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and to sow the blessings of civilisation on the banks of the fertile Nile. We said that we had entered into this house, that we would sweep it with the broom of reform and garnish it with our British institutions.
The Kourbash, backsheesh, slavery, torture, these were abominations which must disappear, and in their place we would instal pure justice. Government by a class was wrong, so we would have brand-new representative institutions: the fellah should stand on a par with the pasha, the slave with his master. The might of England's justice should awaken the echoes of the silent Memnon.
Well, the ambition was a noble one, worthy of the ambassador who suggested it, of the country he represented, of the great party who governed it. I will say that, among all the Englishmen who inhabit the valley of the Nile, there was not one able to understand all that Lord Dufferin's report implied who did not feel proud of the task their countrymen had set themselves to accomplish. There was little even of scepticism in their comments; the people were docile, peaceable, easily taught, right-loving at heart, and if there were a nation willing to do this great thing, to confer on them the blessings which they themselves enjoyed, it was a work of unselfish good, of daring rectitude, and all who loved and knew Egypt wished them 'God speed.'
But how was it to be done? How were a people bred through many centuries of serfdom to become free, taught by hard experience to look upon government and oppression as synonymous terms, to realise that the function of government was to prevent oppression ? How were the governing classes themselves, who had never recognised their miserable fellaheen as human beings, with wants and feelings like their own, suddenly to be taught that they possessed not those only, but rights and responsibilities as well ?
There was and could be only one way by which the scheme was practicable. English ideas of right and justice and liberty could only be imposed by the strong hands of Englishmen themselves.
The acceptance of Lord Dufferin's scheme implied a protectorate.
Lord Dufferin, or at all events her Majesty's Government, thought otherwise. They imagined that it was possible to leave all the outward and visible functions of government in the hands of Egyptian rulers, to leave all the necessary reforms to be carried out by them at the instigation of English under-secretaries. With this view Messrs. Vincent, Scott Moncrieff, Clifford Lloyd, and Benson Maxwell were placed respectively at the Ministries of Finance, Public Works, Interior, and Justice. For such a scheme to become even theoretically practical it would be necessary that each of the four ministers should be firmly convinced of the advisability in his own interests of following the advice of his subordinate, and that each of the four under-secretaries should be possessed of the ability necessary to mould his own ideas with the greater local experience of his chief, as well as endowed with sufficient tact to conceal his own share in the measures recommended, and to make them appear as the voluntary act of the minister.
I am tempted to suggest an analogous situation. Imagine Mr. Firth charged with the mission of persuading the Lord Mayor to carry out in his own name the reform of the municipal corporations; and let it be borne in mind that the analogy is not perfect, for the two gentlemen mentioned have not been brought up under totally opposing creeds and habits of thought.
How was it possible to suppose that any such scheme had the faintest chance of success ? To the Egyptian, office means the increase of his income by peculation, the placing of his relatives and protégés in more or less lucrative positions, the power to work his own lands at the State expense. And the essence of all reform was the direct negation of every one of these principles. The minister was bound to regard his subordinate as the rat regards the terrier. The subordinate, on the other hand, compelled to employ tact, is very much like the terrier muzzled. He sees the abuse and recognises the remedy: he gives the advice; it is accepted with enthusiasm and treated with contempt. Finding the abuse still exists, he, after some difficulty, gets the order for its removal signed. A few days later, finding it unexecuted, he discovers that it has not been forwarded; he sees it delivered, hears that it is treated as a dead letter, inquires the cause, and finds that with the order were sent private instructions to take no notice of it.
We have lately heard much of individual want of tact. I am free to admit that the charge is not unfounded, but equally bound to state my conviction that under the present system no man at present created could exhibit the amount of tact and patience necessary to effect two reforms in a twelvemonth.
Let us suppose, however, that all these difficulties are overcome, that the subordinate is able to manage his principal, that the principal is willing to be managed, and that the composite administration is working as a happy family with the sole object of ensuring a strong, just, and equitable form of government.
We have not, however, in any country in the world yet arrived at a stage when even perfect government secures perfect content. In every country, and more especially in those which have been maladministered, we must expect to find a very large class who, like the Irishman, hold it as the cardinal point of their political creed to be “agin the government. This party will be stronger, or weaker, according as the government is weak or strong, according to its power to suppress discontent. If the executive be strong and likely to be durable, the majority of malcontents will gradually pass over to the side of order; if it is weak and of doubtful stability, the opposition will steadily increase.
I have shown that the government of the Khedive was established and maintained solely by British bayonets. It became, then, of the utmost importance to show that that support would remain; yet no occasion was spared to reiterate the threat that those bayonets would be withdrawn. Let us picture to ourselves the chances of an English administration which started with the programme of a speedy dissolution to be followed by a refusal to take office, and we shall then perhaps understand how it happens that the very few supporters we are able to secure give but a feeble acquiescence to our policy, and are continually seeking to make friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness, who only wait our retirement to seize our places, to upset our reforms, and to ruin all those who have cordially supported us.
