conversations were at once serious and animated, and to him most interesting and delightful. They were carried on through an interpreter by name Hamed. Hamed was an old man now, but his beard grew in the Zoological Gardens. He came to England as the personal escort and attendant of the first hippopotamus which visited our shores, and he learnt English in a school in the Borough Road. Perhaps he oftened heightened the stories of the wild men and wild beasts of the Bahr-el-Ghajal days. Once, however, the conversation touched upon the slate of affairs and feelings in the Soudan. Hamed did his utmost to catch the exact and narrowest sense of whatever he had to translate. Hamed was an Arab from Dongola. The Slave Question interested him especially. So excited did he become one day that he dashed his turban half off his head, and an Oriental who took liberties with his headgear was really moved. He would ask their Lordships whether Zebehr Pasha's detention could any longer be justified? Our past in Egypt was not of a kind which called up easily pleasing recollections. Therefore, let them leave the past alone. He wished to invite their Lordships to look at the present and the future. Now, if this country could handle no results of a vast expenditure of treasure, no results of an historical waste of huge resources, no results of the sacrifice to sword and sickness of many brave lives, she could, at all events, point proudly to a living monument of her robust diplomacy. Twelve months ago Zebehr Pasha was deported to Gibraltar from Alexandria. He had gone to Alexandria on a visit to a holy Koran scholar. At the same time, his letters, papers, and correspondence were seized at Cairo. Rumour whispered that the result of this coup de main was rather disappointing, and that nothing very compromising was found. Be that as it might, Zebehr Pasha remained a prisoner at Gibraltar, the authority recently and officially quoted in "another place" for his detention being an Order in Council of that Colony; no public investigation or trial of his case had been instituted, although he had begged for it more than once himself; and it seemed time to ask seriously how long and to what ends his further detention might be contemplated? Discounting the obvious uncertainty of his present position, and that longing for domestic life which often distinguished the elderly and patriarchal Oriental, Zebehr was wonderfully contented. Indeed, when he said, touching his forehead, that to govern was very difficult; that all Governments were alike and must have allowance made for them; that he knew he must be patient and wait—"something," he said, "is working in their minds"—there was something rather dreary about that content. But within the precincts of the cottage he enjoyed the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life. If during the winter he often regretted a warmer sunshine, he appreciated English grates and English coal; anxieties which oppressed him at first as to the financial welfare of a helpless concourse of wives and children at Cairo had been removed; and his letters home, as he himself assured him, breathed the cheerful spirit of one of the few examples he remembered in the Latin Grammar—"Si tu et Cicero valetis, ego et Tullia valemus." His residence at Gibraltar was costing this country upwards of £150 a month. He believed it had been said by persons whose opinions might be valuable that he was cheap at the money; if so, he learnt with regret and for the first time that, as a nation, we might do wrong provided we did it cheaply. To arrest and to detain a man unheard and untried was at any time an arbitrary act, which could only be justified by extreme necessity. Every day during which such detention was prolonged aggravated the arbitrariness of the act, and increased the degree of necessity which must be made patent to justify it. One of the securities which was claimed to appertain especially to the world at large when Mr. Gladstone was in Office was that the rights of weak and small nationalities were respected, and that the citizens of other countries would be treated with the same considerations as our own; and he challenged his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to bring any precedent for the detention of the subject of a civilized nation without even the form of a trial or of an investigation having taken place. Arabi Pasha, though a rebel, and known to be so by overt acts committed in the presence of thousands, was honoured with the ceremonial of a State trial and assisted by English counsel. Why had not the same justice been accorded to Zebehr? It was very difficult not to believe that the reason was that proof was known to exist in the case of Arabi, and that no proof, but only suspicion and unfortunate antecedents, could be adduced against Zebehr. He hoped that their Lordships would, if need be, affirm that Zebehr Pasha's detention was contrary to the sense of their Lordships' House and to the spirit of English law. That Zebehr's detention reacted unfavourably