HC Deb 11 December 1857 vol 148 cc559-79

I wish to take this opportunity of stating to the House the course which we desire to propose with regard to the adjournment for the holidays. There is no business before this House now, except that which would occupy far more time than remains before the adjournment. With that exception, there is no reason why the House should continue to sit beyond to-morrow. It is our intention, there- fore, not to propose the ordinary Motion for adjournment till Monday, because if the debate which is coming on should be concluded to-night, the House might then meet to-morrow to witness the Royal Assent to the Indemnity Bill, and we might then adjourn until after the holidays. The period to which we shall propose to adjourn for the holidays will be Thursday, the 4th of February. Nothing will be gained by meeting on the preceding Tuesday or Wednesday, as those days are not available for public business. We therefore think that Thursday is as convenient a day as can be named. I shall therefore move that this Order as to a Committee of Supply be postponed till Friday, the 5th of February. I wish to take this opportunity of stating our intentions with regard to the next Order,—namely, Sir Henry Havelock's Pension Bill. In making the proposition which we did we were guided by what we thought had been done in other cases, and we were anxious not to overstep what had been the liberality of the House. We have, however, derived very great pleasure, from finding from the discussion which has taken place, that the disposition of the House would authorise us in going beyond what we have proposed, and in making the pension for two lives instead of one. I can assure the House that change would afford quite as much pleasure to Her Majesty's Government as to the Members of this House. That change, however, is one which by technical circumstances would require, I believe, a fresh Resolution of the whole House. It would, therefore, be impossible to carry that through to-night and tomorrow, and even then the Bill would not pass into a law. Therefore I propose to postpone the Committee till after the meeting of the House in February. We understand, however, that we should then have to move that the House resolve itself into Committee in order to propose a fresh Resolution as the foundation upon which we shall amend the Bill in Committee by making a pension for two lives instead of one.


