§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ ARMY, 1884–5.
§ ADDITIONAL NUMBER OF MEN.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON,
in rising to move—That a further number of Land Forces, not exceeding 3,000 men (all ranks), he maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, at Home and Abroad, during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1885,said: Although the Resolution to be put from the Chair is only for additional men, it will, I think, be convenient that I should make a short statement upon the subject of these Supplemental Estimates, both as to men and to money; and perhaps it would be most convenient, before I refer to the Vote for additional men, that I should first refer to the Money Vote before the Committee. The Members of the Committee will have seen that the Estimate is divided into two portions—namely, £270,000 for what maybe called the ordinary Services, and £672,000, which is the sum required in connection with the operations in the Soudan. It will probably not be necessary for me to say anything on this occasion as to the addition of £270,000 to the ordinary Estimates. That sum is required almost, if not quite, entirely for additional expenditure under Vote 12 for warlike supplies. Various circumstances, into the details of which I need not now enter, have retarded the proper provision of warlike supplies of various kinds for some time, especially the provision of larger powder used for heavy guns, of which there was not a large store, and for which, it was stated, last year, a large order had been given. If any further explanation should be required as to the details of this expenditure, my hon. Friend the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Brand) will be able to give it better than I can. As to the war expenditure of £672,000, I wish to point out to the Committee that only the small sum of £15,000 is due to the past operations—that is to say, for the Suakin Campaign in the spring of last year, or the Nile Expedi- 454 tion that is now being conducted under Lord Wolseley's command. The sum the Committee will now be asked to vote includes a sum of £15,000 for gratuities to the troops engaged in the Suakin Expedition; and, with the exception of that sum, all the expenses of that Expedition have already been met by the Votes passed by the House. For the Nile Expedition, which is now in progress under Lord Wolseley, the Committee will remember that two sums of £300,000 and £1,000,000 have been already voted, the first in the form of a Vote of Credit, and the additional £1,000,000 in the Supplemental Estimate presented to the House in the Autumn Session of last year. Of course, I cannot speak, at the present moment, with absolute certainty on the subject; but there is every reason to believe that those two sums, amounting together to £1,300,000, will cover the whole cost of the Expedition up the Nile that will come in course of payment during the present year. I say I cannot speak with absolute certainty; but I believe it to be the opinion of my Financial Advisers that the fact I have stated may be relied upon. Of course, we have the means of knowing what amount of expenditure has been incurred in this country in providing supplies, and for boats and stores sent out for the purposes of the Expedition; and we have also the means of ascertaining, with very tolerable accuracy, what is the amount that has been expended in Egypt itself. The local expenditure has been met, and must be met, almost entirely by remittances from this country; and, therefore, I think there is very little reason to doubt that we are informed, with tolerable accuracy, at all events, as to what has been the expenditure in connection with that Expedition. I think, perhaps, when the Committee bear in mind the statements made from time to time in some of the newspapers respecting the enormous expenditure incurred for this Expedition—some persons putting it at many millions—it will be satisfactory to the Committee to know that the expenditure hitherto incurred in the Expedition will be almost entirely met by the sums already voted by Parliament. Well, Sir, the Committee also is not asked to vote anything more for prospective operations on the Nile. It will be the duty of the Govern- 455 ment as soon as possible to frame and I to present to the House an Estimate of all the expenditure which, in their judgment, will be necessary in connection with the continuation and probable extension of the operations now being carried on by Lord Wolseley. As I have said, the sums which have already been provided meet the expenditure up to the end of the current year. It will be desirable, before presenting further Estimates or a Vote of Credit to the House, that we should have an opportunity of forming the most accurate estimate we can of the probable expenditure at a later date; and I shall not attempt, until it is absolutely necessary, to state to the House what further sum it will be necessary for us to ask for. Under the circumstances, perhaps it might not be necessary for me to say anything further, at this stage, respecting the Nile Expedition. Certainly, in the few observations which I shall venture to address to the Committee on that subject, I shall endeavour to abstain altogether from re-opening, as far as I am concerned, any of those subjects of controversy which we discussed at considerable length a short time ago. But I am unwilling to pass by the Nile Expedition altogether on such an occasion as this without saying a few words to express the sense I feel, the sense the Government feel, and the sense I am sure the whole House and the country feel, with regard to the conduct of the General Officer in command, the officers under him, and the non-commissioned officers and men who have taken part in that campaign. We, all of us, share the disappointment, to which Lord Wolseley has given expression in a recent General Order to the troops, at their failure to secure the main object of the Expedition—namely, to relieve their gallant comrade and countryman, General Gordon; and while we share that disappointment, we desire that they should feel assured that we acquit them of all blame for having failed in that object, and also that we feel under the greatest obligations to them for the exertions they have made and the sacrifices they have undergone. As to the plan of campaign, I do not think it is necessary that I should say much now. No doubt, the difficulty of ascending the Nile has caused a longer delay in the operations than was anticipated; but I 456 do not think that even now, after the experience we have gained, there is any reason to doubt that the plan adopted by Lord Wolseley was the best, and probably the only practicable one. There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the statement made by Lord Wolseley in the despatch which has been laid upon the Table of the House, in which he says that he was satisfied that the plan of ascending the Nile by means of small-built boats was a success. He uses this expression—In fact, our small English-built boats have been, so far, a complete success, and without them it would have been simply impossible for the Expedition to have reached Korti, or to have made any provision for the relief of Khartoum.Without dwelling any further on the plan of operations, which might give rise to differences of opinion among the Members of the Committee, I will pass on to the conduct of the troops engaged in this Expedition, as to which there can be no difference at all. Lord Wolseley says in the same despatch which I have just quoted—Although the physical obstacles encountered in the ascent of the Nile above the Second Cataract have been considerable, and although the labour of surmounting the many Cataracts between Sarrass and Hannek has tested, to a remarkable degree, the strength and endurance of the troops, the advance of the boats up the river has been accomplished in a manner which has reflected the highest credit upon all ranks, and has conclusively proved, if proof were wanting, that Her Majesty's soldiers of to-day possess all that strength of body and that military pride and regimental spirit for which the British Army has been long renowned.Since that time Lord Wolseley has had to call upon his men for the display of other qualities in addition to those of strength and endurance. Very shortly after that despatch was written they had to prove, not only their strength and endurance, but their courage and bravery in action. The accounts which we have received of the battle of Abu Klea recently, and which are fuller than those previously published, I think the Committee will be satisfied fully support the words both of Sir Herbert Stewart and of Lord Wolseley, which appear in the despatches of those gallant officers. Sir Herbert Stewart says—It has been my duty to command a force from which exceptional work, exceptional hardships, and, it may be added, exceptional fighting has been asked. It would be impossible for me adequately to describe the admirable support 457 that has been given to me by every officer and man of the Force.Lord Wolseley says—All ranks have displayed that discipline and those high fighting qualities for which Her Majesty's Army has always been renowned.The newspaper reports show that the Forces under the gallant and lamented General Earle displayed just as high military qualities as those exhibited by the men under the command of General Stewart, of whom I have already spoken. Passing, with these observations, from the operations on the Nile, I shall now endeavour to state what are the present proposals of Her Majesty's Government, and what is involved in them. We have not concealed our opinion that, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves placed, by the betrayal of General Gordon and the consequent fall of Khartoum, an ultimate advance to and the recapture of that place and the destruction of the Mahdi's power will probably be necessary. [Lord EUSTACE CECIL: Probably?] Yes, probably. But the Supplementary Estimates the Committee are now asked to vote do not necessarily commit and do not pledge the Committee to the prosecution of that policy. The measures which we are now asking the Committee to sanction, and which are involved in the adoption of this Vote, are measures which, in our own opinion, are required whether the House should ultimately sanction the policy or not, which we have laid before the House, of an advance upon Khartoum. Before Lord Wolseley was in full possession of the views of the Government, and when he was discussing the probability of doing, as a matter of choice, that which subsequent events compelled him to do as a matter of necessity—namely, to go into summer quarters in certain positions between Dongola and Korti, and before he was in possession of our views as to the necessity of an advance on Khartoum, he stated that, in his opinion, the first measure that it was absolutely necessary to take in order to secure the safety of his Army was the despatch of an Expedition to Suakin to disperse the Forces under Osman Digna. If Lord Wolseley is not to abandon the Nile, but is to advance upon Khartoum and destroy the power of the Mahdi, it is obviously necessary that a large Force threatening his left flank should be dis- 458 persed. It would not be consistent with the safety of Lord Wolseley's Army that, while engaged in attacking the unknown numbers of the Mahdi's Forces, he should be exposed to a considerable Force from Suakin, threatening his communications, and attacking him on his left flank. Therefore we have sent, and are sending, and we ask the Committee by this Vote to sanction, an Expedition to Suakin, under General Sir Gerald Graham, to disperse the Forces of Osman Digna. That Expedition will consist of about 12,000 men, including those who are already at Suakin; and its composition will be as follows:—Of the British troops there will be four squadrons of Cavalry, one battery of Horse Artillery, one screw-gun battery; three companies of Engineers, one railway company, besides telegraph and balloon detachments; three battalions of Foot Guards, three battalions of Infantry of the Line, besides one of Marines, together with the necessary Commissariat, Transport, and Medical Staff. There will, in addition, be an Indian Contingent which is coming from India, which consists of one regiment of Cavalry, three battalions of Infantry, and one company of Sappers. There will also be the New South Wales Contingent, which will consist of 800 men, making the whole Force something over 12,000, and the immediate object of this Army will be to disperse the Forces under Osman Digna. When it has achieved that object, it will hold the principal positions in the country hitherto occupied by Osman Digna, and will prevent a renewal of his power—such a renewed concentration of his Forces as took place after the battle of El Teb and the operations near Suakin last year. It will also open the route to Berber, as far as it is possible for it to be opened; and in the event of Lord Wolseley's further advance upon Berber and Khartoum it will co-operate with him. In order to complete these operations it is proposed immediately to commence a railway from Suakin to Berber. The plant for a section has already been sent out, and the material for another section of the same length has been ordered, and will be sent out without loss of time. I understand that the portion of this Vote which is to be chiefly resisted to-night is that which has to be put down for 459 the commencement of this railway; but I must acknowledge that I am somewhat at a loss to understand on what ground the opposition is based by those who admit the necessity of any operations of this character at all. It will be undertaken essentially as a military weapon, and a military operation, in aid of a military object. In the event of a combined operation by way of the Nile and by Suakin and Berber on Khartoum, the construction of the railway, if possible, as far as Berber would be an enormous advantage. "We hope it will be constructed, and if it were constructed I think it would go very far to insure the absolute success of such an operation. If that is not possible, under the conditions in which we are placed, the construction of a railway for a shorter distance will be, I admit, a less, but still a distinct and substantial, advantage. The country which intervenes between Suakin and Berber, although it contains a certain number of wells, is a desert. The first portion of it is rocky and mountainous; the last portion—at least, 100 miles of it—is sandy; but through the whole length of the route it is but indifferently supplied with water, and it affords no provision or supply for an army advancing through it. Lord Wolseley has lately estimated the loss of camels, in desert marching, at 5 per cent for every 100 miles. It is obvious, therefore, I think, that every mile this railway is constructed from Suakin will be of immense advantage to any force that is advancing from Suakin in the direction of the Nile, even if it is not found possible to make it for more than a limited distance. Even in the event of the Suakin route to Berber not being used at all, still, for the purpose of supplying the troops who will have to occupy positions in this portion of the country in order to prevent the renewed concentration of troops under Osman Digna, it will be of the greatest possible advantage, and, in my opinion, almost an absolute necessity. The terms of the agreement which has been made with the contractors, Messrs. Lucas and Aird, are before the Committee. From them the Committee will see that the character of the work is purely military. It is to be carried on for military purposes, under military supervision, in accordance with, and in subordination to, mili- 460 tary requirements. We are not, as I have already said, indifferent to the possible advantages which may be conferred upon the country by the construction of the railway as a permanent work; but that is not the object we are asking the Committee to sanction in the present case. A question has been asked as to the great importance of the improvement of the Nile railway, and of the communications by means of the Nile. That part of the subject has not been neglected. Although Lord Wolseley has asked that the Suakin line should be constructed, he attaches equal importance—if not greater importance—in fact, he does attach greater importance—to the development of the means of communication by the Nile route. Upon a requisition which we have received from him, which will be before the House in a few days, materials have been ordered for the extension of 40 or 50 miles of the existing railway from Sarrass to Terket, which will enable a considerable number of the worst Cataracts of the Nile to be turned, and will give greater facilities for conveying supplies to the troops. Materials will also be sent out for constructing light tramways round some other Cataracts which exist in the neighbourhood of Dongola. Lord Wolseley has also asked for a number of steamboats of various descriptions, and of light draught, suitable for Nile navigation. Steps are being taken, without delay, to supply these requirements; but the Committee will not be asked to provide any part of the payment for these preparations, because they will not come in course of payment during the present financial year. I think it is only necessary further to give some explanation as to the additional men. We are asking the Committee at present to vote 3,000 men in addition to those who were voted in the ordinary Estimates of the present financial year. This is the number by which we think it is probable that the number voted by Parliament will be actually exceeded within the limits of the present year; and the sum of £10,000, which was taken for recruiting in the Supplementary Estimates under Vote I., will, it is believed, cover the excess payment which will be involved in the present year. The actual numbers were, during 461 a considerable portion of the financial year, below the numbers voted by Parliament; and it was, I think, only in the last month of the year that the numbers actually exceeded the establishment. It will be premature to state what will be the total increase in the numbers of the Army which we should ask for in consequence of these operations for the next financial year; but the sum of £10,000 already voted by Parliament will, it is thought, cover the payment of troops in the present year. The number of 15,000 has been mentioned, and that is about the number which would be involved, and to which the men actually under orders at the present time might have to be increased. Although the Committee is not asked to sanction this addition to the numbers of the Army, it would be desirable that I should state at once what are the measures which have been and which are being taken with respect to the regimental establishments. There are at present 15 regiments of the Line which have both their battalions abroad. In these regiments transfer to the Reserve is now suspended. By the suspension of transfer to the Reserve one of the greatest sources of depletion to the regimental establishments will be temporarily suspended; but those battalions will, of course, notwithstanding this circumstance, require drafts to supply casualties in the field and casualties caused by invaliding. These drafts will be provided from men left behind in depots, and who, though not sufficiently trained to accompany their regiments abroad, are, of course, daily completing their course of instruction, and are fit to serve in the draft. They will also be supplied by the volunteers from the Reserve who are being called up, and who are, when their services are required, collected together at the regimental depots. It will also be necessary to make provision for the large drain which will come upon these regiments as soon as the campaign is over. As soon as the campaign is over the transfer of men to the Reserve will be resumed; and, of course, both battalions would very soon lose a large number of their seasoned soldiers. It is necessary to make provision for all these contingencies; and in the case of regiments with both battalions abroad, it is necessary, under the scheme of the present territorial orga- 462 nization, to raise the strength of the regimental depots to the establishment of 600 men. That increase in regard to these 15 regiments will cause an increase in the establishment of 8,000 men. In addition to that, as the battalions sent abroad are those highest on the roster and highest on the Home establishment, those which are left behind are those with the lowest establishment. As the highest establishment battalions are those sent abroad, it is considered necessary to raise the establishment of those next on the roster to a corresponding rank, in order to take the place of those which are gone, and, if necessary, to provide reinforcements as they are required. For every battalion which is sent abroad, therefore, it is necessary to raise the Home battalion from the lowest to the highest establishment. That process will require another 2,600 men. By these two processes an addition of 10,600 men will be required. The other additions necessary will be in the Foot Guards, of whom three battalions have gone to Suakin, and they will require either depôts or a corresponding increase in the battalions which are left behind. They will require depôts, or an increase in the Home battalions of the regiment of 300 each; that will amount to 900 men. There are also already serving in the Camel Corps with Lord Wolseley 280 men taken from the battalions of Guards. Authority was at once given to replace these men on the establishment, so that the total addition to the Foot Guards will be 1,180 men. There is an addition also to the establishment of the Cavalry. The 19th Hussars are in Egypt, and that regiment will require a depot estimated at 110 men. There are also the men who have been drained from the various Cavalry regiments at home for service abroad. Authority has already been given to replace these men, and that will involve a further addition of 760 men. Thus the total increase to the Cavalry under the measures already taken will be 870. Then there are several companies of Engineers which are on active service. They will have to be raised to their war establishment, which will cause an addition of 500 men to that corps. There are, besides, minor increases in the establishment, which I do not think it is necessary that I should 463 explain to the Committee at the present time.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
No, Sir; there is no increase in the Artillery at present contemplated. The only other subject to which I need refer in this Supplementary Estimate is the Militia. As I have already shown, the number of this branch of the Service ordinarily at home has been very much diminished by the requirements of these operations; and it is necessary, in order that the ordinary garrison duty required at home should not fall too heavily on the remaining men, and that the military instruction should be conducted as usual, that some relief should be given in the performance of ordinary garrison duty. It is, therefore, proposed to embody at once two small brigades of Artillery and six battalions of Militia. That is all the House is asked to sanction at present. If further explanations are required I will endeavour to give them; but I have said all that is necessary for me in moving the Supplementary Estimates which are now on the Table of the House.
(1.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further number of Land Forces, not exceeding 3,000 men (all ranks), he maintained for the service of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, at Home and Abroad, during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1885."—[The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, there were one or two points in the statement of the noble Marquess upon which he desired to say a few words. The noble Marquess had stated that the Nile Expedition experienced great difficulty and great delay, owing to the difficulties that had to be overcome in the ascent of the river. But there was strong evidence that the delay in ascending the river was caused by the dilatoriness of Her Majesty's Government in sending out the Expedition. Lord Wolseley, in a despatch which was quoted the other day, expressed his deep regret that the Expedition had not started from England a month earlier. What, however, he wished to lay before the Committee was the apparent purposeless-ness of the Expedition to Suakin, as at present designed. They had 464 been given to understand, from the statement of the noble Marquess, that the policy of the Expedition was practically to be one of massacre and retire. Osman Digna's Force was to be smashed, and his concentration in the future was to be prevented. That concentration would have been prevented, and would have been impossible, if General Graham's Forces had not been recalled as they were last March; and it was only to be prevented now by a great sacrifice of blood and money, by an Expedition of 12,000 of the choicest troops of the Empire. What he desired information upon chiefly now had reference to the position of the town and garrison of Kassala. There were 25,000 human beings at Kassala, for whose safety Her Majesty's Government were responsible; but it would seem that they had been deliberately abandoned by the policy of the Government to massacre and slavery. It had been stated in "another place," by an important Member of the Government, that Kassala was "outside the sphere of the operations of Her Majesty's troops." But Kassala could be relieved from Suakin or from Massowah; and if this great Expedition of 12,000 men, embracing a considerable contingent from Her Majesty's Indian Army, was to have any practical result whatever, it was clear that the relief of Kassala ought to be included in its operations. He had stated that Her Majesty's Government were responsible for the present condition of Kassala. It would be remembered that, owing to the policy pursued by the Ministry, the Egyptian Army was partially destroyed, and subsequently disbanded; so that the only means by which the Khedive could have relieved the suffering garrison of Kassala was destroyed by the operations of Her Majesty's Government. By an act of policy, for which the Government were clearly responsible, they had prevented the Khedive from obtaining that assistance from his Sovereign, the Sultan of Turkey, which he was anxious to obtain, which he asked to be allowed to obtain, and which would have enabled the garrisons in the Eastern Soudan to have been relieved in time and with success. Very piteous appeals were now coming from Suakin and Massowah in regard to the 25,000 persons whose lives 465 were at stake; and yet precisely the same policy was being pursued by Her Majesty's Ministers which had been so fatal in the case of Sinkat, Berber, and Khartoum. There had been the same warnings in regard to Kassala which they had had in reference to Sinkat and Berber last February and March; and yet the Government were absolutely taking no steps whatever for the relief of these 25,000 persons. Indeed, a Member of Her Majesty's Government in "another place" was not ashamed to state that measures for the relief of Kassala were outside the sphere of the operations of Her Majesty's troops. He ventured to think that that statement was the death warrant of those 25,000 people in Kassala, or a large portion of them. Hitherto every garrison which had fallen, and every town which had been taken by the Mahdi, had been given over to inhuman butchery. ["No!"] He should like to know when there had been an exception? [Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL: At Khartoum.] The hon. Gentleman opposite said "Khartoum;" but the evidence was very strong indeed that the taking of Khartoum by the Forces of the Mahdi resulted in a scene of horrible carnage and butchery. The evidence to that effect was overwhelmingly strong—namely, that all those who had been faithful to General Gordon and had assisted him in his defence of Khartoum were ruthlessly slaughtered. It was known that 5,000 persons were massacred at Berber. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The Prime Minister gave an indignant protest; but General Gordon stated this distinctly in one of his despatches. [Mr. GLADSTONE again dissented.] What evidence could satisfy the Prime Minister? What evidence had the Government to the contrary? What evidence would they put against the statement of General Gordon, who was nearer the scene of operations than anybody else, and had the best means of obtaining information? It was well known that Berber was taken by storm, and they knew that there were large masses of refugees there, besides the garrison, and that those who were not given over to massacre had been sold into slavery. He should like to know what evidence Her Majesty's Government could produce in refutation of that statement? The evidence was perfectly 466 clear that what happened at Sinkat, where the entire Force was slaughtered, had also taken place at Berber, where, to quote Gordon's own words, "5,000 were massacred." And what happened at Khartoum? There, again, the evidence was conclusive that the garrison and the inhabitants who were friendly to General Gordon met a similar fate. It had been clearly shown, from their past policy, that Her Majesty's Government were responsible for the safety of these towns, and for the disasters which had happened. The Prime Minister was peculiarly responsible, because it was his declarations in regard to the abandonment of the Soudan which had led to all these misfortunes. Very remarkable indeed was the information which came the other day from Cairo, and which was well worthy the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. It came from The Times Correspondent, who stated that—Two tribes in the neighbourhood of Korti' recently friendly, have declared for the Mahdi This change, necessitating our retirement to Dongola, is the first direct result of Mr. Gladstone's fatal declaration, which has increased 50 per cent the difficulties of our task and the dangers of our troops. Lord Wolseley's sensible speech to General Gordon's men was an unavailing effort to counteract the effect of that declaration. With some pardonable excitement, the persons in Cairo who have relations and friends in the British Forces ask whether nothing can be done to prevent the safety of our troops from being imperilled by the acts of the English Cabinet.The speech in question was one in which Lord Wolseley assured the Soudanese troops that Her Majesty's Government intended to retake Khartoum and destroy the Mahdi, and, if necessary, they would remain there for 100 years. No one could blame Lord Wolseley, in the difficult position in which he found himself, for using language which might, perhaps, seem to hon. Members living in security here somewhat hyperbolical and strained. It was, however, no doubt, language that it was necessary to use in order to counteract the injurious effects of the statements of the Prime Minister. It was curious and remarkable how the same fatal effect had been produced at Suakin with regard to the fate and fortunes of the garrison of Kassala by the rash words of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
The words were not referred to directly in the despatch; but he had not the 467 slightest doubt that it meant the statement of the Prime Minister on the opening day of the present Sitting after the holidays, when he said that the Government still adhered to their policy of the evacuation or the abandonment of the Soudan. This the right hon. Gentleman afterwards endeavoured to explain away, or walk round, by stating that he did not mean abandonment.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that he certainly should be sorry indeed to do what the right hon. Gentleman did, and endeavour to make it appear that the important utterances he had delivered in the House had no meaning whatever. It would be in the recollection of the House that on the first night of the Session the Prime Minister stated that the Government still adhered to the policy of evacuation or abandonment. It would also be in the distinct recollection of the House that on a later occasion, to the intense surprise of hon. Members, the right hon. Gentleman stated that he had never referred to the evacuation of the Soudan by the British troops, but that he only meant the evacuation of Egypt.
