§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £275,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge for the Salaries and Miscellaneous Charges of the War Office, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1901.
* MR. RUNCIMATST (Oldham)
In rising to move the reduction of the Vote in order to call attention to the publication of the Spion Kop despatches, I must apologise for rising to introduce such an important discussion so early in the afternoon, but it is due entirely to the reluctance of the Under Secretary for War to make his customary statement at the commencement. As the day for the discussion of the subject was fixed by the First Lord of the Treasury in order, as he said, that the Government might have a chance of relieving the serious misconception which has arisen in the public mind, I suggest that it would have been better had the statement of the Under Secretary for War been made at the beginning instead of later on in the discussion. In this instance the Government have passed through three stages—they were bold in publishing the despatches, and they were bold in appointing a day for the discussion, but they are not over bold in the making of their statement. I do not propose to criticise the officers who have been dealt with in the Spion Kop despatches, because the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa is the only proper person to do so. Nor am I the mouthpiece of any reckless disapproval of just censure, because I believe the benefits of such censure are so great that any relaxation of the standard of criticism would undoubtedly lower the standard of efficiency. I do not believe that any serious objection is taken to the publication of despatches apart from strategic and other similar considerations, because the public would be best satisfied when it felt it was receiving the fullest information consistent with the national interest. The circumstances of the pub- 769 lication of these despatches are, however, somewhat extraordinary, for the Government appear to have disregarded almost every other consideration except that of publicity. In passing, may I refer to another instance earlier in the campaign in reference to the same battle? A telegram from General Buller was published stating that he intended that night to deliver an attack on Spion Kop. The publication of that, which has never been explained, caused through one weary night an enormous amount of anxiety to thousands of our fellow-countrymen. The positions of the Commander-in-Chief and of the Secretary for War naturally come under our purview in considering this question. I believe the Commander-in-Chief is bound, in his covering despatch, to criticise the despatches he sends, or else for ever be silent. It is not only his duty, but it is necessary for the welfare of the service. We can congratulate the service that it has at its head in South Africa a man who can deliver criticisms so fearlessly, and who was so bold in standing by them. His responsibility, however, so far as the public knows, ends with the delivery of his opinions. Then the politician steps in, and it is the politician who has to say whether or not the despatches should be given to the public. It seems to me from the telegrams just published that the Secretary for War has deliberately attempted to throw the responsibility of publication on the Commander-in-Chief at the Cape. In his first telegram to Lord Roberts he says he cannot see his way to publishing all the documents. Then he makes the extraordinary statement that he would not be justified in publishing any without the concurrence of Lord Roberts; then he suggests that the matter might be referred by Lord Roberts to General Buller; and finally he makes the remarkable suggestion of an alternative set. Lord Roberts' reply was that he had made the enquiries and that General Buller refused to prepare a duplicate set, and Lord Roberts said he had no objection to the publication of the Papers which had been selected by the War Office. Lord Roberts could have no objection. It was the duty of the Secretary of State for War to have published or not to have published the despatches. Lord Roberts' opinion had been written with no timorous quill, and he had no right to be ashamed of having done his duty by the country. Then we 770 come to the telegram in which the Secretary of State takes the plunge. He alone is responsible for the publication. It is not the first time he has taken such a step, and on a former occasion when he took a similar step the general officer implicated was ordered home. On this occasion the Commander-in-Chief declares that three officers, all holding prominent positions with the forces on the Tugela, were guilty of errors. He said that one officer was presumptuous in taking a command, at a critical time, to which he was not entitled. He said that another officer showed errors of judgment and a want of administrative capacity, and that the officer in supreme command contributed to disaster by a disinclination to assert his authority. When this was published the public were naturally amazed. I do not know of any other occasion on which officers have been retained after being so ruthlessly criticised, and the public naturally expected that some strong action would follow. The only justification of the publication, so the public thought, would be the withdrawal of the officers censured. The public, however, were mistaken. A colonel has been retired on half pay, but the officer who proved himself presumptuous is still in command, and no doubt rightly so. The general officer who had been found wanting in administrative capacity has been sent to administer a largo portion of South African territory, and the officer in supreme command, we are glad to know, still retains his position. Presumably these officers are necessary to the Army in South Africa, and, that being so, the censure ought not to have been made public. If the object of the publication was to make clear the action of the Government, then it has signally failed, for throughout the length and breadth of the country the publication is unintelligible. If we are to have a new era of reckless publicity, why not subject the officials of the War Office who cripple our forces by want of administrative capacity to the same merciless exposure? The hon. Gentleman smiles at the responsibility which rests on the officials of the War Office. It is no light; responsibility, and during a campaign it is no loss than that of officers in the field. What are the precedents for the action of the Government? I do not know of any instance in which a Secretary of State has published a despatch con- 771 demning an officer and still allowed him to remain in command. It may not be a serious matter that the Government is landed in a dilemma. It has been so landed not once, but many times during its career. But it is of the utmost importance that the Government should do nothing to embarrass the officers at the front, and, in my opinion, the publication of these despatches is not only dangerous to discipline, but is calculated to lessen the confidence of our men in their officers. The intelligent confidence of our men in their officers is one of the proudest boasts of the British Army. What can be more risky than to tell the men that their officers cannot be depended on—that some do not exercise their authority when they should, and that others are lacking in administrative capacity? I well remember at the beginning of the session the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs saying that the action of the Opposition in expressing in their Amendment to the Address the belief that the Government had shown a lack of foresight and preparation tended to add to the difficulties of our officers in the field. I do not know of anything that any member of the Opposition has done that has added so much to the difficulties of our officers in the field as the action of the Government in having the denunciations of our officers placed before the men under their command. The feeling of the country has to a great extent gone out in sympathy to the officers, and rightly so, because, although we are but imperfectly aware of the hardships through which they pass in time of war, we are fully sensible of the courage, boldness, and resource which are necessary for the discharge of their duty, and we honour them for the service they have done for their country. I think it is only right that there should be some provision whereby our officers may be censured, and rightly censured, but they should not at the same time be subject to be placed in the pillory to be shot at by any amateur critic. who cares to try his hand. Another matter of the greatest importance has come to light during the course of to-day. In the telegrams which have been placed in our hands we find a somewhat startling disclosure—a disclosure of the utmost importance to the reputation of this country. We were all well aware that it was customary to 772 write duplicate despatches, one for the information of the War Office and the other for publication in the public prints. [Mr. WYNDHAM was understood to dissent.] The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I think I can quote one instance —when Lord Liverpool wrote to Lord Wellington in the Peninsula and requested him in future to write his despatches in duplicate in order that the information he sent home might not pass into the hands of the enemy. We knew that duplicate despatches had sometimes been used, but we see in the telegrams published this morning an attempt on the part of the Secretary of State for War to have a despatch made to order, and made to order so that the public at home should not know the truth. We owe a debt of gratitude to General Buller for having taken so strong a line. He has done much for us in the field, and he has shown that, apart from being a strong soldier, he is a strong man. We are pleased to think that General Buller put a spoke in the wheel. The serious part of this disclosure is that the public now are apt to lose confidence—I go further and say they will lose confidence—in the publications which are made by the War Office. It was said by an old diplomatist that language was given to men that they might disguise thought. The War Office appear to believe that despatches are published in order to conceal the truth. I believe that a system such as the Secretary of State shows some signs of initiating is derogatory to the reputation of any honourable Department, and it is for this reason, above all others, that I venture to propose the reduction of the Vote by £200.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A (Salaries) be induced by £200, in respect of the salary of the Secretary of State."—(Mr. Runciman.)
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
I make no apology to the Committee for rising now, although I am aware that many hon. Members wish to take part in this debate. Indeed, I have been criticised for not having risen first, but there were good grounds for not adopting that course. This day was sot apart, not because, in the first instance, the Government wished to discuss the manner in which they had exercised their discretion 773 as to publication, but because it had been urged in some quarters inside the House, and in many quarters outside, that grave errors had been committed, and, as the Leader of the House declared, grave misconceptions existed as to the manner in which the Government had discharged their duty. Some of those misconceptions were known to the Government, but there might have been others, and I wished to hoar them all put forward before endeavouring the not too easy task of satisfying the Committee on this subject. There was one allegation at the end of the hon. Member's speech which I must take up without a moment's delay. He seemed to suggest that the Secretary of State for War had adopted an unprecedented course, and a course which reflected unfavourably upon the repute and honour of public men in this country. I doubt whether the hon. Member wished to make a charge as severe as was indeed embodied in the words which he used. He must know that my noble friend in this matter is altogether above any suspicion of being guilty of such conduct. The question of judgment, the question of error, the question of discretion are still open to argument, and I will argue them. But the question of personal honour and rectitude is not, I think, open to argument.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to interpose. I did not wish to make any imputation against the personal honour of the Secretary of State.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I will not pursue this dialectical controversy. The hon. Member told us that in past history there were precedents for the writing of duplicate despatches. It has been my duty during the last few days to study the question, and I can find no such precedents. The hon. Member has cited the letter from Lord Liverpool to the Duke of Wellington, but he has not cited the reply which was made more than once by the Duke of Wellington. This difficulty has arisen before. There has always been a difficulty about the question of the publication of despatches. Wars, I am glad to say, are happily not too frequent, and in the intervals between them we forget the old difficulties. While Wellington was in command in the Peninsula this very question was 774 threshed out again and again. On 23rd May, 1811, the Duke of Wellington wrote to Lord Liverpool—I am obliged to you for your letter of the 7th regarding the publication of my despatches. I generally confine myself to a relation of facts, and seldom give any opinion upon them, and always send the same despatches to the Portuguese Government. … I then mark in the Portuguese despatch those facts which, in my opinion, ought not to be published; but that opinion goes no further than to what appears to me that it would be inconvenient that the enemy should obtain a knowledge of, and seldom to circumstances which it would be desirable to withhold from the knowledge of the public. I shall, with your Lordship's permission, adopt the same practice with my despatches to you, and mark with a pencil in the margin those parts which, in my opinion, ought not to be published, leaving it to you afterwards to omit such other parts as you may think proper.That disposes of the question of duplicate despatches. The hon. Member has brought two subjects before us this afternoon. First, there is the general question of the publication of despatches and the obligation which rests upon the Government to publish so much as may be made public consistently with the public interest; and, again, there is the discretion which is vested in the Government of omitting all such parts as do not fulfil that condition. The hon. Member has animadverted not only upon the course which the Government have pursued in regard to the Spion Kop despatches, but generally on the course followed since the beginning of the war in giving information to the public. That is a large question, which we shall have to consider. The hon. Member has also brought forward with great force, clearness, and cogency the more particular charge—namely, as to whether the Government were well advised in publishing the despatches on the operations of Spion Kop. That subject is in itself painful; and whilst I may be allowed to compliment the hon. Member, who, I believe, has never addressed the House before, upon the force and clearness of his speech, I am grateful, and we shall all feel grateful to him for having dealt with this very difficult and painful subject with so much tact and with so much consideration for all those who are interested in it. The tenor and trend of his speech, however, does show that many misconceptions have already been dispersed; many misconceptions which were rife a fortnight ago are now set upon one side 775 and forgotten. It is true that a fortnight ago there were many people who believed that criticism by Lord Roberts or Sir Redvers Buller on Lord Methuen in respect of Magersfontein had been deliberately suppressed by the Government. It may be that there are some who still believe it, although I have said, and now say again, that that is not the case, and that there has been no criticism by Lord Roberts or Sir Redvers Buller on the dispositions made by Lord Methuen at the battle of Magersfontein. Then there have been criticisms to the effect that the Spion Kop despatches were withheld for some time; that they were then published to meet a popular demand, and published without any reference to Lord Roberts or Sir Redvers Buller. That misconception has gone. I am glad those misconceptions have gone, because what remains? A perfectly fair point, which the hon. Member has put fairly and clearly—Why did