said it had been his intention, on the Motion that the Speaker should leave the Chair on Sir Henry Havelock's Pension Bill, to ask permission to make a few observations, which, although they referred to what had fallen from the noble Lord at the head of the Government last night, were, at the same time, strictly germane to the subject of that Bill. The Order of the Day, it appeared, was to be postponed, but he was unwilling, nevertheless, to allow the House to adjourn for the holidays without addressing a few observations to it upon the subject to which he had adverted. The noble Lord had stated that it was the general wish of the House to mark by a more distinguished sign their estimate of the heroic services of Sir Henry Havelock, and he (Mr. FitzGerald) felt certain that that announcement would be received with gratitude and favour throughout the country. But, general as that feeling might be, there was yet another feeling quite as common out of doors, and as generally entertained in that House, namely, that distinguished as the services of Sir Henry Havelock had been, they would have been even more advantageous and distinguished had efficient means been placed at his command, and had he at an earlier period received those reinforcements, which greater activity and energy on the part of Her Majesty's Government might easily have supplied him with. He felt also assured that there prevailed, both in this House and out of doors, a regret that the anxiety which had been felt with respect to Sir Henry Havelock's position and that of the gallant men who were associated with him at Lucknow, should have been so much aggravated by the want of those reinforcements which, had the overland means of transport been adopted, would long ere this have rendered him independent of the danger by which he was menaced. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control had told them that it was impossible for him to state which of the two telegraphic messages announced to the public to-day was the correct one. But whichever was correct, this at least was obvious, that under the most favourable circumstances it was not a matter of weeks, scarcely a matter of days, but of hours, whether the gallant force under Sir Henry Havelock would be relieved or not. Under the most favourable course of events, Sir Henry Havelock could not have been relieved before the 16th or 17th. It was known already that the garrison in the Residency at Lucknow were early put upon diminished rations; that they were killing their carriage bullocks on the 21st of the preceding month, and, conse- quently, for twenty-six days those men, who had already faced every danger in the field, must have had before them, in addition to those dangers, the prospect of famine. The noble Lord made a statement to the House last night, at a time when it was impossible that he should receive any reply, in answer to a question put to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich, than which a more unsatisfactory statement was never made by any Minister as to the conduct of the Government of which he was the head. That statement was, that it would be highly hazardous, without preparation, to have sent 5,000 men in the month of August over the Desert. But surely it rested with the Government to have made such arrangements as would render the passage across the Desert possible, and he never ventured to say that if instead of sending 5,000 men at once, detachments of 400 or 500 men were sent at a time, the whole 5,000 might not have been in Calcutta early in October. The noble Lord also omitted to point out that at this moment—not by the exertions of the Government at all, but by the ordinary means of a commercial company—we were transporting large reinforcements to India; and that it would have been perfectly possible, therefore, to have sent those reinforcements earlier, he (Mr. FitzGerald) unhesitatingly declared. What had happened in the case of a regiment at Gibraltar? Lord Lyons, being there, ordered the large screw steamer Conqueror to be placed at the command of the Governor, and in six or seven hours the men were placed on board, and in three days every one of them landed at Portsmouth. Why, at the very moment the noble Lord said that the Government could not transport the men to Alexandria, some of the largest steam-vessels in the English navy were lying idle at Portsmouth, Chatham, and elsewhere, so that nothing could have been more easy than for the Government to have placed a whole regiment at a time on board one of those colossal vessels, and transported them to Alexandria. But the noble Lord said that there might have been great difficulty in transporting the troops across the Desert. It was quite clear, however, that there was no difficulty of the kind. With regard to the means of transport from Suez he (Mr. FitzGerald) admitted that transports might not have been there to receive them, but there were plenty of transports lying at Bombay unemployed, and they could have been easily despatched to Suez to receive the troops as they arrived across the Isthmus. Some of these vessels, indeed, did go from Bombay to take troops from the Mauritius and the Cape; hut it was notorious that vessels were lying doing nothing at Bombay, and that they were kept there by Lord Elphinstone because he did not know when he might receive instructions from home to send them to Suez for troops. Moreover, it was well known that, according to the telegram from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, on the 2nd of July, the noble Lord might have had a firman from the Porte to pass English troops through Egypt, and that at the same time the most earnest and zealous offers were made by the Pasha of Egypt to place every means at our disposal that he could command for transporting the troops across the Desert. The friendly disposition of our allies was known to the world; it was further manifested by the voluntary offer of the Emperor of the French; and whatever the supporters of the Government might say here, he (Mr. Fitzgerald) was certain that there was a feeling abroad that sufficient energy and activity had not been shown by Her Majesty's Government, and that nothing could have been easier, had they chosen to exercise that proper forethought and prudence which it was the duty of men in their high position to exercise, than to send the troops overland, in which case they might have been in India from a month to six weeks earlier than it was possible for them to be by the fastest means of conveyance round the Gape of Good Hope. But the noble Lord said this country ought to extinguish the rebellion in India without being indebted to anybody. That was a. system which some might uphold; but he could not understand the feeling when the lives of gallant men—the safety of an army—was at stake, and when upon the decision of the Government the fate of Havelock and his companions, to a great extent, depended. He had made these observations for two reasons—first, because he did not wish the House to adjourn, without, at least on his own part as an independent Member, stating his earnest conviction that the Government had not done their duty in this respect; and next, because the hon. and gallant Gene- ral opposite (Sir De Lacy Evans) had given notice of his intention to move for a Committee to inquire into the means of transport, which had been adopted, and the available means of transport at the command of the Government. Whether, upon the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Hayter), or for what other reason he did not know, but the gallant General had been persuaded to place that Motion on the paper for a day that was too late for it to come on before the House adjourned. In another place, however, the leader of the Government there had refused to produce certain papers on the ground that a Committee was about to be appointed in this House to inquire into the whole subject, and that it would be in the power of that Committee to call for any papers and receive any evidence they might think fit. He wished to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, then, whether he ratified the promise given by one of his colleagues in another place, and if it was the intention of the Government not to offer any opposition to a full inquiry being made into the question whether they had adopted the best means of transport, under the circumstances, for the troops to India, and what were the available resources then at their command? In conclusion, he wished to express his gratitude to the House for allowing him so far to interrupt its business as to make these observations, which were drawn from him by his strong conviction that had the Government done its duty in this matter, the state of affairs in India might now have been very different; and he must further express an earnest hope that nothing would induce the gallant General to be diverted from the course he had marked out for himself, and that he would persist in the Motion of which he had given notice.


