§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, the momentous announcement made by the Lord President this afternoon does not allay our anxieties as to the past proceedings of the War Office. I therefore desire to ask him the first Question which stands in my name—Did the instructions given to Sir Arthur Paget at the War Office include one to offer to officers of the Army under his command the alternative of resignation, to be followed by dismissal from the Service, if, in the event of active operations in Ulster, they were not prepared to act to the utmost extent of modern war; and if not, what instructions were given on this head.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
My Lords, I had expected that the noble Viscount would have put the whole of his Questions together, but, as he desires it, I will answer them separately. The answer to this Question is that no instructions were given to Sir Arthur Paget to put any hypothetical question to the officers under his command.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Will the noble Viscount explain what the words "active operations in Ulster" mean? Were those words used by Sir Arthur Paget when addressing his officers, and, if so, was he instructed to use them? If the noble Viscount will consult the White Paper, he will see that in the communications from General Gough to Sir Arthur Paget the words "active operations" appear in inverted commas. Therefore I would like to ask whether these words were used by His Majesty's Government.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I have every desire to meet the noble Marquess. The Speaker in another place two or three days ago remonstrated against the practice of supplementary questions, and I would submit that we had far better get the answers to Lord Midleton's Questions on specific matters of fact and then deal with the point justly raised by the noble Marquess in the debate on Lord Selborne's Motion.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I beg to ask the second Question standing in my name—Did the instructions given to Sir Arthur Paget at the War Office include one to offer to officers of the Army under his command domiciled in Ulster the 759 opportunity of absenting themselves from service without incurring any penalties until all operations of troops in Ulster had been completed; and, if not, what instructions were given under this head.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
The question of the proper steps to take, with regard to the officers domiciled in Ulster, in the event of the Army being called upon to act in aid of the civil power in that Province was discussed by the Secretary of State and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the Adjutant-General with Sir Arthur Paget and the other General Officers Commanding in December last. It was then decided that officers domiciled in Ulster should be left behind with the details permitted to go on leave if their unit was ordered to support the civil power in Ulster. This instruction is in consonance with the rule that troops having any territorial connection, with a strike area for example, should never, unless quite unavoidable, be employed in that area during a strike. This rule should apply and would apply to all ranks. There was no alteration of this policy, of this maxim of military administration—no alteration in the course of the discussions with Sir Arthur Paget prior to the recent movement of troops. No further instructions were issued to General Paget under this head.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I beg to ask the third Question standing in my name—Did the instructions given to Sir Arthur Paget at the War Office include one to threaten the officers commanding brigades and units in Ireland with trial by Court-Martial if they extended to any officers not really domiciled in Ulster the exemption offered to officers domiciled in Ulster of absenting themselves from service during the progress of military operations in that Province; and, if so, why was it thought necessary to cast such a reflection upon the honour of the officers concerned.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I ask the noble Viscount, if no such instructions were given, whether he is in a position to state that no such instructions were given by Sir Arthur Paget to the brigadiers?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I think this would all come out better if we cleared the ground by answers to these preliminary Questions on the Paper.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I beg to ask the noble Viscount the remaining Questions standing in my name—(4) Did the General Officers summoned by Sir Arthur Paget to Dublin on March 20 take down in writing and carry away with them the orders issued by the General Officer Commanding in Ireland. Did they, or any of them, issue a circular order based upon those orders to the officers under their command; and, if so, will His Majesty's Government lay a copy of that order on the Table of both Houses of Parliament. (5) After Sir Arthur Paget had at Dublin, on March 20, conveyed to the General Officers under his command the instructions he had received at the War Office and they had conveyed those instructions to the officers under their respective commands, was a time limit fixed within which the various officers concerned were to make their choice between the alternatives offered them under those instructions; and, if so, what was that time limit. (6) Did the General Officer commanding the Fifth Division at the Curragh address the noncommissioned officers and men of the battalions under his command, or of any of them, on the 20th, 21st, or 22nd of March, and, if so, what was the substance of the statement so made.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
It will be convenient if I answer these three Questions in a single reply. The General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland has been requested by telegram to send full replies to these Questions of the noble Viscount's of which there are not precise details in the War Office, or were not this morning, and I shall be glad to communicate to the House the answers when we receive them.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I beg to ask the noble Viscount the first Question standing on the Paper in my name—Have any officers of any rank in any command, regiment, or corps in Ireland refused to obey any order received from a superior officer; and, if so, what is the name of that officer and what is the order which he received.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
The answer to this very important Question is as follows. There has been no disobedience of orders in connection with the recent events by any officer or man in Ireland. I have to reply in this way instead of simply saying No, because there may have been—this is an unimportant detail, but there may have been—unimportant ordinary cases of breach of discipline which need not be taken into account. The conduct of the troops generally has been exemplary.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I beg to put the second Question standing in my name—Did Sir Arthur Paget inform the General Officers under his command that the force to be employed in connection with Ulster would include—(1) a naval force; (2) a military force from England; (3) two divisions of His Majesty's troops in Ireland. Did he receive instructions from the War Office to give them this information.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Sir Arthur Paget was informed by the Government that in the event of serious disorder in Ireland he could count upon adequate reinforcements to enable him to maintain law and order and to support the civil power in the ordinary exercise of its duty. He was not instructed either to give this information to General Officers under his command or to withhold it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Did the adequate reinforcements consist of the three items named in Lord Selborne's Question?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I should like to ask what reason had Sir Arthur Paget to imagine that there would be serious disturbance in Ulster. Also, if the object was only to protect stores, what was the reason for sending these great armaments and this large number of troops. I asked the noble Viscount the other day to explain what Sir Arthur Paget meant by Ulster being "in a blaze." He reproved me and told me that I should have waited, but no attempt was made in the discussion which followed to give me an explanation. It is utterly hopeless to expect from His Majesty's Ministers in the course of debate any straightforward answers. I therefore repeat the question now.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I hope your Lordships will get answers in the course of the debate. But at this moment you had better hear what we have to say, be it much or be it little.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
The noble Viscount has said that the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in Ireland has been requested to send full replies to Lord Midleton's last three Questions. Would he also inquire of Sir Arthur Paget, as to my noble friend's first Question, what actually did happen?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I will certainly do my best to procure an answer to any fair question, and this does not seem unfair.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I beg to ask the Lord President of the Council what were the precise circumstances in which the Secretary of State for War consulted him as to the two paragraphs at the close of the Memorandum of the Army Council of March 23; whether he acquiesced in the appearance of those paragraphs; and whether they were seen and concurred in by any other members of the Cabinet.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
My Lords, I have no difficulty in making a plain, unvarnished statement. I assume that your Lordships all know the events to which the noble Earl's Question refers. After the Cabinet dispersed on Monday last, March 23, I stayed behind to ascertain from Colonel Seely particulars for my answers to the Questions which were to be put to me that afternoon in your Lordships' House. Colonel Seely was occupied with the draft from the Army Council, and he showed me the two proposed paragraphs, the guilty and peccant paragraphs. I did not perceive then, and I do not perceive now, that those paragraphs differed in spirit and substance either from the previous paragraphs already sanctioned by the Cabinet, or from the words that I had myself used in this House in reply to the noble Marquess opposite on the Monday; and my answer was sanctioned by the Cabinet. The noble Earl may refer to what fell from me in reply to the noble Marquess on Monday last. Colonel Seely told me on this occa- 763 sion that he regarded the two new paragraphs as representing accurately the substance of what the officers from Ireland had already been given to understand, and were a necessary addition to make the Memorandum from the Army Council complete. I made one or two very slight verbal alterations not in the least affecting the general sense, and Colonel Seely wrote down the words. They were more his than mine, but that is immaterial.
In this I admit—I make the confession to your Lordships—I joined in an offence against a sound Cabinet rule, and if there is a man in either House who is for the sanctity of Cabinet regulations, order, and practice, I am that man. I offended along with Colonel Seely—we both offended—against that rule, and that is all the offence to which I, at any rate, plead guilty. I did not recapitulate to Colonel Seely the Cabinet discussion. It is said, "You were at the Cabinet and heard the discussion; Colonel Seely was in attendance upon His Majesty; you knew what the Cabinet meant." I did not recapitulate the Cabinet discussion because the revised draft of the Army Council with some pencilled interlineations inserted in the Cabinet told their own story to Colonel Seely. Time was precious, and why should I recapitulate a discussion the results of which were plainly indicated in the pencilled memorandum which he had in his hand?