the Government publish the criticism on Sir Redvers Buller if it was intended to leave him in so important a command? It is desirable that all this cobweb of suspicion of base motives and favouritism and the like should have evaporated and disappeared, and that we should be arraigned upon a specific and legitimate charge—the charge that, in the exercise of the discretion vested in the Government, we have made an error of judgment. Those who listened to the hon. Member's speech will allow me to claim that that only is the charge which I have now to meet. The first question is a short question, but it is not a simple question. It may be called a plain question; it may be expected that I shall give what is called a plain answer. But a plain answer is not necessarily a short answer. I am ready to give a plain answer, an answer as to the meaning of which there can be no doubt. But I cannot give a short answer, and that being so, I lay myself under an initial disadvantage when our judgment is criticised and our aims are considered. For in relation to the tragic incident of Spion Kop it is natural to desire some simple and plain explanation which would remove all the evil consequences of that disaster. That cannot be the case. You cannot lose 1,600 men in a battle, you cannot evacuate a position won by the heroism of British troops, you cannot lose the fruits of their heroism, you cannot see the Army discouraged by 776 this unexpected failure, and expect to have no evil consequences. All you can do is to choose between such evil consequences as follow from defining and explaining the nature of the case which led to that disappointment and the evil consequences which follow if you withhold altogether from the public a reasoned account of these disasters and the causes which led to them given by the only man who, according to the hon. Member opposite, is in a position to judge of them. That is all that is in debate. There is no doubt as to the Government's responsibility in this matter; it is explicitly laid down in the Queen's Regulations that the Government is responsible. The passage reads—It will rest with the Secretary of State for War, acting upon the advice of the Commander-in-Chief, to determine what reports and despatches are or are not to be made public and the manner in which those to be published are to be made generally known.There is no doubt about that; I accept that fully on behalf of the Government. How have we exercised that discretion? I say you cannot isolate the Spion Kop despatches and their publication from other despatches and the publication of other despatches. You can say that this was a novel case. It was novel in many of its features; but you cannot say it was so novel that we are to treat it as we have not treated all previous battles and all previous cases of publication in this war-. You cannot say it is so novel that you are to treat it as no such incident has ever been treated in the history of a hundred years, because if you rest so unusual an action on the plea of novelty there is always something novel in every difficulty which presents itself to man, and therefore the next general and the next Government who found themselves in doubt and difficulty would ride off' upon that precedent and would say: "This is an exception; I mean to break through the Queen's Regulations; I mean to break through the tradition of a hundred years; I mean to break through all those usages of public life which prevail in this country." What have we done? Briefly, in the course of this war we have published ten despatches; we published seven in the London Gazette of 26th January, two in the Gazette of 16th March, and one in the Gazette of 17th April. In the Gazette of 26th January we published a despatch 777 from Sir Redvers Buller, dated 9th November, covering Sir George White's account of the operation which issued in the investment of Ladysmith; we published a despatch, dated 12th December, covering Lord Methuen's account of the engagements at Belmont and Enslin, and a despatch from Sir Redvers Buller, dated 21st December, covering Lord Methuen's account of the battle of Modder River. Sir Redvers Buller made no comment on any of these reports which he forwarded. We published a despatch, dated 22nd November, in which Sir Redvers Buller forwarded the report made by General Hildyard of the action at Willow Grange. In that case he did comment on the action favourably. We published a despatch of 28th December forwarding General Miles's account of the action at Zoutspans Drift. In this case Sir Redvers Buller did comment unfavourably—not, of course, to the extent of the censure or length of the criticism as in this last case, but he did animadvert in very pungent terms on the neglect of scouting on the part of English officers. In the same Gazette we published two despatches from Sir Redvers Buller on the action at Colenso, which he personally conducted, and of course there was no comment by him on his own despatch. In the Gazette of 16th March we published Lord Roberts's despatch covering Lord Methuen's account of the battle of Magersfontein without comment, and we published Lord Roberts's despatch covering General Gatacre's account of the battle of Stormberg with comments. In the Gazette, of 17th April, we published the Spion Kop despatches. Now, I would like the Committee to put themselves in the place of the Government, and to take the situation of the Government on 5th January, the date upon which the first telegram given to elucidate the action of the Government was despatched. All these ten actions, with the single exception of the action at Spion Kop, had then been fought, some of them a long time since, and yet we had received no despatch with respect of any except the earliest two — the despatch of 9th November, dealing with the operations before the investment of Ladysmith, and the despatch of November 22nd dealing with the action at Willow Grange. We were in that position that there seemed an unusual silence. As the facts became known, a great part of that was explained. 778 There were on their way at that time despatches dealing with five of these actions; and the first despatch of Lord Methuen dealing with the action at Magersfontein. We were, however, in the position of a Government who had received no formal intelligence of these actions, and that being so, we sent a telegram pointing out that it was usual and proper and right that formal despatches should be sent upon every action of that kind. Well, most of them were on their way. The next incident was that the first account given by Lord Methuen of the action at Magersfontein reached the Government early in February. Now, that account by Lord Methuen deviated more than some of the earlier despatches we had received from the prescribed form of despatch laid down in the Queen's Regulations. Pedantry is always offensive; it is never more so than when it is applied to matters which stirred our feelings and brought bereavement and sorrow to many homes, and I may be charged with pedantry if I ask the Committee to consider the Queen's Regulations on the subject of despatches; but I do not think I shall be justly charged, because these regulations do embody the ripe fruit of 100 years experience, and are founded upon the tradition of the Duke of Wellington and the generals who fought in the Crimea, and on common sense which can bear the changes of time. Those regulations say that a despatch containing a concise description of every action or every specific military operation, irrespective of its magnitude, will invariably be written by the senior officer actually present on the occasion. To enable him to do this, reports describing the action taken by their respective commands will be furnished to him by officers commanding divisions or brigades, and by I such other officers as he may specially call upon. These reports will not accompany the despatch, the senior officer being alone responsible for rendering the Secretary of State for War an account of the operation, and therefore the Report will invariably be written by the officer in chief command. That is based upon precedent—the precedent of the Duke of Wellington, who, time and again, in his! letters pointed out that the senior officer was the only person who could write a despatch for publication. And there is good reason for the regulation. The senior officer in actual command enjoys a 779 combination of two advantages which nobody else can enjoy. He is on the spot in chief command, and he sees all the reports and all the correspondence, and all the messages sent on the field of operations, and is therefore the only person who has all the evidence, and is able to form a judgment on that evidence in the light of his experience of the actual conditions which exist. That being so, I am prepared to defend this regulation that the report should be a proper, concise account given by the officer in senior command on the spot. If we take the alternative—to publish not only the report of the senior officer, but all the documents on which he has based his judgment, then I find that in publishing the despatches of Sir Charles Warren and Sir Redvers Buller we ought also to have published everything that was written by all the other officers. [HON. MEMBERS: No!] I am glad to hear that "No," because the whole charge that the Government is keeping something back is based upon their conforming with the Queen's Regulations.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The hon. Member will bear with me. I think I may be allowed to state the case in my own way. The charge has been made that, as we wished to remove misconception, we ought to have made a clean breast of it and to have published the forty-five pages of printed matter which came back in connexion with the Spion Kop operations. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] Then I hope the charge will not be made that we have kept anything back.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I will deal with that. I have dealt with the Queen's Regulations and tried to defend the Government for supporting the Commander-in-Chief in his attempt to put the question of despatches on a proper basis. Now Lord Methuen's first account of Magersfontein was accompanied by all the subsidiary documents. The reports of his brigadiers and of other officers were put down there, and that put upon the Government the duty of selecting out of that collection of documents the one that 780 was the despatch. It was felt, and rightly felt, that it was proper to direct Lord Methuen's attention to the Queen's Regulations, and to ask him to do what is actually laid down in these regulations— that is, himself to send his own report and not to put in all the subsidiary documents. It may very likely be and probably was to save time that the despatch and the report were sent together, but in this case it was necessary to lay down very definitely what the form of the despatch ought to be. That is why, and that is the only reason why, the Government sent that telegram which appears in the second elucidatory note — namely, the telegram from Lord Wolseley, the gist of which has already been read to the House. That was the situation on 6th February. The Government accepted fully the responsibility for publication or non-publication. On 9th March we received the: Magersfontein despatch, the Stormberg despatch, and the Spion Kop despatch. The Spion Kop despatch fulfilled to the letter the conditions prescribed in the next paragraph of the Queen's Regulations. In that paragraph it is laid down that, when; the senior officer in command is present, but does not assume actual command, then one of two things is to happen—either he, which in the case of Spion Kop would be Sir R. Buller, is to write the single narrative account, or the officer in actual command, in this ease Sir C. Warren, is to write the account, which the senior officer, Sir R. Buller, is to accompany by a covering despatch, in which he is to express his own opinion of the manner in which the operations have been carried out. By that mail we received not only the Report of Sir C. Warren on the whole of the operations with regard to the taking and the evacuation of Spion Kop, but two covering despatches, from Sir R. Buller and Lord Roberts, and we received besides twenty considerable documents, making altogether forty-five pages of printed matter. What was the course to pursue? It will hardly be argued that the Commander-in-Chief is not to comment upon such despatches. Lord Roberts was clearly right, and he discharged his duty with courage and ability. What course, then, was open to the Government? There was one impossible course —namely, not to exercise the discretion vested in the Government, and to publish all these documents, many of which were not despatches, and were never intended 781 to be treated as despatches. Although it was quite clear that the two reports by Sir C. Warren and the covering despatches of Sir R. Buller and Lord Roberts were despatches, if nothing else was, my noble friend Lord Lansdowne suggested that, in order to take them out of this context clearly and show them to the world as they were, Sir R. Buller might with advantage pursue the alternative course laid down—namely, to write one definite, connected account of the whole situation. That seems to have excited a good deal of surprise; but for my part I think there is a good deal to be said for it. Although that and that only was intended for publication and not the accompanying reports from a number of other generals, still it was just as well that there should be no misconception between the Government at home and the generals abroad. I cannot for the life of me see that any presumption can be made against the Government for having said these are the five documents which clearly ought to be published, or if you do not publish them, there is only the other course— which is, that Sir R. Buller should write one connected narrative account of the whole. That is the whole story of these telegraphic communications—that and nothing else. Let not hon. Members think I intend to burke the question as to whether there should be any publication; what I am trying to do as a preliminary stage in my argument is to show that, if there was to be any publication, that was the proper publication; and that is why we considered it was only proper to advise the general officers in South Africa that we intended to publish the despatches, and point out that there was the alternative course. I dismiss, then, the case of publishing everything, and I come to the last charge—namely, that the Government ought to have published nothing. That is quite open to argument. But it would have been a very serious decision to take and one for which there is no precedent whatever. I quite understand what hon. Members mean when they say the course we did take is unprecedented. But I think we may say without vainglory that there are not many precedents in our history for a reverse in which 1,600 casualties are incurred and which ends abortively. You have to search history rather closely to find anything of the kind at all; but where anything of 782 the kind has happened the tendency has been to publish rather more than less. The only two occasions which are at all comparable to this occurred during the Afghan War of 1879 and 1880, the operations in which General Massey was engaged at the end of 1879, and those which resulted in the overwhelming disaster at Maiwand; and then there was no suppression, there was full publication and ample criticism, and even criticism on the ground of the publication being too meagre and unsatisfactory. So that the only precedents that exist of reverses are in favour of publication and not of suppression. To suggest that in such an important affair as that at Spion Kop the despatches could be covered over and left in the hope that they might be dropped, is contrary to all precedent. I do not rest myself on the Queen's Regulations, which may be thought pedantic. I do not rest myself even on precedent, although the precedents are all on my side; the case of the Government is, that because of the features of the case it was the right course to publish what they did—that, and nothing more. We are told that in publishing what has been published we have shaken the confidence of the troops who compose the army in Natal. That is not our view. Who is in the best position to decide what would tend to shake or confirm the confidence of the troops? In the opinion of the Government——
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Yes; Sir R. Buller sent home his despatch and said he did not wish a word of it to be altered.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
