HL Deb 18 February 1881 vol 258 cc1195-219

My Lords, the noble Earl who was at the head of the late Government administered to me the other night a somewhat warm rebuke for not having accepted at once and upon the spot the statement made by the noble Earl the late Viceroy of India in respect to the Question which I put to him with regard to the military preparations in November, 1876, upon the Indus Frontier. I can assure the House that if I could conscientiously have accepted that statement I should have done so; but I am sure your Lordships will feel that it was absolutely my duty to come down on the earliest day and either frankly and fully accept that statement, or explain to the House the grounds upon which I am unable to do so—that is, to accept it as a complete statement of the facts. My first duty, however, is to apologize to the noble Earl the late Viceroy of India for a mistake which was entirely my fault, and not his—in saying that his note did not mention the day on which he would make his explanation. So completely taken back was I by his explanation on Tuesday last that I intended to leave the House, and I was writing in one of the rooms when a noble Lord came and told mo that the noble Earl was referring to the Question. My impression was that his note did not state the day, and I was shocked to find that the noble Earl had stated the day by stating "Tuesday next," not the day of the month. I think the words were used twice, "Tuesday first" and "Tuesday next;" but the fault was entirely my own, and not his, and I fear that had I understood that the noble Lord meant Tuesday last I should have been obliged to ask him to postpone his statement for, at least, a couple of days. He took a whole week to consider his reply to my Question, and he gave me only too days, one of which was a Sunday. Now, although I had abundant evidence from officers and others, they had almost invariably said "Don't quote mo;" and it was only on Wednesday last, after searching the archives of the India Office, that I was able to get the official evidence which I shall now unfold to your Lordships. Since I put my Question, I have ascertained some facts which I confess I was not aware of at the time; and I trust the House will allow me to go into a close and consecutive narrative of all I know about the bridge of boats across the Indus until I put my Question the other day. The House will remember that the noble Earl went out as Viceroy in April, 1876. He continued to discharge the duties of that high office for two years and eight months, during which neither Parliament nor the country was informed of any of his operations. It was not until he had succeeded in driving the late Ameer of Cabul into the arms of Russia, and war had been actually declared, in the latter end of 1878, that any Papers were produced to Parliament. I believe the first knowledge that we had in this country of the noble Earl's proceedings was supplied by the Papers produced in December, 1878, shortly before the Winter Session of Parliament. Now, during the whole of 1876 and 1877 we had no knowledge whatever of what was going on in India—no knowledge of the course the Government was taking towards the Ameer of Cabul and the people of Afghanistan. It was in these circumstances that, in the month of June, 1877, the late Lord Lawrence came to me and told me that he had information from India which gave him the greatest anxiety as to the policy which the Government was thenpursuing. He told me his information was to this effect—that the Viceroy of India, under instructions from home, was insisting upon the reception of a British Envoy at Cabul; that the Ameer was being threatened by the permanent occupation by British troops of Quetta on his Candahar Frontier; that simultaneously his North-Eastern Frontier was also threatened; and, lastly, that a considerable force had been prepared upon the Indus— that a bridge of boats had been thrown across the Indus, preparatory, apparently, to the invasion of Afghanistan, or, at all events, for the purpose of threatening and frightening the Ameer into the acceptance of our conditions. I asked if he had any positive information to this effect. He replied that he had no doubt of the facts; but he wished to know what should be done under the circumstances. I replied that I should communicate privately with the Secretary of State for India, and, with his permission, I should ask a Question in Parliament, when these allegations might or might not be denied; and accordingly I had a private communication with Lord Salisbury, and in pursuance with the private Notice I gave I put this Question to him on, I think, the 7th of June. I am not going to say one word in condemnation of the reply which Lord Salisbury gave on that occasion. I am aware that Secretaries of State are often placed in a position in which they are obliged, more or less, to fence with Questions of this nature; and that, in a critical state of affairs, a Government is justified in withholding the whole truth. At the same time, I am bound to say that I put the Question to Lord Salisbury in such a form, and entering into such details and particulars, as did enable him to deny with perfect truth, as far as the answer went, the statements Which had been made to me. Nothing more passed with regard to that matter, and we knew nothing more of the matter until the Papers were presented to Parliament in December, 1878. Looking back on what we now know, I am bound to say my belief is—indeed, my knowledge is—that in all the main particulars of Lord Lawrence's statement he was perfectly accurately informed. It is perfectly true that the Government had insisted on the reception of a British Agent, not, indeed, in the City of Cabul —though that was also required—but in the Kingdom of Cabul. Your Lordships will remember that the word "Cabul" is constantly used both in regard to the Kingdom and the City. Lord Salisbury denied that he had asked for the reception of a British Envoy at Cabul, meaning the City, the demand being that the Envoy should be received in certain cities of Cabul. We also know that it is true that at the time I asked my Question in June, 1877, a complete rupture had taken place between the Government of India and the Ameer of Afghanistan. Our Agent had been withdrawn, and it was no myth, but the literal truth, when I said the other night that the noble Earl had intimidated by threatening letters and had "Boycotted" the Ameer. It is also perfectly true, as Lord Lawrence then informed me, that Quetta had, for the first time, been permanently occupied by a British force. I believe it to be perfectly true, also, that arrangements had been made for sending