§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, in rising for the purpose already alluded to by the noble Marquess—namely, to move your Lordships to adjourn this House to some future day—I trust your Lordships will with your usual kindness and courtesy allow me to make a few remarks on a subject personal to myself. During the two last Administrations it has happened that the Prime Minister has had a seat in your Lordships' House. During the Administration of my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Derby), so undoubtedly the leader of the party lie represents both in and out of Parliament, his presence here gave great interest and importance to our debates. Since then, we have had the Administration of my noble Friend, the noble Earl near me (the Earl of Aberdeen), who, being a Peer, was, of course, the mouthpiece of his Government in your Lordships' House. I do not know whether I may be allowed, seeing my noble Friend on the bench below me, to take this opportunity of saying that during the two years of his Administration, I, as one of his colleagues (and I believe I speak the sentiment of all the noble Earl's colleagues now sitting near me), having had the opportunity of appreciating the qualities of 1330 the noble Earl, regard him as one of the most generous-minded, liberal, just, and courageous men with whom I ever had the opportunity or good fortune to be associated. His past services and his great experience gave great weight to all that fell from him. We are now arrived at a time still more eventful and critical than that when my noble Friend assumed office; and I do feel it to be something of an incongruity that I should be the mouthpiece of the Government, even as a matter of form, owing to the accidental precedence given me by the office I occupy. I can only say, that I feel I should be acting unfairly towards myself, and certainly towards those able men within the Government, and out of the Government, sitting on this side of the House, and almost disrespectfully towards your Lordships, if I were to undertake this duty without being able to go for support, advice, and guidance to that noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne), whose pre-eminent qualities, as the leader of this House, have not only secured to him the devoted attachment of his own friends, but even during his life have become proverbial on every side of this Assembly.
With a great deal that has passed since the resignation of the late Cabinet I am not acquainted; but some of those more particularly concerned in those transactions are now present, and may take either this or some future occasion to offer any explanation they think necessary to your Lordships. All I can say is that, from what I gather respecting the proceedings of public men and political parties, I do not think they have laid themselves open to the charge of any want of self-negation, or of any want of public spirit on the occasion. Lord Palmerston was commissioned by Her Majesty about three days ago to form an Administration, and he has been successful—the list which he submitted has been graciously approved by Her Majesty. With respect to the principles of that Administration I have very few observations to make; and I may briefly state that the principles which will govern the Administration in respect to all internal matters will be identically the same as those which guided the late Cabinet, and which, I believe, generally met the approbation of the country. Whenever any reasonable opportunity occurs for effecting improvement in our internal affairs, we will most assuredly not neglect it; but we do feel that the one paramount object to which the energy of 1331 the Government and the wisdom of Parliament should now be applied is the active and vigorous prosecution of the great war in which the country is engaged. My Lords, I believe that the most ardent lovers of peace—that those who thought the war unnecessarily entered into, and who most anxiously desire its immediate conclusion—must feel that it is absolutely requisite for the honour of this country that, while the war does last, it should be carried on with all the energy and power possible. We do feel that while to a certain degree all parties in this country, including perhaps ourselves, gave way to some exaggerated feelings of exultation at one moment, we are now in the opposite danger of giving way to too much despondency. In saying this, I assure your Lordships that no Member of the Government wishes to deny the great calamities to which the army has been exposed, or to diminish the ardent sympathy we ought to feel for the exemplary fortitude with which that army has met those evils. It would naturally be out of place for me this evening to discuss in the slightest degree how far those calamities may be attributable either to natural causes or to the rustiness of a system which has become worn out in time of peace. But there is no doubt that discomfort, sickness, and death have prevailed to a very large extent among the army in the Crimea. What we do feel is, that it is not becoming in the Government or the people of this country to indulge in feelings of despondency, which, I am informed on the best authority, that brave army, in the midst of sickness and death, does not itself share. We do not like to allude in anticipation to any event, for the future is in the hands of Providence; but we derive some hope and comfort from the knowledge that the resources of this country are almost unlimited. We are now at the very beginning of those resources, and the spirit evinced by the country will enable us to draw upon them so long as the necessity exists, and so long as they are properly and efficiently administered. We derive also confidence from the fact that, notwithstanding the disasters to which I have alluded, we have yet achieved more than this country ever achieved before in any great continental war at the outset of the war. We rely with confidence that, with the direction of our foreign affairs remaining in the hands of my noble Friend (the Earl of Clarendon), France will continue with this country those intimate and 1332 cordial relations which have been maintained, so much to the advantage of both nations, up to the present moment; and we believe that the same friendly feeling will exist on the part of Austria, on account of the straightforwardness of our relations with her. It is with these views, and benefiting by the lessons which experience has taught us, and which, I must say, experience alone could have taught us, that Lord Palmerston and his colleagues mean to take every measure in their power to carry on the present war with all possible vigour and energy until that day, and not one day later, when a just and honourable peace, providing for both the interests of Europe and the honour of this country, shall be attained. With these sentiments we appeal to your Lordships and the country for support; and it is with these sentiments that we can accept with thankfulness such support as the noble and learned Lord opposite has offered us to-night. This is our case, and we leave it in your hands. The noble Earl then moved that the House at its rising do adjourn till Friday, the 16th of February.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, the Motion with which the noble Earl has concluded affords me the opportunity, while the announcement with which he has accompanied that Motion imposes on me the duty, of taking the earliest opportunity of giving an explanation of those transactions to which the noble Earl has alluded, as far as I was personally concerned in them. I think it right that at the earliest possible moment, consistent with public duty, your Lordships, my own political friends, and the country at large, should have the opportunity of judging of the course which I felt it my duty to pursue, and of the motives which actuated me in taking that course. I think that such an explanation is due from every man who aspires to, or upon whom circumstances may have thrown, a high place in the councils of the nation. The country has a right to know that the duties and responsibilities of Government have not been lightly assumed, or lightly or from slight causes shrunk from. The country has a right to know, and it is good that it should know, what are the motives which actuate public men, whose characters are public property; and the country which alone can remove those embarrassments which often occur in the formation of a Government, should know what are those embarrassments and what is the 1333 nature of the difficulties which frequently prevent the constitution of an Administration. For myself, I have nothing whatever to conceal with respect to the course I took; and, without further preface, I will lay before your Lordships as short a statement as I can, not only of the course which I felt it my duty to pursue, but, in order to make that course understood, of my view generally of the position in which affairs stood on the resignation of the Government of the Earl of Aberdeen.
