§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
, in asking the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Govern- 1605 ment intend taking any step for the relief of General Gordon at Khartoum? said, he trusted the House would not think he was encroaching on their generosity if he said a few words in putting his Question. It was impossible to deny that great anxiety existed in the public mind with regard to the safety of General Gordon; and he thought that, from what had happened in the other House on the previous night, Her Majesty's Government up to the present were not under any great apprehensions with regard to that matter. Personally, he was very glad to accept that statement, and he only trusted events would prove it true; but it was impossible to look over the fact that those Europeans who were with General Gordon at Khartoum were not in unison with the opinions held by Her Majesty's Government. A statement was made in The Times the other day with respect to the report of their own Correspondent, who had also been employed for some time by the Crown as their Consular Agent, which demanded great consideration. What did Mr. Power say? Mr. Power, writing from Khartoum on March 23, said—We are daily expecting British troops. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that we are to be abandoned by the Government. Our existence depends upon England.Was it likely that a gentleman in the position of Mr. Power would write such a statement as that to a journal of such influence as The Times, unless the words he used were words of truth? He (the Earl of Hardwicke) understood the Government to repudiate all those Correspondents whose contributions appeared in the papers, and to whom he thought the public were greatly indebted; for otherwise, owing to the reticence of Her Majesty's Government, they would be in entire ignorance of what was going on in the Soudan if it were not for the various intelligences sent to them from that source. When Questions were put to the Government on this subject, they held up their hands, assumed an injured attitude, and invariably treated a simple wish to elicit some statement of fact, which might be conducive to allaying the fears of the country, as though it was an expression of want of confidence. They said, in effect—"Can you not trust us? Are we so incompetent, such an ignorant body of blockheads, that we 1606 are not able to manage the affairs of his country with dignity and good sense for the country's benefit?"
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, he did not say that the noble Earl had made that speech; but he had certainly used words to that effect in appealing, in those piteous tones and wailing voice which no one knew so well as the noble Earl how to assume, to the House, to say whether the Government were so ignorant and incapable that they could not manage their affairs for the benefit and welfare of the country. For his part, he considered that neither the House nor the public were being treated fairly, or with the respect and confidence to which they were entitled, by the Government, and that the tone adopted by them indicated the greatest weakness. People, when they were doing wrong, especially when they were doing wrong wittingly, felt great irritation at the advice given to them by their friends, but much more at the advice of those who disagreed with them; and he believed that the irritation shown by the Government arose from the feeling that they were not conducting the affairs of Egypt in a way which England would sanction. They might assume feelings of comfort with regard to the position of their servant, General Gordon, at Khartoum; but if anything happened to him there, either sooner or later, the gravest responsibility would rest upon the heads of Her Majesty's Government. But did the Government assume any responsibility? One day, they refused to assume any in the Soudan, and they said that an Army should not be sent to the Soudan; the next day, they sent 4,000 British troops there. One day, the British Minister at Cairo gave an order that the road to Berber should not be opened by force; the next day, a British Army went to the littoral of the Red Sea and slaughtered thousands of brave and inoffensive people. If the Government had managed properly, they could have opened the road from Suakin to Berber with a loss amount of military expenditure than had already taken place. He would not enter upon the military part of the question; but he might point out that, in 1801, an Army was brought there, and was marched from the littoral of the Red Sea to the 1607 Nile. The march was made by 5,000 men, of whom only 12 were lost in action or by the effects of the climate, and only 15 horses. Therefore, when it was said by the noble Earl opposite that British arms and British courage were not sufficient to effect that object, and carry out a great and noble purpose, he declared himself perfectly convinced that, at any time, if Her Majesty's Government wished to do so, they would have no difficulty in finding another Army, as gallant and intrepid, who would effectually open up the road, and save all the inhabitants in the town of Khartoum. When General Gordon was sent to Khartoum the Government was in one of its many dilemmas. He was certain they were grateful to find anyone who would execute that mission, and they were thankful, when they met Parliament, to be able to state that the difficulties of the Soudan were being got over, and they had found a gallant officer who was willing and able to execute their wishes for the purpose of relieving Khartoum. In the whole history of this country no Plenipotentiary ever sent to carry out a great mission had been so ill-treated as General Gordon. Every suggestion he had made had been refused by the Government. When this country gave power to individuals, that power should be given frankly, decidedly, and openly; and when an officer did what he could to forward the views of the Government, and the Government refused to accede to his wishes, they undertook a great responsibility. At the time he went out the Government put confidence in his judgment. Not only was that declaration made by the noble Earl opposite; it was made also by Sir Evelyn Baring in his capacity of manager of English interests at Cairo. Sir Evelyn Baring wound up a despatch to General Gordon, dated January 25, 1884, in those words—In undertaking the difficult task which now lies before you, you may fuel assured that no effort will be wanting on the part of the Cairo authorities, whether English or Egyptian, to afford you all the co-operation and support in their power."—[Egypt, No. 6 (1884), p. 2.]It was evident that General Gordon, from that, had felt that he was likely to be supported, in case of emergency, by Her Majesty's Government. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) would ask, did the Government think that they were fulfilling that pledge? Was General Gordon 1608 in such a position as to give them disquiet; and had they received any correspondence from him to lead them to believe that the statements made by Mr. Power were not true? All these were questions which he thought the Government ought to answer. In the course they had taken, the Government implied that the British troops had not the courage and energy to perform great enterprizes? On the previous night, the Prime Minister had been roused into a most brilliant passage of invective, simply because the Leader of the Opposition had made a few remarks, and asked a few questions, similar to those to which he (the Earl of Hardwicke) himself was going to call attention that evening. But that was not the way to meet such questions. Why would not the Government give a single word of information? Why did they continue to wrap themselves up in that cloak of reserve? Was it because they had some ulterior plan with regard to the Government of Egypt? Did they wish another terrible disaster to happen in the Soudan before they sent troops to Khartoum? Were they going to send them now to Gordon, or were they going to wait for 10 months, as it was rumoured they were to wait? He was perfectly certain they would have to send troops to relieve that place; but let them do it before it was too late, or that refrain which had gone through the whole policy of Her Majesty's Government would again resound through Egypt and through this country. Her Majesty's Government had taken on themselves that responsibility, and they could not get out of it. Shirk and turn about as they liked, that responsibility would come closely home to them every day they were in Office. One day they admitted their responsibility, and denied it on another—a policy, if such it could be called, of expansion. They had no forethought, and refused to foresee the possibility of an event occurring a month before it did occur; they left everything to chance, and by so doing involved themselves in far greater responsibilities. When, at the beginning of the Session, his noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) had urged on them to take steps with regard to Khartoum and General Gordon, the Government had laughed at the idea of General Gordon being in any difficulties whatever. The 1609 noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of Derby) had repudiated entirely any responsibility for General Gordon. On the 12th of February, he said—What possible ground have you for censuring us for allowing the Khartoum garrison to be destroyed, when, so far as we know, it is still safe, when we have every reason to hope it may be brought away safely, and when we are doing all in our power for that object? General Gordon, we hear, is hopeful—the garrison is powerful, the country can furnish supplies, and it will be strange if some of the Chiefs cannot be conciliated when there is no longer any cause for war."—(3 Hansard, 645.)Was the noble Earl of the same mind now? Was he as comfortable as to the safety of General Gordon now? Did he conceive they done everything in their power? If the noble Earl said they had, he would give him credit for the strength of his convictions; but he did not think that these convictions would be shared by the intelligence of the country. The Government must give them some assurance that they meant to consolidate that power which they had taken over in Egypt. There they had committed outrages in bombarding Alexandria, which they would have been the first to denounce if committed by the Conservative Party. The Government had taken responsibilities, and they would have to continue those responsibilities, and, he trusted, act up to them for the welfare of this country.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, the noble Earl opposite (Earl Hardwieke), in pursuance of the Question of which he gave Notice, has made a severe attack, not only upon the general policy of the Government in reference to Egypt, but also upon myself. He has accused me of being wanting in respect to him, of putting on an air of injured innocence, and of declining to receive the advice tendered to us by our Friends, including, of course, himself. Now, my Lords, I am not aware of ever having been wanting in respect to the noble Earl. I can assure him that it was quite unintentional if have ever been so, and I will try to avoid being so in the future. As to the charge of putting on an air of injured innocence, the accusation is quite new to me, and I am hardly prepared to answer him at the moment. The noble Earl then declares that we are unwilling to take the advice of our friends; but I think that, with 1610 regard to taking the advice of friends, it is necessary, first of all, to consider who are our friends and who are not, and also to consider a little the competency of the friends who advise Her Majesty's Government to disregard their own immense responsibilities and to follow the particular advice of the noble Earl, such as he has given us this evening, in preference to using our own independent judgment in the matter. What I think I have a right to complain of is his—that the noble Earl has, on two occasions during the speech he has made, put into my mouth things that I never said at all, the last being the strongest—that British troops have not courage or enterprize to perform great enterprizes. It is not the first time that I have had to complain that speeches have been put into my mouth which have not made, and I really do think that when quotations of that sort are given, some sort of accuracy should be considered necessary with regard to them. My answer to the Question of the noble Earl is this, that Her Majesty's Government, as at present advised, are not prepared to send out a great military expedition—which the noble Earl thinks so easy—into the heart of the Soudan. My Lords, the noble Earl talked of the unfairness to General Gordon. Your Lordships have in your possession the Instructions which were given to General Gordon in London. Those Instructions were given entirely with his own concurrence, and were even altered in. some particulars to meet his views. He entirely agreed in the spirit of those Instructions, and when he got to Cairo further Instructions were given to him, and your Lordships will be able to judge as to what they were, as they have been laid on the Table of this House. Those Instructions expressed the deliberate opinion of Sir Evelyn Baring, Nubar Pasha, and General Gordon himself, and neither in the Instructions given in London or in Cairo was there the slightest question or indication that General Gordon was to be backed up by a British Army in the mission which he felt great confidence he would be able to accomplish. The noble Earl talks as if the greatest responsibility lay upon us for the safety of General Gordon. I admit that we undertook a great responsibility when we sent out General Gordon. We should have clone so with regard to no other 1611 man; but if over there was a man in whom we felt we were justified in placing great confidence on such a mission, it was General Gordon. The noble Earl is in great fear as to General Gordon's life. I own I was in considerable fear for General Gordon's life during the first few days of his expedition to the Soudan; but I declare that have, at this moment, very much less fear for his personal safety than I had at that time. The noble Karl said that we sent General Gordon out with a wide discretion, but that we have interfered with him in everything that he has done. That is perfectly now to me. One of the recommendations of the noble Earl is that we should send a large force to Khartoum, and one of his complaints is, I as understand, that in one thing—which we did with great reluctance—we interfered with General Gordon's discretion. We thought, for a great many reasons which will not trouble your Lordships with, though should be ready to enter into them if anyone chose to take up this particular point, that we could not agree with him that it would be advisable to send Zebehr Pasha to perform the duties of Governor in the Soudan. In other respects am not in the least aware that we neglected General Gordon's proposals. The noble Earl complains that we have not attended to everything that was said in Mr. Power's telegrams to The Times. It is, however, perfectly impossible for a Government to act on irresponsible language of that sort, influenced, I as it may be, in a great many natural ways; and we have not received from General Gordon any demand that troops should be sent to Khartoum, and what communications we have received from General Gordon are reassuring as to his position in that place.
