HC Deb 12 July 1860 vol 159 cc1812-39

House in Committee.

Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.


Sir, at this late hour (half-past ten), I will endeavour to make the statement which it is my duty to lay before the House as concise as I can consistently with the explanation which I have to give of the Vote of Credit which has been laid on the table of the House. But before I do so perhaps I may be allowed to take some notice of the observations which have been made by my right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (General Peel). The gallant General says that he prophesied that five times £500,000 would he requisite to make up the deficiency between the Estimates and the expenditure for last year, and for the China war generally, and he asks me whether every sixpence of the £500,000 which we took has not been expended in making up the deficiency on the ordinary Estimates of last year? In the first place I have to reply that not one sixpence of that sum was applicable to making up any deficiency which might have occurred in the ordinary Estimates of last year. My gallant Friend, who is well acquainted with these matters, must have spoken without reflection, for he must have known that you cannot apply one farthing of a Vote of Credit to any purpose but that for which it was voted. You cannot spend it in making up an ordinary deficiency in the ordinary Estimate of the year. If his vaticinations, therefore, should prove correct, which I trust they will not, the deficiency will have to be made up by a Vote next year, specially taken to cover it. But so far from all that sum being spent in that way, we have reason to believe that a large portion of it still remains unexpended. We cannot tell yet—until we receive accounts from China it is difficult to say how much of that money has been spent. Some of the regiments embarked later than we thought they would, and rather than being all spent, I should say that there was a surplus left on that Vote. The gallant General also says that he pointed out that we were quite wrong in our Estimate for the Chinese war, that £850,000 followed by £500,000 would be quite insufficient, that the war would inevitably come on, and that the Indian Government—and here he was right—would inevitably send home many more troops than we had expected, and he blames us for not having had the foresight to provide for this. Nobody knows better than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman how much safer it is not to trust to private or anything but official information. We have reason to recollect the circumstances in which we were placed in the last autumn. The state of India was anything but satisfactory; nothing but gloom pervaded European society in India; and Earl Canning then said, in answer to letters from myself, that he could not part with European troops, and he could not say how soon a state of circumstances would arrive which would justify him in parting with any great number of European troops. We listened to that statement—we framed an estimate upon it. Great changes, however, for the better took place in India. The Punjaub had been quieted; the pacification of Oude seemed complete, and in consequence six battalions were promised from India, which induced us to withdraw the Estimate and to produce a revised Estimate. I will not go into detail upon the subject, but pass on to the observations of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby). And there I must confess that to some great extent I agree with him. But when he says that the Estimate is unsatisfactory, I am surprised that it is not to the amount that he takes exception—which I confess is unsatisfactory—but rather to the manner and the time of proposing it. He says it is not made in the shape we like or at the moment we like. He is silent as to the amount, and I trust that he will derive some consolation from the extent of the Estimate which is laid before the House. In the Committee upstairs, of which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) was chairman, we took a great deal of evidence with regard to the state of the account pending between this country and India, and it was shown to be extremely unsatisfactory. I will read just a passage from the Report, because I wish to show the principle upon which the Government have acted in applying for this Vote of Credit. The state of the account between the British Exchequer and Indian territory is most unsatisfactory. The account for the Persian expedition is not yet closed. The account of the first China war is hardly completed yet. The account of the second China war, which ended in 1856, is not yet balanced. There are four or five different accounts still open with disputed balances to a large amount; and with respect to the new expedition to China, India, in the midst of the great financial difficulties, has been required to make advances in the current year for all expenses incurred in taking up transports in India, in paying the men, and in providing cattle, horses, and other necessaries, as well as equipments for the army. There does not appear to be any estimate of the amount of these advances, but, while Indian territory is overwhelmed with debt, it will be unseemly that Great Britian should make war on China out of Indian resources. The repayment of these advances ought to be prompt, and within the present financial year. I entirely concur in every sentence in that passage of the Report. This first Estimate of 443,896 for past transactions, which I will explain in a moment, is a sum for which I am at any rate not in any way responsible. It is an arrear owing to the East India Company. The accounts have not been audited. The amount has not been entirely agreed upon, but, as the East India Company are not so rich that they can overlook these little debts, and as they are anxious we should pay them, it is necessary to pay something to them on account of these past transactions. Would it be seemly this year to make war on Indian resources? I think not. I think it is wise and right that we should lay before the House of Commons, as far as we can form—I will not call it an estimate, but a guess of what possibly may be the amount required to repay the Indian Government, and to pay the army and navy engaged in these operations. The hon. Baronet says, "But you should give us this estimate in detail." I do not think it is possible to give that estimate in detail. I asked the East Indian Government to send me, not an account of the sums already expended for providing and equipping the expedition, but an estimate of the sums so expended, not however in detail, because they do not know the exact sums. They refused to send the information officially, upon the ground that they ought not to send officially anything pretending to be an account which, after all, was only an estimate of an account. I accepted that which they would give unofficially, because I thought it very important that the Government should lay before the House a rough and approximate estimate of what the cost may be. I think it better to dispense with accuracy rather than follow the system which has hitherto prevailed, of first spending the money, saying nothing to Parliament, and after all the transactions are ended coming to Parliament to make good a deficiency over which they have no possible check or control.

