Africa and the Victorians: The Climax of Imperialism in the Dark Continent

By Ronald Robinson; John Gallagher et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
Gladstone's Bondage in Egypt

T he victory of Tel el Kebir encouraged British opportunism. Ministers still intended to withdraw quickly from Egypt; but they now resolved to make British influence supreme in Cairo before they left.

On 10 August the Prime Minister '...adverted to it as a possibility that the time might be close at hand when...we might...set forth the character, intentions and limits of our action in Egypt'.1 Two days after Tel el Kebir, he drew a plan which he felt represented the views of the rest of the Cabinet. They would bring the leaders of the military rebellion to trial, restore the Khedive, train and equip him with a loyal army, and, as soon as he was strong enough to keep order and deal with any further Arabis, they would withdraw their troops from the country.2 None of the government wanted to turn Egypt into a British protectorate.3 Gladstone wanted instead: 'The withdrawal of the foreign occupation as early as possible. This will be regulated exclusively, and from point to point by the consideration of security for life and property.'4

Gladstone's further proposals however qualified this principle of withdrawal. Before coming away, Egypt was to be brought under informal British 'suzerainty', French influence was to be ousted and the old Dual Financial Control abolished. Institutions of Egyptian self-government were to be developed under British auspices. Then the Powers would be asked to guarantee the independence of Egypt for the future and to 'neutralise' the country on Belgian lines.5 The Prime Minister inquired whether the Canal should also be neutralised. '...If and when the military matter is well over, our position in Egypt,' Gladstone expected, 'will "naturally" be something like that which

____________________
1
Gladstone to Granville, 10 Aug. 1882, P.R.O. 30/29/126.
2
Gladstone to Granville, 15 Sept. 1882, P.R.O. 30/29/126.
3
Dilke, Memoir, Gwynn and Tuckwell, op. cit., I, 544.
4
Gladstone to Granville, 15 Sept. 1882, P.R.O. 30/29/126.
5
idem.

-122-

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