The Malagasys were unique in that since 1869 they had become definitely a Christian State, and a State Christianized by English missionaries, and this fact was impressively brought home to Sir Charles by a scene which he afterwards (in 1886) thus described in a public lecture:
"At Westminster Abbey there came in to the Morning Service the whole of the members of the Madagascar Embassy, which had just come to London from France. The two Malagasy Ambassadors were at the head of the party. They sat very silently through the service, which the senior Ambassador did not understand at all, and which the second Ambassador only partly understood, until a hymn which had been given out was sung, when, recognizing the familiar tune, the two Ambassadors and the whole of their secretaries struck boldly in with the Malagasy words. There could be no better instant proof, to anyone who saw the scene, of their familiarity with the missionary teaching of England and America, and of the extent to which, though separated from us by language, they look upon themselves as members of the Christian Church."
In 1882-83 Sir Charles failed to interest his colleagues in the matter, till on August 22nd, 1883, just before Parliament was prorogued, the Cabinet had to discuss 'what was known as the Tamatave incident, which nearly brought England and France to war over matters growing out of the French operations in Madagascar.'
The town of Tamatave had been bombarded and occupied by the French in June. The matter was aggravated by the treatment of the British Consul and of a British missionary, and difficulties were made as to adequate apology and indemnity.
'In the course of September I had frequent interviews with Fitzmaurice at the Foreign Office with regard to Madagascar.... Lord Granville wrote to me, about the middle of October, that (the French Ambassador) Waddington "professed to have a solution of the Tamatave" difficulty, and on the 22nd a Cabinet was called with regard to the Tamatave difficulty, Egypt, and South Africa. The French despatch from Challemel to Waddington was most unsatisfactory.'
Another Cabinet having been summoned for October 25th, Harcourt wrote: "I have heard nothing about its cause or object, but conjecture that it is Granville's Cabinet for France.... It is ominous Northbrook (First Lord of the Admiralty) being a principal assistant. I am myself for being stiff with France."
'The Cabinet was upon the two points of Tamatave and withdrawal from Egypt, but, in the absurd way in which Cabinets behave when summoned upon important questions, we spent most of our time in discussing a scheme of Lefevre's for widening Parliament Street; Mr. Gladstone wishing to widen King Street and to make a fork. A Committee was appointed on the matter, to consist of Harcourt, Childers, Lefevre, Northbrook, and myself. Hartington came late as usual, and on his arrival our Tamatave despatch was discussed.'
The complete destruction of the native State and dynasty did not come at this time, and French "protection" of Madagascar was only recognized by Lord Salisbury's Government in 1890. But the encroachments of France led in this year to further friction, arising from their conflict for the possession of Tonquin. On November 17th the Cabinet discussed 'the protection of British subjects in China in view of a French attack on the Chinese Empire, and decided to concert measures with Germany and the United States.' On the 19th they proposed to France mediation in the Chinese difficulty, 'with the full expectation that it would be refused.'
'On December 7th there was a paragraph in the Times in large type intended to reassure the French, by stating that our interference in China to protect our own subjects was not combined with Germany in particular. The paragraph, although it may have been wanted, was untrue. We had combined our action with the Germans, and then found it was resented by the French.'
So dissension grew at a pace which enabled Bismarck to turn his attention from European politics, and, in one of his many meetings with Count Herbert, Sir Charles reports that about the second week in November
'I had a conversation with H. Bismarck about his father. He said that the Prince had turned as yellow as a guinea, and could not now work more than an hour at a time, and that the only thing on which he troubled himself was his workman's insurance scheme.'