As to General Gough's letter, to which I beg your Lordships' attention—it is at the top of the last page of the White Paper—I was not in the least aware of the existence of that letter. Therefore, when I agreed to the two peccant paragraphs it was not in the least as a response to General Gough's letter. It was a completion, in Colonel Seely's own language—a completion and perfection of the memorandum. It ought not to have been done without the Cabinet, no doubt, but that is between me and the Cabinet. In answer to the other part of the noble Earl's Question, I have only to say that no other member of the Cabinet—I see numbers of idle stories—no other member of the Cabinet was present at this proceeding between Colonel Seely and myself. That is the answer to the noble Earl's Question. It is the best answer I can make, and it is a true answer.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I am grateful, and I am sure your Lordships are grateful, to the noble Viscount for the very candid explanation he has given of circumstances which have been the cause of some doubt and misapprehension. There is only one question arising out of his reply which I should like to put, although I must confess that I hardly expect to receive an answer. How comes it, if the noble Viscount approved of these paragraphs in consultation with the Secretary of State for War; if they seemed to him, as he told us just now, not to differ in spirit or in substance from that which was the accepted policy of the Government discussed only a little while before—
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
And stated, as the noble Viscount says, by him in this House, which strengthens my point—how comes it, if that was the case, if the Government felt themselves impelled to withdraw these paragraphs and if the Secretary of State for War resigned, that we still have the good fortune to see the noble Viscount in charge of the Government Bench in this House?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
rose to call attention to the new Army Order announced to the House of Commons on Friday last, March 27, and to the circumstances which had led to its issue; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I shall not attempt to-night to cover all the aspects of this grave subject which we are met to debate. I shall ask your Lordships to consider only what I will call the attempted coup détat and the Army Order issued by the Government last Friday. Last week the Prime Minister made two very important statements. The first was to The Times on Monday, the 23rd, and the second was in the House of Commons on Friday, the 27th. I knew the Prime Minister much too well in happier times to make it possible for me to doubt his word or impugn his honour for one moment, but it is the bare truth to say that the explanations furnished to him are quite incompatible with established 765 facts. I am glad to hear that the Prime Minister is to go to the War Office. I think when he gets there he will have the greatest surprise of his life when he finds what some of his colleagues really have been doing.
I ask your Lordships to consider what the Prime Minister said in his famous interview to The Times on the 23rd instant, and he could not have said what he did if he had been fully informed. In the first place, his description of the movements of the troops was this—The dispersal of small bodies of troops to give additional protection to arms, ammunition, and stores.I will show you, my Lords, presently that that explanation is not compatible either with General Paget's statement or with the speech which Mr. Churchill made in the House of Commons last week. Then the Prime Minister went on to speak of the naval movement, and he said—It was simply the use of two small cruisers to carry a detachment of troops to Carrickfergus.Now that statement is quite incompatible with Mr. Churchill's explanation about the movement of the battle squadron which he gave to the House of Commons on the 25th instant—a battle squadron, my Lords, which was moved aside from its ordinary path of routine work to go to Lamlash Bay, which carried on board the battleships an unusual equipment of field guns, and which, curiously enough, was suddenly checked in mid-ocean and the orders given countermanded, though at that moment the policy which the Government described—the occupation by small garrisons of certain old barracks—was being carried out. The only new thing that had happened had been the crisis in Ireland caused by the communication of General Paget to his officers. And lastly—and I would draw the noble Viscount's attention to this—the Prime Minister said to The Times that there was no inquisition intended into the intention of officers in the event of their being asked to take up arms against Ulster; but at the very moment that the Prime Minister made that statement such an inquisition had already taken place as the result of direct instructions to General Paget from the War Office.
Now I pass to the Prime Minister's statement in the House of Commons on 766 Friday last. At that time I say he had been misinformed. These were his words—It is altogether untrue that the Government or any member of the Government ever contemplated active operations of an aggressive character in Ulster, or any operation which now or in the future would impose upon the Army any duty or any service which is not amply covered by the terms of this Order,—"this Order" being the new Army Order. I am here to maintain that we have clear evidence of the contemplation of extensive operations. I would refer your Lordships again to the statement read out by Mr. Bonar Law in the House of Commons last week and by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, here, which was the exact account of one who was present of what passed between Sir Arthur Paget and his officers. Sir Arthur Paget said that—active operations were to be begun against Ulster; that he expected the country to be in a blaze by Saturday; that he had been in close communication with the War Office, and that he had the following instructions from the War Office to convey to the officers.Those instructions were that—officers domiciled in Ulster will be allowed to disappear and will be reinstated in their positions, but they must give their word of honour not to fight for Ulster.
I want to draw your Lordships' particular attention to these points—the words "active operations"; the words that Ulster would be "in a blaze"; the assurance of Sir Arthur Paget to those whom he addressed that he had been in close communication with the War Office; the still further assurance that the instructions that he was about to convey to the officers were given directly to him from the War Office to be conveyed to those officers; and, finally, the very remarkable expression used in connection with officers who are domiciled in Ulster. The condition of their release from service was that they should not fight for Ulster. How can anybody examine that statement of Sir Arthur Paget's and doubt for one single moment that something much more was contemplated in Ulster than the movement of four companies of Infantry to occupy four old disused barracks? My Lords, I ask you to remember this, that that statement has now been before the whole of the United Kingdom for more than a week. Has Sir Arthur Paget denied its accuracy? Is any Minister here on behalf of Sir Arthur Paget prepared to get up and say that that account is inaccurate? Therefore we may 767 take it as historically true, that whatever had passed between Sir Arthur Paget and the Government, Sir Arthur Paget conscientiously believed that these active operations were going to take place.
From the evidence of Sir Arthur Paget I pass to Mr. Churchill's speech in the House of Commons on the 25th instant. This is what Mr. Churchill said—On the 11th, this day fortnight, the Cabinet decided that a battle squadron with its attendant ships should be stationed at Lamlash, because that is a good place for them to be at to do their work, and also because they would be conveniently situated in case of grave disorder arising…. The squadron was certainly allowed to hold on its course steadily so long as it was not certain whether the movements—that is, the movements of the troops in Ireland—would be effected, as we hoped and expected they would be, without bloodshed or serious military opposition.Mr. Churchill added that as soon as it was clear that there was no serious opposition the movements of the battle squadron were delayed, and he proceeded to say—When movements, however limited, however precautionary, however reasonable, however non-provocative in themselves, have to be made, it is necessary that contingent preparations should Also be taken into account…. That is the explanation of a great deal that you will read in the next few days in the newspapers of stores, and ships, and men, and guns, and ambulances, and pontoon sections, and so forth that were taken into general consideration in case contingent movements should be necessary.Is it not perfectly clear that Mr. Churchill mentioned all those things in order to discount the effect of the revelation that he saw was coming, and that he safeguarded himself by all these preliminary and conditional words about precautions and non-provocation.
But the words to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention are the words about bloodshed and serious opposition. It is quite clear that Mr. Churchill at least had been contemplating the possibility of bloodshed and of serious opposition. The whole of this business of stores, and ships, and men, and guns, and ambulances, and pontoon sections, and so forth—why, my Lords, that is the whole paraphernalia of war. Nobody thinks of those things when four companies of Infantry are moving to guard arms, ammunition, and stores. Prom the answers given by the noble Viscount just now it is quite clear that he admits part of the statement of Sir Arthur Paget 768 to his officers. About part he has no information; as regards part he says that no such instructions were given by the Government. Sir Arthur Paget never said—he is not reported to have said—that he received these instructions from His Majesty's Government direct. He said that he received them from the War Office. And that brings me really to the centre of the mystery, for at the moment when Mr. Churchill was contemplating the whole of this paraphernalia of war and the possibility of bloodshed, when Sir Arthur Paget believed that he was about to be plunged into active operations in Ulster, Ulster was in the most profound tranquillity. When the King's troops were moved, how were they received? By bells ringing and the people cheering, as they always have been received in Ireland.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Certainly in Ulster, and I hope also in Ireland. What, then, had Mr. Churchill in his mind? The Government profess to have been afraid of raids on these arms and stores. There has been nothing of the kind up to the present. Can the Government tell us what authority they had for believing that such raids were contemplated; why they thought that the attitude of absolute tranquillity, of absolute obedience to law which has hitherto distinguished the Ulster preparations, was suddenly going to be changed, and that there were to be raids upon these arms and stores?
Now comes Sir John Simon, and he lets in some light. He tells us what we did not know before, though we might have guessed it, that there was a Committee of the Cabinet to deal with this matter. He tells us that he was a member. We do not know, though we can guess, who some of the other members were. But it is very important that we should have reached that point—that there was an inner Cabinet, a junta of the Cabinet, that had this thing in hand. Sir John Simon said that on his word of honour neither he nor any of his colleagues contemplated any "unprovoked butchery in Ulster." Of course, they did not. None of us have ever suggested that any of our political opponents would be capable of 769 contemplating anything of tie kind. But what is perfectly clear from what has been told us by Sir Arthur Paget and in Mr. Churchill's own statement is that operations were intended that might have led to all the incidents of war, and that is the point. The incidents of war, of course, include loss of life, but that does not mean unprovoked butchery. It means the killing of men on both sides in fair fight, as will happen in civil disturbances just as much as in foreign warfare. That is the danger that we have been apprehending; that is the nightmare that has been inflicting itself upon our imaginations all this time—that there would be some action of the Government which would result in provoking this very conflict which they, just as much as we, must dread from the bottom of their hearts.
The Government told us that there had been a misunderstanding. Where? That is a question which has never been answered. There was no misunderstanding between Sir Arthur Paget and his officers. He has not contradicted the statement as to what he said to them. The Government repudiate part at least of what he said. Then the misunderstanding was between Sir Arthur Paget and the War Office. We ask the noble Viscount to tell us what really happened at the War Office on that fateful day when Sir Arthur Paget met the Secretary of State for War and some other of his colleagues. What instructions did Sir Arthur Paget then receive? Whom did he meet? Who talked to him? Was it only the members of the Army Council? Was it only the Secretary of State? Or was it the Committee of the Cabinet which Sir John Simon has told us was appointed to deal with this very thing? If the Government meant nothing but the movement of four companies of troops, how did they contrive to give this terrible misapprehension to the officer who was instructed to carry out their command? What really was the explanation of the misunderstanding, and who is responsible for it? Did the Cabinet as a whole really know nothing about it at all? Or are the noble Viscount opposite and his colleagues in the Cabinet the victims of a criminal blunder by a sort of Mexican triumvirate? The whole meaning of the action of the Government is unintelligible at present. Is it possible, I ask the noble Viscount, that what they really meant to do was to order the Constabulary to search for arms, 770 to take arms away wherever they found them, and that they meant to support that action of the Constabulary with all the Naval and Military Forces of the Crown, no matter what might be the consequences? At any rate that would be an explanation of these preparations, which have been denied but which have been amply proved.
