Ras Tafari International Consultants inquiry ABYSSINIA—A RED SEA PORT. 2

By Seymour Mclean
Listen to article


HC Deb 26 February 1885 vol 294 c1416
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the occupation of Massowah and the other operations by Italian troops on the west coast of the Red Sea have the assent or approval of Her Majesty's Government; and, whether any Correspondence has passed between the Foreign Office and the Italian Government on the subject of such operations; and, if so, whether he will lay it upon the Table of the House?

asked, Whether the Italian occupation of Massowah is adverse to the claim of Abyssinia to an independent outlet to the sea at that place?

The Prime Minister will reply to a Question on this subject; but I propose, in the course of debate to-morrow, to make a statement on this subject, as requested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen). This will be a more convenient course than to reply within the narrow limits usually assigned to the answer to a Question; but I may at once inform my hon. Friend that Papers will be laid without delay. The Italian Government have stated their intention to respect the Treaty between England, Egypt, and Abyssinia, and to do all in their power to facilitate Abyssinian trade.

LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE 27 February 1885 → Commons Sitting → ORDER OF THE DAY.

If witnesses who could be depended upon were examined, it would be found that a great deal had been done by Her Majesty's Government in Egypt, in spite of the condition of the country and the fact that they had been there a little more than two years. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) and the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had appealed to him for information with regard to the interference by Italy with Turkish possessions on the Red Sea. They said—"How can you reconcile that with any respect for the international position of Egypt and the Sublime Porte?" There was no mystery upon that question. An attempt had been made, but it had been an entire failure, to show that between his language and that of the Prime Minister of Italy in the Parliament of that country there was confliction. What struck him as very remarkable upon that was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (Sir Robert Peel) professed to give to the House an account of what had passed in Italy in regard to that subject; but he unfortunately left out the most material part of the story. The right hon. Gentleman quoted his (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's) statement in the House, and a statement made in the Italian Parliament on this subject; but he entirely failed to quote a further statement made by the Italian Prime Minister in reply to a distinct challenge upon the question. An eminent Italian Member of Parliament brought up a debate on the question, and he accused the Italian Minister of having used language at variance with his (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's); but the Italian Prime Minister said that his (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice's) language had been entirely consistent with his own. The course of proceedings had been this. On the 3rd of November the Italian Ambassador inquired whether Her Majesty's Government were in any way opposed to an extension of Italian jurisdiction to the north of their settlement at Assab, so as to include Beilul, in the same way as Raheita had already been included in the south. Lord Granville assured him that Her Majesty's Government felt no jealousy of the extension of Italian influence over that part of the Bed Sea coast, but would, on the contrary, welcome it. Her Majesty's Government could not, however, undertake to give away that which did not belong to them, and Lord Granville suggested the desirability of the Italian Government coming to an arrangement with the Porte on the matter. On the 22nd of December Count Nigra inquired in what manner Her Majesty's Government would view a provisional occupation of Zulla by Italian troops. Lord Granville informed him that the Egyptian Government, being unable to continue their hold on all the African littoral of the Red Sea, the ports naturally reverted to the Sultan, whom Her Majesty's Go- vernment had advised to retake possession of some of them. If the Italian Government desired to occupy some of these ports, it was a matter between Italy and Turkey. Her Majesty's Government, for their own part, had no objection to raise against the Italian occupation of Zulla, Beilul, or Massowah. On the 10th of January Musurus Pasha referred to the reports current as to the intentions of the Italian Government on the Red Sea, and Lord Granville stated that it was to be regretted that Turkey had not acted on the suggestions of Her Majesty's Goverment that she should herself occupy these ports. When the Porte protested subsequently against the Italian occupations, Lord Granville expressed a strong hope that Turkey and Italy should amicably arrange the matter, but informed the Turkish Ambassador that Her Majesty's Government must disclaim any responsibility, as their advice to the Sultan to occupy the ports had not been acted upon. He might add in regard to that matter that, although there was no special alliance or understanding in regard to this subject between Italy and Her Majesty's Government, there were relations of very great amity at this moment between this country and Italy. At this moment, which was undoubtedly one of difficulty, Italy had shown that, in regard to her relations with this country, the proverb "that there was no such thing as gratitude in politics," did not hold good. Italy had shown that she recollected the assistance and the sympathies given without hope or intention of obtaining any reward, given by us from our admiration of that country and the remembrance of its great past, given to Italy at the moment of her difficulty, when she was struggling to be free, in the days when the policy of this country was directed by Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, and inspired also, in no small degree, by the present Prime Minister. In reply to a Question put by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell), he (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) had to say that there was no intention of departing in any way from the 1st Article of the Abyssinian Treaty, by which the inhabitants of Abyssinia were secured free access to the port of Massowah, which was, he believed, a stipulation of very great value to the commercial development of Massowah, and for that reason to the prospects of that country, because a very considerable trade would flow into Abyssinia from Massowah.


