HC Deb 02 March 1885 vol 294 cc1784-803

Her Majesty's Message considered.

Message again read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Message communicating to this House that Her Majesty had thought it necessary to direct, by Proclamation, that certain persons who would otherwise be entitled, in pursuance of the terms of their enlistment, to be transferred to the Reserve, shall continue in Army Service for such period, not exceeding the period for which they might be required to serve if they were transferred to the Reserve and called out for permanent service, as to Her Majesty may seem expedient."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)


said, he proposed to move an Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord similar to that which was moved in 1878 by his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) when a Motion of the same sort was before the House. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade "told" for his hon. Friend, and he saw among those who voted in favour of the Amendment the Prime Minister and many other Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench. He was not going to recapitulate what had been said last week on the Soudan Question; but the House had been told over and over again by Her Majesty's Government, or at all events they had been allowed to infer it, that Lord Wolseley himself had said that it was impossible to retreat from the Soudan. But that was entirely inconsistent with the facts. Lord Wolseley himself sent home after the fall of Khartoum a telegram to know what he was to do under the circumstances, and the Government left the matter to him. He was not, however, prepared to accept the responsibility, and sent home again to know whether he was to retreat or go forward. Her Majesty's Government then said ho was not to retreat, but was to take such a course as would lead to the overthrow of the Mahdi. These arrangements with, respect to the Reserve and Militia were based upon the decision taken by Her Majesty's Govern- ment. He did not know the view taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but there were many who sat near him who really could not conscientiously vote for anything that was based upon the wild Expedition to overthrow the Mahdi. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had that day asked a Question with respect to a speech recently made by Lord Wolseley. That speech appeared in The Standard, which Was generally a very correct paper, and there was no reason to doubt the accuracy of the version of the speech it published. In that speech Lord Wolseley said that if he had to remain 100 years in the Soudan he would overthrow the Mahdi. That was a more definite pledge than had been given by Her Majesty's Government. It was true during the recent debates they had several assurances given them that it was the intention of the Government to act aggressively against the Soudan until they had conquered and broke the power of the Mahdi, but they were not told who was to be set up to govern in his stead. Whoever his successor might be, it was perfectly clear that we would have to remain there to support his authority. If he and his hon. Friends did not oppose this policy^ they perhaps might be told afterwards that they had assented to it. He thought it necessary on the part of those who agreed with him that they should on the very first occasion and on every occasion protest against the course which they believed would lead to our assuming in the Soudan very much the same position that we had assumed in Egypt, and to our saying that we intended to come away, while practically we stayed there year after year. The Correspondent of The Daily Chronicle with the Army in the Soudan said that the greatest discontent existed among the soldiers themselves as soon as they heard that they were to remain in that country, for they felt that they would die like flies. Why should not Lord Wolseley be told to withdraw to Wady Haifa or some such place, as it would be impossible until next autumn to make the advance to Khartoum? He had asked the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. O'Kelly), who had been at Dongola for a considerable time, what his view of the military situation was, and his hon. Friend told him it was absurd to say that Lord Wolseley could not withdraw with the greatest ease by the Nile. There would not be any difficulty whatever in the operation, as there was alongside the Nile a path which would facilitate the retreat of our Forces. In conclusion the hon. Gentleman moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To add, at the end thereof, the words "but that this House regrets that Her Majesty's Ministers have thought it right to advise that certain persons, who otherwise would he entitled to be transferred to the Reserve, should continue in Army Service, in connection with a determination to interfere by force of arms in the internal Government of the Soudan, and to engage in military operations in that Country, beyond those required to enable the Troops under the command of Lord Wolseley to withdraw from it."—(Mr. Labouchere.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