At the commencement of the present Session, and in the face of the difficulties and disasters that were taking place, and which the noble Earl opposite has not sought to conceal, I and those in whom the confidence of the great Conservative party has been placed felt it our bounden duty to abstain from bringing forward any Motion which should imply censure or blame upon the Government, and which, by challenging the opinion of either this or the other House of Parliament, might possibly tend to increase the embarrassments which were known to exist. Here I must be permitted to say, that those who on principle are opposed to the Government have, in such circumstances, no very easy task to perform; for, if they bring forward a Motion that may by implication be regarded as a censure with reference to some matter on which they feel strongly the Government is to blame, they are immediately called on to move for a vote of want of confidence with a view to the removal of the Government from office; and if, on the other hand, a vote of direct censure be moved by the party habitually in opposition to the Government, then the answer always is that the Motion is brought forward for party purposes, that it is only intended for the promotion of party objects, and not for the benefit of the country. If neither of these courses is taken—if those who, I may say, by the constitution of Parliament are intrusted with the duty of watching over the conduct of a Government in whom they cannot place confidence remain altogether silent, then they are charged, and with some justice, with being indifferent to the enforcement of public opinion, and being accessaries after the fact to the faults of the Government. Yet, notwithstanding these difficulties, it has been the policy, as we have felt it to be the duty, of the great Conservative party to bring forward no Motion of censure against the Government. But immediately after Parliament reassembled, after the recess, notice was given 1334 of a Motion by an hon. and learned Gentleman in the other House, who I suppose would desire to be considered a supporter of the Government and a Member of the Government—party you can hardly call it—but of that great body split into various ramifications of parties, and who pass by the name of the Liberal party in this country. My Lords, I confess I do not understand the distinction which seems to have been drawn by the noble Lord the late President of the Council, in which he stated that, looking at the course which, in the event of such a Motion being brought forward, he ought to pursue, he had to consider not only what the nature of the Motion was, but what was the quarter from which it came. It appears to me that this is a distinction founded on no just or sound principle. If time conduct of the Government was defensible, then, whether the attack was made by friend or foe, it appears to me to have been the duty of the Government to vindicate its policy. If, on the other hand, the conduct of the Government was, as the noble Lord seemed to consider, wholly indefensible, then, my Lords, I cannot conceive that it would be a right and justifiable course for one who could not defend the conduct of the Government on its merits to resist the Motion because that Motion proceeded from a particular political quarter. But from whatever quarter that Motion proceeded, the result was such as, I must say, is wholly unparalleled in the history of this country. Such is the extent to which the party habitually in opposition to the Government carried their resolution not unnecessarily to interfere with the Government, that I believe that even on that Motion, if the division, in. stead of being postponed till Monday, had taken place on the Friday, little more than one-half of the party would have been in their places to pass the vote of censure on the Government. But when a Motion was brought forward, from whatever quarter, which implied a want of confidence in the Government, and which the Government themselves took care to explain was a vote in which the confidence or the absence of confidence of the house of Commons was to be tested, the circumstances were changed—it was impossible that the limits of moderation and prudence could be carried to such an extent that, being invited by the Government to express an opinion on the question of confidence or no confidence, this party should avoid giving 1335 expression to the views which they entertained. My Lords, the result of that Motion, as I said before, is one without a parallel;—not only that on a vote involving a want of confidence in the Government, and in the Government as a whole—not a censure directed against one or two individual Ministers, who might have become particularly obnoxious to the public—there should have been in the House of Commons a majority exceeding two-thirds; but that on a question involving confidence or no confidence in the Government, as a whole that Government was unable to muster as a minority in its favour a greater number than 148 out of the 650 members of the House of Commons. My Lords, I believe that such an event is wholly without a parallel, more especially when we recollect that, by the confession of many who voted for the Motion, it was one against which there were valid and well-founded objections with reference to its technical terms, and that it was disapproved of by many who supported it, on the ground that it was accepted by the Government as a test of the confidence or no confidence of Parliament in the Administration. The majority on that occasion, singularly enough, happens to be, in point of numbers, to a unit the same with the majority by which, two years ago, the Government with which I had the honour to be connected was also ejected from office—namely, a majority of 305—though on the former occasion it was a majority of 305 to a minority of 286, while on the present it is 305 to 148. Of these 305, I believe that the great Conservative party, who have acted together for a considerable period with perfect and uninterrupted union, constituted something like 200; with regard to the different liberal sections of the House of Commons, I believe that they were pretty equally divided, in this way—that 100 of these Gentlemen voted on one side and 100 on the other, and that another 100 altogether abstained from voting on the occasion. Such being the result of the division, and such the composition of the vote, and looking at the usual course of Parliamentary proceedings and the doctrine of the constitution, I was not surprised, my Lords, when, on the following evening, I received—though I acknowledge I did so with deep anxiety—Her Majesty's gracious commands to wait upon Her on the following morning, perfectly well knowing and understanding for what purpose I had received such a communication. It 1336 became then my duty carefully and anxiously and maturely to consider the position of the country. Under ordinary circumstances and in ordinary times I should at once have felt it my duty to accept the responsibility thrown upon me; for, though the Gentlemen who honoured me with their confidence were not those who had incurred the first responsibility by bringing forward the Motion, yet, as it was mainly carried by the instrumentality of their votes, I felt that it would have been my duty to accept the consequences of their acts; but, under existing circumstances, I felt that I was bound to consider carefully and deeply, without thinking of personal considerations, and without reference to party objects, what course it was for the interest of the country that in such circumstances I should take, and what advice I should tender to Her Majesty. My Lords, I can conceive no object of higher or nobler ambition, none more worthy of the anxiety of a true patriot and lover of his country, than to stand in the high and honourable position of the Chief Minister of the Crown and leader of the councils of this great Empire, assisted and supported by colleagues combined with him by unity of sentiment and mutual and personal respect, and with the knowledge that this and the other House of Parliament would give to such a Minister the assurance that, except on most extraordinary and unusual occasions, he would be enabled with life and energy to carry out his plans and to mature and accomplish his objects, and practically as well as nominally, control and govern the legislation and internal economy of this great country. On the other hand, to hold that high and responsible situation dependent for support from day to day upon precarious and uncertain majorities, compelled to cut down this measure, and to pare off that—to consider with regard to each measure not what was for the real welfare of the country, but what would conciliate some half-dozen men here, or obviate the objections of some half-dozen there—to regard it as a great triumph of Parliamentary skill and Ministerial strength to scramble through the Session of Parliament, and to boast of having met with few and insignificant defeats—I say this is a state of things which cannot be satisfactory to any Minister, and which cannot be of advantage to the Crown, or to the people of this country. But, my Lords, to enter on the duties of office, not with a precarious majority, but with a sure minority of the other 1337 House of Parliament—to be aware that from day to day you were liable to defeats at any moment by the combination of parties, amounting to a sure majority, and only waiting for the moment when it would be most convenient to introduce Motions for the attainment of such an end; to be a Minister on sufferance; to hold such a position without any security for enforcing your own views; with the fear of exposing your own friends and the country—your friends to perpetual mortification, and the country to constant disappointment—to undertake the responsibilities and the duties of office under such circumstances, I. and in such a state of things, would be such an intolerable and galling servitude as no man of honour or character would voluntarily expose himself to, and such as no man willingly would submit to, except from motives of the purest patriotism, and on proof of the absolute necessity of such self-sacrifice. My Lords, I considered it then my duty deliberately to consider before I assumed the responsibility which I understood it to be the wish of Her Majesty I should discharge, in what position I should be with regard to Parliamentary support—how I should stand in this and the other House of Parliament—more especially in the other House. It is true, my Lords, that I could have filled several of the offices of the Government in a lonelier that would have commanded the approbation alike of my own supporters and of the majority of my political opponents. I had reason to be assured that in one of the offices which, above all others, is at the present moment that of paramount importance, and on the proper settlement of which rests the greatest responsibility, I should have had the support of a noble Friend of mine, not himself a military man, but possessed of a mind eminently military—a noble Lord of vast experience, practically versed and conversant with the operations of war in distant countries upon a large scale, and who has proved himself to be an able and successful Minister of War on an extended scale—a noble Earl whose energy, whose ability, and whose eloquence, would have given ample assurance to the country of the efficiency of the manner in which he would have performed his duties—and who, if he has one characteristic that is more universally recognised than another, it is that under him the country would have a guarantee that corruption and improper influence would have no place. My Lords, it is true that in the other House of Parliament, as well as in 1338 this House, in addition to those Friends whose aid and assistance I had formerly obtained, I might have had recourse to a class whom, when excluded from office on the formation of a Government, it is usual to characterise as a necessary infusion of new blood, but who, when introduced into office, are called an enlistment of raw recruits. And, when I speak of new blood, I am sure not one of my Friends in this or the other House will deem it invidious in me to say that I should have received—and in a high office of the Administration I should have been proud to have received—the support and assistance of the unrivalled eloquence and commanding talents of Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton. At the same time I was compelled to look not only to those Gentlemen of great capacity who might have filled important offices, but I was bound to look to that more vulgar, but nut less important consideration, the numerical strength of the supporters of the Government. My Lords, I have been honoured—and it is one of the proudest recollections of my life to look back to that period—I have been honoured, and am still honoured, with the confidence of a body of the most respectable and highly-qualified gentlemen of this country; a body amounting to from 270 to 280 Members of Parliament, bound together by that which is the only sure bond of all political union—namely, mutual confidence in each other and perfect identity and unity of principle, and full of mutual personal esteem and regard for each other. But, my Lords, when we looked at the numbers of that party at