n the course of narrating Ibrahim Pasha’s military successes with his European trained army that led to his near-conquest of the entire Ottoman Empire, the 1842 Encylopædia Brittanica explains how his failure in Greece during his father’s rebellion (1831-32) against the Turkish sultan led to the unlikely presence of Turkey’s Russian enemy in Constantinople. In 1824 a “French expeditionary force of fifty thousand men under General Maison, which, having cleared the country of the Egyptians, delivered it up to the provisional government which had received or assumed the reins of authority in Greece.” Although Ibrahim found himself forced to retreat from Greece, “still he was not altogether a loser; for, during the campaigns in the Peloponnesus, his army acquired experience in all sorts of military operations, and may be said to have in some measure prepared itself for achieving those brilliant successes which lately shook the Ottoman empire to its foundations, and humbled the pride of Sultan Mahmoud.” Winning a battle at Damascus that brought Syria under his control, he crossed Mount Taurus, “the rampart of Constantinople, . . . completed the series of his winged victories, and beheld ‘Stamboul's diadem’ almost within his grasp” (VIII, 504).
Desperate, the Sultan of Turkey asked England’s help . . . and was refused.
Denied the aid which he solicited from Great Britain, the sultan was reduced to the humiliating necessity of applying for help in his day of need to the power whose ambitious designs he had the most reason to dread; whilst Russia, eager to avail herself of the opportunity thus offered, of giving to her aggrandising policy in regard to Turkey a protective rather than an aggressive character, lost no time in responding to the sultan's demand; and, in a short space, the strange spectacle was exhibited of a Muscovite corps d'armée cantoned in the vicinity of Constantinople, and of a Muscovite fleet at anchor in the Bosphorus. The sultan was saved; peace was concluded; and the whole of Syria, with its dependent territories, rewarded the successful rebellion of Mehemmed Ali.
In May 1833, the Sultan ceded Syria and Adana to Egypt, which Mehemmed Ali now ruled. His son Ibrahim then became governor-general of the two provinces. At this time, the English government, which in later decades of the nineteenth century became obsessed with Egypt as absolutely crucial to India, didn't seem to have much of an idea of what was going amd hence what it should do. As the 1842 Brittanica points out, “It would indeed be difficult to give any satisfactory account of the views which Great Britain at this period entertained regarding Egypt. Her policy was too vacillating to be reconciled with any fixed principle of action. At first she seemed disposed to establish her power in that country; then she renounced all idea of such an establishment; her ambassador at Constantinople applauded the destruction of the Mamlukes; then hopes were held out by her to the Beys, and whilst she neglected to apprise them of the danger which impended over them, she sought to save them when their ruin was inevitable” (VIII, 403-04).
- The Bear’s Shadow: Russia and Victorian Britain’s Foreign Policy
- Ibrahim, Ali Bey, and Mohammed Bey — Three Successive Rebel Rulers of eighteenth-Century Egypt
Last modified 13 August 2020