HC Deb 05 February 1858 vol 148 cc771-80

House in Committee.


It will be in the recollection of the House that, in our short meeting before Christmas, a gracious Message was delivered to this House from Her Majesty, stating her wish of bestowing a signal mark of her favour upon Major General Havelock, and that some provision might be made for him by this House. That Message having been taken into consideration by this House, it was agreed to grant to Sir H. Havelock an annuity of £1000 a year; and a Bill founded upon that Resolution was subsequently introduced. During the discussion which took place upon that Bill and upon that Resolution, a strong feeling was expressed on the part of the House, that an addition should be made to the proposed grant; and Her Majesty's Government undertook, upon the re-assembling of Parliament, to introduce a provision for extending the annuity for two lives—namely, that of General Havelock, and of his son. Unhappily it has not been in the power of Her Majesty's Government to redeem that pledge; for, at the very time that the dignity of a baronetcy was conferred upon General Havelock, and that the annuity to accompany it was voted by the House, the gallant officer had already fallen a victim to his exertions in the service of his country. The honour conferred by the Crown, and the bounty of this House could not, therefore, take effect, and it be-came my duty yesterday to move the discharge of the order for proceeding with the Bill which had been introduced with respect to the subject. The Government, however, being desirous of carrying substantially into effect the recommendation of the Crown, and being also desirous of acting upon the understanding which had been come to with this House, has decided upon proposing an annuity of £1000 a year to the widow of the late gallant general. By a most gracious act of Her Majesty, Lady Havelock has been placed in precisely the same position as she would have been if her husband had been alive when he was created a baronet; and we have thought that we should be giving effect to the wishes of this House by proposing a grant to her of £1000 a year. We propose also to grant an annuity of like amount to the present Sir H. Havelock. Now, Sir, I think that, under the circumstances, this House would not have objected to vote an annuity of £1000 a year to the present Sir H. Havelock, even if he were an undistinguished man, and had merely succeeded his father in the ordinary manner of hereditary honours; but I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the present Sir H. Havelock has proved himself worthy of the gallant and heroic deeds of his father, and has himself, in the course of his military profession in India, rendered distinguished services to his country; and, looking to his own merits, I think that the House would feel themselves justified in conferring upon him a token of their approval. I will state to the Committee what has been the military career of Sir Henry Havelock:—Brevet Major Havelock entered the army (Queen's service) as ensign in 1846, became lieutenant the 23rd of June, 1848, and captain on the 9th of October, 1857. In the course of his career he had received the thanks of the Commander in Chief, who had expressed great pleasure in recommending him for his promotion to a company shortly after the action at Cawnpore, and recently for brevet rank of major, no less as a reward for his own gallant and meritorious services than as a tribute to the memory of his gallant father, by whose side he fought in those numerous engagements which rapidly followed each other in brilliant succession and terminated in the relief of Lucknow. Major Havelock was decorated with the Victoria Cross for his cool bravery at Cawnpore. It was on that occasion that Major Stirling, a gallant and distinguished officer, fell at the head of the 64th regiment. Major Havelock's horse was shot under him at Busserut Gunge on the 29th of July; he was severely wounded in the right arm by a musket shot at Lucknow, and has been repeatedly mentioned in despatches. The principal service of Sir H. Havelock, however, was that for which he had been decorated with the Victoria Cross, and on this point I will trouble the Committee with an extract from a telegram from the late Major General Havelock to the Commander in Chief, dated Cawnpore, August 18, 1857, and which appeared in the London Gazette of January the 15th: In the combat at Cawnpore Lieutenant Havelock wag my aide-de-camp. The 64th regiment had been much under artillery fire, from which it had severely suffered. The whole of the infantry were lying down in line, when, perceiving that the enemy had brought out the last reserved gun, a 24-pounder, and were rallying round it, I called up the regiment to rise and advance. Without any other word from me, Lieutenant Havelock placed himself on his horse, in front of the centre of the 64th, opposite the muzzle of the gun. Major Stirling, commanding the regiment, was in front, dismounted, but the Lieutenant continued to move steadily on in front of the regiment at a foot pace on his horse. The gun discharged shot until the troops were within a short distance, when they fired grape. In went the corps, led by the Lieutenant, who still steered steadily on the gun's muzzle until it was mastered by the rush of the 64th. In that most gallant charge the commanding officer unfortunately lost his life, but Major Havelock happily survived the daring attack. I will not trespass longer on the attention of the Committee further than to express the hope that the Resolutions which I shall now place in your hands, Sir, will be unanimously agreed to.

Motion made,

  1. 1. That the annual sum of One Thousand Pounds be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said annuity to commence from the 5th day of February, 1858; and to be settled in the most beneficial manner upon Lady Havelock, the Widow of the late Major General Henry Havelock, of Lucknow, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, for the term of her natural life.
  2. 2. That the annual sum of One Thousand Pounds be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said Annuity to commence from the 5th day of February, 1858; and to be settled in the most beneficial manner upon Sir Henry Marsham Havelock, Baronet, eldest son of the late Major General Henry Havelock, of Lucknow, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, for the term of his natural life.


