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Egypt and the Soudan.

House of Lords, February 26, 1885.

["It was in the year 1880 that the movements of a Mahommedan dervish, named Mahomed Ahmed, first began to attract the attention of the Egyptian officials. He had quarrelled with and repudiated the authority of the head of his religious order, because he tolerated such 5 frivolous practices as dancing and singing. Many earnest and energetic Mahommedans flocked to him, and among these was the present Khalifa Abdullah. To his instigation was probably due not merely the assumption of [the title Mahdi] by Mahommed Ahmed, but the addition of a worldly policy to what was to have been a strictly religious 10 propaganda. By New Year's Day, 1884, the power of the Mahdi

was triumphantly established over the whole extent of the Soudan, from the Equator to Souakim, with the exception of Khartoum, the middle course of the Nile from that place to Dongola, [and] some outlying garrisons. The principal Egyptian force remaining was the body 15 of four thousand so-called troops, left behind at Khartoum, under Colonel de Coetlogon, by Hicks Pasha, when he set out on his unfortunate expedition, [destroyed at Shekan, November 4, 1883]. The motives which induced Mr. Gladstone's government to send General Gordon to the Soudan in January, 1884, were the selfish desire to appease 20 public opinion, and to shirk in the easiest possible manner a great responsibility. They had no policy at all, [yet] hope was indulged that, under his exceptional reputation, the evacuation of the Soudan might not only be successfully carried out, but that his success might induce the public and the world to accept that abnegation of policy as the acme 25 of wisdom. They had evidently persuaded themselves that their policy was Gordon's policy; and before he was in Khartoum a week he not merely points out that the evacuation policy is not his but theirs, and that although he thinks its execution is still possible, the true policy is, ‘if Egypt is to be quiet, that the Mahdi must be smashed up.' The 30 hopes that had been based on Gordon's supposed complaisance in the post of representative on the Nile of the Government policy were thus dispelled, and it became evident that Gordon, instead of being a tool, was resolved to be master, so far as the mode of carrying out the


evacuation policy with full regard for the dictates of honour was to be decided. Nor was this all, or the worst of the revelations made to the Government in the first few weeks after his arrival at Khartoum. While expressing his willingness and intention to discharge the chief part of his task, viz. the withdrawal of the garrisons, which was ail the 5 Government cared about, he also descanted on the moral duty and the inevitable necessity of setting up a provisional government that should avert anarchy and impose some barrier to the Mahdi's progress. All this was trying to those who only wished to be rid of the whole matter, but Gordon did not spare their feelings, and phrase by phrase he re- 10 vealed what his own policy would be and what his inner wishes really were. . . . Gordon made several specific demands in the first six weeks of his stay at Khartoum, [he entered it February 18, 1884] — that is, in the short period before communication was cut off. To these requests not one favorable answer was given. . . . When it was revealed that he 15 had strong views and clear plans, not at all in harmony with those who sent him, it was thought, by the Ministers who had not the courage to recall him, very inconsiderate and insubordinate of him to remain at his post and to refuse all the hints given him, that he ought to resign unless he would execute a sauve qui peut sort of retreat to the frontier. 20 Very harsh things have been said of Mr. Gladstone and his Cabinet on this point, but considering their views and declarations, it is not so very surprising that Gordon's boldness and originality alarmed and displeased them. Their radical fault in these early stages of the question was not that they were indifferent to Gordon's demands, but that they 25 had absolutely no policy. They could not even come to the decision, as Gordon wrote, 'to abandon altogether and not care what happens.' [The troops of the Mahdi besieged Khartoum from March, 1884, to January 25, 1885, when it fell.] The result of the early representations of the Duke of Devonshire, and the definite suggestion of Lord Wolseley, 30 was that the Government gave in when the public anxiety became so great at the continued silence of Khartoum, and acquiesced in the dispatch of an expedition to relieve General Gordon. The sum of ten millions was devoted to the work of rescuing Gordon by the very persons who had rejected his demands for the hundredth part of that 35 total," but so slow was the progress of the expedition that it arrived just too late. Condensed from pp. 98-157 of Life of Gordon, D. C. Boulger. T. F. Unwin, London.

"On February 19, 1885 about a fortnight after the news of the fall of Khartoum and the death of our betrayed hero, Gordon, had reached 40 this country, Parliament assembled. In the course of the next fortnight a motion of censure on the Government was proposed by Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords, and carried by 169 against 68 votes;


but another motion to the same effect, introduced in the House of Commons by Sir Stafford Northcote, was defeated by a majority of 14." The Marquis of Salisbury, H. D. Traill. pp. 196-199. Sampson Low, Marston & Co., London].

