MR. WHITESIDE rose to move the following Resolution:—
That, while this House feels it to be its duty to express its admiration of the gallantry of the Turkish soldiery and of the devotion of the British officers at the siege of Kars, it feels it to be equally a duty to express its conviction that the capitulation of that fortress and the surrender of the army which defended it, thereby endangering the safety of the Asiatic provinces of Turkey, were in a great measure owing to the want of foresight and energy on the part of Her Majesty's Administration.
He said, I crave the indulgence of the House while I endeavour to prove that this Resolution ought to be affirmed by its vote. I have slender claims upon the notice of hon. Gentlemen present, but it is my hope that, owing to the importance and magnitude of the subject, I shall receive their considerate attention. Upon an inquiry into the fall of Kars it will be impossible to escape from a discussion of the circumstances and policy which led to that disaster; and if in the progress of our
inquiry it becomes necessary to observe on the political conduct or the political character of public men, that duty, however disagreeable, must be performed, as essential to the interests of our country. The hon. Gentleman who opened our proceedings at the commencement of this Session in an eloquent and graceful speech alluded to the condition of a Minister who should terminate a glorious war by a glorious peace. He said, and with some truth, that such a Minister might be content thereafter to reckon his victories and repose upon his laurels. The joyful expectation of that hon. Gentleman I am reluctant to disturb. Nevertheless, mine must be a gloomy retrospect. I have to recall the attention of my hearers to splendid opportunities, I fear, lost for ever—to the sacrifice of a gallant army—to the abandonment of the bravest of our countrymen, to the military triumph of Russia, to the disappointment of the fond hopes of the nation. The attitude exhibited by Parliament during the last few months must, I apprehend, have produced in the States of Europe a feeling of respect for representative government—calm, dignified, forbearing—abstaining from comment or debate upon political questions of the deepest interest so long as debate or comment might be prejudicial to the public service. But that forbearance must not be confounded with indolence or apathy. This House can be alive and active in the performance of its duty—in the assertion of its authority when the suitable time arrives; and that suitable time has come. This question cannot be affected by vague allusions to the French alliance, in which we rejoice, but as free discussion is the life of our Parliamentary system, it would be an inconvenient result of any continental alliance, if it should muzzle the Members of a free Parliament, and stifle discussion upon subjects uppermost in the minds of the people of this country. French writers have not hesitated to publish that the war in Asia Minor more peculiarly affected English interests, and if so, they will think the better of us for guarding those interests with watchful care. The fall of Kars is an accomplished fact—we seek to explore the causes of that event; to discover, if we can, and then to censure according to the demands of justice, those who have contributed, by want of foresight and energy, to that fatal disaster. Nothing conduces so much towards a sound judgment upon any disputed question, as a
clear perception of what does and what does not belong properly to the subject of the discussion. It does not demand an inquiry into the origin of this war, it admits the war to have been just, and even adopts the definition given of it, namely, that it was a defensive war, waged in maintenance of the integrity, and in preservation of the territory, of the Turkish empire. To defend the Turkish dominions from Russian invasion was a primary object of the war, the best mode of securing the future independence of Turkey being the political problem to be solved—if, indeed, in the defence of her Asiatic provinces, and in securing, by the expulsion of the Russians, the future safety of Turkey in the East, a vast benefit would accrue to Persia, and the tranquillity of our Eastern empire might be promoted, these great facts only heighten the importance of our investigation. Sir, I can conceive no responsibility more awful than that which a Minister of the Crown undertakes when he advises his Sovereign to embark in what may be a bloody and protracted war. No great war ever left a nation in the same condition in which it found it, and, therefore, the advantage to be derived ought to be proportionate to the possible sacrifices made to obtain it. I can conceive a Minister, from whom his Sovereign would ask advice as to whether she should embark in war with Russia, revolving in his mind the answer he should give to his Royal Mistress. I can conceive that Minister retiring to his closet, glancing at the history of Russia, reviewing the provinces she has annexed, the kingdoms she has incorporated, the countries she has conquered. I can conceive him then turning his eye on the map of Russia in the East—the eye of a statesman—and rising from the contemplation with feelings of consternation and amazement—consternation at the result—amazement at the infatuated policy which endured it; and I can conceive that Minister arriving at the clear and satisfactory conclusion, that it was his duty to his Sovereign to advise her, under God's blessing, to grapple with an enemy to be submitted to no longer. The question before the House cannot be commenced at once with the contents of that Blue-book. There are arguments historical, political, geographical—all tending to prove that, if war broke out between Russia and Turkey, it was the paramount duty of a Minister who understood his duty, to assist, in reference to war in Asia Minor, at the right
time, with the right means, the Power that was contending in truth on the side of English interests. About thirty years ago was published, by an experienced officer of the Company, a tract, called England, Russia, and Persia. The object was to point out what ought to be the true policy of England in reference to Persia: he advocated no aggressive policy; he did not advise any conquests or aggressions, but he said it was the first duty of England, by judicious counsels, by the employment of experienced agents, to teach Persia to develope her resources, to strengthen her army, and so to obtain by moral means such influence over her Government as to constitute that kingdom, what he argued she was by nature, the great barrier against Russian aggression in the East. The Whigs adopted that argument, but, at the same time, I think they pushed it to excess. The expedition to Afghanistan was justified upon that ground. Sir John Cam Hobhouse, whose scholarship I have had the opportunity to enjoy and to admire, and who possessed a full knowledge of the affairs of the East, went the length of contending that, if it were discovered by a British Minister that Russia sought to obtain influence over Persia and gain possession of Herat—which he called the gates of India—it would be justifiable to make war and invade the country which adopted that policy. He said it was mighty ridiculous—that was the phrase he used—on the part of Gentlemen who sat on the Opposition side of the House to wait until Russia or Persia acted; it was the duty of England to extend war into the country of the Power which was discovered to have that design. He used a sentence which I may be permitted to read:—
The intervention which I particularly allude to was the intervention on the part of the representatives of the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, which was totally incompatible with the very safety of India. Count Simonich advised the advance upon Herat. Hon. Gentlemen are now so familiar with the importance of that city and State, from its position in Central Asia, that it is unnecessary for me to dwell on it. This, however, I must state—that the best authorities had laid it down as an indisputable fact, that that city and its immediate dependencies are the most important of all the cities and States of Central Asia; and that the master of Herat is in a position, both in reference to Persia and to the Affghan States, to hold the balance, if he has any considerable power, between the parties who might contend for empire much further, and with much greater proximity to India. But Count Simonich did not confine himself to giving advice. At the very time that the English Minis-
ter, in consequence of instructions from Lord Palmerston, retired after fruitless endeavours to prevail upon the Shah to relinquish his intentions, Count Simonich remained in the neighbourhood, and actually, it might be said, superintended the siege; and an officer of distinction, who had been in the Russian service, assisted at the siege, and, I think I recollect, was killed there. But it did not stop there. The intervention of Russia did not stop with the mere appearance of the Russian. Ambassador at the siege of Herat. Forsooth, a treaty was entered into—it will be found in the papers before the House—by which, in the most summary way, the lawful Sovereign of Herat (the real representative of the ancient dynasty) was to be dethroned, and his dominions were given to one of the Princes of Candahar, a brother of Dost Mahomed. By that treaty an entire change was to occur in the whole of that important part of Central Asia; and who does the House of Commons think was the guarantee of that treaty? No less a person than the Russian Ambassador, and I hold a proof of it in my hand.
That was the line of argument by which a sanguinary war was justified. In the course of the same discussion a letter was read from Sir A. Burnes to my unfortunate but not undistinguished fellow countryman, Sir W. M'Naghten. That eminent Indian officer thus exposed the Russian policy in the East:—
It is clear that the British Government cannot with any credit or justice to itself permit the present state of affairs at Cabul to continue. The counteraction applied must, however, extend beyond Dost Mahomed Khan, and to both Persia and Russia. A demand of explanation from the Cabinet of St. Petersburg would, I conceive, be met by an evasive answer, and gain for us discredit. Besides, the policy of Russia is now fairly developed and requires no explanation, for it explains itself, since that Government is clearly resolved upon using the influence she possesses in Persia (which is as great there as what the British command is in India) to extend her power eastward. It had better, therefore, be assumed at once that such are her plans, and remonstrate accordingly.
No political writer whom I have been able to consult—no experienced officer of the Company—has ever argued that you can consider the question of the interests of England in the East apart from the interests of Persia and Asiatic Turkey. They all hold it as a fundamental principle that the interests of those three States are not merely incidentally but substantially connected; and contend with irresistible force that the past history of Russia shows that when she wishes to make war on Persia she remains at peace with Turkey, and, on the other hand, when she wishes to go to war with Turkey she continues on good terms with Persia; because the combination of both those countries might be inconvenient to her rulers. The same authorities declare that Russia has steadily, for
a hundred years, pursued her conquests in Persia on the Caspian, and those against Asiatic Turkey along the Euxine. After the peace of 1814, a promise was given to Persia to restore certain provinces of that State which Russia had unfairly acquired. Lord Cathcart endeavoured to obtain the fulfilment of that pledge at St. Petersburg, but failed, on the ground that Russia never surrendered what she had once gained if she could possibly avoid it. Subsequently, however, Russia said—Here is the Araxes, which forms a convenient frontier between us and Persia. Let that be our boundary, and we shall be content, and thus constant disputes will be avoided. An hon. Gentleman a few nights ago asked the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton whether he had taken any means to have a road completed between Trebizond and Bayazid for the advantage of commerce. If that hon. Gentleman ran his eye along the map from Trebizond to Erzeroum, and thence to Bayazid into Persia, he would find the town of Khoi, by which an entrance was given for our manufactures into Persia. There is no ford between that place and the Caspian, although a little above it there is, and there Russia has possessed herself of a strong fortress, called Abassabad. Russia's practice is to exact an indemnity from the power which she has provoked into war, and when that Power cannot pay, she seizes one of her provinces as a material guarantee. In this way she obtains a mortgage on Persia, and intends, at a favourable moment, to foreclose it. Her geographical position also enables her, whenever she pleases, to arrest our trade with Persia, by seizing on the fortress of Khoi, as she did on Abassabad. This was the state of things in reference to Persia when war broke out in 1853. It is unnecessary to remind the House of the provinces which Russia extorted from Asiatic Turkey. The key of Russian policy is, that the vital strength of Turkey consists in her Asiatic provinces; and Russia being desirous of conquering Turkey, whenever she makes war against that Power, begins by striking at her in those provinces. The root of Russian power, as opposed to England's Indian empire, to Persia, and to Asiatic Turkey, lies in Georgia. The use of Imeritia to Russia is very trifling, and her sole object in securing a transit across the Caucasus is to complete the conquest of Asiatic Turkey and of Persia. Her troops, however, depend on the resources of Georgia, and to
get there she has to cross the steppes of Southern Russia, then by the causeway constructed by the Empress Catherine, over the Caucasus, and then to pass through a rugged country occupied by fierce tribes. These obstacles render it difficult for her to maintain a sufficient force in Georgia to carry out her designs on Persia and Asiatic Turkey. When the late Emperor Alexander said he meditated no aggression—that he wanted no more territory—he could see, in the Black Sea, Poti, Anapa, and the river Rion. These gave Russia access close to Kutais; and then a macadamized road enabled her by a short cut to introduce an army and the munitions of war directly into Georgia, a thing otherwise impossible to her save by crossing the steppes of Southern Russia, and advancing through rough, perilous, mountain passes. Under these circumstances, when war breaks out between Russia and Turkey, an English Minister ought carefully to watch the state of things in Asiatic Turkey, as being of the highest concern to the permanent interests of England. It may be said that these are vague and unfounded apprehensions of the designs of Russia; but on this point the history of the campaigns of Paskiewitsch, in 1828 and 1829, is very instructive. That history discloses the policy of Russia and her agents, and shows how Paskiewitsch, in a wonderfully short space of time, seized the strongholds of Asiatic Turkey, conquered fortress after fortress, his only difficulty soon being to decide whether he should advance on Constantinople from Erzeroum, or march by the great rivers towards the vast countries lying near the Persian Gulf. Paskiewitsch marched towards Trebizond and took Khart. His instructions then were to co-operate with the Russian fleet in the Black Sea, and the common object of the Russian forces was to complete the conquest of Asiatic Turkey on the shores of the Black Sea. The roads were almost impracticable for artillery between Khart and Trebizond; and a foolish pasha, going out to fight the Russian general, was repulsed by him with frightful slaughter. Paskiewitsch then returned to Erzeroum, and laid out his plan for a future campaign, to accomplish the fundamental and cherished policy of his country. I am not in a condition to say whether or not that singular document—the will of Peter the Great—is genuine; but in the appendices to the Russian histories, to which. I have referred, it is bequeathed to the successors of that
monarch as a policy fixed and never to be forgotten—that they should march towards the East and conquer Persia and Asiatic Turkey; the same document declaring that the Power which rules in the East and at Constantinople must govern the world. I ought to have mentioned that the lieutenant of Marshal Paskiewitsch in his Asiatic campaigns was General Mouravieff, who fully comprehended the policy and objects of his chief; and Russia, always putting the right man in the right place, raised him to the command of the army that was finally to achieve the good work which Paskiewitsch left unfinished. These facts were all patent to the British Minister who had to advise his Sovereign on the course she should take at the outbreak of the late war. That war I understood to have been undertaken to defend Turkey from invasion, and to uphold, if possible, the independence of that Power for the future. The importance of the problem, as I have said, was only enhanced if in its solution were involved the tranquillity of both Persia and our Indian possessions. What, then, was our policy on commencing the war in 1853? A French friend of mine remarked to me, "I so admire the book of your Seymour (meaning Sir Hamilton Seymour), it is so droll." But there is an answer in it which is not droll—the answer given by Sir Hamilton Seymour to the memorable statement of Count Nesselrode, when the latter told him that it would be impossible to settle with Turkey until she had been calmed by a defeat. The reply of the English Ambassador was, that as the policy of his Government was for peace, that Government were more anxious for the end than for the means that would secure it. I own that I cannot sec much to admire either in the morality or the expediency of such an answer. But, not to linger on this point, what, let me ask, was your first policy at the commencement of war? It was a repressive policy. In 1828 and 1829 Turkey was dispirited, enfeebled, prostrate; in 1853 her people were full of enthusiasm—they were eager for the conflict—they flung their money into the Treasury, and the rich took their horses from their carriages to draw the artillery. There was a general impatience of diplomacy, and the universal feeling was, that if Russia wished to negotiate she could do so as well on the banks of the Pruth as on those of the Danube. The day of conflict
had arrived, and the Turks could see no reason why the struggle should not take place on the battlefield which from its position they deemed most favourable to their cause. England prevented this, and no doubt had a policy to serve in so doing. I mean not now to call in question the propriety of her conduct in that respect; but this I do not hesitate to assert that, having for your own purposes prevented Turkey from taking the field when she was herself convinced that her time had come to strike—and to strike hard—at her remorseless enemy, every consideration of duty, honour, and magnanimity bound you to assist her afterwards in her extremity. The war broke forth in 1853. Is it conceivable that any Minister of the Crown can have seriously believed that Turkey in Asia was at that time able to contend, unaided and alone, with the trained battalions of Russia? If so, upon what plea of precedent, upon what pretext of experience, upon what ground of history can such an opinion have been formed? Surely, it cannot have been warranted by the result of the battles of 1828 and 1829, or by any other passage in the history of Asiatic Turkey. It is impossible that any Minister of the Crown can have entertained such an idea, or, if he did, this House would not have been justified in attaching any weight to his opinions. Turkey was, as might have been expected, defeated in several pitched battles; her army was disorganised—shattered to pieces. How was it restored to discipline and efficiency? Solely through the efforts of Guyon. Guyon, the most brilliant soldier, as he is undoubtedly one of the purest patriots of modern Europe, was brought from Damascus; and he it was who, in 1853, inspired the army of the Sultan with fresh hope, renewed its organisation, and restored it from being a rabble to something like the power and efficiency of a military force. In 1854 one of our countrymen, Mr. Ducan, for the mere love of the thing, visited Asiatic Turkey, and was present at the battles fought in that year, which he has graphically described. Of course Russia carried all before her. Our unfortunate ally was defeated, and sustained a signal reverse at Bayazid. The first object of Russia was naturally to impede the commerce of England with Persia, and in this she now completely succeeded. The army at Batoum was overthrown. On Sunday, the 6th of August, 1854, was fought the battle of
Kurukdere. The disaster to the Turkish army was complete; although it was the opinion of many, not unskilled in military tactics, that had the advice of Guyon been adopted the result would have been very different. On that occasion the artillery of the Turks was commanded by Tahir Pasha, an officer who, notwithstanding the aspersions cast upon him in this Blue-book, has long enjoyed a reputation, brilliant, indeed, yet not beyond his merits, for he was educated in England, and I am assured by those who had an opportunity of knowing him in this country that his natural talents are of the highest order, and his knowledge of his profession sound and practical. So effectively was the artillery worked under his command that I am credibly informed that the loss to the Russians on that eventful day was 3,025. Such was the consequence of having a well-served artillery. The army fled to Kars, and here arises a very important question of fact to cast a light upon the policy of the Government. It has been often asked how it happened that the army, victorious at Kurukdere, did not pursue the routed and disorganised force, take Kars, and destroy the remnant of the Turkish power in Asiatic Turkey? The reason was that Schamyl, of whom we have often heard, but whose present whereabouts appears to be enveloped in mystery, at a critical moment invaded Tiflis in the rear of the Russian army and stayed their further progress. The effect of that sudden and impetuous foray upon Tiflis, which, as every one knows, is the capital of Georgia, stands upon a plain, and is not fortified, was to compel the Russian general to divide his forces, with a view to the protection of the town, thereby saving the remnant of the Turkish army from utter annihilation. All military authorities, with the exception of the noble Lord at the head of the War Department, lay it down as a cardinal maxim that as Russia invariably strikes at Turkey in her Asiatic provinces, because she knows that her strength lies there, so if you would strike at Russia you should aim a blow at her in Georgia, which is the root of her power. By this means, if her army is in advance you can compel it to retreat, in order to cover and protect the capital of her power. When, according to this policy, Schamyl rushed upon Tiflis in 1854, he coerced the Russian army to divide its forces, and by this means rendered it impossible for it to per-
form what its leaders had proposed to themselves. It will be admitted by the most casual and thoughtless observer that when these events had come to pass it was full time for the English Minister to put himself in motion; and so he did. He looked around him, and began to concoct materials for this Blue-book; and certainly it is one of the most extraordinary productions that has ever seen the light. Turkey having been defeated in five pitched battles, and her case being as calamitous as can be well imagined, it was resolved by the English Ministry to send out a Commissioner, who was directed, by Lord Clarendon's first letter, to pick up what political information he could, and communicate it to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Raglan, and the British Ambassador at Constantinople. He was likewise to report on the condition of the army. He was to leave England on the 4th of August. The next day—or, it may be, the very same day—the Foreign Secretary wrote a second letter to him, apprising him that it would also be his duty to restore the Turkish army to efficiency by all the means in his power. Unfortunately, the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department forgot, or neglected to mention, what means for that purpose were at the command of the Commissioner. Except his indomitable courage, his innate energy, his sense of duty, his mother wit, and his English heart, I know of none that were at his disposal. Instead of powder and shot, they provided him with a plentiful supply of paper and ink, and I will do him the justice to say that from the moment he reached Erzeroum he bombarded his correspondents as vigorously, though not, unhappily, with so much success, as he has ever done the Russians. The House will not fail to admire the notable expedient of regenerating Turkey by means of a Commissioner, to whom was confided the task of collecting information with which the Government ought themselves to have been acquainted. The passage in Dr. Sandwith's narrative in which he describes the duty assigned to the Commissioner and how he performed it, is as well worth reading as anything in that interesting volume—
The duties of a Commissioner accredited to a Foreign army are simple enough—he hits but to report on events as they occur. Had General Williams confined himself to this, it is probable that there would have been no Ottoman army in the ensuing campaign. What then did he do? He
saw a most vital point—the key of Turkey in Asia—defended by an army alseady ruined by its own officers, and dissolving under a system of misrule and peculation. He at once interfered, thereby committing a breach of etiquette, but saving Asia Minor.
May God bless him for that, say I. If that Commissioner had been in the Crimea and had seen 10,000 soldiers perishing with cold opposite to the store in which were the garments to clothe them, but the keyhole of which was stopped with red tape, he would have kicked open the door and saved the lives of the troops. Had he had the care of the limejuice he would, without an order, have distributed it to his countrymen before they were plunged in the charnel-houses called hospitals to die for want of the relief. No doubt he had these high qualities, but is this, let me ask the House, the way in which a Foreign Secretary ought to send out a gentleman to assert the authority of England, to vindicate her power, and to assist her ally? Hence arose his first difficulty; because no one knew what he was. The vagueness of his commission gave rise to diputes and was certainly the cause of much inconvenience; for a long time nobody could tell exactly what this extraordinary Englishman was, who had appeared suddenly at Erzeroum and did everything without asking any one's permission. I think a commission which means "Do what you can, but you have no authority from me to do anything; if you do anything wrong I will disown you; if you do anything energetically, and successfully, I will take the credit of it; but I will undertake to say that as long as you are there nobody shall, from my instructions, ever be able to say why or wherefore you are sent there"—is not such a commission as the foreign Minister ought to give to an English gentleman who was sent upon a service so difficult and so important as that which was assigned to Colonel Williams. I admit that it is said in the first paper, "Lord Raglan will give you your instructions." Where are those instructions? How many are the suppressions in this Blue-book? Is anything like Sir Alexander Burnes's despatches, the ungarbled correspondence of an officer in the East, to be published, that you may make sense of this book? If Lord Raglan corresponded with Colonel Williams I have no doubt he wrote what it would be most valuable for us to know. If he did give him instructions, where are those instructions? If he did give him advice, where is that
advice? Under the present system, the Minister whose policy is impeached is permitted to prepare the evidence by a careful selection and sifting of extracts of which this House may make what it can; and I think I am entitled to infer that if any instructions were given by Lord Raglan they would tell against the Government, because they do not appear in this Blue-book. Had they told in favour of the Government, they would certainly not have been omitted from the papers presented to Parliament. This Blue-book I divide into three parts. The first portion, including 160 pages, refers to the extraordinary discussion or dispute between our incomparable Ambassador at Constantinople and the Queen's Commissioner. We have afterwards a narrative of the events which occurred between the 5th of March and the end of July; and we have, thirdly, the memorable despatch of Lord Clarendon, dated September the 7th, which for ever put an end to all hopes of relief which had been entertained by our beleaguered countrymen and allies in Kars. All these portions we must carefully consider, because it is said that this Blue-book makes out a strong case for the English Ministry, and proves that there was abundant foresight and surprising energy in the conduct of the war in Asia Minor. If any hon. Gentleman, having examined these papers, can lay his hand upon his heart and say that he is of that opinion, of course it will to-night be his duty to vote for the Ministry. It appears that the Commissioner was well received by the Ambassador, and separated from him on kind and friendly terms. The Ambassador gave him all the despatches which had previously been sent to him from the Consuls of Asia Minor, and the Commissioner availed himself of that opportunity to learn—what he never could do from his instructions—something of the state of things which existed in the country in which he was appointed to serve. It is remarkable that in the first page of this Blue-book the important principle of not separating Turkey from Persia is referred to by Lord Stratford, because he draws attention to the fact that Bayazid has been occupied by the Russians, and the commerce of England with Persia interrupted as a matter of course. During the month of August there is little to observe upon, except that it is laid down as a principle by Commissioner Williams, that the first thing to be regarded in carrying on the war in Asia Minor and assisting Turkey is
the state of her magazines, upon the simple principle that, unless you feed a man he is not likely to be able to fight. He says—
The first thing I shall do will be to ascertain the state of the magazines, if any exist in Erzeroum, and to apprise your Lordship accordingly.
