HL Deb 14 June 1864 vol 175 cc1698-702

said, he wished to call the attention of his noble Friend the President of the Council to a statement made by him yesterday evening, which had been misunderstood or misreported not only by one, but by several, of the newspapers of that morning. It was on a point mainly personal, but not wholly devoid of historical importance, and perhaps not without some interest in an official point of view. When his noble Friend was speaking of Lord Elgin's career, and rendering no more than a just tribute to his merits, he referred to that part of his career in which, at Singapore, on his way to china, he agreed to divert and did divert the Droops which were then on their way from England to China, in order that they might be sent to India to assist in suppressing the mutiny, and he understood his noble Friend to say that he did so at the urgent request, of the Governor General of India, and on his responsibility. Reading the reports, however, he found that his noble Friend was represented to have said that Lord Elgin Was fully rewarded by having an opportunity of showing his disinterestedness when on his way to China he was met by, the, news of the rebellion, and took upon himself the responsibility of diverting his troops to India. Any one who read that report would naturally think that Lord Elgin in diverting the troops under his command to India had acted on an original notion which had occurred to him. Lord Canning had been charged by those who knew nothing of the circumstances of the case with having been the last man; to acknowledge the gravity of the revolt; whereas the papers laid before their Lordships showed that Lord Elgin had acted upon a distinct and urgent demand made on him by the Governor General of India. Lord Canning in fact, Wrote to Lord Elgin, asking him to move to India as many regiments as possible at his disposal before sending them on to China, and he concluded thus— I place the matter briefly before your Lordship, but I hope, clearly enough to enable you to come to a ready decision. I will add that I am willing and anxious to bear the whole responsibility of all the consequences of turning aside the troops from China to India. Lord Elgin, in cordially acceding to this request after consultation with General Ashburnham to divert the troops, said— In diverting from their destination a portion of the troops under my command, both the General and myself feel that we are incurring a heavy responsibility and are making great sacrifices. The merits of Lord Elgin were of so high a character, that they did not need enhancement by detracting from the merits of anyone else; and he thought that his noble Friend the Lord President would not hesitate to state distinctly that while Lord Elgin had entered most cordially into the execution of the plan proposed by Lord Canning, the proposition emanated from Lord Canning, and that he emphatically stated that he was willing to take upon himself the whole of the responsibility.


I should be one of the last to find; fault with the accuracy with which the speeches made, here are reported in the newspapers; but if we re collect how often we speak in a conversational kind, of tone across this table, and what a noise there is often going on under the reporters' gallery, it is difficult to understand how even the substance of our observations is caught. My noble Friend is quite right in bringing the matter under the attention of your Lordships, because everything that happened at the time referred to is worthy of being correctly recorded. My noble Friend is perfectly correct as to the substance of what I in tended to say; I will not answer for the words. What I meant to say was that Lord Elgin on his way out to China was met by the news of the Indian rebellion, and received an urgent appeal from Lord Canning to divert the troops under his command to India, and that Lord Canning took upon himself the entire responsibility of the act. It never occurred to me to detract from the merits of either of these two great and distinguished men — and, indeed, the fact always struck me as a singular instance of the presence of mind with which Lord Canning availed himself of every possible resource at his command in a great emergency With regard to the responsibility, Lord Canning took upon himself the responsibility of making the request, and Lord Elgin the responsibility of granting it. I think, my chief reason for alluding to the circumstance was to remark on the singular coincidence of two college friends after a separation by political employment for many years, finding themselves meeting in a distant part of the world under such circumstances, and joining cordially in a measure which, if not the turning-point of the rebellion, was at least of the greatest importance in enabling the Governor General to suppress it.


said, that his noble Friend had certainly been misrepresented by the newspapers, for he had paid particular attention to his speech, having remarked that in the other House both Lord Palmerston and Sir Charles Wood had laid too much stress on Lord Elgin's conduct in this affair, and to a certain extent had detracted from the merit of Lord Canning—though that might be quite unintentional. The Secretary of State said that the reason why part of Lady Elgin's pension was charged on-the Indian revenues was that at a critical moment Lord Elgin had diverted the troops from China to India, The memory of Lord Canning did not need any vindication from any one; but when that statement had been made in the House of Commons, it was only right that his noble Friend the President of the Council should have given the explanation which their Lordships had just heard. Lord Canning sent a message to Lord Elgin and General Ashburnham, urging them in a way that did not admit of refusal for troops, and under these circumstances Lord Elgin was entitled to the credit of allowing the troops to be diverted; but the idea had originated entirely with Lord Canning. At the same time he sent to Sir Henry Ward at Ceylon, and a short time after he sent to Sir George Grey at the Cape for similar assistance. Having said so much on that point, while expressing his concurrence in what had been said as to the merits of Lord Elgin, he thought the Government ought to consider whether any portion of the pension to be given to Lady Elgin ought to be charged on the finances of Indian. No pension had been given to Lady Ward out of the Indian revenues, although Sir Henry Ward died at Madras immediately after his removal from the governorship of Ceylon, from the effects of the climate of India. He was glad to say that Sir George Grey was still performing excellent service for his country; but those two men had sent troops to India as well as Lord Elgin, and it could scarcely be said that the fact of his Lordship having been for a short time Governor General entitled his widow to a pension charged on the finances of India.


, as a very near relation of one of the parties and as a friend of the other, wished to say that he understood the speech of the President of the Council last evening as one which did equal justice to Lord Canning and Lord Elgin. As he had not spoken on the previous occasion their Lordships would allow him to take the opportunity of expressing his satisfaction, and more than satisfaction, at the statement in which his noble Friend the President of the Council had done justice to Lord Elgin and his widow. He had listened with attention to every word which fell from his noble Friend, and he found that the speech of the noble Earl entirely expressed his own feelings on the subject. It was impossible to have heard the recital of the eminent services of Lord Elgin without a feeling of gratification; and it was equally impossible to contemplate the loss the country had sustained by his death without a feeling of the deepest sorrow. He was sure their Lordships all felt grateful to Her Majesty for having given so signal a mark of her appreciation of Lord Elgin's great merits, and for having done justice to an illustrious public servant. It was most satisfactory to find that in a monarchical country such sentiments of gratitude for public services should exist; that those feelings of jealousy which were so often found to prevail in democratic communities had no place here, and that the nation responded to the example given to it by the Crown, and was anxious to do justice to those who deserved well of their country.