In a letter to myself, written about this time, very much the same views are expressed:—
"I do not think I could enlighten you about China. Her game is and will be to wait events, and she will try and work so as to embroil us with France if she does go to war. For this there would be plenty of elements in the Treaty Ports. One may say, humanly speaking, China going to war with France must entail our following suit. It would be a bad thing in some ways for civilization, for the Chinese are naturally so bumptious that any success would make them more so, and if allied to us, and they had success, it would be a bad look-out afterwards. This in private. Li Hung Chang as Emperor, if such a thing came to pass, would be worse than the present Emperor, for he is sharp and clever, would unite China under a Chinese dynasty, and be much more troublesome to deal with. Altogether, I cannot think that the world would gain if China went to war with France. Also I think it would be eventually bad for China. China being a queer country, we might expect queer things, and I believe if she did go to war she would contract with Americans for the destruction of French fleet, and she would let loose a horde of adventurers with dynamite. This is essentially her style of action, and Li Hung Chang would take it up, but do not say I think so."
In a further letter from Jaffa, dated 17th November 1883, he wrote finally on this branch of the subject:—
"I fear I can write nothing of any import, so I will not attempt it. To you I can remark that if I were the Government I would consider the part that should be taken when the inevitable fall of the Mantchou dynasty takes place, what steps they would take, and how they would act in the break-up, which, however, will only end in a fresh cohesion of China, for we, or no other Power, could never for long hold the country. At Penang, Singapore, etc., the Chinese will eventually oust us in another generation."
There was one other question about China upon which Gordon felt very strongly, viz., the opium question, and as he expressed views which I combated, I feel bound to end this chapter by quoting what he wrote on this much-discussed topic. On one point he agrees with myself and his other opponents in admitting that the main object with the Chinese authorities was increased revenue, not morality. They have since attained their object not only by an increased import duty, but also in the far more extensive cultivation of the native drug, to which the Emperor, by Imperial Edict, has given his formal sanction:—
"PORT LOUIS, 3rd February 1882.
"About the opium article, I think your article—'History of the Opium Traffic,' Times, 4th January 1884—reads well. But the question is this. The Chinese amour propre as a nation is hurt by the enforced entry of the drug. This irritation is connected with the remembrance of the wars which led to the Treaties about opium. Had eggs or apples been the cause of the wars, i.e. had the Chinese objected to the import of eggs, and we had insisted on their being imported, and carried out such importation in spite of the Chinese wish by force of war, it would be to my own mind the same thing as opium now is to Chinese. We do not give the Chinese credit for being so sensitive as they are. As Black Sea Treaty was to Russia so opium trade is to China.
"I take the root of the question to be as above. I do not mean to say that all that they urge is fictitious about morality; and I would go further than you, and say I think they would willingly give up their revenue from opium, indeed I am sure of it, if they could get rid of the forced importation by treaty, but their action in so doing would be simply one of satisfying their amour propre. The opium importation is a constant reminder of their defeats, and I feel sure China will never be good friends with us till it is abolished. It is for that reason I would give it up, for I think the only two alliances worth having are France and China.
"I have never, when I have written on it, said anything further than this, i.e. the Chinese Government will not have it, let us say it is a good drug or not. I also say that it is not fair to force anything on your neighbour, and, therefore, morally, it is wrong, even if it was eggs.
"Further, I say that through our thrusting these eggs on China, this opium, we caused the wars with China which shook the prestige of the Pekin Government, and the outcome of this war of 1842 was the Taeping Rebellion, with its deaths of 13,000,000. The military prestige of the Mantchous was shaken by these defeats, the heavy contributions for war led to thousands of soldiers being disbanded, to a general impoverishment of the people, and this gave the rebel chief, Hung-tsew-tsiuen, his chance.
"A wants B to let him import eggs, B refuses, A coerces him; therefore I say it is wrong, and that it is useless discussing whether eggs are good or not.
"Can anyone doubt but that, if the Chinese Government had the power, they would stop importation to-morrow? If so, why keep a pressure like this on China whom we need as a friend, and with whom this importation is and ever will be the sole point about which we could be at variance? I know this is the point with Li Hung Chang.
"People may laugh at amour propre of China. It is a positive fact, they are most-pigheaded on those points. China is the only nation in the world which is forced to take a thing she does not want. England is the only nation which forces another nation to do this, in order to benefit India by this act. Put like this it is outrageous.
"Note this, only certain classes of vessels are subject to the Foreign Customs Office at Canton. By putting all vessels under that Office the Chinese Government would make L2,000,000 a year more revenue. The Chinese Government will not do this however, because it would put power in hands of foreigners, so they lose it. Did you ever read the letters of the Ambassador before Marquis Tseng? His name, I think, was Coh or Kwoh. He wrote home to Pekin about Manchester, telling its wonders, but adding, 'These people are wonderful, but the masses are miserable far beyond Chinese. They think only of money and not of the welfare of the people.'
"Any foreign nation can raise the bile of Chinese by saying, 'Look at the English, they forced you to take their opium.'
"I should not be a bit surprised did I hear that Li Hung Chang smoked opium himself. I know a lot of the princes do, so they say. I have no doubt myself that what I have said is the true and only reason, or rather root reason. Put our nation in the same position of having been defeated and forced to accept some article which theory used to consider bad for the health, like tea used to be, we would rebel as soon as we could against it, though our people drink tea. The opium trade is a standing, ever-present memento of defeat and heavy payments; and the Chinese cleverly take advantage of the fact that it is a deleterious drug.
"The opium wars were not about opium—opium was only a cheval de bataille. They were against the introduction of foreigners, a political question, and so the question of opium import is now. As for the loss to India by giving it up, it is quite another affair. On one hand you have gain, an embittered feeling and an injustice; on the other you have loss, friendly nations and justice. Cut down pay of all officers in India to Colonial allowances above rank of captains. Do not give them Indian allowances, and you will cover nearly the loss, I expect. Why should officers in India have more than officers in Hongkong?"
In a subsequent letter, dated from the Cape, 20th July 1882, General Gordon replied to some objections I had raised as follows:—
"As for the opium, to which you say the same objection applies as to tea, etc., it is not so, for opium has for ages been a tabooed article among Chinese respectable people. I own reluctance to foreign intercourse applies to what I said, but the Chinese know that the intercourse with foreigners cannot be stopped, and it, as well as the forced introduction of opium, are signs of defeat; yet one, that of intercourse, cannot be stopped or wiped away while the opium question can be. I am writing in a hurry, so am not very clear.
"What I mean is that no one country forces another country to take a drug like opium, and therefore the Chinese feel the forced introduction of opium as an intrusion and injustice; thence their feelings in the matter. This, I feel sure, is the case.
"What could our Government do in re opium? Well, I should say, let the clause of treaty lapse about it, and let the smuggling be renewed. Hongkong is a nest of smugglers.
"Pekin would, or rather could, never succeed in cutting off foreign intercourse. The Chinese are too much mixed up (and are increasingly so every year) with foreigners for Pekin even to try it. Also I do not think China would wish to stop its importation altogether. All they ask is an increased duty on it."
THE MAURITIUS, THE CAPE, AND THE CONGO.
There was a moment of hesitation in Gordon's mind as to whether he would come home or not. His first project on laying down the Indian Secretaryship had been to go to Zanzibar and attack the slave trade from that side. Before his plans were matured the China offer came, and turned his thoughts in a different channel. On his arrival at Aden, on the way back, he found that the late Sir William Mackinnon, a truly great English patriot of the type of the merchant adventurers of the Elizabethan age, had sent instructions that the ships of the British India Steam Packet Company were at his disposal to convey him whereever he liked, and for a moment the thought occurred to him to turn aside to Zanzibar. But a little reflection led him to think that, as he had been accused of insubordination, it would be better for him to return home and report himself at headquarters. When he arrived in London at the end of October 1880, he found that his letters, written chiefly to his sister during his long sojourn in the Soudan, were on the eve of publication by Dr Birkbeck Hill. That exceedingly interesting volume placed at the disposal of the public the evidence as to his great work in Africa, which might otherwise have been buried in oblivion. It was written under considerable difficulties, for Gordon would not see Dr Hill, and made a stringent proviso that he was not to be praised, and that nothing unkind was to be said about anyone. He did, however, stipulate for a special tribute of praise to be given to his Arab secretary, Berzati Bey, "my only companion for these years—my adviser and my counsellor." Berzati was among those who perished with the ill-fated expedition of Hicks Pasha at the end of 1883. To the publication of this work must be attributed the establishment of Gordon's reputation as the authority on the Soudan, and the prophetic character of many of his statements became clear when events confirmed them.
After a stay at Southampton and in London of a few weeks, Gordon was at last induced to give himself a short holiday, and, strangely enough, he selected Ireland as his recreation ground. I have been told that Gordon had a strain of Irish blood in him, but I have failed to discover it genealogically, nor was there any trace of its influence on his character. He was not fortunate in the season of the year he selected, nor in the particular part of the country he chose for his visit. There is scenery in the south-west division of Ireland, quite apart from the admitted beauty of the Killarney district, that will vie with better known and more highly lauded places in Scotland and Switzerland, but no one would recommend a stranger to visit that quarter of Ireland at the end of November, and the absence of cultivation, seen under the depressing conditions of Nature, would strike a visitor with all the effect of absolute sterility. Gordon was so impressed, and it seemed to him that the Irish peasants of a whole province were existing in a state of wretchedness exceeding anything he had seen in either China or the Soudan. If he had seen the same places six months earlier, he would have formed a less extreme view of their situation. It was just the condition of things that appealed to his sympathy, and with characteristic promptitude he put his views on paper, making one definite offer on his own part, and sent them to a friend, the present General James Donnelly, a distinguished engineer officer and old comrade, and moreover a member of a well-known Irish family. Considering the contents of the letter, and the form in which Gordon threw out his suggestions, it is not very surprising that General Donnelly sent it to The Times, in which it was published on 3rd December 1880; but Gordon himself was annoyed at this step being taken, because he realised that he had written somewhat hastily on a subject with which he could scarcely be deemed thoroughly acquainted. The following is its text:—
"You are aware how interested I am in the welfare of this country, and, having known you for twenty-six years, I am sure I may say the same of you.
