*THE EARL OK DUNEAVEN
My Lords, I think your Lordships will admit that it was impossible to adequately discuss the complicated and interesting statement of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War on the occasion on which it was delivered. The statement was far too important and touched upon issues far too grave to be discussed without time for adequate and minute consideration. At the same time it was a statement which I felt sure your Lordships would wish to have an opportunity of discussing, and I therefore placed the notice standing in my name—"To call attention to the statement of the Secretary of State for War"—on the Paper for the first favourable opportunity that occurred. I cannot say that the feeling of disappointment which gradually came over me in listening to the statement of my noble friend has been minimised or diminished by a close scrutiny of his speech. The proposals of Her Majesty's Government do not appear to me to have been conceived with a view to possible eventualities—very remote, but still possible—which I think ought to have been borne in mind in considering the steps that were necessary to place the nation in the most capable state both for offence and defence. I doubt very much whether the proposals of Her Majesty's Government will be sufficient even for the requirements of the war in which we are at present engaged, supposing it is not complicated by any untoward event. I do not see in these proposals any indication that steps of a permanent nature will be taken to adapt our Army to the now proved requirements of modern war, or to adequately develop the undeveloped I strength and resources of the country, or to do anything in the way of reconstructing and improving the machinery of the War Office. It is a curious thing, and what my noble friend called the other night the "irony of fate," that this nation—we who are, or, at any rate, think we are, a great maritine Power, but who are not, and do not pretend to be, a military Power—that it should have fallen upon us to be an object lesson of the vast change that has come over war owing to the great development in projectiles and artillery and small arms of late years. I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say, that with the adoption 14 of smokeless powder, the great improvement in guns, the enormous range to which they attain now the accuracy of rifle fire, and the other improvements in modern war, a greater change has taken place during the quarter of a century since the last great war than has occurred during the preceding four or five centuries. I doubt if it is an exaggeration to say that the change from the use of bows and arrows to the use of powder did not inaugurate a greater revolution in strategy tactics and the constitution of armies than that which the change in modern guns and other implements of war has produced and is producing the result of the bitter experience which we are now undergoing must be to largely recast the Army in a new mould, to call much more attention to accuracy of shooting, and less attention to the power of manœuvring accurately in large bodies, and to largely increase that hybrid force we call mounted infantry. I see very little indication in the proposals, of Her Majesty's Government that the great lessons which the war has taught us are grasped or realised. Speaking broadly, the proposals of the Government appear to me to come to little more than this—they hope, but are not at all sure, that they may bring the Militia and the Volunteers up to their proper establishment strength; they are trying to induce old soldiers, men who have passed out of the reserves, to enlist for a year—a good and useful idea; they are doing a very valuable service in rearming the Volunteer-artillery; they are creating a number of new batteries, and they propose to add twelve battalions to the infantry of the Line and some cavalry regiments, about which I have a word to say. As to any necessary changes which might be made in the organisation of the War Office nothing whatever is said. I can understand that, and do not press the point, for I agree with my noble friend the Secretary of State for War that it world be unwise to embark upon great organic changes in a period of great emergency such as that which we are now passing through. I should like to say, great in speaking of the War Office, that, in my humble opinion, the War Office, in sending out such a large number of troops and vast accumulation of stores across 6,000 miles of ocean, have performed a great feat, and have performed it in a manner far superior to that which their critics generally supposed was possible.
15 At the same time, I think that many defects have been proved to exist by the trial through which we are passing, defects which have over and over again, year after year, been pointed out, alas! without any effect. I quite agree that it would be worse than idle to expect any changes to be inaugurated or announced now, but I venture to express the hope that, when this war is over, a serious reconstruction of the Department I may be taken in hand, and that the War Office may not be allowed to relapse into its normal condition of lethargic self-content. What is it that Her Majesty's Government proposes with regard to the prosecution of the war? We arc told that 50,000 additional troops are under orders for the seat of war and that when they arrive the total number of troops in South Africa will be 200,000 men. This is a very large force, but I do not quite understand the figures of the noble Marquess. The Secretary of State for War informed the House that in October 28,000 men I were sent out, in November 26,000, in December 24,000, and in January 25,000, making a total of 103,000 men. He stated also that there were 23,000 men in South Africa at the commencement of the war, which would bring the total number up to 126,000. If you add the 50,000 which are under orders or on their way to South Africa it will bring the total up to 176,000. That leaves a balance of 24,000 men. I suppose the balance consists of the colonial contingent ' and troops raised in South Africa, but perhaps the noble Marquess will give me some further information as to these figures. I do not want to naggle about figures in any way, but when we consider the forces that the Queen has to prosecute the war and the forces we have for defensive purposes at home, it is well that we should exactly, understand the figures placed before us. I should like to know how many of the; 200,000 men are to be considered effective. Have we to deduct the men invalided, killed and wounded, and prisoners? Is the ordinary waste and wear of war, amounting, I suppose, in this case, to 10,000 men or more, to be deducted from 200,000? I am curious to know what proportion of the effective men we may reasonably consider can be put into the fighting line. I do not know whether I should be overstating it, or understating 16 it, if I suggested that with such enormously long lines of communication we cannot calculate upon putting into the fighting line more than half of the effective force. I should like to receive any information on that point. I cannot persuade myself that a reinforcement of 50,000 men is sufficient. I sincerely trust it may be sufficient; but it seems to me that up to the present in no single instance have our generals been provided with forces sufficient for the operations they had to undertake. I do not think anyone would say that if General Buller's forces had been doubled, and doubled again, he would have had one man too many for the very arduous task he is endeavouring to perform. I should have liked to have heard that at least 100,000 additional men were to be sent out to South Africa. One hundred thousand men sent together would be infinitely more effective than 50,000 men sent now and another 50,000 in two or three months time. Again, the noble Marquess told us that 7,700 drafts had been sent out. That is entirely satisfactory, but I should like to know whether these 7,700 drafts are included in the total of 200,000. I will turn, if you will allow me, to what my noble friend very aptly designated the consideration of our military assets at home. Our available assets at home are put down at 98,000 Regulars, 12,000 Reservists, 77,000 Militia, 7,000 Yeomanry, and 215,000 Volunteers, making a grand total of 409,000—to use my noble friend's words, "armed men serving in this country." I look upon this as a most gratifying announcement, provided that the 409,000 men can be really correctly designated armed men serving in this country. As to the 98,000 Regulars, would it be an indiscreet question if I were to ask where they are and exactly what they consist of? We know that they include men who have been left behind by the battalions which have gone to the seat of war because they were unfit for service abroad. But I should like to know how many of these men or boys who were unfit for service abroad and were left at home are included among the 98,000 Regulars described as armed men serving in this country. I should also like to know, if the information can be given me, how many of all branches—cavalry, artillery, and infantry—could be paraded on any definite day, say next week, of these 17 98,000 men, the infantry fully and properly equipped, the cavalry with their men and horses, the artillery with their men, horses, and guns, and provided with transport. If we had information of that kind we should have something reliable to go upon, and should know how far the 98,000 Regulars remaining in this country are a valuable and realisable asset, and not a mere asset on paper. There appears to be, I do not say there is, a good deal of duplication. Twelve new battalions are to be permanently added to the Army. How are they to be created? Partly out of men left behind by battalions who have gone to the front, and partly by Reservists. It appears to be obvious that, so far as they are composed of men left behind belonging to other regiments and Reservists, they are not new battalions. The same remark applies to the new cavalry regiments and to the new batteries of artillery. The cavalry are to consist in the first place of the leavings of cavalry regiments at the seat of war and of Reservists; the batteries are to be created from a nucleus taken from existing batteries, from men left behind as unfit for service by batteries in South Africa, and of Reservists. It is obvious that, to the extent to which they are composed of a nucleus and of Reservists and of men left behind, these regiments, battalions and batteries are not new ones. Men are counted twice over. It is like taking five shillings out of one pocket, transferring them to another pocket, and claiming an asset of ten shillings, a process of doubtful probity in finance. The same duplication may occur with recruiting. Your Lordships were pleased to hoar that recruiting was very brisk. It would almost be an insult to compliment the nation on that fact, because the nation has only shown its natural spirit. But I should be glad to hear from the noble Marquess that in the number of recruits which he gave no duplication has occurred. As your Lordships know very well, men recruit into the Line direct and into the Militia direct, and they recruit out of the Militia into the Line. Unless the greatest care is taken in