I believe that the right hon. Gentleman has rightly interpreted the feeling of this House in. anticipating that the proposition of Her Majesty's Government would meet with our unanimous approbation and concurrence. I believe that among the long catalogue of illustrious men who have fallen in India, few have been more sincerely regretted than the late General Havelock; and, if anything could add to the regret felt at the death of that gallant and admirable man, it would be that he died before he was aware of the manner in which his services were appreciated by his countrymen. Throughout the country there exists but one feeling, and that of gratitude to Her Majesty for the honour she has conferred upon Lady Havelock and her son; and I am also convinced that all parties, both in this House and out of doors, will feel that Her Majesty's Government have done no more than their duty in proposing to transfer to his widow the pension that was intended for General Havelock himself, and in also simultaneously recommending the grant of a pension to his son. I entirely agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this House would have cordially concurred in that course, had Major Havelock had no personal claims of his own. We know, however, that that officer is treading most gallantly and most nobly in the footsteps of his father; and we must all join in earnest hope that he may long continue in the same career of glory and honour, and live long to enjoy the favour and gratitude of his country.


observed, that he wished to add one word in proof of what he was sure the country deeply felt—namely, that this was in no way a reward which was not entirely deserved. He held in his hand an extract from one of the last letters written by this lamented General, in which great anxiety was expressed as to his inability to make a provision for his wife and family. General Havelock said that, after forty-two years spent in the service of his country, all that he had been enabled to save was a sum of £4,000, which, with a small life assurance of £2,000, was all that he could leave for the maintenance of his family. When the country was made aware of this fact, there was no doubt that it would give its warm and cordial support to the proposed recognition of the services of the late General Havelock.


said, he could not allow the occasion to pass without declaring, on the part of his constituents, his entire concurrence in this Resolution. He knew that no words of his could do justice to the subject; and, at the same time, he was anxious to express what he was sure was felt by every Englishman—namely, sorrow for the irreparable loss sustained by the British army through the death of General Havelock, and admiration for deeds which, though performed in a land where heroic actions were too numerous to be recounted, had yet, from their daring and rapidity, their strategical bearings, and their important results, been rarely equalled, and certainly never surpassed, in the annals of war. Into the private life of General Havelock it would be presumptuous for any one of them to enter. He was, however, the perfect type of a Christian warrior; and although, unhappily, he did not live to know of the recognition of his services by a generous Sovereign and an admiring people, still he had something far better to sustain him—namely, the consciousness that he had performed every duty to God and man, and that his last efforts had been successful in rescuing a brave and heroic garrison from a fate at which even now we shuddered. As long as the faithful discharge of a soldier's duty, as long as the unostentatious performance of a Christian's obligations, as long as the display of brilliant courage and the highest military talent were honoured and esteemed as they ever would be in England, so long would the memory of General Havelock be cherished and revered.


said, he was far from desiring to disturb the unanimity of the House with respect to this Resolution, especially as he had no doubt that the proposition of the Government would be gratifying to the feelings of the country; but he wished to point out how the proper functions of the House, on occasions of this kind, were overlaid by its own forms, and by the anxiety they felt to give immediate effect to their benevolent intentions. Introduced as it was only yesterday, this Bill, he presumed, was to go through all the forms of the House consecutively and without delay. On a money Bill, hon. Members were unable to offer any Amendment without notice. At any rate, the effect of the measure passing through so rapidly was, to prevent on a former occasion, as he apprehended it would prevent now, any hon. Gentleman from proposing an Amendment. In point of fact, then, the function of the House to reward distinguished merit by pecuniary grants devolved practically on the Government. No doubt the Government would be anxious to follow the general wish of the House on such a matter; but they might not always be successful in accurately collecting that wish. This was actually the case during the late Christmas Session, when the Government proposal was not such as to meet the approval of the House, and there was no opportunity of moving Amendments upon it at the time when that divergence of opinion became manifest. Indeed, it was solely owing to the accidental and lamentable circumstance of General Havelock's death before he could receive his pension that the Government had had time to gather the real feeling of the House, and to propose a provision for the widow. For, had the previous Bill passed before Christmas, and this distinguished General fallen shortly afterwards, Lady Havelock would have been left without the proposed annuity. It would, no doubt, be a strong consolation to brave men engaged in performing great public services to know that, if they fell victims to their duty, their families would be taken care of by the State; and he begged to suggest that, in future, the practice should be adopted of offering a provision for the widows of distinguished generals, to whom Parliamentary grants were awarded. Special grants by Parliament were too rare to make such a rule burdensome to the country.


