H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Lord Cromer : a biography online

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LORD CROMER



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BY



H. D. TRAILL



ILLUSTRATED







NEW YORK

EDWARD ARNOLD

70, FIFTH AVENUE
1897



CONTENTS



CHAPTER I. page

Early Years . . • • . » n

CHAPTER II.
Commissioner of the Egyptian Debt . . 21

CHAPTER III.
The Dual Control . . . .41

CHAPTER IV.
Finance Minister in India . . 55

CHAPTER V.
Consul-General at Cairo . . . . 85

CHAPTER VI.
Gordon and the Government . . . . 116

CHAPTER VII.
Gordon and Baring . . . . . 143

."0

CHAPTER VIII.
The Last Act of the Tragedy . . . . 163

CHAPTER IX.
The Financial Crisis . . . . 184

CHAPTER X.
The Consul-General as Financier . .211






viii CONTENTS



CHAPTER XI.



PAGE



The Struggle for Reforms . ... 230

CHAPTER XII.
Reforms Accomplished . . ... 256

CHAPTER XIII.
The New Khedive . . . 28 r

CHAPTER XIV.
The Advance to Dongola . . . . 310

CHAPTER XV.
Personal Characteristics . ... 330



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



Portrait of Lord Cromer {Photogravure) . Frontispiece

Cairo (a Bird's-Eye View) . . . faces page 26

The British Agency (Lord Cromer's Residence) . ,, ,, 86
The Commandant's Quarters (Commandant of Army

of Occupation) . . . . ,, ,, 93

Khartoum (a Bird's-Eye View) . . . ,, ,, 104

The First Cataract (The Great Gate) . . „ ,, 132

Portrait of Osman Digna . . . ,, „ 144

Khartoum (The Palace) . . . „ ,, 182

A View below the First Cataract (above Assouan) ,, ,, 201

The Kasr-el-Nil Barracks . . . ,, ,, 227

The Abassieh Barracks . . . ,, ,, 245

Portrait of the Khedive . . . ,, ,, 282

The Abdin Palace . . . . ,, ,, 292

The Second Cataract (at Low Water) . . „ ,, 303

Portrait of General Kitchener . . ,, ,, 304

A Group of Nubians . . . . ,, ,, 316

Nubian Village (above Korosko) . . „ ,, 327



LORD CROMER



CHAPTER I.
Early Years

THE family of Baring, originally of German
extraction, but for now two centuries domi-
ciled and naturalized citizens of this country,
has for more than half that long period been
conspicuous in the world of British commerce,
finance, and politics. Its founder, John, son of
Franz Baring, a Lutheran minister of Bremen,
came to England in the year 1697, and established
himself as a merchant and cloth manufacturer at
Larkbeer, in Devonshire. His son Francis, born
at that place in 1 740, was sent to London to study
commerce under a leading firm of city merchants.
Though deaf from his youth, his indomitable
energy enabled him to overcome all obstacles, and
to establish his business on the surest foundations.
He prospered exceedingly, and had risen to wealth
and importance by the time he had reached
middle age. Towards the end of the century,



12 LORD CROMER

when Pitt had determined to strengthen the titled

orders with an infusion of new blood from the

middle classes, Francis Baring was a personage

of sufficient prominence in the commercial world

to have become a natural object of the Minister's

selection. The elevation of another financial

magnate, his contemporary, was celebrated by a

political rhymer of the day in the irreverent

distich :

"Billy Pitt made me a peer,
And took the pen from behind my ear."

Francis Baring was at least as wealthy as the
founder of the noble house of Carrington, and
had other and higher claims than any that Mr.
Robert Smith is known to have possessed. He
was an authority on questions of currency and
finance, and a contributor of weighty additions
to the literature of the subject. He had made
himself specially conversant with the principles
and details of Indian finance ; and his advice
was sought by the Government of the day on
matters of administration connected therewith.
He had been a Director of the East India
Company since 1779, and in 1792-93 he acted
as its Chairman. Yet, although in spite of these
varied claims to enrolment in the peerage he re-
ceived in the last-mentioned year only the minor
honour of a baronetcy, it proved but the first
of a series of distinctions attained by a family



EARLY YEARS 13



which, during the last sixty years, has added no
fewer than four new titles to the roll of Peers.

