NEWS OF THE WEEK.
THE diplomatic struggle at Pekin continues, but the Russians, we fancy, are losing ground. Germany has deserted them, and intends to make of Kiao-chow a port free to all, and to support in commercial matters the British policy, which will bring Germans trade. The Russian Minister, therefore, has redoubled his efforts, threatens Pekin with a withdrawal of Russian favour, and even, it is said, offers to lend China sixteen millions upon British terms. That seems unlikely, as M. de Witte cannot borrow the money at the British rate, and will not with his new currency deplete his stock of gold, but the statement of itself shows that Russia is very much in earnest. The Mandarins, of course, are much delighted with the contest, which they con- sider a struggle for their favour, but they will probably in the end try to compromise. They will accept the British loan, and granting in return the railway into Yunnan and the promise not to cede any portion of the valley of the Yangtse, but will beg off the obligation to declare Talienwan a Treaty port. We shall then not be excluded from Manchuria, but only unable to get in.
The decapitation of the German marine who was stan?- log sentry in a village just outside Kiao-chow has, it is said, " disturbed " the authorities in Berlin. They are exceed- ingly well informed about the district, which they have placed under their official microscope for some years pasts and may be perfectly right in their annoyance. The murder might be the work of any Chinese rough, but the decapitation suggests that one of the great secret societies of China objects to the presence of the Germans in Kiao-chow. In that case the German authorities there have their work cut out for them, and had better consult the Government of Java as to the course theyought to take. The latter are often worried by their Chinese subjects, and have, we believe, some rather strange laws passed to enable them to deal with the societies. Even we have been in grave danger at Singapore once or twice from the wrath of the " Hoeys," and have owed our security to the Chinese perception of the fact that from the position of the island escape from shells would be exceedingly difficult. Ruling a Chinese district against the will of its inhabitants is one of those things which look easy, and drive the very ablest to despair. The Chinese do not fight, but somehow the mortality in the ruling caste is apt to grow to a height which science cannot explain. Prince George of Greece saved the life of the present Czar when in Japan. Nicholas II. remembering that fact, and awakened also to the other fact, that the Cretans are members of the Holy Orthodox Church oppressed by Mussalmans, is pressing the appointment of Prince George to the government of Crete. England and France approve that nomination, but the Sultan, confident in the support of the German Emperor, blankly refuses, even pleading a non possumus, on account of popular feeling. The Russian Ambassador has therefore been instructed to inform his Majesty that the Czar is alarmed at the anarchy in Armenia, and may find it needful to pour troops into that province to prevent the disorder spreading into Russian districts. Thus the matter stands, and it seems to afford a brilliant opportunity to a. strong British Premier. Suppose for once we support Russia heartily, and inform the Sultan that unless "the just and magnanimous proposal of the Russian Government" is accepted, we shall escort Prince George to Canea as "Prince of Candia " and sink any vessel or fleet which may oppose that proceeding. Will the German Emperor, unaided by Austria, declare war on Russia, France, and Great Britain all in strict alliance P It is said that the Sultan will in that case keep Thessaly ; but he is much to clever for that, and will prefer to keep Arabia, Armenia Tripoli, and the Greek islands.
The "Dreyfus Case" marches, but whither is not clear. We prophesied last week that there would on Saturday be violent scenes in the Chamber, and there were violent scenes. The Comte de Bemis, fighting Royalist, and M. Jaures, the Socialist Danton, called one another names. The Members lost their heads, there was a free-fight with fists and ink-pots, M. de Bernis in particular being covered with blood and ink—the characteristic mixture of the end of the century —and at last austere M. Brisson, pale with disgust, put on his hat, and sent in a guard of soldiers without rifles, just, as the Questor said, "to prevent life being taken." The sight of the uniforms within the sacred precinct recalled to Frenchmen a good deal, the mob grew calmer, and on Monday there was debating instead of damns. M. Meline, still playing his unaccustomed part as a mule, repeated once more that the Government refused to discuss a res judicata, and at last carried an Order of the Day simply approving that decision by 376 votes to 133. Note that in several cases the electors have formally conveyed to their Deputies thanks for their physical violence, which seems to them heroic. The truth is France is honeycombed with anti-Jewish feeling; there may be an outbreak at any moment, and the first life taken in defence of the outraged caste will throw the whole population, and perhaps the Army, into a fever, amidst which only passions will be heard. One thing is very remarkable. Twenty persons at least must know the secret, and they are all so alarmed that they, and perhaps half their wives, all keep it.
