THE METHOD OF ASIATIC CONQUEST.
AVERY curious and dramatic political incident is reported this week from Egypt, to which no one appears to have paid any particular attention. A correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, residing at Suez, telegraphs that the Khedive has in profound secrecy formed a small army of 2,000 men, armed with Remington rifles and light (*anon, has placed them under the command of a Swiss adventurer named Munzinger, and has sent them to invade Abyssinia. They have taken Bogos, declared three provinces annexed to Egypt, and imprisoned a " queen," — the lady, we presume, from whose attentions Lord Napier is said to have had some difficulty in escaping. They are now marching on Magdala, expecting to be joined en route by 3,000 more troops, and when they have taken the mountain fortress intend to claim the obedience of all Abyssinia. The Emperor Kassel is marching on the invaders with 10,000 men, but as he has no Remington rifles, it is believed that he will be defeated at once, and that Egypt will acquire the whole country without further fighting. A couple of paragraphs are added, implying that although the Khe- dive is " in the swim," to steal an expressive bit of slang from the American Stock Exchange, he is quite prepared to repudiate the expedition, and that it has nominally been got up by some European adventurers, who have placed Munzinger at their head, and intend to proclaim him King, or more likely, Pasha of Ethiopia. The whole story is as yet too little confirmed and too romantic for political discussion, and may of course bo an invention, but we have an impression that it is in the main true, and true in the odd way in which it is told, as of a buccaneering expedition, half sanctioned, half disowned by the Khedive, who, in the north of his dominions a civi- lised Viceroy impatient of capitulations and eager to secure prime donne, is in the south of them more of a buccaneer upon an un- usual scale than anything else. We have an impression, too, that he will win, that he will succeed in overthrowing Kassai, whose followers will fly without much resistance, and that he will con- quer Abyssinia with 5,000 Arabs, doing more work with that trumpery force than we did with an army of 11,000 good soldiers, and some 40,000 auxiliaries, camp followers, and servants of every kind. If we are right, the incident—the political meaning of which we disregard for the moment, merely remarking that if Lord Granville wishes to have his hand on the Khedive's throat he has his opportunity at last—is one more bit of evidence to that strangest of all facts, the solvent power exercised by European attack upon an Oriental State. Abyssinia has been threatened with Mussulman attack for the last twelve hundred years. Mohammed tried to take it and failed, and ever since Amrou's time every Mohammedan ruler of Egypt has hankered after these fine provinces, which nevertheless have always remained indepen- dent of the Lords of the Lower Nile. Only five years ago Theodore smiled at the notion of Egyptian invasion, and not only pretended to be, but was as independent of Constantinople or Cairo as the Governor of Bombay, and the Khedive himself would have ad- mitted that the conquest of Abyssinia was a task for his whole army. And now, because an English brigade penetrated to Mag- dala and overthrew Theodore, and retired, leaving no garrison and claiming nothing, not even a nominal tribute, the Egyptian ruler is able, with a Swiss adventurer and 5,000 half-disciplined Fellahs, to subjugate a kingdom as old as Solomon, governed by a single ruler, and full of a numerous people, hostile to the invaders' enter- prise and authority, and differing from his subjects in creed, race, language, and colour. Why ?
We wish we could answer that question satisfactorily, for the reply would reveal a secret which this writer has passed a life of unusual opportunities in studying without having ever arrived at a conclusion which convinced himself,—the cause of the solvent, or rather pulverising effect produced on Asiatic organisations, and especially Asiatic military organisations, by Anglo-Saxon impact. Englishmen are so accustomed to the result that they have ceased to inquire into the cause, and if pressed, avoid the subject by a reference to the vague claim called " superiority of race ; " but there is no more complicated intellectual puzzle. " Race," to begin with, in whatever sense we may use that very elastic word, has very little to do with the matter, for the effect of the impact lasts when the superior race has withdrawn, and as we saw in China, and are seeing in Abyssinia, so weakens the governing class as to leave it a helpless prey to men who have no race-privilege to urge. Our war with China in Lord Palmerston's time so discredited the Tartars, that after our departure native Chinese insurgents, who formerly dared not show themselves, collected into armies, and under the name of Taepings would have overset the dynasty, but that they could not keep their blood-thirst under the most moderate control, and producing an impression that they intended the extirpation of the loyal population, enabled the Emperor to introduce a great Tartar horde to defend his capital. Our invasion of Abyssinia, if the Telegraph's story is well founded, as we think, judging from internal evidence, it is, is similarly followed by a collapse of native power, which enables a few Egyptian Arabs to accom- plish what the great Sultans sought for ages to effect, and sought in vain. What is it that we destroy in the people we invade ? It is hard enough to understand why we beat them, why troops like the Sikhs, more numerous than our own, as well appointed as our own, and on the whole, in their own land and under any circumstances except defeat, braver than our own, animated by bitter hostility, and actuated by a strong patriotism, should run away before our own ; and still more, why, because they have run away, millions of equally brave and equally hostile persons should think themselves bound to submit to a domination they detest ; but still some sort of an explanation of those facts is possible. The Sikhs, Rajpoots, Tartars, or other Asiatics run away because their leaders handle them so badly that on the spot of actual conflict their numbers do not tell, and the divisions actually engaged being by superior energy beaten, the remainder suffer from that infections emotion which only a discipline they have not can control ; and the people submit because they have always been accustomed to leave resistance to their own elite, the national soldiery, and think if they are defeated no one else can succeed. Bat that very poor explanation—for after all, Orientals, say in India, are adepts in insurrection, and could crush us with half the effort they are quite ready to expend in intestine wars—is not sufficient to explain the other fact, that when we have retired the power we have defeated remains pulverised, a prey to the first spoiler, with the life of all its military institutions gone out of them. Why in the world should not Tartars, or Abys- sinians, beaten on Monday by Europeans, on Tuesday fight Asiatics, whom they have defeated a hundred times, just as well as before ?