I pass from the mystery of the contemplated coup d'état to the new Army Order which was issued last Friday. In the first place, I would suggest that there has been a mistake about the heading. The heading is "Special Army Order: Discipline." I think it ought to have been "Special Cabinet Order: Sanity." Let us take the first paragraph—No officer or soldier should in future be questioned by his superior officer as to the attitude he will adopt or as to his action in the event of his being required to obey orders dependent on future or hypothetical contingencies.But, my Lords, since there was a British Army who has ever thought it right to put hypothetical questions to officers or men until this Government did it? This is a reflection only upon the Government, because it was on direct instructions from the War Office, as Sir Arthur Paget stated, that he went to these officers and did this very thing which the Government now condemn. He questioned his officers and told his Generals to question the officers under them as to the attitude they would adopt in certain future or hypothetical contingencies. Out of their own mouth are the Government condemned by this first paragraph of their new Army Order. It is nothing but a formal confession of a Government standing before the nation in the white sheet of penitence.
Now I pass to paragraph No. 2 of the new Army Order—An officer or soldier is forbidden in future to ask for assurances as to orders which he may be required to obey.Any student of the Radical Press would believe that that is an Order necessitated by General Gough's conduct, and that it is a reflection upon him. What are the real circumstances under which General Gough wrote the letter of March 23 to the Adjutant-General to which the noble Viscount referred just now—I might almost call it that fatal letter, because I presume from what the noble Viscount has said, that it is entirely to the relations between that letter and the Cabinet Memorandum that all these resignations are due.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I must inform or remind the noble Earl that that letter at the top of the last page of the White Paper was not known to me at the time that I was talking with Colonel Seely.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I think we clearly understand that, but the noble Viscount will admit that this letter has played an important part in all this question. Now under what circumstances did General Gough write that letter? He made a request for certain explanations, but he made no request for any assurances precedent to obeying any order that he had received or any future orders. The assurances he asked for had nothing whatever to do with obedience to orders. The assurances he asked for were in connection with his resignation which he had put in on the direct invitation of the Government and which the Government were now pressing him to withdraw. It is very necessary, at this time of such gross misrepresentation of the conduct of the Army, to remember that General Paget went straight from the War Office. Under the instructions of the War Office he offered General Gough two alternatives. General Gough accepted that alternative which meant to him professional ruin and resigned his commission. The Government became convinced that there had been a misunderstanding, and they requested him to withdraw his resignation because there had been a misunderstanding. All that General Gough asked for was certain assurances lest there should be any further misunderstanding. He never asked for any assurances at all in connection with his obedience to any orders. Therefore that second paragraph in the new Army Order, though quite excellent and right in its purport, is no reflection upon General Gough.
We had an answer just now from the noble Viscount to the first Question which I asked him—an answer which will ring through the whole nation and through the whole world, an answer to the calumnies that have been heaped upon the Army by the Radical Press. The noble Viscount told us that the discipline of the Army had been exemplary, that no officer or man had refused to obey any order. Yes, my Lords, that is what the noble Viscount tells us now; but if you turn to the White Paper you will learn 772 that that is only a continuation of conduct which has never known a stain through all these trying months. For Colonel Seely says in the first Memorandum in the White Paper, under date December 16—During the past year there had not been brought to the notice of the authorities one single case of lack of discipline in this respect.And now we know from the noble Viscount that there has been no refusal on the part of any officer or man to obey orders.
Therefore what was the situation that produced this extraordinary outburst in the House of Commons last week? The Government had made an incredible blunder—not the Army but the Government—and the sense of shame that supervened on that, the sense of danger to the life of the Government and to Party interests, deprived some of the supporters of the Government and some of their colleagues of all remaining scruples; and they hastened to do what they could to create a diversion and to find a new cry which would save them from the consequences of their own actions. Listen to what Mr. Churchill said on March 25. "A great issue has been raised, The Army versus Parliament," and, again, "The Army versus the People." My Lords, that issue has been most unhappily raised for the moment, but not by the Army, not by anything that the Army has done, not by anything that we on this side of the House have done, but entirely by those members of the Party opposite who have no scruple. Never since the days of Cromwell has the Army shown any doubt as to its proper function under our system. Never has it disputed in any degree that it is subordinate to Parliament, that it must take its orders from the King, or that the supreme governing authority in this country is the Government of the King. And as for the issue, The Army versus the People, why, my Lords, the Army and the nation are one. The Army is part of the nation; it is the blood and bone of the nation; and there could be no more conflict between the Army and the nation than there could be between Mr. Churchill's left hand and his body.
That was not all that Mr. Churchill said. He said that every effort had been made by Mr. Balfour and by Mr. Bonar Law "to show that it is always right for soldiers 773 to shoot down a Radical or a labour man." We are all somewhat highly strung. In this crisis it is difficult to say nothing that one would afterwards regret. But, my Lords, this comes from Mr. Churchill about the Party to which he once belonged; about his fellow-countrymen, because they differ from him; about Mr. Balfour, whom he was proud to call his friend and whom when he first came into the House of Commons he used to look on as a political father. I think that noble Lords on the Government Benches will acquit me of going beyond the mark if I say here and now that these words of Mr. Churchill's are a foul falsehood. I would say more. I would say that within our generation and within our time no speech more wicked has ever been made in the House of Commons.
Then I come to the third paragraph of the new Army Order—In particular it is the duty of every officer and soldier to obey all lawful commands given to them through the proper channel, either for the safeguarding of public property, or the support of the civil power in the ordinary execution of its duty, or for the protection of the lives and property of the inhabitants in the case of disturbance of the peace.The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, the other day quoted words that I used at Derby on December 3. I was much obliged to the noble Viscount for quoting those words, and I should like to repeat them now. I said—I would never hear, at the time of this crisis or any other crisis, the suggestion that it could be the duty of the Army to refuse to obey orders. The duty of a soldier, were he officer or private, was obedience to lawful command.That was what I then said, and I adhere to it and repeat it. Therefore I agree entirely with the wording and the meaning of the third paragraph of the new Army Order. But what soldier has ever doubted that? No doubt ever arose in the mind of any soldier that that was his duty. Why did I use the words which I have quoted? Because I knew that some of the supporters of the Party opposite would one day get up and say, when they found themselves confronted with the difficulties of the situation in Ireland, that it was we who had tampered with the discipline of the Army and that it was we who were responsible for the impasse to which they had come. Not only does that express my view, but I agree with Mr. Bonar Law when he said that if the policy of Home Rule were endorsed by the voice of the 774 nation at a General Election, or by means of a referendum, the Government would have authority then to impose it upon Ireland by force. I agree with that. But I ask you, What would be the value to Ireland of Home Rule so achieved? What would become of the unity of Ireland, of the peace of Ireland, and of the reconciliation of England and Ireland?
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
Yes; but it is a very pertinent argument. There never has been a civilised community thrown out of a form of government which it loved at the point of the bayonet by the very men who wielded the power of that government, and made to subject itself to a form of government which it dreaded. There never has been such a case in history, and although we take the view I have stated about discipline in the Army we say that for the Government to impose Home Rule by force on the Covenanters would be one of the most horrible crimes in history. The doctrine that you are really contending for is the doctrine of the divine right of the majority for the time being in the House of Commons. Our fathers did not strip Charles I of divine right in order that we should be willing to put that moth-eaten garment on the shoulders of Mr. Devlin. The only authority which can decide this matter is the nation; and the root of your difficulty really is this, that you find that you have at least half the nation against you—I put it at more; you put it at less. And the same difficulty applies to us—I entirely admit it. That is why we have pressed you again and again to find out what the nation really does wish by means of a General Election or by a referendum; but you will not have either a General Election or a referendum. Sir Edward Carson has told you, in respect of your offer of the temporary exclusion of Ulster, that if you will give the men of Ulster the same power of deciding their own fate at the end of six years as you offer them now he will take that offer to his friends in Ireland. You have refused that. And in his last speech Sir Edward Carson put before you the alternative of devolution as the only way he could see out of the terrible impasse which we have reached. I speak only for myself, but I do believe, if the nation is permanently divided into two camps of approximately equal 775 strength in this great controversy, that the only way out is by a process of devolution. But what I am quite sure of is that you never can have any final settlement of this question except a national settlement; and I also am sure of this—that for one-half of the nation to try and trample on the deepest convictions of the other half, as you are doing, is the sure road to national disaster.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the new Army Order announced to the House of Commons on March 27, and to the circumstances which have led to its issue.—(The Earl of Selborne.)
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, we are discussing a subject of the very gravest importance—graver, indeed, as regards potential disaster to the nation than anything that has occurred for generations. It is then with a very real sense of the seriousness of the situation that I rise to make an appeal to your Lordships and through you to the people of this country—regardless of class or political creed—to make an end of all these idle but dangerous and mischievous assertions, that the Army is implicated in any political conspiracy and that it is allowing itself to be used as the tool of one Party in the State. These baseless assertions are being freely made in the Press and in speeches by politicians, and it is sought to substantiate them by equally wild and slanderous charges of disobedience of orders and disregard of discipline. My Lords, there is not the smallest justification of any sort, kind, or description, for a single one of these indictments of the Army. Where they are not inspired by a reckless desire to secure a Party score, or by a malicious disregard of truth, they have their origin in complete ignorance of the Army—its sentiments, feelings, and conditions of life.