In Wednesday's Times Bishop Tacker, writing from Mombasa, makes a powerful protest against the system of slavery which still exists under British rule both in the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba and on the mainland. In spite of the proclamation abolishing the legal status, it appears that slavery is in full swing, Sir Arthur Hardinge, with a cynicism which would be amusing were the question not one which concerns the honour of England, having apparently entrusted the administration of the new law to the Arabs themselves. The pickpockets are charged with the execution of the decree against petty larceny. To show how active an institution slavery still is on the islands, Bishop Tucker mentions that only very recently five slaves escaped from Pemba, and at the peril of their lives made their way to Mombasa. "In their evidence they testified to a general knowledge of the decree on the part of the slaves, but to an
equally general fear of the consequences of making any attempt to claim their freedom so long as the law was being administered by slave-owning Arab officials." No doubt Sir Arthur Hardinge's open defiance of Lord Salisbury, of the Foreign Office, and of Parliament has been one of the most amusing official farces of recent years, but we cannot help thinking that the joke has now gone far enough. Sir Arthur Hardinge might with advantage spare a little of the time he now devotes to outwitting the stupid British public to considering the condition of his East African protectorate.
The Cairo correspondent of the Times furnishes to last Saturday's paper some interesting fads as to the Egyptian Census taken last June,—the area being Egypt up to Wady Haifa. In 1846, in the time of Mehemet Ali, the population was estimated at four and a half millions. In 1882 an Im- perfect Census gave six and three-quarter millions. Last year's figures, which are declared to be fairly accurate, are nine and three-quarter millions. Twelve per cent, of the males can write, the rest are totally illiterate. There are, it is said, about 40,000 persons not really Egyptians, but who come from other parts of the Ottoman Empire. The Bedouin number 570,000, but of these only 89,000 are really nomads, the rest being semi-sedentary. Of foreign residents there are 112,500, of whom the Greeks, the most numerous, number 38,000. Then come the Italians, with 24,500. The British (in- cluding 6,500 Maltese and 5,000 of the Army of Occupation) are 19.500; and the French (including 4,000 Algerians and Tunisians), 14,000. The Germans only number 1,300. The classification according to religion shows nearly 9,000,000 Moslems, 730,000 Christians, and 25,000 Jews. The Christians include the Coptic; race, numbering about 608,000. Only a very small proportion profess the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. Amongst the town populations Cairo contains 570,000, Alexandria 320,000. The Copts have apparently considerably increased under our rule. Whether there is any future for these interesting people is a nice question. Their ability—especially at figures—is very great, but their immemorial sufferings have not allowed the manlier qualities to develop.
On Tuesday, at the dinner given him by the Northern Liberal Club, Lord Grey delivered a panegyric upon the Chartered Company and Mr. Rhodes which can only be described as astonishing. In dealing with the Chartered Company he declared that "the rules of British justice were meted oat equally to men of whatever race or colour they might be." No doubt the Chartered Company agreed with the Colonial Office to make no difference in its treatment of whites and blacks except as regards arms and liquor; but we have yet to learn that any white men were forced to work in the mines at a sum fixed by the Company, and if they ran away were caught and punished as deserters. We readily admit that Lord Grey's own intentions were excellent, and that when in Rhodesia he endeavoured to the best of his ability to make the Company's administration just and efficient, but his attempt came too late. Lord Grey surely goes much too far when he says that the acquisition of Rhodesia has not cost the country a sixpence. Unless Sir Charles Warren's expedition had taken place Rhodesia would never have been acquired, and the country spent largely on that expedition. Next, the Raid, which must certainly be put down to the Company's account, has cost the country a very considerable sum in military and naval preparations. Then, too, Imperial troops, as Lord Grey admits, were used to put down a rebellion which was the result of the Raid and the Company's defective native policy combined. So much for the past. It remains to be seen what the Company will cost the British taxpayer in the future. Lord Grey ended by declaring that the name of Rhodes would in the end "figure as one of the greatest of England's sons, and near the top in the list of those who hal done much for their country." Personally we prefer not only the methods, but the results obtained by Clive and Hastings.
