HC Deb 29 June 1854 vol 134 cc921-6

said, the House having heard the statement of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester (Mr. Gibson), and the explanation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, he trusted he should now be permitted to call their attention to a subject with regard to which he had placed a notice on the books —namely, the recent changes in the Ministry. Before doing so he could not help expressing his regret that his right hon. Friend (Mr. M. Gibson) had by a somewhat unfair proceeding prevented him from introducing the subject earlier in the evening. The course which he (Lord D. Stuart) was now taking was entirely constitutional, and agreeable to Parliamentary practice. It was true that such discussions had generally been raised on an entire change of the Administration, and on this occasion it might be said, that there had only been partial changes in the Administration. The changes which had taken place, however, affected the position of six or seven Gentlemen holding high office under the Crown, of whom five or six were Cabinet Ministers. They had occasioned the addition of one Gentleman to the Cabinet; they had made it necessary that there should be two Parliamentary elections; they had conferred an office of great dignity and trust upon one Member of the Cabinet; they had placed another Mem- ber of the Cabinet in a situation of less importance than that which he held before; they had created an office hitherto unknown to the Constitution; they had considerably altered the position of another Cabinet Minister; and they had deprived the Government altogether of the services of one right hon. Gentleman. He thought no person could have felt anything but pleasure at seeing that his noble Friend the leader of that House, had received a new mark of approbation and distinction from his Sovereign, and for his part he should have rejoiced if he had received a still greater mark of distinction by being called to the first post in Her Majesty's Councils, for he was satisfied that even his political opponents must feel that, from his distinguished career, great abilities, and high personal character, he would confer dignity upon any office, however exalted, rather than receive it. If the noble Lord who had lately held the office of President of the Council was contented in the prime of life and the vigour of age, and with the ability of which he had given proof, to surrender his place and to retire to what had been described as a sinecure office by the right hon. Gentleman who had just left it —if Lord Granville were satisfied to retire into the easy somnolent chair of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—and thereby to elbow out the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Strutt)—all he could say was, that the country would wonder at his taking a post so little suited to his abilities, and he wished that in going to Lancaster he might only be on his way to a better place. He (Lord D. Stuart) must say, the House and the country had a right to expect some explanation why the right hon. Gentleman, who had always discharged his duties satisfactorily, had been treated with so little consideration and in a manner which was very discouraging to those who placed their services at the disposal of the Government, for he thought it would be admitted on all hands that the right hon. Member for Nottingham had received what in common parlance might be described as very scurvy treatment. An addition had been made to the Cabinet in the person of the right hon Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey), a Gentleman of great administrative ability and of high character, but of whose appointment he must say that, looking back to his career, when he filled a subordinate place in the Colonial Office, it did not appear to him a fortunate appointment. On the contrary, he saw in it an illustration of the truth of the saying, that, in the present Government, the parts had been so cast that all the square men were in the round holes, and all the round men were in the square holes. It was perfectly possible to feel confidence in men filling some situations, when that confidence could not be felt, if they filled others, although they might be in the same Ministry; and that brought him to another point—the removal of the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle), who filled the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies, to make way for the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey). He thought the creation of a Minister of War, when they considered what his duties and the attributes of his office were, would materially affect the position of the right hon. Gentleman who held the office of Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert), and who would not hereafter find himself in so independent or important a position as that which he now filled, and which was the head of a department. The explanations of the noble Lord the leader of the House were not very precise on that head. He did not say what changes were to be made, what offices were to be amalgamated, and what were to be left separate; but it seemed natural to imagine that, after the appointment of a new War Minister, the office of Secretary at War would not be one of so high a rank or confer so greet dignity, and still more natural that it should he assimilated to that of the Secretary of the Admiralty, and that the appointment of a new Secretary of State should involve that of two under Secretaries. This, at all events, was clear, that either the Secretary at War must be placed in a subordinate situation, or that there would be two heads of the War Department. The House would bear in mind that war was to be carried on by sea as well as by land, and if the new Minister of War was to have authority over the First Lord of the Admiralty, and to direct naval as well as military operations, which, for aught he knew, would be the case, then there would be seven Gentlemen holding high office under the Crown whose position would be affected by these changes. It was a remarkable fact, in connection with the Ministry of War, that matters had been so arranged by the Government—he supposed by Lord Aberdeen—that the whole conduct of the war was intrusted to the hands of Gentlemen belonging to one particular section of the Cabinet, that section to which the Premier belonged himself. The Minister of War (the Duke of Newcastle), the Secretary at War, the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), and the right hon. Gentlemen