I can fairly claim to have some knowledge of these things, and I can tell you, my Lords, with all the conviction produced by 62 years of service in the Army—and I am sure that those of your Lordships who have had the honour of serving His Majesty will bear me out in this—that the soldier does not trouble himself about Party politics; indeed, he dislikes politics, and his indifference is even tinged with contempt for the unfortunate people engaged in political warfare, as men who are perforce bereft of individuality. That, believe me, my Lords, is the general feeling in the 776 Army; and if you add to that the sense of esprit de corps and almost inordinate pride in the Army, is it ever conceivable that soldiers would consent to engage in a political plot, or to assist one Party to secure a political advantage over its opponents? The thing is an absurdity. The man is not living who could seduce the Army to play so despicable a part.
And, my Lords, what are those charges of indiscipline and disobedience of orders? Your Lordships are fully aware of the facts of the deplorable situation produced by the ultimatum which was suddenly hurled at the troops in Ireland the week before last. I defy anybody to give me a solitary instance of indiscipline or disobedience. At the instigation of the Government—or so we must presume until it has been proved to be otherwise—the officers were asked to make their choice between two terrible alternatives. This option was unsought by them. It was deliberately given to them by the Government, acting through General Sir Arthur Paget as its mouthpiece, and they were given but the scantiest time in which to consider the momentous choice that they were commanded to make.
Now, my Lords, the all-important fact of what I have said—and it cannot be stated too often—is that in exercising the option thus forced upon them, there was obviously no semblance of disobedience of orders. But what of the choice that was put before these officers? Dismiss from your minds the ridiculous fallacy that officers of the Army are a wealthy and privileged class, and consider the nature of the option unexpectedly placed before them. They were to be ready to operate against the men of Ulster—loyal subjects of the King, flying the Union Jack—or to send in their resignations and be dismissed from, the Army with consequent loss of their careers and their pensions. This latter meant to all the break up of a home, the sundering of ties which had bound them for years—the ties of comradeship, love of regiment, and pride in the Army. It meant to all the loss of occupation and the waste of many years of strenuous endeavour; it meant to many—and, my Lords, I would draw your particular attention to this—the almost total loss of the means of livelihood. And yet the finger of scorn is pointed at the officers who chose this latter alternative. They are made the subjects of false charges, are accused of wishing to dictate to the Government, and are branded as conspirators.
777 It is high time for the sake of the nation, no less than for the sake of the Army, that these perversions of the truth should cease, and that the Army should be allowed to disappear from the political arena, into which it has been thrust, much against its own wish or expectation. I know what I am speaking about when I tell your Lordships that the Army as a whole had so little considered the political situation, and the atmosphere in which it has its being is so devoid of political elements, that it has never conceived the possibility of finding itself entangled in this manner. It has, indeed, often surprised me to mark the air of personal detachment with which the Army has regarded this great political struggle; but so it has been, and I say no more than the truth when I state that the Government's ultimatum was like the springing of a mine to the Army.
I need say little more, my Lords. My desire has been to nail to the counter once and for all the lies that are being told as to officers having disobeyed orders. If any further justification of their action were needed, surely it is to be found in the unexampled and unprecedented course taken by the Government in offering alternatives to the officers. For what, my Lords, does this portend? What is the irresistible implication arising from this course? Why this departure from custom? Surely the only reason and true reason is that the Government realised that they were going to make demands on the Army which they had no right to make, and which the constituted authorities, as revealed in the Army Act and the King's Regulations, gave them no excuse for making. These authoritative works lay down in the most detailed manner what the duties of the military forces are. They are very precise as to the manner in which those duties are to be performed and the penalties for non-performance; they cover the whole field of the possible and even improbable uses to which the Army can be put. What duties, then, did the Government intend asking of the Army that led to this novel step? What was contemplated? Obviously something that was not legislated for in the Army Act or the King's Regulations. My Lords, I can discover only one answer to this question, and that is in Chapter I of the Manual of Military Law, where the following words will be found:—" English Law never presupposes the possibility of Civil War and makes no express provision for such contingencies."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My Lords, in the two speeches to which we have just listened there is allusion to one fact which gives me satisfaction. Both of the speakers doubtless realised that a new and serious issue has been raised—the issue between the Army and the People, as the noble Earl calls it; that is to say, the issue whether the Army is to be the instrument of the State or whether it is to be the subject of a political battle such as has been known with disastrous consequences in times gone by. I realise that noble Lords who sit on the Opposition side of the House are beginning to be aware of the seriousness of the question which has been raised. There has been going on for weeks and months a tornado of articles in the journals which support their policy, speeches made in both Houses, in Covenants, documents to which the signatures of important people have been appended, which have suggested that it is an open question whether the Army ought to do its duty in coming to the support of the civil power. No less than that has been raised, and it is time that your Lordships should realise the consequences which inevitably attend speeches of this kind. I entirely agree with the noble Earl and the noble and gallant Field-Marshal that it is no part of the Army's duty to enter into politics. It is wrong to bring the Army into politics in any way. I have known the Army, I have lived with it, I have got to care for it, and I say that no more splendid body of men exists in this country, animated, officers and men alike, with a desire to do their duty. They do not raise questions. It is only when from outside they are given incitements that we have such incidents as have happened lately. A large number of officers raised a big issue at the Curragh.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I repeat what I have said. They have not disobeyed orders, it is quite true; but they have raised questions about orders which may be given to them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Oh, yes, they have. They have raised questions about orders which may be given to them, and they have even gone so far as to ask for guarantees.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Well, take the letter of General Gough himself, one of the most honourable of officers. It has got to this, that he asked for a guarantee.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
He asked for a guarantee that he should not be given certain orders; nothing short of that. I say that is deplorable. That incident at the Curragh is a very serious symptom of the consequences of what has been going on as the result of appeals made in the Press and by distinguished individuals. And, my Lords, is it after all very much to be wondered at? The noble Earl spoke of a plot. He spoke as though, absolutely for no reason at all, precautionary movements had been taken. But we have read in the newspapers for months of a great armed force being raised and drilled in Ulster, upon which every encomium has been lavished by military correspondents and of the formidableness of which we have been assured. I suppose it is suggested that it is the duty of the Government to do nothing, to take no stock of its resources, with proceedings of that kind going on. I make these observations as a preliminary to what I am going to say.
I do not blame your Lordships for raising the question which you have raised. On the contrary, I think it is the duty of an Opposition to examine most closely into the proceedings of the Government of the day. It is not merely its right, it is its duty; and I admit at once that there are many things which have been deserving of searching questioning in the past. But in order to understand these things we must look at the genesis of them. In order to understand the feeling which has arisen about these matters we must really 780 see what was the beginning. Undoubtedly there has been a suggestion made that when the time for action came, when one great political Party was seeking to put a political decision into operation, the Army might be found refusing to carry out the behests of the Executive of the day. Any one who raises that point touches upon one of the most sensitive points in the English conscience. There are few things which have entered more deeply into the people's minds, few things which are more characteristic of our nation, than what are called the conventions of our Constitution. One of these conventions has been, and has been for a long time, that the Army is not to be a power which can set itself up against the orders of the State. My Lords, there were great controversies over this matter which were set at rest a long time ago. At the time of the Revolution settlement, Parliament laid it down that the maintenance of a standing Army in time of peace was unlawful, and that remains the law of the Constitution to this hour. It is only on sufferance that an Army exists from year to year. Every twelve months the maintenance of the Army has to be renewed; an Act has to be passed suspending the action of that part of the Bill of Rights which makes the keeping of a standing Army in time of peace illegal. More than that, the other House exercises scrutiny over every penny for the Army, and the money for the Army comes from Votes in the House. The people, through their representatives, therefore regard the Army as an institution which exists only within these limits, and there are few things on which they are more sensitive than the insistence of maintaining that principle.
I became aware of a consciousness in the mind of the noble Earl who spoke first of the difficulties that would arise if any suggestion of questioning these principles came before the public mind. I do not wonder that the noble Earl was uneasy. As I say, I have known and cared for the Army, and the last thing I should wish to see is the question of the Army thrown into the arena of political controversy. I am certain that if this constitutional principle came again into question, there would arise about it such a combination of forces—Labour men, Liberals, and all sorts of people of whom you do not hear—as would make the hidden sense of the nation, the private feeling of 781 the people, felt with an emphasis that would put an end not only to that question but to a great many other questions at the same time. I do not desire such a question to be raised. I know that the people are talking of some different constitution for the Army, alarmed at the events of the last few days. I feel perfectly sure of this, that any attempt to reform the Army and make it what is called a democratic Army would be an attempt attended by the most enormous difficulties. It would take fifteen years probably to put the Army upon a different footing and a large expenditure of public money, and then I do not think you would get anything like the splendid service we get from the present generation of officers. That is why I regard it as almost a political crime to bring the position of the Army into controversy. That is why I feel strongly, almost intensely, the evil effect of the articles which I have read day by day in the Conservative and Unionist journals, and the speeches which have been made and the suggestions in written documents, which point to this—that the position of the Army and its duty of obedience to the Executive power is in some way an open question.
