HL Deb 07 May 1857 vol 145 cc18-46

The LORDS COMMISSIONERS' Speech having been reported by The LOED CHANCELLOR,


My Lords, in rising to move the Address of this House in reply to Her most Gracious Majesty's Speech, I feel that the burden which has been cast upon me in the performance of this duty is very great, and although I feel that the Government have conferred upon me a great distinction in inviting me to undertake the duty, I feel at the same time how inadequate I am to its performance, and how much indulgence I have to claim on the part of this House for any errors of omission or of commission that I may fall into. It is my intention, however, as far as I possibly can, to confine myself strictly to the topics embraced in the Speech from the Throne. I think that allusion to other matters not of immediate necessity had better be avoided, in order that your Lordships may come to that most desirable object—an unanimous and satisfactory vote on the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Speech. In discharging the duty confided to me, I shall detain your Lordships but a very short time. The Speech contains matter so little exceptionable in its character that I cannot doubt it will obtain the ready concurrence of your Lordships. I must, however, be permitted to make one or two observations respecting the cause of the assembling of this new Parliament, which has been called together under circumstances with which the whole House are familiar. A vote of the late House of Commons, as it will he in the recollection of your Lordships, decided substantially that the present Government had lost the confidence of the House, and it therefore became necessary that they should relinquish office or appeal to the country. It was within a very few hours of the dissolution of the Parliament that I heard, with very great regret, a noble Earl, not now in his place, (the Earl of Derby), use some expressions against the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government which were not fairly applicable to the noble Lord. I regretted to hear those observations, because they were unworthy of the noble Earl who gave expression to them, and certainly were not such as ought to have been applied to a man like the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Earl said that the noble Lord had no fixed principles on which to go to the country—that he had only a name. Well, the noble Lord certainly had a name; it was for the country to judge whether he had principles. He appealed to the country, and the appeal was successful. The country accepted the name, and stood fast by the man, who supported by others, able, no doubt, as they were in many respects, were deficient in the hour of trial, and fled dismayed and panic-struck from office, leaving the noble Lord to carry the country through the fearful struggles of a bloody war to safety and success. I say they recognised in the noble Lord the man who had brought the war to a glorious and triumphant issue, and they acted accordingly. Moreover, I will make one remark, which may not be very palatable to some noble Lords opposite, but which, nevertheless, I believe to be true—they said that the noble Lord did not desert men who were acting to the best of their judgments for the interests of the country, under very difficult circumstances many thousands of miles off; but that, on the contrary, he stood by them when they were assailed in Parliament, and gave them his best support;—and, by so doing, he had, beyond doubt, greatly augmented the feeling of the country in his favour. The country, then, when appealed to, most unequivocally decided that the noble Lord and the rest of the Government were the men who should be in power and office, and not those men who sought to arrive at both, by forsaking and giving up men who had served their country to the best of their ability, under circumstances of great difficulty, and by lending themselves, I am sorry to say, to the humiliation of the British flag.

My Lords, it is satisfactory to know that the most amicable relations exist between this country, and nearly all the other European Powers, and that the general aspect of affairs affords a well-grounded confidence in the continuance of peace.

It is impossible not to regret the rupture—if rupture I may call it—which has occurred between the Governments of Great Britain and Naples; but, although it is impossible to contemplate without horror, the infamous barbarities which are committed in that country, this country can only look on, and trust that Providence will, in its own good time, amend this condition of things, and restrain the excesses of the Neapolitan Government.

I regret that Her Majesty's Ministers are unable to announce in the Speech from the Throne, the termination of hostilities at Canton. Her Majesty, however, announces that She has sent a Plenipotentiary to China, fully instructed to deal with all matters of difference; and, I have no doubt, that when the reinforcements which are on their way to that quarter of the world have arrived, and when the British forces resume operations, these barbarians—for barbarians they are, and of the worst type—will speedily be brought to their senses, and taught that they will no longer be permitted to perpetrate such atrocities with impunity.

My Lords, there are several matters of domestic government which are mentioned in the Speech from the Throne; as, for instance, matters relating to the improvement of the laws relating to the testamentary and matrimonial jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Courts, and for checking fraudulent breaches of trust; to which it is not necessary that I should further refer than to express a hope that they will receive the earnest and attentive consideration of Parliament. For my own part, however, I regret that nothing is said in the Speech on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, which I believe might now be carried into effect with perfect safety. The people have been long and patiently expecting some measure of Parliamentary Reform, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord at the head of the Government could propose and carry a measure of reform quite as extensive as reasonable men desired, and perhaps a good deal more so than some of their Lordships would like. I certainly think that the progress which has been made in education, and the spirit of order and obedience to the laws which characterizes them, shows that large masses of the people of this country are fit for the exercise of the electoral franchise, and I think it most unwise and most unjust to withhold it from them merely because the subject has not been extensively agitated through the country. There is also another point which I should be very glad to see effected. I mean a settlement of the church-rate question. In what manner that settlement should be effected it is not, of course, for me to say; but I believe that the members of the Church of England will not be dissatisfied with any arrangement which will relieve those who are not members of that Church from contributing to its support by payment of church rates, provided it do not affect the stability of the Church. I trust also that a measure for the admission of the Jews into Parliament will be introduced and will be received with more favour in that House than had hitherto been the case with respect to similar measures. The House of Commons has repeatedly passed measures for the relief of the Jews from this disability; and I hope this House will now act in the same spirit. I must confess my surprise that in these days of enlightenment any persons should be so bigoted—for I can use no other word—as to refuse a man admission into the House of Commons merely because he happened to be a Jew. The House of Commons had no objection to have Jews sitting in that House; and, for my own part, I not only hope to see them sit there, but I should have no objection to seeing them sit in the House of Lords. I hope, therefore, that if, as is probable, a measure should come up to their Lordships from the other House, backed by a large majority of the Commons, the good sense of this House will induce it to receive it with favour and to give it their sanction.