the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir James Graham), were all Peelites, to say nothing of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had also, in financial matters, a good deal to do with the conduct of the war. But in all these changes that which was incomparably of the most importance, and which alone was necessary, was the appointment of this new Minister of War. The attention of the country had been fixed on the subject for a length of time; and he did not hesitate to say that that which had given to the subject its greatest interest was the confident expectation that when a Minister of War was created the office would be confided to no other than the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston). That had been the expectation, the hope, of this country and of all the friends of this country—that had been the dread of all the enemies of this country. If the noble Lord the leader of that House had come down and moved a new writ for Tiverton, and had informed the House that Viscount Palmerston had accepted the office of Secretary of State for the War Department, that announcement would have been received with loud cheers from that House, which would have echoed throughout the country, and, wafted from the shores of the Thames and of Great Britain, would have met with a hearty response at the Danube and the Vistula, in the Black Sea and the Baltic. In saying this, he did not mean for a moment to speak with any want of respect for his noble Friend the Duke of Newcastle. He hoped he should not be accused of that. He declared most sincerely that nothing could be further front his intention. He acknowledged with pleasure the ability, the industry, the zeal, the administrative talent, the courtesy of the noble Duke; but he did not think the noble Duke could feel that it would be at all derogatory to him, or could be in any degree offended or hurt, if such a man as the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was so peculiarly fitted for this office by his great capacity, by his lengthened experience, by his unrivalled energy, by his more than European reputation, were preferred to himself. if he were told that the Duke of Newcaste, having been appointed to an office involving the duties of Colonial Secretary and those of War Minister also, had a right to make his election between those two offices, he altogether denied that position. The single consideration for the Government to look at was the good of the country, and if the Government—if the Prime Minister, on whom these things must ultimately depend—had allowed any personal considerations to prevent the best man, whoever he might be, from being appointed, the Government was responsible for having in that instance failed in its duty. To him (Lord D. Stuart) it seemed incredible that, when there was such a man in the country as the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), so admirably adapted for this particular office, with the duties of which he had had nineteen years' experience, partly during the progress of one of the most terrible wars in which this country had ever been engaged—it seemed to him, he said, incredible that, when the Government had the opportunity of appointing such a man to the office, they should have neglected to seize it. Did anybody tell him of the number of years that had passed over the noble Lord's head? He replied Lord was an extraordinary man; he united with the experience of age the vigour of youth. There were few men who at the same time of life had his physical strength, and very few, indeed, who had equal mental powers. He did not find that age was considered an objection in the case of naval and military commanders. Admiral Dundas was, he believed, pretty nearly contemporary with the noble Lord; Lord Raglan was not much younger, and Old Charley himself, though he might perhaps have the advantage of one or two years, was not half so active. And a man like that, with all his capacity, with all his reputation, with his political experience of half a century, was wasted in labours about common sewers, boards of health, and county rates, and the armies which he had to regulate were armies of policemen. It was very difficult to believe that people were in earnest when you did not see them take advantage of the means which were obviously the best for carrying into effect the purpose which they professed. The country doubted whether the Government were in earnest about this war—the country doubted not that the best man to direct it was the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Let the Government give the noble Lord the direction of the war, and then friend and foe—all the world—would see that they were in earnest. Such an appointment would be better ten thousand times than all the recantations and retractations and explanations which had lately been made, and better than any professions of a desire to carry on the war with vigour. It would be better than the production of despatches, previously refused in that House, for personal vindication, better than any observations about disastrous treaties, intended, if possible, to retrieve the effect of disastrous speeches. Something must be done if the Government intended to re-acquire the confidence of that House and of the country. That confidence, long declining, was now pretty well lost. The proceedings of that House showed this. What measures had the Government been able to carry? What measures had they not been obliged either to postpone or to withdraw? What minorities they had been in! There would be a long list if he were to weary the House by going through it. The Government were not in the position that they ought to be. All that they could carry was taxes—taxes for the war; and the reason why over the noble they carried them was, that the people, that the noble being in earnest, would not refuse the man; he united means necessary to conduct the war. But neither the people nor the House were for half-and-half measures, and they did not want a half-and-half Ministry.


said, he by no means wished to disturb the harmony which usually existed below the gangway, and he therefore hastened to explain that it was quite inadvertently on his part that he had brought on his subject before that of his noble Friend.


said, he hoped that there was no intention on the part of the Government to proceed with the Estimates at that hour (ten minutes to twelve o'clock).

Committee of Supply was accordingly deferred till To-morrow.

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