The Minister in Egypt ( Howell ) to the Secretary of State

No. 284

Sir: I have the honor to advise that in an interview with Lord Allenby11 held this morning at the Residency touching the proposed Egyptian law, with regard to the modification of same which affects the Division of Antiquities un-earthed in Egypt by foreign excavators, his Lordship stated after a brief review of the measure or law now in vogue: that the law giving to foreign excavators substantially onehalf of the antiquities un-earthed would expire with the season of 1923, and that it was true that there was a proposition made, as he understood it, from the Director of Antiquities in Egypt, M. Lacau, to modify this law so that all antiquities unearthed in Egypt would remain the property of the Egyptian Government and that under this provision it would be wholly optional with the Egyptian Government as to whether or not any such findings would be turned over to foreign excavators. His Lordship further said that many protests had been filed with him by societies in the British Empire interested in these antiquities, against this proposed law. That he had also received like protests from various societies in the same category from the United States; that there was no question but what this proposition by M. Lacau was supported by the late Egyptian Ministry, [Page 717] but as indicated, this was only a proposed law, that the Ministry, which had indicated its desire to support the proposition of M. Lacau was a thing of the past, and that he had a letter (and at the same time read the letter to me) from Soliman Pasha, the Undersecretary of Public Works of Egypt, to the effect that no law touching this matter would be promulgated until after a very careful consideration of the protests of the various governments interested, had been very carefully considered.

It may be stated in this connection that Lord Allenby fully shares the opinion expressed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Federation of Art, with respect to this proposed law, and has already filed a protest against this step which would not appear to be in the interest of either English, American, French or Egyptian nationals.

Following the interview with Lord Allenby, the French Minister called at the American Legation and substantially said: that he would speak to the head of the Antiquities, M. Lacau, as to his opinion of this matter, that he personally was opposed to the passage of this proposed law; that he would also telegraph his Government if the projected measure should become more probable and he would write his Government in any case, touching the matter. He said that probably the French Government would agree with his personal opinion which was that of the English and American Governments, and that any such proposed law would prevent their national excavators continuing their work here. He thought his Government would take the same view as the English and American Governments against such a provision.

It is not believed the Italian Government is interested at this time. The Italian Minister is out of the country and the Chargé d’Affaires is in Alexandria. I have this day written a protest to the Egyptian Government against this proposed raw, a copy of which is herewith enclosed.12

I have [etc.]

J. Morton Howell
  1. British High Commissioner for Egypt.
  2. Not printed.