EGYPT AFTER TEL-EL-KEBIR SEPTEMBER, 1882, TO DECEMBER, 1883
'On September 19th, 1882, at noon we had a conference at the War Office with regard to the future of Egypt, at which were present Lord Granville, Childers, Sir Auckland Colvin, and myself, and which was followed afterwards by a further conference, when there were admitted to us Pauncefote for the Foreign Office and Sir Louis Mallet for the India Office, Admiral Sir Cooper Key for the Admiralty, Sir F. Thompson, Permanent Under-Secretary for War, and Generals Sir Andrew Clarke and Sir Henry Norman for the War Office. In preparation for the conference I had stirred up Lord Granville as to the volunteering of Indian Moslem troops for the Khedive's guard. But Lord Granville in his reply to me was more concerned with abusing my handwriting in choice language than with answering my questions. Hartington, however, had telegraphed to India for me on the 17th to ask the opinion of the Indian Government on the point. Harcourt, writing from Balmoral on the 19th, said: "If you have any ideas on the settlement of Egypt, I wish you would let me have them. I confess I am myself in nubibus, and I do not find that my betters are much more enlightened. I am constantly asked here what we are going to propose, and I do not know what to say. I have written to Mr. G. and to Lord G. to ask for light, but I should like to have your own personal views as to what is practicable. I think we must cut the cord between Egypt and Turkey, but one cannot conceal from oneself that the consequences will be serious, and may lead to far-reaching complications. The one good thing is that Bismarck is honestly friendly, and I believe will support us in whatever we propose. Austria seems to be almost as nasty as Russia, and France naturally jealous. I suppose Bismarck can and will keep Austria in order. Please write me a real letter on these knotty points."
'Our Egyptian conference decided upon free navigation of the Canal, or, in other words, that ships of war were to pass at all times; on increased influence for England on the Directorate of the Canal; and on the destruction of the Egyptian fortresses. Childers promised to prepare a scheme for taking over the Egyptian railroads. A paper by us was printed for the use of the Cabinet on October 20th, in which we stated our views about the Canal, and incidentally our decision against a British protectorate of Egypt. The arrangement proposed by us was pretty much that afterwards agreed upon by the Powers.'
Before this paper was issued Sir Charles had seen Emile Ollivier, who, as a legal adviser of the Khedive, 'had great knowledge of the affairs of the Suez Canal':
'I possess the draft of a full memorandum of Ollivier's conversation which I sent to Lord Granville, and which represented his private protests to Lesseps and his argument to the Khedive. Ollivier, who was more English than French in the matter, accepted the position that by the Khedival decree of August 14th England had been substituted for the Khedive in all measures for the re-establishment of order in Egypt, and that it was under this decree that we occupied the ends of the Canal as the delegates of the Khedive; therefore there was no violation of the neutrality, and when the Canal Company on August 19th set up as a new Great Power, and addressed to the Khedive a diplomatic note, their arguments became nonsensical, inasmuch as they virtually argued that the Khedive himself had violated his own neutrality by an internal act. Moreover, the neutrality of the Canal had never been declared at all. The word "neutral" was indeed found in the original concession, but it evidently meant that the Company was not to give to one Power an advantage not given to others as regards trade and passage. Lesseps had set up the Canal as a new Great Power, whereas it was only an Egyptian Limited Company.
'Even, however, if the Canal had been neutral, Ollivier would have argued against the Company that the suppression of an internal rebellion in the Khedive's name, at his request, was not war or violation of neutrality. It was the duty of the Khedive to suppress rebellion, and the duty of the Canal as an Egyptian Company to aid, and not to impede, as it had impeded, the lawful action of the Egyptian ruler through his representatives. It had not been contended by the Porte, as the overlord of the Khedive, that the Khedive had not power to delegate authority to England to suppress Arabi's rebellion. The Porte had delegated to France power to suppress the rebellion in Syria in 1860 in its name. Lesseps seemed to think that it was within the power of the Khedive to delegate to him sovereignty over the Canal, and not in his power to delegate to anybody else the suppression of a rebellion.'
