NEWS OF THE WEEK.
A. FRIGHTFUL accident occurred at Shoeburyness on Thursday, involving almost as many deaths among officers as a sharp Egyptian skirmish. An experiment with a new sensitive fuse had been ordered, and was attended by a number of members of the Ordnance Committee of the War Office. They were standing round a 9-in. shell, and watching the fixing of the fuse, when it is believed Gunner Allen, in charge of the arrangements, screwed it a little too bard. An explosion followed, and Ile was blown to pieces ; while Colonel Fox-Strangways had his legs shattered, and Colonel Lyon and Captain Adams had both legs blown-off. These officers have since died. Warrant-Officer Daykin had a leg blown-off from the thigh, Gunner Underwood had a leg blown-off, while Major Bally had his spine fractured, and three others were most severely wounded, one, Gunner Webb, sustaining a compound fracture of the leg. There is no evidence of carelessness, and no chance of much light being thrown upon the accident, as no one who was watching the experiment escaped. The accident is a most deplorable one ; and it is not pleasant to think that it is with the very object of producing such scenes as the one at Shoeburyness that we throw shells into an enemy's ranks. War is unavoidable, and has its compensations for a nation ; but its incidents grow year by year more unendurably ghastly.
Fate is always hard upon weekly papers in the matter of Parliamentary news, serious divisions usually taking place on Friday night. In the present instance, we could not hear either of the division or of what may have been the most important speech in the debate, Lord Hartington's. Up to Friday evening it was believed that the Government would have a moderate majority, depending for its figures upon certain possible Whig abstentions.
Sir Stafford Northcote moved the Vote of Censure on Monday, in a speech which was not exactly poor, for it contains some bright sayings, but which, from first to last, was flaccid and unreal. His main idea was that the Government, in pledging themselves to retire from Egypt and the Soudan, deprived themselves of half their strength, and forfeited the help of men like the Mndir of Dongola ; but he would not affirm that they ought to remain, and he hid his idea in a cloud of criticisms. He even went back to the slaughter of Hicks Pasha's army ; held, of course, that the Government had wasted months in deciding whether they should rescue General Gordon ; and affirmed that they had ultimately abandoned him disgracefully ; that the treachery before which he succumbed was developed by their delays ; and that although they had decided to vindicate the honour of the country—as was inevitable— they had not a notion what to do after it had been vindicated. Then as to methods, each one adopted condemned the Government. They were about to lay down the railway from Suakim to Berber, which they ought to have laid down a year ago ; they were about to send General Graham on the march which ought to have commenced after Tamasai ; and they were about to reoccupy Khartoum, which they ought to have relieved at first. They stood convicted of all with which he had charged them in May, and this by the evidence of the results of the policy which the House had then approved. With much cleverness, he contrasted the Government policy with the Radical policy, as expressed in Mr. Morley's amendment, and asked how any course of action supported by bodies so different as the Ministerialists and the Radicals could possibly succeed? There were difficulties on every side, as his own party keenly felt; but the main difficulty in the way of success lay "in the leads of her Majesty's Ministers."
Mr. Morley then moved his amendment, which was briefly that there was no necessity to fight the Mahdi, in a speech which was, at all events, clear. He maintained that the Government had been led on by a will-o'-the-wisp step by step, and were now resolved to crush the Mahdi at Kbartoum,—a resolve which he criticised for two reasons. He saw no necessity for crushing the Mahdi, with whom it was possible to negotiate ; and if it was necessary to crush him, there was no need of going to Khartoum to do it. Let them wait for the Soudanese power in . Egypt, and not compel the Army to face rainless deserts and illimitable distances, just as Napoleon had faced the sword and the steppe in his march to Moscow. We were using Christian and British forces for the destruction of Mahommedan and Soudanese forces struggling for freedom. At worst, the Mahdi was a Pope establishing a temporal power. The Government had originally pledged itself to evacuate the Soudan, and he could see no reason for a change of policy. The Mahdi's Government might be a bad one ; but at least it would be one which the people accepted. He urged, therefore, that the war with the Mahdi should be abandoned as thoroughly unjust and unwise. This is lucid and reasonable, and would be statesmanlike, but for one error. It assumes that the Mahdi is seeking a throne, and not the propagation of a creed, and that he can cease to be aggressive if let alone, both of which assumptions are unreasonable. Mr. Morley supposes that the Mahdi can halt if correspondents cease to watch him, and might .jut as well suppose that a comet will halt if all telescopes are shut. Of course, negotiation with the Mahdi is possible, and, moreover, will end in peace, if his conditions are granted, which are,— that Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Morley and the rest of them shall become good Mussulmans. Nothing more is asked, and nothing less.
