HC Deb 13 December 1854 vol 136 cc223-41

Report of Address brought up, and read.


observed, that no naval officer having addressed the House on the debate of the previous evening, he might be pardoned for occupying their attention for a few moments. Sir, it appears to me that perfect unanimity in Parliament at this crisis is vitally necessary for the welfare of the country. Every public measure which affects the one absorbing topic of our times, must be the collective act of all. The noblest motives of human action nerved us to begin the contest, from which England's honour forbids us to retire till the flag is furled in victory—patriotic foresight for the security of our possessions, and hatred of oppression. We were stimulated by no apprehension of invasion, no desire of adding fresh dominions, no fears of a discontented population; unenfeebled by an almost continuous peace of nearly forty years, the national spirit instinctively acknowledged the justice and imperative necessity of the war, forced upon us by a Power, dangerous from its violation of treaties, and formidable from its brute force. To the appeal of the Sovereign the whole people responded with one heart and voice. Our debates, then, must be free from party spirit and factious opposition. The conduct of our commanders by sea and land must be estimated, and their energies quickened, by impartial judgment and generous confidence; the operations of the fleet and camp must be neither impeded nor crippled by jealous criticism, or that unhappy stint which in former wars prolonged their miseries abroad and burdens at home. Our resolutions must be neither slow nor feeble, our ample resources must be ungrudgingly applied, there must be no room for unavailing regrets in the future, or misunderstanding and doubt of our earnestness and sincerity on the part of a people which now enthusiastically calls upon us to be bold, and cheerfully consents to every sacrifice that may add strength to its heroic defenders. To every measure calculated to place the naval and military forces in a condition to fulfil the expectations of the country, my hearty concurrence will be given. Whilst I cannot but deplore many acts of improvidence in the preparations and prosecution of the war, I will not stop to dilate on the unwelcome truth. My main motive in rising is to give utterance to my exultation, when I consider the ardent bravery, the patient endurance, the magnificent display of lofty heroism made by our army in the Crimea, in the face of an unprecedented opposition, by an enemy superior in numbers and resources, an antagonist whose strength we now begin to estimate without exaggeration in either extreme, and their forbearance to foes stained by inhumanity and the grossest treachery. To the future I look forward without the slightest feeling of despondency, for I am convinced that our splendid army under its great chief (a worthy successor of his illustrious master) will be found equal to every emergency, and come forth from any position, however perilous in which it may be involved, with new honour and additional lustre to the high reputation which it bears deservedly among the military nations of the earth. It is our paramount duty to secure efficient reinforcements, and to maintain to a standard commensurate with our power and their requirements, our fleets and armies, in order to ensure the success of forthcoming contests at the least possible loss to the sister services. Not to strain every effort to carry out this object would be criminal; to pause, and nicely count the cost, would be ignominious. The sword we have drawn untarnished, must be sheathed without a stain: sorrow and suffering are unavoidable, but never let the mourner say their dead fell in vain, or that timid counsels inflicted more wounds than the weapons of the Czar. It has not been the good fortune of the navy to achieve hitherto its wonted victories, but I am sure the army is not insensible to the great services it gave, such as were invaluable in all its eventful progress. Need I allude to the zeal, the ability, the prudence shown in the embarkation of the troops at Varna, their transport to and landing at Eupatoria, and the support on these aboard rendered by our fleet? The names of the Admirals so commanding, and the co-operation of the officers and men employed, will stand illustrious in the annals of the British Navy; and give a happy augury of the prowess they will evince when more immediately engaged with an enemy which has not dared to cope with them at sea, and I trust I may, without injustice to other officers, associate the name of a near relation (Admiral Sir Edward Lyons), having exhibited the highest qualities in the performance of the duties which more immediately attached to him. Side by side our soldiers and sailors fight with the sailors and soldiers of France, whom an alliance of principle, not policy, binds to us the joint conservators of European civilisation. Their interests are identified with our own, their glory is our glory, and they will add triumph to triumph. The cordial friendship of that country, cemented by our mingled blood, will, in my heart I believe, counterbalance the evil of the war.


