Egypt – Outline Of The History Of Egypt From 1878 To The Present Day

The attention was drawn to the “national aspiration” of “Egypt for the Egyptians.” This sentiment was taken up in 1881 as the watchword of that part of the national party which sided with the military insurrection headed by Arabi, colonel of one of the Egyptian regiments. The cause of this outbreak was attributable to the financial recklessness of the previous Khedive, Ismail Pasha. The pay of the soldiers was diminished, and, more-over, was not regularly distributed in the time of Ismail, and while it was regularly given in Tewfik’s reign, it was still so small that it hardly sufficed. Beggary was the result among the soldiers. In addition to this, the strength of the army had, for economy, been decreased. This had put numbers of men out of employment and contributed much to the popular discontent. To add to the dissatisfaction, Turks and Ciroassians had been promoted in the army over native Egyptians. Quarrels between these and the native officers were frequent. The Minister of War was a Circassian and showed favoritism to his countrymen. A protest by several native colonels was answered by their imprisonment. One of these officers, All Bey Fehmy, was forcibly released by his regiment, who marched in a body to the prison and took him out, before the eyes of the Khedive who happened to be in the vicinity. The Khedive demanded submission, but a counter demand on the part of the soldiers to displace the Minister of War was so vigorous that Tewfik was obliged to comply and appointed Mahmoud Pasha. Certain reforms were now made in the army, the pay was raised thirty per cent, and a commission appointed to inquire into the sources of abuse in the army. The European element on the commission was distasteful to the national party, and openly seditious language was used by its head, Arabi Pasha. Ho especially hated the ministry of Riaz Pasha, then in power. An. unfortunate accident to a soldier in the streets of Alexandria had a bad effect upon the army, and this was hardly removed by the appointment of a new Minister of War. Just at this time a visit of the Khedive to Cairo, where the national party feeling was strongest, happened to coincide in point of time with the promulgation of a previously deter-mined order to remove the regiment of Arabi Pasha from Cairo to Alexandria. This was taken by Arabi as a move on the part of the government to break up the party.

On September 10, 1881, Arabi took the Khedive, his ministers and their European advisers completely by surprise, by announcing that the army would march to the Palace of Abdin and demand the retirement of the Riaz ministry, and other reforms in the army recommended by the military commission already referred to. At four in the afternoon the palace was surrounded by 4,000 troops, a squadron of cavalry, besides eighteen loaded cannon which were trained on the palace windows. Arabi, acting as spokesman of the army, again made his demands, and after a considerable parley between him and the Khedive, a compromise was made which resulted in the deposition of Riaz Pasha and the formation of a new ministry. After which the Khedive received the apologies of the colonels and pardoned them. Sherif Pasha was appointed Prime Minister, and Mahmoud Pasha, acceptable to the army, was made Minister of War. About this time came a Turkish war vessel with a commission appointed by the Sublime Porte, At the same time came two ironclads, an English and a French. Affairs gradually quieted down after this, the military reforms were carried out, and a reorganization of native courts upon European principles was begun. Arabi Pasha was appointed Assistant Secretary of War.

From this time Arabi rose in power and the Khedive’s influence gradually became less and less. A plot of certain discontented Circassian officers to murder Arabi led to the full power being virtually assumed by the latter. The French and English determined to put down the rebellion which was imminent, and a British fleet appeared and anchored in the harbor of Alexandria. This made the Europeans still more hated by the people, and many of the former left Alexandria. Business was stopped and attention was directed to Arabi and his army. Earthworks were thrown up opposite the war vessels and cannon were placed in position. The British consul was attacked on the streets of Alexandria and seriously injured. About one hundred and fifty Europeans had up to this time lost their lives at the hands of the street mobs. The Khedive and the ministry moved from Cairo to Alexandria, and the British admiral, Sir Beauchamp Seymour, determined to use his best efforts to put down the rebellion and reinstate Tewfik in his full rights as Khedive of Egypt, which he was rapidly losing. Admiral Seymour demanded that the earthworks should be abandoned, and threatened that if Arabi did not surrender to him as protector of the Khedive’s interests the British fleet would bombard Alexandria. This was what happened eventually on the 11th of July, 1882. The British admiral had thirteen warships under him, some of them being the best in the navy. He stormed the city for two days, after which flags of truce were shown by the Egyptian army. It was found that Arabi and his forces had departed. As they went they unlocked the prisons and the city was filled with plunderers. For this sacking of the city by irresponsible natives, the English admiral was much censured, on the ground that he should not have bombarded a city that he had not land force enough to invest when it fell. British troops were not long in arriving, however, and immediately after dislodging Arabi from one point of vantage they pursued him to Tel-el-Kebir, where, on September 13th, under Sir Garnet Wolseley, the Egyptian military was broken and Arabi fled. He subsequently returned to Cairo, where he was captured by the police and given over to the British general. The military revolt was now at an end. A British army of 10,000 was left in Egypt to preserve order. Lord Dufferin was sent to make preliminary arrangements for an Egyptian autonomy, if that were possible. Arabi Pasha was tried and sentenced to death, but his sentence was immediately commuted by the Khedive to banishment for life to the island of Ceylon.

