Independence or Civilization?
THIS world of ours may not be very comfortable, but it remains interesting. Life is a bit unsettled and not altogether happy, but it does not stagnate. The traveler finds compensation for lessened privilege in the new element of adventure that present conditions provide. Whether he travel east or west, north or south, he stands a fairly good chance of happening upon a revolution or witnessing the passing of a time-honored institution. Greece, Spain, Brazil, Egypt, and Ireland follow each other in quick succession and crowd to the front of the stage so lately occupied by the great players.
We landed at Alexandria in late August and made our way through the cotton and sugar plantations of the Delta till the outline of the Pyramids and the minarets of the Alabaster Mosque announced our arrival at the world’s oldest seat of government. From the station our up-to-date automobile glided along broad asphalt streets to our hotel. We performed the very necessary ablutions and in the golden light of sunset walked out to make our acquaintance with the Egyptians.
We had scarce started when, a block away, we heard a terrific beating of drums or tom-toms. I said, ‘An Arab wedding,’ and we turned in the required direction, hoping for the diversion always dear to the traveler. But a couple of youths who passed heard my remark and said, ‘No, not a wedding.’ And sure enough, as we approached we saw no gayly caparisoned camel or bridal palanquin, no clown performing antics at the bridegroom’s expense, but a crowd headed by a flag and drums and trying its best to appear martial. The personnel was not impressive. Boys predominated, moved by the universal craving for excitement, ready to shout for anything that promised it. The leaders seemed to be students who, here as elsewhere, were inclined to take themselves seriously. A few had reached years of discretion, but the years were more in evidence than the discretion.
The procession passed and we walked on, only to encounter it again near the centre of the city, more numerous now and more noisy. In front of the Continental Hotel it came to a halt and massed around the entrance. On the hotel terrace the self-constituted leaders — young fellows, with red fezzes — took their position while one of their number, chosen apparently for his voice, led the vocal performance. This was conducted in true Arab fashion as an antiphonal service, each stentorian utterance of the leader being followed by a concert response from the crowd, as I had heard it a hundred times from an Arab boat-crew or gang of workmen, whether collectively or individually engaged. Any kind of simultaneous activity on the part of Arabs seems to evoke this responsive service, a service often out of all proportion to the activity in question.
My knowledge of Arabic did not enable me to follow the drift of the discussion, but its general purport was evident. There was much gesticulation and waving of sticks or whatever the demonstrator had available for such purpose. The whole was meant to be very menacing, but the element of bluff was only too apparent. What was it all about?
I turned to three British Tommies who stood near, watching the performance with quiet amusement. ‘They are demonstrating about the Sudan,’ said one of them in answer to my inquiry. ‘The Government has sent the Egyptian troops back to Egypt and British soldiers are on their way from India and Malta.’ ‘Are you going to have trouble?’ I asked. ‘I hope so,’ was the reply. ‘We have been kept shut up in our barracks for days to avoid trouble. We would soon settle matters with that crowd if we had a chance.’
I confess I shared their confidence. I had a feeling that I would risk those three Tommies single-handed against that noisy, unthinking crowd.
But what was the trouble about? On this point the soldiers threw little light. They seemed to know and care little about it. Theirs not to reason why. I remembered reading that the Egyptians were agitating for the evacuation of the Sudan by the British and its annexation to Egypt. Papers at the hotel told me the rest. The Egyptian Prime Minister, backed by a carefully fomented agitation, had started for London, hoping to secure from an antiimperialist Labor Government in Westminster the surrender of the Sudan and its incorporation in the new Egyptian kingdom. But the agitation, carefully staged for diplomatic effect, had gotten out of hand. Egyptian troops in the Sudan, whose vaunted discipline was to guarantee the security of the country, had mutinied and committed grave depredations upon the railroad property which they were set to guard. On the other hand Sudanese troops, forgetting their alleged desire to be united politically with their Egyptian brethren, had suppressed the mutiny with bloodshed and rather unnecessary harshness. A hurried attempt to charge this to British soldiers collapsed in the face of clear proof that there were no British troops in the vicinity.
Simultaneously the students of the military academy at Khartum had taken up arms in protest against some ruling of their superiors and had been disarmed only after a siege. As before, the particular grievance seems to have been unrelated to the larger problem. Agitation had merely loosed the bands of that discipline and loyalty upon which the Prime Minister had relied as his chief argument. Hence the repatriation of Egyptian troops and the other precautionary measures so promptly adopted. Ramsay MacDonald had acted according to the best tradition of Curzon and Beaconsfield. Such was the news of the hour. But not of the hour was the problem of the Sudan.
