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utility. It is remarkable that hitherto French and German capitalists have shown most confidence in enterprises in Egypt.
But Lord Cromer's report for 1896 is of especial interest for the information which it contains in reference to the expenses of the recent advance to Dongola. In a former article we said that £1,250,000 was such a sum as a responsible Minister would have been justified in asking for the extraordinary expenses of the Sudan expedition of last year. We erred on the safe side, as we desired to do. It now appears from a detailed statement, communicated by Lord Cromer, that the actual amount of these extraordinary expenses only amounts to £E715,066, including £E172,281 for railway extension and £E65,542 for cost of gunboats with armament. These two last items are of permanent utility, and represent together an outlay of £E237,823. The balance, £E477,243, will be admitted to be a remarkably small sum for the extraordinary expenses of an expedition which occupied seven months, and engaged an army of 15,000 men. We expressed, in our former article, confidence in the financial prudence of Lord Cromer and Sir Elwin Palmer, feeling assured that they would not have embarked in the expedition without having provided sufficient resources to carry it through. Their prudence has been fully proved. An advance of £E500,000 had been obtained from the Caisse de la Dette, and the Egyptian Government had at its credit in the Special Reserve Fund, and completely at its disposal, on the 31st December 1896 £E255,000. These two sums would have largely provided for the ex
traordinary expenses of the Dongola expedition.
But by a judgment of the Appeal Court of the Mixed Tribunals the Egyptian Government, in November last, was condemned to refund with interest the advance which it had received from the Caisse de la Dette; and as the judgment could not legally be set aside, it became necessary to find the money elsewhere. With laudable promptitude the British Government came to the rescue. Availing itself of a right which it possessed by international agreement to raise money up to the limit of a million of pounds, the Egyptian Government accepted the proffered assistance as an advance in account current. In the circumstances no other solution was possible.
To the amount necessary to repay the Caisse de la Dette a further sum of £270,000 was added, representing the cost of a light railway from Wady Halfa to Abu Hamed; and on the 5th of February the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to Parliament, and carried by a majority of 112, a vote of £798,802 as a grant in aid of the expenditure incurred in connection with the Egyptian expedition to Dongola. With this grant the extraordinary expenses of last year are cleared, and provision is made for the material necessary to lay down a line of railway to Abu Hamed.
It would be a waste of space here to expose the fallacies upon which the Mixed Court of Appeal based its judgment, condemning the Egyptian Government to refund the advance accorded to it for the Dongola expedition by a majority of the Commissioners of the Caisse. It was a judgment influenced by political considera
1 "The Sudan Advance," Blackwood's Magazine, September 1896.
tions, irrespective of either law or equity. Our chief regret is that it was pronounced by a court of the mixed tribunals, which, we are bound to acknowledge, have deservedly acquired in the country a good reputation for probity and justice. On this account, while we agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the decision was "almost absurd," we regret the comment which he went on to make::
"I am bound to say that, in my opinion, when next year the time arrives at which the constitution and the powers of these mixed courts have to be reconsidered, a very grave question ought to and must arise as to what shall be their powers and authority in the future, and whether they shall be allowed in this way to interfere in affairs which have been deliberately intrusted by the Great Powers to another tribunal altogether."
The lesson taught by the judgment is that the mixed tribunals, as long as France and Russia pursue a policy of annoyance, are not to be relied upon in cases which involve political considerations. With prudent foresight, however, such cases can generally be avoided, or, if not, the consequences are unlikely to be serious. It is always a mistake to threaten what we have not the means to execute; and in this instance, as any modification in the position of the mixed tribunals can only be effected with the consent of all the Great Powers, we would gratuitously give France and Russia the opportunity they desire to put us in the impasse of either retracting our demands or reverting to the deplorable régime of consular courts under the capitu
lations, which the mixed tribunals were created to abolish.
In favour of the Caisse de la Dette much may be said. The financial fetters with which it binds the Treasury are indeed strong, but they have often proved salutary. In regard to the inflexible grasp with which it holds the "Reserve" from economies of conversion, it must be admitted that the Egyptian Government, under British advice and with its eyes open, accepted that situation in 1890, and in our opinion wisely, because it was the only means of reducing the interest of its debt by £350,000 per annum. It is therefore inconsistent to-day to complain that France refuses to apply these economies to purposes which we think advantageous; for, in truth, she is thus only acting as every one with any knowledge of her tactics of obstruction foresaw from the first she would do. After all, the evil is not without some compensation of good. The Caisse employs, and is bound to employ, these economies in the purchase of Egyptian securities, which purchases enable Lord Cromer, in a passage which we have already quoted, to make the interesting calculation that forty-four years hence what is not extinct of the Egyptian debt will be locked up in the safes of the Caisse de la Dette. In the treatment of the General Reserve Fund, from which it was desired to take the £500,000 for the expedition to Dongola, the Caisse has shown its readiness to assist in works of public utility. On the 1st of January last about one-third of the fund had been pledged, chiefly for the construction of railways; and more recently a fresh grant1 of £E250,000 has
1 In Lord Cromer's report this grant is said to be from the "Special Reserve Fund," but this is an error for General Reserve Fund.
been accorded to the Irrigation Department to be expended in works of drainage.