§ LORD NAPIER OF MAGDALA
rose, pursuant to Notice, to ask Her Majesty's Government, Whether, under the possible contingency of the Government finding it necessary to make an effort to relieve General Gordon, the Military Departments have been requested to consider by what means such relief could possibly be effected either from Suakin or from Cairo? The noble and gallant Lord said, he would only ask the latter part of the Question, because he believed it would be satisfactory to the country, to the Army, and to the brother officers 1612 of General Gordon, to know whether the Government had considered or would be prepared with a plan for the relief of Khartoum if they should arrive at the conviction that such an expedition should be sent out. The Government had declared that at present in their belief such an expedition was not necessary; but the time might come when the opinion of the Government might change, and when General Gordon's position might not be so secure as it appeared to be at present; and, therefore, it would be a, dreadful tiling if General Gordon should escape—if it were possible to imagine that such a noble nature would attempt to escape—and leave behind him those who might suffer all the evils of an unfortunate war. It was possible the time would come when the Government might consider it necessary to relieve Khartoum; and if such relief was to be carried out, it would certainly be carried out from either Cairo or Suakin, and it would be done with more effect if every step had been previously prepared by the Scientific Departments under the Government, whose resources were inexhaustible. Khartoum was about 445 miles from Suakin, and about 1,200 miles from Cairo. Of the distance between Khartoum and Suakin there were 200 miles of route by the Nile, and of the remaining 245 miles, 100 miles consisted of desert which might be divided into, and traversed in, two stages of 50 miles each. Then there came 145 miles of level country between the desert and the Red Sea. There would be no difficult at any season of the year in making a practicable route across those 145 miles; and then there would be those 100 miles of desert to be crossed. Along the 145 miles, at every stage there was some water to be got, good or indifferent; and, no doubt, it would be in the power of the force occupying those halting-places to get more water, and to sink more wells in the neighbourhood of the springs. No doubt, the climate of Suakin was very severe indeed; but it was not unhealthy, and he believed that the country could be crossed by British troops, properly equipped, at any time of the year. His noble and gallant Friend (Lord Strathnairn), and many other Generals before him, had marched and fought in the hottest of weather in India, and there was no doubt the same could be done again by our troops. The 1613 crossing of the 100 miles of desert certainly would be difficult; but water might be transported, and with the resources the Government had at their command even a light railway might be easily laid down to carry up supplies of; water. Cavalry might cross 50 miles in a march—that distance had been done; over and over again by the Scinde Horse and other regiments in India; and then there was the route from Cairo by the Nile, in which there would be a great advantage, as steam power could be employed to a great extent in transport, though, no doubt, there were cataracts to be encountered, he did not know which route Her Majesty's Scientific Departments might prefer. He himself much preferred that by Suakin as being the easiest. Whichever route was likely to be adopted, he was confident that the country and the Army generally would be satisfied to know that Her Majesty's Government had directed their Scientific Departments to be prepared with a scheme for the relief of Khartoum should it become necessary. The public newspapers had frequently suggested the use of Indian troops for that duty. He should feel extremely sorry, as an Englishman, if there should be an idea that Englishmen could not fight their own battles and do their own work at any season, in any climate, or in any part of the world. It might be well that some Indian regiments should have the honour of working side by side with Her Majesty's British Forces; but the work might be done by English troops. That was the object of his Question, and he therefore hoped that the Government would satisfy the country that the scheme he had referred to should be prepared if it should be necessary.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, in answer to the Question of the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Napier), I understood that he did not think it necessary, in consequence of what has passed between me and the noble Earl (the Earl of Hardwicke), to put the first part of his inquiry. With regard to the second part of the Question, as to whetherThe Military Departments have been requested to consider by what means such relief could possibly be effected either from Suakin or from Cairo,I have only this to say, that I am quite sure that the noble and gallant Lord 1614 will easily understand that, during the last month, there is hardly any question connected with the Soudan upon which the Secretary of State for War has not constantly communicated with the military authorities at his disposal. It is not for me to speak of any confidential communication that may have passed between the Secretary of State and the military authorities. Of course, the noble and gallant Lord himself speaks with authority on a question of this sort, and he has declared that it, is not an impossibility for a British Army to go from Suakin to Khartoum. I own that, to civilian ears and to one knowing nothing about military matters, the prospect held out as to a British Army does not appear to be particularly encouraging; but I entirely admit the great weight that attaches to any opinion of that kind emanating from the noble and gallant Lord. At the same time, I cannot help reminding him that very often these expeditions to such countries turn out to be very much more difficult than even experienced military men expected them to be. With respect to the campaign which the noble and gallant Lord himself executed so admirably and with such great good fortune, and which added so immensely to his military reputation—putting entirely aside the question of money and considering merely the difficulty of the expedition—the very fact that the cost of that expedition, which was to have been £2,000,000, was more than quadrupled in amount, showed how very hard it is accurately to estimate the cost of enterprizes of this character in tropical countries, and, of anticipating the labour to be undergone in carrying them out.