A casual reference at this point recalls the fact that the Khedive's dethroned predecessor was still moving about the world and capable of causing trouble. Sir Charles went abroad for his autumn vacation:
'In Paris' (in the middle of October) 'I found a letter from Lord Granville as to a visit which the ex-Khedive Ismail proposed to pay to London. Lord Granville said that the Government could not object to his "coming to this country. But at this moment his arrival would be misunderstood, and any civilities, which in other circumstances they would be desirous to show to His Highness, would lead to misconstruction."' [Footnote: 'In November, 1883, the ex-Khedive had come to London, and when asked to see him, at his wish, I at first refused, but as, after he clearly understood that I knew him to be a rascal, he wished to see me "all the same," I saw him privately at Lady Marian Alford's house in Kensington; but he had little to say, and seemed very stupid.' ]
'I was at this time in correspondence with my friend d'Estournelles, [Footnote: Baron d'Estournelles de Constant.] who was Acting Resident at Tunis, as to the capitulations. In the course of his letter d'Estournelles expressed his bitter regret that France had not gone to Egypt with us.'
When Sir Charles came back to London from France on October 20th, the Cabinet was still vacillating as to its Egyptian policy:
'I had found on my return that nothing had been done towards setting up such an Egyptian Army as could take the place of our own, although Sir Charles Wilson, Colonel Valentine Baker, Baring, [Footnote: Major Evelyn Baring, afterwards Lord Cromer, was then Financial Member of Council in India. Sir Charles Wilson (Colonel Wilson) must not be confounded with Sir Charles Rivers Wilson. Colonel Valentine Baker was head of the Egyptian Gendarmerie.] and others, had written memoranda upon the subject. Baring, in the course of his memorandum, strongly defended the honesty, humanity, and conscience of the Khedive, and opposed annexation and protectorate. On the whole, Baring's memorandum was a better one than that of his relative Lord Northbrook, or that of Lord Dufferin, which afterwards attracted much attention. Chamberlain and I discussed on Saturday, October 21st, a letter to me from Labouchere, in which the latter seemed to take a different view from that recorded above. Labouchere said that the dissatisfaction with the Egyptian policy was growing, that we seemed to be administering Egypt mainly for the good of the bondholders. He was a bondholder, so it could not be said that he was personally prejudiced against such a policy. But he was sure that it would not go down.
'He went on to recommend the policy which I was in fact maintaining— namely, that we should warn off other Powers, hand Egypt over to the Egyptians, but, establishing our own influence over the Canal, remain masters of the position so far as we needed to do so. Chamberlain wrote on Labouchere's letter: "I am convinced the war was submitted to rather than approved by Radicals, and, unless we can snub the bondholders in our reorganization scheme, we may suffer for it. I have written a long paper upon the subject, and sent it to Mr. G. I have arranged for a copy to be sent you."'
A further Cabinet held on Saturday, October 21st, "decided" (so Sir Charles noted in his Diary at the moment) "to be very civil to the French —too civil by half, I think. They rejected a complicated scheme of Lord Granville's, and substituted a single English (not to be so expressed) controller (not to be so called)."
At this moment the autumn Session was approaching, in which the thorny subject of reforming Parliamentary procedure must be disposed of, and the Cabinet were preoccupied with this till 6 p.m. on October 23rd. They
'scamped their work on the draft despatch to Lord Lyons as to what he was to tell the French as to Egypt, and so made a wretched job of it. At night I pointed this out to Lord Granville, and told him that the despatch was slipslop, and on the next day, October 24th, I managed to get a good many changes made—one by telegraph, and the others by an amending despatch.'
'Chamberlain's view of Lord Granville's proposals was that they were childishly insincere. Europe would not be deceived into believing them to be anything more than a proposal to restore the old system in its entirety, with an English nominee as controller in place of the dual control. Nothing, Chamberlain thought, was being done to develop Egyptian interests or promote Egyptian liberties.
