§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
said, he rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the operations of the British fleet in the Baltic in the years 1854 and 1855. He could assure the House that, in bringing forward this Motion, not a word would escape from him calculated in any degree to damage the interests of this country. He would speak merely of the past, not of the future. So many observations had been made respecting the little which had been done in the Baltic during the years 1854 and 1855, that he thought it was only just and fair that sonic inquiry should be made to ascertain whether the admirals had done their duty or not. If, on the other hand, they had done their duty, it was high time that the conduct of the Admiralty should be looked into, and the offending parties brought to an account, especially if they had endeavoured to throw the blame off their own shoulders. He had served his country for upwards of fifty-six years. He had served under four Sovereigns, and he had always thought that he had served fairly, justly, and honourably. He had commanded not only fleets, but armies. He had been ready to serve in all parts of the world. It had been said in that House, by the late Sir Robert Peel, that in two minutes he (Sir C. Napier) had overthrown a dynasty. He did not know the time had been quite so short, but he had certainly taken great liberties with Don Miguel, both by land and sea. Ho would now proceed to tell his tale in a plain, straightforward manner. He would not have recourse to any special pleading or exaggeration, and he hoped that those who followed him would tell their own story, and stick to the truth. On the 24th of November, 1853, the right 49 hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), then the First Lord of the Admiralty, communicated his intention of giving him (Sir C. Napier), in the event of war, the command of the fleet in the Baltic. At that time it was known that every man in England and Europe that war was imminent; but, however, Her Majesty's Government were the only people who thought that war was not likely to take place. He did, however, not receive his appointment until the 25th of February following. On receiving that appointment he went to the Earl of Aberdeen and Lord Clarendon, to point out to them the state of the navy—that it was very low, not well disciplined, and not fit for a country preparing for war. He also sought an interview, on the same subject, with the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), but he declined to see him. Every Gentleman in the House knew that he (Sir C. Napier) was exceedingly proud of obtaining such an appointment as the command of the Baltic fleet. At the time when he was appointed to that command, would the House believe that the only force placed at his disposal was three sail of the line, not fully manned, on the Lisbon station, and three or four frigates, and some steam vessels. There were here three ships of the line, and those ships manned only for the purposes of the ordinary and harbour duty. There were three block-ships—one in Portsmouth, one at Plymouth, and one a tender to the Excellent, the exercising ship. He believed, and readily admitted, that the Government made strenuous exertions to complete these ships; but the difficulty was to obtain men, for the Government could only look to the coast-guard and to the riggers in the dockyards. There were two 84-gun ships, the St. Jean d' Acre and the Princess Royal, put in commission; but great difficulty was experienced in manning the fleet, for every naval officer, and especially every Lord of the Admiralty, should know that at the commencement of a war it was most difficult to secure men. Knowing this difficulty, he urged on the First Lord of the Admiralty the expediency of issuing a Queen's Proclamation, to call on men to come forward and serve, as war was likely to take place. Under the Act of Parliament, after the issuing of that Proclamation, every man would be entitled to receive double bounty. The right hon. Baronet did not think proper to issue the Queen's Proclamation. He (Sir C. Napier) believed that the right hon. Baronet was wrong; and he believed that his own Board 50 and the Ministers thought that he was wrong; for he (Sir C. Napier) had himself communicated with one or two of the Ministers, and although they would not admit he was wrong, they evinced by their manner, in his opinion, that the right hon. Baronet was not right; they would not, however, interfere with the First Lord of the Admiralty. Could any person suppose—how was it possible to suppose for a moment—that the First Lord of the Admiralty could be right, when they knew that Russia had a fleet of twenty-eight sail of the line, armed, organised, and drilled for twenty or thirty years, in the habit of going to sea only in summer, but in reality a fleet so well disciplined that to despise them would be simply absurd? He felt a very high degree of responsibility, for if any accident had happened to the British fleet, what would Parliament—what would the country—have said? He would have been to blame, and the Admiralty would have got out of the scrape somehow or other, as it always did.
He would pass over the celebrated banquet at the Reform Club—that glorious banquet, where such fine speeches were made, speeches that stirred up the country, so much so that he believed if he had taken the Emperor of Russia, the public would have expected that he should have brought St. Petersburg with him. The fleet assembled—there were three two-deckers, three block ships, and two 84-gun ships. Her Majesty, and almost every person who could bear the expense, went down to see this magnificent fleet, which was expected to take St. Petersburg, Cronstadt, and, he believed, Moscow also. He knew that it would require the greatest attention and energy to bring that fleet into a state of efficient discipline; but it was ordered off so suddenly that there was no time to do so. The very day he attended Her Majesty's levee he received an order to proceed to Portsmouth, and, would the House believe it, he actually went to sea without anything in his cabin—without servants, without knives and forks, and without baggage. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty congratulated him on the seamanlike manner in which he thought the fleet had put to sea, although he (Sir C. Napier) could not perceive anything particularly seamanlike about it. Well, they wont to the Downs. The Admiralty, with a great deal of foresight, had sent pilots from Hull and the east coast of England to learn something of the 51 Baltic, and to take the fleet up to St. Petersburg. When they got to the Downs, he found, to his utter astonishment, that all the pilots except eight had gone to get their clothes, and that those who remained knew nothing of the Baltic—so much so, that after a short time, they sent them home one by one. He believed the Admiralty, with respect to the pilots, had done its best, although rather late. They had no North Sea pilots, and he wrote to the Admiralty to that effect; but he must tell the House that during the whole of last war there was no ship sent to the North Sea without having two pilots on board. He received orders by telegraph to put to sea, and he arrived safely in Wingo Bay, the fleet certainly coming in in a very scattered manner. They then set about to endeavour to obtain pilots, but none were to be had. He should mention that he had also received an order from the Secretary of State (Lord Clarendon), to place his fleet in such a position as to render it impossible for any Russian ship to leave the Baltic. He believed that there was a great number of persons here who did not know what the Baltic was. They supposed that it began at the Cattegat and terminated at the end of Bornholm. If he had remained at Wingo Sound, and the Russian squadron had left Helsingfors, and had gone to Copenhagen—Denmark being then wavering in its policy—he would ask what would the House and the country have thought of him? They would have asked, "Why did you not obey the orders of the Secretary of State, which were superior to those of the First Lord of the Admiralty?" He did what he considered was right. He had very active admirals with him—Admiral Plumridge, who placed his steamers so well that they passed the fleet through to the only anchorage outside Copenhagen without accident. When he arrived there so well, he fully expected that he should have received a letter of thanks from the Admiralty for the exertions which his admirals, his captains, and himself had made. The first day that they were there, it came to blow a gale of wind, and they were obliged to anchor in the open sea, but many of the ships could hardly get their sails furled, because the men were afraid to lay out on the yards. When they arrived at Kioge Bay, he received a letter from the Admiralty, calling attention to his orders, and stating that he had left Wingo Sound without assigning reasons, 52 or the concurrence of the Board. He, however, had several reasons for doing so; one was, and they knew it, the order which he had received from the Secretary of State.
Three letters were received from the Admiralty respecting the passage of the Belt, on the 1st of April. On the 8th of April he received a letter from the Admiralty approving of the manner in which he had passed the Belt. He then wrote to the Admiralty complaining that, although he had used his best exertions to prevent the possibility of the Russian ships getting out, the Admiralty found fault with him. On the 10th of April twelve sail of the line made for the Gulf of Finland. On the 15th they arrived off the Gulf. At that time he had very good experience that the ships had not been properly manned. The officers and men did everything in their power, but every one understanding anything about naval affairs must know that it is impossible in a day or two, or even in weeks, to get a fleet to "go on." Such was the neglect of naval affairs during the peace, that the country seldom had a fleet at sea, and then only for a very short time. One would suppose that the Admiralty, instead of endangering six or eight vessels of the line to cruise about, would have employed six or eight frigates, which would have been more efficient and much less expensive. He did not believe any officers then engaged had ever sailed in line before. He did not even know if any captain in the fleet had ever sailed in line before. Now, if it was dangerous for a, fleet, under such circumstances, to sail in the daytime, how much more so most it have been in the night? The passage across the Gulf of Finland is sixteen or eighteen miles, and there were rocks and shoals innumerable on each side. How difficult must it have been, therefore, to preserve a fleet in such a place, which was then almost unknown. Well, he received a letter from the Admiralty, which, he thought, was rather sharp, and he wrote them a letter which he thought was rather sharp too. He was afterwards accused of having disobeyed orders, and of having treated their Lordships with disrespect. He confessed he did not write a proper letter, He bad written to the Admiralty saying that sometimes they complained of his going too fast, and sometimes of his going too slow, but on consideration he afterwards wrote to his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley), apologising, 53 and stating that he (Sir G. Napier) was wrong in writing such a letter. But shortly afterwards he received from the Admiralty a laudatory letter, approving of his passage of the Belt, and his movement to Use Gulf, and of the manner in which he had exercised his officers and men. Afterwards he had received a letter from the right hon. Baronet, advising him (Sir C. Napier) not to knock his head, prematurely, against stone walls. He subsequently received a letter from the right hon. Baronet, cautioning him to feel his way during the ice, and by no means to contemplate an attack on Sweaborg or Cronstadt, and advising him to have a great respect for stone walls. The right hon. Baronet added that, because the public, at a distance from danger might be foolhardy and impatient, he (Sir C. Napier) was not to risk a fleet in endeavouring to achieve impossibilities. The right hon. Baronet also stated that he believed both Sweaborg and Cronstadt to be impregnable from the sea; that the Russians at those places would watch their opportunity, in the hope of the English fleet knocking their heads against stone walls. He hoped that no desire to achieve a great triumph, for the mere purpose of satisfying the wild wishes of an impatient public at home, would lead him into a rash enterprise, and that he would have the moral courage of doing what he considered right, even at the risk of being afterwards accused by the public of doing what was considered wrong.
He would now show that he acted up to the spirit of those instructions, and did what was right. Thinking it neither right nor proper to go into the Gulf of Finland, he proceeded to the roadstead of Stockholm, with the intention of staying there a few days. In the middle of rocks and shoals he encountered a violent storm, but, through the mercy of Providence, and the energy, zeal, and decision of officers and men, the fleet escaped without damage. He would leave hon. Gentlemen to imagine, what an anxious night he passed during that storm, not knowing what might have become of the fleet. He thought that circumstances justified him in going into that roadstead. [The hon. and gallant Member then read a letter from the Admiralty, expressing their regret that he considered some of the ships unfit for going into action.] He replied to that letter on the 16th of June. How could the right hon. Baronet suppose that 54 in six weeks or two months the fleet could be got into proper order? Why such a thing could not be done in twelve months, perhaps not in two years. He wrote to the right hon. Gentleman, saying—I have done all I could to get the ships into readiness, but you must not suppose that we are ready. The ships cannot be got ready for notion in a day, and the Russians are not to be despised.After some time the fleet went to Hango Sound. The Russians had then a fleet of eight or nine sail of the line at Helsingfors, and though we had a Minister at Copenhagen, a Minister at Sweden, one at St. Petersburg, and one fit Hamburg, and Consuls all over the Baltic, we did not know where the Russian fleet was. It was an extraordinary fact that the son of his gallant Friend (Sir Edmund Lyons) was sent to poke his way through the ice with the bow of his vessel, and his steam up in order to make his way to Revel. That young officer was now no more, and he was very sorry for it. That officer brought positive information that no fleet was lying at Revel. His (Sir C. Napier's) object in going to Hango Sound was to coax out the Russian fleet. He followed, in that respect, the example of Lord Nelson; but the Russians, instead of coming out to fight, remained snug in harbour. He afterwards received from the right hon. Baronet a very complimentary letter, and again cautioning him against rash experiments. He afterwards went to examine Sweaborg, and found that it was impossible to take it without the aid of gun and mortar boats, and gave information to that effect to the Admiralty. He wrote to the right hon. Baronet after sending the letter of the 18th of July, which the Admiralty denied having received, in which he said that "he had now the Duke of Newcastle's instructions before him, and that he had accomplished all that had been pointed out in those instructions for him to do." [The hon. and gallant Member then read other portions of the correspondence.] Now the House would see that it was no doing of his to send 10,000 men to attack the Aland Islands and Bomarsund. He wanted only 2,000 or 3,000 men, but the Government thought proper, or got the French Government to think proper, to send that number of men for that purpose. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) then wrote him the following letter:— 55Admiralty, June 20, 1854.My dear Sir Charles,—I am well aware of all the difficulties of your position, and of the impossibility of triumphing over an enemy who will not fight you on fair terms, but you will discipline our fleet, and make our officers and men fit and ready for any service. It is a disgrace to Russia that she dare not show a ship in her own waters, and that she is driven to seek for safety under the shelter of her fortresses.It would be madness to play her game, and to rush headlong on her granite walls, risking our naval superiority, with all the fatal consequences of defeat in an unequal contest with wood against stone, which in the long run cannot succeed.I had reliance on your prudence, which was doubted; your brilliant courage was proved long ago; you will now show to the world that you possess a combination of those great virtues which are necessary to make a consummate Commander in Chief.Here was a grand flourish! Perhaps, some Gentlemen might think that it was not right in him to read those letters, which were marked private; but they must remember, that every one of those letters was on the public service; and when he read, in the evidence of the right hon. Baronet, before the Sebastopol Committee, in which he turned—and said he had a right to do so—the private letters of officers into public ones, he (Sir C. Napier) thought he had an equal right to make the private letters of the right hon. Baronet public, when they related to the public service. He was, of course, very much pleased at receiving that commendation; and if any Gentleman thought he was wrong in reading those letters, let them remember that he had been turned adrift by the Admiralty, and he felt dishonoured and disgraced; and every one would excuse an officer when he stood forward to vindicate his conduct, and clear his character.