If hon. Members who applaud, and justly applaud, the sentiment which actuated Sir R. Buller think that he made a show of great candour and magnanimity in the firm belief that nobody would ever know what he had written, I can only say that I will not associate myself with what I feel to be an utter and complete misconception of the typical characteristics of Sir R. Buller.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
But we must get this down to a point. Did Sir R. Buller's report on the Spion Kop operations tend to confirm or shake the confidence of his troops, or was the report of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts likely to do harm or good to the troops? That is the whole point, and I do not think it at all unreasonable to believe—in fact, I am persuaded—that both Sir R. Buller and Field-Marshal Lord Roberts intended these despatches for publication, and that they sent them home for publication in the firm belief that they would do good and not harm.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
Why? I will tell the Committee why. Here is a large army, divided up into a great many different commands, which makes great efforts and which fails. Do you suppose that there was no discouragement, no recrimination, extending right down to the rank and file? Do you suppose that round the camp fires the men did not argue and say, "It was not the fault of our general, but yours?" Do you suppose that that army objects to a despatch which says the scheme was a good one, and that it ought to have succeeded? Does it pay a general who remains in command to leave it in doubt whether his strategy was altogether at fault? Does it do him harm to decide, as Lord Robert does, five points in his favour against one which is criticism, though not what I should call censure? We get into the habit of shortening for the purposes of debate our impressions of things which we have read, and we hear it said, You keep a general in important command who has been severely censured by the Commander-in-Chief. Is the censure severe? In the last paragraph Lord Roberts lays it down that the attempt described was well devised. He agrees with Sir Redvers Buller in thinking it ought to have succeeded. He attributes the failure to the difficulties of the ground and the commanding positions of the enemy. He attributes the failure in part to errors of judgment on the part of Sir Charles Warren, and in part to the fact that Colonel Thorneycroft evacuated the position. But he says as against those five points that the failure was also due to Sir Redvers Buller's disinclination to assert his authority and see that what he 784 thought best was done. Now, is it likely that the confidence of the troops will be shaken by their being told that their general's plan was good, that his judgment was right, but that he ought to have resumed command at an earlier moment? Is it not more likely that those troops will say, "Our General, Sir Redvers Buller was right. He was unlucky"? Is it not likely that the troops under Clery, Barton, Hildyard, Thorneycroft, and Coke will say, "Thank goodness it was not the fault of our man, he was all right"? Is it fair to leave 40,000 or 50,000 men in doubt and in a state of suspicion as to what the obscure and occult causes were that led to failure? The men under Sir Redvers Buller will follow him in the future as they followed him when he led them to victory at Ladysmith. I have exhausted all the arguments which are at my command, and, having quoted the censure upon Sir Charles Warren, I must be allowed to say a word about that general officer. I believe hon. Members will realise how distasteful it is to me, I will not say to pass any appreciation upon the merits or failures of officers, but even to quote them when they have been passed by those who are competent and in a position to criticise. To say that Sir Charles Warren failed in a large independent command is not to say, as some of the public seem to think, that he is not a good soldier or an able man. Are we to forget all his past services? Does it follow that he is not, perhaps, the very best man for performing some other task—and even some other military task? I would like to take this opportunity of pointing out to the Committee, and, if I may, to the public, how captious and arbitrary many of our judgments must seem to the officers who are serving in South Africa. We ask questions about Spion Kop and questions about Koorn Spruit. Nobody has asked whether there are despatches on the relief of Kimberley, on the relief of Lady-smith, on General French's operations about Colesberg, and all those days and weeks and months of endurance and heroism and professional ability displayed in all ranks—that, apparently, excites no curiosity in this country—(cries of "Oh!") —apparently, I mean, to the men who are out there. It is not because we are callous to their successes. There is in this country a passion for justice, and we wish to put the saddle, as we say, on the 785 right back when there has been any error or fault; but that passion for justice often carries us too far. It is out of our power to anticipate the work that shall be done on the day of judgment. We have not all the information at our hand. We read in the papers that General Hamilton has been fighting for seven days. Will anybody ever know in this country what officers did well in all ranks during each one of those seven days? Never. Take the case of two officers on all fours with them—who have shown great ability, courage, and zeal for years. In the opinion of some superior officer one of these is thought not to be quite fitted for a particular and greater task entrusted to him. That officer is removed, with all consideration for his feelings. He is given some other task which he can fitly perform. Not a word is said. Another officer with the same record and great ability has a failure. At once a hue and cry is raised, and any suggestion that he should be given other work that he would be quite fitted to do is scouted by the public and the press of this country. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] I say it is so. I say that charges are brought against officers for incompetence which are couched in such general language as to be understood in South Africa to mean that those officers are incompetent and careless men, who have not done good service to their country. That is what I have to say upon Sir Charles Warren. I apologise to the Committee for making that digression, but it has been in my heart to make it many days, for I know how these strictures in the press are felt by officers of every rank in South Africa. As to Sir Redvers Buller, I feel that to attempt an apology in his behalf would be the greatest insult to so great a man, who has deserved so well of his country. I have analysed, I think quite fairly, the sole paragraph which criticises his operations in the neighbourhood of Spion Kop, and I feel sure that the troops who follow him now and have followed him to victory will be glad to know that his strategy has been praised and approved by the Commander-in-Chief. That is all I need say, or ought to say, about this great man who has done so much for all of us. I have tried to show what the course of the Government has been. They decided a difficult matter in accordance with their deliberate conviction, on their 786 sole responsibility, though, no doubt, they were confirmed in the opinion at which they had arrived by the unmistakable indication of Lord Roberts's first intentions, which he subsequently reaffirmed in the course of his telegraphic correspondence. Whether we have judged rightly or wrongly in this difficult matter, it is for this Committee, it is, perhaps, for posterity, guided by the historian, ultimately to determine. But I am quite certain that Sir Redvers Buller —that man who in 1885 brought back and saved from destruction the column which failed to relieve Khartoum, and who did relieve Ladysmith, turning "the winter of our discontent" into an explosion of national rejoicing—I am sure he will never be erased from the admiration of his country.
§ * MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
The surprise, Sir, and, indeed, I think I may say the consternation, with which the publication of these despatches in the middle of the Easter recess was received by men of all classes and parties in this country will not, I am certain, be substantially diminished by the official apology which the Under Secretary has offered to-night. The position of the Government in this matter appeared to outsiders to be from the first manifestly and demonstrably untenable. But how untenable it was no one could realise until to-day, after the publication of the telegrams which were circulated this morning, and after witnessing the spectacle which we have witnessed during the last half-hour of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War, whom we all know to be a most accomplished and, when his materials allow it, a most cogent speaker, losing himself—I hope I am not using disrespectful language — during a great part of his speech in a labyrinth of irrelevance, labouring points which have never been seriously in controversy, and finally taking refuge in the astounding proposition that the publication of these adverse comments and criticisms by the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa is calculated to stimulate the confidence of the troops. There is one point, and I am sorry to say only one, in the hon. Gentleman's speech with which I find myself in complete and unqualified agreement. I refer to his frank acknowledgment that it is upon the shoulders of 787 the Government, and of the Government alone, that there rests the sole and undivided responsibility for this piece of administrative indiscretion. I wish I could say the same, that I could express anything like the same agreement with the hon. Gentleman's attempt—I cannot say to vindicate, but to excuse and apologise for the unhappy suggestion made by the Secretary of State to Sir Redvers Buller that he should withdraw the Report written by him at the time and upon the spot, and that after an interval of two months he should substitute for it some document which could be presented, I will not say with greater complacency, but at any rate with less uneasiness, by the War Office to the public. Sir Redvers Buller's refusal to entertain that suggestion has won universal commendation in this country outside the walls of the War Office, and I was astonished, I confess, to hear the use which the hon. Gentleman made of that refusal towards the close of his speech. Sir Redvers Buller said, and said most properly, "What I have written I have written; I am not going to rewrite it for you or anybody else." Did that in any way qualify or diminish the responsibility of the Government and the Government alone for the publication at the time and under the circumstances in which it was done? What is a despatch? The hon. Gentleman has read us a number of extracts from the Queen's Regulations on what is the function of a despatch, or what is supposed to be the function of a despatch. By everybody outside the War Office a despatch is intended to be a record of the fresh and vivid impression of the man who wrote it upon the operations in which he has been engaged. It is not intended to be a document produced after the lapse of weeks, or even months, when circumstances may have completely changed, when a new situation has developed itself which cannot fail to react upon the memory and judgment even of the most impartial man. It is not intended, I say, to be a document produced under those circumstances as a smooth and readable narrative that can be submitted to the public without fear of criticism or censure. I pass from that, which, after all, lies only on the fringe of the question, to the substantial questions raised by my hon. friend the Member for Oldham, and which the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary has left at this 788 moment completely unanswered. The question, let me remind him, is this— Why were these despatches published on the 16th April? The circumstances are very familiar to the Committee, but let me recall them in a couple of sentences. The operations described in the despatch took place towards the end of January. Reports from General Buller and General Warren and the covering despatch of Lord Roberts were written in the very early part of February. Those documents had been six weeks in the possession of the Government before they were published in the London Gazette. They were nineteen days—to be quite exact, from the 9th to the 28th March—in the possession of the Government before they ever addressed any inquiry to Lord Roberts on the subject. The hon. Gentleman has referred to previous despatches from other generals, and particularly Sir Redvers Buller himself, at earlier stages of the campaign. With the single exception of Lord Roberts's censure on General Gatacre, which was very speedily followed by General Gatacre's supersession and recall, there is nothing in point in any of the preceding despatches. A good deal might be said as to the expediency of publishing that despatch, and if it was not intended to be made the foundation of disciplinary action against General Gatacre the Government which published it are exposed to precisely the same censure, which we are asking the House to pass to-night. That explanation is impossible, and has no relation whatever in point of gravity and character to the matter now under consideration. Now, Sir, what were those despatches? Let me remind the House There were the two reports of the general who directed the operations and the general in supreme command, in which they took totally irreconcilable views both as to the wisdom of what was done or attempted to be done and as to the apportionment of the praise or blame among the officers concerned. Those two reports are enclosed in a covering despatch from the Commander-in-Chief, who censures, in the first place, a subordinate officer for assuming a responsibility which did not belong to him; in the second place, the general in immediate direction of the operations for incapacity in the discharge of the responbility undoubtedly cast upon him; and, in the third place, the general in supreme command for abnegating the responsibility 789 he ought to have assumed. That is, I think, a fair summary of Lord Roberts's despatch. Now, Sir, I need not say I am not going to discuss—I do not think the House of Commons is a fit place to discuss—the justice or wisdom of Lord Roberts's criticism. I can imagine no tribunal less qualified to deal with military questions than the House of Commons, and for the purposes of argument I will assume, and not merely from a controversial point of view, but from full belief and conviction, that the censures passed by Lord Roberts were well justified by the circumstances of the case. Why were they published? What object was served, or intended to be served, by the Government when, after six weeks of deliberation, they published these censures? To my mind—perhaps I have not a sufficiently elastic imagination—there are two grounds, and only two conceivable grounds, on which such publication has been or could be justified. The most obvious one is that it was intended to be a preliminary step to disciplinary action. I doubt very much whether, even from that point of view, the publication is warranted by practice or usage. I am not aware of any precedent, and the hon. Gentleman did not cite one; but, at any rate, it may well be that the Government, if they were going to take disciplinary action against the officers whose judgment was impugned by Lord Roberts, thought it necessary in order to remove misconception of an invidious character and to justify themselves in the eyes of the public, to show that they were acting on the deliberate and well-considered opinion of a man who so thoroughly enjoyed the confidence of the public as Lord Roberts. But this cannot be, and admittedly it is not so, for the only officer whose conduct was impugned by Lord Roberts who has been touched by the Government at all is Sir Charles Warren. The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of a hue and cry having been raised against Sir Charles Warren. But who raised that hue and cry? It was raised by the publication of this despatch, which let the whole world know that in the deliberate opinion of Lord Roberts Sir Charles Warren had been guilty at a most critical time of a want of administrative capacity. That it was, and that alone, that raised the hue and cry. I agree with the hon. Member for Oldham that it is a little remarkable 790 that when Lord Roberts had singled out as the most notable defect in Sir Charles Warren's conduct of these operations a want of administrative capacity, he was at once put into an administrative post. It is not alleged by