§ MR. BRIGHT
interposed, and begged leave to present a petition. It purported to be from Reading, and to pray that the House would not vote thanks to the Indian army, as the troops were engaged in an unjust and impolitic warfare.
§ SIR R. PEEL
then spoke as follows: I am about to propose that one of the highest rewards that can be bestowed upon successful valour shall be conferred by this House. I am about to propose that the thanks of the Commons of this great Empire shall be given to the officers and men who recently on the banks of the Sutlej, under very trying circumstances, by their discipline, by their fortitude, by their brilliant valour, have sustained the reputation 386 of their country, and proved themselves worthy of the service to which they belong. And I was prepared, until I was interrupted by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the city of Durham, to believe that it would be impossible that any body of Englishmen could be found, who, seeing what were the circumstances of unprovoked aggression which called forth the exertions of these gallant men—seeing what, in a just cause, was their devotion to the interests of their country—would sign a petition grudging the grateful acknowledgment of courage and devotion which we propose to offer. [Much cheering.]
The Resolutions with which I shall conclude will not touch upon any matter of purely political concern, but are framed in conformity with established usage — that usage being consonant with reason and justice. The Resolutions will be confined to the acknowledgment of military skill, ability, and valour; and those who may be disposed, if any there be, to question the policy of the Indian Government, will not be in the slightest degree compromised by giving a ready acquiescence in the Motion I shall submit. However convinced I may be of the justice, the moderation, and the wisdom which have characterized the conduct of my gallant Friend the Governor General, yet I shall studiously abstain, in the observations which I make, from any reference to matters of public policy, excepting such as is necessary to elucidate the military operations which are the subject of the Resolutions I shall move. With the position, with the Government, with the population of the Sikh territory, we have become familiar through events that have occurred within the last few years. The state of the country and the history of the Punjaub are probably well known, to all whom I am addressing, from the relation in which we stood towards it, during our operations in the neighbouring county of Affghanistan. The House is probably well aware that by the ability and energy of an individual (Runjeet Sing) supremacy was established by him in the Punjaub; and that for many years, through that ability and energy, he ruled the destinies of that great country, and kept in subjection and subordination a powerful army. Since his death, which took place in the year 1839, the Government of the Punjaub has presented a series of acts of cruelty, of intrigue, of a rapid succession of governors, in consequence of the murder of the predecessor by the successor; 387 it has exhibited a picture of licentiousness and debauchery so extravagant, that it might be calculated to provokea smile if it were not for the influence such licentiousness and debauchery must exorcise over the welfare of millions. The acts of that Government have been mainly directed by that powerful soldiery over which Runjeet Sing established his sway; but which since his death has been in the constant habit of controlling the conduct of the civil authorities, and even of the military commanders, by repeated acts of insubordination, and repeated murders, for the purpose of extorting increased pay. Perhaps the best idea one can give of the anomalous condition of affairs, and of the difficulties of speculating upon any acts that may be committed, or upon any measure that may be resorted to is this—that it is quite clear that the main object of the governors of that country, and of the principal landed proprietors, and chiefs, has been to provoke collision with the British army, not for the purpose of resenting any wrong, or of sustaining the military reputation of their country, but of freeing themselves from subjection to an insubordinate and licentious force, by provoking a conflict with Great Britain, in which that force should fall a sacrifice. That has been the main object, and the strange principle of public policy, that has for some time guided the decisions and regulated the acts of the rulers of the Punjaub. I well know what was the object of my Friend, Sir Henry Hardinge, in undertaking the government of India. He made great sacrifices from a sense of public duty; my gallant Friend held a prominent place in the Councils of Her Majesty: he was, I believe, without any reference to party divisions, held in general esteem in this House, as well by his political opponents as by his political frends. He was regarded by the army of this country as its friend, because he was the friend of justice to all ranks of that army. It was proposed to him at a time of life when, perhaps, ambition is a less powerful stimulus than it might have been at an earlier period—it was proposed to him to relinquish his place in the Councils of his Sovereign—to forego the satisfaction he must have felt at what he could not fail to see, that he was an object of general respect and esteem. He separated himself from that family which constituted the chief happiness of his life, for the purpose of performing a public duty he owed to his Sovereign and his country, by taking the 388 arduous and responsible situation of Chief Governor of our Indian possessions. He went out with a high military reputation, solicitous to establish his fame in connection with our Indian Empire, not by means of conquest, or the exhibition of military skill and valour, but by obtaining for himself a name in the annals of India as the friend of peace, and through the promotion of the social interests and welfare of the inhabitants. It was mainly on account of the military character and high reputation of my gallant Friend that he was enabled to control and keep in check the aspirations of more ardent and impetuous minds bent upon the invasion and conquest of the Punjaub.
The view which my gallant Friend took of the policy to be pursued in regard to the Punjaub, was shortly this: he thought the dominions of the British Crown in India were sufficient for every purpose—that the interests of the Empire would not be promoted by the addition of the Punjaub to the possessions already subject to our own rule. He was determined, therefore, to resist any temptation to territorial aggrandizement. His desire was to see a native Government established in the Punjaub, capable of maintaining its independence, of restoring subordination in the ranks of a great army, composed of men of high natural courage, of great physical strength, accustomed to discipline, and trained to military habits by European officers of distinguished reputation. His wish was, that a Sikh Government should be established. He deprecated the formation of a Mussulman Government, or the domination of any other than Sikh authorities. At the same time that he was determined to resist the temptations to direct aggression, he refused repeated proposals that were made to him to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Punjaub. Although nothing could have been more easy; although but a word from him would have been necessary to induce the Mussulman inhabitants of the Punjaub to rise against the Sikh authorities, who were conducting themselves in a manner so irreconcilable with sound policy or common sense, he resolved steadily to adhere to the line he had chalked out; to abstain from all interference in the domestic affairs of the Punjaub; and to observe literally every obligation of good faith.
But while that was his view of the policy that ought to be pursued, he was not insensible to the danger to which our Indian 389 Empire was constantly exposed from the maintenance on its frontier of a profligate and debauched Government, controlled by an insubordinate and licentious army. My gallant Friend, therefore, took all precautions. He had to guard a frontier extending on the banks of the Sutlej at least 100 miles. The frontier from Ferozepore to Roopur was at least 100 miles; from Ferozepore to Loodiana about 77 miles. My gallant Friend, cautiously abstaining from the collection of any force on the frontier which could justify aggression, or even remonstrance, on the part of the Lahore Government, took those precautions which would effectually prevent successful attack on their part. At Ferozepore he stationed a force of about 8,000 men, consisting of one European regiment, seven regiments of Native infantry, two regiments of Native cavalry, twenty-four light guns, and had mounted in position at Ferozepore thirty or thirty-five pieces of heavy artillery. He intended this to be the advanced post of the British army on the western side of the frontier. At a distance of about seventy-six miles to the eastward, higher up the Sutlej, at Loodiana, he collected a force of about 5,000 men. My gallant Friend thought that these two armies, or two divisions of an army, stationed about seventy-six miles from each other, acting on the flanks of any force from the Punjaub, induced by caprice or by the temerity of their rulers to invade the British territory, would be sufficient to keep it in effectual control. At a distance more in the interior, namely, at Umballa, he stationed another division of 7,500 men at the least. My gallant Friend was undoubtedly under the impression that it was highly improbable that any attack would be made by the army of the Punjaub upon the British positions. He knew that no conduct on his part could provoke or justify such an attack; and he felt every assurance that could be felt, so far as justice and reason sanctioned the inference, that the army of the Punjaub would not be mad enough to seek a conflict with the British forces on the left bank of the Sutlej.
There were good reasons why my gallant Friend did not keep together for the last two or three years an immense British and native army on the banks of the Sutlej. Constant efforts were made by the Government and by the military leaders of the army of the Punjaub to corrupt our native troops. The constitution of the army of the Punjaub is purely democratic: 390 the private soldiers elect representatives, five in number from each company, to control their officers, to depose them when they think fit, or to subject them to death when it is deemed expedient. The pay of an infantry soldier of the Punjaub is about 25s. a month; while the pay of a sepoy in Her Majesty's service is only about 14s. or 15s. a month. Constant exertions were made, by direct and indirect means, aided by community of language and of religion, to shake the fidelity of the Native troops; but I rejoice to say that they were made without success. The loyalty of the sepoys, with scarcely a single exception, has been untainted. All the offers of a profligate Government and a licentious soldiery were unavailing; but still it was prudent in my gallant Friend not to bring together on the frontier, for an indefinite time and for no specific object, an immense Native force, seeing that within a few miles they would be exposed to the injurious example of a soldiery free from all restraint, and constantly resorting to threats of actual violence towards their leaders. There were, therefore, political reasons for not keeping our troops, as it were, in immediate contact with such an enemy, and there were military reasons equally powerful.
