The paragraphs of her Majesty's Speech referring to the events in Affghanistan, having been read, (as in the House of Lords, see ante, p. 892,) Sir Robert Peel rose, and spoke as follows:—Sir,—The motion with which I shall conclude the observations I have to make will be in precise conformity with the notice which I gave the other day. It will be that the thanks of the House be given to the Governor-general of India for the ability and judgment with which the resources of the British empire in India have been applied in support of the military operations in Afghanistan; and that the thanks of the House be given to the general officers who immediately conducted those operations, and to the other officers of the army, for the ability, skill, and perseverance displayed by them, and their indefatigable zeal and exertions throughout the late campaign. The motion will also signify our grateful acknowledgments and high approbation of the valour and patient perseverance displayed by the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, both of the European and native army, during the whole of that campaign, and for their gallant behaviour upon every occasion in which they came into contact with the enemy. I consider all I have to do on the present occasion is to establish the fact that the operations in Afghanistan were of sufficient public importance to warrant me in calling upon the House to support the motion with which I shall conclude, and that the several parties, both civil and military, to whom my motion refers, did perform those services and did exhibit those qualities for which it is proposed that the thanks of the House should be given to them. In conformity with all usage in
bringing forward motions of this kind, I shall studiously abstain from any reference to the matters of merely a political nature. I shall not call in question the policy of the original advance into Afghanistan, nor shall I attempt to vindicate upon this occasion the policy of the withdrawal of the troops from it; and if in the course of my address one word shall fall from me which shall have a tendency to provoke a discussion upon merely political grounds, or which shall place the conduct of one person in invidious contrast with that of another, I declare beforehand, that the word so falling from me will be at variance entirely with the intention with which I rise to address the House, and I therefore make for it, if it shall fall from me, this preliminary apology. Sir, I feel great difficulty in addressing the House upon this subject. I feel that no address that could be made to them could weaken the impression which must have been derived from the perusal of this volume. There is something of romantic interest cast over the whole of these operations. There is something in the remoteness of the region—in the wild and savage grandeur of the scenery—in the undisciplined, desperate, and ferocious valour of the enemy, and the deadly precision with which they used the rude implements of war of which they were possessed. There have been such dreadful disasters, par taking rather of the character of phantasma and of hideous dreams than of the reality of life; such brilliant successes; such instances of devotion to the public service; of desperate fidelity in the face of overwhelming numbers. There is again the unhoped for delivery of the whole of the prisoners, as if a gracious Providence had conduced to "succour and provide for the desolate and oppressed, and show pity upon the prisoner and captive." I say all these things do constitute an interest upon the perusal of these volumes, the details of them written at the time from the scene of action—the hand that had wielded the sword guiding the pen that described them—all these things I say, constitute an interest which can only be weakened by any such address as I can offer to the House upon this occasion. The details of the transactions in question commence with the autumn of 1841. It is necessary, as I am to propose a vote of thanks to the Governor-general of India, Lord Ellenborough, for the ability and
judgment with which he prepared the resources of the British empire in support of these operations, that I should state to the House, as clearly as I can. [Lord Palmerston: Prepared.] I do not say "prepared," but with which Lord Ellenborough "applied" the resources of the British empire. It is necessary, I say, as I propose that the thanks of this House should be given, where I consider they are most justly due—to the Governor-general of India—that I should recall to the recollection of the House the precise position of affairs when Lord Ellenborough assumed the Government of India up to the end of October, 1841. The aspect of affairs at Cabul was, upon the whole, of a pacific nature. I will try as fairly as I can, in giving an account of the state of affairs, to quote the expressions made use of by the late Governor-general, or by Sir W. M'Naghten in his account relative to the state of affairs in Cabul. The priesthood and chiefs of clans and their military retinue were dissatisfied with the influence exercised by the British Government, but still there was no indication from which there was reason to apprehend either universal discontent, or the hazard of general outbreak or insurrection. So far from it, that the 20th of October had been fixed on by Sir W. M'Naghten as the day on which he should depart from Cabul, handing over his diplomatic functions to Sir A. Burnes, proceeding to Bombay, for the purpose of taking on himself the Civil Government there. About the middle of October, a rebellion broke out against the British authorities, on the part of certain chiefs of the Ghilzie tribes; that rebellion was attributed to two causes; the first is the withholding of certain payments, to which they considered themselves entitled, on account of the keeping open of the passes; that certain allowances, which were made to the Ghilzie chiefs for that purpose, had been in part withheld; secondly, making the Ghilzie chiefs responsible for the robberies that had been committed by the eastern Ghiles. In consequence of that, in October the passes between Cabul and Gundamuk were seized, and the military communication between Cabul and British India was intercepted. Sir R. Sale was ordered to force the passes. He left Cabul with three regiments—viz., the 13th Queen's Regiment, the 35th, and 37th Native Infantry. The 37th Regiment, which ac-
companied him part of the way, was subsequently recalled to Cabul. On the 11th November', after experiencing very great obstruction in the passage, Sir R. Sale reached Jellalabad with six days' provisions only, and surrounded, in fact, by all the armed population of the district. On the 7th of November, at Cabul, our countrymen were attacked on every side. I am trying as far as I can in making these preliminary recitals to use the exact expressions, of course, the most accurate, the most fair to all parties, used in reciting them in the volume. Sir Alexander Burnes and his brother were both murdered. At the same time, a district north of Cabul, called Kohistan, broke out into insurrection, and Captain Woodburn, with a party of 108 invalids, who were proceeding from Ghuznee to Cabul, was cut off, and the whole of the party accompanying him were murdered. Accounts also reached Cabul that the disturbances extended to between seventy and eighty miles south of Ghuznee. It became necessary for Lord Auckland, who was then administering the Indian Government when the accounts reached Calcutta of the state of affairs at Cabul, to determine what course it was most consistent with the public interests that he should take. Lord Auck land, writing on the 2nd of December, recommended that a strong force, not less than from 10,000 to 12,000 men, should be ready to be concentrated between the Sutlej and the Jumna, and he also desired that an additional force should be placed in Peshawur, in order to provide for any contingencies that might arise. On the 3rd of December, Lord Auckland, before he heard of the military disasters at Cabul, expressed his opinion. He says—
It would be vain to speculate upon the issue of the contest at Cabul; but, in the extreme event of the military possession of that city, and the surrounding territory having been entirely lost, it is not our intention to direct new and extensive operations for the re-establishment of our supremacy throughout Affghanistan.
That was written when Lord Auckland had heard of the first insurrection of the Ghilzies, of the massacre of Sir W. M'Naghten and Sir Alexander Burnes, but not of the disasters which before the army under General Elphinstone. At this time Sir R. Sale was at Jellalabad, and an attempt was made to relieve Sir R. Sale by a detachment of four regiments under the
command of General Wild, who was ordered to force the Khyber Pass, and to rescue, if possible, Sir R. Sale from his position, and to give every aid that such additional force could give. Lord Auckland, on the 19th of February, had heard of the failure of General Wild to force the Khyber Pass, and on the receipt of that intelligence he expresses himself in the following way in respect to our policy in Affghanistan:—
Since we have heard of the misfortunes in the Khyber Pass, and have become convinced, that with the difficulties at present opposed to us, and in the actual state of our preparations we could not expect, at least in this year, to maintain a position in the Jellalabad districts for any effective purpose, we have made our directions in regard to withdrawal from Jellalabad clear and positive, and we shall rejoice to learn, that Major-general Pollock will have anticipated these more express orders by confining his efforts to the same object.
That was on the 19th of February. Lord Auckland said, in the same despatch, to show that he was not regardless of the state of the prisoners at Cabul:
The painful situation of the officers' families and European and native soldiers, who are prisoners in Affghanistan, engages our most anxious thought, and any measures which we can adopt with fair and honourable prospect of advantage for their comfort or release will be eagerly adopted by us.
On the 2nd of February Lord Auckland had desired that a commanding force should be concentrated at or near Peshawur. It will be remembered, that at this time—at the beginning of February—in addition to the force then supposed to be at Cabul labouring under very great difficulties, there was also the force at Candahar under General Nott. The fortress of Ghuznee was also occupied by a British force, and another fortress (Khelat-i-Ghilzie) was occupied by Captain Craig and a small detachment. On the 10th of February orders were given by Lord Auckland to General Nott as follows:—
Events will, in every probability, have determined your course of proceeding long before the present letter, or any communication founded upon the letters of the 28th and 31st ult., can be in your possession. But he thinks it now right not to omit the chance of distinctly informing you, that it is his desire, that you should, without reference to the terms of the extract of the despatch of the 28th ult., act solely so as may best, in your judgment, secure the paramount object of the safety of
the troops placed under your orders, and may uphold, at the same time, the honour of the British arms.
Now, I have stated, as fairly as I can, the position of Lord Auckland, and the orders which he issued—the orders for the withdrawal to Jellalabad, the discretionary order to General Nott, and the assembling of a large force of 10,000 or 12,000 men between the Sutlej and the Jumna, and also the care which he took that the British honour should be maintained, while everything that was possible was to be done to secure the comfort and the safety of the troops. Those were the arrangements made by the late Governor-general previously to his retirement. I now come to the opinion of the commander of the forces upon the then state of affairs. Sir Jasper Nicolls, in his communication of the 24th of January, recites an interview which he had had with Mr. Clerk, who had been our resident at Lahore, a gentleman in the civil service of the Government of India, of the most distinguished ability and the highest order. In the course of the interview Mr. Clerk impressed upon Sir Jasper Nicolls the great advantage of re-establishing the British arms in Affghanistan, and if military operations permitted, to recover possession of Cabul. Sir Jasper Nicolls, however, entertained these opinions at that time with respect to the stale of the army:—
Admitting the undeniable force of this argument, I am greatly inclined to doubt that we have at present either army or funds sufficient to renew this contest. Money may, perhaps, be obtainable, but soldiers are not, without leaving India bare. Shortly before I left Calcutta, there were at least 33,000 men in our pay in Affghanistan and Scinde, including Schah Soojah's troops, but not the rabble attached to his person. How insufficient that number has been to awe the barbarous, and at first disunited tribes of Affghanistan and Scinde, our numerous conflicts, our late reverses, and our heavy losses fully prove.
I think it is quite clear, then, that the opinion of the late Governor-general and of the commander of the forces was adverse to any advance on Cabul from the side of Jellalabad; that he thought they ought first to release Sir R. Sale from his position, and that he did not contemplate attempting, during that year, the re-establishment of British supremacy in Cabul, at least, not from the side of Jellalabad. And who, Sir, I will ask, is prepared to blame Lord Auckland for the discretion
which he then exercised, and the decision to which he then came? It is easy, indeed, for us to be military critics at a small expense, seated in this comfortable chamber, with a full knowledge of all the subsequent events, and rejoicing at present successes—with no responsibility upon us, such as rested on the Governor-general—the responsibility not merely of forcing a passage to Cabul against any enemy that might oppose our army, but first to provide for the interests and the security of the vast empire, the safety of which was entrusted to his care. It was necessary for the Governor-general to look at the indications of hostility on the side of the Burmese empire—on the side of Scinde—and to remember the withdrawal of British troops from India to take part in the operations in China. Recollecting these facts, I am far from blaming Lord Auckland for the view he took of the position of affairs. Before we take upon ourselves to pronounce an opinion adverse to his policy, we must place ourselves in his position, with an army dispirited by reverses—we must have his intimate knowledge of the circumstances; above all we must have his responsibility. Viewing the transactions thus, I must say, I do think Lord Auckland was exempt from blame in contemplating the withdrawal of the troops from Affghanistan. What, too, was the position of the troops at Candahar? I am looking at this question, not with regard to its policy, but in a military point of view, and I am taking into consideration the circumstance which must have weighed upon the mind of Lord Auckland. The communication was intercepted; the army of Candahar was 549 miles from the Indus; and between the army and that point there was also interposed the Bolan Pass. What was the position of the army at Cabul? The army at Cabul was 540 miles from Ferozepore, the nearest town of British India, and the whole of the Punjaub had to be traversed; and this too, at a lime when, it must be well known to many hon. Gentlemen, a feeling and a spirit prevailed among the Sikh troops not the most favourable to such a movement. They must recollect that between Jellalabad and Cabul there was the Khyber Pass; that for a distance of 153 miles out of the 540, there was a country exceeding in difficulty, in respect to military communication, any other country on the face of the globe. Another
fatal reverse such as that which had taken place at Cabul might have had the most prejudicial effect, for disasters of that kind were not merely doubled, but acted with a force infinitely increased, by repetition. I do say, then, that Lord Auckland, in my opinion, acted wisely in collecting the forces within British India, and taking time to deliberate as to what policy should be pursued. When the vote of thanks was proposed in this House to Lord Auckland, though I differed from that noble Lord as to certain portions of his policy, yet, considering that that noble Lord was fairly entitled to the public acknowledgments for the zeal which he had manifested in preparing and directing the resources of India in aid of the military operations in that country, I gave to that vote, so far as Lord Auckland was concerned, the support which I thought it deserved—to which I thought the noble Lord entitled, and I have seen nothing since that time in the conduct of Lord Auckland, up to the time of his quitting India, with respect to those military operations, which makes me desirous of withdrawing the opinion I then expressed. However, that was the condition of affairs when the present Governor-general succeeded to Lord Auckland. The first letter which Lord Ellenborough wrote on the subject of the policy which should be pursued is dated March 15, 1842. That despatch contained the precise views of the Governor-general, and in it is the following passage. The paper I am about to quote is No. 200, and is at page 167 of the book. Lord Ellenborough goes on to say:—
Whatever course we may hereafter take must rest solely upon military considerations, and have, in the first instance, regard to the safety of the detached bodies of our troops at Jellalabad, at Ghuznee, at Khelat-i-Ghilzie, and Candahar, to the security of our troops now in the field from all unnecessary risk, and, finally, to the re-establishment of our military reputation by the infliction of some signal and decisive blow upon the Affghans, which may make it appear to them, to our own subjects, and to our allies, that we have the power of inflicting punishment upon those who commit atrocities and violate their faith, and that we withdraw ultimately from Affghanistan, not from any deficiency of means to maintain our position, but because we are satisfied that the king we have set up has not, as we were erroneously led to imagine, the support of the nation over which he has been placed. But, while the facts before us
justify the withdrawal of our troops from Affghanistan, and the refusal of all further assistance to Schah Soojah, they are yet not such as to make it consistent with our reputation to give our future support, as is suggested by Major Rawlins on, to Schah Kamram, and to make over Candahar to that nominal ruler of Herat, even were it consistent with prudence to engage in a new speculative enterprise beyond the Indus, which might render it necessary for us to retain, at an enormous cost, a large body of troops in the difficult country between that river and Candahar, for the purpose of maintaining in the country so made over to him a sovereign personally incapable, and for many years unknown to its inhabitants, otherwise than by the fame of his degrading vices. We are of opinion that it would be erroneous to suppose that a forward position in Upper Affghanistan would have the effect of controlling the Sikhs, or that a forward position above the passes of Lower Affghanistan would have the effect of controlling the Beloochees and the Scindians, by the appearance of confidence and of strength. That which will really, and will alone control the Sikhs, the Beloochees, and the Scindians, and all the other nations beyond and within the Indus, is the knowledge that we possess an army, perfect in its equipment, possessed of all the means of movement, and so secure in its communications with the country from which its supplies and its reinforcements are drawn, as to be able at any time to act with vigour and effect against any enemy. In war, reputation is strength; but reputation is lost by the rash exposure of the most gallant troops under circumstances which render defeat more probable than victory; and a succession of reverses will dishearten any soldiers, and, most of all, those whose courage and devotion have been mainly the result of their confidence that they were always led to certain success. We would, therefore, strongly impress upon the commanders of the forces employed in Affghanistan and Siende the importance of incurring no unnecessary risk, and of bringing their troops into action under circumstances which may afford full scope to the superiority they derive from their discipline. At the same time, we are aware that no great object can be accomplished without incurring some risk; and we should consider that the object of striking a decisive blow at the Affghans, more especially if such blow could be struck in combination with measures for the relief of Ghuznee—a blow which might re-establish our military character beyond the Indus, and leave a deep impression of our power, and of the vigour with which it would be applied to punish an atrocious enemy—would be one for which risk might be justifiably incurred, all due and possible precaution being taken to diminish such necessary risk, and to secure decisive success. The commanders of the forces in Upper and Lower Affghanistan will, in all the operations they
may design, bear in mind these general views and opinions of the Government of India. They will, in the first instance, endeavour to relieve all the garrisons in Affghanistan which are now surrounded by the enemy. The relief of these garrisons is a point deeply affecting the military character of the army, and deeply interesting the feelings of their country; but to make a rash attempt to effect such relief, in any case, without a reasonable prospect of success, would be to afford no real aid to the brave men who are surrounded, and fruitlessly to sacrifice other good soldiers, whose preseravation is equally dear to the Government they serve. To effect the release of the prisoners taken at Cabul is an object likewise deeply interesting in point of feeling and of honour. That object can, probably, only be accomplished by taking hostages from such part of the country as may be in, or may come into, our possession; and, with reference to this object, and to that of the relief of Ghuznee, it may possibly become a question, in the event of Major-general Pollock's effecting a junction with Sir Robert Sale, whether the united force shall return to the country below the Khyber Pass, or take a forward position near Jellalabad, or even advance to Cabul. We are fully sensible of the advantages which would be derived from the re-occupation of Cabul, the scene of our great disaster and of so much crime, even for a week, of the means which it might afford of recovering the prisoners, of the gratification which it would give to the amy, and of the effect which it would have upon our enemies. Our withdrawal might then be made to rest upon an official declaration of the grounds upon which we retired as solemn as that which accompanied our advance; and we should retire as a conquering, not as a defeated power; but we cannot sanction the occupation of an advanced position beyond the Khyber Pass by Major-general Pollock, unless that general should be satisfied that he can, without depending upon the forbearance of the tribes near the Pass, which, obtained only by purchase, must under all circumstances be precarious, and, without depending upon the fidelity of the Sikh chiefs, or upon the power of those chiefs to restrain their troops, upon neither of which can any reliance be safely placed, feel assured that he can, by his own strength, overawe and overcome all who dispute the Pass, and keep up at all times his communication with Peshawur and the Indus; and we would caution Major-general Pollock, and all the officers commanding the troops in the field, not to place reliance upon, or to be biassed by, the representations of native chiefs, who may have been expelled from their country in consequence of their adherence to us, and who will naturally be ready to lead us into any danger by operations which may have the possible effect of restoring them to their former possessions
Sir, it is evident from this letter, that
Lord Ellenborough's main objects, were, to relieve the garrisons, to rescue the prisoners, and to re-establish the military supremacy of the British arms, if even only for a time, in Cabul and Affghanistan; but that he did not contemplate a permanent occupation of Affghanistan. On the 15th of March, 1842, those were the objects and this was the policy which he contemplated. Those objects have been accomplished, and the policy has practically been carried out. I am quite aware that in the period that elapsed between the 15th of March and the successful result of those operations which he then contemplated Lord Ellenborough did at one time take a different view of the policy of Indian affairs; and that he issued the order of the 19th of April to General Nott to withdraw from Candahar. But under what circumstances did he issue the order of the 19th of April? Here again, as in the case of Lord Auckland, I will call on the House to bear in mind the responsibility devolving upon the Governor-general contemplating the fatal consequences that might arise from a repetition of such disasters as those which had but lately befallen our troops. On the 19th of April, Lord Ellenborough strongly recommended, and, indeed, directed General Nott to withdraw from Candahar, to rescue, if he could, the garrison of Ghuznee, to destroy the fortifications of Khelat-i-Ghilzie, and to retire with in the British frontier. When he gave this order on the 19th of April, he had just received intelligence of the fall of Ghuznee—had just received an account that Colonel Palmer, who commanded at Ghuznee, had found, or considered it to be impossible to maintain his position, and that he had surrendered Ghuznee to the force by which it was then besieged. At the same time, Lord Ellenborough received intelligence of the failure of General England to advance through the Bolan Pass for the purpose of assisting General Nott at Candahar. Thus, on the day that Lord Ellenborough wrote that letter, he had received information of two signal failures at two different points in the attempt made to relieve the pent-up garrisons in Affghanistan. Brigadier Wilde, with four regiments, had been driven back from the Kyber Pass; and General England, with a considerable force, had failed in forcing a passage through the Khojuk Pass, which lies between the Bolan Pass
and Candahar. What were the letters, which at that very time, almost on that very day, General Pollock and General Nott were writing to Lord Ellenborough? It was on the 19th of April that he gave his directions to General Nott to withdraw from Candahar. He could not be correctly informed of the actual state of the armies in Affghanistan at that particular time. He knew that Ghuznee had surrendered. He knew that the passes between the Indus and Candahar had not been forced by General England, but that that general had met with discomfiture. He knew, also, the feeling that prevailed amongst some of the regiments of the army which was commanded by General Nott. These were the accounts which he received when he gave his orders of the 19th of April, written respectively by General Nott and General Pollock. General Pollock, writing from Jellalabad, on the 20th of April, (the day after the issuing of the order), says:—
I have already stated my views with regard to the Khyber Pass. I have also shown, that from the system of supplying carriage-cattle, I have not the means of moving, and the country around cannot supply my wants. To establish dépôts or strong posts at intervals on the road between this and Cabul, would so reduce the numerical strength of this force, that by the time it reached the capital, it would be too weak to effect the desired object. For several marches, no forage is procurable. Even if we had carriage, the conveyance of forage would so increase the number of animals to be protected, that I should much doubt our being able to convoy them in safety; and, I confess, after the treachery we have experienced, I could have no confidence in any promises of support from an Affghan; he might engage to lay in forage at intervals, for the express purpose of leading us into a difficult position, and then glory in having served his own cause by bringing us to the verge of destruction. The devastation of a few villages in our vicinity, with all the grain and forage, would be a small matter in the eyes of an Affghan, if he could thereby destroy our force, and such a measure would assuredly go near to effect it. I have maturely considered the question of our advance by this road to Cabul, and I confess that I see too many difficulties to warrant our risking such a course. The force I have the honour to command, if well supplied, is ready to march anywhere, and if I could have advanced by the route of Candahar, our success would be certain.