a British Agent to Candahar, and that arrangements had been made for threatening the Ameer on that side. It is also perfectly true that the most violent threats were addressed to the Ameer by the noble Earl, of which Lord Lawrence was not aware, but which we know now. A few months before I asked my Question the Ameer had been told that if he did not conform to our wishes and agree to the terms we proposed there was nothing in our previous engagements which prevented us from wiping Afghanistan out of the map of the world—that Russia desired to make a compromise with us at his expense. All those things, which were the basis of Lord Lawrence's statement to me, were then perfectly true. I come next to the question of the bridge of boats. It is perfectly true that the Papers hitherto presented to Parliament give no explanation and no statement in regard to the military preparations on the Indus Frontier. The noble Earl referred the other night to a despatch of his, dated, I think, the 7th or 8th of March, which did acknowledge that fact of the bridge of boats. Lord Salisbury must have been in possession of that despatch when he answered my Question; but I am not the least surprised that he said he knew nothing about it, because the bridge was represented as a mere matter of detail connected with the opening of a new line of road to Kohat; and it was natural, in the press of business at the India Office, that his attention might not have been called to it. Lord Salisbury stated what was, no doubt, perfectly true, that his attention had never been called to the fact. Some days ago I ventured to ask, in consequence of the Motion read by the noble Earl on the subject of Can-dahar, that previous to our debate on the subject, if he had certain Papers they should be produced, that we might see what effect they might have on the inference to be drawn from the secret Papers found at Cabul; and I asked for information particularly with reference to this bridge of boats, and with regard to his military preparations, apparently directed against the Ameer. The account which the noble Earl gave was as follows:— Your Lordships are, no doubt, well aware that there is a small tongue of independent and barbarous territory which juts into the old un-scientific Frontier on the North West of India directly between the important fortresses of Peshawur and Kohat; and so long as the Government of India had been at peace with the turbulent tribes which populate it, all our communications between Peshawur and Kohat had been carried on straight across this tongue; but when I arrived in India, in 1876, disputes had arisen between the Frontier Tribes and the Punjaub Government, which, I need hardly remind your Lordships, has always been, and is, the local guardian of our interests, and this pass had been closed by the hostile tribes, and the Punjaub Government was blockading those tribes who had closed the road. But, unfortunately, the blockade was so ineffectual that when I visited Peshawur in the winter of 1876 there had been no fewer than eight very serious outrages perpetrated on our own territory by the Frontier Tribes and other tribes, who were supposed to be acting with them. In these circumstances, the Punjaub Government represented to me the expediency of showing those tribes that our means of communication with Kohat could be made practically independent of their permission or protection. And the noble Earl proceeded in these words— It appeared to me that at the time there was a very unfortunate, but a very marked, predisposition on the part of certain influential parties and persons in England to attribute, upon any conceivable pretext, to the Government of India certain very bellicose propensities which we were certainly very far from entertaining towards neighbours very much more important than these Frontier Tribes. Therefore, though, in ordinary circumstances, I should have regarded this proposed expedition as a very natural, a very proper, and a very efficacious measure, still, having regard to what I considered the relations of the whole situation I was dealing with, it appeared to me that it was not expedient for the Government of India at that time to sanction any military movement not absolutely indispensable which might possibly have the effect of giving even the faintest pretext for those most deplorable and mischievous impressions with regard to our policy. The noble Earl went on to confirm this statement by reading a private letter which he had received from Sir Henry Norman, who was then his Chief Military Adviser in India, and also President of the Council. I confess that I was extremely astonished at finding a letter quoted from Sir Henry Norman in a Blue Book which had the aspect of coercing the Ameer; because it was a matter of notoriety, from letters which have appeared in the newspapers, that three of the most distinguished members of his Council, of whom Sir Henry Norman was one, Sir William Muir and Sir Arthur Hobhouse being the others, were strenuous opponents of the policy of the noble Earl; and I thought it was very unlikely that Sir Henry Norman would have addressed to the noble Earl a letter approving of his policy towards Afghanistan. However, the words of the letter which the noble Earl quoted are these— The opening of the mail-cart again from Kohat to Rawul Pindi, improvement of the read, and construction of the bridge of boats over the Indus on that route will be beneficial. Your Lordship's resolution not to send a detachment to Thull, in the face of advice to do so from influential quarters, was, if I may venture to say so, admirable. What was actually ordered is desirable and can have no bad effect. Now, that was quoted from a private letter. The noble Earl has a perfect right to quote private letters to the Government of India; and I do not wish to press him for the production of the private correspondence between him and Sir Henry Norman when he was President of the Council of India. The noble Earl has a right to consider them as private letters; but I am bound to say that if he quotes this hit of one letter from Sir Henry Norman, he ought, at least, to permit Sir Henry Norman to make any public use he likes of other private letters which may have passed between them on the same subject. I am not one of those who would attempt to deny to the Indian Government a large and free use of private correspondence. I have myself quoted private letters which have passed between Lord Mayo and myself; but I did so on the condition that every one of those letters should be accessible to every noble Lord who wished to see them; and I have no objection to every word that I wrote to Lord Mayo being published, except, of course, those on a purely private matter. But here is a letter from Sir Henry Norman praising the noble Earl for having resisted the pressure which was put upon him in influential quarters to make an expedition. Who were those influential persons who pressed the noble Earl to make this expedition? That is not explained to us. Then, where was this expedition to go to? To Thull. What has that place to do with the Afridees? That is between 50 and 60 miles from the Afridee country; and the expedition which the noble Earl was advised to make to Thull cannot possibly have been an expedition against the Afridees. Then I want to know who advised him to make it, and why did he resist that pressure? It seems to me that this is a question which the Military Advisers of the noble Earl and the present Commander-in-Chief in India may be called upon to answer. What is the date of this letter from Sir Henry Norman?