I shall be obliged if the hon. Gentleman, when he chooses to make references to what has fallen from me, will not make every one of those references substantially inaccurate.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he would repeat his statement in order that it might be substantially verified. It was that on the first night of the Session the Prime Minister said that the Government still adhered to their original and consistent policy of evacuation. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) was in the recollection of the House. On a subsequent occasion, three or four days later, when the attention of the right hon. Gentleman was called to the speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had never alluded to the policy of evacuation by the British troops, but that he had only spoken of the policy of evacuation by Egypt. He (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) was quite prepared to submit the substantial accuracy of these quotations to subsequent verification by the right hon. Gentleman, or by hon. Gentlemen who so rashly cheered him from below the Gangway. There was another state- 468 ment, to which he desired to call attention, which coincided with the passage he had just read from Cairo. A telegram sent by the Correspondent of The Standard from Suakin on the 22nd of February said that—Mr. Gladstone's statement in Parliament that the Government was still determined, after marching to Khartoum, to evacuate the Soudan, has created something like consternation both among the English and Natives here. There is a unanimity of feeling of absolute amazement that the English Government can be ignorant of the effect which such premature pledges must have in stultifying all the strenuous efforts of our agents, who have for months been striving, by dint of cautious and laborious diplomacy, to strengthen the allegiance of the friendly tribes, and to prevent the waverers from openly joining the enemy. … The determination expressed to crush the Mahdi is altogether overshadowed in the Native mind by that to abandon the Soudan. The news known here to-day will be carried to-morrow across the Desert. In 10 days it will be known at Berber and Khartoum, and throughout the whole of the Valley of the Upper Nile, and will be a direct incitement on the part of the English Government to every tribe in the Soudan to rise on the flanks and rear of our little Army there, for it is a notice that all who take our part or show us friendship will be finally abandoned to the vengeance of the Mahdi. The most intense bitterness is felt and expressed by officers and men here. They feel that the Government has thus once more, at a critical moment, increased the difficulties and dangers of their arduous undertaking, and has added one more to the series of blunders which will have to be retrieved by their life-blood. The declaration last year that the Soudan was to be abandoned doomed General Gordon's mission to failure, and cost him his life. The consequences of the reiteration of that pledge to-day are likely to prove scarcely less disastrous.Already it was reported that Osman Digna was receiving large reinforcements, partly from Khartoum and partly from the wavering tribes. Whatever the real meaning of the declaration was, its effect upon the position of our Forces on the Nile under Lord Wolseley, and at Suakin under General Graham, was undoubted. Osman Digna had now advanced to such a pitch of boldness that he had summoned our officer at Suakin to surrender, and had announced that the garrison of Kassala was on the point of falling. With Kassala would go 4,000 brave troops, who had defended themselves for 12 months, and 25,000 helpless people, to whom General Gordon, in the name of Her Majesty, had repeatedly promised assistance and rescue. Under the pretence of relieving, Her Majesty's Government had made a ridi- 469 culous and abortive Treaty with the King of Abyssinia, for the carrying out of which not a single step had been taken. If this Expedition of 12,000 British and Indian troops, now being sent at an unseasonable period to Suakin, was not to effect the relief of Kassala, he would like to know for what purpose this enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure was being undertaken? If the garrison and the whole population of 25,000 persons shared the fate of Sinkat, Berber, and Khartoum, he, for one, would not be responsible. ["Oh!"] He considered that every Member of the House had some responsibility in the matter. It was to acquit himself of what he admitted to be a very small and insignificant portion of the common responsibility, but which was a responsibility that he felt and appreciated, that he had risen to call the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers, of Parliament, and of the country to this cruel betrayal of a large garrison and population, for the safety of whom Her Majesty's Ministers had made themselves directly answerable. The same Correspondent from whom he had already quoted stated—Kassala is the second city of the Soudan. It contains a population of at least 20,000 souls, and is the keystone of the line of Frontier strongholds, Senheit, Amadib, Ghira, and Gullabat, all of which are still resisting the Mahdi's power. The city has now been completely isolated for 12 months, and its garrison of 3,000 Regular Egyptian troops and 2,000 irregulars has maintained an heroic resistance, second only to that which Khartoum, animated by the presence and spirit of General Gordon, opposed to the enemy. The supplies of provisions and ammunition have for a long time been known to be running short.And he went on to point out how it might be relieved—By one of two alternatives. If, as is now talked of, a portion of our Expedition lands at Trinkitat, and occupies Tokar, a flying column must be sent South to scour the country, disperse and put down the Hadendowas, and reopen communications between the Frontier strongholds and the sea.…Unless one or other of these alternatives is adopted, the splendid defence which Kassala has made will be thrown away, the garrison sacrificed, and Gordon's pledged word, that the garrison should be relieved, dishonoured.The writer went on to point out how Colonel Chermside's efforts for the relief of the city had been rendered nugatory. He said—The unexpected appearance of the Italians upon the scene has, however, paralyzed his efforts, 470 as in the face of a foreign occupation of Massowah he can no longer speak with the authority of the representative of the paramount Power. His measures for the relief of the garrison are, therefore, entirely at a standstill.Kassala was on an extended line of Frontier, along which the Native Tribes were still resisting the Mahdi's power, and for such resistance would be subjected by him, if defeated, to barbarous treatment. He should probably be told by the Government that the difficulties in the way of relief were enormous and insuperable; but he would ask hon. Members seriously to consider how long it had been impossible for well-equipped and well-led British troops to march 260 miles to the relief of the threatened city? It was only 250 miles from Suakin to Berber. From Trinkitat to Kassala was only 60 or 70 miles further than the advance which Sir Herbert Stewart made from Korti to Metammeh without any of the serious difficulties which General Stewart had to encounter, except the presence of the Arabs. It might be undertaken by a General of fair ability without the assistance of a single British soldier. With 3,000 camels a force could be concentrated at Trinkitat or Massowah which would be able to relieve Kassala within a month. He believed there were many Members of the House who would be willing to undertake the Expedition. He did not think that any high military authority, if asked his opinion, would say that it would be a difficult or an impracticable operation. The road which would have to be followed was far better supplied with water than the route between Suakin and Berber, and from Massowah it passed through a fairly fertile country. He thanked the Committee for its kindness in having allowed him to make this protest. Of course, if Her Majesty's Ministers, on the responsibility of their position, said that this large grant of money was necessary in the pursuance of the policy which they considered to be for the interest of the country, he, for one, would not feel himself justified in opposing by his vote the demand which was made upon the Committee that night. At the same time, he must offer the strongest and most emphatic protest against the abandonment of the City of Kassala; and he trusted that the great Expedition which was now massing at Suakin would not, by the want 471 of any foresight or courage on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, be made so absolutely fruitless, wanton, and wicked, as the Expedition of General Graham to Suakin was made last year by the same instrumentality. He did not wish to be misunderstood in regard to what he said upon that point. He threw no blame upon General Graham, or upon the gallant soldiers who fought under him. They did their duty gallantly and well; but what he did say was, that after Ministers had fought the two bloody battles of El Teb and Tamai, which caused the massacre of 6,000 Arabs and 200 British soldiers, then to withdraw their Forces at the very moment that the fruits of victory might have been secured, by opening the road from Suakin to Berber for the relief of Khartoum, was a cruel and wanton waste of life, and it was entirely owing to the weakness and the cowardice of Her Majesty's Government. It was not fear of the Arabs, or of danger to our troops, which caused the recall of General Graham's Army last March, but it was the fear which Her Majesty's Government entertained of the action of hon. Members below the Gangway. It was a little splutter of Radical agitation, which broke out at the time, that caused Her Majesty's Government to waver, hesitate, and ultimately to retreat. It was that which had deprived the country of all the fruits of that campaign, besides leading to a wicked and wanton sacrifice of life. He hoped a similar course would not be pursued again with regard to the operations of General Graham's new Force. He trusted that there would not be a repetition of the policy of the Government after El Teb; that there would be no mere useless smashing of Osman Digna, and then the abandonment of all the fruits of the victory. Such a feeble and pointless course would involve the sacrifice of the garrison of Kassala, and the throwing over of the Soudan to cruel anarchy and fanatical barbarism. Unless Her Majesty's Ministers would undertake to adopt for the future a more manly and more statesmanlike policy than they had pursued in the past, there would be ample justification for opposing the Vote.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
desired, as a point of Order, to ask in what way the Vote would be put to the Committee. He understood that it was one Vote, 472 that being divided into sections, and that each section would be put in order.
said, he gathered from what the Chairman had just stated that the 3,000 men to be voted were to be added to the Army. If they were told that this increase of the Army was necessary under ordinary circumstances for the defence of the country, or for the manning of their garrisons abroad, he thought there would be a fair case for considering the demand; but the Vote was deliberately asked for on account of the military operations that were now taking place in the Soudan. It was because they had had a considerable number of their soldiers occupied in maintaining order in Egypt that they had engaged in this Expedition to the Soudan. The noble Marquess anticipated that 12,000 men would be sent out—if, indeed, they had not already been sent out—to the Soudan, in order to effect some sort of operation against the Arabs in the neighbourhood of Suakin. He gathered from the noble Marquess that the object of this Expedition was to prevent the troops of Osman Digna from being in a position to attack Lord Wolseley. Then it was quite obvious that if Lord Wolseley would only retreat from the position he occupied to Wady Halfa these additional men would not be required. These 12,000 men were sent out to do what was done some time ago—namely, to massacre the Arabs assembled in the neighbourhood of Suakin. He could quite understand the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government if they had adopted the policy of the Opposition, and really intended to advance to Khartoum, and to undertake what had been called the civilization of the country—that was to say, to seize upon the country and open it out to British trade, so that English goods might be sold, and the blessings of civilization spread abroad. That, however, was not the object of the Government. He doubted whether they really intended to go to Khartoum. At first it was said that the intention was to occupy Khartoum and to overthrow the Mahdi; but that had been reduced now by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War to a possible con- 473 tingency of some kind. The noble Marquess said that (certainly it was possible they might ultimately advance to Khartoum; but he by no means declared positively that they should ever go there. Certainly, if he (Mr. Labouchere) thought so he would oppose the Vote. But having, practically, no intention, even if they did advance to Khartoum, of holding the country, he could not understand on what possible grounds the House of Commons ought to be asked to vote this money and these men. The Government seemed to have no policy whatever, except that of tiding over the momentary difficulty; and, under these circumstances, he would certainly divide the Committee against the Vote.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he should like to make a few remarks upon what had been stated by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War. He was glad to hear the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), because he thought no one could, and no one would, deny that it was by the reckless statements of the Prime Minister and the Government, with regard to the abandonment of the Soudan, that all the massacres to which the hon. Member had referred had taken place. Upon the Prime Minister's head especially would rest the indelible disgrace of having made a statement which absolutely caused those massacres, without taking any steps at the time to relieve the garrisons. He was glad that the question had again been raised. After the massacre of Hicks Pasha's Army not a step was taken, except to send from Cairo Baker Pasha and his Army, although the men composing that Force, mostly police, were known to be almost utterly untrustworthy. It suffered the same fate as the Army of Hicks Pasha. Then, again, the Government were too late, although knowing well what the consequences would be, in sending relief to General Gordon. Instead of sending forward the Army of General Graham after the two great battles of El Teb and Tamai, they withdrew it; and what had been the consequence? A series of small, but most irritating attacks, increasing in boldness, month by month, on Suakin. Osman Digna and his Force had now become so intolerable that the same 474 work had now to be done over again solely in consequence of the irresolution and incapacity of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to grapple with the actual facts of the position as they existed at the time. The Prime Minister would never, in future history, get out of the grave responsibility he had incurred by his want of forethought and foresight in going from one position to another without considering what would be the consequence of each step he took. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War began by stating that this Expedition had only cost, up to the present time, £1,300,000. If that was the case, all he could say was that the work had been done far more economically than anyone would have given the noble Marquess the credit for. He fancied, however, that when the account came in, the House would find that the country would have to pay a far larger sum than that calculated by the noble Marquess. Last year, in the Autumn Session, when the £1,000,000 in addition to the £300,000 previously voted was asked for, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that that sum would be amply sufficient. He had asked, and hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House had asked, the right hon. Gentleman whether he was sure that that sum would be sufficient to carry him to the end of the year? In reply the right hon. Gentleman said that the Expedition was a very cheap one, and that it would cost very little more. Nevertheless, they had now to consider an addition of nearly £1,000,000 to the £1,300,000 already granted; and he fancied that when the total account came in hereafter there would be a still larger sum to be provided for.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
wished to be allowed to explain. There would be no addition, as far as the Government were aware, to the cost of the Nile Expedition beyond the sum already voted.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that the sum contained in the Supplementary Estimates was for operations in the Soudan.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
"For new operations." That showed clearly that when the Government com- 475 menced their operations they had not the slightest notion of what was going to happen. They thought it was going to be a mere walk-over, and that they would be able to do the same as was done at Tel-el-Kebir, and that the whole of the Army would be brought back again at very little cost, and with only a small sacrifice of life. Then the noble Marquess stated that he acquitted the Army of all blame for the failure of the Expedition. The noble Marquess had paid a just tribute to the honour and credit of that most gallant Army; and whatever they might think about other circumstances, there was one thing of which they were all, as Englishmen, proud; and that wast he manner in which the Army, from the General down to the drummer boy, had discharged the onerous and difficult duties they had been called on to perform. But although the noble Marquess might acquit the Army of any blame for the failure of the Expedition, they could not acquit the Government. The Prime Minister told them the other day that he and his Colleagues were nearly three months in making up their minds whether the Expedition should go by the Nile, or from Suakin to Berber. Those three fatal months of delay had ruined the whole of the enterprize, and had made it an absolute failure.
