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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

ii        FROM MEHEMET ALI TO THE OCCUPATION       37
naturally still associated in their minds with the type of adventurers who had swarmed round Ismail and had too often been his willing tools, if not his tempters. In the eyes, moreover, of a Mahomedan people the sudden ascendancy of Christian Ministers in a Mahomedan State and the masterful dictation of Christian Governments seemed as great an aSront to their religious as to their racial susceptibilities. For a time all these were only vague stirrings. The young Khedive had accepted a situation which he had inherited but not created. A man of no great ability or originality, but of sound judgment and unquestionable honesty, he co-operated loyally with Ministers who were, like himself, reconciled to the necessity of accepting a large measure of foreign control. The sturdy old reformer, Riaz, was installed as Prime Minister, Blignieres and Baring were appointed Controllers-General, and an International Commission of Liquidation, which was mainly composed of the Commissioners of the Debt, was instituted with full powers to deal with the financial situation. For a time things worked fairly smoothly. But when Ismail had tampered with army discipline in order to upset a Cabinet which he detested he stirred up dangerous passions to which his last appeal to a new spirit of Nationalism gave an orientation he certainly never anticipated.
When Mehemet Ali first organised an Egyptian army, its officers were all Turks and Circassians and Albanians. For a long time a real Egyptian could only rise to be a non-commissioned officer. Then gradually Egyptians came to be promoted to officers' rank, and under Said and Ismail their numbers had steadily increased. But the old Turkish caste, still very powerful in Egypt, maintained its preponderancy in the higher ranks of the army to which the Egyptian officers but rarely obtained promotion, and it took good care that the latter should be the first to go when, under financial pressure, large reductions had to be made in the officer cadres. Ismail had always taken the ascendancy of the Turkish caste  therefore  determined  to   entrust