I will not weary the Committee by citing precedents, but I have carefully examined the precedents of the Votes for the China wars (that is, the first and second expeditions), of the Votes for the Caffre wars and the Crimean war, and in every case I find a lump sum presented to the House and voted as a Vote of Credit without details. The reason is obvious. You cannot fore- see in a particular war what the expenditure will be. You have in your estimates the actual cost of the pay of the men and the cost of their keep. You may put an approximate estimate of what it will be when the men are on Indian allowances as well as English; you may put an approximate estimate of the cost of Indian Native troops, but you cannot make an estimate of the cost of the followers attached to these regiments. Therefore, if I were to depart from the precedent of putting the Estimate in a lump sum, I should depart from it for the purpose of laying before the House an estimate which would be illusory, and one which would deceive the House as to the sums which they were voting. What is the use of laying items before the House? Obviously that the House may exercise its discretion, and accept them or not—that they may put their finger on one item and say this is too much—you have too many troops, too many camp followers, too many coolies. Then it turns out in practice that they are much less—that the excess of expenditure is under some other head—and thus the interference becomes as illusory as the subject to which it is applied. I may really say that the very term "vote of credit" shows what is intended. It is not an estimate—not sums of money approved by the House of Commons—but a Vote given in confidence to the Government that they will spend it for purposes which are requisite, to the best of their ability. And I do not believe we could carry on war otherwise, unless we chose to accept knowingly, and with our eyes open, delusive Estimates, delusive criticisms, and delusive Votes. I have in this case so far departed from precedent that, instead of voting for the past, I am asking you to vote for the future. According to practice, I might have called upon the Committee to vote £400,000 or £500,000, after peace has been made and broken and there is a fresh war, but I think it much better to put the whole expenditure as estimated before the House of Commons. Let us face it at once and see what will be the cost in the course of the year, and should circumstances fortunately occur which would lead to an early termination of these unhappy hostilities, we shall have so much to the good. Probably the Committee will not be afraid, as the money cannot be applied to any other purpose, and it will be very fortunate if the money be not applied to this. First, I ought to state what are the sums of which the items of £443,896 for past transactions are composed. In the last China war there was an arrangement between the Treasury and the East India Company that the Company should bear all the ordinary charges of the force sent in aid of the expedition, but that they should be reimbursed by the Imperial Government all extraordinary payments. The accounts were settled a few years ago, up to 1847–48. We have still the balance remaining unsettled, from 1848–49 to 1858–59, of £281,000, upon which questions will arise. We have £82,000 on account of Indian military forces stationed in China, and about £80,000 the estimated cost of Indian Native troops which form part of the garrison of Canton. The great evil of the system, to my mind, is, that in point of fact you have no power over the Executive as to the number of troops you employ. You can vote every man under the Mutiny Act, and not a man more can be employed as long as you do not vote more money for their pay; but if you employ Indian troops you have no check on the amount, except in the gross sum which you are afterwards called upon to pay. No doubt this has been a very wrong system, and part of this sum, no less than £82,000, is for the cost of troops at Canton in the time of the gallant Officer opposite, and £80,000 is for the continuance of the garrison of Hong Kong up to the time this war broke out. The present Estimate, therefore, applicable to the war, in which, I believe unhappily we are now engaged, is less than £3,800,000 by £443,896, which sum applies to past transactions.

The Committee would probably like to know the sums directly or indirectly voted for the China expedition. In enumerating them I will follow the form of the Returns moved for by my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who asks what are the sums put upon the ordinary Army and Navy Estimates for 1860–61, which are applicable to the operations in China. Now, I believe that practically, except in the large consumption of stores, and the transport, the men are not necessarily an increased charge on the country for that expedition. We have, for instance, nine battalions of infantry in China; but, if there were no Chinese war, one or two battalions will be doing garrison duty abroad, and the other seven would be in England, where they would be useful enough. In the same way there would have been no considerable disbandment of seamen in our navy had there been no war. I will, however, give the information the hon. Baronet requires. The items in the Army Estimates for 1860–61 applicable to the China expedition were as follows:—Cost of forces of all ranks, £399,588; clothing and necessaries, £42,500, provisions, forage, fuel, light, &c, £22,740—total, £464,828. The Navy Estimates for 1860–61 included the following sums:—Hire of transports, £107,000; coals, £76,000; freight of stores, £17,000; making, with provisions, bedding, &c, £217,900; adding the pay of men in China (£463,000) it gave a total of £680,900. These two totals in items in the Army and Navy Estimates together made £ 1,145,728. Of the Vote of Credit taken last year to the amount of £850,000, the total apportioned for the army was £578,648, and for the navy £268,452. These amounts, together with the Vote of Credit for £500,000, give a grand total of about £2,500,000. We now come to the Vote before us. I have already explained that the sum of £443,896 in arrear due to Her Majesty's Government from the East India Company has no relation to the China war. They have so little confidence in the statement they have drawn up, that they have forwarded it to me, not officially, but privately, as an approximation to the real amount. The cost of horses, bullocks, and ponies comes to £88,600; ammunition, £16,000; advance of pay to the force on embarcation, £145,702; value of stores issued £30,000. Altogether, with the hire of the Indian Government steamships, with rations and allowances to troops on board ship, coals, &c, we have a total of £1,900,922. That is the amount of the East India claim due to us in the course of the year, supposing that the war lasts for a year, and that the ships are kept on for that time. The War Office Estimate includes the following items:—Difference between British and India rates of pay, allowances to wives and children, cost of Natives attached to the force, &c, for 10,985 Europeans, £526,355; cost of 7,623 Native troops, including pay, allowances, provisions, &c, £182,715; extra clothing and necessaries £50,000; extra provisions, forage, land transport, &c, £268,000; extra warlike and other stores, £150,000; extra hospital charges, including hospital ships, £284,208; sanitary establishments at the Cape, £23,792; estimated cost of Native Indian troops previously in China, £67,666—making a total of £1,552,736. Then there is the Admiralty Estimate to the amount of £359,017. From the total a deduction must be made of the sums which may not come into payment during the year 1860–61. The Estimate had been fixed roughly, as I have stated, at £3,800,000.