I come now to the questions of a more detailed kind which have been raised by the noble Earl, because what I have said especially bears on them. The noble Earl seems to suggest that without any necessity the Government have been making preparations for some active operations of an aggressive character against Ulster designed to overawe and to put down manifestations of feeling against the Home Rule Bill, and that that constitutes a plan which was sanctioned, if not by the whole Cabinet, at least by some Committee of the Cabinet. My Lords, nothing of the kind took place. There has been what I spoke of before—illegal drilling in Ulster, utterly illegal raising of troops—the spectacle of which the Government gazed upon with patience because they thought it better not to take certain steps. But it became their imperative duty, at all events, to see that they had instruments at their hand which would enable them to preserve law and order if a conflict took place. I say it was the duty of the Government to do that in view of what had taken place, and I say these movements were only reasonable precautions.
782 To what does all this amount? Lord Selborne gave us a close and full analysis of all that had taken place, and he constructed his story. I should like to ask him one single plain question. Does he think that in the days of these drillings in Ulster, of the raising of a force of 100,000 men the military excellence of which we have heard so much, it was the duty of the Government to do nothing? Does he think that we should be worthy of the name of a Government if we had done nothing and not taken the necessary precautions in such circumstances? The question has only to be put to answer itself.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The logic of the noble Viscount astonishes me. Because I say it was our duty to take some precaution against these menaces, therefore the story of the noble Earl is true. The story of the noble Earl was that we did what I said he stated we did—that we organised a large active operation for coercing Ulster and putting down opposition to the Home Rule Bill. There is not a word of truth in the suggestion that we did anything of the sort, or that we did more than take the proper precautions which it was the duty of any Government to take in the conditions which have come into existence in the last few months.
When the noble Earl came to details it was extraordinary. He spoke of the battle squadron, and he spoke of it as if the sending of that battle squadron to Lamlash Bay constituted the beginning of a naval demonstration. The battle squadron was sent to Lamlash Bay because that was a very convenient place for it to lie by. It was sent to Lamlash Bay as part of the preventive measures, and it was a very proper place for that squadron to be sent to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It was withdrawn as soon as it was found that the troops had been peaceably moved from Dublin to Ulster; and that was the only reason why it was withdrawn. Then the noble Earl spoke of the other naval movements. Two small cruisers and, I think, a torpedo destroyer went to assist the movement of troops from one point to the other. That is all that took place. I think the imagination of the noble Earl ran riot. He suggested a military junta, an Inner Cabinet, which consisted of my right hon. friend Sir John Simon and other peaceable people, who apparently set themselves to devise a plot or plan to make a movement against Ulster which certainly might not have been within the knowledge of their colleagues in the Government. Does the noble Earl really think these things occurred?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Then the experience of the noble Earl must be different from any experience I have had. Plans of that kind could not remain unknown to the Cabinet for a day, and they would have been interfered with and stopped in a most summary fashion. Nothing of the kind ever happened. I do not propose to speak of that Committee of the Cabinet, because my noble friend who leads the House, and who, I hope, will speak to-morrow, may be able to give your Lordships some information about it in detail beyond what it is necessary for me to enter upon at this moment. All I have to say, and I say it in the most pointed way, is that the Cabinet had nothing whatever to do with anything except that those comparatively small preventive measures should be undertaken.
The noble Earl went on to other topics. He went on to speak about the new Army Order, and he asked why it was issued. It was issued because it was necessary to define what the precise position of the officers and soldiers in the Army is, and it is a useful Order because it explains the duties of the officers and men in this precise way. That was the reason for the Army Order, and it has put things on a basis from which we can make a fresh start. Then the noble Earl proceeded to discuss the general question of Home Rule. I will not enter into that. I do not think this is the occasion for a general discussion 784 of the policy of Home Rule. What we are here to discuss to-day is whether or not the notion is to be tolerated that the Army should depart from the true Army spirit of which we have heard so much during the last week.
The situation in which we stand to-day is this, and simply this—that the steps taken were the proper and the necessary steps which always ought to be taken by a Government which is responsible if conflict comes about between the civil authority and persons who desire to create a disturbance. Whenever you find a movement such as has been going on in the way of raising these troops in Ulster, and these illegal drillings, and things of that kind, then inevitably it becomes the duty of the Government to take preventive measures. The only measures we have taken have been preventive measures on the basis of which I have spoken. Some gallant officers appear to have got it into their heads that something more was intended, and I do not wonder at it. It is enough to read the headlines in the Press, even if you do not give much attention to politics. The noble and gallant Field-Marshal said that the officers in the Army did not concern themselves with politics. Many of them do not, and that is why if a continuous stream of misrepresentation is poured out on them they cannot prevent their minds and imaginations being touched by the unreality which is represented in the Press.
I think that nothing more deplorable has happened than the way in which these unfortunate officers have been misled by the suggestions made to them in some of the organs which support noble Lords who sit upon the Opposition side of the House, and which are responsible in a large measure for what has recently happened. It may well be that there have been faults in this matter—faults, I dare say, upon both sides. I said to your Lordships the other day that the sooner we got to the end of this incident the better. I say it again to-day; and I say it in the interests of the thing which concerns me most—the Army. It is very bad for the Army to be brought into public discussion in the way the Army has been. No men are less deserving of the kind of misrepresentation and misunderstanding which has been poured upon them perfectly 785 freely, and poured upon them from both sides—that they are taking a part in political affairs which would lead them away from their duty. During the last three days I have seen much of two colleagues of mine on the Army Council with whom it was my privilege to be closely associated—Sir John French and Sir Spencer Ewart. Two more admirable examples of the Army spirit, and what it ought to be, it has never been my privilege to know. They are men permeated with a sincere desire to do what is right; and if to-day they have resigned their offices, they have done so, not on account of any difference of view about policy which has arisen between them and the King's Government, but because they felt, there having been a misunderstanding, that it was well in the interests of the Army that they should—I hope only temporarily—withdraw from giving their active services in this connection.
A good deal of discussion has been lavished upon the terms of the document which on March 23 was given to General Gough after being partly settled by the Cabinet. But there is another document about which we have heard very little; yet the first document cannot be read without the light cast by the second document. General Gough asked for a guarantee—to use his own phrase—from Sir John French later on in the day, and Sir John French gave it. Sir John French imagined, and was right in imagining, that he had what justified him in believing that he was directed to take this course. He had before him what gave him ground for thinking that it was expected that he should give these explanations to General Gough in the form in which they appear in the White Paper laid before Parliament. I said before, and I say it again, that when my noble friend the Lord President of the Council saw that document he knew absolutely nothing of General Gough's letter. It had not come over to the Cabinet, or, if it had come over to my right hon. friend Colonel Seely, he had not opened it or considered it. My noble friend knew nothing about that letter, and it is that letter which must be read in juxtaposition with that other document, and it gives that other document an entirely different character.
I ask your Lordships whether it was possible for any Government which respected itself, or any Government which 786 respected the rule that officers must not bargain about orders, to let these documents go. I think it has been a very unfortunate circumstance that things were done in the way they were done, but they were not done through the fault of the members of the Cabinet, who were simply doing their duty in defining in precise terms what the policy of the Government was. The documents as they have appeared have led to a misunderstanding which it is desirable should be eradicated. It is with a view of eradicating this misunderstanding, with a view to putting matters on a new footing, with a view to restoring confidence in the Army and to seeing that there shall be no bargaining about orders in the future, that we have taken the steps we have taken. The Prime Minister has assumed a heavy burden, but it is a burden that we are all desirous he should take upon himself if his strength will bear it, because we think that in that way better than in any other we can bring back a condition of things honourable to the Army and one which I believe the Army has never in the least had it in its head to depart from.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble and learned Viscount who has just sat down that what is called the Curragh incident is a deplorable one, but I think he may be reminded that that incident would never have arisen had General Paget not received certain orders from the War Office which he may or may not have misinterpreted and misunderstood. I think it is deplorable also that the noble and learned Viscount, appreciating the Army as he does, should not have used his great influence to check the shabby attacks which have been made on honourable men whose only crime is that when what they conceived to be an option was put before them they made the choice least favourable to their professional prospects.
There has been a great deal of talk about conspiracies. These gentlemen have almost been called mutineers. Now the word "conspiracy" implies some arrangement designed to surprise the persona against whom it is directed. Were the Government surprised to find out that a large number of officers in the Army serving in Ireland are Unionists or that they are honourable men? Were the Government surprised to learn that the insults which the Nationalist Members 787 and the Nationalist Press have levelled at the Army for thirty years have borne some fruit? I cannot understand what surprise there can have been about it; and if nothing has happened which might not have been expected to happen, what reason is there for this talk about conspiracy and things of that kind? The plain truth is that the Secretary of State for War or the Army Council tried to bluff some of the officers of the Army, and when they failed ignominiously it was necessary to get up a cry to cover their retreat, and the cry has been raised that it is a case of The Army against the People.
I entirely agree, if it is to be put as the plain issue whether the Army is to be the master or the servant of the Legislature, that there is only one answer. We should sink to the level of a South American Republic if the Legislature were to be dominated by the Army. But does it follow, because the Army is to be the servant of the Legislature, that it is to be its slave? There are countries in which that doctrine holds good, of course. If I may speak with all respect of the German Emperor and his magnificent Army, that is the doctrine which the Kaiser himself has preached over and over again. He has told his troops many times that they are to know no will but the will of their War Lord—not the will of the Legislature, but his will, and whether in peace or war they are to obey any orders, however outrageous, implicitly. I believe the same principle was followed with his Albanian bodyguard by the late Sultan of Turkey, Abdul Hamid, and the principle he adopted kept him in power a great many years. But I am quite sure that the methods adopted by those potentates are methods unsuited to English Radical politicians in the 20th century. Their theory was the exact reverse of Cromwell's, that the authorities may do what they like and still claim obedience. But that has never been an accepted doctrine in this country.
