§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My Lords, I rise to call attention to certain allegations made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs upon the advice given by me when Commander-in-Chief of the Army with regard to the war in South Africa, and to move for Papers. I regret extremely that I am compelled to trouble your Lordships with some observations on a matter personal to myself. It is with great reluctance that I do so, but I am sure that your Lordships will not be surprised that I do not pass without notice the severe comments made recently by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the manner in which I performed my duties while Commander-in-Chief. I admit that both of the other members of the Government who spoke in the debate—the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquess of Salisbury—deprecated the notion that there had been any intention to make a personal attack upon me. While, however, thanking them for the kindly feelings which prompted them to make this declaration of their opinion, I think that they can hardly have expected to persuade either me or your Lordships that the words which the noble Marquess uttered so emphatically were used without premeditation and without deliberate purpose.
Upon the occasion in question I tried to lay before the House my strong objections to the Order in Council of 1895, but in doing so was most careful to avoid anything like a personal attack either upon the Government or any member of it. The ex-War Minister argued against my objections, although he admitted that some changes—what he did not specify—might with advantage be made in that Order in Council. But having done so he went out of his way to make a personal attack upon me. My Lords. I will begin by explaining clearly to which statements of the noble Marquess I refer. To the greater part of his speech I take no exception whatever. He holds a different view of the Order in Council of 1895 from that 7 which I hold, and he argued strongly that I had mistaken its purpose and its effect. He was just as much entitled to adopt that line of argument as I was to explain how, in my opinion, the position of Commander-in-Chief has been altered under the Order in Council.
But the noble Marquess proceeded to formulate the following charges against me as an individual. Ho said (1) that, although I did occasionally initiate proposals having reference to all the different departments of the War Office, I did so fitfully and only when the spirit moved me; (2) that if I had paid more attention to the duties assigned to me by the Order in Council I might have enabled him to turn to better account the large number of auxiliary forces in this country, which he was constrained to say had been not a little neglected during the last five years; (3) that if I had paid more attention to the preparation of schemes of offensive and defensive operations I might perhaps have told him before the South African War that Ladysmith was not a very suitable station for Her Majesty's forces to occupy; (4) that I might even, if I had paid more attention to these questions, have warned him that it would take more than one army corps to subjugate the two South African Republics.
My Lords, I think that you will agree that graver indictments against a Commander-in-Chief than those it would be hardly possible to frame, and that, in ordinary justice to the accused officer, evidence, or the means of obtaining evidence, ought to be tendered to the House when such accusations are made. The noble Marquess, however, adduced no proofs of his statements of any sort or kind; he laid no Papers or other information on the Table. So far as I am aware, this proceeding is entirely without precedent; and the conduct of the noble Marquess appears still more extraordinary when contrasted with his own account of the position and responsibility of the Secretary of State for 'War. The noble Marquess claims for the Secretary of State for War the ultimate and sole responsibility for all that occurs in the War Department. How has he carried out that view in practice? On the occurrence of the very first difficulty—the war in 1899—he has 8 hastened to inform your Lordships and the country that the person to blame for the occupation of Ladysmith and for the insufficiency of the forces at the outbreak of the war is the Commander-in-Chief. I do not suggest or believe that he purposely intended to shelter himself behind the Commander-in-Chief; but I do ask your Lordships whether that is not a correct description of the effects of his speech of the other night. My Lords, I cannot understand why these charges were made. My views upon South Africa, be they right or wrong, have nothing to do with the question I raised—namely, the suitability of the regulations for the command and administration of the Army, as set forth in the Order in Council of 1895. It would seem almost as if this personal attack was dragged in to divert attention from the question at issue, or for the purpose of throwing upon me the blame for any mistakes the Government may have made in the course of the war.
My Lords, I will now make a few observations upon the individual charges. The first charge, that I did my business fitfully, and only when the spirit moved me, is a general allegation. In order to answer it, it would be necessary that the noble Marquess should lay on the Table my numerous Minutes during the last five years, embodying proposals connected with the different departments of the War Office. Taking my alleged neglect of the Auxiliary forces as an instance of my "fitful and occasional" performance of my duties, I would remind your Lordships first of all of what Lord Northbrook said in the previous debate. He pointed out that the Order in Council of 1895 expressly removed the charge of the Auxiliary forces from what is now called the Department of the Commander-in-Chief, and placed it directly under the Secretary of State for War. The answer, however, upon which I wish to rely is far more simple and direct. If I did not exercise the supervision left to me by the Order in a satisfactory manner, why did not the noble Marquess at some time draw my attention to the Auxiliary forces and indicate any inquiries or policy which seemed to him desirable? We were in daily communication about many other subjects. Whatever my 9 faults may be, I do not think that anyone will say that I object to plain speaking; and if the noble Marquess for five years entertained the opinion that any part of my duties was being neglected, I can only say that I deeply regret that he did not open his mind to me upon the subject Until the recent debate I never had reason to suppose that I did not possess the full confidence of the noble Marquess and of the Cabinet. Indeed, I had strong reason to the contrary. On one occasion, early in 1900—to which it is not necessary to refer in detail—circumstances occurred which in my opinion left me no alternative but to resign my office, and I did so. I wish to acknowledge the kindness of the Cabinet, and especially of the noble Marquess, on that occasion. I only mention it to show that if at that time I did not possess their confidence an opportunity occurred which might legitimately and properly have been used to appoint another Commander-in-Chief in my place.
Reverting again to my alleged failure to supervise the Auxiliary forces, I must demur entirely to the charge. I had been for some time head of the Auxiliary forces. When appointed Commander-in-Chief I considered it only right that there should be representatives of these forces on my personal staff, and after considerable difficulty, owing to a question of their pay, which was eventually fixed at a low rate, I succeeded in having one A.D.C. from the Militia and one from the Volunteers appointed. I have always taken the deepest interest in these two services, and have long struggled to improve them, to supply them with transport, and above all things to provide them with a suitable artillery. I believe it was the question of cost that alone prevented them from being well furnished with all they require. For years past I have struggled to have them supplied with efficient guns, having many times pointed out how useless were those in their possession. In a Minute of 13th November, 1897, addressed to the noble Marquess, I called attention to the fact that for the Militia and Volunteers belonging to the field force, allotted for home defence, we had only—I quote from my Minute—obsolete guns, mostly old muzzle-loaders which, from want of horses, can only be used 10 as guns of position. Their shall fire and range is contemptible, and it would be cruel, if not a crime, to send these Auxiliary forces into action with the artillery they possess at this moment.As late as May last, in a Minute to the Secretary of State. I said—The guns in the hands of our Volunteers are of an obsolete pattern, and would be useless if opposed by the field artillery of another nation.Again, in another Minute to the Secretary of State, I wrote—When I contemplate the possibility of having to use our Volunteer artillery with the absurd guns now in their possession I do not know whether to laugh or to cry.Again—We have one hundred and seven Volunteer batteries of position, eight of which have no guns at all; the remaining ninety-nine batteries are now armed with obsolete guns, some of them being next to useless.And again, when referring to the Volunteers, I said, in a Minute to the Secretary of State, that they had—no artillery armed with any guns we could expect men to serve in action against modern artillery.My Lords, at all events it was not my fault that when I left the War Office, on the 30th of November last, such was still the condition of affairs.
