§ On the Motion that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair,
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
In rising, Sir, to move that you do now leave the Chair, I feel it is generally expected that a person who fills for the first time the situation I have the honour to hold, especially under circumstances such as those which preceded my appointment, should state very shortly to the House what led to his holding the office he holds. Sir, that which I have to state will be very brief—brief because it has been anticipated by statements which have been made by a noble Lord in another place and by a statement subsequently made by a noble Friend of mine in this House. It has been already stated, and correctly stated, by the Earl of Derby, that when he was commanded by Her Majesty to endeavour to form a Government, he did me the honour to come to me and to propose to me that I 1422 should belong to the Government which he was about to form. He at the same time expressed a wish that I should communicate the same desire on his part to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to my right hon. Friend who now holds the position of Secretary for the Colonies. I stated, as was correctly stated by that noble Lord, that those habits of long personal friendship which co-operation in office had engendered, and the high esteem which I felt for his personal character and statesmanlike habits, would render me anxious to co-operate with him in a public emergency, when it was of the utmost national importance that a Government should be formed. I said, however, that I could give him no answer till I had had an opportunity of communicating with friends of mine; but that one thing I was prepared to say, which was this, that in the present state of our foreign relations I should be reluctant and unwilling to belong to any Government in which the conduct of the foreign affairs of this country did not continue in the hands of my noble Friend the Earl of Clarendon, who had shown such great ability and success in the management of the department confided to his care. The communication, as stated by Lord Derby, was made a little before two o'clock. I communicated as soon as I could with my right hon. Friends; I communicated also with that noble Friend of mine, upon whose judgment I place the most implicit reliance, and whose opinion will guide me in every important transaction of my life—I mean the Marquess of Lansdowne; and the result was, that I wrote to the noble Lord to say that I did not think that by accepting the proposal he had done me the honour to make me I could give to his Government that strength he was pleased to think my acceptance of office would have afforded. It was remarked as somewhat unexplained, that that reply of mine was quoted by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his answer given at a later hour to the Earl of Derby. The fact is, that that opinion of mine was formed upon a full consideration, and communicated to my right hon. Friend before he wrote in reply to the offer that was made to him also, declining to join the Administration of the noble Earl. Sir, that endeavour to form an Administration on the part of the Earl of Derby having failed, Her Majesty was pleased to call upon my noble Friend the Member for the City of London (Lord John 1423 Russell), and to charge him with the task of forming an Administration. My noble Friend did me the honour, immediately after that command was given, to come to me and ask me to afford him my assistance. Sir, my great personal regard and esteem for my noble Friend, the perfect similarity of political opinions which existed between us, led me at once, and without hesitation, to say that, feeling impressed with the full importance of the crisis in which we stood, any assistance it was in my power to give him should, without any hesitation, be unreservedly given; and if he had succeeded in forming an Administration, I should have felt the greatest alacrity in giving him any assistance it might have been in my power to render. Sir, that attempt did not succeed, and it was the pleasure of Her Majesty then to commission me to endeavour to form a Government, if I thought I could succeed in submitting to Her a list of Administration likely to command the confidence of Parliament and adequately to carry on the public service of the State. Sir, I received the commands of Her Majesty about six o'clock on the Sunday evening, and I was fortunate enough to be able, on the Tuesday afternoon, to report to her Majesty that I had obtained the assistance of such colleagues as I thought Her Majesty might fairly approve, as answering the description she had been pleased to give in the commands she gave me to make the attempt to form a Government. Sir, the Government then was formed, and I trust that that Government contains sufficient administrative ability, sufficient political sagacity, sufficient liberal principles, sufficient patriotism and determination to omit no effort to fulfil the duties which each Member has undertaken, and to justify me in appealing to this House, to Parliament, and to the country, for such support as men may be considered entitled to receive who in a period of great difficulty and of national emergency, have determined to undertake the responsibility of endeavouring to carry on the business of the country. There is one great department—the Foreign Office—which will continue to enjoy the ability, the experience, and success of my noble Friend the Earl of Clarendon. We have had the good fortune to obtain for the conduct of the War Department the Services of my noble Friend Lord Panmure, who combines all the energy, the firmness and perseverance which are required for the conduct of that import- 1424 ant branch of the public service in the present emergency. I am happy also to have the assistance of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the conduct of that most important branch of the public service, and my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) who sits by me, and who is going immediately to propose the estimates for the naval service, needs no panegyric on my part as to the great ability with which he has discharged the duties of the department entrusted to his care.
Sir, we begin then the task which it has been the pleasure of Her Majesty to confide to our care. In undertaking that task it is useless to dissemble that there is one difficulty which immediately meets us, and which, I may say, stares us in the face; that difficulty, I mean, which arises from the notice which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck) has given for Thursday next. Sir, I will not attempt to disguise the fact that I feel the same objections to the appointment of the Committee of which he has given notice which I had the honour of stating when the subject was before the House on a recent occasion. My opinion is, that such a Committee would in its action not be in accordance with the true and just principles of the constitution; and that for the effectual accomplishment of its purposes it would not be an efficient instrument. Sir, I should hope that this House, when it came calmly to reflect upon the principles involved in the appointment of such a Committee—when it came calmly to reflect upon the cumbrous machine and the tardy result which must be expected from its action, might be inclined, at all events, to suspend the appointment of the Committee which my hon. and learned Friend proposes to move for. But, Sir, I feel that the only ground upon which they could be disposed to agree to postpone the appointment of that Committee would be the belief that the Government itself intends to do those things which the Committee if appointed might, at the end of a long period, recommend to be done. And as we all remember the old case of that young monarch of England who, in meeting a body of discontented subjects, and finding that they had lost their leader, rode boldly up to them and exclaimed, "You have lost your leader, my friends; I will be your leader," so I should say to the House of Commons, if they will agree not to appoint this Committee, the Government will be their Committee; and we will 1425 leave you to decide whether by the results of our energies and labours, you will be satisfied with the inquiries and the improvements we shall make, or whether you will then think fit to appoint a more formal Parliamentary inquiry. Now, Sir, as for the objects of that Committee, they must have been the correction of abuses that exist at home and abroad. I imagine, Sir, that the object the majority of those who voted for that Committee had in view was to compel the Government to make certain administrative changes in our military departments at home, and, by inquiries and improvements abroad, to restore order and regularity in those services which unfortunately have been marked by circumstances of a very different character in the Crimea and in the East.
Now, Sir, that which we propose to do I will shortly sketch out in detail, but simply as indicating the intentions which the Government contemplate carrying into execution. Sir, the House must be aware that I have not felt it my duty to recommend to Her Majesty to appoint a Secretary at War. The reason why I have abstained from doing so is, that I think an amalgamation can be made between the offices of Secretary at War and that of the Secretary for the War Department, which will greatly contribute to the efficiency and simplicity of the public service. My opinion is, that in regard to the Ordnance great improvements may be made; that, speaking generally, but without of course pledging myself to specific details, the discipline of the artillery and of the engineers may be transferred to the Commander in Chief, like the discipline of the rest of the army, and that the civil department of the Ordnance may be placed under the superintendence and control of the Secretary for the War Department. What may be the collateral arrangements which, when matters are examined into in detail, it may be thought best to make, I cannot presume to say; but that is the general outline, and I do not think there can be any very material difficulty in carrying it into execution. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty has established a Board to superintend the transport service at sea, a service of the utmost importance, and one which has grown into the character of a great national institution—a service upon which our alliance with France has made it necessary to call for great and increased efforts for the transport and conveyance of 1426 French troops as well as English troops. And just it is that such should be the case. We are engaged in warlike operations in conjunction with France as an ally. We have not the means of contributing the same amount of soldiers and men for the prosecution of the war which the larger military establishments of France enable her to send into the field. It is but fair, then, that we should bear our share of the expenses of the war, by affording to France those naval means of carrying her troops which her more limited naval establishments do not enable her to supply. These arrangements involve a much more complicated mass of details than can well be carried on by that limited department over which my right hon. Friend presides, and he has therefore established a separate Board for the purpose, and I am convinced that that Board will tend both to the increased economy and the increased efficiency of that department of the public service.
Sir, great alarm and well-founded complaints have been made on the subject of the accommodation provided for our sick in the hospitals at Scutari and in the Crimea. Sir, we are going to send out a commission composed of civilians—men not swayed by the bias of professional habits, nor yet military men; but men who have been accustomed to deal with sanitary questions not only at home, but who have been employed in similar duties abroad, one of them having been so employed upon a service of this nature in the West Indies. We are going to send those three civilians out with ample power to examine the sanitary condition of the hospitals, of the camp, and of the ships. There was one sent out some time ago, but there are three persons now going out simply and solely for the purpose of reviewing those sanitary arrangements. I own that I anticipate the greatest advanvantage front their scientific labours. I am sure that medical men, whose time is daily occupied in all the details of their profession, have not leisure enough to consider those great sanitary arrangements upon which the health and comfort, and the lives, even, of many thousands of men must inevitably depend. Lord Raglan has been authorised and instructed to send to Constantinople, and to procure from thence a corps of labourers, whose sole duty will be to cleanse the camp—to cleanse it from that accumulation of various things, which every man who knows anything of the habits of a camp, and of the calamities 1427 which have befallen us in the Crimea, must know are perpetually accumulating, and which, when the warm season comes in, might, if precautions were not taken, be attended with most disastrous results to the health of the troops. Then, again, Sir, many complaints have been made, and I am afraid not without some foundation, of a want of system in the Commissariat department—of mistakes and defective organisation—both as regards the supply and as regards the issue of things requisite for the army. A commission is going out, at the head of which we have placed a very distinguished man, well known for his abilities and habits of organisation—I mean Sir John Macneill—once our Minister at the Court of Persia, and now connected with the poor-law department of this country. He will be the head of that commission, and he will have colleagues competent to act with him. That commission will go for the purpose of examining into all the defects to be found in the Commissariat magazines in the Levant, and will have full power to organise them on a more efficient basis. In the British army there has not hitherto existed an officer of that description, who in foreign armies bears the title of chief of the staff. The consequence has been, that all the details of the Quartermaster-general's and Adjutant-general's departments have been brought to the Commander in Chief, much to his inconvenience, and abstracting his attention, perhaps, from matters of more serious and greater importance. Major General Simpson, an officer of distinguished merit and great experience, who is well known for his services in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, and in India, is going out immediately as chief of the staff, to have the control and command of the Quartermaster-general's and Adjutant-general's departments, and with power to recommend to Lord Raglan any change which he might think ought to be made in the different persons belonging to those departments; and Lord Raglan will no doubt think it his duty to adopt any recommendations which Major General Simpson may make to him as to those matters. There has been also a complaint, and I believe a just one, that the medical establishment of the army has not hitherto furnished a sufficient supply of medical officers for the wants of our hospitals abroad. A hospital is going to be erected at Varna, which will be placed entirely in the hands of civilian medical men; and civilians will be invited to offer 1428 their services in any other part of the arrangements abroad in which their medical services may be wanted. My noble Friend the Secretary for the War Department is going to remodel entirely the medical departments at home. I believe that that is capable of great improvement, simplification, and probably of increased efficiency; and I am confident that the labours of my noble Friend in that direction will not be less valuable than in other departments of the Administration which have been confided to his care. My noble Friend also proposes very shortly—I believe this evening—to present to the other House of Parliament a Bill to enable Her Majesty to enlist as soldiers men of a more advanced age; I need hardly say more advanced, but somewhat older than the limit hitherto fixed, men still in the vigour of life, but older than the ordinary range of recruits; and to enlist them for a shorter period than is assigned to the general enlistment of soldiers under the present arrangements of the army. I have omitted to say, that hitherto the Commissariat abroad has been charged not simply with the supply and issue of provisions and all other things wanted for the service of the army, but has also been charged with providing the means of transporting those articles. That has been the source of very great difficulty, embarrassment, and inconvenience, and a separate department of land transport has been established, which will correspond in some degree with the ancient waggon train, only upon a larger scale, and it will be instructed immediately to set to work, and to collect in Asia Minor the animals necessary for the service of the army, and no doubt sufficient means of transport will thereby be provided.
