Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

England under Gladstone, 1880-1885 online

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accept the advice of the commission, the commission had to wait
his consent for any arrangement they made. As Mr. Dicey
shows, the bankrupt was able to estimate his own revenue, to
fix his own allowance, and to appropriate the bulk of an eventual
surplus, after which the liquidators were allowed to distribute
the sum which the bankrupt considered available for the pay-
ment of a composition to his creditors. The Moukabaleh claims
were quietly shelved after a fashion much more agreeable to the
Egyptian Government than to the claimants. To Mr. Dicey
the liquidation seems ' not in any sense a comprehensive settle-
ment of the Egyptian financial problem ; ' and he maintains that
* the consolidation of all Egyptian loans into one stock, paying
one uniform rate of interest, and tho collection of the revenua


by one central administration, are tlie essential conditions of
any effective and permanent reorganisation of Egypt.'

In the meantime, however, there had been growing up in
Egypt a spirit of hostility to the European intervention. A
party calling itself the National party began to lift its head
against foreign rule. ' Egypt for the Egyptians * was its cry ;
it refused to tolerate ministers representing some special Euro-
pean influence; it demanded for Egypt the right to govern
itself in its own way. The doctrines of the party, at first cir-
culated by stealth, soon became more widely known ; it was
pi-esently to be discovered that it had the army at its back. A
bloodless insurrection, the famous ' insunection of the Colonels,'
suddexdy gave the National party a position and a leader. This
leader was Arab! Bey, who for a time appeai'ed to hold the for-
tunes of the Egyptian Government, as Kossuth held the destinies
of the House of Hapsburg, in the hollow of his hand. From
the day when the soldiery of the citadel pronounced against
the Khedive, the star of Arabi Bey was in the ascendant. The
so-called Egyptian Parliament was no sooner summoned than
it found its real master in the Colonel, and not in the Khedive.
Tewfik's Ministry fell before his dictation : the Ministry that
took its place was practically in his hands. A wondering world
began to ask whether Arabi Bey was the Cromwell of a great
movement agamst an Egyptian C-harles; the Garibaldi of a
struggle for national liberty against a foreign rule ; a scheming
political adventurer, fighting for his own hand like Hal of the
A\^ynd, or only a puppet, whose actions were guided by myste-
rious, unseen strings. Sir William Gregory, who was in Egypt
at this time, told the world in a letter to the Times what he
thought of the practical dictator of Egypt. He saAv in Arabi
Bey a man of great and patriotic ideas, with the eloquence of
Sophocles' Antigone, and inspired by the loftiest love of his
country. This opinion was practically shared by another
Englishman, whose name is associated with Egyptian politics,
Mr. W. S. Blunt, who, having sung of many loves under the
name of Proteus, found sterner pleasure in the struggles of the
Egyptian democracy.

EGYPT. 233

Tiiere were no visible signs of danger in Egypt in the end
of 1881 or the beginning of 1882. European tourists lounged
lazily on the verandah at Shepheard's, and consented to be
amused by the snake-charmers, ape-leaders, and juggling-girls,
who made merry for them in the street below. They rode o\it
to the citadel, or across the lion-guarded biidge which led to the
Pyramids, mounted on the stout fleet donkeys that are the
delight of the Englishman in Egypt. They haggled in the
bazaars, and stared at the wonders of Boulak with listless
wonder, and di^ove in the Shoubra to catch a glimpse of the
pale face of the Khedive as he passed by. They — the males of
them — -made little excursions at night into the depths of the
town, spent a few minutes in a hasheesh den, or a dancing-
house, or flung away a five-franc piece at ' Eldorado,' and fondly
fancied that they were seeing life, and would return to England
as thoroughly Orientalised versions of Tom and Jerry. To aid
this transformation they, of course, bought tarbushes and
colossal amber mouthpieces. They were quite happy and secure,
enjoying themselves along the Nile, and in what their ances-
tors called Grand Cairo — very muck like the grand seigneurs
and fair ladies revelling in Versailles before Paris marched
upon them, or like those old Eomans in the theatre, to whom
the startled actress shrieked out that she saw the Gauls coming.
And yet there was danger about them. There was revolution
iu the air. Tourists starting off for a run down to Luxor, or
the first cataract, would laughingly wonder if ' the revolution '
would break out before their return. People who had lived
long in Cairo or Alexandria shook their heads, and said that
anything might happen. Everybody seemed to expect some-
thing ; nobody seemed to be alarmed. There is a loud shouting
in the street, and a carriage drives by, surrounded by a crowd
of running footmen, and greeted by the Oriental crowd with
loud acclaim. It only contains a soldier-looking man, no longer
young, in Egyptian uniform. The languid people on the Shep-
heard piazza get up to see ; the lounging British and French in
the street stop and look round to watch Arabi Bey whirl by,
and talk to each other of him when he is out of sight. Is he