the hon. Gentleman that as regards the other officers concerned—Sir Redvers Buller and Colonel Thorneycroft —any action was then or is now contemplated of a similar kind. Well, then, I venture to say that, notwithstanding the paradoxical proposition with which the hon. Gentleman concluded his speech, whether there be precedent or not—I, for my part, do not believe there is any—for publishing the censure by a Commander-in-Chief on subordinate officers whom at the time you intended to retain in positions of responsibility in which they were criticised, no such precedent has been produced. But whether there be precedent or not, I say that it is flying in the face of common sense to deny that action of that kind must impair the prestige, weaken the authority, and lessen the reputation of those officers among the men over whom they are placed, and to that extent injure the public service of the country. If the transaction cannot be justified on that ground, is there any other ground? There is another, not one which would occur to me, but which has been adumbrated in the earlier apologies of the Ministers who have dealt with this question— namely, that it is part of the policy of taking the country into your confidence. I think Her Majesty's Government are indebted for that formula to the ingenious rhetoric of the President of the Board of Agriculture. At first hearing it has a fine democratic ring. It is only the development in another sphere of a principle laid down, I think, by no less an authority than the Prime Minister himself on an early night in the session. He was dealing then with what was called the new diplomacy. The new diplomacy, which accompanies the most delicate negotiations by a running commentary of public speech, is now to be supplemented, under the same auspices, by the new strategy, which, while your operations are still going on in the field, publishes not merely to your own fellow-countrymen but to the whole civilised world that can read the disagreeable things one general is saying of another. I venture to say that that is a form of confidence for which the country does not 791 ask. There have been other incidents in this very war in respect to which, so far as our present information goes—I speak subject to correction—that confidence has not been shown by the Government, at any rate with anything like the lavishness displayed on the present occasion. The hon. Gentleman has referred at considerable length to the battle of Magersfontein, and I listened very carefully to what he said. I gather from what he said that Lord Methuen, in the first instance, sent home a despatch which was not correct in form, and which did not comply entirely with the somewhat exacting requirements of the Queen's Regulations. It contained either too many documents or too few, and the paragraphs were not properly numbered. so it was sent back to him, and after the lapse of a considerable interval Lord Methuen got his despatch into shape, he dotted the "is" and put in the commas in their proper places, and it was returned to this country without any comment of any sort or kind from the Commander-in-Chief. I am not complaining in the least of the Government for not publishing more. Our complaint is that they have published too much; but if they are to go on the principle of taking the country into their confidence—in other words, of eliciting from officers in command information on those points as to which the public mind is anxious or embarrassed—I do not think there is any incident in this campaign which demands a larger exercise of that process of investigation than the battle of Magersfontein. I do not wish, of course, to enter into debate on that subject, but it would be affectation to pretend that as regards the conduct of that battle there is not in all parts of the country, and more particularly in that part of the country which I have the honour to represent, a feeling of painful and, I will venture to say, of not illegitimate curiosity, which hardly any other incident of the campaign has aroused. It is a very striking thing indeed that while we have this ample and lavish disclosure of the comments and censures passed by the Commander-in-Chief on the conduct of the operations at Spion Kop, neither his opinion upon the battle of Magersfontein nor that of Sir Redvers Buller, who was in supreme command at the time, appears to have been invited by the Government, and certainly no expression of opinion has been given 792 or published to the world. It was not asked for, and is not to be asked for now. I am not an advocate of the policy of confidence. I think that confidence in the sense in which it is used by the President of the Board of Agriculture is very much misplaced in this instance. But if you are to have confidence it must not be piecemeal. The curtain ought not to be raised and dropped in this fashion. The confidence ought to be thoroughgoing and to extend over the whole field of operations. Now, Sir, I have examined the only two hypotheses which anybody has yet ventured to put forward to justify the action of the Government, and I have shown as regards the one that the Government do not themselves suggest it, and as regards the other that it is disproved by their own conduct, and has not been practised in other cases. This is a very serious matter, not merely as regards the particular incident concerned, but also as regards the future conduct of the war and the general interests of the public service. There were people who used to say of democracy in the old days that its ignorance, its impatience of delay, and its restless desire for immediate results, rendered it incapable of bearing the strain of the long and large operations of a great campaign. It has not been so with our people to-day. It is not that their patience has not been severely tried; it is not that they have not had to watch one after another the most confident predictions of the most trusted experts falsified by events; it is not that they have not time after time had to see expectation fade into hope, and at certain moments hope itself almost taking the colour of despair. Through all those trying vicissitudes they have kept their head and kept their heart. They are entitled, therefore, to ask that the Government shall not fall behind them, and that it shall not by its action stimulate doubt, create suspicion, and destroy or impair the confidence of our troops who are maintaining the honour of the country in the field. I believe if the attitude of the country, their judgment upon this matter, and their advice to the Government could be expressed in a sentence it would be to this effect: Choose the best men you can, supply them with the best material you can get, give them a free hand, and until their task is done re- 793 serve alike your censures and your rewards.
§ * SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD (Somersetshire, Wellington)
There is no longer any misconception in regard to this matter either in the House or in the country. It is quite true that there was misconception, but it no longer exists. We understood that Government had a case; we know now that they have no case. The questions we have to consider this afternoon are practically two. The first question is as to the wisdom of the Government in publishing these despatches, and whether their publication was for the good of the country; and the second question is as to how far the Government were right or wrong in associating Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller with those responsible for the publication of these despatches. I answer those questions emphatically in the negative. We have heard a good deal about the Queen's Regulations, but I would refer my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War to paragraph 410 of the Regulations, which distinctly lays down what the rule is upon this subject. Here we have a general officer commanding 30,000 British troops publicly censured in the face of his whole army, in the face of his own country, and in the face of the world. One of the very first essentials of success in war is that the troops should have confidence in their leader. Such a censure as that which has been published and passed upon Sir Redvers Buller is serious enough in times of peace, but the case is even worse in time of war. It not only shakes the confidence of the troops in Sir Redvers Buller, but it also tends to weaken and undermine the authority of Lord Roberts. While some of General Buller's troops may have lost confidence in him, a great many of them will remain absolutely devoted to their leader, and they will stick to him through thick and thin. But what will be their view in regard to the Field-Marshal commanding in South Africa. Therefore, the publication of these despatches must tend to undermine Lord Roberts' authority in that way over those troops who are attached to their general, and who believe that nothing Sir Redvers Buller does can be wrong, and that nothing has been wrong. In this way it will militate against the success of our arms in 794 South Africa. I am not saying for a moment that all despatches should be published, for it is obvious that there are many despatches which cannot be always made public, but what I do say is, that when despatches are published they should be a true account of the transactions. I do not say that the general officer commanding must never be censured, but I do say that when he is censured in a despatch, it should be treated as in the nature of a confidential document, and certainly should not be made public during the war. In regard to the referring of these despatches to Lord Roberts, I again desire to call my hon. friend's attention to Paragraph 2066, where he will find it stated that all despatches are to be published at the discretion of the Secretary of State for War acting on the advice of the Commander-in-Chief. There is nothing in this regulation about referring the question to the general in command, and the responsibility for the publication of despatches rests upon the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief, and upon them alone. They have no business to refer this question to Lord Roberts, and this reference to Lord Roberts has given the impression to a great many people in this country that it was simply an endeavour on the part of the War Office to shift the responsibility on to the shoulders of the most popular general in this country. I think that was a most unwise thing to do, and it was done against the Queen's Regulations. Are we to understand that the military heads of the War Department are to be the only persons not bound by the Regulations of the Queen? I can only say that to mo this seems to be one more instance of that curious mixture of want of confidence in themselves on the one hand, and over assurance on the other, which seems to have fatally dogged the steps of the Government and to have characterised their action throughout the conduct of this war. When I say that the Government had no right to refer these despatches to Lord Roberts, it is obvious that it was not only wrong but also useless. Lord Roberts could not refuse to have the despatches published, because it might then have been said that he was afraid to say to a man's face what he had said behind his back. But if it was impossible for Lord Roberts to have refused, it was still more impossible for 795 Sir Redvers Buller to refuse. I offer no opinion as to Sir Redvers Buller's capacity as a soldier, but, at all events, I do know that he happens to be a gentleman. He was asked to rewrite a despatch which he had already sent home, and to look at the matter, not with regard to what had happened, but with regard to what had not happened. He was asked to rewrite—
§ * SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
He was asked to rewrite the despatch because what he had already sent home, in the opinion of the Government, was not fit for publication.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
My hon. and gallant friend will see that I cannot allow that statement to pass. Whether the decision of the Government was right or wrong, it was only this; that a number of reports having been sent, they were returned to the only person who could sum them up.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The word used was "rewrite." The reply received was, "I do not like the idea of rewriting."
§ * SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
The word used was "rewrite," and I see no object in rewriting a despatch, unless there is something to be suppressed. At that time we were told that the Government were taking the country into their confidence.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member wishes to be unfair. He has quoted the words used by Sir Redvers Buller. The term "rewrite" is used by Sir Redvers Buller, but that is the way it struck him. What was suggested to him was, "a full narrative of the operations."
§ * SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
I shall still stick to my point. At all events the impression was conveyed to Sir Redvers Buller's mind that he had to rewrite the 796 despatch in substance and material. I do not wish to labour that point further, but it is a somewhat strange thing that by way of taking the country into their confidence the Government should be engaged at the same time in having their despatches rewritten. We all know this, that General Buller, as a man of honour, would be incapable of putting his hand to any document which was not true, and that he would cheerfully undergo the severest public censure rather than put his hand to a document which was contrary to the facts. I must say that we have had many things during this war to shake our confidence in the way it has been conducted by the Government. Nothing shakes the confidence of the public in the publication of these despatches more than the suggestion that those despatches should be rewritten. They should have been a resume of the original despatch from the general. What was the object of the publication of these despatches? My hon. friend did not toll us that. He not only failed to tell us what the object of their publication was, but he did not tell us why the responsibility was shared by Lord Roberts. What was the object of their publication? Would it tend to reassure the public mind by telling them that some of our best generals were incapable? Will it console the relatives of those who fell by that unfortunate operation at Spion Kop to read that the great loss of life which occurred there might have been avoided? Is it the opinion of the Government that Sir Redvers Buller has mismanaged the whole campaign? If the Government were right in publishing these despatches in order to censure General Buller, then I say that Sir Redvers Buller should have been superseded. I have not looked up the history of that unfortunate affair which has been alluded to by the hon. Member, but I think it will be found that in the cases mentioned the generals were superseded afterwards. My point now is that after publicly censuring a general commanding 30,000 men, the only logical thing to do is to supersede him. You have no right-to put a man in that unpleasant position and then keep him in command. I have only one more question to put. I should like to ask whether the Government have taken into consideration the reason why General Buller's operations failed. The obvious reason 797 of General Buller's failure is that Lady-smith was not properly defended. The responsibility for the prolonged operations and the great loss of life around Colenso rests with those who neglected to provide Ladysmith with heavy guns when the stores were sent there. My point is that if Ladysmith had been properly defended with big guns the Boers would never have invested it, and that the investment was to a large extent due to neglect in that direction. We put the question to the Government, and we want an answer. Who was the person or persons responsible for not having looked after the defences of Ladysmith? The public ought to know. If Sir Redvers Buller were responsible let us know, but if, on the other hand, some other person was responsible there, it is only fair to Sir Redvers Buller that we should know who was responsible. Something has been said about Magersfontein. It is not my place to defend Lord Methuen or anyone else. Lord Methuen, it is true, is an old friend and comrade of mine, but, on the other hand, General Wauchope was not only an old friend but a near relative.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I do not think that any criticism of the operations at the battle of Magersfontein would be in order on this question. All that can be discussed now is the conduct of the Government in carrying out those operations or in publishing the despatches.