"I have lately been over to the south-west of Ireland in the hope of discovering how some settlement could be made of the Irish question, which, like a fretting cancer, eats away our vitals as a nation.
"I have come to the conclusion that—
"1. A gulf of antipathy exists between the landlords and tenants of the north-west, west, and south-west of Ireland. It is a gulf which is not caused alone by the question of rent; there is a complete lack of sympathy between these two classes. It is useless to inquire how such a state of things has come to pass. I call your attention to the pamphlets, letters, and speeches of the landlord class, as a proof of how little sympathy or kindness there exists among them for the tenantry, and I am sure that the tenantry feel in the same way towards the landlords.
"2. No half-measured Acts which left the landlords with any say to the tenantry of these portions of Ireland will be of any use. They would be rendered—as past Land Acts in Ireland have been—quite abortive, for the landlords will insert clauses to do away with their force. Any half-measures will only place the Government face to face with the people of Ireland as the champions of the landlord interest. The Government would be bound to enforce their decision, and with a result which none can foresee, but which certainly would be disastrous to the common weal.
"3. My idea is that, seeing—through this cause or that, it is immaterial to examine—a deadlock has occurred between the present landlords and tenants, the Government should purchase up the rights of the landlords over the whole or the greater part of Longford, Westmeath, Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Cavan, and Donegal. The yearly rental of these districts is some four millions; if the Government give the landlords twenty years' purchase, it would cost eighty millions, which at three and a half per cent. would give a yearly interest of L2,800,000, of which L2,500,000 could be recovered; the lands would be Crown lands; they would be administered by a Land Commission, who would be supplemented by an Emigration Commission, which might for a short time need L100,000. This would not injure the landlords, and, so far as it is an interference with proprietary rights, it is as just as is the law which forces Lord A. to allow a railway through his park for the public benefit. I would restrain the landlords from any power or control in these Crown land districts. Poor-law, roads, schools, etc., should be under the Land Commission.
"4. For the rest of Ireland, I would pass an Act allowing free sale of leases, fair rents, and a Government valuation.
"In conclusion, I must say, from all accounts and my own observation, that the state of our fellow-countrymen in the parts I have named is worse than that of any people in the world, let alone Europe. I believe that these people are made as we are, that they are patient beyond belief, loyal, but, at the same time, broken-spirited and desperate, living on the verge of starvation in places in which we would not keep our cattle.
"The Bulgarians, Anatolians, Chinese, and Indians are better off than many of them are. The priests alone have any sympathy with their sufferings, and naturally alone have a hold over them. In these days, in common justice, if we endow a Protestant University, why should we not endow a Catholic University in a Catholic country? Is it not as difficult to get a L5 note from a Protestant as from a Catholic or Jew? Read the letters of —— and of ——, and tell me if you see in them any particle of kind feeling towards the tenantry; and if you have any doubts about this, investigate the manner in which the Relief Fund was administered, and in which the sums of money for improvements of estates by landlords were expended.
"In 1833 England gave freedom to the West Indian slaves at a cost of twenty millions—worth now thirty millions. This money left the country. England got nothing for it. By an expenditure of eighty millions she may free her own people. She would have the hold over the land, and she would cure a cancer. I am not well off, but I would offer —— or his agent L1000, if either of them would live one week in one of these poor devil's places, and feed as these people do. Our comic prints do an infinity of harm by their caricatures—firstly, the caricatures are not true, for the crime in Ireland is not greater than that in England; and, secondly, they exasperate the people on both sides of the Channel, and they do no good.
"It is ill to laugh and scoff at a question which affects our existence."
This heroic mode of dealing with an old and very complicated difficulty scarcely came within the range of practical achievement. The Irish question is not to be solved by any such simple cut-and-dried procedure. It will take time, sympathy, and good-will. When the English people have eradicated their opinion that the Irish are an inferior race, and when the Irish realise that the old prejudice has vanished, the root-difficulty will be removed. At least Gordon deserves the credit of having seen that much from his brief observation on the spot, and his plea for them as "patient beyond belief and loyal," may eventually carry conviction to the hearts of the more powerful and prosperous kingdom.
The Irish question was not the only one on which he recorded a written opinion. The question of retaining Candahar was very much discussed during the winter of 1880-81, and as the Liberal Government was very much put to it to get high military opinion to support their proposal of abandonment, they were very glad when Gordon wrote to The Times expressing a strong opinion on their side. I think the writing of that letter was mainly due to a sense of obligation to Lord Ripon, although the argument used as to the necessity of Candahar being held by any single ruler of Afghanistan was, and is always, unanswerable. But the question at that time was this: Could any such single ruler be found, and was Abdurrahman, recognised in the August of 1880 as Ameer of Cabul, the man?
On 27th July 1880, less than eight weeks after Gordon's resignation of his Indian appointment, occurred the disastrous battle of Maiwand, when Yakoob's younger brother, Ayoob, gained a decisive victory over a British force. That disaster was retrieved six weeks later by Lord Roberts, but Ayoob remained in possession of Herat and the whole of the country west of the Helmund. It was well known that the rivalry between him and his cousin Abdurrahman did not admit of being patched up, and that it could only be settled by the sword. At the moment there was more reason to believe in the military talent of Ayoob than of the present Ameer, and it was certain that the instant we left Candahar the two opponents would engage in a struggle for its possession. The policy of precipitate evacuation left everything to the chapter of accidents, and if Ayoob had proved the victor, or even able to hold his ground, the situation in Afghanistan would have been eminently favourable for that foreign intervention which only the extraordinary skill and still more extraordinary success of the Ameer Abdurrahman has averted. In giving the actual text of Gordon's letter, it is only right, while frankly admitting that the course pursued has proved most successful and beneficial, to record that it might well have been otherwise, and that as a mere matter of argument the probability was quite the other way. Neither Gordon nor any other supporter of the evacuation policy ventured to predict that Abdurrahman, who was then not a young man, and whose early career had been one of failure, was going to prove himself the ablest administrator and most astute statesman in Afghan history.
"Those who advocate the retention of Candahar do so generally on the ground that its retention would render more difficult the advance of Russia on, and would prevent her fomenting rebellion in, India, and that our prestige in India would suffer by its evacuation.
"I think that this retention would throw Afghanistan, in the hope of regaining Candahar, into alliance with Russia, and that thereby Russia would be given a temptation to offer which she otherwise would not have. Supposing that temptation did not exist, what other inducement could Russia offer for this alliance? The plunder of India. If, then, Russia did advance, she would bring her auxiliary tribes, who, with their natural predatory habits, would soon come to loggerheads with their natural enemies, the Afghans, and that the sooner when these latter were aided by us. Would the Afghans in such a case be likely to be tempted by the small share they would get of the plunder of India to give up their secure, independent position and our alliance for that plunder, and to put their country at the mercy of Russia, whom they hate as cordially as they do us? If we evacuate Candahar, Afghanistan can only have this small inducement of the plunder of India for Russia to offer her. Some say that the people of Candahar desire our rule. I cannot think that any people like being governed by aliens in race or religion. They prefer their own bad native governments to a stiff, civilized government, in spite of the increased worldly prosperity the latter may give.
"We may be sure that at Candahar the spirit which induced children to kill, or to attempt to kill our soldiers in 1879, etc., still exists, though it may be cowed. We have trouble enough with the fanatics of India; why should we go out of our way to add to their numbers?
"From a military point of view, by the retention we should increase the line we have to defend by twice the distance of Candahar to the present frontier, and place an objective point to be attacked. Naturally we should make good roads to Candahar, which on the loss of a battle there—and such things must be always calculated as within possibility—would aid the advance of the enemy to the Indus. The debouche of the defiles, with good lateral communications between them, is the proper line of defence for India, not the entry into those defiles, which cannot have secure lateral communications. If the entries of the defiles are held, good roads are made through them; and these aid the enemy, if you lose the entries or have them turned. This does not prevent the passage of the defiles being disputed.
"The retention of Candahar would tend to foment rebellion in India, and not prevent it; for thereby we should obtain an additional number of fanatical malcontents, who as British subjects would have the greatest facility of passing to and fro in India, which they would not have if we did not hold it.
"That our prestige would suffer in India by the evacuation I doubt; it certainly would suffer if we kept it and forsook our word—i.e. that we made war against Shere Ali, and not against his people. The native peoples of India would willingly part with any amount of prestige if they obtained less taxation.
"India should be able, by a proper defence of her present frontier and by the proper government of her peoples, to look after herself. If the latter is wanting, no advance of frontier will aid her.
"I am not anxious about Russia; but, were I so, I would care much more to see precautions taken for the defence of our Eastern colonies, now that Russia has moved her Black Sea naval establishment to the China Sea, than to push forward an outstretched arm to Candahar. The interests of the Empire claim as much attention as India, and one cannot help seeing that they are much more imperilled by this last move of Russia than by anything she can do in Central Asia.
"Politically, militarily, and morally, Candahar ought not to be retained. It would oblige us to keep up an interference with the internal affairs of Afghanistan, would increase the expenditure of impoverished India, and expose us chronically to the reception of those painfully sensational telegrams of which we have had a surfeit of late."