said, he could not suffer this opportunity to pass Without congratulating the House upon their determination not to tie the hands of the Government in any manner with respect to the conduct of the war; and he believed that if the country gave them a generous support the result would be, it would be brought to a successful conclusion; for never had our troops met with more brilliant success than during this campaign. He represented not only merchants, bankers, and tradesmen, but especially the working classes, and he assured the House that the feeling of the whole metropolitan population was one of entire unanimity in favour of prosecuting the war with energy, and, at the same time, they desired that the powers of the Government for pursuing it with honour and success should be increased. He thought the emergency should be met by a special war tax, to he levied on land, the funds, railways, and other capital; and that, by way of compensation, the duties on French wines should be reduced to 1s. a gallon. Such a reduction would tend to cement our present cordial alliance with our French allies, from which he anticipated the most important results. The stamp on newspapers might also be abolished. Such an alteration in our system would be far better than an increase of the income tax, which already pressed with great severity on the working classes.


said, it appeared to him that the Government were asking too much of the House, when they asked them to express their satisfaction at the treaty between France and England and Austria—a document of which they knew at present nothing. What had passed between Austria and the German Powers had excited great interest as to her future policy; and it was going too far to imply any satisfaction with that of which the House was still ignorant. In the other House, indeed, it had been stated, that the expressions used in the Address pledged the House to nothing; but in that House they had received no such assurance. He thought there was much to regret in the way in which the House dealt with foreign affairs; public opinion was never consulted, because every-thing was done by the Government before the people knew anything about it. Their sentiments, therefore, on any subject having relation to our foreign policy, always came too late. They never had an opportunity of influencing public opinion, and therefore did no good. Thus if they had in 1853 boldly expressed their views and resolutions as to the course to be pursued in regard to Russia, that would have produced far greater effect than all the protocols and despatches which they had the pleasure of reading—after the events. It was a most important question—what was the expression of the House on foreign policy? It was truly nothing. If they wanted, indeed, to know anything about foreign affairs, they must consult documents with which they Were not furnished, except in other channels than their own papers. And usually it was not in this country that they learned anything at all, but abroad. Thus, in 1853, a despatch from our own Foreign Minister was published in every European journal before the House of Commons had it! The House was a cipher as to foreign policy; and he desired to know how long this was to continue, and whether, in the present instance, the treaty would be laid upon their table before they were called upon to express an opinion upon it? There had been another conven- tion between Austria and Turkey as to the occupation of the Principalities, as to which he had asked last year whether this country was a party to it. The Austrians entering the Principalities, not as declared belligerents, but neither as allies, had paralysed the movements of the Turks, and enabled Russia to detach a large force to act against us in the Crimea. In fact, the real source of the mischief was the vacillating policy of the German Powers; and Austria had an excuse for this in the absence, on our own part, of any definite policy. It appeared to him that Austria wished England and France to pay the piper, while she derived all the benefit, without sharing a shilling of the expense. Unless we had a clear and decided policy, we could not expect to obtain that firm and lasting peace which was the object of all these costly and bloody proceedings. With regard to the expedition into the Crimea, more detailed information was necessary. It now appeared that the Government assumed all the responsibility of it, and that none of it belonged to the commanders; let that be distinctly understood. An expedition in July might have been wise, which in September would be unwise. It was a question of time; and the Government had selected a time when they might have expected that the Russians would be able to send large reinforcements into the Crimea, being relieved trom the Baltic fleet, and all danger of Turkish invasion having disappeared; added to which it was a time at which storms in the Euxine were to be expected, which might have perilled and defeated the whole enterprise. He had been in the Crimea himself, and knew that at that period of the year storms were certain to occur. The expedition had been made on an entirely wrong foundation. The base of its operations was to be the fleet—a fleet on a lee shore, liable to sudden and violent storms. If the storm which had taken place on the 14th of November had, as it might have, happened on the 14th of September, we should have lost half our ships and very likely half our troops, and certainly the expedition would have been defeated, if not destroyed. It was a question of time, and the wrong time had been chosen. There was another point which he wished to have cleared up—what was the real object Government proposed to itself in sending the expedition to the Crimea? Supposing Sebastopol to be taken, would the Allied Powers be any better off? Could we hold it? If we could, would it be of any use to us? He had been there, and thought not; and, at all events, we had not gone the right way to take it. It was not a mere fortress, it was a fortified position some ten or twelve miles in extent, with about a dozen forts, of which when one was taken, another could at once play upon it. And to invest such a fortified place—without investing which it was almost impossible to take it—would require 100,000 men, defended as it was by an army 40,000 in number—instead of which we had 50,000 French and English. We must remember that our small army had, for the first time, been thrown on a hostile shore, where no supplies or assistance could be obtained. Our military history afforded no parallel to such a case as this; and if we were brought well out of the difficulty, we should owe it only to the courage of our forces, and not to any wisdom with which the plan had been conceived, or any skill with which it had been contrived. What was the policy and what were the prospects of the Government? Could they explain? They had no definite policy; and without it the war was as likely to last ten years as two.


