HL Deb 05 May 1854 vol 132 cc1286-304

wished to know from Her Majesty's Government whether any information had been received, or any further reports made by our officers respecting the operations of the Russian fleet on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, in addition to the papers already on the table? because he must say, with reference to the conversation which took place in that House on a former evening, the Report which had been delivered to their Lordships the day before yesterday, so far from contradicting the account of the affair published upon official authority by the Russian Government, entirely confirmed the material statements contained in the Russian report. It would be in their Lordships' recollection that his noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke) referred on a former evening to the operations which the Russian fleet were said to have successfully carried out, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, namely, the destruction of several forts which it was no longer thought desirable to occupy, and the removal of the troops who were garrisoned there to a point where they would be more useful in the war in which Russia was engaged. On that occasion, although not anxious to take any part in that conversation, yet, after the observations that then fell from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he could not refrain from saying that the version of the transaction published by the Russian Government differed very greatly froth the noble Earl's representation of what occurred. The noble Earl stated, first, that the Russian operations were not of the character and importance that had been assigned to them; secondly, that the evacuation of these forts by Russia was the best proofs that we were the masters of the Black Sea; and, thirdly, that the news of the declaration of war by Her Majesty against the Emperor of Russia not having arrived in those waters, it would not have been consistent with the instructions that had been given to the Admirals commanding the allied fleets to have prevented the operations of the Russians. Now, this last assertion was one of very great importance; because, if it was necessary for the allied squadrons to wait for the intelligence of the declaration of war before interfering to prevent such an operation on the part of the Russian fleet, then he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) said that faith had been kept neither with this country nor with our allies. For it was distinctly stated by Members of the Government in both Houses of Parliament, after the massacre at Sinope had excited such universal indignation, that orders had been given to the Admirals commanding the fleets in the Black Sea to prevent the possibility of any such disaster occurring to Turkish ships again, and to confine the Russian fleet in the port of Sebastopol, and not allow them to undertake any operation whatever. The phrase used by the First Lord of the Admiralty in the other House was "that no Russian ship of war should be permitted to navigate the Black Sea." And more particularly with respect to this very class of operations, the noble Earl, adverting to his (the Marquess of Clanricarde's) observation, on the 14th of February, distinctly stated that if we were not to interfere in the manner in which the Government proposed to do, we might have "passively to witness the spectacle of the Russian fleet moving its forces from one part of the Russian dominions to another." A menace to the same effect was held out to the Russian Admiral, and, indeed, of this very menace the Emperor himself had complained. Now we had the Russian report of these operations to which he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had referred, very correct rumours concerning which operations were reported in this country; but it was astonishing how very late correct information on the subject had been received by Her Majesty's Government. First of all, the Russian Government published, by authority, an account of these transactions, and that account was now entirely corroborated in all essential particulars by the report which Captain Jones had sent to Admiral Dundas. The official statement of the Russian Government was, that under present circumstances these forts on the eastern coast of the Black Sea were no longer desirable to be held or occupied by Russian troops; and as to the argument of the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon), that the destruction of these forts proved our mastery of the Black Sea, why the fact was that these forts were never erected for maritime purposes, or at least were never intended to sustain an attack from a hostile fleet. It was naturally most important to Russia to withdraw the troops from these forts, and to concentrate them where they would be effective against the Turkish forces and against our own. The Russians performed this operation successfully, according both to their own account and to that of our officer. It was true that our officer said there were but four transports, while the Russian account mentioned five; but this discrepancy was accounted for by the circumstance mentioned in the latter accounts, that one of the transports was unable to perform her service. There seemed no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Russian statement, that