§ The EARL of RIPON
then rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice, conveying the Thanks of the House to the Indian army. He said: My Lords, your Lordships are never niggardly in offering your thanks to those who, in the service of our common Sovereign and of our common country, have distinguished themselves in promoting the honour, the interests, and the safety of their country; and your Lordships may be well assured that you never tender these thanks to those gallant men without inspiring them with feelings of gratitude which may tell, and which do tell, upon their future 355 efforts, and contribute to produce those results which we contemplate with such unqualified satisfaction And in order that these expressions of your sense of gratitude might come to them in the most gratifying and graceful manner, it has always been your Lordships' desire that there should be nothing either in the words in which these thanks are expressed, or in the manner in which they are recommended to you, which might prevent your Lordships coming to a unanimous vote on the subject. This is the course which I have endeavoured to follow upon the present occasion in the mode in which these resolutions of thanks are worded; and it will be my endeavour, in the course of the observations which I shall have to address to you, to avoid saying anything that shall be inconsistent with this principle. Your Lordships, however, will doubtless expect me, in proposing this vote, to state as briefly as the circumstances will permit me, some of the general considerations and facts connected with these brilliant affairs to which it is now my duty to call your attention. The Papers which have been laid upon your Lordships' Table were not placed there for the purpose of calling upon you to express any opinion with respect to the political aspect of the question; they were placed there solely for the purpose of enabling you to see what the course of events has been, and therefore to comprehend more correctly the nature of the events themselves. These Papers will exhibit to you what I think every one who has read them must feel to be a singular picture of the state of affairs at the Court of Lahore, which has at last terminated in an open rupture with us. Intrigues of every kind, violence of every kind, plots of every kind, murder after murder, practised against those who might, from time to time, obtain the chief power in that State; all these circumstances occurring for a long period exhibit a picture of disorder and confusion which is not paralleled, I believe, even in India itself. It is obvious that the knowledge of this state of things could not fail to excite in the minds of the Government of India, much and constant anxiety. Still, however, the policy which was pursued by the Governor General (on which, however, I do not call on your Lordships to express any opinion at present), rendered it not desirable to enter upon a state of hostility to the Lahore Government, in order to put an end to these horrors and scenes of bloodshed. Fears for 356 themselves, however, were soon entertained among the ruling powers of the Government of Lahore, who experienced constant apprehensions for their own lives; and a notion became prevalent among them that the best chance of securing their own lives against the machinations of their own mutinous army, consisted in their inducing that army to pass our frontier, and to commit itself to hostilities with us, not for the purpose of conquest, or of anything the army might gain by such proceedings against us, but for the purpose of compelling us to undertake operations which should end in the destruction of the very army that belonged to the Government opposed to us. Now I believe that to be a circumstance unparalleled in the history even of uncivilized countries. But the Governor General of India did not hold that that circumstance alone constituted a ground which would justify him in assembling an army for the purpose of passing our frontier, and carrying on a war on the Sikh territory. It did, however, render it necessary, in conjunction with other events which had occurred at Lahore—it did render it necessary for the Governor General to consider how he ought to prepare to meet a contingency which might or might not arise, which he hoped would not arise, but which, if it did, would required to be immediately repelled. He therefore concentrated a considerable force as near to the Punjaub as on military grounds it was thought advisable, in order to enable us meet any attack that might be made upon us. There appears at this time to have been great vacillation and doubt in the enemy's councils; at one time they would advance, at another time they would remain quiet. At length it appeared that the person who exercised the ruling power, the Wuzzeer, the brother of the Ranee, as she is called, who is the mother of the Sovereign on the throne—it appeared that he, a drunken profligate, inflamed with a sort of mad ambition, and terrified perhaps also at the prospect of being put to death by his rivals—caused the assassination of Peshora Singh, who was reputed to be, although I believe he was not in reality, a son of the late Runjeet Singh. This murder, which was exceedingly disagreeable to the troops, induced them to threaten his life; and he, to avert their vengeance from himself, and seeing that there was little chance of escape for him, considered that it would be at any rate very advisable to exasperate the army against us; and accordingly he showed a most un- 357 friendly disposition to British interests. However, he shortly after met the fate which has been very common of late years among the rulers of that country: he was himself assassinated. But, my Lords, those who assassinated him entertained a different opinion of the British Government from those which he entertained; and everything seemed to show that the disposition of the new authorities at Lahore was less inimical to English interests, and that they were less inclined to force on a collision with the Government of India. At the same time, there did, it is true, appear to be grounds for apprehending that some mad project on the part of the army was likely to take place; and in the beginning of November, intelligence was transmitted from the political agent at Lahore to the Governor General, that it had been decided in durbar at Lahore to attack the British possessions; that a plan of campaign had been laid down; and that an attack was to be made by four out of seven of the divisions into which the Sikh army was divided; and that their army was to cross the Sutlej at several points, one division crossing 100 miles from the other extremity where the other division was intended to cross. Now, my Lords, that operation, if it had taken place, would have had the effect of bringing detached portions of the Sikh army into our territory at different points—a plan which, I apprehend, is quite at variance with sound military principles, and could scarcely be successful, because as these bodies of troops, consisting of from 8,000 to 10,000 each, would have operated at a considerable distance from each other, they would have been liable to have been defeated in detail, and consequently their likelihood of success would have been very small. This plan, however, was subsequently abandoned: and at length intelligence reached the Governor General about the end of the first week of December, that the concentrated Sikh army was about to cross the Sutlej in the vicinity of Ferozepore. The British force was