Page images


[ocr errors]

to the Soudan. Egypt would then become free, for England would have no excuse for prolonging the occupation. . .

“ Animated by these ideas, I submitted my plan to the French Government. I asked for protection for my affairs, leave for the coming and landing of a Soudanese mission at Djibouti en route for Constantinople, and the support of the French Government during the negotiations in Turkey—that is, while the mission was asking for the Sultan's suzerainty over a free Soudan and his intervention for peace between the Soudan and a free Egypt. France was to accord to this mission aid and protection against England. Strengthened by the acceptance of the French Government, I forwarded, in September 1896, my report to the Khalifa, in which I said: A French column, Captain Marchand, will arrive by the French Congo at Bahr-elGhazal. They are our friends, as France wishes to assist us and has accepted me as Ambassador. Let the Khalifa at once despatch a mission, by way of Abyssinia, to Djibouti, as the French Government has promised me a good reception for it and its embarkation. I return to place myself at the head of the army against England. Decline every engagement with the AngloEgyptian troops, so as to compromise England in the eyes of Europe by showing that Egypt has never been threatened with invasion.' After this report Marchand was well received and could freely advance on to the Nile.”

The writer then goes on to say that he was stopped by the English at Saakin. Afterwards he went back to Europe to continue the negotiations. But Tarkey, handicapped by her war with Greece, could do nothing for the moment. Thereupon Soliman Inger forwarded to the Mahdi & statement to the effect that Prince Henri d'Orléans would probably arrive in the neighbourhood of Metemmeb, and that he, Soliman, would try to cross Abyssinia or Erythrea and conduct the Prince to Omdurman. In conclusion, he once more exhorts the Mahdi to accept no engagement with the Anglo-Egyptian forces, but to retire, and await the favourable results of the negotiations.

Such is this unvarnished story of underhand intrigue and deadly treachery, as told by an Oriental actor in it, and approved by a French

It is amply confirmed by the organ of the French General Staff, the Eclair, which says:

“France's action in these regions was brought about at the express desire of the Mahdi, and in conformity with the principle of the maintenance of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, so eloquently expounded by M. Hanotaux in speeches delivered in 1894 and the year following."

Nobody believed that shameful story when it first came out a year ago. English men had no ethical pigeonhole in their minds for the classification of infamous double-dealing of this kind, so they dismissed the tale with contempt for its originator. It has since been confirmed, however, by the events that took place during the ensuing twelve months. It has been further borne out by admissions of the most influential newspapers and politicians in all France. And no more convincing proof can be asked than the following.



Le Journal, which is a very widespread and respected journal, in an article of three columns (October 28, 1898), devoted to the genesis of the Marchand Mission, says:

“Morès set out for Africa in order to preach a crusade against the English. He turned his footsteps towards Rahat, intending to push on to the west towards Egypt, and to develop there, with profit, his doctrine of the alliance of France and Islam against England. . . . Morès hoped to conquer for France Bahr-el-Ghazal, with the aid of the Mahdi of Omdurman. Morès knew that a dam established on the Upper Nile, below Fashoda, could turn the Bahr-el-Ghazal into an Egypt, and transform Egypt into a desert.” As for the means employed, they included “the organisation of all the armed peoples and tribes who are opposed to England, the conduct of Khalifa Abdullah's forces against the British, and the guarantee to the Mahdi of Omdurman of his Empire in the Soudan, on condition of his ceding the Bahr-el-Ghazal to France, and the establishment of a buffer State between Egypt and Central Africa. Such was the magnificent programme which Morès submitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who despatched Marchand to the Upper Nile at the same time that Morès himself set out for Sahara."*


The Journal then goes on to say that, instead of occupying Fashoda for the sake of its purchasing power as & quid pro quo, it would have been much better to uphold the domination of the Mahdi of Omdurman, and to close the gates of Khartoum and of the Soudan to England with the help of Abdullah's forces. This is the deliberate statement of one of the most weighty journals in France.

Frenchmen throughout Africa are all emissaries of civilisation, and as such are held up to the admiration of the world. Those among them who, like Ollivier Pain and the Marquis de Morès, fell victims to their political anti-Christian fanaticism are treated as martyrs in a noble cause.

