The Ashburton Grardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 1882. The Sentence on the Rebel, Arabi Pasha.
At first sight there seems something rather farcical in the result of the Egyptian imbroglio. The rebel, Arabi Pasha, after having got up a revolution in his country in order to increase the pay of himself and his fellow army officers, after having attempted to depose his master, the Khedive, and subsequently tried to murder him; after having caused two of the greatest nations in the world—England and France—to send a military expedition to Egypt, at a cost to the former country of £4,000,000 ; after having destroyed enormous quantities of foreign property and put numerous foreigners to death, besides setting fire to Alexandria, has been solemnly put on his trial, found guilty, and nominally sentenced to death, but with a distinct understanding that the sentence is not to be carried out, but only that he is to be exiled to some place not indicated, and that he is to retain his sword, titles, and honors. Well might a spectator exclaim, with Desdemona, “ Oh, most lame and impotent conclusion!” In the eves of the Egyptians, probably, it would seem as if the result of the sharp tussle was one of England scoring the odd trick, and honors being divided. Still, it is difficult to see what else could be done. After we had sent an army to Egypt it transpired that Arabi, though personally only a low, unprincipled, thieving cut-throat, was all the while an agent of the Sultan of Turkey, and in the course of the struggle was acknowledged by the Khedive as his agent too. Letters, purporting to be in the Sultan’s handwriting, have been produced, showing that Arabi was fully authorised by him to organise a rebellion in Egypt ; and though the Sultan has since denied that the handwriting is his, there can be little doubt, from his whole conduct, and especially from the decorations he admitted he sent to Arabi after the massacre of Alexandria, that that denial was a mere subterfuge. If, therefore, the Sultan was the principal in the matter of rebellion, it would look small and mean indeed to wreak vengeance on the mere agent, whilst his master was not even censured, far less punished. But beside the Sultan the Khedive also had acknowledged him as his subordinate in the hostilities against Great Britain, for one of the reasons alleged by the Khedive for proclaiming him a rebel was that he had not used due energy in opposing the British capture of Alexandria. Now, it is very certain that Arabi is no subject of ours, and as he has acted therefore by the orders either of the Sultan or the Khedive, or both. So far as we are concerned, Arabi is no rebel, but only a foreign officer in arms against us. If we are to go to war any further, then, it must not be against Arabi, but against either Turkey or Egypt. As regards the former, we should be, in that case, in the position of a person who brings a heavy equity suit against one who has long since been declared insolvent, and has not a shilling’sworth of available assets in case we were to win. And it is not at all so certain that we should win. Almost to a certainty Turkey would be assisted in any war against England by Russia, perhaps also by either Austria, France, or Italy. Against such a combination it would be foolish indeed to wage an unnecessary war. The game would not be worth the candle. On the other hand, if we consider Egypt culpable, a war in that country would mean only a destruction of our property. Our Government owns .£4,000,000 worth of shares in the Suez Canal, and
it is asserted that outside of that, Egypt' owes to provide British capitalists about 000,000 more. Egypt also, like Turkey, is for the present insolvent, and to injure her would be certainly to cut off our nose to spite our own face. On the whole “ the best thing to do is to grin and bear ” our Egyptian loss. We are, unfortunately, entangled in Egyptian affairs, and recent events have shown the wisdom of Lord Palmerston in opposing the construction of the Suez Canal in the first instance, and the shallowness and indiscretion of Lord Beaconsfield in committing Great Britain to the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. We had to go to war lately, not as some people suppose because Englishmen had been killed, and English property destroyed, and certainly mt to acquire additional territory, but to protect life and property from further injury, to maintain our position as the largest shareholders in the Canal, and most of all to keep open the highway to India and Australasia. These objects we shall actually have accomplished by the war. We shall also have shown the Turks and Arabs, who form the dominant class in Egypt, in a very decisive manner that we can fight on either sea or land, and even Arabi Pasha will probably now admit that we gave, him and friends two very sound thrashings, one at Alexandria, and another and still better at Tel-el-Kebir. It is very likely that as Arabi has simply been exiled without any place being mentioned as that to which he will be forwarded, that he will be sent to the usual destination of the Egyptian exiles—the Soudan. And as just now there is a fanatical Mohammadan prophet, who is conducting a rebellion against Egypt, and is starting on his own hook as the Muslim Messiah, the exile may conveniently offer his vote and interest to the new candidate for Khedival honors. Meantime, notwithstanding the apparent lightness of Arabi’s sentence, Great Britain will have got in the main what she wanted —the suppression of an Egyptian rebellion, the command of the Suez Canal, and a free road for her traffic eastward. Considering the objects gained, perhaps the expense incurred can scarcely be regarded as very heavy.