thereupon immediately directed by the Governor General to concentrate on some point where they might be conveniently placed so as to engage an invading army. Early in the year the two posts of Ferozepore and Loodiana, which are at a considerable distance from each other, and which are the most advanced posts on the left bank of the Sutlej, were materially strengthened. The garrison of Ferozepore, at the time of these operations, consisted 358 of 8,000 men, with twenty-four pieces of field artillery: there were also forty-two pieces of heavy artillery in the fort. This force was deemed by the Governor General and the Commander in Chief to be abundantly sufficient to maintain the position at Ferozepore against any coup de main—abundantly sufficient to repel any attack that could be made, on the supposition that the plan was that which had been announced from Lahore by the political agent. Loodiana was also garrisoned by a considerable, though a less force, namely, by one European regiment, by five regiments of native infantry, and by one regiment of cavalry, and two troops of horse artillery. The fort, however, at that place, is but a small one. The remainder of the force was directed to be within reach, and to be ready to move up for the support of Loodiana, and to cover any movement which it might be necessary to make, either in front, or to the right or left, and repel any attack that might be made. The troops accordingly moved up with all possible despatch. Not many days, however, after this, information was received, from which it appeared that the plan originally adopted by the Sikh Government had been abandoned, and that they had entirely changed their plans of operation by proceeding against us with a divided force, and that they contemplated assembling their forces upon the Sutlej, at a place about thirty miles from Ferozepore. On the receipt of this information, orders were given by the Governor General to collect all the forces that were at hand, and move up those that were at Umballah and Meerut, in order to meet any attack that might be made. Many contradictory accounts were given of the enemy's proceedings. At one time time it was said the enemy were moving in large bodies; but there was no information that they were moving their artillery or had collected boats for the purpose of crossing the river. Still our troops were ordered to concentrate themselves; and when it was ascertained that the point where the enemy crossed was Ferozeshah, it was evident to the Governor General that Loodiana was no longer exposed to the same degree of danger as other points, and that the forces in that garrison, and those in Umballah, might be of great assistance, by enabling him to march to the relief of Ferozepore, which was exposed to considerable danger if the whole force of the Sikh army was directed to that quarter. Accordingly the forces were with- 359 from Loodiana, and were concentrated at a point upon the road between Umballah and Ferozepore. These two bodies of troops were ordered to concentrate on a place called Bussean. Some of the troops from Umballah had previously moved up nearly to Loodiana. But they were ordered to concentrate on Bussean, in order that they might be ready to proceed to any point where operations might be directed to be undertaken. This was done; and the whole force concentrated there, and it was deemed expedient that immediately on their concentration they should advance to the left for the relief of Ferozepore, and with a view to drive the enemy across the Sutlej. On this occasion, it is undoubtedly true that the troops endured great fatigue: they were obliged to make rapid marches, and they had much privation to encounter. But, my Lords, that is the ordinary lot of war, I believe; and no troops in the world are more ready to encounter privations and hardship, or more able and willing to meet all that troops can be exposed to, than ours. They advanced rapidly, in good and perfect order, and came up to Moodkee, twenty miles from Ferozepore. Now, my Lords, when our troops had reached that point, it was evidently impossible for the enemy to remain where he was, and he was therefore compelled to take some decisive project, or to abandon his purpose altogether. His project had been, in the first instance, to capture Ferozepore; but instead of making an attempt to capture it, he took up his position in its neighbourhood, leaving it almost in the rear of his right flank, in a position which rendered that point exceedingly dangerous to him, in combination with the movements of our troops: it was necessary, therefore, for him to interpose between the advance of our army from Moodkee to Ferozepore. Accordingly, as soon as he found that our forces were approaching within a short distance, he determined to make an attack. Leaving a considerable portion of his army in a camp which he had entrenched at no great distance from Ferozepore, he, with the remainder of his men, amounting to 40,000, went forward to make the attack upon our advancing forces. The arrival of this body was announced at head quarters, not long after they had taken up their position at Moodkee; it was necessary that immediate steps should be taken to repel the contemplated attack; it was obviously a very wise policy to bring the enemy to action 360 at the earliest possible moment; accordingly, the troops were ordered to advance, although they were not at that time all come up. The troops did advance, and the two armies met—a sharp action took place, in which the enemy was entirely repulsed with considerable loss in men, and nineteen pieces of cannon. Upon this they retreated, and the effect of the success was, that they retreated into a position which was no longer directly between our forces in advance and Ferozepore; the consequence of which was, that our communication with Ferozepore was immediately established, and a plan arranged by the Commander in Chief, the Governor General, and Sir J. Littler, for bringing the troops from Ferozepore to form a junction with the advancing army, and proceeding in that united force to attack the enemy. This operation was well conceived, and admirably executed, and the junction was effected upon the morning of the 21st of December. The position occupied by the British troops, at half-past one on that day, so far as I am able to judge—for there is no plan of the campaign in this country—appears to have been opposite to one side of that square or oblong which constituted the entrenched camp of the enemy. There being three or four hours daylight left, it was deemed advisable to make an immediate attack—this was a wise decision, and, although some may think it a rash one, I think that that rashness might more appropriately be termed heroism. The attack, in spite of the superior artillery, and in spite of the enemy's troops, who were there assembled, was determined and vigorous. A portion of the entrenched camp was taken, and the camp set on fire, and the last hopes of victory to the enemy appeared to have been dispelled. The darkness of the night, and partly the effect of the fire of the camp, rendered further operations impossible. But it was indispensably necessary to press forward, and it was therefore immediately determined, by the Commander in Chief and the Governor General, that in the morning, as soon as day broke, they would renew the attack. It was not considered as an argument against this step that the troops were fatigued, and that the slaughter had been very great; but it was determined that our army should maintain its