12 AUGUST 1882, Page 14


[TO THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTA.TOR.".1 SIR,—I cannot, as a Liberal, agree with the Government or the Spectator in the arguments used in defence of the policy to render India liable for a part of the cost of the Egyptian ex- pedition. As a party, we opposed this policy in 1878, mainly on the ground that the invasion of Afghanistan was unjust and unnecessary. The chief reason alleged for drawing upon the Indian Exchequer in the present instance is that the expedition to Egypt is right and justifiable. That was precisely the reason put forth by the late Government with regard to their Afghan enterprise, and, as it seems to me, with greater appearance of truth, for Lord Beaconsfield's proposal was supported in the House of Commons by 235 Members, whereas last week only 140 sustained Mr. Gladstone's. Again, while none of the Con- servative daily papers in London set themselves in antagonism to the Afghan policy of the late Government, it is a noteworthy fact that, out of the four Liberal daily journals printed in the Metropolis, only one of them—and that probably the least influential—approves of the unfortunate Liberal policy which has led to hostilities in Egypt. There can be no doubt, I think, that if the Conservative leaders had been in power at this juncture, and the many discontented but loyal Liberals had felt themselves free to declare their opinions with- out embarrassing their great chief, the opposition to the course now being pursued in Egypt would have developed into a deep- rooted and wide-spread agitation. If, on the shallow plea that our ships were menaced—a menace from which the French, at least, apprehended no danger to their fleet—and at a time when a European Conference was sitting, the Beaconsfield Govern- ment had ordered the bombardment of the Alexandria forts, resulting in much loss of life and the partial destruction of a noble city, I, for one, believe that the act would have been de- nounced by the Liberal party from one end of the country to the other.

This war should and could have been avoided by the Liberal Government. At the same time, I admit that if you make war in Egypt, India may be called upon to pay the cost. "If," you say, " we had not India to govern, it is certain enough that we should have adopted a policy of non-intervention in Egypt." This was still more self-evident in the case of Afghanistan.— [We wholly differ from our correspondent, and when he quotes the numbers of a division on a subject on which there was no serious contest, he must be well aware that he is quoting a mere accidental figure.—En. Spectator.]