I will not now enter into the policy of the war, because I have already had an opportunity of expressing my own opinions on that matter when the question was raised at the earlier part of the Session. At one time there was every reason to hope from the advices which were received from China that hostilities would have come to an end, and that a great demonstration of force would alone have proved sufficient to procure us redress for the outrages which had been committed at the mouth of the Peiho. We have been disappointed in that hope. Those, however, who are best informed on the subject still maintain that the Tartar Chief who is at the head of the war party in China, and who distinguished himself by the arrangements he made for our repulse at the Peiho, stands too near the Throne to be-agreeable to the Emperor of China. He derives great power from the party of which he is the organ, and till some defeat or disaster happens to him, there is little likelihood of a change in the policy of the Chinese Government. But should any reverse befall him, it would be gladly made use of by the Government to reverse a policy which has been originated by one of whom they are so jealous. These are mere speculations, it may be said, but they come from an authoritative source. Her Majesty's Government would certainly receive with the greatest delight and satisfaction any news that would encourage us in the hope that we are likely to enter into a better state of relations with the Chinese. In the meanwhile I think no one can deny that we are bound to provide for the possibility of continuing hostile operations. We have very large forces in China exposed to a deadly climate, and we are bound to provide them with every means to enable them to bring the contest to a speedy and successful issue. Under these circumstances, I do not believe the House will be staggered even by the large amount of this Estimate. Our Commanders in China are men in whom we have a right to repose the greatest confidence, for they are tried men. I have received from General Sir Hope Grant the expression of his confidence in and admiration for the activity, resources, and forethought which he sees displayed by Admiral Hope. Of General Sir Hope Grant's own judgment, prudence, and energy I have formed the highest opinion from the communications I have had with him. I think that the view he took of the question as to the pay of the troops showed great judgment, and on another instance he also displayed a wise discretion. When ordered to occupy Chusan as a depôt, he found that the lodgings for the troops were small, inconvenient, damp, and excessively unhealthy. He therefore decided not to endanger the health of his men by leaving them at Chusan, and, taking upon himself the responsibility of disobeying instructions, he at once carried them to a neighbouring island of sandy soil, well watered, and wholesome. Indeed, in all his actions it was impossible not to be struck with the judgment and foresight displayed by General Sir Hope Grant, as well as by Sir John Michel], his second in command; and we may safely rely upon it that whatever can be done by brave and practised soldiers, will be accomplished by our forces in China. Looking at the late period of the Session, it is important for the Government and for the country that this matter should be decided as soon as possible; and, without making any further observations, I beg to move that a sum of £3,800,000 be granted to Her Majesty for the China War.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,800,000, be granted to Her Majesty towards defraying the Expenses of Naval and Military Operations in China, beyond the ordinary Grants for Army and Naval Services for the year 1860–1, including a repayment of £443,896 to the Government of India for Advances on Account of former Expeditions in China.


said, he thought that the Committee had some reason to be surprised at the amount of the Vote now asked when they remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 10th of February in the present year, estimated the expenditure on account of the China war at £500,000. He ventured to say that at the beginning of the present Session the House had no conception that it was about to be involved in an expenditure of nearly £4,000,000. Such, however, was the fact, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have been, he was certain, among the first to regret that he had framed his Budget on the notion that an expenditure really of £4,000,000, would only be £500,000. Various branches of taxation were handled by the right hon. Gentleman in a very decided way, to which, if there had been a clear surplus, there would have been little objection. But remissions of duties had been made in the face of an enormous expenditure, which must have been well anticipated. The right hon. Gentleman might perhaps, be able to explain that to the House, but the item of £443,896, belonging to the last China war, must have been well known. It was inexplicable to him how the right hon. Gentleman could assume a surplus of £500,000 when there was that outstanding Indian claim, that was sure to come in whether they had a China war or not. The statement of the Secretary of State for War was clear as far as it went, but it showed the danger that was impending over English finance. The House could not fail to perceive how Indian and English finance were getting mixed up together. He submitted that the proposed Vote of £3,800,000 ought to be divided into two separate portions, the sum of £433,000 for the outstanding Indian debt forming one Vote and the balance another. If the Vote of credit now demanded were added to the 850,000 already voted in March, the China Vote would be brought up to £4,600,000, excluding the old India Bill. He could not, however, admit that the Vote before the House was to be a Vote of credit, and it would be good policy to try and divide the £4,600,000 under certain heads of expenditure. The House might not be able to have an estimate of each branch of expenditure, but unless they had such an estimate what security was there that the money would be spent under these heads, or how was there to be any appropriation or any audit? The Earl of Ellenborough stated the other day in "another place" that he found no difficulty in making out an estimate for a former Chinese war. [Mr. S. HERBERT: The result was voted in a lump sum.] He would not enter upon the policy of the present China war except to say that he believed they could not enter upon a more ruinous war. The great power of two Empires of Europe was about to be brought to bear against the kingdom of China, and he feared that the result would be to involve that kingdom in anarchy and ruin rather than to extend our commerce. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would undertake on the Report to make a detailed estimate, with a large margin for contingencies.


said, he wished to know how far the estimate for outstanding Indian accounts was carried up to the present day. It was said that the war could not be carried on by means of the troops in India, except at the expense in the first instance of the Government of India; but the right hon. Gentleman proposed to alter this system. [Mr. SIDNEY HERBERT: I said it ought to be paid within the year.] As soon as the troops left this country every item was paid by the Government of India, but the charge for recruiting, which amounted to a large sum was paid in this country, and repaid by the East India Government, He wished to know whether the charge for recruiting had been taken into the account.


said, he did not know how far it might be possible to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby), and divide the Vote of Credit for the actual expenses of the war into various items. The difficulty might be that, in appropriating a certain portion for stores, transports, and freights, they might allot too much for one head and too little for another. But the item of £443,896 in payment of an old debt might be and ought to be separated from the rest. The House knew how much was wanted for that account and could appropriate it, but unless that were done the money might all be spent in stores, transports, or freights. Whether a further separation were possible he did not know, but it was important to get those old debts settled.