the number of men removed was 5,000; but suppose one-half were deducted, the remainder, 2,500 men, was a most important accession to the Russian forces, and their removal was a most important military operation. Why, in a former war, 2,800 men held the island of Minorca against 10,000 for three months. The instructions to the captain of the Sampson were, that he was to reconnoitre, and he was cautioned not to approach a vessel superior in force to his own. The noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) said that these Russian vessels were but Post Office packets, and were too insignificant to be interfered with. If an officer was not to interfere with Post Office packets or insignificant vessels, and was at the same time forbidden by the Admiral to approach a vessel superior to his own, he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) did not see what military duty he was to do. He was, however, informed that these vessels were not so insignificant, and the officer himself said that they "ranged under the batteries and cleared for action." He said that our vessels did not take these vessels because they were in port, but he afterwards spoke of their being in an anchorage. They were in no port. If the promise given to Parliament was to be avoided by saying that when a vessel could run in-shore it was to be safe, and to be considered in port, this would be paltering and trifling with the sense of those to whom such reasoning was addressed. He believed that these vessels were of the same class as the Stromboli. The operation which they performed was a most important one, and he could not believe that if the Admiral had had positive orders to employ the whole of his force to attack any Russian fleet that was found out of port, he would have remained at anchorage in Beicos Bay, and have sent only two frigates, with orders not to attack a superior force, to the other end of the Black Sea, to carry out the instructions he had received, namely, to keep all Russian vessels strictly confined within the port of Sebastopol. From what they had heard to-day, it appeared that he was ready enough, when free to act, to make a move that should be of effect. He could not but blame the Government that they should have used a menace to the Emperor of Russia which they were not fully and in every respect prepared to carry out in a manner becoming the dignity, influence, and character of this country. We prevented the Turkish fleet from attacking the Russians, and while we professed to keep the latter in port, an operation was performed before our fleet, of which we seemed to have taken no notice. This was calculated to produce a very had impression in the countries adjacent to the scene of these operations. He had thought it necessary to make this statement, because the veracity of what he stated the other evening had been called in question, and he wished, in conclusion, to ask his noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) whether he had received any further report upon this subject?


My Lords, in respect to the question with which my noble Friend concluded his speech, I have to say that the Government has had no further reports with respect to the operations in question beyond that which Parliament is already in possession of. I have certainly listened, perhaps not with surprise, but with some regret, to the speech of my noble Friend; for, though at the termination of his speech he did make a charge against the Government, the whole of his speech was, in fact, a charge against the naval officers commanding on the Black Sea station. It is quite extraordinary to witness the pertinacity with which the noble Marquess insists upon placing faith in the correctness and veracity of Russian reports in general—I suppose, founding himself upon the veracity and correctness that have distinguished the Russian statements for the last six or seven months; but I am happy to think that all those persons with whom I have communicated since this despatch was laid upon the table do not share the opinions of the noble Marquess, and do not think that the peculiar duty with which these officers were charged was performed in that slack, and, I must say, that cowardly manner, in which he charges them with having acted. The duty which these officers were called upon to perform at the time in question was not to go and prevent any military operations, of which nothing was known, as the noble Marquess would have you to understand. They were simply sent to make a reconnoissance—they were narrowly to observe the Russian line of forts along the coast of Circassia, and the Crimea, and the facilities for approaching and lauding at various points. My Lords, that was a very proper instruction to give, and a very proper precaution to take, before war was declared; but although the Admirals were expecting it to be declared, it would have been monstrously improper if any act of hostility had been committed by our fleets until it was actually declared. The Report of these operations is dated the 16th of March, and is founded upon an instruction of Admiral Dundas, dated the 8th of March, at which time he could have had no news from England later than the end of February. Knowing, as they must have done, what were the state of the relations between this country and Russia, and ignorant, as they must have been, of