My Lords, I have now touched upon all the topics to which I think it necessary to advert, and I will now conclude by moving an Address to Her Majesty in answer to Her gracious Speech from the Throne, which I hope will meet with the unanimous concurrence of your Lordships.

The following is a copy of the Address agreed to.


"WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble Thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has commanded to be made to both Houses of Parliament.

"WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that Your Majesty has availed Yourself of the earliest Opportunity of having recourse to our Advice and Assistance after the Dissolution of the last Parliament, trusting that there will be found sufficient Time during the present Session to enable us satisfactorily to deal with various important Matters, some of which had occupied the Attention of Parliament in the Beginning of this Year.

"WE thank Your Majesty for informing us, that the general Aspect of Affairs in Europe affords a well-grounded Confidence in the Continuance of Peace.

"WE thank Your Majesty for informing us, that all the main Stipulations of the Treaty of Paris have been carried into execution; and we assure Your Majesty that we participate in the Hope that what remains to be done in regard to those Matters will be speedily accomplished.

"WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that the Negotiations upon the Subject of the Differences which had arisen between The King of Prussia and the Swiss Confederation, in regard to the Affairs of Neufchâtel, are drawing to a Close, and that Your Majesty trusts that those Negotiations will be terminated by an Arrangement honourable and satisfactory to all Parties.

"WE thank Your Majesty for informing us, that the Negotiations in which Your Majesty has been engaged with the Government of the United States, and with the Government of Honduras, in regard to the Affairs of Central America, have not yet been brought to a Close.

"WE thank Your Majesty for informing us, that a Treaty of Peace between Your Majesty and The Shah of Persia was signed at Paris on the Fourth of March, by Your Majesty's Ambassador at Paris and by the Ambassador of The Shah; and we thank Your Majesty for Your Majesty's gracious Intimation, that this Treaty will be laid before us as soon as the Ratifications thereof shall have been duly exchanged.

"WE humbly assure Your Majesty, that we share Your Majesty's Regret that, at the Date of the latest Advices from China, the Differences which had arisen between the High Commissioner at Canton and Your Majesty's Civil and Naval Officers in China still remained unadjusted; and we humbly convey our Thanks to Your Majesty for informing us, that Your Majesty has sent to China a Plenipotentiary fully instructed to deal with all Matters of Difference, who will be supported by an adequate Naval and Military Force, in the event of that Support becoming necessary.

"WE thank Your Majesty for informing us, that, in conjunction with several other European Powers, Your Majesty has concluded a Treaty with The King of Denmark for the Redemption of the Sound Dues; and that this Treaty, together with a separate Convention between Your Majesty and The King of Denmark, completing the Arrangement, will be laid before us; and also for informing us, that Your Majesty will cause the Measures necessary for fulfilling the Engagements thereby contracted to be submitted for our Consideration.

"WE humbly assure Your Majesty, that we will take into our earnest Consideration the Measures which are to be proposed to us for the Consolidation and Improvement of the Law; and we thank Your Majesty for informing us, that Bills will be submitted to us for improving the Laws relating to the Testamentary and Matrimonial Jurisdiction now exercised by the Ecclesiastical Courts, and also for checking fraudulent Breaches of Trust.

"WE assure Your Majesty, that we share Your Majesty's heartfelt Gratification at witnessing the continued Well-being and Contentment of Your Majesty's People, and the progressive Development of productive Industry throughout Your Majesty's Dominions.

"WE humbly thank Your Majesty for being pleased to assure us, that Your Majesty confidently commits the great Interests of Your Majesty's Empire to our Wisdom and Care; and we humbly assure Your Majesty, that in common with Your Majesty, we fervently pray that the Blessing of Almighty God may be vouchsafed to our Deliberations, and may lead us to Conclusions conducive to the Objects of Your Majesty's constant Solicitude, the Welfare and Happiness of Your Majesty's loyal and faithful People."


My Lords, in seconding the Address which has been just moved by the noble Marquess, I will claim your indulgence but for a few minutes while I touch lightly upon some of the points referred to in the Speech from the Throne. I heard with much pleasure the allusion in the Royal Speech to the good feeling existing generally between the great Powers of Europe, which had been specially evinced in the prompt and honourable manner in which the conditions of the Treaty of Paris had been so nearly fulfilled. And I must express my satisfaction that the sovereign of that vast empire with which we were so recently engaged in a rivalry of arms, having seen the desolation brought on his country by war, has now entered into rivalry with us in the arts of peace. It also gave me great pleasure to hear from the Royal Speech that a treaty of peace had been signed with Persia. This treaty affords another proof—if any proof were wanted—of the spirit of moderation which actuates this country, and shows that when England engages in war, she wars, not for conquest but on account of broken treaties. As regarded the hostilities in which we are actually engaged with Persia, I must be allowed to express my opinion that Her Majesty's Government deserve great credit for breaking through the old course of routine, by appointing Sir James Outram, an Indian officer, to the chief command of the expedition—that was putting the right man in the right place, and they deserved every credit for it. However, before quitting this subject, my Lords, I must say I am proud, as an Englishman, to find that my countrymen have manifested the same gallantry in Persia that has distinguished them in every other part of the world. The thanks of the country are especially due to the Native Indian troops for the gallantry displayed by them, particularly in the charge of the Irregular Cavalry at the battle of Khooshab. Their conduct upon that occasion is another proof that the Indian Native troops, when efficiently led, are animated by the same gallantry and determination as they exhibited under Olive and under the greatest of modern warriors—Wellington, who gained his spurs on the plains of India when commanding Indian native troops. Leaving this part of the subject, and going to another part of the world, I cannot but express my regret at finding from Her Majesty's Speech that I the differences with China remain unadjusted. But I conceive that the honour of this country is at stake, and I am sure that there is no man imbued with the spirit of patriotism but feels that the war in which we are now engaged must be carried to the same successful issue as that to which England is accustomed to conduct any war in which she happens to be engaged. I trust that the result, by opening that important em- pire to the commerce of the world, will be to promote the interests of both countries, and the extension of trade and civilization, and eventually be beneficial to both countries. I cannot but express my pleasure at having heard that a treaty has been signed, in conjunction with several other European Powers, with the King of Denmark, for putting an end to that most grievous impost, the Sound dues. From the arrangements which have been agreed upon, I anticipate very great advantages to our commerce, and that the friendly relations subsisting between the two countries will be thereby further strengthened and secured.