said, that in answer to the question of the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) he wished to state that the outstanding account between the East India Government and the War Department relative to recruiting was not included in the Estimate, because it was a running account which was charged on the ordinary Estimates.


said, there was a fixed charge for every infantry soldier in excess of the Indian establishment, and that in consequence of the great number sent out in excess of that establishment there were certain amounts due from the Indian to the British revenue. Those amounts, however, became repayable from the latter to the former when the men were sent back, so that for every infantry soldier who had been despatched from India to China a sum of £17, for every calvary soldier a sum of £30, and for every artilleryman a sum of £50 would have to be refunded, and those sums were not, he contended, included in the present Estimates. He should also wish to ascertain from his right hon. Friend how much of the £3,800,000, for which a Vote was to be taken, had been already expended. He might add that he thought his right hon. Friend was hardly justified in deducting from the expenses of the China war the amount paid to troops who were represented here by a force of embodied Militia, which could be disembodied if those troops were available at home.


said, he would try to explain, although he could not give any very satisfactory answer to the hon. Baronet's suggestion of framing the Estimate under various heads of expenditure, distinguishing the expenses on account of the British and Native forces, with a statement of what monies had already been drawn on account of the war in China. The latter could not possibly be ascertained until the accounts for the Indian army for 1859–60 were sent home. Until then the Government could not tell under what heads there was a deficiency or an excess. Not a sixpence, however, of the Vote asked for was applicable to any deficiency or excess in the last year. That would be covered out of the £850,000 voted at the beginning of the Session; but if there was any sufficient saving over the ordinary Estimate to cover it then the Vote of Credit would not be applied, or applied only to meet the deficiency; otherwise the money would be applicable to the expenses of the war in the present year. The Government at home did not know what had been actually spent. The East India Government had told them what may have been spent, and the Government wished only to take such a sum as would enable them in the course of the year to pay expenses on account, either previously to or after audit, instead of postponing the settlement for three or four years.


said, he should propose to diminish the Vote for £3,800,000 by £443,896, the amount due to the Indian Government, and to leave the surplus applicable for the purposes intended.


concurred in the expediency of acceding to the proposition of the hon. Baronet.


signified his assent.


The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham has expressed his surprise at the large amount of money which the House is asked to grant on account of the war with China, and in that surprise I myself was, I must confess, disposed to share, when the enormous amount required was first brought under my notice. The present state of things has. however, been with the Government only a recent discovery, for although it was obvious ever since our ultimatum or proposals had been rejected by the Chinese, that war would in all likelihood ensue, and a Vote required, yet it was only within a short period that we were enabled to form anything like an accurate conjecture as to the probable expenditure which would be rendered necessary, and I need scarcely add that every fresh communication tends to show that the limits of the probable demand must be extended. But the hon. Baronet contends that it was wrong to state in the House of Commons in February last that there would he a surplus of half a million in round numbers on the balance of revenue and expenditure, when outstanding debts to about the same amount were due to the East India Company which the Government must have known would become payable. Now, on that point, the hon. Baronet is entirely in error, for the Government had not the smallest knowledge that the money would become payable, nor am I aware they could possess any such information. The fact is that this money was found to have become payable after a close inquiry into running accounts, consisting of a great variety of items and a lengthened correspondence and discussions with respect to them, which extended over a number of years. For my own part, I had no knowledge whatever when the Estimates of the year were framed, as to what sums were likely to become payable between the East India and the Home Government, nor did I think any officer of the Government could have furnished me with any prospective information on the subject. That is my answer with regard to the £500,000 in question. But the hon. Baronet has gone further, and contends that the Government ought not to have entertained any project for the general reconstruction or modification of the taxation of the country at a time when there was so large an expenditure as that for the China war in prospect. Now, the answer to that charge must, in a great measure, depend upon how far this expenditure could safely be said to be in pros- pect at the time, and how far the Government were in possession of information on the subject beyond that which was open to every Member of the House. Let me for a moment suppose that we had peculiar means of estimating the probable amount of the expenditure in question, and that we had in consequence known in February last that it would be necessary to make provision for £3,800,000; it is obvious that in order to do so we must have asked the House, even though no tax were repealed and no commercial treaty with France were concluded, to impose ,£2,000,000 or £3,000,000 in the shape of fresh taxes on the country, a proposal which, in my opinion, it would he most unreasonable on our part to make. The truth of the matter is—and this, however, is the moral to be drawn from discussions such as this in which we are engaged—that it is utterly and absolutely impossible to estimate the entire charge for a war arising under circumstances such as those in which that with China has originated. There were but two elements of the case upon which to found a decision in our possession in February, the one being that we knew the terms which we meant to propose to China; the other, that we were aware of the amount of force which the Cabinet had decided on sending to that country. The terms embraced a demand for explanation of the attack on our ships, and the ratification of the treaty which the Earl of Elgin had made; but did not include any demand for compensation in money over and above that which the Chinese had already promised to pay. The amount of force which the Cabinet decided on sending out was 10,000 men, in case the whole force consisted of Europeans, but in the event of any small portion of it being composed of Native Indian troops, its numbers were to be proportionately increased, so as to render it equal in point of efficiency to an army of 10,000 Europeans. That was the knowledge which the Government possessed in February. I do not know whether the House was also in possession of the terms that had been proposed to China, but it did know the intentions of the Government as to the number of men to be sent. Now, just see what the intentions of the Government at home are worth as to proceedings of this nature at the other end of the world. The terms we intended to send to China were essentially altered, and a compensation was demanded for reasons of policy which appeared con- elusive to our representative in China. I do not cast any blame upon that gentleman, but the fact illustrates the necessary feebleness and inefficiency of control which the Cabinet in London can exercise over transactions of this kind. Then, as to the amount of force. The amount of the forces under orders for China, which have left the ports of England and India for that country, is nearly twice the amount upon which the Cabinet had decided. Under these circumstances the hon. Baronet can easily judge bow impossible it was for the Cabinet at home to form a clear judgment of the likelihood of a war, and of its scale of cost. Besides this the Committee must recollect that this mode of providing the cost of these wars is quite new to our annals.

