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in fact, been used as a catspaw in order to get the British Government out of a difficulty. These statements are devoid of foundation. The British Government never proposed to Italy to occupy Massowah. All they did was to adopt a friendly attitude towards Italy, and to abstain from creating difficulties which might have proved obstacles to the attainment of Italian aspirations. The British Government did nothing to thwart the Italians but beyond this they did not go. Indeed, I remember telling M. de Martino, the Italian Consul-General at Cairo, that my personal opinion was that the Italians were making a mistake in occupying Massowah. He was inclined to share my views, but the matter was not one for him to decide. The Italian Government and the Italian Parliament were naturally presumed to be the best judges of Italian interests. M. Mancini, who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, warmly espoused the cause of occupation, and he was at the time supported by public opinion in Italy. Dissuasion or opposition on the part of England would have been regarded as an unfriendly act dictated by an unworthy jealousy of Italian extension.

When the Italian Government were assured of the absence of objection on the part of England, they acted with promptitude. Plausible excuses for action were not wanting. Some Italian travellers had been murdered in the neighbourhood of Massowah, and the Italian Government had failed to obtain adequate satisfaction. Early, therefore, in the month of February 1885, a formidable squadron appeared at Massowah and took possession of the place. The Egyptian garrison was shortly afterwards withdrawn.

The Sultan was indignant. For a time, the Foreign Offices of Europe rang with angry but ineffectual protests from the Porte. The Powers

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who had guaranteed the integrity of the Ottoman Empire were implored to interfere. But no one had any real interest in the matter. The Cabinets of Europe turned their heads the other way, and the diplomatic clamour soon died out. From that time forth, Italy has been in possession of Massowah. Whether it is worth while for the Tuscan and Neapolitan peasant to continue to pay taxes for the maintenance of Italian authority over a territory, which will probably never be of any great value either from a commercial or from any other point of view, is a matter for the Italian nation to decide. Nations are not, however, entirely governed by considerations of material interests. The national honour and dignity are supposed to be at stake, and they will, without doubt, so far carry the day as to prevent Italy from abandoning territory which possibly many Italians now think it was unwise ever to have seized.

Thus it was that the huge unwieldy edifice, which Ismail Pasha had sought to erect, fell with a crash which resounded throughout North-Eastern Africa. The Englishman, the Italian, the Frenchman, the Abyssinian, the Dervish, and the slavehunter divided the spoils between them. And why did the edifice fall? The destruction of General Hicks's army precipitated the catastrophe. But the real reason why Ismail Pasha's empire fell was that it was eventually overtaken by the fate inevitably attending all political fabrics which are rotten to the core. It fell because it deserved to fall. It may be that the light of Western civilisation will some day be shed over the whole of Africa, but if this consummation is ever to be attained, it must be through other agents than the slave-hunting, corrupt, and tyrannical Pashas,

who were employed by the Egyptian Government, and who, themselves but semi-civilised, introduced none of the blessings but some of the curses of civilisation amongst the people who, by a cruel fate, were for a time placed under their control

CHAPTER XXXI

THE DEFENCE OF EGYPT

1886-1892

The Egyptian army-Negotiations with the Dervishes-Fighting on

the frontier-The siege of Suakin-Defeat of Osman DignaWad-el-Nejumi-Nejumi advances—The battles of Argin and of Toski-Death of Wad-el-Nejumi-Results of the battle Situation at Suakin - The reoccupation of Tokar - Defeat of Osman Digna.

ALTHOUGH British military aid to a very limited extent was subsequently on one or two occasions afforded to the Egyptian Government, it may be said that from the date of the battle of Ginniss (December 30, 1885) the defence of Egypt against the Dervishes practically devolved on the Egyptian army. That army was now officered by a wellselected body of Englishmen. Its organisation had been greatly improved. The men were gaining confidence in themselves. A small Egyptian Camel Corps had fought at Kirbekan, and its conduct had obtained General Brackenbury's commendations. A more considerable Egyptian force had taken a creditable part in the battle of Ginniss. Hopes, therefore, began to be entertained that for the future the Egyptian army would of itself suffice to repel any attack which might be made by the I Dervishes. The sequel showed that these hopes were destined to be realised.

It has been already shown that a great shrinkage

of Egyptian territory had taken place. The army was no longer called upon to defend remote regions in the centre of Africa. Its task was of a more modest nature. In the first place, it had to prevent the Dervishes from descending the valley of the Nile farther than Wadi Halfa ; in the second place, it had to maintain whatever was left of Egyptian authority in the Eastern Soudan. For the time being, this latter task was confined to the defence of the town of Suakin, for Egyptian authority did not extend beyond its walls. For obvious reasons, based on the difficulties of communication, the operations in the valley of the Nile and at Suakin were to a great extent independent of each other.

Before entering upon a description of the military operations which were about to take place, it will be as well to allude briefly to an attempt which was made to negotiate with the Dervishes. A Convention between the British Government and the Porte was signed at Constantinople, on October 24, 1885, in virtue of which two Commissioners, one British and one Turkish, were despatched to Cairo. The second article of the Convention provided that the Ottoman Commissioner was to consult with the Khedive “upon the best means of tranquillising the Soudan by pacific measures. After some delay, it was arranged that Youssuf Pasha Shuhdi should be sent to Wadi Halfa in order to try his hand at negotiation with the Dervishes. He left Cairo for the frontier in May 1886.

It was as well to make an attempt to negotiate, if only to show to those who believed in the possibility of successful negotiations that it was hopeless to attempt to come to any arrangement with the Dervishes. But to all who had any appreciation of the true nature of the Mahdist

· This subject is more fully treated in Chapter XLVI

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