HL Deb 04 June 1858 vol 150 cc1511-6

, in rising to put a question to Her Majesty's Government as to the Relations in Military Matters between the Governor General of India and the Commander in Chief in that country, said it appeared to him to be extremely desirable that the separate functions of those who were in positions of authority in distant dependencies of the Crown should be clearly defined; and that if it were expedient upon general grounds that such should be the case, it was of still greater importance that it should be so in those instances in which the civil came into contact with the military power. Taking into account the vast military operations which were now being carried on in India, he felt assured their Lordships must feel deeply convinced of the necessity which existed for maintaining the principle for which he contended. Now, he regretted to say that rumours prevailed to the effect that there had been interference in the case of the civil authorities in India with respect to the conduct of military operations in that country. He did not know to what degree of credit those rumours were entitled, but he could not refrain from observing that the interference to which he referred could not, if it actually took place, fail to be otherwise than most detrimental to the best interests of the country. Surely their Lordships could not wish to go back to the days of the Aulic Council, when campaigns carried on in the north of Italy were planned in Vienna, and to allow the views of non-professional to override those of professional men? One of the causes of the present rebellion in India was, he believed, to be found in the injudicious interference of the civil with the military power. Now, as he had said before, he did not know whether the rumours to which he had alluded were or were not correct, but their Lordships would perhaps permit him to read an extract from a letter from India, in which statements corroborating those rumours were made. The letter was dated Camp Kamalgunge, April the 24th, and contained the following paragraph:— It must not be supposed that the Governor General's share in the operations against the enemy is small or unimportant. On the contrary, he takes a large and active part in directing the movements of our troops, and in indicating the direction in which our efforts should be exerted. By frequent electric telegrams and letters he communicates his ideas and wishes as to the conduct of the war, leaving, of course, the Com- mander in Chief to carry them out in detail, or to modify them in accordance with military considerations; but on all questions of general policy the will of the Governor General is decisive, and if any mischief has been caused by the delays at Futtehghur, at Cawnpore, or at Lucknow, it is not to be attributed to the Commander in Chief. The last expression of the Governor General's opinion is understood to be that General Roberts ought to disperse the Banda rebels, but that gallant officer has not moved from Kotah, and was, according to the last account, still there in the position he took up on the 15th of the month. Indeed, it is very likely that he will return to Neemuch, unless he is ordered not to do so by the Commander in Chief. Again, the Governor General would, if he commanded the army, prohibit Brigadier Jones's advance towards Bareilly till he had swept the Bijnore district. I merely mention these circumstances in order to show that the Governor General plays an important part even in the disposition of the troops in the field, and that the Commander in Chief of the army is by no means the sole commander of the army, so far as the plan of the campaign is concerned."—The Times' Special Correspondent. It was impossible to say whether this statement was overdrawn; but if it was not overdrawn, and if such interference really existed, he could not help thinking that we lost the ability and experience of the distinguished Officer commanding our armies in India, of whom any country in the world might be proud. He was under the deepest conviction that military operations must be conducted without interference; and where such interference had been attempted, disaster had generally been the result. He would conclude by asking the noble Earl at the head of the Government the question of which he had given notice as to the relations in Military Matters between the Governor General of India and the Commander in Chief in that country; and perhaps it might be desirable that he should move for a Copy of any Instructions given by the Governor General to the Commander in Chief respecting Military Operations in Oude and elsewhere.


My Lords, I have heard various causes—some of them without any foundation whatever—assigned for the outbreak of the unfortunate mutiny in India; but I confess it is now for the first time I have heard that one of the causes of the rebellion has been the interference of civilians in matters of a purely military character. There may have been acts of indiscretion committed by civilians in the way of interference with military men, and which may have produced mischievous consequences—acts on which military men might have been with advantage consulted—but I have never heard of any interference by the civil authorities with the military authorities in India upon purely military matters, or that any such circumstances had led to those evil consequences which unhappily exist at present in that part of our empire. I was anxious to hear the particular paper for which the noble Marquess wished to move. As I understand it is for a copy of the instructions issued by the Governor General to the Commander in Chief. I think, however, I can have no difficulty in answering the question put to file by the noble Marquess—namely, "what are the relations at present existing between the Governor General of India and the Commander in Chief in respect to military matters." My Lords, there can be no doubt that the Governor General in India does possess and must have absolute supremacy in the country. That supremacy must extend over all matters, military as well as civil; although undoubtedly it is the natural policy of the Governor General to leave purely military operations entirely to the management of the military authorities. I have no doubt, my Lords, that that is the course which has been pursued by the noble Lord who now administers the office of Governor General in India. Nevertheless, the noble Marquess must see that there are many cases involved in military operations which ought not to be decided by purely military authorities. But there may be many cases in which military operations must be guided by considerations not purely military, but in which political consequences of the greatest magnitude may be involved, and which may render it necessary to depart from a scheme which, viewed strategically, seemed to be preferable. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance in all those cases that the Governor General and the Commander in Chief should have the freest and most confidential intercourse with each other, and that each should know at once what are the particular reasons for the other's movements. I have, no doubt, my Lords, that the freest and most confidential communications have taken place between the present Governor General and the Commander in Chief on all occasions; and I think it is possible that on some occasions, in regard to certain military movements, at first thought desirable by Sir Colin Campbell, that that Commander in Chief, upon his consultation with the Governor General, may have been overruled by weighty considerations of political importance, and that a different course was taken promising much greater advantages than any that could be derived from the carrying out of the original proposition, My Lords, I think it is of the greatest importance that this confidential intercourse should not be in the slightest degree interrupted. I am sure that the noble Marquess did not intend by reading anonymous extracts from a newspaper to raise any question calculated to create a difference between the Governor General and the Commander in Chief. I have, my Lords, every reason to believe that Lord Canning and Sir Colin Campbell are acting together in the most confidential and cordial manner; and while upon purely military matters Lord Canning, on the one hand, is willing to defer to the superior experience of Sir Colin Campbell, so, on the other hand, Sir Colin Campbell knows his duty too well not to defer to the Governor General as having supreme authority upon all questions, not only affecting military movements, but involving political considerations of the deepest interests to the tranquillization and pacification of India. It appears to me impossible to lay down any absolute rule as to where the authority of the one ends, and that of the other begins. As I have before observed, the Governor General's authority must be supreme. In all military matters it is, no doubt, his bounden duty to consult the Commander in Chief; and it is necessary to the interests of the public service that between both the most confidential communications should exist, and that the opinions of each should be freely and confidentially exchanged upon all questions of importance.