Turning from foreign to domestic questions, I was much pleased to observe the recommendations of the Royal Speech referring to the consolidation and improvement of the law. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that there is no reform so much needed in this country as a reform of the law; and I am convinced I speak the sentiments of noble Lords around me who are interested in land, when I say that there is no tax so grievous as the attorney's bill tax. A measure which would have the effect of cutting down 13s. 4d. to 6s. 8d. would be a great benefit to the country, but he who could reduce 6s. 8d. to 3s. 4d. would deserve the lasting gratitude of his approving countrymen. By simplification of the law, on the one hand, you would diminish litigation; and, on the other, place justice within reach of the poor man, now so often kept from it. I felt equally gratified at hearing that measures are to be submitted to Parliament for the reform and improvement of the ecclesiastical courts. These courts have long been a disgrace to the country, and when the contemplated measures come before us, I trust that they will be found so advantageous, that both parties—Whigs and Tories—will unite in putting an end to the present disgraceful system. Her Majesty also alluded to measures about to be introduced for checking fraudulent breaches of trust. To what extent the widow and the orphan have been plundered from this cause no one will ever be able to tell. For my part, I am of opinion that the man who robs the widow or the orphan is as justly deserving of condign punishment as the poisoner or the murderer; I rejoice, therefore, at hearing that Parliament is to be called upon to legislate on this important subject. My noble Friend the Mover of the Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, referred to the sub- ject of church rates. I own that I also feel very anxious concerning that question. It would certainly give me very great pleasure to support a Bill to promote the abolition of church rates; but I have that confidence in Her Majesty's Government that I am satisfied they will take an early opportunity of endeavouring to settle a question which unfortunately has had the effect of placing in offensive antagonism the Church and Dissent. My Lords, I must apologize to your Lordships for the imperfect remarks with which I have detained you, and I will now conclude by seconding the Address.


