Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Hale.
October 16, 1872. (Received November 5.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 9, inclosing a copy of a telegram from Massowah in reference to the movements of the Egyptian forces [Page 1120] under Munzinger Bey, I have now the honor to communicate all the information I have been able to obtain concerning the so-called invasion of Abyssinia.
The country of Bogos, containing about 10,000 inhabitants, lies between Egypt and Abyssinia proper, and has, until lately, been regarded as neutral territory, although in the time of Mohamed Ali it was claimed and acknowledged, I believe, as a part of that prince’s territory.
Situated almost on the Red Sea, with Massowah for its only port, Egypt has always manifested an interest in its welfare, and has always claimed a right to possess it, should necessity require it, as a protection to its frontiers.
It is said to be naturally a fine agricultural country, but, from the nature of its position, it has been overrun and pillaged by both Abyssinians and Egyptians, until what little prosperity it is said once to have enjoyed has been entirely destroyed.
The Egyptian government claims that it has of late been not only overrun by the Abyssinians, but that Prince Kassa has made it the base for frequent predatory incursions into Egyptian territory, on which occasions large numbers of cattle, horses, and other property have been carried off. It is to restore peace to Bogos and prevent like incursions in the future that the expedition of Munzinger Bey has been undertaken; such, at least, is the explanation of the Egyptian government.
Munzinger left Massowah on the 25th of last June, at the head of 1,200 Egyptian soldiers, well armed and equipped, and after a rapid and unimpeded march, occupied Kevem, the capital of Bogos, where he is now installed as military governor of the province.
At the time of this movement Prince Kassa was engaged in a predatory war with the Walla-Gallas, a strong tribe of Abyssinia, occupying the territory just south of Tigré, Kassa’s province. Having been beaten by the Gallas, and hearing of the invasion of Bogos by Egyptian troops, he hastily retreated to Adoa, the capital of Tigré, to prepare means to resist the forces of Munzinger.
Kassa’s troops are represented to be badly armed and worse disciplined; and, however superior may be his numbers, he can never successfully cope with the well-trained and well-armed soldiers of Egypt.
It may be remembered that Kassa is the Abyssinia prince who rendered valuable service to the English in their expedition against King Theodore, and who, since that time, has claimed to himself the title of King of Abyssinia.
When that expedition left Abyssinia, an Englishman of the name of Kirkham remained behind and attached himself to the cause of Prince Kassa; he is believed to have been a sergeant, or some other petty officer, in the English army, honorably discharged. It is said that he has been of great service to Kassa, whose confidence he is said to possess to a remarkable degree, and over whom he has exercised a good influence.
Kassa has now, feeling his own helplessness, implored the protection of the European powers as against the movements of the Egyptian government, and has dispatched Kirkham to Europe with letters to the various sovereigns; his chief hope of assistance, however, being from the Queen of England. Kirkham passed through Alexandria a few days ago, and had an interview with Her Britannic Majesty’s agent and consul-general, Colonel Stanton. He stated freely the object of his mission, and said that Kassa viewed the occupation of Bogos by the Egyptian troops as [Page 1121] an invasion of Abyssinian territory, which he felt sure the European powers would resent with force, if necessary.
Munzinger Bey is of German origin, and has lived in the vicinity of Massowah for the last twenty years; at present he is governor of Massowah and Bogos. At Massowah, where he has been stationed as governor for several years, he has done much for the improvement of the country, and he is generally regarded, I believe, as an active, intelligent man, and a good executive officer.
What the Khedive’s ulterior object is in this forcible occupation of Bogos, it is impossible to say; but his well-known and laudable ambition to bring within the pale of Egyptian law and authority all of that great country lying about the head-waters of the Nile, makes it reasonable to presume that it is a preliminary and experimental step toward the subjugation of Northern Abyssinia.
That the Nile is the natural and only practical outlet for all the country watered by its great lakes and their tributaries there is no question, and it would seem to be beyond doubt that its entire subjugation to the Khedive’s rule would be a blessing to it beyond estimation; while at the same time it would open up to the commerce of the world a country unsurpassed, perhaps, in fertility and natural resources.
The slave-trade, the curse of the country, would be done away with; resources of mineral and vegetable wealth would be developed to the great interest of Egypt and Europe, and the ambition of the Khedive, now bounded by the deserts which overlook and hem in the valley of the Nile, would find legitimate satisfaction and employment in bringing within the pale of civilization and adding to his dominions an extensive territory, abounding in all that contributes to the wealth and material prosperity of a great empire.
The expedition under command of Sir Samuel Baker was the commencement of the realization of this grand project, and there is but little doubt in my mind that the occupation of Bogos is but another step in the pre-arranged programme. The telegraph is already completed and working to Kartoum, and the railroad is slowly but surely following it; while the project of making the cataracts passable for steamers has been considered and pronounced practicable by English engineers.
I have thus endeavored to indicate the signification of the occupation of Bogos, and to express my belief that it is but one of a series of movements on the part of the Egyptian government with the objective aim of bringing all the territory bordering on the Nile and its sources under Egyptian rule; a result highly desirable to all well-wishers of Central Africa, provided it can be accomplished without interfering with the Christian church of Abyssinia, which, however debased it may be at present, is the only foundation on which can be reared a nobler fabric.
I inclose herewith a rough outline of Tipper Nubia and Northern Abyssinia, showing the small territory of Bogos, and its peculiar position as regards Egypt, the southern boundary-line of Egypt, and the course of the Nile and some of its tributaries.
I have, &c.,
United States Agent and Consul-General.