said, he did not wish to disturb the unanimity which appeared to prevail respecting the Address. At the same time that was a proper opportunity to make observations on the general subject of the war. He believed that the country had a right to be, as he believed it was, dissatisfied with the manner in which the war had been conducted. Parliament had been even too willing to grant anything that could be required to enable the Government to carry on the war with vigour; but up to the present time nothing had been done. Ministers would have to explain to the country with regard to the fleet in the Baltic, how it was that the finest fleet that ever sailed from the shores of England, having gone eight months ago full of expectation and hope, had returned, having done nothing. He certainly did find fault with the Duke of Newcastle for having sent such a fleet to a station where it was impossible that it could do anything worthy of its magnitude and efficiency. If it had been three times the force, would he have expected it to attack the Sebastopol of the north, to attack Cronstadt and take St. Petersburg? Did he know that it was absurd to expect that it would take Cronstadt? If he did so, he must say that he was grossly deceived and grossly in error. If his intention was merely to make a demonstration, the fleet was three times too large for such a purpose. Half of it would have sufficed to keep the Russian fleets in their harbours, and to protect our commerce; the other half ought to have been in the vulnerable part of Russia, in the Black Sea and the Crimea. Therefore, he said the Minister had foolishly thrown away a powerful fleet and an enormous expenditure for no object whatever. But if the Minister of War was open to censure for having so injudiciously sent such an enormous force to the Baltic, he was still more open to censure for not having sent a sufficiently large army to the Crimea. It was said last night by the Secretary at War that this was the largest army this country had ever sent forth, namely. 53,000 men. But what had other nations done? In 1832 the French and English took upon them to separate Belgium from Holland, and the French Government sent 66,000 men to besiege Antwerp, the citadel of which was occupied by 5,000 Dutch troops. In 1812 what force did France send to invade Russia? Not less than 450,000 men. In 1828, when Russia invaded Turkey, an army of 160,000 men crossed the Danube in the first campaign, and in the second campaign 140,000 more; while at the signing of the Treaty at Adrianople, in 1829, there were only 15,000 of these men left. But in the year 1854, when England, France, and Turkey combined to make war against Russia, they sent 50,000 men to invade Russia—a country occupying a sixth part of the globe, and containing 70,000,000 of people. No wonder that the Allied Powers had done nothing up to this very time. A military man of some distinction, who had recently published A Tour in Turkey, recommended a campaign of a very different kind from that which had been adopted. He said that the allied army should have attacked the Crimea from the south-east part, and that they should have made sure that all the Caucasian ports were free from the power of Russia. They ought to have male a point of taking Anapa. This was a first-rate fortress, the key of the Caucasus and the Sea of Azoff, and yet we had never attempted to take it. After taking possession of that fortress, they ought to have raised thousands of irregular horsemen among the Caucasians, and at the same time opened a communication with the Circassian chief Schamyl. One of the greatest difficulties which had been experienced by our armies had been the want of horses, both to mount our own cavalry and to supply the means of transport; but if we had possession of Anapa we should have found plenty of excellent animals. Our forces ought to have captured the town, to have spent their money amongst the people, and to have taken every opportunity to cultivate their friendship. Already the Tartars were well disposed towards us, and there would have been no difficulty in raising an excellent corps of irregular cavalry from amongst them. Why then, he would ask, had this important step been overlooked, and why had not our generals put themselves in communication with the great chief Schamyl? Had what he was recommending been done, our rear would have been secure, and the allied troops might have advanced gradually and with perfect safety upon Sebastopol. These advantages, he was afraid, we had now in a great measure lost; for the Russian Government must already have perceived the friendly disposition of the Tartars towards our troops, and would, of course, take care to counteract that feeling next year. With respect to the Address he had, of course, no objection to it. On the contrary, his only complaint was, that the Government should not have taken more vigorous steps at an earlier period, and he trusted that such succours would be sent to the Crimea as would, at any rate, render the position of our army safe.