compiling the figures, men are likely to be counted twice, first on enlisting in the Militia, and secondly on passing from the Militia to the Line. I do not mean to say that this duplication has occurred, but it appears, on the face of the statement of the noble Marquess, 18 that it is exceedingly likely to have occurred. When the nation is asked to consider the national balance-sheet, the statement put before it by the Secretary of State ought to be of such a character that it would be passed by an accountant, but I am perfectly certain no chartered accountant in the world would pass the statement of my noble friend as reliable with regard to the available realisable military assets of the country. The estimate of my noble friend the Secretary of State for War as to the requirements for national defence was based upon Mr. Stanhope's Minute which laid it down that there should be a mobile army of 130,000 men, but that was after providing for the defence of India and the Colonies. Now, if I am not mistaken, we have drawn some 7,000 men from India, and we have drawn Aery largely from our garrisons in the Colonies, so that the proposal of Her Majesty's Government for providing for home defence is incomplete, judged by the standard of Mr. Stanhope's Minute, and must remain incomplete unless some provisions made to restore the military establishment in India and replace the troops which have been taken from the garrisons. I will now turn for one moment to the Militia. The Militia is 30,000 short of its establishment. That is not a very pleasant state of things to contemplate. My noble friend said he hoped, by offering various inducements, to bring up that force to its full establishment. I have not a single word to say against any of these inducements, but, as the noble Marquess admitted, whether the proposals of the Government will bring the force up to its full strength or not can only be conjectured. It is not altogether pleasing to reflect that the safety of our homos may depend upon the realisation of a mere conjecture. I cannot help thinking what a better position we should be in now if the Bill which my noble friend the Secretary of State brought in a year ago had passed through Parliament. I am not going to say anything on the subject of the ballot or compulsion of any kind. Her Majesty's Government have decided against the application of compulsion in any degree. Well, that may be perfectly wise. I am not going to anticipate what will be said on the subject on Tuesday next, further than to say that, so far as I am personally concerned, I greatly dislike the idea of conscription, resort to the ballot, or com- 19 pulsion. But, at the same time, I am hound to confess that if I try to analyse the causes of my dislike I think they are due rather to prejudice to the term than to any sound argument that can be raised against the general principle that, to a limited extent at any rate, every citizen is bound to act for the protection of the country. I should like to know what steps the noble Marquess intends to adopt if these conjectures are not fulfilled. How long are we to wait to see whether the Militia fills itself up to its proper establishment, and, if it does not, what steps will be taken? As to the Yeomanry, they are to be asked to devote one month to training. That is not to be compulsory, I believe, but they are to have an opportunity of coming out for a month's training. I do not believe that it is possible for the Yeomanry, as at present constituted, to devote a continuous month to training. In the same way the Volunteers are to be asked to give one month to training, and the Volunteer artillery three months. I have not the faintest doubt that both the artillery and infantry Volunteers will be perfectly willing to give up a month, or even three months, if it is possible; but, however willing they may be, it will be absolutely impossible for them to do so. A great number of our Volunteers, both artillery and infantry, are artisans and men of that class. To lose the services of many of his hands for such long periods would ruin employers. They could not carry on their business. I know a case, by no means exceptional, what may be termed a small manufacturer, one half of whose men are Volunteers. It would be impossible for him to spare the men for a month and some of them for three months. The men themselves, with families dependent upon them, could not possibly afford it, and their withdrawal in any case would dislocate the trade of the country. I feel perfectly certain that it would be less inconvenient if the training was compulsory, because the trade of the country would then gradually accommodate itself to the new conditions. The proposal of the Government is impracticable, and if carried out would destroy the Volunteer force. I hope the Government will provide more accommodation in the direction of rifle ranges. I do not at all agree with what fell from the noble Lord opposite, Lord Tweedmouth, on that point. I do agree with him that you can 20 partially train a man at a short range. You can teach him to aim and to acquire that co-ordination of brain, nerve, and muscle which enables him to pull the trigger without jerking his gun, but to make a skilful rifle shot who is to be really valuable in modern warfare a long-range is necessary. I do not agree with Lord Tweedmouth that the most effective rifle firing during the present war has been at short range. I gather entirely the opposite from the correspondence which I have read, which shows-that the lesson of the war is the great effectiveness of long distance rifle fire. Is not the difficulty of effective scouting which we have experienced explained by the fact that the Boers fire at such long distances that it is impossible for a scouting party to get near enough to obtain accurate information? What ought to be done is to provide short ranges wherever they can be used, and then when the men have acquired as much proficiency as can be obtained at short ranges they could be sent, not at their own expense, and with as little discomfort as possible, to go through a course of training at a long range. I was delighted with the statement, which I regard as the most hopeful in the whole of the Government's proposals, that we are to have a number of new batteries of field and horse artillery, and that the Volunteer artillery are to be rearmed with modern guns. I ventured the other day to say, Why not give the Militia artillery more modern weapons? and was told that the Militia artillery were garrison artillery. That is so; but is there any particular reason why they should always remain garrison artillery? Is there airy reason, except the-tangles of red tape, why the Militia should not contribute a certain number of field batteries to the mobile army? Even with the addition of these new batteries the Army will not be so over strong with artil that it would not be wise to use the trained gunners now existing in the Militia. I hope the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War will consider the advantage of allowing them a certain portion of field batteries. I do not know exactly what the armament of these new-batteries is to be. I think my noble friend said that it would consist of 15-pounders and the 4.7in. semi-mobile gun. It was stated in another place, by the Under Secretary of State for War, that the rate of fire of the semi-mobile gun 21 was nearly five per minute. These guns are not what are commonly called quick-firing guns, but they are, I suppose, fitted with an attachment which minimises or prevents recoil, and therefore can lie rapidly loaded and fired. I should greatly like to know, if it is a question upon which I can receive information, what is the normal rate of fire of the semi-mobile 4.7 in. guns as set out in the service instructions issued when this type of gun was adopted. I should like to know also whether any steps are to be taken to provide the Army with guns of heavier calibre, but capable of being tised in the field for defence. Is it not true that in South Africa the Army has had to filch from the Navy capable of competing against those used by the Boers? Are any steps being taken to supply this deficiency in the Army? There is no question about it that the Boers, in a most difficult country, do manage to move about guns of a size and weight which I presume our military authorities thought it was impossible to move in the field. Our military authorities must have known that the Boers possessed these guns, but did not anticipate that they could be used except in fortifications. I do not think this great question of artillery has received sufficient attention. Surely there can be no question that the lesson we have already learned through the disasters of this war is how potent a factor in future wars artillery and long range rifle fire must be. In fact, it is being brought home to us—very forcibly brought home to us—that inventive genius and mechanical art and science will be almost a determining factor in wars of the future. Physical courage, nerve, and endurance will always have their value, because they are at the bed rock of everything; but, to a degree that has never obtained before, the victory of war in the future will go to the side that makes the most intelligent use of inventive genius and of mechanical skill and science. I believe that in two respects we are as well situated as any country in the world. I do not think any country has foundries that are superior to ours. I feel confident no nation can turn out more efficient skilled workmen than our trained gunners, but in the highly technical manufacturing skill necessary for the most beautifully exact, minute portions which constitute the excellence of a perfect machine of destruction—one of 22 these modern guns—I believe this country is lamentably behind. The very highest inventive genius of the country and the very highest skill of a mechanical nature ought to be at the disposition of the Army. I doubt very much whether it is, and I should like to have seen some indication that efficient steps would be taken to secure for our Army all the advantages which the highest inventive genius and mechanical art can provide. I do not think I take a very gloomy view of the situation; on the contrary, I think I am rather inclined to take a sanguine view. I sincerely hope that the proposals. Her Majesty's Government have made may turn out to be quite sufficient, but I guns greatly doubt it. I feel that it would be far wiser to make preparations greatly in excess of what might be needed than to make preparations which may not be quite enough. The nation and the Empire realise the issues at stake. They know that with the present struggle the Empire stands or falls, and with it the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of all that the Empire holds in trust for humanity. Do the Government realise it? We may hope, we may suppose, we may expect, but we have no right to act on the hope, supposition, or expectation that no further complications may arise which may render infinitely more difficult the difficult task we have to perform. I cannot see in the proposals put forward—and I should not think that I was doing my duty if I did not say so—the provision of what seems to me adequate means to meet any difficulties and any eventualities which may possibly arise.
