§ MR. MALINS
said, the Motion of which he had given notice was one of very great importance, and consequently he felt considerable hesitation in being the organ of bringing it before the House. But, involving as it did considerations of importance to the public service, the honour of public servants, and the discretion of the Government, he did not feel himself at liberty to decline the request that had been made to him to bring the matter before the House. He trusted, therefore, that he should receive the kind indulgence of the House while he made a statement of facts as the foundation for the Motion he should have the honour to make. The House was well aware of the circumstances under which Sir Charles Napier was appointed to command the fleet in the Baltic rather more than a year ago. It was in the month of February, 1854, that the Government, having determined to equip and send out to the Baltic the finest fleet, as universally admitted, that had ever left the shores of Great Britain, proceeded to execute that task which became an imperative duty upon them, and to exercise the best of their powers of judgment in selecting for the command of that fleet the must distinguished officer that could be found in the Navy List. The Admiralty was at that time presided over by the right hon. Baronet the Member far Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), and the present Prime Minister was at that period the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Upon the right hon. Member for Carlisle more particularly 262 devolved the duty of selecting the commander of that fleet. The nation, knowing that this great fleet was about to quit these shores, looked with intense anxiety to the person who should be selected to command it, and they received, certainly with great approbation, the announcement that Sir Charles Napier had been selected to take that command. The Government of that day felt proud of their selection; they felt that they had completely to their own satisfaction, and, as they thought, to the satisfaction of the nation, fixed upon the man whose appointment would be hailed with universal joy; and the House would also remember, that the appointment was celebrated by that dinner at the Reform Club, to which, however, he should only advert for the particular purpose he had in view. The propriety of that dinner had been discussed in that House, and it was not his intention to renew that discussion on the present occasion; but he would not discharge his duty in bringing forward this Motion if he did not advert to it for, as he had just stated, a particular purpose. The dinner on that occasion was presided over by the noble Lord the present Prime Minister of England, and it was attended by the right hon. Member for Carlisle, then First Lord of the Admiralty. It was also attended by another Member of the Government, the Chief Commissioner of Woods and Forests, and by a great number of Members who sat on the Government side of the House. He would refer very shortly to one or two things that were said at that dinner, to show the satisfaction which Members of the Government expressed at the selection that had been made of Sir Charles Napier to command the fleet. He should trouble the House by reading one passage from the speech of the noble Lord the present Prime Minister, who said at the conclusion of his address—As bearing upon that point (that is, upon the fitness of Sir Charles Napier), I cannot refrain from repeating an observation made to me by a very discriminating and calculating friend of mine, who passed some portion of his time in the East at the period to which I have adverted, who saw a good deal of my gallant friend there, and who, when he came home, came to me to give me some account of what he had observed there. I mentioned my gallant friend to him, and praised his boldness, his intrepidity, his daring. My friend said, 'Yes, all that is very true; but there is another quality Sir Charles Napier possesses as valuable as any of those, and a most important ingredient in them. I never saw a man in my life who calculated so many moves beforehand as Sir Charles Napier.' Now, when a man calculates his 263 moves beforehand, and has a spirit and genius to execute them, I think that the country which places its fortunes in his hands may well feel confident in his success.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle then said—I shall not pretend to weigh the precise ingredients of valour my gallant friend was distinguished for, his remarkable daring and bravery; but even then, in that early part of his career, he verified the praise of the noble Lord. He looked several moves before him, and, in my judgment, he is not only a gallant, but I look upon him as a most discreet commander. He possesses my entire confidence, and I rejoice in having had the opportunity on this great occasion to commend him to the choice of my Sovereign. The selection, I believe, is approved by the country—it is approved by the profession; and although the propelling power of the fleets may be changed, though naval tactics may be altered, as he goes forth the commander, not of a pressed body of men, but of volunteers in Her Majesty's service—though all these old plans may be changed, yet there is one thing that is unchanged, the gallantry and the power of command of my gallant friend. He does not go forth under the hypocritical pretence of conducting a religious war, but he goes forth to assert the independence of Europe—to resist, and I hope successfully to resist, the lawless spirit of aggression and aggrandisement which now threatens to disturb the general peace. My gallant friend says that when he gets into the Baltic he will declare war. I, as First Lord of the Admiralty, give him my free consent to do so. I hope that war will be short. It may be sharp, but I trust, with the spirit and energy that have ever guided my gallant friend, it will be decisive, and although politics are excluded generally from the naval profession, yet we, as Reformers, may be proud that the honour of the British flag in the Euxine and the Baltic is intrusted to two such champions as Admiral Dundas and Sir Charles Napier. They will prove true to their country in the last extremity, and I sincerely hope the time may not be far distant when you, perhaps, will kindly invite me again to celebrate the return of my gallant friend. This evening is an evening of happy augury. When we next meet I hope it will be to celebrate a brilliant success.Could any man have believed that the gallant Admiral who on the 7th or 8th of March, 1854, was proclaimed to Europe as the fittest man to be found to sustain the honour of England, should, when he returned with that fleet, having received the approbation of the Government almost every day while he commanded it, be met by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle with contempt and contumely, and dismissed from his command, instead of being invited to meet the right hon. Gentleman to celebrate his success? He hoped the House would clearly understand that he did not bring forward this matter as a personal question that merely affected an Admiral, but as a question involving the honour of public servants generally. He 264 trusted the House would agree with him in thinking that England could not insult her best public men and most valued servants with impunity, or without proclaiming to the world either that the Government was shortsighted in the selection of a man, or being foresighted, as they claimed the credit of being, it was an unworthy service to embark in when the man selected, having done his best and received praise, should be so treated at the end.
The appointment having been so inaugurated, the gallant Admiral hoisted his flag and proceeded to the Baltic. He (Mr. Malins) begged here to observe that he had experienced great difficulty while examining the documents which bad been submitted for his inspection, being apprehensive lest in bringing them before the House he should refer to anything that would be calculated to impair the public service. In the midst of such a correspondence it was difficult to steer clear of such a difficulty, but he should endeavour as much as possible to avoid reading anything that might be considered a communication to the enemy or which contained anything detrimental to the public service. He found that the gallant Admiral having arrived in the Baltic, a correspondence, both public and private, took place. Letters were written by the Board of Admiralty to the gallant Admiral, and letters were also written to him by the First Lord of the Admiralty in his individual capacity, expressing to him the most marked and unequivocal admiration of his conduct from the day he sailed, down, at all events, to the month of September. The House would consider the difficulties with which the gallant Admiral had to contend; they would recollect that he quitted their shores with the most powerful fleet that England had ever sent forth, but with undisciplined men, who had not any experience of war, and had before him a navigation the most intricate which any part of the world presented. The House would see that the gallant Admiral in command of that fleet evaded those difficulties, preserved his fleet entire without disaster, and did all the Government had expected of him, and more; and instead of being treated in the manner he had been treated, the public service and the honour of the country required that he should be received with honour by his country and requited in a manner worthy of the position which he occupied. It would be necessary for him to refer to some letters that had been written by the 265 First Lord of the Admiralty in his individual capacity to the Admiral, and he was aware it might be said they were private letters. He had maturely considered the subject, and he was satisfied the House would not consider them as private letters. It could not be considered that letters written by one public officer to another in the public service, and calculated to influence the actions of that public officer to whom the letters were addressed, should be treated as private communications. Supposing, for instance, the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his individual capacity, had written to the commander of the fleet, requesting that he would not delay an attack on Cronstadt beyond the 1st of June—he (Mr. Malins) was only putting a case, such a thing did not occur—and suppose the Admiral, contrary to his judgment, resolved to make the attack, and failed, was he to be told that he should not be at liberty to produce in justification of his conduct a letter written by the First Lord of the Admiralty to him, which was calculated to influence his conduct, and which did in fact influence it? He could not think that any one would deny that proposition. However he had a precedent for reading these letters. A noble Lord on the other side of the House had proposed the appointment of a Committee, commonly known as the Stafford Committee, to inquire into the conduct of a gentleman on that (the Opposition) side of the House in the management of the dockyards and other matters. The question arose before that Committee whether letters written by the First Lord of the Admiralty in his individual capacity to the Secretary of the Admiralty in his individual capacity should be read before that Committee, and the Committee, which was presided over by the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) resolved that all those private communications should be produced, and that no person examined before the Committee should be allowed to protect himself by saying that the letter he had received was a private letter, or that a communication which had taken place between himself and another public servant was a private communication. He thought the decision of a competent tribunal, that such communications were not private communications, was sufficient to justify him in the course he was about to pursue. He should now proceed to refer to the letters that had been addressed to Sir Charles Napier by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle; 266 but it was not his intention to place their contents in extenso before the House. He had made a selection of a few of the most important passages which bore on the general proposition which he meant to submit to the House. He had stated the circumstances under which Sir Charles Napier was appointed, he had referred to the favourable auspices under which he left these shores, and to the manner in which the operations in the Baltic were carried on, and he was now desirous of showing that those operations were conducted to the entire satisfaction of the Government; and for that purpose he would read a few passages from the letters of the right hon. Baronet. It would be remembered that Sir Charles left England in the middle of March. On the 10th of April he received the following letter from the right hon. Member for Carlisle—I am entirely satisfied with your proceedings. Neither Lord Clarendon nor I anticipated your movement inside the Belt, and believed that you would watch in the Cattegat the entrance of the Sound and of the Belts until you received orders to enter the Baltic. You judged, however, wisely, and the time which you have gained has been very precious, and the passage of the Belt in fine weather and in safety has been a most successful exploit. You will also have been enabled to exercise your officers and men to great advantage, with the certainty that the enemy is in front of you, blocked up in ice for some time to come, and that your reinforcements will arrive, and that your discipline will be improved. When the state of the ice permits, I conclude that you will establish a close blockade of the Gulf of Finland, dividing the enemy's squadron at Cronstadt, and at Sweaborg, and intercepting the trade of Revel and Riga. I rely on your prudence in not knocking your head against stone walls prematurely, or without the certainty of a great success, or the fair prospect of attaining some most important object worthy of the risk and of the loss, which when you attack fortresses with ships are serious and inevitable.All that prudent advice was given by the Admiralty during spring and summer, the fitting seasons to attack stone walls if they were to be attacked at all; but when winter came, with hurricanes and boisterous weather, they were very desirous that those stone walls should be attacked. On the 1st of May the right hon. Baronet again writes—I have received your letter of the 19th, off the entrance of the Gulf of Finland. I am glad that you decided not to proceed to Sweaborg. The weather is still broken, the channel is not clear of ice, and your force is not yet concentrated. A safe anchorage within the Gulf of Finland would seem to me your greatest and most pressing necessity. I had hoped that Port Baltic 267 might be available for this purpose, but if it be commanded from the shore, or if for any other reason you reject it, still I trust that you will be enabled to establish and to hold a close blockade of the Gulf of Finland, and to cut off the communication by sea between Sweaborg and Cronstadt. Your force, I hope and think, will be large enough to render the escape of any Russian squadron from the Baltic impossible, and to leave us quite at ease in England, although we may have no large reserve ready on our own shores. It will be best in the first instance to feel your way, and to make good your hold in the Gulf of Finland. When I say this, I by no means contemplate an attack either on this or that place (mentioning two places). I have a great respect for stone walls, and have no fancy for running even screw line-of-battle ships against them. Because the public here may be impatient, you must not be rash; because they at a distance from danger are foolhardy, you must not risk the loss of a fleet in an impossible enterprise. I believe both to be all but impregnable from the sea, Sweaborg more especially; and none but a very large army could co-operate by land efficiently. If, then, you have no means except naval at your command you must pause long and consider well before you attempt any attack on the Russian squadrons in their strongholds, and I am afraid they are much too cautious to come out and meet you. Had you been weaker, they might have done so; now they will wait and watch an opportunity in the hope that you will seriously cripple your force by knocking your head against their forts, when they may take you at a serious disadvantage, and inflict a fatal blow. These considerations must not be overlooked by you. I recall them to your mind, lest in the eager desire to achieve a great exploit, and to satisfy the wild wishes of an impatient multitude at home, you should yield to some rash impulse, and fail in the discharge of one of the noblest of duties, which is the moral courage to do what you know to be right, at the risk of being accused of having done wrong. It is enough to present this view to your deliberate attention; you will reflect on it, and I am certain that your judgment will not err.He (Mr. Malins) did not read those letters for the purpose of blaming the advice that had been given. On the contrary, he conceived it to be a sound advice to give, and a good advice for the Admiral to