HL Deb 01 February 1855 vol 136 cc1234-60

My Lords, after the vote of the House of Commons on Monday night, your Lordships will readily imagine that Her Majesty's Ministers at once resolved to place their resignation in the hands of Her Majesty. I therefore was commissioned by all the Members of the Cabinet to take their resignations for the purpose of laying them before Her Majesty, who was graciously pleased to accept them. We therefore now only hold our places until our successors shall be appointed.

My Lords, I wish to say that in opposing the vote of Monday night, and in thinking it in some degree unconstitutional and otherwise liable to many objections, it is not my object, nor was it our desire, to preclude any inquiry into our conduct. An impartial inquiry, I believe, will fully establish that no indifference has existed to the wants of our army in the Crimea, or any absence of exertion in preparing for the supply of those waists and for promoting the efficiency of its condition. That, I believe, will be the result of an impartial inquiry into this subject; and especially I must consider that my noble Friend, the noble Duke near me (the Duke of New, castle), has met with great injustice. It is my conviction that his conduct, the more it is inquired into, will be found marked by a degree of assiduity and labour, attention and interest for the duties of his office, which has never been exceeded, nor indeed can be. My Lords, I am not at all surprised at the feeling which generally prevails throughout the country. The public, although they may not always reason justly, yet always feel deeply and strongly. They see that misfortunes have occurred beyond the ordinary course of the calamities of war, and they very naturally turn to the Government as the object of censure, as it is to it that they look for the efficiency of the army and the right management of the war. I make no complaint of this. I think it perfectly natural, and submit to the natural consequences. But, my Lords, admitting the sufferings and privations which our troops have endured in the Crimea, I must say that the representations which have been made have been very greatly exaggerated. I do not mean as to individual suffering—far from it—for I know that that has existed in a degree that has been most painful and heartrending; what I mean is, that the inference that has been drawn as to our military position has been grossly exaggerated. My Lords, I see no cause whatever for discouragement or dismay in looking at that position; on the contrary, I see every reason to indulge sanguine hopes of ultimate success. My Lords, in the first place, the condition of our forces has recently greatly improved; stores, provisions, and all appliances have been recently increased, and very much tended to improve the actual condition of our own soldiers. Again, our great Ally, the Emperor of the French, has told his Legislative Body, and through it has told Europe, that his army consists of 581,000 men; and since then he has ordered an additional levy of 140,000 men. With such a force as this, animated by the determined zeal with which he has espoused the cause in which we are both engaged—I say that with such a force as this, if employed in any degree in the same proportion in which we have devoted our own army to this service, we are entitled to look with great confidence to the result of the war. My Lords, we have very recently concluded a treaty with the King of Sardinia, by which is placed at our disposal, for immediate embarkation to the Crimea, a force of 15,000 admirable troops to be placed under the command of Lord Raglan. That is a most valuable and important addition to our forces in the Crimea. Further than this, my Lords, we have concluded a treaty with Austria, which is now brought to a point from which the most important advantages may be confidently anticipated. My Lords, we have come to an understanding with the Austrian Government upon the terms of peace to be proposed to the Emperor of Russia. The Austrian Cabinet happily has agreed to adopt those proposals; and the Russian Minister has accepted, or proposed to accept, those conditions, as proposed and understood by the Allied Powers. Now, my Lords, Austria has also engaged that if those terms be not accepted, and do not lead to the conclusion of a peace, she will be prepared to join her military efforts with our own. Now, my Lords, I say we have then, the alternative of a peace by which we shall acquire all the objects for which we are contending; or we shall receive the assistance of that great military Power whose army is now raised to the amount of 500,000 men. With these prospects, my Lords, it is impossible for me to entertain apprehensions—unworthy apprehensions—notwithstanding the casualties to which war is always subject. This, my Lords, is our military prospect. I shall not at this time detain your Lordships by any review of the state in which the country at the present moment stands with respect to its internal condition. I may advert undoubtedly to what has been accomplished in the course of the last two years, in which many measures of high importance have been adopted. Especially I may advert to that solid system of finance, established by the wisdom and supported by the unrivalled eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by which the prosperity of this country, notwithstanding the outbreak of war, has been maintained undiminished; and all the transactions of commerce have subsisted uninterrupted to a degree hitherto utterly unknown in a state of war. I may also refer to the condition of Her Majesty's Navy, and the excellent Administration by which it has been brought into the admirable condition in which we now find it, and against which not a single well-grounded objection can be alleged. My Lords, I have already instanced as examples of political success the advantageous treaty we have concluded with Sardinia for the immediate acquisition of such a valuable force, and the important treaty with Austria. That is enough to show your Lordships the fruit of the exertions and ability in negotiation of my noble Friend near me, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon). It has been especially his duty to attend to these important matters, and I may say, my Lords, that the treaty with Austria has been throughout conducted with a degree of ability, caution and prudence, that really, as far as my experience has extended, is quite unprecedented. And here I cannot but say that we have full reason to place the most entire confidence in the consistency and good faith of the Austrian Government. From the first, without disguising their ardent desire to preserve peace, they have never proposed to do it by the sacrifice of any of those great European interests for which we are both contending; and, therefore, having proceeded with such prudence and caution as they have done throughout the whole of the transactions, I feel that we have a good right to rely upon their firmness and good faith in the course they have taken. My Lords, I have said that I would not particularly advert to any of the legislative measures passed in the course of the last two years—which was not certainly so fruitful of legislative measures as some preceding years, although many most valuable measures were adopted last Session, quite sufficient to have illustrated any Session of Parliament, and they will be appreciated by the calm judgment of after times. My Lords, the present want of the country is a strong Administration, and how that is to be supplied it is not for me to say. Rumour has pointed very confidently to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) as having been commanded by Her Majesty to undertake the formation of an Administration. Seeing him in his place, I presume this is not the case. But be this as it may, the necessity exists, and I trust that by the patriotism of those who may be called upon it will ultimately be effected. I can only say for myself, and I believe for my colleagues, that any Administration that is formed, which shall be presented by the Queen for the approbation of Parliament, shall receive from us that support which in the present crisis is so urgently required by the great interests of the country. I conclude by declaring solemnly to your Lordships that no views of mine shall be allowed to stand in the way of any Government that may be deemed fit to cope with these exigencies, and that to the new Administration, as soon as it shall be formed, I will give every support in my power. My Lords, I do trust that whatever Government may be formed will carry on this war with vigour and effect, and with a view to the only legitimate end of the war—a speedy arrival at a state of peace. I trust that, keeping steadily in view the real objects of the war, not being diverted by wild and imaginary objects, or animated by merely vindictive feelings, such a Government will, as soon as the real objects of the war shall be attained, listen to the dictates of humanity and of true policy, and lose no time in realising tine advantages of peace, as soon as they can honourably attain that object. My Lords, I do not know that I have any reason for detaining you further; I rose to announce a fact which your Lordships are all acquainted with already—that we only hold our offices till our successors are appointed.


My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that I most devoutly wish I could upon this occasion follow the usual course of Ministers who have tendered their resignations, and content myself with the explanation that has just been given by my noble Friend who was lately at the head of the Administration. But, my Lords, there are two reasons why I wish for a short time to trouble your Lordships whilst I depart from this usual practice. In the first place, it would have been my duty, under any circumstances—as I will presently explain—whatever might have been the result of the division in the House of Commons on Monday night, to have made a statement on my own behalf to your Lordships. But there is another reason which induced me in answering the speech of my noble Friend (Earl Grey) the last time the House met, with respect to the constitution of the War Departments, to state to your Lordships that on another occasion I should wish to make a personal explanation. It is in consequence of statements which have been made in the other House of Parliament by the noble Lord the late President of the Council, which I cannot but feel have so materially affected my position as a public man, that I feel it incumbent on me, however inconvenient, or however personally painful it may be, to make some explanation to your Lordships.

My Lords, no man can feel more than I do the inconvenience of thrusting upon Parliament or the public what I may call domestic differences between colleagues in a Cabinet, even at the moment of its separation; but in the speech to which I have referred, the noble Lord placed the justification of the course he had taken so almost exclusively upon my acceptance of, and subsequent continuance in, the office of Secretary of State for War, that I feel it necessary to state to your Lordships some omissions which were made by the noble Lord, and to offer some explanations consequent upon words which fell from him. The noble Lord said, in one of the letters he addressed to my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen), and which he read to the other House of Parliament, that when the two Secretary ships of State were divided, he yielded to my "strong wish" that I should occupy the War Department; thereby undoubtedly implying that he had been opposed to that course, that he had remonstrated against it, and had been overruled. My Lords, I venture to say that such was not the case; and if I now enter into any explanations with respect to what took place in the Cabinet, I beg to say that I have followed the proper course, and have applied to my Sovereign for permission to refer to those occurrences—without which permission, undoubtedly, by the oath which, in common with others Her Majesty's Councillors, I have taken, I should be precluded from doing so.

My Lords, in the Cabinet at which it was decided that the two offices of Secretary of State for the Colonies and Secretary of State for War should be divided, a discussion took place, in which I felt it my duty to point out to the Cabinet the difficulties which would follow upon that separation, unless, before it took place the duties of the new secretary ship were accurately defined and some determinate plan laid down. I stated to the noble Lord at that time that I thought that he, in advocating that measure, ought to have presented us with such a definite plan. I told him that I, incumbered at the moment as I was with the business of two such laborious offices, had really no time to consider the organisation of departments, and that I regretted that, before the measure was proposed, some distinct plan had not been matured. But the noble Lord expressed his opinion that, in deference to the wishes of Parliament, that change should be immediately adopted. The measure was, therefore, determined upon by the Cabinet; and I am sure the noble Lord cannot have forgotten that, so far from his being compelled to yield to my wishes—I am confident, moreover, that none of my late colleagues who sit near me can have forgotten—that at the conclusion of that discussion my last words were—"The Cabinet having now decided that the two secretary ships shall be divided, all that I can say, as far as I am personally concerned, is, that I am perfectly ready to retain either or neither." So much, then, was my "strong wish" as to the occupation of the office of Secretary for War referred to by the noble Lord. My Lords, I can only say that in any discussion of which I heard, I never understood for one moment that the noble Lord had expressed any desire whatever that my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) should occupy the War Department. I did hear—Land I was so informed by my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government—that, for a time at least, the noble Lord himself had contemplated the possibility of his taking that department; and most undoubtedly, if that had been the case, I should never for an instant have thought of standing in his way. But, my Lords, I do wish that this may be completely understood—that I not only did not express a "strong wish" as to one particular office, but that I did express a perfect readiness to retain either of those offices, or neither, according as my colleagues might think best for the public service to advise Her Majesty—I do not at the same time hesitate to say that when, to the best of my belief and knowledge, no other Member of the Cabinet was put forward to occupy the department of Secretary for War, I did not shrink from the duty of assuming it, and I certainly did feel that I should act very unworthily, having then held these seals for three months, if I shrunk from what I knew to be the post of difficulty and danger. My Lords, when I use this expression—when I say "the post of difficulty and danger"—I may appeal to many of my private Friends in this House and elsewhere as to the observations I made, when told by them, as I frequently was, that I had done unwisely in leaving a department where they were kind enough—perhaps partial enough—to say that I had formed some slight reputation. My answer to them was—"In leaving the Colonial Office I am well aware of what I have done; I know that in this new department, whatever success may attend our arms, I shall never derive any credit; and this, too, I well know, that if there should be disaster, upon me alone will come the blame and the public indignation." My Lords, that I said this there are many of yourselves who can testify. [The Earl of HARDWICKE: Hear, hear.] My noble Friend is generous enough to cheer, and I recollect, though I did not a moment ago, that he was amongst those to whom I made this observation. Well, my Lords, I think I have said enough to show to your Lordships how unjust have been the imputations that have been cast upon me in Parliament and elsewhere, that my presumption, my self-love, induced me to insist upon taking the Secretaryship for War. I hope I have sufficiently explained to your Lordships the conduct which has been described by some as "arrogance," and by the noble Lord, to whom I have referred, invested with the more patronising phrase of "commendable ambition."

I will pass over, in the correspondence which took place between my noble Friend lately at the head of the Government and the noble Lord the late President of the Council, the letter which he addressed to my noble Friend on the 18th of November last, as to which he says— It was my intention in writing the letter to avoid throwing any blame upon the Duke of Newcastle; indeed, I think he deserves very great credit for the exertions he has made. My Lords, I do not wish to dwell upon that letter, or attach any importance to it, because the noble Lord has himself intimated, in the speech to which I am referring, that the light in which I must consider that letter is one which our friends on the other side of the Atlantic are pleased to designate by the name of "soft sawder," since he now states that at the very time when he spoke in those terms of me his primary object was my removal from the office I held. This was his object:— "si possis, suaviter; si non, quocumque modo." Then, my Lords, the noble Lord had read extracts from those letters which make it absolutely necessary for me both to make some comments upon them and to read further extracts in explanation. And I cannot but express my surprise—when the whole gist of that speech was to represent my determination to hold the office of Secretary for War and my resolution to retain it—that the noble Lord did not quote the following sentence of the letter of my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) dated the 21st of November, in answer to one which he, that day I think, received from the noble Lord the President of the Council. The very beginning of that letter is in these words— I have shown your letter to the Duke of Newcastle, and also to Sidney Herbert; they both, as might have been expected, strongly urged me to adopt any such arrangement with respect to their offices as might be thought most conducive to the public service. My Lords, I have shown you, first, that I did not insist upon keeping the seals of the War Department; and I have to state to you now, that when my noble Friend placed that letter of the noble Lord in my hands, what my answer to him was. I cannot, perhaps, state precisely what my answer was, but it was to this effect:—"Don't give Lord John Russell any pretext for quitting the Government; on no account resist his wish to remove me from that office; do with me as is best for the public service; in that way yon will gratify me most—in that way you will be serving the Queen best."

My Lords, the next incident to which I have to refer in the speech of the noble Lord is that where, after having read a portion of one of the letters of my noble Friend, he used these words:—"I then went on to show some instances of errors that had been committed," and then he proceeded to read other extracts. Now, my Lords, the impression upon the public mind must, of course, be that those errors were of some grave character—that they involved the safety of the troops in the Crimea—and that as a consequence to them is, perhaps, to be attributed the disastrous sickness that has prevailed. The noble Lord did not read the complaints he then made of these errors; but, with your Lordships' permission, I will read them now. The letter is dated the 28th of November, and in it he says— I will give you an instance but ton pregnant with warning. Early in October I wrote to the Duke of Newcastle on the subject of transferring the 97th Regiment, then at the Piræus, to the Crimea. He informed me in answer that he had also wished to do so, and that he had also wished to send between 2,000 and 3,000 men, the drafts of various regiments, to the Crimea. Now, why was he not able to carry his intentions into effect? Because he could not remove the obstacles put in his way by other departments, and because the Prime Minister did not at once overcome those obstacles. At a much later time the 97th has moved, and it is only to-day that I see by a telegraphic despatch from Lord Stratford, dated on the 18th instant, that the Orinoco, which conveys that regiment, had left Constantinople for the Crimea. But, in the meantime, Lord Raglan had reported that he wished he had been able to place in the position of Balaklava, on the 26th of October, a more considerable force; and, also, that on the 5th of November, the heights of Inkerman were defended by no more than 8,000 British infantry. What can be done by a single British regiment was seen on the 5th of October, when the 93rd alone saved the position of Balaklava by their firmness and gallantry. Had 5,000 more men been at Lord Raglan's disposal on the 25th of October, and the 5th of November, how much more fruitful, though not more glorious, might have been those memorable days. My Lords, these were errors which I was supposed to have committed; and now let me give you an explanation of those errors—let me give to you the explanation which I gave in writing, I believe by return of post, in answer to this accusation of the noble Lord. I informed him that, as regarded the 97th Regiment, a long while—several days at any rate—before I received his letter it had been my desire to send forward that noble regiment to the aid of Lord Raglan in the Crimea, and that I had applied to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to know whether, in his opinion, it would be safe to remove that regiment from the Piræus, and whether the objects for which it had been sent there had been sufficiently attained to do so. In answer my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon) produced a communication he had received, I think, on that day, but, at all events, very recently, in which the greatest stress was laid upon the maintenance of the English and French forces in the Piræus, and we were told that if the forces were withdrawn the consequences, to prevent which we sent those forces there, would immediately occur. That, my Lords, is my explanation; and I ask will any man maintain that a Secretary of War would have been justified, after such a statement from his brother Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in saying, on his own ipse dixit, that he would remove the regiment at all hazards from the Piræus, and send it to the Crimea? The noble Lord says the regiment was subsequently removed; it was subsequently removedæand why? Because a few weeks afterwards I pressed again on my noble Friend to inform me the first moment that a change could be effected; and he having written in answer to my question on the day I made the application, that it was almost utterly impossible to part with the whole of the military force in the Piræus, yet that that force might be somewhat reduced, I immediately sent directions to Malta that one of three regiments thereæwhichever the general com- manding might consider best fitted for the purpose from the qualifications of the officers, and which should be 600 strong—should be sent to the Piræus, in order that the 97th, which was 1,000 strong, might be sent to the Crimea.