We have unfortunately had a variety of these wars, but they have been paid for almost entirely through the medium of the finance of the East India Company, the demands made upon this House at the commencement of those wars being very insignificant, and, for the most part, the cost has been repaid when the wars were concluded. The first of these wars was in 1840, and the sum voted by this House in that year was £173,000. In 1841 it only grew to £400,000. In 1842 it increased to nearly £1,100,000, and in 1843 a further sum of £821,000 was voted, and even then a large balance remained, a great part of which was not disposed of until years after. Now, we are in a different state of circumstances. A large portion of the expenditure is still to be defrayed through the medium of the East India Government; but in consequence of the change which has taken place in the Government of the East Indies, as well as the circumstances of the country, it has become our duty to ask the House to provide at once the means to meet, as far as we can estimate it, the whole expenditure that will be incurred either directly by ourselves or indirectly by the Indian Government.

The Committee must remember that in respect of a good deal of this expenditure it is in advance. The hon. Baronet has given notice of a Motion to ask what advances have already been made on account of the war in China. I do not apprehend that it will be possible to answer that Motion, because the great bulk of the expenditure is paid either through the medium of the East India Government, of whose account we are not in possession, or through the me- dium of the Treasury-chest in China. The payments made from the Treasury-chest in China are made in this way:—The persons having charge of the chest seeing that a great demand upon it is likely to occur, will not wait for the occurrence of that demand, but take steps beforehand to place themselves in funds to meet it. They make a demand, not formally, for the special purposes of the Chinese war, but to meet whatever lawful and proper demand may he made upon the chest. These sums are, to a great extent, sent in advance; some portion is paid through bills, negotiated there, and sent home by the officers of the Treasury-chest; but it is their duty not to be dependent upon the negotiation of bills, as that might cause embarrassment, if not loss to the country. It is their duty to provide funds under all circumstances, and with this they must go on as long as the war is likely to continue, and therefore one of the incidents of a war of this nature is that a large portion of the draughts made upon this country must be paid in advance, and probably when the war in China shall terminate, especially if it terminates rapidly or suddenly, the Treasury-chest may have a large amount of funds which will be unnecessary, and which will be returned home. I mention these things to show how impossible it is even now to frame what is called an estimate, but at a time when Parliament is about to separate it is our duty to make the best conjectural statement we can, and to ask as large a sum as will make us independent until the close of the campaign—that is, practically until the close of the financial year. The hon. Baronet will see how different are the circumstances now from what they were on former occasions.

The hon. Baronet says, however, that in my financial statement I proposed£500,000 as a Vote of Credit for the war in China. He is inaccurate in that statement, and on a point that forms the essence of it. What I did say was this, I referred to the Votes we had already taken in the course of the Session before the 10th of February for the financial year, which had not then expired; I referred to the Votes included in the Estimates for the present year; and I said also, as to the extraordinary expenditure of the expedition, we ask for£500,000, in order to defray the cost of an expedition that was to bear, in the first instance, a peaceful remonstrance. That was clearly a declaration that I was not asking for a sum of money that would suffice to defray the cost of a war in China through the financial year. I do not hesitate to say it would have been wrong to make any such request. The hon. Baronet addresses the question to me, but he knows as well as I do that it is not the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to frame Military Estimates. They are framed by the Cabinet, and I am willing to take my share of responsibility for them. But in the month of February, having six months of the Parliamentary Session before us, having sent out certain terms, having directed an expedition, and having the power of applying to Parliament for the charges of the war, if a war should break out, Parliament being as good a judge as ourselves of the probability of such an event, it would have been not only unnecessary, but a decided breach of our duty, if we had applied to Parliament to defray the expenditure for a war that had not commenced, that might not commence, and of the chance of which Parliament could judge as well as we could. The demand we made on account of that expedition was very large, in some respects larger than is stated by my right hon. Friend, because of some items of expenditure that had been incurred by this country which did not directly appear as part of the expenditure for the Chinese expedition, and yet were entirely and in substance due to it. I will mention one instance. In the course of last autumn the Admiralty made application to the Treasury to sanction the formation of certain contracts for gunboats which were not included in the Estimates of last Session. The Treasury acceded, on the ground that a demand had been made on the fleet for gunboats with a view to service in China, and the cost of building them—I do not recollect the exact amount—although not appearing as set down to the expedition, was really a part of its charge. I hope that the Vote we ask will cover all charges during the financial year; but, after what has occurred, I do not think the Government can with prudence make itself responsible for what may be the expenditure for such a war. The scene is so distant, the circumstances vary so from time to time, that it must be left to others on the spot to take decisions which otherwise would be taken with the immediate authority of the Government. If, unhappily, it should be prolonged beyond the present year, the charge for the second year will in all likelihood be greater; at all events, it will be as great as that we now ask for the first year of that war. And what is the lesson we ought to draw from that circumstance? It is very desirable that we should, if possible, draw some lesson from it; and I confess the lesson I draw is this—that it is impossible to check proceedings of this kind, growing out of transactions such as the deplorable events at the mouth of the Peiho, when once they begin. What you should really look to is the mode of conducting your ordinary communications with such distant Powers, and the responsibility under which they are conducted. It is an extremely dangerous system of policy that sends forth treaties to be exchanged at the sword's point and at the cannon's mouth. By that system of policy you necessarily place in the hands of the remote agents of your power an amount of discretion and responsibility which I think too great for men to bear, and certainly much greater than you would ever consent to place in the hands of your Cabinet at home. If I am to look for the immediate cause of this unhappy outbreak, I might say I find it in the instructions of the Earl of Malmesbury to Mr. Bruce—["Oh, oh!"]—hear me out—instructions which desired him to proceed to the Peiho for the purpose of exchanging the treaties attended by a sufficient naval force; but—and this is the sequel of my sentence—in my opinion, it would be most unjust to place the responsibility on the Earl of Malmesbury, because, in sending these instructions—although his was the immediate responsibility, being at the Foreign Office at the time—I do not think he acted on grounds peculiar to himself or the Administration of which he was a Member, but rather in conformity with what we may say had been more or less very unfortunately the recent tradition of this country with regard to the conduct of such transactions. I do not wish, therefore, to be misunderstood as if, in naming the Earl of Malmesbury, I was in the slightest degree charging upon him peculiar responsibility. I cannot venture to hold out any expectations, now that we have reason to believe the war has actually broken out, with regard to the limits or amount of the demands that may be made on the House, or the period at which those hostilities happily may be brought to a termination. I trust and pray that may be at an early period. I believe there is he alternative but to submit, however reluctantly, to this large demand, which we have submitted at the earliest period at which we could place it before you. I trust we shall listen to the lesson which is taught us by these transactions, by considering the manner in which we have been accustomed to transact business of this kind in distant quarters of the globe, and under circumstances of grave and serious loss, as at the outbreak in the Peiho; I trust the country will take that matter into serious consideration, and that for the future we may be less likely to incur the repetition of such a deplorable calamity.