Lord Rosebery on Saturday opened a People's Palace at Glasgow, and made a speech very acceptable to his citizen audience. He described such palaces as " centres " to which municipal affection might cling, and thus diminish the " rest- lessness " which he noticed among workmen as in every other class. They were also a sign of "the awakening of muni- cipalities," which formerly devoted themselves to police and
drainage, but were now beginning to attend to the sanitation of mind as well as the sanitation of body. He questioned whether nowadays an active-minded man ought not to prefer entrance into a Council to entrance into Parliament, for a Councillor could be individual, and an average Member could not. The Councillor, too, lives in his own house, and sees his work grow,' while the Member spends the most glorious months of the year as a voting machine. He could not. exaggerate the importance of municipal government, and was not sure that some of that decay in the interest felt in politics. of which many complain was not due to the increased interest in the management of local affairs. We need not say that these opinions, the accuracy of which we have discussed else- where, were received in Glasgow with rapture. To be a Bailie, and to be told by a passed Premier, who is also a witty man,. that a Bailie is more useful than a Member, is to enjoy a half- hour of nearly unmixed happiness. Well, well ! The tarnspit turns the better for believing himself the cook.
Lord George Hamilton is quite happy. In his opinion, ex- pressed on Wednesday at the Chiswick Constitutional Club, everything in India is going as well as it could go. The- Frontier War is over, the soldiers have behaved well, and we are about to "circumscribe and formulate our policy in that quarter," so that it may be approved and maintained by both parties in the State. The Indian Treasury, moreover, has informed him that the revenue is coming in well, that the- Frontier expenditure has been "much less" than had been expected, that the Government will be able without difficulty to meet all disbursements this year, and has next year every prospect of a large and substantial surplus. Excellent news, if one could only believe it, which, remem- bering the accounts of former Indian wars, we are compelled to say that we do not. The British Government has there- fore discovered that it would be dangerous policy to assist India with money, because if her financiers thought they could draw on the British Treasury there would be no check on their expenditure,—a truth, but true also when it waa. proposed to give India the British surplus. Finally, Lord George has discovered that on one point at least Liberal, critics can be smashed. Mr. Asquith had said that Chitaed was as independent as France, but Sir Henry Fowler, when defending himself against the charge of breaking the statute which provides that Parliament must be consulted before- India could undertake an external war, had replied that Chitral was completely within the Indian Frontier ! Lastly,. Lord George Hamilton believes that a gold standard is possible in India, and that next year we may make a great advance towards it. If a contented mind is a perpetual feast,. how constantly Lord G. Hamilton must feel full.