This was written on the 20th of April. General Nott, of course, not being aware of the order that was written on the 19th
of April, gives, on the 18th of April, this account of his position at Candahar:—
In the event of field operations, the deduction of these 3,000 men would leave me scarcely 4,000 troops, including this cavalry, to oppose the enemy in the field, and to guard a long train of provision and carriage-cattle; and, however distant the service from this important magazine, every particle of food must be carried with the force; thus crippling and retarding all its movements. The troops and establishments at Candahar are four months in arrears, and there is not a rupee in the treasury; nor can money be borrowed. We have no medicine for the sick and wounded; and, in the event of much service in the field, I fear we should run short of musket-ammunition, although I have contrived to have a considerable quantity prepared from old and damaged powder; frequent application has been made to the authorities in Since, during the last four months, for treasure, ammunition, stores, medicines, and particularly for cavalry, but no aid whatever has been afforded. I want draught and baggage-cattle to enable me to move; but without money, in a country like this, I can neither purchase nor hire them. I have no cattle for moving even three regiments; during our field operations of last month, both officers and men marched without tents. Under these circumstances, my difficulties were certainly great; but, although I consider it to be my duty to state these facts, the Government may rest assured of my best and unremitting exertions to carry into effect its views and instructions, and to uphold the reputation of our arms, and the honour of my country.
[Mr. Mangles read the next paragraph.] General Nott continues in these terms:—
Perhaps it is not within my province to observe, that, in my humble opinion, an unnecessary alarm has been created regarding the position of our troops in this country, and of the strength and power of the enemy we have to contend with. The enemy cannot face our troops in the field with any chance of success, however superior they may be in numbers, provided those precautions are strictly observed, which war, between a small body of disciplined soldiers, and a vast crowd of untrained, unorganized, and half-civilized people, constantly renders necessary.
I really do not wish to introduce a word that should reflect in any way upon those by whom Lord Ellenborough was preceded. The order of the 25th of February, recalling the previous orders, was issued by Lord Auckland, not by Lord Ellenborough. I do not wish upon this occasion to introduce any thing that may have the appearance of reflecting upon any part of Lord Auckland's conduct. I have stated what my impressions are with
respect to the course pursued by Lord Auckland, and it is my wish not to introduce a word that might savour of party character, or bear the appearance of the slightest degree of injustice to those to whom I am politically opposed. General Nott continues,
True, the British troops suffered a dreadful disaster at Cabul, and it is not for me to presume to point out why this happened, however evident I may conceive the reasons, and the long train of military and political events which led to the sad catastrophe.
The hon. Gentleman might challenge me to go on with the next sentence. What does General Nott say in that passage of his letter:
Had I been reinforced, with a single regiment of cavalry, I feel convinced that I could long since have tranquilized or subdued the rebellious feeling in the provinces dependant upon Candahar, and that a very few additional troops from S.nde, to garrison this extensive and important city, would have set me free from my present difficult position, and have enabled me at this moment to have been on my march to Ghuznee and to Cabul; but, although near six months have elapsed since the outbreak at that city, no aid of any kind has been sent to me; and the circumstances I have now detailed still confine me to this post and its immediate vicinity.
I really do not think it necessary or expedient to proceed with the quotation of passages of this nature. What I say is this, that these reports of the 18th of April and the 20th of April, from the respective commanding officers with regard to the state of the two armies, upon the efficiency of which our only hope of embarking in successful operations against Affghanistan depended, coming in addition to the accounts of the surrender of Ghuznee, and the failure of General England to force the Khojuk Pass, in my opinion vindicates the policy of the order given by Lord Ellenborough under the impression that then existed on his mind on the 19th of April—that order being substantially to this effect: "Do not, in the present inauspicious aspect of affairs, incur the great risk of advancing upon Cabul. General Pollock tells you that he cannot advance—that he cannot support you." I say that, with the impressions which existed upon Lord Ellenborough's mind, it was true wisdom to give the order of the 19th of April, and that he deserves the commendation of this House for having given it. And he says most justly in another despatch:
True it is, that I might conciliate public favour by directing an advance in the midst of these difficulties, but if by an act of precipitation of that kind I were to compromise the safety of our empire in India, I should never during my existence cease to upbraid myself for refusing to take the responsibility of delaying the march of the troops.
I can hardly think it would be necessary for me to convince any gentleman who has read through these despatches—who has seen the devotion to the public service manifested by Lord Ellenborough in respect to provisioning the army, to detain the House at any greater length to show, nay, I should almost feel ashamed if I were to make any further endeavour to show, that upon that ground Lord Ellenborough is justly entitled to the expression of public thanks. What did Lord Ellenborough do with respect to provisioning the army? On the 16th September he says—
Every possible effort has been made to supply Major-general Pollock's force with carriage, and to provide for the expected wants of Major-general Nott's force, when it joins the army in the Cabul valley. In the ten weeks ending the 8lh of September, there have been purchased 7,653 camels, and 5,026 mules and ponies; 1,265 Bringaree bullocks have been hired, and 1,000 camels; and I have reason to think that 1,500 more Bringaree bullocks have been hired at Peshawur, making in all 16,444 animals. The purchases of camels continue, and I have directed that every mule may be procured which can be deemed fit for service. I am satisfied that I shall have the entire concurrence of your committee in the opinion I have expressed to the Commissary-general, that the army must be supplied, cost what it may; and that it is better to have a thousand animals too many than a hundred too few. The losses of animals, however, must of necessity be so large, that I have no hope that all my efforts will do more than provide for the absolute requirements of the retiring army. Camp equipages, clothing, shoes, medical and other comforts, are to be forwarded by these animals; and I trust the army will feel that it incurs no suffering which could have been obviated by the paternal care of the Government.
Look, Sir, at the range from which it was necessary to obtain these supplies. Look at the exertions necessary in the course of ten weeks, to procure 10,000 beasts of burthen; and do not forget how the country out of which they were procured, had been exhausted by previous exertions of a similar nature. Do not
forget that it was a field from which you could hardly hope to draw fresh supplies for a new emergency. What is the calculation of Major Todd, who inscribes the work he wrote to Lord Auckland? Major Todd states that the loss of beasts of burthen between November, 1838, and the same period of 1839, was not less than 32,000. Therefore, when you estimate the extent of the exertions which it became necessary to make, in order to procure a supply of 16,500 beasts of burthen, you must not forget that the loss sustained in that way by the operations of 1838 and 1839 amounted, according to the highest authority, to not less than 32,000. I feel most confident, therefore, that this House, whatever its opinion may be upon points of policy, will recognise the claim of Lord Ellenborough to a public acknowledgment,
For the ability and judgment with which the resources of the British empire in India have been applied in support of the military operations in Affghanistan.
That it will bear in mind the despatch of the 15th of March—that it will bear in mind the objects which Lord Ellenborough contemplated on assuming the Government of India, as he did amidst a great depression of popular feeling, and with a picture of most forbidding aspect—that it will bear in mind that his object was to relieve every garrison in Affghanistan, to release every prisoner, to re-occupy Cabul, and to prove to India and the world the supremacy and invincibility of British arms in that quarter of the world—that it will bear in mind that every object so contemplated was, within a period of eight or ten months, completely realised; and that Lord Ellenborough had the satisfaction of seeing the army, a portion of which had left the British frontier dispirited and full of fearful forebodings, return to the banks of the Sutlege, full of spirit, joyous, triumphant, and in a state of the greatest efficiency. I feel too much confidence in the generosity of this House to believe, that any consideration, that any difference in political opinions, could influence it in refusing a just acknowledgment of public services, upon the ground on which I now ask for the acknowledgment to Lord Ellenborough. And I must take this opportunity of cautioning the House, although I know that this night's comments upon Lord Ellenborough's policy, or comments upon his conduct will not influence it, when
we are meeting upon this neutral field for the purpose of considering the claims of a public man to public thanks, on account of his conduct in support of great and important military operations—yet I feel it necessary to caution the House against the introduction of comments which, however just or true they may be believed to be by those who make them, may yet, in fact, be the occasion of producing most unfounded impressions against the parties towards whom they are directed. Ample opportunities will be afforded on other occasions, for any comment that hon. Gentlemen may wish to make on any part of Lord Ellenborough's policy and conduct. An hon. Gentleman has tonight given notice of a motion on one part of Lord Ellenborough's policy; but I think I can demonstrate to the House the impropriety of inferring that everything it hears to the prejudice of Lord Ellenborough, is necessarily true. The other night the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell,) made some comments upon the conduct of Lord Ellenborough with respect to the public servants in the employ of the East India Company. The noble Lord was particularly severe upon the conduct of Lord Ellenborough to a gentleman of the name of Amos. The noble Lord said that that gentleman had been employed in the instruction of her Majesty—that he was a gentleman of the highest character, of great attainment, and great qualification—that that gentleman went from this country a few years ago with a high character for legal acquirements; but that, well known as his attainments were, and high as he was known to stand in the estimation even of her Majesty, one of the first acts of Lord Ellenborough (as the noble Lord was informed) was to insult Mr. Amos in such a manner as to induce that gentleman to throw up his situation. I am certain that, even if the noble Lord were justified in making that assertion, you would not allow it to operate with you upon the present occasion; but I mention the circumstance to show you the necessity of waiting till you have all the evidence before you, before you lend an ear to any statements of this nature. It cannot be denied that a most unfavourable impression was made with respect to Lord Ellenborough by the statement to which I have referred. I do not say or suppose that it was the intention of the noble Lord to produce such an impression,
but such undoubtedly was the effect of his statement. He stated that Lord Ellenborough took the first opportunity of treating this gentleman of high attainments with such marked insult as to compel him to relinquish his situation. I was quite sure that the noble Lord would not advance anything of a kind so calculated to prejudice a political opponent, acting under a deep responsibility at a great distance from home, and without the power of reply, unless he were perfectly convinced of the accuracy and truth of what he was asserting. My confidence in the noble Lord's generosity satisfies me upon that point. But for the purpose of inculcating upon the House the necessity of pausing before it leaps to conclusions upon these exparte statements, I will read a letter which has been put into my hands since the noble Lord's statement was made, and which the writer leaves me at liberty to use. It is a letter from the wife of Mr. Amos, who, having read in the public papers a report of what had passed in this House writes, on the 12th of February, as follows:—
"St. Ibbs, Hitchin, Feb. 12, 1843.
My dear Sir—You probably may have noticed in Lord John Russell's speech on Thursday last, that he asserted that Mr. Amos resigned his appointment in Calcutta in consequence of having been insulted by Lord Ellenborough. Now, as there is not a word of truth in this statement, I think it right to contradict it, at least amongst Mr. Amos's old and valued friends. When he went out to India five years ago, Mr. Amos always intended to resign in 1843, and I am sure nothing would induce him to remain at Calcutta another year; now that all his family are here; his children just springing into manhood, and requiring all a father's care and example. As to Lord Ellenborough's conduct, it has been one of unvaried politeness and civility. I believe they were mutually pleased with each other; and when Mr. Amos wrote to Lord Ellenborough in the autumn, when he was up the country, saying it was his intention to resign, Lord Ellenborough replied, that he was extremely sorry to lose so very agreeable a colleague. I hope you will excuse my troubling you with this long note, but I could not feel easy until I had done so.
Believe me, my dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
A more convincing proof cannot be offered of the injustice which you must commit, if you permit vague assertions of this kind assertions incapable of proof,
but believed to be true by those who make them—to influence you in withholding from Lord Ellenborough that which I believe, in common with the highest authority in the world, to be most just, and due on account of these military operations. So much for Lord Ellenborough and for Lord Ellenborough's claim to public thanks. I hope I have most strictly kept my word, and avoided all reference to mere political matters. With respect to the claims of the gallant officers, under whose directions these exploits have been performed, I am perfectly convinced, that upon that head there can be no difference of opinion. It is impossible to read these details of service—it is impossible to read the accounts of General Pollock—of General Nott, and of General Sale, without being inspired by all those feelings which are connected with the honour and military glory of our country. I am sure the House will excuse me, if, with respect to each of these officers and their claims upon public gratitude, I make some remarks. I begin with General Pollock. General Pollock took the command of the force intended to rescue General Sale early in the month of February. He arrived at Peshawur on the 5th of February, 1842. He had, then, of course, heard of the failure of Brigadier Wilde. On the day that he arrived at Peshawur, he found that in Brigadier Wilde's brigade there were not less than 1,000 sick. The day after he arrived he went to the camp at once. He found that the number of sick in the camp, on the 12th of February, was 1,800 men. What was the course he pursued? On the day after his arrival, postponing every other concern, he visited all the hospitals, and saw all the surgeons with a view of ascertaining from them, if possible, the cause of this sickness. He says—and these things do him honour—this is the way to inspire confidence, this is the way to show that you are not merely contemplating the means of obtaining the thanks of Parliament by brilliant exploits, but that you are attending to the comforts of your men; this, I say, is the way to inspire confidence, and I mention these things for the honour of the distinguished man by whom they were performed—I would even rather dwell upon them than upon his military success, because they are, in truth, the elements of future success. This, I repeat, is the way to inspire confidence. General
Pollock, writing on the 12th of February, says, "I shall visit their hospitals frequently, and by adding in any way to their comforts, show that I feel an interest in them." General Pollock adds, "There has been some unpleasant feeling amongst them, which I hope has entirely subsided. "He had heard of the dejection which prevailed amongst some of the Sepoy regiments. What was the course he took? He saw every officer; he visited the regiments; he determined not to act with harshness towards the men. Not calling them to courts martial, he depended upon the influence of reason with them, and in the course of a very short time, he succeeded in completely re-establishing the confidence which had been so deeply shaken. The Sepoy regiments were for a time depressed by the expected difficulties of the Khyber Pass—when they found some of their countrymen coming from Cabul with dreadful stories of the cruelty to which they had been exposed—when they declared their readiness to meet any enemy in the open field—when they said", "We will advance to Jellalabad for the rescue of General Sale, but we tell you fairly that the idea of advancing to Cabul presses upon our spirits." I hope the House will not think too harshly of these men, when it considers the noble manner in which they retrieved their character. If we wanted anything else to add to the interest of these scenes, it would be found in their association with the ancient history of the world. I was struck by the recollection, that it was in the self-same region, and in the midst of similar scenes, that which one of the greatest of ancient conquerors, 2,300 years ago, was displaying his power, and encountering the same difficulties that for a time depressed the spirit and damped the courage of our Sepoys. And I was struck by the account given by the Roman historian of the dejection which prevailed even in the ranks of the Macedonian phalanx, when they had to encounter and overcome the difficulties of the same terrible region—to cross the very same rivers, to force the very same passes. This is the speech attributed to Alexander, and which the historian tells us he found it necessary to address to the gallant military force which accompanied him. He found it necessary not to punish but to address them, He did so in these words:
Date hoc precibus meis et tandem obstinatum rumpite.
He observed that the passage of these rivers of the Punjaub, and the accounts of the formidable character of the enemy, had shaken the confidence of his troops. Wherefore he says:
Ubi est ille clamor alacritatis vestræ index? Ubi ille meorum Macedonum vultus? Non agnosco vos milites.