Mr. Gladstone, of course, disposed of Sir Stafford Northcote and his reminiscences very easily. Aided by his marvellous memory, which makes all other politicianwpale with envy, the Premier showed that he had answered the historical charges, including those about Hicks Pasha, in May last. His speech on this point was crushing ; but the rest, excepting always a splendid tribute to General Gordon as a hero among heroes, whose memory might inspire other heroes like himself, did not rise to the level of his highest efforts. He showed, indeed, conclusively, on evidence from General Gordon's own officers, that the delay of the Government in sending the Army of Rescue had in no way caused the betrayal of Khartoum, for it had been intended to betray it whenever the British approached ; but he defended the war upon the Mahdi only in general terms as rendered necessary by our general_ position, and that of Europe in Asia. He pressed, indeed, the point otthe safety of Egypt, and admitted that there were "things beyond Egypt" which precluded our abandoning Khartoum to mere anarchy ; but he did not state with any clearness what his final policy would be. Indeed, he declined positively to "enter into any compact on the subject," and left the impression either that his own mind was not made-up, or that he was unwilling to reveal it. [Mr. Gladstone subsequently stated positively, in answer to Mr. Ash mead Bartlett, that he had given no assurance about the Soudan, except that it should be separated from Egypt.] He ended with an eloquent appeal to the House to make its vote distinct, and thus fortify the hands of the nation for dealing with "a state of facts more difficult and entangled than any which have recently marked the history of this country."
Mr. Trevelyan made on Tuesday perhaps the ablest speech of the debate. It was a closely-reasoned argument that it was simply impossible, for reasons which he explained a little too clearly, to withdraw Lord Wolseley before General Graham reaches Berber ; and that as we must fight, the best method of fighting is by a movement on Khartoum. There was absolutely no point upon which Lord Wolseley could retreat, and be sure of safety when he got there; while retreat would bring on him an " ubiquitous " enemy, moving at high speed. The tribes behind him might have risen to a man. Mr. Morley had spoken of "the rainless deserts and the illimitable distances ;" but Lord Wolseley had neither of these to encounter while he remained still. The only policy, therefore, was to send. reinforcements and sanction a forward movement of a strong kind ; and this was the policy to be pursued. When we have retreated, we have only to go back again, for "it is not four years since the Mahdi first announced his intention of gaining the whole of the Soudan to his cause, and then in the same proclamation of conquering the whole of Egypt, overthrowing the unbelieving Turk, and converting the world. During those four years he has upset the power of Egypt in the Soudan. He has caused a great deal of slaughter. He has pretty well destroyed the agriculture, and entirely ruined the commerce, of the Soudan. He has taken several great towns, including Khartoum and Berber. What do honourable Members think will stand in the way of his taking Dongola, Korosko, and Assonan when they have no defenders whatever ?" Converting a world means, in a Mussubnan mouth, massacring a world. We cannot conceive an answer to Mr. Trevely an's speech, which was, of course, directed against Mr. Morley, not the Tories.
Mr. Goschen's speech was not a great effort. He taunted the Government with telling the House so little; wanted to know what was the subject of Fehmy Pasha's mission to London ; what was the significance of "the queer incident" concerning Prince Hassan ; what the Italians were doing at Massowah ; how far Mr. Gladstone supported the policy of first smashing the Mahdi at Khartoum, and then "utilising a smashed Mahdi" for the purpose of ruling the Soudan. He wanted a pledge from the Government that they would not first go to Khartoum to please the Whigs, and then evacuate it to please the Radicals. For his own part, he preferred the proposal to hold Snakim and Berber, and the railway to be made between them, to any advance on Khartoum. If the Government would Promise not to leave the Soudan without securing the safety of the tribes who had helped us there, he would vote for the Government ;• otherwise, he should feel it his duty to support the Vote of Censure.
