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|Subject: Zulu War as discussed in the House of Commons 1879 Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:22 pm|| |
I thought it would be interesting to see the Goverments take on the the Zulu war. (Back Then)
MR. E. JENKINS seems to have caused a stir wth his comments. Same responce someone else got on this forum not so long ago. QUESTIONS.HC Deb 14 March 1879 vol 244 cc907-24 907
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
- Quote :
- "MR. SULLIVAN asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether, seeing there has been no invasion of the Colony of Natal, he will suspend military action until an opportunity has been afforded for a peaceful adjustment of the difference with the Zulu King?
SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH I believe the fact that there has been, fortunately, no invasion of the Colony of Natal is mainly due,—first, to the memorable defence at Rorke's Drift; secondly, to the position occupied and held by Colonel Pearson; and thirdly, to the other preparations which were at once made for the defence of the Colony. I am not aware that the Zulu King has expressed any wish whatever for a peaceful adjustment of the difference with us; 908 and for every reason, but mainly for the safety of the White race in South Africa, I think it necessary that the military disaster which has occurred should be retrieved.
MR. CHAMBERLAIN I should like to inquire, Whether any further delay is desirable, in the interest of the Public Service, before the House discusses the Zulu War?
SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH Further despatches on this subject will, I hope, be in the hands of hon. Members in the course of a few days. I am not prepared to say it is necessary that there should be any further delay before the House enters upon this discussion. I wish, however, to guard myself in one respect. I cannot possibly say what despatches may be on the way; but whatever information arrives, of any material importance, will at once be presented to the House.
MR. E. JENKINS asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether the Government propose to place the supreme command of the forces in South Africa in other hands?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER No, Sir; as at present advised, they do not.
MR. E. JENKINS (whose rising to address the House was met by loud and continued cries of "Order!") said: Sir, in consequence of the answer I have received, I shall have to ask the indulgence of the House—["Order, order!"]—and to put myself in Order, I propose to conclude with a Motion. It appears to me that the point which has been raised by my Question and the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer are of such a character, involving such grave and important interests—["Order, order!" "Divide, divide!"]—as to demand that they shall be immediately discussed. ["Oh, oh!"] I hope, Sir, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite will give me opportunity of at least stating to the House the object I have in bringing forward this matter. ["Oh, oh!"] Now, Sir, it is perfectly clear that if anything is to be done, if any expression of opinion is to be made in this House on this subject, it must be made at once. ["Oh, oh!"] I will wait until hon. Gentlemen have done. (The hon. Member, who had spoken amid continued cries of interruption, 909 after a brief pause resumed.) I said— (renewed interruption.) Sir, I beg to tell the House at once that if I have to stand here all night I will say what I mean to say. ["Order!"]
MR. SPEAKER The hon. Member is not entitled to use language menacing to the House; and though the hon. Gentleman may be strictly within his right in taking the course he now proposes to take, it is my duty to point out to him that the course of raising discussion at the present moment is highly inconvenient. I have also to observe that the hon. Member, if he desires to debate the answer given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will have a proper opportunity of doing so on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, which is appointed on the Orders to-night.
MR. E. JENKINS (whose rising was met with marks of impatience) said: I rise to say, Sir, that if this question—["Oh, oh!"]—perhaps you will hear me? If it were possible to raise this question upon going into Committee of Supply, I would be perfectly willing to do so; but as far as I see the opportunity would not be very great, because there are so many Notices on the Paper already. As far as I understand, it would not be possible to raise this question on going into Committee of Supply under a month. But it is one that if it is to be raised at all it must be raised at once. In a few moments I shall be able, if the House will let mo, to show very good reasons why at least I ask that the answer of the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be discussed at once. [Cries of "Order, order!" and "Withdraw!"] I am strictly within my right. I am sure that hon. Gentlemen are only doing an injustice to the cause they wish to serve in endeavouring to prevent me from extracting from the Ministerial Bench some explanation of the grounds upon which Her Majesty's Government have declined to take any action in regard to this matter. [Cries of "Order!" and "Withdraw!"] I shall very briefly review the circumstances under which the disaster of Isandula occurred. ["Oh, oh!" "Order!"] If I am obliged to raise the question in a somewhat unusual form, I believe it will be understood by the House and the country that it is owing to no fault of mine. I will endeavour to put my observations in as 910 few words as possible so as to save the time of the House.