The following year, 1883, saw elaborate plans for the reconstruction of the Egyptian administration by English advisers under the supervision of Lord Dufferin. These were carried out as well as could be under the unfortunate circumstances of a severe outbreak of cholera which lasted through the summer months. But of most inters to the civilized world were the incidents in the Soudan.

A fanatical Mussulman, named Mohammed Ahmed, appeared in that district and had given out that he was the Mahdi, the’ Messiah of the Moslems. Previous to this time he had been a carpenter’s apprentice and a begging dervish, and was made a priest in 1870. He then lived as a hermit for twelve years in a pit on an island in the White Nile, passing his time in ascetic practices. He announced himself as the Mahdi in 1881, and soon after thousands flocked to his banner. His programme was to destroy or convert all infidels. An expedition was immediately sent against him by the Khedive and was routed. Next, an English officer, Colonel Hicks, marched against him at the head of 7,000 men, but was led by a treacherous guide into a ravine where the Mahdists were waiting for him and where he could not use his cannon. His entire force was annihilated. This victory brought arms and provisions to the Mandi and greatly in-creased his prestige. He was said to be able to turn the bullets of the enemy into water.

This victory of the Mahdi was heard of in Cairo with great anxiety, and another expedition was sent against him, this time under Baker Pasha, a British general, who had organized an Egyptian force of frontier guards and mounted police. This army fled at the approach of the Mahdists and was almost entirely butchered, together with most of its British officers. In 1884 General “Chinese” Gordon was sent as governor-general of the Soudan to take complete charge of all matters there, to do what he could in putting down the Mahdist uprising and the slave trade. He arrived in Khartoum on February 18th, and was welcomed by all in the city with great enthusiasm. He immediately recognized the Mahdi as ruler of Kordofan, a district to the southwest of Khartoum. The latter, however, had been making progress, having locked up the remnant of Baker Pasha’s army in Suakim for a while; but they broke loose and retired to Berber, which also fell before the irresistible oncoming of the Mandi. This made Gordon’s position much more perilous, and he telegraphed for re-enforcements from Cairo, asking that Zebehr Pasha be sent with them. The latter was, however, not acceptable to the British government and was not permitted to go. It is probable that had this mistake not been made by the government the sad events yet to be told would never have taken place. The appeal of Gordon for three thousand Turkish troops was unheeded. As early as April, 1884, Khartoum had become so closely surrounded by the Mandi’s influence that hardly any word was received after that from General Gordon.

A British force was sent under General Stewart for the relief of Khartoum. He met resistance at Abu Klea, where a fierce battle was fought, and after a hard struggle up the Nile a small party of them in two small steamers succeeded in getting as far as Khartoum, where they found the Mahdi’s flag flying, and were received with a volley of Arab bullets. They realized then that they had come too late, and that Gordon must have perished; so they turned about and re-turned to the rest of the army of relief.

It became known later that the Mahdists, hearing of the successful advance of this army of relief and of their victories at Abu Klea and at other points above, and fearing that if the siege of Khartoum was not ended by its fall it would be ended by General Stewart’s army, made a final vigorous attempt against the city, which succeeded only through the treachery of some of Gordon’s gate sentries. The Arab dervishes quickly had possession of the city, and some of them, contrary to the orders of the Mahdi, immediately put Gordon to death. It has been said that the Mahdi’s desire was, in accordance with an old Mohammedan legend, to meet Gordon, convert him to Islam, and together with him rule the world.

In the slaughter that followed the fall of Khartoum 4,000 persons were said to have been killed. The catastrophe occurred on January 26, 1885, after a siege of three hundred and seventeen days.

It was decided to cease further efforts against Khartoum for the present, and to abandon all the outposts in the country south of Akasheh, which was on the Nile, a short distance above Wady Haifa, and to reserve only a means of communication with the Red Sea and with the seaports under British protection.

The cause of the Mahdists seemed to have suffered some-what in the death of the Mahdi, who succumbed to smallpox in July, 1885. It was, however, feared that his nephew and successor, Abdullah, might be eventually aiming at an invasion of Egypt, and considerable anxiety was felt concerning the continual attacks made upon the British outposts at Akasheh and other places.