said, he must draw the attention of the House to the fact that an irregularity had been committed in discussing, upon a Motion for the postponement of Supply, the question which stood next after that on the paper, namely, Sir Henry Havelock's Annuity Bill. If the postponement of Supply were first agreed to, this discussion, which was now irregular, might go on.


observed, that he was sorry to differ from the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair; but it did not appear to him that the observations of the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. FitzGerald) had reference only to Sir Henry Havelock's Bill. And if that were so, and those observations were to be made, they might as well be made upon the Motion for postponing of Supply as at any other time. He submitted, therefore, whether they had not better allow the discussion to go on


Like yourself, Sir, I understood the hon. Gentleman to commence his observations as though they were connected with the pension to General Havelock; and I confess I was surprised to hear his subsequent remarks, because if any rule of debate has ever grown almost into a Standing Order, it is that when we are about to give to merit a generous reward there should be a total absence of anything like party attacks. I was therefore astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman say that he had actually sought out this opportunity for making an attack on the Ministry. Still I believe he is in order for the reason assigned by my noble Friend (Lord John Russell), namely, that we are not really discussing General Havelock's pension, but a question of Supply. If, however, the hon. Member had commenced his speech where he had ended it, namely, with asking the Government whether they meant to agree to the Committee, he would not have found it necessary thus to delay the business of the House, because the Government intend to grant the inquiry, before which all the varied details requisite to the formation of a sound opinion will be regularly produced. But for this the hon. Member cannot wait, and he rushes to the precipitate conclusion that the Government were entirely wrong in the course they adopted, and that if Sir Henry Havelock be now in any danger—which I hope in God he is not—it is owing to the Government not having sent out reinforcements more expeditiously. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman as to the statement of my noble Friend last night. The statement of my noble Friend was, I think, perfectly satisfactory to all who listened to it, and the more this question is looked into the more clearly will the impracticability of the overland route appear at the time we first heard of the mutiny. The hon. Gentleman does not care to inquire whether we ought to have trusted solely to our own means or not—whether England, the mistress of the seas, ought to have gone, cap in hand, to other nations begging for assistance to recover her empire. Therefore I shall not touch upon that subject, but shall refer merely to the question of time. The hon. Member talks of sending men by the overland route; but does he know what arrangements would have been required to be made for that purpose? He said that the Government ought to have made those arrangements. I quite admit that it is the duty of a Ministry to overcome difficulties, and that if it cannot do so it had better cease to exist at all. But it is also the duty of a Ministry to look to dangers; and I say that there was in the passage by the Red Sea great danger to our troops. To plunge men into Egypt and subject them without preparation at Suez to a state of demoralization in Egypt and to all the accidents of such a journey would have been to expose them to very great dangers. I do not know whether the hon. Member ever made the overland passage to India, or whether he is acquainted with the condition of the Red Sea in the heat of summer; but I have met with gentlemen who have performed that journey in the summer months, and they have told me that the passage by the Red Sea at that season is a severe trial to the strongest constitutions. We were bound to consider the situation of our people in India, but we were bound to consider also the state of the troops who were sent thither. It was of immense importance that every man despatched to India should arrive there sound and well, and, as far as we are advised, every man has done so. I believe that by following the long sea route we have lost no time, and that our men have arrived in as good health as when they started from these shores; we are not called upon to deplore accidents, and all our soldiers, so far as we know, have arrived in India in good health and excellent spirits. That, I say, is a great object. If we had sent our troops to India demoralized and debilitated by the passage through Egypt and the voyage down the Red Sea, they would not on their arrival have been very fit for the performance of those arduous duties which were required of them. That was an important consideration with the Government—a consideration to which I referred last night, when I stated that I had been warned by Lord Elphinstone in a private letter at that period to take care of the Red Sea and avoid the monsoons—a consideration which I need not say influenced considerably the decision of Government. Any Minister who should have ventured to throw troops into Egypt without having previously made arrangements for conveying them to Suez, and from Suez down the Red Sea, would have been deserving of impeachment. Let us here cast a glance at the dates. On the 30th of June, letters were received announcing the mutinies, of which I had announced the telegram on the 29th, and on the next day I communicated the fact to the House. The first mail left England on the 10th of July, and that mail did not reach Bombay, the nearest point in India, till the 7th of August. The corresponding mail left Bombay on the 16th of August, and was received here on the 17th of September. Supposing that a