HC Deb 12 March 1883 vol 277 cc210-2

asked the Secretary to the Admiralty, If his attention has been called to the letter of Mr. Blunt in the "Times" of the 10th instant, in reference to his recent explanation of the objects of Professor Palmer's mission; whether, in particular, his attention has been called to Mr. Blunt's statement that the private diaries of Professor Palmer and Captain Gill prove—

  1. 1. "That Mr. Palmer's mission, as intrusted to him by Lord North brook in June, was one of wide purport, wholly unconnected with the purchase of camels or the hiring of transport:
  2. 2. "That it had for its ultimate, if not its immediate, object the bribing of certain Bedouin tribes:
  3. 211
  4. 3. "That Mr. Palmer did in fact promise money with this object:
  5. 4. "That he travelled, not as an Englishman, but disguised and under an assumed name:
  6. 5. That, on the 6th of August, he received from Captain Gill, at Suez, £20,000 in gold, distinctly for the Bedouins; and
  7. 6. "That the purchase of camels was an afterthought, connected only with his last journey, and only accidentally with his mission:"
and, what steps he intends to take in the matter?


Sir, my attention has been called to Mr. Blunt's letter in The Times,and to his statement that certain facts are proved by the private diaries of Professor Palmer and Captain Gill. As to the facts of the case, Sir, the explanation which I recently gave to the House is true in every particular. Mr. Palmer's mission certainly extended beyond the purchase of camels and hiring of transports, inasmuch as its object was that he should ascertain the disposition of the Bedouins, and use his well-known influence with them in order to conciliate them and obtain their support for the protection of the Canal should necessity arise. No money was given to him for the "bribing of the tribes," nor was he authorized to promise it. I am not aware that anyone has ever asserted that Mr. Palmer travelled as an Englishman; he wore the dress he had previously worn among the Bedouins, and went by the name he was usually known by among them, so that there was no concealment in the matter. He was not instructed on his journey from Gaza to Suez to hire any camels; when, however, he left Suez on the subsequent journey, which ended so disastrously, he had instructions to procure camels, and received £3,000 for the purpose, as I explained on a former occasion. With regard to the assertion that he received from Captain Gill at Suez £20,000 in gold for the Bedouins, there is no truth in it. Neither Captain Gill nor Mr. Palmer received any such sum for this or any other purpose. I stated the other day that Sir William Hewett, the Admiral at Suez, had asked for money to meet the general expenses of his command, and especially to prepare for the Indian Contingent, Which was soon to arrive. A sum of £120,000 was sent to him—£10,000 from Sir Beauchamp Seymour and £10,000 from Admiral TToskins—for the general pur- poses of the service. The money was sent by the Canal in a picket boat under the charge of a Naval officer, who would deliver it to Sir William Hewett. It is possible that Captain Gill, on his journey from Ismailia to Suez, may have travelled as a passenger on this boat; but, if so—and this is pure conjecture—lie had nothing whatever to do with the money or its destination. I cannot too strongly assort that the sending of the money in question had nothing whatever to do with Professor Palmer's mission, beyond the fact that £3,000 was subsequently given to him by Sir William Hewett for the hire of camels. I may add that I have had the advantage to-day of conferring with Lord Alcester and Sir Anthony Hoskins, who confirm in every detail the statement I have now repeated to the House. I think it right to say, in concluding my reply, that I have Mrs. Palmer's authority for stating that her late husband's journal is not public property; that she has not authorized the public use of any part of it; and that whatever is known of it by Mr. Blunt was made known to him on the express condition that it should not be made public.


asked whether, in view of the grave importance and the seriousness of the charges, the hon. Gentleman would consult with the Government as to the advisability of pro-caring the publication of such portions of the diaries of Professor Palmer and Captain Gill as related to the mission of those gentlemen, which ended so disastrously for them?


I have stated to the House, on the authority of the only persons who could have furnished this sum of money, that they did not furnish it. I have repeated that several times, so that I do not think I have anything to add.