HC Deb 16 March 1857 vol 144 cc2372-5

THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER rose, pursuant to notice, to move for a Paper, and, in doing so, to give an explanation on behalf of Sir Charles Trevelyan respecting the Report of the Board of General Officers that had lately sat at Chelsea. In the remarks made by the hon. Member for Devonshire (Mr. Palk) on Friday last, on the Motion he brought forward in going into Committee of Supply, allusion was made to a passage in the Report of the Board of General Officers having reference to the supply of forage to the army. That passage contained words to the effect that the sufferings of the troops in the Crimea had mainly been owing to the deficiency of the land transport; that the deficiency of the land transport had mainly been owing to the want of forage; and that the want of forage was attributable, not to omissions or want of care on the part of officers on the spot, but to the neglect of the Commissariat Department of the Treasury to send out hay from this country. The attention of his noble Friend at the head of the Government and himself having been directed to this subject, they thought it their duty in the month of August last to draw up a memorandum and call on Sir Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury, who was mainly charged with the superintendence of the Commissariat Department of the Treasury, to give an explanation regarding it. Sir Charles Trevelyan accordingly prepared a Paper, which was submitted to his noble Friend and himself; but as it was their opinion that the question had practically been settled, and that no advantage would be derived from a revival on their part of the discussion, therefore they did not think it necessary to move at an earlier period for its production. As, however, the question was revived by the hon. Member (Mr. Palk) in the late discussion, and as the conclusion of the Board of General Officers was altogether disputed and denied by Sir Charles Trevelyan, inasmuch as he maintained that the want of supply of forage was not owing to any neglect on the part of the Treasury at home, and as his Paper contained at length the grounds on which he maintained that opinion, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought it his duty to move for the production of that Paper, and to request Gentleman to suspend their judgment on the matter till they had an opportunity of reading and considering the explanation there given. He confessed, for himself, that he agreed very much with the view taken by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), who expressed an opinion that the sufferings of the army were not so much attributable to individuals or to any want of system as to the rapidity with which the expedition was planned and executed, and to the manner in which the army found itself compelled, after the battle of Inkerman, contrary not only to the expectations of people in this country, but to the expectations of their officers, to pass the winter in the Crimea. The hon. and gallant Gentleman stated correctly, in his opinion, that which was the chief cause of the sufferings of the army, and he stated also, with great truth, that all attempts to fix the blame on any particular individuals would end in nothing but vain and fruitless discussion. With that explanation he begged to move for the production of the papers prepared by Sir Charles Trevelyan.


considered it rather unfortunate, after the late discussion, that this question should again be brought under public notice. On the last day of the last Session he offered some remarks in reference to Sir Charles Trevelyan. Those remarks were certainly not of a personal nature, for he had not the pleasure of that gentleman's acquaintance. He certainly did express his regret, and that regret, he believed, was general, that Sir Charles Trevelyan had not received the directions of the Government to attend the Commission during the time it was sitting. It was only fair to the Commissary General and the officers whose conduct was impugned that Sir Charles Trevelyan should have attended during the inquiry. That gentleman would then have been enabled to explain those matters with which he was concerned, and the Paper now moved for would, in all probability, be unnecessary. He believed that the Commissary General had stated that Sir Charles Trevelyan paid no attention to the requirements of the army; that there had been, or example, 2,200 tons of hay demanded in all haste; and that up to the 28th January, being a considerable time after the supplies should have been sent out, only 228 tons had been received by the army. He would make no further remarks, as the Paper of Sir Charles Trevelyan had been moved for. Should he (Colonel North) have the honour of a seat in the next Parliament, he would certainly make some more remarks upon the subject. If Sir Charles Trevelyan had been ordered to attend the Commission the inquiry would have been much more satisfactory to all parties concerned.


said, he had the pleasure of hearing the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon, and he was much struck by the truth of many of his observations, some of which were most galling and annoying to certain individuals. As the Government were about to send out a large expedition to China, he hoped that the fullest information would be afforded the House as to the number and character of the troops that were to be despatched, as well as to the precautionary measures that would be taken for the preservation of their health in the dangerous and pernicious climate to which they would be exposed. He should like to know what measures were taken for provisioning the regiments in their land passage—for victualling them when they arrived, and for clothing them while they were engaged in the Chinese war.


in reference to the observations made by the hon. and gallant Member for Oxfordshire (Col. North), remarked that the Board of General Officers was not appointed to inquire into general statements, or into any system established in the army; but rather to receive any statement exculpatory of the officers whose conduct was impugned. He (Sir W. Codrington) thought it was therefore quite right that Sir Charles Trevelyan had not appeared before the Board, because his conduct had not been inculpated by the Commission.

Motion agreed to. Copy ordered, "of Explanation of Sir Charles Trevelyan, respecting a passage in the Report of General Officers appointed to inquire into certain statements in the Report of Sir John M 'Neill and Colonel Tulloch, relative to the Army in the Crimea.