vessel had been despatched the same day to Alexandria, and that all the necessary arrangements had been made for carrying forward the troops, India could not have been reached before the 13th of October. Well, in the middle of October the vessels despatched by the long sea voyage round the Cape began to arrive, and, that being so, I ask the House what advantage would, have been gained, even in point of time, by sending troops overland? If we had determined to send troops overland, a very considerable time—not less than three months—would have been required for preliminary negotiations and arrangements, and those troops, as I have shown, would clearly have been of no more use for the relief of Lucknow or the support of General Havelock than those who have reached India by way of the Cape. I hope the House and the public will consider these things. God knows I am not surprised that in the excitement of the moment everybody should have been anxious only for the arrival of reinforcements in India, and should have bestowed little thought upon the manner in which that object might be accomplished most rapidly and efficiently. That anxiety was fully shared by the Government, as you may believe, when you reflect that their reputation as Ministers, not to speak of their feelings as Englishmen, was deeply involved in the result of events in India. Though not referred to by the hon. Member, I may be permitted to say a few words on the question raised the other night with respect to the employment of steamships. The East India Directors have been much reproved for not having sent out more screw steamers, instead of sailing vessels, and reproaches have also been cast upon me in connection with the same subject. Now, I am not disposed to shrink from any responsibility that fairly attaches to me; but, as I do not wish the insignificance of the office to be attributed to the insignificance of the individual, I may state to the House in what position the President of the Board of Control stands with respect to the sending of ships to India. It is true that the President of the Board of Control is responsible for everything done by the Court of Directors, but there is no marine department attached to his office—no naval or military man—nobody whom he can possibly consult upon questions of transport, and therefore all such matters have been habitually managed by the authorities in Leadenhall Street. When the mutinies first broke out I had to consider whether by constant interference and meddling I should do any good to the public service, or whether it would not be better to lay the reins at once on the neck of the Court of Directors, and by putting the spurs into their sides occasionally induce them to establish the best communication with India which they possibly could. Having said thus much to show that I do not shirk responsibility, I am bound to add that, in my opinion, the Directors have acted with perfect propriety. The first step they took was to issue advertisements for screw steamers and sailing vessels. They were told by many naval men that at that particular season sailing ships would go as fast as screws, and such was the opinion not only of naval men, but of men personally acquainted with India. On the 5th of July the Earl of Ellenborough, whom all opposed to me will say is a good judge of Indian subjects, said that he thought sailing vessels would make as good voyages as screw steamers. That race has not yet been run, and I regret that some people should be ready to pronounce judgment before the trial has been made. There are some sailing ships which have performed the voyage to India almost as fast as the screws, but certainly upon the whole the screws have beaten them. But I considered the experiment a fair one, especially in the circumstances with which the Directors had then to deal, for a sufficient number of screws was not to be had. In Sep- tember the Directors had completely exhausted the market, and four steamers which were subsequently offered to them, in reply to a fresh advertisement, they were obliged, after survey, to decline, as unfitted for their purpose. In point of fact, they could not have sent out the whole of the troops in screws. But, besides that, there is one other point which you are bound to take into consideration. The outbreak of the mutinies was so sudden that we were not certain even of a supply of coal, an essential requisite for steamers on their passage to India, and remember that screws, however superior to sailing vessels with respect to speed, could not have got forward to India so fast if they had been stopped for want of coal. It was by a variety of considerations, therefore, that the Court of Directors were induced to employ sailing vessels as well as steamers. They ascertained that the James Baines and other sailing ships, the names of which I do not remember, had made the voyage to Australian sixty-four days, and had performed the voyage to India in a remarkably short time. They knew that they had exhausted the market of screws, and therefore they thought it advisable to send some of the troops—not the larger but the smaller portion—in sailing vessels, and not in steamers. In conclusion, I have to thank the hon. Member for bringing forward this subject, because I believe that the public, as soon as the facts are generally known, so far from expressing irritation or impatience at the conduct of the Government, will consider, as they stood in June, and not as they appear now, when seen by the light of subsequent events, the difficult circumstances with which we had to deal, and will say that in despatching troops to the relief of our gallant soldiers in India, whom we all admire for their heroic exertions, we have exhibited no want of resource or vigour. No man can feel greater admiration than I do for the mighty exertions our troops have made, not only in resisting the enormous masses opposed to them, but in overcoming the fatigues and bearing up against the calamities incident to the climate of India.


