HC Deb 24 February 1854 vol 130 cc1264-83

said, that, in rising to call the attention of the House to the inadequacy of the military establishments of the country to meet the exigencies of the approaching war, he must say that although the state of our foreign relations had occupied a very considerable portion of the attention of the House during the last few days, yet, notwithstanding the magnitude of the subjects discussed, and the ability of the speakers on either side, a certain languor appeared to pervade the whole debate, in consequence, as he believed, of its referring for the most part to past events and bygone transactions. He now took the liberty of inviting the House to consider this great question from another point of view; to cast their eyes forward, and to consider what policy they ought to pursue in the future; to endeavour to measure the proportions of the contest into which they were about to enter, to estimate the means which they intended to employ in order to procure a successful result. He regretted being the cause of interposing any delay in going into the Committee of Supply, but he felt that the considerations he was anxious to offer to the House were of so general a character as to be more fitted for discussion in the whole House than in any particular vote in Committee. He deeply lamented the necessity of war; even that champion of peace, the Member for the West Riding, could not regret it more; but when we had actually entered into treaties of offensive and defensive alliance with France and Turkey, he conceived that it was out of the power even of the hon. Member for the West Riding himself to point out to us a means of honourably avoiding war. He hoped the House would not commit the error of underrating the importance of the approaching struggle. He had heard hon. Gentlemen say, both in and out of that House, that the power of Russia had been greatly exaggerated—that her armies existed only upon paper—that the mismanaged state of her commissariat neutralised the strength of her forces—that all her classes were demoralised and corrupted—and that, in short, her power was a mere bugbear, and she herself an ideal adversary. That was not the opinion of one whose judgment on military matters, and on national questions such as the present, was entitled to the highest consideration. The Emperor Napoleon represented the forces of Russia to be of the very first order, and said that Russia was the only country in Europe whose population were raised in the social scale by becoming soldiers. It must be recollected likewise, that, although Russia was governed by an absolute monarch, a very intense national spirit pervaded it—that the patriotism of the Russians was of a very warm character, and that in the present contest the religious feelings of the people were enlisted. Nor should it be forgotten that what the sea was to England, her steppes, her immense tracts of country, her ice-bound shores, and her rigorous climate were to Russia, and that, in fact, she was a fortress and a citadel in herself, waging war upon her opponents, assured of the comparative safety of her own interior dominions, and perfectly safe from foreign invasion. The greatest empire this world ever saw was shipwrecked and disorganised in a vain attempt to cope with her. Moreover, when once war was proclaimed in Europe—when once the peace of forty years was broken—we could not estimate what extension the war would have, or what direction it would take. Even within the last few days the theatre of the war had been extended. A war of a most embarrassing character, which might wholly change, if it proceeded, the complexion of the entire contest, had supervened, as it were, upon the original war. An insurrection had taken place among the Greek subjects of the Ottoman Porte. How far that insurrection might extend, or what direction it might finally take, was certainly, at present, a question involved in obscurity; but there were the elements of extension in it, for not only were the Greek population of European Turkey in a state of violent agitation, but there was a very considerable Christian population in Syria, which had often been disaffected, which was always turbulent, and which was warlike and capable of causing additional embarrassment. He must, therefore, confess that he viewed this part of the contest with considerable anxiety, for, whatever might be our opinion as to the justice and expediency of the cause of Turkey as against Russia, the question would certainly become very much changed if it should assume the character of a struggle between Christianity and Islamism within the territory of the Porte. But there was another point to which he would venture to call the attention of the house. Two systems of neutrality had now been declared in Europe: one, the system of neutrality declared by the northern maritime nations; the other, the system of neutrality declared by the great Germanic Powers. Now, he saw round him, perhaps, very few hon. Gentlemen who, any more than himself, had much experience of military matters, but he presumed he saw a great many who had had considerable experience of electioneering contests—those little mimic wars which bore some degree of similarity to great struggles between nations—and he would appeal to them whether, in electioneering contests, they could ever place the slightest reliance upon declarations of neutrality. Such declarations had often been made in elections in which he himself was engaged, but he never knew of one, where the contest became keen and the passions were aroused, in which these declarations were not merged in the heat and excitement of the contest; and he was quite sure that in this respect the politics upon the great stage of Europe would not differ essentially from those of a county or a borough. There was still another point to which be wished to call the attention of the House. The peace of Europe, which had now lasted for nearly forty years, was based upon the treaty of 1815–16; but shortly subsequent to the great compact a very important treaty was entered into by the Northern Powers, which had a great effect upon the politics of Europe. He