If from private feelings and reasons I regret the absence of my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), who usually sits on the bench near me, those feelings of regret are increased in consequence of the task which I am at this moment obliged, as it were, to undertake, of attempting—a vain attempt, I know—to fill his place for a few minutes. Your Lordships will bear in mind that my noble Friend, while leading most ably this side of the House, always desires that on occasions like the present the Address to the Throne should be carried in no churlish or reluctant spirit, but should be passed with unanimity by your Lordships. I am glad to say that I have no apprehension of a contrary course being taken to-night. I see nothing in the Speech delivered by the Royal Commissioners which can provoke discussion or induce any one to oppose the Address in answer to it recommended by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl opposite. Nevertheless, for a moment I confess I had some fear that this might not be the case, when I listened to certain observations which fell from the noble Marquess; and if I were to take his speech as an appendix to the Speech from the Throne, I certainly could not resume my seat without commenting, however reluctantly, on some of the topics which the noble Marquess has been pleased to introduce to the notice of your Lordships, and which are not to be found in the copies of the Royal Speech in your Lordships' hands. The noble Marquess, having omitted to notice three or four important subjects to be found in the middle of the Speech from the Throne, introduced two other subjects not less important,—Parliamentary reform and church rates. Now, I do think that if any one desired to raise a discussion, the best thing he could do would be to select either one or both of those subjects, which Her Majesty, in my opinion, wisely omitted from the Speech from the Throne, but which the noble Marquess introduced into his. Although, however, the speech of the noble Marquess is subsequent to the Speech from the Throne, I suppose it is the Speech of Her Majesty alone which is to be looked upon as authentic in this House, and in respect to which the Address is to be voted, and therefore I will not follow the noble Marquess in the observations he has made on topics not mentioned by the Queen. I think, then, that the Government do not take too sanguine a view when they express a hope that "there will be found sufficient time during the present Session to deal with the various important matters" alluded to in the Speech from the Throne. It is very true the time is short, but when I come to examine the list of measures proposed to be brought forward, I must admit that we may fairly hope to get through it in the present Session. We sitting on this side of the House cannot but share in the pleasure expressed by the Mover and Seconder of the Address in reference to that paragraph of the Royal Speech which announces that the peace of Europe is likely to continue undisturbed; and I wish it could have been added that peace in Asia is also assured. I am of opinion that the peace of Europe is secure so long as that important alliance now upon so happy a footing between ourselves and France continues; and I believe that for its continuance nothing is required but a judicious consideration of the different positions of France and England, both geographically and constitutionally. I say this because I have sometimes remarked a natural impatience on the part of the English people in consequence of their neighbours not having a constitution as free as their own, forgetting what ought not to be forgotten, that the constitutions of both countries were created by the popular voice, and, therefore, though differing in detail, they proceed from the same foundation. The next point to which the Royal Speech adverts is that which remains to be accomplished in respect to the stipulations of the Treaty of Paris, the arrangements relative to the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia having been left in an incomplete state. Upon this point I shall only remark that I hope my I noble Friend opposite the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will not forget the original object of the war with Russia, which has now happily ceased. That object I understood to be to secure the future independence and integrity of the Turkish Empire against any attack from its powerful neighbour. Now, however tempting it might be to uphold what is called the "cause of nationalises," I trust that the more practical and the original object of the war will be kept in view, and the Turkish frontier rendered secure in the most effective manner, whether it be effected by a union of the two Principalities or by keeping them separate. With respect to the settlement of the affairs of Neufchâtel, your Lordships can but express your pleasure at the assurance, that this difficult dispute was nearly brought to a conclusion honourable and satisfactory to all parties concerned; for there is always felt in this country the greatest possible sympathy with Switzerland, on account of resemblance in religious and constitutional principles. With respect to the peace fortunately concluded with Persia, I trust that Her Majesty's Government will inform the House at what date they expect that the news of that peace would reach Sir James Outram and his army, so that we may have some hope of an end being put to the unnecessary shedding of blood, all the more to be regretted that it had taken place after the terms of peace had been concluded. I do not know that I should have said anything upon a subject which is perhaps the most important in the whole speech, and which has certainly occupied the attention of this country of late more than any other—I mean the dispute with China—had it not been for a reference to the past debates upon that subject which was made by the noble Marquess who moved the Address, and which I cannot help thinking had better have been omitted. It appears almost childish to tell your Lordships that we on this side of the House and some noble Lords on the other side, who took a different view of the question to that which was entertained by Her Majesty's Ministers, did so from a deep sense of duty and from no other feeling. It would be almost childish, I say, to repeat that assertion to your Lordships, because I am persuaded that no one ever records a vote in this House without conscientiously believing that in giving that vote he is performing an act of duty. But the noble Marquess, in alluding to what had taken place on the occasion referred to, had made use of an expression which I cannot allow to remain unnoticed. I should not have referred to it, however, had it not been the echo of what was stated by a more important personage than the noble Marquess—I mean the noble Viscount at the head of Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess, adopting the tone of the noble Viscount, said that the opponents of the Government on that occasion were prepared for the sake of office to accept—as I understood him—the degradation of the Engtish flag. A heavier charge, my Lords, could not by possibility be laid upon any Member of Parliament, nor upon any gentleman in this country. I would gladly have avoided alluding to, even if I could not forget, the almost similar terms which were made use of by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. Referring to those persons who from their antecedents, or other circumstances, might have been expected to succeed him in office, the noble Viscount had not scrupled to say of them and of those who had voted against his views on the China question, that they were men who had "thus endeavoured to make the humiliation and degradation of their country the stepping-stone to power." My Lords, I do not believe that there is any precedent for language such as that ever proceeding from so high a source. I do not think that even in the heat of any debate I ever heard such language: but your Lordships must recollect that the language to which I refer was not spoken in the heat of debate, but that it was calmly written, printed, and addressed by the noble Viscount to his constituents at Tiverton. Of the noble Viscount's attack, therefore, I say no more than that it was unworthy his great reputation, talent, and position, and that it was as absurd as it was unworthy. It was absurd, because in a degraded country no power is attached to office; on the contrary, the man who rules such a country is the most degraded being in it. Forgive me, my Lords, if I have spoken with warmth on this subject, for I confess that I feel strongly upon it. But to revert to the question of China. We never denied upon this side of the House that the Chinese had given to this country considerable cause of offence; but what we stated was, that the punishment inflicted was out of proportion to the offence—that populations destroyed and towns attacked were rather too strong measures of retaliation for the affront which had been offered by the Chinese authorities. We added that we thought Her Majesty's officers in China—I mean the Plenipotentiary and Admiral at Canton—should have waited for further orders from home before they proceeded to the extremities to which they have had recourse. Those were the points on which we grounded our opposition; and I must add now that if Her Majesty's Government had at the time been pleased to state, as they now do in the Royal Speech, that they were about to send an eminent person to settle the differences in China, my firm belief is that no division would have taken place on that question, and that Her Majesty's Government would not have been opposed. Beyond the few words which I have now addressed to your Lordships I have only further to express a hope, that when the Estimates for the present year come to be presented we shall find that the promise that they will be drawn up with a careful attention to economy is not a mere idle and formal phrase. I hope that the Royal Speech does not contain a mere stereotyped phrase when it states "that the Estimates for the present year have been prepared with a careful attention to economy, and with a due regard to the efficiency of the several departments to which they severally relate." I hope they really have been drawn up "with a careful attention to economy." With a war, or something very like it in China, and that too at the close of an expensive struggle with Russia, the country surely cannot afford to throw away a single shilling, and I shall upon a future occasion take an opportunity of bringing before your Lordships what appears to me to be considerable extravagance and waste of public money now taking place within this very metropolis. I hope that the Government will omit nothing in order to carry out the war in China with vigour and effect to a speedy and successful termination, for I can assure them that they will not find upon this side of the House any undue reluctance to assist them with all that can be required to make England's power acknowledged and respected. That they may be armed with the means, however, to maintain the honour of the country, the strictest economy in other matters will be not only desirable, but necessary. Having said thus much I can only presume, in the unfortunate absence of my noble Friend, to advise my noble Friends behind me to assent to the terms of the Address which has been proposed by the noble Marquess; and I, for one, shall do so most cheerfully.


In answer to the question which was addressed to Her Majesty's Government by the noble Earl who has just sat down, I have to state that a telegraphic message has been received this very afternoon, from which it appears that on the 5th of April the General commanding the British forces in Persia received information of the treaty with Persia having been signed at Paris; and that the same information was communicated to the Persian general, whose name I do not at the moment recollect; so that we can have no doubt that subsequently to that date all unnecessary bloodshed had ceased. The observations of the noble Earl with respect to the propriety of our joining with as much unanimity as possible in our respectful Address to the Throne were so just and courteous in their tone, that I should have had nothing to add, if I had not thought that he a little misunderstood the intention of the noble Marquess behind me when he stated that the noble Marquess had endeavoured to raise questions which might disturb that unanimity which was so desirable in agreeing to an Address to the Crown. As to the expressions of the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, which were said to have been repeated by the noble Marquess, I cannot admit that in fairness they bear the interpretation which the noble Earl has put upon them. No doubt in the contest of parties questions are occasionally raised with the view of displacing those in power, and it may be that such questions are most properly raised; but if the noble Earl thought that the noble Viscount went beyond the ordinary bounds, let me remind the noble Earl—although at the same time I deprecate the introduction of these personal matters—that at the close of the late Session the noble Earl not now present (the Earl of Derby) did in this House give a very strong and personal description of that noble Viscount, which, in my opinion, in the opinion of my noble Friends behind me, and in the opinion of the country, were not borne out by facts. I have thought it right to mention this, although it is very undesirable upon these occasions to enter upon questions of a personal nature, or to advert to topics which may give rise to any debate of an acrimonious or disagreeable character; and I sincerely hope that any bitterness which may have been excited during the elections has by this time subsided, so that we may now apply ourselves, according to our several opinions, with earnestness to the consideration of those measures which may most tend to the advantage of the community at large. I have nothing more to add, my Lords, to the very courteous terms in which the noble Earl has asked you to agree to the Address. I, of course, concur in that request, and I hope that we may join unanimously in presenting to Her Majesty the Address which has been moved and seconded by my noble Friends behind me.