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I gather from the observations of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) the discouraging intimation that Her Majesty's Government have, as yet, formed no plan for the relief of General Gordon in his present terrible position. While not being able to add to it, they cast some doubt on the information that has been received from the only other Englishman at Khartoum besides General Gordon and Colonel Stewart—the only Englishman at that place whose mouth is open. That only other Englishman says that General Gordon is expecting the assistance of British troops. There is a strange mystery hanging over these communications from General 1615 Gordon. we have had perpetual intimations from external sources of the things which he has done, the things which he has said, and the wishes which he is said to entertain; but Her Majesty's Government, since he left Cairo—if my memory does not deceive me—have not laid on the Table a single communication from General Gordon. An absolute mystery hangs over all his communications. They are communications which must have been frequent, and which would, no doubt, be highly satisfactory to the British mind; but not one of them do the Government venture to give us. Is it surprising that, in this strange and inexplicable silence, the British, public should hang on the lips of the only other Englishman in Khartoum who is free to speak? I confess to having heard with much regret that Her Majesty's Government are putting off to the critical moment the formation of some plan for the relief of General Gordon. The vice of all the policy of Her Majesty's Government during these many months has been that resolutions of an intensely critical character have been always put off till the moment for carrying them out has passed. It seems to be a matter of great exertion—a matter of positive physical pain—for the Government to come to any resolution, and they only do it at the moment when the danger is actually imminent. The abandonment of the Soudan, if their decision had been formed when Lord Dufferin raised a discussion on the subject, was a decision of which you might have questioned the policy, but which could have been conducted with perfect safety and without dishonour to the British arms. If orders had been given to withdraw the garrisons from the Soudan before the resolution was announced that they were to be abandoned—if, in short, the resolution to abandon the Soudan had been communicated to the British authorities in Egypt early last summer, there would have been none of the difficulties, none of the threatened disasters which hangs over us now. General Gordon was sent to his present position in Khartoum because Her Majesty's Government had put off the decision to abandon the Soudan until it was too late to withdraw or to relieve the garrisons. He was sent there in the almost hopeless design of persuading the Mahdi, by 1616 some methods of unknown persuasion, to release the prey already within his grasp. Again, if an expedition had been sent to Suakin in time to relieve Tokar and Sinkat, no doubt a very great, perhaps a capital, impression would have been produced on the minds of the Arabs of the Desert. Still more, if that expedition had been sent in time to perform that journey between Suakin and Berber before the sun had become intolerably hot, there would have been no question now about the safety of General Gordon. But the same indisposition, the same mortal aversion to come to a resolution, hung around Her Majesty's Government in this case also. They knew the critical, the utterly hopeless, character of the condition of things in the Soudan early in December; and it was not until Parliament met, and they were threatened with the censure of an adverse majority, that they could make up their minds to send an expedition to Suakin. It is needless to say that a resolution taken in these circumstances was too late to do any practical good. It came in time to see our gallant friends at Sinkat massacred, to see cm-allies at Tokar give themselves up, and, after having seen massacred in a gallant but useless fight 6,000 of those unhappy Arabs, to retire without having accomplished a single object for which the expedition was sent out. Are these circumstances encouraging to us when we are asked to trust that, on the inspiration of the moment, when, the danger comes Her Majesty's Government will find some means of relieving General Gordon? I fear that the history of the past will be repeated in the future; that, just again, when it is too late, the critical resolution will be taken; some terrible news will come that the position of General Gordon is absolutely a forelorn and helpless one; and then, under the pressure of public wrath and Parliamentary Censure, some desperate resolution of sending an expedition will be formed too late to achieve the object which it is desired to gain, too late to rescue this devoted man whom we have sent forward to his fate, in time only to cast another slur upon the statesmanship of England and the resolution of the statesmen who guide England's councils. My Lords, I deeply regret that we separate for the Easter Recess with so feeble an account of the resolution of Her Ma- 1617 jesty's Government. When I saw that the only answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had to give to the Lender of the Opposition in "another place" was a reckless and stormy invective, I knew how much barrenness—[Laughter]—how much value to attach to it, and saw how proud the hollow device by which the poverty of your counsels is concealed. The truth is too patent for the Government to conceal. Hopeless divisions paralyze their decisions; British lives are sacrificed to their irresolution, and they trust to bluster to conceal their folly.