them under our tongue as a sweet morsel, and trust that what we long for will happen all the same. Perhaps it would be wrong to say that with a large number of Liberal politicians some degree of doublemindedness prevails on the Egyptian question. They assume that we shall leave Egypt, they think on the whole that it is right we should leave, but they would like to stay ; they would shrink from endangering peace, they would not counsel Ministers to strain a point of honour unduly, and yet if the thing were done they would be glad. It may be said of them as of the thane of Cawdor :

“What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,

And yet wouldst wrongly win.” They would rejoice if the Government read aright what they take to be the secret wish of the nation, without insisting upon too many broad hints. Ask no questions, but do it for us ; give us Egypt, give us the Nile, make us masters of the Suez Canal; and the nation, now so quiet and patiently waiting, will hail your decision with acclamation.

Some such change as this has, if I mistake not, come over the public mind and brought us to a point which is in some respects critical How has it been produced ? This is a question of more than speculative interest, and for the sake of practical issues still pending it deserves our serious attention. It is desirable that we should understand our own case, but it is absolutely essential that we should do justice to that of France.

Our present position in Egypt is the latest aspect of a rivalry between the two countries which has lasted for almost a century. It dates from the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte. We need not discuss the motives which led to that celebrated exploit. Enough that it was regarded as an act of hostility to England, and was supposed to menace our Indian possessions. The sentimental interest which France takes in Egypt had its origin in the victories and the supposed intentions of Napoleon. The former are still surrounded with a halo of romance which subsequent disasters failed to dissipate. Frenchmen cannot forget that their legions conquered Egypt ; that from the Mediterranean to the Nubian desert their authority was once for a time supreme. The words addressed by Napoleon to his soldiers at the battle of the Pyramids are among the commonplaces of French history, and are still recited in schoolbooks as a stimulant to patriotism. Thousands of French soldiers found their graves on the banks of the Nile. Their ashes have mingled with the sands of Egypt. Whether for making a fresh attack upon the British empire in India, or for attracting to French ports a part of the commerce of the East, Egypt was the shortest route. Hence, whether for peace or war, Egypt was regarded as "the most valuable colony on the face of the globe. In the negotiations for

* Thiers, “ Hist. du Consulat," liv. x.


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peace, begun in 1801, the British diplomatist, Lord Hawkesbury, did nothing to weaken this impression. The evacuation of Egypt was one of the chief points on which he insisted. The question was left to the arbitrament of arms, and the French were driven out. The capitulation of Cairo ended a splendid dream, but it has never ceased to visit Frenchmen in their waking hours.

Such was the Egyptian question at the beginning, and it has never lost the character it then acquired. Egypt was conceived both by English and French statesmen to have an importance altogether distinct from commercial considerations. It was regarded as a possible base of operations for hostile enterprises in the East. The nation which managed to get possession of it would be half-way on the road to India. Transports or ships of war starting from the ports of the Red Sea would be able to reach Bombay before the fleet sent to encounter them had doubled the Cape. Circumstances have so changed that these ideas seem ridiculous, but it should be remembered that France once fought with us in India on equal terms, and that at one time it seemed doubtful on which side the balance would incline. When Napoleon landed in Egypt, only a few years had passed since the appearance of a French emissary in India had given the signal for a war which raged from Rohilcund to the Carnatic. The intelligence that war

The intelligence that war was declared between France and England, on the strength of which Warren Hastings determined to forestall his adversary, reached him from the British Consul at Cairo. The importance of Egypt as affording a means of quicker communication with India first dawned upon us with the establishment of the overland route. The construction of a railway to Suez, and the project of cutting a canal through the isthmus, brought commercial interests still more prominently into the foreground, 'There need have been no international rivalry in the canal ; but the rivalry already existed, and was at once associated with the new enterprise. Thenceforth the political question and the commercial question became one, and a higher premium than ever was put upon the acquisition of a preponderating influence in Egypt.

The bad effects of this conjunction might have been prevented if the British Government had taken kindly to the project of M. de Lesseps, whereas it is well known that they opposed it by all the means in their power. Lord Palmerston honestly believed that the canal would not be advantageous to this country.

Perhaps he foresaw that it would divert some of the Eastern trade to the Mediterranean ports, and diminish the importance of London as an entrepôt for the Continent. But he also regarded the project with some apprehension on political grounds, and he allowed this to be seen. M. de Lesseps had, in the first instance, appealed to England for help. The moneyed world, taking their cue from the Government, refused it, and he was driven to rely upon his own countrymen. He took back with him from his English tour an argument which could not but have great weight with them. The English, he said, are frightened at this canal. They believe it will inflict a heavy blow upon their naval power. They do not like to see the Mediterranean States brought nearer to India. The suggestion chimed in with traditional impressions. It brought back old dreams. A Joint Stock Company in the hands of M. de Lesseps was about to attempt over again the enterprise in which Napoleon failed. Certainly he should have the money. There was the assurance of M. de Lesseps that the investment would be profitable, and if it frightened or even injured England, so much the better.

