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THE KHEDIVE OF EGYPT
BEFORE these lines appear in print Abbas the Second will probably have terminated his flying visit to England. The visit is essentially a private visit. If I am rightly informed, his Highness did not come here as the guest of the King. Sir Eldon Gorst, H.M. ConsulGeneral in Egypt, considered it as a matter of importance alike to Egypt and England that an interview should take place between King Edward the Seventh and Abbas the Second, the great grandson of Mehemet Ali and the sixth Sovereign of the reigning dynasty. During the last two months Sir Eldon Gorst has paid very frequent visits to Koubbeh, the palace some five miles out of Cairo where his Highness usually resides in preference to the Palace of Abdeen in Cairo, where his grandfather Ismail Pasha and his father Tewfik Pasha habitually held their abode. After very frequent and prolonged negotiations, an arrangement was concluded to the effect that Abbas the Second came to England as a private visitor, with the object of seeing his Majesty the King. I do not profess to have any personal knowledge of the correspondence on this subject which may have passed between the British Agency and the Foreign Office, but I can assert without fear of contradiction that the upshot of these negotiations was such in substance as that stated above.
It is not my purpose to enter into any discussion as to how far Lord Cromer was or was not justified in the attitude he assumed towards Abbas the Second almost from the date of the latter's accession to the vice-regal throne. The argument that Abbas owes any special gratitude to England for his elevation to the Khediviate is somewhat illogical. Upon his father's sudden and unexpected death in 1891 he, as the eldest son of Tewfik, became Viceroy as a matter of course, and the idea of the British Government raising any objection to his accession was never even ventilated either in Egypt or elsewhere. By international law, in as far as such a thing can be said to have any existence other than that of a conventional fiction, Abbas the Second is subject to the nominal suzerainty of the Sultan, the de jure and de facto ruler of Egypt, in the same sense as Nicholas the Second is Czar of All the Russias. From a personal point of view the early death of Tewfik Pasha was a misfortune for his son and heir. As soon as the two Princes Abbas and Mahomed Ali were old enough to be instructed by foreign teachers, Tewfik placed them under the care of an English gentleman, then in the service of the Egyptian Government. This gentleman, Mr. Mitchell, was the son of the then Public Orator of Oxford. Being in Egypt at this time I made the acquaintance of Mr. Mitchell, who later on was appointed Consular Judge in Cyprus and is, I believe, a high authority on Oriental lore. He often spoke to me about the quickness of apprehension possessed by his vice-regal pupils, and the interest their father took in their progress. There are obvious reasons why boys destined to occupy distinguished positions in Eastern countries are usually sent at an early age to European schools or seminaries. These reasons were especially calculated to commend themselves to Tewfik Pasha, who attached perhaps an undue importance to educational advantages, as, unlike his younger brothers, he himself had never enjoyed these advantages. Be this as it may, his heir, Abbas the Second, was sent to the Theresianum of Vienna at an early age. In the days of which I speak this academy was especially frequented by the sons of the Austrian nobles and was a sort of Viennese Eton, where respect for the prerogatives of royalty and for the predominance of princes and heirs apparent above the common herd of mankind were more pronounced than in any other European capital with the possible exception of St. Petersburg. At the period of life when lads approaching manhood are most susceptible to the influence of their surroundings he was brought up in a society whose dominant traditions were those of a bygone age, when the divine right of kings was an article of faith. This period also happened to coincide with an era in which the duration of our virtual protectorate over Egypt still seemed more than doubtful. The idea that England had ' come to stay' was scouted, not only by our own Government, but in diplomatic circles on the Continent. This was especially the case in the Austrian capital, where the British occupation of Egypt was not regarded as a permanent arrangement. The relations between the late Khedive and the British Agency in Cairo had become ostensibly more friendly than they ever had been before or have been since. It seemed, to say the least, on the cards that an arrangement might be arrived at by which the British troops would be withdrawn from Egypt, while the Khedive, subject to certain restrictions, would be reinstated in his former position not only as the nominal but as the actual ruler of Egypt. Whether such an arrangement could have worked satisfactorily is a question which can now never be decided ; but the fact that the British Government had as late as 1885 become a consenting party to a convention with Turkey drawn up by Muktar Pasha Gazi and by my old friend Sir Henry Drummond Wolff is proof sufficient that Lord Salisbury, equally with Mr. Gladstone, was then genuinely desirous of terminating the British occupation as soon as possible. Indeed, if it had not been for the opposition offered to the Wolff Convention by representatives of the French Republic at Constantinople there would not have been & British garrison in any part of Egypt at the untimely death of Tewfik.
Abbas Pasha had barely completed his eighteenth year when he received, when still a pupil at Vienna, the news of his father's sudden and unforeseen demise in the prime of life, and was summoned to return to Cairo in hot haste in order to take possession of the vacant throne. It would have been far better on every ground—apart from any question of his personal affections—if Abbas's accession to the viceroyalty could have been delayed for a few years longer. It was his misfortune, not his fault, if, while almost a schoolboy, he returned to Egypt as her lawful Sovereign. He had necessarily a very scanty knowledge of the country he was called upon to govern, and a still more imperfect appreciation of the exceptional and anomalous conditions under which his authority had to be exercised. In theory the Khedive was—subject to the shadowy suzerainty of the Sultan -an independent prince, to whom the Ministers and all Egyptian officials, both civil and military, owed complete obedience. As a matter of fact any commands he might issue were not binding on any public servants to whom they might be addressed, unless these commands were, so to speak, countersigned by the Consul-General of Great Britain, as the representative of the Power whose armies occupied the Khediviate. Whatever else may have been the merits or demerits of Abbas the Second, even his worst detractors have never denied him the possession of singular ability and of high ambitions. He came back under a not altogether unfounded conviction that the British representatives had taken advantage of the lack of energy of his predecessor in order to augment the official authority of the Protecting Power and thereby decrease the personal authority of the Khedive. He can hardly be blamed if he came home with the intention of setting matters straight by claiming to be master in the land of his birth, as befitted the lineal heir to the dynasty founded by Mehemet Ali, the Lion of the Levant.