§ *LORD WENLOCK
My Lords, I will address myself to one point, and one point only, which has been touched upon by the noble Earl, because I consider it is one of the most important that should be brought forward in connection with the proposals submitted by Her Majesty's Government. I refer to the question of the supply of large guns to the Army. When we first became aware that a conflict had actually broken out in South. Africa, the one thing that impressed itself most upon me was that the British army in South Africa did not possess a single gun of the proper calibre to meet the guns which the Boers had brought against them. We had to fall back on the Navy, and we all know how well the Navy has.
23 performed its work. But even now the army in the field have to rely to a large extent upon the support which is given them by the Naval Brigade. The large howitzer batteries which have gone out from Woolwich are not sufficiently numerous, and we are in the undignified position of being forced to retire from positions we have taken up because the Boer guns are superior to our own and have rendered untenable positions which we otherwise could have held. I think the Government might have told us more clearly than they have done what steps are being taken to remedy this state of things. I presume that the War Office were advised that the mobility of guns ceased when they were over forty-two cwt. and that the Boer guns could not be moved, and should not, therefore, be taken into account. If they were not so advised, why are we in our present predicament? The Boers, on the other hand, consulted experts who told them that these big guns could be mounted and moved and have shown them how to do it, with the result we all knew. I hope we shall have some assurance from the Government that this most important point is receiving attention. The mobility of these big guns is, I take it, a revelation to many people. One cannot help thinking, now their mobility has been demonstrated, what would be our position if we did become involved with other nations. If we had a war with France how many Creusot guns of large calibre should we find opposed to us, and what guns of equal power have we got to meet them? Or if we go to war with Germany how many large Krupp guns, and how is it proposed to meet them? And if we were at war with Russia what combination of Creusot and Krupp guns with large guns of Russian manufacture should we be confronted with? In any of these eventualities it would be unwise policy, even if it were possible, to indent on the nearest British man-of-war, to strip her of her guns and hurry them to the front in order to maintain our Army in the positions they had taken up. Unless we put ourselves, ill this respect, on a real, sound, and proper footing we shall cease to be able to give our Army that efficient support which it ought to have. I therefore, hope that her Majesty's Government is fully sensible of the importance of this subject, and that my noble friend fully realises the spirit of the old saying, which 24 was impressed upon both of us in our younger days—Fan est et ab hoste doceri.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I take this opportunity of expressing my profound disappointment at what I consider the inadequate proposals of the Government, and I desire in particular to express my disappointment at their summary rejection of the bare possibility of adopting the principle of compulsory enlistment for the purpose of home defence. I believe I am correct in stating that the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War has admitted that, in a case of grave emergency, such a thing would possibly prove necessary, and I think it must strike many people that such a time of emergency has already arrived. With practically the whole of our professional Army locked up in South Africa in an effort to subdue the forces of two petty Republics, when we are obliged to draw on our last resources in order to supplement their numbers, and when it is apparent to everyone that if we were involved in difficulties in some other part of the world it would be impossible to despatch an adequately equipped expedition, I say a period of great national emergency has arisen. It is apparent that some serious effort should be made. Surely it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to consult with responsible leaders of the Opposition and devise a rational scheme of home defence. If it wore possible to effect such a combination, and if the suggestions made by this combined body were supported by the best military opinion, I believe the country would be ready, if required, to face the burden of compulsory service for national defence. I must express my deep regret that the Government have not thought fit to try the experiment. The only argument I have heard advanced against compulsory service is that it is unpopular. Naturally it would not be popular; in no country is it popular. Every civilised country and semi-barbarous countries like Turkey have boon obliged to adopt this principle, and to say that we are so superior to all foreign nations as to be able to do voluntarily what they are only able to effect by compulsion is surely a justification for that charge of national arrogance which is so frequently brought against us I by our critics. The noble Marquess at the head of the Government, in a speech he 25 delivered a few days ago, commented upon one peculiarity of the British people, namely, that they insisted upon eating their cake and having it. Can there be any clearer instance of that than what we now witness? At present the cry of everybody is for expansion. The Government, whether Conservative or Radical, is being constantly invited and encouraged to assume further liabilities in every quarter of the globe, yet, in spite of that, when a common-sense proposal is made that before anything else should be done, our national defence should lie established on a firm basis, it is scouted as foolish. It certainly appears to me, although I may be singular in this respect, that if the proposals of the Government are carried out they will constitute a great act of injustice. For this reason. Ever since the inception of the Volunteer movement the burden of home defence has been undertaken by a very minute fraction of the population—in round figures, by some 400,000 men out of a population of 40,000,000. All these years the burden of home defence has fallen on these 400,000 men, and, according to the Government proposals, it is intended to perpetuate this injustice ad infinitum. Why are the rest of the thirty-eight or thirty-nine millions living in this country to be relieved of their share of the burden? Why are those who have hitherto given their time and money to this purpose to be called upon, not merely to do what they have done in the past, but to do a great deal more, not to double the services they have rendered, but to quadruple them? I do not claim to speak for more than one branch of the Auxiliary forces. I am connected with the Yeomanry, and, so far as the proposals affect the Yeomanry, I confess that I look upon them with great alarm. I can hardly conceive that the invitation which is to be addressed to them to perform four times the work they have done hitherto, and to increase their expenses fourfold, will meet with a favourable response. I confess I take an extremely despondent view of what their answer is likely to be. I wish to reiterate my deep disappointment that the Government have missed a magnificent opportunity, that they have not risen to the level their supporters and many of their opponents expected of them, and that, instead of adopting a bold and permanent plan, which would 26 have placed the country on a safe and firm footing, they have been content with temporary makeshifts, which can do little or nothing to remedy the evils which are admitted on all sides to exist.
§ LORD BLYTHSWOOD
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War on the large force which he has been able to place in South Africa. I do not think many Members in this House would have believed that we could have done it in. the time. I wish particularly to draw the attention of your Lordships to what we have got to face. It is no use beating, about the bush. We have got a very hard and a very difficult job to carry out, and if we succeed in it, that is all we can do. We have to support between 150,000 and 160,000 men at the Cape: we have to keep up garrisons in Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, and Egypt; and we have to replace the 10,000 men withdrawn from India. That is the position, and I cannot see in the proposals of the noble Marquess that any provision has been made for meeting it satisfactorily. We are told that there are 98,000 Regulars in this country, but in reality this number is made up of men too old for active service and of others too young to be of any use. Recruiting, it is true, is very brisk, but I see the standard has been reduced to such an extent that a man can join the colours who is not as tall as his own ride. How can we place these boys against grown men? No wonder some of them are taken prisoners and are now in Pretoria. We must look this matter in the face. How are we to provide the men we want, men of certain stature, of physique, and of a certain age—not under twenty? They should be between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. How are we to provide them? We are asked to do so by the ordinary means of recruiting, but we all know very well that that cannot do it. Is there no other way? Perhaps by a patriotic call from the highest in the land to her people you might bring out 100,000 men. I think perhaps you might. I should be glad to see it done. I cannot say that I am enamoured of compulsion in any form: but when the country is face to face with a crisis which may be its utter ruin, I do not think I should be doing my duty to my Queen and country if I did not say that I have changed my mind and should 27 vote for the adoption of compulsory service. I honestly do not think the country has ever, at any time, been in such a serious condition as it is now. Our colonies have come forward in the most magnificent manner. Why? Because to a great extent they knew that the mother country was strong; they admired her, and they knew that united they would be able to stand, but they find that we are not even able to protect ourselves, and that we will not ask the manhood of the country to come forward and do their duty. Unless the men of the country show their readiness and willingness to bear their share of the burden of defence, the colonies may refuse to implicate themselves in the quarrels of Great Britain, and shut themselves up in their insular magnificence. Australia, New Zealand, and the other great colonies, of which we are so proud, will, in their own self-interest, leave us, and then what will become of the population in these islands? Where will they get the trade that will enable them to buy the food which has to come in continually for them? It is terrible to contemplate what may happen: yet all this may be averted if you ask the country to come forward patriotically and to take, what every other nation has had to take, compulsory military service. I do not think there is anything very difficult in it. All classes of men must be treated alike; there must be no exceptions. At all events, the class which usually sits in this House have shown that they are perfectly willing to serve their country wherever they are wanted, and it is in the knowledge of all of us that many Members of this House have already gore out to South Africa. The objection to compulsion will not come from them, I am sure, and if their example is given I am certain that the workmen of the country will answer to the call. They have always been led by the intelligence of the country, and they will be led by it still. I am sure that your appeal to them will not go unanswered. If the Government do not ask the country to help themselves, and give them the means of doing it, instead of pottering on with these permissive measures, I am sure some serious disasters will come, and the responsibility will rest on those who have shirked their duty.