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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

160
THE EGYPTIAN PKOBLEM
CHAP.
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Sultan Hussein's son, has not a few friends amongst those who know him well and believe, probably rightly, that he might have succeeded his father had he been less reluctant to place himself under British tutelage. The mere fact that the ex-Khedive Abbas Hilmi used to put as many spokes as he could into the British wheels has sufficed to rally a small but not insignificant party to the cause of a ruler who, as long as he was in Egypt, was universally feared and almost universally detested. Others, again, are more favourably disposed towards his son, partly because he is believed to have separated himself from his father. One thing only is quite clear. A self-governing Egypt would be no bed of roses for the present reigning house.
At the other end of the social scale is the fellah, the real Egyptian of the soil racy, who forms nine-tenths of the Egyptian population. None has changed in some respects so much, in others so little, since I first went to Egypt, though two generations have grown up within that time. If we have stumbled in our endeavours to promote the intellectual, or moral, or political education of the Egyptian people, the material benefits which he has derived from British control during the last three decades are beyond dispute. They jump to the eye. Long since gone is the spectacle I witnessed in the days of Ismail, of whole gangs of wretched peasants being dragged away in chains irom their own fields to cultivate the vast estates which the Khedive and his favoured Pashas had systematically filched from the people. Gone is the old system of corvee, under which the well-nigh annual task of averting the alternate menace of a dangerously high or a dangerously low Nile was carried out by forced labour cruelly recruited and still more cruelly handled. Gone is the Icurbash, that used to blister the soles of the fellaheen's feet until they had disgorged their last piece of hidden silver or wearied the tax-gatherer's arm. I remember in the early years of the Occupation their, at first, almost incredulous joy when each landowner, howeversly  and  promptly  expended