Alexander, second son of the first Baronet,
was created Lord Ashburton in 1S35. Thomas,
grandson of Sir Francis, was raised to the Peerage
in 1 866 as Baron Northbrook, a dignity ex-
changed in 1876 for the Earldom now held by
his son, the distinguished statesman who in the
last-mentioned year concluded his term of office
as Viceroy of India. In 1885 another of Sir
Francis's grandsons, Edward Charles Baring, was
created Lord Revelstoke ; and in 1892 his younger
brother Evelyn, the subject of this memoir, com-
pleted for the present the list of the family
honours by his elevation to the Peerage under
the title of Lord Cromer.

Evelyn Baring was born on February 26th,
i84i,the sixth child of his father Henry Baring's
second marriage. From his mother, a daughter
of Vice-Admiral Windham, and a woman of high
culture, moving in a brilliant literary society of
which George Grote the historian and Arthur
Helps were members, he himself derived that
marked literary bias of which those who enjoy
his intimacy are so often and in so many ways
reminded. After a year or two at a preparatory
school, kept by Rev. F. Bickmore, he was trans-
ferred to the Ordnance School at Carshalton, the
well-known training seminary for the scientific



14 LORD CROMER



branches of the Army ; and migrating thence, at
the age of thirteen, to Woolwich Academy, he in
due course qualified himself for a commission,
and passed out into the Artillery in 1858, in
his eighteenth year.

His military career was as uneventful as such
careers could not help being for all those who
commenced them after the last of the two great
opportunities for active service during the middle
years of the century — the Crimean War and the
Indian Mutiny — had come and gone. The first
ten or twelve years of his life as an Artillery
officer seem to have been passed in the usual
routine of military duties during periods of peace.
Early in the sixties he was stationed at Corfu,
where he served as aide-de-camp to the last High
Commissioner of the Ionian Islands before their
retrocession, Sir Henry Storks; and it was through
his connection with that official that Baring was
subsequently selected to accompany him on his
appointment to preside over the Commission
which was sent out to inquire into the circum-
stances of the Jamaica outbreak, suppressed
with such memorable controversial results by
Governor Eyre.

In the year 1868, shortly after his return from
Jamaica, Lieutenant Baring entered the Staff
College ; and his two years' course of military
study in that institution bore fruit in a volume



EARLY YEARS 15



of Staff College Essays, published by him in his
own name in the spring of 1870. The moment
for their publication was not so favourable as
it would have been a few months later, when the
catastrophic overthrow of France by Germany
had set every European nation anxiously study-
ing the new and terrible phenomena of warfare
which that tremendous event had thrust upon
their view. An awakened interest in military
matters generally was, however, already abroad,
and Baring's essays deserved, and no doubt
obtained, attention on other than the grounds on

1

which he relies in his modest preface. He offered
them to the public, he said, with considerable
diffidence, "for I am fully aware," he continues,
"that they possess little intrinsic merit of their
own ; the subjects of which they treat are fully
discussed by a variety of authors of far greater
experience and ability than myself. My chief
object in publishing them is to show the public
in general, and in particular those officers of
the Army who are unacquainted with the Staff
College system, the nature of the work that is
done at that institution. They do not pretend
to anything original ; all that I have attempted
is to eive a clear and concise account of the
various military operations discussed, and to add
such comments as a study of the best writers on
strategy and tactics would seem to suggest."



1 6 LORD CROMER

That he succeeded in accomplishing his "chief
object " will not be disputed by any reader of
these essays, which in their grasp of principles
and mastery of details afford ample testimony
to the thoroughness of the system of training
which the young officer had just undergone. But
their interest and significance for a biographer
by no means end here. Their technical accuracy
and scientific soundness he must, if a civilian, be
content of course to take more or less on trust ;
or at best he must accept the guarantee afforded
by their origin, and by the approval of the
authorities to whom they were submitted for
approval. But of the form in which their criti-
cisms are presented, of the manner in which their
narrative of events is unfolded, and of the intel-
lectual characteristics which they indicate in the
writer, the civilian is an even better judge perhaps
than the military expert ; for the amount of his
own original ignorance, and the extent of his
subsequent enlightenment, give the true measure
of the essayist's abilities, and form the surest
criterion of his success. It is no easy matter
to make the operations of war intelligible to a
reader of this description, while it is an even
more difficult task to make them interesting ; but
both these feats the author of this volume has
managed to achieve. The combination of
military and diplomatic manoeuvres by which



