§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My Lords, I rise to make a personal explanation, and after what took place in your Lordships' House last Friday, I do not think it will be a matter of surprise to any of your Lordships that I should do so. On that occasion an attack was made upon me in my absence, which I think is indirectly a matter of some little public interest, and which directly is me to a matter of very serious consequence, both as a soldier and as a public servant. Early on Saturday morning, as soon as I read in the newspapers of the day the report of what Lord Salisbury—["Order, order!"]—of what the noble Marquess had said, I wrote to the noble Marquess, and gave him private Notice that it was my intention today to speak here upon the subject, and 92 I regret extremely, my Lords, that the noble Marquess did not adopt a similar course with respect to myself before he spoke here last Friday. My Lords, I feel it necessary to refer to this trifling incident, to this fact, because I think it will explain what might otherwise have seemed an act of discourtesy on my part that I was not here in my place to answer the serious charges then made upon me. It will be within the memory of every one of your Lordships who were present in this House, that the attack to which I have referred was made during a discussion which arose upon an Answer given by the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) with reference to a paragraph which appeared that morning in a newspaper. And perhaps, my Lords, it may not be uninteresting if I were at once to state to your Lordships that until the discussion took place in your Lordships' House, until that time of day I was not even aware of the existence of the paragraph which had caused that discussion. I did not know that there was any such paragraph in the newspapers of that day at all. My Lords, I have to claim your indulgence whilst I make a few remarks upon the charges made against me, and in doing so I hope I shall make use of only measured terms, and do so with unruffled temper, with the simplest words at my command, and in a straightforward manner. The noble Marquess began by a protest—I quote his own words—Against the practice followed by some of those who are, or who ought to be, distinguished authorities on mititary affairs. I allude to the practice of making statements against the Government under whom they serve, and making them in places where they cannot be answered.The noble Marquess then proceeded to name me personally as the chief offender, though he did not mention by name those who were my fellow-offenders. My Lords, I deny most emphatically that I have ever said one word that could be in any way construed into an attack in any form upon the Administration presided over by the noble Marquess. Nothing has ever been further from my intention. The Prime Minister of the present day has plenty and ample occupation without attempting to follow the course of military speeches which are made from time to time. I think I 93 may congratulate the noble Marquess that among the many trials to which he has to submit, the reading of speeches on the Army and Navy is not one of his functions. But it struck me very forcibly, when I read the reports in the newspapers of what the noble Marquess said on the occasion to which I refer, that he had not read the speech to which he alluded—that is, the speech which I made at a private dinner. It seemed to me rather as if the noble Marquess had had supplied to him at secondhand an account of the speech, or rather a report marked and annotated so as to call his attention to certain particular facts in it. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have done me the honour of reading my remarks, but I feel convinced that if any unprejudiced person, no matter whom he might be, whose mind was not warped by the habitual contemplation of Party politics, if such a man would calmly read what I said, he could not have construed or twisted my remarks into any attack upon Her Majesty's Government. From the beginning to the end my intention was to point out what I considered to be the disadvantageous manner in which Party Government reacted upon Her Majesty's Army and Navy, and more especially what were the difficulties under Party Government in the way of the people being able to elicit the actual and true condition of the Army and Navy on which they will have to depend in times of danger and trial. My Lords, in a letter which I wrote to the illustrious Duke, I emphasized my view of what I had said in a manner so concise that I think I will venture to read it. There is all the more reason for doing so because it will relieve the noble Marquess from the imputation which has been conveyed in some quarters—that he allowed nearly three weeks to elapse before he made any remark with reference to my speech. On the 27th of April, after the private dinner to Sir John Pender, I received a note from the Commander in Chief in which he forwarded me a formal—I might call it a formidable—letter from the Secretary of State for War. That letter was not addressed to me. It was addressed to His Royal Highness the Commander in Chief, and therefore I do not feel justified in even quoting from it. In fact, I cannot read 94 it because it is not in my possession but the letter contained a