The noble Marquess thinks that if I had paid more attention to schemes of defensive operations I might have warned him before the South African War that Ladysmith was not a very suitable military station for Her Majesty's forces to occupy. My Lords, I did for a long-period before the war consider the defence of Natal—and I did point out to him the Biggarsberg position beyond Ladysmith, which it would be desirable to hold in the event of war. As long ago as February, 1896, I find that I recommended that some additional troops should be sent to South Africa, of which some were intended for the defence of Natal, and I pointed out then that this—would always enable us in case of need to take up a strong forward position either near Ladysmith or on Transvaal territory, on what is locally known as the Berg.Of course, every soldier, and I think all your Lordships, will understand that by the "position near Ladysmith" I did not mean the town of Ladysmith— 11 which is in a hollow and unfitted to stand a siege. That this is so was clear from the answers which I gave to two questions put me by the noble Marquess in July, 1896. These questions were:—(1) Are you in favour of immediately strengthening the Natal garrison? (2) What force should be sent from England to enable us to hold the position of Ladysmith, and even of Laing's Nek? My answer to the first question was "Yes," and in reply to the second, after mentioning the force necessary for the occupation of the Biggarsberg position, I said, "We shall have a complete brigade of cavalry, etc., all available for the occupation of the Biggarsberg position." These were my words, but I may here observe that the Biggarsberg position is, roughly speaking, twenty-five miles in advance of the town of Ladysmith. That this Ladysmith position means the Biggarsberg position near Ladysmith further appears from the Report of the Intelligence Department of 2nd June, 1899—in paragraph seven of which it is stated that in the early days of the war, if it should come, "the main endeavour of the British general in Natal will be to hold the Biggarsberg position and Van Reenan's Pass." I never did consider that the town of Ladysmith, with the hills immediately surrounding it, was a tenable position, and I never contemplated that it would be held. I did consider and did advise that stores should be collected in the town, which is a junction of two railways, and the most convenient—indeed, the only convenient—depot of supply for the troops holding the Biggarsberg position.
The noble Marquess says that if I had paid more attention to schemes of offence I might have warned him that it would take more than one army corps to subjugate the two Republics. I freely admit that, in common with all persons and authorities who have expressed an opinion on this question, I did under-estimate the fighting power of the individual Boer. My error was occasioned not by inattention to schemes of offence, but by the fact that the obstinacy which has been displayed by the Boers in making and in continuing resistance is not in accordance with all previous experience of them. I advised the noble Marquess on the 12 8th June, 1899, that, "in the event of war with the Transvaal, we should require, in addition to the force in South Africa," which I may tell you, my Lords, was then about 10,000 fighting men, "one complete army corps, one cavalry division, one battalion mounted infantry, and four battalions for lines of communication." In a subsequent Minute on this subject in September I wrote—I would strongly urge that as we have the troops for the army corps, cavalry division, etc., to our hands ready for immediate mobilisation, we should mobilise them and send them out.This, my Lords, was three weeks before Mr. Kruger's declaration of war. Every recommendation must be considered with reference to the time at which it is made, and this is specially the case in military matters. A comparatively small number of troops employed early will often achieve a result which five times their number will not produce some months later—just as in the case of a fire a little water at the beginning will stop a conflagration which half the fire engines in London will be unable to grapple with when it has been burning for some hours. My Lords, I claim that in judging as to whether my advice was good or bad it is essential to know whether it was accepted in its entirety. I think that the noble Marquess, when saying that I had advised that one army corps would be sufficient, ought also to have informed your Lordships that in my Minute of the 8th June, 1899, I advised that the army corps and the other troops which I asked for should be at once mobilised on Salisbury Plain. I thought then, and I think now, that the mobilisation of such a force at that time would have produced a considerable effect in South Africa. In any case we should have had a considerable force ready for embarkation at any moment. If we were comparatively unprepared and at a disadvantage at the outbreak of the war, the noble Marquess knows well that it was not because I had not on many occasions urged the purchase and forwarding of stores, and the gradual, unostentatious reinforcement of our forces in South Africa.
I have now said all that I desire to say at present with reference to the allegations 13 of the noble Marquess. I have said as little as I possibly can consistently with any justice to myself. The noble Marquess has made strong personal statements which are unsupported. I have now made my reply, which is unsupported also. I cannot, however, agree to leave the matter there. I feel that I am amply justified, under the circumstances, in moving, as I do now move, that all the Papers be laid upon the Table. I am prepared to prove by official documents all that I have said. I move for "all Papers bearing upon the allegations made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs against Viscount Wolseley as Commander-in-Chief, and upon the statements made by Viscount Wolseley in reply." So far as I am personally concerned, I should be glad to include all Papers relating to all the advice which I have given to the Secretary of State while I was Commander-in-Chief. If I do not do so it is only because I should be travelling beyond the limits of the noble Marquess's allegations. I am glad to learn from a Paper issued this morning that the present Secretary of State for War is in favour of replacing under the Commander-in-Chief the Adjutant General's Department, and making other important changes in the Order in Council of 1805.
*THE SECRETARY OK STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, the noble and gallant Viscount has complained of me, not for the first time, on account of an attack which he represents as having been entirely unprovoked and uncalled for by anything he has said or done. I cannot help thinking that the noble and gallant Viscount has scarcely looked in the face the purport of the speech which he delivered the other evening, when he represents that speech as one of an entirely impersonal character, and as involving no attack on myself. For the space of an hour and an half the noble and gallant Viscount occupied himself in describing to your Lordships as a kind of grotesque abortion the Order in Council of 1895, which had been accepted by Parliament on my recommendation as Secretary of State for War. No denunciation could have been stronger than the 14 denunciation of the noble and gallant Viscount. He belongs to a profession in which those who give hard knocks expect to receive them in return, and it really passes my comprehension how he can have anticipated that, after he had been engaged to the extent of about three columns of The Times newspaper in breaking my windows, I should be denied all opportunity of retaliating upon his conservatory.
My Lords, not only is this the case, but I venture to submit that the defence with which I met the attack on the Order in Council of 1895 was a strictly relevant reply. The whole of my case was this. The noble and gallant Viscount told us that the Order in Council was an absurdity and fraught with danger to the interests of this country. The gist of my case was that the noble and gallant Viscount had not taken sufficient pains to interpret the Order in Council as it was intended to be construed and interpreted by those who were concerned in framing it; and if I had made that statement without a single illustration of my meaning your Lordships would have had a right to complain of me for leaving my statements entirely unconfirmed. As the noble Viscount has told your Lordships, I gave three illustrations of my meaning. The notice which the noble and gallant Viscount has put on the Paper is strictly limited to two of those illustrations, for he calls your Lordships' attention to my allegations as to the advice given by him as Commander-in-Chief of the Army in regard to the war in South Africa. He has extended his speech considerably beyond those limits, but I will, in the first place, notice the two points which are covered by his notice, and say a few words in regard to them.
