§ On the Motion that Mr. Speaker should leave the Chair, that the House might go into Committee of Supply,
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
said: Sir, I am at all times most unwilling unnecessarily to obstruct the business of the House, or to avail myself of the opportunity afforded by this Motion to bring under its notice matters which personally concern myself. On Monday last, the first day after the recess, I intended to have taken the course which I am now reluctantly driven to pursue. But, Sir, the honour of every Member has at all times been regarded by the House as its own property, and it is the duty of every Member to defend himself when an attack has been made impeaching that honour, more particularly when it also impeaches his veracity. I would gladly have avoided the revival of the unhappy controversy which has arisen between myself and the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier). The House has heard enough, perhaps more than enough, of that unhappy affair. It was most contrary to my wish needlessly to revive that subject; but during the early part of the recess a letter appeared in The Times, signed by the hon. and gallant Admiral, which I will now beg to read to the House, and it appeared to myself and to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), who is also mentioned in it, utterly impossible 481 for us consistently with our duty to omit commenting upon this letter, and endeavouring to substantiate to the House the truth of the statements which we had made. The letter, which was addressed to the Editor of The Times, and was dated March 15, is in these terms—Sir: Sir James Graham stated in his speech that I had advised Sir Robert Stopford not to attack Acre; and Admiral Berkeley wont further, and said that the night before I told Sir Robert Stopford 'that if he sent him into the position marked out for him his ships would not swim for half an hour.' My reply is not correctly reported, and I have to request you will give insertion to this letter.I stated in my reply that, upon my honour, I did no such thing; and I now beg to say that there is not one word of truth, or even a shadow of truth, in those statements; they were got up to damage me.''I remain your obedient servant,March 15.CHARLES NAPIER.Now, Sir, not only is that letter a direct impeachment of my veracity, and of that of my right hon. and gallant Friend, but it ascribes to us motives of the darkest and most malignant kind. I hope the House will do me the justice to remember that, notwithstanding the many attacks which the hon. and gallant Member has thought it consistent with his duty to make upon me, whether in letters or in speeches, in taverns or upon the hustings, I have never taken the least notice of any such attacks except in my place in Parliament, and then only when I have been placed on the defensive. Having said so much, Sir, I shall now call the attention of the House to what were the allegations made by myself and my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) in the former debate, and will submit to the House the evidence which I believe will fully sustain those allegations. This is a matter of fact and evidence must be adduced; but I rely upon the justice and patience of the House for attention to that evidence, hoping that it may not be unduly long or tedious. I am, however, anxious to preface what I am about to say with regard to the naval operations before Acre with one observation. I give to the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Southwark the utmost credit for the gallantry and the ability with which in Syria, on land, he conducted, even beyond the limits of his profession, military operations—leading the Turks to victory. I also give to him the utmost credit for the effect of those operations in sustaining the British interests in the East, by the expulsion of the Egyptians from Syria at that time. 482 The matter at issue between the hon. and gallant Member and myself is with respect to the naval operations of that war, and this question arises out of discussions with reference to the conduct of the gallant Admiral when in command of the Baltic fleet. In defending myself from the attack made upon me by the hon. and gallant Member in this House, I incidentally observed that I thought there was an erroneous impression abroad that the success of the naval attack upon Acre was due to the hon. and gallant Member, and that that attack emanated from his counsels and advice. Nay, more; I went on to say that I had reason to believe, from recent inquiry, that, so far from that attack having been counselled, it had been objected to by him; and that the late Sir Robert Stopford and Sir Charles Smith, commanding the military in conjunction with him, decided to make that attack in opposition to the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member. The next allegation is, that when, before the attack, Sir Robert Stopford pointed out to the assembled officers the position to be taken up by the different ships, he assigned to the Powerful, the ship which the hon. and gallant Officer (Sir C. Napier) then commanded, a particular position, close to the north-west angle of the fortifications of Acre. The hon. and gallant officer objected to that position, and said that if it were taken up by him his ship would be sunk in half an hour. The third allegation is, that on the following day, when the attack was made, he did not carry into execution the orders of Sir Robert Stopford; did not take up the position assigned to him, but lot go his anchor at a considerable distance from it, in a position less exposed; and that by so violating the orders of his Commander in Chief he threw the whole of the naval operations into considerable confusion. The fourth allegation is, that the capture of Acre did not take place in immediate consequence of the bombardment, but that the place was entered by a body of troops landed at a considerable distance from the post occupied by the Powerful, and that that landing was an operation in which the hon. and gallant Admiral had no part. The last allegation is that, on the morning after the battle took, place, the hon. and gallant Officer made his appearance on the quarter deck of the flagship, and expressed a hope that Sir Robert Stopford was satisfied with his conduct on the previous day, and that Sir Robert Stopford told the hon. and gallant Officer in express terms that he 483 was anything but satisfied with the position which he took up. These are the allegations. The hon. and gallant Officer has pledged his honour that there is neither truth nor the shadow of truth in them. I join issue with him there, and I am prepared to sustain the truth of all I have advanced. Now, Sir, the best evidence which could be adduced in support of these allegations would be the evidence of Sir Robert Stopford himself. Unfortunately, that officer is no more. The documents and papers of Sir Robert Stopford would have furnished irresistible evidence. I have made an appeal to Lady Stopford, the widow of the late Sir Robert, but those papers are under seal and in the possession of executors. More than one of those executors are absent from England, and the papers therefore cannot be opened or produced. The next evidence would be the Secretary of Sir Robert Stopford, but the Secretary of Admiral Stopford is also dead. The next best evidence would have been the evidence of Admiral Fanshawe, who was the flag-captain of Admiral Stopford, and was therefore cognizant of all the proceedings; but he is in a distant land. Admiral Boxer would have also been a most important witness; but he, too, is dead. There only remains, therefore, evidence which is either secondary, or which is not the best evidence that could be produced. But the right hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley) was an officer in command of a line-of-battle ship during the whole of these operations, was himself cognisant of the greatest portion of the transactions to which I have referred; and he was not only my informant in private, but the House in public heard his statement. It will be said, and said perhaps with truth, that my right hon. and gallant Friend—brought also unfortunately, like myself, into collision with the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark—is a witness open to exception, on account of the bias which may be supposed to influence him. Now, Sir, I will adduce the testimony of a witness, the most unexceptionable (as I think even the hon. and gallant officer himself will admit) that can be adduced. Sir Baldwin Walker, at the time to which I refer, was in the service of the Turkish Government; he had the rank of rear-admiral, and at the attack on Acre his flag was flying in a Turkish line-of-battle ship. He was in constant communication, as commanding a Turkish squadron, 484 with Sir Robert Stopford, the commander of the British squadron. His evidence is unimpeachable, and the House shall hear it exactly as it is given. The next best witness would have been Admiral Sir Houston Stewart; but he, in the absence of Admiral Sir Edmund Lyons from his command, is now in the Mediterranean, commanding the English fleet. Notwithstanding, however, the distance, Sir Baldwin Walker has had an opportunity of communicating with Admiral Sir Houston Stewart, and the House shall hear what Sir Baldwin Walker states—namely, that the communications which he has made to me in answer to my inquiries have been submitted to Sir Houston Stewart and are confirmed by that officer. I shall also produce to the House the written evidence of Captain Codrington, who commanded the Talbot before Acre, was the officer who most closely reconnoitred Acre, took all the soundings, and drew the positions, and who is in every respect a competent and trustworthy witness, to whom I do not think the hon. and gallant Member will object. But if anything be still wanting, and if it be said that all these are naval witnesses, I will not stop here. The hon. and gallant Member objects very much to the evidence of naval men, but it does so happen that a most distinguished officer, Sir Charles Felix Smith, who commanded the military portion of the expedition, was on board the flagship. To him, my veracity being impeached, I appealed for the facts of the case, and I will read my letter asking for information on this subject, together with his reply. Having done that, I shall certainly abstain from any further remarks. I am willing to believe that, in a moment of haste and exasperation, the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark may have expressed himself more strongly than, after further deliberation, he would himself approve of. I have myself committed errors of this kind in the course of my life, and if the hon. and gallant Member should say (and I hope he will say), after I have concluded my observations, that he regrets this occurrence, and will not adhere to the strong terms he used, I for one shall be entirely satisfied. But, Sir, I must now proceed to show to the House, with reference to the first proposition, not only that the naval attack on Acre was not suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, but I think I have indisputable evidence to show 485 that the first suggestion of that attack, as settled by Sir Robert Stopford and Sir Charles Smith, emanated from Sir Baldwin Walker, and from no other quarter. I will not frighten the House by the production of the large Blue-books containing the Syrian correspondence, but I will read a short extract from a letter in that correspondence, which will be found in Part 2, page 330, No. 249. It is from Viscount Ponsonby to Lord Palmerston, and is dated Therapia, October 7, 1840. It is in these words:—My Lord—I have the honour to enclose an extract from the Syrian journal of a gentleman employed in the Turkish service, and a man of sense. [The name of this gentleman has been mentioned to me, and I believe he is now in London.] This extract contains matter not mentioned in other reports, and states facts worth being submitted to your Lordship's attention.—I have the honour, &c. "PONSONBY(In closure in No. 249.—Extract from journal.)Sunday, Sept. 27.Captain Walker came on board, [Here follows an account of the attack on Saida, in which Captain Walker, Commodore Napier, and the Austrian Archduke took a part.] I went with Captain Walker to see Sir Robert Stopford. … Leaving Sir Robert, I accompanied Captain Walker to see Izzet Pasha. We found him suffering extremely, and, after communicating to him the events which had taken place to the southward, Captain Walker declared it to be his opinion that an attack on Acre would be successful.That was the opinion entertained on the 27th of September. On the 24th of October Sir Baldwin Walker, in the Turkish flagship, went close in to Acre, sent a boat on shore to summon it to surrender, himself cannonaded some of the fortifications, and (his summons not being attended to) then withdrew, and on the 27th of October wrote this letter to Admiral Stopford—Ottoman ship-of-war Mookaddlimay-i-hire, at sea, Oct. 27, 1840.Sir—I have the honour to forward for your Excellency's information, a statement made by two men who were sent off to this ship by Captain Boxer, of Her Britannic Majesty's ship Pique, on the evening of the 26th inst., at the moment of our departure from St. Jean d' Acre, by which you will perceive that much discontent reigns in the garrison of that town, and how ready the Syrians are to assist the cause of His Imperial Majesty the Sultan.