It was almost inevitable that Abbas the Second on his arrival in Egypt should have fallen under the influence of partisans of France, resident in Cairo. Up to this date the French Republic had not given up the hope that England might be compelled or cajoled into surrendering the position she had acquired by the occupation of Egypt and that France might then recover her lost supremacy. Whenever the true history of the campaign conducted in Egypt by France against England is fully made known, I expect the fervid partisans of the entente cordiale will have, metaphorically speaking, to put a good deal of water into their milk. For the present, however, it is enough to say that the French Colony in Cairo, which was then far more numerous and better organised than it is to-day, brought their influence to bear upon Abbas the Second in order to induce his Highness to make an effort for the recovery of his personal authority. Ever since the occupation there had been an almost complete schism between the English and the French elements of Cairene Society. Up to the bombardment of Alexandria by the British fleet, French had been the language employed in social intercourse, mainly, I think, because it was practically the only European language in which the native Ministers and officials could make themselves understood. Gradually Cairene Society split up into groups where English, French, German, and Italian were employed as the usual channels of communication. This separative tendency was increased by the policy, which found favour with the British Agency during the last twenty-four years, of discouraging all private social intercourse between natives and British public servants. This policy, whether wise or unwise in itself, tended to promote close relations between the well-to-do natives and the French. The youthful Khedive was given to understand by his self-constituted mentors that the Egyptian public were extremely hostile to the continuance of the occupation, and that if he only manifested a determination to assert his authority and to show that in future he intended to take a leading part in the administration of State affairs he would have the active sympathy and support of his fellow-countrymen and of his co-religionists.
It is hardly matter for surprise if these counsels commended themselves to the approval of the young Prince. The particular form under which Abbas the Second proposed to vindicate his individual freedom of action and thereby to introduce a new regime was, I am inclined to think, his own idea. If there is one department of the State in Egypt over which the Viceroy might be considered at liberty to exercise a personal control it is the Anglo-Egyptian Army. It goes without saying that the British forces receive their orders from the general in command, but the Anglo-Egyptian Army is a native army, whose ranks are exclusively composed of Fellaheen, enlisted of their own free will or, in case of need, by conscription. The officers of this native army, whether British or native, hold commissions from the Khedive and are paid at the cost of the State. The only difference between the British and the native officers is that the former are seconded by the British War Office subject to the approval of the Khedive, while the latter are nominated directly by the Egyptian military authorities. The Sirdar or Commander-in-Chief has always hitherto been a British officer, though he fulfils the duties of his office in virtue of the commission he holds under the Khedive's sign manual. As long as the army of occupation remains in Egypt I fail to see how this unwritten regulation could ever be disregarded in practice. I never could obtain any satisfactory explanation as to what would happen in the improbable, but not impossible, event of a British
officer who had been 'seconded' by the War Office, or in plainer words 'lent' to the Anglo-Egyptian army, receiving contradictory orders from the British and the Khedivial Govern
It is significant of the general ‘Topsy Turvydom' of all Egyptian arrangements, under our unavowed Protectorate, that my friend Sir Reginald Wingate, the present Sirdar, is bound by the Condominium to serve two masters, his Majesty Edward the Seventh, and his Highness the Khedive Abbas the Second. Suppose the King and his co-Sovereign were to hold opposite views as to the occupation of the Soudan, and the Sirdar was commanded by the British Government to remain at Khartoum, while at the same time he was commanded by the Viceregal Government to evacuate Khartoum. On such an hypothesis he would be liable to be shot for mutiny by the Power whose orders he elected to disobey. The Sirdar at the time when Abbas the Second succeeded to the Vicerega throne happened to be General Kitchener, now Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, and it was this most distinguished officer that Abbas the Second selected as affording him an opportunity for asserting his contention that he considered himself entitled to exercise his authority in criticising the movements of his own troops when they were being reviewed in his own presence as the Sovereign of Egypt.
It is always very difficult to make out the truth about anything in Egypt, and all the more difficult in cases where racial or professional rivalries are called into play. The general outlines, however, of the disagreement between the Khedive and General Kitchener are not open to any grave doubt. It seems certain that, when a review in Upper Egypt at which the Khedive was present had been concluded, and when the Sirdar naturally expected to receive the usual compliments on the efficiency displayed by his troops, the Khedive, speaking in a voice audible to those around him, expressed his grave displeasure at the want of regularity with which certain military maneuvres had been conducted, and requested that increased vigilance should be displayed in future. Immediately upon the Khedive's departure from the field General Kitchener forwarded his resignation of the Sirdarship, while the news of the cause which had led him to take this step was forthwith telegraphed to the British Agency in Cairo, where it created very general alarm. It is no part of the present writer's duty to discuss whether the Khedive was most to blame for a very unfortunate incident. It was contended by the friends and courtiers of Abbas the Second that his Highness, accustomed as he had been for many years to the almost mathematical regularity with which Austrian troops are trained to march step by step, row after row, may have attached far too great importance to the comparatively loose formation of Egyptian troops commanded by British officers. Be this as it may, I cannot see how the British Agency could have allowed the censure inflicted upon the