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I will not interpose very long in 28 this debate, but I think it is not well that, on such a subject as this and at such a time, the discussion should be confined to one side of the House. The benches on this side do not indeed supply any fertile material for the continuance of the discussion, but that is, perhaps, all the more reason why anyone who is not unwilling should attempt to do so. I am anxious, in the first place, to associate myself entirely, not with the remedy that the noble Lord who has just sat down has proposed, for that is a matter for more consideration than we can give it on an occasion of this kind, but I am anxious to associate myself with him entirely in his view of the gravity of the crisis in which we stand and of the total inadequacy of the proposals of the Government to meet that crisis. What is our position? I remember the other night that the noble Marquess opposite, in setting forth his scheme in a manner so lucid and so persuasive, seemed to complain a little that certain critics had said that this country was denuded of its Army and its Militia. I do not know of anyone who has said that except one authority, and that a very high authority. That is the First Lord of the Admiralty. At least twice in his speech ho made use of the expression that this island was denuded of its troops and its Militia. That, surely, is a very grave state of affairs. The noble Marquess combatted the statement, which, I think, he had forgotten was made by his own immediate colleague, and he brought forward some figures which I noted at the time, and which the noble Earl has criticised in more detail than I shall be willing or competent to do, but which inspired me, I confess, with no confidence in the War Office. He has produced a force, on paper, within these islands of 409,000 men. That in itself is a force which should command respect even in a great military nation; but how is that body composed? It is composed of 98,000 Regular troops. These Regular troops, I suspect, cannot stand a very searching analysis at the present moment. They are, I suspect, men who are too young to be sent to the front, and men who are required for the depôts, and in any case there is a question to be asked about them. We are going to send 50,000 men out at once, not before they are needed, to reinforce our troops in South Africa. Are these 50,000 coming from the 98,000 29 Regular troops, or are these 98,000 Itegular troops left after the 50,000 have been sent out? The next item is 12,000 Reserves. Have they been called out or are they at home? Then there are 7,000 Yeomanry. There are, further, 77,000 Militia. These, as I understand, cannot at present be embodied because we have no barracks to put them in And, last of all, we have 215,000 Volunteers. Now, my Lords, is not this counting noses and endeavouring to blind ourselves to the facts? I have the highest respect for the Volunteers. They have given to their country their time and their energy, which have not, I understand, been always very cordially requited. But can these 215,000 Volunteers by any stretch of the imagination be called soldiers in the scientific sense of the term? It is perfectly certain that they cannot be. And why is it perfectly certain they cannot be? It is so on the showing of the noble Marquess himself, who recommends that they shall have a month's training, or in the case of Volunteer artillery three months training, when the weather permits. The weather obviously does not permit oat present. How has that proposal been received? I venture to say with the unanimous condemnation of all the people whom it affects and concerns. I venture to say there is no large employer of labour in this country who sanctions such a proposal or believes it to be workable. I will take one testimony. I like always to quote from colleagues or some ardent supporters of the Government. I will take the Scotsman, a well known and respected paper, and more blindly devoted to the Government than any newspaper in these islands. The Scotsman sent a commissioner among all the employers in Edinburgh, hoping, I presume, to receive some benediction on the proposals of the Government, and possibly not without encouragement to some result. The prophets cursed the scheme instead of blessing it. They said it was hopelessly impracticable; that it could not be carried out, and that it would not be carried out. That is what becomes of making your 315,000 Volunteers efficient. So much for defence. You are going to send out 50,000 men to South Africa. South Africa is a ravenous maw that demands many victims. You have now been at war since October 12th. During that time—the auspicious news of 30 this morning makes us hope that there may be yet better news to come—during that time you have been fighting on your own territories, you have not been able to advance an inch, you have performed glorious feats of arms, but feats of arms that have been absolutely unproductive. At the end of this time, when you are sending out 50,000 men to South Africa, you cannot but recollect that you have been sending out men by tens of thousands ever since this war began, and if these 50,000 men are exhausted and you want 50,000 more, what then? What then? "Oh," you say, "it is indelicate to say these things. You are laying bare the nakedness of the country before foreign nations, and they may take advantage of it." My Lords, foreign nations know our position quite as well as we do, and better than some of us; better, if I may judge from the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, than Her Majesty's Government does. That is the position as regards the proposals of Her Majesty's Government with respect to men. There is one point on which I should like to ask a question, not of the noble Marquess, but of the member of the Government, whoever he may be, who represents the Board of Admiralty in this House. Are you going to do anything with regard to the Fleet in this critical position in which we stand? Is the Fleet going to be strengthened or to be mobilised? These are not things that can be discussed in a leisurely and debating fashion, spreading over fortnights or months, or even longer than that. The crisis is urgent, the danger is upon you, and then you come to this House with proposals that in the month of May, when the weather allows, you will put the Volunteers, if they are willing to go there, under canvas, and then these islands and the Empire are safe. The position as regards South Africa is that we have been making war there for four months; we have never been, until this week, able to advance an inch into the enemy's country, and the enemy has been constantly and victoriously employed on ours. But I do not keep my eye on South Africa alone. Can any man entrusted with the destinies of this Empire keep his eye on South Africa alone? South Africa is a very important part of the Empire, no doubt, but you have interests and engagements in every part of the world. You are known, on the confession of your own 31 Minister, to be denuded of troops at home. You are sending every available man and gun that you can spare to South Africa. What is the amicable disposition of foreign nations on which you can reckon, so that we shall be left uninterrupted to pursue this war? I know there is nothing so unpopular, nothing so distasteful to the British public, and yet nothing so salutary, as to remind them of the opinion of foreign countries. But whether pleasant and salutary or not, in the crisis in which we are placed it is absolutely necessary to take notice of it. Where is the benevolent disposition of foreign countries on which, I suppose, the Government may be able to reckon when they make partial and incomplete military proposals to the country I do not know. I confess I watch the situation in Europe and elsewhere more closely than I watch the situation in South Africa. I know that last December Her Majesty's Government made public overtures to two great Powers for an alliance—Germany and the United States—and those overtures, as far as we can gather from the proceedings in the German and American Parliaments, were not received with any such cordiality as to encourage Her Majesty's Government to pursue them. You had in France a debate the other day in which, I think, the French Government took a friendly and conciliatory course, but in which, certainly, the tone of the discussion was not likely to encourage the people of this country in the belief that that friendliness would bear any great or alarming strain. Well, in Russia there is no Parliament, and I suppose that is a constitution which the noble Marquess would envy. But, at any rate, we see circumstances in Russia which make us pause. The ancient empire of Persia has been the witness, in these last days, to events to which England once would have had something to say, but which appear to pass without any protest from England, and perhaps without the possibility of any protest from England. When you see a want of amity on the part of foreign Powers, when yon see transactions going on in which this country is interested and in which we have no longer' a hand, I say it i may be given to any of us, however lighthearted we may be, to pause and to ask the Government to take a large grasp of the situation and to make pro- 32 posals to the country which are adequate to that situation. There are two divisions in which, I think, any such proposals, naturally group themselves—those which are permanent and which are great questions of reorganisation, which I freely admit should not be discussed now, and those which are temporary and which are suited to a great emergency like the present, and which should be as large and sweeping as you please. The main proposition with regard to the emergency—one which seems to me to realise the greatness of the situation—is that for calling on old soldiers between twenty-five and forty-five years of age, and the noble Marquess estimated that there were 170,000 men to come under the colours once more. True, from that source he did not anticipate above 20,000 men. That is a very slight basis on which to rely at a moment like this; but, at any rate, it is a practical proposal, an emergency proposal, and one which I for one welcome as a very timely proposal. Now, my Lords, in that word "timely" lies a very great part of the question. The Government, to my thinking, have never been timely, and yet the essence of all modern warfare is that you should be, if possible, beforehand with your enemy. War was declared on. October 11th, I think, and since that time you have been sending troops to the front. But immediately after that time, and at that time, the burgher soldiers were in possession of your territory. They did know that time was the essence of the situation, and that, it seems to me, is what Her Majesty's Government have never yet realised and do not realise now. When this little scheme is exhausted—because it is a little scheme, and a great part of it cannot be realised for some months yet—how do you know you will not be compelled to bring forward another? This scheme has already been proved to be too late in the day, and later on you will be compelled to produce another scheme of a much larger, of a much bolder character, and one for which, I believe, the country was and is perfectly prepared. We have had one great example in this matter—the noble Lord who spoke last, I think, alluded to it—the example of the United States. The United States, in their great civil war, did not in time realise what a big: business they had on hand. The 33 first call of Mr. Lincoln for troops was for 75,000 men. His Secretary for War, if I remember rightly, was anxious that the Cabinet at which that decision was arrived at should call for 500,000 men. The representative of the Treasury, if I. remember rightly, objected to so large a call, and so a call was made in April for 75,000 men, and in December the United States army amounted