responsible for the acts of a tyrant like Raämses, than we can hold the religion of Christ responsible for the acts of a tyrant like the czar of Russia. The high position held by women in ancient Egypt, and the sacredness of home-life, remind one of our own modern civilization. The early Greek travellers speak with astonishment of the respect paid to women in Egypt, and of the freedom they enjoyed a respect and freedom unknown to the Grecian women of those days. The Egyptians were then, as they still are to-day, one of the most religious peoples in the world. Employing that boundless wealth which their victorious armies poured into their country almost entirely for the glorification of their gods, they have left an imperishable record of their own greatness, and of the height of their civilization.

that in Egypt to-day the name Christian stands for every kind of villany. In a rainless country like Egypt the existence of the people depends on irrigation, and to deprive a poor man of his water supply is equivalent to turning his fruitful field into a barren desert. By this deprivation thousands of poor men were driven from their holdings and beggared. Appeal there was absolutely none for the Egyptian peasant. It was the Levantine Christian who was perpetually appealing to the capitulations as a persecuted Christian, persecuted by bigoted Mohammedans. During Ishmael Pasha's reign three and four times the legal taxes were wrenched from the wretched peasantry, who were compelled to borrow money from the Greeks who always accompanied the government taxcollectors. The interest charged was four Such was Egypt in the past. What was or five per cent. per month. Those Greeks it in 1882, when that Providence which and Levantines who entered Egypt withdirects our ways, rough-hew them how we out one pound on their persons now own will, moved the British government to in- some two hundred thousand acres of land terfere, and begin that reform which has which may be valued at £6,000,000 besides been gathering head ever since? The house property and the debts of the peasEgyptian peasantry were being fast con-antry. The writer remarked one day to verted into hewers of wood and drawers a struggling member of the Greek comof water, not to their own governors and munity that a certain Mr. A. was very chiefs that they had long been accus- wealthy; he replied with pride: "Yes, he tomed to but to needy adventurers from is wealthy-he coined all the false silver Greece and the Levant, an indignity new in Ishmael's time; but my countryman, even to that down-trodden people. Egypt Mr. B., is wealthier-he coined all the had verily become what Ezekiel saw in false gold." One living in England can vision, one of the vilest kingdoms of the have no idea of how these European-proworld. Oppressed by Shylock represent-tected peoples oppressed the Egyptians. ing the European bondholders, whose one They are not subject to the law courts. interest in the country was the cutting out They can comm it murder and every kind of the pound of flesh, and misgoverned by of immorality and go off scot-free to-day; Turkish officials, that patient and forbear- imagine what they did in the dark days ing people, whose badge was sufferance, preceding the rebellion of 1882. Without would have bowed their necks to the scruples and without pity, possessed of yoke, had not the indignities and cruelties the worst vices of Asiatics, and wielding they suffered at the hands of the Greeks the whole power of Europe, they seemed and Levantines goaded them in a moment to the Egyptian peasantry the incarnation of mad fury to turn against Turkish of irresistible evil. These were the provoppression and European connivance. ocations the peasantry suffered at the These Greek and Levantine Christians, hands of strangers. They suffered others under the name of European-protected at the hands of their own Turkish govsubjects, sheltered themselves behind the capitulations, and appealed to Europe whenever the slightest resistance was offered to their atrocities. Indeed so hateful became these so-called Christians,

ernors. Men were thrown into prison on suspicion of the pettiest offences, and often stayed years in prison, awaiting trial for crimes for which, if they had been guilty, they could not have been legally

punished by more than a few months' im- | can never accept any accomplished fact, prisonment. Their lands were taken and, allowing themselves to be driven away for public purposes, and far from by jealousy, act in a way unworthy of a receiving compensation they were com- great people. This difficulty in accepting pelled to keep on paying taxes for them. the inevitable has been their characterVillages which complained had to submit to the visitations of Turkish officials, who extracted as much money as they could from the wretched people, and not only lived on the best the land could produce, but compelled the miserable inhabitants to supply them with young girls during their stay. The very recital of such wrongs excites our anger and indignation; what must have been the feelings of the people themselves when they saw Arabi Pasha, as they thought, standing up for the right and driving Greeks and Levantines, Turkish pashas and oppressors, before him like a flock of sheep. The Egyptians in their day of triumph committed excesses and mingled friends and foes in their blind fury, but their excesses were not one-fiftieth part of that which the French peasantry committed in 1789 under less provocation. The people were in earnest, but their leaders were men of straw or selfish, and totally unfit for government, and if left alone they would have drawn the people into a second bondage.