—I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, humble sevant,B. W. WALKER.To his Excellency Admiral the hon.Sir R. Stopford, G. C. B., &c.Then follows an enclosure of the depositions of two men sent by Captain Boxer, of the Pique, off Kiaffa, October 26, 1840. They say— 486The Druses armed at Sidon about two days ago have cut off the supply of water conveyed to Acre by the aqueduct. The fortress of St. Jean d' Acre contains 5,000 troops, but the greater part of them are sick, and about twenty-five desert and die daily. The deserters from St. Joan d' Acre declare the troops to be disaffected, and that a cannonading of the fortresses would be a signal for them to desert to us.Dates are important. The attack on Acre was made on the 3rd of November, 1840, and the letter I have just read to the House was dated on the 27th of October. The decision to attack Acre was come to by Sir Robert Stopford and Sir Charles Smith on the 29th of October. I beg the House to remember these dates. On the 31st of October, Sir Baldwin Walker writes to the Turkish High Admiral at Constantinople in these terms—Ottoman ship-of-war Mookaddimay-i-hire, Beyrout, Oct. 31, 1840.My Lord—In consequence of my representing to Admiral the hon. Sir Robert Stopford the good effect likely to arise from the appearance of His Sublime Majesty's flag off St. Jean d' Acre, I have the honour to inform your Highness that I left this anchorage for that town on the 24th inst., and arrived in the evening of that day.On the ensuing morning I pulled in with a, flag of truce for the purpose of delivering the enclosed summons. This, however, was not received, nor the boat permitted to land.On the following day I stood in with this ship and fired at the fortresses; and although I approached near enough for the guns to have done me considerable injury, I was much surprised at their not returning our fire. This pacific disposition on the part of the enemy, and the information I obtained from two natives who came off to the ship from Kiaffa, confirmed me in my former opinion that much discontent prevails in the garrison of that town.These particulars I fully communicated to the English Admiral, and I have now the great satisfaction to inform your Highness that a force, consisting of eight ships-of-the-line, five frigates, and four steamers, the whole having on board 3,500 Turkish troops, will leave Beyrout this day for St. Jean d' Acre.We continue to receive daily deserters from the enemy, and the Crescent steamer having on board 450 deserters and prisoners, will leave this evening for Constantinople.—I have the honour to be, &c. "B. W. WALKER.To His Highness the Capudan Pasha, &c.I venture to think that these documents offer, if not conclusive, at all events the strongest possible presumptive evidence that the decision of the Admiral and General to attack Acre proceeded from information given by Sir Baldwin Walker, and from advice which he had tendered to them. But that is only the negative part of the case that the naval attack on St. Jean d' Acre did not proceed from the counsel of the hon. and gallant Member 487 for Southwark but, as I contend from intelligence received through the medium of Sir Baldwin Walker from Acre itself. I shall now submit to the House the direct testimony on that question of Sir Baldwin Walker himself; and that there may be no mistake about the matter I will read seriatim the questions proposed to that gallant Officer by my right hon. and gallant Friend below me and myself, with the answers of Sir Baldwin Walker. The allegations which the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark denies, and which we assert, are these—1. Question.—The attack on Acre by the fleet was not advised by Sir Charles Napier, but was undertaken in opposition to his advice and opinion expressly given to Sir Robert Stop-ford?Answer.—I cannot call to mind that I ever heard Sir Charles Napier express any opinion on the subject; but Sir Robert Stopford, on several occasions when the question of attacking Acre was discussed, informed me that Sir Charles was opposed to it; my own impression always was, that Sir Charles Napier was anxious to advance into the interior at the head of the army, and conduct the land operations.2. Sir Charles Napier before the attack remonstrated against taking up the position assigned to the Powerful by the Admiral?I was present when Sir Robert Stop ford pointed out to Sir Charles Napier the position which the Powerful was to take up off the southwest angle of the fortress of Acre, and the reply made by Sir Charles Napier was, that if he anchored in that position his ship would be sunk.3. In making the attack, Sir Charles Napier did not take up the position in question according to his orders, but let go his anchor short of it, in a less exposed position, and thereby threw the whole previous arrangement into confusion?The position pointed out by Sir Robert Stopford was not taken up by Sir Charles Napier. He anchored before he reached it, which the ships of his division were not prepared for, and which caused some confusion.4. Acre was taken by a landing at a distance from Sir Charles Napier's bombardment, and by an operation in which he took no part?Acre was taken possession of before three o'clock in the morning, after the bombardment by a force landed from the Turkish flagship at the sea gate on the south side. Sir Charles Napier was not present on the occasion,5. Sir Robert Stopford, after the action, expressed to Sir Charles Napier his dissatisfaction with the conduct of Sir Charles?Sir Robert Stopford, in my presence, on the quarterdeck of the Phœnix, expressed to Sir Charles Napier, that he was not satisfied with the position taken up by the Powerful, adding that he ought to have gone to the south-west angle. This is stated by Sir Charles Napier in his work on Syria.I very much regret the occasion that has arisen for putting the above question, but, having been appealed to, I am bound to state facts, so far as I am acquainted with them.I have been most anxious, to be correct. I 488 therefore wrote to Sir Houston Stewart, who agrees with me on all essential particulars, and he has authorised me to quote his testimony in support.B. W. WALKER.I told the House that I should leave nothing undone to complete the evidence in this case, and that there may be no doubt respecting any portion of it, I will now read what Captain Codrington says upon the subject. That officer commanded the Talbot on the occasion in question, and no one had a more accurate knowledge than he of the position assigned to the various ships engaged in the attack. Captain Codrington's letter, which I should premise is addressed to my right hen. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley) is as follows: —Her Majesty's ship Algiers, Portsmouth, March 26, 1856.Dear Sir Maurice,—I will reply to your questions seriatim, in the same order in which you put them. 1. I do not know whether Sir Charles Napier objected to the position assigned to his ship after he received his orders from Sir Robert Stopford; but, having been myself present, with other captains, at the discussion which took place in the Admiral's aftercabin on the evening of the 2nd of November, 1840, I well remember Sir Charles Napier expressing strongly his disapproval of the arrangement of attack which was advocated by Captain Boxer, Captain Houston Stewart, I think, and others, and which was approved by Sir Robert Stopford—namely, that the line of battle ships should be taken in first by the steamers, and that the smaller ships should follow them, and fill up the vacant spaces, &c. At this discussion—a very warm one—Sir Charles Napier strongly maintained that the small ships should be taken in first, and placed under the batteries by the steamers, and that the steamers should afterwards come out again, to take in the line of battle ships. The Admiral finally put an end to the discussion, very decidedly in these words:—'I will not hear any more about it, Napier; I will not have the small ships sacrificed for the large ones.' By his wish we all then retired, to enable him to write out his orders for the attack of next morning. 2. I have never seen the orders which wore given to Sir Charles Napier for the attack; but I was told then, and I have always heard since, that by the Admiral's orders he was intended to anchor his ship much nearer the southwest angle of the fortress, and on its seaward face, in such a position, as that the five from his ship should rake the line of guns opposed to our division, in the same way that the fire of the Carysfort and Talbot, &c., did rake the line of guns opposed to his division. This was not done. The Admiral's plan contemplated the Commodore's running in from the south-west towards that angle, and then that he should anchor the ships of his division in succession along that western or sea face of the works, beginning with his own ship when well abreast of the point. He varied from this plan by going round by the northward, under (it is said) an impression—which the event did not justify—that the sea breeze might fail. Having 489 reversed his part of the Admiral's plan of attack, so far as relates to the approach, he did not provide, by fresh orders to the ships astern of him, against the disarrangement consequent on such a change. Thus, he did not himself reach within a considerable distance of the station assigned to him; and by his anchoring where he did the ships following astern of him were thrown out from the positions they were intended to take Tip. Ultimately the Revenge weighed again, and moved on nearly to the position originally assigned to the Powerful. 3. Sir Charles Napier had nothing to do with taking possession of Acre, or landing men for that purpose, so far as relates to the decisive time when the garrison were abandoning the fortress in the night just after the action. It was Sir Baldwin Walker, who, being close inshore, first became aware of the evacuation having commenced, and it was by his exertions and his personally going to various ships, including the Austrian squadron, that a sufficient force was obtained for landing at once, and the sea-gate of the town taken possession of during the latter part of that very night. 4. On the morning of the 4th of November Sir Charles Napier went on board of the Phœnix to see the Admiral. I was not present myself, but I heard at the time, and it was well known through the squadron, that the Admiral had at that interview very decidedly expressed to Sir Charles Napier his disapprobation of the manner in which he had placed his division during the attack. Indeed, the very words that passed during that conversation were mentioned generally in the squadron at that time, arid arc still in my recollection.I am, dear Sir Maurice, yours truly, "H. J. CODRINGTON, Captain, R. N.Rear Admiral Hon. Sir Maurice Berkeley, K. C. B., Admiralty.Reluctant to trespass at too great length on the attention of the House, I will not pause to fortify my case with the evidence of Captain Hall (as we understood), who was a lieutenant in one of the ships engaged in the siege of Acre. I am unwilling to overlay the question with naval authorities, but I trust the House will be of opinion with me that the testimony of that description which I have already submitted is sufficient to show that there is more than a shadow of truth in what I stated on a former occasion. I will now cite the authority of Sir Charles H. Smith. I have not the happiness of his personal acquaintance, but, knowing him to be a highly honourable man, and an officer who distinguished himself by his gallantry on the occasion in question, I thought I might venture to make an appeal to him in a matter in which the interests of truth are involved. I accordingly addressed to him the following letter:—Grosvenor-place, April 2.Sir,—A question having arisen in Parliament respecting the arrangements prior to the attack on Acre at the end of October 1840, I beg to appeal to you, as the British military officer in 490 command on that occasion, and to ask whether the determination to make the attack was taken before orders to that effect reached you and the Admiral from home; and whether Sir Charles Napier was consulted by you and the Admiral before your final decision was formed.I make this inquiry because the accuracy of a statement made by me in Parliament has been impugned by Sir Charles Napier.I am your faithful and obedient,J. R. G. GRAHAM.Lieutenant-General Sir C. F Smith, K. C. B.Such was the communication I addressed to Sir Charles Smith, and before reading that gallant officer's reply I think it right to remind the House that in tins matter dates are of the utmost importance. It was upon the 29th of October that the Admiral and General, proceeding on the advice and information given by Sir Baldwin Walker on the 27th of that month, attacked Acre. It so happened that an order to go against the place was sent from home, but it did not reach the Admiral and the General till the 30th of October, or twenty-four hours after the decision to the same effect had been taken on the spot. Having made these observations, I will now read the letter of Sir Charles Smith —Onslow Square, April 3, 1856.Sir,—I have the honour to acknowledge your letter of the 2nd instant, in which I, as having held the command of the allied land forces in Syria, am appealed to for information respecting the arrangements prior to the attack on Acre in 1840; and, as such letter appears to have been written under the sanction of authority, I