Gambar halaman


not unnaturally, for no country, not even Germany, had made such extraordinary progress as Russia had within the last half century.

The debate which ensued was distinguished by two speeches of importance. Mr. Bourke defined the position taken up by the English Government in its recent negotiations with Russia, and Sir George Campbell lent the support of his Indian knowledge to the doctrine that we ought to take up no position at all. According to Mr. Bourke, it is the interest both of Russia and England that a certain distance should intervene between their respective frontiers, and the difficulty is to devise a mode of maintaining this distance. There was a time when the expedient of a neutral zone found favour with the English Government, but it proved impossible to come to any agreement as to what the boundaries of this neutral zone should be. The Russian Government wished that it should include Afghanistan, but as the Government of India declared this to be inadmissible, the whole negotiation fell through; and it is not the intention of the Queen's Government to reopen it

, or to give any countenance to the policy of which the term neutral

was the symbol. Mr. Bourke was necessarily more obscure when he came to touch upon alternative methods of preserving a reasonable distance between the British and Russian frontiers in Asia. We desire, he said, that the States which abut on our Indian Empire should be powerful, peaceable, and independent. We do not intend to enter into any engagement which might hamper our freedom of action with

regard to them, or prevent us from entering into further alliances with them according to those considerations, commercial, political, and strategical, which we may from time to time consider wise and prudent." The practical expression of this policy at present is the cultivation of friendly relations with Afghanistan. This has been the aim of the Indian Government ever since Lord Canning's time, and the effect of it is shown in the fact that Afghanistan is stronger now than it has been since the days of Dost Mahomed. In proportion as Afghanistan is strong the peace of Central Asia is secured. Lord Derby had already said that if there should be any interference with the integrity and territorial independence of Afghanistan, it was highly probable that this country would interfere, implying that if Russia showed any disposition to advance upon Herat the Afghan resistance would be supported by England. Mr. Bourke's speech seemed to go a step further, and to foreshadow the adoption of “strategical’ arrangements by which a Russian advance upon Herat might be not resisted but prevented.

Sir George Campbell argued strongly against the possibility of any such arrangement. He said, quite truly, that to prevent the gradual absorption of Turkestan by Russia was beyond our power, and consequently the only thing that could be done—if anything was to be done -- was for England to advance into Afghanistan. Sir George Campbell was decidedly opposed to this measure, but

[ocr errors]

his opposition seemed to rest on an identification of an advance into Afghanistan with the very much larger measure of taking possession of the country. The only advance into Afghanistan that would be of any use to England would be the military occupation of Herat, and under the only circumstances which could make this step necessary there would be nothing in it calculated to excite opposition on the part of the Afghans. Our communications with the Ameer would probably be cast in some such shape as this :- It is the interest of England that Afghanistan should retain her independence. That independence is now distinctly threatened on the side of Russia. You are not strong enough to fight Russia, and your weakness may tempt Russia to interfere with you. With our assistance you will be strong enough to fight Russia if need be, and, what is more to the purpose, the fact that we have assisted you will in all probability prevent the need from arising. This last move of Russia has exposed you to a sudden attack, and we must, for our own sakes, place a sufficient force in your dominion to ensure that no such attack will be made. If there be any politicians either in this country or in India, said Sir George, who wish to precipitate matters by an earlier movement on the side of England, they are undoubtedly in the wrong. There must be unmistakable evidence that the progress of Russia in Turkestan does threaten Afghanistan before it can be wise for England to depart from her present attitude. Opinions may conceivably differ about the precise acts which would amount to this unmistakable evidence. One thing, however, is certain, and that is that we are not bound to wait until Russia has seized Herat before recognising that she has designs upon the territory of which Herat is the strongest fortress. If ever she comes as far as that, her designs upon Afghanistan will not be entertained but accomplished. What the point is at which the object of the Russian advance would become unmistakable it is for experts to decide. All that need be said generally is that it should be the first point from which, in the event of the possession of Herat becoming an object of Russian ambition, it could be seized by a coup de main. If England takes no notice of the occupation by Russia of such a position as this, Herat will probably be lost to the Afghans just when Englishmen are awaking to the necessity of helping them to retain it. It is of great moment to remember in discussing the politics of Central Asia that the contingency we have to fear is not an invasion of India by Russia. Even her resolution would probably shrink from so tremendous an undertaking as this. But there are two other dangers, either of which is sufficiently alarming to make it the duty of an English Government to take all proper precautions against its approach. One is, that if Russia were allowed to push forward to a point from which she could threaten India—and in the opinion of most soldiers who have studied the ground Herat is such a point-England would be compelled, in the event of finding herself engaged in a war with

