HC Deb 10 July 1857 vol 146 cc1281-3

said, he rose to ask the President of the Board of Control whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to send the troops which are about to embark for India in sailing ships. Considerable anxiety and doubt existed in the country with respect to the mode in which the troops which were to be embarked for India were to be dispatched—feelings which had arisen in a great measure from an apparent discrepancy in the answers which had been given by two different Cabinet Ministers on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated in reply to a question from the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) that steam vessels, if they could be procured, would be employed for the purpose, and that statement had been received with strong marks of approbation by the House. In another place, however, the noble Lord who presided over the War Department was reported to have said that it was the intention of the Government to send the troops out in sailing vessels, because steam vessels could not easily be procured, and because at this time of the year sailing vessels would make the passage to India quite as quickly as, if not quicker than, steamers. Now, he felt certain that every person must feel how necessary it was that no time should be lost in expediting the departure of these troops for India, and that the passage should be made as rapidly as possible. He was by no means an alarmist as to the state of affairs in India; but he thought that the time had come when it was essential that we should assert our rule in that country in a positive and unmistakeable manner—when we should show that it was our determination to maintain it, and should convince those who disputed it; that the day of retribution would be not only certain, but speedy.


said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had mistaken the statement of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, in supposing him to say that all the troops Were going out in steam vessels. He believed that all his right hon. Friend said was, that some of them were to be sent by steam; so that there was no contrariety between the answer given by him and by his noble Friend at the head of the War Department. But the manner in which it was proposed to send out the troops was this:—In the first place, he should say that the arrangements for sending out troops, amounting to near 10,000 men, as reliefs, previous to receiving the late intelligence from India, were made for despatching them in sailing vessels; and they would all proceed in the course of the present month to their destination in the way originally intended. When the news arrived, these arrangements having been already made, it was not thought advisable to change them so far as these 10,000 men were concerned; but with regard to the additional 4,000 men asked for by the East India Company in consequence of the intelligence from India, the arrangements were these: that 2,000 of them should proceed in screw steam vessels, and the other 2,000 in sailing vessels. There was a great variety of opinions as to whether, at this peculiarly favourable season of the year, sailing vessels would not be the swifter means of conveyance; and it was in order to excite a rivalry between them and steam vessels, and in the hope of transporting the troops with the greater rapidity, that the arrangement specified had been made. The whole of the steam vessels were engaged to depart from this country between the 21st and 29th of July, and he hoped they would be able to make the voyage in seventy days. There should be no delay, and he could assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that no considerations of any sort would prevent the Government from despatching the troops by the speediest means of conveyance.


said, he regretted that the whole 4,000 men were not to be sent out in steamers, because it was absurd to suppose that sailing vessels could perform the voyage so quickly as steamers. If the steamers used their sails when they met the trade winds and lit their fires before they got into them and after they left them, they would be steaming along at a rapid rate, while the sailing vessels would be lying becalmed, and he believed that they would reach their destination quite a month or six weeks before the sailing vessels. The delay which had already taken place showed how impolitic it was of the Government to have reduced our home squadron after the Russian war; because, if the squadron had not been entirely paid off when this news arrived, the troops might have been shipped directly, and might have sailed from this country in forty-eight hours after the intelligence from India had reached it. In 1827, when Spain attacked Portugal, Mr. Canning went down to the House and stated, that the news had arrived on a Friday, there was a Cabinet Council on Saturday, on Sunday the opinion of His Majesty was taken, and on Monday the troops were in full march for Portugal. He regretted that similar despatch had not been used in the present instance.