said, he fully agreed with the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) that the Government had exhibited gross apathy, and that, had more vigour marked their measures in the outset, a great deal of bloodshed would have been saved. He yielded to none in admiration of the courage displayed by our troops, and he would be willing to lend his assistance to any body of statesmen who would bring the contest to a successful issue. With regard to Austria, he confessed the noble Lord the President of the Council entertained a better opinion of that Power than he did. As the House might suppose, he had no very great admiration for foreigners. Without at all intending to question the respectability of tailors, it was said that nine tailors made a man. He was sure it would take ninety-nine foreigners to make one thorough good Englishman. He wished there were more men in the Government like the noble Lord the Member for the Home Department—colleagues who would show some signs of his wisdom, energy, and spirit of independ- ence; but that was hopeless. He would support the Government if they would pursue a vigorous policy; but there must be an end to all shirking for the future.


said, he could not listen to the observations of the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Alcock) with reference to the Baltic fleet without saying that it did not require to be a naval officer to see the insufficiency of the crews on board that fleet before it went to sea. It was the finest fleet of ships that ever had been sent from this country, and there were most gallant officers on board of it, and nothing could more decidedly show their gallantry than the readiness with which they went to sea with such crews, one-half of whom were landsmen. Now, however, it was in a most efficient condition, both as regards officers and seamen. What would have been the consequences if that fleet had not been in the Baltic? They would have had the Russian fleet in the North Sea. The hon. Member for Surrey seemed to think they had sent out too large a fleet. They ought not, however, to despise the Russian fleet; and the House should reflect on what might have been the consequence if we had sent a limited and insufficient fleet in the Baltic to meet them. They were told how easy it was to demolish stone walls with ships; but they had seen in the Black Sea how difficult it was for ships to act against stone walls. Notwithstanding the gallantry with which the ships were brought into action against these walls, there was no doubt they had got the worst of it. It was true the batteries of the enemy were silenced, but before twelve hours had passed those batteries were mounted and fit for service again. Putting aside the operations at Bomarsund, which they were told were to be counted as nothing, he thought that two very important results had been derived from the expedition to the Baltic. In the first place the ships and commerce of Russia had been kept within their ports; and, in the next, though they had this year sent out an inefficient body of seamen to the Baltic, yet next year they would have an efficient body of seamen, and then they could send an efficient fleet to sea, with men, officers, and ships almost perfectly untouched; and they had formerly an imperfect knowledge of the Baltic, but now everything connected with it was known, and they could send there next year an efficient fleet, with a perfect knowledge of the seas they had to navigate.