With regard to the second error attributed to me—that I was pressed to send 2,000 or 3,000 men who were ready to proceed as draughts to the different regiments in the Crimea, but that I declined to do so—there were two reasons for declining to do so, which I also explained in answer to the noble Lord, to show him why those draughts were not sent. One was that Lord Raglan himself reported that the men in the last draughts sent out were composed of such young men that on being exposed to the cholera, which at that period was raging, they had fallen sick and died rapidly; and he said, that unless subsequent pressure should ensue, he deprecated the practice of sending those young soldiers out before they were made fitter for service. There was another reason, however, for the course which I pursued, and it was this; that at that moment we had exhausted all the steam transports which could at that time be obtained in the country; of course, others were expected from the Colonies and from other parts of the world; but my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty was not able at that moment to supply me with any but sailing transports for the conveyance of those troops to the Crimea. My Lords, the statement, therefore, is perfectly correct that these errors, as the noble Lord has called them, were laid before me, but the charge of committing those errors was also answered; and although, on the 28th of November, those errors were brought forward as a reason why I ought to leave the War Office at a date anterior to that, but subsequent to my answer, I had the better fortune to satisfy the noble Lord; for in the last letter which I received from him before he returned to town he wrote the words which I am now about to read. This letter, let me observe, was written at a time when the noble Lord, as he has stated, and other Members of the Government, had retired to different parts of the country for the purposes of health. I do not complain of any of my noble Friends for having done so, or of the noble Lord for having done so; but it was not my good fortune to be able to resort, for the purposes of health, or for any other purpose, to any part of the country. Day by day and hour by hour, during the whole of the year 1854, it was my duty to remain in town, and exert myself to the best of my ability. I shall now read the conclusion of the letter of the noble Lord which finished the correspondence with reference to these errors. The date is the 8th of October; and he writes to me, "You have done all that could be done, and I am sanguine of success." The noble Lord was sanguine of success, and he thought I had done all that could be done.

Now, my Lords, let me explain why, after my proposal to my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) with reference to my readiness to leave office, he did not accept my proposal. I did not say that I refused an exchange of office, disagreeable as it undoubtedly would have been to me to take such a course—inconvenient as I believe, under ordinary circumstances, it to be for the country's services to do so, implying, as it would, arrangements that are not perhaps very obvious to the public—I then made no exception on that ground. I say, then, my Lords, what was the reason my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) did not avail himself of the offer I made? He did not act—as would appear from the statement that was made in the House of Commons—on his own mere responsibility; he did not take upon himself to act from any private feeling, or any anxiety with regard to me, although I knew his kindly feelings towards me;—he did not take upon himself, on that ground, to reject the proposal, but he laid the subject before the whole of our colleagues, and the proposal was—it is not for me to say whether rightly or wrongly—disapproved of by the whole of them.

My Lords, the last letter of the series that passed between us is dated the 3rd of December, and the purport of that letter is that the noble Lord retained his original opinion, and that he would again bring the subject before the Cabinet. I should add it was not, however, brought formally before it. Parliament met about ten days afterwards, on the 12th of December, and it was my duty to make a long statement to your Lordships in vindication of the conduct of the Government, and more especially of the department which had been under my administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary at War made a similar statement in the House of Commons. A debate took place in each House; and the consequence was—though probably noble Lords opposite will not entirely agree with me in that opinion—to leave undoubtedly the impression upon the minds of the Government, and of the friends of the Government in both Houses, that the result of the debate was satisfactory as regarded the conduct of the Government.

Three days afterwards, on the 16th of December, a Cabinet was held, and at the close of that Cabinet I exchanged observations with one, two, or three of my colleagues, who said that from the conduct of the noble Lord in the Cabinet that day, and the interest he had shown in all the matters discussed before us, they felt very confident that he had abandoned the opinion he had before entertained and expressed. But we were not long left, my Lords, to conjecture upon this subject; for in the course of that very afternoon, in a conversation with my noble Friend at the head of the Government he told him expressly that he had changed his views, and abandoned any wish for a change. Well, my Lords, I really would not wish to go further, or to carry the matter further, but my noble Friend (the Earl of Aberdeen) reminds me that I have made an omission, to which I beg to refer, though I feel that in a matter which is so personal to myself, and which is perhaps more interesting to me than to your Lordships, I am hardly justified in trespassing at such a length on your indulgence. My noble Friend reminds me that the reason the noble Lord assigned for his abandonment of his proposal was, that not being satisfied perhaps with the opinions he had heard front the faithful and attached friends he had in the Cabinet, he had consulted another friend—and I can only say that, from my knowledge of the noble Lord he consulted (Lord Panmure?), a better adviser he could not possibly have taken—the noble Lord consulted him on the subject, and he told my noble Friend at the head of the Government that he was convinced by the arguments that noble Lord had laid before him that he was satisfied, and that his views were changed.

