Hyndman and Morris

The Bondholders Battue

The two fearful massacres which have taken place this week are but a continuance of that fatal succession of mischances which has dogged the policy of the Government in Egypt. To blame the miserable administration in Cairo for what has taken place is simply to eke out incompetence with meanness. Of course the Khedive and his advisers were half-hearted in supporting Baker Pasha, of course they are ready to intrigue with D I Barrère or anybody else. That is the nature of Orientals; especially when straightforwardness as in the case of Arabi ended in the disgusting butchery of Tel-el-Kebir. But the main responsibility for all these horrors inflicted upon the luckless Egyptians must rest with England; and it is high time that our people should understand what a fearful responsibility that is. For whatever we may say about our own Government, and there is plenty to be said from every point of view - this must ever be remembered that the monstrous blundering in Egypt like the shameful misgovernment in Ireland is due to the fact that Englishmen allow their rulers to do what they please in the name of the country.

The truth is that our entire action in Egypt has been shaped by a gang of international loanmongers from the first outbreak of the soldiery under Arabi until now. The contention that the safety of the Suez Canal was in danger, was a mere subterfuge. And when once we had beaten Arabi and had put up our puppet Tewfik nothing but a complete reversal of policy steadily carried out could relieve us from being Jew-ridden to the bitter end. Vacillation meant annexation or humiliation. That dilemma is before us to-day.

And who again is to blame for this? First and foremost, as everyone is saying, the Government. That hopeless incapacity to look facts in the face, and to gauge existing forces without bias which has always distinguished Mr. Gladstone in external affairs, was never more fatally displayed than in this case. As we urged lately, every step taken has been directly calculated to make matters worse. What need was there to appoint a clique of financial hacks whose one object in life is to obey orders from international loanmongers to represent us in Egypt? Why allow Hicks to go to his fate in the Desert without protest? On what grounds hesitate to employ Gordon in time, if he were to be employed at all? To obtain what advantage favour the hobnobbing of two such passed masters in intrigue as Nubar Pacha and M. Barrère? Granting that we were obliged to go to war for the bondholders, and to waste millions on butchering industrious peasants who only wished to be relieved from the grip of the usurers - even with such an admission thrown in, it might seem that England had thereby gained the right to consider her own people and the people of Egypt before anyone else. But we would neither leave the country alone, nor would we administer it in earnest when native Government had been rendered impossible by our action. For this Liberals and Radicals, we repeat, as the party in power are primarily responsible. The blood of those wretched fellahs is on their head. And, in a special sense, is this true of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke. But for their shameless disregard of every principle they professed when out of office, but for their determined efforts to silence any protest by Radicals in Parliament and in the country against their own infamous betrayal, we never could have been placed in the dangerous position which we occupy at this hour. We hope that even now some Radical member will have the pluck - very little is needed - to tell these men in plain language that they have sold out to the enemy, and that they have prostituted the principles of morality which they were placed in power to champion.

But though the ministers, being the ministers, are necessarily on their trial before the country, the Conservatives have no right whatever to pose as their accusers. They themselves forced the wavering Cabinet into the bombardment of Alexandria and the fatal blunder of the conquest of Egypt. Why then did we not hear all this about the bondholders from the Tory benches which some of us at least never wearied of saying at the time? Why did not Lord Salisbury rise in the House of Lords and Sir Stafford Northcote in the House of Commons to challenge the expenditure of English blood and English money in the interests of bondholders and usurers? We all know very well. Because they wished for the war and taunted the Government with cowardice in not crushing a defenceless people. And the Government was weak enough and wicked enough to yield to this clamour.

What matters, however, which faction or what place-hunters ought specially to be denounced? It is the English people who must suffer for all this pusillanimity and greed. Can they not for once decide the matter for themselves? The situation is more dangerous even than it looks. Behind the growing probability of a widespread Mahommedan revival - an African and an Asiatic crescentade - lies the possibility of grave misunderstanding with France. Can any sober man honestly declare that the mass of the English people are interested in taking upon themselves a minor India and running the risk of rivalry with a great military nation? The thing is preposterous. Trade is bad, Ireland is far from pacified, social pressure is daily increasing at home, our army is overtaxed already and Indian troops could not safely be used. But if all looked as flourishing as it now looks depressing, we ought equally to say that we do not intend to annex the country under any circumstances whatever. Yet to send troops now with the idea of leaving later is merely to go blindfold into unknown risks. Therefore we at any rate raise our voice against the dispatch of English or Indian troops to Egypt, knowing right well that such a step, if it is not to land us in disaster, can only be taken at the expense of an alliance, direct or indirect, with the banded military brigandism of Central Europe. Let not Englishmen then, whatever may have been the fate of noble General Gordon, be deluded by a cry for vengeance, or an appeal to what, in, this case at least, is a spurious patriotism. The workers have many accounts to settle nearer home, without allowing a Liberal government to promote reaction under the pretence of putting down slave-dealing, or to annex Egypt for the benefit of the upper and middle classes.


Justice, 9th February 1884, p. 4.