No. 98.
Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen .

[Extract.]
No. 52.]

Sir: The resolute and rapid action of England in Egypt seems to have taken Europe by surprise, and made that power complete master of the situation. It was a vital question in the early summer if England would be allowed by European public sentiment to adopt an aggressive policy in dealing with Arabi Pasha and the military party in Egypt. The [Page 171] press in several European capitals was very hostile to English pretensions, and in places where it was conceded that English interests and prestige would justify forcible intervention it was declared that England would bluster and not fight. Such was the prevailing tone of influential German newspapers, while those which usually semi officially speak for the administration were remarkably silent. But some information, which appeared to me reliable, tended to convince me that England would act energetically, and would carry with it the tacit consent, if not the expressed concurrence, of Germany; and I ventured to so predict in my dispatches of that period, and that the remainder of Europe would acquiesce.

The event seems fully to justify that view. England has acted in Egypt with unusual celerity and decision, refusing the concurrence of the Porte except on terms, and adopting the extremest measures—as the seizure of the Suez Canal—to secure military results.

The effect of all this upon contemporary opinion is curious. The Italian press, an uninfluential quantity, is fussily bitter. France has lost an opportunity for co-operation and enhanced prestige. * * * The Republique Française observes:

At present we are powerless spectators, and can do little more than take note of facts long foreseen and rendered inevitable by a policy of neglect. The British Cabinet will not fail to find excuses, and, to be just, we must admit that it can invoke some very specious ones.

* * * * * * *

The German press, almost without exception, now acquiesces in the situation. For some weeks past some newspapers here have sought by clamor to influence the government to object to “British aggression” in Egypt, but these efforts seem now to have ceased, in view of the continued success of English warlike movements, though they would probably recommence if the tide of fortune should change. As the matter now stands it may be said that Germany has assumed the role of indifferent observer of Eastern events. Its asserted friendship for Turkey has probably been severely tried by the procrastinating and evasive policy of the latter power, making advice to it of doubtful benefit, and the continued sympathy of a direct, positive man like the chancellor, impossible.

It would seem that there is still nothing in the existing situation dangerous to the general peace of Europe. It would be difficult to limit the questions that may arise were England to prevail in Egypt to the extent contemplated by its military preparations. French interests in the Mediterranean are inconsistent with permanent English control of Egypt. Germany is not likely to view with complacency any great accession of power by England or by any other power within striking distance, and it will probably obstruct measures looking to the ultimate humiliation of the Porte. Austria is but the second of Germany in the diplomacy of this decade. Further, it is difficult to see how England can treat Egypt as its sick man, and Europe permit it, and yet object if Russia shall apply the same regimen to Turkey generally. Logic is not always the prominent element of statesmanship, and consistency still less, so much do circumstances dominate nations. Europe may not feel obliged to consent to Russian aggression upon Turkey, even if it allows English absorption of Egypt, though the moral force of objection would be weakened. These questions and others, such as the mode and measure of English pecuniary indemnity at the expense of Egypt, must speedily arise, and will be more likely to disturb European tranquility than even the stirring events now transpiring. The Kreuz Zeitung particularly represents the German Government, and in a recent [Page 172] article gives evidence that the present quiescent attitude of Germany is only provisional. This paper, after referring to the successes of the English arms, expresses the opinion that the solution of the Egyptian question is still far off. The relations between England and France, and between those powers and the Porte, regarding the latter’s rights of sovereignty, are still unsettled, and no agreement as to the so-called national question in Egypt has been arrived at. It deems it impossible to foresee what aspect these questions may assume in the future. Former differences are adjourned, not settled. As the sovereignty of Turkey has been expressly recognized by the conference at Constantinople, England could not disregard it, and the national question in Egypt could only be discussed after Turkey had shown what attitude she would take in presence of this movement.

The paper warned its readers not to see in the present situation the solution of these questions, “for new difficulties will be unavoidable after the English have finished their military operations.”

It is not difficult to read throughout this article a caveat served on the English Government that the inaction of Germany does not mean a lack of interest in the question whether England shall come out of these difficulties an invincible Mediterranean power, and that the fate of Egypt and Turkey is still a matter with which the Eastern nations have concern.

Perhaps as significant is the remark that the national question is in abeyance in Egypt. Arabi assumes to represent a national party, if Germany and other Eastern powers shall hereafter seek to maintain Arabi’s cause, they cannot abandon Arabi to the vengeance of the English. Unless England feels able to maintain itself against all Europe, it may find its victories barren of results.

I venture to say that the policy of cabinets to yield to measures for the present is not popular in any European state, and especially in Germany. I could give you many evidences of this were it not to too much lengthen this dispatch. But such a state of public feeling makes more probable action restrictive of English designs hereafter.

I have, &c.,

A. A. SARGENT.