said, he was sure the hon. and gallant Member did not wish him to re-state the case; but the three months to which he had referred were anterior to the decision to send the Expedition at all.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, it was true they were anterior to the absolute decision; but the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, as he understood it, was this—that it was decided after the Vote of Censure was placed on the Paper, and after the right hon. Gentleman had only a small majority in his favour. It was then that the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government had had the case before them, and that the conflicting evidence was so great that they could not make up their minds, although this happened in May, until the 8th of August. He believed the 8th of August was the day; and, consequently, for three months the Government were hesitating and doubting, although the right hon. Gentleman had solemnly pledged his word, as Prime 476 Minister of this country, that he was responsible for the safety of General Gordon. That was a position which he did not envy the right hon. Gentleman. The Expedition was sent; and the Committee knew how it toiled up the Nile. They also knew that it was too late, and the greatest hero of this country had been killed. They further knew that this result was produced by the hesitation of the Government, who had fatally delayed sending out the Expedition, which otherwise would have been in time to relieve Khartoum. They were told, as a sort of excuse, that treachery might have taken place at any time; but all who were acquainted with the history of the Expedition knew that treachery could not have taken place at that particular time. As a matter of fact, the treachery could not have occurred until Omdurman was taken by the Mahdi, and until the tribes had closed in upon Khartoum to such an extent that there was little or no hope of the escape of General Gordon and his followers unless they received relief from this country. He did not wish to go over the sad and melancholy circumstances which had already been discussed by the House. He would only add one word—that although Lord Wolseley and his gallant Army had done their best, the Government had failed, and failed signally, to do their part. And now it was found that they were to have a new Expedition, consisting of 12,000 men, sent to Suakin. He was glad that that Expedition had been sent there; but he thought they ought to hear a good deal more as to what was to be the outcome of it. They ought to know, and he thought the Government were bound to tell them, whether they meant to do more than smash the Mahdi and Osman Digna—whether it was mere revenge, or whether they meant to hold the country, as they ought to do, in the interests of the peace of Egypt? In voting this extra number of men they ought to have a clear and definite idea of what the Government meant to do. They knew perfectly well what they had done in the past. They could only judge of them by what they had done in the past. The House could have no confidence that they would do in the future that which was for the best interests of this country, unless they distinctly pledged themselves, and told the House in plain 477 language from the Treasury Benches what it was they intended to perform. They had said that if Afghanistan was invaded it would be a cause of war with Russia. That was a distinct statement made from the Treasury Bench; and it satisfied the nation. But what the House wanted to know in regard to this question was more than that. They wanted to know whether the Government meant to carry out the policy with which they originally went to Egypt—namely, that a good Government should be established in Egypt, and that that Government should be under the control of this country? If they were not to have that good Government established under the control of England, then he should like to know why all this blood and treasure was to be wasted? They had a right to ask this; and they had a right before the debate closed to know what the principles were on which the Government were now proposing to act. Did they mean to remain in Egypt? Did they mean to hold certain portions of the Soudan—such, for instance, as that in which the railway was about to be made? Was it to be a permanent railway, or was it to be handed over to the Mahdi, or any other adventurer who went there after we returned? Those were questions which he thought deserved, and ought to receive, a serious answer from Her Majesty's Government. Would the Government assure them, as they had done with regard to Afghanistan, that they had a policy, and that they meant to carry it out? If they would give the House that assurance, there was no money for which they might ask which the Opposition would not be ready to grant them.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, he regretted the attack which the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had made, very unjustly, in his opinion, upon the Prime Minister. He did not propose, however, to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the remarks he had made. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, who moved the Resolution before the Committee, had told them that it did not absolutely commit the House to any policy whatever; but he thought hon. Members must all feel that every Vote and every Resolution passed made it harder to draw back afterwards. It seemed to him that the 478 Resolution of that evening was committing the country to an enterprize arduous and, as he thought, unjustifiable. Although they had had a debate on the question a short time ago, no one, he thought, could complain that it should be raised again when they were asked for a grant, because no one could doubt that the new policy on which it would appear they were about to embark would involve momentous consequences, while it would be an entire departure from the principles which Her Majesty's Ministers had hitherto advocated, and which the nation adopted at the last General Election by so large a majority. He said that this was a departure from the previous policy of Her Majesty's Government; and in proof of that he might refer to the declaration of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War. Speaking in February last year, he said—I am prepared to maintain that the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Soudan is a right policy. I hold that our policy of non-interference in the affairs of the Soudan is a right policy."—(3 Hansard,  1433.)And why did he consider that this was the right policy for us to adopt? "Because," he continued—We have no British interests in the Soudan; there are no European interests in the Soudan, at least no adequate British or European interests, which would justify the employment of British Forces or the expenditure of British resources."—(Ibid.1434.)The Prime Minister himself said, in the same debate—The Soudan is a vast country, equal in size to France, Germany, and Spain—a desert country with a deadly climate, inhabited thinly by sparse and warlike tribes.…They love it as their country.…We have refused—and I believe the House will approve our refusing—to have anything to do with the re-conquest of the Soudan."—(Ibid. 715.)He continued—It was estimated that 100,000 Egyptians had laid down their lives in endeavouring to maintain that barren conquest.If the barren—the worse than barren—conquest of the Soudan cost the lives of 100,000 Egyptians, of men themselves natives of a hot country, accustomed to the dry and torrid climate of Africa, what number of Englishmen might they not sacrifice—men accustomed to the cool, moist, and comparatively equable climate of these Islands? If, indeed, 479 they were going to hold Khartoum and the country round, the case might be different. They would, at least, give the people peace and security. But the Prime Minister himself had declared against this. He had expressed his conviction that—It was impossible to hold the Soudan in any manner tolerably satisfactory, and that consequently it was our duty to speak frankly and boldly upon the matter, because the Soudan had assumed a question, not of £100,000 a-year, as was the old story; but it had assumed a character such as to make it evident that if the struggle were to be continued, it would suck the life blood from the heart of Egypt."—(Ibid.) 718.)Yes; and it had assumed such a character now, that if they engaged in this terrible and ruinous enterprize it would "suck the life blood from the heart" of England. What did General Gordon himself think on this subject? Just before he started for Khartoum he placed his opinions solemnly on record. Speaking of good government in the Soudan, he said—It is evident that this we cannot secure without an inordinate expenditure of men and money.…The Soudan is a useless pos session. It ever was so and ever will be so.…It is larger than Germany, France, and Spain together. It cannot be governed except by a dictator, who may be good or bad; and if bad he will cause constant revolt. No one who has ever lived in the Soudan can escape the reflection what a useless possession is this land. Few men, also, can stand its fearful monotony and its deadly climate. Therefore, I think the Government are fully justified in recommending its evacuation. The sacrifices necessary towards securing good government are far too numerous to admit of such an attempt being made. Indeed, one may say it is impracticable at any cost.On this attempt, which General Gordon said could not be made "without an inordinate expenditure of men and money," which might, indeed, be said to be "impracticable at any cost," they were now about to embark. Perhaps, however, he should be told that since those opinions were expressed circumstances had altered. Yes; they had altered indeed. At that time Gordon himself was alive; at that time the tribes of the Soudan were disorganized; they had no single leader; they were but ill supplied with arms; the fortifications and arsenals of Khartoum were at our disposal. That was all changed now. General Gordon was, alas! no more; the tribes were united; they had an able leader; they occupied the fortifications of Khartoum, and had secured 480 the immense stores of arms and ammunition which it contained. Was this enterprize, then, any easier now? was it likely to be any less bloody—any less costly? He did not doubt that they could take and hold Khartoum; but that was not their policy, nor would that overthrow the Mahdi. He would probably retire South. Were they going to follow him further still into the heart of Africa? Could the right hon. Gentleman give any idea of what this new policy was to cost them? He was informed that every English soldier involved an expenditure of £70 per month, or at the rate of over £800 a-year for every soldier sent there. They read every day of hundreds of camels hero and hundreds of camels there. [An hon. MEMBER: Thousands.] Well, thousands; and everyone who had been in the East could imagine what a frightful expenditure that must involve. Let the Committee consider for a moment how much good could be effected if these vast sums were spent usefully at home, instead of being squandered abroad. Let him also beg hon. Members to consider what were the circumstances under which they were going to engage the nation in this terrible enterprize. Their National Expenditure already amounted to nearly £100,000,000. They were told that they must spend several millions on their Navy if they were to maintain their supremacy at sea. Their Army had already as much to do as it could undertake. South Africa was still a constant drain on their resources; Prance was jealous and irritated; Germany angry; and though they might feel that that arose from misunderstanding, and might justly hope that mutual explanations might restore the cordial feelings which ought to exist between two nations who had so much in common, still no one could have read the Blue Books and not see how serious the present state of things was. As to their relations with Russia, it would be just now impolitic to speak. Surely, then, this was not a moment when they should send their troops away to the far South, and squander their resources in fruitless war. But then, it was sometimes said that their troops were in such a position that it was easier to advance than to retreat. Of that, however, they had no evidence whatever. Lord Wolseley, so far as 481 they knew, had never expressed any such opinion. He placed, as the right hon. Gentleman had told them, two military plans before the Government—one to be adopted if they determined to go to Khartoum and overthrow the Mahdi, the other if they did not. They adopted the former; and that conclusively proved that, if they did go to Khartoum, it was not for military considerations, but in order to overthrow the Mahdi. Nor could it be maintained that they must attack the Mahdi to prevent the Mahdi from attacking them. What did the Prime Minister himself say when that very argument was used last May by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach)? He said that the right hon. Baronet used the argument that unless the Army of the Mahdi was—Put down in the Soudan, it will advance on Egypt.…To keep it out of Egypt it is necessary to put it down in the Soudan; and that is the task the right hon. Baronet desires, to saddle upon England. Now, I tell hon. Gentlemen this—that that task means the re-conquest of the Soudan. I put aside for the moment all questions of climate, of distance, of difficulties, of the enormous charges, and all the frightful loss of life. There is something worse than that involved in the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. It would be a war of conquest against a people struggling to he free, and rightly struggling to be free."—(3 Hansard,  54–5.)In a later portion of the same speech the right hon. Gentleman said—The right hon. Gentleman declared that the movement of the Mahdi must be put down by England sooner or later; and, as I understood him—and I do not think he will deny it—he has said that the sooner it was put down the easier would it be to do so. In other words, the right hon. Gentleman advises us to carry the line of conquest by British and Christian arms among the Mahommedan people struggling for their liberty in the Soudan."—(Ibid. 70.)Well, but the policy which the right hon. Baronet opposite advised last May, and which the Government then eloquently denounced, was just what they were now themselves undertaking. It had been argued by one high Indian authority that they ought at any cost to overthrow the Mahdi in order to maintain their prestige in India. But against that view they might quote another high Indian authority (Sir William Gregory), who had taken exactly the opposite line, and considered that in this struggle to crush a Mahommedan 482 Power they would run a great risk of alienating their Mahommedan fellow-countrymen in India. But even suppose the first view correct, would their prestige suffer less if they evacuated Khartoum next year or the year after? Moreover, could anyone calmly and on reflection justify such a policy? He would say nothing of their own sacrifices; but to carry fire and bloodshed through the Soudan, to burn the villages, to ravage the crops, to fill up the wells, to destroy the humble homes, to reduce women and children to beggary and starvation, to slaughter thousands of miserable Natives in the heart of Africa, in order to produce a sensation in India, was a policy too heartless, too cynical—he might say too wicked—to contemplate. That this should be done in the name of England was almost incredible; and he felt satisfied it was a policy which before long the heart and conscience of England would indignantly repudiate. Why had these unfortunate people risen in arms? Had they had no cause? Had they had nothing to complain of? He admitted that until now our conscience was clear. Our earnest wishes had been for their welfare; our desire had been to assist them in securing a good Government. But as things were now, the best way to do that was to let them alone. Why should we overthrow the Ruler they had chosen, and put up someone else in his place? He should have thought we had by now felt the folly—he might say the impossibility—of imposing puppet Rulers on unwilling subjects. They had, indeed, been at war with the Mahdi; but surely they could afford to be generous. The Soudanese rose to fight for their liberties. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War last year expressed the opinion, which he said was that "of almost everyone who had written on the Soudan," that—The revolt of the Mahdi and the tribes who have adhered to him was justified by the oppression which they had suffered from Egyptian officials.…and by the oppression of Egyptian troops. I do not say that the misgovernment of the Soudan by the Egyptian Government was wilful or intended."—(3Hansard,  1438–9.)The Prime Minister expressed himself in almost identical terms. He said that to send a British Army into the SoudanWould he a war of conquest against a people struggling to be free. Yes, "he said, "these are 483 people struggling to be free, and they are struggling rightly to be free."—(3 Hansard,  55.)Yet the Government were calling on them now to enter on this terrible and ruinous undertaking, to squander millions of English money, and sacrifice thousands of English lives, and all for what? To overthrow a people who he himself said were struggling rightly to he free. To have sent General Gordon to Khartoum might have been a mistake; but, if so, it was a generous error; it was a policy which had entailed on them heavy sacrifices, but of which, as a nation, they had at least no cause to be ashamed. But what should be their policy now? To put down these tribes struggling, as the right hon. Gentleman said—and struggling rightly—for their freedom, was a policy unworthy of England, which he believed the people of England would not support. The object of Lord Wolseley's Expedition was to rescue their heroic countryman. Under these circumstances it had the almost unanimous approval of the country. But what was our policy now? According to the instructions communicated to Lord Wolseley—The primary object of the Expedition up the Valley of the Nile is to bring away General Gordon and Colonel Stewart from Khartoum. When that object has been secured no further offensive operations of any kind are to be undertaken.Now, why should we not adhere to the policy thus laid down? If we now undertook offensive operations, would it not be said, and said naturally, that the safety of General Gordon and Colonel Stewart could not really have been our primary object. Let the Government determine what were to be the future frontiers of Egypt, and then announce to the Native Tribes that while they would not interfere with them beyond those limits, leaving them free to govern themselves according to their own ideas, any attack by them would be resisted by the whole power of England. That would be a policy which could be justified, and which the country would support; but it was contrary to all the principles of the Liberal Party, and contrary to all principles of equity and justice, that the Government should use the might of England to conquer and overthrow a brave people to whose allegiance they had no claim, and who were struggling for freedom and independence.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Sir, the hon. Baronet has drawn a picture of the results of the policy of Her Majesty's Government as heartrending and horrible as it is possible to conceive. "That policy," said the hon. Baronet, "is a policy unworthy of England, which will not continue to be supported, and which I am certain before long the people of England will denounce." Then, why did the hon. Baronet support it himself? [Sir JOHN LUBBOCK: No.] The hon. Baronet says he does not support it; but it is within my own recollection and I believe I am not wrong in saying that when the question as to the policy of Her Majesty's Government was a few nights ago submitted to the House of Commons, the hon. Baronet voted with the supporters of the Government. The Government, however, need not be alarmed at the throats or menaces of the hon. Baronet, for, blatant as he may be against the Government in debate in the House of Commons, they have no more obsequious follower when it comes to the vote. The hon. Baronet commenced his observations by complaining of the attack made by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) upon the policy of the Prime Minister; but I am bound to say that I consider that the complaint was exceedingly out of place. I understood my hon. and gallant Friend to be endorsing the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett). Whatever may be the opinions of hon. Members on that side of the House as to the general political views of the hon. Member for Eye, I think that both sides of the House that afternoon must have sympathized with my hon. Friend's feeling and generous utterances on behalf of the garrison of Kassala, and I am therefore somewhat surprised at the reception which those observations met with on that side of the House. I recollect that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister last Session rebuked me because I put to the Government some Questions with regard to the garrison of Sinkat; the right hon. Gentleman then told us that it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to have regard to the safety of all the garrisons in the Soudan. How has the right hon. Gentleman discharged that duty? We appealed in vain to the right hon. Gen- 485 tleman with regard to Sinkat and Tokar, with the result that is but too well known; and although I sympathize with the generous aspirations of the hon. Member for Eye, I am afraid that, owing to the delay of the Government, it will be with the garrison of Kasala the same as with the garrisons of Sinkat and Tokar, and that the Government will be too late again. In the few observations I desire to submit to the Committee, I would gladly join in the tribute which the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War has paid to our Forces in the Soudan. Seldom or never, I imagine, have English Forces been placed in positions of greater danger, difficulty, and hardship than they have been called upon to occupy, and nothing can exceed the gallantry and heroism with which they have performed their duty on every occasion. But the noble Marquess made use of one observation which I cannot allow to pass without comment. The noble Marquess said that he entirely acquitted the General and soldiers of blame for having failed in their object.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I said that not only did we entirely acquit them of any blame for the failure of the chief object of the Expedition, but that the country was under the greatest possible obligations to them for what they had done.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Quite so. The noble Marquess says that he acquits them of all blame for the failure that has taken place. But why on earth should the question of blame to the Forces have arisen in the mind of any human being? I think, Sir, it must be the uneasy conscience of the noble Marquess which caused the idea to enter his mind. There is much blame in this matter; but whatever blame there is attaches not to Lord Wolseley, or to our Forces in the Soudan, but to the Government for their delay in taking action, which I believe has been the sole cause of the failure to which the noble Marquess alludes. Passing to the general observations of the noble Marquess, if I may be allowed to make a criticism on the subject, I should say that his speech is a speech of "probabilities." The noble Marquess said that the Estimates now before us were for this object—they were to be for the continuation and the probable extension of the operations under Lord Wolse- 486 ley. And what is the object of these operations? They are to be for the advance on and recapture of Khartoum, which might ultimately be "probably" necessary. Now, I venture to think that this language points to a very great and remarkable change in the attitude of the Government, and, in my opinion, it imposes on us the duty of being more than ever careful in examining the Estimate now submitted, and the policy of the Government so far as it is now shadowed forth. Now, the noble Marquess has told us the proposals of the Government in regard to railways in the Soudan. It appears that we are to have two railways instead of one. We are to have a railway from Suakin on the one hand, and we are to have a railway along the Nile on the other. I have from the first always had very grave doubts, resting on the best information I could obtain, as to the wisdom or expediency of making a railway from Suakin to Berber. The Committee will remember that the Government were totally unable to put before Parliament any Estimate whatever of the probable cost of such a line, or of the probable time within which it could be completed; and there can be no doubt as to the enormous difficulties which would attend on the construction of this railway. There is the difficulty of obtaining water. The noble Marquess said nothing about that. We read all kinds of reports and rumours in the newspapers on this subject. We have heard a great deal about the pumps by which water is to be supplied during the construction and maintenance of the railway, and that is a subject on which I should like to hear a little more from the noble Marquess to-night. There is the enormous difficulty of providing adequate supplies, not only for the Army which has to go in advance, but for the immense staff of working people who would be engaged in the construction of the railway; and above all this there is the fact that the line is to be made in the face of hostile forces whose numbers, although not exactly ascertainable, are known to be very large, and that the whole of it has to be made through a barren desert, and it has to cross an elevation of over 3,000 feet. Moreover, I judged from what the noble Marquess said this evening that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, it was ex- 487 tremely problematical whether the railway from Suakin to Berber would be completed or not. Of course, under these circumstances, it is the duty of Members of Parliament to consider how far they will give their sanction to such an undertaking. I am bound to say, however, that the responsibility is entirely removed from our shoulders upon this occasion, because the noble Marquess stated that Lord Wolseley, after the fall of Khartoum, said it was absolutely necessary for the safety of his own Force that an Expedition should be sent from Suakin to scatter the forces of Osman Digna, who was advancing on his left, and therefore for that purpose it was necessary to make the railway. Lord Wolseley says it is necessary for the safety of the Army that there should be an advance from Suakin, and then the noble Marquess tells us, on his own responsibility as Secretary of State for War, that in his opinion there should be a railway. Under these circumstances, it is impossible for us to do anything but give our sanction to its construction. Then I come to the question of the other railway, and I think the Committee will concur in the opinion expressed by Lord Wolseley that this is the more important operation of the two. The noble Marquess, I think, the other day overrated the difficulties of the construction of that railway. I have endeavoured to obtain information since then, and I cannot but think that the noble Marquess was misinformed in what he said on that point. The noble Marquess stated that the route had been surveyed for the purpose of making the railway, which involved heavy rock-cuttings, possibly some tunnels, and a bridge or bridges across the Nile. Now, Sir, I understand that there is only one person by whom the route has been surveyed, and that is Mr. John Fowler, the eminent engineer, whose name is familiar to the House. I should like to quote two passages from the Report of the survey made by Mr. John Fowler with regard to the railroad. He says in his Report, dated 1873—The whole railway may he described as one of easy construction. There are no tunnels or important bridges on the line, except the bridge across the Nile at Kohé.The noble Marquess said there were some tunnels. The Report goes on to say— 488By adopting gradients and curves which are suited to the peculiarities of the country and to the traffic, I have succeeded in laying out the railway so as to avoid tunnels altogether, and so that the quantity of rock-cutting is extremely small. Indeed, except the bridge across the River Nile, there is not a single considerable work on the whole line, and I see no reason why every part of the railway, except the permanent way, rolling stock, and the Nile bridge, should not be performed by Egyptians under a proper organization.Sir, I think these extracts from Mr. John Fowler's Report justify my statement that the noble Marquess has somewhat overrated the difficulty of constructing a railway along the Nile, and, if that be so, I am inclined to cast some doubt on his further statement, that the facilities for its construction are probably less than those for the construction of a line from Suakin to Berber. I shall be glad to hear further from the noble Marquess on this point, because, if what I have read to the Committee be true, so far from the facilities for constructing the line being less than on the Suakin-Berber route, they are probably very considerably greater, and I think it will be an additional reason to justify the House of Commons in urging upon Her Majesty's Government the desirability of completing this railway along the Nile with all the despatch in their power. But if Parliament is to sanction this great expenditure, and if we are to urge the Government and encourage them to lay out railroads for the purpose of giving assistance to Lord Wolseley, I do hope that in future whatever Parliament may sanction as a means of assistance to him will not be counteracted over and over again, as it has been in the past, by the speeches of the kind which are so continually falling from Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister contradicted the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), disputing the accuracy of his assertion, which was that with reference to the conduct of the tribes necessitating the retirement upon Dongola, it was the first result of—Mr. Gladstone's fatal declaration, which has increased 50 per cent the difficulties of our task and the dangers of our troops. Lord Wolseley'a sensible speech to General Gordon's men was an unavailing effort to counteract the effect of that declaration.The right hon. Gentleman asked the hon. Member to give him the quotation 489 to which he referred. My hon. Friend quoted from memory, and the right hon. Gentleman taxed him with extreme inaccuracy. My hon. Friend, however, has supplied me with the exact words, and I appeal to the Committee whether my hon. Friend was not substantially correct? He referred to the speech that, I think, the right hon. Gentleman made on the opening night of the Session. In that speech were these words—I need only remind the House that the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Soudan has always been the evacuation of the Soudan by Egypt and its restoration to freedom. That policy has received the approval of the Khedive and the present Egyptian Government, and it has undergone no change.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
