§ THE CONDUCT OF THE WAR, AND CONDITION
OF THE ARMY.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
then rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the condition of our Army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those Departments of the Government whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of that Army"—and said: Sir, in bringing forward the Motion that stands on the paper in my name, I must, in the first place, beg the kind indulgence of the House to aid, in some degree, my physical inability. The question itself is so serious that it requires no apology. We have sent from this country an army the most unparalleled in its efficiency and in its numbers that ever left this coast; which has by its deeds not only maintained but enhanced the glory of its country; and it now appears by the acknowledgment of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London this evening, that this army, by the neglect of the 980 Government at home, has been reduced to a condition that wrings the heart of the nation. Therefore, I say, Sir, when I consider the duties of this House—what they are and how they are to be employed—I think the question which I am about to submit to the House requires no apology. But, Sir, when I address myself to the question itself, I cannot but regret what has fallen from the noble Lord this evening. The noble Lord says that he was unable, as a Minister of the Crown, to resist this Motion. He says that the House ought to exercise its inquisitorial duties with regard to this question; and in the same breath he says that he will not support the Motion either by his speech or by his vote, thus neglecting that which, as a patriot, he ought to perform. He ought to forego private affections and personal regards, when he considers not only that an army of England is at stake, but also that the very safety of the country is in jeopardy. Deserted, then, by the noble Lord, but maintained, as I believe, by the inherent value of the question itself, I shall boldly address myself to that which I have to propose to the House. The question naturally divides itself into two parts —first, what is the condition of our army before Sebastopol? and, next, how has that condition been brought about? Now, Sir, it appears to me, as the noble Lord himself has confessed to-night, that about the condition of the army there cannot be two opinions. The troops are without shelter, without clothes, without food, and without ammunition. That is the condition to which they have been reduced, as I believe, by the incapacity of those whose duty it was to minister to their wants. We have nothing before us to make us believe that the position of the Government as regards the army is in the slightest degree changed. The incapacity that has brought about this result still continues to govern; therefore, all I have to do is to submit to this House that inquiry is requisite as to the causes that have brought about this state of misery in which the army now exists, and when I have done that I think I shall have done my duty to this House. Now, Sir, it may be thought necessary that I should say something as to the state of the army before Sebastopol. I beg, first of all, however, to say that with the military part of the question I have no concern. As to the expedition to the Crimea I am unable to judge. I am no soldier; but as to the conduct of those 981 whose duty it was to minister to the wants of that army, when so placed, I think this House is able to judge, and, as a Member of this House, I think I am bound to pass a judgment on this matter. Now, Sir, the first question I have to inquire into is as to the number of soldiers before Sebastopol. I think it is pretty well ascertained that we have sent from the shores of this country 54,000 soldiers, equipped as we have never equipped soldiers before, who have done all they could to support the honour and glory of this country. I want to know what has become of these 54,000 soldiers? It appears, from the best and most authentic accounts that we have at present, that there are now not more than 14,000 men actually in arms before Sebastopol, and of these 14,000 less than 5,000 are in a state of health. I have now in my hand a letter dated January 8, from Constantinople, the writer of which states that, according to the best information he had been able to obtain, the effective force of the British before Sebastopol did nut exceed 14,000 men; that the artillery and engineers had diminished in a similar ratio; and that the cavalry had ceased to exist as a force, the horses having been taken up for the transport of provisions. The writer also says he is sure that the British army will within two months be totally destroyed; and, speaking of a General who has been out there and has now returned, he states that, in accordance with his opinion and the opinions of those most likely to be well informed, he is firmly persuaded that a great disaster is about to befall the army before Sebastopol. It appears, then, that 14,000 men remain out of the whole 54,000. I want to know, Sir, what has become of the 40,000 troops who have disappeared from the ranks of your army? This is a simple matter of figures, and if your force has been reduced from 54,000 to 14,000 men, I repeat—and I am obliged to ask the question—what has become of these 40,000 troops? [The hon. and learned Member paused, from evident physical weakness.] I feel, Sir, that my strength is very inadequate to this task, but I still hope that the House will bear with me. [Several hon. Members recommended the hon. and learned Member to seat himself.] No, no; I will endeavour to proceed. The condition of the army being such as I have stated, my next inquiry is—how has that condition been brought about? My belief is, that it has been produced by in- 982 capacity at home and incapacity abroad—by incapacity on the part of those whose duty it is to minister to that army's wants. At the present moment, I am given to understand that the harbour of Balaklava is encumbered with stores—that a country which possesses means of transport beyond those of all the world, has been enabled, through the enthusiasm of the people, to lay on the shores of that harbour stores sufficient to maintain an army twice as large as that which now exists; but that nevertheless the soldiers are in want of food, clothing, and shelter;—that, having transported these stores 3,000 miles across the ocean, another seven miles intervene, and that, therefore, your forces are deprived of everything it requires for their maintenance as an army. How has this been occasioned? Why, first, by the in sufficiency of the provision made here when the army was sent to the Crimea; and, next, by the inefficiency of those to whom it was confided when it reached that country. [Here the hon. and learned Gentleman was again unable to proceed.] I really, Sir, feel my strength so feeble that I cannot continue these remarks; and, in my present state, I shall at once move the Resolution which is in your hands.
The Motion having been seconded; Question proposed—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the condition of our Army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those Departments of the Government whose duty it has been to administer to the wants of that Army.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Sir, I have felt some hesitation in rising at this moment through witnessing that which, I am sure, has been the subject of pain to every one present—the physical infirmity! under which my hon. and learned Friend was compelled to desist from his attempt to address the House in support of the Motion of which he has given notice. My hon. and learned Friend. I must say, was fully entitled to make that Motion, from the high position which he holds in this House, from the great talents by which he is distinguished, and likewise from the independence of character which has secured for him the respect and esteem of every Gentleman present. Sir, I still more regret the indisposition under which he labours, because it places me in a position of some difficulty, inasmuch as there has been no charge made, no case substantiated, or even attempted to be substantiated, to which I might apply myself 983 to answer. Now, the statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman made he put upon a very simple issue. He says that there left the shores of this country one of the largest and best appointed armies that England ever sent forth. He recites their numbers, and he asks what has become of those forces. Sir, let me say, in the first place, that my hon. and learned Friend fell into one inaccuracy in making this statement, because he asks what has become of the whole number of men that have gone out to the Crimea, as if they all went out with the original expedition, and overlooking the fact that many of them have been sent out since then, and that others have not yet arrived; and, therefore, arithmetically speaking, the difference between 54,000, or the whole number sent out, and the existing force, will not represent the number who have fallen in battle or perished by pestilence. Sir, I confess that I approach this subject with unaffected feelings of pain. I am not about to attempt or pretend to bolster up a case by reading letters or extracts from letters, seeking to convey to the House impressions other than those that in my conscience I know to be correct. I do believe that exposure to suffering—exposure to an inclement climate and to privations of all descriptions —has reduced the army under the command of Lord Raglan to a state that does excite deep anxiety in the mind of every Englishman. But, Sir, so far as it depends upon us, I might content myself by quoting the very observation which fell from my hon. and learned Friend when he said, "You have transported to the shores of Balaklava stores enough to feed and shelter twice the number of men that you have sent out." Sir, it may be asked— as I have no doubt it will be asked—what is the reason why an army sent out, as the hon. and learned Gentleman described it, so fully equipped, should have fallen in so short a period into a state arguing a great want or great defect in the internal organisation, either of that army itself on the spot, or in the departments charged with the administration at home? The lengthened remarks I made the other day when I had to discuss this subject will, I trust, enable me to abridge, and even justify me in abridging, as much as possible, the statement I have to offer tonight;—but I stated then, and I state now, my belief that the first cause to which you must trace the disorganisation in that army is to be found in the system 984 we have pursued during a long period of peace. I am not now speaking merely of reductions effected in men or in votes of money, but of the destruction of the very sources of our military power during the forty years' peace which followed 1815; and I think I can satisfy you in a very few words that we have had virtually no army during that time—that we have kept our troops for the purposes of police at home and in our colonies rather than for purposes of defence abroad. We have, indeed, maintained a certain number of men in a state of high discipline up to a certain extent of organisation, but not beyond it. What I mean—if the House will pardon me for noticing it—is simply this;—Englishmen are people who can do as well, and, perhaps, one's natural national vanity leads one to think that they can do even better, than any other persons, anything whatever that they choose to practise:— but, I ask, what is your English army? It is only a collection of regiments or rather a number of regiments not collected. The internal discipline of those regiments is certainly complete—you have in every company and in every regiment a most perfect regimental system;—but you have nothing more:—and if you inquire into the subject you will find that during the whole campaign, and in all the actions that have taken place, there has not been the slightest sign of regimental disorganisation. On the contrary, it is admitted on all hands that the relations between the officers and the men—the affection between them and the confidence the men have shown in the courage and capacity of their officers—have been most admirable, and could not be exceeded. Everything of this kind has been as it should be; but this has been wanting—that general organisation and aptitude of the whole army, which can be obtained only by practice; and you have had no such practice. I say, then, in fact, that what you term the English army has not been an army, but a number of regiments. Why, I venture to say that there have been field officers in command of regiments in the Crimea who, until they went there—unless they had been in India or been quartered in Dublin—never in their lives saw a brigade. What, then, I ask, can you expect from such an army? You look for a perfect regimental organisation, and you succeed in finding it; but when you come to the staff I say, can you expect men who have not only never seen an 985 army in the field, but who have never seen two regiments brigaded together, to exhibit an acquaintance with the organisation of an army? Can you expect men who are utterly unacquainted with the movements of such a force, and with the regulations required for its sustenance and movements—can you expect such persons to be Heaven-born administrators, who can do not only what they have never practised, but what they never even saw done? This is a very important element in the consideration of the causes of the misfortunes which have occurred to our army abroad. Again, look at the composition of your army as regards the individual men. In England you have the highest degree of civilisation to be found in the world. As a matter of course, therefore, you have the minutest subdivision of labour; and, from the smallness of the country and the close proximity of different places, you have the most rapid communication between your cities and towns and the country. Well, what is the result? Why, that the English peasant never does anything for himself, as is the case in less advanced states of society. Everything, in consequence of the great division of labour, and the great proximity of supply of all kinds, is done for him—his house is built for him, his doors, his windows, his bedsteads are ready made to his hand, so is his dress and everything else he requires. There may be a few exceptional cases of the most remote districts of your empire, where a few of the peasantry may be found who build their own cabins and make their own clothes, shoes, and other articles in a primitive manner; but still, it cannot be denied that the great subdivision of labour consequent on high civilisation offers such facilities for every man getting everything done for him, that a man does not know how to turn if he is thrown upon his own resources and left to shift for himself, in the same way as the inhabitants of other countries can do. I recollect an hon. Friend of mine opposite handing me, last autumn, a letter, with suggestions of great value relating to the clothing of the army to be sent to the Crimea, which the Government adopted without loss of time; and that letter concluded, I remember, with a remarkable sentence of warning, to the effect that when we had done all these things that he had recommended they would be almost valueless, for the men would suffer through not knowing how to avail 986 themselves of them. An army is a vast and complex machine, and I might refer you to the failures that occurred at the commencement of former wars in which England has been engaged from want of knowledge how to handle and divert that machine. I might also ask you to look at the successive reductions which have been made by Parliament in the strength of your force, and especially to the disembodiment of the militia after 1815—a measure which continued until this body was reconstituted, for the first time, in 1852. I might, further, point to the destruction of your waggon train—to the entire destruction of your staff abroad, and to the deterioration of many other useful branches of your army. All these things have been done, year by year, under the pressure of economy without there being a single attempt made—indeed, that was thought to be almost foreign to such a country as ours— to organise an army for any purpose in the field; and the result is now before us. It will be useless to attempt to organise our army until we have undone many things that we have done since 1815. Well, Sir, a few years ago the nation was startled by the appearance of a letter from a great authority—the greatest military authority this country ever saw. The Duke of Wellington addressed his celebrated letter to Sir John Burgoyne, protesting against the defenceless state in which England was placed. Subsequently to this—and even prior to it—great efforts were made to increase the steam navy which we now possess, the creation of which began some ten years ago, and an augmentation was likewise made to our army; but, above all, the Government of Lord Derby restored that great source of military power—the militia—which had been lying dormant for so lung a period. It must not be forgotten that since the last war, while we were reducing our military forces, our commerce and our wealth, and, consequently, our means of supporting our national establishments, were simultaneously increasing. We had, at the same time, a growing demand for the services of those establishments. Our colonies were rising into empires, Australia was fast becoming one of our most important possessions, and our dominion had extended in other parts of the globe scarcely less important. Now, that being so, I want to know if it is the (opinion of hon. and learned Gentlemen that a war is a thing so simple that its 987 practice can be acquired without the least difficulty, and at a moment's notice? Just look at the different occasions on which we have commenced war. I do not know of any instance in which England has been plunged into war in which she has not met with reverses. But former cases differ from the present in this, that we have now to set against misfortunes of this description great military successes. If I were to read to the House the description which the Duke of Wellington gave of the state of his army after the retreat from Burgos you would recognise complaints very similar in terms to those we now see in the public press; but the former complaints did not arise so soon after the beginning of the war, but at a period long subsequent to the breaking out of hostilities, and even after the army was guided by the greatest military genius of our country. Take a later case. When our expedition was sent into Afghanistan the mortality in the army was frightful. Again, the expedition that went under General Godwin into Burmah suffered from a rate of mortality amounting to 48 per cent. I sincerely wish I could draw up a more favourable statement than I can do regarding our army now in the East, because I grieve to say that, since I was asked at the commencement of the Session what number of our men had fallen by disease or the sword, the mortality has nearly doubled, and the drain now going on in the army under Lord Raglan amounts, unfortunately, to nearly 14 per cent—and I grieve to say, that, as was indeed to be expected, that average of mortality has gone on increasing since the commencement of the war. I said I would not quote letters that I have received, stating that in some portions of the army there is a very different degree of efficiency, because there is a very different degree of comfort; for I apprehend that every one in this House knows perfectly well that the sufferings of the men have been proportionate to the distance of their encampment from that port which was described by the hon. and learned Gentleman as choked with stores, food, clothes, and the means of shelter, sufficient for a body of troops twice their number; and that it has been not the want of those provisions or stores, but the impossibility of moving them from Balaklava up to the camp, which has constituted the difficulty. I have received a letter from a gentleman who has been engaged on a commission which we sent 988 out some time back to inquire into the state of the medical department and hospitals, both at Constantinople and in the Crimea, and he puts the case in this way. After describing the condition of affairs at the camp, he says, "Your Government has sent out plenty of everything; they have sent it 3,000 miles; but the distance is 3,006; and the last six miles are more difficult than the first 3,000." I believe this is a true representation of the state of things. You will ask me what is the cause of that deficiency? Well, in discussing that point the House must make allowances for the great difficulties that had to be encountered there, as also for the circumstances that at this distance from the scene we cannot be fully informed of the real state of the case. We know that before the army left Varna there was a collection of animals amounting to about 5,000 with the expedition. Since then the cavalry horses and many of the artillery horses have died from exposure to the cold and want of food, and this at a time when it was said that there was forage to a great amount in the harbour of Balaklava, at least so it is said. Now, I have an extract here pretty well describing what happened in the Crimea before a certain date. It states—Before the middle of August there were in the six regiments of English cavalry 1,000 men dismounted, and the horses of 700 others were unserviceable. The baggage animals died, the artillery cattle were scarcely able to drag the guns, and one-third of the reserve ammunition was given over to the Spaniards because the ammunition carts were required for the conveyances of the sick, the number of which daily increased.This sentence applies strongly, I apprehend, to Balaklava and Sebastopol, as it describes, especially in the description it gives of the destruction of horses, the impossibility of obtaining ammunition. It then goes on further to describe the state to which the Light Brigade had been reduced—These troops (the Light Brigade), which only three weeks before had travelled sixty miles in a single march, were now with difficulty, and after many halts, able to reach the heights, although only four miles from the camp, and the sides of the mountain were covered with the carcases of many hundred animals who died in the effort.The extract proceeds—The loss of the British army in September was considerable. Above 3,500 men had died of sickness or fallen into the enemy's hands. 1,500 horses had perished from want, exclusive of those lost in battle. To fill the cup of disaster, fever and diarrhœa, assailing bodies which fatigue and 989 bad nourishment had already predisposed to disease, made frightful ravages. Dysentery, that scourge of armies, raged, and in a short time many thousand men died in the hospitals.Now, all this was not written by Lord Raglan, detailing how his army was situated —it was written in the year 1809, to describe the state of the British army after the battle of Talavera; and I quote it because it tallies with singular exactness with the precise amount of our losses in each particular arm of our service now. It is, as I said before, difficult to see where the fault has originated. It is sometimes stated that we have "the command of the seas"—that was the popular expression; and it was said—"You might as easily supply your men before Sebastopol as you could supply them at home." But when we talk of commanding the seas, we are apt to be rebuked by Him at whose breath the stormy wind arises, and we are visited by the terrible calamity which befel our transports a short time ago. We have this further disadvantage as regards transports by sea, that we have almost exhausted our resources for conveying by steam the articles necessary for the sustenance of our army. I should like to state to the House—because it is, perhaps, scarcely aware of it — what amount of transport has been necessary to convey, not only our men, not only our horses, not only our ammunition, but the food, the provender, and military stores requisite for the maintenance of an army such as ours. And when it is said that certain departments of the Government have been slack and remiss in their mode of executing their duty, I think I owe it to the Admiralty to read this paper to show what an immense power has been put into exercise in order to convey this army and its stores to the Crimea. I find that from the 7th of February, 1854, to the 10th of December, 1854, and from the 11th of December, 1854, to the 22nd of January, 1855, the Admiralty in their own ships or hired transports have conveyed to the East—British troops from England, officers, 2,141; men, 54,224; horses, 5,408; provisions from England, 29,261 tons, navy service; 18,897 tons, army service; 19,105 Ordnance stores; 110,867 tons of coals; 3,320 naval stores, and from Malta 7,180 tons. French troops from Marseilles and Toulon—officers, 556; men, 14,055; horses, 193; stores, 8,037. From Calais to the Baltic—French troops —officers, 437; men, 12,888; horses, 21; 990 British stores, navy provisions, 9,346 tons; Ordnance stores, 266 tons; naval stores, 247 tons; coals, 47,907 tons; making a grand total of 3,134 officers, 81,167 men, 5,622 horses, and 254,433 tons of provisions and stores. I have read this statement, for I deem it of importance that the House should know the description of duties exacted from this department, and to show the extent to which the Admiralty has been able to co-operate with the military departments in furnishing these necessary supplies for the sustenance and strengthening of the army. I shall hereafter have occasion to show the charges made with respect to these departments; but I will now go back to the point from which I started, which was, that if the Government be asked who is to blame that the stores have not been removed from Balaklava to the camp—if we are expected to make random guesses in order to put on other men's shoulders and to shift from ourselves, the blame and the burden which we ought to bear, you will be disappointed in your expectations; for the Government are determined to take no such course—they are determined to take upon themselves the whole responsibility. We have always acted on that determination. We have written to the Commander in Chief, pointing out the failures which appear to have taken place, drawing his attention to circumstances which have been reported to us, and we have asked him to tell the Government with whom the blame lay. We have also desired him to use the supreme powers entrusted to him to displace those men who may have shown themselves incompetent, and to replace them by those acting under his eye, who have qualified themselves in the stern school of experience, and who may have given proofs of their administrative ability in those services in which their exertions are required. But it is not in the power of the Government, at this distance and without the information that is requisite, and it would be a cowardly and discreditable thing without they were certain of what they were saying or doing, to attempt to throw the blame on men who are absent—who after all may be accused unjustly, and who, at any rate, are now gallantly perilling their lives in the service of their country.