He understood, some time ago, that some Treaty arrangement had been made with Abyssinia. For this country to employ Native Abyssinians to operate in a religious war against fanatical Musulmen was, on the face of it, an injudicious act, and it was only excusable if some great object was to be gained by it. Then we knew that Italy was established in Massowah. The Government, he thought, might give the House some information on that point.

§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF 2 March 1885 → Commons Sitting → ARMY RESERVE FORCE.

said, that, as no answer had been given, he felt bound to repeat his question as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the Kassala garrison. Were Her Majesty's Government going to abandon Kassala, and allow its garrison to be massacred and slaughtered, as the garrisons of other places in the Soudan had been massacred and slaughtered? He did not desire in any way to interfere with the military preparations of the Government; but he desired an answer to this plain question—Did Her Majesty's Government intend to raise no finger to assist the Kassala garrison in its present great straits? He considered he was entitled to an answer to his question.

, in reply, said, ho was sorry he was not in his place when the hon. Gentleman put this question before; but he did not think that he was able to add very much to what ho stated on this subject at Question-time that day, and also on Friday. He then stated that Lieutenant Colonel Chermside, the Egyptian Governor of the Red Sea Littoral, had instructions to do all he could, through Native tribes, and also by means of communications with the King of Abyssinia, to carry provisions into the town, or facilitate the retreat of the Kassala garrison. This was quite irrespective of the recent Treaty with the King of Abyssinia, of which he had spoken. An idea had got abroad that by that Treaty the King of Abyssinia engaged to march to Kassala and relieve it. That was not so. He had merely undertaken to facilitate the retreat of the garrison through his territory. Colonel Chermside had been directed to enter into arrangements by which the assistance of the King of Abyssinia could be utilized. It was very easy to reproach the Government; but ho would ask hon. Members not to confine themselves to attack, but to ask themselves what measures they would themselves suggest. Kassala was 290 miles inland. How did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth propose that the Kassala garrison should be rescued? Nobody could sympathize more deeply than himself, and so did Her Majesty's Government, with the position of the Kassala garrison, or more admire its gallantry; but, so far as the circumstances of time and place permitted, they had done all that it was in their power to do.

As had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), something had been recently sanctioned by the Government which materially interfered with the steps that might otherwise have been taken to rescue the garrisons. Massowah had been occupied y the Italian Government; and so far as could be gathered from the statement of the noble Lord, to which he had listened most attentively, it was Her Majesty's Government who first suggested that Massowah should be one of the places occupied by Italy. This, it was said, had materially hindered the Egyptian authorities on the coast from carrying out those measures of relief on which they had determined; nor was that unnatural, having regard to the fact that the Italians occupied Massowah without the assent of the Sultan. That occupation, for which Her Majesty's Government was responsible, had, therefore, thrown on them a still greater duty to provide for the relief of Kassala. He did not suggest that they should send an Expedition of British troops to relieve it; but since Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned the occupation of Massowah by Italian troops, and since that had interfered with the operations which Colonel Chermside was prepared to take for the relief of Kassala, they ought, in some way or other, to approach the Italian Government on the matter, and endeavour to get it to go to the assistance of Kassala.

said, it had always seemed to him that these garrisons had been rather hardly used. It seemed to him that they could have been relieved much more easily than the garrison of Khartoum. They had been encouraged to resist, and an immense amount of bloodshed had been the consequence. He could not help thinking that, if they had been left to themselves, they would have fared very much better, and would probably have made terms with the Mahdi. He feared it was possible that, in consequence of the action of the Government in connection with the occupation of Massowah by the Italians, they might have given offence to the King of Abyssinia, who could have given us more assistance in this matter than anybody else. He wished to explain his action in not opposing the Government in the division which had just been taken. He thought it his duty to oppose anything that led to what he considered the most intolerable insanity of this great Expedition to the Soudan, and he should do so at every stage and in every form. But he had also felt that, owing to our having this Egyptian millstone, as it were, around our necks, we were being kicked all over the world; and he thought that, under all the circumstances of the country, they would be wrong in attempting to deprive the country of the services of the Militia, or doing anything to weaken our defensive position at home.