I cannot refrain from saying a few words after what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I admit there is some inconvenience in a matter of such interest and importance being brought under discussion without notice, and at a moment when by a long-standing arrangement we are about to consider a very different subject. But the House must recollect that every heart in England is full of the fate of our countrymen and countrywomen now at Lucknow; and I, for one, feel no surprise that the hon. Member for Horsham should have been moved to take this opportunity—which in a Parliamentary sense is a legitimate opportunity, especially after the declaration of the noble Lord at the head of the Government that the House is to be adjourned to-morrow—to ask for some explanations from the Government upon this most interesting subject. After what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I feel bound to say that Her Majesty's Government are very deeply responsible for what I believe to be their supineness and neglect in not having sent military succour to India at an earlier period than they did. They have not erred from want of warning. On the contrary they received abundant warning. So early as the middle of May the Earl of Ellenborough, in another place, urged upon them the pressing necessity for sending early reinforcements to India. What was the answer he received? It was that Her Majesty's Government were taking steps for sending reinforcements to India, and a hope was held out that those reinforcements would leave England, or at all events, would commence to leave England, by the middle of June. I believe I am right in saying that those reinforcements did not leave England till the middle or latter end of July. That delay alone may decide the fate of Luck-now. What did the noble Lord at the head of the Government tell us last night? I asked him at what period the Government received a telegraphic message from Lord Stratford de Redcliffe offering to obtain a firman from the Sultan for the passage of our troops through Egypt. The noble Lord replied that the Government received the message in question on the 30th of June, and that on the 2nd of July they telegraphed back to Lord Stratford de Redcliffe that they had no intention of applying for a firman, or of sending troops overland to India. I believe they were the only parties to whom it did not occur that it was most urgently necessary to lose no time in despatching reinforce- ments to India. The noble Lord told us to consider the difficulties. I do not deny that there must have been difficulties, but there was a difficulty existing in India more urgent, more pressing, than any other that could possibly be encountered. It was a moment when risks ought to have been run, when I hold it to have been the duty of the Government to use every available means for sending supplies of troops to India at the earliest possible moment. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control has told us that this subject is to be investigated by a Committee. The House must have heard that declaration with the greatest astonishment. When I heard it I could scarcely believe my own ears. I saw the notice of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans) on the paper the other day. I felt that it was tantamount to a Motion for a vote of censure upon the Government for neglect of duty, and I cannot but regard their consent to it as a proof that in their own minds there does exist a consciousness that they have been negligent, and have not used all the means in their power for sending supplies of troops to India. I shall not press this matter further. When it is investigated by a Committee the Government will be able to show what the real facts are. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has expressed a hope, in which we must all concur, that the next news from India may establish without doubt the safety of Lucknow. Upon this subject, now that it has been raised, I will not shrink from saying that if, unhappily, the safety of our countrymen and countrywomen at Lucknow should not be secured, the responsibility of that dreadful and calamitous event must rest with Government.