It was, in the first place, impossible, if aggression were intended, to foresee at what point an invasion would be made. On the left bank of the Sutlej were many States belonging to the Punjaub, and some of the chiefs of those States men of doubtful fidelity. In those dominions on the left bank of the Sutlej are many forts of considerable size and strength. A force controlled by no Government, impelled by the fear of losing its pay, or the hope of extorting more, is not governed by ordinary considerations of prudence like the armies of regular States; and if the army of the Punjaub meditated a sudden irruption into the British territory, it was difficult to foresee at what point the descent would be made. Between Ferozepore and Roopur there are not fewer than twenty fords available for the passage of troops; nor is it easy to ascertain their exact position, since, from the nature of the river, they are constantly changing. My gallant Friend, thought, therefore, that true military policy recommended the course he has pursued, not that his whole army should be concentrated on the banks of the Sutlej, but that our territory should be guarded by a sufficient force stationed at Ferozepore and 391 Loodiana. Seeing the superior force of cavalry in the army of the Punjaub, the desperate rashness of a licentious army not governed by the ordinary rules of conduct, it was within the limit of possibility that a dash might be made at Delhi, or some vital part of the Indian Empire. My gallant Friend, therefore, most wisely and prudently, kept a considerable force at Umballa, seventy-six miles to the south-east from Loodiana, and a still larger body of troops in the neighbourhood of Delhi. This whole force was assembled by way of precaution against the possible attempts of the Lahore army; and it consisted in the whole of not fewer than thirty regiments of Native infantry, of nine regiments of European infantry, of twelve regiments of Native cavalry, and of three regiments of European cavalry. All this was quite consistent with forbearance on the part of the Governor General, and with his determination to be seduced by no temptation to aggression on the enemy.
It is quite clear that my gallant Friend the Governor General did take every precaution to ensure the safety of the British dominions in India, in case of sudden and unprovoked attack. In the early part of the year, at the time when he was occupied with his functions as Governor General, and when it was most material that he should perform them in conjunction with his Council at Calcutta: in a minute, dated on the 16th June, he submitted to the Council his opinion that our relations with the Court of Lahore became so doubtful, that, great as was the inconvenience of separating the Governor General and his Council, it was desirable, with reference exclusively to Indian interests, that he should proceed to the left bank of the Sutlej, in order that on the spot he might be enabled to give such directions as appeared necessary, and which, if given at the distance of a thousand miles, might be inappropriate. The unanimous opinion of the members of the Council was, that it was for the public interest that the Governor General should proceed to join the army; and, in conformity with this advice, in the month of October he took his departure for the left bank of the Sutlej. Up to an early period in December, the opinion of my gallant Friend (Sir Henry Hardinge) was, that there would be no irruption from the right bank of the Sutlej into the British territory. He felt confident that the Sikhs must be convinced that such an attempt could only end in signal defeat, 392 and therefore that it would not be made. So far as he could reason from experience, he had a right to arrive at this conclusion. In 1843 the army of Lahore left the capital and advanced to the Sutlej; but after remonstrance on our part it retired again and abandoned the enterprise. In 1844, exactly the same conduct was observed; the Punjaub army, eager for pay, or for booty, if pay could not be obtained, and, instigated by the Government and the chiefs, appeared to contemplate an irruption; but in 1844, as in 1843, the army withdrew to the interior. Accounts, however, reached my gallant Friend towards the end of November last, which led him to believe that an invasion of the British territory was seriously menaced. The House will find by the Papers recently presented by command of Her Majesty, that on the 20th November, Major Broadfoot addressed a letter to the Commander-in-Chief, and another to the Governor General to this effect:—Governor General's Agency, Nov. 20, 1845.Sir—Since I had the honour of waiting on your Excellency to-day, I have received Lahore letters of the 18th instant (morning). During the night of the 17th, the chiefs had agreed on, and the Durbar had ordered in writing, the following plan of operations. The army was to be divided into seven divisions, one to remain at Lahore, and the rest to proceed against Roopur and our hills, Loodiana, Hurreekee, Ferozepore, and Scinde, while one was to proceed to Peshawur; and a force under Rajah Golab Singh was to be sent to Attock.The decision then taken by the Lahore Durbar was, that four divisions were to be employed in an attack upon the British territory, but they were not to make a concentrated or simultaneous movement; and the policy of the course adopted by the Governor General was thus demonstrated. The Lahore army, in four divisions, was to make four separate attacks on different points along the river—the first division was to force the eastern extremity of the line; another to attack Loodiana; a third pass the river at Hureekee; and the fourth attack Ferozepore. Those divisions were to consist of about 8,000 men each. The House will see by reference to the Papers laid before them how difficult it was for any person, even the most experienced, to speculate on the decision to which the governing powers at Lahore might arrive. They will see, too, that the Ministers, or those who held the reins of government, spent their days in such continuous drunkenness and debauchery, 393 that no resolution of theirs could be depended on. An account written by the Agent at Lahore, to the Secretary to Government, dated Umballah, November 21st, founded on information received direct from Lahore, presents this picture of the councils of the Punjaub:—The Ranee (that is, the regent, the mother of the infant Maharajah) complained that whilst the troops were urging the march, they were still going home to their villages as fast as they got their pay; and Sirdar Sham Singh Attareewallah declared his belief that unless something was done to stop this, he would find himself on his way to Ferozepore with empty tents. The bait of money to be paid, and to accompany them was also offered, and at length the durbar broke up at two p.m. Great consultations took place in the afternoon; but I know only one result, that the Ranee had to give her lover his formal dismissal, and that he (Rajah Lal Singh) actually went into the camp of the Sawars he is to command, and pitched his tent. What the Ranee says is quite true of the sepoys dispersing to their houses; the whole affair has so suddenly reached its present height, that many of the men themselves think it will come to nothing, and still more who had taken their departure do not believe it serious enough to go back. On the day after this scene took place, i. e. the 19th, the usual stream of sepoys, natives of the protected States, who had got their pay, poured across the Sutlej, at Hureekee, on the way to their homes.There appears also an account of another conversation, in those Papers, which took place between the Raja Lal Sing and Bhaee Ram Sing, one of the principal officers and advisers of the Lahore Government, and who seems to have been the only one of them in whom, from his character and wisdom, the slightest confidence could be placed. In a letter from Lahore, dated the 24th day of November, the following conversation was detailed: Bhaee Ram Sing, addressing Lal Sing, said—The English have interfered in no affairs of the Khalsa; what is the wisdom of your making (religious) war at the bidding of the soldiery? None of the nobles have discovered the real intentions of the English. The Governor General's agent, who is a steady friend, has written in the plainest terms, that the English Government desires only friendship like that of the late Maharaja Runjeet Singh; but that if any thing wrong is done by the Sikh army, the rulers of the kingdom will be held responsible, for rulers must account for the acts of their troops and subjects. Be cautious how you march to Hureekee with the troops.' The Rajah said, 'Bhaee Sahib, what can I do? if I remain, the soldiery seize me by the throat.'In a word, the councils of the durbar seem to have been shifting from day to day, and no one could speculate with any degree of confidence as to the probable result.