the close of the last general election, the Government then existing found that it had the avowed support of about 300 Members of the House of Commons. I state it to the credit of that great party, and as a proof of the fidelity which they have exhibited to their engagements, that at the present moment, after the expiry of two years, the number who were prepared to support me in the Government is hardly at all diminished, and that I could reckon at this moment on the cordial support of about 280 Members of the other House. But what happened when I had the same right to rely on the assistance and support of about 300 Members of the House of Commons? My Lords, the Government fell before a combination of parties; and my Government would still be exposed to fall before such a combination of parties, such as took place before, and might occur again at any moment. What reason had I to suppose— 1339 what reason had I to feel satisfied that the same combination would not arise within a week? It is the same House of Commons; there are the same persons; and there are the same parties; and so far as I can judge from the construction of the late Government, and so far as I can infer from the reputed construction of the present, they present the same combination of parties by which I was formerly assailed. I do not mean to say that I saw as certain the combination of these parties for the same object, but I say I had no security for a day or for an hour that that combination would not take place, and I knew that if it did I had no means of overcoming it. My Lords, I know it has been said that, in the present circumstances, any Government accepting the responsibilities of office and prepared to carry on the war in which we are engaged with vigour would have received the support, or at all events the neutrality, of all parties in the House of Commons. I think that, in some circumstances, that might have been the case; but I have great reason to doubt whether, if I had at the first moment accepted the responsibility sought to be placed on me, I should have found in the House of Commons that general acquiescence under the influence of which there would have been an abstinence from opposition, on which alone I could rely to carry on the Administration. My Lords, it is no secret that the moment the Administration of the noble Earl opposite was dissolved a cry was raised by a portion of the press, exercising no insignificant influence over the public mind, that whatever might be the future composition of the Ministry, one thing at least was clear, namely, that what was called a Derby Administration was out of the question, and that another thing was not less clear—that Viscount Palmerston was the man called upon by the voice of the country to take the management of affairs. My Lords, I speak not only of the language of the press; but, also, as the language of Members of Parliament, for both within and without the Legislature this view of the situation was extensively adopted. There was a universal impression in favour of the noble Viscount—who somehow or other appears to have enjoyed a peculiar exemption from the censure passed on the whole of his colleagues relative to the conduct of the war; though I must be permitted to say that in the conduct of the war one of the greatest defects that appears to have existed was a defect 1340 that arose in the office presided over by the noble Viscount himself—namely, in the organisation and embodiment of the militia. But, be that as it may, in the public mind the noble Viscount was excepted from the censure imposed on his colleagues in the Administration; and the hon. and learned Gentleman who brought forward the Motion by which the Government was overthrown, if I mistake not, declared his opinion that Viscount Palmerston was the only person who was fit to succeed to the Government of the country. But a higher authority still was one of the noble Viscount's colleagues, who considered the case of the late Government indefensible, and their conduct to be such as to compel him, prematurely, to secede from them—that noble Lord generously and disinterestedly sacrificed himself to a colleague, and declared that in his opinion the only person to conduct the military affairs of the country was his late colleague, Viscount Palmerston. Now, I put it to your Lordships and the country whether, with that feeling prevailing in Parliament—with a general declaration in favour of a very distinguished Member of that House—a declaration made by a large portion of the press, and by a considerable body of the Members of the House of Commons, and sustained by the high authority of the noble Lord the late President of the Council, I ask what prospect of immunity from attack, or what prospect of a sustained majority, a Government could expect which should be formed to the exclusion of that individual? I would not be misunderstood as saying that these considerations were those alone which prompted me to be anxious to obtain the co-operation of the noble Viscount. I merely wish to show how any one standing in my position must have considered that co-operation to be essential to the success of a Government. I readily acknowledge, as every one must, the great advantages to be derived from the great abilities, the great Parliamentary experience, the long official experience, of not less than thirty-seven years of office, of the noble Viscount. I readily admit the advantage of his personal popularity. I readily admit also,—though it is not a usual ground to be stated I in Parliament, yet the circumstances of this case are so peculiar that I may state it,—though the jealousy of this country—the reasonable and well-founded jealousy—is against qualification for office, arising out of connection with foreign States or foreign Governments, yet I must be permitted to add that in the present circum- 1341 stances, it must be viewed as a great and legitimate qualification on the part of Lord Palmerston, and should not be omitted, that he was generally supposed to exercise no inconsiderable influence over the councils of that noble nation with whom we are now on terms happily of the strictest and closest alliance,—that he has enjoyed to a great extent the confidence of that great man, who, by his superior abilities and powers, not less than the name he bears, was enabled to grasp and hold firmly and vigorously the imperial sceptre of that country. I say, my Lords, in times like these, and at a time when we are engaged in a formidable and perilous war,—when we have France,—though I hope it will not be long so—as our only assured ally—it is a peculiar qualification for holding office in this country that the Minister in question should possess the confidence of those between whom and ourselves these cordial relations subsist; and I will add that no party could be insensible to the great advantage which would be gained from the noble Viscount's presence in any Cabinet now formed which should be otherwise unacquainted with all the details and intricacies of that tangled web of diplomacy which has been woven within the last two years, or unaware that the noble Viscount would not be of peculiar advantage to any Government of which he might be a member, having an intimate knowledge of all the transactions of the last two years, of the difficulties and embarrassments that have occurred, and, at the same time, a correct knowledge of the feelings and views of those foreign connections with whom during that busy time we have been more or less engaged. Under all these circumstances—from all these considerations—I came to the conclusion that with the unassisted numerical strength of those who placed their confidence in me, it was impossible that I could feel any assurance of forming—that which I concur with the noble Earl opposite in deeming most desirable and necessary for this country at the present period—a strong Government. It was impossible for me, without some extraneous aid, to flatter myself with the expectation that I could secure a strong Government for this country.
My Lords, it was impressed with this idea and conviction that, on the following morning, I obeyed Her Majesty's command. I laid before Her Majesty without reserve my views with regard to the state of parties, with regard to the composition of 1342 the House of Commons, and with regard to the balance of parties in that House, and the probable mode in which those parties might apply their powers. I did not conceal from Her Majesty that there might be circumstances under which the House of Commons would give to such a Government as I was enabled to form, even without extraneous aid, a generous assistance and a generous and liberal support; but I think such circumstances could only be those in which there would be no alternative between the existence of the Government which I was about to form and no Government at all, and that there could be no security whatever for the formation—nay, not only that, but no prospect of the formation—of a Government commanding a majority in the other House, as long as there was a large party united in favour of some persons excluded from the Government who, if they were included in it, would have brought to it the weight of their counsel and assistance. After my statement, to which Her Majesty listened with most gracious attention, I concluded the humble recommendation it was my duty to submit to Her Majesty with the request that I might be enabled to communicate with Viscount Palmerston, for the purpose of obtaining, if possible, his concurrence and assistance in the duty which I was about, with Her Majesty's permission, to undertake to perform. I stated also to Her Majesty that I could not expect to obtain that concurrence on the part of the noble Viscount unless he were permitted to bring with him one or two of those with whom he had recently acted. I felt, notwithstanding some personal and political differences, that the abilities of some of those Gentlemen might have added materially to the strength of the Government, and its power of debate in the House of Commons, and that it would be most desirable to associate them in the Ministry, not only on account of the support and countenance which they would give to the noble Viscount in joining the Administration, but also on account of their own individual, and personal merit and experience. I stated to Her Majesty that, in my humble judgment, without such assistance—without some extraneous assistance—I did not feel myself in a condition to promise to Her Majesty that strong Government, assured of a majority in both Houses of Parliament, which I thought at the present moment it was most desirable, if possible, that Her Majesty should 1343 have. I was bound in this to consider, not personal or party feelings, but that which was for the interest of the Crown and the welfare of the country; and first and prominently for the welfare of the country and the honour of the Crown I placed the necessity of having, if possible, a strong and united Government. I therefore submitted to Her Majesty my humble advice that, failing toy endeavours to form such a Government as could hold out a promise of strength as well as of unity, Her Majesty should carefully consider whether it was possible to form any other combination of public men by whom that object was more likely to be achieved. Where these men were to be sought for, what that combination was to be, was a subject upon which, of course, I did not presume to offer an opinion to Her Majesty. In venturing to offer that suggestion, as one which I believed to be for the good of the country, I concluded by assuring Her Majesty that, strongly as I felt the difficulties of the position, if such a combination—giving greater strength than any which I could hope to bring to Her Majesty's support—were found to be impracticable, then, at all hazards and under all circumstances, Her Majesty should not be left without a Government; but that when such other combinations should have been tried and found to be unsuccessful, then with better hopes of Parliamentary support—but whether with or without better hopes—I would answer for myself and for those noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen with whom I have the happiness of acting, that, at all events, the country should not be without a Government, and that at all hazards, at all risks, and at all sacrifices, our humble services should be placed unreservedly at Her Majesty's command.
My Lords, I may take this opportunity of making a statement which I am sure, so far as your Lordships are concerned, is quite unnecessary, but in consequence of rumours which have gone forth, that upon that occasion Her Majesty sought to fetter my discretion by some restriction. Those who know the respect which Her Majesty has for the constitution, and the strict and rigid manner in which She walks in the light and in the paths of that constitution, will be well aware that such a report is unfounded; but I feel myself bound in duty to state, for the information of those who have not the same means of becoming acquainted with the facts, that not only no obstacle whatever—that not only no re- 1344 striction was set to my proceedings, but that not the slightest difficulty was made as to any one subject or recommendation, either with regard to men or measures, which I felt it my duty to submit to Her Majesty.