series of extracts from the speech which I had delivered a few days before, and those extracts were almost identical with those which the noble Marquess did me the honour to quote on Friday. Party Government has many advantages. It secures to the nation who live under it, not only political but individual freedom. But, after all, it is a mere human institution, and has its defects. My endeavour was to point out the great defects inherent in it—in its bearing on the constitution and efficacy and efficiency of Her Majesty's Naval and Military Forces. With your permission I will now read the answer which I sent to His Royal Highness with reference to the letter of the Secretary of State for War. I said—In reply to the question asked by Mr. Stanhope in his letter of yesterday, I have the honour to state that the quotations given in it from the speech of last Monday at the dinner to Sir John Pender are practically correct, so far as I can remember the words I used. It certainly describes very accurately the opinions I hold with regard to Party Government, and I was not aware, till I read the letter in question, that any exception could be taken by Her Majesty s Government to an officer like myself, who does not hold any political appointment, expressing his views in the most open way upon what he conceives to be a grave fault in our Constitution. I made no attack of any sort or kind upon the Government of the day or upon any Member of it. I attributed our shortcomings to the vicious system of Party Government, and not to any particular individual on one side of the House or the other. My reference to Ministers was to Ministers in the abstract, quite independent of the political Party to which they belong, and I would not, on any account, take any steps which would tend to weaken Lord Salisbury's Government,and so on. It is not necessary for me to read the rest. Well, my Lords, I have no wish in any remarks I am about to make—and I never had any wish—to attack Her Majesty's Government, for I am no politician, and I hope I never may be one. But even if I were, I could not with any honesty attack Her Majesty's Government for neglecting to attend to the interests of the Army and Navy. From the position which I occupy in the administration of the Army, no man is more thoroughly aware than I am of all that the present Secretary of State for War has done and is doing in order to render the naval and military forces of the Crown efficient in every way and worthy of the nation. 95 Instead of attacking the military policy of Her Majesty's Government, my object has been at all times to support it to the best of my ability, and when upon previous occasions I endeavoured to do so, when I have expressed myself in still far stronger terms as to what I believe to be the wants of the Army, I have done so without entailing any censure upon myself from the Secretary of State for War or from the Prime Minister. I shall refer to this later on, when I venture to quote from some public documents as to what I have stated in public. Experience tells me—and I have had considerable experience, not in public affairs, perhaps, but in military administration—that it is absolutely impossible for any Secretary of State for War to obtain for the Army all that it requires, unless the English people are at his back—unless public opinion supports him—and unless the English people feel the necessity of increasing the numbers of the Army, or of adding to its military equipment, and of making it more readily and better prepared to take the part it is intended to play in the event of trial and danger to this country. It was in order to call public attention to these points—to the Army and its wants—that I said what I did. I think everyone knows that, in this country, the people are too prone to care little for the organization of the Army and for its affairs. They take it as a matter of course, when they are told—as everyone tells them at public dinners, and in speeches delivered from both sides of the House—that Her Majesty's Army and Navy have always done their duty, and will do it in future, they take these views as correct, and carry them home, and think they may sleep quietly in their beds, because the Army and Navy are strong enough. There is abroad in England an enormous amount of ignorance on the part of the English people in regard to the condition of the Army. Within the last few years, it has been found necessary by the Administration of India to increase their military force by 10,000 men. We have had, for some years past, to maintain a force in Egypt, where we have accepted greatly increased responsibilities, which may entail at any moment the necessity of sending out large reinforcements. We had also very recently—thanks to a Commission which sat and reported on the strength of our 96 garrisons—become aware of the condition of things in our fortresses abroad, in our coaling stations, and in our home defences. We have been obliged to send abroad considerable reinforcements to our coaling stations; so that, though I have no wish to follow the noble Marquess into his statements of figures made on Friday, I may tell you that of the increase of 20,000 men to which he referred, 10,000 men are now in India. I may also tell you that, though in recent years, since 1884, 20,000 men have been added to the