Russia in Europe, to keep a large part of her army locked up in India. The other is, that if Russia were allowed to take possession of any part of Afghanistan, the belief in her ultimate descent upon India itself would become universal in all the frontier States, and would give encouragement to all the elements of disaffection which lie smouldering beneath the seemingly calm surface of Indian life. The end which English statesmen ought to propose to themselves is not to defend India against a Russian attack, so much as to prevent the idea of a Russian attack from consciously presenting itself to the native mind. Our supremacy in India rests in part at least on the belief of those who submit to it that it can never be challenged with any hope of success. If this idea should be replaced by restless speculations whether in some not distant future the native dynasties may find in the conflict between two white races an opportunity of regaining their independence, or, at the worst, of making better terms with the conqueror, the difficulties of our position will be seriously increased.

Meanwhile, to consolidate our Oriental Empire, and to bring it more and more into sympathetic and confidential relations with the mother country, was felt by our leading statesmen to be an object of paramount importance, and of all the ministerial communications to Parliament this year, none excited so much interest in the mind of the general public as that which related to a proposed visit of the Heir Apparent of the British throne to his dominions in the far Indies. That the visit was in contemplation had been already known for some tine, when, on the 8th of July, Mr. Disraeli brought the subject before the House of Commons. He observed that the House was well aware that His Royal Highness had for some time contemplated this visit; but that the circumstances attending it would differ much from those attending his former visits to our colonies. “ In the colonies,” said Mr. Disraeli,“His Royal Highness, generally speaking, met a population who were of his own raceI might say of his own religion, his own customs, his own manners. In India he will have to visit a variety of nations, of different races, of different religions, of different customs, and of different manners, and it will be obvious to the House that the simplicity of arrangement which might suit a visit to our own fellow-subjects in the colonies would not equally apply to the condition of India and its population. There is one remarkable characteristic of Oriental manners, well known to gentlemen in this House, which did not prevail in the previous travels of His Royal Highness to any great extent—that is, the exchange of presents between visitors and their hosts. This is a custom so deeply rooted in Oriental, and, I may say, particularly in Indian lite, that although it was obvious to the old Government of India by the Company that it was one which might lead to great corruption, although the Government of the Queen which succeeded have been animated by the same conviction, and although they prevented those they employed from materially benefiting by this custom, because the latter relinquish

But I may

the presents and state gifts which they receive, still they found it impossible firmally to terminate it, and it has attained an important development among the Indian population. Well, the Council of India upon this point received an intimation, or more than an intimation, from the Viceroy, that mere presents of ceremonial, which have of late years been discouraged, need not, in the opinion of his Excellency, be adopted in the present case. remind the House that, although an arrangement of that kind might be effected, still His Royal Highness is about to visit immense populations-populations of upwards of 200,000,000, souls, and that he will be the guest, or make the acquaintance, of many chiefs and rulers; that there are among these great populations, I believe, at least 90 reigning sovereigns at this time, and no doubt His Royal Highness must be placed in a position to exercise those spontaneous feelings, characteristic of his nature, of generosity and splendour, which his own character and the character of the country likewise requires to be gratified. Mr. Disraeli divided the estiinated expense of the Prince's visit into three portions: the first being that involved in the conveyance of the Prince and his suite to India, estimated by the Admiralty at 52,0001., four-fifths of which would fall on the present financial year. Another portion, to be borne by the Indian Government, in discharge of the duty which the Viceroy would fulfil of entertaining the Prince, was estimated at 30,0001. A very natural feeling was expressed by Mr. Fawcett and Mr. Hankey against imposing any charge whatever in respect of this visit upon the Indian revenues. strict an economist as Sir George Campbell observed, with justice, that India, in mere self-respect, would appropriately contribute something in welcoming her future Sovereign. There remained the sum necessary for the Prince's personal expenses in India, including the presents which might be suitable to his position. For this purpose Mr. Disraeli proposed a vote of only 60,000l. In the discussion which ensued a few days later the Premier's proposals were accepted by an almost unanimous vote.