on the present mind of the Soudan might be a conjecture on his part; but if Zebehr himself was right in tracing the general rising of the Soudan to alarm and misconception of British intentions—alarm and misconception which Zebehr thought compassed General Gordon's assassination—this detention seemed to him most unwise and impolitic. Zebehr said—he took his words down as spoken— When Gordon returned to Khartoum the people of the Soudan were pleased. They knew he would not allow unjust taxes or unjust duties, or oppressed trade and poor men. Khartoum became quiet when he arrived. Many Arab sheikhs came into Khartoum to hear what was in Gordon's mind. Now, he asked their Lordships to mark this— Then came news of English and Egyptian soldiers at Suakin. The people of Khartoum began to fancy that Gordon had come to deceive them; that this time he was the servant of the English; that he was going to keep Khartoum quiet while the English troops fought with Osman Digna. This distrust of Gordon increased when they heard that Zebehr Pasha's promised coming was no true promise. Instead, came tidings of a stranger people in arms, who were going to sweep away the Arab and his religion. The sheikhs all left Khartoum for their own people, and the Soudan rose. The rising had nothing to do with the Mahdi at first; but the rising was for the sake of religion. The Mahdi was said to be a holy man and the leader of a war of religion, and so they joined him. What did Gordon think of the rising? Did he agree with Zebehr? He wrote— They never would have joined the Mahdi if Zebehr had come up. Again— With Zebehr we would have beaten the Mahdi without any exterior help. The defect I laboured under has been that I presented no rallying point to the people, not being of their nation and creed. Again— The Mahdi could never get the people to rise against Zebehr. Again—and here he was evidently conscious of distrust and fear working against him in Khartoum to compass his fall— Zebehr would square the townspeople. This, however, was the past. Zebehr Pasha was looked for anxiously and came not. Later came tidings that Zebehr had been carried away from Egypt by the stranger people, and no man knew whither. General Gordon called one of his steamers Zebehr, not because he held Zebehr in special esteem, but as a record of how often he had asked for his presence, and how closely he connected his absence with coming anarchy and disaster in the Soudan. So much for the first of his two divisions. It was for their Lordships and for the country to decide whether this state of affairs could be justified or tolerated. They could not, however, get away from the fact that Zebehr Pasha had been detained for a year at Gibraltar; and it seemed desirable to persuade their Lordships that on this ground his services might be turned to account in the Soudan, and that out of evil good might come. Zebehr had quick eyes to see, and ears to hear. The perpetual movement of troops and ships of war, the ceaseless order and battle array of life in a great fortress, the genius loci of a place of arms, had taught Zebehr new lessons and new notions. Now that Zebehr knew the English, now that he had seen evidences of England's power and might, of which he had not dreamed, he felt not only certain which must ever be the winning side in the East, but felt also that by identifying himself with England's cause he would be serving his own closest interests. That was Zebehr's present conviction—a conviction which seemed sincere, reared as it was on the acknowledged ruin of old and cherished prepossessions. In addition, Zebehr was truly grateful for kindness and consideration which he had not expected, and which he referred to the greatness of soul and benevolence of the English Government. In short, ascribe it as they pleased to gratitude or to cunning, or to the expectation of possible favours to come, Zebehr's desire to serve England, if only the opportunity were given him, amounted almost to zeal. Could the prisoner, then, be of no use, even at the eleventh hour? Zebehr declared that anarchy would convulse the Soudan until many real grievances were defined, many imaginary wrongs explained, and until boundaries, territories, and jurisdiction were reconstituted. Further, he declared that anarchy must convulse the Soudan so long as alarm and misconception of British interference remained unallayed. Did he see any way to a solution? Yes. He said— Let some wise man go who knows the English; let him tell the Arabs that war with the English people means ruin and trouble; that peace means trade up and down the Nile, the wealth of individuals, the prosperity of a nation. The Arabs are not a savage or a stupid people. They will listen to reason; but reason must speak in peace, and not in arms, for the Arab is brave. He submitted to their Lordships whether Zebehr might not be this wise man, who might be allowed to carry out his own advice. Liberty—under residential conditions, if need be—would appear no undue reward for his good offices or success. Meanwhile—and