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powers, and that neither should be willing to let it pass absolutely into the hands of the other. Of the two, England has undoubtedly the best claims, whether as the mistress of India, or as the owner of the lion's share of Egypt's foreign trade. But France, too, has rights of her own, which are not to be despised. The Suez Canal was a purely French enterprise, and is still partly in French hands. On the roll of Egyptian commerce, France stands second to England herself, and far above every other nation, not excepting even Austria.
The official returns of native traffic for 1878 give a total of $22,465,000, of which England is credited with $12,905,000, and France with $4,040,000. The exports during the same period amounted to $63,750,000, of which England's share was $45,280,000, and that of France $7,820,000. Moreover, the French empire in India actually preceded that of Britain, and the countrymen of Lally and Dupleix still retain some fragments of their once magnificent Oriental dominion; nor have they ever wholly relinquished the hope of one day enlarging these into something not altogether unworthy of their former consequence in the East.
To effect any compromise, where both parties are so deeply interested, may well appear difficult; but it is possible nevertheless. England has already annexed Cyprus; France wishes to annex Tunis. Were the two powers, thus holding a flanking position on either side of the disputed territory, to establish a joint protectorate over it, supported by a powerful allied cruising squadron in Levantine waters, a permanent barrier would be opposed to Russian ambition, and the lives and property of Oriental Christians secured far more effectually than by any Turkish "guarantee," made only to be broken. The projected Euphrates Valley Railroad might then, like the Suez Canal, be held in common; and the down-trodden fellaheen of Egypt and Syria would hail with joy the advent of a government which would neither grind out their last para by over-taxation, nor kill them by inches with forced labor. *
*This is no figure of speech. The famous Mahmoodieh Canal, by which Mehemet Ali connected Alexandria with the interior of the Delta, was con
To elevate the imbruted native population, indeed, will undoubtedly be a hard task; but it is worth attempting. Men of superhuman patience and frugality, trained from childhood to obey without hesitation, and to bear the sorest hardships and sufferings without complaint, have in them the material which forms good soldiers and good citizens. What they can do in the former capacity, under a competent leader, was amply shown by the wonderful campaign of 1839; what they may be in the latter, under a competent administration, the world may hereafter learn to its amazement.
Nor are these the only benefits derivable from a European protectorate of Egypt. Such a measure would break the very main-spring of the ferocious Moslem propagandism which, within the last twelvemonth, has kindled the flames of a fierce though short-lived rebellion in every country from Syria to Morocco. Islam, like Christendom, has a Nihilism of its own, similar in organization, although diametrically opposite in purpose. The European Nihilist aims at overthrowing the established order of things; his Mussulman counterpart perils limb and life to preserve it. All reforms, all improvements, are a deadly offence to this gloomy conservatism, which is even more bitter against Moslem rulers suspected of being under Christian influence (such as the ex-khedive of Egypt) than against the Christians themselves.
The machinery of this formidable system is composed of five secret societies, viz.: the Khowan, which has its seat at Mecca, the Abd'-ul-Kader of Bagdad, planted in the city. whose name it bears, the Bektashi and Issawiye, which centre in Yemen, the southernmost province of Arabia, and the terrible Darkawi (justly styled the Jesuit order of Islam) which has appropriately fixed itself in that hot-bed of Moslem bigotry, the miniature Empire of Morocco. All these societies, like the medieval Templars and the modern Jesuits, have been gradually transformed from purely religious
structed in this way, and cost, on the lowest estimate, upwards of twenty thousand lives. The writer, himself, when crossing Lower Egypt, in 1870, saw thousands of Arabs, including many gray-headed men and not a few children, laboring to repair the breach made by a flood in the Nile embankment, and lashed without mercy by the whips of their native overseers.
brotherhoods into formidable political engines; and many of their directors are themselves freethinkers of the boldest type, while stimulating and utilizing the religious enthusiasm which they despise. Every year the deputies of the five orders meet at Mecca to arrange their future operations, brought by Christian steamers and Christian railways to plot the ruin of Christianity, and concert the murder or deposition of any Moslem ruler who may have dared to think of reform. The central position of Egypt, and its nearness to their great rendezvous at Mecca, render it a chosen field for the operations of these political Thugs, whose plots, almost unimpeded by the feeble and capricious rule of the late khedive, require the strong hand of European discipline to check them; and this want would be most effectually supplied by the joint protectorate already suggested.