Well, then, they arrived at Cronstadt. He had seen many strong fortifications. He had seen Toulon, and examined it both from the sea and on the shore. He had seen Cadiz. He had not seen Brest, but he had seen Cherbourg; and there was not one of them to be compared to the fortifications and the strength of Cronstadt. Still the mere strength of those fortifications would not have caused him to hesitate in attacking them, because although those three and four deckers, if he might so term those batteries, were stationary, and could regulate their fire in a way that ships could not, yet when the ships were well manned and could have proper sea-room, he should not fear the result. But it was dangerous going in to attack them. The French Admiral and 56 himself reconnoitred the fortress, but how could they get into Cronstadt through narrow and shallow passages, with ships drawing twenty-seven feet of water. The French Admiral himself decided that they could not, at that time, and with the means they had then at their command, successfully attack Cronstadt. He (Sir C. Napier) made a survey and report to the Admiralty on the subject, which, of course, the House would not expect him to read; but the right hon. Baronet, in his answer to him, said, on the part of the Admiralty, they were well satisfied with the able and well-executed survey which he and his officers had made of the approaches to Cronstadt. They had full confidence in his judgment, and approved of the course he had taken in offering battle to the enemy, of which offer he did not avail himself. The letter proceeded to give him instructions as to the blockade of the Gulf of Finland, the keeping of the enemy in check at Sweaborg and Cronstadt, and other matters, which, when he came to examine, he found it impossible for him to carry into execution. He was to take care of Cronstadt and Sweaborg, and to go down to Faro to embark troops there, and send them home in transports. How was it possible for him to attend to all the other points, and to go down to Faro? Instead of doing so, he brought the whole of the troops up to Ledsund. Well then, he received the following letter from the right hon. Baronet:—House of Commons, June 27, 1854.My dear Sir Charles,—I am glad that you have gone up to Cronstadt, to see with your own eyes what it may be possible to do there. Whatever man can do, I am certain will be done by you; and if you are restrained, by a sense of duty, from embarking in any desperate enterprise, on your return to Baro Sound you shall receive full instructions from me respecting an attack on the Aland Islands.Shortly afterwards he received the following letter from the right hon. Baronet—Admiralty, July 11, 1854.My dear Sir Charles,—I had anticipated your return to the westward, after an offer of battle, which I felt certain the enemy would decline; and it now remains for you to blockade the Gulf of Finland, to keep the fleets at Cronstadt and Helsingfors disunited, and to await the arrival of the French troops, when you and the French Admiral and General must deliberate on the operations to be undertaken by the combined forces, Bomarsund will clearly be within your reach. Sweaborg, if it were possible, would be a noble prize, but on no account be led into any desperate attempt; and, above all things, avoid the least risk of the Russian fleet slipping out of the Gulf of Finland, when your back is turned; and be slow to land your marines, without whom 57 your line of battle is disabled. The Russians, though shy, are crafty; and if they can catch you at a disadvantage, they will be down upon you.And then came a very remarkable passage—With 50,000 troops and 200 gunboats you might do something great and decisive before the end of September.Well, they left Cronstadt, and arrived at Baro Sound. On the 1st of August the Admiralty wrote to him—By your foresight and good arrangements the whole of the French army will have joined you off Bomarsund before the end of this week, and I hope that you will send back the line-of-battle ships which carried them to you, as soon as possible.In order to get at Bomarsund, they had to go through a very difficult passage, and it was necessary to obtain proper soundings in order to be prepared for the attack. The French troops arrived on the 30th of July, but the stores did not come until the 5th of the next month. He would show the House, however, that no time was lost. By extreme exertion the troops were transshipped on the 7th, and carried up to Bomarsund on the 8th; they were landed simultaneously on two places, one to the south, and the other to the north. On the 10th they landed the ships' guns, thirty-two pounders. On the 15th Bomarsund was taken. Now it would have been very easy, and perhaps, the people of this country would have been better pleased, if he had run his ships into Bomarsund and lost a considerable number of men, and perhaps a few ships. But the best answer to that would be found in the following letters, showing that the Government approved of the course he took. The right hon. Baronet wrote to him, and said—Having laid before the Lords of the Admimiralty your dispatch, I am commanded by their Lordships to express their satisfaction at receiving this intelligence, and to state that they cordially approve of the orders you issued on this occasion.The right hon. Baronet himself wrote in the following terms—I congratulate you sincerely on the success of your operations before Bomarsund, and I highly commend your prudence and wisdom in effecting the capture of this stronghold of the enemy, without the loss of a ship, or of many lives. You have judged well in every respect, both in detaining the line-of-battle ships and steamers, and then in sending them home laden with prisoners.And on the 25th of August, three days later, the right hon. Baronet again wrote to him as follows— 58I am more than satisfied with your proceedings.I am delighted with the prudence and sound judgment which you have evinced. It would have been a miserable want of firmness had you yielded to clamour, and risked your ships, and sacrificed many valuable lives, in an attempt to destroy, by naval means, works which were certain to full in an attack by land.Your reasoning also, in favour of the immediate and entire destruction of the forts at Bomarsund, is irresistible, and I hope you will take care that the destruction is complete, and that not one stone is left upon another.I am well pleased also with the promptitude with which you have sent back the line-of-battle ships and steamers. The work has been well done, and I gladly give you the utmost credit for it.The Secretary to the Admiralty also wrote him to the same effect. Now these were the whole of his commendations, and it was right to say of his operations, that up to this time they had been highly approved of by the Board of Admiralty, as well as individually by the right hon. Baronet. Subsequently to the capture of Bomarsund, the French General and himself again examined Sweaborg, and the result of that examination was a conviction on the part of the French General, the Admirals, and himself, that they had not the proper means of attacking so formidable a fortress, as they had neither gun nor mortar vessels, and the season of the year was so far advanced. General Jones, however, was not of that opinion. He thought that by landing 5,000 men on the island of Bak-Holmen, throwing up works, and then making a simultaneous attack with the fleet, it might be reduced in seven or eight days. General Niel, the French General of Engineers, was of a different opinion. He thought that it might be knocked down in a couple of hours by seven or eight sale of the line, but he thought that such an operation would be very hazardous; it had never been attempted, and it was not his province to recommend it. In addition, the Emperor had sent orders to Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers to withdraw the French army after destroying Bomarsund, and he (Sir C. Napier) had received a dispatch from the Admiralty to begin the gradual withdrawal of the fleet, by sending home the three-deckers and the slowest sailers, leaving the Gulf of Bothnia open to the southward, and making that his first halting place. Well, any one reading the document to which he had referred would naturally conclude that it was an order to him to send home the bad sailing ships and the three-deckers; and, for 59 himself, he thought the order was a judicious and timely one, because, though it was only the mouth of August, yet the month of August in the Baltic was like the month of November in England. But when it was known in England that the French army were coming home, meetings were got up all over the country, and blame was thrown upon the Government because Sweaborg, Cronstadt, and Sebastopol were not taken, and then, he supposed, the right hon. Baronet got alarmed, and looked round to see whom he could throw the blame upon, and he (Sir C. Napier), being the weakest, was selected. He received an order to hold a council of war to inquire whether any further operations could be attempted. Now, nobody ever heard of a council of war fighting. The French Marshal and his army were gone, and the council was therefore limited to the allied Admirals. They all met on board the Duke of Wellington, and it was unanimously decided by all the officers present, that at that season of the year they had no means of making a successful attack. The right hon. Baronet, the descendant of John of the Bright Sword, felt his northern blood begin to boil, and he forgot the consummate Commander in Chief—he forgot his dear Sir Charles—he forgot the great satisfaction he had felt at previous arrangements—he forgot that only a few weeks before he had said Sweaborg could not be attacked with less than 200 gunboats and 50,000 men, and now ho wanted Sweaborg to be attacked by three sail of the line. He also forgot the instructions which he (Sir C. Napier) had received, as would appear by the following letter—''I am commanded to acquaint you that your instructions are not to control your discretion as to any joint operation; it is your duty not to undertake any operation which your own judgment does not entirely approve.Would the House believe for a single moment that the same right hon. Gentleman who could tell him so short a time before that he was to avoid granite walls, that he was on no account to risk Her Majesty's fleet, that Sweaborg could not be attacked with less than 200 gunboats and 50,000 men—would the House believe for a single moment, that the right hon. Baronet was serious in asking him to attack Sweaborg with eight or ten sail of the line? But he was not serious. A commotion had been got up in this country, and the Government had fixed on him (Sir 60 C. Napier) to bear the blame. But it was a mere flash in the pan—an attempt on the part of the right hon. Baronet to cover his own political cowardice.
On the 5th of September the French Minister in London applied to the Admiralty for steam vessels to tow the French ships home, and notwithstanding that at that date such an application had been made, the Admiralty, on the same day, sent an order to him to take counsel again with the French Admiral and a Marshal of France to take into consideration General Jones's plan. General Jones went up with the French General of Engineers, and looked at Sweaborg, and he was of opinion that they could land 5,000 men upon the fortified island within pistol-shot of Sweaborg, having a garrison of 20,000 or 30,000 men, with a Russian fleet lying in the passage between, almost touching each shore, with eight sail of the line in the harbour of Sweaborg, covering the whole of the island, with 6,000 or 7,000 men beside the garrison—in the face of all these difficulties General Jones proposed that a lauding should be made. Now, he would put it to any naval or military officer, whether it would have been safe to have acted on any such plan. He maintained it would not have been safe. If he and the French Admiral had been fools enough to have attempted any such thing, the weather being so bad, they could not have hoped to effect a landing, or to get up the guns and stores; but even if they had succeeded in doing these things every man Jack of them would have been killed or taken prisoners. There could not be the slightest doubt of it. The French General laughed at the idea; but a council, however, could not be called, as the French army had left. Not being satisfied, the Admiralty sent out another order, and General Niel, the French General of Engineers—a very clever man, and one of the first engineers in France—made a report to Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers, in which he opposed the plan of attempting to make a landing with 5,000 men, but was of opinion that the broadsides of eight or ten sail of the line anchored abreast of Sweaborg—a place stronger than Gibraltar, and, according to the reports of officers who had seen Sebastopol, much stronger than even that fortress—that such a naval force would be able to knock, it to pieces. But General Niel, like a sensible man, however, added, that ships were easily hurt, and easily burned, and that such a 61 desperate attempt had never yet been made, that he had board of, and it was not his province to recommend it. Now, that was condemnatory of the whole thing, and it would not have been wise, therefore, to have made the attempt. The French Admiral felt exceedingly indignant at being asked to reconsider his opinion. Having once given his opinion, he thought it was improper in the First Lord of the Admiralty to ask him to reconsider his opinion, and the opinions of General Niel and General Jones. He (Sir C. Napier) endeavoured to pacify the French Admiral, who said, that having already given his opinion of the utter impossibility of success, he would not make the attempt, lest, failing, he should be reproached with having acted against his previously expressed opinion. The right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty was still full of fight, and he wrote to say that the British steamers in fine weather might have been better employed than in towing the French ships home. What was that fine weather in September? Why, the ships were pitching, bows under, in a heavy gale of wind for five days, and the French Admiral's ship had three cables out. On the 30th of August the French Admiral was ordered to return to Cherbourg, and the English Government was informed of that order; yet, on the 15th of September, the First Lord of the Admiralty seemed to be ignorant of it, for in the letter the First Lord of the Admiralty addressed to him the hope was expressed that he (Sir C. Napier) would be able to consult with the French Admiral, and that of the eight or ten sail of the line that would be required, the French Admiral could no doubt risk the half; and further, that the First Lord took for granted volunteers would not be wanting. Now, he (Sir G. Napier) would ask if any one ever heard of the Admiralty asking whether volunteers could be found in any matter which the Admiral determined upon doing. The letter of the First Lord then referred to the sending home of small ships, aud stated that no further orders would be sent till it had been ascertained whether the French fleet would winter in the Baltic. Now, he (Sir C. Napier) knew the French fleet would not winter in the Baltic. But there was no end of plans sent out; one was to get two dredging machines to send to Sweaborg to open a passage, and it was calculated they would be able to raise 15,000 tons of rubbish. Now, what was the wise suggestion 62 of protecting those machines? Why, they were to use them under cover of fog and smoke, just as if he knew when there would be fog. There was another suggestion about taking possession of one of the islands—the Island of Dago—and whether it was not possible, when winter came on, to blast the ice in the Baltic to prevent the Russian troops marching over. Such an idea was preposterous. He was also told he could winter in the Baltic, and anchor anywhere in any weather; but the Baltic was 80 or 100 fathoms deep in some places. The French Admiral, becoming indignant, stated that he would not change his opinion, and left on the 19th of September, and on the 20th sailed to Nargen to make a survey, On the 23rd orders came out for him (Sir C. Napier) to consult with the French Admiral as to the ships that should be sent home. On the 26th the right hon. Baronet wrote to say that the steamers and the three-deckers, however, were not to be sent home. The French Admiral, however, had gone, and had sent home his sailing ships, and he (Sir C. Napier) had also sent home the sailing ships.
Well, the Admiralty got frightened again. Their Lordships did not know what the right hon. Baronet had written; they had forgotten the orders of the 12th and 23rd of September, and by the same mail the right hon. Baronet had ordered him to send the sailing vessels home, the Board desired him not to do so. But they were already gone; and on the 2nd of October they wrote to him, reproving him for not obeying orders. That showed how they managed matters at the Admiralty. He set once more to work, and reconnoitred Sweaborg again. On the 23rd he reconnoitred it in the Driver, commanded by Captain Sullivan. He found the passage to be little more than a quarter of a mile wide, and the fortifications appeared like batteries heaped one upon another. A three-decker lay in the neck of the passage. In addition, there was a reconnoisance made by Captain Sullivan, when in with a flag of truce; and he (Sir C. Napier) came to the conclusion that General Niel could only have seen a part of the fortifications. [The hon. and gallant Member then referred to the report which he had already made to the Admiralty, pointing out the very great danger which would attend any attack upon Sweaborg made by ships alone.] Now, the House could not help seeing that he had communicated 63 his opinions to the Admiralty on that point, as well as to the inadequacy of the means as to the state of the weather. He, at the same time, pointed out what plan should be adopted in the event of the attack being made, and he certainly did hope that the Government would have given him credit for the plans he had communicated. How it came about, he could not tell, but he received no answer till about a fortnight after. That letter then addressed to him was dated the 4th of October, the day on which the hoaxing statement arrived in London of the fall of Sebastopol, when the people were all wild with excitement. The letter stated that his reconnoissance of Sweaborg had given rise to serious considerations at the Board, as he had stated that troops might be employed with the ships, but that he had not said that troops were indispensable. Now he (Sir C. Napier) would say that such a statement on the part of the Admiralty was at variance with the truth, for he had stated, that to attack Sweaborg with ships alone would not do, but that with gunboats and mortar vessels, it would be laid in ruins. The letter also stated that there was reason to believe that the French fleet would be ordered to rejoin him, but he could not believe that the sea Lords of the Board would have thought of Bending the French and English fleets up the Gulf of Finland in October, for if they were so sent up, he had no hesitation in saying that none of them would ever come back again. The letter vent on to observe that he complained of making an attack at the advanced period of the year, but he was told he might choose his own day, and take advantage of fine weather. He was told by that communication that he was to choose his day, forsooth—some sunshiny day, he supposed—when Cronstadt was frozen over and Sweaborg open. Here were pretty instructions for an Admiral If, during the summer, that goading letter had been sent to him, instead of repeated admonitions to be cautious, he would not have hesitated for a moment to go into Sweaborg, let the consequences be what they might. But he was convinced that it would have been a piece of insanity for him to have attempted it then; and even now, he could scarcely believe that such an instruction ever emanated from the Board of Admiralty. If it had, all he could say was, that that Board was utterly unfit to conduct the naval affairs of the country. That goading letter was written immediately 64 on the first report that Sebastopol was taken, and a more disgraceful communication was never written to a British Admiral. He received at the same time a letter from the right hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir M. Berkeley), but as he did not consider himself justified in reading it without his permission, he would only read his (Sir C. Napier's) reply to it. His reply was, in substance, that it was impossible to attempt Sweaborg in the heavy gales then prevalent, and that the opinion he then gave was shared by the French Admiral. He also added, that it was unjust to cast upon him the responsibility which the writer and the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had attempted to throw upon him. Immediately after the receipt of that goading letter, in which he was told to lay Sweaborg in ruins, he wrote to the Admiralty to say that, in his opinion, Sweaborg ought not, under any circumstances, to be attacked by the fleet until it had been bombarded for a day or two with mortars, shells, and rockets, and that after that time, the ships might go alongside, and finish the work. He mentioned that he had been told that he might choose his day for the attack, but that there had been no day since he got their letter upon which he could have ventured to attack the place without the almost certain loss of the fleet. He also stated his opinion that no man in his senses, who knew anything about his business, would venture an attack upon Sweaborg with large ships without a previous bombardment of two or three days.
He had already shown that on the 4th of October the Government received the first news of the fall of Sebastopol. On the 9th of October the news turned out to be a hoax. What did they do then? They did not wait for his reply, but immediately sent off a telegraphic message that the French and English ships were to come home, and that Sweaborg was no longer to be attacked. During the time the fleet lay at Nargen there were constant gales, and the right hon. Baronet thought the ships might have tried their long guns at vertical firing, as if they were mortars. The right hon. Baronet was, doubtless, a great gunner, but it was a pity he had not been at Shoeburyness and got a lesson in gunnery before he ventured to instruct a British Admiral how he was to use his guns. The ships, however, were ordered home, but before they left, several of them, English and French, struck on sunken 65 rocks, and lost their cables or anchors. His reason for not attacking Sweaborg was, that it could not be taken at that time without the loss of the fleet. The Admiralty, however, chose to put a different construction upon his letters, and wished to make it appear that he had been adverse to attempt to take Sweaborg, whereas, what he had all along said, and what he still maintained, was, that no sane man would attempt to do so without a previous bombardment of the fortress with mortars, shells, and rockets. After this the Board of Admiralty sent him a long Jesuitical letter of twelve pages, which could only have been written by the right hon. Baronet himself; for no one else could possibly have penned such a production. In that letter the Admiralty threw the whole blame upon him for not attacking Sweaborg after the fall of Bomarsund, but he entreated the House to remember that, previous to that event, which occurred in May, he had never seen Sweaborg. All he had seen was a plan of Sweaborg by a Swedish engineer officer, and he then expressed his opinion, that if the plan was correct, it was impossible to take the place without a previous bombardment. The Admiralty, however, chose to suppress the conditions which he had attached to the taking of Sweaborg, and made it appear in their correspondence as if he had declined altogether to attack the place. The plans of Sweaborg forwarded to him from the Admiralty also convinced him that the place was unassailable without a heavy bombardment. It was quite true that he had said 10,000 men could not take Sweaborg, and he remained of that opinion. On the 27th of October he wrote to the right hon. Baronet, telling him that the French General had withdrawn his troops, and that, in consequence of a continuance of bad weather, the fleet would, in all probability have been lost amid sunken rocks if they had attempted to have attacked Sweaborg. The House would see that a brigadier general of engineers wanted to land 5,000 men to attack Sweaborg, with a garrison of 30,000 or 40,000 men. Why, that would have been worse than even the landing at Old Fort, when the commanders were totally ignorant of the country. Abo was the only place that was open to attack at that time; but the cholera was raging there, the harbour was land-locked, and two or three steamers, sent to explore the navigation, ran on the rocks. The French general, finding such to be the case, refused 66 to have anything to do with it, and took away his men. It had been said by General Nicl, in reference to the contemplated attack on the fortress by the ships, that it was très hardi, that was, "very desperate." Now, how did the right hon. Baronet translate that term? The right hon. Baronet could surely speak French; yet the right hon. Baronet wrote to him, that, in his opinion, the place ought to be attacked; and that was the right hon. Baronet's mode of translation. Now, he must say that the First Lord of the Admiralty had, in order to make a report in his own department, so translated it. He (Sir C. Napier) had shown by documents, that Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers had been ordered to sail on the 5th of September, and that, although the Lords of the Admiralty knew that the French fleet had sailed, they yet wrote to him stating that "they considered that the English and French fleets should unite for the purpose of attacking the place." The right hon. Baronet then wrote to him expressing himself very sorry that he (Sir C. Napier) should come under displeasure in his correspondence with the Admiralty; and his opinion that he had brought it all upon himself; that the report which he had sent home appeared to be conflicting with the opinions which he had previously expressed; and that he was convinced that if he (Sir C. Napier) had had mortars and Lancaster guns, he must succeed. The right hon. Baronet went on to say that the Admiralty had not sent him their plans, in consequence of his having declared to them, in his report, that it would be impossible to take the place. He, however, thought it possible for him (Sir C. Napier) to have attacked the place by vertical fire, with long guns. Now, there was a First Lord of the Admiralty! "Attack the place," said he, "by 'vertical' fire!" The right hon. Baronet then went on to say that "he was exceedingly sorry that he (Sir C. Napier) was unwell." Why, who made him so? To that letter of the right hon. Baronet he wrote an answer expressive of his belief that there was not a word in all his correspondence with their Lordships which was intentionally calculated to give offence; but that, if their Lordships were anxious to convict him, he was quite prepared to justify himself; that he had documents enough to prove the correctness of all that he had stated in his reports to their Lordships. Their Lordships seemed to forget that Sebastopol, with the aid of 67 an army of 50,000, could not be taken by the fleet. He had gone through the world hitherto with a character unimpugned and unimpeached, and with honour and justice; and was now, just as he was about to leave it, assailed by the right hon. Baronet, and by those Lords of the Admiralty over whom he presided as the First Lord.