During the short period that has elapsed since the formation of the Government, these things have been done, and are doing, and I should trust that the House will be disposed to see the effect which these different improvements and arrangements will produce. I am myself perfectly convinced that the results would be known in a much shorter period than would be sufficient to enable a Committee even to make a Report they could recommend to the attention of this House. Sir, so much as regards the arrangements for the prosecution of the war, though I should state that, in addition to those improvements of system, no efforts will be omitted to provide reinforcements for the army to en- 1429 able it to take the field, when the season shall admit, with increased numbers and augmented efficiency; but similarly charged as we are with the interests of a great nation, I have felt that it was our duty, not simply to look to the best means of carrying on with vigour and efficiency that war in which we have unfortunately been compelled to engage, but that it is our duty also to make every effort which could honourably and safely be made for the purpose, if it were possible, of putting an end to the war by an adequate treaty of peace. We have learned that certain conditions to serve as a basis of negotiations, which had been concerted between the Governments of England and France, had been concurred in by the Government of Austria; and having been presented to the Government of Russia, we were informed that the Government of Russia had acquiesced in them as principles upon which negotiations for peace might be commenced. We deem it our duty, therefore, to embrace the opportunity thus afforded us for at least ascertaining whether peace could now be obtained upon safe and honourable terms. Negotiations were to be opened at Vienna; but being desirous to give to those negotiations a most solemn, serious, and earnest appearance—being desirous that no man living should question whether we entered into them with a sincere desire to make peace, pretending that on our part it was merely a pretence to steal away time and to wait till the successes of war might bring to us a better condition in which to treat—we pressed upon my noble Friend, I will name him—Lord John Russell—to undertake the duty of representing the interests of this country at these negotiations. We felt convinced that any negotiation that might be placed in the hands of a man so eminent in his own country, so distinguished in their eyes and in the estimation of all Europe, so conversant with the matter to be discussed, so fully acquainted with the details of all the negotiations which had preceded, and so deeply imbued with a feeling of the importance of the matters to be discussed—we felt convinced, I say, that if Lord John Russell would undertake that task, we should have a security on the one hand that if peace were obtainable upon honourable terms, no failure arising from the want of judgment or knowledge on the part of our negotiator would prevent our 1430 obtaining it; and on the other hand, we should feel that, if, unfortunately, our efforts to obtain peace should not prove to be successful, no possible effort on our part had been omitted, to come to an honourable arrangement of the quarrel. My noble Friend consented to undertake the task, and I must say that no man ever did himself a higher honour than my noble Friend did in accepting that under circumstances of such great—I will not say national—but European emergency. My noble Friend, I believe, will proceed in the early part of next week. Of course, he will pass through Paris, to have a confidential communication with the French Government. He will also pass by Berlin, in order to communicate with the Government of Prussia; and whatever delays those visits may interpose to his arrival at Vienna, I think the time he spends in these capitals will not be misplaced. Now, Sir, if we should succeed in obtaining peace upon terms which would afford a security for the future against the recurrence of those disturbances of the peace of Europe, which have led to the war in which we are engaged, we should think, Sir, that our first acts in undertaking the Government, will be as satisfactory to the country as they will be gratifying to ourselves; but, Sir, if we fail, why then I think that the country will feel that there is no alternative but to go on with the war; and I am convinced that this nation will then with greater zeal, with greater alacrity, if possible, than ever, give its support to a Government which, having made every possible attempt to obtain peace, should have failed in doing so, and is compelled to carry on the war for the attainment of that peace—a war which the sense and judgment of the country have pronounced to be virtually indispensable and necessary. We shall in that case throw ourselves upon the generous spirit of Parliament and the country; that generous spirit I am confident we shall not ask for in vain. I am sure that in that state of things all our minor differences and mere party shades of distinction will vanish, that men of all sides will feel that they are Englishmen, and that they ought to support their country in its great emergencies. I am confident we shall show the noble and glorious spectacle that, as a free people and under a constitutional Government, there is a life, a spirit, an energy, a power of 1431 endurance, and a vigour of action which are vainly to be sought for under despotic rule or under arbitrary sway.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I was under the impression that upon the present occasion it would not have been necessary for me to refer to the conduct of individuals condected with the transactions which preceded those in which the noble Lord has been engaged, but, as the noble Lord has introduced the name of a noble Friend of mine, I am sure the House will not think it unreasonable on my part if I make one or two remarks upon that part of the noble Lord's speech. It is true, as is well known, that when the Earl of Derby was honoured by the command of Her Majesty to attempt to form an Administration he was influenced by only one consideration, which was the expediency, at the present moment, of forming a strong Government in this country. Considering the emergency, the Earl of Derby was of opinion that the first duty of a states man, consulted by his Sovereign under such circumstances, was to advise Her that every effort should be made to form an Administration which should have the confidence of Parliament and the country. Sir, it was with that view that the Earl of Derby opened a communication with the noble Viscount, and I am sure that unintentionally on the part of that noble Lord he has, in my opinion, conveyed an impression to the House that may induce the House to misapprehend the motives of the Earl of Derby and the object that he attempted to accomplish. The House will bear in mind that this was not the first time, under similar circumstances, that Lord Derby had felt it his duty to open communications with the noble Lord upon the formation of an Administration for Her Majesty. Upon a previous occasion, at a time not far distant—namely, about three years ago—there had passed those communications between the noble Viscount and the Earl of Derby which convinced the Earl of Derby that between the noble Viscount and himself there was no difference of opinion upon all great subjects of policy which could prevent them from acting together to form that which they alike desired—a strong and efficient Government. Sir, the noble Viscount, on that previous occasion, said, with becoming frankness, that it was impossible for him alone to join any Cabinet that my noble Friend might form, and it is, per- 1432 haps, impossible for a statesman of the noble Viscount's eminence and experience to quit the body of men with whom he has been acting, and suddenly to combine with another body of public men, however pure, however patriotic his motives, without, if he acted alone, being subject to misconceptions which would mar, and justly mar, his influence as a public man. Upon that occasion the noble Viscount said he could not join the Cabinet of Lord Derby alone, and that he had Friends whom he should wish to accompany him, and their names were mentioned. Therefore, when these proposals to the noble Viscount were recently renewed, the Earl of Derby anticipated his objections, and continuing, so to speak, the conversation of the previous occasion, my noble Friend was prepared to meet the views of the noble Lord, and, that there might be no difficulty with regard to the Gentlemen in question, the noble Viscount named the two right hon. Gentlemen, who had been referred to. Had the noble Lord joined the projected Administration there would have been no obstacle, probably, to the selection by the noble Lord of the two right hon. Gentlemen to whom he has referred. But certainly it never could have been supposed by the Earl of Derby that if the noble Lord, after reflection, considered it was not in his power to join his Administration, he was at liberty to make application in his name to two other right hon. Gentlemen. I must say that if the noble Lord, having received the proposition of my noble Friend with such encouraging friendliness, had found upon deliberation that he could not accept the offer of my noble Friend, then I think the frank and straightforward course of the noble Lord would have been to apprise the Earl of Derby of that result of his deliberations, and not to continue these negotiations with his Friends, accompanying that negotiation with a simultaneous declaration that he himself could not form part of the Administration.