That is quite right, because it would be rather inconsistent to affect to assist an ally, and at the same time to leave him to starve. Consequently, it was a cardinal matter to ascertain what was the state of the supplies in the country, and whether it was possible to assist our ally and to preserve the Asiatic provinces for the country which we wished to uphold. I observe that Lord Clarendon was alive to the importance of the subject, because, on the 22nd of September he writes—
Her Majesty's Government must again protest against this disregard of the Sultan's interests, and they have a right to complain of the total disregard of their advice with respect to a fit commander in that portion of the Sultan's territory which must become the theatre of important operations.
Lord Clarendon wants a first-rate general. If he finds such a character in the course of his travels, I hope he will catch him and bring him over to England; we shall be glad to receive him. Independently of the requirement of a first-rate general, he admonishes Lord Stratford of the fact that the next spring—this is the meaning—Asia Minor will be the theatre of important operations—important operations on the part of whom?—on the part of the Government he represented; for I presume, situated as he was, he could not speak so exactly for the Government of the Sultan. Then the sensible advice is given by Lord Stratford—
Employ the dead months of the year in coming to a decision as to what may best be done, in order to make the next campaign in Asia more successful than the last.
That is the advice of our Ambassador, and very sensible advice it is. Subsequent letters show how conscious the Minister of England must have been of his duty, for over and over again he tells the Commissioner, "You must reform that army—you must remodel these before our troops join them." I will presently ask what he meant by writing on the part of the Government about a thing which he was resolved should never come to pass. There was abundant time to save Turkey in Asia. In the next letter Lord Stratford says—
On looking back, with the view of establishing a balance between loss and gain, we may easily perceive that if opportunities, as is alleged, have been thrown away, and much waste of life occasioned by mismanagement, the enemy has made no conquest, and supposing the war to continue, there is reason to hope that, if past experience be turned to account, a new campaign may be entered upon with fair prospects of success. The reasons for standing on the defensive will, in all likelihood, cease to exist, and it may be hoped that the Allies will be at liberty to direct n large portion of their attention to the Asiatic frontier, and other adjacent provinces of Russia.
It clearly and distinctly appears that it was in the mind of our Ambassador, as it was in that of Lord Clarendon, that there should be a campaign in Asia Minor in the ensuing spring. It also appears that at first Lord Stratford was on good terms with the Commissioner, because, writing in October, 1854, he describes the first reports of the Commissioner as being fair and temperate." Now, Sir, what did our Commissioner do? The very day on which he arrived at the head-quarters of the Turkish army he wrote long despatches, describing the constitution of the army, the state of the hospitals, and the condition in which he found things; and, above all, he warned Lord Clarendon that there were due to the soldiers fifteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen months' arrears of pay. From that time (the month of September) forward he does not cease to impress upon the noble Lord the cardinal fact that the intercourse with Persia was interrupted, and like every other military man, whose duty it was, calls the attention of the Government to this as a matter of importance, not merely to Asiatic Turkey, but to our relations with Persia. Until the month of December, I do not find in the Blue-book any trace of a quarrel with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. In human inquiries we are often perplexed to discover the motives which have led to certain actions. If, therefore, any hon. Gentleman supposes that I am about to explain the motives of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, I wish as speedily as possible to remove that pleasing delusion. I profess myself utterly unable to understand his motives, utterly unable to justify or to comprehend his conduct. Having myself a conscientious opinion upon this subject, I am not, because some of my political friends agree in opinion with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, about to ask the House to censure the Government and to shelter a man who deserves that censure, not so much as they do, but still who unques-
tionably deserves it. Let us, however, ascertain the exact truth as to the facts. I defy any man to ascertain the motives for some of the things which are in this book reported to have been done. In December, 1854, the quarrel began; that is, if it can be called a quarrel, when one party gave no cause of offence to the other, and when the one who seemed to be incensed with the other concealed his feelings, and never explained why or wherefore he should have those feelings towards the gentleman with whom he was directed to correspond. Let us understand the relation in which these persons stood towards each other. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, as the ambassador of England at Constantinople, is ordered by his Government to correspond with Mr. Commissioner Williams, to whom he is also directed to give his countenance and support. Commissioner Williams is ordered to correspond with Lord Stratford, and Lord Stratford is commanded to forward his despatches to the English Government and to Lord Raglan. It was at first arranged that the Commissioner should write to Lord Raglan, Lord Raglan to the Ambassador, the Ambassador to the Foreign Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary back to the Ambassador at Constantinople. Fortunately, Lord Clarendon discovered in time that this would prevent anything being done, and he said that the Commissioner might correspond with the Ambassador directly, and not circuitously through Lord Raglan. So he did. He did accomplish wonders for the time. He was joined first by Major Teesdale—a name never to be mentioned but in terms of honour—and two other British officers were afterwards added to the party. I wish to do the fullest justice to Her Majesty's Government; I will not willingly deprive them of anything which is their due, and I admit that they did contribute to the war in Asia Minor, as between the Turks and the Russians, four men and a doctor—and no more. I defy any man—let him ransack this Blue-book through from one end to the other—to say that anything in the way of assistance was extended by this great and powerful empire to an ally whom it was said we wished to save, beyond four men and a doctor; but such men they were as are rarely met with. They did more for you, to give you an honourable peace, to save you from ignominy, to maintain the honour and to sustain the power and reputation of England, than all the Members of Her Majesty's Administration put toge-
ther. They occupied themselves in trifling, resisting, evading, denying, hesitating, vacillating always, while these noble specimens of our race and country, under difficult and trying circumstances, gained the affections of an army which was ready to follow them to the death, declaring that such leaders they had never seen before—an army which endured all the horrors of famine, sustained by the words, and fired by the example of those gallant men whom you abandoned to a dismal fate. In December, 1854, I collect from these papers, Mr. Commissioner Williams had addressed I can hardly say how many despatches to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe at Constantinople. On December the 8th, we have what is called—I don't know whether it is ironically or not—an extract—it is certainly a very copious one—from Brigadier Williams's despatches, in which he states his grievances. He says—
Since I fulfilled the duties confided to me as Her Majesty's Commissioner to the head-quarters of the army of Kara, I have had the honour of addressing to your Excellency fifty-four despatches, identical with those forwarded simultaneously to the Earl of Clarendon and General Lord Raglan. Each packet has been accompanied by a private letter containing details and suggestions, which, had they found place in my public communications, would have inconveniently lengthened those documents.
On the 23rd of September I was honoured by a private letter from your Lordship, appealing to my 'spirit and humanity,' relative to the captivity of those unfortunate Russian ladies who had then recently been seized and carried into the mountains by Sheikh Schamyl, the Circassian chieftain. Since the above date I have not been favoured with a line by your Excellency, even with an acknowledgment of the reception of my public or private communications. To one who has served your Lordship for so many years, such an avowal on my part can only be recorded with feelings of deep disappointment and mortification—feelings which I have studiously endeavoured to conceal, even from my aide-de-camp and secretaries, because each successive post was anxiously looked for, in the hope of receiving answers from your Lordship on the pressing and important affairs connected with my mission to the head-quarters of the army of Kars.
Brigadier Williams here alludes to the Russian ladies who were carried off by Schamyl from Tiflis in the foray which I before mentioned. Lord Stratford's gallantry it appears was touched, and he wrote to the Commissioner on the subject, but carefully avoiding, however, all reference to business. I wish to state explicitly what the charge against the Ambassador is; for it may be that the character and position of Lord Stratford do Redcliffe will be affected by the
vote of this House. I admit that this part of the inquiry is of a judicial character, and we must therefore examine the evidence carefully, as it may affect the Ambassador hereafter. There are three parties to be regarded—the Government, first, who are supposed to have authority over the Ambassador and the Commissioner; next the Commissioner; and lastly the Ambassador. The charge against the Ambassador is—that Brigadier Williams, who was contending against a complication of unparalleled difficulties, having addressed no less than fifty-four despatches to him on important matters connected with his duty, that that immovable man did not answer a single one of them—in fact, took not the slightest notice of him, or of his despatches. After the extracts which I have read, the Commissioner goes on to state all that he wanted, all that he asked for, and all that he did not get. All these wants, he says, he had detailed in private letters and despatches before. "With regard to the principal criminal," he says—
Zarif, Mustafa Pasha, who must, by his false muster-rolls and other dangerous deceptions, have caused the discomfiture and disgrace of any British force sent to his assistance, I leave him in the hands of the allied Governments.
To this last passage I request particular attention. Several times, through his despatches, the Commissioner refers to a promise which, I suppose, had been made to him in some document which does not appear in this book, that a British force should be sent to his assistance, and he is anxious to guard against anything which may tend to disgrace the British troops when they arrive. The extract concludes thus—
And, having made this appeal to your Lordship in the name of Her Majesty's Government, it is my duty to state distinctly that I shall not be able to give such intelligence to my superiors us is absolutely necessary for them to be masters of; that I shall fail to preserve the power which I have (unaided) seized; and that I shall consequently net succeed in shielding the troops from starvation without my demands be complied with. If they be not, the dissolution of this army and the fate of Asia Minor will inevitably follow, and a golden opportunity be lost.
It is easy to see what was passing in the mind of that able and intrepid officer, when he told Lord Stratford that a golden opportunity would be lost. He was evidently looking forward to a moment when the British Government—rightly advised and fully comprehending their policy—would
strike at Russia in Georgia through Tiflis, and when every Russian soldier would be extirpated from that province, which is the foundation of Russian power as against England, Persia, and Asiatic Turkey. That letter produced no impression on our Ambassador, and on the 6th of January Lord Clarendon wrote to him. I wish to state all that makes in favour of the Minister—and, when I say the Minister, I mean the Prime Minister especially—because in the course of the explanations given when the noble Lord opposite quitted office in 1851—an explanation, by the way, which explained nothing—the noble Lord the Member for the City of London told us that it was the duty of the Prime Minister to read every important despatch on foreign affairs; therefore I assume that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton has read all those despatches, and is as answerable for them as Lord Clarendon. The Minister relies very much on this letter, which I am about to read—
Her Majesty's Government desire to receive your Excellency's observations upon the despatch of General Williams, which I need hardly say has been read by them with great regret, after the anxiety they have felt, and the remonstrances which they have in vain addressed through your Excellency to the Porte, respecting the unfortunate army at Kars.
As an instance of the disrespect shown to Brigadier General Williams by the Turkish military authorities, I transmit to your Excellency the cover of a letter addressed to him, which he has sent to this office.
Such is the conduct of Shukri Pasha, the man just sent from Constantinople to take the command at Kars, and who if he had not positive instructions to treat General Williams with contempt, can have had none to show him respect, although your Excellency announced on the 15th of November last that he was to have the rank of Ferik in the Turkish service.
But Her Majesty's Government will no longer endure to be trifled with, and they are determined that if the Turkish Government still persist in treacherously disregarding the Sultan's interests the Turkish officers shall, at all events, not insult the Queen's Commissioner; and your Excellency is instructed to demand the immediate dismissal of the person who gave orders that General Williams should be thus unbecomingly addressed.
On this last point Commissioner Williams was mistaken, because any one who has read the translation of the titles by which he was addressed on the occasion in question must admit that they are not open to the complaint which Brigadier Williams made. I believe, however, that he is as simple and unaffected a man as can be met with, and it is only so far us his office is concerned that he would have com-
plained of not having received all the titles which he thought were his due. This may be said to be the only point in the preliminary part of the correspondence in which our Ambassador got the better of the Commissioner. Lord Clarendon concludes by saying—
Your Excellency will also transmit to me a copy of your application to the Turkish Government for the official recognition of General Williams when he went to Kars, and of the answer which you received; and you will also demand, if you have not yet got it, a copy of the instruction that was sent by the Porte.
Your Excellency will understand that Her Majesty's Government require to be furnished with a full and detailed Report of everything which has passed between Her Majesty's Embassy and the Porte respecting the army at Kars, in compliance with the instructions that so frequently, but in vain, have been addressed to your Excellency.
I request the attention of the House to this point. Here is the Foreign Secretary stating, that an Ambassador who is bound to obey him has systematically disobeyed his directions and has evaded his instructions, and that it was a vain attempt for him—the Secretary of State—to prevail upon the Ambassador to pay respect to the directions of the Sovereign speaking by his mouth. That is a statement which, I think, affects the Government more than the Ambassador, and will give us an opportunity of investigating the constitutional question involved in this branch of our inquiry, as soon as I have read one or two sentences from this extraordinary document. I find that before Lord Stratford de Redcliffe condescended to write to Commissioner Williams he made his defence to the Foreign Secretary with respect to the first—and, I must say, merciful—charge brought against him, that he neglected to return an answer to any one of fifty-four despatches addressed to him by Colonel Williams. His defence is this—
|"Constantinople, Dec. 28, 1854.|
My Lord—I think myself entitled to remark on the hasty manner in which Colonel Williams has allowed himself to suppose that I have neglected the important interests committed to his charge.The "hasty manner!" Why, his Lordship must be the most phlegmatic man in Turkey. I understand that he wanted to answer all the despatches of Commissioner Williams at the conclusion of the war—in the lump, as it were—reserving his general views on the manner in which the war ought to have been conducted, and what 1614 should have been done at Kars until Kars had been taken, Erzeroum in the possession of the Russians, and peace concluded on terms satisfactory to the two great Emperors. The Ambassador continues—
Because he did not hear from me as soon or as frequently as he expected, he rushed to the conclusion that I gave him no support; and under this inconsiderate impression he has made a deliberate appeal to your Lordship and Lord Raglan.It is plain from this passage that all the documents were sent to Lord Raglan; it is plain that that admirable person wrote his opinion upon the transactions to which they referred, and it is plain that his despatches have been suppressed. Lord Stratford proceeds to say:—
These circumstances do not in the least degree warp my judgment as to Colonel Williams's excellent intentions and zealous exertions on behalf of the army at Kars; nor am I at all inclined"—And here follows a sneer at Colonel Williams—
To depreciate the somewhat voluminous correspondence which contains the results of his researches and remonstrances.He then reminds the Foreign Secretary of the important steps he took to induce the Turkish Ministers to correct the abuses denounced by the English Commissioner, and calls attention to a set of queries which he addressed to a person who is styled, I think, a Count—Count Pisani—and who lives in Constantinople. Let me say a word or two upon this gentleman. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who is a remarkably clever man, when he wished to make his defence, addressed a series of queries to Count Pisani. The convenient Count answered all the queries in a manner perfectly satisfactory to our ambassador. His Lordship then delivered the queries and replies to our Foreign Secretary, to be laid before the Government; but I must say that our Foreign Secretary is a very innocent man if he believes ninetenths of what is stated by Count Pisani. I want to know how it came to pass that Count Pisani was employed in this business at all? [Mr. LABOUCHERE: He is the dragoman attached to the embassy.] I know he is, but that is no answer to my question. When Lord Stratford wants to get anything done by the Porte he goes himself, and his great influence overcomes all obstacles; but whenever he wishes a thing not to be done he sends Count Pisani. The Count, I understand, upon such an 1615 occasion trembles at the very sight of the Pasha. Pisani says what he thinks fit to the Pasha, and the Pasha does the same to Pisani. The Count then hurries home to Lord Stratford, and tells him that the Pasha will do nothing. "Put that down," says Lord Stratford, and down it goes in a curious record kept by Pisani for subsequent use. It appears to me, that conscious of guilt—conscious that he would be called to account by Parliament, if Parliament understood and was willing to perform its duty—our Ambassador took the precaution from the first to prepare for his defence. His conduct reminds me of what I once heard a man say in a very remarkable trial for conspiracy and murder. He acknowledged having remained a certain time in the place where the conspiracy was concocted. "What did you do then? "inquired the counsel. "I went home to arrange my defence," was the reply. So with Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, it is quite clear that, through the instrumentality of Pisani, he was laying the foundations of his defence at the very moment he was doing that which he knew would be brought forward, at some future period, as a charge against him. I have been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that Pisani is dragoman to the embassy. How is he paid? I do not object to the payment of any person engaged in the service of the country, because every public servant should be liberally remunerated; but let the House look at the staff at Constantinople. First, there is the Ambassador himself; then Lord Napier, secretary of embassy; next, Mr. Alison, Oriental secretary; and, lastly, the following attachés:—O. W. L. Russell, W. Doria, P. E. F. W. Smythe, T. F. Hughes, E. C. G. Murray, and L. Moore. All these persons but one are well paid. What are they paid for? Is it for running up and down the country enjoying delightful scenery? Can nobody be trusted to transact the business of the embassy but a Levantine Count? One would imagine that, if our ambassador wished anything important to be done, he would send one of these English gentlemen to do it; but, no; for some inscrutable reasons they are passed over, and the services of the Count are preferred. Perhaps—who can tell?—Lord Stratford de Redcliffe does not speak to any one of his secretaries or attachés, who, being English gentlemen, may not be as ready as Pisani to return acceptable answers to his queries. But I may remind die Colonial 1616 Secretary that three English gentlemen are paid by the State because they understand the Turkish language, because they may be depended upon, and because the important interests of England in the East should not be entrusted to a Greek, who is certainly not a man in whom reliance could be placed in a war between Russia and Turkey. With these observations I may leave Pisani, whose statements I am not disposed to credit, and proceed with the despatch of our Ambassador. After the passages I have quoted, and some more to the same effect, Lord Stratford begins to moralize. This despatch is, I understand, much relied upon by the friends of Lord Stratford, and it is certainly a curiosity in its way. He says:—
But the well-known proverb which contrasts the facility of bringing a horse to water with the impossibility of forcing him to drink is no less true at Constantinople than in London or Paris. Unfortunately, too, the horses whose reluctance I have to overcome are not without circumstances to excuse, though not entirely to justify, the slowness of their pace.Then comes an allusion to a matter which is mentioned in many other parts of the Blue-book—the want of funds. That seems to be a fundamental difficulty; it is one of considerable force, and Lord Stratford is entitled to all the benefit of it. He informs Lord Clarendon that—
Winter, distance, roads scarcely passable, want of funds, the extent of evil to be cured, the scarcity of trustworthy officers, the greater interest of operations elsewhere, the illness of Ismail Pasha—all these causes of difficulty, and others which might be enumerated, have concurred to produce hesitation and delay. I regret the existence of such obstacles, and blame the Turkish Ministers for not surmounting them with more activity. But can I wonder?With great ability and truth Lord Stratford thus answers his own question:—
No! Corruption, ignorance, prejudice, want of public spirit, and the instincts of selfishness engender the same consequences wherever they prevail in long habitual exuberance. Such cankers, wide-spreading and deep-rooted, have ever been the harbingers and instruments of ruin, except in those few and favoured States where public opinion proclaims the danger and suggests the remedy in time, Has England itself been always without a taint? Have we never heard of Bacon or of Marlborough? Have we forgotten the memoirs of Pepys, the profligacies of his day, and the one claim of an exiled Sovereign to the gratitude of his country? Are not the denunciations of Burke still ringing in our cars? Place, time, and circumstance vary altogether, but the disease differs only in degree, in Turkey it has reached the stage of extreme virulence; in Christendom, generally, it is in abeyance, or shows itself 1617 only under mild forms; in Russia it mingles with the system of administration, and would, no doubt, fulfil its mission there, as elsewhere, if the power and energy of Government did not maintain a counteracting vitality.The noble writer alludes to "public opinion." Does he think that public opinion is respected in a country where conduct such as he himself pursues can with safety be passed over unnoticed by the Government? Well may he talk of public opinion if the acts that he himself does in violation, at an unparalleled crisis, of his manifest duty can be covered or defended by the Government that maintains him in an office for which he has proved himself so wholly unfit. What is the meaning of his moralising on Lord Bacon, or on Marlborough? It is gratifying to find that our Ambassador, amid his severer studies, fails not to cultivate the lighter graces of literature; but while dilating on the infirmities and vices of Bacon and Marlborough, he affords in his own person the very best proof that great talents may be accompanied with vices that obscure them, and great knowledge with infirmities that destroy its use. Now, is our Ambassador to be praised for his style of writing on matters of business? Lord Clarendon did not want to hear of the character of Bacon—"that wisest, brightest, and meanest of mankind"—and could read Pepys himself without being requested to do so from Constantinople; while I think our Ambassador may leave Marlborough to Macaulay, who will take care of him. But at last Lord Stratford condescends to notice the charge against him, and in reply gives an excuse the most curious ever recorded in the archives of the Foreign Office. He says—
It remains for me to say a word respecting my silence towards Colonel Williams. It has, in truth, continued longer than I intended. It originated in my anxiety not to occasion disappointment by announcing measures which might or might not be carried into effect. I knew that during the winter season little, comparatively, could be done; and I preferred, under the pressure of business flowing in abundantly from other sources, to give my correspondent an answer in full, rather than keep up a succession of partial communications. To this may be added the total want of punctuality with which of late the packets for Trebizond have left Constantinople. It has happened more than once that the opportunity was not brought to my knowledge till within an hour or two of the vessel's departure. Thus to the motive for not making preparation was added the difficulty of writing at the moment for want of time.1618 Every word that the noble Lord writes is inconsistent with something that he has written before. Sometimes his silence is designed; sometimes it is accidental; but the pith and marrow now are, "I never answered your communication before, because I did not wish to disappoint you—when all is over you shall have an answer in full." That is a mode of transacting business, permit me to say, which no amount of talent—and I do not deny that Lord Stratford has much talent—and no length of public service—and I do not deny that Lord Stratford's public service has been considerable—can justify or palliate. And I ask, if this system is to be carried into other branches of the public service, what will become of this great empire? On the 11th of January, 1855, the Earl of Clarendon answers that document. He says that the defence of Lord Stratford has received the careful consideration of Her Majesty's Government; and, after justly remarking upon the inadequacy of the steps which have been taken, he says—
But this is all that has been done for the relief of the army, notwithstanding the repeated and urgent remonstrances of Her Majesty's Government, which are of a date long anterior to the departure of General Williams from this country.He continues—
General Williams was in a position of great difficulty and responsibility, surrounded by traitors and robbers, with whose occupations he was bound to interfere, and he stood in need of all the support and encouragement that Her Majesty's servants could afford him.He then says that he has answered all General Williams's despatches, and has had great satisfaction in conveying to that officer the entire approval of the Government; and he concludes—