follow; but he complained that all that advice which was given at a certain period was departed from, and the Government thought fit to quarrel with the Admiral because, having adhered to this advice during the summer and a part of autumn, he did not think fit at their suggestion to depart from it when winter set in. On the 15th May, the right hon. Baronet writes as follows—If anything can be done you will discover the best means of doing it; but no rash experiments must be tried which do not hold out a reasonable prospect of success. I am anxious to hear your opinion and intentions when you have looked at Sweaborg and entered the Gulf of Finland. I am afraid that the Russians will not pluck up courage and come out to meet you.268 It was a subject of frequent reproach that the Russians avoided coming out and giving battle in the open sea. On the 20th of June, by which time the Government had some experience, the Admiral having gone out in March, the right hon. Baronet thus expressed his most unqualified approval of the gallant officer's proceedings—I am well pleased with all your operations; and the concentration of your force at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland, in a safe harbour where you can command fresh water, appears to me a judicious operation. I conclude that you will leave a squadron before Helsingfors sufficiently strong to prevent the escape of the Russian squadron skulking within the harbour, and proceed with the rest of the combined fleet to the neighbourhood of Cronstadt, which I am afraid you will find unassailable. If the Russian fleet will not come out to meet you, and if you find that you cannot reach them, after having well reconnoitred the works, and ascertained what it is possible and impossible to do, your return to the more open sea below Helsingfors would appear to be a judicious measure, every necessary precaution being taken to prevent the reunion of the Russian force now divided at Cronstadt and Helsingfors. I am well aware of all the difficulties of your position, and of the impossibility of triumphing over an enemy who will not fight you on fair terms; but you will discipline our fleet, and make our officers and men ready for any service. It is a disgrace to Russia that she dare not show a ship in her own waters, and that she is driven to seek for safety under the shelter of her fortresses. It would be madness to play her game, and to rush headlong on her granite walls, risking our naval superiority, with all the fatal consequences of defeat, in an unequal contest with wood against stone, which in the long run cannot succeed. I had reliance on your prudence, which was doubted. Your brilliant courage was proved long ago. You will now show to the world that you possess a combination of those great virtues which are necessary to make a consummate commander in chief.On the 27th of June he again writes as follows—I am glad you have gone up to Cronstadt to see with your own eyes what it may be possible to do there. Whatever man can do I am certain will be done by you; and if you are restrained by a sense of duty from embarking in any desperate enterprise, on your return to Baro Sound you shall receive full instructions from me respecting an attack upon the Aland Islands.Finally, on the 25th of August, the right hon. Gentleman wrote to say that he was more than satisfied with the gallant Admiral's proceedings, that he was delighted with the prudence and sound judgment he had evinced, and that it would have been a miserable want of firmness had he yielded to clamour, and risked his ships and sacrificed many valuable lives in an attempt to destroy by naval means, works which were certain to fall upon being attacked by land. 269 He added, that the gallant Admiral's reasoning in favour of the immediate and entire destruction of the forts at Bomarsund was irresistible, and hoped he would take care to destroy them so completely that not one stone should be left upon another. He concluded by observing, that he was well pleased with the promptitude with which Sir Charles had sent back the line-of-battle ships and steamers; that he gave the gallant Admiral the utmost credit for the work he had done; that he then wrote in haste, as the time pressed for the destruction of Bomarsund, but that in a few days he would write upon the subject of ulterior operations, and of the preparations which must be made for an early retreat from the Baltic before winter. Now he thought that correspondence distinctly showed that from the time Sir Charles Napier left England down to the end of August, he received through the right hon. Baronet the repeated and unqualified approbation of the Government. He would now proceed to see whether anything took place after that period to disentitle the gallant officer to the same unqualified approbation of the Government. On the 20th of June, the Admiral had been directed to make a Report upon the practicability of taking Sweaborg; and the Admiral himself, on the 20th of June, made a Report to the Government, inclosing another Report of Admiral Chads, agreeing with his own on the subject of such an attack. Both Admirals agreed as to the particular mode of taking the fortress, and they both agreed that if proper appliances were afforded them, and the attack were made at the proper season of the year, they should have no doubt whatever as to the success of the operation, but they both agreed that the attack must not be made later than the autumn. Now, after the fall of Bomarsund, namely, on the 4th of September, the French army sailed from the Baltic, and returned to France, but the French fleet remained there until the 19th of September. About the middle of that month Government were desirous of obtaining the opinions of the English and French Admirals as to the practicability of taking Sweaborg, and accordingly Sir Charles Napier was requested to hold a conference with the French Admiral, and to take into consideration what could be done. A plan for the purpose had been submitted to the Government by a distinguished engineering officer, namely, General Jones, and another plan by a distinguished French engineer, 270 namely, General Niel, and the English and French Admirals were desired to hold a conference, and take those plans into consideration. Accordingly a consultation was held on board the Duke of Wellington, the Admiral's ship, on the 12th of September, which was attended by three English admirals, the French admiral, and the French vice-admiral; and having considered the plans, they agreed to a Report, which the House of course would not expect him to read; but they all unanimously agreed in this, that the season of the year was too late to admit of such an operation being justifiably undertaken. That Report was forwarded to the Admiralty by Sir Charles Napier, on the 12th of September; but soon after, the Admiralty, feeling some anxiety on the subject, again wrote to Sir Charles Napier, requesting that a second consultation might be held; and accordingly Sir Charles Napier again wrote to the French Admiral, requesting his attendance on board the Duke of Wellington to reconsider the details of the plans. The French Admiral, however, declined to attend. He stated that he had already given his opinion, and his mind was made up on the subject. This was on the 18th of September; on the 19th the French fleet returned to France, and now of course the position of Sir Charles Napier became very materially altered to what it had been in the middle of June, when he had the assistance of a powerful French army and a powerful French fleet. If Sir Charles Napier was strong enough to carry on any great operations with the English fleet alone, of course the presence of the French fleet and army in the Baltic was unnecessary. At that time no great operations had been performed, and up to the present moment they remained unperformed; although Bomarsund had been destroyed, neither Cronstadt nor Sweaborg had been taken. In order to conduct operations of such magnitude with success, it was necessary that they should be undertaken with the greatest naval and military force that could be assembled; if they could be undertaken with a combined fleet, they ought not to be undertaken with a single fleet. Sir Charles Napier being unable, from the reason he had stated, to comply with the instructions of the Admiralty with regard to a second conference, did that which he thought was the next best thing—namely, called a council of his own admirals. It was held on the 19th of September, on board the Duke of Wellington, and was 271 attended by Sir Charles Napier and three other admirals, two of whom had been present at the previous conference, while the third, Admiral Byam Martin, had not. These officers again took into consideration the plans for attacking Sweaborg, and again came unanimously to the conclusion that the season of the year was too late to justify such an operation. In the meantime Sir Charles Napier had been directed to make a reconnaissance of Sweaborg, and, having done so, he sent home a detailed plan for an attack on that fortress, which, if adopted, the gallant Admiral felt no doubt would be successful, provided it was put in force at the proper time. That very plan was being adopted at this very moment, but it was to be carried out under the direction of another Admiral.
On the 25th of September, Sir Charles Napier, having been left only with the English fleet, communicated his plan of attack to the Admiralty; and now came the point of difference between him and the Admiralty. He had repeatedly read that report; although he could not read it in detail to the House, the Government knew its contents, and many hon. Members probably had seen or would see it, and he thought it impossible for any one to read it without seeing that Sir Charles Napier submitted to the Admiralty two distinct plans of attack, one of which was very uncertain of success, and the other was certain of success. But, with regard to both of these plans, Sir Charles Napier expressed his opinion that they were not practicable at that season of the year, when the weather could not be depended upon for two hours together, and when he did not know how many ships might be lost. That opinion was expressed on the 25th of September by Admiral Sir Charles Napier, who up to that very point of time had been regarded as a man of the greatest ability and a most consummate naval commander, and whose whole proceedings had to that time received the most unqualified praise. He (Mr. Malins) appealed to the House whether justice to a public servant did not require, when he was sent out on a mission of such importance, that confidence should be placed in him; and, whether, when those who were intrusted with the command of our fleets and armies expressed an opinion as to the practicability or impracticability of any particular undertaking, confidence should not be placed in their discretion. If such confidence were not reposed in them, then 272 he submitted that to leave those commanders still in possession of authority, and not instantly to recall them, was conduct on the part of the Government to the last degree imprudent, and fraught with danger to the nation. Well, there were two plans submitted by Sir Charles Napier to the Government, but with regard to both of which the intention of the gallant Admiral was that they should not be adopted that year, but either this year or the succeeding year. But the Government, instead of taking into consideration either of those plans, and forgetting the advice which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had himself given to Sir Charles Napier, that he must be cautious, not risk the fleet, and not put wood against stone, adopted what he (Mr. Malins) must call the most imprudent of all plans—namely, the calling upon the Admiral to do that which at the proper time all would consider to be right, but the doing of which at an improper time all unprejudiced minds must hold to be wrong. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues at the Admiralty forgot that prudent course of conduct which they had enforced upon the attention of Sir Charles Napier. At the time the gallant Admiral was appointed to the command of the fleet, the only fear entertained by the Government was, that he would not act with sufficient prudence and caution. His gallantry was never questioned, but his discretion, it was apprehended, might be. It had turned out, however, that the gallant Admiral in all this matter had been more discreet and more sound-judging than the Government itself. He had acted upon that discretion, and had refrained from an enterprise which he knew to be, at that time, impracticable. It was this display of discretion and sound judgment on the part of the Admiral that was the cause of all the obloquy that had been thrown upon him, and which, instead of his coming home and being entertained by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle at a second feast at the Reform Club, had occasioned him to be received hero only to be disgraced and discharged. Well, the Admiral having pointed out that neither of the plans was practicable at that season of the year, the Government, it appeared, about the 2nd of October, received information that Sebastopol had fallen. They believed it, and because they believed it, notwithstanding they had been told, in the middle of September, both by the French and English 273 Admirals, that the season was too late to make an attack upon Cronstadt, they expected Sir Charles Napier alone (the French fleet having already left the Baltic Sea) to commence operations against that fortress. What, after this, could the House think of the prudence of the Government? They had already had signal proof of the incapacity of the Government, that England, hitherto great, honoured, and proud of her position in the world, was reduced at this moment to a state in which he doubted whether any one could feel proud, until her character was retrieved, of saying he was an Englishman. ["Oh, oh!"] He heard some derisive cheers from the other side of the House, but he would repeat it, that, for want of judgment and for want of foresight in the plans adopted, and in the course pursued by the Government in the management of the war, no man could doubt that the character of England had been lowered in the eyes of the world. We did not know at present who was really to blame for all this, but he hoped the Committee whose proceedings had been made public mainly by the advice of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, would enable us to discover to whom we were indebted for the disastrous expedition to the Crimea, in the month of September. As to the nature of that counsel, they need not speculate, for they had positive proof of the want of foresight and the want of wisdom in advising that expedition. The House had already expressed its sense on the subject by the vote it came to six weeks ago in appointing a Committee to inquire into the state of the Army before Sebastopol—a vote which resulted in the fall of the Government itself. The late Government did not hesitate to risk the army by sending it to the Crimea, and in the same way they would have risked the fleet, had it not been for the prudence and foresight of the Admiral. Well, then, he thought he had brought this clearly before the House; he said the Admiral was useless, unless he could be trusted—and if he could not be trusted, he ought not to have been appointed; but, according to their own showing, Sir Charles Napier was the fittest man they could find for the command, and they ought to have bad confidence in his judgment and discretion; because it was confessed that between Russia and England there was nothing but the fleet for a protection, and if that fleet had been lost, either by bad navigation or by operations 274 that could not hope to be successful, there was nothing to defend us against the aggressions of the Russian fleet. Surely, then, the Government, after receiving a report from the Admiral that the season of the year was passed for undertaking such operations, should have paused before they goaded on the Admiral to attempt them; but their misconduct had lost us the army, and they had resolved to lose us the navy, if the Admiral had been sufficiently pliable for their purpose. It was the prudence and foresight of the Admiral that averted the latter catastrophe; and the country owed that distinguished officer too deep a debt of gratitude to admit of its being tolerated that the truth of these transactions should be kept in the dark. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle told the House the other night that the Admiral had not been dismissed—that he had not been censured—and although the Admiral had proclaimed himself a hero, he could not allow him to proclaim himself a martyr. But it was not the Admiral who proclaimed himself a hero; it was the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle who had proclaimed him a hero; and unless he was a hero, he was unfit for command. The best evidence that he was a hero was Ids being selected to command the fleet; and he could not understand how the right hon. Baronet could have come down to the House and said the Admiral had proclaimed himself a hero, and he would take care that he should not proclaim himself a martyr.