Aud this cause, when we come to examine it, is the cause of the Mahdi and his barbarians against English civilisation ! The thing is simply incredible as it stands, and only the most convincing evidence could overcome one's legitimate doubte. But what evidence can be stronger than that of the dramatis persona themselves ? Even Major Marchand himself has written letters which paint him without the veneer of an “emissary of civilisation," and the portrait, though somewhat grotesque and repulsive, cannot, unfortunately, be said to be unfaithful. One of these letters, addressed by M. Marchand to M. Le Herissé, the editor of the Politique Coloniale, was published in the Gil Blas. The following are a few extracts :

“The French posts which have been created by the mission bristle in the Babr-el-Ghazal just now,

I have no fear of either Belgians or English. ... Now I am going to work upon the tribe of Shillooks. Possibly there will soon be laughter upon the Nile.† If our efforts are successful, we shall have grouped from eleven to twelve million men around the French flag who certainly do not want the return of the Egyptian domination. For the present all my policy is directed to this end. Perhaps we—I mean French diplomacy-shall score a formidable and complete triumph in this matter.

* Le Journal, Oct. 28, 1898.

+ The italics are mine.

.. One hundred and fifty men against forty thousand! If this is not funny to the extent of side-splitting! And it is with these that I have had to traverse Africa, occupying* the whole of Bahr-el-Ghazal and the Nile! ... True, I have received letters from Paris to the effect that if I have the misfortune to fail, I shall be made little of, dragged in the mud, and pounded to ū paste.” †

And all the actors in this disreputable drama are the authorised spokesmen or champions of chivalrous France, whose honour is so hyper-sensitive that even the appearance of a stain on her 'scutcheon is more than enough to warrant an appeal to arms! The deliberate falsehoods that were told by statesmen and diplomatists about that Mission, which was now scientific, now military, and now non-existent, the base hypocrisy which was resorted to even by men whose profession and traditions are supposed to render trath and sincerity necessaries of their lives, and the irreparable loss of self-respect wbich must have preceded and rendered possible such unique treachery, teach the man who reads as he runs more about the France with which the British Foreign Office has to deal than any number of books, pamphlets, and speeches. The further fact that these same cavaliers accuse our Government of brutal wrong-doing, of rank injustice, and of slighting their friendship, offered to us along with Fashoda, merely shows that the pyschological malady underlying and producing these symptoms, being unsuspected by the patient, is not likely to be cured in the near future, if at all.

Journals of every political party in France admitted and defended this huge conspiracy, blaming only its failure.

“The Fashoda incident,” says the moderate Soleil, "could and should have resulted, firstly, in giving an outlet on the Nile to our possessions of Upper Ubanghi; secondly, in putting Abyssinia in contact with our sphere in the west, as it is already in the east through Obock and Djibouti; thirdly, in cutting the route of the English and putting an end to their dream of a Britannic Empire stretching from Alexandria to the Cape ; and fourthly, in reopening the discussion on the Egyptian question. It was a fine scheme." I

And is it contended that this fine scheme was to culminate in some grandiose work of civilisation surpassing that of " les Anglais ” ? Not. in the least. The French cannot colonise, and they know it. Their population is, to put it moderately, stagnant. In fifty years' time the laws of nature will bave reduced them to the rank of a second-rate Power, unless they meanwhile adopt and act upon the device, “Liberté, egalité, maternité." Meanwhile they have not a surplus population to

* The italics are M. Marchand's.
+ The italics are mine. Cf. Gil Blas, October 27, 1898.

Soleil, Nov, 7, 1898.


be employed in colonising. Their colonies are not even self-supporting. Leaving out Algeria, they cost the Republic 100,000,000 francs a year.

And concerning Algeria one of the few Frenchmen who regard these questions in the light of plain facts, G. Garreau, writing in the Siècle a few days ago, makes the painful confession :

“During wellnigh seventy years we have failed to make Algeria pay. Have we even striven to make it? During twenty years we have been pursuing Ahmadon or Samory. What have we done with the Soudan ? We have contributed to depopulate it; we have made waste, directly or indirectly, immense territories, on which a rich population formerly lived; we have extended the desert instead of reclaiming it. Our soldiers have laboured so well that they successfully thwarted all useful beginnings, and blocked the road to the pioneers of our commerce.

