Mr. Beardsley to Mr. Fish.
Cairo, December 12, 1872. (Received January 27, 1873.)
Sir: Recurring to my last dispatch, No. 45, detailing an interview with His Highness the Khedive, I have the honor to report in continuation of the same interview the substance of His Highness’s remarks concerning the future railway development of Egypt.
His Highness considers that the railway system of Lower Egypt is sufficiently extended for the present, and that sound policy dictates that the resources of the country should now be devoted to the work of extending the railway into Upper Egypt and Nubia.
It is desirable that Port Saïd, Damietta, and Rosetta should be connected with Alexandria by a coast line; but that is a project of secondary importance. With Suez, Ismailia, Zagazig, and Mansoorah brought into close connection with Cairo and Alexandria, the Delta of Egypt is sufficiently supplied with commercial arteries to meet the demands of the hour. Egypt’s mission, His Highness thinks, is to civilize Africa by pushing up through the valley of the Nile, and overflowing Nubia and the Soudan. To do this the railway system of Upper Egypt must be completed, and communication established with those countries.
The railway is now finished to Roda, 180 miles south of Cairo. It is proposed to complete the line to Assouan at the first cataract, and thus, with a few side branches to the several oases, make the railway system of Egypt proper complete.
From Assonan to the second cataract it is estimated that, owing to engineering difficulties, the expense of a railway would be £4,000,000 sterling. This sum His Highness considers to be more than the resources of Egypt will at present bear, and it is proposed to establish water-communication between those two points by transporting the Nile steamers over the first cataract by means of a marine railway, the expense of which will be insignificant compared with either the expense of the railway to the second cataract or with locks at the first cataract. This work His Highness thinks will be completed in four years from this date.
From the second cataract the railway will again commence and run to Khartoum, from whence it will eventually be carried on one branch to Dongola, and the other to Massowah on the Red Sea.
To reach Massowah by rail the territory of Bogos must be crossed: It thus appears that the occupation of Bogos by the Egyptian government looked toward the completion of the railway system of Egypt [Page 1124] rather than to the invasion of Abyssinia, and was a preliminary step toward bringing all the territory tributary to the Upper Nile within the pale of Egyptain authority, as indicated in my dispatch No. 19 of October 16.
To accomplish this it is not necessary that Abyssinia should be disturbed, and His Highness disavows all wish or intention of molesting her; conscious that in developing the resources of his own territory he has a difficult and arduous work to perform, which will sufficiently task all his energies, without the political embarassments which an invasion of Abyssinia would entail.
On this as well as former occasions His Highness emphatically asserted that Bogos has been Egyptian territory since the time of Mehemet Ali, and that in taking possession of it he was only asserting rights which had lain dormant since the time of Saïd Pasha, during whose reign the Egyptian forces were withdrawn owing to causes brought about by French influence exerted in favor of certain Catholic missionaries, to protect whom the government of Saïd Pasha was not disposed to wage an internal warfare. The history of Bogos for the last forty years appears not to be well known here, but I see no reason to doubt the statements of His Highness; and I believe Prince Kassa, of Abyssinia, has no good reason for apprehending an invasion of his territory.
If I have devoted more time and space to this subject than its merits would seem to warrant, it is because it has been a subject of considerable discussion here, as well as in Europe, where the idea seems to prevail that the Khedive is bent upon the annexation of Abyssinia.
I am, &c.,