said, the silence with which the hon. Member's speech was received in all quarters of the House showed that he would not get much support. He did not rise for the purpose of supporting the Amendment. His object was to draw the attention of the House to certain grave reflections which he thought were inseparable from the consideration of Her Majesty's Gracious Message. The fact that the Household troops had within a period of two and a-half years been twice sent out of this country was of itself a very serious and grave incident. In former days the departure of the Guards from Great Britain was an event of equal political and military significance, and it was a sign that we meant business. He wished to know whether we meant business now, and, if so, what business did we mean? Did they consider they had a greater business in hand now than they had, for instance, in 1857, when the Guards were not called out of England? They were sent out in 1862, he thought; but then we were threatened with a war with the United States, and their departure had an important political bearing on the question; but now why were they sending the Guards out? Why was it that since Waterloo they had only been out five times—twice within the last three years? Of course, the officers and all ranks of Household troops were ready, anxious, and happy to go out; and in asking this question why they were sent out now he was asking a question which no officer of the Household troops could ask. But he felt free to do so, never having been in the Army; and, speaking entirely as a civilian, he thought he was entitled to ask why there was this departure from what had hitherto been the precedent of the Service. Why were the Guards called upon to do double duty? He might ask whether they had a greater business now than in 1857, when the Guards were not sent? And if they had not, then they were driven to the possible conclusion that the Household troops "were sent because they had no other troops to send. The Expedition which recently left these shores would shortly call for reinforcements; and it was not too much to suppose that before the troops were six weeks out, in every battalion which was now in Egypt perhaps 100 men would be disabled by wounds or sickness, and how were the reinforcements to be supplied? Were they ready at this moment? He was afraid the answer to the question could not be given by pointing to any battalion now on home service. The battalions at home just now were nothing but depleted skeletons, full of raw recruits or invalids, almost every available man having been sent out. Take the Guards now in London. They were very good stuff for soldiers, but they were not soldiers yet, and, what was more, they were not becoming soldiers, because they had to do garrison duty, and were not being instructed in musketry or signalling. Her Majesty's Ministers had taken power to call out the Reserves; but what were they going to do with them? Were they going to send them out beside their old comrades, and to serve under their old commanders, or were they to be sent to strange depots to go through the weary round of garrison duty? If it was the latter, he thought a grave mistake was being made. He was told that the men in the Reserve were not coming out this time so well as they did last time. The reason was that instead of being sent to serve under their old officers they were to be sent to strange battalions to do monotonous home duty. The Government would be obliged to send out married men, although they were more costly to send out than young soldiers-But they dared not send out young soldiers. They had sent out a battalion of Rifles to Gibraltar; but the noble Lord when asked about it had declined to give an answer. The fact was that there were 254 men in that battalion who had received no instruction in musketry. They dared not reinforce fighting lines with troops of that character. Shortly after Rorke's Drift something happened which ought to convey a grave lesson to the country. A field officer had given him the narrative of the occurrence by an eye-witness. There was a battalion of old soldiers, Highlanders, on the return from India, and two battalions of young soldiers from England. They were bivouacked in line of columns on a hill-side, with pickets thrown out and batches of friendly Zulus in front. During the night the musket of one of the Zulus went off by mistake. A panic ensued. The pickets fired, and ran in. The Highlanders fell in as steadily as on a barrack parade. The young soldiers were in the wildest confusion. They fired at every moving object, and, incredible and discreditable as it may seem, no fewer than 10,000 rounds of ammunition were fired before order was restored. The result was that five of our own men and 15 or 16 friendly Zulus were killed. He felt it incumbent on every man who knew anything of the question to warn the public against what was being done in sending untrained troops out of the country. Let it be imagined for a moment what would have been the result if, instead of Lord Wolseley having been allowed to cull from the entire Service almost every seasoned soldier in it, he had been supplied with inexperienced and young battalions such as he had referred to; and if they had been exposed to such trials and such rigours as the gallant troops under General Earle, Sir Redvers Buller, and Sir Herbert Stewart, he was afraid the tale to be told on their return would be a sadder tale than they had listened to of late. Their loss would have been heavier—very probably they would have been annihilated. What were we doing to prepare for reinforcements? There was a general misapprehension in the mind respecting the Reserve Forces and the Auxiliary Forces. The Auxiliary Forces consisted of the Militia and the Volunteers. To them should be committed garrison and Colonial duty. To commit to Army Reserve men the duty which ought to be be committed to the Auxiliary Forces was a great mistake. He wished, therefore, to know from the Secretary of State for War what was going to be done when the Reserves were called out, and what troops were to be sent to support those troops which had gone to the front already? He thought he saw in the present action of the Government another instance of a step being taken without consideration of what the next step was to be. He wished the Government to consider what what was to be the next step, and how the troops already sent out were to be supported. He was anxious that in what might be the last act of the present Administration they should not be "too late," but in time.