post, let what would be the consequence. Meanwhile an attack was made by the enemy on our line, but speedily repulsed by Colonel Wood, aid-de-camp to the Governor-General, 361 with the 80th regiment, under the command of its gallant leader, Colonel Banbury; and I believe that that was one of the most gallant actions that was ever performed. He completely dispersed the enemy, who drew off, and for the rest of the night contented himself with the distant cannonade of our troops whenever an opportunity occurred. At an early hour in the morning the troops were put in motion, and they swept the whole intrenched camp of the enemy, and captured every piece of artillery within the intrenchment. That, my Lords, was a great success, particularly when it is considered how much the position of these Asiatic armies depends on their intrenchments, defended as they are by artillery which is for the most part not moveable as ours is, but only capable of transport by means of thirty or forty bullocks for each piece of artillery; so that if they are taken the loss to such an army is extremely severe. But the enemy, who, to do them justice, seemed disposed not to allow us to complete without contest the conquest we had begun, determined to attempt the recapture of the camp; but, although they made three separate attacks for that purpose, they all failed. At last nothing remained but to leave the possession of it to us, and they accordingly retired to an open village at four miles distance—a mere mud village—called Sultankhanwalla, in an open country — as open as that table—where there are no trees or any thing of any kind to operate as a protection. This did not certainly offer a very formidable opposition in itself to our troops; and finally not conceiving it possible, by any renewed attack, that he could make any impression or gain any portion of what he had lost, he made across the Sutlej, utterly discomfited, all his projects, as far as they had been developed, having totally failed. I believe, my Lords, that is an account of the transactions on the Sutlej. I am fully aware how utterly inadequate I am to discuss the merits of those who took the lead in this great battle. I believe there never was an occasion in any part of the world in which the indomitable courage of the British soldier was more eminently displayed than in those well-fought actions which I have attempted to describe. There were moments, no doubt, in which the situation of our forces might be difficult; but it is in those situations, my Lords, that the skill of the commander and the courage of the men are best displayed; and the consequence of both in this case was a glorious 362 victory over an enormous superiority of numbers. My Lords, there were one or two circumstances personal to the Governor General that I may be allowed to refer to. I mention this in respect to him because I happen to know the circumstances in which he was concerned. In his own sphere, I have no doubt, every officer of the British army would manifest the same courage, the same sagacity, and the same untiring energy. On the night of the 21st, the Governor General was in a very critical position. He had ordered the troops to lie down when their exertions were no longer wanted, and keep quiet; and in order to show them what a resolute and cool spirit can do, he went and lay down with each of four regiments, to keep up their courage, and to show them how important it is for troops to be quiet in the face of a numerous enemy. We may easily conceive what were the feelings of those gallant soldiers when they saw him thus sharing with them that partial repose, and preparing to meet with them the dangers of the succeeding day. Your Lordships may conceive the extent of the danger to which the Governor General was exposed, when you are informed that the loss of staff-officers was greater than had ever been known in any previous action. No less than five of the Governor Generals aides-de-camp were killed, and five more were wounded; and in the midst of this scene—a scene of great anxiety and, possibly, some doubt—he was left with only one aide-de-camp, and that aide-de-camp his own son, a lad of sixteen years of age, a boy who had but recently joined, without military experience, knowing scarcely anything of the nature of the duties which devolved upon him, but, animated by his father's indomitable spirit, was employed by his father, young as he was, as his only aide-de-camp to convey his orders from point to point, a duty which he performed with a valour worthy of his father's fame, and which my Lords, I hope, we may regard as an index of what he will himself do on other occasions when he shall again be called upon to serve his country. My Lords, these circumstances are not mentioned by the Governor General in his despatches. My gallant Friend does not himself speak of his son's services, but having heard of them I have thought it my duty to mention them to your Lordships. Sir Henry Hardinge had with him another son, who was designed for the military service, but by a dreadful accident which occurred to 363 him some years ago, and which had rendered the amputation of a foot necessary, has been since compelled to abandon it. This young man also remained by his father the whole of that night, and shared in all its dangers and anxieties; but his father felt (and not unnaturally) that having no direct duty to perform, and being from his misfortune rendered incapable of active exertion, his presence near him on the following day could be of no advantage, while it might in some degree distract his attention from his own important duties, and he therefore compelled him to retire, to the great discomfiture and annoyance of the young man himself. These, my Lords, may appear small matters, perhaps, but still they are of importance, as indicating the mind of the individual to whom they refer. I wish I were able to do justice to all who have been engaged in these important actions—I wish it was in my power to have a more perfect knowledge of all that took place on these occasions, so that I might be able to do the same justice to others which I have endeavoured to do to the Governor General. My Lords, these advantages to which I have referred were not gained without very heavy loss—that loss is in itself not only great, but, in some of its features, exceedingly painful. One of the most distinguished men this or any other army ever possessed fell in this battle. Who does not know the name of Sir Robert Sale? Who can forget the services that he rendered to his Sovereign? Who did not glory in the honours that were conferred upon him? and who did not participate in the gratitude of his admiring country? He fell in the battle at Moodkee; and I am sure that your Lordships, should you be called on to do houour to his memory, will not be slow to answer the call, and to show, that although you no longer have the benefit of the services he has hitherto rendered, you have not forgotten his name, which, as Lord Hutchinson said of the gallant Abercromby, must ever be "embalmed in the recollections of a grateful posterity." Another gallant officer to whom I will refer is Sir John M'Caskill. He found the same fortunate fate that Sir Robert Sale did; and, from the terms in which he is spoken of by Sir Hugh Gough, you must see that the army has in him sustained a great and heavy loss. There was another individual who fell in this action, whom I cannot avoid noticing, even if it should appear to be somewhat invidious to do so, because it is impossible to men 364 