It is not my intention to disturb the unanimity which appears to prevail among your Lordships with respect to the Address; but there is one point upon which I wish to offer a few remarks, and to which I must solicit the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary for War—I mean that part of the Royal Speech which refers to the expedition which has been sent out to China to support Her Majesty's Commissioner and Plenipotentiary in that country. If, unfortunately, the services of that expedition should be called into exercise by the necessities of the case, the success of its operations must, of course, greatly depend upon the authority and influence as well as the abilities of the person who has the charge of it, and I submit that it is the duty of the Government, of the Parliament, and of the country, upon all occasions to sustain those whom they have placed in high and difficult positions against attacks which may be made upon them when they have no opportunity to defend themselves. From this observation, I think your Lordships will gather that I am about to advert very shortly to the attacks made against General Ashburnham—attacks of a nature which I do not think ought to be entirely disregarded, either by Parliament or by the country. If these attacks consisted merely of articles in newspapers I should be the first to say that, looking to the freedom of the press of this country, it would be unwise for the Government to interfere and impossible for Parliament to control it; but the attacks to which I allude have been made by officers in Her Majesty's service, who must be, or, at least, who might be, known to the military Authorities and to the Government of the country; and these attacks have been directed against the professional character and personal courage of the General, to whom has been confided the conduct of the expedition to China. I must say I think we ought to have some explanation on this head, and, as to-night the Government is not embarrassed by any controversy on the subject of the Address, I hope I shall not be considered as going out of the proper track in alluding to the subject at this the very first opportunity. General Ashburnham was, as your Lordships will recollect, appointed to the distinguished post, which he now has the honour to fill, early in the mouth of March. He did not leave this country for some weeks after receiving that appointment, which was, of course, commented upon in the newspapers in a manner which became the free and unshackled press of this country. But after he was gone, and when he was no longer in Europe, it appears that an officer did not think it unworthy of his position to make an attack upon the professional character of the General, in a, manner of which I think Her Majesty's Government ought to take some public notice. In the letter to which I allude (no doubt all your Lordships have read it, and I will not therefore trouble you by quoting any portion of it), General Ashburnham was distinctly charged with cowardice and incapacity. The letter has certainly drawn forth answers to it; but in my opinion, officers ought not to be allowed to make these attacks upon Generals in high command, for no one can doubt, that a practice of this sort can neither add to the efficiency of the public service, nor promote the public interest. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the regulations of the army to know how far they may be made applicable to this case, but the person who signs himself "M. L." describes himself as having served upon the staff of a particular brigadier on a particular occasion, and as having carried a message on this occasion to General Ashburnham, and I imagine therefore that his identity must be known. In fact, I am told that his name is known, though I do not know it, nor do I wish to know it. In this letter, I repeat, General Ashburnham was charged with a want of due courage and with incapacity. It was stated that Lord Gough might be appealed to in proof of this charge; that his Lordship was highly exasperated on the occasion referred to, but, that he had, nevertheless, favourably represented General Ashburnham's conduct in his despatches home; and then it was added with a sort of sneer that the General was rewarded for his distinguished service. I hope my noble Friend the Secretary for War will tell the House whether he has the power of taking any steps in this matter, and also whether it is his opinion that such conduct as this on the part of officers in Her Majesty's service ought to pass with impunity. If, after there have been plenty of opportunities for making comments to a man's face, and for criticising an appointment which it was still possible to revoke, a General's professional character and capacity are to be assailed, when he has turned his back, by officers inferior in rank, the service of the country will be regarded as dangerous, and will no longer continue an object of desire to men of gallantry and honour.