Sir, it was not my intention for a moment to have adverted to these particulars. It is the noble Lord who has introduced the subject, and it is in vindication of the conduct of the Earl of Derby that I have thought it necessary to allude to circumstances which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, in a most marked manner, according to my interpretation of his note, mentioned in a communication which he made to the Earl of Derby, and which 1433 has been read in another place. Notwithstanding, however, the encouraging reception of his overtures by the noble Lord, the attempt of the Earl of Derby to form an Administration, which he thought the exigencies of the time and the feelings of the people, the interests of the Throne, and the advantage of the country alike demanded, has failed. But let it not for a moment be supposed that the Earl of Derby at any time refused to form an Administration with such power as he might possess, provided no other party of public men, except his followers, were ready to serve their Sovereign. Under no circumstances did the Earl of Derby for a moment refuse to accept the post offered him, provided no other combination could be formed which could command a greater support in Parliament. The attempt of the Earl of Derby to form a strong Government has failed; the attempt of the noble Lord to form a Government has succeeded, but whether it be a strong Government—whether the noble Lord has formed a Government such as the country had a right to look for, is a secret at present in the womb of time. The noble Lord has to-night felt himself justified in entering into a panegyric upon the great qualities of his colleagues. According to the noble Lord, they are gifted with administrative abilities of the highest calibre, they possess great political sagacity, they are distinguished by truly liberal opinions. Well, Sir, there are Gentlemen below the gangway who are better judges of the political opinions of the present Government than myself, and upon that subject I need not touch, but I may at least, with the advantage of experience, form some opinion as to the administrative abilities and the political sagacity of the noble Lord's colleagues, upon which he has so much dilated. One would have supposed, from the language of the noble Lord, that the new Administration, which has to-night presented itself for the first time to Parliament, consisted of a body of distinguished and experienced statesmen who had for some time been withdrawn from public affairs, who had been remote from the observation and from the criticism of their contemporaries and their country; but when we recollect that the Administration, which the noble Lord says is so distinguished by its administrative abilities and its political sagacity, consists of the same Ministers who, only a few days 1434 ago, in the opinion of Parliament, were remarkable for their deficiency in administrative abilities, were less conspicuous than any other body of public men for their political sagacity, I say I think it was an unfortunate introduction for the noble Lord to dilate upon those qualities, and thus to render it necessary for me, upon an occasion like the present, to remark upon his language. I should have thought that a solemn silence would have been more becoming the occasion. If I had been the noble Lord I should have dwelt more upon the future than upon the past or the present, and I do not think the noble Lord has exercised a very wise discretion in recommending himself to the confidence of Parliament upon the strength of the administrative ability of men who have been so very recently condemned for the want of that quality, and of the political sagacity of colleagues whose deficiency of political sagacity has brought upon this country very great, and now universally acknowledged calamities. But, Sir, what was all this allusion to the failure of some and the success of others in forming a Government, this dwelling upon the distinguished personal qualities of his colleagues and companions by the noble Lord—what was all this a preface to? The noble Lord does not appear to me to have been very happy in his first address in the House, which he has now to manage, for he has compared the House of Commons to the rabble of Wat Tyler. That seems to be a very strange compliment from one who ought to be almost as proud of being the leader of this House as of being the chief in the Councils of his Sovereign. But the noble Lord says to us, you have been successful in your sedition, the time has now come when you must return to your allegiance and repose a renewed confidence in the new Ministers of the Crown, although they are only the Ministers you have so recently condemned. And what a strange string of reasons has the noble Lord given as arguments to the House for rescinding the resolution they arrived at after prolonged debate, and in full assembly. The noble Lord gave us a catalogue of what he described as improvements in administration which the newly-constructed Cabinet has decided upon. Of course it will be much more easy for us to gauge the merit of those measures when we have them more in detail before us, and have had the ad- 1435 vantage of examining a little into their matured arrangement. But admit, for argument's sake, that they are all improvements, that they are necessary improvements, urgent improvements, inestimable improvements,—what a satire are these improvements upon the late Government! If these improvements are so necessary, if they are of so urgent and inestimable a character, if they are the means and methods to extricate us from our difficulties, what are we to think of the predecessors of this Cabinet—what are we to think of the men who, for so long a period, not only neglected to fulfil these necessary duties, but who, to the last hour of their existence, appealed to this House that these changes were not necessary, that no circumstances were in existence which demanded any improvement or any investigation, and who declared that a desire on the part of the House of Commons to inquire into the causes of mismanagement—which is now not only confessed, but which is to be remedied—was a want of confidence in their Administration, and condemnatory of their character as public men?
Why, Sir, let the House of Commons well consider what they are now asked to do. One of the finest armies that England ever sent forth mysteriously disappears—not by the sword of the enemy, for that we could endure, and could meet again and vanquish; but by means so mysterious that a most experienced statesman, with all the advantage of a knowledge of the interior secrets of the Cabinet, confessed and announced to this House that he could not penetrate the cause of, or understand, that mystery. The House of Commons must recollect that the position in which they were placed was not that of a public calamity having taken place, which suddenly urges and stimulates some independent Member, from a feeling of patriotism, although, perhaps, not of prudence, to call for inquiry and to echo the voice of an anxious and agitated nation. No, Sir, the First Minister of the Crown in this House, the man of whom, as a Member, irrespective of all party politics, this House is the most proud—the man who had previously been Prime Minister of England for a long period of years—the man whose qualities, whose sagacity, whose wisdom, whose statesmanlike mind have been just eulogised by the First Minister on the Treasury bench—a man of 1436 such qualities that, although he had intentionally destroyed his late colleagues, they have already employed him upon an august mission—this eminent person comes down to Parliament and tells you that, although a Minister of the Crown, he cannot, with all the advantages of official experience, penetrate the mystery of the national calamity that has occurred, and that he thinks inquiry ought to be granted, as the plea for it is irresistible. Acting on that intimation, supported by that grave authority, echoing the universal opinion of the people of Great Britain, the House of Commons, not in haste, but after a debate which occupied days, with unusual numbers present, with its Members hastening from every part of the country, by a majority almost unprecedented in the records of Parliament, declared that an inquiry is the first duty of those, whoever they may be, who may be intrusted with the government of the country—that an inquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons is the only mode by which the necessary improvements can be indicated—and then we are told to-night that the House of Commons is to stultify itself!—that this House of Commons, which only ten days ago, under circumstances of such unmistakeable conviction, and sanctioned by the high authority of the leader of the House, arrived at this solemn decision, are to recede from the ground which they then so triumphantly occupied, are to rescind the Resolution which they so solemnly affirmed, and are to inflict a blow on their reputation and their public influence, such as, in my mind, a long period of years will not counteract. Now, what is the strange argument of the noble Lord and his re-burnished colleagues to induce the House of Commons so to stultify itself? Why, the noble Lord has shown us to-night already the advantage of that Vote of the House of Commons. The mere vote for inquiry has produced a long series of highly vaunted improvements. If, then, we get these rich fruits already from the mere vote for inquiry, what may we not obtain from the inquiry itself? I do not know what Gentlemen may choose to do on this subject, but I know what is the course which I shall take. I shall endeavour to support in every way the decision of the House, and what I believe is the strong and wholesome opinion of the country. I am for inquiry—I am for Parlia- 1437 mentary inquiry into the condition of the army before Sebastopol, and into those branches of the Administration which should have prevented the present lamentable condition of our troops.
Sir, we hardly know what is to be the consequence of our adhering to the solemn resolution at which we have arrived, but I cannot suppose that the noble Lord is about to commence his career as First Minister of the Crown by attempting to control and menace the opinion of Parliament, which has been given in so unequivocal a manner. All I can say is, that if I have to face my constituents and vindicate my conduct as their representative, I shall never seek a happier opportunity than when I can declare to them that, at a moment of unparalleled disaster, when one of the greatest blows ever experienced by England has occurred, following the advice of a great Minister of State, though he did sit on the opposite bench, I did support the resolution of the House, that the circumstances demanded inquiry, and that inquiry they should receive. The noble Lord has, I will not say flattered—but the noble Lord has held out hopes to the House and the country that there may yet be a chance of that peace which has been so often promised, but has hitherto evaded accomplishment. I need not assure the noble Lord that the possibility is one which will be received by the country and by all the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House with cordial satisfaction, because we feel that neither the noble Lord nor any one who occupies that position will ever consent to terms of peace which are unworthy of the occasion, and which will not accomplish those objects which alone could justify a recourse to arms. The noble Lord has stated, if those attempts to obtain peace should fail, he will appeal with confidence for the support of this House and of the country. The noble Lord, Sir, will not appeal in vain. But the noble Lord can receive no support from this side of the House for the prosecution of the war which his predecessors have not already received. There never was an Administration who received from an Opposition so cordial a support, a support so sincere and hearty, as that which was received by Lord Aberdeen's Ministry from the Opposition in Parliament during the time he was in office. There never was a Minister or Ministry which ever entered into war with such advantages as, I cannot say the late—there are two Dro- 1438 mios which confound me—but I will say the late Ministry and their present faithful representatives—their identical representatives. There never was a Ministry which entered into a great war with such advantages—with a unanimous people, a unanimous Parliament, an overflowing treasury, valiant troops, magnificent fleets, and, as they tell us cordial, and as we know in one instance, not only cordial but powerful allies. How men with such advantages could have realised such disasters—how, on such vantage ground they should have so mismanaged the affairs of this country that with a unanimous Parliament they yet contrived, by the aid of their own principal supporters, to be overcome by a crushing majority, the future historian, probably, will only be able to explain. But, Sir, let us, on this occasion, at least, express a hope that, although we have the same individuals in a new form regulating our affairs, those men, who a fortnight ago were voted to be unparalleled blunderers, may now fortunately be transformed into expert statesmen. Let us hope that those, who with unprecedented resources have realised no other results than disastrous consequences, may now open a new and unexpected scene of success, of prosperity, and of triumph; and let us assure them that, as long as they attempt to do their duty in the conduct of this war, they may reckon, so far as the Opposition is concerned, upon the same support as their identical predecessors received; and, I doubt not that if disaster be their lot, if maladministration be inseparable from their condition, when they fall they will, like the late Government, not be able to impute that fall to the faction of those who sit opposite them, but to the recognition by the country of a total want of those qualities which the crisis requires, and of which the country at this moment is most in need.
