.
From February 19, 1919, date of resignation of the Rushdy Cabinet, until May 21, 1919, Egypt stayed without a Prime Minister in office.  Lord Allenby, the British High Commissioner in Egypt seized this opportunity to impose direct rule.  He followed the policy of the “stick” and run the country with an iron glove hoping to subdue the Revolution.  Without wasting time, he appointed as many foreigners in the important positions of the different Ministries, as could be absorbed, and ordered the Under Secretaries of each Department to assume the Ministers role and to report directly to him.  On May 1919, the Peace Treaty was signed confirming, amongst many other clauses, the British Protectorate over Egypt for an indeterminate period, and, in a speech at the British Parliament, the Foreign Secretary stated that His Majesty ‘s British Government would not desist from its obligation and duties to govern Egypt.  He also indicated that a Royal Commission would be sent to Egypt to study the situation on the spot and to present its recommendations about the best way to run Egypt in the future. 
 

During that month of direct harsh rule, many of the striking employees returned to their jobs, the lawyers resumed their careers, the workers returned to their factories and places of work and the Government repaired the sabotaged railways system, which became functional again. 
 

The Revolution of 1919 was neither a social upheaval nor a religious one; it was strictly a political rebellion carried on against an occupying Foreign Power by the different social and religious segments of the Country.

After the declaration of the British Foreign Secretary, Sultan Ahmad Fouad decided, with Allenby ‘s approval, to call on Mohammad Saeed Pasha to form a new Cabinet as from May 21, 1919 (1).  The objective of the new Cabinet was to calm the situation in the Country by whatever means!!  The appointment of the Saeed Pasha Cabinet was met by a renewal of large demonstrations of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and all the large cities, from Aswan to the MediterraneanThe newly formed Government, in its effort to calm down the situation, decided to adopt “the policy of the carrot”.  All in all it held twenty full Cabinet meeting, eighteen of them chaired by Sultan Fouad and two by Saeed Pasha.  On one side, the Country was in turmoil and its people would not settle for less than complete independence, on the other side there was a powerful occupying power represented by a Field Marshall whose only language he knew well was the language of the force.  To appease both sides, the Saeed Cabinet had to walk on a very fine line.

To the Egyptian People the Cabinet issued, on the occasion of the approach of the Holy Month of Ramadan, a communiqué announcing that the Minister Of Interior (who happened to be the Prime Minister) reached an agreement with the (British) Military Authority relaxing the restriction of movements, particularly at nights, during the Holy Month, which would allow the population to proceed with the evening festivities, according to tradition.  At the request of the Cabinet, the Military Authorities agreed to free some of the detained nationalists and to stop temporarily the activity of the Military Courts. The Cabinet also announced an immediate freeze of all food products prices and ordered the formation of committees in all the Governorates to implement strictly that decision.  It also decreed an increase of eight hundred thousands pounds in the budget which would allow the Government to raise its employees salaries, an obvious bribe under the pretence of cost of living increase!!  The announcement of that increase calmed the situation somehow and encouraged the employees to resume their duties.

On the second of June 1919, a Sultanate Decree was issued for the institution of a new Ministry, The Ministry Of Communications, and appointed Ahmad Ziwar Pasha as its Minister.  Until then Ziwar Pasha was Minister Of Education.  The Government also authorized the Civil Courts to review the cases of those who were financially hurt during the disturbances which started on March 10, 1919, and a Committee headed by the President of the Court Of Appeal was formed to receive the requests of indemnities; a million pounds was added to the National Budget for that purpose.

The Cabinet decided unanimously to investigate the accusations against certain officials of the Ministry Of Interior for excesses that could have been perpetrated during the 1919 events.  It also decided to fire Mustafa Al Nahas Bey, a Tanta Court Judge, from his Bench position for abandoning his post, without prior permission, to join an Egyptian Delegation that went to London, even though Nahas Bey applied for a medical leave from London.  It also fired Ali Maher Bey, the then Vice-President of the Asyut Primary Court, for refusing to appear in front of a Medical Commission, which was to examine his state of health after he applied for a health leave.  Last but not least, the Cabinet announced with jubilance that all censorship on printed matters would be removed except for seventeen clauses, which were prohibited from publication (sic)!!!

To appease the British side, the Cabinet embarked on a wave of appointing Foreign Employees, particularly British, in key Government positions. 

The Cabinet declared Tuesday June third, date of King George The Fifth birthday, a National Day!!!  British and Egyptian Flags were deployed over all the Official Buildings and a twenty one gun salutes were ordered on that occasion in Cairo, Alexandria and Port-Said, as if the country was a British Province!!! 

The Military authorities, with the blessing of the Government, imposed a fine of two hundred and twenty thousands pounds, to restore the Railways Stations and other official buildings that were damaged by the “disturbances”.  It is interesting to note that those fines find their way, somehow, to the British Treasury instead of the Egyptian one!!!