But the right hon. Gentleman's charge against the hon. Member for Eye was not that his quotation was incomplete, but that it was inaccurate in the extreme.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I should like to know in what respect it was inaccurate. Does the right hon. Gentleman imagine for a moment that anyone in this House or in Egypt, or even the Mahdi himself, believed when he made the statement that he had a mental reservation in favour of England? Everyone supposed—and naturally supposed as a matter of course—that the right hon. Gentleman meant the evacuation of the Soudan without any reservation whatever. I must say that the observation that fell from the hon. Member for Eye was entirely justified by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman in the first instance. It is impossible, in my opinion, to over-estimate the mischief that was caused by declarations of that character. I need not go further for an illustration than to ask hon. Members to remember what has occurred in the House of Commons to-night. Immediately after the speech of the noble Marquess—the speech of probabilities— 490 up got the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), and said, as a supporter of the Government—and his words will go all over the world and will reach the Soudan—that the Government evidently never meant to go to Khartoum at all, and he said—"I am certain they are not going there now." Nothing has been said by the right hon. Gentleman to remove that impression. I am somewhat tempted to quote other extracts to show the mischief that has been done in this matter from the first. When the policy of evacuation was first announced by the right hon. Gentleman—somewhat more than a year ago, I think—Sir Samuel Baker wrote home quoting The Standard Correspondent, the gallant but unfortunate Mr. Cameron, who met his death at Abu Klea. He said—The announcement by the British Government that the Soudan is to abandoned has come like a thunder-clap on all here, and has nullified all the efforts of the past weeks.The same gentleman says—The difficulties of the situation have been immensely aggravated by the announcement. On the receipt of the news, the Cadi (i.e., Chief Judge) of Suakin secretly assembled the leading Arab inhabitants and informed them that the English were going to give up the Soudan to the Mahdi; and that he should, therefore, at once go over and make friends with Osman Digna, and he strongly advised them to do the same. The same night he passed through our lines to the enemy.Another Correspondent says—The news that the Khedive is ordered to abandon the Soudan has destroyed all the diplomatic arrangements made by Baker Pasha with the quasi-friendly Arab tribes.I should also like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, in case he has not seen it, to a paragraph which, I think, must touch his kindlier feelings, because it comes, or purports to come, from the friends and relations of the Forces in the field at the present time. The paragraph in question was communicated by the Correspondent of The Times. It says—With some pardonable excitement, the persons in Cairo who have relations and friends in the British Forces ask whether nothing can be done to prevent the safety of our troops from being imperilled by the acts of the English Cabinet. Differences, they urge, may exist as to the British policy or as to our humanitarian duties to the hitherto friendly tribes; but even Party exigencies may surely give place to care for the safety of our troops in the existing crisis. In our anxiety to enforce the policy of 'retire' we are likely to render the 'rescue' of our troops the next task.491 I would recommend that paragraph to the serious reflection of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, consistently I admit, because they have done so from the first, have advocated a policy of "retire," and nothing else. But, Sir, with regard to the Government, I do think we may make a different appeal to them. In the interest of Lord Wolseley and in the interest of the troops themselves, I appeal to them to abstain from uncertain speeches and uncertain words, which, under all the circumstances, I can only consider as of the utmost cruelty to our Forces at the present time. Sir, so long as the Government remains a Government it is the duty of the House of Commons—and I am sure it will be the course of the Opposition—to give them every support and every assistance that is requisite and necessary for the success of our Forces in the Soudan; but if all the expenditure of blood and treasure which Parliament is ready to sanction is to be counteracted by fatal speeches of this nature, then I say, upon my responsibility as an independent Member of the House of Commons, that it will be necessary for Parliament to consider whether it will not become their duty to refuse Supplies to a Government who have proved themselves utterly incapable of dealing with the crisis which they, and they alone, have themselves created.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he only wished to say a very few words with reference to the proposal now before the Committee. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who had just sat down, had taunted the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) with supporting the Government in the policy they had enunciated upon the Vote of Censure, and at the same time supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Newcastle. Well, he (Mr. Fowler) himself had also voted with the Government in the division on the Vote of Censure. Why had he done that? Because he had more confidence in Her Majesty's Government than in hon. Gentlemen opposite. The object of the Vote of Censure was to turn out the present Government and to bring in hon. Gentlemen opposite in their places, and he, of course, could not vote in condemnation of the policy of the Government, unless he had wished to place the Opposition in power. He had no desire 492 to do that; but, at the same time, he did not approve of all that the Government were doing, and therefore he contended that the vote he had given had been perfectly consistent. There was another object before the Committee at the present moment, and the question was whether the object of this Vote was an object of which they could approve? What was the object of the Government? Why, plainly, it was to go on to destroy the power of the Mahdi, and to go on to Khartoum, but not to stay in it—to leave it to its inhabitants. That was a policy which he must confess he could not understand. He could understand a policy which said—"We will go to Khartoum and stay there;" and he believed that if the Government ever got to Khartoum they would stay there, because he did not believe the people of this country would ever endure their leaving Khartoum if they once got there. If they expended so much blood and treasure in getting to Khartoum they would have to stay there; and therefore it was that he so strenuously objected to the policy that the Committee were now asked to endorse. A policy which said—"We will bring back our troops, and do all that is necessary to secure their safe retirement—we will endure any sacrifice to insure their safety," he could understand; but they were asked to do a great deal more than that. They were not asked to bring the troops back, but to send them forward. Hon. Members opposite had used every exertion to induce the Government to send them forward, and hon. Members below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House had, on the other hand, done all they could to discourage the Government from sending forward the troops now that it was not possible to rescue General Gordon. The logical position of the Government now would be to say—"We cannot do that which we intended, and we therefore will not embark upon operations of an indefinite kind, and the end of which we cannot see." Some hon. Members opposite not only wanted the Government to go forward, but to hold the Soudan; and to that he (Mr. Fowler) was also strongly opposed. He was perfectly confident that this country was commencing an undertaking the full extent of which they were unable yet to understand. The operations they were entering upon, 493 and the work they were setting themselves to do, was so stupendous that he absolutely dreaded to think over what it might involve in money and in blood. As he had said, if the object of the Government was to come away from the Soudan, he could understand it. In carrying out that object they would have to undertake some serious military operations; it might be that in order to get away they might have to take Berber, and to make the railway from that place to Suakin. If that were necessary, let it be done by all means; but he must protest against undertaking these operations all for nothing—for the object of going to Khartoum and then coming away, which seemed to him totally inconsistent with common sense. He was talking to a Member of the Government the other day, who had asked him—"What difficulty do you see in our going to Khartoum and coming away?" And he (Mr. Fowler) replied—"Why, Parliament will not endure such a waste of money, and the reckless murder that it would involve. It would be absurd to go to Khartoum, unless you have some object in the Expedition which you have not told us." If he were told that the Government wished to go to Khartoum in the interest of their Indian Possessions, and for the sake of their Mahommedan subjects, then he replied that the object was much too vague to justify such an expenditure. If it were said—"But we must show our power," he would reply—"But we have shown our power." Never in the whole history of the English Army had operations been undertaken and carried out in a manner more creditable to the English Force. They had shown their power, and had indicated to the whole world that they were still a great and gallant people, with immense fighting powers. It was not necessary to show that any further. Let them rather show the strength of men not afraid to be thought afraid. Strong in the power they possessed, let them also be strong enough to say—"We are not afraid to let you see that we know not only when to go on, but also when to retire." It was, in his opinion, a very important moment when the Government first heard of the death of General Gordon. The gallant General could no longer be rescued, and the Government then had the great opportunity of saying, logically and consis- 494 tently—"We cannot do what we wanted to do; therefore we will do what all along it has been our policy to do—namely, leave the Soudanese to govern themselves." But the Government had lost that opportunity, and had committed themselves to a policy the end of which it was impossible to foresee. As to the fine distinction drawn by the Prime Minister with regard to Egypt in the Soudan and England in the Soudan, it was much too subtle for his poor mind. He could not understand it. They had all understood on the first night of the Session that England was going away from the Soudan. ["No, no!"] Well, at any rate, he and others had so understood it; he had understood that both Egypt and England were to retire from the Soudan. But they were told afterwards that the right hon. Gentleman had only referred to Egypt.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, the effect on his mind, when he heard the words of the Prime Minister, was that it was intended to go to Khartoum and then to come away, and that both Egypt and England would then leave the Soudan to be governed by the Soudanese. Then they had the statement that only Egypt was to leave, and if that were so they were to remain. England was there at the present time; but if the Soudanese were to govern themselves, then it followed as a matter of logic that England would have to go away, so that his contention that when they got to Khartoum they were to come away again was perfectly sound, and he must strenuously protest against a sacrifice of men and money for the purpose. He could not believe that it was either necessary or right, and be emphatically denied that it could be in the interest of India. The arguments as to India had great weight with many; but he could not consent to sacrifice so many lives because, forsooth, some people in the East might think that England had of late lost her power. He did not, however, think that people in the East had any contemptuous opinion of them. It seemed to him that their Indian allies were actuated by the most friendly spirit towards them, for he could not forget the generous offer made quite recently by the Nizam of Hyderabad. 495 That offer did not look as though Indian Potentates considered our power to be on the wane. The more they reflected upon this matter, the more serious did the situation appear. They seemed to be going into an undertaking for no good object. If he could see what would be the ultimate extent of these operations, he should be more inclined to vote with the Government. The more he thought of the history of this terrible country, which had been so graphically described by General Gordon in his letters, the more he wished that they had never sent a single soldier into it. It was no use repeating their blunders. He did not blame the Government for having sent out General Gordon; but he blamed the newspapers. [Laughter.] Yes; in spite of [the laughter of hon. Gentlemen, he maintained that it was the newspapers who sent out General Gordon. The Government were led away by the outcry of the nation, expressed through the newspapers. It was a national blunder. [Mr. J. COWEN: Nonsense!] It was not nonsense. He maintained that it was a national blunder—a blunder of the Government, backed up by the whole nation. There was almost universal consent that to send out General Gordon was the right thing to do. The Egyptian Government had demanded a British officer to be sent out, and he did not blame Her Majesty's Government for acceding to the demand. When the gallant General was sent out, and his position became critical, the nation again demanded that he should not be left there, and the Government very rightly took steps to rescue him. But the nation did not now demand that they should proceed any further; and his contention was that they had now a good opportunity of doing that which they had always professed that it was their desire to do—namely, to leave the Soudanese to govern themselves. No doubt, it would be a difficult thing to abandon the tribes who had helped them in their operations in the Soudan; but in what they did, let them, at any rate, have a right object set before them, and then they could vote their money with more confidence. He took that opportunity that night of protesting against the first step in an undertaking which he believed would be bitterly regretted by the whole nation before many months were over.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, they had heard from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down an explanation of the vote he gave 10 days ago on the Vote of Censure. The hon. Member told them that he had not given his vote on the merits of the case, but in order to keep Her Majesty's Government in Office, lest by any possibility the Opposition should defeat them, and should come into power. Well, he (Mr. Dalrymple) perfectly understood the hon. Gentleman's explanation. Whether, in the present critical stage of affairs in which the country was now placed, that was a very satisfactory kind of vote, it was for the hon. Gentleman himself to decide.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, he was sure the hon. Gentleman did not wish to misrepresent him. What he had said was that he had objected to the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member, for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who wished to pledge us to hold part of the Soudan, as well as to the policy of the Government.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, at any rate, the hon. Member distinctly disapproved, on the present occasion, of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and yet had voted 10 days ago for keeping them in Office at all hazards. The hon. Member had said he was sure he (Mr. Dalrymple) would not misrepresent him, and that was perfectly true. He could understand a policy of scuttle, though he could not approve of it; he could understand a policy of revenge and retire, though still less could he approve of that; but what he could not understand was, in the vast undertaking upon which the Government were entering, the very poor and inadequate account which they gave of their policy. The hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had complained of hon. Members having censured the Government in strong language, and, presumably, the hon. Baronet reserved to himself alone the privilege of reflecting on the Government, because in his speech he had quoted over and over again statements made last year in direct conflict with those now put forward by the Government. What he (Mr. Dalrymple) thought the Committee had a right to complain of was that they were once again in the presence of an illustration of the see-saw policy of the Go- 497 vernment. The Committee, he thought, was under the impression that the ultimate result of the declarations of the Government in the important debate that recently occupied several nights was this, that some idea of a policy had been shadowed forth; but the noble Marquess at the head of the War Office (the Marquees of Hartington) had resorted to a series of adverbs which threw considerable doubt on the Government policy. This intention of "ultimately probably taking Khartoum" was not a very satisfactory basis on which to bring forward this Vote of 3,000 men. He (Mr. Dalrymple) could understand perfectly well why this very vague language was used. The Government presented at times the appearance of a policy to satisfy one set of persons, and at another time they took up a different attitude and indulged in the "ultimately probably" style of language to satisfy another class. But that was not a basis upon which the noble Marquess could put the demand for an increase of the Forces of the country. As for the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), he had no difficulty in this matter, because he could not reconcile the minimizing adverbial accounts of the noble Marquess with the Vote for 3,000 men; and so, unlike the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. W. Fowler), the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) voted as he spoke. What he (Mr. Dalrymple) felt about this matter was, that there never was a Government which asked more and told them less. The Government treated them to dissolving views of their policy which, in view of the very grave circumstances in which they were placed, were of an extremely unsatisfactory kind. The Government ought to tell the Committee definitely that they had a policy, that they would adhere to it, and that the country would not have a repetition of the terrible slaughter which took place about a year ago in the neighbourhood of Suakin, for which, so far as he knew, no reason had ever been assigned. He should like to know whether there was anyone either in or out of Parliament, on either side of politics in England or Scotland or anywhere else, who would give them a notion of a reason for the inexplicable slaughter at the battles of El Teb and Tamanieb? That slaughter, unaccountable and terrible as it was, and not followed by 498 any definite proceedings afterwards, was due to what was very well called the policy of reluctance on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Not long ago, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland stated in the country, as if it was quite a satisfactory description of the policy of the Government, that their policy with reference to Egypt and the Soudan was one of reluctance. Well, what was a policy of reluctance? It was a policy of chopping and changing, a policy of chance, a policy of uncertainty, a policy of bloodshed, a policy of great disappointment, and very likely of ultimate disaster. Yet the policy of the Government had been a policy of reluctance throughout; and it was in the presence of a fresh declaration of that policy—for how else could they explain this "ultimately probably" reference of the noble Marquess?—that they were asked to grant these 3,000 men. He should not be inclined to take upon himself to refuse the demand which Her Majesty's Government made on their responsibility. He did not think they would ask for these 3,000 men if they did not see the necessity for having them. He gave them credit for that. But he thought that people who were prepared to agree to the demand had a right—he would not say to a more exhaustive explanation of policy—but to see some exhibition of consistency in the present declarations with those made in the course of the recent important debate. Yet it really would appear that for the purpose of removing an amount of uneasy feeling in the minds of some of their supporters the Government were making an attempt to water down and dilute the small amount of policy which had been previously put before the country. He should not give his vote against this demand for 3,000 men. He would not do so on any account, in the presence of the grave emergency in which the country was placed; but he certainly thought the Committee had a right to more information from the Government, and had a right to a more consistent declaration of policy than had yet been given.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
pointed out that the Government was under an obligation to India to provide that country with an European Force of Infantry of the Line of 41,000 men, rank 499 and file. For some years past, however, the European Force in India had been considerably under the proper strength, and against that state of things he now publicly protested to the Committee of the House. The deficiency of strength would have been much greater but for the large payment made out of Indian Revenues to induce soldiers to extend their service. Indeed, upwards of 7,000 soldiers, of all four Arms, had anticipated their time for retirement by agreeing to serve from two to seven years longer, at a large cost to India. It was not necessary for him to remind the Committee of the strained relations they had with Russia on the Frontier of Afghanistan. At any moment it might be necessary to assemble a large European Force on that Frontier; and therefore he appealed to the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) to see that they proceeded to fulfil their obligation to India with as little delay as possible.
said, he did not think any Member of the House could conscientiously refuse to vote the number of troops required by Her Majesty's Government, seeing the very black look out there was all over the world so far as they were concerned, and seeing especially that at any moment they might be drawn into war on the Afghan Frontier. But there was one question he wished to bring before the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War. The new system of organization in the Army was now being very severely tested; it had, of course, been tested before, but never so severely as now. From the experience he had had of the new system, and the study he had made lately, he was satisfied that the Army was not in a fit position, especially as regarded officers; and if he did not hear that some arrangement had been made for increasing the garrisons at home, and the staff of officers, he should bring the subject forward as a substantive Motion on the Estimates for the year. They had the greatest difficulty in putting an Army Corps in the field, and when they did do so they took away all the valuable men and officers of the Home battalions. It might appear an extravagant statement; but the other day he was present at a parade in a regimental district, and he found there were only four officers, 500 including an adjutant of Militia, for 450 men. If all the recruits contemplated were to be enlisted within the next few months, it was quite impossible they could be properly trained with the present staff of officers. He trusted arrangements would be made for increasing the number of officers.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, it appeared to him that the Government's asking for 3,000 men was very similar to their request last summer for £300,000. Everyone who knew what military operations were, knew at the time the Vote was proposed by the Government that £300,000 was an utterly inadequate sum for the work required to be done. In his opinion, 3,000 men was a wholly inadequate addition to the Army if the}' were to follow up the military policy which had been commenced. Let him remind the Committee of the different steps taken in the Soudan business. Gordon was sent to negotiate for the release of 27,000 soldiers, with their families, and the civilians attached to them, amounting in all to about 100,000 persons. Those people were scattered up and down the Soudan. Gordon went to the Soudan as a messenger of peace, and he was instructed to negotiate with the Mahdi for the release of the Egyptian garrisons. His first step was to make the Mahdi the Sultan of Kordofan; but the Mahdi declined to accept that proof of friendship, and returned the testimonials and insignia which were sent to him. That step having failed, Gordon changed his tactics, and the messenger of peace became one of war. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) had never yet seen that the Government condemned General Gordon's change of tactics. When he found that his peaceable message was at an end, Gordon adopted a smashing message without any remonstrance on the part of the Government so far as he (Sir Alexander Gordon) had been able to ascertain. Hence the hostility of the Mahdi. The change of policy was, he thought, a very great mistake. The next step was that Lord Wolseley was sent out to relieve Gordon. Wolseley's Expedition had been as abortive as the attempt to relieve the 27,000 soldiers and their families, the relieving of whom was the original object of Gordon's mission. Not a single soldier had been relieved by their action—a few 501 had escaped from Khartoum; but that was all. How many of the 27,000 soldiers were now living to be released? He did not know of any, unless they were those now defending Kassala. The object of the Government now, he feared, was a bloody triumph, a war of revenge, as was said by the Financial Secretary to the War Department (Sir Arthur Hayter). Their object seemed to be to wash out their mistakes in blood. He always thought it was a proof of the strength of this country when they did not attempt to obtain a bloody revenge after the disaster at Majuba Hill. They felt so impressed with the strength of England that they could afford to lose the credit which they did lose at Majuba Hill owing to military incapacity. The decision not to avenge the defeat they sustained in the Transvaal did not in any degree militate against the strength of England. He feared that another great mistake had been made by the Government in sending Prince Hassan with Lord Wolseley's Army; that, in itself, would create great opposition from the Mahdi and his followers. The origin, he believed, of the mission of Prince Hassan was that the Prince said he would like to be the new Ruler of Khartoum, but that he would not go unless he was proclaimed Governor with full Civil authority. It seemed he was not to be proclaimed Governor, but that he was sent there to be the Ruler under their protection. As a matter of fact, these 3,000 men were asked for in order that they might force Prince Hassan on the Soudanese against their will. It was only necessary to read Gordon's admirable diary when he first went to Khartoum to know what the fitness of the Egyptians to rule the Soudan was. General Gordon in that diary stated that the Egyptians were utterly unfit to rule any country, and he deprecated their being put over the Soudanese. That was General Gordon's opinion when he was Governor General, and knew well the people he was appointed to govern. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) was fully persuaded that the Prime Minister's private views must be very much in sympathy with the feelings expressed lately below the Gangway, but that circumstances prevented him from acting upon his pacific views. He (Sir Alexander Gordon) did not see why negotiations should not now be opened with the 502 Mahdi, as it was originally intended. The Mahdi was not a cruel man; as the Prime Minister said only the other day, there was no great effusion of blood at the taking of Khartoum. The Mahdi treated his prisoners well; in fact, he (Sir Alexander Gordon) had never heard of the Mahdi exercising any cruelty upon his prisoners. That was a great deal to say for a man who was little better than a savage. He did hope they would pause and consider very carefully whether they ought to enter upon the war of revenge which was advocated in many quarters. He trusted that, in the words of a Motion placed upon the Paper by the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), they would only take such steps as might be necessary for the security of Egypt Proper, and nothing else. If they took a stand, for instance, at Assouan or its neighbourhood to defend Egypt at that point from any invasion of the Soudanese, should an invasion be attempted, they would be doing what would really be for the benefit of Egypt; they would be much more likely, by adopting a step of that kind, to consolidate the strength of Egypt than they would if they waged in the Soudan any war of vengeance. He hoped that Parliament would not take any precipitate action in this matter.
Sir, I do not rise for the purpose of going into any extended question, but rather for the purpose of reminding the Committee that the question now before it is a limited and a narrow one—comparatively narrow, although undoubtedly in itself a very important one. I do not think it necessary to make any remark upon this occasion to accusations against the Government and against me individually, which have been made a great many times and answered a great many times in this House, and which have been advanced against me with great loudness and confidence, but without any new verifying particulars or statements which could become matters of argument other than such as the House has long been acquainted with. Those, therefore, I pass by; but I have risen for the purpose of saying one word in relation to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Alexander Gordon) who has just sat down, and to another speech from my hon. Friend the Mem- 503 ber for the town of Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler). They have referred to a declaration made by me on behalf of the Government on the 19th of February, the day on which the House re-assembled; and they argued upon the meaning of that declaration, and upon the question whether we are to go to Khartoum, and whether on reaching Khartoum we are to remain there. Now, that declaration of mine, made as it was, is a most fair speech for quotation and for comment; and I have no doubt there will be a great deal to be said upon it at the proper time. But what I wish to point out to hon. Gentlemen is this—they are not at this moment asked to take any step whatever bearing upon or connected with that declaration. I stated, I believe on the first night of the Session, or certainly in the debate on the Motion which was made by the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Stafford Northcote), that the Expedition, which is to have for its object the saving of the British Army from any risks connected with the force of Osman Digna and his operations, was an Expedition demanded, I believe, on military grounds quite apart from the Expedition to Khartoum. It is important that that should be clearly understood, because that is undoubtedly a question of fact in itself of considerable weight. The time will come, and it cannot be very long distant, when the House may think it necessary, and probably will think it necessary, to discuss at large the question of going to Khartoum; but my noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington), on whose statement I, for my part, rest entirely content, and whose statement, I think, I am only going now to repeat—my noble Friend has now stated distinctly in his speech tonight that the Vote that is going to be asked from the Committee—I mean, Sir, not only the Vote now in your hands, but the Vote which is to follow, and which in substance we have been debating all the evening—is a Vote relating to the Expedition that is to be made with the view of neutralizing the action or destroying, if necessary, any action of Osman Digna, and that that is a military operation absolutely necessary, whatever view you may adopt with respect to the Expedition to Khartoum. That is a point it is material to bear in 504 mind. Do not let it be supposed I am at all endeavouring to escape discussion, either from one side or the other, in respect of the Expedition to Khartoum. I think I understand the views that are held. If I understand the speeches which have been made from the opposite Benches, they mean the reconquest and the retention of the Soudan; and if I understand the speeches made on this side of the House, they mean objection to going to Khartoum and the reconquest and retention of the Soudan. The proper time for that debate will come, and come before long. The subject of debate now before us is of a more limited character, and it was to remind the Committee of its character that I rose.