—December the 3rd. But why did not the noble Earl go on to tell us what happened three days afterwards? My own belief is that these things have escaped the memory of the noble Earl. The Viceroy of India has a great deal to do, and a great deal has passed since November, 1876. I can well conceive that he has altogether forgotten the transactions that followed this congratulatory letter from Sir Henry Norman for having resisted the sending of a force to Thull. What happened three days afterwards? Do your Lordships remember where Thull is, and what it means? It is the entrance to the Kuram Valley; it is the place to which an expedition would be sent if it were meant to threaten the Ameer and to invade his territory. It appears, then, from this private letter which the noble Earl quoted, that his Military Advisers advised him to send an expedition to Thull. Well, my Lords, I find that on the 6th of December, 1876, Colonel Johnson sent the following official telegram to Calcutta, to the President in Council:— Viceroy considers it highly desirable to have a flying column ready in the event of war to advance to Kuram, to give weight to any communication it may be necessary to make to the Ameer, and to be the advance column of such larger force as it may he necessary to send, if war be declared. Proposed strength—one regiment British, one Native Cavalry; two British (Cavalry), two Native Infantry regiments, two Companies Sappers, one Battery Field Artillery, one British, one Native Mountain Battery. If move on Kuram becomes necessary, Native Infantry to be increased by volunteering to 800; all corps to be picked, selected for the duty, and to be moved at once to points in the neighbourhood of Kuram. Order equipment and carriage being prepared for earliest possible movement after declaration of war. Should you see no decisive objection, His Excellancy will be glad if you will cause Commander-in-Chief to be instructed accordingly, and order such equipment and carriage as may be necessary. How disappointed must Sir Henry Norman have been when, three days after he had been congratulating the noble Earl on his resisting the advice of high military authorities, he received an order to prepare a large military force for the possible invasion of the Kuram Valley! But this is not all. I have brought down to the House a rather bulky volume from the India Office, which contains the letters of the War Office during the remainder of December of that year, and on till the months of spring of the following year. I find that during all these months urgent orders were issued by the noble Earl to his Government for the equipment of this force. It was called the Frontier Field Force, and this morning I had a letter from an officer who was then in the district, saying that he found the whole lines blocked with trains and waggons going to the Frontier. The preparations which the noble Earl was making at that time were quite as notorious in India as the preparations which are being made for the reinforcement of Sir George Colley at present are notorious in London. There are officers without number in London who will tell you they knew all about it. I find that on the 12th of December, 10,000 blankets were ordered, and the Commissariat officers were ordered also to arrive as fast as they could. But lot me now direct your attention to the bridge of boats over the Indus. No doubt, the noble Earl is right in saying that the bridge of boats was useful, the mail communication having been broken up. But there were other motives in his mind, and one of these was the preparation of a field force ordered to advance. In many ways there was absolute proof that these military preparations were being made, and they were declared by the Viceroy himself, in official telegrams, to be for the possible invasion of Afghanistan. I want to know from the noble Earl what he meant by a "declaration" of war in this telegram? The telegram says, "in the event of war." Now, what I want to know is whether that refers to war against Afghanistan or war against Russia? It must refer to one or the other. Take either alternative, and I will ask the House to consider it. A large force of 5,000 men of all arms, preceding other large forces which were also to be prepared, if necessary, was being directed against Kuram early in December. What had happened before that day? The noble Earl had just sent off his Vakeel to Cabul with a most elaborate Treaty, containing most disingenuous clauses, which he was to urge the Ameer to accept. He had accompanied that Treaty by the most violent verbal threats. He had instructed his Vakeel to tell the Ameer that he was an earthen pipkin between two iron pots-—England and Russia; that there was nothing to prevent a division of his Kingdom, and that Russia was ready and eager to share the spoil. At the very moment when the noble Earl was preparing this army Shere Ali had the Treaty before him, Can the noble Earl deny that the notoriety of those preparations must have acted on the Ameer? Can he for a moment deny that the Ameer knew that he was being threatened by the noble Earl? The noble Earl confesses himself that at that time the Ameer knew it. He brings it as an accusation against the unfortunate Ameer that, although he was pretending to be too ill to answer his message, he was quite well enough to be publicly reviewing his troops and making military movements. What were those military movements? They were movements he made in answer to the threatening attitude of the noble Earl. It was as a counter-move to the preparations of the noble Earl that he moved troops down to Hyderabad, and towards the Khyber Pass. I must say that it seems to me a most unjust thing that the Government of India at that moment, having made this