My Lords, having thus disposed of the personal part of the question, the noble Lord proceeded to discuss in his place in the other House the question with reference to the measures that have been taken. He said he would have been glad to have opposed the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), if he could have said that measures had been taken, or that arrangements were in progress to remedy the evils complained of. I will read to your Lordships his own words. The noble Lord declined to oppose the Motion "because he could not say that measures had been taken, or that arrangements were in progress, by which those evils would be remedied, and by which the administration of the war would be vigorously prosecuted." Now, my Lords, I think the just and fair inference from that statement is, that the noble Lord had proposed to his colleagues measures that had been objected to, or that he had suggested arrangements which his colleagues were unwilling to adopt. I can only say, my Lords, that to the best of my belief neither was the case. I know of no measures proposed by the noble Lord that were objected to; I know of no proposals that he made which were not accepted—unless it be one. That proposal he refers to himself in this form. He said that at a Cabinet which was held on the Saturday preceding the Tuesday, the day of Mr. Roebuck's notice and the noble Lord's resignation, arrangements were made by the Cabinet by which the mode in which the business of the War Department had been for some time conducted, and to which I referred on Monday last—namely, by calling together the heads of the military departments at my office, and conducting the business somewhat in the form of a Board, though not with the formalities and strict rules of a Board—should be altered. A discussion having taken place in the Cabinet, and an arrangement having been proposed, by which greater formality would be given to these Boards, and that they should be regularly constituted either by a Minute or by an Order in Council, I assure your Lordships, that, though I differed a good deal in opinion, as I stated the other night, from my noble Friend (Earl Grey) when he brought forward a Motion on the subject, I consented to the proposition made in the Cabinet; the opinion in favour of the constitution of the Board prevailed, and it was agreed that, either by a Minute or by an Order in Council, the Board should be constituted. It was understood that that Board was to consist of the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary at War, the Commander in Chief, and the Master General of the Ordnance. The noble Lord said that this question had been brought before the Cabinet, and he implied that it had been decided upon adversely to his opinion. That was not exactly so expressed by the noble Lord, but that, I think, is the inference which is to be drawn. Now, my Lords, the proposal was brought forward by the noble Lord himself, and, as I said before, it was agreed to after some discussion and argument, and we had every reason to believe that the noble Lord was entirely a consenting party; but in the course of the evening he sent to my noble Friend at the head of the Government a communication, to which he also referred, though he did not quote it; but, as it is of some importance to my case, I am afraid I must trouble your Lordships with it. It is as follows— ARMY DEPARTMENTS. Jan. 22,1855. The Committee of the House of Commons on Army and Navy Expenditure recommended that the Army departments should be simplified and consolidated. What is now proposed is, that there should be a Board consisting of—1, Secretary of State; 2, Secretary at War; 3, Master General of Ordnance; 4, Commander in Chief; 5, Inspector General of Fortifications. It is contemplated that there shall exist at the same time a Board of Ordnance, consisting of—1, The Master General; 2, The Storekeeper General; 3, The Surveyor General; 4, The Clerk of the Ordnance; under whose direction the Inspector General of Fortifications will remain. It seems obvious that these two Boards, acting at one and the same time, instead of consolidation and simplification, would produce complication, disorder, and delay. There are but two modes by which unity of direction and rapidity of action can be procured. The one is to give the Secretary of State the entire direction of all existing offices and boards connected with the Army; the other is, to make a Board, with the Secretary of State at the head, absorbing the Board of Ordnance, and controlling the whole civil and military management of our military force. The constitution of this Board and its functions would be— 1. The Secretary of State, to preside over the Board and be responsible to Parliament. 2. The Secretary at War, to pay the Army and control its finances. 3. The Master General of the Ordnance, to arm the Army and the Navy. 4. The Commander in Chief, to command the Army. 5. The Clerk, Storekeeper, and Surveyor of the Ordnance, all in one, to lodge the Army. 6. The Commissary General, to clothe and feed the Army. This is nearly the Duke of Richmond's plan. J. RUSSEL. My Lords, the noble Lord said in his statement in the other House, that he had no reason to think that his views would be adopted. He informed my noble Friend that he would bring forward the proposal at the Cabinet that would sit on the day subsequent to the day he eventually resigned. This we expected; and I can only say that when the noble Lord says he had no reason to think his views would be adopted, I most positively say he had no reason to think his views would be rejected; because the first step my noble Friend took, on receiving the communication I have read, accompanied by the intimation from the noble Lord that he should propose it on a subsequent day, was after having shown it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, to send it to me. My answer to it was this—that there are two proposals in this paper that differ from the arrangements of the Cabinet on Saturday. One was, to do away with the Board of Ordnance, in consequence of the constitution of the superior Board; the other was, to add two additional members to the Board beyond those proposed in the Cabinet. I said, as to the first proposal, I thought it manifestly right. It was obviously according to my views, who am not much attached to Boards, and I added, that if You constitute a superior Board, there could be no fear in doing away with an inferior one; and I approved of the noble Lord's proposal. I said, with regard to the second proposal, of having two additional members on the Board, that I thought it would be unadvisable. I did not think one of the officers named to be necessary; and with regard to the sixth member—the Commissary General—proposed to be added, no such officer exists, the office having been abolished several years ago. I presume that by Commissary General the noble Lord meant Commissary-in-chief, for there was formerly such an officer to feed our army, but the office has been abolished some time since, and there is no officer now called a Commissary General, except those, of whom there are many, whose functions are to feed the army in the field. Therefore, so far as the main and principal portion of the noble Lord's proposition was concerned, it met with entire approval; and, as regarded the second portion, the only reason against its being carried into effect was, that, with respect to one of the appointments, it was impracticable, because no such officer as that referred to existed. My Lords, I believe that, so far from the noble Lord having reason to complain of his views connected with the war not being carried out, I know, as I have already said, of no proposal of his that was rejected; and I may say, with equal truth, that I know of no objection which was made by him that was overruled. My Lords, I need hardly say that, on such an important question as the conduct of the war, difference of opi- nion on incidental matters of course took place; but this I must say, that if I were to point out the member of the Cabinet from whom I have received the most general assent to my views when discussions took place, it was the noble Lord. I should say, that I received the most kind and generous support from all my colleagues on all occasions—but as regards identity of views, I would be inclined to say there was more identity of opinion, on any question that was raised, between the noble Lord and myself than between me and any other Member of the Cabinet.