I am sure, Sir, it is the wish and feeling of this House, of which I recognise the propriety, that we should not now repeat the discussion of last night; but at the same time there are one or two questions that have been put by hon. Members in the course of this conversation in the presence of Members of the Government, and I think it would not be entirely respectful to them that these questions should remain without an answer. In speaking of the questions that have been put by hon. Gentlemen in the course of this conversation, I certainly do not intend to refer to inquiries that were made, both by the hon. Baronet opposite and the hon. Member for Surrey, with respect to military operations. The hon. Member behind me says, Why did you not attack Anapa? another hon. Member says, Why did you not organise an irregular force? another hon. Member says, What will you do with Sebastopol if you should get it; and what do you think are the advantages you will gain by the capture of Sebastopol? In declining to answer questions of this description, allow me to represent to the House the position in which the Government is placed, and why it will not, I hope, be thought disrespectful to the House that silence should be observed in this matter. And it is better to illustrate what I mean by reference to what for, merly took place than by any abstract argument. During the progress of the summer, pressed by the natural wish of Members of the House to obtain information, my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, in referring to the objects of the war, and the conditions on which peace might be made, adverted to the menacing attitude of Russia in Sebastopol, and indicated his opinion that no peace could be deemed satisfactory that would leave Russia in that menacing attitude with reference to the Black Sea. What was the consequence of that declaration? Why, immediately it was endeavoured to be turned into a communication on the part of my noble Friend of the military measures that were to be undertaken by the Government, and last night in this House, as well as elsewhere during the recess, the Government and my noble Friend were made the objects of criticism for having given notice to the Emperor of Russia of the military operations that were to be undertaken. When hon. Gentlemen, therefore, ask what we expect to gain from the capture of Sebastopol, and what course we shall pursue when we get it, I hope the House will see that there are the most obvious reasons of prudence for being silent on the subject, and that these very same reasons impose upon us the very same rule with reference to the question why no attempt on Anapa has been made. All I will say is, that the Government have taken their resolutions deliberately, that they are ready to follow them out by the most effective and energetic means, and to abide by the judgment of this House on the result. The hon. Member behind me (Mr. Alcock) says that nothing has been done—and I do not pretend to say that everything has been done. I do not pretend to say that everything has been done that should have been done; but I think it right to advert to the admirable speech which my right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) made last night, and to say that the Government will take their stand on that most reasonable, fair, and candid statement, in which my right hon. Friend laid claim to no impeccability with regard to those operations. If Napoleon thought that he who has made war without many errors has not made war long, the observation is also applicable to the management of the political portion of the great game of war; and if the persons who criticise those proceedings do not speak in an unfair and uncandid spirit, they must be ready to admit that what you are to expect from a Government charged with the management of the political operation of the war is, not that they should stand a minute criticism of every detail, but that their general measures should have been taken according to wisdom and prudence. When the hon. Member says that nothing has been done, I will not say that he does not do justice to the Government, for the interests of the Government are too small to be considered; but I would venture respectfully to ask him, does he do justice to the House and to the country, when he states at this moment that nothing has been done? But the hon. Gentleman has, indeed, answered his own question with respect to the Baltic; for in alleging that nothing has been done, he says my noble Friend the Duke of Newcastle ought to have known beforehand that it was impossible to do anything, and because it was impossible to do anything he should not have sent out one-half the fleet that was sent to the Baltic. The answer of my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Rice) is a sufficient answer to that point. How do the facts stand with regard to the Russian force in the Baltic? The Russian fleet there amounted to twenty-nine sail of the line, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Alcock) says we should have sent there a fleet of one-half the magnitude we did send. When the fleet under Sir Charles Napier first sailed for the Baltic, it amounted only to twelve sail of the line. I will not go the length to say that the crews of the ships were open to all the criticism of my hon. Friend, but many of them were undoubtedly new men, and those who were not new to the naval service were new to one another. Therefore they were not in the highest state of efficiency, or in the state of efficiency they are now. But does any one say that the Government had increased that fleet without the most urgent necessity? Were we