tion all who fell on this occasion—I mean Major Broadfoot—one who has singular demands upon our respect and gratitude, as a political servant of the Company, as well as in his military capacity. He had been two years and a half political agent of the Governor General in those quarters, and performed his duties in a manner which won for him universal respect and admiration. He knew the country and he knew the people, and of all men was perhaps the most fitted to be employed in so delicate and difficult a mission. Admirably, however, as he performed his civil duties, he did not forget what belonged to his military character. If he had any fault, it was that of being too forward. He was always first in the fray, and in this instance he paid the penalty of his gallant character. The tribute paid to him by the Governor General is no more than is just and deserved; and though I have no right to panegyrize him as an officer, yet, knowing what he has done in his political character, I thought I was bound to notice the irreparable loss which we have sustained by the death of that individual. My Lords, the result of these battles will best be felt by a comparision of what were the objects of the enemy, and what was the object which our army had in view, and which in part they had achieved. The object of the Sikhs, a proud, vain-glorious, boasting people, was nothing less than to inundate the whole of the country from the Sutlej to the Jumna; the march they proposed was a march direct to Delhi, to rescue from our sway the territories of the Great Mogul. They crossed the river in great force, and their first intention evidently was, and must have been, to capture Ferozepore. The next object was to disperse their numerous light cavalry over the country, to secure its resources and strengthen its forts—for they have many forts on that side of the Sutlej—to terrify the timid into acquiescence in their plans, and to force those who wished to remain faithful to us to leave us, and, in short, to confine us to the smallest possible limits in India. Such were the objects they had in view—all of them have failed! [Cheers.] Our object was to force the Sikhs back to their own territory, to save Ferozepore, to compel the doubtful to adhere to their allegiance, to support and confirm those who were friendly to us, and to show that we could not be attacked, insulted, and invaded, with impunity. All the objects the enemy had in view in this campaign have utterly failed; and all the objects we 365 had in view have entirely succeeded. With respect to the future, it would be idle and unnecessary to say much; but I do say, that in the short space of three weeks all our objects have been attained, and attained by the combination, by the courage, and by the exertions by which great battles are gained, and which I think will leave an impression upon the minds of the Sikhs which they will not readily forget. They are a warlike people, though I have some doubts that they are partial to hand-to-hand conflicts; they are, nevertheless, a warlike people, and love the excitement of war; but I think they will have received a lesson that they will not easily forget: and we have a right to suppose that these victories have given that security to our frontiers which it is of so great importance to maintain. Perhaps I have been induced, from personal and affectionate regard for the Governor General, to speak of him as I have done on this occasion; and I may have appeared to pass over the gallant deeds of others. I have no right to do that, and I therefore bear the most willing testimony to the admirable spirit and gallantry of that experienced and tried officer, the Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Gough—a man who has served his country beneath the great man who is now next me on my right (the Duke of Wellington); who has passed all the best years of his life, and they are not less than seventy, in the active service of his country; and who has served in many quarters of the world with undoubted credit, with high renown, and in a manner which richly deserved the honours which it had pleased the Sovereign to confer upon him. My Lords, it is the duty of the Government to endeavour by all the means that it can—now that this war has been brought upon us—forced upon us, to contribute to its successful issue. The Governor of Bombay has, with great activity and energy forwarded to Kurrachee a considerable reinforcement of British and native troops, supported by artillery; and he has in reserve two more regiments if their services are required. He has marched a regiment of cavalry from Poonah to join the forces in the Sutlej; and every movement that he has ordered has been effected with the greatest despatch. He has moved other troops to Kurrachee, there to be under the command of as gallant a hero as ever wore the soldier's uniform, Sir C. Napier, who, with characteristic energy, is collecting all the means at his disposal to 366 bring them to bear on the point where they may be most efficiently applied; and all who know Sir Charles Napier, know what his gallantry and talents are, and, above all, what his talent is in inspiring confidence, unlimited confidence, among thsse whom he commands; and if he takes part in this war, we may look for a revival of the glories of Meanee and Hyderabad. Every thing has been done that is possible to facilitate any ulterior operations that may be necessary in this war; but you may depend upon it, that what I now propose to your Lordships to tender your vote of thanks to those gallant men, is not among the least efficient modes of exciting them to farther deeds of valour, and leading them to renew on other occasions those devoted actions for which they have gained such imperishable glory and renown. It is with these feelings that I have brought those services before you—though unable to bring such military questions very plainly under your Lordships' notice. I know that your Lordships will cordially respond to my call, and I therefore beg to move that the Thanks of this House be given to those engaged in these battles, in the entire confidence that I shall have the full support of this House, and that we shall show to those gallant men that they are not called upon to serve an ungrateful country. The noble Earl then moved the following Resolutions:—That the Thanks of this House be given to the Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Governor General of India, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, for the Energy and Ability with which he directed the Military Means at his Disposal, to the repelling of the unprovoked Invasion, by the Sikh Army, of the Dominions of the British Government, and of the Protected States, upon the Left Bank of the Sutlej; and also for the Firmness and Gallantry with which he directed the Operations of that Portion of the Army under his immediate Command, in the Afternoon and Night of December 21st, 1845, and on the Morning of the 22nd, upon which Occasion the Enemy's Defences were carried by Storm, the greater Part of their Artillery captured, and their subsequent Attempts to regain what they had lost, repeatedly defeated:That the Thanks of this House be given to General Sir Hugh Gough, Baronet Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in the East Indies, for the distinguished Valour with which he directed and led the several Attacks upon the Enemy, and for the eminent Services rendered by him, in the Battles of the 18th, 21st, and 22nd of December, 1845; displaying, as he did, in conjunction