whether the differences between Russia and the Porte were not at that moment capable of being settled, it would have been most unpardonable if the commanders of these vessels had gone beyond their instructions. [The Marquess of CLANRICARDE: Hear!] My noble Friend cheers. The instruction to our Admiral with regard to Russian ships were these—as the House had had full opportunity of learning for themselves, the instructions being by no means a matter of secrecy—they have been laid before Parliament and they have been communicated to the Emperor of Russia—they were, to assume the complete mastery of the Black Sea, and that if any Russian ships of war were met cruising in that sea they were to be required to return to the nearest Russian port. It was under these instructions of December that Captain Jones acted; and it appears that the Russian naval officers were perfectly aware that he was acting under these instructions, because your Lordships will observe that the moment they saw the French and English vessels they set off for port, and one of them, having in tow a transport in which were troops, cut it adrift in order to get out of the way of the vessels of war. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde), quoting the St. Petersburg Journal, says that 5,000 effective troops have been removed from the Circassian coast, and he then tells us the great service that these 5,000 troops will perform when they are carried to Sebastopol, and what 2,800 did in an island in the Mediterranean. But the first proof he gives of the confidence he has in the journal which he quotes, and upon which he asks your Lordships to rely, is to divide the number mentioned by one-half. He says 5,000 first-rate troops are brought away, and will do infinite mischief, and then proposes that, to allow for exaggeration, we should take the number at 2,500, and argues about the great mischief which they can do when combined with the garrison of Sebastopol. I should be disposed to diminish the number much more, because all that I see is a mention of 300 men and 150 men. These are all the troops which we hear of being brought away from these fortresses. Then, with respect to the ships. It is true they had each four 681b. carronades, one on each broadside forward, and one abaft. My noble Friend says they cleared for action. What does Captain Jones say?" They were in great confusion, and, had it been our intention to attack them, very assailable." I have not the least doubt that the Sampson, which had on board six heavy guns and 200 men, assisted by the French frigate of about the same force, could with the utmost facility have sunk all the Russian ships; but they abstained from doing it, in obedience to their instructions, which did not permit them, nor was it likely they would permit them, to commit acts of hostility against Russia before war was declared. My noble Friend would have had us, during the last six weeks during which the negotiations were pending, without giving notice to Russia of being at war with her, commit acts of hostility against her. Now, my Lords, I have not the least doubt that Captain Jones and the gallant French officer who was with him, who entirely approved of and agreed with him in all he did, made a great sacrifice of their feelings in abstaining from attacking the Russian vessels. I believe they felt they were foregoing a great advantage which they might easily have effected. I have no doubt it would have been more agreeable to them, and perhaps to the public, who do not reason very closely on matters of this kind, if the French and English officers had obtained a victory and sunk the Russian ships. But, my Lords, such an advantage would have been gained at a cost which I hope we shall never incur—at the cost of dishonour—and would have given to the Emperor of Russia an advantage which—whatever other advantage my noble Friend may attribute to him—I hope he will never enjoy, that of having us clearly and distinctly in the wrong. My noble Friend seems to think I have spoken too lightly of these vessels. I beg my noble Friend and your Lordships to believe that I am not in the habit of making to this House any statements for which I do not conceive that I have sufficient authority. There were one or two matters, not mentioned in Admiral Dundas's despatch, to which I adverted in the few remarks that fell from me the other evening, which were gathered from a private letter from the Admiral. I have obtained the permission of my right hon. Friend the head of the Admiralty (Sir James Graham) to read a portion of that letter, in order to justify what I then said. The letter states— He (Captain Jones) was most opportunely on the Circassian coast at the moment of the destruction of several forts of the Russians. The Circassians had possession of the coast, and were plundering the ruins of the fortresses—a matter most important for us to know before war was declared. Captain Brock and several officers landed, and were cordially welcomed by the Circassians, who told them that all the forts were destroyed, or were to be so, except one. Your Lordships will observe that this was the first time that we had been in direct communication with the Circassians—also a most important point. Captain Jones had a great deal to do with the Russian transport, but I consider lie acted strictly according to the order