suggested that instead of sending out Household troops they should send from Ireland some thousands of soldiers now quartered in that country with nothing to do. These soldiers had distinguished themselves in eviction operations. He would suggest, too, that the Royal Irish Constabulary, whose bravery and discipline had been greatly lauded by the Government, were also available for service. It was true that the Constabulary had never been tested in the battle field. But they had always been earnest in carrying out evictions in Ireland, and had shown themselves ready to stab people, irrespective of age or sex, in the performance of their duty. It would only be reasonable for the Government to give these gentlemen an opportunity to distinguish themselves against those who had arms in their hands. But as the people of Ireland regretted the war in the Soudan, they would not regret it so much if it brought about the removal of some of these Forces from the country. He defied the Government to withdraw their troops from Ireland for the Soudan. Such had been the result of the government of Ireland in the past, that now in the hour of England's difficulty they dare not withdraw their troops from Ireland to meet the enemies of England. The hon. Member for Wigtown had given a graphic description of the mismanagement of our troops, when friendly Zulus were killed, who, he must say, deserved to be killed for being friendly. What valiant and gallant deeds our gallant Army was capable of! That story had come fresh upon the House. How, then, could the people be expected to know what went on in the Soudan? No guarantee of the truthfulness of the reports of what went on at the seat of war could be obtained. There would be great demonstrations of loyalty in Ireland on the morning when some of the regiments in Ireland took their departure for the Soudan. The Constabulary were a highly-trained body, who would render equally good service, and the Irish people would gladly see them go, and hearty prayers would be offered up that none of them might come back. It had been announced that the Prince of Wales was about to visit Ireland, and he believed that if the Government determined upon withdrawing a large number of troops from that country it would go a long way towards insuring His Royal Highness a hearty welcome. He thought that if hon. Members and the people of England would but study the extraordinary position of the Government with regard to Ireland they could not but fail to see how detrimental it was to the true interests of the Empire at large. If, also, the Royal Irish Constabulary were sent to the Soudan it would go far to make both the noble Marquess and the Prime Minister popular, and do much to settle the Irish Question.


said, he was one of those who objected to the Egyptian policy of the Government from the beginning, and on every possible occasion he would oppose their going on with the war in the Soudan. The result of the debate last week was that the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) had got the substance, and the Radical Members who opposed the Government had only got the shadow. We had got into a war of which we could not see the end, and it might be the beginning of the downfall of England. It was to be feared that large numbers of the troops to be sent out would perish from disease and from the heat. Were we able to send out the reinforcements that would be required, and also the 30,000 men that it was said would be required to protect the railway from Suakin to Berber, if the House permitted the rail- way to be made? As to our setting up a good Government at Khartoum, could anyone prove that there was not a good Government there already? It was stated that on the fall of Khartoum not a single woman or child was killed; and if that was so, did it not prove, after such a siege, that there must be a good Government at Khartoum already? It would be the duty of the Members who disapproved the policy of the Government to do all they could to bring Lord Wolseley back to the frontier of Egypt, and with that object he should join with those Members in giving opposition to the Vote.