He addressed them in vain. The historian says,
Quumque illi in terram demissis capitibus tacere perseverarent.
He then said to them,
Ite reduces domos; ite deserto rege ovantes. Ego hic à vobis desperateæ victoriæ, aut honestæ morti locum inveniam.
These were the words which Alexander addressed to his fainting troops. Amidst these very rivers of the Punjaub—amidst these very Affghan passes, Alexander pursued a course similar to that which at another period was adopted by another military commander—he attempted not by severity—not by enforcing the rigid rules of war, but by reasoning with his men to revive their drooping spirits; and he succeeded. If the Macedonian phalanx needed such an address from the mighty conqueror who led them, let us not judge too harshly of our sepoys, if in the midst of similar difficulties they yielded for a moment to a sense of depression. Now, what were the military services of General Pollock? He forced the Khyber Pass by a series of operations carried on from the 7th to the 16th of April. He reached Jellalabad on the 16th of April, although in the Pass 10,000 men had been opposed to him. He remained with General Sale for a time; then advanced towards Cabul, reached Gundamuck in August, and on the 8th of September defeated the Ghilzies. On the 8th of September he was met at Tezeen by Akhbar Khan, with a force of 10,000 men, on the very field of action where lay the bodies of those who had been massacred with ferocious cruelty and gross breach of faith—on that very spot, General Pollock, aided by General Sale, was completely successful in vindicating the honour and invincibility of the British arms, and on the 16th of September General Pollock entered Cabul, the British flag was hoisted on the Bala Hissar, and the national anthem of "God
save the Queen," resounded through the streets of the re-captured city. In whatever point of view his services is regarded—whether as relates to his conduct in the field, his judgment, his discretion, or the happy skill with which he revived the drooping spirit of his soldiers—I think the House will unanimously award to General Pollock the highest distinction which a military man can receive, and record their public acknowledgment to him for his gallantry and perseverance in the face of such serious difficulties. With respect to General Nott, I think that no one can have read the letters written by him in the course of the severe trial to which he was exposed, without finding in that correspondence internal evidence that he must be a man highly deserving of public confidence. General Nott, when the insurrection at Cabul broke out, occupied Candahar, and under his command were the inferior stations of Ghuznee and Khelat-i-Ghilzie. On the 7th of March a powerful force was collected around Candahar. General Nott left 2,600 men in garrison, and marched out to attack the enemy, who were collected under a prince of the name of Suftur Jung. He came up with them on the 9th, and defeated them; and he states this remarkable and most creditable fact, that during a march of five days, he being weak in cavalry, and the enemy having 6,000 horse, such was the discipline and steadiness of the troops, that not one camel was taken, and not a particle of baggage was missing. On the 29th of May Ackbar Khan having effected a Junction with Prince Suftur Jung, General Nott, who was then re-inforced by General England, left General England in command of the city, and advanced to attack the enemy. On that day the Ghazees had 8,000 men occupying a strong position, and 2,000 men guarding the Baba Wullee Pass and the road leading to their camp. General Nott was again completely successful. Whilst he was carrying on these operations, an assault was made upon Khelat-i-Ghilzie. A captain was in command there, whose name ought to be mentioned, Captain Craig. The force under his command consisted almost exclusively of sepoys. He was attacked by two divisions of 2,000 men; but the attack was repelled by the discipline and steadiness of the small band which he commanded. These are the men, captains and lieutenants—you can
not include their names in the vote of thanks—but these are the men, and I will mention their names, who are to constitute our future commanders; and I know that although they cannot be included nominally in our vote, yet that it will be gratifying to them, humble as their rank may be, to know that when these thanks are proposed, our gratitude is not exclusively confined to those who were actually at the head of our armies. General Nott, availing himself of the discretion that was given to him, moved from Candahar on the 10th of August; on the 30th he defeated Shumshoodeen Khan, about twenty-seven miles from Ghuznee; on the 6th of September he took Ghuznee and destroyed the fortifications; on the 17th of September he was within five miles of Cabul, and a few days after he effected a junction with General Pollock, who had reached that place. Notwithstanding he had been ordered to evacuate Candahar, in consequence of the disastrous intelligence which had reached the Governor-General, still, during six months of adverse fortune and complete silence, that brave man's gallant spirit never quailed. It was painful to him to think of retiring; he thought of nothing but of retrieving the honour of the British name; and I do not confine my admiration of General Nott merely to his military prowess and skill, but I say that the mind which conceived the expressions contained in the letter addressed by him to General England are proofs of a noble spirit equal to any emergency, and command the highest acknowledgments on the part of a grateful country. In that letter, written also on the 18th of April, 1842, after the failure of General England, he says.—
The troops at Candahar are four months' in arrears, and we have not one rupee in the treasury. In the event of much field service, we should run short of musket-ammunition; and we are without medicine for the sick and wounded. I think it absolutely necessary that a strong brigade of 2,500 men should be immediately pushed from Quetta to Candahar with the supplies,
And, further on, he observes:—
The people of this country cannot withstand our troops in the open field. I am well aware that war cannot be made without loss, but I yet hope that British troops can oppose Asiatic armies without defeat; and I feel and know that British officers should never despair of punishing the atrocious and treacherous conduct of a brutal enemy.
I feel obliged to you for pointing out the many difficulties attending our position, but you are well aware that it is our first and only duty to overcome difficulties, when the national honour and our military reputation are so deeply concerned. Nothing can be accomplished without effort and perseverance. In reply to the last paragraph of your letter of the 10th instant, I have only to observe, that I have not yet contemplated falling back; without money I can neither pay the long arrears due to the troops, nor procure carriage for field operations.
I say, considering all these circumstances—considering the separation of that man—the silence of six months which had occurred, and the failure of General England—that the man who wrote that letter is a man of whom this country may be justly proud—that his name will be treasured in the memory of his country, and that this letter will be one of its most honourable records. And when Lord Ellenborough offered to General Nott the option of deciding upon the route of Ghuznee and Cabul, I think that the letter which General Nott wrote in answer after fully considering all the advantages and disadvantages of an advance or a retreat and stating that he had made his mind up neither respecting an advance or a retreat, but that if an opportunity offered, he would make decisive efforts to reestablish the British name and authority in India—I think that such a letter is a worthy companion to the letter of the 18th of April, addressed to General England. The letter is No. 416 in the printed papers, and is dated Candahar, July 26, 1842. After all the abhorrence which the treachery and cruelty of the Affghans towards our troops must naturally have excited in the minds of the British in India, this letter contains the most honourable testimony, not merely to the intellectual, but to the moral character of General Nott. Amidst all the difficulties he had to contend with, and all the provocations he had received, he writes:—
I am most anxious, notwithstanding the conduct of the Affghan chiefs, that our army should leave a deep impression on the people of this country of our character for forbearance and humanity.
I am sure the House will excuse my taking up its time, if, on a subject so deeply interesting to our feelings, I am desirous of leaving upon record the sense which the country entertains of the services rendered to it by these men. It is impossible that, having mentioned the
names of Pollock and Nott, I should omit the mention of another name, and the services rendered by another gallant man—Sir Robert Sale. From the day he occupied Jellalabad to the day on which he advanced triumphantly to Cabul, his operations were distinguished by the most indomitable spirit of valour, endurance, and devotedness to his country's honour. Although with a force far inferior in numbers to those under the other generals, yet never were deeds more glorious to the character of the British arms achieved than were those which, during the period often months that intervened between the occupation by Sir Robert Sale of Jellalabad on the 11th of November, 1841, to the 7th of September, 1842, when he advanced leading his small but illustrious army to meet their brethren in arms at Cabul, were achieved by that gallant band. General Sale took possession of Jellalabad on the 11th November, 1841. He came there surrounded by thousands of hostile people. He says, in one of his letters, that he occupied Jellalabad with only two days' provision. In his march from Oabul choice was given to him either to return to Cabul or to go on to Jellalabad, and he most wisely determined to go to Jellalabad. When he got there he found the walls of the city 2,800 yards in circumference, and all the ramparts entirely ruined, the parapets thrown down, the bastions destroyed, and the fortifications, for upwards of 400 yards, entirely dismantled. From the extent of the destruction of the walls it was impossible for a man to show his face in consequence of being totally without any cover. In the course of that same day, the place was surrounded by 5,000 insurgents; on the next day General Sale heard Of the failure of Brigadier-general Wilde, while at the very same moment a considerable portion of Shah Soojah's troops, under General Sale's command, had shown indications of a doubtful character, so that he was obliged to part with them. Amidst all these difficulties and privations, the men laboured with such a degree of cheerfulness and devotion, that in the early part of February they had succeeded in re-establishing the defences. Three of the gates were retrenched, and a ditch ten feet in depth and twelve feet in width, was dug entirely round the town, the men handling the sword at one time and the pickaxe and spade at another; they completed the parapets, raising them six or seven feet, so
that by the 16th or 17th of February the troops were exulting in the success of their operations, and contemplating with joy the completion of their defences and the strength of their powers of resistance. On the 19th of February, 1842, there was an earthquake, which utterly destroyed everything. By that shock, all that had been done, besides three parts of the town itself, was destroyed, and that gallant army had the mortification to see that, by the visitation of one night, all the results of their past labours had vanished. Within the space of little more than a month, a hundred shocks occurred within the hearing of the town. But, undismayed by this reverse, the troops renewed their labours, and repaired the ruined walls, and never for one moment did they abate in their exertions except upon the approach of the enemy, when it became necessary for those gallant men to attack and repulse them. Ackbar Khan, flushed with success, advanced from Cabul, and arrived before Jellalabad. The earthquake took place on the l9th of February, when all the works and threre parts of the town were destroyed. On the 21st and 22nd of February, General Sale attacked Ackbar Khan; and from that time to April he and his troops were kept in a state of apprehension, and, though not actually engaged, they were constantly on the watch in order that they might be prepared to resist the attack of Ackbar Khan. General Pollock was during this making every exertion to relieve General Sale and the troops at Jellalabad. On the 7th of April, General Sale heard the firing of guns in the camp of Ackbar Khan. It was rumoured, that the firing was on account of the failure of General Pollock making his way through the Khyber Pass. General Sale had reason to believe, that it was either on that account, or else an indication that Ackbar Khan intended to withdraw. General Sale, therefore, determined to attack Ackbar Khan, who had the command of 16,000 troops, while General Sale's force only amounted to 1,800. The attack was made, and it was entirely successful; the enemy were routed; and although the enemy bore the attack with great courage, the valour of the British troops was triumphant, and victory was the consequence of their enterprise. And that victory would have been almost a cause of unqualified rejoicing, if it had not, been purchased at
the cost of the life of one of those gallant spirits who have shed increased lustre on the British name, at the cost of the life of Colonel Dennie, who led the British troops against the enemy, and succeeded; but that success was dearly purchased by the sacrifice of his own life. It was a loss, however, in some degree consoled for by the glorious manner of it, and which has been described by a spirit as excellent as his own, who, in offering consolation to his family and friends, says—"True it is he has lost his life, but he lost it on the field of battle, and in the hour of victory." That is the consolation which Sir Robert Sale offers to the friends and family of the brave Colonel Dennie. I wish it had been otherwise. I wish it had been possible that either Colonel Dennie's life could have been spared, or that he might have been consoled in the hour of death by the knowledge that on account of his noble bravery and of his high character—having no other interest or influence than the just influence and interest which such courage and devotion as his ought always to command—the Queen had signified her own especial and personal wish that Colonel Dennie should have been one of her own aides-de-camp. On the 16th of April, 1842, General Sale was relieved by General Pollock. On the 20th of August, he advanced towards Cabul, and on the 18th of September, he witnessed on the Beymaroo Heights the victory of Cabul. We are now acknowledging military services; but I never should excuse myself if, in mentioning the name of Sir Robert Sale, I did not record my admiration of the character of a woman who has shed lustre on her sex—Lady Sale, his wife. The names of Sir Robert, and of Lady Sale will be familiar words with t he people of this country. I hold in my hand a memorandum of events which occurred in the neighbourhood of Cabul, from the 7th of November, written by Lady Sale, and a document more truly indicative of a high, a generous, and a gallant spirit I never read. There was an officer at that time at Cabul who stood in the relation of son-in-law to Sir Robert Sale—his name was Sturt. He held no higher rank than that of lieutenant, and died young, but he lived long enough to establish also a name which will long be remembered. Will the House permit me to read an account which, writing to her husband, Sir Robert Sale, she gives of his merits. She says,—
Sturt was sent by the general with a message to Ackbar Khan; he was stabbed in four places—his face, his shoulder, his arm, and in his side.
This was on the 4th of November. She says,—
Sturt is able to speak; his wound in the shoulder is worse; he is weak, but his side is not so bad. The lungs are uninjured; his face wound is near the corner of his eye. He was struck on the bone with such force that he was stunned for a moment.
On the 6th of November, two days after he received his wounds, Lady Sale writes—
Sturt insisted, weak as he was, on going to the general, as there was no engineer there but himself. The general gave him leave to do as he pleased.
On the 7th of November, she says—
Sturt's wounds are doing well, but he overworks his strength. He cannot yet open his mouth. His tongue has greatly suffered, and all nourishment is given with a spoon. He is out all day. The soldiers lead him about. Last night, he did not go to bed till one o'clock, and then he was wakened up just, afterwards, the general requiring his assistance.
Who, that reads this, can fail to express his admiration at such noble conduct. His death is thus described by Lieutenant Eyre. He says, speaking of a certain attack made by Ackbar Khan—
Providentially the whole escaped, with the exception of Lady Sale, who received a slight wound in the arm. The rear-guard, consisting of her Majesty's 44th and 54th Native Infantry, suffered severely; and at last, finding that delay was only destruction, they followed the general example, and made the best of their way to the front. Another horse-artillery gun was abandoned, and the whole of its artilleryman slain. Captain Anderson's eldest girl, and Captain Boyd's youngest boy, fell into the hands of the Affghans. It is supposed that 3,000 souls perished in the pass, amongst whom were Captain Paton, assistant quarter-master-general; and Lieutenant St. George, 37th Native Infantry; Majors: Griffiths, 37th Native Infantry, and Scott, her Majesty's 44th; Captains: Bott, 5th Cavalry, and Troup, brigademajor, Shah's force; Dr. Cardew, and Lieutenant Sturt, engineers, were wounded, the latter mortally. This fine young officer had nearly cleared the defile when he received his wound, and would have been left on the ground to be hacked to pieces by the Ghazees, who followed in the rear to complete the work of slaughter, but for the generous intrepidity of Lieutenant Mein, of her Majesty's
13th Light Infantry, who, on learning what had befallen him, went back to his succour, and stood by him for several minutes, at the imminent risk of his own life, vainly entreating aid from the passers by. He was at length joined by Serjeant Deane, of the Sappers, with whose assistance he dragged his friend on a quilt through the remainder of the pass, when he succeeded in mounting him on a miserable pony, and conducted him in safety to the camp, where the unfortunate officer lingered till the following morning, and was the only man of the whole force who received christian burial. Lieutenant Mein was himself at this very time suffering from a dangerous wound in the head received in the previous October, and his heroic disregard of self, and fidelity to his friend in the hour of danger, are well deserving of a record in the annals of British valour and virtue.
It is but just, Sir, that the name of Lieutenant Mein should be mentioned with honour in the House of Commons. I shall not regret having noticed his generous act since it has called forth so general and generous an expression of sympathy towards that brave and good man, for these are the instances (and proud am I to know that there are many of them) of a generous devotion and fidelity displayed by the British soldier when engaged in the arduous service of his country. I am thankful for the attention which the House has paid to me. I do trust that I shall have convinced this House, previously prepared, I am sure to embrace the conviction that all parties concerned in these military operations for the services they rendered to their country, are entitled to the gratitude and thanks of this House. It is impossible to contemplate these services without feeling proud of the British name. When we recollect what was going on in another quarter in that portion of the world, that while we were thus vindicating the honour of the British name in the north-west of India, we were conducting, with consummate skill, at a great sacrifice, and with complete success, military and naval operations in China, it is impossible to contemplate the events in Asia in the year 1842, without being truly proud of the conduct and courage of our countrymen. I am willing to believe that these unquestionable proofs of the military reputation of England—of the United Kingdom—notwithstanding the long interval of peace, stands [as high as it did during the excitement of the war, and I would fain hope that the decisive proofs which we have given that our energies and
military virtues are unabated, will constitute a great additional guarantee of continued peace. But if they fail doing that, and if in the maintenance of the national interests, or the vindication of the national honour, it shall be necessary to rouse those exertions, and to make them on a more extended scale, then I feel the utmost confidence that these gallant exploits are a proof that every interest of England will be maintained, and that English honour will be vindicated, in whatever quarter of the globe it may be infringed or violated. The right hon. Baronet, in conclusion, moved the following resolutions:—
That the thanks of this House be given to the right hon. Lord Ellenborough, Governor-general of the British possessions in the East Indies, for the ability and judgment with which the resources of the British empire in India have been applied in the support of the military operations in Affghanistan.
That the thanks of this House be given to Major-General Sir George Pollock, G.C.B.; to Major-General Sir William Nott, G.C.B.; to Major-General Sir John M'Caskill, K.C.B.; to Major-General Sir Robert Henry Sale; G.C.B.; to Major-General Richard England, and the other officers of the army, both European and Native, for the intrepidity, skill, and perseverance displayed by them in the military operations in Affghanistan, and for their indefatigable zeal and exertions throughout the late campaign.
That this House doth highly approve and acknowledge the valour and patient perseverance displayed by the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, both European and Native, employed in Affghanistan, and that the same be signified to them by the commanders of the several corps, who are desired to thank them for their gallant behaviour.