On the 9th of December, the Governor 394 General, thinking our relations with the Punjaub very critical, and that it was desirable to take every precaution against any sudden irruption, gave orders that the division of troops at Umballah, consisting of 7,500 men, should move towards the Sutlej. On December 11, the very day on which the Lahore army crossed the Sutlej, the British and Native troops of that division were on their march from Umballah to the frontier. The whole proceedings of the Governor General and the Commander in Chief, subsequently to that day, as well as before it, were characterized by the greatest prudence, skill, and foresight. From Umballah the troops marched to a place called Buseean, where, owing to the prudent precautions of the Governor General, they found an ample supply of food and stores. It was resolved that a junction should be effected with the Loodiana division, and that it would be better to incur some risk at Loodiana, rather than forego the advantage of a junction with the Loodiana division of the army. Those troops advanced accordingly towards Ferozepore, and learned by the way that the army of Lahore, amounting to not less than 60,000 men, had crossed the river, and were prepared to attack the British army. The expectations of the Governor General were entirely justified by the result. There were in Ferozepore 7,500 men, 35 heavy guns in position, and 24 pieces of field artillery, in addition to the heavy ordnance. The army of Lahore shrunk from the attack of so formidable a post, and Ferozepore was entirely safe, according to the anticipations which had been entertained by the Governor General. The army of Lahore, not venturing to attack Ferozepore, determined to give battle to the British forces on their march from Umballah, and on the 18th of December made a sudden attack on them. On that day the troops had reached Moodkee, after having marched 150 miles by forced marches. The men were suffering severely from want of water, and from exhaustion, and yet such was their discipline and gallantry, that they repelled the whole of the attacking army, though greatly superior to them in number, defeating a force treble their amount, and succeeding in the capture of 17 of their guns. The army of Lahore, thus repulsed by our forces advancing from Umballah, retired within very formidable entrenchments at Ferozeshah. Those entrenchments, consisting of strong breastworks, were in the form of a parallelogram, of which the opposite faces were a 395 mile, and half a mile in length respectively. In the face of those formidable works, protected by 150 guns of heavy calibre and excellent workmanship, and defended by near 60,000 men, the Governor General, and the Commander in Chief determined to effect a junction with the division of the army which was stationed at Ferozepore. The troops advanced accordingly within three miles of the enemy's position, and manœuvred on his left flank; but the Commander in Chief having given previous notice to Sir J. Littler, made a march to his left, and on the 21st December effected a junction with the Ferozepore division, which thus gave an addition of 7,500 men. At this time there remained but three hours to sunset. It was resolved, however, to attack the position of the enemy. My gallant friend (the Governor General) offered his services as second in command, services which were cheerfully and promptly accepted by the Commander-in-Chief. Determined not to wait till next morning, the instant they effected their junction with the division under Sir John Littler, the commanders resolved to make an attack upon the entrenched camp. The result, Sir, of that attack proved the valour of our European and Indian forces in a pre-eminent degree, and has entitled them to the warmest acknowledgments of this House and of the country. The night of the 21st December was one of the most memorable in the military annals of the British Empire. The enemy were well defended within strongly fortified entrenchments—their guns were served with the greatest precision, and told on our advancing columns with great effect. The right of the British army was led by the Commander-in-Chief, whilst the left centre was headed by Sir H. Hardinge. Our forces made an attack on the enemy's camp during the three hours which as yet remained of day-light; but they had not sufficient time to complete that victory, which was gloriously achieved on the following day. The British army, however, made good their attack, and occupied a part of the enemy's camp. In the middle of the night the camp took fire, and further conflict was for a time suspended in consequence; but as soon as it had ceased the army of Lahore brought forward their heavy artillery, and poured a most destructive fire upon our troops. The details of those occurrences have been given with admirable clearness in the despatches of both commanders; but there have been private letters received 396 which speak of them with less of formality, and perhaps give truer and more faithful accounts of these actions than the official documents. Perhaps the House will excuse me if I read an extract from a private letter from the Governor General to a member of his own family. The right hon. Baronet then read as follows:—The night of the 21st was the most extraordinary of my life. I bivouacked with the men, without food or covering, and our nights are bitter cold. A burning camp in our front, our bravo fellows lying down under a heavy cannonade, which continued during the whole night, mixed with the wild cries of the Sikhs, our English hurrah, the tramp of men, and the groans of the dying. In this state, with a handful of men, who had carried the batteries the night before, I remained till morning, taking very short intervals of rest by lying down with various regiments in succession, to ascertain their temper, and revive their spirits.My gallant Friend, as you see, spent that eventful night passing from regiment to regiment, cheering the men by his own example of constancy and courage—doing all that human means could do to ensure victory to our arms. "I found," my gallant Friend goes on to say—"I found myself again with my old friends of the 29th, 31st, 50th, and 9th, all in good heart"—(regiments with which he had served in the Peninsula)—and with them that regiment which has earned immortal fame in the annals of the British army—Her Majesty's 80th Begiment—My answer to all and every man was, that we must fight it out, attack the enemy vigorously at daybreak, beat him, or die honourably in the field. The gallant old general, kindhearted, and heroically brave, entirely coincided with me.Let the House observe how anxious my gallant Friend is to do justice to his companions in arms.During the night I occasionally called on our brave English soldiers to punish the Sikhs when they came too close and were impudent; and when morning broke we went at it in true English style. Gough was on the right. I placed myself, and dear little Arthur [his son] by my side, in the centre, about thirty yards in front of the men, to prevent their firing, and we drove the enemy without a halt from one extremity of the camp to the other, capturing thirty or forty guns as we went along, which fired at twenty paces from us, and were served obstinately. The brave men drew up in an excellent line, and cheered Gough and myself as we rode up the line, the regimental colours lowering to me as on parade. The mournful part is the heavy loss I have sustained in my officers. I have had ten aides-de-camp hors de combat, five killed and five wounded. The fire of grape was very heavy from 100 pieces of cannon; the Sikh army, drilled by French officers, and the men the most warlike in India.397 From my affectionate regard for that gallant man, I am proud to be enabled to exhibit him on such a night as that of the 21st of December—going through the camp—passing from regiment to regiment—keeping up the spirits of the men—encouraging them—animating their ardour—and having lost ten aides-de-camp out of twelve—placing his young son, a boy of seventeen or eighteen years of age, in the front of the line, in order that the British troops might be induced not to fire on the enemy, but drive them back by the force of the British bayonet. It was characteristic of the man to read these details. He had two sons present, one of whom was a civilian, and the other in the army. On the night of the 21st, he sent the civilian to the rear of the army, saying that his presence disturbed him, and that if he refused to retire, he would send him away in arrest a prisoner; but the presence, he said, of his younger son, an officer, whose duty called him to the field, only made the father more desperately resolute in the discharge of his duty. On the 22nd, after the battle was over, he took his eldest son, when visiting the sepoys and the wounded, and he showed them a Governor General of India who had lost his hand, and the son of a Governor General who had lost his foot, and endeavoured to console them in their sufferings by proving to them that men in the highest rank were exposed to the same casualties as themselves.
As I before observed, the accounts of all the military operations are given with admirable clearness in the despatches laid before the House. They must have been read with such attention by every Member of the House, that I will not weaken their effect by minute reference to military details. The pride and satisfaction we must all derive from those gallant exploits are no doubt counterbalanced by deep regret for the loss of so many men of the highest distinction and promise. We have had the misfortune—the great misfortune—of losing that gallant officer who on former occasions has so frequently distinguished himself—Sir Robert Sale. He, Sir, has closed a long career of glory by that death to which I believe he himself looked forward and which he coveted—that death in the field which entitles me to say that, even in his own estimation, he was "felix etiam opportunitate mortis." Sir, I do hope that this House will on no distant day mark their esteem and respect for the memory of Sir Robert Sale by humbly 398 representing to Her Majesty their unanimous wish that She may be pleased to record the gratitude of the country by the erection of a monument to Sir Robert Sale.
We have, Sir, also, to deplore the loss of Sir J. M'Caskill, to whom a brief but touching testimony of approbation is borne in the despatch of the Commander-in-Chief, as well as of one of the most eminent men in the civil and military services of India—Major Broadfoot. In that gentleman the highest confidence was placed by every one who came in contact with him. He obtained the applause of every civil and military authority in the country, and his prudence and skill as a civilian were only equalled by his ardour and bravery in the field. He was, I believe, the last of three brothers, all of whom have died in the service of their country on the field of battle. Major Broadfoot was present with Sir R. Sale during the siege of Jellalabad, and took a most conspicuous part in its defence. It is mournful, Sir, that we should have to deplore the loss in the same conflict of two gallant men so devoted to their country's service as Sir R. Sale and Major Broadfoot.
I shall not refer by name to officers of lower rank who have fallen in this conflict; for where all were so distinguished, it must be invidious to particularize; but whatever their rank, I can assure their surviving relatives that their country will do justice to their memory. I hope the thanks of the House will be convoyed to all the men of every regiment engaged in this brilliant exploit, without exception. If there were occasions on which the reputation for valour of some regiments may appear not to have been upheld, considering their former services — their known gallantry—their severe losses—the remembrance of one moment's default is altogether obliterated by the recollection of their former eminent conduct, and of the services they rendered on that very day. I am quite certain, Sir, that the men of Her Majesty's 62nd Regiment, of the 14th Native Infantry, and the other gallant Native regiment on the flank of Her Majesty's 62nd Regiment, will not suffer in the estimation of the country; that the willing thanks of this House will be given, without exception, to all the regiments engaged in this action.