Army, the Army has, at the present moment, 23,000 men less than in 1860, 16,000 men less than in 1862, 8,000 less than in 1863, and at this moment 7,000 less than in 1864. How, then, can it be possible for the noble Marquess to come down and say that the Army has been increased in recent years? I have already said that my position at the War Office makes me know the earnest desire of the present Administration to make not only the Army, but, I believe, the Navy also, perfect in every respect. It is not breach of confidence if I give very briefly the result of a conversation I had with the present First Lord of the Treasury, when he came for the first time as Secretary of State to the War Office. In answer to a question I put, he said that his endeavour would be, during his tenure of Office, to make the Army a reality—that he would deal with it on business principles, and would be guided by these principles in its administration. I can still remember the emphasis with which he said that he would be no party to a sham Army. That statement is, I think, quite sufficient to prove that the present Administration and Ministers have ardently at heart the efficiency of both the Army and the Navy. Since Lord Cardwell introduced the great reform of the Army, and changed the basis of our military organization, no Administration has done so much as the present Administration for the Army, or has introduced so many beneficial changes in the short time they have been in power. That is one reason why it would be impossible for me to attack the Government upon the subject of the Army and Navy; but there is also one more reason to which I may refer, and that is the position I now hold. The position of Adjutant General is entirely non-political. He neither comes in 97 nor goes out with the Ministry; he has nothing whatever to do with Party politics, or with the affairs of either Whigs or Tories. It would be most improper—it would, in fact, be almost outrageous—on the part of an Adjutant General if he were to allow himself, in any circumstances whatever, either at a public dinner or in this House—if he enjoyed the honour of a seat among your Lordships—to come down here upon any occasion to attack any Administration under which he was serving. Holding these views, is it likely that I should wish, in the remotest degree, to speak against Her Majesty's Government, to whose continuance in Office I, in common with a large portion of the nation, attach so much importance at the present moment? No, my Lords; I repudiate the accusation made against me on this point with all the force of which I am capable. But I cannot help feeling that the line of conduct I have pursued, much as it may be objected to by some people, if it has called public attention to a subject which is of such great importance, has fulfilled the object I had in view. That subject, which is always uppermost in my mind, and, I am sure, is uppermost in the minds of most of those who hold high positions in the War Office—certainly as far as the military side of the War Office is concerned—is this: Is the effective strength of the Army and Navy sufficient to fulfil for this country the objects and functions that the country has in view in maintaining these forces; is it able to guard the defences of this country and to maintain its honour at home and abroad; are the forces strong enough to maintain its commerce on all the seas and to defend our coaling stations and our Colonies, which are essential to that commerce? Such a question is uppermost in the minds of a considerable section of the people of this country also. I know how sincerely and deeply the Secretary of State for War desires to make the Army efficient. I have already alluded to what he has done in the short time he has been in Office to improve not only the efficiency and organization, but also the discipline of the Military Forces. I say deliberately that I do not believe there is at the present moment, or that there ever has been since he took Office, the slightest shadow of difference between the Secretary of State for War 98 and myself as to what are the requirements of the country, and as to what is necessary at the present moment to place the Army in a thoroughly efficient position. When I speak of increased efficiency, I refer not merely to increase of numbers, important as that increase may be; but to what I believe is still more urgently required than an increase of numbers—namely, that whatever we have got as Military Forces in this country—whether Regulars, Militia, Yeomanry, and Volunteers—should be made thoroughly efficient, and should be placed in a condition, whenever the necessity arose, to be able to act effectively as an Army, and not merely as dispersed units, which they merely are at the present moment. There were two points in the observations of the noble Marquess concerning myself which, in some newspapers, have been graphically described as a "severe wigging." One of these points was that I had attacked the Government. With that I have already dealt. The other point was that if I had anything to say about the Army I ought to have come down to your Lordships' House and have said it. I hope I have convinced your Lordships that I had no intention, and never had the intention, of attacking Her Majesty's Government. I shall, therefore, allude simply