But, if we are compelled to advertise our intention to withdraw the British force, what steps have we taken to substitute another? We have formed an army under Sir Evelyn Wood and a constabulary under General Valentine Baker.
We will take the latter first. We have formed it of the men from the disbanded army-the very men to oppose whose rebellion we entered Egypt. These are the men to whom we have entrusted the preservation of public order. Was it recklessness or prudence which induced us to allow them-a civil force to become the victims of Osman Digna on the plains of Teb? Such as they were, a remnant of them exist, and at no period within a recollection of twenty years was brigandage so rife in the interior. The army of Sir Evelyn Wood for some time promised to be a
It was a body that did credit to its officers; in drill and discipline it was perfect. Would it have even been fit for taking the field ? Who can tell? But it promised well, so all chance of achieving its promise was carefully taken from it; by refusing to allow it to co-operate with the English force, by almost forcibly seizing its material and ammunition, by separating the men from their English officers, and finally by defrauding the widows of their rights to pension, all chance of esprit de corps has been destroyed, and the costly labour of General Wood and his officers has been wasted. Clearly, then, we have as yet done nothing to make the government strong.
Have we tried to make it just ? We have introduced a complicated system of French procedure that is, through the instrumentality of an English lawyer, we have imposed upon the Egyptian people a system of which both reformer and reformed are equally ignorant. We have imported a number of Belgian and Dutch judges of high pay, ignorant of the language, mostly unwilling to learn, and so useless during the first six months in which they drew their salary that they were requested to go on leave. And the result is seen in
the fact that the prisons are so full as to necessitate a gaol delivery, and the question is still under dispute as to whether the majority of those released had ever been tried, or had ever even been charged with
We have failed, then, to show that our administration is just.
Yet another question, however: If we have failed to make the government strong or just, have we at least made it equitable in its injustice? Here again we must answer no. Is anyone overtaxed, it is the fellah, for the foreigner goes free. Is justice or injustice meted out with equal impartiality to the fellah and the Greek? No, for the latter is subject to a different law, a different court, a different judge. Nor is it fair to blame the Powers who insist on maintaining for their subjects the benefit of the capitulations exacted as a protection against a weak, unjust, and corrupt government.
The government is still weak, is still corrupt, is still unjust, and it must remain so until the capitulations are abolished. We come then to this deadlock: that the capitulations must exist until the government is strong, that the government cannot be strong so long as the capitulations exist.
Here, then, is the result of our eighteen months' occupation of Egypt—a government which is neither strong, just, nor equal; and for this government, disguise it as we will, England has become responsible before Europe.
Where, then, is the fault?
Certainly not in the people, easily taught and governed; not in the ruling classes, who, whether under pressure or no, have given us as much support as is consistent with their natures ; not with foreign Powers, who have on the whole treated us with singular forbearance; nor with the English officials, for no more conscientious men exist than those now struggling manfully under difficulties in Egypt.
The fault is in the system, and in the system alone; we are wasting the precious months in trying to achieve the union of youth and crabbed age, of the old world with the new; we are trying to place new wine into old bottles, and because we have not the courage to adopt the one system or the other, we are making a contemptible failure between the two.
Why do we hesitate to decide ? I shall be told that I ignore the responsibilities of either decision. I reply that I recognise both, but a third greater than either.
On the one side, as an Englishman, I see the enormous responsibility attaching to a country which takes upon itself the moulding of the destinies of five million aliens, and which, already burdened with duties fully up to the measure of its resources, hesitates to increase them.
On the other hand, equally as an Englishman, I recognise the difficulty of a position which would compel us to stand by as the watchdog of a government conducted on principles totally at variance with our notions of right and wrong.
But as fully--nay, more fully-I recognise both as Englishman and Egyptian that no power in heaven or on earth can justify a nation strong and powerful for good in placing its hands, with intentions however benevolent, at the throats of an ignorant and helpless people, in compelling them to bear a burthen beavier than would be imposed by the one system, and yet to suffer misgovernment more cruel and unjust than would be caused by the other.
Not in the interests of any party or class, not in support of any pet theory of my own, but for the sake of our national reputation for justice and honesty, in pity to this people whose love we might have gained and whose hate we are earning, I make this appeal.
If we have attempted too much, more than, consistently with our other duties, we dare to perform, let us without false pride openly confess our error, and retire from the country our soldiers and our officials.
If, on the other hand, we dare to be great, let us avow our intentions, assuming in the light of day that authority we are now vainly trying to exercise in the background, and accepting the responsibilities which, whether we will it or no, are upon our shoulders so long as we remain in the country.
And in either case let us abandon a policy which is bound to fail and bound to bring its retribution because it is founded neither on truth, courage, nor justice.
C. S. MOBERLY BELL.