I hope, Sir, there will be an unanimous acquiescence in this vote of thanks to the European and Indian army. I trust I 399 have said nothing that can provoke discussion or dissent in any quarter of the House. There is nothing in the Resolution to which any man—whatever may be his opinions as to the policy of the Governor General—can object. Let us on this occasion keep political and party differences altogether in the background. Let us all, without any division of political party, concur in bearing testimony to the brilliant services of men so worthy of the name of Englishmen. There never has been a greater example of extreme forbearance, strict justice, and a resolve to resist all the temptations to which the army was exposed—there never was a greater combination of those high qualities with the most brilliant talent and valour in defence of the British empire in India. The gallantry of those who fell in that conflict will not be without its fruits. Their lives will not have been sacrificed in vain. The remembrance of their conduct constitutes one of the brightest possessions—one of the great defences of this country. When we reflect what can be effected by discipline and valour, such as was manifested by our countrymen on these memorable days, we feel that in a just cause our country must be victorious. The memory of those men who have fallen through their devotion to their country will long serve to animate the British army. It will make us proud of that name which we hear, and encourage us, if need be, to emulate their heroic exertions, and exhibit equal devotion, equal perseverance, equal courage, in the cause of our common country. [Great and enthusiastic cheering greeted the right hon. Baronet from all sides of the House in the progress, and at the conclusion, of his speech.] He moved the first of the following series of Resolutions:—That the Thanks of this House be given to the Right honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Governor General of India, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, for the energy and ability with which he directed the military means at his disposal, to the repelling of the unprovoked invasion by the Sikh army of the dominions of the British Government, and of the Protected States upon the left bank of the Sutlej; and also, for the firmness and gallantry with which he directed the operations of that portion of the army under his immediate command, in the afternoon and night of December 21st, 1845, and on the morning of the 22nd, upon which occasion the enemy's defences were carried by storm, the greater part of their artillery captured, and their subsequent attempts to regain what they had lost repeatedly defeated.That the Thanks of this House be given to General Sir Hugh Gough, Baronet, Knight Grand 400 Cross of the Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in the East Indies, for the distinguished valour with which he directed and led the several attacks upon the enemy, and for the eminent services rendered by him in the battles of the 18th, 21st, and 22nd of December, 1845, displaying, as he did, in conjunction with the Governor General, a brilliant example to the troops, of perseverance and courage in critical circumstances, and of irresistible ardour in the several attacks made upon the enemy.That the Thanks of this House be given to Major General Sir Henry George Smith, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, to Major General Walter Raleigh Gilbert, and to Major General Sir John Hunter Littler, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and to the several Officers, European and Native, under their command, for the eminent services rendered by them in the recent arduous and successful operations.That the Thanks of this House be given to the Non-Commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, for the perseverance and fortitude maintained by them at Moodkee on the 18th of December, 1845, and for the daring valour with which they forced the enemy's entrenchments at Ferozeshah on the 21st and 22nd of December, captured most of his guns, and finally compelled the Sikh Army, of greatly superior numbers, to retire within their own frontier.That this Resolution be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps.Ordered—That the said Resolutions be transmitted by Mr. Speaker to the Governor General of India, and that he be requested to communicate the same to the several Officers referred to therein.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said: Agreeing entirely as I do in the Resolutions which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to move, I trust he will allow me the gratification of seconding the Motion. I participate in the feelings he has expressed on behalf of the House, and I trust with him that it will come to an unanimous decision, that we may offer a tribute to the valour of those who have fought for this country in India, which may be a source of pride to the survivors of these bloody engagements, and some consolation to the afflicted relatives of those who have fallen. With respect to the former part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, I do not intend to follow him farther than to say this; I feel assured that when Sir H. Hardinge accepted the post of Governor General of India, when he abandoned an honourable position in the Councils of his Sovereign, when he left the enjoyments of his happy home, he did so from the highest and most patriotic motives. With respect to the policy which Sir H. Hardinge, as Governor General, has pursued as to the Punjaub, it is highly interesting to hear the statement of that policy which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman. But as I am im- 401 perfectly informed upon that subject, the Papers having been but recently delivered, and they giving not a full account of that policy; and as these Resolutions contain, besides, nothing that pledges the House in any manner respecting that policy, I think it will be more fitting and becoming my position not to presume to offer any opinion whatever on this subject. This I know, if the utmost forbearance has been shown, as forbearance has been shown on this occasion, then we are free from the imputation of wanton aggression; more especially is this the case, when we consider the character of Sir H. Hardinge; a man whose military fame was already established, placed in command of an immense army, where his predecessor had distinguished himself by conquest, there was a wish and desire on his part to confine himself as far as possible to the territory already acquired, and to give no cause for the interruption of friendly relations with any of the neighbouring States. This is a feeling and a policy highly honourable to the Governor General, though it cannot be denied that that policy of forbearance has exposed the British army, in very disproportionate numbers, to the attack of the army of Lahore. When the action took place at Moodkee, I believe there were not more than 12,500 or 13,000 men altogether to encounter the attack of a force amounting to not less than three times that number. But the spirit of the Governor General and the spirit of the troops he commanded, far from quailing at the sight of his superior force, only kindled into greater determination. There was not a man amongst them, who on that day I will venture to say "wished for more men from England!" In the subsequent battle which the right hon. Gentleman has described, and with respect to which he has given so affecting an account from a letter of the Governor General, I must say I follow with delight the triumph of our arms on that occasion. I see that, on this occasion, as on so many others, it is no advantage gained by our greater civilization, or by the superior number of troops brought into the field, for great indeed was our inferiority in that respect, and vast the superiority of the artillery of the enemy's force; but the advantage was gained by the British army, directed by skill and determination, and by the soldiers of the Indian and native forces, who have been most faithful and courageous. By that army was the victory achieved; and 402 the gallant men who led it could have had no cause for hesitation or distrust, either in themselves or the companions with whom they were associated. Sir H. Gough could not but recollect the brilliant conduct of Sir H. Hardinge at the battle of Albuera; and Sir H. Hardinge could not but remember at the no less bloody battle of Barossa, the most distinguished behaviour of Sir Hugh Gough. They must then have had the utmost confidence in each other, as well as in themselves, when they led their gallant men to victory. Sir, I was glad to hear the allusion the right hon. Gentleman made to the 62d Regiment. I am induced to believe that that regiment could not have retired from any cause but the great carnage that had taken place in its ranks, rendering its strength unequal to the task that had been assigned it; I feel confident that, like the other regiments of the British army, if it shall be entrusted with a task to which its power is equal, it will be seen maintaining the high character which it has in former days acquired. I likewise rejoice to bear that the right hon. Gentleman means to propose an address from this House to Her Majesty, enabling Her Majesty to cause a monument to be erected to the memory of Sir R. Sale. That gallant officer, after the distinction he had acquired, could wish for no more glorious death than a death on the field of battle. But it would indeed be unworthy of us, if we did not show that we appreciate, and most fully appreciate, the devotion he has exhibited, not only formerly at Jellalabad, but in his anxiety to return to India afterwards to take part in the military operations there. With these feelings, therefore, I ask for the honour of seconding the Motion the right hon. Gentleman has proposed; and I trust, as I have already said, that our decision will be unanimous, and that we shall show that the qualities these brave and gallant men have exhibited, the dangers they have confronted, and the victory they have achieved, have met with a response in the gratitude of an English House of Commons.