we have received, ordering all ships to return to the nearest port. Then, with respect to the picked troops, on whose services my noble Friend seems to place so much reliance, in consequence of what he gathers from that authentic source, the St. Petersburg Journal—these people who are inured to hardships, and whose services will, therefore, be so valuable, Admiral Dundas says— I understand all the soldiers on board the vessel belonged to different regiments, as was observed by the numbers on their caps. This corroborates a statement made by one of the pilots, that the forts were manned by soldiers condemned to punishment. There is now no longer any communication by land from the north to the south of Circassia, and supplies to those forts which Russia occupies must be got by sea, or where the inhabitants are friendly by land. I apprehend the Russians would not have taken this singular step if it had been possible to retain possession of the forts, which I find were of stone, erected at great expense, and entirely supported by sea communications. The six steamers were packets from Odessa to Constantinople, and one of them was the vessel Mr. Elcock, the engineer, was in. I think, then, that I was justified in stating that they were Post Office packets. But my noble Friend seems to think that her Majesty's Government have, not fulfilled the expectations they held out to this country and to the Emperor of Russia, when we said we intended to be masters of the Black Sea. My Lords, I consider the intention of the Government to have been most fully carried out. It may not have been so according to the view of my noble Friend, that the whole fleet ought to have been cruising in the Black Sea during the whole of the winter; but had it done so, I am sure that he would have been the first to have brought under your Lordships' notice—and very properly so—the disabled state in which that fleet would have been at the moment when it was most required for effective service. I say that, to all practical intents and purposes, we have carried out our declaration, and have remained masters of the Black Sea. The great object which we had in view was to enable the Turkish Government to convey troops and stores to its Asiatic possessions, and every time the Turkish Government desired to do this, it has been enabled by Her Majesty's fleet to do so. Before these instructions reached Constantinople, Lord Stratford had informed the Government that the Turkish fleet was entirely locked up in the Bosphorus, that it could not convey troops and stores for the reinforcement of different posts where they were required, and that without the aid of the allied fleets they must remain in that helpless condition. My Lords, by the assistance of the English and French fleets, troops and stores have been conveyed to every portion of the Asiatic possessions of the Sultan; and no Russian ships of war have—to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government—come out of Sebastopol. It is perfectly true that these—I may call them small vessels—these six packets did come out from Sebastopol, and were employed in burning and destroying certain forts, and in bringing away the men by whom they were garrisoned; and who—although the noble Marquess said the other night that this operation had been performed with a fearless disregard of the allied fleets—were embarked at midnight. Anybody who knows the nature of the Black Sea., who knows the advantageous situation of Sebastopol, and the prodigious advantages which the Russians in consequence enjoy, and who knows that the allied fleets have to overlook and defend 900 miles of coast during a winter of more than usual severity—a severity which, by the last accounts, is by no means over, for one of the severest days of the whole year was Good Friday last—must admit the extreme difficulty of such a service. I ant satisfied that there is no naval man in this country who will say it is possible entirely to prevent a ship or two slipping out at some time or other from Russian ports in the Black Sea and slipping back again. But to say that that in any way nullifies our assurance, or that we remain one bit the less masters of the Black Sea, or less capable of carrying out the intention we announced, is, I say, a mere mockery of the House. Having said thus much, I really must be allowed to add—re-echoing what fell from my noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke)—I must express a hope that, now we really are at war with Russia, criticisms in the spirit which I fear animates my noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde) may in future be avoided. I do not complain of any attack upon Her Majesty's Government; I think that is all right; but I am quite sure my noble Friend does not know as I know the deep annoyance, or rather I should say the mental anguish, that some of these statements have caused to men as gallant and as devoted to the service of their country as any whom England ever knew. I do think that, when we consider the peculiar nature of the service in which these men are engaged, some latitude ought to be left to men like Admiral Dundas and Sir Edmund Lyons; and that, at all events, the country until it obtains accurate information will trust in their zeal, and will prefer a Report made by Admiral Dundas to the leading article of a Russian newspaper.