The Sudan is an extensive region lying between the southern boundary of Egypt and the equator, or, more broadly, between the Sahara Desert and the valleys of the Congo and the Niger. Its natural boundaries are vague save in the east, where the highlands of Abyssinia shelter the only African people that has been able to maintain its ancient independence. Though well watered and covered with tropical vegetation in the south, the vast majority of the Sudan is semiarid and only less desert than the great waste to the north.
This vast area is sparsely inhabited by a variety of African tribes, among whom are some of the blackest men on earth. Their faces of polished ebony are occasionally seen in the streets of Cairo, where they never fail to arrest attention. Mohammedanism has made extensive conquests among them in comparatively recent times without greatly modifying their customs or their mentality. Previous to the advent of the European explorer and the conquest that speedily followed, the Sudan possessed only a primitive tribal organization and the rudimentary civilization which is its concomitant.
The mushroom imperialism of the Khedives overran this vast territory almost unopposed and annexed it to their ephemeral empire, only to lose it as suddenly a few years later. Brief as was the Egyptian occupation, however, it had its permanent results. It effectually destroyed that which preceded it, the early tribal organization and, above all, the seclusion which had hitherto sheltered native life. It put Darkest Africa upon the map and thrust the Sudan into the arena of modern imperialism. The withdrawal of Egypt did not restore the status quo ante. The work of Baker and Stanley could not be undone. The sentimentalist may bewail this intrusion of militant civilization upon idyllic barbarism. He will do well to allow no imprudent inquiries into the slave trade, funeral immolations, and so on, to disturb his comfortable illusion. Happy the barbarism that has no chronicler.
Whatever the horrors of the native system, however, the Sudan was not immediately the gainer by its passing. The Egyptian administration, at that time the most abominable that ever wore the livery of civilization, was mitigated in the Sudan only by the fact that it hardly had time to declare its true character. Its collapse, dramatically epitomized in the death of Gordon, was followed by a native tyranny so appalling that its victims would have hailed Nero as a benefactor. The reader of Slatin Pasha’s Fire and Sword in the Sudan will get a faint conception of the hell of those brief years of native rule and self-determination. The change from native barbarism to Egyptian rule, and then in turn to native tyranny of the newer type, was undoubtedly a progression in cruelty and human degradation. When the colossal tragedy was ended, whole provinces were depopulated, watercourses were dried up, and fields once green with tillage had been reclaimed by the remorseless desert.
This condition might seemingly have continued indefinitely had it not been for the much deprecated imperialism of Europe. Impelled by considerations of urgent self-interest as well as of humanity, Britain had assumed the unwelcome task of reorganizing Egypt. France, moved by a sudden caprice, had refused to coöperate, and then, the task once in hand, repented the advantage thus accorded to her rival and sought in vain the opportunity that she had previously refused. Angered by her exclusion, she assumed an attitude of implacable hostility toward Britain and toward Egypt as her protégé.
Of all her efforts to foil the beneficent undertaking, efforts which form the blackest chapter in her recent history, distinctly the most diabolical is connected with the Sudan. Colonel Marchand was sent across Africa from the west to plant the French flag on the waters of the upper Nile and proclaim the annexation of the Sudan to France. On the face of it this transaction may not seem particularly reprehensible. The Sudan had been abandoned and was a no-man’s-land to the civilized nations. There was nothing in the ethics of the time to require the consent of the natives, who, indeed, had largely disappeared. But this innocentlooking transaction had another character and a more sinister purpose. It was an attempt to aim a mortal blow at Egypt and through Egypt at Britain. The river which is the lifeblood of Egypt traverses the Sudan and the waters could be diverted on to its thirsty soil. Even a partial diversion would create a perpetual low Nile, making irrigation impossible and reducing Egypt to a desert.
This was the weapon with which France expected to recover her former paramount position in Egypt and not a little beside. She of course repudiates the sinister intention of starving the Egyptians, and in a way justly, for she counted that the threat would be sufficient. She was undoubtedly right.
But the weapon was not to be so easily grasped. Colonel Marchand completed the difficult task assigned to him and raised the tricolor, as directed, at Fashoda, an obscure post on the upper Nile. But he met here a British colonel, — unheard of till then, — one Kitchener by name, who told him to take the flag down. When he refused, the peace-loving Sir Edward Grey uttered in the House of Commons, for the first time in my memory, those ominous words, ‘an unfriendly act,’ as the construction which Britain would place upon a continued refusal. The flag came down.
But the incident had been the making of the Sudan. Henceforth the Sudan was a stake of the first importance in the great game of the nations. No prudent guardian of Egypt could leave the door open to such an attack from the rear. Preparations were soon begun for the recovery of the Sudan, and despite the determined opposition of France — who, by virtue of an earlier agreement, possessed a virtual veto on the necessary expenditure — it was successfully accomplished by one of the most masterly expeditions of modern times. The amazing reconstruction of the country followed — reconstruction that soon surpassed Egypt herself in public order and economic progress.