can have no hesitation in stating that on the 29th of October in that year it was finally determined between Sir Robert Stopford and myself that the siege of Acre should forthwith be undertaken, that the merit of the enterprise was ours, while the subsequent receipt of an order to go against it relieved us of a portion of the responsibility we were voluntarily on the eve of incurring; that Commodore Napier was not privy to our determination, neither was he a party to our plans and arrangements for the expedition, all mine having been in progress of execution many hours before the Vesuvius arrived with the orders in question. Furthermore, I ought hero to add that on the morning after I had taken possession of the fortress, Sir Robert Stopford communicated officially to me, as his colleague, the censure that he felt it to be his duty to pass upon the conduct of Commodore Napier during the operation.I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,C. F. SMITH, Lieutenant-General. "The Right Hon. Sir James Graham.It may be asked why was the subject of St. Jean d' Acre introduced into a debate referring to the operations in the Baltic. I am bound, in the first place, to say that down to a recent period, and when this 491 dispute arose between me and the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, I partook of the general impression that not only the success of the land operations in Syria, which I have acknowledged in what I have already addressed to the House, but the success of the naval operations, were mainly due to the counsel, conduct, and active exertions of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, I certainly had reason to believe that such was the fact from the hon. and gallant Officer's own published work on the war in Syria. At page 171, vol. 1, he says—Beyrout, Oct. 25, 1840.I am pressing the Admiral to send me to take Tripoli; this will finish all Lebanon.C. NAPIER.To the Emir.Tripoli was evacuated by the Egyptian force, and the magazine in the castle was blown up.The gallant officer goes on in the same book to say—Seeing no further prospect of active operations, I turned my attention, in common with my brother officers, to the propriety of an immediate attack on Acre, which I had thoroughly reconnoitred, and felt satisfied that the ships in a very short time would drive the Egyptians from the guns, if there was a possibility of approaching within a moderate distance of the walls.The position assigned to the Powerful by Sir Robert Stopford was regarded by the gallant officer (Sir Charles Napier) as being so near that there was danger that the ship would be sunk in half an hour. The gallant Admiral's work continues—The subject was frequently raised on board the Princess Charlotte, and discussed; but whether the Commander-in-Chief was restricted by orders from home, or was afraid of the lateness of the season, I am not aware; but certainly much valuable time was lost.Then, again, at page 186, he says—On my arrival at Beyrout, to my great astonishment, I found a steamer had arrived from England with orders to attack Acre. This was indeed a change for the better; there was no further room for indecision.These statements having been published to the world so operated on the public mind that I concluded, in common, I believe, with the great majority of persons out of doors, that the real credit for the result of our naval operations in Syria principally belonged to the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. There is another passage in the first volume of the gallant Officer's War in Syria, which I quoted on a former occasion, and which I shall read again, for it has a most obvious bearing on the selection of the hon. and gallant 492 Admiral for the command in the Baltic. Immediately alter giving an account of the attack on Acre the gallant Officer says—I had frequently been engaged with batteries last war, and I believe I was the only officer in the squadron who had ever commanded a ship in action against stone walls, and the system I followed was the one I had always been accustomed to; it was the plan followed by the leading ship at the battle of the Nile, &c.The hon. and gallant Officer here speaks of the "system" which he followed, so that the House will see that his mode of attacking stone walls had been reduced to a "system," and that he had always been "accustomed" to act upon it. I can assure the House that I have been drawn into this controversy with the hon. and gallant Admiral with the greatest possible regret. I have said that the question now at issue between us was a matter of evidence, and that I would abstain from offering any adverse comment of my own upon the facts. I hope the House, after hearing what I have had to state, will, at all events, acquit me of the grave charge preferred against me by the hon. and gallant Member, and refuse to believe that either I, or the right hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), who was himself an eyewitness of these occurrences, have trumped up a story wirh reference to the attack on Acre, which is not only "without truth, but without a shadow of truth; "and I am convinced that still less will the House be prepared to agree with the hon. and gallant Member that we have failed in our veracity from a motive so base and malignant as a, desire to injure him. I have now only to thank the House for the patience with which it has listened to my statement.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he supposed that this was the first time that ever an officer who had gone through service with reputation for sixteen years after the event occurred should be thus persecuted, by having it raked up unfavourably, when most of those who took part in it with him had been removed by death, and when he was fit a disadvantage, as compared with the Admiralty, in being able to bring forward evidence of the truth. But he thought he had sufficient papers in his possession to show the House that the charges brought against him were totally unfounded. The House was aware that when it was decided, in 1840, to send a force to the coast of Syria, to drive the Egyptians out of that country, the Turks 493 had sent 5,000 men to assist in those operations, and Sir Charles Smith was despatched from England to take the command of those troops. When Sir Charles Smith arrived, his health was so bad as to render him wholly unfit for the purpose, and Sir Robert Stopford thought fit to confer upon him (Sir C. Napier) the command of the troops. [The hon. and gallant Admiral read to the House the letter in which the appointment was conveyed. The letter from Sir Robert Stopford, which conferred the appointment upon him, stated the opinion of the writer, that he was the only officer capable of performing the service efficiently.] He landed therewith 5,000 men, and with 5,000 only, having on his right 15,000 at Beyrout, and 4,000 or 5,000 at Tripoli. Notwithstanding that large force, they set to work, with the assistance of the engineers, and made a strongly fortified camp to receive the inhabitants of Syria. Reports had been current that the enemy were approaching, and he did not wonder that Sir Robert Stopford should have given him orders very contradictory, sometimes directing him to go forward, and sometimes not to do so. Having remained there for some time, he applied himself to explore the whole country, and as he was aware that it was quite impossible to maintain 5,000 men there during the winter without assistance, and as the inhabitants would not come down, he proposed to Sir Robert Stopford to attack Beyrout, but he could not for some time induce him to do so. Finding that, he (Sir C. Napier) then proposed another plan—namely, to attack Suleyman Pasha, and he got Sir Robert Stopford to march out to attack him. That attack was perfectly successful, and we made between 300 and 400 prisoners. Even that success did not give to the gallant Admiral the confidence in himself which it ought to have inspired. On the 12th of September, Sir Robert Stopford wrote to him in these terms—Ibrahim Pasha left the town yesterday, and will very probably organise a large force to attack you, a circumstance greatly to be avoided; any reverse to us would be fatal, and even success gained by much loss to our men would be equally so. I am, therefore, most anxious, and think it absolutely necessary, that you should not prolong your stay on shore, considering an attack on you as certain. I, therefore, recommend your reembarkation to-morrow.Now he (Sir C. Napier) found it to be quite impossible to retire with credit, and 494 he therefore decided to stop where he was; for, had they withdrawn, they would have sacrificed the whole of the mountaineers who had joined them. He was justified in mentioning these things, because they displayed a degree of irresolution, on the part of Sir Robert Stopford, which he was enabled to avail himself of on this occasion, in his own defence. He then proposed to him to go up and attack Sidon, which with difficulty he persuaded him to do; but even after he had started on that service, he was told by Sir Robert Stopford only to land arms for the natives. However, he persuaded him, and he went on to Sidon, and with the assistance of the right hon. and gallant Admiral, the Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), who was then in command of the Thunderer, he succeeded in the attack, which gave us a position we did not possess before, proving, at the same time, that the Egyptians were not to be so dreaded as had been imagined. He again obtained permission from Sir Robert Stopford to land men from the ships, and march upon the back of Beyrout. That was on the 10th of October, and the next morning, to their utter astonishment, they found Ibrahim Pasha encamped in a strong position, which appeared inaccessible, with 3,000 or 4,000 men. He (Sir C. Napier) thought it right, under the circumstances, to try his strength with him; because, if they succeeded, it would set the people of the country free to co-operate with them. Things went on very well, and in the night he sent orders to Omar Pasha, who was under his command, to get in the rear of Ibrahim Pasha. He also invested him on his left with two battalions, and sent another battalion across the ravine, and getting on his right, he managed to attack him at once in front, and rear, and flank. The movement was successful, and they took between 700 and 800 prisoners. They followed him into his second position, which was very strong, and almost perpendicular. They succeeded in storming that height, and totally destroyed his stores. The result was, that the inhabitants of Lebanon were set free to come down from the mountains. It might be said that it was something new for a naval officer to command land forces; but he had acquired some knowledge of the military profession in Portugal and Spain; and he was of opinion at the time that if Sir Robert Stopford had ordered the marines to land, and the 2,000 men he 495 (Sir C. Napier) sent him to Beyrout, that day or the day after the war in Syria might have been put an end to; but he contented himself with taking Beyrout. He confessed that at the first he was for following up the army, and destroying the troops, but he was overruled altogether. Sir Charles Smith would never move forward, and remained so long at Beyrout that Government at last sent out to recall him from his command—whether from dissatisfaction, or any other cause, he did not know, and would not be at liberty to say if he did. He now came to Acre. Every officer in the fleet, it was notorious, had been persuading Sir Robert Stopford to attack Acre, and he (Sir C. Napier) might ask, what was the reason, if it were not for his delay, that the engagement at Beyrout should have been fought on the 10th of October, and Acre not attacked till the 2nd of November? They lay there quite inactive, not performing any service whatever. The troops remained idle at Beyrout, and the fleet also; no enterprise of any kind being undertaken. He went up, with the permission of Sir Robert Stopford, to deliver up the firman to the new Prince of Lebanon. He should mention that Sir Robert Stopford and he were not on good terms. He (Sir G. Napier) had been obliged to push him very much, as had also his captains. Now, he (Sir C. Napier) had heard, for the first time, that night, that Sir Robert Stopford had decided to attack Acre before orders for the purpose had arrived. He could only say, if that were so, it was unknown to all the officers in the squadron. It was a subject of common talk, and he remembered its being argued at Sir Robert Stopford's own table, whether it was prudent that Acre should be attacked, and they all thought he would proceed to do it the next morning, but he did not. He came within a certain distance of the place, but returned and anchored at Beyrout. Now, if he did not intend to attack Acre, what, he would ask, could have brought him back again so late in November, when all attacks by sea became dangerous and difficult on that coast? At last, whether by his own will or not, it was decided that Acre should be attacked, and they all proceeded up to the place. They went to Acre, and there they anchored for the night. He was told he had nothing to do with persuading Sir Robert Stopford to attack Acre; but he hoped to show the House, as well as 496 he was now able, that he did all he could under the circumstances. The following extracts from letters would, he thought, abundantly prove it—
NAPIER to Sir W. PARKER—Oct. 15, 1840.
