HC Deb 28 July 1862 vol 168 cc909-31

Order for Third Reading read.


said, he regretted the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War was absent, as he wished to make a few observations, which would take the form of a question. The matter to which he was about to refer was of such pressing importance that he should consider that he was nut doing his duty if he omitted to call attention to it. He alluded to the 13th section of the Bill, which had reference to stores for land and sea services, but principally to the item of the Armstrong guns. It would be in the recollection of the House that on Friday night last his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) asked the Secretary for War, whether the second large Armstrong gun, which was loaded with 25 lbs. of powder, had burst, and been rendered unserviceable; and, if so, whether a Committee composed of skilled and scientific men should not be appointed at once to test the principle upon which the gun was made? The Secretary for War replied that it was perfectly true that the gun had burst, but he declined to grant any further inquiry into the subject. Since that time circumstances had come to his (Lord Henry Lennox's) notice which justified him in calling the attention of the House to them. It was well known that the French had an admirable system of testing the power of their artillery. They tested not only the power of resistance from within, but also the power of resistance from without; in other words, they shot both with and at the gun. Many of the most experienced artillerists both here and in France had expressed the opinion that the same causes which made the Armstrong guns so powerful in throwing shot, at the same time rendered them peculiarly liable to injury from a comparatively trifling blow from without. What he wished to ask was, whether it was true that a trial had been made of throwing grape shot from 32-pounders and 68-pounders at a range of 300 yards; whether it was true that in that way sixty rounds were fired, but from the enormous range—it being the extreme range of grape—that only three of the guns had been hit in the sixty rounds? He wished also to ask, whether the firing had not proved totally destructive or materially injurious to those guns that were hit? He should add that the Armstrong guns were of various calibre. The next question he wished to ask was, whether, considering that the test which was applied was most favourable to the Armstrong gun, inasmuch as grape shot was fired at the extreme range of 300 yards, instead of the ordinary action range of 150 yards—considering that the test was most favourable to the Armstrong gun—considering, notwithstanding that, that it had signally failed, he wished to ask the Government, whether they did not think that a Committee should be appointed, or Royal Com- mission should issue of skilled and scientific men, to inquire how far they ought to go with these trials, and what was the reason for that very costly failure? At that moment 6,000 artificers were employed in the manufacture of the Armstrong guns, and the wages were £10,000 per week. The House was about to close, and in all human probability six months would elapse before they met again, by which time £250,000 in wages alone would have been spent on the Armstrong gun exclusive of the cost of materials, &c., and at the end of that time they would probably have the Government coming down to the House with some blundering excuse find regrets for the past; but a quarter of a million of money would have been swept away from the taxpayers. He trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would answer his Questions, as the Secretary for War was not present.


I am sorry that in the absence of my right hon. Friend (Sir George Lewis) I am unable to give the noble Lord an answer to his Questions, not being acquainted with the circumstances to which he has adverted. My right hon. Friend intended to be here; and if the noble Lord will be kind enough to put his Questions again to-morrow or the next day, no doubt my right hon. Friend will give him the best information which the reports received enable him to offer. I have not heard anything of the statements to which the noble Lord alludes. Generally speaking, the Armstrong guns bear a very high reputation.


said, he wished to make one or two general remarks upon the Bill, which, although it had passed sub silentio in the House, had occasioned some remark out of doors. Some critics asserted that the printing of the Bill was of no importance, because there never was any Amendment made in it. Now, he thought the printing of the Bill was of the greatest importance, and it was perfectly untrue that the Bill was never amended. In that specific instance the Bill had been amended, and the Government were justly entitled to praise for having so speedily adopted the recommendation of the Committee on Public Accounts in relation to it. No change could now be made in the appropriation of supplies without the particular question being brought distinctly before the House. The effect would be to impose on the different departments a deeper sense of responsibility, to make them produce more correct Estimates, and in this way to conduce to public economy. Frequent complaints had been made of money being appropriated to other purposes than those for which it had been voted, and that was especially the case with regard to the wages of soldiers and sailors. In some instances, as much as £2,000,000 had been applied to other purposes. This had been now prevented. He wished to direct special attention to the appropriation of the Votes of Credit for the China war. For the two years 1859–60 and 1860–1 the Appropriation Act declared that the Vote of Credit on account of the China war was to be used within a specified time; but in the last year, for some reason or other, the time was not specified, and any time was given. Here the House had a proof of the necessity of having the Bill printed, because a change of a very important character took place without the knowledge of the House. He regretted the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in his place, as he desired to know from him how that matter stood—whether the Government had any account of the expenses of the war which was brought to a conclusion by the Treaty of Pekin, and whether there was any objection to lay that account on the table, in order that the House might know exactly what was the expenditure on account of that war. All they at present knew was, that the war had already cost a large sum. He thought it of great importance that the Vote of Credit should be closed as soon as possible, because it was very apt to be applied to other purposes than the purpose for which it was voted.