There is much in the present state of public affairs of a serious character, but nothing in my opinion is so gravely anxious as this most unhappy Chinese war; and it appears to me the House has a right to expect further explanations from the Government than we have yet received with regard to the enormous expenditure involved in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said in his speech he would not enter into the policy of this war; but I must say, I think, with regard to the policy of the war and the intentions of the Government in regard to that policy, we have a right to demand further explanations than we have yet received. What was the language of the noble Lord the Minister for Foreign Affairs when this subject was under consideration on the 16th of March? The language of the noble Lord was this:— The terms of the negotiations have not yet been settled. Instructions have been drawn up, but there are some points on which we still wish for further explanations. Further on the noble Lord said, "What we have to do there is merely to trade"—I wish the Government and country would bear that in mind—"but for the purpose of trading we must have security for the persons and property of our countrymen." The noble Lord at the head of the Government held similar language. He said:— We have been called upon to state what our policy is, and what are the instructions we have given, but I respectfully beg leave to decline answering these questions; we cannot do so, lest we should defeat the purpose we have in view. Here then, we have on the part of both noble Lords a refusal, which might have been judicious and proper at that moment, to enter into what were their intentions in regard to that unfortunate war. To-night we have been told by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer that the sole object of this expedition to China was to demand the ratification of the treaty, and what he called au explanation—in a former debate it was called an apology. Well then, here we find the Government not regarding sufficiently that important object of trade, as to which I quite agree with the noble Lord, but embarking in those ruinous wars in order to force on that distant and half-civilized empire the forms of European diplomacy. I confess we cannot regard our present position with respect to China with too much anxiety. It is not only that beyond all questions serious doubts have long been entertained, and are at this moment entertained with regard to the whole justice and propriety of our policy. It is not only that we are asked now to embark in what, to use the popular phrase of the day, is a "gigantic" expenditure; but, unhappily in addition to all this, at a moment when we ought to have our resources of all kinds concentrated at home, we find our pecuniary resources and our military resources divided and distracted by embarking in this unfortunate struggle. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear that cheer from the Treasury Bench. I am glad to see that they feel the magnitude of this evil, because they cannot recognize it without seeing the immense responsibility that rests on them if they are pressing demands on China one iota beyond what the strictest view of the justice of the case, and the commercial interests of this country demand. What is the expense involved? It is perfectly frightful. I believe at this moment we are committed by this unhappy struggle to an expenditure amounting to between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Nearly £6,000,000.] There was £850,000 from the last financial year; the additions to the Army and Navy Estimates for the current year, and now this enormous Vote of nearly £4,000,000. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War sought to reduce the amount of this expenditure by telling us that if a large proportion of this force had not been engaged in this struggle in China they would have been on the establishment at home, but he forgot the regiments of embodied militia in this country represented seven battalions that might have been dispensed with. The statement of the right hon Gentleman was perfectly fair, but this raises another question of considerable interest, and that is whether or not we ought not to have heard a little more of this enormons amount of expenditure when the finances of the year were explained. I have no right or inclination to accuse the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer with having dealt in the least unfairly by the House; but I must say, after hearing the explanations given this evening, the impression does remain on my mind that Government ought to have given more detailed information on this matter when the Budget was brought forward. I remember nothing in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in connection with the expenditure in China but the Vote of Credit for £500,000 which he then proposed to take. And what has his argument been to-night? In answer to my hon. Friend (Sir H. Willoughby) he has just told us that it was impossible for the Government to foresee that they would be involved in an expenditure of nearly £4,000,000, and that therefore he would not have been justified on the 10th of February in proposing taxes to meet so uncertain an expenditure. But that is not the issue raised. The question is whether, in the state of our relations with China at that moment, the Government were justified in proposing to remit taxation; whether they were justified in tampering with the finances of this country as they did on the 10th of February, when they must have known that this immense expenditure was at least a probability. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that all they then knew of was what he called a peaceful remonstrance, and he says the magnitude of these expenses is a recent discovery. But let me ask him whether the cost of the peaceful remonstrance was not at that time incurred. What was the form of the peaceful remonstrance? It was the despatch of a very powerful force, in order to give weight and dignity to the representations which we intended to make to the Chinese Government. I stated long before that I attached no blame to the Government in this respect. On the contrary, I think they were right in making this peaceful remonstrance in a formidable shape; that they were right in considering the prestige and the power of England, and in sending to China a force competent to support their demands. But they must have known that even in the event of their proposals being accepted, a peaceful remonstrance of this kind would be a most costly proceeding, and that its expenses must be defrayed from the revenue of the current year. I must say, therefore, that the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman upon this point has not been satisfactory. The Government ought to have foreseen—I really do not know how they could have avoided foreseeing—that there was no reasonable chance of £500,000 covering the cost incurred, and I repeat that they were not justified in tampering with the resources of the country when they had the probability of this war hanging over them. We have also, I think, a right to some further explanation. The Committee have been told with great candour that if this war goes on they must not suppose £6,000,000 will last very long, and that in all probability the second year will be even more costly than the first. Well now, what are you going to fight for? What practical advantages to this country are you seeking to obtain? Are you fighting for an apology? Are you fighting for the ratification of a treaty which we know is worth little when you have got it? These are questions of the gravest character. We are embarking in an expenditure which is fearful in amount. The Government ask us to commit ourselves to an outlay of not less than £6,000,000 for the current year, with the prospect that unless matters are managed with the grestest wisdom, delicacy, and success we may be involved in still larger expenses in future years. I say, then, in the name of the British public that we are entitled to a fuller explanation than we have yet received as to the definite objects of the Chinese expedition, the intentions of the Government, the mode in which they propose to carry out those intentions, the instructions they have given, and the security which the public will have that these enormous sums of money will produce satisfactory results.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £3,356,104, be granted to Her Majesty, towards defraying the Expenses of Naval and Military Operations in China, beyond the ordinary grants for Army and Navy Services for the year 1860–1.


