HC Deb 16 April 1807 vol 9 cc477-80
Lord Castlereagh rose

pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the house to the brilliant and important services rendered by his majesty's forces in the Capture of Monte Video. It was impossible that a person in his situation could feel any duty more agreeable, than doing this justice to the services performed by his majesty's forces. Nothing could be more grateful to the feelings of a person so situated, than to find, that in all the variety of opinions that prevailed on all other subjects, party feeling was entirely laid asleep on subjects of this kind, and only one spirit of emulation who should be most prompt to pay the tribute of gratitude and applause, prevailed in every bosom. He was sure he could say of one individual on the opposite side (Mr. Windham), that whatever difference of opinion he might have with his majesty's present ministers on the management of the army, he would, on an occasion like the present, bury all those differences in oblivion, and be among the foremost to unite with those on that side of the house in acknowledging and applauding the service that had been done. He could assure that right hon. gent., that no difference of opinion that existed on other points could make it less grateful to him (lord C.) to acknowledge and do justice to the merits of persons called into action by his recommendation than if those .persons had been appointed by himself. He was sure that only one sentiment prevailed as to the merit of the service rendered, whether the importance of the acquisition was considered, or the nature of the execution. Though the force engaged was of a limited number, yet this was one of those military efforts which entitled those who had performed it, to the best thanks of the country. In respect to the amount of military excellence, no enterprise could be better selected than this in particular to mark with the most distinguished approbation. In the sort of attack that it had been necessary to make, the highest qualities of soldiers, the steadiest discipline, and the most undaunted firmness and bravery were conspicuously displayed. The assault was made under every disadvantage, and it was only by their eminent superiority in these great qualities that the British troops had been able to overcome all the obstacles opposed to them, and render themselves masters of the place. The breach had been in itself less practicable than was supposed, and had been rendered by the enemy, in the course of the night preceding the assault, so extremely inaccessible, that when the troops, which had been wisely sent forward before break of day, approached, they found it scarcely discernible: their discipline and firmness were put to the most trying test, by their being obliged to remain a long time exposed to the fire of the enemy's guns, before they could ascertain the breach, or attempt to enter it. The house would feel, that in expressing its thanks on the present occasion, it was discharging a debt of gratitude. The discharge of that debt would at the same time have the effect of giving additional spirit and enterprise to the army and the navy, to emulate the exploits that were so honourably distinguished. He should not trespass further on the house in a case where every feeling was already prompt to answer the call that was made, but he could not suppress an expression of regret for the officers who had fallen in this glorious enterprise, and whose loss must cast a gloom over the joy the achievement inspired. The country had suffered a severe loss in the distinguished and gallant officers who had fallen. But it was the misfortune of war, that no important services could be rendered without similar losses; and the glorious nature of the achievement, and the Importance of the service rendered in this case, must be to the friends of those with whose blood it was purchased, as well as to the country, to whom the loss of such men was no less deplorable, a consolation under affliction which would otherwise be inconsolable, He concluded with moving, "That the thanks of the house be given to brigadier-general sir S. Auchmuty, for the skill and gallantry displayed by him in taking the important fortress of Monte Video."