Another of the few French politicians who are acquainted with the facts and shape their opinions in accordance with them says:

“ Have we a moral interest in hindering the reconstitution of the Egyptian Soudan? Have we any interest to hinder Egypt froin extending her domain to the English East African possessions ? Have we a material interest ? What could we do in these territories?

“ Fashoda is separated from St. Louis by 50° of longitude. Now, compare the map of Africa with the map of Europe, and it will be seen that Fashoda is the samo distance from Libreville, the capital of French Congo, that St. Petersburg is from Paris, and there are neither railways, rivers, nor stations to connect these two points. ... Is our colonial sphere in Western Africa too narrow, too limited ? The Annuaire des Bureaux des Longitudes estimates its surface at 7,331,000 square kilometres . . . whereas that of France is only 552,000. The first thing for us to do would be to utilise it.” i

Is it not clear, therefore, that France has been pursuing a dog-inthe-manger policy? and in order to carry it out has been inciting Turkey, Russia, Abyssinia, and the barbarons hordes of the Mahdi to combine against her friends, the English, and bring about a costly and sanguinary war in a time of profound peace, while Russia took to preaching on the benefits of disarmament ? Everything conceivable was done, nothing was left undone, to ensure success to this diabolical plan. M. Bonchamps, who was one of the many actors in this drama, received orders in 1897 to take change of an expedition which was to occupy the right bank of the Nile, and to rejoin M. Marchand at Fashoda. M. Bonchamps was not successful. Menelik, he affirms, regarded him with suspicion and kept him in Abyssinia, where he lost six months. Bat

“ if,” says this pioneer of civilisation, “ the plan of occupying the right bank of the Nile by Abyssinia had proved successful, in December 1897 or January 1898, six months before Marchand's arrival at Fashoda, the face of things would have considerably changed. The Anglo-Egyptian troops would have found on the Nile above Khartoum, not only the French flag,

Siècle, No. 9, 1898.
+ Ibid., Oct. 24, 1898, “La France et l'Angleterre." Yves Guyot.


but the Abyssinian as well, waving opposite it. It is possible that this event may be realised yet."

These are the words of an agent of the French Government, and those of almost all French newspapers might be quoted to the effect that the Government of the Republic ought to contribute to reali:e them and induce Menelik to do now what he should have done several months ago. Success is no longer a probability, but revenge is at all times both welcome and desirable.

M. de Lanessan, late Governor-General of Indo-China, writiog on this huge international conspiracy, says that M. Hanotaux and the French Government when sending M. Marchand,

“had a very clearly determined end in view which was not hidden among their entourageon the contrary, which was freely spoken of: it was to cut the route of the English towards the Great Lakes, where the White Nile takes its rise. Great Britain, having considered the gigantic scheme of connecting the Nile Valley with Cape Colony by means of an unbroken series of possessions over which her Aag should wave, we were to thwart this project by establishing ourselves right across her track.

“Certainly the undertaking was not without a certain value. Had it been successfully carried out, it would have greatly increased the prestige of the Ministers who planned it."

This, then, is the secret of Russia's assiduity in cultivating the friendship of Menelik, in sending him priests, presents, and an envoy, and also of the sudden apparition of the famous “ Equatorial Province of Abyssinia," of which “ Count " Leontieff was appointed GovernorGeneral. And parts of this nefarious scheme it is still hoped to bring to a successful issue. What else is the meaning of France's demand for a “commercial outlet” to the Nile, seeing that the Nile can always be used for French commerce, that they have no commerce to send there, that if they had, it would cost £500 a ton to transport thither, and that commerce under these conditions is a pointless joke. If the French could keep the Bahr-el-Ghazal, or a portion of it, they would use it to realise their hope that Menelik and his Abyssinian hordes should lay claim to a strip of land on the eastern bank of the Nile, and wage war with England for the sake of it. And these are contingencies which must now be wiped out of the list of probabilities for ever.

It may be asked why the scheme deliberately concocted by statesmen, and approved by several powerful governments, should have proved such a dismal failure. The reasons are many, clear, and satisfactory. Two years ago, when the plan was drawn up and approved, the political conditions of Europe and the world were very different from what they are to-day. Germany and England were not the best of

* La Liberté, Oct. 30, 1898. + “Germanophiles et Anglophobes." J. L. de Laressan. Rappel, Nor. 8, 1898.

« PreviousContinue »