moved that the Chairman report Progress.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."


Whatever may be done with regard to the Motion, I cannot allow the statement of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to pass entirely unnoticed, I am quite aware of the grave responsibility which hangs over the Government, but we have sharers in that responsibility. I am not about to blame the right hon. Gentleman, or the Government to which he belonged, but the Committee must take into account the orders given and the course pursued by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues when in office. The news of the Treaty of Tien-tsin was received by the Earl of Derby's Government with very great joy. We heard everywhere, where the Earl of Derby appeared, great commendation of the Earl of Elgin for signing that treaty. The late Government therefore made the signing of the treaty no matter of blame. But what did they proceed to do? According to the views which some hon. Gentlemen entertain—views which I do not adopt, and with which I do not agree—they might have instructed Mr. Bruce to come to any agreement with the Chinese, who are much better acquainted with diplomacy than the right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose. The Chinese were quite ready to negotiate the treaty over again, and to ask that the Articles which were disagreeable to them should be revised and the objectionable parts omitted. Mr. Bruce might then have gone to Pekin as Mr. Ward went, and he might have been sent back to procure a ratification of the treaty elsewhere. All this might have been done, but that was not the course which the Earl of Malmesbury and the right hon. Gentleman followed. They desired Mr. Bruce to go in force to the mouth of the Peiho. Two months before we came into office there was a meeting at Hong Kong, at which Mr. Bruce attended with Sir Charles Van Stranbenzee and Rear Admiral Hope, to consider what were the instructions of the Government and what it behoved them to do; and they came to the unanimous conclusion that it was their duty to go with an imposing force to the mouth of the Peiho. This is the statement made—"Sir Charles Van Straubenzee and Admiral Hope concurrred in this view. The latter said that his instructions contemplated the Minister being escorted with an imposing force." What was the meaning of that? From whence did Admiral Hope receive these instructions? Why, from the Admiralty, at which the right hon. Gentleman presided; and, therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman comes down now with an air of surprise, wondering how it is that the present Ministry have involved the country in a war, calling us to an account for so doing, and delivering solemn warnings, I must say that it is hardly in keeping with the position he has filled and the course he has followed upon this question. Our commanders thought it right to do what they had been commanded to do, and went to the mouth of the Peiho with an imposing force. They had then no further instructions. The Earl of Malmesbury was quite right when he said he had given no instructions to Mr. Bruce and Admiral Hope to enter the Peiho, clear the river, and proceed to Tientsin by force. But these gentlemen, being without instructions, found themselves, as a British Plenipotentiary and Admiral, in a considerable difficulty. The Chinese are in the habit of carrying shields upon which frightful heads are represented, and they suppose that on beholding those terrible countenances the enemy will run away, but if the enemy does not run away they are very apt to run away themselves. Now, if our commanders, arriving off the Peiho with an imposing force, had turned round on finding that it did not impose on the Chinese, and had set sail in the other direction for Hong Kong, this would have been an imitation of the Chinese in what is not the most honourable or distinguished part of the Chinese policy. I say, then, that the right hon. Gentleman is himself in a great degree responsible for what was done on this occasion by Mr. Bruce and Admiral Hope; men, we must remember, with English hearts and feelings, with English pride, and desirous to uphold the national honour. Then, what was it we desired? As my right hon. Friend has said, we desired first an explanation; but, when we found that the Emperor sanctioned these proceedings, although everybody pretended that he knew nothing of what was going on, and that they were fighting on their own account, we then demanded an apology for these proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman says I stated that our only business in China was trade; but he added, most truly, that it must be trade, with security to the persons and the property of British subjects. Now, when a British force had attempted to go up the river, with a view to obtain the ratification of the Treaty of Tien-tsin; and when they had been treacherously attacked—their loss in killed and wounded being 400 or 500 men—the Cabinet felt that if they had then sent humbly to ask permission to have the treaty ratified, without a word more being said on our part, they would have been exposing the lives and property of every British trader in China to certain risk, and, probably, in most cases, to certain destruction. Is there anything wrong in that supposition? The right hon. Gentleman asks a further question—what is our present policy in China? Surely, he must have read the despatches. We asked, in the first place, that the whole Treaty of Tien-tsin should be accepted with an apology, and that then no indemnity or compensation would be sought for. It appeared the French Government had sent orders that their representative should claim compensation. Mr. Bruce informed us, by a despatch of the 6th of February, that he had considered the danger there would be in making a separate demand from that of the French; and that therefore he had included in his demands a claim for compensation likewise. It does not seem that this claim to compensation made any difference to the Chinese answer, which amounted to a total refusal of our terms. Will any man say, then, that these terms are not moderate and reasonable? The question, then, came to be whether the force that we have sent out must not proceed, and must not insist on compliance with our demands. The question to be considered tonight is, whether you will sanction the expenses we have incurred, in pursuance of a policy which I hold to be right, and which I am ready to defend, but for which the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his colleagues are as much responsible as Her Majesty's Government.