said, that he had been totally misrepresented by the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon). He told the noble Earl that it was not of the officers, but it was of the Government—it was of the vacillation, the bombast, and the uncertain and wavering conduct of the Government, that he complained. He said that the Government had no right to use the menace which they had done to the Emperor of Russia, unless they were prepared to give to the Admirals and to the officers under their command instructions to carry it out; and they had not given such instructions. In a former debate he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had said what the noble Earl had said to-night, that you had no right to interfere with the communications of Russia before declaring war. In reply to him, the noble Earl said:—"But my noble Friend seems to complain that Russia was not allowed to transport her forces from one Russian port to another in the Black Sea." The noble Earl complained that he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) should make any objection to such a hindrance, so determined in language was he that nothing of that sort should be permitted, lest we should see enacted before our eyes another affair of Sinope—an affair which filled all men with indignation—which it was, perhaps, well for the Government happened while Parliament was not sitting, and the popular feeling excited by which had, he believed, caused the language of the Government to be stronger than it would otherwise have been, and he said, "Why, if we had permitted that we should have had to remain passive spectators of the transport of Russian troops to Trebizond or the most distant ports of the Black Sea, or to have passively witnessed the spectacle of the Turkish fleet interfering with such an expedition and insulting it." Why, these were the very things of which he (Lord Clanricarde) warned them when they used their bombastic menace to the Emperor of Russia. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) did not complain, as he had said before, of the officers in command of our fleets; he complained that the Government had threatened to do what they were not prepared to give their officers instructions to do. The instructions which had been issued to the Admirals had not been laid before Parliament; hut the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had twice said in the same speech, "Distinct orders have now been issued by the French and English Governments that no Russian ship of war shall be allowed to navigate the Black Sea, if the English and French force can prevent it." He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) said that that was not carried out. The noble Earl had read a private letter. Now he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) knew from a private letter that it was well known in the fleet that operations for the removal of the Russian troops were about to be commenced, or had been commenced, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea when the Sampson and the French steamer were despatched to that quarter, and Admiral Dundas, in obedience to his instructions, gave them the caution which had been referred to, because, had lie not given that caution, the officers would have attacked, and probably would have sunk or destroyed the Russian vessels. He considered that the removal of the Russian troops from Circassia was a military operation of great consequence, and one which Her Majesty's Government had allowed, but had said they would not allow, a declaration or engagement which the Government ought not to have made unless they were prepared to enforce it. The operation to which he referred could have been prevented with great ease, and he would venture to say that Admiral Dundas lilts would have taken good care to prevent it if he had been permitted to do so. His observations were not, however, directed against him, but against the Government; nor were they founded upon the St. Petersburg Journal, except so far as related to the number of men. The complaint he had to make against the Government was the same as he made when they asked for half a year's double income tax to provide the means for carrying on a war between England and Russia, namely, that they were not prepared to look the matter in the face when they ought to have done so.


wished to express his opinion that the noble Marquess opposite hail not said one word which in any way reflected upon or condemned the conduct of the British officers in the Black Sea. He did not understand that his noble Friend alluded to those officers in any way, except in so far as they were concerned in carrying out the instructions of Her Majesty's Government. He did, however, understand the noble Marquess to complain of the manner in which certain statements had been made to Parliament and to the public, while the declarations of Her Majesty's Government had not been carried out by the fleet in the Black Sea. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) felt how necessary it was to abstain from any expression of opinion with regard to the conduct of the officers employed in the Black Sea. He might observe that Captain Jones, of the Sampson, to whom allusion had been made, was very well known to him, and was a distinguished officer of tried ability in Her Majesty's service. Indeed, he was the officer who, some time ago, had successfully conducted most difficult operations at Lagos, on the African coast, and anything that could be said of him could be only in terms of praise. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) complained of the same thing of which the noble Marquess complained, and from which the noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) had endeavoured to draw off the attention of the House, by directing their attention to the position of the commanders of the Black Sea fleet, instead of to the political aspect of the question, and he (the Earl of Hardwicke) would therefore beg to call their Lordships' attention to some facts connected with the orders and instructions which were supposed to have been given to those commanders with reference to the mode in which their operations were to be carried on previously to the declaration of war. Public attention had been very generally directed to the statements put forward with regard to the instructions that had been given to Admiral Dundas, and which were said to be, that every Russian vessel seen in the Black Sea should be requested to proceed immediately to Sebastopol or some other Russian port. [A noble Lord: Should be required.] Well, either "required" or "requested;" but, whatever the word was, it would, of course, be a civil word. He hoped, in conducting affairs of this kind, that they would conduct them like gentlemen. Although the Russian captains might have been requested to return to Russian ports, of course the British cruisers meant to say to them, "If you don't go back we will knock your brains out." That was understood to be the real meaning of the intimation. The Emperor of Russia, in a manifesto addressed to his subjects, complained bitterly of these instructions. This was one of the points with regard to which the Emperor said that great injustice was done bins, and he complained to the Cabinet of this country, through Baron Brunnow, of the injustice of preventing his forces from acting 11 pun Isis own coast, although full action was permitted to the Turks. The Emperor had published a manifesto explaining his case, and he put forward this circumstance as one of the causes of war between England and Russia. If, then, Her Majesty's Government so far offended the Emperor of Russia, and felt it necessary to make such strong declarations, how came it that they had not courage to carry out their views? He thought they had much better have avoided altogether so irritating a topic; but, after the declaration of the Government had been issued. they permitted a great military operation to be carried on by Russia in the face of a gallant officer, Captain Jones, who was in command of a force which would have enabled him with ease to prevent that operation. This was what he (the Earl of Hardwicke) complained of. He considered that Her Majesty's Government should have either abstained from any threat, and have adopted conciliatory measures, or that, having employed a threat, they should have carried it out in a vigorous, honest, and statesmanlike manner.


My Lords, I rejoice that this discussion has, at any rate, brought out two facts; one that, whatever may have been the purport of the speech of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), as regards words, the meaning of it was not intended to imply any charge against the officers in Her Majesty's service. But I entirely deny the statement of my noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke). The speech of the noble Marquess was, from its commencement, so far as words have value, a charge against the officers, and it was only towards the close that he made any observation which could at all be considered to be a charge against Her Majesty's Government. However, we now know what he means; and as emphatically as my noble Friend just now denied the justice of any imputations against the officers in Her Majesty's service connected with these transactions, so I deny the assertion of my noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke). What is it my noble and gallant Friend means? What did the noble Marquess mean just now, when, pursuing a course of most extraordinary irregularity, he not only made a second speech, but produced certain extracts which he had studiously reserved with regard to a point of his first speech on which he had already been replied to by my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Clarendon). He produced certain extracts—garbled extracts—from speeches made in the course of the present Session, with a view to prove a third charge which he made against Her Majesty's Ministers. Beginning by charging us with vacillation, and next with bombast, and stating these charges broadly in these two offensive words, he, by implication, made another and a much more disgraceful accusation—namely, one of falsehood—[The Marquess of CLANRICARDE: No, no!]