§ MR. HUME
concurred entirely in the Vote; but he was anxious to make a few observations, because it had been stated elsewhere that the Commander-in-Chief had been surprised, and that, in consequence the victory was gained with a greater loss to the army than might have occurred. He believed that great caution had been displayed by the Governor Gene- 403 ral; and he attributed that caution to the probability of the Sikhs becoming the aggressors. Not even those on the spot, and those to whom the most accurate information was available, had any expectation of the occurrence of events by which recently all and every one had been startled. He had had the opportunity of seeing a letter from a political agent employed by the Government, in which it was stated that, notwithstanding the perplexing events and rumours of what was occurring in the durbar at Lahore, it was not believed that the aggression would so soon and so decidedly be made. It was a very natural explanation of Sir Henry Hardinge's unwillingness to advance his forces, to say that he feared that by such a course he might give grounds for an attack by first having given offence to the enemy, and not a less natural and not less convincing explanation was that offered by the right hon. Baronet. If hon. Members took the map of India and studied the locality in which the events in question had occurred—if they made themselves familiar with the situation, the novel situation, in which the English commanders had been placed, they would see that it had been a matter of utter impossibility, by any skill or any manœuvres, to concentrate the necessary forces in the position in which, if concentrated, they could act with the most effect. Looking to the fact that there were no fords at Roopur to which the British had access, that there was the chance of Loodiana being attacked, and no stations within the distance of seventy miles, he (Mr. Hume) did not think it possible that there could have been a better position than that taken up at Umballah. The troops that marched from Umballah were able, in any part of the country between Loodiana and Ferozepore, to give their services. He deplored as much as any man the disasters attendant on war, and he should regret if there had been, in the present case, any unnecessary sacrifice of human life; but there were circumstances when war was unavoidable—when entering upon it was commendable; and, taking into consideration the events which preceded the late contest, the two attacks made in the winters of 1843 and 1844, when threats of hostility, partially carried into effect, had been made to the Governor General—there was, in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, nothing to deplore in the motives which actuated the Governor General in entering upon the war. He trusted that 404 the vote of thanks would be no less cordially than unanimously passed; and, while giving it, it would be well to recollect the necessity and the justice of making every consideration for the families of those who had so gloriously fallen. Soldiers, as all knew, were generally not affluent men; and when the support which their exertions gave to their families was taken away, great misery and misfortune ensued. The humblest had, none could doubt, done their duty as well and as nobly as had the bravest; and he trusted that the Government would extend its patronage to the promoting of the welfare of those who had been bereaved by their sacrifices for the country. The House would rejoice in recording the distinguished services of Sir Robert Sale in a suitable manner, and would not feel less gratification in the acknowledgment of the abilities and valour of the other distinguished officers; but let the House bear in mind that all who fell were equally worthy, and that, proportionably, all had equal claims on the gratitude of their countrymen. He also trusted, that the time was not distant when the right hon. Gentleman would be enabled to lay before the House the correspondence that took place between the seat of Government in India, and our different allies and enemies during the last three or four years—not that it could affect what had now taken place, but that they might in future have the means of arriving at something like a just conclusion as to the policy pursued on different occasions by the Governors General.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
also wished to take his share in paying a humble and heartfelt tribute for the great and eminent services which the Indian army had accomplished. At the same time he desired to take advantage of some expressions which had been used by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), to recall to his recollection, and to that of the House, certain, passages in the despatch of Sir H. Hardinge, and in his proclamation, to which hitherto no allusion had been made. "Let us," said the hon. Member, "not thank the officers and army alone; let us imitate Sir H. Hardinge himself, who, in his despatch to the President and Council announcing the victory, in the most solemn manner, desired England and India to recollect by whom that victory was achieved; that it was not in the strength of his own arm he had been saved, but "it was thine arm, and thy right hand, and the light of 405 thy countenance, because thou hadst favour unto us." He accused no man of forgetting or overlooking this; but he desired that the House might take advantage of the expressions of Sir H. Hardinge himself, to recognise Him who was the giver of all victory, and, while they thanked the instrument, not to forget Him from whom alone victory came. He would also say a word on the conduct of Sir Henry Hardinge. The only objection which had been urged against the policy of Sir Henry Hardinge was, that he did not anticipate the outbreak of the Sikh army. For his part, he would rather that Sir H. Hardinge had been taken by surprise in a defensive war, than to have precipitated himself, and wantonly, into a war of aggression. The utmost offence Sir H. Hardinge had been guilty of was, that he himself, a soldier of the highest character, and requiring no additional feat of arms to raise him in the esteem of his country, could not believe that, unconscious as he was of any hostile intention on the part of others, he should be unprovokedly attacked. The chief consolation that he (Sir R. H. Inglis) derived from a survey of the Papers on the Table of the House was, that in the state of utter demoralization in which the court and camp of Lahore appeared to have been placed, it was not very probable that any more serious war than that which he hoped had now terminated, would be likely to revive. He believed that the annals of even the Roman Empire, in its latter days, could produce no sensuality more debasing and degrading than that which seemed to have reigned in the camp of Lahore. And when he found how intoxicated they had been, and how, defeated whilst under that intoxication, they had been sent back to their own country, he entertained a hope that the success of our arms would be complete, and lead to the restoration of tranquillity. If there were any thing that struck him more than another in the despatches of Sir Henry Hardinge and the Commander-in-Chief, it was the plain English soldierlike statements of all that took place. He hardly liked to allude to the composition of any other man; but he would say that Sir Henry Hardinge, himself a great general, had rather condescended to follow the Duke of Wellington, and not attempted to imitate any foreign commander. The hon. Baronet concluded by observing that such testimony as that which had been offered by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government 406 to the Indian army, supported as it was by each side of the House, was most complete, and he cordially agreed in the Motion.
§ MR. HOGG
hoped that the situation he had the honour to hold in the service of the East India Company, would be deemed an adequate excuse for his venturing to address the House, after the eloquent and well-merited eulogies on our troops and their commanders, that had been pronounced by the right hon. Baronet and the noble Lord. Eventful as India had been in desperate struggles, the conflicts of the 18th, 21st, and 22nd December were, perhaps, the severest we had ever been engaged in. Never before had we encountered an enemy so brave and so resolute; and the frightful carnage on both sides, marked the desperation of the conflict. The Sikhs had well-founded confidence in their valour and their numbers; and that confidence was increased by the strength of their position, and the overwhelming force of their artillery. The British troops did not amount to one-third the number of the Sikhs, although the combined movement for the concentration of our forces had been planned with the greatest skill, and executed with the most eminent success; and every soldier from Umballah, and all the stations in advance, was in the ranks. Our inferiority in artillery was still greater, and when assailing a fortified camp, more appalling. We had little more than half their number of guns, chiefly six-pounders, and scarcely any of them exceeding nine-pounders; while the enemy had upwards of 100 guns, and, as Sir Hugh Gough stated, "forty of them of battering calibre." The Sikhs defended their position with desperate courage, while our troops advanced in the face of a storm of shot and shell, that literally mowed down their ranks; still they advanced with unflinching steadiness till they assailed and gained the intrenched camp of the Sikhs, capturing their guns and munitions of war, and accomplishing every object which Sir Henry Hardinge and Sir Hugh Gough had in view. Our loss was great; but in a conflict so desperate and unequal, how could it be otherwise? Most truly did he (Mr. Hogg) sympathize in the feelings of regret, and the tribute of admiration, so elegantly expressed by the right hon. Baronet. He was truly gratified to hear that it was the intention of Government to record the nation's gratitude, by erecting a monument to the memory of that distin- 407 guished and gallant man, Sir Robert Sale. He had also to deplore the loss of Major Broadfoot, one of the most distinguished public servants in India, eminent alike for his talents and his services as a soldier and a civilian. Many others had fallen, who had run a short but brilliant career; and who, if their lives had been spared, would have been equally distinguished in the service of their country. He would abstain from entering upon the policy of the Governor General, or touching upon any topics likely to create discussion. He would, however, be permitted to say, that Sir H. Hardinge would have had little to apprehend, and comparatively little danger and difficulty to encounter, if the Lahore Government had openly declared their hostile intentions, instead of making a treacherous and unprovoked attack, while they professed a desire to maintain uninterrupted their friendly relations. Sir H. Hardinge would then have been justified, before India and this country, in calling forth the military resources of the Indian empire, for the purposes of aggression or defence, and the result would neither have been distant nor dubious. But what were the circumstances in which he was placed? He had maintained friendly relations with the Lahore Government for nearly forty years, under a Treaty that had never been violated by the Sikhs. The Sikh Government professed an anxious desire to continue these friendly relations, and lamented their inability to control their insurbordinate soldiery. Would it have become the generosity, would it have become the justice of the Indian Government, to have seized upon the difficulties of the Lahore Government as a pretext for invading the country and overthrowing the Government? The Indian Government were bound by good faith to abstain from all interference, and to observe a strictly pacific course, evinced by pacific bearing and conduct. He admitted, that it was, at the same time, necessary to make such defensive arrangements as the vicinity of a large body of mutinous troops might render necessary. It was no easy matter to combine these conflicting duties; but he thought that a perusal of the Papers on the Table, would show that Sir H. Hardinge had eminently succeeded in doing so. No man could read his despatches, and mark his conduct and policy, without admitting that his feelings and intentions were honestly pacific; and that he had no desire for personal or territorial aggrandizement. Well did 408 he remember what fell from his right hon. Friend, on the occasion of a farewell entertainment given to him by the Court of Directors, before his quitting England. He adverted to his military life, and said with great simplicity, but in a touching manner, "I am a soldier, and have seen and known the risks and vicissitudes of war; but believe me, that