Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 3

By Joel H. Wiener | Go to book overview

BRITISH ACTIVITY IN ASIA AND THE NEAR EAST

Plea for the Acquisition of Egypt
as a Means of Constructing a Larger Trading Overseas Network,
October 1788*

Whether England, in return for supporting the alliance by her councils and authority, and for the most momentous of all services, the keeping France at bay till the ends of it shall be accomplished, might not demand and expect from the allied powers, 1st, Beneficial treaties of commerce with them, and particularly with such of them as command, or shall command, the great rivers east of France, in order to verify the observation of President Montesquieu, ‘That the English know, above all nations, to make their politics subservient to their commerce?’ And, 2dly, Might not insist for a condition in the alliance, That, if the chances of war shall throw Egypt into the hands of the allies, the custodiary possession of it should be committed to England, as the Austrian towns in the Netherlands were intrusted to the Dutch by the peace of Utrecht, and that England, in return for the confidence put in her, should give a passage through Egypt to the trade of the Red, Indian, and African seas, not only to the allies, but to all nations? and, whether the Grand Seignior might not be the first to consent to the pledge, provided, in place of the precarious possession which he now holds, there was secured to him the neat produce of the tribute which he at present draws from Egypt, and which is only 130,000l. sterling a year in money, and 300 millions of pounds of grain, that is to say, about 150,000 tons; but from both of which there are several deductions for paying troops, and keeping canals, mosques, and other public works in repair?

Whether, in that event, there would not be found in Egypt (as Monsieur Volney and Monsieur Saverey, in their late relations agree), the tobaccos which England has lost in Chesapeak Bay, the rice and indigo which she has lost in the Carolinas, the sugars and cottons, of which she has not a sufficiency in her own West-Indian islands, the most delicious wines, an article which she has never enjoyed in any of her settlements, and the finest hemp and flax, articles for which she depends on other nations, and on the last of which the existance of her very navy depends; and that, of the only two gardens in the world, Bengal and Egypt, England possessed both?

Whether it be not certain, from the relations of those two travellers, and the authorities quoted by them, that the Egyptians first, the Greeks next, the Romans afterwards, and the Caliphs in modern times, made use of a canal

* Dalrymple, Queries Concerning the Conduct which England Should Follow in Foreign Politics in the Present State of Europe, 75–85.

-2269-

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