COLONEL MURE rose to Order. He wished to ask whether, after the intimation of MR. Speaker, it was respectful to the House that the hon. Gentleman should persevere?
MR. E. JENKINS (whose remarks were throughout broken by continued cries and interruption) was understood to say: I am not aware that the hon. and gallant Member has any position in relation to the House or in relation to me, which entitles him to give me a lesson in gentlemanliness or self-respect. ["Oh!"] I consider myself most unfairly treated by hon. Members opposite, who will not give me an opportunity of stating the ground upon which I wish to introduce this subject. Now, Sir, I wish to say in the first place, in regard to this question, that when any General suffers such a defeat as was suffered by General Lord Chelmsford at Isandula, there is a primâ facie case of incompetency against him; and it lies with him to demonstrate to the country and the military authorities that the defeat in question was not owing to any want either of ability or care on his part. ["Oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] The House is fortunately enabled to judge of the propriety of his conduct by his own despatches describing the operations which preceded the disaster. ["Order!" and "Withdraw!"] Hon. Members opposite have an opportunity of withdrawing, if they think fit; but I intend to remain until I have stated my case. ["Oh!"] I do not propose to enter into any criticisms of the general strategy of Lord Chelmsford. That is not in my programme. ["Oh!"] Let it be clearly understood that all I am asking for tonight is an explanation from the Government. We have waited for Lord Chelmsford's defence, and all the information that has been given is a childish despatch, in which he describes the course of operations which preceded and followed the disaster at Isandula. Let it be clearly understood that I am not making any attack upon Lord Chelmsford—I am only expressing a very common opinion on the part of military men, and others non-military, in saying that some explanation is required from the Government to justify their continuing in command a man who seems to have exhibited a great want of discretion, if 911 not of military misconduct and incapacity. ["Oh!"] There are only two heads under which the conduct of Lord Chelmsford can be considered—first of all, there is his conduct in regard to the invasion of Zululand—and in connection with this part of the subject, I wish to say that I have no desire to forestall the discussion which is to take place on the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea. ["Order!"]
SIR JOHN HAY I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether, after the intimation given to the hon. Member for Birmingham by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that it will be convenient to discuss the Zulu question whenever the Motion may be brought forward, it is not out of Order to discuss that question now? I must also appeal to the hon. Gentleman himself whether it is right so to attack an absent man without Notice?
MR. E. JENKINS I also rise to Order—["Order!"]
MR. SPEAKER In answer to the Question of the right hon. and gallant Baronet, I have to repeat that no doubt it would be more convenient to discuss the question which the hon. Member for Dundee desires to bring under the notice of the House when the Motion referring to the affairs in Zululand is brought forward. At the same time, if the hon. Member thinks it right to proceed after the observations I have addressed to him, I am bound to say he is within his right, though I must again say it is most inconvenient.
MR. E. JENKINS, (whose rising was again met with marks of impatience): I shall endeavour, Sir, if the House will listen to me, to show my reasons for wishing to bring this discussion on immediately. I think Lord Chelmsford's conduct requires explanation on two points at least. In the first place, we have a right to ask—Why should Lord Chelmsford, when he was in supreme command of the Forces, have acceded to the demand of Sir Bartle Frere to commence an invasion of Zululand, when in a previous despatch he had expressly stated that he had troops sufficient only to defend the Colony. [Cries of "Order!" and" Withdraw!"] The subject has been discussed, and not without some bitterness, in the country, and it is almost the universal opinion that the conduct of Lord Chelmsford shows great military incapacity. ["Oh!"] I think, there- 912 fore, we are entitled, at the very least, to know why the Government are determined to support him by continuing him in his command, and sending him competent subordinate officers to enable him to retrieve one of the most deplorable and disgraceful disasters that ever happened to the British Army. [Continued interruption.]
MR. BIGGAR I rise to Order. I wish to ask whether, after Mr. Speaker has ruled that the hon. Member for Dundee is within his right, it was in Order for hon. Gentlemen opposite to keep up continuous cries of "Divide, divide!" while the hon. Member is speaking?