'Chamberlain was absent from some of the Cabinets at this moment, detained at Birmingham by the gout, but his memorandum was sent round the Cabinet. He was, however, in London on October 24th to assist me in somewhat improving the despatch. His memoranda show the strong view he held that, in spite of the almost unanimous approval of the Press, the war had not been popular, but had only been accepted on the authority of Mr. Gladstone as a disagreeable necessity; and that dissatisfaction existed upon several points, but above all with regard to the civil reorganization of the country. "There is great anxiety lest after all the bondholders should be the only persons who have profited by the war, and lest the phrases which have been used concerning the extension of Egyptian liberties should prove to have no practical meaning." Chamberlain thought that our first duty was to our principles and our supporters rather than towards other Powers, and that, if the other Powers insisted upon financial control, we should at least put forward as our own the legitimate aspirations of Egyptian national sentiment. Chamberlain refused to believe that an Egyptian Chamber would repudiate the debt, inasmuch as such a course of action would at once render them liable to interference by the Great Powers.'
'On October 27th, 1882, there was a dinner at Lord Granville's, at which I met Lords Hartington, Kimberley, and Northbrook' (representing India, the Colonies, and the Admiralty). 'I noted with regard to Egypt:
'"Chamber of Notables: decided to do nothing, at which I am furious. What do four peers know about popular feeling?"'
In view of the temper of the House of Commons, Sir Charles Dilke warned Lord Granville by letter of the danger that the Fourth Party might carry "the mass of the Tories" with Liberals on a cry for the "liberties of the Egyptian people." Considerable delay was occasioned by negotiations as to whether Arabi and his associates should or should not be represented by European counsel at their trial, and in the interval rumours were set afloat as to ill usage of them in prison.
'I had had in the course of this week a good deal of trouble in the House of Commons, caused by a sensational telegram in the Daily News, and a letter from a Swiss Arabist in the Times containing most ridiculous lies as to the treatment of political prisoners in Egypt, but believed by our supporters, who were backed up by the Fourth Party.'
These attacks involved the British Agent-General in Egypt, and Sir Edward Malet felt the situation cruelly. He telegraphed home begging to be relieved from the sole responsibility.
'On Sunday, October 29th, 1882, Lord Granville, with the gout, got the French refusal of our proposals, and the bad news from the Soudan' (where the Mahdi was laying siege to El Obeid, the capital of Kordofan). 'He called a Cabinet, but only five Ministers were in town, so it was decided that it was not to be called a Cabinet.'
'On Tuesday, October 31st, the Queen, who had at first approved of the idea of Dufferin being sent to Egypt to supersede Malet, had now been turned against him by Wolseley, who was staying with her, and, not having seen the telegrams of the 27th, because we had made them into private telegrams and kept them back, told us that she thought that to send Dufferin was bad treatment of Malet. We had therefore to send her Malet's telegrams in order to persuade her that it was necessary that Dufferin should go.'
'On Monday, November 6th, there was held at the House of Commons, by Lord Granville's wish, a meeting at which were present, besides Lord Granville and myself, Hartington, Childers, Harcourt, Chamberlain, and Dodson. We met to consider a further violent refusal by France of all our proposals. Chamberlain and Harcourt were strong in the one sense, and Hartington in the other, while Childers and Dodson sat meek like mice. Hartington was fiercely for the old control, Harcourt and Chamberlain against all control, and no one except Lord Granville in favour of the proposals which were actually made, and Lord Granville a man who constitutionally would always prefer a compromise to a clear course. None of them knew what to do. I noted that I wished they would not first agree upon some foolish course, and then call me in when it had been taken beyond all possibility of alteration. When I was talking to Brett afterwards, he said of his chief, Hartington, that it was somewhat a pity that, being so violent as he always was in Cabinet, he should frequently forget what his opinions were on particular questions, as, for example, closure and county franchise.'
'Brett also told me that the Queen, to whom, he said, Lord Granville had had to "crawl" for having sent Lord Dufferin to Egypt, was now still more furious with him because the instructions to Dufferin had been sent off on Friday, the 3rd, without her having seen them.
'Having trouble in the House with regard to the legal points connected with the trial of Arabi, I had at the time frequent meetings with Lord Selborne, who drew draft answers to the questions in the House of Commons, which were ingenious, but hardly suited to the Commons atmosphere.
'On the 8th there was a Cabinet at which Mr. Gladstone only attended for a minute, merely to prevent his name being omitted from the list. He was ostentatiously devoting himself to procedure only, and taking no part with regard to Egypt.