The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had not quarrelled with the Government on a subject which last Session was the great subject of debate. Then, the com- 991 plaint was, that we had not sent out men enough, that we had neglected to form a reserve; but I think those discussions showed at least that the Government had sent out a considerable force, and had formed a considerable reserve, which, however, I admitted had ceased to be a reserve, as it was sent to reinforce the main body of the army, which is the object and use of a reserve. The difficulty now arises to create a reserve, and the Government will ask for powers to form one, and I have no doubt but that they will receive from this House every Vote necessary for that purpose. I wish to state that the Government have no desire to conceal any portion of their conduct, but they may have, and they have, strong reasons for refusing to submit to this Vote; but anything that the Government can produce in the way of information, which will show what has or has not been done, the Government are perfectly willing to produce. My hon. Friend has given notice of what he desires shall be produced; but some part of that information cannot be obtained because it does not exist; but everything without prejudice to individuals that can be got will be produced. I will add to those of which notice has been given, the accounts of ammunition, of which there is said not to have been a sufficiency, and also those of food and clothing—I will add all these, for I think there exists in the country a great delusion on these matters, and that it is imagined, because the army is not in possession of what it ought to be, that these stores have not left the shores of England. There are some of the statements which have been made so absurd that I should hope they almost carried their refutation with them. I read in a newspaper the other day a paragraph, headed, "How the Government provides ammunition," giving an account of the Lancaster guns, the shells of which, it was said, were so small that they would not fit the bore, and there was so much "windage" that it was impossible to fire with accuracy. I, by a great chance, met with another paragraph in a different paper, headed, "The Ordnance again," which stated that the shells sent by the Ordnance for the Lancaster guns were much too large, so that the men were constantly engaged in filing down these shells, so that they might fit the bore and be fired from the guns. Now, if these statements were read by Gentlemen who could not read both, they, seeing them 992 in print, might deem either of them conclusive. So again, I was told the other day that the huts which were sent out had been sent without nails to nail them together. I thought this a most extraordinary statement, but, before I could receive information on this from official quarters, a gentleman happened to come into my room to whom I mentioned this, and he said that, as he was very curious to see the huts stowed, he went down to see them embarked, that he had examined them with great curiosity, and that he was particularly struck, not only with the frames into which they fitted, but also with the way in which every nail and screw appeared to be sorted and arranged so as to be ready for its proper place. Yesterday I read a statement with respect to the clothing sent out, in which it was stated that it was the custom to send out the coats without buttons, which were sent with them and sewn on by the soldiers; and the assertion was made that the army in the Crimea had been served with great coats without any buttons on them. In answer to this, in the first place, I am told that it is not the custom to send out coats without buttons, and that the coats sent to the army in the Crimea were completed before they left England. I will not detain the House with a budget of these statements I have collected, but I mention these as specimens of the levity with which such charges are made, and which have not the slightest foundation in fact. I have stated the intention of the Government to lay on the table of the House the returns, for were I now to go into details as to how many thousand blankets and coats had been supplied, such a course would be wearisome to the House; and I would much sooner pass over these things and lay the necessary documents before the House, and they will then be able to judge of the truth of the statements of the insufficiency of the provisions made by the Government. Sir, the noble Lord who sits, I am sorry to say, behind me (Lord J. Russell) has mentioned that one cause of the determination at which he arrived of leaving this Government was this —that the War Departments were not so modified, so consolidated, so brought under one central authority as to be really effectual for the purpose of war. The noble Lord, I think, objected to the humble individual who is now addressing you being charged with certain of the duties attached to his office, such as the moving of the Army Es- 993 timates in this House; for he thought the office of the Secretary at War ought to be combined with that now held by the Secretary of State. The House will recollect that in the discussions which took place last Session I stated my views as to the manner in which these departments ought to be reorganised and consolidated; and that at the same time I stated the opinion I entertained as to the position held by the Secretary at War. I stated then, what I think now, that the office ought not to be held by one who was a Cabinet Minister, but that his duties ought to be confined simply to the management of the financial details of the army. I stated also that at the moment the Government should he enabled to make arrangements by which those changes could be effected and these departments put on a better and sounder footing, I was not the man to stand in the way, and that I would readily and gladly give up the office I now hold. When the noble Lord, therefore, pressed this matter on the attention of the Earl of Aberdeen, I stated that I was perfectly willing to resign the office which I held, for I felt—an opinion which I had expressed, and which I still adhere to—that a change was necessary, and I felt that I ought to lose no time in redeeming the pledge which I had made. I consulted some of my colleagues on this matter, and among others the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and I told him my feeling as to quitting the office I now hold in the Government—that many changes must be made in it, and the office must either be merged in another, or so altered that I could not with propriety hold it. The noble Lord gave me his opinion with great friendliness, and with sincerity, I believe, and said that the combination of the office of Secretary at War with that of the Secretary of War would impose so large an amount of business on the Secretary of State that it would be impossible that a single man could perform it, and he strongly urged that I should not take the course I contemplated—that of placing my resignation in the hands of Lord Aberdeen. I cannot say that I have seen any reason to change the opinion I stated as to the necessity of a complete remodelling of these War Departments. You want some person to conduct the finance of the army, another for the provisioning of the army, another for the arming of the army, and again, the commander-in-chief to maintain and con- 994 duct the business of the army; these are the persons who in my opinion should form a Board, over which the Secretary of State, the chief Minister for the War Department, should preside, and from whom the others should receive instructions, and to whom they should make the suggestions they might have to offer respecting the carrying out of his recommendations, and to whom they should report the progress made in carrying out his will. I understand, speaking generally, that this was a view shared in by all the Members of the Government, and answers, with the difference of the Financial Minister, to that recommended by the Duke of Richmond. What you want in these departments is a division of labour, and to secure among the subordinates the complete subordination of all to one common head. It was with this view that the noble Duke the Secretary of State has for some time past been in the habit of having meetings of all the different heads of the departments—sitting together to receive instructions, and to make suggestions—bringing any business which they had not the power singly to perform, and to receive instruction in the presence of each other, so that each might know exactly what the other was doing. The object of this was, that they should understand the object of the orders that were given, and should be enabled to combine all the means in their power to attain a common object. Unless that be done, there can be no unity of action. Minutes were taken at these meetings, copies of which were sent to the principal Members of the Government. At every fresh meeting the minutes of the last were read, and reports were made as to the progress of the works going forward under the administration. This was the germ of a Board which, in my opinion, should be formally constituted. The Government had come to the conclusion that such a Board should be formed. The noble Lord behind me (Lord J. Russell) says that he differed from me as to the constitution of this Board; but I did not know at the time, neither do I at this moment, the amount of the difference of opinion between us. I have mentioned this, because it has been alleged that the Government have not taken any steps towards the consolidation of the War Departments, and never intended to take any. We stated that the Commissariat should be taken from the control of the Treasury, and placed under the control of the chief military authority; 995 and that has been done. We stated that a Board ought to exist, of which the Secretary of State should be the head, with whom the subordinates should not have co-ordinate authority, but from whom they should take orders and execute them— orders taken in the presence one of the other, so as to produce combined action and real co-operation. Well, I must say there has been no want of subordination in these departments; but, on the contrary, they have all cheerfully recognised the authority of the Secretary of State, and have used their utmost efforts to secure the carrying out of his directions. It is said, however, that we have not been able to make the changes that are necessary for carrying on the war—that we have not been able to make practical changes. At the commencement of the operations last year, there were found to be very great difficulties—for instance, in the Ordnance there was experienced a very great difficulty in supplying a sufficient number of shells for the use of the army. There could not be got a sufficient number of shells for the work in hand; but an officer of artillery, of very great distinction, received instructions from the Secretary of State, and in the course of five weeks organised a factory entirely from his own resources, in which almost every part of the delicate operation of shell filling can be executed in a very short time. This experiment has demonstrated the existence of an enormous power of creating fresh material of this description, and, positively at a saving to the country of 30,000l. or 40,000l. a year. I mention this to show what can be done by an energetic application of the means at hand without cost to the country. Again, we had a waggon train to form. It has been stated that a waggon train did not exist till the latter end of the Duke of Wellington's campaigns. He formed it himself. It lasted, gradually dwindling, down to 1838, at which period it was finally extinguished. I except a waggon train from the list of those establishments which should be kept up in a state of efficiency in time of peace. It is really of use only in time of war. You cannot have your regiments marching from place to place, with all their luggage following on trains of horses and arranged on pack saddles, while you have railways to convey them with all their luggage to the place of their destination, with great speed and without any trouble. I am not making 996 any charge for the abolition of that system in time of peace, but it requires a long time to get things back into a thoroughly organised state. To make that train effective for its purpose there is requisite a great number of baggage animals, such as are not readily to be found on the shores of the Crimea. It was the duty of the Commissariat to provide it, but they were unable to discharge the duty efficiently. The Government, however, felt the necessity of themselves providing a baggage corps, and commenced buying animals not only along the coasts of the South of France, but in Spain, Tunis, Egypt, and wherever they are likely to find horses or mules adapted to the purpose. The Duke of Newcastle has organised and is now sending out a train composed of a sufficient number of everything requisite for the exigencies of the case; and I am glad to see from the papers that there have already been some fresh arrivals of baggage animals at Balaklava. When this establishment shall have been put upon a proper footing, by an experienced officer who performed the same duty under Sir Charles Napier, I think we shall find it is not possible for an army to fall into the state in which our army was a few weeks ago. The Commissariat there, in my opinion, is overburdened by its work; it ought to be confined to the providing of provisions, and ought certainly not to have anything to do with the transport service also. The Duke of Newcastle has also established a staff corps for the purpose of providing a police for the army. This was sent out some time ago. He is engaged in forming a hospital staff, which will, I believe, be the means of redressing one of the most crying grievances of the army, by supplying the want of a permanent staff attached to the hospitals, instead of trusting to chance men and convalescents passing through the hospitals. It is impossible for anything to be worse than the system that has hitherto been pursued in this respect; I trust that by adopting a sounder one, copied from that of our allies, our hospitals will be placed in a more efficient state than they have ever yet been. Again, there are allegations that the naval transport corps has been numerically insufficient for the transaction of the business required of them, without being subjected to a strain which ought not to be put upon that service. My right hon. Friend the first Lord of the Admiralty will, on a future occasion, 997 explain the alterations intended to be made, in order to produce an efficient transport service, and to enable them to grasp a business as comprehensive as that which has of late been thrust upon them. Again, I may state that the moment it came to the knowledge of the Government that errors had taken place in the way of stowing the ships—by the overcrowding of one ship and then shifting the cargo to another—a Committee was appointed to examine into the cause, to trace out the delinquencies, and to lay down a clear and simple system by which the recurrence of these errors would be prevented. In the same way, when, in last autumn, the Government received accounts showing the insufficiency of the medical arrangements, they sent out a Commission to inquire into the causes of the alleged inefficiency; but they did not intrust this to medical men only. They thought it necessary, in order to secure the most searching investigation, to attach to the Commission a gentleman independent of the medical profession, and who could have no interest in screening its errors; unconnected also with the Government or with any department of the Government, and who should, therefore, have no interest in screening its shortcomings. They received instructions to probe the matter to the bottom, to obtain the truth and to expose it without mercy. At the same time they received instructions, in order that no precious time might be lost, to report as they went on—to make every practical suggestion they deemed it desirable to adopt; and instructions were given also to the heads of the hospitals at Scutari, and to Lord Raglan, to adopt such suggestions on hearing the reasons on which they were founded. I hope shortly to lay the results of these inquiries before the House; and, what is of more importance, the steps taken in consequence of them.
Sir, I have now stated, I fear at some length, details which must he wearisome to the House; but, having done so, compressing what I had to say upon details as much as I could, I wish to ask the House what is its intention with regard to the Motion before it? Do you propose to refer to a Committee upstairs of fifteen Gentlemen no less a subject of consideration than the condition of the army before Sebastopol, and the conduct of the departments at home who have the management of that army? I will take the last case first, and I ask, supposing you carried this Motion—supposing there was to be found 998 a Government which would submit to such an inquiry—what would be the effect of the appointment of the Committee upon those departments, and what would be its ultimate effect upon that army, whose safety, of course, is the object of the efforts of these departments, and the ultimate object of the Motion? I apprehend that if you refer to the Committee the inquiry of how those departments are to be remodelled and consolidated, how they are to meet and how to deliberate, and how their authority is to be made subservient to one supreme authority, the Government must, until the Committee have decided what they will recommend, abstain in the meanwhile from carrying into effect their own measures for that very purpose, and wait until some blue book comes out in August, to the recommendations of which they can give practical effect. How will the Committee get at their information? Will they examine the men charged with the execution of the measures into which they are inquiring, or will they have to get the opinions of those men at second hand? The Members of the Government are, at this moment, more conversant than a Committee can be with the deficiencies of the machinery they have been called on to work; they know its weak places, they know what are the remedies that should be applied, they have a clear object in view, and they are ready to carry it out; but a Committee must hear evidence and counter-evidence, must sift that evidence backwards and forwards, and, after a long delay, must come probably to the same conclusions as her Majesty's Government have already arrived at, having interposed the delay of a whole Session for the purpose of doing by their authority what ought to be done by the authority of the Government. But what, I ask again, will be the effect of the inquiry upon the departments themselves? We know what it is to subject the conduct of any department to a Committee. The head of that department, with other members of the Government in this House, must attend the Committee to conduct his defence. And I want to know what time would be left to the Members of the Government to administer the army, to carry on the measures necessary for the prosecution of the War, if their time is to be spent day after day in a Committee room of the House of Commons, answering questions, producing returns, and endeavouring to defend themselves from the attacks made against them 999 in the Committee. For all purposes of action, the Government would be simply paralysed during the time the inquiry lasted, What would be its effect upon the army, into whose condition you intend to inquire? and how do you intend to conduct that inquiry? Do you intend to send Commissioners to the Crimea to inquire into the conduct of the Commander in Chief, like those which the Directory sent to General Dumouriez, or to send out Commissioners such as were sent by the Dutch Senate to worry and impede the Duke of Marlborough? You will not do that. Then, do you intend to bring home officers from Sebastopol to give accounts to the Committee of the condition of the army? Those are the duties of the Commander in Chief and of the Executive Government. If the Commander in Chief is incapable of performing them he ought to be recalled; and if the Government are convinced of his incapacity they are guilty of a crime in not recalling him; but they would also be guilty of a crime if they jumped at the conclusion of his incapacity without evidence and without proof, and disgust the army by committing a gross injustice and sacrificing a man for the unworthy purpose of placing on his shoulders the blame that the House of Commons wished to place on the shoulders of the Government. There may have been Governments who have shielded themselves under proceedings like that, but this Government is not capable of such conduct, and, if it were, I for one would not remain a Member of it for one hour. If you intend to carry this motion, you intend to paralyse the action of the Government at home and of the army abroad, for it is impossible for a Commander in Chief and his officers to act freely when they know that there is a jury sitting on their every action, and that there are witnesses whom they have not the means of answering misrepresenting their conduct. Yon will also inspire the army with distrust of their commander, so that, in whatever way you put it, the inquiry is objectionable, because either you will fail in getting your information, or, if you get it, you will do so at the expense of the efficiency of the army. I cannot conceive by what arguments you can justify this Motion. You may say,—here is a case of disaster, of great sickness and mortality in the army, and we think the Government are to blame for it; but if that is what you think, the Government are the persons who ought to bear the pun- 1000 ishment. You cannot mean to inquire into the mode of conducting the business of a department, or to enter into a pedantic disquisition as to the duties of this or that office; for, depend upon it, you must look not so much to the form of the office as to the energy and will of the man who holds it. It is your duty, if you entertain the opinion that a Government has not administered its duties as it ought to have done—not to institute inquiries which may be prolonged to the dog-days—but fearlessly to say, "You, the men conducting this War, are unfit for your posts; you are conducting it in a manner discreditable to yourselves, and, what is much more important, destructive to the best interests of the country; we will, therefore, put you out of the Government, and we will substitute for you those in whose capacity and integrity we have more confidence." I am perfectly willing to abide by that test; but I ask the House, if they have made up their minds to take that course, to avow it manfully, and at once. There is no disguising the fact that this Government has been for a long period a Government existing without what may be termed genuine Parliamentary support; it has, consequently, been subjected to constant defeats upon cross motions of every description, and, no doubt, its strength and efficiency have been greatly impaired by such proceedings. The Government has also been exposed to much obloquy and calumny. Some people have said it should despise obloquy and calumny, but, however the calumniator may be despised, no Government in a country like this can afford to despise the calumny. With constant repetition it has its effect upon the estimation of the character of public men, as this Government has found by that course which has been recklessly and unscrupulously pursued. But the Government now stands in a situation much more precarious than it did. We cannot deny that a Government already weak has received a heavy blow by the secession from its ranks of a man whose talents, character, and antecedents, make him in every way the first man in this House, and give him a personal influence over it that no one else possesses. I lament that secession for the sake of the Government, for the sake of the public service; and I hope the noble Lord, who has treated me since I have been his colleague with a confidence and kindness I shall ever gratefully recollect, will pardon me for saying that I regret his 1001 secession for his own sake; also I do not think that this is a moment when any servant of the Crown ought to leave the public service, the emergency being so serious; but I feel the full weight of the loss of the noble Lord, and on account of that loss, I think I am entitled to ask the House, above all things, for a plain, rapid, and intelligible decision as to ourselves. You have negotiations of the greatest importance pending—you have a state of things in the Crimea requiring constant and daily action — you require both for the negotiations and for the purpose of carrying on the war measures to be at once directed and carried into effect; and the suspension of all the functions of the Government which necessarily takes place when its existence is staked on a vote of the House of Commons, of which no one can say what will be the result, is most fatal to the public service. What I ask is, a decision at once and in plain language upon this point. It is indifferent to me in what shape it comes; but I should regret to see it in such a moment as this carried, for I do not want a precedent to be set for transferring to Committees upstairs the functions and prerogatives of the Crown, and I wish the Executive to be respected by this House, as well as to see it respect the decisions of the House. Each has its own peculiar functions, and neither can encroach upon the other without danger to the State. I hope the House will consider well the course it is about to pursue. There are great perils surrounding this country—it is a moment of breathless anxiety—and it does become the Senate of the nation clearly to express its intention as to what men it will intrust with the management of the difficult and delicate affairs that are now in progress.
