Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ground for statesmanship to work

May we not therefore say con-
fidently that to establish peace in
South Africa it is necessary to save
it from politics, from high politics
in particular, and above all from a
speculative, feverish, pinchbeck-
imperialistic intoxication which
diverts men's minds from their
proper business?
What are our

independence, nominal or real, of the Transvaal can make little difference to the British status in South Africa, which rests on quite another foundation than on hairsplitting interpretations of treaties. It is our imperial force-not military force alone-directed by imperial resolution which holds up the empire, whether in Africa or anywhere else.

It is the imperial factor conscientiously directed that is alone able to keep the peace and secure progress in the southern continent. It is abdication, and the delegation and abuse of the imperial authority, that has set the prairie on fire. All the territories and tribes to whom responsible government cannot be conceded can be ruled by the Queen alone, who needs no fictitious buffer between her authority and the most recent of her subjects. Intermediate agencies have ruined the Red Indian, and we cannot justify ourselves before God or man if we shirk direct responsibility for our national dealings with the savages whose lands we have appropriated. Neither Boers nor British colonists need our help in the management of their affairs; but neither can they manage ours. Let the respective provinces therefore be clearly demarcated. The imperial sphere is wide and encircles the colonies, uniting them in the general scheme of defence. On that side there is happily no misunderstanding. What, however, is less commonly realised is the necessary duty of governing which rests on the Imperial Government, but which it has an inveterate habit of evading. Having forcibly broken up the native organisations, we must assume the burden of ruling, and must decline all substitutes and

actual relations with the Trans-
vaal but the very abortion of high
politics? Fighting a losing battle
over the shrinking rags of a suze-
rainty which was but a temporary
make-believe to deceive the British
public, we have only succeeded in
keeping up an unnatural friction,
and in reducing our legitimate in-
fluence to a minus quantity. Is
it not a monstrous thing that
throughout South Africa the air
should be filled with portents of
bloodshed and "civil war"- for
that is the usual expression. And
for what? Merely to settle
the relations between the Dutch
and British, who are not divided
in interest, but who have been
both made the victims of our
political and financial schemers.
The jubilant Boers are offensive,
and ought to be put "once for all"
in their proper place. Such is
the sentiment of the bellicose sec-
tion of the British people and col-
onists. We never know when to
expect another British invasion,
say the Boers, and therefore must
keep our powder dry. And so the
pitiless game goes on, each side
provoking the other, and cultivat-
ing hostility as if it were a most
valuable product. The Transvaal
is our bugbear, as Rhodesia is the
bugbear of the Transvaal; but as
neither is to be given up, surely
some terms of accommodation other
than the arbitrament of the Maxim
gun ought to be found. Reduced
to essentials, the dependence or subterfuges.

South Africa requires first of all that the British Government shall definitely assert its authority there. This is the desire of Boer and Kaffir alike. Secondly, efficient machinery to execute the will of the Government, having as its head a competent representative always in evidence in Africa, a real High Commissioner, shielded from every influence save that of the Crown. Of course this will cost money, but not a tithe of what the neglect of our duty has cost and will continue to cost us. And it will be money well invested if it secures to us a man -there are plenty of them to be had for the asking-who would rule the natives like a father, filling the place vacated by their dead or conquered chiefs; who would regulate the influx of

settlers into new territory, while assisting them in all lawful enterprises, and who would defend both White and Black against all interference from without. Rhodesia has of course the most pressing claim, and there need be no longer any delicacy about superseding the worthless sham that has pretended to govern that territory. But the Queen's representative who shall wield this imperial authority in South Africa must have no Downing Street scheme given him to work out, like that which crushed the best man ever sent to Africa-after Sir George Grey,-nor must he have a task put upon him which man of woman born could never yet perform-that of serving two



Printed by William Blackwood and Sons.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

"NOTHING justifies like success,' and it may be said with assurance to-day that seldom has the wis dom of any move of such importance as the advance into the Sudan been ratified so promptly and so conclusively by events. Many considerations which induced the Government to take that step could not be openly avowed. Susceptibilities had to be studied, influential suggestions could not be divulged, and it would have been imprudent to invoke dangers which to the initiated were imminent, but which were not then generally acknowledged. The past few months have, however, sufficed to clear up much that was doubtful, to give publicity to facts which were before only known to a few, and to confirm the anticipations of the instructed.

It was a favourite objection to the policy of the Government, on the part not only of party op


ponents but also of many uninfluenced by party considerations, that in the Sudan expedition we were sacrificing Egyptian interests for Italian, and causing Egypt to squander her resources and shed the blood of her sons to assist Italy out of her troubles in Erythrea. This argument, although plausible, was a perversion of the truth, and showed an imperfect grasp of the situation. The fact is that it was because the consequences of what was threatening Italy at Massowah and Kassala were certain to create for Egypt a position of the gravest danger, that a policy of inaction was no longer prudent. This we can now convincingly prove.