therein you have the guarantee that I am a lover and shall be a maintainer of peace;" and most truly, and honourably, had Sir H. Hardinge acted up to his professions. It would be easy to pursue still further the observations made by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), with regard to the nature of our frontier—that frontier a river abounding in ferries and fords, with only two military posts, distant from each other nearly eighty miles; the intermediate country in the possession of the Lahore Government, or its feudatories, commanding both banks of the river, with its ferries and fords—the British Government having no military possession of it, and no right to land troops there. We talked familiarly of "the left bank" of the Sutlej, and of "our bank" of the Sutlej. We had no bank, and no territory within 100 miles of the bank. With the exception of a few specks, the whole territory between the Sutlej and Jumna, comprising an area of about 20,000 square miles, with a population of nearly 2,000,000, was entirely Sikh. It was true that many of the States were nominally under our protection; but the whole population was Sikh in religious feelings, and predilections, and looked to the Government of Lahore as their head. In that vast territory, we had not a bit of land as big as that Table, in advance of Umballah. In 1809, a Treaty was entered into with Runjeet Sing, whereby many of the Sikh States on the left bank of the Sutlej were declared to be under British protection, while the others remained under the protection of Lahore. The object of that Treaty was to arrest the progress of Runjeet Sing, who was bound thereby to respect the rights of the States on the left banks of the Sutlej. Our protection was merely nominal. We abstained from all interference, and did not even exact any tribute. In the Treaty, there was no list of the States respectively under Sikh and British protection; and matters remained in this vague and undefined state until 1826, when Runjeet Sing laid claim to forty-seven petty States. No fresh treaty was then made; but after some correspond- 409 ence the whole of these States, except three, were conceded to him; and from that time, his influence on the left bank of the Indus was almost supreme, and his control over both the banks of the river, and over all the ferries and fords, was complete. It was now needless to discuss whether such concession was politic, or not. But such was the fact, and neither the present nor the late Government of India was responsible for the results. In 1809, when the Treaty with Runjeet Sing was entered into, we had no British post within the Sikh States, except Loudianah, In 1835, Ferozepore lapsed to us by failure of heirs: the Government at that time considered the expediency of constructing new works there, but abstained from doing so, fearing that it might give umbrage to the Lahore Government. At that time, the nearest military post to Loudianah was Khurnaul, distant about 140 miles. During the lifetime of Runjeet Sing, no danger arose from this strange and anomalous state of our frontier. But on the death of that remarkable man in 1839, it became obvious that measures must eventually be adopted for the protection of British interests in that quarter. We were, however, at that time in possession of Affghanistan, and our position in the rear of the Sikhs was strong, commanding the Punjaub, and rendering unnecessary the adoption of any immediate measures. But when we withdrew from Affghanistan, the state of affairs was altered, and the necessity for such measures became urgent. Accordingly both Ferozepore and Loudianah were then strengthened, and their garrisons greatly increased, by order of Lord Ellenborough, then Governor General. Further and more important measures of precaution were at the same time adopted. Our reserve station, which had hitherto been at Khurnaul, was removed to Umballah, which had lapsed to the British Government, and was fifty-four miles in advance of Khurnaul; and two stations were at the same time formed on the hills for the reception of two European regiments. We had no territory nearer the river than Umballah, and our reserve station could not have been placed more in advance. But, he asked, would it have been prudent to have placed our reserve further in advance, if we had had a position at our command? He concluded that it would not. He was not versed in military tactics; but it was obvious, on inspection of the map, that, by having our reserve at 410 Umballah, our forces could move to the relief either of Ferozepore or Loodianah; which places, be it remembered, were eighty miles apart. What, he asked, would have been the consequence, if the reserve had been advanced near the banks of the river? The Sikhs might have crossed the river at Roopur, to the east of Loudianah—might have threatened, if not taken, Delhi, before our reserve could have heard of the movement of the enemy. He was anxious to show that the former Government of India were not unobservant of the weakness of our frontier, and that every prudent and practicable precaution had from time to time been adopted, as the exigency required. What, it might be asked, had been done by Sir Henry Hardinge to prepare for the threatened emergency? His measures, it was true, were not trumpeted and blazoned forth in the papers. Every precaution he deemed necessary was executed cautiously and noiselessly. His object was gradually to strengthen the frontier stations without attracting public observation, or incurring the risk of giving umbrage to the Government of Lahore; and this he accomplished with consummate judgment and skill. He selected the season of the year when the general reliefs periodically take place; and by a series of orders, quiet, judicious, and noiseless, he accomplished most fully the object he had in view. Ferozepore, Loudianah, Umballah, and all the frontier stations were greatly strengthened; and when he himself proceeded up the country, there were not less than 40,000 troops, including upwards of 10,000 Europeans, at Meerut and the stations in advance. It was impossible for those connected with the Government of India to have viewed without feelings of uneasiness, an army close to our frontier, dictating to their commanders and the Government, and exacting from the treasury whatever contributions they chose to demand. This organized and apparently successful mutiny held forth an alarming example to our native troops, whose fidelity was assailed by the most prodigal offers, and by every inducement that could influence their religious prejudices, which operate with them much more strongly than their personal interests; but, he thanked God! in vain. It was also to be borne in mind, that the Sikhs recruit their army to a considerable extent from our provinces; and doubtless there were in their ranks numerous relatives and friends of our sepoys, whose fidelity and devotion 411 remained unshaken, amid temptations to which no soldiers had ever before been exposed. It was to be hoped that the defeat of this, the largest and the bravest army that had ever been assembled in India, would tend to impress more firmly on the minds of the native princes, how vain must be all attempts to overthrow our power, or oppose the resistless valour of our troops. He hoped it would also teach them to be thankful for the blessing of British rule, and with it of British protection, when they contemplated the horrors and desolation that must have marked the progress of the Sikh army; if, unopposed by British arms, they had proceeded on their course, ravaging the plains and plundering the cities of Hindostan. He hoped that such reflections would have due weight with the native princes, and that our empire in the East would be consolidated in the manner which alone could tend to its permanence, by a consciousness prevailing throughout all India, that British rule tended to the happiness, prosperity, and safety of the natives of that country.
§ CAPTAIN LAYARD
said, great actions, gallant performances, and heroic deeds were often lost to the page of history, either by the want of a poet or the neglect of the historian. But the friends of those gallant spirits whose lives had been offered up at the shrine of their country, neither they nor those gallant warriors who happily still remained to maintain its honour and its glory, need fear for a moment that such would be the case on the present occasion; but no doubt would rest assured, that after the beautiful and soul-stirring speech of the Prime Minister, that their deeds and their glory would be heralded down to all time. It was for the House to consider if its thanks were due to the army and its leaders who had so lately fought those desperate conflicts which had taken place on the hanks of the Sutlej. An army brought up by forced marches, in want of food and water, greatly inferior to the adversary in number and artillery—such was the state of our force. The Sikhs being the finest army ever brought together in India by a native Power—an army which had been for years formed under the genius of a great warrior, Runjeet Singh, the Lion of Lahore, and disciplined for years by French officers—an army as gallant as was ever brought into the field; with the finest artillery, to which our own could not be compared in number. The stake, not if one battle was to be fought, 412 and defeat unhappily followed, easily to be recovered—far from it. It was his firm conviction, that if we had met a defeat, the fortunes of our Indian empire would have been to the utmost perilled. The armies had met, the din of battle was over, the struggle had been arduous, but the victory was won. He could not paint the picture, but he quoted from that great poet who could:—As the leaves of the forest, when summer is green,That host with its banner at sunset was seen;As the leaves of the forest, when autumn has blown,That host on the morrow lay withered and strown;And there lay the rider distorted and pale,With the dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;And there lay the steed, with his nostril all wide,But from it there rolled not the breath of his pride.To whom did we owe that that brave host lay withered and strown? Why, under God's good providence, we owed it to those gallant leaders—to those valiant troops, native and European, whose deeds should be for ever inscribed on the tablet of fame, and to whom our warmest thanks and gratitude weve assuredly due. But, alas! all military success dims the eye that brightens up at its glory with the tear that rises for the loss of the valiant and the good; and, assuredly, few bright passages of arms, few brilliant successes, had left more reason to deplore a great and grievous loss. The gallant Sale, the hero of a hundred fights, was no more. It was said that when the Duke of Wellington heard he was killed, he said he always expected it. It was always to be expected; for, in the thickest of the fight, in the heart of danger and difficulty, Sir Robert Sale was to be found. He leaves a name as bright as any inscribed on the page of history. He lived honoured and beloved—he died in the arms of victory. The gallant Somerset is no more. And those who knew him, as he did, could wish nothing higher to be said than what had been so eloquently expressed by the Governor General in his despatch. He died exhibiting the hereditary courage of his race—one more of that gallant and lamented list; for, though cut off in the spring time of youth, it was a spring of such bright and early promise, that those who knew and loved the talented and gallant man, felt a sure and steadfast hope, that, if spared, he would have been an honour and an ornament to his country. Thousands, equally gallant, no more shall 413 behold the country of their birth—no more shall gladden the sight of their friends. But those who deplore them as a loss to their country, and those who weep over them as near and dear to them from the ties of kindred and affection, have this consolation—they died in a just cause—they died in the arms of victory—they shed their blood in the service of a grateful and admiring country. The Governor General has proved himself a great and a gallant leader, beloved by the soldier, exposing himself to every hardship and danger; to the other officers he believed equal praise was due. The brightest diamond might be sullied by a breath: in the greatest successes some errors might be observed. But the House ought to show at once that the Indian army had in their opinion maintained the brightness of their reputation, and by an unanimous vote of thanks show to the world that we had every reason to be thankful and proud of the gallant actions they have performed. For his own part, he thanked his gallant brethren in arms for their bravery and fortitude, and from the inmost recesses of his soul he congratulated them upon their brilliant achievements.