with the Governor General, a brilliant Example to the Troops of Perseverance and Courage in critical Circumstances, and of irresistible Ardour in the several Attacks made upon the Enemy:367That the Thanks of this House be given to Major General Sir Henry George Smith, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, to Major General Walter Raleigh Gilbert, and to Major General Sir John Hunter Littler, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, and to the several Officers, European and Native, under their Command, for the eminent Services rendered by them in the recent arduous and successful Operations:That the Thanks of this House be given to the Non-commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, for the Perseverance and Fortitude maintained by them at Moodkee on the 18th of December, 1845, and for the daring Valour with which they forced the Enemy's Intrenchments at Ferozeshah on the 21st and 22nd of December, captured most of his Guns, and finally compelled the Sikh Army, of greatly superior Numbers, to retire within their own Frontier; and that this Resolution be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said: I think the Resolutions just proposed by my noble Friend for our adoption, and those events on which the Resolutions are founded, ought not to pass without some observations from other quarters, though I feel that my noble Friend has done full justice to the subject. But it is most gratifying to my feelings to be enabled to state, after perusing with the attention which they deserve the documents which Her Majesty's Government have thought fit to lay before your Lordships, and with that attention also which I thought due to the particular terms of the Resolutions proposed by the noble Earl, as founded on those communications, that it is consistent with the most perfect sincerity of feeling on my part, as I have no doubt it is consistent with the feelings of your Lordships, to give to those Resolutions not merely acquiescence, but the most cordial support. Those Resolutions go, as I understand them, to two objects, the expression of the grateful admiration of this House of the valour, zeal, and devotion to the public evinced by the whole Indian army employed on this occasion, and also an expression of our approbation of the distinguished officer who fills the situation of Governor General, for the energy and ability with which he has employed the means placed at his disposal. To both of these objects your Lordships cannot but give the most decided expression of your concurrence. With respect to the conduct of the army on this occasion, without pretending to judge of the particular tactics that have been followed in the course of the conflict, there is still enough 368 in the Papers to enable even a person like myself, or any other of your Lordships who will exercise his own understanding, to appreciate to the fullest extent the proofs there presented to us of a devotion which has known no bounds, and which I will venture to say has never been exceeded. Because, my Lords, it is impossible to peruse these Papers without observing that, from a concurrence of circumstances, which, if unavoidable, must be admitted to have been unfortunate, though attended in the end with the most glorious results, more than ordinary difficulties had to be overcome; those circumstances being a numerous army, harassed by rapid and forced marches, and consequent fatigue, and occasional discouragement and difficulty in the face of a superior enemy—in the course of one week every one of these circumstances were brought to bear, by what I must call misfortune, in the most unfavourable manner, in the situation in which their troops were placed, and being so brought to bear and so combined, they were met and subdued in a way that produced results of glory, I will not say unparalleled, but of glory of the most signal, distinguished, and lasting nature to British arms. And, my Lords, it is to the zeal and devotion displayed by that army that you owe the additional lesson that has been given to the nations of Asia, and that the population, civil and military, of those countries have been made to see that the star of British power has shone on this occasion not with diminished lustre—and has added to those claims on the gratitude and confidence of those nations, which already existed. There is evidence in these Papers, showing that not only Her Majesty's European forces, but the sepoys employed with them, have acted together in a manner, and evinced a spirit, which must tend to strengthen and cement the ties that ought to exist between the two countries. And I trust, with that accelerated speed with which communications travel now from one end of the globe to the other, the impression created in this House may reach the population of those countries, and more especially that part of it which is employed in their defence; and I hope that it may be felt that on this day the House of Lords was not wanting in expressing their gratitude for their eminent claims and services. My Lords, I view with unmixed satisfaction the whole series of achievements so perseveringly executed, and performed under discouragements which in- 369 crease their claim to your consideration and your gratitude. With respect to the other part of the vote, that which relates to the distinguished Governor General, it is not to be doubted, after reading these Papers, that in the position in which he was placed during the week or the fortnight preceding the invasion of the Sikh army, combining, as he did, the duties of a civilian with those of a military man, his conduct in both capacities exhibited the most zealous devotion to the interests of his country. His was a most difficult position—a position which, I venture to think, from its peculiarity, may deserve, at some future time, to engage the consideration of future Governments in Eastern arrangements; but I think there is no man that, seeing this distinguished military man placed in that position, on the frontier of the countries of which he was Governor General, when those countries were invaded, will venture to say he did not do his duty in passing at once from that high civil character which he had occupied before, and drawing his sword at the moment when his sword, and that which was still more valuable, his example, would be most efficacious in exciting to deeds of valour, and insuring the success which it had the effect of obtaining. [Cheers.] I therefore think that he in that particular situation in which he was placed, deserves the approbation and the thanks of this House, warmly as they are expressed in this resolution. [Cheers.] I will not attempt, for the reasons stated by the noble Earl for abstaining, to dwell upon the individual merits either of Sir Hugh Gough, much as I appreciate them, or of other commanders, highly as they have been exhibited upon this occasion; they are before your Lordships; they are all entitled to a share in your approbation, and they will, I am confident, obtain it by your unanimous vote this day. [Cheers.] I will as little be tempted, though I am far from complaining of my noble Friend for having gone into it, into the species of political narrative with which he has not at all unnaturally accompanied this Motion, but upon which I am confident he did not mean by implication to obtain anything like an opinion from your Lordships, which opinion would indeed be valueless if it were given, founded as it would be, upon very imperfect means of consideration. Upon that part of the