Tripoli ought to be taken immediately, which should be followed up by an attack on Acre, both of which would fall.
NAPIER to Lord MINTO—Oct. 22, 1840.
I think Acre ought to be attacked, but I fear there is no idea of it.
NAPIER to Col. HODGES—Oct. 31, 1840.
After twenty days' inactivity, it is at last decided to go to Acre, with 3,500 men, which I hope will not be changed; but changes arc no common here, that I feel certain of nothing till it is actually in operation.
Lord PONSONBY to NAPIER—Nov. 9, 1840.
I write now only to congratulate you upon your having spirited up our chief to attack St. Jean, for I feel no doubt you did it.
Sir C. ADAM to NAPIER.
The Board have written to Sir Robert Stopford their admiration of your intrepid and useful services, and to hoist a red pennant.
Sir C. ADAM to NAPIER.
I am most happy to express to you the pleasure I feel at your receiving the Commander of the Bath.
MINTO to NAPIER—Oct. 7, 1840.
I congratulate you on the success of your operations on the coast of Syria, in which your zeal, judgment, and ability have been conspicuous.
Sir W. PARKER to NAPIER—Dec. 3, 1840.
Shenstone Lodge, Lichfield,
3rd Dec., 1840.
My dear Napier—Most heartily do I congratulate you and your gallant companions in arms, on the reduction of St. Jean d' Acre. Your opinions on the result of an early and vigorous attack have been verified to the letter, and accomplished in a manner most triumphant for our profession and the general interests of Europe. I need not add that I have been delighted that a becoming acknowledgment of your own energetic and successful services have been manifested by the Government in your advancement to the First Class Broad Pendant and the Commandership of the Bath, which has been nobly won, and I trust will be long worn by you in health and every possible enjoyment. I trust also that promotion and rewards to the officers of the squadron generally will be liberally bestowed.—Believe me, my dear Commodore, always faithfully yours,
W. PARKER, Rear Admiral.
Commodore Napier. &c. &c. &c.
He would now read a short extract from a letter of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, than whom there was no man better able to speak upon this subject, and he would appeal to him to state his knowledge and opinion of the part which he (Sir C. Napier) had taken in the attack upon Acre.
Lord PALMERSTON to NAPIER—Nov. 14, 1840.
I wish you had been allowed to attack Acre. I have no doubt that you would have taken it.
Perhaps our instructions upon that subject may have arrived in time to allow of an attack being made.
The letter would show that Sir Robert Stopford did not disapprove of his conduct. When the fleet had come to an anchor, they all went on board Sir Robert Stopford's ship in the evening. Letters, which he had in his possession, would show how very improper a person Sir Robert Stopford was to have been entrusted with the command of such an expedition. Sir Robert Stopford would have embarked not only the Marines, but the Turks, and have left the people of Lebanon to shift for themselves, a line of conduct which he (Sir C. Napier) opposed to the utmost of his power. Admiral Walker, who commanded the Turkish fleet, asked for anchors and cables to enable him to remain, as he could not desert the Turkish troops; and Sir Robert Stopford consented; and Admiral Walker replied, that "it was better to die with honour, than to live without it." Well, then, on arriving at Acre they assembled on board the flag-ship of Sir Robert Stopford. Admiral Boxer was there, and he had got the ear of the Admiral considerably. There was also at the time a considerable deal of jealousy prevailing amongst the officers of the fleet. The Admiral had, at the commencement of the operations, entrusted to him (Sir C. Napier) so many things, and had even allowed him to go on with operations, against his (the Admiral's) own wishes, that considerable jealousy existed among the officers of the fleet as to the reliance thus placed upon him. When, therefore, they assembled on board the flag-ship, Sir Robert Stopford said to him, "I have thought over the business with Admiral Boxer, and as there are four steamers here, I shall leave my own ship, in order that she may go into action, and go on board of one of those steamears. The three other steamers will tow in three line-of-battle ships into their positions under the batteries, and then return and tow in three more, and so on until all the ships are in position." Such a scheme appeared to him so totally devoid of common sense, so inconsistent with the safety of the fleet and with the chance of success, that he at once pointed out to the Admiral its danger and impracticability; when, on his doing so, Admiral Boxer said, "We have settled the whole of the matter, and the positions to be taken up; and, Commodore, its no use your interfering." He at once took
up his hat and went on board his own ship, where he spent the night in ruminating on the impolicy of the plan, and the failure which he was sure would attend it. Next morning he went on board the Admiral's ship and stated to Sir Robert Stopford that he felt it to be his duty, as his second in command, to tell him that his plan would utterly fail; whether he added that the three line-of-battle ships first towed in would be sunk before others could be brought to their rescue, he did not recollect—he did not believe he did so—but, although he had, it would have been nothing to be wondered at, for he never in his life saw such a foolish plan of attack formed. Look at the attack on the Redan. Had not they heard officers blamed for attacking the Redan with an inferior force? Here, then, was the very same thing. Instead of letting the whole fleet go in at once and take up their positions, three ships were first to be towed in, and by the time they were disabled, three more were to be towed in to their relief, and so until they were all towed in. Every one must see that such a plan of attack must have failed. To show that he (Sir C. Napier) was right in his statement that it would fail, Sir Robert Stopford altered it, giving up the towing process and adopting his plan. To show the impracticability of the plan of towing in the line-of-battle ships, Captain Henderson—Who was now no more—and, in fact, the greater portion of those officers to whom he would have appealed in justification of his conduct, were dead, and he had not, besides, the same opportunity of getting up evidence as had the right hon. Baronet (Sir T. Graham) and the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir M. Berkeley) one of the Lords of the Admiralty. Well, Captain Henderson came on board his (Sir C. Napier's) ship, in reference to the attack. He took that gallant officer to Sir Robert Stopford, and desired him to state to the Admiral how long, in the event of his towing in with the steamers three line-of-battle ships, he would be before he could tow the other three into position for their support. And the answer of Captain Henderson was that two hours would elapse before the second throe ships could be towed under the batteries. At that time ships could not be taken into tow so easily as they could be now, and that was the period Captain Henderson, an officer of great experience, stated it would take to do so in this case. Well, then, the idea of towing the ships under the batteries was
given up, and it then became a question how they were to get in. The wind at the time blew slightly from the southward. The signal was made to weigh. They did so, and certainly were proceeding in the most helter-skelter way he ever saw. He did not say it was the fault of the officers; they were doing so, for the natural desire on the part of these were, who would first get into action; but the confusion arose from the natural circumstances of the case, there being no suggestion, no orders, as to how they were to proceed or take up their positions. Fortunately there was a dead calm: and he remembered Captain Fanshawe saying to him, "Get in as fast as he could," when his reply was, Acre ought to be attacked properly, or not at all—it was not a place to be trifled with—and, therefore, it should be attacked, as he (Sir C. Napier) had proposed. At that time, the wind veered round to the northward, as he expected it would. On its doing so, it at once became apparent to him that for him to anchor on the south-western angle of the fortress, so as to allow the ships astern of him to pass to windward in succession, and anchor ahead of him, was impossible. The order in such cases was so well known that he thought there could be no doubt about it. There was, in fact, only one mode which could be adopted where ships were to anchor in succession, that was for the leading ship to take up a position under the first battery, for the next to pass to windward, and anchor ahead of the first, the next to follow the first two, and anchor ahead of the second, and so on till the whole line was formed. That was the mode adopted in anchoring in succession. When, therefore, the wind veered to the northward, and when he saw that he could not anchor on the southwestern face of the fortress, he had to decide the course to be adopted with the utmost promptitude. There was not a moment to be lost. He did not go to the southward, and anchor on the south-west of the place, as, had he done so, the ships following, as he had already stated, could not have got ahead of him. The Admiral, just at that moment, sent to him to ascertain what ho was doing. He said, in reply, that he was going to the northward, and immediately made signal to tack, passing well to windward of the north-western angle of the fortress, the other ships following him. He passed a small battery, on coming to which the master asked if he should let go the anchor, when he desired him
not to do so, as the battery was but small, but he passed on and anchored alongside the strongest part of the walls of Acre, on the north-western front. After he let go his anchor, the whole thing having been reversed, he naturally expected that the ships following would pass outside of him, and by anchoring in succession ahead of him, occupy the ground between the southwestern and the north-western angle of the fortress. It was such a common occurrence that he did not think any officer could have had any doubt or been led into any mistake about it. At the battle of the Nile the very same thing happened, but they never heard of Nelson finding fault with or censuring Sir James Saumarez, or the other gallant officers who made the same manœuvre on that occasion. Why, the thing was so well known in naval tactics, while at the same time it was so consonant with common sense, that every one knew about it. If the ship leading in was to pass along one, two, three, four, or five of the enemy's ships, before she came to anchor and took up her station, why there was every chance of her being disabled from the successive broadsides of these ships, before she got to her station. If, then, that was the case in attacking ships, it held stronger as regarded an attack on batteries where, if the leading ship was to pass along five or six of them, receiving the fire of each of them before she came to anchor, she would be of little use; but by the leading ship engaging the first ship or battery (in the case of an attack on batteries), she came to, and the one following her passing ahead and engaging the rest, and the others doing the same in succession, that danger was prevented. Well, this being the well-known and recognised system, he confessed that he never felt more astonished than when he saw the Princess Charlotte, which was following him, let go her anchor astern of him. The Thunderer did the same, though he really could not say from recollection which was first. He might, however, be asked, why, in these circumstances, he did not signal? But there was not time; the ships would have been at anchor before he could have done so; and, besides, if it was the duty of any one to signal, that duty most certainly devolved upon the Commander in Chief, who was outside for the very purpose of directing the movements of the fleet, but no signal was made by him, except, he believed, that he signalled to the Thunderer to get
out of the way. But what did Lord Nelson say? Why, that "no ship could do wrong which anchored alongside the enemy." He (Sir C. Napier) anchored alongside the enemy, and that, too, at the strongest portion of the face of the fortress he was on, not as the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had said, half way up, but as close to the batteries as the depth of water would allow him, a position which every officer, knowing his duty, would have taken. It was true the ships following him did not take up their proper positions. It was, no doubt, a mistake their not doing' so. They thought he had got into shoal water, but he made no signal of "shoal water," and all he could say was, he took up his proper position and the other ships did not. He did not mean to say that it was for want of skill that they did not do so, as he believed that they were under the impression that they were to keep always to the northward of him. But because he (Sir C. Napier) did right, why was it that he was to he blamed and traduced as he had been, and the evidence of parties brought against him who knew nothing at all about the matter? The other division of the fleet to the southward was led by Captain Collier, and when the Admiral made signal for his division to close round the Powerful, Captain Houston Stewart made signal to the Admiral, "May I go in to the southward?" That signal was affirmed, so that the other ships went in, and Sir Baldwin Walker, passing outside them all, anchored at the top of the bay, opposite a strong battery. He must say, therefore, that he had just grounds of complaint of the attacks which had been made upon him. It was, he considered unfair that an officer of his standing, and who had seen a great deal of service, should be traduced as he had been in this matter. He had here a letter from Captain Hastings, who commanded the Edinburgh at the attack on Acre, and as that letter referred to his conduct during the attack, he would read it to the House. It was dated the 2nd of the present month, and was as follows—
United Service Club, April 2, 1856.