to 669,000; and by the time the war was completed how large do you suppose was the number of men that the United States had put in the field? Two and three-quarter millions! I do not wish to be misunderstood. If I leave these figures as I have stated them I shall be told, either by someone who follows me in debate or by some critic in the newspapers, that I am wanting you to raise 660,000 men, or 2,750,000 men. I want nothing of the kind. I want timely measures, and my view is that, if the United States had called for 500,000 men instead of 75,000, they might never have needed any more soldiers at all. But you say, "This is not a great crisis like that. That was a matter of life and death." I say this is a matter of life and death. I completely adopt the words of the noble Lord opposite. I do not think the Government have the faintest notion of how in the country, in the streets, in any place where men congregate, the feeling of crisis, of overburdening crisis, of constant danger is present to the minds of men. This is a matter of life and death. Suppose—take the hypothesis for one moment, though we will not admit it as anything more for a single instant—that you should not be victorious in this war. Why, you lose South Africa. You could not show your face in South Africa again. If you lose South Africa you lose the principal column of your Empire, you lose the most important base you have outside these islands. But if you lose South Africa you lose a great deal more than that. The noble Lord—I again quote his testimony—pointed out that, this Empire resting largely on prestige, these colonies that have come so enthusiastically to our support have done so because they believe they are associating themselves with the most powerful Empire the world has ever seen. If you deprive them of that feeling the life of your Empire is threatened. You will be shut up in these islands, one of which I fear does not particularly love you, and your Empire outside these 34 islands will break away from you, and where it is without defence it will fall a prey to other nations. In the meantime, you alone with your Fleet will be in the midst of a Europe which his many scores to pay off, and will be only too ready to pay them off. If that be not a crisis, if that be not a matter of life and death, I know not what is.
*THE EARL OF LEVEN AND MELVILLE
My Lords, the noble Earl who opened this debate referred to the number of men the Government proposed to raise. There are two other points which, in my opinion, are of almost equal importance—namely, the time at which these men will be available and the time at which they will be efficient. I would ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken now at once to secure that these men will have every opportunity of making themselves thoroughly efficient, and also what date they think the men will be available. The prospect of looking forward to something in the spring, when the weather permits, is not one which, in the crisis in which we stand to-day, the country will for one moment accept. I do not myself take the gloomy view of the noble Earl, and I cannot persuade myself that we have really come to that point when nothing but compulsory enlistment will provide the men we want. I believe there has never been a time in the history of the country when the spirit of the nation has been raised as it is to-day. Through the latter part of the recess—during November and December—wherever one went one heard the same opinion expressed, that when Parliament met the country would hear what the Government were going to do to provide forces to meet the emergency. Parliament met, but no discussion took place until this week. The nation remained, as it were, in uncertainty for a fortnight longer, and now the Government have given us a list of problematical men, who may, within two or three months, possibly be available, but whether they will be efficient or not we do not know. I entirely agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken that the crisis in which we stand to-day is a very grave one. Our colonies look to us, and we look to the colonies. Together we stand or fall, and if it be proved that this country cannot protect our colony in South Africa, and that 35 we must give way to a Government which is at once corrupt, ignorant, and tyrannical, the greatness of England will be largely diminished. There is only one practical suggestion I would make as regards the efficiency of the men we are to raise. Can we not provide in every town and considerable village throughout the country short ranges such as Lord Tweedmouth has referred to? It is a fact, which I think no rifleman will dispute, that what takes the longest time to learn is to pull the trigger without moving the rifle, and that is a thing which may be learned in a very confined space. If the Government could institute throughout the country short ranges with rifles of the Army pattern, so that the elements of rifle shooting at all events might be acquired, it would give great satisfaction. Above all things I would implore the Government to waste no time. If four mouths ago we had done one quarter of what we are doing now we should not have had a twentieth part of the danger which now threatens us. That no foresight has been displayed is proved by the selection of Ladysmith, lying in a basin, commanded by surrounding hills, and the piling in there of supplies amounting to a million sterling without taking the trouble to have a map of any accuracy made of the hills which command the road along which its supplies must go. Why were not the tunnels on the north blown up, and why were the northern railways allowed to remain, forming an absolutely easy and unbroken communication for the Boers? These things have happened in the past. We ask ourselves, What will happen in the future I The position is a very grave one, and i hope the Government will wake up to it. I hope we may come out of it without the risks and the dangers which many of us foresee, but of one thing I am confident, and that is that nothing will break the spirit of the nation. The more reverses there are the harder will the nation set its teeth, and victory will follow if only the men are provided.
§ *LORD LAMINGTON
May I interpose for one moment before the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War replies. In his statement of last Monday he referred to the intention of giving commissions to Colonial officers. I would ask whether something more could not be done. There was a proposal 36 some time ago to have an interchange of regiments between this country and the colonies. The advisability of that may for military reasons be questionable, but there is no doubt that great advantage would accrue from an interchange of officers and non-commissioned officers. I think that after what we have seen of the work of the Colonial forces, and what they are capable of doing, the present is an opportune moment to endeavour to bring into closer touch with one another the component forces of the different parts of the Empire. They have displayed the greatest adaptability and gallantry, and have proved what efficient service can be rendered by soldiers who without much barrack square training are able to use their intelligence. The present war has shown the value of such citizen soldiers, and whilst the noble Earl opposite disparages the length of training it is proposed to give to Volunteer forces, it is probable that the methods of training are more faulty than the period allotted. There is another reason why this would be a fitting time to include the colonies in any rearrangement you may be making of our military system. In a short time your Lordships will have before you for your full, and, I trust,, favourable consideration, the scheme for the federation of the various Australian colonies, by means of which greater uniformity of laws will be established, fiscal barriers removed, and by means of-which the military forces of Australia will especially be strengthened and put on a more effective footing; and I would ask if it would not be well to consider-whether the present is not the time to bring about greater cohesion amongst all the forces of the Empire when the forces of Australia are, so to speak, in a state of fusion and there is a re-organisation pending at home. It was remarkable that even amongst men best acquainted with the subject the opinion was freely expressed that the federation of the Australian colonies would not take place without outward pressure. The judgment and foresight of the people of Australia, however, have not waited for that, and it is a coincidence that at the same time that they are entering upon a larger sphere of their own national life they are also sharing the obligations of the Empire and taking up arms in its support. It is of good augury that synchronous with a political movement that 37 will enlarge her aspirations and add to her defensive strength, Australia, peopled by those of our own blood, should give us of that blood freely and voluntarily. This two-fold event can but strengthen the ties which bind our Empire. And it would be a further aid in this direction were the Government to mark their appreciation of the services of the Colonists by endeavouring to bring them into closer touch with the Imperial army, when revising oar military system, and this without injuring local action or initiative.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, we have been again taken to task this evening because our proposals are what has been termed experimental or conjectural. I ventured to say to your Lordships the other night that unless we were prepared to resort to some measure of coercion we could only trust to inducements, and so long as you only trust to inducements the effect produced must necessarily be a matter of conjecture. It is impossible to say when you offer certain financial terms whether those terms will be sufficient to tempt those to whom they are offered, nor is it possible to say to what extent those persons will be influenced by that wave of patriotic enthusiasm which is, I am glad to say, passing over the people of these islands. My Lords, the fact remains that those who object to our proposals because they are of an experimental kind must make up their minds to adopt the only other alternative, that, namely, which is to be found in some form of compulsion. I understood the noble Earl below the gangway to say that, while he accepted the views so strongly expressed from the benches behind me as to the inadequacy of our proposals, he did not associate himself with the remedy which had been proposed.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I said it would require more consideration than could be given to it this evening.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