subject, therefore, I do not wish to give any opinion whatever; I will only say, that if the time shall come when 370 it shall be the duty of your Lordships to review all the circumstances which have preceded this great and glorious event—when you come to consider the policy which had been adopted, and which certainly deserves to be characterized as a pacific policy, your Lordships will give to the authorities of that country—and I am sure it will weigh deeply in your Lordships' minds—the full credit of an anxiety, not only to avoid all unnecessary war, but to go beyond that, and to make it palpable to all the world that we had, as far as it was in our power, laid aside the part, if we ever acted the part, of aggressors in India, and that nothing but the most uprovoked invasion could induce us to draw the sword, until it became our duty to draw it; although undoubtedly that determination did not relieve the Government in India from the duty of providing in the most efficacious and in the fullest manner for that necessity, when it arose in so formidable a quarter. But those are considerations into which I do not wish to go. If I am not prepared to pronounce any opinion upon them in a favourable sense, I am certainly as little prepared to pronounce an opinion upon them in an unfavourable sense. All that I wish to do is to reserve my opinion upon that subject, for any time when it may become matter of consideration for your Lordships, and to confine it at this moment to that great transaction which stands before your eyes in all the splendour of its own success—that military transaction in which the most warlike nation of the East made an unprovoked attempt upon our dominion and our supremacy, and was, by the undiminished valour of our troops, European and Native, signally and I trust for ever, defeated. I give my most cordial sanction to this vote.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My Lords, after the speech of the noble Marquess, I should be unpardonable if I were to say one word which could occasion a difference of opinion in this House; and after the speech of my noble Friend near me, there really remains but little for me to say upon the military operations which have occurred: but I could not hear a Motion of this description discussed without adding to what has been stated, my unqualified approbation of the conduct of the troops on this occasion, and also of the officers who commanded them; and particulary of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Governor General, who, after having made all the arrangements appertaining to 371 his duty as Governor General, in order to collect all the resources of the country for the purpose of the great contest impending, having collected all the troops and made all the arrangements for the security of the country, volunteered his services in his rank in the army, in order to give to give his assistance to the officer commanding the army in chief in carrying on those operations which remained for him to carry on in order to secure the public interests and the possession of the country. There is no obligation on an officer placed in his situation to take that course; you can hardly point to a single instance of a man being placed in that situation; but he has given us an example which I hope will always be followed. When he found his services could be useful, he laid aside his position and even his power as Governor General; for it should not be forgotten that he would have carried with him into the field the power over the military operations of the army; he laid that aside—which indeed it is true, according to the usual practice, could not in that way be exercised, and most particularly in his case could not, because Her Majesty, when he went to India, and the Court of Directors, gave him his commission to succeed to the command of the army after the death or coming away of the present Commander in Chief; but he volunteered his service and his assistance to the Commander in Chief in the great contest which was impending. But the noble Marquess has said truly, that all exerted themselves and did everything in their power to obtain the great result which has crowned their efforts. It is not generally known, my Lords, but I know it, that the enemy's position was completely closed in by intrenchments, so closed around, that it deserved rather the name of a fortress than a fortified position; and, notwithstanding the advantages our troops in India have, of having water carriages and persons attached to each company whose duty it is to supply them with water, they laboured in this action under the singular disadvantage of being deprived even of that refreshment for nearly twenty-four hours, because the country happened te be so much dried up, and the villages so distant. Under these circumstances it was that the troops carried this position, certainly with very great loss, but which I hope has not left them in a state otherwise than efficient, if their services should be called for on military duty. I really must say, that I have not for a length of time 372 heard of an action that has given me so much unqualified satisfaction as this, excepting in one particular. I have read with pain of one regiment, to which the word "panic" was applied; and I considered it my duty, in the position in which I am placed, to examine particularly into the circumstances. I see, in the returns, that that regiment is stated to have lost five-twelfths of its number, and a vast number of officers and non-commissioned officers. I have seen an account which states, that in the first quarter of an hour from the time when the regiment first entered into action, one third of its officers fell. I cannot question the accuracy of the report of the operations made by the commanding officer; but I wish that this officer, when he sat down to write an elaborate report of the conduct of the troops under his command, had referred to the list of killed and wounded; and if he had inquired into the loss sustained by that regiment, I believe he would have found that they were absolutely mowed down by the fire under which they were advancing. I have made inquiries respecting that regiment, and I find that it has been sixteen years in the East Indies; that in the course of forty years it has served thirty-three years abroad, and only seven in the United Kingdom; that in the course of the sixteen years during which it has served in the East Indies it has been in all parts of India; that its numbers have been recruited twice over since it has been in that country; and that at this moment, of these men who made that attack and suffered that loss, three-fourths had not been seven years in the service. I considered it my duty to examine into the state of this regiment, seeing that word "panic;" and I believe I have with me a most extraordinary report of their good conduct from this very general officer on a former occasion; and it will convince your Lordships that if the list of killed and wounded had been brought before him on that occasion it would have been impossible for him to apply that word to them. I cannot find the paper now, but it contains the expression of unqualified approbation of the state of this very regiment, by this same general officer, Sir J. Littler, upon the last inspection, at Christmas last. I was anxious to read it to your Lordships to show that to the accident of the dreadful fire kept up upon them, and their being mowed down, you ought to attribute what occurred, and not to a deficiency or failure on their part.