EARLY YEARS 17



Napoleon checkmated the unhappy Mack, and
destroyed the Austrian Army, as he put it, par de
simples marches, could not have been more lucidly
or succinctly set forth ; and it was a curious and,
after a sinister sort of fashion, a felicitous coinci-
dence, that the student should have chosen for his
theme the greatest capitulation known to military
history until that which the world was to witness
within six months after the publication of his
studies. Strange, indeed, was the irony of fate
which drew from a great French strategist the
following comment on Mack's surrender: "A
eeneral-in-chief should never consent to become
the instrument of the destruction of his army.
When placed between dishonour and glory, the
safety of the State, and the loss of his army, he
should be capable of taking a part worthy of
himself. Mack, after being shut up within Ulm,
might at least have attempted a sortie to follow
Jellachich. It is always shameful to capitulate
without an effort to escape." What would Jomini
have said if he had been told that sixty-five years
later Mack's "shameful" example was to be
followed almost to the letter by the nephew of
his conqueror ?

Apart, moreover, from their scientific merits,
the essays display in many passages a shrewdness
of judgment on men and things, and a reflective
habit, which testify to a wider reach of general

B



1 8 LORD CROMER

capacity than is usually to be traced in the pro-
fessional exercises of the average military student.
Take for instance the following acute remarks on
the influence of the "personal equation" in war-
fare : —

"The private character of the men at the head of affairs,
their integrity, patriotism, and singleness of mind — in a word
their force of character — must always react on the affairs in
which they take part. This is self-evident. Take the case of
Napoleon himself. We are now well acquainted with his
character ; we know that his fervid imagination enabled him to
grasp great projects, while his vast powers of organization and
minute attention to detail eminently fitted him for the direction
of the means by which these great objects were to be attained;
his imagination and his reason were equally balanced, and it
is the resultant of these qualities which forms the man most
capable of finding and influencing his fellow-creatures. And
we also know that Napoleon often displayed a meanness of
character quite unworthy of his undoubted genius. But it
will be found that he never allowed his military combinations
to be influenced by jealousy or caprice. On the contrary,
these were always based on sound strategical grounds ; and it
is this which render them so instructive, even in those cases
in which they failed to accomplish their object. The re-
putation of a great strategist must ultimately rest on his
strategy ; posterity — or rather military posterity — takes only a
passing interest in the special moral influences which actuated
the man. We are concerned with the acts he did and the
result of them, and not so much with the train of thought
which led him to decide on the committal of those acts,
if in that train of thought private influence occupies a
conspicuous place. Jealousies such as Benningsen's of
Buxhowden ; panics such as the exaggerated fear of Napoleon ;
caprices, incongruities of character, &c, will recur to the
end of time; but they will recur in infinite variety, for the



EARLY YEARS 19



inconsistencies of the human mind are infinite. In the
meanwhile it will readily be admitted that no theory for future
action can be formed which is based on acts admitted to have
been determined by such influences."

The two succeeding years were devoted by
Baring to the assiduous study of his profession,
and the effects of the German victories are no
doubt traceable in the particular direction taken
by his studies. Translations of German works
on military organization appeared from his hand
in 1S71 and 1872, and in the latter year his
attention seems to have been drawn to the game
of Krieg-spiel, which was then attracting the
notice of soldiers and students of the art of war.
An English version of the rules and principles of
this Qrame, as formulated in a treatise from the
pen of a German officer, was prepared and pub-
lished by him in 1872. It was in the following
year, however, that the event occurred which had
the effect of directing his energies and abilities
into a new channel, and this in all probability
proved the turning-point in his career.