Sir W. Harcourt, while reluctantly admitting that it is necessary to defeat the Mahdi, protested against holding any portion of the Soudan, even Berber, which Mr. Goschen had thought might be held through the railway from Suakim. It would take 30,000 troops to hold the railway, and they must be British, while the best authorities declared that Berber was not the point to hold. He quoted General Gordon and other high authorities to show that the Soudan must be a burdensome possession, and maintained that even to claim exclusive influence in Egypt would be a perilous course, partly because we could not govern as we do in India, partly because we are under pledges to Europe not to stay. Sir W. Harcourt's statement about the thirty thousand men is a flourish of rhetoric, as he forgets that on a railway troops move at forty miles an hour; but we should accept the rest of his:argument with this resemve.. We can govern Egypt easily enough, by declaring it aw ]idian Province, if Europe will eonsent. To hold it in defiance of Europe would be ridiculous, and mean war for a quarter of a century.
Sir Charles Dilke, after, showing-up some of Sir Robert Peel's rhodomontade, and enumerating the efforts made by the Government to relieve General Gordon in other ways than by an expedition, pointed out that the Government had not let the time of the rising of the Nile pass by without utilising it. On the contrary, though the expedition to Khartoum had not then been decided on, the steamers for the transport of an expedition had been passed up the Nile as soon as the Nile was high enough to render it possible to pass them up. He regarded it as certain that the expedition was not in any way too late to relieve General Gordon. They had it on the authority of General Gordon's own Colonels and Admiral, who came down from Khartoum in the steamers, that the treachery which betrayed the city would have taken place whenever the English expedition had reached the neighbourhood of Khartoum, whether that had been earlier or later.
But the most important part of Sir Charles Mike's speech was the diplomatic part. He reproached Mr. Goschen with, attempting to force the Government into telling what officially it would have been for the detriment ofthe public service that they should tell. The negotiations with Fehmi Pasha were still going on, and the substance of them could not possibly be divulged. As to Prince Hassan, there was no secret at all. Lord Wolseley wanted a Mahommedan inter. mediary of some authority for the purpose of communicating efficiently with Mahommedan tribes, and that was the sole purpose of the proposal to send Prince Hassan to Korti. As regards Italy, Sir Charles Dilke insisted strongly on the amity between the two countries, but declined to take any English responsibility for the Italian action in the Red Sea, which was done on the responsibility of Italy alone. But he made it clear enough that the Government view these responsible acts of the Italian Government with hearty good-will-. The oddest statement of Sir Charles Dilke's speech was that the British Government had. not only recognised "the rights of the Porte in the Red Sea, but had over and over again pressed the Porte to take those parts of the coast which the Egyptian Government has been unable or too poor to manage. For one reason or another, the Turkish Government delayed doing so ; and I have no reason to believe that there is any desire on their part to take a more active part on the shores of the Red Sea than they have during these many months that we have been pressing them to occupy the places the Egyptian Government has evacuated." And very glad we are to hear it. But why press the Turks to do what they are. quite incompetent to do well ? Was it a precaution for severing the fanatical Mahdi movement from Arabia ?
Lord Salisbury on Thursday moved a direct Vote of Censure in the Lords, declaring that "the deplorable failure of the Soudan Expedition has been due to the undecided counsels of the Government," and that "the policy of abandoning the Soudan is inconsistent with the interests of the Empire." He made an able and incisive speech in support of this thesis, maintaining that it was essential for England to hold Egypt, and that to Egypt some portion of the Soudan was a necessity. He made a singular though unnoticed bid for French support, saying that France might reign in Algeria and Tanis, and Morocco might go her own way; but that it was essential to us to be predominant in Egypt. He laid this down as a distinct object, holding that 'it was only by an avowed and consistent policy that we could hope to succeed, even after all the great sacrifices which he freely conceded we must make. The "blunders of the last three years have placed us in face of terrible problems." The whole speech was that of a man resolved on a policy of war, and was full of gall, as when the speaker said that the increased weakness of the Government was attributed by many to Lord Derby; but he did not see that the Government had become much worse since his accession to it ; but it was greatly applauded, and had at least this merit, that the speaker has a mind, and knows what it is, Lords Northbrook and Derby spoke, but the real answer to it was to be delivered on Friday.
