Skip to main content

Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

32                      THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                 CHAP,
order.5 It is the Government itself that claims them. To whom should he complain ? "
But the Commission of Inquiry also established that excessive taxation, arbitrarily imposed and mercilessly collected, was only one of Ismail's methods of^ robbing his people. The Khedive's private estates were cultivated by forced labour. The corvee not only imposed fearful hardships on the hundreds of thousands of fellaheen who were commandeered for it. It was used also as a pretext for extorting money from those who were not actually liable to do corvee work. In order to fertilise the Khedive's estates, irrigation water, without which no land can be cultivated in Egypt, was denied to the poor and helpless peasant, who saw it diverted from his fields without any hope of redress, as there were no courts to which he could appeal for justice. Nor did Ismail rob only the fellaheen. He did not hesitate to lay hands on the moneys belonging to the WaJkf, i.e., to the department entrusted with the administration of Mahomedan religious endowments, and on the Beit-el-Mal, which administered the estates of minors, and on the Orphans' Fund and even on the funds of the National Schools. Everything went into his bottomless pocket. As a variant to Louis XIVs " L'6tat c'est moi," Ismail might well have adopted as his motto cc L'&tat, c'est ma poche." For the State was only a huge engine of spoliation for his own benefit. He strained it till it crashed.
The crash, when it came, though it assumed in the first instance a financial shape, was in reality a collapse of the whole iniquitous system of government, which bled Egypt itself white whilst its credit abroad was being at the same time sucked dry. It has been the fashion in some quarters to denounce the foreign financiers and the foreign bondholders as the cause of Egypt's sufferings. I am not concerned to defend the financiers who took advantage of, and perhaps even encouraged, Ismail's criminal extravagance, and it may be argued that bondholders who allow themselves to be caught by theortgaged, but it was quickly soul ever went to the hospital of his own free will, the exception being beggars who were driven there by poverty. The public of Cairo firmly believed that the hospital was merely a prelude to the cemetery, and that the sick were beaten and robbed by the attendants,