thought, that nothing could be more clear than the definition given by the noble Earl of the relations between the Governor General and the Commander in Chief, and he had heard with great satisfaction the assurances just offered as to the good understanding which prevailed between Lord Canning and Sir Colin Campbell. There was no doubt that rumours of a different character had been abroad, which he was glad to hear now so directly contradicted; because it would be a matter of the most serious gravity if it were true that there had been any undue interference on the part of the Governor General with the Commander in Chief, situated as Sir Colin Campbell at present was. That gallant officer was a man of distinguished ability, and was engaged conducting a war with a small army opposed to ten times its numbers, and having to deal with a hostile and insurgent population. Any such interference was much to be deprecated, especially in the case of an officer of such high military character—an officer who had always shown himself chary of the blood and labour of his soldiers, but was ever prodigal of his own. He did not know whether it was generally known, but it was a curious fact that in every action in which Sir Colin Campbell had been engaged he had received a wound, though fortunately for the service they were all of a slight character. As to the relations between the Governor General and the Commander in Chief there were distinct precedents. Warren Hastings never once thought of interfering with Sir Eyre Coote; and when, in 1803, the Marquess of Wellesley was engaged in a war with the French and the Mahrattas he not only abstained himself from interfering with Lord Lake and the Duke of Wellington, but placed the civilians under military authority. Another distinguished soldier (Viscount Hardinge) also gave an example of the manner in which a Governor General should act towards the Commander in Chief, for although a superior officer to Lord Gough he put himself under his command and fought under him in two engagements.


I am extremely glad to have heard from the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government a denial of the reports which were alluded to by the noble Marquess, Such reports ought to be received with extreme caution; but as they have been referred to on the present occasion, I cannot help calling your Lordships' attention to the disposition which seems to exist among correspondents in India—who no doubt mean well, but are certainly incapable of forming correct opinions on what is passing—to give information which may tend to mislead the public. I have no knowledge on this subject, but this I know, that all the rumours which, soon after Lord Canning went to India, were attempted to be circulated there as to differences existing between the Governor General and the Commander in Chief were upon subsequent inquiry proved to be entirely false and unfounded. I do not say that this is the case with the rumours now mentioned; I do not know from what quarter they proceed; but it is my confident belief, from ray knowledge of the two distinguished persons in question—of the Governor General in his civil, and the Commander in Chief in his military capacity—that, besides the many virtues and eminent qualities which both possess for the important situations they hold, there are no men gifted in a higher degree with that greatest of all civil and military qualities,—I mean discretion. I am sure that neither would, if a difference arose between them, unnecessarily reveal the grounds of that difference. I am certain that, whatever may be the foundation (if there be any) for these rumours, no communication of any kind, either from Lord Canning or Sir Colin Campbell, can have laid the ground for this publicity. Such publicity, I feel confident, must have arisen from rumours which no conduct of theirs could have prevented. Deeply impressed with the importance of maintaining secret and inviolable what, from regard to the public interests, ought to be secret and inviolable—namely, confidential communications which pass between two men to whom the most important interests of the country are intrusted, I hope your Lordships, in common with the public, will receive with the greatest caution any communications, or any presumed reports, propagated in this manner.


said, that as some reference had been made to his late lamented friend, Lord Wellesley, it ought to be known that that noble Lord actually left Calcutta and established himself at Madras for the express purpose of maintaining close and speedy communication with the great commander under whom his brother the Duke of Wellington was then serving, and with whom he was allied in carrying on the Mahratta war.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn,

House adjourned at a quarter-past Six o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.