He had now gone through and finished his correspondence with the right hon. Baronet; and he would next refer the attention of the House to his correspondence with the Lords of the Admiralty; and he would show the House, that a full report which he had sent to the right hon. Baronet, in reference to the defensive condition of Sweaborg, and which the right hon. Baronet had acknowledged, had never been laid at all before their Lordships by the right hon. Baronet. In the letter written to him by command of their Lordships, it was intimated to him, that their Lordships could not misinterpret anything that might appear to him to require explanation in his letters. Now, he admitted, that in the letter to which their Lordships had thus referred, some things might require explanation, and not be very agreeable to their Lordships; but he had been provoked. The Admiralty had written to him, making certain accusations against him, which were unfounded; but instead of so writing to him, it would have been more honourable in the Admiralty to have apologised to him for the unworthy and unbecoming manner in which they had treated him. He did not like to use very hard words—and the present was not the time to accuse a Minister of high treason—but he must say that it appeared to him that the then First Lord of the Admiralty was never serious at all with respect to the Russian war, because the right hon. Baronet wrote to him in the summer to abstain from attacking Sweaborg at all; and in the winter, when that season had come on, the right hon. Baronet, forgetting what he had written in the summer, wrote to him in a tone actually goading him on to attack the place. Why, the fleet would have been lost had he done so. Now, if the Emperor of Russia had written to him, he would have just directed him to act in the manner in which the right hon. Baronet had directed him, and have endeavoured to induce him to attack the place. Now, that finished the whole of his correspondence with the Admiralty; and he must say that they had endeavoured to stop his mouth in relation to his 68 position in the affair, and the manner in which he was treated. [The hon. and gallant Member then described his sailing to Kiel, and the difficulty of the navigation at the period of the year, together with the character and nature of the ships which he had under his command.] When he arrived in England, he went at once to pay his respects to the First Lord of the Admiralty (the right hon. Baronet); and he must say that a more sneering manner—a more offensively sneering manner than that in which he had been received by the right hon. Baronet, he had never had experience of in his life; and he must own that it was with the greatest difficulty that he kept his temper. The right hon. Baronet said to him, in effect—"You may say what you like, I will make no reply to you." He (Sir C. Napier) saw from that moment that the right hon. Gentleman was preparing to attack him; and when he went back to Portsmouth, he was ordered to haul down his flag; and he could not say that he was sorry for it, for he never would have served again under the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty. He wrote to the Admiralty, commenting upon the manner in which he had been treated, and inquiring whether the order thus given to him was with their knowledge, and he received an answer in the affirmative. He would not now go into statements respecting matters which he had already touched upon; but there was a great deal of the past repeated. He might, however, inform the House that, after a few days' reflection, the Lords of the Admiralty had written him a letter, thanking him for "his services;" and he received a further communication from their Lordships, in reply to one addressed to them by him, stating that their Lordships, although not satisfied with him, had only to repeat that no censure had been passed upon him in reference to his conduct in command; and intimating to him that their Lordships had already expressed their sentiments on the manner in which an officer in command of the fleet, and of his high rank, had conducted himself. Further, that their Lordships did not feel themselves at liberty to enter a second time into a discussion of the reports; and still less of former documents, which were not laid before them; and their Lordships went on to say that they did not consider an inquiry into his conduct was necessary. Now their Lordships' praises of him, from 69 the time he first entered the Baltic, were most lavish, yet their Lordships accused him of having left England without orders, and that after praising him, not only on their own part, but through the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and notwithstanding those praises—notwithstanding the previous praises of the First Lord of the Admiralty, of the manner in which he had conducted himself in relation to the operations of the fleet under his command—they now told him that "he had left England without orders." Now, was it likely, he asked the House, that he could, after the praises they had bestowed upon him, have treated them with disrespect? But, from that time, they began to accuse him, in implied, if not in express terms, of "cowardice." Yes, their accusation amounted to cowardice; and, under the annoyance of such treatment, he could not refrain from expressing himself strongly. He did not find fault with the Admiralty for removing him from the command of the fleet; that was not his complaint; his complaint was on different grounds; for while he considered that his Sovereign, the Queen, had a right to choose and appoint whom she pleased to command the fleet, he had yet a right to complain of their Lordships having written to him in such a manner as they had, throwing the whole blame of the ill-success of the expedition on him; but he was happy to say that, in that, they did not succeed.
He had now done with the year 1854, and he would not detain the House long with reference to what took place in 1855. The House had seen that he recommended a large fleet to be sent out in that year to the Baltic. Well, the fleet was sent out under another admiral, but it would be recollected that he (Sir C. Napier) recommended a large fleet of gunboats to be sent out also. Now, he did not blame the Admiralty for what occurred in 1854; but he must say that, after they had, in 1855, received information from him of the manner in which Cronstadt could only be taken, they should have sent such a fleet out to the Baltic as he had advised, and that the Government, in not having done so, had been guilty of the greatest neglect. The Government sent out to the Baltic, as well as he recollected, sixteen gunboats and sixteen mortars in 1855. Now, was that a force of guns with which they could expect to attack Cronstadt or Sweaborg successfully? There was no excuse whatever for want of time, because 70 it appeared, the other day, that mortar-vessels were got ready in about three weeks—and the Government had ample time to get the gun and mortar boats ready after they had been recommended to do so by him; but instead of doing as recommended, they sent out only sixteen gunboats and sixteen mortars. Now, what the instructions were that had been given at the Admiralty he did not know; but it was very clear that no instructions could have been given to go and attack and take Cronstadt or Sweaborg with such a fleet—and, as it appeared, they went out to Cronstadt, and spent a very consider-time in examining it. Why, they ought to have known that Cronstadt could not be successfully attacked with a fleet thus inefficiently prepared, and they ought also to have known that Sweaborg could not be attacked and taken by such a fleet. Why did the Admiralty send out only sixteen gunboats and sixteen mortars? And what was the fact with regard to the fleet sent out in 1854? Why, that it was sent out without mortars or gunboats to attack and take those fortresses. Now, he must say that unless they had a large force of mortars and guns, it was impossible to attack Sweaborg with any probability of success. And if the Government thought otherwise, why did they not make the experiment? Now, during the whole of the time that he had been in command, not a single vessel had been sent out to Cronstadt with either gunboats or mortars, and he begged to call the attention of the House to what occurred to the mortars that had been subsequently sent out. It had been said that the mortars had split in the course of being discharged, and that their splitting was caused by the badness of the material of which they were composed; but that was not the case; the mortars split, as the result of the rapidity with which they were fired. Now, he must say that the Admiralty would, in his opinion, have been wrong, if they had directed the fleet to be taken in there in a state so inefficient for the purpose; and that, after the example of 1854, the Government ought to have sent into the Baltic as large and effective a force as they possibly could. They ought not to have hesitated about money or a question of expense in such a matter—and his belief was, that if the same exertions had been made in 1855 as in 1856, the war would have been put an end to before now, and finished with glory to 71 the British arms and nation. But those exertions had not been made in 1855. Sweaborg, with efficient preparations, might have been taken; but as to Cronstadt, with such preparations as they had hitherto made, he had no hope in their attacking such a fortress successfully. He hoped the House would see that he had told a plain tale; and he thought that they must see that the Admiralty had treated him in a most scandalous manner—in a manner not worthy of them, and not creditable to the right hon. Baronet the then First Lord; and he must say that, in his opinion, some notice ought to be taken of such treatment, in order to prevent a recurrence of it. He regretted that two Lords of the Admiralty could have put their names to such offensive letters as had been written to him; and he must say that he was sorry to see the name of Sir Maurice Berkeley signed to one of those letters. He had now told the House all he had to say, and if he had used any language which he ought not to have used, he was very sorry for it, but he trusted no danger whatever would result to our military operations, and that nothing would be compromised by the statement he had made; and he could not see why the Government should not give him the Committee which he asked for. A Commission had been appointed to inquire into the conduct of two general officers who were noblemen, whose character had been impugned by two Commissioners appointed to inquire whether they were right or wrong. He, too, had a right to expect that a proper inquiry would be instituted; and that, if he had not done that which was right, he ought to be punished, and the only way in which that could be ascertained was by the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the operations in the Baltic in 1854 and 1855. He had now told his tale as well as he could, and must leave his case in the hands of the Government and of the House; and he trusted that, in the answers which might be made to him, they would act with justice and fairness, and that the statements they made would be borne out by sufficient documents. He hoped there would be no special pleading, but that the whole truth would be told; and having said so much, he thanked the House for the great attention with which they had received his statement. He trusted they would give him a Committee.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Sir, I cannot see a brother officer adrift without throwing 72 out a tow-rope to him. No one seemed inclined to second the Motion of the hon. and gallant Admiral; I will, therefore, perform the office. In expressing my opinions, I can assure the House I am actuated by no ungenerous feelings, but I must observe, that, whatever may be the amount of reprehension which the gallant Admiral or the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty may have met with at the hands of the people of this country, they have justly incurred that blame, because it was their bounden duty to have possessed themselves of more accurate information with respect to the nature of the operations which they were called upon to conduct in the Baltic. The intricacy of the navigation in that sea, the difficulty of access to its harbours, and the strength of the fortifications on the shores of Russia, ought to have been known to both. Both were seriously to be blamed; the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty for not having provided suitably and sufficiently for the efficiency of the fleet which was sent into those waters, and the gallant Admiral, for not having insisted on being furnished with a fleet adapted to the services which he was called on to perform.
We have heard much remark on the subject of the speeches at the Reform Club. I, for one, am not disposed to comment with undue severity on after-dinner speeches, or attach much importance to their substance; but it is only too true that throughout the country their consequence has been that expectations were raised which there was good reason to believe were incapable of fulfilment. I cannot countenance the signals made by the gallant Admiral, so calculated to mislead public opinion.
A force of gunboats was wholly indispensable to achieve the success which was contemplated; yet none were provided by the Government at the commencement of the war. I was in the Baltic in the years 1808 and 1809, and I may be permitted to give hon. Members some idea of the description of vessels which were necessary to carry operations to a satisfactory issue in that sea. During that period the boats of the Bellerophon attacked some batteries on Hango Head, and completely destroyed them. An attack was also made by the boats of a squadron under the command of that clever and intrepid officer, the late Sir Byam Martin, upon a flotilla comprising gunboats and a large armed vessel, 73 which was convoying twelve ships laden with powder and provisions: with the exception that one gunboat escaped, the success was complete. A third instance occurred, when Captain Forrest, opposing an inferior force to that of the enemy, with the boats of his squadron cut out three gunboats. It is, therefore, perfectly clear that much might have been effected in the Baltic in 1854, had attention been paid to the equipment of a proper force, and the fleet been enabled by such means to cope with those difficulties which it was destined to meet.
If the only duty which devolved on the gallant Admiral consisted simply in maintaining a close blockade in the Baltic, then he has adequately done it. The country, however, had expected more, and the means should have been provided. Reflections have not rarely been made in this House on the conduct of the Russian fleet. It has been said that it was afraid to venture out of harbour to engage our ships in a fair fight. I cannot concur in the justice of such remarks. To my mind it would have been a signal act of imprudence and wrong judgment for the Russian admirals to have adopted such a course. Their fleet was composed of sailing ships, which it would have been the height of rashness to have opposed to the force under our flag, which numbered, as it did, many steamships of the line, while, from confinement within their harbours, the enemy's seamen had been unable to obtain any practical experience in their profession. The conduct of the Russians in the defence of Sebastopol refuted such an imputation, and has shed lustre on their arms. This tribute to gallantry I cannot withhold, even when it has been displayed by an enemy.
With regard to the best means of promoting the efficiency, both of our fleet and army, it is the bounden duty of every Government to make a selection for either service of those officers only, on whose skill, courage, and judgment they have reason to place full reliance. That done, it is equally incumbent upon them to repose in those officers the most complete confidence, and thus to follow out the immortal maxim, uttered by one of the most competent authorities on such a subject, the Emperor Napoleon, "Let the men of the sword be made to depend as slightly as possible on the men of the pen." What has occurred in the course of the present discussion during this evening reminds me 74 of a farce, which about a century since was produced in the capital of our witty and clear-sighted allies. In the course of the piece an English courier entered on the stage,—his appearance was remarkable, he had a protuberance ahead and a similar addition astern. It naturally at tracted the attention of the commanding officer, another character in the play, who immediately challenged him—"What do you carry there in front?" "Your orders, sir." "And what behind?" "Your—all, yes, your counter-orders, sir." "Phew!" exclaimed the unhappy officer, "then it is all over with me!" Perplexity, incertitude, and difficulties must prove the inevitable consequences of an accumulation of orders and counter-orders upon an officer charged with the performance of critical duties. A First Lord of the Admiralty has, no doubt, a perfect right to issue secret orders to that officer: but afterwards to make such communications subserve his own purpose, and deny the same privilege to the officer, is as unquestionably to fail in justice and honourable conduct.