HC Deb 02 March 1885 vol 294 cc1776-7
said, that in the absence of the Prime Minister, which he was sure they would all regret, he desired to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any measures have been adopted for the relief of the garrison of Kassala? He also begged to ask whether the Government had received similar information to that which he had received from Suakin, in reply to a telegram sent there yesterday. It was to the effect—"All grain issued at Kassala. Garrison sortie defeated. The Italians only an embarrassment?"

I gave a reply with regard to Kassala and the measures for its possible relief on Friday last. Since then, I regret to say, intelligence has reached Her Majesty's Government that the gallant garrison of that town has had a severe defeat at Kolcia. The battle took place on the 2nd of February, and the loss was 28 officers and 632 men. I may point out that the difficulty of relieving Kassala by any other means than through the medium of friendly tribes in the neighbourhood is very great, owing to the distance of the town from the sea coast, Suakin being 280 miles distant, and Massowah, viâ Senheit, being 293 miles from Kassala.

gave Notice of his intention to ask whether Kassala was not one of the places referred to in the well-known communications written by General Gordon, nearly a year ago, when he said that to abandon the garrisons would brand the Government with indelible disgrace?

asked the noble Lord, whether the relief of the garrison of Kassala was not one of the objects contemplated in the Treaty of Abyssinia?

All the Papers relating to the Abyssinian Treaty are before the House. I think the text of the Treaty shows that the relief of Kassala was not mentioned in any way except this—that after the withdrawal of the garrisons of Kassala and Assouan, then the King of Abyssinia was to have the right of occupying Senaar.

I wish to ask the noble Lord, whether the King was not to facilitate the evacuation of Kassala?

Yes; that is what I indicated just now. The King is under no obligation to march to the relief of Kassala; but he is to facilitate the retreat of the garrisons through his territory, and then he may take possession of Senheit.

asked, how many Europeans were in Kassala?
replied, that he could not say exactly. He hoped to be able to do so to-morrow.

HC Deb 03 March 1885 vol 294 c1907 1907
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, What steps Her Majesty's Government have taken, or are taking, in reference to the very serious news from Kassala, communicated yesterday (Monday) to the House; whether any correspondence has taken place with the Italian or Abyssinian authorities on the subject; and, on what day and hour the telegram reporting the crushing defeat of the Garrison of Kassala was received by Her Majesty's Government?

§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE23 April 1885 → Lords Sitting → EGYPTIAN LOAN BILL.—(No. 74.)

In regard to the first part of this Question, I have nothing to add to answers already given on this subject. No correspondence has taken place with the Italian authorities. I stated yesterday what had occurred in connection with the King of Abyssinia. The telegram referred to was received at the Foreign Office at noon, on Sunday, March 1.

Now there had come the end of that legitimate position. Would any noble Lord say that the fall was not a most humiliating and undeserved one? England, after all her sacrifices, was only to be the sixth fraction of the collective six guaranteeing Powers. He would endeavour to describe the situation as affected by this collective, financial, and at any moment possibly administrative, Guarantee. Supposing that any circumstance, such as an irruption from our rather doubtful Ally, King John of Abyssinia, were to occur, or the re-appearance on the scene of Osman Digna or the Mahdi, availing themselves of any European complications, what might not happen? The English and the French might propose the fitting out of a Military and Naval Expedition. Italy might hesitate, and Russia and Germany, who had already made official demands to be represented officially on the Caisse, might stop the Expedition altogether.

HC Deb 15 May 1885 vol 298 cc623-4
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he is aware that the Italian Government would send assistance for the relief of the garrison of Kassala if directly pressed by Her Majesty's Government; and, whether, in the interests of humanity, he will make an earnest appeal to the Italian Government to lend a helping hand before it is too late?

Although it has been quite understood all along that the garrison of Kassala was never within the sphere of the British military operations in the Soudan, nevertheless great interest has naturally been felt in the fate of that place in consequence of the gallant manner in which the Commander and the garrison have held their post. Her Majesty's Government have considered various proposals embracing the subject of their relief, and have taken such measures and have offered such suggestions as they could properly offer; but, I am sorry to say, at present without any positive result. With regard to Italy, I am not aware of the state of facts to which the hon Gentleman refers—namely, the statement that the Italian Government is prepared to send assistance for the relief of Kassala if asked to do so by Her Majesty's Government. There have been communications with the Italian Government on the subject; but they are of a confidential character, and therefore I have nothing to state at present in regard to them.

asked whether the garrisons of Kassala and Senaar were not among the garrisons which the late General Gordon wished to withdraw from the Soudan; and, whether the orders given to Admiral Hewett on his Mission to Abyssinia did not also include the withdrawal of these garrisons?

said, the withdrawal of these garrisons, if it could be effected, was always an object of interest to the British Government. What he had stated was that the relief of the garrison of Kassala had never been within the sphere of their military operations, and that was strictly correct.