Her Majesty's Government, therefore, cannot but regret the silence observed by your Excellency towards General Williams, and they can well understand the discouragement and mortification he must have felt at receiving no acknowledgment of his fifty-four despatches, accompanied by private letters; for he looked to your Excellency as his natural protector, and must have well known that the great, the deservedly great, influence of your Excellency must be more powerful on the spot than any Her Majesty's Government could exercise to save him and the Turkish army from the consequences of that corruption, ignorance, prejudice, and want of public spirit which your Excellency so well describes, and the proofs of which are in every direction unfortunately but too apparent.1619 Now, I admit in the most unequivocal manner, on the part of the Foreign Secretary, that he has fully discovered the misconduct of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. I admit that he has been made aware of Lord Stratford's defaults. I admit further, in fairness to him, that he has expressed himself in a manner highly creditable to Lord Clarendon as a private gentleman; but, as I shall contend in a moment, fatal to him as an English statesman; because I rely upon the very fact stated in that document, that Lord Stratford's conduct had nearly ruined an army, to sustain one portion of the arguments involved in my Motion. But this is the last of the letters written by Lord Clarendon in censure of Lord Stratford do Redcliffe. General Williams, however, did not submit to that mode of being disposed of by the Ambassador; and I now beg to draw the attention of the House to two letters from General Williams, a sentence in one of which is the foundation of the view which I would respectfully submit to the House on this important part of the question. Lord Clarendon having sent to General Williams the defence of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, General Williams writes this despatch, received January 15, 1855—
Your Lordship will be informed, through the copy of my despatch to Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, inclosed in mine of the 8th December addressed to your Lordship, of the silence and disregard with which his Excellency has been pleased to treat my despatches and private communications relative to the affairs of the army, to which I am accredited, as Commissioner, by Her Majesty's Government. Under these extraordinary, I may say unprecedented, circumstances, it behoves me to demonstrate to your lordship that I have not failed in my duty, either towards Her Majesty's Government, or to his Excellency the Ambassador, with whom I was instructed to place myself in communication. 1st. Before I landed at Constantinople I sent Her Majesty's Ambassador a copy of your lordship's instructions to me, and afterwards had the honour of four interviews with his Excellency, in which, among other things, I mentioned the precise words of the Duke of Newcastle (addressed to me in my interview the day prior to my departure from London), on the importance his Grace attached to the duties of my mission—that it was second only as to the prosecution of this war. 2nd. On the receipt of my instructions from General Lord Raglan, which reached me after my return from Varna, I enclosed a copy of them to Her Majesty's Ambassador, accompanied by a despatch, a copy of which I beg to enclose herewith for your lordship's information. A copy of this was also sent to General Lord Raglan as an enclosure in the despatch which acknowledged the receipt of his 1620 lordship's instructions. 3rd. I made a general appeal to Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe for his 'countenance and support,' written from Erzeroum on my way to the camp at Kars. I now beg to forward, for your lordship's information, a copy of my second and special one. In order to redouble the zeal of Mustafa Pasha and Emir Bey, I told them that I had brought their conduct to the knowledge of the Porte, through the British Ambassador, and held out the hope of reward. Had that recompense followed my solicitation, it would have been known to every officer in the army, and incalculable results would have followed. Having thus performed a duty which I think imperatively incumbent on me, I shall for the present abstain from any remarks, save that of announcing the arrival of another post from Constantinople, without a line, public or private, from Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, although I have addressed sixty-two identic or special despatches, and many private letters bearing on public affairs, to his Excellency.The House will observe that the charge obtains fresh force from the statements in that letter; for, in the first place, it appears that there are sixty-two despatches unanswered; and, in the second place, it appears that, upon a particular occasion, if a small recompense had been made by the Ambassador to Mustafa Pasha and Emir Bey incalculable results would have followed to the Turkish army. On the 21st of January, 1855, Lord Stratford concocts an elaborate defence which he addresses to Lord Clarendon, in which he falls back upon that trifling matter of the superscription of a despatch and the title of Colonel Williams, and dwells a good deal upon a mistake which a man is likely enough to make who is unacquainted with the language. Then he says—probably truly enough—that having an army on the Danube and another in the Crimea, the Sultan's revenue is altogether inadequate to the support of a third army. He makes that point, and it seems a rational one. He then says that General Williams has been raised to the rank of Ferik; but the date of that appointment is all-important. Lord Stratford was early instructed to obtain for General Williams some rank which should give him an intelligible position and influence with the army at Erzeroum. It appears that that was not done—or, at least, that it was done in an absurd manner. In November the diploma was being made out; in December something was doing; but Commissioner Williams indignantly records that that document did not reach him till the 25th of January, 1855. Again, I find General Williams, on the 15th of January, 1855, 1621 in a despatch which was received by Lord Clarendon on the 7th of February, expressing his disappointment that the expectations which he had founded on the promises of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe were not fulfilled, and he adds:—
It is my bounden duty to call the attention of your Lordships to these grave circumstances, and to state the extreme danger which such a state of things engenders; half of one precious month has slipped from us, and has brought with it the fruits of either an indifference on the part of the authorities of Constantinople to my various unanswered representations, or a signal want of influence to enforce them.I find, likewise, that on the 18th of January he repeats the necessity that there is for paying the troops, and he enumerates the difficulties under which he labours—want of clothes, want of arms, want of shoes, and want of money. I find that this is submitted to the Minister of War, and the first thing that the Minister of War does in reference to the war in Asia Minor is this:—On the 26th of February he communicates this important opinion to General Williams:—
Lord Panmure is of opinion that it will be impossible for him (General Williams) to do any good, unless he is allowed more discretion in organising the army of Kars.That is the result of the deliberations of the head of the War Department. This extraordinary dispute or discussion between the Ambassador and the Commissioner is brought to a close by the two documents which reached Lord Clarendon on the same day—one from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and the other from General Williams, for it is a singular circumstance that both those despatches arrived on the 1st of March, 1855. The despatch of Lord Stratford is a very elaborate document. In it he puts forward all the case that he could make for himself as against the Government, Commissioner Williams, and the indefinite character of the commission under which General Williams had acted, and he calls upon Lord Clarendon to define what was thereafter to be his duty in enforcing the demands of General Williams at Constantinople. That is a very able and a very clever letter. It is a little artfully written, perhaps, but its purport is this:—"You sent out a gentleman with a commission that is not intelligible; all sorts of difficulties have arisen; he has gone to Kars; the Turks don't know what he is; I don't know pecisely what the extent of his authority is; inform me 1622 now, and tell me, for my guidance hereafter, how I am to behave to him, and how he is to behave towards our ally, Turkey; because we must have a distinct knowledge of our reciprocal position towards each other and towards the Porte."
It is not enough for me to know in general terms that Brigadier General Williams is a military officer, instructed to act as Her Majesty's Commissioner with the army at Kars. It is further desirable that I should be made acquainted with the extent of his powers on the spot, with the degree to which he is independent of the commander in chief, and how far it is expected by Her Majesty's Government that I shall insist on obedience to his demands, without reference to any doubts entertained of their expediency either by the Porte or by me.Lord Stratford de Redcliffe asks Lord Clarendon, "Do you mean General Williams to be commander in chief, only exempt from the responsibility of taking command of the army in the field?" and he concludes the despatch very judiciously for his purpose, because he gives a delicate hint to Lord Clarendon in reference to the severe letters he had sent out with regard to the Government of Constantinople, in these words:—
We should be inconsistent with ourselves if we sought to trample down what remains of Turkish independence.I ask Her Majesty's Government whether that despatch required an answer? A clear, explicit, point-blank request is made by the Ambassador, to the Foreign Secretary once for all to explain the relative duties and relative authority and the extent of jurisdiction conferred on General Williams, and I want to know where is the answer to that communication? I fancy the Prime Minister and Lord Clarendon must have come to the conclusion that it was inconvenient to explain directly the limits of the authority which General Williams was to exercise, and that, as there was a very pretty quarrel between the Commissioner and the Ambassador, it was better to leave things as they were, and not attempt by any effort on their part to adjust them. On the same day, the 1st of March, arrives the startling letter to Lord Clarendon from Commissioner Williams, in which he utters these words in reference to the Ambassador:—
Whether his influence was sufficient or otherwise to induce the Porte to hear my warning voice, I boldly assert, as a British officer, that such unaccountable silence was highly dangerous to the public cause. What could I not have done in the shape of reform had even a note from Lord Stratford, and an order from the Seraskier, 1623 reached me by the return of the first Turkish post, which was then as regular in its arrival as that between London and Constantinople.The pith and marrow of the first part of our inquiry are all contained in that passage which General Williams submitted to Lord Clarendon. I suppose the House will hardly credit me; I suppose there is hardly a rational man in the country who will believe that no answer was given by Lord Clarendon to that despatch. There were subsequent letters from Lord Clarendon—"I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of such and such a date;" but there was no answer defining General Williams's powers, so that neither party should be perplexed, and propriety and respect for authority should be introduced into the embassy at Constantinople, where it seems never to have before existed. It is an argument in favour of Lord Redcliffe, who may say, "I addressed myself to you upon all the disputes and confusion in the correspondence with General Williams, and having received no answer, my statement in that letter must be taken to be unanswerable." Can this matter present itself in a more ridiculous aspect as between the Government at home and the Ambassador at Constantinople and the Commissioner at Kars? The Commissioner said, if his authority had been recognised, he could have effected incalculable reforms. That is written home. The Foreign Secretary's attention is called to the fact, and he neither writes to the Ambassador nor to the Commissioner, but leaves them to fight it out as best they may. There is another trenchant communication from General Williams in reference to one of the despatches of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, remitted to him by Lord Clarendon. This is the way he describes the analysis of his despatches, forwarded to the Government by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe—
It exhibits, throughout the analysis of my reports from Kars, a marked disregard to my opinions; and a future reference to a Mushir to be appointed is the burden of this long story. In forwarding it for your Lordship's perusal I must, nevertheless, call your Lordship's attention to one or two salient points.And having stated these, he says—
Unhappily it is on record that his Excellency did not do me the honour to acknowledge my communications, public or private, until my despatchcs had reached the number of sixty-one.Now, Sir, those despatches contain the substance of the first part of this inquiry, and before I touch upon the second branch 1624 of it I wish to ask what is the constitutional question arising on those facts, because upon that the House must give its opinion? I perceive by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) that he proposes to refer to a Committee to decide whether the Ambassador was or was not, by his silence or misconduct, the cause of the calamity which occurred at Kars. I beg to ask the House one or two plain questions upon that point. Is the Ambassador responsible to the House of Commons? I say, "No!" Who appoints him? The Crown? Who exercises authority over him? The Minister. Who can call him to account? The Minister. Can we call him to account? No. We operate upon public servants through the medium of the Minister, and to call upon the House to enter upon the consideration of the misconduct of a public officer is to ask the House to assume the Executive. The House can neither appoint nor dismiss. We can only exercise control, by making known our opinion of a Minister that fails in the performance of duty in a matter of great public interest. How does this matter stand? Take it as put in the strongest possible manner for the Government, "Lord Stratford de Redcliffe is an extraordinarily intractable and clever man. He was our Ambassador at Constantinople. He failed to perform duties required of him, and the Foreign Secretary censured him." But where, I ask, is the Ambassador? He is there still. He misconducts himself, and therefore the Government retains him. It is in exact consistency with that principle of Government, latterly adopted, which rewards a man according to his demerits, and, in daring defiance of public opinion, promotes him in exact proportion to the excess of his fault. Some time since we discussed the dismissal of Mr. Kennedy, and I well remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford put the dismissal of Mr. Kennedy upon this ground—not that he was a dishonourable or dishonest public servant, but that he was intractable and difficult to manage—a man who wrangled and disputed with the Secretary of the Treasury, and was not in harmony with the heads of his department. The argument used on the part of an Administration of which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was a Member, was, that when an official misconducted himself or embarrassed public business it was the duty of the Govern- 1625 ment to dismiss him, and the House had no right to question the dismissal, however harsh it might appear. Does the Government justify the conduct of Lord Stratford? Clearly not! Their argument is, that his conduct was unjustifiable; and, if we believe General Williams, was dangerous to the public cause. If the effect of that conduct was to prevent a deserving officer accomplishing great reforms in the army in Asia Minor—if that army was disorganised by the unaccountable behaviour, the apathy, and the neglect of the Ambassador, what is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government who still retain him in office? It is thorough cliqueism to declare that no other man in the world can do the duty of Ambassador at Constantinople but Lord Stratford de Redcliffe; and for the Government to say, "No matter how he misconducts himself, since we censure him, therefore the House of Commons must acquit us," is to maintain that the most marked misconduct of a public servant, if he be in a high position, is certain to be screened by authority, when, in truth, that authority should no more shelter the man in a high position than the humblest official in the country. If this system is to be pursued, a man may be appointed the general of an army; he may refuse to obey instructions; and therefore he may be continued in his responsible position. An admiral may be ordered to sail to a particular point; he may go in exactly the opposite direction; and therefore he may be allowed to retain the command of his fleet. By such a system you put an end altogether to constitutional government; and if the House of Commons sanction it, the sooner you abandon the principle of exercising any authority or control over the conduct of the Executive the better. It is an imposture to talk of public opinion and not to respect it, and it is most indefensible when men engaged in the public service are guilty of a dereliction of duty to shelter them from censure because they are persons of eminence in the State. What is the meaning of the Amendment which the hon. and learned Member for Leominster (Mr. J. G. Phillimore) has given notice that he intends to move? Is it to transfer to a Committee the duties of the Executive? Why, that is worse than the original proposition. Let Her Majesty's Ministers defend the conduct of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe boldly; but, if they do not, I put it to the House, whether it is 1626 possible for any man who respects his own character—I was going to say his conscience—to maintain that the mere fact of their having censured Lord Stratford exonerates the Government from all responsibility in reference to this incomprehensible official. Although I have referred to this subject, because it is important and has arrested public attention, let no one suppose that that is the cardinal point which I wish to bring under the consideration of the House. As far as I can understand the matter, the quarrel ended in March, when the parties who were before at variance commenced a fresh correspondence. The Foreign Secretary wrote to the Ambassador, the Ambassador wrote to the Commissioner, and things went on in Asia Minor and Constantinople as if that deadly feud the records of which are preserved in the Foreign Office, and have been published for the edification of the public, had never existed. Well, that part of the inquiry being disposed of, we come to a very interesting portion of our Parliamentary history. It is impossible to understand the misconduct of which I complain, unless we recall to our recollection what took place at the destruction of an Administration commonly known as "Lord Aberdeen's Government." At that crisis, as the House may recollect, we were favoured with personal explanations which were as interesting as they were important. It appears, likewise, that in another place, a noble Earl (Lord Ellenborough), remarkable for his abilities and his thorough knowledge of this subject, endeavoured to convince some of Her Majesty's Ministers of the necessity of attending to the war in Asia. Having knowledge, vigour, eloquence, and ability, of course he failed, and he now lives to lament the fulfilment of the prophecy which he then uttered. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) was, however, more fortunate in this House, for he made a convert, and that convert was no other than the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. The hon. Member for Aylesbury, in the sad month of December, made a speech on the subject of the war in Asia which was most instructive and useful from the matters which his acquaintance with the subject enabled him to disclose. The noble Member for the City of London said nothing on the subject that night; but it appears that the speech of the hon. Gentleman made a deep impression upon the noble Lord's mind. The noble Lord meditated upon it; it pro- 1627 duced fruits, and the result was the overthrow of Lord Aberdeen's Administration. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), being naturally required to explain his conduct, made a very important statement with reference to the war in Asia Minor, and to the misconduct of the Administration of which he was himself a Member. The Duke of Newcastle was also a Member of the Administration, and became the subject of the noble Lord's judicious and friendly exposure. I will read the statement then made by the noble Lord, and I intend to call upon him to-night for his vote, not on the score of party—because I know on that ground he would not give me it—but on a ground which will, I expect, have stronger influence with him than any party considerations—namely, respect for his personal honour, for his consistency, for his conscience, and for his country. This is the statement of the noble Lord on the subject of the war in Asia Minor:—
With respect to some of these questions— with respect, for instance, to a question raised during the short sitting in December by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard)—namely, that of holding some consultation, and of making some provision for the next campaign—I was not satisfied. My hon. Friend pointed out the danger that might be incurred if the Russian army were increased on the Asiatic side, and he spoke of the necessity of providing some force to meet any invasion of Russia in that quarter. That was a most important subject, and it occupied my mind very much; but I could not find that I received from Lord Aberdeen that support which I had hoped for when the subject was under the consideration of the Cabinet.Now, what does this prove? It shows, in the first place, that the noble Lord was convinced of the truth of the arguments of the hon. Member for Aylesbury. What did that hon. Gentleman recommend? That communications should be opened with Schamyl, that the mountain tribes should be excited against the Russians, and that an armed force should be provided to act against the increased army which Russia would bring into the field in spring. These points were urged with great force and eloquence by the hon. Gentleman. The noble Lord meditated on the subject, and we see the fruit of his meditations. He says the subject was important. He says also that the war in Asia Minor was brought under the consideration of Lord Aberdeen's Cabinet, but that he could make no impression upon that immoveable Premier. Finding that it was impossible to move Lord Aberdeen, the noble Member for the City of London, like a true patriot, 1628 upset the Administration on the ground that it did not conduct the war in Asia Minor with vigour and effect, and, having overthrown that Administration, the noble Lord brought in a band of chosen Whigs who were to do what the previous Administration would not do. That was the course pursued by the noble Lord. I will not inquire whether he did submit fully his views on the necessity of carrying on the war vigorously in Asia Minor to Lord Aberdeen's Government. I was not there; and I can only speak from the statements of the noble Lord himself. I show, however, from a passage of the noble Lord's speech—a passage which no eloquence can mystify or pervert—that an Administration which did not attend to the war in Asia was not deserving of public confidence and support, and that Administration after Administration should be shattered to atoms if they did not undertake that important duty. That duty not having been performed by the Government of Lord Aberdeen, the noble Member for the City of London felt bound, in the discharge of a conscientious duty to his country, to overthrow the Administration. There is something very singular in the account given by the noble Lord of that Government. He seems to have considered that the combination of the Premier, Lord Aberdeen, with the War Minister, the Duke of Newcastle, occasioned all the difficulty, because, according to the noble Lord the Member for London, if we had a good War Minister and a bad Prime Minister, or a good Prime Minister and a bad War Minister, public affairs might be successfully conducted, but with the conjunction of two bad Ministers that was absolutely impossible. Nay, the noble Lord pushed the argument to this singular extent—he says, if the fiery spirit of the noble Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), in the capacity of War Minister, had been added to the frigid nature of the Earl of Aberdeen, the mixture would have been a good one, and the result wholesome for the country. The noble Lord illustrated his meaning by historic references with which his richly cultivated mind enables him to supply himself, and thus to enliven our debates. If Lord Chatham had been in the place of Lord North we should not have made the conquest of Canada; and if Lord North had been in the place of Lord Chatham, we should not have had to lament the capitulations of Saratoga and of Yorktown. Who is Lord 1629 North? We can guess; but the modern Chatham is now before us—he who is to thrill the Senate by his eloquence, to exalt the nation to the heights of his sublime patriotism, to terrify the enemies of England by his name, and, like his immortal predecessor, to make his influence felt wherever war rages in every quarter of the globe. The flatterers of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) say that he succeeded to his position at a time of great difficulty. That is true, but such was his ambition. Times of calamity and confusion produce the greatest minds. Amidst the general gloom the genius of the statesman shines conspicuous, as the brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm. The noble Member for London, however, only wanted one great Minister, but he got two—a Prime Minister of surpassing energy and a War Minister of surprising genius. Let us inquire whether their action has been equal to their ability, and then I will ask the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) whether his splendid illusion is not dispelled, and whether, with reference to the sentiments he expressed on the occasion to which I have referred—if the war in Asia does not appear to have been conducted with due energy and vigour—he can, as a conscientious man, vote against the Resolution I am about to submit to the House. Now, Sir, to business. The quarrel is ended, the Ambassador is in good temper, the Foreign Secretary is happy, the Ministry is changed, Lord Panmure is at the War Department, and General Williams is, where he was before, at Erzeroum, and is, as usual, writing to the gentlemen who received his despatches, but who seldom condescended to notice them. Now comes a subject all important to our inquiry. On the 5th of March a letter was written by Brigadier Williams to Lord Clarendon. This is an important document, which describes the state of the army, and the future prospects of the campaign, and which ought, therefore, if the Minister was disposed to do anything, to have put him in motion. The dispatch was as follows:—
|"Erzeroum, March 5, 1855.|
I had a, long conference with the Mushir on Saturday last on the numerical strength of the army under his command, the very extended line of defence occupied by that army, and the representations he was about to make to the Porte on these subjects. The various detachments of this army amount on paper to 30,000 men, but his Excellency agreed with me in placing 20,000 effective men of all arms opposite to that number. 1630 The lines of defence extending from Ardahan to Kars, and thence to Kaghisman, Toprak Kaleh, Euch-Kelissa, and Bayazid, present a distance so great, when compared with the forces under his command, as to lead Vassif Pasha to fear that, in the event of an offensive movement on the part of the Russians from Akhirkelek, Gumri, and Erivan, it would be impossible to retain the ground which the detachments of his army now hold. In this opinion I fully agree with his Excellency, as my various reports testify. [I do not see these reports among the papers.] I, however, told the Mushir that I thought the allies would not leave us without material assistance to bear the brunt of such an attack; but he replied by asserting an opinion formed from a conversation he recently had held with personages of high rank at Constantinople—that he could expect no assistance from the allies till the fall of Sebastopol, and that he should consequently write by this post to demand a strong and prompt reinforcement of infantry and cavalry, and begged me to support his demand by an appeal to Her Majesty's Ambassador and the British Government. Being, of course, ignorant of the combinations contemplated by the Allies for the defence of this important frontier, I cannot offer an opinion as to the number of Turkish troops desirable for this service [General Williams here shows himself to be a very innocent as well as brave man, for he seems to have seriously believed that our Government were really contemplating some combination for the defence of the Asiatic frontier of Turkey]; but if we are to depend on the unaided services of such troops, I cannot estimate the prompt reinforcements, viâ, Trebizond under 15,000 infantry, 3,000 cavalry, and 2,000 artillery, men (barely enough to man all the guns at our command in these regions). Unfortunately, these discussions are now taking place in March, instead of December of the past year; my warning voice having been utterly disregarded by the authorities at Constantinople.This is a very important despatch, and it proves that the lines were far too extensive to be held by the army then in Asiatic Turkey; and that some other force, Turkish or allied, was indispensable. It is a document which must have commanded the attention of any Minister who professed to have at heart the right conduct of the war—a duty the most important, as the noble Lord the Member for London said, which could occupy the mind of a Government, Another personage now appears upon the scene, and I should be very sorry to overlook the part that he played. Lord Wodehouse, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, is called into activity, and on the 29th of March he writes to the Under Secretary at War:—
Foreign Office, March 29, 1855.
