Billeder på siden

tion of scandalously backing out of the cession, by his representatives, of the coal depột and harbour of refuge; but if, contrary to all reasonable expectation, the sultan of Lahidge were to intimate a disposition to perpetrate so black an act of treachery, Captain Harris was to explain distinctly to him that the goods restored, and the bond given, even if duly honoured, would but satisfy the smallest, the most insignificant part of the demands of the Anglo - Indian government in the matter of the Deriah Dowlut. That compensation for the insult offered to the British flag had not been estimated in the indemnity, but had been waived in consideration only of the sultan's cession of Aden, as a coal depot and harbour of refuge, for a consideration duly set forth and agreed upon.

2d. That the plot to seize the person of the English envoy was a second and grievous insult to the said flag, which the Anglo-Indian government were willing to believe, since he, the sultan, so solemnly asserted it, was entered into without his knowledge; but at the same time he must be made to comprehend perfectly that the great, the extreme respect which they felt disposed to attach to his word would be entirely destroyed by a refusal to yield Aden as a harbour of refuge and coal depôt; and the participation of the sultan in the proposed outrage would consequently be by such refusal held to be undeniably proved.

3d. That two such grievous insults to the flag of our Sovereign Lady, the Queen of Great Britain and India, could not be effaced by any moneypayments or apologies whatever, nor in any other manner atoned for than by the cession of the aforesaid harbour and coal depôt.

4th. That should the sultan of Lahidge remain obstinately blind and deaf to the cogency of this argumentation, he was to be informed that it was extremely probable a British force, capable of enforcing the fair and equitable execution of the agreement entered into for a perpetual lease of Aden, would appear very shortly before that place.

Neither the Sultan Mhoussin ben - Fondtel ben - Abdul Kevonem benAbdallee, nor Hamed, nor Synd Mhoosin ben-Synd West ben - Haman ben-Ali Suffran, aided by the learning of the gravest of Arabian counsellors, could contend with the irresistible logic of these triangular instructions, wound up and pointed as they were by so very sharp and conclusive a fourthly, and lastly, intimation. The perplexed Lord of Aden endeavoured to secure the services of a neighbouring chief, Hamed ben - Ali Abed, a warrior who could bring, it was said, 5000 men into the field. In addition to other gifts the sultan proffered his daughter in marriage to Hamed ben-Ali Abed, if he would range himself on his side. That sagacious soldier, however, after gravely and carefully surveying the situation, the lady, the Coote, and the expected reinforcements, declined the proposed alliance with the sultan, and most unpatriotically offered, on the contrary, to conclude a treaty, offensive and defensive, with the British. This liberal offer Captain Harris politely declined: he had no instructions' authorising him to do so, and Hamed ben-Ali Abed quitted Aden and its neighbourhood.

The first measure of coercion (1838) was to blockade the port. This, however, failed to subdue the sultan's obstinacy, and urgent representations were sent to Bombay of the necessity that existed for the adoption of more potent and decisive means to obtain possession of the town and


harbour. By this time a favourable answer had arrived from the Court of Directors in England, and a considerable military force was at once despatched in two transports, accompanied by the Volage frigate and Cruiser war-brig; which, on the 16th of January 1839, cast anchor before the astonished eyes of the 1200 or 1300 armed Arabs by that time assembled in Aden, at a short distance from the town. Rule Britannia, it was manifest

, was now about to be played in serious earnest. On the morning of the 19th a renewed attempt at negotiation having proved abortive, the vessels of war approached the batteries of the place, anchored as closely as possible to them with springs on their cables; their fire opened ; an enormous breach was effected before the Arabs had time or power to discharge more than five shots; the troops landed; and the decisive logic of the bayonet finally concluded the dispute. About 300 Arabs, less nimblelegged than their comrades, were made prisoners, and after being deprived of their matchlocks, were left in charge of a few soldiers only. The instant the captives perceived this, a quick mutual intelligence glanced along their ranks; they drew their concealed creeses simultaneously forth, overpowered the guard, and for the most part escaped. The loss of the Anglo-Indian force was eleven men killed and wounded; that of the Arabs was about ten times as great. Thus was this important post secured. Amongst other consequences of the change of rule has been the conversion of a decaying heap of ruins, the resort and refuge of thieves and plunderers, of pretty nearly every degree and nation of the East, into a populous, well-ordered, busy city. The Arabs have once endeavoured to repossess themselves of the place, but their failure was ludicrous, as of course it must ever be where they are opposed to the military science and bravery