After what has just fallen from my noble Friend, it seems necessary for me to say a few words on the subject to which he has addressed himself. I am very glad, my Lords, that my noble Friend has drawn your attention to the attack which has been made upon General Ashburnham. General Ashburnham was appointed to the command, which he has assumed, on the 14th of March last. Parliament was sitting for a week after that appointment was made, and if therefore it had been wished to raise any objections in either House of Parliament to the appointment, a legitimate opportunity existed of doing so for a full week. General Ashburnham remained in this country for some weeks up to the 21st of April, and yet, during the whole of his stay here, not one objection was raised in any public print with respect to his fitness, either in his general professional character as a soldier, or in his capacity as commander of this expedition. Scarcely, however, had this gallant Officer's back been turned, when, misled I have no doubt by false information (for of the real facts the newspaper, to which I refer, plainly must have been ignorant), an article appeared reflecting, not simply upon General Ashburnham's capacity to execute the duties which he had undertaken, but reflecting also upon that which is most dear of all to a British officer—his personal courage. The first fruits of such an attack were that it opened the columns of the public press to all the malignant slanders which too many officers are, I am sorry to say, ready to launch aganst an eminent member of their own profession. I cannot ascertain the names of those individuals; but I am quite content to say this—that any officer in Her Majesty's service, whether he be in the Line or whether he be in the Company's ranks, who anonymously traduces a brother officer, is unfit to carry the commission of the Queen, and unfit to associate with his companions in the profession. Now, what are the facts of this case? General Ashburnham is accused of not having attacked a certain position at a period which, in the opinion of this anonymous "M. L.," was the proper period to have made that attack. At that time General Ashburnham was acting under the orders of the Commander in Chief of the army in which he was serving. He had received no counter orders which justified him in acting otherwise than he did; and, because he resisted the advice of a General commanding the Artillery, conveyed to him by "M. L.," he seems to have excited the wrath and indignation of this individual, the weight of which I think General Ashburnham may easily bear. What might have been the consequence, had General Ashburnham disobeyed the orders of the Commander in Chief and obeyed those of a subordinate officer? It might have disarranged the whole plans of the commander. All military combinations and movements depend upon obedience to orders and strict punctuality in point of time, and this "M. L." seems to have been ignorant of the first duties of a soldier when he complains of General Ashburnham, because he did not depart from the orders he had received from his Commander in Chief. What was the Duke of Wellington's opinion upon matters of this sort? He had once posted a very gallant officer commanding a troop of artillery in a particular place upon a particular occasion, ordering him to remain at that post until he received counter instructions. That officer took up the position, but soon afterwards saw the whole army defile before him, and pass him on the way to attack the enemy. Galled by seeing his troop left behind, he at once limbered up and followed the rest of the army. What was the result? The reverse, the possibility of which the Duke of Wellington had foreseen, and in order to guard against which he had posted this troop of artillery in this particular spot, actually took place; the artillery was not in the position assigned to it at the critical moment, could not do the duty assigned to it, and consequently great misfortunes and loss befell a portion of the army. The result was that, without listening to any excuse from him, without considering his acknowledged gallantry, the Duke of Wellington superseded this unfortunate officer and sent him home. It was only after the greatest and most earnest entreaty that, in the campaign of 1815, recollecting what this officer had done in the Peninsula, the Duke of Wellington was at last persuaded to forgive him and appoint him to a command, and at the battle of Waterloo he fell gloriously fighting at the head of his batteries. Such was the Duke of Wellington's view of the obedience which should be paid by a soldier to the commands in the first instance issued to him, and we all know perfectly well that there was no officer he prized so highly in all his army, or to whom he so readily intrusted the command of a combined movement with such entire confidence as the late Lord Hill, and this arose from the simple fact that there was no man who kept his time more punctually in all such combinations, or upon whom in such matters he could so entirely rely. In this respect, then, I think General Ashburnham is fairly justified against all the imputations which these anonymous slanderers have brought against him. As to General Ashburnham's fitness to undertake the post he had assumed, I may remind your Lordships, that as a reward for his gallantry in India he was appointed aide-de-camp to his Sovereign, and that, he also received the Order of the Bath, which proves that his conduct in the field must have been professionally approved, or otherwise he would not have been recommended for those honours. But he did more than exhibit mere gallantry when acting against the enemy. In quarters, as well as in the field, he showed himself well capable of serving his Sovereign. During his Indian service General Ashburnham converted Ferozepore from being one of the dirtiest and filthiest into one of the best regulated quarters. He did more—he improved the morality, cared for the health, and won the affections of the troops that he commanded more than almost any other officer in India. Convinced, therefore, of his professional competency and experience, and of his skill and capacity in providing for the comfort and safety of troops in hot climates, Her Majesty's Government selected him for the command to which they have appointed him, in which command I know he will distinguish himself if an opportunity offer. I think that when general officers are appointed to distant and important commands, the greatest care should be taken against their being held up to public scorn; or, on the other hand, erring in overrating them and holding them up pre- maturely to public approbation. The adoption of either of these courses is calculated to excite commanders to do something injudicious, either for the purpose of maintaining the credit, which has been prematurely given them, or, on the other hand, of disproving accusations unjustly levelled against them. It is wrong to put an officer in such a position. You should not lead his men to expect more from him than his former professional reputation justifies, and than is expected from every British officer. Officers in such high positions ought to be allowed to act on the responsibility attached to their professional reputation, and to look forward to those rewards, which gallant men serving their country had a right to expect; and certainly they ought not to be held up to the contempt of the men entrusted to their command, for by such a course their legitimate authority was improperly weakened. I trust, my Lords, that General Ashburnham will treat these reports which have been made upon him with, I had almost said, the contempt which they deserve. I trust that he will show himself to be too high-minded a British soldier to be troubled on account of such reports. I believe, from the last accounts which I have received from him, that he will reach China with his health restored, and that he will execute with credit the trust which has been committed to him.