proposition to the Ameer, should have threatened him with a great army, and then made it an accusation against him that he had made Frontier preparations to meet it. Then, as to the other alternative. Possibly, the noble Earl meant a declaration of war against Russia. I think that is very probable. What is the inference to be drawn from it? This telegram was dated December 6, 1876; and it seems to me rather a significant coincidence that the date of Lord Salisbury's arrival at Constantinople as our Envoy at the Conference was the previous day—the 5th of December. Is it possible that the noble Earl had not received any telegram from the Homo Government desiring him to make these preparations at the moment? Russia had just accepted the bases for a Conference. On looking at a book which sometimes contains useful information, The Annual Register, which, I believe, is written entirely without political bias, I find that on the 5th of December, 1876, Lord Salisbury arrived at Constantinople, and had an interview with General I gnatieff. The Annual Register says— The two statesmen at once became cordially intimate, and special correspondents describe them as walking about the streets of Pera arm-in-arm. And yet at that very moment it appears the noble Earl was preparing a great army for the purpose either of invading Afghanistan or of threatening Russia. I must remind the House of a much more important authority than anything in The Annual Register. I look to a despatch from my noble Friend on the Bench below mo (the Earl of Derby), who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I find that at that very date England was giving no assistance to Turkey; but, on the other hand, England distinctly intimates that if Turkey did not give way to the wishes of Europe, Russia would declare war against Turkey, and that we would not give help to Turkey. In his despatch of the 10th of May, the noble Earl distinctly said that the Ameer was prevented from accepting his terms at this time owing to his anticipation of war between England and Russia. The noble Earl could not tell what was in the mind of the Ameer; but he could tell what was in his own mind. The noble Earl appears to have thought there would be immediate war between England and Russia, that England would support Turkey, and he was prepared for that eventuality. I have brought this matter before your Lordships for a very obvious reason. The noble Earl, the other night, said he could not conceive why I introduced the subject—what on earth was the connection between Candahar and the bridge of boats over the Indus? The noble Earl is a man of very ingenuous mind if he does not see why I introduced it. Why has he moved for the Secret Correspondence found at Cabul? What connection has that with the subject of Candahar? The connection between the two subjects is precisely the same, and I think I will show it in this way. Suppose that in the Papers at Cabul there had been found a letter from the Russian Government instructing her commanders in Bokhara to collect a force of flying columns, to prepare a force for the possible invasion of Afghanistan, and for bridging the Oxus. What would he have said to such a letter? We should never hear the end of it. We should be hearing torrents of indignation about the treachery of Russia, that she should be preparing a great army, and bridging the Oxus at the very moment when our Ambassador was walking arm-in-arm with her Ambassador at Constantinople. Can I doubt what the object of the noble Earl was in moving for the Secret Correspondence? I do not regret it. I was one of those who urged the late Government to publish this Secret Correspondence; and I can never understand why they did not do so. They had published two years ago one of the documents which was most compromising to Russia. They had already published despatches in which it appeared that long after the Treaty of Berlin—at least, a considerable time after— one of the Russian Generals was still in treaty with the Ameer. That, after all, is the most compromising document. Why, I ask, did the late Government refuse to publish the rest of that Correspondence after having published that document? My belief then was, and now is, that that Correspondence will show that there was no correspondence between Russia and the Ameer until long after the noble Earl had stimulated a rupture between England and the Ameer. And why does the noble Earl press for the publication of that Correspondence now? Because he thinks that he will embarrass the Government by the production of that Correspondence, and, that it will have an effect with uninstructed people and those who do not look precisely at dates —stupid though it may seem—upon the Motion he is about to make in regard to Candahar. The noble Earl who was at the head of the late Government rebuked me the other day for speaking with what he called passion and prejudice. I acquit the noble Earl of having spoken on this matter with either passion or prejudice. It seems to me that he never speaks with either passion or prejudice; but I know no man who has greater skill in playing upon the passions or the prejudices of others; and I have no doubt that in the support which he has given to this Motion for the production of this Correspondence he wishes to raise the passions and prejudices of international hatred as bearing on the Candahar question. The noble Earl said that he wished to disembarrass the Candahar question of all passion and prejudice. Well, my Lords, so do I; and I wish it now to stand upon record, when that Correspondence shall appear, that long before the beginning of that Correspondence the noble Earl (the Earl of Lytton) and his Government—under instructions, I cannot doubt, from home —were preparing a large army, either for the invasion of Afghanistan or of Russia in Central Asia, with both of which countries we then professed to be in a state of profound amity and peace. My object in asking the Question I have done of the noble Earl was to elicit that fact; and I must conclude by repeating to this House that I am unable to accept the explanation that has been given of the matter. I myself believe that the noble Earl's memory has deceived him. I have had access to Papers found in the India Office, the existence of which the noble Earl may well have forgotten, but which I should desire to add to the Secret Correspondence, the publication of which may tend to inflame the passions of this country against the Afghan people and the Russian people; and I challenge the noble Earl to produce the whole of that private Correspondence between himself and Sir Henry Norman, of which he has already published a portion in a despatch.