Discipline is essential and obedience is essential; but Colonel Seely, in December last, told the Service that there were circumstances in which obedience was not to be expected. He apparently has been thrown over since then if Mr. Runciman and Mr. Acland are correctly reported in The Times to-day. One of them speaks of "orders being implicitly obeyed"; and 788 the other of "compulsory obedience." Does that mean that no officer and no soldier may exercise his reasoning power? that no officer and no soldier may possess a conscience? that no officer and no soldier may exercise the right which is possessed by every working man in the country of terminating his contract of service in the prescribed manner? That has not been the practice in this country in bygone years. Allusion has been made previously in these debates to the officers who, during the war with the American Colonies, were allowed to go upon half pay instead of serving there against men whom they believed to be in the right. Among those officers was no less a man than Sir Ralph Abercromby, who in three expeditions thereafter held the post of Commander-in-Chief. I suppose there have been two occasions since those days when the country has been in difficulties as great as those in which it is now. There was the occasion of the great Mutiny among the seamen in 1797; and the crisis of the Reform Bill in 1832. It is a matter of history, I believe, that in 1797 there were doubts and fears about the attitude of the Army towards the sailors. The Executive shrank from commanding the Army to assist the civil power against the mutinous seamen; and the sailors in consequence got better terms than they might otherwise have received. At the time of the Reform Bill there were many tumultuous meetings, but I do not think that after what was called the Peterloo massacre, a dozen years before, the military forces were ever employed in connection with them.
At the crisis of the Reform Bill a remarkable speech was made in the House of Commons. After Lord Grey had resigned it was suggested that the Duke of Wellington might form a Government. History says now that even he could not rely upon the troops, and for that among other reasons he shrank from the endeavour; and on May 11 in that year a Mr. James, who was the Liberal Member for Carlisle and an ardent reformer, made a speech to this effect—I have heard that the Duke of Wellington is again to be Prime Minister and we are going to have the fighting Duke and a military Government. If the soldiers forget themselves, if they are to take part with a violent faction—if the soldiers forget their duty as citizens of this free country and take part against the people—I know that swords and cannon and bayonets, aye, and dungeons, cannot compel this House to vote supplies or compel the people to pay taxes.789 The language, of course, is rather inflated, but the point is that the fact of soldiers having duties as citizens of a free country as well as soldiers was accepted without question on both sides of the House of Commons even in those exciting times. Sir Robert Peel followed the hon. gentleman in the debate. He took exception to what he called the hon. Member's inflammatory appeal to the determination of the people, but he made no reference whatever to the doctrine that the officers and men of the Army had duties as citizens, and it appears to have been accepted without question by both Parties in Parliament. At the same period, as is well-known, people who might have been required to act as special constables, people whose duty in aid of the civil power—if I have understood the Lord Chancellor rightly on previous occasions—was no less binding on them than similar duty is on military men, were refusing to have anything to do with supporting the civil power against the reformers.
The truth is that in this whole matter the Government have acted as politicians and not as statesmen. Politicians treat men as tools and think they can turn them on like a fire hose to do what they want at any time. Statesmen remember that their subordinates on whom they may have to rely for carrying out their policy are men of like passions with themselves, and they take account of what their policy may involve. It is the part of statesmen to look ahead and consider what may happen; and the whole trouble in this connection has arisen because the Government have refused to listen to anything they did not like to hear. They were warned long ago that the men of Ulster would resist being put under a Nationalist Parliament. The Ulstermen were ridiculed; the Covenanters were told that they were a mere burlesque of an Army; and there were all sorts of cheap gibes at "wooden guns" and the paraphernalia with which they learned their drill. But now the Government have learned that although these Ulstermen—who, like the officers of the Army, were supposed to be the tools of an aristocratic conspiracy, though it is the rank and file who are the soul of the movement—that although the Covenanters are a "burlesque of an Army" with nothing but "wooden guns," we are perilously near to Civil War. Lord Wolseley warned predecessors of this Government years and years ago of the dangers which a Home 790 Rule policy would bring to the Army. Lord Roberts repeated the warning, to mention no others. But for the Government to have listened would have estranged Mr. Redmond, whose votes have kept them in office; so they shut their eyes and closed their ears, and now, to cover their blind folly, they take refuge in a shabby electioneering dodge. When the history of all this is written I do not know which will be accounted greater, their folly or their meanness.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I rise for a few moments in order to support what has been so well said by the noble and gallant Field-Marshal. I speak on behalf of the Army only because the Army has suddenly, entirely against its own wishes and most undeservedly, been flung into the whirlpool of Party politics. I have served for more than thirty-three years in the Army, and nobody could be more jealous of the honour of the Army than I am. I hold very strong views as to the duties of soldiers, and I believe in implicit obedience to all orders given by constitutional authority and falling within the scope of the Army Regulations. In spite of what the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said about questioning orders, I am quite certain that he will admit, as we all must, that in the complicated arrangements of human affairs times may come when all honourable men would be expected to consult the dictates of their consciences, whether they are Ministers of the Crown or officers or privates of the Army.
So far as the Army is concerned, no such question has arisen for many years. The reason of that is, as the noble and gallant Field-Marshal pointed out, that the Army Regulations are clear on the subject of the duties of the Army in home territory, and never has there been any demand made on the Army which seemed to go beyond the assigned duties of the Army Regulations. But surely the position in which the officers at the Curragh found themselves was one of real difficulty. It cannot be denied that they had abundant reason to believe that an immediate attempt of some kind was going to be made to overawe Ulster by force. A violent speech had been previously made in the country by a responsible member of His Majesty's Government, a speech in which it was announced that "these grave matters must be put to the proof." My Lords, what proof was meant? 791 Certainly the proof was not meant to be a General Election; and, so far as I can see, there remained only one other kind of proof—the proof of Civil War. And besides that, every subaltern in the Army would know perfectly well that the military measures which were about to be taken did not, and could not, imply only the protection of a few stores of ammunition.
We have been assured that the whole thing was a complete mistake, but common justice to the Army demands that we should put ourselves in the position in which those officers found themselves and see what was the inevitable point of view to them. It appeared quite plain to them that they were going to be asked to do something which was never contemplated in the Army Orders under which they had served so well and so long. They certainly thought that they were going to be required to fire on the National Flag held by loyal men whose only offence was that they strongly objected to be placed under the rule of an Irish Parliament. That or resignation, with all the painful consequences to which the noble and gallant Field-Marshal has alluded, was the only alternative which presented itself to them. I earnestly hope that such an alternative will never again be placed before the gallant officers and soldiers of our Army. But the noble Viscount and the late Secretary of State for War, in the Memorandum of March 23, concisely redefined the duties of the Army in home territory. That definition, as we all know, has been cancelled since, but it has reappeared in somewhat new phraseology. This new Army Order appears to me in certain aspects to be quite superfluous; but the reaffirmation embodied in Paragraph No. 3, and prefaced by those curiously irrelevant words "In particular," which have nothing whatever to do with the context, seem to me to be of a somewhat irritating character from the point of view of the Army. This definition makes no change in the duties of the Army for the preservation of public order, and every officer and soldier will carry out those duties, now freshly defined, just as he has done in the past and always would do.
But what is the greatest danger which arises out of the present painful position? It is this. On platforms and in a section of the Press it will be proclaimed far and wide, and not in our own country only, that the 792 Army opposed its will to the will of the people as represented by a majority in the House of Commons; that the Army supported the classes against the masses; and that the Army is therefore a danger to public liberty, as liberty is understood by the majority of the moment. My Lords, there is not one word of truth in any one of those wild allegations. But they may be believed, and if they are believed then the warnings which the noble Viscount the Lord President of the Council gave us last week will certainly be abundantly justified. What are the facts? General Gough wrote on the 20th—If such duty consists in the maintenance of order and the preservation of property, all the officers of this brigade, including myself, would be prepared to carry out that duty.In other words, General Gough's views of the duty of the Army coincide exactly with the views of the noble Viscount and the late Secretary of State for War as laid down in the historic document of March 23.
It is not true, and it has been so stated with emphasis by the noble Viscount to-day, that any officer has shown any sign of indiscipline throughout this unfortunate business, or has shown the least tendency to refuse to carry out orders. But do not let us forget that His Majesty's Government have passed their final and considered verdict upon the whole of the proceedings of these officers, and that that part of the White Paper has not been repudiated. His Majesty's Government have said that they are "satisfied that the incident has been due to a misunderstanding," and with that verdict I am quite certain every member of your Lordships' House will most cordially agree. There have been rather too many honest misunderstandings of late, and those honest misunderstandings have not all been on the side of the Army. The very deplorable position in which we find ourselves has been due to the initial honest misunderstanding of the nature and character of the forces which have opposed the subjection of Ulster to an Irish Parliament. One thing is at least certain, and one thing we can look back upon as having been satisfactory in what has happened during the last week. His Majesty's Government will not turn Ulster into a La Vendée. The Prime Minister gave this assurance on Friday. He said, after reading the new Army Order—It is altogether untrue that the Government or any member of the Government ever contemplated 793 active operations of an aggressive kind in Ulster, or any operations which now or in the near future would impose upon the Army any duty or service which is not amply covered by this order.That is a clear and explicit statement, and the only pity is that it was not issued a week before. But there is another assurance which I am sure we should welcome, and from the very sympathetic language of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack I am sure we can count upon that assurance. It is this. That the Government will be just to the Army, and will do all in its power to discourage that campaign of misrepresentation which seems already to have been begun. My Lords, no class question of any kind arises out of the recent proceedings, and the preaching of antagonism between the people and the Army which exists for their protection can only lead to irretrievable disaster to our Empire.