The subject of the Prince's visit, when from matter of anticipation it became matter of fact, belongs to a later chapter of our history.

But so


Honduras Loan Committee-Strike and Lock-out in South Wales Collieries

National Agricultural Labourers' Union, Trades Union Congress at GlasgowArctic Expedition-Death of Lady Franklin-Other deaths of note-Seyyed of Zanzibar.

The financial susceptibilities of the British public were painfully excited by various occurrences and revelations connected with the Foreign money market. First, the appointment of a Select Committee by the House of Commons, on the application of Sir

[ocr errors]

Henry James, “ to inquire into the circumstauces attending the making of Contracts for Loans with Foreign States, and also into the causes which have led to the nonpayment of the principal money and interest due in respect of such Loans," was a step hitherto unknown in our Parliamentary history. It was not proposed to direct this inquiry to the old defaulting states of Greece and Spain and Turkey, but to four South American Republics whose proceedings in the money market of late had been peculiarly audacious and deceitful : Honduras, Costa Rica, San Domingo, and Paraguay. The Committee, which pursued its investigations with great diligence under the presidency of Mr. Lowe, published its Report just before the close of the Session. The tale told by the Report was to the following effect (see Pall Mall Gazette, Aug. 4): -In 1861 a clerk in a commercial firm in Liverpool, Don Carlos Gutierres, as one of the witnesses phrased it, “ turned ” Honduras minister. He could not meet the small expenses of his embassy without agsistance, and his Government was, if possible, more completely destitute of resources than himself. However, in 1867, he agreed with Messrs. Bischoffsheim and Goldschmidt for the issue of a loan to the nominal value of 1,000,0001. Though a quotation on the Stock Exchange was secured, only 48,3401., owing to various circumstances, was held by the public six months after the date of issue, the remainder of the stock having remained in, or come back into, the possession of Messrs. Herran and Don Carlos Gutierres, as representatives of the Honduras Government. There seemed, therefore, little prospect either of obtaining the funds to commence the railway, of which a great deal was said in the prospectus, or of realising those handsome commissions to the payment of which a great part of the loan was afterwards applied. Even an investment which promised 12} per cent, on the price of issue had not so far tempted lenders either in London or Paris. But what Messrs. Bischoffsheim and Goldschmidt were unable or unwilling to do, a certain M. Charles Lefevre was willing, and, as it proved, able to do. He undertook, on exceedingly advantageous terms, to place the whole of the bonds to which the public had shown themselves so indifferent. By a series of judicious operations on the Stock Exchange the loan was forced up to 94, and then the very people who had declined to come in at 80 and at a much lower figure rushed in to buy. The popular enthusiasm was increased by the recommendation of brokers who had bought from M. Lefevre greatly below the market price, and who were naturally anxious to give their clients the benefit of so valuable an investment at the current quotation. M. Lefevre got rid of his whole purchase within 15 months at a heavy profit, and every one benefited except the genuine buyer. Nearly the same tactics were pursued with the loan for 2,500,0001. issued in 1870, only, as the amount was much larger, the profits were larger in proportion. The accounts showed that, apart from any gains by gambling in the stock, M. Lefevre pocketed nearly 1,000,0001. for himself or

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »