§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
I beg to ask the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Newcastle) a question with reference to a report which has caused great anxiety to many people within the last day or two, and which has not been contradicted. The report is, that Her Majesty's ship the Tiger has been lost on the coast of the Black Sea, and that her crew have been made prisoners by the Russians. I wish to ask the noble Duke if he has any reason to believe the report true, and if he has received any information on the matter? I wish also to ask whether a statement which I have seen in the Moniteur is true, and which has reference to a certain number of Russian prisoners taken on board merchant ships in the Black Sea. According to the despatch of the French Admiral to his Government, it appears he took those men to Odessa, and made some offer to the commander of that place to exchange them for French and English subjects, but that no agreement was come to. I understand that no answer was given by the Russian commander, and that the English Admiral had thought fit to set those prisoners free. We cannot expect to be always successful, and we may expect to sustain losses such as those alluded to in those reports during the course of the war—we may lose ships by accident, and their crews may be made prisoners. It is evident, therefore, that if we do not retain a sufficient number of the prisoners taken from the enemy, we shall have none to exchange against those we 590 may lose. I am sure your Lordships will not suppose that I am throwing any blame on the Government for any recommendations which they may have given to our officers to carry on the war in the most humane manner possible; at the same time, it is clear that the carrying on the war with such measures of humanity as that to which I have just alluded may be extending the maxims founded on civilisation and Christianity too far, and may even be the cause of the contest being eventually prolonged.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
I wish it were in my power to relieve your Lordships from any apprehensions you may entertain with respect to the supposed loss of the Tiger steam vessel. I am not, however, able so to relieve you. At the same time I am equally unable to confirm the report. So far as any opinion that I can form goes, I should rather hope that the report is not true. The only information which has been received, either by the Government or by anybody else, so far as we can ascertain, was by a telegraphic message which was received yesterday by a mercantile house in the City, and the contents of which subsequently appeared in the newspapers. One amongst other reasons for hoping that the report is incorrect is, that the steamer which was lost is represented as being a screw-steamer, while the Tiger is a paddle-wheel vessel. This obvious inaccuracy might lead one to hope that this report is as untrue as that which was received some little time since with respect to the loss of the Amphion, which was quite as circumstantial in its details as the present story. Taking both these facts together, I have great hopes that this report of the loss of the Tiger may prove to be but a Russian fabrication. As regards the second question, with reference to the prisoners taken by the Black Sea fleet, I have not seen the statement in the Moniteur; but, certainly, if the noble Earl has quoted it correctly, that newspaper has not on this occasion given so accurate a report of the transaction in question as it is in the habit of doing with regard to all matters connected with the carrying on this war. The real circumstances are these—our cruisers had taken some forty or fifty prisoners, mostly men from Russian coasting vessels, and having nothing whatever to do with the men-of-war. Admiral Dundas having reason to suppose that some English sailors of the same class were de- 591 tabled prisoners at Odessa, wrote to Baron Osten-Sacken to propose an exchange of prisoners. The Baron, so far from making no reply, wrote a very courteous reply on the same day, stating that he had no instructions with respect to an exchange of prisoners, and therefore he was not able to carry out the proposal of Admiral Dundas, but that he would write forthwith for instructions to Prince Paskiewitsch, who would be empowered to give them. No answer has yet been received from the Prince, and I have no reason to suppose that Admiral Dundas has released his prisoners without exchange. But be that as it may, definite instructions have now been sent to Admiral Dundas with respect to any prisoners that may henceforward be taken by our vessels of war.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, we are at the commencement of what, I fear, will be a very long war; and however nervously anxious we may be at home with respect to the events which are from day to day recorded in the newspapers, I do not think it expedient that we should carry our nervousness into this House; and it is a subject of regret to me that the noble Earl thought it necessary to put the question that he has done to the noble Duke opposite with respect to the reported loss of a single ship. We must expect that accidents will occur in the course of the war. War has its chances, and both sides must abide them. With regard to what is stated with respect to the loss of this ship, even if what is reported is true—and certainly nothing that we have heard with respect to Russian public documents is of a character to impress us with the conviction that all their contents are true—I am satisfied that we do not know the whole truth. If it be the fact that two steamers came up after the alleged loss of the Tiger and fired, it is my impression that they retook the steamer which was aground, and were endeavouring to bring her off.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
This is the second time the noble Earl has favoured me with a lesson on my duty as a Member of your Lordships' House. On this point I must throw myself on the good feeling, the good taste, and the indulgence which your Lordships have always shown towards all whose motives in trespassing on your time were as well known as are those which actuate me on the present occasion. If the lesson with which the noble Lord has favoured me, had come 592 from one of the many Members of your Lordships' House who, though competent to give you the most valuable advice, are nevertheless restrained by their habits or by their modesty from addressing your Lordships, I should not have made any observations whatever upon his remarks, because he would have added example to advice. But when I consider that the noble Earl has made not only this war, but all wars, the peculiar subject of his eloquent addresses; when he takes upon himself in this House not only the duties of an illustrious general but of a great admiral; when he never loses an opportunity, on any question, of advising the noble Duke opposite, who is peculiarly responsible for the management of the war, upon what he should do, or of criticising what he has done; when, beyond that, the noble Earl does not confine himself to events which have passed, and about which the Government have no objection to give explanations; but when his advice and his questions have more than once—nay, very often—tended to extract from the caution—the necessary caution—of the Government, replies which would be dangerous to the public service—I think he is quite the last man who should venture, notwithstanding his high reputation for ability, and his great experience in war, to give a lesson to another Peer, who merely asked the noble Duke opposite—for the sake of the relations of those persons who may be on board the ship, and for the sake of the public generally, who are very anxious on the subject—whether the reported loss of the Tiger was a fact. When the whole of this country is agitated by the report in question, and when it was perfectly possible—as I wish it had been the case—that the noble Duke and the Government might have received intelligence which would have at once assuaged alarm, I think I cannot fairly be accused of any indiscretion or bad taste for asking the noble Duke as to the simple fact of whether Her Majesty had had the misfortune to lose a ship, and whether many families might perchance have to deplore the loss of some of their Members.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
If I gave the noble Earl a lesson it was a very short one, while the lesson he has given me is by far the longest I ever had in my life. But notwithstanding the extraordinary length of that lesson, I shall continue to do what I have always done in this House, especially from the commence- 593 ment of this Session—I shall endeavour to do everything which in my opinion will tend to strengthen our position for carrying on this war.