CH. xn THE BREAKDOWN OF THE CONTROL 207
What had that system been ? It had been from beginning to end a patchwork of convenient fictions, designed to cover up inconvenient realities, partly under the stress of international difficulties, and partly from our traditional predilection, not by any means always unwise, for compromise, where the Frenchman, for instance, prefers a situation nette. The first result was to leave the Foreign Office in sole charge of Egypt, after the British Government had assumed the right to have the last word in matters, not only of policy, but of internal administration in Egypt. The reason was obvious and not in itself unsound. The Egyptian question did not cease to be an international question after we occupied Egypt in 1882. Far from it. The equivocal character of our position in Egypt, the bitter hostility of the French, and the suzerain rights, however circumscribed, which Turkey still claimed to exercise, were a source of constant embarrassment to the Foreign Office, and the Egyptian question only began to lose some of its acuteness as an international question with the Anglo-French Agreement of 1904.
The Foreign Office remained, therefore, after as before the Occupation, the Department responsible for Egyptian affairs. But it was neither designed nor equipped to deal with the administrative aspects of British control. In Lord Cromer's time it fell into the habit of leaving them entirely to Mm, and it continued with very rare exceptions to leave them in the same way to his successors. This was almost inevitable, for there was seldom, and only accidentally, anyone at the Foreign Office—let alone any constituted body of experienced advisers such as the Secretary of State for India possesses—to whose inside knowledge of Egyptian administration the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs could turn for an informed opinion. Similarly, at the Cairo end, His Majesty's representative had only as a rule on his staff diplomatists for whom Egypt merely meant an episode of uncertain, but usually short, duration in a career that has nothingion.