TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE AGREEMENT WITH FRANCE.
The completion of this agreement makes it worth while to consider shortly the extent and nature of France's African Empire. The first thing that strikes one in considering the French possessions in Africa, after this latest addition, is their vastness. Practically, France will now have all North-Western, and all Northern, and all North Central Africa, except Morocco. our West African Colonies, Tripoli, Darfur, and the Valley of the Nile,—giving that phrase its widest interpretation, and regarding it as the whole of the country whence water flows into the Nile. Lest our readers should fail at first to understand the immensity of this Empire, let them consider that now a Frenchman will not only, as we pointed out last spring, be able to travel on French soil from Tunis and the Mediterranean coast to the mouths of the Congo, but that he may start on the Atlantic at Port, St. Louis and go thence to the western confines of Darfur, thence to the upper waters of the Ubanghi, and thence again to Loango and the Atlantic, and yet keep all the while on French territory,—a journey of more than four thousand miles Assuredly France has got territory enough in Africa to satisfy any land hunger which her people may feel. But though we recognise the vast size of the African Empire of France, and realise fully its splendid resources, we do not grudge it her in the least. If we recount its advantages it is iu no spirit of envy, but rather in one of congratulation. We would gladly see France develop her African Empire on lines which will bring her power and prosperity. That, if she plays her cards properly, she ought to make a success of her African Empire we cannot doubt, for she starts with immense advantages. To begin with, she is nearer her African possessions than any other Power. You can go in a couple of days from Marseilles to Algiers and Tunis. Next, in Algiers and Tunis she has rich colonies with a temperate climate which may be made the basis for great develop- ments in the way of railway extension. Lastly, her African possessions are conterminous, or, at any rate, connected with each other by land. She owns, that is, Northern Africa, and the rest, of the Powers have only, as it were, enclates-- very large enclaves, no doubt, in many cases—in her territory. At present this advantage may not seem very great owing to the vast distances and the desert character of many of the French hinterlands, but if and when France completes her Soudan railways, the strength of this T4ORD SALISBURY is to be congratulated upon having succeeded in making an agreement with France as to the division of Northern Central Africa which is fair to both parties, and avoids, as far as diplomatic . documents can avoid, the risk of any future disputes. What Lord Salisbury and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs have done is to take up and extend the agreement made last spring as to West Africa, till it covers the whole, or nearly the whole, of Northern Central Africa. It will be remembered that last year we and the French agreed upon a delimitation of " spheres" in West Africa which extended as far as Lake Chad. As to the country east of Lake Chad nothing was said. It was left as a kind of No-man's Land. What has now been done is to extend the area of the French "sphere" eastward beyond Lake Chad till it reaches Darfur and the Bahr-el-Ghazel. Darfur and the region of the Bahr-el-Ghazel are declared to be in the English " sphere." All the rest of Northern Central Africa is to become French. France, that is, is to have the great Mahommedan State of Wadai as well as Baghirmi and Kanem. In the territory between Lake Chad and the Nile each Power, however, is to allow the other equality of treatment in matters of commerce. This will no doubt allow France to have commercial establish- ments on the Nile and its affluents, but it will also allow us to have similar privileges for trade on the eastern shore of Lake Chad. But as our system of giving equal trading rights to all foreigners would in any case have secured commercial rights to France, we are not in the least hampered by this provision, while the concession to us of equal rights on the eastern shore of Lake Chad will improve our position in the face of French Colonial Protection. continuity of territory will become apparent. But though France has many advantages, it would be foolish to deny that she has also many serious problems to solve. We shall perhaps be stating the most dangerous of them when we say that France now becomes the undisputed master of the great sect of El Senoussi. There are reported to be over twenty million followers of El Senoussi in North Africa, and, except in Tripoli, all these may now he said to be within the French " sphere of influence." The sultanate of Wadai—which, be it remembered, is a; very formidable State, and one which has never yet come into contact with any European Power—is a Senoussi State. But the followers of the Senoussi, beeides being numerous, are extremely fanatical. Though practising a much purer form of Mahommedanism than the Dervishes, they hate Europeans quite as ardently, and if once their religious zeal were to be thoroughly roused they would prove most formidable foes. We do not envy the French their task if they attempt to conquer Wadai. Think of the result if the whole of the Senoussi sect were to make the cause of Wadai their own. A war with the Senoussi could not in all probability be localised, but would spread to Algiers and Tunis, where the Order numbers thousands of votaries. We do not, however, wish to labour this point' too strongly. If the French are wise they will, no doubt, be able to avoid a quarrel with the followers of the Senoussi.
The advantages that France reaps from this rounding off of her great African Empire are obvious. Those that England gains, though less striking, are not small. In the first place, the whole of the Nile Valley, practically" from the sea to the Lakes, is secured to us, and all anxiety is over in regard to that absolute control of the whole course of the river,--which we have always contended must necessarily be in the hands of the possessors of Egypt. But though this, and the acknowledgment of. our right to Darfur, which could hardly have been, con- tested in view of the fact that it was formerly part of Egypt, and has never been even " scientifically explored" by France, are all that we expressly gain by the new agree- ment, we in fact gain a great deal more. Though not in so many words, yet none the less in fact, this agreement. is an admission by France that she does not intend to make any further attempts to get us out of Egypt. If France meant to persist in her claim that we must_ evacuate Egypt, she would not have made an agreement by which we are secured the possession of the Upper Nile. The attempt to seize Fashoda, and to use it as a means for making terms in regard to the occupation, may, we think, be fairly regarded as the last of the series of. efforts made by France to drive us out of Egypt. This last attempt failed, and France has wisely accepted that failure (though not without taking over a vast tract of territory by way of compensation), and henceforth she will not be able to reopen the Egyptian question. We do not for a moment suppose that anything at all was said about the evacuation of Egypt in the negotia- tions, but nevertheless France by making a compromise with us in regard to the Upper Nile has, in effect,: abandoned her right of protest in regard to our occu- pation of the whole Nile Valley. Egypt now extends to Fashoda and beyond. But France cannot acknowledge our rights in one half of the Egyptian territories with- out acknowledging them also in the other. In diplomacy, as elsewhere, it is impossible both to do and not do at the same time.
A word may be said in parting as to Lord Salisbury's . masterly handling of this type of negotiation. While he is negotiating people call him weak, and indifferent, and careless, and what not, but he does not heed. .Yet when the agreement comes out it always happens that though we may not have insisted upon our full pound of flesh, we have maintained peace and held fast to all essentials. The reason is because Lord Salisbury makes up his mind as to essential points, and keepi his eyes upon them. He has no desire to have. his own way merely because it is his own way ; nor,"again, has he any amour proprs which has to be tickled with successes or avenged by injuries to the- other side. He merely wants what he- deems essential, and if he can get that he is quite content to be abused. Who shall say he has not got . what is essentialhere ? We keep the whole Nile Valley and Darfur, matters absolutely essential, and that being to we most wisely recognise France's right to the great piece of Northern Central Africa which will henceforth have to be coloured as French on the map.