HL Deb 22 February 1855 vol 136 cc1728-30

said, he wished to address a few words to their Lordships on a subject of the greatest importance—namely, the appointment of a day of humiliation and prayer to be observed throughout the country on account of the present disastrous state of things in the Crimea. According to all accounts, the army was rapidly wasting away, and in a few weeks, unless some speedy change took place, would be entirely extinct. Their Lordships would recollect that some weeks ago a noble Duke (the Duke of Grafton) asked the Government to appoint a day of humiliation and prayer. He regretted that the noble Earl who was then at the head of the Government thought it his duty to refuse the application of the noble Duke; and he stated to the House at the time that such an answer from the Prime Minister might draw down a grievous calamity upon, the nation. The army in the Crimea had been sinking from that day to the present, and had been reduced from 50,000 to little more than 8,000 men, and he was informed that on the 5th of the month the Guards were reduced to little more than 400 men. He was told that the deaths in that brigade averaged thirty per day; so that, if the mortality proceeded in the same ratio, in the course of a few weeks the Guards would have ceased to exist. The condition of our army was such as to call upon us to use every means for its rescue; and surely it was the duty of the Government of a country which believed in the supreme providence of God—which believed that there was one overruling Power regulating the affairs of men—to take steps to appoint a day of national supplication for the averting of the impending evils. So strongly did he feel his duty upon this subject that, should the answer of Ministers to his present appeal be unfavourable, he would, on Monday next, move an address to Her Majesty.


The noble Earl has, unintentionally I am sure, misrepresented what I stated on a former occasion. The noble Duke who asked me the question proposed that a prayer should be introduced into the Liturgy for ordinary use. Now, I certainly do object to introduce any such prayer into the Liturgy for ordinary use, but I did not object, and I have no objection whatever, to the appointment of a special prayer to be used on a special day of humiliation. So much is that the case that a short time before I left office I wrote to the noble Duke in question, and informed him that it was my intention humbly to advise Her Majesty to order a special day of humiliation and prayer some time in the course of Lent. My objection, therefore, was not to a day of humiliation, but to the appointment of a prayer for common use.


was quite ready to ask the pardon of the noble Earl for having misunderstood him. He could assure the noble Earl that he had not done so intentionally.


said, that in consequence of the remarks of the noble Earl with respect to the state of the army in the Crimea, he very much regretted the absence of the noble Baron at the head of the War Department. Not seeing any notice upon the paper relative to that subject, the noble Baron hoped their Lordships would excuse his presence for one evening, at a time when his whole energies were directed to the demands of the public service. He (Earl Granville) thought, however, he might state—indeed, he was authorised to state—that, whatever might be the case with regard to any particular regiment in the Crimea, the Government had every reason to believe that considerable improvement had taken place in the condition of the army generally. With regard to the particular question put by the noble Earl, he assured him he did full justice, as every Peer in their Lordships' House must, to the noble and pure motives by which he was actuated; and he was conscious that there were peculiar circumstances connected with the noble Earl which made it more natural that he should feel strongly on this subject. He was happy to inform the noble Earl that almost immediately after the question which he put to him about a fortnight ago, the Government resolved to advise Her Majesty to issue a proclamation, appointing a day of humiliation and prayer.


said, that as he was involved in the discussion which took place upon this subject when it was last before the House, he might be excused if he made one or two observations upon the present occasion. It was true that he objected to the proposition of the noble Earl opposite at that time; but what he understood the noble Earl to propose was, that a day of thanksgiving should be appointed for the prosperous state of public affairs, and he pointed out that before the day so appointed arrived our army might meet with a reverse, and we should be called upon to show humiliation for our condition. Such, unfortunately, had been the case, and he now most heartily agreed that a day of humiliation should be appointed. Our situation as a nation was most humiliating with regard to what had taken place abroad, and he was sorry to say it was still more humiliating with regard to what had occurred at home.

House adjourned till To morrow.