§ Lord John Russell
I am sure it must be a source of the greatest and most general satisfaction, that after the afflicting intelligence of the fearful details and disasters that occurred in Affghanistan, we should now have to rejoice over the success of our arms, and to thank those men who have so gallantly retrieved the honour of this country, and restored the glory of the British name. To all the latter part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, concerning the military feats of the generals who commanded, and the officers and soldiers who fought under them, there cannot be any other than a feeling of ready sympathy with all that the right hon. Gentleman has expressed. I cheerfully concur with him that those events do shine 971 out more strongly and more brightly after the darkness which the preceding disasters had thrown upon the scene, and do demonstrate the unconquerable merits of this nation. But on this occasion, I should, not say on this nation only, because we are about to give thanks to those men who served under the British commanders, and who gloriously vindicated the honour and. reputation of the native troops of India. One of the highest testimonies to the valour and spirit of the native troops is to be found in one of those admirable despatches by General Nott, which is the more to be regarded with approbation, because it was not prepared or intended to be eloquent, in which he says,—That whatever may be said of the Affghans being the greatest warriors, give me a 1,000 of well-disciplined Hindoos, and I would be ready to defeat 5,000 Affghans.I say, therefore, it is not only by British arms, but to the Mahometans and Hindoos who acted under our standard, and in conjunction with the British forces, that we are to-day called upon to give thanks, and express the general gratitude of the country. But, beginning with Sir Robert Sale. After the events which the right hon. Gentleman has detailed—after the difficulties that general had to conquer, especially on the throwing down of the walls of Jellalabad by an earthquake, and after the enemies he had to meet, I readily join in the expression of the highest admiration of that gallant general's exploits. With respect to General Nott, the right hon. Gentleman has so well expressed the feelings of the House, and his own despatches show so well how ready he was to meet the enemy, how prepared he was to obey, however reluctantly, the immediate command to return within the Indus, and how capable he was of re-establishing the honour of the British arms when ordered to advance; I say these things are so directly deserving of universal commendation, and are so well known, that I will not occupy the time of the House by dilating upon them. I mentioned the other night, that with respect to General Pollock I could conceive nothing more deserving of praise and emulation than his conduct, and the perusal of the papers now before the House only confirms the impression I then entertained. That he should have paid immediate attention to all the wants of the soldiers under him— 972 that he should have exercised all care to make the force efficient—and afterwards theft he should have conciliated as much as possible those troops whose resistance might be most protracted and difficult to conquer—and that he should take advantage of the peculiar arms which the natives have, to form and strengthen his own troops for the purpose of forcing the passes, that he might relieve General Sale at Jellalabad—that he should have viewed with caution the advantage of pressing forwards—that, in weighing the difficulties to be encountered, he should have shown that he was not a man to run our troops into unnecessary dangers—and that he should after having overcome those difficulties, and encountered those dangers which he had well considered, have reached Cabul—victoriously—that General Pollock should have accomplished all this will place his name equally with the names of General Sale and General Nott, high in the military annals of this country. But, Sir, the resolution placed in your hands refers to an individual having a very different claim to merit, and upon that part of the resolution, and the circumstances upon which it is founded, I feel it my duty to make some observations. Without saying that there is any fault to be attributed to Lord Ellenborough, because the question now is—and I must beg attention to this—not whether we shall agree to any vote of censure upon Lord Ellenborough, but the question is, whether he has done that which entitles him to the thanks of the House of Commons, which have been declared by the' Duke of Wellington to be the highest honour a military man can receive from his country. This is a question totally different from any question as to whether he were subject to blame for any part of his conduct. With respect to that point, when one looks at it, the question that occurs to one's mind is, whether Lord Ellenborough had the general direction of these operations. On former occasions when the thanks of the House of Commons have been given to Governors-general, it has happened that the whole war, whether ambitious or defensive, whether a wise or an unwise war, has been undertaken by the Governor-general who has brought together the army, and who has had time to equip them and direct the details. To him, therefore, naturally were due the thanks of the country for the merits of 973 conducting that war. But with respect to Lord Ellenborough, I think the right hon. Gentleman has somewhat over-stated the case, however unwilling I should be to say anything that would take away from that merit which the right hon. Gentleman has attributed to Lord Ellenborough; yet I must consider what is due to the predecessor of Lord Ellenborough, and not give him the praise which I may think belongs to the Governor-general who preceded him. Now, with respect to the force that was to be collected upon bearing of the misfortunes of Cabul, there were two bodies of troops to be collected—the one was the force under General England, and the other was the force collected in Peshawur under General Pollock. With respect to both these bodies, it appears to me that Lord Auckland made the preparations, and directed what was necessary for their equipment. Indeed, I find, with respect to the first of these bodies, General England states, in No; 198, in a letter to Major Outram, dated the 18th of February, 1841:—I propose, at the earliest practicable period in next month, to move the head quarters of this force up the Bolan Pass to Quetta, with the following detachment of the troops now in the low country:—One troop horse artillery, two squadrons 3d Light Cavalry, her Majesty's 41st Regiment) 6th Regiment Native Infantry, 150 Poonah horse.And in another paragraph, he says:—Thus the force which will be assembled at Quetta very early, I trust, in April, will consist of two squadrons, four battalions, and fourteen guns; and leaving a sufficient body of troops to protect that place, amounting, in fact, to almost its present garrison, I am of opinion that the following detachment may be at once most advantageously employed in opening the communication with Candahar, or in effecting such other operation in aid of that post as circumstances at the moment may suggest.Therefore, the body which finally enabled General Nott to take the field, was the force of General England, and I do not know that there was any increased number of troops afterwards sent to General England. That force, I am aware, was in the first instance defeated at the Bolan Pass, and it did nor reach Candahar till May. The troops were not increased to Force that pass. What General Nott, therefore, was enabled to accomplish, was the consequence of the previous dispositions made by Lord Auckland. With re- 974 spect to the force under General Pollock all the men and, I believe, all the cavalry, were prepared under the orders of Lord Auckland. This, therefore, is not a case such as has usually been that of the preparation of all the forces having been made under the orders of the Governor-general, to whom the thanks are proposed to be given. There is another view which the right hon. Gentleman has taken as to the orders given by Lord Ellenborough with respect to the employment of these forces. He first stated his opinion with regard to the views of Lord Auckland, and then with regard to the views of Lord Ellenborough; and he afterwards vindicated Lord Ellenborough from the charge that his order of the 19th of April was given unwisely, or without a due consideration of the prospect of success, or otherwise. Now, to' throw blame upon the Governor-general at this distance with respect to the Operations he may order to be undertaken of not to be undertaken, unless there be the clearest evidence of the greatest number of authorities in support of such an opinion, would be a rash and unwarrantable proceeding of the House. Therefore, I am not going to blame Lord Ellenborough for having, on the 19th of April, directed by an imperative order, that General Nott should absolutely withdraw from Candahar to Quetta. That order was repeated on the 11th of May, the 1st of June, and the 13th of November, 1842. Under all circumstances, and at all those periods, Lord Ellenborough contemplated the withdrawal of General Nott by the straightest road. Therefore the question occurs, not whether Lord Ellenborough was to blame, but how far he is entitled to those thanks usually given to a Governor-general who had directed the operations of a campaign. I own that I cannot see that he has the same claim which other Governors-general have possessed, and what, I think, his claim amounts to is this—that, having arrived in India at a time when a great disaster had befallen our troops, he took a sound and just view originally of the question, and that he took every pains, and used every diligence in his power to forward supplies; but beyond this I find it impossible to go. I do not think that the order of July 4rh, giving permission to General Nott to advance, if he should think fit, enables Lord Ellenborough to take an equal share of merit with General Nott. While he permitted Gene- 975 ral Nott to go forward, he gave him a warning so strong that no one but a man who was sanguine in his temperament, and confident in his resources, would have availed himself of it. If he had adopted Lord Ellenborough's advice, General Nott would have taken the safe course of retiring at once upon the Indus. That the Governor-general gave General Nott the option is admitted on all hands, and it is also admitted that General Nott refused to take advantage of the option. Upon the whole it seems to me, with respect to Lord Ellenborough, that no case has been made out for the thanks of the House of Commons exactly similar to any precedent on its journals. In all previous instances, Governor-general have had a greater share in the transactions; they have either originally projected the military operations, or they have furnished the means, out of the resources of India, for the conduct of the military operations. At the same time, although the motion of thanks to Lord Ellenborough is not precisely in conformity with any precedent, I do not wish to take upon myself the invidious task of giving a negative to the proposition. I have already stated my opinion, founded upon facts as detailed in the papers in this volume, that Lord Ellenborough's merit is merely this—first, that Lord Auckland having collected all the troops and given orders for the supplies, Lord Ellenborough gave additional orders for additional supplies; and, secondly, that he did not prevent the forward operations against Ghuznee and Cabul, but gave General Nott liberty, if he thought right, to relinquish the attempt. That, as it seems to me, is the whole sure of the merit of Lord Ellenborough. With regard to another point, on which the right hon. Baronet read a letter to the House, stating that I was entirely erroneous in my statement, I can only say that the source from which I received the information induced me to place implicit belief in it. I was told, that although not provided in the Act of Parliament, it had been the custom for all the Legislative Councillors to appear at all the usual councils of the Governor-general; but that without any previous notice Lord Ellenborough desired Mr. Amos to withdraw, and, in fact, ordered him at once out of the room. I believed the story, and if it were true, such conduct would have been extremely insulting to a gentleman of the attainments and character 976 of Mr. Amos. It appears by the letter of Mrs. Amos that the resignation of her husband arose out of no such cause. I was totally misled, for of course whether any thing of the kind had occurred I could not myself know; but I saw so many letters from India stating it, that I could hardly reject their united testimony. To revert to the merits of the Governor-general, I am glad that I have no occasion now to enter further into them. I rejoice most sincerely in the success of our arms in Affghanistan, and I am delighted that the honour of the British arms has been reestablished. I hope that these victories will lead to the best results that can be produced by any victories, and that peace will be restored upon the firmest basis. I trust that in Asia we are only beginning to see the good consequences of the invasion of Affghanistan. We have witnessed splendid triumphs in India, and great men, both in civil and military capacities, have been rewarded by the thanks of this House; let us hope that we shall every day behold new proofs of a wise administration of the affairs of that great empire, and that millions of inhabitants in that part of the globe will have reason to rejoice in our rule. While they are struck and awed by the resistless power of our arms, may the natives of India have reason to rejoice in the paternal influence of our Government, and contrast its superiority, as a source of comfort and happiness, with that of the native princes.
§ Mr. Bankes
was not surprised that the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat had shrunk from the invidious task of refusing the vote which was now proposed, but he wished that the noble Lord had shrunk also from the task of presenting them with the unnecessary and invidious speech which he had just delivered. The right hon. Baronet had distinctly and sedulously divided the military question from any political considerations, and had carefully guarded the vote he proposed from any excuse for disagreement. He put it to the noble Lord whether the right hon. Baronet had not so guarded the question as to avoid the possibility of dispute in regard to the merits of Lord Ellenborough. In some points these merits might be shared by Lord Auckland; and would not the noble Lord have gladly concurred in such a vote to Lord Auckland, if that Governor-general had continued in India, and the same successes had followed his 977 endeavours and the exertions and valour of our troops? At all events, the noble Lord would hardly venture to dispute that Lord Ellenborough had the merit of not having counteracted the measures of his predecessor, whilst he (Mr. Bankes) in accordance with the sentiments of a vast majority both in that House and out of it was aware that Lord Ellenborough was entitled to the thanks of the House on much higher grounds than those which the noble Lord was pleased to acknowledge. It was not, however, at that time permitted to any hon. Member to introduce other topics than those which had been so ably brought before the House by his right hon. Friend. Every man, let what would be his political opinions, must feel an interest in the glory of the British arms, and in the credit and character of his country; and with that feeling how could he give an unwilling assent to the vote now proposed as some return for successes which had been instrumental in wiping from our annals the recollection of calamities so disastrous, or if recollected, of crowning those recollections with honour. As to the parts so much cavilled at in the conduct of Lord Ellenborough endeavours had been made to impress upon the public mind the notion, that so far from Lord Ellenborough deserving any credit for the late transactions, he had been rather an obstacle than an assistant in those anxious and glorious proceedings. He would venture to say that when the despatches had been read and considered by the public, no portion of Lord Ellenborough's conduct would be viewed with more satisfaction than that which occurred in the month of April. Alarming accounts had then been received, and the Governor-general hesitated to incur what then appeared a rash and hopeless enterprise, though the result of success would have been to gratify his own personal ambition. It was to be observed that within a single fortnight after his arrival in India the powerful mind of Lord Ellenborough had formed the very plan which had ultimately proved successful. In his first letter, of the 15th March, he pointed out the very plan of operations which was finally adopted, and which was the just subject of universal congratulation. Afterwards, this course seemed to be surrounded with new difficulties and dangers, and it was the duty of the Governor-general calmly to weigh them all and to judge from the information 978 he obtained. It was his duty to consider all the circumstances, not only calmly but even sadly, and, when himself in no personal danger, to hesitate before he finally resolved to expose others to serious perils which he could not be permitted to share. Knowing, as he did, the spirit and gallantry of Lord Ellenborough, there is no part of his conduct which he could more admire than this very hesitation; honour and glory were in the prospect and yet he hesitated to pursue them until every risk to which his troops must be exposed had been ascertained. He made himself acquainted with the merits of the officers upon whom he had to rely, and though not originally appointed by himself, he became confident in their skill and courage, and they had proved that they deserved the trust reposed in them. He was anxious to say these few words out of regard for an absent Friend. Looking at his Lordship's despatches, he would say that so far from dissenting from any part of the conduct the noble Lord had pursued. All that the noble Lord had written, did, in his judgment, equal credit to his head and to his heart. He had had the honour to have been officially connected with Lord Ellenborough, and the hon. Member for Northampton, who had spoken on a former night, and had this day given notice of his intention to resume the subject, had done his Lordship but justice when he said that he had left in the Board of Control the clearest and strongest evidence of his laborious and most beneficial attention to the duties of the situation he had filled. It might be presumption in him to add his testimony to that voluntarily given by a political opponent, but he knew the habits of Lord Ellenborough, in regard to his discharge of official duties, and would defy-any man who was acquainted with them to arrive at any other conclusion. That was no part of the question on the present occasion, and it was clear that the vote must be carried unanimously. But one opinion would be felt throughout the country; out of doors justice would be done to Lord Ellenborough for directing operations and for furnishing supplies. Neither would that portion of the despatches read that night by the right hon. Baronet pass without its due share of notice and approbation. That portion he meant which showed that the Governor-general was unremitting in his attention to the minutest matters connected with the clothing and the comfort of the soldiery—even 979 in the hour of victory he had not neglected the smallest detail of that nature. Before he Sat down he wished to express his satisfaction at the contents of the private letter of Mrs. Amos, affording a complete answer to the attack of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell); it showed with how much caution statements coming from such a distant ought to be received, when, as in this instance, they had led the noble Lord into so gross ail error. He had heard with surprise the original charge, because no man could entertain a greater respect than Lord Ellenborough for persons placed in any situation Of authority. That noble Lord felt especial admiration for all who had raised themselves to distinction by their abilities and attainments, and even the assertion of the noble Lord had failed t6 induce him to' believe for one moment that Lord Ellenborough had been guilty of Such an outrage and insult as had been imputed to him upon a man of high character, situation, and attainments.