Sir,—I am directed by the Earl of Clarendon to transmit to you to be laid before the Secretary of State for the War Department, copy of a despatch from Brigadier General Williams respecting the reinforcements required for the Turkish army at Kars.1631 The Minister took from the 29th of March to the 12th of April to answer that letter, a period in which he might have gone out to Constantinople, and with his own eyes seen, what was requisite to be done. But when he took up his pen, with the existence of an empire at stake, what did he write? Mr. Peel, on the 12th of April, in reply to Lord Wodehouse, says:—
My Lord,—Having laid before Lord Panmure your letter of the 29th ult., with the copy therein enclosed of a despatch from Brigadier General Williams, relative to the amount of reinforcements which he considers are required for the Turkish army in Asia, I am directed to request you will state to the Earl of Clarendon that Lord Panmure is of opinion that it will be desirable to urge upon the Porte the importance of their paying attention to these requirements whenever the more pressing need of the services of the Ottoman troops elsewhere shall have ceased; and, if Lord Clarendon should concur with his Lordship that it is expedient to adopt this course, I am to request that you will move his Lordship to send instructions to Her Majesty's ambassador at Constantinople accordingly.This is a most charming production, and I cannot help thinking, that when Mr. Macaulay was describing Louis XIV's War Minister, who sketched plans of campaigns, controlled commanders, and was the greatest commissary general, the greatest adjutant general, and the greatest quartermaster general the world ever saw, he must have had my Lord Panmure in his eye. The scope of this important State paper, as far as I can make it out, is, that Mr. Peel writes to Lord Wodehouse, that Lord Panmure would suggest to Lord Clarendon, that Lord Wodehouse should be instructed to direct Lord Stratford to advise the Turkish Government to tell the Mushir to pay attention to General Williams's recommendations. This futile, absurd, and childish performance is the work of the War Minister, who supplanted the man whom the noble Lord the Member for London insisted on displacing for his want of vigour in the prosecution of the war! Any man might well shudder to think of a great nation like England being represented in the crisis of its fate by the author of such a miserable despatch. Then Lord Clarendon comes to the rescue to carry out the design recommended to him by the Under Secretary for War, and in his letter to Lord Stratford he says:—
Foreign Office, April 13, 1855.
My Lord,—I communicated to the Secretary of State for the War Department, a copy of General Williams's despatch of the 5th of March, which will have passed through your Excellency's hands, and in which General Williams calls attention to 1632 the reinforcements required by the Turkish army in Asia; and I now enclose a copy of a letter from the War Department, from which you will perceive that Her Majesty's Government consider it desirable that your Excellency should urge upon the Porte the importance of their paying attention to the requirements mentioned by General Williams, whenever the more pressing need of the services of the Ottoman troops elsewhere shall have ceased.This was the despatch written when a hostile army was on the point of seizing the key of Asiatic Turkey, and then marching on Constantinople. I know not whether M. Pisani or our Ambassador communicated the contents of this despatch to the Porte. On the 26th of April, M. Pisani wrote to Lord Stratford:—
Pera, April 26, 1855.
I have duly communicated to the Grand Vizier, Saffet Effendi, and the Seraskier Pasha, Lord Clarendon's despatch of the 13th of April to your Excellency, relative to the army of Asia, &c. These Ministers told me, in reply, that they were all aware of the urgency of reinforcing that army and their commanders repeatedly recommended that measure; but it is utterly impossible, at least for the present, to spare any of the troops in actual service on the Danube and in the Crimea.With great labour and at much expense to the country these despatches were concocted, and when they were delivered, the Seraskier replied, "Oh, we know all this as well as you—if we had an army of our own we should not want you as an ally, nor if we had a full treasury should we ask you for money! "I am aware it is not possible for even a great man to do great things every day of his life; and no wonder that, exhausted by this last stupendous effort, our War Minister soon relapsed into an official slumber, until, unfortunately, he awakened into mischievous activity in the month of July following. I have heard it said that there are Members of this House who are prepared to vote that "energy and foresight" in this matter have been displayed by the War Department of England! But I will not believe it until I see it recorded on the division list. Let me warn hon. Gentlemen that it is of little moment what becomes of a Ministry, but of the last consequence what becomes of the character of this House. If a body of English gentlemen, the representatives of the people, who have sacrificed their blood and their treasure in a great struggle, are of opinion that when four British officers are enclosed in Kars and Erzeroum, heroically fighting their country's battles, a document such as I have read acquits the Minister of all responsibility for the disaster which oc- 1633 curred, then I say, talk no more of constitutional government, but give us institutions consistent with national safety, and with the primary ends of State policy. Compared with the War Minister, who evinced such signal imbecility, I say that the man whom the noble Lord the Member for London overthrew was an intellectual giant. The first thing done by Lord Panmure on entering office deserves mention. General Chesney, early in August, had sent in to the Duke of Newcastle a plan for carrying on the war in Asia. The main purpose of Colonel Chesney's suggestions was to point out, what was afterwards indicated by Omar Pasha and many others, that a force landed at Batoum would not only save Asia Minor, but uproot Russian power in Georgia. Up to this time Colonel Chesney had never had the honour of speaking with the Duke of Newcastle. He saw himself gazetted to the command of the Foreign Legion, and received a letter from the secretary of the Duke, intimating that, if he were familiar with foreign languages, he should lose no time in coming to London, and accepting the appointment. These orders he obeyed with characteristic promptitude. He came up to London, took the command of the Legion, and continued for a fortnight in the discharge of the duties incidental to that position. The appointment was a good one—no better could have been made. Throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire there was not a military officer better qualified for the post. No man could be more competent than he to give advice at such a juncture, for he was familiar with the country to which the Legion was proceeding—he knew everything about our military establishments, and had predicted that in case of war the Ordnance system would probably break down. But he had not been more than a few days in office when he received a letter from the secretary of Lord Panmure, informing him that, inasmuch as that noble Lord found it impossible to carry out the views of his predecessor, the command must be withdrawn from him. So this gallant and accomplished officer was dismissed as abruptly and unceremoniously as if he had been a footman. And this for no other reason than the vague and untangible one that Lord Panmure found it impossible to carry out the views of his predecessor. Viewing this fact in connection with others which this sad story brings to light, I find it impossible to avoid 1634 the conviction that, from first to last, it was the deliberate purpose of Lord Panmure not in any way to contribute to the prosecution of the war in Asia Minor. I do not say this with the intention of disparaging him, but such is my conviction. On the 15th of May, General Williams wrote to the Earl of Clarendon to say:—
I regret to inform your Lordship of the continued neglect at Constantinople of my requisitions for boots and other necessaries, for the cavalry; these unfortunate men are now even destitute of slippers, and a staff officer informed me yesterday that he had met the regiments coming into line at Toprak-Kaleh, from Koordistan, the greater portion of the men riding in stockings! The requisitions for the infantry have met with equal disregard. Tahir Pasha informed me yesterday that no knapsacks and other indispensable necessaries had reached the army; and this branch of the army must inarch with a most inconvenient bag on their backs, with which they cannot fight. I beg to advise the immediate expedition of 300 artillerymen and a regiment of infantry to Trebizond, to march without delay on this place; it would inspire our troops with no little confidence to know that this army was not totally forgotten by the Imperial Government.On the 17th of April, General Williams again raised his warning voice, and informed Lord Clarendon, that his latest reports from Gumri represented the Russians as preparing for the campaign, and that intelligence recently received led him to believe that the enemy would again advance on Bayazid. He enclosed plans and sketches for the defence of Kars, which are no doubt carefully preserved in the War Department, but up to that date nothing was done for the relief of the fortress. This neglect seems all the more unaccountable, all the more culpable, when it is borne in mind that Colonel Lake, writing to General Williams on the 20th. of April made out a case which should have sufficed to awaken the enthusiasm of the most torpid, and to urge the most listless to action. "I think I may say," he says, "that with an efficient force and a good supply of ammunition, in which it is very deficient, Kars would be able to resist any attack that could be made against it." Surely language such as this was a strong inducement to afford the slight aid required. On the 9th of July, Lord Clarendon received a long despatch from Lord Stratford, informing him that the Porte was alarmed and desired to discover how the army in Kars should be relieved. But where, he asked, were the supplies to come from, or the plans of operation, or what was the best method 1635 whereby to employ the services of the troops with effect? The Government were cognisant of the opinions held by Colonel Lake and General Williams, and knew the state of affairs, which was simply this—that as far as absolute necessaries were concerned the army was deficient, but that if they were plentifully supplied in this respect Kars could and would hold out to the last. On the 9th of June, General Williams wrote to Lord Clarendon a letter, every word of which is important. It is as follows:—
Kars, June 9,1855.
My Lord,—On the day after I addressed your Lordship from Dévéboyonou, I received from Colonel Lake the confirmation of the intention of the Russians to attack this place in great force. I also got a confidential message from the Mushir, proposing to abandon Kars and defend Erzeroum. I instantly rode back to Colonel Lake to beg the Mushir to act with the utmost vigour, and pressed on and reached Kars the day before yesterday, where I have used every endeavour to instil energy into the mind of the Mushir, and I likewise abstained from remonstrating with his Excellency on his strange proposition to abandon a place which we had been at such trouble to provision and fortify, thinking, as I do, that he feels the weight of the false step he was about to take, and is willing to act upon my suggestions.
With this impression I have been occupied all day in stationing the troops in the various batteries, in arming and supplying those batteries with ammunition, and in addressing to each regiment words of encouragement and hope. The enemy, in force about 30,000 men of all arms, accompanied by a train and vast supplies necessary for a siege, is within four hours of us, and will most probably attack us to-morrow.
I have advised the Mushir to write to Mustafa Pasha, of Batoum, for 5,000, to be directed on Ardahan, and to Veli Pasha, of Toprak-Kaleh, to prepare for an instant march when he shall have received orders for it. This is all I can do in our isolated and neglected state, and I am happy to say that our garrison appears in good spirits, and promises me to do its duty.
|"I have, &c.,|
|"W. F. WILLIAMS."|
It was clear to all present that, whether the Russians besieged or turned Kars, the Turkish army required an effort to be made for its relief with all practical despatch, and that of three possible modes of acting for that purpose the only one likely to prove effective was an expedition by Kutais into Georgia. To send reinforcements by Trebizond would be at best a palliative. To establish an entrenched camp at Redout-Kaleh would, at this unhealthy season, be equivalent to consigning the troops to destruction.He then goes on to explain the propositions made by the Turkish Ministers, which were in effect, "that an expeditionary force should be composed of 12,000 men from Batoum and the neighbouring stations; of the troops made over to General Vivian, and estimated at 10,000 of all arms; of General Beatson's Irregular Cavalry, of 10,000 men to be detached from the army in Bulgaria as the complement of the Turkish Contingent; of 5,000 more derived from the same source; of an Egyptian regiment of horse now here, and of another regiment expected from Tunis. To these the Seraskier proposed to add 2,000 Albanians by way of riflemen. These several forces completed, according to the figures, would present a total of 44,400 men, not, perhaps, to be reckoned with prudence at more than 36,000 effectives."Upon the same day a despatch was received from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, urging upon the Government the propriety of attempting to save Kars, and that despatch was accompanied by a memorandum drawn up by General Mansfield, entering into the details which it was necessary that the Government should be made acquainted with in order that they might be able to make the attempt. At that time it was proposed to employ the Turkish Contingent, and I think that it is important to the character of General Vivian to point out that he did not oppose the expedition. General Vivian said that it was one thing to throw an army upon the territory of an enemy, but that it was another to provide proper means of transport for it when thrown there. Now, let the House consider what was the plan laid down by Lord Clarendon for the relief of 1637 Kars. That noble Lord, in a despatch dated the 13th of July, 1855, wrote to Lord Stratford de Redcliffc and told him—
Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the wiser course would be to send reinforcements to the rear of the Turkish army, instead of sending an expedition to the rear of the Russian army. The reinforcements might go to Trebizond, and be directed thence upon Erzeroum. The distance from Trebizond to Erzeroum is less than from Redout-Kaleh to Tiflis, and the march is through a friendly instead of through a hostile country; and at Erzeroum the army would meet supporting friends instead of opposing enemies, and supplies instead of famine. If the army of Kars cannot maintain that position against the Russians it should fall back upon Erzeroum, and the whole Turkish force should be concentrated there. If the Russians are to be defeated, it will be easier to defeat them by the whole force collected than by divided portions of that force; and a defeat would be the more decisive the further it took place within the Turkish frontier. Trebizond is a port where supplies of all kinds might be landed; and Her Majesty's Government believe that it is a healthy place, and that Erzeroum is so likewise. Such an arrangement as that which I have described would give time for collecting and organising the various detached corps of which the proposed army of 40,000 men is to be composed; and Her Majesty's Government entirely concur in Lieutenant General Vivian's opinion, that an army thrown on a coast without means of transport and supplies is doomed to destruction.Now, that despatch contained rather a free translation of what General Vivian did say, for he said nothing about an army being doomed to destruction—all that he said was, that before landing an army on an enemy's coast it was essential to consider all the details, for it was one thing to land an army and another to move it. Now, let us consider this plan. The noble Earl objected to sending succour anywhere except to Trebizond. That was the plan of strategy embraced by the noble Earl. Now, the opinion of the noble Earl or of the noble Lord at the head of the Government on a question of foreign policy, no doubt, would be very valuable, but on a matter of strategy the case is not quite the same. Does anybody living, any military man, entertain the opinion now that the plan of the noble Earl was a good one? Could the noble Earl have known anything about the country or the means of transporting munitions and matériel of war? Why, the proposal made in this luminous despatch for an army, with all its matériel and artillery, to march from Trebizond to Erzeroum would have occupied from three to four months. The road was merely a mule path over which it would be almost impossible to drag artillery, and, in point 1638 of fact, in the last war, Paskiewitsch, when within forty miles of Trebizond, found the road impracticable for artillery, and did not attempt the passage. Now, how was this proposal looked upon by military men who had had the advantage of experience to guide them? Why, Sir, the opinions of Omar Pasha, of General Guyon, of General Mansfield, of Colonel Simmons, of the whole of the members of both French and English embassies, were in direct opposition to the opinion of Lord Clarendon and of the noble Lord the Secretary for War. I repeat that the opinion propounded by Lord Clarendon in this despatch was upheld by nobody. What! fall back upon Erzeroum! Why, Sir, upon the 11 th of July a letter was received from General Williams, almost charging the Governor of Kars with treachery for suggesting the abandonment of that town. That letter was in the possession of the Government when this cowardly suggestion was made—and made to such a man as General Williams—to fall back upon Erzeroum. Why, do you suppose that if the army had fallen back, having abandoned Erzeroum, that distinguished soldier, Mouravieff, would have followed it? You would have been doing the very thing he wanted you to do, and so far from molesting you he would have said, "Good morning, gentlemen, I wish you a pleasant journey; you are on your way to Trebizond, and I am on my way to Constantinople." The proposal was a terrible mistake. I say a mistake, because no one can for an instant believe that any Member of the Government, and least of all the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would wilfully do anything prejudicial to the interests of his country. The object which he had in view was to defend Asia Minor, and was that to be done by abandoning the key of it? And yet, with that object before it the War Office of England suggested to General Williams the propriety of falling back on Erzeroum, and thence upon Trebizond. I can well imagine the feelings of the gallant General Williams when he read that despatch. "Burn it," he would say, "destroy it immediately; let it not be whispered for a moment that such a proposal has been entertained; for it would discourage the troops and lead to the fall of Asia Minor. I will not act upon this suggestion, but, on the contrary, I will fight against famine and against the Russians to the very last, because I know that it is my duty to my country to main- 1639 tain as long as I can the key of Asia Minor, the loss of which will tend only to make the war inglorious, and to lead to an ignominious peace." No, Sir, that despatch, I am happy to say, produced no effect on General Williams, and the military officers whom I have consulted upon this subject all agreed as to the necessity of holding Kars and Erzeroum as long as England had the power of sending assistance there. The interests of this country, the interests of Asia Minor, were signally abandoned by the advice contained in that despatch, and I know nothing that would have given greater satisfaction to General Mouravieff, when Kars fell into his hands, than to find a copy of that document, for it would have taught him for the future what might be expected from the War Department of the British Government. Now I come to the next plan proposed. The next plan was to send detachments of 25,000 men. Now, let me remind the House that it was always maintained by General Mansfield, and all the military men who have written upon the subject, that some effort should he made to relieve Kars by operating by the way of Kutais and Tiflis. That plan, however, was directly opposed by Lord Clarendon and Lord Panmure. On the 14th of July, Lord Panmure, in a despatch to General Vivian, says:—
War Department, July 14, 1855.