My dear Sir Charles,—Since my conversation with you last evening, I have endeavoured to bring to my recollection some of the circumstances of the attack on the Fort of Acre on the 4th of November, 1840.
The division under your orders attacked the western face, and that in which was the Edinburgh, the southern one. At the moment of weighing anchor the wind veered to the northward, and necessitated a, change in the mode of attack.
Instead of running find anchoring under the batteries from the south, you were obliged to perform the operation from the north. This caused some little misunderstanding; the ships anchored astern of you, instead of in line ahead. I remember also that the southern division was thrown into momentary confusion by Sir Robert Stopford hoisting the signal to follow the Powerful. It is probable, in this case, that the signal officer omitted to hoist the divisional flag. I mention this to show how easily mistakes may arise, and that they should not always be attributed to the Commander in Chief, or to the commander of a division.
It is difficult to recollect all the facts of a feat of war which took place sixteen years ago; yet main facts are engraven on the memory, not to be effaced. Your exertions during that short campaign were patent to nil, and greatly contributed to the rapid success which was obtained—a success of the greatest moment, when the public feeling in France, at that moment, is taken into consideration.
Nor is this my opinion only, but that of the majority of the fleet with you, and under the orders of Sir Robert Stopford.
As a proof of this assertion, let me call to your remembrance what took place on your return from Alexandria to Marmorice. As you passed into the boy to take up your anchorage, each ship—at least, a large majority of the ships—spontaneously cheered you, and with a heartiness not often exhibited, even by seamen.—Believe me, very truly yours.
F. D. HASTINGS, Captain.
Sir Charles Napier, K.C.B.
Now, was it to be thought that that fleet—the circumstance referred to in the letter having occurred sometime after the attack on Acre—would have turned out in a dark and rainy night, if he had not done his duty, for the purpose of cheering him as he came in. Hero, also, was another letter from the Master of the Powerful. It was as follows—
Deptford, March 31, 1856.
My dear Sir Charles,—In reply to your note of the 25th instant, requesting me to state all I remember about 'Acre,' I beg to state that on the evening previous to the attack, when you came from the flag-ship, you told me that the plan arranged for the next day by the Commander in Chief was that three steamers were to tow in the Powerful, Princess Charlotte, and Bellerophon; the same three steamers were then to go back and bring in three more. I remarked that the chances would be in favour of our being sunk before the second three could be brought in. You then sent for the late Captain Henderson, who, in reply to a question from you, said that not less than two hours should be reckoned upon for getting the second three ships into action. You then went to the flag-ship, and I went sounding and buoying for the remainder of the night. In the morning you told me that the plan of attack had been altered; that the Powerful was to lead and anchor off the first bastion, the other ships to pass us, and anchor in succession, each covering the other, similar to Lord Nelson's attack at the battle of the Nile. This is certainly as I understood it; whether we
went in by the north or by the south channel, the plan was to be the same. When we came abreast of the first bastion, I asked you if we were to anchor there, and you said no, that there did not appear guns enough in it to make it of importance. You directed me to pass on to the next guns, and anchor as close as the depth of water would permit. This was done, and I was never more surprised in my life than I was to see the Princess Charlotte anchor astern instead of passing us. I suggested to yon to make the signal for Revenge to come in and anchor ahead of us. You objected to this, saying that you could not make signals with the Commander in Chief's ship so close to you, with his flag flying, who must see the necessity of it as well as yourself. Ultimately this signal was made, and Captain Crawford conveyed your wishes to Captain Waldegrave as to the position he should take up.
I forgot to say that, on the morning of the attack, the Master of the flag-ship and myself were sent to the Vesuvius to sound, and try the north channel, the wind at that time showing every indication of coming from the northward. After we came back we went to the flag-ship, and made our report of there being a good channel with a leading wind.
This is all I remember of what occurred. Some things I may have forgotten, but what I have stated is to the best of my recollection.—I remain, dear Sir Charles, yours very faithfully,
E. J. P. PEARN.
That was from the Master of the Powerful, the ship he commanded. He would also read to the House the following letter from the Captain of the Powerful—
Royal Hospital, Greenwich,
April 3, 1856.
My dear Sir Charles,—In answer to your questions relative to Acre, so long a time has elapsed that I can only do so to the best of my recollection.
I have always been under the firm conviction that you were most zealously anxious for the attack on Acre. The shift of wind which forced your division to attack from the north, instead of the original plan of battle from the south, reversed the order of attack, which may have led to some misconstruction of orders by the ships astern; but I have not the slightest hesitation in stating, that it was your firm conviction that the ships of your division would have anchored in succession ahead of the Powerful. By this mode of attack the anchored ships protect the advancing ships, which, in my humble opinion, is a subject of vital importance to the protection of ships and their crews.
Your question, whether I have read what has been said in Parliament within these last few days, on the subject of the battle of Acre? my answer is, I have been so fully employed I have not read a newspaper for some days; and I am very glad I have not, as it gives me the opportunity of answering your questions free of bias.
In the hope that you are better to-day, believe me, my dear Sir Charles, yours faithfully,
He had, therefore, the testimony of two of the officers on board his own ship, as well
as the testimony of the officer in command of another ship, while he had also shown that he followed the plan always adopted by Nelson, and if other officers failed in doing their duty, that was no reason why blame should be cast upon him. He did not, as he had said, impute any want of skill to those officers, but not one of those in command of line-of-battle ships on that occasion, with the exception of Captain Codrington, had ever commanded a line-of-battle ship in action before, and that being so, he thought it was not too much to say that he was right, and they were wrong. He had himself commanded ships during the greater part of the last war. He had, perhaps, attacked more batteries than most officers. There was a small island off the coast of Sicily, on which there was a strong bastion and also a mole. With two frigates he attacked that bastion, sending one frigate within the mole, and bringing the other up to the attack outside, so that he took the place without the loss of a single man. There was not a single fort on the coast of Italy, south of Naples, that he had not taken with his own ships. This being the case, perhaps the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty might ask why he had not done greater things in the Baltic; but the plain answer he would give him was, that there was a great difference between attempting with ships what was possible, and that which was absolutely impossible. If that had happened at Acre, where they could see nothing from the smoke, everything would have been in a perfect jumble, and some of the ships would have been of no use. He had written to Sir Baldwin Walker, who, in reply, said—
Admiralty, April 3, 1856.
My dear Sir Charles,—I am placed in a very painful position in having to answer questions put to me by friends, who have made statements in the House of Commons which are at variance; but, however disagreeable, I am bound to reply to them to the best of my recollection. With respect to that part of your letter in which you say, 'You must surely remember we were all persuading and urging him (Sir Robert Stopford) to go to Acre repeatedly,' I cannot call to mind any conversation I had with you on the subject; but Sir Robert Stopford told me, on more occasions than one, that you were opposed to an attack on Acre. As far as my recollection serves me, my impression was, and is, that you were anxious to advance into the interior at the head of the army, and conduct the land operations; and I am bound to state that, at the commencement, we were all greatly indebted to you, as the success on shore was owing to your great exertions. With reference to that part of your letter in which you state that Sir Robert Stopford
informed you that he intended to remove his force from the coast before the bad weather set in, I can only say that he made the same communication to me, on which occasion I asked him to supply us with anchors and cables, which he consented to do, for I felt that we could not abandon the mountaineers who had joined the Sultan's cause, and had been armed. You were strongly opposed to the ships being towed into action at Acre by the four steamers, and I think you were right, for only four could go in at the same time, and those, of course, would have had to bear the brunt of the action before the others could have got in; but not having anchored where the Admiral wished, you ought, I think, to have made the signal for the ships astern to pass on.—Believe me, yours, faithfully.
W. W. WALKER.
Vice Admiral Sir C. Napier, K.C.B., &c.
I am very sorry to hear that you have been so unwell.