MR. SPEAKER If the Rules of the House allow an hon. Member to explain his reasons for putting a Question to the Government, any interruption which interferes with that explanation is out of Order.
MR. E. JENKINS There seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of many hon. Members. I think I will be able to show, if they will listen to mo, that my proposal is not so unreasonable as they think. A very strong feeling exists throughout the country in regard to the disaster at Isandula, and the continuance of Lord Chelmsford in command of the Forces in South Africa; and, in my opinion, there are very good grounds for that feeling. Now, possibly the Government have good grounds for the trust they put in his Lordship, and all I ask is—Whether they are prepared to give some explanation of the grounds on which he is to be continued in Ms command, in order that the public feeling and excitement may be allayed? [Interruption.] Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) is interrupting.
MR. SPEAKER Does the hon. Member conclude with a Motion?
Mr. E. JENKINS I simply say I am being interrupted by the hon. Member for Hastings. [Cries of "Spoke!" and "Go on!"] (The hon. Member, taking up the Parliamentary Paper containing the despatches relating to Zululand, proceeded to criticize the proceedings of the civil and military authorities before the commencement of military operations. The hon. Member also proceeded to criticize the movements of the columns before and after the defeat at Isandula, as described in Lord Chelmsford's "childish" despatch.)
MR. J. COWEN Sir, I rise to Order. I would like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, if it is competent, on a Motion simply for the adjournment of the House, to discuss a question the merits of which have already been anticipated by a Notice of Motion now standing on the Notice Paper of the House? The hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) raises the Zulu War question by his Motion; and is the hon. Member for Dundee, under cover of the Motion for adjournment, to be allowed to anticipate the discussion?
MR. SPEAKER The remarks of the hon. Member for Dundee did not reach me; but if the hon. Member who rose to Order is correct in his statement that the lion. Member for Dundee is discussing the policy of the Zulu War, he is clearly out of Order, as Notice has been given of a Motion on the subject.
MR. E. JENKINS denied that he was discussing the question of the policy of that war. (The hon. Member then proceeded with his criticism of the military operations, referring especially to the conduct of Lord Chelmsford in dividing his force, leaving one part in an unintrenched camp, while he proceeded in two columns into the interior of the enemy's country, without establishing a communication with the force left in the camp, the result being the capture of the camp with all its stores, and the destruction of the force left in charge; arguing, as was understood, that a General who had so mismanaged a single expedition was not fit to be left in the supreme management of a company; but the hon. Member's reading and comments were received with such continued cries of impatience and disapprobation that no consistent report is possible.) At length—
MR. BIGGAR I rise to Order. There is one hon. Member who more persistently than any other interrupts the hon. Member for Dundee; and I therefore beg to name the hon. Baronet the Member for Scarborough (Sir Charles Legard).
MR. SPEAKER All interruptions are, no doubt, out of Order, not excepting those of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar).
MR. BIGGAR My allegation, upon which I ask that the name of the hon. Member for Scarborough be taken down, is that the hon. Baronet is continuously and persistently interrupting the hon. 914 Member for Dundee. I beg to move that the hon. Baronet's name be taken down.
MR. SPEAKER All interruptions interfering with the hon. Member in possession of the House are out of Order. I call upon the hon. Member for Dundee to proceed.
MR. E. JENKINS I wish to ask whether, in the face of what has occurred, the Government will continue Lord Chelmsford in command or not? It is not an unreasonable Question; it is one the country is asking, and will ask; and it ought to be asked in the House of Commons, and the House will require it to be answered. I desire to have an answer, in spite of the interested protests of hon. Members on the other side. ["Order, order!"]
COLONEL MURE rose to Order. The hon. Member for Dundee has accused hon. Members of having interested motives. I ask you, Sir, whether it is in Order to attribute to hon. Members that they are actuated by interested motives?