Sir,—I transmit herewith, for your information, a copy of a despatch (No. 248) which the Earl of Clarendon has addressed by the present opportunity to Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople, on the subject of the plan proposed by the Porte for the relief of the Turkish army at Kars, and I have to acquaint you that I entirely concur in all that is said in that despatch as to the objectionable character of the plan proposed by the Porte. I place such full reliance on your professional ability that I feel no anxiety lest you should undertake any expedition of a nature so wild and ill-digested as that contemplated by the Porte. While it is your duty to give every aid in your power, not simply as commanding the Contingent, but as a British officer enjoying the confidence of Her Majesty's Government, to our Allies the Turks, it is at the same time necessary that you should be cautious in not risking the honour of the British name and your own reputation by undertaking military operations for which proper bases have not been laid down, communications opened, supplies arranged, and transport provided. A coup de main, by means of suddenly throwing an army on the coast to threaten, or even to attack, an enemy's stronghold, is one thing; but a deliberate expedition to invade an enemy's country, and on his own territory to make war upon him, is quite another. In the first case, something may be hazarded; but in the other, every preparation must precede action. Moreover, from all the information which has 1640 reached me, I have every reason to believe the army of Batoum to be in a deplorable state. I know the Contingent to be scarcely organised; of the Bulgarian troops you can have no knowledge, and I presume that Beatson's Horse are as little reduced to control and discipline as your own troops.He then signs the death-warrant of Brigadier General Williams and our fellow-countrymen in Kars, in these words:—
In short, I am sure it would be madness to succour Brigadier General Williams in this way. It is too late to regret the policy which has left that gallant officer and his army exposed to such straits; but it would be opening the way to fresh failures to follow out the schemes which have been proposed for the relief of that gallant officer.You see he there expresses the opinion that General Beatson's Bashi-Bazouks were as unfit for action as he assumes the Turkish Contingent to be. Unfortunately for the noble Lord, General Beatson has written a book, in which he flatly contradicts the noble Lord. He uses these words:—
On the 12th of September I officially reported to Lords Stratford and Panmure the efficient state of my force (having before made similar applications to go on service on the 7th of July and 14th of August), and consequently begged to be sent on service, offering, upon my own responsibility, to take up transports and embark my men for Eupatoria, Yenikale, Batoum, or Balaklava. Had we been sent to Kars at that time, the fate of its heroic garrison might have been changed; we could have conveyed any amount of provisions, and could have collected thorn, had such duty devolved upon us. But the Ambassador and the Minister for War preferred to accept the evil reports current; my men were officially pronounced unworthy to stand before the enemy. The next year's campaign in Central Asia will show the fatal effects of the fall of Kars. Had common energy been displayed in supporting the Turks—had the Turkish Contingent and the Bashi-Bazouks been marched when I urged the measure—had 'Company's officers' been suffered to distinguish themselves, the expulsion of the enemy from his Transcaucasian conquests would have been comparatively easy. Now, the war in Asia will assume a formidable aspect; the expenditure of men and treasure will be increased fourfold; and even in Europe our political rivals will charge us with yielding Kars as a makeweight against the southern suburb of Sebastopol.There is an answer to the despatch of the noble Lord at the head of the War Department—an answer from an officer who has distingushed himself by his command of irregular cavalry. You will shortly see what a shocking transaction, what a horrible case this is. When, on the 29th of September, General Williams defeated the Russians, he said that had he had a few 1641 hundred cavalry the remains of that army would have been destroyed. His friend, Dr. Sandwith, who was not a military man, said that this might have been effected with 1,000 men. These Bashi-Bazouks were irregular troops which had been proved to be superior to the Cossacks; yet, while their presence was so urgently required at Ears, they were fighting at Constantinople. General Beatson saw that they wanted to be engaged in these operations, and he himself undertook to take up transports for their conveyance. The Ambassador, who quarrelled with everybody, quarrelled with General Beatson, and then the War Minister pronounced upon the corps the opinion which. I have quoted. Who was most capable of understanding these troops—the general who commanded and had always been with them, or the head of the War Department? Am I pressing the despatch of Lord Panmure too far against the noble Lord when I say that, although conscious of the state of things in Asia, he said there were no means of relieving Brigadier General Williams and his friends? Here is a War Minister of a suggestive mind! Here is a man of capacious intellect! Here is a Minister to conduct a great war! It was said by Edmund Burke, in proposing his measure for the conciliation of America—and the observation is a profound, although apparently a very simple one—"It is easy to object;" and a greater philosopher than Burke has described to us a class of persons who appear to be wise by always objecting, because then there is an end of the business; whereas, if you were to assent, there would be something to be done, some energy to be employed, some skill to be made use of, some risk to be run, from which the small mind shrinks, and against which it shelters itself under its own incapacity, pronounces that the thing cannot be done, and leaves valuable lives and the honour of the country to be sacrificed by its imbecility. With the exception of the small artifice on the part of General Simpson of sending a French officer to Constantinople, under pretence of being sick, that he might watch Omar Pasha, the conduct of the military men was throughout most creditable. They were all of opinion that the thing ought to be done; that in war some risk ought to be run. The War Minister said, "It is too late to suggest anything, to contrive anything, or to do anything. That is my opinion. It costs me no little labour and trouble to give that 1642 opinion. Take it for what it is worth." The officers did not understand the character of our War Department. General Mansfield and the others proceeded with their preparations. On the 30th of July they had made all arrangements for the despatch of the expedition upon the receipt of an order from home. That order negatived everything which had been proposed. All this happened at Constantinople. Let us now glance at what occurred in the Crimea. Omar Pasha, being in the Crimea with a force of 60,000 men, for which there was no occupation, and having received a copy of a despatch written by General Williams in June, saw the whole state of the case, and on the 11th of that month he requested an interview with the Commanders of the English and French armies. It is worth while to compare the reasoning of a Turkish statesman with that of the head of the War Department and of an English civilian. Omar Pasha says—
I hasten to inform you that yesterday, after I had addressed to your Excellency the note of the 11th of July, I received from my Government a despatch informing me that the whole of Turkey in Asia up to the gates of Constantinople itself is undefended, and entreating me, as every hour is of the greatest value, immediately to find the means and to put into execution the measures necessary to avert the great danger in which the Government of Turkey, and, in consequence, the cause of the Allies, are placed. Under these circumstances, since I have in the Crimea 60,000 Turks, of whom the greater part are Asiatics, and whose families and property are exposed to the ravages of the enemy, and since I find that that army is inactive in the Crimea, without any prospect of immediate service that I can discover, I consider it my duty to my Sovereign and the common cause to renew to you the proposal which I made in my note of the 11th of July.Omar Pasha is a man of vigour and decision, and Generals Simpson and Pelissier did not like to meet him. On the 12th of July, Colonel Simmons, the artillery officer who was attached to the staff of Omar Pasha, wrote to General Simpson—
Omar Pasha sent to you yesterday a note in which he proposed that he should go with the 25,000 men he had brought from Eupatoria to make a diversion in favour of the garrison of Kars and the Ottoman army in Asia. Since sending that note he has received a communication from the Government of Constantinople, in which he is entreated to consider what can be done to save the interests of Turkey in Asia. The Government inform him that, if Kars should fall, there is no force to prevent the Russians marching directly upon Constantinople; and it is probable that success on the part of the Russians would decide the Persians to take arms against the 1643 Allies. The Porte have proposed to General Vivian to take the Turkish Contingent there, and both Lord Stratford and General Vivian have expressed their willingness that it should go. Omar Pasha, however, thinks that there will be great risk in sending them there, as the men are not yet acquainted with their officers; the officers do not speak their language, and, consequently, cannot command them in the field; and the Contingent, although it might form a garrison, cannot yet be in a condition to march into the interior. The force of the Contingent also is small to make the contemplated operation. Omar Pasha also thinks that possessing, as he does, the confidence of the Turks, and being well known in Asia, where he has made several campaigns, he is more likely to gain the sympathies and assistance of the inhabitants in provisioning, in gaining information, &c., than strangers who do not know the language or country.The Generals had a meeting and a discussion, but that discussion had no result, and Omar Pasha says, in a document written by himself—
It appears from incontestible information that the Ottoman army in Asia, to the number of 10,000 men, blockaded in the entrenched camp of Kars by a superior Russian force, is in a position in which it is probable that, from want of food, if not from some other cause, it may be obliged to capitulate. The Commander of that army, finding that his communications with Erzeroum were cut off, required on the 23rd of June, in the most pressing manner, that reinforcements might be sent to him with the least possible delay, or that a powerful diversion should be made on the side of Redout-Kaleh. It is to be considered that if the garrison of Kars should yield, Erzeroum, which from its situation is a difficult town to fortify, will fall into the hands of the enemy. By this means he would become master of the communications with Persia, and of a great part of Asia Minor—a success which would have a great effect upon the war. The object, therefore, of Saving the town of Kars and its garrison, which is in fact the Ottoman army in Asia, demands the serious and immediate attention of the allied Powers.On the same day five or six important documents reached Lord Clarendon, and among them a most important paper by the Turkish Minister (Fuad Effendi), which was drawn up with excellent taste, and in most appropriate language. On the 5th of August, however, all the former ideas of the War Office had changed. Now Lord Clarendon takes up his pen and writes to Lord Cowley; and how, it would be asked, did Lord Cowley come on the tapis? It was in this way: Omar Pasha, when he was told that we would not allow our Contingent to go to Asia, proposed that the Contingent should be sent to Balaklava, and that he should be allowed to draw from there a number of Turkish troops equal to them in number, with 1644 which he would himself perform the operation in Georgia. The offer was so reasonable that the mere mention of it would seem only to be requisite to secure acquiescence in it. Not so, however. The men who directed the war were 2,000 miles off. The authorities at home undertook to give orders as to details which they did not comprehend; they directed eminent generals who knew all about the matter very much better than themselves, and consequently everything was confusion and delay. On the 1st of August, Lord Clarendon writes to Lord Cowley in these terms—
My Lords,—I transmit to your Excellency herewith a copy of a despatch from Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe respecting the suggestions made by Omar Pasha during his visit to Constantinople for the relief of the Turkish army at Kars; and, with reference to that passage in which his Excellency states that the result of the deliberations of the Divan was, that the troops to be employed in the manner suggested by Omar Pasha, and under his command, should be taken from Eupatoria to the amount of 20,000 men, and from Bulgaria to the amount of 5000 men, and that the British Contingent, with its numbers completed, should occupy the vacant space at Eupatoria, I have to state to your Excellency that Her Majesty's Government are favourably I disposed to this proposition, and they hope that the Government of the Emperor will concur in it.This was not concurred in at first. Throughout the whole of the book you will find that nobody ever concurs in anything; there is an enormous quantity of writing to and fro, but very little progress made. Accordingly, Count Walewski foresees objections to the proposal, but says he will lay it before the Emperor. Lord Clarendon then writes a reply to Lord Cowley which entirely puts an end to all possible reference to the French alliance, as having anything whatever to do with the vacillating and procrastinating policy of the Government. It is dated the 3rd of August, and, after acknowledging the receipt of Lord Cowley's despatches, containing Count Walewski's answer, it goes on to say—
Her Majesty's Government, however, consider the relief of the Turkish troops in Asia of such vital importance that they cannot abstain from laying before the Government of the Emperor the various arguments by which they consider the plan recommended by them may be supported.A discovery which the noble Earl might have made just as well in March as in August. Then follow a series of truisms, which were truisms months before, and 1645 might just as well have suggested themselves then to the noble Lord's imagination—
It is plain that without assistance the whole Turkish force in Asia must be destroyed or captured. The force at Kars is surrounded, and even if able to defend its position against assault, which may be doubted, it must surrender when its provisions are exhausted, and that will happen in a few weeks. The immediate result would be that 13,000 Turkish troops would become prisoners of war, and a strong position be occupied by the Russians. But, moreover, Kars taken, Erzeroum must share the like fate, and the whole of the neighbouring country would be in the hands of the Russians, while the season would be too far advanced for military operations to drive them out of it. If, on the other hand, the Allies do not take Sebastopol before the winter, the Russians, by occupying Asia Minor, will have a considerable advantage over the Allies; and as the Russians have nothing to do on the Danube, and are free from apprehension anywhere to the north of the Danube, they can send into Georgia, and thence into Asia Minor, a force of considerable magnitude. This would be striking a serious blow at the Turkish Empire, and one the effects of which it would be difficult to remedy. If, on the other hand, Omar Pasha were to go to RedoutKaleh or Erzeroum with a sufficient force, the Russians would be driven back or forced to retire. Omar Pasha's knowledge of Asiatic Turkey would give him advantages in carrying on war there which no other commander can possess, while in the Crimea his presence is comparatively of no value.Mark that. The defence I know will be, that it was all-important for the Crimean campaign to keep the Turks in the Crimea; but here you have it, under Lord Clarendon's hand, that Omar Pasha was comparatively of little use there. The noble Lord then goes on to say—
Her Majesty's Government, indeed, feel doubtful whether, if the Turkish Government should desire to avail itself of Omar Pasha's special qualification for service in Asia, any just objections could be made to the Porte's utilising in that quarter the services of one who has proved himself to be so able a commander, and who has succeeded in organising an efficient army at a moment when some of the most important provinces of tile Turkish Empire are invaded by the enemy, and when a considerable Turkish force is in danger of being made prisoners of war. Her Majesty's Government would doubt whether it were wise, even if they felt sure that they had the right to do so, to object to the adoption by the Porte of such a course, especially as the transfer of the Contingent under Lieutenant General Vivian either to Balaklava or to Eupatoria, whichever might be deemed best, would fill up, or nearly so, the void occasioned by the removal of Omar Pasha and a portion of his force to Asia Minor, and the reinforcements sent to Lieutenant General Vivian and to the British and French armies would add still further to the aggregate force of the allied armies in the Crimea.1646 Every word of this despatch is of consequence in discussing this great subject; every word in it is true, except that the date of it ought to be altered from August to March; because it was just as true then as in August, and it furnishes an irresistible argument to show the short-sightedness and the feeble policy of the Government. The answer to this despatch s dated Paris, and it is to the effect that the French Government will not oppose he project of the expedition to Asia under Omar Pasha, "providing the number of Turkish troops before Sebastopol is not diminished." This answer puts an end to all doubt upon the subject. The consent of the French Government is given, and nothing more remains, one would think, but to send orders for the despatch of the necessary troops. But, no. Lord Clarendon unfortunately sends a telegraphic despatch to General Vivian to take the Contingent to Eupatoria, while the Turkish troops which Omar Pasha wished to take with him to Asia happened to be at Balaklava. Such was the perverse mismanagement, the inscrutable policy of the Government. Another whole month was taken up in correspondence as to whether the 10,000 Turks should be taken from Eupatoria or from Balaklava. It is due to Lord Stratford to say, that from the moment his quarrel with Brigadier Williams was ended he acted, in my judgment, with zeal, fidelity, talent, activity, and knowledge; and he was always right, and the department at home was always in the wrong. His despatches are full of the most admirable reasoning, just observation, and sound common sense. He certainly contrives always to put Lord Clarendon in the wrong, and I suspect he did not find that so very difficult after all. He pointed out at this very moment that much precious time was being lost; and, indeed, from the time his quarrel with Brigadier Williams ceased he never ceased to urge upon the Government the necessity for immediate and decisive measures for the relief of the beleaguered garrison. Well, I think it would have been well if the strings of the electric telegraph had been cut, as it appears to have been the cause of a great deal of mischief; for no sooner is a despatch received to-day than it is contradicted to-morrow. Thus, on August 9, there was sent from the Foreign Office a despatch directing that General Vivian's Contingent should go immediately to Eupatoria. Then 1647 Colonel Simmons states that Omar Pasha Lad considered the subject, and had come to the conclusion that the troops should go to Balaklava. What is the House to think of our War and our Foreign Departments? The original despatch sent to the Government of France was to the effect that the Contingent should be sent to Balaklava or Eupatoria, as might be deemed best. Omar Pasha designates Balaklava, and so the discussion goes on, precious time being lost until the season for action is past. I hope the House has read the excellent arguments given by Omar Pasha against sending the troops in the direction of Trebizond, whence the roads to Erzeroum are so bad as would render the movement of long duration and difficult. We come now to the despatch of the 20th of August, in which Lord Clarendon states—
My Lord—I have received your Excellency's despatch of the 8th instant. My various messages by telegraph, and my despatch of the 4th instant, which you will have received since the date of your despatch, will have shown you that Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with that of the Emperor of the French, were willing that Omar Pasha should proceed to Asia to effect a diversion for the relief of Kars, and Her Majesty's Government, in that case, no longer insisted on the view which they had entertained at first that the relief should be effected by way of Trebizond.Here, then, is an open, public, and unqualified declaration that they were at first in the wrong. The despatch goes on—
Omar Pasha, as commander of the Sultan's troops, will be free to direct his movements in the manner most beneficial to the common cause, and the only limitation placed by the two Governments on his proceedings is the condition that the movement in Asia shall not lead to the diminution of the Turkish force employed before Sebastopol and Yenikale, while the Turkish Contingent under General Vivian may be made available for filling up the room of the Turkish troops whom Omar Pasha may take with him from Eupatoria.This was the old thing over again. The French Government made no condition that the Turkish Contingent should be sent anywhere. The only condition was that the number of troops before Sebastopol should not be diminished, yet Lord Clarendon represents it as a condition that the Turkish Contingent should be sent to Eupatoria—a condition which France had no power to make. Well, the Trebizond affair is now over, and August is pretty nearly over too; and now we come to the finale of this business. Lord Stratford 1648 went to the Crimea, to Balaklava, and on the 26th of August he wrote to Lord Clarendon as follows—
I request to be informed definitely and immediately here whether Omar Pasha may take Turkish troops in whole or in part from Balaklava, provided they be replaced by others of the same numerical force; and whether General Vivian's Contingent is in that case at liberty to take position before Sebastopol, instead of going to Eupatoria? Omar Pasha is expected from day to day. He makes his expedition conditional on the power of acting as above. He has stated plausible reasons for this. If transports can be spared by us [the troops?] may land, it would seem, at Redout-Kaleh in about a month. The Russians, who threatened Erzeroum, have retired by the road to Kars. The Turkish army there is stated to have nearly two months' provisions early in August.On the 28th of August, Lord Clarendon replies that Omar Pasha is at liberty to take such of his troops as he pleases from Balaklava to Asia. Is not this melancholy? But then Lord Clarendon thinks it necessary to write over to the French Emperor, and accordingly there is another despatch from France by the telegraph, in which it is stated that "the Emperor has no objection to the removal of the Turkish troops from Balaklava and to their being replaced by others, provided the allied Commanders in Chief have no objection." It was necessary accordingly to send to the Crimea, and the matter was left as before, for then Omar Pasha had to contend with the chiefs, while Brigadier General Williams had previously written from Kars that he had there only two months' provisions, except barley, which had failed. On the 16th of August, Lord Stratford wrote from Therapia that—
The Pasha objects most positively to the plan, transmitted from London by telegraph, of stationing the Contingent at Eupatoria; and he is not prepared to assume the responsibility of commanding the expedition unless the Turkish troops before Sebastopol be allowed to form part of it.Lord Stratford goes on to say—
I have also received from Brigadier General Mansfield a series of remarks corresponding in a great measure with the views of the Ottoman Commander in Chief, and I feel myself bound in duty to recommend the contents of both these papers to the serious and dispassionate consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I cannot presume to offer a personal opinion on matters of this kind, but neither can I conceal my impression that a disregard of Omar Pasha's advice would expose the success of a very important and unavoidable enterprise to the most perilous chances.1649 This despatch was received on the 29th of August, so that the debate goes on without end, each party proposing and each contradicting, so that nothing is positively decided. At last it appears that Colonel Simmons imagines that everything is done, and that a movement may be commenced. But after it was commenced he wrote to Lord Clarendon, saying that, though the Turkish Government has commenced a movement, and is embarking troops, they entertained a doubt, in consequence of the Contingent receiving orders to go to Eupatoria and not to Balaklava; and the letter contained an unpleasant sentence, to the effect that the Porte, having done all in its power to effect a movement for the relief of the army at Kars, considered itself relieved from responsibility for any disaster in consequence of the non-execution of any of the plans which had been proposed. It was impossible to read these despatches except with sentiments of pain. Lest the House might think that all difficulties were now removed, I will read a despatch, written on the 7th of September by Lord Clarendon, who seemed to have been groping among some old papers, and to have found something written by Colonel Simmons of a much anterior date—
Sir,—The account of the arrangements proposed by Omar Pasha for the relief of the army in Asia which is contained in your despatch of the 26th ult. is inconsistent with subsequent statements which have reached Her Majesty's Government. In your despatch you report that Omar Pasha reckons upon taking a portion of the Turkish troops from before Sebastopol and replacing them by General Vivian's Contingent. But it appears by a despatch of a later date from General Simpson that Omar Pasha has given it as his opinion that General Vivian's Contingent would not be fit to take up a position before Sebastopol until next spring; and in consequence of that opinion, and by reason of General Simpson's protest against having the Contingent sent to him, which protest was founded upon Omar Pasha's opinon, Her Majesty's Government have determined that the Contingent shall not go to join the army before Sebastopol.To this the noble Lord received a crushing reply from Colonel Simmons. Colonel Simmons, in his despatch of September 23, explains the apparent inconsistency of which he had been accused by Lord Clarendon by stating that Omar Pasha had changed his opinion with regard to the expediency of placing General Vivian's Contingent before Sebastopol, and gives the reasons which had caused that change of opinion. What is the result of this 1650 despatch? Why, it amounts to nothing more than this—In July, Omar Pasha thought it would be better to train the Contingent in a fortified town than to expose them in the open field, but he afterwards changed his opinion. Yet, in consequence of that opinion having been expressed in July, Lord Clarendon, on the 7th of September, annihilates all hope of effecting a diversion in Georgia! Thus every proposition for the relief of Kars was rejected, and the only excuse that can be made out by the Government is something about the French alliance—a pretence entirely got rid of by the original despatch of the French Government allowing any measure to be taken, provided the number of troops before Sebastopol was not diminished. But I wish to know, irrespective of any other question, whether the Government understoood the paramount necessity, which was pressed on them from first to last, of supplying the army in Asia with provisions. In September, 1854, Mr. Brandt informed them that the harvest was most abundant, and that supplies of all kinds could be secured by—what?—by the command of a little money. And there are no less than ten or twelve despatches, all pointing out the necessity of supplying the commissariat and the transport corps, some stating that any number of bullock carts might be procured by honest payment, and others urging the necessity of obtaining for General Williams the superintendence of the commissariat. But the necessary commission for that purpose is never obtained by Lord Stratford, and General Williams, as usual, assumes the right of acting, and he states the result in a letter of May 7, 1855, to Colonel Lake. He says that he had represented the dangerous scarcity of provisions to Tahir Pasha; that he contrasted the sum of £1,000, which would cover the increased rate of hire of mules, with the disgrace of a retreat from Kars at the eleventh hour; that Tahir Pasha immediately assented to his suggestions; that within the last two days 2,000 animals had been despatched with provisions and medicines, and the result had been, as he expected, prices had fallen in consequence of the prompt payment he had guaranteed, and Tarif Pasha had engaged 2,000 more mules. This is a clear ease, and it is further corroborated by a passage in Dr. Sandwith's book. I suspect that Dr. Sandwith could have told us a great deal more than he has, if he had liked; still 1651 he has told us something. After describing the exertions of General Williams and the refusal of the Pashas to interfere, Dr. Sandwith proceeds—
At last the General's indignation impelled him to take the matter into his own hands, and then what a scene followed! No sooner was it, known that the English Pasha wanted baggage animals, and that he was guarantee for the pay, than hundreds of mules and horses were at hand, and the first batch was instantly engaged at the price asked. This naturally attracted a still larger supply; the price consequently fell, so that, although the hire of the first hundred; animals shocked the ideas of the Pashas, they were astonished to find that crowds offered themselves, and that the prices fell in proportion. Had not General Williams taken into his own hands the whole commissariat, Kars must have fallen from famine in a week; while with the key to Asia Minor thus in the hands of Mouravieff, and the summer before him, there was not an obstacle which could have prevented the Russian overrunning the whole empire to the Bosphorus. It is difficult to know which shall exceed, admiration or regret, for while we cannot too much rejoice that that calamity was averted by our General's prompt decision and energy, we must lament that he did not enter Kars armed with plenary powers on this especial question, for then Kars would have been saved.I cannot comprehend how this part of the case is to be answered. I asked a military man, acquainted with the country, what sum of money would have saved Kars. He thought £50,000 would have been sufficient, but £100,000 would have been an extravagant sum. Will any one tell me that if the Minister had asked the House for that sum to save the key of Asia Minor he would not have obtained it? A Ministry that undertakes the conduct of a war cannot escape from responsibility by saying that they did not choose to ask for money. If they had asked and been refused, the case would be very different. At the time of the Spanish war the Government—we then had a Government of ability—did not ask for permission; they did what they thought necessary. Surmising what may be the answer to this part of the case, I will now show that one more futile was never attempted. I undertake to say that it was determined to give no assistance to the army at Kars. This is a strong assertion, but I make it deliberately. After the debate in this House upon the Turkish loan, Lord Panmure, in another place, expounded the sentiments of the Ministry with regard to the conduct of the war. Lord Panmure knew that the state of things in Asia was desperate; he had written the despatch of the 14th of July, in which he said that it 1652 was too late to do anything, and regretted the policy by which General Williams had been abandoned, and he had read Lord Clarendon's despatch to the French Government, stating that, unless assistance was sent to the army in Asia, Kars was lost. A noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), who, in the other House, from first to last endeavoured to hammer some sense into the heads of the Government, said, upon the 3rd of August, relative to the necessity of relieving Kars:—