to expose that fleet to the action of twenty-nine sail of the line of Russia for a moment longer than it was in our power to remove that inequality? The moment it was in the power of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, he raised the strength of the fleet to nineteen sail of the line, and it must be admitted that that number was not excessive when we consider the fleet that was opposed to it. It is true it is joined by the French squadron, but that was at a very much later period. And in the first instance the occupation of the Baltic fell to the English squadron alone, and the business of England was not to wait until the French squadron could be spared, but to occupy the Baltic from the first moment when the breaking up of the ice opened that source of danger to British trade. The hon. Gentleman having spoken thus of the fleet in the Baltic as having been twice over too large—an opinion in which, I think, the House will not concur with him —then referred to the Crimea, and asked, "What brought you to suppose, when you considered the great masses of men that are necessary to conduct the invasion of a powerful country, that Russia could be simply invaded by an army of 50,000? "But who ever supposed that Russia could be invaded by an army of 50,000 men? The force first landed on Russian territory may have been about 50,000 men; and I find the hon. Gentleman includes that in his category that nothing has been done. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that the landing of 50,000 men in the Crimea, the horses of the cavalry and artillery, and of heavy guns to carry on the siege, was doing nothing. But the hon. Member is wrong if he supposes that the operation was so limited. 50,000 men represented the number that could be carried over from Varna to the Crimea at one time, and it was an operation that reflected the highest credit on the military and naval commanders. The hon. Gentleman entirely forgets that even at that moment the force that has been sent to the East by England and France does not fall short of 80,000 men. And how do matters stand now? My right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) acquainted the House last night that the British force sent to the East is now close upon 55,000 men. I cannot give the same formal and official return up to the latest moment of the French force, but I apprehend that I am fully justified, from the information in our possession, in stating that the French force despatched to the East up to the present moment is little short of 100,000 men—certainly not less than from 90,000 to 95,000. If the hon. Gentleman objects that it is absurd to invade Russia with 50,000 men, French and English, my reply is that that may be very true, but that in reality the invasion is one in which little short of 150,000 men are engaged by the united power of England and France. The hon. Baronet opposite asked two questions with respect to the treaty entered into between Austria and the Porte, which questions he put to my noble Friend the President of the Council during the last Session. He wished to know whether England was or was not a party to that treaty. Now it is plain on the face of the case, that, that being a treaty simply between Austria and the Porte, neither England nor any other Power was a party to that treaty. That treaty was concluded between Austria and the Porte, as two independent Powers, for objects very material and valuable to their respective interests and views, and therefore it was not a matter which rested with this country to decide, but was one simply for the consideration of those two Powers. The right hon. Baronet then complained that the treaty that has been referred to in Her Majesty's Speech as having been concluded between France, England, and Austria, has not been laid upon the table, and yet that the House has been called upon to express its satisfaction with that treaty. With respect to the laying of that treaty upon the table, I say that the Government regret their inability to have done so before the discussion on the Address as much as the right hon. Baronet himself. They are sensible of the inconvenient position in which the House is necessarily placed in being called upon to refer to a document of the contents of which the House is not fully cognisant; but the right hon. Baronet is aware that the treaty has not been ratified, and that until the ratifications of the treaty are exchanged, it would be a departure both from uniform practice and from obvious prudence, if the Government were to lay that treaty upon the table; but, of course, it will be laid upon the table the first moment that it is in the power of the Government to make it known to Parliament. The right hon. Baronet may dismiss from his mind all such apprehensions as he seems to entertain, that the House will be called upon to commit itself to the contents of that treaty. It is open to the right hon. Baronet, if he please, after having voted for the present Address, to express his disapprobation of the treaty in any manner he pleases, and if he think fit—though I do not anticipate it—to move a vote of censure on the Government for having advised Her Majesty to negotiate such a treaty. The proof of what I say is to be found by simply reciting the passage of the Address which refers to it. The Address merely states— That we have heard with satisfaction that, with the Emperor of the French, Your Majesty has concluded a treaty of alliance with the Emperor of Austria, from which Your Majesty anticipates important advantages to the common cause. We pronounce no opinion upon the question whether the treaty promises to be greatly advantageous