alluded to that famous treaty which had been so often denounced in that House—the Holy Alliance. There were two main principles upon which that treaty was founded. First, it was a union of three great Powers against the principles of revolution and progress; but, in order to give effect to that principle, there was another necessarily superadded—that of a disclaimer on the part of these three Powers of all and every intention of territorial aggrandisement, or personal or national ambitious views, by those nations towards each other. Now the latter, at any rate, whatever might have been the disadvantages or the faults in other respects of the Holy Alliance, was a principle which in itself worked for good. The Holy Alliance was originated by the Emperor Alexander, and that disclaimer and relinquishment of all views of territorial aggrandisement had been one of the many causes which, for nearly forty years, had preserved the peace of Europe. It was now quite evident, however, that Russia had abandoned that policy—that all those obstacles which the three allied Powers opposed in Europe to the progress of national ambition and the desire of territorial aggrandisement, which in former times had been the cause of half the wars of the world, had been swept away—and that all the horrors of confusion and anarchy had been again let loose upon mankind. We had now, consequently, to deal with an altered state of things, and would necessarily be obliged to make a corresponding change in our policy. During the last forty years we had dealt with a state of peace; we had now to deal with a state of war, the extent and direction of which we had at present no means of measuring. The policy of England during the continuance of peace had been a policy based upon the assumption that war would never again exist in the world, but would be superseded by the enlightenment and progress of the age. We had now arrived at a state of things in which war was not only certain, but in which it was extremely likely that war would be for some time to come the normal condition of Europe. What, then, was the course which England should take under such circumstances—what the provision she should make to preserve her character and position as one of the first-class Powers of the world? England had never been an aggressive country—the whole of her history showed that she had nothing to gain and everything to lose from war; but still, if war did come, it was their duty to see that England should be maintained in her position as one of the greatest nations in the world. Now, it might be said that any war in which England ought to engage should be a naval war; but he thought, in answer to that, it would be sufficient to point to the fact, that before we were actually at war—when we were only drifting towards war—we found it necessary to send 25,000 men to the other extremity of Europe. If there was to be an European war, and if England was to be engaged in it, she must of necessity be both a great naval and a great military Power. And England had every possible requisite for becoming both. Napoleon had said, "With your 40,000 troops you will never become a great military Power." But why should England have an army only of 40,000 men available for foreign service? Why, he would ask, with 27,000,000 of inhabitants, with the richest country on the face of the globe, and with soldiers who had never been surpassed by any troops in the world, should we not be a military nation if an European war should occur? Not only had we the materials for making the best soldiers in the world, but we possessed the command of the seas, and that great facility of transport by steam which had infinitely augmented our power, and we enjoyed advantages in other respects which might enable us to become a powerful military nation, with a comparatively smaller number of troops than any other great country in Europe. Supposing a state of war pervaded Europe, England, as he had shown, had every means to become a great military Power. National feeling, he was sure, would respond to every demand properly made on the patriotism of the people; and he wished to know on what grounds it could be urged that we should be satisfied with assuming a second position, when we had a right to assume the first position, among the nations of the world. The English army at present was about equal in number to the army of Belgium—a second-rate State; but the English army was dispersed over all the quarters of the world, and for years past we had barely had a peace establishment. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War was now about to propose an augmentation of about 10,000 men upon the Army Estimates for last year—but would our army be then upon any other footing than that of a liberal peace establishment? In 1848–49, when we had no subject of quarrel or controversy with any other State—though certainly there were disturbances on the Continent which rendered precautionary measures prudent—our army consisted of 113,847 men. The number of men now about to be proposed for the army was rather less than 113,000 men, so that, while we were sending 25,000 men to tight the Russians in Turkey, the number of men in the army would be actually less than it was in 1848–49. In the year 1846 our army consisted of 108,600 men, and in 1847 of 108,400 men, and therefore our army this year, with the proposed augmentation, would little exceed in number the armies of 1846 and 1847, when a state of peace existed. He would ask whether this was an adequate provision for a great emergency—for a struggle with a first-rate Power of Europe? It appeared to him either that Her Majesty's Government were extravagant then, or that they were parsimonious now. It was actually proposed to diminish, though not to any great degree, the number of the cavalry—a most important arm of the service, and one that it required a very considerable time to form. He thought it was evident, then, that though Her Majesty's Government had taken advantage of the present warlike movement to get the army up again from the low numbers to which it had been screwed down by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) and