said, he rose to ask to be permitted to say a few words on behalf of the Court of Directors, to which body he had the honour to belong. He agreed with the President of the Board of Control that, although any number of troops could have been conveyed to Suez, it would have been utterly impossible to have sent them on to India without previous arrangements having been made for a supply of steamers in the Red Sea. Three months at. least would have been required for those arrangements, and therefore the chance of troops reaching India as soon by way of the Cape as by the overland route was a sufficient justification of the course pursued. Small bodies of troops—of a strength of 300 or 400 men—might have been sent overland, but such inconsiderable reinforcements would not have been worth much in India. To show the promptitude of the Court of Directors he would ask the House to consider what, with their limited staff, they had actually done. During the months of July and August somewhere about 96,000 men were transferred by the Government to the Company for the purpose of being sent to India. The Company with its small establishment immediately engaged sixty-seven sail and steam vessels, and by the end of August the whole of the troops had left the shores of England. He believed it was a question with nautical men whether in making the voyage round the Cape in winter sailing vessels might not go as fast as screws. What the Company did was to take up clippers of the first character to go along with the steamers, and, although they had not arrived at their destination quite as soon as the screws, yet they were arriving close upon their heels. Moreover, all the vessels were taken up bound to make their voyage within a certain fixed time, but as a stimulus to the commanders to use their utmost exertions, the Company agreed to pay a premium of £25 per diem to every ship which should arrive before the specified period. It was quite impossible that the Court of Directors could have done more, and he believed that the country would come to be satisfied with the efficiency with which they had discharged their duties. The President of the Board of Control had talked of putting the spurs into the flanks of the Court of Directors. He believed the House would find, when the promised investigation took place, that, so far from needing the spur, the Court of Directors usually galloped far ahead of the Government departments.


said, he rose to order. He wished to know what was the question before the House. He intended to move the adjournment of this debate, in order that the House might proceed with the business of the evening.


The question before the House is that the Committee of Supply be postponed till the 5th of February.


said, it was his intention boldly to direct the attention of the House to the conduct of the Government in the despatch of troops to India. They might have sent reinforcements to India in three different ways. There was, first, the overland route through Egypt; but he admitted that they would have found it impossible to despatch any large number of troops via Suez and the Red Sea. He regretted, however, that they did not send 500 or 600 men overland by the bi-monthly mail, for the moral effect of such a step would have been great in India, and at the same time preparations might have been made for conveying larger numbers from Suez to Kurrachee. No obstacle of any kind would have been encountered in the Bed Sea, which would have been found perfectly calm, so that the troops might have made the voyage with ease and comfort. The second means of transport, at the command of the Government consisted of ships belonging to Her Majesty's Navy. For example, the Lisbon squadron should not have been paid off, but should have been employed in the conveyance of troops to India, instead of those sailing-vessels and screws to which the Court of Directors had been obliged to pay the extravagant sum of £49 per man. If the Conqueror, instead of bringing home a regiment from Gibraltar, had been provisioned for six months and despatched to India with a regiment and a half, she would have arrived at Calcutta before any of the vessels sent from this country. With respect to sailing-vessels, every one, who had any knowledge on the subject, knew that it was impossible that they could compete successfully with steamers in the autumn months, for while they would have light winds down to the line, and after crossing the line, might make some good sailing as far as the Cape, yet in the Bay of Bengal, they would encounter the north-east monsoon, which always prevailed at the season of the year when vessels leaving this country during the summer would arrive there. They would necessarily have a long and tedious voyage, and so the events proved. He blamed the Government—and that House no less than the Government—for the reductions which had taken place in the Navy. Why should this country be without ships sufficient to carry 10,000 or 15,000 men at a few days' notice, to any part of the world? There was also another subject, in reference to which he had placed a notice no the paper, and concerning which he begged to put a question to the President of the Board of Control, whether precautions had been taken by the Government of India to provide sufficient accommodation, in substantial buildings, for the increased number of British troops which will be assembled in the Upper Provinces when the ensuing hot season sets in. It was quite impossible for European troops to remain under canvas during the hot season. He held in his hand a list of barracks in the Upper Provinces that were available for the shelter of British troops during the hot weather. It was as follows: Dinapore, for one regiment, good. Gazeepore, for one regiment, ditto; also large stables used by the stud, which could be converted. Buxar, large stables. Allahabad, destroyed. Cawnpore, destroyed. Agra, fort. Benares, none. Calpy and other indigo factories might be converted, if in healthy situations. In Lower Bengal: Fort William, one regiment, unhealthy. Barrackpore, no information. Dumdum, artillery. Moorshedabad, barracks for three regiments, but unhealthy. Chinsurah, one regiment, healthy. It was of the greatest importance that proper shelter should be provided for the large numbers of men who would be concentrated in Bengal when the hot weather set in, and therefore he had taken the liberty to call the attention of Government to the point. He thought the disarmed Sepoys might be advantageously employed in erecting barracks for that purpose.