When the news of the Versailles Treaty reached Egypt, and in spite of its harsh treatment of that Country, a one hundred guns salute were ordered to take place in Egypt ‘s largest cities and the Prime Minister, along with Members of his Cabinet, were seen visiting the Residence of the British High Commissioner to present their respect and congratulation!!!  Not to be outdone, Sultan Ahmad Fouad sent a congratulation cable to King George The Fifth.  On the other side of the coin, the Egyptian masses received the news of the Treaty with great sorrow and pain for it confirmed the Protectorate Status and most of them vowed to continue their protests until the last British soldier would evacuate their homeland.

Realizing the bitterness created by the Peace Treaty amongst the population, the British Commanding Officer in Egypt announced the liberation of some politically detained patriots and the complete liberation of all prisoners whose sentences did not exceed three months.
 
 

On September 2, 1919, a student in an Alexandria Religious Institution, Aly Mohammad, perpetrated an attempt on Saeed Pasha ‘s life.  He threw a bomb on the Prime Minister ‘s motorcade, not far from Gianaclis Station; it exploded without killing the Prime Minister who was severely shocked.  Mohammad was caught, put on trial and condemned to ten years in jail.  On November 14, 1919, the British Residency announced the arrival to Egypt of a British Royal Commission presided by Sir Alfred Viscount Milner (the Milner Commission (2)

This was a Commission of inquiry that had for objective to continue the rule of Egypt under the British Protectorate, imposed in 1914, in a milder way that could satisfy Egyptian pride and nationalism (3).  The Country, which had been sedated by the goodies of the Saeed Cabinet, was enraged by the Commission visit and rose in protest as one man. Saeed Pasha was not favorable to the Commission visit, at that time, and pleaded with the Sultan and with Lord Allenby about its postponement without success.  He had no choice but to present his resignation to the Sultan who accepted it on November 20, 1919.  Thus ended the second and last Cabinet of Mohammad Saeed Pasha.

(To be continued) 

Kamal K. Katba


 


(1)


 

 

(23 March 1854-13 May 1925) Financial adviser and British statesman. The son of a physician, he was educated at King's College (London) and Balliol and New Colleges (Oxford). Milner worked as a teacher, lawyer, and journalist before going into politics, serving  as private secretary to his friend G.J. Goschen, when the latter was chancellor of the Exchequer. Milner entered Egyptian service in 1889, serving as undersecretary of state for finance from 1890 to 1892. The publication of his England in Egypt (1892, with many subsequent revisions) convinced many English-speaking people that the British were successfully rehabilitating Egypt and hence should postpone their promised withdrawal from the country. His reputation as a colonial administrator was established, however,  in South Africa, where he was governor of Cape Colony during the Anglo-Boer War. 

He later served in Lloyd George's war cabinet and under- took various missions abroad. Thus he was called upon, as colonial secretary, to head the commission of inquiry that went to Egypt in November 1919, after the revolution inspired by SA'D ZAGHLUL and the Wafd. Although the commissioners were boycotted by nearly all politically articulate Egyptians because the terms of their mission called for maintaining the British protectorate imposed in 1914, Milner grasped the depth of public feeling on this issue. His report, therefore, called for a reduced British role as protector, but this idea was rejected by the British cabinet.

He also engaged in talks, ultimately futile, with Sa'd on terms for an independent Egypt allied with Britain. Although Milner was a perspicacious analyst of English and Egyptian interests, his ideas for reconciling them came to be appreciated only after his death. He is better remembered for his services in South Africa than in Egypt. (pp.129-130).





(3)  The British government announced that it would send to Egypt a mission, headed by a former Egyptian official, Lord Milner, to examine the causes of the disorders and to report "on the form of Constitution, which, under the Protectorate, will be best calculated to promote its peace and prosperity, the progressive development of self-governing institutions, and the protection of foreign interests."  But politically articulate Egyptians had never wanted the protectorate, did not want to discuss its continuation, and now considered their spokesmen to be the Wafd in Paris.(see: Modern Egypt.  The Formation of The Nation-State by Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr. p.58.) 

Arthur Goldschmidt Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Middle East History at Pennsylvania State University. He is (with Lawrence Davidson) the author of A Concise History of the Middle East, Eighth Edition, and is the author as well of Modern Egypt: Foundation of a Nation-State, Second Edition. He is the recipient of the Amoco Foundation Award for Outstanding Teaching and the 2000 Middle East Studies Association Mentoring Award. Goldschmidt has been known during his years at Penn State for having created a series of courses that stimulated undergraduate interest in Middle Eastern history and culture. Educated at Colby College and Harvard University, Goldschmidt has held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council and the Fulbright Faculty Research fund, among others. He is author of numerous books and many articles and essays on Middle Eastern history. He was an elected faculty senator, chaired its committee on student affairs and served as secretary. He chaired the Middle East Studies committee for 25 years. He also was instrumental in helping to devise courses in non-western history and in developing the successor to those courses for the general education curriculum. In addition, he is one of the most respected authorities on Egypt's Modern history. Prof. Goldschmidt is a frequent contributor on the Internet, including the prestigious and oldest forum: Egypt Net.
 
 

 
For meaningful and serious discussions about the History of Modern Egypt,  join Egypt Net group (The oldest & continuous Egyptian forum on the internet since 1985.) 

 


 
 

© Kamal Katba 2006


 

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