PP/GC/PO/379 Copy of a memorandum, in French, from General Chrzanowski, concerning possible ways of reducing Mehemet Ali's power, [December 1839]: contemporary copy
Copy of a memorandum, in French, from General Chrzanowski: if Mehemet Ali does not submit to the conditions dictated by the great powers, the first way to make him conform would be to blockade Alexandria and to deprive the Pasha of the means to pay his troops and continue his resistance. This plan would have three disadvantages. When Ibrahim finds that the forces in front of him are not capable of stopping him, he could launch himself on Asia Minor but not find enough there to subsist on. The eastern question would thus become even more complicated than at present. Dilatory action against a comparatively insignificant adversary does not befit the dignity of the great powers: once action is decided, they must immediately make Mehemet Ali feel the weight of their superiority. It is in the interests of England, France and Austria to settle as quickly as possible the question between the Sultan and his vassal: so long as uncertainties continue, the way is open for Russia to profit from them. Mehemet Ali's resistance could possibly be quickly broken without great deployment of troops by obtaining mastery of the sea resulting from destroying Mehemet Ali's fleet or from blockading Alexandria, where the fleet might seek refuge; by mounting an expedition of some fifteen thousand men with siege guns against St Jean d'Acre: by mustering as large a corps as possible of Turkish troops near the Syrian border; by encouraging the highland population of Syria to rise up again against the Egyptians by giving them arms and by obtaining a firman from the Sultan to promise them that they would be governed by Emir Bechir and that the Turkish authorities would not meddle in their internal administration: they would only need to recognise the suzerainty of the Porte, to pay a modest tribute and to provide a contingent of troops in the event of a war involving Turkey in Asia. The chief operation would be the seizure of St Jean d'Acre as that would determine the freedom of Syria. The people in the east exaggerate the strength of St Jean d'Acre. This opinion has been reinforced by the sieges which it has withstood on two previous occasions, by Napoleon and by Ibrahim. It is not as strong in men or in command as thought. For years the walls have not been properly maintained. During the Egyptian occupation, a glacis was constructed, but in fact, they only whitewashed the walls and the breach by which Ibrahim entered the city] was only imperfectly blocked up. The siege would be supported from the sea, and would be undertaken by the French, the masters of the art of siege. The place would not hold out twelve days. Eastern minds are unable to make sensible deductions from changed circumstances and the prompt reduction of St Jean d'Acre will naturally lead them to think that nothing can resist European forces: morale amongst the Egyptians will be completely destroyed, and the morale of their opponents, the Syrians, will be raised high. Mehemet Ali does not have troops in Egypt to send to the aid of St Jean d'Acre, and even if he had, the journey through the desert would require such lengthy preparations that the troops could not muster in time. Ibrahim, with forty thousand men, is about eight leagues short of St Jean d'Acre. He could not come in aid of Acre with all his army, and he would have to leave at least fifteen thousand men to hold the Turks in check. Since he would be crossing a country in turmoil without assured provision, slow progress would deplete his manpower, and he would only arrive after the place had been captured. Pride would not let him admit that the place had been captured in a matter of days, whereas he had once taken a month to achieve it. The capture of St Jean d'Acre would naturally cause Syrian desertion from Egyptian service, insurrection at Damascus and the consolidation of the insurrection of the Maronites and Druses. With a hostile country to his rear, Ibrahim would be unable to maintain his position at St Jean d'Acre and would be forced to flee into Palestine. The degree of the Egyptian army's reduction, the opinion of the French and English cabinets and Russian attitude would determine whether the expulsion of Mehemet Ali from Egypt would be possible or, as would be more manageable, whether there should be an arrangement to leave the administration of Egypt to him. The Turkish troops would undertake operations as soon as Ibrahim was sufficiently distant with part of his army or would wait until events in southern Syria threw into disarray the Egyptian troops left behind to guard the pashaliks of Adana and Aleppo. The European troops would act both as allies and in the name of the Sultan, so that Mehemet Ali would be unable to rouse in his own favour Muslim religious fanaticism. The end of October or the beginning of November would be expedient for the expedition. Operations against Egypt could be continued until January and it would be advantageous if during the whole time Russia could only participate by way of written notes. If Ibrahim brings a small part of his troops to St Jean d'Acre instead of keeping them all in the north of Syria, the expeditionary force should be greater in number. If, however, Ibrahim, scornful of the all the representations made by the great powers, enters Asia Minor, the expedition against St Jean d'Acre would have to be undertaken earlier and with less manpower. Whatever the case, it would be useful for a couple of English battalions and a couple of Austrian battalions joined the French expeditionary force. After the capture of the fort, the Austrian troops would make up part of the garrison until the affairs of Syria are definitely settled, and then the fort would be handed over to the Turks or Druses. The Austrians could easily send this detachment from their army in Italy and the British government could use the Malta battalion and one taken from the Lorien Islands or Gibraltar. The hardest work that this would give the garrisons would not last long as after one month one of the battalions or even both of them would be able to return to their forts. n.d. Dec 1839: contemporary copy
Three papers, tied with blue ribbon
All images are copyright. Please contact Archives@soton.ac.uk if you wish to reproduce this material
General Adalbert Chrzanowski, alias Skranowsky, Polish officer in English employ in Turkey
Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Ibrahim Pasha, son of Muhammad Ali Pasha, alias Mehemet Ali, Viceroy or ruler of Egypt
Alexandria, Egypt
St Jean d'Acre, or Acre: Syria, later Israel
Emir Bechir
Facebook Twitter Stumbleupon Delicious Digg RSS