MR. E. JENKINS It is only right, before the Question is answered, that those hon. Members who could not hear me distinctly on account of the interruptions, should know what were the exact words I used. I spoke of the "protests" of hon. Members on the other side; but I did not describe any particular kind of interest; I did not say whether it was political or military; and I did not intend to impute an interest of an objectionable character. But these endeavours to burk discussion, however slight, upon this question, will only convince the country of the rotten state of things at the Horse Guards. How is it that this noble Lord is maintained in the command after these specimens of incapacity? It is time someone should rise in his place in the House to point out that the Horse Guards is a centre of intrigue, where incompetence is shielded by Court influence or by favour with the Royal Person at the head of it. ["Order, order!"]
MR. BERESFORD HOPE asked whether the expressions just made use of—"Court influence" and "favour with a Royal Personage at the head of the Horse Guards"—were in Order?
MR. SPEAKER The words said to have been used by the hon. Member for Dundee did not reach me.
MR. E. JENKINS I am perfectly ready to repeat them for the benefit of the hon. Member (Mr. Beresford Hope) if he desires it.
MR. SPEAKER The hon. Member must address himself to the Chair.
MR. E. JENKINS I thought I was addressing myself to the Chair, and I am sorry the noise made by hon. Members prevented the Chair from hearing what I said. I was saying that this is a case which undoubtedly will give rise to the notion that there are unfair influences at work for the purpose of maintaining the noble Lord who has distinguished himself in incapacity in his responsible position. I say that on the Papers before us a primâ facie case of incapacity is made out; and, at all events, the Government might say whether they had any grounds for entertaining a contrary opinion. This House cannot exercise any influence upon the dispensing of patronage at the Horse Guards, nor upon the arrangements of the Army; but at least this House, which votes the money for the maintenance of the Army, is entitled to ask upon what grounds Her Majesty's Ministers are able to defend an officer who is responsible for a deplorable disaster? I will conclude by moving the adjournment of the House.
MR. SPEAKER Does any hon. Member second the Motion?
SIR ROBERT PEEL Sir, I shall second it. I am sorry for the interruptions the hon. Member for Dundee has received at the hands of the House, and more particularly so for the sake of the Government, supporters of whom have persistently interrupted the hon. Member—supporters of whom I have always hitherto accounted myself one, and a very strenuous supporter too. I am sorry they should not have allowed the hon. Member—who was perfectly in Order—to state the case he wished to submit to the House. I am bound to say I agree very strongly—not in the remarks he made, for I was hardly able to catch them—but I do concur with the hon. Member in this—that the answers which we receive from the Government upon this most grave and serious question cannot be satisfactory to the House or the country. I had a seat in this House so long ago as the commencement of the Crimean War, and I well recollect the interruptions which then pur- 916 sued the right hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) and the right hon. Gentleman who is now Her Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople (Sir Henry Layard) for the grave inconvenience they occasioned the Government by the remarks they persistently made—they and many others in common with them—against the policy of the Government. They charged the Government of that time with incompetence abroad and incompetence at home. I do not wish to make a similar charge against the Government now; but I remember how the two hon. Members I have named were treated then. They moved for a Committee of Inquiry, and they were told they did so out of vanity, out of malice, out of credulity. We have not moved for a Committee of Inquiry—yet; but I do not say that if the House of Commons is not to have, and soon, an opportunity of discussing this most serious question of the South African Colonies and the recent disaster, we may be obliged to force it on the Government. The replies to-night from the Government were, in my opinion, most unsatisfactory. The first Question put by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) was whether some communication could not be opened with the King of Zululand; and the reply of the Colonial Secretary was, No, that such a course was inconvenient; and there was every reason why, with a view to the safety of the whole population, the military disaster which had occurred should be avenged—["Oh!"]—should be avenged. [Hon. MEMBERS: Retrieved.] Retrieved; let it be so. Is it a reason why you should make war on a savage nation that by the incapacity, and nothing else, of the Commander-in-Chief—["No, no!"]—by the incapacity—["No, no!"]—by the want of strategy, then, of the Commander-in-Chief these brave savages—for they are brave—have been victorious? I wish to press upon the Government that we ought no longer to delay discussing this question. There has been a Motion on the Paper night after night by my Friend the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). We are now told that more Papers are on the way. More Papers on the way! Have we not Papers enough already? There never was a Government so profuse in the distribution of vast quanti- 917 ties of Papers on every subject for the information of the House. Have not we Papers enough now? Do not we know the policy of the Government? Do not we know the policy of Sir Bartle Frere? Do not we know—["Order, order!"]