My Lords, in consequence of this interview, which lasted from half-past Eleven until nearly One o'clock, I called upon the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston), whom I found at his house. I immediately communicated to him the invitation with which I was charged upon Her Majesty's part. I found, as I anticipated, that the noble Viscount would have been exceedingly unwilling—nay, indeed, that he felt it would have been impossible, without the concurrence and co-operation of some of his friends—to give to me that assistance and support which otherwise he did not express himself disinclined to afford. I stated at once that I anticipated that feeling on his part, and that I deemed it perfectly natural; and I named to him the two among his late colleagues with whom I thought he would most readily consent and desire to act, and who might have the least difficulty, from their previous connection with the great Conservative party, in joining the Administration, although between them and that party there had been, and there might still be, some points of difference. I named to the noble Viscount the two men with whom I conceived he would be most desirous of acting, and who might have the least difficulty, from their antecedents, in connecting themselves again with the Conservative party. I found—for the noble Viscount was good enough to state to me—that, with regard to any personal considerations, he could have no objection to act in a Government of which I should be the head; and he accompanied his observations with obliging expressions towards me, with an allusion to the long acquaintance and friendship which had subsisted between us, We went so far as to discuss the particular position in the Government in which the noble Viscount should be placed; and I stated to him then, with perfect frankness, that which I am about to state to your Lordships. I stated to him that I did not think it was possible for any Minister to combine with the lead of the House of Commons the duties of an extensive and laborious department; and I obtained from him his concurrence in that opinion—that, with the lead of the House of Commons, the arduous and important duties of Minister for War were wholly incompatible. I was enabled, by 1345 an act of self-abnegation and forbearance for which I think my right hon. Friend deserves the highest credit—I was enabled to state, upon the part of my right hon. Friend Mr. Disraeli, that, with regard to the lead of the House of Commons, with which he had been honoured upon a former occasion, in the presence of the noble Viscount, he would waive all claim and pretension to that position, and would willingly and readily act under the direction of a statesman of the noble Viscount's ability and experience; and my right hon. Friend added, what I think is hardly less to his credit, that, not only was he willing and ready to waive a right to which—considering his relationship with the Conservative party—he was fairly entitled, in favour of the noble Viscount, but that he hoped such a surrender might render more easy the accession of two of the friends of the noble Viscount, who might be willing to act under the noble Viscount, though they might be less willing to act under the leadership of my right hon. Friend. I quitted the noble Viscount after about half an hour's interview. Her Majesty was awaiting the result of that interview, and I informed him that Her Majesty, on her return to Windsor, would leave a messenger in waiting to receive, at the earliest possible time, the result of the communication which he undertook to make to Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Sidney Herbert. I certainly retired from the interview with a very strong impression upon my mind that the noble Viscount was ready and willing, if he should obtain the concurrence of his late colleagues, to join, in unison with them, the Administration which I was endeavouring to form; and the statement he made to me was, that of course he could give no definite answer till he had had the opportunity of communicating with them, but that he hoped in a very short time, probably before the post went out, but at all events in a very few hours, to convey to me the final decision at which he arrived. I did not hear from the noble Viscount until half-past nine o'clock at night—my interview with him having ended shortly before two o'clock—but at half-past nine, just as I had written to the noble Viscount that it was impossible for Me longer to detain the messenger if he was to arrive at Windsor that night, I received with considerable surprise a note from the noble Viscount. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with the precise terms of that note, but it certainly did surprise me 1346 receive from the noble Viscount, after a delay of so long a time, a note merely stating that, upon full and complete reflection, he had come to the conclusion that if he were to join my Government he could not give to it that support which I was good enough to think his presence would insure—that he had communicated with Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Sidney Herbert, according to my desire, but that they would write their own answers to me, and he thought it better that they should do so. At half-past twelve that night I received a note from M r. Gladstone, and between seven and eight the following morning I received one from Mr. Sidney Herbert, both written in kind and courteous terms—terms of which I certainly could have no reason whatever to complain; but I certainly was struck with this expression in Mr. Gladstone's note—after stating that Lord Palmerston had communicated to him the wish I had expressed that he should form part of the Administration, he added—"I also learned front him (Lord Palmerston) that he is not of opinion that he can himself render you useful service in that Administration." Now, my Lords, I confess I received that intimation with some surprise, because I had reason to suppose that when, at two o'clock, I left the noble Viscount, his consent depended in a great measure upon the concurrence of his late colleagues; but at half-past twelve the same night I received this note from Mr. Gladstone, stating that the noble Viscount, in communicating my message to him, had stated at the same time that he did not think he should be able to lend effective concurrence and co-operation to the Government to be formed by me. My Lords, in that state of things—having received from the noble Viscount and his two friends the answers to which I have referred, declining to form any part of my Administration—the noble Viscount having made no objection upon any political grounds, or on account of any contemplated measures, or on account of the position which it was intended he himself should hold, or with reference to any of the colleagues with whom he was about to be connected—I was then in a position to state to Her Majesty that, the first contingency to which I had adverted having taken place. I thought it was for the interest of the country and for Her Majesty's convenience that She should adopt the subsequent course which I had advised—namely, that of ascertaining whether it was possible to form any other 1347 stronger or more effective Administration. My Lords, further than that I have no personal knowledge. I quitted Her Majesty with deep and very sincere expressions of regret on my part that, under existing circumstances, it was not possible for me to do Her that service which I would gladly have rendered—that I could not assure to Her Majesty that strong Government which it was absolutely essential for the interests of the country that She should have; but that, in the event of no further combination being able to be made, I was then, as I had stated, ready to offer to Her Majesty my humble and devoted services.
My Lords, I may be asked why, having referred merely to the noble Viscount, who had been designated by public opinion as the person entitled to the first consideration and possessing considerable influence in the House of Commons, I did not seek for possible assistance and co-operation in some other quarter. In the presence of the late, and, as I understand, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon), I will state to your Lordships precisely the advice which I took the liberty of addressing to Her Majesty upon that head. I stated to Her Majesty that I conceived it would have been an immense advantage to any Government to have among its Members one who is perfectly conversant with the whole diplomacy of the last two years, and with the feelings and proceedings of the various Courts of Europe. I stated that, with that view among others, I had suggested to Her Majesty that I should apply for the co-operation of Viscount Palmerston. I took the liberty to add, with regard to my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs (the Earl of Clarendon), that I entertained the highest opinion of the ability, the industry, and the zeal with which he had discharged the duties of his office. I added also a hope—what I believe the noble Earl will say I was justified in adding—that no personal feeling existed which might upon any occasion offer the slightest impediment to the possibility of our acting together in the same Government, but that, on the contrary, I believed there existed between us a sincere and mutual regard; but I felt it my duty to say further, that, desirous as I might have been of obtaining the co-operation and assistance of one so experienced and able as the noble Earl, the political connections of that noble Earl—the political relation in 1348 which he stood towards most of those with whom I was in the habit of acting, and his political connection with others with whom I was not acting, or about to act—did not justify me in making any direct application or overture to him, even if I had reason to suppose those overtures would have been likely to be favourably entertained; and that I did not feel myself justified in making such overtures in such a quarter —whatever might be my personal esteem for the noble Earl—unless I could do so under Her Majesty's express injunction, sanction, and command. Whatever might have been the consequence of such an application, I must say that the only part of the course I have pursued to which I look back with the least doubt or incertitude is with respect to the propriety of my abstaining from making any communication either to the noble Earl directly or to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) near him, from whom I am sure that, whatever the features of the conjuncture, the part I took will receive a dispassionate and generous construction.