I have, from the very first, earnestly, but fruitlessly, endeavoured to impress upon Her Majesty's Government and the House the necessity of attending to the war in Asia. When news arrived last year of the defeat of the Turks in front of Kars, General Williams was sent out, and he has now with him three officers, and but three officers. That, I believe, is the only assistance which has been given in Asia; and those officers are obliged to work all day, overlooking the fortifications, and to go out all night to the outposts, because there are no persons on whom they can rely for the performance of those important duties. I say that is a great neglect. It is a neglect of the interests of Turkey and of the Allies, for you may depend upon it, if once Russia is in possession of Erzeroum, she will hold that place, and Turkey in Asia, and Persia also, will be at her command, and she will have gained as much as she will have lose if you should capture Sebastopol.Now a more direct appeal to the Government to know what had been done in Asia Minor could not be imagined. Lord Panmure, in reply, spoke these words. He said—
My Lords, in reference to the position of affairs in Asia, I must say that I regret this as much as the noble Earl. But Turkey is in that quarter able to maintain herself against her enemy; and I should have some hesitation, considering the difficulties to which I should expose Her Majesty's troops, in placing them in that; part of Asia where the Russian troops now are. The noble Earl has threatened Her Majesty's Ministers in the month of November with a visitation of public opinion.Now, I ask the House whether a grosser deception could be put upon the people of this country than that representation of Lord Panmure's on the 3rd of August, when he was charged with a neglect of duty in the prosecution of the war—when he was asked, what he intended to do, and when he intended to do it. The Turkish loan was then before Parliament. Let this sentence never he forgotten:—"Turkey is in that quarter able to maintain herself." Now, I appeal to the House and to the country to say, is that candid? Is it fair? Is it true? Did the Duke of Newcastle ever do anything like that? 1653 Did Lord Panmure write a despatch on the 14th of July to say that there was no room for hope? Did this noble Lord who is the War Minister of England write a despatch to say it was "too late to regret the policy which has left General Williams and his army exposed to such straits?" Did he read that despatch of the 3rd of August to the French Government? He did. And yet, when asked in public for information relative to the war, he says, "I think Turkey in Asia will be able to maintain herself." Why, if the House will pardon that conduct on the part of a Minister who is bound to speak the truth—if it will tolerate conduct such as that—talk not to me of Ministerial responsibility. It is a farce. That statement was made to lull the public suspicion—to calm the public mind. It was made as Parliament was about to break up for the Session. I impeach this Minister for shameful neglect, and I charge him with having failed in his duty, not only to his Allies and to his Sovereign, but to the sacred cause of truth. Kars was beleaguered audits garrison starved. Those gallant officers who defended Kars heroically I should be ready to thank upon my bended knees for what they have done for England. Is there any man in this House who believes that when our Plenipotentiary entered the council-room at Paris he was not met by the conquest of Anatolia and the capture of Kars? I was not there, but I believe as firmly as if I had been there, that the first thing Lord Clarendon heard at Paris from the Russians was, "We shall give you very little of Bessarabia, because we have taken Kars and Anatolia." Why, here were 6,500 square miles of territory. What saved you from disgrace at Paris was the resolution of General Williams in having maintained himself at Kars so long and saved Erzeroum—in having battled with famine and an overpowering force, and in having, on the 29th of September, won a splendid victory against the very enemy who afterwards obliged him to succumb. If the Russians had taken Erzeroum and Asia Minor, what sort of a peace should we have obtained? Can Her Majesty's Government comprehend the load of debt which is due to those noble men who contended against famine and despair, and who saw those around them supporting nature by tearing to pieces the decomposed remains of buried animals? That peace would have been most unsatisfactory but for the bravery of those four English- 1654 men, and their doctor and secretary, Mr. Churchill—who, on one occasion threw away his pen and pointed a gun—who on the 29th of September won a glorious victory, so that, according to the statements of Dr. Sandwith and General Williams, but for the want of a few cavalry the Russian army would have been annihilated. But at length the Turkish army was obliged to surrender, and the Government is ready to knight General Williams. Lord Clarendon is indignant when he hears that Kars is taken. He writes to direct that the Governor of Erzeroum may be brought to trial; he says, "Arrest Tahir Pasha, and let him be tried for cowardice and treachery." Is this the way to correspond with your allies? What right have you to address an independent Power in this way? Was it for Lord Clarendon, who had sent them no men, no provisions, no help,—who had given them nothing but smooth, words, to say, "Bring Selim Pasha and Tahir Pasha to trial?" Lord Stratford replied that he had told the Porte what his Lordship said; but, he added, "General Mansfield informs me that General Guyon, in speaking of Selim Pasha, described him as a man of undoubted courage." He had served under Sir C. Napier in Syria, and what is the ground upon which he or Tahir Pasha are charged with cowardice? The Governor of Erzeroum did not march out of Erzeroum with 5,000 men to attack Mouravieff with an overpowering force. Why, if General Simpson had been at Erzeroum with a similar force, would he have gone? I do not believe he would have gone a yard. And you insisted upon bringing the Governor of Erzeroum to trial. If he had been one of your own generals would you have done so? Not at all; you would have given him three medals. That charge of cowardice is a strong charge to bring against a military man. I represent a military constituency, and lately they presented three brothers distinguished in the Crimea with three swords. Suppose some one had said that those men were rank cowards; what would be their feelings? One of these Turks censured by Lord Clarendon commanded the artillery in a, bravely fought engagement. He was educated at Woolwich, and was as brave a man and as good a soldier as ever stood before an enemy. But that is not all. Irony is not the noble Lord's forte; but he had got hold of a letter written by the Porte to the defenders of Kars. I believe it to have 1655 been sincere. In the letter there is this passage:—
The signal victory which you have gained by the grace of God, and under the auspices of His Majesty the Sultan, is an event which will fill a bright page in history. The courage and valour displayed on this occasion by your Excellency, the officers and soldiers of the Sultan's army under your command, and by the inhabitants of Kars, are deserving of universal praise. They have been duly appreciated by His Imperial Majesty, who has graciously extended his Royal favour towards yourself, the army under your command, and the people of Kars, in reward of the brilliant service rendered by them. The sufferings undergone by the Imperial forces beleaguered in Kars have troubled the sleep and repose of all of us, and we have never ceased to pray for their safety and success. We were conscious of the zeal and intrepidity which animated your Excellency, and of the infinite mercy of God, and found consolation in this reflection. On the other hand, we worked day and night in devising means to oblige the enemy to raise the siege, and the joyful tidings of this victory has infused new life into us. Such a service rendered to our gracious master is a glory to the State and to the nation, and His Majesty has permitted that we likewise, as companions, should offer our thanks and congratulations to our brethren, who have been made worthy of so great a victory. We, therefore, from the bottom of our hearts, offer our warm thanks and congratulations to your Excellency and all the officers and troops of the army, our brothers; and by that you will convey the same to all of them, with our prayers for their prosperity and salvation.The noble Lord had the good taste and good feeling to write the following despatch to Lord Stratford—
With reference to your Excellency's despatch of the 4th inst., I have to state to you that Her Majesty's Government concur with your Excellency as to the character of the letter which the Sultan's Ministers have addressed to the defenders of Kars. The neglected garrison of Kars will at least have the satisfaction of knowing that their sufferings troubled the sleep and repose of the Turkish Ministers, who, in default of all ordinary measures of relief, never ceased to pray for their safety and success.And is that a letter that ought to have been written by a Minister of England to the Minister of an independent Power? Is it intended for irony? Is it sarcasm? I do not ask if it is just. But there are two questions I should wish to put to the noble Lord. Did he ever hear of a country whence went forth the youth, the manhood, the high spirit of the land to fight in a distant place for the glory of that country? Did he ever hear of their being abandoned by their Government to perish by starvation, by cold, and by every combination of wretchedness; and did the miserable fate of his countrymen ever trouble his slumber or disturb his repose? I have another 1656 question to ask the noble Lord. We have heard that some of the Turkish officials have been accused, brought to trial, and punished. Did the noble Lord ever hear of a country where officials are not dismissed or punished for mistakes or delinquencies, but where, in daring defiance of public opinion, they are rewarded and promoted in exact promotion to their demerits and faults? Did he ever of private Judges in Turkey who condemned and degraded officials; or of a Vizier writing to the Judge on a trial, and telling him that, whatever his decision might be, he would protect him? Though I condemn the Turkish Government, I am bound to say that there is consistency in it. There is none here, for, while we have a cold pretence of respecting public opinion and the interests of the public service, at bottom, there is an utter disregard of and indifference to both. Did not the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster state in our hearing that when in August he visited the noble Lord on the subject of Kars he could get no assurance that measures would be taken to relieve the starving garrison of that devoted city? When the hon. Member for Aylesbury called our attention to our relations with Persia he obtained no satisfactory answer from the noble Viscount at the head of the Government—and what is the result? We hear that the Persian Ambassador has been received with great cordiality in St. Petersburg, that he has been loaded with presents, and that an arrangement way probably be made with respect to Herat, on the subject of which Sir John Cam Hobhouse spoke so eloquently. Out of a war with Russia into a war with America—out of a war with America into a war with Persia—out of a war with Persia into a war with Russia again. No men could be more daring than our Ministers as long as there is nothing to be done; but when you come to facts—when the question is how to relieve the garrison of Kars in the speediest and most practicable manner—what is the result? Nothing; weeks and months arc permitted to pass away unheeded, and the end is disaster and disgrace. Do not let it be said that I wish to screen Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. I believe his conduct to be deeply blameable; but the attempt to ride off upon the notion that the question is one merely affecting an ill-tempered and intractable public servant is so transparent a delusion that it never can impose upon the House. I ask you now, as men 1657 of business and of common sense, are you satisfied with the conduct of the war? There are not two merchants in this House who, if they had retired to the library for half an hour, could not have devised a plan for saving Kars and preserving its garrison and their gallant commander. But we are told in the public newspapers that it is useless to inquire into the past. It is true, Sir, that we cannot redeem the past; but we may take precautions for the future. Peace, with its blessings, may disappear; war, with its horrors, may break forth again; yea, a more terrible war may lurk under a hollow peace—Mars gravior latet in pace. It is now our duty to provide for the conduct of the next war in which we may unhappily be engaged. It was a maxim of the ancients never to pardon a second blunder in the conduct of war—a profound maxim, and one which we ought to adopt. Can you refuse to affirm the Resolution which I have placed before you? I ask you fearlessly—not appealing to one party more than another, because I believe that all parties are equally desirous and resolved to maintain the honour and uphold the glory of our country—are you satisfied with the prosecution of the war? How is it possible that you can be so? Are you prepared to say that England could do no more than send four men and a doctor to cope in Asia with the resources of the colossal empire of Russia, leaving them, moreover, to perish without the least atom of assistance? Will you refuse before Europe to acknowledge your obligations to the Turkish army? I have placed that point first in the Resolution, because it deserves the best and most prominent place. The Turkish troops are worthy of your thanks. They gave to your countrymen all they could; they shed their blood for them; they endured famine and suffering in every form and shape; they followed the gallant Williams, proclaiming to the last, "Such a Pasha we never saw before!" Once only were they observed to use the language of murmur and complaint. When commanded to surrender to the enemy they had conquered, it is recorded that they dashed their muskets to the ground and cursed the country which they served and the country which had betrayed them. But in that moment of anguish they mistook the Government for the people of England. There is not an artisan in the country who would not have shared his last crust with them—who would not have shed 1658 his blood to save them from destruction. Will you refuse to make public and joyful acknowledgment of your debt of gratitude to the English officers who took part in the defence of Kars? I hardly think there will be a dissentient voice against that proposition. The gallant Williams speaks to you from his captivity—from his bed of suffering—and speaks to your hearts—telling you that the fall of Kars endangered the Asiatic territories of Turkey and involved even larger interests in a great and terrible peril. Can you hesitate further to say that there was a want of foresight on the part of Her Majesty's Government? Where is the foresight—where the ability—where the brilliant enterprise well conceived and ably executed—where the comprehensive design—where the judicious use of the wealth of the world or of that mighty fleet which is said to be able to sweep the seas? Search through this mass of jargon, and you will look in vain for the evidence of wisdom or vigour. Here you have hollow words for heroic deeds—rapid despatches for glorious actions. Turkey expected and deserved more from England, and therefore, Sir, I place this Resolution in your hands, invoking in its support the votes of a patriotic Parliament, as I anticipate the approving voice of an indignant people. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution. 1658
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That, while this House feels it to be its duty to express its admiration of the gallantry of the Turkish Soldiery, and of the devotion of the British Officers at the Siege of Kars, it feels it to be equally a duty to express its conviction that the capitulation of that fortress, and the surrender of the army which defended it, thereby endangering the safety of the Asiatic Provinces of Turkey, were in a great measure owing to the want of foresight and energy on the part of Her Majesty's Administration.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, if the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down thought it necessary, when he was about to make so powerful and eloquent a speech, to bespeak the indulgence of the House, I cannot but feel how much more necessary it is for me, not possessing any such power as he so eminently commands, and labouring also under indisposition, to ask the forbearance of the House while I enter upon a task which I should have been very glad to be spared. Having, however, taken the trouble of wading through this voluminous correspondence, I feel I should be flinching 1659 from my duty if I were not to attempt to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman. I must, however, in the first place, ask the House to descend from those lofty flights into which the vivid and powerful rhetoric of the hon. and learned Gentleman has led him to the more sober region of facts and reality, into which the whole case resolves itself, for it is upon a simple statement of facts alone that the whole question depends. I can lay no claim to that brilliant oratory of which the hon. and learned Gentleman is so great a master; hut I do trust that I shall be able in a simple and unadorned manner, to lay before the House a statement of facts, upon which facts I shall ask for an acquittal of those against whom a charge has been brought by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I shall not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman in his discursive range over the earlier history of Russian policy, or of Russian aggression. It is no longer necessary to stimulate the minds of Englishmen with sentiments of hostility towards that Power by pointing out the various acts of aggression and encroachment which Russia has committed. Happily, we have now arrived at a period of peace, and I feel that I may with confidence say, that by the conditions of that peace we have achieved all those objects for which the war was originally undertaken. I will come at once to the case of Kars—and will deal with Kars alone; and there I admit the necessity of going back in the review of events to the commencement of the war, in order that we may see what was the condition of the Turkish army in Armenia at the time when General Williams went out as the British Commissioner. To judge how far the English Government are responsible for the catastrophe of Kars, it is, I repeat, necessary to consider what was the state of the Turkish army at the time that General Williams joined it. However brilliant the success of the Turkish arms on the Danube, in Asia the Turkish army had been greatly discomfited. In July and August, 1854, the Russians had succeeded in driving back the Turks in one case, and in the other, upon an attack being made on the Russian forces, the Turks were discomfited, with great and signal slaughter. It was immediately after this that General (then Colonel) Williams was directed to go to the seat of war in Asia. The Turkish army in Asia was not worthy of the name of an army when General Williams at- 1660 tached himself to it. General Williams himself describes it to have been in a most lamentable condition. Discipline there was none. Nine-tenths of the infantry had never seen service before; they were totally ignorant of the commonest drill; many knew not how to load their arms, and the destitution of the army was dreadful. They had no clothing, no ammunition, nor any stores, but were living from hand to mouth. The horses wore in the same miserable condition. They were reduced to half-rations, and were so reduced, both in number and strength, as to be of very little use. At that time there were but six days' forage in Kars. The officers were worse off, if possible, than the men. General Williams describes them as being utterly incompetent, and altogether unworthy of being considered a military force. They were utterly incapable, as soldiers, in action; and when out of action they were, both soldiers and officers, a set of robbers and plunderers. The officers actually robbed the men of their rations—of their meat, bread, and rice; and it was confidently affirmed that the General in Chief of the Turkish army at Kars was at the head of this system of plunder. The medical department was, if possible, worse than the military. There were no medicines, for the Turkish doctors had availed themselves of the laxity of all discipline to make a rich harvest by selling the medical stores, and then pretending either that they had not received any, or that they had been seized by the Russians. The only instruments which were found among the army were such as were perfectly useless, unless, indeed, the whole of the men had taken their families with them, for the only ones discovered were obstetric instruments, and for which I apprehend they could not readily find purchasers. That was the state in which General Williams found the Turkish army, but which he very justly designates as a rabble, and no army. Now, these were circumstances to be taken into consideration when the House was called upon to judge how far the British Government were responsible for the defeat and discomfiture of the army at Kars.
General Williams, on his arrival, sought to remedy that state of things. He urged upon the Governor General at Erzeroum the state of affairs, and pointed out the utter ignorance of the Mushir of Kars, and his incapacity to make proper provision for the garrison, and suggested that magazines 1661 should be established. Well, to a certain extent General Williams succeeded. The next thing he did was to apply to Tahir Pasha, the commander of the artillery at Kars, to reduce the insubordination of the troops. In order to do so it was necessary to obtain the co-operation of the Turkish Government; and General Williams not only communicated with the Government of this country, but also with Lord Stratford do Redcliffe, at Constantinople, on the subject. But it is said that General Williams took all these things upon himself without any authority or any communication with the Government at home. It is very true this Government could not give him any authority. All it could do was to give him instructions how to act as the British Commissioner. But the instructions of General Williams were clear and definite. He was, in the first place, to ascertain the condition of the Turkish army, who were the general commanders, what was their capacity, and what reliance could be placed on their military skill. He was also instructed to give all the advice he possibly could, in order to promote the interest of the Turkish Government, and the welfare and success of their army. General Williams was also referred to Lord Raglan, but the hon. and learned Gentleman has said that Lord Raglan gave General Williams no instructions. Now in that statement the hon. and learned Gentleman is wholly inaccurate, because there is to be found among the mass of papers that have been published a very important despatch from Lord Raglan, giving the fullest instructions to General Williams as to what he was to do. Then it was said that General Williams had received no authority from the. Turkish Government. Surely, that was no fault on the part of the British Government! The instructions from the Home Government were, that General Williams should obtain from the Turkish Government full authority to act, full instructions from them, and that he should accept every assistance from the Turkish Government, and that its co-operation should be studied. But if these instructions were not sent out by the Turkish Government, as they ought to have been, and this co-operation was not accepted, the Government at home, surely, were not to blame. The instructions sent to General Williams were precise and clear. Well, General Williams then puts himself in communication with Lord Stratford de 1662 Redcliffe, and points out to him the defects of the army at Erzeroum and Kars, and he prays that instructions may be sent to the Governor of Erzeroum to forward the supplies that were required by the army at Kars; and he urges, above all things, that Selim Pasha, who was at the head of the army, but utterly unworthy of that position, should be immediately recalled, and that his aide-de-camp should likewise be recalled. Those statements of General Williams with which I have taken the liberty of troubling the House are spread over several documents, but the substance of them was condensed into a tabular statement in one book, which was by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe submitted to the Turkish Government as forming the foundation for his application at once to rectify the abuses which were complained of by sending out the necessary supplies from Constantinople—that is to say, General Williams asked that military supplies should be sent from Constantinople by way of Trebizond; but, inasmuch as it was impossible to send grain and stores of that description over the mountains, they were to be collected in Asia Minor and forwarded to Erzeroum and Kars. Now, Sir, I do not think, with respect to this matter, that there is anything for which to blame Lord Stratford.
As to his omission to correspond with the Commissioner, I am not here to defend that for a single moment. It is impossible to defend it; but I think that anybody who is conscious of what a man in a high official position feels at the slightest intimation even of censure from his superiors must agree with me that the censure of Lord Clarendon, conveyed in those dispatches to which attention has been called, of the 6th and 11th of January, 1855, must have inflicted very considerable pain and mortification upon the individual to whom they were addressed. But the question I ask of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to which I beg a candid and fair answer, is this:—Are you prepared to say that Her Majesty's Government ought to have recalled Lord Stratford de Redcliffe? I ask the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside) and the other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite this question:—Will they stand up in their places and say, that if Lord Derby's Government had been in power instead of the present Administration, they would have recalled my Lord Stratford de Redcliffe under those circumstances? 1663 Recollect that that noble individual is one of the most distinguished diplomatists whose services England can command. Remember, also, that he is no partisan of the present Government. They have no interest in protecting him. He was your (the Opposition's) statesman—he was of your own creation; and when your party had the opportunity of power you offered him the place of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and when you named another afterwards to that post, Lord Derby himself created Lord Stratford do Redcliffe a Viscount, leaping over the first and subordinate step in the peerage, and thereby marking in the highest degree his sense of the value of his diplomatic services and of the high position to which he was entitled. It is also perfectly well known to every one, both in this House and in this country, that there is no one who ever filled the post of British Ambassador at Constantinople who stood so well with, or who exercised so much influence with the Porte, as Lord Stratford de Redcliffe. Now, though Lord Stratford had undoubtedly been guilty of a very serious omission, which, as I have just said, I do not stand here for a moment to justify, in neglecting to answer or to take any notice of the series of communications from General Williams, I still ask, when you look at what his acts have been as regards the rendering of practical assistance to General Williams, and find that he has not been wanting in that respect, whether you would, under those circumstances, say that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe ought to have been recalled by the Government? So much for that part of the case. I must say, however, in passing, that I could not help being somewhat struck, and, if I maybe allowed the word, amused, at the odd dilemma in which the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to find himself. He began by saying that he should leave Lord Stratford to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government. He seemed to have got an intimation from some quarter or other that Lord Stratford was to be tenderly handled; but it is the natural bent of the hon. and learned Gentleman's disposition to attack everybody and everything, and, following his instinct, he over-rid his prearranged determination; falling foul of Lord Stratford, he ended by pouring out upon him all the vials of his vituperative wrath. Now, I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite fairly to grapple with this question. Are you pre- 1664 pared to censure the Government because Lord Clarendon did not think it right or expedient—under the circumstances, at a time of great emergency, and when it was of the last importance to this country to have as Ambassador at the Porte one who stood upon friendly terms and relations with the Government of Turkey—to recall so distinguished a diplomatist as Lord Stratford de Redcliffe? Can you stand up and say that you are prepared to censure the Government for the course which they pursued in that respect? I cannot follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into all that magnificent declamatory eloquence in which he is so great a proficient; but I think that in this House, addressing as I do men of calm judgment and understanding, a simple statement will be more to the purpose, and will have more effect, than all the declamation and invective that can by the most skilful person be heaped together. I do assure the House that I listened with the greatest possible attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, with the anxious endeavour to find out what were the real points on which his accusation turned. I have dealt with one of those points, I hope, satisfactorily; and I now pass on to the remainder of the case.