said, there could be no doubt whatever that we were now at war with China, and that that war was the result of twenty years of the most flagrant policy on our part. But the more immediate question before the Committee was whether they would grant a sum of £3,800,000 to Her Majesty's Government, and upon what pretence they should grant it. That money he believed had been spent, and they would never see a farthing of it. By the ordinary mode of proceeding the delivery of the troops would have been taken from Chatham, but now it was taken at Singapore, whither the men had gone from Bengal, and at Singapore they would come upon the finances of India. Now we could see the result of taking India under our protection. The two accounts would run one into the other to such a degree that a clever Chancellor of the Exchequer would easily be able so to mystify the House that they would not be aware where the one began or the other ended. That conviction had weighed on his mind all this Session, and guided his votes. Nothing could have been more reckless or improvivident than the right hon. Gentleman's Budget. They had the French Treaty brought forward to throw dust in their eyes. They also had a remission of taxes, and that in the face of a deficiency which was certain to arise from this cause. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them of the considerations which influenced the Government in this matter, one of which considerations was that the Chinese had gained a great and palpable victory. Would anybody say it was an easy thing to deal with Asiatics when they had gained a victory? That being so, the Government ought not to have wantonly thrown away the resources at their command. They were entering on a course of warfare with the Chinese of which no man could see the end. It was the height of imprudence to have had anything to do with the Peiho or Pekin. It was the greatest fallacy to say our going to the Peiho was for the protection of British lives and property in China. The Gulf of Pechelee was a sealed hook to our commerce. Where British subjects and British property really were, there alone they could be and ought to be protected. If we took up a good strategical position at the points where our trade was actually carried on, or one that commanded the internal navigation of China, no doubt we could induce the Chinese Government to allow that trade to be satisfactorily pursued, which was our only justification for going to China at all.


said, he would tell the House why they were fighting in China. They were fighting because they had sent a diplomatist to China, and given him a great deal too much power. If the Admiral and General had been left to themselves, and not goaded on by Mr. Bruce, we should never have had the Peiho business, nor had to pay the money for this war. The Earl of Elgin when in China tried to exercise the same power over his gallant Friend near him (Admiral Seymour) as Mr. Bruce did over Admiral Hope; but his gallant Friend, who knew best how operations in that country should be carried on, resisted the pressure put upon him, and the consequence was that he succeeded in everything he attempted at the Peiho. If Admiral Hope and General Straubenzee had been left to themselves, no doubt the results would have been the same. A diplomatist sent out with such large powers was sure to make a mess of it.


I hope the House will not agree to this Motion. By dividing the Vote my right hon. Friend has taken away all reason for reporting progress, because the second Vote will enable those hon. Gentlemen who still wish to speak on the general subject to deliver their sentiments on the second Vote. Hon. Gentlemen go on as if they imagined the Session would be eternal—as if the year was to be devoted entirely to the proceedings of this House. We go on from day to day, with a solemn air, putting off business when really there is not a day to spare. Hon. Gentlemen ought to recollect that there is a great deal of business he-fore us, and that if we go on putting off these Votes from day to day there will be no end of the Session, I shall, therefore, certainly oppose the Motion, and I will take the sense of the House on the subject.


said, the reason he had moved to report progress was that he and his Friends on that side had been taken by surprise at the magnitude of the Vote, which was what none of them had ever imagined before it was laid on the table. He also complained that no Foreign-Office despatches on this subject had been produced of later date than the 10th of November.


I think if the noble Lord had made his speech on the value of time at the beginning of the Session it would have had some effect on the House, and might have exercised a beneficial influence on our proceedings. Unfortunately the Government were not then impressed with the truth which the noble Lord has now embraced. But we cannot conceal from ourselves that we have now considerably passed Midsummer-day, and I believe there is every wish on the part of the House to assist the Government in carrying on the business of the country, provided that it can he done with a fair exercise of our Parliamentary rights and our public duties, which, I trust, however advanced may be the period of the Session, we shall not be induced to forget. It certainly does appear that by dividing the Vote into two an opportunity will be afforded to hon. Gentlemen to make their not unnatural comments on the unsatisfactory state of our affairs in China; and, therefore, I venture to ask my hon. Friend not to press his Motion. But the noble Lord ought to recollect that this important discussion began late in the evening, and therefore the Motion of my hon. Friend is not unreasonable. It is only because I feel that another opportunity will be afforded to my hon. Friend, and those who think with him, to express their opinions that I venture to take the responsibility now of asking him not to press his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn; Original Question put, and agreed to.

House resumed. Resolutions to be reported To-morrow. Committee to sit again To-morrow.