1 JULY 1882, Page 4



THERE was hardly any interest in the proceedings of the Tory meeting of Thursday on Egyptian affairs. Its criticism of Government was all in the air. It was not a popular meeting in any sense, for those present were admitted by ticket ; it was not an instructive meeting, for the principal speakers had only the knowledge of Egypt common to all politicians ; and it was not a useful meeting, for its only object was to urge the Government to do what it is already doing with a will. The assumption which underlay the whole affair, that the Government intends to abandon its engagements in Egypt, is palpably without foundation. The Government, though reticent as to its methods, has not been in the least degree reticent as to its objects. From first to last, through every regular channel, through the Foreign Secretary, the Premier, and Sir Charles Dilke, who represents the Foreign Office in t'he Commons, the Government has repeated that its intention is to maintain Tewfik Khedive in his authority, to put down

• the rising of the Egyptian Army against that authority, and to restore the status quo. As a Government of sensible men, it has sought to attain these ends by peaceful means, asking first the Sultan and then all Europe to enforce the arrangements which both the Sultan and Europe deliber- ately sanctioned. The Sultan has refused, declaring that, although a mutinous General holds all power, and all Euro- pean residents are flying, and the Control is practi- cally suspended, the crisis is over, that he is con- tented with the result, and that he has specially honoured and decorated the leader of the revolution. It is possible, though extremely improbable, that Europe may make the same reply in substance ; and in that case, the British Government proclaims by its military preparations that it intends to act independently, either with France, or if the French Chamber is determined on peace at any price, then alone. It is not going to annex Egypt, but it is going to restore order so far that the engagements of the Egyptian Government with other Powers can be carried out. Where is the weakness in the course it is pursuing ? The Tories may allege that it will not be firm, thereby doing their best to encourage the Sultan to resist ; but they know perfectly well that the Premier would almost as soon pillage the Treasury, as waste the national resources by costly preparations for war intended only to de- ceive. It will, we believe, when the veil is removed, be found that the otherwise inexplicable delay in the action of the Con- ference has been produced not by the weakness of the British Government, but by a firmness so unexpected, that the Ambas- sadors feel that their award will involve most serious conse- quences, and are telegraphing .almost hourly to their Govern- ments for new instructions.

Nor do we see very much more force in the criticisms which come from the other side. The more extreme Radicals, in- cluding a few very sensible men, allege that the Government is wrong in interfering with the self-government of Egypt. If the Egyptians like to be ruled by Arabi Pasha, why should they not be ruled by him ? That argument would be most formidable, were it consistent with the facts ; but it is not consistent with them. If the British Government, regard- less alike of its engagements and its reputation, abandons Tewfik Khedive to whom it is pledged up to the lips by the most public and decisive declarations, the Egyptians will be no more self-governed than they were before. All power would ultimately fall to the Turks, who are as much foreigners as the British, and who would speedily ruin the country ; or to Arabi Pasha, who is not the choice of the people, but of the Army and the Sultan. He has professed throughout that he acted in lull loyalty to the Khalif, and his army only this week has dispatched a special messenger—his own close friend, Yacoob—to lay its complete submission at the feet of the Sultan. He did not rise through a popular movement, or even through a rebellion, but through a military mutiny directed against the Khedive, as well as against European influ- ence. His Government would be a government in the interest of the soldiery and the Sultan, not of the people, and as fatal to the Egyptians as to the world-wide interest which Great Britain is compelled to guard. To allow his movement to succeed is to place every agreement in Egypt, future agreements as well as those which exist, at the mercy, not of the Egyptian people, or even of the Egyptian Notables, but of any officer who can by promotions and promises carry the Army with him, Arabi Pasha may be a patriot in a certain sense, but he actually bought the officers' support, and may be upset by the same means. With the debt repudiated, there would for a time be plenty of money for donatives. It is true that in most cases even military mutiny would not justify interference, but in Egypt, England has not only interests, but engagements which bind her to interfere. She forced the Control upon Tewfik Khedive, she arranged the modus vivendi out of which the trouble has arisen, and to abandon her instrument because he has been loyal to his engagements, and on points, like the importation of European officials, only too ready to take advice, would be utterly base. The obligation to defend him is independent of any English interest, and would be imperative, even if Egypt were not, as we believe it to be, the true " gate " of India.

And finally, there is the question of the Canal. No opponent of the Government, Tory or Radical, denies for a moment the importance of the Canal. Even Mr. Frederic Harrison admits that it must be protected. Wholly apart from its value for the conveyance of troops, which is possibly not so great as it appears, the Canal has become the great artery of trade between Europe, further Asia, and Australia. Entire fleets of steamers have been built, or rebuilt, to meet the necessity of conveying merchandise by this road. Its freedom has become as im- portant to the commerce of the world as that of any sea, and is specially important to the commerce of Great .Britain. There is hardly a house in the country which, if it were closed, would not feel the shock. That the Canal must never be closed, is the decision of the whole country, of all parties; yet, if it is left to the mercy of the Egyptian soldiery, where is its security ? To say the very least, that security will be left at the mercy of a man who has declared that his first object is the departure of the Europeans, who is certain to fall into financial difficulties, and who may at any moment threaten the Canal in order to extort a ransom. We say nothing of the immense additional hold over England which the indirect control of the ()anal would give the Sultan, who has no interest in its pre- servation, and confine ourselves to the Military Govern- ment of Egypt. Could they be trusted with the Canal ? If they could not,—and but one answer can be given to the question,—the Canal must either be held by a Civil Government of Egypt restored to its authority, or by the British Government, as a work separated from the general con- trol of the Nile Valley. Such an undertaking is, we admit, possible, for the Canal from end to end avoids populated Egypt, running along, but not touching, the edge of the irrigated country ; but it would involve in the end more in- terference with Egyptian politics, and more collision with the Egyptian people, than the restoration of the old system. It is a conceivable alternative, but if it is adopted ; it must still be car- ried out by force, and to use force and yet leave our engagements in Egypt unfulfilled, and a group of mutinous officers at the head of affairs, can scarcely from any point of view be wise. We are as reluctant as any Liberals in the country to interfere in Egypt without governing it, and should be delighted if the Bondholders were deprived of every shilling, except the fifty millions which a,ctually reached Egypt ; but we cannot believe it either safe or right to abandon our engagements, to surrender Egypt to the Turks or' its own soldiery, or to re- linquish our claim to absolute security of transit over the shortest road between Great Britain and India. The "Eastern Question," for us, is not at Constantinople, but at Cairo.