The gallant Admiral has, in my judgment, therefore, acted rightly in submitting his own case to this House. I could entertain but a mean opinion of any man who did not value his reputation and a favourable verdict by his countrymen as more precious than life. The discussion which has arisen on the hon. and gallant Member's Motion, I am happy to think, will place the conduct of the navy in a more advantageous light before the eyes of the country, and vindicate its character. The services which were rendered by the Baltic fleet, both at Bomarsund and Sweaborg, were eminently meritorious, and carried out to the extent of the means at its disposal. As regards the Black Sea fleet, it was no slight service which transported 100,000 men over 3,000 miles of a dangerous sea without the loss of a vessel, or, still more, of a single life. It is quite unnecessary to remind hon. Members of its achievements at Kertch, and Kinburn, and in the Sea of Azof. The attack upon the stone batteries of Sebastopol, in which the historic Agamemnon was led into battle and placed in position with a daring and skill worthy of the great Nelson, was an event replete with glory to the naval service. No less important was the hemming in of the Russian fleet within the harbour of Sebastopol; when, like a scorpion begirt with swiftly-closing fires, they had no alternative between destruction by 75 their own weapons, and annihilation by those of the enemy; and their own hands in despair lit their funeral pile. Such deeds cannot fail to influence the opinion of the country; and as this discussion has served to advance them more prominently before the public, I am more especially glad that it has been raised; only I must regret that the services of many eminent naval officers have not received that meed of reward which is their due.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the operations of the British Fleet in the Baltic in the years 1854 and 1855.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
Sir, the hon. and gallant Officer who has brought forward the Motion seemed to anticipate that I intended to make an attack upon him. I rise, Sir, with no such intention, but I cannot refrain from expressing a strong opinion as to the impropriety of the course he has taken in reading extracts from dispatches and private letters, containing the confidential opinions of officers of this and other countries, to a greater extent than, after a quarter of a century's experience in this House, I have ever seen done before. I expressed a similar opinion as to the somewhat similar course which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Malins) pursued last Session, though to a very limited extent. I think the House concurred in that opinion, and, in deference to the general feeling of the House, the hon. and learned Gentleman withdrew his Motion. I am extremely sorry that the hon. and gallant Officer has now taken a course which I cannot but consider as being most prejudicial to the public service. I shall carefully abstain from referring to any one of those documents, and although it will perhaps be necessary for the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) and the right hon. and gallant Admiral near me (Sir M. Berkeley) to refer to them to some extent, in vindication of their character, I hope they will make as little reference to them as possible. It is indispensably necessary that private and confidential correspondence should take place between the First Lord of the Admiralty and officers employed on service. In my short experience I have found such communications of the greatest advantage, but it is obvious that if either party be at liberty to produce them in this House, without the leave of the other party, there must be an end to all confidential communication for the future, and without such 76 communication I will venture to say that the public service of the country cannot be advantageously carried on. Having made these remarks in reference to the course taken by the hon. and gallant Officer, I hardly know what more I am called upon to say in answer to his Motion. It is not enough for the hon. Gentleman or for any other Member simply to ask for a Committee; he is bound to state some sufficient ground for its appointment, and I appeal to any hon. Gentleman who has heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Officer who made the Motion, or of the hon. and gallant Officer who seconded it, to say whether the slightest ground has been assigned for appointing a Committee to review the Baltic campaign of 1854.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
I did not enter upon that point, nor did I express my intention as to the vote which I should think it right to record; for it must depend upon the reply of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I beg the hon. and gallant Officer's pardon, but when an hon. Gentleman seconds a Motion in this House, it is always implied, at least, that he thinks the Motion is one which ought to be granted. If the hon. and gallant Officer had not seconded this Motion, it would have fallen to the ground. I am glad, however, that the hon. and gallant Officer does not approve it, but only seconded it, as he expressed himself in not very complimentary terms, because he saw the hon. and gallant Admiral "adrift." I entirely agree with him that it is very desirable not to allow men of the sword to be subjected to men of the pen, and I think it is also desirable that the conduct of men of the sword should not be subjected to the investigation of Committees of this House. There are many things into which a, Committee of this House may properly inquire, but it is certainly not a tribunal competent to decide upon the conduct of naval or military officers. If the hon. and gallant Admiral chooses to move a vote of censure upon the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), who, he seems to think, has been guilty of little less than high treason, it is perfectly competent for him to do so; but I would put it to the House whether—setting aside the extracts from correspondence which ought never to have been read—a single ground has been assigned for an investigation before a Committee? The hon. and gallant Admiral's conduct has 77 not been publicly censured—quite the contrary; but he has hauled down his flag on returning from service, as Admiral Dundas has hauled down his flag, and as other officers have hauled down their flags in previous years. [Sir C. NAPIER: But my treatment was very different.] An attack was made upon the conduct of the Baltic fleet in 1854, during the discussion of the Navy Estimates last year, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle then expressed in pretty strong terms the approbation with which the Government of 1854 regarded what had been done by that fleet. It was not the fault of the Government that the hon. and gallant Officer did not receive an accession of honour with other officers of the fleet which he commanded, and he stated himself that he felt it would be impossible for him to be appointed to the command of the fleet in 1855. Besides, I do not think the House would deem it at all desirable to permit a Committee to interfere with the Admiralty by saying what officer ought or ought not to be appointed to any particular service. If the Admiralty is to be held responsible, as it ought to be, for the appointment of officers to commands, that responsibility ought not to be interfered with by this House. I have a further observation to make upon the hon. and gallant Admiral's remarks with regard to the operations of 1854, in vindication of the character of as honourable and gallant an officer as ever served—I mean General Jones. The hon. and gallant Admiral was not justified in the observations he made upon General Jones, whose skill and gallantry have never been wanting to his country whenever they could be employed in its service, from the storming of Badajoz, where he led the forlorn hope, to the present day. The hon. and gallant Admiral criticised the operations of 1855, and said he could not understand why half the fleet was left at Cronstadt, while the rest was employed upon the bombardment of Sweaborg. But the hon. and gallant Admiral talked a great deal in reference to the operations of 1854, of the immense force of the Russian fleet at Cronstadt, and of the danger that might arise from allowing it to come out. The same danger existed in 1855, and while a portion of the fleet was employed at Sweaborg, it was absolutely necessary for another portion to remain off Cronstadt, to prevent the Russian vessels from sallying out and attacking our cruisers in the Gulf of Bothnia. Admiral Dundas 78 was left entirely to the exercise of his own discretion; he was of opinion that it was necessary to leave a strong force at Cronstadt, and he acted upon that opinion with the full approbation of the Admiralty. With regard to the mortar vessels, a greater number was sent to Sweaborg than was necessary for its destruction. It is true that the mortars turned out to be of an inferior quality. The mortar that stood the best was an old mortar used in the last war, which fired 300 rounds, and those that failed were of the more modern and recent constructions, some of which failed after firing 100 rounds, being far below what they were expected to bear. If I thought the honour of the British Navy likely to be imperilled by the refusal of this Committee, as the hon. Member for Christchurch said, I would not oppose it, but I do not think the appointment of such a Committee necessary for its vindication. I have on former occasions expressed a strong opinion that, although the officers of the British Navy have not had such opportunities of distinguishing themselves in the present war as they enjoyed on former occasions, yet that greater zeal and greater gallantry never were displayed at any former period of the history of the Navy than have been shown, so far as opportunity permitted, by all ranks in the service, from the admiral down to the cabin-boy. In these circumstances, when no public ground has been stated by the hon. and gallant Member for appointing a Committee to criticise the operations of officers of the British Navy—when the hon. and gallant Member who seconded the Motion does not seem to think it right that such a Committee should be appointed—I trust the House will unanimously agree to reject a Motion, for which no ground has been stated.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Sir, the House must have observed the difficulty experienced by the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark in finding a seconder for his Motion. The hon. and gallant Officer on the third bench (Admiral Walcott), with that generosity which belongs to his profession and to his personal character, said he could not bear to see a brother officer adrift and in distress and not throw him out a tow-rope. Sir, if the hon. and gallant Member for Christchurch had not come to the assistance of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, my impulse would have prompted me to second his Motion; for, after all that has passed, 79 I am very glad to have the opportunity of meeting him here face to face. Accusations and allegations against me have been gravely preferred, frequently repeated, made immediately on the return of the gallant Admiral to this House, and from day to day this Motion has been postponed, until we have arrived at the Easter recess; and this Motion, so formally announced, has never been made until this night, although, upon occasion of Motions for going into Committee of Supply, it was open to the hon. and gallant Member to have it brought forward. Now, Sir, nothing would have prevented me from supporting this Motion except the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, made upon his official responsibility, that the appointment of this Committee would be inconsistent with the interests of the public service. As far as my personal wishes and honour are concerned, it would be the greatest possible satisfaction to me that this Committee should be appointed; that every scrap of paper I ever addressed to the hon. and gallant Admiral should be produced before the Committee; that all the correspondence between us should be considered by the Committee; and that I should be allowed to give evidence before the Committee as well as the hon. and gallant Admiral. Sir, the hon. and gallant Admiral is no doubt a very good judge of the strength of fleets and of positions, but he must permit me to say that he is not an equally good judge of strong language. The hon. and gallant Admiral commenced his speech by promising to deliver himself with temper, with moderation, and justice, and I shall not be wrong if I read the charges which the hon. and gallant Admiral has crowded into one speech, but that a very long one. The following, then, are the charges which the hon. and gallant Admiral says I am guilty upon:—Political cowardice—[Sir C. NAPIER: Hear!]—that I have written from the Admiralty letters so Jesuitical that no other pen but mine could have put them on paper—that the honour of an officer is not safe in my hands—that I have been guilty, in his opinion, of treason—[Sir C. NAPIER: I never said so]—that I was never in earnest in the Russian war—that the Emperor Nicholas might have been at the head of the Admiralty with more advantage to British interests than myself—that I desired to make the hon. and gallant Officer a victim—and that I was 80 guilty, while in office, of conduct unworthy of a gentleman. These, Sir, are the charges which the hon. and gallant Admiral has preferred against me, after full deliberation, and after announcing his determination to use no language that was not characterised by temper, by moderation, and by justice. Now, Sir, I should like to call the attention of the House to the use that has been made of my private correspondence with the hon. and gallant Officer. The House will remember that I took exception to the course pursued by the hon. and learned Member for Walling-ford (Mr. Malins) in a former Session with respect to this subject. I complained of the unexpected use made on that occasion of public dispatches withheld by the Government on the ground that their publication would be injurious to the public service, and of private letters, written, certainly, with the utmost confidence at the moment, to an officer employed in an arduous command—produced without consulting the writer of those letters, or obtaining his permission—the letters garbled also and perverted in the order of time, and their production open to every possible objection which could be taken to the abuse of private correspondence. I have every confidence in the correctness of the view which you, Sir, take of the rules of this House, and I am satisfied, after having sat here for a long time, and having had much experience in debate, that there has been no such publicity given in former debates to public or private communications, and that if an appeal had been made to you, Sir, any such use of public dispatches and of private letters would not have been allowed.
After all that has occurred, I think it is necessary that I should call the attention of the House to a further use that has been made of this private correspondence. I hold in my band an extract from a newspaper, the Sheffield Free Press, which contains a correspondence that, with the permission of the House, I will now road. Mr. Ironsides, a resident in Sheffield, makes a proposition, at a public meeting there, "that Mr. Roebuck be requested to move in the House of Commons the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the Baltic expedition of last year." He proceeded to state that he had heard such a description of the letters between Sir James Graham and Sir Charles Napier that he had written to Mr. Grant, the editor of The Morning Advertiser, who, he was informed, 81 had them in his possession, to send them to him. Mr. Grant replies thus to Mr. Ironsides—London, June 11, 1855.Dear Sir—I had in my possession for six weeks the whole correspondence—not copies, but the originals'—which passed between Sir James Graham and Sir Charles Napier, from the starting of the Baltic expedition last year until its return, but I returned it to Sir Charles Napier a mouth ago. Sir Charles spontaneously placed the documents in my hands—which I need not say are of infinite importance—on the understanding that I should not allow them to go out of my sight. I had, however, no prohibition as to showing them to friends, and, had you chanced to call on me while they were in my possession, I should have had much pleasure in showing them to you. I have no hesitation in saying that, if I have any idea of what evidence is, these letters would suffice, with other facts of undoubted accuracy, to convict Sir James Graham of treason.Yours truly,JAMES GRANT.On the receipt of this letter Mr. Ironsides writes to Sir Charles Napier, refers to the statement of Mr. Grant, and asks the hon. and gallant Officer to let him have the letters. In reply, Sir Charles Napier sends the following letter to Mr. Ironsides—Merchistoun, Horndean, June 17, 1855.Sir—Mr. Grant has told you the truth. I did not give those letters to him to publish, because I might have been accused of giving my plans of attack to the enemy; but when it is decided not to attack the parts I pointed out, and when there is no danger of publication, I shall go to Lord Palmerston, and ask him if he will give the papers to the House; and if he refuses, I shall then publish them, whatever is the consequence to myself. I have no hesitation in saying, had I done what Sir James Graham wished me to do, plainly expressed in letters both public and private, I should have lost Her Majesty's fleet; and I think Sir James Graham deserves impeachment for goading me to do in the winter what he was advising me not to do in the summer. Roebuck was so successful with his Sebastopol Committee that he ought to take up the Baltic. Sir James Graham has been publicly accused by me of perverting my letters and of endangering the Queen's fleet; and that accusation ought not to lie dormant. Were I in Parliament, it should not sleep for twenty-four hours. I do not think it right to send you the papers, but would be glad to show them to you had I an opportunity.Yours truly,CHAS. NAPIER.The hon. and gallant Officer is the best judge of what amount of sleep this question may have deprived him; but from the appearance of the House during the delivery of his speech, I do not think his sleeplessness extended to many hon. Members present. I would just observe, before proceeding further, that in the unlimited licence of publication enjoyed by the hon. and gallant Officer, he has advanced one charge both against myself and against the Government 82 with which I was connected that, if it were consistent with the public interests, I do think might with propriety be investigated before a Committee. The hon. and gallant Officer, not in the heat of debate, but in a letter addressed to the editor of The Times on the 10th of January in the present year, raises a substantial issue, which I should be most happy to see tried before any tribunal. He says—I ask, were the Government sincere in their wish to cripple Russia in 1854, and were they serious in 1855? for certainly no one—judging by their actions, could think so.Now, that is a point fairly raised and broadly stated, and certainly nothing could be more satisfactory to me, if it were possible, than that it should be fairly examined. Again, the hon. and gallant Officer has expressed his opinion, first stated in his letter to Mr. Ironsides, and repeated tonight, that my correspondence with him contains proof of treasons of which I have been guilty. A more grave accusation could not be brought against any man, and certainly I am under a difficulty, the Government refusing an inquiry, as to the course which, consistently with my public duty, it is open for me to take. I think, as the matter now stands, it is an exceptional case, and, although most reluctant to read my own private letters, which I think are my own property, yet, in present circumstances, I deem myself compelled to trouble the House with some extracts from my correspondence with the hon. and gallant Officer. It will be open to him to assent to my using his answers if he thinks fit. [Sir CHARLES NAPIER: Use everything you like.] But before I proceed to this point I shall refer to what fell from the hon. and gallant Officer with respect to the evidence which he said I gave before the Sebastopol Committee relative to the use of private letters. With the permission of the House I shall read a portion of that evidence. There was a private letter written by me on the 25th of October, 1854, to Admiral Dundas, who was then in command of the Black Sea fleet. That letter was made a public document by being referred to and quoted in a dispatch to Admiral Dundas, dated Admiralty, 28th of December, 1854, which I read before the Sebastopol Committee, at the same time stating that I should not have felt myself at liberty to use the private letter of the 25th of October, had it not, by the dispatch of the 28th, been made a public document, and had I not 83 received the sanction of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government to my production of it. The Chairman then asked—You state that you would not have felt yourself at liberty to use it if it bad not been made a public document by the dispatch of the 28th; but is not any private document relating to public matters public?—I conceive not; I conceive that no person has a right to use a private letter without the consent of the writer, whether that gentleman be in office or out of it.Is not that a private letter of your own?—The letter of the 25th of October was a private letter, written by me to Admiral Dundas, but I should not have used that letter had it not been made public by the dispatch which I have just read.Not if it related to public matters?—Certainly not; I should not consider myself at liberty, with reference to the conduct of admirals with whom I corresponded, on an occasion like this to make use of my private correspondence.This extract from my evidence will show the value of the statement made by the hon. and gallant Officer that I declared before the Sebastopol Committee that private letters might be made public documents at the will of the Admiralty. [Sir C. NAPIER: You were so reported in the newspapers.] So much for the evidence before the Sebastopol Committee; and to the principle there laid down. I have already told the House it was my wish to adhere, were not the circumstances of this case very peculiar. I have shown the House the use already made of my private correspondence, without my consent, by the hon. and gallant Member. I have told the House that I would be glad to have this question referred to any tribunal, with the whole of the correspondence, public or private; but the House has heard objections from official authority—the head of the Admiralty—to the institution of any such inquiry; and now it only remains for me, in vindication of the truth, to which the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark attaches so much importance, and to avoid that special pleading which the hon. and gallant Member is so anxious to deprecate, though, perhaps, I should have little difficulty in proving, were I to refer to the Report of our proceedings last year, that such artifices are not unknown in the debates of this House—to read with the permission of the House two or three of my private letters addressed to the hon. and gallant Admiral. I shall commence with the circumstances which attended the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral to the command of the Baltic fleet at the commencement of 1854. The hon. and gallant 84 Officer is most anxious that truth should be stated unreservedly in this matter. I am sorry thus early in what I have to address to the House to state that a misunderstanding on a matter of fact exists between the hon. and gallant Admiral and myself. If I did not misapprehend him, I think he stated that I promised him the command of the Baltic fleet in November, 1853. Am I right in so understanding the hon. and gallant Officer?