So the canal was finished, despite of English prophecies. It had been backed from the beginning by the influence of France. The Emperor Napoleon lent M. de Lesseps a helping hand in every difficulty, and on the day of opening the Empress was present as tutelary goddess. France and Egypt were the sole partners in the enterprise. The Khedive had granted the charter, given the land, and taken up nearly one-half the shares. The undertaking united the two countries as they never had been before. Thousands of French shareholders were co-proprietors with the Khedive in Egyptian soil, and, as it seemed, they were bound together by the strongest of financial ties. It appeared as if henceforth France and Egypt must be inseparable. In such a state of things we can imagine the shock given to the French by the announcement that the Khedive's shares had been quietly bought up by the English Government, and that an English commissioner was about to be sent out to investigate the finances of Egypt. It was an Abercrombie invasion over again. Once more the French were to be dislodged and driven out from their legitimate conquests by those scheming islanders, who had waited till all difficulties had been overcome, and had then surreptitiously rushed in to share the booty. The purchase of the Suez Caual shares was a signal of war-to be conducted with the proper amenities, and with the usual friendly protestations, but nevertheless warto both countries. English merchants hailed the purchase as a stroke of surpassing cleverness. English politicians of the new school of Imperialism saw in it a skilful move in advance, a conquest in the guise of a Stock Exchange transaction.

Now began a quiet tussle for influence at Cairo. France could not allow that she was less concerned than England in the finances of Egypt. If she had not the interest on four million worth of shares to look after, her moneyed men held the greater part of the Egyptian bonds, and were jealously watching their securities. Since oversight and inspection were held to be necessary, what could be more natural or more friendly than that the two Powers should conduct the process together. Accordingly, English and French commissioners were sent out, and were accepted by the Khedive as his Ministers, acting nominally on his authority. The bondholders meanwhile had been stirring in their own behalf.

They had employed agents to inquire into the state of the Egyptian revenue. They did so with the co-operation of their respective Governments. Heretofore it had been an accepted rule that persons who speculated in foreign loans did so at their own risk. After they had lent money at usurer's interest in consideration of the low credit of the borrowing Power, it was thought inexpedient, if not wrong, for the State to protect them from losses which were anticipated and allowed for when the original contract was made. This just rule was set aside in the case of Egypt. The Governments backed the bondholders, seduced from the straight path by the political influence for which their interference in financial questions served as a pretext. By prodigal expenditure and ruinous loans, Egypt had become bankrupt. Left to herself, she would have “taken the benefit of the Act,” as the phrase used to run, like Honduras, Spain, Mexico, and her own suzerain, Turkey. But Egypt was in the hands of the Governments who did all they could for their clients. By the Law of Liquidation, thrust upon the Khedive by his English and French Ministers, and accepted by the Powers, the revenues of Egypt were divided, so much being assigned to the payment of interest and the gradual extinction of the debt, and so much to the cost of administration. The scheme promised well, but it laid too many restraints upon the Khedive.

It beggared him and left him without power. Ismail was a strong man. Theoretically he was master in his own house. So one day, without asking leave, he sent his French and English Ministers about their business and took affairs into his own hands.

Perhaps this rough-and-ready solution of the Egyptian question would have been the best for all parties, and the Western Powers, confounded by Ismail's impudence, seemed disposed to let him alone. But Prince Bismarck, in virtue of the Law of Liquidation, served a protest on the Khedive. His intervention has always been regarded as a mystery. There were but few German bondholders, and in

, Egyptian politics he had not professed any great concern. Is it that he was determined to keep France and England tethered together at their task, and did he foresee the consequences ? At any rate, France and England took the hint and returned to the field of action. An application was made to the Sultan to issue a firman dethroning Ismail, and instituting his son, Tewfik Pasha, as his successor. With a young and pliable ruler on the throne, the two Powers adopted a bolder policy. They resolved to take the administration of Egypt into their own hands, and to share it between them. The new English and French representatives were to have seats at the council, not on the nomination of the Khedive, but by the authority of their respective Governments, and they were to have an absolute veto upon every proposal of the other Ministers. Henceforth the Khedive was to be a mere “tulchan” ruler, and his native Ministry a mere machine for executing the will of the foreigner. Such was the Dual Control, established on the part of England by Lord Salisbury.

The question of supremacy in Egypt had now undergone an enormous simplification. All the external bulwarks of a native Government had been cleared away. All competing claims had been ignored. Egypt was in the hands of two foreign officials, and all that had to be done to conduct the process to its final term was for one of them to supplant the other. Both Governments and both countries comprehended the narrowness of the issue. It is needless to refer to the Arabi outbreak and its resultant entanglements; they are well within memory and it is easy to identify the points at which they touched the policy of the protecting Powers. Of that policy it is enough to say that there was a want of confidence between London and Paris ; neither of the Governments could entirely trust the other. Lord Granville, as is shown by his despatch of November 4, 1881, was inclined to rely upon the co-operation of the other Powers, while M. Gambetta urged that the guidance of affairs should be kept in their own hands. The consequences of a rupture seemed so much to be dreaded that Lord Granville conceded a good deal to his imperious colleague. And yet when the time of action came it was France that drew back, leaving England to go to Egypt alone.

Let us be candid with ourselves. This is a special duty since we are now under the influence of the feelings which were aroused in us by the decision of the French Government two years ago. We did not resent that decision. On the contrary, we were much pleased with it. Our path seemed all at once to be lighted up with an unexpected ray. The news that the French Government had refused to join in the Alexandria expedition seemed too good to be true. A murmur of congratulation ran through the land. At last we were to be left alone in Egypt. It was assumed that the long struggle for ascendancy had been practically decided in our favour; and it had been so decided, not, as we once feared it might have to be, by force of arms, but by the voluntary retirement of our rival. If any one ten or twenty years before bad ventured to hint the possibility of such an event, he would have been laughed at for his simplicity. This one thing, at any rate, France would never do, and yet this one thing it turned out that France had done. In the excitement of the moment, too large an inference was drawn from the refusal of France to go with us to Alexandria, and we are insisting upon too large an

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