said, he believed he was representing the feeling of a large number of persons in this country when he expressed deep regret at the manner in which Her Majesty's Government had treated the offers of military assistance from some of the Colonies. Everybody who was attached to the British Empire was delighted by the offers of assistance which were made to the Government from New South Wales, Canada, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland; and if they had been received in the spirit in which they were made it was probable that New Zealand and other Colonies would have followed suit, and we might have assembled in Egypt a body of troops which would have represented not only the Mother Country and India, but almost all the self-governing Colonies. We could all judge what a good moral effect a spectacle of that kind would have produced upon the Powers of Europe at a time when even Members of the House where speaking of the decadence and downfall of the Empire. The Government having the singular good fortune to receive those offers ought to have accepted them with thanks and enthusiasm; but instead of doing that, they only allowed New South Wales to send a contingent, which it appeared to have ready, and which our military necessities almost obliged them to accept, and to the other Colonies they returned a cold and unsympathetic answer that the assistance proffered was not wanted, and that if it were needed further communications would be made. He should have thought also that Her Majesty's Government would have laid on the Table at once the precise terms of the offers, together with their replies. He supposed they did not do so because they were ashamed of what they had done, and feared the condemnation of the Opposition and the country. He did not think a Motion of the kind before the House should pass without a protest against the conduct of the Government in this matter.


said, that he thought it was not a very patriotic suggestion that 14,000 men should be sent from Ireland to the Soudan in order to fight against the 1,000 Irishmen who, it was said, were going from America to join the Mahdi. If such a proposal were to be carried into effect, an encounter between men of the same nationality, which might take place under such circumstances, would not tend to foster Irish unity so frequently advocated by hon. Members opposite from Ireland. Such speeches as the last were made by Members to catch their constituents. He was not in the position of having to make speeches to catch his constituents; he did not come to the House with the intention of making his Parliamentary position a monetary transaction.


I rise to Order, and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. Baronet is in [Order in imputing to hon. Members that they came into this House for the purpose of making their position a monetary transaction? Under ordinary circumstances I would not take any notice of anything the hon. Baronet said.


The remarks of the hon. Baronet were not, in my opinion, relevant to the subject before the House.


said, he was very sorry if he had said anything irrelevant, and he was delighted at the brightness of intellect displayed by the lion. Member for Wexford in repudiating the transaction he had described. He was also very glad to notice the contempt which the hon. Gentleman appeared to entertain for the opinions he (Sir Patrick O'Brien) had expressed. The House was discussing operations which the Government were about to undertake in the Soudan, which were of such grave importance that it was not until half-past 11 on Friday night that the hon. Gentleman was able to make up his mind how to vote. He certainly did not propose to imitate the conduct of the lion. Member and those who sat with him in endeavouring to ridicule and in sneering at 14,000 Irishmen, but would support the Motion of the Government.


said, he was pleased to hear the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, because, if there was one thing which struck the House on Thursday last, it was the fact that the Prime Minister, in the announcement which he made, made no reference to the action of the Colonies, said hardly a word as to the death of General Gordon, and did not speak of the bravery and gallantry of the troops. This was an occasion when, if Ministers were at one, and wished to put before the country what they really felt, the loyalty of our Colonies, in spite of the manner in which they had been treated, might have been fitly acknowledged. It was no use to do this after the event, when the public had begun to murmur, and the papers to point out the Ministers' omissions. It was no use, then, their trying to remedy the mistake. The Prime Minister had missed his opportunity on the first meeting of Parliament, and showed he had lost touch with, and was out of harmony with, the nation. He wished on this question to ask the noble Lord to state the number of men now serving with their regiments whom he was going to detain, not allowing them to go into the Reserve? That was the only question before the House at the moment. Volunteers were also to be invited from the Reserves; but the Reserves were not to be called out. Could the noble Lord state the number retained and the number that were calculated as likely to volunteer? At the present time we had war, or nearly war, in South Africa; a serious state of things, not quite war, existed also on the Afghan Frontier; and the very fact that the Guards had been called out showed the position in which the country was now placed. The noble Lord knew that he could not take a regiment from Ireland; and he should like to know what was the present condition of the Army and of those Forces which could be put into the Line in case of necessity? He was entitled to press for an answer to such a question. The noble Lord and those who sat with him on the Ministerial Bench had been the most strenuous advocates of the short-service system, but had signally failed to make that system efficient. Lord Wolseley, the Secretary of State for War knew, had asked for a picked body of men of the Cavalry, and his request was for all old soldiers. That General, it should be remembered, was an advocate and apostle of the short-service system; yet when he came to a difficulty and he was in command, Lord Wolseley advocated sending out old soldiers into the field. Would the noble Lord say whether taking from each Cavalry regiment in the Service one troop, and that composed of the best officers and men, was making of each of those regiments an efficient or an inefficient regiment? When called upon to send two regiments to the Soudan, he sent two squadrons from each of two regiments differently armed—from the Lancers and from the Hussars. He stated that the Lancers were the best to send. [The Marquess of HARTINGTON dissented.] Then he misunderstood the noble Lord.