The recovery of the Sudan was undertaken on behalf of Egypt, and the cost of the campaign and the preliminary outlay for reconstruction were made a charge upon her treasury. England, on the other hand, furnished the brains and a large part of the military force. She also loaned the money, which Egypt was not allowed to appropriate from her well-filled treasury. It was a joint undertaking, though primarily in the interest of a single partner. It was perhaps in recognition of her temporary and uncertain position in Egypt, and of Egypt’s inability ever to hold the Sudan against a European Power, that Britain decided to give to the Sudan the unique status of a condominium. Both flags were to fly side by side, and Britain and Egypt were to be responsible as equal partners for the government of the country.
So long as Britain controlled Egypt this was tantamount to British rule, far more so than in Egypt itself, for the partnership could be construed as freeing Britain from the hampering conditions which made her task in Egypt all but impossible. To this greater freedom of action was due in no small part her marvelous success in restoring the prosperity of the much-harried land.
But now Egypt seems slated for independence. An agreement has been reached that upon the fulfillment of certain conditions, all having regard to imperial and foreign interests, the British army of occupation is to be withdrawn and British surveillance over Egyptian affairs is to cease. We need not discuss the wisdom of this muchdebated step. That is on the lap of the gods. Nor will we consider — though relevant to our inquiry — just how far this prospective independence is to be taken literally. Suffice it to say that the Egyptians take it very seriously, quite ignoring the fact that independence is dependent upon wisdom and power and can never be a reality without them. Though they have as yet taken no step to fulfill the stipulated conditions and British troops still occupy their capital, they assume independence as an accomplished fact. Flushed with the consciousness of their new importance, the partnership irks them, the more so as the mere momentum of the situation leaves all real direction in British hands. Hence the demand that Britain shall withdraw and the Sudan be reannexed to Egypt. Nor is it surprising that to accomplish their ends they rely on clamor rather than on the fulfillment of contractual obligations. It is clamor that has won the day so far.
It is to be feared that declamation against foreign tyranny and apostrophes to the rights of man have more weight in London and in Boston than an impartial appraisal of realities. The fact that they do not in the least stand for these parlor-ideals does not disturb their parlor-allies.
But they have other and more respectable arguments. There is the very valid argument that the Sudan is the key to Egypt, that it controls the Nile, the source of her life. There is the further argument that the conquest of the Sudan and the expense of its earlier administration were a charge upon the Egyptian treasury. Against these the brains of a Kitchener and a Cromer are negligible in Egyptian accounting. To an Egyptian Egypt’s title is clear.
But if the status of Egypt has changed, that of the Sudan has changed also. The Sudan was recovered to protect Egypt, but it has developed possibilities of its own, which are neither subordinate to Egyptian interests nor altogether harmonious with them. The Sudan is no longer a tail to the Egyptian kite, and it is that in part which is worrying the Egyptians.
The Nile, as is well known, is at flood during part of the year, at which time an immense volume of water is carried quite unutilized to the sea. During another and longer period the Nile is low, and its waters are raised to the level of the growing crops by an incredible amount of human toil. If the Nile falls too low or remains low for too long a period, there is famine in Egypt. To prevent this, dams have been constructed which impound the surplus waters and, by releasing them as needed, maintain a relatively high Nile throughout the year, thus permitting a perpetual succession of crops without seasonal intermission. One of these dams raises the level of the river ninety-eight feet and creates a reservoir two hundred miles long. But despite the fact that the water thus impounded is expressed in figures otherwise required only for German marks, it is but a fraction of the flood which rushes through the narrow \alley. There are obstacles, to be sure, to the further impounding of this flood. The water, when heavily charged with silt, must not be arrested: to do so would rob Egypt of its annual fertilization and would soon silt up the reservoir. But it is believed that more can be utilized than at present. In particular the White Nile, which traverses the equatorial regions, spreads out into vast marshes choked by aquatic plants and loses its water by evaporation. To open a channel for the release of those waters would both reclaim the marshes and greatly increase the waters available for irrigation.
And for every drop of water thus economized the Sudan has need. There are vast areas capable of reclamation and of incalculable productivity if the waters of the Nile can be made available. The need at present is not for more water in Egypt. The supply is normally sufficient, occasionally excessive. The Sudan, on the other hand, is insatiable. Here, in addition to numerous tropical products, some of them peculiar to the region, can be grown the cotton and sugar for all Europe — if water is supplied. Here is the true field for expansion.