Sir, with these feelings, I express my intention of voting against the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have endeavoured, as shortly as I could, to vindicate the Government from the charge that has been made—the charge of having knowingly and, as it were, with their eyes open suffered our gallant army to perish. I have even, by the last mail, received accounts of a re-distribution of ground, by which the work and labour to be borne by our soldiers will be much decreased, and of the arrival of baggage animals, which, I trust, may facilitate the carrying up to our army of the clothes and provisions and shelter necessary for its very existence. I do not wish to impress upon the House 1002 opinions with regard to the future of that army more gloomy than necessary; but it is essential for that army and for the interests of the country, that a speedy and distinct decision should be taken as to the stability or the termination of the Government which now holds the reins of power—a Government which will not hold them at all if they cannot hold them effectually. I say, Sir, it is time that the House of Commons should decide upon this point. We are ready to abide by their decision; but, I say again, let that decision be plain and intelligible, and, above all things, let it be speedy.
§ MR. H. DRUMMOND
The right hon. Gentleman shall understand, at least from me, plainly and intelligibly, that I do impute it to the gross incompetence of some man or men that an event has occurred without a parallel in history — that an army, three times victorious, has been left to perish—to be utterly destroyed— by the incompetence of those whose duty it was to have supported it. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Come forward and make your charge;" but how can we do that until we have got information? The whole country is in wrath with somebody, but no one seems to know who that somebody should be. That is the plain question we want to have answered—we want to know who it is that is responsible for results that have excited general wrath and indignation. And is this wrath confined to one party, or is there not a burst of indignation from one end of the kingdom to the other? Is it not re-echoed from Germany and from France? Is it not asked in all their papers, what can the English Government be composed of? Was ever such cruelty exhibited towards men as that with which they have treated their army? I should have thought the right hon. Gentlemen themselves would be the very first to thank us for coming forward and asking for information. I am not content to throw the blame on a Government. I can understand that it is very decent and proper and right for all the Gentlemen sitting there to put themselves forward in order to screen their colleagues; but it is not satisfactory to us. Does any one mean to say that it is the fault of the right hon. Gentleman that the army is starving? No; but it is the fault of the Government. Does any one say that it is the fault of the noble Lord? No; but it is that of the Government. It is the Government in their collective ca- 1003 pacity that is blamed; and the disasters are attributed to the fault of the Government because the right men who are really to be blamed cannot be known. Why did the noble Lord retire? Because he has not yet been able satisfactorily to ascertain upon whom the fault rests. The right hon. Gentleman has not disclosed with whom it is that the fault rests; he has completely evaded that question. I, for my part, have arrived at the conclusion that there are certain persons directly responsible for the mistakes that have been committed; who they are I cannot tell, and I wish to be informed on that point. I do not charge the right hon. Gentleman with the faults that have been committed—his printed speech completely exonerated himself—it was too clever by half. It showed him to be a very eloquent man. Eloquence is a fine art, the sister of poetry and painting, and there is a strong family likeness. The consequence was, that when we got the speech in plain black and white before us, many things appeared very different to what they were before they had been translated. There was no doubt as to the propriety of sending troops to Varna, for the assistance, as was said, of "the Turks and civilisation," although how the two got together I know not. [A laugh.] Varna lies on the road from Russia to Constantinople, and it was very natural to plant an army there; but, to my infinite astonishment, I found, after the army had arrived there, that one of the essentials of an army —namely, a waggon train, had been wholly forgotten; and it now turns out that the Duke of Newcastle, having sent the army there in September—having always intended to send it there—just discovered—three weeks ago—that a waggon train was necessary, and accordingly telegraphed to Colonel M'Murdo to come over, who, I believe, remained here for three weeks.
§ MR. S. HERBERT
said, a waggon train did exist, but it was under the Commissariat until the alteration to which the hon. Gentleman referred had been made.
§ MR. H. DRUMMOND
The army remained for a considerable time in that unhealthy place Varna, no one knows why. Sending an army without a waggon train is like sending a ship to sea without masts or steam. An army is not merely a collection of regiments, but consists of various branches, cavalry, infantry, artillery, and the Commissariat. But I am not going to enter into the military question; I shall take the vulgarest-looking view of the whole sub- 1004 ject, for I think that if there had been sense enough in the Government to leave the whole to the management of a private commercial concern, they would have got over this wonderful seven miles. There is no doubt that my right hon. Friend has fully discharged his duty, that he has sent out articles liberally and lavishly, and that we shall have to pay a lavish bill for them; but the persons for whom we bought, and to whom we sent them, never got them—that is the point. The Duke of Newcastle refused to allow officers of cavalry regiments to take their bat horses, because "Colonel Kinloch was gone to buy mules in Spain." Well, Colonel Kinloch did buy mules in Spain. I believe that, for three months after they were bought, they remained in Spain, and I do not know whether they have ever been sent out at all. The inquiry we wish to make is as to how these things came about. How was it, again, that the Commander in Chief did not give the Duke of Newcastle a hint that he had forgotten the waggon train? Does the Duke of Newcastle ever go to a friend's to dinner by railway? If so, does he not ascertain before he arrives at the station whether his friend will send his carriage to carry him the odd two miles to his house. If not, that two miles may lose him his dinner in the same way that the odd seven miles in the Crimea have lost the army their dinner. But this is still more remarkable. Only last spring Lord Hardinge issued an order directing each man to carry in his kit three pounds and a half less than before, promising that that three pounds and a half should be carried at the public expense. Could not Lord Hardinge have asked the Duke of Newcastle whether he had any means of carrying these baggages? We may remember, too, the debates in the House of Lords, in which Lord Ellenborough distinctly alluded to this question of waggon trains, and pointed out either their distance from the scene of action or their inefficiency. But I now pass on to the most extraordinary thing. I lost sight of the army for a time, when on a sudden I found that it had left Varna and gone to the Crimea. What appeared so extraordinary to me was, the war being undertaken for the defence of Turkey, that Her Majesty, this House, and the whole country, should think that the defence of Turkey and the invasion of the territory of Russia was one and the same thing. This invasion of Russia was the more inexplica- 1005 ble, because at the end of the last war the Government desired the Duke of Wellington to draw up a statement upon the military power of Russia, its power of aggression upon Europe, and its means of defence. The Duke did so, and we never heard or thought more of it until he came into office many years afterwards, when he found that the Governments of Austria, Bavaria, and Prussia had obtained the same kind of information, and the three reports were lying in some office in this country. They all agreed upon this point, that however Russia might bluster she could do nothing in the way of attacking the rest of Europe; but that all the other Powers of Europe would perish in an attempt to attack Russia. This appeared to me a very strong reason against our proceeding as we did. But it is still more unaccountable that the army should have been sent into the Crimea without any of the necessary information. The right hon. Gentleman said the other night that Lord Raglan had been directed to procure the best information. They had written to Lord Raglan to procure information! Why, it appears to me that the instructions issued to Lord Raglan somewhat resemble the Chinese proclamation—"Sound the gongs, and drive the barbarians into the sea." Writing to Lord Raglan did not give him the information wanted. Why did you not make our Ambassador at Constantinople procure that information for you before you went to the Crimea? My right hon. Friend has alluded to a letter that I troubled him with; but I also forwarded him a letter relative to a person who was thoroughly master of all the languages necessary for the purpose, and who offered his services to the Government to procure information for them. The right hon. Gentleman gave mea civil answer, and the person was not employed. I know that Lord Stratford was asked for this information in 1853, and that a relation of mine was sent to Lord Stratford, and recommended to him a person who spoke the whole of the languages of the country. Lord Stratford was implored to send this person to the Crimea to obtain information. Instead of which, the army was sent with no knowledge either of the fortifications or the country, the force in the town of Sebastopol itself, or the Russian force in the Crimea. I say this was a most rash and ill-considered proceeding, and that the thing wanted was the information which the Government had refused 1006 to take measures to obtain. It is all very fine now to talk about despising calumny. The only doubt I have is, whether there has not been too much leaning on the part of the Government to the direction of the newspapers, and whether, if it had not been for the newspapers, that expedition to Sebastopol would ever have been sent. You did not know, as I have said, the nature of the soil, the extent of the fortifications, the number of men in the place, nor the disposition of the inhabitants; and so ill-informed have you been, and so ill-informed has Lord Raglan been, that while the German newspapers—no doubt instructed by the Russian Ministers in those States—have from time to time published statements detailing the number of reinforcements sent by the Emperor of Russia into the Crimea, Lord Raglan had no knowledge whatever of the arrival of those reinforcements. The diplomatic department ought to have supplied this kind of information, and our Ministers at Berlin and Vienna ought to be asked why they have neglected to procure this information. I should like, also, to know the truth about the opinions of officers highly placed relative to the amount of force necessary for this expedition. It has been stated by the friends of Marshal St. Arnaud, that it was his opinion that it was impossible to expect success unless the fortress of Sebastopol was invested by an army of 50,000 men. with another army of 50,000 besides to protect the besiegers. I should like to know whether other, and British commanders did not share that opinion. I remember hearing that a strong opinion was expressed by an officer high in our service, who was engaged in the expedition, that the force which invested Sebastopol was not sufficient. In the last edition of a work by Sir Howard Douglas I find that that officer is of opinion, that to invade the Crimea and lay siege to Sebastopol with the force at our command was a desperate and daring operation, and that it was undertaken contrary to the judgment of the chief engineer officer, whose opinion ought to have been taken. But while it would not be difficult to prove that several persons of high authority thought the force sent to the Crimea was insufficient, the course I shall pursue is to give the Government everything they ask in order to carry on the war, strongly objecting to your whole proceedings from begin-Mpg to end. The landing of the troops in the Crimea was, I admit, an operation highly 1007 creditable to the navy. It was, indeed, considering the extent of the force to be landed, a most wonderful thing, and people who think that the landing of such an army upon a hostile shore is as easy a thing as going down to a whitebait dinner at Greenwich know very little of the difficulties of such an undertaking. I then come to the case of the artillery. Now, did you intend from the beginning to invade Russia or not? If you did, why was there no proper siege artillery ready? Only this morning I received a letter from an officer in the army, who says:—"There was not one single 13-inch mortar for the first two months of the siege." Then, again, why was no provision made for hospital accommodation? There were neither hospitals at Balaklava nor at Scutari. And here, again, I wish to attribute no blame to my right hon. Friend. He has done admirably in sending 10,000 beds, but I do not believe they are put up yet at Scutari; while one part of the bedding went to one place, another went to another. The same observation might be made with regard to arms, for while the Minié rifles were sent to one place, the ammunition necessary for their use found its way to a totally different place. I want to know, then, who had command of the vessels that carried these things out, or, in vulgar parlance, who was it that acted as supercargoes to see to the proper delivery of the articles, as well as who it was that ought to have received them—because it would appear that the army has been kept without many necessaries solely because no one had been ordered to receive them. With regard to the Commissariat department, no less grave mistakes have been made there. There were provisions without end at Balaklava, but the army could not get them because no one had the order to give them out. The Commissariat has been, as they say, in the hands of the Treasury. Lord Aberdeen was the head of the Treasury, and is it possible that the whole feeding of the army was intrusted to Lord Aberdeen and the clerks of the Treasury? No wonder, if so, that the troops could not get anything to eat. I have received a letter from an officer in the Guards. [The hon. Member proceeded to read the letter, which stated that the writer met the colonel of his regiment with a pair of saddlebags upon his horse, with which he was going to Balaklava to draw tallow candles for his men, which, it was stated in a general order, would be issued for their use. They 1008 went together to the stores, where they were told that there was not a tallow candle in all Balaklava.] Another general order was issued that any regiment might have potatoes on application. Down the writer went to Balaklava, but none could he get for his men, although tons of potatoes at Balaklava were beginning to decay. Sooner than throw them overboard, the French and Turkish soldiers were allowed to take them for nothing. Why, then, the writer asked, were these general orders given to issue potatoes and candles, except to humbug the people of England? The men, too, he added, were one year in arrears of clothing. It had been at Scutari for months, and it had been promised to be brought up, but it was there still, and the men were in rags. The writer of this letter says this sort of thing has been caused by the country's neglect. I say it has been caused solely by Ministerial incompetence. So, again, the militia clothing has been delayed, until the tailors have lost 10,000l., because Lord Hardinge could not settle the cut of those ridiculous German postboys' coats. An order was sent to Gibraltar for the men there to practise with the Minié rifle. But from the day on which the order was given, until a few weeks ago, I understand there was not a Minié rifle ever seen there. With regard to this Minié rifle, I believe that Mr. Westley Richards went to an enormous expense, and incurred a great deal of trouble, to perfect it. After a wearisome delay, one of the specimens was selected, and what did the Government do? They sent it to Liege to be manufactured, and there they also manufacture Minié rifles for the Emperor of Russia. Upon inquiry, I find that Mr. Filder is still at the head of the Commissariat at Sebastopol, who was the man that Sir Thomas Picton wanted to hang. Again, the coffee sent out was in the raw state; but, supposing it had been roasted, there was no means of grinding it in the Crimea. Again, when the wooden huts were first talked about, the Duke of Newcastle was asked how they were to be got up from Balaklava to the camp? "Oh," says he, "the men can draw them up." They are already overworked by other duty, and it has been calculated that it would take the labour of 2,500 men for three weeks to draw them to the camp. By the last accounts it was stated that some of them had arrived, and that they were being carried up by two planks at a time upon mules, the planks being burnt up for fire- 1009 wood as they arrived, from the unlikelihood of the rest ever following them. The want of shoes and other clothing has been disgraceful. The fact of who is responsible for such neglect in these matters of detail we can only get at through the instrumentality of a Committee of Inquiry of this House, which I therefore think ought to be granted. The original fault, from the beginning, I take to be not so much a single fault as an aggregation of faults, arising from your having despised your enemy too much. Whatever the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) may say, his talk about "crumpling up" Russia like a sheet of paper ran through the country, and people thought that Russia was a little, foolish, second-rate Power, which you had the means of crumpling up whenever you liked. I was sorry to hear the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) say the other night that the Allies were willing to allow Russia to remain a great Power. I wish Russia may allow you to remain a great Power; but if it depended on us to allow Russia to remain great, how came it that our men were fighting in the livery of France? This kind of blustering has been fostered by your speeches at the Reform Club. The appointment of the new Minister at War, with his present powers, has been something like a trick upon the House, because when I put a question to the Government and asked them to give us a Minister at War, it was in the sense in which the appointment had been recommended by Lord Grey, Lord Ellenborough, and the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. E. Ellice). At length we have got the new War Department, but the only consequence has been that my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth has returned to the Treasury bench; to which, however, I make no objection. "Long may he live, and happy may he be." I am sorry to see the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on the benches behind the Ministry. I think a War Minister might have been got at a cheaper rate. But we must have a War Minister, and our whole military operations must be placed under one head if we are not to become the laughingstock of Europe. Another obstacle in the way of the vigorous prosecution of the war is the want of firmness in the head of the Government with regard to his subordinates. The office of First Lord of the Treasury is a very responsible one, and one requiring upon occasion the exercise of much firmness, and if the 1010 First Lord finds a Member of his Cabinet conducting a war which he knows no more how to manage than a steam-engine, it would have been better for him to give him a month's wages and get rid of him. If the head of the Ministry won't do it, then it has to be done in an irregular way, and more damage is done than if the man at the head of the Government does his duty. The course which has been pursued in the present case is unfair both to the Government and to the colleagues of the individual to whom I have referred. There is one other point which I wish to impress upon the House. If we are to get out of this mess it will require no ordinary energy and no short paltry measures. The Government must do a great deal, and let the House prepare to do a great deal in its turn. Let them give the Minister of War all the power he requires—let them pass Acts of Parliament if he wants them—let him be, in fact, for the time, a species of military dictator. That England is not a military Power is pretty clear from the exhibition we have been making at Sebastopol. If we are to remain a military Power, why should not our army remain inseparably united?—why is one half in the Crimea and the other half in India?—why do we cut our military force in two, and why do we not put our Indian force into the Queen's service? If the two were united there might be some hope of the speedy termination of the war. But so great has been the repugnance to this step, that when the Duke of Wellington asked for Sir Thomas Munro to be his second in command in Spain, all his influence was unable to procure the appointment. At that time the Whigs were sitting here (on the Opposition benches), and opposing and decrying the Duke of Wellington. But no one is decrying the present war or refusing the Government the aid they require; and it will be the fault of the Government if they do not do what is wanted. My right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) may rest assured that he is the last man to be found fault with. But if I am asked who is the true culprit, I should accuse, first, the total ignorance of the Government of what the army undertook in going to the Crimea and in besieging Sebastopol; and, secondly, the total incompetency of Lord Aberdeen to conduct a war Ministry; and lastly, the incapacity of the Duke of Newcastle to manage the War Department with a staff composed of Treasury clerks. I hardly 1011 know the Duke of Newcastle when I see him, but I have known Lord Aberdeen long; but it is his amiable and peaceful, not his belligerent qualities, that endear him to all his friends.