§ LORD ST. AUDRIES
My Lords, I do not propose to deal with this question from the point of view of the plots and stratagems of the Government. They really are too subtle and too tortuous for the mind of a simple soldier. There is one thing we soldiers do want, and that is a definite copy of the instructions which were given to Sir Arthur Paget. I have known Sir Arthur Paget for a great number of years. We were subalterns together in the Brigade of Guards thirty-seven years ago. He is not only a distinguished soldier but is essentially a man of the world. You will never make me believe that that man, after several interviews with the Secretary of State for War and the Prime Minister, went from London to Dublin, forgot his instructions on the way, and made a new speech out of his own head. What I am surprised at is that he did not insist on having a written copy of his instructions, and after all we have heard about clear thinking in the Army I really do think that it would be a good thing in the future if, when important matters of this kind have to be decided, the War Office gave a written copy to the officer concerned and kept a written office copy for themselves. Then there is Sir Charles Fergusson. We were brother-officers in the Grenadiers for many years. He is a particularly clear, level-headed man, and no one will make me believe that he gave any instructions to the officers under him other than those he received from General Paget. The 794 evidence about the option and so on is completed by the very fact that the Government have felt it necessary to issue the new Army Order which has been referred to in the debate this evening. Unless the option had been given it would have been entirely unnecessary to issue that Order.
The whole trouble is due to the conduct of the War Office in acting against the spirit and letter of the King's Regulations. They had no right to give these officers an option. What you give to officers and to men in the Army is not an option but an order. It is an entirely new departure to have these options given to officers. I may say that all through this winter I have impressed upon every civilian audience which I have addressed that the first duty of a soldier is to obey orders; and, much as they may dislike it, if soldiers are told to go to Ulster, to Ulster they must go. Of course, the whole responsibility for the bloodshed, for the strain on the discipline of the Army, and for the bitter feeling afterwards must rest on the Government and on the Government alone. But if a soldier is told to so, he must so. Now the Government have given me away to my old constituents, for, according to them, instead of a soldier going where he is told to go, he is to be asked to go—at any rate that was the position up till last Friday. There is nothing that soldiers hate worse than being called out in aid of the civil power. It is not their job, and they do not think it is the job for which they enlisted. But never during my experience have I known one single soldier decline to go out in aid of the civil power. If it comes to the point where the Government have to use force, I say the Government must take the responsibility of it; they cannot divest themselves of that responsibility by giving an option to the officers or soldiers. It is impossible; it is unknown to the military law.
I do not know whether it has ever occurred to the Government, but there are two sides to this question of option. Take the question of option at the Curragh. A great number of officers took the option of the Government and decided to resign or be dismissed. But there are many officers in the British Army who cannot afford to do that. They may be poor men; they may have wives and families, 795 or parents, dependent upon them. Their profession may be the only thing that they have in the world, and it is practically impossible for those men to take the option. Has it never occurred to the Government that those men are liable to the odious charge of volunteering for Civil War in Ulster? It is a charge to which all those officers would have been liable, and a charge to which undoubtedly some of them would have been subjected. That is a position in which no Government and no War Office should ever put an officer.
Discipline in the Army is a very difficult and delicate matter. I was not adjutant of a battalion of Guards for more than five years without finding that out. Discipline in the British Army is not kept up by fear of punishment, by threats, or by bullying. Discipline is kept up, partly no doubt by training, but a great deal more by tradition, by esprit de corps, by the confidence, the respect, yes and the affection, which exists between officers and men; and, above all, perhaps, by the unswerving belief in the absolute justice and good faith of those highest in authority in the Army. The Government have gone far towards shaking that discipline. They have done it by giving anoption to officers which they did not, because they could not, give to the men. They have shaken it by giving a pledge to the officers and afterwards repudiating it. Well, shaking the discipline of an Army is a very grave matter. It is easily shaken, but it takes very many years to restore it. I will not say that the evil has gone as far as it might have gone; but at all events I do say that in that very ill-considered action of first giving an option, then giving a pledge, and then repudiating that pledge, the Government have done a great deal to harm the discipline of the British Army. Soldiers do not understand that sort of treatment.
I need not say that I am a strong Party man, but I have always in the House of Commons in past years put the Army beyond the Party; and I must confess that I have not always been thanked for doing it. I wish to protest against the mischievous attempt which is being made to stir up strife between the Army and the country, and I protest equally against both sides. I protest against the Army being made heroes on the one hand because 796 of what they have done at the Curragh and its supposed connection with the Home Rule Bill; and I equally protest against their being made scapegoats on the other. I do not know whether the people of the country understand it, but the Army cares nothing about politics. It is a very hard thing to tell the politician, but I will say quite straight that the Army is willing to let him strut about and crow on his little straw heap and make as big a fool of himself as he likes, and as long as he does not interfere with the Army or its welfare the Army does not care twopence about him or his views.
The position to-day is not as it was in the old days. I recollect that in the old days the noble Marquess, Lord Lincolnshire, when he was a captain of the Blues on full pay, sat in the House of Commons as the Liberal Member for Wigan. He was followed in that distinguished and honourable position by his two younger brothers successively, and they were also captains on full pay in the Grenadiers. In those days we used to go on platforms while we were on full pay, and make speeches. That, of course, has all been done away with now, and quite properly. I think it was wrong. Nowadays the Army does not care about politics. It is too much occupied in keeping up its efficiency as the best and finest trained Army in the world according to its size to bother about your politics, your twists, turns, and dodges, here and there. I protest also against the phrase which has been used by some Unionists, and, I think, in some Unionist newspapers, that the Army has wrecked the Home Rule Bill. The Army has done nothing of the sort. To say that the Army has done so is to do the Army a very bad service indeed. If the Home Rule Bill is in a worse position now than it was ten days ago, that is only because the Government took the disastrous course of offering an option to the officers at the Curragh instead of telling them to go and sending them, as they should have done. Soldiers do not understand all this sort of thing, and they resent it very deeply.
Now I come to what is said on the other side of politics—that it is a question of The Army against the People. That statement is, perhaps, on the whole even more mischievous. Has anybody refused an order? No. The noble Viscount who spoke this afternoon said that discipline 797 had never been better, that nobody has refused to obey an order, that no section or unit of the Army has refused to go to Ulster. This cry is raised solely because certain officers have exercised a right of option which in my opinion ought never to have been offered them. But it was offered to them by the Government, and they accepted it in all good faith. Because of that we are told there is going to be a great struggle between the Army and the people, that there is going to be a great political cry to that effect at the next Election. Incidentally the people are always dragged in. Either it is "Land for the People," or "The People's Budget," or something like that. Now it is going to be, we hear, "The Army and the People." I do not think that cry is likely to catch on.
We are told that it is intended to democratise the Army. Personally I do not know how you are going to do that. Are you going to confine it exclusively to members of the Radical Party? Are you going to have outside your recruiting offices, "No Unionist need apply"; or are you going to make it democratic in the sense of blood and breeding. Are you going to limit the income of an officer to £25 or £50 a year? In that case you will have to pay him a much higher salary. I might admit that there is something to be said for a salaried Army. I know of one which is allowed to say and do what it likes outside the House, in the public Press, and elsewhere, as long as it marches into the right Lobbies when it is wanted. I do not think you would find that sort of salaried Army useful for repelling a foreign foe, though it might be useful in forcing the carrying of a measure against the will of the people of the country. There is another kind of democracy, and that is to give to each regiment the right to elect its own officers. If you did that I can tell you exactly what would happen. If each regiment balloted for its own officers, in nineteen cases out of twenty they would elect their present officers. But I know a regiment that would not, and it is not very far from here. I think that if they balloted for their officers you would find a great change on the Front Treasury Bench.
I deprecate this attempt to stir up strife between the people and the Army. A great many people in the country—and no one more than the noble and learned 798 Viscount on the Woolsack—have been doing their best in past years to make the Army efficient and popular, and I think to a great extent we have been successful. No one has done that for Party reasons. No one has allowed the Army to be treated up to now politically. Surely that would be a great mistake when we have got so far in popularising the Army. I can say from experience that the Army is more popular in the country now than it has been for generations past. Surely it is a great national mistake, merely for the sake of a small supposed Party advantage, to start this mischievous cry which must end in rending the Army. As to the matters we are discussing, I am bound to say, in view of what has taken place during the last ten days, that the Army has been very badly treated. I am sorry to say so, but as an old soldier speaking in your Lordships' House I should not be doing my duty unless I expressed my opinion.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I think it would have been a great pity had we not had the advantage of the speech which has just been delivered by my noble and gallant friend. Indeed, if I may in one sentence sum up the full effect of the discussion this afternoon it would be that we have had a vindication of the Army. We have had distinguished soldier after distinguished soldier protesting against the slanders which have been uttered against the Army. And, above all, we have had, in answer to the Question put to him, a statement by the Lord President of the Council that the Army had not disobeyed any orders, and that no man or officer of the Army had been in any sense insubordinate. That is the most important result of this evening's discussion, and I think it will be known throughout the length and breadth of the land that the character of the Army has been amply vindicated. I do not know that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that himself—perhaps he did not wish to repeat what his colleague had said just before him. But when the noble and learned Viscount came to deal with this subject he did not take what the officers had said and done themselves, but what outsiders had said and done. He went back to the old Party game. It was what the "right hon. gentleman" or "noble Lords opposite" had said, and not—what is really important—what the Army itself had said and done.