HC Deb 27 July 1885 vol 300 cc64-5 64
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the report in The Standard, dated Cairo, July 21, with regard to Kassala, is correct— Captain Chermside telegraphs that the rebels, in great force, attacked the suburbs of Kassala on June 15 and 16. After severe fighting, they were repulsed by the garrison, who killed 3,000 of the rebels, and captured 1,000 oxen, 1,000 sheep, and 700 rifles. It is understood here that the British Government is in hopes of an arrangement being made with King John of Abyssinia for the relief of the Kassala garrison by Ras Aloula, the Abyssinian General.


We have received intelligence of a severe defeat of the besiegers by the garrison of Kassala; but the details in the newspaper quoted are not contained in the official Report. I do not think it would be expedient at present to announce what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking with a view to the safe withdrawal of the garrison from Kassala.

I wish to know whether Her Majesty's Government are taking some steps for the relief of Kassala?


Yes, Sir.
Can the right hon. Gentleman state the name of the Commander in charge of this magnificent defence?


At this moment I do not think I can give the Commander's name; but I will make inquiry.

Do we understand the right hon. Gentleman to state that steps are being taken to relieve the garrison of Kassala, and are we to understand that this will involve any expenditure? In that case are we to hope that a Supplementary Estimate will be laid on the Table for this expenditure which the House will be asked to grant, so that we shall have an opportunity of discussing it?


If the ton. Gentleman puts the Question on Thursday I shall be able to give him an answer.


I have received private information which makes me think I can read between the lines, and makes it clear that this statement of Mr. Cameron as to the Sheikh Morghani failing to grasp the situation was prompted by Morghani's expression of opinion that the only way to get peace in the Soudan was to withdraw the British troops. Mr. Cameron goes on to say— I met the other Morghani a few days ago. And this man, it seems, from other telegrams, must have been largely bribed or paid by the Government to undertake certain negotiations with Ras Alula, the General of the Abyssinian Forces. Mr. Cameron says, speaking of the other Morghani— A serious, quiet man, who realizes the difficulties of the whole problem of the Eastern Soudan, the Sheikh of Daggah looks upon the Hadendowas as quite irreconcilable. Nothing but starvation here, and total, defeat at the hands of the Abyssinians at Sanheit and Kassala will, he thinks, reduce them to submission. From that date the Sheikh Morghani of Cairo disappears from the despatches, and the Sheikh of Daggah— 1597 His cousin, a younger man, who has passed all his life in the Soudan, and who has had a large personal experience of the Hadendowas, appears as the trusted adviser of the British Forces. The Sheikh el Morghani was sent to Cairo, and the change of air seems to have injured his health, for the poor man died at the end of a month. As I have read, it is stated in this somewhat long telegram of Mr. Donald A. Cameron that nothing but starvation and the Abyssinians will reduce the Hadendowas to submission.

