§ MR. ROEBUCK
I now rise, Sir, to move the Resolution of which I have given notice. It is with the utmost sincerity I say I view with alarm my own position. A great question is now to be submitted to the House, and he who has to submit it is totally inadequate to the performance of the task. But, Sir, feeling strongly as to the truth of the proposition which I have to submit, I will shortly address myself to the subject now before the House. I will first beg to call to the recollection of the House the circumstances under which the Committee was appointed, which has led to the Report which, in fact, is the foundation of my proposition. A great army was sent from this country on an expedition about which the country was in profound darkness. That army was composed of as gallant spirits as ever left the shores of England. They displayed a valour which did honour to Englishmen, and, in saying that, I think I say all that can be said in praise of them. That army reached its destination, and immediately there grew up and pervaded the public mind rumours of disasters, distress, and suffering, which harrowed the feelings of the nation. These accounts and rumours came not in consequence of official documents, but from private sources. From day to day the public mind was harassed by dreadful disclosures of distress and suffering borne by our gallant countrymen whom we had sent to fight the battle of England. Great was the alarm throughout the country, and great was the disappointment which pervaded the community. Fortified by the public anxiety, and being myself deeply impressed with the feeling of my countrymen—strongly commiserating the misery of which we heard from day to day most harrowing descriptions—I gave notice, although most unequal to the task, of a Motion for an inquiry into the truth of these reports. How that Motion was met must be in the recollection of the House.
The Committee which I asked for was appointed. I hope the House will permit me to say, and not think me presuming when I do say, I am deeply sensible of the great kindness of that Committee towards myself. In prosecuting this inquiry we only twice came to a division in that Committee—once on the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) to make the Committee a Secret Committee, and the second 955 time on a proposition I made on the conclusion of our labours with reference to the Report. The Committee conducted its proceedings in the most frank and, I think, too, in the most generous manner. Their object was the truth, and, however humble and unfitted I may have been to conduct that inquiry, I must say no body of men could have manifested a more candid desire than they did to elicit the truth, which it was their sole object to obtain, without the slightest intention of creating individual pain, or casting unjust reflections on any one. That Committee came to a conclusion, and that conclusion was to substantiate to the letter every Report that had been circulated concerning the sufferings of our army in the Crimea. I proposed at the close of the Committee a Resolution, which was supported by the majority, I giving the casting vote; but, Sir, I do not think I am disclosing anything which ought not to be told, when I say that the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour)—to whom the country and the Committee are deeply indebted, and none more deeply than myself for the kindness and consideration which he manifested throughout—that noble Lord, when I proposed the Resolution, said, in the Resolutions passed by the Committee, he concurred, but as the Resolutions, with that which I proposed, were submitted as a whole, and as my Resolution contained a condemnation of the conduct of Lord Raglan, he could not vote for any part thereof, although he coincided, in a great measure, with the propositions made at that time. Thus, in reality, the Report of the Committee was not carried solely by my casting vote, but must be considered as the opinions of the Committee as a body. In mentioning Lord Raglan, I hope the House will allow me to express my sincere opinion, seeing that the world believes that I have done that gallant spirit some wrong. Sir, were he alive I would not venture to address this House upon this subject, but, as he is no more, I think I am bound, as an Englishman and an honest man, to express my sentiments regarding that gallant nobleman. That he was a great soldier—that he was endowed with great qualities—that he did good service to his country—and that he has died in her service—are the recollections which hallow his name in the minds of his countrymen, and which compel me not unwillingly to offer this humble tribute to his memory.
Having said thus much, Sir, I hope the 956 House will now allow me to pursue the thread of my discourse. The Committee came to a definite conclusion, and that conclusion was one which directly inculpated the Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government. Perhaps the House will allow me to read the Resolution of the Committee upon that matter, and, as it would seem to depend upon my casting vote, I beg that attention which the Report of a Committee always receives at the hands of the House itself—It appears that the sufferings of the army resulted mainly from the circumstances in which the expedition to the Crimea was undertaken and executed. The Administration which ordered that expedition had no adequate information as to the amount of force in the Crimea or Sebastopol. They were not acquainted with the strength of the fortresses to be attacked, or with the resources of the country to be invaded. They hoped and expected that the expedition would be immediately successful, and, as they did not foresee the probability of a protracted struggle, they made no provision for a winter campaign. What was planned and undertaken without sufficient information was conducted without sufficient care or forethought. This conduct on the part of the Administration was the first and chief cause of the calamities which befel our army.Now, Sir, when a Committee of the House of Commons thus solemnly appointed—appointed, too, by an overwhelming majority of the House—comes to so definite and so pointed a conclusion respecting the Members of the Administration which determined on sending forth that expedition, I think that, as Chairman of that Committee, it is incumbent on me to submit that Resolution to the House; and that to leave it there as a mere brutum fulmen, to be satisfied with the retirement of Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle—for that was the result—is, I think, totally inadequate to the occasion. The Committee solemnly inquiring, came to the conclusion that the whole Cabinet were included in that condemnation, and I am now about to call upon the House to vindicate their Committee, and to say that the whole Cabinet were deserving of censure.
Sir, I shall divide the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen into three separate parts. In the first division I class those who were excluded by the Resolution of this House appointing the Committee—namely, Lord Aberdeen and the Duke of Newcastle; in the second division I include those who may be considered the important Members of that Cabinet; the Members I mean are the noble Lord at the head of the present 957 Administration, then Home Secretary; the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell); the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham); the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gladstone); and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert). All the rest of the Cabinet I consider as the mere herd. They followed where others led; they were like sheep, they went in the track of the one who went before them; but their insignificance ought no to shelter them. ["Oh, oh!"] That they were insignificant I admit. But that insignificance is no plea against the condemnation of this House. They lent such authority as they had to the determination of the Administration, and they gave their voice, if they did nothing more. That was the support which the Government expected from them, and they received it. But, Sir, I say that those who follow Ministers in the wrong must follow them in the condemnation with which the House will visit their superiors, and partake of their shame.
Now, this being my case, it has been, or may be objected that the Resolution which I shall propose to this House is of too sweeping a character—that it would be a general ostracism of every man of mark on this side of the House. Is that my fault? Did I put them in the wrong? Did I commit the errors for which I now ask the House to administer the punishment? I did not the wrong; and if there be anybody to blame for the ostracism of every man of mark, it is themselves, and themselves alone. Sir, I acknowledge the fact, and I am sorry to say that the arrow which I direct will, if it go true, strike almost every man of mark among them; but it is because almost every man of mark has been in error, and not because I direct the attention of the House to that to which I ought not to direct it. They did the wrong, and I ask the House to punish that wrong. Am I to be blamed for the errors which they committed? I leave the House to determine. Now, Sir, I will read the propositions which I have to maintain to the House; my memory is not a very strong one, and therefore the House will, perhaps, pardon me that I refer to my memorandum. My propositions are—1. That when war was imminent they made no preparations to meet a contingency which they must have known was certain. 2. That after war was declared, and before the expedition to 958 the Crimea was undertaken, they took no steps to provide a reserve of force for the army they were about to employ on that expedition, that army being originally in numbers inadequate to the task which was imposed on it. 3. That they intrusted the management of the war to persons whom many Members of the Cabinet believed utterly incapable of performing the task assigned to them. 4. That they ordered the expedition to the Crimea without having taken sufficient steps to obtain information as to the forces by which the Crimea was defended, as to the resources of the country they were about to invade, and as to the conduct to be pursued when the army reached the Crimea. 5. That no adequate preparation of means was made by them for the use of the army, so that the object of the invasion could be attained; the preparation of sea and land transport was insufficient for the wants of that army; the consequence of which wants was that the army had to encounter unparalleled hardships and all its prowess was rendered comparatively of no avail, as the army was unable to move as the exigencies of the war demanded; and 6, that as no proper provision was made for the army while actively employed, so the proper means were not taken to provide due medical attendance and comfort for the sick and wounded of the army. The medical provision for the wants of the army on the field, the hospitals provided for the sick and wounded were alike incomplete and insufficient; the want of provision on this head being a disgrace to every person whose duty it was to watch over and provide for the wants of the army.That, Sir, is the indictment which I have to bring against the Administration; that indictment is, I think, supported by every tittle of evidence that has been given before the Sebastopol Committee, and it is supported by the Report of that Committee. I appeal to that Report because I want the support of the Members of the Committee. My first proposition is—That, when war was imminent, they made no preparations to meet a contingency which they must have known was certain.I beg leave here to remark that this Report was drawn up by the noble Lord the Member for Totness, and what says the Committee on this point? The House will excuse me for what I am about to read, as I do it in self-defence. It is said that I proposed a Resolution at the end of the proceedings of that Committee which had only in its support my own casting vote; now, I will ask the House when I read the Resolutions which were agreed to unanimously by that Committee, which were penned by the noble Lord the Member for Totness, I ask the House what is the difference between my Resolution and those prepared by the noble Lord? In page 4, of the Report under the head of "The conduct of the departments both at home and abroad whose duty it is best to 959 minister to the wants of the army," there appeared these words:The Cabinet appear to have been confident of success. Lord Aberdeen states it to have been their impression that Sebastopol would fall almost immediately by a coup de main. The Duke of Newcastle says that he expected the army, after capturing Sebastopol, would winter there, or else after destroying the fortress, would return to winter on the shores of the Bosphorus. Sir James Graham has the strongest opinion that the order for the expedition was given at the right time, and was executed at the right time. This Report shows the results which ensued upon the frustration of these expectations. Your Committee have inquired what information the Government had obtained which induced them to order this expedition. In regard to this matter, it may be observed that the Duke of Newcastle had, in his despatch of the 10th of April, estimated the Russian forces in the Crimea at 30,000 men, and he believes that when the expedition was ordered no more reliable accounts had been received. Sir James Graham says, however, that at a later period—namely, the last week in July—he had obtained from a Crimean authority a complete account of the Crimea, its localities, its harbours, its roads, its productions, and supply of water, and, what was most important of all, a statement of the force, which was estimated by his informant at 70,000 men, 8,000 of which were cavalry, 40,000 constituted the garrison of Sebastopol, and the remaining 30,000 were dispersed through the Crimea.' Vice-Admiral Dundas had on the 10th of May, 1854, written to Lord Raglan a letter in which, relying upon information which he had obtained, he estimated the Russian forces in the Crimea at 120,000 men. The embassies at St. Petersburg and Constantinople were unable to furnish any information upon these important subjects.It is due to the gallant Lord to have this statement made, to show that he was opposed to the policy, and that the only persons really responsible for the expedition are the Administration who had the management of it:—Lord Raglan, in his despatch of the 19th of July, states that 'the descent on the Crimea is decided upon more in deference to the views of the British Government than to any information in the possession of the naval and military authorities, either as to the extent of the enemy's forces or to their state of preparation.Now, Sir, I simply repeat what has been told to me, and I hardly think that I should be violating any confidence if I mentioned my authority, but I will not state it, although I dare say that it is known to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham). I am informed that the authority on which he relied wrote to him a letter, stating that he had been in the Crimea only once, that he spoke upon information gained upon the most cursory travelling through the country, and that what the right hon. Gentleman called "a 960 Crimean authority," was a person who had only been there a few days. Observe, I speak upon authority, and I see a right hon. Gentleman opposite who, I think, knows the authority upon which I speak, because he stated to him exactly what he stated to me.
Now, Sir, I come to a part of the matter which affects the noble Lord at the head of the present Administration. He was at that time Home Secretary. Under his command was the militia of this country; and I state that, after war was declared, and before the expedition to the Crimea was undertaken, the Administration took no steps to provide a reserve of force for the army which they were about to employ on that expedition, that army being originally in numbers inadequate to the task which was imposed on it. Now, Sir, I charge that against the noble Lord, and I charge it as a great error and no more; but an error may lead to great mischief, and I think that it has done so in the case of the noble Lord. He took no provision in respect to the militia. The army was sent out totally inadequate, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle himself admits. He believes that the army of Russia amounted to 70,000 men, and we sent to the Crimea, at the utmost, 25,000 men. [Mr. GLADSTONE: You forget the allies.] I was speaking of the British army only; but the allies and we together sent a force of 50,000 men. Now, at that time, the right hon. Gentleman believed that 70,000 men belonging to the Russian army were in the Crimea. Vice Admiral Dundas believed that there were 150,000 men there, yet we despatched an army of 25,000 men, aided by a smaller army of French, to invade the Crimea, and at that time the noble Lord who was at the head of the militia took no steps to provide a reserve by means of the militia of this country. Again, I appeal to the Report of the Sebastopol Committee:—From the 16th of September, when the army landed in the Crimea, until the end of October, or, as some witnesses state, until about the middle of November, the troops suffered from overwork and from dysentery.Now, the statement that the troops suffered from overwork, means that their numbers were insufficient, and every witness who came before us—I appeal to the Members of the Committee for the truth of what I state—generals, captains, privates—all concurred in stating that the men 961 were overworked. They went to the trenches for twenty-four hours at a time—I am understating it. If there had been more troops their work would have been less; and, what was more than all, had an adequate provision been made of labour in the Crimea, that seven miles at the end of the 3,000 would not have stood in the way like a great chasm to prevent the arrival of all support and sustenance from this country. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert), when upon the Treasury bench, say that the whole distance between us and the army was 3,006 miles, but that the last six presented an insuperable difficulty. Why, at that time there was there, upon that six miles, the means of making a road the most complete that nature offered; there were faggots in abundance, as well as "metalling"—in the phraseology of road-making, limestone. All that was required were stout yeomen arms. Those arms were not provided; and at whose door shall we lay the fault? Clearly at the door of the Administration which sent an army to do a deed which no army could do thus hampered, thus ill provided, thus "cabined, cribbed, confined." Why, Sir, if they had had 20,000 labourers, could they not have made that road in a fortnight, and should we have heard the harrowing descriptions which we have heard of the misery and sufferings of our gallant troops upon that occasion? Not at all. Well, then, I say that upon the Administration, and upon them alone, rests the responsibility that our army was totally unprovided, that they were inadequate to the occasion, that we sent a force to perform a deed which was totally unequal to the office, and that, instead of sitting in anxious conference endeavouring to supply the want which their own carelessness created.