Sir, I think the hon. Members in the House will hardly be able to agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, that this debate is of the limited character the right hon. Gentleman desires to give to it, because it is unquestionable that some of the considerations which are involved in this Vote are considerations which open questions of the widest importance. I took note, Sir, of the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman, that at the proper time, if not now, he would be willing to answer the questions which have been addressed to him with great force from this side of the House, and from below the Gangway on his own side, with regard to that declaration of his policy which he made on the first night of the Session. Well, now the right hon. Gentleman says this is not the proper time to discuss that declaration of policy. At the proper time, he says, he will be quite ready to discuss it, and he seems to anticipate that the proper time must be at an early date. I suppose that I am not very far wrong in believing that in the opinion of the Prime Minister the time for discussing the future policy of the Government will be when the Vote of Credit is moved. I must say it was not without some amusement that we on this side of the House heard the denunciations of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) and some other hon. Members who sit below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House with regard to the line which the Government are taking on this occasion. One cannot help thinking what would have been the 505 position of these hon. Gentlemen if they had for a moment supposed that we were likely to support them as against the Government, and to endeavour to refuse these Supplies on this occasion. One cannot help thinking that they have, so to speak, hedged with their own consciences—that they, imagining that the Government were all right so far as getting the Vote was concerned, felt themselves free to indulge in whatever violence of language they chose. I cannot say that I rise on this occasion with the cordial feeling one generally supports any military operations of the Government which are proposed. So far as we on this Bench are concerned, I rise merely to support that which the Government have claimed in the exercise of their functions as the Executive Government of the country—have claimed as necessary for the Military Service of the country. We cannot help feeling that the Army in the Soudan, unfortunately—I do not now enter into a discussion as to the causes why that Army was too late to effect its object—is now in a position which, though it is not one about which one need speak in language of undue despondency, is one which cannot but raise feelings of considerable anxiety. Lord Wolseley and the gallant Army with him, we all know, will do anything that men can be expected to do; the Government have placed them in a position which must be one of inaction for some time, and necessarily of anxiety; and they are now asking for measures which they believe, and which they tell the Committee, are necessary for the purpose of the further operations of this Force. It is necessary that we must study the safety of Lord Wolseley's Expeditionary Force, and in that sense I, for one, will not be found voting against the proposal of the Government. But I do feel there is very much left to be explained on a future occasion by the language in which the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) proposed this Vote. We all know that if there is one thing more than another which characterizes the ability with which the noble Marquess fulfils his duties it is the straightforwardness and the directness with which he makes any statement to the House that it is his duty to make, and therefore it is with a double feeling of regret that we heard the hesitat- 506 ing and, I must say, halting manner in which he spoke to-night. We are now told that what was formerly announced as a distinct part of the basis of their policy is now only probably to be carried out—I think the noble Marquess spoke of the operations which might probably be ultimately necessary. Now, anyone who hears that language from the mouth of the noble Marquess must know and be fully persuaded that it must have been with considerable difficulty that the noble Marquess consented to use such very vague and general terms; therefore, I do think the Committee and the country require to know whether, about these matters, the Government are in earnest or not. Even the noble Marquess, in his best efforts tonight, could not give an idea of reality as regards the Government proposals with respect to the railway from Suakin to Berber. He spoke of that railway very vaguely; more than once he said—"If it should be necessary to carry it out." I think we have a right now, or at the proper time that the Prime Minister indicated, to challenge on all details and on general principles, if we so find it necessary, the forward policy of the Government in respect of these matters. I content myself now with saying that when the Government, on their responsibility, ask for the necessary Supplies for the service of the country, we, on our side, are bound to give them our support.
§ MR. R. T. REID
said, he would not detain the Committee for more than two or three minutes; but he wanted to say that he should vote for the Government on this occasion, inasmuch as what was now asked was a military necessity for the safety of their troops. It was quite true that hereafter might come the opportunity of fully discussing the question whether or not Her Majesty's troops were to go to Khartoum. It was not difficult to see that they were drifting, or might drift, into a policy which might make it necessary hereafter to go to Khartoum, and therefore those Gentlemen who did not like to intrude themselves in important debates might be permitted to say a few words on this question. Now, the going to Khartoum, or the smashing of the Mahdi, could only be justified, in his opinion, on three grounds—namely, the protection of Egypt itself, the safety of their troops in Egypt, and the necessity of doing 507 their duty to the friendly tribes. As regarded the necessity of doing their duty to the friendly tribes, they had already practically withdrawn to a line between Korti and Dongola, and it seemed to him probable that that had been done having in view entirely their obligation to the friendly tribes, and having taken care that those friendly tribes had not suffered by their withdrawal. Now, was it not fair to bear in mind that to go to Khartoum for the purpose of smashing the Mahdi, or as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, on the 19th of February, said, to effect the overthrow of the Mahdi's power, must necessarily involve them in a terrible amount of expenditure, both of blood and money? If it was necessary for the safety of their Army he could understand it, but their Army was now out of danger; if it was necessary for the protection of friendly tribes he could understand it, but there was no assertion that the friendly tribes were now in danger. It could not be supposed that it would be otherwise than a great enhancement of the military danger, if at some time hereafter they should endeavour to penetrate the African Desert. He hoped the Government, therefore, would take courage in the fact that their supporters, not only in that House, but in the country, would stand by them in the determination not to carry out the intention of proceeding to Khartoum, or in doing anything but that which was necessary for the protection of the Frontier of Egypt, for the protection of the tribes who were friendly towards them, and for the protection of their own troops. He thought everybody must have listened with pain to the constant attacks that bad been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite upon the Government, and especially upon the Prime Minister. It was, too, with feelings of great regret that he heard his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) tell the right hon. Gentleman, in the most solemn tones, that the consequences of the Soudan policy would rest upon his own head. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would understand that there were a great many who would sympathize with him, and support him in any pacific policy he might adopt.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
wished to say only a few words upon the Vote 508 which was before the Committee—namely, the Vote for 3,000 more men than were comprised in the existing Establishment of the Army. The Prime Minister entered, what he (Mr. A. O'Connor) thought, a well-grounded protest against the discursive nature of the discussion which had arisen upon this Vote. He expected the right hon. Gentleman himself would have limited his remarks to the subject-matter of the Vote; but the right hon. Gentleman went on to make an observation which struck him (Mr. A. O'Connor) as an extraordinary one—namely, that they were to consider now the placing in the field of a Force which should enable the threatening attitude of Osman Digna to be counter veiled, so that any further or future advance against Khartoum might be made with ease or with safety, and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to hint that the railway to be made from Suakin to Berber was of itself no certain proof or indication that an advance must necessarily be made afterwards to Khartoum. It struck him as a very dangerous game to play to put a large Force into the field at Suakin to establish railway connection, if it should be established, between Suakin and Berber, and then to propose to the House or to any other Assembly the question whether they should or should not go to Khartoum. He could scarcely conceive a House of Commons which would assent to not going on to Khartoum, after having taken the trouble to spend largo sums of money in establishing such a base. But he did not propose to follow the Prime Minister into the digression of which he was himself guilty on the Vote before the Committee. The Government desired to increase the number of soldiers, and even right hon. Gentlemen then sitting on the Front Opposition Bench said that it was really necessary for the military interests of the country to have 3,000 more men. That statement appeared to him to involve the most complete admission of administrative failure which ever came from a Government. He recollected hearing, only some three or four years ago, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—then Secretary of State for War—standing by the box on the Table of the House, and speaking before Ministers, say that the Military Authorities had made such arrangements that they 509 could, at a moment's notice—he believed the words were "in a very short time"—send 17 regiments fully up to their establishment on any service for which they might be required. In the year 1882, the right hon. Gentleman repeated very much the same thing; and when he asked for the increased establishment, he declared the readiness of the War Office to provide two fully equipped Army Corps for action in any part of the world. The House granted the 3,000 men, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he had so many regiments of so many men each, and that in no future small or little wars—he had forgotten the word used—would it be necessary to apply for anything special or extra, but that there would be always a sufficient Force to send on any Expedition that might be necessary without calling on the Reserves. Now, there was no war at all; no war had been declared, and no serious reverses had been sustained in the field; the Forces abroad were concentrated on their base, and the Government was not undertaking any fresh Expedition. But, because Khartoum had fallen into the hands of the Mahdi, the Government declared that they had to come on their Reserves, and that they required 3,000 more men. If that were the case, all he would say was. that the design and plans of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was Minister for War, had not been carried out, or, if they had been carried out, that they had signally failed. Under the circumstances, it certainly appeared to him to rest with Her Majesty's Government to show why, the War Minister having obtained from the House all that he asked, immediately there came any little difficulty in the military operations, the Government should be obliged to come down to the House and make the demand that had been made that evening. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not now in his place, but he should be astonished if it were not in the recollection of the officials of the War Office that the right hon. Gentleman did make use of the expression he had quoted; and he suspected the noble Marquess could well recollect when those declarations were made by his Predecessor in Office. The Committee were now asked to meet the expense of an increased number of men, 510 and that simply because Lord Wolseley had been required to concentrate his Forces. Simply because it was in contemplation to have an Army of 18,000 men in the Soudan, it was now necessary to have recourse to the Reserve, to embody the Militia, and to ask for a Vote of 3,000 more men, notwithstanding that at the time when the War Office last increased the Establishment, it was distinctly understood that thenceforward no small war would make any further demand in that direction upon the country.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not recollect the speech which the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. A O'Connor) has referred to. I think the hon. Member has misapprehended what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, because it could never have been contemplated, in my opinion, by my right hon. Friend that our Military Establishment should be framed on such a basis as would maintain an Army of 25,000 men like that now in Egypt and the Soudan without calling upon the House for some increase of the Establishment. But, as a matter of fact, it is not correct to say that we have had recourse to the Reserve. All that has been done is to suspend the transfer of men from certain corps to the Reserve, and to accept the services of volunteers from the Reserve. Everything that we have done now has been done on the Establishment of last year. The Committee, I think, cannot expect that very considerable operations should be conducted by the Army without steps being taken of the kind which Her Majesty's Government propose. When we come to the Vote of Credit, it will be my duty to make a statement with regard to next year; but the whole of the Vote now proposed is connected with the Establishment of the past year.
§ MR. LEAKE
said, he wished to give his reasons for supporting Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had described the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) as one than whom there was no more obsequious follower of the Government. He (Mr. Leake) should also put in his claim to be considered as obsequious as the hon. Baronet, because, although he differed from the policy of the Government in sending 511 troops to Khartoum, he intended to support them on the present occasion. It was only a few nights ago that, by a vote of the House, the Government were again firmly placed in Office; and to put them in that position, and then on every occasion to deprive them of the tools with which they could govern, was simply to stultify themselves, and by their votes to make government impossible. Instead of demanding more pledges as to policy, more earnest declarations of what the Government intended to do, he would rather ask for fewer declarations of policy. Even if the Government pledged themselves to a "six-months'-hence-policy," how were they to foresee the circumstances which alone would make that policy possible? Having given their trust to the Government, he maintained that they ought to trust them in the management of any enterprize in which they were engaged; and so long as the House kept them in Office, they ought to give them a wide margin of discretion. He should show his adherence to that principle in the vote he was about to give, and he believed there were hundreds of thousands of voters in the country who would also support the Government for the reasons he had indicated. He believed that, whatever Her Majesty's Government might declare as to their future action in the Soudan, or whatever hon. Members might demand or oppose with regard to their policy there, circumstances would prove themselves stronger than either the Government or the respective Parties in that House. It was with the full conviction of this that he should put his trust in the Government, and should support them in the demand now made for the means wherewith to carry out their present policy.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 98; Noes 21: Majority 77.—(Div. List, No. 43.)
(2.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not oxceeding£942,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1885, to meet additional Expenditure for ordinary Army Services and for Military Operations in the Soudan.
SIR JOSEPH PEASE rose to move, as an Amendment,
That the Item (Vote 13), of £235,000, for Works and Buildings, he reduced by £100,000.
§ MR. CARBUTT
rose to a point of Order. He desired to speak upon Vote 12, and he understood that the hon. Baronet's Amendment referred to Vote 13.
said, there was no doubt it would be for the convenience of the Committee if hon. Members would speak to the various subjects which were comprised in the Estimates in the order in which they stood in the Votes; but there was nothing in the course the hon. Baronet proposed to take which would prevent the hon. Member from speaking afterwards.
§ MR. CARBUTT
pointed out that the hon. Baronet was going to take a vote upon his Amendment, and asked whether, in the event of Vote 13 being agreed to, he would not be precluded from entering into a discussion on the preceding Vote?
said, that the course proposed to be pursued would not prevent the hon. Member from bringing forward his objections to Vote 12.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
stated that he objected to all the items in the Vote with the exception of £25,000, which appeared on the Votes as having already been appropriated in aid.
said, there would be nothing to prevent the hon. Member making his objections when the hon. Baronet's Amendment had been disposed of.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
said, he had already given Notice at the commencement of the Sitting that he would confine his Motion to an objection to the sum of £100,000, which it appeared from the foot-note on the Estimates was the sum proposed to be expended upon the Suakin-Berber Railway up to the 31st of March. There was no position in the House so little to be envied as that of the hon. Member who was out of harmony with his Party, and who rose to oppose some part of the policy of the Leaders he usually followed. This was his position that afternoon. Nothing but public duty would induce him to speak and vote against the Government in regard to their Soudan policy; but, on this occasion, he felt bound by his conscience 513 to do so. As far as regarded the policy of the Government, both in Egypt and the Soudan, he had done all he could to give his reasons for protesting against it; and he thought that the policy indicated that night was one which was entirely at variance with those laws, moral and Christian, which not only ought to govern the actions of individuals, but also to govern the action of one nation towards another. He had endeavoured to say all he could, from the very beginning, against the present policy of the Government. In June, 1882, before the bombardment of the Alexandrian Ports, he had put Ms name to a public protest forwarded to the public Press on the subject. To that bombardment he attributed a great deal of the trouble that had come upon this country. He had opposed the Vote of £2,300,000 which the Government asked for in July, 1882, in order to strengthen their Forces in the Mediterranean, on the ground that they were taking upon themselves a protectorate of Egypt, and involving themselves in responsibilities which future generations would never be able to discharge. Before the Suakin Expedition attacked Osman Digna, he joined in an address to the Prime Minister begging him to pause before they attacked the Arabs. After sacrificing 3,000 or 4,000 lives, Her Majesty's Forces immediately retired, without reaping any benefit whatever from that terrible loss of life. Now, again, he ventured to protest against the policy of trying to break the power of the Mahdi at Khartoum. That policy seemed to him to have involved an enormous sacrifice of life, which was not justified by the circumstances of the case; and up to the present moment they had reaped no advantage from it. To begin with the bombardment of Alexandria, he contended that the bombardment of those forts was the immediate cause of the riot, and the sack of Alexandria which followed it. He thought they might say, therefore, that those proceedings were caused by the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Nothing could have justified the attack on the forts of Alexandria; but if anything could have palliated it, it would have been that they had a Force of soldiers with them to keep order and protect the city. But as they had not, the attack was wholly without justification or palliation. They ought 514 either to have left the forts alone, which he thought would have been the right policy, or they ought to have had a sufficient Force to land to protect Alexandria. He found nothing in the Correspondence which showed any justification for the bombardment; but they were told that the reason of it was that they were bound to fulfil all their agreements with Tewfik Pasha. He denied, however, that Her Majesty's Government were bound to fulfil the Treaty with the Khedive after France had retired from joint action in the matter. They were then in exactly the same position as they were when Russia, some 14 years ago, repudiated the Black Sea Treaty. They then declined to enforce that Treaty for the reason that the other Powers, who were parties to it, did not think it their duty to go forward with them for that end. That was exactly the same position they were in at Alexandria. Then they fell on the Egyptian Army, and killed and wounded, it was calculated, 3,000 of that force, at small loss to themselves. Next, they attacked Osman Digna in those two engagements which cost so many of those brave Arabs who formed his force. These preliminary events must have cost nothing less than 15,000 or 20,000 men, killed or wounded by their arms; and he contended that nothing that had happened could have justified such a loss of life. He gave the Prime Minister credit for far more than he had laid claim to in the better government of Egypt. He believed the right hon. Gentleman might have laid the foundation for a more permanent and better government of Egypt; but ends did not justify means, and these means were inconsistent with that international morality which ought to exist between nations. They had failed to rescue Gordon. He was one of those who believed that it was an impossible task from the first; and when future historians looked more calmly at these events, they would come to the conclusion that General Gordon's life was forfeited directly he failed to carry out his mission. Now, they were preparing for an endless war in the Soudan, and they were asked to make this railway to carry out these objects—namely, to break the power of the Mahdi, to frustrate the Slave Trade, and to protect Egypt. With regard to the first object, that of break- 515 ing the power of the Mahdi, what offence had the Mahdi committed against this country that his power was to be broken? Gordon was sent to deliver the garrisons, and then to hand over the government of the Soudan to the Soudanese. What was this Egyptian government of the Soudan. It had been shown on the authority of General Gordon and Colonel Stewart to be a rule that "plundered and oppressed" the people of the Soudan, and Sir Samuel Baker's view of it was expressed in very terse words. He said they were "plundering the villages, violating the women, maltreating the men, and generally making hell upon earth."