this was a guarantee which Zebehr empowered him to offer—his wives and children should become the hostages of his fair dealing and return to Cairo. How could a peaceful mission of this kind be best carried out? He did not think Zebehr could succeed alone, even were he sent to Khartoum as the Plenipotentiary of peace and promised reforms. The English people had shed too much blood and done too much harm in Upper Egypt for the Chiefs and merchants, whom we had driven to defiance, to believe all at once and on hearsay from Khartoum that England had no designs upon their religion or their liberties and their fortunes. In mind, body, and estate the Soudan had reason to detest the very name of England for many hundreds of miles. To restore confidence by friendly words would take time, and more than one man would have to speak to do so. Zebehr thought so himself, and advised the sending of Missions to Korosko, to Dongola, and to Khartoum, the Envoys to be influential Arabs, each Envoy—and this Zebehr laid down as essential to any chance of success—to hold a Firman from the Sultan empowering and encouraging his mission of conciliation and peace. After gaining all possible information, and inviting all possible communications from the disaffected leaders and people of these several districts the Envoys would return to Cairo, make their reports, and offer suggestions as to compromises and subsidies. Subsidies would prove the soothing syrup of the Soudan. A Conference, at which England, the Porte, and the Arab subjects of the Porte must be represented, should then assemble at Cairo and consider future action and the remodelling of social and financial administration in the Egyptian Soudan Provinces. This remodelling and Conference were outside the present question; but it seemed reasonable to suppose that, whatever might be contemplated or tried later, the full Reports which would thus have been furnished by Commissions in sympathy of blood, religion, and prejudice with the people of the Soudan must be of use. Zebehr advised the sending of Hussein Khalifa Pasha to Korosko. Sir Mustapha Yur to Dongola, and, if possible, making use of the services of Abd-el-Kader Pasha. He gave distinct reasons for these selections. Now, as to Zebehr himself, he would cheerfully serve the British Government at Khartoum, and direct and inspire the purpose of the Mission; but he had no desire—a desire invariably imputed to him—to be made a ruler or to erect his own rule. He would like to go back to his own home and to his own people; the home in which his ancestry had lived for 800 years, a short day's river journey beyond Khartoum. But he knew that the days of his greatness were past, and he was now an old man. Whatever his faults might have been, his last words were sad and serious, and he wished to swear on the Koran that they were true. He should not forget his leave-taking with Zebehr, who was haggard and hopeless. Zebehr's last words were— I am becoming an old man, and from now I only look forward to death; but before I die I should like to see the country of my young days quiet and peaceful, and trade up and down the Nile. I may never go back to my own country; but if this ever comes to pass by the advice I now give my people will bless and remember my name for good and for blessing. I do not wish to be made a great man. I shall have my reward and my blessing long after I am in my grave. If I can be of use, then it is well; if I cannot be of use, then it is well; but let me and my family depart from Egypt and from the Soudan. We will go to one of the holy cities—to Mecca, to Medina, or to Jerusalem—and so I will end my time. Zebehr Pasha was the man to help us, and he was ready and wishful to do so; and under the circumstances he saw no reason to doubt his good faith, nor why he should not be allowed to make the effort. But even if we turned our backs upon Zebehr's possible assistance, as we turned our backs upon it once before, it was not a comfortable precedent. He failed to see any just or good object in keeping Zebehr a prisoner at Gibraltar. When our troops were moving up the Nile on a distinct and dangerous enterprize it was important that no details of our Forces and movements should become known. News travelled like thistledown in the East. From a military point of view it might have been expedient to deport Zebehr to Gibraltar. But the circumstances had changed. Nobody in England now wished to advance to Khartoum, or to carry on military operations in the Soudan, or to bring the Arab tribes into subjection. This was no of military expediency; it was one of our national and political equity. He appealed to his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for an assurance of his earnest and immediate attention to this question of detention. Failing that, he should ask their Lordships to concur in the views he had expressed, and so mark their disapproval of a state of things which must be repugnant to all fair-minded Englishmen, and subsersive of the high traditions of English justice.