his friends to the peace establishment, which was maintained four or five years ago, they were not putting the army upon the footing of a war establishment. He did not bring forward the ques- tion with any party views, or in any spirit of hostility to Her Majesty's Ministers; indeed, he thought Her Majesty's Ministers ought to feel obliged to him for throwing out these suggestions. If it were intended to be a party or hostile move, it was certainly the choosiest ever man conceived, because the Secretary at War would most probably use his (Sir J. Walsh's) speech as an answer to that of the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir D. L. Evans), who had a notice on the paper to call attention to the number of troops in the Colonies which had been found necessary to protect our garrisons during forty years of peace, but were to be withdrawn during the very first year of war. He would leave the Secretary at War to answer that proposition, but he ventured to predict that the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House there was one hon. Member calling out for greater armaments and another for the withdrawal of those already existing, whilst the Government, taking the happy medium, only asked for such a force as was indispensable. He brought forward this subject, however, with no hostility, as he had already said, to the Government, but simply as an independent country gentleman, deeply sensible of the importance of the present crisis, and anxious to impress what he considered truths of a most important character upon the attention of the House and of the country. In doing so, he was supported by the opinion of that great man to whose valour we owed the blessings of the long peace which we had enjoyed. In almost the last speech which the late Duke of Wellington delivered in the House of Lords he made use of a few epigrammatic sentences, which were so germane to the subject that he could not forbear quoting them, believing also that the voice, as of one beyond the grave, would possess a weight and consideration which the words of no living man could obtain. On the 15th of June, 1852, the Duke of Wellington said:— As to the regular army, my Lords, I tell you that for the last ten years you have never had in your army more men than enough to relieve the sentries on duty at your stations in the different parts of the world; such is the state of your peace establishment at the present time; such has been the state of your peace establishment for the last ten years. You have been carrying on war in all parts of the globe, in the different stations, by means of this peace establishment; you have now a war at the Cape, on the very frontier of Her Majesty's dominions, still continuing which you carry on with your peace establishment; yet on that peace establishment I tell you you have not more men than are enough to relieve the sentries at the different stations in all parts of the world, and to relieve the different regiments in the tropics and elsewhere, after services there—of how long do you suppose?—of, in some cases, twenty- five years, in none less than ten years, and after which you give them five years at home, nominally—for it is only nominally in a great many cases.… My Lords, I tell you you have never had a proper peace establishment all this time."—[3 Hansard, cxxii. 729.] Those were the words of the Duke of Wellington; and if he used those words when the country was at peace, or engaged only in little wars with distant and barbarous nations, what would he have said had he been spared to the present crisis, and seen England, with only a peace establishment, entering upon a war with the greatest and most powerful nation in Europe?


said, he wished to be allowed to say a few words upon this subject, as he had, twenty-five years ago, travelled through those countries which were now the scenes of war, and had formed opinions which, whatever might be their merit, were founded upon the most honest conviction. He would not refer to any of the diplomatic negotiations which had been in progress for some time, but would come at once to the question of war with Russia. Upon that subject he only wished to refer to one particular point—namely, the question of the command of the Black Sea. In his opinion, if this country determined to have the ascendancy in that sea, there would be no difficulty whatever in compelling Russia to come to terms. He was fortified in this belief by the opinions of the English Ambassador at Paris, of M. Drouyn de Lhuys, of the Emperor Napoleon, of Lord Clarendon, and of others who were admitted to be the highest authorities upon this subject. In a letter from Lord Cowley to Lord Clarendon, dated the 16th of December, Lord Cowley said that he had had a very long interview with M. Drouyn de Lhuys; that they had discussed the affair of Sinope, and the question of sending the fleets into the Black Sea; that they had come to the conclusion that, unfortunately, they had not the power to compel the suspension of hostilities by acting on the Danube or in Asia Minor, but that they had it in their power to compel the suspension of hostilities by obtaining the superiority in the Black Sea, and by sweeping that sea of the Russian flag. In another part of the same letter, Lord Cowley spoke of Russia as being paramount in the Black Sea, and observed that that sea could be considered little else than a Russian lake. The question had already been asked, but he thought it had not been very satisfactorily answered—why, attaching so much importance to these facts, the French and English Governments did not send their fleets into the Black Sea before the affair of Sinope? But, if there was any difficulty in explaining why the fleets did not enter the Black Sea before the affair of Sinope, why, he asked, did not they enter that sea immediately after the destruction of the Turkish ships at Sinope? He did not attach any blame to Her Majesty's Government with reference to that matter; on the contrary, he considered that Lord Clarendon had behaved very nobly on the subject, and he (Mr. Alcock) had not a word to say except in praise of Her Majesty's Government. But