HC Deb 04 May 1858 vol 150 cc21-4

rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to the question of the extension of Telegraphic Communications in the Mediterranean, and with Her Majesty's dominions in the East; and to move an Address for copies of all proposals made to Her Majesty's Government or to the East India Company, by or on behalf of private individuals, companies, or any foreign state, for the establishment of Telegraphic Communications in the Mediterranean, or with India by way of the Red Sea or Persian Gulf; and of all replies thereto: and, of all conventions entered into or contracts made, and of all Treasury Minutes, correspondence with Her Majesty's representatives abroad, and communications between the various Departments of Her Majesty's Government in reference thereto, He said he understood that tier Majesty's Government were prepared to assent to his Motion with the slight alteration of substituting in the latter portion of it the words "extracts from correspondence" and "extracts from communications" fur the words "correspondence" and "communications;" and as he was perfectly prepared to adopt that Amendment, he felt that he need not trouble the House with any arguments upon that occasion upon the important subject of telegraphic communication with the East. He wished, however, to tape that opportunity of removing a misconception to which he had been subjected in reference to a supposed personal interest on his part in the agitation of that subject. He had no personal interest whatever in the advocacy of one scheme over another. It was a matter of entire indifference to him whether the Red Sea route, the Tigris route, or the Euphrates route was selected for that purpose; and, indeed, he should be glad if they were all adopted. But it so happened that when that subject was brought under the notice of Parliament at the conclusion of the last Session, and when it was observed by the public that he had taken a personal interest in the matter, his name was inserted without his authority, and during his absence from this country, in the list of the directors of the Red Sea Telegraph Company; but as he did not think it advisable that he should be placed in the position which his acceptance of such an office would impose upon him, he had taken steps to have his name removed from that list, as soon as he was aware of the fact, and he might add that he had declined to take any part in the formation of the company or in the proceedings of the directors. Having made that explanation he begged leave to submit his Motion to the House with the Amendments he had already stated.


said, he wished to take that opportunity of suggesting to the Government the propriety of taking some steps to insure a greater degree of accuracy in the telegrams published from the seat of war. He did not know whether he should be in order in quoting one or two cases from the last telegram received. Hardly any telegram arrived which was not marked by strange errors, but in the last he found not only mistakes as to the names of officers, but also two errors of fact in regard to the circumstances of the war. Thus it was said Lieutenant Colonel Tindall, commanding the artillery, had been wounded. There was no such officer in Her Majesty's or the Company's service. Major Ricard was said to be wounded, but there was no such name in the Army List. Lieutenant Fox was returned as wounded, but there were no less than eleven lieutenants bearing the name, so that it was impossible to know which was referred to. Lieutenant Olroyd was mentioned as wounded, when, in fact, there was no officer of that name either in Her Majesty's or the Company's service in India. Lieutenant Prendergast was described as wounded, but as there were three lieutenants of the name serving with the regiments which were engaged, it was impossible to identify the particular officer. In the message from Goojerat, Captain Barclay, of the Royal Artillery, was stated to be wounded; but there was no such officer in the service. Those errors occurred in the Telegrams of the East India Company; but in that received by Government, and published upon their authority in the newspapers, he found two serious mistakes as to fact. It was stated that General Sir H. Rose had been engaged with the enemy, which was true; but it was also stated that he had defeated the army of Peshawur. It required very little geographical knowledge to be aware that it was impossible for general Rose, in his position, to encounter an army coming from Peshawur. What was meant, no doubt, was the army of the Peishwa, the name by which Nana Sahib was best known in India. The next mistake was in stating that Colonel Milman with a detachment of the 37th Regiment had been "cut up." That statement had never yet been officially contradicted, but The Times newspaper had published its private Telegram, which showed that the force referred to was simply "shut up" in Azimghur. He would suggest that it was not desirable to inflict unnecessary pain and distress upon those families who had relatives serving in India. There appeared to be no public advantage in publishing names upon uncertain information, but at least pains should be taken to prevent such numerous mistakes as he had pointed out.


said, his hon. Friend should recollect that communication by electric telegraph might be said to be still in its infancy, and that it was natural errors of the kind he had stated should occur. They had reason to hope that as the system became improved such errors would begin to disappear. He was quite ready to admit the existence of the evil pointed out by his hon. Friend; and he would take care to inquire into the origin of those mistakes, with a view if possible, to prevent their recurrence.

Motion agreed to.

Address for,— Copies of all Proposals made to Her Majesty's Government or to the East India Company, by or on behalf of private individuals, companies, or any foreign State, for the establishment of Telegraphic Communications in the Mediterranean, or with India by way of the Red Sea or Persian Gulf; and of all Replies thereto: And, of all Conventions entered into or Contracts made, and of all Treasury Minutes, Extracts from correspondence with Her Majesty's Representatives abroad, and Communications between the various Departments of Her Majesty's Government, in reference thereto.