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272 THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM CHAP.
which had already lasted far too long. The wreckers, on the other hand, were quite aware that, unless they could keep the wires cut between the Commission and the Nationalist headquarters in Paris, the .moment would inevitably come when the dissensions, disguised for the time being under vague but comprehensive political formulae, would break out in the open. It is easy enough to show a solid front on a platform of mere negation such as the refusal of the Nationalists to negotiate with, or even to talk to, the Commission., Had they talked or negotiated, they would have had to pass from mere negation to constructive propositions, and these it is that the out-and-out opponents of any understanding with Great Britain dread, because they are bound at once to produce differences of opinion and provoke dissenting criticism even from political friends and supporters, who in Egypt especially are always potential rivals.
Had the leaders of the Party of Independence laid themselves out to demonstrate how lacking they are in any statesmanlike sense of proportion and even in tactical skill, or how little they trust each other or the mass of their followers, they could not have done so more effectively than by their attitude towards the Milner Commission. There are better sides to Egyptian Nationalism than those which its political chiefs chose to exhibit, and the Commission will not have neglected to take note of them. But a nation's capacity for self-government has to be judged very largely by the capacity of the men by whom it elects to be represented, and that these did not serve Egypt wisely when they had a great opportunity is a conclusion for which they have only themselves to thank.
But if the Egyptians were too short-sighted or distrusted themselves too much to afford the Commission the opportunities of consultation which it had been instructed to seek, there was another part of its inquiry which the boycott could not affect. For the first time since the Occupation the methods and agencies of Britishr no prospect of any issue by negotiation from a deadlockdrawinghad committed the heinous offencecially in o particular case which Egyptian public opinion, rightly that Egypt' wan quit** unripe for such democratic