From that time I find General Williams in constant communication with Lord Stratford, and there is no lack of correspondence, no lack of energy on Lord Stratford's part in promoting as far as in him lay the object which General Williams had so much at heart. It is said that when General Williams, in answer to the letters of Lord Stratford, justifying himself, urged that he had not been dealt with as he ought, Lord Clarendon did not do sufficient to vindicate General Williams; and; further said that Lord Stratford put to Lord Clarendon a question which Lord Clarendon ought to have answered; namely, what was the position which General Williams was to be considered as occupying as Her Majesty's Commissioner with the army of Kars? Well, there might have been, in truth there would have been, much force in that objection on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman were it not that in the meantime, under the pressing instructions of Lord Clarendon, Lord Stratford had obtained from the Turkish Government that which, also by the instructions of Lord Clarendon, he had applied for long before, namely, the firman constituting General Williams a Ferik or general of 1665 division of the Turkish army, and which gave him, therefore, a clear, distinct, and definite rank. Moreover, at that time a change took place in the command of the Turkish army at Erzeroum. General Williams having made it perfectly clear to the English Government that Zarif Pasha was unfit for the post which he occupied, Lord Stratford was instructed to use his utmost endeavours to obtain the appointment of a more efficient general to that command. The British Government, as well as Lord Stratford, were extremely anxious that a European general should be appointed, because they knew how few Turkish officers there were who were competent to exercise the functions of general in chief. The Turkish Government, however, would not accede to that request. Jealous of foreigners at all times, they were unwilling to transfer the command of Kars to an European general, and Ismail Pasha was, therefore, appointed. It unfortunately happened that Ismail Pasha was taken ill—or was said to be ill—and he could not join the army. The result was, that Shukri Pasha was appointed to the chief command, with the assistance of Hussein Pasha, as chief of the staff. We now find that General Williams at that time had very great difficulties to contend with. He was remonstrating from time to time, pointing out objections and obstacles, and asking the assistance of the British Government and Lord Stratford; and we find him invariably obtaining the most efficient assistance both from Lord Clarendon and Lord Stratford. But all that has been entirely passed over by the hon. and learned Gentleman. It answered the purpose of the hon. and learned Gentleman, in bringing forward his Motion, to single out those parts which make in his favour, while he dexterously throws in the background those which make against him. Immediately upon his appointment, Shukri Pasha sets to work to thwart all the attempts of General Williams to introduce reform, discipline, and improvement into the army at Kars, and in all this he is strenuously seconded by Hussein Pasha. General Williams at once wrote to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe to point out the way in which those individuals were conducting themselves, and asking that the British Government should insist on their recall. The British Government did insist on their recall. The Ambassador at Constantinople supported to the utmost of his ability and power the remonstrances of General Williams, and 1666 the result was, that a new pasha was sent out to command the army. At the commencement of 1855, Vassif Pasha was appointed to succeed Shukri Pasha. That was accomplished through the instrumentality of Lord Stratford, who likewise took care to have the most precise instructions drawn up, directing the Pasha to act in co-operation with General Williams, to behave towards him, not as a stranger, but as one high in the confidence both of the British Government and of the Porte, to act in concurrence with him, and to treat him with the utmost confidence and the highest consideration. Accordingly we find that the moment the newly appointed Vassif Pasha arrives the state of things entirely alters, General Williams reports that affairs have assumed a much more satisfactory aspect, and that he is enabled to get a supply of provisions. Shukri Pasha and Hussein Pasha are put under arrest and sent to Constantinople, abuses are put a stop to, the colonels who had been plundering the soldiers are deprived of their employment, and everything assumes a different aspect—a matter which General Williams afterwards gracefully acknowledges. Well, Sir, when a charge is brought against Her Majesty's Government of having done nothing, it should be remembered that these things were achieved under the special instructions of Lord Clarendon and through the instrumentality of our Ambassador at Constantinople. Now, should these things have been kept in the background? This was the state of affairs in February and March, 1855. Nevertheless, when the numbers of the army in the district of Erzeroum came to be carefully ascertained, the custom having been to keep the muster rolls at double what they really were, that the commanders might pocket the profit by drawing rations for the whole, it was found that they had not more than 20,000 men, and then it was that General Williams began to represent the necessity that existed of having further reinforcements. He writes to Lord Clarendon and points out the necessity of succour. He writes to Lord Stratford to the same effect. Lord Clarendon immediately directs Lord Stratford to point out to the Turkish Government the necessity of sending reinforcements to strengthen this army. It is said, when that application was made, the Turkish, authorities answered, "Our attention has been directed to the subject; we know the position of that army is one of danger; 1667 we know it is not sufficiently strong, but we have no means to strengthen it. We can take no troops from the Danube or from Bulgaria; all we have are essential to maintain our positions there. We cannot at the present moment aid the army at Erzeroum." The hon. and learned Gentleman said the English Government ought to have sent men there. From whence, I ask? It is very easy to say, "Look at the importance of Armenia—look at the importance of Kars and the magazines of Erzeroum. If they fall, the enemy may be at Constantinople before you know where you are." True, it was most important to maintain that country in the possession of Turkey. It was most important to prevent Kars falling into the hands of the enemy. But how was it to be done? It is very well to say, "You ought to have done it," but where were the means? This country at the time when these events were taking place had but just awakened from a peace of long duration, and, never a great military Power, found it necessary, having determined to carry war into the Crimea, to avail herself of every disposable man, to raise men wherever they were to be found, to call upon the militia to undertake garrison duties abroad, and to send on regiments to the Crimea, that not a single man available for the purpose should be wanting. Wherever in the British possessions a soldier could be found he was drafted into the army that was about to be sent to the seat of war. I want to know, therefore, where were the men to be found to be sent to Armenia? It does not occur to General Williams to say, "Let a portion of your Crimean army be sent there." He knew the idleness of such a suggestion. Where were they to come from? The Turkish Government said, "We have 15,000 men at Batoum, and we can spare 10,000 of them to strengthen the garrison of Kars and the army of Erzeroum." But when it came to be ascertained, it was found that that force, represented to be 15,000, really amounted to no more than 3,770 effective men; so that it became manifest that that addition to the forces was not available.
What was next to be done? It was proposed on the part of the Turkish Government that the British Contingent, estimated at 20.000, and General Beatson's cavalry corps, reckoned at 3,000 and 5,000 men, from Bulgaria, should be landed on the coast of Circassia, to operate 1668 in the way of diversion on the rear of the Russians, and force that army to return. It was very true that Her Majesty's Government did not adopt that proposition. And why? In the first place—and that one reason is sufficient—the contingent of General Vivian consisted of levies only recently made; they were perfectly raw troops, with whom their officers were scarcely acquainted, and Omar Pasha himself declared that in the month of July they were in such a condition as to be unfit for service. It would have been the height of madness consequently to assent to the proposition when first it was made. Moveover, these circumstances were to be considered;—we knew nothing of the country; we knew nothing of the roads, and no supplies had been prepared, Just conceive what might have occurred if an army of from 30,000 to 40,000 men had been thrown upon the coast of Circassia without knowing what dangers it would have to meet, or what provisions and means there were to maintain it. Would the British Government have been justified in entering, without further knowledge, upon so desperate an expedition? What if it had been tried and failed? What would then have been said of the want of foresight and prudence on the part of Her Majesty's Government? But Her Majesty's Government said this:—"Although we are not prepared to hazard the destruction of the Contingent in so desperate an enterprise, if Omar Pasha will hazard a portion of his own army we shall be very happy to co-operate to the best of our ability." Omar Pasha then made certain proposals to the allied generals. He also went to Constantinople to consult with his own Government. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe assisted at the Council which took place, and the Turkish Government made this proposition—that instead of the British Contingent being sent, Omar Pasha should take the Turkish force then at Eupatoria, that to that force should be added 10,000 men from Bulgaria, and that the whole, under the command of Omar Pasha, should be landed in Circassia, and endeavour to make a diversion in favour of the army of Armenia, and endeavour to relieve Kars. To that proposition Her Majesty's Government were prepared to accede, but it was necessary to obtain the concurrence of the French Government to the withdrawal of the Turkish force from Eupatoria. And here, though I readily admit what the hon. and learned Gentleman has asserted so 1669 very triumphantly, that this House will not shrink from the discharge of its duty from any false feeling of regard for the French alliance, yet I think the House, as a matter of justice, will not forget that Her Majesty's Government were bound to take into consideration the position in which they were placed with reference to the Government of our Imperial Ally, who has stood by us so faithfully throughout the war. The British Government was not justified—and I do not believe any hon. Gentleman opposite will stand up and say it would have been justified—in agreeing with the Turkish Government that a certain portion of the army then in the Crimea should be withdrawn, and raw levies, such as the Turkish Contingent, substituted, without asking the consent of the Ally with whom we were acting in co-operation. Accordingly, application was made to the French Government for their concurrence. What was the answer? The French Government at first declined to comply with the suggestion. The principle adopted by that Government in the conduct of the war, as stated by Count Walewski, was, that all the efforts which the combined and allied armies could make should be concentrated upon Sebastopol, believing that on the fate of that city depended the issue of the war. The French Government, however, upon the representation of Lord Cowley, gave way, and acceded to the proposition, but in these terms—The French Government agrees to the proposition that Omar Pasha, instead of rendering his assistance at Sebastopol, shall proceed to Circassia and make a diversion in favour of the army at Erzeroum and at Kars, upon the condition that the number of troops before Sebastopol shall not be diminished.It may be supposed, therefore, after this proposition of our Imperial Ally, that all difficulties were then surmounted. But no! It turned out that Omar Pasha, instead of being willing to take, as was proposed, the Turkish troops at Eupatoria, peremptorily refused unless he could take those which were at Balaklava. The difference was this. The troops at Eupatoria were Egyptians, and not part of his conquering army on the Danube, whereas the troops at Balaklava, to the number of 20,000, had followed him throughout the campaign upon the Danube, and were sharers of his successes. Therefore Omar Pasha insisted upon taking his own army instead of the troops at Eupatoria, in whom he had no confidence. This consequently 1670 changed the aspect of things. What did the British Government do then? They endeavoured to obtain the concurrence of the French Government in that new proposition. Lord Clarendon sent Lord Cowley a telegraphic dsepatch, proposing that what had been offered by Omar Pasha should be accepted. This is the despatch; it is dated the 28th of August, 1855:—Her Majesty's Government trust that the Government of the Emperor will agree to the following answer to the despatch from Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, dated Balaklava, the 26th of August, in which case your Excellency will send it on immediately from Lord Panmure to General Simpson, who will inform Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, if he is still at Balaklava. 'Omar Pasha is to be at liberty to take such of his own troops as he pleases from Balaklava to Asia. They must be replaced in equal numbers by Lieutenant General Vivian's Contingent, or by troops from Eupatoria, as the allied generals may decide, and instructions accordingly must be given, in conjunction with the Admirals, as to transporting them.'That direction is dated the 28th of August, 1855, and if it had been acted upon promptly, Kars might have been saved. Lord Cowley, however, sent back this telegraphic message:—The Emperor has no objection to the removal of the Turkish troops from Balaklava, and to their being replaced by others, provided that the allied commanders in chief have no objection; but he will not take upon himself the responsibility of saying more. Under these circumstances, I send the telegraphic despatch to General Simpson, inserting, after the word 'Asia,' the words 'provided that you and General Pelissier have no objection.'It turns out, however, that both General Simpson and General Pelissier entertained the strongest objection to the removal of the Turkish troops from Balaklava, and General Simpson protested against the Turkish Contingent, in its then incomplete state of discipline, being sent to join the troops before Sebastopol, or, indeed, to its being added to the army in the Crimea at all.
Under these circumstances, what were the Government to do? What is the shape which the hon. and learned Gentleman's accusation against us really assumes? Let it be brought to a specific point. The House must not permit itself to be overwhelmed by a torrent of declamation, but have the points put specifically and in a straightforward manner. We objected to the Turkish Contingent, which was then in a state of imperfect discipline, and without stores or means of subsistence, being added to the army before Sebasto- 1671 pol; but the Turks were told that they were at liberty, if they chose, to send their own army to Asia. Omar Pasha, however, objected to take the troops which were stationed at Eupatoria, and wished to have his veterans from Balaldava. The English Government applied to the French Government for its concurrence. The Emperor of the French declined to give any direct order, and the allied generals said they were ready to allow the Egyptian troops to be taken from Eupatoria, but not to allow the old Danubian soldiers to be withdrawn from Balaklava. The generals said, however, that if troops were sent from Balaklava, and were replaced by Turkish troops from Eupatoria, the latter place would be garrisoned solely by the Turkish Contingent, who, in the opinion of these officers, had not attained a state of discipline which would render it safe to entrust them with the defence of so important a post. What then, I ask, were the British Government to do? The allied generals said—"You shall not remove a single man from before Sebastopol until that fortress has fallen." Were we to fly in the face of our Allies, and dissolve the alliance with France? Were we to tell our generals that we at home were better judges of what ought to be done than they who were on the spot? Suppose that, notwithstanding the objections of the French Government, the remonstrances of General Simpson, and the vigorous resistance of General Pelissier, Her Majesty's Government had sent out orders to remove the Turkish forces from Eupatoria, and to replace them by the Turkish Contingent, and that the enemy had attacked Eupatoria, and that place, thus imperfectly defended, had fallen into their hands, who then would have been the objects of blame? Undoubtedly the British Government. But when the French Government clearly indicated their policy, and when the allied generals declared they could not spare men from before Sebastopol, the British Government at home were left powerless with reference to Kars. What could they do? The hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen told us that we ought to have sent troops to Kars. But what forces, I wish to know, were available? We had strained our utmost energies and exhausted our last resources in order to send troops to the Crimea. The winter had been disastrous; our men had perished in great numbers, and we had been obliged to put forth our utmost energies to render our army 1672 efficient. It was efficient, and was fully prepared for action; but would you have been justified, at that critical period, in dividing your forces, and in leaving half your army before Sebastopol, while you sent the other half to Armenia? Where would then have been the objurgations and the vituperation of the hon. and learned Gentleman? How this House would have rung with his fervid denunciation of the improper conduct of the Government in adopting a policy so unwise and injudicious! But the hon. and learned Gentleman says likewise, that we ought to have sent supplies. From where? I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman. Why no one ever dreamed that provisions for the army were to be got elsewhere than from Asia Minor, while supplies of arms and ammunition were to be sent from Constantinople; and it will be found that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe was incessant in his applications to the Turkish Government to forward them. It is all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to take up the despatches, and, with great artistic skill, playing the part of a most perfect actor, to read letters in a manner which is calculated to invest them with ridicule. But is that the way in which the despatches of public men ought to be dealt with? Lord Stratford, at the time which has been referred to, was exerting himself to the utmost to get supplies sent to Constantinople, and they were sent. General Williams acknowledges the receipt of ammunition—powder and ball—for heavy guns. Artillerymen were also sent, 300 arriving at one time, and 600 or 700 at another. Many of the supplies sent, no doubt, never reached their destination. They were stopped at Erzeroum; but the British Government were not responsible for that. We could not watch the Turkish Government, or step in to prevent the system of peculation and corruption which unfortunately prevails throughout all ranks and departments of that country. Still the Government, however, pressed upon the Porte the necessity of supplying the army at Kars with all that was requisite to maintain it in a state of discipline and efficiency. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says, we ought to have sent money. In what form—as a gift or as a loan? If we had proposed to send money as a gift, we should have been told that we were resorting to the worn-out and mischievous system of subsidies. We did ask for a loan, and we also asked the sanction of the House to the 1673 raising of a Turkish Contingent which was one of the most effectual means of assisting Turkey. The Turkish soldier is active and brave, while, according to all accounts, the qualities of Turkish officers are generally precisely the reverse, and what was wanted was Turkish soldiers well disciplined, well armed, well clothed, well fed, and well officered. We asked Parliament to sanction the establishment of such a force, and how were we met? Who so loud in opposing the Turkish Contingent as the hon. Gentlemen opposite? When we asked for a loan, how was the proposal received? We were told we had not made out a sufficient case of necessity on the part of Turkey. We were told also that more time ought to be afforded for considering the subject, and the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), in a most able speech, strongly urged upon the House the necessity of its postponement. This, let it be remembered, was in the month of July, at the very time when it was necessary, if at all, to send assistance to Kars. I should like to know where the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen was on that occasion?—he who to-day has denounced with such glowing and fervid eloquence the ambitious projects of Russia, and who really seems to lament that the war has been terminated, and that peaceful and amicable relations have been restored? Why, Sir, he voted against the Turkish loan! and, what was more, almost defeated the Government on the question of sending succour to the Turks. I do not quarrel with the course which hon. Gentlemen thought proper to take on that occasion; I have no doubt they acted from the conscientious conviction that sending pecuniary assistance to Turkey, whether in the form of subsidy or loan, was a false policy; but I do protest against the injustice of now turning round upon us and saying, we have not done our best to assist the Turks.