MR. SPEAKER The right hon. Baronet is clearly out of Order; he is now discussing the policy of the Government in the Zulu War. That question is embraced in a Notice of Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, and any discussion of that question is clearly premature and out of Order.
SIR ROBERT PEEL I bow respectfully to your decision, Sir. I was not entering into the policy of the Government. I say we ought to discuss the policy of the Government, because really the state of affairs at the Cape is very grave. A vast expenditure of blood and money has been incurred. ["Order!"] I believe I am perfectly in Order in saying that.
MR. DALRYMPLE I rise to Order. I ask whether the very sentence the right hon. Baronet is now uttering has not reference to the question raised by the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea?
MR. SPEAKER The right hon. Gentleman has scarcely concluded his sentence; but he certainly did appear to me to be again trenching upon Order.
SIR ROBERT PEEL Then I will resume my seat. But I appeal to every man in this House whether we ought not to have an opportunity of discussing this question. I feel convinced that I do but interpret the feeling which very generally prevails out-of-doors when I say that the House of Commons cannot too early or too urgently impress upon the Government the necessity of stating to the House and the country what are the real issues at stake in this matter.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. Edward Jenkins.)
MR. CHAPLIN Sir, the right hon. Baronet who has just spoken has expressed his deep regret that the observations of the hon. Member for Dundee should have been so interrupted. I venture also to express my regret that, for his own sake, and the sake of his Parliamentary reputation, the right hon. Baronet should have accepted him for his 918 leader, and should have become the humble follower of the hon. Member for Dundee. The right hon. Baronet has said that the hon. Member for Dundee was strictly in Order. Yes, Sir, he was in Order; he was within his right—and you, Sir, ruled that he was—but I venture to think that, notwithstanding, he simply abused the Privileges of the House, and that, too, in a manner which, if frequently repeated, will render it absolutely impossible for the Business of the House to be conducted at all. The hon. Member for Dundee has excused himself on the ground of the great urgency of the question. I venture to say that, perhaps, on occasions of this kind, it is not even for the hon. Member for Dundee to decide alone upon the question of urgency. When I look to the front Opposition Bench, I see upon it the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition—I see upon it the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, who has grown old and grey in the service of his country. I see upon it the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) and other Gentlemen, whose opinions are valued, and whose reputations are great throughout the length and breadth of England. I must say that, considering their attitude, the hon. Member for Dundee has trespassed too much upon the attention of the House in interrupting Public Business in the manner he has done. I do not wish to pursue this subject for one moment further; but in sitting down I wish to express my regret at one thing above all others, and that is, Sir, that your repeated admonitions and repeated advice, and the manner in which you have pointed out the gross inconvenience that would result from the course that the hon. Member for Dundee has taken, were so deliberately disregarded as they have been.
COLONEL MURE Sir, I wish to express my deep regret, on public grounds, that the hon. Member for Dundee has brought this matter forward. When the sad news of the disaster at Isandula reached this country, I was much struck by the expression of opinion in the foreign papers—on the calm and dignified manner in which this country and this House had received the sad news, and the evident determination there was to deal fairly with those whose con- 919 duct would naturally be the subject of criticism. If we are to accept the course which has been indicated to us by the hon. Member for Dundee, we should, I fear, be in danger of losing that character for fairness and moderation which we have gained. I would only ask the House a single question—and I would urge the House not to allow itself to be dragged further into a discussion of the military conduct of Lord Chelmsford today—I would simply ask, whether, without any sufficient preparation, except a Question placed upon the Paper, with no information of any sort or kind, excepting the barest statement, a discussion involving such grave consequences ought to take place in this House—whether, while a Court of Inquiry is sitting at Isandula, which will bring before us the whole of the facts—this House is justified, as an Assemblage of fair men, in taking into consideration the military capacity and conduct of Lord Chelmsford? I would like to point this out to the House—that, in the records of Parliament, there is not one single instance in which the character of a General Officer has been brought before this House, or the House of Lords, in consideration of the allegation that a disaster on any particular day was caused by his faulty dispositions or tactics. The disaster of Isandula we may justly call a military disaster; but it is not a disaster of a character which is usually brought before this House. Before Parliament, on various occasions, military mismanagement has been made the subject of deliberation. At the time of the Walcheren Expedition, the matter was brought before the House of Lords by Lord Porchester, and the Government of that day were turned out upon that question. Similarly, at the time of the operations in Portugal and Spain, which ended in the battle of Corunna, Lord Grey brought before the House the conduct of the Ministers and the Executive. Similarly, at the period to which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) has alluded, the conduct of the operations in the Crimea was brought before the House. But, on these occasions, not in one single instance did the House attempt to arraign the conduct of any individual General, owing to a reverse on any particular day. That duty it has always referred to the Executive. But now, what would be the result, if we were to 920 accept the course indicated to us by the hon. Member for Dundee? We have wars continually in various parts of the world. [Loud ironical cheers from the Opposition.] General Officers are unhappily engaged in many parts of the world; is their conduct from time to time to be made the subject of discussion in this House, their character the victim of faction?
