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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

v                    A PERIOD  OF  TRANSITION                   89-
The Provincial Councils, very much smaller bodies, also elective, of which the Governor was ex-officio President, had to be consulted in matters of local interests and in regard to measures for the improvement of agriculture, sanitation, *and education. None of these bodies could be described as really representative of the people, for the election of the primary delegates by the villages was in most instances a mere farce, or at least a foregone conclusion. In his utter lack of education, political or other, the fellah's vision could not be expected to extend beyond the limits of his village life. Within those limits he was either the humble servant of the Omdeh, or his bitter enemy, for most villages are a constant prey to internal dissension. The Omdeh, or village headman, who was himself a Government official, could usually enforce the election of his own nominee, unless there happened to be a more powerful rival faction, whose chief object in that case was to blacken the Omdeh's face by returning the opposition candidate. But the opposition was apt to cease as soon as the successful delegate got to headquarters and took part in the election of the Provincial members, when his chief anxiety was to ingratiate himself with the higher authorities. On the whole, the system was probably the only one practicable in the circumstances, and experience would, it was hoped, gradually mitigate its defects. In any case, the Provincial Councils were too small and met too rarely to play any very important part except in the constitution of the Legislative Council and the General Assembly.
These bodies had been content at first to discharge the very modest and inconspicuous duties allotted to them, and it must be recorded to their credit that as far back as 1889 the Legislative Council, in which the large landowners' interest preponderated, displayed genuine public spirit in assenting to the increase, though a small one, of the land tax required by Government to defray part of the cost of the abolition of the corvee, which could not be " covered in any other way owing to the obstructive attitude ? If all these, and many other points to which I could allude, do not constitute some moral advancement, then, of a truth, I do not know what the word morality implies."