Now, in the first place, there is the case of Ladysmith. My Lords, what I said in regard to the case of Ladysmith was this—that if the noble Viscount had realised more than he actually did the immense opportunities offered to him by the duties assigned to him by the Order in Council, he would have been able to point out to us that Ladysmith was not a suitable station for occupation by Her Majesty's forces, and, of course, the noble Viscount must have understood my meaning. I did not mean that it 15 was an unsuitable situation for a cantonment in time of peace, but that it was unsuitable for military purposes as a basis for operations or as a place of arms in time of war. I listened attentively to his speech, and I did not understand him to question the correctness of this statement. He told us frankly that Lady-smith was not the position which he would have selected, and he reminded me—I have no doubt with absolute accuracy—of a conversation which must have taken place five or six years ago, in which he pointed out to me on the map a position that was admirable for defensive purposes—a well-known position on the Biggarsberg. I have no doubt his account of that conversation is correct, but I have no recollection that when the prospect of a war between this country and the South African Republic became imminent that the then Commander-in-Chief came to us and said. "Ladysmith is a dangerous place for you to hold. You must occupy a position on the Biggarsberg. You must fortify it. You must make it into a place of arms for the garrison in Natal." On the contrary, we went on, with the full knowledge of the noble Viscount, accumulating an enormous amount of stores of all sorts in Ladysmith. Now, with regard to Ladysmith, there is no dispute—
§ *VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
I am sorry to contradict the noble Marquess. I never sent them there at all. I sent them to South Africa, and they were accumulated there by the General Officer Commanding on the spot.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Surely, the Order in Council of 1895 did not prevent the noble Viscount from watching the proceedings of the generals in the field and ascertaining where it was that they were accumulating these enormous supplies of stores. The Ladysmith position has always been described to me as a very dangerous one to hold. It is commanded on all sides by heights which, as we know, were turned to account by the enemy with very unpleasant results. It is a position with an enormous perimeter, and one which consequently requires a very large force indeed to hold it; 16 it is vulnerable through the great passes-which lead across the Drakensberg from Natal into the Orange Free State. The fact remains that it was at Ladysmith that we sat down with our troops and stores, and it was at Ladysmith that Sir George White became entangled. The noble Viscount has reminded me of a remote conversation between us. I will remind him of a more recent conversation between himself and me. The noble Viscount will recollect that when things began to go badly, as they did after the unfortunate reverse sustained by General Penn Symons at Glencoe, the noble Viscount actually-suggested to us, and. I believe, suggested more or less informally to the generals on the spot, that we should fall back behind the line of the Tugela to a position which could be more easily held against the enemy.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
I never recommended them to fall back on Ladysmith. Behind the Tugela is a different thing.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Viscount does not quite understand me. What I said was that, after we had sustained those reverses, the noble Viscount suggested that there might even then be time to fall back from the bad position at Ladysmith to a better position behind the Tugela.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
That was a belated inspiration of the noble Viscount. When I referred to the subject the other night what I intended to convey was that, if the noble Viscount had considered the matter a little sooner, he might have had that inspiration in, time for it to have been of real use to the Government and to have saved us from one of the most untoward incidents in the South African War.
Well, my Lords, I pass from that to my statement with regard to the sufficiency of a single army corps. Of course, I meant to include in that the cavalry division and force of artillery which always, I believe, in military parlance accompany an army 17 corps. If my description was inaccurate, I express my regret for it, and I freely admit that the one army corps was always intended to have with it the cavalry division, and I believe a few troops for the lines of communication. Since the noble Viscount has put his notice on the Paper, I have been through such papers as I can find and I have been unable to find any trace of a suggestion from the noble Viscount, or any one else, that one army corps with its accessories would not be amply sufficient for the purpose of carrying these operations to a successful issue. My noble friend behind me (Lord Dun-raven) spoke on the previous occasion of the opinion of Sir William Butler, and suggested that he had asked for 100,000 men. I interrupted my noble friend and said that there was no trace in any such recommendation. I was strictly accurate. We endeavoured at one time to find out what Sir William Butler did recommend and the only thing we were able to find was. I believe, an unofficial letter to the noble and gallant Viscount suggesting that possibly 40,000 men might be necessary for the campaign. But my contradiction of the noble Lord was, of course, strictly limited to this one point, and was not intended to suggest that Sir William Butler had or had not made any suggestions of other kinds in regard to South African affairs. The noble Viscount certainly did not get beyond the limit of one army corps, and that is abundantly clear to me because I find that as lately as 3rd October, 1899—a week or more after the Orange Free State had announced that they would throw in their lot with the Transvaal—I wrote a Memorandum for my colleagues in the Cabinet, for the compilation of which I was largely indebted to the noble Viscount, in which I explained somewhat apologetically why it was that so large a force as the 50,000 or 60,000 men for which I was asking was necessary to meet the requirements of the campaign.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
October 3. I will not labour the point, because the noble and gallant Viscount 18 admitted with a frankness which I must say I respect and admire —as, indeed, he has done on other occasions—that he had greatly under-estimated the fighting power and the resources of the Boers. That is a mistake of which I am afraid we have all been guilty, and I certainly do not desire to excuse myself altogether from blame in the matter: but I do say that if blame is attributable to any of us for that miscalculation, the noble and gallant Viscount, who by the Order in Council was our principal military adviser, and who was charged with the duty or preparing schemes of offence and defence, must be content to bear his full share of that responsibility. That, indeed, was the point of the observation which I made to the House the other night.
The noble and gallant Viscount then went on to tell your Lordships that it things had not gone as well as they might during the earlier part of the campaign your Lordships should know that he had repeatedly pressed upon Her Majesty's Government certain advice, and that that advice had not always been taken. I readily admit—for I have no wish to be in the slightest degree unfair to the noble and gallant Viscount—that during the summer of 1899 he did on several occasions make proposals to us with a view to the taking of important military measures in preparation for hostilities in South Africa, and I admit that, although we acted upon some of his advice, we certainly did not act upon all of it. In particular we did not accept his recommendation that we should at a date which he mentioned mobilise a large force at Aldershot or on Salisbury Plain. We did not act upon his advice, not because we ventured to set our opinions upon military subjects against his, but because, the advice which ho gave us upon purely military grounds was advice which, in view of the political circumstances of the moment, we considered it was absolutely impossible for us to follow. I do not know how far your Lordships carry in your minds the anxious events of the summer months of 1899. During those months peace and war-hung in the balance. Negotiations were in progress—negotiations which were at one time of an extremely hopeful character. Your Lordships may recol- 19 lect that we obtained from the Transvaal Government several important concessions with regard to the franchise. We hoped that in those concessions might be found the basis of a satisfactory settlement; and desiring, as we most earnestly did, that peace should not be broken, we determined that we would take at that time no steps which were of a distinctively provocative character. Our policy was to avoid provocation and to endeavour to bring about peace. But, my Lords, that was not the policy of the noble and gallant Viscount. His policy, if not a policy of provocation, was, at any rate, and I do not think he will question my description of it, a policy of intimidation.
The noble and gallant Viscount spoke just now of gradual and unostentatious measures for strengthening the garrisons of South Africa. We took some measures of that kind; but the great measures which the noble and gallant Viscount asked us to adopt were anything but unostentatious measures. He wished us to mobilise an army corps. He suggested to us that we might occupy Delagoa Bay. He suggested an appeal to the colonies for contingents. He proposed that we should land 11,000 or 12,000 mules in South Africa. I will not express any opinion upon the several merits of these suggestions; but they were not unostentatious, and they certainly were not calculated to prevent a broach of the peace at a time when we hoped and believed that the war might yet be avoided. If I wanted to clinch that argument and to show to your Lordships that I am not doing an injustice to the noble and gallant Viscount, I would remind him that he pressed those measures upon me, as he says, in the month of June, with an expression of his desire that the operations might begin as soon as possible. Why? In order that we might get the war over by the month of November, 1899. My Lords, the idea of forcing the pace in such a manner as to complete the subjugation of the two Republics by the month of November, 1899, was, I frankly confess, one that did not at all commend itself to Her Majesty's Government. But do not let it be supposed that all this time we were sitting with our hands folded. Our great desire was, 20 at any rate, to make the colonies safe during the period of suspense through which we were Passing; and with that object we sent out to South Africa, as the noble and gallant Viscount will remember, with his concurrence and on his recommendation, large reinforcements—reinforcements, I think, if I remember aright, of the very number he himself had recommended, and which, in fact, reached South Africa before the war had broken out. The only difference between his proposal and ours was that he wished to send the whole of the troops from this country and we sent a considerable proportion of them from India, from which country they could arrive more quickly in South Africa. It is, indeed, very distinctly in my memory that the noble and gallant Viscount told me at that time that when those reinforcements had reached South Africa he would stake his reputation that very-thing would be safe to the south of the Biggarsberg.