Speaking at Stirling on Thursday, Mr. John Morley, some- what unfairly, as it seems to us, assumed that the proposal to help our West Indian Colonies in the difficulties in which they now find themselves will take the form of bounties to the sugar-producers. We know no more than does Mr. Morley what is the exact nature of the Government plan, but we believe that it is far more likely that the scheme will be one of general encouragement to those Colonies, and that what will be done will be rather to develop the resources of the islands than /to give, as Mr. Morley suggests, a dole to the planters. But Mr. Morley was not in a very fair-minded mood, for he chose to represent the Agricultural Holdings Act as a mere dole to the landlords and farmers, when he must know that in reality it was an attempt to do away with a portion of the injustice caused by our system of rural rating, under which the agriculturist is subjected to a special taxation. The farmer pays rates not only on his house and buildings, but also on the capital in the shape of land which he hires from the landlord. Other business men pay only on house and buildings, and not on the capital which they hire from a bank or elsewhere. Mr. Morley's criticism on the proposals for a Zollverein were sound and effective, and his references. to China were statesmanlike and moderate. His plea was for "reasonable, pacific, and firm diplomacy." His general view of the present situation was gloomy. "What goes by the name of the civilised world at this moment has a sombre aspect. Republics are as uneasy as old Monarchies. Parlia- ments display as much heat, passion, and caprice as auto- crats?' Even the English-speaking race, perhaps in parts of the world where we least expect it, was evidently as liable to -delusions as races that do not speak English. That, said Mr. Morley, was all the more reason why we here should husband our resources.
The Westminster Gazette on Thursday published what, in spite of its disagreeable jocularity of style, is a most interesting account of the Chinese Emperor and the people who surround him. The Emperor is as much secluded and enshrined in etiquette as was the Mikado before the great Japanese Revolution, only the Shogun is not an individual, but a committee of subtle Mandarins, headed by that sinister figure, the Dowager Empress, who is sixty-three, and probably the richest person in the world. All that is known about the Emperor, who is now twenty-seven years of age, is that he has personally a violent temper, and that he is completely in the hands of the -terrible Dowager Empress, who, though she is secluded and usually receives Ministers sitting behind a screen. through which she talks, is capable, when angry, of coming into the open and boxing the ears of her advisers. The writer in the Westminster Gazette ends his account of the Court of "the solitary man"—the Emperor's weird title— by a series of notes on the chief Chinese statesmen. Prince Kung, the Emperor's uncle, does his best to thwart the Dowager Empress. Prince Li is noted for his hatred of " foreign barbarians ; " Weng Tong-hi, the Emperor's private tutor, is also conspicuous for his dislike of foreigners. Chien Ting-pu, the President of the Board of Works, is, however, said to be singularly free from the prejudice against -foreigners. The ablest man in Pekin is Chang Yin-huan, who was for many years Chinese Minister in America, and repre- sented China at the Jubilee. He is, however, of too low rank to possess any real influence. It looks as if the Chinese statesmen were hopeless. Even an earthquake like the Japanese War only seems to rock her rulers into sounder sleep. The people, however, remain as numerous and as vigorous as ever. Remember that the Taeping Rebellion and its repression was only some thirty-five years ago.
The observations of the total eclipse of the sun which were -carried out in India were satisfactory to the astronomers, "good results" being obtained at most of the stations. The special correspondent of the Times, telegraphing from Talni on Saturday, says that owing to the excellent military -arrangements the superb spectacle was observed without the slightest interruption. The first encroachment of the dark body of the moon gave an hoar and a half's warning of totality. A fine procession of sharply defined spots 5.ay across the solar disc, and were swallowed up one by one by the invading darkness. "The air, which had been intensely hot, grew chill, the weird sense of approaching disaster which always accompanies an eclipse oppressed the nerves, -and then, with what seemed a sudden rush, the shadow fell." 'The manner in which the photographs were taken is thus described by the correspondent :—" Just behind me Captain Molesworth and Mrs. Maunder, at an equatorial with two -cameras, were changing plates with the confidence and pre- cision begotten of much practice. With each camera six plates were to be exposed, and all went without a hitch, but, just as the word came for the sixth exposure, with a sudden rush an immense flood of sunlight poured forth. The eclipse had been four seconds short of the time we had expected." The "sense of disaster" noted by the correspondent is a very remarkable fact. Though not specifically noted, it is reflected in Wordsworth's magical poem, "The Eclipse."
