HL Deb 19 December 1854 vol 136 cc488-93

rose to ask the noble Earl at the head of the Government whether it was the intention of Her Majesty to appoint some especial Day to be kept holy for the Purpose of returning Thanks to God for His Divine Protection during the Prosecution of the war, or whether it was the intention of Her Majesty to order an especial Service on some Sabbath Day for the same Purpose? Without the blessing of God all our preparations will be vain; and how could we expect to obtain that blessing if we did not pray for it? In a Christian country like this it should not be necessary to say that it is only by prayer the blessing of God can be obtained. It is said, my Lords, that it is too soon. Too soon, my Lords! Why we have thanked our fellow-countrymen in arms for the victories of the Alma and Inkerman, and more decisive victories never were obtained; and is it too soon to thank God for them? Too soon to pray, my Lords! Who dares to say it is either too soon or too late to pray? My Lords, we cannot expect blessings as a nation, unless as a nation we pray. We are an old nation, and have proved the value of prayer many a time, and ought not now to neglect it. It is said we are at war with a barbarous nation. Certainly it is a nation not so far advanced in civilisation as ourselves; but it is a powerful nation, and a united nation, a nation most devoted in loyalty to their Sovereign. And they are a Christian nation; let us recollect that we are not fighting with heathens, but Christians, and that ought to make us doubly careful to pray to God for the success of our arms. [Lord CAMPBELL made an observation which was inaudible.] He was sorry to hear the noble and learned Lord make a remark which appeared to denote that he thought the question premature. He did not think the country would be of that opinion, and he begged to address to the noble Earl at the head of the Government the inquiry of which he had given notice.


My Lords, the question of the noble Duke refers to a subject upon which I have received frequent communications. Undoubtedly those communications deserve the greatest consideration; but I fear it will not be in my power to give an answer to the noble Duke which he will consider satisfactory. Your Lordships must recollect that early in the last Session of Parliament, immediately after the declaration of war, Her Majesty was advised to issue an Order in Council, by which the most rev. metropolitan was directed to prepare a special form of prayer and service imploring the blessing of Almighty God upon our undertaking. That was done, and I believe a more universal or a more humble and devout observance of the day throughout the kingdom could not have been. Now, I cannot say at this time—I do not deny that occasions may occur on which it might be proper to give to Her Majesty similar advice—but at this moment I do not see that circumstances require such advice. Your Lordships will remember that you have already provided in the Liturgy a form of prayer which answers all occasions of this kind. You think, perhaps, you may improve that form of prayer—or that you may have another and a better one. Let me caution your Lordships how you tamper with the Liturgy. I believe it is of essential importance to preserve the integrity of the Liturgy; and unnecessarily to invite such exercise of the Queen's prerogative as may raise questions highly injurious to the peace of the Church is unwise. I do not deny, my Lords, that it is perfectly within the competence of the Crown to order a special form of prayer upon any such occasion on which Her Majesty may be advised to do so; but it is doubtful how far a form of prayer for an indefinite duration may be such as will meet with the same universal feeling as the special service ordered by Her Majesty at the commencement of the war. I think, therefore, it is unwise to stir any such questions as will invite doubts of such proceeding being according to the Act of Uniformity. Now, my Lords, that will be a reason for objecting to any form of prayer of an indefinite duration; the same objection does not apply to a special form of prayer for a special purpose. But, my Lords, the question of the noble Duke refers to some such proceeding being applicable to the present state of affairs. Now, I entirely agree with him, that whether in victory or defeat, or in whatever position we may stand, no doubt our whole conduct, all our views, ought to be in subjection to the will of God, and should be all referred to His glory. My Lords, I must say at this moment we are not called upon to advise Her Majesty specially to interfere in the observance of those prayers which are already provided for your use in the Liturgy of the Church; and I therefore, with all possible respect for the noble Duke, and sympathising entirely in a similar desire which has reached me from so many quarters—I am bound to say I cannot think it consistent with my duty to recommend to Her Majesty the course proposed by the noble Duke.