I dwell upon these points, because I want to show that Her Majesty's Government did not contemptuously brush on one side the advice given to us by our recognised military adviser. Our policy was a policy of peace, not of provocation. We earnestly desired to have the country with us. We believed the country was not ready for war in the month of June and July, 1899, and we therefore contented ourselves with taking those measures which we were advised were sufficient to ensure the safety of the colonies in the meanwhile.
The noble and gallant Viscount, travelling, I think, a little beyond the limit of his motion, referred to what I have said with regard to the interest he had taken in the Auxiliary forces. I never intended to suggest that the noble and gallant Viscount had never done anything for the Auxiliary forces. What I said was that I thought he had not realised—I forget the exact words—the importance of their place in our military system. I still believe that. I never could get the noble and gallant Viscount to admit that in this great host of Militia and Volunteers we possessed the really valuable military asset I always conceived it to be. The noble and gallant Viscount was always coming to us for more Regular soldiers, but not for Militia and Volun- 21 teers, and I cannot help thinking that if he had devoted his great abilities to making more of the Volunteers and Militia they would have been great gainers by any interest he might have taken in them.
It is strictly true, because, as I said before, I do not wish to do any injustice to the noble and gallant Viscount, that he repeatedly called our attention to the inferiority and obsolete character of the guns of position in the hands of the Volunteers. If we did not at once replace those guns by other guns it was because, as he will recollect, we had a great deal to do in order to make up lee-way with the Regular artillery; and on the advice of the noble and gallant Viscount we did very largely increase the forces of the Regular artillery in this country. But it certainly was not until two years ago that we ordered—I know with the approval of the noble and gallant Viscount —a large number of mobile guns of large calibre to form part of the equipment of the Volunteer forces. The only other measure which the noble and gallant Viscount claimed credit in connection with the Auxiliary forces was that he had appointed aides-de-camp from the Militia and Volunteers—a very good -measure so far as it went, but not a measure of what I would call first-rate importance.
The noble and gallant Viscount has moved for the production of papers which he has described in very general terms. So far as I could follow him, that would involve the production of confidential War Office minutes of great numbers and of great length, and of the most secret character. I can scarcely believe that be will press that motion, nor is it necessary that be should do so, for I do not think there is any great difference of opinion between us as to the contents of those documents. My Lords, I have now examined, so far as I think it necessary, the arguments of the noble and gallant Viscount. I will only say one thing more before I sit down. I have had the honour to represent the War Office in this House for five years, and I think your Lordships will not contradict me when I say that I have not in this House, or indeed out of this House, ever sought to shelter myself behind my military advisers. I have been 22 at the head of a Department more constantly and bitterly assailed than, I think, any department of the State; but I have never yielded to the temptation, if things have gone wrong, whether it has been in regard to the pattern of a soldier's gaiter or the conduct of operations in the field, J have never yielded to the temptation of saying that it was no fault of mine, and that I was acting on the advice of others. And if the other evening I departed from the rule which I had laid down for my own guidance and did appear to impute blame to the noble and gallant Viscount, I entreat your Lordships to believe that I did so not with any hope or thought of shirking responsibility, but because I honestly believed that the arguments which I used were the only arguments by which I could defend a system which I believe to be a sound one and place before the view of the public what I conceive to be the true merits of the question which the noble and gallant Viscount has raised.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords. I am sure no one can deny that the noble Marquess opposite was perfectly correct in saying that the manner in which he answered questions in this House during the time he was Secretary of State for War was perfectly courteous, and that be took the responsibility upon himself in all matters upon which he was questioned. In that respect he is fully entitled to the credit which he not improperly attributed to himself at the end of his speech. That made it to me the more extraordinary that the noble Marquess should have departed from the course he had prescribed for himself and endeavoured to shelter himself behind the Commander-in-Chief in respect to the advice given with reference to the war in South Africa. If he had not made those unfortunate allusions to the late Commander-in-Chief, we should not to-night have had this discussion, which is painful in the highest degree. The noble Marquess having made personal attacks with reference to the advice given to the Government by the late Commander-in-Chief, the noble and gallant Viscount was compelled, in defence of his honour as a soldier and his reputation, to answer those attacks. He has given categorical answers to the attacks made by the noble 23 Marquess, and the noble Marquess has replied. He has gone so far as to repeat a conversation which there is no possibility of checking, and has referred to confidential documents which were not mentioned before. I submit that in the absence of the confidential documents, the production of which has been refused, it is impossible for your Lordships to form an opinion on the matter in controversy. This much we may say on the main facts of the ease—namely, that the noble and gallant Viscount, the late Commander-in-Chief, made recommendations for preparing troops, collecting stores, and sending reinforcements to Natal and the Cape, and that the Government decided on their responsibility not to comply with them. That we know. The Commander-in-Chief made recommendations; they were not complied with by the Government. Which was right? If the Government had succeeded in maintaining peace, I. should have congratulated them on the wisdom of their course. Unfortunately, having neglected preparations, they brought us into a war. That is a matter which the Government will have to answer when inquiry takes place into the conduct and antecedents of the war. This is not the time to discuss that question. It is sufficient for us to know now that the noble Marquess admits that the advice of the Commander-in-Chief was not adopted in respect to the mobilisation of forces, the preparation of stores, and those precautions which were necessary in order to put our Colonies in a state of defence. It is impossible now to make any calculation as to what would have been the effect if the Government had not been so misled by the notion that war was not to take place, and if they had taken the precautions—not intimidations, as was suggested by the noble Marquess—which the Commander-in-Chief recommended. It is possible, though it cannot be proved, that the attack made by the Boers on our Colonies might have failed and that the war might have been concluded in a much shorter time. But, as I said before, this is not the time to discuss that matter. I only point this out in order to show that it is quite possible—and for my own part I think it exceedingly probable—that the late Commander-in-Chief was right in recommending those 24 measures, and that the Government were wrong in neglecting his recommendations.
I must express my utter surprise at the attitude of the noble Marquess the late Secretary of State for War in regard to the production of Papers and Minutes. His answer was one for which I was absolutely unprepared. The noble Marquess having quoted from those documents, in common fairness he is bound to produce them. There may be good reason for not referring to confidential Papers in this House, but, having referred to them, how the noble Marquess can refuse to produce them passes my comprehension, seeing that the officer to whose Prejudice they have been used asks for their production. I fully admit that it is exceedingly inconvenient for the public service that Departmental Minutes should be laid on the Table. It is difficult to use the freedom which is desirable in communications of this sort it they are to be laid upon the Table of Parliament. But if a Minister makes use of those Minutes in. Parliament to the prejudice of a colleague, in my opinion the minor inconvenience ought to give way. I hope the noble and gallant Viscount has not put his motion on the Paper as a mere handle for a speech but that he will persevere and ask your Lordships to say whether it is right and fair that the Papers which have been quoted from should not be produced. I do not see that any prejudice to the public service can arise from their production any more than in the case of those reports of the Intelligence Department with respect to South Africa which were quoted in extenso in The Times the other day, and which I believe have been laid on the Table, although they have not yet been circulated to your Lordships. I do not think that the Papers in question can be more confidential than the correspondence respecting the defence of Natal which has been laid before Parliament.