When I am Secretary of State for War, with a staff of experts, I will tell the noble Marquess.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I That is a very good debating answer. I think we are entitled to at least ask him to indicate what other directions there are than those in which we are attempting; to work. And the criticism which I make on the speeches addressed to the House this evening is that, with the one exception of the suggestion in favour of the Militia ballot, no useful suggestion has been made to us as to the means by which we might produce a larger armed force than that which we contemplate as I the result of the present proposals. The noble Earl below the gangway referred to one step the importance of which I think has not been sufficiently recognised. I refer to the offer we; intend to make to that large body of ex-soldiers who are to be found among the civil population—the offer of service at home for a term of one year only. We believe that a large number of these men will be likely to accept the conditions of service which we: are ready to offer to them, and if we are successful in obtaining a number of these men, surely that is, to use the expression of my noble friend, Lord Dunraven, a valuable military asset. It is quite true that I mentioned 20,000 as the number on which me might fairly count, but I am not at all prepared to say that that number may not be very much larger. We are in this difficulty, that if we put a low estimate on the result we are told that our proposals are trivial and do not rise to the importance of the occasion; if, on the other hand, we credit ourselves with a liberal measure of success, we are told that we are over-sanguine, and that, our proposals are mere matter of conjecture. The noble Earl who spoke first found fault with us because we had said nothing about measures for the permanent improvement of the Army, for the improvement of the War Office, for improvement in the strategy and tactics of the Army, and for revision of the proportion between the different arms of service; but then, having made that complaint, he went on to say—I thought with great justice—that these were organic changes which we could not possibly be expected to undertake at a moment like the present. I think that is a view which is held by the greater portion of the public; but let me say as emphatically as I can that Her Majesty's Government recognise, and to the fullest extent, that there are great 39 and important lessons to be learnt from: the experience of a war like this, and it is our intention to take those lessons to heart and profit by them. And let me add this also, with regard to some complaints which have been made as to the conduct of the operations, whether at home or abroad, that we certainly do not shrink from the fullest inquiry into all these events, provided that inquiry takes place at a time when it will not impede or interfere with those who are responsible for the conduct of military affairs in this country. My noble friend asked me several questions with reference to the figures of which I made use in my statement. I have been asked whether the 50,000 men to whom I referred as being either on their way to or under orders for South Africa were an addition to the number which I mentioned as having been sent out during the months of October, November, December, and January. Of those 50,000 men some have gone, and I have no doubt some of them would be included in the number I mentioned as having gone out in the month of January. But these 50,000 men are not men whom we are going to send out in the remote future; they are men already under orders and will be despatched within, I imagine, the next few weeks. I mentioned this because there seemed to be an impression that we were doing nothing, and that the stream of troops which had been poured into South Africa during the winter was going to be allowed to dry up suddenly. That is not the case. Up to the present Lord Roberts has not asked us for more than the troops ordered to go out, but we have other troops in readiness, and if he asks for them we shall send them. As to the 200,000 men I referred to as the force which would be in South Africa by the time these reinforcements reach the seat of war, of course they do not include the killed or missing. Allowance has been made for those. The noble Lord next asked me if I included the drafts which had been sent out. I did include them. Drafts have been sent out to make good the casualties. With regard to the figure of 110,000 which I gave to the House as the number of Regular soldiers still in the country, it includes eight regiments of cavalry, twenty batteries of artillery, and, I think, seventeen battalions of infantry.' It includes besides a certain number of men at the depôts, but not the permanent staff of 40 auxiliary forces, and a certain number of Reservists who have not yet been called up to join their battalions.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
No. The 50,000 include a certain number of Militia who are going out. The 110,000 are all Regulars.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The Household Cavalry are not fully horsed, but we intend to horse them fully. A noble Earl suggested that I counted some of my men twice over, and he cited as an instance the twelve new battalions which I told him were to be composed partly of Reservists and partly of young soldiers belonging to other battalions of the same regiment. It is perfectly true that to the extent to which those battalions are so composed those battalions are not an addition to the Army, but they are an addition to the number of organised units of the Army, and that is a point of some importance. But I do not include the twelve new battalions in my total of 400,000 men. It is suggested there might have been similar duplication in the matter of recruits. The figures I gave had reference entirety to the recruits of the Line and had no reference to Militia recruits. I was asked several questions by noble Lords with regard to guns. I heard with regret the statement made by a noble Lord (Lord Wenlock) that in his belief this country had fallen lamentably behind other countries in the matter of artillery. I did not know that the question as to the quality of artillery was to be raised this evening, otherwise I should have been prepared to discuss it if my noble friend wished it. I may say to-night, however, that, having paid some attention to the matter, I do not believe there is the slightest foundation for the charge that, either in regard; to field artillery or in regard to heavier arms, this country has been left behind by other countries. I believe, on the contrary, that our guns, comparing them with other guns of the same date, are fully able to hold their own. The gun which we placed in the hands of the field artillery in 1896 was, I believe, as good 41 a field gun as any gun in any service at the time. The new field gun which is now under manufacture for the new batteries is, I believe, a gun in the design of which the most modern improvements have been included, and which need not fear comparison with any gun that can be produced to compete with it. When I hear these assertions made that our guns have been outclassed by the guns opposed to them, I ask on what evidence does that statement rest? On the contrary, I find throughout the reports of the engagements which have taken place in South Africa continual reference to the fact that our field artillery has shown its superiority, and in action has silenced the field artillery of the enemy.
§ *LORD WENLOCK
My reference was addressed solely to the larger form of guns, and not to the field artillery.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Lord suggests that we should have supplied Sir George White's army with heavy semi-mobile guns. I can tell the noble Lord that Sir George White's force was equipped as a mobile field force, and it is not usual either in this country or, I believe, in any other country, to supply a mobile field force with guns of that description. I believe that the problem of discovering a gun which shall be at once a fairly mobile gun and also a gun of great power and range is engaging the attention of our artillerists and artillerists on the Continent; but it is not a problem solved yet, and Sir George White's force have the full equipment of artillery which a force of that kind would naturally have furnished to it. When you come to oppose field guns of the class which Sir George White has with him to heavy siege guns brought by rail from Pretoria, it is clear that the small gun will be outclassed by the largo one; but I do not find any evidence to show that, gun for gun, our artillery is behind the artillery of other countries. What we are at present doing is this. We are adding to the equipment of our Army corps a brigade division of howitzers in addition to the full complement of field guns. Another noble Lord animadverted on the inadequacy of the proposals made with regard to the training of the Volunteers. I think the complaint is not so much as to their inadequacy as that we are insisting upon conditions so onerous that 42 the Volunteer force would not be likely to submit to them. I think there has been some misapprehension with regard to these proposals for training Volunteers. It is quite true that the period of one month was mentioned. I am not quite sure whether I mentioned it as the period for which training might go on. But it was not our intention that this training should be an annual training. It was, on the contrary, an emergency training special to this year'. Nor did we intend that it should be obligatory on all Volunteers to spend the whole of that month in camp. We desire that the conditions should be as elastic as possible, made to suit the convenience of different corps or of different men within the corps. I think it is quite likely, for example, that if there were a camp open to the corps for a month you might find men very glad to go into camp for a half or two-thirds of that time for training. We shall, at any rate, do our best to suit the convenience of the Volunteer force, and we shall make it our business to ascertain from the commanding officers of Volunteer corps what are the conditions to which their men would most readily submit. There was a suggestion made with regard to the Militia artillery. I think it was to the effect that although the greater part of the Militia artillery is told off for duty in fortresses it might be desirable to give power to the Militia artillery to train with field guns, and thereby render the force qualified to act as field artillery. That is a suggestion that seems to me not unreasonable, and I should be glad to have it considered. With regard to the general scope of our proposals, I regret that some of your Lordships seem to think that they are not sufficiently large for the occasion. To me it seems, using the materials which we have ready to hand, that they are proposals which should enable us to continue to send adequate reinforcements to the theatre of war, and also to place our home Army in a state of sufficient efficiency for the defence of these islands.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I think that one of the peculiar features of this debate has been the fact that noble Lords who have taken part in it have almost without exception expressed themselves as being dissatisfied with the proposals which the Government 43 has made. This expression of opinion cannot be ascribed to any party feeling; it must be ascribed to the deep conviction of every one of the noble Lords who has expressed that view. I will refer also to the remarkable speech made by my noble friend Lord Rosebery, who put the matter, I think, most wisely, on the widest ground. I will not enlarge much on the topic which he has presented far better than I could to the House; but I cannot help saying that personally, and speaking with some knowledge of our relations with foreign Powers generally, I feel all the dangers of the situation quite as strongly as my noble friend. I see all around us a temper displayed by our neighbours which must make every thoughtful man pause and reflect m the conditions of the situation in which we find ourselves. It is useless to conceal from ourselves that fact. There is one particular point which was not referred to by my noble friend, but which is always very present to my mind, and which, I am sure, is fully appreciated by the noble Marquess who has just spoken—I mean the ever present question of our Indian frontier. I am not now ascribing to Russia—I should be very sorry to do it—direct designs to attack us in India, but the noble Marquess knows as well as I do how unstable is the position of that frontier. He knows as well as I do that one event—I hope it is by no means near—namely, the death of the Ameer of Afghanistan and the consequences that may follow—must always be present to the mind of everyone who has had any connection on the one hand with India and on the other hand with foreign affairs. Although I do not ascribe any direct hostile intentions to Russia at the present moment, I cannot overlook the fact that there is going on a movement of troops in that direction which, if not menacing, shows at least that the possibilities of the future are never absent from the mind of the Russian Government. While I honour the peaceful intentions