MR. RICH said, that the terms "re-burnished Ministry" and "unparalleled blunderers" with which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had endeavoured to depreciate the present Government were applied to precisely those persons whom his noble leader the Earl of Derby had proposed to join and place over the head of the right hon. Gentleman. That plain and undeniable fact might account, perhaps, for some of the bitterness which the right hon. Gentleman had displayed. He was one of those who voted for the inquiry the other night, and, though he still considered some inquiry should take place, he did not object 1439 to some substitute being found for the cumbrous machinery of a Committee of that House. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had pointed out how various Commissions might be sent to the spot where these great misadventures and mismanagements bad occurred, and their Reports be submitted to the House in a much shorter space of time than even the first Report of a Committee. The noble Lord had devised a plan by which a recurrence of the difficulties of the last fortnight, when public affairs were left in such a critical position, might be avoided, and he, for one, was willing to accept the noble Lord's proposal.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that having been pointedly alluded to by several speakers in the debate, he felt himself called upon to explain the course he intended to adopt. The Committee for which he had moved a fortnight ago, and the nomination of which he intended to propose next Thursday, had already obtained the favourable decision of that House. The House had placed upon solemn record the declaration of its opinion that such a Committee ought to be appointed, and the only argument that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had ventured to allege for the rescinding of that Resolution was, that there was now in office a new Administration, animated with new intentions; but he (Mr. Roebuck) confessed that he was at a loss to understand the force of this argument, and was not altogether prepared to admit the fact. A fortnight ago, the House determined that the Administration then sitting was incapable and inefficient; that under its management the army had declined, if not disappeared; that disaster and calamity had befallen us in the Crimea; and that, in consequence, inquiry was necessary. Such was the decision at which the House of Commons had arrived; yet the noble Lord now came forward and asked them—as the right hon. Gentleman opposite truly observed—to "stultify" themselves by rescinding the Resolution, and by retiring from the vantage ground they occupied, so as to afford to the present Administration the fullest possible opportunity for doing that which the old Administration were confessedly and notoriously unable to do. The only reason that the noble Lord could urge to induce the House to adopt this course was, that there was a new Administration! But was the fact so? Was there a new Administration? He doubted it. The cards had doubtless been shuffled—it might 1440 be that there were new cards, but they were in the old hands again. They were in the hands of the men who held them a fortnight ago. All the eulogy which the noble Lord had poured upon his colleagues to-night was only a repetition of what the noble Lord had said a fortnight ago, but, in spite of that eulogy, and in spite of its reiteration, it was most distinctly proved that they were totally inefficient to the discharge of the duties required of them. The noble Lord had spoken as if there was something antagonistic between the Government and those hon. Members who were for carrying on the inquiry proposed; but this was a mistake. There was nothing of antagonism in such a proceeding. The very expectation of a Committee had incited the Government to make reforms and improvements, and it was natural to suppose that the action of the Committee might be to egg them on to more vigorous prosecution of those reforms and improvements. They might get more, but certainly could not get less, by having this Committee. The Committee to whom the revision of the Civil Service had been referred had stated in their Report, that such was the disarrangement prevailing in that department, that they despaired of effecting a reform otherwise than by means of an Act of Parliament. The assent of the House of Commons would, of course, be indispensable for such a measure, and they were the best judges of its necessity. And so, too, in the present case the House of Commons were the best judges of the question, and they could afford the Government material assistance in the carrying on of the inquiry. When a political chief came into power and directed his attention to any particular department, he found that he had to address his inquiries to a permanent official. It was manifestly the interest of the political chief to keep well with that permanent official, and the sense of mutual interest produced a vis inertiœ which nothing short of the vigorous action of Parliament could remove. With these views he meant to persevere in his Motion, in spite of the proposal of the noble Lord, on Thursday next to continue his original proposition by moving the nomination of a Committee to conduct the inquiry which the House had already resolved should be instituted. He believed that in so doing he should really be aiding the noble Lord in effecting the object he himself proposed—namely, the remodelling of the institutions of this country, and the 1441 infusing fresh vigour and increased strength into the Administration. That vigour and increased strength which the Administration wanted the House of Commons would lend its assistance to the noble Lord to obtain. By such aid the noble Lord might possibly be able to effect the reforms he proposed, but which by his own unassisted efforts it was to be feared would never be accomplished. He (Mr. Roebuck) felt himself unequal to the task of addressing the House at any further length, and would therefore conclude by saying that he held himself pledged to the House to move for the nomination of a Committee of Inquiry on Thursday next, which pledge he certainly should redeem.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, that before he hailed with any degree of gratification the noble Lord's advent to power, he must have further proof of what his Administration was to be. He could not stultify himself by voting against a Resolution to-night which he had voted for only a few nights ago. When he supported the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield he thought it would be for the interest of the country that an inquiry should take place; and that, so far from its being prejudicial to the war, it would greatly advance it. He was still of that opinion. Indeed, if it were necessary to justify the vote he had given, he need only quote the speech which the noble Lord had that night delivered, for the noble Lord had admitted all that was complained of. What, he (Mr. Muntz) asked, would have been done if the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had not moved for an inquiry, or if the House had so far betrayed its duty as to reject it? If that vote had not been carried, an end would not have been put to a most inefficient Ministry, and the people would have been delivered over to a set of men whose incompetency for rule had brought disaster on the country.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
said, he trusted that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck) would adhere to his Resolution; for sure he was that if his hon. and learned Friend did not, he would greatly disappoint the country. The noble Lord who appeared for the first time at the head of the Government had told them that he and the Government would be their Committee. Why the House had already condemned the noble Lord and his Friends as a Committee, and did not want to have anything to do with them. They would only spoil and stifle the inquiry. What the House 1442 wanted to do was to inquire into the conduct of the noble Lord and his colleagues. The noble Lord had said he would make certain reforms, but who were the men who were to institute those reforms? Were they not the very men whose conduct had created the necessity for adopting reforms? Where was there any real practical change, he wished to know, in the Government? In his opinion, it was the status quo ante Roebuck. The noble Lord had taken his place as Prime Minister. He had certain advantages over, and stood higher in public opinion, than the Earl of Aberdeen. The Earl of Aberdeen was supposed to be not able to carry on the war, as he had a sort of amiable weakness of forty years' standing, inclining him towards the Czar, and making him averse to war; whereas the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was said to hate the Czar, and to delight in war. These were the popular impressions at the present moment, and which had placed the noble Lord where he was. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had thought it necessary to enter into a vindication of the conduct of the Earl of Derby, but he (Mr. T. Duncombe) did not think the noble Viscount had made any reflections upon the conduct of the Earl of Derby. The course taken by the noble Lord appeared to be very prudent, wise, and patriotic. He did not succeed in forming an Administration—he had no old cards to play. He went to the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who was nothing 10th to join him; but the noble Lord said that the Earl of Derby must get one or two more of his Friends to join him too. But this could not be done, and so the Earl of Derby gave up the attempt to make a Government. Then came the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. He tried his hand at making a Government, and the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was ready also to join him; but the noble Lord the Member for the City of London—faithless to his colleagues and faithless to that House—he said faithless to the House because, after the high complement paid him in acknowledging him as the leader of that House for two Sessions, he ought to have been able to present a better case for deserting his post than he did on a former occasion;—well, that noble Lord also failed. Indeed, it was matter of no surprise, either to that House or to the country, that the noble Lord did fail. The surprise would have been had he by any means succeeded in 1443 forming an Administration. Well, then they came to the noble Lord who had taken his seat that night. Now, he (Mr. Duncombe) had seen no less than thirteen complete Administrations—from that of Lord Liverpool down to the present newly-formed one inclusive—and the noble Lord might be said to be a rather faded gem of bygone Administrations. Of almost all those bygone Administrations to which he alluded the noble Lord had been a Member; and, therefore, it must be admitted that he was possessed of great experience as well as of high administrative talent. The noble Viscount had told the House. that he had appointed Lord Panmure as a substitute for the Duke of Newcastle. Now, they had had both those men in the House of Commons, and he thought, putting all party prejudice aside, they had now got the worse man of the two. He thought Lord Panmure must at least disappoint the expectations of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, because, in the scheme which the noble Lord submitted to the Earl of Aberdeen, he stated that it was absolutely necessary the Secretary of War should be a man possessed of great vigour of mind, and have a seat in the House of Commons. Lord Panmure had now no longer a seat in that House, nor when he once sat there did he (Mr. Duncombe) discover that the noble Lord was a man of great vigour of mind. However, they were, it seemed, to have the war carried on with great energy and vigour under this reconstructed Administration. At the same time the Government were carrying on negotiations with a view of establishing an honourable and an enduring peace. The noble Lord had not told them exactly what he understood by the vigour and energy with which he intended carrying on the war; and what the terms really meant, although in everybody's mouth, nobody exactly could explain. Now, he (Mr. Duncombe) should say that to carry on a war with vigour and with energy was in the first place to defeat the army of your enemy, to destroy his fleets, to invade and devastate his country, to burn his cities, to level his fortifications, to blockade his ports, and destroy his trade. Now, that was what he should call carrying on war with vigour and energy, and he believed that that was what the people of this country expected the Government to do. Of course, to be able to do that they must have armies and they must have fleets. They had got, he believed, a magnificent fleet, though they had been 1444 told very recently that it "was badly manned and worse disciplined." He did not believe it; but he should leave that point to be settled between the First Lord of the Admiralty and the gallant admiral who made the charge. But, if they were to judge of the insubordination of the fleet by the insubordination of one of its admirals, that fleet must be in a bad state indeed. They wanted to know a little about the army, or that portion of it that was on active service, and this was the object of the proposed inquiry. They were told by some parties that they had only 12,000 or 14,000 men before Sebastopol; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated the number at nearly 30,000. Well, all this was a fit subject-matter for inquiry, and the discrepant statements would of course be investigated before the Committee. He did not blame the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) for his attempt to obtain the discharge of the order for this inquiry. The noble Lord told them the other night that it was an inconvenient order; and this was the reason why he (Mr. Duncombe) put the question that he did to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) before the House came to a division on his memorable Motion. The hon. and learned Gentleman had now no real power in the matter of this Committee—he could only nominate the Members, and it would rest with the House itself to say whether a bonâ fide inquiry should be prosecuted or not. The Motion for the Committee was considered by the Government as tantamount to a vote of censure upon them. Now, for his own part, in voting for it he (Mr. Duncombe) did not mean to convey a censure upon the Government, but simply to imply distrust and mismanagement. The moment for censure had not yet arrived. What they now wanted was inquiry, and censure might probably follow that inquiry. If the Committee