said, he entirely agreed with the Secretary at War, when he spoke of the disadvantages encountered by an English army from the regiments being so rarely brigaded together. There was not an officer who had served in India but what felt the advantages of that experience in his profession. At the same time, persons who had only gathered their knowledge from books, had no other idea of a brigade than that it was composed of a certain number of regiments. People might ridicule the camp at Chobham, but he regarded it as a most fortunate thing that this camp had been formed. The French officers who visited the camp had passed a very just critique upon the army they saw there; they said that there could be no finer troops in the world than the men, that the officers of the regiments thoroughly understood their duties, and that the manœuvres were perfect, but that the falling off was in the staff officers, who had no means of learning their duties practically. The only means that staff officers had of learning their duty was when a large body of troops was brought together. The only establishment we had which gave English officers the opportunity of learning staff duty—that of Sandhurst—was in such a miserable state of inefficiency that it was impossible for the officers of the staff to learn their duties theoretically, much less practically. In a few days he hoped to bring the state of the Sandhurst establishment before the House. Government had been blamed for much that had occurred; but he thought they ought to look for the parties to blame much nearer home:—they should rather find fault with that section of the House which had thought it the greatest feather in their caps to degrade the army and navy of the country. He remembered that when the late King first came to the throne the flank companies of the Guards were encamped at Windsor, and there was a great discussion raised as to who was to pay for the ammunition that was being fired away. Within a short period of that time he was present, in company with Lord Frederick Fitzclarence, whose loss must be sincerely deplored by all, at a Prussian camp of 43,000 men. He there saw soldiers learning all the business of a 1012 camp, and the real practical duties of their profession; and he could say, for his own part, that he learned more of soldiering in six weeks than he had ever seen before or since. One circumstance, however, this country seemed to have lost sight of, and that was, that our gallant army, which had rendered itself illustrious as much by the manner in which it had met and encountered the severest privations as by its bravery in the field, was opposed to an enormous force, which had the advantage of being brought together every year by thousands, thus affording its generals and the staff officers an opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with its general management — an advantage of which our own officers were totally destitute. The formation of such camps was the only means of teaching our staff officers their important duties, and he hoped, on the termination of the war, to see them established in this country. It had been acknowledged on all hands that no officers were more anxious to learn their duty, or more zealous in its execution, than our own; but hitherto no means had existed of giving them that practical instruction by which alone they could hope to become proficient. Even our artillery had been unable to practise at long range for want of sufficient space; on some occasions for days, and frequently for hours together, the practice had been suspended at Woolwich in consequence of the passage of ships in the Thames; and, although a practising ground had lately been established at Shoeburyness, it was only sufficient for two companies to exercise at the same time, so that we had no practical means of rendering this important arm effective on a large scale, as was done in foreign armies. The right hon. the Secretary at War had alluded to the commissioners sent by the French Directory to Dumouriez and his army, and he asked whether they were to send out commissioners to interfere with the Commander in Chief, or to give him assistance? Now the French Commissioners had been sent by the Directory to assist the French armies; now, if report were true, a commission certainly had been sent out in the shape of a correspondent of one of the leading papers of this country, who had given anything but assistance to the Commander in Chief. Nobody could entertain a greater sense of the influence and high duties of the press than himself, but be was bound to say that he thought some 1013 means ought to be taken of repressing the evils it had occasioned. He did not mean to say that it ought not to find fault with things which appeared to be opposed to proper management, but he must say that it had given information which must have been most injurious to our army and beneficial to the enemy. It was most painful, go where they would in civil society, to hear the univeral complaints made against Lord Raglan and Lord Hardinge for allowing our soldiers to undergo so much suffering and so many privations; and, really, from the general tenour of the complaints, one would suppose that the only men who cared walling about those matters were those illustrious commanders, whose names and position ought to protect them from such observations. if ever any man born was above anything like shabby improper conduct, it was the noble Lord now in command of the army of the country; and, therefore, when he heard a letter quoted by the hon. Member who had just sat down as having been received from an officer, in which it was stated that an order had been issued to receive potatoes, in order that the press might say this or that, he must say, from his knowledge of the high character of that noble Lord, that he believed it was impossible that he should have issued any order for the soldiers to receive rations which he knew they had not the power of receiving, and the officer, whoever he was, must have been grossly deceived. No man was more esteemed by every officer of the army than Lord Raglan. But what he (Colonel North) complained of was the manner in which things had been sent out, and the improper spirit in which the patriotic offers of our own merchants had been received, and which he could term nothing less than official insolence. On this topic he might allude to a remarkable correspondence between the Admiralty, the Treasury, and Messrs. Collier, merchants of London, with reference to the offer from the latter of assistance in sending out roasted coffee, which, if the House permitted him, he would read. On the 11 th of December Mr. J. Collier wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty as follows—Sir,—From several reports, we regret to find our brave defenders at the Crimea are not so capable of making that much-sought for beverage, a cup of coffee, while their friends, the French, obtain it quickly, the latter being served with rations roasted and ground, while Our poor men get theirs raw, and scarcely resting time, much less for the purpose of roasting and grinding their 1014 coffee, an article so much preferable at meals under the circumstances of cold, frost, and rain.We have the most extensive plant in operation daily for the purposes, and capable of roasting, grinding, and packing large quantities of coffee; being honoured with a most extensive patronage of the trade for forty-one years past, we are conversant in treating the article (the roasting of which produces or destroys its flavour), which could be packed ready for use as fresh as if obtained at home on ordinary occasions.Should your hon. Board consider our suggestion worthy of notice, and have the same prepared in any of Her Majesty's dockyards, we shall be most happy to render any assistance in arranging or suggesting any Nature to assist in promoting the comfort of our brave fellow-countrymen, the gallant defenders of our great nation.Remaining yours most obediently,JAMES COLLIER AND SON.A more patriotic offer than that could hardly be imagined, inasmuch as there was no kind of stipulation that these merchants should supply the coffee themselves, all they wished being to give the Government the benefit of their skill and experience. But how was that offer met? The answer of the Admiralty was in the following terms—Admiralty, Dec. 13, 1854.Gentlemen,—In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, I have to refer you to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury on the subject of roasting and grinding coffee for the troops in the Crimea.I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant,T. T. GRANT.On the receipt of this communication, Messrs. Collier, supposing the Admiralty had nothing to do with grinding and roasting the coffee, addressed the same letter to the Treasury; and he (Colonel North) must say that the reply which they received, and which was signed by Mr. Trevelvan, was a most insulting reply to a very handsome offer.Treasury Chambers, Dec. 22, 1854.Gentlemen,—I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury to acquaint you, with reference to your letter dated the 15th instant, that the coffee sent out for the use of the army in the East is roasted in the naval establishments, and my Lords are not aware that any additional assistance is required to hasten the operation.I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant,C. E. TREVELYAN.Messrs. Collier and Son, 10, Foster Street, Bishopsgate.But, notwithstanding this reply, what really turned out to be the fact? Why, that up to that time not one particle of the coffee sent out had been ground, and it was only within a very short period previously that any had been roasted. Was 1015 it not, he asked, enough to disgust any Englishman to see persons who came forward in a purely patriotic spirit, not asking for anything that might increase their trade, but tendering their gratuitous services, answered with that sort of official insolence? Unless an example were made of some of our departments, he was convinced our army would never get what they were entitled to. Then, again, with respect to Minié rifles, he believed, from a letter he had received, that a large quantity of those valuable weapons were sent out in a vessel commanded by the hon. Captain Keppell. But in what manner were they received? They were put on board at twelve o'clock at night, packed up in boxes, and in such a manner that it was impossible to tell whether they were Minié rifles or anything else. He did complain that when so much time was allowed things should be sent to the authorities at the last moment, and when there was no time to examine them. While he agreed in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the condition of our army, he wished to say that he did not consider the right hon. Gentleman so much to be blamed. The blame, in truth, rested with the House of Commons, who would not willingly grant money in time of peace for military purposes, and, therefore, it had no right to expect the officers of the British army to be as perfect in staff duty as officers in foreign armies, who had great opportunities afforded them of becoming thoroughly acquainted with their duties.
§ MR. M. MILNES
said, he regretted very much that in a debate of such overpowering interest, and one which in itself was a kind of inquisition into the cause of the misfortunes of our army, any accidental circumstances, however important, should have been allowed to creep in. Whatever might be the peculiar circumstances of the case, and whatever interest they might have had in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, he believed that on that (the Ministerial) side of the House there was but one feeling of the deepest regret that he had separated himself from his colleagues. He (Mr. Milnes) felt the more regret at that separation, for, notwithstanding the able vindication of the noble Lord, he could not disguise from his mind that the moment was not one in which that resignation ought to have been made. Sympathising as he did with the noble Lord in many of the grounds of his objections, and agreeing that the choice of 1016 the Duke of Newcastle was most unfortunate both for the noble Duke himself and for the country, he thought nevertheless that there were two courses which the noble Lord might have taken, one of which was that he should have made an alteration in the department of Minister of War the condition of his remaining in office, and the other—which it would have been much more agreeable to him that the noble Lord should have taken—was, that he never should have consented to that appointment. He sympathised, and the whole House sympathised, with the personal feelings of the noble Lord, but what, he asked, was the position of the affair at the time that appointment was made? Was it not notorious that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was designated by the common voice of the nation as the man who was the fittest to occupy that position, and that nobody was better aware of the popular feeling in that respect than the noble Duke? The country had made little allowance for the great difficulties of the undertaking, and the noble Duke, having unnecessarily placed himself in such a position, had been visited with the consequences of the national disappointment to an extent which, perhaps, he hardly deserved. On the great question now before the House he felt justified in making some observations, for, although the speech of his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War was most interesting, it laboured under the unhappy disadvantage that all official accounts whatever, in the circumstances in which the country was now placed, were received by the House with considerable doubt and incredulity. It was so difficult for any one to reconcile the official reports that were made to the House and the country, not only with the private information which they received on the subject, but with the very confession of the Government itself, that he must say all confidence whatever in official reports had ceased. When he read in one of those thousands of interesting letters which occupied the attention of the country every morning in the papers the expression, "How little can the poor Duke of Newcastle know of what is going on," he felt it was but one instance of what was passing through the mind of every man—namely, that the greatest difficulty which people in this country had to grapple with was the official system of the War Departments. He believed that in every department, from the highest to the lowest, an inquisition was required, but he 1017 did not think a Committee of the House of Commons was the best medium through which such an inquisition could be conducted. He thought the investigation should be conducted by a man of character, vigour, and great power, placed in a position of authority in which he could carry it out. His hon. Friend who had just sat down had laid on the House the burden of a great part of the misfortunes of our army; but on that point, which he knew was a very popular one, he could by no means agree with him, because he could not attribute to the reductions in the number of our forces in time of peace the present misfortunes of our army, for he could not believe the organisation would have been more perfect, or the discipline would have been better, simply because the army might have been more in numbers; on the contrary, if our army, such as it was, was disorganised, there was every probability that a larger one would have been no better arranged. He thought it most important at this crisis that they should understand their position, and they should not allow themselves, when they wished to avoid burdening the people of the country with a feather weight more than was necessary, to be open to the charge, "If you do not grant this, you will damage the army." He did not believe the present misfortunes of the army were owing to any such causes, but to a long-continued system of maladministration which required a firm and vigorous hand to grapple with it. It was as easy to call for a great Minister or a great general as for any other man of genius, but they would not get either the one or the other by calling for him: nevertheless, they must do their best, and it was the duty of this or any other Government to "strike and spare not" in this matter, and whatever might be a man's station, power, or social position, they should not regard individual feeling; it was due to the nation to say to any one where there was a just cause, "You must be superseded. You have failed to conduct the operations of the war to the satisfaction of the country." His hon. Friend who had just sat down had commented on the conduct of the press with reference to the campaign in the Crimea. He (Mr. Milnes) could only say that the best organs of the English press seemed to him the only truth-tellers in the matter, and their accounts had been confirmed in all main points by that evidence which the House could alone trust—that of private letters and the private infor- 1018 mation which they had received from their friends in the Crimea; and not only that, but the prognostics of the leading portion of the English press had been in every case fulfilled, and those very warnings which had been held up to them as vaticinations of factious violence thrown out without foundation, would, if properly listened to and heeded at the time, have at least modified the evils which had come upon them. He did not think it became the House or any portion of the country to speak slightingly of what the press had done in the Crimean War, when they saw 10,000l. subscribed for the "Sick and Wounded Fund," so nobly inaugurated by his hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), and for which he trusted he would receive the acknowledgment of the House, expended in a manner which had saved hundreds of British lives, and last, not least, had been the means of supplying with winter clothing a British regiment, which the British Government had sent out without that first requisite for health and efficiency. Ought they, in the presence of such facts as these, to speak with disregard of the press of this country? But the question before the House was, whether they should consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to investigate the condition of the army in the East? In the propriety of that appointment he could not concur, because it would be intrusting, as it were, the affairs of the whole country to it; and, although politicians might say, when a new Government came in they would rescind it, or object to the names, or shift it off one way or other, he could tell them that the people of this country would not allow of such a proceeding, but that if the House chose to appoint it, it must make it a reality. Did any man believe that a Committee of the House of Commons was a proper tribunal or competent to judge of such a matter as was here proposed to be submitted to it? He did not wish to undervalue the effect of Parliamentary Committees, knowing, as he did, the many advantages which had resulted from them; but, in his opinion, no one would contend that they were competent to undertake this investigation. He believed not only that a majority of the House was of his opinion, but that if the Motion was dissevered from its political character as a vote of want of confidence in the Government, not twenty men would be found to vote for it. In the case of 1019 the Walcheren expedition the question was judged by a Committee of the whole House, and the witnesses—he might almost say the culprits—were examined at the bar of the House, and the Government remained in power to be judged by the House. That judgment was constitutional and just; but the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman was totally unjust, and as he (Mr. M. Milnes) had said before, he did not believe it would be entertained by the House. Therefore, he regarded this question as a reality, and if he voted for such a Motion it would be with the intention that a Committee should sit, and not be a fraud and a delusion on the people; but believing, as he did, that the appointment of such a Committee would be unjust, he should vote against the Motion.