During these few months Gordon wrote on several other subjects—the Abyssinian question, in connection with which he curiously enough styled "the Abyssinians the best of mountaineers," a fact not appreciated until their success over the Italians many years later, the registration of slaves in Egypt, and the best way of carrying on irregular warfare in difficult country and against brave and active races. His remarks on the last subject were called forth by our experiences in the field against the Zulus in the first place, and the Boers in the second, and quite exceptional force was given to them by the occurrence of the defeat at Majuba Hill one day after they appeared in the Army and Navy Gazette. For this reason I quote the article in its entirety:—
"The individual man of any country in which active outdoor life, abstinence, hunting of wild game, and exposure to all weathers are the habits of life, is more than a match for the private soldier of a regular army, who is taken from the plough or from cities, and this is the case doubly as much when the field of operations is a difficult country, and when the former is, and the latter is not, acclimatised. On the one hand, the former is accustomed to the climate, knows the country, and is trained to long marches and difficulties of all sorts inseparable from his daily life; the latter is unacclimatised, knows nothing of the country, and, accustomed to have his every want supplied, is at a loss when any extraordinary hardships or difficulties are encountered; he has only his skill in his arms and discipline in his favour, and sometimes that skill may be also possessed by his foe. The native of the country has to contend with a difficulty in maintaining a long contest, owing to want of means and want of discipline, being unaccustomed to any yoke interfering with individual freedom. The resources of a regular army, in comparison to those of the natives of the country, are infinite, but it is accustomed to discipline. In a difficult country, when the numbers are equal, and when the natives are of the description above stated, the regular forces are certainly at a very great disadvantage, until, by bitter experience in the field, they are taught to fight in the same irregular way as their foes, and this lesson may be learnt at a great cost. I therefore think that when regular forces enter into a campaign under these conditions, the former ought to avoid any unnecessary haste, for time does not press with them, while every day increases the burden on a country without resources and unaccustomed to discipline, and as the forces of the country, unprovided with artillery, never ought to be able to attack fortified posts, any advance should be made by the establishment of such posts. All engagements in the field ought, if possible, to be avoided, except by corps raised from people who in their habits resemble those in arms, or else by irregular corps raised for the purpose, apart from the routine and red-tape inseparable from regular armies. The regular forces will act as the back-bone of the expedition, but the rock and cover fighting will be done better by levies of such specially raised irregulars. For war with native countries, I think that, except for the defence of posts, artillery is a great incumbrance, far beyond its value. It is a continual source of anxiety. Its transport regulates the speed of the march, and it forms a target for the enemy, while its effects on the scattered enemy is almost nil. An advance of regular troops, as at present organised, is just the sort of march that suits an active native foe. The regulars' column must be heaped together, covering its transport and artillery. The enemy knows the probable point of its destination on a particular day, and then, knowing that the regulars cannot halt definitely where it may be chosen to attack, it hovers round the column like wasps. The regulars cannot, from not being accustomed to the work, go clambering over rocks, or beating covers after their foes. Therefore I conclude that in these wars regular troops should only act as a reserve; that the real fighting should be done either by native allies or by special irregular corps, commanded by special men, who would be untrammelled by regulations; that, except for the defence of posts, artillery should be abandoned. It may seem egotistical, but I may state that I should never have succeeded against native foes had I not had flanks, and front, and rear covered by irregular forces. Whenever either the flanks, or rear, or front auxiliaries were barred in their advance, we turned the regular forces on that point, and thus strengthening the hindered auxiliaries, drove back the enemy. We owed defeats, when they occurred, to the absence of these auxiliaries, and on two occasions to having cannon with the troops, which lost us 1600 men. The Abyssinians, who are the best of mountaineers, though they have them, utterly despise cannon, as they hinder their movements. I could give instance after instance where, in native wars, regular troops could not hold their own against an active guerilla, and where, in some cases, the disasters of the regulars were brought about by being hampered by cannon. No one can deny artillery may be most efficient in the contention of two regular armies, but it is quite the reverse in guerilla warfare. The inordinate haste which exists to finish off these wars throws away many valuable aids which would inevitably accrue to the regular army if time was taken to do the work, and far greater expense is caused by this hurry than otherwise would be necessary. All is done on the 'Veni, vidi, vici' principle. It may be very fine, but it is bloody and expensive, and not scientific. I am sure it will occur to many, the times we have advanced, without proper breaches, bridges, etc., and with what loss, assaulted. It would seem that military science should be entirely thrown away when combating native tribes. I think I am correct in saying that the Romans always fought with large auxiliary forces of the invaded country or its neighbours, and I know it was the rule of the Russians in Circassia."
 In allusion more particularly to the Cape and China.
Perhaps Gordon was influenced by the catastrophes in South Africa when he sent the following telegram at his own expense to the Cape authorities on 7th April 1881: "Gordon offers his services for two years at L700 per annum to assist in terminating war and administering Basutoland." To this telegram he was never accorded even the courtesy of a negative reply. It will be remembered that twelve months earlier the Cape Government had offered him the command of the forces, and that his reply had been to refuse. The incident is of some interest as showing that his attention had been directed to the Basuto question, and also that he was again anxious for active employment. His wish for the latter was to be realised in an unexpected manner.
He was staying in London when, on visiting the War Office, he casually met the late Colonel Sir Howard Elphinstone, an officer of his own corps, who began by complaining of his hard luck in its just having fallen to his turn to fill the post of Engineer officer in command at the Mauritius, and such was the distastefulness of the prospect of service in such a remote and unattractive spot, that Sir Howard went on to say that he thought he would sooner retire from the service. In his impulsive manner Gordon at once exclaimed: "Oh, don't worry yourself, I will go for you; Mauritius is as good for me as anywhere else." The exact manner in which this exchange was brought about has been variously described, but this is the literal version given me by General Gordon himself, and there is no doubt that, as far as he could regret anything that had happened, he bitterly regretted the accident that caused him to become acquainted with the Mauritius. In a letter to myself on the subject from Port Louis he said: "It was not over cheerful to go out to this place, nor is it so to find a deadly sleep over all my military friends here." In making the arrangements which were necessary to effect the official substitution of himself for Colonel Elphinstone, Gordon insisted on only two points: first, that Elphinstone should himself arrange the exchange; and secondly that no payment was to be made to him as was usual—in this case about L800—on an exchange being effected. Sir Howard Elphinstone was thus saved by Gordon's peculiarities a disagreeable experience and a considerable sum of money. Some years after Gordon's death Sir Howard met with a tragic fate, being washed overboard while taking a trip during illness to Madeira.
Like everything else he undertook, Gordon determined to make his Mauritius appointment a reality, and although he was only in the island twelve months, and during that period took a trip to the interesting group of the Seychelles, he managed to compress an immense amount of work into that short space, and to leave on record some valuable reports on matters of high importance. He found at Mauritius the same dislike for posts that were outside the ken of headquarters, and the same indifference to the dry details of professional work that drove officers of high ability and attainments to think of resigning the service sooner than fill them, and, when they did take them, to pass their period of exile away from the charms of Pall Mall in a state of inaction that verged on suspended animation. In a passage already quoted, he refers to the deadly sleep of his military friends, and then he goes on to say in a sentence, which cannot be too much taken to heart by those who have to support this mighty empire, with enemies on every hand—"We are in a perfect Fools' Paradise about our power. We have plenty of power if we would pay attention to our work, but the fault is, to my mind, the military power of the country is eaten up by selfishness and idleness, and we are trading on the reputation of our forefathers. When one sees by the newspapers the Emperor of Germany sitting, old as he is, for two long hours inspecting his troops, and officers here grudging two hours a week for their duties, one has reason to fear the future."
During his stay at Mauritius he wrote three papers of first-rate importance. One of them on Egyptian affairs after the deposition of Ismail may be left for the next chapter, and the two others, one on coaling stations in the Indian Ocean, and the second on the comparative merits of the Cape and Mediterranean routes come within the scope of this chapter, and are, moreover, deserving of special consideration. With regard to the former of these two important subjects, Gordon wrote as follows, but I cannot discover that anything has been done to give practical effect to his recommendations:—
"I spoke to you concerning Borneo and the necessity for coaling stations in the Eastern seas. Taking Mauritius with its large French population, the Cape with its conflicting elements, and Hongkong, Singapore, and Penang with their vast Chinese populations, who may be with or against us, but who are at any time a nuisance, I would select such places where no temptation would induce colonists to come, and I would use them as maritime fortresses. For instance, the only good coaling place between Suez and Adelaide would be in the Chagos group, which contain a beautiful harbour at San Diego. My object is to secure this for the strengthening of our maritime power. These islands are of great strategical importance vis a vis with India, Suez, and Singapore. Remember Aden has no harbour to speak of, and has the need of a garrison, while Chagos could be kept by a company of soldiers. It is wonderful our people do not take the views of our forefathers. They took up their positions at all the salient points of the routes. We can certainly hold these places, but from the colonial feelings they have almost ceased to be our own. By establishing these coaling stations no diplomatic complications could arise, while by their means we could unite all our colonies with us, for we could give them effective support. The spirit of no colony would bear up for long against the cutting off of its trade, which would happen if we kept watching the Mediterranean and neglected the great ocean routes. The cost would not be more than these places cost now, if the principle of heavily-armed, light-draught, swift gunboats with suitable arsenals, properly (not over) defended, were followed."