Moved, "That the time has come when, under certain conditions, the presence of Zehehr Pasha in the Sûdan might prove valuable in the interests of Egypt and the pacification of the Sûdan provinces."—(The Lord Ribblesdale.)


said, that the noble Lord desired to use Zebehr as a means to an end. But it was not right to use such a means as Zebehr for even so good an end, unless, indeed, he had been fearfully maligned. His antecedents were as bad as they could possibly be. He was the chief instigator of the most atrocious forms of the Slave Trade. He inaugurated caravans across the burning deserts of Africa, from which slaves who could no longer go on the journey were allowed to die upon the sands. On no condition should they allow Zebehr to put his foot again on the Soudan. It was true that General Gordon had asked that Zebehr might be sent him. General Gordon was set the almost impossible task of extricating the Egyptian garrisons. In extremis, and not knowing what to do, he requested that Zebehr might be sent out to him. This was the same spirit which induced Gordon to appoint the Mahdi Sultan of Kordofan. In asking for Zebehr's appointment, General Gordon said that, although his slave-dealing transactions were very bad, they were not worse than those of Ismail or of any other of the Turks. This was the gist of the whole matter—that the Turks were not worse than the great instigator and originator of the atrocious slave traffic. This country incurred a great responsibility in going to Egypt in 1882; England incurred a responsibility not only for the better government of that country, but also for the government of the Dependencies of that country; yet our first act was to give the Soudan up to barbarism, knowing that the result of the evacuation of the Soudan would be to leave the tribes fighting one with another—that which was occurring at this moment. There was only one proper policy with regard to the Soudan, and that was the manly one of recognizing our responsibilities, and that we were liable for the government of that country. What would be thought of the officials of a lunatic asylum who, when the inmates were fighting with one another, left the building and established themselves at the gate, leaving the poor creatures to fight it out? Yet that was what was happening in the Soudan. The Soudanese in their dealings with one another could not, from a civilized point of view, be regarded as much more sane than a lot of lunatics. Yet England thereupon leaves the country and lets them fight it out; but that was not in accordance with what was right and what was moral. It was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to re-organize the Soudan, not with Turkish influence, but with European influence. He felt certain that if a firm policy was carried out the Soudan before many months passed would be in better order, and in a more or less civilized state. He did not think the pacification of the Soudan would be a costly enterprize. The forts up the Nile might be occupied by a comparatively small force of Black troops with English officers, and slowly and surely they would create order where now there was chaos. He trusted that the Government would adopt this policy.


said, that the noble Earl, in his interesting speech, had entirely mistaken the issue before the House. He hoped the Government would not follow the noble Earl's suggestions with regard to the Soudan. The honour and character of England were concerned in this matter. With respect to Zebehr, and the severe remarks which the noble Earl had made on his character, he believed that it would be necessary to go back many years for a justification of those remarks, inasmuch as for some time prior to 1879, and from 1879 to the present time, Zebehr had been a prisoner. Zebehr Pasha was not a subject of this country, and, consequently, he could not be guilty of treason to her. He owed her no fealty, and, as against England, he had commited no offence whatever. From the statement made about 13 months ago by his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, he gathered that Zebehr Pasha, being then a prisoner under detention by the Khedivial Government, was arrested by the Government of England on the advice of the Military Authorities of England, and that, as a matter of military necessity, he was placed on board a British ship and deported from the country. As to the question of military necessity, he had no information upon it; but he assumed it to be accurate that the Government accepted the responsibility of the Military Authorities, and accordingly detained Zebehr Pasha. A great many things which would not bear close inspection might be done under the plea of military necessity. According to the answer of the noble Earl, Zebehr Pasha was arrested with his two sons, and his papers were seized. He was conveyed to Malta, and thence to Gibraltar. Now, could we, having regard to the character of England, and according to English law, detain Zebehr Pasha in a British fortress? How did Zebehr Pasha come to be detained in Gibraltar? A few days after the answer was given by the noble Earl, the Attorney General was questioned in the House of Commons as to how it happened that