did its duty faithfully it would point out those who were the real delinquents. If they were military men, let them be brought before a court-martial and tried for their neglect of duty. He did not think so much of the blame really attached to the authorities at home as to those who were abroad. From the intelligence he had received, be believed that the Commissary General and the Quartermaster-General had ill supported Lord Raglan, and, if that was so, why not bring them to trial and punish them? If these persons, on the 1445 other hand, could shift the blame to other persons, whether at home or abroad, let them also be put upon their trial, be they who they might. They were told that the Committee would impede the Government in effecting the reforms that were now going on; but why should it impede them? The inquiry was to be instituted into the history of transactions that were past, and the reforms intended for the future could proceed simultaneously with it, supposing it was meant that it should be a sincere and impartial sifting of existing abuses. With regard to the peace which the noble Lord told them they were to have, they would all hear about it, no doubt, from the noble Lord the Member for London by and by, after his visit to Vienna and Berlin. But here again he must say he thought the people of this country cherished different expectations from the negotiations that were now pending from those that were entertained by the Government. He believed that the people meant one thing and the Government another, and that hence another great difficulty would arise. The people of this country entered into this war in the belief and hope that the arrangements that were made in the Congress of Vienna in 1815 would be revised, and if the noble Lord the Member for London were present he would ask him to take note of this, and not to forget the wishes of the country with regard to the wrongs of Poland and Hungary, and also with respect to the aspirations after independence of that priest-ridden land, Italy. The people of England fully expected that these questions would be mooted. Again, strange to say, not one word did they hear from the First Lord of the Treasury, or from any other Member of the Government, relative to Sebastopol. If that great fortress was to remain in the occupation and under the control of Russia, did any one suppose that any peace they could make would be permanent in its duration? If that fortress was to be left standing it would continue to overawe the whole East and every Power that might come into contact with Russia. He believed that the people and the Parliament of this country would take this question out of the hands of the Government, and would not suffer this Committee of Inquiry to be called the Government's Committee; he believed that the House of Commons, on the part of the people of England—ay! and that the Emperor of the French (who 1446 had been to us so faithful an ally, and whose regard for England had only been equalled by his devotion to his own country) also, on the part of his people, would not rest satisfied until the standards of the two great Western Powers waved triumphant over the ruins of Sebastopol, and until this Autocrat of All the Russias, this King of Poland, this Heaven-born champion of the Orthodox faith, was at last compelled to acknowledge and confess that his hypocrisy, his tyranny, and his lawless ambition must for ever cease and determine. He was convinced that if they concluded a peace upon any other terms, and particularly without the reduction of the gigantic and menacing fortress to which he had alluded, they would only lay the foundation of further calamities, and, perhaps, of ruin to this country.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he concurred with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield in thinking that there were two important subjects involved in the present question; first, the public interest as connected with the administration of the army, and next, the character of Parliament as affected by the prosecution of the inquiry. The Government that had met them that night had reappeared in a great crisis, and the responsibility that now lay upon the House was most serious. They might, if they pleased, visit the reproach for all their disasters upon the heads of the Government, but he believed that there were very few Members of the House of Commons who had not much to answer for in the past for the calamities which they were now deploring. At the commencement of that war the leader of the Opposition (Mr. Disraeli), speaking for his party, honourably declared that though they were the opponents of the Government, still the Ministry, in the prosecution of the struggle, should have their cordial and constant support as much as if they had the conduct of it themselves. This pledge, he was bound to say, had been most faithfully fulfilled. Indeed, if any mistake had been made by those who gave it, he thought it lay in the opposite direction. One of the securities for good government was, that if we had not a strong Administration, we should at least have a strong and vigorous Opposition; but during the last few months we had had neither a strong Government nor a strong Opposition; and this was the cause of many of the difficulties under which we now laboured. He must say that hon. 1447 Members upon the other side of the House seemed to him to have regarded too much what they considered to be their duty towards their political opponents, and too little that which they owed to the English nation. Of the House of Commons generally he might say that they had gone on from day to day supporting a Ministry which they knew to be weak, and which they must have seen was disunited—an Administration of feeble conduct and fluctuating councils. The country, consequently, had drifted into war, and been dragged through disgrace and dishonour from the feeble conduct and conflicting councils of the Ministry. It was only in the imminency of a great catastrophe that at last, in a fit of public virtue, that House had aroused itself to put an end to an Administration whose history was destined, he feared, to be one of the darkest, gloomiest, and most tragic in the annals of this country. One side of the House almost became cowardly from the fear of being considered factious, and the other sank into subserviency from the fear of being regarded as insubordinate, and he (Mr. Horsman) was quite prepared to accept his individual share of the blame which was to be attributed to their conduct. The course pursued by one hon. Member, however, stood out in strong constrast with that taken by the rest. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) had endeavoured to do his duty throughout the whole of the period in question. He had pointed out to the House that the Government were undertaking an expedition to the Crimea at the wrong season, and without having made sufficient preparation. That hon. Gentleman had, in fact, made no statement in that House with respect to the conduct of the war in the East which had not been verified by the result, and he exhibited in making those statements an earnestness, an ability, and a foresight, which he thought merited for his words a much greater degree of attention than at the hands of Her Majesty's late advisers they seemed to have received. Our recent disasters he (Mr. Horsman) believed were mainly attributable to a want of identity of policy and of principle upon the part of the Government. It was that want of union of sentiment with respect to the war which had, in a great measure, brought about those results which induced that House to come to the decision at which three weeks ago they had arrived. Now, there was nothing in the changes which 1448 had since taken place in the Members of the Administration to justify the House in receding from the position which they had so recently taken up. Her Majesty's Government of three weeks ago had no fixed policy, and possessed within itself no efficient military administrators. The question, then, was, did the present Government come before them under different circumstances? Had they within themselves the elements of strength and union, and were they supported by the confidence of the public from without? Now, with respect to the subject of internal union, he might say that it was matter of public notoriety—and nobody had declared it more openly than the First Minister of the Crown—that there existed in the Administration of Lord Aberdeen two parties—the war party and the peace party. The advocates of peace had held by Lord Aberdeen, and those who were for war had clung to the noble Viscount now at the head of the Government. But, he would ask if Her Majesty's present advisers were more united upon the great questions of peace or war than those by whom they had been immediately preceded? The reconstruction of the existing Cabinet had been accomplished after prolonged negotiations, and those negotiations had resulted in giving the country a Government whose Members were not of one mind with respect to the great contest in which we were involved, but who had been, as it were, chosen with reference to the nicely-balanced adjustment of those antagonistic principles which could only tend to perpetuate the disasters and the dissensions of the last eighteen months. Now, with respect to the question of public confidence, he should merely observe, that when they again saw upon the Treasury benches those familiar faces which they had perceived there when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield carried his Motion, there was but little ground for supposing that the confidence of the nation in Her Majesty's Ministers had increased. It was, therefore, that, in his opinion, the House of Commons could not, with safety or with honour, recede from the position which, but three weeks ago, it had occupied. What the country now required was that Parliament should supervise every act of the Administration, and that the interests and feelings of individuals should give way to the necessities of the nation. The great object of his hon. and learned 1449 Friend's Motion was publicity. Disasters of the severest kind had fallen upon our army, and it was only by ascertaining the cause of those disasters that a remedy could be applied, and their recurrence for the future effectually prevented.
§ MR. E. BALL
said, he should have expected that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, when he first came before the House in his new character, would have endeavoured to appreciate the good feeling of the public, and in giving expression to his intention to oppose that inquiry into the state of our army which a large majority of that House had sanctioned, would have advanced some very powerful reason for taking such a course. Great, therefore, had been his surprise when he had heard the speech of the noble Lord. The course which, in fact, the noble Lord proposed to take, was similar to that of a person, who, having been arraigned for certain crimes before a jury of his countrymen, should say, "I object to be tried by that jury, but I will appoint a jury of my own colleagues, whom I will make the judges of my conduct." In his opinion the country would not be satisfied with the step which the noble Viscount was desirous of taking, and he firmly believed would not give its consent to the abandonment, upon insufficient grounds, of a Resolution at which that House had formally and solemnly arrived. The public were anxious to know how it was, that an expedition which had been fitted out with so much cost had met with disasters so signal and so sad. For his own part he thought it would have been fortunate for this country if Ministers had been contented to direct their efforts to the increase of her naval pre-eminence, instead of sending out troops to make fresh conquests. But passing over that point, and taking into account the conduct of the Government with respect to the expedition that had been sent to Sebastopol, he must say that, in his opinion, it demanded a searching inquiry. Why, he would ask, in the first place, were our troops encamped at Varna, when it was well known what an unhealthy district it was, and where eventually the forces were decimated by disease, and how was it that we had sent out an army to Sebastopol at so late a period of the year without taking even common precautions for their comfort and safety? These were questions to which the people of England demanded that an answer should be given, and, therefore, it was that they would not 1450 be satisfied to adopt the course which the noble Lord had proposed. Much had been said that evening with respect to the re, construction of a Cabinet, and he would confess that he regretted that the noble Earl at the head of the party of which he had the honour to be a Member should have made application to the noble Lord opposite to join his Government; and he believed it to be a still greater error upon the part of that noble Earl to seek to make the two other Gentlemen who had been referred to adjuncts to his Administration. He did not think that the people of England need be very solicitous upon the score of not being able to obtain men to conduct their affairs; and he maintained that those affairs would be likely to be better managed if for romantic, ethereal, visionary, and imaginative qualities, strong common sense were more generally substituted. He should also take that opportunity of expressing his regret that nobody having more weight in that House than he possessed had paid a tribute to the magnanimity and self-denial of the right hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Disraeli) in consenting to waive his right and give up a position to which he had so just a claim if Lord Derby had become Premier, in order to facilitate the formation of a strong and efficient Government. That was an act which he felt assured would not be lost upon the good sense and feeling of the people of this country. With respect to the press, he must observe, that to it, in his opinion, we were much indebted for the service which it had done in making us acquainted with passing events, and in affording those who remained at home that information in respect to their relatives in the Crimea which they were naturally so anxious, under present circumstances, to receive. In conclusion, he should say that the present condition of our troops, the mode in which so many of them had met their deaths, and the sufferings and privations which they endured—all imperatively demanded that the House of Commons should not rescind that Resolution to which upon a former occasion they, by a large majority, had given their assent. He should, therefore, most cordially support the appointment of the proposed Committee.