My Lords, I have now explained to you the circumstances under which I felt myself compelled to resign undertaking the responsibility of forming a Government, for the strength and permanence of which I could see no security. I have nothing to do with subsequent transactions. The noble Viscount, it appears, has found himself justified, and has thought himself enabled, to submit to Her Majesty the names of a Cabinet which he thinks is more likely to secure and to command the confidence and support of a majority of the two Houses of Parliament. It is not for me to express an opinion how far the noble Viscount has judged correctly in that inference or not. I will not for a moment suppose he does not believe that he was able to recommend to Her Majesty a Government possessing that strength and entitled to that confidence, because any other supposition would lay the noble Viscount open to an imputation which I am sure is most unfounded—that in declining to join the Administration I had formed he was rather influenced by personal considerations affecting the position he might hold than by an earnest and anxious desire to form a strong and united Administration. Of such motives I wholly and absolutely acquit the noble Viscount, and I cannot doubt that he has full confidence in the degree of public support and approval which the Government, as now formed, is likely to 1349 obtain. I have now offered to your Lordships—perhaps at too great length—but I thought it desirable not to omit the slightest details which might throw light upon my motives—an explanation of the circumstances under which I abandoned my endeavours to form an Administration. I endeavoured before I came to that conclusion, and in acting upon it, strictly and impartially to examine—as in the presence and with the aid of the Searcher of all hearts—the motives which influenced my whole conduct—to satisfy myself that I was influenced by no desire of unduly grasping at office, and to satisfy myself, on the other hand, that I was not timidly shrinking from the responsibility which fairly ought to rest upon me. My Lords, I should shrink from no responsibility except from that which I felt to be a responsibility I was likely to incur—that of having offered to Her Majesty a Government which had not in itself sufficient elements of strength and firmness, thereby subjecting my friends and the country to mortification and disappointment, and adding at this critical moment to the embarrassment of the country. My Lords, I may have erred. If I have so erred, I bow to the decision of my friends, my party, and my country. I may have exhibited a too great timidity in taking upon myself responsibility, though I think that, whatever errors may have been imputed to me in political life, they have been rather in the opposite direction. I may have disappointed the over-sanguine and over-zealous expectations of those over whose interests I am bound to watch, with whom I am connected by every tie of political and personal friendship, but whom, much as I desire to please and to gratify, I desire still more effectively and conclusively to serve. It was my opinion that, under the circumstances, the great Conservative party should not prematurely and rashly undertake the responsibility of administering the affairs of this country at the present portentous crisis. Upon that belief I acted honestly, conscientiously, and to the best of my judgment. My justification or my condemnation must rest in the minds of those among my friends and among my countrymen whom I have alike desired, if not to gratify, at least to serve; and all I have to add now, after thanking your Lordships for the patience with which you have listened to me, is my hope that, to whatever hands at the present moment the destinies of this great Empire may be intrusted, 1350 they may be such as will deliberately, efficiently, and with the full and justified confidence of the country carry on the great and awful war in which we are now engaged, and bring it at no distant period to a conclusion which may be alike honourable to the arms of the allied forces, and may, at the same time, permanently secure and effectually guarantee the maintenance of the independence, the integrity, and the tranquillity of Europe. I will only add further, with reference to what has fallen from the noble Earl at the head of the present Government in this House, that there will be a deep responsibility attaching to any Minister who shall conclude a peace, however earnestly called for, which does not secure to this country and to Europe these great results. My Lords, a responsibility as deep, if not still deeper, will attach to him who, after such results shall have been obtained, shall continue for a single moment the miseries and horrors of an unnecessary war.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, after what has fallen from the noble Earl I feel that it is incumbent upon me to address a few words to your Lordships; partly because, although I have not been placed in a situation precisely similar to that of the noble Earl, it has been so far similar that it has connected me in some degree with the transactions of the last few days, in which imperious circumstances—at least, circumstances which I considered imperious—namely, commands emanating from the highest authority in the realm, compelled me to take a part which otherwise I should have been glad to decline, in combination with others, with reference to the formation of a Government. I should not be disposed, under any circumstances, but still less after the conclusion of the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down, to attempt to review those motives of which he has thought it right to give a very full description as having actuated his conduct. I am not disposed to analyse or to impugn motives which, whether appreciated or not, I am confident had their origin in an earnest desire to assist Her Majesty in the crisis which had occurred, and which induced the noble Earl to decline the task which Her Majesty had intrusted to Ids hands, and intrusted to him, unaccompanied, as the noble Earl has properly and fairly stated, by anything like restriction; still less, my Lords, do I think myself competent to examine or analyse the motives 1351 which induced what I must consider a most extraordinary majority in the other House of Parliament, to combine in support of what I must consider a most extraordinary vote, which had the effect of compelling Her Majesty's late Government to tender their resignations to Her Majesty. My Lords, that that majority should have existed may be a matter of surprise to the noble Earl, and may be a matter of surprise to others; but it was undoubtedly a majority composed of a large number of those whom the noble Earl boasts, and not unnaturally boasts, constitute his permanent strength in the House of Commons, and which permanent strength was exerted without exception to make up that majority. It was aided undoubtedly by a strong feeling in the country, of which I do not complain, operating upon its representatives, and which was produced by the amount of distress that had unfortunately befallen the army in the Crimea. All of these motives operating together has produced a vote in the other House of Parliament, which I am much disappointed, if, at some future period, that House itself does not regret. I have no desire, however, to impugn that transaction and the motives which led to it, or to discuss the principles and views upon which, combined, that large number of Gentlemen were brought on that night only to vote. I now come, my Lords, to that which would have compelled me under any circumstances, to address a few words to your Lordships. The noble Earl has given you a detailed and, I have no reason to doubt, an exact narrative of all the part he took in this transaction; and that which I have to state to your Lordships commences where the statement of the noble Earl ends. My Lords, it was not till after the noble Earl had been understood distinctly by Her Majesty to have declined the task of forming a Government at this moment, and without holding out to Her Majesty the hope that he saw any means by which he might be enabled to form a strong Government—it was not till after that information had been distinctly conveyed to Her Majesty that it was Her Majesty's pleasure to invite me to Windsor for the purpose of conversing with me upon the state in which the country was placed, and of learning whether it was in my power to do that which, if it had been in my power to do I could not have brought myself to decline—namely, to undertake the task of endeavouring to ascertain, from the views, 1352 opinions, and conversation of others, what were the prospects of Her Majesty being extricated from a situation, not only painful to Herself, but directly and immediately injurious to the best interests of the country. My Lords, in the course of the conversation in which that task was intrusted to me I had frequent occasion to ask this question of myself—of what use can I be to Her Majesty? and the answer which rose to my mind was that, though situated as I was I could undertake nothing of myself, it was due to Her Majesty to give Her the best advice in my power, and to endeavour to open some channels of communication for the purpose of leading as early as possible to the formation of a Government. I therefore took the opportunity of communicating with many eminent persons, all of them persons essential, in my opinion, to the formation of an efficient Government, and some of them the very persons to whom the noble Earl himself, at once, and in the first instance, looked as essential to the formation of such a Government as this country ought to have. After I had reported to Her Majesty the result of the conversations I had had with these various persons, Her Majesty took into consideration the state of the country, the state of parties, and, above all, the composition of that majority by which the crisis was produced which had put a termination to Her Majesty's late Government. She had already looked to the composition of that majority. She had already, perceiving that that majority was composed not merely in a great part, but that the actual majority of that majority was composed of the political friends of the noble Earl—She had already, pursuing that constitutional course to which the noble Earl has borne so just a testimony, and which in every crisis, has characterised Her Majesty's proceedings—She had already had recourse to the noble Earl, and had satisfied herself that he, as the representative of that majority, was not prepared at the moment to form a Government which he could recommend as fit to carry on the affairs of the country with success and with the support of Parliament. My Lords. Her Majesty then, advised of the state of feeling existing among those gentlemen, naturally looked to the next person who had contributed, though in a different way, and by a different course, to the crisis which had occurred by the part he had taken in withdrawing from Her Majesty's service previous to the date of Mr. Roe- 1353 buck's Motion. My noble Friend—I am now alluding to the noble Lord with whom I have long been politically connected, and connected also by ties of the warmest friendship—my noble Friend, when he withdrew from the Government, did not endeavour to carry with him any of its supporters, or seek to exert his influence to diminish the majority by which the Government with which he was associated was supported; still the mere withdrawal from the Government of one so honoured and so justly distinguished in the councils of Her Majesty, did certainly point attention to him as a person to whom Her Majesty should have recourse in the difficulty in which She was placed, for the purpose of ascertaining if he could form a Government, and extricate Her Majesty from the difficulty in which She found herself. My noble Friend took time to reflect upon the matter; and when I say that he took time for reflection, I mean that, whatever his first impression was, he took time, and very properly, to consider the course he ought to adopt. In the same manner I think my noble Friend at the head of the Government now forming was also right in taking time for reflection before he declined the proposition of the noble Earl, because, in the state in which the country now is, I think there is no public man who ought rashly or hastily to decline any offer which might be supposed by persons for whom he had respect, and much more by the highest person in the realm, to be the best fitted to provide for the present exigencies of the country. But after a time my noble Friend also declined the task of forming a Government. I, then, think that Her Majesty exercised a wise discretion in sending for my noble Friend the noble Viscount at the head of the present Government, and charging him to undertake, by such a combination as Her Majesty had been led to imagine might be entered into, the formation of a Government, not wanted alone by Her Majesty, but by the country as well. My noble Friend the noble Viscount undertook that task, and he has undertaken it successfully. When I say successfully, I do not mean with any certainty of that success at home or abroad which a man would indeed be bold to predict in these times for any Government whatever—even, I may say, for a Government conducted by a person of the great talents and the great experience of the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) himself. But, although the character of the 1354 times and the state of parties involve us in a state of uncertainty, the noble Viscount has undertaken the formation of a Government with that degree of confidence in success which justified him in making an attempt to supply the great chasm in the Government of the country which has been created by the circumstances of the last few days.