'On Friday, the 10th, Count Munster called on me to tell me that Prince Bismarck objected to any plan for a temporary dealing with Egyptian finance, as he feared panic towards the end of the term fixed; but the Ambassador said that the Chancellor attached no importance to any form of control.
'On Monday, November 13th, I had a formal conference at the House of Lords with the Chancellor, the Attorney-General, and Pauncefote, on the whole of the legal questions connected with the trial of Arabi and our position in Egypt; and I cannot but think that Lord Selborne in all those many letters to me about the subject, which I have retained, showed himself given rather to legal quibbles than to a broad view of the questions raised. At three o'clock there was a Cabinet to consider whether a day should be given to Bourke for the discussion of a motion, but the Cabinet went on to decide to accept a suggestion by Childers and Chamberlain that the sending of a Turkish envoy to Egypt was to involve the breaking off of diplomatic relations with Turkey. Six members, however, stopped after Mr. Gladstone, Chamberlain, and Childers had gone away, and toned down the phrase to be made use of to Musurus Pasha.
'On Tuesday, November 14th, we had a Suez Canal conference at Lord Granville's at noon, and in the afternoon a Congo deputation. Between the two we discussed at Lord Granville's house (Kimberley, Northbrook, Carlingford, and Childers being present with Lord Granville and myself) the question of the employment of Baker Pasha in Egypt as Chief of the Staff.... Coming back to the Suez Canal question, Childers, who wished us to obtain preponderance, made a characteristic observation, saying: "I would do it boldly by making the Khedive say—" It struck me that some people had an odd idea of boldness.
'On November 15th we had a further meeting on the Canal question at Mr. Gladstone's room at the House.... When all had come, there were present Childers, Hartington, Northbrook, Kimberley, Carlingford, Lord Granville, and myself. I found that Count Munster had not told Lord Granville that which he had told me on November 10th. It was decided to send my notes, based on my conversations with Ollivier, to Dufferin. With regard to Arabi's trial, it was decided that Dufferin should be told to consider the case against him, and to decide that there was no proof of common crime, after which, by arrangement between us and the Khedive, we were to put him away safely in Ascension, Barbados, Bermuda, Ceylon; or any other island than St. Helena, which would be ridiculous. Mr. Gladstone had written us a letter proposing that we should make the Sultan banish Arabi, but we did not much like the idea of his coming to England and stumping the country between Wilfrid Lawson and Wilfrid Blunt. Childers asked leave to arrest any Turkish envoy who might be sent to Cairo, but the matter was left open.'
On November 16th the Cabinet again 'discussed the fate of Arabi, and decided to let him run riot anywhere; but the decision was afterwards reversed.'
On November 21st
'there was sent off to Lord Dufferin a personal telegram to say that Baker was to be sent to fight in the Soudan, and that another Englishman must be chosen for his post, that Arabi was to be interned on some island on parole.
'I received letters at this time from Lord Dufferin on his arrival at Cairo, asking me to keep him informed of my views on the Egyptian situation.
'On December 4th there was a Cabinet which decided to send Arabi to Ceylon, but after a consultation with Lord Ripon, whose advice was not to be followed if it was hostile; and on the next day Lord Ripon protested, as had been foreseen.
'Evelyn Wood, who was to command the Egyptian Army, asked the Cabinet for such large figures as to startle them.'
'I heard from Dufferin also in December from Cairo, in reply to Chamberlain's memorandum. He thought that Egyptian Members of Parliament would many of them be tools in the hands of the Sultan or of foreign Powers, but added that he would sooner run any risk than wholly abandon representative institutions. "But I think we should make a mistake if we forced upon this country premature arrangements which we dare not apply to India, where the strength of our own position and other circumstances afford not only better guarantees for success, but the power of retreating if the experiment should prove a failure."
'In a further letter Lord Dufferin confirmed a story which I had heard as to Halim having bribed Arabi and the other Egyptian Colonels, but most of the money stuck to the hands of the agent who was employed.'
