HL Deb 19 June 1856 vol 142 cc1676-8

On the Order of the Day for the third reading of this Bill,


My Lords, I wish to say a few words on a subject that will not, I am sure, be regarded as wholly alien to the Bill which is about to be passed with unanimity in this House and satisfaction to the country. I desire to draw your Lordships' attention to a lamentable event which has occurred within the last week. I allude to the death of one of the three gallant British officers who assisted General Williams in the ever-memorable defence of Kars—namely, Major Teesdale, Colonel Lake, and Captain Thompson. The last and youngest of these brave officers, Captain Thompson, after distinguishing himself in India, where he served for ten years, and was wounded in the Burmese war, repaired to Asia Minor, and, as we all know, afforded most material aid in the defence of Kars, and especially in the great victory of the 29th of September. His conduct on that occasion has been specially described by his commander General Williams and by Dr. Sandwith. On his release from captivity, he returned with Colonel Lake to this country about a week ago, expecting, doubtless, to reap those honours which his country is always ready to bestow, and to receive in the bosom of his family those proud congratulations which his fame could not fail to awaken. It did not, however, please the Almighty that he should be thus rewarded; for within four days of his arrival in London, he died in his mother's arms. My Lords, I think I never heard of a more afflicting misfortune than that which has befallen Mrs. Thompson. I believe that if that bereaved Lady could have had her choice, she would have preferred to hear that her brave son had fallen on the field of battle, rather than that he should have expired, as he has done, at the moment when her maternal pride and happiness were about to be consummated by his return to his native land. But, my Lords, it is not to ask you to deplore the loss of this lamented officer that I have risen to address you—indeed, I am not sure that an early and even a premature death need excite deep regret for the sake of the deceased himself, when such an event has closed a life of honour; but I have learnt with great concern, that his mother is not possessed of a fortune that can assure to her those comforts which all must desire that she should enjoy; and if your Lordships will excuse my reading a letter which I have received from an intimate friend of the family, it will explain in a few words the matter which I wish to bring under your notice. This gentleman writes to me as follows:— I feel convinced, knowing the straitened circumstances of his widowed mother, that at least one quarter of her annual income will be swallowed up in meeting the charges attendant upon the illness and funeral of her lamented son; and I can assure your Lordship that so fixed is her income, and so partitioned out to meet the yearly expenses of a large family, that it is with the utmost difficulty that funds can be provided to enable her to go to the seaside, immediately after her son's funeral (which takes place tomorrow), on the physician's recommendation, who says he will not answer for her life, so plunged in grief is she, if she does not get change of air and scene. My Lords, I am not authorised to appeal to this House or to the Government for anything like charitable assistance for Mrs. Thompson—I do not even know whether or not such a thing would be acceptable to her or her family; but I could not refrain from taking this opportunity to apprise the Government of the circumstances in which this unfortunate lady is placed.


In the absence of any previous knowledge of the circumstances to which my noble Friend had just adverted, I am not prepared on the part of the Government to give any assurance on the subject to which he has referred. At the same time, I am exceedingly sorry that such a statement should have been made to this House, in, terms so just and with a feeling so honourable as that evinced by my noble Friend, without its being possible to give to it an immediate response; neither I, nor those with whom I have the honour to act, being aware of the position of a lady whose affliction must elicit for her the lively sympathy of every one of your Lordships and of the public. My noble Friend has done justice on this sad occasion to the merits of that eminent man, General Williams. That brave officer has, under the peculiar circumstances in which he was placed, had the good fortune, and the glory, I may say, to found a military school. His assistants and pupils have all equally distinguished themselves in their short but brilliant career; and they are, therefore, entitled to the admiration and respect of the country, as well as to the favourable consideration of the Government; and none of these was more distinguished than the gallant officer whose loss we now deplore. Further than this, I cannot go now; and I can only undertake that the circumstances to which my noble Friend has directed attention shall be made known in the proper quarter.

Bill read 3a and pasted.

House adjourned to Monday next.