Page:Men of the Time, eleventh edition.djvu/714

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


LESSEPS.

697

dtiring the bombardment of which town he zealously devoted himself to protect French life and property, besides affording an asylum to Spaniards and others on board French ships. His fame rests chiefly on his scheme to pierce the Isthmus of Suez by means of a canals apd in successfully carrying it out he showed much zeal and in- defati^ble energy. In was in 1854^ when in Egypt on a visit to Mehe- met SaKd^ that he opened the pro- ject to Salid Pasha^ who> seeing the advantage that might be expected to accrue from its execution^ invited him to draw up a memorial on the subject. This was done with full details, under the title of " Perce- ment de Tlsthme de Suez expos^, et Documents Offlciels." M. de Lesseps received a firman sanction- ing the enterprise in 1854, and a letter of concession was granted by the Viceroy of Egypt, in Jan., 1866. Eminent English engineers (and among them the late G. Stephen- son^ questioned its practicability, which, however, has since been clearly demonstrated. The works were commenced soon after the company was constituted, in 1859 ; large sums were subsequently ex- pended, and the late Pasha of ^?yp^ '^'^^^ induced to take a large number of shares in the imdertaking besides permitting M. de Lesseps to employ native labourers. This ingenious scheme was at first favoured by a portion of the com- mercial body in this country ; but a belief soon g^ned groimd that the project was virtually a political one, and in this point of view it received no encouragement from the British Government. On the death of the late Pasha of Egypt in 1863, the question of the sanction of tho Ottoman Porte was more actively discussed, and the right of the Sultan to grant it formally in- sisted upon. The result was the withdrawal of the permission to the company to hold any portion of Egyptian territory^tiie supposed

covert , design of the project ; and after much dispute between M. de Lesseps and the Egyptian Govern- ment, the claim for compensation to the company he represented was left to the arbitration of the Em- peror of the French, who imposed certain conditions on both paries, and allowed the works to be con- tinued. A canal, with sufficient water to admit of the passage of steamboats, was opened Aug. 15, 1865. By degrees, owing to the employment of gigantic dredges and a novel system of machines for raising and carrying away the sand, the bed of the canal was enlarged, so that small ships and schooners were enabled to pass through in March, 1867. At length the waters of the Mediterranean mingled with those of the Bed Sea in the Bitter Lakes, Aug. 15, 1869, an event which was commemorated by grand f^tes at Suez ; and on Nov. 17 the canal was formally opened at Port Said amid a series of festivities participated in by the Empress of the French, the Emperor of Austria, the Crown Rince of Prussia, Prince William of Orange, the English and Bussian Ambassadors at Con- stantinople, and a large number of English and Continental merchants and ioumalists. A grand proces- sional fleet, composed of forty ves- sels, then set out from Port Salid in the direction of Ismallia. A few days after the inauguration, M. de Lesseps married Mdlle. Autard de Bragard, a very young Creole of En^sh extraction. In Feb., 1870, the Paris Soci^t^ de Geographic awarded the Empress's new prize of 10,000 francs to M. de Lesseps, who g^ve the money as a contribu- tion to the society's projected ex- pedition to Equatorial Africa. He was appointed to the rank of Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, Nov. 19, 1869 ; received the cordon of the Italian Order of St. Maurice in Dec. 1869 ; and was nominated by Queen Victoria an honorary l6iight Grand Commander of the