I said it was desirable to send out two squadrons of each.


said, he had asked the noble Lord whether the squadrons were to be made into one regiment; but at the time the Question was put the nobl6 Lord could not give an answer. It was not out of place to repeat that Question now, because if the Government could not send out from the two regiments he had named more than two squadrons of efficient men, that would be a good answer why they were not sent. The hon. Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell) had referred to the number of men in one regiment who had never been through musketry instruction, and the noble Lord knew that such would be the state of every regiment now at home. Another cruel case was this. There was a regiment gone to the front, the second battalion of which ought to have been at home. But they were sent to the Mediterranean, and the moment they got there they were called upon to send large drafts to their other battalion, and did so. What a position in which to place a commanding officer! He denuded his regiment of all the best men, and when afterwards ordered to proceed to the front himself, he had to take undrilled, inefficient recruits. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), in making his remarks, seemed to have forgotten the division when 455 Members voted for the prosecution of the war, the hon. Member and his Friends numbering only 112 on the other side. But he only asked for an answer from the noble Lord, and would not say anything further. The Government had failed, and short service had failed, because they had copied foreign nations, forgetting, however, that foreign nations did not take men into the Army so young as we did at the present time. We took boys of 16 calling themselves 18, two or three years younger at the latter age than they were taken under the conscription by foreign nations. He thanked God we had not conscription; but we wanted more men and a larger Army to carry on the multifarious duties that fell upon this great country.


said, the fault of the Army system for the last 10 or 12 years was that, owing to a too rigid economy, the regiments had been filled up with boys. He complained of the manner in which the Reserves were being called out, and observed that other countries did not call out their Reserves except for first-class wars. The way in which our Reserves were being treated would interfere with their getting employment. The Government were going to put 40 or 50 perfectly efficient officers in the Reserve, and were, at the same time, spending money in calling out Reserve men. That was spending money in two ways, and spending much more than would otherwise be required.