to the charge which the noble Marquess made against me—that if I had anything to say about the Army I ought to say it from my seat in the House of Lords. During the five or six years I have had the honour of a seat in your Lordships' House I have never yet presumed to speak here; and it will always be to me a matter of sincere and deep regret that the first time I have felt it necessary to speak has been to repudiate charges made against me by the Prime Minister, and to defend my character against what I believe to be charges that ought never to have been brought against me, and that have no foundation in fact. From the time that I first entered this House I laid it down as a rule—and it was a rule that found favour in high quarters—that as long as I occupied the position of Adjutant General I should never speak here. My reasons for this determination were because, being no politician, and taking no interest in politics it would be unbecoming in me as Adjutant General to mix myself up in current 99 politics. There are few questions which come before your Lordships' House that have not some Party interest; and it is very difficult to draw a distinction between subjects that are and are not free from Party politics. Another reason was that I felt that, as Adjutant General, it would be most improper for me to come down here to speak on military matters in the presence of my superior officer, the Commander-in-Chief. As long as His Royal Highness takes part in the debates in this House, it would be unbecoming of me to criticize any remarks that may fall from him upon Army subjects with which he is so connected, and of which he is so intimately informed. Experience has proved how right I was in the rule which I laid down in this matter. At the same time, I cannot help feeling—indeed, it is a self-evident fact—that the noble Marquess is right in saying that if I wished to attack Her Majesty's Government I ought to have come down here and have done so. I had no intention to attack the Government. I have to make one statement which, I think, of considerable importance, and it is this—that in this speech, with which so much fault has been found, and which has been, as I consider, so severely, I may almost say unjustly, criticized, there is nothing bearing either directly or indirectly upon the Army that I have not said on previous occasions, not as on the occasion referred to at a private dinner, but in what I may call open court. I expressed my opinions in the evidence given before the Royal Commission some 18 months ago. That evidence has been made public, and has been circulated in Blue Books to every Member of both Houses of Parliament. I know that very few of those who receive these Blue Books open a page when they see they refer to military matters; but if anyone has done so, or if anyone will take the trouble by-and-by to peruse the evidence that I gave to the Commission presided over by Sir James Stephen—the Ordnance Commission—he will find in that evidence, almost word for word, every fact and argument which I adduced in the unfortunate speech which has attracted so much attention. If you will turn to the Reports it will be seen that I was asked— 100Is it not a fact that we never tell the truth to the English people, and that they never know what our military position is?and this was the answer I gave. I said—That we never take the English people into our confidence, we never tell them what are our shortcomings. They have no means of ascertaining what are the military views of the highest military officers they employ. The highest military officers are paid very well; but the English people have no means of knowing what their military views are.Further on, I said—I consider the position of England, at the present moment, as regards its Army, as very unsatisfactory; and if a hostile force were to land upon our shores of, say, 100,000 men, there is no reason why those 100,000 men, if properly led, should not take possession of London.It is proper I should call attention to the fact that when I made that statement—not in a hole-and-corner meeting, but before that highly critical and judicial Royal Commission—the present First Lord of the Treasury was Secretary of State for War, and the noble Marquess was Prime Minister, and yet no comment was made upon those remarks, and I was not censured in any way for them. I was never asked for an explanation. I would ask your Lordships if it was possible for me to say, or whether I did say, anything stronger in my recent speech than I said in the evidence I have read? What I said 18 months ago, and what I said lately, I adhere to literally and word for word. As regards the substance of that speech, I have nothing to withdraw, and nothing to be ashamed of. The noble Marquess has forced from me what I may call an exposition of faith. I give it freely for what it is worth. I give it in plain and unmistakable terms, without entering into any of those particulars which the noble Marquess so pointedly objected to in his remarks last Friday. When I make this statement I am fully aware of the responsibility I incur. My statement is as follows:—That as long as the Navy is as weak as it is at this moment, Her Majesty's Army cannot hold its own all over the world, dispersed as it is; that our defences at home and abroad are at this moment