Zebehr Pasha was detained as a prisoner of England. The hon. and learned Gentleman first gave an account of the state of the law in Gibraltar, stating that the laws of England extended there to be administered in the same manner as in Westminster Hall; and, finally, he told the House that Zebehr Pasha was detained under an Ordinance pronounced by the Governor of Gibraltar and his Council. Subsequently, Mr. Evelyn Ashley, being questioned further, said that about the 25th of March a communication had been made to the Governor of Gibraltar. No doubt, that communication contained the Order in Council which he published on the 30th of that month. Zebehr Pasha was then delivered into custody, and he had since been detained at Gibraltar with his two sons. He asked whether this was consistent with the Constitution of England, and with English law? He held that it was not. It was true he had not seen the Ordinance in question; but he knew what its foundation was. What was Gibraltar itself? It was very difficult to define it in contemplation of the law. It was a fortress, a town of about 20,000 people, and a small territory in the hands of the British Crown, coming from a conquest that dated about 180 years ago. Parliament might deal with a Possession of this kind as it pleased; but Parliament had never dealt with Gibraltar as far as he knew. He was not acquainted with any Act of Parliament which dealt with its Constitution or its rights. It was altogether in the hands of the Crown. It was not a Crown Colony. It was a Possession of the Crown acquired by conquest; and under such circumstances a Possession so obtained was to be governed by such law as the Crown, in virtue of its Prerogative and for the public good, might direct to be administered in that Possession, at least until Parliament intervened. He understood that the Governor in Council had the power to enact Ordinances for local purposes in Gibraltar, but that he could not issue any Ordinances which were inconsistent with the general law of England. The continuance of the detention of Zebehr Pasha, unless it were justified by military necessity, was contrary to the law of England, and without legal justification. In this case England was acting as the gaoler of the Khedivial Government. He could not see any course out of the unfortunate position we were in save by discharging this man and returning him to his country. He would suggest that Zebehr Pasha should be allowed to return to his native land; but that he should in no way be permitted to be instrumental in the re-conquest of the Soudan by the Khedive's Government. A just recompense dependent on his future good conduct should also be given him.


I think it will be convenient, after the interesting speeches to which we have just listened, that I should lose no time in declaring the views of the Government on the two-headed Motion of my noble Friend. In the first place, I have to congratulate Zebehr Pasha on his advocates, and to say that I am sure no one here who listened to the interesting speech of my noble Friend will fail to hope that, now he is released from the anxieties of Office, he will often contribute to our debates. I cannot congratulate him so much on having led a very united army to assail Her Majesty's Government on this question. The noble Earl who appeared to take the position of seconding the Motion spoke of Zebehr Pasha in terms which can hardly have commended themselves to the notice of my noble Friend; and he proceeded to lay down a doctrine which must have been, I think, in the highest degree repugnant to those who held in Parliament last year, and the year before, that it was the duty of the Government at once to undertake the European occupation and control of the Soudan. That is a question on which I have no ground for troubling your Lordships on this occasion. But I think my noble Friend (the Earl of Dundonald) will find that if he brings that proposal to a practical issue, it will meet with scanty meed of support in this House. The second follower of my noble Friend was the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down, who gave away the whole case, in spite of his interesting and learned argument, when he said that such a state of things could be justified by military necessity, and that if Her Majesty's Government assured him that such military necessity existed he was prepared to accept such an assurance. After having thus swept away the whole ground work of his fortifications, it was of little use to detain us with an interesting and learned dissertation as to the Prerogative of the Crown in the fortress of Gibraltar; because if I, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, am prepared to assert that a military necessity does exist, his whole argument falls to the ground. The Motion of my noble Friend resolves itself, as he has truly said, into two parts. As to the first part, I readily concede he has a strong primâ facie case; and as to the second, I submit he has no case at all. The first issue raised by my noble Friend is this—that we should not detain Zebehr Pasha any longer in captivity. I readily admit that nothing could be more distasteful to any British Government, from whichever