§ SIR. CHARLES NAPIER
The facts are these:—The right hon. Baronet wrote to me in February, 1854, that he had appointed Admiral Fanshawe to the command of the American station, and that it was his intention—I quote from memory—to keep me at home lest a war might break out, and if there should be no war to send me to Sheerness. I saw the right hon. Baronet the next day, and put this question to him, "Am I to understand you to moan that I am not to go to America, because, in the event of war, you intend to appoint me to a command in the Baltic, and in the event of no war to send me to Sheerness?" His reply was, "Yes."
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I have by me the copy of a letter written by myself to the hon. and gallant Officer on the 11th of February. The hon. and gallant Officer was very instant in his applications to me for the appointment to this command. I have his letters here; but I shall not use them unless he presses me to do so. He urged me very much to give him the appointment; he held out many inducements why I should do so, intimating, among other things, that his popularity in the service was such that his appointment would lead to an early influx of sailors to the fleet; and he adduced many reasons why, both on account of public grounds and personal merit, the command was duo to him. I declined upon more than one occasion an interview with the gallant Admiral, and he complained of my reluctance to see him as inconsistent with the respect which I then felt for him. Upon the 11th of February, therefore, I wrote to him this letter—[Sir C. NAPIER: Read the letter of the 24th of November.] I have not that letter here, but the hon. and gallant Officer is at perfect liberty to read it if he pleases. I will read my letter of the 11th of February in answer to the applications which he made to me, urging that the appointment should be given to him. It is as follows:— 85Admiralty, Feb. 11, 1854.My dear Sir Charles—The appointment to the command of the North Sea fleet is a very serious affair, and cannot be decided in a hurry. While the question is pending there is no use in discussing it with you; and this is the reason why I have avoided a personal interview, not intending to mark any want of respect, but desirous to prevent any needless disappointment. War is not declared; no fleet is yet assembled; and no final arrangements are at present concluded. In these circumstances it is not in my power to make any communication to you at this moment.Vice Admiral Sir C. Napier, K. C. B.So matters stood on the 11th of February. In the performance of my duty, however, having consulted with my colleagues in the Cabinet and taken Her Majesty's pleasure with respect to the appointment, I notified to the gallant Admiral, somewhere about the 23rd of February, that he had been selected to that high command. I had an interview with the gallant Admiral at the same time, and intimated that circumstance to him, and upon the 24th of February the impressions which were produced by that interview were conveyed to the gallant Admiral in the following letter:—Admiralty, February 24, 1854.My dear Sir Charles—The conversation which I had with you yesterday has left on my mind the painful impression, that the means which the Admiralty has provided for fitting out and manning the North Sea fleets are, in your opinion, insufficient for the occasion, and unequal to an encounter with the Russians on fair terms.I have done my best to provide a force which I consider adequate to the duty to be performed; and every exertion which this Board considers necessary will be made without intermission. You urged on me the propriety of offering bounty, of transferring the seamen from the Queen's yacht to the flagship, and of inviting the gentlemen of England to forego their summer's amusement on the sea and to lay up their yachts.These are signs of distress, which I consider impolitic and unnecessary, and which I cannot sanction.If you are dissatisfied with the preparations which have been made and are in progress, and if you have not entire confidence in the strength of the combined forces of France and England, you had better say so to me at once, and decline to accept a command which, in your opinion, would not redound to your honour or to the safety of your country.It will be far better that you should refuse the offer of this command than undertake it with any such misgivings.I have marked my confidence in you by offering it; if you decline it on account of the insufficiency of the means which will be placed at your disposal, I must endeavour to make some other arrangement as soon as possible.Without a good-will and hearty concurrence, 86 this Board and the Commander in Chief of the Baltic fleet cannot work well together.I am, yours very faithfully,J. R. G. GRAHAM.Vice Admiral Sir C. Napier, K. C. B.Now, Sir, to that letter I received an answer from the gallant Admiral, which I have here; but it is his letter, not mine, and whether I shall read it to the House depends upon the wish of the gallant Admiral.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I have already said that I have not that letter here. I will, however, read the gallant Admiral's answer to mine of the 24th of February. It is as follows:—18, Albemarle Street, February 24, 1854.My dear Sir James—I thought it my duty to point out to you what I thought the best way of manning the fleet, to insure a great, glorious, and speedy victory over the Russians.I never made difficulties when service was required, and after a long life spent in honour, I am not going to make them now.I should consider myself a coward and unworthy of holding Her Majesty's Commission were I to decline any service, be it ever so desperate.Lord Nelson never declined service, no more shall I, particularly after the confidence you placed in me; but, with the means at my disposal, will do all I can for the honour and glory of my Queen and country, which shall not be tarnished in my hands; and I certainly have no apprehension of failing either in good-will or hearty concurrence with the Board of Admiralty.I am, my dear Sir James, very faithfully yours, "CHARLES NAPIER.To that letter I immediately returned the following reply:—My dear Sir Charles—I do not anticipate that I shall ask you to undertake any 'desperate' service; and when I offered you this command, I was certain that the honour of the country and of the flag might be safely confided to you. Your apparent distrust of the means which I could place at your disposal was the sole cause of some uneasiness on my part. Your note has dissipated all doubt and apprehension, and I shall be most happy to see you at the Admiralty to-morrow at eleven o'clock, when we will discuss the arrangements which it will be necessary to make.I am, my dear Sir Charles, yours very faithfully, "J. R. G. GRAHAM.Vice Admiral Sir C. Napier, K. C. B.Now, Sir, I shall frankly tell the House why I hesitated long before I advised my colleagues and Her Majesty to appoint the gallant Admiral to that command. I did hesitate long, and I will tell the House the reason why. The House will remember 87 that on a former evening the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark talked very contemptuously of coast guardsmen, with bald heads and spectacles. Now, Sir, I had the honour of some private acquaintance with that gallant Officer very many years ago, and landsman as I am, and ignorant of naval affairs as I may be, I had imbibed very much the opinion from himself, that after sixty no admiral was really so efficient in time of war as he himself might desire to be—certainly not so efficient as he himself had been. If I am not mistaken, I have heard the hon. and gallant Officer say in early youth that he would never think of going to sea after he was sixty years of age. That was in conversation; but when I first went to the Admiralty the hon. and gallant Officer was so good as to extend to me his advice—I had almost said "his tuition"—in the important office to which I was raised unexpectedly in 1831; and, great with the pen as well as with the sword, the hon. and gallant Officer has published frequently and largely. I hold in my hand a book, written by the hon. and gallant Officer, with the high-sounding title of The Navy, which contains a series of letters written by Admiral Sir Charles Napier, and edited by the highest literary authority, his relative, Major General Sir William Napier, to various First Lords of the Admiralty, including Lord Melville, the Duke of Clarence, Lord Auckland, myself—an humble individual among such company—the Earl of Minto, Lord John Russell, the Earl of Ellenborough, Lord Palmerston, Sir Robert Peel, and though last, not least, the editor of The Times. Now, this is in 1831. It is no private communication, no document of doubtful authority, uncertain in its use, and not deliberately given to the public; but it is a letter addressed to myself on May 17, 1831, and the hon. and gallant Admiral says—Rely upon it, Sir, that the generality of men of sixty years of age are not fit for captains; as admirals, there is greater scope for the mind, and the signal for exercise will show him what ships are in order and what are not. But most men of that age are too old for dash and enterprise. Lord Nelson fought the battle of the Nile at thirty-nine, Copenhagen at forty-two, and was killed at forty-seven. Had he been seventy, you would probably not have heard of either one or the other. When a man's body begins to shake, the mind follows; and he is always the last to find it out.That was written by the hon. and gallant Officer in the vigour of comparative youth 88 and in a time of peace; but now time advances, and what continues to be the opinion of the hon. and gallant Officer? Here is a letter to the late Mr. Hume, dated the 28th of February, 1837. He repeats the proposition which he offered to me as to Nelson:—Fought the battle of the Nile at thirty-nine, Copenhagen at forty-two, and was killed at forty-seven. Had he not been an admiral till sixty, I much doubt whether you would have either heard of the battle of the Nile, or Copenhagen; and the battle of Trafalgar most certainly would not have been fought in the manner it was.[Sir C.NAPIER: Hear, hear!] Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman say "Hear, hear," to the next passage?There is a great difference between the command of a fleet and a scat in the House of Commons. A man of sixty may talk to the House for two or three hours, though exposed to the wit, the sarcasm, and the yawns of his opponents, and still preserve his nerve and power of oratory much beyond that age;"—Then comes an allusion to trying circumstances which are all foreseen by the hon. and gallant Officer:——"But an admiral, in command of a fleet, has not only his enemy to look after, but he has charge of that fleet among rocks, shoals, lee-shores, storms, and tempests; and it requires youth and health to support him in all his difficulties.But it does not stop here. As time advances the hon. and gallant Officer addresses his opinions to the Naval Commission appointed in 1839. Full of honest zeal for the service, the Duke of Wellington presided over that Commission, and the hon. and gallant Officer addresses a letter to the secretary. He says this of Lord Nelson—that bright example rightly cherished in the recollection of every naval officer and every grateful Englishman:—Lord Nelson fought the battle of the Nile at thirty-nine, Copenhagen at forty-two, and Trafalgar at forty-seven; many men of his age would have done the same thing; but I doubt whether Lord Nelson himself, between sixty and seventy, would have attempted cither the Nile or Copenhagen; and most certainly, at that time of life, he would not have fought the battle of Trafalgar in the way he did. He died at forty-seven, leaving a brilliant example to follow, but which example will never be followed by one man in a hundred, unless he has youth on his side.These were very solemn warnings, and from my early acquaintance with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, before the close of the French revolutionary war, I was aware, by contrasting his ago with my own, that 89 he had passed the awful limit of sixty years, so dangerous to the public service. But if the doubt of what, for the public service, it was prudent to do had not arisen, there was in this very book a letter to another First Lord of the Admiralty having a personal bearing on the appointment of the hon. and gallant Officer. In a letter to Lord Minto, dated March, 1837, he says—A man made an admiral at forty, in constant employment, with good health, good nerves, and of an active enterprising character, may hold good till sixty or upwards; but a man who has been on shore for a considerable number of years, unaccustomed to command, must have his nerves so much relaxed that it is quite impossible he can command a fleet with the energy that is necessary at the commencement of a war; he may do well enough in peace, but war is quite another thing, and war will surprise us one day or other; and, depend upon it, my Lord, if we meet with reverses, there will be such a flame lit up throughout the country, that the Lord have mercy upon the First Lord of the Admiralty for the time being.I think the House will agree with me, after what I have read of the solemn warnings administered to myself, to the Military Commission, and to First Lords of the Admiralty in times of peace, that we were justified in hesitating before we recommended our colleagues to give the hon. and gallant Officer the appointment. But, Sir, these difficulties having been one by one overcome, I had to consider, in concert with the hon. and gallant Officer, when appointed to the command, the objections he had taken to the manning of the fleet. The hon. and gallant Officer, with laudable foresight and prudence, thought that a Russian fleet of twenty-eight sail of the line was a force not to be despised. When pressed to enter the Baltic with twelve sail of the line and a large number of screws—though the Russians had no screw ships—he more than once represented that the force was inadequate. He stated that the fleet was very ill-manned. Now, Sir, I do not deny that the hon. and gallant Officer pressed upon me, in the interviews to which I have referred, the propriety of issuing a Proclamation based upon the Act of Parliament which I had the honour of introducing. But no such Proclamation could have been issued, with offer of bounty on the one hand, without compulsory service on the other, if within the time limited sailors did not come in. I was not prepared at the first commencement of the war, before the necessity had been demonstrated, to urge the Government directly 90 or indirectly to sanction compulsory service. I had the assistance of my right hon. and gallant Friend the First Naval Lord of the Admiralty—assistance for which I can never be sufficiently grateful, and which, I think, constitutes a debt of gratitude on the part of the public. The exertions of my right hon. and gallant Friend, which were unremitting, convinced me that if a fair trial were given, without a shade of compulsion, the fleet would be manned. I consequently resisted the Proclamation. I resisted the offer of double bounty, intimately connected as it was with compulsory service. The fears of the hon. and gallant Admiral were not realised. The hopes and expectations of the Board of Admiralty were not disappointed, and my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) succeeded in manning the British fleet in a time incredibly short. In passing, I will say that I fully admit the wisdom of the objections which were taken early by the hon. and gallant Officer (Sir C. Napier) to the Proclamation in question, and, feeling the force of those objections, in 1854 I myself proposed a modification of it, to which the House was pleased to give its assent, and the objectionable portion of the law is now altered.
After the Baltic fleet was named for the Baltic service, the Royal Albert, a three-decker, was in the year 1854 named for service in the Black Sea. That ship went out as the flagship of a gallant officer in no respect inferior, either in experience or in judgment, to the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite. [Sir C. NAPIER: Hear, hear!] And I would propose to the hon. and gallant Officer whether he means to say the Royal Albert, manned by volunteers after the Baltic service was supplied, was unfit for the service, or unfit to be sent into battle by a British Board of Admiralty? Let him consult Sir Edmund Lyons on this point. I will not try issue on Sir Edmund's answer. So much for the objections respecting the manning of the fleet. The next point taken by the hon. and gallant Admiral was, that the ships were unfit to go into action. He has read part of his letters, in which he made use of expressions more than once, that there were in the fleet under his command ships unfit to go into action. The Board of Admiralty at once called upon him as a point of duty to specify those ships—"to specify" were the words used in the letter addressed to I him. How did he meet that request? He went off about discipline being improved 91 by exercise, and spoke of the great pains taken by the captains with their respective crews. The Admiralty requested that a report of the state of the ships should be returned to the Admiralty, pointing out such defects as were the subject of complaint, and he gives as an excuse for not sending home the list that it was not easily prepared. The hon. and gallant Officer now talks in respectful terms of the captains under his command. Though I have his private letters in my hand, I will not be so ungenerous as to read to the House and give to the public the confidential communications made by the gallant Admiral with respect to the conduct of several captains, some nearly at the top of the list, in which he declared, giving their names, that he thought them unfit for their commands, and that it was hopeless for them to try to amend; and in which he proposed to me that he should be at liberty to make signal, in presence of the whole fleet, "Go home! You are no use to me here." I resisted so harsh a measure. I have the letters here. I will not, as I have just said, be so ungenerous as to produce them. If I did produce them they would create a degree of ill-will against the hon. and gallant Member such as I am sure he could not confront. I will not betray names. It was a confidential communication to me. It is very easy now to say that the captains were first-rate officers. The private communications to me respecting these first-rate officers bear quite another interpretation, and I state postively that whatever the hon. and gallant Member may now find it convenient to say in public, those were not the representations which he made to me in private. I stated to him that I would support his authority to the utmost, but I was not prepared to sanction the ships being sent home—the ships and crews being efficient. I stated that if he would gravely and specially report to the Board that he thought certain captains should be superseded, I had so much reliance upon his justice and authority that his wishes should be met, but it must be by superseding the officers, and not by sending the ships and crews home.