In the year 1873 Lord Northbrook was
appointed to the Viceroyalty of India, and
Evelyn Baring was invited by his cousin to
accompany him in the capacity of Private
Secretary. It was, if we except his brief and
much less useful experiences in Jamaica with Sir
Henrv Storks, his first introduction to official



20 LORD CROMER

life in the civil sphere ; and it may reasonably
be assumed that he here first disclosed to others,
and perhaps first discovered for himself, that,
whether or not he was fitted to win distinction
as a soldier — as in all probability he also was
— he possessed all the varied qualifications for
success in the diplomatist's, the administrator's,
or the financier's career. There could hardly be
a better school of training for service in any one
of these three capacities than India, or a better
"form" in that school than that to which the
confidential assistant of an Indian Viceroy obtains
admission as of right. It may well be said that
Baring's three years' experience of Indian
government, in all its various departments,
counted for much in the formation and develop-
ment of the future Comptroller of Egyptian
revenues, the future Finance Minister of India,
the future Consul-General at Cairo during the
first arduous and troubled years of the British
Protectorate in Egypt.



CHAPTER II.
Commissioner of the Egyptian Debt

LORD NORTHBROOK'S Viceroyalty of
India lasted but three years. He returned
to England in 1876, and in June of that year
he married Ethel Stanley, the daughter of Sir
Rowland Stanley Errington, the representative of
one of the oldest Catholic families in England.
In the spring of the year following Baring was
appointed English Commissioner of the Egyptian
Debt.

The circumstances under which he received this
appointment must here be briefly recapitulated.
Towards the close of the year 1875 Ismail Pasha,
the then Khedive of Egypt, was compelled by
financial embarrassments to part with the greater
portion of his financial interest in the Suez Canal.
His shares were acquired by the British Govern-
ment for the sum of ^4,000,000 sterling. This
step was followed shortly afterwards by the
despatch of Mr. Cave to inquire, at the request
of the Khedive, into the condition of Egyptian

finance. Large hopes were built in the sanguine

21



22 LORD CROMER

minds of Stock Exchange speculators on the
result of this mission, which many of them
believed or declared to indicate an intention on
the part of Her Majesty's Government to take
the entire financial affairs of Egypt under British
control ; nay, even (it was dreamt by some of
the more visionary of the " bull " operators) to
guarantee the whole Egyptian Debt. In March,
1876, Mr. Cave's report was received in England,
and its publication was followed by the immediate
collapse of this stock-gambler's house of cards.
It was found that Egypt was financially in a most
embarrassed condition, not to say upon the verge
of bankruptcy ; and that even if the British
Government had been meditating any attempt
to rehabilitate its credit, they must certainly have
already abandoned it. Egyptian stocks fell
heavily, and their decline was accelerated by the
announcement a few days later of the Khedive
having suspended payment of his Treasury Bills.
Meanwhile, and prior to these revelations of
the virtual insolvency of Egypt, Ismail Pasha
had issued a decree establishing - a Commission
" for the regular service of the interest of the
General Egyptian Debt — including both the
consolidated and the floating debt — and for
the amortization of such debt." It was to be
composed of three special commissioners, nomi-
nated by his Highness the Khedive, on the



COMMISSIONER OF EGYPTIAN DEBT 23



presentation to him of each by the Governments
of England, France, and Italy respectively. By
this time, however, Lord Beaconsfield's Govern-
ment, as it happened, were not a little out of
conceit with their Egyptian policy. The im-
mediate effect of their intervention had been,
apparently, only to precipitate a financial crisis
in Egypt, which they could only deal with by
taking in hand — at any rate, to some extent, and
with some consequences of responsibility to them-
selves — the reorganization of Egyptian finance.

From this step, however, they shrank back
almost in affright. It was not that they regarded
the task as an unpopular one ; not, perhaps, that
they reckoned it a peculiarly dangerous one from
the " business " point of view ; but they were
influenced partly by their recognition of the fact
that such a step could never be made perfectly
safe except by the assumption of a larger
measure of political control over the country,
and personal constraint of its ruler, than they
were then prepared for, and partly by the less
respectable motive of a terror of Parliamentary
attack. The Radicals of that day, who to a
man were much too innocent to have ever heard
before of gambling on the Stock Exchange, were
scandalized at the occasionally wild speculation
in Egyptian securities, which the movements of
British diplomacy, now advancing, now retreating,



24 LORD CROMER

not unnaturally produced. They taunted the
Government with allowing their policy to be
influenced by "bondholders," and the Govern-
ment were weak enough to fear the taunt.
The Khedive's proposal to them to appoint an
Enolish Commissioner was for the time declined.
It was not till nearly a year after, in the spring
of 1877, that they consented to it, and Baring
took his place at the Board. The Commission
consisted in the meantime of a Frenchman, an
Italian, and an Austrian.