I greatly regret the course which this discussion has taken. The noble and gallant Viscount brought forward the important question of the organisation of the War Office. It has been diverted into a discussion more or less of a personal character, and I hope that discussion will cease by the produc- 25 tion of the Papers referred to. I am glad that the noble Marquess committed the indiscretion of referring to a certain Memorandum which has since been laid upon the Table of the House, for we have now been admitted a little behind the scenes, and we know what the opinions of the noble and gallant Viscount were some time ago, as expressed in the Memorandum written at the request of the Queen, and, I presume, put before the Cabinet. We know also what views were put before the Cabinet by the noble Marquess the late Secretary of State for War and his successor the present Secretary of State for War. That gives us an opportunity of discussing this matter in a business-like manner. I do not think anything could have been clearer or better expressed than the Memorandum of the noble and gallant Viscount. He urged that the Commander-in-Chief should again be responsible for the discipline and the military training and efficiency of the Army, or else that his office should be abolished. He urged that the system of the noble Marquess, to which he appears to be so wedded—namely, a kind of general supervision of somebody who is also himself responsible to the Secretary of State was an impracticable system. He said—The system as laid down is unworkable. In the endeavour to combine general control in one place with individual responsibility in another, it has failed in both objects.Proof of that is given by the speech of the noble Marquess to-night, who attacked the noble and gallant Viscount in respect to the distribution of stores, which appears to me, according to the Order in Council, to be under the charge of another responsible officer. Then the noble and gallant Viscount asked that the Army Hoard should have some initiative It appears that the Army Hoard, over which the Commander-in-Chief presides, is a body which only assembles when the Secretary of State asks them to assemble, and that they have no power to make the slightest suggestion in matters connected with the Army. The noble and gallant Viscount asked in his Memorandum that this Army Board should have some power of initiative. The noble and gallant Viscount complained that all letters sent from the War Office were written by 26 the Under Secretary of State. The noble Marquess wrote a very long Memorandum in answer to the Memorandum of the noble and gallant Viscount. He argued that this plan of general supervision, coupled with separate responsibility, was a most excellent one; but I think that he himself in his Memorandum showed how wrong that contention is. I am speaking now of the discipline of the Army. The discipline of the Army I take to be a matter which should be under the Commander-in-Chief, but it was placed under another officer. The noble Marquess in his Memorandum said—He has been consulted on all the most important questions of discipline.That is to say, the officer who should have direction of the discipline of the Army has only been consulted upon the most important points, and that the Secretary of State for War and not the Commander-in-Chief has been responsible for the discipline of the Army through the Adjutant General. The Adjutant General goes to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State gives his decision upon matters of discipline. That is the explanation as given by the noble Marquess himself in his Memorandum.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Lord must know that ordinary minor discipline cases do not go to the Secretary of State.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
I am not aware of the manner in which the details of the War Office are conducted, but I am assuming that the Order in Council is strictly followed, and that the noble Marquess's own explanation, as given in the Memorandum, is correct. Arguing in favour of this theory of general supervision and separate responsibility the noble Marquess said—Whenever my attention has been called to departures from this rule I have always supported the Commander-in Chief, and I have more than once assured him of my readiness to take any action which he might recommend in order to insure respect for it.What can he a greater condemnation of any system than that the intervention of the Secretary of State should be, required in order to settle whether such and such a matter was part of the respon- 27 sibility of the Commander-in-Chief or of some other official? I will now draw the attention of your Lordships to the Memorandum written by the present Secretary of State for War, and dated 20th November, 1900. After supporting to a very considerable extent the arguments of the noble Marquess, Mr. Brodrick ends with some very remarkable admissions. I have shown your Lordship that there were five principal points urged by the late Commander-in-Chief in the Memorandum laid before the Cabinet. The first was that the Commander- n Chief should be responsible for the discipline and the military training and efficiency of the Army Mr. Brodrick in his Memorandum entirely concedes that most important point. Mr. Brodrick wrote—The discipline of the Army being necessarily in the final resort under the Commander-in-Chief, and all important cases being in fact submitted to him already, I am disposed to think the Adjutant General should come directly under his control.Thus the whole contention of the late Commander- n Chief seconceded by the present Secretary of State for War. As to the Army Board Mr. Brodrick said—Personally I should advocate giving a power of initiative to the Army Board.Here again the recommendation of the late Commander-in Chief is accepted by the Secretary o State for War. Dealing with "Letter writing." Mr. Brodrick said. "I have never liked the present system, "and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that the system might be changed. There is another recommendation of the noble and gallant Viscount which has been accepted by the Secretary for War. Mr. Brodrick also said—The illustrations of minute points for which the Secretary of State's authority is required, may well be overhauled.Thus another point urged by the noble Viscount has been conceded. The whole of this discussion is full of anomalies, and it is somewhat remarkable that although the noble and gallant Viscount was Commander-in-Chief at the time this Minute was written by the Secretary of State, no copy of it was communicated to the noble and gallant Viscount.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
No, to the Minute of the present Secretary of of State for War. Mr. Brodrick wrote his Minute on 20th November last year. On that date the noble and gallant Viscount was Commander-in-Chief, but no copy of this Minute was communicated to him. That is a most unfortunate fact, because I- am authorised by the noble and gallant Viscount to say that if he had seen the Minute written by the present Secretary of State for War he would not have thought it necessary to bring forward his motion the other day. In his opinion, the main matters which he wished to see altered have been promised to be altered by that Minute. I have no more to say on this matter. I have been very much distressed at the disclosures in the administration of the War Office, and I cannot conceive how it is possible, after the disclosures which have resulted from these discussions, for the present system to continue. There seems to be a want of cohesion, of general co-operation, and of bringing the different heads of Departments together, which is perfectly inexplicable. The following remarkable Departmental Minute written by the Commander-in-Chief to the Director General of Ordnance is given in the Memorandum written by the noble Marquis opposite—Is it true that all further progress in the manufacture of the 9.2in. guns has been suspended for more than the last three months on account of changes in the construction lately determined upon?I don't want to worry you, but I deeply feel our present condition as regards the armament of our ports and fortresses both at home and abroad.(Signed) WOLSELEY.4th October, 1900.Is it possible, in any Department decently organised and under proper management, that such a state of things should have existed? Here is the Commander in-Chief of the Army with no information respecting the manufacture of guns for our ports and fortresses. There is a want of a regular military council at the War Office. There should be a council of heads of Departments—the Commander-in-Chief, the Adjutant General, the Quarter- 29 master General, the Director General of Ordnance, and the Inspector General of Fortifications, under the presidency of the Secretary of State. The council should meet regularly at certain stated periods, say, once a week, at which there should be a conference upon any matters of importance, and of which there should be a record kept. In this wax an end would he put to these innumerable Minutes, and a better arrangement arrived at, and we should not have the heads of the different Departments working at cross purposes. I have no doubt the officers at the War Office have done their best. I am sure the noble and gallant Viscount did his best. I entirely agree with him that the system inaugurated by the noble Marquess is one which it is impossible to work with advantage. I quite sympathise with the noble and gallant Viscount in the difficulties he had to encounter, and I hope he will have the satisfaction of feeling, however painful it may have been for him to answer attacks made upon him by the noble Marquess, that his action in bringing forward the subject has been the cause of the Papers being laid on the Table, and that it is to be hoped that the reforms in the Army administration which he desires will be carried into effect.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords it is not my intention to occupy the time of your Lordships for more than a minute or two, but it appears to me that there is one point upon which an explanation is required, painful though this debate has been. The noble and gallant Viscount has made two deliberate statements in your lordship's House—statements so carefully prepared that I am under the impression that every word was written out. In addition, we have been able to study the views of the noble Lord on the subject under discussion in the Paper which has to-day been circulated. There as only one construction to be placed on these documents, and it is this that the noble and gallant Viscount considered that while he was occupying the position of Commander-in-Chief he was in point of fact occupying an intolerable situation. The question therefore must have occurred to many minds why, if such a state of things prevailed, has the House heard of it for the first time only within 30 the last few days? It is true the noble Viscount stated he was anxious to give the system a fail trial, but what length of time is required to decide whether a system of administration is a sound or a vicious one? So far as I am able to gather, it has taken the noble Viscount four or five years to discover that this was a vicious system.