Parliament separated in August, and there was no Cabinet Council till the middle of October. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) was instructing the population of Gloucestershire, I believe, by certain lectures; the right hon. Gentleman the head of the Board of Works (Sir W. Moles-worth) was shining somewhere in Scotland; and, in fact, with the exception of the Duke of Newcastle and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire, and, I believe, the Earl of Aberdeen—[An Hon. MEMBER.—The Earl of Clarendon.] I am not quite so sure about 962 the Earl of Clarendon; but, with those exceptions, all were taking their pleasure from the end of August till the middle of October. [Mr. GLADSTONE.—Quite untrue.] However, there was no Cabinet Council during the whole of that period. The Duke of Newcastle stated before the Committee that he was in London all that time; and I believe that the then First Lord of the Admiralty was also at his post; but they are now out of office—they have received their punishment. The persons whom I wish to visit are now in office, because they were at that time indulging themselves, and were not looking after their duty. The noble Lord at the head of the present Administration, where was he? The noble Lord the Member for the City of London, where was he? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, where was he? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Works, where was he? Why, I could go through the list; and I ask, why was there no Cabinet Council during all that time? In that interval, be it remembered, the Battle of the Alma was fought—the expedition to the Crimea was determined on and executed. You may tell me that the expedition was determined on before; then, why were you not in London to receive intelligence as to the mode in which it was executed? Why were you not at your posts? The army dwindled away; cold, hunger, tempest came upon them. You were not at your posts to minister to their wants, and I ask the House to visit with severe reprehension the men who so far forgot their duties. Now, Sir, it is in evidence that the sufferings of the army were not attributable to the army itself; that they were not attributable even to the Governors, I mean the generals of that army; but they must have had a cause, and it is for us to inquire what was that cause. The cause, Sir, was that the army was not adequately provided for the operations which they had to perform. They were thrown upon the shores of the Crimea without the means of transport, and although we had command of the sea, and could convey to the shores of the Crimea everything that England or the world could offer, yet our troops died six miles from the shore because there was not an adequate road provided by this great country for conveying provisions and necessaries to its army. Can any one believe, Sir, if we had had a man at the head of the Cabinet, or in the Cabinet, 963 who had the spirit in him which this country furnishes, I would say, to the humblest of her sons, with the means which this country affords of performing everything which human art or science can accomplish—can any one believe, I ask, that seven miles of mud should stand between us and as gallant an army as ever left the shores of England? We let them die like sheep. They suffered under single canvas—there was no opportunity of taking them huts to cover them—cold, rain, snow, tempest beat upon their heads; and the Government of Her Majesty were indulging their ease while those gallant men were enduring such extremes of suffering.
Now, Sir, I ask are we, the representatives of the people of England, to stand idly by and witness such a dereliction of duty? The thought is monstrous—it makes my blood boil. The Government sent forth a body of men to fight the battles of their country, and they sent them armed as troops were armed thirty years ago, notwithstanding all that art has accomplished during the interval. [Sir DE LACY EVANS.—Some—not all.] I am glad that the hon. and gallant General, who knows so well the sufferings of the army to which he was attached, should correct me if I exaggerate; but evidence was given before the Committee that the weapon which is popularly known as "Brown Bess" was in the hands of many regiments before Sebastopol, and assuming one-fourth of the army to have been thus armed [Sir DE LACY EVANS.—Only one-fifth.]—well, one-fifth; but I say that even if one man was improperly armed, it is the fault of the Administration, and the man so armed was a sacrifice to the want of care, diligence, and foresight on the part of those to whom the conduct of the war was intrusted. I say that it is only proper that this House should visit with severe reprehension persons who so carelessly discharged their duties. Now that was not all, for with regard to medical stores, that army should never have been sent to the Crimea unprepared with them, even if the troops were in health to perform their duty; but before the army left Varna disease, in the shape of cholera, attacked it, and then, surely, it was the duty of the Government to provide for it everything which the medical science of this country could afford. What was the description given to the Committee of the wretchedness endured by the troops before 964 Sebastopol? They were described as broken down by disease—disease more potent than the enemy; they slept under single canvas, their legs up to their knees in mud; they were rained upon when suffering all the horrors of diarrhœa; and all the other miseries to which poor human nature is subject were experienced by that army. Was the army, then, properly provided with medical means? I say they were not. And upon whose head must be charged the mischief which I am now describing? I say, upon the Administration.
I now, however, come to a part of the subject upon which I can hardly touch without indignation, for it is said that the Committee has already performed that for which it was appointed. It is said that it has got rid of all the enemies in the Administration, of those who were the cause of the mischief. Now, Sir, for my own part, I am very far from believing that such is the case. It is said you have turned out Lord Aberdeen, the Duke of Newcastle, and the right hon. Members for Carlisle, the University of Oxford, and South Wiltshire, and what more do you expect? Do you want to see everybody punished? I, Sir, say, Yes; I want to see every body punished who deserves it. I think that that argument is unfair to those who were more immediately connected with the conduct of the war. Perhaps, Sir, I may be permitted to say—and I say it in no spirit of presumption—that I think the Duke of Newcastle has been made a scapegoat, that he has been sent into the wilderness with the sins of the Administration on his head. I think that if ever there was a man who really discharged his duty conscientiously, that man was the Duke of Newcastle. He acted according to the best of his ability; he was always at his post; and he was ever intent upon the honour of England and the welfare of the army which was submitted to his care. I say, therefore, Sir, that to throw all the blame upon the Duke of Newcastle, and to make his retirement from office a sufficient holocaust to the anger of England, is an act of injustice to which I will not consent to be a party. I say the same, also, with regard to the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert). No man could have been more intent than that right hon. Gentleman had always been upon the honour of his country, and on performing the duties of his office. I do not mean to say 965 that he did not often do wrong. I think he did; but then I draw the distinction between him and other Members of the Administration, that he was conscientiously endeavouring to perform his duty and was always at his post, and his kindliness of spirit was always pervading the office to which he belonged. I say that that right hon. Gentleman and the Duke of Newcastle acted to the best of their abilities for the welfare of England, and that they should be offered up as a sacrifice for the sins of the rest of the Administration is an act of injustice which I think that this House cannot but disapprove, when there are those who have done the injury still holding the seals of power, while the least guilty have gone out of office. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham) I hope he will excuse me saying that I think he made some serious mistakes. I think he made a grave mistake in building large ships of war, when, in my opinion, he ought to have built marine batteries of small vessels, but at the same time there was about him a desire to do his duty, which does not appear to me to have been evinced by the other Members of the Administration. Therefore, that these people should be out is to me no satisfaction. I am rejoiced that any man who did wrong is out, but that is not enough. I want all who have done wrong to be out. I may be wrong in that wish of mine, but it is one in which I hope the House will coincide. As I said at the commencement, this is a grave subject that requires strength beyond mine to carry it properly through; but I am buoyed up by the greatness of the occasion, and the feeble body is borne up by the indignant spirit within me. I have seen a great army of Englishmen falling away and melting to destruction; and I have seen that, in consequence of the errors and supineness of the Administration. I have seen those persons come back to office wholly unstained even by public opinion, and not stricken by the opinion of this House. It is now manifest that the Administration which I wish to censure have been guilty of wrong, and whether the result of carrying my Resolution be to transfer power from one to the other side of the House is to me a matter of total indifference. All that I wish for is justice; all that I desire is to see that we shall never again be in the position of calling on a body of our brave fellow-countrymen, and at the same time sit here night after 966 night faced by a body of men by whose supineness and errors they are being consigned to an untimely grave. In this spirit I have moved the Resolution which I now, Sir, place in your hands. I am aware that I have inadequately performed the duty which I have undertaken, but I have done so to the best of my ability, and I now leave the question to the decision of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That this House, deeply lamenting the sufferings of our Army during the Winter Campaign in the Crimea, and coinciding with the Resolution of their Committee, that the conduct of the Administration was the first and chief cause of the calamities which befel that Army, do here by visit with severe reprehension every Member of that Cabinet whose Counsels led to such disastrous results.
Sir, in moving the previous question, I would observe that the Resolution which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has placed in your hands, in the first place, calls upon this House to express a deep feeling of regret at the sufferings of our army during the winter campaign in the Crimea. To that portion of the Resolution I am sure that every Member of this House will cordially assent, and, I think, would also be willing to add some expression of admiration for the fortitude which that army displayed during all its privations. The Resolution, however, goes on to say that the House, coinciding with the Resolution of their Committee, that the conduct of the Administration was the first and chief cause of the calamities which befell that army, do hereby visit with severe reprehension every Member of that Cabinet whose counsels led to such disastrous results. Before the House consents to agree to that Resolution, it ought to consider what are the principal considerations which it embodies. Now, Sir, I think that, if the words of the Resolution convey any meaning at all, that meaning is an expression condemnatory of the policy of the expedition to the Crimea. Now I, for one, am not prepared to come to that conclusion, or to condemn the policy of that expedition. I voted against that Resolution in the Committee, and I certainly am not prepared to adopt it now. It is perfectly true that little was known of the state of the Russian army, or of the Russian fortresses in the Crimea; but if no expedition was to be undertaken until full and accurate information on these points was obtained, I venture to say that the allied armies would have attempted nothing 967 at all against a country so situated as Russia. No great object can be gained without running some risk it its attainment. The best test, however, of the expedition to the Crimea is, that there was a better chance of success on the first landing of the army than there has ever been since; that is, there was a better chance of taking Sebastopol by a coup de main—a sudden assault—than by a protracted siege or campaign in the field. There is another point to be considered, and that is, the state of the allied armies at that time. They had been depressed by sickness and inaction, and it was absolutely necessary that some means should be resorted to in order to restore their spirits. Above all, however, the state of public feeling at home must be looked to. Throughout this country there was a general opinion that some blow ought to be struck; and, I will venture to say, that if nothing had been attempted we should have been called upon to condemn the Government for not doing that which we are now asked to pass a vote of censure upon them for doing. But, independently of the policy of sending our army to the Crimea, the hon. and learned Gentleman has made great complaints that the army, upon its arrival there, was not provided with sufficient land transport. Now, I speak with great deference in the presence of the hon. and gallant General, (Sir De Lacy Evans), but I do not concur in the blame cast upon the authorities in this respect. I believe the great object of the expedition to the Crimea was to land, in the first instance, the greatest possible number of combatants; and, even if we could have had greater naval transport at our command, it would have been far better to employ it in conveying more troops and more cavalry than in supplying the means of land transport in the first instance. It has always appeared to me that the reason the army did not advance immediately after the battle of the Alma was not from the want of land transport, but from the necessity of protecting the wounded; and I have little doubt that if the forces of the allies had been enabled to have advanced at once the result of that glorious battle would have been the immediate fall of Sebastopol. That, however, is a point on which I think neither the hon. and learned Member nor myself are competent judges. Well, although I do not blame the policy of the expedition to the Crimea, I must say, that I cannot observe in it any of that sagacity 968 which the hon. and gallant Member for Cambridge (Colonel Adair) refers to in his Resolution. It is quite evident that the Government looked forward to only one result of the expedition, and that a successful one. It was not until after the 18th of October that the failure of the allied armies to produce the anticipated result first opened the eyes of the commanders to the fact that a long and protracted siege would be necessary, and not only to that fact, but to the still more lamentable one that if they could not succeed in their enterprise, neither could they withdraw. The allied armies were forced to encounter a winter in the Crimea, and that they were subjected to the misfortunes which consequently befel them was not a matter of policy, but necessity. Then, again, the great cause of these calamities—the cause to which I have ever attributed all the sufferings to which our troops were exposed—was from our having commenced great military operations with inadequate means. Did not the Government, in the first instance, send out a greater army than the reduced state of our establishment permitted of? It is perfectly true that the Duke of Wellington advised this country never to enter into a little war; but even a greater misfortune than entering upon a little war is to enter upon a great war with little means. In the first place, you sent out every available man you could lay your hands upon, having no reserve to fall back on for the supply of those casualties which sickness and engagements with the enemy are sure to entail. I am fully borne out in that description of the state of the army by a paragraph in a memorandum of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sidney Herbert) the then Secretary at War. That memorandum, which is dated November 17, 1854, has reference to the increase of the army, and this is the description which the right hon. Gentleman gives—England has not usually been very successful at the commencement of her wars, for the reason that she does not in the time of peace maintain an army large enough to be capable of lasting as well as sudden extension. It is possible, as this year has shown, to create, at very short notice, a very efficient and, for us, considerable army; but it is quite another thing to maintain those numbers and that efficiency. The army of the East has been created by discounting the future. Every regiment at home or within reach, and not forming part of that army, has been robbed to complete it; the depôts of the regiments under Lord Raglan have been similarly treated.I think that fully bears me out in saying 969 that there is no very great proof of sagacity in the policy which sent out so much larger a force than you had reserves to keep up. But, although I think the Government were ill-advised in giving way to the cry raised in this House, throughout the country, and by the press—for it was in this way that the Government were urged on to this undertaking—I will not condemn them on that ground, for I believe their mistakes originated in their desire vigorously to carry on the war, and I infinitely prefer such a determination to the more peaceful spirit which was evinced by some Members of the Cabinet; but you have no doubt placed yourselves in a position from which you cannot recede, and I believe there is not a man in this House who does not wish that every exertion should be made in order to carry out the objects for which our gallant army and that of our brave ally have so nobly fought. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman it is from no party motive that I will not agree to his proposition. I have recorded my party predilection by the vote I gave on the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) the professed object of which Resolution was to turn out the Government; and I did so, Sir, because I believe the time has arrived when a better, because a stronger, Government could be formed from this (the Opposition) side of the House. But, although entertaining this party feeling, I never will be a party to casting a censure upon honourable men, who, in my belief, have exerted themselves to the utmost of their power in performing the duties of their office. I believe that far too much of this sort of blame has been cast upon individuals in the course of our proceedings in the Committee, and I am certain that some of our best public servants are deeply hurt by the insinuations thrown upon them in the course of that inquiry. I have in my hands a letter from the late Lieutenant General of the Ordnance, an officer whose character is far too high and whose services are too well known to render it necessary for me to dwell upon them. He writes to me to request that I will take any opportunity which the forms of the House admit of to vindicate his character from what appears to him to be an unfair attack. He says—It has caused me considerable annoyance to be exposed to such a charge from so high an authority, (Sebastopol Committee) after a prolonged service in which I have endeavoured 970 faithfully to discharge my duty, and (as I hoped, until now, it was allowed) with credit to myself. After a perusal of the Report I only find one point upon which any ground of censure is directly applied to me, and that is the charge that, 'from the language of Sir Hew Ross, it would seem that he was imperfectly acquainted with the constitution of the Board of which he was a Member.' This I emphatically deny, for I had made myself perfectly acquainted with my duties, both as Lieutenant General and as a Board officer. The difficulties of my position early called my attention to these points, and had the examination been carried further to give me an opportunity of explanation, I should only have illustrated the evidence of Colonel Anson in 1849, which went to prove that though one Board officer may constitute a Board, yet that for all important questions the signature of a second officer is desirable, and in some cases indispensable.As a Member of the Board of Ordnance for five years, I can state my cordial agreement with the evidence given by the gallant officer. Sir Hew Ross then goes on to say—With regard to the general censure on the Members of the Board, whatever may have been the differences that existed, my conscience acquits me of any 'want of judgment and temper,' and I can with confidence appeal to my colleagues whether, except on the question of discipline in the laboratory, I was involed in any difference with either.But by far the best testimony that can be borne to the services of Sir Hew Ross is the evidence taken before the Committee as to the state of the artillery sent to the Crimea. It will be remembered that Captain Shakspeare and Viscount Hardinge both spoke in high terms of the state of the artillery, its equipment, and everything belonging to that department; and I have here a letter from Lord Raglan to Sir Hew Ross, dated June 1, 1855, in which he says—I observe that blame is freely thrown upon the Ordnance. Now, my belief is that the Board have done better than any other department. The artillery are well equipped here; the men had what was requisite for them sooner than the rest of the army, and altogether they seem to have done everything that was possible for the service.But if injustice has been done in the case of those who were present to speak for themselves, what shall be said of those accused behind their backs, and who knew not what were the charges made against them? Too many of these, alas ! have been removed from among us, and are indifferent now both to your censure and your praise; but I fear their last moments were embittered by the thought that their services were so little appreciated. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) 971 gave himself credit for great moral courage in the attacks he has made upon everybody. I am perfectly certain that the hon. and learned Gentleman in the attacks which he has made has done nothing but what he considered to be his duty, and I feel assured that in the course which he has taken he thought that he was acting up to the wishes of his constituents and of the country at large. But, depend upon it, the people of this country are too generous and too just to approve, in their calm and sober moments, what is so contrary to the principles of justice. The very Committee that was appointed shrank from such a step, and when the hon. and learned Gentleman proposed a Resolution to condemn the conduct of Lord Raglan he was only enabled to secure the support of one hon. Gentleman. And, suppose that these Resolutions had been carried, what would have been the answer given to them, and how would they have been received by that army now deploring the loss of their chief and perilling their lives before Sebastopol? What would have been their answer to the charge that Lord Raglan had no sympathy with and neglected the men placed under his charge? With the permission of the House, I will read two letters upon this question, not from staff officers, or from men who had any interest or connection with Lord Raglan, but from regimental officers, doing their duty in the trenches. The first is from an officer in the 34th Regiment—a regiment which has suffered as much as any regiment in Her Majesty's service. He says—Poor Lord Raglan died last night very unexpectedly, which has put us all out of spirits, for he was universally liked, and the men would have done anything for him.Another officer says—By Lord Raglan's death the British army has suffered a greater loss than it has had yet to encounter. Throughout the army, as far as I can hear, there is but one universal expression of regret. If those who have been so lavish of their virulent, scurrilous, and undeserved abuse of poor Lord Raglan will now have the goodness to point out a successor who can efficiently fill his place they would save much trouble.Why, Sir, I believe there is not a man in the whole army who is not now lamenting the death of Lord Raglan, and I believe that his great anxiety for the army and what he must have suffered from the insinuations and charges which have been made against him may have had the effect of precipitating his end. But, whatever I 972 may feel with regard to the conduct of the Government and with regard to the state of the public departments at the commencement of the war, I cannot but complain of the conduct of this House in constantly interfering with the executive Government and in pressing forward upon every occasion to make attacks upon officers founded solely upon anonymous articles in newspapers. The very idea of an army in the field being accompanied by a host of newspaper reporters, upon whose statements the Government are called upon every day to institute inquiries into the conduct of the men in command of the troops, and who are constantly throwing out insinuations against those who have undertaken the most responsible duties, is most absurd. Well might Sir John Burgoyne say that the expedition to the Crimea was altogether an exceptional case, and I am perfectly satisfied myself that many instances could be given to show that the interference of this House and of the press has had a most injurious effect. I am not one of those who were very sanguine as to the results to be derived from the appointment of the Sebastopol Committee. I always thought it impossible for that Committee to conduct, as it ought to be conducted, such an inquiry as that which was intrusted to them. I admit the great assiduity of the gentlemen who composed the Committee, and their anxious desire to arrive at a just conclusion, but, after all, their labours ended in a vote of censure upon men most of whom had already left office. Under all the circumstances of the case, I think that the wisest thing this House could do would be to adopt the proposal which I have to make to them, and pass on to the previous question. Without looking back to the past further than to take warning from what has occurred, it should be our endeavour to look forward, and with one united heart and voice to carry on the war with that vigour which can alone insure success.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL,
in seconding the Amendment, said he should offer but very few words of remark to the House. He must, however, point out that there was some inconsistency in the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman and in the Motion which he had brought forward. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman had reference almost entirely to the misdeeds of the present Government, but the words of the Motion covered a much larger ground, and included censure 973 not only on those gentlemen who were now sitting upon the Treasury Bench, but upon a number of gentlemen who left office early in the year. Now, if those right hon. Gentlemen, whatever their errors might have been, wished to know the estimation in which they were held in the House and the country, they had only to go to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, for the hon. and learned Gentleman had pointed out in very glowing language the merits of those right hon. Gentlemen. Indeed, the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert) appeared to be a perfect model statesman, exhibiting in himself the very highest qualities which it was possible to possess. Yet upon this right hon. Gentleman they were now called upon in the terms of the Motion to pass a very severe censure. The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman was not, therefore, at all in accordance with the terms of his Motion. Any vote of censure which the House could agree to ought to be as plain as possible. If they were to censure a Government for the purpose of depriving it of the means of doing mischief, it was not necessary to cast a slur against the private character of the members of that Government, but if they were to censure the private character of any hon. Member, then they must prove a moral delinquency in the first instance. The gentlemen whom they now proposed to censure were not chargeable with anything more than errors of judgment, and he wished to ask the House if they were prepared to sanction the principle of passing an exceptional and retrospective censure on mere errors of judgment? Were the Ministry now in office the only persons who were chargeable with such errors? He heartily concurred in every word that had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member behind him in reference to the merits of Lord Raglan, but would anybody say that there had been no errors of judgment committed by Lord Raglan, or by any of those officers who had served their country abroad and at home during the present war? Were the House then to be called upon to go through the history of the past nine months for the purpose of picking holes in the conduct of every person who had been concerned in the management of the war? He thought that such a principle of introducing what he might call historical and retrospective motions was much to be deprecated, and if they were to begin with the last nine 974 months, he could not see why they should not go much further back. It had been said by an hon. Member opposite that if the Administration of Lord Derby had not been dismissed millions of money and thousands of lives might have been saved to the country, but if some gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House were to get up and propose a vote of censure upon those who dismissed Lord Derby, the House would think him mad. He could not, however, see the slightest difference between such a Motion and that of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and the House might just as well be called upon to go back to 1846, and censure the conduct of Sir Robert Peel. Entertaining these opinions, he felt bound to second the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Previous Question proposed, "That that Question be now put."
COLONEL SHAFTO ADAIR
said, that, though he had been informed by Mr. Speaker that it would not be competent for him to move the Amendment which he, as an independent Member, had thought it right to place upon the paper, it would be necessary for him to explain the motives which had induced him to take that step. Those motives had been commented upon by the public press, and it had been said that the Amendment had been drawn up with all the skill of an adept in Parliamentary manœuvre, that it must have received the approbation of the Government, and probably had been put forward with the cognisance of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). The object of those remarks was to stamp him, for endeavouring to do his duty as an independent Member, with the brand of a hireling, who was ready at any moment to act upon the bidding of the Government. He told the House, not because he thought they would deem him capable of such conduct, but because he would stand clear before the country upon the matter, that he had had no communication whatever upon the subject with any Member of Her Majesty's Government, and there were but three Members of the House who were cognisant of the terms of the Address he had intended to move, and for which he alone was responsible. Not that he wished to leave the House under the impression that he did not sympathise with Government in the matter. He took that occasion to say that he had had placed at his disposal by the noble Lord—to whom he now begged to express his acknowledge- 975 ments for it—an office in the Government, upon its formation. It was neither from disinclination to the public service nor aversion to the principles on which the Government was to be conducted that he had declined the offer, but from motives peculiar to himself and his constituents, and because he did not wish that the Government should encounter the risk of defeat in his person. He was one of those who had voted against the Motion for the appointment of the Sebastopol Committee, and that vote he thought had been amply justified by the results. He could not, therefore, vote in favour of the Motion, which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield brought forward as a natural corollary to that inquiry. No one would suppose that he could be insensible to the fearful sufferings of our gallant countrymen serving in the Crimea, or to the urgent expediency of communicating to the public the earliest intelligence of the measures taken to remedy the disasters that had been brought upon us. But he felt that the proposal for a Committee held out delusive hopes, which could not be realised. The hon. and learned Gentleman levelled his present Motion at the Administration, but its terms covered a larger and wider scope, into which, however, the mover had declined to enter. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the counsels of the Administration; by the terms of the Motion it was proposed that the House should visit with severe reprehension every Member of the Cabinet whose counsels led to such disastrous results. If there was any virtue in the English language, counsels meant something antecedent to the acts which were the subject of discussion, therefore he thought that it was competent to him to introduce into the debate a wider subject of discussion than that contemplated in the Motion. No Member of that House would more readily admit the right that England had to demand an account of the precious blood of her gallant soldiers; but when he was called upon to vote what amounted to an impeachment, he must say that he could not come to such a conclusion upon incomplete evidence. The Committee had declared, on almost every individual head of complaint, their inability to decide where the responsibility rested; but it appeared to him that there were additional means, not touched upon in their Report, of accounting to a considerable extent for the disasters that had befallen our army. First, let it be remem- 976 bered, the siege of Sebastopol was an era in warfare. No siege had ever before been attempted under similar conditions. He did not allude to the immense collection of stores, ammunition, and other matériel in the fortress itself, so much as to the principle upon which the defence had been conducted, which was—and he had the assent of all military men in saying so, without parallel in military annals. It was fortified upon a principle newly introduced, and, except in two or three instances, unknown in Europe. When it was considered that Sebastopol was provided with stores of the magnitude of which no idea had been formed, and for purposes which could only be conjectured: was garrisoned by the picked troops of Russia; and that a large fleet was in the harbour ready to contribute to resist an attack; other reasons than those alleged by the Committee might be supposed to have led to the temporary check which our arms had received. Another point to which he wished to refer, and which brought with it painful recollections, caused him to remark how inadequate all the resources of a well-regulated establishment sometimes were to deal with sudden disaster. He alluded to the painful spectacle which Ireland presented eight years ago, when sudden distress and famine arose there, and how difficult it was found for our administrative system to deal with it. There was also another reason which weighed strongly on his mind. He referred to the system of organisation which was introduced into the army by the Duke of Wellington. When that great commander first went to the Peninsula, his army bore as little resemblance to that which he conducted over the Pyrenees, as the most newly raised regiment did to Her Majesty's Guards. But he adopted a system of organisation, and he did so in intervals of quiet, and when opportunity occurred, and he carried that organisation into every branch of our military system; and he then impressed it with the stamp of his intellect and firm will; and so long as he guided it the system worked well; but, when the power which he gave to it was withdrawn, and a new and unexpected pressure was brought to bear on that machinery, the system failed. It was then seen that the doctrine of responsibility which he rightly infused into the system had taken such entire possession of the mind of all the administrators of the army that it was impossible to obtain independent action on an emergency, and that called 977 forth the remark in the Report of the Sebostopol Committee that—The strict economy enforced during a long period of peace, by means of a rigid system of audit and account, may doubtless, at the first outbreak of war, have still fettered Dr. Smith, as well as other public servants, who dreaded to incur responsibility for any expenditure, however urgent, which was not guarded by all the forms and documents usually required. An excess of caution, in the first instance, led probably to some evils, which a lavish outlay could not afterwards repair.In that circumstance he found an additional reason for the disasters at Sebastopol. He now came to the question of the Amendment, of which he had given notice. The terms of which were—That the counsels which determined the expedition to the Crimea were consistent with a bold and sagacious policy, just to our Allies, and commensurate with the objects of the war; and, further, that perseverance in a similar policy alone can afford hope of ensuring an honourable and permanent peace.Reverting to the counsels that determined that expedition to the Crimea, he would ask what were the elements of a bold and sagacious war policy? They were to relieve the territory of our ally, or the country with which we desired to be allied, from the immediate pressure of war; and to carry the war into the enemy's territory as far from his resources as could be done with advantage to ourselves. If that was a sagacious war policy, he thought the House would admit that those conditions had been fulfilled by the arrangements which were made before the expedition to the Crimea. Beginning with a tentative process, protection was in the first instance afforded to the capital of Turkey; advancing further, protection was given to her frontier, and by the carrying out of that war policy all apprehension of an invasion of the territories of our allies by Russia was removed. Then came the question whether a halt should be made there, or whether operations should be undertaken for the purpose of carrying on the war to an effectual termination. Then it was that the expedition to the Crimea was undertaken. With regard to that expedition, we had 50,000 men under arms, not only not inferior to any, but superior to most enemies whom they might meet in conflict. Such a force was no inadequate nucleus for an expedition which was to work its way into the Crimea, and endeavour to bring it under the occupation of the allies. With