29 July 1887 → Lords Sitting → ITALY AND ABYSSINIA.

HL Deb 29 July 1887 vol 318 cc511-4 511
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Government would take any steps towards mediating between the Government of Italy and King John of Abyssinia, in order to prevent, if possible, the loss of life and the misery which a war between Italy and Abyssinia would entail, and also to enable Her Majesty's Government to fulfil the 1st Article of the Treaty with King John of Abyssinia, which guaranteed for him a free transit through Massowah? The noble and gallant Lord said, he was induced to ask the Question by a grateful remembrance of the assistance afforded by King John and the Abyssinian people to the British troops in Abyssinia. It was not his desire to enter on the question of the occupation of Massowah by the Italian troops. Although Massowah was really a part of Abyssinia, and ought, by right, to he restored to King John; yet, unfortunately, in the present state of his country, he could not held it against any country possessed of a Fleet. He (Lord Napier, of Magdala) confessed that he viewed with satisfaction the occupation of the African Coast by a highly honourable and enlightened nation such as the Italians, and hoped that close intercourse with Abyssinia would lead to much social improvement of that country. King John had done much to create law and order in Abyssinia. He ruled over a wild and unruly people, including- many feudal Chiefs of considerable power, and therefore had had to exercise some severity. They must not forget that it was not very long since their own Penal Code was very severe; but King John had done much for the improvement of Abyssinia, and for promoting commerce; and it would be a subject of great regret if war should throw back all that progress. The origin of the quarrel was not generally known; but it was supposed that the Italians had advanced on the neutral ground which had been previously maintained between Abyssinia and Massowah. Probably the Commanders on both sides had gone beyond the wishes of their Rulers. It was much to be regretted that Abyssinia did not appeal for the mediation of England before blood had been shed. If they could possibly mediate between the two countries, it would be a benefit to humanity. The Italians were a military nation with a highly disciplined army, and perfect weapons of offence, and there could be no doubt that they must ultimately prevail; but the Abyssinians also were a brave race of hunters, and good marksmen; their country was very difficult. If the advance through the long dangerous passes would he difficult with an enemy thoroughly acquainted with the country, able to travel long distances rapidly, and requiring little commissariat, a retreat might be disastrous, as the passes were liable to sudden floods which came with little warning, and swept away everything in their path. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would endeavour to mediate between the two countries. It would be a great benefit to humanity.


My Lords, I am not at all surprised, at the interest which the noble and gallant Lord feels in this matter, for, in his case, Abyssinia is connected with the recollection of very brilliant military operations. There is no man who is more entitled to take an interest in that country, and there is no man whose opinions and warnings should be received with greater attention, or should have greater weight attached to them. I quite concur in the view he takes of the relations of this country to the King of Abyssinia. He has been a good friend to us, and we have no cause of complaint against him, but rather we have cause to set value on the friendship he has shown. On the other hand, our friendship with the Italians is of long date—it dates from the origin of their Kingdom—and has, as far as I know, never suffered a cloud, and there has never been a period at which it has been more cordial, I believe, on both sides than it is now. We naturally should look with extreme sorrow on any event that would involve either of the Powers named in a sanguinary war; but I will not permit myself to speculate on the probabilities of such an event, or on the causes that may lead to it. The Italians know perfectly well that if it should over fall within our power in any way to assure the chances of peace, or to give to them any assistance we can legitimately offer, it will be an opportunity that we shall very gladly and heartily welcome. But the offer of mediation, as the noble and gallant Lord knows well, is not an offer which it is open to any Power to make unless the Power making it is certain that the friendly Power to whom it is made will receive it with satisfaction. Therefore, if we have taken no stops the noble and gallant Lord must not infer that we view what is going on with apathy or indifference. He must not infer that we are lukewarm in the cause of peace, or that there is any falling off in the friendship we have always felt for Italy, and also, as the noble and gallant Lord says, for Abyssinia. I will only earnestly hope that the calamities which the noble and gallant Lord anticipates may not happen, and I can assure him that in this, as in every other instance, the most earnest efforts of Her Majesty's Government on all opportunities which may legitimately offer themselves will be used in the cause of peace.


HL Deb 09 February 1888 vol 322 cc3-6 3
delivered HER MAJESTY'S SPEECH to both Houses of Parliament, as follows:—

§ "My Lords, and Gentlemen,
§ "I continue to receive from all other Powers cordial assurances of their friendly sentiments, as well as of their earnest desire to maintain the peace of the world.

§ "My officers, in conjunction with those of the Emperor of Russia, have completed the demarcation of the Afghan boundary in conformity with the terms of the Convention of last year. I trust that the work which has thus been brought to a conclusion may tend to remove the possibility of misunderstanding between the two Powers in regard to their Asiatic possessions.

§ "Animated by a desire to prevent the effusion of blood, I despatched a Mission to the King of Abyssinia, with the hope of dissuading him from engaging in a war with Italy. I deeply regret that my efforts have not been successful.

9 February 1888 → Lords Sitting → THE QUEEN'S SPEECH.

THE EARL OF CRAWFORD (who was attired in full Highland costume) said

With regard to Abyssinia, little need be said excepting regret that the Sovereign of that country has not seen fit to follow the advice and counsel tendered him by Her Majesty. A few years ago, when Abyssinia was at war with this country, the Monarch of the day committed suicide at the approach of one of the Members of your Lordships' House. A Successor was appointed, who had been a faithful ally of ours during the late campaign in the Soudan.


On the other hand, the Government appeared to think it quite reasonable to devote a whole paragraph to the information that a Mission had been sent to the King of Abyssinia, a very trumpery matter indeed as compared with the state of the Northern parts of this country.

