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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

Ill
LIMITATIONS OF BRITISH CONTROL
63
futility of merely Egyptian legislation so long as the Capitulations stand in the way of the application of new laws to foreigners as well as to Egyptians. Whatever may still be the defects of the Egyptian police and of the Egyptian Administration, there has long since ceased to be any excuse for such a scandalous state of affairs. But whilst this is more or less reluctantly admitted by most of the Powers, they, or some of them at least, have persisted hitherto in regarding it as a lesser evil than the surrender of any part of the Ark of the Covenant in which the Capitulations are enshrined. It is surely unnecessary to labour any further the point whether, before the Occupation, Egypt, even though nominally autonomous, reaDy enjoyed in any sense that can properly be attached to the word the national independence of which we are supposed to have robbed her. When Lord Cromer first took charge of the conduct of Egyptian affairs, Egypt had to reckon with the suzerain rights of the Ottoman Sultan, which, however circumscribed, afforded him frequent opportunities of mischievous interference; with the international restraints placed upon her power to raise and spend revenue pending the liquidation of her foreign debt; and with the whole system of servitudes imposed upon her by the Capitulations. All these things must be borne in mind in measuring the work he was able to perform. As we shall see, he successfully parried the worst attempts of the Sultan to revive the political ascendancy of Turkey, and he released the Egyptian Treasury from the grip of the foreign bondholders ; but the burden of the Capitulations was one which he was not in a position to lighten, as they cannot be touched without the consent of all the Powers concerned, and it was only after the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904 that he was able even to suggest to the British Government the possibility of framing a scheme for their revision which under British auspices might overcome foreign opposition to any change. The Capitulations remained and still remain what they were his successors  teem with instances that illustrate   the   resourcefulness   of   the   law-breakers   in exploiting  the  benefits   of   the   Capitulations  and theifc