Chagos as well as Seychelles forms part of the administrative group of the Mauritius. The former with, as Gordon states, an admirable port in San Diego, lies in the direct route to Australia from the Red Sea, and the latter contains an equally good harbour in Port Victoria Mahe. The Seychelles are remarkably healthy islands—thirty in number—and Gordon recommended them as a good place for "a man with a little money to settle in." He also advanced the speculative and somewhat imaginative theory that in them was to be found the true site of the Garden of Eden.
The views Gordon expressed in 1881 as to the diminished importance of the Mediterranean as an English interest, and the relative superiority of the Cape over the Canal route, on the ground of its security, were less commonly held then than they have since become. Whether they are sound is not to be taken on the trust of even the greatest of reputations; and in so complicated and many-sided a problem it will be well to consider all contingencies, and to remember that there is no reason why England should not be able in war-time to control them both, until at least the remote epoch when Palestine shall be a Russian possession.
"I think Malta has very much lost its importance. The Mediterranean now differs much from what it was in 1815. Other nations besides France possess in it great dockyards and arsenals, and its shores are backed by united peoples. Any war with Great Britain in the Mediterranean with any one Power would inevitably lead to complications with neutral nations. Steam has changed the state of affairs, and has brought the Mediterranean close to every nation of Europe. War in the Mediterranean is war in a basin, the borders of which are in the hands of other nations, all pretty powerful and interested in trade, and all likely to be affected by any turmoil in that basin, and to be against the makers of such turmoil. In fact, the Mediterranean trade is so diverted by the railroads of Europe, that it is but of small importance. The trade which is of value is the trade east of Suez, which, passing through the Canal, depends upon its being kept open. If the entrance to the Mediterranean were blocked at Gibraltar by a heavy fleet, I cannot see any advantage to be gained against us by the fleets blocked up in it—at any rate I would say, let our first care be for the Cape route, and secondly for the Mediterranean and Canal. The former route entails no complications, the latter endless ones, coupled with a precarious tenure. Look at the Mediterranean, and see how small is that sea on which we are apparently devoting the greater part of our attention. Aden should be made a Crown colony. The Resident, according to existing orders, reports to Bombay, and Bombay to that Simla Council, which knows and cares nothing for the question. A special regiment should be raised for its protection."
While stationed in the Mauritius, Gordon attained the rank of Major-General in the army, and another colonel of Engineers was sent out to take his place. During the last three months of his residence he filled, in addition to his own special post, that of the command of all the troops on the station, and at one time it seemed as if he might have been confirmed in the appointment. But this was not done, owing, as he suggested, to the "determination not to appoint officers of the Royal Artillery or Engineers to any command;" but a more probable reason was that Gordon had been inquiring about and had discovered that the colonists were not only a little discontented, but had some ground for their discontent. By this time Gordon's uncompromising sense of justice was beginning to be known in high official quarters, and the then responsible Government had far too many cares on its shoulders that could not be shirked to invite others from so remote and unimportant a possession as the Mauritius.
Even before any official decision could have been arrived at in this matter, fate had provided him with another destination.
Two passages have already been cited, showing the overtures first made by the Cape Government, and then by Gordon himself, for his employment in South Africa. Nothing came of those communications. On 23rd February 1882, when an announcement was made by myself that Gordon would vacate his command in a few weeks' time, the Cape Government again expressed its desire to obtain the use of his services, and moreover recollected the telegram to which no reply had been sent. Sir Hercules Robinson, then Governor of the Cape, sent the following telegram to the Colonial Secretary, the Earl of Kimberley:—
"Ministers request me to inquire whether H.M.'s Government would permit them to obtain the services of Colonel Charles Gordon. Ministers desire to invite Colonel Gordon to come to this Colony for the purpose of consultation as to the best measures to be adopted with reference to Basutoland, in the event of Parliament sanctioning their proposals as to that territory, and to engage his services, should he be willing to renew the offer made to their predecessors in April 1881, to assist in terminating the war and administering Basutoland."
Lord Kimberley then sent instructions by telegraph to Durban, and thence by steamer, sanctioning Gordon's employment and his immediate departure from the Mauritius. The increasing urgency of the Basuto question induced the Cape Government to send a message by telegraph to Aden, and thence by steamer direct to Gordon. In this message they stated that "the services of some one of proved ability, firmness, and energy," were required; that they did not expect Gordon to be bound by the salary named in his own telegram, and that they begged him to visit the Colony "at once"—repeating the phrase twice. All these messages reached Gordon's hands on 2nd April. Two days later he started in the sailing vessel Scotia, no other ship being obtainable.
The Cape authorities had therefore no ground to complain of the dilatoriness of the man to whom they appealed in their difficulty, although their telegram was despatched 3rd of March, and Gordon did not reach Cape Town before the 3rd of May. It will be quite understood that Gordon had offered in the first place, and been specially invited in the second place, to proceed to the Cape, for the purpose of dealing with the difficulty in Basutoland. He was to find that, just as his mission to China had been complicated by extraneous circumstances, so was his visit to the Cape to be rendered more difficult by Party rivalries, and by work being thrust upon him which he had several times refused to accept, and for the efficient discharge of which, in his own way, he knew he would never obtain the requisite authority.
Before entering upon this matter a few words may be given to the financial agreement between himself and the Cape Government. The first office in 1880 had carried with it a salary of L1500; in 1881 Gordon had offered to go for L700; in 1882 the salary was to be a matter of arrangement, and on arrival at Cape Town he was offered L1200 a year. He refused to accept more than L800 a year; but as he required and insisted on having a secretary, the other L400 was assigned for that purpose. In naming such a small and inadequate salary Gordon was under the mistaken belief that his imperial pay of L500 a year would continue, but, unfortunately for him, a new regulation, 25th June 1881, had come into force while he was buried away in the Mauritius, and he was disqualified from the receipt of the income he had earned. Gordon was very indignant, more especially because it was clear that he was doing public service at the Cape, while, as he said with some bitterness, if he had started an hotel or become director of a company, his pay would have gone on all the same. The only suggestion the War Office made was that he should ask the Cape Government to compensate him, but this he indignantly refused. In the result all his savings during the Mauritius command were swallowed up, and I believe I understate the amount when I say that his Cape experience cost him out of his own pocket from first to last five hundred pounds. That sum was a very considerable one to a man who never inherited any money, and who went through life scorning all opportunities of making it. But on this occasion he vindicated a principle, and showed that "money was not his object."
As Gordon went to the Cape specially for the purpose of treating the Basutoland question, it may be well to describe briefly what that question was. Basutoland is a mountainous country, difficult of access, but in resources self-sufficing, on the eastern side of the Orange Free State, and separated from Natal and Kaffraria, or the Transkei division of Cape Colony, by the sufficiently formidable Drakensberg range. Its population consisted of 150,000 stalwart and freedom-loving Highlanders, ruled by four chiefs—Letsea, Masupha, Molappo, and Lerothodi, with only the three first of whom had Gordon in any way to deal. Notwithstanding their numbers, courage, and the natural strength of their country, they owed their safety from absorption by the Boers to British protection, especially in 1868, and they were taken over by us as British subjects without any formality three years later. They do not seem to have objected so long as the tie was indefinite, but when in 1880 it was attempted to enforce the regulations of the Peace Preservation Act by disarming these clans, then the Basutos began a pronounced and systematic opposition. Letsea and Lerothodi kept up the pretence of friendliness, but Masupha fortified his chief residence at Thaba Bosigo, and openly prepared for war. That war had gone on for two years without result, and the total cost of the Basuto question had been four millions sterling when Gordon was summoned to the scene. Having given this general description of the question, it will be well to state the details of the matters in dispute, as set forth by Gordon after he had examined all the papers and heard the evidence of the most competent and well-informed witnesses.
His memorandum, dated 26th May 1882, read as follows:—
"In 1843 the Basuto chiefs entered into a treaty with Her Majesty's Government, by which the limits of Basutoland were recognised roughly in 1845. The Basuto chiefs agreed by convention with Her Majesty's Government to a concession of land on terminable leases, on the condition that Her Majesty's Government should protect them from Her Majesty's subjects.
"In 1848 the Basuto chiefs agreed to accept the Sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen, on the understanding that Her Majesty's Government would restrain Her Majesty's subjects in the territories they possessed.
"Between 1848 and 1852, notwithstanding the above treaties, a large portion of Basutoland was annexed by the proclamation of Her Majesty's Government, and this annexation was accompanied by hostilities, which were afterwards decided by Sir George Cathcart as being undertaken in support of unjustifiable aggression.
"In 1853, notwithstanding the treaties, Basutoland was abandoned, leaving its chiefs to settle as they could with the Europeans of the Free State who were settled in Basutoland and were mixed up with the Basuto people.
"In 1857, the Basutos asked Her Majesty's Government to arbitrate and settle their quarrels. This request was refused.
"In 1858 the Free State interfered to protect their settlers, and a war ensued, and the Free State was reduced to great extremities, and asked Her Majesty's Government to mediate. This was agreed to, and a frontier line was fixed by Her Majesty's Government.
"In 1865 another war broke out between the Free State and the Basutos, at the close of which the Basutos lost territory, and were accepted as British subjects by Her Majesty's Government for the second time, being placed under the direct government of Her Majesty's High Commissioner.
"In 1871 Basutoland was annexed to the Crown Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, without the Basutos having been consulted.
"In 1872 the Crown Colony became a colony with a responsible Government, and the Basutos were placed virtually under another power. The Basutos asked for representation in the Colonial Parliament, which was refused, and to my mind here was the mistake committed which led to these troubles.
"Then came constant disputes, the Disarmament Act, the Basuto War, and present state of affairs.
"From this chronology there are four points that stand out in relief:—
"1. That the Basuto people, who date back generations, made treaties with the British Government, which treaties are equally binding, whether between two powerful states, or between a powerful state and a weak one.
