HC Deb 11 March 1842 vol 61 cc421-2
Mr. S. Wortley

begged to put a question to the right hon. Baronet upon a subject to which it was impossible to allude without pain, and of such importance, that he believed it would account for the question he was about to ask. The subject to which he alluded, was the late melancholy disasters they had met with in the West of India. Intelligence had been received in this country from Cabool, stating that the garrison of the place were in circumstances of the most imminent danger. Reports had reached this country lately, that those circumstances had been followed by others still more alarming—that the garrison of Cabool had been utterly destroyed, and that the troops in Candahar had been cut off from all communication on that side, and that the troops at Jellalabad were in great danger. What he wished to ask from the right hon. Baronet was, such authentic information as Government might possess with regard to the correctness of the report. First of all, he wished to know what information had been received with respect to the unfortunate troops in Cabool? and secondly, what was the position of those in Candahar and Jellalabad, and what prospect of relief they had from the government of India.

Sir R. Peel

said, that to the question put by his hon. Friend he could not give ft very satisfactory answer, and although he had it in his power to do so, he doubted whether it would be consistent with his duty to answer some of the questions that had been put to him. But in a matter of such importance he would not hesitate to give the information which he possessed, and which, although not entirely official, might, he thought, be relied on. The latest accounts which had been received from the Governor-general of India were dated Calcutta, January 22, giving only an account of the scandalous and perfidious act by which Sir William M'Naghten had lost his life. No account subsequent to the despatch of February 1, from Bombay, had been received. Another account, not of an official nature, but of the correctness of which there could be little doubt, had been received in a letter from Dr. Reid, dated Peshawar, 16th of January. It spoke of a letter which was dated Jellalabad, the 13th, and from that letter, it was impossible to doubt, that her Majesty's troops had recently sustained great reverses. A capitulation, as far as it could be judged from the accounts, ap- peared to have been signed with the Affghan forces, and by an act, as it would appear, speaking, as he said before, from information not strictly official, but from accounts of which the credibility could hardly be questioned—by an act marked with a perfidy and treachery almost as gross as that by which Sir W. M'Naghten lost his life, the English troops were attacked three days afterwards, and had certainly sustained great loss; but, he trusted, that there was nothing in the accounts that had been received that ought to create dismay. Her Majesty's Government would take every measure, that it might be advisable to take to repair this partial disaster. Under the circumstances, he had no doubt Parliament would give her Majesty's Government its confidence and support, whatever might be the demands which they should feel it their duty to make, in order to repair the disaster that had occurred, and to satisfy the public in this country, in India, and throughout the world, that they were determined to spare no sacrifice in order to maintain their Indian empire.

Sir J. C. Hobhouse

said, in the whole course of his life, he had never been so much gratified as by the statement just made by the right hon. Gentleman. He had no doubt, but that the Queen's Government would do its duty, and the assurance just made must tranquillise all those unnecessary alarms which had before existed, and for which there would not now be a pretence for existing in the mind of any right thinking man. The right hon. Gentleman was right in saying, that this House would stand by the Queen's Government on this occasion. So far from party feeling prevailing, the House would see, that it had nothing to do but to exert itself to the utmost to repair the disaster that had occurred, but which he, at the same time, thought had been much exaggerated.