said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary for War, Whether the Government intend, to make up our Home Cavalry establishment to the number in existence before the withdrawal of regiments to India; and, if so, whether they will again constitute the 5th Regiment of Royal Irish Dragoons?


said, he rose to order. He apprehended that as a question had already been put to the Government, it must be answered before another question was proposed. The question of the hon. Gentleman was, moreover, quite irrelevant to the question before the House.


said, he understood the House to have decided that they would permit this discussion to proceed on the Motion for the adjournment of the Committee of Supply.


proceeded: During the year seven regiments of cavalry had been sent to India, which, including some additions to the cavalry already there, made a total of twenty-four troops. Presuming that the Government intended to carry out the intention they expressed in 1856 of keeping up the cavalry establishment, he wished to know whether the blank now existing in the list of cavalry regiments would be filled up by the re-constitution of the 5th Royal Irish Dragoons. He was aware that it might be said that fifty years ago some violation of discipline took place in that corps; but he thought when the conduct of the regiment in numerous engagements was borne in mind, and when it was recollected that the Scots Greys derived their high character from an action in which they were brigaded with the 5th Royal Irish Dragoons, that Her Majesty's Government might fairly consider the propriety of again embodying the regiment.


observed, that the question of the hon. Gentleman was certainly not very germane to the subject more immediately under consideration, which related to the position of our forces in India; but this might be the Irish mode of dealing with such a matter. He had a question upon the paper with reference to the decorations of the Bath, but it was not his intention by proposing it at present to complicate the already tangled skein in which they were involved. Of one thing, however, there could be no doubt,—that there was an universal desire throughout the country that due honour should be paid to those who had performed such heroic deeds in India. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Vernon Smith) that the duty of the Government was to overcome difficulties and to foresee dangers, and in that opinion he (Mr. Scott) fully concurred; but he thought the Government had not foreseen danger, that they had not properly met the difficulties which had arisen, and that they were, therefore, deserving of very heavy censures. The country were told on a recent festive occasion, when it was expected Parliament would meet before February, that they ought to thank their stars that they had a Government really equal to the occasion. No doubt Her Majesty's Government had proved themselves equal to the occasion of a dinner at the Mansion House, but he believed that, so far as the revolt in India was concerned, the only man equal to the occasion was the Chief Commissioner of Oude (Sir Henry Lawrence), whose loss, unfortunately, they had to deplore. He thought the contrast between the great men who had performed heroic deeds in India and those whose supineness had placed such men in difficulties would induce a desire on the part of the British people that the greater honour should be paid to them. He thought every one who read the passage in Her Majesty's Speech pointing out that the heroic acts of our countrymen in India were the more remarkable as they had been performed by small parties of Europeans against overwhelming bodies of the mutineers, must have considered that it cast a reflection upon the Government. The questions must have occurred to every one—why were our forces in India so weak?—why were the men who displayed such gallantry so ill supported?—where were the strong reinforcements they ought to have received? How came it that at this present moment all were trembling for the fate of Havelock and his gallant band at Lucknow, and the fate of our Indian empire might be said to be quivering in the balance? He believed it was owing to the supineness of the Government, whose neglect or delay had been such, that up to the moment of the last advices from India, not one single soldier sent from this country had taken part in any operations against the rebels. Not less than two hundred days had elapsed since news of the Indian mutiny was wide spread in this country, and yet during that period not a single man had been sent out in time to assist their sorely pressed fellow-countrymen. The noble Lord at the head of the Government last summer had triumphantly asked, "Who can find fault with us for supporting Sir John Bowring in his attack upon Canton, when that course has enabled us to afford reinforcements to our troops in India?" This reminded him of a not very skilful player at billiards whom he once saw playing haphazard, and who, attempting to pocket his ball in the corner, put it into the middle pocket, and so scored three. The noble Lord told them that he intended to have gone into the corner pocket, but that he had dropped his ball into the middle pocket; he intended to go to Canton, and he dropped into Calcutta. They were indebted for that good luck to one who, he might say, had been a martyr to the occasion—the Earl of Elgin—who was regarded in India as a man who would have been a worthy successor of the Marquess of Dalhousie. Her Majesty's Ministers, however, sent out as Governor General a nobleman who unquestionably possessed many good qualities, but he (Mr. Scott) doubted whether the people either of this country or of India thought that he had shown himself equal to the occasion. If they looked to the despatches which Viscount Canning sent home, it would be found that he disclaimed any assistance, on the ground that if succours were furnished a useless panic would be occasioned. On the 24th or 25th of February—nearly a year ago—there was a sufficient indication of the impending storm; during March and April there were still further indications of disaffection; and in the month of May the revolt broke out. How was the news of the revolt treated in that House? Hon. Members must recollect the tone assumed by the Cabinet Ministers on the occasion. The First Lord of the Admiralty replied to all questions as to the description of ships to be sent out and the route to be taken in a manner which might he described as rather curt than courteous. Instead of using the ships which the Government had at their command, they hired the old tubs which were now tossing upon the ocean. Instead of availing themselves of the offers made by foreign Powers to assist us in conveying our troops to India by the most direct route, the Government chose the most circuitous course. The right hon. Gentleman had said to-night, "We had before us the dread of the Red Sea; we were fearful of the monsoon." But, had not the Government before them the fear of the Sepoy and the Mussulman, the frightful massacre at Cawnpore, and the dread of the imminent danger of the massacre which might follow at Luck-now? He believed the universal feeling was that the Government were in a great measure responsible for the dangerous position in which our troops at that station had been placed. If Luck now was to fall, if the scenes acted at Cawnpore were to be repeated there, would not the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down admit that the Government, which, in his opinion, would have deserved impeach- ment if they had risked the lives of the troops upon the Red Sea at an unwholesome season of the year, would merit a similar punishment for not sending troops out in time to avert so terrible a disaster? This was a subject upon which the whole country was anxious, and the people would have been pleased to see General Have-lock raised to the peerage, instead of the hon. Gentleman who merely recorded the history of India, and liberated the press which Lord Canning had abolished. He cordially approved of the continuance of General Havelock's pension to his son, and thanked the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) for having raised this debate.