of the present ruler of Russia, I must point out to your Lordships that even such a ruler as that has not entire power over questions of this kind. There are in Russia three powerful motives which always actuate the Russian Government in their conduct of affairs. One of these is the power of the Orthodox Church of Russia; the other is the strong national Slav feeling which exists throughout the nation; 44 and the third is the Army. No Emperor, however powerful, can afford to disregard the views and the opinions which permeate the Army; and there might easily arise a state of things when, peaceful as might be the intentions of the ruler of the Empire, he might find it extremely difficult to resist the pressure put upon him. I ask you to suppose—and we must take into our consideration conjectures not only as to what our force may be, but also as to what may be required of it—that this great question of the Indian frontier were to be raised. You have in India a garrison never too largo, and at this moment diminished by 10,000 men. Where are you to find the troops—seasoned troops they must be—in case of emergency to reinforce your Army in India? There will always be a feeling of insecurity, and in the present condition of things a feeling amounting almost to alarm. There is also one other department of the Empire, as I suppose I must now call it, and a not unimportant one—the Soudan. It is more than a year ago that we had a discussion on that subject. I then ventured to say that, whilst I did not deny that, in the position in which the Government were placed with respect to their responsibilities in Egypt, it was probably impossible for them not to make an advance to reconquer the Soudan, yet it gave rise to very grave reflections on consideration of the heavy responsibilities which it brought with it. The other day we had some indications of what might happen; but I trust that at the present time the alarm may have subsided. That is precisely the point which I wish to bring out—that if you have a large continental possession garrisoned by men raised from the people of the country who are all Mohammedans—if you have to hold in that way territory of vast extent, inhabited by a very warlike population, where, as I know from the best authority, white troops cannot be stationed for any length of time, then, according to all precedents, there may some day be a serious danger of mutiny, unless you are able very rapidly to send troops from Egypt to support it. Well, now, is the Government satisfied that if such an emergency should occur we could meet it? It has been pointed out by the noble Marquess at the head of the Government, in language far more impressive than I can command, how we have heaped heavy new responsibilities on the Empire; and responsibili- 45 ties of a new kind, because they cannot be met simply by our stronger naval forces. You cannot send a fleet to Khartum or to Afghanistan; and that is what presses upon the mind of every man in this country. How are we to discharge these great responsibilities, which do not press less heavily upon us because we have the terrible additional responsibity of the war in which we are now engaged? The noble Marquess said that the complaint was that the scheme of the Government was to a large extent conjectural. Some of the dangers, no doubt, are also conjecture but are we to place ourselves in this position—that if the hypothetical dangers turn out to be real (and there is a possibility of it, beyond a doubt) we must rest content with conjectural means to meet them? We want to know this from the Government, and we have a right to know it. Are the Government as a whole, looking to all these considerations, which are felt deeply throughout the country, satisfied on their own responsibility that their conjectures have at all events some substantial foundation? Are they satisfied that they can within a reasonable time provide such a force as is necessary to discharge the responsibilities of the Empire'? But when the Government say that they cannot tell us what will be the result of their measures, they leave us in a state of conjecture and apprehension—apprehension which we cannot disguise. In saying this I am not speaking as a party man at all. I am simply speaking from my deep feeling, as an Englishman, that there is a danger of a remarkable kind pressing upon us, and that the Government have not risen to the full height of the responsibilities of their position.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Earl thinks that the kind of speech which he has just delivered is the one which is most valuable to the country in the present circumstances. A more gloomy collection of lugubrious vaticinations I never heard. I am sorry that I cannot speak as freely as the noble Earl; but I am headed off from questions on the discussion of which he very frankly and freely engaged. I cannot enter upon the character of the Russian Government, or of the strings which guide it, or the 46 course which it is likely to take. I cannot discuss the health of the Ameer of Afghanistan. I have not lately had any account of it; but I have every reason to believe that it is as satisfactory as we could wish; but of course nobody's health gets more satisfactory as years roll on. In the same way, with respect to whether our' forces are adequate for our work in South Africa, and whether, in respect of what has been done, we are liable to censure or not—whether it is true, as my noble friend said, that we have always been too late, that we have neglected opportunities which we might have taken—these are all matters on which, if my words did not go beyond this room, I should gladly accept the challenge of the noble Earl. But we have been told, and told very rightly, that we cannot discuss matters which led to the outbreak of the war, or which relate to the conduct of it, without full inquiry which would apportion responsibility where it ought to fall, and give an opportunity to all men to defend their position. I am shut off from discussing those questions altogether. I am shut off also from many of the foreign considerations which the noble Lord has thought it right to raise. I do not think even that the condition of the Soudan is a matter which I am bound to discuss at the present moment, except to say that it has been the subject of much exaggeration and of very interested exaggeration. But as far as we know—guided as we are by judgment of exceptional value—we need not apprehend any danger from that quarter. The noble Lord quoted words of mine which Sir William Harcourt did me the honour to quote in the other House—words which I used, I think, two years ago—as to the danger of overstraining the resources of this country by extension of Empire. I used those words at that time because there was abroad in the public mind a state of feeling in respect of China, on which I looked with great apprehension. That has passed by, and I can mention it freely now. But undoubtedly, if we had been swept away by that feeling then and had entered upon military engagements in China, our present position would be embarrassing indeed. But I do not admit that the trouble which we are now in is due to any expansion of Empire. Never was there a less relevant observation.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
What I said was relevant in this way—that this 47 extension of Empire required a greater military force.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Our present difficulties arise entirely from this war with the two Republics, and certainly have not arisen out of any extension of empire. I think I have already had the honour of telling my noble friend that they arise mainly from certain miscalculations made in 1881 and 1884. But, be that as it may, I feel an equal difficulty in entering now upon the question of the resources which this country might have at its command in certain contingencies, which it is very easy for practised orators to conjure up. I do not myself think that those contingencies are at hand, or are likely to be at hand. But I do say that we cannot discuss the situation and the probable resources of this country without necessarily indulging in a good deal of conjectural matter. Nobody in this House, except two of my noble friends behind me, has faced the question of compulsory service. Every other nation depends for its defence on compulsory service, and has for some time done so. We stand alone in the world in refusing it. But if we refuse it we have no precedents to go by. We cannot appeal to their example; we cannot say, "See, other nations have tried it, and this has failed, and that has not." We start by pursuing a road entirely different from theirs, a road which, on a large scale, no nation has pursued before us. It is the will of the people, and it is not to be disputed; but it must necessarily lead us to conjecture as to what are the resources which we have at our disposal. It must be conjectural, because, as I say, we have no examples and no precedents to guide us. All that we know is that we are cut off from the resource which every other nation possesses. We can only use persuasion and inducement; and how can the effects of persuasion and inducement which have never before been tried to the same extent be otherwise than conjectural? What possibility is there of seeing into the mind of the Volunteer, or Militiaman, or enlisted recruit, and of ascertaining to what extent he will respond to the inducements which we offer? The noble lord said that, while every other Minister can tell you precisely by looking merely at statistics what force you can bring into the field, 48 with us there never can be anything but a question of judgment and hypothesis, and if the noble Lord complains that in our case it is only a matter of conjecture, I can only say that the absurdity does not lie in our intentions and calculations. It does not lie in anything with which we can properly be charged. It lies in the essence of human affairs. It lies in that form of military organisation which you have deliberately chosen, to which you deliberately adhere, and which in its nature is and must remain conjectural. I think, therefore, that attacking us because we do not spread forth an exact picture of the resources which we can have at our disposal, while all the time our critics carefully avoid discussing the alternative, the only alternative that is possible, the alternative that is present to everybody's; mind—I think that that is not a fashion of controversy which will aid ras in achieving a very satisfactory result. I must separate myself from some of the pessimistic language used by the noble Lord this evening, because, from looking at history, I see that England at several times has begun her wars under very poor conditions. I ventured some time ago to recommend the noble Lord to read the early days in the life of the Duke of Wellington—about the time of the Convention of Cintra.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Then I hope the noble Lord will admit that if he had been living at that time he could have made even a more gloomy speech than he has made now. I do not know what he would have said of the Walcheren Expedition.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We can both of us remember the beginning of the Crimean War, and I think the noble Lord, while not in a responsible position in the Cabinet, was in office at that time. I remember the kind of comments which the leader of the then Opposition, Mr. Disraeli, made in the months of November and December, 1854, about the condition to which England was reduced.We had precisely the difficulties which you hold before us now. We could not 49 then get men. We had to engage foreigners. I remember that Dover Castle was, I think, occupied by a number of Germans, and so we were unable, without appealing to foreign assistance, to provide the necessary troops for our Army in the field. I remember Mr. Disraeli's denunciations of "the mercenary cut-throats" which we had to employ and the remonstrances we received from foreign countries on account of that expression.
