The Talk of London

Stephen Crane

San Francisco Examiner/March 11, 1900

People who contended that neither France nor Russia would make a colonial move while the greatest colonist of them all was more busy in South Africa than ever she had been since the time of Napoleon, may study with interest the move of Russia on Persia and the Persian gulf. At present it is a financial move, rather than a military one, but nevertheless it has made Great Britain very uneasy; for no country knows better than she what kind of a move usually precedes a military occupation. 

In the meantime France has quietly sent to her possessions in the Barbary States four times as many men as were required to subjugate those savage countries in the first campaign. Where the posts on the frontier usually required a small garrison of a few companies, brigades are now stationed. In fact, France has in Northern Africa a large army ready to take advantage of a political opportunity. She must be rather certain that her opportunity is approaching, for ministries do not send brigades so far for nothing. The Emperor of Germany devotes himself at this time to declaring to his people that the plight of England is an object lesson which teaches that the German Empire should have a largely increased navy. This apparently is the only advantage he sees or is willing to take, although the excitement among his people against the English is greater even than it is in France. For some years his ambitions have been strongly colonial, and he required an efficient navy moderate in size to further his far-reaching plans. However, there was from the beginning a vehement opposition by many political parties of the empire. His Ministry now sees in the popular feeling against England and her war in the Transvaal a chance to get a large bill through the Reichstag. Italy lifts her lazy head and begins to feel that she should properly occupy Egypt in the place of England, but she is not yet prepared to make many remarks upon the subject. 

One can conclude with a statement of the belief that an early and brilliant British victory in the Transvaal would smite many political ambitions in Europe. 

Russia’s clever and sly agents, France’s waiting brigades in Algeria, would be very likely to stand in their tracks for some time to come.

A strong battleship division of the Toulon squadron of the French navy has been for some weeks in a Morocco harbor which has been famous in the diplomatic relations between England, France and Spain. 

Throughout the war debates in the last session of the House of Commons the Irish Nationalists have occupied themselves mainly in having fun with the opposition. All went well until one time some speech of an Irish member stirred Colonel Saunderson, member for Armagh, north. He lost his temper to such a degree that be allowed himself to make some of the most offensive observations that were ever made in the House. 

“So that was the plan of campaign?” said he. “Not only were the British soldiers to be attacked in front, they were liable to be attacked in the rear, for the Nationalists never attack in front.” 

Whereupon the Irish benches were in an uproar. Mr. T. M. Healy and Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond all pointed out the insult, and also the fact that they were in no humor to stand things of that sort. Through the din the Speaker’s voice could be heard giving Colonel Saunderson a rather feeble support, declaring that he had not been out of order in his remarks. 

Colonel Saunderson finally arose to make an explanation. This explanation was really a perfect bit of impudence. He said that he would withdraw the expression, as when it came to his lips he had not meant to insult the honorable gentlemen opposite. He continued: “I am as proud of Irish valor as they are, and when I used the expression I was simply thinking of the historical records of Ireland and thought I was justified in saying what I did. I wish to withdraw it.’

Again there was a great beating of tom-toms and hammering of war posts, among the Irish benches. Mr. Dillon shouted: “That is making the observation twice as bad. Withdraw it like a gentleman.”

Mr. A. J. Balfour then arose to cover the retreat of his party friend, who was suffering the heaviest kind of a fire. In his suavest manner the leader of the House begged the gentlemen on both sides to forget an expression which was not intended to be offensive. 

The clamor from the Irish benches arose. Mr. McNeill, looking at Colonel Saunderson, remarked: “Send him to the House of Peers. We’ve had enough of him.”

But Mr. Balfour persevered in his attempt to help Saunderson, and really got him out of a great deal of trouble. Ultimately Colonel Saunderson withdrew his expression without attaching to it any acrimonious phrases.


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