istic through history. Turkey, driven hither and thither by European storms and complications, and urged on by the Turkish ex-governors, who have suffered considerable pecuniary losses by their inability to plunder the Egyptian peasantry, has done her best in her own feeble and crooked way to hamper the good work. By the way, it is the younger members of the families of these Turkish ex-governors who, calling themselves patriotic Egyp tians in Constantinople, make sham appeals to Europe on behalf of Egypt. But the evil efforts of these two interested powers have been more than counterbalanced by the position taken up by the khedive of Egypt. Mahomed Tewfik, the viceroy of Egypt, is one of the best and most distinguished rulers of our day. He had not been long on the throne when the Arabi rebellion broke out, and the difficulty of his position, owing to the conflicting opinions and advice of the all-powerful English and French consuls, had apparently confused and unnerved him; but Until this time the French and English when the crisis actually came, he had had represented Europe in Egypt, and time for reflection among his own people, tried to manage matters between them- without a dozen foreign advisers pulling selves; but owing to their jealousies and in different directions; he saw where the their conflicting methods of work, they strength and the weakness of his country had done nothing except look after the lay, and threw himself unreservedly on interests of the bondholders. They had the side of the English. This step effectively tied the hands of the khedive needed very considerable courage, for the and done nothing themselves. At the English have never really shown their crucial moment the French refused to co- hand. But he saw that it was the only operate, the Turks had not the means, hope of reformation, and putting his own and England took up the gauntlet for out-personal interests to one side, cutting raged Europe. It was her plain duty as against the grain of a thousand prejudices, the recognized representative of the pow-identifying himself with the English reers. Everybody knows how she accom- formers and not with the Turkish govplished her task. In a brilliant campaign ernors, he has thrown the whole of his she stamped out the Egyptian rebellion, weight and authority on the side of imand by her subsequent clemency and jus-provement. The extent to which he has tice she has reconciled the people to her smoothed the path of reform in Egypt will action. The French have bitterly regret-never be fully known. Whenever he has ted their own inaction and surrender of refused the advice of the British authoritheir position, and have done their very ties and acted on his own judgment—as, best to hamper the work. In spite of the for instance, when he dismissed Nubar known chivalry of the race, the French Pasha and appointed Riaz Pasha — it has

been afterwards acknowledged that his judgment was sound. He has made up his mind that his people shall be reconciled to one set of reforms before others are begun. During the course of this year he saw that the time for the new reforms desired by Sir Evelyn Baring had come, and dismissing Riaz Pasha, the most powerful Turkish representative_in Egypt, he appointed the friend of the English, Fehmy Pasha, a man ready for reform. By the Egyptians themselves the khedive is loved and revered. We could give many examples of his habitual kindness and love of honest dealing, but shall confine myself to one. His Highness owns four thousand acres of land in one block in the Delta; this block was separated from the main canal by a strip of land some two miles in width, in the possession of countless petty proprietors. His land-agent wanted to dig a small canal through this strip of land, and offered £70 per acre for the land to be taken up. The petty proprietors refused. The land-agent applied to the irrigation officer to use his influence with the peasantry. It was very evident that they did not want to part with their land, though they were prepared to sign the agreement if pressure were applied. The government officer insisted on the facts being explained to the khedive. The land-agent declared that his Highness would be exceedingly angry. When the khedive had heard the whole tale, he thanked the officer most cordially for having saved him from ignorantly performing an act of injustice, and gave the officer full permission to change the direction of the canal, so that no small proprietors should be injured. It is the daily repetition of countless good actions like this which has made the present khedive the most popular governor Egypt has possibly ever seen. The welcome given him by the peasantry when he made his tour through the whole of Egypt in 1890 was so remarkable that it struck the most careless observers.

When once the Arabi rebellion had been quelled, and the peasantry been balked of the righteous vengeance they were going to wreak on the Europeanprotected subjects who had so long oppressed them, the task of working reforms and seeing justice done to the peasantry fell by right to the English. It was well that their hands were clean in the matter of these sham-protected subjects. They had none of them. Their love of fair play will forever prevent them from taking an unfair advantage of any clause in any treaty or capitulation. English public

opinion would not allow it. It is one of the reasons why they are so respected abroad. In Egypt it has gained them many friends. Again and again village headsmen have informed me that they would rather be at the absolute mercy of the Turks than a prey to these protected subjects.