said, it might be in the recollection of the House, that on the recommendation of the Dockyard Committee, the Metropolitan Police were substituted for the police of the dockyards. In consequence, the three superintendents were relieved from their duties and placed upon a superannuation, which was based upon the amounts they had received for their services, although their half-pay as naval officers had been suspended whilst they discharged the duties of civil police-inspectors. So rapidly were the superintendents removed from their offices that they were warned out of their houses by telegraph—successive telegrams being sent until they were fairly out of the dockyards. One of them—Lieutenant Hall—had been promoted to the rank of commander, which entitled him to a pay of £127 a year, and the balance required to make up £183 a year was made up by a civil pension. After enjoying that allowance for nine months, and having made arrangements to live on that income, he was informed that his pension would be reduced by a sum of £67 a year. The matter was brought before the House early in the Session, and he would have mooted it on the Estimates, but he entertained the hope that the Treasury would have seen the injustice that had been committed, especially as the half-pay of these officers had been saved to the country for long periods. The Admiralty was perfectly convinced of the justice of their claims; but the Treasury declined to admit them, and fell back upon an old Act of Parliament. In the conflict between the two Departments the interests of that poor man were sacrificed. He hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see to the case during the recess. He also hoped some member of the Government would state their expectations as to the outlay that would take place during the remainder of the year for the Chinese war. Several years ago he had urged in that House the absolute necessity of our laying down some distinct policy in regard to China. In 1859, he returned to the same subject, and suggested that we ought to establish ourselves in a commanding strategical position on the Yang-tze-Kiang and clear out the district of the rebels, who had since then committed so much devastation. He had also then stated his conviction that the Taepings had no policy except rapine, no object except murder, and that under no circumstances could they be formed into a body with which the Government of this country could deal. It would, he thought, be admitted that his prognostications had not been far wrong. If we intended to maintain our trade with China at all, it was necessary that we should organize a flotilla to clear out the rivers of the miscreants who infested them. We had not done that, and the consequence was, that some of the fairest portions of God's creation had been laid waste. If we paused in our course, we must see our Chinese trade destroyed and every mulberry tree and tea plant cut up by these vagabonds. He understood that a very able and gallant officer of the British navy was about to take service under the Chinese Government, and he now implored the noble Viscount to reconsider his decision on that subject. That gallant officer should be placed under the constituted authorities of our own navy in those seas, and should act under the British flag, instead of under that wretched and miserable Chinese flag which had covered every villany which could be imagined. The Chinese Government were able to pay for the clearing out of the rivers from these hordes, or, if they could not, the traders in those waters would gladly do so. He earnestly hoped that Her Majesty's Government would look these matters in the face.


said, he had not anticipated that in a debate on the Appropriation Bill they would have anything so exciting recommended to them as a new war with China. Yet that was the policy urged upon them by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last, and he must therefore express his hope that the Government would pause long before embarking in it. What the hon. Member suggested was that they should save every mulberry tree and tea plantation of China from devastation by the Taepings. Had the hon. Gentleman contemplated the amount of force which that operation would require, or the fearful burden it would throw upon the British taxpayer? That proposal, if it had any chance of being received with favour in official quarters, was one of the most alarming things that he had ever heard in that House, and he must enter his decided protest against it. He wished to ask the Secretary of the Treasury whether, in the Vote of Credit taken last year, there was any power to apply the money which that Vote placed at the disposal of the Government in the organization of a force for an attack upon the Taepings this year—whether in fact that money still remained at the disposal of the Government for operations in China. If so, he trusted they would receive an assurance from the Government that no expedition against the Taepings involving the English taxpayer would be undertaken without an opportunity being afforded the House of definitely expressing its opinion on the subject.


said, the first item in the Appropriation Bill—namely, that of £6,569,355—was the surplus of the money voted for the public services of the year 1862. These surpluses were carried on from year to year. They had not only been voted by the House, but Ways and Means had been provided for them. Although these surpluses had not been used, yet they were just so far contemplated to be used that the Treasury did not think they were justified in paying them back again into the Exchequer. The existing surplus was a very large sum, and he thought it would be desirable if in future years before the Appropriation Bill was laid on the table some explanation were given as to the unappropriated sums which had been voted in Committee of Supply, and for which Ways and Means had been provided.