But to proceed with his narrative. The Admiral had a further complaint to make against the Government. He alleged that the Government, in replying to the letter in which he stated his plans of operation, had perverted his language, and had attributed to him a plan of operation which he never submitted for approval, and which had never entered into his mind. The Admiral pointed out to the Government that the season of the year was too late for undertaking any operation of magnitude; but, the Government being under the impression that Sebastopol had fallen, nothing would do for them but that something should be attempted in the Baltic. "We have taken Sebastopol," said they; "only let us take Cronstadt or Sweaborg, and the country will then be satisfied of what we have all along been satisfied with ourselves, namely, that so powerful a Ministry never existed before." But the 275 Admiral did not conform to their views—he could not consent to undertake an operation which the united Admirals of France and England had disapproved of at the time. Everybody knew that September in the Baltic was equivalent to November in England, and that October was like December. Besides, the navigation was the most dangerous in the world; there were such rocks and shoals that the fleet could not go about anywhere without buoying its course, and yet the Government actually wrote on the 4th of October directing the Admiral to attack Sweaborg, and on his writing home to say he could not depend upon the weather, the Government again wrote to him, saying, "You may choose your own day and opportunity." Here was the Government—the First Lord of the Admiralty and the other Lords of the Admiralty—no doubt the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley) among them, and giving his advice—here were they, sitting at Whitehall, writing to a British Admiral in the Baltic Sea, telling him to carry on operations in that sea at the end of October, and saying to him, "You may choose your day and your opportunity!" This was not contained in a private letter, but in one sent from the Board of Admiralty to the Admiral. If such a thing had been read in a correspondence between 'men of business, it would be said that the man who could so forget the circumstances with which he had to deal must expect disaster and ruin if he wrote or stated that an operation which could only be carried on in fine weather must be effected in the winter season, and that a fine day could be chosen for the purpose. They further said that an attack might be made towards the end of October, they having already been told by Sir Charles Napier that the middle of September was too late. They said, "An attack may be made towards the end of October with the least danger of an attack from the Russians, from the Constadt portion of the fleet." And what were the grounds for this? Because it appeared that between the freezing in of Cronstadt and of Sweaborg there was an interval of twelve days. So the Admiral was to choose some fine morning during that fortnight, when a part of the Russian fleet was frozen in, to make an attack on the other portion of it. If this had been told him (Mr. Malins) from recollection he should scarcely have believed it; but when he read it in official correspondence, and 276 found the names of the Secretary and two Lords of the Admiralty attached to it, there was no reason for doubt, and he must feel convinced. Such, then, had been the conduct of the Government with regard to this operation. Could it, then, be wondered at, when Sir Charles Napier had pledged his professional reputation that even the middle of September was too late—when, as he said, he was goaded on by the Government to undertake impossible, impracticable, and unsafe things, which, had he undertaken, he should, he felt, have left his fleet behind—was it to be wondered at that he felt himself obliged to write on the l0th of October, and state that, in consequence of this correspondence, he felt that he had lost the confidence of the Government, and that, if he had, he was ready to resign his command and return to this country? At the same time, he declared that no opinion which prevailed at home should induce him to undertake an operation that was impracticable or unsafe, as he had had the honour of England and the safety of the fleet committed to his charge. Now, all this would be clearly established if he (Mr. Malins) succeeded in his Motion and the correspondence was granted. It was conducted with consummate ability on both sides. That it should be conducted with ability on the side of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle was quite natural enough, but it was somewhat wonderful to find the gallant Admiral evincing ability of the highest order in the correspondence, and showing that he was just as capable of protecting himself with the pen as the nation believed he had protected her with the fleet. The correspondence was certainly rather an angry one; but he (Mr. Malins) could not find in it anything which would justify the Government in asserting that Sir Charles Napier had forgotten his duty; and if the Government had calmly and deliberately considered the circumstances, they would have come to this conclusion, that, in taking the course he had, Sir Charles Napier had not only refrained from claptrap undertakings to gain popularity, but he had taken a wide and comprehensive view of the circumstances, and exercised the power for which the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Carlisle had given him so much credit—namely, that of calculating so many moves beforehand; and that, instead of taking the first move suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, the gallant Admiral had calculated 277 his moves beforehand, and had come to the conclusion that the move suggested was a false and dangerous one, and, therefore, he would not undertake it. As the Government had given the gallant Admiral credit for this power, they ought to have adhered to it on this occasion, and believed that he saw further than they could see for him; and, instead of treating him with contempt, they should have honoured him for his advice and for the manner in which he had refrained from acting on their imprudent instructions. This correspondence virtually ended in November—it continued from the 4th of October to the 6th or 10th of November—when he found the gallant Admiral confessing a desire that this correspondence which had been a source of so much anxiety to him should come to a termination. He (Mr. Malins) could not bring this part of the correspondence to a conclusion without reading an extract from a letter written on the 31st of October—he must beg the House to bear in mind that on the 25th of August, Bomarsund having fallen on the 8th of that month, the First Lord of the Admiralty wrote to Sir Charles Napier saying, "I am more than satisfied with all your proceedings." The House should bear in mind that Bomarsund had fallen on the 16th of August, and yet, notwithstanding that letter of the 25th of August, the letter of the 31st of October declared the Government to be dissatisfied with the Admiral for not having followed up the success of Bomarsund with an attack upon Cronstadt. The only true principle of carrying on war was this—if an army had to be commanded, to select a Commander in Chief; or, if a fleet was to be sent out, to name an Admiral, and to say, "There is your enemy; you know we desire him to be harassed and destroyed in every possible way; but the mode of the operations must be left to your discretion." In the present instance the Government departed from that principle in not only dictating the operations, but almost naming the day on which they were to be carried out. Why, what would be said to the Secretary at War if it were found that he had written to Lord Raglan to desire that he would take Sebastopol on the 1st of April next, or any other day? What would be said of a Government writing to a general to carry out a particular operation on a particular day, thereby setting aside the discretion of the general himself? Would not his answer be, "This is a matter which necessarily you cannot possibly 278 know so much about as myself, but if you have not sufficient confidence in me or my discretion as to the mode and time of carrying out these operations, I beg you will relieve me of this command. I am perfectly ready to return home." Now, that was precisely the case of Sir Charles Napier. The Admiralty, after having expressed its approbation of Sir Charles Napier's conduct, and after having carried on a correspondence with him relative to the attack on Sweaborg, wrote to him on the 31st of October and stated, "We are fully satisfied with the reasons for not attacking the fortress as determined at that council; but, considering the conflict of authorities"—he must here state to the House that this conflict of authorities arose between General Jones, the English engineer, and General Niel, the French engineer, the former stating that it would take six or seven days to take the fortress, while the latter put it down at two hours—"but, considering the conflict of authorities contained in the reports recently brought before them, their Lordships cannot express equal satisfaction that steps were not taken to attack Sweaborg immediately after the fall of Bomarsund." Now, he appealed to the House whether any admiral receiving such a letter would not naturally feel that he had lost the confidence of his Government, and that his command was no longer satisfactory, especially as, up to the end of August, his entire proceedings had met with the approval of the Admiralty? That naturally produced great dissatisfaction in the mind of Sir Charles Napier, and the correspondence was virtually closed on the 10th of November. Sir Charles Napier returned to England, and arrived at Portsmouth on the 17th of December, As soon as the gallant Admiral could make preparations, he came up to London, and had an interview with the First Lord of the Admiralty, from whom, considering the terms on which they had parted, he thought the gallant Admiral might rely upon it that he would meet with a cordial reception on his return. Now, he (Mr. Malins) thought that the gallant Admiral might consider himself entitled to such a reception from what the right hon. Gentleman said only a month back in moving the Navy Estimates. So far from intimating any ground of dissatisfaction with the proceedings of the gallant Admiral, the right hon. Baronet, as lately as the 16th of February, having been asked, with regard to the expenditure for the navy, what had 279 been done in the Baltic, made use of these words—Now, I really must say that, on the whole, the operations in the Baltic, as they were conducted last year, appear to me to deserve the approbation of the House.The operations of which he was speaking, be it remembered, were operations conducted under the command of Sir Charles Napier—Bomarsund, a most important naval station, fortified strongly, and bearing marks of an intention to carry that system of fortification to a much greater extent, has been destroyed. The great naval arsenal close to the capital of the Emperor of Russia was visited by a force inferior to the force there stationed. Battle was repeatedly offered and as repeatedly declined. Up to last month Sweaborg, with nine sail of the line, was blockaded by an inferior force of frigates only. Never were operations more successful, displaying more gallantry, more discipline, than the operations in the Baltic. In that sea not a ship was lost, a most effective blockade was kept up—a blockade which displayed the energy, skill, and gallantry of English officers and men, and the pressure brought to bear upon the enemy was, I believe, by no means slight."—[3 Hansard, cxxxvi. 1481.]So that the right hon. Gentleman, in moving the Navy Estimates only an hour after the question had been put to him by an hon. and gallant Officer on that side of the House as to what was the quarrel between Sir Charles Napier and the Government—the right hon. Gentleman repeated what the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley) had said a few nights before—that Sir Charles Napier had neither been recalled, dismissed, nor censured; but he thought he had now satisfied the House that that hon. and gallant Admiral must really have forgotten for a moment what had passed, for the House could entertain no doubt that Sir Charles Napier had been dismissed, and also that he had been censured. With respect to the gallant Admiral's interview with the First Lord of the Admiralty, of course, he had no written evidence, and could only rely upon the statement made to him by the gallant Admiral, which, he could have no doubt, was strictly accurate. He said that the gallant Admiral, having come home after carrying on those operations only a month before, as the right hon. Gentleman stated, to the entire satisfaction of the country, considering that he had not lost a ship, and had gone out with the fleet in but an indifferent state of discipline, and, remembering what had taken place at his depar- 280 ture, had a right to expect, if ever any man had, a courteous and cordial reception on his return. Yet the gallant Admiral assured him (Mr. Malins) that on going to the Admiralty he was received in a manner all but insulting by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, who did certainly hold out his hand coldly to him, but said at once that he declined having any conversation with him on the subject of the expedition. That was on the 22nd December; but he now proceeded to that which could admit of no doubt. The gallant Admiral returned to the Duke of Wellington, at Portsmouth, that night, where he next morning received a letter, signed "R. S. Dundas" and "W. F. Cowper," amounting to a dismissal from his command. It was dated the 22nd December, and was couched in the following terms:—Sir—The Baltic fleet, on its return to port, being now separated in different harbours of Great Britain, and several of the ships which composed this fleet being under orders for service in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, you are hereby required and directed to strike your flag and come on shore.He had read to the House the whole of the letter. These were the kindly and encouraging terms in which the most distinguished naval officer of Great Britain was greeted on his return from a great public service, which he had conducted, as the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) himself admitted, to the entire satisfaction of the Government. That the gallant Officer should have been surprised, that he should have been more than surprised, that he should even have been disgusted at such treatment, the House would not wonder at. He wrote, but not immediately, for he had been so much taken by surprise that he required some time for consideration; but he wrote on the 25th December to the Secretary of the Admiralty, as follows:—Sir—I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of their Lordships' order, directing me to strike my flag; and with reference to the same, I request their Lordships will inform me whether I am to consider that my command is at an end.This was speaking very distinctly to the Board of Admiralty. The House would observe that the letter of the 22nd was couched in terms which might be customary with the Admiralty—he did not know—all he could say was, that they were terms which he thought few of them would adopt even in dismissing a domestic servant. He was assured that it was contrary to all usage; he was assured that 281 Sir James Saumarez, when he had the command of the Baltic fleet in the last war, upon his return in consequence of the winter having set in and rendering it unsafe and impossible for him to remain there, had permission to be absent until the season should admit the resumption of operations. That was the manner in which any officer under similar circumstances had a right to expect to be treated; Sir Charles Napier had that right, and he thought the House would agree with him in one thing, that the letters of the Admiralty, like every other step taken in this war, came a little too late. They thought fit, in their reply, to tender some kind of thanks to Sir Charles Napier; he should have thought that the proper occasion would have been when the letter was written to the Admiral recalling the fleet —but no; proper things were never to be done at the proper times, and all was too late. The gallant Admiral's demand as to whether he was to consider this letter as insisting on the termination of his services was answered as follows:—SIR—With reference to your letter of yesterday's date, I am commanded by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that the order which you have received, agreeably to custom, to strike your flag and come on shore, is always given at the termination of a flag officer's command.And yet the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley) could come into that House two months afterwards and say that the gallant Admiral had neither been dismissed nor censured, and that was repeated a week afterwards by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle. So that here was a great public officer, the commander in chief of the noblest fleet that England had ever sent forth, who had commanded that fleet to the entire satisfaction of the Government, and he believed of the nation, and who returned because operations could no longer be carried on, told in insulting terms to strike his flag and to come on shore—and when he asked whether he was to consider that the termination of his command, was reminded that this order was always issued on the termination of a flag officer's command. Now, he thought that, unless they were to give up the present mode of understanding the English language—unless this Government, which had introduced so many new things, had introduced also some new language to direct the operations of the war, the House would adhere to the construction he put upon the letter 282 of the 22nd of December, as equivalent to a dismissal of Sir Charles Napier. Yet, having dismissed him without uttering a word of compliment to his services, or the services of those who had manned his ships, they thought fit—too late, as he had previously stated, for it was on the 26th of December—to attempt to repair the omission, for the letter went on to say—"and I am directed by my Lords to take this opportunity"—why not have taken that opportunity?—"to express to you the sense their Lordships entertain of your exertions during the period of your service in command of the Baltic fleet." Now, the House would, perhaps, remember a debate that took place on a memorable occasion—a debate in which he (Mr. Malins) had taken no part, though he would willingly have done so, but in which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty had addressed the House. Whatever else might be inferred from the speech the hon. Gentleman then made, he saw one thing very plainly; that if the hon. Gentleman were not out of office, he expected very soon to be, for the hon. Gentleman reverted to his old habits and found fault with everything, declaring that the army had been mismanaged, and everything had been mismanaged, that nothing would ever come right until everything that had been done should be undone; but, added the hon. Gentleman, in a triumphant tone, nobody could find fault with anything done in regard to the fleet—everything was perfectly right in that department, and no one would be able to say a word against it. The hon. Gentleman probably did not know these things at that time, or, at all events, he must have supposed that the ban of secrecy could be kept upon this correspondence, and that, from an apprehension that the public service would be injured by divulging them, these things would be kept secret; for he thought if his mind adverted to this correspondence, the hon. Gentleman could not have anticipated so confidently that nobody could throw blame on what had been done at the Admiralty. That summary dismissal led again to a correspondence with which he did not intend to trouble the House in detail. He had limited his Motion to asking for the production of papers and correspondence which had taken place between Sir Charles Napier and the Board of Admiralty since the 20th of December. He had fixed that date, because it included the letter of the 22nd of December, and all the correspondence 283 which had taken place subsequent to the gallant Admiral's dismissal from his command. He would, however, remind the House of what it had heard from the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley), who said he was sorry that Sir Charles Napier had shown so bad an example in making a speech at the Mansion House, contrary to all rules of discipline. He (Mr. Malins) had no desire to conduct this case otherwise than in a perfectly candid manner, or to express approbation where approbation could not be entertained. He thought that Sir Charles Napier had committed an error in making that speech, and going to the length to which he went; but it had been made the subject of comment that he had said be took the command of a fleet badly manned and worse disciplined, and some officers afterwards wrote to the papers to say that they were sure it could not be the Admiral's intention to cast censure on those who had served under him. Now, he found from the letters that passed two months before, that Sir Charles Napier was then remonstrating with the Government because they had not formally given their approbation to the officers serving under him, to whose exertions they were indebted for the safety of the fleet, to whom they were indebted for having brought back a disciplined fleet, after having taken out one that was undisciplined. Sir Charles Napier, in fact, in a letter written in January, reminded the Government that on the return of the French fleet from the Baltic, the Emperor, in his address to the Legislative Chamber, tendered his thanks to that fleet for its operations in the Baltic. Sir Charles Napier then said, reasonably enough, he was not aware that the services of the English fleet were less worthy of acknowledgment; he knew that great exertions had been made by every officer—he knew their great merits, and he regretted much that no thanks should have been tendered to them. What the gallant Admiral meant by saying he took the command of a fleet badly manned and worse disciplined, was not that the officers were incompetent—he stated in his correspondence there never had existed more gallant or more competent officers; but he had this difficulty to contend with, that not a single captain in the fleet had ever commanded in the Baltic previously. They were all unacquainted with the navigation—a difficulty enhanced a hundredfold by circumstances. There was 284 also this additional difficulty, that, being so powerful a fleet, it had been manned hastily, and manned with those, several of whom were unable to go aloft; therefore it was "ill-disciplined," because the crews were collected together on a sudden, and "worse manned," because those crews were composed of men who were not sailors by occupation. Therefore, so far from Sir Charles Napier intending to cast any imputation upon the officers of the fleet, he had remonstrated with the Government for not tendering its thanks to those officers. He thought he had now shown the House that Sir Charles Napier had been dismissed from his command in December, and not only dismissed but censured, and in his conviction it was for the interests of the public service that such a transaction should be brought under the notice of Parliament. He trusted that, in doing so, the House would be of opinion he had not misconceived his duty as a Member of Parliament, but that he had succeeded in bringing the subject in a temperate and moderate manner before the House. He would not refrain, so long as he bad the honour of a seat in that House, from expressing disapprobation of the proceedings of any Minister, when he thought disapprobation was deserved. He had ventured to express what he strongly felt—that the manner in which Sir Charles Napier had been treated by the Board of Admiralty, and consequently by the Government of which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was at the head, was unworthy of this great nation. He submitted to the House that it was incompatible with the public service of this country that its distinguished servants should be treated with neglect and injustice—that they should receive reproach and disgrace where honour and reward were due. It was also his conviction that it was absolutely essential to the public service that these transactions should not be kept in the dark, but that the facts should be brought to light, in order that Parliament might judge as to their propriety. As the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had told them in the admirable speech he delivered on the question, whether the Committee now sitting should be open or secret, public reputations were not to be sacrificed in a Secret Committee sitting in No. 17. He cordially adopted the principle of the right hon. Gentleman, that the reputations of our generals and admirals were dear to the country, that they were the property of the country, and that 285 an insult to them was an insult to every member of the community. It was upon their skill and courage that we must rely for our defence, and if we could not find men worthy to command our fleets and armies, then England would indeed be reduced to a miserable condition. If, when we had found such men, and when the Government of the day proclaimed to us that we had found the most fitting man—if, because the First Lord of the Admiralty took a view that was not in accordance with that of the commander of the fleet, the admiral was to be received on his return with ignominy, there was an end to all security for the efficient performance of the public service. When he found, therefore, that no other Member of the House was disposed to bring this matter under their consideration, he had felt it his duty not to shrink from bringing it forward, believing, as he did, that to keep such transactions in the dark would be attended with the greatest possible detriment to the public service in general.
