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The Wellesley Periodical Index identifies the author as Hobart-Hampden (1822-1886), adviser to the Sultan of Turkey. In transcribing the following passage from “A Voice from the East on Eastern Questions” I have relied on the Hathi Trust’s online version and its invaluable OCR text. Links in the text take you to material in the Victorian Web, which includes contemporary articles from Victorian periodicals and reference works. Click on images to enlarge them. Please notify the webmaster if you encounter typographical errors. — George P. Landow
he policy of England in Egypt has been, and cannot cease to be, a gigantic and fatal error from beginning to end. The Gladstone Government started to play the part of a Don Quixote in Egypt on two points. The first was to maintain on his throne the present Khedive, whom they gratuitously claimed, without any apparent necessity or sufficiently weighty political reason, to have appointed themselves, but who in reality is named by the Sultan, his only legitimate suzerain—his Majesty at the time, perhaps too graciously, yielding to the general wish of the European Powers that a change should take place in the government of Egypt. Hence, as a matter of fact, all the Powers were politically more or less interested in the appointment of the new Viceroy.
Secondly, the British Government professed to aim at securing the safety of the high road to India, which, rightly or wrongly, was imagined to be endangered by the revolutionary state of Egypt; while we have yet to learn that the legitimacy of this desire has ever been resisted or challenged by any Power, or by the Egyptians themselves, at any moment since the creation of the Suez Canal. Now, as to the first point, it seems pretty obvious by this time that the present Khedive is but a weak if well-intentioned person, who began his semblance of a reign under British auspices in a manner irritating to his own subjects, by giving all lucrative appointments to foreigners (not always with due reference to their relative abilities); by refusing promotion to his own officers; by showing throughout a strong inclination to quash the not unnatural idea of “Egypt for the Egyptians”; and by thus giving proofs in every instance of decided incapacity to govern the province himself, and of utter inability to prevent his new patrons from mis governing in his name, and so bringing odium and ridicule upon both nations. That a man like Mr Gladstone, whose dearest platform principle was “Nations for nationalities,” should have so nipped in the bud the rising aspirations of the Egyptian people, seems quite incomprehensible, unless we admit the fact that he also was ignorant of the rights of the question, or that he judged it from a prejudiced point of view, as is sometimes his wont.
Arabi Pasha was, we may admit, perhaps a fanatic, unfit in many ways for the part he undertook to play in the “Comedy of Errors” which his ill-judged violence first produced, and afterwards caused to be continued under the force of these very circumstances which we did not rightly comprehend, and consequently could not wisely control or direct to salutary ends. But that there was then a strong patriotic or reforming feeling with an influential class in Egypt, nobody can doubt or deny; and our mistakes and heavy responsibility have all arisen from the infatuation of not recognising it, of assuming it to be only revolutionary and disorderly, and of treating it as such with too high a hand which it is always sought to inculcate, in words at least, upon the Eastern populations, been fostered and wisely guided, there would never have arisen in its place that irritation and enmity caused amongst the Egyptians by seeing themselves, after a solemn promise of better things, almost daily elbowed out of all participation in the government of their own country by such hybrid foreign institutions as dual control, arbitrarily interpreted and applied, and a summary assumption of supreme power, as offensive to their religious persuasions as it was objectionable, in form and practice, to their revered and highest ecclesiastical and civil authorities, including the Sultan and his viceregal representative.
The bombardment of Alexandria while the Conference was sitting in Constantinople was another very grave error, for if it was apprehended that the British fleet would be molested while lying at anchor in the harbour, why did it not go to sea for a short time, or until the decision of the Conference was made known and if it was necessary to destroy any new battery or threatening works in course of construction, it could have been done with a single vessel (the main body of the fleet being always in readiness in case of the other forts opening fire), without the necessity of a shell being thrown into the town of Alexandria. It may be well here to mention a fact perhaps not generally known or believed, that our newly elected pet at the time, the young Viceroy himself, signed the order to resist the British ships, his excuse being, poor weak creature, that he was forced to do so! [836-37]
- Augustus Charles Hobart-Hampden (1822-1886), author of this article
- Egypt and the British Empire (homepage)
- “The Most Pressing Difficulty of the Day”: The Situation in the Sudan (The Edinburgh Review)
- “England in Egypt” (text of entire article from Westminster Review, 1884)
- No One Knew Why They Were Fighting (from a Review of Suakin, 1885. By An Officer Who Was There)
- “There was no enemy, and no war, but we had to fight”: The Quarterly Review’s Attacks on the Egyptian Policies of Gladstone's Ministry
[Hobart-Hampden, Augustus Charles]. “A Voice from the East on Eastern Questions.” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. 135 (April 1884): 835-49. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Iowa Library. Web. 4 September 2020.
Last modified 4 September 2020