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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

108
THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM
CHAP.
imposed upon British control by the uncertainty of our own position in Egypt and the constant fear of international    complications.     The    Liberal    Government, recently returned to power in England, eagerly adopted the suggestion, which had originated with Lord Cromer himself, that with the end of Anglo-French rivalry we could afford to give  the Egyptian Government greater freedom of action in matters both of policy and of administration, even at the cost of less efficiency.   Their idea was that by relaxing British control  they would help   the Egyptian people to learn for  themselves the first lessons of self-government,  which some  measure of responsibility, however slight, could alone teach them. But in effect the result was very different.    For one essential fact had been overlooked.   Though the Occupation itself was brought about by the Arabi rebellion, the control which we then assumed into our own hands had been only an extension of the Anglo-French control imposed with the consent of other Powers a few years before the Occupation in order to curb the autocratic power   of   the   Khediviate,   which   under   Ismail   had plunged Egypt into financial ruin and consequent chaos. Any relaxation of British control was therefore almost bound to result in a revival of that autocratic power which represented the ancient order of things in Egypt before   the  Occupation,   and was   inevitably bound to do so if the Khedive happened to be, as Abbas was, a man of peculiarly autocratic temperament.    It was, however, believed or hoped in England that in any case the representative bodies created by the Organic Statute of 1883 in accordance with Lord Dufferin's recommendations would supply any necessary check.   But they were far too inexperienced to play a preponderating part.    They were swept off their legs by the rising tide of an extravagant Nationalism, which the Khedive, who had no sympathy with its democratic tendencies, covertly sought, and with no little success, to divert into anti-British channels. He did not mind even if the authority of his own Ministerssocialf light railways and the introduc