"2. That, in defiance of the treaties, the Basutos lost land.
"3. That, in defiance of the treaties, the Basutos, without being consulted or having their rights safeguarded, were handed over to another power—the Colonial Government.
"4. That that other power proceeded to enact their disarmament, a process which could only be carried out with a servile race, like the Hindoos of the plains of India, and which any one of understanding must see would be resisted to the utmost by any people worth the name; the more so in the case of the Basutos, who realised the constant contraction of their frontiers in defiance of the treaties made with the British Government, and who could not possibly avoid the conclusion that this disarmament was only a prelude to their extinction.
"The necessary and inevitable result of the four deductions was that the Basutos resisted, and remain passively resisting to this day.
"The fault lay in the British Government not having consulted the Basutos, their co-treaty power, when they handed them over to the Colonial Government. They should have called together a national assembly of the Basuto people, in which the terms of the transfer could have been quietly arranged, and this I consider is the root of all the troubles, and expenses, and miseries which have sprung up; and therefore, as it is always best to go to the root of any malady, I think it would be as well to let bygones be bygones, and to commence afresh by calling together by proclamation a Pitso of the whole tribe, in order to discuss the best means of sooner securing the settlement of the country. I think that some such proclamation should be issued. By this Pitso we would know the exact position of affairs, and the real point in which the Basutos are injured or considered themselves to be injured.
"To those who wish for the total abandonment of Basutoland, this course must be palatable; to those who wish the Basutos well, and desire not to see them exterminated, it must also be palatable; and to those who hate the name of Basutoland it must be palatable, for it offers a solution which will prevent them ever hearing the name again.
"This Pitso ought to be called at once. All Colonial officials ought to be absent, for what the colony wants is to know what is the matter; and the colony wishes to know it from the Basuto people, irrespective of the political parties of the Government.
"Such a course would certainly recommend itself to the British Government, and to its masters—the British people.
"Provided the demands of the Basutos—who will, for their own sakes, never be for a severing of their connection with the colony, in order to be eventually devoured by the Orange Free State—are such as will secure the repayment to the colony of all expenses incurred by the Colonial Government in the maintenance of this connection, and I consider that the Colonial Government should accept them.
"With respect to the Loyals, there are some 800 families, the cost of keeping whom is on an average one shilling per diem each family, that is L40 per diem, or L1200 per month, and they have been rationed during six months at cost of L7200. Their claims may therefore be said to be some L80,000. Now, if these 800 families (some say half) have claims amounting to L30 each individually (say 400 families at L30), L12,000 paid at once would rid the colony of the cost of subsistence of these families, viz. L600 a month (the retention of them would only add to the colonial expenditure, and tend to pauperise them).
"I believe that L30,000 paid at once to the Loyals would reduce their numbers to one-fourth what they are now. It is proposed to send up a Commission to examine into their claims; the Commission will not report under two months, and there will be the delay of administration at Cape Town, during all which time L1200 a month are being uselessly expended by the colony, detrimentally to the Loyals. Therefore I recommend (1) that the sum of L30,000 should be at once applied to satisfy the minor claims of the Loyals; (2) that this should be done at once, at same time as the meeting of the National Pitso.
"The effect of this measure in connection with the meeting of the National Pitso would be very great, for it would be a positive proof of the good disposition of the Colonial Government. The greater claims could, if necessary, wait for the Parliamentary Commission, but I would deprecate even this delay, and though for the distribution of the L30,000 I would select those on whom the responsibility of such distribution could be put, without reference to the Colonial Government, for any larger sums perhaps the colonial sanction should be taken.
"I urge that this measure of satisfying the Loyals is one that presses and cannot well wait months to be settled.
"In conclusion, I recommend (1) that a National Pitso be held; (2) that the Loyals should at once be paid off.
"I feel confident that by the recommendation No. 1 nothing could be asked for detrimental to colonial interests, whose Government would always have the right of amending or refusing any demands, and that by recommendation No. 2 a great moral effect would be produced at once, and some heavy expenses saved."
Attached to this memorandum was the draft of a proclamation to the chiefs, etc., of Basutoland, calling on them to meet in Pitso or National Assembly without any agent of the Colonial Government being present. It was not very surprising that such a policy of fairness and consideration for Basuto opinion, because so diametrically opposite to everything that Government had been doing, should have completely taken the Cape authorities aback, nor were its chances of being accepted increased by Gordon entrusting it to Mr Orpen, whose policy in the matter had been something more than criticised by the Ministers at that moment in power at the Cape. Gordon's despatch was in the hands of the Cape Premier early in June, and the embarrassment he felt at the ability and force with which the Basuto side of the question was put by the officer, who was to settle the matter for the Cape Government, was so great that, instead of making any reply, he passed it on to Lord Kimberley and the Colonial Office for solution. It was not until the 7th of August that an answer was vouchsafed to Gordon on what was, after all, the main portion of his task in South Africa. In the interval Gordon was employed on different military and administrative matters, for he had had thrust on him as a temporary charge the functions of Commandant-General of the Cape forces, which he had never wished to accept, but it will be clearer to the reader to follow to the end the course of his Basuto mission, which was the essential cause of his presence in South Africa.
On the 18th July the Ministers requested Gordon to go up to Basutoland. At that moment, and indeed for more than three weeks later, Gordon had received no reply to the detailed memorandum already quoted. He responded to this request with the draft of a convention that would "save the susceptibilities of Mr Orpen between whom and Masupha any entente would seem impossible." The basis of that convention was to be the semi-independence of the Basutos, but its full text must be given in order to show the consistency, as well as the simplicity, of Gordon's proposed remedy of a question that had gone on for years without any prospect of termination.
CONVENTION BETWEEN COLONY, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, AND THE CHIEF AND PEOPLE OF BASUTOLAND.
"The Colonial Government having nominated as their representatives, Colonel C. Griffiths and Dr J. W. Matthews, the Basuto nation having nominated the Chief Letsea Moshesh and Masupha Moshesh as their representatives, the following convention has been agreed upon between these representatives:—
"Art. 1. There shall be a complete amnesty on both sides to all who have taken part in the late hostilities.
"Art. 2. The question of the succession to Molappo Moshesh's chieftainship shall be decided by the Chief of the Basuto Nation.
"Art. 3. The Colonial Government engages to respect the integrity of the Basuto nation within the limits to be hereafter decided upon, and also to use its best endeavours to have these limits respected by the Orange Free State.
"Art. 4. The Colonial Government will appoint a Resident to the Basuto nation, with two sub-residents. The Resident will consult with the leading Chief of the Basuto Nation on all measures concerning the welfare of that country, but the government of the Basutos in all internal affairs will remain under the jurisdiction of the chiefs.
"Art. 5. The Supreme Council of Basutoland will consist of the leading chiefs and the Resident; the minor chiefs of Basutoland will form a council with the sub-residents. These minor councils can be appealed against by any non-content to the Supreme Council.
"Art. 6. A hut-tax will be collected of 10s. per hut by the chiefs, and will be paid to the Resident and sub-resident. The sum thus collected will be used in paying the Resident L2000 a year, all included: the sub-residents L1200 a year, all included; in providing for the education of people (now costing L3320 a year); in making roads, etc.
"Art. 7. The chiefs collecting hut-tax will be paid 10 per cent. of the sums they collect.
"Art. 8. The frontier line will be placed under headmen, who will be responsible that no thieving be permitted, that spoors are followed up. For this these headmen will be paid at the rate of L20 to L60 per annum, according to the length of frontier they are responsible for.
"Art. 9. All passes must be signed by Residents or sub-residents for the Orange Free State, or for the Cape Colony.
"Query—Would it be advisable to add chiefs and missionaries after sub-residents?
"Art. 10. Colonial warrants will be valid in Basutoland, the chiefs being responsible that prisoners are given up to Resident or sub-residents.
"Art. 11. All communications between Basutoland and the Orange Free State to be by and through the Resident.
"Art. 12. This Convention to be in quadruplicate, two copies being in possession of the Colonial Government, and two copies in possession of the Basuto chiefs.
"Art. 13. On signature of this Convention, and on the fulfilment of Art. 1, amnesty clause, the Colonial Government agrees to withdraw the military forces and the present magisterial administration."
To this important communication no answer was ever vouchsafed, but on 7th August, long after it was in the hands of Ministers, Mr Thomas Scanlan, the Premier, wrote a long reply to the earlier memorandum of 26th May. The writer began by quoting Lord Kimberley's remarks on that memorandum, which were as follows:—
"I have received the memorandum on the Basuto question by Major-General Gordon. I do not think it necessary to enter upon a discussion of the policy suggested in this memorandum, but it will doubtless be borne in mind by your Ministers that, as I informed you by my telegram of the 6th of May last, H.M.'s Government cannot hold out any expectation that steps will be taken by them to relieve the colony of its responsibilities in Basutoland."
The interpretation placed, and no doubt correctly placed, on that declaration of Government policy was that under no circumstances was it prepared to do anything in the matter, and that it had quite a sufficient number of troubles and worries without the addition of one in remote and unimportant Basutoland. Having thus got out of the necessity of discussing this important memorandum, under the cloak of the Colonial Office's decision in favour of inaction, the Premier went on to say that he was "most anxious to avoid the resumption of hostilities on the one hand or the abandonment of the territory on the other." There was an absolute ignoring in this statement of Gordon's deliberate opinion that the only way to solve the difficulty was by granting Basutoland semi-independence on the terms of a Convention providing for the presence of a British Resident, through whom all external matters were to be conducted. At the same time Mr Scanlan informed Gordon that he was sending up Mr Sauer, then Secretary for Native Affairs, who was a nominee of Mr Orpen, the politician whose policy was directly impugned.