said, he was sure, that if his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been aware that any question would be addressed to him upon the occasion of the third reading of this Bill, he would have been present upon the occasion. He quite concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) as to the importance of having the Bill printed, as it was a security against alterations being made without the express sanction of that House. The hon. Member was, however, mistaken in charging upon the Appropriation Bill the alteration to which he had referred in respect of the Vote of Credit. That Vote was taken in Supply, and any alteration which had taken place must have occurred in Committee of Supply, for the terms in which the Vote was passed were inserted in the Appropriation Bill. The hon. Gentleman appeared to think that the last Vote of Credit with respect to China should have been voted for payment within the year. That might have been convenient, but the money was not voted for payment within the year, nor for the service of the year, but for the specific purposes of the operations in China. He thought the course taken was preferable, as it was understood to be a final Vote of Credit, and therefore there was no necessity to confine it to payments within the year. In reply to the noble Lord he had to say, that he understood the Vote of Credit was distinctly applicable to the late operations in China, and was not available for any new operations such as had been alluded to. He agreed with his hon. Friend in thinking that the change which had taken place in the appropriation clause of the Bill was a beneficial one, and much credit for it was due to the hon. Gentleman who had so ably presided over the Committee upon Public Accounts. The change, however, was rather one of details than of principle, the Committee being desirous of requiring expenditure unauthorized by Parliament to receive the sanction of some other Department of the Government besides the Department making the expenditure. He agreed with the hon. Member in thinking that the alteration would tend to economy, and cause the Departments to exercise the responsibilities vested in them with caution and due regard to the necessities of each case. In reply to the hon. Member for Peterborough he would observe, that his question referred to the surplus of Ways and Means at the end of the preceding year, which was larger than usual, because, although provision was made for paying off seven millions of Exchequer Bills, only one million was paid off, and the balance, according to the ordinary practice, had been added to the Ways and Means of the year.


As some of the items of this Bill refer to the administration of justice in Ireland, I am anxious to take this opportunity of asking some questions, in order to elicit further explanation upon a subject connected with the administration of justice in Ireland. I refer to a public procession of very considerable magnitude and importance which recently took place in Dublin. I do not profess to have any information but what is common to all here through the ordinary channels; but, judging from the statements I have seen in the newspapers, it appears that a large number of persons, after ample notice given in fact weeks before, assembled; that they marched in procession on Sunday week last, accompanied with banners of a kind called in Ireland "party colours," and with music known in Ireland as "party music." The subject of party processions in Ireland has, unfortunately, been frequently before this House, and legislation has taken place upon it. I have always deeply deplored the necessity for such legislation; but although in the abstract it seems absurd to legislate about party colours and party music, yet, as we all know that processions have led in Ireland to breaches of the peace, I think the House of Commons wisely came to the conclusion that some legislation was necessary. But, I believe on the other hand, legislation of that kind cannot be maintained or justified unless the law is administered with the strictest impartiality. In 1850 there was an Act passed by which persons assembling and marching in procession with flags or emblems, or singing songs or playing music calculated to provoke animosity, were ren- dered liable to certain penalties. It is true that upon the occasion to which I am referring no collision or breach of the peace occurred, but the legality of what took place is not to be judged of by the result. I do not know what the intentions of the Government are, but I do know that a strong feeling has been created in various parts of Ireland by a belief that the Government are not going to take any steps to bring to justice those who were engaged in this unlawful procession. I find the judges now on circuit in Ireland are trying prisoners charged with being present at such assemblages, and in pronouncing sentence upon such persons the judges continually state that it is the intention of the authorities to bring to justice all persons who should be engaged in such assemblages, of whatever party they may be. Now, I put it to the Government, can such language be received with respect or otherwise than derision when the public find that proceedings of the kind which I have stated have taken place in the metropolis, and under the very eyes of the executive authorities of Ireland, without any notice being taken? I also would remind the Government that the justices of the peace in certain parts of Ireland have taken great pains to impress upon their neighbours upon certain anniversaries the propriety of abstaining from all processions, and in consequence of these appeals I believe there has been hardly a single procession in the month in which these anniversaries mostly fall. But how can you expect those exhortations to be received by the humbler classes with deference and respect, when they see in the metropolis persons on the other side doing with impunity what they are warned not to do? The other night my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh (Captain Archdall) put a Question upon the subject, and the Chief Secretary then said that he was not aware that there had been any banners that were party colours, or music that was party music. I do not know what the exact phase of the matter is; but if the right hon. Gentleman means that banners of the kind mentioned in the newspapers, and music of the kind stated, are not party banners and party music according to the understanding of those words in Ireland, then I think that is a most dangerous declaration, as it will be impossible to tell one party that particular colours and music are party colours and party music, while you declare in respect of the other party the correlative colours and music are not illegal. I hope the Government will be able to give a full and satisfactory explanation, and I think the right hon. Baronet should be obliged to me for giving him the opportunity of doing so.