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
Sir, I feel the same difficulty in knowing how to vote on this occasion as the hon. Member feels who has just sat down. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the appointment of a Committee is not such a measure as we could honestly wish for, for I think it is one which would fail in its object, and that we cannot, therefore, conscientiously consent to it. I cannot see how some thirteen or fourteen Members of the House of Commons sitting here can judge of the actions of men 3,000 miles off in the Crimea. At the same time, we are told by the noble Lord the Secretary of the Home Department that he considers the Motion as one of want of confidence in the Government. I feel it impossible to give a vote of confidence in the Government, because I think at the beginning they entered upon the war unnecessarily, and that, since they have entered upon it, they have not conducted it with the vigour and ability necessary to bring it to a successful issue. We who think that the war has been unnecessarily entered upon have been placed in a position of great difficulty and delicacy; for previous to the war being declared, and when negotiations were going on, if I or any one else on this side ventured to express an opinion on the question, we were at once told that that was not the time for explaining our views and sentiments, that important negotiations were going on, and that, desirous as we were of peace, we, by giving utterance to our opinions, would absolutely endanger the success of the object we had in view. Parliament was prorogued. When Par- 1020 liament met again, war was declared, and then we were told that we must no longer express our opinions in favour of peace, for that it would be un-English and unpatriotic to do so, war having been actually engaged in. But I do hope—now that negotiations are again on foot, and that the noble Lord the Member for London has referred to them—that I may be allowed again to state my opinion of the war, in order to show why I think we entered upon it when there was no occasion for our doing so. I wish, however, to guard myself from being considered as one of those who hold that this country ought never to go to war. That is far from being my opinion. I have on former occasions, in endeavouring to explain my views of national policy, stated my belief that circumstances might occur which would justify this country engaging in war. I do not wish further to allude to this matter now, because it might have the appearance of party spirit; but I wish distinctly to say that I am not one of those who think that, under all circumstances, and at all times, war is to be avoided. I believe that to be impossible. But what I say is this, that before entering upon a war we should be well convinced of its necessity, and that the aggression is of so grave a nature as to render it impossible for this country to look on and not interfere. My assertion is, that no such occasion has occurred in reference to the present contest. My assertion is, that the Emperor of Russia never intended to seize on the Ottoman Empire. You say that we must go to war for the sake of maintaining the balance of power in Europe. I will show you that that has not been your real object in going to war. I will show you a case in which the balance of power in Europe—if it was endangered by Russia—was equally endangered by France. I will refer to the opinion of the noble Lord the Member for London to show that such was his opinion. In the beginning of 1853 the noble Lord wrote to Lord Cowley—But Her Majesty's Government cannot avoid perceiving that the Ambassador of France at Constantinople was the first to disturb the status quo in which the matter rested; not that the disputes of the Latin and Greek Churches were not very active, but that without some political action on the part of France these quarrels would never have troubled the relations of friendly Powers. In the next place, if report is to be believed, the French Ambassador was the first to speak of having recourse to force, and to threaten the inter- 1021 vention of a French fleet to enforce the demands of his country." —No. 77.If the balance of power in Europe is endangered by the course taken by the Emperor of Russia wich regard to the rights of the Greek Church, I ask was not the balance of power in Europe equally endangered when the Ambassador of France I threatened to send a fleet to Constantinople to intimidate Turkey to make the concessions demanded? I do not see how you can get over that. But again, I maintain that the Emperor of Russia has throughout declared that it is not his wish to take Constantinople. I will not trouble the House by reading the repeated declarations of the Emperor on that point. He has declared that Russia is already too large, and that it is neither his interest nor wish to take Constantinople. You say you do not believe the word of the Emperor of Russia, and that his assertion is so much waste paper. I cannot, of course, make you believe in the truth of what the Emperor of Russia says. That is a matter of opinion. Confidence is no doubt a plant of slow growth. The Emperor of Russia has been on the throne for thirty years, and if his conduct has not inspired you with the feeling that he never yet broke his word, nothing I can say will make you believe the assertion. But if you have no confidence in the Emperor of Russia, have you also none in yourselves? Have you any confidence in France, or in Lord Aberdeen, the head of the Government? If you have, you will perhaps allow me to refer to a passage in a despatch written by Lord Aberdeen in 1829 —a despatch which he has never disavowed, and which was produced in another place last Session. That despatch was written after the conclusion of the Treaty of Adrianople, and Lord Aberdeen states his opinion of that treaty. Lord Aberdeen says—Permanently advanced to the centre of Armenia, into the midst of a Christian population, Russia holds the key both of the Persian and Turkish provinces, and whether she be disposed to extend her conquests east or west—to Teheran or Constantinople—no material obstacle can resist her progressThat was in 1829. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the Treaty of Adrianople was formed, and since Lord Aberdeen penned that despatch. Now, I ask you fairly, if it be true that the Emperor of Russia is so anxious to seize Constantinople as he is now represented to be—if that be the 1022 one thought of his mind, the one wish of his heart—why he has allowed twenty-six years to elapse without doing that which Lord Aberdeen says he could do at any moment without any material obstacle being opposed to him? Will you tell me the Emperor of Russia has had no opportunity, and that he has been waiting for the favourable moment. Can we so soon forget the year 1848, when there was not a country in Europe the throne of which was not shaken to its foundation—when Austria must have fallen but for the very man whose ambition you say now leads him to compass the possession of Constantinople? Was France then, I would ask, in a position to stop the progress of a Russian army in an advance upon the East? Was England, proudly as we boasted of our condition as compared with other nations, at that time able to send 50,000 soldiers to perish in the Crimea, or even to land them at Constantinople? Why, if ever there was an opportunity which the Emperor of Russia might have seized for carrying out the designs attributed to him, that opportunity must have occurred in 1848, and not in the year 1853 or 1854, when Europe was at peace, and the armies of France, Austria, and England were all unemployed. But notwithstanding all those circumstances—notwithstanding the rejection of your own note by the Sultan at Constantinople—notwithstanding the expression of the Emperor of Russia's willingness to accept your own interpretation of that note, and the rejection by the Sultan of subsequent notes, to the expressed dissatisfaction of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, you decided upon declaring war against Russia. And having declared war, what course did you adopt? Why, you sent out an army entirely unequal to compete in point of numbers with the superior forces of your enemy. We have heard this evening described the woful condition to which that army has been reduced—of its want of clothing, of food, of shelter, of everything which it requires. Those wants may, perhaps, even now admit of a partial remedy; but the argument which was made use of by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War in defence of the conduct of the Government, and which rests upon the circumstance that all the requisites for the army have been sent out to Balaklava, is not sufficient to show that for the wants of our troops adequate provision has been made. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said, that it was not 1023 the fault of the Government; and that if a larger army had been sent out matters would be in a position proportionately worse. The justice of that proposition I must beg leave to deny. One of the chief causes why the things which have been sent out to Balaklava are now lying useless in that town is, that Lord Raglan has not men to spare in order to bring those things up to the camp. I had a letter myself from the Crimea as late as the 9th ultimo, in which it is mentioned that the men are obliged to go down from the camp before Sebastopol to Balaklava, to bring up provisions and everything else. A road to Balaklava has not been made, because Lord Raglan had not a sufficient number of men to employ in that service;—had he had 10,000 men to spare he could have made a road. I do not pretend to judge of Lord Raglan's military capacity; but it is obvious that if he or any other general wanted stores brought up, and had men to make the road whereby to bring them up, he would have done so. Nobody who knows how our soldiers have suffered in the trenches, and the losses which the army has sustained, can doubt that fact. I am, therefore, inclined to attribute the greater portion of the evils which have attended this expedition to the Crimea to the insufficiency of the numbers which were originally sent out. But, then, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War says we, properly speaking, had no army fit to take the field, and of late have never had one—that we have regiments, but that we have no army. If that were the case, why, I would ask, did you send our troops against the strongest fortress in Europe, knowing, as you admit you did, that they were unfit to perform the task which you called upon them to accomplish? The blame rests upon the Government that those brave soldiers, who you say were not an army, have gone forth to perish upon the shores of the Crimea:—it was somewhat late to discover that when, as the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward this Motion said, there are 40,000 men to be accounted for out of the 54,000 you have sent abroad. But, amid all the suffering and all the misery by which the expedition to the Crimea has been attended, there shines one bright star whose light is sufficient to dispel the surrounding gloom —that is the unparalleled bravery and devotion of our troops. It matters not where they meet the cavalry or the infantry of the enemy—whether attacking the heights 1024 of the Alma or resisting the onslaught in the valley of Inkerman, or attempting unheard-of deeds at Balaklava—the result is in every instance the same. Still more than all these glorious achievements is the patient endurance of the British soldiers amid the horrors of the Crimea calculated to inspire us with something like confidence in the future. That confidence acquires additional force from the unswerving fidelity of our allies the French, and from the hearty co-operation which throughout this contest we have received at their hands. That our alliance with that brave nation may not terminate with the present war I sincerely trust, though I must regret that it has not had its commencement in the more enduring interests of peace rather than the uncertainties of war. There is one portion of the speech of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London which I heard this evening with some regret. The noble Lord stated, that in consequence of the attitude which has been assumed by Austria, France, and England, the Emperor of Russia was now inclined to make peace upon reasonable terms; and the noble Lord went on to say that he trusted a peace would, in consequence, be concluded, honourable to Austria, to France, and to this country. But the noble Lord did not go on to say that he hoped a peace would be concluded which would also be honourable to Russia. In my opinion we should not limit our views to our own interests or to our own ambition. Nobody has declared more solemnly than the noble Lord that we possess no personal interest, no exclusively personal objects to serve, in prosecuting the present war against Russia; such, too, has been the proud boast of the Governments both of England and France; and acting upon those sentiments, I do trust that we shall take enlarged and comprehensive views of our duty, and have a due regard, as we profess to have, to the interests of all the nations of Europe. I regret, therefore, that the noble Lord should have omitted from his speech all allusion to the interests of Russia—an omission which I feel no doubt was perfectly unintentional; but such an omission by a person of his Lordship's position and character is in my opinion unfortunate; for if there be any real desire to have a peace safe and honourable not only to England, France, and Austria, but to Prussia and Russia, we must take not isolated, but large and comprehensive views.
said, he would not enter 1025 into the causes or policy of the war; it was sufficient for him to know that the country was at war, and that our noble army was dwindling away at the rate of 100 per day, and that it was unclothed, unsheltered, and unfed. He supported the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, quite independent of the question of confidence or no confidence in the present Administration. Taking them as individuals, he had every confidence in them; but as a body, he regretted that they did not display the unanimity which was so desirable under the present circumstances. He agreed with what had been said by an hon. Member near him (Mr. M. Milnes), that a Committee upstairs was not altogether a proper tribunal to which to refer the question under discussion; but when they found the Government admitting that gross mistakes had been made somewhere, and yet did not take steps to effect that radical reform which was requisite—what course was the House to take? If the Government would not do what was necessary, the House must take up the matter and send it before a Committee. As he found that the Government would not adopt those measures of reform which he thought absolutely necessary, he must on that ground support the Motion. He was very much pleased to hear from the right hon. Secretary at War that out of the noble army which had left our shores only fourteen per cent had been lost; but presuming the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield to be correct, that out of that army there only remained 14,000 men, he should like to know what bad become of the other 40,000—how many had fallen gloriously on the battlefield, and how many had fallen through sickness brought on, he was sorry to say, by neglect. He did not lay the charge of neglect upon any one in particular, but that there was gross neglect somewhere no one could doubt—and that was another reason why he supported the Motion. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had alluded to the great difficulty of sending stores from Balaklava. He estimated that he had sent out 107,000 tons of one description or another to Balaklava, but stated that the difficulty which existed was to convey those stores to the camp. Now, any ordinary man of business would not have neglected the proper means of transporting these goods to the camp, instead of allowing them to rest at Balaklava whilst our troops were dying from want. It was 1026 obvious that the first thing that should have been done, was the making a road from Balaklava to the camp. With respect to the transport service by water, it was evident that there was something radically wrong. There appeared to him to be no responsible head. He would take the case of one ship. The Admiralty chartered a vessel, and were the only responsible parties to whom the owners had to look; but unfortunately, under the system now adopted, the Admiralty had very little to do with her afterwards. Now, the Admiralty ought to be the only responsible party for all the goods in such ship, and for their landing at the proper destination. If it was requisite to send out 200 tons of ammunition, the Ordnance would communicate with the Admiralty, in order that a vessel might be provided for the purpose. The same process would be adopted if the War Office wished to send out 500 troops, or the Storekeeper General found it necessary to send out 200 tons of provisions. Such an arrangement was so far well and good; but unfortunately, afterwards, the Admiralty had very little to do with the matter. The Ordnance sent a party to see their stores embarked, the Storekeeper General sent out another party to see the provisions embarked, and the War Office sent another party to see the troops embarked, neither of these parties being responsible to the Admiralty, who chartered the ship. What he desired to see was, the Admiralty solely responsible to the country, not only for the ship, but for the stores sent in her, having proper parties to take account of those stores on their being landed, to send a receipt home which should correspond with the accounts in the Admiralty, and to be accountable to the Commissariat General, through whom the Commander in Chief would know what stores were in hand. But no arrangement of the kind existed at present. It was for these important reasons that he should support the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he had not come down to the House with the intention of taking a part in the debate, but he could scarcely give a silent vote after the speech of the right hon. Secretary at War. In treating this great question he had always wished to avoid mere questions of detail, but, as usual, the right hon. Gentleman compelled him once more to go into details with which the House had been over and over again troubled. He felt that in fol- 1027 lowing the line adopted by the hon. Gentleman he owed an apology to the House. The right hon. Gentleman was generally so ingenious in his speeches that they required following to show what the value of his statements really was. He did not for a moment insinuate that the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman were not strictly true, but they were put in a form likely to mislead. The right hon. Gentleman had attempted to justify the neglect which had distinguished the present campaign by referring to events in the history of the Peninsular war. But they might as well consign all books of history to the flames, if their purpose was not to warn those who followed to avoid the errors of past times. The right hon. Gentleman said, that after Talavera a state of things existed similar to that which now existed at Balaklava; but, surely, if a great Minister undertook a great war, the first thing he would do would be to refer to history to see how former wars had been carried on, and what mistakes had been committed, in order, if possible, to avoid them, and not, when too late, to refer to history to justify failure and screen the guilty. Having to a certain extent justified the errors which have been committed, the right hon. Gentleman attempted to defend them—first throwing the blame on the system, and then, he regretted to say, on the army. If he remembered rightly, Parliament endeavoured last year to compel the Government (as they had to compel the Government to do almost everything) to alter the system by reforming the various departments connected with the army, and consolidating them under one head, and some kind of promise was given that the system should be altered. That system had not been altered; it remained in precisely the same state now as at that period; no amalgamation had taken place; nothing whatever had been done. The right hon. Gentleman then threw the blame on the army, saying there were no officers capable of commanding a brigade. ["No, no!"] The right hon. Gentleman said no regimental officer knew anything about brigade service. Now, after the great wars in India, surely there were plenty of officers who had commanded brigades, and he wanted to know why some paltry jealousy was allowed to prevent the employment of men who had gained experience in our great Indian campaigns? He took the instance of Sir 1028 Colin Campbell. To him we owed one of the greatest victories we had gained in India. His services were at the disposal of the Government. Did they put him in command of a division? No! but in the command of a brigade, under a general officer who had never seen a shot fired, and knew nothing about a campaign. Who were the other general officers? He did not wish to say anything unpleasant, but the time was come when they must speak out. One general officer had been placed in command who had returned from India with a somewhat doubtful reputation. He did not pronounce whether that reputation had been justly assailed or no, but there was no man who would not acknowledge that the rumour must have a very bad effect on those who served under him. Other commands were given to others no less incompetent; and yet there were men who had seen service of such a nature in India as entitled and qualified them to take part in the great events which were now taking place in the Crimea. Then, the right hon. Gentleman said that our soldiers were taken from a class of people who were dependent for almost everything on others—they could not, he said, even make their own beds. Now he begged to remind the House that our sailors were taken from the same material —sailors and soldiers were alike Englishmen. Why was there this difference between them? Because the soldier was reduced to a mere machine. When a soldier entered the ranks he was, in effect, told he must no longer exercise his intelligence. The sailor, on the contrary, was called upon every moment to exercise his intelligence; and that was the cause of the difference between the two services. In the French army the soldier was in very nearly the same position as the sailor in the English navy; his intelligence was called out in the same manner; and no one could stay a week with the two armies without perceiving how far more intelligently the French soldier performed his duties than the English, not because he was a better or a braver man, but because he served under a better system. If they wished to go to the root of the evil they must go to the Horse Guards, and not till then would the evil be radically corrected; it would continue, and be the cause again, as it was now, of half the mischief of which complaint was made. The right hon. Gentleman had attributed the greater part of those disasters, which he was 1029 forced to confess had befallen us, to the want of a road from Balaklava to the camp. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London actually said, that if the Government could have foreseen that seven miles would have intervened for the transport of food to the army, they would have hesitated before they undertook a campaign of the kind. [Lord J. RUSSELL expressed dissent.] He understood the noble Lord to say, that if the Government had been aware the army would be so placed as to have seven miles between the point of communication and the camp they might have hesitated. [Lord J. RUSSELL again signified his dissent.] He begged the noble Lord's pardon and would not further allude to the subject; but it struck him that some such remark had been made. But he would ask, had any army ever entered on a campaign without the possibility of seven miles intervening between the point of communication and the camp? He remembered last year, in the winter, Her Majesty's Government applied to him for information on various subjects connected with the East; among other questions, he was asked if any class of individuals could be engaged as porters, and it was stated there was some intention of engaging Greeks. He replied, that if they engaged Greeks, they would all perhaps run away or be spies; but that there was a nation, the Armenians, who acted as porters at Constantinople, and might be trusted. He was asked by a distinguished individual whether they were Mussulmans or Christians. He said they were Christians, and suggested that, as they were favourable to the Turkish Government, a brigade might be formed of them, to be employed especially as carriers. Of course that suggestion, like many other useful ones, was neglected; and, notwithstanding all the warnings Government received, no means of transport were provided for the army. The right hon. Gentleman said, means of transport were provided, but that the horses were left behind at Varna. Would the House believe that those horses were not calculated for transport service? They were officers' horses. And how were the officers treated? Officers of all grades, many with only their miserable pittance of pay to live on, were required, in order to carry on a campaign in Turkey in Europe, to buy two horses each—in some cases four or five. They had scarcely incurred the consequent expenses, when the army was ordered from Varna to 1030 the Crimea. The horses were left there to die, and not one sixpence of recompense had been received by these gentlemen. These were the several thousand horses which the right hon. Gentleman said the Government had procured at Varna for transport service. Then it was said there was a waggon train. It was true waggons had been sent to the Crimea six weeks ago, but when the army landed in the Crimea, there was no waggon train, and, what was unheard of in war, the officers had to carry on their backs all the requisites for a campaign, even their own provisions. That was not the case with respect to the French army. How could officers do their duty when reduced to be beasts of burden? It would have been better to sacrifice the transport of a whole regiment than to have exposed the officers to such treatment. The result was, that by the time the army reached Balaklava, a large number of officers were dead, or no longer able to serve. The right hon. Gentleman said they had provided a transport service, but the horses were left behind at Varna, and that the mules died for want of food. Surely that was no excuse. Why was there no food for them? The fact was, the Commissariat officers seemed to have a curious idea with respect to these animals—they seemed to look on horses and mules as machines not requiring food. As an instance, he remembered forty mules being sent from Varna to Balaklava without any provender being put on board for the passage. Fortunately, it was a grain ship, and by sweeping up the hold a little corn was obtained, just sufficient to feed the poor animals until their arrival at Balaklava. Last year the Government were told they would be in want of all the necessaries of life in Bulgaria, that the country was almost depopulated and its resources exhausted. He (Mr. Layard) suggested establishing a market at Sinope, and took the greatest trouble to point out how available it would be, whether for an army at Varna or Sebastopol, or in Asia Minor. From Sinope they might have had a full supply of fresh meat and provender, and by a little trouble they might have obtained regular transport service from the people of the country. But no! the Government would not listen to a single man who knew the country, and they made a rule not to employ any one who could either speak the language or had been in the country before. He recommended a gentleman who had been many years in 1031 the country and spoke all its languages as well as he did English; but, when that gentleman went to a gallant officer at the head of a large department on the subject, he was told that it was desired to engage his services, but he could not be placed in a position to dine with the officers; of course the gentleman refused entertaining any further proposals. Why was such an objection raised? Because the Government could not break through the system —they must employ Sir Charles Trevelyan's clerks, men who had never seen service, and who did not speak a word of the languages of the country to which they were going. The Government sent a gentleman to Constantinople to make a report on the country. He recollected pointing out the absurdity of sending a gentleman who knew nothing of the languages or the people, and who was to spend a fortnight in the capital, to report on the state of Turkey generally, with its mixed populations, as different, one from the other, as black from white, and he (Mr. Layard) was met by an eulogium on that Gentleman, and a reference to his Report and its index of seventy or eighty subjects, of which the person could know absolutely nothing. That was exactly what he complained of—that they were induced to believe they had information on matters which people who had lived in Turkey half their lives knew very little about. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had adverted to the large number of transports which had been employed by the Government; but it appeared that those transports had only been engaged in conveying goods to Balaklava and back again without ever landing anything. An hon. Friend opposite had given them an account of the state of affairs at Balaklava, and had particularly instanced the want of vegetables. This was strictly true, for he (Mr. Layard) had himself been a witness to it, and had seen the unfortunate soldiers brought down to carry upon their backs enormous sacks of potatoes and onions up to the camp, which they were scarcely able to move. The provisions might certainly have been there, but had they been consumed by the troops? The House must not be misled by returns of the abundance of provisions at hand. There might be an abundance of clothing and vegetables, but unless the vegetables were consumed and the clothing worn by the troops, what was the use of sending them there? The House had been completely mystified by 1032 the accounts which had been given of the cargo of the Prince. They were told that that unfortunate vessel had all the winter clothing on board, and that the fact that such clothing was there showed that the Government had not exhibited the negligence of which they had been accused. Now, in point of fact, the Prince had not on board what could be properly called Crimean winter clothing; it was such clothing only as the troops might have put on any day of the year. There was no special clothing whatever to enable them to stand the severity of a Crimean winter. There was not a single rag of that description—all that was on board being a certain number of shirts, stockings, and other articles which would have been given out to the soldiers at that particular time of the year, when winter was setting in, in England or in any other part of the world. And now he would for a moment call the attention of the House to the case of the siege artillery. They were told that so far back as the spring of last year the Government contemplated a descent upon the Crimea. For the sake of the Government themselves, he could not believe this to have been the case. It appeared to him to be impossible, considering the nature of the siege train sent out. They had already heard that there were no mortars in the train calculated for a siege of such magnitude as that of Sebastopol. The mortars available were of very small calibre; and there were no siege guns of any size, those at hand being merely calculated for a campaign in Bulgaria, in besieging such small places as the Russians might have taken. But, even in Bulgaria, they would have been unfit for service, as no horses had been sent out with the siege train, and, in conveying the guns to the heights before Sebastopol, they had been compelled to use the horses of the Horse Artillery; and how many guns were there? Fifty. Fifty guns to besiege a place which was the great arsenal and fortress of Southern Russia—which was your Woolwich, Plymouth, and Portsmouth, combined! and then, to complete the absurdity, only such a supply of ammunition was sent out as, at the common rate of firing, would be exhausted in five or six days! Then, as to the hospitals. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War said, every endeavour would be made to fit up the hospitals; but why had this not been done before? Did the Government think 1033 they could go to the Crimea and fight battles there without having any killed and wounded? The French evidently did not think so, for they had already established their hospitals before they commenced the campaign. No outcry had been heard against their proceedings in that respect. On the contrary, their hospitals were admirably arranged, and not one man had been suffered to die from the want of proper accommodation for the sick and wounded. The right hon. Gentleman told them the Government were now about to send out a Commission of Inquiry. [Mr. S. HERBERT observed that the Commission was sent out on the 7th of November last.] That was after many of the disasters which had overtaken our troops had occurred. It now appeared that Lord Raglan had been directed to make a Report to the Government upon the state of the army; but how were they to get at the truth in that Report? Did they think that if they examined the officers they would tell them all they felt? Not a bit of it. And how would these Reports be made? Were they likely to be fair Reports? On the contrary, and very naturally too, would not all that reflected credit be given, and all that was unfavourable be kept in the background? That was the nature of the Reports they would get, and not the least dependence could be placed upon them. The right hon. Gentleman had asked them if they would have them send out Commissioners, such as those sent out by the French Republic? Certainly, if they would have an equally good effect. This was certainly no revolutionary war; but in the case referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the French army was in a state of demoralisation, and it was reorganised and led on to victory, performing deeds rarely exceeded in the previous history of the country, in consequence of the efforts of the Commissioners. He had heard that, through the vicious system adopted by the Government, the medical officers before Sebastopol had resigned in a body. Of course Lord Raglan refused to receive their resignation, but the matter was a very serious one, and it showed bow badly the Government departments must be managed when the medical officers, finding they were unable to discharge their duties properly, were compelled to resign in a body. He had no wish now to enter into any full details respecting the war. He knew, as the right hon. Gentleman told them, that the Government could not grant this Committee, for if such a 1034 Committee were sitting upstairs the hands of the Government would be shackled, and disclosures might be made which would be most prejudicial to the public service and most dangerous to the result of the campaign. It was not, however, because he anticipated any beneficial results from the Committee that he should vote for the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend. He should vote upon it distinctly because he believed it to be a vote of confidence or no confidence in the Ministry, and not because for a moment he imagined that a Government could at such a moment concede such a Committee. He had been told it would be well to let the matter rest now, for the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) had been Minister for War, and that under his auspices affairs would in future be conducted to the satisfaction of the country. But the resolution he had come to would not be shaken, because, at the last moment, with imminent danger hanging over their heads, the Government had appointed the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton Minister for War. That was not the way to conduct the Government of the country. The state of things which had raised public indignation had been going on now for the last twelve mouths; and the Government had been told last year that the proper person for Minister of War was the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. He well remembered his lamented Friend the late Member for Marylebone (Lord Dudley Stuart) making a Motion in that House upon this very subject, a Motion which was resisted by the Government on the ground that they had appointed the best Minister, and now, at the last moment, it was admitted that those who held that opinion in favour of the noble Lord were right and the Government were wrong. But such had been the case in everything. Last year hon. Members proposed an amalgamation of the War Office and the office of the Secretary at War. They were told it should be done, and the House liberally voted 17,000l. on the understanding that the amalgamation should take place. But what was done? A noble Duke, against whom personally he wished to say nothing, as he had the highest opinion of his honesty and zeal, was appointed the new Secretary of State for War. Being inexperienced in the duties of his office, and unacquainted with the details of war, he (Mr. Layard) had naturally supposed that the new Minister would 1035 have chosen as his under secretaries some persons who knew something of the business of such a department; but he found one of the under secretaryships was given to a relative of the noble Duke—a military man who might consequently have had some qualification—and the other to the noble Duke's private secretary, who, as far as he (Mr. Layard) could ascertain, had none whatever. It was really astonishing to see how the public interests were trifled with, and, unless a better system were adopted, the House of Commons had better at once resign its functions. Then, again, the utterly deficient condition of the transport service was brought under the notice of the Government; but nothing was done in the matter, until Ministers saw that the country was determined to have a proper transport service, when they stepped in and consented to make one. Time after time he and other hon. Gentlemen had risen in that House to state that there was no blockade in the Black Sea. Over and over again he was flatly contradicted by the First Lord of the Admiralty, and told that there was a blockade. He (Mr. Layard) told them that the trade in the Black Sea was as open as it ever had been, that many of our merchants had been ruined, and that the commerce was being carried on regularly by Greek merchants; but he was contradicted more than once; though now, when public indignation had been excited, they found a notice issued to establish a blockade from the 1st of February next. Really, this was laughing at the public, and he could not understand how people could allow themselves to be treated in such a manner. Was it true or not that there had been a blockade? It was evident that none had existed, inasmuch as they now found the fact virtually admitted by the Government themselves. The other day a complaint was made that medals had not been given for the action at Balaklava. When Government saw the strong feeling entertained by the public on account of this neglect they at once conceded the matter, and came down to the House to say that a medal would be granted. Now, was this statesmanship, or what was it? If it were, did it not bear out the truth of the words of a celebrated English writer, that it would be of little detriment to the public service to throw a piece of orange peel into Palace Yard, and make the first man who picked it up Prime Minister? Recent events bore out most strongly the 1036 truth of this remark of Mr. Carlyle. Either Lord Raglan was sent out at the head of the expedition, or he was not. If he was not, why throw any blame upon him? Upon all sides there was the same—he scarcely knew what to characterise it—the same sacrifice of public interests to private interests. Whether in diplomatic appointments or in military, he found the same evil system. He could not refrain from pointing out, when alluding to diplomacy, recent appointments at Athens and Florence, and ask if it was creditable, when the very existence of the country was at stake, that they should sacrifice its honour and welfare for private and personal feelings? His hon. Friend the Member for the City of London had attempted to explain away the speech he made some time ago with respect to Austria, but he would much rather that his noble Friend had adhered to his former version. He did not mean to say that Austria would not join the Western Powers, and ultimately act with them; but what had she done hitherto when one word upon her part spoken in time might have saved half of those who had been sacrificed in the Crimea? Did they think that Russia would have advanced beyond Odessa if Austria had been against her? Certainly not. How could he, by voting against the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman tonight, declare confidence in a Government which had proved itself to be incapable, not only of carrying on war, but of conducting the commonest diplomacy, as evinced by the Vienna Conferences? It was admitted by the Government themselves that they had made a gigantic mistake, and had brought us to this terrible position; and he trusted the House would allow him a few moments, while he endeavoured to point out the really critical state in which we now were. He looked upon the Crimea and Sebastopol as comparatively nothing in this great question. It appeared that the Government were now concentrating their energies on potted meat and warm clothing for the Crimea—certainly most important things, but not the only important things to be looked to. What was the real position of the country at this moment? We were engaged in a vital struggle with a gigantic Power, and our army—what little army we now had— was in the Crimea, and could not be drawn thence. In what position did Russia stand? She had upon her Asiatic frontiers a vast army, which it was highly probable, as soon as the warm weather 1037 set in, would march upon Erzeroum and Ears and Bagdad, and perhaps overrun the whole of Asia Minor. If she did so, could we send, or could we induce the French to send, a single regiment to that country? And what would be our position if Russia gained possession of Erzeroum, and engaged Persia on her side? The Government did nothing last year either to induce or to compel Persia to declare for the Allies, and they did nothing till the winter even in the way of sending an agent there. The gentleman they then sent was certainly a man of considerable abilities, one whom he should be glad to see in almost any diplomatic position; but he was not quite the man to send to Persia. There was, however, a man who, above all others, was, at such a moment as this, capable of carrying on our diplomacy in Persia, a gentleman well acquainted with the political condition and resources of that country, with those of India, and with those of the adjacent countries; he referred to Colonel Rawlinson, who, of all men, was the one to send to Persia, and who would alone be worth an army of 20,000 men to the Government. He (Mr. Layard) had strong reason for believing that before long the Government would not be able to bring Persia into their system of policy;—it was only by success that we could secure the assistance of Persia. If they did not take Sebastopol Persia would be against them, and in the course of a year would be at Bagdad, when our possession of India would be, he would not say imperilled, but at any rate greatly shaken. And what was the position of Turkey in Europe? All the Turkish troops had been taken from Bulgaria, with Omar Pacha, the only man that could command them, and thrown into the Crimea to assist our unfortunate army, which, from our own guilty neglect, was perishing from insufficient supplies. To repair the mistakes made by the Government at home, Turkey had been deprived of all defence, and at a time when the Government were actually doubtful of the course Austria would take. He could not believe that she would declare against us; if she did, Russia would be at Constantinople before a single regiment could be sent to oppose her. Even supposing that Russia fell upon Austria, raised Hungary against her, and beat her in a pitched battle, what was there to prevent Russia from going to Constantinople? If she did, what was to save 1038 the army and fleet this country had now before Sebastopol? With such immense dangers impending over us, how could the House for one moment allow the affairs of the country to be administered by men who had shown themselves incompetent in war and incompetent in diplomacy? It would be a crime on his part to vote against the Motion, and thus to say that he had the slightest confidence in those who had betrayed what he considered to be the best interests—the dignity and honour—of the country. For the first time, brave hearts which had never desponded before were desponding at the state of things existing in the Crimea. He had received letters from two gentlemen he knew well, and from whom he had never heard a word which betrayed that they either doubted or feared—letters up to the 8th instant—which stated that at last they must confess things were desperate. This, then, was not the moment to hesitate; and it was only by the country compelling the House of Commons to take the matter in their own hands, and by insisting upon the appointment of men equal to the occasion to carry out the policy of the country, that they could hope for safety. He believed there were men who could do this, and who could save the country. But we must not hesitate—we must once for all insist upon having men who would carry out a policy worthy of the country; for if that policy were not carried out they might depend upon it that England ere long would be reduced to the position of a second-rate Power. It was with these convictions—these solemn convictions—that he felt himself compelled to record his vote in favour of the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield.
§ SIR G. GREY
Sir, it is with deep reluctance that I offer myself to this House to take any part in the present debate; but I feel that I should be shrinking from a public duty if I merely gave a silent vote against the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, and if I did not record in the most distinct and emphatic terms that I give my vote without the slightest doubt or hesitation, thinking that I should be betraying my public duty were I to sanction the precedent of committing an inquiry such as that proposed to us to any Committee of fifteen Gentlemen selected from the body of this House. The objections stated by several hon. Gentlemen in the course of the debate, and by none more 1039 forcibly than the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House—the objections thus stated to committing such an inquiry to hon. Gentlemen upstairs—I believe to be fatal to the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member; and I confess that, deeply pained as I am now to stand here severed, for the first time in no short political life, in any matter of political importance, from my noble Friend behind me (Lord John Russell), I am astonished that any man, who knows what are the responsibilities of office, who has been conversant with the administration of affairs, or who can suppose that he may hereafter become conversant with it, should, upon mature reflection and consideration, assent to a Motion, the only effect of which must be to paralyse the exertions, I will not say of this Government alone, but of any Government whatever sitting upon these benches and conducting the affairs of the country at a most critical period—a period when greater confidence should be placed in the Government than under ordinary circumstances, and when it is essential that the hands of Government should be left free and unfettered, in order to enable them to pursue those measures, which, if they have the confidence of the country, they would adopt with a view to the vigorous prosecution of the war, and the maintenance of the honour, dignity, and best interests of England. I have not the slightest hesitation in believing that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has brought forward this Motion has done it with a view to serve the best interests of the country; but I feel it my duty as a Member of the Government, as it would, in my judgment, have been equally my duty as a Member of this House, to record my vote against that Motion. I do not rest my opposition to the Motion on the single ground of its being a covert and indirect mode of passing a vote of want of confidence in the Government. There are those who no doubt say—"We will appoint this Committee, and then, by a subsequent vote, we will rescind the order of the House for the nomination of the Committee, and thus leave the division on the present Motion to imply a want of confidence in the Government." ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that statement—those who not long since filled high office in the Administration of this country, and who now aspire again, perhaps, to fill those offices which they before filled. What!—Have they no confidence in the Government, and 1040 do they shrink from coming forward and proposing a direct vote of want of confidence? Are they driven to the subterfuge of adopting a Motion proposed by an hon. Member on this side the House, and acceding to a proposition, so objectionable in principle, and objectionable, as I contend it must be in the greatest degree, in its practical effect? Why do they not raise the plain and simple question of "confidence or no confidence," which it is their duty to raise if they entertain the opinion which by their cheering I suppose them to entertain, and call upon the House of Commons to decide to whose hands the Government of the country shall be intrusted? I admit that any man who votes for this Motion, will express an entire want of confidence in the Government; but still I wonder that there should be among those hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, no man of inventive genius enough, or of courage enough, to come down and explicitly avow that feeling by proposing a direct resolution on the subject so distinctly and unambiguously worded as to relieve any man from doubt, as to which way he should give his vote. It is not fair to the Government to raise the question in this form, because a man might vote against this Motion for the reasons to which I have just referred, although he might think that the Government, as at present constituted, is not deserving of the confidence of the House. What is it that my hon. Friend who last addressed the House stated? He admitted that the Motion was objectionable in principle and must be disadvantageous in practice. I, however, rest my opposition to the Motion on other grounds. I admit, to the fullest extent, as my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. S. Herbert) admitted, the right of the House and of the country to be furnished with the most ample information which the Government can give with regard to the state of our army, as well as with regard to the causes of those admitted miseries and evils which exist in that gallant army, limiting that admission of right to this extent only, that every consideration shall be given to what the public interest requires in regard to the degree of information to be given at any particular period of time—for it cannot be denied that a certain degree of information only may prudently be afforded on a particular subject at one period, concerning which, at a later period, more ample information may be safely granted without prejudice to the public interest. My right hon. Friend has 1041 said that he was ready not only to agree to, but to enlarge the terms of the Motion, so as to give it a more general and searching character. Do not let it, therefore, be said that the Government are shrinking from affording all the information which can be given consistently with that public duty, which, so long as I am a Member of any Government, I will never consent to betray for any momentary purpose of advantage. But it is principally owing to the feeling that this Motion involves a censure of a grave and serious character against certain departments of the Government that I oppose it; for, although the department over which I preside is not immediately connected with the conduct of the war, still I stand here as fully responsible for all the acts of my noble and right hon. Friends upon whom the immediate direction of the war has devolved, as if I had been personally at the head of the departments they themselves fill; and I feel that to assent to this Motion would be to cast censure upon men whom I consider to be undeserving of that censure. I am not here, however, to say that no mistakes have been made or errors committed, or that everything has been done in the right way or at the proper time. I am not here to assert that if we had possessed that foresight which past experience would have afforded us, we might not have been able to guard against many of the evils which we all lament; but I believe that those evils have resulted, not, as an hon. Gentleman opposite has said, from the incapacity or the ignorance of any one man, or of any other man, but that they are mainly attributable to that inexperience under which we have all suffered, owing to what we justly regard as the inestimable blessing of a forty years' undisturbed peace. The war came upon us after a long peace, and found us unprepared with that knowledge and that experience which could only be acquired by almost continuous or protracted wars. I am not here to say that a road could not have been constructed from Balaklava to the camp before the mud had so accumulated as to make the communication almost impossible. I am not here to say that hospitals could not have been more efficiently provided, or that the transport service has been conducted in the most unexceptionable manner; but I am here to say that I think it would be most unjust—an injustice in which I cannot concur—to lay the blame of these results upon any 1042 one man. I believe that if any one of us now composing the Government had been placed in the same position we might have fallen into the same errors; for we should not only have laboured under that inexperience which results from the absence of war for many years, but also under the absolute want of those non-combatant departments of the army which were essential to its safety and success, but which had to be created at the time the war broke out. I have thus, Sir, stated what I believe to have been the main cause of those evils and sad results which we are now lamenting. A great deal of the misery has also proceeded from disease, which has been the effect of climate, and against which no experience or foresight could have guarded. What was the first effect of the troops being put in motion after having had their spirits depressed and their health destroyed by being kept in a state of inaction at Varna, where disease was carrying them off in great numbers? I say that the disease in the camp and the scourge of cholera, which, even in this country had its almost countless victims, seriously affected the army by weakening its strength and diminishing its efficiency, and that though the first effect of its being ordered on active service was to raise the health and spirits of the men, yet disease followed them to the Crimea, and continued most seriously to diminish their numbers; and it would be most unjust to attribute these results to the conduct of any portion of the Government. As this Motion has been taken up as a vote of want of confidence in the Government by hon. Gentlemen, I can only say that if the blow is to be struck and blame is to be cast on the Government, strike the blow as early as you possibly can. This is a time not for debate or hesitation; it is a time for action. Let the House come to a decision, and, be it adverse or be it otherwise, to that decision we must bow. I was much gratified to hear the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) pass a well-merited compliment on that department of the administration which is more immediately under the direction of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert), against whom, nevertheless, the force of the present Motion is particularly directed. There are a few points, however, respecting which it appears to me, there exists a great deal of misrepresentation, no doubt arising from misapprehension, of what my right hon. Friend has said. The hon. Member for 1043 Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) has said that the Secretary at War had actually thrown blame, and even a stigma, on the army, by stating that its officers were not capable of taking the command of a brigade. My right hon. Friend said nothing of the kind. What he said was, that our army is not an army in the sense in which that word is used in war, or the sense in which it is used when speaking of the great continental armies, which are kept up in a perpetual state of efficiency for defensive and offensive operations. What my right hon. Friend did say was, that our army is an aggregation of regiments; that its regimental organisation is perfect, but that from the very nature of the duties in which it is engaged in peace, the service is a regimental service, and not that of an army; and that there are many officers, even officers in command of regiments, who, from the nature of the service in which they have been engaged, often a severe and arduous service, have never had the opportunity of seeing a brigade. But, surely, to say so is casting no reproach upon the officers of the British Army. The next observation I have to make is not with respect to any misrepresentation of what has fallen from my right hon. Friend, but a misrepresentation which has been made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury himself with respect to the condition of the British soldier. My right hon. Friend had alluded to the previous habits and employment of the men of whom our army is composed, as accounting for the difference between them and the soldiers of other armies. Is that speaking in disparagement of the British soldier? But the hon. Gentleman goes further, and says the British soldier is a mere machine, and that if you make him a machine you must expect him to be destitute of intelligence. Now, let me quote, in opposition to the opinion of the Member for Aylesbury, the opinion of one, of whom on account of the gallant deeds with which his name is associated we are all proud, and to whom we are so greatly indebted as the historian of the Peninsular War. If the hon. Gentleman has not read this passage, let me advise him to do so before he again ventures to cast imputations upon the character of a British soldier.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, that the charge which had been made against him by the right hon. Gentleman was a most serious one. He begged to say that he had cast no imputation upon the British soldier. What he said was, that as a raw material 1044 he possessed all the excellences of a soldier, but that the system made him a machine.