W. W. W.
He had been at the head of the troops before Sir Charles Smith came up, and he admitted that he was proud of the command. He had been exceedingly successful, and he had thought it most important that there should be no delay in destroying Suleyman Pasha and Ibrahim Pasha, and that being so, could it be said with any justice, because he wanted to go at the head of the troops against them, that he did not want to attack. He said that he had been more inclined than any other man to attack Acre, for he had surveyed it, and he was of opinion that it could be taken. The people were driven from their guns at Acre, but it was never breached. If, however, the people had thought proper to remain, and if the English had had powder enough for another day, which he was inclined to doubt, Acre would have been taken. But another accusation had been brought against him—God knew it was needless, for the bumper was already sufficient. It had been said that he was there when Acre was evacuated. Certainly he was not. Sir Baldwin Walker was in his station at the upper part of the southwestern bay, and in the middle of the night he found out that Acre had been evacuated. He took possession of it. He (Sir C. Napier) was at the north-west angle. He knew nothing of the evacuation, and how could he have been there? Could any blame have been attached to him for not having been there? Besides, where was the merit? Acre had surrendered. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had endeavoured to persuade the House that he (Sir C. Napier) had not been in his proper place. He was in his proper place, and that was where he should have been. He would proceed to relate, on satisfactory
evidence, that the late First Lord of the Admiralty had given a very incorrect version of what had taken place between Sir Robert Stopford and himself (Sir C. Napier). After Acre had been taken and all was quiet, he went on board the steamer, where Sir Robert Stopford was, and he (Sir C. Napier) felt so perfectly conscious of having done his duty and placed every ship properly, that he made this remark:—"I hope you are satisfied with the position I took up." Sir Robert answered very gruffly and said, "No, I am not; you should have gone on to the southwest." He (Sir C. Napier) ultimately felt grieved that the Commander-in-Chief should use such expressions to his second in command. On returning to his ship, he immediately wrote for a court-martial, which Sir Robert Stopford did not think proper to grant him. Several officers, he believed sent to him by Sir Robert Stopford, came, begging him to withdraw his letter asking for a court-martial. He told them that he would do so if Sir Robert Stopford would send him a proper apology. Sir Robert sent him one which, not deeming sufficient, he sent back. Then Captain Stuart and other captains came to him, and begged him, for the sake of the service, not to let the matter come to a court-martial. He replied, that if the Admiral made him a proper apology, he would not press. An apology was sent, and here it was:—
My dear Sir,—I do not apprehend that a difference of opinion implies a censure upon either party, as I cannot allow infallibility to anybody. That I differed in opinion with you is true, but that thereby a censure was intended is without foundation. Believe me, my dear Sir, yours truly,
Commodore Napier, C. B.
He must say that, with such a document existing, it was most disgraceful, on the part of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), to got up, after a period of sixteen years, and for the sake of damaging his reputation and pressing the House to reject his application for inquiring into his conduct, to bring such charges. Sir Robert Stopford's plan of towing the ships, he said, was wrong; and if the matters in dispute were submitted to an officer, or committee of officers, they would pronounce that it was wrong. Sir Robert Stopford had himself admitted that it was wrong, for he adopted his (Sir C. Napier's) plan. The wind changed, and that rendered it impossible for him to anchor at the point at which he ought to have anchored.
But was it a reason why he should be found fault with because other officers had committed mistakes? He must here ask why a gallant Officer (Sir M. Berkeley), with whom he had formed, at Acre, a sincere friendship which until recently subsisted, had not enlightened the late First Lord of the Admiralty, and made him aware that he (Sir C. Napier) was not a fit man to be intrusted with the command of the Baltic fleet. If at Acre he could not place a single ship in proper position, why was he selected to take the command of twenty-five sail of the line sent to the Baltic, with inexperienced officers and ill-disciplined crews? And yet the right hon. and gallant Admiral wished to go with him as his second in command. He had it there under his own hand. [Sir M. BERKELEY: I quite acknowledge it.] It was a, vile conspiracy—after sixteen years—to bring up these matters again. Such conduct this House should put down. But he had another document from Sir Robert Stopford, which he should read:—
My dear Commodore,—I am very happy to find that every unpleasant feeling has been removed from your mind respecting any censure—real or implied—upon your conduct in the attack upon Acre. I regret very much that your private note upon the subject, written the day before yesterday, has disappeared, and cannot be found. Should it turn up hereafter, I will take care to send it. I find that Lord Ponsonby has been in complete error relative to the standard presented to the Sultan; upon referring to my letter to his Lordship, after the fall of Beyrout, it was the flag taken there which I entrusted to Colonel Hodges to take to the Sultan. His Lordship's speech must, therefore, be corrected. I shall write to him by the Talbot to point out his mistake. Very truly yours, "ROBERT STOPFORD.
Was it fair, he asked, after a long life, after fifty-six years in the navy, during which he had performed as much service as any man in the service—after having been esteemed by every commander in chief under whom he served as a most zealous and active officer—was it fair that he should be thus attacked and maligned? He remembered that Sir Alexander Cochrane had written to him, saying that he had saved a great number of lives at the capture of Martinique. A doubt was entertained whether Fort Edward had been evacuated. He (Sir C. Napier) volunteered to go and see—and, in broad daylight he went and scaled the walls; he got in, and, what was more extraordinary, he got out again. Martinique was taken, but a great many lives were saved. He could
have produced from Lord Exmouth and others some of the strongest documents in the world. When he was in the Portuguese service—and that matter might not be so much regarded by the House—it was of the first importance to settle the question between Dom Miguel and Donna Maria. Ho got the command of three frigates and three brigs, and meeting the Portuguese fleet, consisting of two ships of the line and other vessels, he ran on ahead and took the whole of that fleet in three minutes. Suppose that on that occasion he had attempted to go on to the headmost, what would have been the result? Instead of doing so, he attacked the sternmost ships, and then he went on and captured the headmost. That was the common mode of attack, which everybody knew. He now wished to say a few words about the Baltic. He held, in his hand some letters from the right hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), which he was not allowed to make use of, though they were strictly confined to matters between the right hon. and gallant Admiral and himself; and in these the names of two other officers were mentioned. He had letters from the right hon. and gallant Officer, praising him in the highest way, saying that he would stick to him to the last. He would put it to the right hon. and gallant Admiral to allow him to read those letters. Yet the right hon. and gallant Officer, who remained silent, said that he (Sir C. Napier) was not fit for the command of the Baltic—that his nerves were gone. When he (Sir C. Napier) went to the Baltic, he was fit for the command. If he were fagged and fretted towards the end, it was in consequence of the Admiralty writing to him such letters that well nigh broke his heart, and were enough to destroy the nerves of any man breathing. Let any one ask the officers of his own ship, Captain Gordon or Admiral Seymour, and they would tell them that those letters had been almost the cause of his death. He had been a great deal accustomed to praise that he freely acknowledged he could not bear censure; and censure to him was almost death, especially when he felt that it was altogether undeserved, and when he knew that he had done his duty to his country. He wished the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir M. Berkeley) had been sent to the Baltic. Why was he not sent there? He wrote a letter to him (Sir C. Napier), telling him to attack Sweaborg at a time when
he must have known that it was impossible. No man in his senses would attend to such instructions. If he had received such a letter in the summer, knowing that the Government wished the place to be attacked, he would have taken the fleet there; but from the state of the weather, there never were two days together, after he had received that letter, which would have permitted the attack on Sweaborg. He must now ask a question, since he was relieved from the command of the Baltic fleet, very much to his own satisfaction, for he would never serve again; under that Board of Admiralty an equally large fleet of ships of the line, and sixteen gun-boats and sixteen mortar-boats had been fitted out, and why, he might ask, had not Admiral Dundas been told to proceed at once to Nargen, and thence take the fleet to attack Sweaborg? It was never thought of for one moment, and he had been condemned for not doing that which Admiral Dundas had never dreamed of doing, because he knew that he had not at his disposal means sufficient to accomplish the object. He had now explained, as a plain, honest man, to the House the circumstances which had taken place. He had acted throughout his whole life like a brave officer and good seaman. He had been applauded by every Admiralty which he served, and he must say, that after sixteen years had gone by, when he had no person to go to, when he had no official means of ascertaining the addresses of officers who could have furnished important information and be of the greatest advantage to him, it was fortunate for him that he had preserved those two letters from Sir Robert Stopford, without which he would have been put down as totally incompetent. He trusted that he had said nothing in his own vindication which could give offence to any one, and he could only thank the House for the attention with which they had listened to him.
§ SIR MAURICE BERKELEY
said, he would not have addressed one word to the House had he not been so directly and pointedly alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. He thought the House must admit that the evidence brought forward by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) proved that the statements made both by himself and his right hon. Friend the late First Lord possessed more than "a shadow of truth." The hon. and gallant Member (Sir C. Napier) had had just the same opportunities of applying to 510 the officers whose evidence had been adduced, and if he (Sir M. Berkeley) had made these inquiries, it was because he could not continue under the imputations which had been cast upon him. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down had appealed to the House as to the injustice which had been done by the accusations which had been brought against him; but he (Sir M. Berkeley) should also ask the House whether it was fair that he should have been obliged for the last ten days or a fortnight to labour under the imputations which went so far, almost, as to say that the truth was not in him? The hon. and gallant Admiral seemed extremely touchy whenever his own character was concerned, and he ought to consider that others, as well as he, had a reputation to maintain. The hon. and gallant Admiral had asked why he (Sir M. Berkeley), being aware of his conduct at Acre, had recommended his colleagues to send him out in command of the Baltic Fleet? ["Hear, hear."] Now, in reply to that question, he might state that he should never have mentioned the subject of Acre at all were it not for the abuse which the hon. and gallant Admiral had thought proper to lavish upon him and the Board of which he had the honour to be a Member, and for the fact, that in a speech made to the constituency of Southwark, the gallant Admiral was pleased to recapitulate all the great services which he said he had performed, and endeavour to show the black ingratitude of the Admiralty to a man who had done so much for his country. In dwelling upon his services, the gallant Admiral made use of these words:—"And I was the person who struck the final blow which put an end to the campaign in Syria." Now, this assertion he (Sir M. Berkeley) always had denied, and always would deny, and even when upon terms of friendship with the hon. and gallant Member, he had made him correct an error in a pamphlet on this subject. The House seemed to receive with favour the taunt, that if he believed the hon. and gallant Member acted in this manner at Acre, he ought to have prevented his going to the Baltic. It should be remembered, however, that he (Sir M. Berkeley) was a candidate for the command in the Baltic, and had he taken advantage of his position as Senior Naval Lord to earwig the First Lord, and endeavour to deprive the hon. and gallant Officer of his fair chance of obtaining that 511 appointment, he thought he should have been acting a very dishonourable and unmanly part. More than this, he would say that, although he still maintained all that he had said with regard to the attack on Acre, he believed that the conduct of the hon. and gallant Admiral on that occasion arose from an error of judgment, and such an error committed in one action ought not to destroy the high character which a man might have obtained by other services. He would not enter into what had been said about the campaign in the Baltic. The subject had been before the House over and over again, perhaps once too often. The hon. and gallant Admiral had, however, said that he could produce letters from him (Sir M. Berkeley) praising and lauding all that he did. He would admit that such was the case. He would admit also that, knowing the previous character of the hon. and gallant Admiral, and the energy which he had displayed on previous occasions, he did put full faith in him, and he believed all the letters, both public and private ones, which he had received from the gallant Admiral. It was not until he heard from various captains the facts which he stated in the previous debate that he could change his opinion, and, having changed his opinion, it then became his duty to recommend that the gallant Officer should not rehoist his flag. He would, however, take upon himself to say, that never did a Board of Admiralty take more pains to soften an order for the hauling down of a flag than did the Board of which he was a member. Not only was the hon. and gallant Admiral thanked for his services, but he was thanked in words precisely similar to those which were used to Lord Howe after the first of June. His officers were promoted, and had he kept quiet his character would not have been so much damaged as it had been by his showing private letters, and forcing him (Sir M. Berkeley), in his official capacity, to speak of that in regard to which he had much rather have been silent.