going to dethrone the Khedive ? Will the Khedive imprison
him ? When will the revolution come % Yes, everybody seems
to expect the revolution, and yet nobody, except perhaps a few
of the old hands who have lived long in the East, seems at all
frightened. Who would be alarmed by talk of a i-evolution at
Margate ; of the danger of a popular movement in Pegwell
Bay 1 All these donkey riders, these Mouski haunters, these
drifters down the Nile in dahabiehs or steamers managed by Cook,
regard Alexandria and Cairo very much as they would regard
jSIargate or Pegwell Bay, or Boulogne-sur-Mer. They have been
there often ; most of the people they know have been there. It
is as easy to get to Cairo as to Paris. Mr. Cook will see you
there and back, and you need never, if you so please, hear a
word of any tongue but English, or move among other associates
than the tweed-clad travelling Briton. Egypt was a pleasant
ground for Englishmen, and though the Egyptians might come
to blows among themselves, no harm could possibly happen to
the tourist in his pith helmet, who bought tarbushes and cheap
attar of roses, and was beloved by Egyptian donkey-boys.
The British or French tourist was not alarmed, because neither
the British tourist nor his French companion could possibly
believe that he was in the slightest danger.

People at home were scarcely less self-confident in a some-
what difierent way. We had put up the Khedive, it was
argued, and of course no one in his senses, Arabi Bey or
another, could dream of trying to knock him down again.
Arabi Bey was only an adventurer after all ; he had no follow-
ing whatever, except a few discontented colonels in the army ;
and as for the people, the fellaheen neither knew nor cared
for the name of the authority to whom they paid their taxes.
There was no National party at all. It was only the dream of
a few well-meaning English sympathisers, and a few needy
speculators. The British Ministry seemed to be saturated with
this kind of sentiment. To the very last they persisted in
regai'ding Ahmed Arabi as a mere military adventurer, Avith
little or no real influence, and practically no adherents. Never-
theless it did become obvious, as the days went on, that some-

EGYPT. 235

thing would have to be done to keep Egypt in oixlei'. 1881
had faded into 1882, and 1882 was getting on in its youth, and
things had not quietened down in Egypt, and Arabi had not
disappeared. The English Government kept their counsels
and their aims very close. The Opposition persisted in trying
again and again, always unsuccessfully, to find out what steps
the Government really meant to take with regard to what was
now known as the Egyptian question, when it was not called
the Egyptian diflBculty.

The curious attempt to introduce Parliamentary insti-
tutions into Egypt was not very successful. In the old days
of the fox'mer Egyptian Parliament it was impossible to carry
on the little game, owing to the refusal of any member to
play at being in opposition. Ismail is said to have suggested,
entreated, bribed, and threatened in vain ; he could not by
any means get up even a decent show of opposition to his
Ministry and himself. Tewfik's assembly of Notables had not
proved quite so futile. It had encouraged and supported the
military party ; it had strengthened Arabi's position as repre-
sentative of the claims of the malcontent colonels. England
had favoured the formation of the Egyptian Parliament ; but
she now got alarmed at the result of the experiment, and made
ready, if the worst came to the worst, to put down the military
party by force. But befoi'e anything could be done by anybody
thei-e had to be a vast amount of diplomatic negotiations
between the representatives of the great Powders of Europe.
The chief difficulty to any settlement from outside of the afiairs
of Egypt lay in the peculiar relations between France and
England in that country. However much Mr. Dicey, and the
political school which he represents, might regret that England
had ever allowed France to obtain a foothold in Egypt, there
appeared to be no use in wasting time in regret now.
France was in Egypt ; it seemed most unhkely that she would
consent to any independent action on England's part, as such
consent would practically give to England the supremacy in
Egypt which she had lost by the establishment of the dual
control. It appeared, therefore, at first that notliing could be