there was a vast difference between the conduct of the Government in this country and the conduct of the British Ambassador at Constantinople. He (Mr. Alcock) might refer, on this point, to two letters in the published correspondence—one addressed by Lord Clarendon to Lord Stratford on the 17th of December, and the other addressed by Lord Stratford to Lord Clarendon on the same day. Lord Clarendon, in his letter, alluding to the affair of Sinope, said:— Your Excellency, no doubt, will have already sent the fleets into the Black Sea. No particular instructions, it seems to us, are necessary; we have engaged to support Turkey against the hostile aggressions of Russia, and we are bound to stand by that engagement. Of a very different spirit and character was the letter of Lord Stratford. Having stated that he was about to send the combined fleets into the Black Sea, he went on to say, in effect:— But your Lordship may be disposed to ask why I have not done this sooner—why I have not sent the combined fleets to avenge themselves for the dreadful attack on Sinope—why I have waited until this time? And what did the House think were Lord Stratford's reasons? Lord Stratford assigned five reasons for the delay—three principal and two inferior reasons. His first reason was, want of information as to the movements of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. But the best way of discovering the movements of the Russian fleet would have been by sending out the combined fleets to confront it. In the very same letter of the 17th of December, however, Lord Stratford showed that he was acquainted with the movements of the Russian fleet, for he mentioned that on the 8th of December that fleet, consisting of twelve sail of the line, had been seen on the cost of the Crimea. Lord Stratford's second reason was an unwillingness to incur the risk of a collision by premature provocation; but, when the diplomatic negotiations between this country and Russia had been going on for so long a time, and when the barbarous massacre of Sinope had taken place, he (Mr. Alcock) thought it was absurd to talk of premature provocation. Lord Stratford's third reason was that he thought it better to wait for an invitation from the Turkish Government; but it would be found from the published despatches that such an invitation had been given on the 4th of December, when Reshid Pasha requested that the combined fleets might enter the Black Sea. The two inferior reasons assigned by Lord Stratford were, that the north-west winds prevailed and had delayed the arrival of the English fleet from Besika Bay, and that about the time in question a change of the French Ambassadors at Constantinople took place. He (Mr. Alcock) must say that, under the circumstances, it was a matter of surprise to hint that immediately after the affair of Sinope the Russians did not avail themselves of the apathy of Lord Stratford and at once take Trebizond. He had been induced to make these remarks against Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, he need not say, from no personal motives, but because blame must be laid somewhere, and it appeared to him that this was the quarter in which it ought to be laid. Why had the British navy been tied down in the Bosphorus, contrary to their natural feelings, for they must have been burning to sail into the Black Sea? The result of keeping them back was that opportunities had been lost which we should scarcely ever have again, The Government had now to despatch troops to Constantinople, but the war would have been put an end to at the time he referred to if the fleets had been sent into the Black Sea with full power to act against the Russians. He believed there was yet time to repair the mistake which had been made. Let the combined fleets sweep the Black Sea of the Russian flag, and the war would soon be at an end. The possession of the Black Sea was not only important from the material power it gave, but from the moral power it also conferred. In the first place, if the English and French fleets held possession of that sea, the Russian fleet could no longer assail that of Turkey, nor could it co-operate as in 1828–29 with land forces from Odessa or Sebastopol, below the line of the Balkan. That was most important, because it was only from that co-operation on the part of their fleet that the Russians got to Adrianople in their last campaign against the Turks. Then, again, by holding the Black Sea, we should at once put an end to the possibility of reinforcements being conveyed to the Russian troops in Georgia, and other parts north and south of the Caucasus, and the consequence would be, that all the fortresses, extending for 300 miles on the coast, and including Anapa, SudjoukKale-Julendjik and Poti, would easily fall, the existence of which alone prevented the Turks co-operating with the Circassians. The House would recollect that the people of the Caucasus, who had for so many years defended themselves single-handed against the whole power of Russia, occupied a country as large as the whole of England and Wales, composed of a succession of fastnesses and natural fortresses, and it was not an unreasonable expectation that, if that indomitable people were properly assisted, they would soon take advantage of their opportunity, and Georgia (one of the richest provinces of Russia) would be wrested from the dominion of the Czar. These were some of the material advantages; and then, looking at the moral effect, what would the people of Bessarabia and the Crimea, and all the discontented nations under Russian rule, do if they once knew that the ascendancy of Russia in the Black Sea was at an end, and that the British navy was paramount there? Why, it would be nothing less than a deathblow to Russia, and it would then rest with the allies to make their own terms. In conclusion, he would reiterate his opinion that great blame attached to our Ambassador at Constantinople for his want of decision and straightforward conduct in not taking that course with regard to the entry of the fleets into the Black Sea which was marked out for him by his own Government, and still more by the Government of our ally.