regard to the check we had received at Sebastopol, there was a work recently 978 published by an hon. Member of that House (Mr. Danby Seymour) which contained a good deal of information about the Crimea, and it appeared that up to 1837 Sebastopol was almost an open town; but when the allies approached it, it had in many respects lost that character. From the evidence of Sir John Burgoyne it appeared that the defence was protracted in consequence of the great extent of the earthworks, and the amount of guns and stores which furnished materials for the batteries; and it was not wonderful, if even that officer of Peninsular experience was deceived by the prospect held out of the fall of Sebastopol, that the Administration itself was not free from error of judgment in the matter. When the allied armies were placed on the shores of the Crimea, they were, throughout the whole of the campaign, supported and assisted in the manner best adapted to the means at the command of the allies—namely, by the military marine of their respective countries. With regard to the disastrous want of communication with the camp and the terrible suffering which arose, a great lesson had been read to the country, and he was not one who would impede investigation into that subject, no matter what heads of departments or what Ministers might be affected; but there must be a clear finding on particular points by the jury appointed to try the issue, and in no sense in which the hon. and learned Member had preferred the indictment before that great Court of appeal did he find those conditions present. It was with that feeling that he placed on the paper an Amendment, which he could not now move in consequence of the Motion made by the hon. and gallant General (General Peel)—a Motion giving to many hon. Members an opportunity of not pronouncing an opinion, and equivalent, if carried, to the verdict of "not proven" in the Scotch Law Courts. He believed, however, that Her Majesty's Ministers would be the last persons to desire to avoid an expression of opinion on the part of the House, and he regretted that the House would not have an opportunity of coming to a decision on his Amendment. Whether that were so or not, he should not shrink from endeavouring to persuade the House to come to a different opinion. He had reason to think that his feeling was partaken by many Members, and he regretted that he should not have an opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon it. He would 979 now turn, in support of the allegation in his Resolution, to the civil or diplomatic policy which distinguished the Administration. What was a sagacious policy in diplomacy? He believed it consisted in the encouragement of our allies, in allowing for the difficult circumstances in which they might be placed, in exhausting every reasonable means of accommodation, and in gaining to our alliance by the justice and moderation of our views those who might be disposed to occupy a neutral position. The documents which had been given to Europe under the signature of Lord Clarendon were distinctly marked by those qualities. He found in them consideration for our allies, a just estimate of their position, a successful endeavour to bring new aids to the standard of the Western Powers, and an effort, continued to the very last, to meet every scruple that could be urged, in the hope of arriving at a satisfactory and honourable peace. It was not his intention to enter into the late negotiations at Vienna; but he trusted that no Ministry would ever consent to a peace which was not based on the principle of limitation. Napoleon confined himself to the land, because a fleet was not necessary to his operations; but it was far different in the case of Russia. A fleet was essential to the success of the Russian armies against Turkey on the one side, or Persia on the other; and it was doubtful whether the Russian troops could have maintained themselves at Adrianople in 1829, if they had not been supported by a fleet in the Black Sea equal to 30,000 men. Moreover, the limitation we asked was a limitation of means of offence, not of those of defence. When the Barrier treaty was forced on the French King, it was a diminution of the means of defence to him, and an increase of the means of offence to his adversary. That was not just; but no such thing was demanded here, and when we asked to deprive Russia of the wings with which she might fly to conquest, we made a very reasonable and moderate request. For it ought never to be forgotten, that the possession of Constantinople by Russia would be, not the goal of an ambition or the completion of a policy, but the commencement of a career. Russia would then revive all that Turkey had ever claimed, and when he considered the impunity which a powerful marine in the Black Sea would give to the Czar in the furtherance of his projects, he should 980 insist on the incorporation into a policy which he had not hesitated to declare to be bold and sagacious, of the principle of limitation. He could support neither the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, nor the Amendment of the hon. and gallant General opposite, and although he did not possess an exclusive affection for his own Motion, yet he felt that, for the reasons which he had given, he could not vote on the question before the House.
§ MR. CONOLLY
said, he would take the liberty of telling the hon. and gallant Gentleman that his Amendment had nothing to do with the issue before the House. That issue was one of a far graver character than the hon. and gallant Gentleman's opinion. It was simply and distinctly whether the Ministers, who were the advisers of the Crown, were or were not responsible to the House and the kingdom for the advice they gave to their Sovereign? That was the question before the House; not whether it was right or wrong in the hon. Gentleman's opinion, for a particular line of policy to have been adopted. The policy of going to Sebastopol was not only not before the House, but was distinctly excluded from the consideration of the Select Committee by the Resolution upon which the House agreed to refer the state of the army before Sebastopol to the consideration of that Committee. He told the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the noble Viscount the First Minister of the Crown, who might wish to shelter himself under that Amendment, that the policy of going to Sebastopol had nothing to do with the censure which an indignant nation had a right to pass upon the inadequacy of the means employed for carrying out that policy. The real issue before the House was with reference to the policy which was taken by Her Majesty's Government, whether they had acted with common sense. He would not put it on the ground of duty to the country or the Crown, but would ask—did they act up to common sense in ordering out such an army; and was that army sufficiently equipped to carry out their policy? If they did not, they were open to the severest censure. And if it were shown that the Government had been wanting in those important respects, he should have no hesitation, before God and his country, in recording his vote against them. They were there that night to ascertain whether the means adopted by Her Majesty's Go- 981 vernment to check the aggression of Russia, and to destroy Sebastopol, gave a rational hope that they would be sufficient to accomplish their object. If not, again he said the Government were liable to the severest censure, as being accessory to those losses and disasters which had taken place in the Crimea. He considered the House and the country were greatly indebted to the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) for the courage he manifested in being the first to ask Parliament to ascertain where the blame rested, and to make Ministers responsible for what had occurred. The House ought to remember with gratitude the courageous conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He would now inquire how far the Report of the Sebastopol Committee exculpated Ministers or other wise. In that Report there was ample evidence to show that the expedition broke down in consequence of the absence of all the needful elements to secure success. There were no preparations for a winter campaign, and it was as clear as the sun at noon day that the Government were responsible for all the sufferings and calamities which occurred to the army, from want of proper preparation and sufficient information as to the nature of the undertaking the army was required to accomplish. As far as his understanding of the Report went, nothing could be clearer than that Government had not properly fulfilled their duty, and he should, therefore, give his vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He would conclude by stating as his belief, that our magnificent army was placed on the shores of the Crimea with inadequate means, and with only a bare chance to favour the hope of ultimate success. And if that was not a subject on which Ministers ought to be impeached, then he confessed he was at a loss to understand what plain language meant.
§ MR. LOWE
said, that when the Sebastopol Committee was nominated, he objected to it on the ground that the investigations upon which it was about to enter would, if they were to be complete, require the examination of witnesses necessarily absent upon the public service, and the raking up of matters which, from motives of public policy, ought not to be gone into; while, if they were to be incomplete, they must be grossly unjust to individuals, and in every respect unsatisfactory. He also objected that the appointment of the Committee would be an inroad upon the sta 982 bility of the executive Government. He now asked the House whether his objections, which were very ill received at the time, had not been borne out? What did the Committee themselves say as to the result of the labours they had gone through with unexampled industry, in the Report which had been compiled with so much ability by the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour)? They said—The difficulty of this task has been enhanced by the impossibility of summoning some persons as witnesses who might have furnished important information. From the same cause some persons are left under imputations in regard to which your Committee regret that they can pronounce no conclusive opinion. The fulness of the investigation has, moreover, been restricted by considerations of State policy, so that in the outset of this Report, your Committee must admit that they have been compelled to end an inquiry which they have been unable satisfactorily to complete.He did not mention these things merely to bear out his own views, but because they had the most intimate relation to the vote which the House was that night called upon to give. If the investigation had been as incomplete as the Committee announced; if many most important witnesses had not been examined on account of their necessary absence upon the public service; if many of the witnesses who did appear had not been examined upon several subjects from a proper deference to motives of State policy, he would ask the House, as a collection of English gentlemen required to act in a judicial capacity, whether they could pretend to come to any judgment as to the character and conduct of the meanest of Her Majesty's subjects, much more as to that of a whole Cabinet, upon evidence admitted to be so imperfect and partial? No Judge, no jury, would convict a man of the smallest offence when both sides had not been heard fully and fairly in accusation and defence; and that great assembly, although free from the technical rules by which other tribunals are bound, was not less bound than an assembly of magistrates in petty sessions to act upon the principles of substantial justice. Therefore, even, if the Report clearly made out the case it was meant to support he should contend that the question was not ripe for decision, because many persons had not been heard who might have thrown additional light upon it. He did not rise to make an elaborate speech, as, in his opinion, there was a preliminary objection to going into the evidence at all, because it was not full and complete, and because, 983 although they might fancy they had materials before them which would enable them to arrive at a conclusion, the examination of witnesses who were absent upon the public service and the investigation of topics which were necessarily passed over might have led them to a different conclusion. Being strongly impressed with this opinion, it would be inconsistent in him to attempt to examine the Report to see how far it bore out the vote of censure proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. If the Report were ever so much borne out by the evidence, and if the Resolution before the House were ever so much borne out by the Report, although the Report might be a useful compilation for the purpose of affording information to the Government and of influencing their conduct in the management of the war, as a judicial document, as the foundation of a vote of censure, it was utterly worthless. He would not go into the evidence, but would illustrate what he meant by the first proposition adopted by the hon. and learned Member in his Motion, that the sufferings of the army mainly resulted from the campaign in the Crimea, and the circumstances under which the expedition was undertaken and executed. But the fact was, that the sufferings of the army had resulted from a winter campain in the Crimea—and the winter campaign resulted from their inability to take Sebastopol as was hoped—at once. Then, why was it not taken at once? The Government, it was just possible, might have been able to show that this was the fault of the commander of the fleet or the military commander, or of want of concert between the allies—or that it had resulted from other matters; but they could show nothing of the kind, because the men whom it would have been necessary to examine on these points were absent on the public service; and the question of a want of concert between the allies could not have been entertained without destroying the alliance of this country with France. And in justice they ought to have taken all the evidence on this subject before they affixed a stigma to the character of honourable men. He would go one step further than this. He had on a former occasion, said that the Committee must necessarily be most dangerous to the alliance of this country with France. He admitted the discretion and reserve which had been practised by the able men who had conducted the Committee, but, after 984 all the care and caution they had exercised in rejecting questions which would tend to embarrass, what had been the result of their inquiry? Why, the House of Commons was now asked whether it would not pass a vote of censure on the Government of this country and on the Emperor of the French. That was the question they were now invited to argue, and into the details of which, in his opinion, they had better not enter. The question which they were invited to argue was not merely a question as to the conduct and discretion of the English Cabinet, for every censure that was levelled at them was levelled equally at the Emperor of the French, and would be used against him in his own country by those who were ill-disposed to his Government with the same effect as they were used against the Government of this country. Did the House of Commons, then, think that they could maintain, as they all must wish to do, a cordial and sincere alliance with the Emperor of the French if they were to be thus dragging his counsels into the light of day, and making it matter of discussion whether in that enterprise, which had been attended, as was admitted by all, with greater loss and expense than had been expected, his conduct was not liable to the censure amounting, as an hon. Member had said, almost to impeachment, which they were now asked to pass upon the Government of this country? This proved how dangerous the inquiry was to the alliance with France. He had urged the same argument against the Committee when there was much public clamour in its favour, and he had proved right in the end. Was the House of Commons invited to censure the Administration? No; that was not exactly the case, the House was called upon to censure every individual member of the Administration. But, if those two things were the same, what was the use of the altercation? If the hon. and learned Member's premises were to censure the Administration, why did he not make his conclusions the same? That would not have answered the hon. and learned Member's purpose, for the Administration at which his censure was levelled was a thing of the past—it did not wait for the censure of the Committee, but fell before the proposition of censure. But, no doubt, it was a different thing to lay the censure on every single Member of that Administration, Such an ostracism as that and 985 the stigma which would be attached to it, would, indeed, have been a triumph for the hon. and learned Member, and because the Administration, taken as a whole, had failed, therefore the House was invited to censure every individual Member of the Administration, so that such censure might follow him through each succeeding Government to which he might happen to belong. But, where was the present proceeding to stop? If the existing Government were broken up, and another was formed, were the members who had been censured to be still pursued if they belonged to the newly formed Government? How many bouleversements and capsizes would satisfy the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield before he would think that he had placed the administration of affairs on a proper and satisfactory footing? They were invited to pursue every individual Member of the Administration with the censure of that House; but who was to do this? Not his (Mr. Lowe's) side of the House, for they had been giving their support to the noble Viscount's Government. They had learnt nothing from the Report of the Committee, for the facts were notorious to all, though not before them in an authentic form, and it was on the facts contained in the document now before the House that the Government of Lord Aberdeen had been ejected from power. As they had censured that Government, the subject was done with; and as they had since been willing to support a Government consisting of so many Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government that they had been taunted by the other side of the House with being the old partners of the new firm, his (Mr. Lowe's) side of the House could not with any regard to consistency censure the individual Members of the present Government. Neither could the other sider side of the House do so, for the adherents of Lord Derby must recollect that, after Lord Aberdeen's Government had been driven from power, three right hon. Gentlemen, who were named in the Report of the Committee, were invited by Lord Derby to become Members of his Administration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) at that time obtained great and deserved credit, because he consented not to place any obstacle by pressing his own claims in the way of obtaining for Lord Derby's Government the assistance of the three 986 right hon. Gentlemen against whom they now sought to hurl this retrospective censure. He asserted, then, that both sides of the House had precluded themselves from passing the proposed vote of censure, and that, if they were to pass it, they would strike a blow at the French alliance, and they would also commit gross injustice by acting on imperfect evidence. He regretted, as the previous question had been moved, that it was not competent for the House to meet the Motion of the hon. and learned Member with a direct negative.
