HL Deb 03 March 1876 vol 227 cc1283-6

LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY rose, in accordance with a private Notice which he had given to the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, because, notwithstanding his reply to the noble Earl's speech on Monday last, the Press had given credence to the statements made by the noble Earl which he then contradicted. He desired to set right a matter which the noble Earl was led to misrepresent to their Lordships and to the country as to what he said on the occasion o£ the discussion which took place on Monday night, and which the noble Earl represented as an attack on Her Majesty's Army. The only allusion he made to persons bearing arms in the suppression of the disturbances in the Peninsula was to the comments of two Straits newspapers on the acts of some Arabs under the orders of a civil official of the Straits Government—a medley of all nations described in the last number of The London and China Telegraph as "the sweepings of the Singapore gaol." They were headed by a French Canadian, who was a caretaker in one of the Singapore lighthouses. Their Lordships would admit that reflections on the conduct of this peculiar corps in no way touched or affected the credit of the British Army. Moreover, his appeal to the memory and celebrated protest of Lord Chatham, and the noble Earl's knowledge of history, should have convinced him that he was not speaking of Her Majesty's regiments—otherwise to name Lord Chatham's protest against the employment of Red Indians would have had no sense. If any imputation was made—if any aspersion was cast upon the British Army—it was by the noble Earl himself, who in his speech had brigaded these ruffians, and associated these brigands with the Queen's troops. He would also observe that there was no probability that while attacking the noble Earl's conduct of affairs he should go out of his way to attack Her Majesty's Army, considering the scrupulous care he had always given to the interests of the Army in all military questions that had come before the House. If their Lordships' debates took place with closed doors, it would be a matter of indifference to him that any noble Lord, in order to avoid giving him an answer, should make a "Rule Britannia" speech and raise a false issue of an attack upon the Army to distract attention from the main question, because he could have relied upon their Lordships' judgment, which would have discerned the weakness of a case which required bolstering up by such rhetorical artifices. But it was different when an attack upon Her Majesty's Army was wrongfully attributed to him, and such an imputation was dispersed over the country; and he could not sit down patiently under it. He did not accuse the noble Earl of resorting to the rhetorical artifice of answering what had not been said in order to gain an advantage in debate; but now that the advantage—perhaps only a temporary advantage, had been gained—he did rely on the noble Earl's sense of justice to retract the imputation in such manner as fully to exonerate him in the estimation of the Army.


said, he hardly knew what object the noble Lord had in view in reviving, under the form of a "personal explanation," the discussion which he initiated on Monday night. The "personal explanation" of the noble Lord was simply an attack on him for a reply he made to a very vehement speech delivered by the noble Lord, He was sure that if the noble Lord wished to express some regret for the language he had allowed himself to use in reference to the operations of Her Majesty's troops in the Malay Peninsula, the House would be prepared to listen to it; but if the noble Lord asked him to retract anything he had said in reply to that language, then, however anxious he might be to gratify the noble Lord, he felt unable to make such retractation. What the noble Lord said on Monday would be in the recollection of their Lordships. He spoke of the various military operations which had been carried out in the Malay Peninsula, and spoke of them as having been characterized by burnings, devastations, and considerable excesses. He spoke of the operations in three different parts of the Peninsula; and as the Natives were employed in one only, certainly the inference he drew was that the accusations made by the noble Lord applied to Her Majesty's troops as well as to the Natives. He thought that was not an unnatural inference. The noble Lord's language was so understood even by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Kimberley), who felt obliged to rise and express his opinion on the subject. The inference he drew, therefore, was not unreasonable, even though the noble Lord, on consideration, might like to rise and qualify what he had said. He did not object to the noble Lord doing that; but he did not hold that he (the Earl of Carnarvon) was to blame in the matter, inasmuch as he had only placed a reasonable construction on the noble Lord's language. With regard to the detachment of Natives which the noble Lord had likened to the Red Indians employed in America in Chatham's time, no doubt that was a detachment of Native Irregulars; but if a body of that kind was kept in hand, there was no objection to its employment. This particular force was employed at a critical moment, when the services of every available man were desirable; but Sir William Jervois gave a caution to the officer in command to hold them well in hand. After the operations the detachment was praised by the Civil Commissioner in charge of the district; and for himself he could now say that, having looked through all the official Papers, he could find no case of excess or barbarity alleged against it. It was impossible to prove a negative, but all that the official Papers recorded of that detachment was to its praise. But granted that the noble Lord's language of Monday last was applied to the Natives and not to Her Majesty's troops, was there not something unfair and unjust in singling out for this accusation a detachment that was composed of men of a different race? He regretted that, under the shelter of a personal explanation, the noble Lord should repeat charges so utterly without foundation and so utterly unjustifiable.

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