SIR THOMAS HERBERT
in seconding the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford, and as a personal friend of Sir Charles Napier, and one is he has served under him on many trying occasions, I must beg to trouble the House with a few words on the question now before them. The hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Gloucester told the House, a few evenings ago, that Sir Charles Napier was not dismissed from his command. Technically speaking, he certainly was not; but he was removed from his command by ordering him to haul down his flag, and, to my mind, in a most discourteous manner, unaccompanied as the order was by a single complimentary expression in commendation of the gallant Admiral's management of the fleet while under his orders. Although I cannot approve of after-dinner speeches like the gallant Admiral's at the Mansion House, yet, after all, Sir Charles Napier's eminent services—many of them most brilliant, and such as to have called forth the admiration of such men as Lord Exmouth, Sir Alexander Cochrane, Sir Robert Stopford, Sir James Gordon, and other distinguished officers—I have too much respect for my gallant friend, who was once my commander during some trying occurrences, not to hope that his statement will prove to be correct, and that he will stand well with his countrymen. With regard to the gallant Admiral's conduct in the Baltic, I do not 286 think that he could have done more with the force at his disposal than he did, and I firmly believe that it is to his cool judgment and wise discretion the country is indebted for the safe return home of our fleet; for had Sir Charles Napier been induced to have attacked either Cronstadt or Sweaborg without the co-operation of a large land force, and the assistance of mortar-vessels and gun-boats of an easy draft of water—a force which appears to have been entirely neglected attaching to the fleet last year—my conviction is that the attack would have failed, and that his ships most likely would have been all disabled. Can the eulogium pronounced upon Sir Charles Napier by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, at the memorable banquet at the Reform Club, ever be forgotten? There the right hon. Baronet not only congratulated the club on so thorough a Reformer having the command of a fleet, but added that his confidence in him was so great that he had his (the First Lord of the Admiralty's) authority to declare war, if he thought fit, upon his arrival in the Baltic. Now, what has all this boasting and confidence come to? That the right hon. Baronet and the gallant Admiral have fallen out; the Admiral has been dismissed by the First Lord of the Admiralty from his command, and their unfortunate misunderstanding I much regret, as being prejudicial to the public service, particularly to the discipline of the naval branch of it. However, time gallant Admiral in common fairness ought to have an opportunity, somewhere, of vindicating his character. I have not seen any of Sir Charles Napier's correspondence with the right hon. Baronet opposite; but if the correspondence asked for is refused to be produced merely on the score of being of a private character, it certainly does not come well from an Admiralty who made such liberal use of private and confidential correspondence in the inquiry into Mr. Stafford's dockyard appointments to refuse it.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That there be laid before this House a Copy of any Correspondence which has passed between the Board of Admiralty and any Member of Her Majesty's Government, and Sir Charles Napier, since the 20th day of December last.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, I have great pleasure in assuring the House that it will not be necessary for me, in answering the hon. and learned Gentleman, to detain them for anything like the length of time he has occupied in opening his 287 case. For, Sir, I have not come down here prepared to read extracts from public despatches not presented to Parliament, and much less do I come here prepared with garbled extracts from private and confidential letters. Much less still am I prepared to enter into the details of private conversations. I have not the advantage of holding in my hand anything like that brief of a confidential nature which has been circulated among certain Members of this House. But at the very outset of what I have to address to the House, I shall just refer to the passage with which the hon. and learned Member concluded his speech, when he said he was anxious to vindicate the honour of this country. Now, Sir, I am not devoid of a desire to vindicate the honour of this country, and I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman with the deepest regret say, as I understood him, that the honour of this country, which was so dear to him, had been lost by the disasters which had befallen our arms. Now, Sir, whether I look to the Black Sea or the Baltic, as to what concerns the navy, I am satisfied that the honour of this country has been maintained; and as regards our army, I know that all is not lost. The honour of that army and the honour of this country, are, as I believe, still intact. We have never met the enemy on any one occasion in which our arms have not been victorious; and whatever the sufferings of our troops may have been, their exemplary patience, their gallantry, their good conduct, far exceed all my powers of praise; and in the presence of this House I am glad to declare that the honour of our arms still remains unstained. Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman has commented upon an expression used by my noble Friend at the head of the Government on an occasion to which he delights in referring—that the highest proof of sagacity lies in looking several moves ahead. Now, I must plead guilty to a great want of sagacity, for the moves made by the hon. and learned Gentleman on this occasion were not foreseen by me. I certainly did not anticipate that he would have thought it consistent with his duty to read extracts from despatches in his possession—despatches which he says have been submitted to him—public despatches of the highest possible importance, which the Government of this country has not yet been asked by the House of Commons to produce, and with regard to which it remains to be seen whether, 288 when they are asked for, they will think it consistent with their duty to the public to advise the House to sanction their production. Their discretion will be exercised by them; what is due to myself, I will shortly endeavour to state to the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman talks of the introduction of new things. Is there anything more new, Sir—with all your experience in that chair, have you seen or heard of anything so unexampled as the course pursued by the hon. and learned Gentleman? He has culled from private letters, without the consent of the writers of those letters, such extracts as, to use his own words, would maintain the view he takes of this case. Now. Sir, if there is to be any production of these letters, let it be complete and entire. But, until that production shall have taken place, I trust the House will not form any opinion from those extracts which the hon. and learned Gentleman has carefully selected, in order to support the view he takes of this matter. I said I did not expect the moves that have taken place. Had I been asked before this night whether I thought the day would come when Sir Charles Napier would put his case into the hands of a lawyer, sitting upon the opposite side of the House—would appear as plaintiff in a case charging the Government of which my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton is the head, with having treated him, as the hon. and learned Member alleges, with insult and contumely—I confess to you that nothing further from my anticipations could possibly have occurred. But there is another part of the conduct of the hon. and learned Gentleman which has also surprised me. He referred to the dinner which took place at the Reform Club, for which, as I have before said, I have done penance on the floor of this House. I have already stated that I then committed an error which I was not prepared to repeat. No doubt, on the occasion which has been referred to, I said that if there was a banquet in honour of the return of Sir Charles Napier from the Baltic, and I was invited to attend it, I should be prepared to do so in order to celebrate the brilliant successes which were then anticipated. Well, the gallant Admiral has returned; his services are ended, and I have received no such invitation; and had I received that invitation, the punishment to which I have referred was so severe, and I was so conscious of the indiscretion that I committed, 289 that I know not whether I should have accepted it. Happily I have not been put to the test. It is true I stated on that occasion that I had the greatest opinion of the proved and distinguished valour of Sir Charles Napier, and I added that I thought he was also discreet. He has confirmed that opinion. Discretion, the better part of valour, has not been wanting. He has proved himself that consummate Admiral whom I praised both for valour and discreetness. I shall only say, in answer to another comment made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who, in order to vindicate himself for the production of private letters, alluded to the proceedings before a particular Committee of this House in which I was a party concerned; but that was a tribunal of a judicial character, and it was the order of the House that persons, papers, and records should be produced before that Committee. I think the House will perceive the difference between the production of documents before a judicial Committee sanctioned by the authority of this House, and the production of documents, such as the hon. and learned Gentleman has used to-night—partially, and, as I should say, most unfairly—in the absence of any appeal to the authority of the House to say whether it is consistent with the duty of the Government and the public interests at stake, that the whole or any part of them should be produced. Now, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman has said, and quite correctly, that "on the whole" the conduct of Sir Charles Napier in reference to the command of the Fleet up to the 24th of September was approved by the Government. I have never contradicted that assertion. "On the whole"—the very term used in the letter which he quoted— "on the whole" the Board of Admiralty did approve the conduct of Sir Charles Napier with reference to the command of the fleet under him. It is generally believed that a good workman does not quarrel with his tools; nevertheless it is true that the gallant Admiral—not at the Mansion House, but in an official letter to the Admiralty—did state that the fleet was ill-manned, and that it was unfit to meet the enemy. On the receipt of that letter, the Admiralty called on the gallant Admiral to state the specific ships to which he applied that remark, and when so called on, he failed to specify a single ship. I do certainly, Sir, maintain that the discretion exercised by Sir Charles Napier, in refer- 290 ence to attacks with an inferior force upon fortresses was, in the terms of my private letter, "a wise discretion." I have never quarrelled with the exercise of that discretion, and had he adhered to his assertion made early in May and repeated in July, that Sweaborg was unassailable either by land or sea, no one word of hesitation with respect to the prudence exercised by him, either in writing or in speech, would have fallen from me. It is quite true that, on the 24th of September, when he, for the first time, reconnoitred Sweaborg close at hand, he did write to the Admiralty a despatch upon which I shall not further dwell, because I do not think it consistent with my duty to enter into the details of that despatch, which appeared to the Board and to myself materially to alter the aspect of the case. It is said by the hon. and learned Member that the appliances necessary for that attack, as contemplated by Sir Charles Napier on the 24th of September, were not sent by the Admiralty. But on the 12th of May the gallant Admiral said that this particular fortress was unassailable either by land or sea, and, relying on the judgment of the gallant Admiral, the Board of Admiralty thought it of no practical use to send further appliances for the purpose of an assault declared by the gallant Admiral to be impossible. It is also certain, as stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that a difference of opinion did arise between naval and military officers of the highest authority—between the naval officers and General Jones commanding the Engineers on the one hand, and between the Admirals and the French Generals on the other. Into that difference of opinion I am sure the House will not expect me to enter, because it bears directly upon naval operations which have only been suspended for a short period, and are now about to be resumed. The hon. and learned Gentleman says he has looked at these papers carefully. He is an equity lawyer. What does he think of the justice of a proceeding which calls upon me to defend myself with my hands tied behind my back, when, without a breach of duty, I cannot produce this correspondence, or even refer to it? I have felt my sense of duty so strongly, that I have not brought a paper down with me. I have only seen a paper, prepared ex parte, and marked "confidential," containing extracts from both public and private despatches, which has been circulated among hon. Members near me. 291 And yet this equity lawyer, who is so fond of fair play, after conning his case, and speaking from a brief, comes down and makes an attack which he expects me to answer when I have not the materials, and when a sense of public duty, even if I had them, would absolutely forbid me to use them. It is quite true that the letter of Sir Charles Napier, of the 24th of September, with reference to the attack on Sweaborg, did present to the Board of Admiralty an entirely different view of the subject from that contained in his former communications. It then appeared perfectly clear to them, even on the showing of Sir Charles Napier himself, that it was perfectly possible, if the whole force then in the Baltic was reunited, to make an attack by the naval force alone on Sweaborg; the departure both of the English and French fleets was accordingly arrested. And then the hon. and learned Member has not thought it unworthy to assign a motive for the instructions sent out on the 4th of October. He said that accounts had then been received of the supposed fall of Sebastopol, and that, acting under the influence of the excitement which then prevailed, the Board of Admiralty varied their instructions, and gave orders entirely different from what they had given before. Now, Sir, I give the most positive denial to that statement. The new orders to which he has referred were sent out on the day after we received Sir Charles Napier's letter of the 24th of September, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the close of the despatch of the 4th of October, I think that he will see that Sir Charles Napier was told that he must make no desperate attack; and that whether he should attack or not was left entirely to his own discretion. Warning was given him that if the means placed at his disposal were adequate, the country had a right to expect that every thing that valour could do should be attempted; but that the decision as to the Course which should be taken rested entirely with himself. If that passage is in the despatch, and I believe that it is there, I must say that I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has been guilty of a want of fairness and candour towards the Government in not reading it. Something has been said with respect to an assertion made both by myself and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucester, that Admiral Napier had neither been censured nor dismissed from the command of 292 the fleet. It is quite true that "on the whole" the Admiralty had no ground for censuring Sir Charles Napier for his conduct in the command of the fleet, but it is not true that the Board of Admiralty did not censure certain acts of Sir Charles Napier with reference to the authority of the Government. On the contrary, they had more than once to warn the gallant Admiral that the language and tone he assumed towards the authority under which he served did not appear consistent with the subordination and deference due to the supreme authority under which he was serving. Then, as to his alleged dismissal. It is quite certain that Admirals, having performed similar services in the Baltic, have received similar orders at the end of the autumn so to strike their flags. Admiral Hope, who commanded in the Baltic in 1812, was, on his return, ordered to strike his flag. It does not, however, follow that, when an Admiral is ordered to strike his flag, he may not be ordered to rehoist it. It rests with the authorities to decide whether the conduct of the officer in that command has been such as to entitle him to the renewal of their confidence. And I do not think that it will redound to the efficiency of the service, or be conducive to good discipline, or have a happy effect on our forces, whether by sea or