My Lords, I have stated the ready way in which I consented to yield up my office, and even to the abandonment of views I entertained as to the constitution of the Board. Perhaps your Lordships may think that, entertaining the opinion I did, I ought to have resisted more strongly. In the first place, I cannot say that I should, under any circumstances, have felt bound to do so; but, in the next place, I was in a position that rendered it peculiarly improper for me to interfere against the general views and feelings of the Cabinet, My Lords, notwithstanding the arrogance, the self-love, the presumption, which I am supposed to have exhibited, I was not unaware—God knows it would have been strange if I had been—that the public feeling had been aroused strongly against my administration of the war. Shortly before Parliament met, on Tuesday, the 23rd of January, I was convinced that the feeling in the public mind would become so strong that it would be impossible for me, in justice to the public service, to continue to occupy the office I held, My Lords, the meeting of Parliament was close at hand; and I felt that if I had read rightly the history of constitutional government, it was not proper at such a moment to anticipate the verdict of Parliament, and to run away from the responsibilities and duties which I had undertaken. The noble Lord, in his statement in reference to the course he had taken, said, that until the notice was given by Mr. Roebuck, he had not fully considered the course which he ought to take. My Lords, I had. I had maturely considered it; and whilst I made up my mind that my official career was practically brought to a close, I resolved also that I would face the ordeal of censure in your Lordships' House, and would submit my conduct of the administration of the War Department to the judgment of the House of Commons. But, my Lords, I thought it was right that I should announce my determination; and a few days before the meeting of Parliament I told my noble Friend at the head of the Government—I did not tell my other colleagues, because I did not think it right to do so; and I think, my Lords, you will appreciate my feelings and motives in taking that course—that whatever might be the result of the discussion in this House or in the House of Commons—whether the Government should succeed by large majorities in overcoming resistance and reproach, or whether they failed—I should equally tender my resignation as soon as that judgment should be given and the verdict of Parliament should have been pronounced. My Lords, this, no doubt, was the origin of the rumour to which the noble Lord referred at the close of his statement, when he said he had heard that that arrangement which my noble Friend at the head of the Government had found it impossible to recommend in November he had found it perfectly consistent with his honour to adopt in January. I am sorry that any such statement should have been made, because, if any such rumour existed, it was not correct. It was true, as I have stated to your Lordships, that I had announced my intention to resign my office; but, so far from having announced any intention to be a party to any such arrangement as that referred to, I told my noble Friend in the first instance, and I told also my noble and right hon. Friends in the Cabinet, when the secession of Lord John Russell made it necessary that my intentions should be declared, that I had made up my mind that I would retire and that I would not take another office; that I would not either change offices with my noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) nor assume that which bad just been quitted by Lord J. Russell; that I would leave the Cabinet; but as to changing offices I positively and entirely refused it. And why? I admit that, undoubtedly, personal feeling might to some extent have influenced me, but I hope that I was also actuated by a higher and more important consideration. I was confident the public interest would be served by the course I resolved to take; because, after the obloquy that had been heaped upon me, it was undesirable that I should continue to be a member of any Cabinet, and that my presence in the Government would be a cause of weakness, and not of strength. I announced, therefore, that if the Government should succeed in the discussion in the House of Commons, I in future should take my seat on one of the benches not occupied by those in office, but that I would be here night by night when discussions took place, ready to defend the policy to which I had been a party; because, of course, I felt myself as much bound to do so as if I had continued to occupy my office.

Now, my Lords, I have done with the statement of the noble Lord which has led to this explanation on my part. My Lords, various accusations are made against me, of which one of the most prominent is that of incapacity. My Lords, I am the last man who ought to express any opinion on that point. I am ready to leave that in the hands of others, perfectly conscious of many defects. I know that this charge of incapacity is with the public a favourite explanation of every political misfortune; and whether it may be peculiarly justified in my case, or may be attributable to the cause to which I have referred, I leave to the verdict of others. But, my Lords, another charge has been made against me—a charge which I confess I have felt deeply, and which I continue to feel. I have been charged with indolence and indifference. My Lords, as regards the charge of indolence, I have only to say that the public have had, at all events, every hour and every minute of my time. Not one hour of recreation or of amusement have I presumed to think I was entitled to take. My Lords, the other charge, that of indifference, is still more painful to me. Indifference, my Lords!—to what? Indifference to the honour of the country—indifference to the success and to the safety of our army! My Lords, I have myself, like many who listen to me, two dear hostages for my interest in the welfare of the military and naval services of the country to allow of such a sentiment. I have two sons engaged in those two services, and that alone, I think, would be sufficient to prevent me from being indifferent; but, my Lords, as a Minister—as a man—I should be unworthy to stand in any assembly, if the charge of indifference under such circumstances could be truly made against me. Many a sleepless night I have passed, my Lords, thinking over the evils which the public think and say I could have cured; and which, God knows, I would have cured if it had been within my power. Indolence and indifference are not charges that can truly be brought against me. I deny the charges; and I trust that my countrymen will before long be satisfied, whatever they think of my capacity, that there is no ground for fixing this unjust stigma upon me.

As regards what I have done during my official administration, I believe—trust and hope, at least—that I shall be one who will derive some advantage from the investigation of the Committee which the House of Commons has decided to appoint. I wish the Government may derive advantage from it, and I wish I could think that the public also would derive some advantage from it; but I can only say that, so far as I am individually concerned, I shall rejoice to lay before it, or any other tribunal, everything I have done, with perfect fairness and openness.

My Lords, I am not now about to enter into any defence of the conduct of the war. My noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Lyndhurst) has a Motion on the subject for Monday next; and though the circumstance of a Government being in existence on that day may be doubtful, he will, I presume, still persevere in that Motion, and on that occasion I shall be prepared to meet it. I am as little inclined to shrink from an attack now, when I have quitted office, as I was when I held it. I will not shelter myself, whenever that Motion comes on, by the circumstance of my resignation. I will, if I have health, be here to make an answer to my noble and learned Friend, on whatever side of the House I may sit, and he may be assured I shall not shrink from meeting him. I shall be ready to defend, whenever it is assailed, the conduct of the Government—the conduct, in the first place, of my own administration—and the conduct, as involved with me of the whole of the Cabinet, Lord John Russell included. My Lords, your Lordships shall not hear any complaint from me with reference to the treatment I have met either in Parliament or out of it. In reference to that, I have only to say, that whoever may be my successor in the office which I have held, he shall meet with no ungenerous treatment from me. My Lords, I know that I have in both Houses of Parliament many bitter political opponents; trust I have few, if any, personal enemies. But if I have a personal enemy, I do not except him from the promise I now make; and to him, in the same manner as to a friend, I will offer every assistance in my power. My Lords, even if the office should be held by that Gentleman who—as we were informed the other night in the other House of Parliament, went over from the Ministerial side to the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition—went over some weeks ago to him and asked him whether he would be a party to a vote of censure, not on the Government, but on me as an individual member of that Government—even if, I say, that hon. Gentleman should be War Minister, him will I treat with the utmost possible consideration, and my best assistance will I tender to him who prompted that message. Whatever may be my feelings towards the man, I shall be ready, as in duty bound to the public, to render every assistance in my power to the Minister. Whoever may succeed me, I will endeavour to make his path as easy in this House and out of it as it may he in my power; and if my past experience can be of any value to my successor, here in my place in Parliament I frankly and unreservedly tender it to him. If my past experience can be of the slightest value to him, he shall have it, whether he takes my acts as a warning or as an example. He shall meet from me no petty feelings of jealousy—I am conscious that the crisis is too important, and the interests at this moment involved too great, for the indulgence of any such contemptible feeling. Out of office, I shall rejoice in the success of any man who shall succeed me as War Minister, whether that success be achieved in consequence of better fortune or of greater ability than I possess.