said, he would remind the House that the first procession which took place after the passing of the Act of 1850 was that of February, 1852, in which a green cockade was worn by no less a person than the late Earl of Eglinton, who was of opinion that green was not a party colour in Ireland. In the procession to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had referred there were between 3,000 and 4,000 men, called the Brotherhood of St. Patrick, who, he admitted, did display a party emblem, and were cockades of orange and green; but not the smallest breach of the peace took place. He wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman a question on a less exciting subject—namely, whether the Government had as yet come to any resolution with reference to the reduction of some of the professorial chairs in Queen's College. It was understood that in consequence of the small number of students the number of the professors was to be reduced by three, and he wished to know how the money so saved would be appropriated. He was opposed to the reduction of the professors, and, indeed, would gladly give more money for the purpose of keeping up the professorial chairs. He heartily desired that some compromise should be come to, the consequence of which might be to increase the number of students attending the college, and thus provide ample funds to keep up the number of chairs.


The subject which the hon. and learned Gentleman, in the exercise of his discretion, has thought proper to bring before the House, has caused considerable feeling in some parts of Ireland; but I think the House will be of opinion that, as far as the Government are concerned, it is a matter which requires to be dealt with with extreme delicacy and caution. No doubt, the procession to which he has referred took place on the 20th of July; but the banners displayed, strictly speaking, belonged to the various trades which joined in the procession; and although green was a predominating colour, yet, as I stated the other night, I do not believe that green is a party colour—in fact, it is the national colour of Ireland. Well, the Government in Ireland have considered very carefully the question with reference to this procession. As the hon. and learned Gentleman has truly said, Parliament legislated in 1850 and 1860 upon what are called party processions and displays in Ireland; but the Government had to consider first of all, whether this procession was an infringement of the Emancipation Act. 10 Geo. IV. Now, both the English and the Irish Law Officers agreed that in that Act what was called "the habits of the order" applied to the regulars—that is to friars, and people of that kind; but they maintain that it does not refer to the ordinary clergy, and that such a procession is not a rite or a religious ceremony coming within that Act. The next question is, does the procession come within the Acts of 1850 or 1860? Of course, the Government would desire to act with perfect fairness on these matters, whether as between inhabitants of the North or of the South and West; and all they had to do in this instance was to take the law as their standard, holding the balance equally between both parties. Now, I regret that such a procession has taken place, but it was distinctly a political procession, and was announced as a political manifestation in answer to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as well as to the noble Earl who was at the head of the late Government, for their refusal to grant a charter to the Catholic University. I admit that the procession took place at an unfortunate moment, when the Protestants were leaving their places of worship, but, at the same time, I esteem it a happy circumstance that the Government were able to take such precautions as prevented the occurrence of any accident or any breach of the peace, and I think that the Government are entitled to take credit to themselves for such a result. The Act referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman makes it a misdemeanour for any persons in Ireland wilfully and knowingly to do such acts as may tend to promote animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon; the Act of 1850 has no such words.