said, he had a notice on the paper to call the attention of the House to the large number of troops employed in the Colonies. He had on a former occasion attempted to advocate a reduction of the military force in the Colonies, and he thought it was more opportune at the present moment than at any other period—not, as the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Walsh) supposed, because he wished to diminish the military force of the country, but because his object was to place an additional force at the disposal of the Government. During the last two or three years several hon. Gentlemen, besides himself, had adverted to the great number of troops in the Colonies, and the propriety of their being diminished, considering that, as free trade had been established and free institutions had been conceded to the majority of them, the time had arrived to oblige the Colonies, if they wanted troops, to maintain them at their own expense, and not to have the British army disseminated over those Colonies in small detachments at a great additional expense and without any advantage to the Imperial Crown. He found, from the observations of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), that he readily complied with those suggestions, and promised that several regiments should be withdrawn from the Colonies; but he was very sorry to find, by a return laid on the table of the House within the last few days, that, instead of diminishing the force in the Colonies, they had been increased, and had now reached the enormous number of 47,000 men of all arms. Considering that the whole force disposable for war and the defence of our home territories was only 64,000 men, he thought 47,000 a very large and unnecessary force to be retained in the Colonies. He did not propose to touch the garrisons, as the hon. Baronet seemed to fear. He was aware that the garrisons must be kept up in the fortresses, and he should not say a word on that subject. He would, however, advert to two or three principal items. He found that Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and our other North American Colonies had 6,400 men; the West Indies, 5,300; the Cape of Good Hope, he lamented to see, 8,000, besides irregular troops, which were very expensive; Ceylon, 3.000; and the Australian Colonies, 3,400. He understood that one of the Australian Colonies had consented to charge itself with a battalion. That was a beginning, though a very small one, but he trusted this example would be generally followed. He contended that the whole of the British troops in the Colonies ought to be maintained at the expense of the colonists. He would not go into detail, except with regard to our Canadian Colonies. That splendid colony had now an independent Govern- ment of its own. He found the revenue for the last year was 723,000l., and the expenses, including interest on debt and sinking fund, was 535,000l., leaving a surplus of 188,000l.; and, with this surplus of 188,000l., the mother-country was still left to defray the charges of the military forces of that colony. There were the fortresses of Quebec and Montreal, in which garrisons should be kept; but the noble Earl who was then at the head of the colony had advised, two or three years back, that the number of troops should be reduced to 1,500 or 2,000 men. He considered that that advice ought to have been followed, and that 1,500 or 2,000 men would be quite sufficient to garrison the fortresses to which he had alluded. In that case there would be 3,400 men disposable for the service for which they were now likely to be required. He was especially at a loss to understand why so many as 1,000 men of the Artillery and Sappers and Miners should be kept in the Canadas alone. There was another colony which was in so flourishing a state that last year its revenue had nearly doubled—he alluded to the colony of Nova Scotia; and yet this country was required to pay a military force for its defence, although there was no external danger whatever to be apprehended. In point of fact, with respect to these colonies the troops there were doing little more than police duties. He had no wish to detain the House from going into the Estimates, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War would take the subject into his consideration and give a satisfactory answer. He knew that there was a constant pressure on the Government on the part of the Colonies against the withdrawal of the troops; but it could not be expected that, whatever the colonists might wish, that House would permit the continuance of this unnecessary expense. There was another topic with respect to which his name appeared upon the paper, upon which he proposed to make a very few remarks. Great complaints had been made in the public prints with respect to the advanced age of the general officers of the Army. It was for the Government and not for him to say whether those complaints were well founded or not. He was afraid it was so to a very considerable extent, and he thought it was not to be wondered at. The notice which he had given suggested either that the intervals between the military brevets should be shortened, or that seniority should no longer be the sole ground of making promotions to the rank of general officers; or that the selection should be made upon the ground of merit, or of fitness for command, which he thought would be the best