done by England without the active co-operation of France.
This view was supported on January 8 by the presentation of
an identical note from the British and French Governments
addressed to the Khedive, in which the two Powers expressed
their determination ' to Avard oft' by their united eftbrts all
causes of external or internal complications which might
menace the regime established in Egypt.' This was practically
an announcement that the two Powers were determined to
support the existing dual control and the position of the
Khedive. But the menace— for it must be looked upon as a
menace — was disregarded, if not defied, by the Chamber of
Notables. On January 18 the Chamber claimed the right of
regulating the national Budget. The controllers objected, but
the Chamber held firm. The National party were with them ;
the Sultan, jealous of European interference in his suzerainty
of Misr, was with them ; perhaps, too, they knew that the
difficulty of getting France and England to agree to any joint
action was also with them. Cherif Pasha resigned, despairing
of finding a middle road of conciliation. The Khedive left the
formation of a new Ministry to the Chamber. The adminis-
tration was under the nominal rule of Mahmoud Samy, sur-
named el Baroudi, the powder-maker. It was really under the
control of Arabi, who immediately became War Minister. The
tone adopted by the new Ministry was almost aggressively
defiant to the control ; and France, as represented by M.
Gambetta, was eager in urging upon England some joint action
to support the old order which was crumbling away so rapidly.
But while England Avas hesitating, unable to make up its
mind whether Arabi and his followex's were really leading a
National party, and ought therefore to be put down by the
strong arm or no, one of the frequent ministerial changes took
place in France, and, by a sudden alteration in her foreign '
policy, deprived her of the opportunity of retaining her hold
upon the destinies of Egypt. M. Gambetta fell from power,
and was succeeded by M. de Freycinet, who was as much
opposed to active interference in Egypt as M. Gambetta was
in favour of it. Arabi and his followers were not slow to

EGYPT. 237

perceive the aclvantage which the disunion between France and
England gave to them ; they continued to assert their right to
settle the Budget ; the controllers continued to protest to the
Khedive, and to their Govei'nments, against this change, which
would undoubtedly alter very greatly the position of the two
Powers in Egypt. Another joint note was addressed to the
Khedive, but notliing came of it. M. de Blignieres, finding, ifc
may be, his position untenable, resigned his post, Arabi Bey
was made a Pasha. The representatives of the National party
were loud in their complaints against the control, and against
the great number of foreign officials who were settled upon the

Arabi Pasha now appeared to be master of the situation.
It is evident that he thought himself so, but it is not quite
eas}' to understand the course which he took. From this period
he acted as if it were certain either that En£;land would
not have the courage to interfere, or would be prevented by
other foreign Powers ; or, if she did interfere, could be easily
coped with by the Egyptian army. In April, a plot on the
part of certain Circassian officers in the army to murder Arabi
was discovered, or said to be discovered. Some thirty-one
Circassian officers were arrested on the charge of desiring to
overthrow both Tewfik and Arabi, and restore Ismail Pasha,
were tried in secret, and condemned to degradation and exile
for life. The Khedive, acting on the advice of Sir Edward
Malet, refused to sign the deci'ces of the courts. Mahmoud el
Baroudi hinted that the Khedive's refusal would be answered
by massacres of foreigners, but denied the threats when called
upon for explanation by the representatives of England and
France, English and French ii-onclads were at once ordered to
Alexandria. The English and French consuls urged that
Arabi and his immediate allies should be compelled to quit the
country. Arabi, who had been making terms with the sheiks
of the Bedouins, refused, and he and his Ministry tendered
their resignations. Tewfik accepted the resignations, and at-
tempted, unsuccessfully, to form a new Ministry. The army,
as represented by Toulbah Pasha, announced that it refused to


obey the joint note, and would only recognise the authority of
the Porte.