§ Mr. Hutt
heartily concurred in nearly all that had been said by the right hon. Baronet. No man could read the documents in the hands of Members without arriving at the same conclusion. The conduct of General Sale and the intrepid garrison Of Jellalabad—the distinguished fortitude and endurance of the army of Candahar—the spirited successes of General Pollock's division in the field after having forced their way through some of the most tremendous passes in the world—all of them evinced the very highest temper of self-devotion and had Well deserved the gratitude of their country. He was also of opinion that Lord Ellenborough merited much credit for the zeal and solicitude with which he applied himself to the supply of the army with the necessary resources of equipment. In these points he fully concurred, and if he thought that the motion involved no other question, he should not have ventured to offer himself to the House. He must, however, be permitted to remark that it was difficult to pass Over these subjects without casting was eyes upon a part at which all must look with pain and regret—he referred to the excesses said to have been committed by out troops on the evacuation of Affghanistan. It was not his intention to cast reflections upon any individual. He did not know Who authorised those excesses. He could believe that the military commanders were wholly blameless, but he knew that the first duty of a soldier was 980 obedience. In any observations he might feel called upon to make, he intended to single out nobody; but it was a source of great mortification and sorrow to be aware of what occurred under the apparent sanction of the British Government. It was the first time as far as he recollected, that the march of a British army had been marked by wanton and gratuitous havoc. After defeating the enemy, Wherever they showed themselves in the field, our troops had pursued the whole people with a warfare so merciless—so poor in its resentment, and so unlike the generous spirit by which British soldiers used to be distinguished in victory—that he could not help thinking some farther information was necessary before the House passed the vote which had been submitted to it. He had the greatest pleasure in believing that General Nott could never have been the direct author of such excesses, because from Candahar he found him writing the human despatch which had been read by the right hon. Baronet, and which thrilled every heart With pleasure. On the 26th July also, contemplating a retreat, he thus wrote to the Governor-general:I am most anxious, notwithstanding the conduct of the Affghan chiefs, that the army should leave behind it a deep impression on the people of this country of our character for forbearance and humanity.He asked no pardon of the House for reading a second time a sentiment so truly British, and as highly honourable as victory itself. Impressed with these feelings, General Nott advanced from Candahar, and marched upon Ghuznee; that strong city fell into his hands almost without resistance. It contained about 10,000 inhabitants, it was formerly the seat of the Mahomedan empire in the east, and Mr. Elphinstone recorded that it still retained some relics of its ancient magnificence. On the 8th September, General Nott wrote thus to Lord Ellenborough—I have directed the city of Ghuznee, the citadel, and all the works, to be destroyed.This ancient city was accordingly set on fire, and the conflagration having lasted for three days, it Was reduced to ashes. Three miles from Ghuznee was a celebrated temple, covering the tomb of the Sultan Mahmood, of whom so much had been heard. He was a Mahomedan saint, and his tomb had been respected by the most ferocious conquerors of the east during a period of 800 years. It has now been plundered 981 by a British army, and left in desolation. And the Governor of British India exulted in the fact that the despoiled tomb of Sultan Mahmood looked down on the ruins of Ghuznee. While General Nott was advancing from Candahar towards Cabul, a detachment of General Pollock's army under General M'Caskill moved northward into Cobistan to destroy the Affghan army posted at Istalif. The city of Istalif was supposed to contain 15,000 souls, and, after a brilliant victory over the Affghans, it fell into the hands of General M'Caskill. On the day after he entered it that officer wrote thus to head-quarters:I have directed the town to be set on fire in several places, after taking out of it various supplies which might be useful, and the demolition is "proceeding under the direction of Major Sanders.On the 25th of October the Governor-general had reproached Ackbar Khan with making war upon women; and a foul reproach it was to any man who deserved it. But he would like to know by whose authority 15,000 human beings, inhabitants of Istalif—men, women and children were driven from the smoking desolation of their homes, to pass a winter scarcely less severe than that at Moscow, on the snowy mountains of the Hindoo Koosh. From Istalif General M'Caskill proceeded to Chareekar, and of what he had done there the House was not officially informed; but in the Indian papers it was said that he had razed it to the ground. In the beginning of September the armies were assembled at Cabul. Cabul was the capital of Affghanistan, the history of which was familiar to many readers, from the description given of it by Sir Alexander Burnes. He described it as a bustling and populous town, in which the noise of the multitude in the streets scarcely permitted one to hear. It contained a beautiful bazaar, an elegant arcade, and lamps stuck in the front of the shops, gave it a nightly appearance of illumination. It was compactly built, and contained a population of 60,000 persons. Such was Cabul when Sir Alexander Burnes was there. On the 6th of October General Pollock wrote,Previous to my departure from Cabul I destroyed with gunpowder the grand bazaar of that city, called Chahain Chuttah, built in the reign of Aurungzebe, by the celebrated Ali Murdan Khan, and which may be considered to be' the most frequented part of Cabul, and known as the grand emporium of this part of 982 Central Asia. The remains of the late Envoy and Minister had been exposed to public insult in this bazaar, and my motive in effecting its destruction has been to impress upon the Affghans that their atrocious conduct towards a British functionary has not been suffered to pass with impunity. A mosque also at the end of one of the bazaars, and another near the cantonments, filled With Venetians, otherwise ornamented with European materials, and designated as the Feringhee Mosque, to commemorate the events of last year, has likewise been destroyed.The bazaar of Cabul was the single monument in that part of the east dedicated to commerce and the arts of peace. The people, in general, were devoted to war. To have destroyed the citadel, which, however, had been spared, would hare seemed a legitimate act of retaliation, but was there any justification of this destruction of the shops and workhouses and market places of Cabul. He did not mean that the British troops had received no provocation; certainly they had received much, but this wholesale retribution was always ignoble and generally unjust. The principal sufferers had been the Hindoo merchants, who ought to have relied upon us for protection. Their pursuits were those of commerce, and they had had no more to do with the atrocious murder of Sir William M'Naughten, thus visited upon them, than the Gentlemen he was addressing. Besides the city, the British troops laid waste all the gardens, orchards, and cultivated ground near Cabul, the source of great profit, and the subject of much praise in Oriental literature. Having burnt the capital, ravaged the country, and destroyed village after village, the army approached Jellalabad; the inhabitants of that city had done no injury, had offered no insult, and ought to have incurred no revenge. Our army had been received and treated there with kindness. It contained little less than ten thousand inhabitants, and it was situated in one of the most beautiful valleys of Central Asia. When our army quitted it, it was a heap of ruins. The account of its destruction was not contained in the papers before the House: why it was excluded, he knew not; but in an Indian newspaper he found it stated, that the work of destruction commenced on the' 24th, and finished on the next day: the principal bastions had been blown up—the city was fired in several places—and when the informant wrote, Jellalabad was only the abode for jackalls. Few places of the 983 east possessed more features of interest for travellers than the valley of the Cabul river when our army left it, but the whole of the beautiful valley had been reduced to a scene of blackness, ashes, and misery. Those who had gone through the volume in his hands could hardly have failed to make an observation—viz., that although the present Governor-general was on all occasions willing to show up the conduct of his predecessor, and to prove to the millions of our subjects in the East Indies, for three or four years past, that they had been the victims of bad Government, nevertheless, upon two points he cordially coincided in opinion with Lord Auckland; he thought it highly desirable to place a friendly power on the north-west frontier. Lord Ellenborough also professed to concur with Lord Auckland in the importance of extending our commercial relations with the nations west of the Indus. We adopted a singular course for carrying this policy into effect, had evinced this spirit in a most extraordinary manner. We had infuriated the people with whom we were to trade, and had rendered them willing to form alliances with anybody against us, and foster intrigue in any quarter, that promised to gratify their thirst of vengeance. We might therefore relinquish all hope of advantages from opening the Indus to our trade; we had destroyed every town which could afford us a market, and centuries would elapse before Affghanistan recovered from the misery and desolation in which it had been plunged. Lord Ellenborough remarked that that people must be left to the anarchy, which was the consequence of their crimes; he (Mr. Hutt) should like to be informed who was responsible for the state of abject and hopeless misery to which Affghanistan had been reduced? The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, when replying a few days ago to the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford, stated a fact with respect to the Governor-general of India which could only be known to the private Friends of that noble Lord. It related to the noble Lord's habitual religious feelings. The right hon. Gentleman, with a degree of justice and propriety which the House could not fail to estimate, appealed from those circumstances which might appear to have accused the Governor-general of something like a departure from the faith of this country, to the well-known practical instances of his devout and religious life. He was exceedingly glad to hear such a 984 character given of the Governor-general. He delighted in the fact, that, however unfit in other respects he might deem Lord Ellenborough to represent her Majesty in India, that at all events his personal conduct held out to the people of that country such strong recommendations to the national faith of England. He only wished he could have traced, when there had occurred so many opportunities in the midst of the warfare and destruction which was going on, some record of the disapprobation of the Governor-general some expression of mercy more worthy of the religion he professed and the country which he represented.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
rose with regret on the present occasion, because he had hoped that the statement of the right hon. Baronet would have been sufficiently satisfactory to the House. But after what had fallen from the hon. Member, he felt it his duty to make a few observations in reply. The hon. Member complained of the inhumanity and excesses of the troops on their retreat from Affghanistan. He did not credit the reports of those excesses. He was convinced, that many of them were not borne out by truth. The hon. Gentleman would find, that some months ago, when it became necessary for General Nott, with a view to the safety of the troops at Candahar, to turn out a considerable number of the inhabitants, the Indian press indulged in the most libellous attacks upon that gallant officer, and accused him of having committed the most extravagant excesses and cruelties upon the unfortunate inhabitants of that town. Now, the reports which had since been received from General Nott's army, proved distinctly that there was not a word of truth in that accusation. But at present there was this difficulty to be contended with, that as yet that gallant army accused of so many excesses, had not had time to reply, and they were, therefore, without the means of arriving at the real truth. Although these accusations came, in a great degree, from the press of India, he should be sorry to stigmatise the whole of that press as libellous; but certainly the statements he had seen of what was called the inhumanity of the troops in India he knew to be utterly false. The hon. Member stated that General Nott had committed some of these excesses, and that Ghuznee had been levelled to the ground. Now, he must observe, that 985 when a victorious army was marching over a country wherein its policy was to destroy the fortifications, it was very difficult to distinguish between what might be fortifications and what private property, more particularly in a country where so many of the houses contained loopholes and bore so much the appearance of fortresses. He would venture to assert, from what he had seen of General Nott's correspondence, that when that gallant officer heard of those accusations, he would be able to give them, in the same clear and straightforward manner which distinguished his correspondence, the most satisfactory contradiction. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that our troops at Istalif had committed the most unjustifiable excess. Now, he hoped he might be permitted to point out what appeared to him to be the state of the case respecting Istalif. Istalif was about four marches from Cabul, but might in an emergency be reached by cavalry in two marches. Our forces outside Cabul were, therefore, liable to an attack, after two or three days' march from Istalif. Now, at Istalif, there were not only the usual inhabitants of the town, but a great number of other persons collected around it; and when it was thought necessary to order General M'Caskill to march to and attack Istalif, it was well known, that the chiefs of Ghilzie, one of whom was implicated in the murder of Sir Alexander Burnes, were there. There was also there a large military force, consisting of 14,000 or 15,000 men, and not, as the hon. Member described, that number of peaceful inhabitants, for, in point of fact, Istalif did not contain that number of inhabitants, but a large military force determined to inflict upon our soldiery all the injury and evils within their power. Under these circumstances it was, that General Pollock ordered General M'Caskill to Istalif, and that gallant officer, with that promptitude and skill, which, in his opinion, that gallant officer had displayed throughout the whole of these operations, attacked Istalif by storm and with success. A great number of persons who had fled to Istalif from Cabul and other places, confiding in the strength of the town took refuge, in the midst of the attack, in its strongest points. He had, therefore, no hesitation in saying, that it would neither have been prudent nor wise on the part of our troops, numbering, as they did, but 986 4,000, and opposed as they were to a force of 14,000, to have ceased firing upon getting into the town. Indeed, many of oar troops, and amongst them Lieutenant Evans, had been killed in the town. He, therefore said, that in these eastern towns, where almost every house was in itself a fortress, you could not, when it became necessary to throw down the works of a town, make those distinctions which were commonly made in Europe. The hon. Member spoke of the cruelty of turning out the women in the snow—at a time when there was no snow—but, setting that aside, there were at the period of this attack at the end of the town 500 women, a large portion of whom had come from Cabul, and who were completely at the mercy of our troops. But what was the conduct of our troops towards them? Did they retaliate? Did they commit those excesses of which the hon. Gentleman complained? No. We had it not only from General M'Caskill's report, but from the libellers of the Indian press themselves, that the conduct of our troops on that occasion was most exemplary, and that not a single woman had been either hurt or insulted by them. Some of the Indian papers, however, in admitting that General M'Caskill behaved well towards the females, accused him of having cruelly destroyed the town and some of its male inhabitants. Now, when he recollected that amongst the Affghans there was no such thing as capitulation, and that they never took or gave quarter, he did think General M'Caskill had acted improperly in allowing our troops to destroy the town. Before the arrival of the last mail the idea certainly was that great excesses had been committed at Istalif; but what said General M'Caskill? In his despatch of October 6, he stated—My commendations have been specially earned by Major G. Browne and her Majesty's 41st regiment, for the share they took in these gallant efforts (now mark this), and for the exemplary humanity displayed by the men towards the unfortunate families of the vanquished.He thought it impossible for any one after hearing that passage not to believe that our troops conducted themselves on the occasion, not as represented by the hon. Gentleman in an atrocious manner, but in a manner becoming the character of British soldiers. The hon. Gentleman 987 also complained that excesses had been committed at Cabul. He must be permitted to remark to the hon. Gentleman and the House, that when General Pollock's army were ordered to march from Jellalabad to Cabul, they had not only to cross the difficult passes of Jugdulluk and Gundamuk, but to pass over in their march the bodies of several hundreds of their companions, most of them in a state of decomposition, but some of them still so little altered as to have been recognized by their friends. Captain Hamilton was one of those who was recognized by some of his brother officers, and amongst them were the bodies of Sepoys as well as British soldiers. It would not be very surprising, then, if upon that occasion the strongest passions of our nature had been excited in those troops. But was it so? Did they commit those excesses of which they were accused? No. He happened to know by an accidental statement, not in the papers before the House, that General Pollock, in forcing those passes, on the 13th and 14th of September, took every measure in his power, and successfully, to prevent the excesses of which the hon. Member, in his opinion, unjustly complained; that on arriving at the camp before Cabul he called upon the officer in command to issue to the men and the camp-followers the strongest orders not to interfere with the inhabitants of Cabul, or offer any injury to the city itself; and that on the 15th of September the General commanding ordered, that neither officers, soldiers, nor camp-followers, be permitted to enter the city until further orders. Now, that these orders were fulfilled, he had a right to assume, because he found it stated in the papers before the House, that on the 21st of September the inhabitants of Cabul had returned to their usual occupations. It was also stated, that on the21st abundance reigned in the camp, and coupling that circumstance with the issuing of orders not to commit excesses he thought be might assume the fact that no such excesses had been committed. With reference to the burning of the bazaar, he agreed with the hon. Member that it was not only a better policy, but in every respect more desirable, that retaliation should be avoided, or at least limited to works of a military character. He must, however, be permitted to point out that this very bazaar was adjoining the mosque at the door of which was placed the muti- 988 lated body of our unfortunate envoy, in order that it might be spit upon by every Mussulman who passed, and subjected to every species of indignity. General Pollock abstained from taking away the lives of the inhabitants, although, in the opinion of some persons in India who were not military, public feeling ought to have been appeased by some such example. He could show by a letter from one of the highest authorities in India, a man of the greatest ability, to General Pollock, that such an opinion prevailed. It was stated in that letter, that if an impression were to be made in favour of the Indian army, or if it were to be proved that they had retrieved all their disasters, it was necessary to destroy the town of Cabul. General Pollock, however, limited himself to the narrowest degree of retaliation—the destruction of the bazaar and mosque. It should be remarked, that that was not the usual mosque, and had been fitted up with all the plunder and insignia of our army, in commemoration of the triumph of our enemies over us. He thought, that General Pollock could not help destroying that mosque; and that considering the scenes of horror which our troops had witnessed, there had been on the whole as little retaliation as possible. A severe censure had been passed upon the Governor-general for not having taken all the pains he might to prevent these excesses. But see what Lord Auckland said in speaking of the Affghans;—A faithless enemy, stained by the foul crime of assassination, has, through a failure of supplies, followed by consummate treachery, been able to overcome a body of British troops, in a country removed by distance and difficulties of season from the possibility of succour. But the Governor-general in Council, while he most deeply laments the loss of the brave officers and men, regards this partial reverse only as new occasion for displaying the British power, and the admirable spirit and valour of the British Indian army.This notification from the Governor of India was circulated amongst the officers, and read at the head of every regiment. It was, therefore, too much to expect, considering the situation of the troops, that some excesses, such as the destruction of the bazaar, would not have been committed; but the heavy charges which the hon. Gentleman brought against our Indian troops of excesses alleged to have been committed in Istalif, Candahar, and 989 Cabul, he did not believe or credit. What was Lord Ellenborough's recommendation? Did he hold out any excitement to such excesses as had been described by the hon. Member? Certainly not. In page 336 of the papers he stated:—You will, as long as the season permit you to remain with perfect security, rely upon your own force, and upon that alone, for the effecting of your objects, and exert that force vigorously, giving every proof of British power which is not inconsistent with the usages of war, and the dictates of British humanity; but you will never forget that, after so exhibiting that power, you are, without allowing yourself to be diverted therefrom by any object, to obey the positive orders of your Government to withdraw your army from Affghanistan.That was followed up by another despatch, in which he expressed to the generals commanding, his hope that throughout the campaign their actions would be free from everything which could in any degree impeach the character of the army for humanity. The excesses complained of were not confirmed by the official reports, and he therefore hoped on an occasion like the present the House would carefully abstain from countenancing them as matters of fact. Of Lord Ellenborough, he entertained the highest opinion. His despatches alone, he thought, proved him to be a man of very great ability, and he was sanguine enough to hope, that every dispassionate person would be found to admit, that throughout those military operations, his Lordship had evinced great judgment and good sense. If the hon. Gentleman op, posite or other hon. Gentlemen chose to read passages from those papers, with the view to fix upon Lord Ellenborough the character of pusillanimity in ordering the withdrawal of our troops from Affghanistan, he thought he could find extracts from despatches of Lord Auckland, in which an apparent feeling of pusillanimity might also be discovered. In his opinion, however, it would be much better to consider whether our generals and troops had not conducted themselves in a gallant manner. He believed that they had, not only in a gallant, but he hoped he might add, in an irreproachable manner. Indeed, since the establishment of a British army in India, he knew of no occasion on which he believed them to be more deserving of the thanks of that House.
§ Sir T. E. Colebrooke
had listened with 990 great attention to the charges which had been made against the Indian army. On more than one occasion the subject had been noticed in the House, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had exercised a sound discretion in not giving a decided reply to the inquiries which had been made. The charges were so very vague, there was such an absence of statement as to time and place, that it was impossible to fix the charges so as to give them a positive contradiction. As to despoiling the tomb of the Sultan Mahmood, at Ghuznee, the blame, if any, was not attributable to General Nott or the troops; it was done by the express order of the Governor-general, who in his despatch of the 4th of July to Genera] Nott, told him—You will bring away from the tomb of Mahmood, of Ghuznee, his club, which hangs over it, and you will bring away the gates of his tomb, which are the gates of the temple of Somnauth. These will be the just trophies of your successful march.With respect to Cabul, although the hon. Member had quoted an anonymous letter to the contrary, it was, he believed, the proper construction of the reports that the destruction was confined to the bazaar, and to one or two houses. As to the reports of the excesses in the destruction of Istalif, they had received all the contradiction which was required. With regard to the general vote, he rejoiced that it did not call for any difference of opinion; and to the motion, in the terms in which it was made, he cordially assented.
§ Sir R. H. Inglis
said, that as he was almost the only person on that side of the House who had expressed any disapprobation of the other parts of the Governor-general's conduct, he trusted the House would allow him to lake this opportunity of expressing his entire concurrence in this vote of thanks, not only as it applied to the gallant military officers engaged in the operation, but the Governor-general himself. He was only anxious further to call the attention of his gallant Friend to the conduct of the troops at Istalif and the treatment of the women. At page 413, it was said, that—The enemy were driven from thence, and pursued with a rapidity which left no time to rally; and a singular spectacle was then presented, in the escape up the mountain side of the children and women from the place, to which no interruption was offered.991 This was in strict conformity with the general instructions of Lord Ellenborough, that the conduct of the troops throughout should be such as troops should observe in a friendly country, taking the same precautions as an army in a hostile country; and they were elsewhere told that they were toLeave decisive proofs of the power of the British army, without impeaching its humanity.These orders did as much credit to the justice as to the humanity of the Governor-general; and he cordially concurred in the vote as limited by the words of this motion.