land, if this House should sit in judgment whether it is right that, at the termination of a naval campaign, the Board of Admiralty should again employ a particular officer or not. It is quite clear that Sir Charles Napier, on the 24th of September, in writing this despatch with reference to future operations before Sweaborg, did take a course which ensured him the command in the Baltic if that plan was adopted. But it was for the Executive to determine whether, having regard to the whole conduct of the gallant Admiral, it was desirable or advisable to reappoint him. Well, Sir, I have had the honour of knowing Sir Charles Napier for a long period. I have the greatest admiration of the gallantry he has displayed on many trying occasions. These are not empty words. On my own responsibility, in the year 1853, I awarded to him a good-service pension, as a mark of the respect of the Admiralty for his past services. But I should be altogether unworthy of my place in this House, and of the office which I lately had the honour to fill, if I did not say that the tone, from a very early period, taken by Admiral Napier 293 in commenting on his instructions was turbulent and insubordinate, and assumed a character which, I should say, was altogether inconsistent with his duty to the Admiralty, and that if the Admiralty had tamely submitted to it, and ordered him to rehoist his flag, it would have set the worst possible example to the service. I have told you now, without disguise, the exact truth of this matter. I have not a particle of unkind feeling towards Sir Charles Napier; on the contrary, I very much regret what has occurred, but again I say, I think it will be a great misfortune if the Executive Government consent to the production of this correspondence. Certainly, Sir, if I doubted before whether it was right again to appoint Sir Charles Napier to the command of the Baltic fleet, the course he has taken since he was ordered to strike his flag, in addition to the language to which I have before adverted—his not having hesitated, when he was angry with myself and the Board under which he was serving, to produce documents of the most confidential nature, not among his intimate friends alone—certainly not among his brother officers, for not a naval officer has yet come forward to bring this case of undue oppression on the part of the Government before the House—but to go to the opponents of the Government in the hope of raising an adverse party feeling—all this, I say, is an additional confirmation to me in my opinion that the reappointment of that officer would not have been for the interests of the public service. I certainly did not hear all that fell from the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Dartmouth, who seconded this Motion, and I do not know, therefore, whether he is prepared to support the course taken by Sir Charles Napier with reference to the authorities under whom he was serving. If he is prepared to support that course, I must say I am glad I did not hear what fell from him, because it would in some degree have diminished the respect for his authority which his high character has always induced me to entertain. Upon the whole, I shall leave this matter in the hands of the Government; they will decide whether this correspondence shall be produced or not; but never in my life was I more astonished at the course pursued by any hon. Member than I have been at that taken by the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford. The hon. and learned Gentleman deems it consistent with his dignity to act as squire on 294 this occasion to this knight-errant tilting against authority; and I am exceedingly glad that the post has not been undertaken by any Member of the naval profession. As for the equity and love of justice on which the hon. and learned Member prides himself, the mode which he has adopted of displaying these virtues may be very good practice in the courts of law, but I am very much mistaken if it will succeed or be sanctioned for one moment in the House of Commons.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, before troubling the House with the few remarks which I have to make on this subject, I beg to assure them that I have not read anything connected with the matter. It is true that this afternoon Admiral Sir Charles Napier brought me a paper stating that it contained his case as it was to be brought before the House. I took it from his hands without reply; but, in walking down to the House, I formed an opinion that I ought not to read it, and I have not done so. Some few days ago, also, Admiral Napier came to me stating that his case was to be brought before the House, and hoping that I would give that assistance to a brother officer which his case might seem to me to deserve. I told him that I did not wish to enter then into any discussion on the subject, but that I would be in my place when it came forward, and if any opportunity offered of vindicating the character of a brother officer I was the man to do it. I must say that I very much regret that Sir Charles Napier should have allowed himself so far to be led away as to enter into a vindication of Ins conduct at a civic banquet, more especially as he had then demanded a court-martial from the Admiralty, and had the expectation of being able to submit his conduct to the judgment of a tribunal composed of members of his own profession. Moreover, with his experience of this House, he ought to have known that if he had a clear and fair case, this body of Englishmen representing the country, would never have failed to give a man of his station and responsibility that fair and patient hearing and that unbiassed verdict which his case should entitle him to. If these papers are produced I shall go into them with the most sincere desire to see the fullest justice clone to all parties. Now, Sir, there can he no doubt that there does exist in this country a very strong feeling that our success in the Baltic has not been equal to the just ex- 295 pectations which were entertained, nor commensurate. with the strength of that magnificent fleet which was sent out. It is of the greatest importance that the country should know the reason of this. In the first place, the observation of Admiral Napier, as to his fleet not being well manned, is undoubtedly correct; and seeing the country was called on, at a moment's notice almost, to send out so large a number of ships, it was almost impossible that they could all have been well manned. It was a moral impossibility to have got a sufficient number of seamen; and the Admiralty, therefore, had nothing left but to do that which they did. The ships did go to sea ill-manned, but the vigorous and indefatigable exertions of the captains and officers did produce such an effect that, by the time the frost broke up in the upper part of the Baltic, the fleet was perfectly ready to cope with the enemy, if he had ventured to come out. Another cause of the shortcomings of the fleet was the deficiency in praams and gunboats of light draught of water. Were I not forbidden from entering at length into this particular point by the reflection that another fleet is now fitting out, I think I could show that the reason why the fleet did not do all that was expected from it was, that it had not the means at its disposal for doing it. Then, again, the country is wedded to the idea that wooden walls are fit to cope with granite walls. Now, I maintain that they are not, and that it is expecting more from ships than they are able to perform. Certainly Admiral Chads, after Bomarsund was taken, made some experiments on the walls, pouring in heavy broadside after broadside upon them, and he reported to the Admiralty, I am told, that he had acted very efficiently upon them; but I should like to know whether his practice would have been so successful had those walls been manned, and had they been replying to him with red hot shot? Then, there is Gibraltar; but I do not know that ships had any great success there. At Algiers, the truth is, the Dey was so "cursedly" afraid that he let the ships come into the harbour and take up their positions without ever firing a shot at them. Had he done so, I doubt very much whether Lord Exmouth would ever have got in. However, he did get in, and put a division of ships under the batteries in such a position that the guns could not be depressed to bear on them; but Admiral Milne, of whose 296 gallantry I wish to speak in the highest terms, was not able to take a similar position, and in his ships, which were some few fathoms further off from the shore, and on which consequently the guns in the batteries could be brought to bear, there was great loss of life. Well, then, we now come to what took place at Sebastopol. What happened there? At that place we had a fine fleet of our own acting in conjunction with an equally fine fleet of our allies, and those fleets went in with a courage unexampled, and with a spirit that excites my highest admiration; they did all that could be done, but that all was simply nothing, except getting 600 men killed or wounded, and some of the ships so disabled as to be next to useless. Attacks of this hazardous description might possibly succeed, and a somewhat similar attack, under Nelson, who was for ever looking a-head and never a-stern, who cared nothing about losing his commission, and who thought of nothing but honour and glory, did succeed; and, indeed, it is not impossible for a fleet to run into Sebastopol, or into any port, provided there be a sufficient depth of water; but the chances are 100 to one against success if the attempt be made in such like instances. There is no commander-in-chief who, knowing the disastrous consequences which must ensue from the loss of his fleet, would, if he acted with prudence and discretion, attempt such an undertaking; and therefore I think that Sir Charles Napier, as far as I can judge, humble as is my opinion—and humble it is evidently considered, for to my prejudice I am unjustly placed on the reserved list—exercised a sound and wise discretion, and fulfilled his duty to his country in not exposing his fleet to be unnecessarily crippled; but is it nothing that the fleet in the Baltic crippled Russian commerce, insulted its coasts, commanded its waters, and confined its boasted navy within its harbours? I entirely agree with the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) that either all the papers should be produced or none, but as to whether the production of them would be injurious to the public service I can, of course, form no opinion, because I have not read them. The right hon. Gentleman has read them, and I am content to take his opinion on the subject. I wish, however, to state that I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman below me would not have brought the subject before 297 the House unless he had been actuated by a sense of justice. He has undertaken the subject in no party spirit. [Cheers.] I am convinced that such is the case, for I have talked with the hon. and learned Gentleman upon the subject. I come now to another point. It has been said that Sir Charles Napier, on his return from the Baltic, received a letter which ran somewhat to this effect—" Sir, I am commanded by the Board of Admiralty to order you to strike your flag and come on shore." Well, this is a curt way of doing a thing; but the Admiralty, I must say, deals in curt ways. I cannot say that that letter should be considered as a censure upon Sir Charles Napier, or that it amounted to dismissing him from his command, because it was in conformity with ordinary practice. Sir James Saumarez, at one time, was ordered to strike his flag; but then it was intended to reinstate him in his command. Now, in the present instance, as far as I can judge, there was not the slightest intention of reappointing Sir Charles Napier to the command of the Baltic fleet, and, although I cannot complain of the order conveyed to Sir Charles Napier to strike his flag, I still think that, as two days afterwards a just tribute was paid to that gallant admiral's conduct, it would have been as well that that mark of approbation, which appears to me to have been elicited by Sir Charles Napier's letter, should have been conveyed to him at the same time as the order to strike his flag. I think it would have been a fair compliment to a gallant and meritorious officer if the Government, as conservators of the public good faith, had, in ordering Sir Charles Napier to strike his flag, conveyed to him that expression of approval to which two days afterwards they gave vent. With regard to the future, thank God, we have a magnificent fleet at Spithead prepared to go to the Baltic, which possesses an advantage over that of last year in having an adequate supply of gunboats, and I entertain no doubt that it will achieve some brilliant success, but, at all events, let the House and let the country be persuaded that all that British officers and British seamen can do will be accomplished.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I consider it is necessary, Sir, for me to state, and I shall do so as shortly as possible, the course which the Government think it right to adopt with reference to the question now 298 before the House. I do not think it advisable to advert in the slightest degree to the various topics which have been introduced into the discussion, for in the whole of my experience I have never witnessed a course pursued similar to that which has been adopted on the present occasion; and I feel persuaded that the House will not sanction such a course by any symptom of approbation. Certainly, I have never before known such a course pursued, and I think that the House will not sanction the quoting of extracts from private letters and official reports not properly before the House, and relating to operations which may be repeated. I will only protest in the strongest terms I can use against such a course, as for the first time in my experience, and I believe in the experience of the oldest Member present, has been tonight pursued in this House. My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) has said that it rests with the Executive Government to say whether the papers now moved for shall be produced, and I at once say that it seems to me utterly impossible, consistently with the interests of the public service, that those papers should be produced. I, of course, have seen those letters, and I may inform the House that in them are discussed such topics as the means, the possibility, and the mode of attacking certain fortresses in the Baltic. The hon. and gallant Admiral who has last addressed us has stated that a fleet is about to proceed to that sea; and he has also said that he entertains no doubt that everything will be done which can possibly be accomplished. I also entertain the most confident expectation, that whatever can be done, consistently with a prudent discretion, will be accomplished; but I appeal to the House whether the production of letters referring even to the mode of attack upon the fortresses in the Baltic call possibly conduce to the success of that expedition? I feel that the simple statement which I have made is the strongest argument I can use against the production of these letters, and the strongest proof that it is the duty of the Government to resist their production. I feel that, after having made that statement, it will be the unanimous feeling of this House that the production of those letters would not be for the good of the public service. I should be at a loss for any argument in support of this opinion, for the case is self-evident; and I can only repeat that I feel it to be quite 299 inconsistent with my duty to the public to agree to the production of the papers moved for by the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he hoped the House would allow an officer who was engaged in the last war to say a few words. The reputation of a gallant officer was at stake; and he could wish that his reputation had stood as high at the end of the Baltic campaign as it did at its commencement. Sir Charles Napier left this country under every disadvantage. There had been a naval review, a sham fight, and a reform dinner, at which he was lauded with all the praise that could be applied to a gallant officer; and after these he was sent forth with the expectation of the country that he would do more than it was in fact possible for him or in fact any one else to do. That many of the ships were badly manned, the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty had not attempted to deny. With respect to the possibility of his performing what was expected of him, it seemed that two engineer officers attached to the expedition differed. Had they coincided in opinion, it would have been almost impossible to stand against them; but one had one plan, and the other another, and the Admirals disapproved of both. Though he scarcely knew Sir Charles Napier personally, he must say that his ears had tingled at certain expressions in some of the papers which they had heard read that night. He could not avoid saying, that he thought there had been something of harshness towards the gallant Admiral. If he was to be removed from his command, the thing should have been done with more consideration and courtesy: that would have been more creditable at all events to those who dismissed him. He gathered from what he had heard, that Sir Charles Napier had a plan of his own, which he was willing to carry out; but the Lords of the Admiralty, sitting in their arm-chairs, thought they knew best how to deal out destruction to the enemy, and sent him their plan; and if Sir Charles Napier considered that plan dangerous, he was perfectly justified—he would not say in remonstrating in improper terms—but in taking upon himself the responsibility of not carrying it out. What was the great evil at Balaklava? That no one was properly responsible. They would have had another Balaklava had the fleet attempted to force its way into the Russian 300 ports in the Baltic. The ships might perhaps have got in, but many of them would never have come out. There was one expression used by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) with reference to Sir Charles Napier, which he (Captain Scobell) thought he ought to recall. He referred to the use of the saying, "discretion is the better part of valour." They all knew what that meant. Though he (Captain Scobell) did not know Sir Charles Napier himself, he well knew his career, and he maintained that considering the opportunities which he had had, that career would compare with that of any man who ever held command under Her Majesty; and as the right hon. Baronet had given him a slur on that point on which no officer could bear a slur, he hoped he would rise in his place and say that he did not mean to impeach the gallant Admiral's valour by attributing too much discretion to him. He would also observe that the right hon. Baronet fell into error in speaking of Admiral Hope as having hauled down his flag. Having been in the fleet referred to, he was able to state that the admiral's flag was not hauled down. As regarded the correspondence of the Admiralty, he could produce letters written many years ago which were very curt; and, though he would not call the Board an arbitrary one, he must say it was a Board which required more watching than almost any other Government department.