On Mr Sauer reaching King William's Town, where Gordon was in residence at the Grand Depot of the Cape forces, he at once asked him to accompany him to Basutoland. Gordon at first declined to do this on two grounds, viz. that he saw no good could ensue unless the convention were granted, and also that he did not wish Mr Sauer, or any other representative of the Cape Government, as a companion, because he had learnt that "Masupha would only accept his proposed visit as a private one, and then only with his private secretary and two servants."
After some weeks' hesitation Gordon was induced by Mr Sauer to so far waive his objection as to consent to accompany him to Letsea's territory. This Basuto chief kept up the fiction of friendly relations with the Cape, but after Gordon had personally interviewed him, he became more than ever convinced that all the Basuto chiefs were in league. Mr Sauer was of opinion that Letsea and the other chiefs might be trusted to attack and able to conquer Masupha. There was no possibility of reconciling these clashing views, but Gordon also accompanied Mr Sauer to Leribe, the chief town of Molappo's territory, north of, and immediately adjoining that of, Masupha. Here Gordon found fresh evidence as to the correctness of his view, that all the Basuto leaders were practically united, and he wrote a memorandum, dated 16th September, which has not been published, showing the hopelessness of getting one chief to coerce the others. Notwithstanding the way he had been treated by the Cape Government, which had ignored all his suggestions, Gordon, in his intense desire to do good, and his excessive trust in the honour of other persons, yielded to Mr Sauer's request to visit Masupha, and not only yielded but went without any instructions or any prior agreement that his views were to prevail. The consequence was that Mr Sauer deliberately resolved to destroy Gordon's reputation as a statesman, and to ensure the triumph of his own policy by an act of treachery that has never been surpassed.
While Gordon went as a private visitor at the special invitation of Masupha to that chief's territory, Mr Sauer, who was well acquainted with Gordon's views, and also the direct author of Gordon's visit at that particular moment, incited Letsea to induce Lerothodi to attack Masupha. At the moment that the news of this act of treachery reached Masupha's ears, Gordon was a guest in Masupha's camp, and the first construction placed upon events by that chief was, that Gordon had been sent up to hoodwink and keep him quiet, while a formidable invasion was plotted of his territory. When Masupha reported this news to Gordon, he asked what he advised him to do, and it has been established that the object of the question was to ascertain how far Gordon was privy to the plot. Gordon's candid reply—"Refuse to have any dealings with the Government until the forces are withdrawn," and his general demeanour, which showed unaffected indignation, convinced Masupha of his good faith and innocence of all participation in the plot.
A very competent witness, Mr Arthur Pattison (letter in The Times, 20th August 1885), bears this testimony: "Gordon divined his character marvellously, and was the only man Masupha had the slightest regard for. Masupha, if you treat him straightforwardly, is as nice a man as possible, and even kind and thoughtful; but, if you treat him the other way, he is a fiend incarnate."
Had Masupha not been thus convinced, Gordon's death was decided on, and never in the whole course of his career, not even when among the Taepings on the day of the Wangs' murder in Soochow, nor among Suleiman's slave-hunters at Shaka, was he in greater peril than when exposed by the treacherous proceedings of Sauer and Orpen to the wrath of Masupha. On his return in safety he at once sent in his resignation, but those who played him false not merely never received their deserts for an unpardonable breach of faith to a loyal colleague, but have been permitted by a lax public opinion at the Cape to remain in the public service, and are now discharging high and responsible duties.
Gordon's mission to the leading Basuto chief, and the policy of conciliation which he consistently and ably advocated from the beginning to the end of his stay at the Cape, were thus failures, but they failed, as an impartial writer like Mr Gresswell says, solely because "of Mr Sauer's intrigues behind his back." It is only necessary to add what Gordon himself wrote on this subject on his return, and to record that practically the very policy he advocated was carried into force, not by the Cape Government, but over its head by the British Government, two years later, in the separation of Basutoland from the Cape Colony, and by placing it in its old direct dependence under the British Crown.
"I have looked over the Cape papers; the only thing that is misrepresented, so far as I could see in a ten minutes' glance at them, is that Sauer says I knew of his intentions of sending an expedition against Masupha. He puts it thus: 'Gordon knew that an expedition was being organised against Masupha.' He gives apparently three witnesses that I knew well. It is quite true; but read the words. I knew Sauer was going to try the useless expedient of an expedition against Masupha, and before he did so we agreed I should go and try and make peace. While carrying on this peace mission, Sauer sends the expedition. So you see he is verbally correct; yet the deduction is false; in fact, who would ever go up with peace overtures to a man who was to be attacked during those overtures, as Masupha was? Garcia knew well enough what a surprise it was to him and me when we heard Sauer was sending the expedition. Garcia was with me at the time."
And again, when at Jaffa, General Gordon adds further, on the 27th of July 1883:—
"I saw Masupha one day at 10 A.M., and spoke to him; Sauer was twenty miles away. At 1 P.M. I came back, and wrote to Sauer an account of what had passed; before I sent it off I received a letter from Sauer. I believe it is wished to be made out that Sauer wrote this letter after he had heard what had passed between Masupha and me. This is not the case, for Sauer, having let me go to Masupha, changed his mind and wrote the letter, but this letter had nothing to do with my interview with Masupha."
With this further quotation of Gordon's own words I may conclude the description of the Basuto mission, which, although deemed a failure at the time, was eventually the direct cause of the present administrative arrangement in that important district of South Africa.
"In order you should understand the position of affairs, I recall to your memory the fact that Scanlan, Merriman, and yourself all implied to me doubts of Orpen's policy and your desire to remove him; that I deprecated any such change in my favour; that I accepted the post of Commandant-General on Merriman's statement that the Government desired me to eradicate the red-tape system of the colonial forces; that I made certain reports to the Government upon the settlement of the Basuto question in May and July, showing my views; that the Government were aware of the great difference between my views and those of Orpen, both by letter and verbally to Merriman; also to my objections to go up. Sauer was told by me the same thing. I conversed with him en route, and I told him if I visited Masupha I could not afterwards fight him, for I would not go and spy upon his defences. Sauer asked me to go to Masupha; he knew my views; yet when I was there negotiating, he, or rather Orpen, moved Lerothodi to attack Masupha, who would, I believe, have come to terms respecting the acceptance of magistrates, a modified hut-tax, and border police. The reported movement of Lerothodi prevented my coming to any arrangement. I told Masupha, when he sent and told me of Lerothodi's advance, not to answer the Government until the hostile movements had ceased. The Government sent me up, knowing my views, and against my wish, and knowing I was not likely to mince matters. There are not more than two Europeans in Basutoland who believe in Orpen or his policy, while the natives have lost all confidence in him. Sauer shut his eyes to all this, and has thrown in his lot with Orpen. Masupha is a sincere man, and he does not care to have placed with him magistrates, against whom are complaints, which Sauer ignores. To show you I was in earnest, I offered to remain as magistrate with Masupha for two years, so much did I desire a settlement of the Basuto question. I did not want nor would I have taken the post of Governor's Agent. The chiefs and people desire peace, but not at any price. They have intelligence enough to see through wretched magistrates like some of those sent up into the native territories. They will accept a convention like the one I sent down to the Colonial Secretary on the 19th of July, and no other. I do not write this to escape being a scapegoat—in fact, I like the altar—only that you may know my views. As long as the present magistrates stay there, no chance exists for any arrangement. As to the Premier's remark that I would not fight against Masupha, is it likely I could fight against a man with whom I am life and soul? Would I fight against him because he would not be controlled by some men like —— and ——? Even suppose I could sink my conscience to do so, what issue would result from the action of undisciplined and insubordinate troops, who are difficult to keep in order during peace-time, and about whom, when I would have made an example of one officer, a Minister telegraphs to me to let him down easy. I beg to recall to you that Her Majesty's Government disapproved of the former Basuto war; therefore, why should I, who am an outsider to the colony, even pretend I could make war against a noble people, who resist magistrates of no capacity? The Government were well warned by me, and they cannot, therefore, plead being led astray."
Intimately connected with the Basuto question was the larger one of the right treatment to be generally extended to the natives, and on that subject General Gordon drew up, on 19th October 1882, the following masterly note, which elicited the admiration of one of the Cape Premiers, Mr Merriman, who said—"As a Colony we must try to follow out the ideas sketched by General Gordon."
The following is the full text of this interesting and valuable state paper:—
THE NATIVE QUESTION.
"1. The native question of South Africa is not a difficult one to an outsider. The difficulty lies in procuring a body of men who will have strength of purpose to carry out a definite policy with respect to the natives.
"2. The strained relations which exist between the colonist and the native are the outcome of employing, as a rule, magistrates lacking in tact, sympathy, and capacity to deal with the natives, in the Government not supervising the action of these magistrates, and in condoning their conduct, while acknowledging those faults which come to their cognisance.
"3. The Colonial Government act in the nomination of native magistrates as if their duties were such as any one could fulfil, instead of being, as they are, duties requiring the greatest tact and judgment. There can be no doubt but that in a great measure, indeed one may say entirely, disturbances among the natives are caused by the lack of judgment, or of honesty, or of tact, on the part of the magistrates in the native territories. There may be here and there good magistrates, but the defects of the bad ones re-act on the good ones. Revolt is contagious and spreads rapidly among the natives.
