12 AUGUST 1882, Page 4



MR. GLADSTONE'S speech at the Mansion House is de- clared, of course by his opponents, to be very rose- coloured, both as regards Ireland and as regards Egypt. As regards Ireland, it can hardly be called rose-coloured, because Mr. Gladstone keeps very close to the facts of the case, and does not indulge in speculation. It is a matter of fact, and not a matter for hope, that the agrarian offences have now for many months dwindled rapidly, in the track of the deci- sions of the Land Commissioners. Where the Land Court has passed, it has left behind it comparative peace, and a disposi- tion to abide by the law and its decisions. Mr. Gladstone, of course, hopes that what has been so conspicuous during the last few months will be conspicuous during the next few years ; but he did not count his chickens before they were hatched, —he simply took note of the fact that what was but a hope when he last addressed a public meeting in the City, was now a realised hope, so far as a few months can realize a hope of which the very essence is a permanent and not a temporary change.

Nor, as regards Egypt, can we see so much of the rose-coloured tint as our Conservative contemporaries discern, or fancy they discern, in the speech. Mr. Gladstone did not count on a rapid, dramatic, and striking success for our arms. He did not anti- cipate the course of military events at all. The only passages in which the so-called sanguineness of the Prime Minister is shown, is that in which he anticipates a too easy re-establish- ment of a reforming government in Egypt, and that in which he asserts that England has gone to Egypt " with the con- sciousness that we were entitled to claim from other Powers, that which I believe they are ready to accord to us,—nay, which they have accorded,—namely, their confidence, their good-will, and their hearty good-wishes for the speedy and effectual success of the British arms." On the former point we believe that Mr. Gladstone is really too sanguine, and to that we will immediately return. On the latter point, as. Mr. Gladstone knows much more of the dis- position of the other Powers of Europe than the Conserva- tive newspapers know, and as he is not a man to speak in- accurately on such matters, we are disposed to think that he knows the truth of his own assertion ; and, so far as we can judge by the public action of the European Powers, there is not one of them,—Turkey excepted, and speaking with some reserve of doubt about the bias of Russia,—of whom it does not appear to be true. Germany, at all events, the most powerful of them all, seems to be doing all in her power to smooth the way for inspiring confidence in the dispositions of England as to the protection of the Suez Canal. Prince Bismarck's semi-official organ even throws cold water on the policy of the smaller Powers, and lays it down that England can and must be trusted to do for Europe that which is not only for her own interest, but also for that of Europe. For our own part, we have no manner of doubt that those of our contemporaries who would find more pleasure in the defeat of Mr. Gladstone's hopes than in the great increase of English influence abroad, will be disap- pointed, and forced to comfort themselves, by the mild gratifica- tions of patriotic feeling, for the severe mortifications of party pride.

But while we can see nothing over-sanguine in Mr. Glad- stone's view of the immediate situation, and would not wish for a finer delineation of what is needed in Egypt than he gives us, we must point out that on one point he does greatly underrate the difficulties of our position. To our minds there is some danger, not in going to Egypt with "clean hands," not in the resolve to keep our purpose throughout as pure as that with which we go there, but in the anxiety which such an Adminis- tration as his is sure to feel to keep all the world convinced that our hands are clean and our purposes pure, and that neither the one nor the other are ever going to be sullied. Mr. Gladstone is certainly over-sanguine in his anticipations as to the prospect of conferring liberal institutions on Egypt. That is no easy business with any people so little used to political institutions as the Egyptians, and we fear that in the effort to vindicate our good intentions, we may possibly do mischief. Nothing can be nobler than Mr. Gladstone's pic- ture of our object in Egypt ; but we cannot agree with him that after the military work is over, that object can easily be attained with " complete success." These objects he defines as two. The first is to keep " the great gate between the Eastern and Western hemispheres " well open, and in

the hands of a Power civilised enough to keep order, and ensure the safety of the great highway of the world. The other is to ensure to Egypt a good, an improving, and in the best sense, a popular Government. Mr. Gladstone says :- " We do not, my Lord Mayor, go to repress the growth of Egyptian liberties. We wish them well, for we have no in- terests in Egypt so great as that Egypt should be prosperous; and Egypt cannot in any other way so well or so effectually attain her own prosperity as by the enjoyment of a wise, a