Now, Sir, another point made by the hon. and gallant Member was, that there were no pilots on board the fleet. I am speaking from a recollection, perhaps, not so perfect as of those who have more ready access to official documents, but I think my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) who was my colleague, will 92 confirm me that great exertions were made. [Sir C. NAPIER: I said so.] The best pilots, and those best acquainted with the navigation of the Baltic, were sought out by the Admiralty long before war was declared. [Sir C. NAPIER: I said so.] I am glad the hon. and gallant Officer makes that admission. I understood him to say that there were no pilots competent to lead the fleet to its scene of action.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER
I said that, when we arrived in the Downs, the greater part of the pilots wanted to go home, and did go home. There were only eight left, and we found them good for nothing. I say so still.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
The hon. and gallant Officer referred to a particular ship, the Monarch. Now, on board the Monarch was a person who had made sixty voyages between Hull and Cronstadt, and who had for four years been master of a steamer plying between Cronstadt and Sweaborg. In addition to that, in the month of February and March, the moment the Baltic was open, a steamer of war was fitted out by the Board of Admiralty, and communications made to the Trinity Houses of London and of Hull—a precaution unexampled in the former history of the naval service—and about twenty most experienced masters, recommended by those Trinity Houses, were sent through the Cattegat, through the Sound, into the Baltic, for the very purpose of making themselves masters of the navigation. I do give the hon. and gallant Officer the highest credit for the able manner in which he led a numerous fleet of ships of very great draught of water through the Great Belt into the Baltic, a most difficult operation. I ascribe—not exclusively, for I am disposed to give him the utmost credit for his skill and ability on that occasion—but I ascribe a large portion of that success to the ability and knowledge of the pilots who were placed on board his ships. Now, Sir, I have been blamed for recommending caution to the hon. and gallant Officer, and he rather taunts me with having restrained his ardour when he first went into the Baltic, although he also charges me with goading him on as winter approached. [Sir C. NAPIER: Hear, hear!] Allusion has been made to an important circumstance by the hon. and gallant Officer who unwillingly seconded the Motion—and I do not know now whether he withdraws his support, for he seconded it under a misapprehension; but I know he reprobated the signal 93 made by the hon. and gallant Admiral to his fleet. When was that signal made? It was made on the day when the declaration of war arrived, and with the permission of the House I will read the words of the signal. It ran thus:—Lads, war is declared, with a bold and numerous enemy to meet. Should they offer us battle, you know how to dispose of them: should they remain in port, we must try and get at them. Success depends on the quickness and precision of your fire. Also, lads, sharpen your cutlasses, and the day's your own.Now, contrast that signal with the signal of the great model of the navy—so regarded by the hon. and gallant officer himself, and so regarded by his fellow-countrymen; contrast that signal with Nelson's signal on the morning of the battle of Trafalgar,—"England expects that every man will do his duty,"—that memorable signal which has become household words—the exhortation of every British parent who sends forth his son into the world, no matter what his future avocation may be. Contrast that signal with the signal made by the hon. and gallant Admiral, and then you will have the measure of the difference between Nelson and the would-be hero of the Baltic. I think that was a signal which led the fleet to expect a most daring enterprise—that even skulking behind fortresses under cover of strong batteries would be of no avail to the enemy; they were to be led to the attack, they were to sharpen their cutlasses, and he promised the day should be their own. I can only tell the hon. and gallant Officer that my political cowardice was such that I was alarmed at his signal. I feared some very rash undertaking was about to commence, and I thought it prudent to tell the gallant Admiral that we did not wish or intend to send him on any desperate service, and I thought it my duty to restrain his honest zeal. That was only at the first commencement of the Baltic campaign. Now, Sir, this brings me to the hon. and gallant officer's dispatch, dated May 30, off Hango Head, in which he says that he thinks, upon reference to the plans, that Sweaborg is un-attackable either by land or sea. [Sir C. NAPIER: Hear, hear!] The hon. and gallant Officer told the House to remember dates. I also beg the House to remember dates. This report is dated May 30. Now, the House will remember the hon. and gallant Officer read a part of a direction from the Admiralty in the autumn of 1854, when the matter was brought 94 in question, in which he was requested to report to the Admiralty when he made a personal reconnaissance of Sweaborg, what was the ship in which it was made, and on what day it was made, and what was the nature of the reconnaissance, The hon. and gallant Officer did not read the answer in full, but he will excuse me for saying he has evaded that answer altogether. He admits that on the 30th of May, when he made that report, he had not been nearer than eight miles. [Sir C. NAPIER: I had not been there at all.] Exactly so. The hon. and gallant Officer said on the 30th of May that Sweaborg was unattackable by sea or by land, he being within eight miles of the place, and not having gone close in to reconnoitre. [Sir C. NAPIER: I was not within 100 miles of it.] The gallant Officer was distinctly asked by the Board of Admiralty whether he had been close to Sweaborg on the 30th of May. Now this is what the hon. and gallant Officer wrote on the 13th of November:—I beg to acquaint their Lordships when the port and works of Sweaborg were inspected by me, I beg to inform them I anchored off Sweaborg on the 12th of June, close to the outer shoals, about eight miles off. All the beacons were removed, and it was impossible to approach nearer, I sent in the master of the fleet and two steamers to search for a passage. I intended to inform myself the next day by a further examination, but the French fleet appeared, and I proceeded to join them.Not after a personal reconnaissance, but with the plans and charts of Sweaborg in his hands. [Sir C. NAPIER: No such thing.] I quote the words of the hon. and gallant Admiral. It is for him to contradict if I am wrong in saying that he never closely reconnoitred Sweaborg until the 23rd of September. [Sir C. NAPIER: Hear, hear!] Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman admit that? [Sir C. NAPIER: Yes, not close.] Well, then, if the hon. and gallant Officer had, on the 13th of June, gone in and made a personal reconnaissance, as he did on the 23rd of September, in company with General Jones, and had made in May that report to the Admiralty which he did make on the 24th of September, it would have been quite possible for the Admiralty in the course of that summer, or before the close of the autumn, to send out all the appliances which he might have deemed to be, requisite. I ascribe the whole difference which has arisen between the hon. and gallant Officer and the Board of Admiralty 95 to his neglect in not making a personal reconnaissance of Sweaborg until so late a period as September 24. That brings me to another point. The hon. and gallant Officer has thought fit to impute motives, and has said that the change of views on the part of the Admiralty with respect to an attack upon Sweaborg was caused by the delusive expectations which were raised by the false report of the fall of Sebastopol. Now, the hon. and gallant Member likes dates. General Jones's report was received at the Admiralty on September 4, enclosed without comment in an official letter from the hon. and gallant Admiral. The report was dated August 29, a reconnaissance, made by Sir Harry Jones alone, having taken place on the 23rd, and the plans of attack bore date August 25. The Government had selected Sir Harry Jones to go out as a military assistant to the hon. and gallant Officer in the various operations which were expected to take place; he being an officer of the highest merit and experience, and one upon whose opinion the utmost reliance could be placed. That gallant officer having closely reconnoitred Sweaborg on the 29th of August, a duty which the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, although he was the naval Commander in Chief, appeal's up to that time to have altogether omitted, expressed the strongest possible opinion that a plan which he described in detail, but which I am sure the House will not expect me to repeat, a plan for a combined operation of sea and land forces to the extent of 5,000 men, would, he felt confident, lead to success, and that in seven days. That report was received on the 4th of Sptember, and I regarded it as being of so much importance that, on the 9th of that month, after the Cabinet had been consulted on the subject, I ordered it to be referred to a council of war. Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers and General Niel, two of the most distinguished officers in the French service, had, unlike the gallant Admiral opposite, considered it their duty also to make a close personal reconnaissance of Sweaborg, and they came to a conclusion not quite identical with that arrived at by General Jones—but to the conclusion that an attack made with sufficient boldness, by naval means alone, without the co-operation of a military force, could be successful, and, indeed, that the fortress would not hold out for more than two hours. That was the opinion of two distinguished military officers after a close reconnaissance, and in the absence of any 96 naval reconnaissance; and, upon that opinion the Government, acting in perfect concert with the Government of France, ordered the matter to be referred to a council of war. It is said that the views of the Admiralty changed with the fluctuation of affairs in the Black Sea, and were influenced by a supposed success at Sebastopol. Now, the hon. and gallant Admiral likes truth, and fortunate y dates sometimes are useful in establishing the truth. [Sir C. NAPIER: Yes, when they arc properly stated.] The opinion of Marshal Baraguay d'Hilliers and General Niel was received on the 11th of September, and on the 12th the order was sent to reconsider the whole question, and the hon. and gallant Admiral was reminded in that dispatch that the destruction of Sweaborg had always been regarded by Her Majesty's Government as a matter of the utmost importance ever since the commencement of the war. Now, with regard to the views of the Government being changed by events in the Crimea. Why, Sir, as I have said, this order was sent on the 12th of September, and the British army did not land in the Crimea until the 15th, and the battle of the Alma was not fought until the 20th of that month. Now, let us consider the question as regards the plan proposed by General Jones. General Jones writes—After careful reconnaissance, the only mode which appears to present itself with any prospect of success, is by a heavy bombardment from a combined operation by land and sea." [Here follows the plan.] "The above is merely an outline of what is possible, practicable, and of easy execution. … Should everything prove favourable, the operation ought not to take more than seven or eight days. … The close of the summer may, probably, be considered the best for bombarding Sweaborg, as the winter following close on the destruction of the public establishments and buildings would preclude the possibility of repairing or rebuilding them during a northern winter.On the 24th of September the gallant Admiral was induced, by the representation of a military officer, to examine the fortress himself for the first time, and General Jones, accompanying him, says, in the strongest manner, that he—Sees nothing to induce him to alter his opinion as to the nature of an attack, with a view to the destruction of the arsenal and establishments,These reports of a general officer do not appear to have been very acceptable to the gallant Admiral, for afterwards, when General Jones, who had taken part in the 97 operations against Bomarsund, requested the gallant Admiral to allow him a steamer to reconnoitre Cronstadt—and a more modest request could not have been made—he was peremptorily refused, and upon that refusal General Jones asked for permission to return to England. All this, however, is merely in passing, and I wish now to say a word or two about Bomarsund. Do I rightly understand the hon. and gallant Admiral when I believe him to say that he did not wish for the assistance of any military force in attacking Bomarsund?
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I should be sorry to read any private letters addressed to me by the hon. and gallant Gentleman without his permission.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
Very well; I will, then, read two extracts from letters addressed to me by the hon. and gallant Admiral. The House will bear in mind that the hon. and gallant Admiral now states that he did not require the co-operation of a land force at Bomarsund. Now, on the 10th of June, 1854, he writes to me—I have anticipated you about the Aland Islands. Sullivan has made a complete survey of them, and been up to Bomarsund, which he finds very strong, but requiring a large land force to attack it. There is a large harbour, quite landlocked, where the whole fleet could anchor; but there is not room alongside the batteries for ships enough to attack it without a land force. If Sweden would come forward it would be different; or if you can send a land force of 10,000 men it could be done.'That was on the 10th of June, and the gallant Admiral evidently considered the subject more deeply, and on the 12th he again writes—Captain Sullivan returned after having made a complete survey of Bomarsund, which he reports as very strong. He was well received on the islands by the inhabitants. By all accounts the garrison consists of 2,200 men. It is a solid granite work of two tiers of guns, supported by three round towers, and he does not think there would be water enough for large ships, and not room enough for such a force as would be adequate to reduce it; but a land force could be sent to great advantage, supported by the ships, and there is a secure harbour which would hold all the fleet. If 10,000 men could be spared I think it might be reduced, which would be a great triumph, but no time should be lost.Now, in consequence of that letter of the gallant Admiral, more than 10,000 men 98 were sent in order to render success in the attack upon Bomarsund certain, as the gallant Admiral expressed the opinion that an attack might succeed if supported by 10,000 troops. Now, Sir, disputes like this, between British admirals and British generals, with reference to attacks upon forts, I am sorry to say, have taken place before, and the present is not the first occasion upon which a British admiral has abused a military colleague. I will just read to the House a passage from a modern history which shows what was the nature of the quarrel which took place between Admiral Vernon and General Wentworth on the occasion of the siege of Carthagena. Lord Stanhope, in writing of Admiral Vernon, says—He became a great favourite with the multitude, who were, like himself, impatient for peace, and prone to consider the noisiest patriot the most sincere. On the breaking out of the war, he was appointed an admiral and commander of the West Indian squadron by the very Minister whom he had assailed, from the same concession to popular clamour which had produced the war itself. He was undoubtedly a good officer, so far as courage, enterprise, and experience can constitute that character; but he was harsh and haughty to his inferiors, untoward with his equals, mutinous and railing to all placed above him in authority.The character given of him by Horace Walpole is that "he was a noisy, brawling admiral, whose reputation was greater than his courage, and whose courage was far greater than his sense." Unfortunately, these quarrels between admirals and generals are not unfrequent in the military and naval annals of the country. But, leaving these historical recollections, I come now to a moot point—mooted again to-night by the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott)—whether stone walls are or are not really assailable by ships? Now, the bright example of the Agamemnon in the attack upon Fort Constantine leads me to think that, with skill and great courage, it is possible, under special circumstances, to attack stone walls and fortresses with ships, though it is, I am willing to confess, a perilous operation. I am left, however, in perfect uncertainty as to what is the deliberate opinion of the hon. and gallant Officer (Sir C. Napier) on this subject. Writing on the 8th of January in the present year a letter to The Times, from which I have already quoted—[Sir C. NAPIER: I wrote no letter of that date.] The hon. and gallant Officer's memory is very treacherous as to what has occurred even very lately. This letter was 99 written on the 8th January, 1856, and published in The Time. on the 10th of that month. [Sir C. NAPIER: Oh, yes; I remember.] The hon. and gallant Officer said, he did not write a letter of that date; but a little reflection has taught him that he is wrong. This letter enters fully into the question as to the attack on stone walls by ships, and here is the result of his long experience—not, remember, contained in a speech, but in a letter deliberately written. He says:—"I served fifteen years last war, and it never was the custom for ships to approach batteries at all." That is the assertion in the letter. Now I think my noble Friend at the head of the Government is somewhat under a misapprehension with reference to the advice given by the hon. and gallant Officer as to the attack on Acre. I have heard it said that successful attack was owing to the advice given by the hon. and gallant Member. Now, on inquiry, I am assured that the reverse is exactly true; that the hon. and gallant Officer counselled Admiral Stop-ford not to attack Acre, and upon the very grounds stated in his letter to The Times—that he had served fifteen years last war, "and it was never the custom for ships to approach batteries at all." The hon. and gallant Officer is a great writer. I have read some of his letters published in a large volume, but, he has published two volumes on the Syrian war and the attack on Acre; and in that history, vol. 1, page 213, where he endeavours to engross to himself a large portion of the praise due to that gallant exploit, I find the following passage. Will the House remember that on the 8th of last January he says it was never the custom in the last war for ships to approach batteries at all, and then listen to the following extract?—I had frequently been engaged with batteries last war, and, I believe, was the only officer in tile squadron who had ever commanded. I ship in action against stone walls, and the system I followed—[you see, he seemed to have had a regular system of attacking stone walls with ships]—the system I followed was the one I had always been accustomed to. It was the plan followed by the leading ship at the battle of the Nile; and I am not aware that Lord Nelson found fault with Sir Samuel Hood for anchoring abreast of the leading ship; and if that is the tactics to be followed in attacking a line of ships, it is certainly the pause that ought to be followed in attacking a line of stone walls.Well, now, this is not all. I must refer again to the volume from which I have already quoted, for a letter addressed by the hon. and gallant Officer to my noble 100 Friend at the head of the Government, and in that letter the hon. and gallant Officer, in the year 1838, enters with great ability upon the question of the attack of stone walls by ships. Recollect that he had declared Sweaborg to be unattackable by sea or land. Now, I will read the whole letter of 1838:—My dear Lord Palmerston,—I am very glad that it is your intention to communicate my letter to your colleagues; since writing it, I observe the French arc greatly strengthening their squadron in the Gulf of Mexico, and, from the nature of their armament, there cannot be a doubt that they intend attacking St. John de Ulloa. If they merely meant to blockade the Mexican ports, a frigate and small craft are by far the best description of force for that purpose; but line-of-battle ships and bombs"—[there is not much about gunboats here]— "plainly indicate their intention of attacking the castle and defences of Vera Cruz.I have been twice there, and am quite certain, if they attack with"—[with what? why, with]—''boldness, they will take it. Many naval officers will disagree with me, but few know what ships can do, when well placed, against stone walls—Algiers, for example.Nobody thought the French would have forced the Tagus, because Sir Charles Cotton did not do it after the battle of Vimiera—they did, and succeeded.St, John de Ulloa is not so strong as St. Julian, and a ship can nearly touch the walls"—[it being proved that at Sweaborg there is deep water close to the walls themselves,—"and the Mexican soldiers are not fire-eaters.I know the admiral—he is young and enterprising; if he take St. John de Ulloa, Vera Cruz will be at his mercy, and they may probably make a second Algiers of it.I write this to your Lordship, because the castle is generally supposed to be"—[What? Like Sweaborg—the very words].—"unattackable by sea, and thinking so, your Lordship might be led astray.Just as the Board of Admiralty were "led astray" by the reports of the 30th of May. I now have to thank the House for the patience with which they have heard me. Into this discussion I have been drawn most reluctantly. It is not of my seeking. Had it not been for the particular circumstances of the case, I should not have done what I have done to-night, in reading private letters. I am scrupulously fearful that I have transgressed in reading those letters, but the House in judging my conduct on that point will remember that the circumstances were very pressing. Before doing so I took counsel with the House respecting the propriety of this proceeding, and I myself did not see how such a course was well to be avoided. Sir, this House is always a friend of truth; it dislikes special pleading; and I think I 101 have stated to the House openly and fairly what are the real facts of this case. One point only remains for me to touch upon. I am, it seems, the friend of Russia. The Emperor Nicholas himself, had he been at the head of the Board of Admiralty, could not have done more than I did to promote the interest of Russia. Well, there are many witnesses upon the bench below me. I will defy any one in this House to say that any effort was omitted by me while in office. Neither in the Black Sea nor in the Baltic may we have been so successful as we desired; but in my conscience I can say that, whatever may have been our failures, they have not proceeded from want of exertion on the part of the Board of Admiralty. With respect to preparations, I say distinctly that, if we had received the hon. and gallant Officer's report of what was necessary, in his opinion, for the attack of Sweaborg by naval means only in the beginning of June, it was quite in the power of the Admiralty to have sent out such a quantity of mortars as would either have sufficed to plant on the islands occupied in the attack in 1855, or, placed in mortar vessels, would have aided the operations of the fleet in the manner recommended by the hon. and gallant Officer, before even in his view the season would have prevented the attack. Be that as it may, however, was I negligent in the intervening time? In concert with my Colleagues I prepared in the autumn of 1854, to be ready to sail with the fleet in the spring of 1855, twenty-six gunboats, twenty-two mortar vessels, and five floating batteries, all built and ready for sea in April, 1855. By an agreement with the French Government an equal force of gun-boats, mortar vessels, and floating, batteries had been prepared and built by France; and, in addition to four screw line-of-battle ships, commonly called block-ships, we fitted five other line-of-battle ships with high-pressure engines; so that there were ready for attack in the Baltic, in the spring of 1855, in addition to his fleet of the former year, nine sail of the line, twenty-six gunboats, twenty-two mortar vessels, and five floating batteries; this number of gunboats, mortar vessels, and floating batteries being doubled by the arrangement made with France. The hon. and gallant Member for Southwark says that there is treason in my conduct. If that is his opinion, this discussion ought not to stop here. I have confronted the hon. and gallant Member this evening. I am ready to confront him 102 anywhere; and I defy him to prove the accusations which he has this night scattered with so much recklessness far and wide.