§ SIR G. GREY
Yes, that as raw material he was excellent, but that that material, in consequence of the system, was so deteriorated that it made him a mere machine. Now, Sir William Napier, in a passage of his work, gives this description of the qualities of a British soldier—That the British infantry soldier is more robust than the soldier of any other nation can scarcely be doubted by those who, in 1815, observed his powerful frame, distinguished amidst the united armies of Europe; and notwithstanding his habitual excess in drinking, he sustains fatigue and wet and the extremes of cold and heat with incredible vigour.There is the raw material; and now we come to the machine.When completely disciplined—and three years are required to accomplish this—his port is lofty and his movements free, the whole world cannot produce a nobler specimen of military bearing; nor is the mind unworthy of the outward man. He does not, indeed, possess that presumptuous vivacity which would lead him to dictate to his commanders, or even to censure real errors, although he may perceive them; but he is observant and quick to comprehend his orders, full of resources under difficulties, calm and resolute in danger, and more than usually obedient and careful of his officers in moments of imminent peril. It has been asserted that his undeniable firmness in battle is the result of a phlegmatic constitution uninspired by moral feeling. Never was a more stupid calumny uttered! Napoleon's troops fought in bright fields where every helmet caught some beams of glory, but"—I am now come to a passage, the accuracy of which I do not admit, as applicable to the present time—"the British soldier conquered under the cold shade of aristocracy. No honours waited his daring, no despatch gave his name to the applause of his countrymen, his life of danger and hardship was uncheered by hope, his death unnoticed. Did his heart sink therefore? Did he not endure with surpassing fortitude the sorest of ills, sustain the most terrible assaults in battle unmoved, overthrow with incredible energy every opponent, and at all times prove, that while no physical military qualification was wanting, the fount of honour was also full and fresh within him!I hope I need not apologise to the House for having read this eloquent passage from so eminent an authority, and I trust, that from this time forth the hon. Gentleman will not venture to describe the British soldier as being composed of a "raw material" which is excellent, but which is converted into a mere machine by the system of the British Army. But, Sir, since this passage was written by Sir William Napier, not only has a great improvement taken place in the habits of the soldier, but his deeds of valour are now 1045 recognised in a manner which was formerly never done, and rewards of merit given, and commissions bestowed upon him with a liberality that was never before practised in the Army. His death, too, is recorded equally with that of the officers who fall in battle or die of disease. The letters received from our brave soldiers now in the Crimea have been such as to come home to the hearts and sympathies of all in this land; and surely it is no slight proof of the improvement that has taken place in the character of our Army, when we find such letters published, equally from the private soldier as from the officer. One word with reference to a misapprehension of the hon. Gentleman in the assumption that authority had been given to Lord Raglan now for the first time to remove incompetent officers. Does he not know that, from the first moment Lord Raglan set foot in the Crimea, or took the command of the army, he had as Commander in Chief, full authority, and would be supported in the exercise of that authority, to remove every officer who might be found incompetent to the discharge of his duties? Or, does he mean that if Lord Raglan conceived he had no such authority, he would not, if he thought it necessary, at once have applied for it? I have thus stated generally the grounds on which I feel it incumbent on me to stand on this occasion by the acts of my colleagues when attacked by the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield —to avow my full responsibility for those acts, to share in the censure which this House may impose on them by passing this Resolution, and to defend them as far as I am able—not from all ground of censure or blame for errors which may have been committed — but stating the case openly, fairly, and honestly to the House, to appeal to its candour and fairness in coming to a decision. This imposes on me the necessity of making one or two observations—which I do with considerable reluctance—on what fell from my noble Friend the Member for the City of London, in the early part of this evening. He has stated with great clearness, and moderation, the grounds which have induced him to retire from the Government of Lord Aberdeen; and knowing, as I do, the character of the noble Lord, I do not for one moment doubt that he has been actuated by a high and conscientious sense of duty in taking that step, and in withholding his vote and support from his colleagues in resisting the Motion of the hon. and 1046 learned Member for Sheffield. The noble Lord has referred to the correspondence that took place between Lord Aberdeen and himself some time in November, and he has also referred, and referred no doubt truly, to the opinion which he says was conveyed to him by his colleagues on this question. I certainly thought he was not at that time justified in resigning his post in the Government in the circumstances in which we were placed; but I beg most distinctly to assert, and I expressed this opinion without hesitation, that, whatever be the position of a Government—whatever may be the consequences which may follow such an act—any Member of a Government is entitled, nay, is bound to separate himself from that Government in any circumstances even of peril to the country, and of deep anxiety and responsibility, if, when he proposes a course of action which he considers essential to the interests of the country, he finds that proposal overruled. I should have felt that I was departing widely from my duty, and that I was taking a course not worthy of myself or of him, if under such circumstances I had hesitated to tell him, "You have stated that you think a certain course is essential to the interests of the country; but, that course having been negatived by the head of the Government, you are bound to withdraw from it." I should rather have said, "You have only one course to take." But in my own defence, and without casting the least blame on him, I must say that I understand that the arrangement proposed by my noble Friend, and to which he referred in one of the letters he read, was a mere arrangement for attaining more speedily the object of unity of action in the different departments of our military administration by combining them into one. His proposal was that the two offices of Secretary at War and Secretary of State for the War Department should be combined, and that the two offices should be held by a Member of this House. My noble Friend intimated at the same time, that if that change was to take place—as he wished that it should—that there was no man the country would look to with so much confidence for holding this combined office as my noble Friend who now holds the seals of the Home Department. But I certainly did not understand my noble Friend to press this change, as essential to the conduct of the war, or essential to the interests of the country. The proposal 1047 was not known to me till about the last day of November, certainly not till after the notice appeared in the Gazette for the meeting of Parliament on the 12th December; and when, in fact, it had been already negatived. Now, I frankly admit that, all things now considered, knowing what the results are, seeing the feeling of the country, and recognising what has been described as the vigorous mind of my noble Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, I wish that when the original appointment was made to the War Ministry, the office had been confided to him. I do not say that even in that case a different result from that which we now witness would have been obtained; but the country would have felt that the man of greater administrative experience and longer official life than any other man was intrusted with the office, and, whatever the results might have been, I do not think the same censure would have attached to the Government that is now cast upon it. But I must say that when I was solicited by my noble Friend to join the Government in June, when the re-arrangement of offices took place, I then understood him not only to consent, but to approve the arrangement by which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) retained the office of Home Secretary, and the Duke of Newcastle received the seals of the War Department. As many of the Duke of Newcastle's colleagues separated after the prorogation, they were unable to give him that advice and assistance which he might have wished to obtain in the very trying duties he had to perform. I speak only for myself, but I certainly do feel that there would have been the appearance of a want of generosity in turning round on a colleague who was acting most ably and laboriously in the office which he filled, and ejecting him from that office as soon as complaints were made and dissatisfaction arose. No doubt we concurred in the opinion that a change might at some time or other be desirable. But I certainly thought it my duty to represent to my noble Friend that he would break up the Government by leaving it, and that, before doing so, he should consider the responsibility attaching to such a step. I was one who dissuaded him at that time from insisting, I will not say on the proposal then made, but on leaving the Government on account of it. Although, therefore, I knew that my noble Friend, in common with many others, no 1048 doubt, thought that some change might at no distant period be desirable, I certainly heard with surprise on Wednesday evening that he had tendered his resignation to Her Majesty in consequence of the notice of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. I feel the deepest pain in being for the first time separated from my noble Friend—I trust it will be the last time we shall be so separated. Nothing could grieve me more than to believe that the rest of my life was to be spent in difference of opinion with him on matters of importance. But I could not, consistently with my views of honour, and my sense of what is due to my colleagues, have acted otherwise than I have done. Do not suppose that I think any consideration for a colleague ought to stand in the way of the public interests; but I did not feel that the proposed change was at the time essential to the public interests, and I therefore felt it my duty to give the advice which in common with others I did to my noble Friend. I deeply regret that he is not here now to share the responsibility of those acts for which he, in common with us, was responsible. One word, in consequence of what fell from my noble Friend, and which was repeated more explicitly by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, namely, that since he left the Government, the very change which he proposed has been made —that, in short, my noble Friend the Secretary for the Home Department has been appointed to the War Department. All I can say is that I stand here, a member of Lord Aberdeen's Government, to defend the acts of that Government, and to submit, in common with my colleagues in that Government, to any censure that may be passed upon it; but I am no party to any arrangement by which any reconstruction of the Government is to take place. I do not mean to say what course may hereafter be taken by the Government. If this Motion is carried, there is of course an end of the Administration—it will become our duty to bow to the pleasure of the House, and to resign our functions into the hands of our Sovereign. If, on the other hand, it be not carried, it will, of course, be open to Lord Aberdeen and his colleagues to consider whether a change in the administration of the War Department may advantageously be made; but no change such as has been referred to has received the sanction of the Government. I know of no such change. All I say is, that I am a Member of the ex- 1049 isting Government, ready to submit to the verdict of the House, whatever that may be. If that verdict should prove not to be a hostile one, with my colleagues, I shall have to consider whether, consistently with our honour and duty, we can continue to administer the affairs of the country, and feel ourselves justified in retaining the offices we hold. I earnestly join, however, in the appeals that have been made to the House, not to keep this question pending in an undecided state for two or three days. Let the result be known at the earliest moment, that the Government may know the position in which it is placed, and time country may understand in whose hands the management of public affairs is to be vested—that the Government, by whomsoever conducted, may be able without delay to take those measures that are required for the safety, the honour, and success of our gallant army in the East.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I wish to state very shortly to the House the view which I take of the present Motion. I am not certain that I should have taken the smallest share in the present discussion if it had not been for one or two remarks that have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. One of these was that this Motion, if carried, will be detrimental to the public interests and to the administration of affairs in this country; the other, that there had been an unwillingness displayed on this side of the House to take that course which would best become us, namely, that, if we aspired to the Government, and if we disapproved of the conduct of Ministers, we ought to have come down boldly and proposed frankly a vote of want of confidence in Her Majesty's Government. Now, I can assure the House on this point—namely, that of aspiring to the government of the country—I have always said in private, and I do not hesitate to repeat in public, that, in my opinion, it would be a great misfortune to the country if the Government were changed at the present moment. It would, Sir, in my opinion, be much better for the public interests that the Members of the Government should reconstruct themselves in such a manner as that they should be enabled to administer our public affairs, instead of causing all that confusion which a change in the Administration must necessarily occasion. In respect to the other charge—that the Motion, if carried, would be detrimental to the public interests—I will content myself with stat- 1050 ing the reasons which induce me to give my vote in favour of the present Motion, which I certainly intend to do. Sir, after the speech made by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, it appeared to me that it was totally impossible to resist such an inquiry as is now demanded, and that the only question upon which the Government had to decide was, what was to be the scope, the form, and the tendency of that inquiry? You have time evidence of the noble Lord, who is the only person in this House out of the Government who knows all the circumstances connected with this war, and who is, therefore, competent to inform the House whether some inquiry is necessary or not; and I must say that, after such declarations as he has made, confirming the accounts which have everywhere been published, it would be a serious disappointment to the country at large—it would create the greatest possible dissatisfaction, if this House were now to refuse to grant an inquiry. That inquiry is absolutely necessary, with the view of eliciting the information necessary to enable the House—to enable time country—to judge of the persons responsible for the mismanagement that has occurred in our army. The daily accounts—at least the weekly accounts, that come from the Crimea are so calamitous—the condition of the troops, if these accounts are to be accredited, is so alarming, the apparent mismanagement of almost every department is so clear—I say the apparent mismanagement, for I am determined not to prejudge this question—while in the midst of that plenty to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War has alluded—in the midst of that plenty heaped up in useless profusion at Balaklava, which is, in fact, the strongest confirmation of time mismanagement of the war on the part of some person, when there is nothing provided in all this abundance for the health, comfort, and safety of the army—I say, under such circumstances, and with so much that is heartrending, and so much that is inexplicable, as the noble, Lord admits, I should have thought the first duty of the Government, when they knew that such was the state of things, and such the prospects of the army, would have been to ask for this inquiry, in order that information might be given to the country to show how far they themselves were free from blame, or who in effect were the parties to whom blame ought principally to attach. Sir, I 1051 should further have thought it was the duty of the Government, in justice to those commanders who, in their absence, behind their backs, and without the opportunity of answering the charges that are brought against them, have thus had censures heaped indiscriminately upon them, to furnish us with the means of defending their character, or at least of knowing how far those characters have been justly assailed. I should further have thought, in justice to the country, now demanding inquiry from one end of it to the other, that the last thing which the House of Commons should have done would be to increase the dissatisfaction which so universally prevails, by resisting inquiry so imperatively needed, and, give me leave to add, so reasonably demanded. These are reasons which, to my mind, are absolutely irresistible in favour of some inquiry, unless the objections taken to such inquiry by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War could prevail—namely, first, that an inquiry of this kind would be seriously detrimental to the public interests; and, secondly, that it implies a censure upon the Government, which, if the House is prepared to impute to it, ought rather to be conveyed by a direct Motion. Allow me to refer very briefly to both those points. The only real argument, the only strong objection, which has been urged against this Motion is, that it may be detrimental to the public interests. Now, observe what is the nature of the inquiry which is asked for. It is an inquiry into the condition of the army before Sebastopol, and into the conduct of those departments of the Government whose duty it has been to minister to the wants of that army. It is not such a searching, roving inquiry as has been alluded to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, which is to continue hanging over the heads of our generals and admirals during the time that the inquiry is going on. It is an inquiry into the past, and into the conduct of those departments to which the interests of the army have been intrusted, with the view of ascertaining why the wants of that army have not been properly ministered to. Now, how can such an inquiry be detrimental to the public interests? Being a retrospective inquiry, with reference to a state of things which is appalling the country at this moment, it is precisely similar to the inquiry which was instituted 1052 at the time of the Walcheren expedition. ["No, no!"] Yes, with the exception that the Walcheren inquiry was made by a Committee of the whole House, or rather at the bar of the House, instead of being conducted —like the inquiry now proposed—by a Select Committee. When I said that the Walcheren inquiry was similar to that now proposed, I meant with respect to its retrospective operation. I have heard it objected that this inquiry would be prosecuted into the affairs of the expedition while it is in progress; but I deny entirely that that is the object of the inquiry now sought; and, if such had been the object of the inquiry, I conceive that the Government ought to have limited it to the past, and I venture to say that this House would almost unanimously have supported them in such a limitation. It is also objected that the inquiry is to be prosecuted before a Select Committee, instead of before a Committee of the whole House; or, rather at the bar of the House itself; but are hon. Gentlemen aware of the immense difficulties which occurred before, and which would occur again, if you were to prosecute an inquiry of this description in a Committee of the whole House? Are they aware that the reporters were excluded from the House during the whole of the Walcheren inquiry because of the danger that might arise to the public interests from the publication of the proceedings? Do they recollect that the evidence produced before that Committee found its way into the public papers, and that serious riots took place in consequence, notwithstanding the exclusion of the reporters? I think the House must see that it would be infinitely preferable to have a Select Committee inquiring into this matter, with the power of closing their doors while the inquiry is in progress, and then furnishing the House with the necessary information to enable them to form a judgment upon the subject. It seems to me that the inquiry which was directed by a majority adverse to the Government at the time of the Walcheren expedition is the strongest possible precedent for granting the inquiry which is now demanded; and, indeed, until you grant that inquiry, I know not how this House will obtain the information which they ought to possess with regard to the prosecution of the war. But it has been said by my right hon. Friend, "You will hamper the generals and those who have the conduct of the war if 1053 you grant this inquiry." Why, I appeal to the House whether anything can be worse or more embarrassing than what is taking place at present with reference to those generals? You have every day anonymous letters appearing in the papers, charging the generals with misconduct, with incapacity, with want of knowledge in their military duties, when they themselves are at a distance of 3,000 miles—when they have no friends here with sufficient information to justify their conduct, and when this House, if it should adopt the plea set up in opposition to the Motion, would in fact deprive them of their only means of defence. For these reasons, therefore, instead of this Committee being detrimental to the public service, it would, I firmly believe, be rather conducive to its interest than otherwise; although I admit that by inquiries of this description considerable difficulties must always be placed in the way of those who have the management of public affairs. We have, however, to weigh in the balance two sets of inconveniences—the inconvenience of interfering with the conduct of public affairs to a certain extent, and the still greater inconvenience of refusing to