66 THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM CHAP.
and many others owed their lives to us. The people, exhausted by the long years of oppression which had driven them to welcome any form of revolt, returned patiently to their daily toil, and quickly learnt to look to us for the deliverance they were helpless .to achieve for themselves. The chief difficulties which British control encountered during the first two decades of the Occupation arose out of the more or less covert opposition of the old ruling classes to reforms which threatened their ill-gotten privileges, or, as has been shown in the previous . chapter, out of the international situation and the oppor-
'^< tunities that foreign Powers still possessed for constant
interference in the internal affairs of Egypt.
If those difficulties merely hampered but never arrested the great work of reconstruction carried out with almost unfailing success during that period, the credit belongs in the first place to the genius and unconquerable patience of Lord Cromer, and to the ability and devotion of the small band of British fellow-workers who served him with equal industry and loyalty. It is sometimes assumed that from the moment he was sent to Cairo, towards the end of 1883, as Agent and Consul-General, the British Government gave him the free hand which he afterwards unquestionably had. That is not so. Not only had he not created the situation with which he had to deal, but, so far as the British Government had any policy, it had been inspired before he ever reached Egypt by Lord Dufferin, who was dispatched from Cairo to Constantinople within the first two months of the Occupation, in the hope that his resourceful brain would provide British Ministers with a scheme for shaping the future of a country of which they had so reluctantly been driven to take charge. Lord Dufferin did evolve a scheme which he embodied in one of the most brilliant and adroit despatches in the annals of British diplomacy. It served its purpose for the moment, and though some of his recommendations were sufficiently practical to serve as a basis for subsequent reforms, he left it to"ing the benefits of the Capitulations and theifc