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, I am extremely obliged to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for having called my attention to the expression which he has referred to. If that expression, with reference to the discretion of Sir Charles Napier, can bear the interpretation which my hon. and gallant Friend has put upon it—and naval officers are rightly sensitive upon these points—I most willingly retract the expression, as it was not intended to convey any such imputation. Far from it. It would be an absurdity to raise such an imputation, for the entire life of the gallant Admiral falsifies it.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham), in his reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Malins), made some rather caustic observations relative to this question being brought under the notice of the House by a lawyer. I think, Sir, the experience of the right hon. Gentleman as First Lord of the Admiralty will suggest 301 to his mind some very good reasons why naval officers should not put themselves prominently forward in disputes between the Board of Admiralty and those whom they employ. I quite agree that it is unreasonable to revive any more the old dinner at the Reform Club, and think it was unnecessary for the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite even to tell us of the dinner at the Mansion House. I am willing to pair off the dinner at the Mansion House with the dinner at the Reform Club, for in that respect I think the belligerents stand upon an equal footing. With regard to papers having been garbled, private letters quoted from, and public documents of great importance brought before this House without having been previously laid upon the table by the authority of the Government, all I have to say is, that the Motion before us is for papers, and when an hon. Member submits a Motion questioning the conduct of the Executive Government, he must make out a primâ facie case; and for that purpose what can he refer to but documents? Does the right hon. Baronet dispute the accuracy of the quotations made by the hon. and learned Member opposite? No, he does not; but he questions the propriety of introducing such extracts, and I must say that he has shown a remarkable "discretion" in declining to go into those public papers, and to meet the quotations of the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford. I could not collect exactly what the present First Lord of the Admiralty said. I have been accustomed latterly to sit a good way from the Treasury bench, and now I am more distant than ever, but I understood the right hon. Gentleman to commence his speech by stating that he did not intend to advert to the subject immediately under discussion, but would say generally that the production of the papers in question was inconvenient to the public interests. Well, that is what I deem a curt reply. Now, Sir, I wish to know whether it is not possible to produce papers sufficient to throw light upon the matter as regards Sir Charles Napier's complaints, and yet not injure the public interests, by furnishing us with such extracts as may be necessary for the first purpose, but withholding, in accordance with the common practice, those parts that are likely to prove prejudicial to the interests of the country? Nothing is so common. No correspondence from the Foreign Office—no public document whatever—is moved for in this 302 House except with a complete understanding that only extracts should be produced if any portion of such correspondence is injurious to the public interests. I certainly think that a similar rule might be followed in this case, and when we remember that the correspondence moved for dates only from the 20th of December, when Sir Charles Napier hauled down his flag, and therefore does not so immediately relate to the operations in the Baltic, that seems to be an additional reason why we should not have any difficulty in agreeing to the production of that correspondence. But what is the position of Sir Charles Napier? Has, I will ask, a naval officer no redress in this country? He has been, say what you please, censured by the Admiralty. 1t is understood by the country at large that the Government is not satisfied with his conduct. He now demands inquiry. He has assuredly a right to demand it, in justice to his own reputation. He goes in a proper way to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, and asks for a court martial. It is refused. He next goes to the Prime Minister of the late, and also, I believe, to the Prime Minister of the present Government, and asks for inquiry. He is answered that there is no case for investigation. What resource, then, is there left to him but to come here? I ask, are we, the representatives of the interests and honour of England—if a public servant comes to us and tells us that he has made application in vain to the proper authorities, and has used without effect the legitimate means of redress, and that he only comes to us as a last resource, are we to turn upon him and say, "We will grant you no redress—we will look into no papers; it is very inconvenient to the country to interfere between the Executive and the officers whom it employs"? It appears that we cannot take such a course if we wish to discharge the duty which undoubtedly devolves upon us, to see not only that the Executive is fairly dealt with by its officers, but also that the public servants are fairly treated with by the Executive. There is such a thing, when great expectations have been excited, and when public disappointment follows the want of success, as shifting responsibility upon the public servants, and escaping from that fair share of blame which the Executive ought to bear. It is for us independent Members of Parliament to take care that unfortunate Administrations do not victimise 303 faithful and zealous public servants who have endeavoured to discharge their duty, and who are not responsible for any part of the failure that may have occurred. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, that my object in interfering in this matter is a public one. Undoubtedly, I have for some time past had a personal acquaintance with Sir Charles Napier; but if I had not, having read the documents to which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has adverted, I should unquestionably have felt it my duty to take a part in this discussion. Let me now refer to the despatch of the 4th of October, to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded, and which was the first despatch that emanated from the Admiralty implying that they were dissatisfied with Sir Charles Napier's proceedings, and goading him on to an attack upon Sweaborg. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) says, that the report of the fall of Sebastopol had no effect in inducing the Government to alter their orders, and to goad Sir Charles Napier to making an attack upon Sweaborg. Now, Sir, I hold the despatch in my hand. Undoubtedly, the word "Sebastopol" is not mentioned; but what are the contents of the despatch, given, be it observed, as the reason why Sir Charles Napier should attempt a hazardous enterprise against Sweaborg with his fleet alone, contrary to his own judgment, contrary to the judgment of the French admiral, and contrary to the judgment of the English general of engineers? Well, Sir, the 3rd of October was the day upon which the news of the fall of Sebastopol came to this country. The despatch from the Admiralty is dated the 4th, and it says, "Recent events in the Black Sea will not encourage the Russians to attempt any enterprise of more than usual hazard and daring at this precise moment." It may be said that referred to the battle of Alma; but it is very extraordinary, that as soon as it was discovered that Sebastopol was not taken, without waiting to see what was the result of the instructions of the 4th of October, out goes another despatch on the 9th, to tell Sir Charles Napier that all operations may be considered as concluded for the season, and ordering him to bring his ships away as fast as he could. That despatch was sent by telegraph. The French fleet was ordered to reunite with Sir Charles Napier when it was believed Sebastopol had fallen, but the moment the 304 Admiralty discovered that Sebastopol had not fallen, it was telegraphed to the French fleet not to go back up the Baltic and rejoin Sir Charles Napier, for the season being at an end no further operations would be taken that year. This is inferential reasoning, but I maintain it affords a strong presumption that there was a sort of giddiness came over certain persons; that they fancied the Russians were demoralised and would not, "at that precise moment," undertake any great enterprise; and that, therefore, those expeditions which had been previously condemned were ordered to be attempted. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle has endeavoured to cast censure upon Sir Charles Napier, because, having first told the Government that Sweaborg was unassailable, in consequence of which they did not think it necessary to scud out gunboats and other appliances for the purpose of taking a place that was pronounced impregnable, and having afterwards stated that it could be taken by the fleet alone, he failed to accomplish that object, and therefore misled and disappointed the Government. I trust I am accurately repeating the right hon. Gentleman's statements? [Sir J. GRAHAM: To a certain extent.] I have no desire to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but I am sure he said that Sir Charles Napier, in the first instance, informed the Government that Sweaborg was unassailable. What were the facts? Sir Charles Napier on the 30th of May received certain plans of Sweaborg. He had not then inspected nor even seen it himself, and as was his duty at the time, he forwarded those plans to the Admiralty with the observation that, according to those plans, Sweaborg appeared to be unassailable. But on the 20th of June, having had an opportunity of inspecting Sweaborg, he submitted a plan for taking it—a plan which required a description of force with which he was not then provided, and with which if he had been provided he considered he should have been successful; but he never said, in any part of that correspondence—and I have gone through it carefully—that he had any confidence in taking Sweaborg with a fleet alone. All he said was, if a certain additional force which he pointed out were intrusted to him, he was confident success would follow. I think I have answered the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. But, supposing Sir Charles Napier had submitted a plan for taking Sweaborg, he 305 was acting in alliance with the French, and it was necessary for him in the operations in the Baltic to have the concurrence of the French Admiral. The council of war that was held unanimously decided that no operations in the Baltic could be undertaken with the resources they had, after the taking of Bomarsund. I may state to the House that after the taking of Bomarsund, the French Marshal, Baraguay d'Hilliers, being there, the French General of Engineers, General Niel, being there, and the French Admiral being there, they took into their consideration General Jones's report on some plan of military co-operation which he had submitted for the taking of Sweaborg. Now, Sir, the French Marshal, the French General of Engineers, and the French Admiral condemned that plan. It was, therefore, out of the question. General Jones's plan required the co-operation of French soldiers. The French Marshal condemned the plan, and would not allow his soldiers to be used for any such purpose, as he believed they would certainly be defeated, or at least, that great loss would ensue. Well, after the French military force had left the Baltic, and when General Jones's plan was entirely out of the question, out came an order from the English Government, ordering Sir Charles Napier to call a council of war to take it into consideration. Why, the means of carrying it into effect were absent—the French army was gone; and what seems so very strange is this—that the Government in England should have been so ill-informed of the movements of the French army, that after it had left the Baltic, and when General Jones's plan, therefore, was no longer practicable, they should have ordered Sir Charles Napier to call a council of war to take into consideration that very plan. That council was not—in fact it could not be—held. Another council of war, subsequently ordered, was held, at which the French and English Admirals were present. They decided that no operations with the fleet alone could be undertaken against Sweaborg, and that, indeed, it would not be advisable at that season to engage in any operations at all against any fortified place on the Russian coast. Now what is remarkable is, that the two generals of engineers reported how Sweaborg was to be taken; but I want to ask the naval officers in this House whether it is reasonable that these engineer generals should be allowed to control the conduct of adwirals—whether 306 they are fit persons to judge how admirals shall place their ships or carry on naval operations? But what made this particular case still more difficult to poor Sir Charles Napier was this—that the two generals were diametrically opposed to each other, and there was no person who so utterly condemned the plan of General Jones as General Niel. It is also a remarkable feature about the case that General Jones's plan, which may be called the military plan, was condemned by the French officers of the military service as well as by the French Admiral; while General Niel's plan, which was the plan for taking Sweaborg by ships alone, was condemned by the French Admiral. So we have the sailor's plan condemned by the highest naval authority, the French Admiral; and the soldiers' plan condemned by the highest military authority, the French Marshal; while poor Sir Charles Napier was censured by the Government because he did not, somehow or other, go in and take Sweaborg. I am fully convinced that Sir Charles Napier has not been fairly treated. If he had permitted himself to be goaded into some desperate enterprise, such as the attacking of a strong fortress like Sweaborg with a fleet alone, we should have had a greater disaster in the Baltic than, perhaps, any that has been even contemplated at Sebastopol. I think that Sir Charles Napier has as well deserved the thanks of this House for his conduct in the Baltic as Admiral Dundas has for his conduct in the Black Sea. I do say that this gallant officer, finding everybody complimented, everybody eulogised, and knowing that he has done his duty to his country to the best of his ability, has a right to complain that something like a reflection has been cast, not only upon him, but also upon the officers who served under him. I do hope that he may still receive that justice to which he is fairly entitled. I trust that we may have this correspondence in full, and it is my firm persuasion, unable as I now am to go through these papers, that if they be placed fairly before the public, and in the hands of hon. Members, an opinion will be formed that Sir Charles Napier has done his duty, but that the Government, disappointed in the success of the Baltic expedition, have endeavoured to make it appear that it was the fault of their admiral.