The noble Viscount has expatiated on the advantages of taking the public into confidence. Why did he not take that course earlier? During the five years he was in office he made numerous speeches to all sorts and conditions of men, and the general effect of those speeches hardly bears out the views he enunciated for the first time in the House only a few days ago I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that those speeches were mostly pitched in an optimistic vein, giving the impression to the public that military administration was going on as well as we had a right to expect. With regard to the points at issue it may, perhaps, be presumptuous for me to express a confident opinion; but I think I am justified in saying that had the noble Marquess, with his worldwide reputation at any time in the past four years made such a statement as he made a few days ago, and if he had proved his case. Parliament and the whole country would have been with him. Wm the noble Viscount did not adopt this course he alone can explain. I do not think I am putting the case too strongly when I say that an explanation on this subject is due to the great body of taxpayers in this country.
§ EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I do not wish to enter at any length into the discussion which has taken place tonight, but I think everyone must have been struck with the clear statement of the noble and gallant Viscount, The admissions of the noble Marquess go to show that the late Commander-in-Chief did make a great many recommendations which His Majesty's Government did not think it right to adopt, and those admissions justify to a great extent what the noble and gallant Viscount has said. What strikes me is this—the late Secretary of War being responsible for Army administration, if he was not satisfied with the advice he received 31 from the Commander-in-Chief, was it not possible to ask the latter to resign? To ask a great officer to resign is a very serious matter, but more serious is it for the head of a great Department of State, a Minister responsible to Parliament, to have at his side an officer upon whom he feels he cannot rely for good advice. From what the noble Marquess has said it is evident he was satisfied he did not receive good advice. With regard to the Volunteers the noble and gallant Viscount was "fitful." At another time he only had a "belated inspiration." Those are the words of the noble Marquess. Why, if this was so—why, if the noble Marquess felt that he had not the advice he had a right to expect, did he not recommend the Commander-in-Chief to resign? In these matters the Secretary of State has responsibility equal to that of the Commander-in-Chief, and his position demands the best military advice. The noble Marquess to-night admitted that he had always considered Ladysmith a bad place to defend. He made other admissions with regard to the number of forces required in South Africa, and we now know that the noble Marquess, His Majesty's Government, and the late Commander-in-Chief greatly under-estimated the fighting powers of the foes we had to meet. In all that has been said by the noble Earl (the Earl of Northbrook) as to withholding from publication confidential Papers from the head of an office, I quite agree. It would be impossible to conduct the business of a Department if such Papers were published. But the noble Marquess has himself brought personal matters forward, and it is a most damaging thing to the official concerned to have brought against him charges which should remain unknown outside the office where the incidents occurred. The whole responsibility is with the late Secretary for War. What is the position of the noble and gallant Viscount? Is ho to sit silent and contented, unable to defend himself? Though as a general rule it is not possible to divulge confidential Papers of this kind, yet when the ex-head of a Department makes such statements as the noble Marquess has made it appears to me it is a case for an exception to the general rule to show whether the late Commander-in-Chief has been rightly 32 or wrongly accused. I rose for the purpose of pressing that argument. There is one other matter which I think it, is only fair to refer to; and which the noble Marquess passed over, probably by an oversight, in his reply. The noble and gallant Viscount stated that upon one occasion early in 1900 he offered his resignation, which the Government declined to accept. It would seem, therefore, that at that time the Secretary of War had confidence in his adviser. I sincerely hope His Majesty's Government will in this matter do an act of justice by making an exception to the general rule forbidding the publication of confidential Papers.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND LORD PEIVY SEAL (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, I do not propose to add to this debate any observation on the military matters that have been canvassed to-night, for they are of a highly technical character, and I doubt whether I am competent to discuss them with any useful effect. I merely wish to address myself in one word to the motion on the Paper. I understand the rule to be that if a Minister quotes a Paper which is not on the Table of the House, it is open to other Members to move that the Paper be presented, and I do not think a Minister could refuse the request. That is a different motion from that of the noble Viscount, which is that all Papers which some person or persons unknown may imagine to have reference to the debate should be immediately printed for general circulation. I think that would be a very difficult task to perform, and very undesirable when it had been performed. If there was any Paper quoted to-night with which the House is so far unacquainted it is for the noble Viscount to indicate it, and move for its production. To that motion we should give, according to traditional practice, the most careful consideration. But to the vague motion on the Paper it is impossible that we can consent.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I do not rise any more than the noble Marquess for the purpose of prolonging this debate, which, combined with the discussion of the other night, will always remain in my memory as one of the most painful to which I have ever 33 listened. The noble Duke opposite, and, I think, the noble Marquess, said the other night that they were not aware that any personal charges had been brought against the noble and gallant Viscount. I tremble to think what would be the nature of personal charges if once His Majesty's Government began to make them. It is not a personal attack to accuse your principal subordinate of having been fitful in his attendance to his duties! It is not a personal attack to tell your principal military adviser that he has given you had military advice! It is not a personal attack to state that at a crisis which we all have good reason to remember your principal military adviser under-estimated the resources necessary for the campaign, and recommended as a place of arms a spot which was wholly unsuited for the purpose! These are not personal charges! Then Heaven preserve me from the Government when they begin to bring them. In my judgment, and, I think, in the judgment of the great mass of the House, and certainly in the judgment of the person whom we are accustomed to appeal to in our discussions, "the man in the street," they constitute personal charges of the gravest nature. For that reason I say this debate will always remain most painfully in my memory.
The noble and gallant Viscount has now closed his active career. It has been an historical career. It is one which has more than once earned him the thanks of Parliament, and constantly the less definitely expressed gratitude of the country. He lays down the high office—a high office in name, at any rate—with which you have invested him, and takes the first opportunity of his freedom from responsibility to bring the subject of the relation of that high office to the office of the Secretary of State for War before the attention of Parliament, having kept a loyal silence while he was under the direction of the Secretary of State. What is his reward? He is met by argument to some extent, no doubt, But, on the other hand, he is met with what I must call, differing as I do from the Government as to the meaning of personal attacks, one of the gravest attacks ever made upon a subordinate. The noble Marquess plumed himself to-night, and, 34 I think, with justice, on never having attributed responsibility to a subordinate before, and on only having done it to-night for the purpose of his argument. But, I should like to ask, has it ever been the practice of Parliament or of statesmen in Parliament, in any circumstances whatever, to shelter themselves behind a subordinate? Has it ever been known in the history of the Legislature that any Secretary of State has ever got up and said, "I was misled by my adviser. The responsibility lies upon him, and not upon me"?
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Earl continually found fault with me for not bringing down the Commander-in-Chief's own opinion to the House.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I did not continually find fault with the noble Marquess for not bringing down the Commander-in-Chief, I only noticed his conspicuous absence. As was remarked by the noble Lord who sits behind the Government, he was making speeches elsewhere in the country, and I drew the inference that the best possible military adviser of the Secretary of State was not wholly satisfied with the proposals of the Secretary of State; and in the next place I drew a larger conclusion, which was that in the great national and military crisis such as we were then passing through the country had a right-to look beyond the mere opinion of a. civilian, however highly placed he might be, for an assurance of our security in the field of war. I return to the argument in which I was disturbed by the interruption of the late Secretary for War. I said it has never been the practice of any responsible Minister, under any circumstances, to shelter himself behind the advice of a subordinate. The Secretary of State has constantly assumed in a very manly way the whole responsibility for what was going on. That is the practice of English statesmen; and I confess I cannot conceive that the noble Marquess is justified in attributing to himself any peculiar propriety in having pursued that course until what I must always consider his unfortunate lapse the other night.