—of falsehood. The noble Marquess stated distinctly that the Government had made representations to this House as to the instructions issued to Admiral Dundas, which instructions they had not given—and he added that he could prove it, which he attempted by such extracts as he read. My Lords, I entirely and indignantly deny that charge. There has been no mis-statement on the part of the Government with regard to the instructions which were issued to Admiral Dundas. My noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office has stated distinctly on more than one occasion what the nature of these instructions was. I say that these instructions were sent out, and that these instructions have been literally acted upon. What these instructions were my noble and gallant Friend opposite (the Earl of Hardwicke) did not much, though he did a little, misrepresent. They were these:—After the unfortunate affair at Sinope—which, however deeply regretted by the Government and the country, cannot be characterised as reflecting either upon the Government or upon the fleet in the manner represented by the noble Marquess—after the unfortunate affair at Sinope, it was our determination, although not at that time feeling that we were arrived at a point at which we ought to discard every hope of the maintenance of peace, to take every precaution so far as human means could, that such an affair should not again occur. What was the course adopted, and what were the instructions sent? Instructions were immediately sent to the Admiral of the fleet in the Black Sea, to protect not only the Turkish territory, but the Turkish flag; and in so doing, and with the view of carrying out that object, if any of our vessels met, in any part of the Black Sea, a Russian fleet, or Russian ships of war, to desire them—in terms no doubt such as my noble and gallant Friend represents—to retreat into the nearest Russian port, and—what my noble Friend has omitted to state—if they refused to comply, to compel them by force to do so. These were the instructions sent out by the Government. These were the instructions which we told the House had been sent out. These were the instructions which were communicated to the Russian Government, and which were known to them, and which were proved to have been known to them by the course which they took on the earliest subsequent occasion. Is there any noble Lord in this House—is there any man in the country—surely not my noble and gallant Friend opposite—who would have called on the Government to give secret instructions to the fleet, before a declaration of war was made, to destroy the Russian vessels? I cannot believe for one moment, whatever party feelings of hos- tility to the Government may exist, that there is any noble Lord who, however he may wish to disgrace the Government, would wish to disgrace the country by such a transaction. I say these were the instructions sent out. They were instructions which the noble Marquess himself, in a spirit of hostility to the Government, on a former occasion condemned—not because they were too weak, not because they did not meet the obligations cast upon the Government by the circumstances of the case—but because, as he said, the Russian Government had the greatest reason to complain of our having taken such strong measures before a declaration of war. Certainly it was nothing but the peculiar circumstances of the case—the necessity of defending the Turkish territory and the Turkish flag—which could have justified so strong a measure. But that measure, strong as it was, was carried out in spirit and in the letter. What took place on the occasion to which the noble and gallant Earl has just referred? He regrets, no doubt, that we have been prevented from obtaining a victory upon the shores of the Black Sea by destroying the enemy's forts. Now, the Russians had themselves destroyed their own forts for us. I don't express any opinion with regard to that event, though perhaps I may join in the regret of my noble and gallant Friend. But, at any rate, the object was accomplished. The Turkish flag and the Turkish territory were not in this instance endangered. Russian ships with guns on board—they might call them vessels of war or not as they pleased—were seen by the officers of a British ship acting under instructions which had been sent to them; and if these Russian vessels had not, acting on a knowledge of those instructions, immediately retreated into a Russian port, the officers, according to their instructions, would undoubtedly have compelled them to do so. I cannot understand what, in the name of honour, is the accusation against the Government, and I wish the noble Marquess would resolve it into a charge of some kind or other, for then it might be answered; but I know not what the noble Marquess wishes, unless it be that we should have instructed our officers in a somewhat piratical manner to attack and destroy any Russian ships which they found afloat on the Black Sea which were not to sufficient strength to meet them, before the declaration of war entitled us to take those steps which under the distinct orders issued to them the officers of every one of our ships will undoubtedly take now that war has rendered them legitimate and necessary for the vindication of the national honour.


said, this was the first time he was made aware that noble Lords were not at liberty to make criticisms upon the conduct of the Government, or to use such language in their criticisms as they might think proper. He had always thought they were at perfect liberty so to do, but the contrary appeared now, for the language of the noble Duke seemed to express some astonishment at the remarks of the noble Marquess, and almost seemed to imply that noble Lords had no right to make such observations. But he himself, and the noble Lords sitting behind him, entirely coincided in the construction they put upon what the noble Marquess had said. He could see in those observations no attack whatever upon the officers of the fleet in the Black Sea. So far from attacking Captain Jones, of the Sampson, the noble Marquess complained that Captain Jones had too literally obeyed his orders, and animadverted on the fact that such orders should have been sent out by the Government. He begged to call their Lordships' recollection to the time when these instructions were given, and the circumstances which attended their promulgation. It was of some consequence to remember the exact words of the English instructions, sent to the English Admiral—and the particular word to which he would call their attention was, "require"—when the Admiral meets a Russian ship in the Black Sea, he is to "require" that ship to enter a Russian port. But what were the words of the French order? The word in the instructions to the French Admiral was contraindre, "constrain" them to return. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) seemed to laugh, and think this was a distinction without a difference. He was rather astonished at that, as the noble Duke was one of the greatest purists in language. Whatever the noble Duke might think of the matter, the Admirals and Ambassadors, when they came to consider the words, thought there was a great difference in the meaning of the words, and that this difference might occasion some confusion in their mode of action. The noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) must know, as a Cabinet Minister, that the question was discussed as to which of these words was best clearly to act upon, and as to whether force was to be employed, and what amount of force. The fact he (the Earl of Malmesbury) was stating appeared in a letter which had been published in the blue books. All this arose from what he (the Earl of Malmesbury) believed to have been a great mistake, and that was, the challenge so publicly given to the Russian Government—by sending to Sebastopol, and threatening to do what they could not do. He did not complain of the slackness of the officers; but the Government had owned, themselves, it was impossible in a stormy winter, in a terrible climate like that, and in a sea so dangerous, that what they threatened to do could be done. Surely, in such a case, they had better not have said anything upon the subject, while war was impending; or, rather, they should have waited until the declaration of war, or contented themselves with observing the Russian fleet with such vigilance as the season and the circumstances would allow, so as to prevent the occurrence of another such lamentable affair as that of Sinope—without sending a presumptuous cartel like that which was sent to Sebastopol. It was placing the country and the officers in a humiliating position, to make the officers boast at Sebastopol, and then to place the gallant captain of the Sampson in a situation to see a great military operation going on without being able to interfere. This was what noble Lords complained of. They did not say one word against the Admirals or against the officers, but they said that this was a great mistake made by Her Majesty's Government, and, as he understood the observations of the noble Marquess, they were entirely confined to that point.


said, he did not deny that there might be a difference between the two words to which the noble Earl had referred, and that there might be a certain force in the French word which might not be implied in the English. He could only say that the intimation as given at Sebastopol, and to our Admirals, was perfectly understood to be this—that if Russian men-of-war were found in the Black Sea, they were to be "required," civilly at first, but imperatively in the event of a refusal, to return to the Russian ports. He felt perfectly sure the noble Marquess did not intend to make any attack whatever upon the character of the officers. The spirit in which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) made the attack was too apparent; it was in a spirit of party hostility to Her Majesty's Government, and nothing else. But what they (the Government) said was this—not that the observations were made in the first place to attack the officers, but the position of the Government being unassailable, they did attack virtually the conduct of the officers. The instructions sent were that Russian ships should be forced to return to the nearest ports, and the officers having these instructions thought that retiring under a Russian fort in a Russian bay could fairly be construed as retiring to a Russian port. He must say that he conceived the intimation which was made to the Emperor of Russia had been entirely carried out when directions were given that no operations should be allowed in the Black Sea. The intention of the Government no doubt was, to prevent Russian troops being carried from one place to another in the Black Sea, for the purpose of attacking the Turkish territory. No doubt, if Captain Jones, of the Sampson, had met any vessels coming out of Sebastopol, he would have obliged them to return; but he met none coining out; and it was undoubtedly true that, since the issue of these instructions, the Russian fleet had never shown its nose out of Sebastopol, and no great naval operations had taken place. Does the noble Earl suppose that if it had not been for these instructions, the Russian fleet would not have been out, and have landed troops in many places, and very probably at Varna?—but nothing of that sort had occurred. The noble Earl talked about the bombast of the Government, and on a previous night talked of the Government playing a "game of brag." He (the Duke of Argyll) quite agreed with the noble Earl in condemning a "game of brag," by whomsoever it was played; but there was a game of brag played which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) did not seem to be aware of, and that was the Russian brag in the documents published in the Journal of St. Petersburg; and if that brag always found an echo in their Lordships' House, these kind of discussions would never end.

House adjourned to Monday next.