rule of all. If seniority was to be perpetually the rule, and five or six years to continue to be the interval, it must of necessity happen that the higher ranks would be constantly filled by old men. If they compared the Army with the Navy, they would find that, although the former was, in point of fact, threefold more numerous than the latter, the Navy had a greater number of admirals than the Army had of generals. To improve the efficiency of the flag list, an arrangement had been made some little time ago by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring), then at the head of the Admiralty, for limiting the list of effective flag officers to 100, and for placing the remainder on the non-effective or retired list. What was called the effective list contained 100 admirals, and the non-effective list 199; but, owing to the extraordinary ingenuity of the right hon. Baronet, he believed that a great number even of the former were troubled with gout and other little matters which would be likely materially to impair their fitness for active service. He did not, therefore, ask that the rule which prevailed in the Navy might be extended to the Army, but certainly some remedy for the existing state of things was imperatively called for. It was, moreover, quite unfair to send out, as they were doing, a number of officers of the rank of colonel to take the command of brigades, because they had not officers enough of the higher grade to undertake that duty. In the present state of the service there was, probably, no option. But was it fair to call upon these officers to undertake the duties and responsibilities of a rank higher than their own, without giving them, at the same time, the rank and pay? Would the same kind of rule be considered just if it were applied to the civil service—if, instead of promoting persons from subordinate positions to fill the vacancies occasioned by the retirement or incapacity of their superiors, they compelled them to do the duty for half pay, giving them only a kind of local or temporary rank? He thought that where the duty was thrown, the rank and pay ought to follow; and he hoped the subject would engage the serious attention of the Government, as in the present circumstances of the country, it unquestionably ought, and that there was no truth in the report that it was intended to be referred to a Commission, because questions which were so dealt with were almost invariably shelved.


was disposed to doubt whether the power of Russia was so formidable as it had been considered to be. In the campaign of 1828 and 1829, although the Danube and Balkan were undefended, and there was but a very little fighting at Shumla, Varna, and Silistria, it still took the Russians two years to get to Adrianople; and he had it on the authority of Lord Ponsonby that, at the moment when peace was signed, Russia had only 7,000 available bayonets, and that out of the immense force, 120,000 men and 300 guns, which crossed the Pruth two years before, only 15,000 returned to their own country. Turkey at the present moment stood in a very different position from that in which she was then placed. She now had a large army in first-rate order, her artillery was second to none in the world, and she had proved that her own troops alone were competent to her defence; but, if even they were beaten at Kalafat, and the Balkan was turned by Sophia, the contingent of France and England would meet the Russians successfully when they emerged upon the plains of Adrianople. He could not agree with the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Alcock), that any blame was to be attached to our Ambassador at Constantinople, nor, on the other hand, could he concur in the praise which had been bestowed on the Government for the line of policy they had pursued. The Government had been guilty of grave errors, both of omission and commission, in this matter. The first error to which he would advert was non-compliance with the request sent by Colonel Rose that the fleet should proceed to Constantinople. He knew it was said that Colonel Rose had afterwards expressed his satisfaction that this request had not been complied with, but it was worthy of notice that from the time that Colonel Rose sent for the fleet an altered tone was observable in the negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had approved of the refusal of Admiral Dundas to leave Malta—so did the Emperor of Russia, as shown by the complimentary message conveyed from him to Lord Aberdeen in Count Nesselrode's despatch. How strange it was that all Sovereigns entertaining hos- tile feelings towards England, as Louis Philippe at the time of the Spanish marriages—Nicholas on the question of the Greek and Latin Churches—are gratified at, and grateful for the beau rôle played by this noble Lord. He (Mr. French) doubted that the approval of these Sovereigns would enhance his merits, whatever they might be, in the eyes of the British public. The next point was the non-interference of the British fleet after it did go up to Constantinople. Admiral Dundas had a force quite sufficient to fulfil the engagements into which we bad entered to give assistance to the Turks, but at Constantinople it was a matter of doubt whether the fleet had been sent to assist the Turks against Russia, or to coerce the subjects of the Porte. Had the fleet gone as directed by the Ambassador