§ Mr. Hume
was not sorry that the hon. Member for Gateshead had brought forward this topic, because it had called forth the expressions from the gallant General opposite. Although he (Mr. Hume) had heard many statements relating to Istalif, this "would not have been a place to which he would himself have referred. He thought that even greater excesses might have been expected under the circumstances. This was not a part to which he would have objected. There was, however, one thing for which he was undoubtedly sorry, and that was the destruction of the commercial bazaar at Cabul. When he read the despatch of Lord Ellenborough, declaring that he was anxious to leave as few marks of revenge and retaliation as possible, it did appear strange that after our troops had invited the natives into the town, when the town was full, and supplies readily brought in, we should have destroyed the bazaar. Still it was done by the proper officer, I sent in for the express purpose by the proper party. He was informed that notice had been given to the individuals who inhabited the bazaar that it was to be destroyed; and, except a few Hindoos, who did not believe that we should have destroyed it, no one was injured. Still, he thought it important that they should have some further explanation. As to the other excesses, the House had so little information concerning them, that at present nothing more could be said. With respect to the troops, he would be happy to concur in any testimony the House could offer. Any one who had read the despatches must be satisfied that no troops ever endured more hardships—no troops had ever shown more devotedness to the service, or had seen their exertions attended with more success, 992 looking at the disadvantages under which they laboured. It did not appear from these papers that he would be warranted in giving to Lord Ellenborough the same meed of praise. The gallant General had referred to a notification of the late Governor-general (Lord Auckland), dated from Fort William on the 31st January, 1842, and he wished that the gallant General had quoted the whole of that notification. The late Governor-general there said:—Intelligence having been received which leaves no room to doubt that, after the British force at Cabul had maintained its position against overpowering numbers of insurgents for more than six weeks, the officer commanding had judged it necessary, in consequence of a failure of provisions, to agree to a convention of the enemy, and to retire, in reliance on the faith of that convention, towards Jellalabad, when the troops, exposed to the worst rigours of cold and privation in the mountain defiles, and harrassed by treacherous attacks suffered extreme disaster—the Governor-general in Council deems it proper to notify, that the most active measures have been adopted, and will be steadfastly prosecuted, for expediting powerful reinforcements to the Affghan frontier, and for assisting such operations as may be required in that quarter for the maintenance of the honour and interest of the British Government. The ample military means at the disposal of the British Government will be strenuously applied to these objects, so as at once to support external operations, and to ensure efficient protection to its subjects and allies. A faithless enemy, stained by the foul crime of assassination, has, through a failure of supplies followed by consummate treachery, been able to overcome a body of British troops, in a country removed by distance and difficulties of season, from the possibility of succour. But the Governor-general in council, while he most deeply laments the loss of the brave officers and men, regards this partial reverse only as a new occasion for displaying the stability and vigour of the British power, and the admirable spirit and valour of the British Indian army.He did not think that the same care and zeal which had been here manifested by Lord Auckland had been carried out by Lord Ellenborough. He thought that, from the moment Lord Ellenborough left Calcutta and withdrew from the council, a great part of his proceedings were to be deprecated. Lord Ellenborough left alone, had conducted himself in such a manner and many of his acts when communicated to the council, seemed so extraordinary, that they excited not surprise alone, but 993 regret. It appeared to him to be a bad practice to allow the Governor-general so to withdraw himself from the Council. If hon. Members read the despatches, they would find, that as soon as the Governor-general left Calcutta, he determined to withdraw the troops forthwith. The reinforcements prepared by his predecessor were on the way, yet they found the Governor-general writing from Allahabad and from every place to Sir Jasper Nicolls ordering the recall of the troops. He was writing notes to General Pollock in a manner so decided, that there could be no mistake and was to be no delay. In March, April, May, and even down to the 14th of May Lord Ellenborough went on repeating, in the most extraordinary manner, the orders to withdraw. He gave his orders secretly, but urged them decisively, so that no doubt could be left upon the matter, and the officers could have no option. He felt for the difficulty in which Generals Nott and Pollock were placed when they received those orders, and were telling the Governor-general and Sir Jasper Nicolls, that if they withdrew, their army would be destroyed. Then there was a gap in the despatches, and all at once these officers instead of marching their troops back to India, contrary to the orders of Lord Ellenborough, and contrary to the orders of Sir Jasper Nicolls, were found marching to Cabul. The Generals had always hitherto obeyed the orders given them, and he could not understand how it was, that all at once they disobeyed those orders and marched, the one from Candahar, and the other from Jellalabad, on to Cabul. In the despatches there was a very curious paper. The Governor-general said, he would not forward the despatches written to General Nott, to General Pollock, and to Major Outram. He did not enclose them, and so they did not appear. It seemed that some orders had been sent. He, therefore, thought that Lord Ellenborough did not deserve any credit for the success which attended the subsequent transactions; on the contrary, it appeared that the success was achieved contrary to the orders, as well as the wishes, of the noble Lord. He believed that the history of the case was this. Lord Auckland had given orders to push forward to succour the troops coming from Cabul; but he had said, if the disaster was so complete as to expel the British forces from the ter- 994 ritory in which they then were, the Commander-in-chief should abstain from advancing a new army without fresh orders. What was the course adopted by Lord Ellenborough? He determined on an immediate evacuation; and in the Blue Book, which had been laid on the Table of the House, he had reckoned no fewer than nineteen orders by Lord Ellenborough for the withdrawal of the army. The last of the despatches was dated on the 14th of May; but on the 25th of the same month orders were received by him from England dated the 4th of April, in which were contained not only orders to advance, but positive directions as to the plan to be adopted. If these were facts on which the House could depend—and they could not be doubted—what merit, he asked, could Lord Ellenborough claim? He did not deny the heavy weight of responsibility which rested on that noble Lord; that, in the position in which he stood, the greatest prudence was necessary to be observed; but if the noble Lord had consented to be guided by the advice of his Council (and he complained that he had altogether separated himself from them), and had looked to the minutes of Lord Auckland, he believed that he would have adopted a different course to that which he had pursued. His present complaint was, that all the documents necessary for the full consideration of the present vote of thanks to Lord Ellenborough were not before the House. He begged to refer the House to a despatch from Lord Ellenborough to the secret committee, dated July, 1842. He said in that despatch—I send herewith copies of letters addressed by me to Major-general Nott, to Major-general Pollock, to Major Outram, and to the Governor of Bombay, and of a memorandum for Major-general Sir Charles Napier. All these documents I have deemed it necessary to withhold, for the present, from the records of the offices here, on account of the absolute necessity of preserving secrecy in the important matter to which they refer. They will be placed upon the records as soon as Major-general Nott's decision shall be known. My letter to Major-general Nott so fully explains the grounds upon which I have ventured to afford him an option as to the line of his retirement upon the Indus, that I deem it unnecessary to do more than refer you to the document itself, for an explanation of my views upon the subject.The papers which were alluded to in this letter were not before the House. He 995 did not mean to deny that Lord Ellenborough might be entitled to the thanks of the House; but, in his opinion, until these papers were produced, those thanks could not fairly be given. What he proposed therefore was, that the consideration of the vote of thanks, so far as Lord Ellenborough was concerned, should for the present be deferred. He believed that for the House to bestow ill-judged and indiscriminate praise, would be to render the vote of thanks, to those who really deserved it, perfectly valueless. In England a different view, perhaps, might be taken; but in India, where the noble Lord's claims to the gratitude of his country were appreciated, he believed that nine out of ten would agree that he was not entitled to the thanks were proposed. The hon. Member concluded by moving, as an amendment to the original motion,That the consideration of the thanks of this House to the right hon. Lord Ellenborough, Governor-general of India, be deferred until all the documents, consisting of letters addressed to Major-general Nott, Major-general Pollock, to Major Outram, and to the Governor of Bombay; and of a memorandum for Major-general Sir C. Napier, alluded to in the letter of July 8, addressed to the Secret Committee of the Court of Directors, and which have been withheld, shall be laid before this House, to enable the House to judge why, after repeated positive orders issued by Lord Ellenborough to Sir Jasper Nicholls and Major-general Nott, and Major-general Pollock to withdraw all their forces from Cabul towards the Company's possessions, those generals actually advanced their forces, and by their gallant conduct and brilliant successes, vindicated the character of the British arms in the scene of their former disasters.
Mr. Bingham Baring
thought that he should be able to satisfy the hon. Member that the papers to which he alluded had been produced, and were now published with the rest of the despatches. In page 327 of the Blue Book, was a letter from the Governor-general to Major-general Nott, in which he authorised him to advance, and, not only so, but gave him full instructions as to the conduct which he was to pursue in the course of his progress. He said—I have now reason to suppose, for the first time, that you have the means of moving a very large proportion of your army, with ample equipment for any service. Nothing has occurred to induce me to change my first 996 opinion, that the measure, commanded by considerations of political and military prudence, is to bring back the armies now in Affghanistan at the earliest period at which their retirement can be effected consistently with the health and efficiency of the troops, into positions wherein they may have easy and certain communication with India; and to this extent the instructions you have received remain unaltered. But the improved position of your army, with sufficient means of carriage for as large a force as it is necessary to move in Affghanistan, induces me now to leave to your option the line by which you shall withdraw your troops from that country.But Lord Ellenborough impressed upon the General's mind, "that it must be a successful march."You will recollect the Governor-general said that what you will have to make is, a successful march: that that march must not be delayed by any hazardous operations against Ghuznee or Cabul; that you should carefully calculate the time required to enable you to reach Jellallabad in the first week in October, so as to form the rear-guard of Major-general Pollock's army. If you should be enabled by a coup-de-main to get possession of Ghuznee and Cabul, you will act as you see fit, and leave decisive proof of the power of the British army, without impeaching its humanity.There were many further and frequent directions given; which at least was a decisive proof of the prudence and foresight and anxiety of the Governor-general. Again, on July 23, as the hon. Member would find at page 334, the very same permission and directions were given by the Governor-general to General Pollock as he had before given to General Nott. The hon. Member for Montrose said the difference in the plans of the Governor-general was accounted for by orders from home, and not from his own conviction of its prudence or necessity. He could assure the hon. Member and the House that no such directions or instructions had ever been sent.
§ Viscount Ebrington
had not intended to take any part in the debate; but when he heard the hon. Gentleman laud the despatch which he had read, he could not say, that in his mind it contained any directions; it was permissory merely, and even the permission given was a shabby one. The despatch in his opinion was a shabby despatch, and the permission given to General Nott to use his own discretion in respect to advancing was given in terms the effect of which would be to throw on I that officer the whole responsibility of the I movement, and to relieve the Governor- 997 general from all participation in that responsibility. The plan appeared to have been suggested to the noble Lord by General Nott himself, and to have been very reluctantly acquiesced in by the Governor-general. In a letter of the 4th of July, written before the despatch alluded to by the hon. Gentleman opposite, it would seem Mr. Maddocks wrote as follows to Major-general Pollock:—It has given great satisfaction to the Governor-general to learn, from your letter of the 14th ultimo, that you have sufficient means of movement to be enabled to act upon the suggestions contained in my letter of the 1st ultimo. You will not have mistaken the object of that letter, which was merely to suggest that, as far as your means of movement allowed, you should make your strength felt by the enemy during the period of your necessary detention in the valley of the Cabul river. No change has, from the first, taken place in the Governor-general's views of the expediency of withdrawing your army at the earliest period consistent with the health and efficiency of the troops, that is, as is now understood, in the beginning of October.On referring to the letter of the 1st of June, which was alluded to, the following passages were found:—It would be desirable, undoubtedly, that before finally quitting Affghanistan you should have an opportunity of striking a blow at the enemy; and since circumstances seem to compel you to remain there till October, the Governor-general earnestly hopes that you may be enabled to draw the enemy into a position in which you may strike such a blow effectually. You have already full powers to do everything you may deem necessary for the comfort of your troops, and for their efficiency.The Governor-general it was true, spoke of the "necessary detention in the valley;" but what did that mean; not a detention for the purposes of an advance; no, it was to be a detention "consistent with the efficiency of the troops;" not at all consistent with the march upon Cabul. Again, the Governor-general spoke of "a retirement by Ghuznee and Cabul:" these were the words of the Governor-general when addressing his generals; yet all his friends chose to speak of it as an advance upon those places? He was not desirous of voting with the hon. Member for Montrose, because the words of the motion proposed by her Majesty's Government were so strictly limited to thanking Lord Ellenborough for his exertions in supplying the army with waggons and with beasts 998 to allow them to move forward—that he had no objection to award him thanks as a good commissary-general.
§ Mr. Hogg
supposed that the hon. Member for Montrose would now withdraw his amendment—[Mr. Hume: Not at all.] Then he (Mr. Hogg) had given the hon. Member credit for more discretion than it appeared he deserved. The hon. Member founded his amendment on the supposed omission of three documents. These documents had been pointed out to him in the book in his hands, and he was probably at that moment in the act of perusing them, yet still he persisted in his amendment. After the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, and by the noble Lord opposite, and which he believed was in entire accordance with the practice usually adopted on such occasions, he must express his surprise and regret at the desultory debate which had sprung up, in which hon. Members had quoted bits and scraps from various orders which were only calculated to mislead when the dates and circumstances under which they issued were not fully considered. The friends of Lord Ellenborough could not fail to feel how fully he must be entitled to the thanks of this House and of his country, when there was manifested by hon. Gentlemen opposite, such a disposition to withhold them, if a sense of justice did not compel them to award them. He would not institute any comparison between the orders issued by Lord Auckland and Lord Ellenborough; he believed that both noble Lords were actuated solely by a sense of public duty; both by an anxious desire to advance the public weal; and if, after the disasters which had occurred in Affghanistan, Lord Auckland had deemed it right to withdraw our troops from that country, it redounded the more to his honour, connected as he was with the policy which dictated the war, to sink all considerations of self, and to think only of the good of his country. He wished to be distinctly understood, as imputing no blame whatever to Lord Auckland; but he stated what was only the fact when he said that, when Lord Ellenborough reached India, there was no intention on the part of the existing Government to advance again into Affghanistan. He thought that no man who had read the Blue Book could contradict that statement, but if necessary, he was prepared to substantiate 999 it, by reference to the orders up to the very period of Lord Auckland's departure. He would, however, refer to one document which was conclusive on the subject. In a letter from the commander-in-chief to the Governor-general; bearing date the 24th January, he says,Reading your instructions literally, especially those of the 3d December and 6th January, I have not commenced any preparation for a renewal of the contest.Thus shewing, as he had already stated, that up to the arrival of Lord Ellenborough, no preparation had even been commenced for an advance to Cabul. Lord Ellenborough arrived in Calcutta the end of February, and what was the policy indicated in his first letter to the Commander-in-chief, dated 15th March. It was to provide for the safety of our troops, to obtain the release of the prisoners, and to retrieve our military reputation, by the infliction of some signal and decisive blow upon the Affghans. In this very letter he speaks of General Pollock's advance to Cabul, and dwells upon the advantages that would be derived from the re-occupation of that city, even for a week. He insists most strongly on the necessity of having our army adequately equipped, and adds that wherever our operations may be, whether beyond or within the Indus, our safety and success must depend on the knowledge,That we possess an army perfect in its equipment, possessed of all the means of movement, and so secure in its communications with the country from which its supplies and its reinforcements are drawn, as to be able at any time, to act with vigour and effect against any enemy.With regard to the force under General Nott, he directs, under date the 19th March, that it may be rendered efficient and "capable of executing every movement and enterprize which can be required from an army in the field." Now the word "movement" may be said to apply to a retreat as well as an advance; but the words "Military enterprize" could bear only one meaning, and clearly showed that the object of the Governor-general was an advance of the troops from Candahar for the relief of Ghuznee. Such was the policy, and such the orders of Lord Ellenborough shortly after his arrival in Calcutta, and he would now call the attention of the House to the orders of the 19th April, which had been so severely 1000 animadverted upon. He admitted that these orders were positive and distinct, for the withdrawal of our troops; but under what circumstances were they issued? Ghuznee had fallen. General England, with his first division, had failed in forcing the Khojuk Pass. The news of his disaster would encourage the savage tribes to assail his second division, then about to enter the frightful defiles of the Bolan Pass; thus perilling the existence of his whole army. The great object of retaining Candahar was to secure the safety of the garrison of Ghuznee, but Ghuznee had capitulated—it was gone—and, therefore, the main reason for keeping possession of Candahar no longer existed. Look to the despatch of Lord Ellenborough to the secret committee of the 17th May, and you will see that when he heard of General England's disaster, he trembled for the safety of his whole army. What then were Lord Ellenborough's instructions, written under such accumulated disasters, that reached him almost simultaneously? He desires General Nott to secure the safety of his army by retiring to Quetta, and eventually to Sukkur. Be it remembered that Lord Ellenborough had not then heard of General Pollock's having effected a junction with General Sale, and what are the orders which he issues to him? He did not tell him to retire; on the contrary, he ordered him to retain possession of Jellalabad as likely to facilitate the negotiations for the release of the prisoners. He wrote on the very same day to the commander-in-chief, desiring a personal interview, that they might arrange as to future aggressive movements, and referring to the withdrawal of our troops, he adds his hope that it may not be "without the infliction of some severe blow upon the Affghan army." Was there, under these trying circumstances, any want of energy and vigour, if it be fit that these qualities be combined with caution and discretion? Much stress had been laid upon the number of our troops in Affghanistan; why, in that lay their actual weakness; without guns, without ammunition, without the means of carriage, and almost without food, in their numbers consisted their weakness. What are we told by General Wyld who commanded the first division that advanced for the relief of Jellalabad? He reports to General Lumley, that to force the pass would require, at least, six guns, 1001 and some cavalry; and that he is totally destitute of both, that he has a company of artillery, but no guns; that he is without carriage, except a few camels to carry the Sepoys' baggage; that there is no commissariat officer to provide what is required, and not even a responsible European; and will the House believe that the British army, assembled to relieve that gallant band under General Sale, were compelled to borrow two guns from the government of the Sikhs. Can it be wondered, then, that General Wyld failed in his object, and was compelled to abandon the important fortress of Ali Musjid? The first object of Lord Ellenborough on assuming the Government, was to put the army in an efficient state of equipment, and fit for any service on which they might be ordered—to retreat if necessary,—to advance, if practicable. "Commissary General" as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Ebrington) had called him! He had the honour of knowing Lord Ellenborough well, and if his noble Friend were present, he felt convinced that he would thank the noble Lord for the title, although sneeringly applied. The right hon. Baronet had dwelt most eloquently on the kindness and humanity of General Pollock, in visiting the sick and attending the hospitals; and the House had responded to his feeling. He supposed that, upon similar grounds, the noble Lord (Lord Ebrington) would stigmatize General Pollock as an apothecary, as a waiter on hospitals. No man could peruse the despatches on the Table, without being struck by the anxiety evinced by Lord Ellenborough to provide for the army everything that could add to their comforts or diminish the hardships they must necessarily undergo. Lord Ellenborough having used every possible exertion to equip his armies, at length began to see his way to