side of the House it may be formed, than to be obliged to detain a man, even if he could justify the character given to him by the noble Earl, a moment longer in confinement than necessary, more especially under the circumstances—what I may call the unconstitutional circumstances—which have been so happily described by the noble and learned Lord. But we have to consider facts as they exist. The noble and learned Lord said that Zebehr Pasha was detained under the order of the Khedivial Government, and that they ought to have his custody. As a matter of fact that is not the case, because the arrest of Zebehr Pasha was ordered as a military necessity by the British Authorities. In arguing this case we must come to the root of the matter. You are dealing with an extraordinary and exceptional state of things, caused by our occupation of a country of which we have not the sovereignty, of which we have not the nominal protectorate, but of which we are in military occupation; and we have to face a dark and unknown quantity of danger in the hostile tribes of the Soudan. Let not my noble Friend think for one moment that the Government is more indifferent to the personal safety of the humblest of human beings than was the last Government, or the one that preceded it. We took into our consideration, almost as soon as we got into Office the question whether it would be necessary to detain Zebehr Pasha any longer. There was one little item which my noble Friend touched on lightly, of £150 a-month for his detention, which would at once occupy the unfailing vigilance of the British Treasury, even if no other argument had made itself heard. But, my Lords, on the large grounds of justice and Constitutional law, we have endeavoured, by consultation with the authorities both in Egypt and at the War Office, to ascertain if we could safely, in the present state of things, release Zebehr Pasha from custody; and I venture to say that no appeals were ever made in a more anxious spirit to receive an affirmative reply than those made by me. What is the result? From both of these authorities we received the unanimous response that it is not safe at present to release Zebehr Pasha. I am inclined to think that this would be almost the worst moment of any moment since he was first taken to release that prisoner. And why? At this moment Her Majesty's Government are occupying and devising a new regulation and arrangement of the frontier of Egypt. It is not three or four months since the forces of the Queen were engaged in fighting these very wild tribes of the Soudan, with whom it has been known as an absolute fact that Zebehr was in direct and definite communication. When we were occupied in the task of concentration and withdrawal on the Egyptian Frontier—a task which may, for aught we know, bear a false interpretation among the wild tribes of the Soudan—would it be wise to release from custody and restore to Egypt a man who has exercised a great power for both evil and for good, and even a fascination over my noble Friend himself? He had ready and direct methods of communication with these tribes, and he might exercise these powers of communication very greatly to the detriment of our position in Egypt. Therefore, I say we should not be justified in taking the course which has been suggested to us this evening. It would be an act of carelessness on our part—criminal carelessness—to release Zebehr Pasha at the present moment. My noble Friend told us that news in the Soudan travels like thistle-down, and the news that Zebehr Pasha had been restored to Egypt would travel as fast as other news. We cannot tell what effect it would have; but having Zebehr at Gibraltar we know this—that until we have made the frontier of Egypt to some extent secure, we have no right to release this potent power for good or evil. My noble Friend said that Zebehr Pasha was a family man, and was impressed with the strength of Gibraltar. The strength of Gibraltar is something which may impress anyone; but Zebehr Pasha is a shrewd man, and he knows that Gibraltar is some distance from the Soudan. He knows exactly the measure of our influence in the Soudan. He has known of that unfortunate and heroic campaign we carried on there; and, putting all these things together, I doubt whether that astute Oriental will be disposed to consider the influence of Gibraltar, or the power of England as shown there, as influencing very greatly the course of events in the Soudan. Again, Zebehr Pasha knows the character of this Government very well—of English Governments very well. He knows that if he gave us his whole family as hostages, and bound himself by the oath, which he was ready to take, that they might be put to death in case he broke that oath, that no matter what he did, not a single hair of their heads would be touched. At a moment of singular crisis in the history of Egypt we are asked to release one who may have affected my noble Friend by his parting words and vivid conversation, but who, at the same time, has been an agent of infinite cruelty and infinite destruction among the wild tribes of the Soudan. We are left in Egypt at this moment as a sort of garrison dealing with an obscure danger. We