to the Black Sea one week before the disaster at Sinope, that unfortunate event would not have occurred, and he believed that not only had we been the cause of that disaster, by our fleet not going into the Black Sea, but that it was through the interference of British agency the Turks had not been allowed to protect themselves. There were letters from Admiral Slade in this country to the effect that he was perfectly competent to deal with the Russian fleet with the ships under his command; but Lord Stratford interfered, and they found him writing to Lord Clarendon that he had succeeded in dissuading the Porte from sending a detachment of line-of-battle ships into the Black Sea. Indeed, the friends of Admiral Slade expected to hear of a victory over the Russian fleet, when the news came of the destruction of the Turkish flotilla at Sinope. On the 5th of November Lord Stratford writes to M. Pisani:— I have just heard that orders are come up for sending four line-of-battle ships and ten sailing frigates into the Black Sea-to-morrow. In consequence of this I shall not order up the remainder of the squadron until the intended enterprise is abandoned. This squadron was destined for Sinope. The threat was effectual, and the expedition was given up. The same day the Ambassador writes to Lord Clarendon:— I have succeeded in dissuading the Porte from sending a detachment of line-of-battle ships and frigates into the Black Sea at this moment. We neither protected the Turks nor allowed them to defend themselves. Then, when our fleet did go into the Black Sea, what did they do? We sent war steamers to Batoum, within twenty-seven miles of St. Nicholas, which place was bombarded after our entry into the Black Sea, and no explanation of this circumstance had yet been given, nor of the cause of their return. It was said they were induced to do so from stress of weather, but the Turks declared that they never had better weather than at this time. The steamers returned, too, in opposition to the orders of the Ambassador. The noble Lord had approved the course taken by the Admiral. No sooner had they returned than the Russian fleet came out, threatening the whole coast of Circassia, and the British merchants at Trebizond were compelled to solicit protection. Under these circumstances, it was not wonderful that questions were raised as to the conduct of the British Government. What was Lord Stratford's opinion of the course that was taken may be judged from his letters. On the 17th of December he writes to Lord Clarendon:— I cannot conceal from myself that the late destruction of the many Turkish ships at Sinope would not have taken place had the fleets been sent up the Black Sea at an earlier period. Forgive me, my Lord, if, in the combination of circumstances, all tending to the same conclusion, I cannot lose sight of public opinion, or that matured judgment which later times will pronounce on our conduct. The Vienna correspondent of the Times says that Count Buol was so afraid that the Western Powers, after Sinope, would assume the offensive, that an uninterrupted telegraphic communication was kept up with Paris and London, till his apprehensions were relieved by an assurance, "that no step would be taken that could interrupt negotiations." In whom was the command of the fleet vested? Foreign Secretary, Ambassador, or Admiral? Lord Clarendon says, that Lord Stratford was allowed to have the disposal of the fleet, if he considered the assistance of a British force absolutely essential to the safety of the Turkish empire; that Her Majesty's Government, however, were desirous that his Excellency should understand they by no means intend to depart from the moderation and conciliatory course, which they had always adopted; and concluded by informing him that force should only be resorted to as a last and unavoidable resource for the protection of Turkey from an unprovoked attack. For what was the fleet sent to Constantinople? Lord Clarendon declared to Baron Brunnow that it was merely to protect British interests—to Mons. Drouyn de Lhuys, that it was to assist Turkey. How can you accuse the Emperor of Russia of want of straightforward dealing, when such is the course taken by a British Minister? He gave Ministers credit for their desire to preserve peace, though the means they took to bring it about would have, if successful, left matters in a far worse state than they found them, and forced all Europe into war to resettle the balance of power on a safer basis. Their negotiations were described by Lord Ponsonby as "based on fear of Russia." He writes, "The present pusillanimity is the promoter of danger, it is the fosterer of shame, it is the offspring of ignorance, it has disgraced the country in the eyes of other nations." Such was the deliberate opinion of a Minister of the highest intellect and greatest experience in Europe. The Emperor of Russia had reason to complain of the treatment he had received. His demands in relation to the Holy Places were approved of here by Lord Aberdeen, before they were presented to the Sultan by Prince Menchikoff, and were supported by England at Constantinople. The intended occupation of the Danubian provinces was known and not objected to here. So early as the 7th January the Government had ample information that Russia was prepaying military forces to carry out her objects, whatever those objects might be. They had