THE MARQUESS OF GRANBY
said, he wished briefly to state the grounds of the vote which he should give on the present occasion. He thought it was impossible to deny many of the statements made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. They must all have felt that what the hon. and learned Gentleman had said as to the state of the army, and the sufferings the troops had undergone, was true, and could I not be denied. At the same time, he I could not but think that the hon. and learned Gentleman had somewhat magnified the sufferings, and had painted in colours deeper than the reality the hard ships which the army had undergone. In his opinion that House and the country had not fully considered the horrors and misery that must accompany every war, and that a forty years' peace had made them forgetful of them. The question was one which he considered ought to be treated in a calmer and juster spirit than the terms of the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman indicated. Though great sufferings had been endured, though great errors had been committed, if the House were to censure those who had been the cause of these sufferings and errors, they must not confine themselves to the Members either of the late Administration or of that which now existed. They must censure the House of Commons and the people of this country. The truth ought to be told. It was the House of Commons, backed by the people, that had reduced establishments. They had told the people that war was a delusion, and that the country would never again be engaged in a serious conflict with any foreign power. That was the true source of our late disasters in the East. He had endeavoured to warn the House at the time on that point. He had told them in former years that the best men, the blood and sinews of the country, were emigrating. 987 They had refused to attend to his warning, and when they drifted into the war unexpectedly, and without, as he thought, sufficient cause, they were surprised at the failures and misery that ensued. What was the opinion, not of the great Emperor Napoleon—great as he admitted him to be—but of the greater Napoleon? In 1802, in reply to a remark that armies could be created in a moment, but that a navy could not, Napoleon I said that that was a mistake; that a nation would ruin its army if it acted on that idea; that it required not six months, but six years to make an army, and that he never would, if he could help it, go to war with young recruits. Now had they not gone to war with young recruits? Where was their reserve? Lord Raglan had told the Government not to send him any more young recruits, because they could not stand the climate, and died in the hospitals. That was one great cause of their failure in the Crimea. He hoped it would be a lesson—if, happily, peace was restored—that they ought not to reduce their establishments, and that they ought not to be led away by the cry that future wars were impossible, but that they should maintain their establishments in such a state so as to be prepared to meet any enemy in future. He feared if he supported the motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that he would be weakening the executive. He had endeavoured, on a previous occasion, to show—he knew how feebly—that the war was neither a just nor a necessary war. But now the country was engaged in it, he hoped that nothing he had said, that no vote he had given, had in any way diminished the power of the country to meet her enemies in the field. Fearing, therefore, if he voted for the Motion, that he should weaken the power of the executive to carry on the war with vigour and earnestness, he should give his vote in favour of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel).
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE
said, there was one point on which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had not touched, and which was, nevertheless, well worthy of consideration. That was, the question whether the Cabinet were a distinct and separate body. Mr. Fox repudiated in the strongest terms the idea that it was possible to treat the Cabinet as a body separate from the rest of the Privy Council. He (Mr. Phillimore) declared it impossible 988 to connect the Home Secretary, for instance, with the not making the road to Balaklava, or for the want of medical assistance or stores to the army. He did not wish to attribute to those Members of Lord Aberdeen's administration who introduced dissension into the Cabinet, and more especially the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) any want of desire to fulfil their duty to the country; but it was the supineness and apathy of that Administration, and the pusillanimous conduct of Lord Aberdeen, which were the causes first, of the war; and next, of the unfortunate manner in which it was conducted. Regarding the question in a constitutional light, he could not but think that the doctrines which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had enunciated were altogether wrong. He had gone so far as to say that those who were not connected with the War Department were not only equally guilty, but were actually more to be blamed than those whose special province it was to administer its affairs. Such a doctrine was most absurd, and would be carrying responsibility to an extent which would cover the country with ineffable ridicule. It was his opinion that they could not now, without injury to the country, and without endangering that unanimity of feeling which was most important, contribute, by an adverse vote, to bring about another change in the Government. He would ask what had happened since the formation of the present Ministry to justify them in giving a vote against the noble Lord, and the Administration of which he was at the head? If they looked to the State papers which had been laid before the House, they would find that the Earl of Clarendon had conducted the negotiations in the most dignified, courteous manner, and with the most invincible effect. He could not see that there was anything in the conduct of the new Ministry which would warrant the vote of censure moved by the hon. and learned Member. He supported the Government because he believed that it had carried on the war with vigour; and while there were none more ready than himself to declare for peace, when honourable terms could be obtained, so there were none who dreaded more than himself the loss of national honour, and the loss of national independence, which must necessarily result from a dishonourable termination of the present war.
§ MR. GORDON
said, he rose with unfeigned reluctance to explain the vote which he felt compelled to give, being unfortunately unable to concur in any one of the three propositions before the House. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had brought against persons, who had long served their Sovereign and the public, the gravest charges that could possibly be preferred. Those charges were directed against a Government which had ceased to exist, every individual Member of which it was now sought to visit with censure on the ground of the Report of a Committee of that House. In his opinion, the Resolution of the hon. and learned Gentleman was not warranted by the evidence on which it was professed to be founded. Vast masses of evidence were laid before the Committee touching all manner of subjects, and, though much was connected with the condition of the army in the East, a great deal had very little to do with that question. While listening, as he did for several days, to the proceedings of that Committee, his heart sank within him when he considered what reputations were at stake, and how the characters of public men, who had grown grey in the service of their country, were being treated. Evidence of all kinds—second hand and hearsay—was admitted, such as no court of law, or strictly legal tribunal would have tolerated. It was a literal fact that what one captain told another captain, who told it to a friend, who was the captain of a third ship, and who told it to the Committee, was duly recorded. But, whether the value of the evidence was great or small, he contended nothing could justify the House in agreeing to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Sheffield, except the unanimous opinion of the Committee; and, so far from that being the case, they knew that the Resolution of condemnation was carried only by the casting vote of the Chairman. Some of the Members of the Committee expressed in the strongest terms their disapproval of the Resolution, and he confidently appealed to a majority of those who agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, whether they concurred in this vote of censure, and whether they thought it a desirable time to bring it forward when the Ministry had been displaced, and many Members of it had retired to a private position? An hon. Member had said, that the Motion did not profess to condemn the policy of the expedi- 990 tion to the Crimea; but the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Roebuck) in his speech spoke of that expedition as ill conceived, as well as ill carried out; and if that were true it must have been impolitic, and the policy of it therefore was involved in the Motion. The Members of the late Government were, no doubt, fully prepared to defend the policy of the expedition, but he denied that they were exclusively responsible as if they were alone concerned in it. In condemning those who undertook the expedition to the Crimea, others were condemned for more than the Government of this country. It was not any Member of that House, or any Englishman, but our great ally, the Emperor of the French, who characterised those who opposed the expedition as the advocates of "timid counsels;" and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield would have the House declare by his Motion, that "timid counsels" were the counsels of reason and prudence. He could not vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), as he did not think it fair or proper, when such grave imputations were cast upon individuals, that the question should be merely set aside; it ought, in his opinion, to be brought to a definite issue. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield commented on various acts of omission and commission, many of which he believed were susceptible of explanation. The hon. and learned Gentleman was greatly in error in referring the sufferings, which all deplored, to the charge of the Government. When hundreds of people were employed, all more or less responsible, and on whose care and assiduity important operations depended, a partial failure, even among subordinates, might cause mischief, out of the power of the heads of the Administration to remedy. That was, he thought, incidental to the commencement of a war, because then it was that a number of persons were employed whose capabilities there was no opportunity of testing. When many persons were suddenly placed in a position of trust, it was impossible to tell who were deserving of confidence; but, after operations had gone on for some time, they knew their men, and those who distinguished themselves could be picked out for higher situations. At the beginning of an undertaking of this nature such selection was impossible, and it was absurd to expect it. That ought to go a great way towards the 991 acquittal of the Government, and another fact tending to absolve the home Government from blame was, that they received very imperfect accounts of the distress in the Crimea, and of the confusion which existed in the various departments of the service. When the truth did come to their knowledge, it was in evidence before the Committee that everything in the power of man to do was done to remedy the evils. He should certainly oppose the proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, because it was impossible to come to a satisfactory conclusion on the insufficient materials collected by the Committee, because the Members of the Committee were not unanimous in supporting that proposition, and because it was unjust to visit with a retrospective censure men who had already suffered to some extent from a Vote of that House. He had intended to address the House at greater length, but the deep interest which he naturally felt in the issue of the Motion would not allow him to command his feelings sufficiently to do justice to the arguments which he was convinced might be successfully urged against it. He could not, however, have rested content to give a silent vote on the question, remembering how nearly it concerned him that no undeserved censure should be cast upon one with whom he was so nearly connected—the noble Lord lately at the head of Her Majesty's Government, whose conduct it would ever be his privilege, as well as his duty, to defend, and whose honour and fame he should ever cherish as his most valued inheritance.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, he would submit that it was the duty of the House to inquire into the causes of the strange fatality which had marked the whole progress of events with relation to the present war. How was it that every one who had been mixed up with the conduct of the war—every military and naval commander—every political leader and statesman, who had been involved in those transactions, had met with nothing but failure, disappointment, shipwrecked fortunes, and tarnished honour? He should like to be informed of the true causes of a fatality which appeared to him to be so marked and extraordinary. What a long catalogue of blighted reputations did one short twelve months offer for the consideration of the country. From the lowest to the highest, from the Filders and Andrew Smiths, up to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell); 992 with men of all shades of party and with men of no party, who merely brought patriotic zeal and lengthened experience to the service of their country, the result had been the same. All had been blamed, all had been condemned, for all alike had failed. But how were these results, calamitous as remarkable, to be accounted for? The fatality was wide-spread, and spared no one. Amongst the names most distinguished in the naval annals of the country was that of Sir Charles Napier, who entered last year on the duties of his arduous command with the feeling of the country enthusiastically in his favour. He came back a stigmatised man, engaged in a paper bombardment of the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty. And now he had retired into private life, and had left it to posterity to do him that justice which posterity no doubt would eventually render him. He (Sir J. Walsh) would not include in this doleful catalogue the revered name of Lord Raglan. That calumny and injustice which attacked him while living was silent in the presence of his tomb. History would do him justice, and he would live enshrined in the annals of British glory amongst the highest and noblest of those who had been the associates of Wellington. But as matters now stood, it seemed as though no one had deserved well of his country in connection with the present contest. It appeared to him, however, that there was an offender, whom the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, so searching a censor of public delinquents, had failed to detect. Could it be that the fault lay with public opinion, that invisible but all-powerful scourge, which had visited so severely Minister after Minister, commander after commander, and which had swept away one-half of the Treasury bench, while the remainder were staggering on their seats under the weight of the coming calamity? He was inclined to think that much of the evil was to be traced to the single circumstance—that the Ministers were indeed the Ministers, and not the governors, of this country; that they surrendered their own convictions, mistrusted their own judgments, and tamely followed that public opinion which it was their duty to have directed and controlled. Public opinion, as embodied in the general sentiment out of doors, and as uttered not alone by the press, but also by that House, was a particeps criminis, and should not escape the odium of the calamities which had overtaken us. If the expedition to the 993 Crimea—undertaken under the circumstances which had marked its origin—was inexpedient and blameable that House ought to have endeavoured to control within rational limits that current of public opinion by which Ministers were blindly driven on to so fatal and unfortunate an enterprise. Was not, therefore, that House, and the public press in some degree to be blamed for the difficulties in which they now found themselves? If the expedition to the Crimea was blameable, the fault should be visited upon the Government which undertook it, but it should also be visited upon the public opinion of the country, and upon that House, which failed to exercise a proper control over matters so important. He had pointed out last year the inadequate amount of our forces, and now he could not but say the Government was censurable for not supplying those deficiencies. But it was difficult to agree to a vote of censure upon Ministers who were in a great degree urged on the expedition by that public opinion which now sought to crush them. The expedition itself was a mistake, for at the time it was undertaken we had gained all the primary objects we had in view. Turkey was safe; Moldavia and Wallachia were emancipated; and Russia had sustained the greatest moral defeat before Silistria. But, last year, the whole force of public opinion had been brought to bear upon the Government in order to urge them on in that expedition. It had been entered upon at a moment when our army had been thinned by disease; in opposition to the advice of Lord Raglan himself, and of the great majority of the military authorities, both upon the spot and at home, by a Cabinet composed purely of civilians. It had, therefore, been entered upon with a degree of rashness which almost invited failure—with resources which at the time were inadequate; and that was a step for having taken which Her Majesty's Ministers were, in his opinion, in some degree liable to censure. Having once embarked, however, upon that expedition, it became difficult to retreat. Nothing but victory was left to our army. We were now bound to prosecute the Crimean expedition with vigour; and he must say that he saw in the conduct of the present Government no evidence of extraordinary vigour. When the noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated that he had no intention of filling up the number of the militia, he did not seem to have paid due regard to 994 the necessity of keeping up an