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I am really inclined to pardon the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) for having departed from our usual practice, and for his having referred to a speech delivered by the Prime Minister last night. That speech has evidently mortally stung the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess has, at length, for the first time, given us a statement to-night which I have heard with very great interest. In it there was some indication of the policy which he would have pursued; and gathered this—that the expedition of General Graham should have been ordered at the time to proceed to Berber—that is to say, that a large English Force of 4,000 or 5,000 men should have been sent across the desert from Suakin to Berber. I may say, and I am glad to avow it, that I would not have been prepared, as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, to take such a responsibility as that. It is not for me to say a word as to what the noble and gallant Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Napier) has stated with regard to the possibilities of such an expedition. No doubt, just as it is possible for engineers to execute certain work, if sufficient means be given to them, so I also have as much confidence as anyone in British troops, that any service they have to perform will be performed. At the same time, however, I think, if the difficulty of sending a force under a burning sun 100 miles across the desert is considered, it will be seen that it is our duty to consider whether the plan which has been suggested to the Government is one which the Government will assume the responsibility of undertaking. I think you ought to consider the responsibility at this time of 1618 the year, or even at an earlier season of the year, of sending a force to Berber across the desert, where there is no water; and notwithstanding that Her Majesty's Government have been long anxious to do what can be done, they would have hesitated before taking that step, and without a greater necessity than anything I have seen they Would not have sent Graham's Expedition across from Suakin to Berber. All I have to say is, that, in concert with the military authorities, we have been long anxiously considering what can be done. My Lords, the noble Marquess assumed that the Government had formed no plan. What an easy assumption that is, when the noble Marquess knows that it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to make any declaration as to the plans of military assistance in aid of General Gordon. What could be more impolitic or imprudent than that, in a question of great difficulty and great responsibility, we should, in answer to some Questions put in Parliament, disclose some of the means we are to adopt? It is absolutely impossible that the Government of this country can be conducted on such principles. I can well understand that the noble Marquess should not have any confidence in the Government; but he might have credited us with common sense, and allowed that Her Majesty's Government must conduct their policy in regard to the possibilities of the case. If the Government were to answer Questions of this character in the manner desired, the policy would be disclosed the nest morning; then there would be further Questions by the Opposition, and such a course would lead to the total defeat and overthrow of the policy which had been adopted by the Government. My Lords, the noble Marquess complains that we have given no information. Is there anything which is more inconvenient or unsatisfactory than that piecemeal information should be given? The noble Marquess said that not one scrap of information has been given as to General Gordon's communications. Now, my Lords, if we are prematurely to lay on the Table of the House—what it appears is wanted—week by week the telegrams from General Gordon, it is perfectly obvious that all possible chance of the success of General Gordon's Mission must be totally at an end. These communications are 1619 necessarily confidential, and it is right and proper that in due time Parliament shall receive full information of what has been done; but no Government can give information week by week as to what has been done and what is going on. It must throw itself on the confidence of its supporters and others. You may change the Government for other men. That may be a right thing to do; but it is absolutely necessary, for the carrying on of the Government of this country, that some reticence with regard to communications which are confidential and important should be maintained. The other point of the policy of the noble Marquess is that there must be a great British Expedition sent to Khartoum. ["No, no!"] Well, the noble Marquess said, Why not state the plan for the relief of General Gordon in Khartoum? At all events, an expedition could not be sent to Khartoum without a considerable effort. The Soudan is a large country, and it is inhabited by warlike people; and whenever it is necessary for the Government to inter-fore by force in the interior of the Soudan, I trust that, whoever is responsible, it will not be done without due preparation and adequate force. But my noble Friend has told your Lordships that we are not at present under any apprehension in regard to the safety of General Gordon. Everybody must be aware that the position of General Gordon in one sense must be critical at Khartoum; it has always been critical, it could not be otherwise, and the gallant General himself is perfectly aware of the fact. But what we do say is, that nothing which has happened in any way indicates that he is in the least danger. Judging from the more recent intelligence we have received from him, he does not feel any immediate apprehension as to his position. It is certain that his position is not so grave as it has been represented elsewhere; and I repeat here, that the influence and power of the Mahdi does not appear to have had that effect in the Soudan which might have been expected, he has not at present shown any symptoms of following up his success by attacking Khartoum, although General Gordon has not been able to control and quell the local insurrection by which he is surrounded. The garrisons at Sennaar and Kassala still hold out, and General Gordon is in a position of great strength 1620 at Khartoum. There is, therefore, no indication of any danger at present overwhelming him. The noble Marquess has followed others in his reiterations as to the total failure of our policy, and that the operations we have taken have, had no effect. Does the noble Marquess really believe that the position of the garrison at the present moment at Suakin is the same as it was before? It may or may not have been worth the effort which has been made; but, at all events, the object has been accomplished. If we are to maintain the possession of, the Red Sea ports, that expedition has been fully justified by the success of our operations. I should be personally glad if the time had arrived when we could; disclose to the House, in its entirety, all that has passed between the Government and General Gordon, and lay before Parliament a full statement of his position; but, consistently with our regard for the Public Service, that cannot be done, and we can say no more than we have said. We only ask for fair and reasonable support in the measures we have considered necessary.