My Lords, I shall conclude this, I fear too long a statement—the last speech which I shall address to your Lordships from these benches—with the earnest wish that he who may receive from the Queen the seals of the War Department, may bring to bear on its arduous duties abilities far greater than I can pretend to, and equal zeal, earnestness, and devotion with him whom he succeeds. I repeat the expression of my earnest hope that the man, be he who he may, who follows me, may meet with that success for which I have laboured, and, in meriting and securing that success, that he may also receive from his countrymen the approbation which it has been my anxious desire, but has not been my good fortune, to obtain.


My Lords, whatever may have been the Parliamentary irregularity of the course pursued by the noble Duke opposite, in making the statement which he has just made, and in the pointed reference and answer to the speech made by a noble Lord, his colleague, in the other House of Parliament, I have great reason to admit, and I am sure your Lordships will allow, that the statement was one the substance and circumstance of which, despite its irregularity, afforded sufficient apology for its delivery. I can easily understand the feelings of the noble Duke, and that he considered it necessary to offer to your Lordships, as a Minister of the Crown, a vindication of himself against charges such as must have materially affected his character, not as a man, but as a Minister; and I cannot therefore complain if he found it necessary to make reference to proceedings in the other House of Parliament; nor should I allude to that did I not feel it incumbent on me, at the outset of the few observations I shall have to submit to your Lordships, to reply to something which fell from the noble Duke towards the close of his speech, and which to me, and which I apprehend must to your Lordships, be utterly unintelligible. The noble Duke, in speaking of the assistance which it was his duty to afford to whomsoever should succeed him, made an allusion to some Gentleman, who, he intimated, had crossed over the floor of the House of Commons to my right hon. Friend the leader of the Opposition, and asked him whether he would be a party to some intended motion, which was not to impugn the Government, but to censure an individual—namely, the noble Duke himself. My Lords, of that statement—of that unknown individual—of that fact—or of anything like such a fact, I can assure you that I am, up to this moment, most completely ignorant. If the noble Duke means that, in the decision lately come to by the House of Commons, that expression of opinion, not on the conduct of the noble Duke but of the Government, was the consequence of an arrangement, and if the noble Duke conceives that that vote was the result of concert, or of previous communication with any party whatever, to the best of my belief and knowledge the noble Duke is absolutely and entirely in error.


The noble Earl has entirely misapprehended what fell from me on that point. I meant precisely the reverse of that which he infers I meant. What I said was entirely founded on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons. That right hon. Gentleman, in his place in the House, made a statement to the effect that there had been such a communication made by a gentleman to him. This is my authority for the fact, but the right hon. Gentleman expressly said that he had repudiated the offer made to him.