§ SIR MAURICE BERKELEY
said, the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark had brought forward charges which undoubtedly required to be met. When the gallant Admiral went first to the Baltic he kept up a private correspondence with him, but as soon as he entered into a controversy with the Admiralty, he ceased to continue it. The hon. and gallant admiral wrote to him saying, that his letters were such a comfort to him that he missed them very much. He then intimated to the gallant Admiral that he would continue the correspondence on the clear and distinct understanding that none of his letters would be published. He confessed, therefore, he was not a little astonished to hear one of his private letters read in that House. He would remind him that fighting was not the only quality required of a British admiral, but that he should be a man of the world, a man of undoubted honour, and should not do that which was always held to be culpable—exposing private correspondence without the permission of the writer. As the first naval adviser of the Admiralty, he had recommended that the hon. and gallant Admiral should not be allowed to re-hoist his flag in the Baltic fleet. And, why did he give that advice? Because he thought he was totally and physically unfit—that his nerves were completely gone. He did not mean to say one word against the hon. and gallant Admiral's undoubted courage, nor did he mean to say that an old man would not as readily stand to be shot at as a young man. The gallant Officer himself; had said, that after sixty a man's nerves were gone—they lost dash and enterprise. There was, however, one bright exception to that rule in the person of the gallant Commander in Chief of the Black Sea fleet—but his own letters to the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) proved that he no longer possessed that power which was required in a commander in chief of a fleet in the Baltic. It had transpired from the correspondence that had taken place that the hon. and gallant Admiral had every disinclination to enter the Gulf of Finland, and that when there he had every disposition to get out again as fast as possible. In fact, the hon. and gallant Admiral was heard to say with more force and truth than dignity or self 103 possession, "What a d——d old fool I was to come into this internal hole? If ever I get out you shall never catch me here again." He soon lost the confidence of his own officers, neither did he succeed in gaining the confidence of our Allies. Caricatures and squibs were plentiful throughout the fleets. The hon. and gallant Member, among other things, had complained of the extremely bad state in which pilots had been afforded to the fleet. What was the fact? Immediately it became evident that it would be necessary to send a fleet to the Baltic, the First Lord of the Admiralty consulted with the Deputy Master of the Trinity House, when it was decided that, in order to have the most recent information, twenty-four of the best pilots that could be selected from the Trinity House of London and Hull should be sent beforehand to the Baltic in a steamer, specially appointed for that service, under charge of one of the most experienced masters in the navy. These men were so sent; they went through the Great Belt and the Sound, returning in time to take charge of the first division of the fleet, and the two best of the men were placed on board the admiral's flagship. In addition, local pilots were taken on board at the Scaw and at Wingo. At a later period, as the ships got ready to sale from England, north country pilots (masters of merchant ships), who for many years had been in the Baltic trade, were engaged to take charge of the ships, so that before the close of the season upwards of 100 pilots were embarked in the fleet. No expense was spared. Some of the pilots were paid at the rate of £500 per annum; they could not be got for less, and the Admiralty were resolved that nothing should be wanting on their part that the country could produce. The hon. and gallant Officer next complained that he had no charts. Application was made to Captains Yelverton and Watson, officers who had entered into every creek and corner of the Baltic, and also to Captain Sullivan, one of the best surveyors ever known, who stated that the charts were admirable, and that they were surprised at their accuracy; and such was the uniform testimony of all the officers employed in the Baltic; and not only was the Admiral provided with all the common charts of the Baltic, but he was also furnished with copies of the Danish, Swedish, Prussian, and Russian charts of those coasts and with plans of the principal harbours. In order to 104 render the charts more distinct to an officer unaccustomed to their use, the three, four, and five fathom edges of the shoals were coloured specially for the occasion. That these charts and plans could not have been incorrect was proved by the fact that admiral Richard Dundas used the same charts for taking up his position off Sweaborg when that fortress was successfully bombarded. It might be all very well for the hon. and gallant Admiral to say these things; but when he spoke of rocks and shoals and of a want of charts and pilots, he would ask whether they had ever heard that the gallant Officer who commanded in the Black Sea had urged such complaints? And yet the Black Sea had not been traversed as the Baltic Sea had been. The commander of the Black Sea fleet was obliged to lie at anchor in the worst weather off an iron-bound coast, and that showed the difference between his nerve and that of the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite. The hon. and gallant Admiral had also stated that his ships were badly manned, undisciplined and not fit to go into action. He (Sir M. Berkeley) had the charge of manning the navy, and he had always set his face against taking the sweeping of the streets for sailors. Some of his colleagues thought he was too nice, for he had established a standard which was identical with that of the Guards. No landsman was received under five feet eight inches, and who was not in full bodily health. All the men, too, were volunteers; there were no pressed men. Had the hon. and gallant Admiral sent in his report earlier, that which was done in 1855 might have been done in 1854; had he taken the same pains as the Admiral now commanding the Baltic fleet had taken, had he furnished the Admiralty with a similar report, there need have been no delay with respect to the attack on Sweaborg. It was the hon. and gallant Admiral's own want of decision and firmness, his determination not to allow Cronstadt to be reconnoitred because he had pronounced it impracticable, which had caused all the delay and had postponed the attack on Sweaborg. The whole course of the debate was greatly to be regretted, but the hon. and gallant Member had brought it all on himself: and, as the affair of Acre had been alluded to, it was but justice to a gallant admiral long deceased, to say that the whole credit of the attack on Acre rested with the late Admiral Sir Robert Stopford, and not with Sir Charles 105 Napier. The hon. and gallant Admiral did all he could to dissuade Sir Robert Stop-ford from making the attack. Nay, more, the night before the attack he told Sir Robert Stopford that his ship could not float in the position proposed to be taken up, but would be sunk in half-an-hour. Further than that, he would state that the hon. and gallant Admiral had the command of a division. He was to lead, and his (Sir M. Berkeley's) ship and others were to take up a position, and anchor astern. As the latter ships were going in, we saw the hon. and gallant Admiral let fall his anchor in such a position that every officer thought that want of water alone could have induced him (Sir C. Napier) so to anchor. When the hon. and gallant Admiral was asked why he acted thus, he replied that he intended the ships to pass ahead instead of anchoring astern. When Captain Fanshawe, in the Princess Charlotte, anchored under the Admiral's stern, why did he not make the signal for all the ships to pass ahead of him instead of anchoring astern? When he was asked why he did not do that, his answer was, that he did not like to make a signal in presence of his superior officer; but he was in command of a division, and could have made any signal he pleased. The commander of a fleet, as he had said before, should be a man of tact and discretion and a man of the world; but had the hon. and gallant Member opposite shown those qualities in his speech at the Mansion House? There was one thing, however, which more than any other lowered the character of Sir Charles Napier as a British officer, and that was his speech on the Southwark hustings. Out of spite to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, out of spite to the Admiralty because they felt they could no longer employ him, and to gain a little popularity and the cheers of the multitude, the hon. and gallant Admiral had dared to get upon a public hustings, and at the risk of making the sailors of Great Britain discontented and mutinous in the midst of a war with Russia, to proclaim that the Admiralty were depriving the men of their just rights and of the indulgencies which belonged to them as matters of right. That was most unbecoming conduct, and if there had been a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty the hon. and gallant Member would have been immediately struck off the list of admirals. If it were not too 106 late to learn the lesson, the hon. and gallant Member might remember for the future, that he who could not govern himself was not fit to govern others, nor was the man tit to command a fleet who did not know how to obey.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, he had never heard a stronger nor a more personal speech than that of the right hon. and gallant Member who had just sat down. He could not sit still and see the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) attacked by the Admiralty three-deckers without opening a gun or two in his defence. The hon. and gallant Member had served his country faithfully upwards of fifty years, and until that night there had not been a whisper against his honour. That he was old was not his-fault. Some of those who had spoken were quite as old, perhaps older. If, indeed, he were so old, so infirm, and so weak in nerve, why did the Admiralty appoint him? Months were taken for consideration, and at last out of the whole list of admirals he was selected as the man most fit to command in the Baltic. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) began by blaming the hon. and gallant Member for not bringing on his Motion at an earlier period. But he (Captain Scobell) knew that the hon. and gallant Admiral had used the utmost expedition that the forms of the House permitted to bring the Motion before it. Again, with regard to what had been said as to the hon. and gallant Admiral reading private letters to the House, it must be remembered that there was a great deal of difference between the letters of private individuals and those of the First Lord of the Admiralty, whose letters had virtually become public ones. He was sorry, however, that private letters should have been read at all. He (Captain Scobell) never heard such injustice as that the whole of a man's life, the books he had published, the words he had uttered, nay, even his conduct at Acre, should be called in question. There were few men whose lives would bear such an examination. The right hon. Baronet's (Sir J. Graham's) speech was principally taken up with what passed before the gallant Admiral left England; but the dinner at the Reform Club had been passed over very lightly. That dinner was a great blunder. He (Captain Scobell) was urged to attend that dinner, but declined. The conduct of high officers of the army was not criticised as that of the hon. 107 and gallant Admiral had been. If such officers were known in the gay world or in high life, they were, as in cases which were now occupying public attention, rather screened and sheltered than criticised or condemned. When the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir C. Wood) heard the name of General Jones mentioned, he immediately said that the fame of such an officer must not be lightly dealt with; but had the hon. and gallant Member for Southward no fame to preserve, and had the right hon. Baronet and his friends been scrupulous as to attacking him? The hon. and gallant Admiral had not had fair play. Those who had opposed him had not adhered to the question before the House. That question was, would the House inquire into the management of the Baltic fleet in 1854 and 1855? It was said that Sweaborg might have been taken in 1854. Why, then, was it not taken in 1855, when the force of gun and mortar boats was much larger, and when the fleet was under the command of an Admiral who had been a Member of the Board of Admiralty? He must have known all the wishes and desires of that Board; why then did he not carry them out? In regard to the discussion, it must be remembered that the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) felt neglected, if not insulted, by the order to haul down his flag and come on shore. Some allowance must be made for his feelings under such circumstances. Nor was he so good an orator as the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), who had made on this occasion a very clever and expert speech. Its only fault was, that it was too clever. The attention of the House was engaged by its adroitness, and was entirely led away from the real subject under discussion, He just mentioned—and only mentioned—Sweaborg, saying that the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark did not go near enough to reconnoitre. Of this he (Captain Scobell) could not judge, except upon the statements which had appeared in the public prints; but he was convinced, that the fleet of 1854 was, allowing for its size, and for its being a new fleet, which was always a badly manned fleet, quite equal in its operations to the fleet of 1855. At the same time he was aware that many of the ships were very badly manned. He had seen numerous letters from officers complaining of the smallness of the number of able seamen who were in the crews. That the men could hardly furl the sails, showed 108 that they were not fit to go into action; and had the Russians attacked our fleet with superior numbers and better disciplined men, he did not know what might have been the result. To talk of no seamen being under five feet eight inches high was, however, nonsense. Neither the right hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester (Sir M. Berkeley) nor himself was that height; and our best seamen were men who were only five feet six or seven inches high. Long-legged men did not get up the rigging nearly so fast as shorter ones. With regard to the subject of bounty, he must say that if they had given a better bounty they would have got a better class of men for the fleet. He would not go into the question, whether the inquiry which was asked for would be injurious to the public service. Such an objection could only apply to a time of war; and if the inquiry were refused on that ground, it would of course be granted as soon as peace was made. Whether the inquiry should be granted or not, he hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend, would leave that House as he had always entered it and every other place—without any imputation upon his character, as an honourable and upright English tar, and a brave and gallant Admiral.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he thought there was some discrepancy between the language used by the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) on that evening and that which he had used on a previous occasion. In bringing in the Estimates after the campaign of 1854, he said that, with respect to what had passed in the Baltic, nothing could be more satisfactory. Everything had been done that was expected, and nothing had been lost. It was strange that, on that evening, the right hon. Baronet should have referred to circumstances which occurred long before he made those observations as grounds of complaint against the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier).
said, it appeared to him that neither the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), nor the right hon. and gallant Member (Sir M. Berkeley), had answered the charges of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir C. Napier). The principal complaint made by the hon. and gallant Member (Sir C. Napier) referred to the peremptory order to attack Sweaborg given by the Admiralty on the 4th of October. It was rather singular that that was the day on which the false intelligence 109 of the fall of Sebastopol reached this country, and he could well understand the Admiralty, flushed with that intelligence, sending this order, which was entirely opposed to the opinions of the councils of war, and which, had it been acted upon, would probably have led to the total destruction of the British fleet. On the 9th of October, before they could have received an answer from the hon. and gallant Admiral, and while they were still in complete ignorance as to whether he had acted on their orders and attacked Sweaborg, they sent out other orders for him to return home at once with the whole of his fleet. What was an officer to do who was thus bewildered and perplexed with such conflicting instructions? In making these attacks on the hon. and gallant Admiral, it seemed to have escaped the recollection of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) that the hon. and gallant Admiral was not alone in the Baltic, but was acting in concert with an ally, on whom any censure to which the hon. and gallant Admiral might be exposed for not attacking Sweaborg must fall with equal severity, But what baffled all comprehension was, that the first naval Lord (Sir M. Berkeley), who, it now appeared, had the meanest possible opinion of the gallant Admiral's conduct at Acre, should have deemed it consistent with his duty to support the appointment of the gallant Admiral to a position of such vast responsibility as the command of the Baltic fleet. That was a point on which a few words of explanation were urgently demanded.