HC Deb 01 May 1888 vol 325 c1043 1043
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he has any objection to laying upon the Table of the House any Papers and Despatches relating to the Italian Expedition to Abyssinia, and especially the Despatches about Mr. Portal's Mission to the Abyssinian King, which are referred to in the Italian Green Book just issued.


There will be no objection to presenting Papers on the subject, if my hon. Friend will move for them.

HC Deb 18 June 1888 vol 327 c445 445
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, When the Papers referring to the recent Mission to Abyssinia, which were ordered to be printed on May 8 last, will be laid upon the Table of the House?


It is hoped that these Papers will be ready in 10 days.


HC Deb 18 June 1888 vol 327 c445 445
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If the rumour, which appears in the papers, is true that a Russian officer has taken possession of the Port of Alifat, south of Tula, from which a road runs into Abyssinia?


We have no such information as is stated in my hon. Friend's Question.

3 August 1888 → Commons Sitting → ITALY AND ABYSSINIA.

HC Deb 03 August 1888 vol 329 cc1371-7
, in rising to ask the Government, Whether any steps can now be taken to mediate between Italy and Abyssinia, in the hope of relieving those counties from their present relations towards each other, which are seriously injurious to both parties; and also to restore the free transit through Massowa which we guaranteed by Admiral Hewett's Treaty, said, that it was with reluctance that he addressed their Lordships on the question of Abyssinia, but he felt compelled to do so because, as he had stated on a former occasion, he felt grateful to King John for his loyal assistance to the expedition in Abyssinia, and because he wrote to King John advising him to be guided by our Ambassador, Admiral Hewett, in the Treaty which was then entered into. He had reason to believe that his advice had much weight with King John, and therefore he felt a considerable amount of responsibility regarding him. King John might well have doubted our friendship, because we stood aloof when Egypt attacked Abyssinia. It was reasonable to suppose that our intervention could have prevented that wrong. But King John accepted our proposals and Admiral Hewett's Treaty. A reference to Admiral Hewett's Treaty would show that in the 1st Article was the condition that there should be free transit through Massowa for all goods, including arms and ammunition, under British protection. The 2nd Article provided that the country called Bogos should be restored to King John, and when the Egyptian garrisons should have left the garrisons of Kassala, Amedib, and Sanhit, the buildings in the Bogos country, with all the stores and munitions of war belonging to the Khedive, which should then remain in the same buildings, should be delivered to, and become the property of, King John. In the 3rd Article, King John agreed to facilitate the withdrawal of the troops of His Highness the Khedive from Kassala, Amedib, and Sanhit through Massowa. King John fulfilled his engagement, he assisted two garrisons, and, in the third instance, he did not succeed; he fought a most sanguinary battle to effect it, and lost many valuable soldiers. This country had restored the territory taken by Egypt, but we failed to secure the free transit through Egypt, which was never for one moment carried into effect, and the condition of the stores and material in Bogos was not fulfilled. If we had had a British Consul present, and made efficient provision for defining the limits of the Massowa occupation, the collision might have been prevented. By not having a sufficient guarantee for the fulfilment of our Treaty, we had incurred a grave national responsibility, and England could not look without concern at the present state of affairs, which threatened to destroy the degree of comparative order created by King John, and to throw Abyssinia into an anarchy, while it cost Italy much money and many valuable lives. It was to be hoped now that Italy, having secured the outposts necessary for the protection of Massowa, having vindicated her military position, having killed ten Abyssinians for every Italian soldier that fell at Dogali, and having greatly straitened Abyssinia by her blockade, might be willing to grant such terms as King John could accept without incurring the resentment of his people by the surrender of his territory. If we referred to the series of Blue Books published by Italy, and the frequent solemn declaration of her Ministers, we should infer that she had no designs of conquest, but that her sole object was commercial and civilizing. It was not possible to suppose that Italy, who for so many years groaned under a foreign yoke, whose wrongs and sorrows drew the sympathy of all the free countries of Europe, would now become an oppressor, or that she would run the risk of ruining the only Christian nation in Africa. Abyssinia, peaceful and in alliance with Italy, would afford a valuable opening for trade in Central Africa, Abyssinia, wholly or partly conquered by Italy, with a brave though unruly population, could never be other than a thorn in the side of Italy, and would be valueless for commerce. Italy had become a great and enlightened nation. It was impossible to consider the ancient history and the present position of Abyssinia without some sympathy. Although they have followed, in many instances, the fierce teaching of the Israelite, rather than the mild teaching of the Messiah, there was really much Christianity in the middle classes of the people, the farmers, and others. We should remember that Abyssinia had alone of the Africans preserved her Christian Church, and that in her day of power she protected the churches of Africa. We might learn from the eloquent pages of Gibbon how she listened to the appeal of the African churches and redressed their wrongs, It was to be hoped that Italy, by a generous forbearance, might become the enlightened friend and protector of Abyssinia, and might relieve England, of whose friendship and sympathy she was assured, of a very embarrassing position and an unfulfilled responsibility.