said, he did not think it was necessary, neither would the House allow him, to enter at any length into a reply to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who objected altogether to the Address that had been moved. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), that if anything had been decided by the vote of the House on Friday night, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. John Morley), it was that the House was prepared to continue the war, and not to adopt the policy advocated by his hon. Friend—that a policy of retreat should be immediately enjoined on Lord Wolseley. The only part of the hon. Member's speech as to which he need say a word was with reference to a statement made by the Correspondent of The Daily Chronicle that great discontent prevailed in Buller's Force, and that in the summer the men would die like flies. As for himself, he had not seen any such statement, neither did he apprehend that our men would suffer during the summer in that way. He understood the writer to say the announcement that the troops were to remain in the Soudan during the summer was not received with enthusiasm; but what the Correspondent said about the hardships which that decision would entail proceeded upon the assumption that the Army remained at Gakdul and other positions where there was very little accommodation. But in that case everything would be done to mitigate the hardships. The hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir George Campbell) referred to the possibility of a retreat by the Nile, and of Lord Wolseley being able to take boats down the river. But if anything had been decided by the House, it was that Lord Wolseley should not retreat. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Herbert Maxwell) asked why the Guards had been sent out, and said that it indicated a serious state of affairs; he also said that double duty had been thrown upon them. [Sir HERBERT MAXWELL: That it was not usual for the Guards.] He understood the hon. Baronet to say that double duty was thrown upon them. It should be remembered that the Guards did not take ordinary garrison duty abroad, and that the occasions on which they had been sent out were not very frequent; but still they were expected, and they expected themselves, to be employed whenever there was a prospect of active and serious service. The hon. Member asked what was the necessity for sending them out. Well, the hon. Gentleman knew that the organization of the Army had been for some years under a strain. Since the Egyptian occupation in 1881, there had been several Expeditions sent out. There had been Lord Wolseley's first Expedition, there had been General Graham's Suakin Expedition, there had been Lord Wolseley's Expedition up the Nile, and there had been a considerable Expedition to South Africa. That pre-supposed that our Army, of very moderate size, had been subjected to a very considerable strain, more especially when it was borne in mind that it was a short-service Army on a peace footing. Under those circumstances, the House need not be sur- prised if we had not at home a large Reserve of battalions of fully trained soldiers ready to set out at a moment's notice to reinforce an Army in the field. The hon. Gentleman said that our battalions at home were "depleted skeletons, full of young soldiers." He (the Marquess of Hartington) did not know that a depleted skeleton was full of anything. The hon. Member was wrong in saying that they had called out the Reserves. On former occasions the Reserves had been called out, and he was happy to say that they had promptly obeyed the call. But in the present case they had not called out the Reserves, but only requested them to volunteer. Volunteering in a certain limited condition had been in progress since September last, and already from 1,700 to 1,800 volunteers had offered and been accepted. The conditions were now very greatly extended; but, should volunteering fail to meet the necessities, the Government would not hesitate to call out the Reserves. In further reply to the hon. Member, he would point out that, as recruiting had been progressing very rapidly during the last two years, it was not surprising that there were in the Army a large number of men who had not completed their course of musketry. He did not think that there was any foundation for the statement that garrison duty was now so severe that insufficient time was left in which to train young soldiers in other respects. He regretted that the hon. Member should have thought it necessary to repeat a story, not authenticated, which he had heard about a discreditable panic among our soldiers in Zululand. On the occasion referred to, an alarm occurred in connection with a night attack, which, if true, was not, perhaps, altogether creditable to the officers and men concerned; but it did not assume grave proportions at all.


said, that the occurrence had been described to him by an eye-witness. He had not related it in order to discredit either officers or men, but to show the danger of sending young and untried soldiers into the field.


said, he imagined, notwithstanding this disclaimer, that the great majority of the officers would consider this scare or panic, if true, was discreditable. At the same time, he thought it would have become the hon. Member to make sure that the story was not exaggerated. In regard to the manner of the reception given by the Government to the extremely satisfactory offers which had recently been made by our Colonies, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) was labouring under a mistake. Only one of the offers in question—namely, that from New South Wales—was an offer to send an actually-organized Force at a moment's notice, for which the means of transport were provided, and that offer was accepted without any hesitation whatever. That contingent could leave Australia and reach Suakin as soon as the Expeditionary Force despatched from this country. The case of the other Colonies was different. While the Government did not want to make the slightest distinction between the patriotic spirit which animated every one of them, yet they were not offers of corps ready to be embarked on the instant, and they could not arrive at Suakin until after the attack on, and the dispersal of, Osman Digna's Force would have taken place. Those corps would, therefore, have had to remain at Suakin during the whole summer awaiting the autumn operations. The Government, however, had not declined any offer, and they were now in communication with the Representatives of the Colonies, with a view of ascertaining the exact amount of assistance which each Colony was in a position to supply, and the best way in which it could be utilized. He thought it would have been unbusiness-like and unwise if the Government, without making inquiry, had said to the Colonies—"Send us as many troops as you like to Suakin; we will do the best we can with them when they arrive." An hon. Member had observed that it was curious that Lord Wolseley, who was the great champion of the short-service system, should have asked that old soldiers should be sent out to form the Camel Corps. In answer to that he had to say that, to the best of his belief, Lord Wolseley had not stipulated that the men should be over a certain age. It was, of course, not usual to send men under 20 on active service.