The great problem is thus no longer the security of Egypt, but the reclamation of the Sudan. It is to such vast projects as the clearing of the White Nile, the impounding of the Blue Nile by a dam perhaps surpassing that of Assuan, and the reclamation of an unproductive region comparable to our own arid West, that the energies of the guardians of the Sudan are directed. Egypt has been rescued from the paralyzing tyranny of Ismail, her population doubled, her credit raised from Bolshevist to British standards, her courts transformed from engines of brigandage into instruments of justice, and her peasants turned from slaves and paupers into fat proprietors of the lands they till. Britain, in deference to pressure both from Egypt and from her own idealist doctrinaires, surrenders Egypt to the keeping of her future Ismails and turns to the larger problem of converting a desert a third the size of the United States into a garden which shall support a dozen times its present scanty population, while obtaining, on terms lucrative to them, the cotton which the boll weevil denies to the mills of Manchester.
This vast programme of civilization finds scant sympathy with the Egyptian. If he has heard of the scheme — rare exception — he is opposed to it. To provide water for his fields is the most ancient and constant of his cares. The proposal that he share the precious waters of the Nile with the Sudanese arouses his instinctive apprehension. The careful computations of experts have little weight with a people not one in ten of whom knows his own age. And there are more farseeing if not worthier objections. The planters of Egypt are not unmindful of the possibilities of Sudanese competition. Opposition on this ground is not magnanimous, but would our own Southern planters react differently under like circumstances?
But Egyptian opposition to British policy in the Sudan, though an important consideration from the standpoint of world interests, is not the chief motive of Egyptian imperialism. The demand for the control of the Sudan rests on one of the oldest and most universal of human instincts. The desire for freedom, about which we hear so much, is but the obverse of another desire equally universal and imperious: the desire to rule other men. Thucydides in a noteworthy passage makes a Spartan orator say: ‘I do not blame the Athenians for desiring to rule other men, for this is natural; but I blame others for allowing themselves to be ruled.’ The Spartan, unlike certain moderns, accorded equal validity to two equally universal and natural instincts. Freedom is a concomitant of superiority. The inferior can never have more than a permissive freedom, which is as hollow as it is precarious.
Now, limited as is the Egyptian’s intelligence, he has no difficulty in seeing that the peoples who are really free are rulers of other peoples. His aspiration for freedom, therefore, expresses itself in the perfectly natural desire to rule somebody else. The Irishman who took a job for a dollar and sublet it for a dollar and a quarter was only a little more frank than other men when he explained that it was worth a quarter to boss — a sentiment, by the way, which explains in part the Irish situation of to-day. This instinctive imperialism of the Egyptian is perfectly natural and, however ill-judged in its manifestation and inimical to world interests, is an indispensable condition of his ever amounting to anything.
But it does not in the least follow that this protoplasmic instinct of imperialism should have unrestricted right of way. The Sudanese have something to say about that. Above all, the world has something to say about that. The Sudanese are too few, too weak, and too ignorant to speak effectively for themselves. Somebody must speak for them and the spokesman can be only Britain. But Britain will speak and must speak also for herself and for the world interests which are in her keeping. The vast projects which are now under way or in preparation are the conception of her engineers and the repository of the savings of her people. The Sudan has become a vital part of the world-embracing industrial system upon which depend not only the lives of the British people but the stability of the present world-order. A population ten times that of the Sudan and infinitely more vital to the welfare of humanity is interested in its fate. Upon the decision in principle rests the future of civilization itself.
The Sudan is a typical case in imperialism. There is hardly a feature of the case that has not its counterpart wherever one people controls another which is inferior to itself in numbers, in culture, or in social and political organization. It will be instructive to note some of these features and the principles which they illustrate.
First of all, the occupation of the Sudan was a necessity. That necessity became both apparent and urgent after the Marchand expedition, but it did not originate then. The Sudan is strategic territory, held by savages, yet vitally related to a more civilized land and a civilized world. These savages have raided Egypt from the dawn of history, sometimes feebly, sometimes in force, even at times occupying the throne of the Pharaohs. The last of these raids, following the fall of Khartum, taxed the resources of the British Administration and would have overwhelmed Egypt if left to herself. The threatened raid of France was but the continuation of this policy on the larger scale that characterizes modern operations. Kitchener was but continuing the policy of the Pharaohs in occupying this strategic territory as the only effective defense against savage depredation.