Sir John Doyle and Mr. Windham rose together. Sir John Doyle having given way,

Mr. Windham

said, that after the forcible manner in which the noble lord had conveyed the general feeling, he felt it rather a trespass on the house to offer any thing further. He could not pretend to any share in the glory of the brilliant achievement now under the consideration of the house, merely for his being in the office of secretary of state for the war department when the expedition was fitted out. But having turned his mind particularly to the outset and the operations of this expedition, he felt a natural disposition to say a few words on the occasion. He was sure the noble lord Opposite did not feel less warmly upon the success of the expedition than if he had himself fitted it out. The noble lord would do him the justice to say, that he had felt no less warmly when it had fallen to him to discharge a debt of the same kind on succeeding the noble lord in moving the vote of thanks for the victory of Maida. He agreed with the noble lord in his observations on all the details of the achievement now under consideration. In every one of those details there was a particular claim to the gratitude of the country. The achievement, considered altogether; was one of the highest in the highest class of military services. The circumstances that attended it, called for particular notice. The fortress was strong beyond what had been calculated. It was impossible men could be placed in a more trying situation, attacking an almost undiscoverable breach, on which an immense quantity of fire had been brought to bear. These circumstances were of such a nature as to require all the high qualities of the troops which were the subject of the present panegyric. Thus, whether it was considered with respect to the value of the conquest, or the nature of the action by which it was gained, this glorious performance could not be too highly estimated. It was necessary, besides, to observe, that the loss that had been sustained, heavy as it was, had fallen chiefly, not on the whole army, but on that part which was engaged in the storm. It was a loss on 1200 men, not on 4000, and in proportion as the loss was greater, so was the glory. It was a consolation, though a mournful one, to those whose relations had fallen, that their lives were not thrown away, but that they had been the means of adding greatly to the national glory, and of promoting the most important interests of their country. The merit of our soldiers was greatly enhanced by the gallant defence made by their opponents, stimulated as they were by the influence of their priests, to the most fanatical enthusiasm. At the same time that this powerful resistance enhanced the glory of the conquest, another important effect also would, he trusted, result from it, that the valour displayed by the Spanish troops would inspire their countrymen in Europe with a kindred spirit in resisting the common enemy; an enemy who, although approaching them under the mask of friendship, was more dangerous than we were in open hostility. If a little of this spirit was displayed in Old Spain, it would be attended with consequences at which Europe would have reason to rejoice. He would say no more. What had been achieved, was beyond the power of him, or any body, to increase by words.

Sir John Doyle

said, if he had been pertinacious in offering himself to the house at the same time with the right hon. gent., he hoped it would be a sufficient excuse to state, first, that he did not see the right hon. gent., and secondly, he hoped he should be forgiven if he shewed a little tenacity in pressing his claim to the attention of the house, when he mentioned that one of the regiments particularly engaged on this glorious occasion (the 87th), he had himsel[...] the honour of raising. On this account, he naturally wished to raise his voice in paying the common tribute of ap- plause to the glorious deeds now under consideration. He was unwilling that his brave companions in arms, who had followed his fortunes in the last war, should have reason to complain of him for having sat silent when their glory was the theme of admiration, and when he, who was acquainted with their spirit and character from their outset, ought to be the first to bear testimony to their merit. In every situation in which his majesty's army could be employed, he was satisfied it would display the same heroism, and he hoped would obtain similar advantages for the country. He spoke from experience; for he had never known an instance in which British troops had been engaged with equal or nearly equal numbers, in which their conduct had not been such as to redound to the honour and advantage .of their country. What the noble lord and the right hon. gent. had said, rendered it unnecessary fur him to say more. The strength of the place, the difficulty of the breach, the quantity of ordnance brought to bear on it, and the great disparity of numbers, rendered this action as brilliant as any former one; and there was no instance of an exploit exceeding it. He should content himself with giving his support to the motion, introduced in a manner so honourable to the parties who had moved and seconded it.

Mr. M. Matthew

commended the hon. general, for the particular notice he had taken of the 87th regiment. It was true, that regiment, led on by a gallant friend of his, had distinguished itself particularly in the assault. But what the hon. general might have added, and what he was sorry he had omitted, was, that that regiment to a man was composed of Roman Catholics. It was also a fact that 3 of the 4 thousand men composing the expedition, were Catholics. Who after this could say that Catholics were not to be trusted with arms? Whoever would say so, was ungrateful, and the worst enemy of the country.—The thanks were then voted to brigadier-general Lumley, and to the officers and men; and also to admiral Stirling, for his distinguished skill and ability in effecting the landing; to the captains and officers of the fleet for their co-operation, and to the seamen and marines. It was ordered that the votes should be communicated by the Speaker to sir S. Auchmuty and Admiral Stirling.—After a few words from sir T. Turton and others, the votes were severally agreed to nem. con.