"Two days after I had left the Foreign Office, Hartington wrote to me to ask whether his soldiers might pay military honours to the holy carpet on its return from Mecca—an amusing example of the kind of question with which British Ministers are sometimes called on to deal."
After Dilke's promotion to the Cabinet,
'On Thursday, February 15th, 1883, Parliament met, and I was very hard worked, and on February 17th had heavy business in the House with regard to Egypt, as revealed in the division of the previous night, in which we only had a majority of thirty-five, although I had been permitted distinctly to announce our intention to withdraw our troops, and not to stay permanently in the country. This, after all, was a mere expansion of the promise given to the Powers by Lord Granville in his circular despatch of January 3rd, in which he said that we were desirous of withdrawing British force as soon as the state of the country would permit.
'In the meantime the Soudan was in a disturbed condition. On January 1st, 1883, we had heard from Cairo: "Second false prophet appeared, hung by first;" or, as the despatch by post expanding the telegram put it, "A second Mahdi has lately appeared, but was hung by order of the first." The Mahdi, however, was making progress. The Foreign Office were inclined to adopt some responsibility for the Egyptian attempt to defeat the Mahdi, and reconquer the Soudan; but I invariably insisted on striking out all such words from their despatches, and, so far as I know, no dangerous language was allowed to pass. In consequence of my observations a despatch was sent by Lord Granville to our consulate in Egypt, pointing out that telegrams had been received from General Hicks in relation to his military operations in the Soudan, and that Lord Granville understood that these were messages intended for General Baker, and only addressed to the consulate because Hicks found it convenient to make use of the cipher which had been entrusted to Colonel Stewart, who was acting as our Consul at Khartoum; but we repeated that "H. M. G. are in no way responsible for the operations in the Soudan, which have been undertaken under the authority of the Egyptian Government, or for the appointment or actions of General Hicks." At this time the Turkish Government were supplying the Mahdi with money and officers in the hope that the troubles in the Soudan would afford them an excuse for sending troops to "assist the Khedive." As we continued to get telegrams from Hicks Pasha, Sir Edward Malet informed the Egyptian Government by letter that we must repeat that we had no responsibility for the operations in the Soudan. We foresaw the failure of the Hicks expedition, and should perhaps have done better had we more distinctly told the Egyptian Government that they must stop it and give up the Soudan, holding Khartoum only; but to say this is to be wise after the event. What we did was to "offer no advice, but" point out that the Egyptian Government should make up their minds what their policy was to be, and carefully consider whether they could afford the cost of putting down the Mahdi. In other words, we discouraged the expedition without forbidding it. I fear, however, that Malet, against our wish, was a party to the sending of reinforcements "to follow up successes already obtained"; for after his conversation with the Egyptian Prime Minister he added: "This view seems reasonable."'
'On May 4th; 1883, I noted in my Diary, in reference to a matter which I have named, that Colonel Hicks's telegram to Malet, about which both Hicks and Malet would be reproved, the British Government having nothing to do with the expedition, was to request that communications should be made to General Baker which were, in fact, intended for Sir Evelyn Wood. This showed how completely it had been settled in advance that Baker should command the Egyptian Army, for Hicks in the Soudan fully believed that Baker was in command.'
Expressions of opinion in England had, however, prevented this appointment.
Another entry indicates that French opinion was beginning to accept the British position in Egypt as a fait accompli:
'On May 2nd, 1883, d'Aunay, the French Secretary, told me that Waddington was coming as Ambassador, and intended to ask for Syria for the French as a compensation for our position in Egypt.'....
During the summer there was much negotiation concerning the Suez Canal, and the proposal to cut a rival waterway.
'On July 4th there was a meeting of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Granville, Childers, Chamberlain, and myself, as to the Suez Canal, and we decided to ask Lesseps to come over and meet us. Childers had a scheme with regard to the Canal, to which only Chamberlain and I in the Cabinet were opposed.
'On July 19th there was another Cabinet. Chamberlain and I tried to get them to drop Childers's Canal scheme, but they would not. The Cabinet was adjourned to the 23rd, and on Monday, the 23rd, they dropped it.'