Contrary to prevalent opinion, this is typical of imperialist ventures generally. Of the numerous annexations and other extensions of control which have marked the recent phenomenal expansion of Europe, scarcely one has been made gratuitously or even voluntarily. For the most part they have been made with reluctance and only after every other means of protecting the border had been tried in vain. The classic statement of this compulsory forward policy was given by Prince Gortchakoff in 1864: —
Raids and acts of pillage must be put down. To do this the tribes on the frontier must be reduced to a state of submission. This result once attained, these tribes take to more peaceful habits, but are in turn exposed to the attacks of the more distant tribes against whom the State is bound to protect them. If, the robbers once punished, the expedition is withdrawn, the lesson is soon forgotten. In order to put a stop to this state of permanent disorder, fortified posts are established in the midst of these hostile tribes, and an influence is brought to bear on them which reduces them by degrees to a state of submission. But other, more distant tribes beyond this outer line come in turn to threaten the same dangers and necessitate the same measures of repression. The State is thus forced to choose between two alternatives — either to give up this endless labor and abandon its frontier to perpetual disturbance, or to plunge deeper and deeper into barbarous countries. Such has been the fate of every country which has found itself in a similar position. All have been forced by imperious necessity into this onward march, where the greatest difficulty is to know where to stop.
Prince Gortchakoff had in mind the experience of Russia, which he accurately describes. A British writer quotes it as perfectly portraying the situation on the Indian frontier. An Egyptologist would recognize it as summarizing the experience of Egypt in her tedious advance up the Nile. There is no truce between civilization and savagery. There is conflict — not only in principle, but literal conflict between savage and civilized men, conflict that is unavoidable and must end in the triumph of one or the other. Civilization means respect for property and hence the accumulation of wealth. Savagery means the lack of such respect, and consequent poverty. But it means also that the destitute savage will pillage his civilized neighbor. He wants what the neighbor has and sees no reason why he should not take it. If religious sanctions are necessary to justify the taking, they are easily forthcoming. All this is normal and inevitable.
In this conflict the civilized man is at a serious disadvantage. If he sits still, the savage does n’t, for his interest is in depredation. While the raid of the savage nets him rich loot and inflicts enormous damage upon his civilized neighbor, the punitive counter-raid of the latter brings back nothing and is but briefly deterrent. If border lawlessness continues, civilization perishes and savagery is automatically perpetuated. There is but one remedy, the imposition of order upon the savage and his forcible subjection to the principle of civilization. This necessity is obviously present when a civilized people advances its frontier of habitation against savage tribes. It is less obviously but not less really present when the frontier of world commerce is advanced into untamed lands. It must carry its own protection and impose the conditions of its existence. India and China have never raided English soil, but times without number they have raided English commerce, which is just as real and just as legitimate a foundation of English life.
The alternative to the existing imperialism in the Sudan is not independence, but another and far more objectionable imperialism. The demand is that the Sudan should be surrendered, not to its own people, but to Egypt. The last thing the Egyptians are thinking of is the independence of the Sudan. They make no secret of their intention to administer the Sudan from Egypt and by Egyptians. The preposterous claim that the Sudanese and the Egyptians are one people will deceive no one who ever saw either. If the Sudanese are to be united with any other people on the basis of kinship it should be with the Americans. They would find here some three or four times their number of near relatives. An Egyptian domination would be utterly alien and there is every reason to believe that it would be profoundly unsatisfactory to the Sudanese. Under British rule the Egyptian agitator may capitalize existing dissatisfaction and play upon religious prejudice, but no administration of which Egyptians are or ever have been capable would be accepted by the Sudan without resistance and bloody coercion.
And here again the case is typical.
There is not an alien administration in the world to-day which could be withdrawn without giving place to another equally alien and far less satisfactory. Assuming that America could withdraw from the Philippines or Britain from India without opening the door to France or Germany or Japan, the withdrawal in either case would result in a régime quite as imperialistic as the present and far less considerate or human.
Woe to the Moros of Mindanao if ever the Tagalogs and Ilocanos of Luzon bear rule over them! The Moros are under no illusions on the subject and have petitioned the Governor-General to appoint only American governors of their island. The situation in India is even more serious. One of the constant problems of the British Government is to keep peace between the seventy million Moslems and the two hundred and fifty million Hindus, whose hostility flames up on the occasion of every festival. As the Moslems are warlike and accustomed to bear rule, the odds are fairly matched on the greatest race-struggle for which the world offers opportunity. The struggle could not end in self-rule, but only in subjection of one race to another. Similarly, the withdrawal of Britain from South Africa would leave the natives at the mercy of the most intolerant of white rulers, unless perchance the tables were turned, assuredly with no triumph of a higher principle. It is doubtful whether there is a case of alien rule in the world to-day which could be replaced with even an approximation to self-government. England may take the place of Germany or Japan or the United States, but the natives cannot displace either, even with her consent.
