« PredošláPokračovať »
whichever of the two may be entitled to select the holder of the office. M. de Lesseps has been so identified with the Canal Company, that persons, even in high places, have not only supported the monopoly, but have treated it as one personal to M. de Lesseps. For this latter it is evident there is not the slightest foundation, and in a matter of such magnitude it is well to reduce the elements to their just proportions.
Here, then, we have, as regards canal making and working, the utmost limit of the company's powers precisely defined. It was authorised by the authority from which it derived its existence, to make and work the one particular maritime canal, and the one only. It was on the basis of this power, for this purpose, and with this 'object,' that the share capital was subscribed. Without dissolving the company and forming a new one, no other object' such as making another canal, is open to the shareholders, however desirous they might be of doing so. Supposing they could discover some legal means of overcoming the difficulty, they would find still a superior authority, with whom they would have to settle.
Article 71 runs:
If experience should make manifest the utility of modifying or adding to the present statutes, the general assembly (of shareholders) may do so as provided by Article 57.
But the resolutions of the assembly in this respect are not executable (valid) until after the approval of the Egyptian Government.
This also implies a further authority. The ratification of the Sultan was expressly reserved for each concession as it was granted, and this ratification, when given, was as expressly limited in the following terms:
After reciting and approving the contract of the 22nd of February, 1866, attached, it continues:
We give our sovereign authority for the execution of the canal by the said company upon the conditions stipulated in this contract, as also to the regulation of all the accessories in terms of this contract and of the deeds and conventions therein recited and specified.
Among the deeds specified is: The second provisional deed of concession of the 5th of January, 1856;' to which deeds were annexed the statutes of the universal company, approved by the Viceroy, the 'object' of which was making and working one particular canal.
One may fairly ask how, in the face of provisions such as these, can it be contended, much less asserted, that the present company has a monopoly of canalisation in the Isthmus, and can proprio motu proceed to the making of a new canal?
We must assume, although one begins to wonder whether such an assumption may not be questioned, that some authority was needed to expropriate lands, construct public works, and levy tolls upon the
national and commercial navies of the nations of the world, in an independent country: that is to say, a country independent of the doers of these acts.
We must presume that the deed of concession of the ruler of the country, ratified by his suzerain, was required, or it would not have been sought. But by what process of reasoning is it contended that a limited and specific grant to do a particular thing can be expanded into unlimited authority to do other things, however analogous? Such a contention can only be explained by the trite adage, which explains many things in this world, that the wish was father to the thought.'
We must pause here for a moment and refer back to the second concession (5th of January, 1856) for the particulars of a remarkable event in the annals of the canal, which made history at the time.
Article 2 provided for the execution of the works by the company, by itself, by contractors or otherwise,' and concluded: In all cases the four-fifths of the workmen employed on the works shall be Egyptians.'
On the 20th of July, 1856, rules were made by the Viceroy, in concert with M. de Lesseps, for the protection of the workmen to be employed on the canal, and of the interests of the farmers, proprietors, &c., of the country.
The rate of wages, food, lodging, &c., of these workmen was laid down, the amount of work they were to do, and the number to be employed.
It will be borne in mind that the ratification by the Sultan of the concessions was expressly reserved, but M. de Lesseps, who neither then nor since has been in the habit of paying overmuch respect to authority when it militated against his own views, dispensed with this formality and at once commenced the works.
For a time he opposed to remonstrances a studied neglect, but Lord Palmerston, notwithstanding that his action has been described in the House of Commons, by the highest authority, as deplorable, thought, and-as events have proved-most justly thought it for the interests of this country, to intervene. Under the first and second concessions certain lands, of vast extent, were granted to the Canal Company with rights over them which evidently created an imperium in imperio in Egypt. They not only formed a menace to the sovereign rights of the Egyptian Government and of the Sultan, but under circumstances not difficult to conjecture, e.g. the late war in Egypt, might have become a serious ground of dispute with other nations, particularly with England, who would have found a part of France astride the highway to India.
Supported by England the Ottoman Porte refused to ratify the concessions until the grant of land should have been withdrawn and the forced employment of Egyptians on the canal abandoned. A
system under which unfortunate labourers were driven from the cultivation of their own land to work in the desert, could not fail to give rise to much oppression and suffering, and was creating discontent throughout the country.
Interminable negotiations followed. M. de Lesseps calmly went on with his works until, in 1863, the Porte, exasperated at the defiance of its authority, addressed a diplomatic note to its Ministers at London and Paris, and an identical one to the Viceroy, insisting that the works should be stopped until the conditions laid down as indispensable for the ratification of the concession had been complied with. M. de Lesseps, finding that matters were becoming serious, endeavoured to come to terms with the Viceroy, on the basis of a money indemnity, in compensation for the loss of the forced labour of the Egyptians and the other advantages he was required by the Porte to relinquish. The natural rejoinder of the Viceroy was, that the concession having been given subject to the ratification by the Sultan, it was M. de Lesseps' own affair if he had commenced hist works without it; and that being so, it could not form a subject of legitimate complaint, or justify a claim for damages, if the privileges in question could not be accorded. But his demands were so excessive that there was a deadlock, and at length it was arranged that the matter in dispute should be referred to the arbitration of the Emperor Napoleon. Such an appeal was very like a reference from the fox to the wolf; but Ismail probably had no choice, and gallantly made up his mind that though he would not surrender to the Canal Company, he might do so to France without derogation.