regulated, and an expanding freedom We have not the least reason to doubt that it is a good cause for which we are going to contend. It is the cause of lawful authority, com- bined with practical reforms, and with every desire to promote free institutions in Egypt, and we have not the smallest reason to fear that our efforts will not be crowned with speedy and complete success." Now, that is the only point in the speech which makes us uneasy. Knowing, as we do, how eagerly this Government will desire to improve the social condition of the people in Egypt, and knowing, as we also do, how very anxious it will be not only to have " clean hands," but to prove to Europe that it has clean hands, we fear a certain conflict between the two not necessarily identical objects, and a subordination, perhaps, of the more important to the less important of the two. We ourselves have always felt for the better government of the miserable Egyptian people a certain passion of eagerness. We have grudged these Bondholders their usurious interest, not because they profited by it, but because we realised so clearly that it could only be squeezed out of the sweat and blood of the Egyptian people. It may be quite true, as Mr. Goschen has said, that if in former years the interest on the Debt had been lowered, the remission, instead of resulting in less labour and more prosperity to the Fellaheen, would only have gone into the pockets of military swindlers or Court favourites. But for that very reason, we have desired, with something more than ordinary political ardour, that the Government of Egypt might pass into hands competent to wield it with power, purity, and statesmanlike sagacity. Will this be the ultimate result of our success in putting down Arabi ? We believe it will, if we keep the main object in view. But as an immediate result, it is hardly possible ; and in the meantime there must be a considerable interval, in which it will be very difficult to do the right things, especially if we are mainly thinking of appearing to Europe in the most irreproachable light. Ts place the Government of a great Oriental country like India oil Egypt on a right footing is no ordinary task, and we very much doubt whether it can be done effectually under the object-glasses of a thousand microscopes, at least by a Power quite as anxious to justify itself to Europe as it is to act justly. It seems to us that Mr. Gladstone is not a little sanguine as to the speed and completeness of any establishment and exe pension of Egyptian liberties, after such a crisis as this and that whatever it may be possible to do in that direc- tion will not be rendered easier, but much more difficult,, by the effort to convince Europe at every step that everything we do is purely disinterested, and done not for own sakes, but for the benefit of the people of the Khedive. Consider only how difficult it has proved to introduce anything like order and freedom into the government of such an island as Jamaica, where we have not invited the co-operation or criticism of Europe, where we have had absolute confidence in our own right to rule, and no fear at all of the meddling of other Powers. We shall have a much more difficult problem to solve in Egypt ; more difficult, through the jealousies and passions which this military revolt will have aroused ; more difficult, through the constant intermeddling of intelligent strangers of all kinds,—such, for example, as Mr. Wilfrid Blunt ; more difficult, through the existence of a native army, with which it will always be possible for adven- turers to tamper. We go with all our hearts with Mr. Gladstone, in a deep and ardent desire to make the recast of the Government in Egypt a true reform for the benefit of the whole Egyptian people ; but we are by no means certain that this will, for some time to come, be consistent with the speedy evacuation of Egypt, of which Mr. Gladstone spoke so sanguinely in the House of Commons on Thursday, or with the eagerness to provide for that speedy evacuation which the Government certainly feel. Who is to apply pressure in the right direction, when we are gone l Then, again, as to the rapid development of what are called "liberal institutions," there must be great difficulty, That the Notables at Cairo, for instance, would have banished Arabi, if they could, there is ample evidence ; but there is also ample

evidence that when Arabi got hold of them and bent them to his will, he was able to do much more mischief by 'their aid than he could have done without their agency. There is no mistake greater, in the interests of the general population of any country, than the initiation of premature constitutions, which do not really consult for the common weal, and which do excite hope in the minds of a number of more or less compe- tent individuals that they may carve their own futures out of the pretext of patriotic designs. Arabi is himself a remarkable instance of the dangerous character of these premature insti- tutions in undermining legitimate authority, and turning engines of reform into means of oppression.

What we wish to urge, then, is this,—that every guarantee shall be taken for the mitigation of the sufferings of the 'much oppressed Egyptians, especially that of materially diminishing, at the expense of the Bondholders, the taxation by which they are ground down, as well as lightening the con- ditions of their labour ; and that this shall be our main object, —so much our main object, that the attempt to justify all we do in the very first instance to Europe, shall be considered as 'of comparatively little importance. Let us not be too eager to develope " show " liberties, which have no real meaning, and may be most mischievous in the result. Let us not be always thinking of demonstrating our disinterestedness to Europe by a speedy evacuation, but rather of permanently ameliorating the lot of the Egyptians themselves. We sympathise to the highest conceivable degree with Mr. Gladstone's end, but we have some misgivings about that not unnatural desire to avoid all appear- ance of arbitrariness in the eyes of Europe, which is but too likely to end in the adoption of plausible and unsound consti- tutional means. Disinterestedness is a great quality, but then, in its highest form, it must even be indifferent to the reputation of disinterestedness. What we fear is, that the Government may be so anxious to approve themselves to Europe in all they do in Egypt, that their political action, after the military work is done, may be deficient in prompti- tude, 'in energy, and in durability. No good will be done in the reform of such a country as Egypt without clear and strong administration that does not stop to consider every minute what Europe may say. " They have said :—What said they I to ye weel, and let them say," is a good Scotch proverb, and one peculiarly applicable to the government of Asiatic States an which there is no coherent public opinion. The only fear 'we have in relation to Egypt is that, in the zeal for disin- terestedness on the one hand, and for approving ourselves to the concert of Europe on the other, the British Government may not go straight to the mark of so reforming the Govern- ment of the Khedive as to increase the prosperity and happi- ness of the population, but may consider too much the com- paratively very insignificant object of demonstrating to Europe that we are not pursuing selfish objects, that we are working with " clean hands" and " pure purposes " for the civilisation of the world, and that we are as eager to be gone out of Egypt as we were reluctant to go there.