said, he had listened with much attention to the debate, and had been much grieved by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) going back for sixteen years, in order to attempt to rob the hon. and gallant Admiral of that which was dear, and must ever be dear, to him. He had attacked him for his want of moral courage. Why, the commonest sailor that trod a deck did not want moral courage. But the hon. and gallant Admiral had 512 given a most triumphant answer to the charges brought against him that evening. He had made a very good finish of his case: and it was to be hoped they should hear no more of it in that House. If the statements of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) were correct, was it not extraordinary that, immediately after the siege of Acre, the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark should have received the thanks of that House, and should have been decorated by his Sovereign with various honours? Another point had not been sufficiently answered. If the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), holding the very responsible position which he held at a most critical moment, knew (and he ought to have known), or supposed, or had reason to suppose, that the charges he now made against the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark were correct, why did he appoint him to the high and responsible position of the command of the Baltic fleet? The right hon. Baronet said he did not know of them then. But he ought to have known of them; it was his duty to have known of them before he appointed the gallant Admiral to a command where the honour of England was at stake, and a great number of lives were placed in his hands. If he had taken the same pains as he had bestowed within a short time back in getting up these charges—a matter of far less importance to the country than the appointment to the command of the Baltic fleet—he must have known all that he knew now. Had he not with him at the Board Admiral Houston Stewart and Sir Baldwin Walker, whom he now brought forward as witnesses against the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, at the very time when he appointed him to the command of the Baltic fleet? If he did not make full inquiry, not only as to the courage but the abilities of the gallant Admiral, he had neglected his duty.
§ MR. MALINS
said, that some of the statements made by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) did make an impression upon his mind, and he waited with anxiety for the explanations of the hon. and gallant Member (Sir C. Napier), Having heard those explanations, he thought that the hon. and gallant Member had most triumphantly refuted the case attempted to be made out by the right hon. Baronet, and had shown that there was not a shadow of truth in the charges which had been made against him in relation to his conduct before Acre. This showed the 513 impropriety of the conduct of those who, on a former occasion, introduced the subject into the debate, and was a proof that men of the greatest ability and experience, like the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, might make most lamentable mistakes. The mistake committed by the right hon. Baronet was, that led on by the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), and acting upon information received from him, he had gone back sixteen years in order to show the House that a man, upon whose appointment he at the time it was made greatly prided himself, was totally unqualified for the command which he had received. It was idle to think of "toning" this charge down to mere want of "judgment." It meant want of courage. It meant cowardice—nothing less than cowardice—or it had no meaning whatever. Say what they might, the man, whether sailor or soldier, of whom it was asserted that in the day of danger he was at a distance when it was his duty to have been at hand, was exposed by such an assertion to the imputation of pusillanimity. In the present instance, however, the unworthy suspicion did less injury to him against whom it was directed than to those with whom it originated. Was it to be tolerated that our leading statesmen should come down to that House and insinuate cowardice, or, at best, a total want of judgment, against the men to whom, in critical times, they had themselves confided the destinies of England, and whom they had prided themselves on having selected for the highest commands? Never was there inconsistency like that of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gloucester. Not only did that right hon. and gallant Officer declare in his place in Parliament that, though it would have been the fondest object of his ambition to have himself commanded the Baltic fleet, he waived his own claims in favour of the man whom the voice of the nation pronounced best qualified for the duty, but he even expressed his willingness to serve as second in command under the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. Forgetting all this, he subsequently took up a position of the bitterest antagonism towards that gallant Officer, cast the most grievous imputations on him, urged the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle to the most hostile courses in his regard, and when sorely pressed about his own inconsistency in speaking with such disfavour of one whom he had 514 extolled so highly, coolly turned round and said that it was no such thing, and that a difference of opinion did not imply censure. He was now anxious to have it believed that the very Officer in whose behalf he had withdrawn his own claims, and under whose orders he had been willing to serve, was unfit to command the Baltic fleet, because, forsooth, he had been reprimanded by Sir Robert Stopford. With respect to the transactions at Acre, how it must have taken the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) by surprise to hear the hon. and gallant Admiral read a letter from Sir Robert Stopford, apologising to him for having used language susceptible of any such construction! If a reputation of fifty-six years was to be destroyed by evidence such as had been produced that night, no man was safe. It was to be regretted that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had suffered himself to be so far misled by the personal feeling of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir M. Berkeley) as to make charges which were not only unfounded, but perfectly groundless. He (Mr. Malins) well knew that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman's letters to the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) could have been read, they would have been found to express the most unbounded confidence in him. It was known that the Admiralty had directed the hon. and gallant Admiral, at the end of October, to do that alone which it had been decided in September the combined fleets of England and France could not accomplish. That had led to the difference between the hon. and gallant Admiral and the Admiralty; and hence the anxiety to heap up against him charges of all descriptions. When the gallant Admiral was directed to haul down his flag, no thanks were expressed to him; but about a week after, when all the circumstances were known, the thanks of the Admiralty were conveyed to him in the usual way. It was deeply to be deplored that the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) should have been induced to take a course which must injure the public service. Nothing was more to be deprecated than those angry personal discussions, and he should rejoice to see all angry feelings put aside, and the three Gentlemen shake hands, and make it up.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he thought the House was placed in a very painful position by the differences which had arisen between three of its Members who were worthy of its highest consideration and respect. 515 When he found the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle coming down with his practised oratory to prefer and support charges against the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, he felt satisfied that, however much at home the latter might be on his own element, he was in no position to cope with the right hon. Baronet in that House. When the right hon. Baronet rose, his (Mr. Roebuck's) first impression was that he was in the right, but after hearing the plain and unadorned reply of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, he confessed that his feeling underwent an entire change. He saw that the consummate rhetorician had been foiled, and the unpractised disputant victorious. When the right hon. Baronet gave the gallant Admiral his appointment, no doubt he believed him to be worthy of it; but he now said in effect that he had been misled in the estimate he had formed of his qualifications. The right hon. Baronet had, with all the world, thought that the gallant Admiral acquired much of his renown from the attack on Acre, and this fact weighed with him in entrusting him with the command of the Baltic fleet; but the right hon. Gentleman intimated that since then he had learned better, and discovered that, instead of deserving praise for his achievements at the capture of Acre, the gallant Officer was really blameable for his conduct on that occasion. Unfortunately, however, the hon. and gallant Admiral wrote a letter to The Times, a course which few Members of that House took without having cause afterwards to repent of it. He (Mr. Roebuck) had before now written a letter to that journal himself, and was quite sure he would have acted more wisely if he had not done so. Doubtless the hon. and gallant Admiral was betrayed into imputing motives to the right hon. Baronet in his letter which were not just; but it should be remembered that the hon. and gallant Officer had been previously accused, first of indiscretion, and next of something like want of courage, and, under those circumstances, it was easy to conceive how a sensitive man, in the heat of his natural indignation, might mix some unfounded aspersions against his assailants with his own vindication through the medium of a newspaper. What did the new interpretation which the right hon. Baronet, with all the art of a trained debater, strove to fasten upon the conduct of the gallant 516 Admiral at Acre really mean when calmly examined? Why, that the gallant Officer, having received orders to place himself in a particular position under the enemy's fire, disliked the post that had been assigned to him, and took steps to avoid it; that he dropped anchor before he should have done so, thereby producing confusion in his division of the fleet, and entitling himself to censure rather than commendation. What, however, was the hon. and gallant Admiral's answer to that charge? It was simply that as he was in the act of obeying orders a calm came on, and, the wind shifting, he was unable to take up the prescribed position; but passing a battery—strong, but not strong enough to engage him—he came up before one of a more formidable description and there took up his position. Who, then, was to blame in this matter? Why, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley), of course, who, as a sailor, ought to have known that if his associate ship got before him and dropped anchor, it was his duty, under her protection, to have advanced and dropped anchor ahead of her. Common sense teaches us that that would have been the proper course; so that if any one deserved the shaft hurled by the expert hand of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, it was his own Friend the Naval First Lord of the Admiralty, and not the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. The hon. and gallant Admiral, with a generosity that did him credit, speaking of this circumstance, said that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Gloucester, who had never before been in action, acted according to the best of his judgment, although he had done the wrong thing, and therefore he could not blame him. He (Sir C. Napier) had too much candour and fairness to rake up, after the lapse of sixteen years, the misdeeds of a gallant brother in arms and to cast them in his teeth. That course had, however, been taken—by whom he would leave the House to decide. These were miserable matters to engage the attention of the House of Commons, and he would put it to the right hon. Baronet whether it would not be wiser, not to say more magnanimous, to forego such unseemly recriminations for the future? The House must acknowledge that the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark was not deserving of the imputations sought to be cast upon him. He (Mr. Roebuck) 517 had certainly expected greater results from the first campaign in the Baltic, but he attributed his disappointment more to his own ignorance than to any fault of a gallant man who had spent his life in the service of his country, and who had always displayed great judgment and intrepidity. A debt of gratitude was also, no doubt, due from the right hon. Baronet, and it would have well befitted his position to have acknowledged the undoubted merits of a gallant public servant.
