HC Deb 11 August 1843 vol 71 cc551-3
Sir C. Napier

wished to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman relative to the General who commanded and relative to the army in Scinde. After the termination of the war in Affghanistan, the army and Generals Pollock, Nott, and Sale, received the public thanks of the two Houses of Parliament. At the same time the officers received several different rewards. It was also the case that the officers and men employed in China had been thanked. He thought that was just and proper. He wished, however, that such honours should be extended. The General commanding the army on the Indus had received no other reward than a ribbon and a regiment, to which he was well entitled for his services in the Peninsula. All agreed that the General and the army had displayed great courage, and had conducted themselves in a most exemplary manner under great disadvantages. With respect to the General himself, he knew that the General was foremost wherever the battle raged, and that to his valour and skill much of the success was due. He asked, therefore, whether it were intended to bestow the thanks of the House on the General who commanded in Scinde? It might be said, that the war in Affghanistan and the war in China were ended before the thanks of Parliament were voted, and the operations of Scinde were not yet ended. He did not think that a sufficient reason for the distinction, and he hoped that he should, for the honour of his family, receive a satisfactory answer.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that there was not one word which the gallant officer had used, in reference to the brilliant exploits performed by General Sir Charles Napier, in Scinde, respecting his great military skill and courage, and respecting his great devotion to the public service, in which he did not most cordially agree. He could not but feel that the gratitude of the country was due to the general, officers, and troops, for the achievement of one of the most brilliant exploits that was to be found in military annals. He did not say anything as to the rewards that should be given to such merits as those of Sir Charles Napier. It was true that a command of a regiment had been given to him, and the grand cross, the highest order of the Bath, had been conferred upon him. He hoped, then, that he had said enough to prove to the gallant commodore, that her Majesty's Government recognised on the part of Sir Charles Napier, that he had the strongest claims on the gratitude of his country for his great military skill and merits. He did not believe that there was an instance in all the records of our military engagements where greater praise was due to the commander for an engagement attended with such brilliant success. It was invidious to make any distinction in such a case, but he could not avoid referring to the bravery of the Sepoy regiments, and the gallant conduct of the officers of the native army. It was, he thought, impossible to draw distinctions, where a victory was won by the exhibition of personal valour in so many instances; but, in considering this, they could not but be conscious, that the example was given by a chief, who, in his readiness personally to front danger, almost forgot the results that depended upon his personal safety, but who was resolved that by his example all should be animated, and that every one under his command, being filled with his spirit, could not but ensure for him and for them a glorious victory. He could not but give the highest credit to the man who had thus acted. He expressed that opinion in the face of the country; but, still, he did think it would be a great advantage that the expression of the public gratitude should be delayed until the operations were concluded. This was the course that had been pursued on other occasions. It was done in the case of the operations of China; for of the victory at Canton, it might well be said, that it was of the most brilliant description. So, as to the battle of Assaye, the thanks were not voted on receiving the first intelligence; the expression of Parliament was postponed until the operations were concluded. He hoped, in what he had said, that he had relieved the mind of the gallant officer from any impression, if he had any such, that there was in the minds of her Majesty's Government, any insensibility as to the high and distinguished merits of Sir Charles Napier. When the operations were closed, he should have no hesitation in proposing the thanks of Parliament for the manner in which these operations had been carried on. He should, however, be acting more consistently, and evincing more respect to the individuals engaged in these operations, by opposing a vote of thanks until he had the opportunity of stating to Parliament that those operations were concluded.