§ SIR H. DOUGLAS
said, it was a happy circumstance, gratifying to the public feeling of the country, that the victories for which we were about to return thanks had been the fruits of no aggressive act on our part; and it would be consolatory to the grief of the nation, and to that of those individuals more intimately concerned, that the tremendous sacrifice of valuable lives which had taken place, had not been occasioned by any violation of the rights and territories of others, by the British troops; but that, on the contrary, the forbearance shown by the Governor General and the Commander in Chief had been such, as to have exposed those gallant and eminent officers to the charge of having observed a policy in this respect, which was not consistent with the rules and principles of military science; assuming which, it had been asserted, that the British generals should have moved up with all their force to oppose the passage of the river at Ferozepoor. He (Sir H. Douglas) need not read to the House any of the extracts already cited, to show how resolutely the Governor General adhered to a pacific, forbearing, and defensive policy, in the last letter which he had received from his old and valued friend, previous to his quitting Calcutta for the scene of operations, he stated "our po- 414 licy will be decidedly pacific; that if there should be any errors, they will be on the side of honesty and forbearance." But he (Sir H. Douglas) could show that no errors had been committed. Every arrangement was made to move from the several points of assemblage to meet any attack or movement that might be attempted. Those points were admirably chosen to cover and secure the north-west frontier of India from any attack that could be made upon it; and he (Sir H. Douglas) would show that whilst the political reasons and, as it was understood, the instructions to the Governor General, which enjoined him not to assume any offensive position or attitude that might provoke aggression, were strictly observed, he acted most judiciously, in perfect accordance with the best rules and principles of stratagetical and tactical science, in not collecting his force at Ferozepoor, where the passage of the river was menaced.An army attempting the passage of a river has the advantage of employing stratagems, which frequently lead the defending General to make too great a dispersion of his force. To occupy every point is to be nowhere strong; but to keep concentrated in one positron upon the point most threatened by open demonstrations, will infallibly lead to attempts to turn it.The distribution of the troops was so judicious, that all the principal points and stations on the north-west frontier were guarded, and all capable of supporting each other. Kurnal and Boorea, on the Jumna, which may be considered the base of these operations; Umbala and Surhind, next in advance, the former forty-three, the latter only twenty-four miles from Ropur, at the great bend which the Sutlej takes in that direction; Loodheana, next in advance on the line of operations, secured; Busseean and Ferozepoor garrisoned and provisioned sufficiently to resist a coup demain, and hold out until relieved and supported, should the enemy attempt to cross the river there and attack it with all their force. Had the bulk of the British Indian army been concentrated near Ferozepoor, certainly the passage of the river there would have been effectually prevented: it would not have been attempted—the menace would thus have succeeded, to uncover the north-west portals of India to an advance of the enemy through the Jullinder Doab, on Loodheana and Ropur. The Sikhs would, accordingly, have changed their plan of operation, by crossing the Beas river, and so turning the right of the British position by a movement 415 in force on Phulour and Ropur. The British army must immediately have done one of two things—either to move by the right, to prevent being turned, or to retire. To do the former, it must have crossed the Sutlej in presence of the enemy, and so violate their territory, before they had attacked ours, moving only through their own. The only other alternative, and that which more certainly must have been adopted was, to retire upon Loodheana. Thus the campaign would have opened, not by a brilliant victory on the frontier, repressing, repelling, and dreadfully punishing an act of aggression, but by the retreat of the British army from a salient point which it had improperly occupied in full force, to fall back upon points which it ought not to have quitted till the enemy's intentions should have been pronounced. Hardinge's position, no doubt, was difficult. No general, perhaps, was ever placed in a more difficult, a more responsible position; but he had intellectual resources, mental energies, military experience, fully adequate to meet and triumph over all difficulties. Trained to their profession on the fields of a protracted, righteous, and retributive war, under an illustrious Chief, who, by a singular and peculiar destiny, had decided the fate of two hemispheres — India on the plains of Assaye, and by whose sword the deliverance of Europe from an iron yoke, was ultimately effected on the plains of Waterloo—the operations of the British Indian army, were conducted by the Governor General and Commander in Chief, with ability, vigour, and energy, to victory. Having risen to offer a few military observations upon these splendid operations and brilliant victories, he (Sir H. Douglas) would confine himself principally to remarks of this character. And now, adverting to what had been so ably stated by the right hon. Baronet respecting the conduct of a gallant regiment which suffered severely in the last day's action; he (Sir Howard Douglas) would offer some observations, which he hoped might be sufficient, if not altogether to remove, at least to explain, and obliterate observations which had been made, and he regretted to say published, containing a censure on the conduct of the 62nd Regiment, which, when all the circumstances were taken into consideration, would, he trusted, efface all recollection of any wavering or faltering there might have been, under a destructive and deadly fire. The establishment of regiments in India was a thousand 416 men, and they were generally kept well up to their strength in the field. The 62nd Regiment went into action under 700 bayonets, and they had 21 officers present. When the forces under Littler, from Ferozepoor, and those under the Governor General and Commander in Chief had formed a junction, one moving by the right, the other by the left, they formed into two lines, and the attack on the enemy's entrenched camp commenced immediately in direct echellon from the left, by the brigade to which the 62nd belonged. Supported only by the fire of a few horse-artillery guns, the brigade advanced against the enemy's position, under a tremendous fire from a very superior, well-served artillery. These light guns (6-pounders) opened their fire at 1200 yards. Hon. Members who were not conversant with artillery practice, might not be aware that, at such a distance, that nature of gun was very inefficient. As the infantry advanced, the guns limbered up, approached, and opened their fire again at 1000 yards. Again advanced to 800 yards, and then to 600 yards, and then only came within their powers of efficient and correct practice. The infantry had all this time to advance under the increasing effects of heavy well-served ordnance, which our very inferior armament, in number and nature of gun, was wholly incapable of getting down, or silencing, and consequently of sustaining by their fire the advance of the infantry. This constituted a great, and, as it appears, an unexpected difficulty, which the British and Indian troops had to face, and which might have proved disastrous against any other troops; but which they braved and conquered. It may be useful that he (Sir H. Douglas) should here recapitulate the number and calibre of artillery on both sides. The divisions of the British army had 24 9-pounders, 42 6-pounders, and 2 howitzers. The 21 guns that were with General Littler were all 6-pounders. There was not a 12-pounder in the field with the British army! The ordnance captured from the Sikh army in the actions of the 18th, 21st, and 22nd December, were—1 gun, 32-pounder; 1 gun, 24-pounder; 7 guns, 18-pounders; 1 gun, 15-pounder; 10 guns, 12-pounders: Total, 20 guns.—1 gun, 11-pounder; 4 guns, 10-pounders; 22 guns, 9-pounders; 13 guns, 8-pounders; 3 guns, 7-poundors; 10 guns, 6-pounders; 8 guns, 3-pounders; 1 gun, not stated: Total, 82 guns.—1 howitzer, 42 pounder; 417 1 howitzer, 24-pounder; 1 howitzer, 9-pounder; 1 howitzer, 6 and a half pounder: Total, 4 howitzers.—1 mortar, 10 cwt.; 1 mortar, 24-pounder: Total, 2 mortars.—Total, 86 guns, of which 63 are brass, taken. The enemy had altogether 150 guns. Sir John Littler said, that the brigade—Evinced great firmness and resolution in advancing to the attack until borne down by the furious and irresistible fire from all arms that men could be exposed to; the loss of many of their officers must have tended to relax their efforts and check their ardour, and under such circumstances only could the disappointment to Her Majesty's 62nd regiment themselves, and to their country, have been for a moment conceived.The 62nd regiment lost seventeen officers out of twenty-one, and half its men struck down in a few minutes. So crippled, it was impossible for that regiment or that brigade to do more, with supports so far in the rear; and, under these circumstances, he must say that a little more caution ought to have been used in penning so severe a sentence upon so distinguished a regiment. He regretted that these expressions should appear in an official report, and in the public papers. He trusted, however, with his right hon. Friend, that the gallant deeds and the successes of that great day would blot out the memorial of such a misfortune, obliterate the temporary failure which was occasioned by so tremendous a crash, and restore the 62nd regiment wholly to the respect of the army, to the confidence of the Commander in Chief, and the approbation of the country. With these observations he (Sir Howard Douglas) cordially concurred in the present Vote, and expressed his admiration and deep sense of the services of the gallant army.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, he thought it would have been better if hon. Members had confined themselves within the wise limits marked out by the mover and seconder of this Motion, and had abstained altogether from commenting upon the policy of the Governor General. He concurred with the greatest pleasure in the vote of thanks to the Governor General, the Commander in Chief, and the gallant troops in India, and he heartily rejoiced to hear the gallant Officer who had just sat down vindicate one regiment from such harsh expressions, which must have been deeply galling to their feelings. But his object in rising was to ask the Government whether any measures had been taken to acquaint the relations of the privates and non-commissioned officers who were killed, 418 of the loss which had befallen them? Having had ample opportunity of knowing the deep anxiety with which news from India was expected by the relatives of the officers, and being aware those feelings must exist as strongly amongst the relations of the thousands of private soldiers, he would suggest to the Government whether it would not be possible to adopt some means by which this desirable object could be effected?