"4. One may say no supervision, in the full sense of the term, exists over the actions of magistrates in native territories. They report to headquarters what suits them, but unless some very flagrant injustice is brought to light, which is often condoned, the Government know nothing. The consequence is that a continual series of petty injustices rankle in the minds of the natives, eventually breaking out into a revolt, in the midst of which Government does not trouble to investigate the causes of such revolt, but is occupied in its suppression. The history of the South African wars is essentially, as Sir G. Cathcart puts it, "Wars undertaken in support of unjustifiable acts." Sir Harry Smith was recalled for supporting an inefficient official of the now Free State Territory. Any one who chooses can investigate the causes of the late wars, and will find out that they arose in a great measure from the ignorance of the Government, their support of incapable officials, and their weakness in not investigating causes before they proceeded to coercion.
"5. Government by coercion is essentially rotten. The Duke of Wellington said that any fool could govern by that means. And it is still more rotten when Government governs by the rule of coercion without the power of coercion except at great expense.
"6. A properly constituted Commission of independent men proceeding to the native territories, not accepting the hospitality of those whose conduct they go to investigate, not driving through the territories in hot haste, as is the manner of some Ministers, but a Commission who would patiently and fearlessly inquire into every detail of administration, into every grievance, is the sine qua non of any quiet in the native territories. This Commission should detail on brass plates the modus vivendi, the limits of territory of each district chief, and a body of trustees should be appointed to watch over any infraction of such charter.
"7. It must be borne in mind that these native territories cost the Colony for administration some L9000 per annum for administration of magistracies; the receipts are some L3000, leaving a deficit of some L6000 per annum. To this deficit has to be added some L150,000 for regular troops. The last rebellion of Transkei ended in capture of some L60,000 worth of cattle, and that from natives of Colony driven into rebellion, and cost Government of Colony with Basuto war nearly L4,000,000. It is surely worth while, from a financial point of view, to investigate the administration of the Transkei.
"8. The present state of the Transkei is one of seething discontent and distrust which the rivalry of the tribes alone prevents breaking out into action, to be quelled again at great expense and by the ruin of the people, and upset of all enterprise to open up the country. Throughout the Transkei is one general clamour against the Government for broken promises, for promises made and never kept. Magistrates complain no answers are given to their questions; things are allowed to drift along as best they can. A fair open policy towards the Pondos would obtain from them all the Colony could require, but as things are now, the Pondos are full of distrust, and only want the chance to turn against the Colony. There are in Transkei 399,000 natives, and 2800 Europeans. Therefore, for the benefit of these 2800 Europeans, 399,000 natives are made miserable, and an expenditure of L210,000 is incurred by the Colony with the probability of periodical troubles.
"9. However disagreeable it might be, the Commission of Investigation should inquire into the antecedents of each magistrate, and also his capabilities.
"10. With respect to Basutoland, it is understood that no revenue from that country is to go to the Colony, therefore it can be no object to Colony to insist on the installation of magistrates in that country. If the magistrates of Transkei are the cause of discontent among the natives, then what object is there in insisting on their installation in Basutoland? The Pondos, a far inferior people, are happy under their own chiefs—far happier than the natives of Transkei. Why should the Colony insist on sending men who are more likely to goad the Basutos into rebellion than anything else? The administration of Basutoland is on a scale costing L30,000 per annum.
"11. It is argued that should the Colony go to war with Masupha the other chiefs would hold aloof. This is quite erroneous. A war with Masupha means a war with the Basuto nation, with a rising in the Transkei, and perhaps in Pondoland, and would affect Natal and Her Majesty's Government.
"12. The only remedy is the sending up of his Excellency the Governor, or of some high neutral officer, to Basutoland, and the calling together of the people to decide on their future government and connection with Colony. Or, should the British Government refuse this small concession, which could not involve it, then the Colony should send up an independent Commission to meet the Basuto people, and arrange a modus vivendi. Whichever course is followed it is a sine qua non that the present officials in Basutoland should be relieved at once, as they have lost the confidence both of Europeans and natives. The Basutos desire peace, and it is an error to describe their demeanour as aggressive. It is not unnatural that after what they have suffered from the hands of Colonial Government they should desire at least as nearly as much self-government as the Pondos enjoy. Certainly the present magisterial administration of the Transkei is very far from being a blessing, or conducive to peace.
"13. Nothing can possibly be worse than the present state of affairs in native administration, and the interests of the Colony demand a vertebrate government of some sort, whoever it may be composed of, instead of the invertebrate formation that is now called a government, and which drifts into and creates its own difficulties.
C. G. GORDON.
"October 19, 1882.
"P.S.—Should Her Majesty's Government manage to arrange with Basutos in a satisfactory manner, 10,000 splendid cavalry could be counted on as allies in any contingencies in Natal, etc."
The vital part of Gordon's Cape experiences was the Basuto mission, and as it is desirable that it should not be obscured by other matters, I will only touch briefly on his work as Commandant-General, apart from that he performed as Adviser to the Cape Government in the Basuto difficulty. The post of Commandant-General was forced upon him in the first weeks of his arrival from the Mauritius by the combined urgency of Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor, and Mr Merriman, then Premier. Much against his inclination, Gordon agreed to fill the post thus thrust upon him, but only for a time. It entailed an infinity of work and worry. His instructions were to break up a red-tape system, and such a task converted every place-holder into his enemy. Still that opposition rather made his task attractive than otherwise, but in a little time he found that this opposition would not stop short of insubordination, and that to achieve success it would be necessary to cashier a good many officers as a wholesome example. It was while matters were in this preliminary stage that Mr Merriman's ministry went out of office, and was succeeded by another under Mr Scanlan. The measures which were favoured by the one were opposed by the other, and Gordon soon saw that the desire for a thorough reorganisation of the Cape forces, which, if properly supported, he could have carried out, was no longer prevalent among the responsible Ministers. Still he drew up an elaborate programme for the improvement of the Colonial Regular forces, by which they might be increased in numbers and improved in efficiency, at the same time that the annual expenditure was reduced. This document shows that mastery of detail which was one of his most striking characteristics, and if his advice had been taken, the Cape would have acquired nearly 4000 troops at no greater cost than it already expended on 1600. In a second memorandum, he not only showed the necessity existing for that larger force, but also how, by administrative alterations in the Transkeian provinces, its cost might be diminished and most conveniently discharged. Although I do not quote these two documents, I cannot help saying that Gordon, in the whole course of his life, never wrote anything more convincing than the advice he gave the Cape Government, which, owing to local jealousies and the invincible bulwark of vested interests, was never carried into effect, although the Basuto question was subsequently composed on Gordon's lines by the Imperial Government, and there has been peace there during all the other South African troubles.
The closing passages between Gordon and the Cape Ministers need only be briefly referred to. Gordon resigned because he saw he could do no good in Basutoland; the Cape Premier accepted his resignation because Gordon "would not fight the Basutos." The intercommunications were much more numerous, but that is their pith. Gordon came down to Cape Town and sailed for England on 14th October, after having been five and a half months in South Africa. He had been treated by the Cape authorities without any regard for justice, and little for courtesy. The leading paper even admitted this much when it observed that "at least General Gordon was entitled to the treatment of a gentleman." But the plain truth was that Gordon was summoned to South Africa and employed by the Government, not as was ostentatiously proclaimed, and as he himself believed, for the attainment of a just solution of the Basuto difficulty, and for the execution of much-needed military reforms, but in order that his military experience and genius might be invoked for the purpose of overthrowing Masupha and of annexing Basutoland, which two years of war and five millions of money had failed to conquer. Hence their disappointment and resentment when Gordon proclaimed that justice was on the side of Masupha; that under no circumstances would he wage war with him; and that the whole origin of the trouble lay in the bad policy, the incompetent magistrates, and the insubordinate military officers of the Cape Government. The indictment was a terrible one; it was also true in every line and every particular.
Having thus vindicated his own character, as well as the highest principles of Government, Gordon left the Cape a poorer and a wiser man than he was on his arrival. I have explained the personal loss he incurred through the inadequacy of his pay and the cutting-off of his army allowance. It has been stated that when he had taken his passage for England he was without any money in his pocket, and that he quaintly said to a friend: "Do you think it is right for a Major-General of the British Army to set out on a journey like this without sixpence in his pocket?" There is nothing improbable in such an occurrence, and it was matched only sixteen months later, when he was on the point of starting for Khartoum in the same impecunious condition.
Gordon arrived in England on 8th November, and after some correspondence with the King of the Belgians, which will be referred to later in connection with the Congo mission, he again left England on 26th December. On this occasion he was going to carry out a long-cherished desire to visit and reside in the Holy Land, so that he might study on the spot the scenes with which his perfect knowledge of the Bible—his inseparable companion—had made him in an extraordinary degree familiar. In the best sense of the word, he was going to take a holiday. There was to be absolute quiet and rest, and at the same time a congenial occupation. He sailed for Jaffa as a guest on one of Sir William Mackinnon's steamers, but he at once proceeded to Jerusalem, where he lived alone, refusing to see any one, with his books as companions, and "mystifying people as to what he was doing." During his stay at Jerusalem he entered with much zest and at great length into the questions of the various sites in the old Jewish capital. I do not propose to follow the course of his labours in that pursuit, as several works contain between them, I should say, every line he wrote on the subject, and the general reader cannot be expected to take any interest in abstruse and much-debated theological and topographical questions. But even in the midst of these pursuits he did not lose his quickness of military perception. After a brief inspection he at once declared that the Russian Convent commanded the whole city, and was in itself a strong fortress, capable of holding a formidable garrison, which Russia could despatch in the guise of priests without any one being the wiser. From Jerusalem, when the heat became great, he returned to Jaffa, and his interest aroused in worldly matters by the progress of events in Egypt, and the development of the Soudan danger, which he had all along seen coming, was evoked by a project that was brought under his notice for the construction across Palestine of a canal to the head of the Gulf of Akabah. In a letter to myself he thus dilates upon the scheme:—
"Here is the subject which I am interested in if it could be done. The reasons are:—
"1. We are in Egypt supporting an unpopular sovereign, whose tenure ends with departure of our troops. We offer no hope to the people of any solace by this support, and by the supporting of the Turco-Circassian Pashas, who I know by experience are hopeless. We neither govern nor take responsibility; yet we support these vampires.