success. He saw that in September, or October at furthest, the armies under General Pollock and General Nott, would be supplied with the means of carriage, and every other necessary; and on the 4th of August he issued that order to General Nott, which the same noble Lord opposite has been pleased to designate as shabby; and he could not help remarking, throughout this discussion, that discretion was a virtue but litttle practised or estimated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. What does Lord Ellenborough do? With all the responsibility 1002 of the great empire of India weighing upon his mind, and the safety of the army depending upon him, he did not, as hon. Gentlemen opposite, perhaps, would have done, constitute himself the sole judge of an important military operation, but left the decision to the only man who was competent to form an opinion. If he were asked to put his hand upon that paper in the whole of the despatches, which redounded most to the honour and good sense of Lord Ellenborough, this was the very paper to which he should point! [Sir R. Peel said something] and he had the authority of the right hon. Baronet to state that this was the opinion entertained by the highest authority in the country—by the Duke of Wellington. The hon. Member for Montrose had asked why General Nott had not retreated on Quetta and Sukkur, in obedience to the orders of Lord Ellenborough, dated May 11th, 1842. The reply was, that he had no means of carriage, and was unable to move. Until he was joined by General England, he was not only without carriage, but was without ammunition, medicines, stores, and all that could render an army effective, or enable them to accomplish with safety any movement. General Pollock had in like manner declared, that he must of necessity remain at Jellalabad, and was unable either to advance or retreat, for want of the means of conveyance. But to return to the order of the 4th of August. Lord Ellenborough says,I have now, therefore, reason to suppose, for the first time, that you have the means of moving a very large proportion of your army, with ample equipment for any service.He says that nothing had occurred to induce him to change his opinion as to the expediency of bringing back the armies at the earliest period, to positions where they would have easy and certain communications with India, and then adds—But the improved position of your army, with sufficient means of carriage for as large a force as it is necessary to move in Affghanistan, induces me now to leave to your option the line by which you shall withdraw your troops from that country.He points out to him forcibly and strongly the difficulties and dangers he will have to encounter, and tells him,That the loss of another army, from whatever cause it might arise, might be fatal to our Government in India.1003 And he (Mr. Hogg) would ask, where is the man conversant with that country, who would venture to express a different opinion? He then dwells on the advantages to be derived from a successful march through Ghuznee and Cabul, over the scenes of our late disasters, and points out the effects it would produceUpon the minds of our soldiers, of our allies, of our enemies in Asia, and of our countrymen, and of all foreign nations in Europe.He states that to himself it would be an object of just ambition; and having thus strikingly pointed out the advantages to be derived by an advance by Cabul, and suggested the necessity of due caution, he leaves all to the determination of General Nott, who, I again repeat, was the-only man competent to decide—and desires him in his progress, if he should advance,To leave decisive proofs of the power of the British army, without impeaching its humanity,Lord Ellenborough at the same time writes to the Governor of Bombay, to Sir Charles Napier, and to Major Outram, adopting every precaution, and suggesting every means that could add to the efficiency of the troops, or secure the success of the proposed movement. No man could have made greater efforts to render our army efficient; no man could have shown a more anxious desire to retrieve the national honour, combined with a due care for the safety of our troops; and throughout Lord Ellenborough had exhibited a zeal and devotion for the public service, which he (Mr. Hogg) was astonished to see, was not duly estimated. He found the army so entirely destitute of carriage, that he might almost have despaired of supplying the deficiency. He applied himself, however, sedulously and vigorously to the task; he appointed an efficient officer to the head of the Commissariat. He wrote to Mr. Clerk, to exert himself in the Punjaub, and ordered the assistance of every authority civil and military, for the supply of camels at any cost, and if camels could not be procured, directed that bullocks and ponies should be purchased without reference to expense—and within ten weeks he succeeded in collecting for the army nearly 17,000 camels, and other beasts of burthen. He knew not where the hon. Member for Montrose got all his information. He supposed he 1004 must derive it from some correspondent in India, as much that he had stated was not to be found in the papers laid upon the Table of the House; and he must say, that the hon. Gentleman's credulity much exceeded his discretion, as he seemed to believe every idle report that was sent to him. The hon. Member had stated, that the Income-tax might have had some influence on the advance of the army. This singular admixture of the Income-tax with the affairs of India, was not, however, new, and had been repeatedly dwelt upon by his hon. Friend the Member for Guildford; and he (Mr. Hogg) had that day been reading an article on the same subject in the last number of a quarterly publication, which claimed to have been prematurely ushered into the world, in order that the article he had adverted to might produce some influence on this debate. When he first took up the publication, he did so with some little apprehension, thinking that he might be enabled to distinguish the same mastermind which had so admirably described the achievements of a Clive, and of a Hastings, but he had not perused long before he found that the hand that now guided the pen was powerless, and the attack weak and innocuous. Some effort was made to prove that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was not aware, that the expenses of the expedition to China were to be paid from the finances of this country. But the hon. Member said,The right hon. Baronet makes a speech about the Income-tax and shortly afterwards certain orders are sent out to India.[Mr. Hume "Hear, hear."] Hear, hear, said the hon. Gentleman, after he had been already told by the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Board of Control, that no such orders had ever been issued. He remembered having seen it stated in a public journal, which professed to be well informed, that the orders for the troops to advance had been despatched from this country on the 1st of June; but that date did not tally with the statement of the hon. Member for Montrose. Now there was some chance of a reasonable coincidence of dates respecting things which had actually occurred; but when men spoke of things which had no existence but in their own imaginations, each gave his own date and circumstances—out went the Order from home on the 1st of June. It 1005 had been confidently and pompously announced—but that would not tally with Lord Ellenborough's order to advance on the 4th of August, therefore, that position is no longer tenable, and the hon. Gentleman prudently retreats to the 1st of March. [Here some hon. Member spoke to the hon. Gentleman.] He begged pardon, the 1st. of April. The hon. Gentleman had appropriately and judiciously selected the 1st. of April as the date for his imaginary order. He had hoped that after the reply of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Launceston, to the statement of the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Gateshead, no further observations would have been made as to the excesses of the troops, either English or native. He wished that hon. Members when making such statements, had distinguished the information derived from the papers before the House, from that which had been obtained from the Bombay Times, or Agra Akbar, or other sources peculiar to themselves. Lord Ellenborough, General Pollock, and General Nott, had all enjoined the strictest observance of humanity and forbearance, and there was nothing in the despatches before the House to justify the imputation on the troops, of having departed from these orders. He would call the attention of the House to the expedition of General M'Gaskill to Chareeka, and his attack upon Istalif, which had been animadverted upon by the hon. Members for Gateshead and Montrose. He begged the House to bear in mind that the insurrection broke out in Kohistan the very day that Burnes was murdered, and that it was at Chareeka where the Ghoorka regiment was treacherously attacked and destroyed, only two of its officers escaping. Istalif consisted of a mass of small fortresses, and might be regarded as a nest of land pirates, and was the place to which Amunoollah Khan, and the chiefs who had taken the most active part in the massacre of our troops, had retired. And what were the reasons assigned by General Pollock for this expedition? He says that having received information that Amunoollah had collected his forces at Istalif, he thought it right to make an example of one of the most notorious enemies of the British power. That by appearing in force in Kohistan, he hoped to obtain the release of the native prisoners, in which he succeeded—and that unless this force was dispersed, they would 1006 hang on his rear and harass him when retiring. Surely there was no use in puling about the horrors inseparable from war, and which could not fail to take place in storming the stronghold of the enemy. He, as much as any man, regretted these horrors, but he knew they were necessarily attendant on a state of war, and he denied that the documents before the House, afforded any grounds of accusing the troops of excesses or inhumanity. Unfounded rumours had been circulated, that numbers of women and children had been killed at Istalif, but what said General M'Gaskill,—The enemy were driven from their strong forts and pursued with a rapidity which left no time to rally, and a singular spectacle was then presented in the escape up the mountain side of the women and children from the place, to which no interruption was offered;Not the slightest insult was offered to the women, and they were all allowed to retire unharmed. And he dwells on the exemplary humanity displayed by the troops towards the families of the deceased. Now, this despatch fortunately arrived about forty-eight hours before the publication of the papers on the Table, and it shewed how completely unfounded the statements were, which had been so industriously circulated. He thought that the conduct of the troops reflected the greatest honour upon themselves and upon their officers. When we considered how much they must have been excited and exasperated by recent events, and when met at every turn by the mangled remains of their former companions in arms. He was not a military man, but be had always understood that it was both justifiable and customary to destroy the forts and strongholds when withdrawing from an enemy's country, and he believed that not a building had been destroyed that was not the fortified residence of some chief who had taken a prominent part in the massacre of our troops. He ought, perhaps, to except the Bazaar at Cabul; and if he could venture to form an opinion, he would rather have heard that the Bala Hissar had been destroyed, and the Bazaar spared. But let it be remembered, that it was here where the remains of our late envoy were exposed to public insult, and that it was deemed necessary to impress upon the Affghans that such atrocious conduct could not be permitted to pass with impunity. The hon. Member 1007 or Gateshead seemed to intimate that General Pollock had been guilty of something like desecration in destroying what was called a mosque at Cabul. The word "mosque," it was true, seemed to imply something sacred; but in point of fact, the building as he understood it, had nothing sacred about it. It was built as a kind of trophy to commemorate the events of the past year; was fitted up and nearly filled with the plunder of our army, and was designated the Feringhee or christian mosque. To be sure, General Pollock did destroy it; and he would ask any hon. Member whether he would have been justified in leaving such a trophy existing. Allusion had been made to the hesitation shown by some of the native regiments, to advance into Affghanistan; but he felt assured that the gallantry and discipline afterwards evinced by these regiments, rendered any explanation unnecessary. Never was there an occasion when the gallantry, endurance, and fidelity of our native troops had been more severely tried or more conspicuously displayed. Hitherto our Indian sepoys had marched against the enemy, animated and sustained by the consciousness that when led by British officers, they must ever prove invincible, no matter by what numbers they might be opposed. But here, they were summoned to action after a disaster that could hardly fail to shake their confidence in themselves, and even in our military power. They were called upon to advance into a country that had proved the grave of the thousands that preceded them, and where the defiles through which they passed were strewed with the mutilated remains of their countrymen. Fearlessly they encountered the rigours of a climate to which their frames were unsuited, and the horrors of which were frightfully presented to their view, by the wretched stragglers who reached their camp, having escaped the murderous knives of the treacherous foe. Let it be remembered too, that the sepoy is influenced solely by a rigid sense of duty, and of honour. He is not buoyed up and stimulated by those high thoughts and stirring aspirations which animate the British soldier, when marching to battle, burning to sustain the glory and advance the interests of the country that gave him birth. The sepoy advances, stimulated by no feelings of ambition; influenced by no hope of personal aggrandisement, roused by no consciousness that on the 1008 coming conflict depends the safety of his family and the glory of his country. Still he advances, steady and dauntless, faithful to the dictates of honour and duty; or, in his own expressive language, ever "true to the salt he ate." With such troops, and with such officers, as had that night been brought to the notice of the House, they had little to fear for the stability of their mighty empire in India.
§ Viscount Ebrington
explained, that he had not intended to disparage the services of Lord Ellenborough in providing the army with those things that were necessary for its wants. On that ground he thought the noble Lord deserved the thanks of the House. Indeed, he could scarcely quarrel with the hon. Gentleman opposite, for having praised Lord Ellenborough as an excellent commissary-general.
§ Mr. Mangles
said, that after the eloquent and touching addresses of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and that of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, he had congratulated himself on being spared the necessity of saying a word on the present occasion, and it was only what had occurred within the last few minutes that had induced him to depart from the resolution that he had formed. But he could not sit silent to hear the hon. Member for Beverley taunt that side of the House with having their assent to the vote of thanks wrung from them, unwillingly, by a mere sense of justice. He knew and felt, that it was ungracious to say a word in opposition to the present motion, and only a sense of duty induced him to rise and make the few observations with which he should trouble the House. He was sure that on both sides there were the same feelings of admiration and gratitude at the exploits of the troops, and that there was the same desire to give expression to that feeling which was embodied in the resolution which had been submitted to the House. Being taunted however, as he and those who sat near him had been by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he would not be deterred from saying what he felt with respect to Lord Ellenborough's conduct. He said the necessity of thus guarding himself the more, as he was convinced that when Lord Ellenborough's other merits were brought into question, that the vote of that evening would be appealed to, and an attempt would be made to throw that 1009 over him as a protection and shield and it would be said, "How can you think of calling that man's conduct to account who has so lately received the thanks of the House of Commons"? He, however, would not be deterred by any such argument from expressing frankly, when the proper occasion came, what he thought as to the conduct of Lord Ellenborough. He admitted that he thought that Lord Ellenborough was entitled to thanks for the services that he had rendered in getting the supplies together for the army; but he should state why he thought the margin of the noble Lord's merit very small, and why he considered that the national honour had been in much hazard in his hands. The fact was, that between the 15th of March, when there was written that spirited order which had been so often referred to as the letter to the Commander-in-Chief, and the 4th of July, the whole tenour of the orders issued by the Governor-general were for retreat, and immediate retreat, and the only qualification which was to be found in them was as to the means of retreat. He would not stop to inquire why Lord Ellenborough showed a diminished energy immediately he left the council at Calcutta; it might be as it had been stated by the hon. Member for Beverly that after his departure from that place the noble Lord received intelligence of fresh disasters. At any rate, however, from the 15th of March to the 4th of July, there was a great falling off in the spirit of the despatches and an increasing manifestation of a disposition to retreat. Let him ask the House what was the situation in which they would have been placed if these orders had been acted on, and if Lord Ellenborough had met with generals more disposed to obey such orders. To use a common, but expressive phrase—no thanks to Lord Ellenborough that they did not retreat. If his orders, his urgent and repeated orders, had been carried into effect, (and it was mere accident that they had not been carried into effect), instead of our now rejoicing over the successes of our troops in the field, and in the passes, and in the destruction of the Bala Hissar and of the so called impregnable fortress of Ghuznee, we should have been mourning over a humiliating retreat, and our national honour, and the character of our troops unvindicated. But let the House see what General Nott thought would have 1010 been the effect if he had been able to carry into execution the Governor-general's peremptory orders to retreat. In page 245 of the Blue Book, that gallant officer makes use of this striking language:—If Government intend to recover even temporarily and for the saving of our national honour their lost position in this country, even if doubtful of the policy that it may be deemed expedient to pursue, I earnestly hope, that before any immediate retrograde step is made in either direction, our whole position in Afghanistan will be attentively viewed, and that the effect which a hasty retirement would certainly and instantly have on the whole of Beloochistan, and even on the navigation of the Indus, will be taken into consideration.Recollect, that the House was not then called upon to thank Lord Auckland, or to consider his policy; but this he would say, that if Lord Auckland was not justified in his intention to evacuate Affghanistan, Lord Ellenborough's proceedings to that end was much more impolitic. General Nott proceeded to say:—At the present time the impression of our military strength among the people of this country, though weakened by the occurrences at Cabul, is not destroyed; but if we now retire, and it should again become necessary to advance, we shall labour under many disadvantages; the most serious of which, in my opinion, will be a distrust of their strength among our soldiers, which any admission of weakness is so well calculated to induce; and in what other light could a withdrawal from Jellalabad and Candahar be viewed?This was the opinion of General Nott, who was at any rate a competent authority as to what effect a retreat would produce, and from the 15th of March to the 4th of July he received constant orders to retreat, which were not obeyed, only because the army did not possess the means of carriage. But even after General Nott had received his supplies, Lord Ellenborough said that his opinion as to the necessity of retreat was not altered, therefore he (Mr. Mangles) thought that the grounds for giving that noble Lord the thanks of Parliament were brought within the narrowest possible grounds. The other reason which induced him to adopt this opinion was the mode in which Lord Ellenborough declared the terms on which he was prepared to treat with the Affghans. If the Affghan chiefs had been wise enough to have known the resources and strength of our empire in India, and had, therefore, 1011 assented to the terms proposed to them, we should have abandoned that country without the vindication of our honour. In the first place, therefore, he entertained the view which he had expressed with respect to this motion, because the glorious issue of the campaign has resulted solely from the happy accident that the generals were not in a situation to obey the orders of the Governor-general to retreat, and in the second place, from another happy circumstance equally beyond the control of the Governor-general, that the Affghans would not listen to the terms that were proposed to them. These two accidents were the only things that prevented a hasty and dishonourable retreat. The hon. Member for Beverley was very severe on his right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, for terming the order of July a shabby order. He (Mr. Mangles) would say that it was a tardy, reluctant, and ungenerous document, and was, in point of fact, no order at all, but only a licence to that gallant officer to advance on his own responsibility. The hon. Member for Beverly had constantly termed it an order, but it had not the semblance of an order in any part of it. As to what the hon. Gentleman said with respect to the heavy responsibility of the Governor-general, and of his knowing well the hazard and danger that would attend another reverse in that country; it was evident that the greater the hazard and the consequent responsibility, the more wrong it was, that the Governor-general should have thrown that responsibility on General Nott, to whom it did not belong? He shifted the responsibility from his own shoulders, where it ought to have rested, upon those of General Nott, to whom it in no way belonged. Lord Ellenborough said—I give you leave to advance, if you see no objection;whereas, he ought to have said:You must advance, unless you see a decided objection.All this convinced him that the noble Lord had the smallest possible claim to the thanks of the House. Before he sat down, there was one circumstance to which he would refer, because it had not been noticed by the right hon. Gentleman in his eloquent and happy opening speech, wherein he was sure hon. Gentlemen would admit that General Nott was en- 1012 titled to very great credit and honour. When General Nott received the order to advance a portion of his troops, to take a certain portion with him, and to send a portion back under General England, he wrote a despatch (printed, No. 419) in which he said, he having, be it remembered, only two of her Majesty's regiments with him:—I certainly could have wished to have taken her Majesty's 41st regiment with me, knowing the great consequence of the adventurous march before me. But, when I look to Sinde, and to the want of confidence in our brave troops, shown by certain officers, I must give up that wish, however desirable, to ensure the safety of the division which I am not to accompany. I can see no difficulty or danger to the division which will retire to Sukkur; and their numbers will be augmented at every post on their route. What the division, retiring viá Ghuznee and Jellalabad, may have to encounter, remains to be seen; but I trust our exertions will overcome all difficulties, and that your lordship will not be disappointed.Now he (Mr. Mangles) knowing well the extreme importance justly attached in India to having a certain proportion of her Majesty's troops in every army, did think that going on such an expedition, the conduct of the gallant general in giving a half of all his European force to the column which was returning, was deserving of the highest meed of honour.
