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"Fashoda question," in spite of the fervent declarations of so many pens to the contrary, but that there is something to be said for the French view of the case. We shall not do our country an injustice, nor shall we be guilty of a want of patriotism, by candidly facing the true state of affairs. When a civilized province rebels, there is a certain point at which the efforts of its rulers to subdue it become so futile, that it may properly be recognized as independent. Evidently, when the province is barbarous, this is the point at which it may justifiably be occupied by other nations. Now, the classical instance of recognition of the independence of revolted districts, is the case of the Spanish American republics; and here such a recognition was refused to Chili and Argentina for twelve or eighteen years from the practical cessation of Spanish efforts against them, on the ground that Spain possessed bases of operation in Mexico and Peru. In this case, the previous authority of Spain had been definite and undisputed, and she had neither expressly nor tacitly given up her claim to the colonies in question. Egypt has all along possessed a powerful base for the re-conquest of the Súdan, but it is only within very recent years that she has given unequivocal proof of her desire to accomplish the design in its full magnitude. At first, appearances were all the other way, though the policy of scuttle was not approved on all hands. "If Khartům should be abandoned," wrote Baker, in 1884,* " Egypt will have abdicated her right, and the country will become an easy prey to the first adventurer. If I were a Frenchman, I should not neglect the opportunity.” And Khartûm was abandoned. It is quite admissible reculer pour mieux sauter, but if a nation does not make clear its intention of leaping, and delays its spring for fourteen years, it is not a violently offensive inference that the retreat was not altogether with that end in view. Nine years' absence, in fact, though a continual claim to
* Nineteenth Century, July, 1884.
the island seems to have been made, was enough, as we have seen, to destroy the British right to St. Lucia. On the other hand, a strong case against France is that of Delagoa Bay. There Portugal, admittedly in possession to the north, had for centuries exercised a spasmodic and lax jurisdiction to the south, of the Espirito Santo River. In 1823 the British attempted to gain a footing in the latter district, there being no visible signs of Portuguese sovereignty, which was repudiated by the natives. France, as arbitrator, decided that this was an invasion of the rights of Portugal. But, in this affair, there had never been any such decided retrograde step on the part of that country to compare with the evacuation of the Sûdan after Hicks' defeat.
Not much benefit can be taken from the argument that Egypt succeeded, at Omdurman, to the rights of the Khalifa. The rights of a barbarous anarchy are, of course, nil. This shifting of ground, too, is more worthy of special pleading than politics. To rely now on British, now on Egyptian claims; to derive title, first against the Khalifa, and then through him, is reminiscent of the historic defence to an action for conversion of a shovel, namely, (1) that the defendant never had it, (2) that it was given to him, (3) that he sent it back.
It is impossible not to feel some sympathy with the French delight at Marchand's exploit. In the midst of the chronic national malaise which has fallen upon her-after Panama scandals, Boulanger intrigues, Dreyfus spectres—one feels that there is still life and pride at the core of France, despite the livid scum of decadence on the surface. The Power whose presence in Egypt is (unreasonably enough) such a sore trial to France, brilliantly establishes herself at Khartûm ; she pushes on to extend her conquests southward, and there, at Fashoda, she encounters the French officer, with his hundred Senegalese, worn and travel-stained, but with the tricolour planted at the post which once was Ismail's. And cynical, fin-de-siècle France, choked with
coupons, bordereaux, dossiers, feuilletons, thrills and flushes with gratitude and healthy interest-for which the world feels fresher.
But Sir Edward Grey said, three years ago, that it would be an unfriendly act if France were to infringe our sphere on the Nile? Quite so; and so it might be said still. If a nation marks out for itself a sphere of conquest, it is not a very friendly thing for another nation to come in and interfere with the district before the scheme can be carried into effect. But it is none the less entirely within its rights in so doing. To occupy land in the territory of another State is not "an unfriendly 'act”-it is war. When Sir E. Grey spoke, it was a year before the advance up the Nile of the Anglo-Egyptians had been mooted. True, he mentioned "Egyptian claims in the Nile Valley”—but only to class them with our own “sphere of influence" in the same neighbourhood. At that time, “spheres of influence" were new things in Africa, and their value was not so much discounted as it is at the present day. By arrangement with Germany and Italy we had secured such a sphere on the Nile ; and it is not surprising that we should have felt annoyed at the French, taking advantage of their not being bound by these agreements, to disturb our enjoyment of it. Read Sir E. Grey's lengthy speech in extenso, and the “clear and definite assertion of a right,” of which so much is made, dwindles to a passing reference, of considerable vagueness, which leaves no distinct impression but that the speaker regarded the German and Italian agreements as the main factors in the situation, and put a quite undue value upon them as affording a reason for regarding French intervention as "unfriendly.” There is no need to strain his language. Diplomatic phraseology is delicate. But a House of Commons speech does not lightly glance at an “unfriendly act”-and mean "a casus belli.” Stronger, and graver, words are needed than that.
One might say that the acquisition of Delagoa Bay by Germany would be "an unfriendly act.” But it would be quite lawful. And in this sense it is clear the phrase was used by Sir Edward, with reference to French designs on the Nile.
They may be right, or they may be wrong, in assuming Fashoda open to occupation. If they should be right, Egypt need not grudge them their acquisition. The waters of the Blue Nile, which reach Khartûm from the mountains of Abyssinia, are of the greatest importance to Lower Egypt. Those of the Bahr-el - Ghazel, which meet the White Nile above Fashoda, are not so. Whatever may be the extent of the district which France has, if so be, gained on the banks of the Nile by the occupation of that post, it is of little consequence to Egypt. And, as our occupation of that country is entirely disinterested, if Egypt is satisfied, so may we be.
V.-THE UNIFICATION OF MARITIME LAW:
ANTWERP CONFERENCE, 1898.
VERY one connected with maritime and legal affairs
is aware that at present maritime legislation has one great defect : the law in different states varies considerably on essential points. The consequence is that a ship, in the course of a single voyage, is often liable to change its law as often as it changes its port, a condition of things which may seriously endanger the interests of the adventure. Another consequence is that the parties often make great efforts to have a lawsuit tried in one country sooner than in another, and endeavour artificially to extend, by means of procedure,
the jurisdiction of the tribunals of those countries whose legislation seems most favourable to their case.
It is unnecessary to insist at any length on these evils, which everybody recognizes. Suffice it to say that this divergency of law is only of recent growth. In fact, towards the end of the Middle Ages maritime customs were almost identical in all countries, and it is positive legislation alone which has introduced striking differences. These differences, however, are neither necessary nor useful. They are simple accidents, which happen because each country legislates for itself, without troubling as to what takes place beyond its borders. But this neglect of foreign countries is not justifiable in maritime matters, as the vessels of each nation are intended to make use of the ports of all other nations.
The position of Great Britain with regard to this important question has been very well defined from the beginning of the Antwerp Conference by the following exchange of views:
Mr. Charles MacArthur stated that it was advisable not to go by the vote of the majority. Great Britain alone possessed more than half the tonnage of the world.
The observation was very just, but it was not less just, as was pointed out by Senator Rahusen of Amsterdam, that exactly because England possesses more vessels than all the other nations together, she is more exposed than any one else to the inconveniences of the conflicts of maritime laws.
These, then, are the two sides of the question, and we may say that no nation is more interested in these matters than England.
The Antwerp Conference, which met on the 29th of Sep tember and the following days, was organized by the International Maritime Committee.
This Committee is the centre and representative of a series of national associations which have been formed in the various