« AnteriorContinuar »
tary succession of Egypt should be assured to him, to send back to the sultan the Turkish fleet, and he gave orders to his son, Ibrahim Pasha, to evacuate Syria.
The object of solicitude was now changed ; to secure the peace of Europe it was no longer a question of arresting the encroachments of Mohammed Ali upon the power of the Porte, but of preventing, in concert with France, the sultan from impairing the situation in which the Powers desired to maintain the Pasha of Egypt. “Nothing good or lasting is done without France,” the Duke of Wellington used to say. For eight months the capricious alternatives of the Porte, the anger of Lord Ponsonby, the English ambassador at Constantinople, re-acting upon Lord Palmerston's designs, and Oriental finesse, seeking to explain documents or complicate proceedings, kept in suspense the conclusion of a treaty which all desired, though on different grounds, and which could alone put an end to a situation always full of danger. On the 13th of July, 181, the agreement of the five Powers was signed, assuring to Mohammed Ali that Egyptian heredity, pure and simple, which had once been scornfully refused to him, and was now granted solely by reason of the protection of France.
“ The Egyptian question was disposed of,” writes M. Guizot in his Mémoires ; "a question raised in 1810 far above its true importance, and in which we, ill-informed in respect to facts, became much more deeply involved than the strength of the pasha justified, or the interests of France required. Peace was maintained, and in the midst of peace, the precautionary armaments made by France were maintained also; the fortification of Paris was carried on, the French govern. ment established itself in that isolation which had been caused by the failure of the Powers sufficiently to esteem her presence and advice. Europe became conscious of the void in its counsels created by the absence of France, and showed eagerness to recall her to them. France did not return thither until Europe came to beg her to do so, after requiring from the Porte the concessions claimed by the pasha, and making the declaration that the treaty of July 15, 1840, was definitively annulled.
“ Mohammed Ali, driven from Syria and threatened in Egypt itself, was at last established in the latter country with the hereditary succession, and upon equitable conditions, not by reason of his own strength, but on account of consideration for France, and because the Powers who had signed the treaty of the 15th of July were not willing to incur the risk of disunion among themselves, or of seeing new complications arise.
* By the convention of July 13th, 1841, the Porte was withdrawn from the exclusive protectorate of Russia, and placed in the sphere of the general interests and the common deliberations of Europe. By these results, the failure of France, due to her mistake in this question, was limited and arrested; she resumed her position in Europe, and assured in Egypt that of her client. In the end was done and obtained that which should have been done and obtained in the beginning.”
The affairs of Egypt, important as they were, were not the only ones to trouble the world. Many delicate negotiations had been brought to a successful issue during M. Guizot's residence in England. The remains of the Emperor Napoleon had been given up to France, not without a certain surprise upon receiving such a request from the king, Louis Philippe. The difficulties existing between England and Naples on account of the sulphur mines were settled by French mediation. But the extreme East was agitated by serious conflicts, England had entered upon a war with China, and her difficulties with the Afghans became every day more threatening.
China was still, in theory, an empire closed to all foreign civilization, interdicting to its subjects every form of intercourse with the merchants of the West. In fact, diplomatic and official relations did not exist, but American merchants and the English East India Company had succeeded in obtaining a foothold in a corner of the Celestial Empire, their establishments at Macao and at Canton being authorized. The East India Company's monopoly expiring in 1834, the conditions of European traffic in China were modified ; commerce becoming free, a considerable number of English merchants henceforth became interested in it. The commerce of the Americans and the English with China was nearly of the same nature. European traders furnished to the Chinese the opium of which they made great use, in defiance of the prohibition of their own government, strictly forbidding its importation and sale. The Chinese government tolerated the culture of the poppy, it was urged; it was therefore unreasonable to object to the importation of opium. “It is an agricultural protection question,” urged Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons against certain moralists in the opposition who declaimed against the wickedness of the traffic. Superintendents were appointed by the English government to watch over the commerce of their countrymen at Macao and Canton, in the hope of avoiding the frequent difficulties sure to arise between two nationalities, one shut up in a narrow and antique civilization, with which they were proudly content, the other bold and enterprising, ignorant of the ideas and manners of the Chinese, and profoundly despising the narrowness of their prejudices. The English traders considered themselves protected by their government, and carrying on the opium trade under the shelter of the British flag.
The English government acted wrongly in leaving these superintendents for a long time without positive instructions in their delicate mission; and when at last it was declared officially that government could not interfere to defend Eng. lish subjects from the penalty of violating the laws of the country with which they traded, and that the traders must themselves bear any loss which might fall upon them in consequence of a stricter application of Chinese laws, it was already too late. The Emperor of China and his mandarins had determined to put an end to the trade. The opium in the possession of British traders was seized, the authorities required the warehouses to be given up, the persons as well as the property of English subjects seemed to be menaced ; and Captain Elliott, the chief of the superintendents, sent for aid to the Governor of India. War had begun.
The result could not be doubtful. The Chinese displayed a persistent bravery which was entirely unexpected, and their heroic despair in defeat rendered their losses considerable. When conquered, they not unfrequently put their wives and children to death, and themselves perished under the ruins of their dwellings. Peace was made at last with the cession of the island of Hong-Kong, and the opening to British traders of five ports, Canton, Amoy, Foo-Chow-Foo, Ning.Po, and Shanghai. Diplomatic relations were established, and the Chinese engaged to pay a heavy indemnity to England, besides making up to the traders their losses in the opium destroyed.
The wise principle laid down at the beginning by the English government had been abandoned ; the cause of the opium traders had been supported, and, despite the remonstrances of the opposition, thanks were voted to government which had earned the gratitude of England by compelling the Chinese to admit the opium proscribed by their own laws. The excuse of the English public was, that it did not well understand the question, and believed England bound to defend her citizens, and protect the honor of her flag.
The cause which England had supported in China was not a good cause ; but her arms had gained an easy victory, and