My Lords, the matter to which my noble and gallant Friend has addressed himself is one that naturally attracts his recollection and invokes his sympathy, and I think it quite natural he should have brought it before the House. I cannot enter so freely into it as he has done; I have not the right to do so, in the first place, and, in the second, there are many considerations which must make me sparing of my observations upon some points on which he has touched. But I should like just to state the precise position in which this country stands towards Abyssinia, because it is a little complicated. Admiral Hewett, in June, 1884, concluded a Convention with the King of Abyssinia, of which this was the 1st Article— From the date of the signing of this Treaty there shall be free transit through Massowa to and from Abyssinia for all goods, including arms and ammunition, under British protection. My noble and gallant Friend, I think, spoke of that as a guarantee. The word is hardly accurate, but I would not quarrel with it and only notice it for the purpose of saying that it is not at all applicable to the rest of the Convention. The Convention goes on to state that— The country called Bogos shall be restored to the Negus with certain stores and buildings; but there is no word about British protection. It is a tripartite Treaty between the Queen, the Government of Egypt, and the Negus, and I think that Her Majesty's engagements in respect to that territory were entirely fulfilled when it was handed over to him, and any further possession of it is a matter which does not directly, as a matter of Treaty, concern us. But, with respect to the engagement that goods and ammunition shall have a free transit through the Port of Massowa there is more difficulty. Shortly after this engagement was undertaken by Admiral Hewett a change took place in the possession of Massowa. When we entered into that engagement that port was in possession of Egypt, over whom our influence was at that time unbounded; but shortly after that time possession was taken of it by the Italians, not precisely with our consent, but with our knowledge. The terms in which the noble Lord opposite (Earl Granville) expressed himself—I am quoting the Parliamentary Papers—were— If the Italian Government should desire to occupy some of the ports in question it was a matter between Italy and Turkey, but he (Sir John Lumley) was able to inform the Italian Ambassador that Her Majesty's Government, for their part, had no objection to raise against the Italian occupation of Zulla, Beilul, or Massowa, subject always to certain conditions as to the last-named port which resulted from the provisions of our recent Treaty with Abyssinia. And, in reply to that, Sir John Lumley records the fact that— Count Ferrari carries with him sealed orders, to be opened on the arrival of a courier from Massowa"— and that— in the event of the permanent Italian occupation of that place he will assure the King that Italy assumes all the obligations of the Treaty between England and Abyssinia"— that is, the King of Abyssina— and will do all in her power to facilitate Abyssinia trade. To that extent we have, on the part of Italy, the acceptance of the inheritance of the engagement which we made with the King of Abyssinia. The precise international position remains a little complicated, but yet I suppose we may regard ourselves as divested of these engagements and Italy as having succeeded to them. At least, that is the practical position. I gather from my noble and gallant Friend that he thinks Italy has not fulfilled those engagements with respect to the free passage of arms and ammunition. It is fair to say that there is considerable controversy as to what the meaning of the word "free" in the Treaty is. Some persons interpret it to mean "free of all duty," and others to mean "free of all restriction." It is important to know, therefore, that when the Treaty was in the act of signature by Admiral Hewett, Mason Bey, who represented Egypt at that signature, was by his side, and the Admiral was going to write it "free of all duty," when, by the advice of Mason Bey, he did not do so, but simply wrote it "free." It is, therefore, to be presumed that, in the view of Admiral Hewett and of Mason Bey, it was free from all restrictions, and not free from all duty. That is the only consideration of a technical character which I will venture to press on the noble and gallant Lord. He must be aware that since that time a state of war has arisen between the King of Abyssinia and the Government of Italy. I will not attempt to decide between two Powers, both of whom are our allies, but it is fair to say that Ras Alula, representing the King of Abyssinia, was certainly not very strictly under the restraint of the orders of the Central Government of his State, and the intelligence which has reached me does not accord with that of the noble and gallant Lord that the Italians took the first hostile step. However, be that as it may, it skills little to consider how the war began. There the war was, and I doubt whether, after a war has begun, you can claim to enforce engagements which were made before that war began. We have done, as the noble and gallant Lord is aware our utmost to prevent that war. A Mission was undertaken and carried out most gallantly, in the face of great danger, by Mr. Portal. That Mission was, I believe, performed most skilfully, and all that could be done on our side was done to try and bring the contending parties to an agreement. We were so far unsuccessful, yet I cannot help thinking that our intervention had for its effect the prevention of actual conflict to any serious extent, and I am not without hope that in the long run actual conflict may be avoided. We certainly cannot press again upon Italy our mediation, which has already failed; but the noble and gallant Lord may be quite certain that we are as anxious to prevent the collision of those two Powers as ever we were, and that any opportunity which occurs to us likely to facilitate the restoration of peace and of friendship between those two Powers and the maintenance of them in their respective rights, will be gladly seized by Her Majesty's Government.