My Lords, the noble Viscount did me the honour, and he did others the honour, to ask our advice as to the course be would be justified in pursuing;—whether, with the persons who were prepared to act with him and under him, he or they ought or ought not to undertake the task. I am bound to state that as far as I am concerned, I gave my advice without hesitation; because, my Lords, the question that presented itself to me was, not what Government the country was to have, but whether the country was to have any Government at all; and that, too, at a time when the state of public affairs, the state of all the public departments, and the state of all our foreign relations require not only a Government but one that shall be formed instantly and act efficiently. My Lords, I gave that advice; and having given it, I undoubtedly feel that the Government of the noble Viscount is entitled to any humble assistance and feeble support that it may be in my power to give it, and that support and that assistance I shall undoubtedly give. That support and assistance I should have gladly given to any Government; but I submitted to my friends whether any aid I could give would not be more effectually rendered by consulting my own taste, my own inclination, and my years, and allowing myself to form no part of the Government about to be constructed. My Lords, they judged otherwise— whether right or wrong, they judged otherwise, and I have bowed to their decision. It remains for me therefore only to state, on their behalf and on my own, that they have undertaken their task at this moment with no undue confidence in themselves, and with no undue hopes as to the support they are to receive from the country; but they have undertaken it in firm reliance on the patriotism of the country at large and of the two Houses of Parliament. My Lords, the necessity to which I have alluded, that some immediate arrangement should take place, has every day manifested itself mere and more, and the evils of any long delay, added to that which has already existed, would, I can confi- 1355 dently state, have materially impaired the confidence of Europe in this country. For what, my Lords, could have been a more shameful spectacle to present to the eyes of the world than that at a moment of greater unanimity of opinion in the country than has ever occurred before upon any great question with respect to the prosecution of this war, there should not be found the means in England of carrying on a Government by which that war could be prosecuted? I say it was due to the policy of the country to have a Government, if formed at all, formed speedily and as effectually as the materials at hand admitted. My Lords, I feel that it is scarcely necessary for me, after what the noble Earl opposite has already said, to add that Her Majesty's Government will rely not only upon their own exertions—not only upon the support they may derive from partisans—but that they will rely upon the feeling and patriotism of those who are their nominal opponents. My Lords, there will be no difficulty in giving to Her Majesty's Government that support which is necessary for carrying on the war without abandoning that right which noble Lords in this House and hon. Gentlemen in the other House of Parliament have to express their opinions upon particular subjects as they arise in connection with the mode in which the war has been conducted. Her Majesty's Government will rely upon the assistance of all parties in both Houses of Parliament, and they hope that any discussions upon the policy of the country will be carried on with that temper and that caution which I am sure it must be their disposition to exercise. But, my Lords, it is not in the field of politics alone, it is not in this House alone, nor is it in the other House of Parliament alone, that a great duty has to be performed. Every person in this country has a duty to perform at this moment. In a great measure we must, undoubtedly, depend for the issue of the great cause in which we are engaged with one of the greatest and most powerful empires in the world upon the courage of our soldiers, the courage of our seamen, and the ability of our commanders. But be it remembered that it is not they alone who are actively engaged in the contest—that the contest is one of representative government against despotism, and that if we are not enabled to oppose to the energy of that despotism those peculiar powers which a representative government contains, or ought to con- 1356 tain, we shall fail in that contest. If we do not procure that unanimity by patriotism, by argument, and by similarity of opinion which despotism is able at all times and in all periods to command, despotism will be too powerful for liberty, and the moral to be learnt from the transactions of these times will be the feebleness and the vices of a free and representative government. The only mode by which that can be prevented—the only mode by which a different view can be presented to the eyes of the world of the character of the constitution of this country is by the united effort of every man in it; and it is the duty, not only of Members of this House, not only of Members in the other House of Parliament, but also of persons exercising influence out of it—of those very eminent and distinguished persons who, by their talents, are connected with one of the noblest institutions of this country—the free press of this country—it is the duty of these individuals, and it is the duty of all persons who by any accident of position or talent command the confidence and the approbation of the different circles, great or small, in which they live—it is the duty of all these, by every act, word, and deed, at this moment, to take care that they say nothing, that they do nothing, that they write nothing that can have the effect of impairing the national strength, or of interrupting the action of the national cause in the great contest in which it is engaged. And, my Lords, if this country shall succeed in this struggle, I trust that no man, on reflection, will forego his share in the national triumph, when that triumph is established, by having done anything that could retard it; or if, unhappily, there should be a failure, that he will be aware of having done nothing that can saddle his own conscience and his own mind with the reproach of having by any act, or word, or deed, contributed to that failure. I hope, my Lords, we have more prospects of success than of failure; and I agree with my noble Friend (Earl Granville) in the excellent statement he has made to your Lordships, that we may have gone, and may at the present moment be going, too far in despondency, as we undoubtedly have gone too far in anticipation of success. Whatever may be the state of the Government—composed as it now is without possessing the assistance of noble Lords for whom I entertain both affection and respect, and for whom I must say that, 1357 whatever may be the public injury and the public objection to inquiries such as that proposed to be instituted, personally they will have to gain from that inquiry, as far as it will be found that they have nothing at all to fear from all that has been falsely, rashly, unjustly, and partially attributed to them—whatever may be the constitution of the Government, whether constructed as it now is, and relying upon the support of this House and the country, I trust that it may establish the means of prosecuting the war with vigour and of carrying it forward to a successful termination. I believe, my Lords, that even should the Government be unable to carry on this war to a successful issue, those Gentlemen who form part of it will have done their duty to the country at the present moment by stepping into the gap, and showing the enemy on the one hand, and the Allies of this country on the other, that in England there is no absence of power to form an Administration; and I will add, before I sit down, that that which has also governed me in the advice I have ventured to give to Her Majesty has been the prospect of securing by the arrangement which has now been completed the uninterrupted continuation and maintenance of those negotiations with our Allies which have been for the last two years conducted with increasing success, from month to mouth, under the auspices of my noble Friend near me (the Earl of Clarendon), unimpeached and unattacked—which are in a fair way, I believe in my conscience, more and more to unite the whole of Europe in that cause which is the cause of the whole of Europe—and which, by bringing other Powers into union with this country, cannot fail, whatever may have happened hitherto, to effect the great object for which this war, with the unanimous consent of this country, was undertaken—a war entered into solely for great national objects, and pursued solely for the purpose of obtaining a permanent peace. Before I conclude, I wish to do justice to the motives which have actuated the noble Earl opposite, and to the conciliatory spirit which he has throughout expressed towards individuals; and I trust that in the present situation of the country that spirit of forbearance will continue to animate the noble Earl, and will continue to be exhibited in this House and in Parliament.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I cannot consent to the Motion for 1358 the adjournment of this House without expressing my cordial concurrence with the noble Marquess who has just sat down in the satisfaction he has expressed that that interregnum in the Government is over, which could not have lasted much longer without inflicting most serious injury upon the public service. I congratulate your Lordships that the time has passed away in which we have witnessed, and the nations of Europe have witnessed, such unseemly scenes as have recently been displayed in this country. We have exhibited to the nations of Europe the spectacle of a Government carrying out a great war with a noble Ally against a most colossal Power without any inherent vigour and unanimity—on the contrary we have shown them a Government divided against itself, and carrying on a civil war within its own camp. Those days have passed away, I hope not again to recur; and I congratulate your Lordships, with the noble Marquess opposite, upon that satisfactory circumstance. My Lords, the noble Marquess, whenever he addresses your Lordships, has so much experience in elocution and so much clearness of diction that it is almost impossible to misunderstand his meaning; but yet there was one passage in his speech which I think is open to some misconception, although I believe it has been understood as he intended it should be understood upon this side of the House. It is just possible that the noble Marquess may have been understood to mean by the expression to which I refer that the present war is a war of Representative Governments against Despotism. Now, I understood as he followed this remark up by subsequent observations, to have made it merely in speaking of the unseemly and unfortunate position in which our Government—a constitutional Government—stood in comparison with despotic Governments, while the unfortunate scenes to which he referred were taking place here. That is what I understood him to mean, and not that this war was one in which the principle of constitutional Government was arrayed against despotism.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Allow me to explain my meaning. What I meant to say was, that the principle of Representative Government was now undergoing an ordeal, and that we ought to be showing to the world the advantages which we claim as the peculiar merit of a Representative Government, and which I 1359 hope it has, as contrasted to a despotic Government.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