In 1887 Abdullah, who had assumed the title of Khalifa, seemed to be more peacefully inclined, and paying attention rather to commerce than to warfare, although unimportant skirmishes between the Egyptians and hostile Arabs were not unusual. The British forces in Egypt were still further reduced, though as yet no agreement had been made with the Khedive, the Porte, or the interested European powers, concerning their permanent or even temporary evacuation. An advance in satisfactory relations between the powers and Egypt was this year made in the neutralization of the Suez Canal, it being agreed that the canal should be open to all nations at all times upon the payment of the necessary toll, and upon the condition that no warlike acts should be permitted by vessels while actually in its waters.

The next few years in the Soudan were marked by unimportant fights. In 1889 General Grenfell’s division at Toski cut to pieces a troop of dervishes amounting to 1,500 men. In 1890 the number of fugitives from the Khalifa’s power, increased ; but in the following year there was only one disturbance on the Soudan frontier, and that was quickly put down.

The events of the four following years were of little importance, save the steady financial and administrative progress made under the superintendence of the British advisers. In 1892 we read of the appointment of Colonel H. H. Kitchener as Sirdar of the Egyptian army, and, in the succeeding years, of his success in perfecting the organization of that army.

In 1896 interest in the Soudan was again awakened by the announcement that the British and Egyptian governments had decided to send a joint expedition southward in the direction of Dongola, with the ultimate object of destroying the power of the dervishes if it became so great as further to threaten Egypt. The disasters to the Italian army in Abyssinia are thought to have led to this determination on the part of the Khedive. The expedition started on March 21, 1896; the force under the Sirdar, who commanded it in person, consisted of native Egyptian and negro troops, officered by British, and with several British battalions. In May the expedition had reached Wady Haifa. It encountered many unavoidable dangers other than those of war—heat, fever, cyclone and cholera, and, in addition, was hampered by lack of funds. On June 7, Ferkeh, near Akasheh, was stormed and taken. The Sirdar’s army took possession of Dongola on September 23, and thus after six months, during which time two pitched battles were fought, the expeditionary force had advanced several hundred miles, driving the followers of the Khalifa before them.

The year 1897 saw trade resumed in that part of the Soudan around Dongola, helped by the Sirdar’s new railway. One decisive battle was fought at Abu named, where the town soon fell into the possession of the Anglo-Egyptian army. Kassala, taken by the Italians some years before, was amicably handed over to Egypt and occupied by Egyptian troops. The last months of the year were devoted to collecting provisions and making preparations for a further advance.

The methods of the Sirdar’s procedure in this expedition were such as to inspire in the civilized world great confidence in his eventual reconquest from the Khalifa of the whole of the Soudan, and to inspire in the latter and his followers the inevitable notion that his oncoming was irresistible. For he marched only a few miles a day, and the country which was behind him he left fully protected, so that there should be no chance of his being cut off. He built also, at the rate of two or three miles a day, a railroad, so that if retreat were necessary it would be safe and easy, and added a telegraph line, by which he was in immediate communication with Cairo.

He drove the dervishes before him from point to point, taking in succession Abu Hamed, Berber and Metemmeh, and finally came upon the complete force of the Khalifa at Omdurman. This city had been built, on the Nile opposite Khartoum, by the Mahdists after the destruction of that city.

The Khalifa, Abdullah, was thought, for a time, to have lost some of the wonderful power over the dervishes which the Mahdi had. He built, however, in Omdurman, a tomb to the Mandi, and, retiring within this edifice at certain times, gave out that he was receiving inspiration directly from the soul of the departed Mahdi. This is thought to have greatly increased the reverence with which the Khalifa was regarded by his dervishes, and to have contributed to

the resolution with which they faced the anniilation which they suffered.

The decisive battle of Omdurman was fought on September 2, 1898. It was, in some respects, the bloodiest battle of the century, and is peculiarly interesting from the fact that, there, the most modern implements of war were used by the Anglo-Egyptian forces, with terribly machine-like and uniform result. The battle began with the onset of the Mahdist cavalry and lancers. These were shot down by the lines of British and Egyptian soldiers with the latest pattern of bullets, fired from rifles and machine guns. Then followed the infantry of the Khalifa. The battle, taking place in the open, and the thousands of fanatical dervishes advancing without any protection, resulted in the killing on one field of nearly eleven thousand of them. It is estimated that few, if any, of their companies succeeded in getting within eight hundred yards of the Sirdar’s troops. Hundreds after hundreds, advancing, were literally mowed down by the sheet of bullets which continually poured forth from the Sirdar’s rifles. It seemed, nevertheless, that the dervishes must have thought them no more than raindrops, and to have been oblivious to the fact that they, themselves, were dropping; for their utter fearlessness of death is reported to have been something more than courage. They had been told that death was sweeter than cool well water to thirsty lips, and nothing but death stopped their advance. The carnage went on for several hours. The British and Egyptian soldiers fired until their rifles became red hot, and then returned to the rear for cool ones, and continued the business of butchery. The loss on their side was about fifty killed and two or three hundred wounded.