MR. E. JENKINS I rise for a moment to Order. I would ask the hon. Member what course the hon. Member for Dundee has suggested?
COLONEL MURE The hon. Member has suggested, not only that this day we should discuss, but he has begun to discuss himself, the character of Lord Chelmsford. But I was on the point of asking what the result would be, if the House were to undertake the duty of censuring the Generals engaged in the field? I will tell you. We should be practically descending to the practice of the worst period of the Reign of Terror in Prance. At that time the French were embarked upon a career of ambition and conquest. It was natural that at the commencement of their revolutionary career they should be very unfortunate; therefore, alarmed and irritated at their reverses, the Convention used to employ Delegates to attend on the Staff of their Generals, and to report home whether these officers were successful or not. If they were successful, the Generals received the thanks of the Convention; if not, they were guillotined. Now, I do not for one moment suppose that in these days we should adopt such severe measures as that; but remember this—If we adopted the course advised by the hon. Member for Dundee, we should, in principle, be following in their footsteps; we should be usurping the functions of the Executive without either the technical knowledge or the requisite quality for such a duty, and, in this particular case, the result, I feel sure, would be grave injury to the character of a distinguished man, and the erection of a precedent which would have most injurious effects on the character of this House and on the Public Service. I have expressed no opinion myself upon Lord Chelmsford. I have my opinion upon the conduct of the whole war, but that is not a matter which I am going to lay before the House. I trust the House will not allow 921 itself to be dragged into a premature discussion upon this grave question.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER There is much in what has taken place which, I think, ought to be a subject of regret. I do not desire to enter into any unnecessary criticism of the course which the hon. Member for Dundee has thought it his duty to take. I am sure that he, as a Member of this House, can only have adopted that course under a sense of duty. At the same time, I gravely question the propriety of the decision at which he arrived. And I wish, Sir, to point out that it is not consistent either with the dignity of the House or with the due conduct of Public Business that such a Motion as that which the hon. Member has proposed on the present occasion should be resorted to, under such circumstances, for the purpose of irregularly bringing forward the debate which he has attempted to force on. Whatever might be the subject of debate, it must be inconvenient that it should be brought on in so sudden a manner, and without preparation; and when it has reference to a matter of such great gravity as that which the hon. Member has introduced to our notice, I think the objections to such a course as that which he has followed are doubly and trebly magnified. Whatever may have been the judgment of the hon. Gentleman in beginning to call the attention of the House to the subject, he ought to have perceived—and I wonder he did not perceive—that the sense of the House was decidedly against him. I think that under those circumstances it ought to have been the part of an hon. Member to have taken into consideration what was obviously the general feeling of the House; and I cannot acquit the hon. Member for Dundee of great indiscretion in having persisted and persevered in his Motion as he has done. With regard to the question which he has raised, I think the few observations which have been just made by the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) ought to commend themselves to our attention. There is no desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to evade any share of the responsibility which they feel properly belongs to them in this matter. It is a very serious responsibility; it is a matter which is of the greatest importance to the interests of the coun- 922 try. The Government have given their most careful consideration to all that has passed, and to all the information that they have received; and in coming to the decision which I announced in answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Dundee, they have done so under a perfect consciousness that they were acting in a matter in which their responsibility was of the most serious character. They have decided, however, with confidence, and they will be prepared, at any proper time, to discuss the matter in any way it may be thought proper to raise it. But I hope that at the present moment we shall not be called upon to proceed with this discussion. It would be very irregular, and exceedingly inconvenient, and I trust that the House will now allow the matter to drop, fully conscious that we are aware of the gravity of the question and of the responsibility which devolves upon us.