said, he wished to state, in reply to a question which had been put to him in the course of the debate, that measures had been taken to restore the cavalry to the strength at which it stood before the despatch of reinforcements to India, but that this object would be accomplished by adding to existing regiments, and not by the creation of new ones.


observed, that he did not rise to prolong the present discussion, although he thought it was most important that this subject should be entertained before the adjournment of the House. As the Government had assented to the appointment of the Committee, he would not anticipate its verdict, but he wished to know whether the noble Lord would allow him to move its appointment tomorrow. He was surprised that there was no naval or military assistant in the Board of Control, and that when we had a most momentous war going on in the East, the War Minister had no responsibility for it. Perhaps that fact might account for the statements which had appeared in the Court Journal as to the prolonged shooting excursions of the noble Lord at the head of the War Department.


Before the question which has been put by the hon. and gallant General is answered, I should like to say a word or two, because what I have to say may affect the answer to be given by my noble Friend. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Control has made a most important announcement—namely, that the Government consent to an inquiry upon this important subject. The right hon. Gen- tleman (Sir John Pakington) expresses his astonishment that they should have acceded to such a request. For my part, I think that, as this matter has been so much discussed in public, as opinions have been given very confidently, and as statements have been made that the Government might by other means have sent out troops who would have arrived three weeks or a month earlier, the Ministers are pursuing a constitutional and proper course in consenting to an inquiry; but, I own, I have some doubt whether, upon a subject of this kind, which involves on the one hand the efficiency of the Government and its character for energy and despatch, and on the other the safety of our Indian Empire, it would not be better and move conformable to ancient practice that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House in order to make that inquiry. I do not say that I shall propose any Amendment to the Motion of the hon. and gallant General, but I must reserve my right to consider whether when he makes that Motion I shall not move that the subject be considered in a Committee of the whole House. Before I sit down I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that it was with the greatest pleasure that I heard my noble Friend at the head of the Government state that the pension of General Havelock is to be continued to his son.

Motion agreed to.

Committee of Supply deferred to Friday, February 5.