Yes, so I understood the phrase, but it certainly seemed to me open to misapprehension, and I thought it right to give the noble Marquess the opportunity of explanation. My Lords, I am glad to see that Her Majesty has been able to obtain, with the assistance of the noble Marquess and others, a Government which will carry on the affairs of this country. There is one, and only one, Member of this House (Lord Panmure) who is added to the list of Cabinet Ministers having seats in this House; the remaining Members of the Cabinet in your Lordships' House are the same as have for a long time held office. I must congratulate your Lordships upon having now, as a leader of the Government in this House, a noble Friend of mine (Earl Granville), who, I know, will conduct the debates of this House not only with ability, but with that temper and dignity which should never be lost sight of in this place. With respect to the new Member who has been introduced by the recent changes into the Cabinet (Lord Panmure), it would be unfair in any way to prejudge his intentions or his capacity for the most important position which he has accepted, and the affairs of which he is about to administer. But, whatever his qualifications may be, he cannot have taken that office without a firm conviction that the eyes of the entire country, and not of this country alone, but of all Europe besides, are fixed, and will be fixed, almost exclusively upon him. His is the office which at this moment attracts the attention of all the nations of Europe. Upon him and upon his very first acts they will fix their eyes with intense anxiety; and I trust that the noble Lord who has had the courage—and a most laudable courage it is—to accept at this moment such an office will carry out his duties with a vigour without which there must ensue almost ruin instead of benefit to the nation. Entertaining these views of the important duties of his office, the noble Lord will excuse me for making a few observations, so soon after his acceptance of office, upon what I think—perhaps erroneously—may take place before long with respect to facts which may be brought before him. The other night a noble Earl who sits on the second bench below the Government (Earl Grey) addressed to your Lordships, as he always does, with great ability and great knowledge of 1360 the subject upon which he spoke, a very elaborate speech upon the faults of the present constitution of the army, and he told your Lordships how those faults might, in many instances, be remedied. I did not rise when that noble Earl sat down, because, after him, a noble Lord (Ellen-borough), addressed your Lordships who was far more worthy to be heard upon this subject than I could be. But it must not be supposed that, though silent, I approved all the noble Earl's suggestions—that is, supposing I rightly understood his meaning. I believe I am not wrong in supposing that it has been for a long period the tradition of the party of which the noble Earl is an ornament that the constitution of the army is not only faulty in many of its details, but that the very principle upon which it is governed requires reform. Now, my Lords, the principle upon which the army is now governed is one, I think, which cannot be remedied and cannot be altered to the advantage of the public or of the army itself. The army and the patronage of the army are now under the power of the Crown, and the Commander in Chief of that army is appointed by the Crown. He is removable, or supposed to be removable, by no ephemeral Ministry, and, being not liable to any such removal, he is almost in the situation of a judge, sitting independently and impartially to administer the patronage of the army. If my impression is an accurate one, the noble Earl would reform the army in that respect, and would assimilate its government more to that of the navy. This is what I understood the noble Earl to mean, and I think any such reform would be the most damaging which this country ever entered upon. If such a case as this occurred—if a Minister ever proposed such a change—I do not think any Conservative in this country would do his duty if he did not oppose such a reform, however and wherever it might be proposed. My impression and conviction are, that if such a change took place—if the administration of the patronage of the army were assimilated to that of the navy, it would become the same hotbed of jobbing and trickery which has been, unfortunately, for many years a reproach to the Admiralty of this country. I say, it has been a reproach, and a just reproach, to the Admiralty; and I myself can recollect that one of the earliest steps I took in public life showed me without doubt how far that system of corruption prevailed 1361 under the peculiar administration of the navy. If I may be excused for speaking of myself, I may mention that in the year 1836—I think it was the year in which Her Majesty came to the throne—I, accompanied by a most distinguished Admiral, Sir George Cockburn, proceeded to Portsmouth upon a requisition of the electors to stand for that borough. At that time your Lordships will remember that a Whig Administration was in power. I mention my colleague, Sir George Cockburn, because it was impossible to find throughout all England a man more popular, more respected—I may say, more adored—than he was by all the persons and in all the places connected more immediately with the naval service. If you had chosen a candidate throughout all England to represent a town containing a great arsenal and great naval establishments, it would have been impossible to find a man more fitted than Sir George Cockburn. What happened? At the very first house we entered at Portsmouth in the course of our canvass, the voter, with more sincerity than civility, almost laughed in our faces. He said—"You come down here upon the Tory interest! You come here to oppose the Government candidates! Why, it's perfectly absurd! The Government interest in this borough, arising from the dockyard and arsenal, is so immense that it is quite impossible you should have the slightest chance." We were told the same wherever we went, and we naturally lost the election; and I remember, as a young man, my impression was that, whatever advantages our constitutional government possesses, an election in an arsenal town like Portsmouth certainly furnished as good an exemplification of its disadvantages as any one could conceive. Since that time I have heard nothing which could alter my opinion with respect to the disadvantages of the naval administration; and, therefore, if the present Government, or if the Secretary for War, connected as he is with the party to which the noble Earl belongs—if he should ever listen to such a proposal—or if he should initiate such a proposal, I trust your Lordships in this House, and I am sure the Conservative party throughout this country, will oppose it to their utmost. My Lords, a great deal has been said lately, and naturally said, about the army. It is a department of the service which at this moment attracts public attention in a high degree. The noble Lord who is now intrusted 1362 with this department, in common with most of his colleagues, perhaps pays more deference than I should think it right to pay to what is called the fourth estate of the realm, a very able and active journal—I mean the Times. My Lords, I believe that journal to have been the first promoter of the expedition to the Crimea, at the time when it was made, at an improper season of the year, and before the army was properly provided with transports and other necessaries. I believe that journal urged the Government—a weak and feeble Government—to enter upon that expedition; and therefore entertaining that opinion, and with that conviction, I think I do not overrate the power of that able journal upon the present Government, which is almost the same as that to which it has succeeded. Well, what has been the endeavour of that journal with respect to the constitution of the army? It has directed one unvaried torrent of abuse against every part and parcel of that army, excepting against that great part of it which nobody attempts to find fault with—I mean the gallant soldiers who have fought in its ranks. But it has constantly abused its constitution as regards the officers; and here I may say that I was sorry to hear the noble Earl the other night make some observations which, I hear, have been received with pain at the military circles in this town. The noble Earl appeared to find fault with the officers of the army, thinking them not as efficient as they ought to be and might be. Now, I confess I cannot understand bow any man can find fault with the regimental officers of the army, for it appears to me that they have in every way done their duty, not only exhibiting the bravery inherent in our race, but also carrying out their administrative duties faithfully and well under the most painful circumstances. But, to revert to the observations of the journal to which I am referring, and which I believe has such influence with the Government, the song has been the same in it for the last week—that the constitution of the army is too aristocratic; that the regiments are given over to the aristocracy; that the aristocracy swarms in the army? and that that is the fault and that is one of the principal causes of the misfortunes which we have to lament. Now, my Lords, before you enter into an argument, it is certainly your duty to see that your premises are the same as those of your opponent. At the present mo- 1363 ment I am under a difficulty, which is, to understand what the journal in question means by the word "aristocratic." The word has various meanings. At the beginning of the French Revolution, under the Reign of Terror, every man was an aristocrat who wore a pair of breeches; a little time afterwards the term was only applied to those who were decently dressed; but it was always maintained as an offensive term in that country during that period, and a person had only to be pointed out to the crowd as an aristocrat, and he was pretty sure to be summarily dealt with. What, then, does the Times mean by the term? Does it mean, when it speaks of the aristocracy, to refer to the Peerage and to the sons and brothers of Peers? That is the common acceptation of the term; because to go into the nobility of ancient families and trace distant relationships would be quite impossible in such a case. I take leave to suppose, then, that the Times means by the aristocracy the Peerage—their sons and their brothers. Now, the statement of the Times—no longer ago than yesterday—is that Lord Somebody—they give a nickname—is able to go into a regiment and buy himself from