I have but a few observations to make in reference to the elaborate statement which we have just heard from the noble Duke opposite. The issue between myself and the noble Duke is a very simple one, and it stands thus. About 10 days ago the noble Duke thought fit to bring forward in this House certain definite accusations against the late Government of India, and against myself in particular—accusations which for four years previously the noble Duke had been assiduously propagating throughout India, England, and Europe, and which wore based altogether upon unverified reports. In answer to those accusations I stated to your Lordships what were the actual facts of the case referred to by the noble Duke about this bridge of boats and this collection of a largo army for the invasion of Afghanistan or of the Russian Possessions in Central Asia; for these were the accusations which were then brought by the noble Duke against the late Government of India. The noble Duke said that in October or November, 1876, we had built a bridge of boats and collected a large force for those purposes. At the time I explained what was the real purpose for which that bridge of boats had been made, and I showed that no largo army had been collected on our Frontier for the purpose of invading either Afghanistan or the Russian Possessions in Central Asia. What did the noble Duke then do? He re-affirmed all his then unverified accusations, and he declared that he would take his own time to substantiate them. He has taken his own time, and has employed four or five days in the further prosecution of the researches he then told us he had commenced. Buthowhas the noble Dukeem-ployed that time? His references to official and authentic documents on this subject would not have occupied 10 minutes of his time. But, not finding in these official documents any justification for the definite charges which he had brought against the late Government of India, he has once more had recourse to private and irresponsible informants, who appear to have placed him in possession of letters written to or received by them in a position of the greatest official confidence and trust. But even by this procedure the noble Duke has not substantiated the original accusations he brought against the late Indian Government; and, not having done that, he has substituted for those accusations a fresh theory, which I must be allowed to say is equally unfounded and unsubstantiated. The noble Duke now brings forward the charge that I and my Military Advisers in India plotted, I do not know whether in 1876 or 1877, an invasion of Afghanistan or of Russia in Central Asia. That accusation requires an answer plain and direct. I declare that we did nothing of the kind. Since the noble Duke has thought proper and right to refer to the other confidential communications which took place between me and my trusted Military Advisers at that time, I have no desire whatever to evade the ungracious task of correcting the construction which the noble Duke has placed upon them. I fully admit, and I am not ashamed to acknowledge, that in the year 1876 I did ask, and I did receive, from my Military Advisers confidential expressions of their personal views as to what the Army of India could do, and what might be the possible military power, and even the military action, required on the part of India in the event of hostilities, not provoked by the conduct of the late Indian Government, but brought about by circumstances obviously not under our control. And what were those circumstances? I need hardly remind your Lordships that at that time there was very great reason to fear that we were on the eve of a great European war, in which at any moment the whole power of England might be confronted by that of Russia in every part of the world. But there were other circumstances at that time to which the noble Duke has not referred, and which were more special to India. At that time three Russian Envoys had arrived at Cabul, one of whom was in the closest and most secret confidence of the Ameer. At the same time General Kaufmann had addressed a communication to the Ameer; and while the Ameer was on the terms of the closest confidence with the Russian Envoy, he was openly proclaiming, in terms of the fiercest denunciation, a religious war against us, and inciting the Frontier tribes to attack us. Under these circumstances, I now say it was the duty of the Government of India to bring to a conclusion, as rapidly and effectually as they could, consistently with dignity and safety, these quarrels in which we were still engaged with the tribes on our own border; in the next place, to place our Frontier in a condition of improved defence, to repair defects in administration and organization, and also to remedy those defects in our own military organization, which were certainly not without recognition by the Commander-in-Chief, or by myself, or by any of my Military Colleagues, who were not responsible for having left them in that state. I am not ashamed to say that the Government of India did not neglect that duty, because I think that, under the circumstances, it would have been criminal. I maintain and assert most positively that no movement of troops took place, that no military preparations were made, and that no military operations wore undertaken, except such as were absolutely necessary for the legitimate purposes of Frontier defence. I declare most solemnly, my Lords, that there was no intention on my part or on the part of Her Majesty's then Government to collect or move troops for the purpose of making preparations to invade Afghanistan or to attack the military positions of Russia in Central Asia. The noble Duke has referred in support of the view he takes to an expedition to Thull which never took place, and lie asked your Lordships whore Thull is. Your Lordships did not require to be told that; it is very well known that it is within our own borders. Then the noble Duke has read to your Lordships a confidential telegram about a flying column, which, he suggested, was sent to Thull; but he omitted to state that the flying column was never sent at all. If the Government of India had undertaken such military preparations or operations, it would have been our imperative duty to lay our course of proceedings before Her Majesty's Government; and if the noble Duke cannot find in the archives any report of such official proceedings he might, I should think, have given to the late Government the credit for possessing sufficient common sense not to wish to provoke a premature quarrel with the Ameer, especially at a time when, although it was not known in this country, it was known to the Government of India that there was great reason to fear that in any such quarrel the Ameer would be backed up by the whole power of Russia. I trust that here or elsewhere, in any place, at any time, and to any fair challenger, I shall always be ready to explain and defend my public and official conduct as Governor General of India; and, therefore, I say that if the noble Duke has discovered any public and official documents which he thinks can justify the accusations he has made against the late Government of India, let him produce them; but if he has not, if his sole justification for these accusations is a reference to correspondence between the Viceroy and his Official Advisers upon most confidential subjects, all I can say is that, for my own part, I feel a great personal thankfulness that the noble Duke does not happen to be that particular Member of Her Majesty's Government who is at present intrusted with the delicate duty of opening confidential correspondence in its passage through the Post Office.