The nature of the Mahdist is such that it was found necessary after the battle to send an Egyptian regiment over the field to put to death the wounded and those who shammed death. It would have been impossible for the Sirdar to care for any but his own wounded, as his hospital facilities in such an expedition were necessarily limited.

The Khalifa fled with some of his family and officers, and General Kitchener entered Khartoum and raised the British and Egyptian flags the following day.

He proceeded from Khartoum a distance of four hundred miles southward to Fashoda, where he arrived about Sept. 15, 1898. He there found Major Marchand, who had penetrated to that town from the Congo valley, whence he had led an expedition under French auspices. He had raised the French flag, and for a time it was thought that diplomatic relations between France and England might be broken.

The comparatively scanty news of the details of this campaign in the Soudan gave to it a dramatic and spectacular interest, partly from the fact that telegraphic communication between the Sirdar’s army and the outside world was occasionally and opportunely severed, and from the fact that newspaper correspondents were excluded from participation in it after the battle of Omdurman.

Up to this point we have confined ourselves to the military history of Egypt, the two leading events of which, after the revolt of Arabi Pasha’s regiment, were the fall of Khartoum in 1884 and the campaign carried into the Khalifa’s country, which began in 1896. A short resume of the internal history, both financial and commercial, will now be attempted.

The efforts of Lord Dufferin, sent to Egypt in 1882 as British commissioner, were directed to what has been called “a scheme of administrative and social reform, including the germs of a national representative system.” A feature of the national representative system was a Legislative Council, which was destined later to make the British advisers of the Khedive a great deal of trouble.

In 1885 the finances, despite the _efforts of the European councilors, were in so bad a shape that a loan of nearly $45,000,000 was necessitated. This was subscribed for more than twenty times over in England, France and Germany. The jealousy of France at the important position of Great Britain in Egyptian affairs had always been great, and was not lessened when, in 1885, the British and Turkish governments signed an agreement by which the evacuation of Egypt by British troops was indefinitely postponed, and a Turkish commissioner, Mukhtar Pasha, was sent from Constantinople to act in conjunction with the English commissioner, thus giving countenance to the latter’s influence in the court of the Khedive.

The British representative expressed himself as satisfied with the internal progress of Egypt, but solicited from Mukhtar Pasha some information as to the attitude to be taken by the Egyptian and Turkish governments with regard to the Soudan. In reply, it was proposed by the Turkish commissioner that the strength of the Egyptian army be raised from 8,000 to 16,800 men, and that 6,700 gendarmes and police should be enrolled. For this he suggested that the pay of the soldiers should be reduced, and that the two hundred thousand pounds of Egyptian money, annually given to the British government for the support of their army in Egypt, should be withdrawn from that use and contributed to the maintenance of the enlarged Egyptian army. This should itself then form part of the army upon which the Sultan might be at liberty to draw in case of need, should be drilled and armed according to Turkish customs, and should be employed in attempts to recover at least a portion of the Soudan. It is obvious that this scheme could never be sanctioned by the British government, who objected on the ground that the project to regain the Soudan was at present ill advised, and that such being the case, the suggested increase of the army was wholly unnecessary. The British commissioner asked that the proposed scheme should be returned to the government at Constantinople and changed so as to be more suitable to the British government. These negotiations, however, proceeded so slowly that nothing was accomplished, and the British army was allowed to remain as it had been.

In 1887, however, a move in the direction of evacuation was made by the British. In January a small part of the army of occupation was sent back to India, and another portion returned to England.

In the same year English influence suffered somewhat of a setback by the unsuccessful mission of an envoy sent to Constantinople to urge upon the Sultan certain further re-forms for Egypt. These reforms were : “That the autonomy of Egypt should be acknowledged, while the sovereignty of the Sultan remained unimpaired; that the privilege hitherto enjoyed by foreigners. in Egypt, of being judged by their own consuls, should be withdrawn; that Egyptian territory should be neutralized under the guarantee of the Great Powers, and that the guaranteeing powers should retain the right of transporting troops through Egyptian territory, either by land or by the canal; that England should exercise the right of appointing the majority of the officers in the Egyptian army, and should further retain the right of reoccupying the country in case necessity arose; and that the English army should evacuate the country when all the European Powers bad given their consent to the terms of the convention.” * These conditions were not acceptable to the Sublime Porte, um to France, and pressure was brought to bear against them by the other powers, so that the negotiations fell through.