The only other place on the proposed route requiring notice is that of Suez, situated at the northern end of the Red Sea, at the head of the westernmost of the two arms or gulfs in which that sea terminates. It stands in 29°, 57' 30" north latitude, and 32° 31' 33" of east longitude, on an angle of land between the broad head of the Gulf, the shore of which lies east and west, and the narrow arm which runs up northward from the eastern corner of the Gulf, and is distant about seventy miles east of Cairo. Although the transit of the merchandise of the East to the Nile and Egypt has been through Suez for nearly four centuries, and numerous pilgrims to and from the holy city of Mecca constantly pass through, it has remained till very lately a wretched, ill-conditioned place, containing only about a couple of thousand Moslems, a few hundred Christians of the Greek church, with a sprinkling of course of the ubiquitous Jew. It contains a bazaar or row of shops poorly supplied from Cairo, several caravanseras for the lodgment of pilgrims, and is walled in on three sides, but open to the sea on the north-east, in which quarter the harbour, an insufficient one, with a tolerable

quay, is situated. The want of good water and the almost entire absence of herbage must necessarily long militate against the prosperity of this city; still, from the signs, quite visible though faint as yet, of improvement, since steam-navigation has popularised the passage to India by the Red Sea, it is sufficiently clear that Suez would speedily, like all other places along the route, put on a new aspect after the effectual breaking through of the desert between it and Europe had brought Manchester

of Europe.

[ocr errors]


practically almost as near as Cairo now is, and steam, gas, and soap and water had been fairly brought to bear upon her dingy, dirty streets and population. Good water has been found by boring at the base of the mountains which lie to the west of the Isthmus, and a short aqueduct would bring it in abundance to the town. Even the lack of herbage, of the refreshing green so delightful to man, will not, if we may trust the confident predictions of men who claim to speak with knowledge and authority on the subject, be ultimately wanting. The basin of

, the Bitter Lake, or Crocodile Sea, alone measuring 103,680 acres, with those of the other lagoons and pools, and a large portion of the long wadi, lying beneath the level of the Nile, may, say they, and would, as soon as a sufficient and paying demand for the produce had sprung up in the flourishing cities that will arise at each end of the sea-way through the now almost desert and uninhabitable Isthmus, be brought under cultivation, by leading over them the fertilising mud of that river. These, and many other health and life giving results which now sound like fanciful exaggerations upon the ear, would, there can be little question, swiftly follow the consummation of this new and intimate union of the young and vigorous West with the rich, glowing, but indolent Orient.

The author of ' Eastern Life,' before quoted, thus speaks (1848) of the quickening impulse already given to Suez and its neighbourhood. Captain Linguist's assertion, by the way, relative to the ancient canal, in opposition not alone to all history, but the positive report of the French engineers, is a very extraordinary one, and we cannot help thinking his auditor must have misunderstood him:- After a comfortable breakfast at the hotel, which is kept by two Englishwomen, we went to an eminence near, where Captain Linguist pointed out to us the well whence only Suez obtains fresh water, and the first station in the Desert, and to the north the end of the Gulf, a stretch of two miles or so of shallow water. A few small vessels lay there, and along both shores to the southwards. Captain Linguist has followed out the traces of the ancient canal, and he can find no evidence that it was ever used or even finished; and he believes, therefore, that it can afford no precedent for the proposed new one, even supposing the state of the waters and shore to be unaltered, which nobody, I suppose, does believe. The next morning Captain Linguist took us in his boat over to the Arabian side. The view of Suez from the water was finer than I should have supposed possible for such a miserable place; but such an atmosphere adorns everything with the highest charms of colour. The light on the sides of the vessels, on the two minarets, and through the shallow waters, was a feast. The coral shoals below, red and dark, contrasted with the pale-green above the sandy bottom. .. Captain Linguist was delighted to improvise a luncheon for us at his countryhouse at the Wells of Moses. He shewed us his garden, which is well irrigated, and as productive as garden can be in such a place. He shewed us the ancient wells, all shrouded in bushy palms, and pointed out indications of moisture, which encourage him to search for another well. The luncheon he gave us

was extraordinary enough in its place to deserve mention. Here, amongst these dreary sands of the Arabian shore, we had butter from Ireland, ale from England, wine from Spain, ham from Germany, bread and mutton from Cairo and Suez, cheese from Holland, and water from Madras. Truly, the dwellers on the Red Sea may well be advocates of free - trade. This slight notice of the lady-traveller affords, it will be admitted, hopeful promise; but in the meantime we have to remark, that the harbour of Suez has no great depth of water. True, it is said that the fleets of Solyman the Magnificent once rode therein ; but the word fleet bears a very different significance at Portsmouth in these days of Queen Victoria from what it did in those of Solyman at Suez or Constantinople. There is always great danger of misapprehension and confusion of ideas in the application of terms, the essential meaning of which has wholly or partially changed. Herodotus says the vessels which carried the produce of Armenia to Babylon on the Euphrates were of about 130 tons — a respectable figure even in these Great - Britain times. But when the explanation comes, we find the said boats or vessels were merely rafts surrounded by and floated upon inflated skins; and the mediæval galleys of the magnificent conqueror of Belgrade were, we may be quite satisfied, not more than about half way at the most between the Armenian rafts of Herodotus and a stout merchant-ship of the present day. Spite, then, of Solyman's precedent, the shallowness of the water both at Suez and along the Mediterranean shore of the Isthmus, presents one of the greatest difficulties attending the construction of the proposed ship-canal with which modern engineering science will have to contend. Having thus briefly touched upon the several interesting localities along and in the neighbourhood of this route to India and Arabia, we proceed to lay before the reader the chief features in the most feasible of the plans that have been suggested for the attainment of the desired object, prefacing the relation with a short account of the way in which the Isthmus is now scrambled over by passengers to and from Europe and Eastern Asia. But first let us devote a few lines to