said, there were circumstances which indisposed him to address their Lordships; but he could not remain silent on this occasion, and felt bound to say that he thought the country deeply indebted to the noble Duke for having mentioned this subject, and that he deeply regretted that the noble Earl did not think the present circumstances of the country and the position of our brave officers and men fighting for us in the Crimea did not loudly call at the present time for special thanks to Almighty God for the wonderful victories given to them in the course of this most horrible war. He was certain that the army itself would concur in this feeling, and that the great majority of the people would, when they learned what had passed in their Lordships' House. When he reflected on the sufferings which were being endured by our army he felt this most strongly. Only that day he had received a letter from an officer, dated December 1, stating that he had not changed his clothes since September 16; that his shoes were so worn that he was nearly barefoot, that the officers were lying in their tents in pools of water, and that every day their ranks were thinned by disease, proceeding from their dreadful mode of life. Nevertheless there were great numbers who, amidst all their hard-ships, preserved their health, and this surely called loudly for thanksgiving to God. No one who had read the letters from officers or men serving in the Crimea could have failed to observe how remarkably they evinced a sense of the source whence their preservation had been derived, and how they ascribed their successes to God, who had given them strength and courage to support their struggles; and he was sorry to hear from the First Minister of this great Christian country that ho did not consider this a time for public recognition of these great mercies. He should think that such an opinion would cause a great sensation, at least among the religions portion of the nation, and it might be the cause of great calamities that otherwise could have been averted. The noble Earl had referred to a former occasion on which a day of prayer had been observed with great devotion. He (the Earl of Roden) asked what had been the result?—the victories of the Alma and of Inkerman, and the wonderful success which bad hitherto attended our arms. He could not help feeling strongly on this subject. He believed it to be of national importance, and he hoped that the noble Earl would be led to alter his mind upon it; and to advise Her Majesty to order a day of thanksgiving for the mercies vouchsafed to our arms, and of prayer for further successes. He trusted that the country would at all events, even if the Government did not agree to it, see that in the House of Lords there was a recognition of Him in whom was the source of our power and to whom all power was due.


in consequence of the allusion made by the noble Duke to a private observation which he had addressed to him, felt it necessary to make a few remarks lest it should be thought he was disposed to treat such a subject with levity, There was no Member of their Lordships' House, or of the community, who could be more sensible of the blessings bestowed by the Supreme Ruler, or of the gratitude due to us for the mercies He vouchsafed to us. He deeply felt the favours he had showered on us since the commencement of the war. But he must say that he entirely concurred in the sentiments expressed by his noble Friend the Prime Minister. Those feelings of gratitude which all entertained should be expressed in the closet, in family prayer, and in public worship. The proposal made by his noble Friend at that moment was, that there should be a Royal Proclamation ordering a day to be devoted to religion, and to the observance of a prayer of thanksgiving. He (Lord Campbell) felt most deeply what we owed to Almighty God for having inspired our army with resolution; but he thought such a proceeding as that suggested would not tend to the promotion of the cause of religion. It was only on rare occasions, and after a decisive crisis in the national affairs, that such a solemn thanksgiving should be ordered. Should a day of thanksgiving be appointed, before it actually arrived, it might please Providence to visit us with reverses. It would be better then to wait until peace should be restored by the decisive victory of our arms. Then should we all kneel before the Almighty God, and return Him our universal and fervent thanks.


said, he had a repugnance to say anything which might appear to assume or imply that he had any deeper feelings of religion than any other noble Lords, or any other of his countrymen; but he could not conceal from their Lordships that he had feelings on the subject very different from those which had been expressed by the noble Earl at the head of the Government, or the noble and learned Lord who had just sat down. The noble and learned Lord said that a day of prayer or thanksgiving should not be appointed except on rare occasions. He, however (the Earl of Ellesmere), could not consider that the battle of Inkerman was a light affair. It had been termed, indeed, a fatal battle; but he could not admit that it was so in any other sense than as a very bloody battle, and he considered it not only as one of the most brilliant, but one of the most fruitful victories achieved by the British arms. He said that not with any presumptuous prophecy as to what the consequence might be, but in disregard of those results; for if it were given to him to raise the mystic veil of futurity, and read there that, whether by the preponderance of numbers or through other causes, the nature of the climate, or calamities and contingencies with which it might please God to chastise this country, Sebastopol should be rescued from the iron grasp which now inclosed it, he should still say that the battle of Inkerman deserved the epithet of a fruitful as well as a brilliant victory; and that the blood shed so profusely there had not been shed in vain. It had cemented the alliance with a great and generous nation, which formed the best security human wisdom could devise for the peace and happiness of Europe and the civilisation of the world. And it had, moreover, cemented the union between every gradation of rank in the army, from the most exalted to the most humble; and had proved the capacity of the scions of the aristocracy to lead their gallant countrymen who fought what was truly called the "soldiers' battle" of Inkerman. On this ground he placed a great and solid value on the exploits of those young men who, though they had never before been under fire, carried their colours up the heights of Alma, or maintained them on the field of Inkerman; and he felt that the youngest stripling of the Guards who staggered under the weight of his colours across that glorious field, and never quailed or flinched amidst the storm of bullets which were piercing their folds and shattering their stands—and faltered not until they were firmly planted on the gory soil of the Russian redoubts—contributed substantially to the security of their country and the stability of their Lordships' House. These gallant soldiers were entitled to the approbation and gratitude of the country, and he for one took that opportunity of expressing the weight of his gratitude to their army. If they had nothing to refer to but the battle of Inkerman alone, there were abundant grounds on which to rest the propriety of the suggestion.


was extremely sorry to have to trouble their Lordships on this occasion, but he could not sit silent when the noble Earl at the head of the Government refused altogether to recommend the appointment of a day of prayer and thanksgiving for the victories obtained by our armies. He should certainly renew the subject after the recess.

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