799 But the noble and learned Viscount did make one observation about the Army which I think must have astonished all your Lordships. He said that the officers had raised certain issues. Raised certain issues! Not a single issue, as far as I know, was raised by the officers. The people who raised the issues were the Government. They sent to Ireland, by Sir Arthur Paget, certain questions which had never before been heard of in the Army and which were for the first time put to the officers. The officers were given this awful alternative, and they preferred to be dismissed. They were dismissed, or rather they were removed from their commands. Then the Government raised another issue. Because they wished to reinstate the officers they proceeded to ask them to go back. The officers, having resigned, naturally said when asked to go back, "Upon what terms?" That was not raising a new issue; it was a very natural and reasonable observation to make. "You kicked us out. Now you want us to go back. Upon what terms are we to go back?" That is what any reasonable men would have said. Then the Government explained, and ever since they started explaining they have been wabbling to and fro in the most pitiable condition, until finally a poor Minister, who, I suspect, was not responsible, has wabbled out of office.
Then the noble and learned Viscount went on to speak of the condition of Ulster. That is the second point which has emerged from to-night's discussion—namely, that the Government have at last realised what the condition of Ulster is. All the disbelief of these last two years when the Government did nothing has disappeared. They have become convinced of the reality of the unpopularity of their Home Rule Bill in Ulster. Nothing has been more striking than the deafness which the Government have assumed towards all the information which reached them from Ulster. We had no better means—not so good, I should think—of ascertaining what was the feeling in Ulster, but to us it was quite apparent how very serious the movement in Ulster was. That movement was not, I may say, a movement amongst the upper classes. No doubt there were some of the upper classes concerned in it, but they were not one-tenth more anxious to avoid Home Rule than the working classes. It was a popular movement from the top classes to the 800 bottom classes in Ireland opposed to Home Rule. The Government have found it out. In the light of all previous scoffs at the preparations of Ulster's resistance, it is very humorous to observe the extent of the expeditionary force which the Government thought necessary to prepare in order to force Home Rule upon Ulster. That was one of the valuable answers to the Questions put by my noble friend this afternoon. When the noble Viscount the Lord President was pressed as to this enormous expedition, the naval force and the military force from England and two divisions of His Majesty's troops in Ireland, he did not commit himself absolutely to it, but he said it was probably true that that force had been considered necessary by the Government in order to enforce their wretched policy upon Ulster. What becomes of Government by consent which is supposed to be a Liberal shibboleth? You cannot have the form of Government which His Majesty's Ministers prefer agreed to by Ulster except with the assistance of a naval force and a military force from England and two divisions of His Majesty's troops in Ireland!
Arising out of that observation I must pause for a moment to say one word about the Fleet which was engaged. Here was a battle squadron which was necessary to impose this policy upon Ulster. I wonder whether the Government reflected upon the drastic character of their preparations? Just conceive what a Fleet is used for. A Fleet is used to bombard; it possesses heavy guns to bombard an enemy's positions. So that apparently it was contemplated that it might be necessary to use the heaviest artillery to bombard positions in Ulster. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount and his colleagues lightly thought of laying Belfast in ashes, or what they really intended; but your Lordships will admit that it shows in the most clear manner how formidable the task was which the Government found they had undertaken when they required weapons of this tremendous description in order to enforce their policy.
Now, these officers were suddenly presented with this ultimatum. I think some of them had only two hours in which to make up their minds. They were asked to say whether they would carry out this policy or would prefer to resign. They did not refuse to carry out the policy, but said they would prefer to resign, and they did resign. Is it surprising 801 that they preferred to resign? Is it surprising that British officers disliked giving an order to fire upon the working-classes of Ulster? Because that is what the policy of the Government was. They intended to fire upon the working-classes of Ulster in order to carry out this policy on the instructions of men who were notoriously disloyal and who have got the Government under their control. These officers had to remember that they had fought in South Africa side by side with many of those Ulstermen, and had reckoned them amongst their most loyal comrades. On the other hand, the men who were urging the Government to put Ulster under their heel were the very men who had rejoiced at our defeats in South Africa. Is it but natural that when they were asked whether they would fire upon their previous comrades they should refuse to do so? They did not disobey orders. They said they would rather sacrifice the whole of their careers than do this. There was no word of praise from the noble and learned Viscount for the men who had taken what one might almost call such an heroic course when they had to make this decision in a moment of such difficulty.
Let us consider for a moment what would be thought by the noble and learned Viscount's colleagues and by his followers if one made an analogy in England. Supposing a number of workmen belonged to a trade union which was engaged in an industrial struggle and the Government proposed to pass an Act to the effect that they must-leave the trade union and pass under the jurisdiction of another organisation which they did not want to pass under. If these working men prepared to resist that by force and then the Government ordered His Majesty's troops to make preparations to fire upon these men because they would not abandon their trade union and would not pass under an organisation which they hated, would he be surprised if the officers shrank from carrying out such an order as that? And yet that is precisely the kind of order which he and his colleagues desire to inflict upon the gallant and loyal officers of our forces in Ireland. In whose name did the Government propose to take this drastic action? Forsooth! in the name of the people.
I see that all the violent speakers of the Government kept to go down into the 802 country are talking now about this being a struggle between the Army and the people. One of the most astonishing things about the conduct of public business now is the difference in the tone of the speeches which are made in your Lordships' House and the speeches made by noble Lords' own colleagues in the country. There is a gentleman of the name of Illingworth—I think he is the Chief Liberal Whip. He goes down into the country and delivers most violent speeches. They are never repudiated by His Majesty's Government in this House. Yet I confess I wonder they allow subordinate members of the Government to use language of that kind; or I should wonder if it did not happen that they allow their own colleagues to do the same thing. I see that in a recent letter the Chancellor of the Exchequer has declared that unless the Government are supported "we shall be enslaved by a military despotism." Can there be a more grotesque, a more inaccurate, a more false statement than that? Yet this is from one of the colleagues of noble Lords opposite, one of the gentlemen of whom, I believe, they are proud. And they do this in the name of the people—the people whom they dare not consult, the people whom they will not consult, the people whom they shrewdly suspect are not in favour of the particular view which they are putting forward.
We listened with great interest to the changes in the personnel of His Majesty's Government which have been the consequence of the present crisis. The noble and learned Viscount pronounced a eulogy—a very well deserved eulogy—upon the energy and public spirit of the Prime Minister in undertaking the double duty of First Lord of the Treasury and Secretary of State for War. I am very glad that the Prime Minister should become Secretary for War. It will probably give him a knowledge of what goes on in that Office which in recent months he does not seem to have possessed; and though I am very glad that we should have so distinguished a Secretary of State, I could not help noticing that one of the results of the particular methods in which the Government have solved the crisis is that they have lost their Secretary of State for War in a way which will avoid a by-election.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am very glad to hear that the electors of East Fife will be consulted as to their view about recent events. The more by-elections we have the better we shall be pleased. What we desire is to ascertain the feeling of the country. But we want, not a by-election, but a General Election when the country will be able to show once and for all what view it takes of the proceedings of which we have lately been witness. The only result up to now of the wabbling of His Majesty's Government has been that they have lost two of the most distinguished officers of the Army from their counsels in the War Office. That is a matter to be profoundly regretted, but at least it is not a matter of surprise when we consider the position in which those gallant officers were placed. I earnestly hope that the time may not be far distant when we shall have the opportunity again of reckoning them in the immediate service of the public.
There is one further point I desire to make before I sit down. I want to ask the Government categorically whether they will grant us a little more information. The noble Viscount the Lord President told us that the Government were calling for a report from General Sir Arthur Paget as to what exactly passed in Ireland. We hope that that report will be as full as possible, and will tell us precisely what he did say to his officers and what orders he actually issued. But that is not sufficient. We want to know who is responsible for these blunders. We want to know exactly where the misconception arose. I ask His Majesty's Government whether they will tell us in substance exactly what passed between Sir Arthur Paget and the Army Council in that important interview which he had in London before he went back to Ireland. It may be that Sir Arthur Paget got his instructions, not from the Army Council only, but from the Army Council and the Secretary of State, and, indeed, other members of His Majesty's Government. We want to know exactly what passed, 804 and we are not alone in asking for that information.
I always take care to read the Radical newspapers, and I read a passage in the Daily News, one of the valued organs, I believe, of the Party opposite, in which they declared that the House of Lords were quite right in demanding this information. The Daily News said—The difficulty of a documentary rendering of these conversations must be admitted, but it is not insuperable. On the other hand, an accurate account of these conversations is indispensable if Parliament and the country are to have adequate information upon which to judge the events of the last few days.This was written immediately after the crisis burst upon us; so that from both sides of politics the same opinion inevitably emerges. But we can never thoroughly understand where the responsibility lies until we know exactly what passed in the War Office; exactly what the oral instructions were which were given to Sir Arthur Paget on that occasion. The Government had better make a clean breast of it. Nothing is more undignified than having information gradually wrung out of a reluctant Government. Already they have been obliged to go from point to point. They had better go the whole course at once and take Parliament into their confidence, even if it is necessary to shed a colleague or two more in the process. That cannot be helped. Let them make a clean breast of it, and then they will have done their utmost to repair the hideous blunder which has lost them valuable colleagues and plunged the Army into the condition of confusion in which it is now found.
§ The further Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed by the Lord COLEBROOKE.