in an unsatisfactory condition, and that our military forces are not organized or equipped as they should be to guarantee even the 101 safety of the capital in which we are at this present moment. My Lords, I am well aware of the responsibility I incur in making the statement; but, at the same time, forced as I have been to make this statement, I feel that there is no need whatever for panic. I am not in the secrets of Her Majesty's Government, and, as the noble Marquess observed, I am not aware of all that takes place in the Cabinet; but what I do know leads me to believe there is no imminent danger impending over this country, and that, therefore, there is plenty of time to do all that is necessary to place, at least, the Army in a state of efficiency before its services are required. Panic is the offspring of ignorance. For the people to realize their danger and the power of meeting it, is, in my opinion, the first step towards doing all that is required. For that reason, it has been my desire at all times to take the English people into our confidence, and tell them exactly what the condition of Her Majesty's Army and Navy is, and what is the proportionate strength of our Navy compared with the Navies of foreign countries. If there are wants and shortcomings I should like to tell them what they are. So complete is my confidence in the wisdom of Parliament and in the good sound sense of the English people that I cannot believe anything will be wanting in their efforts to place the two great Services of the country in a thoroughly satisfactory and serviceable condition. If, my Lords, by any action I have taken in this matter I have done anything to further that end, it will be, in my estimation, a most important event in my life, and one I shall always look back to with the greatest possible satisfaction. My Lords, I am well aware that in political life it is the common practice that when a Member of an Administration differs seriously from his Colleagues, or has been censured severely by his Chief in the Administration, it has been the invariable practice for that Member of the Government to resign the position he occupies; but, in my opinion, a subordinate military officer who occupies no political position whatever under the Government takes a wrong view of his position when he follows that example. As a rule, the resignation of a military officer, in these circumstances, answers no good pur- 102 pose. I have been, I confess, at times sorely tempted to adopt that course myself, and never more so than I was last Saturday morning when I read the severe strictures made upon me in this House by the Prime Minister. It was no love of office that restrained me from doing so; but the view I took of my duty in the position I occupy as Adjutant General. At the same time, I wish it to be clearly understood that, although in my judgment it would be wrong on my part to take the initiative in this matter, I place myself entirely and unreservedly in the hands of the Prime Minister. I believe that the views I have expressed this evening, and upon many previous occasions, are those entertained by nine out of every 10 soldiers and sailors whose opinions are worth having; and I believe they are the opinions of those soldiers and sailors who, if danger comes on this country, will have to lead Her Majesty's Army and Navy—who will be the captains of our ships and the Admirals of our Fleets, the colonels of our regiments, and the Generals of our armies—in fact, the very men upon whom the people of this country will have to rely in case of sudden emergency. I have been careful in the remarks I have made to refrain from referring to details which the Prime Minister, in the course of his observations on Friday last, said it would be objectionable to make public; but I can say, from my own knowledge, that there is no deficiency or weak point in our defences which is not as well known to the Military and Naval Authorities of every great foreign nation as it is to ourselves. My Lords, I thank you for having listened so carefully and so attentively to what I have said. I would wish, in conclusion, to allude to a point I have not yet referred to, and it is this. To my astonishment and extreme regret I read this morning in the papers a speech made by the Secretary of State for War on Saturday, in which he took to himself personally some remarks I made, perhaps in too strong terms, at the dinner to which reference has been made. I wish to assure your Lordships, for his information and for the information of the public, that nothing was further from my mind than to attach any possible slur to the character or the intentions of the Secretary of State for War, whom I 103 have known for so many years as a friend, and lately as a Member of the present Administration. I hope the Secretary of State for War and every Member of the Government will understand that I deeply regret that the words I made use of in that speech, to which reference has been made, could by any possibility be considered as reflecting in any way upon any Member of Her Majesty's Administration. Whatever my course of action may have been, I shall at least have the satisfaction of reflecting that I have acted according to my lights, and that I have been influenced by a desire to do my duty in the interests of my Sovereign and of the English people, whom it has been my earnest endeavour always to serve to the best of my ability.