I cannot admit that the noble Earl is correct in saying that my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) has based any statement he made upon quotations from confidential communications. The only person who has done this, and without having first asked the leave of the writers to do so, is the noble Earl opposite, who quoted a portion of a letter written by Sir Henry Norman without asking the leave of the writer so to do. The noble Earl has said that a telegram which was quoted by my noble Friend was a confidential one; but in that statement he is altogether mistaken. I have seen the telegram; there is nothing in it to show that it was intended to be confidential; and there is this additional fact in support of the statement that it was not so intended —that it was written, not in cypher, but in plain English. This telegram gives orders to Sir Henry Norman to make certain military preparations, which, upon my life, I do not know whether the noble Earl intends now to deny or not. If the noble Earl had frankly stated the other day that these military prepara- tions had been made, nothing further would have been said about it. In the year 1877 answers were given in your Lordships' House which showed that the then Secretary of State for India had no knowledge of these preparations. Does the noble Earl mean to deny, in the face of this telegram, that military preparations were made in 1876? The noble Earl says that such preparations never went to the extent of an absolute collection of troops at any particular place; but it must not be forgotten that such arrangements were made in regard to supplies and transport as would have enabled the troops to proceed at the shortest notice to any place to which they might have been ordered. The noble Earl may have been right or wrong in making these preparations; but the fact remains. The noble Earl has said that he was justified in making these preparations by the state of affairs in Cabul at the time, and he says that there were then Russian Envoys at Cabul. I cannot, of course, pretend to say what was passing through the mind of the Ameer of Cabul at the time; but as far as the Russian Envoys are concerned, as far as I know, the persons who were said to be Rusian Envoys were not Russians at all, but were men from Bokhara or Samarkand, bearing letters from General Kaufmann. It has often been explained that there was nothing in those letters of which the British Government had any right to complain until the noble Earl had so irritated the Ameer as to drive him into the arms of Russia. It appears to me that the statement of the noble Duke has been amply supported by official Correspondence and documents which are to be found in the Military Department of the India Office. The denial of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), in 1877, to my mind, places the matter in an exceedingly painful position; because it now appears that every single word spoken then by the noble Duke behind me was absolutely true, that the noble Earl did not keep the Secretary of State sufficiently informed as to what was going on in India at that time.


I suppose we shall never come to a conclusion as to what it was that disturbed the mind of the Ameer of Cabul in the circum- stances referred to by the noble Earl. Whenever that great argument comes on again, I shall be prepared to show that it was disturbed long before the period to which we are now referring— long before the period at which my noble Friend (the Earl of Lytton) went to India. With respect to those preparations which are alleged to have been made by the Government, the noble Duke says that Russia knew all about them. I do not know where the noble Duke gets his brief from, whether from Russia or elsewhere. But I can only say that there was no sign or token in the Russian Press of any such knowledge on the part of Russia.


My information is derived from Colonel Bracken-bury, our English officer, who wrote to The Times.


The noble Duke had better have quoted that letter which showed that Russia knew all about it—that is, that Russia knew all about things which, he says, were passing in secret so far as this country was concerned, and which actually did not take place. Your Lordships have heard a great deal of vague comment on the conduct of my noble Friend (the Earl of Lytton); but what is the charge that has been made against him? It is said that he ordered the construction of a bridge of boats across the Indus, and the conveyance of military stores in large quantities to Kohat and Rawul Pindee, in order to counteract Russian advances in Central Asia, or to invade Afghanistan. In answer to this, I say, in the first place, that the bridge of boats was not placed across the Indus for any such purpose as that he has represented. There is a despatch, which will be placed before your Lordships, which, I think, is in the India Office, and which will show that the bridge of boats was meant for a different purpose—that it was suggested by the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjaub, and not by my noble Friend; that its object was totally disconnected with any question of war in Afghanistan at all, and it would have been made if no such war had been contemplated either at that time or at any other. Secondly, I say that the noble Duke, having said it was true that an army was collected, is totally mistaken as to the facts, and equally so as to the effect of the quotation he made from a document —confidential or not, I do not care— which states that certain preparations were recommended. Those preparations were not carried into effect. As those recommendations were not persisted in there was no advance to Thull, nor was this great army of 5,000 men, which was to invade Central Asia by being placed within our own Frontiers, placed as he has represented. I am not so long, my Lords, acquainted with the course of proceedings in your Lordships' House as is the noble Duke; but it appears to mo that the noble Duke, the other night, took a most extraordinary course. My noble Friend asked Her Majesty's Government to produce certain Papers without making any Motion, but merely asking a Question, which was courteously replied to by the noble Earl who is now at the Foreign Office; and when he had sat down, and all was apparently over, the noble Duke got up and entered upon a totally new subject, upon which he asked Questions, of which he had not given the slightest Notice, concerning the noble Earl's administration four years ago. Then, in a somewhat —I should have thought a most—irregular manner, he addressed the House upon the subject. The noble Duke spoke of communications which had taken place between my noble Friend and his Military Advisers—as if there was something remarkable in that fact. Let me ask a question of a late Viceroy (the Earl of Northbrook), who sits opposite to mo. Did that noble Earl at any-period in 1875 contemplate the occupation of Herat? I do not say he did; but did the noble Earl ask his Military Advisors for a specification of all that would be necessary for such an occupation, and did he obtain such a document from his Military Advisers? And if it is to be said that that has been done by the noble Earl without his having any intention at the time of invading Central Asia, I wish to know, because my noble Friend (the Earl of Lytton) obtained information from his Military Advisers—just as the War Office obtains all sorts of information with regard to all sorts of countries, though war may never be proclaimed between us and those countries—whether these allegations are to be made, and whether we are not to depend upon facts, and not on inferences such as the noble Duke pro- poses to draw, partly from something which he says is concealed, but partly, no doubt, from the telegram which he has read? The noble Duke says the bridge of boats was constructed as a menace to Russia. I say its construction had no such object. The noble Duke says a great army was concentrated in a certain position for the purpose of invading Afghanistan or Central Asia. My reply is, that no such concentration took place.