pointed out that the hon. Baronet was discussing the general Vote; but the Amendment he had given Notice of was as to the sum of £100,000 for a railway. He did not think the hon. Baronet would be in Order in discussing in full the general question of the Government policy in Egypt.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
understood that this railway was to "smash" the Mahdi; and what he was endeavouring to show was why the Mahdi should not be smashed, and why this railway, which was one of the instruments for smashing the Mahdi, should not be made. As to the railway being intended for the suppression of the Slave Trade, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) had told them that night that it was wanted purely for war purposes, and that it was not likely to be a permanent railway; and if that was so he thought the Anti-Slavery Society, which was largely composed of Peace Society members, in their zeal for this line, would have very little encouragement from the view which the Government took of it. The noble Marquess that afternoon, said that this railway was required in order that Lord Wolseley's troops might be protected, and that it was necessary in order to "smash" the power of Osman Digna. But three or four nights ago a Member of the Government in the other House (the Earl of Morley) stated that the security of the Forces under Lord Wolseley could not be affected in the slightest degree by any considerations connected with the making of the railway. Now, he objected to the railway being made at all, 516 because it seemed to him to be the most substantial guarantee the Government could place before them of its disposition to take the Soudan, hold the Soudan, and govern the Soudan. He and those who thought with him had been accused by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) of speaking against the policy of the Government and voting with it. They voted with the Government the other night; but the truth of the matter was that they only had a choice of evils, because they had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) advocating a policy of holding more tightly Egypt and the Soudan than the Government, from their utterances, appeared prepared to do. They understood that the Government were going to retire from the Soudan and Egypt as soon they could, and they asked for still further assurances in that direction. If the object of making this railway were to put down slavery, and was to be a peaceful work, done with the consent of the Soudanese, he was glad to say that there was no one in that House, except, perhaps, his hon. Friends behind him, the Members for Andover (Mr. Francis Buxton), and Kendal (Mr. Cropper), who had more anti-slavery blood in their veins than he had, and nobody would rejoice to see it made more than he would. But if, on the other hand, it was to be made for purely military reasons, and not as a permanent work, as the noble Marquess stated that night, to break the power of the Mahdi, he would be no party to its construction. The Prime Minister, many years ago, had, in eloquent and glowing terms, denounced the wrongs of those who had suffered under the cruel despotism of the Bourbons at Naples, and the effect of his denunciation was to arouse a thrill of indignation throughout this nation. Again, at a later period he had, with the same force and eloquence, roused the whole country against the Turkish atrocities in Bulgaria—atrocities which almost froze the blood of those who read the narratives as they were published; but now the right hon. Gentleman was at the head of the Administration of his own country he was ready to use the power with which he was entrusted to crush the power of the Mahdi and those Native populations of the Soudan who had risen against 517 the terrible tyranny of the Egyptian Government. It was said that they must take care of those tribes who had shown a friendly disposition, and who might otherwise be imperilled. To this he fully assented; but it should be remembered that Osman Digna was 500 miles from the district held by Lord Wolseley, and that between the two were deserts almost as difficult for the Arabs to cross as for British troops. In his opinion, the position of their Forces for all needful purposes would be both safer and stronger, militarily and morally, if they were not sent upon a wild-goose chase across the Desert in order to crush the Mahdi at Khartoum, but were to retain the hold they had acquired on what might be the arranged Frontier of Egypt. Before they began to make the proposed railway they had to attack Osman Digna, and in doing that they would in all human probability add some 4,000 or 5,000 to the horrible list of killed and wounded, of which their policy in the Soudan had already made so terrible a sacrifice; and in addition to that there would be the loss that must be sustained by their own troops. The Government would have to land the materials for the railway during the terrible hot weather that was approaching at a harbour which had no very great capabilities. They would also have civilians as well as soldiers to look after and take care of. With regard to the contract for making a railway, which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) had spoken of, it was one of the most extraordinary contracts he had ever heard of. It was a contract made entirely with Messrs. Lucas and Aird. He had no fault to find with those gentlemen, whom he believed to be straightforward and honourable men. Fifty miles of the railway had been ordered; and whatever the results of that railway might be in a military sense, he thought that Messrs. Lucas and Aird would take pretty good care of themselves. He should have thought, however, that the Government might have had in their Army or Navy Establishments men who were capable of supplying plans for laying down a line of railway; and if it were so, he wanted to know why this country should have to pay something like £40,000 more than would be otherwise needed, or 4 per rent commission to 518 Messrs. Lucas and Aird, for doing work that could be done by the highly skilled engineers already in the Government employ? It should be remembered that while the line was in course of construction the contractors' men would have to be protected, and that they would also have to be taken care of in case of sickness. He thought it would be found that the difficulties that would attend the construction of the railway would be much greater than had been anticipated. The route over which it was proposed to construct 280 miles of railway rose, he was told, over very severe gradients. He believed he was right in saying—and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) would contradict him if he were wrong—that it would have to be carried over ground which was nearly 2,700 to 3,000 feet above the level of the sea, or 1,000 feet higher than the highest point of any railway in the United Kingdom—higher than the London and North-Western Railway at Shapfell, or higher than the Barnard Castle and Tebay line where it crossed the ridge that was called "the backbone of England," forming part of the line of hills between Yorkshire and Westmoreland. And yet Her Majesty's Government called this a contractor's line. If such a railway were entitled to that decription, he did not know what a contractor's line was. He might say that he had had considerable experience in regard to railways. If it were intended to be a line that would carry troops and stores from Suakin to Berber, and on which locomotives might be safely run, a great amount of expense would necessarily be incurred, and incurred under difficult and dangerous circumstances. They would have to shelter their men from the spears and bullets of the retreating foe, who, not being able to meet the British troops in the open field, would have recourse to guerilla warfare, and would pick off, by means of their sharp-shooters, our officers and men. As the railway went further and further away from the base of operations, it only being possible to lay it down from one end, the work would necessarily be a slow one, as railway plant as well as Army stores would have to be forwarded together. And when the railway was finished—if it ever should be completed—as far as 519 Berber, they would still be 200 miles from Khartoum and 480 from their base at Suakin, and they would still have before them the task of breaking the power of the Mahdi. It seemed to him to be one of the most hopeless tasks in which any country was ever engaged; and the result to be derived from it would certainly be not worth a tithe of the pains and trouble, blood and treasure, that would have to be expended in the prosecution of the policy initiated by Her Majesty's Government. All the while the railway was being made the troops would be lying inactive at Suakin, and every day they remained in that climate would only add to the dangers by which they were beset. In a paragraph which he had seen in a letter from one of the numerous correspondents who were at that moment engaged with the Army in the Soudan, the writer made use of the pregnant observation that "the sun of the Soudan is more fatal than the spear of the Arab." Indeed, the reports they had already received from Lord Wolseley's Army showed that fever and dysentery had already made their appearance among the troops at Korti. He did not claim to prophesy; but he considered it as among the probabilities of the case that the troops who would be stationed, during the hot weather, on the Eastern Coast of the Soudan at Suakin would have to suffer from those complaints which, according to the ordinary laws of Nature, invariably presented themselves among large bodies of men compelled to camp together under similar circumstances. He asked the Government to look for a moment at the history of the past, and not to hide from themselves the dangers of the future. Lord Wolseley's Army, which was now being gathered together at Korti, was being distributed up and down the Nile in order that they might pass the summer months in greater safety. The difficulties they had had to encounter in reaching their present position had been recorded. General Earle had spent 16 days in making a progress of 48 miles, between Handab and the scene of his victory and death. That encounter had cost them 10 soldiers, dead and missing, and 43 wounded, out of a force of 2,200 men. After that, it took 10 days for General Brackenbury's Force to get as far as Hebbeh, a distance of only 23 miles, or a little more 520 than two miles a-day. General Buller's Army had returned to Korti, after one of the most wonderful campaigns ever recorded of the British Army—a campaign that had undoubtedly been conducted with the greatest possible bravery. The loss of that Force, including its able and gallant Commander, had been 30 killed and 450 sick and wounded out of the total of about 2,000 men. Was it to be supposed that the troops now being sent forward by Her Majesty's Government would be able to go from Suakin to Berber, in the face of Osman Digna's dispersed Army, and the Army of the Mahdi, which had not yet been dispersed, without encountering similar casualties, losses, dangers, and privations? They had already buried in the sands of the Soudan General Stewart, Colonel Eyre, and General Earle, all of them men of whom the country had every reason to be proud. When the Government Forces had reached Khartoum, after all these losses, and those that might be anticipated, what was to happen? Would the losses they would incur in the chase of the Mahdi be less than they had hitherto been; and, furthermore, would the Mahdi wait for them in Khartoum? If he did, he would probably wait for them at the head of a very large Force; and, although he might be conquered by British arms, the conquest would probably not be effected without considerable loss. If this railway were made, and the policy indicated by Her Majesty's Government were pursued, they would, he was afraid, have little to show for it but the graves and prowess of their countrymen, as the Mahdi would still be ranging loose in the Soudan, a country which General Gordon himself had told the Government it was hopeless to conquer, and which, if conquered, it would be useless to retain. What, he asked, was the present position of their Military Forces? They were sending to the Soudan the very pick of their Indian troops at a time when they might be much better employed in going to the Frontier of Afghanistan. The best regiments in this country were also being sent out to a deadly and inhospitable climate. They were calling up the Militia from their industrial pursuits, and sending them to their garrison towns—one of the largest and best Militia regiments in the County of Durham having recently 521 been sent to do garrison duty at Colchester. And all that was being done in order to carry on a war which Her Majesty's Government might have avoided, or which, at least, could be fought out in a better place than the Soudan. If the Mahdi chose to advance to the North, or Osman Digna desired to overrun the Eastern Frontier, it seemed to him (Sir Joseph Pease) that both could be met and fought on better terms, and certainly on much better ground, in a neighbourhood much further from the Equator. What, he asked, was the effect of the policy of Her Majesty's Government upon the relations of this country with Foreign Powers? Russia, following her usual policy, was advancing on our Afghan Frontier in a way to which no hon. Member of that House could shut his eyes. Russia had always found the difficulties of other countries to be her own opportunity; and, seeing England engaged at the present moment in a hopeless movement in the Soudan, she was taking advantage of that position to advance on our Afghan Frontier. This policy of advance on the part of Russia could only be met by a display of firmness which he hoped would characterize the action of Her Majesty's Government. The result of their policy in the Soudan had shown itself in the Army and Navy Estimates, which gave evidence of an increase this year, as compared with last; while, as compared with the first year in which the Government took Office, there was a total increase of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. Their policy would also show itself speedily in the taxation they were compelled to lay on the people; and although the present year would close more favourably for the Government than was at one time anticipated, owing to certain sums required for military purposes not coming within the financial year, he felt tolerably certain that they would have to do that which he should be sorry to see done—namely, ask the House to put off the annual payment which had been made for so many years in reduction of the National Debt, the alternative being that they would have to tax the people, whose industries, both agricultural and commercial, were at the present moment in so depressed a condition. He begged to thank the Committee for having listened with so much attention to his somewhat 522 lengthened remarks. He certainly entertained a strong feeling against the policy of the Government in what he regarded as their fruitless search after the Mahdi. He was no pessimist. He fully believed in the gallantry and bravery of their soldiers, which was displayed at the present day as conspicuously as in former times. He believed, also, in the immense resources of this country, as a rich and powerful nation, able to back up, by its own wealth and vigour, the armies it might send forth. But he was of opinion that the blood and treasure of this country ought not to be expended in operations that could be attended neither with honour nor glory to the English nation. He opposed the policy of Her Majesty's Government on those grounds; and he might add that his opposition was based on grounds even higher still. He opposed that policy because he believed it to be internationally wrong, contrary to the best precepts of morality, and out of harmony with the teachings of that common Christianity which most of them professed. He, therefore, begged to move the reduction of the Vote by the sum which he had mentioned.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Item (Vote 13), of £235,000, for Works and Buildings, he reduced by £100,000."—(Sir Joseph Feast.)
§ MR. BRAND
The hon. Baronet who has just spoken has made a severe attack on the proposal to construct a railway from Suakin to Berber, as well as upon the agreement that has been made between Her Majesty's Government and Messrs. Lucas and Aird; but I noticed that in the course of his speech the hon. Baronet did not mention any details of that agreement to which he took serious objection; and I must here remark that, looking at all the circumstances of the case, I do not think the terms of that agreement as between Her Majesty's Government and Messrs. Lucas and Aird can be regarded as specially advantageous to that firm. The hon. Baronet has, to my way of thinking, enormously exaggerated the difficulties of the proposed undertaking. He seems to have imagined to himself that the difficulties in the way of constructing such a railway are immense; and I am bound to admit that if they are anything like those he has described it certainly 523 would be impossible to make that railway. But let us see what those difficulties are, according to the view taken by the hon. Baronet. In the first place, the hon. Baronet has said that, during every day the railway was being made Her Majesty's troops would be lying inactive at Suakin. But he seems to have forgotten that with those troops there is a sufficient amount of camel transport to take them away to the hills and place them in a fairly good climate, which is much better comparatively than that of Suakin. The hon. Baronet further told the Committee that it would be impossible to make the railway in the face of the attacks that would be made upon those engaged upon its construction by the enemy. I think, however, the Committee will be inclined to agree with me that the able Generals who have been consulted on this matter, and the other military men whose opinions have been taken upon the question, are entitled to have more dependence placed upon their opinion than can be accorded to the opinion of the hon. Baronet. The military opinion we have received upon the subject of this railway is that, as far as the question of attack from the enemy is concerned, there will be no difficulty in the construction of the contemplated line of rails if the Forces under Osman Digna are, in the first instance, met and defeated. My object in rising to answer the hon. Baronet was not to follow him through those parts of his speech which related to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in Egypt generally, but simply to reply to what he has put forward with reference to the question of constructing the Suakin-Berber Railway. Upon this point I have to say, therefore, that in my belief the proposed railway is rendered absolutely necessary as long as the policy stated by Lord Wolseley is followed out—I refer to the military policy advocated by him of operating on Berber by converging two Forces, one having its base at Suakin, and the other its base at Cairo—or, to speak more accurately, I should say, with its base at Alexandria, its head-quarters being, however, at Korti. I maintain that there are three grounds on which this railway is necessary. In the first place, it is essential that the railway should be constructed—and I will show that it is so—because it is a military necessity, or, at any rate, there are matters of such military im- 524 portance involved as really amount to a military necessity. In the second place, to the extent to which the railway may be finished it will afford the means of saving expenditure; and, in the third place, I would say, in answer to the criticism of the hon. Baronet, that assuming the railway to be a necessity, and that it should be made in the manner proposed, Her Majesty's Government are taking the best means—and, indeed, the only means in their power—to insure its construction. Let the Committee look for a moment at the circumstances in which we are placed. We have, at the present moment, two Armies operating in the Soudan. There is the Army of General Graham with its base at Suakin, and there is also the Army of Lord Wolseley with its base at Korti. Surely the construction of the proposed railway must be a matter of immense importance to the Force under the command of General Graham. Unless the country around Suakin is pacified, and Berber is occupied by a friendly Force, it will be impossible for General Graham's Force to advance on Berber in the absence of the proposed means of railway transport, without a huge provision of transport camels; and I may here state that the War Department has had a careful calculation made with regard to the amount of camel transport that would be absolutely indispensable to the requirements of such a Force as that of which General Graham has command, and I find that from 50,000 to 70,000 camels are estimated as being necessary to meet the wants of that contingent in the matter of transport. To maintain such an array of camels with the Force for a period of one year would involve an expenditure of something like £3,350,000. Therefore I repeat that, as far as regards General Graham's Force, assuming it is to advance on Berber, a railway, if it can be made, is a military necessity.
§ MR. BRAND
The hon. Gentleman asks a question of policy with which I do not propose to deal in the remarks I now feel called upon to make. I am simply dealing with the military question as it affects the railway proposed to be made from Suakin to Berber; and I ask the Committee to consider whether, as regards Lord Wolseley's Force, the projected line is not of almost equal im- 525 portance to the position it assumes in the case of General Graham? If Lord Wolseley is to advance with his Force on Berber, is it possible to exaggerate the enormous importance to the progress of that Force of Lord Wolseley having for the transport of supplies and munitions, as well as his sick and wounded, a railway within 100 miles of his headquarters, and less than 250 miles from the sea at Suakin? For however great may be the advantages of the Nile route, and to whatever extent it may be possible for Lord Wolseley to improve that route, we, nevertheless, have to recognize the fact that the Nile route from Berber to Cairo covers a distance of 1,420 miles. I do not say it is an impossibility; but I do say it would be a difficult thing to maintain a line of communications extending over so great a distance. I have said I will show the Committee that the railway from Suakin will afford the means of effecting a considerable saving of expenditure, always assuming that these operations are conducted in the manner contemplated; and I will now proceed to prove that it will be a saving, not only in its entire length, should it be completed, but to the extent of every 50 miles of rail that may be laid down. It must be obvious that for every 50 miles of railway we may make we shall necessarily require fewer and fewer animals for purposes of transport. I have had a calculation made, and I find that if we succeed in making a railway as far as Ariab, instead of a camel transport to the number of 60,000 or 70,000 animals, only from 15,000 to 20,000 would be required. Then there remains the question asked by the hon. Baronet, whether the intended railway can be made in time? I am not about to commit myself to any confident prediction on that point. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen will be able to quote the opinions of civil engineers on the one side, while I, again, am able to quote the opinions of civil engineers on the other. In point of fact, we might have almost as many opinions as there are engineers. But, at any rate, we do know this with regard to the route that has been chosen—that an engineer, Mr. Wyld, went over the line of country, some time ago, on behalf of a syndicate that had been formed for the purpose of making such a railway, and that in his Report it was 526 estimated that a railway, such as that which we propose, could be made at a cost of about £4,500 per mile. Mr. Wyld reported that there were no serious engineering difficulties; and from this source, as well as from other information in our possession, we have every reason to believe that the gradients are not severe. We believe that the railway can be made, at any rate, to a certain distance that cannot but be useful. A great deal has, unfortunately, been said about this railway, in absolute ignorance of what are the real facts. There was a statement made in "another place" the other day with respect to this railway; and it was then suggested, or asked, whether we were sending out stone materials and iron girders for the bridges? The answer is, of course, we are not doing anything of the kind. It would be absurd to say we are going to build stone and iron bridges. Bridging material will, no doubt, be sent out; but it will be composed of timber. I will not say that this railway can be made in its entirety for the use of the troops sent to the Soudan; but I will say this—that I feel confident that 50 miles of railway can be made; that I believe 100 miles can be made; and that I see no reason why 170 miles should not be made in the time at which it will be needed. But what I desire to insist on is this—that whether 50 miles, or 150 miles, or 170 miles of railway are made, whatever is done in that direction will be of immense military importance. Having shown, as I think I have succeeded in doing, that, granting certain premises, this railway will be of importance in a military sense, and having further shown, as I also think I have done, that if it is made for the purposes I have stated, it will affect a saving of expenditure, I have now only to deal with the statement of the hon. Baronet that we ought to have employed other means. I contend that Her Majesty's Government have adopted the best and the only means that were available. It would have been impossible for the Royal Engineers of this country to have made such a railway as that which they propose to construct from Suakin to Berber unless they had at their disposal an organized Railway Corps, which, at the present moment, the country does not possess. I may state that I was convinced, from the 527 evidence before the Committee on Commissariat and Transport last year, that it would be madness to attempt to carry out such an undertaking without an organized Railway Corps. On the other hand, it is perfectly true that if we had been able to obtain the assistance of the Public Works Department in India it might have been possible for us to have made the railway. But for certain reasons, into which I will not enter at the present moment, it was not deemed desirable to adopt that course. Under these circumstances, therefore, the only means that were at the hands of Her Majesty's Government were to accept the offer of Messrs. Lucas and Aird, who are eminent contractors. I believe the decision arrived at as to the gauge of the railway—the English gauge—to have been the right one. The English gauge does not require such careful and accurate laying as the narrow gauge, and it has the advantage of possessing more stability than any other gauge. I may add that the whole of the materials and tools were actually in the hands of Messrs. Lucas and Aird, and were supplied at once. They were shipped, indeed, within a week of the time the order was given; and I do not believe that anything better could have been done by any other country. I have now dealt, as I said I should do, only with the question of the necessity for this railway from a military point of view, and the capacity of the agents who have been employed to construct it. I am quite certain of this—that if we have a clear course—that is to say, if, in a military sense, the country can be cleared sufficiently for the purpose, and if we have a sufficiency of Native labour, there is no reason why a considerable portion of this railway may not be made. I will go further, and say that, under these circumstances, I feel confident that a considerable portion of the railway will be made in time to be of great service to our Forces in the Soudan.
I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the mode in which I propose to put this Question to it. It is as follows:—"That the Item (Vote 13), of £235,000, for Works and Buildings, be reduced, by £100,000."
§ MR. CARBUTT
I wish to ask, as a point of Order, whether, if you put that 528 Vote 13, it will be competent for me to go back to the previous Vote?
I have already informed the hon. Member that there is nothing to prevent his speaking on any portion of this Vote. He himself informed the Committee that he did not intend to propose a reduction of the Vote of any item at any time.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he did not propose to deal with the admirable political and financial résumé of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Joseph Pease). He entirely sympathized with it, and, on some points, he agreed with it; but he would say to the hon. Gentleman, as he would say to certain Gentlemen below the Gangway, that it was no use crying over spilt milk. They had got into a very great mess. He did not say how they had got into it, because hon. Gentlemen had been labouring for weeks past, ho might say for months and years past, on that side of the House to point out how very faulty the policy of the Government had been; and he only regretted that, as the hon. Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) and other Members below the Gangway on the Ministerial side held such strong views about the policy of the Government that they had not helped the Opposition about 10 days ago when the Vote of Censure was under discussion. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) had, that evening, given them a reason—and a very bad one—why these Gentlemen had not supported the Opposition; it was a bad reason from the hon. Gentleman's own point of view, but a good one from the point of view of the Opposition, because he (Lord Eustace Cecil) was sure no one on the Opposition side of the House was at all anxious to undertake the task of Government at this moment. The question before the Committee had been very properly narrowed by the ruling of the Chairman—in the spirit if not in the letter—to this—whether the railway could be made under the circumstances detailed; and whether it was advisable, from a military point of view as well as from a political point of view, to construct it? The hon. Gentleman the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. Brand) had commenced his speech by telling them that the railway was to be made from Suakin towards Berber—and the preposition "towards" was a very 529 doubtful part of his speech. He (Lord Eustace Cecil) was at a loss to know what the "towards" alluded to. Was the railway to widen out on an uncertain course—no one could tell where—in the Desert? He did not know; nor did he know whether it was to lead to transactions which would involve the expenditure of an immense treasure as well as a great deal of blood. But this he did know—that when the hon. Gentleman went on to say that there would be no difficulty—he had marked the words—about making the railway, provided Osman Digna was defeated—
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
But Osman Digna had already been defeated, and defeated twice over; but he had never yet been caught. It was one thing to defeat him, and it was quite another to catch him. Osman Digna was as ubiquitous as the Mahdi; and probably if they succeeded in doing that which they were going to attempt—namely, the smashing of his Force—Osman Digna himself would retire to the hills with the troops that remained with him after the slaughter which doubtless would take place. In a very short time after his defeat, more especially as the summer season came, and as the weather got hotter and hotter, Osman Digna would descend again with his marauding parties, and, no doubt, would make the construction of the railway an almost superhuman task. He had read lately—and, no doubt, other hon. Members were also acquainted with the fact—that over and over again in their attempts to construct fortifications at Suakin the Arab Tribes had harassed Her Majesty's soldiers. The Arabs, it was said, were so clever and so venturesome that every night, whenever a fortification had been partly made, numbers of them descended upon it, and took away the sandbags or partly destroyed them. In this way sometimes the work of days was destroyed in a single night. He would ask his hon. Friend, and every reasonable man in the Committee, how they were going to insure, without an enormous amount of trouble and expense, the making of this railway by Natives and workmen brought 530 from he did not know where? How many troops would be required to keep the marauding parties off? How was it intended to sustain these troops, because, after all, the construction of a railway was a work of time? They knew that it could not be made in a moment, and that even if the 50 miles which were talked of were finished it would probably be months before even that part of the work was out of hand, and all this time they would have to feed their troops, their camels, and their animals, and they would have to look after their labouring parties. It was absurd for the hon. Member to tell him, or to tell anyone else, that there would be no difficulty in making the railway when Osman Digna was defeated. He contended that there would be the greatest difficulty, and that it would entail the greatest expenditure both in money and men. As he thought the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) had said, it was not so much the Arab spears that they had cause to be frightened of as the sun. When they considered that many of the men who would be employed upon the railway—many of the labourers and navvies—were brought from this country, that they were men whose habits were not those of the strictest sobriety, and that they would have to be exposed to the fiercest rays of a tropical sun, with, at the best, extremely bad water to drink, it must be apparent to everyone that the danger was enormous. Could it be supposed that these men would not be subjected to the danger of enteric fever, and that, labouring as they would be, they would not be visited with disease? Why, it was possible that during the hottest months it might be found necessary to stop the work on the railway entirely. But, to proceed, he would refer to the three reasons which had been given in favour of the making of the railway. The hon. Gentleman had said, first, that it was a military necessity. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), early in the evening, had said that the railway was absolutely necessary. The noble Marquess had said that whereas their going to Khartoum was only probable—and that was understood to be the military opinion of Lord Wolseley—the making of the railway from Suakin to Berber 531 was an absolute necessity. Well, when Lord Wolseley gave that opinion he (Lord Eustace Cecil) presumed he meant to say that the making of the railway was an absolute necessity if the Government wished to avoid the great mortality which, no doubt, would take place amongst the camels and the beasts of burden employed in the Transport Service. But beyond the fact of saving a certain amount of money when the railway was made—and he laid some stress upon that—and beyond its being a military necessity, he could not see that there was any positive necessity for bringing up troops and stores from Suakin. It could be done, but it would be done at very great expenditure. It certainly could not be done before the autumn, and they certainly could not make any advance before that time. He did not suppose that it was intended to make any advance before the completion of the railway. Then it really came to this—that it was a question of expenditure. With regard to expenditure, they were on exceedingly doubtful ground. When he looked upon that side of the question he stood perfectly appalled at what the Government proposed. He had listened in astonishment and with amazement that night to the noble Marquess as he detailed the various works that were to be executed, and the expenditure which was to be incurred, by this country. Tramways had been spoken of as well as steamboats on the Nile, and a Nile railway; an increase in the Army had been spoken of, and the construction of a railway from Suakin to Berber. They heard also that a quantity of huts were to be obtained, and, no doubt, these were in the highest degree necessary for the housing of their troops in the hot season; and on this matter he would express an earnest hope that care should be taken to have the huts properly fitted and constructed of the best material. Well, every one of the items he had mentioned would be costly, and the whole undertaking seemed to land one into a perfect sea of expenditure; and what he complained of, so far as the noble Marquess's statement was concerned, and also of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Brand), was that no estimate was given to the Committee of the prospective expenditure. Whenever they came 532 to ask about the expenditure they were put off by such observations as—"Oh, it will all be included in the Vote of Credit." Well, that Vote of Credit they were all anxious to see. He was sure hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House, whom he had no doubt felt very deeply on this question of expenditure, were extremely anxious to see what the total expenditure of the Government would be, and what burden all the outlay that was taking place in the heart of the Soudan would lay upon the shoulders of the people of the country. Those hon. Members, and hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House, not only wished to know what the policy of Her Majesty's Government was generally, but wore anxious to know whether the Government had any minds at all as to what sum was likely to be spent on the military operations in the Soudan? They were not without precedents in regard to these matters—they were not without precedents of a very disagreeable kind in regard to these matters in Africa. It must be in the recollection of the Committee, as it was in his recollection, how enormously the expenditure in connection with the Abyssinian Campaign had grown. The Conservatives were in Office at the time, and he was not now saying anything about who was responsible for the drawing up of the Estimates. All he knew was that the Estimates were drawn up, and that those who had to officially submit them in that House declared that, according to the figures which were put before them, the expenditure on the war would only amount to some £3,000,000. But what was the fact? Why, the expenditure in connection with the Abyssinian War came to £9,000,000, showing how completely falsified had been all the Estimates drawn up by hon. Gentlemen seated at their desks in Downing Street or elsewhere, though, no doubt, they were prepared as carefully as their knowledge enabled them to prepare them. He (Lord Eustace Cecil) contended, therefore, that the noble Marquess and the other officials interested in this matter were bound to take the House of Commons into their confidence, so far as they could, upon this question of expenditure. What he urged the Government to do was to give every item of information they had, not to 533 pledge themselves to any limit; because, even with all the information at the hands of the Government officials, he very much doubted whether the Estimates founded upon it would be very trustworthy in the end. The Government were bound to put every single figure they could before the Committee; and what he complained of particularly that night was that the noble Marquess had given them a very meagre statement indeed. The hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Brand) had told them that a railway of this kind might cost £4,500 per mile; but he (Lord Eustace Cecil) would put it to anyone who had ever had anything to do with the construction of railways in savage or semi-civilized countries whether such a figure was trustworthy? Let them take South America, and he would put it to anyone who had any knowledge of what Brazilian railways had cost whether such works could be carried out for £4,500 a mile? He happened incidentally to have some little information upon this point, and he believed that it was not at all quoting an out-of-the- way figure when he said that Brazilian railways had cost as a rule £10,000 per mile. Therefore, when the hon. Gentle man (Mr. Brand) told him that the rail way was only going to cost £4,500 per mile—
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
But the hon. Gentleman led the Committee to suppose that railways of that kind could be constructed for £4,500 a mile.