One of its first acts was to effect the unification
of the Egyptian Debt. In June the Egyptian
bondholders solicited the intervention of Mr.
Goschen for the protection of their sorely im-
perilled interests, and that eminently capable
financier, with whom was associated M. Joubert
as a representative of the French creditors, pro-
ceeded in the course of the autumn to institute a
strict and searching inquiry into the state of the
Khedive's affairs. Their investigation bore fruit
in November, 1876, in a report and recommenda-
tions which Ismail Pasha embodied without delay
in a decree. This ordinance, marking, as it may
be said to have done, an epoch in the financial
history of Egypt, deserves perhaps to be noticed
in some detail.

It starts with the appointment of two Comp-
trollers-General, who are between them to super-



COMMISSIONER OF EGYPTIAN DEBT 25

vise the incomings and the outgoings of Egyptian
administration, and define the objects of this
step as being to secure (1) the regular payment
of the State revenues, whether of those appro-
priated to the service of the Debt, or those which
remain at the disposal of the Government, the
two being so intimately connected that it is im-
possible to dissever their administration ; (2) the
due application of these to the purposes for which
they are designated, whether by decrees assigning
them to creditors or by the budgets ; (3) the
establishment of guarantees ensuring- that ex-
penditure will be kept down to such a figure
as receipts show to be necessary to balance the
budget ; and (4) a means of providing these
guarantees in such a way as to avoid interference
with the administration properly so called."
The two Comptrollers-General were to be one
English and the other French, and under this
arrangement Mr. Romaine and Baron de Malairet
were appointed to the two offices in question.

But the article in the scheme which was fraught
— unknown to its author — with the most serious
consequences for himself, was that by which he
created the Commission of the Debt, a body
which was to hold permanent authority until the
entire extinction of the Debt. The Commission-
ers were to have the power of remitting the funds
received by them directly to the Bank of England,



26 LORD CROMER

or to that of France. The commodities received
in kind, in payment of taxes, were to be directly
transmitted to them, and they were to have the
sole right of disposing of them without the
intervention of the Finance Minister. The Com-
missioners were to accept no other functions in
the Egyptian Administration, and were to remain
entirely independent of the control of any other
council or committee whatever.

It was to this Commission that on March 2nd,
1877, Major Baring was attached, and he con-
tinued to serve upon it for upwards of two years,
until March, 1879, when he was succeeded by
Sir Auckland Colvin. The period was an
eventful one in European history, covering as
it does the whole course of the Russo-Turkish
War, and of the prolonged diplomatic crisis which
terminated in the substitution of the Treaty of
Berlin for the Convention of San Stefano ; and
it was not without its passages of importance in
the affairs of Egypt. At the beginning of the
year 18 78 the Commissioners of the Debt found
it their duty to propose a Commission of Inquiry
into the state of the Egyptian finances, and on
the 23rd of January the Khedive gave a qualified
and limited assent to the proposal, and appointed
a Commission with General Gordon as its
President. This, of course, was not satisfactory
to the Powers ; but it took more than two



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§•



COMMISSIONER OF EGYPTIAN DEBT 27

months of vigorous diplomatic pressure to pro-
cure the required enlargement of his concession.
It was not till April 4th that he assented to a
full investigation of the financial position, which
was forthwith set on foot under the direction of
Mr. (now Sir Rivers) Wilson, and in which
Major Baring took an active and most valuable
part. On August 19th the Commission issued
its first report. Its account of the financial
position of Egypt was sufficiently discouraging ;
but that which most forcibly arrested public
attention was the indirect evidence which its
recommendations afforded as to the extent to
which the personal appropriations of the Khedive
and his family had contributed to the disastrous
result. The Commission announced that it had
accepted an offer of Prince Mahommed Tewfik,
the hereditary Prince, made on the advice of
Nubar Pasha, to surrender all his estates, the
annual rental of which amounted to ,£30,000.
Princess Fatmi, daughter of the Khedive, had


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