one rank to the other, and not only one, but any number of noble Lords. This induced me to take up the Army List and see how the case stood, and whether the army really swarms, as is said, with your Lordships' sons and brothers. I thought the fairest way would be to take the first regiment which stood on the list—the Grenadier Guards—consisting of three battalions and numbering about 100 officers. I took the period when our forces were sent to the East, and the Army List I quote from was, therefore, of May last. I find that, out of the above 100 officers in Her Majesty's First Grenadier Guards, only eighteen were connected by blood directly with your Lordships. That is a proportion of about one-sixth, which I do not think will be considered a very great and disproportionate number in a regiment particularly charged with guarding the throne of an ancient monarchy. I say, I do not think there is anything striking or alarming in such a proportion. Well, I went on and took the first ten regiments of infantry—the pith and marrow of your army. In the first ten regiments of the line there were altogether only seven sons and brothers of peers; in the seven regiments of heavy dragoons there were but three offi- 1364 cers connected with members of this House. Commanding the 1st Royals was Sir James Kempt, now, unfortunately, no more, who was certainly one of the most distinguished officers ever seen in the British army, and at the same time sprung from the humblest order of the people. Well, in this regiment, comprising two battalions, how many peers and sons and brothers of peers were there? One. In the 2nd regiment of the line there was one; in the 3rd, none; in the 4th, none; in the 5th, none; in the 6th, none; and in the 7th there were four. And, now, with respect to the point of their being so soon able to get promotion. Among those four was Captain Hare, who was killed at Alma, and who was forty-five when he met with his death on the field of battle. In the 8th regiment there were none of the brothers or sons of peers; in the 9th there was one; and in the 10th none; so that in the first ten regiments of the line there were only seven sons or brothers of peers connected with your Lordships' House. In the first seven regiments of heavy dragoons there were only three such officers; and in the last ten regiments of infantry there were still fewer—only five sons or brothers of peers. This, I think, is sufficient to show that, if I am right in supposing the Times to mean by the words "aristocracy of England," the immediate blood relations of your Lordships, there never was a greater misrepresentation made before the face of any country; and if they argue that the army is to be reformed and improved by any change which may banish these few men from the regiments of the army, they are entirely deceiving the people they address, and the Government, who may possibly put faith in their representations. But it appears that it is not the infantry or other regiments which may or may not have officers belonging to the aristocracy which want reform. There are other departments who require it. There are the medical and the Commissariat departments, and I do not think in either of those there are any members to be found connected with your Lordships' House. My Lords, I mention this, because I know that a pressure will be put upon the noble Lord opposite, who has just succeeded to the important office of Secretary for War; and I have therefore ventured, on the first day of his appearing in this House, to make these observations, hoping and trusting that the noble Lord, when he undertakes to make those important reforms in the 1365 constitution of the army which are undoubtedly necessary, and which should be made without loss of time, will, above all things, respect that main principle of keeping the army and the patronage of the army in the hands of the Crown, and that he will not be misled by any popular cry—however his colleagues may have been so during the last year—in meeting those difficulties with which he will certainly have to cope, and which no man more than myself hopes and trusts he will successfully overcome.
§ LORD PANMURE
My Lords, after the observations of the noble Earl who has just addressed your Lordships, I feel it would be impossible for me to avoid making a few observations—(and they shall be but a few)—before the Motion for adjournment is put to the House. I perfectly concur in an observation which has fallen from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), to the effect that no man should undertake the duties of an office of great responsibility under the Crown without endeavouring to satisfy the public as to the grounds upon which he has undertaken that office. I admit that, in the present state of the country, the eyes of the country will be turned upon the person holding the office I have the honour to hold more than perhaps upon any other Member of the Government; and I confess that I shrank from assuming the responsibility attached to my office until I was informed that an opinion was entertained that the experience which I had had in the administration of military affairs might be conducive to the advantage of the Sovereign and the country at the present emergency. I am well aware that the eyes of the people, not only of this, but of other countries, are upon the department which I have the honour to represent, and that my position is not only conspicuous, but attended with great responsibility—and necessarily so, as exercising so great an influence over the military affairs of the country. But I must he pardoned for saying that I look to the Ministry of which I am a Member—I look to the Ministers of the Crown generally, who will share with me the responsibility in those military affairs which I have taken upon myself to direct. I am quite aware that much is required in this department, and that many reforms must take place, and that at as early a period as possible; but I must be pardoned for saying that I am not prepared to enter with the noble Earl into this discussion. I am not prepared at this moment to state 1366 to your Lordships to what extent, or with what speed, or in what order and precedence, I can take upon myself to enter upon carrying into effect these reforms. I concur in what has been said by the noble Earl with reference to the aid for which I may look to this House, and, I trust I may add, to the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby). Nor am I insensible of the great talents which the noble Earl would have brought to the task of administering our military affairs had he succeeded in forming an Administration. In eloquence in addressing their Lordships I will at once yield the palm to that noble Earl. Another noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) has also the advantage over me in having had to deal with great military combinations whilst at the head of affairs in India, and for whose ability and experience I entertain due deference. But there is one qualification which I trust to bring to the administration of the military affairs of this country, and for which at least I hope to establish a character, and that is in the purity of my motives in all that concerns the administration of military affairs. I shall endeavour, if I can do nothing else, to give the country at least this confidence—that none shall be employed under my Administration whom I do not consider the fittest for the employment to which I shall recommend him to my Sovereign, or employ upon my own responsibility. And if, in carrying on the affairs of that department, I shall at times feel compelled to take a course painful to my own feelings, but which are yet necessary, in my opinion, for the promotion of the public service, I trust I may be enabled to perform those duties in a manner which will show that, when the necessities of my country call for it, I can even sacrifice my own feelings in the performance of the duty which I think incumbent upon me. I shall endeavour to do that which I think necessary for placing the administration of military affairs upon the best footing as rapidly as I can, and I trust that too much may not be expected of me, as I have so recently succeeded to office. I succeeded to office without any antagonism to my noble Friend who has left it, and I do not know that I can bring to it more zeal, more industry, or more honesty of purpose, than that with which his whole political career has been marked. I may, perhaps, possess the advantage of bringing to it several years of administration of military affairs under a former Government; and I may also bring to it 1367 the advantage of a circumstance of which I shall never cease to be proud—that for twelve years of life I served in the ranks of the regimental service of the army; and having so served I can give my fullest testimony to the high encomium which the noble Earl has bestowed upon the regimental system of the British Army; and I would take this opportunity of stating, that whatever may be the defects of our military system in other respects, I believe our regimental system to be as perfect and as satisfactory as that of any army in the world. We may fail in the higher branches of our service through the want of proper schools, and be deficient in what is called the "staff" of the army; but, so far as the regimental system is concerned, I believe it to be placed upon a good foundation, to be carried on in a perfect manner, and I know of very little which is required to improve the army in that direction. Having made these explanations, and craving that kind consideration the House is always disposed to give to those anxious to perform their duty to their country honestly, faithfully, and to the best of their ability, I hope I may not be out of place in craving eleswhere, and out of doors, that forbearance which is necessary to all who undertake a position so responsible as that which I have undertaken; and I can only say that, should I find myself from any circumstances unequal to the due performance of the task which I have undertaken, I will have the honesty at once to confess that inequality, and will be prepared at once to surrender to other and better hands that important charge, which, by withholding from the hands capable of discharging its duties, I might act most injuriously to the public service and best interest of the country.
THE EARL OF RODEN
was sure the country would appreciate the motives of the noble Lord who had undertaken the arduous duties of so responsible a post at so momentous a time, and give credit to the noble Lord for patriotism, and a desire to serve the public. Every one in England—not only from national pride, but from relationship in one way or another with our brave soldiers—felt a deep, almost a personal, interest in the success of our troops; and he appealed to the noble Earl (Earl Granville) whether the occasion was not a fitting one when that country ought, by a simultaneous and public act, to supplicate that Almighty Power in whose hands was the fate of nations? He be- 1368 lieved that such an appeal would be responded by the nation as it ought to be, and would be the surest and best mode of ensuring success to our army now suffering so much.
§ Motion agreed to.