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, that the allusion which was made by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) to the speech by the Premier in "another place" was received by noble Lords on, the Ministerial side of the House with derisive and triumphant laughter. It was obvious that they rejoiced in the tone of the Premier's speech, and the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India (the Earl of Kimberley) had stated that the speech of the Prime Minister had mortally stung his (Viscount Bury's) noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury). It had stung not only the noble Marquess, but the people of this country also, who were watching this matter with an intense interest. It had indeed stung them with a feeling of humiliation that such a speech should have been delivered in "another place" by the Prime Minister of this country, who had told them that under no circumstances would relief be sent to General Gordon, and——
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, rise to Order. I have always under stood that it is one of the first of the Rules and Orders of both Houses of Parliament that they do not take notice of speeches delivered in the other House; at all events at the time, although, of 1621 course, historically we speak of speeches delivered in each House of Parliament. But, in the middle of discussions on public subjects which create great heat and great excitement, I do think it most in expedient that we should break through the recognized understanding of Parliament, that we should not answer in one House speeches which have been made in another. I must confess that the noble Viscount whom I venture to interrupt, is so far excused, if not justified, by the fact that allusions were made by those who preceded him. On that ground alone I have to apologize for rising to interrupt him. But these allusions were in general terms—slight and passing allusions—and the noble Viscount proceeds to speak in detail of what has taken place in the other House. Much as many of us are excited by what is going on, we are perfectly willing to speak on what we know in this House, and demand from the Government what explanations we like to ask; but I hope we shall avoid discussing speeches in the other House.
said, it had been repeatedly ruled that a statement by any Minister of the Crown, even in the House of Commons, might be alluded to in their Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT BURY
said, he must be allowed to thank the noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) for his courteous reminder. After it, he would not say another word about what had passed in "another place." He (Viscount Bury) must confess he had been somewhat moved at the way in which this matter was treated by the noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Kimberley); but, leaving out of account what had been said by the Prime Minister, they had heard in that House that no relief was to be sent to General Gordon under any circumstances now contemplated. The complaint they made all along had been that no preparations were made for the very probable contingency of his defeat and disaster. The policy of abandoning Khartoum—if that policy now existed—was not thought of until after the death and defeat of General Hicks. No one heard of the suggested abandonment of Khartoum until the end of November. Lord Dufferin, in his celebrated despatch of 1882, did not, as was now stated, advocate the abandonment of the Soudan. He suggested that the English 1622 Government should advise the Egyptian Government to retire from all the country south of Sennaar; but now the retirement was to be made from Assouan, which was a difference of 1,000 miles along the river and 600 in a direct line. The policy of Lord Dufferein was not abandonment in the sense now meant. No doubt, that idea was taken up by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville), who, in a subsequent despatch, said that Khartoum ought to be abandoned. But that decision was by no means final. Cherif Pasha objected, and urged his views so strongly that the noble Earl next authorized Sir Evelyn Baring to say that England surrendered to the Porto the right of defending the Red Sea littoral. A month later that decision was again abandoned, and a British Force was sent to take possession of the Ked Sea littoral. But this was after a Vote of Censure had been carried in the House of Lords and after Sinkat had fallen, and when the Government were afraid that Tokar would fall also. Tokar did fall; and they now found that the Government were not going to open the road to Berber; and, that being so, they naturally asked what was the object of the subsequent slaughter of the Arabs, if it was not for that object? He did not think that the noble Earl was justified in saying that the result of the expedition to Suakin had been a complete success, because it had no success at all beyond the indiscriminate slaughter of a large number of Natives, whom we could hardly call rebels against our authority, for they had never been under our authority at all. The question now being discussed out-of-doors was this—what did the Government intend to do with regard to General Gordon? This question the Government had not fairly met. The real point was this—that whereas the Government induced General Gordon to go out, upon the assurance that he would be supported, and that the Government would do what he wanted, the Government had not done what he wanted. They had refused to sanction the appointment of Zebehr which General Gordon recommended. It was also now known that General Gordon had applied for British troops and had not got them. General Gordon had been badly treated and betrayed by the Government. He thought that if at that moment, before 1623 they left for a considerable interval of holiday, something could be said in the House which would tell the country what they really had to expect, and what the English Government were trying to do, what object they had in view, and what had been the meaning of their policy in the past, the conversation which, had arisen there would not be without result.
