Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

spectors. The Egyptian bureaucracy felt its prestige annihilated; and but for unprecedented caution and manners of un-British inoffensiveness this would have been the case. With the ultracaution of the officials the situation, however, was saved. A few, a very few, Englishmen ran to and fro examining, regulating, correcting; they were almost ubiquitous, yet the face of the native government "was not blackened” as the people say in the metaphor of their native Arabic. In fact, as it was definitely settled that Great Britain would not assume the government, many important concessions were made to native prejudice and feeling. This was a very hard and very risky course, for the failures of the ministry in any direction would naturally be attributed by the jealous public opinion of Europe to English mismanagement. Nubar the prime minister had already succeeded in diminishing the abuses of the consular courts by organizing mixed tribunals, composed of native and European judges, and competent in all disputes between natives and strangers. He was now permitted to try his hand at the reform of the pure native courts, and he signally failed. In the menace of immediate bankruptcy the English took funds from the treasury for purposes not permitted under the international control of the finances and there was a terrible outcry. And the Egyptian army with British officers in the Egyptian service had lost the Sudan! France and the French newspaper organs rent the heavens with remonstrance and abuse. A French paper of Cairo was so scurrilous and so traitorous that it was suppressed, and by means which the French consul showed to be illegal. Altogether the middle eighties in Egypt went far to destroy British prestige in colonial administration. As under the conditions prevailing the interest on the debt could no longer be paid, radical measures seemed necessary to all Europe.

Patience was essential, or at least a substitute for patience, and the substitute was at hand. England grew uneasy under the Irish question and left her agents to themselves, creditors were timidly quiet and clamor ceased when the world realized that to hound the English in occupation was to ruin themselves. The doctors at the bedside might be ill-advised but there were no others to take their place, not only no better ones, but absolutely none. Throughout 1884 and 1885 the powers discussed; and when the plain facts were made known a reasonable arrange ment of the finances, since called the London Convention, was drawn up and signed in March, 1885. The astute Nubar saw that England had come to stay; an able man and a true patriot, he had fretted under her control; and after making one last futile effort to shake it off by an appeal in person to the continental powers and to England herself he resigned. The second greatest obstacle to British success was thus removed.:

As a proof of the esteem in which the English held him one may see in All Saints Church, Cairo, a tablet to his memory as that of a just man! In fact his own people had long since ceased to love him, for they could not realize how helpless he had been and blamed him for every English advance. His last and final defeat was in the reorganization of the police system, when he made unwise nominations and was discredited by their rejection. This he gave as the ostensible reason for his resignation. Lord Cromer is a quiet and a stern man; it was seen how unwise it had been to raise an issue with him. For, all this time there was a British army of occupation, and the Sudan affairs made it easy to post its detachments at every strategic point. An awful outbreak of cholera brought British inspectors into every hamlet almost simultaneously, and the simple code of health laws was rigidly enforced in spite of numberless outbreaks of fanatical resistance. The mailed hand was at every man's door; and, though it was there only in beneficence, it was felt to be a mighty fist that could easily strike in anger.

Then began almost magically the complete turn in British luck with Egypt. Her agents have been able from that hour to play the strangest game of government that ever was played and to play it with signal success. Their policy of Egypt for the Egyptians, of the restoration of order and the establishment of prosperity by means of Egyptians and as far as Egyptians can carry it, has never faltered for one moment. The complexities of its realization are infinite, the hollow and side-splitting farce of Turkish suzerainty, the comedy of khedivial rule, the melodrama of continued international control — all these are played with a zest worthy of reality and an artistic skill that produces the effect of the highest naturalness. It seems to pay, this puz

zling complexity, difficult and illogical and opportunist as it is. For already Egypt is a solvent, peaceful, regenerate, happy land. Even Moslemism has ceased from its fanatic agitations, for the time, and the highest authorities of Islam give their edicts in consonance with British policy.

Here is a sample or two of the way it works. The English army of occupation has been reduced to a few regiments; in Egypt proper, three thousand men all told or thereabouts. Yet the military power of Great Britain in Egypt is tremendously strengthened. Why? Because in 1884 the Egyptian peasants, beggared and abused, so hated military service that on the slightest provocation, in presence of the enemy, they threw down their arms and ran; with Moslem fatalism they even sought death as preferable to the long torture of their lives. Now after years of kindly treatment they prove faithful and courageous soldiers, good on the march, trustworthy in battle. As the Sirdar or chief commander is a British general, the Egyptian army not only holds Egypt for England, but it could be immediately employed in any sudden crisis to put down rebellion in the Sudan, where at Khartum there is a mere handful of English soldiers. As things are, the British troops in Egypt have no status whatever, they are merely uninvited guests. Morally their presence produces an enormous effect, of course, in upholding Cromer's authority, but really it is already the sanction of the Egyptian army which is behind British administration and British control. By way of making the situation complete, the coal-black Soudanese have been enlisted and formed into battalions. While the Egyptians have a passion for drill and fight quite well enough, the Soudanese are impatient of drill but fight as few other soldiers in the world.