towards Egypt and the Mediterranean, which will perhaps render what we have to say more clear and intelligible than, in the absence of a map, it might otherwise be.

The reader will bear in mind that the Red Sea — the Kolzon of the Arabs-is nearly thirty-three feet higher than the Mediterranean on the northern shore of the Isthmus, the nearest point of which is about seventyfive miles distant, in a direct line, from where we are now standing. The comparatively mountainous land to the east and west of us is broken, you may perceive, by a wide trough or hollow on this shore, so slightly above the level of the Arabian Gulf that a cutting of a few feet in depth only would admit its waters into that great hollow or basin, evidently a continuation of the cavity filled by the gulf, and the bottom of which cavity is twenty feet below the Red Sea at low water. You may distinctly trace it in a north-westerly direction by a succession of lakes, lagoons, and pools—the southernmost and nearest to us of which is the Bitter Lake already spoken of-to the vast surface of the Lake Menzaleh, which has an opening to the Mediterranean on the north-west shore of the Isthmus.


The northward and westward flow of the waters thus admitted would meet with no greater obstacle in their passage to the Delta of Egypt and the Lake Menzaleh than would be offered by the dikes thrown across the wadi to exclude the waters of the Nile; which river itself is only for a few weeks at its highest flood higher at Cairo than the Red Sea, and except during those few weeks very much lower. It is obvious, therefore, that means must be devised of effectually confining the admitted waters of the Arabian Gulf to the required channel, or the whole of the Delta would be hopelessly submerged. The Pelusiac or eastern arm of the Nile, and consequently the nearest to us, like the Canoptic or more western arm with which Alexander connected his canal, terminates in the Lake. Menzaleh, or at least did so, for the Pelusiac arm is now so completely blocked up by sand as to be almost entirely obliterated. The Nile has, moreover, two outlets to the Mediterranean at the eastward of Alexandria by the Boghas of Rosetta and Damietta—at the east and west extremities of the base of the triangle formed by the two great branches of the river enclosing the Delta of Egypt. These Boghas are wide but shallow passes through which, especially when the river has fallen, no vessel of any considerable draught could pass. Cairo, on the Nile-considerably to the south of the ancient Bubastis on the Pelusiac branch, near which the ancient Canal of the Kings terminated—is on our left westward, and distant in a direct line about seventy miles. Between Alexandria and Cairo about 170 miles of river and canal intervene, navigable throughout only for a few months in the year, except by vessels of very light draught. By the present route, consequently, the traveller from Alexandria to Suez has to perform a canal, river, and desert journey of about 250 miles. He embarks at Alexandria on the canal that Mohammed Ali dug out at such a reckless expense of human life. This takes him to Atfeh, where there is a narrow barrier of land to keep in the water of the canal when the Nile has fallen low: he there steps on board a Nile steamer, which conveys him to Boulac, a port about two miles to the north of Cairo. From Cairo to Suez across the desert the journey is performed on camels, dromedaries, or asses; in the same manner, in fact, by which Cheops must have passed it if he ever went that road.

It will be now quite clear to the reader that the products and merchandise exchanged between Great Britain and Eastern and Southern Asia will continue to be sent round by the Cape in preference to such a route as this, even during the eight months in the year when the Nile is of considerable or rather tolerable depth. The length of the ancient canal by Serapeum, at the northern extremity of the Bitter Lake to the Pelusiac branch of the Nile, being ninety-two miles, its restoration merely, it is evident, would only lengthen the distance to be traversed, and continue the shallow and fluctuating navigation of Mohammed Ali's canal and the Nile river — a manifestly insufficient and unsatisfactory arrangement, more especially when it is remembered that the French engineers who reported in favour of such a plan, themselves admit that the long water-passage they proposed to effect from Suez to the Mediterranean could only, if their most favourable anticipations were realised, be kept open about eight months in the year. The British view of the subject contemplates another basis of operations; and the question anxiously

« ForrigeFortsæt »