THE MARRQUESS OF SALISBURY
That war had been going on, I think, for some seven or eight months after the declaration of hostilities, yet we came out of it all right, and we came out of the Peninsular War in the same way, though I will not say exactly the same thing about the Walcheren expedition. On the whole, I do not think that our fathers allowed themselves to be discouraged by so short a period of misfortune. As to the present war, we hope that even now the change in the tide is coming; but, at all events, we can take a lesson from the example of those who have gone before us, not to allow ourselves to be cast down or discouraged by difficulties produced by a very remarkable conjunction of military development and political events. We are convinced that now, as generally and as almost always in the past, we shall bring our undertakings to a successful issue, and we do not think that any attempt to wrench the institutions of the country or to bring before the minds of the people dangers which do not really exist will lead us to ultimate success. What we propose is what we believe will be adequate for the emergency that is now before us. We do not realise or believe in the contingencies that you represent to us; but, of course, nothing is certain in this world. Contingencies may arise which we have no means of foreseeing; dangers may appear which now we do not fear. When the time comes we shall meet them, I hope, with a stout heart, and we shall steadily persevere in the course which we have undertaken. We shall give to the utmost extent the full expression of the free valour and enterprise of this country—that course which has always hitherto led us to the safety 50 of the Empire and to ultimate victory—and we do not think that any advantage is now to be obtained by taking a gloomy view, or by resorting to experiments that have never been tried before.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, the speech the noble Marquess has just made is one which was full of historical reminiscence, but which has not, I think, in the smallest degree alleviated the apprehensions and uneasiness which sit on the minds of most of your Lordships. We wanted to know what steps the Government were going to take in order to organise the valour and the patriotism of the inhabitants of this empire. Of that we have not been told a word. Indeed, I think to-night we are left even more in the dark than we were at the beginning of this discussion. On Monday night I certainly understood the Secretary of State for War to say that he hoped by the end of this month there would be 200,000 British troops in South Africa, and that there would be 50,000 more to follow.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I said nothing of the sort. I stated that 50,000 men were ordered, or on their way, to South Africa. I did not say they were extra to the 200,000.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
That was the impression given to me, and I think if the noble Marquess will read the report of his speech as given in The Times he will see that it is a legitimate conclusion to draw from the report. On the other hand, we now hear that these 50,000 men who have been put forward as the reserve force which is to go into South Africa for the prosecution of the war are to be produced by a certain number of men who are now on the sea, and that, besides that, the number of the Militia to remain in this country is also-to be reduced to make up the 50,000. Even if the operations of Lord Roberts are successful on the Modder River, and a way is found to get round the "entanglement" of Ladysmith, we shall still have before us large operations. We shall require to advance through the Free State. We shall have to provide for an ever-lengthening line of communication, and we should be prepared to send out to South Africa a continuous flow of troops—10,000 a month 51 —if we are to carry out these operations in a satisfactory manner. The noble Marquess has stated that the criticisms from this side of the House have been based upon the fact that the figures of the Government are conjectural and uncertain. I think the noble Marquess might have done away with much of the conjecture by offering larger inducements to men to join both the regular Army and the Militia. More and more has the cost of labour increased throughout the country, and more and more is it necessary, if you are going to get men from the labouring classes to voluntarily join the ranks, to secure to them advantages similar to those which they would have if they remained in civil life. Throughout this discussion not one word has been said as to increasing the pay of soldiers of the Regular Army, yet such a proposal would do much to increase the number of men who would be prepared to join the Army. More than once to-night reference has been made to the manner in which the Volunteers are to be treated. I am sure it is impossible to expect Volunteers to go out into camp for a month in the year, and I do not believe it is necessary to give Volunteers so much training in large numbers. I believe their training can be sufficiently attended to in small bodies, and that plenty of company drill, given, perhaps, early in the morning or late in the evening during the summer months, would do much to fit the Volunteers for active service if they were called upon, especially if some additional facilities and inducements were given them to become first-rate shots. The Volunteers of this country, after all, are not, as a body, first-rate shots. I believe 60 per cent, of them never get out of the third class. Both soldiers and Volunteers alike are starved in amunition for the purpose of practice. The noble Earl who opened this discussion said he differed from me in my remarks about ranges. The noble Earl misapprehended me. I do not for a moment say that a man can become the very best of shots by simply practising at short ranges. What I said was that all the essentials of rifle shooting could be attained by practice at short ranges, and that when men were efficient at short ranges they could be taken to long ranges. A very singular proof of the truth of what I say is to be found in the shooting competition which 52 took place last year in Belgium. There the British marksmen—men picked from the ranks, and practically the best shots in Great Britain—came out very low indeed; they occupied the fifth place, I believe, amongst the various nationalities who competed. Curiously enough, the Belgian and the Swiss marksmen were men who had been trained at short ranges, and who had only fired at long ranges in practising for that particular competition. I think that proves that my argument is a sound and practical one. The noble Earl also found fault with me for saying that the most effective shooting during the present war had been at comparatively short range. I adhere to that opinion. At Colenso, where, I suppose, the marksmanship of the Boers came in more effectively than anywhere else, 800 yards was the extreme distance of the Boer riflemen from our own men. It is impossible to make good practice at 1,000, 1,200, and 1,500 yards; if it is done it is more by a fluke than good management. I regret that the Government have not been able on this occasion to explain and extend their statement with regard to their proposals to carry on the war with success. I hope the plans they have made will prove successful and sufficient; but if they do not, on the Government will be the responsibility.
My Lords, before the debate on the Militia comes on on Tuesday next I should like to ask the Secretary of State for War if his attention has been called to the fact that owing to the necessary practice of Militia regiments taking place in different months it is found that men arc serving in two, and some times in three different Militia regiments. It is needless to point out how material this fact is in considering the number of men we can call out for service. I should like to know what steps have been taken to guard against one man taking the part of three in the future.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I have heard the statement made just now by the noble Lord on several occasions, and it is conceivable that there may be cases of fraudulent enlistment such, as lie describes. They would be very difficult to detect; but if we are able to have a large number of Militia battalions up simultaneously for training, we shall then, I think, find out in the most prac- 53 tical manner whether one man is enrolled in more than one battalion.
§ The House adjourned at Twenty-live minutes before Eight of the clock, till To-morrow half-past Ten of the clock.