Again, the Sudan needs alien rule as a protection against pitiless internal exploitation. This may come from natives or from aliens of higher and more efficient race. The native exploiter is familiar. We have but to recall the Mahdi and the Khalifa to realize something of the misery which a savage people can inflict upon itself. The political doctrinaire who urges self-rule for such peoples is either blind or woefully callous. Probably no savage tribe now under alien rule has ever suffered from its rulers anything like the horrors that it has inflicted upon itself. But there is another danger less familiar and perhaps more serious, the danger of being exploited by irresponsible aliens whose superior intelligence and energy put the savage entirely at their mercy. The world has had examples of this pitiless private exploitation under an apathetic or incompetent local government. The exploitation of the Putumayo by rubber-collectors is a familiar example. The thoughtless critic will point to the British Malay States, confessedly almost perfectly governed, as an example of alien rule in the interest of economic exploitation. Does he imagine that the tin mines of Malaya would not be exploited by Englishmen under native rule? What would happen would be that hard men, men with unlimited energy and no scruple, would bribe native rulers and enslave native populations, working them under the lash for their own private profit. It would be alien rule as much as the other, but conscienceless and irresponsible. The native who has treasure in his keeping has no choice but to submit to alien rule. The question is whether it shall be responsible and humane or arbitrary and brutal. British rule in Malaya exists quite as much to protect the native from the exploiter as to protect the exploiter from the native.
This suggests a fourth feature of the Sudan situation which again is of some significance to our larger problem. A principal reason for the retention of British control in the Sudan is the existence of interests of large import to the British nation and to the world at large, but of little concern to the native. Alien control invariably develops these interests and that increasingly, not by favoritism, but by creating conditions which make possible this larger economic development. In turn, these interests inevitably seek a continuance of that control.
Here is the rub. These alien interests and the alien control which is falsely assumed to exist solely for their sake are anathema to certain curiously assorted groups in both England and America. Those shouts from the hotel steps in Cairo will be echoed in London and in Boston by the most constant and incongruous of human partnerships — irresponsible idealism in league with the meanest of human jealousies. Idealism furnishes the phrases, the slogans, and jealousy the animus. We shall hear cries of ‘Egypt for the Egyptians’ and pleas for self-determination, both irrelevant to the question at issue. We shall hear of British despotism, with discreet silence as to Mahdi horrors and Egyptian misrule. But most of all we shall hear of British exploitation, of the industrial subjection and economic servitude of helpless peoples. Britain has redeemed Egypt, but — horrible thought — Englishmen have made money in Egypt! For every dollar added to the wealth of Egypt, a dime has been added to the wealth of England. The thought is one to bring a shudder to the righteous soul o Sinn Fein. It is hardly less abhorrent to those Americans who are still chasing the redcoats down Bunker Hill. Their keen eye detects along the trail of British advance in the Sudan the mark of the cloven hoof. What is the reclamation of the Sudan but a scheme to stock English cotton-mills and make the Sudanese industrial slaves of Britain? The fact that twenty millions of one of the most advanced of human races earn their daily bread by converting foreigngrown materials into articles for human service, and must perish if those materials are in default, counts for nothing against the fact that England is ' exploiting the Sudan,’ turning waste waters into the desert places, protecting the child-folk in the fruits of their toil, buying their products in open market, all in the hope of ensuring a livelihood to her people. This jealousy of economic exploitation, even the most constructive and beneficent, is the obsession of certain circles and has at times controlled our foreign policy. Seek if you will, on foreign soil, places for deserving Democrats, but dig no ore from the ground, make no garden in the desert, and create no implements of civilization. If you indulge in these reprehensible activities do so at your own risk. If your property is confiscated by a predatory Government or looted by bandits, and your life is forfeit, you are getting what is coming to you. In this submundane meanness, as in supermundane idealism, the harebrained agitator on the banks of the Ganges or the Nile finds his natural ally.
It is time to challenge the assumption which underlies this preposterous fallacy. We of all nations, we who hold our land not by right of primitive squatter-sovereignty but by power to possess and subdue and create, should be immune to such sophistry. The accident of birth gives no prescriptive right. The fact that in the aimless wanderings of the race a savage tribe has pitched its wigwams on a diamond field or a coal mine, whose existence it has not guessed and whose use it does not understand, gives no rational claim to exclusive possession. Egypt does not belong to the Egyptians; no, nor America to the Americans. Both belong to the world; and tenant rights are based on world interest and convenience. The fact that tenancy is disturbed and limited as little as possible is but the expression of this same convenience. But limitation there must be, and that in inverse ratio to the competence of the tenant. The weak, the ignorant, and the slothful races cannot expect to remain undisturbed in their habitat. It is much that they are allowed to remain at all, a concession rather to the humanity of their betters than to their own right. Interference, guidance, and control are the indispensable conditions of this tolerance.
This is imperialism, the assertion of world ownership over local tenancy at will. This world interest is asserted, to be sure, through self-interested intermediaries, precisely as in the economic field the common interest is secured through profit-making individuals. The method is imperfect in the one case as in the other, but infinitely more efficient than any available substitute. England can no more profit from the Sudan without benefiting the world than a merchant can get rich without benefiting his customers.