§ MR. PHINN
said, he believed that the practical question before the House was how this nation, with its representative system, might infuse into the conduct of the war the same vigour and decision as despotic and arbitrary Governments exhi- 1451 bited, and how we could concentrate the power and energy and determination of the people of England most advantageously, so that we might carry on that war to the earliest possible conclusion consistently with the honour and dignity of the country. Now, he did not see that such an object was to be accomplished by uttering sarcasms and casting injurious reflections against one statesman or another, or by tracing through all their complications the various circumstances which had led to the formation of the present Government. The question was, how was Her Majesty likely to be served by the present Government, and particularly by the noble Lord at the head of it, who had been called to that post by the universal voice of the country, and how could the House best strengthen the Government in carrying on the war to a successful conclusion. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire said that the change of the Government was only a change of the late Government; but he (Mr. Phinn) did not think that that was the case. It was necessity that had produced the present Government, and he was confident that if the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had been in the Government, he would have made the same proposition with respect to the Committee of Inquiry as had been made by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. The noble Lord did not ask the House to forego the Committee entirely, but only for a time to suspend its action; and if the House should not be content with the energy with which the war was conducted, it might then institute a searching inquiry. To him, who had voted for the Committee of Inquiry, that seemed a fair and proper course to pursue. Of the two sections which supported the Motion for a Committee, one large section desired to express disgust, dissatisfaction, and dismay at the state of things prevailing in respect to the army, and felt that abstaining from voting for the Motion would not have the effect of assuring that army of the deep sympathy entertained by the highest and the lowest on account of its sufferings. Many, believing that the late Prime Minister was not in earnest in the conduct of the war, thought that a decision of the House in favour of the Committee would produce a change in the Government and substitute the noble Lord now at the head of the Administration for the late Premier. Well, the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), asked, as a mark of confidence in his 1452 Government, that the appointment of the Committee should for a time be suspended; and, if the House should decide against him, suppose he should resign his commission into the hands of Her Majesty? Would it then be creditable, when the position of this country was trembling in the balance, to have public affairs embarrassed by miserable intrigues—would it seem dignified to be setting up one political idol and pulling down another, while the whole of Europe would be regarding with ridicule what was passing, and pointing out the inefficiency of the constitutional system in a great national emergency? He, for one, was not prepared to bring about such a state of things. He felt this matter ought not to be one of mere party consideration; and if the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had coalesced with right hon. Gentlemen on that—the Ministerial—side of the House, and formed a Government, he should have felt it his duty to give that hon. Member his support if the right hon. Member had made a proposition similar to that announced by the noble Lord. When the late Secretary at War pointed out the enormous difficulty of carrying on the proposed inquiry, it was said, that that was a mere quibble about words, and that the vote was a censure of many of the details for which the late Government were responsible, and about 100 Members who usually voted with the Government accepted the issue in that sense. But, for himself, he must say that he was not prepared to transfer that censure from the defunct to the existing Government. Many hon. Members voted for the Committee, no doubt, because they were desirous it should be appointed, and others voted for it as affording the first opportunity of giving effect to the universal feeling of dissatisfaction at the calamities which had befallen the army in the Crimea. He must protest, however, against the expression used by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), who spoke of "disaster and disgrace." Disaster undoubtedly there had been, but there was no disgrace connected with the achievements such as were performed at Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman; and, when important alliances were trembling in the balance there was great danger in using such language as he had referred to. The fortitude and patience with which our army had borne sufferings arising from a vicious system and a bad Administration reflected the highest honour 1453 on them. He thought the course proposed by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, not to discharge the order for the appointment of a Committee, but to suspend its action for a time, was perfectly fair, and ought to be accepted by the House; and then, if the evils complained of were remedied, and if the noble Viscount would pledge his high character that the system of promotion by purchase and the employment of old generals tottering into their graves, to cope with young men chosen by a despotic Power, not for their family influences, but for the services they could render, should be put a stop to, the practical object sought for by the appointment of the Committee would be attained, and the name of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield would be honoured by posterity as a great benefactor to his country.
MR. H. T. LIDDELL
said, that every Member of that House must admire the gallantry displayed by our troops in the East—a gallantry which had never been surpassed in the history of this or of any other country; but they must at the same time feel that they had but too much reason to complain of that mismanagement which had reduced those troops to so deplorable a condition, which had produced the disgraceful confusion of the harbour of Balaklava, the want of communication between that place and the camp, and the consequent deficiency in the supplies of clothing and of the very necessaries of life to the troops, although at a distance of only six miles from them there was abundance of all these things. These proceedings had suspended our operations in the Crimea, and rendered useless all the resources of this great country. They could not fail to remember that it was to our gallant allies our soldiers had been indebted, in many instances, for clothing, for sustenance, and for the means of transport. It was the duty of that House to consider whether they would rescind the vote which they had come to by so large a majority, in favour of the appointment of the Committee for which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had moved. It might be very well for hon. Gentlemen who had voted on that subject for a double purpose to attempt to explain away their vote; but he confessed that for his part he had voted for the Motion, not merely for the purpose of casting a censure on the Government, but also with a view to satisfy the just and natural anxiety of the country 1454 for an inquiry into the causes of that disastrous and disgraceful position to which our gallant army had been reduced. He knew no course by which an inquiry into that matter could be conducted in a manner adequate to the expectations of the country, except by the appointment of such a Committee as that which had been proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He had listened that evening to the address of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown with considerable curiosity, and many anticipations of satisfactory announcements of future policy from that noble Lord, and he readily acknowledged that that curiosity and those anticipations had not been altogether disappointed. He had heard with much satisfaction the spirited appeal which the noble Lord had made to the patriotism of the country, as well as the promise he had given to inquire into the abuses of our military and naval departments, and to reform them to the utmost of his power. He could assure the noble Lord that if he were vigorously to pursue such a policy, he should receive from him as ready and as uniform a support as he could receive from any of his most devoted political adherents. In the propriety of many of the appointments already made by the noble Lord he entirely concurred. He particularly approved of the nomination of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) as the British plenipotentiary at the great European congress about to meet at Vienna. He trusted that that appointment would be highly advantageous to the public service, and he believed that it would meet with the general approbation of the country. But there were other circumstances connected with the policy of the Government, as stated that evening by the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, which, in his opinion, called for comment. The noble Lord had told them that the appointment of the Committee for which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had moved would prove detrimental to the public service; but it could not, he believed, by any possibility be so detrimental as the speech which they had heard on a recent occasion from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. B. Osborne). He would venture to say that nothing had ever been heard in that House more scandalous and more indecent than the language made use of by the hon. Gentleman, in relation to the conduct of one department of that Government of 1455 which he was himself a Member. In the spirit of a sort of sauce qui peut, he had addressed himself to his constituents, and had called for nothing less than the complete subversion of the present Horse Guards system. He (Mr. Liddell) wished to know whether that hon. Gentleman still continued a Member of the Government. The hon. Gentleman had stated, in the course of his address, that no objections had been made to the manner in which the business of the department with which he was connected had been conducted. But since that time another public exposure had taken place in reference to the management of that department, and a dispute had arisen between the gallant Admiral, the late commander in chief of the Baltic fleet, and the Board of Admiralty, which it could not be expected would be left precisely where it was. He did not himself know that it could be better treated than by being sent for investigation before such a Committee as that proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, which would be quite competent to make inquiries into that as well as into other subjects connected with the administration of the war. There was another appointment to which he wished briefly to advert—that of the late Under Secretary for the Colonies to the office of Under Secretary at War. He did not wish to question the fitness of the hon. Gentleman for that office; but he wished to point out an inconvenience to which it might shortly give rise. An important measure, the Passengers Act Amendment Bill, and one in which his (Mr. Liddell's) constituents felt considerable interest, had lately been introduced by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel); and he would take that opportunity of asking who was the person to whom he should refer for information with respect to the future progress of that measure at that moment, when the hon. Member who introduced it had been removed to a new office? He would not canvass any of the other appointments made by the noble Lord, although he thought there were good grounds for calling the propriety of some of them in question. He hoped that under any circumstances the noble Lord would institute a searching inquiry into the condition of those departments which had of late been proved so inefficient in the management of the public service, and that he would bring to the councils of Her Majesty that truly English spirit which had raised him to his present high position 1456 in the estimation of his fellow-countrymen. The noble Lord might feel assured that he would then receive an honest and a perfectly disinterested support, not only from him (Mr. Liddell), but from the Gentlemen generally on the Opposition side of the House, in his efforts to promote the honour, the dignity, and the interests of the country.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, that in one portion of the speech of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) he held out some prospect not only of an honourable, but also of a speedy peace. He (Mr. Vansittart) sincerely trusted it might be the good fortune of the noble Lord to attain that object. He had heard with great satisfaction that an individual of such high character and ability as the noble Member for the City of London had been appointed to conduct the negotiations at Vienna on behalf of the British Government, for he thought that, if this opportuity of concluding a peace were lost, not only might the present war be one of long duration, but all the States of Europe might be involved in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a late debate, had said, with reference to the sufferings of the troops in the Crimea, that he thought many hon. Members attributed to the mismanagement of the Government what were, in fact, only the necessary horrors of war. In consequence of the long peace, the people of this country were almost unacquainted with the horrors of war, but they were now enabled to form some conception of those horrors, and he believed there would be a strong feeling in favour of any Government which seemed likely to be able to conclude a lasting and an honourable peace.