the House and to the country that information which they now demand, and which they justly demand, when they find the finest army that was ever sent out from their shores reduced from 54,000 to some 20,000 men, or as some accounts state, which I would fain hope are incorrect, to 14,000 effective bayonets. This, then, being my answer to the first objection, let us see whether the second objection ought to prevent us from voting for this Committee. That objection is, that the Motion involves a censure upon the Government, and that, if any censure is intended to be cast upon the conduct of the Government, it ought to be done by a direct Motion. I must frankly avow—although I believe that the same view of the question is not taken by a majority in this House—that I do not vote for the present Motion in the strict sense of casting a censure upon the Government. On the contrary, I look upon the Motion as a proposition for inquiry, in order that the blame may be fixed upon the proper persons, as soon as information is rendered to this House. My argument would be that, seeing that so much damage has happened to your troops—seeing that they are in want of all the necessaries that would enable them to perform their military service 1054 —seeing that they have neither fuel nor food, nor clothing, nor shelter, nor ammunition—not because these things are not at Balaklava, but because your agents and officers have not the means of carrying them up to the spots where they are immediately required—I feel it impossible to refuse an inquiry which would enable us to ascertain why none of these things have been delivered to the troops in proper quantities and in adequate time; and in prosecuting such inquiry I do not necessarily impugn either this or that man's character. I say further, however, that if the Government are to leave the question upon the present state of our information, gleaned as it must be from the public organs, and if they will not furnish us with that information which would enable us to judge more accurately, we must then bestow our censure where primâ facie it seems to be deserved—namely, upon the public departments which are charged with and are responsible for the conduct of the war. Primâ facie the heads of those departments are responsible for the whole of the business transacted by, through, or under them, and it is for them to discharge themselves of that responsibility by showing that they have done all they could do, first in securing the proper supply of all things requisite for the service of the army; and then, in the second place, if that has not been done, then in ascertaining who were the parties to blame for this neglect, and having ascertained that fact, they ought to have recalled the blameable persons from the positions which they have previously occupied. I think, then, the objection that the inquiry would be detrimental to the public interests is not so strong as the countervailing objection that if you refuse inquiry you are denying to this House, and to the people, whose representatives you are, that information which is imperatively demanded, and which, I must say, is imperatively needed. I also conceive that the objection taken to the Motion, on the ground that it involves a censure upon the Government, does not strictly apply; for, although blame undoubtedly attaches somewhere, you would not specify the particular individuals to whom such blame attached until a proper and sufficient inquiry had been instituted. These, then, are the reasons which will induce me to vote for the appointment of the Committee. It has been said indirectly—and, no doubt, it is felt in many quarters—that, if this Motion should be 1055 carried, it will lead to a change in the Government. One word I should like to say upon that subject. In my view of the Government of this country, nothing is more disastrous than constant and frequently-recurring changes. For the stability of the Government, it is important that the same hands should carry it on continuously, as long as they are able to do so in unity among themselves and for the benefit of the public service. I have always held, and I still hold, that, as Conservatives—at least as right-minded Conservatives—our first duty is not unnecessarily to hamper the Executive Government. That is a duty which I think we ought to impose upon ourselves, and a duty which I believe is felt by most of the Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. But there are times when we may think that a Government is either wrong in principle, or that public affairs have been so misconducted that some step may fairly be taken, even by those who are willing to strengthen the hands of the Executive, lest they should be implicated in the responsibility of measures which they feel in reason they are bound to condemn. This consideration undoubtedly leads us to the question—supposing the Government is displaced, how is it to be re-formed? Is it to be reconstructed from Members of its own body, or is a new Government to be formed in its stead? I know that I tread upon delicate ground in touching upon this subject, but the reason why I most regret the retirement of the noble Lord is the enormous difficulty which the Government may find by reason of his retirement in the way of their reconstruction. I do not hesitate to say that reconstruction is the best thing that could have happened if it had happened before the Government met Parliament; but, in such reconstruction, it would be necessary for you to consider how you could have suited the places to the men who were to fill them, rather than how you could fit the men to the places they were to occupy, however ill qualified they might be, to fill them. There is another thing of which I cannot lose sight, and which has been apparent for the last year or two. I cannot conceal from myself that the experiment of what is called a "Coalition Government" has again failed, as it always has failed in this country— not from want of ability, not from want of principle, not from want of integrity of character in the men who compose the Government; but it has failed because— 1056 as no one can have failed to see who has watched the course and the measures of the Government—there was not one mind pervading them; because there was a difference of opinion amongst the Members of it which was sadly detrimental to the public interests. That difference has manifested itself upon almost every great question; it has manifested itself signally upon the question now before us—the question of the war. We have had Ministers in the two Houses using very different language; and, since there comes to be a question of reconstruction, I may say I hope that if you do reconstruct yourselves you will take care that, at any rate, in future there shall be fixed plans, steady views, perfect consistency and unity of purpose. Without that the Government of this country cannot go on, and, whatever may be the injury done by a Committee of inquiry, a far greater injury will result from continuing a Government discordant in its opinions and inconsistent in its policy. The noble Member for the City of London (Lord John Russell), in his memoirs of the great Whig leader of whom he was always proud, and justly proud, to be a follower, has made some remarks upon what a Coalition Government is, and upon its want of success when Mr. Fox joined Lord North. He says, in his Memoirs of Mr. Fox, that when that Coalition Government was formed its Members, by their own conduct, pronounced its condemnation. He tells us that Mr. Fox said, "Unless it meets with complete success there is nothing to justify it;" and he adds that General Fitzpatrick remarked that, "Unless it was followed by really good Government, nothing could justify it;" and then he gives us his own opinion, "The want of this success was therefore its condemnation." Whether or not these remarks are applicable to the Government which we have seen during the last two years history no doubt will hereafter judge. I think its judgment will be an unfavourable one. But, however that may be, I must say that whatever happens—whether this Government is reconstructed or a new Government is formed—the condition of things which has been existing for some twelve months ought not to be allowed to continue much longer; for it is a condition of things which I say sincerely, because I feel it deeply, is unwise in point of policy, and unsound in point of principle—and that it will prove in the end as degrading to yourselves as it is seriously 1057 detrimental to the best interests of the country.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he would compress his observations into the smallest possible space, because he was in hope that, as the division on the present Motion would be of such importance, it would take place that night. He entirely put faith in the first observation of the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke, that it was not his desire, nor the desire of those about him, to take possession of office by any course they might take upon the present occasion; for he could not see how any man in his senses could be so desperately ambitious, or cravingly hungry, as at the present moment to wish to occupy the Ministerial bench. The right hon. Gentleman had divided the question into two parts—one, concerning a censure or vote of want of confidence with respect to the Government; and the other relating to the necessity of the proposed inquiry. With respect to a question of confidence or no confidence in the present Administration, he should be prepared to vote quite at his case, for he could not imagine any one possessing such an amount of credulity as to have confidence in the Administration as it at this moment existed, if, indeed, it could be said to exist at all. He had given an independent and sincere, though critical support to the Administration hitherto, placing his confidence in three of its Members most particularly—the Marquess of Lansdowne, to whom he owed every species of allegiance, and for whom he entertained the highest possible admiration as a statesman; the noble Lord the Member for London, and the noble Lord the Home Secretary. The noble Lord the Member for London had now withdrawn from that Administration, and so far his (Mr. V. Smith's) confidence was withdrawn from the Government; and, excepting the Marquess of Lansdowne, who was not in this House, his remaining confidence was due and given to the noble Lord the Home Secretary. But what did that noble Lord tell the House that evening? Why, he said, "Give us your confidence to-night, and tomorrow we will make a new Administration." The noble Lord said that the Administration was under recomposition; but the Secretary for the Colonies, on the contrary, stated that he had nothing to do with the reconstruction of the Cabinet, and that he defended it as it stood at the present moment. Then whom was the House to give confidence to? Who was 1058 the leader of the Commons at the present moment, and who the War Minister? These were most important questions to know; and if any Minister had risen and said that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was now the War Minister, that announcement, no doubt, would influence many votes with respect to the present Motion. He entirely concurred in the proposition made by the noble Lord the Member for London, that the noble Viscount should be made War Minister; but he was afraid that the proposition might now come too late—and the art of doing things "too late" might be called an attribute of the present Administration. Last Session, at a meeting of political Friends, he stated that the creation of a War Minister was called for, because the country desired the noble Member for Tiverton to conduct the affairs of the war; and he believed that if that noble Lord had been appointed to the office at its first creation, all Europe would have been abashed, and all England would have exulted at the same time. But accepting the Secretaryship for War was not the same thing now as on the first creation of the office; for the reputation of the noble Lord, if appointed to the War Department, might depend on his power to remedy all the evils which had been previously created. He now came to consider the Motion proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who, he regretted to see, was not able, owing to physical debility, to support his propositions with all the force of that intellect which belonged to him. He disagreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down in his opinion that the House ought to vote for any sort of inquiry proposed, because inquiry was desired by the country. As a Member of Parliament, he was bound to consider what sort of precedent he should be setting. The right hon. Gentleman said lie saw no difference between the Walcheren inquiry and that now proposed, except that the former was an inquiry by the whole House, and the latter would be an inquiry by a Select Committee. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot that the Walcheren expedition was over when that inquiry commenced, and that the Crimean expedition was still in the greatest peril. If there was to be a Committee upstairs, who were to be named on it? They would have to inquire into the conduct of fifteen Gentlemen of the Administration through the agency of fifteen other Gentlemen not a 1059 bit wiser on the subject. But how was the inquiry to be conducted? The first person that should be called to give information should be Field Marshal Lord Raglan; then should be called the Quartermaster General, and the Adjutant General, and, indeed, all the persons present with the army in the Crimea who were reputed or supposed to have failed in their duty. But that was morally impossible, or, if not impossible, was impracticable; and he did not think it would be reasonable to vote for such an inquiry. He could not think that the right hon. Gentleman who last spoke really believed that such a Committee could proceed with its business. If the House really wished to inquire, it should send out a Commission to the spot; and, if so, what general would consent to remain in the service while such an inquiry was going on? If the hon. and learned Gentleman had confined his motion to an inquiry into the conduct of the Administration, that (though the motion might be considered a vote of censure) was an inquiry which might have been conducted while the Ministers remained in office. He (Mr. V. Smith) therefore felt constrained, though in very great difficulty how to vote, to oppose the present motion; for he knew the country was thirsting for information, and every person who had lost a relation in the Crimea was anxious to know whether the loss was occasioned by the fair chances of war, or by the imbecility of the Government; therefore it was due to the people that some such inquiry as that should take place. If the war was to be carried on, the people were anxious that it should be carried on with the greatest spirit. They had opened their purses, and refused nothing to the Government. They had exulted when they heard of victories, and had endured to hear of reverses. There was, however, one thing they would not endure, which he was sorry to hear the Secretary for the Colonies state, that because the War Minister had been engaged while the rest of Ministers were taking their holidays, it was not fair now to turn round on him and turn him out of office. Now the people of England would put up with a great deal, but they would not bear to see their destinies trifled away, or this great country fooled into a small one out of compliment to any noble Lord or Duke.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said he had come down to the House from a sense of duty. He publicly thanked the hon. and learned 1060 Gentleman for bringing forward this Motion, as well as the hon. Member for West Surrey for the manner hi which he had acted, and proposed to act. He regretted that, upon the side of the House on which he had sat for so long a time, there was so much of the sauviter in modo and so little of the fortiter in re. He more particularly referred to the right hon. Gentleman who had recently addressed the House (Mr. Walpole). He would remind that right hon. Gentleman that fair words buttered no parsnips. He (Colonel Sibthorp) had never done it, and he never would do it. He had never flattered man, woman, or child. He would give his support to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member, whose indisposition he regretted. Whether that Motion amounted to a vote of want of confidence, or cast a stigma upon the Government, he cared not. With the exception of one or two men—he might mention the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—he cared not how soon they turned about right face and marched out of office. He could not, as an old soldier, but deeply lament the hardships to which our brave troops had been subjected through want of management, want of knowledge, and want of energy. An hon. Gentleman was fearful this Motion, if carried, would paralyse the Government, but, in his (Colonel Sibthorp's) opinion, the Government had been paralysed for a very long time. They had been frozen up. Let that House now break the ice, and see what would come forth. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had retired from the scene and let the curtain drop. When would that noble Lord again make his re-appearance? But he would not say one word more of the noble Lord than this, that "conscience makes cowards of us all." He was rather anxious to hear also when the Queen (God bless her) was to get rid of this inefficient, weak, loose set. He was subservient to no party; he had preserved, and would continue to keep, an independent and a free course—that course to which his duty pointed. This course, on the present occasion, was to support the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which he certainly would do.
SIR JOHN FITZGERALD
Sir, on a subject of such importance as is now before the House, I feel myself called upon to make some observations.
I do not consider the fault lies with the Government at home for the misfortunes that 1061 have befallen our army before Sebastopol. Every requisition that was made from that quarter was promptly attended to. But I do think that all the evils that have arisen to the army have been the consequence of want of forethought with the authorities out there. Was it the fault of the Government that when the Prince arrived at Balaklava she was left outside the harbour at a time of year when storms are so prevalent in the Euxine? I should suppose a harbour-master's duty was to have a vessel freighted with Government stores insured against accidents so liable to occur. No wharfage inspector appears to have existed, and to this neglect I ascribe the loss of the vessel.
The provisioning of the army has been most shamefully neglected. When it was found that for want of carriage the soldiers were obliged to go to Balaklava, from the encampment a distance of seven miles, it appears strange that no intermediate depicts were established on that road, so that the distance the soldier had to go for his rations might be curtailed one-half; this would have lessened the fatigue, and, in some measure, also, the fatal consequences of the soldier being overworked.
The next cause of the great sickness that prevails in the British army is imputed to the severe duty required front the soldiers: what with working parties in the trenches, covering parties, and outlying pickets, and the number of sick—if you can believe the reports from the army, both from the officers and soldiers—the duty falls every second night on the troops, whereas in the French army it comes to one night in five. Now, Sir, if this be true—and I have no reason to doubt it—does it not appear extraordinary that the general officer in command of our army did not make such an unequal proportion of fatigue, falling on the army under his command, known to General Canrobert, and request that a proportion of the Allied Army might be attached to our army, so as to render the duties of our soldier's more equal with those of the French troops, or, in case of an objection, to separate his army; that he would lengthen his line of entrenchments, so, by that means, our line being shortened, the duty would fall less heavy on our soldiers? As the case is represented by letters from the Crimea, it appears not extraordinary that the physical strength of our army should 1062 have given way, and produced that mortality which we all so sensibly feel.
Now, Sir, with this conviction on my mind, that the sad misfortunes which have befallen our army are mainly attributable to the authorities, both naval and military, in the Crimea, I cannot in conscience censure the Government at home for the want of proper judgment of those who were 3,000 miles distant, and to which I attribute all those disasters. I shall give my vote against the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.
§ MR. KNIGHTLEY ,
in reply to the challenge of the Government, that they should have proposed a vote of want of confidence, quoted the language of Mr. Fox when a similar remark was made to him at the close of the Addington Administration. The Motion for the removal of that Administration was lost by 240 to 203, but still Mr. Addington retired. When Mr. Pitt was called upon to take the Government he perceived that the national indignation was chiefly concentrated upon one particular section of the Cabinet—that intrusted with the War Department—and he accordingly removed the obnoxious Members—the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies—and retained the least objectionable. Now very nearly the same course might be pursued with regard to the present Administration; and if the precedent were followed, it would be hailed with satisfaction throughout the length and breadth of the land; for he believed that the people of this country had made up their minds that so long as the Earl of Aberdeen was Prime Minister, the Duke of Newcastle Secretary of War, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite Chancellor of the Exchequer, the war would never be conducted with proper vigour or a safe and honourable peace concluded.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he had hoped that the debate would have been concluded this evening; but if it were thought by a considerable portion of the House that, looking to the importance of the subject, there should be an adjournment of it till Monday, he should certainly not oppose the proposition. He hoped, however, that the House would feel that it was really incumbent upon it to pronounce an opinion on this Motion not later than Mon- 1063 day—and upon that distinct understanding he should have no objection to agree to the adjournment of the debate to that day.
§ LORD C. HAMILTON
said, he believed the great mass of the Irish representatives were still unaware of the resignation of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and, therefore, unless an adjournment were agreed to, it would be impossible that the opinion of the Irish constituencies could be heard on this question.
Debate adjourned till Monday next.
House adjourned at Twelve o'clock till Monday next.