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON I cannot help feeling, with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that what has taken place this evening must be viewed with regret. It is very much to be regretted that the hon. Member for Dundee has brought forward this subject without Notice. But I must also express my doubt whether the House has consulted its own dignity in the persistent manner in which it sought to prevent the hon. Member for Dundee from being heard. The excuse which might have palliated that proceeding appears to be altogether wanting; for after the scene which we all witnessed during the time the hon. Member was speaking, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel) rose to address the House; and although he made some remarks quite as strong respecting the military character of Lord Chelmsford and of those who are responsible for the conduct of military affairs in South Africa, there was no attempt on the part of the House to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman in the same manner in which it had interrupted the hon. Member for Dundee. If we are to do justice on an occasion of this kind, and to exercise any sort of control over the proceedings of hon. Members, we should, at all events, act impartially. Both the hon. Member for Dundee and the right hon. Gentleman opposite appeared to be equally under a misapprehension as to the reason which caused the hostility of 923 the House to the course which they took. The hon. Gentleman said that he was perfectly in Order. Well, no doubt that was so; but if I am not much mistaken, that which aroused the hostility of the House was this—that the hon. Member proceeded to make an attack upon the military conduct and procedure of Lord Chelmsford without Notice, and without having given to those who are responsible any opportunity of knowing that such an attack would be made. I am not going to deny that this may be a question of very great urgency, or that it may not be right in some exceptional cases to bring forward a matter of this character without Notice, even at the cost of some inconvenience. But the hon. Member has never made any attempt to obtain a discussion of this question; he has never attempted to make a Motion in reference to it on going into Committee of Supply; neither has he ever indicated any intention of seriously calling in question the military conduct of Lord Chelmsford. I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Mure) as to the responsibility which attaches to the Government in this matter, and I cannot conceive anything more disastrous than that the House of Commons should attempt in any way to regulate the conduct of a campaign, for which it does not possess, and does not pretend to possess, the necessary military knowledge. It may be necessary for the House at some time or other to discuss the management of the campaign; but it must hold the Government, and the Government alone, responsible for what has taken place—and I cannot conceive any heavier responsibility than that which now rests upon the Government in reference to this subject. They have to consider, on the one hand, that if they judge by results, that if they censure and condemn an officer without sufficient inquiry and without sufficient knowledge, they may do an act of grave injustice to a gallant and an honourable man, and one which may weaken the sense of responsibility, and the spirit of willingness to undertake responsibilities which are so necessary in an officer. On the other hand, they have to consider that, by retaining in his position of command a man undoubtedly gallant and brave, but who, in the opinion of some, has not shown sufficient military capa- 924 city, they may possibly be endangering the success of the campaign, the safety of the troops, and even of the Colony itself. That is the responsibility which rests upon the Government; and I am utterly opposed, whether in a regular or in an irregular manner, to relieve them one atom from that responsibility. As we have not at hand the means of giving them advice, anything that we can do will merely tend to weaken their sense of responsibility. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Robert Peel) that this matter of the policy of the Government with regard to South Africa is one that ought to be discussed as soon as possible. I conceive that it was with that object that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) put his Question to the Government to-night, and the answer which he has received from the Government places the matter in a very different position from that which it has hitherto occupied; and I have no doubt that the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, who has a Motion on the Paper on the subject, will lose no time in informing the House of his intention in reference to it.
MR. E. JENKINS, in asking leave to withdraw his Motion, explained that his object in making it was not so much to raise a debate as to ascertain from Her Majesty's Government the motives which had induced them to retain Lord Chelmsford in his command."