said, the noble Marquess had accurately stated the effect of the Treaty arrangements between this country and Abyssinia at the time Massowa was occupied by the Italians. When he (Earl Granville) held the Seals of the Foreign Office the Italian Ambassador was extremely desirous of knowing our policy with regard to the Red Sea littoral. He replied that our wish was to act in the most friendly manner towards Italy, but that it was not our intention to give away that which did not belong to us, and that any possession of territory must be a matter been Italy and Turkey. Under these circumstances he said that, so far as we were concerned, we had no objections to the Italians taking provisional occupation of certain ports in that territory as a matter between them and Turkey, subject to certain conditions referred to by the noble Marquess. He agreed with the noble Marquess when he said that one could not claim to enforce a Treaty after a war as it might be enforced before a war, and he was right in not attempting to enforce the engagement on either party. At the same time, it was manifest that it would be very much to the interest of the Italians to promote as much as possible a peaceful state of things, and he had no doubt the noble Marquess would do his utmost, as the opportunity presented itself, to bring about a settlement between the two countries.

§ In answer to Lord NAPIER of MAGDALA,
said, he imagined that the general rule of National Law would prevail as regarded Treaties and relations between Italy and Abyssinia. The relations between Italy and Abyssinia, whenever friendly relations were renewed, would depend upon the instrument by which those friendly relations were renewed.


HC Deb 17 December 1888 vol 332 cc435-6
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he is aware that Mr. Wylde, who has been forbidden to land at Suakin, is an owner of property there, and has carried on business as a merchant in that town for the past 14 years, and has advocated the peaceful solution of the Soudan difficulty by means of negotiation with the tribes; and that in the 1884 and 1885 Campaigns, and during Sir William Hewett's Mission to Abyssinia, he rendered valuable service to the authorities, for which he received the thanks of the Imperial and Egyptian Governments; and, whether he could state on what grounds Mr. Wylde is excluded when other correspondents are admitted?


Mr. Wylde has not been positively excluded. Sir Francis Grenfell has expressed an opinion that his presence would be embarrassing; and Mr. Wylde has been warned that if Sir Francis Grenfell feels it necessary to exclude him Her Majesty's Government could not undertake to interfere with the discretion of the officer commanding, who is responsible for the defence of the town.

HC Deb 10 December 1888 vol 331 c1601 1601
§ MR. LEGH (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he can give any information with regard to the alleged intention of the Russian Government to despatch a large Religious Mission to Abyssinia under the control of a military officer?


No, Sir; we have received no such information.

HL Deb 25 November 1890 vol 349 cc2-5 2
delivered HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH to both Houses of Parliament, as follows:—

§ My Lords and Gentlemen,
§ "No change has taken place in the Foreign relations of this country during the short period which has elapsed since the close of the preceding Session. The securities for European peace appear to me to be undiminished.

§ "I have commenced negotiations with the King of Italy for the determination of the frontier which separates the territory under British influence in North-East Africa from that which belongs to the protected Empire of Abyssinia.

§ "A Treaty was signed on the 20th August, having for its object the ascertainment of the boundaries between British territory in Central Africa and the Portuguese Provinces of Angola, Gaza, and Mozambique. It has, however, not received the ratification of the King of Portugal; and, pending further negotiations, a temporary arrangement in regard to the most urgent questions has been concluded between the two countries, which will be laid before you.

Ras Tafari International Consultants inquiry ABYSSINIA—A RED SEA PORT 2. contact [email protected]