Colonel T. Wood
said, that it appeared to him the hon. Gentleman who described the Governor-general as having exhibited an hiatus of spirit between the 15th of March and the 4th of July, had himself manifested an hiatus of observation and candour, in not taking into his consideration at the same time the circumstances in which matters in India were at the period when, on the 19th of April, the Governor-general wrote to General Nott. The hon. Gentleman talked of the noble Lord's having sought to shift the responsibility from himself upon General Nott; but let him read the despatch of the 4th of July, and see whether he was authorized in such a suggestion. Writing as he was to General Nott, at a distance of 1,300 miles, under constantly varying circumstances, the noble Lord would not have done his duty had he not left much to the discretion of General Nott. Lord Ellenborough, at the close of his despatch to General Nott, dated 10th July, distinctly said:—With these cautions, I must again leave 1013 the line of your retirement to your own decision, to be founded upon your knowledge of circumstances, at the period when your march would commence; and I can only again assure you, that the most favourable construction will be put upon your conduct.Such was the spirit and such the instructions which had called forth the noble actions which had reflected such honour upon—he would not say, the Indian array—but the British army, for the services which had been rendered by the officers and men of this army were such as would reflect honour upon any army in the world; and the name of Ellenborough would ever be connected with these glorious transactions.
had hoped this motion would have been agreed to unanimously; and he, therefore, much regretted that the hon. Member for Montrose should have thrown the apple of discord into the arena, in the shape of an amendment. He trusted, however, that the hon. Gentleman would withdraw that amendment. He (Captain Bernal) had read the ponderous blue book with great attention, and he had risen from the perusal with a feeling that Lord Ellenborough was amply entitled to this vote, because it was evident to him that his Lordship had carried out the original policy of Lord Auckland, as to withdrawing from Affghanistan. Lord Auckland, in his despatch dated 22d December, 1841, says:—We have laid it down as a rule of our conduct that we would do all in our power to rescue our detachments wherever they may be encompassed by danger; but that, if the position of command and influence, which we have held at the capital of Affghanistan, should once be absolutely and entirely lost, we would make no more sacrifices of the very serious and extensive nature which could alone be effectual, except under positive instructions from England, for the reestablishment of our supremacy throughout the country. If matters should, by force or negotiation, be restored at Cabul, we shall have time for deliberation; and, if they should be but barely maintained in their present state of precarious difficulty, we must await the approach of spring before we can act with vigour or advantage. We have particularly, however, felt it our duty distinctly at this distance to give instructions applicable to all contingencies, and therefore to contemplate the most unfavourable issue to the struggle which our troops are maintaining at Cabul; and, in this case, upon the anticipation of which we cannot conceal from ourselves the hazard of extending dangers, and of the insurrection assuming in other quarters also the 1014 same national and united character, we have authorised General Nott and Major Rawlinson, with such caution and deliberation, in their military and political proceedings, as may serve to avoid discredit, and to promise safety, so to shape their course as best to promote the end of the eventful relinquishment of our direct control in the several Affghan provinces, and to provide for the concentration of all forces and detachments as may be most conducive to the security of the troops.It appeared to him that Lord Ellenborough had only been carrying out the principles of this despatch. As to what had fallen from the noble Member for Plymouth, as he (Captain Bernal) believed, in jest, it appeared to him to afford one of the best possible grounds for thanks to the Governor-general, that he had shown himself to be so efficient a Commissary-general. He could hardly have earned higher praise. He must state that, in his opinion, the troops in the first expedition to Cabul were by no means supplied as they ought to have been. There seemed to have been a penny-wise and pound-foolish system of economy pursued. In the despatches numbered 108 and 118 General Wilde lamented that no guns were forthcoming when he applied for them; he was obliged to obtain two from the Sikhs, and they were so bad that they burst the first time they were fired. Such was not the state in which the army should have been left. In despatch No. 153 General Wilde said:—In the midst of all my difficulties there is none which distresses me more, and causes more trouble and importunate references to me, than the commissariat department, at every instant of the day, occasioned by the insufficiency of cattle, and the prospect that one-half of what may accompany us will probably die from sheer starvation, as food for animals, in advancing through the Khyber Pass, must be carried along, as well as for man. On no occasion that has ever come under my observation would it have been so desirable to have an experienced and efficient commissariat officer with a force, as at Peshawur; and there is no European responsible person,—none but a parcel of Gomashtis, each bent on his own interested purposes, without any controlling authority.It was plain therefore that the duties of the Commissary-general were most important, and had been before Lord Ellenborough's time inefficiently performed. It appeared to him, in fact, that the whole of the disasters at Cabul were attributable to the niggardly policy of the Indian Go- 1015 vernment, and its false spirit of economy had cost England the possession of that fine country. He should refrain from offering any opinion as to the policy or administrative acts of the noble Lord (Lord Ellenborough) beyond those which were comprised within the terms of the resolutions before the House, respecting which he must say that he most cordially approved of them; and he trusted that the House would be prepared, in addition to the vote of thanks, to confer some more substantial reward upon the gallant and deserving officers and men who were the subjects of the resolutions under discussion.
§ Sir H. Douglas
I was in great hopes that the Vote of Thanks proposed by the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government would have passed not only unanimously, but by acclamation, and without entering into any of those discussions consequent upon the observations made by the noble Lord, the Member for London, which have certainly disturbed and protracted the discussion. I shall not take up the time of the House in going at any length into the general merits of this important and most interesting subject, as presented to the House in the splendid statement made by the right hon. Baronet, in proposing the Vote of Thanks which we ar? now co?siderin?; but s?all con?ine mys?lf stri?tly to?rofessi?nal mil?tary ob?ervatio?s, appr?priate?o the q?estion?ow befo?e us, n?mely, t?e condu?t and e?ecution?of the?ilitary?operati?ns, by?hich th? war in?Affghanistan ha? been b?ought t? a most triumph?nt and?atisfac?ory con?lusion.?I am ve?y sensi?le, Sir? that n?thing that I can say, c?n add t? the we?ght of?he sple?did sta?ement m?de by t?e right?hon. Ba?onet in?proposing this?ote of?hanks,?r give?ny addi?ional value wha?ever to the tha?ks whic? are, I?trust,?o be un?nimousl? bestow?d. But? hope t?ese wil? not be?the les? accept?ble to?y galla?t comra?es in a?ms, tha? an old?soldier? admiri?g what they hav? done,?nd capable, I trust, of?appreci?ting it?professionally,?should?eel him?elf called upon not to?ive a s?lent vo?e upon?n occas?on on w?ich, th? reputa?ion of?he prof?ssion,?nd the?nterest? of the country?have been so no?ly uphe?d. With?respect?to the?osition?of mili?ary affairs in?ndia an? Affgha?istan,?t the t?me Lord Ellenborough assumed his high functions, I need only advert to the despatches and documents referred to by 1016 the right hon. Baronet, namely, the Governor-general's despatch of the 3rd of December, 1841, that of the 15th of February, addressed to Sir Jasper Nicolls, and that of the 19th February, 1842, addressed to the Select Committee. And, as the hon. Member for High Wycombe, who spoke last, has read to us a passage in the despatch of the 3rd of December, more particularly expressive of the declaration of the Governor-general in Council, that it was not their intention to direct new and extensive operations for the re-establishment of our supremacy throughout Affghanistan, or to retain possession of the remainder of that country in the event of Cabul being lost, I must observe, that the hon. Member did not read that sentence to its conclusion, having omitted "that it was the wish of the Governor-general in Council to retire from Affghanistan, with the least possible discredit." This, together with the determination expressed in the letter of the Governor-general in Council to Sir Jasper Nicolls, of February 15th, directing his Excellency to withdraw Sir Robert Sale's force from Jellalabad with the least possible delay, and likewise General Nott from Candahar, proves that at that time there was no hope or intention of doing more than to withdraw the British troops with the least possible discredit from Affghanistan. Lord Ellenborough, in his celebrated despatch of the 15th of March, announced his intention to provide, in the first instance, for the safety of the detached bodies of our troops at Jellalabad and Candahar, and, ultimately, to re-establish our military reputation by the infliction of some signal and decisive blow upon the Affghans, and so retrieve the disasters of Cabul before we should ultimately withdraw within the Indus: and Lord Ellenborough proceeded with the utmost circumspection, prudence, and vigour to carry this resolution into effect. If he had attempted this with precipitation—if he had ordered movements in advance from Jellalabad and Candahar before those points in the two lines of operation had been properly succoured and strengthened by re-opening communications with them, and so make good those points which had been pushed so far into an enemy's country, as we say "in air" without establishing intermediate posts by which to ensure the safety of those in advance, from which extensive operations might be combined upon Cabul—if Lord Ellenborough had done this, we should not now be occupied in voting thanks to 1017 that noble Lord. For nothing would have been more dangerous; in fact it was impracticable to attempt a forward movement from those two points until they should be firmly made good, strengthened, and supplied with all the means requisite for such ulterior movements. What was the situation of General Nott at Candahar? He received on the 14th of November the order from General Elphinstone, dated the 3rd, to move with the utmost practicable expedition, with the whole of the troops under his orders, upon Cabul, instead of returning to Hindostan. Colonel M'Laren's brigade had already left Candahar on its return to Hindostan, in conformity with the orders that Major-general Nott had received. That brigade was immediately recalled; and, with the addition of some cavalry and horse-artillery, pushed forward towards Cabul, but was forced to return. The insurgents collected in force, first within forty miles of Candahar, and then advanced to within five miles of that place. They were there attacked and dispersed by Major-general Nott. On the 28th of December the Major-general received the Governor-general's letter of the 3rd of December, directing him to retire. But General Nott, and the political agent, determined not to do this, nor to observe, in this respect, the terms of the Convention of Cabul. But it was impracticable for Major-general Nott to advance. His force, 7,000 men of all arms, was totally insufficient. A small body of indifferent cavalry; three of the infantry regiments (the Shah's Hindoostanee,) indifferent; only 4,000 good troops, to guard an immense line of march and convoys of provisions; pay four months in arrear, total want of medical stores and comforts, and of the means of transport. Such was the state of that important post for six months, as General Nott states, after the disaster of Cabul, without having received any succour or reinforcement of even a few additional troops, which would have enabled him to advance from Candahar. What was the situation of Jellalabad? Major-general Sale had fallen back from Cabul upon that place, to open the communication through the Khyber Pass, and to secure that very important point Jellalabad upon that long line of operation. He was ordered by Major-general Elphinstone, on the 9th November, 1841, to return with the whole of his troops immediately, at all risks and with the utmost possible expedition, to Cabul. Major- 1018 general Sale had reached Jellalabad with the greatest difficulty, and with severe loss; and well was it that he declined to attempt to obey the order he had received. Had he done so, Jellalabad must have been lost. He judged rightly in adhering, as he states in his despatch of the 15th November, to his plan of putting Jellalabad in a state of defence, holding it, if possible, until the Cabul force should fall back upon him, or succours arrive from Peshawur. Every exertion was then made to open a communication with and succour Jellalabad. Colonel Wyld failed in his attempt to affect this, and was obliged to fall back. This was afterwards effected by Major-general Pollock, in the most able and gallant manner: he received Lord Ellenborough's despatch of the 15th of March, on the 2nd of April. He moved forward on the 4th, opened the Pass, and on the 16th relieved Jellalabad. He too, had discretionary powers; he might have withdrawn the garrison and retired; but he, in concurrence with the gallant officer whom he had relieved, determined to remain, and to exercise his discretion in preparing for a movement combined with one from Candahar, upon Cabul. And here, with the leave of the House, I wish to draw particular attention to the admirable despatch written by Major-general Nott from Candahar, on the 24th of March, 1842. That despatch has been referred to by the hon. Member for Guildford as a protest against the orders which he had received to withdraw his troops from Candahar. But these scruples, this determination not to withdraw, were in opposition to orders issued before Lord Ellenborough's arrival. It is impossible for a military man to speak of this remarkable despatch, without expressing the utmost admiration of the sound and scientific views which it contains; and without stating the conviction I feel, that had the post of Candahar been relinquished—had Major-general Nott withdrawn from it, and moved towards Hindostan, as he was ordered to do, neither Lord Ellenborough's orders, nor any exertion however splendid on the other line of operation, would have succeeded in effecting the great ulterior design, of striking a memorable blow at Cabul. And on the other hand, had our troops been withdrawn from Jellalabad, the undivided force of the Affghans would have been at liberty to concentrate its energy against Candahar.As long (says Major-general Nott) as both 1019 the positions of Candahar and Jellalabad are occupied by us, the attention of the insurgents in Affghanistan is distracted. No general or combined movement can be made by the Affghans while they are threatened from both these points; but if one source of apprehension be removed by the withdrawal of our troops from Jellalabad, the undivided force of the people backed by success, and inflamed by religious enthusiasm, will be at liberty to concentrate its energy against our position at Candahar.It certainly does appear that Lord Ellen borough did contemplate the necessity of retiring from those two points; and there after to carry into effect the determination announced in his despatch of the 15th of March, in some other way. His Lord ship appears to have acted, in this respect upon a well-known maxim of our profession, borrowed from the French, as many of our technicalities are, Re culer, pour mieux sauter. Recede, to rush forward the more effectually. But happy and fortunate was it, that he had, in the command of those points, officers on whose discretion he might rely, and to whose discretion he gave latitude, and who fearlessly assumed it. Lord Ellenborough lost no time in doing everything in his power to push up communications with those points, to succour, reinforce, and secure them first, and then to provide them with all the means and materials requisite for a combined offensive movement upon Cabul. He then wrote his celebrated despatch of the 4th of July, to Major-general Pollock, directing him to combine is movements with Major-general Nott, and, as senior officer, to issue orders to that officer. The House will likewise find full instructions for these combined movements, in Lord Ellenborough's des patches, Nos. 415 and 418, pages 335 and 337, which had been so often quoted, and in conformity with which, those movements were made, and which were conducted by those gallant officers, and executed by the troops, under their command, in such a manner as to entitle those who directed, commanded, and executed those heroic deeds, to that unanimous vote of thanks, which I think they richly deserve, and which I trust will be given cordially and unanimously.
§ Captain Layard
said, he was most ready to concur in the vote of thanks to his gallant comrades in India. He had himself served in that part of the world, under a gallant officer whose name was well known both to India and to Europe. 1020 He had served there under Lord Combermere, and he had at least seen enough of India to know that the thanks of that House were eminently due to the officers and men who had rendered to their Sovereign and their country such eminent services. Amongst other grounds on which he should support the present motion was that referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War; that right hon. Member referred to the humanity which our soldiers had shown: no one who had any practical acquaintance with armies could hesitate to admit, that nothing could be more difficult than to restrain within due bounds a body of troops disorganized by defeat, or flushed with victory. He sincerely rejoiced to observe that the hon. Member for Gates head had said what he did; but he hoped that there existed no grounds for thinking, and he trusted there never would be good ground for saying, that the British army had stained the bright jewel of their reputation by acts of inhumanity. While a vote like the present was under consideration he did think that a fitting opportunity presented itself for calling the attention of the House to the bad state of the arms with which British soldiers were supplied. On a recent occasion a division of infantry fired upon a body of cavalry, and though the distance between them was but twelve yards, yet not a man of the enemy fell. This was a state of things which he felt bound to bring under the consideration of the House. The actions of the gallant officers and men who had been recently employed in India were such as to have completely wiped off the stain that for a short time had dimmed the luster of our arms, and he hoped, that as the House were disposed to give their thanks for these services, they would go a little further, and bestow upon them more substantial rewards which such conduct so justly deserved. The right hon. Baronet had very properly dwelt upon the gallant actions performed both by captains and subalterns; but he also, in a manner highly honourable to himself, spoke of the conduct of a non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Deane, who returned into one of the passes for the purpose of saving the life of a son-in-law of General Sale. It rarely fell to the lot of a man in the humbler ranks of life to be thus mentioned; but nothing could be more just, or more creditable to the feelings of the right hon. 1021 Baronet, than the reference thus made to the services of this estimable individual. He would now beg to address himself to the hon. Member for Montrose; that hon. Member had mentioned Lord Keane. The noble Lord performed the services which he undertook well and efficiently; he performed them gallantly, and no man living could think of grudging him the rewards which he had received; but surely, as Lord Keane never claimed any degree of credit but that which belonged to him, so he ought not to be held responsible for anything which occurred in his absence; he hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would withdraw his opposition.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, he should not have addressed the House, but for the allusion to the reference which he had made on a former night to the reports of excesses said to have been committed by our troops. It was now but justice in him to say, that he had derived much satisfaction from the perusal of the orders contained in the Blue Book, from Lord Ellenborough, and from the generals commanding the troops; and also the statements made by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary at War. It was impossible that orders could be more clearly expressed than were those from the noble Lord, and also those from Generals Nott and Pollock, enjoining forbearance and humanity. The contradiction by the Secretary at War of the reports alluded to, was as complete as circumstances would allow. He rejoiced in the removal of such a stain from the character of our troops. Reference had been made to the absence of any succours to General Nott at Candahar for six months. But if the hon. Member would refer to the Blue Book, he would find that not only had orders been given by Lord Auckland for the forwarding of succours, but it was to be seen, in a letter from General England to Major Outram, dated 18th February, that before Lord Auckland left India, measures had actually been taken for sending help to General Nott. The letter stated—I have the honour to acquaint you that, under the circumstances of the determination of the Government to maintain Candahar, and with a view to give support to that important measure, I propose, at the earliest practicable period in the next month, to move the head quarters of this force up the Bolan Pass to Quetta, with the following detachment of the troops now in the low country,1022 He would not trouble the House with the details; but General England went on to say—You are probably aware that, independent of the expediency of forcing the communication with Candahar, the troops at that place are much in want of carriage, treasure, medicines, and other stores; also that several officers, as well as a company of Bengal artillery, destined for Candahar, have been for some time prevented from reaching it, owing to the interruption of the road by the insurgents. The movement, however, which I contemplate, will at once remedy these evils; and thus place the corps of Major-general Nott in increased efficiency.He quoted this to show, that every means had been taken to send supplies to General Nott. He would quote a passage from a despatch of General Nott's to show, that it was from no want of equipments, but in consequence of Lord Ellenborough, that no earlier movements had been made. In a letter to Mr. Mad-dock, dated May 21, he said—Before the receipt of your letter of the 19th April I had equipped this force, which, with two additional regiments of infantry, another troop of horse artillery, and the remainder of the Shah's First Cavalry, I had intended to march in command of, for the purpose of throwing supplies into Khelat-i-Ghilzie, and endeavouring to recover the late Ghusnee garrison, now in the hands of the enemy, and making a diversion in favour of General Pollock's army.This intention, it thus appears, was abandoned, in consequence of Lord Ellenborough's orders of April 19. He (Mr. Wood) would say no more than that he concurred in the vote of thanks, on the grounds stated by the right hon. Baronet, and acquiesced in by his noble Friend; and, after the statements and explanations which had been made, he trusted the hon. Member for Montrose would withdraw his amendment.
Mr. Stafford O'Brien
referred to the expedition which, four years before the proclamation of 1842, had been ordered to proceed beyond the Indus, and they could not, he was understood to say, remember that proclamation, and reflect upon what had been done and not done in India since, without feeling the great responsibility which attached to those who originated that expedition a responsibility in which all in that House must share. It was not that they felt less grateful to the army for the great deeds it had per- 1023 formed, if they, at the same time, felt in a warfare like this, the great responsibility which attached to them as Christians and a civilised people. How much Christianity and civilisation had receded in consequence of late events, was matter for deep consideration. After our reputation for valour had been re-established, a reputation for justice and Christian mercy yet remained to be fully carried out.
§ Motion agreed to nem. con.; and it was ordered that Mr. Speaker transmit the resolutions of the House to the Governor-general of India. "That his Lordship be requested to communicate the same to the several officers referred to therein."