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord who has just sat down referred at the beginning of his speech to one matter which he spoke of as small, but of which I am bound to take notice. He expressed himself as feeling that he had not been fairly treated in having received no Notice of the remarks which I made on Friday. I can only say that if the noble and gallant Lord feels that, I very much regret it; but I have been in the habit of answering other speeches by Members of this House without giving Notice, and it did not occur to me that it was necessary to do so in this instance. If I have placed the noble and gallant Lord at a disadvantage by taking that course in the present instance I must express my regret for having done so. But when the noble and gallant Lord goes on to say that the strictures which I passed upon his speech at Sir John Pender's dinner were unjust and ought not to have been made, I do not think that he can entirely remember what the character of those remarks was. Nothing could be more handsome than the manner in which the noble and gallant Lord has spoken of the present Administration—nothing could be more complete than the disavowal which he has made of his intention of directing his speech at that dinner against Her Majesty's Government, or any Member of it. But, unless he has been grievously misreported, certainly the first impression which any ordinary reader would attach 104 to the language which he used was that all Secretaries of State for War were men of "a low and vicious standard of morality."
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am going to read it; but I say that the impression conveyed by it was not only that, but was that the most prominent offenders were those who had most recently come into Office. I will read the whole passage. It is so vigorous that it is a pleasure to read it, apart from the application it may receive. These are the words—The answer to the question why the Army and Navy are not as strong as they ought to be is to be found in the system of our government by Party—that curse of modern England which is sapping and undermining the foundations of our country—which is depriving our statesmen of the manly honesty which was once their characteristic. What do we see when any new Administration comes into Office?Remember that a new Administration came into Office about 18 months before.What directly takes place? It is the same with all Parties. The first thing is an endeavour made by the Minister in Office to obtain some claptrap reputation by cutting down the expenses of the Army and Navy, and if he is able to produce an Army or a Navy Estimate which represents in some degree a smaller sum than that of his Predecessor, he plumes himself upon the victory he has gained; he is proud that he has succeeded better, perhaps, than his Predecessor who sits upon the Bench opposite to him; and as he chuckles over his success he says, 'See what a good boy am I.' This is the result, of what?—the result of a low and vicious standard of morality which is now uppermost in men's minds. In speaking so light-heartedly of such a matter he forgets, this Minister who has just come into Office, in his pride at having reduced the Estimates, the fault he has committed, the crime of which he has been guilty against the country.Now, my Lords, I must say that I do not think I was hypercritical in thinking that these words apply to all Advisers of the Crown without distinction, or if there was any distinction it was that they applied especially to those who had most recently taken Office. But we are all alike on our defence; and I invoke the sympathy of noble Lords opposite when I say in regard to the last four changes of Office that, as a matter of fact, the result has been that the Estimates have risen, and not that they have fallen. That charge, therefore, cannot be supported. As against us, it is 105 especially hard for us to be accused of the crime of cutting down the Estimates by a lump sum, when a year or two ago we made the greatest sacrifice politicians can make—we sacrificed an important Colleague rather than suffer the very thing which is charged against us. My Lords, I am bound to say that the noble and gallant Lord has disavowed in ample terms any intention of referring to the present Administration. I accept entirely his disavowal; and I can only say that if he had made it sooner I should certainly have not ventured to trouble your Lordships on the subject. The cause of the delay to which he refers was that very correspondence which he has mentioned. I fully expected that after the letter he had written to the illustrious Duke he would have taken some public means of explaining and removing the misapprehension which anybody who read the speech must have formed. I found that he did not do so; and when I found that this speech was having what seemed to me a most disastrous consequence of panic on men's minds I felt it my duty to make the observations that I did. I can only say I heartily accept the disavowal which he has made; and I only hope that if he has occasion to attack us in future he will do it in this House. I do not mean to say that I think that a desirable course; but I think it is propriety