The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
373 said, that though he should think it in the worst possible taste for him to attempt to add any praise to that which had just been rendered to the army in India, he must for a moment refer to the devotion to the public service and the ardent co-operation of the two distinguished individuals who came in contact on that occasion, and at once threw away every feeling of jealousy, or consideration of fame, or éclat, the Governor General placing himself second in command, and showing thus a gallantry that could not be too highly commended. It was of the utmost importance, too, to the character of the British army, that on every occasion the individuals highest in command should be the first to throw themselves into the post of danger; for our soldiers, if they saw these relax, would not show that indomitable courage which was their characteristic. Most pre-eminently had this marked the conduct of one of those distinguished men on this occasion. When the morning dawned, after a night spent in lying first with one regiment and then with another, exhausted with hearing the cries of the wounded on the one hand, and of savage foes on the other, he declared that he would rather die on the field than relinquish any portion of the territory we possessed; and when the lines were drawn up he placed himself on one of the flank lines, with such of his aides-de-camp as survived, the Commander in Chief taking his position on the other flank. He placed himself thirty yards in front of the line, fearing lest the troops, from their eagerness, might fire too soon to be effective. He kept his men steady in their positions, led them forward to the attack of the enemy's entrenchments, and only gave the word to the troops to fire when their fire might be effective. If their Lordships looked to the concentration of the three different bodies of troops, they would perceive that, however hazardous the operation was, it was nevertheless effected as the Commander-in-Chief directed; and when they considered that 50,000 of the enemy were opposed to 15,000 or 16,000 men on our side, was the loss, great as it had been, greater than under such circumstances could be expected? Supposing that this action had been gained with comparatively very little loss, the cry at home would then have been that these Indian troops—these Sikhs—did not know how to fight, and that they were not equal to French troops. But what was the case? The Sikhs appeared to have fought, according to all accounts, 374 as well as any troops with which the British had ever been engaged. It was quite impossible to have a great victory without a corresponding loss. Their Lordships were aware, that previous to this victory, the Commander in Chief and the Governor General directed all the operations, the latter having had five of his ten aides-de-camp wounded, and five killed. The Commander in Chief was one of the bravest men, he believed, in the army. He had served in the Peninsula, and during those operations in India had exhibited the most indomitable courage. They might talk of the rashness or boldness of general officers placing themselves at the head of their troops, and unnecessarily exposing themselves; but Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge, in doing so, only followed the example of the school in which they were brought up—the example of the noble and illustrious Duke in that House, who was always foremost at the post of danger. That noble Duke, on whom the whole existence of the army in his time depended, was always exposed to danger, and thousands of bullets whizzed around his head. The noble Duke might have been wrong in so exposing so valuable a life to danger; but his was an example followed by the officers who served under him, and which would be remembered by all who came after. He had been led to make these observations in consequence of a remark which fell the other night, without notice, from a noble Duke (Duke of Richmond), from which it might be inferred that the Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Gough, and the Governor General, Sir Henry Hardinge, had not acted with sufficient prudence, in both placing themselves at the head of the troops, and that an anxiety had been shown to seek "a bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth." As an animadversion seemed to have been passed to the effect, that one or other of those officers ought not to have been in the action, he (the Marquess of Londonderry) thought it right to express his opinion of the admirable manner in which those distinguished individuals conducted the operations. Before concluding, he would observe that he perceived that in these engagements in India four regiments were commanded by majors. He did not know whether this arose from niggardly economy or not; but he thought that Lieutenant Colonels should not be taken away from their regiments to command brigades. It was a great advantage to a regiment to have, at 375 its head, the officer who was long known to have been in command of the regiment.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said that his noble Friend was mistaken on that point. There could be no niggardly economy on the part of the Government with respect to the matter to which he had referred, the whole establishment in India being paid by the East India Company; and he believed also that there was no niggardly economy with respect to it on the part of that Company. The fact was, that it had been the invariable practice to require—both when he was in India and ever since—field-officers of the regiments of the army there to perform general duty—that was to say, to command brigades according to their rank, there not being a sufficient number of general officers in the country in order to take the command of several brigades.
The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
said that the noble Duke had not answered his question, but repeated his statement. If there were not sufficient general officers in India for the purpose he referred to, there ought to be; and if the East India Company did not pay them the Government ought.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
should not have risen to trouble their Lordships on this occasion, had it not been for the remarks of the noble and gallant Marquess who had just sat down. He seemed to find fault with him (the Duke of Richmond) for not giving notice of a question he had put to the noble President of the Board of Control. He had, however, done that which was more regular and in accordance with the Orders of their Lordships' House. On the noble President of the Board of Control laying certain Papers on their Lordships' Table, he (the Duke of Richmond) asked him whether those Papers contained any order or instruction in reference to future occasions, to prevent anything like a divided command in our army; and he took the opportunity at that time of stating, that he meant no attack on the Governor General, for whom he entertained feelings of great respect and friendship; at the same time he could not allow those feelings of respect and friendship to induce him to pass over what might hereafter be drawn into a dangerous precedent. He could suppose himself in the situation of commanding a brigade, and receiving an order from the Governor General to move to the right, and another from the Commander in Chief to move to the left; and he could ima- 376 gine how embarrassing his position would be. It was simply in reference to the general rule that there should be only one officer commanding in chief in an army that he had ventured to make that observation; and he was far from desiring to impute blame to the Governor General, for it was only natural for a gallant officer like him to wish to place himself in the thickest part of the action. As he was now on his legs, he trusted that he might be permitted to state that he cordially concurred in every thing which had fallen from the noble President of the Board of Control, from the noble and gallant Duke, and from the noble Marquess who supported the Motion, with respect to the discipline, good conduct, and heroism of those men who had achieved the late splendid triumphs. He had also seen with feelings of the greatest satisfaction that Sir H. Hardinge had intimated to that army his intention to