HC Deb 27 April 1868 vol 191 cc1337-8

Perhaps I may be allowed to ask a Question of some importance of the Secretary of State for India. I do not ask whether the official Report which has appeared in the papers with regard to the attack upon Magdala and the release of the captives is true — there can be no doubt of that — but whether there is any other information which he can communicate to the House. I trust the House will permit me to offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman on the triumphant success of the expedition, and to express the admiration which I am certain this House feels for the skill, the forethought, and the prudence displayed by Sir Robert Napier, and for the gallantry and devotion of the troops under his command?


I rise, Sir, at the desire of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India to offer a few observations to the House upon this subject. This certainly is a topic which we can approach with unmixed satisfaction. Her Majesty's Government took the most extensive means that they could yesterday to ensure that the news of the success of Her Majesty's arms should be known as widely as possible; but it is the unanimous wish of my Colleagues, and it will, I am sure, be more respectful to the House—though I have no further news to communicate—that I should in a formal manner confirm the authenticity of the statement which has been made. It will be my duty shortly to propose a Motion by command of Her Majesty, in connection with this subject, which will give to hon. Gentlemen every opportunity of expressing their opinions; and on the present occasion, as there is no Motion before the House, I shall make very few additional observations. But in communicating to the House the authenticity of this information I feel that I should not be doing my duty if I did not congratulate the House upon the events that have occurred. I am sure the House will agree with me that, as a feat of arms, it would be difficult, probably impossible, to find its parallel for completeness and for precision. Her Majesty's troops — the soldiers who have been engaged, and the great leader who directed the operations — are, I think, equally entitled to the gratitude which the House, I doubt not, will accord to them. And perhaps, as far as the soldiers are concerned, the House will allow me to read a passage from a letter of Sir Robert Napier received at the same time as the recent intelligence, but written before the last advance. He says—this is written on the 23rd— All the troops are well, and evince a most admirable spirit, emulating each other in cheerful devotion to the interests of the expedition. Officers and men alike deserve every praise. So much for the character of the troops as given by the general. What shall we say of the general himself? On another occasion we may touch upon a career which, upon many occasions, has been so eminent. But with regard to the present expedition, let me say, for myself, that when you consider its particular character, the march of 400 miles into an unknown country, the providence, the sagacity, the patience, and, above all, the firmness of the commander, it resembles more than any other event in history that I can compare it with the advance of Cortez into Mexico. But there is this fortunate difference between the Abyssinian Expedition and the great invasion of Cortez—that we did not enter Abyssinia to despoil the innocent, but in a spirit of justice, humanity, religion, and civilization, and that we are about now to vacate the country in a manner which will prove to the world the purity of our purpose.


Is it true that King Theodore was found dead; and, if so, in what manner did he meet with his death?


He was found dead, but we have no information as to the manner of his death.