For the first time, perhaps, it became evident that the situa-
tion wasindeed dangerous. Alexandria was being rapidly fortified.
The greatest alarm now existed among the European inhabitants
of both Cairo and Alexandria, where menaces of massacre were
not infrequent. Mr. Cookson, the English consul in Alexandria,
wrote home warning the Government that there was danger of
bloodshed in Alexandria, as the Egyptian soldiery were being
stimulated against the Em-opean inhabitants. The arrival of
Dervish Pasha from Constantinople as Turkish commissioner
produced no pacifying effect. It may be assumed that Arabi
himself could have had no interest whatever in any massacre of
Europeans. From the merest motives of policy, such action
could in no way further his hopes or better his position. But in
a town like Alexandi'ia, with a considerable European popula-
tion filled with a not unreasonable alarm, and a native population
stirred to the wildest excitement by the condition of afiaii'S and
the inflammatory cries of the native Press, some sort of collision
was perhaps inevitable. Given panic on one side, and suspicion,
hate, and anger on the other, some explosion was almost un-
avoidable. On June 11 the crisis came. It is practically
impossible now to know the exact beginning of the riot which
broke out, or who struck the fiiAt blow and fired the first shot.
The disturbance began someliftw in some quarrel between the
natives and Europeans ; a good many people, including French
and English subjects, were killed, and our consul, Mr. Cookson,
was dragged from his carriage, seriously hurt, and narrowly
escaped with his life. The immediate result of this was a
general flight of Europeans from Cairo and Alexandria. Every
train from Cairo was loaded with Europeans hurrying from
what they regarded as a doomed city ; every ship that sailed
from Alexandria's hax'bour was crowded with refugees eager to
save their lives at the expense of their property.

Diplomacy was still struggling on. A conference of Euro-
pean Powers at Constantinople had been proposed, and the
proposition had come to nothing. The British Government, -

EGYPT. 239

even after the riot of June 11, were unwilling to land troops,
though they announced that they would protect Tewfik's life and
position against Halim Pasha or any other pretender favoured
by Arabi Pasha. The Khedive and Dervish Pasha had by this
time left Cairo and come to Alexandria, where the Khedive set
up his court. Here the influence of Germany and Austria
seemed to be in the ascendant. In obedience to the advice of
the Consuls-General of these two Powers, Ra-ghed Pasha was
entrusted with the formation of a Ministry in which Arabi Pasha
was once more War ]\Iinister. The patronage of the Porte was
ostentatiously bestowed upon Arabi; he was decorated with
the Order of the Medidjie, His defiance of England and France
increased ; the defences of Alexandria, which had been aban-
doned for a time, were resumed and pushed on with great rapid-
ity. Up to this point the gi'eat aim of the British Ministry
appeared to be to keep well in accord with France, and to in-
fluence Egypt by the combined weight of a European concert.
Now, howevei', quite suddenly, they resolved to act alone.
Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour was ordered to forbid the pro-
gress of the Alexandrian fortifications; and when Sir Beauchamp
Seymour's orders produced no efiect, he was ordered by telegram
on July 10 to give notice that, unless the forts commanding the
harbour were surrendered for the purpose of being disarmed,
the English fleet would commence action. Up to that moment
the influence of the Turkish Government appeared to have been
chiefly devoted to retarding any solution of the difiiculty. But
when the British admiral delivered his ultimatum to the military
commander, Turkey made one final appeal for more time. Give
but twenty-four hours more, and all should yet be well. Those
twenty-four hours were never obtained. Most of the European
subjects had by this time got safely out of Alexandria, on every
vessel that could take them. At nightfall on July 10 the
British fleet withdrew from the inner harbour to take up its
position. The French fleet showed its determination to take no
share in the work by steaming away to Port Said. The British
fleet consisted of eight ironclads and five gimboats, with a total
force of 3,539 men and 102 guns.


At seven in the moi-ning of July 1 1 the fight began. A
shot was fired from one of the British ships, and was at once
replied to from the Egyptian forts. The fight was not of long
duration, nor was its result for a moment doubtful. The Egyp-
tians certainly handled their guns better than was expected.
Some idea of the popularity of Arabi with the people may be
learned from the fact that women and even children could be
perceived by glasses from the ships to be serving the guns against
the fleet. By evening, however, all the forts were silenced, and
in many cases had been entered by spiking parties. The bom-
bardment began again on the morning of July 12, as no message
of surrender had come from Alexandria. After a few shots a
flag of truce was hoisted in the town, whereupon an envoy was
sent from Admiral Seymour to demand the immediate surrender
of the forts at the entrance of the harbour before any negotia-
tions were entered into. Toulbah Pasha, Avho received the
British envoy, declared that he could not do this without the
Khedive's sanction. A truce until half-past three o'clock was
agreed to, but no reply coming from the town^vhen the time
had expired,^ring was commenced again. Another flag of
truce was immediately seen flying from the town, and once again
the Admiral sent an envoy, who I'eturned with the news that
under cover of the flags of truce Arabi and his troops had aban-
doned the entire line of fortifications, and that the city was in a
state of the wildest confusion and anarchy.