5 The Marquess of Salisbury, in rising to move "That this House, having taken into consideration the statements that have been made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, is of opinion that — (1.) The deplorable failure of the Soudan expedition to attain its object has been due to the undecided 10 counsels of the Government and to the culpable delay attending the commencement of operations; (2.) that the policy of abandoning the whole of the Soudan after the conclusion of military operations will be dangerous to Egypt and inconsistent with the interests of the Empire,” said :

My Lords, the Motion which I have the honour to lay before Your Lordships to-night has a double aspect; it passes judgment upon the past and it expresses an opinion with respect to the policy of the future. Some persons receive with considerable impatience the idea that at the 20 present crisis of our country's destiny we should examine

into the past, and spend our time in judging of that which cannot be recalled; but I think that such objections are unreasonable. In one of the gravest crises through which our country has ever passed we depend upon the wisdom and de25 cision of those who guide our councils; and we can only judge whether that dependence is rightly placed by examining their conduct in the past, to see whether what they have done justifies us in continuing our confidence in the difficulties which are yet to come. Now, whatever may be said of 30 Her Majesty's Government, I think those who examine it carefully will find that it follows a certain rule and system, and is in that sense, if in no other, consistent. Their conduct at the beginning of this Egyptian affair has been analogous to their conduct at the end. Throughout there has been an 35 unwillingness to come until the last moment to any requisite decision there has been an absolute terror of fixing upon


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any settled course; and the result has been that when the time came when external pressure forced upon them a decision as to some definite course the moment for satisfactory action had already passed, and the measures taken were adopted in haste, with little preparedness, and were ill-fitted 5 for the emergency with which they had to cope. The conduct of Her Majesty's Government has been an alternation of periods of slumber and periods of rush; and the rush, however vehement, has always been too unprepared and too unintelligent to repair the damage which the period of 10 slumber has effected.

I do not wish to hark back into this Egyptian Question; but it is necessary to point out the uniformity of character in the conduct of the Government. The first commencement of our troubles was the height to which Arabi's rebellion was 15 allowed to go. The Government knew very well the danger of Arabi while he was yet a small man, and had little influence. They were perfectly aware of the mischiefs he was brewing, and they not only declined to act themselves, but, if they are not greatly belied, they prevented the local author- 20 ities from acting - they prevented Arabi being removed, as he should have been removed, from the confines of Egypt. If that had been done, all the evil that followed would have been averted; but while his enterprize was going on they reposed in absolute security, and they took no effective 25 measures till the pressure of public opinion forced upon them the movement which culminated in the bombardment of Alexandria. That was a very fair illustration of the vice which has characterized their policy, that when they did move the movement was made suddenly, with no prepara- 30 tion, and with no foresight of what was to follow. The Fleet was moved in, and as a matter of course, Arabi resisted, and the Fleet, as was inevitable, suddenly replied; and then it was found that there were no forces to land and back up the action that was taken. The result of that improvidence was 35 not only that the Khedive's Throne was shaken, and the

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fidelity of his Army was utterly destroyed, but that the town and fortifications of Alexandria, through the vengeance of Arabi, were grievously injured, and that tremendous debt for the injury done to Alexandria was incurred, which still re5 mained a weight upon the Egyptian finances, and a hindrance. to all negotiations for the settlement of foreign claims. That was the first act, the first specimen of that period of slumber followed by a sudden and unprepared rush. Then came the question of the Soudan, which was no new question. Before 10 the battle of Tel-el-Kebir the Mahdi was already in arms. It was a matter as to which anybody who undertook to deal with the destinies of Egypt should have arrived at a decision as to the plan on which the Government of Egypt should act. But no decision was arrived at the thing was allowed to 15 drift; and Her Majesty's Government, plunged into absolute torpor, seemed to have but one care - that they should escape from nominal responsibility, ignoring the real responsibilities which would inevitably be attached to their actions. The despatches, one after another, during that period only repeat 20 the old burden-"Her Majesty's Government has no responsibility as to what takes place in the Soudan." The result was that the unhappy Hicks was sent into the Soudan, wretchedly equipped, with an army altogether beneath the number that he ought to have had, composed of men, more25 over, who had been turned out of the Egyptian Army as worthless. The inevitable result followed a result which Her Majesty's Government had no cause to be surprised at, for they were warned of it by their own confidential agents. Yet they absolutely declined to interfere, and hoped, by dis30 claiming responsibility, to escape from the inevitable consequences of their own neglect. The anticipated disaster came. Hicks and his army were totally destroyed, and not a man escaped to tell the tale; and then it was that Her Majesty's Government awoke from the period of slumber, and the period of rush began.


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They adopted two measures, both of them as inadequate

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