said, he could not conceal from the House the regret 307 with which he found himself placed in so painful a position. He had long since formed a friendship with Sir Charles Napier—a friendship which had been cemented by the services in which he had been associated with that gallant admiral, under whose command he had constantly been. He entertained the highest opinion of Sir Charles Napier's valour, and of his knowledge of war, and he esteemed the gallant officer as his friend. He did therefore feel that he stood in a painful position when it became his duty, as one of the Lords of the Admiralty, to find fault with and to condemn the conduct of that friend, and it was a duty which he would gladly have been spared the pain of undertaking. In the course of the discussion, private documents and public despatches had been referred to, and if he (Admiral Berkeley) had conceived it possible that private letters could have been brought forward in such a manner in that House, without the sanction of the writers, he would have come down prepared with those documents. It appeared to him that an attack had been made rather upon the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham) than upon the Board generally. He (Admiral Berkeley) had not only been consulted by the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty with respect to his public letters to Sir Charles Napier, but the right hon. Gentleman also did him the honour to confide to him the private letters which he addressed to the gallant admiral. He (Admiral Berkeley) had repeatedly assured Sir Charles Napier that if fault should be found with his conduct either in that House or elsewhere, because he had not attacked Sweaborg or Cronstadt, he (Admiral Berkeley) would stand up in his defence. Could it be supposed possible, then, that he would have consented to cast any censure upon the gallant officer? He denied having done so, and he denied also that the Board of Admiralty had ever censured Sir Charles Napier in any way with respect to his conduct And his management of the fleet before Cronstadt and Sweaborg. Having seen the papers relating to this subject, both public and private, it appeared to him that the case lay almost in a nutshell. The fact was, that Sir Charles Napier, who could use his pen as well as his sword, found that there was a strong feeling in this country because nothing had been attempted against the fortresses of Cronstadt and Sweaborg, and he then 308 suddenly changed the tone of his correspondence with the Admiralty, and endeavoured to throw upon them the responsibility which he ought to have borne himself. He had seen with regret a memorial that had been placed in the hands of many hon. Members by Sir Charles Napier, containing a very unjust attack, which he had little expected from one whom he called his friend, and whom he might have supposed would have formed a very different opinion of his (Admiral Berkeley's) conduct. In the memorial which Sir Charles Napier had thought fit to circulate among Members of the House, he found this passage:—Your petitioner has been informed that there were two candidates for the command, with scats in the Admiralty. One was refused; the other got it. Surely they could not be impartial judges of the conduct of your petitioner.He (Admiral Berkeley) had been a candidate for the command of the Baltic fleet as well as Sir Charles Napier, and the right hon. Baronet then at the head of the Admiralty, knowing his (Admiral Berkeley's) anxiety to go out, put to him this straightforward question:—" Do you think Sir Charles Napier is a proper man to go to the Baltic?" Did he (Admiral Berkeley) say that he thought himself or any other person more fit for the command? No; he said to the right hon. Baronet—who could contradict him if he was not stating the truth—" That if Sir Charles Napier went out in command he (Admiral Berkeley) would be only too happy to go out as second in command." Sir Charles Napier accused two Lords of the Admiralty of being unfit to be judges of his conduct. One of those officers was himself and the other was Admiral Dundas, who had been appointed to the command of the Baltic fleet. When he (Admiral Berkeley) asked for the command of that fleet, he was told by the right hon. Baronet then at the head of the Admiralty, that his services were required at the Admiralty, and that he could not be spared. Admiral Dundas never applied for the command of the fleet, but was chosen to command it by the right hon. Baronet at his (Admiral Berkeley's) request. He thought, therefore, Sir Charles Napier must admit that one part of his statement was altogether incorrect, as were also other portions of the memorial. Reference had been made during the discussion to a Committee which sat a year or two ago, but no private letters were pro- 309 duced to that Committee, and he (Admiral Berkeley) had refused to answer questions put to him by the Committee, because they related to conversations which he regarded as private, and his objection was allowed. He must say there was no pleasing some parties. If fault were found with generals or admirals, the Government were immediately blamed because they did not recall such incapable persons, without giving them the opportunity of defending themselves; and now, because the Board of Admiralty did not think fit again to employ Sir Charles Napier in the Baltic, they were held up to public obloquy. Although he still felt and professed that friendship for Sir Charles Napier which he could not forget, though he thought it had been violated by the gallant admiral, he believed, whether these papers were granted or not, that the most unfortunate thing Sir Charles Napier could do, with respect to his character as an officer fit to command a fleet, would be to stir up this question, for the more it was searched into the worse would the gallant Admiral's case appear.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that there was no act of injustice, of oppression, or of iniquity that could be perpetrated upon any officer in Her Majesty's service that might not be defended by the arguments which had been used by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham). The hon. and gallant Member who last addressed the House said, in effect, that he could not refer to the papers, and, therefore, he would not go into the question, that it was impossible to understand the matter fully without looking into the papers, that he never would look into them, and that by no possibility should the House be able to understand the truth of the case. What then was Sir Charles Napier to do? He felt insulted and aggrieved; he submitted his case to that House, and why? The gallant Admiral (Sir Charles Napier) informed him that, touched to the quick by the unjust treatment he had received from the Admiralty, he sought for inquiry, but inquiry was refused. He then applied formally for a court-martial, but that was likewise denied him. He then sought for an interview with the Prime Minister, and asked for redress. The noble Lord said some complimentary things which meant nothing, but redress was still withheld. What, then, was the gallant Admiral to do? He could only submit his case to that 310 House, and rest content with their decision. Now, what was the case? The gallant Admiral—a man like every one of his race, of honour and chivalry, of high spirit, of great experience—was selected, and wisely selected, he (Mr. Whiteside) considered, by the Admiralty to be placed in command of Her Majesty's fleet on a great occasion. He was covered with the praises of that Admiralty, and the same system of panegyric was continued up to the month of September. On the 25th of September the gallant officer sent to the Admiralty an elaborate document, which very properly had not been read, in which he told them there were two modes of discharging the duty confided to him. He (Mr. Whiteside) did not complain of the Admiralty for exercising their judgment upon that document, but he wished to know why it was that they praised the gallant Admiral up to the 25th of September, and then turned round and told him, "From this day forth we find it impossible to express any satisfaction with you, on account of the decision you have come to on a matter not properly belonging to you to determine?" What was the conduct of the gallant Admiral? The soundness of his decision having been confirmed by a council of officers, he respect. fully submitted to the Admiralty that the judgment which he had originally formed was right, and he ventured to suggest that the meaning of the document of the 25th of September had been misunderstood or perverted. He respectfully asked them to withdraw the insulting letter, but they said "No;" and when he further addressed them in language, implying that he no longer possessed their confidence, and that if he deserved the terms in which that letter was couched he was not a fit person to command the fleet, he still received no satisfactory answer. He was, therefore, driven from the Admiralty. Then he appealed to the First Lord of the Treasury, but, as he (Mr. Whiteside) had previously stated, found no redress, and now the representatives of the nation were called on to say that he should get no redress anywhere, because the papers which were asked for his vindication were private papers which ought not to be produced. He could recollect, however, an occasion on which two letters were asked for in that House, the writers of which said they were not public but private letters, and should not be produced, but which, notwithstanding, were moved for and produced in order that they 311 might be used against an hon. Gentleman sitting on the Opposition side of the House. The present First Lord of the Admiralty had told them that the papers now moved for ought not to be produced because their publication would be injurious to the public service, not seeming to be aware that the papers asked for were those dated subsequently to the 20th of December.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, he had stated that as the papers discussed the plan for taking Sweaborg it would be injurious to the public service to have such details produced to the House.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
That statement convinced him that the right hon. Gentleman had not read the terms of the Motion, because the terms of the Motion excluded those dates which embraced the plans for the reduction of Sweaborg. The right hon. Gentleman had been so suddenly and so lately transferred from the Board of Control to the Admiralty that he was unaware of the fact that the papers asked for excluded those containing the plans and operations to which he had referred, and that therefore their production could not possibly be injurious to the public interest. The papers moved for by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wallingford were not to be granted because the Minister told them it would be an inconvenience. In the war in which they were engaged they expected to gain victories and to achieve triumphs, but they could hardly expect to find men who had a high sense of honour engage in the service of their country with a chivalrous and devoted spirit if they persisted in denying them, when insulted and injured, that justice to which they were entitled.
MR. W. COWPER
said, he rose to make an observation on what had just been stated by the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen, with reference to the refusal to produce the letters dated after the 20th of December. He believed it would be highly imprudent to produce the letters written subsequently to the 20th December, because in those letters Sir Charles Napier had reproduced the facts and opinions he had stated in his former correspondence; and the publication of those facts and opinions could not take place without detriment to the public service, at a period when we were preparing another expedition to the Baltic. He therefore trusted that the House would not insist on the production of those papers. He certainly had never been more surprised 312 than on hearing the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the Motion, because that hon. and learned Gentleman had produced official documents containing the confidential statements of officers, with regard to the strength of hostile fortresses. He alluded more particularly to the disclosures made by the hon. and learned Gentleman of the opinions of General Jones and General Niel, and he would appeal to the House whether those opinions ought to have been made public at the present moment. The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford had incurred all the blame of this indiscretion for the sake of a case in which he had entirely failed; for his object was to prove that Sir Charles Napier had been dismissed and censured. But he (Mr. Cowper) denied the accuracy of that statement. The gallant Admiral had not been dismissed, for after the fleet had been dispersed his command had naturally ceased, and it would have been a very strange proceeding to have kept him still in full pay with his flag flying. The hon. and learned Gentleman complained of the curtness of the terms in which the gallant Admiral had been informed that his command had ceased; but he (Mr. Cowper) should observe that those terms had been framed in strict conformity with precedent. There was the precedent of the case of Admiral Hope, in 1812, which had been already mentioned; and there was a second precedent in the case of Sir Graham Moore, who, on his return from the Baltic in 1814, had been addressed in precisely the same terms. Sir Charles Napier had not been dismissed, and neither had he been censured. The fact seemed to be that the gallant Admiral had not received the amount of praise he thought he had deserved. But was the House of Commons to undertake to decide whether or not Sir Charles Napier had been sufficiently praised by the Admiralty? He submitted that that was not at all a proper subject for the consideration of that House. The Board of Admiralty must be the best judges of the merits of officers acting under their command; and it should be remembered that in that case the Board were naturally prepossessed in favour of an officer whom they had themselves appointed, and on whom the hon. Baronet at their head had bestowed the most special praise. Sir Charles Napier, at the Mansion House, had complained that he had been supplied with neither pilots nor 313 charts. But the fact was that he had had on board his fleet 100 persons more or less able to act as pilots, and that he had had seven such persons in his own flagship. With respect to the charts he (Mr. Cowper) had only to state that the fleet had been supplied with the best charts in existence, and the same as those used in the French service. He regretted extremely that the gallant Admiral had taken the course he had chosen in that matter. But Sir Charles Napier, so far as he knew, had but one enemy, and that enemy was himself; and he had done so much to destroy his own reputation that no other person's reputation but his could have borne it.