§ MR. LAING
said, he was induced to trouble the House because the Government and the House might not be aware of the feelings which induced some hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side to vote in favour of the Committee proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He (Mr. Laing) did not give his vote in favour of appointing a Committee as a vote of censure, or a vote of want of confidence in the general policy of the late Government. On the contrary, he approved of the general policy of that Government, and of the reluctance to plunge into a war which had been manifested by the Earl of Aberdeen. He thought there was a certain degree of popular prejudice 1457 against that noble Earl which was altogether undeserved, and that his prudent reluctance to enter into war should have secured to him the support of public opinion not only in this country but throughout Europe. He felt, moreover, that the foreign policy of the late Government had been highly successful, and that in cementing the French alliance, and securing the Austrian alliance, they had obtained advantages of the greatest importance to this country, whether as regarded the prosecution of the war, the chances of an honourable peace, or the securities for the future tranquillity of Europe. He, therefore, had felt very reluctant to concur in any vote which might have the appearance of a general vote of want of confidence in the Ministry, but, at the same time, he was urged by a paramount sense of duty to vote as he had done, because he felt that greater interests than those of an Administration or of a party were at stake. Because there was a state of things disclosed as existing in the Crimea which they had struggled against believing to the very last moment, but which was admitted by the noble Member for the City of London, who described it as "horrible and heartrending," and at which every Englishman must have felt ashamed and appalled. It appeared that, not only had they not availed themselves of the improvements of modern science, but that their military system was from top to bottom in a state of most lamentable and miserable inefficiency. They heard of a gallant army perishing, literally mouldering away within six miles of a port where there was an accumulation of all the necessary stores and materials required for its support. They knew that that army was perishing, not in consequence of any insuperable difficulties, or even of any great difficulties, for those difficulties might have been overcome by the most ordinary foresight and administrative talent, but it was perishing, admittedly, for the want of a few wharfs and warehouses at Balaklava, and a road or tramway to convey supplies to the camp. Now, that was a job which any third or fourth-rate contractor in England, if he had been applied to at the proper time, would have undertaken and executed with the utmost facility, and thus the disasters which had occurred might have been avoided. He found also, that a system prevailed under which it was difficult to fix responsibility upon any particular party, either with the army or 1458 in this country. Now he would ask who was to blame for these terrible disasters? Who was responsible for them? Who had been dismissed in consequence of their occurrence? It was useless to mince matters in such a case. Either the head of the army in the Crimea was greatly to blame and was unfit for his position, or a great many of his principal subordinate officers were unfit for their situations, and ought to have been brought to court martial and cashiered. Now, had anything been done? Had Lord Raglan brought to trial or dismissed a single man, or taken any effective or vigorous steps to reform any of these lamentable deficiencies? With regard to the Government at home, he (Mr. Laing) was sorry to say that, from the disclosures made during the debate, it did not appear that the great majority of the late Administration had felt in their full force those evils and disasters which were wringing the hearts of the people of this country. It did not appear that there was the least disposition among them to make any vigorous effort to carry out those reforms which nine-tenths of the people of this country believed to be indispensable to the national safety—he might almost say for the national existence. It was, therefore, with these feelings and with that impression that he had felt it his duty to vote for a Committee of inquiry, because he believed that nothing short of compelling the Government to take the requisite measures would give the necessary stimulus towards remedying the administrative evils which had led to the great misfortunes that had occurred. The system prevailing in the army professed almost avowedly to exclude merit. Promotion went by money, interest, age, and anything except what ought to be the sole qualification—namely, merit. Any railway, insurance, or other company, conducting its affairs in the manner in which the administration of the war had been carried on by the Government, would meet with total insolvency in twelve months. He had felt that he should not have done his duty, had he not, however reluctantly, given a vote to urge on an inquiry, and he might, perhaps, pause now if it could be shown that new men had come in with new measures, that reform was already in progress, that the head of affairs was fully sensible of the necessity of vigorous measures, and that those vigorous measures were actually being taken. He could not see, however, after the explanations which had been given in 1459 other places, and in that House that night, that they had sufficient security for vigorous action if they were to relax the course they had adopted, and were to cease to apply that stimulus to the Government which had produced the changes which had already taken place. With regard to the first question, relative to the formation of an Administration, he confessed that it was not yet cleared up satisfactorily to his mind, why, at this great national crisis, the attempt made by Lord Derby, and he believed very patriotically and properly made by that noble Lord, to unite the leading men of different parties in one strong Administration, was not successful. They were told that Lord Derby applied to the head of the present Administration, that there was no difference in public policy which could prevent their acting together, and they found that Lord Derby, with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, was willing to make considerable sacrifices of party feeling in order to gain the support of different sections; that they were willing to form a Government in which the noble Viscount at present at the head of the Administration, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, should have seats in the Cabinet, together with Lord Clarendon, as Foreign Minister, and with Lord Ellenborough as Minister for War. He did not hesitate to say that, unless there were great public reasons against the appointment of such a Government, a Government so constituted would doubtless have given satisfaction to the country, and would have been strong enough to carry through the present crisis. With regard to any subsequent measures which had been announced, without knowing them more in detail, it was impossible to form an opinion upon them, but there was a reason which induced him to believe that that House was not in a position to dispense with a Committee of inquiry. He could not see that in the Administration which had been formed any attempt had been made to introduce those new elements which the majority of the people believed to be desirable to insure the successful carrying on of the affairs of the country. It was palpable that great failures had occurred from the want of practical business experience, and he was surprised that the Government should have omitted the opportunity offered them of infusing new blood into the Administration. They had 1460 now an Administration which gave them the same guarantees as the late Government, less Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Newcastle, and Lord John Russell, but in no respect had they any guarantee for improved vigour and efficiency. With respect to the administration abroad, the conduct of the war, and the men at the head of the different departments at Constantinople and in the Crimea, they had an announcement that a Commission had been sent out, and no doubt very properly; but surely those members of the present Government who were members of the late Government must by this time have arrived at the conclusion, that certain men who had been placed in responsible positions had failed to carry out all that was required of them. Surely, then, this was a case not for a Commission, but for a positive act. The principal measure of reform which had been announced appeared to him to be purely a half measure. As he understood it, it was that a respectable general officer, but whose age somewhat exceeded sixty, should be sent out as a sort of wet-nurse to Lord Raglan, to take the administration of the army out of the hands of that noble Lord. By this time the Government ought to have made up their minds either that Lord Raglan was fit to be intrusted with the command of the army, or that he was not. If Lord Raglan was fit for the position he occupied, he (Mr. Laing) did not see the policy of the new appointment; but if he was not fit to be trusted, then, in God's name, let him be recalled. Let the Government set an example of vigorous action to the country, and then they might come to the House of Commons and ask them not to press forward this Committee of Inquiry, but not before. He had expressed these views because he thought it desirable that the Government should know the feelings which actuated those who on all points of general policy had been and still continued their supporters, but who could not, for the sake of any Government, or of any party feelings, attempt any longer, to use an expressive railway phrase, "to make things pleasant," and allow those evils to exist which had produced the miseries and disasters which had overtaken our gallant army in the Crimea.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
said, that having formed part of the numerous majority which turned the late Government out of office, he felt bound to take an early opportunity of expressing his disagreement 1461 from the views of some other hon. Members of that majority who had spoken that evening. He had been in considerable doubt which way to vote, feeling strongly that what the present crisis required was not so much inquiry as action, or rather such inquiry only as was the indispensable preliminary and concomitant of prompt, vigorous, and remedial action; but his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) solved all his difficulties, by treating the vote as one of confidence or no confidence in the Administration. He had voted for the Motion of inquiry as a vote of no confidence, but he was anxious to say now, that he considered inquiry was most desirable and necessary, and he would not be a party to rescind a Motion that had been affirmed by such a decisive majority. But from his experience of long-pending inquiries before Committees up-stairs, he should say that an inquiry of that sort would be fraught, at this time more particularly, with difficulty and danger to the public service. He therefore hoped the House would adopt the suggestion thrown out by the First Lord of the Treasury, and suspend the appointment of a Committee, and the inquiry before such Committee, until such time as it could be carried on, not only without interfering with the redoubled activity requisite in all departments connected with the war at the present moment, but also with the advantages of having before it all the authorities at present in the East, on whom, in their absence, all the blame possible would be laid, and whose presence before the Committee was necessary to their exculpation. He desired to see a searching inquiry into every department, and he believed it would be found that in the civil service especially matters had been conducted on a rotten and unsatisfactory principle. It would be seen, he believed, that it was not to aristocratical influence only, though no doubt that had prevailed to a great extent, but to political, or what might be called boroughmongering, influence, that a great deal of the inefficiency of the civil department of the State was to be attributed. He believed that if promotions in the army to members of the aristocracy were, as in the navy, for the most part the just reward of merit, the aristocracy would by merit alone obtain in the army, as they had done in the navy on several memorable occasions in our history, a fair proportion of honours and promotions. But this he would say, that if 1462 Members of the aristocracy were not rewarded according to their merit, they had no right to occupy such positions, and the sooner they were displaced the better for the public service and the country, as well as for the order to which they belonged. The worst part of the present system was, that appointments were made not so much out of regard for the interests of the public service as from the connection of the parties promoted with electioneering proceedings, especially in small constituencies, and he really believed that such appointments had much to do with the occurrence of those calamities which all of them had such great occasion to deplore. This question was by no means one easy of solution—it was not enough merely to say that men should be rewarded for their merit, and not through interest. The task of reform in this regard was a most difficult one. In De Tocqueville' work on Democracy in America, there is a passage showing how injuriously, especially in a republic, other influences than those of merit, and more particularly that of seniority, operated on appointments in the public service. One of the faults of our system confessedly was, that men were appointed to high command whom physical debility had unfitted for it; for the saying in England was, that a man was not supposed to be fit for anything until age had rendered him unfit for everything. He thanked the noble Lord at the head of the Government for the luminous and satisfactory sketch he had given of the views of the Government, in a great degree to be attributed to the vigour and ability of the noble Viscount, as well as of his colleague Lord Panmure. He felt grateful, also, for the measures which had been taken for the sanitary improvement of the camp, without which the position of the army would, when warmer weather arrived, be probably still more terrible than it had been, from the pestilence which such abominations must then engender. He would conclude by saying that he voted the other evening for the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in order to bring about a change in the Government, and more especially in the War Department. That change had been effected, and he must express his confident hope that it was a beneficial one. But he must now express an earnest hope that the House would not, at the present moment, interfere with the Government, nor in any manner attempt to fetter the 1463 action of the various departments. He trusted the motion for the appointment of the Committee would be suspended for a short time, when its labours might pave the way to a remodelling, no less of the military system than of appointments and promotions in the civil service of the country.