In the end, however, M. de Lesseps won. An entry of November 22nd follows up the question of widening the Canal:
'Another matter which was active at this moment was that of the position of Lesseps, with whom we had now made peace, and to whom we had given our permission for the widening of the first Canal. We supported him against the Turkish Government, who wanted to screw money out of him for their assent, and got the opinion of the law officers of the Crown to show that no Turkish assent was needed. On a former occasion we had contended that his privileges must be construed strictly, as he was a monopolist. On this occasion the law officers took a more liberal view. The fact is that the questions referred to the law officers for opinions by the Foreign Office have very often much more connection with policy than with law, and their opinions are elastic. There never were such law officers as James and Herschell. They did their work with extraordinary promptitude and decision, and with the highest possible skill. They never differed, and they always gave us exactly what we wanted in the best form. Comparing their opinions with those of law officers of other days, which I often at the Foreign Office had to read, I should call James and Herschell unsurpassed and unsurpassable for such a purpose. Lord Selborne, who was, I suppose, a much greater lawyer, was nothing like so good for matters of this kind, for he always tried to find a legal basis for his view, which made it unintelligible to laymen.'
'On August 7th I had to set to work hard to read up all the Egyptian papers in order to support Fitzmaurice on the 9th. In the course of this speech I announced our intention from November, 1883, to allow Sir Evelyn Wood to maintain order in Cairo with his Egyptian forces, we withdrawing the British forces to Alexandria. There was a Cabinet on the 8th, at which, after a good deal of fighting, it had been decided, against Hartington, to allow me to make the statement with regard to Egypt which I made upon the 9th.'
By August 22nd Lord Hartington had 'come round so fast that he told us he would be able to evacuate Cairo even before our meeting in October.' On August 31st Sir Charles Dilke 'received Sir Evelyn Wood, who was anxious to assure me that he was perfectly able to hold Egypt with his Egyptians.'
The report did not wholly convince Sir Charles, and he expressed some of his doubts to Lord Granville, with whom Sir Evelyn Wood had been staying at Walmer.
'Lord Granville wrote: "His conversation gives one more the notion of activity, energy, and conscientiousness, than of great ability. I presume you were not able to slip in a question, but, on the other hand, if you had succeeded he would not have heard it. He is in favour of the complete evacuation of Cairo.... He has full confidence in that half of the Egyptian Army which is officered by English officers. He has only a negative confidence in the other half. Evelyn Baring will find a private letter on his arrival, and a despatch by this mail, instructing him to send us a full report. Till we get this we had better not go beyond the declarations which have already been publicly made." Baring had just (September, '83) reached Cairo as Consul- General.'
Government policy shaped itself on the assumption that Sir Evelyn Wood was right. On October 25th
'we formally decided to leave Cairo and concentrate a force of between 2,000 and 3,000 men at Alexandria. This was no new decision, but was taken on this occasion in order that the Queen should be informed, which had not previously been done.'
Ten days after this date the Egyptian Army of the Soudan, under General Hicks, was destroyed by the Mahdi in Kordofan. The news only reached Cairo on November 22nd, and the question was now raised as to what should become of the upper valley of the Nile.
'On December 12th there was a meeting at the War Office about the Soudan, Lord Granville, Hartington, Northbrook, Carlingford, and myself, being present, with Wolseley in the next room, and the Duke of Cambridge in the next but one. We again told the Egyptians that they had better leave the Soudan and defend Egypt at Wady Halfa, and that we would help them to defend Egypt proper. Wolseley was at one time called in, as was Colonel Stewart, the last man who had left Khartoum. Lord Granville told Hartington, who was starting for Windsor, what to tell the Queen, and I noted that "the old stagers, like Lord Granville and Mr. Gladstone, waste a great deal of their time on concocting stories for the Queen, who is much too clever to be taken in by them, and always ends by finding out exactly what they are doing. It is certainly a case where honesty would be a better policy."