* SIR A. ACLAND HOOD
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and all I will say in conclusion is that I very much regret the publication of these despatches. I think it has done no good and a great deal of harm, and that it has not been to the benefit of the country or to the interests of the Army. I look upon it as an ill-advised, ill-judged act which has met with general condemnation throughout the country.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
I desire first of all to refer to the policy of the Government as far as I can understand it with reference to the concealment and the publication of despatches. I think that policy is perfectly apparent. The Government have concealed despatches when concealment was unwarranted, and have published despatches when publication was unworthy. It is a perfectly well-understood rule that so far as it is possible 798 and conducive to the public interest full and complete information should be given with reference to the operations of a war. That full information has not been given by the Government; on the contrary, it has been selfishly concealed. Now, as to the concealment of despatches, when information has been given at all it has been scanty and scrappy, and has been given in such a complex way that it is scarcely possible to understand its meaning. At other times it has been fragmentary and could scarcely be reconciled with sense. With reference to my first proposition, that the Government have concealed despatches, let me give a few illustrations. First of all, my hon. and gallant friend who immediately preceded me, who is well known for his great military capacity, and who, the House will recollect, was chosen by the Government at the commencement of the war to move the reply to the Queen's Speech, will agree with me that when the war and all the transactions connected with it come to be discussed, the question around which interest and attention will centre will be whether the Government were aware at the time when the war commenced that the forces in Natal and Cape Colony were utterly inadequate both for offence and defence. There are many incidents which show that they had not that knowledge. It is shown by the many despatches and documents which have been published, and also by the astonishing observation of Lord Wolseley that the Government went to war without any knowledge of the forces opposed to them. But there is one communication for which we have repeatedly asked —whether you call it a despatch or anything else—and which has not been given to us, and that is the communication which Sir William Butler made to the Government when he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces in South Africa, in which he told the Government their chances as regards the war, and in which he described the operations which should be carried out to ensure success. He was recalled and covered with obloquy, and that despatch which would have rehabilitated him has never been published. Last October he was made a scapegoat of, and he was called a traitor by a Salisbury-made peer, and yet you suppressed his despatch because it would have told against your operations and against your going into war wholly unprepared. Now 799 let me come to another matter. Let me take the campaign in Cape Colony which, in order that I may express myself properly, I will call the Methuen campaign. In that campaign no fewer than four great battles were fought—Belmont, Gras-pan, Modeler River, and Magersfontein. The object of that campaign was to relieve Kimberley, and the reason why Kimberley was to be relieved was that Mr. Rhodes, the author of the war, was there. Let us see how despatches were used as regards Mr. Rhodes. The Under Secretary for War has a very fine memory, but it erred to-day when he said that no questions had been asked him with reference to despatches from Kimberley. He forgot that I had asked him a few, and that despatches with reference to the relations between Mr. Rhodes and the officer commanding at Kimberley had not been given to the House, and that Mr. Rhodes was actually insulting the officer commanding at Kimberley while Scotch lads were dying at Magersfontein to secure his safety. On the 27th March* I asked the Under Secretary for War the following question—Whether, on 10th February, 1900, Major O'Meara, military censor, during the siege of Kimberley, sent a letter to the editor of the Diamond Fields Advertiser, a paper under the control of Mr. Rhodes, apprising the editor that he had on two occasions printed articles on the military situation injurious to the interests of the Army and the defence of the town, and had committed serious offences dealt with by the Army Act, and informing the editor that proofs of the Diamond Fields Advertiser must be submitted to the censor before publication; whether he is aware that, in consequence of this letter, the publication of the Diamond Fields Advertiser was suspended; whether, after the raising of the siege of Kimberley, Mr. Rhodes, in the presence of General French and of Colonel Kekewich, took on himself the responsibility of these articles, and ordered Colonel Kekewich out of his house when this interview took place; and what notice, if any, it is intended to take of this matter.What was the answer of the hon. Gentleman? That he had "no official information," simply because of course he did not wish to have any. I see that Colonel Kekewich is being presented with a sword for his gallant services in Kimberley, and yet the Government allowed this distinguished officer to be insulted with impunity by Mr. Rhodes. Why? Because of the influence of Mr. Rhodes, for* See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxi., page 433.800 whom every drop of blood in the Methuen campaign was shed. That is a very serious and scandalous exhibition of the suppression of despatches. The Under Secretary for War asked why we had never asked about the operations in Natal. I have asked a few questions with regard to them. General Buller in his despatch with reference to the battle of Colenso stated that he was unable to give any details with regard to the capture of the guns, because Colonel Long had been very seriously and probably fatally wounded, and that he had all the information. Colonel Long recovered, and I asked the Under Secretary for War* whether he would obtain his account of the loss of the guns, but the hon. Gentleman refused to give any information to the House or the country. I have shown that despatches were suppressed in reference to Kimberley and Colenso, and also the despatch of Sir William Butler. Now I come to the publication of despatches. The first publication which gave a shock to the moral sense of the people was of the despatches published in the Gazette on 16th March, which included Lord Methuen's account of Magersfontein and General Gatacre's account of the defeat at Stormberg, with the terrible censure of the Commander-in-Chief. Anyone reading the despatches would believe that they referred to one and the same transaction. Nothing of the kind. Stormberg was a different transaction altogether, and the despatch was sent at a different date. The despatch with reference to Magersfontein was sent when Lord Roberts was within a stone's-throw of Lord Methuen, and it must have been the combined despatch of both. Why were the two despatches published together? They were published in order that by the condemnation of General Gatacre public attention should be diverted from and not riveted on the astonishing silence with reference to Lord Methuen. There are two papers which do not often agree with anything I may venture to say. They are The Times and Birmingham Post, which I find are in remarkable accordance with my views regarding the publication of the Lord Methuen's despatch and the want of comment on it. Later, I shall show Lord Wolseley's connection with it. The*See The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth Series], Vol. lxxxi., page 937.801 Times said that Lord Roberts had said nothing about Lord Methuen's despatch on Magersfontein, but that his silence was more significant than words. The Birmingham Post takes exactly the same view. As to why Lord Methuen was let off while General Gatacre was condemned, no answer has been given. In looking at the documents which have been published I find the astonishing fact that, according to the Government, a despatch is sometimes not a despatch. On 22nd March I asked the Under Secretary for War whether he had any explanation to offer regarding the interval which had elapsed—about two months- — between the battle of Magersfontein and the writing of the official despatch describing the battle by Lord Methuen. I also asked him whether such a despatch should not be written while the impression of the operations was vivid in the mind of the commander and immediately after the operations, and the hon. Gentleman gave the astounding answer that Lord Methuen's communication was different from a despatch, that it was informal, and that it was sent back to Lord Roberts to be forwarded to Lord Methuen for rectification.* How does that tally with the statements in the Parliamentary Paper with reference to Magersfontein? The document which I was twice assured was not considered a despatch is mentioned in the telegram from the Commander-in-Chief to Lord Roberts as a despatch. The telegram states:—You will, I feel sure, agree with me that Lord Methuen's despatch on the Magersfontein engagement could not be published as sent.Again and again the hon. Gentleman talked about the Queen's Regulations and the number of paragraphs which should be in a despatch, and he stated to me on two occasions that there was no difference whatever as regards substance between the document published on 16th March as the Magersfontein despatch and the informal document originally sent by Lord Methuen. There is a difference, because the telegram from the Commander-in-Chief states that—there are passages in it inappropriate to such documents, and it also gives information of importance to the enemy.I know that the hon. Gentleman would not willingly give misinformation, and* See Volume last referred to, page 29.802 the statement he made was probably furnished to him by some clerk in the War Office. He stated that there was no difference between the two documents to which I have referred, but it is now admitted that one contained statements which could not be published.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The first communication sent by Lord Methuen was not considered to be a despatch, and for the reasons which I have already given to the hon. Member.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Why did the hon. Gentleman tell me that the difference between the suppressed despatch and the published despatch was in form and not in substance? In the informal document sent by Lord Methuen, who does not seem to know how to write a despatch, he must have referred to the incident between Colonel Gough and himself. Colonel Gough refused to obey orders on the field, and he has never been court-martialled. Was there any reference to that incident in Lord Methuen's communication? That is a most important matter. There has been suppression, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has treated the House very fairly or very respectfully. He has given no explanation whatever regarding the reasons which induced him on the 23rd March to state that the published despatch was practically the same as the informal document;.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
The original communication was sent back because it was altogether out of form. The published despatch embodied nothing which was not in the other. The incident with reference to Colonel Gough was earlier, as he resigned his command before the battle of Magersfontein.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
That shows the great impropriety of not giving us proper information. The only information which we have been able to extract has been by way of question and answer. Take another instance. The Government endeavoured to put the responsibility for the publication of the despatches on Lord Roberts by asking him what he proposed regarding it. That was an attempt to put all the responsibility on Lord Roberta's shoulders, and was an unworthy and shameful evasion of duty on the part of the Government. Now I conic to the 803 association of Lord Wolseley with the Magersfontein despatch. When I asked whether Lord Methuen's despatch had been revised by Lord Roberts, the hon. Gentleman got virtuously indignant, and said that was impossible, hut the telegrams show that Lord Wolseley himself offered to revise the Magersfontein despatches, because Lord Wolseley stated—If he would like me to revise the despatch in question, I will do so; but as I should prefer not to undertake this responsibility, I suggest you should ask him to cancel this despatch and write another.That is exactly what Lord Roberts asked Sir Redvers Buller to do, and what he declined to do. Did General Gatacre get any proposal from Lord Wolseley offering to write his despatch for him, and why was such a favour shown to Lord Methuen? Why was his despatch with reference to a great defeat to be rewritten by the Commander-in-Chief himself? Why was there no voice of censure with reference to it? Is it because Lord Methuen was ordered to save Mr. Rhodes at Kimberley, irrespective of bloodshed and at any cost, and that, therefore, there was to be no criticism with reference to him? The hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded me voiced the general discontent and indignation at the suppression of these despatches. I received to-day a telegram from one of the most distinguished soldiers in the service, stating—You are justified in demanding information about the disaster at Magersfontein, where my own regiment was destroyed by a blunder.I have also received a communication from one of the many sufferers by that battle——
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
On a point of Order, Sir, may I ask whether it is in accordance with your riding with reference to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Mid-Somerset, that the hon. Gentleman should discuss the battle of Magersfontein?
* THE CHAIRMAN
I understood that the hon. Member was asking for an investigation of the circumstances, or that some further light should be thrown upon them. In that he is perfectly in order. I understood that the hon. and gallant Member for Mid Somerset was going into a discussion on the operations, and the disputes alleged to have arisen between certain individuals. That I think would not be in order.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
; The right hon. Baronet is not doing his party a in-service in endeavouring to stifle debate on this matter. This discussion of course-is very awkward for the through thick and thin followers of the Government like the right hon. Baronet. When I was interrupted I was going to road an excerpt from a letter which I received from a Highland lady who lost her dear son through the incompetence of Lord Methuen at Magersfontein. She wrote hoping that a thorough inquiry would be made, so that some light might be thrown on the conduct of the leader of that most miserably mismanaged affair. When, she-said, they read Lord Roberts's strictures on other generals, something should surely be done to avenge the lives of their dear ones. All the officers from the front would welcome such an investigation, and why it had not been held she could not understand, unless it was through favouritism. That is how the relatives of the soldiers who died at Magersfontein regard the matter. Why have you censured Gatacre, Warren, and Buller when Methuen is allowed to escape? The country demands an account of this, and it must be furnished. There is one line in the despatch of the Secretary of State for War which casts great discredit on all the administration of this country — I mean the passage inviting emendations in a public document. I cannot imagine why any document should be cooked for publication. We are bound to investigate things when submitted to us, free from all public risk of harm being done. But here we have, under the hand and seal of Lord Lansdowne, who is in control of this war, an absolute direction or suggestion to a, general officer that he should in fact cook a despatch for public consumption. If such a suggestion was made by counsel to a bench of judges the court would consider the propriety of his being disbarred. I maintain that the suggestion is improper and dishonourable, and I will say nothing more on that subject. I ask again, who was the officer who was responsible for the loss of the convoy and guns at Koorn Spruit? The Under Secretary for War says he does not know. The Times, which hon. Gentlemen opposite so much admire, on the 12th April said—We have yet to learn the name of the escort officer, who presumably is the man really responsible for the surprise. Why has 805 it been held back, and why have we not been furnished with his explanations, if explanations he can give? If he cannot give them he would seem to be an excellent subject for stern but indispensable military justice.The Times repeated its demand on the 30th April, but still there is no information. I do not repeat the name which rumour gives, because I do not know; but this I do know, that in former days the War Office was not above the suspicion of favouritism, and of being capable of screening men in high positions either in point of family or money. The hon. Gentleman has spoken of the Crimean War. Does he recollect in the time of that war that a very astonishing letter was published, written by the Secretary of State for War, the Duke of Newcastle, to Lord Raglan, in which he said, "Take care of the poor doves, whatever you do." Is Lord Methuen a case of a poor dove, seeing that he is to remain in his position? These are questions which must be asked, and I hope that nothing I have said has in the slightest degree offended personally the hon. the Under Secretary for War. I can assure him that although I am fighting this cause, I am doing so with the utmost respect for him personally, and with the greatest admiration for his ability. I never was more convinced, however, of the badness of the Government cause than by the speech of the hon. Gentleman. A Gentleman with a tithe of his abilities could not have made such a wretched defence, which was, in fact, no defence at all. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman; I blame his chiefs and the Government. I was delighted at the speech of the President of the Agricultural Board, who was the very first to take advantage of the unmuzzling order. He said the publication of the despatches was good policy. I think it was bad policy. Again, I say it is a most scandalous thing that a society favourite should be left in command of a large force of men, and that the Government, in order to protect themselves, should give up to the dissection of the "man in the street" hardworking officers who have risked their lives in an extremely bad cause.