"2. We are getting mixed up with the question of whether the interest of L90,000,000 will be paid or not.
"3. We are mixed up with the Soudan, where we provoked the rebellion, and of the responsibility of which government we cannot rid ourselves.
"4. We are in constant and increasing hot water with the French, and we gain no benefit from it, for the Canal will remain theirs.
* * * * *
"On the other hand, if we get a Firman from Sultan for the Palestine Canal—
"1. We lose the sacred sites of Jordan River, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Tiberias, Jericho, not Engedi.
"2. We swamp a notoriously unhealthy valley, where there are no missions.
"3. We cut off the pest of the country of Palestine, the Bedouins.
"4. We are free of all four objections in re occupation of Egypt.
"5. We gain the fertile lands of Moab and Ammon.
"6. Cyprus is 150 miles from the Mediterranean debouche.
"7. We get a waterway for large ships to within fifty miles of Damascus.
"8. We can never be bothered by any internal commotion, except for the twenty-five miles from Haifa to Tiberias, for the waterway of the Canal would be ten miles wide, except in Arabah Valley, where there are on both sides wastes and deserts.
"9. We get rid of unhealthiness of a narrow cut with no current, which is the case with Suez Canal now, where the mud is pestilential from ships' refuse and no current.
"10. It would isolate Palestine, render it quiet from Bedouins; it would pave the way to its being like Belgium, under no Great Power, for religious views would be against Palestine ever being owned by a Great Power.
"11. Up the ladder of Tyre to Gaza would be 10,000 square miles; population 130,000, quite a small country.
"Do not quote me if you write this. Oddly enough, Ezekiel xlvii. 10 seems to say the Dead Sea shall have fish like the great Sea (i.e. Mediterranean). Zechariah xiv. speaks of two rivers, one going to Dead Sea, the other to Mediterranean.
"The cost would be—
Canal from Haifa to Jordan, L2,000,000 Compensation to Jordan peoples, 1,000,000 Canal through Akabah, 6,000,000 Ports at Haifa, 1,000,000 Ports at Akabah, 500,000 ___
say, twelve to fifteen millions, and what a comfort to be free of Egypt and Soudan for ever!
"Revenue, Palestine, L120,000, of which L80,000 goes to Sultan. Do not quote me, for I have written part of this to Mr W. (the late Sir William) Mackinnon of B.I.S.N.C., besides which H.M. Government may object. You may say you had a letter from a correspondent."
He wrote in a similar strain to other correspondents, but I have never succeeded in discovering whether, from an engineering point of view, the scheme was at all feasible. It seems to me that its suggestion is somewhat destructive of Gordon's own declarations as to the superior merits of the Cape route, nor does Sir Henry Gordon much strengthen the case when, perceiving the inconsistency, he goes out of his way to declare that Gordon only meant the Palestine canal to be a commercial route. Any attempt to limit its usefulness could not destroy the character claimed for it by its promoters, as an equally short and more secure route than that by Suez. Yet it needs no gift of second sight to predict that when any project of rivalry to the masterpiece of Lesseps is carried out, it will be by rail to the Persian Gulf, whether the starting-point be the Bosphorus or the Levant.
In the midst of his interesting researches near Mount Carmel, a summons from the outer world reached Gordon in the form of a letter from Sir William Mackinnon, telling him that the King of the Belgians now called on him to fulfil a promise he had made some years before.
When Gordon first returned from the Cape the King of the Belgians wrote, reminding him of his old promise, dating from 1880, to enter into his service on the Congo, and stating that the difficulty of having an internationally recognised Congo flag, which Gordon had made a sine qua non of his appointment, could be most speedily solved by Gordon joining him as counsellor at once. This Gordon could not agree to, and he went to Palestine, there to await the King's summons, which came by Sir William Mackinnon's note in October 1883. It then became necessary for Gordon to obtain the official permission of his Government to take up this post, of the exact nature of which the Foreign Office had been already informed, both by General Gordon and King Leopold.
Gordon at once telegraphed to the War Office for the leave rendered necessary by his being on the active list, and that Department replied, asking for particulars. When these were furnished through the Foreign Office the decision was announced that "the Secretary of State declines to sanction your employment on the Congo." The telegraph clerk, more discerning or considerate than Her Majesty's Government, altered "declines" into "decides," and Gordon, in happy ignorance of the truth, proceeded with all possible despatch via Acre and Genoa to Brussels, which he reached on New Year's Day, 1884. That very night he wrote me a short note saying, "I go (D.V.) next month to the Congo, but keep it secret." Such things cannot be kept secret, and four days later a leading article in The Times informed his countrymen of Gordon's new mission.
On reaching Brussels the mistake in the telegram was discovered, and Gordon here learnt that his Congo mission was vetoed. Then came the difficulty to know what was to be done. Without leave he could not go anywhere without resigning his commission; he was not qualified for a pension, and there were engagements he had voluntarily contracted that he would not see broken, and persons who would suffer by his death, whose interests he was in every way bound to safeguard. Therefore, if he was to carry out his engagement with the King of the Belgians, it was obviously necessary that he should resign the British Army, and that the King should compensate him for his loss. The King said at once: "Retire from the army and I will compensate you," but in a matter of such importance to others Gordon felt nothing should be left to chance, and that a definite contract should be made. For this he had neither the patience nor the business knowledge, and he delegated the task of arranging the matter to his brother, Sir Henry Gordon, who negotiated with the late Sir William Mackinnon as representing the King. They agreed that the value of Gordon's pension if commuted would be L7288, and the King of the Belgians was to provide that sum, which was to be paid into a trust fund. In this and every other matter the King behaved towards Gordon in the most generous and cordial manner, furnishing a marked contrast with the grudging and parsimonious spirit of the British Government towards Gordon in China, at the Cape, and now again when destined for the Congo.
All the arrangements connected with this subject were made in three days, and while Gordon gave instructions for his will to be prepared for the disposal of the trust fund after his death, he wrote the same day (6th January) to Mr H. M. Stanley, then acting for the King on the Congo, announcing his own appointment, offering to "serve willingly with or under him," and fixing his own departure from Lisbon for 5th of February. Dis aliter visum. For the moment he worked up some enthusiasm in his task. "We will kill the slave-traders in their haunts"; and again, "No such efficacious means of cutting at root of slave trade ever was presented as that which God has, I trust, opened out to us through the kind disinterestedness of His Majesty," are passages in the same letter, yet all the time there is no doubt his heart and his thoughts were elsewhere. They were in the Soudan, not on the Congo.
The night of this letter he crossed from Brussels, and went straight to his sister's house, long the residence, and, practically speaking, the home of his family, 5 Rockstone Place, Southampton. On the 7th of the month—that is, the same day as he arrived—he wrote the formal letter requesting leave to resign his commission in the Queen's army, and also stating, with his usual candour, that King Leopold II. had guaranteed him against any pecuniary loss. To that letter it may at once be stated that no reply was ever sent. Even the least sympathetic official could not feel altogether callous to a voluntary proposition to remove the name of "Chinese" Gordon from the British army list, and the sudden awakening of the public to the extraordinary claims of General Gordon on national gratitude, and his special fitness to deal with the Soudan difficulty warned the authorities that a too rigid application of office rules would not in his case be allowed. By no individual effort, as has been too lightly granted by some writers, but by the voice of the British people was it decided that not only should Gordon have leave to go to the Congo, without resigning his commission, but also that he should be held entitled to draw his pay as a British general while thus employed. But this was not the whole truth, although I have no doubt that the arrangement would have been carried out in any case. In their dilemma the Government saw a chance of extrication in the person of Gordon, the one man recognised by the public and the press as capable of coping with a difficulty which seemed too much for them. The whole truth, therefore, was that the Congo mission was to wait until after Gordon had been sent to, and returned from, the Soudan. He was then to be placed by the British Government entirely at the disposal of the King of the Belgians. As this new arrangement turned on the assent of the King, it was vital to keep it secret during the remainder of the 15th and the whole of the 16th of that eventful January.
When Gordon arrived at Waterloo Station, at a little before two o'clock on 15th January, and was met there by myself, I do not think that he knew definitely what was coming, but he was a man of extraordinary shrewdness, and although essentially unworldly, could see as clearly and as far through a transaction as the keenest man of business. What he did know was that the army authorities were going to treat him well, but his one topic of conversation the whole way to Pall Mall was not the Congo but the Soudan. To the direct question whether he was not really going, as I suspected, to the Nile instead of the Congo, he declared he had no information that would warrant such an idea, but still, if the King of the Belgians would grant the permission, he would certainly not be disinclined to go there first. I have no doubt that those who acted in the name of the Ministry in a few minutes discovered the true state of his mind, and that Gordon then and there agreed, on the express request of the Government of Mr Gladstone, to go and see the King, and beg him to suspend the execution of his promise until he had gone to the Soudan to arrest the Mahdi's career, or to relieve the Egyptian garrisons, if the phrase be preferred. It should also be stated that Gordon's arrangement with the King of the Belgians was always coupled with this proviso, "provided the Government of my own country does not require my services." The generosity of that sovereign in the matter of the compensation for his Commission did not render that condition void, and however irritating the King may have found the circumstances, Gordon broke neither the spirit nor the letter of his engagement with his Majesty by obeying the orders of his own Government.