Skip to main content

Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

See other formats

admirers and more bitter detractors amongst the Europeans who had personal knowledge of him, but they observed him in the light of the fierce international rivalries of which he was himself in a great measure both the occasion and the victim. That Mehemet All had many of the elements of greatness is beyond dispute, whilst most of his shortcomings may fairly be imputed to the age in which he lived and the surroundings in which he had to carve out his own fortunes. That he is entitled to take a foremost rank amongst those who have made history will be least of all denied by anyone concerned to study the present situation in Egypt. For, though in many respects he would scarcely recognise the work of his own hands in the Egypt of to-day, he was the maker of modern Egypt, for better and for worse. It is to him that the Egyptians owe the first recognition of any right of private ownership in land. According to the late Yakub Artin Pasha, a distinguished Armenian, whose " Propriete fonciere en Egypte " is still the standard work on the subject, the bargain which Joseph struck with the Egyptians as recorded in the Book of Genesis, when " the land became Pharaoh's/' had held good for more than thirty centuries. They had continued to till the land in common and to be held responsible in common by villages or groups of villages to the Pharaoh of the day for his fifth, or more often for whatever share of the produce his needs or his rapacity chose to exact. The system had endured under the Ptolemies and the Eomans and the Byzantines. When the Arabs poured into Egypt in the seventh century, there was so little resistance that it was doubtful whether under Mahomedan law the country could be dealt with as a land conquered by the sword of Islam or should not properly be given the benefit of having made peaceful submission—a vital question determining as a rule the rights to be granted to the population in respect of the tenure of land under Mahomedan rule. That the former opinion prevailed seems to be shown by the fact that in the mosques of Egyptned the resources ofne to death in the streets of the capital. Egypt wasit in Egypt.    Within the first year of the Occupation