The British nation, and indeed the whole Anglo-Saxon race, has a special aptitude for undertaking the task of reform. That pride and feeling of superiority which loses them many friends, yet gains them much respect among peoples who have no pride of race. "You are an Englishman, you are a man," said an African chief to Livingstone, on the borders of the Portuguese possessions. "Then what do you call the Portuguese?" said the great traveller. "Oh, they are things," was the reply. "Kilam Anglêsi," the Arabic for "the word of an Englishman,” is a synonym for truth. "That man is not a Christian; he is an Englishman," was the remark of an Egyptian peasant, whose idea of Christianity was diseased by his contact with Levantines. The way in which British soldiers respected women and children after Tel-el-Kebîr has made an impression on the Egyptian mind which centuries will not efface. The terrible deeds committed by the French soldiery under Napoleon - deeds which have been graphically described to me by the sons of men who were eye-witnesses had given the Egyptians an awful idea of what a conquest by Europeans meant. They have learned to forget the past.

The disinterestedness of Englishmen was acknowledged even by Ishmael Pasha, the able though unscrupulous viceroy of Egypt, and one who was no friend of England. He invited Sir Samuel Baker and Gordon to govern the Soudan, stating that he well knew that Englishmen would work for him, and not intrigue for their own country.

When a race so self-reliant and independent as the Anglo-Saxon comes in contact with a race so lacking in those characteristics as the Egyptian, and when the stronger race feels itself called on to perform great actions before the eyes of the whole world, it would indeed be matter for surprise if history had no landmark to record. Eight years ago, when reforms first began, Egypt stood before the world as the land of bakshish, bribery, and corruption, where every man preyed on his fellow, and where no Egyptian could be trusted. The French system of centralization and mistrust was the only possible

means of governing the country. True to sudden blow before the duel properly betheir character of independence and de- gan. He actually could see nothing to centralization, the English brushed the blame in the conduct of his countryman. idea aside, introduced a number of their Though in all the virtues which we concountrymen who had special experience sider manly the Egyptian may easily be to act as leaven, and trusted the Egyp- surpassed, yet in hospitality, in politetians. Life was instantly visible where ness, and in many social virtues other before there had been only decay and de- nations might with advantage sit at his composition. Showing a good example feet. No Egyptian sits down to a meal themselves of perfect honesty and disin- without asking all passers-by to partake terestedness, the English heads of de- of it; during his thirty days' fast every partments appealed to all the better feel- year, his doors are open to all, no introings of their Egyptian fellow-workers. duction is needed; to the poor he gives In spite of the fact that public opinion in ungrudgingly. Though allowed to have Egypt was most unhealthy; that men four wives, the effendi is almost always a found guilty of gross offences were pub- monogamist. Marrying early, he is, as a licly condoled with when punished; that rule, a good husband and father, and fond the Arabic press was entirely in the hands of and kind to his children. In spite of of interested Syrians; and that the French all that has been said to the contrary, press lent the whole of its influence (an knowing them well as we do, we can state influence far greater in 1883 than what it confidently that there is far less immois to-day) to the side of those who opposed rality among them than among Europeans. reforms on moral or immoral grounds, it To show the direction in which the ideas may confidently be stated that the experi- on marriage are setting, we may state ment has been eminently successful. In that one of the first teachers in Mohamthose departments where the confidence medan law in Egypt some time ago laid has been greatest, the success has also down this maxim, that the Prophet had been the greatest. Many instances of allowed four wives to any man who would sterling honesty among subordinate offi- engage to love all four alike, but as he had cials could be given. Men have brought never met any one capable of doing so, he purses of gold and put them on the tables would recommend one wife as the interof their superior officers, and named the pretation of the Prophet's words. Indeed men who had offered the bribes. Others the relations of the first wife so resent a have brought up Europeans and accused man's marrying again, that it is hardly them of bribing to their very faces. The ever done. In abstinence from drinking number of honest men who are to be to excess the whole Egyptian nation stands found in a society confessedly dishonest a head and shoulders above us. has been matter of universal surprise. The sheikhs or village headmen, as Such men under the old system, or under compared to the effendis, may not inaptly a system which did not recognize the ne- be likened to the Saxons as compared to cessity of introducing good leaven into the the Normans. Their hospitality is boundbody of the government, would have been less, and takes the shape of banquets at buried in the most subordinate positions; which Athelstane might have presided and to-day they are sought out and encouraged. Cedric been entertained, and both found Before considering the great reforms themselves at home. We have seen men carried out since 1883, it will be well to sit down to a banquet of twenty-one heavy examine the character of the Egyptian of courses, where a huge turkey was the to-day. The weak points in his armor are seventeenth course; and the first course want of courage, and a very feeble idea of alone consisted of a whole sheep, inside what fair play means. I once witnessed which was a goose, inside that a chicken, some games at a school feast. When the then a pigeon, and finally an egg-which bigger boys had finished their races and last was presented to the principal guest, received their prizes, they stood across as containing the essence of all. We have the ground and would not let the smaller seen a stout, heavy man boast of his abilboys run. They were so persistent that ity to eat a whole roast sheep at one sitthe games had to be stopped. An Egypting, and offer to eat one on the table in my tian effendi, or man of the upper classes, told me with great satisfaction of a duel one of his countrymen had had with an Italian, in which the Egyptian chose clubs as the weapon to fight with, and then disabled the right hand of the Italian by a

