Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 22.djvu/180

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Gordon
Gordon
174

Cape government from utilising Gordon's services as had been intended. Gordon put on one side his own inclinations, accepted the appointment of commandant of the colonial forces, took pains to make himself acquainted with the native question, made various reports, upon which no action, however, was taken, and eventually, at the request of Mr. Sauer, the secretary for native affairs, accompanied that minister to Basutoland. In September Gordon had an interview with the chief Letsea, who was friendly to the government and antagonistic to the chief Masupha, and then, at Mr. Sauer's request, he went to see and negotiate with Masupha. He went unarmed, and was completely in the chiefs power. While engaged in discussing matters with Gordon, Masupha was attacked by Letsea at the direct instigation of Mr. Sauer. Fortunately Gordon had so far managed to win the confidence of Masupha that the chief acquitted him of complicity in the perfidy, and allowed him to depart without molestation. Burning with indignation, Gordon hurried to King William's Town, and telegraphed his resignation to the Cape government. It was formally accepted by the premier, who seized the opportunity to record his conviction that Gordon's continuance in the post he occupied would not be conducive to the public interest! Gordon left the Cape on 14 Oct. 1882, and on his arrival in England the following month found himself a major-general unemployed.

The king of the Belgians, who was anxious to secure Gordon's services for the new Congo state, now wrote to him on the subject, and Gordon at once expressed his readiness to enter his majesty's service whenever the king might require him. As this was not likely to be immediately, he carried out in the meantime a long-cherished desire to visit Palestine. He arrived at Jaffa on 16 Jan. 1883 on his way to Jerusalem, and spent the greater part of a year in the Holy Land, investigating and theorising on the biblical sites and holy places. In October he was summoned to fulfil his promise to the king of the Belgians, and reached Brussels on 1 Jan. 1884, only to learn that the war department refused to sanction his employment. He was arranging to renounce his well-earned pension and to resign his commission, trusting to the generosity of the king of the Belgians, when he was summoned to the war office on 15 Jan. by Lord Wolseley. The success of the Mahdi in the Soudan and the catastrophe to Hicks Pasha in November 1883 had induced the British government not only to decline any military assistance to enable the Egyptian government to hold the Soudan, but to insist upon its abandonment by the Khedive. To do this it was necessary to bring away the garrisons scattered all over the country, and such of the Egyptian population as might object to remain. At the interview with Lord Wolseley the subject of Gordon's going to Khartoum to carry out this policy was discussed, but with no definite result, and Gordon left next morning (16th) for Brussels, en route for the Congo. On the 17th he was summoned to London by telegram. The king of the Belgians, to whom he had imparted the proposals of the government, while expressing great disappointment at the loss of his services, gave him permission to go. On the 18th Gordon saw the British cabinet, and the same evening left with Colonel Stewart for the Soudan.

Gordon's mission was to effect the withdrawal of the garrisons and to evacuate the Soudan. At Cairo his functions were considerably extended. He was appointed, with the consent of the British government, governor-general of the Soudan, and was instructed, not only to effect the evacuation of the country, but to take steps to leave behind an organised independent government. At Khartoum, where he arrived on 18 Feb. 1884, Gordon was received with a perfect ovation. He now kept his mind directed to the accomplishment of his one object, the execution of his instructions. Some things that he proposed and some that he did evoked at the time a hostile criticism, which they would not have done had they been regarded solely with reference to this object. He proclaimed the independence of the Soudan; he allowed the retention of slaves; he asked that Zebehr might be sent to him from Cairo as the only influence that could compete with that of the Mahdi; he demanded that Turkish troops should be despatched to his assistance; he represented the necessity of keeping open the communication between Suakin and Berber; he suggested that Indian Moslem troops should be sent to Wady Halfa; he asked permission to confer personally with the Mahdi, and he desired to be allowed, in case he thought it necessary, to take action south of Khartoum. None of these requests were granted, and when Sir Gerald Graham, after the victories of the first Suakin expedition, proposed to reach a hand to Gordon viâ Berber this also was refused.

By the month of March, having succeeded in sending some two thousand five hundred people down the Nile into safety, Gordon found himself getting hemmed in by the Mahdi and no assistance coming from without. On 16 April 1884 his last telegram before the wires were cut complained bitterly of the neglect of the government. The attack