These words are from the Act of 1860. The Act of 1850 renders unlawful— All assemblies of persons in Ireland who shall meet and parade together or join in procession, and who shall bear, wear, or have among them or any of them any firearms or other offensive weapons—[there were none such in this instance]—or any banners, emblem, flag, or symbol, the display whereof may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity between different classes of Her Majesty's subjects, or who shall be accompanied by any person or persons playing music or singing any song which may be calculated or tend to provoke animosity. Now, I beg to say that in the opinion of the Law Officers the technicalities of the Act have not been infringed. The banners carried in this procession were the banners of the Dublin trades. There were green and white cockades; but no firearms were carried. As to music, I believe that "Brian Borhoime's March" was played; and although I regret that such a tune should have been played on the Sabbath, I do not think that it is regarded as a party tune. With regard to the procession itself, one would have supposed that the inauguration of a University would have been attended by the learned profession, by the gentry of the country, by the chief men of Ireland. It is almost amusing, however, to refer to the official statement of the persons present, who can hardly be supposed to have added very great character or dignity to the movement. Among the rest of the trades were the House-painters, with a banner borne in a carriage; the Tailors and Plasterers, with their trade banners; the Horse-shoers, with banner in carriage and wearing green riband in their button-holes; the Chimney-cleaners, whose trade emblem was a white silk and green belt, and the Brogue-makers, that is, the makers of wooden shoes. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: They are not wooden shoemakers]. Then there were the grocers' and the pawnbrokers' assistants, the latter numbering 200, and they certainly were some colours; while the ground was kept, I am sorry to say, by what are called the Pope's Brigade—people who clearly, according to the ruling of this House, went out to Italy and formed an illegal band—and I believe that they appeared in the colours of the Pope. But the Acts of 1850 and 1860 refer to party processions which take place annually, such as the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. A procession like that of 20th of July has an exceptional character. I do not think it is likely to be repeated; but if it should be, it will be for the Government of the day to consider whether they will take some steps with reference to it. Seeing how quietly and tamely the procession passed off, I think the House will be of opinion that Her Majesty's Government acted wisely in not rousing unnecessary animosity by taking any proceedings in the matter. But if I wanted any precedent for our justification, I have only to refer to the course pursued by the Government of which the hon. and learned Gentleman formed so distinguished a member. He asks me why we did not at once take steps against these persons for infringing the law. My answer is, that I think it was the part of discretion to forbear, and I find a parallel case in the course taken by the Earl of Derby's Government. The Archbishop of Tuam took part in a procession which, when the Earl of Derby's Government were in office, went to Headford, in the county of Galway. I think there was a confirmation, and the archbishop went in his robes and confirmed a number of people in an open space. The Protestant Dean of Headford wrote to the Government asking them to take steps in the matter, and prosecute Archbishop M'Hale; but the reply was, that the Government thought it more discreet not to interfere. I entirely approve the conduct of the Government in that case; and I think in this instance we also have done wisely. While regretting that such a procession should have taken place, I rejoice that it passed off without any breach of the peace, and with such comparative tameness and quietness. The President of the Catholic University, or rector as he is called, before the procession disclaimed anything like an intention of provoking animosity between the different classes of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland. His language is very remakable. In his address he says— The man who violates the law of God, or of those whom God has placed over us, is an enemy of the cause—an enemy of Ireland. The man who is disorderly, who drinks to excess, who offends another man, deserves to be handed over to those who have authority to punish him. He is an enemy of the cause, an enemy of Ireland. The man who exhibits ribands, banners, emblems—anything which, justly or unjustly, may by possibility offend another Irishman, is an enemy of the cause, an enemy of Ireland. I hope the House will consider this explanation satisfactory. It is a difficult and troublesome matter to deal with, and the greater forbearance and discretion the Government exercises in the matter the better it is, I think, for the peace and welfare of Ireland. With regard to the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, I thought I had stated on the Estimates that the number of the professors were to be diminished by three in the Colleges of Cork, Belfast, and Galway. The Government of Ireland have no authority in the matter further than submitting the proposition which the Senate may make to the Treasury, and the Department, no doubt, will approve whatever proposition the Senate may make.


said, the case referred to by the right hon. Baronet had no similarity with that before the House. Dr. M'Hale was confessedly engaged in a purely religious function at Headford, whereas it was admitted that this one under consideration was a political demonstration.