To-night we have had a discussion of three accusations. The honours, I 35 think, have not been equally divided. Perhaps I am not an impartial observer. But I do think that we cannot let the controversy go without bearing in mind one or two points in the defence of the Secretary of State. He says he maintains his accusation that the Commander-in-Chief recommended that Lady-smith was a suitable place for the occupation of English troops. All that is mere allegation, which is that at some period or another the Commander-in-Chief authorised stores to be sent to South Africa which were afterwards sent by the local general commanding there to Ladysmith to be stored. That, as far as can interpret the somewhat complicated statement of the Secretary of State, is all that he has to bring in reply to substantial proofs alleged by the noble Viscount in support of his contention that he did not consider Ladysmith suitable for the purpose. Then we come to the other part of the case. I leave out the charge relative to the Auxiliary forces, which I think the noble and gallant Viscount treated too fully, because, as it is completely taken away from his late office by the Order in Council, it does not appear to be any part of his responsibility.
But we come to the other charge, which produced an interesting statement from the Secretary of State. He says, and says with some truth, that we were wrong. We all thought that a smaller force would suffice in South Africa than has turned out actually to be the case. The then Commander-in-Chief recommended that a corps d'armée should he mobilised in England ready for instant transmission abroad—that certain forces should he sent to South Africa. But he said these would he menacing preparations which would interfere with our policy of peace. The two policies may be compared. The policy of the noble and gallant Viscount, fully informed as he was, and fully informed as the Secretary of State was, through the Intelligence Department, of the preparations of the Boers—though I remember the Prime Minister was not so fortunate, for he had not the information at the disposal of his colleagues in the matter—it was the policy of the noble Viscount, informed as he was by the Intelligence Department of the pre- 36 parations of the Boers, that if you wished to preserve peace you had better be prepared for war, and that in any case, with the great risk involved and with the promise of the Government to defend Natal, it was better to be prepared. The noble Marquess threw contempt on this advice, and said that the noble and gallant Viscount thought war inevitable, and, if his advice were taken, one or two things might happen—first, either that the Boers might be greatly impressed by your military preparations, or, on the other hand, not being impressed, it might bring matters to a head and the war would speedily be over—by the end of the year 1899. I do not pretend to be a judge of tactics or policy. I am only a humble looker-on. I do not pretend to judge which was the better policy of the two. But, upon my honour, judging by results, I am not prepared unhesitatingly to condemn the noble and gallant Viscount. I am not at all inclined, as the Secretary of State is to wave away with scorn the advice the noble and gallant Viscount gave in June, 1899. Apparently the policy of the Government was a twofold policy—to labour for peace, but, if peace could not be preserved, to be totally unprepared for war. I suppose I am a dull person, a dull rural person, little versed in these high matters. But, for the life of me, judging the results, seeing that in March, 1901, we are still engaged in a war commenced in October, 1899, I am not prepared to throw stones at the noble and gallant Viscount for what he recommended on that occasion.
Now, coming to the motion before the House, I can conceive nothing more detrimental to the public service than the haphazard production of State documents of importance! passing between colleagues, in the utmost confidence, and which should remain for ever in that condition of confidence. But that condition of confidence can only he preserved on one hypothesis, which is, that the confidence is respected by both parties to the compact, and that if one person uses or quotes a document, the policy of Parliament, as the noble Marquess has so truly stated, shall be respected, and these documents shall be placed upon the Table. We have had perpetual citations from documents by the noble 37 Marquess the Secretary of State. Tonight he sprung Upon us a new docunment—a Minute of 3rd October, 1899. Are we to see that document? I will sit down and wait till the Government make up their mind.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
what I ventured to say was that, for the purpose of enabling the Government to lake that course which is most consistent with the public interests, the document should be named in a motion, and a motion made that it should be produced. I do not say this for the purpose of refusing the document. My impression is that there is no harm in producing it.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
The noble Marquess went a little further than that, He said you are bound to produce it if you quote from it. The document has been quoted, and its date given, and therefore, I think, he is bound under his own regulations to produce it. I admit the notice of the noble and gallant Viscount is somewhat vague and general, but then, on the other hand, the charges brought against his professional reputation were equally general; and I hold that it is only as a measure of self-defence that he asks for the written minutes of advice that he gave on the points on which he has been charged, and that they should he laid before Parliament. At any rate, as a protest against this new practice of quoting confidential documents which you mean to keep in your bureau, if the noble and gallant Viscount goes to a division I shall assuredly record my vote in his favour.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duke of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, I believe, as the noble Earl stated a few minutes ago, that your Lordships are practically unanimous that it would be highly undesirable in the public interest that a vague and general motion for the production of a number of confidential Papers should be assented to. As my noble friend at the head of the Government said, if it could be shown that reference has been made to any Paper which has not been produced, and which it will not be contrary to 38 the public interest to produce, that Paper ought to be specifically moved for, and if such a motion is made, the Government, if it is in their power, will be perfectly willing to produce it. I am under the impression that no document has been referred to to-night by my noble friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs except one that has already been referred to by the noble and gallant Viscount. I am not quite clear what that Paper was, but if the noble and gallant Viscount will move for it, the Government will give their best consideration to the motion. We are, therefore, practically agreed on the question of the production of Papers, and there is very little indeed in the observations that have just been made by the noble Earl to which it is necessary to make any reference. It does not seem to me that it is very profitable for this House to discuss much further whether the statement which was made by my noble friend the other night was in the nature of a personal charge against the noble and gallant Viscount.
The noble Earl thinks that personal charges of a very serious character have been made My noble friend and his colleagues, on the contrary are of opinion that my noble friend adduced nothing except proofs which were absolutely necessary to show that the allegations which had been made by the noble and gallant Viscount against the present system were not well founded; and that be had, unfortunately, as we think, but decidedly, as we also think, laboured under some misapprehension as to the scope, extent, and importance of the duties with which he was charged by the Order in Council. I deeply regret that in the course of this discussion it should have been necessary to bring-forward anything that might be considered to be in the nature of an imputation against the conduct of the noble and gallant Viscount; but, in my opinion, the course which he took left to us no alternative. The noble and gallant Viscount said that the experience of five years tenure of the office of Commander-in-Chief had led him to the conclusion that the office of Commander-in-Chief had been reduced to a cipher; that the Commander-in-Chief was nothing but the fifth wheel of a 39 coach, Such statement, made by an officer enjoying the authority of Commander-in-Chief, were calculated to do irreparable mischief in destroying the confidence of the country in the Army if they could be substantiated, and we were bound to show that, if defects existed, as we do not deny they may, in the system of War Office administration which was introduced by the last Order in Council, they were not the defects which were pointed out by the noble and gallant Viscount, but were defects of quite a different character, of which be seemed to be altogether unaware. It is not our opinion that, under the present system, the Commander-in-Chief has not sufficient authority, if he chooses to make use of it. If there are defects in the system, my noble friend was bound to point out that they consisted in this—that his instructions had not sufficiently indicated to the Commander-in-Chief the nature, and scope, and gravity, and the importance and responsibility of those functions with which he was invested.
The noble Earl opposite referred to the advice given by the noble and gallant Viscount on the occupation of Ladysmith. The noble Earl professed himself to be at a loss to understand in what way the noble and gallant Viscount was responsible, in any degree, for the occupation of Ladysmith. Who does the noble Earl suppose was responsible for the distribution of the troops in South Africa if not the Commander-in-Chief? The noble and gallant Viscount says that all that he was aware of was that certain stores were sent to South Africa, and he did not know where they were sent to. Did he know, or did he not know, to what points the troops sent to South Africa were despatched? If he did not know, who was responsible, if he was not, for the different points to which they were, sent?