§ MR. BRAND
I did not say anything of the kind. My noble Friend misunderstood me. What I said was, that some time ago Mr. Wyld, an engineer, went over the line for a syndicate that had been formed—the construction of a railway being at that time contemplated—I cannot say whether of a metre gauge or of an ordinary English gauge; and that it was believed at the time that the work could be completed at the rate of £4,500 per mile.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, he quite accepted the hon. Gentleman's explanation; but, at the same time, when figures were put before the Committee, it was always supposed that they were intended as a guide, or to lead hon. Members to form some judgment upon the question of cost. When that sum 534 per mile was put before the Committee, he had thought himself entitled to take it as a possible or probable estimate—for they were in the land of probabilities—which the gentlemen who had given the information to his hon. Friend (Mr. Brand) and the noble Marquess (the Marquees of Hartington) had arrived at after due consideration of the subject. Well, he now came to the question which the hon. Baronet the Member for South Durham (Sir Joseph Pease) had lightly touched upon. The hon. Baronet, he thought, had stated that a great deal of the material to be used in the construction of the Suakin-Berber railway was old material from the Hull and Barnsley railroad. He had understood the hon. Baronet to state that some of this material was not in the very best state of preservation.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
I do not wish to imply that by any means in what I said, or that Messrs. Lucas and Aird had shipped old and worn-out material from the Hull and Barnsley Railway. I would give them credit for the highest integrity in the matter.
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
said, that at any rate, although he did not mean to say that the material was improper material to be used for the construction of the railway, still it had been used, and could not, therefore, be said to be in the same condition in which it was when it was perfectly new. He should like to know whether the material taken out was fitted for the purpose of railway construction in a country like the Soudan? Hon. Members knew that in these tropical climates great mischief was done by insects—by such things as white ants. These insects devoured almost everything before them. He had even heard of their eating tin cans. Altogether, without wishing to cast a slur upon the integrity of Messrs. Lucas and Aird, it was quite possible that this railway material sent out to the Soudan might be found hardly fitted for railway purposes in such an exceptional climate. On such matters as these he should like very much to have a little further information. Then, again, with regard to water. They had had hinted, in answers which had been given to Questions put in that House, that all the water to be used by the labourers and by the troops along the railway was to be taken from the Red Sea, and pumped through pipes. 535 Questions had been asked of his hon. Friend the Surveyor General of Ordnance (Mr. Brand), where the pumps to be used in these operations had been ordered—whether in America or in this country? He (Lord Eustace Cecil) had understood, from the answer the hon. Member had given, that there was no doubt that pumps and pipes had to be used. Then it must be borne in mind that pumps and pipes added very much indeed to the expense—that whether the whole outlay could be covered by any figures corresponding to [£4,500 per mile he should take to be exceedingly doubtful. He said, therefore, without going further into detail in this matter, that it was perfectly clear they were really taking a great leap in the dark. They really did not know enough of the country, or of the conditions under which the railway was to be constructed and laid down, or with regard to the number of men who would be required to make it, or the number of soldiers who would be required to defend it from the hordes which Osman Digna might collect and send down against it at any moment after he had been smashed. And they were not sure that after all, when all the expenditure of blood and treasure had taken place, when this railway had been constructed "towards Berber," wherever that might be, the Government would be quite certain that they were going to Khartoum, or even going on with the war at all. They were in a state of uncertainty in consequence of the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington); and he entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) that they were left in a state of uncertainty whether the policy of March, 1885, would be the policy of September in the same year. If the hon. Member was right, what would become of the present Estimate of expenditure? Though he did not quite agree with the views of hon. Members below the Gangway on the opposite side of the House, yet he sympathized with their objections with regard to expenditure. He also objected to the expenditure the Government were incurring; but he did not wish to oppose it. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed, but he would tell them why. He did not object, because they had got into such a tremendous mess. They had 536 sent their troops out, and, as had been stated over and. over again, it would be quite impossible, without a loss of prestige—of which they had not too much now-a-days—to retire before the Mahdi. There was only one alternative left—they must go on with the operations. He had been opposed to the policy of the Government from the first—that was to say, from the moment of the bombardment of Alexandria to the present time. He had been opposed to all their expenditure in Egypt; but he was in that unfortunate position in which he thought other hon. Gentlemen in the House who had any share of responsibility found themselves—that was to say, he could not refuse the Supplies to the Government. But he did stand there and say that he had a right to exercise the critical powers at his command. He had a right to say that the Government, who had brought them into this scrape, should now take them into their confidence and make a clean breast of the whole business, so far as their information enabled them to do, and that they should tell them the full extent of the vast expenditure of treasure and blood which was likely to take place. He was glad to see that the Prime Minister had just entered the House. He held that right hon. Gentleman to be primarily responsible for what was taking place. He did not intend to quote the Prime Minister's speeches. He had attempted to do that once or twice in the House; and on every occasion, if he had not happened to have the precise extracts from those speeches in his pocket, the right hon. Gentleman had come down upon him. But he had read and listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speeches and statements over and over again; and he was bound to say that he had formed very much the same opinion with regard to them as had been formed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin). He could not help saying—and he did not think it could be too often repeated—that a great many of the answers of the Prime Minister in the House itself, and a great many of his speeches outside of it, had had a very mischievous effect both in the Soudan and elsewhere. They had had a mischievous effect in this country, although the evil created at home had been very small in extent as compared 537 with that created amongst the Natives in Egypt and the Soudan. Whether it was that they approached these questions without the power of duly understanding the Oriental and Native mind he did not know; but he was quite certain that if the Prime Minister would give that calm consideration which his great capacity and great intellect enabled him to give to these matters, he would see, perhaps, that there was a little reason in that which was constantly being urged from the Opposition side of the House—namely, that the more guarded a speech on the question of policy was it would be far better for their troops, and for everybody concerned in the Government service at the present time in Egypt. He was quite certain of this—that if the troops were asked, and if the bonds of military discipline permitted them to speak, they would say one and all, from Lord Wolseley down to the smallest drummer boy, that the statements and the speeches which had been made had increased their difficulties enormously; that unless there could be adopted some firm, some real substantial policy of a permanent nature which the whole world could acknowledge and believe in, and which would not only be stated but acted up to, they might just as well pull down the flag of this country at once, make terms with the Mahdi, and, to use a well-known word, carry out that policy of rescue and retire, or, as he ought to say, retire and scuttle, as soon as they possibly could. He made these remarks in no spirit of hostility to this particular Vote. He was prepared—and he thought all hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House were prepared—to support Her Majesty's Government, simply because they wished to support the country in its great difficulty and in its great danger, and in the great trouble which, unfortunately, by the action of the Government, and the action of the Government alone, it was placed in at that moment.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE
I am anxious that my noble Friend (Lord Eustace Cecil) should not run away with the impression that I intended to imply that the plant shipped by Messrs. Lucas and Aird was not fit to be sent out for the construction of the railway from Suakin to Berber. Messrs. Lucas and Aird are men of the highest character and expe- 538 rience, and I would not for a moment cast the slightest reflection upon their integrity. What I did mean to imply was that it might be a Very good arrangement for them, as they were getting "fair and reasonable" prices for the plant—prices according to the contract to be fixed by themselves.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he wished to protest against the policy which he believed the Government had adopted in great haste and in a moment of great excitement. They had decided to send Lord Wolseley to the relief of General Gordon and when the gallant General plunged into his great enterprize, no doubt, the great majority of the people of this country approved of the step decided upon by the Government, although there must have been in many minds serious misgivings with regard to the advisability of the course General Gordon had pursued. He submitted to the Committee that they were now in a somewhat different position than they were when the hasty decision was come to about going forth to Khartoum and overthrowing the Mahdi there; the proposal that was now before them was for making a railway from Suakin to Berber. But when that suggestion was first made by Lord Wolseley he did not contemplate withdrawing his troops some hundreds of miles from the position he then occupied. They were told, in justification of the course the Government had determined upon, that it was absolutely necessary that they should go to Khartoum, in order, amongst other things, that the friendly tribes who had been co-operating with them might not be discouraged and left in the lurch; but he wished to ask in what position they had left those friendly tribes upon the hundreds of miles of their retreat? Now, at that moment the House of Commons was in this position. Eight hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were most cordial, almost gushing, in their readiness to support the Government in this expenditure. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who had spoken from the other side of the House had said he was quite prepared to support the Government on this Vote; but the Committee had received the intimation that their sup- 539 port was to be given on one condition; and that was that the Party on the other side of the House, when possibly all the mischief had come out of the policy which the Government were pursuing, might then be at liberty to turn round and brand the Government, and the Liberal Party generally, not only as blunderers, but as political criminals. It was said there was a large party who wished to save the Government from that future humiliation; and it was for that reason he had ventured, as representing a largo constituency, to express what he believed to be the feeling of the great majority of the town of which he had the honour of being one of the Representatives, against the course which the Government had entered upon. From what had dropped from the mouths of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, he still believed there was a disposition on the part of the Government to reconsider the decision they had come to. He thought the Party on the Ministerial side of the House would not necessarily hurry the Government into any hasty declarations of a change of policy. Happily, there were six months of hot weather abroad, and of cooling temperature at home; cooling, because this country would look more deliberately into the situation. Further, the political temperature would be reduced by the consideration that the expenditure which the Government was incurring, and the increased taxation which would ensue, would bring into play the feelings and the determination of large numbers of people in the country, who, up to that moment, had counted for little in the decision that had been taken. Now, he wished to point out that most of the Gentlemen who had spoken from the other side of the House were county Representatives. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was a county Representative; and he, and almost every Gentleman who had spoken from the other side of the House, had not as yet felt the touch of the new voters in the country. It was worth notice that those who had opposed the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and sought to restrain them in their undue ardour for these military enter-prizes, did represent the great populations of the country; and he ventured to intimate to hon. and right hon. Gen- 540 tlemen opposite that they might find: they had miscalculated the feeling of the country when, at the next General Election, they came to deal with Hodge, and with those persons to whom increased burdens were by no means agreeable. He could not help saying, in passing, that the Party opposite had attempted to hang by the skirts of General Gordon in a most unworthy manner. Up to the 4th of February everybody in the country had a right to believe that the Military Expedition sent for the relief of General Gordon was about to be successful; and on the 4th of February the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) happened to be speaking at the "True Blue Club" in the City of Gloucester. The right hon. Gentleman replied to the toast of the county Members of the House of Commons; and in The Times of the 5th of February he was reported to have asked the members of the Club—Were the lives and was the money spent in the Soudan to go for naught but the rescue of a man who had said he was perfectly able to take care of himself?His (Mr. Illingworth's) belief was that, judging from what was just let out at the most unfortunate moment possible, if the Military Expedition had been successful, and Gordon had been rescued, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would have turned round on the Government and have said that the success was a paltry business, and that Gordon was never in any serious danger, and ought to have been left to himself; but, having gone to the Soudan, it was their duty to retain the whole of it and get out of it, whatever profit it was capable of. In his (Mr. Illingworth's) opinion, the duty of those who represented large constituencies where the householders had votes was to intimate to the Government that there was really no enthusiasm for the line upon which they had entered. He and his hon. Friends were willing to make every allowance for the position in which the Government had found itself. The noble Lord who last spoke (Lord Eustace Cecil) had said that he objected to the whole of the policy of the Government—from the first blunder of the bombardment of Alexandria to the last enterprize which ended before Khartoum. It was somewhat singular that, so far as he (Mr. 541 Illingworth) had been able to ascertain, the entire Party opposite, whenever a critical moment had come, had supported the Government. The Conservative Party had been so concerned to maintain the Executive, whether right or wrong, that it had never at any moment, so far as he knew, separated itself from that Party whose policy the noble Lord said was so disastrous and so unsatisfactory. There might be individual exceptions; but, speaking generally of that Party, and especially of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench, it was unfortunately true that the Government would be able to include them in whatever misfortunes and crimes this country had been guilty of in this Soudan business. He only wished to say, further, that they were not very far from the time of a General Election; and he hoped the electors of the country would speak out unmistakably with regard to these military enterprizes, which had resulted in great loss of life, and in political disasters from first to last. Now, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had pleaded over and over again, with some force, that the Government found itself in a very unfortunate position in taking Office, owing to engagements to which the previous Government had committed them. Well, that was true; but the blame which, he thought, might fairly he against the Government was this—that, with all the right hon. Gentleman's power and ability, he did not extricate himself and his Government from those conditions. He (Mr. Illingworth) believed there were moments when it might have been possible—it might have been done. When France refused to join them and withdrew her Fleet from Alexandria, surely that was a time when the right hon. Gentleman and the Government might have asked themselves whether an opportunity had not been afforded for the reconsideration of the terms of the agreement by which the two Governments had bound themselves. He (Mr. Illingworth) was bound to make in some respects a painful confession, and that was that no Government found it easy to escape from the spirit which was generated by the London Press, London society, and the official classes in the country, and he, for one, was not at that moment expecting to influence the de- 542 cision of the Government; but he was venturing to suggest to many outside, who only wanted to know the right course to pursue, what it was possible for them to do. Now, if they were really to restrain the Government, it would be necessary for the people of the country to speak out most distinctly. They had had strained relationship, they were told, with France, with Germany, and they were also in a somewhat critical position, it was to be feared, with regard to another Great Power. Well, Governments, he believed, found themselves so hemmed in by the militarism of the day that unless the people spoke over the heads of the Government there was no escape from the misfortunes which now surrounded them. He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) was in his place, because he did not hesitate to say that he entirely sympathized with that hon. Gentleman's speech the other day to the working classes of Paris. A better Representative of the working classes in this country could not be found than the hon. Gentleman; and therefore none was more fitting to make the appeal from nation to nation than the hon. Gentleman, in order to induce an international effort to overthrow the greatest curse of the present day—the militarism of all the countries in Europe. He (Mr. Illingworth) believed it was the duty of the Representatives of the people, and those who had some regard for the burdens that were to be put upon the shoulders of the people, to speak out at a moment like the present. They were all aware that in every direction there was severe commercial, industrial, and agricultural depression, and that few men could point out any substantial signs of improvement in the commercial horizon. If, then, the country was descending to a lower position of comfort, surely this was a time for the people's Representatives in the House of Commons to use every endeavour to curb the disposition which was shown in so many quarters to indulge in doubtful military enterprizes. From the outset he had deplored and voted against these enterprizes in Egypt. He thought that by what they had done in the Soudan they had been guilty of little short of crime, and he beseeched the Government to remember their pacific pledges, and not to be carried away by the fatal desire to overthrow 543 the Mahdi at Khartoum. If Her Majesty's Government would allow wiser counsels to prevail, it was his conviction they would be supported by the great majority of the people of the country.