The year 1888 was marked by a change of ministry. Nubar Pasha, the Prime Minister, became objectionable to the British commissioner, and was replaced by Riaz Pasha and a new set of ministers. In 1890 a long-standing disagreement between France and Great Britain concerning the conversion of certain Egyptian bonds was patched up by a compromise, which converted not only the privileged debt, but the whole Egyptian debt, which was increased by a further loan of $6,500,000. The effect of this was to exempt the fellah or peasant population from the corvée tax, thus freeing them from forced labor for the state. A further attempt was made in that year to improve the system of ad-ministering justice in the courts, into which corruption had made its way. No little difficulty was experienced in grafting European ideas of justice upon Mohammedan customs. Up to this time torture had freely been used upon witnesses for collecting evidence, and this practice was now abolished. In the following year active measures were set on foot for the suppression of brigandage, and General Kitchener was intrusted with the formation of an efficient paid police force. Other notable reforms, such as a railway from Port Said to Ismailia, and through the desert to Kosseir, and the drain-age of the city of Cairo, were this year instituted.

In January, 1892, the Khedive Tewflk, who had generally been favorable to British interests and influence in Egypt, succumbed to an attack of influenza, and his son Abbas, a boy of seventeen, ascended the viceregal throne. He had been educated in Europe and was a student at Vienna at the time of his father’s death. He soon showed considerable dissatisfaction with British influence, and appointed, in 1893, a strongly anti-British Prime Minister, thus gaining the plaudits of the native population, who still regarded with suspicion the many English officials in the Khedive’s employ. The Legislative Council, instituted in 1883 on the recommendation of Lord Dufferin, now turned upon the English methods, made attacks upon much that they had accomplished during the year, and declared that Egypt had been ruined by English control. Public agitation against the British, exaggerated by certain strictures of the young Khedive upon the condition of the army, which, however, he finally took back, was further accented by native and French journalists, and was hushed only by the appointment of a new ministry, and the expulsion from the country of the editor of the Journal Egyptien.

In spite of all the opposition to British influence, which virtually amounts to British rule, in Egypt, which in some years seemed to be eclipsed by the intrigues of other nations and of the native ministers, the condition of Egypt has steadily improved. The administration of justice was in 1897 on a more solid foundation than ever before, and was shared by European and native officials alike. In the same year, too, a slightly better feeling toward the British began to be manifested, and was voiced by an Arabian journal, the editor of which was, significantly enough, the son of one of the followers of Arabi Pasha in the military revolt of 1883. He replied in an editorial to certain attacks made upon British rule, pointing out that under it the taxes on land had been reduced from $25 to about $7 an acre, that the poorest laborer was now free from tyranny, even of the greatest official, and that no one was above the law, concluding with the statement that “such are the benefits of British occupation.”

Further illustration of the good accomplished by Great Britain in Egypt is witnessed in the publication of a pamphlet written by Ahmed MokbeI, a young Egyptian native (quoted in the “North American Review” for July, 1898). Part of the brochure is devoted to the reasons for approving British regime, supposed to be given by one peasant in conversation with another:

“1. The British abolished for me the accursed torture of the Courbache (a leathern whip with which great torture was inflicted upon the fellah], enabling me to live longer for my children than my father was able to live for me and. mg brothers.

“2. The British have protected me from tyrants.

“3. Thanks to them I pay no taxes that I ought not to pay.

“4. I am no more harnessed to the plow, as I formerly was, to gratify the caprice or pleasure of the cruel Turks.

“5. Thanks to the British, I no longer behold, lying on the ground bathed in blood, the body of my beloved wife, the innocent companion of my misfortunes and suffering–a homicide which was formerly committed with impunity and relish throughout Egypt. The only relief for me then was to let my heart weep, for I dared not weep publicly.

“6. Thanks to the British I enjoy my frugal evening meal, surrounded by my children, and I am clad in winter better than in summer.

“Thanks to the British my young cotton plants do not perish for want of water as formerly, when water was given abundantly only to rich proprietors at a high price, while we poor devils of fellaheen, having nothing to offer, saw our plants dying of drought.

“In one word, I prefer the British to all others, and, that being the case, would it be reasonable for me to complain of them?”