The total force is under fifteen thousand. They are so distributed as to protect the only frontier line which requires defence — that on the extreme south with the eastward outpost of Suakin on the Red Sea. Three or four thousand are scattered here and there down below, partly for display, partly to insure internal order in case of extremity. Their minor officers are in the main native Egyptians of Arab, Coptic or Turkish extraction. In them lies the weak point of the military structure. They are impatient of education and discipline, they lack character and initiative. Their own claim is that they are kept down and deprived of opportunity. The British rulers of Egypt are extremely anxious for high quality in the men of their own blood employed in the country, and since they know that an increase in the number of British officials, civil and military, would mean a lower standard of capacity, they are growing uneasy lest the company officers should fail and have to be replaced by commonplace or low-grade Englishmen. They appear therefore to be on the eve of an experiment, that of taking the native officers at their word and giving them their chance, reducing the number of higher British officers as the others rise to replace them.

The greatest value of a journey through Egypt is that the traveller is forced to perceive how closely the state stands related to its folk. All life is so simple and so primitive that cause and effect are directly, momentarily visible. In this simplicity it was and can now be seen how Ismail, wickedly prodigal, created a burden of debt the interest on which must be paid by direct taxes. These taxes fall chiefly on the land, and they increase in exact proportion as taxable property diminishes from want of water or other disaster. On the other hand, they decrease as there is plenty of water to make plenty of taxable land, or as other minor almost negligible forms of prosperity create other although less important taxable property. With the observant eye is literally seen, and not deduced by tedious economic logic from masses of statistics, exactly how public utilities create private property: in this case how irrigation works, which can only be constructed at public expense, bring immediate return to the government by what is paid for water, by what is created for taxation, by the increased well-being of the people and their consequent contentment. To the individual the efficiency of the government is everything: with a certain supply of water, he can raise one crop, with more another, with a perennial supply still a third or even a fourth. This of course reacts directly on every department of life, on wages, on imports, on barter, on exchange, on security, on the welfare of man and of men. Here is political, social, financial economy in a system easily comprehended by any clear mind. With a thrifty, almost parsimonious administration

taxes are diminished in their incidence upon each unit, exactly as there are more units on which to lay them.

When Ismail was deposed, by a law of liquidation the debt was consolidated at its face value, almost a hundred million pounds (nearly a third of his borrowings had been retained by the lenders as commission), and the interest was scaled down on the various divisions of bonds to five and four per cent according to terms and security, until the interest account called for about three and a half millions a year. By the tribute to the Porte and by what was guaranteed to England as return on her Suez Canal shares this sum was raised to about four and a half millions per annum, almost half of the total revenue of the country at the time. From the other half, another portion was deducted as a sinking fund. This amounted only to a million, when at a bound Arabi's rebellion and the revolt of the Sudan, following each other in a brief space, added ten million to the debt. Yet the law was still in force when peace came and the revenues rose by leaps and bounds; in the single year 1883, eight hundred thousand went to the sinking fund. Unfortunately the expense of administration rose too, and double that sum had to be found to meet the deficit in the budget for administration. This absurdity was carefully studied by experts appointed by the various powers who met in convention at London in 1884, and on the basis of their reports a binding agreement was reached in 1885. Six commissioners from as many powers have absolute control of the debt; these nations guaranteed a new loan of nine millions which was raised at about three per cent, entailing an annual charge of three hundred and fifteen thousand pounds. The new loan wiped out all outstanding debts and furnished a million for irrigation. This was so wisely spent that it returned in a single year new receipts nearly equal to the capital.

Under the London Convention things work somewhat in this way. The commissioners of the debt are known as the Caisse de la Dette Caisse for short. The Caisse takes, as under the law of liquidation, a certain share of the revenue, about four-ninths; the rest goes for administration to the government. The latter makes a budget which is authorized by all concerned. The Caisse first pays all the bond coupons and from the surplus pays

« ZurückWeiter »