The Suez Canal
Letter to Disraeli from Lord John Manners, 30 Nov. 1875
Dep. Hughenden 106/3, fols. 74r-5r
In this letter written in November 1875 one of Disraeli's Young England protégés, Lord John Manners, by then Postmaster General, describes how de Lesseps viewed Britain's purchase of nearly half (44 per cent) of the Suez Canal Company shares. Disraeli's interest in the company pre-dated his final Premiership. He moved quickly, first to exploit the opportunities presented by de Lesseps' financial difficulties and then forestall the purchase of the Khedive's shares by the French, overriding the objections of his Foreign Secretary and most of the Cabinet. Few acquisitions would symbolise the expansion and the contradiction of British power so dramatically. Purchased with a loan of £4,000,000 from the Rothschilds, this economic and strategic link to the empire lopped several weeks off the journey time to India. By 1875 four-fifths of the traffic was British. Eighty years later, in 1956, it was the scene of the British debacle.
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