My Lords, I cannot help expressing my entire concurrence in what has been said by my noble Friend who has just sat down as to the extreme impropriety of junior officers discussing in the public prints the merits of those placed in command over them. I believe that if this system is to continue—if subordinate officers are to be allowed, in the columns of a newspaper, to discuss the merits of those under whom they have served, and anonymously to bring charges against them, there will be an end of all real discipline in the army, and the results will be of the most pernicious description. Party divisions of a most pernicious character will be introduced into the service, and you cannot expect the service to be conducted as it ought to be. I am certain that there is not one of your Lordships who does not share in the feelings upon this subject expressed by my noble Friend who has just, addressed you, and that we all consider it to be the duty of Her Majesty's Government by the strongest means in their power (and especially by avoiding the giving of employment to any officer who has been guilty of conduct of this description) to put an end to the gross impropriety of junior officers making comments in public upon their superiors. I agree with those who have preceded me in this short discussion that it is eminently satisfactory that there is nothing in the Address to which any opposition can be offered by any of your Lordships. I am always glad when an Address in answer to Her Majesty's Speech can be agreed to without a division. And that being the case on this occasion, I certainly do not intend to anticipate the discussions which will probably take place hereafter when we are more fully in possession of the information required with regard to some of the topics referred to in the Speech by which the Session has been opened. But I would venture to take this opportunity of pointing out to your Lordships and to Her Majesty's Government that there are some topics adverted to in that Speech which will require very speedily to be brought under your Lordships' notice, and upon which, therefore, it is desirable that we should have information with the least possible delay. Among those topics, one of the first that we should discuss is that with regard to the Persian war. I must remind your Lordships that that war has been begun and concluded without any formal communication to Parliament of the grounds upon which hostilities were commenced, or the means taken by Her Majesty's Government to avert the necessity of having recourse to war. Upon these points I think it is absolutely necessary that we should be fully informed. In the last Session of Parliament Her Majesty's Government declined to produce any papers relating to these affairs; in the first place, on the ground that negotiations were proceeding at Paris; and, in the second, when these negotiations had been concluded, because any discussion of the subject might have a dangerous effect upon the prospect of obtaining the necessary ratification of the Shah of Persia to the peace which was concluded at Paris. For my own part, I think that Parliament was somewhat too easily induced to abstain on those grounds from pressing for an earlier production of information. But admitting that it was right on those two grounds to refrain at that time from pressing for information, there is now no reason whatever for any longer deferring to produce the papers. I know that, according to the usual practice, a treaty cannot be laid on the table until it is ratified; but the papers to which I allude, containing the correspondence which preceded the breaking out of the war, may be produceed without the treaty; and there ought, therefore, to be no objection to lay them immediately on your Lordships' table. The negotiations have ended, the decision has gone to Persia, and whether it be ratified or not, no discussion by the House can have the slightest effect on that decision. I trust, therefore, that these papers will be produced without delay. I think, my Lords, that we are also entitled to some further information with regard to the unhappy war in China. I think we ought to know more distinctly than we now do, what are the causes of the war on which we are entering—what are the demands which are to be made on the Chinese authorities, and which are to be supported, if necessary, by the employment of a very large force. Upon that subject we have at present nothing but the most vague statement that can be conceived. Nothing whatever has been communicated to us as to the real objects for which this very considerable armament is to be sent to China. No attempt has been made to explain to us the views of Her Majesty's Government on that subject. We have had vague declarations that there are to be increased facilities for trade, and that our relations with China are to be placed on a more satisfactory footing; but in what respect our relations are to be made more satisfactory and in what manner we are to obtain additional facilities for trade are by no means explained. Upon these points I think some further information is required. I think so, the more especially in consequence of the rather alarming expressions which have been used in various quarters, and in this House this evening, with reference to China. The noble Earl who very ably seconded the Address expressed an opinion, in conformity with that which we have heard from various quarters, to the effect that the great empire of China must be compelled to observe her treaties with us, and to give us greater facilities for trade. Now, my Lords, I am not aware that we have not been in the full enjoyment of all the facilities for trade to which we were entitled by our treaty with China. In fact, I believe that much more than we had a right to claim under the treaty has been tacitly ceded to us. We have been allowed to carry on our trade with fewer restrictions than those mentioned in the treaty, and on which the Chinese had a right to insist. I see, also, that since the making of that treaty our trade has been carried on without any interruption or difficulty whatever, and has increased with almost marvellous rapidity, to the great advantage, as I believe, both of China and of this country. Now, I am not aware that if we enjoy all the facilities for trade which China promised by treaty to afford to us, we are entitled, because we have had a quarrel which I will say nothing about—declining for the present to say who is in the right and who is in the wrong—I am not aware that on that ground we are entitled to say to the Chinese that they must give us still greater facilities. I have always been under the impression that matters of trade were matters entirely to be determined by the mutual interests of the parties trading—that nations were at liberty to grant or to withhold facilities for trade with their neighbours, or with other nations, entirely as it seemed best to them according to their own interests. I never heard that it was considered a cause of quarrel, for instance, with our powerful neighbours the French, that they imposed at one time a tariff so restrictive that the trade which might have been carried on to the immense benefit of ourselves and France was reduced to insignificance by their restrictions: I never heard that it was considered wise to quarrel with France on that ground. And so with regard to Russia and various European countries. I am not aware that any quarrel has arisen with those other nations by whose tariffs trade has been restricted, as it appears to me, in a very impolitic manner. I believe that the Chinese set an example in respect to the facilities they give to trade which might be followed with advantage by more civilized nations. They impose few onerous duties on the commodities of other countries; and fewer impediments are thrown by them in the way of commerce than by most European nations; fewer, indeed, than by ourselves—I take leave to say—up till a comparatively recent period. I say, then, that we have a right to expect more definite information than we have yet received as to the object of the hostilities now conducted against China. And let me add that I concur in the sentiment expressed by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) with respect to the manner in which former discussions in Parliament on this subject have been commented upon by persons in high office. Having on a previous occasion voted with the noble Earl on the question relating to China, I feel that we have great reason to complain of the statement made, that that vote was to be accounted for by the fact that men were to be found who sought to make "the humiliation of their country the stepping-stone to power." My Lords, however such an aspersion may apply to others, I think I can at all events say it has no application to myself, since that could not by possibility be my object. But I do not speak only for myself. I believe that this House has a right to complain of the lowering of the whole tone of our public discussions when such mean, unworthy motives, are ascribed to the conduct of honourable men. I agree with the noble Earl that those who are really lowered by these imputations are those who make them; because it may be inferred that those who descend to bring such degrading accusations against their adversaries judge of their adversaries from what they find in their own minds; and that they are wholly unable to conceive that on a great question of peace and war—a question on which Members of the Legislature believe that as Christians they are bound to express their reprobation of unprovoked and cruel hostilities carried on against a nation totally incapable of resisting our superior power—their opponents can give a vote without being actuated by the base and pitiful motives they assign to them. That, my Lords, is the view I take on this subject; and it seems to me that a heavy responsibility is incurred by those who, not content with thus vilifying those who voted against them on a question of this kind, also do all that in them lies to stir up angry and vindictive passions in this country against the Chinese. My Lords, I have seen, with sentiments I will not trust myself to describe, language used with regard to the Chinese that any man of proper feeling could not read without—to adopt the mildest phrase—extreme pain and regret. We have had it represented to us that the atrocities committed by the Chinese were the reason which induced us to commence hostilities; instead of which the fact is precisely the other way—those atrocities—which I do not pretend to palliate—Were the consequence of the ruin and bloodshed inflicted by us upon the Chinese. My Lords, we have seen transactions for which redress was fully obtained ten years ago raked up again and put forward as grounds for condemning the Chinese authorities at this moment. We have seen an anonymous proclamation, which the Chinese Government had no means of controlling, represented as an act for which that Government was directly responsible. I am not one of those who defend or excuse the atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese—I view them with as much horror as any one among your Lordships. If it be true that, in connection with this war, the Chinese authorities instigated an attempt at the wholesale destruction by poison of the European population of Hong Kong, and that they also sought to murder Europeans in other places who took no part whatever in the hostilities, such designs cannot be too strongly condemned. But I cannot help saying that the more these outrages are to be reprobated—the more painful it may be to see the accounts of such cruel and wicked acts, the greater, in my opinion, is the responsibility of those who began, for no adequate object, the fearful contest, of which these things are the natural result. The responsibility rests not so much with the Chinese as with those who commenced this conflict. The same is unfortunately true of all war. When the sword is once drawn, and men's angry passions are once roused, great cruelties, great atrocities, are enacted. But is it becoming of civilized men—still more, is it becoming of Christians—because the Chinese, under strong provocation, have been betrayed into acts of this kind, to hold them up as a nation for whom indiscriminate slaughter is the proper treatment? Other nations, commonly regarded as civilized, when they have found themselves attacked, have been guilty of crimes hardly less monstrous than those of the Chinese. We all know where warfare is carried on by an undisciplined population against an army which they have no means of resisting great enormities are sometimes perpetrated. For example, when the French invaded Spain, we are all aware that the Spanish insurgents frequently committed great cruelties, torturing, mutilating, and killing under the most horrible circumstances the French soldiers who fell into their hands. We condemned those proceedings—the people of England condemned them very strongly; but we always maintained that, although some of the Spanish people had permitted themselves to be led into such excesses, that was no reason why the Spanish nation should be held up to general reprobation. And in the case of barbarous nations still more allowance is to be made. They know nothing of those laws of war which have been established only within the last two centuries even among the civilized and Christian countries of Europe. Their notion of war is to exterminate their enemies by any means, fair or foul, that can be employed. They do not acknowledge the humane rules to which in modern times Western nations have happily thought fit to subject those who wage war in their behalf. We must therefore remember that it is not enough to say that the Chinese have been guilty of very great cruelty to justify the notion that from mere vengeance we are to be guilty of equal cruelty towards them. That is not the way in which these proceedings are to be stopped; it is to be done by forbearance, coupled with a strong display of force. I will not now further detain your Lordships. My principal motive for rising was to express my opinion that it is absolutely necessary we should be furnished at an early period with a clearer explanation than any yet afforded to us of the objects for which this war against China is to be undertaken.


