Muhammed Bey, the Mamluk who had revolted against Ali Bey, now tendered his allegiance to the Porte. To the title of Governor of the Metropolis was also added that of Pasha of Egypt. He subdued Syria, and died during the pillage of Acre.
[Illustration: 080b.jpg Bonaparte in Egypt]
From painting by M. Orange
After his death violent dissensions again broke out. The Porte supported Ismail Bey, who retained the post of Governor of the Metropolis (Sheikh el-Beled) until the terrible plague of 1790, in which he perished.
His former rivals, Ibrahim and Murad, now returned; and eight years later were still in the leadership when the news was brought to Egypt that a fleet carrying thirty thousand men, under Bonaparte, had arrived at Alexandria on an expedition of conquest.
[Illustration: 081.jpg page Image]
Napoleon’s campaign: Battles of the Pyramids and of Abukir: Siege of Acre: Kleber’s administration: The evacuation of Egypt.
At the close of the eighteenth century Egypt’s destiny passed into the hands of the French. Napoleon’s descent upon Egypt was part of his vast strategic plan for the overthrow of Great Britain. He first of all notified the Directory of this design in September, 1797, in a letter sent from Italy. Late in the same year and during 1798 vast preparations had been in progress for the invasion of England. Napoleon then visited all the seaports in the north of France and Holland, and found that a direct invasion of England was a practical impossibility because the British held command over the sea. The suggested invasion of Egypt was now seriously considered. By the conquest of Egypt, it was contended, England would be cut off from the possession of India, and France, through Egypt, would dominate the trade to the Orient. From Egypt Napoleon could gather an army of Orientals and conquer the whole of the East, including India itself. On his return, England would prove to be too exhausted to withstand the French army at home and would fall a prey to the ambitions of the First Consul. The Directory assented to Bonaparte’s plans the more readily because they were anxious to keep so popular a leader, the idol of the army, at a great distance from the centre of government. While the preparations were in process, no one in England knew of this undertaking. The French fleet lay in various squadrons in ports of Italy, from which thirty thousand men were embarked.
Bonaparte arrived at Toulon on May 9, 1798. His presence rejoiced the army, which had begun to murmur and to fear that he would not be at the head of the expedition. It was the old army of Italy, rich and covered with glory, and hence had much less zeal for making war; it required all the enthusiasm with which the general inspired his soldiers to induce them to embark and proceed to an unknown destination. On seeing him at Toulon, they were inflamed with ardour. Bonaparte, without acquainting them with their destination, exhorted the soldiers, telling them that they had great destinies to fulfil, and that “the genius of liberty, which had made the republic from her birth the arbitress of Europe, decreed that she should be so to the most remote seas and nations.”