'I cannot but think that Malet was largely responsible for the state of things in Egypt (Lord Granville being so far responsible that I had much difficulty in getting him to interfere against Malet), and that we had interfered somewhat late.... Malet left before the army commanded by Hicks was surrounded, and it was on Baring that the blow fell. But Baring was always strongly opposed to the attempt of the Egyptians to reconquer the Soudan, and, moreover, thought that they were quite unfit to govern it. Immediately after the bad news about Hicks first came, Baring told us that Khartoum must fall, and recommended us to tell the Egyptian Government, which we did, that under no circumstances must they expect the assistance of British or Indian troops in the Soudan. We even stopped their sending Wood's army to the Soudan, and we told Baring not to encourage retired British officers to volunteer, and told him to recommend the evacuation of the Soudan. On December 3rd Baring sent us a most able report upon the whole situation, and he and General Stephenson commanding the British troops, Sir Evelyn Wood commanding the Egyptian Army, and General Baker, were all of opinion that it was impossible to hold Khartoum, and that the Egyptians must be made to fall back on Wady Halfa. On the other hand, the Egyptian Government could not make up their minds to leave Khartoum. Malet up to the last days of his stay in Egypt was rendering himself, in fact, responsible for the Hicks expedition and for the Soudan policy of the Egyptians, and there is one fatal despatch of his in existence in which he relates how he interfered, at the wish of Hicks, to suggest a change of Egyptian Governor. He was privately censured for this, but he was publicly approved for his whole course, and therefore we were in a sense responsible, although we expressly repudiated this responsibility in our despatches to him, and forced the Egyptian Government to acknowledge that they thoroughly understood our repudiation. The only thing that could have been done more than was done would have been to have publicly censured Malet, and Lord Granville should have had the courage to do this.
'In September I had succeeded in getting Edgar Vincent appointed to the Egyptian Cabinet as the English financier, virtually Prime Minister; but, able as he was, it was a long time before he felt his feet, and could take the government into his own hands.' [Footnote: When on August 15th Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edgar Vincent dined in Sloane Street with Edward Hamilton, Mr. Gladstone's private secretary, and some other people, Sir Charles noted that he 'was once more struck with the extraordinary strength displayed by Vincent for a man of twenty-four.']
'Two additional points concerning Egypt which should be mentioned here are, in the first place, Lord Granville's mistake in creating a place with Egyptian pay, at Lord Spencer's wish, for Clifford Lloyd, who had made Ireland too hot to hold him; and, in the second place, the violent protests of the Anti-Slavery Society, backed up by ours in December, as to the employment of Zebehr Pasha. We should undoubtedly have been censured by the House of Commons had we allowed any important place to have been given to Zebehr Pasha, but it was difficult to prevent it when it was wished both by the Egyptians and by Baring—given the fact that we had washed our hands of their Soudan policy.
'What we should have done, if I may be allowed to be wise after the event, was to have distinctly ordered the Egyptians to abandon Khartoum and to fall back to Wady Halfa. At the end of the year Baring forwarded to us a memorandum from the Egyptian Government. They pointed out that the Khedive was forbidden by Turkey to cede territory; that we were asking them to abandon enormous provinces, with Berber and Dongola, and great tribes who had remained loyal. They thought that if they fell back Egypt would have to continually resist the attacks of great numbers of fanatics, and that the Bedouin themselves would rise. They were wrong, but they put their case so well that they converted Baring; and he told us that he doubted if any native Ministers could be found willing to carry out the policy of retirement, and he thought that it would be necessary to appoint English Ministers if we decided to force it on them.
'In the last lines of Baring's despatch of December 22nd there occur words which afterwards became of great importance: "If the abandonment policy is carried out ... it will be necessary to send an English officer of high authority to Khartoum, with full powers to withdraw the garrisons and to make the best arrangements he can for the future government of the country." It was on those words that we acted in sending for Gordon, and asking him whether he would go to the Soudan for this purpose, which he agreed to do, and when we sent him there was no question of his going for any other purpose than this.'
END OF VOL. I