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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/167

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the people were constantly increasing, their capacity to meet those demands were being steadily impaired. The Government took from them twice as much as it was entitled to take, and did not give them in return what it was bound to give; while the coffers of the state and the pockets of its servants were being filled by the plunderer of the peasantry. The soil was deteriorating from the neglect of those great public works upon which its fertility depended."

All this abuse has now been entirely abrogated. For the first time since the days of the Roman administration, order and prosperity reign in the valley of the Nile.

At no previous period since Egypt began to have a name has the fellah lived under a government so careful to protect his rights. For the first time he is allowed to control the fruits of his labor. To-day, under British domination, every Egyptian peasant knows exactly the amount of taxes he has to pay, and when he has to pay them; and that when he has once paid the legal amount, no official, big or small, has the power to extort from him one single piaster beyond it.[1] He knows, too, that he can not at any moment be seized and dragged off as formerly, perhaps to some different part of the country, to work under constant dread of the whip, at any task suggested by the caprice of the Khedive or of some powerful pasha. Under such circumstances Egypt has never, certainly not within a recent period, enjoyed so large a measure of prosperity. Notwithstanding the recent universal decline in price of agricultural staples, the Egyptian products and exports of cotton, sugar, tobacco, wheat, etc., have rapidly increased, and at present are much greater than at any former period. The annual increase in the great staple product of Egyptian agriculture—cotton—from the average of 1884-'89 to that of 1893-'94 was nearly a hundred per cent, whereby the cultivator was not only able to pay his taxes more easily, but has more money left for his own needs.

When England first occupied the country the four-per-cent Egyptian debt securities were quoted at about 50, and not long before had been quoted as low as 27. To-day their quotation is over 100, with a reduction of their originally stipulated interest.

One of the most recent results of the British occupation of

  1. "The poorest peasant in the country is now annually furnished with a tax-paper, wird, as it is called, which shows him exactly what he has to pay to the Government, and at what seasons the installments are due. The dates of these installments, moreover, which vary in different provinces, have been arranged so as to correspond as nearly as possible with the seasons when the cultivator realizes his produce, and is therefore in the best position to discharge his debt to the state. The necessity no longer exists of resorting to bribery as a protection against the extortion of sums not due on the part of the taxgatherer."