said, that there was not a person in the House more ready than he to grant public money for eminent services done to the country, and no services could have been greater than those performed by the late General Have-lock. He rose, not to oppose the Motion, for he thought that Lady Havelock was eminently entitled to a pension, but to call attention to the greatly increased reward as compared with that of last year. Then it was proposed to give an annuity to General Havelock for his life; and it was the wish of the House that it should be extended to his son for life; and there was no opposition to that. If the proposition had been to grant General Havelock £2,000 a year, he (Mr. Williams) would have made no objection; for he thought it was the highest policy to reward eminent public services such as those of General Havelock. But the ground laid by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for granting £1,000 a year to Major Havelock wholly failed. The right hon. Gentleman did not rest the claims of that officer to a pension on the merits of his gallant father, but on his personal bravery in the field. The right hon. Gentleman might have pointed out a thousand officers as much entitled to a similar reward on personal grounds as Major Havelock. What must be the feelings of distinguished officers of higher rank than Major Havelock, who had received no pecuniary reward, and one or two of whom had received but a slender acknowledgment of their services from Her Majesty? In particular, he thought that Colonel Greathed was entitled to a higher reward than he had received. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the courage of Major Havelock. Why, there was not a man in the first relieving force that reached Lucknow, officer or soldier, who had not displayed as much courage as he. He did not oppose the proposal, but he could not help pointing out that this was a Motion for an additional £1,000 a year beyond what was originally proposed.


said, he must pro-teat against the doctrine of the hon. Member for Lambeth. The statement of the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) as to the slight provision which General Havelock had been able to make for his family was in itself a justification of the course pursued by the Government, and would commend this vote to the feelings of every right-minded man. It was the greatest wisdom to hold out to those who were willing to devote their lives to the service of their country, and whose avocations did not permit them to make such provision themselves, the prospect that their families would be provided for after their death. We were not anxious to encumber our officers with enormous wealth, the enjoyment of which might tempt them, perhaps, to neglect their proper avocations, but we ought always to be ready to provide for the relatives of those who for many years had otherwise devoted, or in the chance of war had risked their lives in the public service, and thus to relieve their minds from cares which might interfere with the performance of their duties. This was the species of reward which was the most acceptable to the most honourable minds, and could the late General Havelock know what was now being done for his family, he would prize such a return much more than he could have valued the highest honours which could have been showered upon him during his life. He therefore rejoiced that they could afford to overlook the services of Major Havelock, in the determination so universally expressed to recognize the virtues, the courage, the talents, the perseverance, and the Christian virtues of his honoured father.


said, he thought it right to remove a misapprehension under which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Darby Griffith) laboured, when he thought that the Government had acted precipitately in this matter, and that the House was now in Committee on a Bill for granting an annuity to Lady Havelock and Major Havelock. The truth was that the House was proceeding in the most formal and deliberate manner, and was now only in the first stage of the business for they only were on a Resolution on which a Bill was to be founded. Therefore if the hon. Member wished to make any remarks on this subject, he would have ample opportunity in the future stages of the Bill. His principal object in rising, however, was to remove a strange misunderstanding, by the hon. Member for Lambeth, (Mr. W. Williams) of the remarks he had made. The hon. Member understood that he laid the ground of the Resolution solely on the personal merits of Major Havelock, and irrespective of the signal services of his lamented father, whereas he thought he had distinctly stated that he believed that the House would have been prepared to accede to a proposition for granting this annuity to the son of General Havelock, wholly irrespective of his personal merits. The original proposition was for an annuity to General Havelock only; and it was the expressed wish of the House that it should be continued to his son; that is, that it should he granted for two lives. The Government acceded to the wish of the House, but that was not the original proposition. Since that understanding had been come to, the lamented death of General Havelock had become known, and the position of things had changed. It was impossible that the original intention should be carried into effect; and it became his (the Chancellor of the Exchequer's) duty to submit to the House a different Resolution, though one still carrying out the spirit of the wishes of the House; and he had said that, irrespective of the personal merits of the present Sir H. Havelock, it would no doubt be the desire of the House that it should be carried out. At the same time he felt it his duty to add, and he thought it was not an immaterial circumstance, that the present Sir H. Havelock was not the mere recipient of an hereditary honour; that he was not one of those quibus beneficia populi Romani dormientibus deferuntur, but that he had by his own exertions, and by his undaunted courage, earned for himself an honourable position in the ranks of the army. He did not assert that there were not other officers of the same rank as brave and as distinguished, but he did say that it was a matter for the consideration of the House that the present Sir H. Havelock undoubtedly had personal merits independent of his relationship to his distinguished father. These were the grounds on which the Resolution was based, and he thought that the House would agree with him, that they were not irrelevant.


said that every one must agree that this pension was rightly given; but at the same time he thought it ought to be charged on the revenues of India. There were two parties to these pensions, those who received and those who paid them. He thought that the people who had stirred up the insurrection ought to feel its effects, and to pay for it. The pension to the Marquess of Dalhousie was charged on the revenues of India, and why should not this be paid from the same source? At the same time he was far from saying that Major Havelock did not richly deserve it.


said, that it was always the case that officers in the Queen's service should have their pensions charged on the Consolidated Fund. It was so in the case of Lord Gough, Viscount Hardinge, and others. With regard to officers in the service of the East India Company, the custom was to grant pensions charged on the revenues of India; and in the case of General Wilson, who had received the same pension as General Havelock, it was charged on the revenues of the East India Company.


said, that he wished to explain, that in the remarks he had made, he had not intended to find fault with the Government for the proposition they had made, for no one sympathised more in the gallant deeds of that great man than he did: but it did happen last Session that the forms of the House precluded discussion on the subject.

Resolutions agreed to; to be reported on Monday next. House resumed.