My Lords, I cannot speak upon this matter from any personal acquaintance with India; but I think the House should remember what is at the bottom of this discussion. The point is this—that the noble Earl the late Viceroy of India, rightly or wrongly, made a very remarkable change in our whole policy towards Afghanistan, and assumed a menacing attitude towards Russia. The noble Duke said that this great change of policy was carried out secretly for along time, and that by an official telegram he directed that an expedition should be prepared, the purpose of which was perfectly obvious. Well, my Lords, that is no light matter. And when the noble Viscount opposite speaks of the policy of my noble Friend (the Earl of North-brook) with respect to Herat, I have only to say that a particular passage from a letter may be made to bear a meaning which it would not bear if it wore read in connection with its context. The policy of my noble Friend can be gathered from the course he consistently pursued; and no one, I believe, will be found to say that my noble Friend had any intention whatever to attack Afghanistan. On the other hand, the policy of the noble Earl opposite, while it, too, was perfectly consistent, must be judged by that in which it culminated—namely, the invasion of Afghanistan. What we complain of, my Lords, is the secrecy of that policy, the hiding of it from Parliament and the country, a want of fairness and candour in the whole matter. That is the reason the noble Duke has drawn attention to the subject; and when the noble Earl asks for proofs of the allegations made from official documents, although I freely admit that he is entitled technically to that defence, I ask him is it consistent with the course usually pursued, when the charge is that plans of a large and extensive character have been conceived, that the noble Earl should seek to shelter himself under the plea that he had not set those plans forth in official documents?


The noble Earl who who has just sat down commenced with a reference to his want of Indian experience, and yet confessed he was able to inform your Lordships what lay at the bottom of this discussion. I, too, am not versed in Indian matters; but I think I can also throw some light upon it. The explanation the noble Earl gives as to what was really at the bottom of the discussion was this—that preparations were made by my noble Friend in 1876, and secretly made, with a view hostile to a Power with which we were then at peace—namely, Russia. Well, my Lords, I do not think the noble Duke will thank the noble Earl very much for that explanation; for, if I understand the noble Duke aright, he complains that the preparations spoken of were made, not secretly, but openly—so openly, indeed, that they were calculated to give offence to Russia and to the Ameer of Cabul. The secrecy, therefore, of which the noble Earl spoke did not, in fact, according to the noble Duke, exist. But, my Lords, I will say something about what I believe to be at the bottom of this discussion. A few nights ago a Question was asked as to whether certain Papers found at Cabul would be produced by Her Majesty's Government. That Question was answered, and there was no occasion for anything more to be said. But the noble Duke has conceived and is impressed with a particular theory on this subject; and he has not only more than once explained that theory to your Lordships' House, but has taken occasion to ventilate it out of this House. On every occasion, with one exception, the noble Duke has assorted that the hostility to us and the alienation from us of the late Ameer of Cabul arose from the policy pursued by my noble Friend the late Viceroy of India. On the one occasion to which I have referred the issue was distinctly and clearly raised in this House, and argued as closely as any cause ever presented to this House. The noble Duke was unavoidably absent, but everything that could be said in support of his view was advanced by his Friends. Your Lordships were asked for your opinion, and by a majority, such as is seldom given in this House, his views were rejected, and the minority was found to scarcely represent one-third of the Party opposite. If the noble Duke does not think that the question has been exhausted in argument, let him throw down a distinct challenge to re-open it. I think, however, your Lordships will say that the subject is rather stale now. I venture to say now, as I have said before, that the hostility of the Ameer was caused, not by the action of my noble Friend, but by the action of the Governor who preceded him in the government of India. But so anxious is the noble Duke that his view should not be forgotten, that he could not wait for the production of the Papers, but rises in his place and sends out to the world a repetition of the charges he had before made. Those charges have been refuted; but, my Lords, I believe the noble Duke would go to the stake rather than admit that he was wrong. Nobody agrees with the noble Duke except a few noble Lords who sit near him, certainly nobody believes in his theory out of-doors; and I hope the noble Duke will not think it proper to die in defence of his theory—one upon which he founds charges which really have no foundation, although the noble Duke, no doubt, believes they have, against my noble Friend.