army of reserve. Now, what was the present state of our militia force? Why, it appeared from the Returns upon the subject that the militia had at present less than one-half of its proper complement. That was not the way in which a great war could be brought to a successful termination. It was the very essence of great military operations that they should be conducted with vigour and promptitude; and unless they were so conducted they must end in failure. He felt great difficulty, however, in coming to a vote upon that occasion. He believed that the censures directed by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield against the late Cabinet were fully justified by the facts of the case, and he utterly repudiated the notion that every Member of that Cabinet was not answerable for the conduct of the body in its collective capacity. But, on the other hand, he felt that the House could hardly be considered to have a right to pass a censure on the conduct of the Government while they were themselves so largely implicated in the faults which had been committed; and under all the circumstances of the case he believed the safest course they could pursue would be to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he should not have risen, but from the extraordinary silence of the Government upon perhaps one of the most important discussions which had ever engaged the attention of the British Senate. Last evening the noble Lord at the head of the Ministry was more than usually jaunty and pugnacious, and challenged the Opposition right and left, because he knew their arms were tied by the fact that the supporters of the Government had thrown over the Jonah to appease the storm; whereas to-night they attempted to shelter themselves from the discussion of the grave charges brought against Lord Aberdeen's Government, and, consequently, against a large portion of the present, by rushing to a precipitate division. That course was not consistent with the vaunting courage displayed by the noble Lord, Donnybrook fashion, last night. The Government could not well be acquitted unless they gave an assurance that there was not to be a repetition of the horrors of last year. He feared that as little had been done in the Baltic during the present year as last year, and that we were still launching enormous ships, which could not 995 approach within cannon shot of the fortresses to be attacked. The present Government, he considered, had done as little as the last. It had been said that the Resolution would be a censure upon the French Government, but he denied it. Indeed, a delicate regard for the feelings of France was not limited to any side or party, but was exhibited by every Member of that House, as well as of the Committee up stairs. And, besides, there was no charge made against the French; on the contrary, the accusation was, that the British Government had mismanaged the campaign, while the French had done their business well. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) had given him (Mr. Maguire) the idea that he had a very nervous apprehension of the safety of the Government, and it made him believe that there were some new combinations going on. The only question before the House was, were the Government responsible for the disasters in the Crimea, or were they not? Were they not responsible for issuing green coffee to the soldiers? Were they not responsible for starving the soldiers? Were they not responsible for having destroyed by their incapacity 10,000 or 12,000 of the bravest men who ever rallied beneath the standard of any Sovereign? The hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) and the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) had made speeches strongly condemnatory of the Government, and yet had adopted the mild course of proposing and supporting the previous question; but he begged to remind them that this was a question which infinitely transcended the convenience or even the safety of a Cabinet. Life had been sacrificed, widows and orphans had been made, in consequence of the mismanagement of the Government; and if such things did not command attention in that House, they did so in every home throughout Great Britain and Ireland. The hon. and gallant General said that nothing could be more absurd than the number of reporters who followed the army, and the garbled reports which they presented. He (Mr. Maguire) was proud to be a member of the press—of that body which had done more for the salvation of the British army than all those together who sat upon the Treasury benches. If the press of this country took their inspiration from the Government at home, or from the general abroad—if they allowed themselves to be earwigged by subordi- 996 nates, and then made all pleasant, the same Administration might have remained in office, but not a single man of the British army would have ever left the shores of the Crimea. The Earl of Aberdeen, the Duke of Newcastle, and the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) had admitted that they had obtained their information from the press—that maligned press, which had done such injury, which had told so much to the enemy, and which had so seriously thwarted the councils of the nation. Why, the miserable remnant of our army that yet remained had been saved by the press. If the Government had been galvanised into energy, it was the press which had done it; but it was not the press which had driven them to the Crimea, or which had sent them there with inadequate forces and with no reserve at home. The press said, "Go where you please, but go fully prepared." He asked again, were the Government prepared for the Baltic campaign at this moment? He believed that they were as unprepared now as when they sacrificed a gallant admiral for not knocking his head against a fort when he had not the means of taking it. When the hon. and gallant general called upon the Government to carry on the war as a Cabinet with one mind and one heart, he surely must have forgotten the revelations of the previous evening. The fact was, that the Cabinet was rent to the very centre. It contained a peace party and a war party, and the scenes behind the curtain were those of cat and dog. He believed that those who had seceded from the Government were no more blameable than those who had remained; for those who still retained office had done nothing to wipe off the guilt of blood that was upon them. Was there one of them at the present moment who could turn his thoughts to the Crimea without a shudder at the frightful loss of human life—at the number of men who had fallen, not by the sword of the enemy, but by the leaden sword of incompetence wielded by the Treasury bench? In his opinion, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield would have been unworthy of his high position if he had not brought forward a Motion like the present—a Motion which would test the sincerity of Members of that House. He would particularly impress upon the House that the Motion before it contained no censure upon the Government of France—and, indeed, the activity and 997 competence of that Government contrasted most favourably with the supineness and incompetence of the Government of this country. At a time when their cavalry was ready to take the field, our cavalry were gnawing their tails off. [Laughter.] He meant that the horses were gnawing each other's tails off; and, although his slight mistake might cause laughter to those Gentlemen behind the Treasury bench, he could only say that the reality had caused no laughter in the Crimea, where the trooper was compelled, by the neglect of the Government, to do the work of his broken-down horse. When our troops were starving, the French troops were well fed; and the French hospitals were well managed, while the British hospitals were filled with horrors which it made one shudder to contemplate, and the recollection of which ought to bring a blush of shame to the cheeks of the Members of the Government. Was the country to forgive blunders which had brought 10,000 men to an untimely grave? and was it to overlook disasters which could have been prevented by placing the right men in the right places? He hoped that some Member of the Administration would rise in his place, and state to the House why the present Government were not liable to censure for the mismanagement of the expedition to the Crimea.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, I have waited until the last moment in expectation that some Member of Her Majesty's Government would rise upon an occasion of such importance to indicate to the House the course which they thought ought to be pursued. I imagine that, considering the present advanced period of the Session, and the business which remains to be transacted, it is for the public advantage, and also in accordance with the wishes of the House, that this debate should be closed this evening. Unlike the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, I opposed the appointment of the Committee, and unlike him I do not think that the evidence taken before the Sebastopol Committee sustains the Resolution of my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck). Although I was a Member of the Government at the commencement of the war and during some period of its prosecution, and had made up my mind to vote against this Resolution, still I have waited with respectful attention to ascertain the course which the present Government, lately my colleagues, proposed to pursue, I have felt that, with 998 regard to this matter, my position is to a certain extent different from that which they occupy. I originally opposed the appointment of the Committee and persevered in my resistance, and when the Government of my noble Friend arrived at the conclusion that they could no longer oppose its appointment, I felt myself bound to resign the office which I had the honour to hold, and therefore my position is, as I have just stated, somewhat different from that occupied by the Government. I have heard with great pleasure the speech of my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Lowe). I joined him in resisting the appointment of the Committee, I entirely adopted the views, which he expressed, and on the present occasion I shall act in a manner identically the same. I cannot think, after a Committee has been appointed by so large a majority of this House, after so much expectation has been excited in the country, that it is possible, with due consideration for the feelings of the people, to give the question upon which it reports the absolute "go by;" yet such is the effect of carrying the previous question. Without entering into the technicalities involved in the speech of the hon. and gallant General who moved the previous question, I think that if his Amendment were agreed to it would give rise to a great deal of misunderstanding out of doors. Before this inquiry was instituted I saw the danger of it, and many of those objections which I ventured to state at the time, have, I think, been confirmed by the course taken by that Committee, The Committee have rigidly abstained from making any inquiry involving political considerations and consequences, sensible of the danger of that course, but that very abstinence has, by their own avowal, rendered the inquiry incomplete and inconsistent with justice. According to the opinion of the Committee itself the inquiry was anything but satisfactory, for in the Report it is stated that—The fulness of the investigation has, moreover, been restricted by considerations of State policy, so that in the outset of this Report your Committee must admit that they have been compelled to end an inquiry which they hare been unable satisfactorily to complete.There is another passage very important for the House to consider, showing that, even in the opinion of the Committee, the inquiry as it now stands is anything but satisfactory to those who heard the evidence and made the Report, even with respect to points 999 which they did investigate. The hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) has referred to the insufficiency of the British force originally sent to the Crimea, and he has dealt with the question as if it concerned only the English force; but did the Committee take the same view of the subject? The Committee stated that the great evils which had occurred were to be traced to the excessive fatigue of the British troops, and the Report says that the fatigue necessarily resulted from the inadequacy of the force for the task assigned to it. But, does the Report pause there? Does it limit the inquiry to the sufficiency of the British army? No; it goes on to say—The British army was a portion of an allied force. The whole scheme of the siege, the extent of front to be defended, the positions to be maintained, and the works to be undertaken depended on military considerations, and were decided upon in conjunction with our allies. Your Committee regard these matters as beyond the limits of their inquiry.There is another matter to which I wish to call the attention of the House. I have the highest opinion of the candour and love of truth of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield who made this Motion, but he has, in quoting from a letter of Lord Raglan, inadvertently made a most important omission. The hon. and learned Gentleman left it to be inferred that Lord Raglan was influenced in undertaking the expedition to the Crimea against his own judgment by the English Government. Now, I must say Justin passing that the instructions given by my noble Friend the Duke of Newcastle to Lord Raglan left him the fullest discretion as to whether he would undertake the expedition or not. Those considerations were not political, but, had exclusive reference to the force at his disposal—the British force in conjunction with our allies. Lord Raglan's answer to that instruction I will read as it was read by my hon. and learned Friend, and as it appears in the Report of the Committee, but not as it appears in the despatch itself. The passage read by the hon. and learned Gentleman was—The descent on the Crimea is decided upon more in deference to the views of the British Government than to any information in the possession of the naval and military authorities, either as to the extent of the enemy's forces or to their state of preparation.That was the way the hon. and learned Gentleman read the passage and inserted it in his Report. Now observe the import- 1000 ant omission. The passage as written by Lord Raglan, is—The descent on the Crimea is decided upon more in deference to the views of the British Government, and the well-known acquiescence of the Emperor of the French.Now, the omission of the words "and the well-known acquiescence of the Emperor of the French" appears to me to be a most important alteration. Nor is that all. The House will, perhaps, allow me to read a short passage from a French newspaper bearing on the Motion now before us. The Assemblée Nationale, entertaining the opinion that this subject had better not be reopened, observes:—But England was not engaged alone in that expedition. In order to judge with equity the conduct of the English Government, it is proper to know what was its share in the initiative and the decision; it is proper to know, in all their details, the circumstances under the pressure of which it was proposed, or deliberated, or resolved upon." And it makes these pregnant inquiries—"Does Mr. Roebuck reckon on proposing these questions? Are the Ministers prepared to answer them.Most decidedly Mr. Roebuck was not prepared to put such a question—most decidedly the English Government was not prepared to answer it, if he had. But I will not press this part of the subject further; I only wish to explain the vote which it will be my duty to give on the present occasion. I resisted the appointment of this Committee. I did not think that the investigation could be pushed to the extent which would satisfy the ends of justice, and, if pushed to the full extent which would be necessary to render it satisfactory and just as an inquiry, I believed that considerable danger would ensue. That danger has been avoided by the prudence of the Committee; but I say I do not think that justice has been done. Well, then, if a Member of this House possessing such opportunities for the formation of a sound judgment as those enjoyed by my hon. and gallant Friend who has moved the previous question—if he really entertains, on the whole, the opinion that the parties accused are entitled to their acquittal, why does he hesitate to give to the accused the benefit of his verdict? It will be said that I, fearing the result of this inquiry, did the utmost in my power before the inquiry was entered into to prevent its institution, and now, when the investigation is complete, when the evidence is before the House, when the Judges who heard that evidence are capable of pronouncing 1001 a decision—I, having sought to burke the inquiry, now shrink from asking the Judges to pronounce their decision. Sir, I cannot place myself in that position, and I certainly shall think it my duty to resist the previous question, in the hope that the House having fully deliberated upon this important matter, and having the materials for forming a judgment before them, will pronounce a decision—aye or no—whether the Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government were guilty of such misconduct in their high offices as to deserve the severe reprehension of the House. If the decision of the House be adverse, however harsh I may feel it to be—however inconsistent I may think it with the best interests of the country—however much, in the circumstances of the present moment, it may narrow the choice of the men who for the advantage of the public service should be selected for places of high trust—however much it may contract the number of those who can henceforth be employed in the honourable service of their country—yet I think even this would be better than to shrink from a decision which it seems to me right and necessary to pronounce. Certainly, therefore—though I regret that we have not the light which the noble Lord at the head of the Government might have thrown upon the course we ought to pursue, and though I should have been glad to have had the advantage of his advice—yet my position is somewhat different from his, and having made up my mind as to the course upon which, upon the whole, I think it will be my duty to take, I thought it respectful and right to state shortly to the House what that course was. I shall vote against the previous question for the purpose of meeting the original Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield by a direct negative.