said, that the state of affairs in China was so serious, and had for some time past exhibited so dangerous an aspect that even at that late period of the Session it was of the greatest importance that the House should have some explanation from the Government as to the actual position and their intentions with regard to our future position in that country. In the Bill before the House, provision was made for the military service of the country; but in view of the events which were likely to happen in China, no hon. Member of Her Majesty's Government would venture to say that that provision was likely to be sufficient. For some time past expeditions had been organized by our authorities in that part of the world, having for their object, to take possession of certain detached villages and forts, at a distance from Shanghai varying from twenty-five to thirty miles. At the first blush any one would say that a more dangerous interference with the population of China could hardly be conceived. That we, who were there simply for the purpose of trade, should mix ourselves up with the internal affairs of the people of China, that we should lend assistance to one party against the other, and should carry on operations at a distance from the ports where alone we were authorized to trade, that we should organize expeditions and attack the rebels as they were called, and inflict on them serious loss was a most extraordinary anomaly. The only explanation which the noble Viscount opposite had been able to give of these proceedings was that the possession of these outlying places was absolutely necessary for the security of British life and property at Shanghai. A few days ago he had asked the Government whether they had received any information as to the accounts which had been received of the repulse of a British force in one of these attacks, and the answer was, that they had received no information. Since then additional news had been received, and we were now told that though the British troops had not been repulsed, yet they had necessarily been withdrawn from those detached positions for the protection of Shanghai. Of course, if these places, as the noble Lord had said, were necessary for the protection of British life and property, the loss of them must have placed Shanghai in a very insecure position. He should be glad to hear from the Government what information they had received as to the present position of affairs, and particularly whether reinforcements had been urgently demanded from India in order to support the forces which were in China at the present moment. The policy of the Government on the question had always seemed to him of a most dangerous character. He believed that we were now on the eve of a third Chinese war, and the House well knew the expense of such undertakings. From the evidence given by a member of the Government before a Select Committee, hon. Members were aware that at the present moment the Army Estimates which had been voted were not sufficient, and that they were day by day exceeded in consequence of the necessity of maintaining a military force in China which had not been calculated for at the time the Estimates were prepared. It was then considered that we should be able to withdraw a regiment from China, instead of which that regiment was retained there for the defence of Shanghai, and by the late accounts reinforcements were urgently demanded. In the course which the Government had adopted towards the rebels, as they were called, in China, they had seriously compromised the honour and dignity of this country, as that of a Christian and civilized people. In the county to which he belonged a gentleman had recently published certain facts of which he had himself been an eyewitness. A large number of prisoners taken in one of those expeditions by our troops had been handed over by the British authorities to what we termed the Chinese Government to be dealt with by them, and this gentleman stated that he was a witness of the slaughter in cold blood of upwards of 300 prisoners—prisoners to the British arms whom we had handed over to be thus inhumanly dealt with. In another point of view, too, our position had been compromised. Hitherto the Chinese Government had not been in possession of a fleet, and it was necessary for them to obtain one. As had happened frequently before, there was a certain notorious pirate whom the Government had never been able to put down. He was notorious throughout those seas for the commission of acts of inhumanity and barbarity which could scarcely be paralleled, but, not being able to beat him, the Chinese Government made him admiral in chief of their fleet, and it was with this man that our gallant soldiers and sailors were called on to act upon terms of equality. This was a most disgraceful fact, and compromised in the strongest manner the honour and dignity of the country. It was impossible to say what might be the effect of such proceedings on such a population. It was all very well for the noble Lord to say that the Taepings were nothing but barbarians, that they were scourges, and ought to be exterminated, but the noble Lord had used language quite as strong in regard to the Chinese Government itself. He spoke quite as severely, and justly too, of the proceedings of Commissioner Yeh. It was perfectly clear that the party of the rebels, though their character might be as bad as was represented, was a very strong party. They might be bloodthirsty and sanguinary marauders, but they mustered a force of from 30,000 to 50,000 against us, and it was with a population such as that that we gratuitously and unnecessarily brought ourselves into collision. He hoped the Government would give some explanation of its intentions—for it seemed that we were entering on a course of which it was impossible to see the end. We seemed to be entering into another of our Chinese wars, and hon. Members knew how long they generally lasted and what they cost—and how long it would be before they got to the end of the bill. In the Persian war we never got the bill until it was all over. He wished to ascertain from the noble Lord, whether any information had been received by the Government as to the present state of affairs in China; whether any reinforcements had been asked for that country of the Indian Government; and whether it was the intention of the Government to hold in China the same language to which it was their pride to proclaim their adherence in every other part of the world—namely, one of non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.


said, that instead of a force of 40,000 or 50,000, as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think, it appeared the Taepings had 400,000 men under arms, occupying the provinces of Kiangsu and Cheh-Kiang and part of Ngan-hwei, with a population exceeding 98,000,000 of souls—Shanghai being in the province of Cheh-Kiang. He would observe that from the notorious character of Mr. Ward, as an American filibuster, to whom the hon. Gentleman had referred, it seemed strange that Admiral Hope and his officers could associate with him, without feeling themselves disgraced. The Taepings must have been exasperated by our repeated onslaughts, nevertheless it was a most singular circumstance that they had never yet committed an act of retaliation on any Europeans, while thousands of them had been slaughtered by our far-reaching artillery. As a proof of the forbearance with which they treated Europeans, he mentioned that on a recent occasion, when Sepoys who fell into their hands were all killed, a number of sailors, Europeans, were either released or allowed to escape and reach Shanghai in safety. If we had pursued a policy of neutrality in China, we should not be in the hazardous position in which we were placed in that country. There was, it was true, an arrangement made between us and the Taepings that they should not approach within thirty miles of Shanghai, but then it was on the condition that Shanghai should not be made a basis of operations against them. We, however, had broken faith with them, and were collecting the customs duties in the city amounting to a million sterling per annum, which we handed over to the Tartar Government, and which was employed against those very Taepings. The accounts which had been received that morning were most unsatisfactory. We had been driven from all our captures, in consequence of the reappearance of the Taepings in overwhelming numbers, and were obliged to defend ourselves in Shanghai, and he had no doubt we should be able to do so. But the country around was the scene of bloodshed and murder, whilst but for our uncalled-for interference it would have been in a state of peace, and Shanghai an undisturbed free port.