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
said, the noble Earl the Secretary of State for India (the Earl of Kimberley) had hardly stated the Question of his noble and gallant Friend (Lord Napier) correctly. "What his noble and gallant Friend wished to know was, whether, in the event of its being found necessary to send an expedition to Berber, it would be advisable to do so from Cario or from Suakin? He regretted exceedingly not to have hoard from the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Earl Granville) that the Government had given consideration to the points raised in the Question of his noble and gallant Friend. But not only had they not done that, but they seemed not to have considered the question of what should be done in case it became necessary to send troops to the relief of General Gordon. He (the Earl of Dunraven) had no idea what policy the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition would have pursued had he been in Office; but he did not understand that the construction put upon his remarks by the noble Earl was entirely in accordance with their strict meaning. He did not understand the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) to say that it was advisable to send a large force to Berber. What he understood him to say was that, in almost every incident that had taken place in Egypt, Her Majesty's Government had acted too late; that they were too late on the present occasion; and that, if General Graham had been sent to Suakin sooner, he would have been in a position to send troops from Suakin to Berber, without having to encounter the difficulty occasioned by the great heat. The noble Earl had compared the difficulties of the march to Berber with those of the march to Magdala some years ago. But the distance of the march to Magdala was about 400 miles, and over an unknown road; while the distance from Suakin to Berber was only 240 miles. Further 1624 than that, the road was perfectly well known—a caravan road; and he believed the largest stretch without water was 50 miles. The force necessary for the Abyssinian Expedition was very large, and entirely different to that which it would be required to send to Berber. At present, in the absence of any information from the Government, the only information they had to rely upon was that to be found in the newspapers. It was now nearly a month since they had read in The Times a telegram, in which. General Gordon was stated to have said that he thought it necessary that the road to Berber should be opened by sending a couple of squadrons of Cavalry, and that, after that was done, he would be able to withdraw the Egyptian officials from Khartoum. He believed General Gordon was sent for that very object—namely, to evacuate the country and relieve the Egyptian officials. The substantial accuracy of that telegram had never been contradicted, and the country in general believed that General Gordon did think it necessary that the road to Berber should be opened to enable him to carry out the operations he was intrusted to carry out. There had also been a telegram to the effect that the officer in command of Berber had asked for troops. What was the object of the expedition to Suakin? It was too late to relieve Sinkat or Tokar, and it was surely inconceivable that its object was merely to protect Suakin. It was impossible not to believe that its object was to open the road to Berber. If it was not, and there had been no intention of opening the road between Suakin and Berber, he was at a loss to understand what the real object of the expedition to Suakin had been. If that was the object of the expedition, it had failed; if that was not the object of the expedition, then he did not believe that the Government were justified in their acts of hostility against the Arabs, and the slaughter of 5,000 or 6,000 Arabs had produced absolutely no good result, for it was stated in the papers that Osman Digna was at Tamanieb, and that our troops were being withdrawn from Suakin. He did not, therefore, believe that Her Majesty's Government were justified in killing those Arabs; for the only justification for war, under any circumstances, was that it would bring about some distinct and good result; 1625 but, to say the least of it, Her Majesty's Government had been singularly unfortunate in all their operations both in Egypt and the Soudan. The only effect of the operations from Suakin was that Khartoum was now more closely invested than before, and that General Gordon had been repulsed. In fact, things in Egypt and the Soudan were going from bad to worse, and they heard that the condition of things in the Delta itself was getting worse and worse. In every respect Her Majesty's Government had failed in taking sufficient forethought and in making sufficient provision for the eventualities which a very little foresight would have enabled them to discern. It was most lamentable that they should be allowed to adjourn for the Easter Recess without Laving any idea that Her Majesty's Government were prepared to relieve General Gordon if necessary. General Gordon started sanguine and full of hope, and without the slightest idea that British troops would be necessary. But he was to be allowed to act with a free hand, and yet in one most important particular he had been overruled—he had not been allowed to place in power that one man he thought he ought to. He had been in the Soudan about two mouths, and the only result had been that a certain number of we men and children—200—had been sent down from Khartoum to Berber. The only way by which General Gordon could get away from Khartoum would be by the aid of a sufficiently strong British Force; and it was also well known that the only way he could relieve the garrisons in the Southern Provinces was by being backed up with sufficient authority and power; and if he had been allowed to act as he thought fit himself, he might possibly have been successful. As he had not been allowed to do so, a grave responsibility rested upon Her Majesty's Government, if anything should happen to him. He, therefore, thought the Government ought to inform the House and the country what they intended to do to relieve General Gordon, and also give more general information as to Egypt.