presence. We naturally objected. On this occasion the sheep was stuffed with rice; and as the host was carving it by taking the fore legs in one hand, the hind legs in the other, and breaking the back across, the bone snapped suddenly, and a

piece of stuffing about the size of a cricketball flew across the table and struck the stout man in his left eye while he was staring across at the operation, and put him hors de combat during the banquet. He spent the next hour clearing his eye of stuffing.

Having occasion to visit a small village on business, we took a plum-cake with us and offered the headman some. Instead of waiting to be helped, he took up the cake, bit it all round, and pronounced it good. These kinds of banquets, unrefined as they are, are redeemed by the extreme hospitality and kindliness which prevail, and the knowledge that scores of poor people will feed from the basketfuls which remain. We cannot conceive of a people more truly hospitable than the Egyptians. The Egyptian peasantry or fellaheen have been oppressed for so many generations, that it will take time to elevate them. Since the British occupation, they have been so well treated that they are learning to respect themselves and give up the degrading habit of jumping off their donkeys whenever they see a superior. Perpetual ill-treatment has made them suspicious and unamiable. They are far below the lower classes of northern India. One hears them accused occasionally of ingratitude by men who never accost them without adding some epithet such as ox, buffalo, son of a dog, or swine. This last epithet is a special expression of abuse with Turks, whose contempt for the peasantry of Egypt is nearly sublime. Many pleasing proofs of the possession of gratitude by all classes in Egypt are, however, within the experience of English officials. These experiences also go far to show that the bigotry of the Egyptians is not so ingrained as is ordinarily supposed.

[ocr errors]

When the first experiment was made with the corvée abolition—a term which will be explained further on an English officer was riding down a canal, and about midday, feeling tired and hungry, he was glad to be able to accept the invitation of two peasants who were sitting under a tree eating biscuits and curds. He dismounted, and on sitting down by them was asked his occupation. As soon as they learnt that he was in the irrigation service, they exclaimed, "Oh, it is you who have enabled us to stay in our fields sowing cotton instead of paddling in canal mud!" and they ran off and returned with an extraordinary quantity of biscuits and curds. In 1887 a canal was constructed which took water to a strip of land which

had previously been desert. When the first supply of water came down, there was the general rejoicing; and in the thanks giving service at the mosque, the name of the irrigation officer, though he was a Christian, was mentioned after that of H.H. the khedive. Again, in Upper Egypt during the drought of 1888, the minister of public works went up to see what could be done, and took an English officer with him. They succeeded in making an enormous dam and turning a river, by which means fifty thousand acres were irrigated and saved from drought. The gratitude of the people was boundless. When the government officials returned to the principal town in the tract, a place of sixteen thousand inhabitants, the women descended into the water waist-deep, and, forming two ranks, threw up handfuls as the boat passed between them, and blessed them. Immediately after. landing they were led to the principal mosque, accompanied by as many men as the mosque could hold. The minister of public works had the place of honor on the right of the officiating priest, while the Englishman stood on the left, and the mosque was crowded from end to end. In the thanksgiving service the priest did not hesitate to mention the name of the Englishman, though he was a Christian. After the service in the mosque, the procession reformed in the street and was led to the house of the principal inhabitant, while the housetops re-echoed with the Arabic cheers of the women. As the principal inhabitant was not only a very wealthy man but also a poet of great reputation, the banquet was enlivened by a recitation of original poetry. People who act thus cannot be accused of want of generosity or excess of bigotry. Compare this with the habitual practice of the French press in Egypt. This press, which for political reasons has always tried to harm the English and make them appear in an unfa vorable light before the Egyptians, did not hesitate to insinuate that English lady nurses had been introduced into the Kasr-el-Ain hospital in order to try to convert people to Protestantism when on their sick-beds. This statement was made in spite of the fact that one of the most prominent members of the sisterhood was a Roman Catholic lady, though the others were Protestants. No Englishman is of fended by satires or clever hits made at his expense. Most of them take in the

in the coining of a new word in Arabic. They are The advent of these ladies to Egypt has resulted known as "Il Sisterat," or the Sisters.

« ElőzőTovább »