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he did not think the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had made a very satisfactory statement to the House. He had looked to the advent of the noble Lord to office as to the commencement of a vigorous era in the administration of the war, but from the statement which had been made that evening he could see no prospect of any efficient change in the course which had hitherto been adopted; he could only see small improvements that ought to have been long ago carried into effect. Having the highest opinion of the noble Lord, he deeply regretted to see him surrounded by so many Members of the former Administration. When hon. Members saw the Gentlemen who now surrounded him, their thoughts naturally turned to the sad spectacle in which not our army alone, but the system of Government in this country had suffered so much. He had hoped that the noble Lord would have infused a little new blood into the high commands of the army; but when they saw an octogenarian general appointed Commander in Chief in Ireland, and the admiral who had mismanaged matters so much at Constantinople sent to arrange affairs at Balaklava, he must say he felt no little disappointment. They were told they should have an energetic man, who understood the country in which the army was engaged, in the new post to be created under the Minister of War; but that announcement had been annulled for some extraordinary reason, and a Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) was put into the office—no doubt a man of great respectability, but at the same time one who had the reputation of being very much attached to official routine. He regretted that the appointment, as Under Secretary at War, of his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) had been so unaccountably cancelled. From the beginning of the war his hon. Friend had given the Ministers the benefit of his great knowledge of the countries in which we are at present engaged in war, derived from official and private experience, and certainly on every point on which he had given an opinion he had 1464 been right in his anticipations. On every important particular, from the time when he urged Ministers to declare war on the Russians crossing the Pruth, his anticipations had been most remarkably confirmed. What was the use of our breeding up public servants at the public expense, for his hon. Friend (Mr. Layard) had long been employed in a diplomatic capacity by Her Majesty in the countries which were now the seat of war, if, when a crisis came, we did not avail ourselves of that local knowledge, which could only be gained in a long course of years, and which was absolutely indispensable to conduct successful operations in the East? It might have been expected, therefore, when the Ministry were turned out, in a great measure through the speeches of his hon. Friend, that he would have been appointed to a place in connection with the conduct of the war. And when he heard, as was rumoured about, that Admiral Dundas had been the cause of that Gentleman not being appointed, he must say, if this report were true, that he thought the Admiral, who had far from merited the thanks of the country upon other grounds, had a very heavy additional responsibility laid at his door in having, from personal motives, at a crisis like the present, deprived the country of the services of his hon. Friend. He trusted the noble Lord would show by his measures better than by his words that he was determined to carry on the war with vigour. He believed that Russia was far weaker than was supposed, and if the noble Lord exhibited judgment and vigour, and was not trammelled by his associates, he believed that the next six months would show us in a position very different from that which we now occupied. He believed that if at all points we used our enormous resources with the vigour that characterised the era of Nelson and Wellington, the present struggle might be quickly terminated. It was especially necessary to direct attention to the question of the stoppage of trade as a means of depriving Russia of the sinews of war. He hoped there would be no free-trade theories (right enough in other circumstances) to interfere with the vigour that ought to characterise our proceedings with regard to Russian trade. The blockade had hitherto been a mere nominal operation. He believed that the very lead which made the bullets by which so many of our brave soldiers were destroyed had been exported from this country to 1465 Odessa since the commencement of the present war, through the negligence of the admiral in command of the fleet in the Black Sea. He had been surprised to hear the reports which had been made by the gallant Admiral (Admiral Berkeley) as to the admirable state of the harbour of Balaklava. Why, he must say that the gallant Admiral had almost trifled with the time of the House in reading a document signed by the masters of many transports as to the admirable order and regularity of Balaklava harbour. Why, who were the people who profited if that order and regularity did not exist? Why, these very masters of transports, whose evidence was brought to prove the existence of a state of things contrary to their own interests—the more disorder in the harbour, the better for them—because they received a large demurrage for every day they remained in Balaklava waiting to unship their goods. Every day they were left there resulted in so much money being put into their pockets. He heartily deplored the horrors of war. No one could wish more cordially than he to see an honourable peace concluded, but he could not say he had confidence in the present Government that they would conclude such a peace as would be honourable to the country. He thought it derogatory to this country that a statesman in the position of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) should have been sent to the Congress at Vienna, to meet no other statesman of equal rank. We appeared to be suing for peace from our enemy, and by such conduct we discouraged neutral Powers from declaring themselves, because they are afraid we should leave them in the lurch. The best means of obtaining peace, in his opinion, were to prosecute the war with vigour, and to stop all conferences at Vienna, until we had beaten our enemy. He considered, therefore, at such a moment as this, that the mission of the noble Lord was peculiarly inopportune. He would only add that he (Mr. Seymour) was not an opponent of the Government of the noble Lord at the head of affairs. He earnestly desired the noble Lord might succeed; but until he held out some definite intention of making a more extended system of reform in the various departments of the State than he had hitherto done, he could only give him a qualified support.
said, he wished to ask the hon. Member who had last 1466 spoken what higher authority he could have given for the statement to which the hon. Member alluded than that of Sir Edmund Lyons, the talented and energetic commander of the Black Sea fleet? The statement respecting the harbour of Balaklava was based upon an official letter from him, and he (Admiral Berkeley) would not have repeated it, without a downright good reason. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to a connection of his, a gallant Admiral, late in command of the Black Sea fleet, and had stated that the gallant Admiral was instrumental in keeping the hon. Member for Aylesbury out of the present Government. He (Admiral Berkeley) did not know whence the hon. Gentleman drew such information; and all he would say was, that when, the hon. Gentleman might remember, the Thanks of the House were voted to Admiral Dundas, if the hon. Member for Aylesbury then believed that the accusations which he had made against Admiral Dundas were founded in truth, it was his bounden duty to his country and his constituents, to have then stood up in his place and to have resisted that vote being unanimous.
§ LORD HOTHAM
said, he wished to inquire whether the Government intended to take the whole of the Navy and Army Estimates; or whether they proposed to ask for a Vote of men and money, and limit themselves to these Votes? If it were the intention to limit the Votes to these points, he had not a word to say. But if the whole of the Army Estimates were to be gone into, he should say that in the absence of a most important document not yet laid before the House, it was impossible the remaining Votes could be discussed with justice to the service. The paper he alluded to was the Royal warrant issued by command of Her Majesty last year, consequent upon the Commission appointed to consider the state of promotion in the army. The Commission reported, and, though the Report was produced previous to the Christmas adjournment, it had not been printed. It was of great importance; and, therefore, he hoped Her Majesty's Government would limit their Vote at present to the points suggested.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
If the House will consent to go into Committee of Supply, so that the Navy Estimates may be brought forward, it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose this evening any Vote with reference to the army.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, the observations which have been made in the progress of this debate relative to the conduct of the war, so nearly affect the army and the navy at this momentous crisis that I am induced to trespass for a brief space upon the indulgence of the House. Firstly, to say that I recollect with a sorrowful satisfaction that at its outset, and during its early progress, I lifted my voice in warning in this House, and observed that the country who embarks on war with another Power, underrating its resources and undervaluing its means for resistance, is, to a great extent, guilty of the disastrous consequences which may ensue. Do we not in each instance stand self-condemned? We early lost our vantage ground and influence when we suffered the Turkish squadron to be destroyed at Sinope almost beneath our guns. Procrastination and uncertain counsels followed us from the commencement. Why did not our fleet pass the Dardanelles and enter the Black Sea simultaneously with the invasion of the Principalities by the Russian army? Why did not our fleet raze Odessa to the ground—the granary of Sebastopol? Why was the expedition to the Crimea detained so long on the plague-stricken shore of Varna with all its attendant miseries? Why did we not overlook that isthmus, by means of which so many thousand troops were poured into Sebastopol? What utter ignorance of the internal strength of that fortress and its inexhaustible means for resistance to a siege! What delay in our supplies, in siege-trains, and all the appliances by which to conduct our operations to a successful issue! Battles are not fought without great loss, nor victories achieved but at a costly price even to the successful, and yet for the wounded and sick how imperfect was the provision made. Sir, I cannot find language sufficiently expressive by which to deplore the mismanagement, the improvidence, and the dilatoriness which have characterised the conduct of this war. Our resolutions slow and feeble—our counsels made at random, halting, trusting, as it were, to some fortunate chance or fortuitous interposition by which to stave off calamity, or bring us undeserved success—our ample resources tardily supplied—the sincerity of our professions compromised by the dubiousness of our acts—our reinforcements doled out in a manner unworthy of the nation, tantalising to its chiefs, and insufficiently maintained to a standard by which to render success hope- 1468 ful—our acts, in earlier instances, partaking of indisposition to offend the enemy beyond the means of reconciliation, measures proposed as if the country would not or could not give us recruits; and, to some extent, we placed ourselves dependent upon our noble and gallant ally whom we ought to have rivalled; wavering so that other nations caught the contagion and wavered also, and giving encouragement to the enemy by the incompetency of our preparations, the fluctuations in our councils, and thence the sluggishness of our operations. Let the blame fall where it may be deserved, but let us, without party spirit, hasty judgment, or the desire at random to inculpate any one individual in particular, not be hasty where so many are, I fear, to blame; above all, let us deal out to our chiefs impartial judgment and a generous confidence. If hon. Members entertain on any point a doubt, give to them the benefit of that doubt; recollect they are not here to defend themselves, that their honour is dearer to them than life itself, the verdict of their country far dearer still; they have placed their all upon the stake, their anxiety must be intense—a terrible venture for single men to bear. Let us then cherish, sustain, and animate our army and our fleet. Other battles have to be fought, and other victories to be achieved, and he who never desponded, had the full belief they would add another monument of fame to the brave names of Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman, in that of Sebastopol. England, ever jealous of her arms, would be satisfied with no less costly a price. Not to strain every nerve and put forth every effort to achieve this object would be criminal; to pause and nicely count the cost would be ignominious. Our honour is at stake, we must redeem it. Our place in the nations is at issue, we must maintain it. The sword we had drawn untarnished, we must sheath without a stain. Sorrow and suffering are inseparable from war, but let not the mourners say their dead fell in vain, and that incompetence and timid counsels had inflicted more wounds than the weapons of the Czar. When I look on that battle-field; there standing soldier, sailor, and marine, enduring the scanty food and water, the harassing march, the perpetual alarm, the wearisome watch, the sharpness and cold, the tentless camp, the toil and dangers of the trenches—shell, shot, and sortie—men susceptible of one common nature, ani- 1469 mated by the same hope, repugnant to the same pain, and loving life as we do, yet risking all and daring all for the honour and glory of their country—extinction in a moment, eternity in an instant, yet never dismayed, ever hopeful of success, and never faltering in loyalty—I do indeed glory in my native country and that brave brotherhood. And when I recollect how much depends on this continued constancy, how many precious lives are bound up in theirs, I never kneel me down, and other hon. Members I doubt not do the same, but I evoke the blessing of God upon their heads and arms. Our prayers are offered up that they may return to this country covered with glory and the high sense of duty done. Our interests are identified with theirs—their heroic deeds, their lofty patriotism, their enduring qualities; and I tend my hope that the Government will concentrate their undivided energies, and all of earthly wisdom, so as to ensure coming conquests at the least possible loss to the sister services, and that satisfaction may rest upon our counsels, that when England shall have attained her object in this war, and peace alike honourable to her arms and name—that by the precautions used her mourners may be few and her survivors many.