§ MR. MACLEAN (Cardiff)
I cannot understand the eagerness of the Government to take the public into their confidence in these despatches. The Government have shown no such anxiety in South Africa. An extremely severe censorship is established there, and the chief censor 806 (a noble Lord who is well known and much esteemed in the House) seems to have got all the correspondents into perfect working order. The consequence is that we get very little independent information indeed from South Africa, or from the correspondents, about the manner in which the war is carried on. It is said that the Government intend to remedy that state of things now by allowing the generals to criticise one another to the information of the public. I ask myself then, further, why was this particular time chosen for the publication of these despatches? What was the immediate hurry for the publication in the middle of the month of April? It could not be that the Government themselves thought that it was very important in the public interest that the despatches should be published at once, because they actually telegraphed to Lord Roberts to suggest that Sir Redvers Buller should re-write his despatch, which would have meant, if he had done so, a delay of another six weeks before the despatches were published. Lord Roberts himself fell into the same pan. He was of opinion, with Lord Lansdowne, that General Buller should be given an opportunity of rewriting his despatch. Therefore Lord Roberts was not at all anxious that his despatch should be published immediately. On the contrary, he seemed to have had very grave doubts about the matter. There is another reason why the publication of the despatches at that particular time was inopportune, and that is that by the middle of April the whole of the operations in Natal for the relief of Ladysmith had been successfully completed. The recollection of the misfortunes suffered by General Buller at Colenso and at Spion Kop had been wiped out by the success of his splendid final advance to Ladysmith and the relief of that place. That was known to the British public at the time. Their anxiety had been relieved, and they were not at all anxious, so far as one can judge, that recriminations over the incidents of the Natal campaign should be published to the whole world. The Government must have known at the same time that despatches were then on their way to this country dealing with the relief of Ladysmith, and taking into account the operations in Natal as a whole, and enabling the public to form a complete judgment on the whole of that campaign. Why, then, did not the 807 Government wait until the receipt of those despatches—probably a few weeks longer—and then publish them all at once? Then the despatch of Lord Roberts applauding the splendid services of General Buller in relieving Ladysmith would have been published as an antidote to his censure on what had taken place at Spion Kop. They did not choose to give even that small amount of time to the General whom they had censured. I do not think the British public agree at all with the step they have taken. The English are a generous people. They are always ready to forget mistakes. We have an example of this in the way in which they have treated Sir George White. There was hardly a mistake which Sir George White had not committed before he was locked up with his force at Ladysmith, but the British public have raised him to the rank of a hero on account of his stubborn resistance in the siege of Ladysmith. The British public know that the mistakes made in the early part of the war were due to our national temperament, which nothing, it seems, can cure. Our troops were put in a difficult position, and the men supposed, in our over-confident way, that when a red-coat appeared on the scene the enemy would clear out of the way. Now, the British public speak well of Sir George White, and no doubt they would have taken the same course with Sir Redvers Buller, and exalted that eminent general to the position of a hero, if the Government had been content to wait the publication of all the despatches together. But they were too impatient, and in this unhappy business their conduct has been nothing less than an unpardonable act of indiscretion.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I really felt a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War. I have a great admiration for his way of speaking, but he had such a bad case that he was obliged to fall back on the old trick of the rhetorician, a parade of the Queen's Regulations. I do not intend to discuss the issue before the House in regard to the publication of these despatches. I do not wish to say much on that matter, but the hon. Gentleman said that the object of Her Majesty's Government was to make a clean breast 808 of everything, and to take the public into their confidence. But publishing despatches, according to the Queen's Regulations, of one general or another is always a question of expediency and of the interests of the country. I cannot believe for a moment that you really increase the confidence of the soldiers in their generals by blaming these for their operations in war. If the Government had been ready to withdraw Sir Redvers Buller from his high command, then I could have understood the publication of the despatches. The despatches were published in a most deliberate manner. As my right hon. friend has pointed out, days and weeks and months were passing when the Government were calmly considering whether or not they would publish these despatches and the correspondence with Lord Roberts, and after that calm consideration they came to the decision that they would publish them. I think I have a right to say that in making a clean breast of it the Government have not acted fairly to the officers in command. What is the case of Lord Methuen? I will only say this, that certainly the conduct of the commander at Magersfontein does not compare favourably with the conduct of Sir Redvers Buller in taking Ladysmith; and yet we have got Lord Methuen's despatch, but with no report from Lord Roberts on the subject. As I understand, Lord Methuen's first despatch was sent by Sir Redvers Buller without any report. It was then sent back to Lord Methuen, who was called upon to make alterations upon it, and he sent it on to Lord Roberts so altered, and Lord Roberts himself forwarded it to the War Office without any comment or report upon it. Again, why should we not get a statement as to the officer who commanded the convoy at Koorn Spruit? My hon. friend behind me asked several times for the name of the officer. There has been time for letters to be received from the Cape. There is time at any moment to send a telegram to South Africa asking the name of the officer; but the Government, for some reason, I do not know what, and I do not pretend to ask, have absolutely declined to give the name of that officer, or rather to ask for the name of that officer. I admit that there is a difference of opinion as to the publication of the despatches, but there can be no difference of opinion as to the real charge which is 809 being made by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, and by some Gentlemen on the other side of the House against Her Majesty's Government, and that charge is that they deliberately undertook to cook the despatches to be presented to the British public. They did not intend to make a clean breast of it, but to deceive the public. I observe in the telegrams that we have before us to-day a proposal is made to Lord Roberts that the despatches should be edited at home. We have the first of these despatches which it was proposed to publish, but that does not cover the word "edited." I should like to ask the Under Secretary for War—is the despatch we now have from Sir Redvers Buller and Lord Roberts the despatch sent over by Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Ah! it is verbatim; then I can only say the word "edited" is wrongly used. When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War goes on to say that he proposes to send back the despatch to Sir Redvers Buller in order that it should be put into a form in accordance with the Queen's Regulations, he asks the House to credit a great deal. The Minister for War suggests the alternative—That we should treat your despatch of 13th February and all its enclosures as confidential, and that Buller should send through you a full narrative of the operations. This you could forward to me with any observations you desire to make for publication.Now, Sir Redvers Buller was then engaged in most important military operations, and would it not have been absurd to ask him to alter his despatch under these circumstances? It was obvious that he was to write another despatch to tell the same story in a different way. Everybody knows, though you tell a story in much the same way, it can be so done as to convey an entirely different impression. But Lord Roberts having made his observations on the first despatch, can anyone suppose that his observations on the second, had it been written, would have been identical with those published? That is the way in which Sir Redvers Buller himself understood it. Because, what were his words —words which equally do honour and credit to him? He said—I do not at all like the idea of rewriting a despatch for publication. I much prefer to 810 leave it in the hands of the Commander-in Chief, and let him select for publication what ever he thinks proper.He, in point of fact, would have no hand in this cooking and jerrymandering of the despatches. He accepted the blame imposed upon him; he was ready to bear that blame, and was not willing to deceive the British public. The hon. Gentleman made a good deal of the point that the mode in which the despatches were sent was not in accordance with the Queen s regulations. He complained that the despatch of Sir Redvers Buller contained reports of his subordinates that it ought not to have contained. But the Secretary of State for War telegraphed to Sir Redvers Buller—We should have for presentation, as soon as can conveniently be managed, despatches from you covering reports from your generals as to each of the engagements which have taken place.Now, that was blowing hot and cold. No person in this world can read these despatches without coming to the conclusion that there was a determination to deceive the British public in regard to what took place at Ladysmith. [An HON. MEMBER: No!] Some one said "No"; but I believe if there was a ballot at the present moment on the Government benches, the Government would not have ten Members voting in their favour. We know what party discipline is. Some Gentlemen have spoken, and they see or feel that the Government I have got into a thorough mess, and they say it is the business of good party men to vote solidly with the Government when it is in the wrong, and therefore I do not think we shall have their vote. I do not believe that the House realises what has been done. Take the case of a company, the directors of which have a report submitted to them from an engineer. The directors think that the engineer's report would not benefit the company, and it is suggested to the engineer that he should take back his report and alter it. The term "alter" is not used, we all understand that; but a fresh engineer's report is obtained, and that is laid before a meeting of the shareholders, and the unfortunate shareholders are humbugged and fooled, just as the Government in- tended the British public to be humbugged and fooled. For my part, I do consider that it is the duty of the House, under these circumstances, to express 811 strongly and clearly Its opinion that what has been done is not to the honour and credit of the nation. We, who have at heart as much as the Government the honour and good name of the country, think it our duty to register our protest against this most monstrous proposal made to Sir Redvers Buller, and which Sir Redvers Buller, as an honourable man, refused to carry out.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Whatever merits or demerits the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down may have as an orator, he certainly goes straight to the point, without mincing matters, and I wish the House had been fuller during his speech, because had Members been present they would have learnt from him that the question that we have to vote upon is not whether it is wise or unwise on the part of the House to discuss the Secretary of State and his action under very difficult circumstances, but the question which is before us is, according to the hon. Member, the honour or dishonour of a great public servant and of the Government of which he is a Member. [HON. MEMBERS: No, no!] Hon. Gentlemen who say "No, no" have not had the advantage which I had of listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I was not speaking of the honour or dishonour of a particular Minister. I was speaking about the honour or dishonour of the country in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and I said that I considered that the Government have gravely compromised the country's honour.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I quite see. The hon. Gentleman's speech is, after all, only the culmination of a series of attacks which have been made ever since these despatches were published; attacks not consistent with each other, not based upon knowledge, or, in many cases, upon common sense, but showing most extraordinary ingenuity in discovering the basest and the meanest and most farfetched and extraordinary motives for the course which the Secretary of State for War and the Government have pursued in the publication of these despatches. One hypothesis has been that this is an elaborate device of Lord Roberts's enemies to discredit Lord 812 Roberts. [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I say that is one hypothesis. [An HON. MEMBER: Who said that?] I never suggested that anybody had said it in this House. [An HON. MEMBER: Who said it out of the House?] I never suggested that anyone said it in the House. What I said was that since these despatches were published, and published when the House was not sitting, there has been extraordinary ingenuity in attributing all the meanest and basest motives for the action of the Government, and one of the motives discovered by some of the extreme critics was the motive I have just mentioned. Another motive which is as absurd, as far-fetched, and as calumnious as the one I have referred to, and which has, I believe, found an echo in this House, is that the Government have drawn an invidious distinction between the general whom I suppose we must be thought to dislike and the general whom it is thought that we favour—a distinction between the case of Lord Methuen and the case of Sir Redvers Buller. It is assumed with regard to one of these generals that we have suppressed information. It is said that we have suppressed information with regard to Lord Methuen, and that we have published information with regard to General Buller. Another accusation is that there was some sinister design, as I understood it, to prepare the public mind, in some ungenerous spirit, for the dismissal of Sir Redvers Buller from the responsible office which he holds. I confess that I think this line of attack is very unworthy of the critics of the Government, whether inside or outside this House. Whether we have been right or wrong, at all events our policy is susceptible of a simple and direct explanation, and that explanation is nothing more elaborate than this, that we have done, in the case of the despatches with regard to Spion Kop, precisely what we have done with regard to the despatches which have hitherto reached us from the General Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa. It is said that these despatches differ from their predecessors because they convey blame. But previous despatches that we have published conveyed blame. The despatches with regard to General Gatacre conveyed blame. "But," it is said, "General Gatacre has been dismissed; and so far as blame has been cast upon 813 General Warren, he has been removed to a different sphere of activity." Let me remind the House that neither General Gatacre nor General Warren was relieved of his command—the word "dismissal" slipped from me just now and is quite a wrong expression—immediately after the publication of those despatches nor in consequence of the actions on which those despatches Adversely commented. General