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
said, it was usual, after a battle, to return a list of the officers and soldiers who had fallen to the Horse Guards, so that, by inquiry there, their relations might acertain what had become of them. In the present instance, however, no such list had been returned; but he hoped they would receive it by the next mail, when information would be readily afforded to all who applied for it.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
suggested that when the list was received it should be published, to save the relations of the soldiers the necessity of writing to the Horse Guards.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, the noble Lord might rely upon it every means should be adopted to communicate the fate of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers to their relatives.
§ SIR J. HOBHOUSE
said, it had never been the custom to publish the names of private soldiers who fell on these great occasions, but he knew no other reason why it should not be done; and when he was Secretary at War, he had suggested that it would be desirable. He wished to take the opportunity of saying that he gave his most cordial support to the Motion. It would be unnecessary for him to say more after the addresses of the right hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend, by whom it was moved and seconded. He doubted if the thanks of that House had ever been more worthily voted, or whether even the annals of India could furnish an instance of a more brilliant or, unhappily, a more sanguinary engagement. In honouring these brave men, therefore, they only did honour to themselves; and, considering that (as he feared) this was only the commencement of a more serious and sanguinary struggle, he thought it would be a great encouragement to these brave men to find that the Parliament of England took the earliest opportunity of thus acknowledging their distinguished services.
§ MR. R. MANGLES
concurred most cordially in the vote of thanks proposed, 419 and was glad to acknowledge that, although the laurels we had gained had been purchased with much blood, they could not be said to be stained by it. Instead of being a war of aggression, the Indian Government had shown so much forbearance, that he thought those most envious of the glory of our country could not say we had sought the occasion, or that we had not borne the insolence of our enemies with the greatest patience.
§ MR. WILLIAMS WYNN
said, he was, like his noble relative on the other side (Lord Ebrington), most anxious that the Government should publish the names of all who had fallen in this engagement. He always thought the country had been deficient in this respect; and that not only for the satisfaction of the relatives, but as a fitting tribute for their services, the names of all who fell in battle should be recorded. He had the honour, at the time of the battle of Waterloo, when it was proposed to erect a monument to commemorate that victory, to propose that the name of every man who fell in that glorious engagement should be recorded. This proposition appeared to meet with universal approbation at the time, and he believed it was only because there was no precedent for it that it was not acceded to. But it should be remembered, that if there were no precedents for it in England, there were precedents for it in antiquity; and that the Greeks erected a pillar at Marathon, and recorded upon it the name of every man who fell in that engagement. He had only to observe, further, that he thought the attachment of the Native troops, evinced by the fact that no desertions took place, although they were fighting against those of their own faith and nation, was a circumstance which bore the most honourable testimony to the conduct of the British Government in India.
§ DR. BOWRING
only wished to say a few words in consequence of the right hon. Baronet having spoken severely of a party in this country, in whose opinions he might not share, but who were entitled to deference and respect. He granted that this was not a case of aggression or invasion; but the party alluded to looked with great alarm and distress at war in any shape or form; they thought that these great sacrifices could be avoided, and he was grieved to hear the right hon. Baronet give any opinion against them. He hoped the time would come when the pacific principle would be more and more taken as the groundwork of our policy; it was most intimately con- 420 nected with our social, political, and commercial interests; he hoped it would be more and more adopted, and that only in cases of stern necessity would it be ventured to be departed from.
§ SIR R. PEEL
was not aware that he had spoken harshly of the principle to which the hon. Member referred; but he certainly had never heard it carried to the extent of permitting our throats to be cut, or to prevent exertions in self-defence; and he thought this a most inappropriate occasion to bring that principle forward.
§ SIR E. COLEBROOKE
only rose in consequence of the observation made by the hon. and gallant Member for Liverpool (Sir H. Douglas) with regard to the distinguished officer who had led the division in which the 62nd served. Having had the honour of the friendship, and he might say the intimacy of that distinguished officer, he wished to take that opportunity of making one remark. He had not understood the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) reflect on the conduct of Sir John Littler. [Sir R. PEEL: Hear.] He was glad to hear that cheer from the right hon. Baronet, because the hon. and gallant Member seemed to think that it would have been the most proper course for Sir John Littler to have passed by one of the principal events of the conflict, and to have mentioned it in a private despatch; and when the gallant officer sought to vindicate the conduct of the 62nd, he thought that if he had referred to the despatch of Sir John Littler, he would have found that vindication conveyed in most strong and effectual terms.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
had to propose that the names of the non-commissioned officers and privates who had fallen should be recorded in such manner as the forms of the House would permit, as he thought such a record would be extremely desirable. He had thought, on reading the Resolutions which the right hon. Baronet was about to move, it was matter of regret to find that the names of the distinguished officers who had fallen did not appear in that proceeding. He had laid the suggestion before the right hon. Baronet, and had proposed a sixth resolution, to the tenor of which the right hon. Baronet did not disagree. Since the subject had been mentioned, he would take the liberty of reading to the House the substance of the resolution he suggested; and if any individual Member would second him, he would move it as an addition, admitting that there was 421 no precedent, but seeing no other reason against it except the want of a precedent. The resolution would be to the effect, that the House also highly approves of the distinguished services of the late Major General Sir R. Sale, K.C.B., of the late Major General Sir John M'Caskill, K.C.B., and the other officers and men, who, in the performance of their duty, gloriously fell in these memorable actions. It was matter of regret that in the vote of thanks transmitted throughout the whole army no mention was made of the distinguished officers who fell, nor any allusion to the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers who had fallen. He was aware that there would be a vote for a monument to the general officers who had fallen, but that would not extend to the subordinate officers and privates who fell upon the same occasion. If any hon. Member would second his resolution, he would submit it to the House, but if not, he would support any proposition for recording the names.
§ SIR R. PEEL
differed so little from the gallant Officer, that he had prepared a resolution to the same effect; but on referring to all past examples, be could find no precedent for such a resolution. The thanks of the House had always been confined to the survivors. In the vote of thanks after the battle of Trafalgar, no reference was made to Lord Nelson; and in the vote of thanks after the battle of Waterloo, Sir T. Picton was not mentioned. In giving the thanks of the House, it was highly important to adhere to precedents, not because they ought always to be strictly observed, but because it would be a source of regret to the relations of those who had formerly fallen, if a new precedent were made, and they had been passed by. As the other House had agreed to the vote as it stood, there would be a discrepancy if this resolution were added; and as there were no instances in which the names of those who had fallen had been included, he thought that the gallant Officer would not disturb the unanimity by pressing his Amendment.
§ The Resolutions were then put seriatim, and carried nem. con.