On the 21st of April, 1864, Nubar Pasha on behalf of Egypt, and M. de Lesseps for the Canal Company, signed a case for the reference. The result from the commencement was a foregone conclusion, but the case' is at the present conjuncture a most significant and useful document. As M. de Lesseps certainly would not have consented to omit from it any advantage justly his, we may take it to have been the outside limit of his claims.
It recites that 'H. H. Mohammed Said gave to M. de Lesseps the mission to form a company,' with the obligation to construct 'a maritime canal between Suez and Pelusium,' in consideration of the Egyptian Government giving a free grant of the Government land necessary for the construction' of the canal. The use for ninetynine years, free of taxation for ten years, of certain uncultivated lands,' and an engagement by the Egyptian Government to furnish the labourers to be employed on the works of the company.'
The result was that the Emperor awarded to the Canal Company:
For relinquishing their claim to Egyptian forced labour
the use of the waste lands for 99 years
Not a word or hint here of a monopoly or an exclusive right to canalisation in the Isthmus.
Is it to be supposed that such a right, which would have justified a formidable addition to the demands of the Canal Company, would not have been put forward at such a moment, even if only arguable, to say nothing of being maintainable?
The matter having been thus settled, it became necessary to satisfy the Porte, and this was accomplished by the convention of the 22nd of February, 1866, between the Viceroy and the Canal Company, in which the requirements of the Note of 1863 are fully complied with.
Many of the Articles, seventeen in number, contain stipulations upon very important points, such as the jurisdiction of the native police—the right of the Egyptian Government to use the canal, to occupy canal land and buildings in time of war-of private persons to settle on canal land-the legal domicile of the company, &c. With these we have at present no concern. For the purposes of our argument, viz., to show the restricted nature of the concession, we need only quote two :—
ARTICLE 2. Considering that it is necessary to fix for the canal the extent of land required for its construction and working . but that nothing should be allotted to it (the company) beyond what is necessary to fully provide for the different services specified; that the company can have no claim to obtain, with a view to speculation, any extension whatever of lands, whether for cultivation, for building, or for resale . . . the two parties interested confining themselves within these limits, in order to fix, along the whole line of the maritime canal, the area of land of which the occupation during the term of the concession is necessary for establishing, working, and maintaining this canal, have agreed that the quantity of land necessary, &c., is fixed in conformity with the plans and schedule annexed hereto.
ARTICLE 15. It is declared, by way of interpretation, that at the end of the ninety-nine years of the concession of the Canal of Suez, and failing any new agreement between the company and the Government, the concession shall cease and determine.
Where, one may be permitted to ask, is the room for a monopoly of canalisation in such words as these? What can be clearer than the terms which limit the possibility of canal-making to this canal only,' and in what more emphatic words could be declared the cessation of the concession at the end of ninety-nine years?
Where is the dishonesty in holding, and even in asserting, that neither M. de Lesseps nor his company have a monopoly? The only explanation possible, and the only excuse for the position taken up by the Government and its supporters is, that they were not aware of the existence of these documents. But this is not all, though it really seems like flogging a dead horse to pile up further arguments. In 1869 disputes had again arisen with the Egyptian Government, and the Canal Company wanted money to finish the canal, which,
besides being in a very incomplete condition, was of much less magThey still had something they relinquish, and some claims they
nitude than the definitive plan. could sell, some rights they could could abandon for a consideration!
A fresh convention (April 23, 1869) was the result. This time it is clear the Pasha meant to make a clean sweep of it. His last little experience of having to pay back three and a half millions for a conditional grant had taught him a lesson.
We need merely indicate the object of many of the Articles which relate to matters important in themselves, but foreign to the present question, viz., the company to pay customs duties; the company's vessels to pay freshwater canal dues; renunciation of right of fishing in canal and lakes; sale of certain lands and buildings.
Two articles only concern us.
ARTICLE 3. By the consent of the parties it is understood (agreed) that the company has no other object than the working, maintenance, and enlargement of the maritime canal. It consequently has common rights only (rentre dans le droit commun) and renounces every exemption, special power, or privilege.
ARTICLE 5. The company renounces, as concerns the Egyptian Government, as well on its own behalf as for its contractors whom it guarantees, every claim or compensation whatever for all occurrences or alleged wrongs previous to the date of the present convention.
The purchase money of this arrangement to be paid by the Viceroy was the bagatelle of 1,200,000l., and it is specially interesting to us, for the payment was made by detaching the coupons for twentyfive years from the 176,602 shares then belonging to the Viceroy, and now the property of this country. Surely if language is to serve any other purpose than to conceal our thoughts, the intention of the two Articles just quoted is unmistakable.
We have shown how, at the outset, there was granted to M. de Lesseps exclusive power to form and to direct a company for piercing the Isthmus and working a canal, subject to certain limitations; and with rights and privileges in respect of lands, materials, customs dues, labour, fresh water canals, tolls, &c. for ninety-nine years. The whole was specified, interpreted, and limited, and approved in documents which we have referred to. The first limitation was applied to the directorate of M. de Lesseps, who was made director for ten years from the opening. The term has now run out, so that matter is disposed of.
There remain the limitations quâ canals. The land granted for the line of the canal was to be defined, to be traced by the engineers. of the Viceroy, and advised upon by an international commission; the company was to make a (un) canal on a course and of a depth and width specified; and its 'object' to be the construction and working of a specific maritime canal; to retain only the land necessary for constructing and working and maintaining this canal; to abandon to the Viceroy all its lands not required for this purpose, freshwater