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) found fault with hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House, because they had supported Her Majesty's Government in times of national difficulty. He (Mr. Gorst) felt bound to confess that speeches such as they had just heard received in silence by Her Majesty's Government, and not at once renounced, and repudiated by them, rendered it extremely difficult for anyone on the Opposition side of the House who had the welfare of the nation at heart to continue to support the Executive Government. He was very much struck with what the hon. Member for Bradford said—he who knew his Leaders, he who knew those who sat on the Treasury Bench much better than he (Mr. Gorst) and his hon. Friends did. The hon. Member said he had every reason to expect that in the course of the coming summer the Government's present projects in the Soudan would be abandoned, and the policy of the Party sitting below the Gangway would be adopted. The hon. Member thought it would be so. He (Mr. Gorst) was afraid it might be so; but he could not help thinking of something that would happen before that change of policy on the part of the Government took place, of something which was likely to happen in the neighbourhood of Suakin within the next two or three weeks, and that was what was so glibly talked about in that House—the dispersion of Osman Digna's Forces. What was the meaning of the dispersion of Osman Digna's Forces? It meant that some thousands of poor Arab people, rightly struggling to be free, were to be slaughtered; that a number of homes were to be made desolate; and that, in addition to the evils that had already been inflicted upon that unhappy quarter of the globe, further slaughter and further devastation was to take place. Well, they might reconcile themselves to witnessing a horrible event of that kind brought about by their power, by their money, and promoted by their Government, if it was to lead to any satisfactory result for the benefit of mankind at large. But 544 if that slaughter was to take place, and the result was to be that the policy of the Government was to be abandoned, and that nothing was to come of it; if neither they nor the persons against whom they made war were to be any the better, it really made one pause and doubt whether one ought, after all, to support the policy of Her Majesty's Government. He recognized to the full the great responsibility this country was undertaking that night. It was going to vote the men and the money for this Expedition to Suakin. He did not grudge the money, though, in the present distressed condition of the country, it was not pleasant to think that they were going to embark on an expenditure of many millions of money. But that was the smallest part of the consideration. They were going to sacrifice a great number of their soldiers and sailors, and of thousands of their enemies. He could not help asking himself and asking the Committee, what better should they be for it all a year or two hence? If he felt sure that the Government would persevere in a policy which they said they considered necessary for the welfare of this country and for the welfare of Egypt he would support them cheerfully; but when he heard one of their own supporters, one of their most cherished supporter, a man whom he believed was in their secrets and confidence, boldly announcing from his seat below the Gangway, amidst the cheers of the supporters of the Government, that they were going to change their policy, and when such a speech was received with silence by right hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the Treasury Bench, and when not one of them rose when the hon. Member sat down, for the purpose of denouncing and repudiating such a speech, he confessed it was enough to make those on the Opposition Benches pause before giving their votes to the Government. Another consideration which ought to make them pause was that this was not the first time that this state of things had been exhibited to the world. There was an Expedition to the Soudan last year. Ho believed that that Expedition was commenced when the Government had some settled purpose. He did not think so ill of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister as to believe he would have sent a 545 body of English troops to fight two bloody battles and come away without some result. He believed the right hon. Gentleman bad a purpose, and he believed that purpose was abandoned in consequence of the pressure put upon him by hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House. Having seen that done one year, he confessed he did not think they were unreasonable in having apprehensions that the same thing might be done again. He thought that, at the present moment, the Government had no business to halt between two opinions; they ought either to make up their minds to pursue the policy already announced to the House in the debate on the Vote of Censure in such strong terms by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington)—they ought either to make up their minds to follow that policy out to the end and tell the House of Commons and the country so, or they ought at once to agree with the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth). It might be that they might lose some small amount of prestige,it might be that they might have a good deal of ridicule to encounter at the hands of foreign nations; but rather let them do that now than change their minds after they had slaughtered a few thousands more of Arabs. The hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) said, and said truly, that their relations with foreign countries were strained. No doubt their relations with Russia were so strained that it would be almost unpatriotic to say a word upon the subject in that House at the present moment. Their relations with Germany were very strained; but he did not hesitate to speak about their relations with that country, because he believed it was absolutely impossible for the most reckless Minister in the world to cause a war, or even a serious quarrel, between this country and Germany. He thought that was the opinion of Prince Bismarck, that however the Rulers of the two countries might grumble at each other, the two nations would insist upon peace being observed. Surely, when their relations were strained with all Foreign Powers, when they had this great difficulty of the Soudan upon their shoulders, the Government ought to have one single set purpose and one single determined mind, and they had 546 no right to call upon Members who sat upon the Opposition side of the House for their assistance and support, unless they meant honestly and fairly to carry out the policy they had announced.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, the Prime Minister had assured the Committee that the Vote which had just been passed had no necessary relation with the operations in the Soudan. As a matter of fact, it might very well appear that there were reasons at the present time which made it prudent for Her Majesty's Government, and those who sat behind Ministers, to be prepared in every reasonable way for military operations whenever and wherever they might happen to be necessary. On that ground he had supported the last Vote. The Vote now under consideration, however, related to the railway between Suakin and Berber. There could be no ambiguity about the objects of that railway; its construction related to one thing and one thing only, and that was the prosecution, in some form or other, of military operations in the neighbourhood of Khartoum. Against those operations, in any degree, he must record his most emphatic protest. He objected to them on grounds of humanity; he objected to them on grounds of policy. The construction of the railway he regarded, indeed, as an absolute impossibility. It was not necessary that one should pause at this moment to inquire what was the exact policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the present operations. He was not concerned to know whether it was the object of the Government to smash the Mahdi, to square the Mahdi when smashed, or to do any other thing which had been described to the House in the somewhat divergent speeches of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. He had recently paid a visit to Egypt, and although he should hardly presume, on the strength of a very short residence in the country, to pose as an authority on Egyptian questions, he thought it might be admitted that one gained by a short sojourn in Egypt a somewhat more vivid impression as to the state of affairs than could possibly be obtained by a perusal of the Blue Books, and still less of the speeches delivered in that House. While in Egypt he formed one strong impression, and it was supported by authority which, if he could only give the names, would be 547 admitted by Members of the Committee to be absolutely undeniable. That impression was that the proposed railway was a practical impossibility. He had also formed the opinion that any military operations in the Soudan were destined to failure, for the one sole and simple reason that the climate in that region forbade any hope of success. He knew brave men at Cairo at the present moment who had been ordered to go to the Soudan men who never flinched at the call of duty, but who were appalled at the prospect of the horrors and miseries which were in store for them and all those who were ordered by Her Majesty's Government to go to the Soudan at this season. He had reviewed with competent authorities the dangers and probabilities of the situation; and he was assured that no British troops could hope to cope successfully with the climate, either now or under the circumstances of a permanent occupation. To bring troops from India to fight the Mahdi would be a measure fraught with very grave consequences To attempt to fight battles there by the assistance of Black troops from the West Indies was clearly out of the question, because he was assured by good authorities that they did not possess the qualities needed for that sort of warfare, and the Committee knew from recent events how little confidence could be placed in the Egyptian Army. That being the ease, it seemed to him little short of madness to continue military operations in the Soudan. But as to the railway, he believed that that railway could not be made in face of the hostility of the Native Tribes. Members of the Committee knew the geographical and physical difficulties of the country; but perhaps they did not all remember the fact that the tribes who inhabited the country through which the proposed railway was to go were very largely interested in the carrying trade between Khartoum and the sea coast. For that reason alone the tribes would present the most strenuous opposition to a scheme which would doom to destruction their greatest industry. He believed there were insuperable difficulties in the way of that project, and he certainly hoped that Her Majesty's Government would abandon the idea. He had no doubt that his hon. Friends on 548 those Benches who, like himself, desired the commercial development of the Soudan, and who hoped that the country might at some time or other be thrown open to British commerce, did look favourably on the construction of a commercial railway from the fertile regions around Khartoum to the sea coast; but this was a purely military railway, and ho was perfectly certain that it could not be made in the teeth of the enormous opposition which the tribes would bring against it. The only way they could make it was by pacific commercial arrangements; by convincing the inhabitants that their commercial and agricultural interests would be advanced by such a project, and by gaining their hearty co-operation and good will in the work. He knew that the great objection to the abandonment of—and yet he would like to abandon—all attempts at further military operations in the Soudan was that the Mahdi might thereby be encouraged to invade Egypt. He was willing to give his own personal testimony to the fact that the successes of the Mahdi had elicited abundant sympathy amongst the Mahommedan population at Cairo. But they must not lose sight of the fact that this was a religious as well as a political war, and that the fanatical inhabitants of Cairo were looking on to see whether the Mahdi was by his successes proving himself to be the true Prophet, and whether on account of his successes he ought to be religiously recognized or not. Naturally the sympathies of the Mahommedan people were with a Mahommedan Chief, even if he were a pretender, as against Christians; and he believed that the antipathy and fanaticism aroused by the Mahdi's successes was not directed against English people alone, but comprehended the Copts, the Germans, the French, and all other peoples of the Christian faith. But he asked how it was possible that a Chief like the Mahdi, with the military resources he commanded, could be a threatening power to the position of this country in Egypt? That this Mahdi was not a great military commander in the sense of possessing huge resources was a fact which must not be lost sight of. His military operations were necessarily of the most limited nature possible, and another point which he wanted to impress on the Committee was that his followers 549 were not the members of an Army in an ordinary sense; they were not the paid, organized, and enrolled elements of a systemized military arrangement, but members of tribes with families, homesteads with little portions of cultivated land which he was sure they would be loth to leave behind; which they only deserted for a brief period for the purpose of taking part in the neighbouring military operations, and which there was good reason to suppose they would not permanently desert and leave at the mercy of turbulent forces in their rear, with the object of undertaking the impossible task of crossing into Egypt. He thought they might calm their minds with regard to that apprehension. Surely the British power was sufficient to keep off any possible incursion of the Mahdi on the true Frontier of Egypt. That Frontier he should, with all deference, be disposed to place somewhere about Assouan, the defence of which was easy owing to natural conditions. He believed that it had been absolutely stated that there was no difficulty whatever in regard to Lord Wolseley's retirement by the Nile; that even at that moment his retreat by boats was quite a possible undertaking. He was not advising retreat; he did not pretend to suggest what the military course should be; but when it was said that these new operations were needed to provide means of escape for General Wolseley he was bound to say that he could not credit it. Another important point which appealed to him, as an Englishman and a man of honour, was the question of a proper solicitude for those friendly tribes which had stood by them in their need. But he was bound to confess that some of the declarations of Her Majesty's Ministers had been more perilous to those friendly tribes than any desertion of them could possibly be. He believed that if it had been understood by them that we were going to do one thing or the other, both the garrisons, some of whom were massacred, and those tribes to whom we were allied, would have made better provision for their own safety than they had made. He was convinced that the country had as much on hand in Egypt Proper as it could well manage without embarking on enormous and indefinite operations in the Soudan, a region so vast that their imaginations were taxed to grasp its full dimensions—a region full of horrors, 550 full of diseases and disasters, an arid waste which had swallowed up many and many an Army already, and which awaited with its devouring jaws any Army they might have the un wisdom to send into it again.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, the question which I apprehend is immediately before the Committee is the propriety of passing a Vote which is to commit us to the establishment of a railway from Suakin to Berber, or, as the noble Marquess, I think, put it, towards Berber. But the speeches which have recently been delivered, especially the admirable speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), and that of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, raised the question beyond the mere detail of the construction of a railway, and rather compelled us to consider what ought to be our position in respect of the policy which Her Majesty's Government are now pursuing. We have within the last few days challenged the position of Her Majesty's Government and explained our views with regard to the errors we think they have committed, and have given our reasons for calling upon Parliament to express an opinion hostile to their management of affairs. Parliament has refused—or rather this House has refused—to respond to that appeal, and has determined to continue to place its confidence in Her Majesty's Government. That being so, we are obliged to look at every question that arises from a point of view different, of course, from what we should have done if we had been able to rely on the support of the House of Commons for our policy. At the present time the Government are proceeding to take certain steps which are intended, in the first place, to relieve our Army, already committed deeply in Egypt; and, in the second place, I hope, to establish something in the nature of a firm and settled and orderly Government within the regions of the Soudan, towards which we have contracted very deep obligations. What is our connection with the Soudan? If the Committee will follow me they will see that it is really this. For various reasons which I need not pause to mention, we have a deep interest in the maintenance of a stable condition of affairs in Egypt Proper; from circumstances which I will not trouble the 551 Committee with, and with which they are familiar, we have secured a position in Egypt which gives us the power, and with that power the right, and even the duty, of advising Egypt with regard to various parts of her conduct and administration; and amongst those parts of her administration which gives the greatest anxiety, and upon which Her Majesty's Government some time ago thought it necessary to interpose rather vigorously, was the question of the relations between Egypt and the Soudan. The conclusion at which Her Majesty's Government arrived was ultimately to call upon the Egyptian Government to abandon the Soudan and to withdraw their garrisons. That was the counsel given, and which was expressed by our Representatives; and it was expressed with such force, and insisted upon with such pertinacity, that the Egyptian Government had to be changed, and we practically took the whole responsibility upon ourselves. Well, Sir, if we had left the matter at that time, the Egyptian Government, acting on our assurances, would no doubt, in some way or other, have accomplished that which we had ordered, or would have taken steps to accomplish it by the withdrawal of their garrisons in the Soudan; but, instead of that being left to the Egyptian Government to manage as they pleased, we committed ourselves to the mission of General Gordon, who went to Khartoum in the hope—and in the not altogether unfounded hope—that he might be able, by the exercise of his great influence, and by the knowledge he had of the country, and the character he had established among the people, that he might be able, in a peaceable manner, to accomplish the object of the withdrawal of the Egyptian troops, and establish something like order in the Soudan. When we go through the general features of General Gordon's mission, it seems to us that, on several occasions, Her Majesty's Government were not giving him all the support he desired, and that they had made his task all the more difficult by not carrying out the proposals which he made. But, whether it was so or not, it seems it was impossible for General Gordon to accomplish the object ho had in view, unless some very different course were taken, and that it would be necessary for the Government to take some decided steps 552 to enable him to retire from Khartoum, and to bring with him those who were to be brought away. Well, Sir, that led to the recent Expedition, with which we are cognizant—an Expedition which was undertaken under circumstances which did not reflect altogether high credit upon the discernment of Her Majesty's Government. I think they fell into their old error of acting reluctantly, and therefore with indecision, and without force. Her Majesty's Government says this will be a very cheap Expedition; but it seems to me that it will be one of the dearest Expeditions ever known. One of the most costly, in point of money, was the Abyssinian Expedition; but I venture to say that this Expedition is much more costly than that, for we have to take into account not only the money spent, but the blood to be shed; and if more money were spent on the Abyssinian Expedition than was consistent with the strictest details of economy, it had, at least, this result—that no blood was shed until the last moment, and then only a very small action took place, which completed the object of the Expedition. But the reluctance of Her Majesty's Government to put sufficient force into their military measures, their evident hesitation, explanations, apologies, excuses, and explaining away, which have accompanied everything they have done, have robbed their actions of a great deal of their moral force. If you act with hesitation and uncertainty at first, it requires greater force and violence in the end to accomplish your object. With regard to this particular proposal before us, we on this side of the House should, I think, feel the greatest reluctance to appear in any way unwilling to grant that which Her Majesty's Government tell us is necessary, in order to accomplish the ends which they have in view. It would be a disgrace to us if we were in any way to hold back from giving Supplies which may be necessary to disengage our gallant troops who have suffered so much; and we feel that nothing can be more unfortunate than that the Army of Lord Wolseley should be compelled to retreat after failing in its object altogether. We feel also that we should be guilty of a very grave crime towards those people in the Soudan, for whom my hon. and learned Friend the Member for 553 Chatham (Mr. Gorst) is so much concerned, if we were now to retire from the country, destroying our influence in Egypt; if we were to retire from the Soudan practically defeated, and leaving matters in a state of confusion, such as would result from our intention not having been carried out. With regard to the policy of the railway, as I understand it, it is looked upon as a question of a military character. I do not pretend to that military knowledge which would entitle me to speak of it from that point of view; but, looking at it as a political question, and regarding it upon general grounds, it appears to me that the railway gives the key to that which ought to be the true policy with regard to the Soudan. "We cannot leave the Soudan altogether; we do not wish to hand it back to Egypt. On the other hand, we do not want to plunge our Forces into the heart of Africa; we have occupation for them elsewhere; but we do want to open the country, as we can do from our base in the Red Sea, and that will give us great advantage in any settlement we may be able to make with regard to the future government of the country. I do not say what would be the precise form of that settlement. But there would be a settlement. That some rulers could be found to undertake the administration of important points, such as Berber and Khartoum, appears to me to be unquestionable, if we only set about it in a proper spirit—if we set about it with the intention of impressing the people of the Soudan with our power and determination, and with a firm conviction that this is not with us a question of a year only, but a question of their permanent good, and of the permanent settlement of that part of the country. I believe it is open to us to accomplish it in this way; but we must have courage and firmness, and we must endeavour, as far as we can, to look at it unanimously here. But not only the language used, by the Government, but even the language used by hon. Gentlemen who hold different views with regard to our duties in Egypt and the Soudan, is, I think, unfortunate. Such language, although I do not complain of hon. Members using language which represents their opinions, cannot but weaken our arms in dealing with this question. I cannot say that our feeling is one of confidence in, or satisfaction 554 with, the Government; but believing that it is necessary for us, in the present state of affairs, to support the action they are taking, and especially with regard to this question of constructing a railway, we feel it our duty to support them on this occasion.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he took the liberty of interposing for a few moments between the Committee and the division, in order to state what he thought had not been clearly brought out in the course of the debate. He pointed out that if after Tel-el-Kebir, when they had Egypt at their feet, when they had destroyed the Egyptian Army, when they were masters of the country, and had not incurred any peril with regard to other Powers—if their Ministers had been statesmen, they would have been able to take a correct view of the position and of their duty in connection with it. He said they ought then to have settled at once what parts of the Soudan were necessary and absolutely essential to Egypt; and that they ought then to have set about making the railway from Suakin to Berber. He hoped, although at the time in question the Government had no idea of their position, that they had a correct idea of it now. The Government, in his opinion, should clearly state their policy, and tell the House and the country what they really intended to do; if they did not make a clear statement, the country would, perhaps, find fault with the blood which might again be shed in vain; and it might be necessary for the Prime Minister to publish a new edition of Lessons in Massacre,with illustrations by the author.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 173: Majority 117.—(Div. List, No. 44.)
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
desired to ask the Prime Minister what Her Majesty's Government intended to do in regard to the Indian Vote?
said, he hoped that after the two discussions which had taken place on these Votes the Committee might be inclined to discuss the Indian Motion at once.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, the Committee would be aware that he had a Motion on the Paper somewhat different to that which had just been passed; 555 and, supposing they were to go on with these Votes now, he should like to say a few words on the subject. He objected not only to the railway, but to the whole of these Votes in respect of the Soudan. He listened to one part of the noble Marquess's speech that evening with some satisfaction, for it gave thorn reason to believe that that Campaign had been conducted more cheaply, more satisfactorily, and more brilliantly than any other Campaign they had been engaged in. He only hoped that the noble Marquess would telegraph his speech to Lord Wolseley, so that that General might be induced to refrain from making any more speeches as to their determination of going on to Khartoum before that House was committed to such a step. It seemed to him, however, that what was said by the Surveyor General of the Ordnance (Mr. Brand) was a direct contradiction of that which had been stated by the Secretary of State for War. The noble Marquess had said that they were not committed to go to Khartoum; but the Surveyor General of Ordnance had declared that the object of the construction of the railway would be effected when Lord Wolseley had advanced to Berber. He thought the country ought to realize the enormous cost which those operations would involve; and, on that account, he could not allow the Vote to pass without a' word of protest.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he could not make out if his hon. Friend was going to divide against the Vote or not. If he did not, he (Mr. Labouchere would not divide the Committee, because it appeared to him that the Benches behind him constituted the most illogical side of the Committee. He had voted against the railway, but it struck him that he might not have been quite right in doing so. The railway was a military work, and if they were to go to Khartoum at all the railway might be desirable. For his part, he would have preferred to have voted against the whole Vote. He could not understand how hon. Members who strained at a gnat could swallow a camel. They had voted once against the Government on this subject; but it was too much to expect them to vote twice in the same evening against their Leaders, so he would content himself with protesting against this Vote, as he 556 would against every shilling that was spent of the taxpayers' money for these operations in Egypt and the Soudan.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
believed that the necessity for the 3,000 men and their pay, which had been voted that evening, was really due to the malad ministration of the War Office. He contended that if the present Government had followed out the plan of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, there would have been no necessity for the Votes that night. In 1881, speaking of War Office reform, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said the arrangement which he then proposed to make would prevent the necessity of asking for further additions to the Army in the case of short wars. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—According to the Establishments of the year 1880–1, there were:—Six battalions at home, consisting of 800 rank and file; 6 of 720; 6 of 640; 6 of 560; and 43 of 480, all with depots of 80, except in the case of 8 brigades having both their battalions abroad, which had 280. In the Colonies there were 24 battalions, of which 16 had an establishment of 600 rank and file, and nine of 800. We propose that in future there shall be at home 12 battalions of 950 rank and file; 4 of 850; 4 of 650; 8 of 500; and 43 of 480. Eight of the battalions of 950, and four of those of 850, will have depots of 150 rank and file, which will furnish drafts to the other battalion of the regiment; the remainder small depots of 50. In the Mediterranean and the Colonies there will be 20 battalions, each of 800 rank and file. The 12 first regiments, containing, with their depots, 1,100 rank and file each, and six of the Mediterranean regiments, containing 800 men each, and ready to be raised to 1,000 efficients from their home battalions, will, with three battalions of the Guards, six regiments of Cavalry, and 17 batteries of Horse and Field Artillery, be always in a state of preparedness; and next to the 12 home regiments will come four of 850 each, which could also promptly be raised to war strength. We shall thus, after these changes have been completed, be able at any moment, and on the shortest notice, to bring together and despatch a corps d'armee, consisting of 18 battalions of the Line, three of the Guards, six regiments of Cavalry, and 17 batteries of Artillery; and this without trenching on the four regiments of Infantry required for our annual reliefs, under a system which I will endeavour to explain to the House."—(3 Hansard, 205–6.)That was the plan which the right hon. Gentleman put forward in 1881; but in 1882 he again alluded to the subject, and he said this—First of all, I should like to explain what has been the result of that change which I proposed last year; and to which, I confess, I attach almost higher importance than to any 557 other change in our military arrangements—I mean what I proposed to do in order to meet, as far as we could, the want of preparedness for small wars about which so much has been said, and which, to a certain extent, must be admitted to have existed during previous years. It is quite true that when we had, in the August of the year in which we first took Office, very suddenly to send out a considerable force to India after the battle of Maiwand, and, again, when, in the early part of the following year, we had to send out a considerable force to South Africa, we succeeded in despatching both those bodies of men without incurring the remarks and the censures which had been made on former occasions; but I am bound to admit that we succeeded at the expense of a serious dislocation of our Roster; and that measure of success did not warrant me in abstaining from submitting to Parliament such changes as I thought should be effected in order that we might be always able to send to distant parts, if necessary, a sufficient force for one of these minor wars without the dislocation u which we had experienced.The right hon. Gentleman added this—And I proposed to effect this by adding nearly 3,000 men to the Infantry, by which means the regiments at the top of the Roster might be so strengthened as to give us always a complete Army Corps ready for service."—(3 Hansard,833–4.)The right hon. Gentleman went on further to say—and these were the last words he would quote—I may say, also, that we have not neglected the other arrangements necessary for the despatch of an Army corps in case of emergency—an Army Corps comprising not only Infantry and Cavalry, hut Engineers, Artillery, Ammunition Reserves, Commissariat, and Siege Train. We are now in such a position that, if it were necessary to despatch abroad an Army Corps with all its equipment, it could be despatched as soon as the transports were prepared."—(Ibid., 837.)Well, the statements from which he had read extracts were made in perfectly good faith by the then War Minister (Mr. Childers); and if the right hon. Gentleman's system had been kept in view, of maintaining at the highest strength those battalions which were next on the Roster for foreign service, and of keeping the other battalions up to adequate strength in proportion to their position on the Roster, there would have been no necessity, in the event of 20,000 or 30,000 men being required, for such a Vote of men as had been passed that night. It was evident that there was a very great difference between the present administration of the War Office and the administration of three or four years ago, and that the 558 change had not been made for the better.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again upon Wednesday.