The incidents of the week in Egypt have been few, but are not nnfavonrable. There is no confirmation, though also there is no disproof, of the Mahdi's march in force Northwards ; and it is more probable that he has only sent a column to MetemmehSomething, which is quite likely to be his own ignorance and irresolution, prevents his taking advantage of his opportunities—a noteworthy fact, for a Mahdi is of necessity the ultimate order-giver in camp as well as Council. General Brackenbnry's force was on February 21st within forty miles of Abou Hamad, and it was expected at Korti that the place would be carried on Wednesday ; but the event might be postponed for a day by unexpected obstacles. General Buller's small force was last week in danger at Abou Klea ; but on the 18th, the enemy around, who were not strong, were alarmed by a clever feint in their rear and retreated, and General Buller moved forward to Gakdul, arriving on February 25th within one day's march of the Wells. He had not been attacked on route, and, we hope; did not fulfil his intention—reported in the Chronicle—of filling the Abou Klee Wells. That is a breach of the antique law of the Desert which will never be forgiven, and which, throughout the contest, has never been committed by the Arabs as against us.
The evidence seems to show that the idea of seizing Berber, which was undoubtedly entertained, has been abandoned, and that it will not be occupied till the autumn, when General Graham and Lord Wolseley himself will simultaneously attack it. There is still a hope, after Abou Hamad has been occupied and General Buller has reached Merawi ; but all movements are obviously hampered, both by the necessity of finding supplies, which will soon be running short, and by the rapid consumption of camels. The beasts die fearfully fast, in part from ignorant management ; and a new supply depends upon " friendly " Sheikhs, who, besides being doubtful which way things will go, are most reluctant to strip their tribes of beasts essential to their safety. The Government of India is forwarding a supply to Suakim, and the Government agents are giving unheard of prices; but the new collection of camels will be of benefit only for the future. You may give a guinea a pound for a camel, and not get him to Marti one hour the sooner ; and the march up the Nile takes months. If we could get two hundred Scindee camel-drivers to Abou Hamad, they would be worth hundreds of beasts, for they know how to keep them alive.
There was a great scene on Tuesday night, when Mr. Gladstone moved that the adjourned debate on the Vote
• of Censure should take precedence of private Members' motions. Mr. Redmond noisily protested that he had a motion concerning the tyrannical dismissal of District-Inspector Murphy, of the Irish Constabulary, by the Government .of Lord Spencer, from motives of revenge, and was three times called to order for speaking, not on the question of the preeedence to be accorded to the Vote of Censure, but on the details of the matter which he wished to bring forward. The Prime Minister offered to provide a proper occasion for the discussion before long, and pointed out that the Irish Secretary was absent; but Mr. Sexton said he attached no importance to the absence of the Irish Secretary ; Mr. O'Brien said the offer of the Prime Minister was illusory ; Mr. W. Redmond, who was stopped by the Speaker for referring to Dublin Castle, told the Speaker he was glad to hear that the question of Dublin Castle was irrelevant ; and after this kin& of wrangle had gone on for some time, the Speaker declared that it was the evident sense of the House that the motion should be now put, whereupon Mr. O'Brien noisily exclaimed, "'Ye will remember this in Ireland." The Speaker thereupon named Mr. O'Brien, and Mr. Gladstone moved that Mr. O'Brien be suspended from the service of the House; whereupon Mr. O'Brien called out, "It is the only honour I have any ambition for." When Mr. O'Brien had been suspended by a vote of 244 to 20, the Speaker directed him to withdraw, Mr. O'Brien complying, with the remark, "I will leave the House, Sir, with far more pleasure than I ever entered it."