Clearly, the only answer is that self-respect is gone out of them ; but why is it gone out, not only as regards the victors, but as regards all other persons, till men whom they laughed at twitch them by the beard ? Their courage is not gone. Their habit of obedi- ence is not gone. Their theories of life are not gone. Nothing is gone except the something which was in the Mexicans, for instance, when Cortez landed, and was out of the Mexicans appar- ently for ever when Cortez died,—something which enabled them to endure the strain of keeping up original institutions by their own unassisted strength. The something is not, we are convinced, the wish to win, for they wish it in subjugation much more strongly than in triumph, no hatred, for example, exceeding that of a Greek of Asia Minor or of an Egyptian fellah for a Turk, whose superior he is in brain and body, while yet he cowers before him. Nor is it want of confidence in each other. We have never been able to control the Chinese Hoeys or secret societies of Singa- pore by civil law, because the members are absolutely faithful to each other ; we have never divided the men of the dangerous sects like Moplahs, or Wahabees, or Kookas ; and we were never but once aided by treachery in the Mutiny. What has disappeared is, we suppose, confidence in the protection to be derived from organisation, from the arrangement of force which, having come down from antiquity, must be the only right arrange- ment, the only one under which men can hope to succeed in their enterprises. That has disappeared under a blow clearly seen to be inadequate in weight—all Asiatics understand as clearly as we do the smallness of our armies—but also seen to be irresistible in velocity, and with its disappearance the Asiatic feels like a man who, accustomed to wear armour, finds it suddenly become a use- less burden. It could not resist rockets, and he distrusts it against arrows, and ceases in that distrust to be a capable soldier at all. The Abyssinians saw their warrior King and his army destroyed by a trumpery force of Europeans, and in despair of seeing a similar organisation effective against a much inferior foe, give up, because their armour is, to their own imagination, full of holes. This, we say, is the reasonable explanation, but there may be a much more subtle and complete one, a partial rise in all races but the English of that feeling known to exist in the Tasmanians, Maories, Tahitians, and other dying peoples,—the feeling that exertion is not worth while ; that in the end, the unpleasant, energetic, raspy white man will win ; that the world will not go their way, as by every divine law it ought to go ; and that they may as well take a lower position at once, and see if that be bearable. Why not despair when exertion is ultimately so hopeless, and presently such a strain upon the nerves ? All experts in the matter agree that this was the case with the Mexicans and Peruvians and people of Guiana to a degree which altered the very expression of their faces, and stamped " submis- siveness " as a quality into races which in one case were fiercely brave, and in the other as obstinate as their own llamas, and it may extend to races among whom we scarcely suspect its existence. A race thus stricken sometimes droops and dies away, as several of
the American races have done and the aborigines of Tasmania ; I sometimes droops without dying, as in Peru ; and sometimes yields without drooping, as was the case of the Bengalees, both under the Mussalman and the English conquest. Death of course ends all things, but in the two latter cases the effect, whatever it be, the self-distrust which cripples power, appears to die out with time, a circumstance, if the theory is true, of no little moment for Europeans. The " moral ascendancy" of the European wore out in Hayti. It is wearing out in Spanish America, so rapidly that wherever the natives have retained their numbers they are coming to the top, as in Mexico, which had yesterday a native for ruler, natives for his most dangerous opponents, natives for its best soldiers, besides native tribes whom white Mexicans will not face, and no one who studied the Mutiny will be certain that it had not worn out in India. Tantia Topee's new levies did not fight very well, but they tried hard, and rose under circumstances which, if their old reverence had remained, would have been most discouraging. The impact of the West on the East has a crushing intellectual, or rather moral effect, extending far beyond its imme- diate or direct result, covering several generations, and destroying the faculty of resistance as against assailants other than the white victors ; but it may be temporary, and if it is, some prophecies as to the coming future of the world will require modification.