itself compared to saying what he did at a dinner to Sir John Pender. Lastly, with reference to some other observations made by the noble and gallant Lord, I hope he will not take this incident too seriously, for I should regard his leaving the Public Service as the greatest blow that could fall upon our military administration. The noble and gallant Lord gave us his confession of faith. I cannot charge my memory with having seen it before; but I can only say that it is a very grave statement indeed, and that it shall receive the closest possible attention and examination that we can give to it with the assistance of the illustrious Duke, the noble and gallant Lord himself, and the Secretary of State for War. I cannot at all coincide with those who think that these matters can be referred to anybody outside the Government. So long as our system of Government is what it is the Government are responsible, and the responsibility must rest upon them. If you are dissatisfied 106 with them you must change them; but you must not think that you can infuse efficiency into them by setting up an independent body by their side to advise them. I would only notice two other observations that the noble and gallant Lord has made. He spoke of the danger which we were incurring owing to the present weakness of our Navy. That seems to me, so far as my judgment goes, an inappropriate phrase. Weakness and strength are relative terms; what I wish to bring before the House, lest they should run away with a false impression upon the subject, is an account of the exertions this country has made now for several years past to place its Navy in a condition fit for the great duties it is called upon to perform. Allow me to read to your Lordships the total sums that have been applied year after year to the new construction of ships and the armaments of ships since the year 1880, the beginning of the last Administration. In 1881–2 the total was £1,100,000; in 1182–3, £2,447,000; in 1883–4, £2,592,000; in 1884–5, £2,927,000; in 1885–6, when the last Budget of noble Lords opposite was introduced, £4,895,000; in 1886–7, £5,095,000; in 1887–8, £5,358,000; and in 1888–9, £5,467,000. The annual expenditure on the new construction of ships and armaments has risen since 1880 from £2,100,000 to £5,467,000. The rise is enormous; and although, of course, you may say that it is not yet enough, it is undoubtedly the fact that our exertions for preparation and our state of preparation are, in my belief, and as those figures show, greater than they have ever been under any previous Government. The noble and gallant Lord treated with some contempt my plea for secrecy. He said that every defect we had was as well known to every foreign country as to ourselves. I hope that that is not the case; but even if it were the case it would not exhaust my reasons. It would not represent the real ground why any public discussion in all its details of our military and naval preparations is an impossibility. We are to make ourselves safe, it is said. But safety is not an absolute term. You cannot write down so many soldiers and so many ships are what will make England safe. They are what will make England safe against some supposed attack; you must know what 107 your enemy is likely to be before you know whether your preparations are likely to be sufficient; you cannot know what force under any possible circumstances can be brought against you without discussing matters which I need not prove to the House it is utterly impossible to discuss in public. The question of defence is a question which involves not only the War Office and the Admiralty, but the Foreign Office as well; and if anybody doubts that fact let him read carefully that great speech of the Chancellor of Germany, delivered at the beginning of this Spring, in which he discussed the defensive and offensive position of Germany, and it will be seen that throughout it there is one point upon which he evidently laid stress. The consideration that was uppermost in his mind was, "Who are our allies?" and "Who are likely to be the enemies with whom we should have to fight?" Therefore, my Lords, I deprecate the idea that it is possible for any Government to lay down an absolute standard of safety. They must place the country in such a position that it will be safe against any danger which it is reasonably likely to incur; and, in so doing, I am sure your Lordships will believe that the more we deprecate publicity the more deeply sensible are we of the intense responsibility that lies upon us. There is no part of the speech of the noble and gallant Lord against which I should wish to enter so earnest a protest as that in which he attributes to public men in England—I care not of what Party they are—that for the sake of making a good Budget and winning a Party advantage they would consciously risk the interests of the Empire. I do not believe that such an accusation could be fairly directed against any public man on any side. We feel that we are working a Constitutional instrument of extreme difficulty. It is a task not a little arduous for men who are, and must be, in the main civilians, and responsible to civilians, to obtain and make use of all the best professional assistance, and to govern for professional purposes professional men of the highest intelligence and