award a medal to the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers. Those brave men who had participated in the late splendid victories were to have a medal recording their conduct. He did hope and trust, then, that Her Majesty might be advised to take this opportunity of ordering a favourable answer to be returned to the memorial, most numerously signed by the veteran officers in the Peninsular campaigns, who felt not the slightest jealousy at their successors in the very regiments in which they served in the Peninsula receiving medals, but who, nevertheless, entertained the deepest feeling that there could be no reason why those who served in times past should be an exception almost to the general rule, and remain undecorated, having nothing to show for their services, except, indeed, their numerous wounds. They, too, had often and often received the thanks of Parliament for having efficiently and honourably served their King and country in days of the greatest danger, and he hoped and trusted that their prayers would not be unheeded. He now must request his noble Friend at the head of the Indian Board to consider whether it might not be possible to have the names of the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, who had fallen or had been wounded in these actions, published in this country. Many private soldiers could not write, and others were incapable in the midst of arduous campaigns from becoming correspondents. He believed that in the case of a naval engagement the names of the private marines and private 377 sailors, wounded or killed, were invariably published in the Gazette. It might be said that it would be inconvenient to follow this example in respect to large armies; but he put it to his noble Friend, whether, as the birth-place of every soldier was registered, he believed, at the War Office, it might not be easy to have lists made out and sent to the different counties for insertion in the local newspapers. He was sure that his noble Friend would agree with him in thinking that it would be most desirable to relieve the deep anxiety and agonizing suspense, under which parties, the relatives of those brave men, many of them being persons in a humble station of life, were now suffering from ignorance of the fate of those they loved best. From practical knowledge, in consequence of residing in the country and mixing with the labourers in his neighbourhood, he could assure their Lordships that such a publication would be considered one of the greatest boons which could be conferred on our more humble and honest fellow subjects. He thought it right to make those suggestions, because he thought, that as the principle was admitted, in respect to the navy, it might also be applied with respect to those who were killed in the service of the army on foreign and distant stations.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
felt it would be quite unpardonable in him were he to detain their Lordships by many observations, after what had fallen from his noble Friend, who had so well proposed those resolutions, and from the noble Marquess opposite, who had so justly and eloquently supported them. Least of all should he be justified in attemping to add anything to what had fallen from the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington) because he knew that one word of approbation from that noble Duke was dearer to the soldier than any honour or compliment he could possibly receive from any other question. But he thought that their Lordships would forgive him for not allowing this discussion to close without taking this public opportunity of expressing the deep gratification with which he had witnessed this last and greatest achievement of the army with which he had been very recently connected, which had at all times his entire confidence, and which had on this as on all other occasions justified the confidence he reposed in it. Everything that had passed that night must be most satisfactory to the Governor General, the Commander in Chief, and to all the 378 officers and troops engaged; but knowing that army as he did, he assured their Lordships that nothing to-night had been said which, to the Commander in Chief, to the Governor General, and to all the officers and troops engaged (and his remark applied as much, if not more, perhaps, to the native troops) nothing would be so satisfactory as that which had been said by the noble Duke with respect to Her Majesty's 62nd Regiment. He knew the deep feeling of poignant regret with which the despatch which had been referred to, would be read in every regiment in India; and he knew that the Governor General would have gone to the regiment in question, and told the men composing it that nothing had passed to diminish his confidence in them; and he (Lord Ellenborough) trusted that he would add what, like a true soldier, he knew would strike on their hearts and feelings—that as a proof of his confidence he reserved for them the privilege of taking the breach at Lahore. He (Lord Ellenborough) knew how that announcement would be received. Every one expected British troops to do their duty, and those who had been in India knew that the native troops did their duty also. To him it was a great satisfaction to perceive that on this occasion the native soldiers had not only borne as patiently as they ever had done, privations, severe difficulties, and long marches, during which they suffered from the want of food and water, but had also braved the most severe and destructive fire of the enemy by the side of those whom they honoured, respected, and loved. Above all things, it was gratifying to him to observe their undeviating and unshaken fidelity to their colours, notwithstanding that every attempt was made to seduce them from their allegiance. They had seen within forty miles of their position for eighteen months a mutinous army dictatating to its Government—they had seen that army purchased for the commission of successive crimes by successive donatives—they had seen the pay of that army raised to double the amount of their own—and they had every offer made them likely to operate on troops of less tried fidelity. They had resisted them all. From the time when the Sikhs passed the Sutlej, not one man deserted; all remained steady to their colours, and fought as they ever had fought by the side of the British soldiers. This was to him satisfactory, because he saw in it not only a proof that the native troops were what they always had been, but also an 379 earnest of future triumphs. He knew that the same fidelity which had enabled them to repel the Sikhs across the Sutlej would also enable them to follow the Sikhs afterwards to Lahore. Perhaps he ought not to attempt to add anything to what had already been said; but he could not avoid saying that he looked with confidence to the army in India, and that he must always follow with the deepest interest their achievements and all their movements. He knew that nothing could have been done more satisfactory to the individuals concerned, or more useful, than what had been done by their Lordships to-night. Their Lordships might be assured, that in the circumstances in which he stood, the Governor General required all the moral support which could be given him by Parliament and the country, as well as all that material and effectual support which would undoubtedly be rendered him by the Government.
§ The EARL of AUCKLAND
said, that though he felt that he could add nothing to that which had been already said by many of their Lordships, yet as he had been personally and intimately acquainted with many of those brave officers who had fallen, and also well acquainted with many of them who had survived again to serve their country, he was unwilling to appear to sit coldly through this debate, and not express publicly his entire concurrence in all that had been said in favour of the army in India. Having said this, and strongly feeling that the subject had been exhausted, he would no longer detain their Lordships; but he assured them that he never gave a vote with greater satisfaction than that which he was now about to give in favour of the proposed Resolutions.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
then put the Resolutions to the House, and declared them to be carried nemine contradicente.
§ House adjourned.