cannot tell where or when it may fall; and we are asked at this moment, dwelling as we do, if not in a powder magazine, at least on the outskirts of one, to return this highly inflammatory agent right into the centre of this highly perilous matter existing on our frontier. I am afraid I cannot argue this case constitutionally. I admit there is no Constitutional argument I know of to be raised for detaining Zebehr Pasha; but there are in Egypt at this moment considerations which overrule all other considerations. If we remember the course of events that have occurred in the Soudan, we shall not be very willing to strain a point in order to create again a state of things such as that which caused such infinite disaster and distress in this country last year. That is the case as regards the first part of my noble Friend's Motion; but I would wish to add that I give my promise, on behalf of the Government, that this question shall be reconsidered with the utmost anxiety to release this old man. Whether he goes to those holy cities which have been mentioned, or whether he returns to Egypt, the question will be reconsidered with the utmost wish to release him at the very earliest moment which, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it will be possible to do so. Now, I come to the second part of the Motion, and in discussing it I think I have a less troublesome task to perform. My noble Friend suggests that the time has come when, under certain conditions, the presence of Zebehr Pasha in the Soudan might prove valuable in the interests of Egypt, and in the pacification of the Soudan Provinces. To that proposition I have to return, on the part of the Government, a most direct and unhesitating negative. I cannot conceive, more especially after listening to the speech of my noble Friend, what considerations could have led any reasonable man to the conclusion embodied in the second part of his Motion. I think, after the experience we have had, the English Parliament and the English people, and the English Government as representing them, would think very seriously before sending any Agent whatsoever to the Soudan; because whatever stipulations we might enter into we could not well dissociate ourselves from responsibility for the actions of such an Agent. We have a great deal in the memory of the past to enlighten us as to the wisdom of sending even the greatest and the best of men to the Soudan as our Agents. We are dealing there, as I have already said, with an unknown quantity, and it was a difficult and a dangerous thing for us to attempt to send anyone there as our Agent. I cannot understand, unless we wish to re-occupy the Soudan, why we should send any Agent there at all. But when the Government are asked not only to send out an Agent there, but to send Zebehr Pasha there as that Agent, I confess I fail to see the wisdom of, or even the reason for, the proposal that we should adopt such a course. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that on the request of that great and good man we lost at Khartoum we declined to send Zebehr Pasha to act in the Soudan even under his influence and control. That was done by the Government of the day after mature deliberation, but also under the strong constraining of the House of Commons and of the country. And why was it that both the House of Commons and the country were opposed to that step being taken? It was because the past history of Zebehr Pasha did not encourage, but on the contrary discouraged, the belief that he would be a fit instrument to act as the Agent of this country in the Soudan. If the Government were unable to send out Zebehr Pasha to act as the Agent of this country under the direct control and influence of General Gordon, much less can we think of sending him to act as our Agent without his being under such control and influence. At the best Zebehr Pasha would be but a doubtful Agent for us to send, and even if he were the best I am unable to understand what useful work he could do in the Soudan. We do not wish to govern or to reconquer the Soudan; and, even if we did desire to govern or to reconquer the Soudon, I do not see how our sending Zebehr Pasha into those Provinces under the most favourable conditions would materially aid us in carrying our object into effect. If I may say the truth, I feel great difficulty in arguing this matter, because I have failed to appreciate the force of any argument which the noble Lord has put forward in support of his proposition. The noble Lord supported his Motion by considerations drawn from conversations he had had with Zebehr, and the pathetic appeal that that personage addressed to him as to his great age, the failure of his ambition, and his anxiety to end his days at Mecca. These are hardly the pledges or guarantees which we should desire from a man of his antecedents going to represent the British Government in the Soudan. In conclusion, I must say, in reply to the noble Lord's Motion, that the Government have no wish to send out an Agent to the Soudan, and that if they had Zebehr Pasha would not be the man they would choose.

On Question? Resolved in the negative.

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