The noble Earl again referred to the question of the advice which was given on various occasions by the Commander-in-Chief on the subject of the preparations for war. I think there has been some misunderstanding on that question. It has been said, I think, by the noble Earl who spoke previously that the advice which was tendered by the late Commander in-Chief was not accepted 40 by the Government. That is not an accurate statement of fact. The Commander-in-Chief was, of course, consulted by the Secretary for War as to the measures which it would be necessary to take if war should unhappily come. The Commander-in-Chief most properly and, I have no doubt, most fully and ably complied with that request, and gave the information that was requested of him. But it was not for the Commander-in-Chief, and he never supposed that it was for him, to decide the political question of when those preparations should be made or what the political effects of such preparations might be upon the negotiations that were then proceeding. That was a responsibility which rested on the Government alone. We have, never dreamt of making the Commander-in-Chief responsible because we did not think it wise to make certain preparations which were described by the Commander-in-Chief himself as demonstrations, We do not seek to make him responsible for anything that may have occurred in consequence of the delay.
The noble Earl said he had never known a Minister shelter himself under the advice given to him by his subordinate. I think the noble Earl himself, on the last occasion on which he took part in this debate, brought forward a case in which his own Minister for War did bring forward in Parliament the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief in support of his policy with regard to small-arm; ammunition, and, as the noble Earl himself pointed out, that was done without any very favourable result. But it cannot be said that throughout this discussion my noble friend has attempted to shelter himself or the Government in any degree, in the course they have taken, behind the advice—sound advice or erroneous advice—which was given to I them by their military adviser. Reference has been made to advice which we think was not so sound or complete as it might have been. That has been brought forward, not for the purpose of relieving us of any responsibility whatever, but simply in the discussion on War Office organisation, in order to prove that the defects which the late Commander-in-Chief has alleged to exist in the present system are not those which 41 do exist, and that, on the contrary, if there are defects, they are exactly in the opposite direction to that which has been indicated by the noble and gallant Viscount.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
I hope the noble and gallant Viscount will not he content with the offer made to him of the Paper dated 3rd October, 1899. I contend that when a Member of this House, having held high position, has specified charges made against him, he is entitled to have produced all the official documents on which those specified charges are based. The noble Duke said it was necessary for the noble Marquess to attack the noble and gallant Viscount by way of answer to his criticisms of the Order in Council.
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
Well, that he should point out certain deficiencies in the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief, in order to meet the charges against the system brought by the noble and gallant Viscount. It is a curious commentary on that defence that the present Secretary of State for War should concede the greater part of the points urged by the late Commander-in-Chief, which is in itself a justification, in my opinion, for the criticisms the noble and gallant Viscount has put forward.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My Lords, I regret very much that I cannot comply with the request that I. should confine myself to asking for one Paper only. I feel that it is necessary, in the defence of my own character, that I should not do so. There is not one of the noble Lords I am addressing who, if placed in the position in which I have been placed by these serious, and I may say grave, charges brought, as I think, without any rhyme or reason, against me, would not act in the same way. I could point out many inaccuracies that the noble Duke has fallen into, but I do not wish to go 42 into details. As regards the Papers, I hope the Government will grant them. I am quite prepared, if the Government allow it, to name some one who shall go over the Papers and see that only those necessary for the vindication of my points are produced, and that those not touching the points I bring forward are not produced. Certain grave charges have been made against me, and I have endeavoured to the best of my ability to answer them. My answer to the Government is that I am prepared to prove my case, and I only ask for the Papers that will enable me to do so. That is only justice between man and man. I have always been led to believe that when the professional or private character of a Member of your Lordships House has been impugned, it has been the desire of the House that he should have an opportunity of answering. I therefore appeal to the House to give me the opportunity of proving up to the hilt, as I can do, everything I have said.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The course we are asked to take is an entirely new one, and, if it is sanctioned by the House, will carry very evil results. The noble and gallant Viscount has been accused—supposing he has been accused at all of nothing but certain errors of judgment, and he maintains that he has a right to go into a public office and look over the Papers, and have laid on the Table of the House anything he may consider necessary for his purposes.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
That is a material deduction but the Government must sec the motion in a definite form before expressing their opinion, and I think that another opportunity should be given for a, decision on the demand. We cannot consent to the motion as extemporised by the noble Viscount.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
I want to make a practical proposal. The noble Marquess says, "Put the motion on the Paper and we will then see what we think of it." Is it necessary to do that in the present instance? The noble Viscount says, "Will you allow a person 43 deputed by me to look over the Minutes in the War Office, and name those which I think necessary for the maintenance of my character? The Government on their side can name an expert of their own, and, when the Papers have been prepared, it will be open to the Government to say. "We object to this or that," and the subject will come up again. Is it not eminently desirable to avoid another discussion of this kind? I have a practical proposal to make. We are gentlemen meeting in a gentlemanlike spirit, and I would suggest that the motion should be passed with an honourable understanding between the noble Viscount and the Government that the matter shall be carried out in the way suggested.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am bound to apologise for speaking again, but when a new motion is started every five minutes it is very difficult to avoid continuing the discussion. It appears to me that the proposal of the noble Earl is the strangest application of the principle of arbitration I have ever heard of. It is impossible that we should hand over an unlimited power over the confidential Papers of a Department of State. We are the guardians of those Papers, and we have no right to give them up until we have some security that we are bound to do so. I cannot admit that, merely because a person has been appointed by the noble and gallant Viscount, he has the right to
§ take our responsibility on his shoulders and to determine what Papers, it may be the most confidential Papers, shall be given over for publication. It is a proposal for which, I believe, there is no sort of precedent, and it would be departing from the duty we owe to the public if we consented to it. The obvious course is to bring the motion forward at a later date, and in more detail, and then we shall be able to judge in respect of each Paper demanded, whether it-ought to be laid upon the Table of the House or not. But to this roving commission to an unknown commissioner, who is to decide on some unspecified principle of arbitration, we cannot assent.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I must ask the noble and gallant Viscount for the form of the motion I am to put to the House.
§ VISCOUNT WOLSELEY
My motion is, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for all Papers written by the Viscount Wolseley bearing upon certain allegations made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and upon the advice given by the said Viscount when Commander-in-Chief of the Army in regard to the War in South Africa."
§ On Question, their Lordships divided: Contents, 38; Not-Contents, 62. Resolved in the negative.45
|Argyll, D.||Scarbrough, E.||De Freyne, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Spencer, E.||Heneage, L.|
|Ripon, M.||Falkland, V.||Monkswell, L.|
|Wolseley, V. [Teller.]||Muncaster, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Northbourne, L.|
|Carlisle, E.||Aberdare, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Carnwath, E.||Acton, L.||Reay, L.|
|Carrington, E.||Annaly, L.||Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Brassey, L.||Sandhurst, L.|
|Feversham, E.||Braye, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Chelmsford, L.||Wandsworth, L.|
|Northbrook, E. [Teller.]||Crofton, L.||Wantage, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Davey, L.||Welby, L.|
|Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.)||Marlborough, D.||Clarendon, E. (L. Chamberlain).|
|Devonshire, D. (L. President.)||Ailesbury, M.||Cranbrook, E.|
|Hertford, M.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Salisbury, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Lansdowne, M.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Llandaff, V.||James, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Kelvin, L.|
|Howe, E.||Manchester, L. Bp.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Rochester, L. Bp.||Lawrence, L. [Teller.]|
|Lindsey, E.||Lindley, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Aldenham, L.||Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby.)|
|Mansfield, E.||Ashbourne, L.|
|Morley, E.||Avebury, L.||Mounteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Bateman, L.||Newton, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Roberts of Kandahar, E.||Blythswood, L.||Robertson, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Colville of Culross, L.||Rosmead, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Athole.)||Cottesloe, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Tankerville, E.||Dunboyne, L.||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Stanmore, L.|
|Verulam, E.||Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.)||Stratheden and Campbell, L.|
|Waldegrave, E. [Teller.]||Haliburton, L.||Windsor, L.|
|Westmeath, E.||Harlech, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Hothfield, L.|