The question of the final disposal of Central Asia (which represents the centre of Mohammedanism in the east as Egypt does in the west) is much less easily settled. In this latter case the conflicting claimants are mortal enemies instead of friendly rivals; and whereas Egypt is in no case to make any resistance to European intervention, the opposition likely to be offered by the fierce mountain-races of the HindooKoosh will not be easily overcome. Overcome, indeed, it must ultimately be; but whether by England or by Russia, the future alone can decide.
It is worth while to notice, however, the strange and almost ludicrous manner in which the present difficulty has evolved itself from an arrangement that had apparently settled the affairs of the East once and forever. The power of Britain was supreme as far north as the Himalaya, that of Russia as far south as the Oxus; and it would certainly have been difficult to find two natural frontiers more strongly marked or more easily defended. Between them lay the savage mountain tract of Afghanistan, which, poor, unproductive, lawless, possessing no advantages that could repay the cost and labor of its conquest, seemed formed by nature to be a neutral zone between the two great masters of Asia. For a time, both were content to leave it such; but this wise
policy was soon abandoned. In 1872, the Ameer Shere Ali, frightened by the real or imaginary support given by Russia to the claimants of his crown, applied to England for help. Russia at once took the alarm, suspecting England of intending to interfere actively in the affairs of Afghanistan. England, in her turn, conceived the same suspicion of Russia; and the mutual distrust thus engendered was heightened by every new precaution adopted on either side, till at length the reciprocal attitude of the two powers realized to the letter Thackeray's famous definition of the War of the Spanish Succession, as "two kings perpetually running away from each other."
But, however commenced, this strange dispute must inevitably be carried through to the end. Nothing can now push back the two rivals to the status of 1871; and both are working vigorously to secure the ground which they have severally gained. England has projected a railway from the western border of India, through the Bolan Pass, to Quettah and Kandahar, which would enable her to pour her troops at will into the very heart of Afghanistan. Russia is preparing open herself a direct military highway into the interior of Central Asia, by once more diverting the Oxus into the Caspian Sea. She has likewise despatched two expeditions against the great caravan centre of Merv (the nominal capital of the Tekke-Turkomans), which, whether as occupying the sole habitable spot in the great central desert, or as commanding the only direct approach to Herat from the north, down the valley of the Moorgh-Ab, is unquestionably one of the most important strategic points on the Afghan border.
In conducting this advance-ostensibly aimed at Merv, but really at Herat itself—Russia has shown her matchless powers of diplomacy more strikingly than ever. England has been repeatedly warned of the vital importance of securing Herat, and has at length begun to awake to the necessity of doing so. Such a step would have checkmated Russia's designs at the very outset; and it thus became indispensable to divert the efforts of England into another channel. This purpose was admirably served by the Kabul tragedy of last Autumn. The
guilty city at once assumed an exaggerated importance in British eyes, and England concentrated all her energy upon a secondary and comparatively worthless object, while Russia strode forward to the real goal, which, but for her unforeseen defeat by the Turkomans at Geok-Tepe, she would in all probability have reached already.
The prestige of Kabul as the nominal capital of Afghanistan (which has in reality no capital whatever) has invested it with an importance more properly due to Herat; but this factitious consequence is literally the only recommendation which it possesses. Lying in the midst of an open plain, it is completely exposed to any advance of Russian troops from the north-west, while its sole direct line of communication with British India lies through a succession of gloomy and terrific ravines, swarming with fierce guerrillas, and liable to be rendered impassable by a single heavy snow-storm.
With Herat the case is far otherwise. As a strategic point, its central position on the great southern road from Merv into the interior, three hundred and sixty miles west of Kabul, and one hundred and ninety south-east of the great Persian city of Meshid, gives it the command both of eastern Persia and western Afghanistan. As a centre of traffic, it is the meeting-point of four great commercial highways, and the recognized mart for the wares of Russia, Turkey and Persia on one side, and those of China, Afghanistan, and British India on the other. As a fortress, its commanding position upon a rocky plateau twenty-five hundred feet above the sea, and the once formidable though now ruinous walls that surround it, have enabled it to hold out more than once against a force which had subdued every other part of the country. It holds the direct route to Kandahar (three hundred and fifty miles distant), the natural, and formerly the actual, Afghan metropolis. In all ages, Herat has been the chosen basis of an advance upon India from the north, and the first point aimed at alike by native insurgents and foreign invaders.* Such a prize is well worth striking for;
*Herat has been twice besieged by the Persians, who actually got possession of it in October, 1856, but were compelled by England to restore it six