After this disgraceful scene, the Speaker, who was naturally a little disturbed by the incident, made some slight technical mistake in putting the question, which, however, was corrected ; and when he asked the House to vote on the question that" the question be now put," there appeared 207 for the motion, and 46 against it ; so that, by the Standing Orders, there were only seven votes to spare to support the Speaker's ruling.As the minority was above 40, the majority could not be less than 200, if the motion were to be carried in the affirmative. It soon appeared that a large force of Conservatives, including Sir Hardiuge Giffard, Mr. Rowland Winn, Lord Elcho, and others, had joined the Irish Irreconcilable?, in the hope, it is said, of getting those gentlemen to join them in the Vote of Censure. A single Liberal, Mr. Labouchere, swelled this discreditable division-list.
The controversy in the French Chamber over the Corn Laws has ended in the imposition of a duty of three francs per hectolitre on corn by 316 votes to 175. A duty of four francs was rejected by 262 to 212, and a sliding-sale was also rejected. Au income-tax, proposed as a substitute by M. Bert, was rejected by .324 to 153; and the duty, which is a compromise, was carried by a junction between the Government, the Protectionists, and those who, foreseeing the necessity for further taxes—w)iich, indeed, M. Ferry had promised—are afraid that they may be direct.
Yesterday week, Mr. Gladstone, in answer to Mr. Forster, enumerated the Colonies from which offers of military help had been received,—namely, New South Wales, Canada, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland. The offer of New South Wales had been made known to Lard Wolseley, and had been accepted with lively gratitude ; and though the offers of the other Colonies had not yet been so far specified as to be (then) ripe for decision, the Government had felt with regard to all of them the same hearty gratitude. In eloquent language Mr. Gladstone touched on the historical significance of these offers. A hundred years ago the -country had scarcely ceased to reel under the shock caused by the dismemberment of the Empire,— a dismemberment due to the attempt to force on our most important Colonies contributions towards the military charges of this country ; and now, when all attempts of the kind had been long abandoned, we find our Colonies spontaneously coming to our aid exactly in relation to the very charges which we formerly tried to impose upon them with most disastrous effect. Mr. Gladstone's speech was in admirable taste. We only wish that his spirit presided at the Colonial Office, where these offers are by no means uniformly met with the eager cordiality they deserve.
On Tuesday the motion of Lord Justice Fry, in the Convocation of the University of London, asking the House to express its belief that the objects of the Association for establishing a Teaching University in London would, if accepted and carried out by the existing University of London, be productive of beneficial consequences, was carried in a rather full House by a large majority, in spite of the extreme .vagueness of the speech of Lord Justice Fry, the remarkable explicitness of that of Sir Joseph Lister, and the equal explicitness, in a totally different sense, of those of Dr. Pye Smith and Mr. Anstie, all of them supporters of the motion. Lord Justice Fry treated the matter as one of "manifest destiny" for the University, a manifest destiny which it could not avoid, even if it would ; but whether that manifest destiny was to become a Teaching University in order that its medical degrees might be more easily attained, or for other reasons, Lord Justice Pry did not state, merely hinting that the Medical Schools of Scotland ought not to carry off so
many medical Students from the still greater Medical Schools of • London. On the other hand, Sir Joseph Lister made it the chief point of his speech that the medical degrees of the University of London are far too difficult of attainment, and that the students of the various London hospitals ought to be allowed to get their diplomas on much easier terms. This was the speech which, as a graduate subsequently observed, "let the cat out of the bag."
On the other hand, Mr. Osler and Mr. Shaen, in speeches of great ability, urged the House—and urged it in vain—not to accept en bloc a whole mass of undigested "objects," some of which may be unattainable, others undesirable, and all of them unsifted by any responsible body. To these speeches Mr. Anstie and Dr. Pye Smith replied by suggesting a totelly different view from that of Sir Joseph Lister and Lord Justice Fry, of the great revolution which they desired,— namely, the creation of a number of Chairs for original research which should add brilliancy and reputation to the University, and supplement the more ordinary teaching of such colleges a, University and King's College. The one thing which seemed carefully omitted from all the speeches of the revolutionists was any plan for the extension of sound collegiate teaching of the ordinary kind to parts of London in which such teaching is at present quite inaccessible.