Flushed by their extraordinary successes, the Abyssinians were inclined to listen to French and Russian counsellors, and to join hands with the Derwishes to oust effectually the Italians from Ery


threa. Such an alliance, for a definite purpose advantageous to both the King of Abyssinia and the Khalifa Abdullahi, was natural, and indeed, in the circumstances, obvious. The proof that a beginning had been made towards its accomplishment is not wanting. Presents, we know positively, were sent by the King of Abyssinia to the Khalifa very shortly before the decision of the British Government in regard to the Sudan, and every one knows the significance of such presents from one Oriental potentate to another. They are invariably the outward tokens of an interested amity. But in offering this alliance Abyssinia counted upon the continued inaction of Egypt, and of England through her: Nay, she had good grounds to expect that inaction, for it must be acknowledged that it was only the advent to power of a strong Government in England which made a forward policy possible. The march of Egypt into the Sudan, however, changed matters, and, notwithstanding her first advances, Abyssinia ceased negotiations with the Khalifa when she perceived that an alliance with the Derwishes would bring upon her new and redoubted enemies.

But worse than an alliance between Abyssinia and the Khalifa seemed imminent. There were indications that Italy was not disposed to wait till she was driven out of Kassala. She was believed to have decided to take the initiative, and to abandon, of her own free will, Kassala to the Derwishes. Since then that belief has been proved to be correct. Those who closely followed the march of events were shocked when, about three weeks after the Egyptian advance had begun, and simultaneously with the news of the brilliant defeat of

the Derwishes near Sabderat by Colonel Stevani, the telegraph from Massowah announced that General Baldissera not only had refused his dashing lieutenant permission to follow up his first victory on the morrow, but had also given orders for the evacuation of Kassala. Happily, from Rome, after a delay of twentyfour hours, information came that Kassala was not to be evacuated. A speech of the Marquis di Rudini in the Italian Chamber fully a month later gave, quite incidentally, the explanation of the contradictory telegrams. General Baldissera, carrying out intentions long previously entertained, had in reality ordered the evacuation of Kassala, and it was only from Rome, where the importance of the diversion agreed to by the British Government was justly appreciated, that the General's decision was overruled. We were in disaccord, said the Italian Prime Minister, with General Baldissera as to the evacuation of Kassala, and it was by the exercise of the superior authority of the Cabinet that the evacuation was not carried out. It is to be regretted that that superior authority had not been further exercised in allowing Colonel Stevani to follow up his victory, for without doubt he would have inflicted upon the demoralised Derwishes a crushing defeat. Profiting by the inaction of their enemy, the Derwishes hastily retreated across the Atbara, and thus extricated themselves from a position of the gravest danger. But the point which is clearly established by the incident we have related is this: it was the decision of the British Government, that Egypt should advance into the Sudan, which led the Italian Cabinet to overrule the orders of General

Baldissera for the evacuation of Kassala. The results of that evacuation, had it been carried out, would have been serious to Egypt. Released from the standing menace of Kassala in Italian hands, the Khalifa would have directed his whole power against the Egyptian frontier, untrammelled by other preoccupations and intoxicated by unexpected success. History, when it is written with full knowledge of the intriguing influences now unavowed, of negotiations enveloped to-day in the utmost secrecy, and of suicidal tendencies in policy on the part of the Italian General under the influence of extreme discouragement, will reveal to the world how nearly successful was a combination which would have been disastrous to Egypt. That combination was only defeated by the advance of the Egyptian army southward, and we now perceive that the move was made just in the "nick of time."

Equally justified so far by success has been the confidence in the Egyptian army as an organisation, which was implied in the resolution of the British Government to authorise the advance into the Sudan. The decision to move southwards was as great a surprise to the Egyptian War Office as it was to the general public. Without the slightest previous notice the Commissariat was called upon to provide for the wants of 14,000 fighting men at the frontier. This meant transport of stores 193 miles by rail from Cairo to Balliani, 315 miles by river from Balliana to Assouan, 5 miles by rail or road from Assouan to Philæ, and 210 miles by river or road from Phila to Wady Halfa—in all, over 723 miles, with four loadings and four discharges,

for the most part in places destitute of all the civilised modes of handling goods. Two thousand camels had to be purchased and sent to the front. Ten thousand of the troops had to be moved. A telegraph and a railway had to be laid down to Akasheh, about 80 miles beyond Wady Halfa. All these diversified operations had to be undertaken at once and simultaneously. So thoroughly was the Commissariat prepared for a time of pressure that the work proceeded without a hitch, and with so little "fuss" that, except at the points of loading and discharge, no one could have thought that anything exceptional was being done. In less than three months' time the railway to Akasheh was in working order, and 4000 of the fighting column were concentrated there, while the remainder were moving up in detachments. All this had been accomplished in a temperature often 128° in the shade, and through a district destitute of resources and bristling with difficulties. It was a feat in mobilisation which few civilised armies could rival, and of which any one of them might be proud.

If the Commissariat may be termed the lungs of an army, so the Intelligence Department is its eyes; and this latter service in the Egyptian army showed itself exceptionally strong. Not only did it know with accuracy every feature of the country to be traversed, but it was also thoroughly cognisant of all that was passing in the enemy's camp. It was this perfect knowledge of the enemy's plans and positions which enabled the Sirdar, Sir Herbert Kitchener, to strike his first blow with such crushing effect. While the Derwishes were organising an attack, little dreaming that their

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »