§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, he wished to ask the noble Duke whether Her Majesty's Government had received from the Admiral in the Black Sea any official account of the bombardment of Odessa; and, if so, what steps they would take for conveying the details of the operations to the public? He also desired to ask, with regard to the proceedings of the war generally, what course the Government intended to take in regard to the early communication to the public of the successive events as the information should reach the Government itself. The public anxiety as to such matters would be still greater in this war than in former wars, for now, while by means of the telegraphic despatch almost instantaneous communication would be made to this country of the occurrence of an action in any given place, no details could be expected through the same medium as to the numbers, and still less as to the names of the killed and wounded, details which, in former wars, accompanied the notification of the action itself. The anxiety of the public, or, at all events, of that portion of the public who had relatives and friends engaged in the war, would be in the highest degree increased by the intimation of an action having been fought, unaccompanied by a statement of the casualties occasioned; and it was, therefore, most expedient that, without waiting for the ordinary Gazette, the fullest information that Government should from time to time receive should forthwith be published, if necessary, in an extraordinary Gazette.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
Despatches have been received this day from Admiral Dundas, narrating the bombardment of Odessa, the first announcement of which was made in this House a few days ago by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Your Lordships are already in possession, through the newspapers, of all the details which are given in the despatches of Admiral Dundas, and I believe I should be wasting your Lordships' time if I were to read the cir- 143 cumstances narrated in those despatches. At the same time, I think I ought to mention to your Lordships that this despatch and its inclosures give a most positive and satisfactory denial to the statements which have been put forth relative to this affair in behalf of the Russian Government. From the despatch and its inclosures it clearly appears that our flag of truce was most undoubtedly fired upon by the batteries of Odessa; and when the account of that outrage and violation of the law of nations was conveyed to Admiral Dundas, Admiral Dundas was not satisfied in a case of that kind, with the reports of the captain and crew, however conclusive these reports might be to his own mind, but he took information from another person who was present on the Mole of Odessa when the gun was shotted and fired by the Russians. This fact is stated in the despatch; and on the receipt of this information, Admiral Dundas wrote to General Osten-Sacken, the General Commandant of Odessa, informing him that his excuse was found to be destitute of foundation, and, as a reparation for the insult offered to the flag of truce, he demanded the surrender of all the English, French, and Russian ships in that port, allowing a certain time for the Russian General to return either an assent or a refusal to the summons. No answer having been received, the Admirals took the course, the circumstances and consequences of which have been correctly related in the newspapers. I am happy to add to that statement, that the loss on the part of the English fleet was only one man killed and ten wounded, most of them slightly. As to the second question of the noble Earl, I have to state that the Government will publish the despatches through the Gazette to-morrow, and that will be the means in future of acquainting the public from time to time of the events of the war, as the Government receives its intelligence. I can also assure the noble Earl, that in all cases of important events, the Government, having a full appreciation of the interest and anxiety of the public, will not wait for the usual day for publishing the Gazette, but a supplemental Gazette will in such cases be instantly issued.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
said, that he understood the noble Duke to state that the accounts in the newspapers of this event were correct. Now it appeared from the newspapers that the chief cause of the attack on Odessa was the 144 violation of the flag of truce. If that were so, he thought no punishment too strong to avenge such an act of barbarism. But would the Admiral have been entirely justified in attacking Odessa from the moment war was declared; or were they to infer that the orders to the Admiral were such, that if this outrage had not been offered to the flag of truce, he would not have been justified in attacking Odessa and the shipping there as he did? The general impression was, that the Admiral made this outrage the prime reason for bombarding the port; and it was desirable that that point should be cleared up.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
I think the noble Earl is trespassing somewhat beyond the well-recognised rule in such cases, in calling upon me to explain what were the instructions given to the Admiral with regard to these transactions. The noble Earl must see that the instructions given to the Admiral will not bear merely upon this particular operation, but upon any others that may yet take place; and I must therefore decline to disclose what those instructions are. I can, however, assure the noble Earl and this House, that it is the strong feeling and desire of the Government that in the conduct of this war private and neutral property should be, as far as possible, respected, and that as little destruction should be caused to that property as is consistent with the effective carrying on of the operations.
THE EARL OF DESART
said, there could be no second opinion as to the great credit the operations at Odessa reflected on all the officers concerned.