Suez Canal: It Will Never Work

The disaster of the Indian mutiny in 1857 and the delays in getting news of it made people consider ways of improving contact between Europe and Asia. But when a ship canal in Suez was suggested, Lord Palmerston responded:

“For the last 15 years Her Majesty’ Government have used all the influence they possess at Constantinople and in Egypt to prevent that scheme from being carried into execution. It is an undertaking which, I believe, in point of commercial character, may be deemed to rank among the many bubble schemes that from time to time have been palmed upon gullible capitalists. I have been informed, on what I believe to be reliable authority, that it is physically impracticable, except at an expense which would be far too great to warrant any expectation of any returns. ”

It was not that he minded investors getting heir fingers burned if they ignored his advice. But the political consequences would be hostile to British interests by facilitating the dismemberment of an Ottoman Empire for whose preservation so much blood had been spilled in the Crimea. As for “remote speculations with regard to easier access to our Indian possessions”, the rival undertaking of a railway-connection between Alexandria and Suez would be infinitely more practicable.

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