to the common cause, but merely say we learn with satisfaction that Her Majesty entertains such an expectation. Without having the smallest desire or disposition to restrain these criticisms on the Government—which I grant are necessarily incidental to our free institutions and to the imperfections of men, and which in many cases may be highly conducive to the better prosecution of measures connected with the war—I do hope I shall not hear from Gentlemen in this House the declaration that nothing has been done. Even with respect to that part of the operations which undoubtedly is the less prominent—namely, the operations in the Baltic—is it true to say that nothing has been done, when the trade of Russia has been stopped, when the overpowering fleet of Russia has been locked up, and when a great portion of the land force of Russia has been diverted from those undertakings in the south to which the Emperor would have been free to apply them if it were not for the presence of your fleet in the Baltic? Still less should hon. Gentlemen say that nothing has been done in the Black Sea, when you recollect that it is but one year since when the question was, "Is Constantinople safe? "That is no longer the question—Constantinople, humanly speaking, is secure. Then came the question whether the Danube would be crossed. It is true it was crossed, but the Russians gathered nothing but defeat and disgrace by crossing it. That is not all. You have effected, in the face of a powerful force, a successful landing in an enemy's country, and established there a position from which there is not the slightest reason to suppose you can be dislodged. You have fought two battles with splendid success; you have seen the military character of your country raised after forty years' peace, at moment's notice, to a higher pitch of glory than almost it had ever attained before; and you may hope—which it is not justifiable to call more than a hope, for the issue being still in the hands of Providence, to use confident language respecting it would be to be almost guilty of blasphemous presumption—you may hope for still greater successes. Saying nothing, however, of that hope, and looking only to that which has been actually accomplished, I hope no Member of this House will join with the hon. Member for Surrey in saying that nothing has been done.


fully subscribed to the prudence of not disclosing to the enemy the course of conduct it was intended to pursue; but he rose to complain that during the whole of this autumn everything done in this country or intended to be done had not only been published here, but made public to the world. The intended attack upon Sebastopol had been a daily subject of discussion—he presumed in order that the Emperor of Russia might not be taken at a disadvantage—and he could not repress his regret that care had not been taken that our important councils should have been conducted with more secrecy. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman, that it was not fair to say that nothing had been done in the Baltic and the Black Sea. If he might offer a suggestion, he would say that we should not be misled by the glories of the past. Nelson's historian has said that he has not left the mantle of his inspiration to his successors: and people must not be too exacting, but should be content that our Admirals are alive and our ships safe. His (Mr. Whiteside's) objections to the course of proceedings of the army were very few. Last year he had given his support to the calling out of the militia, believing that measure to have been dictated by feelings of patriotism; for our greatest military commander had pronounced that to go to war without an army of reserve was a folly. Convinced by the reasoning of such an authority he had given his assent to the measure as one dictated by patriotism and suggested by political wisdom. When the Crimea was to be invaded and Sebastopol attacked, he thought, that if to go to war without a reserve was a folly, to besiege a great fortress which the besiegers could not invest, was an act of unaccountable madness; and such was the opinion in regard to the siege of Dunkirk expressed by Charles James Fox, whose Memorials and Correspondence the noble Lord opposite had just published. The right hon. Gentleman said that the trade of Russia had been stopped. So far from that being the case, during the month of October it had been urged in daily discussions in the Presse, of Paris, that the policy of the English Government with regard to the trade of Russia had been suicidal. Those articles proved that the rates of exchange were in favour of Russia, and that the quantity of gold in St. Petersburg was greater than ever; the reason being this, that while all the articles which Russia produced were sent through Memel, the importation of articles which Russia had to pay for was prohibited. The Presse of Paris contended, moreover, that if the system of our Government was intended to be a system of equivocation they could not have adopted a better policy. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) in his speech of the previous night had referred to the cavalry. He (Mr. Whiteside) had had it from one of that gallant brigade that after the charge they numbered 400 sabres against 23,000 of the enemy. If they had been ordered to make such another charge the Government would have been relieved of all further trouble with regard to them, for that branch of the service would have been extinguished. Nobody doubted the courage of our troops. He hated the Emperor of Russia because he believed him to be a tyrant—because he attempted to crush freedom by brute force, and his objection to the war was that it had not been carried on with the vigour and diligence which might have characterised it. Those who sat opposite to the Government had never intended to criticise their shortcomings in lint and hospitals; but when the Government said there was a difficulty in getting soldiers, he replied that, for every man cut down in the Enniskilleners, they could get two. The recruiting sergeant at Belfast enlisted 200 men in one day. The Army was a popular service in Ireland. The Irish people desired to share in the perils as well as in the glory of England, and would never be found absent from the fight when honour had to be achieved. The Government could get men; and if any foreign tyrant was calculating on their domestic divisions, be was greatly mistaken, for when their common country was threatened they would forget their intestine quarrels, and be united as one nation. An hon. Gentleman had spoken of Austria. He (Mr. Whiteside) had lately read the history of the partition of Poland. The historian said that Russia and Prussia were about to divide the spoil, when Austria interposed, and obtained all she wanted without striking a blow or spending a single florin. It was not unlikely that something of the kind might occur now. He had also read a paper which had been communicated to the House during the recess by the Government, containing remonstrances of Servia against a proposed occupation of that province by Austria, and speaking of an occupation as the last of human evils on account of the incalculable cupidity and perfidy of that Power. What the Government were chargeable with was want of that political foresight to which they laid so especial a claim. They had not foreseen the possible result of allowing Austria to occupy a country which, according to the opinions of the best friends of the Government in the press, had released a powerful Russian army to fall upon their devoted fellow-countrymen in the Crimea, and expose the British forces to annihilation. Those forces might be annihilated, but they could never be conquered. But was it just to expose them to such overwhelming odds? True they had overcome those odds, and no doubt they would overcome them again. He had no fear of the issue. They had surpassed the heroism and devotion displayed at Thermopylæ, and would yet gain a triumphant victory, because the arms of freedom never could succumb to the barbarous legions of despotism.


said, he was convinced that the country would not be satisfied with the explanation of the Government offered by the right hon. Gentleman last night, and would condemn the Government for not bringing forward in the last Session the measure they had now given notice of for sending the militia out of the country. He would not at that moment enter into any criticism upon the war, or upon the conduct of the war, but he thought the country should expect that before Christmas came the conduct of the Government should be more closely scrutinised than hitherto it had been. A paragraph in the Speech had reference to the treaty which had been concluded between Her Majesty, the Emperor of the French, and the Austrian Government, and it was natural to expect that a Minister of the Crown would have adverted to its contents; yet it was the manifest intention of the Government to conclude the debate without any reference whatever to it, had it not been for the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. They were called upon to deliberate with Her Majesty as to the best mode of carrying on the war with effect and vigour, and he would be disposed to say that, in order to do so, Her Majesty should dismiss from Her counsels the Members of the Administration who had been the means of plunging the country into a war, and were likely by their misconduct of its operations to protract that calamity to a great length.


thought that, from all the antecedents of Austria, the House and the country could have little hope of assistance from that powerful State in carrying on the war. He had an opportunity last summer of conversing with natives of Germany, and he had heard remarkable opinions expressed by them. Those opinions were not confined to the subjects of Austria, but were expressed by persons in all parts of Germany. The opinion was expressed with perfect unreserve, that Austria would never draw the sword against Russia. On looking to the conduct of Austria heretofore, it would be found that her aim was self-aggrandisement, and that to effect that object she seized upon the opportunities which were afforded to her by the arms of other countries. He might go back to the partition of Poland. A portion of that country was said to be forced upon Maria Theresa against her will, and it was said also that she shed tears when she was forced to be the unwilling participator in the plunder of that country. They knew that on a recent occasion the greatest atrocities were committed against the nobles of Gallicia. The peasants were encouraged to rise against those in authority over them without the plea of oppression; but it was a political move to diminish the power of the nobles. His belief was that the Austrians would continue to occupy the Principalities, setting at liberty a large Russian force, which would otherwise be opposed by Omar Pacha and his brave army. He could not help expressing his great distrust as to any treaty with them affording any permanent advantage to this country; and, therefore, he did regret that Her Majesty's Government should have introduced, prematurely, a congratulatory passage regarding it into the Royal Speech.

Address agreed to:—To be presented by Privy Councillors.

Back to