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, that he could not allow the speech which had just fallen from his noble Friend (the Earl of Dunraven) to pass without expressing his total dissent from a great 1626 portion of it. He had always considered his noble Friend in that House as a perfect representative and the incarnation of common sense, and totally independent of and opposed to what was called sentimentalism. The noble Earl had swept aside a great many sentimentalities or sentiments, to some of which many of their Lordships clung; and he (the Duke of Argyll) had to oppose the noble Earl on more occasions than one, owing to what he might call the extreme literalness of his ideas. But, on that occasion, he had indulged in sentiments of the purest sentimental kind. He had talked about the slaughter of 6,000 Arabs as being a great crime on the part of the British Government, and as having produced no effect whatever. He (the Duke of Argyll) looked upon that as not only sentiment, but he ventured to say it was maudlin, morbid sentimentality. ["Oh, oh!"] He contended that the British Government had had legitimate cause of quarrel with these Arabs surrounding and threatening Suakin. They had threatened to take it, and had openly proclaimed their hostility, and that they would drive the British garrison into the sea. He said it deliberately, that no English Government could tolerate those threats; if they did, and had not attacked these Arabs, they would have forfeited the confidence of Parliament and the country. He denied the inference of his noble Friend that the slaughter of these Arabs had produced no effect. He felt bound to say it was not only something, it was not only a great thing, but it might be everything that these fanatical Arabs should be taught that a civilized country is the master of them in the field. He believed that the effect of the two great victories that had been gained by our troops between Suakin and the mountains had reverberated through the whole of the Eastern Soudan, and in whatever operations Her Majesty's Government might find it necessary afterwards to embark, the effect of these two actions would not be lost. The blood of those Arabs had not been spilt in vain. He now wished to turn for a moment to the question which was before their Lordships, and that was how far these interpellations in Parliament on the conduct of the Government had or had not been legitimate. He must confess that he thought the Government had no right to complain 1627 that the public had been anxious—deeply anxious—upon this question. The interpellations might have been too frequent, and he thought they had been too detailed, because no Government could explain to Parliament, beforehand, the detailed policy which they might have in their view in regard to military and naval operations. But let the Government not mistake, and he hoped his noble Friends did not mistake—it was not mere agitation on the part of Egyptian bondholders; it was no mere agitation upon the part of the Press; but it was a deep feeling of interest among all parties in the country. As a matter of fact, contrary to their own will, and owing to circumstances over which certainly they had not had control, they had been placed in a position of paramount responsibility with regard to Egypt. He believed the country would be satisfied with any fair expression on the part of the Government, and he believed that some of the expressions used in some of the statements made by Members of the Government in "another place," to which he would not further refer, had, to a considerable extent, eased the public mind in this important particular—that the Government did recognize their responsibility in this matter. But in regard to the detailed criticism of the Government, and whether or not they were to relieve Khartoum, and whether they were to consider the possibility of sending an expedition from Suakin to Berber, or from Cairo by the Nile—he thought that on these matters, having pressed on the Government their strong opinion of the responsibility in which they were placed, it was useless and highly mischievous to go into these details and to put such questions. In regard to policy, let them remember this—that in the case of great conquerors, like Napoleon, they had a definite policy before them in their conquests. They knew perfectly well what they were at. They picked quarrels with a country which they meant to conquer, and then they conquered and annexed it. In those eases there was a policy. But that was not the position of any English Government. They had no conquests which they were determined to make beforehand. If conquests came to them, they were forced upon them by circumstances. Therefore, he could quite understand that the Government, in that sense, had 1628 no policy. It had not been their policy to conqueror annex Egypt. It was step by step, from circumstances which arose long before their accession to power, that they had been led into the difficulty and taken to Egypt, and all their Lordships should desire to know was that they had recognized the position in which those circumstances had placed them. But he must say this, that his own feeling strongly was that the Government were in a position in which they were, to a great extent, responsible for the escape of the garrison of Khartoum. They might be right in saying that it was absurd for a Power in the position of Egypt to hold Khartoum; and he must say that, after the experience we had had of what Egyptian troops were, headed only by Egyptian officers, he found it difficult to understand how they contrived to conquer Khartoum at all. He supposed it was by the assistance of the Turkish troops. But as to their permanent power, these events had shown, as regards Egypt itself, that it was a Power incompetent to rule the whole of the Soudan. Then the question arose, was England to reconquer and hold Khartoum and the Soudan? That was a matter on which he expressed no opinion. The Government had said that it was not a necessary appendage of Egypt; and having given that opinion, having dictated the Government policy of Egypt, we were bound, in honour, to see that those populations—such as the population of Khartoum—should, if possible, be taken out without being massacred, he believed that to be the feeling and the opinion of the country. Having said so much, he did think that further questions to the Government on mere matters of detail could do no good, and would lead only to embarrassment.
said, he hoped the Government would not forget their great responsibility in respect to General Gordon, who had gone to Khartoum at the request of the Government, having given up a lucrative appointment for the purpose of going there—although no man could be more uninfluenced than that high-minded officer by pecuniary considerations. He (Lord Ellenborough) did not regret that the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) had risen to Order, although, had he (Lord Ellenborough) been interrupted, as the noble 1629 Viscount (Viscount Bury) was, he would have pointed out that frequent reference had been made lately to individual Members of this House by two right hon. Gentlemen lately in the present Cabinet; as also reference to a Bill that might come up to this House, in respect to the course that would be pursued by that House, and more particularly in reference to one particular Member of this House, by a Member of the present Cabinet.
said, that the knowledge that this Government had often advocated retreat, as in the case of Cabul and Candahar, and lately as to Egypt, had added much to General Gordon's danger. The Mahdi had sent a Dervish's robe to General Gordon—he thought that the example of Akhbar the Great might be followed by an undoubted Power—and a discussion invited for all professing religion; and he confessed that if any could produce a better principle than "Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you," he might be a convert to that creed. He was sure that Christians, as a defensive body, were invincible; and if there was another slaughter like that of Sinkat, the whole of Christendom would be roused to indignation.