There is an omission in the Royal Speech which I had hoped that some one of Her Majesty's Ministers would have supplied. Not a word was said in it about Parliamentary reform—a subject on which I agree with the noble and gallant Marquess that it is very necessary we should receive some explanation. Two Members of the Government have spoken that night, but neither of them has satisfied me on that point. Yet I understood that in another place the expectation has been held out that a good measure of Parliamentary reform, and one that will satisfy those of your Lordships who are most anxious for it, will be introduced. This is a question which I am aware ought in that august assembly to be mentioned with "bated breath and whispering humbleness;" but I trust that the measure to be brought forward will be such as the majority of this House will with pleasure sanction. It is now about a quarter of a century since we have had any organic change—any change, I mean, relating to the constitution of the Lower House of Parliament, and very extensive social improvements have taken place in the interval. For example, the completion of our great network of railways have increased the means of intercommunication throughout the country to a marvellous degree; while the gold discoveries in California and Australia have produced a prodigious effect upon the wellbeing of society in every part of the world, imparting a great stimulus to the industry of al- most every civilized nation. In 1830 our population was 13,781,000; in 1856 it was 19,000,000. The prosperity of the country was still more astonishing. In 1830 our exports amounted to, £38,271,000; in 1856 they were £115,895,000. While the country has increased in population and wealth it has advanced also in the mechanic arts and in intelligence, and therefore was the more fitted for an extensive measure of reform, and I shall be all the better pleased with it if there is a protection given to the voter. I think, however, that the question of reform may be left to the noble Viscount at the head of the Government and that body of the Legislature which has been called under his special auspices. But there is a class nearly without representatives in Parliament—our unhappy Indian fellow-subjects; and I hope that some of the 173 new Members will recruit the small body of Indian Reformers. I will not now dwell upon the anarchy, the insecurity to life and property that prevail in that country, but I beg your Lordships to consider seriously the financial condition of India. For four consecutive years there has been an average annual deficiency of £2,000,000, and while the Government are thus low in funds, they are only able to raise the means they require by paying two per cent. more than they did in the palmy days of Indian prosperity. I do not anticipate that the terms of the treaty entered into with Persia when made known to the House will be satisfactory to many of your Lordships, who contemplate with aversion the establishment of relations with barbarous countries. Some people entertain a vague undefined idea of danger to our Indian empire from Russian aggression, but it can be shown how utterly groundless all such apprehensions are. It is asked why might not a great European power do that which Alexander the Great did three centuries before the Christian era? But those who put the question forget that Alexander had no artillery to carry with him, and that he had no commissariat, but drew his supplies from the wealthy population of the country. Moreover, Alexander was eight years in reaching the Indus, and when he got to the Hyphasis he had not to encounter a British force, but a body of Hindoos, and after all got no further than the bank of the river. In conclusion, I concur in supporting the Address, which has received the unanimous sanction of the House.

Motion agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente; and a Committee was appointed to prepare the Address. The Committee withdrew; and, after some time, Report was made of an Address drawn by the Committee, which, being read, was agreed to, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.

[For the Address see p. 22.]