It will be unnecessary, then, for me to proceed further with the observations I was about to make on that point. But, notwithstanding the statement which the noble Duke has just made, I hope lie will forgive me if I do say here in the most emphatic manner that the vote of the House of Commons proceeded the other day not from any one party, more especially not from the party in direct opposition to Her Majesty's Government—nay, more, that it was the earnest recommendation, as I know, of those who are intrusted with the confidence of that party to abstain from bringing forward any Motion which should be equivalent to casting a censure upon the Government, or that would tend in the slightest degree to embarrass them in the administration of the public affairs. Now, the noble Duke's statement this evening, so far as I could infer from what fell from him, consisted in part of a vindication of his own character, and partly of a reply to the statements made by his late colleague. I and others, I am afraid, have been compelled to differ from the noble Duke and from his colleagues with regard to many points affecting the conduct of the war; and I have on more than one occasion expressed my opinion on the subject to the noble Duke and to your Lordships—not uncourteously, I hope, but with that frankness which I think ought to be exercised in this House. But I never heard any one deny to the noble Duke the merit of having been laborious in the discharge of his duties, and of having devoted himself most assiduously to his office; nor have I heard any one—I know not, of course, what may have appeared in some newspapers, or what conversation may have taken place at their clubs—I say, I have never heard the noble Duke charged in Parliament, or by any responsible authority, with indifference to the sufferings of the army. [The Duke Of NEWCASTLE: Certainly not in this House.] It has been said, indeed by some, and I have been of opinion myself, that when the right thing was done it was not done always at the right time, and that the neglect of the Government in not doing the right thing at the right time had led to increased sufferings and privations on the part of the army. But God forbid that any one of us should have imputed to the noble Duke or to any Member of your Lordships' House that he was in the slightest degree indifferent upon such a subject, or was sparing of his labours in the discharge of the arduous and responsible duties of his office. I am not, my Lords, about to enter upon any discussion—this is not the occasion on which to do so—as to the conduct of the Government or any Members of the Government. Nor am I disposed in the slightest degree to diminish the effect of that "Picture of an Interior" which has been drawn with such graphic power by the noble Duke. It is really one of the most effective pictures which I have seen presented to Parliament—the Cabinet peint par soimême;—and when, after having gone through all the correspondence and conversation and friendly communications which have taken place between him and some of his colleagues, the noble Duke wound up the whole picture by saying that he believed that colleague whom he had so much reason to complain of was the one of all whose opinions seemed to have most of identity with his own, the effect was heightened and a complete view afforded of the beautiful internal harmony of that Cabinet. My Lords, I am bound to say that I think the noble Duke is quite excusable for his statement in this House to-night; and, as far as I can learn, although, perhaps, it is contrary to the Horatian motto to decide now—for we are probably always more strongly impressed by what we see and hear than by what we read in the newspapers—I confess I think that between the two noble colleagues the noble Duke has considerably the best of the argument. Certainly I do not know what I might say if I "heard the other side;" but that, at all events, is my present impression. If, however, these discussions are constantly to take place in this House—if these representations are to follow one another so quickly—I can suggest only one mode by which to secure perfect impartiality. The Members of the two Houses should meet in the large central hall between this and the other House of Parliament, the Lords on one side and the Commons on the other, and there, the champions meeting in the centre, there might be, according to the expression of the noble Duke, en exchange of words, and I only hope it might not lead to the exchange of anything more dangerous than words. I will, however, leave the picture of the interior of the Cabinet—this picture of the relations between the noble Duke and his colleagues— entirely as a matter to be settled between themselves. Nor do I think this a fitting occasion for comment upon the picture which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen), at the commencement of the evening, drew of the general state of the country. That funeral oration which he pronounced upon himself and his colleagues—that general and complacent laudation of each and every one of the Members of his Cabinet—first, of his War Minister; next, of his Chancellor of the Exchequer; next, of the First Lord of the Admiralty; next, of the noble Lord opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs—I have no doubt all these encomiums were exceedingly well deserved, and that it was equally satisfactory to the noble Earl to have the opportunity of making them, and to his colleagues to receive them at his hands. The noble Earl also touched upon the general state of the nation, and although, perhaps, he introduced some debatable grounds into his observations with regard to the general and abundant prosperity which, according to him, prevails in every district of the country at the present moment, this is not the fittest occasion on which to enter upon the debatable grounds he has introduced. Nor, I think, should I have risen to address your Lordships at all on this occasion, had it not been that the noble Earl did not think fit to confine himself to the usual announcement on such an occasion—namely, that he and his colleagues had resigned office, and only held their present position until Her Majesty should have appointed their successors—I say, I probably should not have risen if, in making that statement, the noble Earl had not thought it necessary to make a personal reference to me as having been charged by Her Majesty with the formation of a Government. The noble Earl, undervaluing and underrating the source from which he derived his information, stated as a matter of general rumour that there had been some communication between Her Majesty and myself on that subject. The noble Earl has, I say, certainly underrated the source of his information, because not only general rumour may have informed him on the subject, but previously to entering into this House I had, under my own hand, given the noble Earl information as to the result of this communication; and consequently, the notoriety and general rumour which led him to believe it might be possible that I had had some communication with Her Majesty are phrases which must have been employed by the noble Earl in his usual care to guard against exaggeration and to avoid overstating any part of his case. As your Lordships may not be all in possession of such information, I can inform your Lordships on this subject that, for once, the noble Earl is not mistaken. Upon the resignation of the noble Earl, it is perfectly true, and was known to most persons, that Her Majesty commanded my attendance yesterday morning, at half-past eleven o'clock; that I had a long audience in which I need hardly say I met with that which every person admitted to the presence of Her Majesty invariably meets with—the most condescending kindness, the most perfect frankness and openness, and a manner of dealing with all public subjects, a consideration for all personal feelings, which all who are called upon to communicate personally with Her Majesty know to what extent she possesses, and which must increase the affection and loyalty that every person who has had a knowledge of those qualities must feel for Her Majesty. I do not think it would be for the public interest that I should at this time—even if I had the permission of Her Majesty to do so, which I have not—avail myself of this opportunity to state all that passed upon that occasion, as well as all that subsequently occurred. I do think it would be inconvenient to the public service if, while negotiations are going on, and the steps taken by public men should be prematurely detailed. I think to do so might lead to serious inconvenience to the public affairs of this country. When I say that negotiations are going on, I mean that previously to the formation of a Government I think it is extremely inconvenient that there should be a public discussion day by day of communications which may take place between different parties tending to the formation of such a Cabinet.

I think it is the duty of every public man, whether he accepts or whether he abstains from accepting office, to be prepared to give at the proper time a full explanation both to his own Friends and to the country of the motives which may have induced him so to accept or abstain. But, my Lords, I think that that explanation should never be given until a Government is actually formed, and the state of affairs is decided. I therefore, upon the present occasion, content myself with saying that feeling deeply grateful to Her Majesty for the confidence which She reposed in me, and feeling deeply conscious of my own inability to discharge the duties which this arduous position would have imposed upon me,—feeling at the same time that, with the probability of success, the very difficulties with which the country is surrounded would be an additional inducement to any man of honour and character not to leave Her Majesty without a Government to grapple with these difficulties—I yet felt that in the present state of parties and in the present condition of the House of Commons, I was not enabled to offer Her Majesty that assurance of being in a position satisfactorily to conduct the affairs of the country which would induce me, at the present moment, to accept the task which Her Majesty was pleased to confide to me; and consequently at this time I have no charge from Her Majesty to attempt the construction of a Government. Further than this, my Lords, I think it would be impossible for me to say, except that I concur entirely with the noble Earl opposite that, whatever may be the composition of the Government (while I concur also with him as to the difficulty of obtaining it), the great object which this country looks for and requires in the present moment of difficulty, of embarrassment, and I will say, of peril, is, if it be possible to obtain it, a strong Government. And my Lords, whatever Government may be intrusted with Her Majesty's confidence to carry on the affairs of the great war and the great political questions in which this country is now involved, that man is undeserving of the character of a patriot, or of an honest man, who does not to the utmost extent of his power give to the Government of the Queen for these objects a disinterested and, as far as he can, a conscientious support.

House adjourned to Monday next.

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