said, he did not wish to interpose in the discussion on Chinese affairs, but he felt it necessary to make a remark on what had fallen from the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Act of 1829, which applied to the wearing of certain robes, was restricted to the regular or monastic orders connected with the Roman Catholic Church. Now, he considered the interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman far too narrow. If that interpretation was to be allowed, it was clear that if any magistrate interposed to prevent processions which were objectionable to the people of this country, he would be reduced to the necessity of proving what were the regular orders of the Church, and that the habits or robes worn in the procession belonged to some regular order. That was a most difficult matter to ascertain. He was glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) had called the attention of the House to the subject. The course he had taken was consistent with that pursued by the Earl of Derby's Government, of which he was a member, since that Government in 1852 found it necessary, for the preservation of peace, to issue a proclamation forbidding processions headed by ecclesiastics in the robes of their order taking place in England. There had then been two infringements of that Act in this country. One took place in Hammersmith and another in Warwickshire. He himself was the acting magistrate in the latter case, and was compelled to apply to the Government to prevent the recurrence of such processions in the district in which he lived, on Sundays, because the people, finding the services at their churches and chapels interrupted, had threatened to take the law into their own hands unless some intention was shown of protecting them against interference and insult. The feeling in that district was still very strong. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not think it right, either in law or in policy, to put an interpretation on the clause of the Act of 1829 which might lead to a repetition of the scenes to which he had alluded, which would not occur if the law hereafter was understood and administered as it was administered by the Law Officers of the Earl of Derby's Government in 1852.


All I can say in reply to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. Fitzgerald) is, that Her Majesty's Government have not, to my knowledge, received any information to-day with respect to the points involved in this question. It is, however, possible that this afternoon or to-morrow we may be in the receipt of intelligence which would enable me to give him a more satisfactory answer. I may add that I cannot help thinking it somewhat remarkable, that when discussions take place in this House with respect to insurrection against a Government which is not supported by the feeling of the people—as was the case in Italy, for instance—hon. Gentlemen on that side declaim against the insurgents and maintain the cause of the Sovereigns deposed. But when an insurrection takes place in China, the object of which is the utter destruction of everything created by the art and industry of man, then the insurgents are taken under the special protection of some hon. Gentleman in this House. We are making no war in China except that which is necessary for defending the positions in which our trade is carried on. Nobody who knows anything about our commercial relations with China can doubt the great importance of these trading ports, or that our commerce would be annihilated if they were to fall into the hands of the Taepings; because notwithstanding all that has been said, the real truth is that the Taepings are nothing but destroyers. They destroy everything. Wherever they go they live upon the produce of the industry of others. When they have exhausted one district, they pass on to another where they may find fresh stores of accumulated wealth to plunder and enjoy. Therefore to allow them to come to the seats of our trade would simply be to give up our commerce to entire destruction. We are only doing that which is necessary for the maintenance of our commercial relations with China. As to the pirate who was taken and made an admiral, it is not an uncommon thing in semi-civilized countries for a man who has been in revolt against the Government to receive pardon, and to be employed in the service of the Government. The person in question is not in our service; he is in the service of the Chinese Emperor; and if the Chinese think, that by pardoning an enterprising rebel and enlisting him in their service they can do more than by shooting him or cutting off his head, that is a matter for them to judge of, and we have certainly no reason to interfere. With regard to Mr. Ward, I think he is a very respectable man; he has organized and disciplined a good body of troops, and his conduct in command in the field has been such as entitles him to respect, instead of making his company a disgrace to those British officers who may associate with him. Nor are we collecting the revenue in China. There are certain Europeans employed by the Chinese Government to collect honestly those duties which were before dishonestly and surreptitiously taken away, and of which the Government were defrauded. We are glad the Chinese Government are now deriving that income. No doubt there is a certain number of persons who derived benefit from defrauding the Government of their legitimate customs duties, and who are naturally anxious that the old system should be restored; but the truth is, that all that is done by those Europeans who are employed not by us, but by the Chinese Government, is to see fair play between the importers and the Chinese authorities. I am not in the least afraid of any Chinese war. We are not at war with China. We are simply co-operating so far with the Chinese Government that we are defending ourselves in those places where we have commercial establishments. As to the 400,000 Taepings, there may be that number spread over the vast extent of territory which we were told on a former occasion contained 400,000 square miles, giving one Taeping to every square mile. If each Taeping would keep within his square mile, no harm could be done; but, unfortunately, that is not the case. Wherever there is a cultivated country or a rich city there the Taepings come to plunder and destroy, murdering everybody that stands in their way. I have only to say, in conclusion, that we have no information touching the particular points to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. When we receive any, it will be submitted to the House.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, who is now in his place, will give the answer which is due to the important question put to him by the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox). Considering the enormous sums which have been expended upon a weapon which has not yet been proved to be efficient, and considering, also, that we have still to lament the want of a naval gun, I really think that some statement should be made by the Secretary of State. On a recent occasion the right hon. Gentleman admitted that one of the new Armstrong shunt guns had burst after ninety-two rounds had been fired from it. The House is probably aware that the twelve-ton Armstrong gun, which cost nearly £2,000, has failed in the same manner. I believe the shunt gun, which also cost a large sum of money, burst when charged with twenty-five pounds of powder, or ten pounds more than the ordinary charge. Look at the position of Sir W. Armstrong; it is a very curious one. He is the sole director of rifled artillery connected with the War Department; he is also an inventor, and his inventions are before the country. What I want to point out is, that owing to the position he holds, the market is shut against other inventors, and the consequence is that to this day we have not a naval gun. Recently I asked the Secretary of State, whether, in the interest of the public, he would appoint a Committee of skilled officers and mechanicals to inquire into the principle upon which the Armstrong guns are constructed, with the view of ascertaining what are the causes of the failures which have occurred The right hon. Gentleman said we had two Committees already, and could not want another. One of the Committees to which he referred is the Select Committee on Ordnance. That Committee has nothing whatever to do with the construction of guns, and I am informed that in several instances guns have been issued contrary to its expressed opinion the other Committee is one sitting upstairs. But what good, I ask, can come of referring the question of the construction of guns to a House of Commons Committee? If we mean to be not only economical but efficient in our ordnance departments, we must have a Committee composed of skilled officers and mechanicals to investigate the principle upon which the Armstrong guns are constructed.