Imperialism, though often abused, is not an abuse. It is but the principle of selective guidance applied to groups in the largest human affairs. Our interest is not to decry it, but to perfect and enforce the rules of the game. Consciously or unconsciously the chosen nations must be governed by the spirit of trusteeship. A broad-visioned and generous spirit must characterize those who would aspire to the great trust. How far formal mandates and official audits will contribute to this end, only experience can determine. Doubtless our chief reliance in this relation, as in others, must be the spirit of sportsmanship, which in the long run comes with the playing of the game.
One important question remains which profoundly affects our conceptions of practical policy. Is imperialism a permanent or a temporary necessity? There can be no question that the tendency in our day is to regard it as of temporary and even of brief duration. The tutelage of weaker peoples is accepted by many with the understanding that it is to be very brief, a generation being often regarded as sufficient to fit such a people for independence. In support of this view attention is called to the remarkable progress sometimes made under favorable conditions, the emergence of gifted individuals with capacity for civilized leadership, and so on. Thus we are reminded of the rapid transformation of the Philippines and the very capable service rendered by distinguished Filipinos as judges, administrators, and the like.
There can be no question as to these facts, but their significance is easily exaggerated. Conformity under control is no index of conformity when that control is removed. Examples of retrogression under such conditions are too numerous to permit of doubt as to the tendency. Above all, the performances of the exceptional individual are deceptive. The question is not whether he knows enough to lead, but whether his people know enough to make him leader. Rapid transformations are notoriously untrustworthy. To convey ideas is the work of years; to develop instincts requires millenniums. And it is instincts that determine race-status. Even under continued tutelage gains will accumulate but slowly. With its withdrawal every trace of the uplift influence may disappear. The experience of the Jesuits with the Indians of Paraguay is a classic example.
It must not be forgotten that the condition of these weaker races is often due to climate and other environing influences that we cannot hope to change. They therefore represent a genuine adaptation to environment. Hence the conclusion sometimes heedlessly reached, that we should leave them alone and not try to foist upon them a civilization which is in essence a misadaptation, unfitting them for survival. If they are the only ones concerned — yes. But we are dealing with a world in which no race liveth unto itself and no race dieth unto itself. Both they and their resources belong to humanity, and these races must make, as we must make, the sacrifices required for its service. We cannot leave them to their indolent siesta if they hold in accidental and unconscious keeping the energies needed for advancing civilization.
We must therefore dissent from the view prevalent in certain quarters that imperialism is to be a temporary policy, a sort of missionary enterprise undertaken by advanced races, to confer upon those less favored the benefits of their superior civilization, exploitation of their resources being sternly suppressed the while as illegitimate. Precisely the contrary is true. Exploitation is the primary and legitimate aim of imperialism, and the conferring of an alien civilization, with its constant tendency to misadaptation, is incidental, a thing to be held within conservative limits, dictated by experience.
We need not blind ourselves to the enormous dangers which attend this exploitation or forget the wretchedness of native life, so much of which is obviously capable of remedy. Let us frankly admit that imperialism is beset with immeasurable difficulties and dangers. But difficulties and dangers to the virile are a lure rather than a deterrent. They do not invalidate the great human synthesis, however much they may retard it. What is the goal toward which we are moving? Is it a condition of local selfsufficiency and independence, a selfsufficiency in which each people shall have its own protected and respected preserve in which it shall live undisturbed, the sole determinant of its own procedure? Are we to abrogate the law of competition and survival of the fittest and unite in a world league for the preservation of races that Nature has seemingly consigned to the discard? Is world harmony to be secured by voluntary forbearance on the part of the more potent races? I do not so read either history or the signs of the times. Such synthesis as has hitherto been effected has been the result of race assertion along imperialist lines. The Roman achievement was an imperialist achievement, and despite the barbarian invasions the work of Rome was an enduring work. It is the basis of the strongest cohesions to be found in the world to-day.
The lesson of our own time is not less certain. The advance of civilization has been an imperialist advance. The imperialist nations have not only extended their sway; it is they who have most rapidly advanced their civilization at home. Despite the rapid advance of the protected peoples, — an advance often construed as portending early self-sufficiency, — it may be doubted whether the gulf between leader and led is not widening wfith time. Meanwhile the requirements for effective independence are increasing with every advance in science and social organization.
The Sudan again furnishes the required illustration. A vast territory with valuable potential resources, it is a desert and must remain so if left in the hands of its native population. It requires for its development the accumulated capital and the intelligence and skill of more favored peoples. The engineer must curb and control the lawless river on an imperial scale. Hundreds of millions of garnered savings must be expended in hope of distant returns. Security must be provided against mismanagement and depredation. There must be guarded frontiers and safe highways and busy railways and hurrying steamships. There must be a reconstruction of the whole fabric of a social, industrial, and political life. This is beyond the power of any population born and bred in such a habitat. It depends of necessity upon foreign intervention. Failing this, the Sudan remains, like half the world beside, the domain of barbarism and cruelty, the home of the fetish and devastating superstition, the breeding-place of social malaria, and an apple of international discord.