§ MR. MURROUGH
said, that the question was, whether the British public would submit to have the character of an officer who had long served his country and had long been a favourite with the country stamped with disgrace by a Ministry without due consideration? The hon. Gentleman who last spoke denied that there had been a want of pilots or of charts with the Baltic fleet; but he forgot to tell the House that the pilots sent out were utterly unacquainted with the navigation of the Baltic, and that they were sent home again because they were perfectly useless. Then, again, with regard to the charts, they were so faulty that the officers were obliged to use other charts, purchased at their own expense. The case of Admiral Saumarez had been alluded to, but it should be recollected that his recall was only temporary. The country, however, knew very well what was meant by the recall of Sir Charles Napier; the country felt satisfied that it was a matter of great convenience to the Admiralty to remove Admiral Dundas from one situation and place him in another, and that there was no other mode of effecting that object but by getting rid of Sir Charles Napier. It was unjust to sacrifice in this way an old servant of the country, and the least the House could do was to grant the papers moved for.
said, he entirely dissented from the observation of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Cowper), that the question brought under their consideration was, whether or not Sir Charles Napier had been sufficiently praised by the Board of Admiralty. He (Mr. Bentinck) should say that the Motion involved a subject of much greater interest and importance than that. In the present state of the discussion, however, and in the ab- 314 sence of the documents necessary to enable them to arrive at a decision upon the question, he would abstain from any attempt to define its merits. But he would observe that, painful as were all discussions of a personal character, he rejoiced that that matter had been brought under their notice, because he believed that it must contribute to direct their attention to a subject of the utmost importance—namely, the practice which prevailed in this country from time immemorial of placing civilians at the head of our great naval and military departments. He readily acknowledged the great capacity and experience of the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty; but he would ask the House whether it would be possible to conceive anything more anomalous and even more disadvantageous to the public service, as well as to the reputation of the right hon. Baronet himself, than that he, a civilian, should be placed in such an office that he would have to decide over a fire in a room in Whitehall upon the mode in which distant naval operations had been, or were to be, conducted. He (Mr. Bentinck) believed that the discussion which had taken place that evening, and the Committee of inquiry into the state of the army before Sebastopol, would have the effect of laying the axe to the root of our present system of administering the business of our military and naval departments.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, the case, as presented to the House, appeared to him to lie in a very narrow compass. The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) grounded it upon the fact that Sir Charles Napier had been dismissed and censured, and he said it was due, as a matter of justice to the character of that distinguished officer, that the correspondence which had taken place since a certain period should be laid before the House. The foundation of the case was Sir Charles Napier's having been dismissed or censured, or both. Now, as he (the Attorney General) understood the facts—and, not having seen the statement of the gallant Admiral, he had had no means of becoming acquainted with them except from the discussion that evening—Sir Charles Napier, upon his return to this country, instead of being continued in his command, received from the Admiralty an order to haul down his flag. That was called by the gallant Admiral and his friends a dismissal; and further it was said that the letter implied a censure upon 315 the gallant officer. In the first place he apprehended that that was no dismissal of Sir Charles Napier, but that his command had terminated in the ordinary course of things. The fleet which he had commanded had been called home and dispersed. It had ceased to be a fleet, and with the termination of its existence as a fleet terminated also, in the natural course of things, and according to the universal practice of the Admiralty, the command of the officer who had been at its head. He received a letter which might if they chose be called rather curt than courteous, but which it appeared to him (the Attorney General) was in the usual form in which the Admiralty called upon an officer to haul down his flag. It was clear, therefore, that the facts did not constitute a dismissal, and that the letter did not amount to a censure. But suppose the gallant Admiral had been dismissed, was the Executive Government of this country, acting on behalf of the Crown, to be told that if it ceased to have full confidence in the capacity of an officer it was not justified in recalling him? What could be more difficult or more delicate than to determine whether an officer was entitled to the full confidence of the authority which employed him? Surely it was within the province and within the duty of the Board of Admiralty, at any time, if it thought proper, to recall an officer; and though the recall might imply a certain amount of distrust, it might not imply a want of confidence, neither did it necessarily involve a censure. He apprehended that an officer who was recalled was not warranted in demanding an inquiry or a court-martial. The recall amounted to nothing more than an expression that the Government had no confidence—not in his courage, that might be undoubted—not in his qualities as a seaman, those might be unquestioned—but in his discretion, in his energy, or in some one or other of those qualities which went to constitute a great commander, and in which a man might be to a certain extent deficient, and yet might be a most distinguished and meritorious officer. Here it did not amount to that. The gallant officer was not recalled; his command terminated with the dispersion of his fleet, and it must be in the sole province of the Executive to say whether or not a command should be continued to a particular officer. As for censure, the letter certainly contains none, and the hon. and learned Gentleman who made this Motion had himself read a letter 316 in which the Admiralty expressed their satisfaction with Sir Charles Napier. Of what, then, did he complain? Why, that he was not again sent to the Baltic. It was said that the papers now asked for involved nothing the publication of which would be detrimental to the public service. He (the Attorney General) was informed that this was a complete mistake. Sir Charles Napier, thinking that his merits had not been sufficiently recognised, entered into a discussion of the subject, and a correspondence ensued, in which he was told that the question whether or not the attack upon Sweaborg ought to have been made was fully gone into; and the House was told, both by the late and by the present First Lord of the Admiralty, that this correspondence went into details the publication of which would be most prejudicial to the public service. Those who supported this Motion having failed to make out that Sir Charles Napier had been either dismissed or censured, he asked what there was in the position in which the gallant officer stood in relation to the Admiralty which could justify the production of documents which could not be produced without detriment to the public service? Had he in any letter or despatch from the Admiralty been censured for want of courage, of conduct, or of a due regard to the duty he had to perform, he would have been entitled to an inquiry, and if he could not obtain it in the ordinary way, he would have had a right, as every Englishman had, to appeal to the great inquest of the country. As it was, he thought that no case had been made out for the production of these documents.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he could not consent to place this question upon the narrow ground taken up by the hon. and learned Attorney General, for there were occasions when not to be praised was tantamount to being censured, where an officer of the navy was exercising high command. The Government had proposed a vote of thanks to Admiral Dundas, for his services in the Black Sea; but, when Sir Charles Napier returned from the Baltic, no notice was taken of the circumstance. The hon. and learned Attorney General had said that the Board of Admiralty had accorded him their thanks, but those thanks were not given voluntarily, but were extracted from them by the letter written by the gallant Admiral. He (Mr. Otway) confessed, when he came down to the House, he laboured under a very different impression with re- 317 spect to the services of Sir Charles Napier than that which he now entertained. Before he came down that night, he believed all the world had been told that nothing had been done in the Baltic, although the gallant Admiral had carte blanche to do what he pleased, and go where he pleased. If, however, the operations in the Baltic had not been as successful as was expected, what was the reason? Was not the cause to be attributed to the description of vessels employed, and the armaments used? A noble Lord, a Member of that House, now no more, had repeatedly put questions to the Government, and he (Mr. Otway) had done the same, with reference to the equipment of the Baltic fleet, but they had always been put off with answers from the First Lord of the Admiralty that everything should be done to fit out the fleet in the most efficient manner. With regard to the Motion before the House for the production of the papers, he would vote in its favour, because the most essential portion of them had already been divulged, and he thought there could be no well-founded objection against publishing them.
§ SIR GEORGE TYLER
said, he thought that Sir Charles Napier had not been fairly treated. At the same time the order to haul down his flag did not strike him (Sir G. Tyler) in the character of a dismissal, because, according to the regulations of the service, in the case of a fleet which had been employed upon a particular service, it was a common occurrence that, when tile service was performed and the fleet returned, the flag was as a matter of course hauled down. He felt as a naval officer—although, like the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott), he was supposed to be too old for service—that if this had occurred to himself he should have considered it a hardship. At the same time he gave to the gallant Admiral every credit for the manner in which he had conducted that magnificent fleet. The gallant Admiral felt it to be impossible to adopt the plan which the Admiralty at home thought it expedient to determine. He, of course, being upon the spot, was the best judge. He (Sir G. Tyler) thought that the despatch after the taking of Bomarsund, in which it was said that the Admiralty approved highly of the gallant Admiral's conduct, but that they could not entirely express their satisfaction that he did not 318 go to Sweaborg, might appear as a censure to the individual to whom it was addressed, and he had no doubt but that the gallant Admiral felt it so, without its having been intended as one by those who sent it. In conclusion, he begged to defend the naval officers against the insinuation which had been thrown out against them by the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), that they would not take up such a case as the present. He was quite certain that these hon. and gallant Members were as independent as the right hon. Gentleman himself, and he (Sir G. Tyler) was ready on that and on any other occasion to offer an independent opinion to the House.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I confess, Sir, that I have listened to this discussion with much regret, for I think it is setting a bad example that hon. Gentlemen who feel themselves called upon to vindicate the character of professional men in this House should, in doing so, read to us portions of particular documents, while, at the same time, they call upon the House to determine whether those documents shall be produced or not. This is a way of begging the question, and endeavouring to obtain an object by a sidewind, which is not, I think, advisable for this House to pursue. With regard to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the House must agree that there are good and sufficient reasons why it is injurious to the interests of the country that the documents should be produced, and, therefore, I shall undoubtedly give my vote against the proposition. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has made a mistake in discretion in the course he has pursued with reference to this subject. I also think another hon. and learned Gentleman has also made a mistake, and, led away by the similarity of the names, has mistaken Admiral Dundas who is going to the Baltic, as the same Admiral Dundas who has lately returned from the Black Sea. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman is not aware that, in this country, and in the north especially, there are persons of the same name who are not the same persons, and, in fact, who bear no relation to each other. I have had the pleasure and honour of long acquaintance with the gallant Admiral who is the subject of this discussion, and as an admirer of his professional and personal character, it would have been a matter of sincere regret to me if he had been either cen- 319 sured or dismissed for his conduct when in charge of an important command. But I think it is clearly established that the gallant Admiral has neither been censured nor dismissed. And when the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward this Motion quotes the opinion which I expressed in another place as to the professional merits and distinguished qualities of Sir Charles Napier, I tell him that I retract none of those opinions, and that I am proud to say the courage, gallantry, professional skill, and ability of my distinguished friend, as I must still call him, stand as high now as at the moment when I made those observations. It has been my fortune, upon former occasions, to profit by the valuable services of Sir Charles Napier. On those occasions the gallant Admiral rendered most important services by the able and distinguished manner in which he performed his duty; and it is only due to him to say, that nothing has occurred in the last year to diminish, in the slightest degree, the high character which he has deservedly obtained for having done great and important services to his country. Sir Charles Napier has rendered important service to the country in the command of the Baltic fleet. He has shown the greatest skill in the conduct of that fleet through the most difficult and dangerous navigation in the world, and he has brought home that most magnificent fleet without any injury, under circumstances in which, if it had been under the command of one less skilled than my gallant friend, it might have sustained great damage and disaster; and he has secured this country against all those evils which might have arisen if the Baltic fleet of Russia had come out of port and scoured the seas. Whilst I say that I cannot agree to this Motion, I wish it to be understood that, in proposing to negative it, I do not consider myself as in the slightest degree casting any slur upon the reputation of Sir Charles Napier. On the contrary, I think that his character stands as high as it ever did, and I have no doubt that he will continue to rank amongst the most distinguished members of the naval profession.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, he thought the friends of Sir Charles Napier ought to be satisfied with the result of the night's debate, and that the testimony borne to the merits of the gallant Admiral from all sides of the House, and particularly by the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, 320 must be most gratifying to his feelings. He considered Sir Charles Napier had shown in his command in the Baltic not only discretion, but that great moral courage which induced him to stand up for his own opinions and to act on his own discretion and judgment. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend would not press his Motion to a division.
§ MR. MALINS,
in reply, said, he would not encroach on the time of the House at any great length. He believed that the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston's) declaration, that he thought as highly of Sir Charles Napier now as he ever had done, had taken the House somewhat by surprise, for no one could doubt that the gallant Admiral had now been dismissed from his command, at whatever time the dismissal might have taken place, because another admiral had been appointed to it. As the thanks of the House had been voted to Admiral Dundas, he thought, if the noble Lord were sincere, that he ought to move a vote of thanks to Sir Charles Napier, who had gained a signal victory in the destruction of Bomarsund. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) had made it a matter of observation that this question had been brought forward by a lawyer, by an equity lawyer. He (Mr. Malins) had brought the subject forward, not as a professional man, but as one of the representatives of the people. This shot from the Admiralty seemed a favourite one, for the present First Lord had followed it up in somewhat the same strain. Now, as it was his profession to hold briefs in the morning, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think he could do nothing but hold briefs in the evening. He had brought forward this Motion, because he thought a distinguished officer had been treated in a most unworthy and undignified manner. The hon. and gallant Member fur Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley) said that the more Sir Charles Napier stirred this matter the worse it would be for him; but he thought that the stirring which the matter had already received did not bear out that assertion, and that after the discussion which had taken place that night, Sir Charles Napier would stand before the public in a very different position from that which he had previously occupied. If ever the day arrived when the production of this correspondence would not be detrimental to the public service, he would, if he still had the 321 honour of a seat in that House, do his best to have it produced; for he was convinced that, when it was produced, it would redound to the high honour of Sir Charles Napier, and to the discredit of those who had endeavoured to impugn that honour. When the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham), and the hon. and learned Attorney General asserted that Sir Charles Napier had not been dismissed, and had not been censured, they must, surely, have forgotten the October correspondence. Up to that date, the Government had continued to express their satisfaction at his proceedings, but then, supposing that Sebastopol had fallen, they wrote that which any officer who received it must have considered as a censure. It must have been forgotten by the framers of the letter that the determination not to attack Sweaborg was not only the determination of Sir Charles Napier, but also of the French general and of the French admiral, and that in censuring Sir Charles Napier they were also censuring those gallant officers. It was apparent from the whole tone of the correspondence that Sir Charles Napier had been censured, and the letter of the 22nd of December, when interpreted by that of the 26th, showed that he had been dismissed. He (Mr. Malins) denied that he had set a bad example by reading extracts from the correspondence. When a distinguished officer had been treated with contempt, and, an inquiry into his conduct by court-martial having been refused, he applied to that House for redress, it would have a most lamentable effect upon the public service if the House were to sanction the principle that no part of the correspondence which had passed between that officer and the Government should be referred to. He had now, however, to consider what course he ought to adopt with regard to a division. When the Government had pledged their word before Parliament that the documents for which he moved could not be produced without injury to the public service, he was bound to attend to their intimation. The discussion had produced a most beneficial effect, and he trusted Sir Charles Napier would be satisfied with its result; for, under all the circumstances, he thought he ought not to press the Motion to a division.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The House adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.