said, he was not anxious to renew any discussion on the painful subject of the appointment of the Committee. He was one of those who had objected originally to its appointment, but, when it had been determined by the House that inquiry should take place, he thought it would be inconsistent with his duty to shrink from serving upon it. It would have been bad enough for the country if they had lost confidence in the Government; but, it would have been still worse for the country if they had lost confidence in the House of Commons. He had looked upon it, therefore, as essential to the 1002 dignity and character of that House that every one who was requested to do so should consent to take part in the inquiry. The Committee was composed of men of very different opinions, but, as far as they could do so, they had done their best to ascertain the truth and represent it to the House, though he acknowledged that their conclusions might be imperfect, owing to the peculiar difficulties presented in the course of this inquiry. He should not have thought it necessary to trouble the House had it not been that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had been Chairman of the Committee, in bringing forward his Motion that night, represented that he (Lord Seymour) concurred with him in his Resolution, and that all he differed from was the other Resolution by which it was accompanied. Now, that was not exactly the case. No doubt, the hon. and learned Gentleman forgot that there were two Resolutions moved, and the first Resolution which the Chairman proposed, and to which his (Lord Seymour's) observations applied, was this—Your Committee believe that they would be shrinking from their duty were they to close their Report without naming to the House those whom the evidence points out as chiefly answerable for the great calamities to which our army in the Crimea was unduly subjected.He (Lord Seymour), undoubtedly, said that would be true if they could name those individuals, but he took that in connection with the other Resolution brought forward by the Chairman, part of which pointed to Lord Raglan, and therefore he objected to that Resolution. The whole Committee adopted the view he took, and there were nine against and only one for that Resolution, although any one who read it would see that in itself, if the result to which it pointed could be obtained, it was quite unobjectionable. When they came to the other Resolution, he objected to it on different grounds, because he thought it involved questions as to the policy of the Government in ordering the expedition to the Crimea, and because the Committee had declared that they would not question the policy of the Government, that being a matter for that House to consider. Moreover, the Resolution appeared to him, not only to condemn the policy of the Government, but the policy of our allies; and it was objectionable, too, because in his opinion it was not in accordance with the facts of the case. He had fully stated in the Report how far he thought the Government 1003 were to blame. At page 1 they would find the following passage—Your Committee are, however, of opinion that this amount of unavoidable suffering has been aggravated by causes hereafter enumerated, and which are mainly to be attributed to dilatory and insufficient arrangements for the supply of this army with necessaries indispensable to its healthy and effective condition.The House would observe he there stated that these sufferings of the army were aggravated by those causes, not that the Government at home were the chief and sole cause of those sufferings. He, therefore, entirely differed from the Resolution in question. He would now pass from it to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) who said he could not vote for the previous question because he thought the House ought to pronounce an opinion. And yet, just before this, the right hon. Baronet had stated to the House that there was no sufficient evidence upon which to pronounce an opinion. Now, if there was no evidence for condemnation, how could there be evidence for acquittal? It seemed to him that if the House had not evidence for the one judgment, they had not evidence for the other. If the inquiry was imperfect, as the right hon. Baronet alleged—and nobody could be more conscious of its imperfection than he (Lord Seymour) was—that seemed to him to be just a case for the previous question. If they could not pronounce an opinion they would follow the Parliamentary course frequently adopted in that House, which was to endeavour to prevent the question from being put. There was one point he would notice in answer to the observations made by the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). He referred to a letter he had received from Sir Hew Ross, who said he was much hurt and pained by the passage in the Report which stated that—It would seem from the language of Sir Hew Ross that he was imperfectly acquainted with the constitution of the Board of which he was a Member.Now, Sir Hew Ross was Lieutenat General of the Ordnance, and certainly from his answers to the Committee it appeared that he was not conscious of the powers appertaining to the Lieutenant General of the Ordnance. If, however, the gallant officer was not conscious of those powers, he only shared that ignorance with the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government who came before the Committee. 1004 They were equally ignorant that when they appointed a Lieutenant General of the Ordnance they appointed a person who was not a real substitute for the Master General. As far as Sir Hew Ross was concerned, it was hardly to be expected that he could be acquainted with the details of an office which had been abolished for twenty years previous to his appointment. But Sir Hew Ross was not blamed in any way with regard to the conduct of the Ordnance corps under his management. On the contrary, it was specially pointed out in the Report of the Committee that the Ordnance corps had been better managed in many respects than any other part of the army; and Sir Hew Ross, instead of being blamed, was highly praised by the Committee. With respect to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, he (Lord Seymour) objected to it because he could not see the utility of going back now to the past. The great object of the inquiry was to guard against error in future; and if the Government were prepared hereafter to attend to the wants of the army with earnestness and zeal, the country would be willing to forget and forgive all that had recently taken place. But it would be only by zealous and earnest care for the army now in the Crimea. There must, however, be no more of those errors committed which the Committee had had the disagreeable duty of pointing out.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, like the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), I have waited till the last moment, under the idea that some Member of Her Majesty's Government would announce to the House the course which they intend to take with regard to this very important question. The right hon. Baronet has stated in manly and honourable language his views on the subject, and his reasons for the course which he is prepared to take this evening. Beyond all doubt the right hon. Baronet is personally interested in the vote to which the House must arrive; and I can understand the feeling—honourable to himself—which induces him to refuse to take shelter in any indirect proceeding like "the previous question," and to prefer that a direct vote should be given by this House. But what, Sir, is the course which Her Majesty's Government mean to take, and why have they adopted the unusual course of not announcing what they intend to do with reference to this Motion of the hon. 1005 and learned Member for Sheffield? Last night Her Majesty's Government, when a vote of censure was hanging over them, took the extraordinary course of shrinking from the trial, and they avoided that vote of censure by sacrificing the most eminent of their colleagues. What, then, do they intend to do to-night? If rumour speaks true, they will take a similar step, and will endeavour to avoid a vote of this House, not by following the manly example of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, but by sheltering themselves under the equivocal course of the "previous question." What they really intend to do they are not disposed to tell us, and, under the circumstances, I trust the House will allow me to state the line which I feel it to be my duty to take on this occasion. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who has brought forward this Motion in a clear and able speech, has appealed to those Members of the House who sat with him upon the Sebastopol Committee to give him their support upon this occasion, and I wish to state the reasons why I, for one, am prepared to give him that support. I will not deny that I have arrived at this decision with great reluctance and pain—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]. I know no reason why in making this statement I should be open to murmurs of this kind. I can only say that I never spoke with more sincerity. In arriving at this decision I cannot but feel that the vote which I am about to give involves a censure not only upon Her Majesty's Ministers, to whom I am politically opposed, but also upon other eminent Members of this House, who are personally men of high character and honour, who were Members of the Government of Lord Aberdeen, and who are therefore parties to the transactions to which our attention is now called. Upon the other hand, I cannot but feel that the country is now in a state of great peril, that the public mind is uneasy and anxious, and that we, the Members of the House of Commons, called upon as we are to-night, are not at liberty to draw nice distinctions and to consult those feelings of personal delicacy which may becomingly and properly animate us at other times, but that we must give that vote which, in our conscience, we believe to be right. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, in his capacity as Chairman of the Sebastopol Committee, has called upon us to decide whether or not we will ratify the Report to which the Committee has arrived; and, 1006 before coming to any decision upon the matter, I am anxious to remind the House that the Report of the Committee was a unanimous one. The noble Lord who spoke last has alluded to a Resolution in which he could not concur, and the fact that that Resolution was carried by the casting vote of the Chairman has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Gordon). But the Report of the Committee as it affects Her Majesty's Government, was a unanimous Report. I have always thought that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield did himself very great injustice, and placed himself in a false position, when he called upon the Committee to divide upon the form of words which he suggested to them. I wish now to call the attention of the House to the words of the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) himself. In the draught Report which he submitted to the Committee, the noble Lord summed up the evidence under six short heads:—1. The expedition to the Crimea was undertaken with means inadequate for the military operations which had eventually to be performed. 2. No provision was made in time for the wintering of the army. 3. No measures were taken for rendering effective the offices on the vigorous administration of which the success of all operations and the maintenance of the army depended. 4. There was a want of timely information as to the state of affairs in the Crimea and at Scutari. 5. One department, the Commissariat, was made to perform the duties of several departments. 6. An unfortunate selection was made of officers for important services before the daily increasing magnitude of the operations was foreseen.Now, Sir, for what purpose was the Committee appointed? It was appointed to inquire into the conduct of those departments whose duty it was to administer to the wants of the army, and I wish to know whether, substantially, as regards the conduct of those departments, and the conduct of the Government at home, the censure contained in the Motion of the Chairman of the Committee is not embodied in the Resolutions proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Totness? Why, then, were they not adopted? They were not adopted, because it was the opinion of the Committee that if a summing up was to be given censuring the Government, that summing up ought to be in more direct and pungent terms. In consequence of that opinion the noble Lord prepared a second form of words still containing a censure upon the Government; but that form of words was also rejected as not being sufficiently pungent. After having thus 1007 rejected two forms of words proposed by the noble Lord, the words proposed by the hon. and learned Chairman were at length adopted. I think the House will now agree with me that, though the words adopted by the Committee were made more severe and pungent upon the suggestion of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Roebuck) yet substantially they did not differ from the words proposed by the noble Lord (Lord Seymour), and I heard no objection made in the Committee that to sum up the evidence in the way suggested would be to convey too direct a censure upon the Government. Well, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman has now called upon us, as he had a right to do, to express our opinion upon the Resolutions which were adopted. We have heard reasons urged why we should abstain from taking such a course, but I must say that any Member who entered this House to-night in doubt whether he ought to give a vote of censure can hardly have had his doubts removed by the reasons which have been advanced against the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) has taken an objection, which was previously urged by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), founded upon the first paragraph of the Report of the Committee, that the inquiry was incomplete. Now, I deny that the inquiry was incomplete as regards the question to which it applied. The construction I put upon that paragraph is that there were other matters upon which it would have been well for the Committee to inquire, that there were other witnesses whom it would have been desirable to examine, and that to this extent the inquiry was incomplete. I deny, however, that the Report of the Committee is incomplete. The hon. Member for Kidderminster, with great fairness, gave the Committee credit for the caution and reserve they had displayed, and I think it will be admitted that there is no statement in the Report, so ably drawn up by the noble Lord the Member for Totness, which is not fully sustained by the evidence. Indeed, throughout the Report reference is made in the margin to the evidence by which each conclusion is sustained, and I think any one who will take the trouble to compare the Report with the evidence will be satisfied that the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle and the hon. Member for Kidderminster are not borne out in their endeavour to show that the Report is incomplete. The hon. 1008 Member for Kidderminster, using words which I took down at the time, said, "We are assembled to-night to discuss the policy of the Emperor of the French." [Mr. LOWE: Hear, hear!] The hon. Gentleman cheers me. He admits, at least, the accuracy of my quotation, but I must say that I dispute the accuracy of his conclusion. I conceive that a more erroneous and unfounded conclusion was never arrived at by any Member of this House. Let me remind the House that this is the identical bugbear by which it was originally endeavoured to stifle the Motion for inquiry. We were told when the Motion for the Sebastopol Committee was first proposed, "Beware of what you are doing. Remember the delicacy of this investigation. Recollect that it will be absolutely impossible for you to conduct your inquiry without trenching upon the affairs of our allies." Well, what was the result? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, I believe, has this evening distinctly and fairly admitted that the Committee avoided that danger. I contend that the Committee did avoid the danger, and I not only maintain that we are perfectly free to record our opinions upon such a subject, but I can imagine nothing more dangerous as a precedent than an attempt to try to stifle discussion in this House—an attempt to prevent hon. Members from expressing constitutionally their opinions upon the conduct of the Government of this country—because we happen to be in alliance with another nation—an alliance which we all regard with pride and gratification, and which I hope will long continue to be maintained with the same cordiality as at present. I must therefore contend that there is no reason, on the ground of the French alliance, for preventing this House from declaring whether or not they agree with the Report of the Committee, and whether they condemn the conduct of the Government with regard to the unhappy events which have occurred in the Crimea. Upon this ground I share the feelings of the right hon. Member for Carlisle, and, although I may arrive at the conclusion reluctantly, I cannot take shelter in the previous question which, has been moved by my hon. and gallant Friend (General Peel). I must say, there was nothing in the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend which, in my opinion, bore out his Motion, or could induce me to give it my support. My hon. and gallant Friend made some remarks upon the Report of the 1009 Committee, and he took exceptions to some portions of that Report, which, I confess, I heard with surprise from his lips, because he sat throughout upon the Committee, he was a party to the Report, and he never raised any of the objections which he has stated to-night while the Report was under consideration. Therefore, according to those rules which affect the conduct of Members of this House acting upon Committees, my hon. and gallant Friend was as much a party to the Report as any other Member of the Committee. My hon. and gallant Friend stated, as another reason for moving the previous question, that he thought the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, involved the policy of the expedition to the Crimea. Now, this I must deny. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, I am certain, will not contradict me when I say that, neither in word nor in intention, does his Motion involve the policy of the expedition to the Crimea. I will not, however, shrink from declaring in this House what I have stated in private, that if the Motion did involve that question I should not, on that ground, hesitate to give it my support. I was one of those who did disapprove of the policy of the expedition to the Crimea. I think, if we consider the state of the war at the moment when that expedition was resolved upon, we may well entertain doubts of its policy. Let me remind the House that at that time the siege of Silistria had been raised, the Principalities had been evacuated, Constantinople was safe, and the immediate objects of the war, as a defensive war, had been attained. It was, therefore, a very grave question whether the whole policy of the war should be changed, and whether a war which had been undertaken as a defensive war should become a war of attack, and aggression, and invasion of a foreign soil. An hon. and gallant Member who has spoken to-night has anticipated the time when there may be a British occupation of the Crimea. We have never heard of any such intention. Do the Government entertain any such intention? They have never announced it, and my belief is, that from the moment the invasion was commenced to the present time, Her Majesty's Government have never had any definite idea of what the result of the invasion of the Crimea will be. I may remind the House, also, that we have been told by the 1010 noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) in a recent debate, that, in the event of a successful aggression from the invasion of an enemy's soil at a distance of 3,000 miles, we are not at liberty even to ask for the legitimate fruits of our success—namely, the cession of territory. The noble Lord admitted that, among the difficulties which beset this subject, that question would be the most difficult of solution; but he stated that, however successful we might be in an offensive war, we were not at liberty to reap the fruits of our success. Now, in my mind, only two conditions could justify this policy, and both are absent. The one is a sufficient force for the undertaking; the other is a moral certainty of success. I will not, however, dwell upon this point, because, as I have said, the Motion does not touch it. The question raised by the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and which this House is called upon to decide, is this—whether, be the policy of the Government in the abstract good or bad, it was wise or unwise to carry the war into the enemy's country, find whether the Government of the day were justified in attacking Russia as they have done, with inadequate means, and in hazarding the honour, the glory, and the prestige of England upon that one rash expedition? In my humble opinion, the attack upon the Crimea, as it was conducted, violated every rule of war and every dictate of prudence. I do not think I could have stronger evidence in support of this view than that which I derive from Members of Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet. The Duke of Newcastle stated, before the Committee, that on the 10th of April he wrote to Lord Raglan these words—Before the siege of a fortress so strong can be attempted it is necessary that information which can be relied on should be obtained upon many points upon which little or nothing is at present known.I quite agree with that language; I think there we see prudent and proper caution. But what was done? What was the reply to that despatch? The month of April, the month of May, the month of June passed over, and not one word of information did the Government receive; and on the 29th of June the Government—still in utter ignorance of the strength of Sebastopol, of the amount of Russian forces in the Crimea, and, indeed, upon every 1011 point on which the Duke of Newcastle had stated that information was indispensable—ordered the attack upon the Crimea. In the middle of July the Government did receive an answer, and it was, that Lord Raglan could not obtain the information which was desired. In the course of our inquiry we received the evidence of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), and of Lord Aberdeen (the late Prime Minister), who stated that, although the expedition was directed in the absence of information which was essential, and which ought, in prudence, to have been obtained, the Government did receive information at the end of July, but whether that information was correct or not seems to be doubtful. The right hon. Baronet and the noble Earl, however, stated they believed the information to be correct. That information was, that the Russian force in the Crimea was 70,000; and the Government of this country, violating every rule of war and of prudence, sent a force of little more than 50,000, of which only 25,000 were British soldiers, to attack the 70,000 in the great stronghold of Russia, one of the most powerful fortresses in Europe. The first event that occurred was the Battle of the Alma, one of the most glorious days ever known to the British arms; but I believe no military man will ever contradict me when I say that, in the opinion of military men, that battle was won against all human probability—that if the Russians had been true to themselves, and availed themselves, as they ought to have done, of their position at the Alma—that if they had fought as they afterwards did at Inkerman and Sebastopol—we should not have obtained a victory, and the result would have been to us utter destruction. The Government had made no adequate provision for so important a campaign; but on the horrible results that followed I will not dwell—they are detailed in the evidence given to the Committee by the most undoubted witnesses, upon which evidence is founded the Report we are now considering. The Government have never disputed that Report—they have never taken the bold course of questioning its justice; and the question now is, will the House of Commons give its sanction to that Report? Sir, I cannot believe the House will refuse to do so. I, for one, have no hesitation as to the course which a sense of duty leads me to take, and, I may add, 1012 that there is nothing in the conduct of the present Government, including, as it does, a large majority of the men who were concerned in those transactions, that can tend to diminish that sense of duty. Recent events have rather shaken the confidence of the country in that Government. We have reason to believe that they have not dealt fairly and honestly with the House of Commons. And when we consider the lamentable circumstances that we have had to deplore, let us ask, what assurance we have that the Government is now taking adequate means to prevent a repetition of those circumstances in the approaching winter? Where are the reserves so essential to the maintenance of the army? Where is the militia that England ought to have? No part of the conduct of the late Government was more culpable than their neglect of the militia before embarking in the war. We ought at this moment to have a force of 120,000 militia in the three kingdoms—for England 80,000, Ireland 30,000, and Scotland 10,000—whereas for the three kingdoms the whole militia force is not more than 50,000. Then, is the army at the strength which this House has voted? I believe not. These are important matters, and as it appears to me that the Government now, as the Government then, are neglecting these great interests, though it may be painful on personal grounds, and may involve some sacrifice of feeling, yet my sense of duty is so clear and strong that I feel myself bound to give my support to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
Sir, I must confess that I was astonished at the opening sentence of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I should have thought his memory would have served him for at least twenty-four hours, and that he would not have repeated the charge that was denied by those most competent to deny it, of our having shrunk last night from a vote of censure by sacrificing a colleague. I thought the noble Colleague himself and my noble Friend at the head of the Government stated, in terms as distinct as words could make them, that we were ready to fight the battle, and that we were perfectly prepared to resist the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir B. Lytton), if he had brought it forward. The right hon. Gentleman is not more justified in saying that we are 1013 shrinking to-night from any responsibility that justly belongs to us. We are prepared to vote for the Motion which has been made by the hon. and gallant general opposite. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not ashamed at the course we are prepared to take, nor do I think that in pursuing that course we are shrinking from the discharge of our duty. It is perfectly true, as has been stated, that we opposed the appointment of this Committee, and we did so because we believed that the inquiry must necessarily be imperfect—that many of those whose evidence was essential, in order to enable the Committee to come to a correct opinion, could not be examined, and that moreover, in all the transactions, or most of them at least, the conduct of our allies was involved, with regard to which our mouths must necessarily be closed. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Pakington) has stated that he did not think this last reason justified resistance to the Committee, or that it ought to lead the House to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant General; but he seems to have forgotten that the Committee themselves have reported that their inquiry on this ground was necessarily imperfect—that it was impossible to go into questions, the elucidation of which could alone enable them to form a just judgment on the matter. The hon. and gallant General stated that as a reason why he moved the previous question; the same ground has been stated by others, and it is perfectly clear that on this point the inquiry, as we predicted, is an inconclusive inquiry. That is why we are prepared to vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant General. If all had been disclosed that ought to have been disclosed, so as to make it a complete inquiry, we should have been the last persons to take that course. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not in the habit of shrinking from any charge brought against me, nor is there any Member of the Government who is in the habit of doing so. I know not, therefore, why Gentlemen should doubt the assurance that we are ready to resist any charge that may be brought against us on this subject when the evidence regarding it is fairly before the House. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say that he does not see how the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield involves the question of the policy of the expedition to the Crimea, and so consistent is the right hon. Gentleman, that the moment these words are out of 1014 his lips the question he asks is, whether we were justified in going to the Crimea? And not only does he ask that question, but he gives his opinion on the subject, for he says that we violated every rule of war, and every dictate of prudence by going to the Crimea. I am not disposed to shrink from the responsibility of that expedition to the Crimea. I believe the expedition to Sebastopol was a wise undertaking. No doubt success has not, up to this moment, attended our efforts; but those who are on the spot and better able than we are to judge—as every person who has friends in the Crimea and is in the habit of receiving letters must know—believe that success will eventually attend our arms. The noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Marquess of Granby) says we have forgotten the lessons of the last war during the long peace that has intervened, and that we seem to think war can be conducted without loss or suffering. Such has not been the opinion of the Government. I am as sorry as any man can be that we should have been involved in war; but I am convinced that the shortest mode of attaining an honourable and satisfactory peace, and of putting an end to the horrors of war, is to carry on the war with the greatest activity and vigour of which this country is capable. In reference to the Motion itself, I will only advert to a single point raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Sheffield for the purpose of showing to some extent the animus and, at the same time, the utter inconsistency of his charges. Among other things the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to what he called the "dire chasm" of six miles which separated the supplies collected in the harbour of Balaklava from the camp on the heights. The want of the road he charged as a fault entirely resting on the Administration at home. Now, I should like to know when the hon. and learned Gentleman arrived at that conclusion, because certainly on the 18th of June he held an opinion diametrically the reverse. I feel some unwillingness to refer to the opinion then held by the hon. and learned Gentleman, because it may seem to cast a reflection on that noble and gallant Lord to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman has himself tonight paid a just though tardy tribute of praise. That noble and gallant Lord was decried and unjustly slandered in his lifetime, but now his value is beginning to be 1015 appreciated; and, therefore, when I refer to the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman, it is only for the purpose of showing the utter inconsistency with which he makes his charges. Here are the words of the hon. and learned Gentleman contained in a Resolution submitted to the Sebastopol Committee, but for which, to the honour of the Committee, only one Member was found to vote—The Commander of the Forces, Lord Raglan, is in a great degree immediately responsible for the sufferings of the army. Had the requisite firmness and foresight been shown by him, much of the misery resulting from the want of land transport, from the want of a road from Balaklava to the camp, from the want of an efficient ambulance, from insufficient and improper food, from the want of shelter, clothing, and fuel, might have been prevented.A month ago it was Lord Raglan who, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, was to blame; but, Lord Raglan being removed beyond the reach of his charges, he finds it convenient to transfer the responsibility to the Government. But what say the Committee in the Report to which the hon. and learned Gentleman is a party? They say—That the probable failure of the communication was not, however, brought to the notice of the Duke of Newcastle, until too late to enable him to take measures in England to prevent the serious calamities which subsequently arose.We have been told to-night that the Report of the Committee is not in some cases strictly borne out by the evidence, and I think I have shown that the charges of the hon. and learned Gentleman are not borne out by the Report. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir J. Pakington) says, he is not to be deterred by any personal feelings from voting in support of the original Motion. As the right hon. Gentleman voted for the Resolution in the Committee, it is not to be expected that he would do otherwise in this House, but he has not very distinctly told us what his object is in so voting. The hon. and learned Gentleman tells us, that his object is to pass a censure on those Members of the present Government who were Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government, but disclaims all party feeling in the matter. If, however, we look to the course which has been pursued on these questions, it is difficult not to believe that party feeling, to a certain extent, has dictated some of these attacks. I remember that at the early period of these discussions we heard of nothing 1016 but charges against the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Aberdeen. Those two noblemen were removed from the Government—that is to say, the whole of Lord Aberdeen's Government having paid the penalty of the censure of the House of Commons, and having resigned together, my noble Friend now at the head of the Administration, after two fruitless attempts had been made to constitute a Government, succeeded in forming a Cabinet, which included some Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government. An attack was then immediately made on some of the Members of the new Cabinet, though Lord Derby, so far from thinking them unfit for office, had attempted to include some of them in the Government he was trying to form. On the formation, however, of my noble Friend's Government, a certain number were selected for attack, and they, unfortunately I think, thought it their duty to resign. When they had been removed an attack was next made against a noble friend of mine, the Member for the City of London, and now that he has quitted the Government, the attack is levelled against those other Members of Lord Aberdeen's Government who happen to be Members of the present Government. I beg the House to remember the charges made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. I thought, and still think, that the accusations made against the Duke of Newcastle, the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham) and the late Secretary at War (Mr. Sidney Herbert) were most unjust and unfounded; and I now congratulate them on the testimony which the hon. and learned Gentleman has borne to the efficiency with which they conducted the departments placed under their respective care. The hon. and learned Gentleman has had the fullest opportunity of investigating their conduct, and he has told us to-night that nothing could exceed their activity and zeal. I can hardly remember all the complimentary phrases in which the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed his entire approbation of their conduct. Well, I always thought that the time would come when public opinion would do justice to the exertions they made last summer; but I confess that, sanguine as I was that justice, however tardy, would be done them, I little expected that it would so soon be proclaimed from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He seldom is complimentary in his language, 1017 and nothing but the entire conviction of their truth could have induced him to pay such extraordinary compliments. Having, then, entirely acquitted from blame those gentlemen who managed the several departments connected with the war, the hon. and learned Member falls upon us, who certainly did not and could not interfere with the management of their departments. Now, I have not the slightest disposition to shrink from any responsibility which belongs to me as the colleague of those gentlemen, but the hon. and learned Member must have strange notions of how the business of Government can be conducted when he says that we are guilty for the mismanagement of those departments which, at the same time, he states were well managed by the persons at the head of them. The noble Duke, the former head, of the War Department, was in London, and is praised by the hon. and learned Member for managing his department with admirable judgment and skill, while the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonial Department, in attendance on Her Majesty in Scotland, is grievously to be blamed for not interfering with the noble Duke in the management of the War Department. My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham), the then First Lord of the Admiralty, never left town for a single day except in discharge of his duty, and a compliment is also paid him for his management of his department, and because I, the President of the Board of Control, did not interfere with it I am to be censured. The Secretary at War was also in town doing his duty, and is complimented by the hon. and learned Gentleman; but the President of the Board of Works is highly to be censured to-night because he did not interfere in what was not his business. We are all to be censured for not interfering in what, according to the testimony of the hon. and learned Gentleman, was admirably done by the proper persons. I had not intended to refer to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I could not help pointing out the gross inconsistency of his charges. Well, the inquiry being incomplete, as we thought it would be before the appointment of the Committee, and as we now know it is from the Report of the Committee, an hon. and gallant Gentleman has moved the previous question. That hon. and gallant Gentleman is no supporter of the Government, but he took an active part in the Committee, and his Motion is supported by a noble 1018 Lord, also an active member of the Committee, who entirely agrees in thinking that, as the inquiry was incomplete, it is impossible to pronounce a fair and just opinion on the evidence. Under these circumstances the Government do not think that they can be justly charged with shrinking from any responsibility properly attaching to them if they concur in the opinion of those hon. Gentlemen, sitting on different sides of the House, that the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield is not a fit and proper question to be put to the House.
§ MR. MILNES GASKELL moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, that he had also hoped the House would have come to a decision on the question that night; but the reason why they could not come to a decision now was, the great delay that occurred before any Member of the Government rose to express his opinions. In consequence of the course which the Ministers had taken, he must confess he could not see how it was possible for the House to come to a decision upon the question that night.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he hoped that the Government would not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon the question of the adjournment of the debate. He did not know during the entire Session that they had a matter before them of such extreme importance as the present. He was not an advocate for long debates; but he thought that it was most reasonable to ask for the adjournment of the question. The Government had evidently wished to shirk the question, and had abstained until midnight from declaring what course they intended to take. The debate, he thought, might last a whole week to the advantage of the country.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that with regard to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to no Member of the Government rising early in the debate, there were obvious reasons why they should give way to other persons who desired to express their opinions. If the sense of the House should be in favour of an adjournment, he would not oppose it; but he should have thought that the House was in a very good position to proceed with the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.