I will put aside all the fringe of this case—all this commenting on despatches, and look only to the substance of the question under discussion. The question for the House to determine is, not whether Lord Stratford de Redcliffe may have written in a somewhat florid style, not whether this or that despatch is couched in the most statesmanlike form of words, but whether there is anything the Government could do which they have failed to do in order to avert the surrender of Kars? 1674 The hon. and learned Gentleman has told us that the fall of Kars is the prelude to the downfall of the Turkish Empire. Yet the policy of concentrating all our energies on the Crimea, and regarding Sebastopol as the real key to success or defeat, was, I think, not an injudicious one. And what was the result? Sebastopol fell; and so did Kars. But has the Turkish Empire fallen? Did the enemy march to Constantinople? On the contrary, the Russians did not advance a step beyond the conquest of the latter fortress. And, let me ask, are the Allies responsible for the surrender of Kars? Was there not an abundantly sufficient army in Asiatic Turkey? Selim Pasha had a considerable force in Armenia; and if he had done his duty, Kars would not have had to capitulate. Moreover, while Selim Pasha had a respectable force in Armenia, it would have been imprudent to withdraw any important part of the besieging force from before Sebastopol. It was said that our Government was wrong in resisting the proposed diversion by way of Circassia and the route through Soukoum Kaleh; but when Sebastopol fell, and Omar Pasha was set at liberty and his troops no longer wanted at Balaklava, the general landed with his army on that coast, and attempted to penetrate into the heart of the country, and the sequel showed that he could not proceed further than Kutais. Yet Omar Pasha would have been in time, if he had got on, to relieve Kars; the season was not too late for his advance; but he was met by difficulties to which we should have been equally exposed had we made a diversion by way of Circassia even at an earlier period. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks what military man would sanction the plan by Trebizond; but if he consults the views of General Williams he will find his opinion to be decidedly in favour of that project; and, indeed, the despatches at the close of the Blue-book, written by persons on the spot and in communication with the Russian officers after the fall of Kars, showed the general impression to be that Omar Pasha's failure was attributable to his choice of the route by Circassia instead of by Trebizond. If, however, military authorities differed on the course to be pursued, is that a fair ground for censuring the Government? It is all very well to say that the war has not been conducted with vigour or skill; but what is the result? And at what epoch are we discussing this question? 1675 The ratifications of peace have been exchanged, the substance of the treaty is known to the world, and, probably, before another sun sets the heralds of peace will have announced the return of its inestimable blessings to Europe. And under what circumstances does Great Britain close the contest? She will have achieved every legitimate object for which she drew the sword. Turkey has been preserved, the balance of power maintained, the progress of Russia in her schemes of aggrandisement arrested, and ambition brought to a stand. And in what position is England at the present moment? Whenever were her resources so great or her power so manifest? Who that saw the noble spectacle which we witnessed on Wednesday last—(Laughter)—I regret to find that hon. Gentlemen regard the spectacle of that noble fleet as a fit subject for their ridicule. I should have thought that no Briton could contemplate that scene with other emotions than those of pride, because it demonstrated that, while our enemy was exhausted by the efforts he had to make to sustain a defensive war, England, on the contrary, was never in a more prepared state for continuing the conflict. To whom is that due? That favourable result is, no doubt, due to the liberality of Parliament in providing the means of maintaining such mighty armaments, but, surely some credit may be also claimed by those who have administered the affairs of the country, and produced, in so brief a space of time, a navy the like of which was never before beheld. Is this House then prepared to censure the Government which has obtained an honourable peace, and still left our war establishments in a condition in which they would be capable of sustaining, if necessary, an arduous and protracted struggle? It is impossible not to feel that this country has the strongest ground for rational exultation and triumph; yet the hon. and learned Gentleman, amid the general rejoicings at the restoration of a peace which achieves all our objects, discovers in his retrospect of the past one little dark spot, and eagerly seizes upon it. Yet no fatal consequences followed the event on which the hon. and learned Gentleman dwelt so gloomily. It did not for a single moment retard the attainment of your great end—a happy and honourable peace. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, thinks it may be made the instrument of a successful attack on the Government. I do not blame him if he 1676 believes he will do himself and his party any good by his Motion, but I am convinced that the House and the country will be too just and too generous to affix the brand of their censure upon the present Administration.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had applied to the House, he might almost say, in formâ pauperis, to give its confidence to the Government, not upon the merits of the case which was now under consideration, but upon the general issue as to whether they had so managed the affairs of the country as to have prepared a fleet that was worthy of inspection at Spithead. Now, that he took leave to say was not the issue which was awaiting the decision of the House. He would, therefore, endeavour to recall the attention of the House to what was the question at issue. The hon. and learned Gentleman was candid enough to admit that the fall of Kars was a little dark spot in the conduct of our military affairs—"a little dark spot;" and he then proceeded to diminish its importance and to cover the whole of this debate with something approaching to ridicule. The "little dark spot," he said, had no importance, and had produced no effect on the result of the negotiations for peace. But what was the meaning, what the import of the fall of Kars? The true import of the fall of Kars was this, that, the star of England had paled its fire before that of Russia in Asia. It meant that Persia had morally become a province of Russia. It meant, likewise, that by the peace just concluded at Paris, Russia's supremacy had been reestablished from the Caucasus to the Hindu Coosh. That, then, being the real import of the fall of Kars, he asked why did Kars fall? Listening to the hon. and learned Attorney General, he should almost imagine that Kars never had fallen at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman gave them every reason that could be adduced to make them believe that everything which foresight, valour, skill, conduct, intellect could achieve had been achieved by the English Government, for the relief of Kars. He (Lord J. Manners) must say that he had never heard a statement made in a deliberative assembly which struck him with greater astonishment than the reason assigned by the hon. and learned Gentleman for the fall of Kars. The hon. and learned Gentleman said it was no fault of the Turkish Government or of the Allies; 1677 he said that the generals and troops at Kars did their duty; and he said that, owing to the exertions of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, who did his duty also, arms and munitions of war had been sent from Constantinople. But, having whitewashed all the authorities, the hon. and learned Gentleman, in need of a victim, turned round and laid it all at the door of a single individual, Selim Pasha, and said that it was he who caused the fall of Kars by not relieving it. Selim Pasha was, however, the governor of Erzeroum, a position on which depended the whole tenure of Turkish power in Asia. He had nothing but the garrison of that fortress at his command, amounting to some 8,000 men, while Kars was invested with a Russian army of 30,000 men, admirably provided and well cared for; and he (Lord J. Manners), therefore, put it to hon. Members whether it was reasonable to expect that Selim Pasha would, under these circumstances, be justified in putting Erzeroum in peril as well as Kars, and risking by its possible loss the prostration of the whole power of the Turkish Government in its Asiatic provinces? If, then, Selim Pasha was not chargeable with the disaster in question, the fall of Kars, who was chargeable with it? It was to Her Majesty's Government, and to them alone, that the blame should be imputed. The great, the wonderful speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Enniskillen (Mr.Whiteside) proved to demonstration, that the guilt lay with the Government and with them alone. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General exempted, as he (Lord J. Manners) thought, properly, all the Turkish authorities, and he exempted even Lord Stratford de Redcliffe from blame. If Lord Stratford's advice had been followed, every one who read the Blue-book would see that Kars would not have fallen; and however indefensible, and indeed reprehensible. Lord Stratford de Redcliffe's conduct might have been as regarded General Williams, it certainly did not accelerate, by one moment, the fall of Kars. Could it be said, then, that Kars fell because the Government of England, though painfully alive to the vital importance of saving it, were absolutely impotent to do so? Was the House prepared to ratify the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman that the whole force of this mighty empire was concentrated on Sebastopol, and that not a man, a gun, or a guinea could be spared 1678 to avert the fall of Kars? If that was a true version of the story, and Her Majesty's Government, wielding as they did the whole resources of this mighty empire, were unable to stretch forth a hand to save Kars, then the sooner peace was made the better, for England would have ceased to be a nation which, under any circumstances, was in a position to prosecute a war. No one who remembered the part he took in the fatal invasion of Affghanistan, believed that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not painfully alive to the vital importance of the preservation of Kars. If, then, it was not owing to the ignorance of Her Majesty's Government, or to the impotence of the country—which was a scandalous imputation—that Kars had not been relieved, to what was owing the fall of that important fortress after so gallant and so heroic a resistance on the part of its brave defenders? The conclusion from these premises was inevitable, and the answer should be—to Lord Panmure, who directed the war, and to Lord Clarendon, who managed the foreign relations of this country, was due the fall of Kars—an event which would not have occurred had Lord Ellenborough been Minister at War, or the hon. Member for Aylesbury Foreign Minister. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that this country had contributed pecuniary aid to Turkey, and he spoke of the Turkish loan with a certain complacency. But what was the fact? The House of Commons, acting with characteristic generosity, guaranteed a loan to replenish the exhausted Exchequer of the Porte; but it will be seen by the Blue-book that it was not until long after Kars had fallen that a single sixpence of the Turkish loan was transferred to Turkey. On the 25th August the first instalment of that loan was paid into the Bank of England, and on the 27th November the Turkish Prime Minister complained that not a farthing of it had reached the Turkish Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that, though Kars fell, the British Government was not to blame for that. It had pecumarily relieved the impoverished Exchequer of Turkey, and enabled it to send succour to the garrison; but the Blue-book closed, and so did the supplementary paper furnished that morning also, without showing that, even to this moment, a single farthing of that loan had been placed to the credit of the Turkish Government. Kars, therefore, had been sacrificed, as the Bri- 1679 tish army had been sacrificed at Balaklava, by the incompetency, mismanagement, and procrastination of the British Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General next dealt with the subject of the Turkish Contingent, and contended that the subvention of that corps by the English Government was equivalent to sending a relieving army. Was the House, however, to be told that because this country took into its pay some 20,000 or 30,000 Turkish troops, that that was by itself an inestimable boon to the Turkish Government? If those troops had been wisely used and properly directed, they might undoubtedly have saved Kars; but when the only use made of them was to deprive Turkey of 20,000 or 30,000 men for no purpose, as regarded the war, so far from being a benefit to the Turkish Government, it was an absolute evil, as one of the proximate causes which led to the fall of Kars. The dispatches of Omar Pasha, of General Mansfield, of General Williams, and of the Turkish Prime Minister, as given in the Blue-book, concurred on this point, that if those troops had been in the pay of the Sultan the diversion would not have been made so late as August, which the British Government had refused to permit in the previous part of the season. Therefore, the Turkish Contingent, wielded as it was by the incompetent men who directed the war from this country, was so far an injury rather than a benefit to the Turkish Empire. The hon. and learned Gentleman had given a sketch of the proposals which had been made for the relief of Kars; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had not (unintentionally, of course) presented all the facts to the House on that subject. The best plan, undoubtedly, for the relief of that fortress was that proposed early in July by the Turkish Government. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman succeeded in shaking the authority of the military men at Constantinople, by whom that plan was proposed or sanctioned? The hon. and learned Gentleman no doubt said that Omar Pasha could not have succeeded had his expedition been undertaken earlier any more than it did when it was undertaken later; and he added, that the obstacles which that General encountered had nothing to do with the lateness of the season. Now, it did so happen, however, that an independent authority existed on the subject, that of a gallant literary man, who had accompanied Omar Pasha's expedition, 1680 and who gave a clear and connected statement on the subject, which certainly led to a contrary conclusion from that of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman certainly could not have seen the work of Mr. Oliphant, or he would not have said that the seasons or the elements had nothing to do with the defeat of Omar Pasha's expedition.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he must beg to explain that what he had said was, that the weather was by no means the only obstacle which prevented the success of that expedition.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Undoubtedly the weather was not the only obstacle with which Omar Pasha had to contend; but the other obstacles had been overcome, or were in a fair way of being overcome, by the genius of that distinguished man. The Russian troops which he had met had been defeated; the Mingrelian and Georgian militia levies had been dispersed, wherever they appeared; the bridges which had been broken down were everywhere restored; Mr. Oliphant, who was with the advanced guard, actually saw with his own eyes the towers of Kutais, from which the Turkish army was only four hours' march distant, and there were no Russian troops to oppose them. There was, in fact, no obstacle, military or material, to hinder Omer Pasha from advancing, except the sudden, complete, and hopeless break-up of the weather. The hon. and learned Gentleman would, therefore, fail to satisfy the House that had Omar Pasha been permitted to undertake that enterprise when first it had been proposed, he would not have successfully accomplished it and saved Kars. That Mr. Oliphant clearly showed. The hon. and learned Gentleman had, as if by anticipation, pointed out that the French Government had conditioned, not that the troops should not be taken from Balaklava or Eupatoria, but that the Turkish troops before Sebastopol should not be diminished; and then, he asked, what course Her Majesty's Government could pursue other than yield to the objection of the Government of the Emperor of the French to the second scheme proposed by Omar Pasha for the relief of Kars? The answer to that was a very simple one—there was no reason whatever why Her Majesty's Government should refer to the Government of the Emperor of the French on the second plan. The Government of the Emperor of the French had given its consent on the one condition that the army before 1681 Sebastopol should not be diminished; that stipulation Omar Pasha was ready to satisfy, and therefore there was no just reason for throwing all in confusion by a second reference to Paris. Now, what was the result of that second message? On the 28th of August, Lord Clarendon, reviving the question of the withdrawal of the Turks from before Sebastopol, said, in his communication to Lord Cowley:—Omar Pasha is to be at liberty to take such of his own troops as he pleases from Balaklava to Asia. They must be replaced in equal numbers by Lieutenant General Vivian's contingent, or by troops from Eupatoria, as the allied generals may decide, and instructions must be given in conjunction with the Admirals as to transporting them.Those who read that despatch would see that that illustrious Generalissimo of an independent Sovereign, having an equal interest in the war as the other Powers in alliance, was to be permitted to take such of his own troops as he wished to save some of the fairest provinces of his Imperial master's dominions in Asia. The telegraphic despatch, however, was received by General Simpson with the addition made by Lord Cowley, under the sanction of Her Majesty's Government, with the words inserted after the word "Asia," "provided that you and General Pelissier have no objection." This threw the matter back into the hands of those Generals—a matter which had been already settled by the two Governments, and gave General Simpson the power to say to Omar Pasha, the Generalissimo of an independent Sovereign deeply engaged in the war, whether or not he was to save Kars for his Imperial master. The two Governments had been satisfied, and had sent orders to that effect; but this unlucky reopening of the question made General Simpson and General Pelissier arbiters of the fate of Kars. Now, he would ask hon. Members if that was the best way to carry out the entente cordiale? He must touch lightly upon the conduct of General Pelissier, but with respect to General Simpson he must be permitted to say that that gallant officer had not displayed that amount of commanding energy which would justify him in thwarting those plans which had already been agreed upon between the Government and Omar Pasha. It was, however, stated that subsequent to the fall of Sebastopol no reluctance had been shown by General Pelissier or General Simpson to afford the assistance which Omar Pasha had demanded. But he found 1682 that nearly three weeks after Sebastopol had fallen, 2,000 Turkish troops had been prevented by General Pelissier from following Omar Pasha. On the 21st of September, Lieutenant Colonel Simmons had written to Lord Clarendon to the following effect:—I have to inform your Lordship that on the 18th instant, General Pelissier consented to the departure of three Turkish battalions of Chasseurs hence for Asia, and that Sir E. Lyons having supplied the necessary steam transports for their conveyance they will be embarked in the course of a day or two for Batoum.Again—Up to the present time General Pelissier has not signified his assent to the departure for Asia of any more of the Ottoman troops now stationed here.Lieutenant Colonel Simmons proceeded—The Ottoman Government are most desirous of acquiring their services in Asia. Omar Pasha considers that the utility of this movement in Asia will be very much restricted by not having them with his force. The only obstacle seems to me to be that the assent of General Pelissier and the French Government has not been given. In conclusion, I can assure your Lordship that if the assent of the French Government could be obtained I think great benefit would ensue, not only to the Turkish troops themselves, but to the common cause, for although Kars may fall, the Turkish force under Omar Pasha would then be so considerable that it would act at least as a powerful diversion in favour of the allies during the next campaign, whether that campaign should be in the Crimea or in any other part of Europe; and, moreover, by the union of a considerable Turkish force under Omar Pasha, if peace should ensue, Turkey will be stronger.Nobody, he thought, could read that dispatch without perceiving that the most disastrous effects had resulted from the alteration of the telegraphic message to the Crimea. Could it be said that Her Majesty's Government had displayed foresight when, having at length become fully alive to the importance of relieving Kars, they had allowed their plans for that end to be frustrated by the allied Generals in the Crimea? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had observed, that no words of reprobation would have been strong enough to mark the conduct of the Administration if they had acted in opposition to the opinion of the allied Generals; but Her Majesty's Government, unfortunately, in giving their assent to the proposed expedition of Omar Pasha, had run quite counter to the views of the allied Generals, so that the hon. and learned Gentleman could not well take refuge under the shelter of that argument. Something 1683 had also been said about the despatches of Lord Clarendon and Lord Panmure, upon the 13th and 14th of July; but he thought that, in order that the House should be enabled to judge of the bonâ fide spirit and the foresight which had characterised the conduct of the Government throughout the whole of those transactions, the despatches to which he alluded should be compared with that which had been subsequently written by Lord Clarendon upon the 18th of July. Upon the 18th of July, Lord Clarendon had written a despatch to General Williams, urging him in the strongest terms to continue that glorious defence which in his despatch of the 14th of July he had pronounced to be hopeless, and after had rejected the only plan for its relief as visionary, thoughtless, and impracticable. They had it on the authority of Dr. Sandwith, that but for the encouragement which he received from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, General Williams would have attempted to cut his way out of Kars. Was there then no ground of complaint against the Government? Was there no reason why they should be charged with inconsistency and vacillation? True it might be that they had written despatches to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and General Williams; but of what value, he might ask, were those despatches? The question was, what money, what men, what materials had they sent out? The Turkish Government had been ready to send a relieving army to Kars. The Government of this country had put their veto upon the proposition. Omar Pasha had informed Her Majesty's Ministers where men were to be found. They, however, had hesitated to act upon that information—had halted until the expedition of the Turkish General had become fruitless, and had pursued that course while they continued to write the most insulting letters to a Government which they themselves had made powerless, apparently forgetting that with the resources of a great empire at their own disposal they had done less than nothing. Their policy reminded him of the plea of Sir Peter Teazle, who, in his remonstrances with respect to the conduct of Charles Surface, observed, "I, who was left his guardian, and never refused him my advice." Her Majesty's Government occupied a similar position. They had sent out nothing but advice in the case of Kars; but they had, he must admit, sent that by the ream, their only fault in that respect being that their advice was not always con- 1684 sistent, and that in many instances it was fallacious and impracticable in the highest degree. His charge against the Government was, that while they did nothing themselves, they prevented others from doing that which might, and very likely would, have had the effect of relieving Kars. He would admit that the Government was consistent in their inconsistency. The hand that penned the refusal of the first Turkish proposal as wild and impracticable, and which afterwards penned the assent to a plan from Omar Pasha which was identical with it, was the hand which refused to oppose 30,000 Turkish troops to Mingrelian militia and a few Russian troops, and afterwards charged Selim Pasha with cowardice for not having marched to the assistance of Kars with the garrison of Erzeroum. The noble Lord who had formerly denounced the settlement of the North American boundary question as the "Ashburton capitulation," was at the head of that Government through whose supineness and short-sightedness Russia had been able to regain in Asia that which she had lost in Europe.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that, after the clear and succinct speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, which, though it did not traverse the very wide field occupied by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), had yet touched all the points of the question which were really important, it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House at any great length. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, throughout the whole of his discursive but able speech, seemed to leap from one brilliant inconsistency to another. The Motion which he had placed on the paper was liable to one objection which would be fatal to it—it was not true. It was not true that the disasters at Kars resulted from a want of foresight on the part of Her Majesty's Government, and wherever the blame lay—whether with the Turks themselves, with our Ambassador at Constantinople, with the Generals in the Crimea, or with our Allies—if there was one man more than another who had never lost sight of the importance of the relief of Kars, and who had never ceased to urge the adoption of measures for its relief, it was Lord Clarendon. The hon. and learned Gentleman himself seemed cognisant of that fact, for he commenced by saving, that the sum total of Lord Clarendon's responsibility was, that he had not succeeded in making Lord Stratford 1685 procure a proper recognition of General Williams from the Turkish Government. It was the Ambassador, then, who had betrayed his duty, and the Government were to blame for having kept him at Constantinople. Before the end of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech all that had changed. The Ambassador was then the energetic, honest defender of Kars, and the Minister at home was reduced to the position of being tutored by the Ambassador abroad. Surely, if Lord Clarendon had recalled Lord Stratford in December, 1854, he would have deprived the cause of Turkey, in 1855, of a man whose exertions were, as the hon. and learned Gentleman admitted, beyond all praise. When General Williams was sent to Kars, the Turkish army was utterly disorganised, the Turkish rulers were plunged in corruption, and under such circumstances it was thought by the Government that it would be desirable to have on the spot some one who could send accurate reports of the state of things. It was said that Lord Stratford did not give General Williams that support which was necessary to enable him to effect the objects for which he was sent to Asia Minor. But he should like to hear it stated what it was that Lord Stratford did not do. Except corresponding with General Williams, there was nothing which Lord Stratford omitted to do which he ought to have done. It was perfectly plain that during the whole time he had been exerting himself with the greatest energy to accomplish all the objects which General Williams had in view. In what position were the affairs of the Allies in Europe at that time? The hon. and learned Gentleman had been pleased to make some remarks on the capacity of the Minister of War as well as the Foreign Secretary, but the noble Lord (Lord Panmure) had one merit which it was impossible for the hon. and learned Gentleman to depreciate. When the present Minister of War came into office, he found the troops in the Crimea in a state of great suffering and sickness, and they were now even more healthy than troops at home. When the Russians went to Kars, it was foreseen by General Williams that the troops there would be insufficient to defend the place, but there was a great enterprise to be performed in the Crimea, and until that was successfully concluded it was matter for consideration to what extent it was possible to send succour even for the protection of Kars. The noble Lord who 1686 spoke last made it a charge against the Government that they sent out instructions clogged with a condition, though the noble Lord must have been aware that that condition was added by the French Government. It should be borne in mind that at the time he was now referring to, the allied forces were nearly overwhelmed by superior numbers. What would have been said of the foresight of the Government if they had then withdrawn the well-disciplined Turkish troops from the Crimea? Though, by so doing, Omar Pasha might have succeeded in saving Kars, he might also, by the withdrawal of these troops, have jeopardised the whole campaign in the Crimea. Again, he thought that Lord Panmure and Lord Clarendon judged wisely when they decided that the Turkish Contingent should not be sent to Kars. To have taken them into an unknown country before they were disciplined, and perhaps under officers who scarcely understood their language, would have been a most hazardous proceeding. Then it was said that the Turkish Contingent might have taken the route from Batoum to Kars. He had heard in that House assertions as to the absurdity of one route and the absurdity of the other route, he should like to know what General Williams would say upon the subject. If he might come to any conclusion, it was that Omar Pasha was right in the course that he undertook. Consul Brandt, writing from Erzeroum on the 19th November, 1855, said:—Is the Kars army to be allowed to perish? Is nothing to be done to relieve it? for all that the Porte has lately done is quite insufficient for the purpose. I before pointed out that Omar Pasha's army should have been directed on Kars by way of Erzeroum, and not on Georgia, and had that been done, Kars might long since have been saved—I now fear it must surrender.A similar opinion was likewise expressed by Dr. Sandwith in his work on the war. Well, what was it the House was asked to affirm? Not a matter of want of skill in the generals, but that there was a want of foresight, and that the British Government was the cause of it, whereas they were in favour of that route which the inhabitants of Kars themselves were convinced was the only route that was likely to lead to their relief. There was the most straightforward action and principle on the part of the Government at home, but they could not consent to reduce the troops before Sebastopol, unless the French Government and the allied Generals also consented. They at last did consent that the Turkish Con- 1687 tingent should go to Eupatoria, and that Omar Pasha should take troops from Eupatoria or Balaklava; and the hon. and learned Gentleman said, "What folly!" But did it never occur to him that the discipline and state of the Turkish Contingent might be sufficient for holding Eupatoria, but was not to be depended upon at Balaklava or the very seat of war; and Omar Pasha himself had expressed that opinion. Lord Clarendon wrote letter after letter, week after week, and never allowed his correspondence to be in arrear. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, rather than allow the Turkish loan to be applied by the Turkish Government, were willing to break up the alliance. It was the Turkish Empire in Asia they were defending; and if the Turks could not defend themselves, if corruption was to rule in high places, what power had we to help them? And how difficult was it for a country in that position to conduct a war with energy! The truth was, it was perfectly wonderful what General Williams was able to effect; and as to want of energy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, there was no symptom of it. They were told that 400 of General Beatson's Horse would have saved Kars; but how were they to get there? Were they to go through Georgia? That was out of the question; but there was no other route. General Beatson might have considered his cavalry available for that purpose, but we had not a man to spare from the Crimea. It might have had this result, that Omar Pasha's army might have been lost in this Georgian expedition, and Sebastopol not taken after all. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) said it was the policy of a small mind to take small objections and to overlook great results. He would not retort in that sense, but he must say that hon. Gentlemen opposite had, during this war, taken small objections and had overlooked great results. At the end of this war the country had her resources not only untouched, but increased; her army was in a more effective state than it ever was before; but when he found that the small inconvenience attending the naval review the other day outweighed the proud feelings that should have actuated Englishmen—when they overlooked the great results of that war—he considered that he was fully justified in saying that they took small objections and overlooked great results. When hon. Members came forward to make a charge of want of energy and 1688 foresight on the part of the British Government, he told them that the charge was not authorised by a single syllable in that book, and that their opinion would not be backed by a majority of that House.
§ MR. J. G. PHILLIMORE moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he wished to know upon what day the debate was to be resumed? [Cries of "To-morrow."]
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, his hon. Friends the Members for Wexford and Galway had Motions upon the paper for to-morrow, and he had to state, on their part, that they certainly would not give way, unless the Government would give them an early day.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, so few hon. Gentlemen having yet addressed the House, and so many being anxious to express their opinions upon this important question, he thought it was not too much to expect that hon. Members whose Motions, however important, were not of a very pressing nature, would have the goodness to give way.
§ MR. G. H. MOORE
said, he was of opinion with his hon. Friends that they ought not to give way unless another day were given them by the Government.
§ Debate adjourned.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.