said, he wished to ask a question with regard to the offers from the Colonies; but he must first remark that if the noble Marquess could always answer questions on behalf of the Government, the House would never have to complain of that levity and want of sympathy with patriotic proposals which were sometimes manifested by Members of the Ministry. It appeared to him Lord Derby was using in this Government the same invigorating influence that he employed in the late Ministry, and with the same result. He wanted to know why the offers of the Colonies were not accepted at once, the execution of them being delayed till the close of the summer? He understood that the offers were refused, but that the Colonies were told that they might renew them at a later date. This caused a great damp to the spirits of the Colonies, who believed, up to this very moment, that their offers of assistance had been refused, which was a fact greatly to be deplored. Why, he asked, had no Papers been presented to Parliament on the subject? Perhaps now the House might be given a specimen of the literary composition on this very important matter of the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Office, who seemed to occupy a middle place between a wet blanket and a up as tree. He also wished to know what was the intention of the Government with regard to the remaining soldiers in the garrison of Kassala? They were entitled to know whether the splendid defence of Kassala would be thrown away, like that of Khartoum? The intelligence of the fall of Khartoum did not make any impression on Her Majesty's Government, and certainly not upon the Head of it. He wished to ask the Representatives of the Government present to inform the House distinctly whether they had any policy at all with regard to Kassala, or whether they intended to allow the remainder of that garrison to be sacrificed as ruthlessly as the other garrisons which had depended on the word of Her Majesty's Government?

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 149: Majority 130.—(Div. List, No. 36.)

Main Question again proposed.


said, that, as no answer had been given, he felt bound to repeat his question as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the Kassala garrison. Were Her Majesty's Government going to abandon Kassala, and allow its garrison to be massacred and slaughtered, as the garrisons of other places in the Soudan had been massacred and slaughtered? He did not desire in any way to interfere with the military preparations of the Government; but he desired an answer to this plain question—Did Her Majesty's Government intend to raise no finger to assist the Kassala garrison in its present great straits? He considered he was entitled to an answer to his question.


, in reply, said, ho was sorry he was not in his place when the hon. Gentleman put this question before; but he did not think that he was able to add very much to what ho stated on this subject at Question-time that day, and also on Friday. He then stated that Lieutenant Colonel Chermside, the Egyptian Governor of the Red Sea Littoral, had instructions to do all he could, through Native tribes, and also by means of communications with the King of Abyssinia, to carry provisions into the town, or facilitate the retreat of the Kassala garrison. This was quite irrespective of the recent Treaty with the King of Abyssinia, of which he had spoken. An idea had got abroad that by that Treaty the King of Abyssinia engaged to march to Kassala and relieve it. That was not so. He had merely undertaken to facilitate the retreat of the garrison through his territory. Colonel Chermside had been directed to enter into arrangements by which the assistance of the King of Abyssinia could be utilized. It was very easy to reproach the Government; but ho would ask hon. Members not to confine themselves to attack, but to ask themselves what measures they would themselves suggest. Kassala was 290 miles inland. How did the hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth propose that the Kassala garrison should be rescued? Nobody could sympathize more deeply than himself, and so did Her Majesty's Government, with the position of the Kassala garrison, or more admire its gallantry; but, so far as the circumstances of time and place permitted, they had done all that it was in their power to do.