We have therefore no hesitation in saying that until we are prepared to take over the debt of Egypt, after the wise example of France in Tunis and Madagascar, or have the courage to proclaim a protectorate, the mixed tribunals and the Caisse de la Dette, with all their faults, are worth preserving, and are by no means unmitigated evils.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on the vote of the grant in aid, indicated clearly the intentions of the Government as to the future military operations in the Sudan. He said:
"Since that expedition" (of last year) "was undertaken we have never concealed, either from Parliament or from the country, that, in our view, there should be a further advance in the same direction, and that Egypt could never be held to be permanently secured so long as a hostile Power was in occupation of the Nile valley up to Khartoum. We have had to consider whether that policy should still be pursued. We believe that the policy is right, and we intend that it shall be pursued. What we propose is that the policy shall be continued in the coming season, first of all by an advance to a very important point on the Nile called Abu Hamed, which lies to the north-east of the extreme limits of the present province of Dongola.
This is to be as that was" (last year's) "an Egyptian advance, in the first place to Abu Hamed and afterwards possibly beyond. How far I do not think it right to say. But this I will say, that in our opinion the main work to be done in the coming season should be first the consolidation and connection of the districts already under the dominion of the Khedive, and, secondly, the acquisition of important strategical positions which may be of the utmost value in the future."
We cordially approve of the views thus so clearly enunciated.
The objectif is Khartoum, but when it may be convenient to reach it depends upon circumstances. Last year's campaign proved that the Derwishes cannot hold any position on the river-banks against the fire of gunboats. The bravest of men are helpless against the volleys of shot and shell poured in upon them from these floating batteries, to which they can only reply from a few antiquated guns and by rifle - fire. Leave their trenches they must, for they become untenable. The only alternative is to move on or die. The defence at Berber and Omdurman, both on the river's banks, will inevitably meet the same fate as at Hafir. Nor can the Derwishes with time improve their powers of resistance. Gunboats they cannot build, guns they cannot make. It matters, then, little, as far as the opposition of the enemy is concerned, whether the advance to Khartoum is made this year or the next. Strategically, however, it is of importance to make sure of the position of Abu Hamed, and this can best be done by a light railway across the desert from Wady Halfa. Writing of Abu Hamed, Mr Chelu, in his valuable work on the course of the Nile, says :
"Below Abu Hamed the Nile ceases to flow towards the north, and takes a course west-south-west until it reaches Debbeh, sixty kilometres above Ambukol. As the wind blows almost constantly from the north during nine months of the year, it follows that, on account of the direction of the river, this wind, favourable between Assouan and Debbeh, and between Abu Hamed and Khartoum, ceases to be so from Debbeh to Abu Hamed, and constitutes a very serious obstacle to boats which cannot struggle against it."
The river between Ambukol and Abu Hamed is full of rapids, and
"Although the length of the cataract does not exceed six kilometres, it is difficult to go up it against stream in less than six days, say one kilometre per day. The velocity of the water in some places is extraordinary; in others there is no depth. At some points hauling is impossible on account of the multitude of rocks which rise up along the course of the channels, narrow and deep; further on it is literally necessary to slide the boats over sand or rock. Attempted with boats of some size the passage of the fourth cataract is only possible if, after lightening them of their loads, it is arranged to haul them by a number of men varying between 50 and 1500."
From this description it will be easily understood how, opposed by wind and stream and confronted by constant perils, the upward navigation in this portion of the river presents so much difficulty that the transport of artillery and stores for a large army is dangerous. It is this which makes the construction of a light railway220 miles in length-across the desert, from Wady Halfa to Abu Hamed, an absolute necessity. But Abu Hamed once reached and put in railway connection with the base at Wady Halfa, a free way secured at high water to Khartoum, 330 miles distant. It is hoped that this line may be completed by the 1st of September, but to accomplish this will require the utmost efforts of the energetic Sirdar, his officers and men. Should Abu Hamed be connected with Wady Halfa by the 1st of September, then Berber may be got to before the waters have fallen; but if not, then next year both Berber and Khartoum may be taken during the flood.
This movement by stages as may be feasible is decidedly the
The Chancellor of the Exchequer's anticipations are well founded.
The material for the railway being provided for by the grant in aid, the other expenses will be covered by the surplus of 1897, which is likely to amount to £400,000.
We cannot close without expressing our satisfaction at the firm language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the occupation of Egypt: "The fact that we have been compelled to make this advance [of money] through, certainly, no fault or action of our own is, I think, rather likely to prolong the occupation."
These words are emphatic when it is remembered that they proceed from official lips, and they are all that could have been de
sired. Their effect has already been felt in Egypt and in France. In Egypt the most simple intelligences have been impressed by the fact that the mixed tribunals and the Caisse de la Dette, who posed before them as supreme, have proved to be of no account at all
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