Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

and had the courage of their opinions, but the occasion for asserting them was generally wanting.

The Turco - Egyptian Pashas, the Moslem hierarchy, the Europeanised Egyptians, and the French were, in the first instance, for various reasons hostile.

The squirearchy, the Copts, the Syrians, and the Levantines hovered between friendship and hostility, being torn by conflicting sentiments and driven hither and thither by every passing breeze of self-interest.

The mass of the population, that is to say, the fellaheen, were certainly from the very first friendly, but they were politically speechless, and, moreover, were so credulous and ignorant that, had they attempted to make their voices heard, they would just as likely as not have fallen into the hands of frothy demagogues or unprincipled newspaper editors, who would have made them say the opposite of what they really thought.

A small body of respectable and intelligent Europeans were friendly, but their friendship was platonic. They took little part in local politics, and were, for the most part, mere spectators of what was passing on the political stage.

It will be seen that the hostile, quasi - hostil y and apathetic forces, though less numerous, were more powerful than those who were friendly. On the one side, stood the stolid conservatism of the East, religious prejudice, ignorance, international jealousy, and a number of powerful vested interests, some of an ignoble type. On the other side, stood the force derived from an honest endeavour to secure the well - being of a whole population, which had been trodden under foot for centuries.

The battle seemed in some respects unequal. Yet the Englishman took heart of grace.

He proceeded with caution and he won the day.

VOL. II

[ocr errors]

He felt from the first that he was fighting in a good cause. He had the goodwill of intelligent and impartial Europe. He had a military force behind him to prevent any premature upset of the whole machine. He was able to employ agents of experience trained in all the intricacies of Oriental government. Ten years after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir a competent observer was able to write: "Even our superb administration of India is hardly a brighter jewel in our imperial crown than the marvellous regeneration of Egypt.”? More than this.

As the occupation continued, a great change came over the opinions of various sections of Egyptian society. The benefits conferred by the exercise of British influence were, indeed, so palpable that they could not be denied. Amongst both European and Egyptian society, all but a very small class ranged themselves, either actively or passively, on the side of England. Notably, both Italian and Greek sympathy was on many occasions displayed in a very remarkable degree. The representatives of the various Christian communities resident in Egypt seized every possible opportunity for expressing their friendliness to England. With a few exceptions, even the Moslems acquiesced in the policy of reform.

The open or covert hostility of various sections of society in Egypt has not been the only, neither, indeed, has it been the principal difficulty which has beset the path of the English reformer. Under

Cairo, p. 243. : I wrote these remarks in 1903, and, in spite of any appearances to the contrary, my conviction is that they still (1907) hold good. During the last three or four years, a strong and very legitimate desire to take a greater part than heretofore in the administration of the country has made itself felt among intelligent Egyptians, but my belief is that the number of those who would really wish the reforming work of England in Egypt to be brought prematurely to a close still comprise a 'very small," and, I may add, a wholly unrepresentative, class.

the combined influences of rival diplomatists, bondholders, foreign jurists, and others, who have from time to time borne a part in Egyptian affairs, a variety of fantastic institutions grew up, many of which were originally devised to check misgovernment, but which, under altered circumstances, have, as a matter of fact, acted as powerful obstacles to reform. An endeavour will now be made to guide the reader through some of the intricate windings of this administrative labyrinth.

CHAPTER XXXIX

THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT

Nature of the machinery-Parts of the machine-1. THE SULTAN

The Firman of 1892–The Sinai Peninsula-2. THE KHEDIVE-
Rescript of August 28, 1878—Constitutionalism of Tewfik Pasha

3. The MINISTERS—The Departments—Position of an Egyptian Minister-4. THE ORGANIC Law of May 1, 1883—The Provincial Councils The Legislative Council—The Legislative Assembly.

If any one unacquainted with mechanics enters a factory where a quantity of steam machinery is at work, he is for a moment deafened with the noise, and his first impression will not improbably be one of surprise that any delicate bit of workmanship can result from the apparent confusion which he sees before him. Gradually, however, he comes to understand that the rate at which each wheel turns is regulated to a nicety, that the piston of the steam-engine cannot give a stroke by one hair'sbreadth shorter or longer than that which it is intended to give, that the strength with which the hammer is made to descend is capable of the most perfect adjustment, that safety-valves and a variety of other checks and counterchecks exist which are sufficient guarantees against accident, and that, generally, each portion of the machinery is adapted to perform a certain specified bit of work and is under such perfect control that it cannot interfere with the functions of any other portion. He will then no longer be surprised that, with a little care in oiling the different parts of the machinery, a

highly finished piece of workmanship is eventually produced

If, on the other hand, he finds on examination that the confusion is even worse than at first sight appeared, that the movement of each wheel is eccentric in the highest degree, that the piston is liable at any moment to stop working, that there is no adequate machinery for adjusting the strength of the stroke to be given by the hammer, that safety-valves and other guarantees against accident are wanting, that the work to be performed by each separate portion is uncertain ‘and variable, that some portions are of the latest and most improved patterns whilst others are old, rusty, and obsolete, that a strong centrifugal force is constantly at work impelling the different parts of the machinery to fly out of their own orbits, and that a mistake on the part of the engineer in not removing any small particle of grit betimes, or not applying the right amount of oil at the right moment, may bring about a collapse of the whole fabric,—he will then no longer look for the production of any highly finished article. Indeed, he will be surprised that the mechanical chaos before him is capable of producing any article at all.

The Egyptian administrative system_bears to the administration of any highly civilised European State much the same relation as the second factory described above bears to the first. In Europe, we know what a despotism means, and we know what constitutional government means.

The words absolute monarchy, limited monarchy, republic, parliamentary government, federal council, and others of a like nature, when applied to the government of any country, will readily convey to an educated European a general idea of how the government of the particular country in question

« PoprzedniaDalej »