HL Deb 18 May 1854 vol 133 cc511-3

wished to ask the noble Duke the Secretary at War, whether there was any truth in the report, that the Government intended to take on itself the distribution of the fund which had recently been collected for the relief of the wives and children of the soldiers who had been ordered to the East? Of course, the Government could not interfere with the management of those sums which had been raised by private exertions, and were expended in certain localities, under the superintendence of the individuals subscribing. That plan, as far as it had gone, had acted admirably; but, independent of those sums, a large fund had been collected at the different churches on the Day of Fast and Humiliation, and he thought they might very reasonably take charge of the sums which had been collected on a public solemnity. At any rate, the immediate application of that fund was of the greatest importance, to meet cases of distress with regard to soldiers' wives and to provide homes for the children, under circumstances which had already occurred. There was a voluntary association which was addressing itself specially to this object; but he was not aware of their plans or the amount of the funds they had at their disposal.


I am not able to give your Lordships any information as to the course adopted by the voluntary society to which the noble and learned Lord has referred, although I have been once or twice in communication with the gentleman who is connected with it as honorary secretary. But as regards the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, I am very happy to have this opportunity of giving to the House the information which I have been already asked for in private by more than one noble Lord. After the large collections which were made in the churches on the Humiliation Day, several applications were made to the different Members of the Government, and more especially to the Secretary of War, to know whether any public functionary was authorised to receive any money so collected. Of course, our answer was that no such provision had then been made. The attention of the Government having, however, been turned to the subject, it appeared to us that as large sums had been collected at churches and other places, and as a large amount had been raised by the subscriptions of private persons, it would be desirable to give to the dispensation of these funds a more national character than could be conferred upon it if it were intrusted to a voluntary association, however well composed. Under these circumstances, it was at first the intention of Government to issue a Royal Commission, which should dispense these funds very much in the same form and manner as was done in the case of what was called the Patriotic Fund in the last war. A few days, however, having elapsed while the scheme was being matured, and while measures were being taken to obtain the consent of those noblemen and gentlemen unconnected with the Government whom we wished to place upon the Commission, we found that the greater part of the money which had been collected had, in the absence of any other body, been handed over to the association to which the noble and learned Lord had referred. Under these circumstances, it appeared to us that to issue a Royal Commission for the same purposes as were contemplated by this association would have the appearance of entering upon a species of rivalry with it, that this might be misunderstood, and that it was certain to be prejudicial. The Government, therefore, have abandoned the intention of appointing any Commission at present; but if there should be a general action, in which the lives of a number of our troops should be sacrificed, it is the intention of Government to issue a Commission for dispensing any funds which may then be collected for the relief of the widows and orphans of the soldiers who are slain.


suggested, that there should be some similar provision for the wives and children of our seamen.

Subject at an end.