The world has its fads, like the individual. One after another, it lifts up into fantastic prominence the principles which underlie the social structure. Each of these principles has a certain validity and limited application. No one of them is universal and paramount or bears in itself the healing of the nations. Yet that limited validity and fine equipoise are seldom remembered. Each in its turn is the subject of exaggerated confidence. A century ago the world pinned its faith to legitimacy. Attributing its woes to one who had risen to power with no other warrant than personal genius, it sought relief in the restoration of traditional leadership. There was a certain efficacy in the prescription, but it failed to accomplish the task required of it.
To-day the fad is self-determination. The principle is sound and even the most despotic of rulers never wholly ignores it. But the self-determinism of our day is as extravagant as the legitimism of Metternich, and as certainly doomed to disappointment. With no attempt to define the nebulous entity that is to be thus determined, or to ascertain what form the determination is to take, we join, incontinent, in the demand of every disaffected unit for that liberty which is half the time nothing but restiveness under the inevitable restraints of civilization. It matters not that essential unities are dismembered, that barriers laboriously removed are reërected, and that the most noisome prejudices and antipathies are hallowed and perpetuated. It matters little that the demand is specious and insincere, the private exploitation of a people by a selfish and tyrannous minority. Small matter, too, if it arrests the movement toward unity and perpetuates the babel of tongues. If the children cry for it they must have it, though it prove a sharp-edged tool in their hands. Object not that independence will mean chaos and that the patient building of generations will be destroyed. The protagonists of Philippine independence avow their preference for the Philippines governed like Hell by Filipinos to the Philippines governed like Heaven by Americans. Self-government, however bad, is to be preferred to alien government, however good. Such is the obsession of the hour. In the face of such an assumption all argument from comparison of results becomes irrelevant. Equally invalid are all the lessons from history whose pages record nothing more impressive than the constructive achievements of alien determinations. The apostles of self-determination are not moved by such consideration. They are the prophets of a new dispensation which now, for the thousandth time, is heralded as the hope of humanity.
These fads and exaggerations are disturbing and costly, but we need not be greatly alarmed. The whole process of constructive evolution is fitful and wasteful as we account such things, but it is inexorable. Its path is marked by the wrecks of fatuous hopes and new dispensations, which it has crushed and brushed aside in its remorseless advance.
We may regret the sacrifice, the pain, and the waste, but we need never doubt the result. Others may ‘faintly trust the larger hope,’ but ours is a different faith. In the words of Spencer: ‘Men at last go right because they have first tried all possible ways of going wrong.’ And the wrong ways are simply the ways which do not lead us out of the woods. Countless may be the victims along this road of fatuous experiment, but that matters only to them. The right road will be found at last, and the future will belong to those who find it.
What likelihood is there that this road will differ radically from the road that we have followed to date? Nature is before all else a realist, and in a world of fairly constant realities may we not expect from her a fairly consistent procedure? If so, will not the masterful peoples continue to assert their mastery? Is it likely that roving bands of savages will be confirmed in possession of resources acquired by accident of birth but held unwittingly and unused? Is it probable that the world will let fields lie fallow or ore remain undug because chance occupants are too feeble or sluggish to develop them? Is it desirable that it should do so?
Or, viewed from another angle, is it likely that the world will wait for childpeoples to grow to the measure of these great requirements, when it can displace them with better stock? Is there anything in Nature’s procedure for the last few million years to warrant the hope of ultimate race-equality? And if not, what would be the result of this much-invoked race-forbearance, save to give the child of the future a Hottentot for a father instead of a white man?
The abuses of imperialism are notorious and the cruelties attendant upon the race-struggle are often appalling. They are largely unnecessary and should be eliminated. The barbarous elimination of inferior races or their reduction to servitude is forbidden in the intercst of the superior races themselves. But with fullest recognition of these necessary limitations, the great fact remains that there are superior and inferior peoples; peoples that can lead and peoples that cannot; peoples that have harnessed Nature and peoples that have not; peoples that can redeem the waste places and peoples that cannot. To deny this is the sheerest affectation. To hope that it will be otherwise is utter folly. Imperialism, whatever its limitations, is the basic principle of Nature. The leveling and equalizing principle is abhorrent to Nature. All synthesis has thus far been based on inequality and the recognition of superiority. An element of coercion has invariably been required to secure that recognition. Independence with inequality is an iridescent dream. The progress of humanity is a progress from independence to dependence.
Which shall it be—independence or civilization?