said, he regretted as much as any one the introduction of such a personal controversy, but the original aggressor, it must be allowed, was the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier), who, in his letter to The Times, had spoken of a conspiracy against himself, and denounced the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) and the right hon. Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley) as combined in a plot to ruin him. Was it to be endured that an officer should publicly, in that House and in newspapers, charge persons with such malignant intentions, and that when they denied the charge, and brought proofs to justify what they had asserted, people should cry out, "Here's a victim;" and say that they were running down a gallant and estimable officer in order to justify their own proceedings? It was said that the right hon. and gallant Member (Sir M. Berkeley), after withdrawing his own pretensions to the command in favour of those of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, and continuing to press that gallant Officer in his letters, had no right afterwards to find fault with him. Now he took just the opposite view, and thought that, instead of there being any blame attributable to his right hon. and gallant Friend, it was a proof of his public spirit and of that sense of justice and magnanimity which he was known to possess. His right hon. and gallant Friend was engaged by the ties of friendship to a brother officer, and advocated his cause; but when he found that his expectations had been disappointed and his anticipations turned out incorrect, he had the courage and manliness to act upon his own judgment of the true state of the case, and would not, on account of friendship, be a party to again sending out an admiral on a service similar to that which he had failed satisfactorily to perform. It was clear to all that during his campaign in the Baltic the 518 hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) had neither satisfied the expectations of the country, of the Admiralty, nor of the officers under his command. The unfortunate circumstances of the case had been so often stated that he could add nothing new to the facts; but he must say that, notwithstanding the hon. and gallant Admiral had disappointed the expectations which had been formed of him, he had been most fairly, nay indulgently treated. The order, which had been referred to on the other side of the House, to haul down his flag and come on shore, was precisely in the same terms as the order to Lord Howe. It was simply an order in the usual style; no censure was cast by it upon the hon. and gallant Admiral, and no blame was imputed to him. But the hon. and gallant Admiral, by the indiscreet use of his pen—and he wished that he had always been as good with his pen as he was with his sword—had chosen to attack the Admiralty in various ways. Upon him, therefore, and him alone, rested the whole blame of this discussion. He (Mr. Cowper) was entirely with those who thought the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had vindicated himself most admirably, showing that every assertion he had made was capable of proof, and that there was not an atom of justification for charging him, or any other person connected with the Admiralty at that time, with want of courtesy, fairness, or indulgence towards the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
I participate most deeply in the concern, which the whole country will feel at the painful spectacle presented to the House this evening—that of hon. and gallant Members rising to indulge in mutual recrimination. Personalities arc at all times a subject of deprecation, but especially when they so gravely affect the interests of a great profession, and lead to disclosures which might otherwise have been avoided. I confess that when the hon. and gallant Admiral brought forward his Motion the other evening, he carried neither my sympathy nor my countenance; because I entertain the fullest conviction that it was not calculated to advance the interests of that profession to which I have the honour to belong. I felt, too, that it was unnecessary on the part of the hon. and gallant Admiral, because, if his conduct deserved condemnation, the greater was the fault of those who allowed it to 519 pass, without subjecting it to a court of inquiry, and awarding that penalty to which it had rendered him amenable. I will not enter upon any reflections on the manner in which the Baltic fleet was fitted out, or state the reasons why I conceive it was not calculated to fulfil the expectations of the country.
I am bound, however, in honesty to say that the tone of the reply made this evening by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, and the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester, are not of that candid description which I should have desired to hear. Hard as the professional treatment I have received at the hands of those hon. Members, I assure the House that mine is too much nobility of feeling to make any observation upon them, which I do not in my conscience believe they deserve. If I understood rightly the tenor of the remarks made by the right hon. Baronet on a recent occasion, upon the letters which he read, he did not in his conscience believe that the hon. and gallant Admiral was competent to undertake the trust conferred upon him, because it was unadvisable to appoint an officer above the age of sixty years to so high and important a command. But what did he say on March 8, 1855? He declared in this House that Sir C. Napier was a consummate Admiral, who might bear the palm for courage and discretion; and what was more justifiable for such an appointment? Now he raked up a number of old letters which the hon. and gallant Admiral, with more than inconsideration, had written; for it was unworthy in him to address the First Lord of the Admiralty in the manner he had done. I deeply deplore that those letters were read, not as they affected the hon. and gallant Admiral, for he had brought it on himself, but because expressions had been employed in disparagement of the capabilities of officers of a certain age, which were wholly unwarrantable and were calculated to do deep injury to the naval profession.
I now come to the hon. Gentleman the First Naval Lord. His business was, of course, to uphold the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral to the Baltic fleet, and on March 8, 1855, he said that if Sir Charles Napier went out in command, he (Admiral Berkeley) would be only too happy to go out as his second in command. Great Heaven! could any praise be higher than that? or any testimony be more 520 flattering to the hon. and gallant Admiral than testimony of such a character? The hon. and gallant Member (Admiral Berkeley) must have lost his senses, when he could utter such commendation, and now refer to Acre, circumstances which occurred sixteen years ago, to damn the reputation of a brother officer. If he believed, as he plainly did not believe, that the conduct of Sir C. Napier on that occasion was wanting in courage and discretion, and his knowledge so deficient that he did not know where to anchor his ship, or how to handle her, he ought not to have sanctioned with his consent the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral to the command of the Baltic fleet. He could not justify himself, as he had vainly attempted to do, by saying that, because an officer committed one error, he was not for ever unfitted for command. If they really believed his incapacity, both the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, and the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite, ought to have taken it into consideration, when they reflected upon the importance and magnitude of the command which they were about to bestow, and the necessity of appointing an officer who would fulfil the expectations of the country.
Success depended on the destruction of the formidable defences of the enemy's coast, and the only means of its accomplishment was the employment of gunboats of light draught, which could overcome the intricacies of the navigation, whilst the line-of-battle ships should be entirely directed to prevent the ships of the enemy from getting out. Under these circumstances, in my opinion, Sir C. Napier did all that could have been reasonably expected of him; I blame him, because all the reflections to the contrary that have been made, have been incurred by the hon. and gallant Admiral himself. Generally speaking, I do not regard after-dinner speeches, but still, when men occupying high and responsible positions in the State, every word from whose lips has an influence on the destinies of the nation, cannot control their temper, it would be wise to abstain from attending public dinners.
The right hon. Gentleman said, that a similar order had been given to Lord Howe. That might be so, and possibly, the complexion of the Admiralty had not much altered, but in those days every Admiralty was a sort of quarter-deck, and it was, unhappily, too often the practice to forget 521 that other people possessed sensibilities as keen as the officers who gave the orders. I am not, however, aware that Lord Howe had, on that particular occasion, returned from the immediate performance of any signal service, or that there was any sneer in the terms of the order applicable to the circumstances of the time. But in this case the very fact that Sir C. Napier had asked for a court-martial, and was told that there was no necessity for its appointment, spoke sufficient praise.
Undoubtedly Sir C. Napier was to blame for making a certain speech at the Mansion-House dinner, reflecting, as it did, on the officers under his command. As regards the battle of Acre, if the gallant Admiral, owing to a change of wind or other circumstances, perceived that a more advantageous position offered for placing the ship, which he commanded, in action, than that which was originally marked out by his Admiral, and in consequence of the smoke he was rendered unable to communicate with him by signal, he then, in my apprehension, was justified in taking up that position. Still more, when he alleges that he placed his ship opposite the first line of a formidable range of batteries, and thus the ships under his command, then coining up in his rear, might, by passing on the outside of the Powerful, have been covered by that ship, as they severally passed onwards ahead, and along the line of batteries, each ship in turn affording cover to that which followed, as they successively took up their stations. For this cause the gallant Admiral makes an excuse, where none was needed. The capital error which he committed consisted in this, that immediately upon thus anchoring the Powerful, he did not make signal to the ships of his division to pass on, and take up their stations successively in advance, for it appears that in default of it, they came to the conclusion that the Powerful had anchored owing to shoal water, and so they anchored astern of that ship, a course which might have proved fatal to the success of the day. The gallant Admiral advances the idle excuse, that he was prevented from making that signal because he was in the presence of his superior, though that officer was obscured in smoke. Why, Sir, I would have disobeyed any order, if my country's honour was at stake, even if I had been broken the next morning. I would not have cared for a hundred Commanders in Chief at such a crisis and such an eventful moment, 522 The hon. and gallant Admiral made no inapposite allusion to the battle of the Nile. On that occasion, the Goliath and Zealous had the honour to lead the fleet and to receive the first fire of the van ships. They passed inside the enemy's line, anchoring successively by the stern. The Goliath's anchor did not hold, and she drifted abreast of the second ship in the French line. Captain Samuel Hood, following in the Zealous, quickly let go his anchor, and took up the station, which the Goliath had been foiled in occupying; he thus gave cover to the approaching ships as they passed to take up their respective stations opposite each to an enemy's ship. Never were evolutions performed in a more masterly manner. This accomplished by Captain Samuel Hood was in accordance with the whole series of his brilliant services to the country; a more truly intrepid officer the naval service has not to boast in her long chronicle of worthies. He died in my arms, whilst Commander in Chief in the East Indies, and my spirit glows whilst I offer this meed to the honoured name of the great dead.
There was no occasion, however, to allude to Acre; the question before the House was simply whether the conduct of Sir C. Napier, in his command of the Baltic fleet, was or was not creditable to him. I am bound to admit that the Board of Admiralty were justified in withholding its further command from him in consequence of the want of becoming deference in the tone of the letters which he addressed to them. No Board of Admiralty could submit to place themselves in a subordinate position to the officer whom they employed. But I also must express my conviction, whatever may be asserted to the contrary, that stone walls are more than a match for those of wood.
Although I deeply deplore that this discussion has arisen, yet I think a useful lesson may be derived from it: it will, probably, teach right hon. and hon. Members to abstain from making statements in public which are disadvantageous to the service of the country. They may depend upon this, that if the time of this House is to be occupied in hearing personal explanations of this nature, the country will soon begin to take very little interest in their proceedings, and repose still less confidence in their deliberations within closed doors.
§ Motion agreed to.