skill. That duty is laid upon us, and we shall perform it to the best of our ability. We are deeply sensible of the debt we owe to experts, and how carefully we should consult and weigh their opinions. We feel that the 108 prospect of obtaining any success will, indeed, be jeopardized if the practice should gain of their speaking over our heads to the public, and destroying our authority and shattering the administrative machine we wield by invoking the opinion—the uninformed opinion—of out-of-doors critics against us. I am sure that in protesting against this practice I shall have the sympathy of your Lordships' House; and I feel convinced we shall have the sympathy of the noble and gallant Lord himself in endeavouring, when any difference of opinion arises between experts and civilians, to do our best, to give to each his proper place, to work together for that end which under our peculiar Constitution is so difficult of attainment—that of uniting all the securities of a Military Monarchy with a system which is penetrated through and through by the instincts and practices of freedom.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I wish to enter my protest against the attribution of motives to Members of preceding Governments by the noble and gallant Viscount. Such a charge is, I think, entirely unfounded. I do not agree in the advice or the opinion the noble Marquess has given, that the proper course was for the noble and gallant Viscount to come down to the House, and in his place make such an attack upon the Government. It appears to me to be the obvious duty of those at the head of our great Naval and Military Professions to state to the Government, in the fullest and most detailed manner, their views as to the necessities of their Departments. I very much regret to hear from the noble Marquess that no statement was made to him by the noble and gallant Viscount.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I did not speak quite so strongly. I said that the precise statement the noble and gallant Viscount has made to the House had not been made to the Government.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble and gallant Viscount stated that he was not a politician, and that he hopes he never will be. On the whole, I am rather inclined to coincide with him in that view; and I certainly do most devoutly hope that he will continue to devote exclusively his extraordinary energy and his remarkable abilities to the Profession which he adorns. 109 I will not complain that, though the noble and gallant Viscount has made the most ample apology I ever heard to the noble Marquess who so vigorously attacked him, not one word of apology did he offer to us who had remained perfectly silent. Really, the satisfactory thing in this incident, which threatened, in the minds of some persons, to lead to the loss of the valuable services of the noble and gallant Viscount, is that such a possibility is entirely put away by the explanation of the noble Marquess. I will not, on this occasion, go into the much larger and more important question as to what the military and naval defences of this country should be. I certainly feel that it is the duty of military men to state in the strongest manner to the Government of the day, whatever that Government may be, their notions of the deficiencies which exist; but I cannot admit that their views are always to be obeyed. I would remind your Lordships of the old story of Dean Swift who, in his Instructions to Servants, advised the servant in a particular department to ascertain the gross amount of his master's income and to endeavour to apply the whole of that amount to his own particular department. The Government of this country must take other facts into consideration, and must think a little of finance. They must take care not to cripple us in times of peace, for that is by no means the safest way of preparing us for war. But with regard to that, I am very much pleased to hear what the noble and gallant Viscount laid down as the principle of the reforms in which he wished to move—not merely to get more money, but to provide for the efficiency and the most complete training and preparation of the Army.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
My Lords, in view of the agreeable manner in which this incident has ended, and which I am glad to think will be acceptable to my noble and gallant Friend, I do not know that I have anything to say beyond this—that I feel it to be a duty which I owe to your Lordships and to my noble and gallant Friend to state distinctly that I have always highly appreciated his consideration in not coming and taking part in any debates in this House in my presence. I do not for one moment wish that he should hide his views. Every now and then we may not agree; but we always 110 disagree without quarrelling. If, however, these matters were to be discussed by the Commander-in-Chief in this House in one sense and by the Adjutant General in another I think that would be most detrimental to the interests of the Service, and most serious to the individuals concerned. Therefore, I take this opportunity of assuring your Lordships that I am, perhaps, quite as much to blame as the noble and gallant Viscount, since I have always encouraged him not to take part in debates in your Lordships' House.