The Poles are in a state of great irritation against Prussia. 'The Germans declare that in Posen the Poles 'are eating out the Germans, that the artisans in the villages and shop- keepers in the towns are all Poles, and that the lower middle- -class Germans are leaving the province rather than continue a hopeless competition. The Government has therefore asked for another grant of a million sterling in order to continue its policy of buying Polish estates and selling them to Germans. Prince Hohenlohe, moreover, has warned the Poles that Posen must remain Prussian, and that there is no room in Prussia for anything approaching to federalisation. The Poles retort that they are governed to death, that as they furnish -conscripts they have equal rights with Germans, and that a Government has no business to show hostility to any class of its own subjects. The Poles of Gallicia, who are contented with the Hapsburgs, have taken up their brethren's qvarrel, and will, it is said, in future be more opposed than ever to the Germanisation of Bohemia. The incident is, of course, part of the secular quarrel between Slav and German which will have to be fought out some day, but the Prussian method is clearly unwise. The French method in Brittany and formerly Alsace is the true one, to give to the discontented race such full chances in life that even while remaining separate it becomes devoted to the national ideal.
The International Commission which is to control Greek finances has issued its first Report. Its members think that the expenditure of the kingdom will be for 1898 22,530,040, and for 1899 a few thousands more, gradually increasing until in 1903 it will reach £2,590,240; while the revenues will be for 1898 £3,422,300, for 1899 23,585,440, and for 1903 E4,012,400, the progress being due to slight increases of taxa- tion, especially on tobacco. The Commission,.Verefore, after assigning to the Monopoly bondholders 43 per cent. of their interest, and to Internal Debt holders 33 per cent., will sanction a loan of £5,000,000 to pay off the Turkish indemnity, and meet immediate necessities. If this account is accurate, Greece can meet her liabilities, and, indeed, it is possible that, like Egypt, she may do more than meet them ; but she purchases this advantage at the price of her independence. She practically can spend nothing without consulting the Powers, and can no more have a policy of her own than a mouse in a gilt cage can. The Greeks will feel savage under that kind of tutelage, and perhaps to escape it will accept alliances from which otherwise they would shrink. The whole busi ness seems to us a conquest for the benefit of usurers.
We record with no little satisfaction that terms have been agreed upon between the employers and the Engineers' Union, and that work will begin next Monday. Practically the men hav had to yield on the masters' terms, though those terms have been very wisely and very properly softened to save the "face" of the men. The intermediary who in the last resort brought the men together and found the formula of compromise—always a most important and generally a most difficult task—deserves well of both masters and men. If the men had not only been beaten, but had been forced to acknowledge that they were beaten, they would have returned to work in a bad temper. Now we may hope that in spite of the rejection of the terms by the men in a few localities there will be a general acquiescence in the compromise arrived at. The strike has been a very costly one to both masters and men, but the loss to the country as a whole has probably beeil much exaggerated.
We mentioned at the beginning of the month the pro- posals for an improvement scheme to be carried out in Westminster by a private company. Since then the details of the scheme have been published, and in Tuesday's Times they are submitted to very searching criticism by Mr. E. P. Warren. Mr. Warren points out several grave blots on the proposed plan. In view of the special character of the site there are a large number of public interests to be con- sidered. Even if the inhabitants and the supreme local authority—i.e., the County Council—should be satisfied, which, as a matter of fact, they are not, it would not be enough. The general public of the whole Kingdom have a right to be heard in regard to any scheme affecting such historic ground, as have also the authorities of the Abbey, which would be in- juriously affected by an ill-devised scheme. Parliament, again, is itself directly affected, as apparently a huge block of build- ings is contemplated close to, and in line with, the Victoria Tower, and another opposite the west end of the Palace of Westminster, and abutting on the Abbey enclosure. Several of the other details seem open to criticism, as, for example, the width of the proposed embankment. Clearly any new embankment must be designed on the lines of the Victoria Embankment, of which it will in effect be a continuation, and must therefore be not less wide or less stately in design. But in truth a closer examination of the scheme shows it to be surrounded with so many difficulties that we feel convinced that no private, and therefore necessarily speculative, body can possibly be allowed to undertake the work. If done at all, it must be done by a public authority.
Bank Rate, 3 per cent.
New Consols (21) were on Friday, 1121:-.