similar advices in March, and again in April. It was true that Count Nesselrode's answers to representations on this subject were evasive; but there were the like accounts from our own consuls and agents in or near the countries where the forces were being collected. How was this information received by the Government? Merely by sanguine hopes that the Emperor of Russia would refrain from further increasing his forces or abstain from using them. Was there any language of remonstrance heard from the British Government? Was there any attempt to point out the gross injustice which Russia was about to commit, to throw the responsibility upon the Emperor of measures which would inevitably throw Europe into collision, and to point out to him that, if he drew the sword and took possession of territory which did not belong to him, he would be responsible for all the fatal consequences that might ensue? Not a bit of it. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on the 8th of June, wrote a despatch to the British Minister at St. Petersburg, in which he said:— The Emperor cannot doubt the warm feelings of friendship towards himself entertained by our Gracious Sovereign, and his Imperial Majesty must be also aware that it is alike the duty and the desire of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the most cordial relations with Russia, feeling how essential such relations are to the peace of Europe, and viewing, as they do, with alarm and abhorrence, whatever may tend to the interruption of that peace. Her Majesty's Government do not believe that Europe can be in danger of the terrible calamity of war from a question such as that which is now pending at Constantinople: they do not believe that the door will be finally closed against an arrangement which to them appears to be still practicable; and they venture, therefore, to hope that the demands of Russia may be confined to the recapitulation of existing treaties and their due fulfilment, but without seeking to extend that influence over the Greek subjects of the Porte that Russia must always and necessarily exercise. It was upon language such as this that the Emperor of Russia must have founded the conviction that he expressed, that Great Britain would never go to war upon a question like the present. He admitted Lord Clarendon to be both an able and a ready writer, as well as a skilful diplomatist, but they had yet to learn that he was a statesman. He (Mr. French) feared he was of too flexible material not to bend under the weight of a heavy superior. He ventured to assert that had the noble Lord the Member for London, or the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department, been at the head of the Government, the disaster of Sinope would not have taken place, nor would a single soldier have crossed the Pruth. To the well-known political predilections, supposed infirmity of purpose, and temporising policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, was owing the position in which the country was now placed. He believed that the antecedents of the noble Lord at the head of the Government had encouraged the demands of Russia, and paralysed the exertions of the fleet, and that if he remained at the head of the Government, no arrangement satisfactory to Europe was likely to take place. The Russian Emperor speculated on the weakness, and acted on the indecision, of the Prime Minister, but he believed it would have been different if the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), or the noble Lord now at the Home Office, had been charged with the management of our foreign affairs, and the maintenance of the honour of England. If such was, as he believed it was, the opinion of the House, then he thought it would be the duty of the House to declare so. There was always a considera- tion of personal feelings in matters of this kind, but he believed it was of the last importance that we should at the present moment have for the conduct of our foreign affairs men who possessed the entire confidence of the country.


said, he must express his strong dissent from the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, for he highly approved of the conduct of the Government in making war their dernier ressort. So far from having suffered by delay, he thought we had obtained vast and almost incalculable advantages by it. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had declared to the world that the policy of this country was peace; and the desire we had shown to avoid war must have convinced the world at large that the sentiment which the noble Lord had uttered was not a mere profession. Thrice armed was he whose quarrel was right, and since we had not willingly entered into this struggle, but had been driven to it, Europe would find the wrath of the peaceful man more effectual than the fury of the enraged Emperor.


said, he must object to the course which the discussion was now taking, as contrary to all precedent. There had been a lengthened debate upon this subject, and the House had expressed its opinion that supplies should be granted for the purpose of carrying on the war, if the country should be involved in war. The Government had not shrunk from debate, and he thought the House would now be acting only in conformity with its expressed opinion by allowing them to go into Committee.

House in Committee; Mr. BOUVERIE in the chair.