Yesterday once more

You cannot get a clearer lesson from history than this.

Substitute in the following speech from the British House of Commons from 121 years ago words such as Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, ISIL, Taliban and the rest and for Britain, replace with ‘The West’ and you’ll see what I mean.

Nothing, but nothing, changes, everything really does stay the same.

I discovered this while researching a part played in a financial disaster in the mid 1880s by a Manchester clergyman, turned lawyer, turned MP, Sir William Thackeray Marriott.


In most things he was a dishonest, disreputable operator. But between a company fraud and accepting a bribe to get a lordship for a crook, he did one good thing. He resigned on principle over the UK government’s Middle Eastern policy. This is part of his speech that night February 18 1884 critical of his own government. All I have done is take out the references to the actual Middle Eastern country he was referring to then and inserted —– for country and politician.  You fill in the blanks.

We know what he did. He bombarded the place, but there were no troops sent to support him. It is perfectly clear to all people in —–, that if —— had been properly supported on that occasion, there never would have been war in ——. The war itself, therefore, was the result of the vacillation and inconsistency of Her Majesty’s Government. There is one bright spot in our —— policy, and that is the way in which the war was conducted by the military authorities… despite the sneers of some carpet critics, whom we hear now and then in the House.

Her Majesty’s Government might have done one of two things: they might have said to —— “Now that we have driven —— out, you can govern the country according to your own plan, and we know what will be the result.

Probably —— will be called to the head of affairs, and corruption and bribery may have to be resorted to, and many lives lost, but a stable Government must be formed.” Or Her Majesty’s Government might have said they would take over the rule for a certain period, and in that time establish a stable and a just Government.

What did we do? We followed neither of these courses. We said—”You shall govern, but you shall do it in our way. You shall govern, but it shall be in accordance with English ideas.” To anyone who knows the Eastern mind, that is asking an absolute impossibility at the present time.

It is the lazy, ne’er-do-well of the village, or only those who can bribe most freely, that are elected.  That is the opinion of an acknowledged authority, writing on the spot, of the Representative Government with which we have blessed ——. Again, no progress has been made with regard to education. That is also the opinion of people on the spot, and I believe it is the general opinion in ——; for, notwithstanding the glowing account given by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as well as by others who agree with him, both here and in “another place,” of the reforms that have been effected, the universal opinion of competent judges in —— itself is that Her Majesty’s Government have reduced the country to such an inextricable mess and such a state of chaos that no one knows or sees their way out of it. Men who wish to see the country thrive, who take a lively interest in ——, who desire to see capital invested in a land possessing so rich a soil and beautiful a climate, tell us they have no confidence, and hold up their hands in despair, saying they know not what will become of this poor and afflicted country. The Member for —— used the right motto when he uttered the words “Too late.” That is absolutely the motto upon which Her Majesty’s Government have acted in ——, and it is through their acting on that motto that all these various calamities have occurred.

The country that was suffering in 1884 in the aftermath of British intervention was Egypt.

Every Sha-la-la-la
Every Wo-o-wo-o
Still shines

Wait a year or so…

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2 Responses to Yesterday once more

  1. actonbooks says:

    Thanks for passing it on. I could not believe the sentiment came from five generations ago. As I said, Plus ça change…


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