said, that that was not the first time on which the House had heard from the Government of their deep sympathy with these garrisons. He was quite willing to believe in the existence of that sympathy; but what was the good of it, since it did nothing whatever to help the garrisons? At the very time that the Government were sending messages of a very flattering and grateful nature to General Gordon, they had declined to take any action to rescue him. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) asked hon. Members to do what was essentially the duty of the Government. By the original mission of General Gordon, they undertook to do what they could to rescue the garrisons; and it was not for the Government to ask hon. Gentlemen to suggest what plan they would recommend. But that was not all. As had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir H. Drummond Wolff), something had been recently sanctioned by the Government which materially interfered with the steps that might otherwise have been taken to rescue the garrisons. Massowah had been occupied y the Italian Government; and so far as could be gathered from the statement of the noble Lord, to which he had listened most attentively, it was Her Majesty's Government who first suggested that Massowah should be one of the places occupied by Italy. This, it was said, had materially hindered the Egyptian authorities on the coast from carrying out those measures of relief on which they had determined; nor was that unnatural, having regard to the fact that the Italians occupied Massowah without the assent of the Sultan. That occupation, for which Her Majesty's Government was responsible, had, therefore, thrown on them a still greater duty to provide for the relief of Kassala. He did not suggest that they should send an Expedition of British troops to relieve it; but since Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned the occupation of Massowah by Italian troops, and since that had interfered with the operations which Colonel Chermside was prepared to take for the relief of Kassala, they ought, in some way or other, to approach the Italian Government on the matter, and endeavour to get it to go to the assistance of Kassala. He threw that out as a suggestion, and would make a present of it to Her Majesty's Govern- ment; but, of course, he was ignorant of many of the circumstances of the case. The Government only were acquainted with all the circumstances. They had undertaken, by the original mission of General Gordon, and by repeated assurances, to do what was possible to relieve the garrisons, and the House of Commons should call on the Government to fulfil their obligations. Turning to another matter, the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had made some very apposite remarks on the way in which the advances so patriotically made by the Colonial Governments had been received by Her Majesty's Government. It was impossible to tell precisely what had happened in the matter until the Papers were presented; and he hoped that, with as much despatch as possible, they might be laid on the Table.


said, it had always seemed to him that these garrisons had been rather hardly used. It seemed to him that they could have been relieved much more easily than the garrison of Khartoum. They had been encouraged to resist, and an immense amount of bloodshed had been the consequence. He could not help thinking that, if they had been left to themselves, they would have fared very much better, and would probably have made terms with the Mahdi. He feared it was possible that, in consequence of the action of the Government in connection with the occupation of Massowah by the Italians, they might have given offence to the King of Abyssinia, who could have given us more assistance in this matter than anybody else. He wished to explain his action in not opposing the Government in the division which had just been taken. He thought it his duty to oppose anything that led to what he considered the most intolerable insanity of this great Expedition to the Soudan, and he should do so at every stage and in every form. But he had also felt that, owing to our having this Egyptian millstone, as it were, around our necks, we were being kicked all over the world; and he thought that, under all the circumstances of the country, they would be wrong in attempting to deprive the country of the services of the Militia, or doing anything to weaken our defensive position at home.


said, his hon. Friend (Sir H. Drummond Wolff) had brought forward a most painful subject; and it was not worthy of the noble Lord, as a Minister of the Crown, to make such an answer. The fact was, the noble Lord wished again to shirk responsibility, in the same way that the Government had done through all that affair. He had no business to ask a private Member of the Opposition—"What would your policy be?" He did not wish to use strong language in that House on this subject; but he should use it outside. It was this constant shirking of responsibility which had led the country to complain of the conduct of the Government. It was said that some general instructions had been given to Colonel Chermside; but would those instructions save the starving garrison of Kassala? His own belief was that the whole garrison would go like Khartoum. The noble Lord came forward to try to deceive the public by saying that the Opposition should have saved Khartoum. He could tell the noble Lord one thing—that, if the Conservatives had been in Office, they would not have allowed these garrisons to be sacrificed piecemeal as they had been. The Government had, in order to secure votes, run the Franchise Bill against Gordon, who had unfortunately been sacrificed.

Main Question put, and agreed to. Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Message communicating to this House that Her Majesty had thought it necessary to direct, by Proclamation, that certain persons, who would otherwise be entitled, in pursuance of the terms of their enlistment, to be transferred to the Reserve, shall continue in Army Service for such period, not exceeding the period for which they might be required to serve if they were transferred to the Reserve and called out for permanent service, as to Her Majesty may seem expedient.

To be presented by Privy Councillors.

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