Warren remained in his position in General Buller's army until after the relief of Ladysmith—until, in fact, the important Military operations which the army of Natal has hitherto been called upon to perform were completed. As for General Gatacre, it is well known that, long after the publication of the despatch in which severe comment was made upon his action in the direction of his forces, he was entrusted by the responsible Commander-in-Chief in South Africa with very important commands. That does not necessarily show that you ought to publish despatches commenting hostilely on a general, but it does show conclusively that in publishing the Spion Kop despatch we have followed exactly the precedent set by ourselves, consistently followed from the very beginning of this war, and a practice which, so far as I know, until the publication of these last despatches, has never called forth either in the House or in the press one hostile criticism or comment. That, I think, is i very simple explanation of the policy of the Government, which might have occurred to some of its critics, even those least disposed to judge fairly of our actions. It is said, "You cannot publish a despatch of this sort without so fatally injuring the prestige of the general commented upon as seriously to interfere with the effective conduct of military operations under his command." Is that a fact? Is it a fact that either the criticisms which were passed upon Generals Warren or Gatacre or those passed on General Buller were of a character to discredit them with their troops or to prevent their troops from following them into action? And especially do I ask this question with the more confidence in connection with the criticisms passed upon General Buller. I described them as criticisms. That word is inaccurate. The proper word is criticism. There was one criticism, and only one criticism, passed on General Buller, which was that he was 814 not present in command of the operations winch he had himself skilfully devised. [Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN handed the First Lord of the Treasury a copy of the despatch.] That is really what it comes to. [Opposition cries of "No!" and "Head!"] The words are as follows—Whatever faults Sir Charles Warren may have committed, the failure must also be ascribed to the disinclination of the officer in supreme command to assert his authority and see that what he thought best was done.Which, I assume, means very much what I have just said, which was, that General Buller, having devised a series of skilful operations, did not assert his authority in carrying those operations to a successful conclusion. That is the one criticism passed on General Buller, and the only one; and I confess it is a surprise to me to learn that soldiers have so false an idea of the difficulties of the art of war as to suppose that one error of judgment of that kind is to discredit a general in their eyes. I presume that every Member in this House has seen letters from the front commenting with that happy and irresponsible freedom in which officers and privates alike indulge in their letters to their friends, upon the conduct of their superior officers. I do not say whether those comments are well or ill advised, or whether it is proper or improper that they should be made. At all events, they go to show, what we do not require much proof to convince us of—namely, that a soldier is not necessarily blindfold, is not necessarily a fool, but that he does exercise his judgment upon his superior officer, and that that judgment, so exercised, is very often far more severe than the very moderate and modest criticism passed by Lord Roberts upon General Buller. Is it seriously to be believed that the soldiers who are thus in the habit of criticising the operations of their superiors are suddenly going to discover that these superiors are incompetent because the head of them, skilful in devising a plan of campaign, did not, on one particular occasion, exercise his authority as much as he might have done? I think that is a fantastic notion, and one to which I am rather surprised that my hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Wellington Division should have given currency. Observe my hon. and gallant friend's inconsistency. He went 815 away from the question of Spion Kop, and said there was a much move serious disaster for which we desire to know on whom the responsibility rests. That disaster is the entanglement of Lady-smith. "Let us, at any rate, know," he says, "who is responsible for that. If it be this man or that man, let us know his name. If it is General Buller, let us know it. If it was not General Buller, let us know who it was." My hon. and gallant friend is in the extraordinary position of thinking it a grave want of discretion on the part of the Government to publish a criticism with regard to the conduct of Spion Kop, while at the same time he is panting to have some similar revelation—it may be with regard to General Buller, according to my hon. and gallant friend himself— which he apparently does not think would do General Buller or anybody else any harm at all.
§ * SIR A. ACLAND-HOOD
I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to put that construction on my words. What I asked was why the Government had published this particular dispatch—whether it was because they were dissatisfied with General Bullers general conduct of the campaign, and, if they had published it on that account, would they inquire who was the man mainly responsible for the task set General Buller, so that the burden should be placed on the right shoulders.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Does my hon. and gallant friend think I misrepresented him? He has just repeated what I endeavoured to say, and his explanation seems to me to leave the matter exactly where it was before. We are told that we have meanly and culpably sheltered ourselves behind the authority of Lord Roberts—that we have, in order to shelter ourselves from public criticism, invoked the authority, the popularity, and the great name of that most distinguished general. What nonsense that is! The telegrams asking Lord Roberts about the publication of this despatch were not in order to shelter us from the consequence of that publication. They were intended to guide us as to whether it was wise or not wise to publish the despatch. If, after publishing the despatch, we had gone to Lord Roberts and said, "Do give us an opinion saying that it is right," that would have been sheltering ourselves 816 behind him. That would have been going to him and asking him to get us out of a difficulty we had got into. To ask the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa whether a despatch which he himself had written, for which he himself was responsible, could, with advantage to the army over which he has command, be made public—surely that is a most-reasonable course, and if we had not adopted it, how blameworthy we should have been! Supposing we had not consulted Lord Roberts in this matter, then, indeed, we should have been open to the criticism that we had interfered with the efficiency of Lord Roberts's army by not having given the man in command of that army the opportunity of having a say in the matter. And be it noticed that those who tell us that it is very unfair to throw on a general in South Africa the responsibility of determining what publication of news can be made in England forget that responsibility rests with Lord Roberts as regards the far more important question of censorship. Lord Roberts is now responsible from day to day for what is published with regard to the war. Through the censors, who are his subordinate officers and who are bound to carry out his policy, he does that which hon. Members opposite think is so far beyond his province that it was mean and cowardly on our part to ask him to do it in the case of these despatches. I should like to ask our critics—our numerous critics —what alternative they would suggest to the course we have pursued. Hon. Gentlemen object to our action in publishing these despatches. Would they make that a universal rule with regard to all despatches, or are we to select from the despatches sent us those we think it desirable to publish? And if we are to make such a selection, are we to act upon the principle that only those despatches are to be published which give praise? —or, if despatches which give censure are to be published, is the general blamed to be dismissed from his command before the despatch is made public? There are two other alternatives. Are we to give instructions to the Commander-in-Chief in South Africa that he is to write only despatches conveying praise — I am putting these various suggestions as they occur—or are we to write to him not to give praise or blame in his despatches, but to furnish a bare naked narrative 817 of events? If you will not have any of these alternatives, only two courses remain. One is that we should publish no despatches at all, and the other is that we should ourselves undertake the operation of editing them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I defy anyone to find any other alternative beyond these I have mentioned. I think the only one that can be contemplated as possible is that we should absolutely refuse to publish any despatches at all. To select those despatches which only praise would be most invidious, and, indeed, most absurd. To give instructions that no praise or blame was to be administered in the despatches would be to deprive these documents of half their value. To cut out of the despatches all the blame and leave only the praise would be to cast upon us the duty of tampering with them or cooking them; the thing for which we have been attacked to-night. And I think that is the last accusation of which we should be seriously regarded as having been guilty. We may have been guilty of indiscretion in our candour we may have given too freely to the public information in which the public is legitimately interested. But since the inception of the military operations down to the present moment I should have thought that the last accusation that could be honestly brought against us is that we published only what is agreeable; that we attempted to blink the public eye or to dull the edge of public criticism by any selection of the materials at our disposal. I would earnestly ask the House whether as the result of the criticisms passed upon us to-night no further despatches are to be published. [Opposition cries of "No, no!"] I understand that hon. Gentlemen repudiate that conclusion. I hear indignant cries of "No, no," but if we are to continue the policy of publication, are we to make a selection, and if that is to be suggested is it to be a selection of praise or blame? [A VOICE: Exercise discretion.] Yes; exercise discretion. How simple the phrase, and how easily it comes from the mouths of those who have never exercised discretion either in their criticisms or their demands in the dealing with and the publication of dispatches! The problem cannot be solved by a word of that kind. I do not 818 know whether the Secretary of State would tolerate the responsibility of editing these despatches.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
He made no general offer of the kind. But if my noble friend did undertake the responsibility of editing despatches—I do not know that he will — would not hon. Gentlemen opposite come down to the House and say, "Have you published the whole of the despatch? Has anything been omitted, and, if so, what? Was General So and So's conduct commented on," and so on, and the very Gentlemen who now seem to think that that was the proper course to have pursued are those who have spent three hours to-night in attacking us for what they call garbling or cooking the despatches. I really must repudiate in the most earnest manner of which I am capable the kind of accusation which has been freely hurled against my noble friend the Secretary of State for War in the course of this debate. I entirely acquit the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, who made his first speech —a speech which I hope will not be his last by many in this House—of having said a single word for which his conscience need prick him in the least; and although the night hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary made a severe attack upon the Government, I do not think anything fell from him in the nature of a reflection on the credit of Lord Lansdowne or the Government, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might have thought of our discretion. But I cannot say the same of other speakers in the debate, and I especially complain of that kind of accusation which was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Wellington Division in reference to what occurs in the telegrams as to the re-writing of the despatch. My hon. and gallant friend said he did not know much about General Buller's qualifications as a soldier, but that he did know that General Buller was a gentleman, and that therefore he would not give way to the suggestion that he should re-write his despatch. If General Buller was a gentleman for not giving way to the suggestion that he should rewrite his despatch, then those who had suggested, that he should re-write his despatch must have been guilty of con- 819 duct which was unworthy of gentlemen. In that accusation my noble friend is not alone primarily concerned, nor his military advisers, nor the Cabinet, but Lord Roberts himself. It is shocking to think that in this House such accusations should be made against gentlemen of the highest character; but as they have been made, I do not think any language of which I, at all events, am master is too strong to repudiate them. Sir, if there is anybody in the House still capable of reading with a fair and open mind the series of telegrams published this morning, he will see that no accusation could be more scandalous and unjust. There is no suggestion from the beginning to the end that General Buller was to modify the substance of his despatch in any way, or that he was to say in the new despatch something different to that which he had said in the old despatch. The communication was one regarding the form of the despatch and not regarding its substance. I do not think I have ever been more pained in my long experience of this House than by the fact that such accusations as have been made to-night could be made and listened to in an assembly of gentlemen. The governing telegram is the first of the series, and if anybody will read that he will see that what I have said is absolutely true—that the suggestion of Lord Lansdowne had reference only to the form of the despatch. My noble friend in his telegram to Lord Roberts said—I suggest as an alternative that we should treat your despatch of the 13th February and all its enclosures as confidential, and that Buller should send through you a full narrative of the operations. This you could forward to me with any observations you desired to make for publication.There never was a suggestion cither by Lord Lansdowne, or his military advisers, or his colleagues in the Government that any change in the substance should be made by General Buller in his despatch.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The right hon. Gentleman will see that that observation of the Secretary of State is governed by the telegram of General Buller of the 6th February last.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, no. The hon. Gentleman has quite misapprehended the question. The question was whether or not certain despatches should be published. I think I have shown that the position is one of very great difficulty, 820 and I hope the House will not complain of my hon. friend the Under Secretary of State for War if, after what has passed to-night, he declines to either publish despatches or answer any questions about despatches. The course of this debate has carried the question far beyond the mere question of a wise or unwise use of a very difficult discretion in regard to the publication of war despatches on the part of the Under Secretary for War, his military advisers, or the Government. The last speech that was made and other speeches were an attack, not upon the wisdom or unwisdom of the Government, but upon their honour and their credit; and we confidently look to that party which we know believes in our honour and our credit to show that, in their view at all events, any such accusation has no foundation.
SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNEKMAN
The case of the Government in this matter seemed doubtful yesterday. As my hon. and gallant friend opposite said, it was made worse to-day by the publication of the telegrams. With all his skill and charm the Under Secretary for War did not better the case in the speech which he delivered to the House, and now the Leader of the House, with all his dialectical powers, powers which he possesses beyond most men, but which have been brought to a pitch of perfection by training on his part in the best of all schools, that of the Irish Secretaryship—those dialectical powers, which enable him so often to make a poor case seem a good one, and the power, which he also possesses in an unusual degree, of at the close of a debate of this sort sweeping up the enthusiasm of his followers behind him and carrying them on a wave of enthusiasm—a wave which sometimes perhaps does not allow them to see very clearly what is at issue—all these powers of the right hon. Gentlemen have failed him on this occasion. At the last moment all that he could do was to make the narrowest and straightest appeal to their mere party fidelity. He practically said, "Whatever the arguments may be, whatever the views held by individual Members may be, I must throw myself upon the fidelity of my friends who wish to see the Government's reputation maintained." All the right hon. Gentleman's arguments were of a hypothetical and unpractical kind. I 821 have one practical question to put which I think disposes of that. All the right hon. Gentleman said was, "What are we to do? What would you do? Would you publish all the despatches? Would you publish none of the despatches? Would you garble the despatches? What would you do?" I can tell him what they ought to have done. They ought to have done whatever was done in the previous campaigns in which this country has been engaged. This is not the first time that this country has been at war. Can the right hon. Gentleman or the Under Secretary point to a single precedent in the Peninsular War, in the Crimean War, in the Afghan War, or in any other war that can be named, of that being done which they have done on this occasion? I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are so short of Executive Government powers that they cannot exercise a reasonable discretion in such matters. One instance which the Under Secretary gave I was sorry to hear him give— I mean Maiwand. Maiwand was a terrible disaster. I regretted to hear the hon. Gentleman compare Spion Kop to Maiwand. At Maiwand there was one of the greatest calamities which ever befell the British Army. The hon. Gentleman said we had to look back for a disaster. He said, "We will see what has been done in the case of a disaster," and the only one he could find was Maiwand. Spion Kop was not a disaster in the sense that Maiwand was. What was done in the case of Maiwand? The two general officers concerned were immediately superseded, and before any despatch was published at all. Maiwand does not justify the proceeding of the Government in any particular. The Government plead that they wish to take the public into their confidence, that they want to be perfectly frank and open before the world. What we want to know is, not only where is the precedent for this publication, but why was it done in the way it was done? We have not had all the despatches we might have had. There has been no despatch published giving an official account of the whole defence of Ladysmith.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not say you have suppressed 822 any, but you have withheld them. Has there been any account published of the attack on Paardeberg or Cronje's camp before the surrender of the Boers, upon which occasion there was a greater loss of life, or, at any rate, as great a loss of life as in any other single engagement dining the war?
We have not had those despatches yet. The argument I used was that there was no precedent for not publishing the formal despatches sent home by the general officer in command. I believe there is none.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
Quite so, at the proper time. If this despatch was to be published at all, L agree with what was said by my hon. friend the Member for Cardiff. This operation was one part of a great series of operations. General Buller was engaged in relieving Ladysmith. He made one attempt, and it failed. He made a second attempt, and it failed. He made a third attempt, and it succeeded. When he had succeeded the Field-Marshal, Lord Roberts, very properly and necessarily expressed his admiration at the manner in which Sir Redvers Buller had performed the great task committed to him. If this despatch had been published in the course of a series of despatches describing all the operations, any little observation which the Field - Marshal might have passed upon the general policy would have been covered in the eyes of the world and of the. men serving under General Buller by the praise bestowed upon him for the general operations when they were concluded. That is how a wise and prudent Government can exercise what, we call discretion. If the Government had acted with that discretion, there would have been little blame attached to them. But they have committed this grave fault — they have departed from the ordinary, the immemorial practice in the history of the Army; they have published this formal despatch reflecting upon the conduct of officers in high command, and calculated, therefore, to depreciate the authority of those officers. The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the camp gossip that comes home in private letters from soldiers and from officers to their families and others, and he actually puts these tittle-tattle stories on the same footing as the formal and solemn and pronounced 823 opinions of the officer commanding in chief. The right hon. Gentleman was hard put to it for an argument when he used that. No, Sir; I believe that this debate will have done a great deal of good if it even induces the Government to look a little round them before they take a step of this sort again. I am still left in doubt as to whose brilliant idea it was to publish these despatches, and I do not mean to try to penetrate the mystery. We know that the Government have handsomely allowed that the responsibility belongs to the Government, by which I suppose is meant the Cabinet. I do not suppose the Cabinet was there, for the despatches were published during the Easter holidays. Was the Cabinet Committee of National Defence called in for this purpose? We should really like to know some of these things, but I suppose we must leave our curiosity unsatisfied. At all events, someone had this brilliant idea. I believe that from the moment the despatches were published in the papers to this day the Government, and certainly their friends behind them, have never done anything but repent and deplore the publication. The defence set up for them to-night is utterly insufficient. The criticism that has been passed upon them tonight has not been passed upon them for any party purpose, nor has it come from any party motive. The right hon. Gentleman began his observations by referring to motives which he had apparently picked up in some newspapers. We are
§ not responsible for what may appear in newspapers, most of which, I think, support the policy of the Government. There are many on this side of the House who have disapproved of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in South Africa, and there are others who have more or less approved of it, but we have all been alike in this—the light hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have never had any difficulty put in their way by us in prosecuting the war. We have never demanded a scapegoat, we have never singled out either officer or civilian for condemnation. I am proud to think that this debate has proceeded without any attempt to enter upon the question of the conduct of the generals, or upon the excellence or the deficiency of their tactics and their strategy. The House has shown its usual good sense in declining altogether to enter upon a task for which it is quite unfitted. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have no reason to complain either of the House of Commons or especially of any of the hon. Members on this side of the House; and we shall now record our votes, as we must, in condemnation of the conduct of the Government, not from any desire to interfere with their discretion, but to convey to them in the only way open to us a lesson as to the manner in which they should exercise their discretion.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 116; Noes, 215. (Division List No. 109.)827
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan)||Joicey, Sir James|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Dewar, Arthur||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn Sir U|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Dillon, John||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Austin, M. (Limerick, W.)||Doogan, P. C.||Kinloch, Sir J. Geo. Smyth|
|Baker, Sir John||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Kitson, Sir James|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Dunn, Sir William||Labouchere, Henry|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Ellis, John Edward||Leese, Sir J. V. (Accrington)|
|Birrell, Augustine||Evans, Sir E. H. (South'ton)||Leng, Sir John|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Lloyd-George, David|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Fenwick. Charles||Lyell, Sir Leonard|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Macaleese, Daniel|
|Burns, John||Goddard, Daniel Ford||MacDonnell, Dr M A (Queen's C)|
|Burt, Thomas||Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift|
|Caldwell, James||Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||M'Dermott, Patrick|
|Cameron, Sir Chas. (Glasgow)||Haldane, Richard Burdon||M'Ghee, Richard|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Harwood, George||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin|
|Cawley, Frederick||Hazell, Walter||Maddison, Fred.|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Hedderwick, Thomas C. H.||Mather, William|
|Crilly, Daniel||Holland, William Henry||Mendl, Sigismund Ferdinand|
|Crombie, John William||Horniman, Frederick John||Molloy, Bernard Charles|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Jacoby, James Alfred||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen|
|Daly, James||Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez E.||Morley, Rt. Hn. J. (Montrose)|
|Moss, Samuel||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Moulton, John Fletcher||Roberts, John H. (Denbighsh.)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Norton, Capt. Ceil William||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Robson, William Snowdon||Ure, Alexander|
|O'Malley, William||Runciman, Walter||Wallace, Robert|
|Palmer, George W. (Reading)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Schwann, Charles E.||Wason, Eugene|
|Pease, Joseph A. (Northumb.)||Scott, Chas. Prestwick (Leigh||Weir, James Galloway|
|Perks, Robert William||Shaw, Chas. Edw. (Stafford)||Whiteley, George (Stockport)|
|Philipps, John Wynford||Sinclair, Capt., John (Forfarsh.)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Pilkington, Sir G.A.(Lane SW||Souttar, Robinson||Wilson, J.H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Priestley, Briggs||Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.|
|Reid, Sir Robert Threshie||Steadman. William Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Richardson, J. (Durham, S. E.||Strachey, Edward||Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. M'Arthur.|
|Rickett, J. Compton||Stuart, James (Shoreditch)|
|Aird, John||Faber, George Denison||Keswick, William|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fardell, Sir T. George||Kimber, Henry|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Knowles, Lees|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Fergusson, Rt. Hn Sir. J (Manc'r)||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Arrol, Sir William||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Lawrence, Sir E Durning-(Corn)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Finch, George H.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)|
|Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire)||Finlay, Sir Hubert Bannatyne||Lecky, Rt. Hon. W. E. H.|
|Baillie, James E. B. (Inverness)||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Baud, John George Alexander||Fisher, William Hayes||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fison, Frederick William||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Baldwin, Alfred||FitzWygram, General Sir F.||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. N.J.(Manch'r)||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Liverpool|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W.(Leeds)||Foster, Sir Michael (Lond. Univ.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Fry, Lewis||Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller|
|Barry, Rt. Hn A. H. Smith- (Hunts||Galloway, William Johnson||Lowe, Francis William|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Garfit, William||Lowles, John|
|Bemrose, Sir Henry Howe||Gedge, Sydney||Lowther, Rt. Hon. J. (Kent)|
|Bhownaggrce, Sir. M. M.||Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Biddulph, Michael||Giles, Charles Tyrrell||Lucas-Shadwell, William|
|Blakiston-Houston, John||Gilliat, John Saunders||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Bolitho, Thomas Bedford||Godson, Sir A. Frederick||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Bond, Edward||Goldsworthy, Major-General||Maclure, Sir John William|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||M'Killop, James|
|Brassey, Albert||Goschen, Rt. Hn G. J (St. George's)||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.|
|Brown, Alexander H.||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire)|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Graham, Henry Robert||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Butcher, John George||Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry)||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monmouthsh.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire)||Gunter, Colonel||Morrison, Walter|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Hertford, East)||Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)|
|Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r)||Hanson, Sir Reginald||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Heath, James||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Coddington, Sir William||Helder, Augustus||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Henderson, Alexander||Penn, John|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Hermon-Hodge, R. Trotter||Percy, Earl|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Phillpotts, Captain Arthur|
|Columb, Sir John Charles Ready||Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)||Pilkington, R. (Lancs. Newton)|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Plunkett, Rt. Hn Horace Curzon|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Edw. T. D.||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Houston, R. P.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Curzon, Viscount||Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle||Purvis, Robert|
|Denny, Colonel||Hughes, Colonel Edwin||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-||Jebb, Richard Claverhouse||Rankin, Sir James|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Donkin, Richard Sim||Jenkins, Sir John Jones||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.|
|Doughty, George||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T.|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Johnstone, Hey Wood (Sussex)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon Sir William Hart||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir J. H.||Robinson, Brooke|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Kenyon, James||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Round, James||Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Stanley, Sir Henry M. (Lambeth)||Williams, Joseph Powell-(Birm)|
|Rutherford, john||Stephens, Henry Charles||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Samuel, H. S. (Limehouse)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M. Taggart||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Sandon, Viscount||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos Myles||Strauss, Arthur||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)|
|Savory, Sir Joseph||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Scoble, Sir. Andrew Richard||Talbot, Rt. Hn. T. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)||Wrightson, Thomas|
|Seely, Charles Hilton||Thornton, Percy M.||Wyndham, George|
|Sharpe, William Edward T.||Tollemache, Henry James||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire)||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Sidebottom, William (Derbysh.)||Vincent, Col. Sir CEH (Sheffield)||Younger, William|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)||Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-|
|Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-under-L.)|
Resolution agreed to.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.