In reply to the question of the noble Lord the Member for Chichester, which I have carefully considered, I can only repeat the answer which I gave the other day that the Select Ordnance Committee seems to me quite sufficient for the purpose both of inquiry and approval. It is easy to speak of the Armstrong gun as having been proved a failure; but I, on the other hand, assert that it has been proved to be a success. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: Where?] In the experiments that have been made. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: As a naval gun?] Both for naval and field purposes it has been proved to be the best gun yet produced. Further improvements may be introduced into it; it is even possible that some improved construction may be invented by some other person. I have no prejudice in favor of the Armstrong gun; but to describe it as a failure seems to me to be an entire distortion of facts. The appointment of another Committee would lead only to confusion and conflict of opinion, and I maintain that the scientific advice which the Government now has at its disposal is quite sufficient for ascertaining the truth with respect both to the Armstrong gun and other kinds of ordnance. Besides the Select Ordnance Committee, we have the Iron-plate Committee, and the Select Committee on Ordnance, which is to be reappointed next Session, and really, with such an amount of inquiry and authority, I do not think it can be said that this important subject has been neglected by the Government.


said, he did not think the answer given by the right hon. Baronet was quite satisfactory, for this reason:—It was admitted that iron-plated ships would in future form our navy, and it was further admitted that no gun had been constructed which at long range could do any serious injury to iron-plated ships. That was what his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard meant by the failure of the Armstrong gun. The real state of the case was that they had no effective gun. The hon. Member for Liskeard said there was such a partial constitution of the Departments which had charge of these matters as prevented the scientific intelligence of the country from bearing on the question so as to produce the proper gun. He could not sit down without saying a single word as to the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland. He certainly heard with great regret that part of his speech in which he attempted to turn into ridicule the demonstration that took place the other day in Dublin, in laying the foundation stone of the Catholic University. To attempt to turn into ridicule that demonstration, containing as it did the municipal representatives of three-fourths of Ireland, and the representatives of the middle class, who were, after all, the political strength of the country, was a course quite unworthy of the right hon. Baronet to pursue. Let not the right hon. Gentleman deceive himself on this point; the demonstration was a proof that the mind of the people of Ireland was set on having freedom of education for their children; and, speaking on the most trustworthy authority, he said it was the most important demonstration which had taken place in Ireland for a great number of years.


said, he had hoped the discussion on the demonstration had terminated. That demonstration was only important as an embodiment of physical force; it was deficient in all the elements of respectability. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Monsell) that the laity of any station in Dublin did not take any part or interest in it. At the same time, he did not think the procession ought to be passed over in silence by the House, because the assembling and parading of such large numbers in the streets of a metropolis, especially for a political demonstration, was likely to lead to collision with those who did not agree with the objects of that demonstration. There was one a few months ago in connection with the obsequies of Mr. M'Manus, and that was a political demonstration. The Protestants in the North were not content with the way in which the Government had treated the subject, and considered that the Government had not held an equal balance. Although the processions had passed without collision that was not a reason why the House should neglect to notice them, as they might be tolerated once too often he was satisfied that there was great alarm, and no small indignation in the city of Dublin, especially as the recent procession took place on the Sunday, when the Protestants were attending their places of worship, and as it was but a repetition of a demonstration which had not been noticed by the Government.

Bill read 3°, and passed.