When the noble and learned Earl insinuates that the question has been twice decided against my noble Friend the noble Duke behind me, as to the accuracy of the statement made by the noble Earl (the Earl of Lytton)the other day, I am sorry to say I am not at all of that opinion, and the more so because it struck me that the noble Earl opposite unfairly changed his mode of defence. The other day there was an absolute denial of preparations of a military character, or anything of that sort; and that was met, not by argument, but by the production of an official telegram, the importance of which may render it desirable that it should be read again— Viceroy considers it highly desirable to have a flying column ready in the event of war to advance to Kuram, to give weight to any communication it may he necessary to make to the Ameer, and to be the advance column of such larger force as it may he necessary to send, if war he declared. Proposed strength—one regiment British, one Native Cavalry; two British (Cavalry), two Native Infantry regiments, two Companies Sappers, one Battery Field Artillery, one British, one Native Mountain Battery. If move on Kuram becomes necessary, Native Infantry to be increased by volunteering to 800; all corps to be picked, selected for the duty, and to be moved at once to points in the neighbourhood of Kuram. Order equipment and carriage being prepared for earliest possible movement after declaration of war. Should you see no decisive objection, His Excellency will be glad if you will cause Commander-in-Chief to be instructed accordingly, and order such equipment and carriage as may be necessary. That is perfectly true. The intention may have been changed; but were the orders changed? At all events, these preparations were carried on to a great extent indeed. What does the noble Earl now do? He does not repeat his denial of the statement made by the noble Duke; but he takes an entirely new line, which is a very good line of the sort, but it is inconsistent with his previous statement—namely, he justifies the necessity for making such preparations at that time. He may be right; but it is a perfectly different thing from the statement made the first time. The noble Earl justifies the necessity for the preparations by telling us that the Indian Government knew of things, about the connection between Russia and Afghanistan, which were not known to the Home Government. I really should like to have some explanation on that point. When the noble Earl the late Governor General of India knew that there was this matter going on between Afghanistan and Russia, which might result in war, how is it that he did not think it his duty to inform the Government at home?


I said that the public did not know.


I thought you said the Home Government; but I accept the correction, and the more readily for another reason. The noble Duke the other day put two Questions to the noble Earl without Notice. He was justified in taking time to answer; he did answer one of the Questions; and, as we are told that the discussion on the 24th is not to be embarrassed by any references back, I presume he does not mean to answer the other Question. The noble Earl makes no reply. I do not know whether the noble Earl has any reason to conceal from the House whether he means or does not mean to give an explanation on that subject; but it is a matter that is rather interest- ing to me. The noble Earl sometimes refers to valuable information, which he says the new Government found in the pigeon-holes of the Office when they came into power. Well, a statement of this sort having been made by the noble Earl, we have searched the pigeon-holes of the India Office and of the Foreign Office, and we find absolutely nothing. Therefore, if the Government of India were aware of facts of which we knew nothing, I think it is important the noble Earl should explain to the House on what foundation it was he declared that Russia was prepared to divide Afghanistan with this country.


My Lords, we have come to an Afghan debate again, of which I thought your Lordships had already had sufficient experience. But, before we leave the House, I think it expedient we should clearly understand what is the point we have to decide. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) soars into high regions of politics, and asks my noble Friend to give him a sketch of the speech he is going to make on the 24th. But that, I think, is somewhat unreasonable. The noble Earl has referred to questions of high policy, which we must touch upon on that occasion, with reference to the possible relations at the time mentioned between Russia and this country. But that was not the point that was brought before us by the noble Duke. The noble Duke made an accusation the other day which was perfectly clear and simple. He said that my noble Friend the late Viceroy of India had undertaken to repair an inefficient bridge across the Indus, evidently with the intention of warlike operations. He has to-night enlarged upon that subject, and he has told us that there was a plan for congregating a considerable military force, and that this renovated bridge and the considerable military force were, if necessary, to conquer Afghanistan and check Russia. Well, it is curious; but the statement of the noble Duke that there was to be a great military force to assemble, or that there was a great military force assembled, afterwards appears to be founded on a telegram giving military instructions from the Viceroy for the assemblage of troops, and for the necessary preparations in consequence. It is possible that the estimate of the noble Duke may be cor- rect, and that this force may have amounted to 5,000 men. A terrific force to conquer Afghanistan, and to check and control Russia! But it is not merely the number of troops composing our Army by which you test or estimate the dangers and the perils awaiting this country at that moment from this rash policy; the preparations were so considerable that there were 10,000 blankets furnished—that would be two to each man. These immense preparations alone convict my noble Friend, the late Viceroy of all the dark designs so systematically attributed to him by the noble Duke. I think there can be no doubt that the questions which were introduced by the noble Duke on the night when the personal statement was made were as unfortunate for the noble Duke as they were irregular according to the general proceedings of your Lordships' House. That statement has given an opportunity to my noble Friend to vindicate in a complete manner his policy and his conduct; and I am sure that on every occasion when the Government of India under my noble Friend is subjected to the inquiry and criticism of this House, there will be only one verdict—that which your Lordships have already given on more than one occasion—of entire approbation of his policy.