§ MR. MALINS
said, that having last year called the attention of the House to the circumstances connected with the hon. and gallant Admiral's command of the Baltic fleet, he could not allow the present debate to close without making a few observations on the subject then before the House. Certainly some of the matters brought forward that evening had struck him with great pain. He could not advert without feelings of great regret to the course adopted by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, who, in ransacking the career of his (Mr. Malins') hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southwark, seemed to have collected accusations which, if they were well founded, ought to have shown him in 1854 that the hon. and gallant Admiral should not have been selected to command the Baltic fleet. The House could not forget—the country assuredly could not forget—the confidence with which that right hon. Gentleman had taken 110 credit for the appointment of the gallant Admiral. When he (Mr. Malins), on the 8th of March, 1855, brought the case of the hon. and gallant Admiral before the House, he quoted the speech of the right hon. Member for Carlisle, in which he took to himself the credit of having selected the hon. and gallant Admiral as the man best calculated to do honour to the country, and uphold her dignity in the war then waging. Surely, previous to the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral, if ever, was the right hon. Gentleman called upon to go through those materials which he appeared to have collected, in order to see if, taking his past history, the hon. and gallant Gentleman was what the right hon. Gentleman himself described him to be—the fittest man who could be selected to command the British fleet in the Baltic Sea. But if the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle had been extraordinary, how should he (Mr. Malins) characterise the conduct of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the First Naval Lord (Sir M. Berkeley) who came forward that evening and made a strong personal attack on an old Friend—who came forward in a spirit of the bitterest sarcasm towards the hon. and gallant Admiral, telling the House that, from his own personal observations at Acre, he (Sir C. Napier) was unworthy of the credit awarded to him in the history of his country for the part he took in that enterprise? The right hon. and gallant First Naval Lord had made a statement which he asserted to be grounded on personal observation, and which, if well founded, would show that, instead of having the credit of the great achievement at St. Jean d'Acre, the hon. and gallant Admiral should be disgraced for the part he had taken in that memorable victory. Yet that right hon. and gallant Gentleman was First Naval Lord when his (Mr. Malins') hon. and gallant Friend was selected to command the Baltic fleet. Now, how was it that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had concurred in that appointment? That was a question which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was bound to answer; for, as an independent English Member, caring for the quarrels of no party, but influenced only by a desire for what would benefit the country, ho (Mr. Malins) asked, did not this dispute bring before England the fact that the greatest and highest of her interests had been trifled with? If at the time of the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral 111 (Sir C. Napier) the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle either was in possession of information which he had that evening disclosed to the House, or had the means of obtaining it, had he not, if that information were correct, trifled with the interests of England, in selecting for so high a trust and so responsible a position a man whom he now declared to have been unfit for such a command? If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle had neglected to avail himself of information which he might have obtained, what should they say to the, other right hon. Gentleman, who, knowing those facts from personal observation, had yet permitted the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) to take place—had permitted the honour and dignity of Egland to be sold? To what conclusion should the country come on such a state of things? It should come to the only one it could come to, to the one at which he had arrived, namely, that those two right hon. Gentlemen, belonging to a certain political party, had thought it their duty to select for the command of the Baltic fleet a man connected with that party, in order that they might go to their own political club and say that a gallant Member of that club was a man the country could boast of and one who was most competent to preserve untarnished the honour of the nation The country had been inclined to give the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the First Naval Lord credit for the appointment of the hon. and gallant Admiral; but he (Mr. Malins) should say, that unless some further explanations were given, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the First Naval Lord stood condemned on his own admission of having concurred in the appointment of a man, who was not only unfit for the command which was given him, but who, from his antecedents, it might be calculated, would bring the country into discredit. Those were matters not to be trifled with; and he, therefore, called on the Government to explain the conduct of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the First Naval Lord. Had the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle at the time of the hon. and gallant Admiral's appointment avowed to the Government that which he had that evening avowed to the House with reference to his knowledge of the career of the hon. and gallant Admiral; or if he had, was he believed or discredited by the Government? Or possessing the 112 knowledge which he had now imparted to the House, had the right hon. Gentleman kept that knowledge to himself, and allowed the Government in ignorance of it to make the appointment? Again, with regard to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the First Naval Lord he thought the House would not forget that about a year ago that right hon. and gallant Gentleman came down and avowed that the object of his own ambition had been to command the Baltic fleet. There were now many hon. Members present who had heard that statement, which had taken him by surprise, and had, he (Mr. Malins) thought, taken the House also by surprise. Yes, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had on that occasion stated that the object of his ambition had been to command the Baltic fleet himself; that he had been a candidate for that command, but that he was bound to sink his own feelings for the good of the country; and that well knowing his (Mr. Malins') hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier) to be of all men to be found the fittest to command that fleet, he had withdrawn his own personal pretensions in that gallant Admiral's favour. He (Mr. Malins) asked those who had heard the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on the two occasions how they were to reconcile his two statements? He was forced to conclude that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman had on the present occasion allowed his personal feelings to be embarked in the matter, and had set up in his own favour matters of justification which had never before appeared to him in the light which he had then represented them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, with great dexterity, had endeavoured to draw the House off the real question by a false scent. But there was one point which the right hon. Baronet had not answered last year, and which he had not answered that evening. He (Mr. Malins) did not go into the question whether the Admiralty had been influenced by the reported fall of Sebastopol. The English and French Admirals held a council of war early in the month of September 1854; and on the 18th of the same mouth a second council of war was held, at the instigation of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle. At that council the French Admiral had refused to attend, and before it was held he had returned with the French fleet and army. However, the English naval officers in the council of the 18th came to the conclusion that, independently 113 of all other circumstances, the middle of September was too late to make an attack on Sweaborg. That determination was communicated to the Admiralty, and Government acceded to that proposition. But the right hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Graham) had not explained to the House how it had come to pass, that having that advice before them, they had commanded the gallant Admiral at the end of October, and after the French navy and army had left him, to select a fine day to do that which he had told them in September could not be done in conscience of the season being so far advanced. He could not but think that there was great inconsistency in the complaint that the hon. and gallant Admiral had not made a proper reconnaissance of Sweaborg in May, 1854. The right hon. Gentleman the then First Lord of the Admiralty, had suggested that evening that had he (Sir C. Napier) taken proper measures, Sweaborg might have been destroyed in 1854. Now, was not that allegation answered by the fact that it was with difficulty the task of destroying Sweaborg had been, to a certain extent, effected in 1855? He did not think that with all his ability and ingenuity, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had made out his case; but in the present state of public affairs, and after the discussion that had taken place, he would recommend his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir C. Napier) to withdraw his Motion. Now, that the matter had been so fully debated, he would advise him to allow it to drop, resting assured that the British nation would do him justice. Although possibly when appoaching the age of seventy years, as he had been when appointed to the command of the fleet in 1854, the hon. and gallant Admiral did not possess as much energy as he had possessed in earlier life, still he (Mr. Malins) believed it would be found that the hon. and gallant Admiral had done all that circumstances had permitted him to do; and was entitled to all the credit which the noble Lord at the head of the Government had given him when the matter was brought forward on a former occasion.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Sir, I quite concur with the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) in thinking that, upon every consideration, this discussion is most unfortunate; and, indeed, I conceive that it is not altogether creditable to the House. But, then, we are bound to ask ourselves, who has been the cause of its 114 introduction? The hon. and gallant Member for Bath, with that chivalry which is not only characteristic of his profession, but is shared in, I am sure, by every Member of this House, came forward and threw his protecting œgis around his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Southwark. But he appears to have forgotten that that gallant Admiral began his speech by not only impeaching the veracity and the honour of my right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty, but by imputing to him political cowardice, and ended by charging him with something like high treason. Was the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, who has for months past been maligned and calumniated by almost every newspaper in the country, to sit calmly down under these accusations without coming forward to vindicate himself? And am I, who have known his unremitting exertions while at the Admiralty, and am proud to call him my Friend, to be content to see the right hon. Gentleman made the object of such unsparing attacks without venturing to offer so much as one word in his defence? The strictures which have been passed upon my right hon. Friend's speech tonight seem to me to be somewhat uncalled for. Again, any one would suppose, from the tone adopted by the hon. and gallant Member for Bath, that my right hon. and gallant Friend the First Naval Lord (Sir M. Berkeley), instead of having confined himself to the defensive, had on this occasion been the unprovoked assailant of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. But what did that hon. and gallant Member venture to say of the judgment of the First Naval Lord? Why, he not merely impugned my right hon. and gallant Friend's professional skill as an Admiral, but he also declared that he is not fit to sit at the Admiralty Board. Is my right hon. and gallant Friend also to submit tacitly to hear himself thus grossly aspersed? I think the hon. and gallant Member for Bath must therefore have allowed himself to be so carried away by his generous predilections for the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) as to have wholly lost sight of the justice and truth of the case. One remark of an hon. Member below me (Mr. Lindsay) calls for an answer. That hon. Gentleman evidently did not hear the latter part of the order despatched to the gallant Admiral on the 4th of October, 1854, by the Board of Admiralty, for he says it was a peremptory order, issued in, consequence 115 of the arrival of the erroneous intelligence as to the fall of Sebastopol. Here are the concluding words of this order. [Sir C. NAPIER: I read them to the House myself.] Yes, but owing, no doubt, to physical infirmity, you dropped your voice so low that the close of the passage was perfectly inaudible at the other end of the House. The words of the order therefore ran thus:—"The final decision must entirely rest with yourself. If an attack upon Sweaborg, under present circumstances, be desperate, it must upon no account be undertaken by you. If, calculating on the ordinary chances of war, and allowing full consideration for the strength of the enemy's fortress and his fleet, you should still be of opinion that it can be laid in ruins, it will be your duty, with the concurrence of the French Admiral, not to allow the opportunity to escape you." [Sir C. NAPIER: The French Admiral had gone then.] I think, therefore, that I have now disposed of the assertion that this was a peremptory order. The hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins), who spoke with something of the adroitness of a special pleader—[Mr. MALINS: I am not one.] Then you ought to be. The hon. and learned Gentleman animadverted on the dispute which occurred between my right hon. and gallant Friend the First Naval Lord and the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) at Acre; but are we to be told that any difference on a mere question of naval science—for that was the whole point at issue—was any reason why the hon. and gallant Admiral should be deemed ineligible for the command of a fleet? Why, only a man highly practised in the profession of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and who bad formerly held a brief in this very case, could have dreamt of such a thing. But, in truth, my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) had nothing to do with the selection of the hon. and gallant Admiral for the command of the Baltic fleet; and when the hon. and learned Gentleman becomes a Member of any Government—which I hope he speedily may—he will know that such an appointment is made a Cabinet question. The whole gist of this matter, therefore, is, whether an error of judgment—to use no harsher term—was committed by the hon. and gallant Admiral in not making a closer reconnaissance of Sweaborg at an earlier period. If he had done so in May, when he pronounced both Sweaborg and Helsingfors 116 unassailable by sea, then time would have been given to send him the mortars requisite for the bombardment. Nobody says that the hon. and gallant Admiral would, in that case, have necessarily taken Sweaborg, but he might have accomplished what was effected in 1855. I think, therefore, that he showed an error of judgment, and beyond that point it is not for me to press the question. If the hon. and gallant Admiral has been treated harshly by anybody, it certainly has not been either by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) or the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the First Naval Lord; but the greatest injury inflicted on him was by himself when he rashly obtruded the discussion of this question on a former occasion, when his thoughts ought to have been directed less to Marylebone and more to Sweaborg.
§ SIR CHARLES NAPIER,
in reply, said, that with respect to the conduct of the attack upon Acre, he denied having advised Sir Robert Stopford not to attack—on the contrary, he always counselled an attack upon Acre; and he dared say that there were records at the Admiralty that would prove it. As a proof that his services were appreciated by Sir Robert Stopford, he might remind the House that, in the absence of Sir Charles Smith, he (Sir C. Napier) was entrusted with the command of the army, consisting of 10,000 men. He commanded the army at Sidon, he defeated Ibrahim Pasha and freed Lebanon. Now, with respect to Acre, he was surprised to hear the right hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir M. Berkeley) make the statements attacking him as he had done. At first it was determined that one division of the fleet should attack the south side of Acre, and the other division the western side, but upon going in the wind failed. He saw that and went in on the north side. At Acre he had acted on the experience and example of Lord Nelson, Admiral Collingwood, Sir James Saumerez, and others. But he thought, that when the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) and the right hon. and gallant Admiral opposite had gone back to what took place at Acre, twenty years ago, on a Motion respecting the Baltic campaign of 1854, they had acted in a most unjust, ungenerous, and he would say more—a most unfair way. With reference to that campaign, and the treatment he had received, he would say that the right hon. Baronet had not answered a single charge 117 which he had made against him. He had, as usual, made the speech of a special pleader, and left every substantial point untouched. The right hon. Baronet accused him of not having reconnoitred Sweaborg, and sent him information at a certain period. Why, he did not enter the Gulf of Finland until the 20th of May, and only entered Hango on the 2nd of June. The right hon. Baronet said he had shown great unwillingness to enter the Gulf of Finland, when the fact was that, though he had twelve sail of the line with him, he entered that gulf with only seven sail of the line, to see if he could entice the Russians out to meet him. On the 30th of May he had not even seen Sweaborg, and at that date any information respecting it which he bad, was entirely derived from the charts sent to him, not by the Government, and not by the Government of Sweden, but by a friend he had in Sweden. He went to Sweaborg on the 12th of June, being entirely ignorant of its actual state, and immediately employed the master of the fleet, with three vessels, to sound, survey, and make a report to him. The principal report, therefore, which he sent to the Government on that subject, was on the 18th July, in which he gave an account of what it was, and how it could he attacked. The right hon. Baronet accused him of not attacking Sweaborg, but he forgot that at that time there were neither gunboats nor mortars in the Baltic, and that from the beginning of July to the end of August were almost the only two months of the year that could he depended upon. He, therefore, said, the statement of the right hon. Baronet was unjust and incorrect. With respect to the statement that he had made repeated applications for employment, he had not the slightest recollection of the fact. They all knew the talent of the right hon. Baronet as a special pleader, and would not be surprised at his attempts to turn his (Sir C. Napier's) letters into ridicule, but as to the complaint which had been made of his using the right hon. Baronet's private letters to him, he had already said that when he found the right hon. Baronet, before the Sebastopol Committee, claiming the right of making officers private letters public ones, he claimed the right, as an officer, to make the private letters of the First Lord of the Admiralty public letters also. In the position he was placed, he would ask what other 118 course was open to him? He had demanded a court martial, and it had been refused to him. Where else was he to come but to that House to get redress, or a fair hearing? When letters were written, and statements made, for the purpose of destroying his reputation, was he not to protect himself? But the letters which he had read had been, although private, upon public affairs. The right hon. Baronet had not stopped at that point, but had read letters which were perfectly private, and in which he had stated confidentially his opinion of the efficiency of officers under his command. If such letters were to be used in that way, how could it be expected that any Admiral in command of a fleet would ever communicate unreservedly with the First Lord of the Admiralty again? As to what had been said about attacking stone walls, the right hon. Baronet, and the right hon. and gallant Admiral the First Naval Lord, and every naval officer in the House knew, as well as he did, that, if they had been at Sweaborg with his means, they would no more have thought of attacking it with the means at his disposal, than they would have thought of flying up to the moon. The right hon. Baronet had counted upon the fact that, notwithstanding his anxiety to bring forward this Motion, it had been so repeatedly put off. That was another specimen of the fair play of the right hon. Baronet, who knew as well as he did what the real cause of delay had been, namely, that each right the Motion had been on the paper there were so many before it, that it never could be called on until at an hour too late to discuss it. But then he was asked, why not bring it on on a Supply night? His answer was, that a Supply night was not favourable to the fair discussion of such a question, and besides, he should have been deprived of the advantage of a reply had he made his Motion on a Supply night. With reference to General Jones, he denied the statement of the right hon. Baronet, that he had said anything disparaging to his character. All he had said was, that the advice he gave at Sweaborg was wholly impracticable, and in that opinion he was sustained by the opinion of a French Marshal, a French General of Engineers, and a French Admiral. The real truth of the matter was, that the letter written to him by the right hon. Baronet, on the 4th October, was sent immediately after the hoax of the fall of 119 Sebastopol. The letter of the 8th was written when that hoax was exposed, and, in fact, so far from ordering an attack on Sweaborg, the Government immediately telegraphed to bring the fleet home to England. If he had, as the right hon. Baronet said, lost his nerve, it was not from any failure—he would not say, at his years, of his strength, but of his will— and if his nerves were affected at all, it had been by the treachery of the Admiralty, whose letter of the 4th of October was well known to all the officers in the fleet to have cost him many sleepless nights. As to the statement that he bad not been sent to the Baltic again, because he had been turbulent and insubordinate, he could only say, that his successor, in not taking Sweaborg, had been equally turbulent and insubordinate. As to the charts and pilots, the only charts of the Baltic he had when he went out were general charts, wholly useless with reference to the actual navigation, the shoals, currents, and soundings of the sea. With respect to the pilots, most of them were sent home again, and he did not believe that more than two or three of those who first went out came home again with their ships. He had now done what he thought proper for his own credit and reputation. He bad in doing that to bring down the late First Lord of the Admiralty, the present First Lord, the Senior Naval Lord, and the Secretary, all upon one poor Admiral; but after all that had been said, he had to complain that not a single charge he had made had been answered, while the right hon. Baronet had been obliged to resort to special pleading, and a total perversion of the language of his letters, in order to damage him, if possible, He had no other means of justifying himself but that which he had adopted. The course which had been pursued towards him was disgraceful to a public department. The treatment he had received was scandalous and disgraceful; but, having stated his case to the House, he would not trouble it to divide, but beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.