It was singularly unfortunate that the Admiral had to begin
the bombardment without having a sufiicient force to occupy
the town as soon as the forts were silenced and abandoned.
The result was that for two days Alexandria was left to the
mercy of the mob, and plunder, murder, and arson raged
through the city. The city was fii-ed in several places ; bouses
were broken into and plundered ; and upwards of 2,000
Europeans, chiefly Levantines, were massacred. The beautiful
city, with its great square in which Mehemet Ali rode in
bronze, its stately houses and handsome gardens, its crowded
busy streets, its palaces and bazaars, was all a ruin, smokfng,
smouldering, blood-stained. A new Isaiah would have found


melancholy subject to bewail the buvdea of Egypt in this new
' City of Destruction.' Every battle of the warrior is, indeed,
■with confused noise and gai*ments rolled in blood, but this was
with ' burning and fuel of fire.'

At length, when the condition of the city became fully
known to the fleet, the Admiral consented to land blue-jackets
and marines, who lost no time in suppressing with sharp stern-
ness all the burning and plundering that was going on. All
offenders caught in the act of robbing were shot on the spot ;
others implicated in the outrages were promptly conveyed to
prison to await more formal trial. Order was restored; the
city was patrolled ; the Khedive was escorted back from Eamleh
to E,as-el-Tin, and guarded by a force of 700 marines. The
position of the Khedive during the bombardment had nob
been agreeable. He had retii-ed from Alexandria to his
palace at Ramleh as soon as the firing began. Eamleh is a
pretty part of the country, about four miles outside Alexandria.
Here he would seem, as far as can be ascertained from the con-
fused and contradictory accounts, to have been practically a
prisoner. It was s;\id that he was in fear of his life ; that on
the day when Arabi retired from the fortifications, Arabi sent
down some 500 men to Ramleh with instructions to kill the
Khedive. Some of those about the Khedive were eager, so
the story goes, to resist by force the new-comers, but the
Khedive deprecated all violence. He dissuaded his bellicose
companion. Dervish Pasha, from carrying out his intention of
shooting do^vll the leader of the five hundred as a rebel and
traitor. Tewfik advocated more diplomatic measures. There
chanced to be in the Eamleh Palace a considerable quantity of
Turkish orders of various grades and degrees, which Dervish
Pasha had brought with him from Constantinople. By lavish
distribution of these orders, and by ready promises of money,
the Khedive succeeded in winning over first the officers and
finally the men of the five hundred who had been sent to kill
him. It is further told that after he had thus bought off his
would-be murderers, he lulled the susi^icions of Arabi by tele-
graphing to him that he was coming to Cairo, and so gained time



until the entry of the English and the presence of the 700
bluejackets secured his safety at Ras-cl-Tin. How far this
story is accui-ate there is no means of knowing. It does not
seem very likely that Arabi, having failed iu his first effort to
hold Alexandria against the British, would deliberately try to
ruin his cause and himself in the eyes of Europe by the purpose-
less murder of the Khedive. His own safety, and the principles
of Egyptian liberty for which he professed to be fighting, would
alike be endangered by such crimes as sanctioning the destruc-
tion of Alexandria, the massacre of Europeans, and aiming at
Tewfik's life. Without oflering any opinion on the complicity
or non-complicitj^f Arabi in these crimes, it may at least be
said that if he was implicated in the massacres and the attempted
murder of the Khedive, then the remarkable ability and states-
manlike qualities, of which he had shown himself to be possessed
up to the time of the retirement from Alexandria, would seem
to have completely deserted him at the moment when he needed
them most.

Alexandria was now nominally in our possession ; but no
time was to be lost in pouring in reinforcements of troops to
make good our hold, and to, as the phrase went, assist the
Khedive in putting down his rebels. The term rebels seems

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyEngland under Gladstone, 1880-1885 → online text (page 22 of 38)