HC Deb 02 March 1885 vol 294 cc1774-5
MR. A. J. BALFOUR (for Lord ELCHO)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, What steps, if any, Her Majesty's Government intend to take towards finding out the names of, and bringing to justice, the two anonymous Colonels who, on their own confession, were accessories before the act to the treachery which led to the fall of Khartoum?


In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who, I am sorry to say, is slightly indisposed, and not able to be present——


Hear, hear!


Order, order!


I will, with the permission of the House, endeavour to answer the Question for him. It appears to be based upon the assumption that these two Colonels, whom Lord Wolseley quoted in the telegram read in the debate the other day as having expressed their opinion that it was by an act of treachery Khartoum fell, must have been accessories before the fact to that act of treachery. I have no reason to think that there is any foundation for that theory. In the first place, it does not appear to have presented itself to Lord Wolseley's mind that there was any ground for suspicion with respect to those two officers. In the next place, it is extremely probable that the possibility of treachery was known not only to General Gordon, but to others in Khartoum, and may have been matter of notoriety. A letter, which was published some days ago, addressed by General Gordon to Colonel Watson, at Cairo, said—"Good-bye," and stated that he expected a "catastrophe" would happen, and that the rebels would be in the town in a few days. There is also the evidence of a letter of much earlier date to show that Gordon was in possession of information to the effect that treachery was intended. On February 12 of last year, Mr. Power, in a letter to Sir Evelyn Baring, said that it was necessary to take energetic measures to keep order in the town, owing to the presence of rebels, and that certain persons were suspected. Early in March, General Gordon telegraphed that one of the most painful parts of the business was the constant spread of reports that treachery was intended on the part of this or that leading man. And on the 23rd of March, he sent Sir Evelyn Baring an account of the shooting of the two black Pashas who had connived with the rebels. Under these circumstances, it seems quite possible that the probability of treachery, and even some knowledge of its particulars, was a matter of more or less notoriety at Khartoum; but it does not follow that the Colonels referred to in the statement of Lord Wolseley were accessories to it.


Was the telegram the noble Marquess refers to in possession of the Government when they informed the House that General Gordon was in no personal danger?


I believe all these telegrams have been already published.